Friday, July 07, 2006


I rode out Oak Creek drive today and was impressed with the beautiful gardens and nice empty fields and rolling hills out in that area. There are some big gardens out there that almost look like mini-farms. One place has a bunch of goats too in addition to a large garden. It is a nice area, but unfortunately Oak Creek drive dead ends after a while, so without a mountain bike you can't connect to any other roads. Possibly you could follow the gravel road to connect with Sulphur Springs road, but you would need a bike that can ride on gravel. I was impressed with this area.

Speak, Memory
Back in the olden days, light years ago, when I was in college, things were different. I remember hearing about something called "e-mail" from my mom, and how I really should sign up for it. She had it because she was a professor and someone had set it up for her. So I went down into the basement of some science building on the north side of the berkeley campus, a place that was known as the geek lab. Everyone seemed to be doing things on extremely large screens, and the laser printers were working at full speed. I asked someone how to sign up for "e-mail" and he dismissively told me to go read a book on unix. That's the way it was in 1990. Basically back then we had computers that basically just functioned as word processors and that was it. Internet connectivity wasn't a factor at all. I think I learned what a modem was back in high school and used it to connect to "bulletin boards", which I think don't exist any more. That was based on some other kind of technology.
Anyway, Berkeley was a beautiful campus back then, and still is, I'm sure. I lived in a huge building that was part of the cooperative student association, basically the same as the dorms except it also had workshifts and stuff like that. I signed up to work in the vegetarian kitchen even though I really knew nothing at all about cooking at that time. Back then we had a kind of person known as a "vegetarian". My friend said she was trying to be a "vegan" and I asked what that was and that was the first I knew about veganism.
The place I lived in was kind of artistic and oriented towards music and creative types of things, as well as drugs, though mostly marijuana and psychedelics, as far as I knew. I knew that heroin had been pretty big there in years prior to that, but I never was around any heroin addicts as far as I knew. People were kind of crazed and on their own head trips, doing art, creating music, taking drugs, having the mistaken impression that the drugs were going to get them high and not hurt them in the long run. I remember my friend Sol, a kind of intense guy who also sold pot, invited me to go see Jerry Garcia, and so we headed over to San Francisco. Prior to leaving, though, we headed somewhere on a bus, with him carrying a backpack full of something that he left with some girl. I later found out in was full of marijuana, and hanging out with him was a big risk that I shouldn't have been taking, not because marijuana is bad, but because I could have got in some serious trouble. Anyway, we headed over to the Warfield on Market street and saw the Jerry Garcia Band, with John Kahn and Melvin Seals and some cool backup singers. It was an absolutely phenomenal concert, without a doubt the best concert I will ever see. I saw Jerry a couple other times, and the Dead a few times, but he was kind of hit-or-miss, but back then he definitely put out some good music.
Guitar playing was a lot of fun in that co-op. You could just wander down the hall and start up an impromptu jam session with whatever guitarist you happened to run into.
The weather in Berkeley was warm and mild. The winter got a little cold for a couple of months, but that was it.
My senior year was not the greatest. I remember watching a lot of TV and getting interested in the whole David Koresh thing, and then the bombing of the trade towers. I would wander out of my apartment half a block up to Cody's books, on of the greatest bookstores around, right on Telegraph avenue, and spend hours there reading the New Yorker. I remember reading about some guy who had headed out for Alaska to experience nature and find himself, not realizing the dangers of it all, and he ended up starving to death in some abandoned bus in the middle of the tundra. Pretty brutal.
Telegraph was kind of cool, but kind of rough in a big-city kind of way. If you came out and tried to walk around at like three in the morning, there would be nobody on the street but prowling crack addicts, looking for something to steal. It was kind of hairy.
Then there was "People's Park". Some people loved that place my freshman year because it was easy to go over there and score some pot. On the other hand, I see now that many people did not want that kind of activity, but anyway, they cracked down on all that at some point. There was one dude, Anthony, that we would see around, who would occasionally set up his amp on the street and play really great Hendrix-like music, but he was a crack addict, and would come in the bathroom at the house at Ward street to smoke his pipe. Some many colorful characters....
Most of the students going to Berkeley were totally serious about their studies. I was a little preoccupied, but I did manage to graduate. I took some great courses in classical Japanese poetry, Japanese literature, Classical Chinese, etc, and studied my ass off intermittently, but somehow, although on the one hand I was intrigued with the subject, I really didn't know where I was headed with it all, so I never did more than the B.A. I took some serious writing classes, where we were forced to read heavy stuff like the Iliad, etc, but I guess I really didn't get any kind of direction from the whole thing. I took a poetry class from Robert Hass- he was a great teacher and a great appreciator. I learned of Hopkins, Yeats, and many others from him, and later went on to discover Dickinson, Whitman, Rilke, and Jeffers, but I got a lot out of his class. But was it difficult? Not really.
I took a class in "Comparative Religions" way back in 1987, was before Islam was really reviled the way it is today, but I remember than a woman came in who had converted to Islam, and many people were hostile to her because of the attitudes towards women that tend to come up in that culture. We also took a field trip to a Dominican monastery that was located in the middle of Berkeley. The monks wanted us to know that they did it for God and not for any other reason.
I did a bit of karate down there at a few different schools, but it was never a high priority. Sensei Sharifi, a high-ranking instructorr, was just opening a school in Oakland at that time, but his dues were high, and it was in kind of a rough area, so it could get a little risky riding down there. The dues were also kind of high, for what money I had anyway. Later on I did end up training there quite a bit. It was quite challenging, there were many black belts, and I could have gotten a lot more into it if I hadn't been distracted by so many other things.

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