by Steed Dropout
April 30, 2013


Berkeley, Ca

Writing for seven publications, I am often expected to pitch a story.

I can pitch a thousand-word story in a minute or less, but no more than two minutes.

I learned to do this in Toastmaster’s International’s two minute extemporaneous “table topics.” I could do “War and Peace” in four minutes.”

How do I do it? Toastmasters just do it.

I struck out twice today.

One editor is drastically cutting back publication. Another wasn’t biting.

Event Poster. Photo by Ted Friedman.


It was one of those saved from the jaws of defeat yarns. How a rag-tag group of die-hard Berkeley People’s Park activists managed to hold a music festival in the park for its 44th birthday without any pre-publicity, financially bankrupt, and torn by factionalism managed to hold one of the best Indyfests in recent Berkeley memory. There was one serious dog-bite, early; a nude senior was almost busted before a crowd of park fans formed a human shield which drove off the police; a pack of Llamas showed up and mesmerized the crowd, a newly painted park stage upgraded a faded relic, and peace flags were launched above the historic People’s Park pergola to replace previous university damage.

Pause for a breath.

1st People's Park. Photo by Ted Friedman.

Dana Merryman, who hoisted the flags spent $200 and survived negotiations with U.C. Berkeley. Running Wolf volunteered labor on this. Hate Man and Vangabond, Tom Garrison, helped close down.

People's Park acrobats. Ted Friedman.

Art Fonseca, who seemed to be in charge, denied that, citing the collectivism of the People’s Park community, a community factionalized and needing to “regroup,” in the words of the former organizer of the park “steering committee.” No one is steering now.

Sonora Llamas paid a surprise visit. Ted Friedman.

Bicicletas Por Paz, a Latin-American-American Reggae fusion group, fronting ten, which included a hip Andrews Sisters chorus — killed. Their fans, who came over from the city, saw them swirl a smoothie using pedal power. In recent years, People’s Park birthday concerts have presented the best in Bay Area indy music.

Peace flags plans. Ted Friedman.

Other bands also drew from their bay-area fan-base.

This then is the stirring story of a minor miracle in the park, or how a 44 year idea (People’s Park throwing a concert) survives all negative odds.

Dana Merryman hoists flags. Photo by Ted Friedman.

You’re turning this down?

Another major scene on the cutting room floor.

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