A Bit of Berzerkeley

There’s a saying, (probably) wrongly attributed to Robin Williams, “If you can remember the 60s, you probably weren’t there.” To tell the truth, I do have a bit of trouble remembering some of the last half of the 60’s, as well as a bit of the 70s, and this is why finding this document in a file in the garage today is important to me.

I was a disc jockey on a very underground radio station in Berzerkely, but I couldn’t quite remember when it was. I knew approximately when, but not with the “precision” this document provides.

My memories – from about 1967, when I made it up to the Haight-Ashbury district of San Franciso at the tail-end of the “Summer of Love,” to the mid-seventies – are a bit jumbled and confused. I knew I was up there around this time, because I remember the walls of my no-water flat weeping from the moisture in the winter air, and the almost deadly asthma attack I had after being up all night doing a show.

Our radio station probably reached about an area six or seven blocks square. That was it. I think we had one-tenth of a watt of transmission power, and a transmitter that our engineer had managed to sneak onto the top of the Engineering building that was on the north campus of UC Berzerkeley.

It was great fun, dangerous for my health (though here I am,) and I learned quite a bit from it. Turned out I was a horrible reporter. I went to the Marin County Courthouse to cover the arraignment of Angela Davis, after Jonathon Jackson attempted to free his brother George, and ended up killing the judge in the case and dying along with his brother. When Angela’s attorney came out to speak with her supporters, she was surrounded by the media and nobody could hear what she was saying, so I turned my recorder into a PA and let her use it to address the crowd. I ended up with nothing for my story. I have no regrets.


Legal “Goofing”

In my second year of law school I was able to secure a position with a sole practitioner in Beverly Hills. His name was Michael David Freeman and he hired me to be his legal secretary.

Although I had not done secretarial work before, I was a pretty good, fast, and accurate touch typist and I was doing well in school and kind of knew my way around the issues I would be dealing with.

MDF specialized in personal liability and property damage as the representative of three major car rental firms: Thrifty, Budget, and Dollar. He had previously been a C-level executive of one of them and had numerous connections.

We did some other work as well: a little contracts; some wills and trusts; and maybe a little family law. This was from (approximately) late ‘74 to late ‘76.

Shortly after I started working for him, he purchased an IBM memory typewriter and sent me to a one-day class in Century City to learn how to use the thing. It was my introduction to word processing, pretty much at the inception of the concept.

Between learning to skillfully use the device and sending out demand letters, discovery requests, and other miscellaneous documents, I sometimes riffed on the concepts I was conveying with a mix of facts and legal mumbo jumbo, and now and again would fire off a letter or two to friends … just for the fun of it.

Yesterday, while desperately searching for a document I needed in another context, I accidentally came across a couple of those letters. What follows is one of them I sent to my long-time, dear friend Loren.

Clearly, I had far too much time on my hands.

Hope This Is Legible

My Dad The Bowler

Just found this in the garage, covered by dust. I resurrected it, meaning I cleaned it off and hit it with some Howard Feed-N-Wax. hard to believe it’s been nearly 58 years.

No Lucky Strikes Here

That series works out to an average of 247 per game. The old man was a good bowler, and a scratch golfer. He never rolled a 300; I think his best game was 279.

I used to keep score for his team back then. I was finishing my Junior year of high school when he did this. I don’t recall if I used to sneak sips of beer when no one was looking.


How to Die Well, According to a Palliative Care Doctor

Came across this wonderful, reasonably short article about death and dying, a subject I have long been interested in; especially as I’m winding down my 75th year here.

Preparing for death by making peace with it.

Excerpt:

Source: How to Die Well, According to a Palliative Care Doctor


Preserving My Past

This is kind of a #FlashbackFriday#FF, since I missed #ThrowbackThursday#TT, though it’s more of just an addition to my life story as made possible through the wonders of Facebook and, especially, the Timeline. Since its inception, I have seen my Timeline as a way to share contemporaneously, as well as retrospectively. I have used it as a way to share both my present and my past, the latter being primarily with the thought my two daughters will one day be able to see who I was, in some sense from the beginning. If others enjoy it, that’s a bonus. Hell – I enjoy it myself once in a while and it gives me a reason to slowly digitize some of my favorite actual, printed photos, which would not be shareable other than in person if I didn’t scan and post them. This seems like as good a place as any; better than most.

The picture I am here sharing was taken quite some time after I owned the business that resided in this small, unassuming space. Nevertheless, the size and location haven’t changed since January of 1967, when my father (fearing I was on the road to becoming a bum) purchased what was then DEB’s Snack Shop and I began managing it. We were partners. My job was to spend 14 hours a day there and his job was to show up once a day and get pissed at me for something I neglected to do or didn’t do properly, as he saw it. He was very good at his job and so was I, though you wouldn’t have known it by how well he performed his special task.

This little place consisted of 14 stools and about a 10′ takeout counter. It sat in a parking lot across the street from the main entrance of the May Company store on Hill St., between 8th and 9th Streets, in downtown Los Angeles. It was small, but it was busy . . . and quite lucrative, especially for a nineteen-year-old who had recently just barely escaped High School.

It was here I learned some of the more valuable lessons I’ve been fortunate enough to benefit from. Perhaps the most important of them was given by my father when he admonished me to never ask anyone who worked for me to do something I wasn’t willing to do as well. I had five employees and every one of them was older than me, one by around thirty years. Earning their respect was of the utmost importance. Now that I think about it, I was fortunate to be raised with respect for most everyone. Another valuable lesson, which made this primary business one much easier to aspire to.

I also learned what I have always considered my first real marketing and sales lesson. This place was a snack shop. Hamburgers, hot dogs, tacos, burritos, ham sandwiches, fries, etc. We also opened up early enough for breakfast, so eggs, bacon, hash browns, etc. Of course, there were other items and most of the food was marked up 300%, that is the cost of the food item was generally 1/3 of the price we charged.

Then there were soft drinks, none of which were served in cans or bottles. We had a dispenser. The cost of a large soft drink was marginally more than a small one and the difference in cost of the cups was about a penny. The difference in profit, however, was spectacular, with the price of a large drink around two and a half times what the small one went for. I think it was $0.10 and $0.25. Let’s say I made $0.07 (in today’s money that would be $0.50) profit from the small drink. Since the cost of the large drink was marginally more than the small – let’s say $0.05 instead of $0.03 – I made a profit of $0.20 ($1.42 today) on the large drinks.

That’s the data behind it, but the real lesson was in behavior. Over a period of time, I did some experimenting. I didn’t keep a little notebook, nor did I design a devilishly clever test. People would place an order like “I’d like a cheeseburger, onion rings, and a Coke.” I merely responded in one of two ways and noted the difference in results. If I asked them “large or small” they would frequently opt for the small. However, if I merely said “large?”, they would seldom say “no”.

I don’t know how much more money I made by doing this, but I’m reasonably certain it was on the order of a few dollars a day. Extrapolated out over a year’s time, that would be around an extra couple of grand in today’s money. Not a bad result. Unfortunately, I didn’t last a year, but that’s another story. I have no regrets, btw.

PS – The name of the place in the pic is JEMP’s, which stood for Jerry, Eileen, Marshall, and Penny . . . the Silversteins. Jerry, who had worked at the Grand Central Market with my father for many years, bought the business at a discount when I kind of abruptly told the old man I was through with it. Shortly thereafter I found myself in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco. This was the Summer of Love, 1967. The rest, as you no doubt know, is history.


Speeding To Work

You may have heard of jury nullification, where a jury has the power to ignore the judge’s instructions and renders a verdict based on its belief in how justice must be meted out.

Since I started my new job in Agoura Hills, which involves a 25 mile drive mostly on freeways (118 -> 25 -> 101) I’ve noticed what I’m calling driver (or speeder) nullification. Shortly after transitioning from the 118 W to the 23 S there are numerous battery-powered signs on both sides of the freeway that say the speed limit is 55 MPH. They also have radar capability which shows the speed of approaching vehicles. If those vehicles are going too fast the sign says “SLOW DOWN.”

My experience is hardly anybody goes slower than 70 MPH and a large percentage of the traffic is moving at 80 MPH, though they may slow down when they see one of these signs. Not to 55, or even 60, but slower than they were moving a few moments prior to approaching the sign. Almost nobody goes 55 MPH and I’ve yet to see a vehicle pulled over and being ticketed. Frankly, I don’t see how they can, because just about every one of them is hauling ass (including me.)

It’s interesting.


My Hometown Shines

According to a post in Facebook this photo was taken of the L.A. skyline the morning after the Christmas storm of this year, 2021. It’s been a while since the city of my birth has shown itself off like this.

If you look closely at the bottom right corner of the photo you can see a stepped, pointy building barely peeking out above one of the smallest buildings making up that skyline.

I was ushered into existence on this planet somewhere in the middle of that group of buildings. California Hospital at 12th & Hope. At the time that building you can just barely see (it’s City Hall) was the tallest building in downtown Los Angeles.

As a young boy growing up in the fifties I was always envious of New York and Chicago’s skyscrapers. Now we’ve got ’em and I’m not sure it’s a good thing.

Sure is beautiful after a storm, though.

Photo by Gary Biasi

An Old Limerick

I was going through my Mac, which is now a backup computer for my HP laptop, which is being repaired because the hard drive died on me, and came across a limerick I wrote in December of 2013. Thought I would share it here, in addition to Facebook and Twitter. You’ll easily recognize the subject:

Fox newscasts, so chock full of hate
Render truth an impervious gate
They so often dissemble
We can’t help but tremble
With hope they will soon meet their fate


A Limerick For Tedward

I came across this interesting tweet from Texas Senator Ted Cruz (the Federal Government’s most reviled human being) and was inspired to pen a limerick in response. It was actually embedded in a response from someone I follow, so I had to go through a couple dozen tweets of his before I could find the original, which I’m sharing below.

I should point out that Senator Cruz may be the most disingenuous, execrable member of the Senate since Joseph McCarthy represented the State of Wisconsin, that wonderfully cheesy part of the nation that has gifted us Senator Ron Johnson, another worthless POS. Reading through a series of tweets by Senator Cruz was a bit disconcerting, as his ability (and willingness) to flat-out lie about almost everything is one of his strongest and most defining characteristics. I felt dirty after reading some of them.

So I spent about a half hour writing the limerick which appears beneath Tedward’s tweet. This included using a site for rhyming and, ending each line with a Spanish word in order to convey the meaning I wished to, which was—shall we say—an interesting endeavor.

There once was a displaced Cubano
Who fancied himself a Tejano
His efforts were juegos
Cause he lacked normal huevos
Plus we know he’s a fucking gusano.


Halloween 2021

Last night I took my youngest daughter, Alyssa, for what is likely to be her last time trick-or-treating … with me, at least. She’ll be 18 in a week, though she’s small enough she’ll probably be able pass for a child for decades to some (with a mask on.)

There was a local Facebook group that had lists of the decorated houses here in Simi Valley, including maps and guides if you wanted to drive around and sight see. We didn’t actually do that, but we did use a couple of destinations to check out. The first video below is from the neighborhood we went to where one family had created a haunted house.

Alyssa wanted to go through it, but she insisted I accompany her, which I did. They had set it up so that if you went through with a flashlight the actors weren’t supposed to jump out at you, but just wave. That’s what Alyssa wanted to do, but the first character we met jumped out at her and screamed, scaring the shit out of her. I admonished him and we got an apology when we exited. It’s a good thing I was with her or she would have completely freaked out.

Here’s Alyssa in her “costume.” She wanted to be a French businesswoman; an entrepreneur and this is the outfit she put together using clothing she wears normally, as well as a piece she had designated to be donated to a local charity but decided it fit her concept. I ordered her a beret from Amazon Prime to “top” the costume off.

Alyssa as a French Entrepreneur

Below are some videos and photos of some of the houses she stopped at. We didn’t get any photos of the haunted house, as we were too busy going through it and navigating the maze they’d created. Both neighborhoods we went to were a bit more upscale than ours. In fact, the second place we went was an equestrian neighborhood and I’d venture to guess the houses there were about twice as pricey as our home. It was also jam packed with literally hundreds of people walking from house to house. We returned to our area of town to finish off the evening and it was comparatively dead. All-in-all it was a fun evening for Alyssa. Later today or tomorrow we’re going to head over to For The Troops, an organization that sends packages of hard-to-get supplies and goodies to serviceman and women stationed abroad. It was Alyssa’s main reason for going out last night.

This was her haul of candy for the night, not including the dozen or so pieces we ate while she was conducting inventory. I must admit I ate my share and, fortunately, my blood sugar wasn’t too elevated this morning.


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