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.