Cafe Med Psycho Back on Street in Four Hours, After Big Cop-Op

by Steed Dropout
February 15, 2012


In my previous Berkeley Reporter dispatch, I had written how my old friend Michael, a schizophrenic, had been busted at the Cafe Mediterraneum by five squad cars; and a fire-truck; and an ambulance; and a squad of police; and plenty of paramedics.

The Med, on Telegraph, across from Moe’s Books, is as notorious as the perps, who are busted there. The patrons are mostly perps, who could be busted at anytime, and some of them have been.

But a tipster in the Med said that Michael, busted Friday night, was back in the Med Saturday morning. He was, inexplicably, sweeping the floor with a straw-broom.

I was incredulous, even talked my tipster-friend into a case of mistaken identity. But the next day, I saw, with my own eyes, Michael near the Med, where he had been busted.

He said that he had been released from an emergency room four hours after his arrest. “They shot me up with a drug cocktail, I lay around at a Dr.’s house, and they released me.”

Michael was desperate for cigarette money, saying if he didn’t get some cash for smokes, he’d steal them. I emptied out the slim assets in my billfold, $12, and handed it over.

Michael's only possessions, after we moved them from blocking a car. The broom was important to him. Photo by Ted Friedman.

“I can get two packs with this,” he noted.

Michael doesn’t remember which emergency room he was in, but he knows he didn’t have to go to John George, a mental health treatment facility, something he had demanded, when he was arrested.

I was submerged in a psych-black hole when I met Michael outside the Med, headed back to my pad to get drunk. Get drunk, or help Michael. I was exhausted. I needed a pick-me-up.

Perhaps a walk would help. Having bailed on my gym workout, maybe this could give me a lift. And I could do a good deed.

Michael and I headed downtown for an agency I believed could help him. It was Sunday. I just wanted to show him the offices, where someone could save him once more. Michael had been saved, and been lost, many times.

First we had to visit the site where Michael had parked his shopping cart, packed with his most recent belongings.

He had parked his cart in a parking space, behind a car. I pointed out that the car’s owner would have busted the cart, and we moved it to a nearby walk-way.

Michael wanted to carry his broom. The broom was one of his shopping cart treasures. He said the broom showed he was willing to work. I said we should leave it behind.

So we set out for downtown, without the broom. On our way, we discussed mutual friends, especially David, who was a schizophrenic, who died a few years ago. It was David, whom Michael was “contacting” when he was busted at the Med, calling in artillery, directed by David, his field commander.

Michael told a story from his childhood in Traverse City, Michigan, when he and his pals had dug a deep hole to China, to bury a squirrel. He had lived on a lake, on the outskirts of town, he said.

I had lived on such a lake the summer I worked in Traverse City, 50 years ago. This had been the basis of our friendship over the years.

We now made our way to the mental health agency offices, closed, I thought, where I wanted Michael to go Monday. I just wanted to show him where it was. I got briefly lost, myself, but when I knocked on the door, someone directed us elsewhere, after we asked him for a belt.

Michael now desperately needed a belt to support his ill-fitting pants. We headed for Goodwill, where Michael lifted a belt.

“How do you do that?” I asked. “They don’t bother me,” he said. He showed me a wallet he had lifted. The world was his oyster.


The homeless outreach program’s case workers operate out of a shabby basement in Berkeley’s Historic District, across from civic center Park, and old City Hall (1906). Our destination, the 1928 Veteran’s Memorial Building has seen better days. It houses such agencies, as the Berkeley Historical Society, and a Berkeley historical museum.

But the basement belongs to a local drug and mental health program, and a men’s shelter. Emerging from a side-walkway, we entered what had once been a splendid courtyard, now run down, and hosting homeless men sprawled, helplessly, on the ground.

Entering the Berkeley Men's Shelter. Photo by Ted Friedman.

Michael had probably been there before. He noticed that I had taken a wrong turn, and declined to use the men’s room, for some reason. He said that he absolutely wouldn’t use it.

Couches and armchairs try to appeal, but the atmosphere is grey. There is a panel TV mounted on a faded column. The few men we saw seemed depressed. The man in charge showed us where Michael would go to meet with a case manager the next day, when the offices would be manned.

Michael said there was no way he would ever stay in the men’s shelter, to our right — caged. That’s right, three small cells with bunk beds was secured by a metal gate.

The shelter would not open for hours. Most of the men we saw were probably there to secure a bunk for the night.

'Dream. And You Live Forever,' to right. Inside the Berkeley Men's shelter.
Photo by Ted Friedman.

[Note: When I returned, mid-week, I found it hard to believe the changed appearance of the shelter. Either my mis-perceptions stemmed from my own depressed state, or I was hallucinating. The lights were dimmed, and the whole effect was “Gloomy Sunday.” There was no panel TV, and the column it was supposed to be mounted on, was bright, and cheery. Last Year at Marienbad, Hitchcock? The courtyard was not run down, and the couches and armchairs were gone.]

I considered the possibility dim that Michael could find his way to a case worker, who could help him get his meds and disability check. No more than six months ago, I had directed him to help downtown, but he never made it there.

Our visit was one day off the facility’s schedule.

As Michael lit up, outside the memorial building, I said I’d walk ahead to the Berkeley library, a few blocks away. He said he’d catch up, but he didn’t.

I wasn’t sure how I could arrange with him to go to the case worker, Monday, and remembered, my own morning-appointment with my shrink, a possible schedule conflict.

Too late, I realized I should have arranged to meet Michael at the Med, Monday, and been his advocate with the case worker.

The next day, when the case worker was available, it rained in torrents. Good for farmers, and reservoirs, but as a friend said — “not for the homeless.”

Lockers for homeless gear, at Berkeley Men's Shelter. Photo by Ted Friedman.


I’m read by a loyal, if small (no more than 300) readers at the Berkeley Daily Planet. These readers apparently get something out of it. Some of them are people I want to reach, like Berkeley Police brass, or a press spokesman at the university. I’m primarily a feature writer, contributing news-features, news analysis, and, rarely, the breaking news story.

While out and about, as a reporter in Berkeley, I meet my Planet readers. One of them was, recently, seated across the table from me, at a barbecue joint I had covered, while, discovering the So-Ass neighborhood, ™ South of Ashby on Shattuck.

“So you’re Ted Friedman,” she mused, her head resting on her arm propped on the table. She repeated it. I had to re-assure her, that it was said but true. I’m an old man.

She just sat there, gawking at me, and repeating her mantra, “So you’re….”

Perhaps she was content to have survived the encounter. Eventually she brightened, as we parted.

Here at Berkeley Reporter, where I have a larger audience, I am read by who knows? Did someone find me on the Hilton page because I wrote an article entitled, “Is Berkeley a Hilton to the Homeless?” or was is it on the Ford Mustang page (“Ford Mustang Flips Out On Channing”)?

But my ideal reader is my daughter, whom I believe launched my “career.” She edited my first articles for the Berkeley Daily Planet in 2009-10, and was my collaborator, and confidant. But something has caused her to defect. She may just be off on other projects, and has tired of reading me. I know how busy she is.

I tried to get her to read my latest Cafe Med article for BR, but she said she was busy. I pushed it — like the salesman I sometimes am. She pushed back, emailing that she had read the piece, but had no comment.

BR emailed that “no comment,” means I couldn’t begin to tell you. All sorts of constraints. What were her constraints?

BR apologized for its aggressive marketing, but noted that my daughter was my ideal reader.

We sent off a marketing query to our cracked team of BR marketers and promotors.

Here’s why these guys and gals in marketing make the big money at BR. Within hours, I received this terse response. “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. Let sleeping dogs lie, already.”

Wow, did they learn that in their MBA programs. Thanks, gang — Steed.

If you’ve read this far, Steed Dropout, would like to know why? BR is doing a marketing study. Dropout’s yarn about the big bust at Caffe Med, appeared Feb. 11, 2012 in the Berkeley Daily Planet, and as a longer, more personal piece at Berkeley reporter, Feb. 11.

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