Sunday, December 28, 2008

Will there ever be journalistic substance on this blog again? (Alternate title: How growing up in Berkeley in the 60's helped shape who I am today.)

I used to actually write posts of some literary substance. Not great substance and nothing more than flailing aspirations of some level of poignancy, but I strung words together and formed a few thoughtful sentences in a few of the thousand-plus posts I've written here.

Now I post pictures and write a few captions.

I'm tempted to say that the culprit is the demanding job that sucks all brain power and creativity out of me, but I know that nothing can dim a committed, passionate writer's desire to write.

So much for commitment and passion, eh?

My dear friend and office mate, Rebekah (yes, mother to these adorable kidlets) knows me well.


(Yes, we're like a couple of high school students sometimes... even though she's -- gulp -- closer to Elisabeth's age than to mine!)


But I digress. (And now it's becoming clear to me why there's little literary substance to this blog anymore...)

Anyway... Rebekah must have known about my severe case of writer's block because she gave me this book for my birthday last month:


(See? There I go, posting pictures again!)

It's a "do-it-yourself autobiography in 201 questions." A whole book of meaningful writing prompts! This is the sort of things I've loved since I was a kid, and Rebekah must have known that.

So let's dive in, shall we? I opened the book to a random page and this is what appeared:


Let's go with this one: "This is another big news story from when I was young."

That one's easy. Berkeley in the 60's. People's Park. War protests at Cal. Those were all parts of my day-to-day life when I was a kid. Mom taught German and Comparative Literature at Cal and my oldest brother Michael was a senior in high school so he was, of course, completely caught up in the social and political happenings around him.

In 1969 I was twelve and in sixth grade.

Here -- I'll even embarrass myself by posting a photo of me at that most awkward of stages. I always wore this paisley blouse backwards because I thought it looked cool that way. It was my own little form of protest, I guess... and it must have been horribly uncomfortable. And to add just a little more coolness, I threw on those Berkeley beads. Groovy, eh?


(Notice that I still haven't written anything of substance and I can't seem to tell a story without pictures? I'm definitely graphically afflicted!)

So in 1969 I was twelve and in sixth grade and so embarrassed to be living among a family of hippies. I lived in this family...

DSC02649Photoshopped ...but more than anything I wanted to live in this family:

Dick and Jane

So you can imagine how mortified I was when we got a call in the summer of 1969, saying that my 17-year-old hippie of a brother had been rounded up with a bunch of other People's Park protesters and taken to the Santa Rita Detention Center. As my parents quickly gathered their things to pick up their rebel son (which, for hippie parents like mine, was probably more of a boastful badge than an insult), I remember them commenting that it was a good thing he wasn't already 18 and actually arrested, instead of simply "detained."

Of course, if he had been arrested, maybe he and my other brother wouldn't have ventured to Altamont later that year, where things got really bad! (But that's another post for another writing prompt. Hell, I can't even seem to stick to this one!)

I can't remember much about my brother coming home with my parents that night except that they seemed more annoyed, like parents called to the principal's office, than angry or concerned about their son's future.

I don't think any of us really understood the magnitude of what it meant to live in Berkeley in the 60's, especially with such close ties to Cal. We were participating in history, simply by living our lives, and it would only be in retrospect that we'd understand the immensity of that opportunity.

Which makes me wonder, why hasn't a feature film been made about People's Park? After all, it really did symbolize the entire peace movement of the 60's. If people are interested in the story of Harvey Milk (great film, by the way), wouldn't they be interested in a feature movie about People's Park? Hell, just profile my family -- the feisty, motorcycle-riding mother who taught at Cal and got completely into the movement (in spirit more than action, though... because she and her generation were considered "too old"), the father whose proper German roots combined with the radicalism of the time to create an interesting philosophical dichotomy, the hippie brother(s) who couldn't embrace the movement tightly enough, and the white sheep of the family (me -- and to some extent my younger brother), who wanted more than anything to just be normal and live in a normal American family somewhere other than Berkeley and some time other than the 60's.

Of course, I've now come to fully appreciate this "big news story from when I was young" and realize that it helped make up the tapestry that was stitched together over the years to shape me into who I've become.

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Jen said...

Great story. And yes, a book on People's Park would be great. There's a book you might enjoy that shares some of your longings, etc., growing up, called "Stealing Buddha's Dinner" - I forget the name of the author, but if you look up the title, you'll find it. It's beautifully written.

Anonymous said...

Wow really interesting!!! Funny I also wrote a little article about growing up in the 60's.


Anonymous said...

Rebekah is going to kill you for making her look like a tranny in that pic.

Goofball said...

now I must look up what specifically happened at People's Park as I am totally ignorant.

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