If you follow politics, it’s interesting to note that Earl Warren, the famed Supreme Court justice who presided over 1954’s Brown V. Board of Education, began his career working to penalize bar owners in Emeryville during the experiment of Prohibition.

The University of California at Berkeley is distinctive in that it had a religious mission at its founding, often unspoken but very strongly felt in the civic life of the city of Berkeley. Liquor could not be sold within a certain distance of the school. The distance was not exact, but it decreased, with seeming inevitability, as the years passed. Temescal, which was once its own city (like Ocean View, the city located in what is now West Berkeley), was (and still is) known for its liquor locales, its ales, and its nightlife.

Emeryville was even further “beyond the pale,” and during Prohibition attracted all kinds of speakeasy culture. I don’t know how it came to be that Steve Jobs and Pixar chose to set up camp right in the former speakeasy capital, but maybe Jobs knew that rule-breakers flock together, that the bay area, since the days of Jack London, Bernard Maybeck and John Muir, has always had its culture of “settlers,” “occupiers,” unwelcome guests. That’s how the land was taken from the Ohlone, wasn’t it?

Occupation can mean your job, it can mean a political movement related to Oakland, it can mean an obsession. But those are all metaphors for the act of simply “showing up” somewhere, like Woody Allen famously said. During the years when alcohol was illegal, Earl Warren acted like John Wayne, and took it upon himself to catch people in the act of doing something that the community tried to keep a secret.

Today, secrets dry up, run dry, do not withstand scrutiny.


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