Eve Pearlman: On Holiday
Getting into the holiday spirit, here are the top ten reasons I love living in Alameda.
10. If you drive above the speed limit, you can count on being stopped by the police. If you drive without your seat belt, you can count on being stopped by the police. When you are stopped by the police, most of the time – though not 100 percent of the time (just enough to give us fast talkers hope) – you will be ticketed. And while it took me a couple years to get used to this strict scrutiny and adapt my behavior accordingly, I appreciate the constant surveillance that constrains drivers to safe speeds and safe habits. Oh! I almost forgot. If you make a left turn onto Park Street during rush hour you will be ticketed. If you breeze through a stop sign on Fernside Boulevard you will be ticketed.
9. The weather!
8. If your house alarm goes off, the police will come. If you call to report suspicious activity, the police will come. If you leave your bike outside and it gets stolen, they won’t show – but what could they do anyway? Months ago when my brother, visiting from out of town, left his wallet and Blackberry at Littlejohn Park one morning, he did a U-turn and went back to look for it (driving no more than 25 of course). I stayed home and got a call from the police saying someone had turned in his possessions. And an officer had found my info in his Blackberry contacts, and the Blackberry and wallet were delivered to my house before my brother made it back from his search of the park. Maybe this should be reason one?
7. You cannot go anywhere without seeing someone you know.
6. When I travel I love to tell people, “I live on an island in the San Francisco Bay.” Which sounds romantic and lovely and evokes, perhaps, for those who’ve never been to Northern California, Gilliganesque images of palm trees and soft sandy beaches. If I’m aiming for a different effect, I can say, “I live on an island off the coast of Oakland,” a description I like because it juxtaposes ‘coast’ and ‘island’ which have a breezy open-air feel with ‘Oakland,’ which, deserved or not, has a reputation somewhat grittier.
5. Neighbors enjoy each other. They drink wine in the afternoon, grill fish in the evening, swap stories on the street. We help each other. We share childcare and recycling bins. We pick up packages, return packages, pick up mothers-in-law at the airport, lend video cameras and Cuisinarts and coolers and snowsuits. We make meals for sick friends, answer late-night calls for help, take time to listen on the corner, and lend an ear and an arm to those in sorrow. We are a community. Perhaps this should be my number one reason?
4. Alameda is bigger than you think. Despite the feeling that you know everyone and all the stores and every restaurant and all streets – you don’t. There’s more to discover. Twenty-two square miles and 75,000 people is not as small potatoes as you might tend to believe. As with any good relationship, there are mysteries still to be plumbed.
3. In a few months I will have lived here ten years and I will receive an engraved watch in honor of my tenure from City Hall. Or the Chamber of Commerce. Or someone? A girl can dream, anyway. And then I can call myself an Alamedan! Just kidding, I know I can only be an Alamedan when I’ve completed my fiftieth year.
2. On Monday, a neighbor was at Nob Hill when a woman started yelling for help – someone had stolen her purse. Dozens of people, both shoppers and employees, abandoned their carts and work and joined in the chase of the snatcher. My friend, on a tight schedule before picking her kids, stayed in line, but when she went outside the thief’s car was surrounded and multiple police cars were arriving. That’s community.
1. And the top reason – at least for this week – is the yellow of the Ginkgo leaves. And the reds of the liquidambars.
Okay, the real number one reason. You can never start thinking you’re alone because – did I mention this? – you always see someone you know. And we are a community in which generosity and kindness thrive.