Picking El Cerrito Blackberries

Disassembling our tents and packing up camping gear was accomplished swiftly. If there was a Guinness book of world records entry for the fastest campsite evacuation I feel confident I would have that category locked up solid, first place style. Perhaps a skilled U.S. Army unit would achieve the second place award. Everything went smooth for the most part, but Jamie had so much stuff that some of his belongings had to go on the journey home packed in my car. Jamie told Autumn he would come by her apartment later in the week to retrieve his junk. Shortly afterward he left the campground hoping that if his car did overheat and break down we would be along a little later to help him out. I could not wait to be on the road driving away from Yosemite. I wanted to sit on a couch someplace quiet gulping a few ice cold beers, vegging out for a long while.

Double checking around the campsite to make certain we weren’t leaving anything behind, I was ready to jump in the car to flee. Autumn had other plans, of course. Before we could split Dimond O Autumn wanted to take one last swim in the river. I was furious. I didn’t do a very good job concealing from Autumn the fact that I was angry. Autumn walked along a trail leading to the river’s edge then followed it to an area with a deep pool surrounded by huge boulders. As she slipped off her clothes, wading into the water I sat twenty feet away in the shade of a single tree watching her, being mad. Splashing around in the river Autumn turned to face me. She asked if I was angry. I lied, I told her I wasn’t.

Nearly an hour later we were finally on the drive homeward. I needed to be easy on my car’s brakes, go slow enough to stop in an emergency. I thought to myself, “Use the engine as much as possible to slow down. If they give out put it in neutral and grab the e-brake. That’s all you gotta do, man.” Sounded simple enough but thinking about it didn’t make me any less nervous or stressed out. There’s one steep grade on the road that I was particularly concerned with but the rest of the downhill run wasn’t going to be too spooky.

Nosing downward on winding mountain turns I stayed very alert. From behind the wheel I decided things were manageable. I could easily hear metal on metal grinding noises each time I lightly stepped on the brake pedal. What little was left of my front disc brake rotors were being chewed to bits. There was no sight of Jamie’s burgundy colored sedan as Autumn and I weaved along numerous cliffs. Each passing minute brought us closer to level ground in distant valleys far below. Neither Autumn or I had much to say during the trip.

On the drive home, things between Autumn and I seemed unpleasant. I realized I was depressed.

Rounding a sharp turn we descended towards a long, sweeping U-shaped stretch with a wide gravel area that was safe for trucks to pull off the road if needed in an emergency. As I got closer it looked like Jamie’s car was parked out in the middle of that gravel and dirt all by itself. Easing off the gas I twisted the steering wheel to the right coasting to a stop next to a familiar looking vehicle. Jamie emerged from the driver’s side. His car had overheated, as he expected. It was a hot day and Jamie’s well used Japanese made vehicle had developed a peculiar overheating problem. It only failed when it was being driven up or down hills. On level pavement it ran normally without trouble.

I don’t know how long we sat there keeping Jamie company while the three of us waited for his car’s engine to cool down. Eventually he got it started again and this time we stayed closed behind just in case Jamie had to pull over again. The drive home to Berkeley seemed like it was taking an eternity.

Hours later, I was sitting in Autumn’s living room feeling exhausted but happy to be back. We did not get into an accident much to my amazement. Both of us carried the bulk of Autumn’s heavy gear up a flight of stairs to her second story residence making multiple trips. Sitting there like a voodoo zombie on the couch with a slight bit of drool coming from the corner of my lips was awesome. Taking a late afternoon nap sounded glorious and I smiled to myself just thinking about it. Autumn passed back and forth back and forth from the kitchen to her bedroom and again into the living room. When she was satisfied with the order of things she announced to me, “I’m going to go pick berries.”

I was like, “Huh?” What the fuck was she talking about? Are you nuts? We just spent hours driving back here and now she wanted to go on a hike to pick black berries off the hill about a mile from her apartment. You got to be fucking kidding me, I thought. Autumn was serious though. She went into the kitchen to fetch some plastic containers and a basket. On the verge of a mental collapse I practically yelled at her asking why she couldn’t knock it off and just hang out. The only thing Autumn had to say in response to me was, “Stay here if you want to.” That was the end of it. Autumn decreed bluntly what was going to go down for the rest of the day. No discussion. She didn’t seem to get it that I wanted to spend time with her, but I also really needed to take it easy for a while for fuck’s sake.

Like the dumb bastard that I am, I got up from the couch griping and followed Autumn outside to her car. We drove a few blocks away, crossed over busy San Pablo, and parked in the shade of the only hill between her apartment and the ocean. It’s a huge rock that is covered near the top in a thick forest of Eucalyptus trees. A single road spirals upwards from the base of the hill lined with houses and a few apartment buildings. Most of the Eastern side of the hill has been left unmarred by human dwellings. Dirt trails made by local people lead off the pavement here and there into treelines or open space filled with tall grass. Autumn parked us near a dead end. We walked along the road until we arrived at a barrier then side-stepped it travelling onto a dirt path.

Following a few steps behind Autumn I wearily hiked through a shady tree tunnel to an open meadow. On my right the hillside was infested with blackberry bushes. Autumn shoved a white plastic bucket at me. A faded logo on the container’s outside surface told me it was filled with cottage cheese once, probably long ago. It became obvious to me within a couple minutes of walking around the blackberry infestation that most of the tasty berries Autumn sought had already been swiped by plenty of folks who had the same idea she did. There wasn’t much left within Autumn’s reach. Because I’m fairly tall I was able to pluck a shitload of blackberries off the higher sections. I stayed busy snagging ripe berries from the top of the bushes while dodging hornets and managing to stab my fingers on sharp thorns.

Autumn and I had a talk. The basic gist of it was- whenever or whatever Autumn wants, we do.

I am on the edge of really losing it at this point. She’s causing me to go mental. I think so. But for now I just have to remember it’s all about what Autumn wants…

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~ by factorypeasant on May 12, 2007.

2 Responses to “Picking El Cerrito Blackberries”

  1. I hate blackberries.

  2. Wad-
    i am glad you have chosen to embrace hate. many people go through life denying themselves the ability to feel hate, claiming it is unnecessary and counterproductive. don’t believe the hype, y0. these misguided souls want you and i to think they are walking on moral high ground for doing so. in fact they are pulling the wool over their own eyes becoming less human in the process. it is unhealthy to deny yourself the ability to hate. i say hate away, be a hater whenever and wherever you choose.
    personally i like blackberries, but i hate the bushes they grow from. blackberry vines or whatever they are are evil. they serve a useful purpose though. they produce a food source as well as an excellent natural source of nusiance. for example if you happen to have a neighbor that you *hate* regardless of the reasons you could secretly plant blackberries in his or her yard, quickly infesting their property. this example could be a win-win situation for an individual such as yourself due to the fact that you hate blackberries as well as a nearby citizen.

    i confess, i am a hater. i hate rhubarb pie among other things.

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