How Quirky is Berkeley? Avi Black’s Berkri-la on Ordway

1300 Ordway Street. Photo: Colleen Neff
1300 Ordway St. Photo: Colleen Neff

There are hints of Bali on the southwest corner of Ordway and Gilman. These statues depict musicians you’d see in a baleganjur ensemble featuring a team of interlocking cymbals and drums, an inseparable part of life and death in Bali. Its traditional purpose is to accompany funeral processions.

1300 Ordway Street. Photo: Colleen Neff
1300 Ordway St. Photo: Colleen Neff

Over the porch is a Balinese carving.

Avi Black. Photo: Colleen Neff
Avi Black. Photo: Colleen Neff

The house belongs to Avi Black, whose love of Bali has flourished for 30-something years. After a chance encounter with the Balinese percussive instrument the gamelan, he became involved with Gamelan Sekar Jaya, a local 60-member company of musicians and dancers specializing in Balinese performing art. He came to a deep love of Bali. He has traveled to Bali many times,and his love and travel led to the creation of Berkri-la in his background.

The main event of his house is the backyard, visible over the fence along Gilman. He calls his backyard Berkri-la, homage to Shangri-La, the idyllic, sacred place described by James Hilton in Lost Horizon. So – a real representation of a mythical mountain utopia isolated from the outside world.


1300 Ordway Street. Photo: Colleen Neff
1300 Ordway St. Photo: Colleen Neff
1300 Ordway Street. Photo: Colleen Neff
1300 Ordway St. Photo: Colleen Neff

The wood pavilion is known as Bali as a bale. Black bought his Bali bale from a now-gone import-export business in Temescal. At the apex of the bale is a garuda, a bird-like creature that appears in both Hindu and Buddhist traditions. The garuda is the national symbol of Indonesia, depicted as a Javanese eagle.

Other art from Bali lies around the backyard.

1300 Ordway Street. Photo: Colleen Neff
1300 Ordway St. Photo: Colleen Neff

On the left is Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of knowledge, music, arts, wisdom and learning. With Lakshmi and Parvati, she forms the trinity of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva.

Reclining Buddha, 1300 Ordway Street. Photo: Colleen Neff
Reclining Buddha, 1300 Ordway St. Photo: Colleen Neff

We visited on a gorgeous spring Saturday afternoon.  What a day!

1300 Ordway Street. Photo: Colleen Neff
1300 Ordway St. Photo: Colleen Neff

Avi Black, a historian, history teacher, and development mentor for history teachers, stumbled onto the culture of Bali by happenstance 30 years ago. His love for all things Balinese is not exclusive – he has a great passion for the San Francisco Giants as well — but he carries his love of Bali into his front yard, backyard, and house. His coining of “Berkri-La” is whimsical and brings a smile.  His yard, in its Bali-inspired glory, brings inspiration.

Tom Dalzell, a labor lawyer, created a website, Quirky Berkeley, to share all the whimsical objects he has captured with his iPhone. The site now has more than 8,000 photographs of quirky objects around town as well as posts where the 30-year resident muses on what it all means.

For a fuller version of this post, see Quirky Berkeley.

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