Ode to Berkeley

Ode To Berkeley Poems

I grew up in Berkeley, California in the 60s and 70s.  Here are my Ode to Berkeley poems.  Someday soon I want to return to live in my spiritual homeland.

Berkeley Enough?

Cosmos’s Family History

Index

Hark, I Hear the Spirits of Berkeley Calling Me Home. Berkeley
Short Version -40 Lines

Dreaming Of Returning To Berkeley  Sam Adams
Rambling Man, Where Do I Belong?
Rambling Man -Where Do I Belong? 2
Berkeley California
Growing Up In Berkeley
Berkeley In The 60s And 70s
Berkeley Time Travels
Berkeley Nonet
Berkeley Street Scene 2015
Berkeley Time Warp
Stockton Time Travel
Berkeley Street Scene 1974
The Cosmic Cat
Hiking The Hills of My Youth
Free-Roaming Berkeley as a Kid
674 Santa Rosa Avenue
DNA Does Not Lie, Or Does It?
My Mother’s History
What Am I DNA Fortune Cookies
Mary Geneva Aller -there’s Method in Her Madness, Eulogy Poem

Berkeley Beckoning Me

All I Learned About Life I Learned at Berkeley High School

Balanced In Berkeley

Berkeley 1955

Berkeley Roots Rock

Communist Cats from Berkeley

Thousand Oaks Berkeley California

Hark, I Hear the Spirits Of Berkeley Calling Me Home. Berkeley

free roaming berkeley
free roaming berkeley

Long Version

Hark,
I hear the spirits
Of Berkeley
Calling me home.

The more I roam in this world
The more I am drawn
Back to the land
From whence I came.

Berkeley, California
Is what it is
And sometimes
It is what it ain’t.

Berkely is a “how Berkeley, can you be vibe” town,
Home to CAL with 40,000 students who flood into the city nine months of the year, University professors, staff, and students,

Yet Berkeley is so much more the ultimate college town.

It is delicious food is everywhere around the corner sort of town, An artisanal craft beer, and spirits, coffee, herbal tea, Kombucha, and wine drinking city, where Coca-Cola is seldom served, gourmet ghetto, inventor of the new American cuisine revolution, home of Chez Panisse, the French Laundry, and so many other restaurants, a place where you can find every cuisine of the world at a most affordable price, a  town where there are more restaurants per capita than anywhere else, where if you wanted to eat dinner at a different restaurant every day it would take you years to do so, with new places opening and closing every day.

An anti-big box store vibe, yet with a lively small business sector, more restaurants and coffee shops per capita than almost anywhere else, lots of upscale groceries, used to have a large Co-op (my father was the President) and ethnic foods markets, organic food markets, Berkeley Bowl market, farmers markets, plus usual corporate chain food stores.

MOES book rules, where Howl was written, where the beatnik writers and culture types used to hang out, and their spiritual Descendents still do.

Philip K Dicks hometown, (Philip K dick dated my mom before she met my father, end personal disclosures)Thornton Wilder and so many other great writers back in the day and here and now, Jack Kerouac and Alan Ginsberg lived and loved there,

Craft beer paradise, the hometown of Peets coffee, still the best damn coffee even though they have gone corporate, the coffee revolution of the late 50s and 60’s started here in the Coffee mecca of the United States, where Café Med proudly proclaimed to one and all

‘We Don’t Serve Establishment Coffee,

They invented the American version of the Latte” It seems there are more coffee shops in Berkeley per capita than almost anywhere else in the country,

Berkeley is also the home of a vibrant tea, smoothie, artisanal spirits, craft beer, and wine culture with urban wineries and brewpubs everywhere.

A gluten-friendly city with the best GF pizza in the world the Berkeley Cheese collective, a foodies delight,

A diverse although less day by day as it now a very expensive city,

A very ethnic town, used to have the largest Finnish community in the U.S,, lots of Russians and Eastern Europeans back in the day,  a city with people, from all the known world, where 250 different languages are spoken at home, an African-American town, used to be a very black town, 40 percent back in the 70’s now perhaps twenty percent, a middle class suburb of Oakland back in the day, but with a black lower class, working class, who are still hanging on somehow, but still a lot of my African Americans brothers and sisters hanging on despite the high rents and housing costs, many property rich but cash poor, joined by so many African immigrants and Caribbean African immigrants as well, an Asian American city, home of a vibrant Chinese-American community, Korean-American, Hispanic City, Ohlone Tribal city, Native Americans from all different tribes still around city, Japanese-American, Indian-American city, an Iranian diaspora, and now Afghani diaspora as well, French people, European people, Jewish people, but no Jewish space lasers yet, Indian-American little Bombay community where you can get the latest Bollywood movies, food and Indian political gossip,

An artistic city, a creative city, Great art Museum at CAL, home of the Pacific Film Archives a real treasure for movie lovers, with more movie theaters per capita than anywhere else,

A book lovers city filled with great bookstores, the best public library in the country, and the University library system is among the best in the country as well.

Great one-of-kind bookstores, although sadly, Cody’s’ and Shakespeare’s books are long gone.

A great music city.
Great music at CAL
And in the city

Great acts always coming to town
Or the Bay Area

Live music is still alive at least it will be soon
As COVID dies down

Great music stores as well.
Great BHS music programs
Including the BHS Jazz band
Where many greats got their start‘

Rock n Roll fantasy world,
A Motown friendly city,
A funk lovers paradise
A Blues lover mecca
West Coast Rap town
Hip hop town
And there are even country fans

hometown to the Earthquake, Green Day, Jimi Hendrix’s last high school,  the Rubinoos, The Psychotic Pineapple, Smoke and Fog, Tower of Power “East Bay Grease sort of town,

New flash for TJ Dave – hey dude, I loved your song, you ain’t Berkeley enough” just want to say I represent that remark, but I rep Berkeley worldwide dude and I am still as Berkeley as I wanna be, anywhere in the world, dude, end news flash

Not to mention so many jazz players including Peter Applebaum, Jim Davidson,
Joshua Redman, and so many others.

A Berkeley High school rocks place, (personal disclosures  I was the BHS student body president in 1973-1974),

The home of the song, “Sitting by the dock of the bay,”

An anti-establishment sort of city, yet filled with students studying to be part of that despised establishment, all vowing to change the world but the world always changes them into yet more high-priced corporate drones.

With zany wacked out politics, a city at times lost in 1969, or lost in the future,  A city where being called a “conservative “ is considered a vile insult,

A very progressive city, probably the most progressive city in the country, which in my  opinion is a good thing, not something to be ashamed of,

A PC is a cool city that invented PC before it became a curse word of sorts, a city where there are real live Marxists, communists, and socialists but no one takes them seriously, and there are a few proto-fascist political science professors as well,

The spiritual home of the beatniks, the hippies, the yippies, and sadly the weathermen

The city that gave us “the Symbionese Liberation Army,” kidnapper of Patty Hearst,
(Personal disclosure: the SLA briefly terrorized the Bay Area, and my family during the 70s calling my father “a fascist insect that preys on the life of the people, his offense = demanding that students and staff at the Peralta college be required to wear ID’s to combat a rise in violent crime on the campuses, my father not having a sense of humor did not like my joke when one morning I said,

“Good morning fascist Insect how are you today?”  My mother loved it and said

“Yeah, he is a fascist insect but he is our fascist insect,” and laughed. My father merely glared at the two of us.  End Personal disclosure)

A Political city up the Yazoo town, a one-party town but with two rival political factions, republicans and there are some of them in town, feel like they are an endangered species,  (another personal disclosure, my Dad was Curtis Cosmos Aller, the President of the Berkeley Co-op from 1968 to 1985 when he died, the President of the Peralta Board of Colleges, who ran for Congress in 1974 in the democratic primary against the legendary Ron Dellums, end personal disclosure) very few Q nuts but I am sure there are some, just as there are no doubt people who believe in the lizard shapeshifter conspiracy,

(Personal note: I am a human being but once I took an online quiz to determine whether I could be part alien and the quiz said I was an alien, go figure)

A very anti-Q town, pro-science, rational type of town, filled with humanists and secular humanists types,

A hate bigotry town. Where Ann Coulter and her fellow right-wing followers are not welcome, A town that proudly voted against Trump – 90 percent in 2016 and 2020) proud center of the “resistance” home of Antifa, BLM rules, the birthplace of the black panthers who met at the first African American high school history class in the US in the early 60s, at BHS of course, and home of the Gray Panthers,

a city whose representative is in Congress. Representative Barbara Lee, was the only representative to vote against the Iraq war in 2003, noting that Iraq had nothing to do with 9-11, to the rest of the country she was a dangerous left-wing radical, to the Bay Area, and me, a real American Patriotic hero.

A very marijuana-friendly city where the joke has always been pulling out a joint and its cool, pull out a cigarette and  everyone wants to send you to jail, smoking cigarettes being so uncool nowadays,

At times, a very joyful city but not enough joy due to the political disputes and anger as people in Berkeley are very into political discussions and are news junkies,

A very frank town where everyone has an opinion and is not afraid to speak up,
Bike-friendly, an environmentally friendly city, recycling mecca, renewable energy, friendly, where the university engineers are working to solve the world’s energy problems and coming up with solutions to the climate change crisis, solar panels everywhere, transit-friendly, zip car-friendly, uber/lift friendly, BART friendly, walkable sort of town.

At times hot city, living with the constant fear of the mega drought,  fires and the big one, atmospheric  rivers, polar vortexes, and other global warming phenomena as climate change becomes nightmarishly real,

but most days the same, foggy cool mornings, nice, pleasant in the 70s afternoons, then more fog dipping into high 40s by midnight, used to be no rain between April and October just the cool morning fog, but nowadays with climate change, we get rain even in the summer, and they joke there are two seasons now in California the rainy season October to March and fire season April to October, all due to the non-existent climate change hoax,

To the rest of the world, a very “Berserkly place”

A Buddhist friendly city, including a Buddhist Zen Center, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean Buddhist temples and a Buddhist Seminary, A Tai-Chi mecca, Yoga centric, very Zen attitude sort of town,

A liberal Christianity city where fundamentalists are not welcomed, where atheists, free thinkers, liberal Muslim, liberal Hindus, new-age types, and Wiccans are welcomed, home of several liberal Christian seminaries, a Buddhist seminary, and now a Muslim seminary all located on Seminary Hill)

A city where making fun of the street preachers is a fun game for the militant atheists of the city (personal disclosures that were me back in the day, I loved to heckle Holly Hubert joined at times by my old friend Julia Vino graduate, the bubble lady who used to blow bubbles at Holly Herbert as he ranted about how we would all go to hell for our heathen ways, Holly Hubert is long gone by now as that was almost 45 years ago)

A crazy city. A cool city, at times a cold city,

Filled with the scent of good craziness, and sometimes very bad craziness as sometimes on a bad night things can go bad if you are in the wrong place, at the wrong time, with the wrong people, or are the victim of a drug deal gone bad when the guns come out to play to settle disputes, or knives are drawn and people get very crazy or are just unlucky to be caught up in the crossfire, or on a bad trip on bad drugs, just too many damn drugs and too many people whose minds were fried by the same damn drugs, in short Berkeley does have a dark side to it,

A city of big dreamers, a fast-paced city,

But for the most part, it is a friendly town, but not too friendly, A freaky place filled with freakeries, A funky vibe, a funny town all around,

And you can have fun there as well as get lucky and meet the woman or man of your dreams, as there are lots of young single men and women looking for Mr. Good or Ms. Good as the case may be,

An Oakland A, and SF giants town, forty-niners (although some hate them for moving to San Jose, the Northern California clone of LA. And Golden States warriors but everyone now hate the Las Vegas Raiders, as much every person born in Berkeley must hate LA, sort of the part of Berkeley and the Northern Californian DNA to be hating on LA, the LA Dodgers, and now the Las Vegas Raiders.,

A live and let live z tude, A loony tunes place, A happy go lucky sort of vibe city,

“Hella Berkeley “city, A historical city, A Hippie town back in the day, A hip hop center, A hip city where everyone knows what hip is but can say what it is, what is hip, yal?  Do you know? Hipness, like Berkeley, is what is it is and sometimes is what is not,

Too many homeless people living on the streets of the city, panhandling, and becoming a nuisance, getting into everyone’s face, destroying everyone’s mellow, lonely at times city where many people have thousands of virtual friends but few real friends

Very LGBTQ friendly, a feminist city, a very pro-choice town,

An only in Berkeley kind of vibe,

A city where people still read a lot, where newspapers have not died but are mostly read online,

Home of a rich alternative press history, although sadly most have gone by the wayside, I remember the Berkeley Barb, the Berkeley Gazette, the SF Chronicle, the Bay Guardian, the East Bay Express, the Berkeley Voice, the great underground comics like Fritz the Cat,  reading online Berkeley news outlets just not the same thing at all.  And BHS used to have a daily newspaper, now a weekly paper although the CAL daily is still daily mostly read online.

A very sad town, a special city, A city that would welcome space aliens who might already be there, and OMG place,

A rainy blues sort of day place.,

Robots are the cool city where new robots are being developed every day, a city where people are building the singularity not fearing it,

A mask up follows the science town badly hit by the COVID pandemic, particularly the small business who took in on the chin,

The birth of Nanowrimo, the November write a novel in a month contest, (personal disclosure -I completed three of these)

A poet friendly place where people get poetry,

Rents are insane, housing prices too, the only people who can afford to buy are people with boatloads of money, and somehow there are lots of those types hanging out, and lots of people who don’t have money who somehow manage to get by, who can afford to live here? It takes serious piles of moolah, big piles of money, lots of cash, dollars up the yazoo, trust baby parents, or selling your soul to a start-up from hell, to be able to pay the rent or lots of roommates, yet people still flock to the city, how they can afford it is still a mystery to me.

A stand-up guy sort city,

Student-friendly, kind of a suburb of Oakland and SF, yet doing its own very Berkeley thing,

Home of great city parks,

San Pablo Park (home
Of the annual BHS alumnus picnic)
Indian Rock Peoples Park
Inspiration point,
Ho Chi Min Park in the 70s
The Rose Garden
Strawberry canyon,
Tilden Park,
Wildcat canyon

Part of the Bay Area Ridge Trails and Bay Area Bay trails which are almost complete, doing a thru-hike of both, the Appalachian, the cross-continental, and the PC trails are among my bucket list dreams,

Too cool for school,

Sometimes a traffic hell place, BART trains too crowded, pickpockets and other unsavory criminal types hanging out by the BART train stations, along with high school students, the druggies,

A “west Coast Rap kingdom,  wine drinkers paradise, the former home of the weathermen and other leftist domestic terrorists) a wonderful world for the young at heart, a very unique city, a pro-vac place, vibrant, vegetarian and vegan friendly, yet still offering enough meat options for the carnivores, and still the ultimate university town but as you can see by now, so much more than that,

a yoga is God kind of town where yoga is mandatory, Yuppie place, a zany city, a zestful town, and lately a zoom work by home town, Berkeley is all of that and so more in short. Berkely is an of kind sort of place, unique in all the universe and it is my homeland,

But still, I am drawn
And want to return
Before my time is done,
As it remains
My spiritual homeland.

Hark, I Hear The Spirits Of Berkeley Calling Me Home – Short Version

 

Hark,
I hear the spirits
Of Berkeley
Calling me home.
The more I roam in this world

 

The more I am drawn
Back to the land
From whence I came.

Berkeley, California
Is what it is
And sometimes
It is what it ain’t.

Berkely is a “how Berkeley, can you be vibe” town, an African diaspora, an Asian American city, an anti-big box store vibe, an artistic city, A Berkeley High school rocks place, the Berkeley hills, the birth of the black panthers, the spiritual home of the beatniks, bike-friendly, The Berkeley Rep rules, To the rest of the world, a very “Berserkly place” a Buddhist friendly city, filled with deep, dark memories, a vibrant Chinese-American city, creative city, Home to CAL with 40,000 students who flood into the city nine months of the year, Coffee is God Mecca, craft beer paradise, a crazy city. A cool city, a cutting edge technology, delicious food is everywhere around the corner sort of town, a diverse although less day by day as it now a very expensive city,

A very unique city, a pro-vac place, vibrant, vegetarian and vegan friendly, yet still offering enough meat options for the carnivores, University professors, staff and students, city employees alike and still the ultimate university town but as you can see by now, so much more than that, yoga is God kind of town where yoga is mandatory, Yuppie place, a zany city, a zestful town, and lately a zoom work by home town, Berkeley is all of that and so more in short. Berkely is an of kind sort of place, unique in all the universe and it is my homeland,

But still, I am drawn
And want to return
Before my time is done,

As it remains
My spiritual homeland.

Dreaming of Returning to Berkeley 

free roaming berkeley
free roaming berkeley

 

 

 

 

 

Sam Adams
A child of the 70s Bay Area,
Having lived all over the world,
Visited all 50 states
And 60 countries.

But in his heart
He knew
That soon.
It would be time
To return
To his spiritual homeland.

Berkeley, California,
The center of his universe,

He heard the spirits
Of Berkeley calling him home.
Like a salmon returning
To his home waters
Before dying.

Berkeley Beckoning Me

 

The Richmond – San Rafael Bridge and industrial port of Richmond taken from Tilden Park’s Vollmer Peak.

 

 

 

 


I grew up
In Berkeley, California
In the early 70s
A wild and crazy time.

 

 

Berkeley shaped my soul
And my heart will always
Long for my homeland.

Berkeley was always
A wild and zany place
Filled with original characters
Drawn to the city by the bay.

The hills overlooking the city
The campus filled with students
The downtown shopping area
The suburban housing.

The street people
The vendors on Telegraph
The smell of marijuana
Hanging in the air
Long before it was legal.

In some ways
Berkeley seems stuck
In a time warp.

A certain corner
Seems to be forever
Stuck in 1969.

The city has changed
Over the years
Like most places
It has become harder
And harder for the working class
To afford to live there.

The yuppies took over
Decades ago
But despite that the city
Continues to be home
To a diverse population.

Little India emerged
Along with Berkeley’s Chinatown
The old black neighborhoods
Still manages to somehow
Thrive amid the gentrification.

And so as my life winds down
My thoughts keep returning
To my ancestral home
The homeland
Where I wish to die.

Rambling Man, Where Do I Belong?

 

Where is my home? Where do I belong?
I don’t know, always moving on to another place
Moved every other year it seems the last 45 years
Traveled to 50 states, 55 countries, drove across the U.S. eight times
Lived in Berkeley, Yakima, Stockton, Seattle, Alexandria, DC, Oregon, Korea, Thailand, India,
The Eastern Caribbean, and Spain
Where do I belong?  Where is my home?
Neither here nor there, nowhere and everywhere
And so is that my rambling man’s fate
Never to belong anywhere at all

Rambling Man -Where Do I Belong?

I have been a rambling man
All my adult life
Grew up in Berkeley, California
Went to College in Hayward and Oberlin

During my lost year
Lost in a fog of booze and pot
Then I came back to reality
And went to college
In Stockton, California

The Central Valley
Ohio transplanted to California
Then after four years in Stockton
With extended weekends
And breaks in Berkeley

I became an expatriate wanderer
Peace Corps worker in Korea
Then taught ESL in Korea
For four years

Occasionally returning to my home
But always wanting to be elsewhere
Then back to Korea

And then Seattle for four years
Driving back and forth to the bay area
Stopping off in Southern Oregon

Eventually bought a house and duplex
In Southern Oregon
Vaguely thinking we would retire there

Some day when my rambling ways were over
Then back to Korea for three more years
Then I joined the Foreign Service
And my wife the military

And I wandered the world again
Always somewhere
Always dreaming of my next somewhere
Never there

As I was a permanent ex-pat
And a diplomat to boot
Never a local
But never really felt I belong there
Or in America

That was becoming more and more
A foreign land
The longer I stayed away

I stayed on in DC for almost ten years
Off and on
But never really
felt that I belong there

I was too West Coast in my heart
And DC seemed to be
Just a place to stay
In between travels

Stayed in Thailand
Then later India
And Eastern Caribbean
And later Spain

Traveled to 55 countries
Lived in ten

And now I am retired
Still torn between
Living the ex-pat life
In Seoul, Korea

And returning to the West Coast
And occasionally back to DC
and Florida as well
And I wonder

Where do I belong
Where do I belong

Other than wherever
My wife and I end up
Neither here nor there
Halfway there
a life in between

And so is that my fate
Never to belong
Never to have roots in the ground

Always wanting to be somewhere else
Always a stranger in my native land
And a stranger in my other home
Across the sea

There is no answer to these questions
As the rambling urge comes again
And I prepare to move yet again

Hoping someday I will be
Somewhere where I can stop
These rambling blues
And be there

ending my life
in between

Berkeley California

Growing up in the ’60s
In Berkeley
almost 50 years ago

I think back
At those turbulent times
Those crazy wonderful times

Berkeley is a wonderful place
In many ways
Stuck forever in 1967
A true-time travel experience

Every time I go back
And relive the memories
Of the ’60s

The 60’s never died
They continue
In college towns
Across the world

And Berkeley
Remains the mecca
Of the counter
cultural revolution

Many things have changed
But the organic food revolution
Became mainstream

Marijuana spread out
The sexual revolution
Became mainstream

So much of the world
Is but a reflection
Of the revolution of the ’60s

And the conservative
counter-revolution
That we are still fighting

So, I salute
My homeland
The center of my universe

Growing up in Berkeley

I grew up in Berkeley, California
A child during the 60s and 70s
Graduated high school in 1974,

Crazy times

Berkeley was a crazy
city back then
Still is to some extent

But then it was
the craziest place
In the whole U.S.

And it made an impact
I will always be a Berkeley child
Always have that Berkeley feel
In my soul.

No matter where I travel
I remain at the heart
A child of Berkeley

Berkeley Time Travels

 

I grew up in Berkeley, California
In the turbulent fabled late ’60s
And in Berkeley in those days
Time seems to standstill

On the corner of Dwight and Telegraph
Across from People’s park
It seems to be always May 1969

With the man
Down the street
Oppressing the hippies
On the street

As they smoked their weed
Dodging the bored cops
Who looked the other way
If they did not partake

And then I went to college
In the valley
And as I drove into Stockton

I felt I was traveling again
In time
Back to the fabled ’50s

As Stockton was also
Stuck in a time warp of sorts

And as I left the Bay area
And traveled the world
I would come back
To that corner

And just be there
Stuck in May 1969
Marveling at the changes
That had and had not occurred

To the corner of the land
Forever stuck in time
And space

Growing Up in Berkeley with the Fascist Insect

SLA

My father was a local politician
In the SF Bay area
He was president of the Berkeley Co-Op
President of the Peralta Community Colleges
Because of my father’s position,
And political activities
He became known as a “conservative” in Berkeley,
And those were fighting words.
But I will always remember
The time he became known
Briefly as a “fascist insect.”

The Symbionese Liberation Army –( the SLA )-

The radical terrorist group had put out a manifesto –
A hit list of people they deemed “fascist insects”
And called upon the people
To rise and assassinate the “fascist insects.”

My father got
On the SLA hit list

For daring to impose a mandatory ID requirement
For all students and faculty
At the community colleges

To combat a crime problem
And for making the campuses
Closed to non-students and staff.

For that, he became a “fascist insect”
“Enemy of the people”
And must die according to the SLA.

The Berkeley police dispatched police officers
To guard us 24/7
Along with the other 100
Or so people on the hit list.

One day I woke up,
Got the paper,
Chatted with the police officer on duty,

As I did when I saw them,
Thanking him for protecting the family,
Went in and saluted my father, saying

“Good morning fascist insect.”
My father
Being of stern German Scandinavian stock glared at me
As he did not have a sense of humor.

My mother, being of Irish and Cherokee background
Had a great sense of humor.

She came out and laughed and said,
“You got that right, son.

Yeah, he is a fascist insect”
And saluted him and we made fun of him
Until he stormed out of the house.

Berkeley Street Scene 2015

Coming back to Berkeley
Every year since I left
Remains me how much it has changed
And how little it has changed

The essences of Berkeley
The reasons why I keep coming back
Remains the same

It is a zany, wild, and crazy city
Filled with energy, enthusiasm
And big ideas
The University remains

The center of the town
But Berkeley was always more

Than a college town
It was a black suburb of Oakland
and still is

It was an Asian American suburb of Oakland
And remains to this day
It was a welcoming place for gays and lesbians
And still is

And of course, it was a student hangout
For Cal students and students from all over
And still is

It was a regional hangout for high school kids
And still is

BHS rocks
And it was a commuter stop on the BART
For white-collar workers from the city
And still is

It was a working-class town
And some of that is still there
And a center for movies
And the arts
And the food mecca

For all the foodies in the Bay area
And boy is it still the mecca
For good food

One can get in Berkeley
Food from almost every ethnic group
In the world

If you can’t find it Berkeley
Either in the stores
Or the hundreds of ethnic joints

You won’t be able to find it
Anywhere else in the U.S.

Over the years I tried
My first Chinese
My first Cambodian
My first Cuban
My first French
My first Greek
My first German
my first Italian
my first Korean
my first Japanese
My first Indonesian
my first Mexican
My first Russian
my first Spanish
My first Vientamese
And my first New Californian cuisine
And my first Mc Donald’s
And Burger King

first gourmet burger
first BBQ
First sashimi
first sushi

great sandwiches
great salads
great pizzas
great pasta

great wine
greet craft beer
great artisan spirits
great marijuana as well.

And of course
Who can forget
Their first Peet’s coffee?

And who can forget
Tilden Park

Inspiration Point at sunrise
And Wildcat canyon?

One day while glazing at the sunset
Over the bay bridge
I declared that Berkeley
was the center
Of my universe

So, I end this love song
To Berkeley California
Truly the center
Of this man’s universe

2009 Berkeley Time Warp

Time travel is possible
I do it every year
When I return to Berkeley

And go to the corner of Dwight and Telegraph
Down the street from People’s Park
I enter a time wrap
And find me in 1967
It is always 1967
With the sweet smell of pot
In the air

And the merchants selling
Tie die tea shirts
And talking shit

And the students walking by
And the older generation
Walking by in nostalgic memories
Of when it was the 60’s
and everything seemed possible

We would change the world
And then Nixon came
And the world turned ugly fast
And furious

And we have been on a dark trip
Ever since those days
Especially during the Trumpian nightmare
We are just getting out of

But in Berkeley
At Dwight and Telegraph
the resistance to trumpism
continues growing stronger
The 60’s live on
Long live the 60’s

Stockton Time Travel

When I was going to college
in Stockton, California in the 70s
It seemed as if every time
I went to Stockton

I was going through
a time and space wormhole
And emerging on the other end
In an Ohio farm town circa 1959

Then returning to Berkeley
And arriving in the mid-’70s
Except for Telegraph Avenue
Which is always stuck in 1967.

The time travel wormhole collapsed
As Stockton over time
Became an outer suburb of Sacramento
And the greater Bay Area

But the valley remains
A different time and space
Then the Bay Area
And so, time travel is still

The way to go
When going to the valley
From Berkeley

Berkeley Street Scene 1974

Growing up in Berkeley
In the late ’60s
and early to mid-’70s
Was such a trip

Berkeley and the Bay Area
Were already becoming
Almost a separate country
From the rest of the United States
And Berkeley was already
Such a diverse place

My high school had over 4,000 students
From over 150 countries
And had openly gay students

And even transgender students
Decades before that became common
Elsewhere in the country

My best friends were Jewish, Irish, Black,
Half Black Half White,  Black and Asian

And I was the student body president
I belonged to no particular clique
Rather floated between different groups
And that is why perhaps I was a success
Berkeley taught me so much

And being there
Taught me so much
I lived through
such a turbulent time

The black panthers
The black revolution
The sexual revolution
The anti-war movement

We had tear gas days
And we used to hang out
On Telegraph watching the riots
Or watching the street preachers
On more peaceful days

And boy did we enjoy
Cheap eats

Oscar’s Burgers
Pizza
Chinese food
And hot dogs
TOP DOG rules

And sneaking over to CAL
To crash Fraternity parties
And get some free drinks

Life was interesting
In those days
And I will never
Forgot

The life lessons
I learned in the streets
Of Berkeley in the ’70s

674 Santa Rosa Avenue, Berkeley, California

674 santa rosa jpg
674 santa rosa jpg

My childhood home for almost 15 years
was 674 Santa Rosa Berkeley California
A five-bedroom adobe California home
on the side of a hill
at the bottom of the Berkeley hills

in the Thousand Oaks Neighborhood
You entered on the top floor
across the street,
you entered on the bottom floor

thus, it was in the Berkeley Hills
The house had a large deck
with a perfect view of the golden gate
We used to sit outside
watching the sunset as we ate dinner

My Mom and Dad
would have their first of
many nightly cocktails on the deck
Before retreating inside to continue
their nightly fights and arguments

I grew up downstairs
hearing their constant words
of hatred, dismay, and outrage
yet still with profound love
despite their differences

My parents were the
proverbial odd couple
Perhaps never
should have married

But despite the hate
there was still some love
that kept them together
throughout the years

We had a rec room
with a pool table
and I hung out there
with my friends

My mother tolerated my friends
most of the time she would
be somewhat sober

until after they left
And the madness came over her
as she drank her whisky and wine

The basement rooms
was added later
was my younger brother’s room
later was my room

Whenever I visited from college days
hiding out downstairs
avoiding my mad mother
My old room lay abandoned
filled with books

thousands of books
that I had read over the years
When she died
I should have taken all the books
with me back to DC

Instead, I took about
one hundred just
no space for the books
of my childhood memories

Thousand Oaks, Berkeley

thousand oaks berkeley california

indian rock park

I grew up in the Thousand Oaks neighborhood
of Berkeley, California
when they build the neighborhood
back in the twenties

the developers tried to save
as many of the old oak trees
as they could
building around the trees
rather than clear-cutting the lots
as so many developers
tended to do
so the neighborhood
had hundreds of old oak trees
including one in my front yard

and I often thought
how the neighborhood
was special

because of the old trees
that stood as witnesses
to the history of the town

and I wondered what they thought
what the trees knew
about the people
who lived among them

but the trees remained silent
whenever I asked them
about the history of the neighborhood
Not a tree thing to speak up

Balanced in Berkeley

“Gorgeous sunset from UC Berkeley!”

Born in Berkeley, California
a product of the wild ’70s
just a lost white brother
hanging about
downtown

brothers
can you hang about
listen to me lover
wildness left from the 60’ des
want to fly away from California

brothers
leave the 60’s
ride away my lover
can you dig that without a doubt
born in Berkeley, California.

1955 Berkeley

The day I was born
was the day that Rock N Roll
was born

on a Cincinnati Radio station
Roll Over Beethoven by Chuck Berry
was the first Rock song officially played
on the radio

coincidence, I think not
for I was born
rocking and a rolling
the day I burst out on the stage

yelling
whoa Jake
here I am!

In Oakland
I was the only white baby born
at the Kaiser hospital
near my father’s house

in the ghetto
in West Berkeley
where junior professors lived

escaped the draft
due to a typo on my birth certificate
born on the 30th at 4 am
the night nurse typed October 29

and that became my legal birthday
and of course
I celebrate both days
Why the hell not?

And Howl was written
in Berkeley
and performed in SF

many great writers
lived there

including the great Philip K Dick
who briefly dated my Mom
before she met my father

a few years later I attended
Thousand Oaks
a mostly white school

in a neighborhood
that was becoming
Berkeley’s China town

later went to King
which was 40 black
40 percent white
10 percent Asian
10 percent Hispanic

When I graduated from BHS
the percentages
had barely changed
still, the majority were the minority
and still is as far as I know

BHS school
1972 to 1974
we had tear gas days
when the students revolted
and were chased
down the street

we went to Cal
to watch the demonstrations
and cheer them on
we all hated the war

many of our older siblings
had gone and died
the black panther party
was founded at BHS

Jimi Hendrix’s last school
same with the CCR

Green Day
and so many other
great and not so great bands

and a famous porn star
an NBA player
and associated others

who can forget
Peets coffee
Jamba Juice
Cheese Collective
Oscars – now closed
Giant Burgers?
Bongo Burgers?
Top Dog

And the other quirky Berkeley establishment
Where establishment coffee was never served!

A few joined
the State Department
with me as well

I never went to CAL
My two brothers did
They had better grades than me
Better test scores too

As I traveled the world
These last decades
There is something
That I will always remember

You can take someone
Out of Berkeley
But you can’t take
Berkeley out of them

For you will always remain
Berkeley to the core
The best city
In the known universe

Long live Berkeley
The center of my universe
And the home of my heart
I know that someday
I will return

I am still Berkeley enough
Dude!

All that I know About Life I Learned at Berkeley High School

free roaming berkeley
free roaming berkeley

All that I know about life
and how to deal with people

I learned while attending BHS
in Berkeley, California
back in the distant ’70s

so many memories

so many different people
from all over the world
in what was the most

multicultural high school
in the country back then

4, 000 students
from everywhere in the world
yet we were all together
and learned to get along

I ran for student body president
and won the election
no one thought I would win

For I was a classic nerd
but somehow I won the election
and somehow managed
to keep our little student council
working together

amid terrible times
all around us
the ending of the Vietnam war
Watergate and other corruption news

the 1974 election
student activism
in the first high school
to offer African American studies

the class that had launched
the black panther party
Jimi Hendrix’s last high school

I took Latin one of the few public schools
that still offered Latin
and was on the debate team

but always taking a far right-wing theme
as complete mockery
decades before Stephen Colbert perfected it

yes everything I learned
in life
began at Berkeley High School

Berkeley Roots Rock

So many musicians
got their start
at my alma mater
Berkeley High School

just to name a few
Jimi Hendrix’s last high school
was Berkeley High

Green Day
Started there
as did the Rubinoos
Earthquake
Smoke and Fog

My friend Jim Davison
Played in the Jazz band

and who can forget
the immortal Creedence Clearwater Revival?
Though they went to El Cerrito High School

Berkeley High School
was and is such a special place
where dreams come to fruition
and life begins
for so many students

Free-Range Child in Berkeley

Back in the day
Before helicopter parents,
Children were all free-range kids
Going everywhere
The parents mostly okay
With that.

And so, I went
Everywhere on foot
Or bus
or BART

Walking to Solano Avenue
Drinking coffee
At Peets coffee
Eating Chinese food
In Berkeley’s China town
Walking downtown
Walking to CAL
Eating top dog
Experiencing the late 60’s
Transforming Telegraph
And walking in the woods
In Tilden Park
High up in the hills
Overlooking the bay area

Tilden Park

I have been hiking these woods
Since I was a child
Over 50 years ago
Inspiration point was my favorite
And the haunted forest
That crowns the hill
And where I went just before
Attending my mother’s funeral
It is a special place
Filled with memories
And great views
Of the ever-changing bay area

Tilden Park Haiku

tilden park
Tilden Regional Park is a regional park in the East Bay of California. It is between the Berkeley Hills and San Pablo Ridge.

Inspiration Point
High up in the Berkeley Hills
With a killer View

Hiking the Hills of My Youth 

I grew up in Berkeley, California in the ’60s.  Ever since I was a youngster I would wander the hills of Berkeley hiking for hours by myself and sometimes with my friends.  I explored every nook and cranny every corner of the hills and got to know nature in its infinite beauty.

Ever since those days, I have longed for the day that I could spend my days hiking and wandering the hills.  Now that I am retired and living in Korea I can go for a long walk in the hills every day I want.  It is different from the hills I grew up, no vistas of the bay and it is in Korea to boot but most days it is sufficient as I head out early afternoon and conquer four or five miles of hills just enjoying that fact that I can still move and am still very much alive at age 62.

I grew up hiking the hills of Berkeley, California
Grew up knowing every corner of the hills
And the infinite beauty of the Bay Area
And now I find myself in a strange land
With time on my hands

I wander the hills above the airport
In Incheon Korea
And wander about here and there
Just being grateful
That I am still alive
And kicking at age 62

What Am I DNA Fortune Cookies 

I just finished two rounds of DNA testing
The results were shocking and unreal
They revealed much of what I knew

And left gaping holes in my past life
The one thing that I know for sure
Is that I am 100 percent American
100 percent Californian
100 percent Berkeley

Yes I am Berkeley enough
The tests say that I am mostly Scandinavian
Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, Dutch, perhaps Finnish,
and perhaps Laplander
That I know is real

The tests also reveal that I have lots of Irish,
Scottish, and Welsh background – also true

The tests hint at Jewish ancestry also hinted in family lore
The surprises were that they missed most of my native ancestry
The lost tribe of the Cherokees
are lost to the DNA database as well

The test failed to recognize
my substantial German heritage
missing my German last name
The test also claimed
that I have Italian and Southeast European ancestors
the tests confirmed that I have Eastern European ancestry
And the tests claim that like most people with Eastern European roots
I am part Mongolian thanks to Genghis Khan and Attila the Hun
The real surprise though is the African American that popped up
That is also consistent with my mother’s tangled history
The lost tribe of the Cherokees ran away into the hills
And mixed in with Scott Irish mountain farmers
Other Indians, and runaway slaves

In the end, the DNA tests neither confirmed
Nor denied my family tangled history
Leaving many questions behind
Almost as enigmatic as a fortune cookie
Or an astrological prediction

My Mother’s History

 

published in Ceracus Review

One day many a year ago
My mother spoke to me
About her family’s tangled history
She spoke to me
Of lies, half-truths, and myths

Some of which may have been true
And throughout the evening
Her history came alive

She was born in the hills of North Little Rock
The 10th of 11 children
Of an ancient dying race

The Cherokees who had run away
The lost tribe of the Cherokees
Homeless since the trail of tears

Refusniks
Refugees who fled in the hills
Rather than join the rest
In the promised land
Of Oklahoma

Her people disappeared
From history’s eyes
They did not exist
I did not exist

My history was over
As was hers
And so I learned at last
The painful truth

That due to the crimes of politicians
So long ago
My mother’s people
Lost their land, their culture, and their hope
And became downtrodden forgotten people

Hillbillies they were called
Living in the hills and mountain dales
Clinging to the dim fading memories
Of their once glorious past
As proud Cherokees

Now no one knew their name
The old ways were forgotten
And the new world never forgave them
And they never forgave the new world

As they lived on
In the margins of society
Forgotten people
And I vowed that as long as I lived

Their history would not die
As I knew the truth

And I would become a proud
Cherokee
And make my mother proud of me
And my accomplishments

And so when I am down and out
I recall her stories and her warnings
And realize it is up to me
To live my life
To let the Cherokee in me
Live his life

And in so doing
My mother’s history does not die
It lives on in me
Until the day I die

Long live the Cherokee nation
Long live my mother

The Wit and Wisdom of Mary Geneva Aldridge Aller -“There’s Method in Her Madness” Dedicated to My Mother Who Passed on July 31, 2005. Published in Contra Costa Times August 2005

Mary Geneva Aller
We are here today
To celebrate the life
Of Mary Geneva Aldridge Wilson Aller,
My mother.

As we are gathered together

to mark her passing
On to another, better world,
I thought we should reflect
On her life and its meaning.

Therefore, I have a message
That I hope we all leave here today.
I call this speech,
‘the wit and wisdom

of Mary Geneva Aldridge Wilson aller,

” there’s a method in her madness.”
Which was one of her favorite Shakespeare quotes.

I hope we will see the wisdom
That my mother tried so hard to impart
And what I hope
I have learned
from 52 years of watching
The life of my mother.

What have I have learned?
From Mary’s life
And her death
And what we can all learn
From her 85 years of experience
In this mad crazy corner
Of the world, she loved so dearly.

She was a true Berkeley original,
and it is only fitting
That we bury her
Here are a few blocks
From where she spent
Much of her life.

What can we learn?
From Mary’s life in this world?
Her favorite song from a musical was

“stop the world.
I want to get off.”

And today she gets her final wish
As she leaves this world
And moves on to another world.

My mother grew up
In Arkansas
In what could best be described
As hill country folk.

She was the 8th child of 10 children
Born on a family farm in the 1920s
High up in the Ozark mountains
North of Little Rock, Arkansas.

She graduated from high school
And lit out for the west coast
just as millions of people
Fled the dust bowl of the late ’30s and ’40s.

She arrived in the SF area
And settled in Berkeley.
She hated being considered an Oakie
and lost her accent
she cultivated an accent
She learned from
The classical radio deejays.

She then became involved
In labor and democratic politics.
She became a telephone operator union president,

Later was a real estate salesperson,
And became involved with the save the bay movement
And the league of women’s voters.

During the 60’s she accompanied
My father to Washington DC
When he was undersecretary of labor.

She could not wait to get back
To her beloved Berkeley
Because she felt at home
In the zany openness of the bay area

She once said

“every ten years the world flips
And all the nuts roll downhill
To California
That is how she got there
Part of the planetary nut reconfiguration program
A little known federal ABC agency “

She hated DC
As it reminded her why
She left the south so many years before.

In later years she helped my father
In his many political campaigns
And was his business manager for almost 10 years
when he ran an economic consulting business.

When she retired,
She kept her love of reading
Until just a few short years ago
When she finally
Was no longer able to read.

That for me was one
Of the saddest parts of her final years
As she loved to read.

What we all learned from Mary
– Mary’s wisdom can be broken
Down into four areas:

Question authority,
Think for ourselves
read everything there is,
And always do the right thing.

She always told us that we should question authority
and that we should never trust experts.
She said often what is an expert?
Just a guy with a PH. D
And we all know what means –
Piled high and deep.

And she laughed
As she was married to PH. D
And hated campus politics.

She hated with disdain
Almost all politicians
Except for Truman and Kennedy
And she had her own Truman story
She thought they were all crooks and liars,
Especially the southern-bred types.

She believed though in equal opportunity
And hated republicans as much as democrats.
No one ever measured
Up to her high standards
Of ethical behavior.

She often told us to do
The right thing.
But she refused to tell us
what would be
As we had to figure
That out on our own.

My final thoughts
Are on reading the lifelong
Love of books

That she gave me and my siblings.
She read an average of three to five books
Per week every week of her life.

We were always trading books
Stocking up books on our visits
To the family library
As I thought of it.

I have taken a part in the library
With me and will treasure all the books
That she shared with me and my siblings.

She always had an opinion
About everything.

One of her and my favorite books
Was the world according to Garp
And there was a “world according to Mary”

Where what you saw was what you got
And if you did not like her opinion,
then you had best get out of the way

Because Mary,
Was afraid of no one
And always stood her ground no matter what.
With Mary “what you saw was what you got.”

But I am happy that she
Let me in the “world according to Mary”

And I have lots of stories
from her life that would make great fiction,
For, in Mary’s improbable life,
Life was truly stranger than fiction.

Because my mother grew up in a Christian family,
It would be appropriate to read a bible quote.
My mother was raised as a Baptist

Although she left the church
After asking the minister,
“if god created the world,
Who created God?”

Here is one of her favorite bible quotes

Ecclesiastes 12 (King James version)
Ecclesiastes 12
1remember now thy creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them.
2while the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain:
3in the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out of the windows be darkened,
4and the doors shall be shut in the streets when the sound of the grinding is low, and he shall rise at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of music shall be brought low.
5also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goth to his long home and the mourners go about the streets:
7then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto a God who gave it.
8vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all is vanity.
9and moreover, because the preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yea, he gave good heed, and sought out, and set in order many proverbs.
10the preacher sought to find out acceptable words: and that which was written was upright, even words of truth.
11the words of the wise are as gods, and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies, which are given from one shepherd.
12and further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.
13let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: fear God and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.
14for God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.

Her minister friend said the short version is
” life is good.
Then we die
And it gets even better.”

When Mary was a telephone union president,
word came down
that she was invited
to meet Harry Truman.

She replied
I don’t want to meet
Harry unless he wants to meet me.

Hearing that quip,
Harry was amused
And sent his advance team to talk
Some sense into that feisty fiery woman

Out in SF
that Mary Aller.

Two government types,
dressed as I do,
showed up

Asked her if she was a communist
She responded
Boy, are you stupid?
If I were a communist, would I tell you?
I don’t think so.
Where do they get people?
Like you anyway?

The SF chronicle captured the moment
With a huge headline,
“Harry meets Mary.”

This sums up my mother’s fearless feisty
Stubborn personality and yes,
Truman was one of the few politicians
That got the Mary aller seal of approval

Now my final Mary story
Sums up her life for me.
In 1974 I was in this play,

the madwomen of the chalet
Where I played the waiter
Whose line was
“she’s not mad.
She’s the madwomen of Chaillot.”

But Mary was in the audience
And I lost my character
for a moment and said,
“she not’s mad,

She’s the madwoman of Berkeley, oops I meant Chaillot.”
Brought down the house.
I went home thinking I had done it,
insulted my mom in front of the whole school.

She laughed
And said that was okay

as she liked the phase.
I said
“well, Mary,
You are my madwoman of Berkeley
And I’ll have it no other way.
She laughed
And that was the end of it,
until now.

When I say,

“Mary, you were one of the most original people
Whoever lived,
And I treasure the fact
that I was your son.

You were at times
Very difficult to deal
With but in the end,

Your good karma
Will outlive you
As you always did the right thing,

and for that
And all the other words
Of wisdom, I learned over the years,

I salute you,
Our beloved madwomen of Berkeley.

The Cosmic Cat from Berkeley

I next encountered the divine
Many years later in Berkeley, California
I had gone home to be with my Mother.

While taking leave from my job
In the Foreign Service,

I had two weeks there by myself
My wife came later
Near the end of the trip.

Every morning I woke up
Had coffee
Did yoga
Spoke to my mother
Who was sliding into dementia.

Day by day losing her reason
Then I would go out
And explore the city
Go to a museum
Go to one neighborhood
And just be there
Rediscovering the Bay area
After years of being away
Having dinner with old friends
Seeing movies etc.

Every morning a black cat came to visit
The cat was friendly and waited for me
And then would join me in my morning rambles.

Following me to the bus stop
I started talking to the black cat
He looked at me with the spark of divinity
In his dark eyes.

I called him the cosmic cat
He seemed to like that
He would look at me
And I opened up to me.

Told the cat all my dark secrets
As I walked the streets
Of the old neighborhood.

Every morning and every evening the cat
Would be there to greet me
And to carry out our endless conversation.

Then I had to leave
And in our final conversation
I asked the cosmic cat.

Say, Cat are you just a cat
Or are you a demonic cat
Are you possessed by God
Or by Satan?

The cat looked at me
And I realized that God
Was indeed residing in the cat.

But that god was residing everywhere
All I had to do was open my mind
And the rest would follow

So I said Goodbye to the cosmic cat
And he purred and came up to me
And I felt the comforting
presence of the divine.

As I said goodbye to the cosmic cat
And said goodbye to my mother
As this was the last time
That we would be able to talk.

I told my mother about the cosmic cat
She smiled and said that the cat
Was there for me and her
To comfort us both in our hour of need
And that the cat was indeed
A cosmic cat

Cosmic Cat  Nonet

 

evil cat
evil cat

Cosmic cat from Berkeley
The cosmic cat was my best friend
He spent almost two weeks with me
Going everywhere I went
Just waiting for me

 

 

The cosmic cat
Was he god
Or just
Cat
Cat
Cosmic
In nightmares
The cat still comes
Many years later
Appearing In my dreams
The Cat comes every night
Cosmic cat spark of the divine
A god for sure sent the cat to me
I salute the cosmic cat from Berkely.

Communist Cats of Berkeley

black cat
black cat

growing up in Berkeley
in the infamous 70s

My best friend’s father
Was a Jewish Communist real estate agent
and his mother was a vegan Buddhist Nun

 

 

he grew up to become
a carnivorous Shakespearean actor

they had five cats, two dogs
and three mischievous monkeys
who lived in the trees

the cats were named
Stalin, Mao, and Lenin
communist hero cats

Stalin was the ringleader
A black panther-like cat
who was mean as hell

Mao was a pussy cat
a real pushover
and kind to all

Lenin was mischievous
always getting into trouble

they had two dogs
both Scotch terriers
Trotsky and Goldman
two real bad assed
proletarian dogs

the monkeys
Ho Chi Minh and Che

lived in the trees
and chased me

throwing fruit at me
when they saw me

boy do I miss
my communist cat buddies
the leftist dogs
and the mischievous monkeys
of my fabled youth

The End

Please follow and like us:
error1
fb-share-icon20
Tweet 20
fb-share-icon20

Thanks so much for visiting my site. Your comments are welcome but please play nice.... Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.