One of the chief pleasures of living here is playing tour guide. Over the years I’ve lined up a few: The Food Tour (North Berkeley, the Farmer’s Markets when possible, Market Hall in Rockridge, whatever sort of restaurant they don’t have at home) and the Book Tour (Cody’s, Moe’s, Shakespeare, University Press, Pegasus, Black Oak, whatever specialty stores tickle their fancy) and the Architecture Tour (assorted Maybecks, Eugene Tsui’s “Fish House” (more aptly, “Tardigrade House,” officially “Ojo del Sol”) on Matthews Street). There’s even the Sex Tour: take them to Good Vibrations and then send them to North Beach or Castro, depending on their tastes. Sometimes I’ll stoop to the Tourist Tour, including Fisherman’s Wharf and the Alcatraz boat.
When folks are here just for the weekend, I have it easy. We can sleep in on Sunday and then have brunch at Wat Mongkolratanaram (1911 Russell St.), the yellow houses with dragons just east of the Berkeley Tool Library which serve a Thai Buddhist congregation. It’s definitely a scene, and good eating too: home cookin’ and donated stuff from (and by) assorted community restaurants. Sometimes it’s a bit challenging; be nice to your tourists. Warn them about green papaya salad. As the Wat has just bought the community garden adjoining it, maybe there will be fresh homegrown exotic veggies and fruits, too.
Then we waddle down MLK to the Berkeley Flea Market at Ashby BART parking lot, to walk off a few calories. This gets aerobic only if the drum guys inspire you to jump around and dance. Otherwise, the tricky part is keeping the group together, loosely enough to accommodate both used-book and Tibetan-jewelry cravings, but close enough so no one gets lost.
After that, another short walk, east on Ashby to Wheeler Street, a couple of blocks past Shattuck on the left. At 3017 Wheeler is a house of a different collard, and a plant-savvy visitor will spot it fast: Our Own Stuff Gallery-Garden is the work of Marcia Donahue, Mark Bulwinkle, and Sara Floor. When Mark met Marcia, it was an aesthetic match made in… Well, you decide. Just follow the bowling balls ‘round the side of the house. The display fits into a little Berkeley backyard, but you’ll need lots of time to see it all. After all these years, this is still the damnedest garden I know.