The Finer Diner

On the streetcar ride to Stanley’s place for breakfast, while Muni waited at a traffic light, I watched an ambulance load up and drive away from an old folks’ home. There was no flashing light or siren, and nobody seemed to be in any particular hurry.

That’s not a good sign.

♦ ♦ ♦

“The Finer Diner is open,” said Stanley, and we had broccoli & onion & cheese omelets, with sliced potatoes fried in lemon butter on the side. It was an excellent breakfast. So excellent, in fact, that I bought some potatoes and lemon pepper on my way home. That's the third meal Stanley has cooked for me, and to show my gratitude I won’t cook anything for him. That would be cruel gruel.

Then I gave him a crew-cut with his clippers, and we went to Small Press Traffic, a cool zine store I recently discovered but hadn’t yet had the chance to explore at length. When I’d briefly popped in there a week ago and saw that they sold zines, I mailed them a copy of Pathetic Life, and I was hoping when we walked in there’d be three staffers huddled at the counter, reading it and laughing out loud. 

Instead, a double dose of disappointment. Nobody was reading my zine, and there’s a “for lease” sign in the window. A pink-haired woman at the counter said they lost their lease, and the shop will close on January 21. “We’re looking for a new location,” she said, “but everything’s up in the air.” Well, that stinks, but we spent some time in the aisles and I bought three zines.

After that, Stanley and I went thrifting all over the Mission. He went for big-ticket items at bargain prices — an FM receiver and tape deck, and an Apple printer. I only wanted cheap stuff — two decent shirts, and some plastic trays I can make sandwiches on (and stop buying paper plates). 

The thrift score of the day, though, perhaps the greatest thrift score of all time, is a working word processor — same brand as the machine I type the zine on, with a manual and a spare daisy wheel, and it uses the same size disks and daisy wheels. Once I’d tested it out, I was ready to pay the price tag, $35, but Stanley volunteered to act as my agent and negotiated the price down to $20. Twenty bucks! A daisy wheel alone costs $45, new. 

Now, next time my main machine acts up, I’ll have a second-string machine on the bench, ready to be plugged in and powered up. Oh, man, it’s a beaut. Maybe I’ll type tomorrow on it.

We lunched at a good taqueria, and I paid, to say thanks to Stanley for dickering down the typewriter. I didn’t catch the name of the restaurant, though, and with someone to talk to, I forgot to take notes and write a burrito review.

♦ ♦ ♦

I rode home on BART instead of Muni, and there was another little girl like the one I mentioned on 12/26, singing almost the same song that set me off that day, but with different words — with the right words. Last month it was the theme from Barney, the stupid TV show about a stupid dinosaur, but today it was what it should be, “This old man, he played two, he played knickknack on my shoe…”

“What a cute kid,” I told her mother with a smile. “And it’s so nice to hear that song the way God intended, instead of hearing about Barney.”

“I don’t like Barney!” said the daughter, quite emphatically.

“You’re a very smart girl,” I said.

♦ ♦ ♦

Ego alert — take cover! 

Here's a letter from Bruce Anderson, editor and publisher of the Anderson Valley Advertiser. I’d sent him my zine a week ago, and today he said,

I get a lot of zines, but yours and Larry Livermore’s are the only ones I read all the way through. You’re a wonderful writer!

Would you write an account of who you are and how you came to be living in a bum hotel?…

He even enclosed three bucks to buy the next issue of Pathetic Life. If you haven’t seen the AVA, or haven’t seen me raving about it, maybe you can’t comprehend why that short note from a stranger means so much to me. It’s not the first or finest compliment I’ve gotten for the zine, but cancel your New York Times subscription, because the AVA is America’s finest newspaper. For me, a pat on the back from Bruce Anderson is like some garage tinkerer getting a post card from Albert Einstein that says, "Good work."

As for the article Mr Anderson has assigned, it doesn’t sound terribly interesting, which makes me perfect for the job. I’m the world's foremost expert on the topic of me.

From Pathetic Life #8
Saturday, January 7, 1995

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, 2021: Good news: Google says Small Press Traffic survived their 1995 eviction, and they're still doing good work. I've added them to the sidebar.

Pathetic Life 

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