A White-Flight 4th of July Eight Minutes From Berkeley
by Steed Dropout
July 7, 2012
HOT FOURTH IN ORINDA
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
COLD TIME AT BERKELEY MARINA FIREWORKS CARNIVAL
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.
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.
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.
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.
A father of two said he “was so lucky,” to drop $40 bucks at the shooting concession.
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.”
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.