Liz Spring sent me this photo today from 1994. As always I do the math in my mind — 24 years ago for those of you keeping score at home. Sitting at Bench Two on the Berkeley campus.
As soon as I saw my face I thought: “I was taking way too many drugs back then.” Pot, acid, crack, speed. My brain was going in multiple directions. I’m glad I cleaned up my act nowadays and am just a straight up alcoholic. It’s much more linear on my thinking.
I had this hare-brained idea at the time of “making it” as a musician. I had had some success as a cartoonist, writer, graphic artist and photographer, so I thought maybe my artistic talents might also transfer to the medium of music. What I mostly wanted to do was write and record songs. Which I loved doing. My dream was to record a classic psychedelic album. Call it Private Pepper. A pun. Because music had mostly been this private thing with me that I mostly kept to myself.
I ended up recording a demo of about 10 of my songs on 8-track reel-to-reel tape with some over-dubbing and psychedelic special effects. Had sort of a moody, melancholy, early Pink Floyd sound. I have no idea if it was any good. How can you be objective about something like that? But I can tell you it sounded fantastic to me when I listened to it on headphones played on recording studio-quality equipment while peaking on acid. So it passed my personal acid test.
I still have the original reel-to-reel master tape stashed somewhere in my storage locker. Maybe some day I’ll dig it up, take it to a real recording studio and finish it. Over-dub some drums and bass and moog synthesizer and tweak out the effects for the proper mind-bending properties. And then press it up on vinyl. Because that’s what I always wanted. My own record. Just to be perverse.
The sun was setting on People’s Park so I took out my cellphone to try and get a picture of it (as you can see my cellphone sucks for these kind of shots). But as I’m clicking away one of the street people sitting at the picnic table to my right sidles over to me and says:
“Ya know,man, there are some people in this Park who would get mighty upset if they caught you taking pictures of them.”
“Oh yeah,” I said. “I’ve been taking photos of the scene for 30 years. I know the score.”
Though I will tell you. I was a little annoyed by the exchange. Like I need this fellow — this guardian of People’s Park — this layer-down-of-the-rules of “the laws of the street” — like I need this fellow’s permission to take a goddamn photo of the sunset.
And one other thing (now that I’m in the mood to do a little grousing): There are people working very hard to save People’s Park. But the sad fact is, 90% of the street people who hang out in the Park all day wouldn’t lift a finger to try and save it. Though you can bet they’ll be the first to complain if it does get demolished.
And it’s because of people like the guy at the picnic table that a lot of people WANT to demolish People’s Park. In fact if People’s Park is going to survive it has to become a park shared equally by ALL the people in the community. And not just the street people that hang out there all day long.
The problem is, a lot of the street people, who are basically living in the Park all day long, start to consider it their own private property and personal turf. It’s just basic human nature, I guess. Human beings are territorial by nature. But geez!! Some of these people seem completely oblivious as to how close we are to losing People’s Park. As well as the pressing need to clean up our acts and become a welcoming presence to all the people who set foot in the Park.
Listen (as you can see from the photo I took), I’m not talking about sticking a camera in somebody’s face and taking a photo of them when they just trying to have some privacy (does this photo I posted give that impression?). But the fact is, it’s perfectly legal to take a photo of ANYBODY who’s in a public space.
A couple years ago one of the original FOUNDERS of People’s Park in 1969 came back to People’s Park. And he was taking a couple of photos of the park. When this useless crackhead got in his face, threatened to beat his ass and smash his camera, and ran him out of the park. IS IT ANY SURPRISE THAT A LARGE PERCENTAGE OF THE BERKELEY COMMUNITY NO LONGER SUPPORT PEOPLE’S PARK?? . . . . Crap like this gives the impression that People’s Park is no longer a public park and a public space. But the private property of the street people who hang out there all day long.
One of the great appeals of People’s Park was that it was a Berkeley icon (I’m not sure if it still is). Like Sather Gate on the campus. Tourists and other people are CONSTANTLY taking photos of Sather Gate. Do you think they have to ask the PERMISSION of all the people who happen to be walking by before they take their pictures. I don’t think so. Whether some bum who just happens to be passing by grouses about it or not.
Some of these people in People’s Park don’t seem to realize how close we are to LOSING People’s Park. And if we don’t start cleaning up our act, we ARE going to lose it.
Julia Vinograd defined Telegraph Avenue in a way. As the co-publisher of the Telegraph Avenue Street Calendar for 15 years, I made sure there were three people who’s photos were in every issue: Hate Man, B.N. Duncan, and Julia Vinograd. For they were icons of Telegraph. Walking, talking embodiments of the scene, along with the Caffe Med, Sather Gate, and the Campanile Tower. Tourist attractions unto themselves.
Julia Vinograd came of age during the ’60s hippie counterculture. And that, too, defined her. For she embodied some of the best qualities of that, too. Light-hearted, whimsical, off-beat, experimental, clever, thoughtful, insightful, “Weird But Proud,” as the button on her hat always proclaimed. And she always seemed to proclaim this unspoken message. “We the Sixties Generation will prevail. Not because of our ideology, or rioting in the streets, or proselytizing. But simple because we know a better way. And the world will eventually catch up with us.”
Somebody posted this on Facebook, a page from Twisted Image #2 from the summer of 1982. A photo feature Mary Mayhem put together of the Eastern Front punk rock festival down at the Berkeley marina. “A Day on the Dirt” as it was billed. Chron Gen, the Lewd, Husker Du, and others performed. . . Seems like ancient history from another lifetime now, don’t it?