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Clockwork Purple writers’ group meeting August 14, 2017

Book chosen by me – Gastrophysics: The New Science of Eating by Charles Spence

Joanna: page 21, Aingale: line 8 – the prompt is read.

Alexa, set the timer for 47 minutes.

Unless they pick something really pungent

I was living on a 30-foot cabin cruiser docked in the Berkeley Marina with my two dogs. Tiger, a blond 30-pound terrier mix, and Monkey, his black 20-pound daughter. We had been living there for two years and had a pleasant routine of going up to the campus coffee shops about six in the evening and hanging out with my friends until closing time. Generally, that meant midnight at the Mediteranneum Cafe and usually standing in front of it for another half hour, there on the 2400 block of Telegraph Avenue. These details mean nothing now in Bend, Oregon, in the year 2017, but back in the 1960s that exact spot was the center of the world in so many ways.

That exact spot would be remembered by many people whose names you still know almost six decades later. The names of the rich and famous I should leave out of this little story. They must be left out because they created companies that are listed in the Fortune top 500 and I might get into deep trouble for mentioning their colorful past.

But those of us Medheads who became known as criminals are fair game to talk about. For example, the media said last week, to the horror of the public, that Charlie Manson might be let out of prison soon. It is hard to know where he might go back to after so many years in prison, but that spot was one where he spent a lot of time before murdering Sharon Tate, my high school Junior Prom Queen, back in Richland, Washington. As far as I know, I never talked to Charlie or his girls. They were usually sitting across the street at the bookstore where the sidewalk was a little wider. But otherwise, the street was usually empty after midnight. It was so empty that occasionally deer would come down from the hills and walk by, heading to the local residents’ gardens.

Another of the infamous ones was Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber. I didn’t know him either, but several of my friends knew him well. At a garden party last year I asked my decades-long friend, whose name I must omit because he is still in the math department at the University, why he didn’t notice Ted and turn him in? Ted was so weird! His rather disturbing answer, “Everyone in the math department is weird. Ted fit right in.”

Julia Vinograd, who is still the official Berkeley Poet Laureate, was often in attendance at our midnight conversations. Her many books of poetry aren’t bad enough to put her in with the criminals, but she and I spent many hours talking with the math professor and Marty Horowitz, who did do prison time as an accessory to murder.

After these midnight conversations, which were often attended by my dogs Tiger and Monkey, we would drive a couple of miles down University Avenue, across the US 80 freeway, and across the half mile field to the Marina. We always stopped along the road at that huge field and ran around for a half an hour before going to the boat to sleep. It was a grand time for me and for them too, as it was dead center in the great metropolis surrounding San Francisco Bay. We had our own huge private field to play in. Several times after an extraordinary conversation up on Telegraph Avenue, Tiger or Monkey would find something dead out in the field, but unless they pick something really pungent up and brought it back to me they considered it just an ordinary fun walk. Sometimes there were truly special things they found. No human bodies, although there have been some out there, it turned out. One beautiful night Monkey brought back some exquisite Brie cheese and insisted I take some. She kept getting in my face and panting in absolute delight. Her really pungent breath is infinitely memorable forty-seven years later as a great event of my life.

The Cafe Med conversations were great, but that gift from Monkey beats them all. Thank you, Monkey.