I copied the article below the photo from Facebook because I don’t know how to link to the article. I will link it properly when told how to do so.
A month or so after I departed the US Air Force, I ended up on Telegraph Avenue, Berkeley, California. I had just resigned my commission as a B-47 pilot because I didn’t want anything to do with killing innocent people with H-bombs. Julia was one of my first friends there and we met every night at Robbie’s Cafeteria, just two blocks up the street from where she is standing in this photo. She lived in the Berkeley Inn in the room just touching her shoulder until it burned down. We were part of a strange group of half a dozen people; Marty Schwartz was always “word processing” his PhD thesis using whiteout, while Julia and I and one or two others listened to Marty Horowitz talk. He was one of the most interesting people I ever met in Berkeley and I lived there on that street for fifty years. She wrote some of her poems about him, but never about me. I was far too normal and not nearly weird or desperate enough for her to consider poem-worthy. Horowitz had a much more interesting story … recently out of jail, for loaning a pistol to a guy who then went and murdered a Cal professor with it. Also, he had been a scientist who worked on the development of the atomic bomb, and he claimed he had derailed a street car back in Brooklyn when he was a teenager. I often thought he was the model for Professor Farnsworth of TVs Futurama. There were a couple of Harley riders who hung out with us; at that time I too was riding a motorcycle, although it was what was considered a vastly inferior one, a Triumph.
There were many, many famous and infamous things that happened within a block of where Julia is standing. Major demonstrations for Free Speech, People’s Park, Viet Nam; and lots of famous and infamous people too. Directly across the street is the Caffe Mediterraneum and we used to joke that the pole holding up the middle of it was the center of the world. The Med was only closed on Christmas day and a little ritual Julia and I had was to stand in the alcove set into the face of it at midnight and talk about the good ole days. I stood in that exact spot innumerable times after the Med closed at midnight until 1am talking with people who refused to admit that that day had ended. That it has now ended for Julia brings sad tears to my eyes.
Julia Vinograd, the Berkeley Poet Known as ‘The Bubble Lady’ Dies at 75
by Tom Dalzell
“Julia Vinograd died last night. She was Berkeley’s poet laureate and she was the Bubble Lady.
Born in 1943, Vinograd got her BA at Cal and then earned an MA at the University of Iowa at the Iowa Writers Workshop. Her studies focused on poetry. Literary and creative influences that she cited include William Butler Yeats, Elinor Wylie, Federico Garcia Lorca (in English), Leonard Cohen (as a poet), and Yehuda Amichai. While at Cal, she was taught and inspired by Thom Gunn, Gary Snyder, and Josephine Miles. At Iowa, Vinograd says Paul Carroll “blew the lid off all my safety boxes.”
Vinograd returned to Berkeley in 1967 to find massive cultural and political changes in full swing. “Everyone had long hair, bare feet, bright clothes, and looked like they’d just stepped out of a tapestry.”
Telegraph Avenue was her stomping ground, her nation. She lived at the Berkeley Inn and spent her days at the Caffe Med, drinking coffee and watching the world pass by. She described the first years of writing in Berkeley: “I decided Telegraph was Desolation Row, and I liked it that way. I was in total culture shock. I scuttled around with my mouth and my notebook both open, staring at what I saw and trying to write everything down at once. I forgot about writing styles and just wrote. I didn’t want any of it to get away.”
The poetry continued, honoring the lost, the misfits, the downtrodden, the abandoned, the wild and the free. She was called a street poet. I am not sure what that means unless it means that she wrote about the street in the figurative sense of the lower socioeconomic strata. I know this – she was for decades part of Berkeley’s cultural DNA. She wrote 50 volumes of poetry, much of which is about Berkeley. She probably could only have existed in Berkeley.
And then there was Julia Vinograd, the bubble lady.
During the People’s Park uprising in May 1969, Vinograd was troubled by a sense of impending violence. She lived right on Telegraph Avenue, the artery that bled so profusely on May 15. In a moment that evoked Allen Ginsberg, Vinograd bought some bubble soap and went to Telegraph Avenue to blow bubbles. It set a tone. It helped defuse. And she did it for the rest of her life. She was known to generations of Cal students simply as The Bubble Lady.
Julia Vinograd lived her life with Dylan’s “Desolation Row” as the soundtrack, Berkeley and Telegraph Avenue of the last 50 years swirling around her, saints and angels and martyrs and holy men. Julia Vinograd made real for us those who are wanting and lacking and forgotten and invisible. She did this with humor and verve and, as Herb Caen would say, brio. In her poem “On the Berkeley Inn, Where I lived for 15 Years, Being Torn Down,” she wrote: “Were we all crazy? Mostly we were friends / And with friends it’s not a pertinent question.”
In 2004, Berkeley honored Vinograd with a lifetime achievement award. City Councilman Kriss Worthington presented the proclamation to her at the Berkeley Poetry Festival. (See video below).
When Julia and her sister Debbie were girls, they sat by a Ming lamp in their grandfather’s house. The girls thought that the lamp’s name was Ming. Julia made up stories about Ming’s life. There were five green marbles. Julia told Debbie stories about the marbles. Debbie, came to Berkeley in 1973 to see her big sister Julia and stayed, painting as Julia wrote poetry. Debbie sat with Julia the night she died. Somewhere in that room were Ming and the five marbles.”
Goodbye Julia Vinograd! You were one of the people who made Berkeley into the greatest place on Earth!