Thursday, February 16, 2006

Berkeley Freaks

If y'all didn't know, y'all better know. Berkeley is host to all types of freaks, eccentrics, lunatics, shapeshifters, and assclowns. Between 1600h and 1700h Pacific Time today, I had ridiculous encounters with 3 characters of the sort that are unique to this crosssection of Cali life. For lack of government names, I will label these three Agatha, Mr. Fab, and Fascista.

The twenty-five minute session with freakshow Agatha began when I approached her table on Telegraph, which is the main commerical artery south of the Berkeley campus. She vends a number of knitted goods, including hats and dolls. The first outrageous claim mentioned by Agatha was that she is in the Guiness Book of World Records for her number of hat creations, which was a dubious assertion. Though rather portly and unhealthy in appearance, she claims to have been a martial arts champion and one-time runway model. Her ashy arms and messy dreds reveal that she has been subsiding in squalor for quite a while, pushing her cart of knitted goods, books, language-learning tapes, and political propaganda from East Oakland to Berkeley daily, since she claims that the "Black Negro" busdrivers refuse to pick her up anymore. One of the most persistent aspects of her undeniable psychosis is a profound racial consciousness that results in a horrible sense of self-loathing. Claiming to prefer the company of cowboys, rednecks, cops, and militiamen, Agatha professes a lot of hatred for those of her self-identified "darkie" skin tone.

Here's an example of one of her monologues, uttered as she manically paces back and forth in front of her table, helmet perched on her dreds and Israeli flag curiously draped over her shoulders: "I used to be a gdamn student here, I'm almost a genius I would say. Shit, I studied language and culture, and I have almost 400 languages. I've lived in 5 countries and married almost as many men. Berkeley is a fake liberal town, and those black Negroes robbed me over New Year's but thankfully two Asian guys ran after them to get my goods back. Oh, I like Asian guys. Had an Asian husband once, have a Finnish husband now. But, Finnish is one of the only languages that's been hard for me to master. I have 400 languages. Here, look at this writing in Macedonian, Hebrew, and Russian. I got Bulgarian, Arab, Persian, Chinese music, but these black girls always come by saying 'Why you gotta be frontin' with that whitey music.' They don't even understand that black music is not the only music. I love Johnny Cash, do you know Johnny Cash? You aren't some Arab or white liberal are you? I hope you're not one of those types with tight jeans and cellphone walking around dating Asian girls but don't even know she happens to be Korean and not Chinese. Yea, these people didn't mess with me when I had my tall Finnish husband here, but I know if I had a darkie husband here, then they would all give me shit. The cops are always messing with me, they don't even know that I lived at Bob Marley's house for 6 months and that I am marketable. You know about marketing? The reason why I'm marketable is that I could go down to Southern California..."

So she never hesitated to read off everyone else's ethnicities. The Tibetans across the street who were oppressed by the Chinese, the white t-shirt guys who didn't get messed with by the cops because they had the right skin tone. This woman was racially obsessed to the extreme, bipolar, and at least moderately schizophrenic. Agatha insisted many times that she was borderline genius, had lived in 5 countries, and hated governments. She was a quintessential Berkeley freak, but she really lamented the liberal elite, so maybe she didn't fit into the local mold so well.

The next character I came across at a sneaker boutique down the block called So Fresh Kicks that vends high end footwear to fashion-conscious NorCal ballers. Mr. Fab is a rising Oaktown rap-star, with five-figure gold fronts and ultra color-syncronized hat-t-shirt-jeans-sneaks combo. Not only was he pulling out several different wads of Benjamins from his Evisu pockets, but his 5'5" sidekick with a 4X long black tee was consulting him about what color laces he would need to appear in Houston in order to sync up with the Astros colors. Damn I love sneaks, but some of these dudes are buying up really played out styles that makes your eyes sore just gazing at them.

The next freak I met I will call Fascista, for she harangued me for stepping 6 inches off the curb and into the street while the crosswalk light was still red. Our dialogue occurred as follows:
"You know what you're doing is illegal, right?" she said.
I responded, "Oh, yea, I'm from back east, so we cross the street when we feel like it."
Then she screamed ,"Did your dad teach you that? I bet he doesn't cross the street when it's red. Your generation is the most uncivilized yet."
"Well, actually, my dad happens to cross wherever and whenever, but there's nothing criminal about that on the East Coast," I replied.
She contemptuously responded, "And, murder of a pedestrian is illegal."

So apparently, she had some kind of a guily conscience about - maybe hitting someone who had been crossing the street? These Californians can be very strict in their application of anti-libertarian government regulation. It's a very highly regulated state of things around here.

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