Bad Luck Block

by Steed Dropout
Dec. 13, 2015


Hard Luck Block hailed on, hit by 50 mph winds, at Holiday Fair.
Photo by Ted Friedman

A series of bad luck breaks makes Telegraph’s Block Four a hard luck block.

I’m talking about the block of which I often write, four blocks South of Bancroft. Or one block South from Haste to Dwight.

I write from the Dustin Hoffman table (beneath “the Graduate” photo of Hoffman at the Caffe Mediterraneum film shoot, 1967). A grey, wintry mood engulfs the avenue.

The trouble on block four began when the Berkeley Inn at Haste and Telegraph burned, then smoldered, then was gutted. That was thirty years ago and the lot is still vacant.

Four years ago an historic apartment building West of the vacant lot and across the avenue, burned, and was picked to death in pieces by voracious cranes. Gone, too, were two of Berkeley’s most popular Southside hot spots. People still ask what happened to the mile-high sprouts salads.

Formerly Cody’s Books, at the Southwest corner of Telegraph/Haste, one-time cultural center has been vacant for nine years going on 100.

Now a memorial to failed dreams, Cody’s rounds out a failed commercial triad. Although abandoned only since 2006, Cody’s will always have been closed.

The fourth corner on block four is an unprofitable music/video store, kept afloat as a community service.

Tying this hard luck block together—like Lebowski’s rug—is the tattered-old-dog- of-an espresso-dive—Telegraph’s Caffe Mediterraneum, since 1956.

The Med is for sale.

It’s a distress sale. If you can take the stress of running it, the owner will give you the business. The owner gives you the business in return for a few repairs which could cost $500,000.

Just when our hard luck block was looking up, another historic apartment house fire (the Chandler) dealt us yet another blow last month.

The two-alarm blaze displaced thirty of our neighborhood friends. The soonest they will return is a year, and legal issues could stretch that. Although most adjacent businesses have re-opened amidst water damage, the Re-Print Mint, est.1965, is still closed and reportedly sustained pervasive water damage to its vintage stock.

Hard-luck-block4 will host its own redemption at Telegraph’s upcoming holiday fair this year. Last year, bath tubs and winna-trip-to Hawaii showed up on Telegraph’s troubled 4th block. This year, we may all take a bath (rain is predicted) and just have to be trippin on Hawaii.

Look for the Berkeley Reporter booth in block three where I will be keeping my eye on Block Four, where my heart is.

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