In Bernal Heights, an idyllic little enclave of quaint eats and progressive thinking, you’re practically required to have a dog. Or a kid. (Unless you’re a lesbian with a cat. And maybe even then.)–BlackBook 2005 San Francisco Guide
In the Cortland Street stores you can buy a rainbow of t-shirts that say “Bernal!” or “Bernal Baby.” The designs are identical to the “Bklyn!” slogans Manhattan people wear once we roll across the bridge in our covered U-Hauls. Those were little messages directed to the ones we’d left behind but still had to visit for brunch. _I know you don’t understand yet that Brooklyn is cool,_ our borough shout-outs said, _but perhaps our t-shirt pride will convince you._ To those who’d lived in Brooklyn all along–by which we meant four years—we hoped they said, _I belong, too!_
Bernal is a tiny, earnest Brooklyn. My local coffee shop is called “Progressive Grounds,” and it’s as fine a place as any for a morning with the Economist. On the noticeboard you can collect phone numbers for local plumbers, feng shui practitioners, rolfers, writing teachers, tree doctors, and body-focused psychotherapists.
Where the highways coil together at the bottom of the hill, there’s an excellent farmers market. Half the price, I’m told, that the fancy people pay at the Embarcadero market. Even when my sorrel experiment turns into bitter black slime, I have the comfort of knowing it was only a dollar, and she threw in the dandelion greens for free.
I moved from Prospect Heights to Bernal Heights, but Brooklyn’s gentle slopes are puny next to San Francisco. I have push my bike up the last two blocks to my apartment, wheezing. The hills are so steep that we walk down like drunken mimes, knees bent, toes pointing delicately. Hills rear in every direction, so that on my four-block walk to the coffee shop, I stagger up for a block, down for two, and back up. I worry about the snow and ice that won’t arrive.
The compensation is a view that makes me trot to the picture window every morning. I stare at it like a cat, watching the city roll from Twin Peaks to the Marin Headlands. It never stays the same.
I live in Bernal. By choice.