Tomyamaguchi’s Weblog

Just another weblog

Happy Leap Day 2016

Leap days have a special meaning for me. It was on Leap Day in 1980 when I moved from San Diego to the San Francisco Bay Area. That was 36 years ago or 9 Leap Years ago. As I enter my 66th year of life, I am amazed that I have spent over half of them here in Berkeley.

I was married then with a four-year-old daughter. Life in the progressive town of Ocean Beach had been exciting,but my wife Melissa and I were beginning to feel claustrophobic.What little culture we had then was mostly within those small town limits. We had the Strand Theater for movies, OB People’s Food for grocery shopping, and house party fundraisers for various political causes. That was a good thing, too, as Proposition 13 had decimated the local bus system. The bus to Ocean Beach stopped running at 8:30 pm, so we could forget going downtown for nighttime events.

Transportation was becoming a major focus of my political activism. The first gas shortage caught me dependent on a car to get to work. I switched to a job that allowed me to commute by bike. It was a long commute, but the ride got me into excellent physical shape. It was that love of cycling that brought me to friendship with Bob Berry, a former a native of OB who had moved to Berkeley to attend UC. Bob was living without a car. When we met, he told me of his commute to work at a freight airline based at SFO. Working graveyard shift, Bob took his bike on BART to Daly City station, which was then at the end of the San Francisco line. He then biked to SFO. The next morning, he loaded his bike on one of the airline’s DC3s, flying from SFO to Oakland airport. Then he would ride to the Coliseum BART station. If he got there early enough, that is before morning commute hours, he would be able to take his bike on BART. If not, he would have to ride back to Berkeley by bike.

After several visits to see Bob in Berkeley, we decided that Berkeley was the place for us. At the end of 1979, I had finished a full time job which was my first as a political organizer. Bill Press had left Governor Jerry Brown’s administration after failing to get the legislature to pass an oil profits tax that would fund public transit and alternative fuel research. When I read that Press was trying to qualify the tax as a ballot initiative, I signed on as a signature gatherer. The Tax Big Oil initiative did get enough signatures to qualify for the ballot, though it failed to pass in the following election. The experience did succeed in firing me up to engage in more bike and transit activism. I was ready for Berkeley.

So it was on the early morning of February, 29, 1980, that we loaded up our small pickup truck and drove all day. We arrived in the Bay Area that evening. My daughter Dharma later told me that she did not know we were actually moving to a new home. She thought we were going to her grandparents house and was confused when we passed the exit and kept going.

When we got to Bay Area, Bob took us on a quick cultural tour. First stop was the house where Patty Heart was kidnapped on Benvenue Avenue. We then drove to a house on the north side of the Cal campus, where Bob had heard about a party. When we got there we found that the house was owned by Reverend Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church. Realizing we had ended up at a Moonie party, we left quickly.

Our first home was an apartment in North Oakland. Bob had a friend who was moving out and still had one last month of paid rent. We used up her last month’s rent, hoping that we would be able to stay. That was not to be. We ended up living with Bob in his basement apartment in a South Berkeley Victorian. Space became available in the flat above Bob, and we were able to move out of the cramped basement.

Our roots in the Bay Area became more secure when I was able to find a job in Point Richmond. I was once again a bike commuter. The following year, we bought the house where I am stilling living today. On Leap Day of 1980, I took a leap of faith and am glad I did.

February 29, 2016 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , ,

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