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  • Setting:

December 15, 2006. Taste! on Shattuck Ave. in North Berkeley.

  • Rationale:

Objection to Epicurious Garden upscale food court as corporate marketing concept.

Objection to Walnut Creek yuppies peppering the Gourmet Ghetto, what used to be trust-fund hippies writing their manifestos by day.

Particular objection to Taste!, machine-dispensed wine-by-the-ounce, setting the trend for doing away with the banter, the free tastings...

  • Prospectus:

Patronize Taste!, a wine-tasting bar, dressed as street people paying with coins.

  • Parameters:

Paying customers, wont bother any tasters.

  • Object:

Make the yuppie patrons squirm.

  • Curiosity:

Will the management give us the boot?

  • Pranksters:

One couple gone wild.

Two yuppies sleek in black, dressed for a date, surreptitiously with cameras.

  • Costumery:

Wacky Woman: Hair snarled out to here, embedded twigs and falling leaves. Dirt under fingernails, wearing a slip, striped socks, and pointy pink butterfly shoes. Carrying coins in a festive reindeer sock.

Misfit Man: Bright orange touque, jumpsuit, camo jacket, taped-up glasses, crazily-knotted tie, big purple backpack, coins in pockets. Gravely Tom Waits voice.

  • Cast of Performance Artists:

Matt Holdaway, HillaryLewis, LaramieCrocker, WendiOlson

  • The Experience:

All were consummately well-behaved, as only Berkleyans can be. Matt and Hillary thought we were treated quite well. But that goes to show you can't observe bad vibes. The terror of the maitre d' probably matched my own as he encountered us as the door and whisked us to the back of the bar. There was that split second where he almost turned us out. I felt like a reprimanded school child as I waited inordinately long, out of sight, for my plastic card, my passport to mingle in the main area. No doubt he was stalling, figuring out how to contain the brush fire.

My most daring moment was spilling $10 worth of coins onto the wine dispenser and letting them clatter to the floor. Laramie never broke character as Chester, who proclaimed to all that he was taking Ursula out for their 6th anniversary. He shone a flashlight on the wine shelf and suggested to the owner that "Sip!" might be a better name for the establishment [referencing his cartoon, published in the Berkeley Daily Planet, satirizing Taste! as Sip!]. Matt was a nice gentleman who treated Chester to a free ounce, and recommended a good wine (I wasn't that impressed with the selection). Hillary gamely set up a toast photo-op without anyone suspecting a thing.

What does it take to cause others to perceive you as sub-human? A few maple leaves dropping from your hair? Taped-up glasses? Back at home, we looked like hipsters. But at Taste, we were freaks, and the other patrons couldn't bring themselves to speak to us normally. Kudos to the co-owner responsible for the wine buying, who chatted with Chester quite naturally. But overall it felt bad, bad...what was the barrier between us?

A note on Civil Rights: We learned later that the appropriately dressed diners received a card at the outset with $30 credit for food or wine. Whereas we had to wait, wait, wait...and pay in advance before we could start the fun.


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