Dee-Rob 
Member since Jan 2, 2011


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Re: “The Birdman Strikes

Michael, my brother, don't stop doing until you get a mention in the Wall Street Journal:
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1234220264…

I'm one of the folks known to hang out at Michael's as an early joiner to the erstwhile family. I'm white bread and mainstream from the East Coast and not one to sign up for creating a public nuisance. To the folks talking about dice shooters and shooting shooters, come on now, save your scary anecdotes for a scene that compares.

Bill Graham and thugs, really? Birdland isn't Altamont or any kind of stadium rock. It is college students, a metric ton of them international and some hearing jazz for the first time, Berkeley high schoolers, many with parents in tow to hear them and their friends jam, neighbors, hipsters, curious passersby, old folks, dogs, kids toasting marshmallows under the nearby parental eye, and middle-aged suburbanites like myself relaxing after work.

Don't let the numbers confuse you into thinking mob scene. On the nights with hundreds, it's all about flow. People come and go in waves, some for the food, some for the music and some for just an interesting jumping off point for a later night elsewhere. It's not a crazy mob looking for trouble.

In fact, as someone who's 46 now and spent most of my adult life as a single, petite woman, conscious of keeping safe in crowds, here's a frame of reference. I've chatted with women (young and old) who, like me, are aware of social situations and personal safety but have dropped by alone. They've enthusiastically returned to Birdland precisely because of the friendly, neighborhood vibe, and a feeling of communal safety.

I'm not a tea partier or an Ayn Rand loving freak, but this situation is one in which you have to wonder about the bludgeon of zoning laws versus life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. If there are neighbors complaining, than the city should be looking for mediation under nuisance laws. I'd like to hear any complaints and see what could be done to mediate for everyone.

My sense is that it's more like the city throwing its weight than managing a nuisance. Makes you wonder when a city like Houston, certainly without Berkeley's reputation for peace, love and granola, can operate without keeping it's population in line with heavy-handed zoning laws.

And for those who haven't been to the neighborhood who might want a sense of how much of a nuisance Michael could be here's the lay of the land. To the right of his garage is a park, home to some of the homeless who have gotten a meal and pitched in with picking up the recycling. His own place is the two units closest to the street (and you can't hear the music or the street from inside). Above is a third unit, rented out by a landlord who's been favoring international students and kids on short-term work visas -- so far enthusiastic supporters. The building and yard wrap around in a way to buffer the next closest building, such that no one is even near that stoop by a good 150 feet. The street in front is a wide 4 lanes with a meridian and a BART station on the other side.

It's not an easy economy as we roll into a new year. I hope that a man gets to keep feeding a few folks who need it, while some musicians get attention from a receptive audience. Michael is a taxpayer, an educator, an artist, a multiculturalist and an entrepreneur. Aren't those the kind of characters who built California?

Posted by Dee-Rob on 01/02/2011 at 1:00 AM

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