Last night I talked to Fantastic Negrito and Pink Cloud. That’s a fucking awesome sentence, right?
It was after kickboxing and jiujitsu. My training partner and I emerged from our dusty basement gym, up the stairs and out the front door, still talking about jiujitsu. Our neighbor Xavier, a.k.a Fantastic Negrito was out on the sidewalk. We asked him how his show on Saturday went. There was a block party right there on our block, with Fantastic Negrito and others playing, hosted by NPR music. He told us it was crazy, a free show, totally packed of course. We were sad we couldn’t make it. He told us about his new baby twins, the traveling he’ll be doing for his music, how Oakland has changed since he was young.
Then a guy in a tasseled jacket and a long, white beard rode up on a bike. “There used to be a chiropractor’s office around here somewhere,” he said. This was 10:30 at night.
“I think there’s one over there,” Xavier said, pointing down the block.
“This was like eight years ago,” the man said. His voice was high-pitched and had a twang a little like Bob Dylan.
“You’re from Berkeley!” Xavier said.
“I am Berkeley,” the man said. “My name is Pink Cloud. I’m all over wikipedia.”
Xavier took out his phone and looked it up. “He’s right,” he told me and my training partner. “He’s on Wikipedia.”
We talked for a while about how Berkeley used to be. Pink Cloud used to crash in Barrington Hall, the Berkeley co-op dedicated to mind expansion. It got shut down in 1990. Pink Cloud said that he was now living in a “mental hospital disguised as a hotel.” But he’s moving out, back onto the street.
“I’m not going to another one of those places,” he said. “There’s no freedom living there.”
I love my training space. I love the corner near Jack London Square, the yuppies walking their dogs, the weirdos on bikes. “Some of these people wanted us out of here,” Xavier said, pointing to the fancy condos on every corner but ours. “They wanted everything that was from old Oakland to be stamped out. They wanted all the artists and black people stamped out.”
I love the artists and the black people and the homeless people and the weirdos and Oakland and Berkeley and our beautiful, ugly warehouse basement.