BartBlog

September 6, 2011

Is 1968 really over?

Filed under: Guest Comment — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 1:03 pm

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File photo of August arrests in San Francisco.

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New protesters call attention to old issues at People’s Park in Berkeley CA.

As the ninth month of the year begins, here are a few items that the columnist considers important cultural tidbits: an unpopular Democratic President is struggling to get renominated, a bumper sticker being sold on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley asks: “Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?,” there is an ongoing protest at People’s Park, the Freedom of Speech issue is spawning arrests, a new book by Shel Silverstein is due out this month, the Playboy Club (and “the bunny slouch”?) will be featured in a new TV series, and Pan Am will get tons of free publicity from a new fall TV series (perhaps based on the book “Coffee, Tea, or me?”?), so with out looking at a calendar can you please say what year is this? British disk jockey Danny Baker recently proclaimed that this year is 1968 and he might be right.

The longer Obama is President the easier it becomes for a pundit to make clever and perceptive comments; all that’s needed is a great memory. A case in point would be pollution and global warming. You don’t need to be a conspiracy theory scientist to have a major emotional reaction to a bit of popular American culture from 1970. Who can watch the Iron Eyes Cody Public Service Announcement and not get the point?

Who can listen to “Man in Black,” Johnny Cash’s 1971 hit that covered just about all of today’s problems, and not find it moving?

For people living in Berkeley and facing the task of preparing to mark the fiftieth anniversary of Mario Savio’s speech from the top of a police car, the recent No Justice No BART protests and arrests about the Freedom of Speech issue has a distinct “been there done that” aspect.

People’s Park is back in the news. Activists are staging a protest. They assert that the University of California in Berkeley is using incremental limitations as a way of trying to end the use of the area known as People’s Park as a campsite for homeless people. Activists inform journalists that efforts are being made to end the program to feed the homeless in the park. Similar protests in 1969 were suspended after the Park and the protests, which resulted in the death of James Richter, became national news stories.

Peace is still the objective for Peaceniks only the name of the war has changed.

Mario Savio objected to high tuition fees in the Sixties and asserted that students had a right to express their opinions. Two years ago students were holding demonstrations at UCB to draw attention to increases in tuition costs.

Over the Labor Day weekend, a march by the United Farm Workers reached Sacramento where they hoped to deliver their list of grievances and goals to the governor of California.

For a columnist who made futile efforts to get to the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, this year’s issues and protests have a strong déjà vu aspect to them. One ingredient that is missing from attempts to photograph and write about this year’s events is an endless supply of energy and enthusiasm.

Scrambling around the San Francisco Bay area to get photos at a benefit for the Northern California 9/11 Truth Alliance, People’s Park and the various No Justice No BART protests, it is obvious that getting a by-line in the Berkeley Barb is a goal that will never be accomplished.

In one day, can one reporter photographer cover a nine hour event at the Grand Lake Theater in Oakland, a planned new No Justice No BART event in San Francisco, and check in with the protest in People’s Park? Obviously we’ll have to postpone plans to do a round-up column on the current spate of items concerned with the quality of the judicial branch of government in the USA today. We’re working on developing other columns such as one that compares the Republican philosophy to that of the Apaches and play with the irony that some famous Republicans have been accused of kidnapping Geronimo’s skull.

We’ll try to cover the Sunday event at the Herbst Theater in San Francisco on September 11. We’ll monitor the People’s Park protest. We’ll do updates on the No Justice No BART protests. Rather than struggling with the knack of loading Tri-X film on the Nikkor reels, we’ll be struggling to learn the new html skills to move our photojournalism into the digital era, but we will also be aware of certain other limitations on our efforts.

Back in 1968, the World’s Laziest Journalist used to annoy the snot out of some close friends by introducing cultural comments and insights with the phrase “Back in 1968.” We don’t bug them with that shtick anymore because a two of the folks who were most upset with it, have “gone to the happy hunting grounds.”

In the April 1965 issue of Cavalier magazine, Paul Krassner wrote: “There was, of course, one Berkeley administration official who mustered up his oversimplification gland and labeled the protest there as not much more than a ‘civil rights panty raid.’”

Krassner also wrote: “There is an Establishment (translate: in-power) point of view about events such as these – usually predictable but nevertheless in a state of limited flux – and the mass media serve as vehicles for and reflections of the Establishment point of view.” What if Rupert Murdoch is the Establishment?

Now the disk jockey will give some Berkeley musicians a bit of exposure by playing the “Fixing to Die” rag, “Run through the Jungle,” and “Long as I can see the Light.” We have to go and try to buy a copy of Eye magazine. Have a “hella-groovy” type week.

May 10, 2010

My kids’ mom is SO Berkeley that…we actually survived Mothers Day!

Did you know that there’s a website out now that is completely devoted to jokes about Berkeley moms? Blond jokes and Polish jokes are out now. Berkeley Mom jokes are in. “My mom is so Berkeley that….”

Hey, I’m a Berkeley mom.

So when my daughter Ashley and son Joe asked me what I wanted to do for Mothers Day this year, I got to thinking about Berkeley. “Hey, I’ve got an idea. Let’s drive around Berkeley to all the places we used to hang out at when you guys were kids.” Tot lots? Soccer fields? Elementary schools? No way! My kids had different kinds of memories about their pasts.

First we went to the Cafe Mediterraneum up on Telegraph Avenue, where I used to sit and gossip in the 1970s and drink caffe lattes while my kids played under the table. Other kids may have gone to Blue Fairyland for daycare but not mine!

“My mom was so Berkeley that she raised me at the Med.”

Then we drove by People’s Park. “I was there when we first started to plant its gardens back in 1969,” I told the kids. “I was there for the riots and the tear gas. And I got my picture on the front page of the Berkeley Barb during our victory parade.”

That’s just great. “My mom is so Berkeley that she was a cover girl for the Berkeley Barb….”

Then we drove by the University of California. I always measure my life by this benchmark: “Am I having as much fun now as I did while going to Cal back in the 1960s?” And the answer is still always no.

“My mom is so Berkeley that she used to take us to hunger strikes up on Sproul Plaza.” And I still do.

Next we drove down past the old Mandrake’s nightclub, where I first met one of the backup guitarists for a band called Joy of Cooking. Two months later I was pregnant. “That’s not my child and goodbye,” said the lead singer for a band named Commander Cody and The Lost Planet Airmen.

“My mom is so Berkeley that she spends our entire Mothers Day making us listen to stories about when she was a Flower Child.” Damn straight. And before that I was a Beatnik. And don’t you forget it.

Next we drove past the law office where I used to work. “Remember when I used to work for Bob Treuhaft? He was a lawyer for the Free Speech Movement.” And his wife Jessica Mitford had gone to Spain to fight against Franco in the 1930s.

“My mom is so Berkeley that she used to take us to reunions of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade.”

Then we drove past the infamous Woolsey Street House, where Alan Ginsburg, Chogyam Trungpa, Timothy Leary and Country Joe McDonald used to hang out in the attic with the crew of the Floating Lotus Magic Opera.

“My mom is so Berkeley that she can remember taking LSD back when it was still legal.”

Then we drove past the now-defunct Mothers Motors, where I first met Ashley’s father. He and I used to go on road trips on his Velocette. And I tried to learn to drive his old Triumph Bonneville.

“My mother is so Berkeley that she gave us motorcycle helmets for our birthdays and I went on my first chopper ride when I was three weeks old.” Not only that but you were conceived after a Grateful Dead concert.

But now all that’s changed. Berkeley is starting to become just another bedroom community. One of my daughters has rebelled and become a Yuppie. And I myself have become just another aging and forgotten recluse who doesn’t even own a cell phone — let alone an iPod.

“My mom is so Berkeley that she’s beginning to talk about being buried in the back yard when she dies….”

Next we drove up toward Tilden Park to Lake Anza, the merry-go-round and the Little Farm. How many times have I dragged the kids up there when times got tough for me, the ultimate Berkeley single mother? I can’t even count them. And we used to go to Edy’s for hot caramel sundaes when things got tough too but Edy’s went out of business. As has Mr. Mopps, Berkeley’s legendary toy store.

“My mom is so Berkeley that she used to read Sartre while we swam in Lake Anza.”

Then there were all those scholarships. I must have applied for a million scholarships so that my kids could go off to camps in the summer. Camp Tuolumne near Yosemite, the YMCA’s Camp Gualala, Cal Camp down near Santa Cruz, the Lawrence Hall of Science. Even the official NASA U.S. Space Camp. Did I leave anything out? Day camps. Overnight camps. Girl Scout camps. Science camps. Martial arts camps. Music camps. My kids went to Cazadero and Ashley learned how to play the saxophone. Joe played electric guitar back then. He still does.

“My mom was so Berkeley that we never even saw her during the whole month of July.” Hey, I believe strongly in the curative powers of fresh air.

And to finish off our fabulous Mothers Day Berkeley tour, we went off to the Albany Twin to see that movie “Babies”. It doesn’t get much more Mothers Day than that. Then we went to the Cafe Tibet for dinner but it was closed so we ended up at an organic Thai food restaurant that served pumpkin curry and brown rice.

“My mom is so Berkeley that we all grew up on Edy’s sundaes and brown rice.”

And I am also still enough of a Berkeley mom to still hope for — no, demand! — world peace. “Imagine a world where EVERY child is wanted, nurtured, protected and loved: World Peace in one generation!”

Screw all these people who still think that violence and neo-fascism and “war” is the answer. It is definitely not. All we have to do is make a graph that will project into the future all current Pentagon expenditures for weapons and all death by violence in all countries where Washington sends military aid or is currently conducting this or that “military action” — and what we will see is a red line going up and up and up until there is nothing left of the whole human race.

“My mom is so Berkeley that she still thinks that nonviolence is still the only answer.”

I’m also so Berkeley that I can’t stand living without some kind of hope that there will someday exist a better world for my children.Berkeley Mom