“Telegraph people”

IMG_20170830_150653

Julia Vinograd passed away almost exactly a year ago today. And that got me thinking about “Telegraph people.” For Julia Vinograd was certainly one of the most renowned of the “Telegraph people.”

I used to see “Telegraph people” all the time back in the day. As I walked down Telegraph Avenue, I’d pass the same people, see the same faces, day after day, year after year, for decades at a stretch. Like the people who lived at the Berkeley Inn, or the other apartment buildings on the Ave, or lived in the houses and the boarding houses around the Telegraph area. And you’d see them day after day going about their daily business. And get to know many of them.

Or all the “Telegraph people” hanging out at all the coffee shops. The Berkeley old-timers at the Caffe Med. The younger, hipper crowd at Cafe La Botega and Wall Berlin.

Or you’d pass all the people who owned all the businesses on Telegraph, or the employees who worked in the stores and shops. Like Moe, the famous owner of Moe’s Books, forever slumped behind the cash register chomping on one of his cigars.

Or all the Telegraph street vendors, selling their colorful wares, set up at the same spots year after year, like a permanent part of the scenery.

Or all the whacky Telegraph street people, and the colorful self-created “Berkeley characters,” as well as all the street musicians and street performers and street orators that gave the Ave this feel of living street theater. Like the Hate Man — one of the more famous of the “Telegraph people,” and forever identified with the Telegraph scene (Hate Man would sometimes go years at a stretch without leaving the confines of Telegraph Avenue — “Everything I want is right here” — aside from regularly going to the courthouse in downtown Oakland to deal with his latest tickets, ha ha.).

When I first met Duncan — a quintessential “Telegraph person” — in 1978 he was publishing a little xeroxed magazine called “TELE TIMES: Telegraph Avenue’s Tight Little Monthly” to chronicle his little slice of the “Telegraph community.” And it really was like a community. Like this unique little village living within the larger confines of the city of Berkeley.

Tonight I walked back and forth down the 6-block radius that most people consider the “Telegraph scene.” The 6 blocks from the campus to 7-11. And I didn’t pass a single person I recognized. . . That’s just what it’s like now I guess.

A long forgotten moment in 1992

 

I don’t know why, but I often get this feeling of wistful sadness when I look back on my life. Like this long-forgotten moment in 1992. Anthony, Yume, Hate Boy. And I’ll often get that feeling when I think of somebody that I knew who died. I’ll think back to the excitement of those times. How we were constantly rushing around chasing after something. Something that always seemed to be just out of reach. It was like life always seemed to be leading up to something. But then when the person dies, there’s sort of this empty feeling. Like it was all just leading up to death.

And this weird sense of incompleteness about so much of our lives. It’s like I rushed through my life cramming all these experiences down my throat, while never really digesting them. It seems like it should have added up to something more somehow. Something more than a barely understood, and mostly forgotten, dream.

And as an artist, always trying to capture and preserve the moment. While never sure why. This futile yearning to capture and relive the past. And there’s a photo of us, or a newspaper article of us, or a tape recording of us. And there’s the date on it. September 1, 1992, or whatever. . . As if I needed some kind of proof that it was real, and it actually happened, and I was there. Even as, one by one, the photos disappear, the newspapers end up in the trash, and the tape recordings wear out.

The spiritual types all say “live in the moment,” the eternal Now. The past is just a dream. The future never gets here. All that’s real is the present. Even as I’m haunted by my past in a weird kind of way.

Hate Boy

Image may contain: 1 person, standing, on stage and outdoor
There were several different “Hate Boys” over the years. Guys that were Hate Man’s primary side-kick and second-in-command. Sancho Panchez to Hate Man’s Don Quixote…. But Hate Boy was the first.
Hate Boy was an enigmatic fellow. He hit the Telegraph street scene around 1992 and hung around for a couple of years before he got run out of town.

Tall, lanky, and athletic, fairly handsome, I’d guess in his mid-20s when this photo was taken (but who knows, just about everything about him was a mystery). Hate Boy talked very little. Sat there with his Cheshire Cat grin. He mostly presented himself to the public by his ever-changing colorful costumes, and by his peculiar movements and mannerisms. Somewhat of an exhibitionist, he reminded me of a mime (he would sometimes wear white pancake make-up), or a slightly malicious court jester or joker. With a strangely aristocratic manner, like a rich kid on a lark. Often had a sly, mischievous smile on his face, like he was enjoying some secret inside joke. Possibly at your expense.

He adopted some of the Hate Man’s look, as well as some of Hate Man’s philosophy. So for awhile they were like a matching set. Hate Man and Hate Boy.

Hate Boy wasn’t a verbal person. The few times I tried to engage him in conversation he responded with terse, one-sentence answers. He never talked about his background (and to this day I don’t know anything about him, where he came from, what his real name was, what he had been doing before he became Hate Boy, and what he did afterwards). He never explained himself, or what he was aspiring to be, or what it all meant to him. He just presented himself as a living, breathing piece of performance art. This inscrutible work of avant-garde that people could project any meaning onto, or no meaning. As he danced across Telegraph like a zany ballerina (I have a set of photos of him spinning and piruetting and posing down the Ave).

When the Naked Guy started walking around naked, Hate Boy would often strip and join him on his romps, penis dangling in the breeze, his smile slier than ever. Hate Boy liked to shock and push the envelope. And eventually that got him in trouble. After a series of episodes where he grabbed at different co-eds crotches, he was banned from the area. And left town suddenly one day — possibly one step ahead of the law — never to return. And that was the end of Hate Boy. One more legend of Telegraph

Generally I enjoyed Hate Boy. He added some color and life to the scene. Projected this attitude that life was just a game, and there was nothing better to do than to play all day long, if you could get away with it

A Weird Dream (aren’t they all?)

 

Image may contain: outdoor
Weird dream. I’m living on the second floor of this rundown boarding house. My next door neighbor is this porn star who I’ve had problems with — some kind of running feud. She’s living with this dwarf who is self-centered and malevolent. I can often see them having sex on her bed — she leaves her front door open.

The dwarf starts hanging out in my room, making himself at home reading my books and watching my TV. He sits right in front of me, blocking my view of the TV, which enrages me. I pull him and his chair out of the way and shout “I NEVER INVITED YOU TO BE IN MY ROOM!!” He leaves, his feelings hurt, and indignantly complains about me to the porn star.

Everything in my room is in a state of disarray and starting to fall apart. When I go to pull the window shade down the whole thing falls apart. So now people outside on the street can see me. I try to nail the shade back to the wall, but the wood is rotting and I can’t get the nail to stick.

Hate Man shows up. He’s all business. He wants to sell me a pair of mittens for 5 dollars. I tell him I get my mittens at the Dollar Tree for a buck. We go downstairs to the kitchen, Hate Man starts cooking his dinner. I’m in anguish over all the problems I’m having and am hoping for guidance and help from Hate Man. But I can’t find the words to articulate my problems. I stand there with my back to Hate Man hoping for an answer. But he says nothing. Finally as I’m leaving Hate Man cheerfully calls out: “Well if they drop the nuclear bomb and there’s a nuclear holocaust and the whole planet gets wiped out, you won’t have to worry about your problems then.”

I wake up. Lay here thinking about the dream. But none of it really makes sense.

A long forgotten day in 1992

 

This popped up on the internet today. This photo from some long-forgotten day in 1992. I was just starting to get to know Hate Man at that point. I had put him on the cover of the Telegraph Avenue Street Calendar 1992 (the 3rd edition of the series). I operated the calendar under the same premise that most magazines operate under: “Stars sell magazines.” And the street scene — just like the Hollywood scene and the sports scene and all the other scenes — has it’s stars, too. With Hate Man most definitely being one of them (PS. That issue sold well).

I was 36 at the time. I had been working at my comic strip full-time for 6 years at that point. But I was just starting to get pulled into the Telegraph street scene, because, frankly, it was more exciting than sitting at a drawing board all day long.

I started out as a voyeur of the Berkeley street scene, an on-looker, an outside observer, not really a part of it. But eventually I ended immersed in it, if not overwhelmed by it. Eventually I would be taking part in funerals and weddings and births and deaths and everything in between. An active participant and member of the tribe. My life would end up intertwined with all sorts of other people’s lives, in all sorts of bizarre ways. Something me and Duncan never really anticipated when we first started the calendar.

Me and Duncan were just burning burning burning back then. We were never short of ideas or mad-cap schemes. As well as the burning desire to pull them off.

At the time it never occurred to me that it would one day come to an end. I guess you rarely do at the time. Especially when everything is just starting up. And all the stories are only just starting to unfold. When I was young, it seemed like I had this huge expanse of time ahead of me. And then you blink your eyes, and all that time has come and gone.

 

The Chuck & Hate Comedy Hour — starring Rev. Chuck and Hate Man

Dueling theologies.

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.

Image may contain: one or more people, people sitting, shoes and outdoor

One of the odd things about Rev. Chuck was his obsession with sodomy. Virtually every one of his sermons 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.

.

(A recording of Hate Man heckling Rev. Chuck on the Berkeley campus: https://soundcloud.com/thegannon/i-hate-you?fbclid=IwAR35POieSLxQI9CXUw-evCAsrThRccA1XW6ca_4Tb3XRLLNYbUWD5CWPaPA )

Another casualty of the Winter of 2017

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.

A Telegraph Avenue hallucination

20190109_163536.jpg

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. . .

Hate Man and the concept of “pushing shoulders”

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.

 

 

 

Christmas 2018 in People’s Park

fb_img_1493087261712.jpg

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.

.facebook_1545600967139.jpg