Monday, April 17, 2006

Berkeley. My town. Oof.

Berkeley is my town. It’s not a place for the timid or the easily offended. So, it’s a good place. It was named after Bishop Berkeley, an old Irish toss who ventured that individuals can only directly know sensations and ideas of objects, not abstractions such as "matter".

Whatever that means. All I know is I’m begrudgingly proud of my idiot city. Here are some highlights and pestilences:

Very, very earnest old people – They eat neutered groats. They have weird rusty iron sculptures or amorphous lumpy ceramic things in their front yard. They wear fleece and cotton turtlenecks. They never seem to smile, or if they do, it’s accompanied by a slight wince; perhaps it has something to do with their low protein diets. When they talk it’s like the cry of baby hummingbirds. They have ancient dogs of the same temperament.

They walk with their mates, stooped, not talking. You get the sense, if this were 13th century they haven’t worked up to calling each other “thou”.

Pizza – There is a good pizza joint run by the local VERY EARNEST cheese co-op called Cheeseboard Pizza. No sauce. Just olive oil, very good, VERY EARNEST cheese, and some vegetables. Simple. Earnest. De-lish.

Revolution Books – A Maoist bookshop that has been wedged into a forgotten shopping arcade that takes up the bottom floor of a parking garage. It’s been there for as long as I can remember, yet I rarely see anyone in there. I’ve never gone in, because it gives me the creeps. Presumably is staffed entirely by vanguard cadres. I wonder if they get good benefits.

Many weird cheap food joints – For students. The Chinese place that actually advertises ONE DOLLAR FOOD. The Crepe place is good.

Loads of flicker shows – Seven movie theaters in a mile radius, including the Pacific Film Archive, which shows creepy, campy and aggressively dull EARNEST movies exclusively.

The Cyclotron – I live in a city with a small cyclotron. I also live in the ONLY CITY ON EARTH that has an element named after it. That’s right bitches, BERKELIUM.

The Teddy Bear Fountain – A fountain in the un-American traffic roundabout by the North Berkeley fire station. It features creepily anthropomorphic rat bears. Cute.



The ______ Guy – Berkeley attracts, or used to attract, good solid weirdos. Local color, you might call them if you were polite or unjaded.

The Naked Guy was a Cal student that went everywhere in a backpack and tennies, otherwise naked as a j-bird, all a-dangle. Might have worn a long coat in cold weather.

Hate Man. Older guy in a sundress who would give impromptu discourses on why HATE is really a form of LOVE. Hmmm. In his later career he was aided by a young adjutant, called Hate Boy. He wore a dress as well. I think it was slightly prettier than Hate Man’s.

Larry Rare. Larry was a shirtless insane man who looked like long-hair era Henry Rollins. His shtick was approaching coeds and launching into an impromptu flex routine, all the time screaming RARE at the top of his lungs.

The Psychic Fair(e) – Every week around Thursdays, the signs go up for the Psychic Faire. Arrows point to some location that may or may
not exist in Euclidian space. I’ve never seen the Psychic Faire. No one I know has gone to the Psychic Faire. Perhaps it’s Brigadoon. Aye, the wee Psychic Faire.

Passive Aggression – A friend who moved to Brooklyn from Berkeley was amazed. “People yell at each other here. It’s really good.” In Berkeley, among some more affluent circles, if you do something that steps outside the limits of collective propriety – you yell at your kid for throwing sand, say, or you swear in a parking lot, or you wonder aloud whether adding another youth outreach program to the 70 already on the books is worth the tax increase, or you express joy in a zestful manner, or your feigned interest in someone else’s kitchen remodel is somehow not feigny enough -- you catch it in the corner of your eye: the head shake. The imperceptible tightening of lips into sphincters of displeasure.

These are the people who glare at you because your kids are talking loud at a motherfucking Fourth of July fireworks display.

They also beat their pets and watch scat porn.

Spring – Spring in Berkeley can be amazing. Trees blossom. Sun dresses (on women!). Going to the crappy little beach on a hot day. Outdoor movies at the Brewery. Woof.

Fleece –Dads at the park, dressed like they are doing anything but sitting on their asses on a park bench, ignoring their kids. Motherfuckers are all in fleece, in mountain climbing short with breathable crotch grommets to prevent chafing, water proof Kepis, and sandals with built in crampons.

They are on their phones, or talking way too loudly to some other fleece encased assblossom about wood decks or snowshowing or homebrewed beer or going to Reggae on the River, or some other gay-ass surplus economy motherfucking horseshit. Meanwhile, their motherfucking kids are beating infants with sticks.

Books – Being a ranty crank, I often need to find source texts that I can refer to, then scream "A-HA!" as I throw the book down in front of my long suffering wife. Berkeley has loads of excellent bookshops where ESSENTIAL TEXTS can be found, texts where all the PUZZLING EVIDENCE coalesces into... the Theory.

Neighbors who hang out and drink beer and read magazines – Always a good time. I’m particularly grateful for ranty neighbors who can come along with me on my feverish schemes.

Family Members – Family members (on the s-p-o-u-s-e’s side) wonder aloud when we’re going to join the rest of the clan in the Spielbergian Stucco Jungle, in the county out east. Every family event, we hear that same banshee’s howl. Shut up. Shut up. Shut up.

A chain grocery store that only carries sick-ass disgusting natural peanut butter – FUCK Trader Joes.

The Pub – This is a creepy beer-and-wine-and-cappucino joint set up in an old converted house. It seems that as D&D player become older, they become exotic pipe tobacco and imported beer dorks. They also congregate here, smoking their foul weeds and playing Risk in the backroom, because smoking in bars is illegal in Berkeley. The front room is quiet and there’s a fireplace. Sometimes, you might strike-out, however, and get stuck with some loudmouth Peter Pan in a Pantagonia fleece vests and Vuarnets blathering on and on about drinking Singha on some beach in Thailand, while you’re just trying to READ YOUR GODDAMN BOOK.

Anarcho-Capitalist hot dog sellers -- There is a chain of hot dog huts here called Top Dog. The hot dogs are stupendous, and each location is a shrine to radical libertarian philosophy. The wall are covered with anti-government rants and long articles about anarchism and individual sovereignity. Great stuff.

Democracy run amok -- Berkeley city council meetings are insane. The council members insult each other, there’s usually a full dock of aggrieved and/or insane citizens waiting to take the mic and start dropping the crazy bomb. The galleries are filled with yelling hecklers. It’s bedlam. Cool.

And the initiative process in Berkeley (although this is also true of California) is bonkers. In a bid for direct democracy, any petition can be fielded as a potential law as long as you get the signatures. A couple of years ago, a man nearly got a measure through that would have written the Reflexive Property of Equality (that is the property of a = a) into municipal law. It nearly got on the ballot.

So there you are. That’s my town. Rock on Berkeley. Go Bears.

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7 Comments:

Blogger Crackpot Press said...

What is the street value of Berklium?

What does it do?

10:53 PM  
Blogger Greg Mills said...

Bitch, it was the fifth transuranic element to be synthesized.

And it doesn't do shit actually, other than give you cancer.

11:03 AM  
Blogger G. said...

This message was brought to you by the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce, right?

11:42 AM  
Blogger Greg Mills said...

The thing is in Berkeley that even the conservatives are crazy. So the chamber, rather than being uptight rotarians, is actually full of weirdos. It's a bubble.

Republicans are a distant third for number of registered voters. Second are the Greens.

1:15 PM  
Blogger squidgrrrl said...

Now, no self-respecting Berkelian would refer to it as Bezerkeley/Berzerkely ETC. Where are you REALY from? Fess up...
I say that, mind you, fully clad in fleece & a turtleneck.
Wherever you're from (really) I enjoyed your insights/outtasights.

12:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I might list RARE as the most interesting character of the lot.

Unless I am imagining things Rare also was a huge sports fan. I seem to recall him reading "Baseball Weekly" and rattling off all sorts of stats.

1) Rare
2) Larry the Drummer
3) Rick Star
4) Yoshua
5) Naked Guy
6) Hate Man.

Honorable Mention:
The older black guy on Solano who says "whatever you can spare without hurtin' yourself"

Great line, great guy...

9:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I link wow gold and wow power leveling or wow gold

1:01 AM  

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