May 2, 2023

I love colorful houses…and quirky houses…and dramatic houses, as well as Victorians, provided pains were taken painting the detailing. Recently, because the Marin “thoroughfare” has been under reconstruction, when the traffic is badly backed up on my way home from the pool, I’ve been swerving off into new neighborhoods I’ve never visited before. And what boggles my mind is that every edifice is different, even the most modest bungalows architecturally unique, except in the very rare instances that two adjacent ones mirror each other.

Yesterday I hid my camera in my trunk before my swim and on my way home took snapshots of a few buildings that caught my eye. Only a few, because it was sunny and, overall, there was too much contrast.

This is the first time in years I’ve photographed Berkeley residences—and the springboard was seeing, a couple of weeks ago, that the brush had been cleared away around a crumbling, derelict house only three blocks away from mine, making it clearly visible for the first time in decades. This is the house I’d always wanted to feature for my blog “Wasteland.” So I hurried out one morning between onslaughts of rain—I wanted an overcast sky as background—and as I stood in front of the moldering ruin, considering the best angle, it began to sprinkle. It turns out it’s actually inhabited, which I realized only the other day when I saw the postman putting something in the mailbox.

Now I feel inspired to start aiming my camera at more homes, though I suspect I may soon get so frustrated by all the intrusive elements—the ubiquitous trash bins, parked cars, telephone poles and wires, etc.—that I’ll decide it isn’t worth the effort after all.

OK, the brilliance of this particular paint job is a bit out of my comfort zone, but it screamed to be included.

I wish the stained glass window were visible in the photo above! This Episcopal church, in a rough part of town, has a black wire screen protecting the window. In the same neighborhood, I came across the house below.

I rather like this modernization of a witchy house, though a garden would have been nice.

I was so transfixed by the shingle work on the facade of this Victorian that I didn’t wonder until I saw the photo on my computer screen, But where are the windows? It must be awfully dark inside!

Cornell Ave. had a couple of big surprises.

So many variations on a theme!

What is that white thing in the garden plot? you may be wondering. It’s a paper cutout of two skeletal hands resting on the keys of an actual typewriter. Maybe the owner of the building is a ghost writer?

Confession: I spent a ridiculous amount of time doctoring this photo in Photoshop, including deleting the sheet-covered chair blocking the right side of the door and the dark stains all over the front steps and the potted cactus on the railing in front of the colorful hanging in the window. I also applied myself to articulating the design of this stained-glass hanging, which looked blurry and dull because it was partly in shadow. And I can’t even claim I did all this for sentimental reasons. While it’s true this Victorian is only a few doors down from the apartment house we lived in after my mom moved my brother and me to California, I don’t remember ever noticing it, though I would have passed it every school day for three years on my way to Berkeley High.

Another remodel I like.

For two months I drove past this house, hoping to take a photo of it without a car in the driveway. But no matter the day of the week or the time of day, the vehicle was always there. Don’t these people ever go anywhere? I wondered grumpily. Eventually I began suspect what I was only able to verify yesterday: they have two cars. But I had to have that window in my collection, so…

A few blocks down the street from the Victorian above is the house below.

I’ve been waiting for weeks for the painters to finish the job on the Victorian above!

I’ve also decided to post some of my previous photos of houses along my usual routes—so everything will be in one place, offering a glimpse of the variety of local the architecture, variety I didn’t see growing up in St. Anthony Park…

I had to include this house, renovated decades ago, because it’s so mysterious to me. I pass it three times a week on my way to the pool—and in all those years I’ve never seen a blind on any window opened or raised. On the rarer occasions I drive by at night, I’ve never detected any light within. Maybe the tenant is blind?

I took this photograph to showcase the disparity in wealth, even in a neighborhood like mine, where one homeowner has the wherewithal to renovate while his neighbor doesn’t.

I snapped this dilapidated building two streets away from mine for the same reason. For comparison, a half a block away from it is the Victorian below.

I’ve been wanting to take more pictures of dilapidated houses for my blogs about therapy, so I headed out early this morning when the sun would be shining—albeit through cloud—on east-facing facades.

Below are my most recent discoveries—in an area so far south of me I didn’t know I was still in Berkeley till I checked a map!