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Off to Oakland
updated: Aug 21, 2010, 8:45 AM
"Oakland's a great town if you're a gun or a knife." - Anonymous
Actually, there are several Oakland's: Chinatown, Knife ‘n' Guns, and Ritzy Hills
Having sold enough stock last year to get us around Europe for two months, we found that there are inexpensive and interesting journeys to be had back here in good ole' traffic-worn US of A. Here's one:
Itinerary -- Santa Barbara to the Bay Area to Lake Tahoe to home
1.Mile 40--Burger King in Buellton: Coffee, Tea, Cinni-Minnis, and clean restrooms.
2. Mile 100 -- Madonna Inn, San Luis Obispo: change drivers, visit clean restrooms, get coffee and tea unless the restaurant's hopelessly crowded, which it was on Aug. 6; get postcards at the front desk showing the bizarre bathrooms and bedrooms at the Inn.
3. Mile 135-- Starbucks, Paso Robles: Too crowded, but still offering coffee and clean restrooms. Gas station across the street.
4. Mile 210 -- Central Coast Pizza Co King City. Excellent pizza, all you can eat with a salad for her and a Coke for me: $9.33! Good deal! A must stop!
5. Mile 230? -- Somewhere in Salinas, change drivers and use clean restrooms. Final push: Drive Hwys 101, 680, 580 and 13 to avoid compacted traffic through the East Bay area.
6. Mile 340 -- Arrive at kids' house in Oakland hills. Great food, warm fuzzies, brand new and luxurious bathroom.
The next day: LOST IN IKEA
Talk about travel excitement! It was decided that we would shop in IKEA, the
Swedish Wonder Über Store, this one located in Emeryville, only a few hundred junkies and several race riots southeast of Berkeley. First one needs to know how to pronounce it: EE-KAY-uh, EYE-KAY-uh, EYE-KEY-uh, EE-KEY-uh . . . You be the judge.
Actually, the place was wonderful once I conquered my incipient feelings of panic, approaching claustrophobia, that were induced by getting lost immediately between overhead directional signs and arrows on the floor that naturally pointed ahead -- but to where? This was an ominously big place!
While others shopped, I - a witness, not a consumer - followed sign after sign to "restaurant" and found a good place there, got some coffee and a cinnamon roll and happily contemplated the mass of humanity streaming by. A kind of shopping parade of mostly young people looking for…what? Everything for one's home, I guess. Putting their houses in order. It was a carnival of American consumerism at its best -- a place to get stuff for furnishing your low-cost dreams, while you go on working to take your later dreams to the next level.
I did some good people-watching as they strolled, zombie-like, to and fro, looking for bargains: a little bitty kid with a huge stuffed elephant in his arms, a black couple with matching dreadlocks, an ethnic mix of folks befitting the ethnically mixed Bay Area.
The coffee was very good, making me wish we'd got there earlier for one of their 99-cent breakfasts.
I loved the bright color all around. Big plastic boxes -- for what? Colorful plastic baskets and knotty pine tables. Fun!
Of course, when the youths finished decking out their homes, folks would say. "Hey, you got your cupboards at IKEA!" That's all right. They probably got theirs at Home Depot. What's the problem?
The family took a little longer than I thought to find their pot holders, dish towels, closet organizers, a bowl made of bamboo, several picture frames, some toys for Gracie the boxer dog, a stand-alone table mirror and two IKEA bags to carry the stuff. I felt somewhat bereft and lonely. But coffee was only 99 cents a cup with a free refill (I THINK it was free; it was for me), and the folks appeared just as I was toying with the possibility of this being the 11th ring in Dante's Inferno, with people sentenced to walk in circles for an eternity, endlessly searching for something to buy that they didn't already have.
Later I was told that one poor old guy was sitting forlornly on a stack of bed sheets, looking as if his wife had seasoned his scrambled eggs with Prozac. But she finally showed up with a full cart. He slowly stood and, eyes barely open, pushed it away, toward the checkout area. Another satisfied customer!
God Bless America. And Sweden for bringing us this Festival of Stuff.
To be continued.
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