Enough already.


That's my sales pitch — short and droll. Over and over every day on Telegraph, I say "Fish!" as people walk by. If it gets their attention, they'll stop and look and maybe buy a fish sticker or magnet.

If the fish aren't jumping, I might reel people in by saying, "Fish, damn it," but that's everything I know about sales technique.

Today I said "Fish, damn it," as the wrong man was walking by — a Christian who stopped, frowned, and asked, "Do you have to use such language?" Then he looked at the fish, and began an angry spiel about taking God seriously, because God must always be taken seriously.

Weary of Christians who lack a sense of humor, I replied, "If you don't like the fuckin' fish, then go to fuckin' church and fuckin' pray for me." Umberto, working next to me, thought that was funny, but the Christian didn't. It's my cross to bear.

If you want to talk about the fish, even tell me the fish are offensive, talk to me reasonably and I'll converse. You want to threaten me with the wrath of your god? I am simply not interested, and I'll laugh at you, ridicule you, fart at you.

That guy shook his finger at me, and said, "I'll be back," and I had no idea what that meant. Should I have been afraid? He was a thin, smallish man (which is why I'd so courageously told him off), so visions of Schwarzenegger didn't dance in my head, but the thought that he might return with a gun did. I've seen a few scary Christians on the Ave.

♦ ♦ ♦

Later on, who walked by? The lady vendor who'd worked to my left yesterday, and complained about the book, What Lesbians Do. She gave me crap about it again, and then she said, "And anyway, what do you know about what lesbians do?"

"I don't even know what straight women do," I said, "but my boss wrote the book, and she's done plenty of lesbians, knows all about what they do."

"Then why isn't she out here selling her smut?"

And you know what? Enough already. Enough with Christians angry about fish, and enough with Democrats angry about lesbians. "Leave," I said, pointing to her stall half a block down Telegraph. When she didn't immediately leave, my follow-up line was, "Just get your face away from my table. And I mean, right now."

At that very moment, the "I'll be back" Christian came back (which his Lord and Savior never will). He was accompanied by a large woman I assume was his wife, and she was immediately angry about the fish. No warm-up, no studying the display, she walked right up to me and started shouting, "This is blasphemy!" and some similar stupidities.

I've heard it all before, and have I mentioned? I wasn't in a good mood.

The vendor from yesterday, angry about the book, wouldn't yield to the jumbo fanatical Christian, angry about the fish, so both women were yelling at me at the same time, a ca-ca cacophony. I sighed and stood there for too long, sort of enjoying the show but also sort of furious. Thought I'd have to hose them down, like my dad drenched some dogs that fucked in our yard once.

Instead I grabbed two copies of What Lesbians Do, one in each hand, held out one for each of them, and said loudishly, "Here! A free book for each of you, with my compliments. Why don't you both read it, and then go fuck each other?"

The Christian woman took the book from me, and threw it onto my table with all her might, but all her might wasn't much; the book wasn't even damaged. "We'll be back," she said, same as her husband had said, and then she stomped away, huffing and puffing and dragging him behind her.

The vendor from yesterday, though, wouldn't take her free chapbook, and wouldn't shut up. She wasn't screaming or anything, but she was giving me a tirade that never seemed to end. Jeez, lady, I thought, how much can one person complain about a silly book of poems with a provocative title?

Several stalls down the street, there were dozens of t-shirts with no vendor watching them, because she was at my table, screaming at me, instead of at her table, selling her tie-dye. So I announced in my deepest, most 'official' voice, "Free t-shirts, everybody! Right this way," and I pointed at her stand.

"You're an asshole," she said to me, shaking her head as she walked away, but the best part was, she walked away.

"Works better if you stay calm," Umberto said to me. He often takes crap for his anarchist stickers, so I reckon that's expert advice, and I thanked him. 

Only a few minutes later, before I'd calmed down much, yet another idiot Christian came by. He paused at the table, looked at the fish, and I'd never seen him before but I'd seen that look on his face, so I knew what was coming. I smiled and waited. Here it comes. What's he gonna say?

He said, "Don't you have any real fish?"

"No," I said, expressionless but exasperated. "Real fish would get real stinky out here in the sunshine."

"That's not what I mean," he said, because the complaining Christians never get any jokes. "Don't you have the Jesus fish?" His eyes narrowed, and I could see that he almost understood. "Or are you making fun of the Jesus fish?"

"Exactly," I said, smiling my fattest, fakest smile. "Isn't it obvious? Would you like a 666 fish?"

He walked off, leaving a cloud of righteous indignation, but at least he didn't threaten "I'll be back." I sold that 666 fish to a guy who'd been walking by, and thought the conversation was all very funny, but was it? You tell me. I'm weary of it.

And all afternoon I kept looking for the jumbo & pipsqueak Christians who'd said they'd be back. It would be a lie to say I wasn't a little concerned. Didn't see either of them again, though, so a devout Christian lied to me. No surprise.

When I started selling these novelty fish on the Ave, the worst reaction was a frown, but starting in mid- or late-June, there've been Christians in my face fairly regularly, and they seem to be getting hotter with the summer. For the last week or so, when it's not someone angry about the fish, it's someone angry about What Lesbians Do.

Fuck 'em all. Better yet, crucify them. I just want to sell fish, so I haven't liked my job much these past few days. Maybe I need to carry a squirt gun with me on Telegraph. Maybe I should wear a bulletproof vest. What it's all building up to, I don't know, but I am tired of taking crap about fish and poetry.

From Pathetic Life #15
Sunday, August 6, 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 love your fish stories! I definitely would've bought your fish.

    Remind me when you were in the Bay Area again? I'm wondering if we were there at the same time. I was there August '86 thru February '02...

    1. My fish stories love you, too.

      My tenure in SF was only 9 years or so, late 1991 or early1992 to early 2001. My 30s, mostly. The city is where I grew up, kinda late.

  2. I was always stunned by the number of offended christians you got selling fish. I believe I sold fish with you, live in person, once or twice, not as a coworker, but as a buddy with nothing else to do. And I don't recall any in-person religious nuts. But I bet it's worse now.

    1. Cool, I'd forgotten that. Did we stroll People's Park? Did you meet Hate Man?

    2. I am almost certain I saw Pink man - Unicyclist in pink? And some hateful mormons on streetcorners. But not Hate Man.

    3. Pink Man hasn't unicycled across my memories in a long time, thanks for that. I saw him so many times, but I'm not sure I ever said anything to him. I remember waving though...

    4. My specific memory is of you waving to him and yelling "Pink Man!!!"

      That's it. Weird how we hold certain moments in our brains.

    5. I yelled "Pink Man!" at Pink Man? I don't remember it, but that's about my level of making conversation.


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