A Telegraph Avenue hallucination

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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.

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Shoulder-pushing freaks.
 
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.

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Private Pepper

Liz Spring sent me this photo today from 1994. As always I do the math in my mind — 24 years ago for those of you keeping score at home. Sitting at Bench Two on the Berkeley campus.

As soon as I saw my face I thought: “I was taking way too many drugs back then.” Pot, acid, crack, speed. My brain was going in multiple directions. I’m glad I cleaned up my act nowadays and am just a straight up alcoholic. It’s much more linear on my thinking.

I had this hare-brained idea at the time of “making it” as a musician. I had had some success as a cartoonist, writer, graphic artist and photographer, so I thought maybe my artistic talents might also transfer to the medium of music. What I mostly wanted to do was write and record songs. Which I loved doing. My dream was to record a classic psychedelic album. Call it Private Pepper. A pun. Because music had mostly been this private thing with me that I mostly kept to myself.

I ended up recording a demo of about 10 of my songs on 8-track reel-to-reel tape with some over-dubbing and psychedelic special effects. Had sort of a moody, melancholy, early Pink Floyd sound. I have no idea if it was any good. How can you be objective about something like that? But I can tell you it sounded fantastic to me when I listened to it on headphones played on recording studio-quality equipment while peaking on acid. So it passed my personal acid test.

I still have the original reel-to-reel master tape stashed somewhere in my storage locker. Maybe some day I’ll dig it up, take it to a real recording studio and finish it. Over-dub some drums and bass and moog synthesizer and tweak out the effects for the proper mind-bending properties. And then press it up on vinyl. Because that’s what I always wanted. My own record. Just to be perverse.

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.

Wishing wells

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I went through a period in the 1990s where I was so broke, I’d sometimes wade into the Sproul Plaza fountain and pull out all the coins. There was usually a couple bucks in there. Enough to buy a 24 ounce can of beer or a hot dog or a cup of coffee.

Then one day this young woman scolded me. “People make wishes when they throw those coins into the fountain! If you take those coins out, their wishes won’t come true!”

I wasn’t completely sure about the soundness of her theological interpretation of wishing wells. But I assured her: “No its cool. I threw a quarter into the fountain and wished to get a bunch of coins. So the wishes are still coming true.”

What I say doesn’t always make perfect sense. But the important thing is to always get in the last word.

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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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