Probably not.

I was back in high school, surrounded by the same butt-heads and jerk-offs as twenty years ago, but a few folks from the modern era were there, too — Jay, Corby, and Sarah-Katherine.

All of us were teenagers again, and kids from every clique — athletes, stoners, stuck-up girls, tweedy eggheads, cools, wanna-be cools, blacks, Asians, dweebs, and the cliqueless (me) were all hanging out one weekend afternoon, dropping acid on a baseball diamond.

It was very Ferris Bueller. None of us should've been anywhere near the others, but there we were, all pals, because in the dream or in the drug, we'd stumbled onto some essential truth, a way around all the misunderstandings and awkwardness that clutters every hour of social contact everywhere — the high schoolness you never graduate from.

Are real friendships like that possible? Probably not.

In the dream, though, we were friends, and it was great — feeling truly connected to other people like I never have in real life. Ten or twelve of us bonded together, like buddies from a beer commercial.

Fade to another day, which must've been a school day, because I was hanging out in the cafeteria with several of our new bunch — the unattainable cheerleader, the basketball star, Corby with a pistol, Jay with a fish, and Sarah-Katherine with me. All of us friends like I've never had, and talking about our new improved truth.

Even being in the school cafeteria was a revelation — I always avoided that place, because it was full of my enemies, the other students. In the dream, though, I wasn't alone in the world. I had friends, so the cafeteria didn't seem like dangerous ground.

Then two others from our LSD picnic rolled past on bikes (guess this was an open-air cafeteria?) and we waved at them, shouted hey and such. They seemed to see us, but they biked away without acknowledging our greeting.

Next day I was joking around with Corby and Basketball Jones, when a few more of our Saturday trippers walked by, but they acted like they didn't know us, ignored us and kept walking.

In the dream, I was afraid. One by one, the weekend miracle was ending, and these people I'd thought I'd known were becoming non-friends again, as unknown to me as everyone else at Auburn High School. Who'd be the next to forget what we'd taught ourselves last weekend?

I didn't want to know, certainly didn't want it to be me, so I willed my eyes open. Wide awake, I was lying on this sweat-soaked cushion, jotting down what dreamy details I could still remember, and still I was scared.

Jay, Corby, Sarah-Katherine — If you see me on the subway, please don't walk past and pretend you never knew me. We knew each other once...

♦ ♦ ♦

I typed all that the next morning, from hand-scribbled notes written in the black of night. The dream, the nightmare, is now completely forgotten. All I remember is waking up and writing it down.

No need to dig deep, to unravel the hidden meaning of it all. It's not well-hidden at all, is it? It's right out in the open.

I am alone, adrift, and I ought to reach out to the very few friends I have. I am a man who needs a hug, damn it. I ought to call Stanley. Ought to try calling Maggie again.

And maybe I will, but probably not.

Maybe later. Probably not.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

It's boring, so I haven't mentioned this, but I need more work, and more money. Things are tight. I can't afford a new tube of toothpaste, so I've been brushing with lukewarm water (which seems to work just as well; possibly a money-saving tip).

The flyers haven't been generating many calls, and I had no work lined up for today, so I rode the buses, and taped "I'll do anything" flyers all over the Haight, the lower Mission, and Taravel.

On the way back, the last place I targeted was the Rainbow Grocery at 15th & Mission. Kurd-heads and vegans shop there, but I shop there, too, when I have money, and the store's bulletin board has brought me some business in the past, so I posted my flyer there again.

Across the street from Rainbow, sometimes there's a crackhead and homeless mini-mall, as extremely poor people spread their junky merchandise on the concrete, and on the steps of an empty building. Maybe some of it's hot, but I doubt it. Most of it's too ratty to bother stealing.

Some of my holy wardrobe was purchased from bums on that corner — three bucks for a black sweatshirt, two bucks for the pants I'm wearing, etc. (Another helpful hint from Heloise: Always launder the clothes before wearing 'em. There might be bugs.)

Today there was no curb-shopping across the street from Rainbow. Instead, two San Francisco policemen were heroically protecting the city by forcing homeless guys to dump the contents of their shopping carts, and then abandon the carts.

Cops demanded that the bums describe exactly where and how they obtained this pair of shoes, that paperback novel, the clock radio, the hub cap, and so on. Doing the judge and jury thing they always do, the cops decided every answer was a lie, and one by one all the bums' possessions were tossed into a waiting trash truck.

I leaned against a telephone pole to jot a fraction of my anger into my notebook, and then walked to the corner to let my rage subside some. When I turned around, the homeless guys were gone — not into a cop car, not under arrest, just gone. "You're free to go," I imagine some cop said to them, after stealing everything they'd had and tossing it into the trash truck.

The only things that weren't trashed were the shopping carts, which were instead stuffed into a van, presumably to be returned to whatever store they'd been borrowed from. Or maybe the cops sell them to other bums. Who knows? It's not like there's any oversight of the police.

This is Mayor Frank Jordan's proudest achievement. He calls it "the Matrix Program" — instead of providing services for the homeless, help or human kindness or anything human at all, city policy is to hassle them endlessly. The Mayor imagines that if he treats the homeless with great cruelty, they'll all roll their shopping carts in a grand parade across the Bay Bridge and become Oakland's problem.

It's better than having the cops beat them to death, I suppose, like that guy a few days ago, but it's so damned heartless. And for what purpose, anyway? Taking everything from people who have nothing isn't going to reduce homelessness, it'll just make the homeless even poorer, angrier, a little more likely to smash a bottle over your skull and steal your wallet, just to survive.

♦ ♦ ♦

Once, I was sorta politically active. Went to pointless meetings and useless protests, and believed in things. I was out there marching against the Gulf War, a slaughter of innocents that most Americans are still proud of, and our protests accomplished nothing. I was out there marching when the city outlawed free speech after the Rodney King riots, and again, all we did was make ourselves targets for furious cops swinging billy clubs.

Political protest is a choice between doing something futile, or doing nothing at all. The end result is the same, though. I no longer believe protests can accomplish anything — not if the government is run by people who lack a conscience, have no ability to feel shame. Imagine carrying a "Down with Mussolini" placard while Mussolini is in charge; it's not going to change anything, and it might get you bruised, handcuffed, or dead.

No, I'm not saying San Francisco's Mayor Frank Jordan is Mussolini. That would be ridiculous. Mussolini was bald. Jordan wears a toupee.

Maybe it's time to get my ass out of San Francisco, and let Jordan and the bastard Republicans have their way with the poor here. Soon enough that'll be me.

Or maybe it's time to do something futile, join up with an angry group, go to meetings, carry placards again, and hope I'm not in an unlucky bunch that gets caged and clubbed by the cops.

I'm 37 years old, and tonight I feel twice that.

Inside the Rainbow, I posted two of my flyers, and found an interesting poster on the board, from some people outraged by last week's murderous police riot. I wrote down their number, gave them a call, got their answering machine, and left a message. We'll see what happens. Probably nothing. 

Called Ron again, still hoping for that free dinner he promised, and maybe that job at his cabin, but got his machine, too. Left a message.

And then, three for three, I called Margaret at her sister's house, got the answering machine, and left a message.

Same as in my dream last night, I'm connecting with nobody. Maybe writing about all this, it'll connect with someone, somewhere who reads it. Probably not.

From Pathetic Life #13
Tuesday, June 13, 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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