I have this weird thing that I do. I often think about people that I’ve known who have died. Not just family and friends. But people that I just sort of casually knew who were part of the scenery on the scene in the background of my life. I’ll suddenly remember them. They’ll pop into my head for no particular reason.. And I’ll remember them. “THAT guy. He was here for many years on the scene. And now he’s gone.”
I sometimes wondered if it was a morbid obsession.. Thinking about dead people. But my Facebook friend Farmer Georg said: “No Ace, it’s not morbid. If you think about and remember a person who died, they still exist and they’re still alive.” (Farmer Georg died last month and I’m still thinking about him now)
When I hang out at this spot on the Berkeley campus I often think of this Berkeley street person named New York. Who was a part of the Telegraph street scene for many years. Late at night he used to like to hang out at these tables on lower Sproul Plaza and quietly drink his Olde English malt liquor and smoke his weed (so we had that in common — I liked to pound the OE myself). And sometimes when I passed by New York at his table he would call out to me and offer me a hit of his weed (there was a certain camraderie between Berkeley street people back then)
New York was a short black guy with a loud booming voice. For a little guy he had a big booming voice. And you could hear him from a block away. It was like he had a megaphone built into his diaphram. “HEY!!!” he’d say. New York started out every sentence he spoke with “HEY!!” Like a bullfrog. And I assume he was from New York. Which is how he got the street name New York. And he also had a loud cackling laugh. That would burst out of him. He was one of those up-beat possitive types. Usually laughing. He usually carried a conga drum with him. He liked to jam along with the Lower Sproul Plaza drum circle that was a part of Berkeley history for many years. During the day he did odd jobs for the Berkeley street vendors and merchants, sweeping the sidewalks and etc. That’s how he made his dough. And at night he’d hang out at these tables and quietly drink his OE and smoke his weed (I’m repeating myself).
Around December of 2013 New York suddenly disappeared. Right around Christmas. So I asked a friend of his — this black guy who was the head custodian of the Student Union Building — what happened to New York.
“New York passed out in a doorway in the middle of a freezing cold winter storm,” he said
“And died of hypothermia.”
“New York was my best friend,” he said.
I still remember these people. I still remember New York.. I’m remembering them now.