First Person: Inside 3 Day Encampment on Telegraph

by Steed Dropout
Sept. 14, 2015

Another Berkeley South Side Tale: Berkeley Reporter Sits In Line Outside Hip Telegraph Shoe Gallery To See What It’s Like To Vie For A Rare BBall Shoe, As Light And White As A Slipper

Thursday Shoe Mgr. insisted the tent come down. Photo by Ted Friedman.

As many as three times the crowd for last year’s Air Jordon release, took to the street for three days on Telegraph last week.

Thursday P.M. Photo by Ted Friedman.

Air Jordans have sold for as much as $20,000. The savvy crews on Telegraph only had to pay $220.

When they get out the door with their score, their shoe’s value appreciates to $1,000, I was told by everyone on the street and by hipster staffers at the shoe store, Bows and Arrows. calls the shoe “an important part of basketball culture.”

The shoe itself. Photo by Ted Friedman.

One hundred pair of shoes for 100 campers. Tight fit.

To make the promotion work, Bows and Arrows Manager, Crystal L. had to go to the boards with the laid back BBaller shoe fans when neighboring businesses complained about congested walks and litter.

Shoe mgr. making a point. And she does control the shoes! Drew called her efforts to gain control—'trippin’. Photo by Ted Friedman.

For two days, empty lawn chairs marked the spot of a “place saver.” Drew hipped me to the place saver idea and answered my rude question, “is this all on the up and up?” He said he saw this as a business opportunity. He employed eight “place savers.” His nearest competitor, employed three, Drew told me.

You secured your place with a stand-in, according to Drew, but place saving wasn’t working because people wouldn’t stay in their chairs.

Friday, store manager Crystal L. single-handedly took down 10-15 empty chairs (Drew’s count), when a sign she posted proved ineffective.

Mgr. Crystal L. took down place saver chairs, Friday. Drew had to marshal his crew. Photo by Ted Friedman.

Here’s where I come in. I had told a few toastmaster stories, and was building an audience. Everyone had been pretty good to me, especially Drew.

Drew's Crew. Photo by Ted Friedman.

When Drew asked me to save a place for an hour, it seemed like an opportunity, although I noted that I might freak out from to having to sit still. And you know, it’s not easy getting out of one of those lawn chairs.

I had a free copy of the Wall Street Journal and my camera. I spent most of my place-saving time shooting passersby, greeting old friends, and reading the WSJ’s legendary front page feature.

Students pass before me, in front of closed Ethiopian restaurant where I was burned years ago. Photo by Ted Friedman.

At first, place saving was like being in jail.

I was in a magic spot, though. George Pauley’s Telegraph Repertory Cinema had opened here in 1967. I was sitting only a few feet from the theater.

An Ethiopian restaurant, gone and empty. I had burned my tongue there 30 years ago and it was sore for months.

Settling in to avoid getting up, I began shooting waist level shots. It’s a good look.

Gals on the go. Photo by Ted Friedman.

Saturday, the morning of the Shoe itself. You could feel the excitement. One buyer told me he was excited over finally getting the shoe.

Miguel Loera, pictured ini black and white was a little giddy when he took his shoes out of the box.

Others were less transparent.

The excited guy planned to wear the shoe, eschewing the get rich angle. He was near the end of the line, but Mgr. Crystal, had told me she had 100 pairs of the rare shoe (for these rare street campers).

Ordeal winds down, Saturday, as shoe gallery opens 2 hours early.
Photo by Ted Friedman.

The promotion was a success. Now for the cleanup. Drew and I said goodbye. “Good working with you,” I said.

Three blocks away one of Drew’s crew honked and waved goodbye from her passing car.

Bonus. Photo by Ted Friedman.

Isn’t there a less expensive model that’s cool?

More photos at

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