The day The Man tried to take our Christmas Tree

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“Have a bad Christmas!!”

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.

 

 

Hate Man: All American football fan

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“The Bear will never die!! The Bear will never be defeated!!

 

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.

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September 11, 2001

 

 

I distinctly remember where I was on 9-11.  My Surviving on the Streets book had just been published the day before.  And I would turn 45 on the day after.  I considered my Street book one of the best things I had produced.  So I felt I was on top of my game back then. With new peaks yet to come.

And the Telegraph Street Calendar was a hit that year, too.  It was the one with Hate Man and Hatred on the cover. It sold well. And it recaptured a bit of the zany, fun-loving spirit of the Telegraph Avenue in the early ’90s. So that was looking up, too.

Everything I touched worked.  And I’d been doing daily kundalini yoga meditation for 7 years years.  With no drugs or alcohol. So I was sharp as a tack, both physically and spiritually.  It even seemed like I was finally resolving some of the demons that had bedeviled me all my life.  And I was actually turning into the person that I had always wanted to be. So I really felt like I was on a roll.  And I had every reason to believe things would just keep getting better and better.

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And my little sister, at age 42, had managed to finally have her first child. So it was a new beginning for her. So that’s what I always remember about that period of 9-ll. The birth of my sister’s baby, and the birth of my “Surviving On the Streets” book. It seemed like things were really looking up on all fronts. . .

Of course I didn’t know at the time — one rarely does know at the time — that this would in fact be my peak.  And it would pretty much  be all downhill from this point onward.  And maybe not just for me.  But for America, too.

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Hate Man’s coffee bottle

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Hate Man’s legendary coffee bottle, which he always dolled up with colorful objects. Hate was one of those people who drank coffee all day long throughout the course of the day (I used to be like that back when I was a productive citizen — now I’m just one large coffee first thing in the morning to kick-start my engine and that’s it). So his coffee bottle was never far from his side.

One time Hate Man asked me to get him a large black coffee to-go at Peats. “And take a second cup to the condiments table and fill that half-way up with sugar.” Hate Man liked a LOT of sugar with his coffee.

Guy lived to be 80.

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Hate Man and his stuff: Part 2. Hate Man tells the University to stuff it

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When Hate Man moved to People’s Park and set up Hate Camp there, his battles with the police and the University over his “stuff” really intensified, and became virtually a daily form of warfare that was waged for over a decade. It wasn’t uncommon for Hate to have a dozen “stuff”-related tickets at any given moment. Virtually all of which Hate defeated in court.

The problem the police had with nailing Hate over this issue was that there was very little legal precedent to go by, as well as the difficulting of exactly defining what “too much stuff” entailed. A fact that Hate was able to exploit in court.

The cops would arbitrarily attempt to come up with different definitions — one was “you could only have as much stuff as you could carry.” But Hate would argue that this discriminated against older, smaller, weaker people who couldn’t carry as much as younger, bigger, stronger people.

Or the cops would try to give street people tickets for having chairs, which they considered a form of “lodging.” To which Hate countered that this discriminated against the homeless, because normal people were allowed to bring lawn chairs to the parks when they had their picnics.

Hate had an excellent legal mind. And he enjoyed using it. He enjoyed the gamesmanship of the battle. And never took it personally against the police or the University. He saw it as part of his life-long mission to learn how to deal effectively with nemeses and people who were in opposition to him. And most of the cops didn’t take it personally either. Aside from one or two who REALLY hated Hate Man’s guts and went out of their way to make Hate’s life miserable.

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And to be fair to the cops, it was necessary for them to periodically crunch the homeless street people over having too much stuff. Because many of them compiled huge masses of crap and made huge messes. And if the cops didn’t periodically prune the herd, they’d turn our public parks and public spaces into private squats and homeless shanty towns.

Hate Man, though, was in somewhat of a unique position. He served as sort of a communal store and trading post for the street community. And among his stuff he’d have things like a “medicine chest” where street people could get things like aspirins and cough medicine and band aids. And if you needed to borrow a screw driver or an extra blanket or the proverbial cup of sugar, Hate would usually have it among his mounds of stuff. And Hate also let other street people store their stuff alongside his stuff — he’d keep an eye on it while they had to take care of some business. Which added to his mounds of stuff. And, of course, he usually had several big garbage bags of recycled cans and bottles.

Every now and then I would ask Hate if it was really worth it to go through the daily grind over his stuff, and wouldn’t he consider “flexing” and lightening his load. But Hate Man was always adamant about living his life on his own terms. And if society wanted to stop him, well, good luck doing that. Ha ha. Hate was never shy about pushing the envelope. And wherever the line was drawn, he’d extend it by a couple extra feet. And it would be from that point that he’d be willing to start negotiating. Ha ha.

Finally, in a last-ditch attempt to get rid of Hate Man and all his stuff, as well as all the other homeless people who were basically living in Peoples Park, the University arbitrarily came up with a ban on all cardboard and tarps in the park. Hate Man, realizing this would make it virtually impossible for street people to exist in the park, decided to go on the offensive. And he — and his noisy band of fellow street people — set up a big 24-hour-a-day protest on Bancroft Street, at the foot of the campus and directly in front of the University police station. And he managed to create such a public uproar, that after several weeks the University backed down and relinquished the ban.

And Hate Man prevailed once again. THE END

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Hate Man and his stuff: Part 1

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Hate Man at the center of his universe.

 

Hate Man had an ongoing battle with the police and the University for over 25 years over his “stuff.” Quite simply they felt he, as a homeless person living in public spaces, had “too much stuff.”

The battle first started in the early 1990s when Hate Man used to like to hang out and set up his Hate Camp at the first two benches at the entrance to the Berkeley campus. And he liked to keep all of his stuff in his beloved shopping cart, named “Gilda,” which he parked nearby him. The University felt his raggedy-ass homeless shopping cart despoiled the scenic beauty of the campus, as well as attracted other motley bums to set up shop. So they demanded he get rid of it. Hate refused. The cops gave Hate a bunch of tickets. And i think they even arrested him at one point.

But Hate — a battler by nature — decided to battle back (“Life is a battle, its a war!! was Hate’s eternal mantra). So he consulted with lawyers and devised all sorts of legal strategies to battle it out in court (Hate would have made a great lawyer). He also had good skills at manipulating the media, and the press couldn’t resist a story about a wacky Telegraph Avenue character who had a shopping cart named “Gilda.” So the University was subjected to reams of embarrassing publicity.

Finally the University realized they were no match for the wiley ways of Hate Man and conceded defeat. And Hate Man and “Gilda” lived hatefully ever after. (Later, when I put on an art gallery showing of “street art” I mounted Hate’s shopping cart on a dais, like a sculpture, and placed it in the middle of the gallery, a living piece of art.)

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Time warp

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Ghosts of Sproul Plaza past.

It’s 1AM Friday night. And for some inexplicable reason I’m sitting by myself on top of the Sproul Plaza steps.

And if I squint my eyes real tight I can see the ghost of Mario Savio standing on top of a cop car in 1964 and sticking his ass into the gears.

Or I can see Charles Manson on the steps of the Student Union building down there with his guitar in the fabled Summer of Love (so-called) of 1967, wooing his first Manson Family member hippie chick.

Or I can see myself as a kid coming to Berkeley for the first time at age 17 in 1974.

Or I can see myself 20 years later in 1994, bashing away on the drums in Hate Man’s drum circle.

Or I can see myself still sitting here in year 2018. . . .

 

It’s like I’m stuck in a time warp.

A Tale of Two Hate Camps

 

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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.)

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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.

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