Yet another peculiar encounter at the Berkeley Public Library


I swear I get all the winners. I’ve got a computer at the library reserved, but when I go to the cubicle there’s this stocky, crazy old woman who’s sitting there. She’s got headphones on and 5 big bags of stuff piled near her — including a big potted plant — and the desk is full of her papers and crap. 

“Excuse me, I’ve got this computer reserved,” I said.

She turns around and glares at me and says: “YOU AGAIN!” (which is weird because I’ve never seen her before)

“I’ve got this computer reserved for 3:22,” I said.

“You’re lying. I don’t believe you,” she said.

“Well, I’ll go double-check, ” I said.

“You go do that,” she said.

I go to the computer on the librarian’s desk and check. Yes, I have that computer reserved. I go back and tell her: “Yes I do have that computer reserved for 3:22.”

“And at 4:22 will your reservation come to an end??” she said.

“I don’t know,” I said.

“Well I need to know! I MUST know!” she said.

“Well there’s no way of knowing,” I said. “Sometimes they extend your reservation for a second hour.”

“Very well,” she said. She FINALLY gets up and starts moving all of her stuff to another desk. Then she adds, “I’m taking the chair with me.” And she drags my chair off to the other desk.

Life goes on.

I dream of Gina

Gina, caught in the classic “You got some ‘splaining to do, young lady!” pose.

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.

Clearing up a misunderstanding at the good ole’ Berkeley Public Library

At the library today the guy sitting at the computer cubicle directly across from me kept making all these weird noises while he listened to his headphones. The guy sitting next to me repeatedly told him to stop making the noises. But he kept making them. So they started jawing back and forth.

The guy sitting next to me gets up and goes to complain to the librarian. The librarian approached the guy and said: “Excuse me, sir. If you don’t stop making noises and stop threatening people, we’re going to have to ask you to leave the library.”

“I wasn’t threatening anybody,” the guy explained. “I just told him I was going to stab him.”

Well, it’s good that he cleared up that misunderstanding.

Yet another fucking nut shows up at my campsite



My cats are an asset to me in all sorts of ways. They earn their keep that’s for sure. I’ll give you an example.

Last night the two cats, Micro Scaredy and Mini Scaredy, were sleeping on top of my blankets. Suddenly they both woke up, jumped off my blankets, and bolted up the hill. The commotion woke me up from a dead sleep. I noticed a flashlight was headed right towards me in the darkness. I jumped up and stood on top of my blankets to confront whoever it was before he got to me. “What are you doing??” I said.

“I’m just trying to get through,” he mumbled.

“Well you can’t get through here,” I said. The trail reaches a dead end at my campsite and behind me is thick shrubbery that’s very difficult to get through in the daylight, let alone in the pitch darkness.

“Well I’m trying to get through,” he repeated.

“Well there’s nowhere to go here,” I said.

We stood there for a moment in this weird and unexpected standoff. Until he wisely turned and headed back down the trail. I followed the light of his flashlight as he made his way towards the road.

About an hour later I hear the guy headed towards my campsite AGAIN. I jump up to confront him again. It’s 5:30 now so it’s getting light so I can see him. He’s a white guy with a skinhead, stocky, and wearing a sleeveless t-shirt and no jacket. He stops before he gets to my campsite and veers straight up the hill. I watch as he makes several attempts to stagger up the hill, falling down and sliding backwards every time. I hear him groaning and cursing in pain and frustration. I have no idea where he thinks he’s going (and I doubt he does either). There’s nothing up the hill except more hills, followed by more hills.

Finally he gives up trying to get up the hill and he staggers back down the hill. I hear him groaning and vomiting as he goes.

About an hour later I decide to pack up my campsite. And I hear somebody moaning and groaning off in the distance. When I make my way down the trail I spot him lying on his back behind a tree, eyes closed, moaning and muttering to himself. I give him a hard look as I pass him. He looks back at me for a second, and then goes back to staring into space.

I’m hoping it’s just a one-shot deal — some guy who “partied” a little too hard for the Labor Day holiday and now he’s temporarily in la-la land. Because the last thing I need is yet another nut lurking around in the vicinity of my campsite.

But my cats are great. They’re great watchdogs. They spot somebody coming towards my campsite long before I notice them. It’s like having my own built-in alarm system.


Meet my new neighbor

 14370280_1571775182840019_4133743059190937246_n.jpgI was thinking how cruel it is that Mini Scaredy keeps running the other feral cats out of “her” territory. But then, off course, I do the exact same thing. Any other homeless people that think they can camp at “my” campsite, soon find out that they can’t. And it doesn’t matter if there are four of them and only one of me They are going, going, gone. i may not run them up a tree, like Mini Scaredy does. But I metaphorically run them down the trail. (and usually they leave a huge mess behind for me to clean up)

So anyways, a couple of mornings ago i packed up my campsite and headed on down to the creek (which I consider part of “my” campsite, by the way). The creek has been bone-dry lately — and it will be for the next 4 months. So I set up a make-shift “watering hole” for the local critters — this aluminum tray that i embedded into the dry dirt of the creek bottom, and I fill it up with a jug of water every morning. But, much to my chagrin, I discover this guy is camping down there by the creek. This young guy with horned-rim glasses and paranoid, worried eyes (here we go again, I think).


Now generally, I don’t say anything the first time somebody camps at my spot. Usually, they’re just passing through, and they’re gone by the next day. So I just let it play out by itself.

“I’m bringing some water for the critters,” i say to the guy, gesturing with the jug of water. I walk past his sleeping bag and fill the tray up with water. But with my body language, I’m also passing on this unspoken message: “I consider this space MY space and not YOUR space and I’ll traipse through it whenever I feel like it.” I also put out an unfriendly and unwelcoming vibe (hoping they get the message). Along with a slight hint of menace. This “I-very-well-may-be-a-crazy-fucker-so-you-might-wanna-keep-your-distance” vibe (a vibe I put out naturally and easily, ha ha). And head on down the trail.

The next morning I’m chagrined to discover that the guy is not there, but he left several large tarps splayed out on the ground. That means either a.) he’s planning on coming back (he’s an idiot), or b.) he just left some of his crap behind for somebody else to clean up (he’s an ass). Naturally I’m hoping it’s the latter.

So I wrote a message on a piece of paper: “NO OFFENSE BUT THIS IS NOT A GOOD SPOT TO CAMP. THIS IS PART OF MY CAMPSITE.” I put the paper on top of his tarp and weighed it down with a rock.

The next two mornings, the tarp (and the message) are still there, but no sign of the guy. So I figure he’s gone. I leave the tarp there for one more day (just in case he wants to come back and get it). And then the next morning i go down there with a garbage bag and pack up the tarp so I can get rid of it (the last thing i want is some obvious sign of a campsite which might alert the authorities that I’m there).

But as I’m packing it up, somebody calls out to me from up the hill on the other side of the creek: “HEY DON’T STEAL MY TARP!”

“I’m not stealing your tarp, I’m just packing it up. I’ll bring it up to you,” I yell. The guy has set up his campsite about 40 yards up the hill (I consider the other side of the creek, NOT my campsite, by the way).

So I climb up the hill. I’m eager to get a good look at this guy so i can get a read as to where he’s coming from. I may well be living along side him for some time to come. So if he’s trouble (which they usually are) I want to find out what KIND of trouble. So I’ll know what to expect BEFORE he makes the trouble (that way I’m always one step ahead of the guy).

I make my way up to his campsite. He has junk laying around all over the place, And five pieces of clothes hanging from a tree branch, clearly visible from the road (not a good sign).

“How ya’ doing,” I said. I hand him his tarp and shake his hand. “No offense, but I consider that spot by the creek part of my campsite. That’s where I hang out and feed my feral cats.”

“Oh, OK,” he said. “I saw your note. And I couldn’t tell what to make of it. Whether you were inviting me to hang out at that spot or not.”

(That’s a bad sign. How he could interpret my simple message of DON’T CAMP THERE to mean I’M INVITING YOU TO CAMP THERE is bizarre. This guy’s brain obviously interprets information with it’s own confused logic. Right now I’m intently gauging every word he says, studying the meanings to try and figure out where this guy is coming from. I’ve pretty quickly got him pegged as a nut. Now the only question is whether he’s a.) a harmless nut, or b.) a dangerous nut.)

“So how you been doing?” I said.

“Oh it’s been terrible,” he said. “I’m just trying to find some food to eat that won’t make me sick. I’ve got a big bag of bread with no nitrates in it. You want to come up and see it?”

“So are you planning on camping here for awhile?”

“Oh it’s been crazy around here lately.”

“What do you mean?

“Didn’t you hear the big crazy scene that was going on the other night? It all started with this woman I know from Gainesville, Florida. G-ville. They poisoned her and she ended up dying from alcohol poisoning. And then when I tried to get to the bottom of it and figure out what really happened things really started getting crazy. And then these other people –”

“Oh really,” I said. I cut him off mid-sentence because I could tell he was ready to launch off into some long and crazy story that made no sense. “Have you noticed if that other guy who’s been camping on this side of the creek is still around?”

“I have no idea. I’ve been too busy trying to keep from being crucified. I almost died just from the fumes of the Kentucky Fried Chicken that were leaking into my room.”

I’m quickly realizing this guy is completely nuts. Every simple question I ask him is met with some complete non sequitor. And the fact that, in the course of a short, casual conversation he throws in several references to violent death is not a particularly encouraging sign.

“Well, you take it easy,” I said. And I headed on down towards the road.

Meet my new neighbor.


The end of the Serial Flusher



They finally ran the Serial Flusher off the campus. And I was surprised to find that I missed him. Even though I had had only two interactions with the guy over the years. And they were both bad.

The Serial Flusher had been hanging out on the Sproul Plaza area for at least 20 years. Mostly sitting by himself staring off into space with a contorted expression on his face. In all these years I never once saw him talking to another human being. He was an odd duck.

My first encounter with the Serial Flusher, I just about wanted to kill him. I was sitting in a restroom stall in the basement of a virtually empty building early one morning. Quietly taking care of my business while I recovered from the night before. When suddenly there was this EXPLOSION of toilet-flushing sounds. And it went on, non-stop, for several minutes. And I could hear the nut, the Serial Flusher, giggling like a schoolgirl as he romped from toilet to toilet, urinal to urinal, flushing each one over and over and over. Later I got in his face and told he better not EVER pull that shit ever again when I was in the restroom.


Years later he pulled that shit on me again. And I REALLY let him have it that time. He got the message that time. And, as far as I know, he never did his toilet-flushing routine again.

I guess I miss the Serial Flusher, as crazy as he was, because he was one of the last links to the 1990s when the street people ruled Sproul Plaza. And there would be hundreds of us hanging out every day, all day long. And all night too. And after midnight we pretty much had the entire run of the campus all to ourselves. It was like our personal playground to romp around in.

But over the years, one by one, most of the Sproul Plaza street people died or moved on. To the point where there were only a hand full of quiet, loner types like me and the Serial Flusher who were still around. And now one more is gone.

Oh well. *sigh*

Maybe tonight I’ll flush a few toilets in his honor.



The serial doser





They arrested this crazy street woman in People’s Park the other day for dosing a toddler with meth. She snuck up to the 2-year-old and stuck the meth in his mouth. When the nanny saw that, she immediately called the police and they rushed the kid to the hospital where they found the meth in his system. They arrested the woman and charged her with attempted homicide.

That woman is a public menace. She’s been on the Berkeley street scene, off and on, for years. And she has a history of dosing people.

One night last year I was hanging out with Hate Man at his campsite. Suddenly Hate Man started slurring his words and then slumped over, passed out. I tried to revive him, to no avail. I thought he was dying on me. So I called 911 in a panic, and they rushed him to the hospital . . . It turned out they found a bunch of drugs in his system. That woman, who had been camping right next to Hate, had slipped a mickey into his coffee when he wasn’t looking. She’s totally nuts. Dosing an 80-year-old man with drugs powerful enough to knock him out. She could have killed him.


The woman was right out of central casting for the role of lunatic. She had the crazy eyes and the loon laughter. She’d often sit at her campsite loudly babbling to herself.  These sudden bursts of incoherent madness.  She might start shouting in rage, or laughing like a loon, or crying like a little baby. And she’d be constantly emoting, like she was an actress putting on some kind of insane performance in her head. Or a deranged opera singer. Mama mia! She was one of those people I always kept an eye on out of the corner of my eye.  And made sure there were no sharp objects available (she once stabbed a cop who was trying to arrest her).

She was a heavy-set gal.  And she often wore skimpy outfits that showed off her ample flesh. She’d sometimes prance around in this coquette-ish manner that I suppose was designed to be alluring. But I don’t know too many people who were allured.

God only knows how many people she pulled her little dosing trick on before they finally caught her.  I’m glad they’re charging her with attempted homicide.  Hopefully we won’t be seeing her face on the scene for a long time to come.

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A very brief encounter in People’s Park


 fb_img_1491435614276.jpgI went to People’s Park this evening to hang out with Hate Man. This strapping, young street ne’er-do-well has this big pile of basketball-sized boulders. And he’s picking up the boulders, one by one, and holding them high over his head, and then smashing them down on the other boulders. Over and over again. In some kind of frenzy. For no apparent reason.

“Why is that guy throwing them rocks?” I asked Hate Man.

“He’s been nutting up lately,” said Hate Man.



Then he walks over to the bench. Picks up a big plate of food that was sitting there. Looks at it. Then dumps it on the ground. I guess he didn’t like it.

Then he makes a bee-line over to where I am sitting. Sits down on the ground right in front of me, and says:

“Got a cigarette?”

“No I got this one from Hate Man.”

Then he starts babbling at me in this matter-a-fact tone: “Hey remember that time when you blah blah blah and that other guy said blah blah blah. . .”

Most of which I can’t understand. I don’t even know the guy. But the disconcerting thing is: As he’s calmly talking to me, looking me right in the eye, he’s got this stick in his hand, that he keeps stabbing into the dirt, over and over, like the stick is a knife that he’s stabbing into something.

“Oh yeah, right,” I said. Agreeing with what he was saying. Whatever the hell it was that he was saying. . . .

“Well, I gotta go use the restroom.” I said. I grabbed my backpack and my beer and left.

Guess I’ll talk to Hate Man some other time.




The street scene can get a little wingy-dingy at times




My backpack was falling apart. So this friend of mine, who had an extra backpack, offered to give it to me. Along with a bunch of cans of cat food for my goddamn feral cats.

So she brings the stuff up to the Park. But, unfortunately, when her back was turned this street nut who hangs out in the Park all day long, walked off with it. He’s one of those wingnuts who walks around barefoot and talking to themselves, with a blanket draped over their shoulders. You might know the type.

The next day when she confronted him about it he admitted that he had “borrowed” the backpack and gave it back to her.

“What happened to all the cat food that was in the pack?” she asked.

“I ate it,” he said.


















People’s Park after dark.

Violence is a constant on the street scene.  There are ebbs and flows, and periods of relative calm.  But violence is always lurking right under the surface, ready to explode at any moment.

The Berkeley street scene is relatively lightweight, compared to a lot of street scenes.  I mean, drive-by shootings and gun violence are relatively rare.  But the street people regularly bash the shit out of each other.   The Berkeley street scene often reminds me of a bunch of brawling, drunken, drugged-out hillbillies.  Or maybe a gypsy campsite where somebody might pull out a knife and cut you at any moment.

The other night I was sitting on this log in the park, in the dark of night,  minding my own business (or at least trying to) hanging out with a bunch of street people, quietly nursing my 40 of OE and smoking many cigarettes.  This guy behind me was lying in his sleeping bag, talking to himself.  Loudly.  This sort of crazed rant that he often does.  And after every sentence he’d loudly shriek “FUCK!!”  It was a little annoying, but you get used to crazy people on the streets.

The problem was:  the guy was about 300 pounds.  This man-mountain of a dude.  That bad combination of being very big and very crazy.  He was kind of a hippie dude.  Liked to tap out mellow rhythms on his conga drum.  Half the time he was putting out righteous good vibes.  And the other half he was threatening to rip people’s heads off and shit down their necks.  But I generally liked the guy and got along with him.  He was basically just a troubled young guy who was trying to get along and avoid going completely insane and killing somebody and getting locked up in a cage for the rest of his life.  So he basically meant well.

Unfortunately, this other guy who was on the scene that night, this friend of mine, a nice guy, but who sometimes takes too many drugs and often lacks “impulse control” — him — suddenly got fed up with the Man Mountain constantly shrieking “FUCK!!”  Got on his nerves, I guess.  And he snapped.

“WOULD YOU SHUT THE FUCK UP??!!” he shouted.  A hypothetical question.  And to accent his point, he threw the magazine that he was holding in his hands at Man Mountain.   Hit him right in the face.  Mistake.

The big behemoth immediately jumped out of his sleeping bag and knocked my friend to the ground.  Got on top of him and started punching and kicking him in the head.  They’re both rolling around in the dirt like whirling dervishes.  When violence erupts, it usually happens so fast, it’s like there’s a lag between what you’re seeing, and what your mind is comprehending.  Weird like that.

I jumped up and started shouting:  “NO NOO!! STOP STOP!!”  Among other things, this sudden outbreak of violence was harshing my mellow OE buzz.

“HE THREW SOMETHING AT ME!!”  explained Man Mountain.

“He fucked up,” I said (trying to placate him by letting him know I wasn’t blaming him).  “But STOP!” (trying to subtly convey the point that even though he may in fact be in the right, being hit by a magazine would not justify stomping someone to death, and at the very least it wouldn’t hold up in court as justifiable homicide)  (I always try to present the most reasonable option in these kind of situations)

Man Mountain seemed to grasp the wisdom of my position.  He grudgingly pulled his bulk off of his hapless victim.

I knew that it was just a matter of time before the cops would be showing up.  So I cleverly made my exit stage left.  And, as usual, my attitude, if somebody asks me, is:  “I didn’t see anything officer.”  And this blog, of course, is strictly a fictional enactment of fictional events, presented for entertainment purposes only.

My friend ended up with a cracked rib and a ringing in his ear from one of the kicks to the head.  But he wisely decided to not press charges. And hopefully he’ll heal up soon and live happily ever after.  And life on the streets goes on.  THE END.