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A known commodity

I was handing out flyers in front of the shop, wearing the short skirt and telling people to visit the shop upstairs, when I saw the lawyer from the third floor, down the street. He was parking his annoyingly oversized van, and he left his headlights on.

Did I say anything? Of course not. I don't like the guy, and he doesn't like me, so I gave him a big cheerful "Good morning" as he walked past me on the sidewalk. He said nothing, of course, and climbed up the stairs to be a lawyer all day. A lawyer who'd left his headlights on.

♦ ♦ ♦

Later on, some stranger in a bad 1970s polyester suit approached me on the sidewalk, gave me a long lookover before he said, "You're pathetic."

"Hey, buddy," I sorta snarled, "It's my job."

He smiled a little, and said, "No, I mean you're Pathetic Doug, right?"

I frowned, no hesitation, and said, "My name is Lou." 

He studied me skeptically, probably knew who I was but I was ready to deny everything, so he dropped his smile, mumbled an apology, and walked away.

Sometimes I get letters from zine readers who call me 'Pathetic Doug', but until today nobody's called me that in person. Like I want to converse on the sidewalk with the kind of dweebs who'd buy my zine?

No, man, if you want to talk to me, call my number and let me think about it. Give me a choice, damn it. Buy me a cup of coffee, maybe, but I don't welcome unexpected zine chat while I'm working.

♦ ♦ ♦

Lawyer-guy came down the stairs a few hours after that, but by then he had no headlights or battery left. He sat in his van and turned the key and nothing happened, and I just grinned and watched him fume until the triple-A truck arrived.

♦ ♦ ♦

Then I slipped out of the dress and into my ordinary clothes, and rode home on the bus. A semi-familiar face from the Castro was riding in the seat across the aisle, an older gent, gay and gray. Had no idea who he was or where I knew him from, but he smiled at me, and said, "Delightful shop upstairs," mimicking my dumb grin on his face.

"No, man," I said, "it's delightful when they're paying me, not on the bus afterwards." He didn't say anything else, but he'd already said more than I wanted to hear. Too many people smiled at me today. Too many people wanted to be buddies or something. I dinged the bell and got off the bus two stops earlier than I'd planned.

One of the big advantages of living in the city is disappearing into the crowd. I'm anonymous, OK? Paying three bucks for the zine doesn't mean we're friends, and maybe I wear a skirt and hand out flyers all day, but once the skirt comes off my performance is over. 

From the lawyer to the zine reader to the guy on the bus, I'm starting to feel like too much of a known commodity in the Castro. Jay's offer to sell fish in Berkeley sounds like fun, and if it is, I'll be wearing the skirt on Market Street less often.

On Wednesday I'm supposed to kiss the bureaucracy's ass, so I can get a vendor's license from the City of Berkeley and be a fishmonger on Telegraph Avenue. Why people have to show ID and pay a fee just to sell their wares on a public street, I do not know, but I'm looking forward to the change of scenery. And wearing pants again.

From Pathetic Life #12
Saturday, May 27, 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.

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