The Kingdom of Heaven

Back in the Bay Area: I biked down Telegraph Avenue past a head shop with windows full of multicolored glass bongs and a younger Latin@ couple admiring them while nearby, too, two older white men with the characteristic genial slouchiness of aging hippies spoke gravely of their merits. Past Caffe Med where Rosie the illustrator stood distractedly holding his coffee cup on the sidewalk outside, his hair grown shaggy over the past year; then past the usual tangle of crusty travelers; past the contentiously long-empty lot on the following corner now improved with a grumpy billboard condemning the City of Berkeley for its inefficiency in the permitting process ("Mothers don't let your babies grow up to be developers," it read); and finally past Rasputin Records, where one section of the March on Washington display that took up twelve feet of windows asked "Who is Albert Woodfox?" I picked up a newish issue of Granta from the curb, then a few blocks later saw a small guinea hen feather in the street and circled back to pick it up. I ate a hamburger. In a moment of profligacy, I bought a fancy (yet relatively inexpensive) water filter for this weekend's wilderness travails--the Sawyer PointOne Squeeze, if anyone cares. Berkeley and Oakland are the same as ever--troublesome, mostly, but wonderful. Outside of Pegasus on my way home a man gave me a copy of the Street Spirit and prayed for me. Usually this feels like the religious equivalent of telling a woman to smile, but today it felt perfect, and the man placed his hand gently on the handlebars of my bike as if blessing it, too, and prayed for us both, he and I, to reach the kingdom of heaven. Amen, he said, and I said too. I went in to Pegasus to buy a $2 calendar for this waning year, and the man behind the counter said he'd be remiss to charge me for it, and so out into dusk I went, the sun just setting behind a building whose facade, somehow, from a distance seemed to read JACKET.