Sunday, November 26, 2006

A Slow Day in Berkeley

We had a magical day on Friday in Berkeley. First we went to Solano Street and strolled around neighborhoods there with Maggie. We happened across a neighborhood kiosk, the Dario Meniketti Memorial public information kiosk at Solano and Curtis, with a number of announcements, flyers, and other local info posted. Neighborhoods and community expert Jim Diers, former head of the city of Seattle's office of neighborhoods, cites kiosks as the root pillar of community-building efforts at the street level. One of our goals for the Phinney Ecovillage is to try to implement a series of kiosks along Phinney and Greenwood Avenues in Seattle.

At the invitation of Sylvia Paull we then attended her Last Friday Ladies Lunch (men are invited too, so Paul came along) at Renee's Place, a wonderful and unique organic Chinese restaurant at 1477 Solano. The lunch filled three whole tables, which normally would create a bit of a logistics crunch. But Sylvia managed to arrange seating in a mathematically efficient contiguous way so everyone could see and hear everyone else. Sylvia is a master of the small but crucial detail, and her lunch could be a model of organizational efficiency. We ordered off a one-sheet menu, we could choose three items within a wide choice for each category (appetizer, entree and side), all for $10 a head. The streamlined decision-making meant more time to get acquainted and talk instead of fussing over food selection, bills and tips.

Sylvia graciously allowed me a few minutes to talk about Slow Is Beautiful, but I was just as interested to meet her friends and hear their stories. Many were writers with fascinating projects of their own, and several were involved in some community-enhancing effort or undertaking. Thanks, Sylvia, for the great visit!

Sylvia ended promptly at 1 p.m., which allowed those with tight schedules to leave but for others to talk one-on-one or in small groups. We chatted and exchanged emails with several new acquaintances, then hopped back in the car for a short drive to Dave Winer's breathtaking new house (new for him, but grand old Berkeley). Dave has really settled in, and Maggie loved his RSS couch (co-called because it's the same orange as the symbol for RSS, one of a multitude of Web technologies Dave has created and/or helped popularize)! He also has a wireless network over which he can play audio from his MacBook to speakers via to an Apple Airport Extreme modem.

Dave was demo'ing the network when he asked if I wanted to do a podcast on the book! I barely know what a podcast is, but it seemed like a great idea. Dave used the built-in MacBook microphone, which picked up our voices fine in his living room, and a small piece of audio software to do recording. He then loaded the podcast onto iTunes for playback. Dave made the whole thing seem so simple I'm going to try to do more podcasts. Thank you Dave!

Our talk is here.

After visiting Dave we took Maggie for a walk along College Avenue, then mosied over to Cedar Street to visit Berkeley's historic Hillside Club. Founded in the late 1800s and built a century ago, the club has endured earthquakes and fires but was foundering from lack of new blood till high-tech impresario Jeff Ubois discovered it on a stroll through his neighborhood four years ago. Today Jeff is president and Sylvia vp, membership is thriving and the calendar is filling up more all the time. They have movies, fireside meetings, salons, arts & crafts fairs and film circles.

Darkness had fallen by the time we got over to the club and it looked like they were closing down, but we skittered over and who should be there but Sylvia, getting reading to ride her bike home, and Jeff! We got the grand tour and thumbnail history. What a great community resource!

After the club tour, we hopped on over to the Berkeley Cohousing community on Sacramento Street for a potluck getogether at the invitation of Raines Cohen. The potluck was in the spacious main meeting area. I gave a presentation on the book and we had a stimulating discussion among a diverse group ranging from a woman who works with Fritjof Capra to a former high-tech entrepreneur who gave it all up for the slow life. After our discussion Raines and his partner Betsy Morris gave us a tour of their unit, which has the most-photographed deck of any cohousing complex, Raines said with a laugh. Thanks to Raines and Betsy for making the evening so enchanting!

It had been a long day, but a "slow" one — in Berkeley there is so much going on at the micro level, so many great people full of new ideas and the energy to implement them, you can't help but leave the place feeling stoked about new possibilities. Even though we packed a lot of new vistas into the day, we were never rushed or frazzled. We're glad to have met so many great people and already are planning our next visit!

1 comment:

Buzzmodo said...

I was at Zoka on Friday, come back to Seattle, while it might be snowing, the coffee is great!