Sunday, May 1, 2011

Back with a Bang

I fell pretty hard off of my bike yesterday and broke my elbow. I didn't realize it was broken, so I waited until this morning to walk to the emergency room. I always keep a stack of general equilibrium flashcards in my purse, and thought of flipping through some fixed point theorems in the five hours in the waiting room, but as you might imagine that's not too physically or mentally feasible when one arm is in excruciating pain.

So instead, I distracted myself from the pain (and the waiting room television news) by catching up on economics blogs on my phone. My history professor Brad DeLong's recent post strengthened my resolve to leave the flashcards unflashed.

I realized I haven't posted on my own blog since I've been in Berkeley. I never imagined nine months could be so transformative. I've learned so much about myself and about economics that it is daunting trying to dive back into blogging. Better to reveal things over the next few posts than to try to give a comprehensive report now, especially with one arm in a sling.

Berkeley is a special place. It is simultaneously aggravating and endearing. Everywhere you see juxtapositions of purity and filth, idealism and cynicism. Every sort of ambition and depravity is here. People are passionate about every cause in the world, yet still manage to live primarily in their own worlds. You can see anything on the streets of Berkeley, which means you can do anything on the streets of Berkeley and not be seen. It is both freeing and unnerving. It is unsouthern and unsettling. In Berkeley it is never quite warm enough long enough to be convincing. Berkeley is not for basking. It is just gray enough for introspection.

On the first day of classes, I went for a morning run to the Berkeley marina. To get there you cross a pedestrian bridge over the highway. The bridge was chalked with the sayings "Capitali$m is evil" and "Get the United States out of America." The chalk has long since worn off, but I still think of that bridge as the capitalism is evil bridge and run across it on mornings of exams as a personal ritual. Once you cross the bridge, you can run on these trails that have been built upon mounds of trash. You can't tell they are built on trash, except by reading the signs that proudly explain it. If you go farther North to the Albany bulb you can see larger than life art made out of trash. You get a view of the bay, the bridge, the hills, houses, tracks, highway, and industry.

Berkeley views never get old. They'll have you asking, Who am I to try to save the world? and at the same time, Who am I not to? Place matters a lot, I think. People matter more, but you can hardly make that distinction, because people are a part of the place and the place is a part of them. Berkeley is a good place for graduate school. The best place, in my mind, to become an economist.


  1. I hope your elbow heals quickly! Sounds miserable.

  2. Thanks! It was miserable last 2 days but not nearly as bad today.