On my walk to and from the BART station where I live, I experience amazing things.
Lake Merritt, as I think I’ve mentioned before, is a bird sanctuary. So I’ve witnessed snowy egrets, straight lined and angular, staring intently at prey as they stand in the shallows. I’ve also seen gulls pull mussels from the lake and drop them on the asphalt walk until the shell opens and they’re able to retrieve the fleshy interior.
There are the runners of course. But also the couples who walk every morning. One day, I saw an older Asian woman who stepped oh-so deliberately, punching the air as she went, for exercise, completely un-self-conscious. I envied her.
Each weekday morning, just outside the 19th Street BART station, there is the man in the straw hat who sings show tunes, completely off-key, and very loudly. He’s not seeking money, as far as I can tell. And, actually, he sings a show tune: Maria, from West Side Story.
There’s also the man who sells religious books from a duffel bag, as though he were peddling crack or meth. He wears a dark hoodie and he whispers to you as you pass: “Twenny-fi cents. Twenny-fi cents.”
But what I like most is the view of the lake itself. At 5:30 in the afternoon, in the gloaming, sunset glinting off downtown towers, the necklace of lights that ring the lake beginning their shift.
Gertrude Stein once said of Oakland, “There is no there there.”
Clearly, she never had the chance to walk the lake to and from work. Because the there is there.