Happiness is a Crowded Bus or Train

Joel Epstein
4 min readMar 10, 2022

By: Joel Epstein

San Francisco and the Bay from a bike seat on Grizzly Peak in the Berkeley Hills.

This one is for you Pop. I wrote it this morning on a standing room only BART train from Rockridge to SFO. San Francisco, where I was born and you and Mom discovered the beauty of the natural world.

With war raging in Ukraine and economic ruin already here or around the corner for much of the world, I cherish the charmed life I lead. While the year has not been without its challenges including the death of my father and others I loved or were dear to those around me, I am healthy and prosperous by all but the most obscene Russian oligarch or crypto millionaire standards.

Call me a broken record. I am hard pressed to remember a trip for work or pleasure or both that I didn’t love. Aren’t all trips to places one loves great?

My love of travel and friends and food is my birthright from my father, Pop to me and my three children, sisters and brothers in law and six nieces and nephews.

To paraphrase Pop, no one ever regretted taking another trip or swimming in the ocean or going to visit family and friends.

So in Pop’s honor and to my delight, I am on my way home to snowy New York from a great visit to my other life on the best coast.

Redwood Regional Park.

As always, there were so many great things to do and see and eat. A hike with Bob in Redwood Park in the East Bay and a bike ride along the ridgeline of the East Bay parks on Grizzly Peak with crystal clear early Spring views of the Bay and San Francisco. The Shed — the ADU or casita in Elmwood in Berkeley that Laura so graciously offered me as housing for my East Bay stay. The hospitality of good friends and lunch with my cousin Steve outdoors on Solano. Walking around Berkeley and Oakland with Susan, Laura, Alex and Oatie. Dinner at Tamara and Bob’s new house in Alameda. Hiking at Stoneview Nature Center in the Baldwin Hills and walking LA with Yael. Her leek tarte and other made with love meals during my stay at her and Danny’s home in Mid City. DTLA on foot with Francois and West Adams with David. Time with Bob and Lucy and Tom and with another Bob in Brentwood.

Central Valley orange orchard.

The drive up the 5 through the Grapevine and past the miles of Central Valley almond and citrus orchards and vineyards I used to admire when I worked for one of America’s largest farming companies.

Gurdjieff is missing, except in Berkeley.

Yeah, that was all great and a reminder of why bicoastal was, and is, the best moniker for me. But it was also the more quotidian experiences I lived this past week including riding a packed BART train from Rockridge to SFO, and a crowded 28 bus, my old Metro bus route, from Mid City to downtown LA for the Curbivore conference. And then riding the E train (it’s still the Expo Line to me) from DTLA to Culver City to meet Yael and Leon for a visit to a crazy old artist in Leimert Park. I guess gas prices above $5.50 a gallon will do that to you. Turning more of us into the Los Angeles and Bay Area transit riders we should have been all along.

Standing room only on BART to SFO.

Given my love of the still Golden State, it’s no surprise to anyone who knows me to hear me heaping praise on California’s commitment to mass transit.

Still, given Covid and all of the hate that some have directed at our most significant public infrastructure, it has been heartening to Go Metro and BART again. Thank you Pop, for buying me that first subway token.

Yours in transit,


Joel Epstein is a New Yorker and an advocate for public transit, livable cities and public space.

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