Archive for March, 2012

Funked-Out in Funk Town

Posted in The Berkeley Scene on March 21st, 2012 by admin – Be the first to comment

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.
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Come Up and See Me Sometime — Bring Your Gun

Posted in The Berkeley Scene on March 14th, 2012 by admin – Be the first to comment

by Steed Dropout
Berkeley, California
March 12, 2012


Subject to impulsivity when unrested, I found myself in our police headquarters atrium-lobby to learn why our chief sent an armed information officer to the home of a local reporter at 12:45 a.m. last week seeking corrections in the reporter’s piece.

Is there anyone on the planet who doesn’t know the story? It went viral within hours of being reported in major media.

On the way into police headquarters, I chatted with one of those models who work as T.V. reporters.

The model, and two other journalists on her crew, was in a van with one of those sky-high curly antennas.

A passing Berkeleyan interrupted us with gibberish about getting his own feed from the antenna. I was too tired to say, “yeah them suckers are powerful. I don’t have to tell you that you can get your personalized feed.”

One of the model’s cohorts, said to the nut, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

After 42 years in Berkeley, I know what the nut was talking about.

This man is resting in the atrium of Berkeley police headquarters after being mugged on the streets of Berkeley. Photo by Ted Friedman.

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Getting Away With Murder Covering a Murder in Berkeley

Posted in The Berkeley Scene on March 11th, 2012 by admin – Be the first to comment

by Steed Dropout
Berkeley, California
March 9, 2010


It took me eight hours or more, and one anti-anxiety pill.

But by God I submitted my murder in the Berkeley Hills story at 6:15 p.m. Friday — it feels like Saturday — March 9, 2012.

There’s not much murder in the story, except between the lines.

I awoke at an hour when I’d usually be able to sit right down at the keyboard, and pound one out. But it wasn’t happening. I thought I’d gone dry, and here I had all this material.

Maybe that was the problem. Too many notes. I’m experimenting with from-their-mouths-to-your-notes note taking. I almost injured my wrist writing so fast, and I still lost key phrases. My mom always said to take shorthand.

Moreover I was having a mild transient panic attack because I knew just what information I was lacking to do the piece. My lacks were jacking me around. I frantically called friends, who had attended the same meeting I wanted to write about.

Major media vans outside North side meeting to question police about the murder in the hills. Subsequent events have derailed Berkeley's charming Harry. Stay tuned for BR updates on a major Berkeley police scandal. Photo by Ted Friedman.

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Another J.D. Salinger Murder

Posted in The Berkeley Scene on March 5th, 2012 by admin – Be the first to comment

by Steed Dropout
February 5, 2012


Berkeley, Ca

He died in 2010, at 91, but J.D. Salinger continues to appeal — through his fiction — to alienated and mentally ill youth. “Catcher in the Rye” (’51), still read in schools that haven’t banned it, played an important role in Mark Chapman’s trial (’81) for the murder of John Lennon

Chapman, like J.D. Salinger’s Holden Caulfield, saw himself as a “catcher-in-the-rye,” saving the youth of America from plunging into the abyss of [John Lennon’s] phoniness.”

Now Berkeley — a low murder town, may have — in its second homicide of the year, another J.D. Salinger inspired killing. J.D. Salinger was a devout buddhist practitioner most of his life.

Key information is still needed to conclusively link J.D. Salinger’s influence to yet another murder.

Even if a tenuous link can be established, there remain problems of cause and effect, and a stew of fallacies, including postdictive reasoning, and a skewed sample. How many youngsters have read Salinger and not killed anyone?

Nevertheless, BR would like to make the case, that the murder in the exclusive Park Hills neighborhood, high above Berkeley’s less fortunate, can be linked to Salinger. It is not fortunate to be murdered in an exclusive neighborhood — allegedly or not.

The 67 year-old victim lived across the street from Tilden Park, a 2,079 acre “jewel” of east-bay parks. On the night of the crime (Feb. 19), he confronted his young killer who, reportedly, claimed to be a psychic looking for his fiancee, “Zoey,” when he tried to get into the victim’s mansion.

The killer was living in a flop house in Oakland, a world away from the murder mansion, skirting a nature refuge. It is not clear how he got to the crime scene, but a Berkeley bus made a stop near the crime scene at 6:53 p.m. on the night of the 9 p.m. crime.

The killer’s imaginary fiancee, (or was it fiance?) Zoey, (a possible police misspelling) of Zooey) could be from J.D. Salinger’s two long New Yorker stories (’61) “Franny and Zooey.” In these stories, later published together as a novel to cash in on the success of “Catcher in the Rye” Franny has a nervous breakdown (Part 1); and Zooey (part 2), talks her down.

The young man, who allegedly bludgeoned to death his victim with a ceramic planter, made-up the Zooey character, said his parents. “She doesn’t exist,” they say.

But J.D. Salinger invented Zooey, as an angel of mercy. Zooey might have been able to help the alleged killer, and that killer might have seen Zoey as his guardian angel.

Berkeley police give the name as Zoey, but several on-line sources say Zooey is a variant spelling. Zoey is usually a girl’s name, but in J.D. Salinger, Zooey was the man, Franny the woman. The alleged killer could have been confused, or mis-read. That is, if he even had read Salinger.


In life, J.D. Salinger was hounded by journalists and lit wits, who noticed that he romanticized most of his youthful characters, perhaps to the point of unhealthy idealization.

Some reading this, will dispute imputing a real-life role of any kind to a literary invention. For this type of literalist, there is no answer except a long list of characters going back to the Bible, or the Greeks. What about Rhett Butler, or Rick Blaine?

Records show that the alleged killer was repeatedly failed by the mental health system, which released him from a treatment center over the objections of his doctor, even though the young man’s past violent behavior showed the youth was dangerous.

Zooey, an apparition, was the only hope the unfortunate young man had, and the murder victim apparently got in the way at a dangerous time.

The victim called Berkeley police to report a prowler, but a nearby police squad car was diverted.

Berkeley police blames local Occupy movements for the killing. If it hadn’t been for an Occupy “Fuck the Police,” march, [which sounded more threatening than it turned out to be], police might have responded, according to a police spokesman.

Once the incident was called in as an assault (second call), police responded in great force in seven minutes, catching the near-by alleged killer in 20 minutes.

By then it was too late.

Berkeley Police said they needed to hold officers in reserve in case the potentially violent Occupy march erupted. It didn’t.

A developing controversy over whether Berkeley police acted in the best interest of Berkeley’s wealthy hills dwellers has led to fevered complaints, and a public hearing into the matter will be held this week.

But here at Berkeley Reporter, we prefer the J.D. Salinger angle.

A tall tale, or is BR on to something, in its attempt to understand crime, not just report it? When we can confirm the J.D. Salinger angle, we’ll let you know.