Berkeley is less quirky today than it was a week ago. The gods and goddesses of quirk shed a tear. Three years in the leaving, Mike Parayno has now completed his move from Berkeley to the Philippines, maintaining Bay Area ties with the Birdland Jazzista Social Club at 4318 MLK Way, Oakland. According to Parayno, the building is now on the market and his famous birdhouse truck has been sold. (Read more about Parayno and Birdland in previous Berkeleyside coverage.)
In the middle of a teaching career at Berkeley City College, Parayno started to make birdhouses from distressed recycled wood, metals and local driftwood. A great pyramid of them rose in front of his house at 1733 Sacramento St. across from the North Berkeley BART station. He called them rustic birdhouses; they reek of eccentricity.
He made his first ten somewhere around the turn of the millennium when his waste-not-want-not ethic kicked in while taking down an old fence. They were whimsical. They sold. He’s made many more and sold many more since then.
And then came Birdland.
On Memorial Day, 2010, Parayno was grilling and listening to jazz on KCSM. Neighbors said it smelled good. They asked to try. A movement was born! Barbecue plus jazz, plus friendship.
After the success of the impromptu Memorial Day event, Parayno started a club. He named it Birdland. No charge for food from the Multi Culti grill, just donations to the volunteers. BYOB. And live jazz, really good live jazz, often by students from the Berkeley High Jazz Club. Hip! Fun! Friendly!
Parayno was, if you can believe it, too free for Berkeley. Even our usually tolerant city could not tolerate his fast-and-free ways with crowds and food. Too much fun! In December 2010, the city issued a Notice of Violation from the Code Enforcement Unit of the office of the city Manager. Eight alleged code violations — lack of special-event permit, loud and unruly gatherings which obstruct public streets, and unapproved land use based on zoning. Big fines.
In 2011, after being shut down by the city, Parayno moved Birdland temporarily to Café Yesterday on University. Berkeley was getting kind of un-Berkeley.
Parayno threatened to leave Berkeley more than once, leading my friend Cliff Stanley to liken his exit to a James Brown exit from the stage – long and extended and dramatic.
But, finally, in early 2013, he left for Manila. More freedom there I guess. He returned in 2014, but with ties here that were much more tenuous.
Parayno moved Birdland to the friendlier turf of Oakland, at 4318 MLK Way. As his tethers here loosened, he was building a new life in the Philippines. He is building a resort in Bolinao, Pangasinan Province.
Parayno and his wife Joanna also run a dehydrating food factory supplying local stores and markets, online shops, and selling the dried fruits and vegetables at farmers markets in Manila.
After the open studios in December, Parayno pulled the plug. He wrote me on Christmas: “Yes, Tom, just decided to sell everything… I sold the birdhouse truck last Saturday, the three London cabs yesterday, moved all the birdhouses to the Birdland Jazzista Social Club in Oakland… I left a few birdhouses in the backyard but that’s about it… I also met with my real-estate agent to sell the house. I’ll just focus on the resort in the Philippines and Birdland Oakland. We’re planning to open a Birdland in Hong Kong and Macau in 2016. Berkeley will always be the vibe but need to fly high and off the tree like the Tom Jobim song “Passarim” that is thematic of my life in Berkeley.”
Still here? Not much. Memories and a photo of Pinky, the recently deceased, still beloved beagle, on the fence in front of the house.
A few birdhouses behind the house:
And a sign:
Parayno’s path is not linear, and there remains the chance of a return engagement in Berkeley. For now though, ghosts and memories, diamonds and rust. I know that there will be Parayno detractors who comment on this post. So be it. As a Berkeley flaneur, I liked all that he did and gave. I believe that we were better for his having been here. He writes that Berkeley will always be the vibe. That is what I am talking about.
Tom Dalzell, a labor lawyer, created a website, Quirky Berkeley, to share all the whimsical objects he has captured with his iPhone. The site now has more than 8,600 photographs of quirky objects around town as well as posts where the 30-year resident muses on what it all means.
End of an era for Berkeley Rustic Birdhouses, Birdland jazz [12.10.12]
Birdland Jazz finds a new home at Café Yesterday [08.26.11]
Birdland Jazz and Multi Culti Grill: Update [12.14.10]
Must-haves: A couch in the garage, a grill in the driveway [12.13.10]
What next for the Multi Culti Grill and Birdland Jazz club? [12.10.10]
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