April 3, 2005.
The Berkeley experience was very Berkeley. I was the only psychoanalyst to give a talk at a Lacan conference, populated with linguist, tongue-specialists. After sitting through various talks on Lacan (an elusive French psychoanalyst who uses elusive, ambiguous language as a form of sport, a kind of fencing with the tongue), I was matched with a British professor from Leeds; He spoke about Oedipus and Hamlet; I about Jacob and Joseph; He spoke about Greek words and I about Hebrew. We were a fine match and the audience enjoyed as we compared words and concepts. Then, we marched past Sproul Hall at noon, where the UC band was performing and the cheerleaders were high-stepping, and pom-poming before them. I thanked one of the UC faculty for arranging for this fine half-time performance for us. He seemed a bit apologetic; that he had not arranged for this, in fact.
Never mind to me, as I enjoyed it thoroughly. Thonged cheer leaders now prance where in ’68, Mario Savio and throngs shut down the University in the name of Free Speech at the patina’ed Sather Gates . Of Savio, there is a photo at the Free Speech Cafe, where cappucinos, machiattos, frappucinos, pinochiochinos can be ordered and sipped outdoors in the sun.
We found lunch at a pub with an outdoor garden about three blocks down Telegraph (I think past Moe’s). On return, I left a bundle of dough at Cody’s and a bit more at Moe’s.
The end of the day, I treated myself to a cigar across the street from the campus, in a tobacco shop where bongs are sold, and cigarette papers. My dallying almost cost me a bundle.
I approached my car parked in the underground garage to ssee a Berkeley rent-a-cop in uniformed shorts next to his armed bicycle writing me a ticket. Or so I thought. I asked, “Am I getting a ticket.” He, having blocked my car with his bike to prevent a fast get away by my Diesel-underpowered vehicle, perhaps, answers, “No, you’re getting towed.” He pointed out that my vehicle tag expired on March 12 and it was now the 22nd; I’m ten days past the spoilage date. He tells me that I can pick up my car at the pound after paying all fees and the ticket, a few hundred clams. I implore: I am to be in SF in one hour to sign papers for sale of my house; I now live in Israel; I am visiting only to give a free lecture (at the Free Speech center of the Universe). He is fiddling with his computerized ticket do-dad. Then says, “I’m giving you only a $50 ticket for illegal parking.” (And I still have to pay for parking.) I nod gratefully. He fiddles more frantically with the machine. Goes into his back pack for another machine.
Gets angry. Says: “You’re lucky.” His do-dad computerized ticketer is fritzed. “You’re getting off scot free.” I thank him, ask if he can give me a written ticket, so I can pay. He gets more irritated: “They won’t let me do that anymore.” He packs his machines, hops on his bike and I watch him pedal furiously up the steep winding exit ramp into the Berkeley night. Last time I was in Berkeley, also to give an unpaid lecture, in January, I got a ticket for parking my motorcycle (which had a special visitor pass posted on it) in a car spot in the garage.
Where the motorcycle parking was, I never found out. Just before getting to my bike, my dear friend Paul and I had been walking for some two hours on Oxford and various streets. Engaged in discussion, we found the light turn red as we are mid-crossing. A burly car-driving Berekely cop stops us. Tells us he can give us each a ticket – 130$ — for crossing on red. Paul, in his professioral baritone apologizes, grovels a bit, says the cop is absolutely right and we are absent-minded. We get off with a warning.
A Berkeley oddity: a place allegedly of free speech and great liberties, feels at times fascist. I recall that the city council debated (and may have passed) a law outlawing perfume-wearers from all public buildings…so as not to harm people “allergic” to perfume. B.O. (body odor), however is not outlawed in Berkeley and is quite prevalent. Such an oddity: it is both lovely to be there, and irritating.
And last night, a true SF experience. After visiting friends in San Mateo, I was to join a colleague and friend and his family in SF. He asked me to bike from his house (on 30th and Laidely) to the Castro to eat at Samovar. He had the bikes, lights, helmets and flourscent vests at the ready and we descended to the Valley. Met friends along the way, obliging as to stop and banter. As we ate, cheek by jowl at Samovar, he told me that the brother of a mutual friend had died last month, a young professor at MIT. Not just died; suicided a month before his wedding. The girl at the next table asked, “Do you mean Dr. P.?” She had been an undergrad at MIT. Afterwards, a bit all the more somber, we hopped on our wheels and threaded our way along the sheers of hillsides, to Michael’s house.
Now, back to Israel.