EXCLUSIVE! On Berkeley’s Telegraph, Few Creatures Stirred X-Mas Eve — Or Did They?

by Steed Dropout
Dec. 25, 2012

Twas the night before X-Mass and up and down Telegraph, few creatures stirred, except the occasional mouse.

As the last booths of the 29th annual holiday crafts fair folded, shortly after seven, a palpable void replaced last-minute shoppers. Holiday bustle yielded to holiday emptiness.

When the Med closed at 7:20, Teley went dead. Fred’s Market, a cigarette and booze stop remained open South of Dwight. Fred’s closed early, 10:20 p.m.

Not even the You Tube celebrity rats, showed up. A threatening storm that had made good its threats for days may have kept the rats away. Their agents advised them to avoid becoming drowned rats.

X-Mass Eve on Berkeley's Telegraph Avenue. Photo by Ted Friedman.

“Baby,” said one agent to his rat, “we’ve got to move beyond this rat thing.”

But nearly twenty off-the-road hobos, tramps, and a few bums assembled near the Caffe Mediterraneum Monday night to “celebrate,” some said.

Like rats, the “kids,” who aren’t as young as they look, have been reviled as vermin in some towns, coddled in others, they told me.

Des Moines, Iowa is surprisingly friendly and compassionate, one said. Some like Indiana.

“Berkeley is the best,” more than one told me. “Best free food in the country,” another chimed in.

An on-line guide to the best cities to be homeless in America places San Diego first, Berkeley, second.

The celebrants said they got along with most City of Berkeley police, but not always with University police.

The “kids” told me they have learned how to make nice with local cops.

Although a BPD patrol car sped up Dwight, headed for the hills, and a UCPD car sped down Haste, not one cop car came by the X-Mass eve party. How could they cite Berkeley’s young tourists for obstructing the sidewalks (they were), when there were no pedestrians to obstruct?

“How long will you be here?” I asked.

“However long it takes,” someone said, adding “to get the job done.”

A vendor from the crafts fair arrived bearing marijuana he said God had told him to distribute.

In order to receive the gift, you had to take an oath: “Do you share?” he asked. “I share,” they vowed.

Calling the scene, a “metaphysical play room,” marijuana man urged everyone to just relax. “Chill, he recommended,” before he walked off in a light drizzle that didn’t last.

Marijuana Man, right, back to camera. 'Do you share?' Photo by Ted Friedman.

Someone asked me to share the weed I’d been given. “I did take an oath to share,” I said, and gave away the last of it, repeating, “I took an oath.'”

Around eight the first food arrived, salads and pizza, delivered by Slum Jack Homeless, a formerly homeless guy, whose adventures were mentioned in the New York Times, a few years ago.

Slum Jack said Trader Joe’s had donated the out-of-date food to “food distribution networks.” He was making deliveries on a food distribution network route, he said.

Eyler. Photo by Ted Friedman.

A dapper young man name Eyler, after hearing my distinctions between hobos, tramps, and bums, said that he knew a lot of traveling kids who worked from time-to-time. “I’m a hobo,” he said.

“I’ve done farm work, and taken my pay in food and a bed on a stack of hay in a barn,” Eyler related. “Did you know that there were many street kids, who worked for vendors in the holiday fair?”

I didn’t know that. Although I knew that a homeless guy on my street, had worked at the fair.

“I’ll do all sorts of work,” but on my terms, Eyler said. He recently moved into an old van, he said.

Eyler said he’d headed the kitchen, at Occupy SF, until, after two months, he couldn’t take the kitchen squabbles any longer.

Part of the crowd. Photo by Ted Friedman.

We exchanged stories about missing funds at OSF, and Occupy Berkeley. “That’s why I never handled the money,” he said.

I spoke for awhile with a kid, who, when visiting Berkeley, liked to drop into an IOT center (Illuminates of Thanateros) in Oakland to “get my head straight.”

“We believe that our beliefs will determine our lives,” he said. “We start our day, with positive affirmations.”

Music was provided by an iPod driving small speakers. Our DJ, a young man named, “Eleven,” said the music was Dubstep, a fourteen year old British electronic music, with strong base lines, and, some vocals, floating eerily above the mix.

At 9:20, donuts arrived from King Pin donuts on Channing. The guy who delivered, noted there was no trans fat in the donuts. “You might tell them that,” I said.

One of the kids called out, “no trans fats, just a shit load of artery-clogging regular fat.”

All but a few of the donuts began their arterial journey.

Rosey, a Medhead, noticed what he called a ‘halo moon,” hovering above the Cody Bldg. He watched the moon, transfixed. Soon others joined the gaze.

Slightly Tippsie. Photo by Ted Friedman.

We had it all. Hip music, good vibes, drink, a metaphysical playroom, and a halo moon.

A street girl, tipsy it seemed, told us that she missed her folks but couldn’t go home because “my aunt and uncle would have me arrested. I still love them, but I can’t go back.”

Only two incidents could be considered down beat. A tall-fair-haired man, perhaps in his early thirties, gave a speech about his life in Kensington, where he was living with his mother.

“If Tanqueray closed down,she would kill herself,” he said.

He told me he needed to get away from the hills and be with “some real people.”

“I brought all the food for my mother’s party, and all she did was insult me,” he complained, to the point of self-pity.

The affirmations guy announced that he “would ejaculate on my head,” because I rudely refused to think of him when I ejaculate.

Affirmations had led him to ejaculations. Possibly this was some cult belief.

This was all said in a small crowd, but no one said anything.

Then Eyler, began packing up, with his dog, and leaving. He got no farther than across the street, where someone was sitting alongside Cody’s reading a Bible, probably the last book reader reading on the avenue.

He returned briskly, saying, “what was I thinking? I don’t have anywhere else to go.”

He returned in time for the last food drop, at 10:30.

After trying to eat more, the kids, some pointing to full stomachs, turned it down. The deliverer gladly took it back, he told me, to distribute elsewhere in the network.

I asked Eyler, how long he planned to stay. “Who knows,” he mused, smiling, maybe until sunrise; who knows?”

Our South side reporter must have had no where else to go; yet he tore himself away at 11p.m. Reach him at berkeleyreporter.com@Gmail.com.

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