I arrived in Berkeley about noon after getting up early and driving from Redding, CA. I stayed there overnight after driving from Bend, Oregon — the object of the overnight stay in Redding was to be able to get up early and drive through the Central Sacramento Valley in the morning while it was cooler. That was only partially successful, as it was still too hot for me, even at 9 AM, and I had to spray water on myself to maintain my cool.
Soon after arriving I called home, from the table on the street in front of the Mediterraneum Cafe, where I lived for fifty years, to inform Debbie that all had gone according to plan. My old friend, the artist Sara, arrived while I was on the phone to Debbie and only half my coffee bianco had been downed, and after my call home, we spent half an hour catching up on things, which for her includes singing in a choir.
Eddie showed up, and we talked about his trips to India every year to sit under the Bo tree receiving wisdom and temporary release from worldly cares. It was a bit unnerving to talk to him because it seemed he wasn’t listening very carefully. When I spoke, he had a compulsion to interrupt with his own comments in mid-sentence; and thus conversing with him was constantly returning to a past half-completed thought, and then never being able to complete even that half-thought without another interruption. It is appropriate to interject new ideas into the flow of conversation, but it’s essential to let the other person complete their thoughts, at least occasionally, before doing so. It seemed strange that he wasn’t very receptive to ideas about contentment, which he claims to be seeking, because he spends so much time, energy and money going to India for enlightenment. This is probably because he has so much trouble letting a complete thought form before striking out in a new direction. Isaac showed up and we went over to his apartment and I put my car into the lockable garage he provided and gave me keys to his apartment, where I will be staying for a few days.
I arrived at Lenny’s party about 2:30 and there were already twenty people, mostly standing about and busily chatting, like a Jerry Seinfeld party. It was impossible for me to get to the side away from the entry gate because at every step there was an old friend to talk with, and it wasn’t until I was helping with the clean up that I managed to get past the food table the ten steps to the door on the other side. I got to tell innumerable stories about my adventures in Bend, and how much more open to conversation the people were there to conversations with strangers. When walking the five blocks to and from the party I did some experiments with the student passers-by: like looking straight past them at the horizon to see if they would say hello, like looking straight at their eyes to see if they would look back or say hello, like looking at the ground a few steps ahead of me, but no matter what I did no one said hello or even acknowledged my existence, other than to not run into me.
On my first three-block walk to the Med from Isaac’s place, I was panhandled three times. The refusal to look at other people on the street probably comes from the tolerance of panhandlers. Berkeley people pay a heavy price for their strange form of tolerance of others’ behavior. There doesn’t seem to be much awareness of a difference between reasonable social behavior and unreasonable antisocial behavior, so the kids here soon learn to reject everyone they don’t know, and people over thirty mostly avoid the South campus area.
The liberal dilemma is: How to treat antisocial people fairly?