I think it was someone famous who said, "Home is where the heart is" and because I take anything that famous people say as profound truths, I believe it. My home is in Berkeley, which is not only where the heart is, but also many other more ... colorful things. And because Fodor's will tell you only about the chocolate factory (free samples!) and the Campanile tower (because every town needs a landmark phallic symbol), I have decided to help you become better versed in my home.
Thus, you know you're in Berkeley when:
The homeless people are hostile. And aggressive. And a little bit scary. I was walking down the main street by my house when a man asked me for some change. I was feeling friendly, so I fished a quarter from my pocket and handed it to him. "Thank you, ma'am," he said with a smile and a little bow of appreciation. "God bless."
"You, too," I said, and walked away. I was walking back home when he approached me again.
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"Spare some change?" he asked.
"You just asked me an hour ago," I said. "And I gave you some."
"Oh, of course, of course! I'm sorry, I didn't recognize you." We stood silently for a moment until he smiled sheepishly. "Well ..." he said. I gave him a quarter. I ventured out to the main street again later that night to meet my friend at a bar. And lo and behold, there was my homeless friend, warming the corner right by house.
"Spare some change?" he said.
"I have given you change twice today. I have no more change. I'm sorry."
"F------ b----," he said under his breath as I walked by.
"Excuse me?" I turned around.
"You heard me. Stingy b----. Maybe you should work on your generosity."
It is only in Berkeley that you can be reprimanded by the panhandling population. Because, really, weren't you aware that they deserve your money? And college students do, after all, have so much excess cash.
It's all entirely sensible if you think about it.
The homeless people can be your friends. I love Jack, my joke-telling friend who sleeps on the sidewalk grate two blocks down. He makes me laugh, I buy him sandwiches. Mutually beneficial, completely wonderful.
When you inhale, your head starts to feel a bit fuzzy, because often there's more marijuana in the air than oxygen.
It's easier to find an organic, fair-trade, free-grazing-beef burrito than Taco Bell. Sometimes I watch Taco Bell commercials and sigh: I miss my high school days, which were filled with fake cheese and mystery meat. I miss the days when a coffee was just a coffee, not a representation of thousands of hours of labor by underpaid Colombians who have to grow cocaine on the side because the American capitalists are exploitative and evil. And, yes, it's better to be aware than ignorant, but sometimes caring so much gets tiring. And expensive. And sometimes I just want Nachos Bell Grande.
So, there you go. If you're being heckled, being amused, being politically correct and smell pot, you're probably in Berkeley. It's where my heart, my school and my organic burritos are, and it's wonderful.
Liz Moody, a Johansen High School graduate, is a student at the University of California at Berkeley. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.