When In Berkeley…

Childhood friend Alicia and me at King.

I moved to Los Angeles in 1995 amidst a flurry of condescending eye-rolls and pitiful looks followed by, “Why? I hate LA!”  Twenty years later, Kevin Bacon and Mobe declare LA “cool” enough to live in. WHOSE ROLLING THEIR EYES NOW?

I also get judge-y about people thinking that Berkeley is “cool.”  I’m sorry, Michael Chabon, but you don’t get to just buy a house here after making a lot of money on your bestseller novel without going through the very real, terror for your life and daily sexual-assault that was 1984-1986 of King Junior High School.

Yesterday, I had lunch with two close friends and we shook our heads when one told us that in her research of schools for her daughter she discovered that King Junior High is now one of the BEST schools in Berkeley.  King Junior High was where my best friend and I deemed our tag name to be “Ladies of The Night” — WE HAD NO IDEA WHAT IT MEANT…but still, someone should have told us.  I am still going through my box of notes written to me (old fashioned text messages) by my band of Wet n’ Wild painted friends and sometimes dream of making movie with the rights to the “Purple Rain” album. (Because otherwise, really, what is the point?).

I drive around Berkeley now and it looks like a glorious, urban, college-town utopia of windy streets filled with craftsman homes and large trees. It’s hard to believe that Berkeley felt like a scary place to me in the early 80s.  To this day, marijuana still smells like public parks during remedial English class and absent fathers. I watched young kids lose their personality to excess drugs, I watched fights. I did not witness gun violence, despite attending “urban” schools, but I felt a distinct sense that the world had no sense or order. Growing up in Berkeley and Oakland, I always felt more aware of the “decay” part of “urban decay.”

Thanks to technology, Berkeley and Oakland have undergone the same organic, locally-grown fabulousness of New York or any once “cool” place.  The debate on the morality or benefits of gentrification have some merit. And sure I don’t necessarily mind walking down 4th street to buy a Crate n’ Barrel olive wood nibble bowl for or eye gel.  And I know that nostalgia will always make me think that life was better when bars had two beers (Miller or Budweiser) and 13-year-olds had the freedom to go to parks and abuse their bodies with mild marijuana in the middle of the day.

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