Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Chandler in Flames!

"The Ruins of Time build Mansions in Eternity"
-William Blake

Firefighters to stay at scene of fire all night

"...two cats were also rescued from the building.
Firefighters cut holes in the roof-- 
which later partially  collapsed ..."
"'Our city is tapped out', Kehoe said..."
"Because the building has been deemed uninhabitable, 
Red Cross volunteers will try to find shelter for the residents"

The Daily Californian 23 November 2015, page 2

WOW, the entropy of the old ways of Telegraph takes another giant step. 

These apartments were and, hopefully will be again, the home of Owen Hill author and poet who has long worked at the Berkeley's early and perhaps final bookstore of note. Owen is charge of the poetry activities at the store and hosts a long-running reading series. After many of the readings especially in early years of abundant scene-making attendance friends and fellow travelers would join the poets at Owen's pad for wine and communion with his admirable and mellow cats. Poets and authors one has encountered and chatted with at Owen's include Nanos Valaoritis, Clark Coolidge, Ann Waldman, Bill Berkson, Jonathan Lethem, Tom Clark, Andrei Codrescu, and loads of others.
Owen himself has published a lively, well-received roman noir entitled The Chandler Apartments.
(Full disclosure: Under my baptismal name. I make a meta-fictional cameo in his book.)

I think back to my earliest impressions of Telegraph all the  cafes and the book, record, clothes and head shops housed on the ground floors of buildings. The architecture determined the character of the canyon of the happening street. Even Moe's sold records then in its basement space. I remember finding it curious when I arrived in Berkeley in 1979 that the little variety store near Annapurna had permanently boarded-up windows; they put a lock on the plywood door to close up at night.
But that was the Twentieth-century which it ain't no more. I am not nostalgic for that scene really--there was too much hippie detritus left from the sixties and seventies. I had just left the urban centers of Boston, New York and Providence where I'd imagined and carved out my Punk generation identity and though there was a presence in record stores like Rather Ripped records on the North-side and various South-side record shops, in-stores by Punk-era heroes like the Clash to Robert Fripp and John Cale, I found the scene in Berkeley rather hind-bound. I spent most of my time in San Francisco and moved there for a year. Back in 1979 my first Berkeley address was on Benvenue near People's Park. I was quite familiar with its history which I honored but was largely alienated by both the music and behavior I observed in People's Park on my only visit for quite a spell. Later as one becomes more Berkeley one can acquire affection for the storied and contested plot of land.
Naturally in the intervening years change and stagnation have been the order of things on Telegraph in the hot zone approaching campus. Campus itself  seems much more insular and exclusive of the community.

I certainly  hope Owen and his cats are doing well and that the Chandler Apartments are rebuilt and  that the literary side of the scene that it has come to represent for me continues to find a course for its river of words.

Come back, Chandler
Owen, come home

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