Monday, March 22, 2010

Spring Forward

Last week was incredibly lazy.  Most days I woke up early enough to get up and be at least mildly productive before going into the gym, but made the executive decision to stay in bed and enjoy semi-consciousness instead.  But this kind of thing can only go on for so long before you find something to take your mind off it, and now it's 9:35 and I'm up at the computer starting to get back in the swing of things, which means it's time to post a blog (finally).

This weekend the nice weather continued and I was struck by the desire to revel in the open air, which is why Oleg and I wound up taking a tour of random Oakland locations that are pretty.

If you're not an Oakland native (Oleg's from San Francisco) then you probably have no idea but there's a ton of naturey stuff in this city that's perfect for enjoying the outdoors.

We started by walking around the Morcom Rose Garden, which was completely empty of flowers but still nice and airy and good for a post breakfast walk.

It looked like this, minus the roses.

The garden is one of my favorite places in Oakland because it's right in the middle of the city (off Grand Avenue, home of Lyn & Lu's cafe and the best breakfast in the Bay Area) but it's a serene, natural place that feels completely un-urban, and un-city-like.  You might as well be in rural Connecticut for all your know, but guess what?  You're in Oakland!

It's a real life representation of the complexity that I love about this city--just when you think Oakland is one thing, it shows you another side and you're not so sure.

From there we drove up to Piedmont and decided to take a walk around Mountain View Cemetary.

No, we're not goth.

The cemetery is very pretty and incredibly not morbid (as cemeteries go) so people make frequent use of it as a place to walk their dogs or run or, like us, stroll.  But if you're not from Oakland, you'd probably never notice it, let alone think it was a good idea to take a walk through it. 

Oleg was skeptical at first but eventually came around to agree that it was a nice place (though it would be nicer without all the dead people).  My response was that the dead people weren't doing anything to anybody, but this might be a result of my own lack of hang ups about grave sites.  They bother me about as much as house plants.

Anyhow, since it's spring all the weeds are blooming and there's tiny yellow flowers all over, making it even cheerier than usual (for a cemetery).

From there we started back to the car but made what we thought would be a quick detour to the Chapel of the Chimes.

No, I did not set out to take Oleg on a religious tour of Oakland.

A few months ago our friend Kevin took some photos of Adam and Stephanie, and one of the locations they visited was Chapel of the Chimes.

 Don't they look sharp?

After the shoot all I heard about for a few days was how awesome and beautiful the place is, and since those kinds of statements make me instantly curious to see for myself, I said we should check it out.  Also happy to try his hand at disproving claims of awesomeness, Oleg agreed.

We're happy to report that Chapel of the Chimes is in fact awesome and beautiful, and that our friends are not liars with no taste.

It's a mausoleum, which I wasn't really expecting (I thought the "chapel" or the "chimes" would be the more important thing) with complex architecture featuring lots of open space, gardens, and fountains.

Oh, also, shelves and shelves of entombed ashes.

Oleg was perplexed as to why so many of the ashes were in book-shaped containers, and I agreed that it was a little weird, especially considering how shelf-like their final resting places are.  I suppose there's some sort of allegory to the book-of-your-life going on with that decision, but it's still kind of weird.

We spent a fair amount of time walking through the place, and did eventually manage to find the actual chapel, which is probably the least impressive looking part of Chapel of the Chimes.  We also passed a post-office-box-looking spot that was the home of Upton "Buddy" Sinclair, who is not the Sinclair responsible for The Jungle (buried in Washington, D.C.) but someone whose parents must have been fans.

From Piedmont we drove up Broadway Terrace into the Oakland hills and down past Lake Temescal (where we didn't stop, but this is what you missed out on, Oleg)

and then wound up turning into the Mormon Temple.

If you're a kid in Oakland, chances are you've watched fireworks from the viewing platform at the Oakland Temple at least once.  It has nothing to do with being Mormon, or even religious; it has to do with this incredible effing view:

The Mormons were smart to pop their flagship Oakland location in a spot offering such a pristine view of the entire Bay because it gets so many of us non-believers up there, and once you're there, you might as well go Mormon, right?

Or not.

We walked around the temple for a while then drove on up Skyline Boulevard past the Chabot Space Center and down Redwood Road to Redwood Park.

When I was little my family was pretty poor, which meant that all the activities we did together had to be free, or relatively free.  We wound up doing a lot of hiking, which is how I wound up getting to know so many of the Skyline area trails.  In the 80's they were less maintained but absolutely gorgeous as a result, and if you were a kid it was very easy to imagine you'd been plunked down in some sort of medieval fairytale.

I spent years running around in this environment with friends, making up stories and games, and it was a truly magical part of my childhood.

Oleg and I weren't really in our hiking gear though so we stayed out in the picnic area at the front of the park and spent most of our time relaxing on a picnic table and watching a near by family play Mother May I.

It was a lovely way to waste the day, and to put a cap on my week o' laziness.

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