Look Out...

Ryan Sim's first job was at his parent's drugstore at the tender age of seven.E-mail him at [email protected]

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For all the people that think Berkeley is boring and there's nothing to do, I hope these past few days have convinced you otherwise. It's been an eventful week to say the least.

A major television series that exudes contrived reality, corporate sponsorship and good looks came by to pick its annual Berkeley contribution to the drama. I had a midterm. A dope hip-hop band dropped some lyrics, raised some spirits and all the kiddies came around to hear it. The Bear's Lair restaurants reopened and gave out free good food (popular despite the lack of a certain type of beverage). One of the best movies of all times, "The Graduate" (which was partially filmed in Berkeley), played at Wheeler Auditorium (well done, SUPERB!). A real football game actually took place in Memorial Stadium. The rare Cal victory was celebrated later that evening with a few parties and a looting.

First of all, I hope the people that think it would've been "cool" to be there and "catch the action" can catch the bullshit they're spewing. I've seen the barrel of a loaded gun and it's the last place I, or any idiot, would choose to be. I was walking down Bancroft Avenue when gunshots were fired and I am not ashamed to say I ran like hell. Think about it morons - "cool experience" or cool, tingly sensation from bleeding; bragging about being in a riot or getting beaten by 10 guys; a new pair of shoes or a new pair of handcuffs. All the big-talkers best shut up before their mouths get them into trouble.

I wasn't rioting, nor did I want to be. I wasn't looting, though I might have. It all depends on which stores were being looted. Would I take a pair of shoes from Foot Locker or Athlete's Foot? - Hell yes, but I wouldn't dare take anything from mom and pop. One store is purely for profit and the other is solely for service. Though much safer than the barrel of a gun, deciding which stores to loot takes even less thought.

Let's do the opposite and decide which one deserves our patronage. On one hand, there's a store that is owned and run by a single family. Their livelihood depends on the success of their business and the only way to thrive is repeat customers and word of mouth because they can't buy a $20,000 television commercial. The employees, if they're not related to the owner, probably know the owner. The owner probably works in the store and probably lives nearby.

On the other hand, there's a store that is owned by some guy in some suit who lives in some big city and drives a Humvee. He's got a livelihood and doesn't need to depend on one measly business in a college town. Essentially, he has nothing invested in this one store except for a little bit of cash. The employees that work in a chain store are making minimum wage and don't care about the store or the customers. These are the people that piss in your popcorn and spit in your salad.

I recommend that everyone work in customer service (food service being the most difficult) at least once in their lives. Not only will you understand what I'm talking about, but you will also experience the pain of bad customers. These are the people that don't say "Thank you," demand everything, treat you like you're incompetent and tip very poorly. I was a waiter for four months, and I will never again tip below 20 percent for half-decent service. The world would be a much better place if we all had minimum-wage jobs.

Anyway, my point is - support your local businesses. They support you with their blood, sweat and tears. It might be a little more expensive, but it's worth the warm atmosphere and not having a Starbucks or Gap on every other corner.

When I say local businesses, I mean mom and pop shops, not just geographically local. So when you're visiting New York, Paris, or Beijing look for some random hole-in-the-wall restaurant, not McDonald's or Hard Rock Cafe. Why would you want to travel 3,000 miles to eat food you've already eaten?

The same principle applies to music and movies. An expensive compact disc from a well-known band doesn't mean you're going to get better music, it means you're going to get an expensive compact disc. Music is created to be appreciated, not packaged and sold. Fuck Metallica and Dr. Dre. Check out a local band at a live show, then you won't just hear the music, you'll feel it. And if you want to see a good movie, don't spend $10 at the Metreon, try a local film festival.

In exchange for the wonderful service I've received over the past four years, I'm going to show my support and give a little free publicity to the businesses that care about their community. Here are some of my personal favorite Berkeley businesses:

  • Star Hair Salon - Good haircuts at the corner of Parker Street and Telegraph Avenue for only $11.
  • Taqueria Reyes - Good Mexican food in The Bear's Lair; try the agua frescas.
  • The Albatross - Arguably the best bar in Berkeley at San Pablo Avenue and Hearst Street; they have darts, board games and beer.
  • Thai Basil - Least ghetto in the Durant food ghetto; try the lunch special.
  • We're lucky there are so many great family-owned businesses here in Berkeley, but there are other places that aren't so lucky. When you get to those places that are littered with corporations, remember how much better the service will be, the food will taste and the music will sound when it comes from someone who truly cares. Look out for the people who look out for you.


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