Excerpt 2: Telegraph Avenue

Telegraph Avenue – 1965

Summer, 1965. Berkeley, California. There I am walking up this street Telegraph Avenue, walking up to a place of high energy, of guys with long hair, tie-dye shirts and sandals, smoking weed. No one pays attention to me. How can I get someone to look at me?  Hot pink skirts, slinky girls with low cut blouses looking, looking at the boys, boys looking, looking around puffing, everyone puffing, holding, holding books, Lawrence Ferlingetti, standing, sitting, sitting outside Cody’s sipping coffee, puffing weed.

I keep walking, the baby tied to my front, my fat belly sticking out, my insides wanting to spill all over the street, and I keep walking until the baby won’t stop crying and I see his pursed mouth and I sit down on a chair in front of Cody’s bookstore and I lift my Mexican blouse, my white blouse with stitched embroidery criss-crossed. The baby sucks and I’m wondering what is going on as I can see people moving and my feet want to move and the baby is attached to my tit and I want to scream, but I let him suck until I can’t stand it anymore and I lift him up, burp him and start walking up the street, the only person with a baby, with a kid.

Everyone is walking fast and my body is weighted down and I keep going until I get to the edge of the campus and there are boxes and a boy with no shirt and a beard and bushy hair screaming, “Down with the pigs. Get out now.” Someone hands me a pamphlet. There’s another box with another pamphlet about end the war now. Students are walking to the center by the fountain, the center called Sproul Hall, where there is a big crowd and I look up and see two people on a platform and a guy with dark hair is shouting, “Freedom Now! What do we want? Freedom Now!” A girl with long blond hair is shouting something about freedom and I ask a guy next to me wearing a turtleneck sweater what’s going on and he says it’s the Free Speech Movement, the administration is pigs–we’re for freedom–freedom lady, so that baby there can be free. Hear me, lady, freedom!

I can’t stand the noise and the baby is screaming and he’s wet – I can feel it, so I duck through the crowd and I walk away down Telegraph Avenue and I stop now on the other side of the street and go into the bathroom in a café. I go in and unstrap the baby and start to change his diaper by the sink and a girl comes out and blows smoke in my face and says, “Cool lady, cool.” I want to go home, so I get the diaper changed and I walk down Telegraph Avenue to the green and white sign that crosses Dwight Way and walk down Dwight Way into the apartment above the restaurant and my face is wet. Tears are coming down and I don’t know what is going on. I call Ned, but he’s in session. Harry says he’ll call me back, and I lie on the mattress on the floor and the baby lies there with me and Sue comes in and says, “Haven’t you fed him?”