Cafe Med Tale Twelve

by Steed Dropout
Sep. 4, 20012

Berkeley, Ca

[Editor’s note: this is the 12th in a series on one of the most notorious cafe’s in the known world, Cafe Mediterraneum, on Berkeley’s equally famous Telegraph Ave., and of note in the unknown world as well. Home of the Free Speech Movement, witness to the People’s Park riots. Tear-gassed, shot-up, invaded. Unlike your coffee-house, it has it’s own WIKI page.]


Perhaps you missed the media curve on this: Berkeley will vote, Nov. 6, to ban-sitting on walks in business districts. Berkeley has ten sizable business districts.

Berkeleyans have been tearing at their chests over this since late last year, when the issue became a rallying cry among local radicals.

The Med is at the eye of the hurricane.

Running Wolf, shadow candidate for Berkeley Mayor kicks off his campaign at Cafe Mediterraneum last week. Craig Becker, a personal friend of RW's, asked him to take his sign out of the Med window next to the Dustin Hoffman table.

Craig Becker, owner of the Med for six years, promoted the proposal that will appear on the ballot, and tirelessly lobbied the mayor, who sponsored it on to the ballot on the measure’s behalf.

Becker is President of the Telegraph Avenue Business Improvement District (TBID). His name will appear on the ballot as an endorser.

This time, threats of a Med boycott are more serious than some previous boycott threats we’ve reported. But we have also written that Med boycotts are unlikely to occur, because Medheads can’t break their Med addictions.

We’ve all tried. I have often left town to deal with my Med dependency, only to suffer separation pains.

If no-sit passes, and as more Berkeleyans learn of the Med’s involvement, a boycott would be more feasible.

Becker is unfazed.

He’s been unfazed for the entire fifteen year period during which he has stubbornly advocated regulating Telegraph Avenue street-punk behavior that veers from common civil respect. When he bought the Med six years ago, he began his own private war on uncivil street behavior (sitting, lying, littering, smoking illegally, off-leash animals, and blocking side-walks).

Someday we’ll write: Becker’s War.

Fazed or not, Becker has somehow befriended a number of homeless Med habitues, and radicals, who oppose no sit-lie. Some days and nights in the Med, the cafe seems an outpost for the South side’s down and out.

Becker’s personal brand of libertarianism departs from the party-line, he has told me. But he still adhere’s to select libertarian principles. He believes in the quaint notion that all Berkeleyans should obey the laws of the university and South side Berkeley.

He serves as one of Berkeley’s 180 commissioners, appointed by a city-councilman, to the city’s Homeless Commission, which watches over Berkeley’s shelters and other homeless services.

His severest critics say Becker is a fox watching over the hen-house, but we have investigated this charge, and see no merit to it.


My readers ask: what’s new at the Med?

Nothing much if you’re looking for newsworthy events, like when cops took over the cafe, or busted a psycho*, or when the owner installed a spy-cam, and faced a customer boycott.

Or when the owner wrestled an obstreperous customer to the filthy floor and hog-tied him (“they hog-tie farm animals, to protect them before slaughter, don’t they?”). Or when Char was mugged in the act of being a barista.

*We know “psycho,” (above) is insensitive, but as my mother used to say, “stereotypes are quicker.”

Most of the Med tales I’ve penned told nominal news stories, as when Ray, a popular Medhead (I’ve named him the “unofficial mayor of Telegraph” in two Med tales) was busted outside the cafe and wound up in county jail.

Except for the expected tussle with a fucked-up patron, the Med could be ho-hum these days, if that were possible in this hot-house of wack. Just the other day, two new customers noticed the Dustin Hoffman pic behind them at the Dustin Hoffman window seat.

They were sitting where Dustin Hoffman sat in “the Graduate,” ’69. I watched their faces register recognition as they learned the cultural significance of their sit…uation.

At the Cafe Medterraneum, on Telegraph, it takes more than two to Tango.

Of the thousands of notable movie locations American sight-seers visit annually, some, like the Michigan roadhouse in “Anatomy of a Murder,” or under the Golden Gate Bridge where Kim Novak is rescued from drowning in “Vertigo,” the Hoffman Table at the Med seems less a travel destination than a serendipitous discovery.


Med owner and staff are still raw over a Berkeley Reporter exposé that ripped its home-fries and compared the owner to a hound. (We got no credit for deleting “penis-head”). Matters were worsened by an unflattering photo of a revered long-time (among short-timers) staffer.

Owner Craig Becker, with whom we have been friends for twenty years clammed up, and staffers were instructed to join the clam.

Off the grill into the garbage tray. We're just saying. The dude ordered a side of Med home fries, paid $2.50, but couldn't eat them.

In this period, we almost missed what is sure to be the death of the carrot juicer, a malevolent character from early Med Tales. The roaring monster had regularly disrupted Medhead’s heads and words, blurting massive decibels, like an airplane in a hat-box, and survived a Medheads assassination plot — only to choke on its own phlegm.

Becker has said he can’t afford a juicer fix.

But if Saturday’s Tango night draws like it did its first Saturday, Becker may be able to finance a juicer fix, to restore misguided carrot-juice-guzzler’s glycemic levels.

Business was up, according to Becker for a Saturday night, as Tango-fans swarmed the cafe. But for Berkeley Reporter the big news was that Becker is confiding in us again.

Never one to hold a grudge, the scruffy entrepreneur was feted at Tango for producing a beautiful evening, topped off with a Becker touch — dimmed down lighting.

The old Steederino says, “and that was the rest of the story.” See his latest political yarn at the Berkeley Daily Planet.

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