Welcome to the Berkeley Public Library



Another day at the Berkeley Public Library.

The guy sitting at the computer directly across from me — who happened to be African-America — just got into some kind of disagreement with this middle-aged woman — who happened to be white. The argument escalated to the point where the guy was shouting threats at the woman. Then this other guy jumped into the middle of it — allegedly as peacemaker — which only escalated it further. The guy throws several punches at the guy in the middle. Before a big scrum of people stepped in and separated the combatants.

A security guard shows up, and then two cops and they try to sort out the whole mess.

“This man assaulted me!!” said the one guy.

“I was just sitting at my computer minding my own business and this woman wouldn’t stop bothering me!!” said the other guy. He goes back and sits down at his computer.

“You have to go outside and we can talk this over out there,” says the cop numerous times, calmly but firmly. But the guy refuses to leave, maintaining his innocence. Then it starts to get physical. “GET YOUR HANDS OFF ME!!” he shouts, brushing off the cops arm. Then he’s standing up and they’re trying to handcuff him, but he’s resisting, stiffening like a board. Meanwhile, I’m sitting there about 5 feet across from them, waiting for all hell to break loose and the table to get over-turned and come crashing down.

But somehow they manage to handcuff him and haul him towards the stairs, while he shouts “WHITE PRIVILEGE!! WHITE PRIVILEGE!!” over and over, the entire time he’s being escorted out of the building.

And as usual with these things, you don’t even know what the fight was about, let alone who’s to blame.

But on a nicer note, Patricia, one of my FB friends, spotted me at the library earlier and stopped by to say hi.


The further misadventures of the notorious Serial Flusher


Scene of the crime.
I got in another ugly confrontation with the Serial Flusher a couple days ago. I got in his face and said: “HEY DUDE IF YOU DO THAT TOILET FLUSHING THING ONE MORE TIME I WILL FUCK YOU UP!!” (I’m well known for my subtlety of expression)

He stared back at me with this blank expression on his dim-wit mug. And he kept repeating in this high-pitched squealing voice: “How ya doin’? How ya doin’? What’s your name? What’s your name?” (did I mention he’s completely nuts?)

I’m generally in a bad mood in the morning (waking up to 300 hangovers a year will do that to a guy). And I’m ESPECIALLY in a bad mood when I’m sitting in a stall of a public restroom trying to take my morning shit in peace and quiet. And all of a sudden there’s this EXPLOSION of water-flushing sounds. This cascading cacophony of water. As this lunatic frolics from toilet to toilet to urinal to urinal. Flushing every one of them. Over and over and over. All the while letting out this high-pitched giggle of excited lunatic laughter to let you know he is really getting his jollies from the whole toilet-flushing experience.

Needless to say. The dude’s a little peculiar.

So now it’s a couple days later. And I’m waiting to see how the Serial Flusher reacts to my angry outburst. Over the years I’ve been in more than my fair share of these kind of ugly confrontations (it’s one of the unfortunate bi-products of life on the street scene). And usually, about 90% of the time, the other person wisely realizes that it is in his best self-interests to avoid all further contact with that Ace Backwords fellow for the foreseeable future. But, unfortunately, 10% of the time they turn into these on-going wars that can last for months and even years. Which I dread. Because it drains a lot of my energy. And it sours the quality of my daily life, never knowing if I might get jumped by some nut at any given moment.

The problem with dealing with the Serial Flusher is two-fold. 1.) He’ a big, burly guy. So he can do some damage. And 2.) He’s completely nuts. So it’s impossible to predict how he’ll react. It’s difficult to gauge the logic of a man who’s biggest thrill in life is to flush toilets over and over, day after day, for decades at a stretch.

So now I’m waiting to see how this plays out. The Serial Flusher has basically been living on the Berkeley campus for the last ten years. He mostly sits by himself all day, staring off into space, making these contorted expressions on his face, and emitting these high-pitched, squealing animal sounds under his breath. In all these years I’ve never seen him talk to another person. He’s blandly normal-looking on the surface. So mostly nobody even notices him. Since he almost never actually does anything. It’s weird how some people can blend into the crowd, no matter how nutty they are. And he usually restricts his toilet-flushing parties to off-hours of the day when almost nobody else is around.

All types in this world, huh? Unfortunately.


One of the worst fights I ever saw

One of the odd byproducts of all the years living on the street scene — I’ve seen literally hundreds and hundreds of fights over the years.  Most of them just involved people punching and slapping and kicking and hair-pulling and eye-gouging and wrestling around on the ground like pigs in slop.

But occasionally people would bash each other with big sticks and rocks and slabs of concrete and skateboards and bicycles and whatever else was handy (we really haven’t evolved that far from the caveman even as we made it to the moon).

And every now and then someone will pull out a knife or a machete or smash a bottle over some chump’s head.  And I only have a hand-full of gunfire stories, thankfully (I try to roll with a lightweight crew if I can help it).

But I remember one particularly odd and ludicrous fight.   This guy took umbrage with something this other guy had said or done (that’s usually how it starts).  He was righteously outraged about SOMETHING, I tell you (god knows what).  So he challenged the other guy to a duel.  Right there in the middle of the street.


He took off his jacket and slammed it to the ground in preparation for mortal combat!!  Then he took off his shirt and slammed that to the ground, showing off his manly and muscular chest!!

But then, in a move that surprised many of us who were watching, he took off his pants and slammed them to the ground.  Then he took off his underpants and slammed those to the ground.

So now he’s standing there in the middle of the street, completely naked.  His penis swaying poignantly in the breeze.  He’s looking around.  He knows he’s mad about SOMETHING.  But he can’t quite remember what it was that he was mad about (you know how it is with those darn drugs — sometimes it’s hard to maintain your train of thought).

He stood there for awhile in the middle of the street, naked, with a confused and befuddled expression on his face.  Muttering vague curses to himself.  Until he finally gathered up all his clothes in his arms, and sheepishly trotted off down the street.

That wasn’t one of the more particularly impressive fights I’ve ever seen over the years.


Obsessive/compulsive behavior; Part 2

There are so many bizarre characters on the street scene. They are like archetypes from your strangest dreams and nightmares.

It was in the 90s yesterday.  Hot!  But that didn’t stop this local street person, the Walrus (as I call him), from walking around (or should I say staggering around)  with four pairs of pants on.  Three of which were hanging down around his ankles.

It got me thinking about some of the other weird, compulsive behavior I’ve seen over the years on the street scene.

Like this one guy I used to know.  He was so guilt-ridden, he compulsively blamed himself for everything that happened.  And I mean everything.  He’d say stuff like:  “I was listening to the radio today.  And the disc jockey sounded depressed.  Somehow, I felt it was my fault.  Like I was putting out bad vibes in the airwaves that made him feel sad.”  The guilty bastard.

Then there are the “serial flushers.”  I already told you about those guys.  The nuts that go into the public restrooms and compulsively flush the toilets over and over again . . .  I’d like to flush those guys down the toilet.  I guess that’s my compulsion.

Then there’s this young street woman, extremely attractive and extremely nuts (a deadly combination).  She insists that she invented the rave scene and started all the pot clubs.  Therefore, all the people who have been profiting from these enterprises owe her approximately $24 billion in residuals (cash, check or money order would be fine).  So she’s constantly posting these xeroxed fliers all over the Avenue demanding that the perpetrators meet her at a certain time and a certain place and fork over the dough.  And if they don’t, she will tie them up with duct-tape and chop them into little pieces.  Which is only fair.  The odd thing is; her fliers are always very well written, and in excellent handwriting.  Aside from the fact that they’re completely nuts.

Then there’s this guy who actually thinks he’s the King of Denmark.  The first time I dealt with him was when he came up to my vending table and bought some books.  He gave me a dollar bill.  Then he asked for the bill back.  Signed his name on the bill.  And then gave it back to me.  “I have to notarize all the bills first in order for them to be legal tender,” he explained.  OHHH-key.

The King’s compulsion was:  He liked to sneak into homeless people’s campsites in the Berkeley hills when they weren’t around, and not only steal their stuff, but trash out their campsites.  Everybody who camps up there has had to deal with this nut.  One day I noticed somebody had hit my campsite.  I immediately suspected it was the King.  Later that day, I confronted him on the Avenue.

“Did you steal my stuff?”  I said.

“No, of course I didn’t steal your stuff,” he said.  “I’m the King of Denmark, and the Berkeley hills are my eminent domain.  Therefore, all the property up there is legally mine.  So it’s not stealing when I take something that is rightfully mine.”

“Wrong answer,” I said.  And I threw a cup of cold coffee in his royal face.

Since I started living on the streets, I rarely go to movies.  You usually end up living out several strange movies every day on the streets.  So it’s kind of redundant to pay money to watch other people’s movies.