Telegraph Avenue

I have lived in several university towns and spent a fair amount of time in many others: Ann Arbor, Madison, Cambridge, Austin, Westwood, Berkeley. While they all show the liberal influence of the ivy covered walls, they are all somewhat unique. Most influence neighborhoods they share, others dominate the entire city. And then there is the People's Republic of Berkeley.

Such a mixture of liberal/radical politics existing right alongside fantabulous contradictions. For a place of peace, freedom and social justice there are a lot of regulations. Mostly these are seen as "for the people" and against the establishment but rules are rules and are therefore necessarily anti-freedom. But politics and bureaucracy are not my topics today. Telegraph Avenue is.

Telegraph Ave. is less than 5 miles long. It runs from downtown Oakland north-north-east to the south entrance of the UC Berkeley campus at Sather Gate, which then spills directly into Sproul Plaza where "those" protests took place in the 60's. But when most of us hear Telegraph Avenue, we think of the last four blocks at the UCB end of Telegraph, where you can still buy beads, candles, radical bumper-stickers and incense. I live about five minutes from this stretch of Telegraph, so I know the restaurants and other necessary establishments there, yes olde friends I live within walking distance of Tienda Ho.

Early last week, I was up on Telegraph running errands, I hit the post office, grabbed a sandwich at Cafe Mattina and was looking for a place to make my seasonal lottery purchase. After casually keeping my eye out for a lottery sign, I realized that in the mecca of anti-establishmentarianism there was not going to be a retailer who would alienate the local clientele by trading in such a income discriminatory hidden tax. I think I must have been smiling even more broadly as I turned off Telegraph to head back to the apartment. I rounded the last corner stepping slightly around a well dressed young woman, who I noted was a bit out of place on the lingering hippy sidewalks of Telegraph when I heard her whisper;


There it was, in the heartland of free love, a Tuesday afternoon solicitation. I wish I had not simply strolled on. I would like to know more about prostitution on Telegraph Ave. Think I could have gotten five minutes of conversation for what? maybe twenty bucks?

The times they are achangin'.