Acid Heroes

May 12, 2016

The little old hippie lady of Berkeley


The other day I was hanging out with Hate Man at People’s  Park. Hate Man was talking about a guy who had recently slit his throat by the bathroom. “It was amazing how much blood there was on the floor. Its incredible how much blood there is in the human body!”

“That reminds me of when Jack Kerouac died,” I said. “He blew a big hole in his stomach. And it was like a dam bursting. Virtually all of his blood instantly poured out onto the floor.”

Suddenly, this little old lady that was sitting on the log across from us started shouting at me:


The little old lady had been on the Berkeley scene, off and on, for years. She was probably in her late 60s. She was wearing a brightly colored tie-dyed Grateful Dead tee-shirt and a long, flowing hippie skirt. She had lips like a fish. And was almost the perfect caricature of the kvetching Long Island Jewish grandmother.

“Hate Man, gimme some of your Coke. Gimme some of your soda,” she said. “I’m dying of thirst over he’ya.”

“No,” said Hate Man. “It would be a hard push.”

“I’m dying I’m dying,” she said.

“There’s a water fountain over there,” said Hate Man

“I don’t want watah’. I want soda!”

Lately, she’s been hanging out all day by herself on the steps of Sproul Plaza on the Berkeley campus. Occasionally she’ll start shouting to no one in particular, “HELP ME HELP ME HELP ME!!”

The other day I passed her as she was walking up Bancroft from Shattuck. She was about halfway to the campus. Its several LONG blocks. All uphill. And she was inching along at a snail’s pace. In obvious bad health. Pulling this suitcase on wheels behind her.

“HELP ME HELP ME!!” she said as I passed her. “I NEED TO GET TO THE HOMELESS SHELTER!!”

I turned around towards her. And for a second I almost got roped into her drama. But then I thought: What could I do? Carry her up the street?

“You’re headed in the right direction,” I said. “Good luck.”

(Later in the day I was relieved to find that she had made it to the campus and was back at her spot on the Sproul Plaza steps.)

Often people end up on the street scene because they’ve exhausted all their options and there’s nowhere else to go. The streets are like an all-inclusive club. Virtually anybody can end up a member.



  1. These type of scenes always make me think of the first part of William Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” Act ll Scene Vll–“All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts…”

    Comment by Deborah K Jamil — May 14, 2016 @ 6:29 am | Reply

    • Yeah. That’s pretty much how I look at life. Everyone is the star of their own movie.

      Comment by Ace Backwords — May 14, 2016 @ 9:49 pm | Reply

  2. Whya bustin’ my balls wit this story? I’m tryin’ to relax ovah heh’ya!

    Comment by Dan McMullan — January 25, 2017 @ 3:01 am | Reply

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