A White-Flight 4th of July Eight Minutes From Berkeley

by Steed Dropout
July 7, 2012


Eight minutes by freeway from Berkeley by freeway you will find a bedroom community of costly bedrooms nestled in the hills of Contra Costa County, Berkeley’s conservative “Big Brother.”

Big Brother’s 4th of July patriotism flaunted itself this year. I was there covering the festivities for the Berkeley Daily Planet.

Ted Friedman. Orinda, Ca., July 4th, calling itself Lamorinda, three nearby towns.

As in my “shoot” last 4th in nearby Alameda, Ca., I was all over the event (like flies on shit, as we say, in my hometown of Springfield, Il.), or running the parade route with cameras, like a chicken with its head lopped-off, another regional colloquialism.

July 4th Orinda, Ca. Hands on hearts.

What may be a personal fourth tradition started from a yearning to re-live patriotic fourth’s of yore. Here in “Berzerkeley,” where West Bank politics rule, you are more likely to see flag burning or an anti-4th celebration.

(A Berkeley roof-top anti-4th party was cancelled this year when the party-giver lost her roof-top).

July 4th parade forms at Orinda's 1946 movie palace.

Scene in a tuba. July 4th, Orinda, Ca.

Six excellent marching bands provided Sousa marches. On-lookers doffed their hats and held on to their hearts for the Star-Spangled Banner. I paused, thought back to my fourths as a kid, and came close to tears.

Ted Friedman. Wars come and go in Orinda. 4th of July 2012.
Ted Friedman. Everyone wants to drive a tank in Orinda, but try it here. July 4th, 2012.
Cool down. Staging area in Bay Area Rapid Transit parking lot. July 4th 2012, Orinda. Military touches not tolerated in Berkeley.

I wouldn’t say this in print in Berkeley, where the fourth is mostly despised, and Berkeleyans leave a ghost-town for the day. I’ve lived here long-enough to despise myself for ignoring the wrongs of the USA.

Often called the “People’s Republic of Berkeley,” my hometown of forty years has positioned itself as a progressive voice with its own foreign policy, although that is changing to just weird.

According to my Springfield, Illinois newspaper, for which I reported in the summers of 1958-61, one-hundred degree temperatures cancelled fireworks at the state capitol. It was freezing at Berkeley fireworks at the marina in the evening, and merely warm in Orinda (the eight-minute get-away), which is always hot in the summer as Berkeley is cold.

Anchored by the magnificent 1941, Orinda movie palace (one of only two bay area single screen “palaces” extant, Orinda,ca. (50,000) has recently become Lamorinda, teaming with its Contra Costa neighbors, Moraga (17,000), and Lafayette (24,000) — a teaming born of failures to create town centers in the three bedroom communities.

The population of Berkeley, considered by some an emerging bedroom community itself: 104,000 and growing.

Little girl lost at big Orinda July 4th parade, 2012. 'I want my mommy.'
Little girl found.

When Berkeley’s grade schools integrated in the fall of 1968 (Berkeley High, called by the New-York Times, “the most integrated high school in America, followed), there was, according to locals, a sizable “white-flight” to Orinda, which is no more out-of-town, than our North-side’s Solano Avenue.

According to a recent U.C. Berkeley Law School study, “the Berkeley, California school district has successfully resisted legal restraints to end desegregation efforts and, in the process, provided a possible model for many other districts across the country which want to keep the benefits of integrated schools but must face the limits on voluntary integration plans imposed by the U.S. Supreme Court two years ago.”

In an accompanying Berkeley Reporter photo-essay, I capture the contrast of Orinda’s white-flighters with Berkeley’s vaunted diversity.

Lamorinda youth steps out on 4th.

Berkeley’s vaunted diversity is limited to a few districts, but is hardly present in wealthier districts on the North side and in the exclusive Berkeley hills. Now you know.


Clueless jerks blocked bicycle access and exit. I had to thread the needle to get my bike through the 20,000 crowd from all over the Bay Area. This was my first visit in years to the side-show our local fireworks by the Bay has become, and I was shocked by the enormous carnival.

Ted Friedman. Money shot. Fireworks at Berkeley pier, 4th of July, 2012.

Dressed warmly, I wasn’t warm enough, and shivered through the evening, finally shielding myself near a tent (pictured) from bitterly cold winds.

A fellow-photographer said that next year he’d bring a tent for shelter. While the rest of the nation sweltered, we froze.

Near Berkeley pier at Berkeley Marina July 4th 2012. The notorious statue, aiming at Bay, center, right, was dumped or donated by an unsung artist, who doesn't want it back.
July 4th Berkeley crowd rings Marina.

My Berkeley Daily Planet coverage of the fourth left out the elegant diners on the lawn of the Marina Hilton (Doubletree), where for under $200, you could rent a room with a view of the fireworks.

Smokin. The haze is from a barbeque stands. 'It - the barbeque - better be good,' yelled out a smoke victim.
Part of ten man cop-squad 'protecting and serving.'

Also missing was the young mother, who “got-off” shooting B.B.’s from a replica AK-47 assault rifle at a target in a tent near the Bay (pictured). Forty pops for $20; fun ain’t cheap.

Ted Friedman. Back in Berkeley near Berkeley pier, a carnival atmosphere, diversity. July 4th, 2012.
Shooting gallery. Part of July 4th, sundown at Berkeley's Cesar Chavez Park, North of the pier and fireworks.

A father of two said he “was so lucky,” to drop $40 bucks at the shooting concession.

Take a shot. We took shelter here from ice-prickly wind up the nose. July 4th, 2012.

Berkeley Police, with a major presence, had prepared for up to 50,000 they said. In one of my typical stoner-to-police performances, I confessed to the cops for wanting to tell the mobs who blocked me from the bike paths, “Get the ef out of the way,” but recalled the time in the hills I had said, “if your g-damned dog bites me, I’ll bite you (on the way back) only to realize, the dog-owner might have released her dog on me as I circled back).

Approving my reticence, a cop said, “you can’t be too careful, these days.”

Ted Friedman. Cesar Chavez Park at Berkeley Marina, where we sought shelter near tent, right. Concessionaires dismantle bungee jump.
Bungee jump dismantled before fireworks July 4th, 2012, Cesar Chavez park.

Although, I planned to beat the exit crowds, I failed and was thwarted at the over-pass,which was closed to car traffic and jammed by thousands. I was so busy weaving through on bike that I forgot to stop to photograph the fire-wall mob. This would have made a great shot, but didn’t.

View accompanying photo-essay to see what I did shoot.

Two photo-shoots in one day, just like the majors; Berkeley Reporter soldiers on.

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