And to think that I saw it on Market Street

Came to the Castro an hour before work to catch some of the festivities, as the new AIDS Health Project was grand-opening-ing in the former Bank of America building. The crowd was so thick I couldn't see who was speaking, but it must've not been a politician, because what he was saying made sense.

It's a big improvement for the neighborhood. Instead of a leech sucking money out of everyone who walks in, we get a non-profit that helps people. Every BofA branch everywhere should be converted to something useful.

Then some idiots in pick-up trucks drove by and started honking their horns. They beep-beeped and blasted and screamed and cussed back and forth for maybe a minute, drowning out the speakers on the plaza, but from what they were screaming I don't think they were trying to disrupt the ceremonies. It was just, one dumbshit cut off the other dumbshit in traffic, so they both went straight to nuclear core meltdown.

Cars, man, and trucks... Put an otherwise sane man behind the wheel, and at the slightest provocation the sheet metal and glass become a shield, and he imagines he's trotting off to battle. 

Anyway, at the ceremony they gave out red ribbons for AIDS awareness, and I took one, wore it all day, and it's still pinned to my t-shirt tonight as I'm typing this. It serves a purpose, I guess, but just sitting here looking at it, thinking about it…

It's 1995. It you're not aware of AIDS by now, you're an ass, so to me the red ribbon just says, Hello, I'm not an ass. And I'm proud to wear it. I'll wear it again tomorrow.

♦ ♦ ♦

After the ceremony, I walked a few blocks to the shop, where LeeAnn told me she had another skirt for me. They sold my first skirt and my second skirt, so this is my third skirt, and it's tomato red. I left my pants behind the counter again, and stepped back into the sunshine on the sidewalk, flaunting my flabby and hairy legs.

Handing out the shop's flyers four or five days a week, I've come to know some of the street people, by face, by manner, a few even by name:

• the suicidal black guy who walks in traffic. Sometimes we smile and wave at each other as he walks between the cars and buses, and today he laughed at my outfit.

• a babbling man — Kevin is his name. We have quasi-conversations most days, though I'm never sure what we're talking about.

• a sad old woman I think of as Mrs Grundy, though that's not her name. She'll sometimes smile and ask me to spin in the cape.

• a pretty woman who's obviously troubled, but I haven't seen her in several weeks. Hope she's OK.

Recent additions to the regular roster:

• a nice blond man who sometimes hands me trinkets he's found who-knows-where.

• a mostly-toothless black guy who asks me to twirl if I'm in the cape or curtsy if I'm in a skirt. Sometimes we dance.

• an old guy who rides up and down Market Street on his kid-style non-motorized scooter.

• Frieda, the sad-faced stinky man in a skirt who'll usually interrupt her singing to chat with me, until I can't stand the odor any more.

• an easy-going Hispanic or maybe Asian guy (hard to tell through the grime) who quietly panhandles across the street, never bothers anyone, but got arrested and hauled away last week — ensnared in Mayor Frank Jordan's despicable Matrix. He was back on the street today, not panhandling, but walking hand-in-hand with a wrinkled old woman I'm guessing is his mother, talking and listening like the loving son he no doubt is.

Among the obvious drunks I'm pretty sure aren't homeless, there's:

• Bill (not the same Bill who runs Black Sheets), a lush who lives in my neighborhood but comes to the Castro to visit the gay bars.

• Jerry, a lovable old queer (that's his word) who keeps offering to roast my nuts.

Despite the frantic reports on TV news, most of the people on the street aren't dangerous. They're maybe more susceptible to the bottle or the needle than you are, or you're just luckier, but they're no less human than the rest of us. Talk to them, and you'll find a person inside their skin who's not all that different from the person inside yours.

Of all the characters I've sorta gotten to know in the Market @ Castro area, there are only two who annoy me. There's the little black guy who tried dry-humping me on the sidewalk (but I yelled at him and he hasn't tried it again), and there's an increasingly psychotic guy I'll call the flyer-flyer.

He's a blond youngish man with a badly blemished face. From a distance today, I mistook him for the trinket man, and it was a disappointment when he came into focus.

The first few times I saw him he gawked at my outfit, but it was mean gawking, not the normal laughing or kidding around. And a week or so ago, he asked for a few extra flyers for his family and friends. Well, I'm always happy to hand out flyers, so I asked how many he wanted.

"Seven," he said, so I gave him seven flyers. "One for my mother — she's dead," and he tossed it in the air. "One for my sister — she's dead," and he threw it over his shoulder. He went through the entire roll call, leaving the sidewalk littered with flyers honoring the dead, or the fictional dead, and guess who got to pick 'em up?

Since that day, I've been less talkative with the flyer-flyer guy. I hadn't completely shunned him or said anything rude, but something in his eye as he flicked those flyers said, Keep your distance, Doug. 

Today he came by and got quite cantankerous, threatening to dismantle my face after I accidentally brushed up against the bedroll that was poking out of his shopping cart.

I should mention, since it doesn't come up often in the zine: I am not a tough guy. I'm big, but it's all blubber, no muscle, so when he threatened me, I ignored him. Instead I turned to some passing pedestrians and gave them my usual spiel, offering the flyers and saying, "Delightful shop, upstairs," or something like that, same as I always say. Which was pretty dumb.

"Yeah," said the flyer-flyer nutso vagabond, "you're always talking about the shop upstairs. I think I'll go see what's upstairs…"

What's upstairs is two ladies — Stevi, who could probably pulverize that guy, and LeeAnn, who certainly couldn't. There's also a large assortment of porcelain and glassware that he could destroy with a quick burst of temper. I'm not the security guard, but I'm not gonna stand on the sidewalk and let him make trouble, so as he darted up the stairs, I followed.

By the time I'd jogged up, he was standing and eyeing the jewelry case. LeeAnn was behind the cash register, oblivious and smiling, but Stevi was nowhere in sight. When LeeAnn saw my face, she knew there was trouble already. Then he looked at her, saw she was looking at me, turned and saw me behind him, and he walked up to me and started shouting.

Showing more guts than I'd ever have, LeeAnn put herself directly between us, and politely told him to leave the store, while effectively protecting me with her body. As if this headcase would hesitate to hit a woman?

Well, he did hesitate. He looked at LeeAnn and then looked at me, said, "I'll beat the shit out of you the next time we meet," and then he walked down the stairs and disappeared into the sidewalk walkers.

I thanked LeeAnn, jokingly told her she'd saved my life, but then non-jokingly told her I appreciated her courage. She only shrugged. I think I'll buy her a box of chocolates.

And should I be scared about the next time I see that big blond pimple? I am scared, sort of. He's younger than me, thinner, looks stronger than me. He could probably kill me if he wanted to. It'll be hard for him to sneak up on me when he's pushing a shopping cart, though, and if he has the advantage of insanity, at least I have pepper spray in my pocket.

Oh, wait. The pepper spray was in my pants pocket, but my pants were upstairs cuz I was wearing the skirt. Thanks again for protecting me, LeeAnn.

From Pathetic Life #12
Saturday, May 6, 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, 2022: At the bottom of the page of the original typed text, was this unpaid 'ad' for a few local pirate radio stations:

And I remember typing that... 

Living in the Mission, I'd been enjoying Radio Libre 103.3 (Spanish for liberty), with good music and chat most evenings, sometimes in English, and always free from advertising or endorsements. Later, I'd be interviewed on Free Radio Berkeley 104.1, and be very peripherally involved with that station.

Ah, those were the days. Through fierce enforcement and the creation of low-power licensed stations, the FCC eventually shut down almost all of the pirate broadcasters, and we lost something marvelous. All that's left on the radio is homogenized milk, with neverending ads or pledge breaks. I salute you, Stephen Dunifer, and JimBo Trout, and everyone else, names forgotten…

CKON and Green Light Radio are the only pirates still broadcasting in the USA, to my knowledge...


  1. Great entry. It's always good, But I *remember* this one from reading it in the zine. I guess I'm feeling maudlin at the moment. I miss mid-late 90s SF, with my friend.

    1. What's good about sad?

      It's 'happy' for deep people.


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