Rocker

This photo of Rocker popped up out of the blue the other day. It’s possibly the only photo of Rocker that exists in the world. Aside from his many, many mugshots.
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You meet a lot of weird people on the street scene. People like me, for instance. Part of it is, people that are so weird that they can’t fit in with any other scene often end up on the street scene by default. Because ANYBODY can be on the streets. It’s one of the wonderful things about the bottom strata of society — it’s all-inclusive. Anyways, I was thinking the other day about this one particular street person who was on the Berkeley street scene for awhile back in the day. Went by the name Rocker and Prime Time and P.T. . . He was a particularly weird fellow. Most people who had interactions with Rocker are probably trying to forget him. But for some reason I often remember people like him and wonder what happened to them.

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).

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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.

FB_IMG_1520098748970.jpgI 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.

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