Why Do You Punks Make Me Do It?

by Steed Dropout
Feb. 8, 2013

“Why do you punks make me do it?” — Robert Ryan in Nicholas Ray’s 1952 On Dangerous Ground.

Purloined food, public defecation, wee wee, and an (almost) stolen cop car were featured entertainment at Berkeley’s naughty Cafe Mediterraneum a few weeks ago.

Craig Becker, Cafe Mediterraneum’s feisty impresario has brought more entertainment to his Telegraph landmark coffee shop, cheap eats center, and recently — beer and wine — than any rowdy road house.

After more than half-a-dozen altercations, Becker’s fight record (6-0), if not his methods, would be the envy of any fighter. Sometimes he must think “why do you punks make me do It?”

'Coconut,' left. Photo by Ted Friedman.

The quote is from a sadistic noir-detective, who has just silly-slapped a perp.


A day after I embedded myself with street kids outside the Med on X-Mass Eve, one of those kids, Coconut, grabbed off a plate of food from the Med’s kitchen take-away counter.

The food was purchased by a customer named Larry, according to Becker. “Coconut stole my food,” Larry told him. The food filcher. Coconut, 23, is a well known street kid who has been on the streets for seven years, according to Slumjack Homeless, a former reporter for Change.Org.

Coconut put the plate of food on the sidewalk outside the Med. Becker, who was watching through the window, rushed out, snatched back the plate, and returned it to his cafe. When Coconut saw that Becker had offed his score, he angrily overturned a plastic trash can.

Becker re-emerged from the cafe to correct the trashing. As he approached Coconut, saying, “you can’t do that,” Coconut sucker-punched Becker, dropping him to the walk, on his back. , according to several witnesses who added that Becker sprang back to his feet like “a pop-up toy.”

Back on his feet instantly,” he quickly kicked Coconut in his scrotum and simultaneously puss-punched him, flooring the kid. When Coconut got up, he had lost the urge to fight, witnesses said.

“Clean it up,” Becker commanded, and Coconut meekly complied, witnesses said.

Becker is at least 6-0 in Med fights, each of which might have been avoided, according to Medheads. Becker has no formal fighting experience other than competitive wrestling.

“i just respond instinctively,” Becker explains, adding that “I have to feel that troublemakers are not cooperating, before I take action.”

The wrestling came in handy last year when Becker took a punk to the Med floor in front of the counter and hog-tied him with duck tape, “for his own safety.”

Becker called the police, who arrested Coconut. Coconut spent four days in county jail, according to Coconut.

“Whatever Craig says about this is his delusion,” Coconut told me, reluctantly. “I didn’t steal no food. My brother bought it for me.” Larry is Black, Coconut white, still they could be brothers, in street argot.

Asked about the fight, Coconut said it wasn’t a fight. I disagreed.

“Okay, if you say it was a fight who do you think won?” Coconut asked.

Becker won hands down, I replied.

He had been unwilling to talk, but this drew him out. “Craig is delusional,” he repeated. “I won that fight.”

After also denying it was a fight, Becker said,” he’s [Coconut] delusional,” I wondered if maybe I weren’t delusional. Then I wondered why that mattered in this context.


A few nights later, a Winona Ryder look-alike shot up on the Med stairwell by the restroom and defecated on the restroom floor. “I called the police to offer the girl help,” Becker told me. “a young, good-looking girl like that,” he added.

Two Berkeley PD officers, with hard-nosed reputations, showed up. With Berkeley Mental Health outreach services decimated by budget cuts, police have filled in. The girl declined assistance. She was not cited, according to one of the soft-noses.

Girl, left, being 'soft-nosed' by cops has just shit on the floor of the Med restroom and shot-up in the stair-well. Med owner, Craig Becker called the police to help the poor girl. She was not cited. Photo by Ted Friedman.


Running Wolf and I were watching the 49ers playoff game against Green Bay at Pappy’s Sports Bar and Grill, at Teley and Durant. RW had to step outside. When he returned, he said, “Scoop! A guy pissed on the Med floor, and tried to steal a cop car.”

“Okay,” I said slowly. “Define scoop.” RW’s scoops have been thin lately.

I was riveted to the game, and resisted being diverted. Then I bolted from my seat, asking Mango Bob to save it while I investigated. I missed seeing the pisser, if that was what he was.

I was prepared to learn that the whole tale was bogus.

But it was anything but.

Here’s what one witness told police, who were taking information for their incident report. “Joe couldn’t get into the Med restroom. There was a long restroom line, and Joe propelled himself into my table, almost falling over the mezzanine railing. At the foot of the mezzanine stairs, he took it out and pissed an arch onto the floor.”

Then he went to the front doors, where he announced to an astonished first-floor crowd, “anything you want. It’s on me,” according to one of my X-Mass Eve compadres, Lost, who said Joe was tweaking (high on Meth).

Joe bolted the cafe and hopped into an empty BPD cop car outside the Med, according to witnesses outside the Med. Although the keys were not in the car, Joe seat-belted himself, as if he were about to peel out, witnesses reported.

A BDP officer tried unsuccessfully to yank Joe from the car by his hair, but had to settle for pulling him out the hard way, witnesses said.

By the time I got there police were gathered around the car. One officer was peering into the car, but avoiding entering it. Joe was gone — off to the pokey and facing serious charges.

Berkeley cop inspects a disheveled vehicle after a struggle for control of the car with a guy name Joe. Photo by Ted Friedman.

The car was probably deloused back at the headquarters’ police car parking lot. I didn’t investigate that.

I had to get back to the Niner’s game.

Next day, a Med employee told me that the Med was having much more violence under Becker than under the previous owner. I wish I knew why.

A bowdlerized version of this soap opera appeared in the Berkeley Daily Planet, where, even in its desiccated form, it became something of a cause celeb on the Ave. Some readers were furious; a female from Brooklyn threatened to kick my ass.

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