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Breakfast for one

The St Francis Theater is an easy walk from ghettos in three directions, so it draws an odd clientele. I bought a big popcorn, and settled into a seat in the darkened upstairs cinema.

About fifty other men were there, most of them sitting by themselves, surrounded by hundreds of empty seats. A few teenagers were together up front, but they were well-behaved. There were rats scurrying in the shadows, but they didn't nibble at me or my popcorn, so they weren't the problem either.

The problem was that a few of the customers were especially psychotic, drunk, delusional, and loud. Or all the above.

There are always bums at the St Frank, but usually they're not screaming at the screen or themselves. Had to switch seats twice, but the theater is huge, so I eventually found a relatively quiet corner.

I'd arrived in a bad mood, and mostly missed the first fifteen minutes of Waterworld because of the loud talkers and seat switching, but then something wonderful happened. Two employees walked into the auditorium, and told the two loudest assholes to leave. Even better, the assholes left.

After that, the movie was silly and soggy and fun. What's not to like? Things blow up, there's testosterone-soaked violence, and the unnamed protagonist (Kevin Costner) is enjoyably anti-social like me. And I won't say what it was, but there's one moment in the movie so perfect it gave me goosebumps and watered my eyes.

Waterworld has gotten horrible reviews, and all of them mention the many millions it cost, but I only care what it costs to get in. $3.50, for two movies, and it was definitely worth the price.

Then again, I also liked The Last Action Hero, so what do I know?

Batman Forever was a disappointment. All the Batman movies are a disappointment. Now he's Val Kilmer. Nothing against Kilmer. Loved him in Top Secret. Loved him in Real Genius. Didn't love him so much today, though.

I was a fan of Batman in comic books when I was a kid, so I keep going to these movies, hoping to see that Batman. They never show the caped crusader I remember, though. The first movie came close, but they keep making him such a hi-tech wiz-bang dude, all glitz and glamor and getting these gorgeous women.

No, man. Batman is supposed to be brooding and troubled. Yeah, he's a millionaire playboy, but they make him into the richest and sexiest man in the world. That was never what made him Batman, not to me. More brooding, please. He saw his parents get murdered, remember? He's scarred for life. Show me some scars.

And in these movies, Batman keeps revealing his secret identity to every dame he wants to boink. Women talk, you know, just like men. Keep blabbing who you are, and all of Gotham City is gonna know that Batman is really ████████.

♦ ♦ ♦

The real disappointment, though, and my reason for riding into San Francisco, was that I'd been invited to breakfast by someone who's bought several issues of this zine. We'd agreed to meet at the O'Farrell Café at 11:00.

He was there, but wearing a suit, carrying a briefcase, standing by the restaurant's doorway. When he asked if I was Doug, it sure surprised me. Hadn't occurred to me that a man in a suit might be someone I was supposed to meet. On the phone he'd sounded odd, which is better than normal, but in that suit he looked normal indeed. He looked like he might try to sign me up with Amway.

Well, you shouldn't judge someone by his clothes, right? Maybe he was going to a wedding after breakfast, I thought, or meeting someone way more important than me.

So we shook hands, stepped inside, sat at a booth. He started talking about the weather, the city, and the neighborhood, and complaining about the traffic, and his difficulties finding a parking space, but — it was him who'd suggested the O'Farrell Café. If he needed light traffic and easy parking, we could've met at the Denny's in Daly City.

This guy was talking so much, so fast, and laughing at everything he said as if he'd said something funny, that my ordinary ill-at-ease was going up instead of down.

That's something that happens to me, a side effect of my reclusiveness. if I'm with someone who's especially extroverted, I shrink into myself. Whatever energy I have, a talkative person sucks it out of me, without even trying.

The waitress came by, handed each of us a menu, poured coffee, and said she'd be back shortly to take our order. Just the normal things a waitress does, but she wasn't white, and when she walked away, the man buying me breakfast whispered a mildly racist joke.

Maybe I haven't written this in the zine often enough, but racism pisses me off. There are a billion better reasons to hate people, so skin color seems like a cop-out. It took me too long to say something, though, and the man across the table was in the middle of some unrelated sentence when I interrupted.

"What— really, what— the hell— gives you the idea that I'd find that remark funny?"

"Hey, hey, I'm sorry," he said, and maybe he was, but I was past caring. "Guess that was kind of rude."

I should've stomped out already, but the whole restaurant was suddenly quiet, and I had to ask, "So what's up with the suit? Are you on your way to work, or to a funeral or something?"

"No," he said. "I dressed up to meet you." 

And I looked into my coffee for a long while, wondering why I wasn't already gone.

The waitress came by to take our orders, and he mumbled what he wanted, and they both looked at me, and I said, "Nothing."

The man looked like he knew what was coming, and I said, "You have a nice breakfast, man, a nice weekend, a nice life." I left a buck for my coffee and another for a tip, walked out, and that's how I ended up at the movies a few blocks away.

♦ ♦ ♦

After today's non-breakfast, and that guy on Market Street a few months ago, and a few other odd moments, I've decided to remove the line in the back of every issue that says I'll trade Pathetic Life for a meal.

That man at the diner had been buying this zine every month. He said nice things about it in the mail, and again when we talked on the phone to arrange breakfast. And my assumption, stupidly I guess, has been that people who like the zine would like me, but what that man and I have in common is what I ordered for breakfast: Nothing.

That dude at the diner is everyone I can't stand. He's why I'm a hermit, so — trading strangers this zine for a meal? Nah, that offer expired this morning.

From Pathetic Life #16
Saturday, September 16, 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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