Cloyne Court, UC Berkeley, 2009
This article is from madmoosemama.blogspot.com dated Thursday, November 24, 2011
Guest Post - Dodie Katangue author of Cloyne Court
Posted by Heavensent1 at 4:58 PM
My college days were very unique. During the late 1970’s, while attending the University of California, Berkeley, I lived one block north of the campus in a student-run, private cooperative called Cloyne Court. When I first moved in, I was glad that I turned down my parent’s offer to accompany me. Had they seen the place back then, they would have been opposed to me moving into the house. Any parent would have.
The “Clones”(as we called ourselves) who lived there were required to do a five-hour weekly work shift to keep the place running and maintained, and other students supervised that requirement. As a result, the place was a pigsty.
There were empty beer bottles strewn around the main public rooms. Old newspapers were piled five high under a faded handwritten sign that said “Recycling”, but hadn’t been “cycled” in ages. There were dozens of marijuana plants growing in pails on a porch balcony in the back yard. The windows were opaque with dust and grime and the carpets were stained with grey spots. The walls were painted with eclectic murals and spray painted graffiti with slogans like “THERE IS NO GRAVITY. THE EARTH SUCKS.” The toilet seat in the bathroom was painted as a shark’s open mouth with the sharp teeth about to swallow the sitter. The place also had a musty old smell, with intermittent wafts of reefer smoke coming from somewhere upstairs.
The students ran the place, voted on policies by consensus at the weekly meetings, and allocated our discretionary housing fees with political earnest but total disregard to the business side of feeding and maintaining a house of 151 people. Should we buy food this month or restock the vending machines with doobies? Should we fix the locks on the front door to keep the homeless out or should we buy a ten-person hot tub and sauna?
Because I was a freshman both to college and adult life, I did not question the way things were. I didn’t question the dozen or so marijuana plants growing in pails on the backyard balcony porch. I didn’t question the co-ed shower room where men and women showered side by side in a communal space. I thought this was part of the regular college experience. I was at Berkeley, and everything was tolerated to excess.
Many college campuses around the country were known for their crazy naked streaking events. But our house pushed it to the limit. We had political nudists who were naked all the time, including at meals. They advocated going to class in the buff and some even did so. We also had the annual springtime Naked Hallway Races, which is an event that still exists today.
I knew that what I where I was living and what I was experiencing was out of the ordinary even for other Berkeley students who lived at the dorms, apartments or fraternities/sororities. So I kept a journal of the daily mundane things I did and the absolutely insane things that happened. And many of those stories are the basis for the novel.
Since the publication of the book, I’ve gotten emails from past Clones who have lived there and everyone has a raucous memory or two to tell. And lots of Clones remember when a new unknown band called Sweet Children (now known as Green Day) played a set in the dining room as an opening act for other punk rock bands. The police arrived and shut the party down.
Right after the book was published, I was in a parental dilemma. After writing a novel about sex, betrayal, drugs, rock and roll, nudism, co-ed showers, and radical politics, how was I going to have any credibility with my teen-age children when I needed to tell them not to do these things when they went to college? I couldn’t tell them not too, because they knew I did. So the best I could counsel was “Don’t do anything that will get you arrested. Stay safe. Do things in moderation. And remember, you’re at school to study and get a degree.”
We’ll see if that advice does any good.
I hope that current college students as well as Baby Boomers will read this, but not as a “how-to” manual of college debauchery, but as a reminder that they should enjoy their college lives now, but not to the point that they’ll be embarrassed to read about themselves thirty years later. Thank God, we didn’t have YouTube back then. It’s easier to deny written stories of your wild college years than seeing real video of it.
Cloyne Court is a coming of age, fish out of water, nostalgic novel. It takes the true stories I experienced living in this wild, counter-culture, youthful house and weaves it into a story of first love, life, regrets, first impressions and camaraderie. I hope that after reading it, readers will come to the same conclusion that took me thirty years to discover: that your college years are the best years of your life.
** Thank you very much Dodie for sharing your experiences with us all~!! Sounds like Cloyne Court would have been my kind of gig~!! May you always find the best in all that you do~!! **
BOOK: Cloyne Court by Dodie Katangue
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