Toxic Rubble on Telegraph; Trouble in People’s Park

by Steed Dropout
December 31, 2011

The walls of the 1916 apartment building, its floors, refrigerators, student computers, and the bones of four animals, including Tango, a hamster, are headed for a cement-lined dump in Nevada.

The lead-poisoned remains moldered in a heap on Telegraph Ave. for three weeks as Berkeley officials ran tests, but they will be gone in two weeks, and construction can begin to restore two Teley hot-spots.

I could tell you that hot-spots, used here to describe a cafe and a pub, which burned to the ground, are not puns, but that would be the kinda crap you use in polite society, where puns are disparaged.

Poisoned debris from big fire on Telegraph. Photo by Ted Friedman.

Was it synchronicity or my own sick mind that linked the “clean-up” on Teley with a cop chop in People’s Park, which cleaned up a park West-end drug den?

I can see some of my touchy-feely Berkeley Daily Planet readers clenching their fists (some may come after me), for dissing the park. As you, my dear reader, know by now, People’s Park was not my park. I missed the war for the park in 1969.


Answer: when university cops instigate and direct their most daring pruning ever, in a park “owned” by its users, who built it — People’s Park.

Cops directed independent contractors to clear a jungle of volunteer landscaping so they could get a better stake-out on a drug-dealing encampment. I had scored two dimes just a few days previously, although I paid for three.

Come on down. New Look in People's Park, after university bull-dozed park flora, creating bare-ass ambiance. Photo by Ted Friedman.

A dime is a handful of buds for $10.

I am Steed Dropout, a fucked-up 72 year-old Berkeley Daily Planet reporter with issues.

Trying to have a productive day, I had taken a sleeping pill and a shot, the night before the chop. Hey, cops in Noirs do a lot worse, and awaken magically to crack the case. I awoke not so magically, just in time to run (okay, limp) to my spin class.

I needed that class bad. Spinning would expiate my sins.

Reader, you know I live near the park. As I trotted by, I noticed that the park coordinator’s office gate was open. I wanted to welcome him back after his vacation. But I was late for my next drug — a spin in the gym.

Had I stopped or even looked left, I would have seen the clandestine clearing of the West-end drug scene. This was my first lost scoop.

After the gym, I covered the debris removal, briefly interviewing Freddy, the demolition-team foreman, who has become a good source in my five stories on the fire.

Then I joined my Berkeley Medhead friends at the Med. They said there was clearing in the park. I knew from past background reporting that such pruning came like clockwork. What was the rush, and I was enjoying myself at the Med.

Sometimes, I just say fuck it. Let me have my drop-out life back.

It’s not just that I lost the story — that was lost early in the morning, as I slept, and the cops chopped — but that I lost the last chance to see any of the artifacts of the story.

I was not the only one. Mike Delacour, a 73-year-old park “founder,” had just shown up when I did. He had a hang-dog, things-are-fucked look in his eyes, that I refused to photograph. Now I regret that, too.

Michael Delacour tending People's Park before the cop-chop.
Photo by Ted Friedman.

But I was on the story from this behind-the-eight-ball moment. I would somehow manage to pick up the pieces from this whole mess.

Read Steed Dropout’s default story on the cop-chop, and his latest crime yarn:
Sucker Punch Attack on People’s Park, and In Berkeley We’re All Smarter Than the Cops

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.