A few years back I wrote several entries about Barrington Hall, the Berkeley student cooperative in which I lived during college. (see links in the right-hand margin if you care). My final post on the topic discussed how the last time I stepped foot in the building was nearly 20 years ago, summoned in the middle of the night to oversee the latest interaction between the police and the building squatters. Barrington Hall, which had been officially shut down months earlier by a student referendum, was in its final stages of being Barrington Hall.
This Saturday night however, for 4 hours and 4 hours only, a small portion of Barrington Hall was reopened for the first, and probably last, reunion. Although I've never lived in a place where I was more out of place, I couldn't not go. Barrington Hall reunion, baby!
Not wanting to drive to a place that was most famous for LSD-spiked punch, I hopped on a train Saturday night to Berkeley. Mid-way through the train ride, after repeatedly thinking that the elderly well-dressed lady next to me was sporting some serious body odor, I realized that I had forgotten to apply deodorant after my shower. Frankly, I was a little nervous about going to the reunion since I knew that several ex-Barringtonians had stumbled across my blog over the years, and read stories about themselves that may have (unintentionally!) seemed somewhat unflattering. So, I was sweating a bit.
Thus, my first stop in Berkeley was a drugstore to buy the smallest and cheapest deodorant I could find. I was NOT going to be the smelliest guy in a room full of ex-hippies. Once I had fully Shower Freshed my armpits, I strutted down the street to Barrington.
Anyway, one of the things that had surprised me at my 20 year high school reunion was the realization that no matter who you were in high school: stoner, rocker, jock, nerd, slacker, etc, that almost everybody needs to earn a living, and usually the best way to do that is to clean up and put on corporate clothes. I recall being amazed at the high school slackers who were now managers for investment firms. Like the sands through the 20-year hourglass, these are the paths of the ex-stoners who now work for Charles Schwab.
This was not the case with the Barrington reunion. I marveled at the sheer number of people who were clearly living off the corporate grid. For example, as I stood outside the Barrington front door, I heard a man screech exuberantly behind me. I turned to see an 60 year-old-ish obviously homeless man, pushing his two shopping carts down the street.
"Pink Cloud!" several people excitedly yelled, and then they helped the man hide his shopping carts in the bushes and they escorted him into the building.
This Pink Cloud fellow was, apparently, before my time. He was not, apparently, currently working for Schwab. Another guy drove up in a big mass-transit bus that had been converted into his living space. We did not discuss real estate prices.
Anyway, so I partied with Pink Cloud and the other people who lived lives orthogonal to my own. I chatted for a while with one guy wearing a "Satan" name tag and another guy wearing a "You are old and withered" sticker.
In fact, upon meeting "Satan", he eyeballed me accusingly and asked, "Are you the guy who wrote those long posts about Barrington on the internet?"
"Uh, maybe," I said proudly, cowering.
"The posts describing all your suite-mates?" he asked
"Umm, that might have been me," I whispered, casually looking around for an exit vector.
Satan smiled. "Those were excellent. Thank you."
Woo! Satan approved of my blog! That may have been the nice compliment I've ever received.
Anyway, I had a pretty good time at the reunion. Most of the people there didn't know who the hell I was, but I had good chats with several of my ex-suitemates and spent a lot of time chatting with my old roommate, who I don't see nearly often enough. I did find a few people who became doctors, lawyers, and computer professionals, but mostly it was a reminder that there are many paths through life, and some of them involve being Pink Cloud.