Pop Culture

Was Ramona Real? How a Book Became More Than a Legend

Cut to Bob Dale - An off-camera chat with the bow-tied veteran of San Diego television

Salvation Row - An uneasy Episcopalian hears the word on Imperial Avenue

Lester Bangs -The Hardback

Dots on the Map - Heading East on Old Highway 80

Silents Were Golden - Why early filmmakers zoomed in on San Diego

Where Wild Things Were- Something is lost when something is built

One for the Zipper- The quintessential carnival ride must bring chaos to the calm center of the soul

Deadhead Redux - No one knows for sure why Grateful Dead fans have such a drive to communicate with each other but they do-and they’ve turned Blair Jackson and Regan McMahon’s “The Golden Road” into the most successful fanzine in the history of the form.

The Last Anniversary - An Altamont Memoir

Desolation Row -The lonesome cry of Jack Kerouac

Faster Than a Speeding Mythos: Superman at 50 - Superman at 50: The Persistence of a Legend

When Art is No Object -The Eloquent Object - At the Oakland Museum, Great Hall, through May 15.

“He Wasn’t Dying to Live in L.A.” - Intrepid Journalist’s Last Dispatch Before His Collapse

Search for Honesty in Post-war Life - Plenty

Armageddon Averted: Where Will You be on August 16. 1987? - Inside Art Goes to the Frontiers of the Mind

Of Speckle-Faced Rats and Supernovas - Michael McClure

George Coates - The Physics of Performance and the Art of Iceskating

No Escape from the SOUNDHOUSE - Maryanne Amacher

A Pynchon's Time

Grants - State of Art/Art of the State

Poetry from Outside the Pale - Allen Ginsberg

Once Upon a Time - In Berkeley

The poet from Turtle Island - Gary Snyder

Noh Quarter

Joyce Jenkins and the Language Troubles

Philip Whalen

Once Upon a Time
In Berkeley

May 7, 1986

California is famous (or infamous) for being a land without a past. Whereas in the average European township you're likely to come
across houses built in the 16th century in which people are still living, and even in the eastern states you can easily see old stone
farmhouses and village squares dating from the time of Jefferson or Melville. In our fair state if you find a Tastee Freeze built in 1959 it may be an occasion for notifying the local historical society. By the same token, when someone tells you that he or she is a "native of California" you're likely to look at that person for a moment, at a loss as to what he or she could possibly mean. Native of California? You mean people are actually born here?

Of course, this is all more true of Southern California than of the Bay Area and points north. Down south, there was little to be found except vast cow pastures and endless groves of trees until the movie industry hit, in the teens of this century. Since then, wave after wave of newcomers — folks looking for the end of the rainbow, that big break on a sound stage, or lucrative and plentiful employment opportunities that never really seem to exist have made it so that "natives" are hard to pick out from the abundance of “immigrants." Southern Cal, then, can be easily derided as a pastless, superficial setting where the inhabitants have no roots but the same might also be said of our own area, though perhaps to a lesser extent.


Most of the people reading this are probably from elsewhere. They may be from Southern California themselves, they may be from the East Coast or from overseas. How many of your classmates, after all, didn't have to get on a plane in order to come to school here? I know that I lived in the Bay Area for several months before I met anyone who was actually from here: and even then, it took me a few moments to grasp the concept.

For the last four years — or five, or seven, or more — you've been far too busy to think about Berkeley's past, or even if it has one. Of course you've been busy with your studies: you've also been busy having a great time, staying active in your fraternity or sorority, manning the barricades of the divestment movement, keeping track of the great new bands that pass through the various local venues, hanging out in bookstores, drinking cappuccino, going out on dates, scoring (whatever) — and the last thing you've had the time or the inclination to do is to stop for a moment and reflect on the fact that when your great-grandmother was a sweet young thing setting her cap for great-grandpa, Berkeley was here — students, business people, streets, eateries, shops, traffic, love and pain and the whole damn thing, all went from one day to the next just as they do now.

Since we are ordinary mortals, any locale we inhabit tends to fadeout of existence at each end: before we arrived, we secretly feel, the place didn't really exist; and after we leave, we’re hard-pressed to imagine that things will continue in the same old way, that the Med will still be overflowing with bookish coffee addicts, that the frozen yogurt stands will still be plying their wares, that the big Kurosawa retrospectives at the UC Theater will still be packing them in. We may pick up our sheepskins and get on the plane for home with nary a thought as to how the place will fare in our absence, and without ever having wondered that the dear old town was like before we matriculated here let alone before we were born.

On the following pages, The Special seeks to give you a sentimental going-away present: a look back at this world-famous university town. We'll skip the '70s, which were practically yesterday and which are in any case, too near in time for anyone to have feelings of fondness for, and we’ll also skip the '60s, because there isn't a man, woman, or child who isn't fully aware of what things were like in Berkeley in those days. Instead, we'll go back relatively deep in time — taking a deep breath, well plunge beneath the surface waters of our era, to the depths of the late 19th century, and then ascend to within striking distance of the modern age. Along the way, we’ll see streets and neighborhoods that we've long taken for granted as the natural platform for our activities — yet they'll look as different (and yet, uncannily, strangely familiar) as the landscapes of our dreams.

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