Ok, the August post was long enough, so some of the stuff from that month is going here. Besides, I might not have enough material for the September post otherwise; once you're in school, the days sort of bleed into one another and become all the same.
When we last left our intrepid heroine, she had safely navigated the treacherous waters of Berkeley housing, and found a place to roost.
It's a room. Just a room. But it was perfect. (Still is. I signed the lease for another year!) I found an ad on CraigsList for a women's boarding house, in my price range, three blocks from the south part of campus. Sylvia, the landlady, agreed to see me the next day, and Dad and I pulled up in front of a chocolate-brown, sturdy Victorian (no gingerbread trim, alas, just a solid-looking box of a house with a brick porch). Sylvia is a lovely, motherly ex-hippie who reminds me of a mother deer, with her tawny hair and big eyes. She led us through a hall with an improbably ornate mirror and marble-topped bench, up some ratty, paint-chipped carpeted stairs, into a totally nondescript hall, and unlocked the door on the far left. And I knew I was home.
It's big, with a bank of north- and east-facing windows. The ceilings are 9 feet high or higher, curved above the crown molding, and the floors are the color of dark honey. Of course rooms look bigger when they're empty, and this one seemed to stretch away from me forever. Best of all, there's an alcove in which some former resident's father had built a closet frame, hung it with poles and racks, and draped a curtain over the whole thing to hide it. And while there's no private bathroom, there is a huge closet with a small sink. The walls with the windows are set back slightly from the rest of the walls, making a sort of square bay perfect for a bed. There's a huge tree outside that provides substantial cover for the street (not that I'm not scrupulous about keeping my blinds closed!). Also, a cute little back garden with fig trees—yummy!—and on-site laundry. It doesn't get better than this, at least in my price range. Dad found nothing wrong with it. He declared it “just shabby enough”, i.e., the slightly run-down entrance and bathroom. It'll keep me humble, I think, is the reasoning. I decided on it within minutes. I haven't regretted it yet.
After I signed the lease, I could begin the delightful (at least for me) process of assembling the trappings of domesticity, namely, furniture. I already had a dresser Dad found on the side of the road (nothing but the best for his little girl, no sir!); a cool old trunk that would probably sell at Anthropologie for $250 but which cost me $8 at the Magic Johnson AIDS Clinic Thrift Shop (“Out of the Closet”); and it was the work of an hour to pick out the quintessential student futon (black, hollow-tubing frame, unbleached cotton mattress). For the rest, I spent a very pleasant day at Urban Ore (highly recommended), and came away with a lovely Danish desk, a hutch for it, a round chair (I've always wanted one!), a comfy old easy chair, and a Mission-style pillar lamp with a gorgeous stained-glass shade. Plus, Sylvia told me I could paint the walls, so I picked out my favorite sky-blue turquoise for the ceiling, and a rich pink to be overlaid with a butter yellow wash on the walls. Aron came over the hill with his pickup to haul furniture, and Gabe came from Santa Cruz to help paint and, saint that he is, chauffeur me to various monuments to capitalism to collect the remaining bits and pieces of home life. It's awfully fun to sort of spend—wisely, of course—but freely. Gabe and I dined at the Scharffen Berger Cacao Cafe. Mmmmmmm. (makes yummy sounds). Sadly, it closed for dinner a few months ago, so I'm glad we went.
Mom and Dad sent a bunch of stuff through the mail, which didn't arrive until I had an actual address at a mail center a few weeks later (the mail system at Dana House consists of a dresser in the foyer on which mail is placed, and requires great faith on the part of the occupants in the two girls assigned to sort it and place it in everyone's designated slot. And there's no way to get a package safely into the house if no one opens the door for the delivery boy. I took one look at it and headed straight for Postal Annex. Worth every penny). So I was still getting packages of linens and other stuff well into the first few weeks of school, but I was basically moved in by the first day.
As for my housemates, unfortunately, I see very little of them. The downstairs apartments have two or three girls each in them, and I hear lots of parties down there on weekends. The rest of us upstairs keep mostly to ourselves. It's hard to socialize when the doors fall closed as soon as they're opened. Also, I never had to entertain someone in my bedroom in college, because I always had an apartment, and so it feels weird to have people step into my nest with all the laundry and unmade bedding in plain sight. I was lonely for several weeks, even though the girl next door and one upstairs and I made vague plans to hang out. I still feel a little lonely when I contemplate how nice having a roommate can be. But as the year went on, I got so busy I'm rarely bothered by it now, and I really need solitude to be truly happy. The product of an only childhood. No hard feelings, Mom and Dad. Promise!
I got a brief visit from Stu the second week of September. It was nice just to have someone around who already knew me, to whom I was not explaining about myself ad infinitum while hanging ou don't mind eating solo, but it also made me homesick in new and creative ways to be with someone who still had a life back East. So we went and saw _The Forty-Year-Old Virgin_ and wet our pants laughing at it and it was better.
Unfortunately, my bike was stolen out of the back garden over Labor Day weekend. Partly my fault for not locking it, and merely leaning it against a tree, and partly someone else's for leaving the gate open overnight after doing her laundry.
Back to school! I feel like a kid again, or at least an undergraduate. Orientation for the department was all right. Meeting my “colleagues” was more fun than touring all the buildings and services, but it made me a lot more comfortable and at home to know exactly where to go. The department advisor told us to study in a different library every time we want to study for a few weeks, until we can pick our favorite. I took her advice to heart; more on that later.
The classrooms are all the same. Classrooms are the same the world over. Same smell of chalk and floor cleaner and gum under desks. The hallways are always full of students, usually sprawled on the floor, waiting for their next class. In front of the big classrooms it can get dangerous, stepping over all those feet and bags. I took the placement test for Japanese a few days before the start of classes, and after handing back two tests (one of the professors, having taught on the East Coast, noted that Haverford was a very good schol, and tried to put me in fifth year. Not a chance. The fourth-year test was similarly over my head), and a conversation with a sweet-as-pie prof, I was placed in third-year. Which, privately, is where I knew I belonged, but knowing the Japanese love of procedure and empirical evidence as I do, I kept quiet and diligently filled out my kanji tables and sentence completion.
My other classes seem pretty typical high-level undergraduate stuff (we're encouraged to take that level of instruction our first semseter). Two classes—Japanese translation and Japanese linguistics—with the same professor, and a seminar that I thought was going to be a lot of work and isn't. So now I have a little too much time on my hands, basically an unfilled week. But there's ballroom! The stuff of my next post!
But for now...to finish out the month, Gabe and I went hiking at Point Reyes as soon as he was free from the shackles of qualifying exams. We went with my cousin Sam and his girlfriend, and my grandmother's dear friend Yvie, who knows the trails like her own street. It was a perfect day, blazing hot and sunny. Starting out, we stopped for the requisite coffee (for G, naturally. I still don't touch the stuff), and I left my wallet on top of his car. No kidding, it was still there when we pulled up at the bridge toll 20 minutes and 10 miles later. God protects fools and little children, indeed.
We arrived in Marin at Yvie's to find her enormous dining room table COVERED with food. Even though we had brought our own snacks and trail mix, we dug in gleefully and fueled up. Then we stopped at Bovine Bakery where we parked, for second breakfast (might have been third by that time...). The trail we picked was neither easy nor hard, in my opinion. I was certainly tired at the end, but aside from somewhat exhausted ankles from plowing through the sandy paths, I wasn't totally wiped out at the end. We got to see elk on the way, but no whales. The ocean views, and sounds, and smell more than made up for it, though. I love cliffs.
We went back to Yvie's to wash up, and off to Sushiko's for dinner. Yumyumyumyum...On the way back, Sam managed to lead us into a warehouse parking lot, or some such thing, and nearly killed himself in the process. Gabe has since extracted a promise from me that I won't get into a car with him. My own cousin...
but. Great way to end the month! I think I'm going to like it here!