Today coffee and conversation were once again my morning priorities and after brushing my teeth it was time to dive into the Cafe Mediterraneum, on Telegraph Avenue, Berkeley, California. People familiar to me were already there so after getting my coffee things started perking up right away. After a few minutes a very strange thing happened, a very first for me: Michael Delacour, Berkeley’s foremost radical, came into the café, sat down at the table with me and we continued our conversation from yesterday. But this time he had a better idea of what I was about because he had read some of my blog posts. It was a real treat being able to talk to someone whom I barely knew conversing with me about some of my published ideas. Usually, when these things get discussed, if they are ever discussed, it is in the format of open-ended coffeeshop-style conversation, and that makes it very chaotic to develop any complex idea.
The second astonishing thing was that Michael brought me a copy of People’s Park: Still Blooming, Berkeley, CA, by Terri Compost. He gave me this book and signed it for me, upon my request, and said it was the first time he had ever autographed a book. No one, almost unknown to me, has ever given me a book. He said he had purchased five of them, one for himself and the others for his friends.
As if that wasn’t strange enough, when I looked at the cover photograph I had an eerie memory of one of the most astonishing minutes of my life. The photo is of a group of gas masked soldiers, with bayonets fixed and pointing into the air just over the heads of three coeds sitting on the ground in protest of those soldiers being there. That confrontation lasted for a very short time, but what is personal for me was that I was standing alone about thirty yards directly behind those guys at that very minute. I had just been forced to leave a building and suddenly found myself in the middle of a square of soldiers on all sides of me with their backs to me and their guns and bayonets pointed outward. I stood there for a half a minute wondering what to do, and some guy in a gas mask came over and started yelling at me. It is surprisingly difficult to understand what someone in a gas mask is yelling, especially when they have a pistol on their hip and a bunch of bayonet pointing soldiers at their command. I asked what he wanted me to do, and the essence of it was probably to get the hell out of here. I rotated around in an effort to comply, but there was no place to go. He yelled at me again, and I rotated again and started feeling dizzy. He apparently understood my problem and pointed and shoved me in the direction, which turned out to be the backs of these very soldiers in the picture. So, I squeezed between these masked men, and on past these defiant girls, and having had enough of this nonsense, headed for, you guessed it – the Mediterraneum Cafe.
I hadn’t even started my coffee, when someone ran in and yelled that a helicopter had just flown over and gassed campus. We had heard helicopters before, but they were usually news helicopters, so no one even looked up after a while. It became apparent that the reason the soldiers had been told to wear their gas masks was because the officers knew the helicopter gassing was on its way and we were its targets. I was three blocks from the actual gas when it came, and because of the prevailing winds, never even got a whiff.
When the authorities tell you not to worry, start worrying, but when they tell you to worry, start running!