Sunday, April 29, 2007

A Small Exchange of Letters...

Whoops, sorry about no update on Friday. Things have been kinda crazy for the last few days. Maybe I'll explain more later (maybe). In the meantime, I'd like to share something with you.

In case you've never seen my MySpace blog-space (and if not, you didn't do your homework), one of them is a picture blog about my first experiences at Cal, in particular Clark Kerr Campus. Take a quick look at it if you'd like. I'll wait...

...Okay, so I received (dammit, I spelled it wrong again!) a letter from an obviously prestigious MySpace society, "The Society of Elves", entitles "On Your Pics".

"Oh, good," thought I, "Someone is writing to tell me how good I am at photo editing!" Alas, no, it turned out to be...well, I'll just let you read it for yourself.


I grew up here, and know some things that may or may not interest you. While Sather Gate is the "official" entry to campus, it was originally the actual entry. The campus is slowly destroying my home town, as per their stated long range plans. To keep that from happening, many home owners are now only selling to people who agree to sell to other residential owners, and specifically *not* UC. The regents love to push, until they have to be reminded occasionally that this is a town full of people lacking neither influence nor funds.

The so-called Clark Kerr Campus was a series of historical buildings that the university claimed to have restored when in fact they merely patched and painted. I know, I was a student on the work crew that did the job. The set of buildings is actually the former California School for The Deaf and Blind, the second oldest group of buildings in the city. The university paid for a geological study that "proved" that the school was on the Hayward fault line, forcing the school to move. Mysteriously, the finding has since been invalidated, apparently a small mistake of a few hundred yards was made. The punchline? The new site of the California School for The Deaf and BLind turns out to actually be on a fault line, but they can't afford to move again.

Did you know that more suicides have taken place in your back yard than almost anywhere in the world? That's because it's a traditional place of death for the natives, and the tradition goes on. Hundreds of people with terminal illnesses have gone there to end their lives over the last couple of decades, that's why you see campus pseudo-cops up there every few days. CSD Hill, as it has been called for years, has three tiers. According to ancient native custom, if you're dying and you make it to the top of that first hill, it's a good death. Because this was a sacred dying place, this section of this side of the bay was uninhabited until the Peralta family arrived.

When I was a teenager, we'd wander across the CSD campus around 3 :AM, and frequently see kids playing basketball in silence. They'd stop and stare at us, and we'd wave and pass on through. We'd try to remember not to look up at the windows, because there'd usually be one or two kids screaming silently, their mouths open, faces contorted in agony, but no sound. We saw a man packing a car one night, and he told us "You shouldn't be here, this place isn't right". When we asked what he meant, he explained that some of the children over the years had died, and that they tended to plague the living children. We thought he was kidding, but someone came out and tried to talk to him, and he refused to remain or go inside and discuss it. Turns out he'd seen something that frightened him badly enough that he didn't want to return.

We still thought it was a load of crap, but now I'm not so sure. If you or any of your friends become depressed or frightened for no reason, please, seek the company of others. Don't stay alone in that place. Since the university took it over, there have been student suicides there. In fact, most of the student suicides of the last decade have been there. Warn your friends. CKC may well be haunted; at the very least, there may be environmental factors that cause chemical depression and.or hallucinations.

By the end of this letter, I was laughing. Literally, laughing out loud. Of course, this was too great of an opportunity to pass up, so I decided to write back to this 45-year-old male. Here's my letter:

To the Society of Elves (or at least, whoever’s in charge),

Thank you for your correspondence. I always enjoy when someone takes the time to write to me. I feel it would be ungrateful of me not to reciprocate.

Before I go further, I think I should make a few clarifying statements. I am a business major with an enjoyment of economics, so I tend to look at things in an economic way. I also am currently a Resident Assistant at the “so-called” (and actually-called) Clark Kerr Campus. Additionally, I act as an unofficial historian, as I (and my freshman roommate) have contributed to a variety of Wikipedia pages on CKC and Cal in general. Doing so, we did quite a bit of research and investigation on a variety of topics. And as it turns out, I actually was aware that Sather Gate used to be the actual entrance to the university, as you can see in this picture from 1945.

And since then, the University has been expanding. Though, I must make note, that the University is NOT destroying your home town. Make no mistake, I have a great deal of respect to the people of this town. However, this University has been around for nearly 140 years, and it is the only lifeblood an otherwise husk of a city has. If the University were to be removed, Berkeley would degrade into yet anther Richmond or Oakland. You want something to blame? Well, you could blame the Berkeley city governance, but that only goes back so far. No, the only important factor is the existence of San Francisco. As long as San Francisco stands, economic factors – in particular, housing costs – will keep the surrounding cities down. Unfortunate as it is, that is the inner-city economic dilemma which is true across the nation and world. The UC, with its idealistic student population, provides a small but steady source of income to the mom-and-pop shops in Berkeley which would otherwise be shoved out by the Wal-Marts and McDonalds of the world. To put it bluntly, UC Berkeley has been “Berkeley” longer than the city has. Without the University, the city would be but a shadow of what it is today. As far as home owners selling to non-UC buyers, I find that petty and, quite frankly, moronic, both for economic and social reasons. “Biting the hand that feeds you” seems quite an apt description.

Would you care to expound on when you “patched and painted” the buildings of Clark Kerr? I have access, via my position as an RA, to plenty of receipts from around 1982-1985 for an extensive reconstruction of several of the buildings, such as the removal of asbestos from the walls (asbestos seemed like such a good idea at the time, seeing as the Asylum for the Deaf, Dumb and Blind had the unfortunate tendency to burn down). If you are insinuating that these receipts are complete forgeries, then you have to give the University some credit for creating such an elaborate and long-lasting hoax. The only bitter irony I see in the creation of the CKC is the fact that the city of Berkeley fought the UC to try to make low-income housing, while it ended up being the single most expensive dorm in America. Other than that, the records prove things to be pretty legit. Of course, if you could provide some hard evidence to the contrary, I may sing a different tune.

You know, I did not know that such an absurdly high amount of suicides occur here. It’s especially surprising as a Resident Assistant, as we are given reports of all major police incidents – including suicide – in the area as a way to keep our residents safe. And you know what? I haven’t seen a single instance of suicide. The last person on campus to die was actually an acquaintance of mine (I knew her from one of my classes, and she was training to be an RA, as well), and she died of a pulmonary embolism, God rest her soul. But no, suicide rates in Berkeley are currently the lowest they’ve ever been. Unless, of course, the true numbers are being hidden by the powers-that-be. Again, if you have any documentation to prove your claims, I’d like to see them.

I’m not sure if this is what you were referring to in your anecdote, but children did die in the CSD, mainly through accidents. For example, a mentally ill child wandered into the tunnels underneath the campus and was found weeks later, dead through suffocation. This was unfortunate and most assuredly a shock; it could easily account for the reactions that the people in your anecdote had. In particular, if I were to see such a thing, I would probably be eager to pack up and leave.

That said, I don’t that means there is ANY sort of “depression spirit” in CKC. Maybe things have changed significantly since your day, but Clark Kerr Campus is considered, to quote one of my friends, “the happiest dorm at Cal.” Personally, I probably feel happier living here than I have anywhere else. The only thing that makes me sad in any way about CKC is the fact that I won’t be able to return to it next semester. And no, my mother wasn’t facing the North Star whilst birthing me, giving me an opposite reaction to the “environmental factors” here. In fact, people who live here have almost unequivocally good things to say about living here.

So, I’m not sure what to make of your warnings. However, considering the rest of your correspondence seems a bit lacking-in-evidence at best (and conspiratorial at worst), I don’t think warning my friends will be necessary; we’re doing just fine.

Thanks again for writing, good luck with your society, and have a wonderful day! ^_^

Your friend,
Andrew Schnorr

I'm expecting a letter in the near-future from this gentleman, perhaps calling me a "tool" (if it is indeed G-rated). All in a day's work. Have a good week, everyone!


ashley lystne said...

Fascinating. On a note of completely biased and arbitrary opinion, I would like to say that I for one find Clark Kerr disorienting and particularly terrifying at night, and absolutely refuse to walk through it alone.

The stories I've heard over the past year have only augmented this sentiment since, at the beginning of last semester, on my very second day of ever living in Berkeley, knowing absolutely nothing about the place, I found myself lost in CKC in the middle of the night and could have sworn I was being followed by some invisible person for a good ten minutes before I found my way out.

But then again I'm completely paranoid and unusually superstitious in general, and just really don't like being lost.

Christopher said...

Wow, there are some interesting people there. On another note, what do you think about that emminant domain ruling back a year or two ago? I know that question is rather passé in the political realm, but from an economics point of view, this question's been going on for a while.

-Comrade Chavez

christopher said...

I only ask that question because, from what it sounds like, the university could use emminent domain for future expansions (rather than dealing with the inefficient freedom of contract system used to buy land from people.)

-Comrade Chavez

Andrew Schnorr said...

"But then again I'm completely paranoid and unusually superstitious in general, and just really don't like being lost."

Huh, being lost is one of my favorite things in the world (maybe that's why I have terrible navigational skills), because that's the only time you can find your way.

As far as that eminent domain thing, Chris, I have mixed feelings. Some people say it could be used to put up mini-malls (since they'll spur the economy) where people's houses are, and I don't like that. However, if the University did so (as a last resort, of course), it may be economically utilitarian, but only if they followed my plan... Hehehe.

Squall said...

All of that really makes me want to be a Berkeley student even more, living on a haunted campus, getting lost in the middle of the night... Sounds exciting, where do I sign up?

Rinoa said...

Squall...Yeah wouldn't like it..You would call me up "I got lost, Rin. Walked around for an hour, my feet are sore. I need a massage. And I think a ghost was following me..."
Me: Riiiiiiight...
You're not THAT adventurous.

have you seen any ghosts, andrew-san?

Andrew Schnorr said...

Nope, no ghosts yet. Not in Berkeley, at least. I will, however, affirm to my death that my SoCal home is haunted, because I hear unaccounted-for footsteps when I take midnight showers and other such phenomena.

Berkeley, though, seems relatively ghost-free.

Rinoa said...

Looks like your out of luck, Squall.

Squall said...

What sort of a shower do you have that lets you hear footsteps at midnight?

I'm not that bad, I'm on my feet for hours at a time at work, and if you don't know your way around it's easy to get lost in that concrete maze.