30 June 2021

Once Again I Comment on Newspaper Headlines, But for the Second Time, They're From 50 Years Ago

A regular and beloved feature of this blog is my monthly look at headlines from the day's newspapers. I accompany these headlines with my reaction and I am often pithy, snarky, wise, or brilliantly on point (usually a combination thereof). The response has been overwhelmingly positive (thank you Seacrest Malone of Thermopolis, Wyoming). As a change of pace and a bit of a history lesson I am -- for the second time -- going to print and comment on headlines from exactly fifty years ago (for the math-challenged that would be June 30, 1971). As I am incredibly old I have the advantage of remembering those times and will employ my memories -- as well as my study of history -- to pleasure you (so to speak) with my comments. I do hope you enjoy.

From the San Francisco Examiner:

Supreme Court Backs Papers by 6-3 Vote

The papers in question were the New York Times and the Washington Post and what they were being backed on and allowed to continue, was the publishing of the Pentagon Papers. In case you hadn't heard, there was a bit of kerfuffle in Vietnam that the U.S. managed to get itself tangled in for about a dozen years. The Pentagon Papers were a government-issued secret history of U.S. involvement in Vietnam from 1945-1967. Suffice to say that it did not reflect well on the U.S. government specifically regarding decisions made by said government and the knowledge that the war was not necessarily winnable. The government had tried to suppress publication of the papers (swiped by the heroic Daniel Ellsberg). Happily for freedom of the press, they failed.

Nixon Blasts Permissiveness: 'Crime Softness is Over'

This from a future unindicted co-conspirator who violated the U.S. Constitution in a little bit of business called Watergate. How rich the irony.

U.S. Draft Law Likely to Lapse

This is about Congress's failure to extend the draft (thank goodness) thus allowing the law to die a natural death. The draft during the Vietnam war was one reason for that war's lack of popularity. If we could re-institute the draft now, there's be a lot less U.S. involvement in wars. Might be worth it.

From the Boston Globe

Senator Tries to Read Secrets Into Record

Senator Mike Gravel a Democrat from Alaska attempted to read parts of the aforementioned Pentagon Papers during a special meeting of a public works subcommittee. His intention was, of course, to put the papers into the congressional record. However, absent a quorum, he was unable to continue. Undaunted he led reporters to a senate hearing room where he read pertinent sections. Good dude.

Senate Rejects Cut in Defense Spending

Has the senate ever (I'm only being a little bit facetious here) EVER approved a cut in defense spending? Have they ever NOT voted to give the military every penny it asks for? Nope. 

Joseph Colombo
Colombo Assailant Posed as Cameraman, Used Stolen Gun
Mafia boss, Joseph Columbo had recently been shot (and at the time of the article was in the hospital in critical condition) as happened now and again to crime bosses in those days. The Mafia was still very much a going concern but by the 1980s law enforcement was nabbing more and more of the bosses as the code of omertà was being regularly violated.

From the Chicago Tribune

Illinois OKs Amendment on Vote at 18

Illinois thus became the 35th state to ratify the amendment that would allow eighteen-year olds to vote. Only three more states were needed to make it law. Spoiler alert: it passed and in the 1972 national election us kids got to vote. I barely made as I turned eighteen that year. I cast my first-ever vote in the California Democratic primary for George McGovern in June.

U.S. OKs $5 Million in Arms Aid to Chile

That's nice. The United States decided to help out the democratically elected socialist government in Chile led by Salvador Allende. It was a shame that two years later the CIA helped lead a military coup that toppled Allende and his government and led to military rule and all the attendant disappearances, executions and torture.

Seize $300,000 in Heroin, Nab 28 in Three Days of Raids

A drop in the bucket. Probably ruined a lot of weekends for users in the Chicago area, maybe even several weeks. But H came back and money was made and new addicts came aboard, and new dealers and deaths from overdoses, more arrests. The beat went on. And still does.

From the Atlanta Constitution

Nazi Atrocity Camp Leader Stricken, Dies

The Nazi in question was the notorious Franz Stangl who was serving a life sentence for his role in the extermination of nearly half a million Jews. He was a commandant at both Sobibor and Treblinka. Stangl, who died of an apparent heart attack, was sixty-three at the time of death. Good riddance.

'Fraternize' Ban Upheld by Court

At a quick glance of this story seems much too much ado about little Apparently it is a crime for an officer to fraternize with an enlisted man. Seems a tad harsh. Frowned upon maybe but a criminal act? Then you read on and see that in the case in question the officer was trying to "establish homosexual relations" with a seaman (no pun intended). That's a horse of a different color. Using your position of power to seduce someone is a definite no-no. Twas the use of the euphemism "fraternize" that threw me.

10,000 Red Troops Reported Poised for Push

After years of bombing, a huge commitment of troops and weapons, the U.S. was no closer to "winning" in Vietnam and indeed the North Vietnamese were preparing for a big push. Nixon was determined to get "peace with honor" in Vietnam but the peace only came after the North won the war and there was no honor to an administration that tried to bomb a country into submission and conducted illegal bombing raids in other countries. The U.S. lost face, lives and its dignity.


27 June 2021

My 50 Favorite Novels Offered Without Comment

1. On the Road by Jack Kerouac

2. Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

3. Look Homeward Angel by Thomas Wolfe

4. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

5. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

6. Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey

7. The U.S.A. Trilogy (The 42nd Parallel, 1919, Big Money) by John Dos Passos

8. Sophie’s Choice By William Styron

9. Desolation Angels by Jack Kerouac

10. Tender is the Night by F Scott Fitzgerald

11. The Goldfinch by Donna Tart

12. Everyman Dies Alone by Hans Fallada

13. Stoner by John Williams

14. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

15. Town and City by Jack Kerouac

16. Time and the River by Thomas Wolfe

17. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

18. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

19. Crime and Punishment by  Fyodor Dostoevsky

20. The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald

21. East of Eden by John Steinbeck

22. Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac

23. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon

24. The Beautiful and the Damned by F Scott Fitzgerald

25. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

26. All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

27. The Sot-Weed Factor by John Barth

28. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

29. Hangsaman by Shirley Jackson

30. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers

31. Blood Merdian by Cormac McCarthy

32. Shoeless Joe by W.P Kinsella

33. The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

34. A Secret History by Donna Tart

35. Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

36. The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy

37. Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger

38. Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

39. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

40. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

41. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

42. A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood

43. Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan

44. The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe

45. Cloudsplitter by Russell Banks

46. The Regeneration Trilogy (Regeneration, The Eye in the Door, Ghost Road) by Pat Barker

47. Little Big Man by Thomas Berger

48. Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72 by Hunter S. Thompson

49. True North by Jim Harrison

50. Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates

23 June 2021

Amazon Reviewers Trash Great Films


It's time for another edition of Amazon reviewers say the darnedest things. I have again copy and pasted one-star reviews from Amazon customers for critically claimed, mostly beloved, films (all are beloved by yours truly). Again I looked at A LOT of reviews before selecting my "favorites." I notice that people who give bad reviews to good films are often grammatically-challenged and not keen on spelling. There's also a disproportionate percentage of bad reviews that come from conservatives -- people not generally known for sophisticated taste. Enjoy!


It was boring, a boring story of boring people doing boring things for no apparent (or implicit) reasons. It looked and felt like a boring documentary. Deadpan, all of it, including Frances McDormand who portrays the emotion-less woman she always plays. The book from which it was adapted was non-fiction as the movie was apparently supposed to copy. I can see no reason to watch the movie. If you want a non-fiction boring story of boring people doing boring things for no apparent (or implicit) reason, you might read the book. I haven't.


These mafia stories always tell the same story about fellas, food and killing. Every scene the same crap.


Crap. Too slow movie. No subject.

La Dolce Vita

I understand that some movies are "classics," but that doesn't necessarily make them good. There were no likable characters in this film, no one to relate to, no story or plot, it's just following this womanizing guy in a downward spiral who goes around town in this nonsensical fashion meeting all these strange people that you never see again. It doesn't make any sense. I guess it's supposed to be ironic--that what people think would be "The Sweet Life" is anything but, but I didn't need 3 hours of terribleness to portray that irony.


I hate this movie. I hate it. I love artful movies and metaphor but this film is just made to piss you off. And it super pissed me off. So congrats Ingmar. Mission accomplished. I'm pissed. Also be forewarned, there are disturbing images at the opening of the film. Really disturbing. Still pissed. Watch Tarkovsky instead.


Spoilers at the end of my review. I read other reviews wondering what I missed here. It's just Warren Beatty pacing, fluffing hair, pacing, riding a motorcycle, pacing, and getting laid. I came here for director Hal Ashby's realism, humor, and buck-against-the-system philosophy. The plot was so directionless, but maybe that was Ashby's point, that this hairstylist has no direction in his life. Warren Beatty is hairstylist George, a character so mediocre in his basic male drive for sex with beautiful women. Goldie Hawn as his flighty girlfriend was about as interesting as a bobby pin with her basic female need to marry. So what's the story? Men and women want different things out of life? I don't need to watch 2 hours of Beatty wandering here and there to know that. The best scene was Jack Warden, playing a stiff, gruff millionaire who collects politicians, wandering drunkenly through a hippy house party, smoking a joint and then stripping to get into a hot tub with a young naked couple. His why not join them epiphany was hilarious. Later he finds out the couple he's admiring having great sex is Beatty banging Jack Warden's mistress. Disillusioned, he wanders off. It was the most poignant moment in the movie. I felt bad for the guy. Out of all the characters paraded through Shampoo, Jack Warden is the only one who has any humanity to him. Whether it was written that way or Jack Warden just stole every scene he was in due to his great acting chops, I don't know! Beatty ends up in a chase scene at the end that you feel he's going to kill himself on that motorcycle madly pursuing this mistress. In the end, Beatty is just a pretty player with no prospects, Goldie Hawn dumps Beatty and finds true love in a successful man who treats her right, and the mistress rejects Beatty's impulsive marriage proposal for the gruff millionaire. I think maybe Hal Ashby delivered exactly what he meant to, but man, 2 hours to realize George is an aimless loser was just asking too much.

Apocalypse Now

This movie is out there I think the writers and producers where tripping on acid this movie is one of the top 5 worst movies I’ve ever seen

Wings of Desire

First of all, this film is rated PG-13, and I've only survived 53 minutes of it and so far there is nudity (bare breast) and scenes of dead bodies, including children. I unfortunately have to finish watching this for a university class but I'd rather slam my finger in a door.

City Lights

I thought the music was very well put together for that time . is very creative very funny. It is an insult to blind people several flaws in the movie several misconceptions but you know it is a movie and that’s what people say but they don’t realize hell other people take movies that are just movies and not real life and then people get them all mixed up and then take that perception

Red River

We've outgrown this foolishness.

A Streetcar Named Desire

did not like the movie.it was depressing and really boring.

a waste of money..the aching was horfible ,carl mouldens nose took the crnter stage, and the street cars

character portrayed illiterate white trash

The Great Escape
The Great Escape

This movie is pure propaganda for "The Good War," in which anglophone racial-Europeans worldwide turned on their German brothers to take sides instead with an ancient arch-enemy who hates them, thus condemning themselves, all of their descendants, and all remaining native Europeans in toto to the cultural, spiritual, and racial negation & annihilation we're witnessing today. No thanks, not interested.

The Seven Samurai

I bought this movie because it appears towards the top of many 'best 100 movies' lists. But whereas many other classics have transcended the era of their creation, this one did not. In fact I cannot fathom how it ever survived beyond the date of its release. It's only distinguishing characteristics are its length and puerile storyline. I watched and waited for the moment when it would blossom. I waited in vain. Trite rubbish which owes its rating to cult following.

No Country For Old Men

I cannot for the life of me understand why this horrible movie got so many awards. So what if the acting is good because the plot is as thin as it gets and very cliche. It's almost as if the Coen brothers just wanted to show a new method of killing and built this psychopath and a next-to-nothing storyline around that weapon. This is the second time I watched it. At least I started to. I thought, well maybe I will get something out of it this time around. Nope. About thirty minutes in it's a waste of my time. Senseless, gratuitous violence at every turn. Not any suspense either. You always know what's coming. Boring and awful.

Clouds of Sils Maria

Absolutely, without a doubt, THE MOST meaningless movie, EVER!

Simply about "moving on"... About getting old and pushed over for the new.

I wanted to break my TV!!

It Happened One Night

Awful. Watched about half of it and couldn't stand it any more. All I remember was a spoiled rich girl and a goofy guy riding in the back of a bus. First they're on the bus. Then they're off the bus. Then they're on the bus again. Then rich girl gets her ugly purse stolen. Then they're back on the bus again. I was starting to get car sick. Around about this time I opened another bottle of wine and noticed the neighbors were having a party, so I took the rest of my wine across the street.


Done as a tribute to the late San Francisco public servant, Harvey Milk, it is not accurate but is designed to cause the viewer to feel sorry for Milk and his sexual opinions. I have worked as a local public servant-upper manager in a couple locations for over 12 years and can tell you that if I had dared to promote any sexual cause, I would have been fired after one warning. The fact Milk promoted a medically proven unhealthy and risky lifestyle relentlessly, demonstrates liberal hypocrisy at that time-place. Sean Penn has been an 'A' list actor making almost anything he is in gripping and fascinating. He is the only reason the film gets one star. A film about standing up for behavior you believe in is fine ... unless what that behavior has been known to be immoral by virtually every society and religion. As the saying goes, sometimes Bad is BAD! The movie ignores that Milk was friends with and gave endorsements to psycho cult leader Jim Jones who murdered over 900 people at Jonestown. Another close friend of Milk's, Gerard Dols, nowadays laments the behavior of Milk and his obsession with gay agendas. Google his testimony. Milk accomplished next to nothing for mainstream voters in California. Instead he spent his career selfishly pushing his sexual agenda. He was not murdered for being gay, but got in the way of a mentally ill ex-employee, yet the homosexual community looks for every opportunity for self-promoting themselves. You don't glorify someone for their sex practices and how proud they are of them. The movies acceptance and promotion of the dangerous homosexual lifestyle which has already cost Americans billions in health care for various diseases-treatments-experiments. Truly honorable men have intelligence, and are positive role models. Harvey Milk and this film spins dangerous decisions into good. The flick is fairly boring too. Be careful not to rent it by mistake.

Get Out
Get Out

The most obnoxious and annoying cast I can ever remember seeing in a movie. The main character is the only saving grace. It's so absurd and unbelievable I almost stopped watching it. Aside from the cringe-worthy cast, the story line is just race-baiting garbage, which is of course why it had such an amazingly high score on Rotten Tomatoes. Of course, I know never to take their recommendation, but I dropped a ball here, and ended wasting almost 2 hours of my life. It’s clearly aimed at manifesting ‘white guilt’ in the subconscious whoever sees it, and deliberately deepening racial divides in our youth. These, as far as I can see, are the only reasons it’s being so overly hyped and praised. They want white folk to watch this and actually feel guilty. They want black folk to watch it and feel persecuted. Don’t fall for it.


Meant for slower times years ago. ZZZZ


A long, boring self-referential, self-indulgent, condescending crap on the brains of Americans -- and on the Kennedy Brothers -- by the pseudo-human Mutant Hollywood Turtle Insiders.

Inglourious Basterds

I'm losing IQ points trying to "get" the reason why anyone would want to make this movie. Gratuitous graphic violence? and demeaning to women??..."you two girls go inside while Daddy talks to the bad man" "I'm a man and everyone knows I am smarter than any bitch so I don't have to shoot her in the back running away.". "I'm a man in charge of a bunch of men who scalp people and that makes me smarter than any woman in France". "My deep southern accent must make me sound the dumbest cluck in the coop". Thus demeaning any southerner because they have a distinct accent...Too bad the leader wasn't from Brooklyn. Then he would ahve been thought of as much smarter. YES Rebecca I understand satire...this is just a BAD movie IMHO

18 June 2021

The Author Expounds on Black History, the Tulsa Massacre, Juneteenth, Critical Race Theory and Teaching History

Aftermath of the Tulsa Massacre

Recently there was much ado — and rightly so — about the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre. Tom Hanks even favored the New York Times with a guest editorial about it. (Conservative actors and politicians were largely silent on the occasion — go figure.) Hanks and others have expressed dismay and surprise that they had only recently learned of the tragic events of June 1921. Obviously, none of these people took my eighth grade history class.

No, I’m not going to brag about the fact that, while others were in total ignorance of the slaughter, I was not only well-versed in it, but teaching about it. Okay, maybe I just did. 

But there are several other more important points that I’d like to make.

One is that many (maybe most) history teachers at all levels of public education, cover whatever is in the prescribed materials, most notably textbooks, and don’t bother to supplement that with anything save current events (particularly those that can be linked to the past). A lot of history teachers only have a perfunctory knowledge of U.S.History and some use it to propagandize their students (both from the left and right). Once they have their degree (assuming it is in history, many history teachers have an English background or primarily teach English — or Humanities or Fine Arts or whatever bullshit name they're giving it these days) they don’t bother with further research. Again, not to brag, but I did. Okay, so maybe I bragged again.

I’ve had a life-long passion for history, particularly that of these United States. So as a history teacher, I constantly found that I was learning of new events and people, many of which fit into the general curriculum, or was so damn interesting and important that I was going to wedge it in anyway.

Back in the early nineties I learned about the Tulsa massacre and thought it too important to omit from my teachings. Horrible injustices make for dynamic teaching but more importantly reveal fundamental truths about a country or topic or field of study. No better example exists than slavery.

When I went to school (and dinosaurs roamed the Earth) we learned that slavery had existed. But that, as they say, was that. It was an abstract. A word. It had neither blood, sweat nor tears to it. It was not until I was a university student that I came to understand the full horrors of chattel slavery in America. I’ve been trying to come to grips with it for the many decades since. I thought it important to try to help my students understand what slavery was like. Oddly, this did not always go over well. Some folks thought it was too much for young minds to absorb. Well, slavery was too much for young bodies to endure but they had to do it. Truths can be difficult and that makes it all the more important that they be understood. No one is done any favors by sanitizing reality. Not many complained but some did and they were just as often African American as white. A few Black parents literally wanted me to skip over slavery. Imagine teaching about emancipation or reconstruction or Jim Crow without first mentioning slavery. It would be like teaching about the American Revolution by starting at the writing of the Constitution or about World War I by starting on November 11, 1918.

Abuse survivors need to tell their stories and those stories need to be heard. The enslaved suffered perhaps the worst kind of abuse imaginable. Certainly they need to be heard, even if posthumously. 

Earlier I mentioned that some history teachers use their bully pulpit to propagandize students. This is a teaching sin. When you are “spreading the word” or suppressing uncomfortable information that doesn’t fit into your narrative, you are straight up lying to students. You are denying them the truth and worse, you are denying them the right and the ability to make up their own minds. Better to develop critical thinking skills.

Teaching is like journalism (my previous profession) in that the best in the business strive for objectivity fully aware that the best they can do is get close. Journalists pick and choose which stories to cover, what sources to employ, what quotes to use and what to emphasize in their writing. History teachers inevitably make decisions about what to use from textbooks (nobody teaches the whole damn book — do they?) what supplemental materials to use and in many cases what to put on tests and what to offer as choices for term papers. (I should add that some teachers — especially newbies — get everything, including tests, from the materials provided and don’t deviate from it — shame on them, you’re boring your charges to death.) As a teacher who supplemented A LOT, I made subjective decisions about what to use — for example, writings I found on the Tulsa Massacre. But whatever one provides students should either be objective (if written or oral) or if it isn’t, teachers should make students aware of whatever biases are implicit in the work. Also, in whatever form of lecture a teacher provides, words should be chosen carefully so that students are making up their own minds.

One should not have to say something like “slavery was terrible” or “Lincoln was a great president,” presenting the facts will certainly allow students to draw those conclusions themselves and it will be more meaningful to them.

From what I know of the man (we are not intimates) Tom Hanks is a student of history. Most people aren’t. Most people had bad history teachers who failed to convey the drama, excitement, importance and lessons inherit in the study of history. They are thus under the mistaken impression that history is boring. More’s the pity. 

It seems to be a problem running through the American right like a virulent disease, to ignore, misunderstand or pervert the history of this country. Witness the outrage from conservatives over the teaching of critical race theory. In their blinkered minds, it is an attempt by Black Lives Matter militants to teach the hatred of the white race. The truth is that whitey does not come off well in any objective study of U.S. History (see: slavery, genocide of Native tribes, the Chinese Exclusion act, the Zoot Suit Riots, etc. etc.) critical race theory was explained thusly by New York Times Columnist Charles Blow in a recent opinion piece: “The theory, born in the 1970s among legal scholars, uses race as a lens through which to examine structures of power. It was, I would argue, a relatively obscure concept — not because it lacked merit, but because it was novel.”

All it does is show how race has played a factor throughout U.S. History and whoever doesn’t understand that is either woefully ignorant or a bigot.

Yesterday Congress voted to make Juneteenth a federal holiday. No one in the senate had the temerity to vote against it, but twelve members of the house did. One explained that celebrating the end of slavery would further divide Americans. So I suppose he’s suggesting that many Americans hold the belief that slavery maybe wasn’t so bad. Fuck that guy.

Juneteenth has also not traditionally been taught in schools. Full disclosure: I didn’t teach it. Why? In my defense I spent A LOT of time on slavery, the underground railroad, abolitionists, the Civil War, then moved into reconstruction then to Jim Crow. I couldn’t leave matters there. Even through the curriculum said stop in 1914, I had to contrast the sad desperation of old Jim Crow and lynching with the soaring inspiration of the Civil Rights Movement. Anyway, Juneteenth got lost in the shuffle. My bad.

The comedian George Wallace had an excellent point about Juneteenth becoming a holiday: “Juneteenth without also protecting our voting rights is all bun no burger.” Truth. For it's clear as crystal that Republican efforts to restrict voting rights are primarily targeting African-Americans. It's all the proof you need that the right is now morally bankrupt and racist as hell.

A final word. Black history is not, in some cases, a separate field of study. It is and should be integral to the study of the whole American Experience. I always had a long unit dedicated to African Americans beginning with the arrival of the first slaves in 1619 and culminating with the passage of important Civil Rights legislation in the sixties (I also gave a nod to Malcolm X and the Black Panther party). The impression created was that Black  Americans, like Native tribes, were and are a separate people who get their own story. I was de-emphasizing — wrongly, of course — the American in African-American. The history of what has happened to Black people is also the history of what white people have done. There were, after all, people who were doing the enslaving, the lynching and the oppressing. The pathology of white Americans is a story that needs to be told and understood. It is what — for worse, of course — has shaped the Black experience in this country. 

Oh, here’s another example: The Tulsa Massacre -- you should totally check it out.

15 June 2021

The Battle for People's Park, an Only Slightly Fictionalized Account

Creating the park

The following is excerpted from a novel I am writing. This except is from a chapter about the battle for People's Park which took place in Berkeley in May of 1969. It is based largely on my own experiences as well as the memories of others who were there. (See video.)

I’d had two classes in the morning, studied at the library for two hours then headed over to People’s Park where I’d been helping for weeks with everything from putting down sod to tilling new gardens to serving food. I loved the park. It was a haven for a lot of us, but more than that it was an ideal. Located off Telegraph Avenue a few blocks from campus, the property was owned by the university but had fallen into disuse. A businessman named Mike Delacour who had a shop on Telegraph, conceived the idea of turning the land, which occupied the better part of a city block, into a place for concerts and, more importantly, where people could hang out and meet. Word spread and eventually on any given weekend day there would be up to three thousand people working at the park. No one got paid and no one was at all interested in a money. We were there to build something for the community. And there were all sorts who showed up: residents of the neighborhood, hippies, activists, students, professors and the curious. A few grad students in landscape architecture even came by to contribute design ideas. In addition to putting down sod and planting, we put up swings, slides, a sandbox and wading pool. We cooked huge pots of stew, people brought other food, there was booze and grass, people played music. I was involved almost from the beginning and I was amazed at how smoothly everyone worked together, despite the fact that so much of what he did was improvised. It was a form of activism without confrontation, without police, without tear gas, without throwing rocks. The whole vibe was positive and reflected the better aspects of the Telegraph scene. It was like a natural extension of the shops, bookstores, coffee houses, artisans and eclectic mix of people who hung out on the avenue. There was little opposition to what was going on. However, one of my housemates, Benny, and other Marxists, complained at first that workers didn’t need a park, they needed fair wages. Other activists objected to all the energy that was going into it given that the war and draft were still primary issues. But a lot of us felt that the park was a natural supplement to our anti-war efforts. I argued that we were making an important statement by repatriating an area that once belonged to Indians and using it for communal purposes, exactly as the native tribes would have. Benny, like many others, eventually came around to see the park as a positive force that brought people together for something that served the common good. There had been rumors lately that the university was going to take back the park and turn it into a soccer field. Some people saw such a move as inevitable and others claimed that if the university had let us get this far, there’s no way they’d risk the enmity that would come from destroying the park.

Sign from author's collection
Before dinner Benny and I watched the evening news. There were claims that two thousand North Vietnamese and Viet Cong had been killed in three days. Benny said, “if you add up the number of people we’re supposed to have killed over there I bet it would amount to the entire North Vietnamese population twice over.”

“Yeah,” I said, “and while we’re crediting ourselves with killing say a thousand of them, somehow there’s only like five or six U.S. casualties.”

“All lies and bullshit,” Benny said.

The next morning as I was walking to campus my friend, Rennie excitedly approached me.

“David, the pigs have fucked up the park and put a fence around it.”

“Fucked it up how?”

“They bulldozed it.”

“Assholes!” I was livid.

“We knew they were going to do something, but this is beyond what I’d imagined.”

“We can’t let this stand, this is complete bullshit.”

“We have to respond.”

Someone who overheard our conversation told us that the park would be the focus of the day’s noon rally at Sproul. 

As we gathered for the rally the anger was palpable. Around me people were expressing anger, disbelief and confusion, as well as a determination to take action.

The last of the speakers was student body president-elect, Dan Siegel, he captured the zeitgeist of the moment and rallied us when he said: "Now, we have not yet decided exactly what we are going to do. But there are some plans, I have a suggestion, let's go down to the People's Park, because we are the people. But a couple of things, a couple of points I would like to make. If we are to win this thing, it is because we are making it more costly for the University to put up its fence, than it is for them to take down their fence. What we have to do then, is maximize the cost to them, minimize the cost to us. So what that means, is people be careful. Don't let those pigs beat the shit out of you, don't let yourselves get arrested on felonies, go down there and take the park." 

The flood gates were open and en masse we started marching down Telegraph Avenue toward the park, chanting, “we want the park, we want the park!”

I was inspired, alive, adrenaline surging through me. I had no conception, nor even a thought as to what would happen once we reached the park, I was exclusively within each second and each step I took. I was awash in the righteousness of a cause and a determination to act in community with my fellows.

We were within two blocks of Haste Street, where you would turn left to get to the park, when the large police presence became evident. We had been a mellow crowd, then someone turned on a fire hydrant. The cops didn’t hesitate, they shot or threw — I couldn’t tell which — tear gas canisters at us. In response people threw rocks. The scene had changed dramatically in a matter of seconds. A peaceful march had become a battle. 

People screamed, people shouted in anger, people ran, people looked for anything they could find to throw. Many threw the tear gas canisters back. I was in a state of disbelief. They tear down our park and then when we march in peaceful protest they attack us. 

I snapped out of it and was overcome with anger. I joined a cluster of protestors on Haste just below Telegraph and like my compatriots threw anything I could get my hands on at the police. Police! They were truly pigs to me at the moment. I’d never thrown anything at anyone before but picked up a coke bottle and hurled it through the air. Then I found a chunk of brick and tossed that. A canister landed among us and exploded. I ran south down Telegraph.

I looked back and saw a woman in a nurse’s uniform being beaten by cops. I looked forward and saw someone leaning against a car just watching. A cop came up behind him and put him in a chokehold with his nightstick.

There were many types of police: Berkeley City Police, UC campus police. Highway Patrolmen and later, the dreaded Blue Meanies.

We drifted a block further down Telegraph to Dwight Way. A few feet from me someone I knew named Chris was felled by a blast from a shotgun. “They’re shooting birdshot at us!” Someone shouted. A protestor who’d been a medic in Vietnam tended to Chris.

The Blue Meanies had arrived and were shooting at us. This was new. This was an even greater violation. This was a war and we were unarmed. 

There was a malevolence to police actions as if these helmeted monstrosities were alien robots programmed for mayhem.

A girl to my right screamed “fuck you! Fuck you pigs!” With such rage and power that I was shaken at the same time I sympathized with her.

I saw an elderly woman across the street knocked down by a cop. Demonstrators rushed to aide her. A man crossed the street to help. A cop told him to get back. “I’m a doctor, I want to help this woman,” he pleaded. The cop charged him, his baton raised. The doctor was lucky, he escaped. I saw some who weren’t so lucky. Most people who were caught, received beatings, sometimes from more than one officer. 

A jeep drove down the street spraying tear gas. 

Further down the street a police car was upended and set afire, sending thick flumes of black smoke into the air to mix with the white of the tear gas. Berkeley was resembling a battle field. 

Police and protestors were scattered all over the area. Protestors were in groups ranging from a two or three to dozens. The police seemed hell-bent on exacting revenge on everyone for the objects that had been thrown at them. There was a malevolence to their actions as if these helmeted monstrosities were alien robots programmed for mayhem.

I ran back toward campus, then returned to as near as People’s Park as I could. I ran west down Dwight Way then along Dana, then up Bancroft Way then back to campus. I didn’t know where I was going or why. I was filled with rage and confusion and was suffused with energy that had to be exhausted. I saw people who I knew were not involved being shot or shot at. I saw pepper fog machines indiscriminately spraying their foul and hurtful smoke. I saw protestors swearing and throwing rocks and bottles. I saw, to paraphrase Allen Ginsberg, the best minds of my generation destroyed by anger, raging, hysterical, confused. 

I came upon a tall young man who was bleeding from a facial wound. A medic from the Berkeley Free Clinic was tending to his wound. I heard someone say, “I did a tour in Vietnam and in a way this is as bad. At least over there the enemy was from another country.” 

Flyer from author's collection
Back on Telegraph I was filled with impotent rage, watching a girl being dragged along the ground by cops and a protestor being struck repeatedly in the arms and back by another cop. I saw Blue Meanies aiming and firing at people who were running away. I wanted desperately to do something. Something more meaningful and effective than throwing a rock. 

But there was nothing I could do, nothing. Nothing. I reared my head back and emitted a full-throated primal scream.

Hours after beginning a peaceful march down Telegraph, I was spent. Bone weary, hungry, thirsty and permanently embittered. I went home.

Benny and my other housemate, Rupert, were on the sofa relating their versions of the day’s events. I opened a beer and bag of potato chips and joined them. War stories. There was an odd mixture of giddiness and despair in our talk as the adrenaline that had been surging through us gradually began to dissipate.

“This cannot stand,” Benny finally said. “The pigs were as bad today as what people saw in Chicago. You were there, David, what do you think?”

“Chicago was different in a lot of ways but it’s the same basic idea of a police state in which the pigs act with impunity. There were people who were obviously not even involved who were shot.”

“The pigs went buck-ass wild today,” Rupert said. “I’ll never be the same, I’ve never seen anything like it.” Rupert’s usual bravado was gone. It was as if he was suffering from shell shock.

Benny said, “I heard a guy got shot in the stomach on the roof of a building on Telegraph. He was a bystander. Another dude nearby got shot in the eyes and may have been blinded.”

That night fucking Governor Reagan imposed martial law. We heard on the news that there was a curfew from ten at night until six in the morning. And perhaps most chillingly of all was the announcement that: “No person shall conduct or participate in a meeting, assembly, or parade or use a sound or voice amplifier in or upon the public streets or other public place in the city of Berkeley, including the campus of the University of California.”

“They’ve declared war on the people,” Benny said.

“This is truly a police state,” Rupert added.

The next morning it was chilling to have the national guard in Berkeley. Troops stood in formation at downtown intersections. How intimidating it was to see armed soldiers, bayonets at the ready, ammo-filled bandoliers across their chests, trained to follow orders and attack when called upon. Large trucks filled with soldiers rode the streets. We were living in an occupied city. 

They really meant to quash us. The seriousness of the situation was overwhelming. They had already beaten and shot us and now the army was here.

Yet there was no way that we were going to comply with the dictates of our fascist leaders. The people assembled that day at a peaceful noon rally on Sproul Plaza. But the cops eventually forced us deeper into campus. Later we massed in front of city hall. There was no violence by either side. After the events of the day before, it all seemed serene, tranquil — assuming you could ignore the thousands of rifle-bearing national guardsmen in the streets.

I was numb from the previous day’s carnage. I had long ago aligned myself with the far left and against the establishment powers, but today, for the first time, I realized that as much as I disliked them, they hated me. They hated what I stood for and what I represented. I was a threat, an enemy and they’d just as soon see me in jail or dead as walking the streets. But I also felt the power of a community of brethren, people who shared my belief in the park, stopping the war, ending racism, spreading peace and love. I had chosen sides and I knew mine took the righteous path. 

I was so overcome by feelings that night I could do little more than listen to music and flip through magazines. I ended the evening numbly watching television.

I called Ronnie in San Jose and told him what was going on in Berkeley and how I felt. “Now you know what it’s like to be black in this country. You’re scared now, we're scared all the fucking time. Cops always trying to mess with us. Welcome to our world.”

Ronnie’s brutal honesty was revelatory, if not comforting.

James Rector
Two days later we learned that James Rector, who had been shot by the police on what was now being called Bloody Thursday, died. Previously the police had claimed they’d only used relatively harmless birdshot, but the doctors treating Rector removed lethal buckshot. The cops were killers and liars. 

We massed for a rally in Sproul Plaza then began a mostly silent memorial march destined for downtown. We marched under Sather Gate to the Campanile, then turned west toward the city streets. But at Oxford Street, where the campus effectively ended, national guard troops blocked our path. We were forced back toward Sproul. Sather Gate was now blocked by soldiers as was the campus entrance at Bancroft and Telegraph. While people were allowed to enter the plaza, no one could leave. It began to dawn on us that we were trapped. There was growing confusion that was metastasizing into anger and, in some, fear.

Then in the distance we heard a helicopter. Initially this did not strike me as unusual, but as it grew closer we saw that it was coming directly over us. I looked up at it.

Large plumes of tear gas came wafting down from the helicopter. Our own fucking government was spraying us like we were so many insects. 

I’d never been so dumbstruck in my life.

People around me panicked and ran, many screaming. I stood still for a few seconds looking up in utter disbelief before I too sprinted out of the lower plaza. As I did the cops started shooting tear gas canisters at us. Marchers were running helter skelter as if injected with a deadly cocktail of fear and confusion. I managed to keep my cool and decided I was going to run back toward Oxford and get the hell off campus and go home. 

But it wasn’t going to be easy. Police in full riot gear including gas masks were scattered about grabbing and arresting whoever they could nab. By keeping my cool, looking where I was going and taking evasive action, I made it to West Crescent Lawn, a large grassy area that ended at Oxford. Lining the street were cops eight to ten feet apart. I stopped and watched as fleeing protestors were grabbed as they tried to break the line. But I saw an opportunity. I picked a spot between two cops and when someone ran between them and they descended on him I ran through the gap thus created.

I got to Oxford where there were a line of paddy wagons that were quickly filling up. A cop emerging from one of them made a grab for me but I turned and ran up Oxford towards University Avenue never looking back. I didn’t stop running for several blocks, by which time the cop had given up the pursuit. 

I went home where I found Benny and Rupert in animated conversation. Rupert had missed the day’s activities and Benny was filling him in. Benny and I compared experiences. Rupert told us that he’d heard that tear gas had been carried by the day’s breezes all over campus, into neighborhoods and to both a nursery school and junior high. It had sickened many in the area including small children.

Two days later Rupert and I were heading downtown in  another march. It was calm despite the heavy police and national guard presence. But I’d only had a bowl of cereal for breakfast so as we neared Shattuck Avenue I decided I needed to get something to eat. I broke away from the march with plans to rejoin it after having a snack. I ended up going to a place called Top Dog and having a hot dog and soda. A friend of mine was working there and I talked to him for awhile. I headed back down Shattuck Avenue and saw a mass of marchers all crowded into a Bank of America parking lot, surrounded by cops and guardsmen. There was no way to access the group and it soon became evident that they were all being held for arrest. I could see Rupert among the several hundred people so trapped. I stood by helplessly as they were loaded into waiting vans and, as I later learned, driven thirty miles to the county prison in Santa Rita. As it turned out among those arrested were dozens of bystanders who had been out shopping or running errands. I felt both terrible for Rupert and greatly relieved for myself. I went home feeling depressed and defeated. 

“It’s beginning to seem hopeless,” I said to Benny.

“That’s understandable, great struggles are like that with depressing low points. But remember what Marx said: ‘The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.’ We cannot give up or let up, we’ve got to push on.”

I admired Benny’s faith that the people would some day rise and that there would be a real revolution that would cleanse the country of capitalism, but I couldn’t share that optimism. Not now, not today, not with Rupert arrested. Not with soldiers in our streets.

The next day Rupert told us how brutally he and the other arrestees were treated. “When we got off the bus at Santa Rita, I made the mistake of looking around and so was taken aside and forced to remain kneeling for hours. Others who did the same or spoke out of turn suffered the same fate. I saw a kid, probably high school age, dragged by his hair and beaten. Someone else was forced to lean his head against a post while the cops beat on the post. He began bleeding, I’m not sure from where. They were beating people for anything and nothing and cussing at us and threatening more. The lucky ones, who were not beaten, had to lay on the gravely ground for hours, some where hit with nightsticks or even punched for any kind of movement. I have never felt such hatred or fear in my life. There were times I thought I was going to be killed or suffer permanent injury. It wasn’t until ten that night that we were led into the barracks, but we couldn’t sleep because the pigs kept making noise and getting us up to exercise. The sadistic bastards were actually having fun. I was called everything from an ‘asshole’ to a stinking hippie.’”

Benny’s family lawyer had bailed Rupert out.

I’d known Rupert for nearly a year and in that time he had always been implacable. Always grinning, making wisecracks, teasing, I’d never seen him shaken and sullen and dispirited. He was that morning. 

In the coming days there were more rallies and marches, there was an ecological teach-in and on Memorial Day tens of thousands marched peacefully through the streets of Berkeley in support of the park. But the cumulative effect of Rupert’s story, my nearly being arrested as well, the helicopter attack, James Rector’s death and Bloody Thursday had worn me to a nub.

Rupert and Benny tried to coax me into joining the Memorial Day march but I stayed home and studied and sipped tea and listened to classical music on the radio. I even passed up an invitation to a barbecue. I needed a goddamned break.

11 June 2021

Presenting: Vibes 'N' Stuff -- 52 Years After I Found it, Someone's Lost Jottings

In the early Spring of my sophomore year in high school I was walking on Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley’s main downtown street, when I saw a small red notebook on the ground. I picked it up, saw that it was someone’s jottings and further noted there was no way of identifying the person or locating him (it clearly had belonged to a male). I have held onto the notebook for fifty-two years and am today publishing it’s contents verbatim.

In seven days of "jottings" the author managed to give a snippet of the Haight Ashbury and Berkeley, particularly the Telegraph Avenue area. Tis indeed a slice of history and a good representation of the types of people who wandered into and around the Bay Area -- particularly San Francisco and Berkeley -- in the Sixties.

The author called himself Dutch. As you will note he was from New York. I guess that he was in his early twenties although he could have been in his late teens or in his thirties. I still, to this day feel bad that he lost his notebook, an account of his first visit to the San Francisco Bay Area, and that I had no means to locate him. 

I’ve hung on to the notebook giving myself only vague reasons why I should. Within a few years of its discovery, it was already seeming to me to be  an interesting cultural artifact from the Sixties. As it happens I am currently working on a novel set in Berkeley in the Sixties which reminded me of the notebook.

Where is Dutch today? Did he die later that year? Last week? Ten years ago? Or is he alive and well? Did he settle in the Bay Area or go back to New York or somewhere else? Did he continue to use drugs? Did he become an addict? Or did he quit all but alcohol in the coming years?

I transcribed every word of the notebook without editing. Any mistakes in punctuation, spelling or grammar are the original author’s, not mine. ( I also did not subject the reader to a succession of parenthetical "sics.") I did make two minor changes, once he accidentally put ’68 instead of ’69 I fixed that and his misspelling of Berkeley. In any event there wouldn’t have been a lot to change because Dutch was clearly a good writer and his grammar and spelling weren’t bad. Thankfully he also boasted excellent penmanship and I didn’t have to struggle to ascertain so much as a word.

Some questions come up when reading the notebook. Most notably, why was he “kicked out” of the crash pad? He offers no explanation. Maybe it wasn’t worth noting or perhaps he was embarrassed by something he’d done. I'll leave the reader to discover and contemplate other questions that arise

For barely a week’s worth of entries there are a slew of Runyonesque sounding characters, to wit: Jailhouse Mike, Baby Sonny, JC and Weasel. 

I’d love to have discovered a month or more’s worth of Dutch’s writings but then again I’m glad he lost only the one week. (The entries start on a Monday and end the following Sunday). I hope upon the sad discovery of losing the notebook he immediately bought a new one and kept better care of it. Maybe he fashioned his entries into a book. 

So many questions and so much to ponder. Here it is:

Inside cover:

Property of Dutch

“Vibes ’n’ Stuff”

The mental meanderings of a frustrated, paranoid, smoke freak and acid head

24 Mar. ’69

Frisco - first impressions

Hit Frisco today hung around Market st for a while. Too much like Times Square don’t need it.

Wended my way up to Haight. One of my first impressions was that good breathing air is in plentiful supply. Haven’t checked out the whole scene yet but Haight st. is nice. Found a groovy park where everyone seems to while away the daylight hours.

Green, free and groovy. Shirts don’t appear to be mandatory and if the man is around he doesn’t make himself evident kids, dogs and sunshine just the way a park should be…people just grooving on life and living, with congas for background and overhead Hip American’s contributions to the space race, frisbees whirl and dive.

It is good here, I think. I’m going to like it here.

                                              More Goodies

Things are looking up sooner than I had anticipated. Met Cici this afternoon, haven’t seen her since last June in New York she’s just as gorgeous a she ever was. She turned me on to some people who could help me get a place to crash. She tells me I can expect to run into more people from New York and there are more coming.

It is rumored that a coming earthquake will send the Bay Area sliding into the sea. I, for one, feel that it’s probably a good thing. It’s about time San Francisco seceded from the Union, anyhow.

Am now ensconced in a Haight St. coffee, tea and palate delectation emporium called Brother Juniper’s Inn. Place is staffed by young people in monastic garb. Prices are reasonable and there does not appear to be a limit on how long one may mull over a cup of tea, but then I haven’t really tested their tolerance here yet, either. The atmosphere is conducive to thought and discussion, with the strains of classical music echoing gently of the wood paneled walls.

Since I have only just arrived, I haven’t met anyone to sit and discuss things with, I shall have to, for the time being confine my activities to thought and jotting my thoughts down in this here little notebook to pass the time.

Hmm, I may have a guest at my table. I was right. Mayhap something will develop. So far nothing is developing. Well, if this gentleman wishes to remain intellectually deprived, that’s his business. He blew it. He just got up and left. The evening is still young, tho who knows what could happen?

Aha! The chick who works here has been in New York recently. I thought she looked familiar. Let’s see what happens now. 

Hmmm, let’s see now. She used to work in the Gaslight and her old man is still there, he’s a dealer and his name is George. The description gets kind of graphic so I won’t bore you with details.

Well the sleeping arrangements came through so I’ll see you in the morning.

25 March 69

Well the place where I crashed last night is full of gay people which presents a bit of a problem. I think I can handle the hassle if I can get it through Larry’s head (it’s Larry’s pad) that I’m not the least bit interested in his particular scene.

I met a pretty cool dude today. He’s a biker named Jailhouse Mike, Mother’s Mike’s 2nd cousin, a very righteous dude. Want to hear a mindblower? Jailhouse is Baby Sonny’s legal Old Man. Sonny’s in L.A. on the strip and we may trip down there and say hello. Found out something else interesting. While I was checking out the S.F. Switchboard Mail list I discovered the name of one Dominic V. Love. So evidently he’s been here and might even still be here.

26 March 69

Spent the night in the back seat of a friends car. Somehow managed to sit on my shades and smash them all to shit, oh well. Jailhouse turned me on to a Phone Credit Card No. Might as well try it out by trying to call N.Y. and tell people what’s happening.

The Credit Card works but the damn phone didn’t and lost my dime. Oh well I’ll try again some other time. Spent most of the day running around and try to cash Mike’s fuckin Tax return check only problem is it’s a check and trying to cash it is like pulling Lion’s teeth and the lion has bad breath on top of everything else. We did bump into an old friend of Mike’s named Josh and we went over to his place and got turned on to some very groovy people and dinner. We smoked some and then one of the cats had to go to Berkeley so Mike and I went along to check things out. We are now in Berkeley at the Free Church, drinking tea and waiting further developments.

Just went for a walk and couldn’t believe how groovy this place is. I just hope it looks as good in the daylight as it does in the dark. I thought Frisco was nice but this place stands head and shoulders above it, so far. I had better get in touch with Celene and see if I can talk her out here.

27 Mar 69

Approaching the end of my first day in Berkeley and while I didn’t accomplish much I still had a pretty good time. I met a few people and we rapped and got stoned. Stoned shit, I haven’t been so wrecked since I left New York.

Read the War Lover this afternoon to kill time. Not a bad book but the flick was sure different.

Pretty cool scene out here. I can get established I’ll have it made.

28 March 69

Shades of the East Village, spent the night in a crash pad covered with wall to wall people got thrown out and am now ensconced in the same hotel in my own pad, mine and Mike’s.

Checked out Telegraph Ave, called Celene she’s fine and copped some Acid, some purple stuff, good shit.

29 March 69
Well, as you can probably tell from yesterdays final entry I was pretty fucked up when I tried to wrote it. Man, was I ever?! Things were pretty much a hassle last night besides.

Mike and I came home last night with the intention of rapping a while with a biker buddy of Mike’s named Guy, from Detroit and his Buddy, Ray from St. Louis. That part was going along as planned and then there was this rap on the door. I went and checked it out and it was this cat JC from the Free Church telling me about a couple of spaced out needle freaks who needed a place to crash. I wasn’t too hot on the idea at first but then I found that one of the dudes, a cat named Weasel had O.D’d on smack and needed to be off the street but bad so I let them in. We laid Weasel out on the bed so he could crash and then spent the rest of the night in a bullshit session. I crashed for a couple of hours and woke up in time to bid adieu to Weasel and Bill, his buddy, who were setting out to reclaim their stash. Me and Guy rapped for awhile, JC and Ray were gone and Mike was asleep and after a while me and Guy went up on the roof where I was shown scenic points around the Bay Area. Then we decided we’d go up on Telly Ave. and freak on the freaks we did that for a while and I figured I should bop back down to the hotel and catch up on my notes, which I am now doing. In a while I’m going to head up to the Church and see what’s happening. Oh yeah, they had services at the Church last night and it was really great, a dynamite trip. They had a band which was great and Communion and the whole thing was fantastic, especially when you stop to remember that I was tripping through the whole thing.

Am now in the Free Church in the Switchboard Office with Mike. They put on a free feed her tonite, rice beans and potatoes, not bad.

Right now they’ve run everyone out as preparations are being made for a play. This should be interesting. 

The play was funny as hell man, the only thing was, I kept falling out in the middle of it. Finally I went home and crashed.

30 March 69

Went down to the Church early this afternoon, not much happening. Wandered down to Provo Park and dug the band that was playing. They were pretty good and ever body was stoned.

Fucked around some more between the Church and the Ave. It’s getting late and I’m going to make it home in a little while.