Amblin' Alameda: Vignettes From An Amble

Amblin' Alameda: Vignettes From An Amble

Morton Chalfy

This morning we are walking in the clouds. The fog has rolled into Alameda and reduced visibility to half a block or less. San Francisco, the Bay Bridge and the monster cranes of Oakland's waterfront are hidden so well they might not exist. The beach re-nourishment project has moved to the west end of Shoreline Drive and the crew of men and big machines are trundling back and forth, spreading the sand newly arrived from the dredge and extending the beach. It looks like the job on Shoreline itself will be done within a week. Very impressive.

Vignette #1 Alameda etiquette at the bus stop: The first person arrives and stands next to the pole with the bus stop signs. The next person arrives and stands at whatever they consider is a reasonable and polite distance from the first - in my observations, usually five or six feet. Eye contact is not necessarily made.

The third person arrives and accepts the distance between the first two as the standard and stands about the same distance away. When four or five people are waiting for a bus - all standing five or six feet apart - the contrast to a bus stop in San Francisco, where 20 people are waiting in the same amount of space as the four or five in Alameda, could not be more stark. It's like the birds on a wire. A few, and they're spaced well apart, when many come they begin to fill in the spaces but they'll still maintain the same size space between each bird. If there are four they can be a foot apart. If there are 40 they'll space themselves with just a couple of inches between each one. It's sort of heartwarming to see that connection in social niceties between the avian world and that of the homo sapien.

Vignette #2 Hubris on the march: I'm striding along at my usual up-tempo pace of an 18-minute mile and I'm feeling vigorous and smug about the people I pass on the pathway. Even a couple of high-stepping fast walkers fall behind me. Then I hear the sounds of something mechanical coming up on my left, not a bicycle, not a runner ... I turn just in time to see the quizzical look on the face of a young child, perhaps three or four, riding in a stroller being pushed by her walking mother. She quickly overtakes me and just as quickly leaves me in her dust. In half a block she has disappeared into the fog and mist and I am left to ponder the effects of hubris. I may be a fast walker among the old guys, but to the young mothers I'm just another obstacle to get around. Oh well.

Vignette #3 Seagull spectators: The seagulls are perched on the wall of sand built by the bulldozers to contain the slurry of water and sand coming from the dredge. They are like people at a construction site looking through the fence at the ongoing work. They are subdued for seagulls and seem interested in what's going on and what's in it for them. They waddle along the crest of the dirt wall and occasionally fly down to the flowing water, perhaps having spotted a fish. Gulls really blend into the fog, which permeates the scene with a peaceful feeling which I think comes from the curtain it draws over the usual scenery. What we don't see doesn't seem to bother us.

As the sun heats up the atmosphere the world returns to normal.


Submitted by William (not verified) on Tue, Nov 12, 2013

Morton. We must pass each other as we walk among Shoreline. I'm out there each morning. I like that each individual can walk or run at their own pace. It appears that people have respect for each other, just by the fact that we are out there, trying to do something good for ourselves. The majority of people say "good morning" and some even break a smile. The weather patterns are always interesting as well. We are so fortunate to have a path like the shoreline to walk.