Pick one up today— Sidewalk Story: the book
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I love Berkeley, but my crush is New York City.
The sun was out, but it felt like the Dark Ages. A dozen crows sat high on the wires cawing together, a warning, a cry. My companion and I looked for predators; she had once seen crows alarming for an owl. But we scanned the air and trees and found no owl. Where were they looking? Their beaks pointed down. There, we saw the black bundle, a fallen friend. A car came. Don’t run over it! And swerved. A little gloved man got out of a van and scooped their friend into a black bag. The crows cried louder. Somewhat shaken, we continued on our way.
At the outdoor café, the woman at the metal table behind us ripped open a cellophane wrapped package with her teeth and ate one thin cookie after another as she dried her eyes with her flowing skirt.
The four little boys smiled shyly, ready to play dress-up, their mother’s clothes far away. Instead, Pacific Gas and Electric gave them garlands and a job welcoming visitors to the new power substation, designed by Willis Polk, built to restore energy after the 1906 earthquake.
A century later, a man walked into a plaza and was puzzled. He stared up at the cherubs set into the new brick wall of the Contemporary Jewish Museum and noted that these little cherubs, who were obviously boys, were obviously not Jewish. Yet, here they were.
Policing the Children
I rounded the corner to find flashing lights and a police SUV with all its doors open. What’s wrong? What’s going on? Then I saw the children. Knee high. Lots of them, all the same size. Moving around. Their teachers nearby, smiling.
He thought that yelling traffic laws out the window would help.
Art & Technology Contemplate the Finish Line
He looked at the 1660 ink drawing from India, marveled at the expression on the face of the elephant, the fine painted lines. “Art is not like electronics,” he said aloud.
"What do you mean?" asked the elephant. She turned her head slowly and curled her trunk.
"I mean," he said, "You were drawn nearly 400 years ago, and you still look good."
The elephant had worked the post to which she was chained out of the ground by this time. “I’ll take that as a compliment,” she said.
"Nothing about you is obsolete," he said. Out of habit, he reached for his phone to take a picture.
"Good," she said. "Now where can I get some spray paint?"
Insomnia without the Internet: Counting Dwarfs
Happy. Dopey. Sneezy. Doc. Grumpy. Bashful. That’s six. Curly. Larry. Moe. No. Happy. Dopey. Doc. Grumpy. Bashful. Lost one. Groucho. Harpo. Chico. Nope. Still awake. Harpy. Dorky. Sticky. Argh. Amy, Beth, Jo and… ? Mary? Don’t be stupid. MEG. Happy. Dopey. Grumpy. Doc. Bashful. Sneezy. Meg. I drift off a little and wake up ironically with the answer (why didn’t you tell me?) Sleepy.
The Scar in the Road
Some of us still see the oak tree with dying branches, hollowed out but standing solid in memory. The city sent a crew to remove it, which they did, dutifully, while the neighbors wrung their hands and watched. Prior pleas proved impotent. A tree in the road is always a hazard. Out it went.
At the curb waits a spindly replacement bought by a neighbor, an oak sapling tied to a hydrant. “Won’t someone hit it?” ask two women who have stumbled onto the scene. A neighbor shakes his head. “If you put circles of white rocks around it they will shine in your headlights and alert you.” The two women gaze at the temporary tree a moment, look at the man, and then they move on.
Why We Worry
The doe jumped the wall. The fawn knew to duck and cover. She squeezed into the narrowest space she could find and waited. “Your baby is here,” I said. The doe didn’t move. I looked behind the garbage can at the fawn. “It’s okay, your mama is here.” The fawn had made herself as small as possible and wouldn’t look at me. I thought about asking a neighbor for help. But as I stood worrying, I realized that the fawn might have hidden behind that garbage can many times before, that her mother knew where she was, and they were just waiting for me to go away.
We humans mean well, we really do. But sometimes we really don’t know what’s going on.
I returned to check on them four hours later. They were gone.
Tour of an Certain Age
No, she said, I am NOT pushing 50. I am pulling it. And it is heavy.
We would have a small window of time. She told me she would be late. I was waiting for her at home, until I dashed out for flowers, briefly. Trader Joe’s always has alstromerias, cheap, which I like. Except today they did not have the usual big bouquet, so I had to get two smaller ones with roses included, which caused me to become ambivalent and fall into a perplexed mood. When I got home there was a message that she would arrive in five minutes. The time stamp said 8:20. The clock said 8:40. I missed her. When I called she said she was just loading her groceries in the parking lot at Trader Joe’s. I missed her again. I am so used to walking by strangers and not seeing them. But friends?
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