Sitting on Bench One

This is really where this period of my life really started. The Telegraph Years. Way back in 1991 when I first started hanging out with Hate Man on Sproul Plaza. Duncan used to always get his coffee at Cafe La Botega right down the street, and drink it on the bench while hanging out with Hate and the other street people. And that’s how I ended up hanging here. 30 years ago. And another lifetime.

Duncan used to always get a small coffee to-go at La Botega. And then he’d save the cup so he could go back and get endless refills for a quarter. He’d use the same cup all week until it finally got so soggy and coffee stained that it would leak coffee. So Duncan would have to throw it out and buy a new cup. Ha ha. Fucking Duncan.

I remember Duncan always called Hate Man, “Flack.” That was one of the countless “funny names” Hate had adopted for awhile. He was constantly changing his name. He even had a name tag that he would pin to his lapel with his latest “funny name.” But I guess it was simpler for Duncan to just refer to him as Flack rather than keep track of his latest name. 

The “funny name” thing was just one of the countless zany aspects of Hate Camp. And it had a playful quality. It was like we were children playing “let’s pretend.” But there was also an underlying deeper psychological aspect, like we were all trying to re-invent who we were, or live out our fantasy personas. Myself, I had three “funny names” over the years: Upgrade, Splatt, and Chopper.

I remember that period as light-hearted and innocent and joyful. Especially compared to how grim and dead things are nowadays.

I vividly remember Yume’s memorial at Bench One and Bench Two at the beginning of January of 1994. It was like the opening scene of the movie that was that wild, crazy year of 1994. Dozens of street people showed up to pay their respects. I helped to organize it, along with Ben who was the master of ceremonies. It was the moment when I realized I was no longer just an outsider, an observer, documenting the Telegraph street scene in my art. But I was now an active participant, taking part in the deaths and births and the weddings and everything in between.

I remember the night when beautiful young Katie and Nikki swooped down on the scene for the first time in their long flowing hippie skirts and halter tops. And danced and swayed around us as we played our guitars. Nikki had this little finger cymbals that she clasped in her hands to the best of our music adding this chiming, magical sound. And it was like there was magic in the air and that all of our dreams could come true.

Bench One would be one of my bases for the next 15 years. The backdrop to countless mad dramas and zany misadventures. I think it wasn’t until around 2004 that Hate packed up Hate Camp and moved it permanently to People’s Park. And the Sproul Plaza scene ended with him. But it was quite a run while it was happening.

I got a lump in my throat and almost start to cry as I think of it now all these years later. It’s like a dream. Like it never really happened. It was all a hallucination. A figment of my imagination. All gone gone gone. . . 

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