Three tales from Telegraph Avenue

Christians are often offended by our semi-sacrilegious fish, but today I sold an Evolution fish to a chatty guy who told me, "I'm a Christian, but I also believe in evolution."

I had to stare at him and think for five seconds to think of something to say in response. "Adam and Eve were just two fish in the sea, eh?"

He smiled, but I thought my dumb joke had cost the sale when he claimed he had no cash. I can't take credit cards, of course — I'm on the sidewalk, don't even have electricity, so I pointed him to the cash machines up the street, and he walked away.

Never to return, I thought, but he was back in a few minutes, out of breath from jogging, almost running back to my table. "You didn't have to hurry," I said. "I'm here all day."

He laughed and said, "I am in a hurry. My wife and two kids are waiting in the car, and I only stopped in Berkeley to see my dealer and score some weed."

That's what we call a California-style Christian.

♦ ♦ ♦

A teenage girl didn't understand the fish, so I explained as always about the persecuted Christians of ancient Rome. She didn't care, of course, and really neither do I. She didn't buy anything from me, but she asked, "You know the area, right? Do you know where I can get my labia pierced?"

We weren't talking about anything remotely like that, so I don't know why she asked me, unless she was kidding around and trying to shock me.

I almost answered by just pointing at her groin and saying, "Somewhere down there," but she was clearly underage, and I figured a crack like that might get me in trouble.

"Pierced?" I said instead. "That's lightweight. Why don't you get 'em tattooed?" She smiled and drifted away, maybe looking for a tattooist. 

♦ ♦ ♦

Two pedestrians had an argument in the crosswalk, twenty feet from me and my table. I didn't see what started it, didn't look even when it got loud, because people scream all the time on the Ave. Eventually, though,enough already, I got borderline curious and turned to see.

It was a couple of twenty-something white men, one yelling at the other's face, with what seemed like an inch of clearance between their noses. Anyone who gets that close to my face dang well better be about to kiss me.

One of them kept screaming a whole encyclopedia of insults, and the other just talked, so softly I couldn't hear what he was saying. After a few minutes of the first guy screaming, the second guy smiled and shrugged and walked away. The screaming guy didn't follow him, so the argument was over.

I admired that second dude's patience. What better way to antagonize someone who's screaming at you, than by refusing to respond? I couldn't do that. I'm a screamer.

Then the second guy, the talker, came walking past my table, so I said, "Hey, man, that was a very zen performance." He smiled at me, but didn't say anything, and his eyes were glowing. Clearly he was high on something, and it seemed like a terrific high.

Just another day on Telegraph Avenue.

From Pathetic Life #15
Thursday, August 3, 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. "Somewhere down there" is hilarious, but yes, better not said under the circumstances. I am still laughing five minutes later.

  2. The post link for today - Friday - is dead. Other stuff is glitchy. Can’t explain all of it with my thumb. Don’t understand why you won’t study for the test without getting paid. If I promise to send a five spot will you study? Sorry, its all I can afford.

    I’m writing down here because this is where the Googs will let me comment. Bastards.



    1. The title links are all working for me at the moment, but no glitches would surprise me.

      In the past few days I've been told ① comments simply stopped working ② he email box in the sidebar stopped working ③ now you're telling me the links didn't link, and for weeks now ④ I've had to type my name every time I post a comment, because it tells me I'm logged out of Blogger, which obviously I'm not. If I was logged out of Blogger, posting posts would be as difficult as posting comments.

      Google makes a pretty good albeit kinda creepy and evil search engine. All the other things they do, including Blogger and Gmail, sure seems half-ass. Wish they'd give a damn.

  3. Hey pard, I made you a cash offer which you ignored. I don’t know whether to go up or down. So, if you’ll study tonight I’ll send you four American dollars. That and some smooth talkin’ could score you a table dance unless they’ve gone up in the last 40 years.


  4. Do they dance *at* the table, or *on* the table?

    All offers of bribery are appreciated, but my my answer's gotta be no. No workplace should ask anyone to work off the clock, but it wasn't really the workplace, just the lady teaching the class making a 'suggestion' that we take the material home and study. Doug don't do dat.

    Anyway, it would be pointless to study tonight — the written test was today (and I passed) — but you can still send the $5 or $4. Next week we're out of the classroom and onto the buses, but only for more training.

    1. That’s terrific news. Congrats and good luck on the rest of the training.

      I thought it had been 40 years, but it’s been 50. Back then they danced beside the table between your knees. Anything else they did depended on how enthusiastic local enforcement of Cabaret activity was. It varied wildly.

      Good luck with the buses. My Dad would be proud.


  5. That your dad would be proud is a big compliment indeed -- thank you Sir.

    I still have some doubts about the bus driving job, and will probably write about 'em. I write about everything in my head, almost.

    Long ago I had a Middle Eastern friend (wanted her to be a girlfriend, but she said no) and she once took me to a bellydancing restaurant.

    It was, I guess, like any other kind of night club (like I would know?) only the entertainment was a woman who bellydanced. She came to our table, bellydanced right beside us for half a minute, and before moving to the next table she shook her deep-cleavaged boobs at my face. It gave me a raging boner, of course, and my friend said my face turned red. The dancer must've been wearing clickers or clackers, because there was a hell of a racket too.

    That's the only table-dancing I've seen, not counting the movies.


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