Bananas coming and going,
with fish in between

TUESDAY — I have just bested my personal best banana fest: 22 bananas for dinner. Four bunches. They were brown and splotched, so they were extra cheap, but I prefer 'em brown and splotched. And cheap.

With that many bananas, tomorrow's poop is going to be smooth as... well, as eaten bananas.

♦ ♦ ♦

As always on Tuesdays, no work, and somehow I'm not invited to the Rotary Club meetings, so there's nothing to report.

I considered delving deep into some of my insecurities, phobias, and deepest darkest secrets, but — some other time. I'm banana-bloated and just not in the mood.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

WEDNESDAY — Today was a most peculiar day at the fishing hole.

As happens about half the time, a city schmuck with a clipboard came by to check the business license. It's the same license it always is, but they always want to check it again, just in case it's changed.

Today he also scrutinized the fish display, very, very closely, like a cop checking to see if there was cocaine hidden inside the fish or something. I stared at the schmuck, but couldn't guess what he was doing or why, so that's what I said: "No cocaine in there, I promise."

He didn't laugh or even smile, because he's the city guy with a clipboard, and they never smile. Instead he announced that we'd have to stop selling the Darwin fish. It's not hand-made, and anything that's not made by hand right here in Berkeley is illegal to sell at a sidewalk sales stand.

I replied with something clever like, "Are you serious?" and guess what? He was serious.

Don't tell anyone, but it's true: We don't make the Darwin fish. We buy Darwin fish from a Darwin fish factory, and sell 'em at a marked-up price.

One of the free speech vendors — the sellers who don't have a license, don't have to prove that their merch is handmade, and don't endure daily inspections by the clipboard schmuck — had complained to the clipboard schmuck.

That free speech vendor sells the same manufactured Darwin fish, alongside all his "Smash the state" buttons and "The best government is no government" t-shirts, and says we're cutting into his business. And what wry commentary could I write to top the irony of a "free speech" anarchist using the city's laws to enforce his capitalist monopoly on manufactured Darwin fish?

Gotta say, though, that the free speech vendor who finked us out wasn't Umberto. Umberto has too much class and integrity to do that, and anyway, he doesn't sell the Darwin fish. (He has one, though. He bought it from me.)

Gotta also say, we do make all our other fish, out of flexible mylar that's printed to our specs, right here in Berkeley, and then scissored by me between ringing up customers on Telegraph.

But yeah, the Darwin fish is different. It's hard plastic, three-dimensional, and like I said, very obviously factory-made. Nail me to a cross, we are violating the rules.

In my opinion our hand-made fish are funnier, but Darwin is the most famous fish. People have seen Darwin fish already, wonder where they can buy one, and when they see our fish stand they come over. Sometimes they buy Darwin, but more often they buy the LSD fish or Dali fish or Anti-Christ fish or Prozac fish or Kiss My Ass fish. Darwin isn't in our top five best-selling fish, but it is the fish that brings people to the table.

So banning Darwin is going to hurt the fish stand. Might even put us out of business. The clipboard schmuck was watching me, though, so I put all our manufactured Darwins into my backpack until he'd walked away.

♦ ♦ ♦

When the day was done, I called Jay and told her that Darwin's been declared contraband. She's smart, and instantly thought of something I hadn't: We buy the Darwin stickers manufactured, but about half the Darwins we sell are magnets — after we add the magnetic backing ourselves, right here in Berkeley.

Jay said she'd stop by City Hall tomorrow and make that argument, but neither of us think it's likely a winner.

"You know," I said, "we wouldn't have this problem if we didn't have a license — if we were another free speech table on Telegraph."

The reason the free speech vendors can bypass all the rules is that they've declared their merchandise political. The Supreme Court has sorta said that the Constitution sorta says that the government sorta can't regulate political speech.

Well, our fish are sorta political, aren't they?

Jay and I talked it over, and while she's at City Hall tomorrow, explaining how we magnetize Darwin, I'll be talking to Umberto, to find out if there's any downside to being unlicensed.

The only negative I know of is, he can't reserve a space on the Ave. If a licensed vendor claims the spot he's in, Umberto gets booted and has to pack up and find a different space. But hell, that's happened to me, even with a license.

Jay owns the fish stand, so it'll be her decision, but: I would love to rip the city's permit and license to confetti, and proudly sell the Darwin fish again, maybe under a "Banned in Berkeley" banner.

♦ ♦ ♦

In other news, as predicted, nothing's smoother than a poop that's mostly yesterday's bananas.

From Pathetic Life #15
Tuesday & Wednesday, August 29-30, 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. I am unsure if I believe that you ate 22 bananas for dinner. I know you, and I suspect some fast-and-loose with the facts, for some journalistic fun.

    HOWEVER, having lived with you, I know that you have very fucking unusual eating habits. I have seen you eat 20 low-cal popsicles in a sitting. So... maybe.

    1. I have always been a big banana boy.

  2. It was just after dark when the truck started down
    The hill that leads into Scranton Pennsylvania.
    Carrying thirty thousand pounds of bananas.
    Carrying thirty thousand pounds (hit it Big John) of bananas.

    He was a young driver,
    Just out on his second job.
    And he was carrying the next day's pasty fruits
    For everyone in that coal-scarred city
    Where children play without despair
    In backyard slag-piles and folks manage to eat each day
    Just about thirty thousand pounds of bananas.
    Yes, just about thirty thousand pounds (scream it again, John) .

    He passed a sign that he should have seen,
    Saying "shift to low gear, a fifty dollar fine my friend."
    He was thinking perhaps about the warm-breathed woman
    Who was waiting at the journey's end.
    He started down the two mile drop,
    The curving road that wound from the top of the hill.
    He was pushing on through the shortening miles that ran down to the depot.
    Just a few more miles to go,
    Then he'd go home and have her ease his long, cramped day away.
    And the smell of thirty thousand pounds of bananas.
    Yes the smell of thirty thousand pounds of bananas.

    He was picking speed as the city spread its twinkling lights below him.
    But he paid no heed as the shivering thoughts of the nights
    Delights went through him.
    His foot nudged the brakes to slow him down.
    But the pedal floored easy without a sound.
    He said "Christ!"
    It was funny how he had named the only man who could save him now.
    He was trapped inside a dead-end hellslide,
    Riding on his fear-hunched back
    Was every one of those yellow green
    I'm telling you thirty thousand pounds of bananas.
    Yes, there were thirty thousand pounds of bananas.

    He barely made the sweeping curve that led into the steepest grade.
    And he missed the thankful passing bus at ninety miles an hour.
    And he said "God, make it a dream!"
    As he rode his last ride down.
    And he said "God, make it a dream!"
    As he rode his last ride down.
    And he sideswiped nineteen neat parked cars,
    Clipped off thirteen telephone poles,
    Hit two houses, bruised eight trees,
    And Blue-Crossed seven people.
    It was then he lost his head,
    Not to mention an arm or two before he stopped.
    And he slid for four hundred yards
    Along the hill that leads into Scranton, Pennsylvania.
    All those thirty thousand pounds of bananas.

    You know the man who told me about it on the bus,
    As it went up the hill out of Scranton, Pennsylvania,
    He shrugged his shoulders, he shook his head,
    And he said (and this is exactly what he said)
    "Boy that sure must've been something.
    Just imagine thirty thousand pounds of bananas.
    Yes, there were thirty thousand pounds of mashed bananas.
    Of bananas. Just bananas. Thirty thousand pounds.
    Of Bananas. not no driver now. Just bananas!"

    From Greatest Stories Live: Ending number one

    Yes, we have no bananas,
    We have no bananas today
    (Spoken: And if that wasn't enough)
    Yes, we have no bananas,
    Bananas in Scranton, P A

    From Greatest Stories Live: Ending #2:

    A woman walks into her room where her child lies sleeping,
    And when she sees his eyes are closed,
    She sits there, silently weeping,
    And though she lives in Scranton, Pennsylvania
    She never ever eats ... Bananas
    Not one of thirty thousand pounds .... of bananas

    Writer: HARRY F. CHAPIN
    Publisher: Warner Chappell Music, Inc.

    brought to you by jtb

    1. I'm a late-blooming fan of Harry Chapin, barely conscious of him while he was alive, but he's among my favorites of his era since croaking. Yet this one I'd never heard, and of course it's terrific — grazi, man.

      And he doesn't even bother with rhyming, except that bananas rhymes with bananas.

  3. My old friend Tracy, they guy with the refrigerator covered with the names of 60s rock performers, and I had a sort of code. Once Caller-ID became ubiquitous, when one of us called the other, the answering party always answered, singing "It was raining hard in Frisco . . .".

    It's a prosaic line, but there's something about it that entirely sets the scene for the story.

    Check out Mr. Chapin's bio sometime, if only Wikipedia. He had only one priority: feeding the world. He died trying to perform at and arrange two gigs in one day, driving too fast too late to do it. He sold a lot of records in a short time, and the vast majority of the money went to world hunger programs. Call him crazy, but he was the poster singer for "raison d'être".


    1. Wrote a lot of good songs, is all I knew. As always, you're the candle in the power outage of my mind.


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