The Famous Dr. Shububu

The Famous Dr. Shububu, with his brush and his glue, ready to embark on yet another of his semi-legendary flier-posting expedititons.

The street scene can be a lot like high school.  Where you pass the same people in the hallway year after year. And even if they’re not your friends, or even your acquaintances, you still feel you “know” them somehow. Simply because you’ve seen their act over the course of a period of time.

The Famous Dr. Shububu (as he billed himself) was one such character to me, who I passed on the streets many times over the years. With his green hair, zany outfits, and his loud, nervous,  non-stop chatter (he was one of those guys who always seemed to be talking, even when there was nobody for him to talk to), Dr. Shububu was kind of hard not to notice when he was in public. He was one of those “performer” types who always seemed to be putting on a street performance — even as it often wasn’t clear what his performance actually was. In a scene of odd characters, Dr. Shububu was one of the odder.

One time him and a friend of mine, the Infamous Bones, decided to busk together on the corner where I had my vending table. I watched as the two of them spent an hour setting up their amps and trying to get their electric guitars in tune. And then spent another hour arguing and bickering about what song they should play. They finally ended up packing up without having played a song. Ladies and gentlemen, The Dr. Shububu Experience.

Dr. Shububu was probably most well known for his very public obsession with this crazy but beautiful Berkeley street woman. It all started when she started posting these crazy handwritten fliers all over town. She was convinced that she had started all the Bay Area pot clubs, and she had started the rave scene. So her fliers constantly demanded that the people who had stolen these establishments from her should pay her the millions of dollars they owed her. Immediately. Or else she would tie them all up with duct tape and chop them up into little pieces (but her handwriting was surprisingly very neat).

Apparently Dr. Shububu developed an obsessive attraction towards the woman. And in an effort to gain her attention and woo her into his arms, he began making his own fliers, proclaiming his undying love for her, and posting them all over town along side her fliers. A plan that apparently was never successful. Shabubu’s fliers were often witty and zany. But usually didn’t quite make sense. Which may have also described Dr. Shububu.

So for years the two of them had this dueling fliers thing going. And their fliers became a ubiquitous presence in the urban landscape of Berkeley and Oakland. And I even spotted a website on the internet where some people had started collecting, trading and posting the fliers. So the Famous Dr. Shububu attained sort of a cult like status.

And then one day, after years of this, the fliers just stopped appearing. I guess his obsessive fascination with the street woman had finally run it’s course.

And I had pretty much forgotten all about it. Until today somebody told me that Dr. Shububu had passed away. He had been missing for 3 days. And someone did a welfare check at the SRO hotel where he lived, and found his body there. RIP The Famous Dr. Shububu.


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.


“It’s good to hear ya.”

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When I passed by later at around 3 AM, Tony was still sitting there at the same spot, head slumped down asleep. He’s gotten used to sleeping in unusual positions over the last few years.


Its 9 at night and I just passed Blind Tony, inexplicably sitting on the sidewalk in this back alley on the Berkeley campus right behind the UC Police Station. He’s got his cane and a small bag of stuff, but I don’t see any sleeping bag or camping stuff (hopefully he’s got it stashed in the bushes nearby).

“Hey Tony, it’s Ace,” I said. “Do you know where you are?” (like right outside the fucking police station)

“Yeah yeah I’m fine,” said Tony. We pushed knuckles in manly camaraderie.

“Hey you need anything?” I said.

“Yeah. Could you get me a cup of coffee?”

“Yeah sure.”

“Large if you can afford it. With 5 sugars and just a SMIDGEN of cream.”

“OK. I’ll be right back in 5 minutes.”

But I didn’t realize almost all the coffee joints were closed at this hour. I had to go all the way to Kingpin Donuts on Durant to find coffee.

When I get back to Tony, he’s got his head slumped down like he’s ready to pass out.

“Here’s your coffee Tony, its hot.” I handed him the cup.

“Thanks Ace,” he said

“Sure thing Tony. You hang in there.”

“It was good to hear ya, Ace,” he said.

That killed me. Good to hear ya.

If I’m “virtue signaling” here you can shoot me. It was my one good deed for the day. Or maybe for the week. I can’t think of many other noble deeds I’ve done lately. But the thing that gets me is: Surviving on the streets is such an exacting science. With little margin for error. How Tony has managed to survive out here for years — blind!! — is just mind-boggling to me.



Street “wars”



I go through some ridiculous situations. Periodically I’ll get locked into these “wars” with another street person. It’s almost inevitable. Because there are a lot of anti-social people on the street scene. And we all walk in the same small circles so we see each other over and over.

Back in 2009 I got into a “war” with this one guy. He had some kind of grudge against me, and was mouthing off to everyone on the scene about what an asshole I was, and accusing me of doing many terrible, terrible things, several of which were untrue (ha ha).

So one day I got right in his face and told him quite forcibly, in so many words, that it would be in his self-interests if he SHUT THE FUCK UP!!

Well he went running across the street and flagged down a cop. I could see him gesturing wildly with his arms, and his wide open mouth flapping back and forth (fortunately I couldn’t hear him), and occassionally he’d point his finger angrily at me.

So the cop comes trudging over to me and says in so many words: “I’ve had many interactions with this guy and they’ve all been unpleasant.” Which is cop-speak for: “Yeah we know the guy’s an asshole so we’re not gonna lift a finger to help him.”

So the next time I saw the guy, I got in his face again and ran him down the street (I learned that maneuver from my feral cats who resolve their disputes by running each other up a tree). Because few things piss me off more than somebody trying to sic the cops on me.

So he calls the cops on me AGAIN, claiming I was threatening him (who me?) and was a menace to society who should be locked into a cage for the protection of decent citizens (like himself).

So I got in his face AGAIN.

And he called the cops on me AGAIN.

And we went back and forth like that for at least a year. Every time he called the cops on me, I got in his face. And every time I got in his face, he called the cops on me. I forget how many times he called the cops on me. It might have been 20 or 30 times. Possibly a Berkeley record.

Finally I realized this is ridiculous. So I went up to, apologized, gave him a present as a peace offering. He shook my hand and said he “admired” me.

And that was pretty much that. We got along after that, didn’t cause each other any more problems, and i was proud of how we had resolved the situation like sensible, mature adults.

Until a couple years later when he did something else that pissed me off and we got locked in another “war” that went on for several more years. Ha ha.