Spring Break, chapter 2

 Monday was Berkeley day, because the museum we wanted to visit in San Francisco didn't open until Tuesday.  The first thing I wanted to do was stop by the SFF bookstore Dark Carnival, which I had thought did not survive Covid, but it did!  Dark Carnival has been a favorite for many years; I can't remember exactly where the old location was because it moved to Claremont Ave. over 20 years ago, but I bought my copy of A Sudden Wild Magic there.  The Claremont location is a two-story warren packed with both new and used books, posters, toys, and stuff -- if it can be related to science fiction or fantasy, it's there.  My husband and I once attended a book signing with Susan Cooper there, and she had to sit right by the door, because there wasn't any other space.

So we spent a nice hour browsing and collecting books to purchase.  Dark Carnival always has a good supply of Edward Gorey stuff, and we each bought one of the small books; mine is The Hapless Child.  I bought plenty more; you have to support your independent bookstore, right?

The fuzzy thing is a Santa beard.

We drove up to campus -- passing Cloyne Court, where my dad and my husband both lived in their times -- and parked at my secret parking spot on the Northside, which is just the Berkeley LDS Institute.  It's quite a building!  The main part was a mansion belonging to W. R. Hearst's mother.  It's had to be somewhat refurbished over the years; the solarium room had a leaky roof and so on.  It's four stories (if you count the lower basementy level as a story; this house is placed on a very steep hill) and I presume the bishop's office still has a 1900-era luxury bathroom to the side.  This is where I met my husband, and also where my parents met each other.  (My dad's parents also met in Berkeley, but at the International House, at a dance.)  We -- my husband and I -- had our wedding reception here too.  The Institute is an excellent hangout spot for LDS Cal students, and we really wanted to show it to the kids, but sadly it was closed.  So we walked up to Northgate, with me and my mom telling stories the whole way.

The Institute porch, home of many memories

Walking across campus, we explained our favorite spots and decided to go in to the Doe (Main) library building.  Mom and I are both librarians, and Mom worked in the Bancroft as a student (this being the archival library where all the really historical stuff lives), so we were explaining about the awesome 9-story stacks that used to be in the center of the building, and showing off the reading rooms.  While some people were taking a bathroom break, I was in a hall looking idly at one of the current displays, about fiction set at the Berkeley campus.  As I focused in on a book, I realized something:

This is the mystery novel my husband's aunt wrote.  We have a copy at home.  It pretty much sank into obscurity without a ripple, but here it was, featured in a library display, because it centers on the anthropology department (if I'm remembering correctly; it's been a while).  So I was quite surprised, and snapped a photo to send to my equally surprised husband.

Mom chats with Mark Twain outside the Morrison Library

What we were really after by this time was lunch.  I had a definite goal in mind.  So we walked down to Southside, telling bits of family history or campus lore the whole way.  "Grandpa got teargassed over there!  Here's the kind of silly monument to the Free Speech Movement!" that sort of thing.  And we walked a few blocks down Telegraph, which honestly is looking pretty corporate these days what with the Subway and the Chipotle, and also kind of sad in other spots, and there is a really strange new apartment complex too -- and, outrageously, Shakespeare and Co is now called the Sleepy Cat bookstore??!?!  There were none of the usual vendors of tie-dye t-shirts/cheap jewelry/etc, maybe because it was Monday? so that was a bummer, but we got down to Haste and got sandwiches to go, picked up sodas on the way back up, and had my perfect lunch: an Intermezzo BLTA on Sproul Plaza on a spring day.  

Sather Gate, the official Southside entrance to campus

Lunch at Sproul Plaza

Formerly Cody's Books

We did a little shopping for t-shirts, and walked back up to Wheeler Hall, where we wanted to show the kids where Grandma had taken many classes.  Our goal was to go up the Campanile -- the clock/bell tower -- but sadly it was closed too.  So we decided to go see the gold nugget that kicked off the Gold Rush in the Bancroft Library, where it's been on display for a long time.  (The Bancroft also holds the in/famous Drake's Plate of Brass, which is a fascinating story too.)  Sigh, the gold nugget was put away six weeks ago so there could be a cooperative thing with somebody else.  Lots of our ideas didn't work out, but we had a good time anyway.

By this time it was getting on in the afternoon, and we wanted to go up into the hills.  First stop: Codornices Park, which houses the Berkeley Rose Garden (beautifully laid out even in winter, but no roses yet), a playground, and a famous concrete slide that was built long before things like child safety were invented.  A cardboard box is an important accessory for the slide, and we'd brought one along since all the rain meant there wouldn't be any on-site.

Is that a great tree or what?

After all this adventure, we wanted to visit Tilden Park again.  Driving through the upper Berkeley hills is an adventure too, full of steep, narrow, curvy roads and unexpected switchbacks.  It was so soggy that we could really only do a very short hike, and Mom and Sammy were more in the mood to rest.  So Katya and I walked a half-mile or so, and found a fun little 'labyrinth' made of pieces of brick.  Then we drove down to Vista Point, which is just a parking lot next to the Lawrence Hall of Science, to admire the view again.

Phew, what a great day!  In the evening, we started watching the new show Lockwood & Co, based on the novels by Jonathan Stroud.  I was really surprised at how very good it is.  I haven't finished the episodes yes, but so far I highly recommend it!


  1. I didn't actually get to Berkeley on my most recent visit out, so this was fun to see. Thanks!

  2. More on Drake's Brass Plate on my blog. https://goldfieldsbooks.com/2022/04/06/sir-francis-drakes-plate-of-brass/


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