Quirky Berkeley went through some changes in 2018, adding several dimensions to the old school practice of observing and presenting quirky stuff in front yards, lawns, and porches visible from the street.
To be sure, there were examples of old school posts, including a quirky potpourri at 2819 Prince Street, a plaster palace that is rich in quirk and veiled in quintessentially Berkeley history, Theresa Lipton’s small world of dinosaurs and Mardi Gras beads on Ada, 1624 Virginia with bright colors and quirk, a collection of body parts and mannequins, a fairy garden at 1426 Parker, and the dinosaurs of Berkeley.
My favorite of the old school posts?
Claire Ittner is a graduate student at Cal and was writing a paper on yard art in Berkeley, same DNA as Quirky Berkeley. She contacted me.Claire introduced me to Margaretta Lovell. I learned many things from her and she told me about her neighbors Debra Pughe and Jon Winet. Debra’s world of fairies is spectacular and wins Old School Post First Prize 2018.
A Quirky Berkeley first – black and white photos – featured our dark satanic mills was popular. Late in the year I reprised with a second black and white essay, this one about our laundromats.
I kept a practice started in 2017 and wrote about several businesses.
They included Berkeley Typewriter on University and Christa Rybczynski and Lawrence Grown’s Metro Lighting onSan Pablo.
Best of the businesses – no contest.
Sam’s 58 Club was an honest-to-goodness, old-time blue-collar bar with a loyal, even devoted clientele. Steve Pedone, son of Sam Pedone as in Sam’s 58 Club, opened up the history of the long-closed bar for Quirky Berkeley, leading to not just one but two posts.
Quirky Berkeley continued with what has generally come to be known as “Quirky Home and Garden,” with five posts:
Painted Ladies 1
Painted Ladies 2
I published posts on several quirky artists. My two favorites were:
Susan Brooks with her Objects of Mirth and Desire.
And Mark Bulwinkle’s big new work, “Bulwinkle Dreams Oakland,” John Hamilton, a Bulwinkle collector, commissioned the work for installation in the Dufwin building in downtown Oakland. Bulwinkle does not disappoint. He is the gold standard of what I am talking about.
The most significant tilt in Quirky Berkeley in 2018 was a tendency to research and write about Berkeley modern history.
The least conventional look at our history came in a post about a bulletin board.
This is a bulletin board that seemingly hadn’t been touched for a Long Time. Flyers spanned from the early 1980s until the mid 1990s. Thousands of rusty staples secured hundreds of old flyers to the board. They were meticulously removed. The cultural life of Berkeley of the 1980s and 1990s was revealed, one tattered flyer after/below another.
My one attempt at straight-up history was to present a summary of 1968‘s events as seen in the Berkeley Barb. It was a busy year and it was a popular post. It follows an article I wrote about Berkeley in 1967 in 2017.
I published two posts that present advertisements for counterculture stores. The first was general.
The second focused on 1966, the year that the tidal wave of Big Changes swept over Berkeley.
I published biographical posts about four giants of Countercultural/Radical Berkeley.
Frank Badacke joined SLATE when he arrived at Cal in 1961. He picketed President Kennedy over the US Cuba policy. He missed the Free Speech Movement but was here for formation of the Vietnam Day Committee. He was a leader of Stop the Draft Week and for his efforts was indicted as one of the Oakland Seven. He was in the core group of founders of People’s Park. There wasn’t much in Berkeley in the 1960s that he wasn’t part of.
Barbara Garson was a leader of the Free Speech Movement and then got famous with her satirical play MacBird. We lost her to Seattle and then New York, but for a few important years we had her and she made us better.
Michael Delacour has been the human face of People’s Park since April 1969. He was one of several who conceived of it and built it, he fought the University and Governor Reagan to save it, he has nurtured it, he believes in it. He personifies the values and vision of Berkeley of a certain time.
I wrote three posts about Wavy Gravy, our clown, our muse, our inspiration since 1975. The first covered his road to Berkeley, the second his time in Berkeley, and the third some of the stuff with which he surrounds himself in the Hog Farm house on Berryman.
From the third post comes one of my favorite photos of the Quirky Berkeley year.
It is Wavy’s work room / prayer room with its puja table. A puja is a prayer ritual from the Hindu faith tradition of devotional worship to one or more deities. The puja table may be used for sacred text, icons, incense, or in the case of Wavy Gravy, all that plus stuff.
We lost two superstars of Quirky Berkeley in 2018.
Julia Vinograd was our poet, our voice, our bubble lady, our defender of those without power, the marginalized, outcast, outlaws, down and out, down-trodden of Berkeley. When she died in early December, her soul floated gently up and away, glistening and reflecting light, in search of and giving peace.
On a trip to Eureka a few years ago we visited Laurel Skye and her daughter Marley Goldman in a fantastical, mosaic-themed house in Arcata. Laurel died in July, 2018. She was a flame that burned blue hot her whole life – check out her obituary and my field trip post on her. When she died her spirit, like the spirit of Robinson Jeffers’ hurt hawk, soared: the fierce rush: the night-herons by the flooded river cried fear at its rising.
That last block has flipped all the way – another year and I plan/hope another year of Quirky Berkeley posts.
I show this Best-Of to my friend for his review.
He clutched his heart at the end. “You said nothing – nada – zilch – about my trip to East LA and Delano. How. Is. That. Possible?”
Well, yes, I guess he has a point. I had not published my article about his trip to the place where he used to go. I will right that wrong right NOW.
That wrong righted with Quirky Berkeley Post #593 – I asks for his take on the Best of 2018.
Thank you for including me in this list. I’m honored. It was wonderful to meet you and be written about with such a quirky take. Your article on my work, is the gift that keeps on giving. Thank you for everything. Happy new year. SusanBrooks
I love your Posts, Tom. Only rarely do you miss the target. Wonderful! M
Please don’t ever quit. You are my muse for all things I cherish about my beautiful home town. Happy New Year