Santa Rosa has always been one of those interestingly remote places for me. I grew up just an hour away from it, but it always felt as distant as places three or four hours away, as if it were more suited to a long weekend trip than a quick visit. Where I live now is […]
Everyone knows of Berkeley as the home to one of the highest-ranked public universities in the country — the site of protests and liberal movements and “Nobel Laureate Only” parking spaces. As a third-generation UC Berkeley graduate, I get that. But as a fifth-generation Berkeley native, I’m here to tell you that there’s far more to the town than its university.
Underneath that, there’s a city that’s as bold and daring as it is fragile. Like a flower defiantly bursting from a crack in a sidewalk, ready to be trampled by the first unobservant foot to come along, Berkeley is brave in a way that reveals its own vulnerability.
My city (yes, I haven’t lived there for years now, but it’s still “my city”) is known for being radical. It clings to that image the way a teenager coming out of some phase clings to the trappings he or she is outgrowing, because at least they offer an identity, and an identity that no longer fits feels safer than facing the fact that you aren’t quite sure who exactly you are.
That may sound a little unfairly harsh, but you need to understand it’s said with love, tenderness, and admiration. Berkeley is still brave enough to stand up for what’s right and real and true. It’s just that it also sometimes puts bins of flags on every street corner, so pedestrians can wave them for better visibility as they cross the street. (The flags vanished, perhaps as souvenirs. Not long after, the bins were quietly removed. This incident isn’t spoken of.)
You see, when it isn’t sure how to be radical, Berkeley is willing to give anything a shot. Anything to retain that title, that spark of fiery identity, even in the face of the gentrification, as much the rest of California and all ex-hippie enclaves, that threatens to snuff it out.