The philosophy behind the fish

For my first stint selling Jay's funny fish on Telegraph Ave, she went for a classy set-up, with two comfy folding chairs — one for her, one for me — and a matching sun umbrella. This made us the swankiest booth on the avenue, where we sat cutting fish from the pre-printed mylar sheets in the lull between customers.

During the (lots of) lulls, we talked to strange people (on Telegraph Ave, there's nothing but) about the philosophy behind the fish, and about everything else. It was more like fun than like working, especially with Jay handling most of the talking.

The philosophy behind the fish? People take their religion too seriously. Our fish, gently mocking the Christian fish symbol with Darwin and other amusing designs — Freud, Dali, marijuana — refuse to be taken seriously.

I'm new at this, of course, but the sales seemed slow, considering it was a sunny Sunday. Jay was keeping closer track than I, but did we even take in enough to pay my wages? When I got pessimistic, she reminded me that this was our first day, so sales will probably pick up when people know there are fish stickers and magnets for sale on Telegraph Ave. I'll try not to jump to my habitual negative conclusion, that whatever I'm doing can't possibly go well.

Seems like a very easy job, too. We were on a crowded street, and I don't like crowds, but most people ignored us — bad for business but good for my disposition. Jay knows I'm no good with people, so my sales strategy is to shout the word "Fish" every few minutes. That's all. If someone responds, then we can talk about the fish, maybe sell one. If nobody responds, I'll keep reading the newspaper.

Once we have the routine worked out, I'll be running the fish stand alone. Maybe that'll be fun, too, but today it was nice having Jay around. She answered people's questions, spelled me when I needed to take a leak, gave good pointers about what not to say to customers ("Maybe 'Jesus is bullshit' is a little too harsh," she said), helped me discreetly ogle the beautiful college co-eds (she's bi, I think), and she gave me half her tuna sandwich.

I offered her a peanut butter sandwich in exchange (I'd packed six), but she about retched after one dry bite. See, I'm stingy with the peanut butter, spread it on very thin. PB is expensive, bread is cheap and filling. If I'd expected to be sharing, though, I would've spread more than three microns of PB on my sammiches.

From Pathetic Life #13
Sunday, June 4, 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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