Of Mice and Men – Micah M. White and Me

by Steed Dropout
Dec. 13, 2011

I was recently overwhelmed by my ever-growing list of upcoming stories — all self assigned, and wanted to drink myself into oblivion or resign. On my plate was a closing of a neighborhood supermarket, built in ’59, and a South side landmark, an editor-requested piece on Micah M. White, a Berkeleyan for a year, who ignited the international occupy movement.

To that list add a crime piece on stalking.

True to form, I just wanted to drop out. But the stories are just too good.

Why does the man seated near the card table matter? He's Micah M. White, co-founder of the international Occupy movement. He later denounced my writings at the general assembly. Weeks later I came back with 'Of Mice and Men, Micah and Me,' which dominates one of my logs from a sinking ship. Photo by Ted Friedman.

First, I’d like to make good on my tease from Blog 1 that said I’d almost died from my George Pauly obit in 2007, during an intense, alcohol-and-marijuana fueled mourning period for my film friend. Although, the booze almost killed me, I was haunted by my past reporting career, 57-60, Illinois State Journal, Springfield Il.

In 1959, I killed a man, while hoping to launch myself as a journalism star. I was doing an obit on a man named Barker in our clippings file (the “morgue,”) when I plucked the wrong Barker clipping (there were two) and wrote the obit on the wrong man. Next day, I saw the corpse put a nickel in a parking meter downtown, and knew I was screwed.

This flashback of a past bungle haunted me as I fumbled, often drunk, to reconstruct a life I barely knew.

In my last log, I also promised to explain how I advanced at my “paper” from obit writer to reporter. Call it luck; call it being in the right place at the right time.

The Berkeley Daily Planet went out of print along with lot of papers. The Planet’s demise is a story on its own (later), but after it folded and its courageous editor, Becky O’Malley, revived it on-line, I at first hesitated to continue what I was contributing — obits, and commentary.

But I noticed, that in some respects, the scaled-down on-line version was worth writing for. Moreover, most of the staff, who were being paid — left. That left me. My first break came when a sleepy People’s Park tree-sit story turned into an attempted murder case.


I got a call at 9:30p from Running Wolf, my friend, and the tree-sit organizer, that I’d better get over to People’s Park. I live a half block away, and stumbled out without my camera, and flashlight. Read the article . . .

Sure enough, the tree-sitter was surrounded by a 12-vehicle police operation. I was there until 3a, when I went home to call my editor and write my story. I had really never faced a challenge like this before, and I liked it. You can read the story, above.

I was hooked. I’d never had stories like this as a kid.


I certainly never had a story like my Micah M. White piece, a personal request from my editor-in-chief, Becky O’Malley. This gal has a deep instinct for a good story, and after asking me to excise three graphs from a piece, in which it was clear I was having trouble with White, she requested “something” after White was featured in the New Yorker, the Washington Post, and the SF Chronicle.

My first response was, she’s unmuzzling me; my second, but can I do it? “Would you really publish a piece on White? If it’s not crap,” she snapped. Had I been writing crap? I’m so insecure.

The crap comment became a structural device in my piece Of Mice and Man – Micah and Me

Get my blog? It’s all about how my personal problems affect my reporting, and the stories I manage to produce.

In my first blog, you learned I’m a drug addict and alcoholic with a journalistic past that haunts him (wait till you read what I write about being scooped as a kid).

Ted Friedman, aka Steed Dropout, reports for the Berkeley Daily Planet from the scintillating, although dangerous Berkeley South side.

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