Date 47: Past, present, and future
This is a long story, but it ends well.
Click through to the extended entry to read more.
Valentine's came a little off schedule for littlestar, as I invited her to have brunch with me on the fifth at a place that's special to both of us - Venus, in Berkeley. We went there back in our early dating years, when I was traveling up from San Diego to visit her in Berkeley, and we'd be able to meet up during the day and spend some time together on Saturday and Sunday before I had to fly back down to San Diego for another week of grad school.
She was definitely looking forward to Venus, but probably didn't know I had a little bit more planned.
When we first sat down in the car, I handed littlestar an envelope.
It was empty. But I had a matching envelope.
From which I handed littlestar a card.
...and another card...
...and then some more...
She was a little surprised, and then perplexed...but finally overcome by the cuteness. Clearly, there was more to come, as I had a nice, fat envelope that I put into my pocket, and she had so much space left in hers. When she asked, I assured her that she'd get the rest, eventually. In the meantime, I asked her to open the glove compartment and pull out a CD labeled "There."
We started up the car, started up the CD, and headed off on 101 listening to this:
- A song with a name I don't know how to translate, by Fantastic Plastic Machine
- Girls & Boys, by Blur
- Candy Girl, by Soviet
- La La Love You, by the Pixies
- Global Warming, by Vermillion Lies*
- Brand New Key, covered by Rasputina
- Solace of You, by Living Colour
- Making Out, by No Doubt
- Hysteria, by Muse
- Stratford-On-Guy, by Liz Phair*
- Expectations, by Belle & Sebastian
- Marching Bands of Manhattan, by Death Cab for Cutie
- Pizza, New York Catcher, by Belle & Sebastian
- Slowdown, by Morcheeba
- On My Mind the Whole Night Long, by George Gershwin
*We've seen these folks live, together. :)
Littlestar asked me if the songs meant anything. They did (and they do!). They're about the mood of our early years when we were dating long-distance, getting to know each other, and learning that we really did like each other enough to keep going over the course of five years and a separation of five hundred miles. Some of them are obvious - the Pixies' song's title just gives it away. Others may be unclear, but mean something to our experience together, like Stratford-On-Guy, which captures that feeling of waiting as my flight made the final approach to Oakland airport, that last little loiter in the air before I'd be walking down the hallway, hoping to see that first look of Christine after half a month or more apart.
We spent far too much time in airports.
As we drove, we talked about what might await us at Venus - perhaps the lemon ricotta pancakes we had the very first time we went!
We also took in the fog as we crossed the Bay, which formed a kind of impromptu mystical entrance for our Valentine's date.
Once we arrived in Berkeley - with the CD finishing up on time, as planned - I parked a couple blocks away from Venus. As it happens, this was done on purpose. On our way to Venus, we stopped in front of another restaurant, La Note.
And I gave littlestar another card.
You see, back in our second year or so of dating, on one of my trips to Berkeley, we decided to try and have brunch at La Note. As it happened, La Note was really popular, and we showed up only to find a crowd inside, and another crowd waiting outside to take their place. Being hungry and adventurous, we decided to move on down Shattuck...so back in the present day, I took littlestar's hand and we walked another block down Shattuck, where I gave her yet another card for her collection.
Because on that day way back when, we walked another block and found this nice, new little restaurant named Venus. We decided to take a chance on it, as we are prone to doing, and had an amazing breakfast with lemon ricotta pancakes as its center piece.
Venus is still a great little restaurant, but it's a lot more popular these days. Like La Note from our first outing years before, the Venus of today had a big crowd inside, and another crowd outside waiting to get in. Unlike that first Venus date, this time I had reservations, and we walked right in, sat down, and tried to figure out what to eat.
They still had the lemon ricotta pancakes, which pleased littlestar to no end.
Naturally, we had to order them. Our full order was:
Lemon and Ricotta Pancakes
Chicken Apple Sausage
Venus Benedict with Salmon
...and a ridiculously rich hot chocolate for Ms. littlestar.
Venus was appropriately decked out for the occasion, too.
The food was just as good as we remembered it. We spent our time talking and eating, remembering our "old" days back in Berkeley and thinking about how happy we were that this place was still going strong. I think I also spent a lot of time just watching my date with a slightly sappy expression on my face:
Note the Buddhas in the background. Venus is such a fun place.
After enjoying our decadent and "exactly as good as we remembered it" brunch, we headed back out onto Shattuck, where littlestar once again put her fate in my hands and let me lead the way. I did just that, and we walked toward campus...and then down Ellsworth Street. Littlestar said she thought she knew where we were going, and it turned out she was right. We stopped in front of my old apartment building, an elegant place from the 1920s that was, to my good fortune, still rent controlled when I lived there. I gave her this:
Back when I first got to know littlestar, I, well, really really liked her. So when she happened to mention one day that she was having a little trouble with organic chemistry, I piped up and said, "Hey, I can help you with that!" The internal monologue around that went something like, "Man, I don't want to tutor anyone in o-chem. But it would mean more time with her..." Clearly, the "more time" impulse won out, and littlestar came over to my place to study organic chemistry.
We actually did study chemistry, too.
From the apartment, we walked on, farther away from campus. We eventually turned left and headed toward Telegraph, finally stopping in front of a very familiar building.
Although littlestar lived all over the place in her time at Cal, moving more than once a year, her final Berkeley apartment was the best. It had great, big windows overlooking Telegraph avenue, and a Thai restaurant conveniently on the way to school. She had some weird apartments and some "okay" ones, but the Telegraph apartment was great. Of course, it also heralded another great addition to our lives, one that was entirely littlestar's doing.
In her last year at Berkeley, littlestar adopted Stormy from a bunny rescue over in Reno. Stormy adapted to life in the apartment quite well, and went on to be the chief of her own little warren of fellow adoptees over the years. The bunnies have been such a huge part of our life together, and it all started in that sunny little apartment on Telegraph.
Having walked all the way from campus, we now headed back, walking down Telegraph together. It's an interesting walk, years later. Many of the stores have changed, but the place still feels a lot like it did back when we used to spend time together on one of those weekend visits, checking out the sidewalk retailers or stopping in at Moe's.
We spent a lot of time doing this.
...and we still do. Of course, these days, we're at Book Buyers, and we're hanging out in one of the aisles while littlestar looks through every possible variation of the same book for the right mix of cover art and quality typesetting.
I adore her for this. Also, she ends up with very pretty and readable books this way. It's pretty cool.
From Moe's we bounced across the street to another place where we spent some time back in our early years:
These days, we don't do so much browsing through used music in stores. That said, we picked up a new habit, one that has led to some awesome dates together.
Littlestar's enthusiasm introduced me to a love for live music that I hadn't considered before I met her. In our time together, we've had so many great experiences going to see bands that we know and love, and bands that we've never heard of before, but end up loving. It's something that very much punctuates our time together so far.
We continued on Telegraph and took a detour up Durant, where littlestar received her sixteenth card of the date.
We shared more breakfasts at Cafe Durant than any other spot in Berkeley. It was convenient, sure. But it also had great food and the occasional bird who would try to steal that food from you (if you sat out on the balcony). It introduced a food that was to become a staple of our breakfast and brunch times together, Eggs Benedict.
(And we also learned some fundamental rules about cooking, too.)
After this detour, we left Telegraph and crossed Sproul. Littlestar thought Sather Gate looked smaller now, which is in one sense silly, since we haven't really "grown" since college, but also makes sense. Back when we were dating and I was visiting from far-off San Diego, Berkeley still seemed pretty big. The campus felt expansive, and going as far as, say, San Jose, seemed like crazy talk. Now, we'd driven forty-five minutes to get to Cal, and Sproul plaza and Sather Gate felt downright homey.
I led littlestar to Dwinelle, where we made our way up to a side entrance and I gave her this:
Although some of my visits started on Friday evening, I also made time whenever I could for a three-day visit, leaving the lab on Thursday afternoon and making my way to the Bay Area. littlestar, of course, still had classes, so I spent the occasional quality time in a hallway, waiting for her to be done. This continued on to her second degree, too.
After Dwinelle, we crossed Strawberry Creek and stopped by the pottery studio. I wanted to stop in here because it was such a big part of littlestar's life, like so:
One of the pottery staff members happened to be there and let us in so littlestar could walk around and reminisce a little. I felt like this was a special bit of our shared history because it let her remember how much she loved art, and let me in on a whole slice of her life and being that I hadn't known existed. I couldn't imagine her without it now.
Of course, I hold on to my own mementos from this time.
She tells me it's ugly. I don't believe her.
By this point, littlestar really had the hang of this date, so when we made our way to Lower Sproul, she said, "Remember that time we saw Karnak?"
I was just tickled that we were clearly on the same wavelength, so I couldn't help but laugh as I gave her the next two cards.
Yes, we were supposed to see The Bacchae for one of her classes, but instead managed to find ourselves watching a concert by a Brazilian band. At first we thought it might be an especially avant-garde take on the greek tragedy, but that impression didn't last long. It was, however, an awesome concert. And after all, who knew there were multiple venues bearing the name Zellerbach?
From lower Sproul, we made our way to the western side of campus.
As we came to the edge of campus, littlestar recalled that we'd once stopped by a tree somewhere nearby and taken some pictures, which we still have in a photo album. Once again, we were on the same page.
I gave her this:
(And she said yes.)
Afterward, we wandered around campus for a while, holding hands and talking about the last decade, our time at Cal, and how things can seem so long ago and yet so very recent.
Littlestar also laughed at me as I was shocked at each new building we ran into on campus (there are so many!). We sat on a bench near the Campanille and just enjoyed the feel of being near each other, then walked over to our old dorms and a final stop at Sufficient Grounds, where littlestar spent a lot of time enjoying really good sandwiches when she was a newly minted freshman at Cal.
Afterward, we made our way back to the car, and I pointed littlestar to the glove compartment one more time, for a CD labeled "Back."
- I'm Sticking With You, by The Velvet Underground
- Take Off Your Shirt, by Vermillion Lies*
- Love So Pure, by Puffy AmiYum*
- More Than a Feeling, covered by Sleater-Kinney
- Sunshine of Your Love, by Cream
- I Love Rock and Roll, covered by The Dresden Dolls*
- Moon Over Marin, covered by The Dresden Dolls * and **
- Whole Lotta Love, covered by Goldbug
- Got to Give it Up, by Marvin Gaye
- Rock Steady, by No Doubt
- White Picket, by Vermillion Lies*
- I Belong to You, by Muse
- Bliss, by Muse
- Whitechocolatespaceegg, by Liz Phair
- Moonchild, by Cibbo Matto
*We've seen these folks live, together
**We are at the concert where this was recorded! This makes it super special.
I'll leave it to you to figure out the themes.
After a long, wonderful day at Berkeley, we headed home with the past in mind and the future in sight. :)