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In essence, Hate is living what amounts to his retirement, and in a manner not unlike what he saw in Thailand back in the Sixties. Except for a recent postrate problem that landed him in the hospital and the fact that he is missing most of his teeth, he appears healthy and hearty, especially for man in his seventies. He doesn't worry about getting his needs met. "I always had this dream when I was a kid that I was by this river and anything I ever needed would float down the river," he said. "And the trash is like that."
Street life is also where his pushing coalesced into a regular way of resolving conflict. He pushes as many as thirty times a day, lasting anywhere from a few minutes to more than an hour, for everything and anything he has that someone wants. Usually, people want his cigarettes. He carries both "slims" — Virginia Slims, his favorite — and "rollies" (loose tobacco).
Once, he said, he pushed with a guy for ten hours, stopping only for cigarette breaks. The prize? Three dollars. Hate won.
But that's not typical. Hate says he loses pushes most of the time. "Don't get me wrong, some people take advantage of it," he said. "This one guy — 300 pounds — for years, he took hundreds of cigarettes from me until I finally figured out the weakness in his push. It was all in his footing, so I adjusted mine."
But losing doesn't seem to bother Hate. He seems more concerned with getting people to push than with keeping his stuff — unless it's a slim, of course. Then, a push might last fifteen minutes, he warns, and it'll be hard.
On the surface, Hate's ideology might seem counterintuitive, gimmicky, or just plain weird. But it turns out that it's not just some hare-brained idea, or even just a creative bartering system for people without money. It's actually helped bring people together, giving them a sense of direction and community.
At least it's done so for a small group of kindred spirits over the years. Currently, there are six "oppies," as Hate refers to them: Jaguar, Mambo, Tantrum, Castaway, Krash, and Smudge. (Like Hate, they took on a variety of nicknames for themselves.)
Hate is quick to point out that they are not disciples or admirers, merely adherents of oppositionality. Meaning they've also adopted "I hate you" as a greeting, and pushing as a way of bartering things.
"Hate's got a good thing here," said Jaguar, a painter and Hate Camper, who left his former life to live outdoors as well. "Just being oppositional and straight in all you do."
Krash was one of the first oppies. He first met Hate in Sproul Plaza in 1991 when he was a graduate student at Berkeley. He said he was "overwhelmed" by Hate, having been on a "major philosophical quest" since he was sixteen. Eventually, Krash dropped out of school, adopted Hate's oppositionality, and became homeless. "For me it was very beneficial because I can pull myself away from people and be abstract and float above things, and then feel like shit," Krash said on a recent evening in downtown Berkeley. "So this is a way where I felt like I'm here, I'm with you, and everybody else, I'm not closed down. I got a lot out of it doing that. It was transformational for a person like me."
"It's like the WikiLeaks of relationships," said Krash's fellow oppie and longtime friend, Mambo.
On a larger scale, Krash says Hate's band of followers help keep the peace around People's Park. "We're actually tilling this ship, whatever the People's Park ship that's been caught in these waves of chaos," he said. "And I think around where we are, we're able to handle most of the crazy shit that flows into the park. We're able to ride it, move away from it, come back. But deal with it in a way that doesn't make it more explosive, or neutralize it."
Though Krash cringes at the thought of being considered a "follower" of anyone, he says Hate does act as an important focal point. "At some level, Hate is really another form of one of these Hasidic tzadiks from the 17th century, where you'd have the guy who was the core of the group and then he'd have his devoted people and the whole community," said Krash, who attended rabbinical school in New York before attending UC Berkeley. "People are drawn to him because they want a cigarette, but it's more than just a cigarette that they're going for, there's a sense of a center. He's really important as a center. ... And it's a center of friendship. Where in this oppositional way, a lot of people become open and intimate and tell their stories. And in this atmosphere of clear opposition, the trust opens up. And it's something."
But while oppositionality may have inspired others, it didn't exactly soothe Hate's relationship with his daughters. He says he's at "arms-length" with his older daughter, who he calls "Equation" and who lives in Ohio with her husband and daughter, and ZiZi, who still lives in Berkeley. "That's one thing I have not solved," Hate lamented. "The kids feel abandoned, like I don't care about them." When they do get together, he said, "it feels fake. There's an emotional rift."
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