Archive for May, 2012

Travel: All the World’s a Stage in Ashland and Portland

Posted in The Berkeley Scene on May 29th, 2012 by admin – Be the first to comment

by Steed Dropout
May 28, 2012

All the world’s a stage said Shakespeare, and that would include Ashland, Oregon, home of America’s most famous Shakespeare festival as well as Portland’s Hillsdale district, which is only famous in a shakespearian sense, although it does have its own Sunset Boulevard, site of a stand-off between old-timers and newbies.

Hardly a day goes by without a media story on Portland’s allure, which has drawn artists, musicians, chefs, and slackers looking for cheap rent and the hottest new scenes.


Hillsdale, Oregon.

Only five minutes from downtown Portland, the hamlet of Hillsdale represents everything considered “enviable,” about Portlander’s lives. A family and dog-centered district of 2,000 households, which once was cow pastures is presently up to its spacious lawns in a controversy over a proposed sidewalk on America’s other Sunset Boulevard.

Young Portlanders at risk from not having a sidewalk to take them off a busy thoroughfare. Photo by Ted Friedman.

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Posted in Med Heads & Cafe Culture on May 21st, 2012 by admin – Be the first to comment

by Steed Dropout
May 18, 2012


It all started with the home fries.

I have been stalking Cafe Med’s home fries, which are more like mush than fries, and they often taste like a dirty wash cloth. Just the other day, Julia, a hard working, loyal veteran employee, who doubles as one of a rotating crew of cooks, was asked to refund a patron’s money over the home-fries.

“You’re right,” she told the customer, “the fries are crap.” She rarely talks like this.

What’s it to me? I want the Med to thrive forever, a monument to an old Berkeley, which is dying out.

I’ve noticed that a lot of customers barely touch their mushy “fries.” There’s no fry there.

For years, I’ve urged owner Craig Becker to investigate, but he does things his way — like McDonalds. If he were an accomplished chef, or knew something about cooking, or cafe management, he might do it his way. He needs all the advice he can get, lest his way become “no way.”

Last year Medfries were at least edible. Photo by Ted Friedman.

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Berkeley: A Red (Eye) Bullish After-Hours Cafe Med Blow-Out

Posted in Med Heads & Cafe Culture, Telegraph Avenue, The Berkeley Scene on May 15th, 2012 by admin – Be the first to comment

by Steed Dropout
May 13, 2012


I arrived at the world-famous Cafe Mediterraneum on equally famous Telegraph Avenue before midnight for an event that could make Berzerkeley even more of a world-class berg — 24-hour attractions.

A videographer was there to record me, self-appointed greeter, kick off Berkeley’s first 24-hour business opening. As usual I was on assignment for the Berkeley Daily Planet, Berkeley’s link to back-in-the-day.

Our documentary soon devolved into an ersatz study of the “energy” drink Red Bull, which I had smuggled into the Med. The Med has an un-enforced no outside food/drink policy.

I hoped Red Bull would get me through the night, but was unfamiliar with its effects. After gulping two Red Bulls, I announced I was drunk on the non-alcoholic brew. Perhaps RB had interacted with the marijuana I had eaten.

12:01, and Med remains open all night, to test 24-hour permission. Photo by Ted Friedman.

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Soul of Berkeley

Posted in People's Park, Telegraph Avenue, The Berkeley Scene on May 11th, 2012 by admin – Be the first to comment

by Steed Dropout
May 9, 2012


I’ve written numerous Berkeley Daily Planet pieces attempting to characterize ourselves. I’d like to stick with this idea, because I am fascinated by conceptualizing Berkeley.

How would you characterize Berkeley? Berzerkeley, People’s Republic, nut capitol of the state, where an urban legend has it that released mentally-ill patients are dumped here. A town dominated, often bullied by the university. A town of academics, or academic-posers, U.C. employees, students, and police.

Berkeley High town, home to a gourmet ghetto, a dangerous South side, dangerously close to everything the South side is not — the Elmwood. The West side makes danger palpable.

Two-department Cop town, in a high-crime town. Herds of police respond to calls downtown and on the South side. Minimum of two officers per call, says the chief, but we’ve seen gargantuan cop-ops around town.

A common occurrence, as Berkeley Police stand guard to protect privacy of a man being arrested for his own protection. Photo by Ted Friedman.

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Berkeley’s Telegraph Avenue for Dummies

Posted in People's Park, Telegraph Avenue on May 6th, 2012 by admin – Be the first to comment

by Steed Dropout
May 4, 2012


Berkeley’s Telegraph for dummies, and I’m the #1 dummy.

Recently dubbed the voice of Berkeley’s South-side by a well-known Teley property and business owner, I should have figured out what was ailing Telegraph’s troubled, famous Avenue by now. I’ve had a good thirty-five years to figure it out.

I remember the day, back in the Eighties, when Joji Yokoi, an artisan working out of an historic cottage near the Cafe Mediterraneum, announced in the Med that Teley was about to become a shopping mall.

Even then it was clear the avenue had lost its Sixties and Seventies hippy flavor. A close friend moved to Santa Cruz which still had that charm. I considered a move to Santa Cruz but called it off when I discovered that the sleepy little beach town and surfer center tucked itself in at 9 p.m.

That was then.

Now Teley businessmen tell me that they rarely see tourists drawn to
Telegraph. Old Teley is mostly gone and so are the tourists. Boobs from the burbs, who descend on the avenue on the weekends aren’t tourists. The boobs will always come.

I stand at the wind-whipped intersection of Dwight and Teley in front of Shakespeare’s books, which is named after the famous Paris bookstore owned by Gertrude Stein (and resembles it) as the mellifluous multitude of words of Al Geyer drown me.

Geyer, owner of a 1969 head shop up the street that is a living museum of the Sixties is telling me how and why the Ave may go mall. To make his point he takes me across the street to a new business — the Sock Shop. I had been there recently interviewing the clerks and welcoming them to the neighborhood.

Al Geyer outside Annapurna head shop on Telegraph, founded 1969.
Photo by Ted Friedman.

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PFA Revives “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes”

Posted in Film Reviews on May 1st, 2012 by admin – Be the first to comment

by Steed Dropout
April 30, 2012


Fresh from New York’s Film Forum, which recently revived 1953’s “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes”, Pacific Film Archive has procured a film-can of celebrity cans, if you know what I mean about Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell, the two hootest broads from the 40s-50s Hollywood dream factory. (on DVD)

Wanting to compare my reception to a ’53 film that had bored me, at 14, I vowed to see duo sultresses do their Betty and Veronica act as I had seen them sixty years ago.

After seeing the film anew Tuesday night from the eyes of a film bluff who has been a film history student for two decades, I could not fully recall my 14 year-old’s reaction.

So after the film, I interviewed a 13 year-old who was in attendance with his mothers. The kid, as I will call him, was years ahead of me. My 14 years old was closer to the kid’s eight-year-old brother who played with his cell-phone during the film, and called the film way boring.

I would have eagerly played with a ’53 cell phone during my 1953 viewing.

But the 13 year-old at PFA saw Monroe as funny, and sexy, and greatly enjoyed the film. We all agreed that Jane Russell, who died at 89 last year was manly-big. She married a famous football player, and is seen flirting with athletes in this Howard Hawk’s film.

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