Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Well Done, Medium, or...


Since I'm on the subject of wacky characters about town, I thought I'd give a shout out to my peeps in Berkeley. There are LOTS of freaks wandering the streets up there. When I moved to LA, I had to readjust my thinking in order to understand that all the disembodied voices I heard having conversations with themselves around me were actually folks talking on their cell phones, not lunatics like I was used to.

The entire decade or so that I lived in Berkeley, I was aware of a particular street guy we called Rare. Why? Because he used to walk around and people would yell to him, "How do you like it?" And he'd yell back, "Rare!" And vice versa. I'm positive that he's still wandering Telegraph Ave doing that.

He was usually shirtless in jeans, with scraggly longish hair. He'd drop and do one handed push-ups on the sidewalk for no reason. He provided lots of entertainment for the frat boys. Oddly, in his lucid moments, he'd rattle off sports statistics and talk athletics with all the knowledge of a seasoned sportscaster, and he also was obsessed with music. In his not so lucid moments, he'd run around rambling about God knows what.

There were lots of rumors around Rare, but the one I remember most vividly was the one about him once being a major college baseball star, and then getting smacked in the head with a fastball and going nuts as a result. I had a couple personal encounters with him. He came to volunteer at the radio station I was managing, KALX Berkeley, with the intention of working in our sports department. He had a friend (caretaker?) with him when he came by, and he was very sincere about doing it and very interested, but after 6 weeks or so I saw him ranting on the streets again.

My contact with Rare continued when I moved to LA. I worked in a record store which had started in Berkeley and I was at the Hollywood branch, working the information counter. Rare used to call there looking for stuff because he had talked one of the owners into bringing merchandise back to the Bay if we had it. "You know that one Byrds album? It was really great, when they started with the country thing, and other rock bands weren't doing that, and that's why the Rolling Stones started doing that, and that guy OD'd or something, and they reissued it and put extra tracks on it but I just want that first version, the original one, on vinyl, you know?" He remembered me from the radio station. Sometimes.

He doesn't give a fuck, he's living under a truck
You know it coulda been me, I guess that's just my luck
But I swear I hear the voices singing to me-
Keep on keep on keep on...
Concrete Blonde