Another casualty of the Winter of 2017

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TIMBER!!

On this day in 2017 this big tree on the Berkeley campus collapsed and died. It was a casualty of the brutal rainstorms of the winter of 2017. We ended up getting 38 inches of rain that year — about 15 more than usual. The tree got water-logged and rotted out and died.

And it was symbolic to me. Because a week earlier Hate Man had collapsed and died, too. Another water-logged victim of the winter of 2017. A mighty tree and the mighty Hate Man. Gone gone gone.

Then they buzz-sawed the tree into a big pile of sawdust and left it sitting there. And whenever I looked at it I felt this weird synchronicity. Because Hate Man too had been reduced to a pile of cremated ashes.

Hate Man’s shed

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It really does feel like the end of an era. Hate Man occupied this shed for nearly 40 years. And today we moved the last box of Hate Man’ stuff out of it. So his last physical presence on the scene is gone, gone, gone.

I spent a few moments lingering in the empty shed this afternoon. The only thing left were a few pictures and nick-knacks that Hate had tacked to the walls. I shut the door and locked the lock for the last time. And that was that.

I had had a key to the shed, off and on, for the last 6 years. It started when I was working the recycling gig with Hate. I would regularly ferry his big garbage bags of recycling from his campsite in the Park to the shed. And Hate let me store some of my stuff in the shed. Which is a great luxury when you live on the streets — to have some of your valuables behind lock-and-key.

And it felt good that Hate Man trusted me with the key. Because, with the incredibly public life Hate led, the shed was his one private space. Hate Man was a man who literally welcomed the entire world to be part of his life. But the shed was the one place where he tried to keep the world at bay.

 

 

I remember the first time I heard of Hate Man — God, it must have been around 1980. And when they told me he lived in a garage, that seemed like one of the craziest things I had ever heard. “How does a grown man live in a garage? Where does he go to the bathroom? How does he cook his food??” Ha ha.

I remember a favorite period where me and Duncan and our friends would go down to the shed every evening to hang with Hate Man after we packed up our vending tables at the end of the day. And we’d pound a couple cans of Olde English as we quietly unwinded from the day. And the conversation around Hate Man was usually pretty lively and entertaining and often very funny. And those were some golden moments.

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My last interaction with Hate Man involved the shed. He had suddenly rushed off to the hospital with a medical emergency. And he’d left all of his camping stuff on the sidewalk. I got an urgent message to pack up all of Hate Man’s stuff (and anybody who knows Hate Man knows that Hate Man had a LOT of stuff, ha ha) and haul it all to the shed before it got soaked by the rain or thrown out by the groundskeepers. And I managed to get it all stored safely in the shed just before the rain started to come down.

Unfortunately Hate Man died shortly after that. But at least all of his crap lived on. Ha ha.

But it was a weird feeling. After all the years of experiencing Hate Camp — the decades of this wild, crazy, free-form, street circus — which was dutifully packed up every night at the end of the day. I had packed up Hate Camp for the last time.

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Hate Man eulogy

 

RIP Hate Man 1936 – 2017

I was just waiting on the line at the Dollar Store this morning. The guy on line in front of me was talking to this other guy: “Hey, did you hear? The Hate Man died on Sunday. Yeah. The famous person from Berkeley. I just heard about it 5 minutes ago on CBS. Hate Man lived in People’s Park for years and years. He used to be a reporter for the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post. . . ”

I thought I was gonna start crying right there in the fucking store.

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The worst thing is. It’s now 6:30 in the evening. And I’ve drunk the first half of my 40 of OE. And now this is the time of the evening when — for just about every evening for the last 10 years — I’d walk over to Hate Camp at the top of People’s Park. And I’d pull up a blue milk crate to sit on. And I’d buy a cigarette from Hate Man for 50-cents (Virginia Slims 120 menthols, naturally — a man’s man cigarette  —  “Come to Virginia Slims Country!” — we’re rugged “street people” after all). . . And I’d tell Hate the latest gossip from my day. And he’d tell me the latest gossip from his day. And by the time I finished the rest of my 40, I’d be ready for my next 40. And several more Virginia Slims to go with it, naturally. And yet another evening of the usual madness would start to unfold.

Except now. I was just getting ready to go check in with Hate. Like I’ve done a thousand times before. Only now. I realize. I no longer have any place to go.

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