Amblin' Alameda: Fragrance of Fall

Amblin' Alameda: Fragrance of Fall

Morton Chalfy

I didn't realize it was Saturday morning when I set out on my daily walk. It took three blocks before the lack of lines of cars at every stop sign gave me my first clue, the relative quiet my second clue and the songs of the birds being audible over the lack of din finally driving home the point. Since I don't have a regular job (though I have plenty to do), I can plead loss of my place in the calendar to explain not knowing the day of the week.

Besides, the slight chill in the air and the position of the sun in the sky filled me with such pleasure when I stepped outside my door that my brain was preoccupied with the beauty of the day. It takes me a while to walk the kinks out of my back before I'm fully upright and striding along - the same three blocks that it took to realize it was a Saturday. I usually feel like I'm recapitulating evolution by starting out sort of bent over, sort of shuffling, peering up from under my brow and huffing and puffing and then slowly straightening up, raising my head and swinging my arms in the fully developed bipedal walk of the true human being.

By the time I reached the shoreline, savoring the clean air unpolluted by the constant car exhausts of the weekdays, the fragrances of fall were surrounding me. Not that anything is in flower currently, but the slight whiff of the bay and the ocean beyond it mixing with the sight of San Francisco with its drapery of wispy mist is enough to hold its own with color-changing trees and falling leaves.

The relative absence of autos is made up for by the increased presence of people: People walking, people biking and people doing both. One youngster, perhaps 3 1/2, bundled up against the chill, helmet squarely on his head, mouth held in a moue' of concentration, was riding a bicycle with wheels perhaps 6 inches in diameter followed by his father jogging along behind him. I could sense the boy's security coming from the steady plop, plop of his father's shoes on the path behind him.

An elderly Asian couple who I nearly always see on my walks was once more coming towards me, familiar faces against a familiar background and this time walking hand in hand. We all share the path in peaceful harmony and we're all soaking up the peace of the scene.

On my way home I stop at a couple putting out a yard sale and ask about a child's car seat. They don't have one but the family - Caucasian man, Asian woman, Asian mother-in-law and young boy, obviously their progeny - reminds me again how diverse Alameda and the Bay Area are in its population and how comfortable that makes me feel. I grew to maturity in New York City surrounded by the richest ethnic mixture in the world at the time, and then I lived in lily-white Florida for many decades. The diversity of the Bay Area returns me to the comfortable surroundings of my youth and induces that feeling of back-home comfort.

I overheard one woman saying to another recently in the next booth at a local restaurant how much she loved living in Alameda. “It's like no other place around here,” she said.

I couldn't agree more.