A Stroll in Berkeley, or The Hostile Inebriate

For the late afternoon dog walk, we took a fistful of bills out to mail and walked downtown. We stopped at the PG&E office, then the post office. Then we decided to get what’s going to pass for our dinner tonight at Top Dog, just up Center Street from downtown Berkeley. Lots of Cal fans were walking the other way from the football game; the home team had given the visitors from Washington State an ugly thumping (the score was 49-17, but Cal, coached by a local gridiron millionaire, repeatedly committed stupid personal fouls and during one stretch appeared to stop playind defense).

Anyway. As The Dog and I waited outside Top Dog, a young woman wearing a Cal sweatshirt and seated at the open front window repeatedly sang, “We beat the Cougars! We beat the Cougars!” During her fifth or sixth round, I finally responded. “Yeah — everyone does.” Washington State’s known mostly for the big scores its opponents run up; its unofficial mascot is the crime-scene silhouette. She looked at me and said, “Yeah, isn’t it wonderful?” She explained that she’s from Seattle, which is University of Washington. She loves it when Huskies maul Cougars.

Kate came out of the restaurant and we walked up to the west entrance to campus to eat our hot dogs on the steps up there. It was a nice open-air repast as the sun got lower. Along the drive leading into campus, I heard someone angrily say, “F—!” I looked over, and a wiry guy with long hair and a beard, maybe in his early 40s, was walking toward us. He got to the top of an adjacent set of steps about 30 feet away and asked if we had a cigarette. Neither of us wanted to engage the guy, and we both shook our heads no. “What?” he said, and started to walk toward us. “No,” Kate said. He stopped and looked away. I had taken out my camera to take a picture of the sunlight on the steps. “What’s that?” he asked, and started to walk toward me again. He wasn’t menacing, exactly; more like drunk and challenging. “A camera,” I said. When he got to within about five feet of where I was sitting I put up my hand and said, “Back off.” He advanced another step. “You taking a picture of your dog?” “Yeah,” I said. “See?” I pointed the camera at him and took a shot. Simultaneously, he flipped me the bird, then stalked off cursing. Kate said, “Let’s get out of here.”

If things had gone any further than that, I would have called the cops. As it is, I have a nice likeness of my new friend as a keepsake.

We walked toward home, careful to take a different route from Mr. Finger’s. A large, fluffy cloud floated south over downtown. The setting sun illuminated it, creating a soft top-lit glow. Just another evening in the city.


3 Replies to “A Stroll in Berkeley, or The Hostile Inebriate”

  1. Nice pic, Dan. Love urban elements in photos.
    I don’t know what the personal fouls are about when your team is beating an undermanned opponent. Tulane did the exact same thing when playing Navy a few years ago at a game I attended. Navy plays hard and cleaner than any other team in the NCAA. Always offers their hand after a game, win or lose. It was embarrassing and someone could have been hurt. If I was athletic director or university president, I’d be all over a coach that had a team that undisciplined.

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