Berkeley Scene Anew

by Steed Dropout
June 23, 2014


Sometimes, even a week’s absence from Berkeley can change your scene. Berkeley Reporter is still struggling to get a foot hold back in Berkeley after a week in Portland

We had read in the SF Chronicle that Berkeleyans live longer than residents elsewhere in the Bay Area. The Chron speculated that hiking in the Berkeley hills was prolonging lives.

What better way to get a foot-hold in Berkeley than to join up with hikers “over 50” for what was described as an “easy walk” on the far North Side last week. Advance publicity promised that Indian And Crator Rocks would be explored.

Easy. Photo by Ted Friedman.

I ran six blocks to catch up with the walkers and their leader. You could see these geezers were fit and I had just run a blazing 440 trying to catch up with them. My friend, Plantar Fascitis, was with me and I had two small cameras. I had vowed to ignore my pain-in-the-heel friend.

These geezers were not only fit, they were fearless. They shrugged off a “proceed at your own risk” sign at the foot of Crator Rock, scampering up its sculpted footholds like Jackalopes, then sliding down by the seat of the pants.

By the Seat of His Pants; Easy. Photo by Ted Friedman.

I needed to use my butt at the last rung on the descent from Indian Rock, recalling 1973 when I lived up the street from the rock, and was fond of that crevice you lodge in just before hitting the ground.

“I’m not as spry as I used to be,” said a woman at least ten years younger than me. The leader told me “over 60” was more accurate than “over 50.”

A recent hip replacement kept the walk leader from ascending with us.

Easy. Photo by Ted Friedman.


Our last piece reported on a New York Times reporter’s recent dysphoric drug trip. How insensitive would it be to ask People’s Park regulars, who live from bad- trip to badder, what was their worst bad trip?

We’d start with Hate Man, a 1960s New York Times front-page reporter, when he was still in his twenties. “They sent me because, I looked like student protestors and the students trusted me because I was under thirty,” Hate has told me.

Hate, as he likes to be called, probably wouldn’t call the acid trip that gateway-ed him to homeless in People’s Park…Hate wouldn’t call it a bad trip, but this has to be one helluva trip–from the front page by-lines of the New York Times to the Diogenes of Berkeley in a city of many Diogenes.’


Beefed-Up. Photo by Ted Friedman.

Maybe you can call what befell Elizabeth in the park a bad trip. She holed up beneath the tree-sit Elm and announced she would not leave. She was fortified with large plastic liters of Vodka.

When cops, park personnel, and EMTs, dug her out three days later from layers of excrement–you could call that dysphoric.

WD-40 Man, though. This one is beyond bad. He reportedly (this from unimpeachable sources), sticks the reed-like red spout from a WD-40 can up his nose and pulls the trigger.

“He won’t live long doing that,” noted an observer, Sunday in the park.

WD-Man Too Close? Photo by Ted Friedman.

People’s Park hosted a music festival and fair-booths, Sunday, just in time to be called a summer fair in the park.

This year there were complaints by professional music producers and some listeners, who criticized the music programming. Security was beefed up after fair vendors last year lost $1,600 to theft. The year before had lost a similar amount.


Despite the Berkeley ‘Conventional’ and Visitor’s Bureau’s best efforts to hide People’s Park from tourists, two Oklahomans showed up with lawn chairs for a ringside seat at a Berkeley summer fair in the park, with music, dancing, and vendor’s, performing at their feet.

Oklahomans stumble onto People's Park. Photo by Ted Friedman.

These views are not shared by publications in which my work appears.

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