All posts by A column by Aaron Cometbus

The East Bay Foot

Don’t mistake this for an Eastbay Ear column. Martin Snapp–after years at the Oakland Tribune–is now writing his chatty gossip for the decidedly un-Berkeley Berkeley Voice. Though the Trib has become such a joke that it’s known in local circles as the West Coast Onion, Snapp himself has yet to lower his standards far enough for the pages of Slingshot. And so, while we wait for his eventual fall from grace, I will attempt to take his place.

BEST BIKE REPAIR IN TOWN, hands down, is Cloud Nine, a one-woman shop located in a shack behind the Berkeley Musical Instrument Exchange, one block from Ashby BART. Cloud Nine has expert service, cheap prices, and a casual setting. Sit under the tree playing with her tyke instead of being bombarded by the usual machismo and bullshit attitude that comes with having to fix your bike (yes, even when you do it yourself). 2923 Adeline Street.

MUCH SPECULATION has been made about the emergence on Telegraph of two different–and often overlapping–ethnic business districts: Little Ethiopia and Korea Town. Official recognition from the city of O-town is rumored to be in the works for K-town, though not E-town, and the Foot wonders why? The neighborhood takeover, by both, is near total, and largely beneficial (with Ethiopians and Eritreans now running many area markets and liquor stores, and every Japanese sushi place on Telegraph being secretly Korean-owned). Besides matters of culture and language, the only real difference between the two–and it’s a big one–is that most E-town patrons and business owners live in the neighborhood, while much of K-town’s business is from commuters coming in from the ‘burbs. At least, such is what my admittedly unscientific research has uncovered. Give ‘em both their due, I say.

NEW MAG ON THE BLOCK: Asscactus. This rag gives Absolutely Zippo a run for its money (sic), with its barely legible–yet thoroughly charming and insightful–take on Berkeley punk life. Stories include the epic tale of a stolen golf cart joyride through the El Cerrito Hills. After reading the first issue, I dreamt I was at the Ashtray, storied punkhouse of yore. The Asscactus staff had taken over the place. I tried to act nonchalant while stepping over them, sprawled out in varied states of consciousness on the floor. “I’ll show these young whippersnappers that I know my way around,” I thought, but entering the bathroom I found myself–with pants down–right in the middle of the Asscactus office! They had replaced the toilet with bedrolls and moldy bagels! No toilet–that was taking things too far. That was too punk. I felt evicted. Abandoned. Upstaged. I woke up, confused by the metaphor and badly needing to piss. You can buy Asscactus at Collector’s Realm on Telegraph, or find their crew hanging out outside of the nearby Peet’s . . . Runner-up on the rack is the (recent if not hot-off-the-presses) fanzine Feedback, with concert reviews done as episodic comics. Keep an eye out for it!

HAPPY ANNIVERSARIES: The Book Zoo beat the odds by turning five, showing that even the least likely to succeed in an already dying breed stands a chance, and should still fight to the last! The Gilman Street Project turned twenty-two, according to author William Saroyan “the best year of every man’s life”, but perhaps not so for a club. The private celebration–involving a game of Go and a bag of stale chips–was more fodder for the club’s detractors who’ve groused for years that the spark, spunk, and pit have long been missing from the once-seminal spot. Still, like People’s Park, Gilman remains a valuable resource and a counter-cultural landmark (though the primary life of both may now be on the basketball court). As Gilman’s head of security laments, “It’s easier to start something than to keep it going.” Conversely, the Purple House (nee Pink) recently turned one hundred, and shows no sign of slowing their embrace of full-on freakdom. True, the current residents have only occupied the premises for the last two decades, but, as anyone who’s set foot inside can attest, the fact that the house still stands is a miracle in itself. The Purple House has taken ten plagues at a time–two to each room–for years on end, yet still manages to thrive. Let it be a model to live by.

PLEA BARGAINS: Two riders in the recent, post-riot Eastbay Critical Mass were arrested in Oakland–and then unarrested just as fast, with these magical words: “Set them free and we’ll turn around and go back to Berkeley.”

FLIER WARS: Tensions are simmering between the rival forces that bring beauty and public discourse to the telephone poles of our sleepy town. “Stop sabotaging your success,” say the handbills for a local men’s self-help group which Cool Kyle and Uncle Fun found regularly covering up their own fliers–for the Down Low, a nightclub in the basement of Indian restaurant Pasand. Finally, they took the number and called. “Yes, do you have a problem?” asked the soothing voice on the Men’s Club hotline. Kyle lost his cool. “No,” he yelled, “but you’re gonna have one if you don’t stop covering up our motherfucking fliers!” Ever since, the Men’s Club man has kept his postings at the bottom of the pole, far below eye level…The conflict between promoters of Ashkenaz and Gilman has yet to be resolved as peacefully. Ashkenaz booker Space Nug was seen confronting one of Gilman’s Staplegun Army on Fourth Street, threatening turf war over the ever-shrinking public space for posters. “Tell your peeps that Space Nug has Berkeley on lockdown,” he warned. “This is my ‘hood.”

JUNK PIRATES got an unexpected bounty when Fantasy Studios shut down. Known to locals as “the House that Creedence Built”, Fantasy was a monument to dishonesty and greed–paid for by the royalties that Fogerty & co. never got to see, stolen from them in one of the most infamous bad contract deals in music history. We here at Slingshot were glad to see it go–but not as glad as the lucky fucks who found Fantasy’s master tapes when they filtered into Urban Ore from the city dump! Original Metallica reels were reported to be among the loot–but lawyers for our West County acne-faced heroes put a quick stop to some scavenger’s attempt to turn that particular trash into Ebay gold.

LASTLY, and on that same note, an old pal recently came to me concerned about our mutual friend Cauliflower. “I saw her digging through the trash cans at Ashby BART,” he confided. The news worried me, too–obviously Cauliflower was on to something good that she was keeping to herself. When I found her at the Trader Joe’s dumpster she admitted as much. “You can trade in all the change left over on BART cards that people throw away,” she said, “Wednesdays at Downtown Berkeley.” Cauliflower and I sat together in the new shelter built for the dumpster (and dumpster divers) at the E-ville Trader Joe’s, eating a four-course meal while we waited out the rain.

Got an item for the Foot? Write your own damn column. I’ve got dishes to do.