I Saw A Racoon Today and He was Wearing Hiking Boots

This morning, it dawned on me: Hills rock. Oakland rocks. But it’s the hills that rock the most. I stopped going to the gym…45 minutes on the treadmill, then 45 minutes on the stairmaster made for a l-o-n-g do-I-gotta?-workout. Every morning there was that fragile liminal space wherein I would argue that being Rubenesque really isn’t the end of the world…(it is) and that sloth is an art form (it isn’t). So, I’d trudge down to the bus stop to hop onto the bus to go to my crowded gym each and every morning. The key phrase there is ‘trudge down to.’ Like a dimwitted child it hit me: I live in the hills of Oakland, technically Piedmont…a terrain that makes cars wheeze and bikers gasp. Bur the views! And the precipitous cliffs!

When we first moved up here, it was the hills that held the allure. I can see the Bay Bridge from my balcony…not only that, here we are smack dab in da hood, but surrounded by redwood trees and Oakland’s arboreal namesake, oak trees. Not only that, the neighborhood is full of stately old mansions dating back to the 1800’s. At one time, Piedmont was known as the City of Millionaires. In the 1920’s, Piedmont boasted the most millionaires in all of the US. They built these lovely Italianate mansions surrounded by groves of trees. All of which are built on upslopes. Each time I point out a new favorite house, my husband always mentions the sheer hell it would be to haul bags of cat litter up the slopping front terrace and then up the three flights of stairs to the front door. Yeah, but our asses would be like steel!

The first day I decided to trek the neighborhood, I donned my trusty ol’ Nikes and off I went. Shoes are the semiotic indicator of who lives in the Bay Area. When we first moved to our apartment, as I stood on the balcony watching the tiny white sailboats off in the distance, I looked down. Way down the hill and then down at my feet. I was wearing a pair of pink pumps with a cute bow over the tow. While they were sartorialy adorable, I knew I was doomed. I went through my catalogue of shoes in my head that I had just unpacked. The last place I lived was flat…and walking consisted of going to the cab, and from the cab, to my office. Come 5pm, all I needed to do was retrace my 20 or so steps (office – cab—condo) and I was finished. This meant that shoes were nothing but pointy jewelry for me. Suddenly, I realized that my python boots would render me housebound, All I had to do was walk out to get the morning paper and I would slide into the bay. Now, a native, I wear those platypus looking Keens…ugly, yes. But in them, I am like a gecko with sticky toes…I can scale any hill.

I love hills. I will never live on a flat topology again. There is something about flatness that transcends geology and permeates the spirit of a place without hills. Hills lend character. Hill dwellers incorporate the expansive views into their souls—at least they do here—it’s hard not to be progressive and live in the Oakland/Berkeley hills…compare our hilly ethos to say, the flat mundane terroir of Fresno or Bakersfield.

I have a three mile circuitous loop that weaves through canyons, skittles down winding roads and chugs back up alpine worthy hills. I take great pains to search the neighborhood via Google maps whenever I change routes…one can’t, just say, arbitrarily turn left and then turn right on a whim…if one did, they’d become lost for days. At least, I would, I’d be too embarrassed to knock on someone’s door to ask, “Excuse me, but where exactly is the main road from here? This takes less than an hour—much more efficient than my 90 minutes at the gym. And it works! The joy of buying a pair of yoga pants in XS knows no boundaries! Lately, I have been running (yeah, right), trudging a tad perceptibly faster on the inclines.

Our neighborhood must be an engineer’s nightmare…the hills roll. Within one block, there could be three steep inclines followed by a terrace of jaw dropping declines. I try to avoid the hills where you can’t see beyond the summit. Talk about a sudden fear of heights! But this is why hill walking is the best workout—it is far from boring. There is always that subtext of immanent and unforgiving danger to keep you on your toes. Since the houses are so old, the trees are even more ancient, which means that the roots are the size of underground hippos swelling beneath the sidewalk (when there is an actual sidewalk) or the road. Your mind cannot wander. Walking at a good clip down a hill then stepping off a 2 inch drop can be lethal.

Even better is all of the wildlife I get to see…Raccoons! Who knew we had raccoons in Oakland? And rabbits. You can tell I am an urbanite when you hear how excited I get at seeing non-rat rodents in the neighborhood. On Christmas morning, I convinced the DH to join me…we were the only ones out in the morning fog. It was so peaceful. Suddenly we froze as we watched a pair of wild turkeys walk across the street. Totally amazing.

This is why I love Oakland…walking back up the hill to our apartment complex, I stop and stare in awe at the Julia Morgan mansion on the corner. I turn to the left and catch the sight of a hawk soaring over the redwood tree in front of our building…I turn to the right, sniff the soft air ever so gently and catch the faint whiff of the crack house across the street. Oakland rocks.

Published in: on January 22, 2010 at 4:53 AM  Comments (2)  
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing “Mrs. Chun LeRoy’s Tiny Apartment” and I’m pleased to inform you that your blog will be added to Blogging Women.

    Thank you for sharing your blog with me and now the many readers of our blog directory.

    Keep up the great work and I’m looking forward to your future post.

  2. I’ll be there someday. Love your blog. Found you on Blogging Women.

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