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A big argument

I didn't want to get into a big argument over this. I hate big arguments, especially with someone I like, and I like Jay. And it's a stupid thing to get worked up about, maybe.

Now that we're a free speech stand, unregulated by city law, Jay wants to sell all sorts of stuff at the fish stand... stuff I'm not interested in selling.

First, my understanding of our legal standing is that commercial speech isn't protected by the First Amendment. Only political and/or religious speech is free, says the US Supreme Court.

There's no political statement in plastic glow-in-the-dark Virgin Marys for the dashboard. Or squawking skeletons. Or Saint Elvis of Presley prayer candles.

Jay wants me to sell a small selection of books at the fish stand, too, but they're books you can buy at Barnes & Noble or Books-R-Us. If we're a free speech stand, let's sell suppressed or self-published books — and zines, and DIY music and homemade movies. That would be kinda great.

But a slick, oversize paperback of The Book of the SubGenius, and Anne Rice's latest vampire novel? What's the point? You can buy those books in any bookstore.

Maybe it's corny, but I believe in the sacrilegious fish we're selling. They're a satirical push-back against blind faith, and religion needs a push-back. Blind faith in religion has caused nothing but trouble, ever since God didn't create the earth.

I believe in Telegraph Avenue, too. It has a cool vibe, and glow-in-the-dark Virgin Marys and squawking skeletons aren't what the Avenue is about. Selling bookstore books from a table on the street, fifty feet from a great bookstore like Shakespeare & Company? That ain't right, and I can't work up a philosophical reason why such stuff belongs on our pushcart on the Avenue.

I'd be a merchant, that's all. Nothing's wrong with that, but there is something wrong with being a merchant pretending not to be a merchant, pretending to be a free speech vendor, sidestepping the city's rules and regulations... to sell Saint Elvis of Presley candles and Interview with the Vampire.

If this was any other job, I'd shut up and do what the boss says to do, but this hasn't been like any other job. It's been better. I believe in it —  the fish, and Telegraph Avenue, and the concept of free speech. Selling ordinary books and squawking skeletons pisses on all that.

When I said about 10% of this to Jay, she got furious and fired me.

♦ ♦ ♦

That's her prerogative. She owns the fish, and the fish stand. I only work there, or used to. She yelled more than I think I deserved, but I got mad and yelled too.

Jay is a friend of mine, and I don't have many. Been working for her for months, and we've never argued about anything, until today.

I hope we're still friends, but maybe you shouldn't work for your friends, so I'm reaching for my old "I'll do anything" posters, and going back to free-lance odd jobs. 

♦ ♦ ♦

I stapled and glued up about fifty of my posters on a long walk around Berkeley, all the way to the UC Theater. The marquee called my name, so I bought a ticket and saw The Wild Bunch (1969), a bloody good western, with the emphasis on bloody.

In Sam Peckinpah's world, when a machine gun misfires and splatters bullets all over town, it's a comedic moment. When you see your woman with another man, why, of course you shoot her.

I'm of the old tradition, where maybe you shoot the other man, but not the woman you love.

Peckinpah's world is a crazy place. Lots of gunfire and action, and suicidal bravado that only dead men have in real life. Lots of male-bonding belly-laughs, even when nothing is at all funny, but macho men laugh and laugh anyway. I was in a male-bonding belly-laugh frame of mind, with only myself to bond to, so I enjoyed it.

♦ ♦ ♦

I was distracted, though, by the argument with Jay, by being suddenly unemployed, and as always by the UC's piss-poor projection. The film slipped out of focus twice, for ten minutes at a time.

The UC Theater, man. How can it still be in business? Something goes wrong half the time, like the focus problem tonight.

Rocky Horror plays there at midnight every Saturday, but hours before that show, there was still rice all over the carpet from last week's show, crunching as I walked to my seat.

I counted 16 chairs broken and covered, who knows when if ever to be repaired. Several other seats have been removed entirely, leaving holes in the rows like the gaps in my mouth where teeth used to be.

Even the popcorn! It smelled great, and I saw it popping so I know it was fresh, but it felt stale and mushy in my mouth. How do they even do that?

♦ ♦ ♦

After the movie, I went home to brush up on my moping around and feeling sorry for myself, but Jay knows where I live and she found me. We hugged, and she took back the "You're fired." I feel better, she feels better, we're still pals, and she's still my boss.

She wants me to sell books and knickknacks at the fish stand, but not tomorrow. Tomorrow, only fish.

"We can talk about what we'll be selling, and we can wait until you're comfortable with it," she said, which is probably perfectly reasonable. More reasonable than most bosses.

I'll never be comfortable with it, though, so there's another argument coming.

From Pathetic Life #16
Saturday, September 2, 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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