Roaches and schmucks

Most days selling fish on Telegraph, someone comes by the table to check that our street vendor's license is in order. It's a waste of time and it's an annoyance. If my vendor's license was in order yesterday, the day before, and all five days I worked last week, how could it not be in order today and tomorrow as well? The damn thing is supposed to be good for all of 1995.

It's only a slight exaggeration to say it's like passing through Checkpoint Charlie every dang day, and when the daily schmuck comes by demanding my papers, I usually say nothing, just point at the license. Yup, there it is, same as yesterday.

Today's city schmuck looked at the license, and then looked at the display of Jay's poetry chapbook, What Lesbians Do. "So this is the book that has everyone up in arms," he said casually, leafing through the pages.

"That's the book," I said. "Have those narrow-minded old biddies filed a formal complaint?" One of those old biddies was working three tables down the street from me, so I said it so loud she couldn't not hear it.

"Yeah," he said, "but I was at the meeting months ago, where the book was approved. They have no grounds for a complaint."

He smiled as he said it, so I nodded, and maybe, maybe I slightly smiled back, but I hate the whole idea of schmucks carrying clipboards. It's nice that the city has decided it's legal for Jay to sell her poetry, but the concept of the city deciding what's art, what's poetry, and what's not, is simply wrong.

♦ ♦ ♦

Maybe I feel more strongly about it because today I had a long conversation with Umberto the anarchist, one of too few "free speech" vendors on the Ave — people who sell their stuff without a license, without any hoop-jumping or approval process or fees for licenses. Umberto simply refuses, says it's his right to sell his bumper stickers on Telegraph, and the city no longer hassles him.

You might remember, I hated Umberto when we first met, but I'm coming around, slowly starting to like the man. Selling anarchist bumper stickers isn't just a job for him. He's an activist. While he's selling the stickers, he's all day talking about very left politics, the importance of liberty and justice for all as more than a mere slogan, and reminding his customers and anyone passing by about upcoming marches and rallies.

It's his life. When he's not on Telegraph, I've seen him carrying a picket against police brutality, and when we talked today he mentioned a march he's attended a few days ago, hoping to restore Affirmative Action. Umberto is that rare old hippie who hasn't forgotten his ideals, and I have serious respect for that.

We seem to believe most of the same things, Umberto and me, but I've mostly given up on working for the cause, any cause. I'll buy the sticker and slap it on the back of my jacket, but from many years of marching and picketing, I've come to believe that the protests accomplish nothing.

My turning point was the nationwide series of giant protests against the Gulf War, George Bush's 1990 boondoggle/slaughter. Neither Bush nor anyone in power gave a damn about the protests, or the subsequent deaths of so many for so little. The protests didn't even slow the stupidity. The powers that be paid no attention whatsoever.

The world is an awful place ruled by rotten bastards, and there's more to protest than I could possibly list in this zine's 26 pages, but if nothing's accomplished, fuck it, I'd rather sit at home and eat a sandwich.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Tonight Judith told me she's seen two roaches in her bathroom, which is on the other side of my bedroom wall. Damn it, a few of the pesky pests must've come with me when I moved from San Francisco last month.

I've seen three roaches in my room — two live ones that I squished, and a dead one, stuck to an inch of exposed wrapping tape, but that third roach was dead and dry, so I think he was dead before the move.

Really really really I don't want to be the guy who got this place infested with roaches, so I went in halvsies with Judith on the purchase of a three-pack of fogger-type insecticide. Before I leave for work tomorrow, we'll bug-bomb my bedroom and Jay's bathroom and kill every damn roach. I sure hope.

From Pathetic Life #15
Friday, August 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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