Graffiti Baffles Berkeley’s Telegraph

by Steed Dropout
Oct. 21, 2013
Berkeley, Ca


This is my beat, as twenty odd Med stories attest.

Recently, I reported on a Med tip-jar robbery, and shot a series of Telegraph cop’s assisting or arresting or both. I need not stray far from the Med for one of my South Side Tales (@Berkeley Times, print only).

I’m on to the graffiti on Telegraph. Last year, I toured Teley graffiti with Roland Peterson, CEO of its business district, and watched his two-man graffiti crew scrubbing walls.

Drop-Out Motto: 'Graffiti Gallery, Telegraph/Haste vacant lot, since '84.
Photo by Ted Friedman.

“They” put it up and Teley takes it down. After that, I tuned out.

In the final weeks of Teley’s three months of Sunday’s street fairs, one avenue business went whole-hog–endorsing graffiti. Shakespeare’s books a few doors from the Med paid (Petersen paid half) for two Graffiti entrepreneurs (I have their card!) to do Shakespeare in what some might call British Mod.

Even the bard, would approve, according to the store that ripped off his name.

Shakespeare's. The Bard would approve. Photo by Ted Friedman.

Teley property owners are paying for quality graffiti. Somehow it fits with the whole crazy Telegraph scene, composed of a mix of students, drifters, vangabonds, weirdoes, and weirdo-wannabes.

Why would anyone want to look weird? “It’s a look, man, a look man,” I tell you. Then you meet someone who is totally insane. Sooner or later they will be taken away to a scene from “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” They will fly back.

Sacred Med front recently hit after 50 years of safe passage. Photo by Ted Friedman.


Then someone tagged it. Four gold letters which might have spelled K-R-I-M-E, in distinctive, if sloppy, letters, recently appeared on the Caffe Mediterraneum’s monumental facade.

I was the second to be informed. Even owner Craig Becker did not know. Roland Peterson was incredulous. You should have seen the look on his face.

GATS (Gangsters Against Society) visits Amoeba. Photo by Ted Friedman.

Why such shock? You just don’t expect someone to graffiti a shrine. It’s been done. This gal was out for a walk in the park in Hong Kong when she happened on stuff that way tops Teley Graffiti.

Medheads, who haunt the Med, were sure KRIME meant crime, but anyone who has seen explicit graffiti knows such graffiti does not need interpreting.

“GAT” at two Teley locations stands for Gangsta’s Against the Society, although one Medhead insisted it meant that someone in the store had a gat (gun).

Medhead’s cried out in anguish on my Face book. The Med is a local celebrity, often drawing filmmakers (Mike Nichols), poets (Allen Ginsberg) shrinks (Erick Erickson), and potfulls of profs.

Famous People's Park Mural defaced. Photo by Ted Friedman.

“You know they graffiti-ed the People’s Park Mural,” someone said. “Yeah, I know, I shrugged.” I’d seen it, but tried not to. This is the most famous mural in a town with a ton of them. When I began to photograph the mural with its new contributors, I was horrified and fascinated.

What if I graffiti-ed your living room? I can’t draw, either.

Why add to the sublime with graffiti junk? Photo by Ted Friedman.

Shakespeare’s master strokes, covering its entire North side, will be clear-coat protected soon, I am told. It’s graffiti creators know that their work is not safe from people like themselves.

Views here do not reflect those of any of the publications in which my work appears.

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