The invisible Rinaldi

This morning, like most mornings, I rolled the fish-cart to Telegraph Avenue, got there at about 11:40, and started asking around to see which vendor had the sign-in sheet. It's someone different every day, a volunteer gig, so there's no knowing without asking. Usually when you ask, though, you get an answer — it's Frank on the third block, or it's Chang on the second block. You walk to that block, find Frank or Chang with the sign-in sheet, sign in, and sell some damned fish.

Today was different. The answer to the question — Who has the sign-in sheet? — was Rinaldi. Never heard of him, and he was impossible to find. "I saw him walking thataway a few minutes ago," said one vendor, so I rolled my cart thataway, but where's Rinaldi? He was nowhere, so I asked someone else.

"Rinaldi was down by the market a while back," she said, so I wheeled the cart the other direction, toward the market, looking for a face I didn't know. When I asked a third vendor, I also asked for a description, and he told me Rinaldi is a white guy with wavy black hair, carrying a clipboard.

Wait — a clipboard? Schmuck alert! Rinaldi isn't a vendor, someone who'll be sitting at a table somewhere, and I can tap his shoulder to see the sign-in sheet. He's a clipboard-carrier, today's city bureaucrat.

The clipboard-carrier's job is to walk up and down Telegraph, (pretending he's) supervising the vendors, who of course need no supervision. What we do need, though, is the sign-in sheet — so why was it given to a wandering city schmuck, instead of to a vendor who'd sit in one place so you could find him and see the sheet?

I looked for Rinaldi for 45 minutes, but never found him. Another vendor was rolling her cart too, looking everywhere for the invisible Rinaldi, and we were both shouting, "Rinaldi! Is there anyone named Rinaldi?" I made three round trips the length of Telegraph Ave, pushing my cart instead of selling fish, before giving up, and setting up the cart un-signed near Durant Avenue, far from most of the foot traffic.

I'd like to take this opportunity to congratulate Rinaldi and the City of Berkeley for seeing to it that the today's sign-in sheet couldn't be found, so me and that other vendor lost almost an hour of selling time, and ended up in a shitty illegal location. Business was lousy, and I sorta suspect that's the city's ulterior motive. They don't want vendors on Telegraph at all.

Russia, 1917. Sure, it didn't work out too well, but it still seems like a good idea.

♦ ♦ ♦

I was in a shitty mood, and as soon as my table was set up, Berkeley's famous Hate Man came by. He's a homeless man who's offended if anyone says good morning or good afternoon. "Don't say good afternoon to me," he says, "when what you mean is you hate me! Say you hate me, damn it!"

So I said "I hate you!" and flipped him off, and he smiled and said he hated me, too, and then we said fuck you to each other, and he walked away. It's a treat to get hate from Hate Man. Cathartic. You gotta love the guy.

♦ ♦ ♦

Once the fish stand was finally set up and I'd had my much-needed blessing of hate, I sold fish all day. Like the old guy in Love and Death, the fish are my life, and for added fun, there are usually a few Christian wackos — righteous and self-righteous morons who object to seeing their sacred fish made into a novelty item.

I've gone round and round with complaining Christians more often than I've written about it, so I'm wary when someone's looking at the display but not smiling. They might be quietly deciding whether to buy a Cthulhu fish or a vampire fish, or they might be working themselves into a fury, getting ready to do me with Deuteronomy.

Some Christians are polite about their objections. Some shriek. Sometimes they only complain to each other, but loud enough they know I'll hear. Sometimes they quote the Bible at me. Sometimes they pray out loud. Sometimes they don't say anything, but simply sneer.

Typical was today's first indignant idiot, a mid-30s buppie who studied the fish display and frowned and sighed and asked, "Why are you doing this? Why are you putting this out into society?"

"Because it's funny," I said, but he frowned frownier, so I said what I usually say to diffuse people — that our fish aren't meant to be hateful insults to everything he learned in Sunday School. They're just a laugh, and that's allowed, ain't it?

Another guy yelled that the fish will earn me a ticket to Hell, but same as the earlier man, after he'd blown his BS at me he walked away.

It's part of the job, I guess, like false alarms if you're a fireman, obnoxious kids if you're a teacher, rude customers if you're working in retail or waiting on tables, etc.

It's the same story every time it happens, and it bores me to tell the same story again and again, so after this, I'm going to stop mentioning it in the zine when angry Christians tell me I'm evil or earning the wrath of God. Well, unless one of them takes a swing at me or something.

From Pathetic Life #14
Sunday, July 23, 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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