I was about nine years old when I first met Berkeley, CA native and poet Julia Vinograd, who just died at the age of seventy-five. A year or so before our meeting, I’d seen her picture on the cover of one of her books of poetry my parents had laying around the house. She looked so unique and sincere in the photo and in real life, a lone woman blowing bubbles everywhere she went.
One day on (most likely) Telegraph Avenue, around late 1975/early ’76, I told Julia about seeing her on the cover of a book. She replied matter of factly, “That was me,” and blew another bubble. Shortly after this on another occasion while again walking along, but on Shattuck or a street other than Telegraph, she asked my parents for directions, looking vulnerable. “I’m lost,” she said with a frown and sad puppy eyes. My folks gave her directions to wherever she’d requested. She then limped away in her long skirt and ever-present leather cap with pin-on buttons attached to it.
At yet another time in 1976 or early ’77 in Berkeley, I saw Julia read at a large gathering of poets, a short-statured woman with a long, dark braid down her back, leather cap in place. She stood before the mic looking small yet focused and determined. I remember only her over and above all of the other poets who read that evening.
Julia was a shy, expressive loner who cultivated her eccentricity with a sense of dignity and fun, all of which I could very much relate to being in my own ways, odd fairy child that I was. She was a Berkeley icon. I’m glad I got to meet her and witness her fun bubbles in 1970s downtown Berkeley. May Julia Vinograd rest in peaceful eternity, blowing bubbles while floating happily on a big one of her own as she recites poetry to the universe.