Belching and scratching my 'nads

From Pathetic Life #2
Wednesday, July 6, 1994

The people at work (and the work) were getting on my nerves, so I snuck out early, and I'll get away with it so long as my boss doesn't subscribe to the zine. Now I'm back in my 'apartment', which is actually only a room with a sink and a lot of roaches, shared bathroom down the hall, in a low-rent residential hotel.

It ain't much but it's home. I'm naked on the bed, watching a Korean soap opera on TV, reading a comic book, typing this drivel, and spending quality time with my favorite person: me.

I keep my distance from most people who aren't me. Most of them are assholes if you get to know them, so I rarely take the trouble. I'm a solitary dude, and an asshole myself, of course.

Things that annoy me include television and people who watch it, but I'm watching TV right now. I also hate neckties and people who wear them, "family values" and people who think they know what that means, anyone who thinks and acts exactly as they're told, people who splash on perfume or cologne by the gallon, gringos who say 'Meh-hee-co', and I especially hate people who whine about all the things that annoy them. Don't you just hate that?

So why am I sharing my diary with strangers? Why would a hermit type up his innermost thoughts, then photocopy and share it with anyone who sends three bucks or the usual?

Because treating my typewriter as a friend is the next best thing to having a friend. It's less expensive than a therapist. The typewriter doesn't ask any questions I'd rather not answer, doesn't get antsy when I'm at a loss for words, doesn't get offended if I stay away for a few days, or if I belch or scratch my 'nads.

Despite my misanthropy, I yearn for contact with others of my tribe, but my tribe appears to be extinct, or close to it. You never know, though. Maybe I write the way you think, and maybe you're thinking of writing me. Hey, why be shy? The worst I'd do is not answer your letter.

♦ ♦ ♦

Solitude is my preferred way of life, but sometimes it does get awfully quiet. "He hasn't a friend in the world," goes the cliché. That's not quite true of me, but it's close.

Co-workers know me by name, and we talk about how insufferable the boss is, or about ball games or the weather. That's not friendship, though. That's just killing time at the office.

The strangers here in the rez hotel know my face, but not my name. We talk in the elevator, if they're capable of talking (a few of them aren't), about the price of bananas at Marquard's and whether there'll be a baseball strike. We're borderline neighborly, but that ain't friendship, either.

I've always made friends slowly, and rarely. Living in San Francisco for three years now, I've made a few shallow friendships — people to share a meal or a ball game with, but they're not people I can share myself with. And if you can't relax and really be yourself around them, are they really friends?

I do have a friend back in Seattle. Bruno. He's the one person I've missed most since moving to California.

We've been friends since we were both lonely and introverted little kids. Now we're both lonely and introverted big fat men. We're fat because you can make up in calories what you lack in companionship.

We laugh at mostly the same things, but other than that I've never figured out what makes me and Bruno such good friends. We both love movies, but rarely the same movies. We both read a lot, but never the same books. We don't agree about much of anything, and when we're together we mostly argue — about politics, religion, day-to-day trivialities, and whatever else comes up. He likes anchovies, fer cripes sake.

There's nothing much we agree on, except our friendship. It's been three years since I've seen him, and at least two years since we last spoke on the phone. We didn't have a falling out or anything, but I moved a long ways away and I hate talking on the phone.

So while buying those bananas at Marquard's, I also bought a post card for Bruno, and with very tiny handwriting I've squeezed these words onto the back of a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge:

Hello, old friend —

This card is a reminder of something you should never forget, that even when I'm a thousand miles away and utterly out of touch for years at a time, I shall always be your friend.

I trust you know me well enough to know that my silence augers no ill will. You're in my thoughts often, and I hope you're healthy, wealthy, and the happily married father of four by now.

As for me, I've settled for just healthy. I'm a little older, fatter, more flatulent and less dogmatic than the man you remember. Let's do lunch.

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.

Addendum, here and now: Bruno passed away some years ago. We did do lunch, though, one last time, when I visited Seattle in the late 1990s. He was never healthy, wealthy, or married, but he was a good friend.

Also, a correction: The distance between Seattle and San Francisco is only 800 miles, not 1,000. Back then we didn't have Google to quickly look up such things.

Google has more to say: Marquard's, my favorite decrepit convenience store with a sprawling 100-year-old neon sign, locked up shop forever in 2004.

And see the 'hotel' sign, in the upper right corner of that picture? That's not the rez-hotel where I lived, but it's the rez-hotel next door, where the piano man lived.

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