Squatters Don’t Got Rights For Squat

by Steed Dropout
January 20, 2012

Ray Gibson, a homeless man, who lives like a dumpster-diving king, dubbed by me in several stories as “the Mayor of Telegraph Avenue,” gave me the following “news story,” and I bought him a bagel.

Gibson: “I was approached by two Berkeley cops as I climbed the stairs to the old Wooly House [just off Telegraph]. They had no warrants, and questioned me aggressively about what I was doing there, and would not believe that I had permission — I’m managing the property for the owner.

The mayor at the Med. No photos, please. Photo by Ted Friedman.

When I pulled out my key and opened the door, they closed it from behind me, as if they didn’t believe I had a right to see inside. Then they proceeded to the rear where M. A. was squatting. I tried to accompany them, but they insisted I “stay back; this is none of your business.”

I said, as the manager of the property, I had the right to know what they were doing.

All I know is that they “talked” to her [the squatter].

Three squat spots. View from People's Park of landmarked Wooly House, built in the 1890s. House was originally on Telegraph ave., to left. Sheeted structure to right is impending is student dorm, to open in August. Photo by Ted Friedman.

The cops were “investigating” a complaint from Pink Cloud, an old homeless hippie, who was permitted to use the building, but had previously been “evicted” by the owner.

Berkeley Reporter contacted the squatter, who would not confirm she had been evicted. Past BR investigation supports her contention that she has the owner’s permission.

It is not surprising to BR that squatting is a way of life in Berkeley. In one way or another, we are all squatting on Indian land.


As Andy Rooney would say, ever notice that some news stories get lost in journalism protocols on the way to what they’re trying to say? Why is that?

Is it because journalism is as hide-bound as some religions?

Take the above yarn. I have to stop to tell you what the Wooly House is. Then I have to tell you where it is, and its significance. I must use a previous story as background. Before the piece can launch, it is sunk in documentation.

Three squats seen from telegraph Ave. Vacant, since '85, formerly Berkeley Inn. Wooly House, 1890s, and student dorm under construction, and sheeted. Photo by Ted Friedman.

Every efing assertion must be supported. I felt so oppressed with this a few years ago that I reported in the Planet, something or other was “according to whomever.” Don’t get me started on “allegedly,” or “reportedly.” And how about, “according to a reliable source?”

Here at the Berkeley Reporter, we strive to get it right, but to keep it lite. Our “Cane Up a Blind Man’s Ass” yarn, reportedly reviled at the Caffe Mediterraneum where the story takes place, allegedly suffered from a bulging middle — fat in just the wrong place.

But when I did lipo-suction on a subsequent blog (unpublished), all the adipose verbiage tipped the scales. Fat slows us down, but lite soars, and that is what we want to do — soar.

At the Reporter, we are inured to the charge of light-weight, wrong-headed, or inaccurate.

In our recent Berkeley Daily Planet piece on telegraph street stories, we skirted the issue of what actually transpired, choosing to “embed the lead,” leaving the all-important “what” for our last gasp. If I were the city editor on BR, I’d have to ask myself “so, after all the cheap shots, what is the goddamn story?”

The story turned out to revolve around who was pissing on whom, achieving the most cherished of embedded leads — held back until the very end, thus enticing the reader to read to the bitter end.

I mentioned embedding a lead to my “boss” at the Berkeley Daily Planet. The Chief, as I refer to her, is not interested in such fluff; she is a go-for-the balls prize-winning investigative journalist, who is presently on a demolition of Berkeley’s Mayor, Tom [master] Bates.

“Journalism rules have not changed with digital journalism,” she recently responded to my email. “I rule,” she thundered.

If the pants fit, wear 'em - street score. Photo by Ted Friedman.

Here at BR, I rule. That’s why I started this ephemeral rag. Incidentally the Chief recently published my last-minute embedded lead, with nary a quibble. She just is annoyed when I use journalism lingo. She’s really old-school; I’m just old enough to have attended that school.

And now for my lead. I got lost in my own Berkeley Daily Planet piece, and didn’t figure it out until the bitter end. Now I’m trying to embed one on you.


BerkeleyReporter.com has just been informed by a Google robot, that we share our name with an 1890s Berkeley broadside, the Berkeley Reporter. Next time you google “berkeleyreporter” you can view the bot’s snarky innuendo, if it stays up.

“Hey, hot shot, you’re not the first Berkeley Reporter.” Well that’s news to us. Does our great-great-great progenitor own the BR name on Google? Thank god for public domain, which has become our playing field.

Our legal department, and our team of cracked investigators will be investigating our ancestors, and we’ll be reporting on it. We’ll get back to you.

And a word to the bot. Thanks for the tip, man.

Steed Dropout, aka Ted Friedman, embeds a lead or two at his day job, the Berkeley Daily Planet, where he has written more than a few over-weight stories.

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