I have been misbehaving all my adult life. My problem is that I didn’t realize how counter productive to my own well-being my behavior turned out to be, in the long run. One of my strangest behaviors is that I have taken a daily walk of approximately two miles through areas of Berkeley that I knew had a poor crime record. I walked right past places where people were murdered. These were places where there isn’t a lot of foot traffic, substantial but not a lot. I noticed cars with smashed windows that had been broken into for what ever was laying on the seat. Probably, not much but then more than once I have been approached up on Telegraph avenue with something for sale, like a camera, by a person who obviously didn’t know the difference in value between a Leica and a tube of lipstick.
For many years, most of my life in fact, I have sought out coffee shops on this infamous Avenue and have had many wonderful conversations there. I am looking at that experience now as an addiction, my personal addiction. Many of the people whom I passed going to my style den of inebriation were clearly crazy and many if you conversed with them for a while had just gotten out of jail or worse. My addiction was what I liked to think of as a good conversation was to be found here but in fact the quality of conversation has dropped off more or less in proportion to the insanity that developed on the street. There were many clear indicators of the deterioration of the area such as a beautiful old hotel the Berkeley Inn, which burned down, many years ago, some say by arson, and was never rebuilt. Then there was the world famous bookstore, Cody’s Books which many celebrities such as Muhammad Ali, ex-president Jimmy Carter and Gordon Moore, of Moore’s Law fame spoke but is now closed. The beautiful building was vacated, abandoned is more like it because it hasn’t been reoccupied since July 10, 2006. Why not, it’s a beautifully architected modern building? Because, the area is filled with rot! That’s the obvious reason.
What I am complaining about isn’t that some particular part of the world had gone to pot and much worse but that I was so very, very slow to recognize the problem. That is had become so bad and I hadn’t recognized that I should move away from it. Parts of the world are going to be better than others, that’s inevitable, but my stupidity was that the spot that I chose to go nearly every day had gone from being the very pinnacle of sophistication when I arrived here in 1960 to within a few years becoming famous for social radical behavior and then to move on to a drug haven and then through several other phases, each a little more degenerate than its predecessors and now on to tattoos, piercing and just plain crazy. It was gradual and I always hoped the good ole days would return. I feel like a refugee in a Russian novel always keeping my bag packed for decades ready to return home on the instant. But, it is an instant that never came.
Part of the weirdness of this place is that in the midst of all the ugly there are some really beautiful people. But, there came a time, not so very long ago, when I just couldn’t balance it all together anymore and come up with enough positive conversation to continue seeking out the addiction. My actual departure was rather dramatic but that was for the best because it clarified my feelings about some things. One thing that was clear was that Berkeley, at least the part of it that I have been associated with, wasn’t helping me to achieve anything I wanted to be doing. And in fact was actively preventing my progress. It had gotten so bad that people would sense that I wanted to talk about something important to me and would automatically shut me down even before I got started. If you read these blogs you can see some of the things which people, my friends, find so offensive. I think it is safe to say that I couldn’t talk about any subject for more than one minute at the longest without getting a lot of welling resentment and anger.
It got to the point where, in an effort to remain current with these people, that I intentionally limited myself to talking about nothing but gossip. But, even my abstract way of approaching that subject turned people off. So, it was time to move on. Which I did and after a few days the various demands of an addiction had worn themselves out I found myself feeling better about the world and myself.
I am still stupid but I am a little smarter about my stupidity.