Funked-Out in Funk Town

by Steed Dropout
March 20, 2012


But first a word or two from my glossary.

Black block: anarchist faction of Occupy Oakland, which often riots; block, unspecified — writer’s block.

Funked out: depressed, in a funk. Funk town is Berkeley, often called funky.

So we’re talking about a Berkeley depression fueling an incipient writer’s block.

Perhaps the downward spiral began with a sleeping pill and booze; perhaps it was ordained by reporting pressures; perhaps by Louis Farrakahn.

Farrakahn? Say what?

My last writer’s block lasted 35 years. That one began in the creative writing program at SF State (then) College. A well-known SF writer picked up a block at Iowa’s Writer’s Workshop, but cured it by enrolling in the SF State program that blocked me. Go figure.

These blocks are like jumping germs.


After casting off my 35 year block, (see my Rip-Van-Winkle blog) I vowed to complete every writing assignment. Unfortunately, I am my own assignments editor. The possibility that I might over-assign myself goes with the territory.

In this case, the stories piled up. I talked to my Editor-in-Chief at the Berkeley Daily Planet. I’ve had only once before to make such an appeal for mercy and understanding. “Please enable my malingering,” I was whining.

The Chief, as I call her, blamed it on a week of steady rain, and a possible vitamin D deficiency. She prescribed sunshine, but the sunshine didn’t happen. My next psychotherapy session was two weeks away, and besides, the cascading downer developed quickly, like a tornado.

As I failed to complete four stories, I feared the worst.

I blame Louis Farrakahn, who was to speak at the university. Mistakenly, I deduced that his February “Saviour’s Day” speech near Chicago would be repeated at U.C. Berkeley.

After hearing from Louis Farrakahn that their expensive U.C. Berkeley educations were fraudulent, members of Black Student Union gather on steps of Wheeler Hall to plan the rest of their attendance at a weekend conference. Photo by Ted Friedman.

The “saviour’s day” speech ran four and a half hours, and I watched it all in a video that could not be paused. Later, I learned from Gary Hicks, an independent black history scholar, that F., like most black ministers, never gives the same speech twice.

I had watched in vain.

Gary said that his mother was so friendly with Farrakahn, then a calypso singer, that the soon-to-be minister had been his baby sitter — a sweet guy. No real surprise, because Farrakahn’s baby-sitter side shines through his bitter-sweet words.

If you’ve never heard F., and think exposure to his ideas could harm your health, I recommend him, as I would recommend an ice-cold shower or a leap from a tall building. Bracing, but watch out for the crashing descent.

I sat mesmerized before my computer screen, unable to leave to pee.

I wanted to write about the Nation of Islam icon, who sounded like Denzel Washington in Spike Lee’s “Malcomb X” — a four hour film. But I didn’t have an angle.

And after hanging out with F. half a day, I was all fucked up.

He used every conceivable logical fallacy I know, all the while rising to a crescendo of self-aggrandizement.

My attempts to wrangle a pass to the Berkeley speech failed. I believe the SF Chronicle reporter got in after his paper paid the $35 ticket price.


My Farrakahn watch began on the steps of Wheeler Hall, where I hung with a Ch.5 reporter, who also couldn’t get in. She was a great gal, and we enjoyed shooting-the- shit. But I had to race home to get my camera.

Returning by bike, I hit the first wave of audience emerging from the talk. The gal had left for her next assignment, having totally missed this one. She said F.’s speech, a mere two hours, was on-line. Somehow this did not cheer me.

Model United Nations (high school) delegates await final meeting - the General Assembly last week. Photo by Ted Friedman.

I got some shots, chatted-up university police, and was accused of being CIA by a gang-banger. I conferred with a U.C. patrol commander to see if by any stretch of imagination a 72 year-old Clark Kent wannabe could be CIA.

The cop and I focussed on height. We’re both short. We concluded that I would make the perfect CIA operative. My various acts provide deep cover. To CIA: I know you’re monitoring this. By the way, I’m available for all but a mid-east assignment.

I also chatted up some cool Nation of Islam operatives, in great suites ‘n shades. I praised the “saviour’s day” speech. Hey, CIA, check out my action.

My plan: to wrap the F. speech into another yarn — a Model (high school) U.N. conference being held nearby. I shot their concluding general assembly, and interviewed its student press corps.

I had this story in my back pocket, but never wrote it because of angst, Weltschmerz, and Farrakahnitis. But here’s the headline: Farrakahn Tells Black Students Their Educations Are Frauds, As Model U.N. Averts Takeover Of An African Nation.

Casting big shadows for America's future, Afrikan Black Coalition after hearing Farrakahn's exhortation for them to serve their communities rather than pursue non-existant white jobs promised them by a lying white men's university. Photo by Ted Friedman.

It would have made a great yarn, but wound up on the cutting room floor along with a story about our Berkeley police chief, two column proposals, and a closed pot-club.

It seemed like the beginning of the end. Now this.

Dropout may or may not have survived a block. See if he can file anything at the Berkeley Daily Planet, where his reporting career is being squeezed by his attempts to become a columnist.

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