I dream of Gina

Gina, caught in the classic “You got some ‘splaining to do, young lady!” pose.

Gina is a long-time Berkeley street person. Completely bat crazy. Doesn’t so much talk in English but makes these weird animal sounds. 

I remember one New Years Eve we’re all hanging out on the sidewalk outside Larry Blake’s right after midnight, ringing in the new year. Everybody buzzed and mellow. And Gina starts coming on to this guy, caressing him and hugging him. It’s New Years Eve and everybody’s getting a little loose after all. And suddenly she grabs hold of the guy by the hair and won’t let go and starts screaming “RAPE! RAPE! RAPE!” Ha ha. And for a second — as they’re violently grappling back and forth and he’s frantically trying to escape from Gina’s clutches — everybody thought she was fending off this guy who was trying to rape her. . . Fortunately — before people started beating the poor guy’s ass — people figured out what was going on.

.

One time I was hanging out at my vending table listening to the radio on my boom box. And the song “Angel is a Centerfold” by J. Geils came on — this song about this guy who’s dismayed to find out that his high school girlfriend had become a porno model. Gina happened to be passing by and when she heard that song she came charging over at me with a big crazy smile on her face: “THA’S MAH’ FAVORITE SONG!!” she said. And she stood there by the radio, singing/yelping along to the song and laughing like a loon.

Gina always made me a little nervous because she was so unpredictable. She was like a wild animal. She’s wasn’t a bad person really. Just really damaged and “out there.” She has some kind of brain damage, and most likely coupled with childhood trauma and abuse.  You meet all kinds of unique and unusual people on the street scene, that’s for sure.

People’s Park 50th Anniversary

April 25, 2019

God, I can’t believe it. I just CAN’T believe it. Two days before the big People’s Park 50th Anniversary Concert. . . I walk up to Dwight and Telegraph. They got the whole block roped off with yellow police tape. Dozens of cop cars parked everywhere. Helicopter hovering overhead. I asked a friend of mine hanging out on the corner what was going on:

“It just happened in the park by the picnic tables. Guy walked up to another guy sitting at the table and shot him right in the head. Black guy with dreadlocks shot another black guy.”

“Is he dead?” I said.

“Most likely he is 99.9% dead.”

Damn.

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing, tree, car and outdoorImage may contain: 1 person, standing, tree, plant, child, grass, outdoor and nature
 
April 26, 2019

Walked through People’s Park today. The guys were all sitting at the picnic tables hanging out, just like usual. Sitting right where the guy got his head blown off just yesterday. And acting like nothing had happened. . . And I guess that’s just how it works. Life goes on.

Some people are going to be quick to blame People’s Park for the homicide the other day. But as far as I can tell the suspect had almost no affiliation with People’s Park. And the homicide has nothing to do with People’s Park, any more than it has to do with the OTHER three locations where this nut just happened to go on his shooting rampages.

Image may contain: 1 person, standing, tree, outdoor and nature

April 28, 2019

Well, it’s the People’s Park 50th Anniversary Concert. Jimbow the Hobo got the show off to a rousing start, ranting out some street poetry in true People’s Park fashion. Then an all-female rock band that sounded a bit like Lou Reed & the Velvet Underground did a nice set.

I had a good time. Ran into Jay-Jay, Katie and the Infamous Bones. Then spent most of the show hiding at the top of the park until I finished off my first six-pack of Racer 5 and started shouting “PEOPLE’S PARK!!! PEOPLE’S PARK!!!” over and over for no apparent reason. . . 

The rest of the show is a blur in my memory. I consulted the photos in my cell phone, searching for clues, and came across this shot of the great Moby Theobald so apparently I met him too (hi, Moby). All the rest of my photos have my big thumb right in the middle of all the shots so they’re no help. . . At any rate Happy Birthday, People’s Park!! The big Five-Oh.

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling
COME TO THE PEOPLE’S PARK 50TH ANNIVERSARY CONCERT!!! It’s very unlikely that you’ll get shot!

Image may contain: one or more people, outdoor, nature and food

Image may contain: one or more people and outdoorImage may contain: one or more people and outdoorImage may contain: plant, tree and outdoor

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing, child and outdoor

April 29, 2019

People’s Park the morning after the big 50th Anniversary show, a little hungover but still there. . . I tried to take a photo of the new improved Free Box but some street people were camped out in front of it and when I asked to take a picture they said no and refused to move so I could get a shot. . 
. Some things will never change.

Image may contain: one or more people, sky, tree, bridge, outdoor, nature and water

Image may contain: outdoorImage may contain: tree, sky, plant, grass and outdoor
 
April 30, 2019

Image may contain: outdoor

It’s weird how something that seemed so light-hearted at the time ended up turning out so grim

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, sitting, eating, food and indoor
This photo of the Naked Guy popped up on the internet the other day. Probably around 1993. And it gives you some idea of what the Naked Guy’s life was like back then . For several years (before he got crunched by the authorities) he went around naked just about everywhere he went — to his college classes, to the store, to the park, whatever.

It was a surreal sight to see the Naked Guy suddenly go walking by the streets of Berkeley. And you can bet he inspired a wide range of reactions: shock, disbelief, laughter, outrage, as well as sexual attraction (for he was a really good-looking guy and his body was regularly compared to a Greek statue). And later, after he had garnered large amounts of media attention (including the TV talk shows and PLAYBOY magazine) he got the “celebrity” reaction (“Look Ethel, it’s the famous Naked Guy!!”).Image may contain: 1 person, sitting

But the beaming smiles on the two women’s faces in this photo shows how most of Berkeley reacted to the Naked Guy. Like the whole thing was an outrageous joke. But a GOOD joke. And we were mostly laughing WITH the Naked Guy, not AT him. Berkeley always prided itself on it’s hip streak of rebelliousness, thumbing our noses at conventional mores and values. Berkeley was ahead of the curve on many things — we had black mayors, decriminalized pot, supported gay rights, etc., long before things like that were accepted by mainstream America. And maybe the Naked Guy’s crusade to liberate the American penis was another one of those things.

But mostly we enjoyed the Naked Guy for the sheer zaniness and wackiness of the whole thing. It was hysterically funny.

It was only later in retrospect that we realized it wasn’t funny to the Naked Guy. In fact he was dead serious about the whole thing. It was a righteous crusade to him. And in his head he had this whole crazy manifesto where the naked thing was just a part of this life-or-death struggle to overthrow the “fascist racist patriarchal Judeo-Christian system” that led all the way to violent revolution and overthrow of the American government. He was THAT serious.

I don’t think hardly any of us were aware of that aspect of the Naked Guy as we were enjoying his shtick. And we mostly watched with sadness and surprise as his life played out to its grim conclusion.

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, sitting, eating, food and indoor

A time capsule back to the Berkeley Inn

220px-Leo_Kottke,_John_Fahey_&_Peter_Lang (2).jpg

Some songs are like time capsules. They take you back to a period of time. And when you hear them again, decades later, it’s like all the memories of that time are somehow encoded in the music. And when you hear it again you might start crying and crying and never stop.

I used to listen to this song on this one album by Peter Green in the summer of 1982. I was staying with my friend Duncan at his hotel room in the Berkeley Inn. And my big dream At the time was to publish an underground newspaper. And as I worked on laying out the lay-out pages for what would be TWISTED IMAGE #1 on Duncan’s desk — rubber cement, x-acto knife, white-out, etc, the tools of the trade — I used to listen to this song over and over. “When Kings Come Home” was the title. It’s an instrumental, just one guy playing an acoustic guitar. And It was like soothing background music that helped me concentrate on the work at hand.

Duncan had this dusty little hotel room. It must have been about 20-feet-by-20 feet. It had a big brass bed, and a desk, and a sink, and one window that looked at to the back corners of Telegraph Avenue. And that was it. I can still see Duncan’s hotel room clear as a bell. I even remember his room number. 414. On the fourth floor. And he had a bunch of posters on his walls. A beautiful blue photo of a whale leaping out of the water. A poster of Princess Diana (go figure — Duncan was English). And he had xeroxes of all the covers of his underground zine TELE TIMES on the wall behind his bed. Every time he published a new issue he’d immediately scotch-tape a Xerox of the latest cover on the wall. Like a trophy. I think he had about 25 covers on his wall at that point. All posted in chronological order. Like a history of his on-going accomplishments.

And Duncan also had this cheap record player. It was just a box that folded out with a handle and a tinny little amplifier built into it (if you were a kid in the 60s you probably had one of those record players in the days before stereos). And he had a stack of records. I remember he had “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon and Garfield. And, oddly an album by Laverne and Shirley — the TV sit com actresses — singing the rock songs from the’ 50s. That was one of his favorites.

And he had this one too. It was a quirky compilation album by John Fahey and Leo Kotke and Peter Lang. And I used to play it over and over back in June of 1982 in Duncan’s little hotel room.

https://i0.wp.com/quirkyberkeley.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Berkeley-Inn.jpeg

Decades later I was trying to remember what that one particular song was that I used to play over and over back in 1982 in Duncan’s dusty little hotel room. All I remembered was that it was a compilation album with John Fahey. I couldn’t remember the song title or the album title or even who did it (Peter Lang). Finally — thanks to the wonder of YouTube — I was finally able to find it. And as I listen to it now, it’s like I’m back in Duncan’s hotel room and it’s 1982 and we were young and everything was starting. And then in a blink of an eye it all came and went.

 

When Kings Come Home: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LocAHVcuROU

A kundalini Yoga story

 

No photo description available.PART ONE

I’ve resisted writing about this story for a long time. For a variety of reasons. But I finally figured what the hell, why not write it. And I can always delete it later if I decide it’s something I don’t want to share.

I started doing Kundalini Yoga in 1996. And I did it consistently on a daily basis for the next 6 years. And it really seemed to work. The more I practiced Kundalini Yoga, the more my mind and my soul seemed to get stronger and purer. Neurotic and psychotic tendencies in my psyche seemed to resolve themselves one after another. And I actually started to become the man I always hoped I could be. And I really thought there was a chance that I might actually be able to attain Spiritual Enlightment.

Now Kundalini Yoga is considered a science — a spiritual science — more than a form of religious doctrine or theology. It’s experiential, as opposed to theoretical. You experience it — like doing a scientific experiment on your psyche — and then come to your own conclusions.

The basic premise of Kundalini Yoga is that there’s this dormant spiritual energy that resides in the spine of the human being, this Divine energy. Like a coiled snake. And as you practice Kundalini Yoga, this divine energy gradually awakens, and rises up from the base of your spine, systematically cleansing and purifying all the different “chakras” in your system along the way. Until it finally reaches the final chakra at the top of your head — the “sahasrara” — and your Third Eye is permanently opened and you attain the Highest Spiritual State. Or so the theory goes.

Now one of the weird by-products of doing Kundalini Yoga is that, the longer you do it, the more you start to attain these “occult powers.” As your psyche because more purified, more powerful, and more focused, they just naturally arise in you. In my case these powers expressed themselves along the lines of that ancient spiritual concept: “Whatever you think will manifest.” For example I would be wishing for something, something very specific. And shortly after the thing would magically manifest in my life. It really was a form of magic. And it kept happening over and over, to the point where I concluded it was beyond coincidence. And this power really was manifesting within me.

Conversely you can use these occult powers in a negative and destructive manner. For example you can use them like the “voodoo doll” principal, wishing harm on an enemy, putting a curse on them. And you really have the power to inflict damage on other people.

For this reason, the spiritual masters have always strongly advised NOT to use these occult powers as they arise in you. Because they’re nothing to play around with. And they can cause all sorts of problems, accrue all sorts of bad karma, and retard your spiritual development. For one thing, the novice is like someone with the mind of a child who’s suddenly been granted the physical power of Hercules. So there’s a real danger in using these occult powers in a reckless, immature and destructive manner. And, even more importantly, if you use these powers for personal gain — to get rich, to gain power, to get sex with beautiful women, whatever — you’re using these powers to bolster your personal ego. Which is the exact opposite — and runs exactly counter-productive — to the whole point of Kundalini Yoga. Which is to gradually TRANSCEND your personal ego and merge with the Infinite. So, like I said, messing with these occult powers can really retard your spiritual progress.

So anyways, by 2002 I had been doing Kundalini Yoga for 6 years. Now according to the science of Kundalini Yoga, the process usually takes about 12 years. Working intimately with an enlightened Yoga Master, the yogi systematically goes from a novice until he finally reaches the Highest State. So, by 2002, I was at about the half-way point of the process. Getting higher and higher along the way. Until things suddenly started going south.

PART TWO

So anyways by 2002 I had been intensely practicing Kundalini Yoga for 6 years. And I had kept getting higher and higher. Until suddenly I stopped getting higher. It’s like I hit a glass ceiling. And could rise no more.

There were a variety of reasons for this. I started doing drugs and alcohol again. And I started using the spiritual powers I had attained for personal gain, for ego enhancement. Instead of in the pursuit of spiritual wisdom. You’re aspiring towards the Highest State after all. So there’s little margin for error. You have to be very pure. And I wasn’t. If it was easy to attain there’d be perfected Enlightened Masters hanging out on every street corner. But that’s not how it works.

So I began to get a little bitter at this point. After all the effort I had expended on Kundalini Yoga it looked like I wasn’t going to attain Enlightenment after all. Along with the happiness, love and satisfaction I had hoped for. And craved. So I started backsliding spiritually. 

Along with that, the Telegraph scene that I had invested years of my life into, was also backsliding. Getting more and more dreary and dysfunctional. Whatever magic had previously been in the scene was slowly but surely being snuffed out.

So one night I was hanging out by myself at “my” spot — the corner of Telegraph and Haste by Cody’s Books. And I started to get more and more angry how it had all turned out. This beautiful dream that I had aspired to had turned into a barren harvest that I was reaping. So in my mind I began cursing the whole fucking scene. Over and over. I even spit on the ground several times as an expression of my contempt. That whole FUCK THE WORLD!!! feeling. I curse you all!!

Now here’s the weird part. The very next day I showed up, like usual, at that corner of Haste and Telegraph. And I was surprised to find that the whole block had been roped off with yellow police tape: “DO NOT ENTER.” My first thought was: “Uh oh. What have I wrought.”

I ran into long-time Telegraph street person Crazy Allen and asked him if he knew what was going on. I could tell Allen was distraught.

“Yeah it happened a couple of hours ago, ” said Allen. “This guy was putting some money in the parking meter right down there on Haste Street just below Cody’s Books. When this crazy guy started stabbing him over and over. For no reason. I was screaming at him to stop. But he wouldn’t stop. I went running looking to find a cop. But by the time the cops got there and arrested the guy with the knife the other guy was already dead.”

“Holy shit,” I said.

“Yeah,” said Allen.

The next day when I read the newspaper articles, it turned out the killer was a guy with mental health issues. But no previous criminal or violent acts. He just seemed to snap. For “no reason.”

Of course I couldn’t help wondering if the negative psychic energy I had stirred up the night before was what had caused it. It was still spinning on that spot, like a little psychic hurricane of bad and destructive energy. And this guy — who already was in a precarious mental state — happened to step into that vortex. And it was enough to trigger his psychotic episode.

At any rate, the papers said it was the first homicide on that block in like 100 years. So it was a pretty rare thing to happen.

For a long time afterwards whenever I walked by the spot where the killing took place, I would notice the blood stains that were still on the sidewalk. And I would think about the whole thing all over again. And all the different issues in my mind. That I would wonder about. Over and over. But would never be able to prove one way or another.

At any rate, my spiritual progress pretty much came to a dead end at that point.
.
.
 
 

 

 

The last day at my vending stand

Image may contain: one or more people and outdoor

I remember my last day at my vending table on the Cody’s Books corner. It was right before Thanksgiving, 2009. … 

My friend Duncan had died 5 months earlier. And it just wasn’t the same without my old vending partner. Plus, the ruthless Telegraph mogul Ken Sarachan had recently bought the Cody’s building. So all the signs said that the party was over. And it was time to pack up my pop stand.

A big rainstorm was forecast to come in that afternoon. And you could feel it coming in the air. So I quickly packed up all my vending stuff before I got soaked. As I went to grab my cardboard “25 Cent Books” sign a huge gust of wind suddenly hit and sent the sign flying in the air down Haste Street. I considered running after it and trying to save it as a memento. But it seemed symbolic. Let it go. Cast your fate to the wind. One part of my life was ending. And a new part of my life would soon be beginning. Whatever that would be.

I managed to get all my vending stuff packed into my shopping cart just as the rains hit. This sudden outburst of pouring rain. I forget if there really were explosions of thunder and lightening. Probably not. But that’s how it seems in my memory. This sudden explosion of rain pounding down on the pavement.

I put a plastic tarp over my shopping cart, and stashed it in the corner under an awning, then ran to this doorway on Telegraph to get out of the rain. The doorway of the Kingpin Donuts shop, boarded up and vacant at the time. And I stood there by myself as the rain came crashing down. People were running up and down Telegraph frantically trying to get out of the rain.

And I suddenly started laughing. This loon laughter. Not quite hysterical, but almost. That kind of laughter where you’re so overwhelmed by emotion it just bursts out of you. And it’s not much different than crying. Laughing and crying are the same thing at that point.

And I thought back to all the memories of all the years at that vending table. 19 years ago when we had first started. With such great hopes. And now 19 years later it had come to an end. And I was overwhelmed by this flood of memories. It was like the tape of my life was on fast speed. And all the scenes rushed by me. One after another. All the dramas at that corner over all those years. The triumphs and the tragedies. The lives and the deaths. And it was almost too much for my brain to take it. Just overwhelmed by all the things I had experienced, it was mind-boggling.

And I stood there in that doorway. As the rain came crashing down. Laughing and crying and blubbering to myself. 

And that’s how that ended.

A wry observation from Willow

 

It’s always a bit of an odd experience when I come across a comment by a Facebook friend who is no longer with us. Gail Estes popped up this morning. She was mostly known by her street name, Willow. She was part of the Telegraph street scene for many years. She was kind of quiet and unassuming, mostly stayed in the background. But she would often chime in with these wry, humorous observations. I always remember her with a smile. Willow was homeless for some time. But got a room in a house during her later years before she quietly passed away.

I always remember one thing Willow said to me. She mentioned that she had over-heard a couple of women that we knew gossiping about me. “So the women are talking about me?” I said. 
“The women are ALWAYS talking about you, Ace,” she said.

Ha ha. I found the remark strangely flattering.