Berkeley in the springtime and the girls in their short skirts, tank tops, the boys shirtless, smiling. Telegraph Avenue lined with small booths, young women and middle-aged men selling hand-made pottery, blown-glass bongs. Henna tattoos intricately patterned, fading in less than a day. Hemp jewelry; hemp for health. Naturopaths. Herbal remedies. Lunch at The Blue Nile: injera, shiro wat, yebeg tibs. Tej.
Walk west on Dwight to Shattuck. Panini's sandwiches: crisp cumin-seeded bread, ginger-pear chutney over roast chicken, plum tomato, pesto and romaine. Fizzy Orangina. The flower shop has gardenias floating in water, white as bridal gowns, with a scent so sweet and rich it makes you dizzy. Gerbera daises. Yellow daffodils. Wild indigo irises, waist-high. It is the season for tall, elegant flowers, for quick growth and swift flowering.
Walk further west on University -- Indian grocery stores with bulk spices. A pound of cumin seed for three dollars. Whole cloves, cardamom pods, cinnamon sticks and black mustard seed. Asafoetida. Ginger, whole or ground. Jasmine rice, in ten pound bags. Sari shops, brilliant silks and chiffons in the window. West, and west again, towards the ocean, the median strip rich with green grass and a sea of orange poppies, small and bright and joyous.
Little houses sheathed in bougainvillea; walls of crimson, orange, purple, white. The flowers are tiny, inconsequential, but the leaves are brilliant, fragile traceries of jeweled color. Window boxes overflowing with pansies, marigolds. Gardens of rose bushes. Orange trees. The fences drown in vines and flowers; the boundaries are blurred. The houses packed to bursting with students, with families whose grown children cannot afford to move out. Live near the city, or even near the subway, and though you are still paid well for programming, more than half will go to rent or mortgage. Or move far away, and spend hours driving, watching your life eaten up, minute by minute on the road. Some leave, but there are always more coming to stay, despite the risk of earthquakes, the danger of falling headlong into the salt sea.