It can be so embarrassing when people visit this area. There is always an element of horror in what they see.
So when a friend came here for the first time, she grimaced, her face eminating pure disgust. She said, “This area is so dirty.” And then she looked at me with that pained expression I know so well, as in, “How in the world do you live here?”
Another interesting phenomenon is when folks from here travel to another part of the country or the world. They generally come back filled with surprise and delight by what they behold. As an acquaintance said to me just the other day, entranced, “I went to visit Chapel Hill, North Carolina. I couldn’t believe how nice the area was — and clean.”
Now you would think that we were living in the old Soviet Union by how shocked and mesmerized the masses are when they happen upon a clean, safe place. It must be like how those poor suffering Soviets felt if they were lucky enough to escape their environs. But I’m guessing that the Soviet streets were probably a whole lot cleaner than the ones around here.
Which reminds me of something I also heard not that long ago, something supremely ironic. A friend went on vacation with her family to Russia. Upon returning home, she told me, “It was the nicest and cleanest city I have ever visited.” Given that these folks are wealthy, world travelers, that is saying a lot.
You may be asking yourselves: how dirty is this area, Berkeley and beyond? More than you can even imagine, more than in your worst nightmares — and getting worse every day. People are living on the streets almost everywhere, and that involves doing number one and number two on the streets, as well as dressing and undressing here, there, and everywhere. It’s commonplace to see people eating out of garbage cans, sleeping in boxes, sitting on street corners begging, and nonchalantly dropping their trash wherever they want to.
The freeways are a total gross-out mess. Overpasses, underpasses, every-kind-of-pass — overflowing with every kind of trash known to mankind. Down by the railroad on Gilman Streets and Cedar: soiled mattresses, ripped furniture, everything that you can possibly imagine strewn the sidewalks and streets with a disgusting mountain of garbage. The whole area has become one big, exorbitantly priced trash dump.
Now it’s been dirty here for years. But I’ve seen a dramatic worsening of conditions in the last few years. But what is even more surprising is that the trash has spread to the once tony suburbs.
Drive over the bridge to astonishingly wealthy Marin county and view the rubbish; Marin used to be about as pristine as it gets. And yet here again, you will see trash despoiling the area. Beggars line the streets, as illegal immigrants hold up signs in Mill Valley.
Ditto to the once lovely suburb of Pleasant Hill, even Walnut Creek. Those used to be lovely, clean suburban destinations; now vagrants beg for money, while the streets are dotted with filth.
Now the weird thing about it is no one seems to care. No one talks about it; it’s just the new normal. The exception to the silence is when people leave and return; the reaction upon returning is almost always the same.
“I went to Toronto to see friends,” I heard yet another resident say this week, spellbound. With starry eyes, he exclaimed, “It was so nice there. And I couldn’t believe how clean it was.”
It’s no wonder that they are captivated by the rare and heavenly sight of filth-free, sanitary streets. As the old saying goes, “Cleanliness is next to Godliness.”
But, sadly, in Berkeley et al., the opposite is the case. . The Evil One has masterminded the decadence, depravity, and squalor viewed all around us. This is no surprise at all because it is the Enemy, not God, running things in this sad and grungy place.