Now reporting from the east bay

I've packed my dictionary, thesaurus, and Strunk & White into my backpack, along with two pair of underwear and two t-shirts. When I'm done typing this very paragraph, the typewriter goes gently into a tote bag I got for giving fifty bucks to PBS, many years ago. Toothbrush and pens in my pocket, and everything else stays locked in my room in San Francisco, where I won't be back for at least several days because… I'm moving to Berkeley.

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… And hello, Berkeley. This is Doug Holland reporting live, from the guest bedroom in Judith's house.

Everything's sure different on this side of the bay. Where are all the hookers, winos, derelicts, and other scum? So far as I can tell, I'm the only scum on the block.

Judith and I were supposed to go to breakfast at Aunt Agnes's, a diner not far down the street. That was the plan, but I'm learning that with Judith, plans are like modern dance interpreted on angel dust. She was still asleep, and despite serious effort couldn't be awakened. When she's asleep, wow, she's asleep.

I hadn't eaten before BARTing over, not since six pickle sandwiches for dinner last night, and my fat heart was set on trying breakfast at Aunt Agnes's, so I went alone.

Couldn't ask for a better welcome to this new town, either. Aunt Agnes makes everyone feel like a nephew or niece, and her restaurant is one of the greats, right up there with Beth's in Seattle, or the Sincere Café in San Francisco.

It's in a tiny building, with maybe two dozen seats. The chairs and tables are a little too close together for a fat guy like me, but I was there before the lunch rush so there was plenty of space. Big screen coverage of the endless trial of OJ Simpson provided the ambiance, along with stupid commentary from some of the customers, but my table was around the dog-leg corner from the kitchen, so I didn't have to watch the ongoing injustice, only listen.

Most of the menu is affordable, though a few items are priced high enough to make dipshit yuppies feel welcome. I ordered the vegetarian omelet, a delicious concoction, and it came with a muffin so tasty I'm certain it had never been wrapped in plastic. The hash browns were dang delicious, and mixed in with the spuds were some onions and spices I couldn't quite identify.

Aunt Agnes works alone. She's the cook, cashier, waitress and bus-dame, so the food was understandably slow coming. Yet she did find time to greet me friendly-like, refill my coffee thrice, and she was there instantly with a glass of ice water when she saw me grimace at how hot the potatoes were.

Gluttony is my favorite deadly sin, so I also ordered a stack of flapjacks. When they arrived without butter or margarine I thought there might be something to complain about, but when I asked, Agnes said she'd bring butter if I wanted it, but I should take a bite first. Dang if she wasn't right. With a dollop of maple poured over them, butter would've been redundant on those sweetcakes.

The tab was $9 plus tip, but that's deceptive, cuz remember, I'd ordered two breakfasts, and either the omelet or the hotcakes would've been enough for an ordinary human. Take it from an abnormal: Visit Aunt Agnes's, when you're in Berkeley.

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After my late lonely breakfast, I'm back at Judith's house — wait, I have a key now, so it's my house, too — at about 12:30, and she's still asleep. Looks like another day of making no progress toward clearing out the bathroom and bedroom, but there's no rush. The guest room is perfectly comfortable. I paid first month & last month when I moved in with Pike, so I don't owe him two nickels, and the rent is covered here if I simply do the dishes and clean the litter-box, so I did the dishes and cleaned the litter-box.

Meanwhile, I'm in a quiet neighborhood for the first time since leaving Seattle four years ago. Probably it's too quiet, but I'll suffer through it. Yeah, my life is pathetic. You should wish your life was as lousy as mine.

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Eventually Judith woke up, and to make up for not taking me to breakfast she took me to lunch. We had sandwiches at a sub shop, and they were fine but nothing memorable, and then somehow the sandwiches turned into a 4½-hour excursion to some mall in Emeryville. I'd never been to Emeryville, and the whole town looked like a mall to me.

When we came home, we set to work making the second bathroom into a place where someone might shower or shit. I'd been awake for fourteen hours by the time Judith was up to working speed, so I let her do most of the work, but progress was made. Now you can get to the toilet without walking on two-foot drifts of junk.

Tomorrow morning: More bathroom work, clearing a path all the way to the shower, and removing everything that's stacked in the shower itself. Then we'll start clearing the crap out of my future bedroom.

At least, that's the plan, if Judith isn't sleeping late again.

♦ ♦ ♦

Someone from Interview called my voice-mail. Ever seen Interview? I've read it a few times at the library, and it's a magazine that's shallow and proud of it, just like me, so I called 'em right back.

Publicity is a ridiculous game that I don't know how to play and usually don't. Just this once I participated, and ten minutes after hearing the voice-mail, my Interview 'interview' was over.

We'd spent maybe three minutes on the phone, not counting my time on hold, and most of our talking time was their reporter saying 'Ummm," and trying to think of another question to ask about the zine. My answers were somewhat sarcastic and I got increasingly grumpy, so it's impossible to guess what they'll make of me and Pathetic Life, if there's any mention at all.

Why there should be any mention, and why they called at all, I don't really know. I'm a nobody, writing a zine only a few hundred people have read. I try to make it worth $3 so suckers will keep buying it every month, but it's not worth more than that, not noteworthy, neither am I, and returning the magazine's call was probably a mistake.

From Pathetic Life #13
Wednesday, June 21, 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.


  1. Aunt Agnes's seems to be gone completely from memory - must have closed years and years ago, not one mention on the internet.


    Ever read / get an update on the Interview interview? I don't remember it being revisited in PL, but I could be wrong.

    1. Yeah, like you I looked for Aunt Agnes's restaurant online and couldn't find any mention. Bit of a pity, that. It was so small, though, in retrospect it was always doomed.

      I also don't remember whether I ever mentioned the interview in Interview when it was published. It was very short and stupid, just like when it happened. A few paragraphs.


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