Mugged, Murdered, a Mere Hop-Skip-Jump from Serenity

by Steed Dropout
Aug. 16, 2016

You are perhaps more likely to be mugged or murdered on the Berkeley Southside street where I live than in Berkeley’s serene Elmwood District, which is a mere hop-skip-and-a-jump away.

In the Elmwood, neighbors posting on a neighborhood website tout, “enjoy the Berkeley lifestyle.” This might include a stint cat-sitting in a mansion, being a nanny, household cook, computer coach, or Koi-pond-tender.

You might score a free photo album, bird house, baby bath-tub,storage closet, law books, keyboards, moving boxes, guinea-pig cage, or a Blue-Nose Pit Bull.

In my neighborhood, we sift through detritus dumped on our neighborhood streets, and if we find a bauble or two, we proclaim it street-score.

In my Southside district neighborhood, Peoples Park crimes (one-half-block from me) are a big bite of Berkeley crime blotters, the cheap thrills of chain-whippings, stab-wounds, rapes, and gun-point robberies which happen to someone else.

Although in the Elmwood, murderers have disposed of their corpses in abandoned cars, (the Highway 13 offramp from Oakland to the Elmwood is a convenient get-away), such incidents are rare. And someone has been shitting in your Elmwood-parked car.

My neighbors are mostly students. They surround me with hard-studying contagion. There is the occasional loud sophomoric party, but they exude the elixir of youth.

Daily mental health interventions by police and a Berkeley mental health worker have become part of our lifestyles. This includes a steady parade of cop-cars, firetrucks, paramedic vans and various other ambulances.

Normal neurotics in my mostly student neighborhood are merely “kind hearts and gentle people,” to quote a popular 1949 song about an idyllic American town.

Many police (from our two police forces, state and city) ambulances, and fire-trucks equipped for mental health outreach are only minutes away. Cops on bikes, and cops in cars hover around us, awaiting our call.

Passing out on the Southside is commonplace and a good place for it. We are the “Fuck You, Capitol” of the world, where fuck youse outweigh sweet talk street-talk.

If you’re mired in Southside’s People’s Park, you may dream of escape.

One People’s Park regular, with persistence, found housing in Oakland but when the housing included vermin and psych-killers, he slit his throat to beat his assailants to the vein.

He survived and found a more amenable Oakland place.

A few blocks away, in the serene Elmwood, someone is seeking a “five-star tenant.”

I am that tenant, but I’m not budging.

Berkeley Reporter’s photography:

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