A phoenix finds new life by arising from the ashes of its predecessor.
The lead photo above is a Quirky Berkeley Phoenix, 2819 Prince Street.
And these two photos are the ashes, from a 2013 post about a quirky small world at 2828 Russell.
The children of 2828 Russell were the driving force behind the small world villages. They collected the little houses, people, and animals at yard sales on weekend mornings. Occasionally they found some in curbside free boxes.
In May 2016, the family that made the Russell Street small world had to move. They weren’t sure that they would venture into the quirky small world game again until and unless they bought a home.
It’s now almost two years later, and I’m happy to say that the phoenix has in fact risen from the dead. The formerly-Russell-Street family now lives at 2819 Prince, where they continue to give joyful quirk to the street.
The emphasis on Prince Street is not the curb strip, as it had been on Russell. On the curb strip on Prince Street are only a few hints of quirk:
There is also this makeshift tile planter.
This improvised tile planter is filled with the ubiquitous Oxalis stricta, called the common yellow woodsorrel (or simply yellow woodsorrel), common yellow oxalis, upright yellow-sorrel, lemon clover, or more ambiguously and informally sourgrass or pickle plant. Who knew that our city’s official weed had so many names?
From the curb arises this column:
The main events on Prince Street are the bird houses above the gate that are shown above and an assortment of wind chimes on the fence, hung to be touched.
Here – a few details from the fence.
Between the fence and the house are the quirkiest touches.
Does this photo not cry out for a Petrarchan sonnet? I think so.
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
MOTHER OF EXILES. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
As every schoolboy knows, the Petrarchan sonnet is a form popularized by Petrarch, consisting of an octave with the rhyme scheme abbaabba and of a sestet with one of several rhyme schemes, as cdecde or cdcdcd.
Emma Lazarus wrote the poem, titled “The New Colossus.” She believed in the economic reforms advocated by Henry George in Progress and Poverty. She advocated on behalf of indigent Jewish refugees. Presidents Kennedy and Obama embraced the poem and its message.
In August, President Trump’s alt.right senior policy adviser Stephen Miller dismissed the poem at a White House press briefing on President Trump’s immigration proposals, noting that it was added after the monument was erected. This week, Former FBI Director James Comey tweeted a part of “New Colossus” in response to President Trump referring to Haiti, El Salvador and African nations as “shithole countries” as he longed for more Nordic immigration.
A final blast of simple (stable?) (pun!) genius juxtaposition on Prince Street:
The story of the Prince Street family is a very good one, a ninja-level Berkeley story. But it is a story that for the time being will not be told here. If a family or quirk-maker wants privacy and anonymity, it is granted – quod homo non prius sine quaestione.
I love that quirk could not be suppressed.
I love the wind chimes and the racket they make when you bang them all.
I love the Miss Liberty statue and Yoda and Buddha In the House.
I love the birdhouses.
I love that the family did not simply recreate what they had had on Russell Street, that they went for a whole different quirk.
It warms me when people reach, when people do, when people give.
I showed the photos to my friend.
First he vamped – “If Buddha in da house, say h-o-o-o-o-o!” “If Siddhartha Gautama in da house, say ye-a-a-a-a-h!”
Then he pontificated: “The official name of the statue in the New York Harbor is Liberty Enlightening the World. She is AKA La Liberté Éclairant le Monde, the Statue of Liberty, Lady Liberty, the Lady in the Harbor, the Mother of Exiles, and Torch Girl.”
My friend poured himself a cup of tea, added sugar and milk, and continued pontificating, now about a 1911 O. Henry story, “The Lady Higher Up,” about a conversation between “Mrs. Liberty” and famous statue of Diana at Madison Square Garden. In the story, Diana asks “Mrs. Liberty” why she speaks with what Diana terms a “City Hall brogue.” Liberty answers: “If ye’d studied the history of art in its foreign complications ye’d not need to ask. If ye wasn’t so light-headed and giddy ye’d know that I was made by a Dago and presented to the American people on behalf of the French Government for the purpose of welcomin’ Irish immigrants into the Dutch city of New York.”
My friend added, “I’m sure you know, Diana is on the grand staircase at the Philadelphia Art Museum.” This is of personal interest to me on account of my great uncle Fiske Kimball was the director of the museum from 1925 until 1955.
My friend put on a song, “American Tune” by Paul Simon, for the reference to the Statue of Liberty.
And I dreamed I was flying
And high up above my eyes could clearly see
The Statue of Liberty
Sailing away to sea
And I dreamed I was flying
He shifted away from the Statue of Liberty to another line in the song –
And I don’t know a soul who’s not been battered
I don’t have a friend who feels at ease
I don’t know a dream that’s not been shattered
or driven to its knees
He was on a roll, a real roll. He put on a Simon and Garfunkle song.
Tom, get your plane right on time
I know you’ve been eager to fly now
Hey let your honesty shine, shine, shine now
Like it shines on me
The only living boy in New York.
I told him, “You slew me with that one. Summer of 1969, about to go to college. In the basement in Bryn Mawr, hot and humid, painting the little bookcases I’d take to Penn.”
These are the bookcases in question in my room at home in Bryn Mawr.
My friend wasn’t through. “That, Tom, is a False Memory. The song was on Bridge Over Troubled Water which didn’t come out until 1970. And – you said ‘slew.’ I think you’d have been better off with slayed. The alternative past tense form ‘slayed’ is commonly used in the slang sense, ‘to delight or overwhelm.'”
My friend was on a tear, burning like a fabulous yellow roman candle exploding like spiders across the stars.
I struggled to get a word in edgewise.
What did he think of the phoenix-from-the-ashes post?
And I love that the whole family — including the kids — are creating this quirkiness. Here’s Sir Ken Robinson quoting Picasso, and expanding on the thought: “Picasso once said this, he said that all children are born artists. The problem is to remain an artist as we grow up. I believe this passionately, that we don’t grow into creativity, we grow out of it. Or rather, we get educated out if it.”