Try, try, try. What a wonderful message of self-affirmation, coming to you directly from your urban infrastructure! You can do it–whatever it is! Just make it a little farther, a little higher. Reach for the sun; step into the light!
The word Try is identically painted over and over again on each of the risers on the long second flight of Bloomfield’s Ella Street steps. If only all law-scoffing paint-huffing miscreants would take such an interest in the collective conscience. Sometimes we wish the city would put more effort into the upkeep of the steps, but if some well-meaning civil servant were to white-wash each of these, you could bank on this blogger’s mellow getting majorly harshed.
Bloomfield won’t make anyone’s short list of great city steps must-sees. Despite the steep drop-off into “Skunk Hollow,” The Orbit knows of only two sets of steps in the whole neighborhood–these on Ella and one other at the end of Cederville. But don’t let the step snobs of more vertical wards deter you from a really great easy-access down-and-back hike. The end of Ella Street is mere blocks from Liberty Avenue, Bloomfield’s main drag, but a world away from the dense thicket of row houses you pass to get there. It’s all air and light and thick, untamed overgrowth, spilling off the hillside and into the hollow below (at least by this time of the year). Get your hot sausage, go for a little hike down the hill, come back up for a cannoli.
I’ve been up and down the Try Try Try steps a dozen times in as many years, and for that entire duration, there’s been a curious attachment to the bottom-most landing (just above Lorigan Street). A rusted, red-painted toy truck, which seems to be a homemade piece from heavy garage scraps, is bolted to the concrete. The motivation for this is curious, as is the respect it’s paid from the crews that hang out and graffiti the step rails after hours. They may leave their malt liquor bottles, but they don’t mess with the little red truck. I tend think of it as the unofficial mascot of the Try Try Try steps: the little (fire) engine that could.
Reaching the top of the Ella Street steps (and optionally the short flight up the perpendicular Wertz Way steps that adjoin) one gets a great payoff with views through the tree canopy to Polish Hill, North Oakland, and down to Skunk Hollow. On this beautiful early fall(-feeling) day, the sky a perfect cloudless blue, the dappled light, and lush, overgrown hillsides were as spectacular as one could want. And all we had to do was try.