Big Deal All Nighter at Cafe Mediterraneum on Telegraph Makes Berkeley History

By Ted Friedman
Friday May 11, 2012 - 08:04:00 PM
12:01, and Med remains open all night, to test 24-hour permission.
Ted Friedman
12:01, and Med remains open all night, to test 24-hour permission.
Students arrive for all-nighter.
Ted Friedman
Students arrive for all-nighter.
3:30 a.m. all-nighters dwindle. Abel, Alison, Med staff left.  Rosie can be seen upstairs in hoody at "his table," left.
Ted Friedman
3:30 a.m. all-nighters dwindle. Abel, Alison, Med staff left. Rosie can be seen upstairs in hoody at "his table," left.
4 a.m.  "Planet" dancing outside Med on a break.
Ted Friedman
4 a.m. "Planet" dancing outside Med on a break.

What's the big deal about pulling an all nighter at the Cafe Mediterraneum on Telegraph across from Moe's? 

The big deal is that the Med becomes the first cafe in Berkeley to pull a 24 hour day. Twenty-four-hours Denny's is in Emeryville, and all the Berkeley cafes that are listed online as 24-hour--close at 2 or 3 a.m. 

The Med's marathon day began at opening (7a.m.) Monday, but instead of closing at midnight, segued into Tuesday morning's 'opening.' Although many who stayed the whole night wanted 24-hour to stay, the marathon was a trial, according to Craig Becker, 59, the Med's owner. 

Besides, he says, he has to open 24 hours at least once to keep his 24-hour permit. In the mean time Teley property owners are requesting the city's Planning Department to be granted the privilege to open 24 hours as well. 

Teley property owners are preparing to compete with a university planned 24-hour student mall to replace the present Lower Sproul Plaza by the summer of 2015. If the university can stay open, why can't we, the business district is asking the city. 

When Becker, last June, got the city's permission to stay open 24 hours any time he wants, Teley property owners piled on with a we-too petition. The city seems favorable to the 24-hour idea, but Berkeley Police Chief Michael K. Meehan has told Becker he is not. 

Becker last week received permission from the state Alcohol and Beverage Control department to serve beer and wine. He plans, he tells me, to coordinate his 24 hour plans with alcohol sales. 

Becker plans to stay open regularly, perhaps until 3 a.m. at first, when the beer and wine concession is launched, he says. 

Judging from online ads, there is a demand for food delivery all night. Those consumers may prefer not coming to the avenue. But the student-dense South side may be more hardy, Becker is hoping. 

As one student, Diego Lugas, 21, a Cognitive Science major who spent the entire seven hours studying with four others on the Med mezzanine, put it, "more students would have come if the sign had said open 24 hours more prominently." 


Sleep-Starved Med All-Nighters Bring Down the House (First Person) 


I arrived before midnight, joining a friend on the mezzanine to film a video for You Tube, but the videographer left at 2:30 a.m just when the scene became most amusing. 

Craig Becker showed up at 1:30 a.m., announcing sales were good, although after he left at 2: 30 a.m., saying he needed his sleep to "tame" Teley property owners (TBID) over which he presides later in the morning, as president..The crowd thins. 

Charles Goodman, who runs a tight ship from behind the counter, has to awaken a man who is sleeping. 

I proclaim to Rosie at 2:30; "This is an historic event we will always remember: it's a glimpse of our future." He looks at me like I'm crazy, which he frequently does. He always has his own table, strewn with drawing materials. 

Five students on the Mezzanine said they were in for the long haul. 

3:30: Iinternet audio of police beatings at a Chowchilla music festival, blared throughout the cafe. 

3:33: Only 12 remain, but friendly conversation on mezzanine. Rosie's boom box tuned to All Jazz KCSM augments small mezz speakers. Crowd noise, juicers, grinders are silent. Big Band version of Early Sunrise rocks. 

At 3:33: a.m. when ten Chronicles are delivered, I purchase one with the idea of reading the Chron hot off the presses, but never had a chance.  

Alison, behind the counter, is singing. 

A loud guy's voice rises above the others. He's stoked on the all-nighter, reminds him of Manhattan, only wishes it would be every day. He feels like he's in a big city. 

3:33: Only 12 remain. Conversation on nocturnality vs diurnality, with student, Diego Lugas, who says he could switch. I couldn't, I said, and wondered when I would nod out, but the Red Bull I smuggled in pulled me through. 

4:00 Joss, a veteran Medhead, leaves: "I like to get up at noon." 

So would I but I've made this dumb-ass commitment, besides, maybe something will develop(Joss returns at 5:40 saying he can't sleep). 

Loud voice asks me why Craig had advertised there would be tables; was that a big deal. Don't tables come with the cafe? 

I answer that only at 4 a.m. could you get a table at the Med these days. 

One of the five die-hard students on the mezz, leaves proclaiming to the counter, "successful experiment; like a party with friends." 

Loud Voice says Med needs a complete makeover. "The owner agrees," I reveal; this is what Med old-timers fear. Loud voice is Yeshiah, his Jewish name. I say I don't even know mine. 

Ray, "the unofficial (homeless) mayor of Telegraph, waves from outside. He is in and out, as usual. 

Yeshiah tells me that happiness can be understood alternately as "big sky happiness versus chocolate ice-cream happiness (if you don't get the chocolate you're unhappy); your ability to flow, is so vast…cloud storms, hail--thunder." 

Yeshiah, 47, to learn Spanish so he can work in education, or health-care, where Spanish is necessary; with Spanish immersion in Guatemala, he hopes to work his way off SSI and rent a place. 

"Don't give up your SSI until you are firmly employed," I advise. A Medhead gave up his benefits, was subsequently fired and became homeless for eight years, at 57. 

There seems to be a ruckus between Alison and a new customer, a regular from Hate Camp in the park. The Med is so close to the park, you can see it clearly out the mezz restroom window. 

The ruckus turns out to be Alison, behind the counter, loudly rehearsing a monologue. She has an audition when she gets off, and fears she will not be at her best. 

The new customer is really a regular, who knows me, but I can't place. This happens a lot. He is Planet, 30-ish, and is dressed so stylishly in street-score, he could be a fashion model 

Planet: "We're all different, but people put dogma on each other, instead of being open to who people really are. I've been coming here for years; I feel welcome at the Med with its "culture of acceptance." 

"Did you say culture of acceptance"? I agree, forgetting all the put-downs. Yeshiah had rejected the term homeless, as I had rejected the term "on the streets," thirty years ago. 

I asked Planet about this. "Wherever I am is home to me," he says. 

Allison to Abel, her co-worker, "wake up!" 

She announces the closing of the kitchen at 5 a.m., but keeps cooking for her friends. 

5:30: Lugas, the student, wonders why Becker failed to promote the all-nighter more aggressively. "The library is full, but there's no coffee; this is a no-brainer alternative." 

Rosie leaves his table, with his art and supplies, two backpacks, his boom box. I see him walking his bicycle north. He does not return. 

Alison sings 'tomorrow, tomorrow I'll love you tomorrow," downstairs. is she thinking about her audition? 

5:05: Planet and I swap blog sites: his is Chaos Artist, (amazing chaotic music and art), mine, berkeleyreporter.com. I get twenty-one on-line definitions of Chaos. Try it. 

Alison gives a minute and a half speech from Comedy of Errors. Her audition is in three hours. 

6:05, KCSM: "I'm Going To Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter." Big band blast, as I type a letter to myself about the all-nighter. 

Planet picks up Alison's theatricality and weighs in with a dramatic rendering of the Med menu. The comedian Steve Allen could do this. 

As encore, he tells some jokes, which die. Something about a"'pork rhinestone cowboy " which no one gets. 

6:15: Planet leaves, saying people don't appreciate his jokes. 

Allison wasn't mad at Planet when she said, "I work what do you do?" but was reciting. 

6:20: sunrise. KCSM, "softly as in a morning sunrise," from " Long Live The Night," Desert Song. 

Down to three students and Planet, who sneezes on the mezz. Alison and I yell out "who sneezed?" 

6:25: half hour from morning opening. 

Planet: "you know the drill!" What's he performing now? The drill is a hardware store electric cordless drill--$26.99; he does a pitch for it, in his best pitchman style. 

Planet: "I'm leaving," but he's not. 

I do Pirate's Of Penzance, the scene where the constables boast (they'll meet the foe) is met with scorn by the female chorus, who thinks they're wimps. 

6:33: Planet leaves for good, waving goodbye to me through the window. 

"I am slowly going crazy, crazy going slowly, a palindrome song, Alison says. 

6:45: I announce drama awards for the evening, giving high marks to Planet and Yeshiah, but Diego deserves some credit as does the student next to him who said she thought the students might have better been informed on the all-nighter. 

Allison did my poached eggs twice. 

6:48: still not reading Chronicle. 

6:52: Alison, loud public yawn. 

First customer at 6:59 and Julia is there to serve her, after arriving at 6:50 with her son and daughter. 

7:00 sun reflected in yellow on Cody's former business office facade. Three students on mezzo were last three customers on the historic night shift. 

7: 02: KCSM, "Something's Coming," from West Side Story 

Now it was just another day at the Med, but something had changed. Times are "a changin." 


Where Are They Now? 


Alison lost out at the audition. She said the nightshift had doomed her. Rosie returned to his table--it was undisturbed--at 10 a.m. 

Planet returned to the Med, but seeing him was like seeing Toto back in Kansas. It just wasn't the same. 

Ted Friedman never read his Chronicle, and had trouble sleeping. He had stayed 10 hours, four hours off his personal best. But the all-nighter was a first. 


Only something this "big" could keep Berkeley's Voice of the South side up all night.