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Life Arts

Me and the Great Zucchini at UC-Berkeley, in 1973.

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In the fall of 1972, I got a job as a clerk-typist in the Financial Aid Office of UC-Berkeley, in Sproul Plaza, and I worked there all during the “Watergate Months” of 1973, and…

What a time that was! 

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For someone like myself whose politics were basically “socialist,” there was no lamentable aspect to the ongoing Watergate circus.  Instead, every day opened with a laugh-out-loud (LOL) and party-in-the-morning feeling, which then became full-blown delight in reaction to the daily news about Nixon’s perfidies.


In Sproul Plaze, by Snap Man at Flickr (1969)

I especially remember a grey-haired little-old-lady (LOL), Ruth Blumberg.  She was a good friend and laughing companion with a wonderful sense of humor.  But Ruth wasn’t nearly as radical as I was.  If my memory serves, Ruth was basically a First-Amendment, strongly anti-Nixon person who was furious at the President for abusing the American Constitution.  Whereas, I was simply delighted about all of the Trickster’s appalling transgressions.   

Much more clearly than I remember dear Ruth, I remember The Great Zucchini.

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Regularly for a while, around 11 am, The Zucchini would be out in the Plaza, swallowing fire and telling jokes about Haldeman, Nixon, Mrs. Mitchell, Attorney General Mitchell, you name it.  About whoever was being roasted most that morning in the newspapers and their closest associates in the frying pan.  He was a fire (and-sometime-sword) swallower, stand-up comedian, and he put on a great show even if you were out of hearing range.  So workers in the Financial Aid Office – on the second floor of the main administration building – would stop at the front windows and briefly watch The Zucchini’s antics from a distance. 

Then when our lunch-hours came, we might walk out into the Plaza and catch the last part of The Zucchini’s show if it was still going on, before getting lunch along Telegraph Avenue or Bancroft Way, or at Kip’s on Durant around the corner.

Then that incredible springtime passed, and we stopped seeing The Great Zucchini except for once in a while.

By this time, my best friend in Berkeley was a Financial Aid Counselor.  And we had become good drinking buddies.  But to cut to the chase: the two of us were upstairs in Kip’s one night drinking pitchers of beer and shooting the breeze, when we spotting a guy who looked a lot like The Great Zucchini himself, drinking alone at the bar.  And of course, it was The Zucchini himself, and when we offered to share our pitchers with him at our table, he ambled over.

The Zucchini was burned out on Berkeley, and he told us he was heading north, to join a commune he knew about in Washington, and we’d probably never see him again at UC-Berkeley.  And so it was.  And ever will be.  I never saw The Great Zucchini again, and later that year I moved to southern Marin County, to work in a restaurant-business partly owned by a dark Italian fellow who was also a Financial Aid Counselor during the Watergate Months, in the Financial Aid Office in the Main Administration Building, in Sproul Plaza at UC-Berkeley.

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"How could I fail to speak with difficulty? I have new things to say." I graduated from Stanford Law School in 1966 but have never practiced. Instead, I dropped back five years and joined The Movement, but it wasn't until the 1970's that I (more...)
 

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