Column: Why Visit India When You Live in Paradise?

By Susan Parker
Tuesday February 20, 2007

Friends invited me to go to India with them and I gave their offer serious consideration. They’re experienced travelers, spending five to six weeks a year on foreign soil, often in places off the beaten track, difficult, and obscure. But at the last minute I opted to stay home. Running around the subcontinent, though no doubt fun, would be fiscally irresponsible. I’ve got new priorities and responsibilities, bills pending and not much income. I need time to adjust to this weird, wretched state of widowhood.  

So, while my friends were trekking from Kalindi Khal to Badrinath, I began my own little explorations, inner and outer, around town, and across the bridge.  

On Sunday I went to the Temescal Farmers Market (located in the Claremont Avenue DMV parking lot), and to a neighbor’s photo exhibit at Nomad Café (Joe Robinson’s Fathers of Color, hanging through Feb. 28). On Monday I took a rainy hike in Redwood Park, looked for jobs on craigslist (so easy!), then checked out the traditional Irish dance and celli music at the Starry Plough (free!). On Tuesday I applied for a few positions, (so simple!), attended an abs strengthening class led by John Downey, and taught a writing workshop in a cramped, funky basement in Bernal Heights. On Wednesday I whipped off resumes to more postings on craigslist (so busy!), then took a run along Big Trees Trail in Joaquin Miller Park. I celebrated the end of Valentine’s Day by watching a Korean movie described as “Romantic! Political! Arty! and Edgy!,” but it looked just like porn to me.  

On Thursday I applied for more jobs (so ambitious!), and rode my bicycle up Tunnel Road and down Claremont Canyon. I took BART over to the Mission District, and drank a strong, reasonably priced martini at The Latin American Club, (3286 22nd St,), then attended Dan Hoyle’s Tings Day Happen at the Marsh (extended through March 31). On Friday I had my first job interview (so fun!), participated in an Iyengar-based yoga class at Ironworks, walked up Claremont Canyon with my friend Meredith, went to Ashkenaz to hear a swing dance lecture given by 92-year-old living legend Frankie Manning, choreographer of the first Lindy Airstep. 

Frankie entertained the standing room only crowd with stories about the Alhambra, Renaissance and Savoy ballrooms, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Billy Holiday, Spike Lee, Denzel Washington, and everyone who has had anything to do with Swing. He showed film clips from his early Hollywood movies, including Manhattan Merry-Go-Round, (1937), Jittering Jitterbugs (1938), and Hellzappop’ (1941).  

I stayed to watch Lavay Smith & Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers play their first set, watched Lindy Hoppers of all ages, ethnicities, and skill bend, dip, twist, wiggle, swivel, and slide, then dragged myself home and got into bed.  

On Saturday morning I helped paddle a dragon boat around the Berkeley Marina and beyond, ( Afterwards I stopped at the South Berkeley Senior Center and viewed Jesse Graham’s pen and ink Black History Month mural ( I rode my bike to downtown Oakland and saw a photo exhibit at Chachie's Coffee Shop (1768 Broadway, up until Feb. 28.). Before returning home, I paused at The Beach Impeach Project (3208 Grand Ave.), and picked up promotional materials from organizer Brad Newsham, including a flyer on the Setting the Table For Impeachment event happening this Thursday at the Grand Lake Theater (  

I ended the day with my own private screening of Half Nelson, an indie film that made me glad my addictions gravitated toward frenetic busyness and not illegal drugs.  

Now it’s time to reflect upon what I’ve learned and accomplished. I’m glad I didn’t go to India. I don’t recommend renting Jang Sun-Woo's “Lies.” An hour and a half on a Dragon Boat is exhausting. It’s easy to apply for jobs posted on craigslist, but I really don’t have the time. And although no one asked me to dance at Ashkenaz, I’m not afraid to give it another try.