Gina is a long-time Berkeley street person. Completely bat crazy. Doesn’t so much talk in English but makes these weird animal sounds.
I remember one New Years Eve we’re all hanging out on the sidewalk outside Larry Blake’s right after midnight, ringing in the new year. Everybody buzzed and mellow. And Gina starts coming on to this guy, caressing him and hugging him. It’s New Years Eve and everybody’s getting a little loose after all. And suddenly she grabs hold of the guy by the hair and won’t let go and starts screaming “RAPE! RAPE! RAPE!” Ha ha. And for a second — as they’re violently grappling back and forth and he’s frantically trying to escape from Gina’s clutches — everybody thought she was fending off this guy who was trying to rape her. . . Fortunately — before people started beating the poor guy’s ass — people figured out what was going on.
One time I was hanging out at my vending table listening to the radio on my boom box. And the song “Angel is a Centerfold” by J. Geils came on — this song about this guy who’s dismayed to find out that his high school girlfriend had become a porno model. Gina happened to be passing by and when she heard that song she came charging over at me with a big crazy smile on her face: “THA’S MAH’ FAVORITE SONG!!” she said. And she stood there by the radio, singing/yelping along to the song and laughing like a loon.
Gina always made me a little nervous because she was so unpredictable. She was like a wild animal. She’s wasn’t a bad person really. Just really damaged and “out there.” She has some kind of brain damage, and most likely coupled with childhood trauma and abuse. You meet all kinds of unique and unusual people on the street scene, that’s for sure.
Hate Man heckling Rev. Chuck on the Berkeley campus around 1993, surrounded by a big crowd of onlookers, as usual. Hate Man used to mimic Rev. Chuck. If Chuck stood on a chair, Hate Man stood on a crate. If Chuck sat down, Hate Man sat down. If Chuck paced back and form, Hate Man paced back and forth.
One of the odd things about Rev. Chuck was his obsession with sodomy. Virtually every one of hissermons featured a long harangue on the mortal sin of sodomy, often going into graphic detail. According to the theology of Rev. Chuck, the sin of sodomy was a sure-fire way to earn eternal damnation in the fires of Hell.
The odd thing was, I don’t ever remember Jesus even mentioning sodomy in the Bible. And to my knowledge He never once expounded on the Gospel According to Anal Sex. But one thing was for sure. Rev. Chuck had spent a LOT of time thinking long and hard about the subject of sodomy. And there was probably a reason for that.
I drew a comic strip off and on for about 20 years. It’s a pretty exacting medium. Every line, every word, has to be exactly in the right place in order to convey the punchline. And it doesn’t take much to throw off the timing and ruin the gag. Plus, you have to be able to conceive a worthy punchline out of your head, out of thin air, in the first place. It requires an odd combination of skills that really can’t be taught. You can either do it or you can’t.
Drawing a comic strip is like doing sketch comedy. Only you do everything. You write it, you draw it, you create the characters, you act out all the characters, you design the set, you design the costumes. You’re actor, writer, director, set designer, everything. And you have to be skilled in all these things to pull it off.
One thing it really requires is the ability to be concise. You have to pack all of this information into 3 or 4 little panels. So you can’t waste a single word. Doing a comic strip taught me how to express myself directly and forcefully. It is an in-your-face medium. You are reaching out and grabbing the reader by the collar and demanding: LOOK AT ME!!
It also teaches you how to package your thoughts and present them to others in an easily-digestible format. It’s like being an advertising executive, except instead of selling a product you’re selling your ideas.
A cop was once detaining me and grilling me about a possible offense I might have committed. In the course of the conversation he asked me about my employment history. “I was a cartoonist for 20 years,” I said. “Why’d you quit?” said the cop. “I ran out of punchlines,” I said.
The cop laughed and let me go. . . I still know how to deliver a punchline if I need to.
I’ve decided to check out one of those on-line dating sites. And I’ve been working on my date-site profile:
“I’m 62-years-old and I’m looking for that special someone to share my life and my sleeping bag with. I don’t have much money, or much hair, but I do have plenty of lovin’ and plenty of feral cats to share with the right person. If you’ve ever dreamed of spending romantic nights sipping 40s of Olde English malt liquor directly from the bottle in a back alley or under the moon and stars or huddled in a doorway in the middle of a torrential downpour, then I could be that man you’ve been looking for all these years!!”
BREAKING NEWS!! The Bay Area has been experiencing 47% more gloom lately. Berkeley was particularly hit, with a 53% increase in gloom over the last fiscal year. On the positive side, according to the latest reports San Francisco has experienced a 24% decrease in melancholy. While the overall level of disgust and outright despair has remained the same.
In a related report, scientists have discovered that water may have “healing” powers, particularly in regards to quenching thirst.
Some people want to make cops out to be the villains. The oppressors. The enforcers of the “police state. And there’s some truth and validity to that outlook. Myself?? I mostly look at cops as the referees. The umpires. Somebody has to make those judgment calls.
People see cops as heroes or villains and everything in between. I mostly see them as social garbage-collectors. They get called in to try and clean up society’s messes.
I once read this survey of cops where the cops themselves claimed that 20% of the cops weren’t fit to be cops. They were too dumb or lazy or had bad judgment or were lousy at dealing with people or had weird attitudes. I mean cops are basically just a cross-section of human beings — the good and the bad and everything in between.
So I keep that survey in mind, every fifth interaction I have with a cop.
The cops main job — like the sports referee — is to maintain the social order, and enforce the rules and the laws. And I guess therein lies the rub. Because many people on the bottom of society feel the laws are written specifically to oppress them, and benefit the rich. But it’s important to remember: The cops don’t write the rules. They only enforce them. Though they do have a certain amount of lee-way as to precisely HOW they enforce them. And the cops have to make zillions of judgment calls every day they’re on the job. And sometimes they have to make split-second judgment calls while in the middle of highly stressful, and even dangerous, situations. All the while knowing that every judgment call they make will be second-guessed by somebody.
The better cops know that there’s “the letter of the law” and “the spirit of the law.” And have an intuitive sense of when to apply one or the other. It’s like a basketball referee — technically they could call a foul on every play. But the good ones have a feel for the flow of the game, and they interpret the rules with that in mind.
Many people think the job “inordinately attracts people who are bullies or thugs and like to beat people up.” And I’m sure the job certainly attracts a certain amount of bullies who enjoy wielding power over others. But it also attracts many other types. My older brother was a cop for a couple of years when he was a young man. And he was what you might call a “boy scout” type. He legitimately wanted to help protect the people from the bad guys and all that. Then there are others who want to be a cop simply because they’re attracted to the excitement. And then there are others that see it simply as a decent job where they can make a living and support their families.
I don’t know, it’s a complicated subject. Of course I’m mostly like Bukowski: “I got nothing against cops. I just feel better when they’re not around.”
God, I can’t believe it. I just CAN’T believe it. Two days before the big People’s Park 50th Anniversary Concert. . . I walk up to Dwight and Telegraph. They got the whole block roped off with yellow police tape. Dozens of cop cars parked everywhere. Helicopter hovering overhead. I asked a friend of mine hanging out on the corner what was going on:
“It just happened in the park by the picnic tables. Guy walked up to another guy sitting at the table and shot him right in the head. Black guy with dreadlocks shot another black guy.”
“Is he dead?” I said.
“Most likely he is 99.9% dead.”
April 26, 2019
Walked through People’s Park today. The guys were all sitting at the picnic tables hanging out, just like usual. Sitting right where the guy got his head blown off just yesterday. And acting like nothing had happened. . . And I guess that’s just how it works. Life goes on.
Some people are going to be quick to blame People’s Park for the homicide the other day. But as far as I can tell the suspect had almost no affiliation with People’s Park. And the homicide has nothing to do with People’s Park, any more than it has to do with the OTHER three locations where this nut just happened to go on his shooting rampages.
April 28, 2019
Well, it’s the People’s Park 50th Anniversary Concert. Jimbow the Hobo got the show off to a rousing start, ranting out some street poetry in true People’s Park fashion. Then an all-female rock band that sounded a bit like Lou Reed & the Velvet Underground did a nice set.
I had a good time. Ran into Jay-Jay, Katie and the Infamous Bones. Then spent most of the show hiding at the top of the park until I finished off my first six-pack of Racer 5 and started shouting “PEOPLE’S PARK!!! PEOPLE’S PARK!!!” over and over for no apparent reason. . .
The rest of the show is a blur in my memory. I consulted the photos in my cell phone, searching for clues, and came across this shot of the great Moby Theobald so apparently I met him too (hi, Moby). All the rest of my photos have my big thumb right in the middle of all the shots so they’re no help. . . At any rate Happy Birthday, People’s Park!! The big Five-Oh.
April 29, 2019
People’s Park the morning after the big 50th Anniversary show, a little hungover but still there. . . I tried to take a photo of the new improved Free Box but some street people were camped out in front of it and when I asked to take a picture they said no and refused to move so I could get a shot. . . Some things will never change.