I think about this a lot. Because its so odd to me.
I first started hanging out a lot on the Telegraph Avenue street scene around 1992. I had mostly spent the previous 10 years sitting at a little desk in a little room, drawing comics and publishing publications. But as I turned 35 I was starting to wonder: “Am I going to spend my whole life sitting at a desk??”
I was itching for some action. And the Telegraph street scene seemed like a good place to find it. Because it was a happening scene back then. I guess because of a convergence of different forces. The Grateful Dead tour was building to its peak. And the Rainbow Gathering and the Rainbow Family (so-called) was going strong. And Berkeley was a prime stop on those tours. So you had these bus-loads of fresh blood constantly being injected into the scene. And the local punk scene was also going strong, primarily centered at Gilman St., but with the residue constantly flooding up to Telegraph, and this new phenomenon, the “gutter punks.”
And the original ’60s generation hadn’t yet reached decrepitude. They were mostly in their mid-40s and still a force to be reckoned with. Along with the newer generations who were perennially drawn to Berkeley to get a hit off of that ’60s lineage.
So it was quite a stew of characters romping around old Telegraph Avenue back in Dem Days. I remember an endless sea of beautiful young men and women hitting the scene. And artists and writers and musicians and spiritual seekers of every stripe. Bohemians, for lack of a better word. And some of the most colorful and crazy and wild characters I had ever met. It was like every other person you met was this bizarre technocolor movie unfolding before your eyes.
And we all seemed so young and strong and indestructible (that wouldn’t last). It was mostly a light drug scene back then. Pot and beer mostly. With a little acid and crack cocaine on the sides. And speed and Ecstasy were just starting to come in strong from the Raver scene (the E-tards hadn’t yet replaced the acid casualties).
But the odd thing to me when I look back on it. Just about everyone from the Telegraph scene back then has come and gone. They’re all either dead or burned-out or moved on to other things. Except for me. For some weird reason I’m still here. And its not so much that I’m The Last Man Standing, but The Last Man Left Behind.
And I’ll constantly be doing the math in my head:
“1992 to 2018. That’s 26 years. And counting. . . ”