In the late 60’s, early 70’s of the 20th century, Berkeley, California was point of destination for the last east - west migration in America. It was not a migration stirred by real estate but by the promise of spiritual epiphanies tucked into a puff of smoke and a lick of Lysergic Acid. While San Francisco absorbed the urban, Berkeley took in the wandering suburbanite and rural folk.
The migration took place against the backdrop of social upheaval. It was if history had become unhinged mid-century and swung away from the plodding past toward a fast-paced, dangerously uncertain future. The Cold War loomed. The Vietnam War raged. The Civil Rights Movement exploded. There was protests peaceful and then not, marching and then rioting in the streets.
In view of this unpleasant reality, was it any wonder that the young and traditionally restless were drawn by the pharmaceutical ephemera of a tranquil unreality? When the dope deception was uncovered early on, the migrants stayed on. After all, Berkeley was as good, maybe better, a place as any to settle down. The bayside community boasted a temperate climate with fuchsias bushes blooming year long. Its general population was famously left-wing and endlessly tolerant. Its prestigious college campus funneled directly onto the legendary Telegraph Avenue where students and townies intermingled in a festive mile-long bazaar of street vendors plying exotic wares. Street musicians played on every corner inspiring an occasional street dance.
The vendors fronted stores that by necessity mirrored unconventional inventory. Chief among them was the Mediterranean Café, the anchor of Telegraph Avenue. For many die-hard expatriates, here began the day that often lingered into afternoon with large glasses of café latte or cappuccino delivering massive doses of caffeine to offset the morning toke. They came early to grab the large window tables so they could watch the splendid foot traffic. The Mediterranean was the place to intersect with everyone and everything, known and unknown. Lover’s trysts to drug deals to political plotting occurred over espresso shots served in small white cups or the more usual foaming latte that would make today’s cuppa Starbucks blush.
There was a certain divide between the students and townies; not hostile mind you, but at least on the townies’ part mingled with a bit of worldly scorn. Students lived in ivory towers not in the real world of survival. Reality and survival are always relative. Reality and survival in Berkeley in the late 60’s and early 70’s was a rather mild, slow moving affair.