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Something about riots

California, summer 1997 —

"I don't take an opinion poll when I decide who's my friend." — George

George, 67, said he'd been living on and off the street there in the Bay area for about 40 years. This was in Berkeley, where I met himself and Jim.

Jim was 57. He'd come from a few miles south, where his woman had smacked him with a frying pan. I think that's what he told me; and showed me the staples in his scalp. Jim had been a police officer, and retained a wiry athleticism. He was as much a gentleman as any other.

So was George. I met them both at the Berkeley Men's Shelter, where I stayed for a month. I lived in Berkeley for about six months.

I was just now reading about the 1989 revolution in Romania, and thought about something that George had told me about riots.

He lived up above Haight street, in the late 60's when the conflict between authority and rebellion/freedom was acute.

George watched, he said, from his window above, as hooligans threw bottles and rocks at riot cops — from behind other protesters, whom the cops proceeded to beat. This, he implied, was not accidental. George wept a little bit as he told me about it.