Welcome to the Berkeley Public Library



Another day at the Berkeley Public Library.

The guy sitting at the computer directly across from me — who happened to be African-America — just got into some kind of disagreement with this middle-aged woman — who happened to be white. The argument escalated to the point where the guy was shouting threats at the woman. Then this other guy jumped into the middle of it — allegedly as peacemaker — which only escalated it further. The guy throws several punches at the guy in the middle. Before a big scrum of people stepped in and separated the combatants.

A security guard shows up, and then two cops and they try to sort out the whole mess.

“This man assaulted me!!” said the one guy.

“I was just sitting at my computer minding my own business and this woman wouldn’t stop bothering me!!” said the other guy. He goes back and sits down at his computer.

“You have to go outside and we can talk this over out there,” says the cop numerous times, calmly but firmly. But the guy refuses to leave, maintaining his innocence. Then it starts to get physical. “GET YOUR HANDS OFF ME!!” he shouts, brushing off the cops arm. Then he’s standing up and they’re trying to handcuff him, but he’s resisting, stiffening like a board. Meanwhile, I’m sitting there about 5 feet across from them, waiting for all hell to break loose and the table to get over-turned and come crashing down.

But somehow they manage to handcuff him and haul him towards the stairs, while he shouts “WHITE PRIVILEGE!! WHITE PRIVILEGE!!” over and over, the entire time he’s being escorted out of the building.

And as usual with these things, you don’t even know what the fight was about, let alone who’s to blame.

But on a nicer note, Patricia, one of my FB friends, spotted me at the library earlier and stopped by to say hi.


There’s a whole ‘nother world out there after midnight


After midnight. . .

I used to always cut through the Haas School of Business at the end of the Berkeley campus every night on the way to my campsite in the Berkeley hills.  It was usually well past midnight, so the place was usually deserted.  They often had these catered events during the day, so the garbage cans were often full of great food.  So I’d always make a quick round, and hit all the cans, looking for leftover food for my feral cats.  I was spending 50 to 100 bucks a month on cat food.  So, to defray some of the costs, I’d feed my feral cats lots of human food, too.  And they preferred the human food to the cat food.  So it was a win-win situation.  (One time I went through a 6-month period where I fed them nothing but human food.  When I finally switched back to cat food, they wouldn’t eat it at first.  Turned their noses up at it.  Gave me a look like:  “What the fuck is this shit, dude?  Cat food??!  Go out and get us some real food.  NOW!!”   Cats.  Ha ha.)

So anyways, this one night I’m up there at this sort of outdoor mall area at Haas, and I’m scrounging around in the garbage cans.  When suddenly this guy pops his head out of one of the doors.  It’s the young black guy who was working as the late-night security guard.  He calls out to me:  “Psst. Hey you. Dude. Come over here!”

I thought:  “Oh fuck.  Busted.  He’s gonna’ kick me out and tell me I can’t come through here any more.”

Instead he says:  “Hey. I got something for you.”  And he hands me 10 beef and chicken burritos, still wrapped in the tin foil.  And three 2-liter bottles of soda.

“Oh man, thanks!”  I said.


We high-fived and I went on my merry way.  My cats were going to eat good that night.  And me, too.

Evidently, the black dude, the security guard working at the Haas School of Business, had been doing the same basic thing I was doing.  Grabbing the leftover food after the catered events and taking it home for his family and friends.  And I guess this night he had a little extra, so he slung some of it my ways.  Or maybe it was because he sees this pathetic homeless guy rooting around in the garbage cans and feels pity or empathy or whatever you call it.

But from that point on, he would lay a little food on me on a semi-regular basis whenever he spotted me coming through the Haas School of Business.  And I thought it was a pretty cool thing to do.  Because he didn’t have to do it, but he did it anyways.  And face it.  There’s not a lot of love lost between black guys towards white guys these days.  In fact, there’s a fair amount of hostility and resentment.  So it felt like some kind of little victory, or something.

I thought it was pretty darn cool that he would go out of his way to give me a little helping hand.  I don’t want to make out like it was a big deal or anything.  Like we’re all sitting around holding hands and singing “kum ba ya” together.   But it was kind of special to me.  I still remember it.

Not a creature was stirring, not even a feral cat.