Running Wolf, Hunter S. Thompson and Me

by Steed Dropout
January 12, 2012

Running Wolf, organizer of a tree-sit on Cal Berkeley property, the longest urban tree-sit in North America (3 years), was chowing down on a burrito I bought him at the Med — out of guilt because I wouldn’t let him crash at my pad.

“Blood brother,” he scoffed, “and you won’t let me crash.” He was right, I’m a hypocrite, or worse.

I was pushing this blog site, and he was pushing resentment? Resentment is RW’s reason to live. He resents the U.S., which he says stole the country from his ancestors; he resents automobiles, and anyone who drives them, and he resents the University of California for destroying the flora of People’s Park.

Streets bother him, and from time to time he will rip asphalt from the street with a screwdriver, and burn a U.S. flag or two on Telegraph Ave., especially on the Fourth of July, when he went on a flag-burning frenzy.

I have written countless stories about him. We have considered becoming blood brothers, but suspect each other’s blood, and how blood-brother is that?

I sometimes refer to him as RW, because I see him as more of a mogul than a thoughtful radical. Thoughtless or not, he is good at what he does — shit-disturbing.

Up a tree with Running Wolf at Occupy Oakland. Photo by Ted Friedman.

He took one look at this blog site, said he didn’t want to continue looking at it, and began talking about Hunter S. Thompson. Thompson had called U.s. “nazis,” and that’s the sort of thing that inspires RW.

I said, “the comparison of U.S. to Nazis is a thoughtless cheap-shot.” Cheap or not it’s the shot for RW.


Thompson lived a life at risk, beginning with “Hell’s Angels,” 1966, for which he infiltrated the Hell’s Angels, East Oakland, a motorcycle gang so rough and tumble that the sight of them could disperse crowds.

“The Wild Ones,” 1953, starring Marlon Brando was based on the Angels.

Thompson barely escaped with his life. But for his efforts, he came away with the greatest work of stunt journalism of the 20th century. I was, at the time, across the bay in San Francisco State’s creative writing program, taking what I thought was the easiest path to an M.A., and a teaching gig.

But what I got was a 40-year writer’s block. My creativity died, and I was too brain-dead to even notice.

Thompson, and his stunt predecessor, Nellie Bly, 1887, risked their lives for their stories, as do war correspondents (Steven Crane, Ernest Hemingway). The only risks I take are that someone will get mad, hurt my feelings, or stalk me.

Steed Dropout is a physical coward. A physical coward avoids physical injury at all costs.

In 1972, while writing goof for Alternative Features Service, a Berkeley underground press syndicate, I had the chance for a late-night meet with a member of the violent cult that kidnapped Patty Hearst, but just didn’t have the balls to follow through.

Three writers Steed Dropout would not have wanted to meet: Thompson, Hemingway, and Mailer — for fear they’d punch him out.

Writers like Dropout have more in common with society reporters than “real” reporters.

Mulch ado about something. At People's park after ferns, cacti, and other ingratiating flora were mulched by U.C. Berkeley. Line-up headed for free-lunch in park, courtesy of Food Not Bombs. Photo by Ted Friedman.

Still there is a certain community risk from being high-profile in Berkeley. Stay tuned, as I report in future blogs about the risks I take as


Craig Becker, forever 59, is the shot-from-a-canon owner of one of the most famous coffee houses in the world, and my headquarters and source.

Last night at the Caffe Mediterraneum, Becker tried to get Running Wolf to sign a letter supporting the University’s chop job in People’s Park, in which years of community gardening was made mulch. Bets were down on whether RW, who has devoted his life to destroying the University, would sign.

Becker somehow thought he could get the autograph, but $105 said he wouldn’t. I had the piss-ant fiver.

Craig Becker, left, Med owner. Photo by Ted Friedman.

Running Wolf glowered at the incendiary letter. His forehead twitched, and his usually amused expression, darkened.

“Who signed this piece of shit,” he demanded.

Becker and I exchanged knowing looks. You see, I had signed it, saying to Becker, “this is off the record.” My John Henry was one of 14, but purposely illegible — I hoped.

Would Becker say, I signed? I prepared for the worst. Becker has attacked me regularly. RW had finished the burrito I bought him out of guilt for not letting him crash at my pad.

RW was going down the list of signers, looking for tires to slash, he boasted.

Already disgusted with me, and waving Hunter S. Thompson — my better — in my face, RW was ready to blow.

He missed my scrawl, saying, “who the hell is this?”

Becker and I again eye-balled each other.

Later Becker and I laughed about it.

“But seriously, Craig, I signed this without seeing that crap about anti-social behavior in the park.” I had forgotten that Becker had previously defended his accusations against miscreants in People’s Park.

“What you are calling anti-social is mental illness. You’re defaming people with disabilities,” I said.

A few words into Becker’s rebuttal, I remembered his argument. A high school debater, Becker is a fast-draw arguer. What his rebuttals lack in reason, they make up for in ingenuity. His point: your disability doesn’t excuse criminality.

Craig Becker's world-famous Caffe Medterraneum. Photo by Ted Friedman.

If RW had seen my name, he might have gone criminally anti-social on me.

Why had I signed the stinking letter? It was just an impulse. An Impulse compelled by risk-taking.

Did I say I don’t take risks that endanger me?

Steed Dropout, aka Ted Friedman at the Berkeley Daily Planet, makes this vow to his readers: keep it fluffy — let it flow, and mix a few metaphors.

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