In times of disaster it is advised that households plan a meeting spot nearby to regroup and assess the situation.
An open space such as people’s park is a fine example. Plenty of directions to run to from falling objects. More important, there’s places to sit and rest. Lie down if you need to. Plenty of room to have some privacy or if needed, a communal spot. You too will need such a place say if an earthquake or chaotic fire sweeps by and destroys your home. Where you gonna go? An earthquake being a likely threat since the San Andreas fault runs a few miles away from downtown Berkeley and its cluster of tall buildings. Why is it again the developers are so obsessed in building these sky scrappers…oh yeah a quick buck. The cocaine dealers must have alot of developer parties to perk up these days. Fuck you scum.
This may sound vapid….but the disaster for the Bay Area was the arrival of the capitalist system.
For most of us it’s hard to see the land here before the Gold Rush. Since that time, almost 200 years ago, changes came hard and fast. Human activity has covered up most of the attractive natural landscape. There are still scattered open spaces that can inspire someone to see this world the way it was. There are still some spots of pristine nature, especially the sporadic ancient trees towering more proudly than the current crop of new high rises.
The City’s Market Street, Oakland’s Broadway….all this new shit in Downtown Berkeley and around the campus…even the David Brower Center…it’s all bullshit.
And worse than making the present world ugly - the buildings are just tomorrow’s toxic trash pile.
While attending a funeral today, the week after losing the park, i happen upon Wendy o Matik. A close friend of the deceased who went by the performance name “Flaming Monkey.” We talk about the state of things and i realize that in 25 years, we will reach this anniversary of the gold rush. She speaks of the boom bust cycle that seems to be playing out here since 1849. As a young person in her 20’s she lived in San Francisco where the whole house was $400 a month rent. It wasn’t THAT long ago, folks. Since that time she grew deep and wide as a writer and a spoken word performer. Later in life she combined the two with another passion of leading small groups to embrace the idea of radical love.
As we speak, i can imagine the new electronic freeway billboards at the foot of the Bay Bridge flashing messages for the latest war effort. I can see gross wealth inequality at play in San Francisco. I can also see the fleet of driver-less cars disperse through the City….getting us ready for the day when the streets will be menaced by corporate police robots.
Wendy & I also got to talking with an Oakland Native who goes by the name, “Co-co.” We talk of the destruction of People’s Park –and a way of life. He reminded us that culture comes from the people who are well-practiced in leisure time. The Park, always the poster child of what capitalism considers society’s ills. The useless jobless loaf up there with the rest of the hated.
Now on the cusp of universal income…of 20 hour work weeks (or less)….where the world will live with more (not less) leisure time…. the Park is sacrificed.
News Flash. UC Berkeley Destroys a Free Book Box
On the morning of January 4th (of the year of no-lord 2024) police operated a heavily armed take-over of public space. A fucked-up yet exotic garden on the Park’s western side was immediately removed. Serene sitting spaces with benches and lush green vegetation trampled. Berkeley’s last spot to freely smoke tobacco “pacified.” A bulletin board with notices on resisting airport expansion and a mural of recently deceased Park founder smashed. The free book box was a recent addition. The kind you see in most neighborhoods these days (see article Slingshot#138). Post-modern even. On the side of the box a slogan painted with the cliché: “We can imagine the end of the world but not the end of capitalism.” This message as well as the books more exercises in futility. Silly hippies….the people today only read what’s on their phone. On January 3rd–the last day–the free book box was suspiciously containing Disney dvds.
One wonders about the cops on scene during the park transformation into a kill-zone. Did the pigs grab a souvenir Little Mermaid from the free book box for their kid? My mind had to wander in other fields than what the CIA intends it to. On day one when the park was killed, pigs dug a giant trench. Mother Jenny secretly suggested to me UC buried nuclear waste years ago during the time they installed a volleyball court and are just now removing it. Hmm, i could imagine that. The best of dubious rumors have always lingered in the air of Berkeley (must be the chemtrails). But i rather thought the giant pit should be turned into a vast mud pool…. for the cops to let loose and do some after warfare wrestling. Naked even. Barbaric. Manly.
The allure of the Park is difficult to put to words. I would speculate that it is a site where one partakes in the ancient tradition of taking a new name. A name that is markedly different than what your parents gave you. The corners of Dwight, Haste and Bowditch a place to try out matching the new name to the face. Is it there i truly became, “eggplant”? How did we get “Hate Man”, “Sweet Tooth”, “Condor”, “Running Wolf”,”Pink Cloud”, “Sand”, “Apple”,”Spider”,”Dumpster Muffin”,”Yukon”,”Mouse”, “Owl”, “Compost”, “Commen-Terri”….
where did they come from….where did they go….
What name will you take on to aid in the great transformation away from the death-machine culture of capitalism?
“I got lost
in that dream
Find the new world
at the edge of a sneeze”
When i’m not writing for Slingshot I sometimes follow the spark to make a song. Some music notes put together in a particular order. Add some words to those notes, trying to graffiti the emotion underlying everything. Just popping off i come up with a sound that has legs. I been working on a new song lately…thinking it would be good to play when we gather to retake the park.