Monday, April 18, 2005

Berkeley and San Francisco.

This past weekend I visited each of the aforementioned cities for the first time. I headed to Berkeley on Saturday, having lunch with my onetime ND prof Paul Kollman (in town on sabbatical) and dinner with Chi Prov scholastic Mike Conley (studying theology at JSTB). Over the course of the day I got a good look at both UC-Berkeley and JSTB (i.e. the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley), and found both to my liking. The University of California campus is one of the most attractive I've seen, combining a variety of well-designed buildings with a generous allotment of surprisingly woodsy open space. South of the campus, Telegraph Avenue offered some good shopping, but despite a certain cultivated scruffiness the street didn't strike me as any more "eccentric and eclectic" than, say, Harvard Square. (However, I'm also told that Telegraph gets a bit more eccentric - and much more sketchy - after dark.) One thing Telegraph has that impressed me quite a bit are a number of panhandlers bearing very creative signs; my favorite such sign was one borne by a teenager that read "Ninjas killed my family, need money for Kung Fu lessons." Very different from Telegraph is the "Holy Hill" neighborhood north of campus, so called because of the proliferation of seminaries (including JSTB) located there and federated under the auspices of the Graduate Theological Union. Leafy, quiet and appropriately hilly, the area around JSTB struck me as very agreeable and undoubtedly a great place to live, study and work.

Sunday marked my first trip to San Francisco, where I spent most of the day with my novitiate classmate Adam DeLeon, who is on Short Experiment there working with Amnesty International and living with the Jesuit community at St. Agnes Parish. St. Agnes has the reputation of being a very dynamic and vibrant parish, and though I regrettably wasn't able to attend Mass there or meet any of the parishioners I can say that the church is tastefully designed and the Jesuits on staff are very friendly. St. Agnes is located in Haight-Ashbury, a neighborhood famous as a center of the '60's counterculture but now with more yuppies than hippies and more trendy boutiques than head shops. To be completely honest, reminders of the '60's are strikingly rare in the area now better known as "the Haight"; to me, the place seemed little different from any number of trendy, gentrified urban neighborhoods I've visited (Steve, that includes even downtown Hoboken). Though the Haight failed to impress, I was taken with St. Ignatius Church, which isn't only one of the most beautiful Jesuit churches I've seen but one of the most beautiful churches I've seen, period. I'm told that the California Province nearly went bankrupt from the expense of building St. Ignatius in the 1910's, and having seen the place I believe it. Altogether, I really liked San Francisco. The city's many hills have a rippling wave effect that makes the place feel a lot bigger than it really is, and the many parks and scenic vistas dotting the city provide for an excellent aesthetic experience. Among the various areas I've lived in, the Bay Area is shaping up to be one of my favorites. This is really a great place to be. AMDG.


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