Monday, May 10, 2010

My kids' mom is SO Berkeley that...we actually survived Mothers Day!

Did you know that there's a website out now that is completely devoted to jokes about Berkeley moms? Blond jokes and Polish jokes are out now. Berkeley Mom jokes are in. "My mom is so Berkeley that...."

Hey, I'm a Berkeley mom.

So when my daughter Ashley and son Joe asked me what I wanted to do for Mothers Day this year, I got to thinking about Berkeley. "Hey, I've got an idea. Let's drive around Berkeley to all the places we used to hang out at when you guys were kids." Tot lots? Soccer fields? Elementary schools? No way! My kids had different kinds of memories about their pasts.

First we went to the Cafe Mediterraneum up on Telegraph Avenue, where I used to sit and gossip in the 1970s and drink caffe lattes while my kids played under the table. Other kids may have gone to Blue Fairyland for daycare but not mine!

"My mom is so Berkeley that she raised me at the Med."

Then we drove by People's Park. "I was there when we first started to plant its gardens back in 1969," I told the kids. "I was there for the riots and the tear gas. And I got my picture on the front page of the Berkeley Barb during our victory parade."

That's just great. "My mom is so Berkeley that she was a cover girl for the Berkeley Barb...."

Then we drove by the University of California. I always measure my life by this benchmark: "Am I having as much fun now as I did while going to Cal back in the 1960s?" And the answer is still always no.

"My mom is so Berkeley that she used to take us to hunger strikes up on Sproul Plaza." And I still do.
(Photo courtesy of

Next we drove down past the old Mandrake's nightclub, where I first met one of the backup guitarists for a band called Joy of Cooking. Two months later I was pregnant. "That's not my child and goodbye," said the lead singer for a band named Commander Cody and The Lost Planet Airmen.

"My mom is so Berkeley that she spends our entire Mothers Day making us listen to stories about when she was a Flower Child." Damn straight. And before that I was a Beatnik. And don't you forget it.

Next we drove past the law office where I used to work. "Remember when I used to work for Bob Treuhaft? He was a lawyer for the Free Speech Movement." And his wife Jessica Mitford had gone to Spain to fight against Franco in the 1930s.

"My mom is so Berkeley that she used to take us to reunions of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade."

Then we drove past the infamous Woolsey Street House, where Alan Ginsburg, Chogyam Trungpa, Timothy Leary and Country Joe McDonald used to hang out in the attic with the crew of the Floating Lotus Magic Opera.

"My mom is so Berkeley that she can remember taking LSD back when it was still legal."

Then we drove past the now-defunct Mothers Motors, where I first met Ashley's father. He and I used to go on road trips on his Velocette. And I tried to learn to drive his old Triumph Bonneville.

"My mother is so Berkeley that she gave us motorcycle helmets for our birthdays and I went on my first chopper ride when I was three weeks old." Not only that but you were conceived after a Grateful Dead concert.

But now all that's changed. Berkeley is starting to become just another bedroom community. One of my daughters has rebelled and become a Yuppie. And I myself have become just another aging and forgotten recluse who doesn't even own a cell phone -- let alone an iPod.

"My mom is so Berkeley that she's beginning to talk about being buried in the back yard when she dies...."

Next we drove up toward Tilden Park to Lake Anza, the merry-go-round and the Little Farm. How many times have I dragged the kids up there when times got tough for me, the ultimate Berkeley single mother? I can't even count them. And we used to go to Edy's for hot caramel sundaes when things got tough too but Edy's went out of business. As has Mr. Mopps, Berkeley's legendary toy store.

"My mom is so Berkeley that she used to read Sartre while we swam in Lake Anza."

Then there were all those scholarships. I must have applied for a million scholarships so that my kids could go off to camps in the summer. Camp Tuolumne near Yosemite, the YMCA's Camp Gualala, Cal Camp down near Santa Cruz, the Lawrence Hall of Science. Even the official NASA U.S. Space Camp. Did I leave anything out? Day camps. Overnight camps. Girl Scout camps. Science camps. Martial arts camps. Music camps. My kids went to Cazadero and Ashley learned how to play the saxophone. Joe played electric guitar back then. He still does.

"My mom is so Berkeley that we never even saw her during the whole month of July." Hey, I believe strongly in the curative powers of fresh air.

Then we drove by the Cheese Board. Remember that old Berkeley band called The Energy Crisis? With Phil Marsh? He used to sing a song called "Telegraph Avenue," and the band used to play at one of my my daughters' birthday parties when she was young. We had tons of chocolate chip cookies (I used to make them at the old Freight) and made up ten gallons of Tequila Sunrises as well. Those were great parties. Wesley Tanner printed the invitations. But then some of the band members got distracted and opened the Cheese Board instead.

"My mom is so Berkeley that she managed to make a three-year-old's birthday party into an event that has been talked about for decades!"

And to finish off our fabulous Mothers Day Berkeley tour, we went off to the Albany Twin to see that movie "Babies". It doesn't get much more Mothers Day than that. Then we went to the Cafe Tibet for dinner but it was closed so we ended up at an organic Thai food restaurant that served pumpkin curry and brown rice.

"My mom is so Berkeley that we all grew up on Edy's sundaes and brown rice."

And I am also still enough of a Berkeley mom to still hope for -- no, demand! -- world peace. "Imagine a world where EVERY child is wanted, nurtured, protected and loved: World Peace in one generation!"

Screw all these people who still think that violence and neo-fascism and "war" is the answer. It is definitely not. All we have to do is make a graph that will project into the future all current Pentagon expenditures for weapons and all death by violence in all countries where Washington sends military aid or is currently conducting this or that "military action" -- and what we will see is a red line going up and up and up until there is nothing left of the whole human race.

"My mom is so Berkeley that she still thinks that nonviolence is still the only answer."

I'm also so Berkeley that I can't stand living without some kind of hope that there will someday exist a better world for my children.