Monday, February 21, 2005

I'd have to say that the top three searches that reach this blog are some variants of:

1) cheerleaders no panties
2) ""
3) "Barrington Hall"

The people doing the first two searches don't stick around long. As it turns out, I am not one of the leading Internet experts on either inappropriately attired cheerleaders or desperate URLs. I do, however, have a few things (at least 4) to say about Barrington Hall. So, here's Part 4 of my year at Barrington Hall. You may wish to read the first, second, and third posts, written last year. If you prefer, here's the management summary:

I lived in the Barrington Hall Cooperative in Berkeley, California during my sophomore year of college. It was an exaggerated stereotype of life in "hippie" Berkeley, replete with copious drugs, psychedelic murals, and entrenched filth. I was a squeaky clean boy from the suburbs. Fish out of water hilarity ensued. Comedy was primarily supplied by a wacky set of supporting characters and dangerous meals. Today this would be a short-lived series on Fox.


Barrington Hall was best known both for its virtually anarchist politics and its parties, with the former leading to the betterment of the latter and the latter resulting in forgetting about the former. It was a defiant place that inspired musicians and enraged neighbors. It was Burning Man before there was a Burning Man.

It was a place radical enough that in 1974 when the Symbionese Liberation Army kidnapped Patty Hearst in Berkeley and sought a place to hide out, they briefly utilized Barrington Hall. (Although this rumor is unsubstantiated, it was widely acknowledged by many longtime Barringtonians.) It also was a place where heroin usage resulted in overdoses and party-goers frying on acid tried to fly off the roof.

When the fire department inspected the building and declared that, structurally, it bordered on being a fire hazard and could burn to the ground in six minutes, the residents of the building ordered thousands of matchbooks printed with the phrase "6 Minute Burn Time". This was not a community that took authority seriously.

So, what was a party like at Barrington Hall?

A few times a year Barrington would host a Wine Dinner. These were epic parties that would start with a special, yet ultimately forgettable, dinner and would feature music by local bands (Primus played once). The most distinctive aspect of the Wine Dinner, however, was the punch.

"Punch?" you say, "Was it spiked with booze?"

Spiked? Yes. Booze? No.

The Wine Dinner punch was spiked with LSD. This was a well-known fact to 95% of the party-goers and soon became apparent to most of the other thirsty guests. Once the punch kicked in, and people started peaking, the party had officially started. Note that since acid is a drug that typically lasts around eight hours, these parties were more of an ultra-marathon than some wussy sprint. Thus there was plenty of time for festivities like:

1) Stuffing pets down your pants. One Barrington couple kept illegal ferrets in their room. More than once these animals were placed into people's pants. I suppose this is the next logical step after gerbilling.

2) Trying to fly off the roof. This only happened once during my tenure, but apparently the guy survived with only minor injuries. It's a four-story building. From this we are forced to conclude that people who are frying on acid can almost fly. Four stories! Not bad, eh?

3) Seeing primordial darkness. This dude was really tripping.

As it turns out, people on acid are entertaining! This reminds me of a story that a friend once told me about her high school. This gal, Heather, went to a hoity-toity high school in a rich enclave here in the Bay Area called Blackhawk. As part of the graduation requirements, the senior class would take a camping trip together. Part of the trip required spending 24 hours in complete isolation. They'd send each person to a different part of the woods, equipped with minimal food, a journal, and a pen. The idea was to do some serious contemplative introspection and keep a journal of your thoughts. Each person was also given a loud whistle, which was only to be used in the case of a medical emergency.

Heather's friend, Ted, thought that this exercise was going to be a bore, so he brought along a bunch of acid. Well, no one else wanted to take the acid, so Ted popped all 10 hits himself. Shortly into the 24 hours of isolation, his brain was frying and the hallucinogenic thoughts started flowing. Soon Ted, using neuron pathways that had never been explored, discovered the solution to the world's problems. Hunger, poverty, war, they were all going to be ended by his solution. He had discovered it.

Realizing that his mental state prevented him from holding thoughts very long, Ted promptly turned to his journal to document his world-changing discovery, only to discover that his pen didn't work. This was horrible. This incredible breakthrough for humanity was slowly slipping through his drug-addled brain.

So, Ted blew his whistle. He blew it for another pen. He blew it for humankind.

Ted was promptly busted and never did remember what he had "discovered" that day. From then on, he was known as Ten Hit Ted.

Anyway, back to Barrington.

What was I typically doing during the Wine Dinners? Well, the idea of taking a powerful hallucinogenic drug, in a house full of strangers, where every inch of wall was covered with bizarre murals, was a bit intimidating to me. Instead, I usually spent these hours puking. You know that drinking mnemonic, "Beer then liquor, never sicker!" ? Well, I coined my own handy phrase that year. "Booze then pot, throw up a lot!" I'm thinking about getting t-shirts printed.

I mean, it was a Wine Dinner, I had to do something illegal. I think it was a house rule. So, I'd drink some wine coolers (I was fairly new to this drinking thing) and then smoke some pot, and then I'd walk into walls, vomit explosively, pray for death, etc.

During one of the Wine Dinners, I imbibed my usual cocktail o' nausea and then went to hang out in my friend Trisha's room. When I, unsurprisingly, barfed all over her bed, she was none too pleased. I spent the rest of the evening washing her bedding. Now THAT, my friends, is a rockin' party. FREEBIRD!!

I must admit, however, that not every Barrington social occasion was an orgy of drugs and decadence. For example, there is an excellent science museum here in San Francisco called the Exploritorium. One of the exhibits there is the Tactile Dome, which is a set of rooms that you explore in total darkness. You crawl through them, using all your senses except sight to navigate through the various features, such as a room filled with dried beans.

The Barringtonians, being scientists at heart, would plan an annual trip to the Tactile Dome. Of course when they did it, they'd get high on something beforehand, and then crawl through the exhibit completely naked. My suitemate, Kim, reported picking beans out of her various orifices for hours afterwards. It was, I'm sure, an educational experience (at least for the beans).

That's all for now. Next stop on the Barrington tour will be "The End".


Tasty said...

BWAHAHAH!!!!! "FREEBIRD!" made me SNORT, then giggle uncontrollably for a full minute. Thank you. That was almost as satisfying as sex.

Mike said...

Tasty, I think that's called a blogasm.

Anonymous said...

Mike, I lived in Barrington when Patty Hearst was kidnapped in '74. Can you handle the truth? ;)

Mike said...

Anon, between you and me, no, I probably can't handle the truth. That being said, I still think I can handle the truth, so please to be bringing it on.

Anonymous said...

No SLA members hid out in Barrington Hall that I know of -- and I doubt that anyone would have been able to keep a secret of that magnitude in Barrington!

There is however an very 3rd degree connection between BH and PH, prompted by her kidnapping, but I can't divulge without breaking a confidence. Sorry.

Mike said...

Anon, you secret tease you! You've forced me to summon all my journalistic training and expertise here. Pretty pleeeeeeeeeeeease tell me what the connection was. With a cherry on top?

You could email me ;) ogblay AT gmail dot com.

Anonymous said...

Mike, No can do. Beside, I knew the perp in Davis House and I'm not entirely sure he started out in BH (although he certainly acted like someone who had lived in BH)!

Slight change of topics here... Was "California" still around when you went to UC? He may have changed his name. He used to cavort in the campus fountains wearing a skirt, and telling anyone who would listen how much he hated them. He started his Berkeley "career" in BH, Suite 301.

OK, so that doesn't rate anywhere near as high as the SLA...

Mike said...

Anon, oh well.

This "California" fellow sounds familiar. I have a vague recollection of a guy who would hang out near Sproul Plaza along Bancroft. He'd generally be wearing a dress and would usually flip you off. I believe we referred to him as The Hate Guy. Perhaps he's the same man.

Anonymous said...

Yep, that's the same guy. He crashed at BH for at least a quarter, until he and my suite-mate moved out together. Wnt by the name of "California" back then, but his real name was XXXX XXXXXXXX, former NY Times reporter.

Even now, these many years later, I find it hard to divulge a BH secret!

Mike said...

Anon, I think I can piece together this puzzle. His name must have been Hank Johnston. Or maybe Bill Anderson. Crap. I give up.

Anonymous said...

THANK YOU so much for the Barrington Blog! I haven't laughed this much in months! I lived in Barrington between 1988 and the official shutdown in 1989. There is almost nothing about it on the web. Your blog is wonderful!


Mike said...

Hey Barb, my pleasure.

Anonymous said...

i miss you.

Mike said...

Anon, that's totally understandable. I am a treat.