In the beginning, 2233 McKinley Ave. was part of a 1960s commune, Dragon’s Eye. Michael Rossman, of Free Speech Movement fame, and Karen McLellan were central figures within the commune. The focus of the commune was educational reform.
Howie Gordon first came to the house on McKinley in 1969. He was a student at Antioch College, working for the Department of Labor in San Francisco on what Antioch called a co-op job. Work experience was part of Antioch’s vision of a well-rounded education.
Upon arriving in the Bay Area, Gordon visited a friend living at the McKinley house. As he arrived for the visit, a caravan of hippies was leaving the house for a weekend in Mariposa. He went along. When they got to Mariposa, he was introduced to the joy and beauty of hippie culture.
Gordon met his wife Carly at her commune in Santa Fe when the Dragon’s Eye bunch visited there in 1971. They married five years later in the backyard of the McKinley Avenue house. The Dragon’s Eye commune faded. Gordon and Carly stayed in the back cottage. In 1983 they bought the house. In 1986 they moved into the front house and raised a family.
Gordon has been adorning the outside of the house for about 20 years. He started putting stuff outside the house for a simple reason: he ran out of space inside.
The eagle above belonged to Whoopi Goldberg, who, until the summer of 2015, owned a house across McKinley. Her mother, and then brother, lived in the house. Whoopi wrote: “When I was in Berkeley, both he and his wife Carly became my family, and when my mom and brother Clyde moved to Berkeley, the same thing happened. His family became their family too.” When Goldberg sold the house, Gordon handled much of the house-emptying garage sale.
Inside, things get even quirkier.
Just inside the front door is the Athenian Room, named after the Athenian School, the alma mater of a Gordon daughter. It contains the creatures of the world.
Upstairs: Gordon’s bedroom. Brace yourselves. To borrow from the Perfect Prose of Rebecca Martinson — tie yourself down to whatever chair you’re sitting in because the bedroom is an e-ticket ride.
Gordon wrote me: “You never know what is behind these Berkeley doors.” He proves his own point. With the house on McKinley, there is direct lineage back to the Free Speech Movement. The house was part of one of the better-known 1960s communes in Berkeley. There is quirky stuff outside. And lots more inside. A complete package! The whole enchilada! Our quirky paradise.
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.
A longer version of this post may be found at Quirky Berkeley.
Whoopi Goldberg is selling her Berkeley house for $1.275M (6.22.15)
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