Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

Cratched Does California



It must have been around 10 in the morning of Christmas 1981 and the beans and rice from last night’s meal had long since stopped filling our stomachs. Z and I had been on Telegraph since 8:00 or so feeling like Dylan’s Mr. Tambourine Man. You know–jingle jangle morning and all that. At least the sun was shining. It was California after all.

As the morning passed, about the only other people we saw on the street were some disgruntled policemen who preferred to be home with their families, a hobo or two, and some people going to the church near the university. Oh yeah, and the Persian guy who had a flower stand in front of Cody’s bookstore that was open until 2:00 PM Christmas day for those folks who had forgotten to buy a gift for their lover or their mom or someone else who appreciated flowers. Z and I didn’t have anyone like that, nor did it seem like there would be anybody like that in our near future.

It must have been around noon when a couple frat boys drove up Telegraph in their BMW and yelled something at us. I don’t know whether it was pleasant or not–after a while you just tune out people who have a history of harassing you and frat boys had that kind of history, as did people driving BMWs.

Anyhow, after that car drove by, we noticed the smell of fresh roasted turkey wafting down the avenue. You know how in the cartoons they show the aroma of good food floating like waves across the screen and into some character’s nose? Then the character floats on the fumes towards their source and, just before the dog or cat eats the meat, a human hand appears and takes it away.

Well, that’s how it was with us. That turkey aroma was pulling us in like a sugar donut pulls in flies. We were so hungry we followed the aroma up the street to a midscale restaurant where all we could do was stare at the people eating their Christmas dinners. Nice big slabs of turkey, piles of mashed potatoes with gravy, rolls and butter, pies of pumpkin, pies of mincemeat, all the good things in life. And bottles of wine and beer, too. I would do anything to get some of that food, but what I did instead was walk back down the street with Z and ingest the fumes.

If we weren’t depressed before, we definitely were now. I was ready to go back to the apartment and boil some more beans, if there were any left. Z was ready to just give up. We looked at each other and began to walk away from Telegraph Avenue when the Persian guy called Hey! I looked over, wondering if he was yelling at us or someone else. He looked right at me and beckoned me over to his stand. Bring your friend, he said. I grabbed Z by the coat and we walked over to his stand, wondering what was up. Maybe he was going to ask us to sweep for him and give us a couple bucks. He reached under where he kept his money box in his cart and pulled out two steaming styrofoam to-go containers.

I don’t celebrate your holiday, he said, I am of Islam. But you guys need, what do you say, Christmas cheer. Then he handed us each a hot turkey dinner with a slab of turkey, piles of potatoes and gravy, rolls and butter and a piece of pie. I took the mincemeat and Z took the pumpkin. We felt like two twentieth-century Bob Cratcheds in Ronnie Reagan’s America.

RON JACOBS is author of The Way the Wind Blew: a history of the Weather Underground.

He can be reached at:


Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at:

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


October 27, 2016
Paul Street
An Identity-Politicized Election and World Series Lakefront Liberals Can Love
Matthew Stevenson
Sex and the Presidential City
Jim Kavanagh
Tom Hayden’s Haunting
CJ Hopkins
The Pathologization of Dissent
Mike Merryman-Lotze
The Inherent Violence of Israel’s Gaza Blockade
Robert Fisk
Is Yemen Too Much for the World to Take?
Shamus Cooke
Stopping Hillary’s Coming War on Syria
Jan Oberg
Security Politics and the Closing of the Open Society
Ramzy Baroud
The War on UNESCO: Al-Aqsa Mosque is Palestinian and East Jerusalem is Illegally Occupied
Colin Todhunter
Lower Yields and Agropoisons: What is the Point of GM Mustard in India?
Norman Pollack
The Election: Does It Matter Who Wins?
Nyla Ali Khan
The Political and Cultural Richness of Kashmiriyat
Barbara Nimri Aziz
“It’s Only a Car!”
October 26, 2016
John W. Whitehead
A Deep State of Mind: America’s Shadow Government and Its Silent Coup
Eric Draitser
Dear Liberals: Trump is Right
Anthony Tarrant
On the Unbearable Lightness of Whiteness
Mark Weisbrot
The Most Dangerous Place in the World: US Pours in Money, as Blood Flows in Honduras
Chris Welzenbach
The Establishment and the Chattering Hack: a Response to Nicholas Lemann
Luke O'Brien
The Churchill Thing: Some Big Words About Trump and Some Other Chap
Sabia Rigby
In the “Jungle:” Report from the Refugee Camp in Calais, France
Linn Washington Jr.
Pot Decriminalization Yields $9-million in Savings for Philadelphia
Pepe Escobar
“America has lost” in the Philippines
Pauline Murphy
Political Feminism: the Legacy of Victoria Woodhull
Lizzie Maldonado
The Burdens of World War III
David Swanson
Slavery Was Abolished
Thomas Mountain
Preventing Cultural Genocide with the Mother Tongue Policy in Eritrea
Colin Todhunter
Agrochemicals And The Cesspool Of Corruption: Dr. Mason Writes To The US EPA
October 25, 2016
David Swanson
Halloween Is Coming, Vladimir Putin Isn’t
Hiroyuki Hamada
Fear Laundering: an Elaborate Psychological Diversion and Bid for Power
Priti Gulati Cox
President Obama: Before the Empire Falls, Free Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu-Jamal
Kathy Deacon
Plus ça Change: Regime Change 1917-1920
Robin Goodman
Appetite for Destruction: America’s War Against Itself
Richard Moser
On Power, Privilege, and Passage: a Letter to My Nephew
Rev. William Alberts
The Epicenter of the Moral Universe is Our Common Humanity, Not Religion
Dan Bacher
Inspector General says Reclamation Wasted $32.2 Million on Klamath irrigators
David Mattson
A Recipe for Killing: the “Trust Us” Argument of State Grizzly Bear Managers
Derek Royden
The Tragedy in Yemen
Ralph Nader
Breaking Through Power: It’s Easier Than We Think
Norman Pollack
Centrist Fascism: Lurching Forward
Guillermo R. Gil
Cell to Cell Communication: On How to Become Governor of Puerto Rico
Mateo Pimentel
You, Me, and the Trolley Make Three
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
October 24, 2016
John Steppling
The Unwoke: Sleepwalking into the Nightmare
Oscar Ortega
Clinton’s Troubling Silence on the Dakota Access Pipeline
Patrick Cockburn
Aleppo vs. Mosul: Media Biases