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How to lose friends and annoy strangers

Well, that was an unusual conversation with Kallie a few minutes ago, here at work. Somehow we were comparing the cleanliness of women’s vs men’s restrooms, though obviously neither of us would know much about the other. Then I told her about the disgusting communal johns at my rez hotel, and she fought back with the, apparently, quite repugnant and repellent toilet in her shared house. 

Just this once I’ll yield to good taste, by not detailing our dialogue at length, but the short version is, I win. Kallie's toilets are gross, but the toilets I use, at work and especially at home, are grosser.

A shared or public crapper puts the morals of the masses right where you’re sitting, and sometimes it’s not a pretty sight.

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Awkward moment of the day: Jennifer, my ‘lead’ who knows and does less than me or most of us, was wearing a pink ribbon on her blouse. There might be a color chart somewhere for decoding all the ribbons people wear, but I haven’t seen a copy. Red is against AIDS, I know, and yellow is for soldiers missing in action, black means someone died, and blue means your pig won the state fair, but I didn’t know from pink, so I asked.

“Breast cancer,” Jennifer said, rather curtly, and that’s all she said.

I expected more words, so I stood there waiting, but apparently saying “breast cancer” says it all, like Budweiser.

Finally I said, “OK, breast cancer. Thanks for the reminder.” Jennifer was not amused, and for allegedly making light of what’s certainly a serious subject, God will probably strike me dead with breast cancer. Men can get it too, you know, and from the look she gave me, I think that’s what Jennifer is rooting for. 

Well, pardon me for being unpardonable, but if you wear an awareness ribbon, you ought to be prepared to say a few words about whatever you're aware of.

♦ ♦ ♦

You know, I'm good at accidentally making enemies. My goal is to go through each day as un-noticed as possible, avoid all the annoying human drama, and hurry home to my typewriter and zines. People are often pissed off at me, though, like Jennifer today, for reasons I don't understand.

I could write a book: How to Lose Friends and Annoy Strangers, by Doug Holland.

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Kallie skipped lunch so she could leave work an hour early. She’s going to the Rolling Stones concert tonight. She’s a big fan, says she stayed up late last night practicing her Mick Jagger dance. I don’t even know what that would be, and I didn’t ask to see it.

The Rolling Stones are good, but I can only name “Satisfaction," and I don't think any of their albums were in the pile I gave to Salvation Army when I dumped everything I owned and ran to California.

I'm not much of a music guy, anyway, and definitely not a concert guy. Maybe if I had someone to go with. And maybe if tickets didn’t cost a week’s rent. But I don’t and they do, so I hope Kallie's having a nice night doing her Jagger dance, but I'm going to the movies.

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There was a dash of guerrilla theater while BARTing to Berkeley. As the train rolled under the bay, three young men and one young woman, all wearing green camouflage uniforms, walked from car to car, sternly asking for everyone’s papers.

“Do you have your papers?”

“Do you have your papers on your person?” 

“If you do not have your papers on your person, if you cannot establish your American citizenship, you are under arrest …”

I took their flier, and talked to one of them, and it’s all part of the campaign against Initiative 187, a particularly poisonous piece of Republican politics that wants to require not just citizenship but *proof of citizenship before you can get medical care. It would create a state-wide “citizens’ I/D card”, and bar the children of illegal immigrants from attending public schools, among other ghastly provisions.

“It can’t happen here,” they say, but all the polls suggest Initiative 187 will pass by a landslide in November. Call me an asshole, but please don’t call me an American.

I never understand why fearmongers single out Mexicans as “the problem,” but I also don’t know why Germans singled out the Jews. They’re not here to hurt you, you know. They’re trying to survive, same as the rest of us. The Mexicans gave us burritos and Cinco de Mayo, so they’re OK by me, and why should I care about legal or illegal? Some of my favorite things are illegal.

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The movie was Série Noire (1979) at the Pacific Film Archive. Film noir is supposed to be black-and-white, but this is in color. And in French. But it gets every detail of the mood and imagery exactly right.

Based on pulp-master Jim Thompson’s novel A Hell of a Woman, it begins as a deceptively silly story about a lowlife door-to-door salesman who talks to himself in his beater car, and practices tough guy poses in an empty lot, but avoids fist fights because he knows he’d lose.

As played by my favorite dead French actor, Patrick Dewaere, this guy is a working-class schlump you can’t help liking. And when big-money temptation enters the plot, it’s fascinating to see just how low a good(?) man might go. Loved the ending too, but — say no more, say no more.

One small quibble. (There’s always one small quibble, isn’t there?) Maybe something got lost in the translation from French to English, or from the novel to the movie (haven’t read the book, so I can’t say), but I’m not sure which woman in the story is supposed to be A Hell of a Woman. There are two main female characters — Dewaere’s drippy wife who knows him too well, and an underage hooker who barely speaks — but they’re both rather boring, and neither seemed like A Hell of a Woman to me.

It’s a hell of a movie, though. 

Also, respect the twig. It’s Série Noire, not Serie Noire, and I had to finesse the typewriter to get the twig. Though honestly, I don’t even know what the twig is supposed to signify, and I don't know what the title means. The dialogue was subtitled, but the title wasn’t.

From Pathetic Life #5
Friday, October 28, 1994

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.

Pathetic Life 

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