"Stay way out there."

At 9:20 this morning, who comes knock knock knocking at my door? It was Jay. She'd already been to City Hall to fight for Darwin, to argue that me gluing magnets to the back of manufactured Darwin stickers makes the Darwin magnets a locally-created work of art.

But what does the City of Berkeley know of fine art? They didn't buy Jay's argument, and said again that we can't legally sell the Darwin fish. 

Wish I'd seen that scene, but I would've lost my temper. The way Jay tells it, she kept calm, even as the city schmuck told her we're not even allowed to stock the Darwin fish, keep it in a bag and sell it to someone who asks for it (like the "essential oils" table where everyone knows you can score hashish if you ask nicely and aren't a cop).

Jay, with her dander up to he ceiling, says she made her declaration of fish independence right then and there.

"Unlicensed vendors clearly have more rights," Jay said she said, "like the free speech vendor who sells Darwin fish — he'll still be selling Darwin fish, and you can't stop him, so effective immediately our booth will be unlicensed, too. And we're selling Darwin fish."

It's a remarkably silly issue to take a stand over, but it's even sillier for the city to say some fish are legal and some fish aren't. I can sorta see how they got to this point — they want Telegraph Ave to have 'artistic' character — but it's taken a long, unbroken chain of stupid decisions to bring us to this morning's events:

Berkeley has decided that street vendors can't sell Darwin fish, so Jay has decided that damn it, we're selling the Darwin fish anyway. It's not quite the riots for People's Park, but anarchy still rules the streets of Berkeley, and it makes me smile.

So this morning I rolled the same old cart to Telegraph Ave, set it up the same way I've been setting it up all summer. No difference, except that today I didn't sign the sign-in sheets, and didn't post any license.

Sold our fish (definitely including Darwin) near Umberto on the Ave. We spent some time talking, which was mostly me listening, getting his perspective on being an outlaw vendor. He likes the idea of us going rogue, even shook my hand and said, "Welcome to freedom of speech, you're gonna love it here."

His only advice was to be radical about it. "The Constitution," he said, "says 'Congress shall make no law abridging freedom of speech', but that's an obvious lie. The government can and will regulate speech into silence, soon as you give them that right, and the vendor's license gives them that right. It says you're in business, and they can regulate business.

"Your legal protection and mine is that everything we're selling makes a political statement. By their own rules, the bastards aren't allowed to regulate political speech." And he's right. Everything at the fish stand — Darwin, all the other fish, and Jay's book of lesbian poetry — makes a political statement.

"Keep doing that," Umberto said. "Stay way out there, selling things nobody on the City Council would be caught dead with, and they'll figure you're nuts and leave you alone.

"If you ever start selling 'normal' things, though, like t-shirts that say 'I visited Berkeley and all I got was this crummy t-shirt', then they'll decide you're a merchant, and they will regulate you, prosecute you, fine you, and put you in prison if you don't pay the fine."

From Pathetic Life #15
Thursday, August 31, 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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