Telegraph Avenue’s Desolation Row

by Steed Dropout
Jan. 28, 2016

Desolation Row. Photo by Ted Friedman

It’s been called lower Telegraph, the Fourth Block, and all around shit-hole.

While vacancies dot the length of Berkeley’s Telegraph, Avenue, the desolate
state of Block Four is ridickelis (sic.).

First, Shakespeare’s books, a Telegraph Ave. 55 year landmark closed, as the building hosting it was about to be renovated. The owner retired.

Next, Maxi’s hair salon, a forty year Telegraph Ave. veteran moved closer to Bancroft during renovation and may not return, according to its owner.

A bustling head shop next door to the Caffe Mediterraneum also closed for the renovation of the Shakespeare location.

Closed head shop a storm shelter. Photo by Ted Friedman

The head shop will, reportedly, expand in the renovated space.

Changes that eventually may fructify, but in the meantime—urban blight.

Block Four’s Chandler Apartments, across from Shakespeare’s had to be evacuated after a small fire in the rear caused disproportionate damage.

The Chandler fire also closed the Reprint Mint, yet another Telegraph monument to the Sixties.

Half an entire business block, blacked-out.

At Telegraph/Haste, block four awaits Mad Monk, Anachronistic Media Center soon to open in the vacant-a-decade Cody Building.

Monk will host DVD’s and Vinyl as well as a ‘curated’ collection of used books you won’t find at nearby Moe’s, according to the curator.

The historic (since ’56) Caffe Mediterraneum is rotting away as repairs await a buy-out. If you don’t believe this coffee dive is for sale, just glance at the for sale sign above it’s tattered awning.

Med Rot. Photo by Ted Friedman

In the meantime, the Med, as it is known by its habitués, who identify as Medheads, continues to be a hub of eccentrism.

Ejections, freak-outs, and delirium are so commonplace that Medheads no longer look up from their laptops.

Torpor gave way to mild engagement last week at the Med when a peak of torrential rain failed to buoy free water at the Med.

Throughout the drought, the Med had offered free filtered ice water from an easily accessible dispenser near the kitchen. But as owner Craig Becker had come to suspect, the usual suspects were coming (to Casablanca?) for the waters, downing the H20 and splitting without purchasing.

Now ice-water is on demand only. But the hassle of waiting out the excruciatingly long lines at the counter may daunt Medheads with dehydration.

Some Medheads might wonder how come the water flowed during the drought but barely trickles as the drought recedes. Medheads are used to such inconsistencies, used to hobgoblins, petty minds, and philosophers–as explicated by Ralph Waldo Emerson and Med owner, Craig Becker.

Once seen by fellow Medheads as a savior, Becker is about to pick up a new trope—the captain who heroically goes down with his ship, USS DESOLATION ROW.

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