At Berkeley!

Amtrak Adventure 15/31 (about October 14th, 2021)

Yesterday was our last day in the Bay Area for the trip! We’ll be heading down to LA today, then taking the Texas Eagle back over to Chicago.

For lunch, we went to Pier 39 to drink some ice cream and see some sea lions (which we missed seeing over the summer, visiting the Pier before their season). Ice cream was good, sea lions were also good! We discovered the hard way that the aroma of sea lions does impact the taste of food—and not in a good way.

After that, we headed all the way up to Berkeley to check out the UC campus! It’s quite pretty—lots of big trees, and a stream!—and reminds me a lot of the UW Seattle campus I spent a year at. The similarities make sense, I guess: they’re both (1) huge (2) top-tier (3) public (4) West Coast (5) research universities (6) in a metropolitan area (7) that’s a tech industry hub. It was still quite surprising, though.

As is tradition, we beelined it to the main library, walked in with the confidence of people who can pass for students (but not avoid getting lost in buildings), and spent a few hours working quietly. Something about the soundscape of a quiet reading room, punctuated with only the occasional loud croaks of wooden chairs moving around, instantly sends me into a hyper-productive state! Got a lot done there.

Then the sun set, and we walked a quarter mile south to the “Asian Ghetto” restaurant area to meet up with our friend Sarv. He recommended a pretty good Mediterranean place, so I got a gyro, Mattea got a falafel wrap, and we sat around catching up.

I don’t envy people who go to UC Berkeley; almost universally (n ≈ 4), students describe the experience to me as analogous to a meat grinder. Quite a shame, because their campus is so nice!

It makes me think—what if we built cities in the same style as college campuses? Lots of trees, predominantly walkable, well-designed buildings close together, dense and diverse food districts, and so on. Seeing it all together again triggered so much nostalgia… why do such fantastic environments have to be solely used as if by Kafka?

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