Afraid I was running out of new streets to jog, I took to busy Sacramento to the strains of Béla Fleck's Throw Down Your Heart on my iPod. To my wonder, the front gardens were lush and the houses were warm, inviting, and charming in the pale pink evening light. White wooden accents turned warm shades of peach, and boarded-up driveways beckoned like doorways into other worlds. I continued to the historic plaque marking the Ohlone Trail, read up a bit on my local history, and turned back to discover a house near North Berkeley BART with great rustic fences built using the redwoods in its front yard as pillars. Strings of multicolored Christmas lights extended fancifully into one of the tree's upper reaches, and outside a hatchback van sported a life-sized wooden grizzly bear sticking out of the trunk.
I continued past Phoenix Pastifico (note to self: eat there) to find myself on the strangely otherworldly Bonar Street. Under an undifferentiated darkening blue dome, the quiet world of one-story houses seemed in the middle of nowhere, a gentler, differentiated version of D.J. Waldie's Holy Land. Knowing that the out-of-sight skyscrapers of San Francisco rose just a dozen miles away made the street miraculous; a similarly charming neighborhood actually in the middle of nowhere (I thought of Waverly, PA with a shudder) would have seemed desolate. Past warmly lit living rooms of charmingly narrow Second Empire homes and a California Mission bell marker replica I'd never noticed in the entryway of a house at McGee and Parker, and I was home.