We came up with the idea for the TELEGRAPH AVENUE STREET CALENDAR on a whim. Duncan was taking all these great photos of Berkeley street people. So I said: “Why don’t we publish them in a photo calendar. We could print up 200 copies. And if it didn’t sell we could just give them out as Christmas presents to our friends.”
And it seemed unlikely to sell. I mean, a “homeless pin-up calendar” (as the journalists wryly called it) hardly seemed to have much commercial potential.
But the first 200 copies sold out quickly. And the second printing sold out as well. And there was a weird buzz to the thing. We hit just the right tone of both serious and whacky. The first month (January) started out with a photo of street legend Gypsy Catano at his wedding ceremony in People’s Park. And the last month (December) ended with street poet Julia Vinograd reading a poem at Gypsy’s memorial ceremony. With a lot of interesting photos in between.
So we were giving people a glimpse into the daily lives of this strange tribe of people; street people.
So the next year we decided to publish a second issue of the TELEGRAPH AVENUE STREET CALENDAR. And it was one of those deals where you “push a buzzer expecting a buzz, and get an explosion.” We ended up getting our pictures on the front page of the local newspapers, and we got featured on the Dan Rather CBS National News. And we sold out 2,000 copies in Berkeley in just a month (and we would have sold more if we had had time to print up more copies).
So the next year we decided to put out a third edition of the TELEGRAPH AVENUE STREET CALENDAR. We weren’t sure at this point if we were just a One Hit Wonder or not, and had shot our wad. The Calendar was kind of a “novelty” item in a way (we ourselves considered it “high art”). But we felt it was worth taking another shot.
So I decided to prominently feature Hate Man in the third issue. Because he was one of the “stars” of the scene. And every scene has their stars. Even the homeless street scene. And i always had sort of a PEOPLE magazine approach to the project. Stars sell magazines.
So we ended up selling about 2,000 copies of that one, too. So now we were off and running. And we’d end up doing the damn thing for 15 years. And the project practically ended up taking over our entire lives. Until we finally burned out on it 15 years later. The End.
Over the years Hate Man systematically developed this whole philosophy — this whole way of life — that he dubbed “Oppositionality.”
It all started around that fabled year of 1969, when Hate Man was around 42 and he got hit by a massive mid-life crisis. Up to that point Hate Man had lived a fairly normal, conventional life, and had done all the things the way society had told him to do it. And by most measures he was a “success.” He had a prestigious job, the wife, the kids, the nice home, the whole bit. Except for one thing: he was miserable.
So he started “nutting” up, as he put it. Playing by society’s rules hadn’t worked. So he starting questioning everything society had told him. And doing the exact opposite.
Society told him he shouldn’t tell people “Fuck you I hate your guts.” So he started telling people “Fuck you I hate your guts.”
Society said men shouldn’t wear skirts and bras. So he started wearing skirts and bras.
Society said you were supposed to talk to people. So he went completely silent.
Society said you were supposed to look both ways before you crossed the street. So he started randomly running across the middle of the street.
After he got hit by a car chasing after a frisbee in the middle of the street, and ended up in the hospital for several months with his leg in a traction, Hate Man decided that maybe society had gotten that one right. So from that point on Hate Man always looked both ways.
And that’s pretty much how Hate Man developed his unique and peculiar philosophy. By trial-and-error.
So I guess you could say he developed his philosophy more experimentally than ideologically. If something worked, he kept it. And if it didn’t work he tossed it out.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Hate Man has been struggling quite a bit lately. He’s 80 years old. He’s having health problems (problems breathing). And a massive rainstorm is heading our way tonight. Plus, the cops are on his case. And he’s surrounded by street crazies fucking with him.
“Last night I set up all my camping stuff on Bowditch Street,” said Hate Man. “But when I came back this morning all my stuff was gone! Including my 8 garbage bags of recycling! At first I thought the cops had hauled it away. And now I’m completely fucked. The big storm coming in tonight and all my blankets and tarps are gone.”
“What happened to all your stuff?” I asked.
“It turned out Sunshine (this crazy tweaker chick) had hauled off all my stuff and dumped it in a garbage can.”
“For no reason?”
“Well I’m sure she had a reason. But it was probably a completely insane reason that made sense to nobody but her.”
“Yeah. But at least I managed to track down all my stuff. And now I’m struggling to get it all set up again before the rain starts pouring down.”
But here’s the kicker. Amidst dealing with dozens of dire issues Hate Man pauses amidst his travails and says:
“Oh. This guy dropped off a bunch of cans of Vienna Sausages for me. But I don’t want them. You can have them if you want (Hate Man knows my feral cats love Vienna Sausages).”
Hate Man digs out the bag of Vienna Sausages from the jumbled mess that is his campsite. Gives them to me. And then goes back to the task of trying to organize his campsite before the big storm hits.
Hate Man is kind of the epitome of the concept of “grace under pressure.”
2016 would be Hate Man’s last Christmas. He would be dead in 3 months. Of course we didn’t know it at the time. We just figured the tough old bastard would live forever. It was hard to imagine a Berkeley without Hate Man. . .
As usual, Hate Man had a Hate Camp Christmas tree. That was one of the great things about Hate Man. A lot of life on the streets is just a grim, gritty survival trip. But Hate Man always took the time to add that extra little flair. A fresh flower in his hat. And a Christmas tree just for the street people.
And we decked out the Hate Camp Christmas tree with tinsel and electric lights, and a star on top. But the night before Christmas this crazy tweaker chick (hi, Sunshine) grabbed the tree when nobody was looking and dumped it in a garbage can. Hate Man was able to track down the tree, but the tinsel and lights were gone. Merry Methmas!!
But that was sort of what Hate Man’s life was like during his last years in People’s Park. He was surrounded by a pack of lunatics, basically. He had two different tweakers that would regularly sneak into his campsite when he was gone and rifle through all of his stuff and make a big mess. They wouldn’t necessarily steal the stuff. They’d just carry it off and deposit it in a garbage can for no particular reason (aside from the “reasons” that made perfect sense in their meth-addled brains).
Of course there were other thievin’ bastards that would actually steal Hate Man’s stuff. And then there were all the vultures that were constantly hitting Hate Man up for his cigarettes or his money or anything else of value that they could gouge off of him. And then there were the ones that would physically attack him. I saw Hate Man get punched in the head and knocked to the ground on multiple occasions during his last years.
But Hate Man never really complained (aside from his usual line “I’d like to kill that guy!”) (To which my standard response was: “I’m not stopping you.”).
But that was another great thing about Hate Man. He never felt sorry for himself. He always viewed life like it was a challenging (and ultimately fulfilling) adventure. Along with his endlessly repeated catch-phrase: “It’s up to me to defend myself.” And he always had this great sense of gamesmanship. He often talked about life being a “battle” or a “war.” But in truth, I think Hate Man looked at life as more of a game than a war. In a war, you want to obliterate your opposition. But in a game, you just want to neutralize them. So that you can play another game with them tomorrow. And Hate Man looked at all of his nemeses as worthy and respected adversaries. That he would spar with, like sort of a fencing duel. With his stated goal being that he hoped to learn how to relate to everyone, and all the different “vibratory types.”
I don’t remember any of the details of that last Christmas at Hate Camp. All the memories sort of blur together of a thousand nights at Hate Camp. Smoking cigarettes, drinking our drinks, talking the gossip of the day, or discussing Hate Man’s latest battle with his latest adversary. Hate Man didn’t make a big deal out of celebrating the holidays. Because Hate Man celebrated every day.
Hate Man’s body, at age 80, was finally wearing down, piece by piece at this point. He had a pacemaker in his heart, and a tube up his dick, and regular chiropractors for his back, and his lungs were finally starting to go. He had just started slipping into that pattern of regular trips to the emergency ward. And ever-more frequent stays at the hospital, of ever-increasing duration. But he’d also often snap back, periodically, into being the vibrant, vital Hate Man he had always been. So we all just figured he’d defeat this latest obstacle — death — just like he’d defeated all of the previous obstacles.
Sometimes I think the gods are fucking with me for sport.
All morning I was craving lasagna. So I go to this Italian place on Durant around noon. But the place is jam-packed. Fuck it. So I come back around 4. The place is still pretty crowded. And I’m really claustrophobic. But I REALLY want some of that lasagna. So I brave the hordes. Wait on a long line. Finally get to the cashier. Order my lasagna. “Sorry we’re out of lasagna.”
So I trudge to People’s Park with that “it-never-works-out-in-this-damn-life” feeling. Hate Man is sitting on a bench with the other street people. Says: “This guy just dropped off this big tray of leftover lasagna from this catered event.”
One thing I remember about last Thanksgiving 2016. It was the beginning of the rainy season. And we had already gotten 5 inches of rain (we would go on to get 37 inches). Hate Man had recently turned 80. But he still seemed strong and vigorous. And we all just assumed he would live forever, and the pushing and slapping and making demands would never end. Of course it turned out to be his last Thanksgiving. And it turned out to be a brutal winter. Hate made it all the way through the rainy season. But by the time April 1rst finally rolled by he was pretty much shot. And he died the next day.
The thing I remember about last Thanksgiving was hanging out at Hate Camp all afternoon. And group after group kept converging on People’s Park offering free turkey dinners. There must have been at least 10 different groups bringing complete Thanksgiving dinners for the homeless. And they kept coming at us from every direction. And each time Hate would shout out “IN-COMING!” as we were bombarded with more food. Ha ha.
And then, late in the afternoon, this guy pulls up to People’s Park in his van and announces: “I HAVE FREE TURKEY DINNERS FOR ANYBODY WHO WANTS ONE!!” He has big trays full of turkey and mashed potatoes with gravy and cranberry sauce and pumpkin pies and etc. The works. But all the street people are laying on their sides in the grass groaning. I mean, at this point we can’t even LOOK at any more turkey. But the poor guy is going up to person after person announcing “HEY I GOT FREE FOOD IN MY VAN IF YOU’RE HUNGRY!” But we’re all like. “Yeah yeah. Great. You got any Alka-Seltzer.”
I finally felt a little sorry for the guy. Standing there all alone by his van with all that food and nobody to eat it. “All revved up and nowhere to go.” So I went over and got a plate. Thanked him profusely. Happy Thanksgiving.