The USCA – Barrington Hall
Berkeley’s University Students Co-operative Association, the USCA, a student housing organization, had/has a motto, “You own it, but you can’t sell it.” Living in a co-op was nothing like living in the dorms. They were similar in that for either, you paid money and in return you got a room with a bed and a desk and a dresser/closet and three meals a day.
They differed in that 1) Co-ops were cheaper; much cheaper. 2) In co-ops, you had work shift hours – five hours a week, either cooking or cleaning, or maintenance keeping. In the dorms, everything was done for you. 3) In co-ops, if you were elected to some managerial position, you lived there for free or at a large discount, or those were your work shift hours. 4) In co-ops, the residents ordered their own food, planned and cooked their own meals and cleaned, budgeted and maintained their own house. 5) Co-ops policed themselves. There was NO authority beyond the residents themselves. Dorms had guards, campus police and monitors.
Basically, in the dorms, everything was done for you and you just paid money and ALWAYS lived with a roommate, and the food was slop served in a cafeteria environment run by paid employees with set hours (if you got up at ten, you missed breakfast), and there were guards and rules and no kitchen to raid at all hours of the night. In the co-ops, it was like your house where no one was in charge but you. And there WAS a fridge to raid around the clock.
The dorms, on the other hand, had a sterile lounge with a soda machine and an occasional movie night in a controlled environment where nobody smoked weed and beer was like contraband. The dorms never had any parties. Everybody was so ‘regular’ in the dorms. Dinner ended at eight, so after that nothing except date rape, hate crimes; and the tale end of teenage brooding – cut to adulthood. Cuttings, piercings, tattooing and other self mutilation would achieve widespread popularity in the decades that followed. This was 1987. Not many people you saw had tattoos or piercings, yet.
By 1987, the co-op association had about 15 buildings housing students all over the regions north and south of the Berkeley campus; the first and biggest co-op was called Barrington Hall. It housed 180 students at maximum capacity.
Fleric & his friend Fleff were hoping to move into Barrington Hall in the fall, but since neither had ever been to Barrington Hall, they were curious. They decided to check out this notorious habitation they’d heard so much about. Neither had ever entered nor even seen Barrington Hall. They both knew Barrington by reputation as did most Berkeley students. They’d HEARD many things about Barrington Hall. “The Dead Kennedys played there in the early 80’s.” “Guys in Barrington are high everyday. Guys who are thirty act like they’re twenty.” DB
The USCA first opened Barrington Hall exclusively for male students in 1935. For eight years, Berkeley male students lived in Barrington Hall. Then, from 1943 till 1948, the house was taken over by/leased to the US Navy during WWII to house cadets. During that time, the building underwent serious upgrades paid for by the U.S. Department of Defense; after the war, Barrington Hall was given back to the USCA.
It was during those years right after the 2nd World War that author Philip K. Dick attended Berkeley High School and later, Cal Berkeley as a German Major. Dick would drop out of Cal because he refused to participate in the R.O.T.C. program. Dick refused to wear a uniform and to march. Male Cal students, as students of UC Berkeley were/are called, had to participate in R.O.T.C. military simulation and training, or be expelled, during and following the war years. Dick left UC Berkeley and went to work ‘in two Berkeley shops, University Radio and Art Music, owned by Herb Hollis, a salt-of-the-earth American small businessman who became a kind of father-figure for Dick and served as an inspiration for a number of his later fictional characters.’ - from PKD’s website. Dick’s writings have shaped the minds of many Berkeley residents, and many others across the USA and the entire world.
Dick chose to leave U.C. Berkeley and became a successful science fiction writer who took a lot of speed and wrote some of the most insightful and interesting fictional stories from the 1950’s till his death in 1982. Philip Dick shared a womb with a female twin who died five weeks after her birth. In 1968 the year Fleric was born, Dick published the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, which is better known as Blade Runner. The next year, he published Ubik, a creepy sci fi thriller about being not completely dead; or least communicative in the dead state. Like most of Dick really ‘sci-fi’ novels, Ubik and others put the reader on the edge of his/her existence, not unlike an LSD trip, and when the reader nears the end of the book he/she thinks, ‘There’s no way this can end in three pages!’ And it doesn’t because it can’t. It continues on long after the reading has stopped.
In 1964, Philip Dick published Martian Time Slip, a bewildering Martian colony tale where there is a housing structure called AM WEB which is said to have been based on Barrington Hall. Fleric never saw the connection, but he would read every Dick book he could get his hands on. A Scanner Darkly and Time Out of Joint, and Eye in the Sky were passed around Barrington Hall over the years from Beefy T to Jofay Day to Chrisullivan to Tom Floper. They often came from the Ashby Flea Market Prince Valiant hair cut dude who sold Philip K. Dick paperbacks.
In the 1990’s Hank Gamés and Fleric would drive to Berkeley and go to the Ashby flea market almost specifically to pick up new Dick titles – Galactic Pot Healer, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldrich, Radio Free Albemuth, Confessions of a Crap Artist. PK Dick was highly prolific, producing dozens of worthy novels and hundreds of short stories. Like the five page story, We Can Remember It for You Wholesale, that is the story behind Total Recall starring Arnold S. and Sharon Stone.
AK47 and Fleric went to see Total Recall drunk in 1990 in some San Something Mall theater on the big screen, driving in AK47’s spray painted Chevy Malibu, that he paid cash for from Barrington Kyle – Dog boy Kyle, not Fat Slice skateboarder Kyle. All the way back to AK47’s childhood home in Belmont from Berkeley they drove drunk in AK47’s Chevy Malibu – the same car used in Repo Man. AK47 had no problem drinking and driving.
Robert Dick, not to be confused with PK Dick was Barrington Hall’s appointed, resident man-in-charge fall semester 1987, the semester Fleff and Fleric moved in. Bearded Robert Dick studied Metallurgy and liked to bong out and eat quesadillas. Climt took over as ‘defacto head’ in 1988, but with less authority and everyone was happier for that. No authoritay was the unwritten rule that all members heeded until Stinky Room Scully let it fizzle in on the backswing in 1989. ‘This is my swansong.’ ‘Thank you, rude person.’ In 1967, Barrington Hall first allowed women residents. By 1990, Barrington Hall would be erased completely from the earth. And if nobody wrote about Barrington Hall, nobody would ever know that Barrington Hall had, in fact, existed. It more than existed. It thrived.
In fall 1987, the first semester Fleric lived in Barrington, the House Managers organized a field trip, chartered a bus, and took Fleric and many other Barringtonians like Arnold Roberts, Ged-dave, Jeremy P. and Austinshirley and many others all the way down to the Exploratorium in San Francisco. They rented a time slot for this pitch black, feel your way through maze. The place has a name, The Tactile Gallery, and Barrington residents rented the entire place for an hour, all to themselves. It was clothing optional. Most people stripped down to their underwear, the young men and women of Barrington, the couples, like Kim and Kim were already getting wet because they knew they were going to have fun inside in the dark. Gerg stepped out of his briefs and said, ‘You only lived once,’ and then naked as the day he was born ventured into the dark chasm of textile nightmarish guideposts and trails to the end. Wearing only boxers, Fleric entered after Gerg, a proud member of the ‘other team’. There was a slide and you landed in a pool of dry macaroni with air blowing to keep it soft and easy to penetrate with your feet as you landed in it. People started digging crap out of cracks after that.
In Barrington Hall 1988 for the World Series – Oakland A’s versus the LA Dodgers, the residents used house funds to rent a large screen TV and watch two of the games. They had a movie night in there as well – Pitney Swope, the 1969 dark comedy with the tagline – The Truth and Soul Movie – written and directed by Robert Downey Sr.; the French mood thriller Betty Blue; and the classic comedy rock band spoof Spinal Tap. They watched pinch-hitting LA Dodger Kirk Gibson whack the ball out of the park and limp around the bases. The LA area natives, Riverside Flibworth, Westside Fleric, East LA’s Chepe Escondido and Sandra D.; Southside Carol Blackstone who started hanging with Jo Fay, even Jersey native Fleff and others rooted for LA while the Northern California majority: Chrisullivan and Ravila from Salinas, JC and AK47 from Belmont, Dave Richards, SLefferts, Scotchurchka from nearby Bay Area San something and the rest rooted for the Oakland A’s. Flay stayed in his room and John Compa just paced the commons trash talking both teams. Compa was very much the New Yorker, from Rochester. I forget who took the series; Barringtonians seldom kept score – except when playing ping pong; and then Matthias or E. Horace Jun or D. Tune or Casual Brad, would either dominate the table or just compete for hours. You could barely see the ball fly across the table; they whacked it with such alacrity and spontaneity.
One bewilderingly handsome Barringtonian was Casual Brad, and at the spring Talent Show 1988 he got up on stage and sang the Blue Oyster Cult song, Then Came the Last Days of May with Gene doing the Buck Dharma lead guitar solos note for note, and with a full band behind them. Also appearing on stage that night, for the first and only time ever – Dharini on bass, Fleff on drums, blonde Clare on vocals, and Fleric on guitar – they jammed an original song that they had written in the band room. Fleric will always remember the date 8/8/88, for that was Dharini’s birthday.
It turned into a free for all jam with Rob Grindage grabbing the mike and Gene commandeering the bass from Dharini and funking it up on stage. Celine took a picture of F&F’s band and the photo appeared in the Toad Lane Review, a UC Berkeley periodical which Philippine Celine was editor of and which featured a story about Barrington Hall’s Talent Show. Clare’s black and white newsprint photo face looked comically round. Our neighbor Flay from Cupertino – Jimmy Jay-a-go-go, a cool cat kid, Hank Snow lemon drop Batman – he pinned the Toad Lane Review photo to the bulletin board above the toaster/bread area. Clare took it down as soon as she saw it. Fleff put it back up. Clare took it down again. Finally, Fleric pinned it up once more. By then, it had gotten repetitive and mean. Fleric was sorry he had done it.
Another time, Flay pinned a quote to the bulletin board, ‘It is easier to fight for a principle, than to live by one.’ Somebody quickly took that down too. Flay liked the Beatles and Buddy Holly. He was kind of square and fit right into the spleef posse of Fleff, Flibworth, Fleric, John Compa, and non-smoker James Chen. GMS! SMO!
At another talent show, old member, Chrisullivan donned a huge beehive hairdo and sung the B-52’s song, Planet Clair with D. Tune on drums, Gene on guitar, and Barnes on bass. In fall 1987, the same mötley crüe of musical talent, with possible stand-ins, impersonated Fleetwood Mac and did a few songs from the Rumours album. Jeremy P styled his long hair like Stevie Nicks and Chrissullivan did the Christine McVie part.
“I think I wrote this song,” Jeremy P. said in a falsetto voice before they sang Dreams and then The Chain. Jeremy P. was an actor from NYC. He’d taken LSD and mushrooms, but he had never smoked pot nor had smoked a single cigarette in his entire life. “I would never purposely inhale smoke into my lungs. I don’t care how high it gets me.” Jeremy P. said to Fleric one evening. Jeremy P. managed the AK vegetarian kitchen fall 1987. Jeremy P. was extremely handsome, model handsome, and he got a lot of tail that semester. Exclusively male tail. Again, you wouldn’t think Jeremy was gay when you first met him. You’d just think he was hot, and a really cool, warm-hearted guy with icy blue eyes. All tempera-cheer!
The music performed on the Barrington stage was always note for note spot on. Many Barringtonians performed in the 1986 Cal production of Godspell, a musical based on the Gospel according to St. Matthew. Chrissullivan sang; Gene and Brian played guitar and bass, respectively, in the band. D. Tune played the drums.
Barrington Hall had two kitchens: a main kitchen, fully industrial with all the trimmings and makings of a modern restaurant kitchen that feeds hundreds of people daily like the Hobart mixer and the CK pans; the other, a more low key strictly vegetarian kitchen on the second floor, but still with ample oven, range, and griddle capabilities. Next to/connected with the veggie kitchen, the AK (Alternative Kitchen), as it was commonly known, was a large dining area for the nightly veggie dinner extravaganza – eggplant this or cheesy that, and always a big green salad. The AK dining room was decorated with large animated vegetable characters painted on the wall, and they were all seated in a Last Supper setting, the carrot and potato and zucchini and cucumber and green onion looking very humanoid in their verticalness with eyes and arms and little clothing accessories. There was a piano that had seen better days, missing keys like an old man misses teeth.
In this room is where, at the start of each semester, Barrington Hall would hold its biannual New Member Disorientation Party and the Social Ed., the person who did minimal work shift hours but whose responsibility it was, to organize all the parties, book the bands, get the tank, etc. It was usually a two person job. Before this New Member Orientation party, which usually took place the second weekend of the semester, the Social Ed. would somehow get a large tank of nitrous oxide. Then, before the party, the AK dining commons would become bedecked with mattresses covering every inch of floor. A firm no smoking policy would be put into in effect, on account of N2O’s combustibility – Chrisullivan still carries that lesson around scarred onto her thigh – the doors manned/secured and with soothing psychedelic tunes and mood lighting inside, thirty to forty people at a time enjoyed the room. There was always a long line to get in the room for the duration of the party, until the tank ran out. In the room, on the mats, under dark mood lighting, each person was given his/her own Hefty bag filled with nitrous oxide gas like a big balloon that you could hold and press to your face to inhale a lung full, then save the mass for later as you entered a different reality. Many of the ‘carnival size balloon’ holders passed out; hence, the mattresses. You’d just sit for about 15-20 minutes laughing your ass off till your gas ran out. Going in and out of psychedelic convoys of brain thumping blinks and ending up on a mattress laughing, losing your mind only to find it is funnier without it – nitrous oxide, a hallucinogenic experience – ‘Wahn! Wahn! Wahn! Wahn!’ reverberating in your brain.
New Members’ Disorientation 1987 was the first time Fleric spoke at length with Gene Jun, singer and guitar virtuoso from Acid Rain. Acid Rain quickly replaced The Who as Fleric’s favorite rock and roll band. Acid Rain was the Barrington Hall house band and they sometimes practiced in the Barrington band room. By 1987, they mostly played in a proper studio, but sometimes they’d jam out in the Barrington band room. Chepe’s band Beef Church, and Sean K. and B. Barnes’ 501 Spanish Verbs, a funky King Crimson-esque trio would practice there a lot. The Verbs drummer played on Acid Rain’s debut CD, We Were All Very Worried. D. Shamrock was quite the sick stick man.
Nils and Gene, the band’s front men, had the full on Plant/Page personae. They had the hair: Gene’s straight thick down to the middle of his back black Korean mane; Nils had Nordic dark blonde locks that assembled fists around his head while he stood like a Viking with bulging biceps, usually wearing cut off shirts and vests. Always a stalwart for the needy, Nils mopped the dining commons nightly after dinner with enthusiastic gusto for his work shift hours. You almost wanted to grab a mop and help him out. He made mopping look fun, like Tom Sawyer – mean, mean stride. In Fall 1988, Barrington’s dining area would receive about 30 new chairs, all with wheels and, with the tables pushed up against the walls, residents would engage in high speed bumper-chairs, wheeling backwards at great speeds. Philippine Celine took an awesome black and white photo of Nils in motion, his hair up around his head. Nils is/was very photogenic.
Gene’s work shift position in fall 1987 was editor of the Barrington Bull, a thrice a semester publication of the photocopy variety. I’d submitted a story. We discussed my short story while inhaling nitrous oxide at the New Member’s Orientation party 1987. Gene dressed 70’s cheesy wearing slacks or tight jeans and polished black shoes or boots, always wearing a belt and some pronounced accessory like a poncho or a fancy hat; and he usually had some gimmick like lighting Ohio Blue Tip matches with his thumbnail and he always looked ready for the camera. 24-7, if you saw Gene Jun in the hallway or in the dining commons of Barrington Hall, circa 1985 - 1989, he was ready for the shot. Rock star round the clock. Nils was the same, in a more subtle, earthy – gonna etch something into everybody’s brain.
Gene and Nils had the look, the attitude, AND the musical ability. Nils and Gene both played guitar and sang their own songs. When they sang together it was really nice, with Dan harmonizing it was magic. Dan was an engineer, like his buddy bassist Barnes, who’s major was Applied Math and who played bass for 501 Spanish Verbs. They liked designing shit, Dan and Barnes, like when they broke and rebuilt the wall in suite 315 to make three single rooms. They basically converted a double into two singles. Chepe had the room with the large, latticed full wall window with an outdoor shelf for potted plants in spring 1989, after which he moved to Fiction House, paving the way for the rest to follow.
Nils was a music major and composed Stravinski’s Rite of Spring for guitar, bass, drums, violin, and flute for one of his classes. Acid Rain released it on cassette with additional songs, like Gene’s tribute to tofu song. They performed the Rite of Spring and other original songs outside on a Berkeley campus lawn in front of the music building spring 1988. They closed that show with Free Bird while Gene sang the opening verse with a cigarette dangling from his lips. If I leave here tomorrow, will you still remember me…
Bass player Dan was in France that year, so Brian was their bass player. Brian was awesome – another Music Major, heavily into Mozart’s Requiem – he’d sing it in German sometimes in the kitchen while making a quesadilla. He also liked industrial punk and rap. Brian always wore flip flops on stage, even in the winter. Industrial music from Germany like Einstürzende Neubauten was popular in Barrington Hall that year courtesy of tastes like Brian’s and similar ilk. Bruce Pearson made a video for the Gene song Stinking Hippy for a video class he took. He premiered his video following the World Series game. Little bearded Avery, who let it be known that he liked big women, was the bass player in the video.
Gene played violin and later snare drum and saw blades, in addition to lead/rhythm guitar and Nils played guitars and flute, as well as other instruments like mini sax and a tin whistle. Nils was a Music Major and Gene’s major was Creative Writing. Gene was one who lived a vampire existence, missed a lot of class, but hunkered down in the final minutes, cramming like the Korean university student he was, composing volumes of captivating poetry and graduating. He came by Chepe’s room one evening. Fleric was there. “Can I buy a dollar’s worth of weed?” Gene asked in his slick manner. Chepe gave Gene a small bud. “I don’t have a dollar,” Gene said with a grin. Chepe laughed. Gene was too cool for school.
Acid Rain was the quintessential rock and roll band of the mid to late 1980’s in Bay Area California. Acid Rain, both spacey and intelligent would evolve into Idiot Flesh and embrace a more theatrical Rock Against Rock Ideology based strictly on the writings of one John Kane, a ‘black math’-ematician. They went through drummers like Spinal Tap and had as much originality, charisma, humor, relevance, timelessness and excellence as any band the world has ever known. Acid Rain was born into a cesspool of life, just like the first living creatures came to life on planet earth, born into a culture. Stinking Hippy, Housewife, Loveride, Invisible, The Nothing Show, The Device – so many instant classics.
Hell ain’t a bad place to be. Sea to shining sea to shining…
Ten years later, in 1997, Fleric would be living in Seoul, South Korea teaching English after first living in Taegu, South Korea for a year teaching English. There in Seoul, Korea, Fleric and K, his American friend from Milwaukee, would drink bottles of soju in the evening after work, while listening to Teen Devil Worshipper Jonathan Cantero's List Of Equipment For The 12th Of October – another hit song by Gene Jun from Idiot Flesh’s CD Fancy. Ask K, he’ll remember. K can always remember the name of a famous killer. Soju is the Korean national spirit, kind of a 50 proof vodka, which I’m sure Gene was a fan of. Like Fleric, Gene preferred booze to beer. Gom-bay – the Korean ‘Cheers!’ Fleric wonders if Tyler still has all his audio cassette recordings he made of Acid Rain practicing in the Barrington band room.
New Members Orientation, a Barrington tradition to start off each new semester – Fleric and Gene and Suzy God inhaled nitrous and recited rock n roll lyrics – I like smoking lightning / Heavy Metal Thunder / Racing with the wind / And the feeling that I’m under
Susie God confessed that she was partial to 1960’s music, mostly doo wop and the VU, while Gene and Fleric stated emphatically that they were way more into the more progressive 1970’s sound, like Jethro Tull.
Really don’t mind if you sit this one out. My words but a whisper, your deafness a SHOUT.
The three of them shouted the Ian Anderson lyrics loudly laughing lying on the mattresses.
Then the bag’d be done and everybody’d get back in line till the tank was empty; then off to Shitty’s market or the Barrington store for a forty, while hundreds of people drank and partied all over the house.