Sunday, September 28, 2008

How Berkeley Can You Be?

I'm not really asking you that question. So don't worry. You don't have to be very Berkeley at all, if you don't want to. You may put the tie-dye down. That question is, actually, the name of an annual parade that was held today, a parade I and the family and friends have attended (though never marched in) for most of the past several years, including this morning.

I've lived in Berkeley since late 1979, when I moved up here from my hometown of Los Angeles to attend UC Berkeley. Being in Berkeley in '79 was a glorious thing--as the 70s were not quite over yet, either in terms of the literal calendar, obviously, but also in terms of spirit. My first year here, while perhaps not stellar in terms of my academic achievements, was something I look back on with great memories---probably because I had chosen not to study too hard. It's not really easy, especially on a hastily typed blog post, to capture in words just what was special about Berkeley back then, but what I remember most was it still being a place that felt almost innocent in its weirdness and hippie-ness and laissez-faire atmosphere. Even at places like the legendary and infamous Barrington Hall, where I was fortunate to attend (and survive) a few rather insane parties, there was an underlying innocence to it all that seems long gone now. Now, of course, "hippie" is a near derogatory term, and places like Telegraph Ave that once had a nice carnival-like atmosphere are now just kind of rundown and dirty and depressing. Tourists still flock there, for sure, but it's really just to gaze upon an ancient ruin and to laugh at it: The People's Republic of Berzerkeley.

I have a real love/hate relationship with this town. On the one hand, I still have enough of the oddball/iconoclast in me to not really be able to imagine living anywhere else. I like living in a place that the rest of the country thinks is weird. It's liberating to live in a place where a grown man (not me, honest) can ride down the street on a unicycle while wearing a pink leotard and hardly get a second glance. On the other hand, the self-righteousness of this place can just be insufferable and appalling at times, and is made doubly worse by the selfishness and rudeness of those who supposedly are "more concerned" than the rest of us. The bumper sticker I've always wanted to make and sell in Berkeley, as a perfect encapsulation of the local sentiment, is this:
"Save the whales....and fuck you!"

But on the day of the How Berkeley Can You Be? parade--my civic pride always returns in full force. Here the loons come out, and are celebrated. Here even the righteous make fun of themselves. And if this year's parade seemed a bit disappointingly tame (where were The Naked People? Where was the hemp float?), it still was a great gathering, with enough LOL and "only in Berkeley" moments to make me appreciate, once again, how nice it is, really, to live in a place that takes pride in being different.

So here ya go, a few pics for ya. Here's where I live. Here's what some of the people are like. And not all of them only dress this way on parade day.

My favorite guy.

No idea what is going on here.

Protesting something or other.

I support this cause.

This one too.

My big regret, photo-opp wise, was missing "The Union of Concerned Sammy Hagar Imitators."
But just the fact that there was such a photo opp to miss is why, even when it pisses me off, which it does a lot, I still love this town.


Anonymous said...


Jordan said...

have you had any time to play any games lately? You've got to keep up on What You've Been Playing once and a while :)

DL said...

I've lived in a variety of places including Bay Area- hometown San Diego- but now I basically live in the anti-Berkeley: Provo, Utah. And after spending five or so yearss here I understand the sentiment. You may not always understand or follow their flow- but there is a certain pride in knowing people who do what they do.

Violet Son said...

I once saw a bumper sticker for sale that said "Oink if you love capitalism!" It was 14 bucks.

thechosen2nd said...

I would consider Portland to be Berkley's little brother. Did you ever go to the disorientation at Barrington?

Also, what is EA doing right now?!?

Dtrescott said...

Living in Eugene OR, we get the weirdness, but not so much the selfishness/rudeness

Tricky Thumb said...

It's things like this that make me want to move there.

Mike said...

You're playing Torment again? Thanks for reminding me of that amazing piece of art. Well, there goes the next month.

And it sure looks fun living there.

In Berkeley, I mean, not Torment.

Glen Haupt said...

That sounds like quite an interesting place... visit. Yeah, I'll have to visit sometime.

Anonymous said...

What KIND of pizza did you have?

Man, not even a week at EA and already standards are slipping.

Jason Williams said...

Hey Jeff, I'm no expert but those two figures with the baskets on their heads are called Komuso, I believe. They're a type of buddhist priest that seem to only have existed in Japan. I don't know if they are actually priests or not since they ARE walking in a parade and all, but it's a cool sight all the same. :)

Anonymous said...

Ever heard of The Waldorf School? - well, these schools are located all over the planet, and here in Vancouver I happen to live right next door to one.

The chief idea of the school is that learning shouldn't be all 'from the neck up'. In other words, the Waldorf school approaches education from a more holistic... er, approach. From grades 1 through 7 the teacher will actually advance with the students - it's debatable, of course, whether or not this is a sound thing to do. It's great, I suppose, if you luck out and get an amazing teacher. But what happens if your teacher turns out to be a serial killer or something? Not so good then, I suppose? (Unless your aim in life is to become a serial killer maybe?)

Anyhow, the 'Waldorfians' (as I've dubbed them) are all hippy-like individuals, and I'm sure that they'd fit right in if they were living alongside you down there in Berkeley.

There's this one woman employee (the kindergarten school teacher, I think) whom I've actually nick-named 'Save-The-Whales'. I mean, if you were to see her for yourself you'd automatically think, ya, wow, save the whales... right on there, sister.

And on a somewhat unrelated note, I've just discovered a happy little fact about one of the Waldorf teachers. On Friday afternoon I was chatting with Gerard, the school caretaker, who also happens to be the seventh grade teacher, who also happens to be my neighbor, and he told me that the new first grade teacher's last name is Eggo - as in Eggo waffles, as in L'eggo my Eggo.

Here's the real kicker though.

This is the amazing part.

Are you ready for it?

Her first name is Sandy.


Bad Mr. Frosty said...

That Klingon had a Thundercats button on her sash.

JJ said...

"With a capital G and that rhymes with P and that stands for Pool."

hahahaha. That devil man is going to give me nightmares for the next week or so. Thanks Jeff.

Slapshot said...

I'm all for protesting something you truly believe in or are against, but when people dress and act like society's village idiots, for me it kind of dilutes the message. lol

Still, it provides good entertainment.

Snickering Corpses said...

I'll reserve my comments on the town, but I did have a couple on the photos. :>

The fellows with baskets on their heads playing instruments....oddly enough I just saw one of those the other day on an I Spy rerun, who wandered up to our two agents playing his tune and drew a gun to escort them somewhere. I trust there was no gunplay from these two. Guns are evil in Berkeley, aren't they?

As for your first supported cause, some very pretty girls there. Though I did wonder, is it legal to be as pale as that middle girl in California? I thought all California girls were legally required to be sun-tanned.

Healy said...

Your description reminds me a lot of Bend Oregon. It's still got that hippy weirdness (stoned men wearing wraparound skirts and birthday party hats but nothing else) and it's jammed right up against the uber rich who use the town as a vacation home.

I lived there for many years while going to college but in going back recently I've realized the tolerance of the town for the random dude walking around in a diaper with a pacifier is long gone. Now it's all Star Bucks and boutique shops. I miss the hippies and head shops.

Anonymous said...


You mean there was a time when the term "hippie" was not a derogatory term?!?!!

Maybe, I'm too young (39) but "hippie" has always been used to describe losers at life.


Sikki said...

I suppose you have to be there huh? Still, looks interesting to say the least. It's nice to see people just doing stupid crap and dressing up goofy and such, the world is too serious anyway.

PS - Make Road Rash 4 please. Pllllllllllllleeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaasssssssssseeeeeeeeeee

Michael Adamek said...

IT'S UP TO YOU, Jeff, to start the zainy protest against Dollar World. Right?

Anonymous said...

Hey is anybody here playing Colonization? Wow, my brain hurts. I never played the original game, so the fundamentals are still a bit of a mystery to me. This game is TOUGH.

It took me about a half an hour just to realize that money must be generated via an elaborate trade route - specifically, that you have to generate resources, that those resources must then be transformed into manufactured goods, and that finally those manufactured goods must be sold to The Motherland or to one of the local tribal villages or competing colonizations.

With the money you've earned from selling these manufactured goods, you then purchase specialized immigrants - these immigrants, of course, then aid you in your quest to generate more and better manufactured goods. And thus the cycle continues, the catch being that, when you get good at trading and start to generate a significant profit, The Motherland steps in and starts to tax you. Ouch!

In Civ 4 generating an income is so much easier than this.

I felt like a real idiot because at first I just couldn't figure out how to generate 'gold'. (Where the hell is the economic 'slider', I kept on asking myself.) And then suddenly it dawned on me that whereas Civ is a tile-based civilization building game, Colonization is a tile-based trading game. Trading is the name of the game here and you have to learn how the mechanism works - and boy is it ever complicated.

Then again, fifteen, twenty years ago... I would've tamed this game in one weekend. Now that I'm older this stuff just seems so much more complicated to me. So maybe it's not that complicated after all - maybe it's just me getting older?

I'll say this though: I had forgotten how much fun it can be just to learn how something works - there's nothing like the high you experience from playing a brand new game, and learning about its intricacies. Last night when I went to bed all of these ideas were rushing at me, and I drifted off to sleep devising an elaborate scheme to transform cotton into cloth, and cloth into currency, by setting up a trade route between two of my settlements and The Motherland.

Damned great game, I think. And it only cost me 30 bucks!


Anonymous said...

Oh, and Jeff, I was wondering, are you visiting the 1up website and reading any of the PC reviews? (I think it was Tom Chick who wrote the review for Colonization?)

I remember years ago, when Pavel Bure was traded from the Vancouver Canucks to the Florida Panthers, he said that he would always check the standings in the local papers to see how the Canucks were doing - old habits die hard I suppose.


Preacher5571 said...

The fact that you mentioned "The Union of Concerned Sammy Hagar Imitators" and didn't have photographic evidence, makes me cry big tears!

Patrick said...

I'm pretty sure that being Berkeley is one of those things where your family disowns you...

Bryan said...

Man this makes me want to visit San Francisco / the bay area even more. People dressing up as Klingon's (wow Firefox just corrected me in my spelling of Klingon) and parading; my area suddenly seems conservative compared to that, and I'm on a frickin college campus.

Dorkmaster said...

just curious if you heard what Totilo said in the multiplayers twitter sent out recently:

"I was playing a Little Big Planet user-made level this weekend and the prize I got for completing it was a photo of Jeff Green"

thought you'd find that funny and/or creepy.

Have a good one, bro...

-Larry Eisner

B Smith said...

Which Discworld book are you on? I've read through Sourcery and I'm enjoying them but I can't help but wonder if they stay consistently entertaining when there are so many.

Jeff Green said...

Discworld: I'm on Sourcery now, too, but am more seriously reading Deadhouse Gates now, so I'm on a Pratchett break. I've loved them all so far, but I do think reading them in smaller doses helps, as his humor, while great, does get kinda repetitive. :)

And LOL about that Little Big Planet level--wtf??

Anonymous said...

I have nothing to say about this, yet I am posting here anyway because you are awesome.

Anonymous said...

On Pratchett: I found The Science of Discworld pretty awesome when I was done with the series.

Hugh Laurie's book The Gunseller definitely re-inforced my opinion of the man too. Worth a read if you haven't done so yet.

All the best h the new job, and thanks for not disappearing entirely.

John M said...

For Discworld, overall Pratchett gets better. His Discworld books in recent years are better then his older ones. Also, "Thief of TIme," "Thud!" and "Going Postal" are some of my fav Discworld books. They are written in a way where you aren't missing much if you do not read them in order.

thechosen2nd said...


Haha, I live in between Bend and Redmond. Btw, there's still a head shop in the same building where Silver moon brewing is by the roller rink alley.

James said...

I always find it interesting when you talk about Berkeley since this summer I started listening to lectures on iTunes form UC Berkeley.

Gentry said...

Good to see we got some fellow Oregonians and northwest people in here.. Here in Portland, well it's not quite like Berkley but there are still quite a few liberals and we are fairly tolerant.

When I think about possibly moving to a conservative red state some day.. well that would be tough!

Terence said...

I have no comment on Berkeley because I've never been there and never heard of it (sorry Jeff) but I just wanted to drop by and say that you got me hooked on Peggle. I swear ever since I've installed it on my work computer my productivity rate has plumeted. THANKS!

Josh said...

Berkeley, Shmerkeley. I get stranger folks than that every day on the A train to work.

Smoof said...

You ought to visit Boulder, Co sometime, Jeff. It sounds about the same as Berkeley...

Damn dirty hippies...

Anonymous said...

I would buy that bumper sticker.

John said...

Haha. Thanks for the great photographs, Jeff. Definitely looks like an interesting parade. Keep up the blogging!!

Pancho_Villasan said...

One of my really good friends lives in Berkley, I would have loved to go to UC Berkley, but I need MOENEY...unless you can take me in. Mr. Jeff Green...I'd call you pappa

Alan Scott said...

Here's photographic evidence of the Sammy Hagar Imitators Unionn from someone's Flckr account

John Rivett said...

Hope you have a good Rosh Hashanah, Jeff.

Anonymous said...

71M said...

Yeah, I can sympathize with the feeling of your sometimes interesting sometimes obnoxious town not being what it used to be. I grew up in Boulder CO and while I moved there in 1986 at the age of four and surely missed it's peak of counter culture displays, I did bear witness to some pretty outlandish gatherings before the rioting CU boneheads and the Boulder police department unknowingly co-opted an attitude that any unusual behavior is headed toward dangerous.

Good thing Los Angeles has plenty of both.

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