I was just hallucinating about classic Telegraph Avenue.
Moe was at the cash register at Moe’s Books, smoking a big fat cigar, as he nonchalantly rang up customers.
Across the street Julia Vinograd was at the Caffe Med, strolling up to the various tables, hawking her latest book. “Would you like to check out my latest book of poetry?”
Down the street at Cody’s Books, Andy Ross — the Woody Allen of Telegraph Avenue — was nervously fidgeting back and forth as a world-famous author gave a talk to a large crowd of people. Later, a long line of people would wait on line to get their books signed by the great man.
Around the corner Food Not Bombs has just served a delicious free meal in Peoples Park — it’s “Tasty Tuesday” by Judy the cook — and now all the street people are happily lolling on the grass under the sun, strumming on guitars and smoking pot.
Up the street in front of Cafe Botega, the Naked Guy is sitting on the sidewalk, buck naked of course, selling bumperstickers that say “IT’S JUST A DICK.” And the Rare Man is shirtless and doing chin ups and roaring: “HOW DO YOU LIKE IT?? RAAAARRRREEEE!!!”
Across the street St. Paul — the world’s most fanatical and brain-damaged Deadhead — in his brightly colored tye-dye t-shirt is flashing peace signs and shouting at the bewildered pedestrians over and over “JERRY GARCIA GRATEFUL DEAD!! JERRY GARCIA GRATEFUL DEAD!!”
On the Berkeley campus Rick Starr is crooning out his oldies into his fake plastic microphone. And Hate Man is hanging out at Bench One with Jaguar, Warpo, Krash and the rest of the Hate Camp crazies, getting into loud arguments, cursing at each other, pushing shoulders, and smoking many cigarettes. Until it’s time to bring out the drums for the drum circle and the nightly tribal stomp.
Meanwhile, Backwords and Duncan are hanging out at their vending table selling weird underground shit in between drinking many 24 ounce cans of Olde English.
Its ten o’clock and the Campanile Tower rings out ten times — that haunting, melancholy sound — and it’s one more weird and magical night in Berkeley. . .
One of my Facebook friends asked me to explain Hate Man’s concept of “pushing shoulders.” No simple task.
Hate Man fancied himself as a philosopher and a therapist who specialized in different forms of “conflict resolution.” He developed the “shoulder pushing” thing along those lines: One person wants one thing, and the other person wants another thing. So they push shoulders to resolve the conflict. Whoever wants it the most, and is willing to “push shoulders” the longest, got there way.
Hate Man was willing to “push” about virtually everything he owned. For example, if you didn’t have any money but wanted to bum a cigarette, you could “push shoulders ” with Hate Man for it. Hate Man would stand side-by-side with the other person, and they would push against each other’s shoulders. It wasn’t a matter of who could push the hardest — you couldn’t just bowl Hate Man over. It was a matter of who would push the longest. You applied a steady, constant pressure. And whoever wanted it the most, and was willing to push the longest, got their way. If it was something fairly trivial — like a rollie cigarette — Hate Man would usually only push for a minute or two before he gave up and gave the person a smoke. But if it was one of his beloved Virginia Slims cigarettes, it might be a longer push. Or if the person was starting to hit Hate Man up too frequently, Hate might dig in and make it a longer push to discourage the person from becoming too much of a pest.
Hate Man pushed shoulders with people constantly, all day long. For example if Hate Man had 5 bucks, one of the street people would invariably say “Push for the 5 bucks, Hate Man.”
Hate Man would usually say to something like that: “It’s going to be a hard push.” And they’d commence to push shoulders. It could last minutes. Or it could last hours. Depending on how much the two people wanted their way. Eventually one of them would get tired of pushing and give up. Or often they might compromise: “Hate Man, I changed my mind. I only want 2 of the 5 bucks.” And Hate would say “OK that’s an easier push.” And he might give in after a couple more minutes of pushing and give him the two bucks.
Hate Man to his dying day believed that “pushing shoulders” would revolutionize the world and become a common practice.
He was a bit nutty.
At his peak he had about 10 dedicated followers — disciples, really — who adopted shoulder-pushing as a daily practice. As well as thousands of bums who did it when they wanted to hit up Hate Man for some of his stuff.
Hate Man used pushing for virtually everything. Like if you were boring him he’d say “Push shoulders if you want me to listen to you.” And you’d have to push with him if you wanted to get in your two-cents. Ha ha.
It’s twilight in People’s Park on Christmas day. In another 5 minutes it’ll be the dark of night. For the hell of it I take a photo of Hate Man’s old hang-out spot in the park. Hate Camp. He always set up his blankets beside this tree. Looking outward at the expanse of People’s Park. Someone would invariably be sitting on the log. And there would be a court of people surrounding Hate Man. Hate Camp was usually the liveliest scene in the park. *sigh* Now it’s deserted.
As I’m taking the photos a woman approached me. “Would you like a plate of lasagna. I made some lasagna for Christmas.” “No I’m fine,” I said. “I already ate too much. But thank you, my dear”
I can’t help wondering if this will be the last Christmas in People’s Park. It’s on the verge of being 50 years old. And yet the University and the City are making plans to demolish it veritably as I’m writing this. So it’s going to be an interesting year. We’ll see how it unfolds.
It’s dark now. Merry Christmas from good ole People’s Park.
Every year Hate Man used to set up a Christmas tree at his hang-out spot in People’s Park. And it was a nice little bit of Christmas cheer on the street scene. Which can often be a sad time of year for street people. Who lack the family and home that everybody else is celebrating. But even though we were homeless we could still at least enjoy our own Christmas tree.
But then one year The Man told Hate Man that it was against the law to set up a personal Christmas tree in a public park. Siting zoning laws or some other rules and regulations that forbid individuals from erecting “structures” in public parks. And he ordered the grounds crew to confiscate the illegal Christmas tree and haul it away to the City Dump.
“That’s ridiculous!! That’s outrageous!!” declared Hate Man, as he watched them hauling off our Christmas tree. “Claiming that homeless street people don’t have the right to have a Christmas tree!!”
So Hate Man got a second Christmas tree. And defiantly set it up at the same spot. “And if they try to take this Christmas tree I’m willing to go to jail for it. If the cops try to take it, they’re going to have to arrest me first and haul me off to Santa Rita in handcuffs!!” Realizing how bad they would look if this story ended up on the front pages of all the local newspapers — “HOMELESS MAN THROWN IN JAIL FOR CRIME OF HAVING A CHRISTMAS TREE!!” — which it would have (Hate Man knew how to use the media to his advantage). The Man backed down and allowed Hate Man and the Berkeley street people to have their own personal Christmas tree.
And we all had a very Merry Christmas and lived happily ever after, until some crazy homeless tweaker chick grabbed our Christmas tree and hauled it off and dumped it in a garbage can somewhere for some unknown reason. The End.
This might surprise some people — because Hate Man wasn’t exactly your typical jock — but Hate Man was a huge Cal Bears football fan.
Some of my fondest memories of Hate Camp are hanging there on the Saturdays that Cal was playing. And I’d be listening to the game on the radio on my headphones. And since my radio didn’t have speakers I’d be doing a play-by-play so that everyone at Hate Camp could follow the game. And we’d all be avidly into it. Especially Hate Man.
“And the quarterback is dropping back to pass . . .AND THEY CAUGHT IT!! . . . No wait . . FUMBLE!! . .. I’m not sure who’s got it . . CAL GOT THE BALL BACK!! . . . First and goal with 40 seconds left in the game!!”
It could get really exciting. And I’d really ham it up as the play-by-play announcer.
But one odd thing. We were about a mile away from the football stadium listening to the radio in Peoples Park. And every time Cal scored they’d shoot off the cannon. And I’d hear it first on the radio. And then I’d hear it a second later in real life. It took that long for the sound to travel a mile. Weird.
Hate Camp went through two distinct phases during the years I was hanging out with Hate Man. The Sprout Plaza years. And the People’s Park years. And i spent about 12 years hanging out at one, and 12 years at the other.
During the Sprout Plaza years, Hate Man mostly hung out on the Berkeley campus. So the scene was more intellectual. There were always some college students and academic types hanging out. As well as some normal mainstream types. Along with the band of street crazies. It was more of a light-hearted, playful, artistic scene.
Whereas the People’s Park years, it was mostly hardcore street people hanging out at Hate Camp. So it was a bit grimmer, as well as more wild, violent, and volatile.
During the Sproul years Hate Man often seemed like a public performer. And the campus was his stage to enact his unique street theater. He’d usually hit the scene every morning wearing brightly-colored clothes — like a stage costume — with his trademark skirt and bra, and adorned with lots of cheap jewelry and flowers in his hat. He was very flamboyant, and a commanding performer, enacting his strange (and loud) public dramas. And always one of the more popular figures on the campus.
But during the People’s Park years he toned his act way down. Went back to wearing pants instead of skirts, and mostly wore black or gray. He was much more in a purely survival mode then. Though he always had a unique style. It was like he went from the centerstage of the town of Berkeley, to a back alley on the fringes. (Things were a lot easier during the Sproul years. We spent most of our time playing. During the Park years Hate Man was much more preoccupied with all of his survival issues — dealing with the constant pressure from the cops, the wingnuts, the weather, his health, all of his stuff. It was like a constant chess match for Hate Man. Always angling to stay one step ahead of these forces.)
Another big difference. During the Sproul years he was usually surrounded by 8 or 10 hardcore devotees. “Oppies,” he called them. People who followed his philosophy of Oppositionality on a daily basis, and looked at Hate Man as sort of a guru or role model.
But during the People’s Park years, there was usually only one or two Oppies, at most, hanging out at any given time.
I was a bit more distant from Hate Camp during the Sproul years. Because Hate Man was primarily devoted towards his faithful Oppies — or proselytizing to get you to join the fold. And I was on my own personal spiritual/philosophical trip.
But I got much closer to Hate Man during the People’s Park years. Because I was homeless myself at that point and living along side him for a decade. And you know what they say; “You don’t really know a person until you live with them.”
But probably the biggest difference between the two periods:
During the Sproul Plaza years, Hate Man was usually surrounded by a solid group of people. Wiith a handful of street wingnuts circling around him from the outskirts.
Whereas during the People’s Park years. Hate Man was usually surrounded by a hardcore group of street wingnuts. With a hand full of solid people circling around him from the outskirts.
I met some really great people hanging out with Hate Man over the years. Hate Camp always attracted brilliant artists, writers, thinkers, talkers, intellectuals, spiritual seekers, and bohemians of every stripe.
But I also met some of the WEIRDEST people I have ever known at Hate Camp.
One of the best things about Hate Camp was that it was all-inclusive. Virtually ANYBODY was welcome to hang out with Hate Man, so long as they followed a few simple rules of Hate Camp protocol.
But one of the worst things about Hate Camp was that it was all-inclusive. The dregs of the street scene — who were rejected by all the other scenes that they tried to be a part of — were drawn to Hate Camp. Because, quite simply, Hate Camp was one of the few scenes that would accept them, and wouldn’t reject them out of hand. So you ended up with the misfits of the misfits of the street scene.
One of the odd characters who was drawn to Hate Camp was this guy named Rocker (and he was definitely off his rocker).
Rocker had red hair. I think he was in his 20s when he first showed up, fresh-faced (at least at the beginning) with blandly-normal All American Boy looks. If you passed him on the streets you wouldn’t think twice about him. Unless you looked closer into his eyes (which were crazed). Or heard him talk (which he did constantly).
Rocker’s favorite pastime was to go up to strangers and insult them, harass them, and harangue them. He’d come staggering up to you with his ever-present 40 of malt liquor in his hand (Steel Reserve, I think), and if you were a bit overweight he might call you a “fat pig” to your face. Or if you were an attractive co-ed he might say “let me see your cunt, girlie.” He was a real charmer, Rocker. Not surprisingly, Rocker got beat up on a regular basis. To the point where I wondered if Rocker actually ENJOYED getting beat up (maybe that explained it).
And the cops regularly hauled his ass off to Santa Rita, often hog-tied and strapped to a stretcher. (I once asked Officer Jones — the Telegraph beat cop — how he could stand to continually have to deal with a specimen like Rocker. Jonesy looked at me and smiled and said: “Are you kidding? Rocker is one of our best customers.” Ha ha.)
I didn’t know anything about Rocker”s background. But one rumor was that his psyche had been permanently twisted out of shape by witnessing his father dying in some horrific fashion. His father had committed suicide by blowing himself up with explosives. Or something like that. Who knows. But Rocker had certainly been bent out of shape by some one-shock-too-many. He was “out there” in a way that he would never come back from.
So Rocker would regular inflict his obnoxious trip on the people of Hate Camp. Who, of course, famously had more of a tolerance for “expressing negativity” than most scenes. But Rocker pushed the hatefulness to the limits. He would often scream the same obnoxious and insulting lines over and over (especially as he got drunker and drunker). And he would make insulting comments to people who were passing by Hate Camp.
So Hate Camp would pack up and move to another spot on the campus to get away from him. But Rocker would follow them. So Hate Camp would pack up and move again. Sometimes this weird game of hide-and-seek went on all night long. With Rocker searching and Hate Camp trying to hide from him (One trick Hate Camp learned over the years was they could often ditch Rocker by heading up a hill. Rocker had bad legs. I think somebody had broken his legs at least twice, and he walked with a noticeable gimp, and found hills difficult to navigate.)
As much as he drove Hate Man crazy with his endless harangues, Rocker had a real respect for Hate Man. Hate Man might have been one of the few people Rocker had any kind of real relationship with (his nickname for Hate Man was Super Tramp, which was a good one). Rocker certainly had no friends. He always came onto the scene alone. And left the scene alone.
I had one significant encounter with Rocker. One day he came up to our vending table and started haranguing and insulting Duncan. He wouldn’t let up. Wouldn’t get out of Duncan’s face. Finally Duncan couldn’t stand it anymore. So Duncan bolted out of his chair and attacked Rocker. So they’re sort of rolling around on the sidewalk wrestling. And Rocker managed to kick Duncan in the face. And broke Duncan’s glasses. So I picked Rocker up off the ground and ran him down the street.
The next day Rocker shows up at our vending table AGAIN. Supposedly to apologize (he kept repeating how “sorry” he was for breaking Duncan’s glasses). But when I repeatedly told Rocker to GO AWAY he refused to leave. His “apology” was just an excuse to continue to harangue us.
So I got up and gave Rocker a hard shove to the chest that knocked him backwards and to the ground (like I said, Rocker had bad legs and he went down like a bowling pin).
Rocker picked himself up and came after me. It was, as they say, on. Duncan had this big rock that he kept in his “donation” cup to weight it down. So I picked up the rock and threw it at Rocker as hard as I could. And i hit him right in the chest from point blank range. Rocker gasped in pain. For a second I thought he was going to lose his balance and crumple to the ground. Instead he turned and staggered down the street, wincing in pain.
Later that evening when I passed by the Caffé Med I spotted Rocker sitting in the window seat, rubbing his chest, in obvious pain.
So the next day I’m bracing myself for the possibility of an on-going war with Rocker. Its one of the worst things about living on the streets. You get into these kind of ugly confrontations with these street lunatics. And it can turn into an on-going vendetta that goes on for months. Or years.
But the next time I saw Rocker he just laughed about it. Rocker, after all, was in the process of destroying himself. So he didn’t take it personally when somebody helped him along with the process. Ha ha.
Rocker actually had a fairly robust sense of humor. And laughed often and from the belly. This lunatic laughter. He had an appreciation for the absurdity of human existence. And was particularly amused and mirthful when he found out that something terrible had happened to somebody. And even when it had happened to him.
Eventually, Rocker ended up getting arrested so many times that they permanently banned him from the Telegraph area. I haven’t seen him, or heard anything about him, in over 15 years. . . It’s possible he went on to bigger and better things. Though probably not very likely.
A typical shot of Hate Camp during the People’s Park years.
Hate Camp often kind of reminded me of The Tonight Show. With Hate Man as Johnny Carson. And he usually had an Ed McMahon sidekick camping at the spot to his right (during this period that would be Planet, the guy standing up). . . . And then the guests would show up one by one, take a seat on a crate, have their dialogue with Hate Man, do their performance, and then move on down the line. And then the next person would take the seat on the crate next to Hate Man, and do their act, and so on.
This is a painting that I commissioned from the street artist Johnny Rev (also known as John Dammit and 8-Track).
I call it “Two Generations of Hate.” Because the guy on the left was this young gutter punk named Hatred. And the guy on the right is this old street person named Hate Man.
I still got the painting stashed somewhere in my storage locker with all my other junk. Probably some day the painting will get sold off at an art auction for a lot of money. But me and Johnny Rev probably won’t be around to collect any of the dough. That’s usually how it works in the art business. Art is a great field of endeavor.