"Naomi" is the third song in Abel’s seven-movement orchestral cycle The Dream Gallery. It unfolds within the exceptionalist confines of Berkeley, a town that tends to regard itself as superior to its neighbors in virtually every way. The song is a somewhat merciless satire of Berkeley’s contradictions, told through evocative, sometimes dreamy music over which a coolly detached homeowner describes her world view.

Date: 2009Composer: Mark AbelText: Mark AbelSong Collection: The Dream Gallery

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“Living well is the best revenge.”
A strange creed for flower children, perhaps.
But it is our religion here in the other city by the bay,
from whose hills you can look down on everyone.

Some call us smug.
I say they are jealous of the things we have:
The best food, abundant culture,
a great university, commerce on the cutting edge.
It’s all here.
Really, is there anywhere else
lefties can live like kings?

We love the homeless down on Telegraph,
somewhat less so on upper Solano.
We love minorities, but Oakland and Richmond
are best seen from the freeway.
None of these people live on my street;
they haven’t the means.
My heart bleeds, truly.
Life’s not fair, but it’s not my fault.
I wish the best for all, isn’t that enough?

It will have to be. I’m not going anywhere.
I came for school and never left.
My friends all look like me — white and graying but still spunky.
And smart! Our homes are worth a fortune.
The Outlanders have nothing on us;
we beat them at their own game.

(And there is more!)
Not content to lobby or march,
we like to make our own foreign policy
— as befits a People’s Republic.
If only we could build a wall to keep out
those who would pollute our purity.

So meet me at Shattuck and Vine.
On nouvelle Cambodian we will dine,
with world beat as our soundtrack.
Exoticism is our buffer of choice
— anything that keeps America at bay
for a few blessed minutes.

Then we’ll climb, up, up and around,
til the grand panorama is spread before us.
And as the fog creeps through the Golden Gate,
we’ll feel good about ourselves.

The festival parade is coming soon
and again I must decide:
How Berkeley can I be?

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