A 50/50 mix of semen and dishwashing soap

What a splendid treat — my toothache didn't wake me in the middle of the night. First time that hasn't happened in a week. Instead, a few minutes before 4:00 in the morning, a flea up my nostril woke me.

It felt like an itch, way up at the bridge of my nose, but it was inside, and the itch moved. Ah jeez. I knew what it had to be, so I blew furiously into a generic kleenex, then twisted my pinky up in there far as it could go. The flea came out on the third try, on the tip of my moist finger, stuck on the snot. 

That was the bug that done woke me from a sexy dream, so I squeezed it flat between my fingernails. The I re-Raided the bed and most of the room, and man it stunk but I got back to sleep in half an hour or so.

Damn thing must've bitten the inside of my nose, though. All day long I was scratching my schnoz to no avail. Plus, of course, the toothache came back.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

A teenage boy with about two dozen six-inch hair spikes was panhandling near my fish stand, when a barely adolescent girl came up to him and shyly said, "Excuse me but — I love your hair. How do you get it to stand up so straight?

"I use a 50/50 mix of semen and dishwashing soap," he said.

Her mouth didn't drop open, but it sorta drooped. "Semen," she slowly said, and I looked at her — 11, maybe 12 years old. Does she even know what semen is? And how's she gonna get a supply to follow his recipe?

"Semen," the fake punk blandly said again.

"Thanks," she said, and walked away, hunched over a little, maybe blushing.

What he said might have even been the truth for all I know, but it's a terrible thing to say to a little kid. Also funny, though. He was just messing with her, probably, but for casually saying "semen" to a 12-year-old kid, and saying it with a straight face, he won a copy of the latest Pathetic Life from my backpack. 

Never handed out a freebie to a stranger before, but I felt like living dangerously, and he didn't tell me to fuck off. Instead he reached into his backpack and handed me a copy of Infected Toenail, his zine.

It's 75% punk rock, 25% drugs, handwritten sloppy and photocopied smudgy. I'd give it a good review, but there's no address listed anywhere, so I don't think it's available by mail. If I see that spikey kid again, I'll ask.

♦ ♦ ♦

As I was breaking down the cart at the end of my fish-selling day, we had a replay of a scene I reported from a month or so ago. It happens more often than that, though, so often that sometimes I don't bother writing about it.

A long-haired homeless guy was sitting on the sidewalk in front  of Cody's, reading a zine, saying nothing, bothering nobody, and then two cops on bikes jumped the curb, swooped down on him, and demanded to see his ID. Perhaps surprisingly, he had a driver's license, and when he handed it to one of the cops, they radioed their head office and arrested the man on some petty outstanding warrant.

I don't know the details, and damn it, the details are irreverent anyway. No details would justify what I saw. It's simply harassment of people the city doesn't want around, because the city and the cops see the homeless as less than people.

And I said nothing as it happened, of course. Maybe one day I'll say something, but mostly I say it here in the zine instead of to a cop's face, because I don't want to be on their list.

♦ ♦ ♦

It's wearymaking, sometimes. I'm used to the long, sweaty walk, pushing the cart to and from Telegraph, and I can tolerate, sometimes even enjoy the occasional Christian who's freaked out by the fish. I'm even accustomed to being hassled by city imbeciles. All that, I've written about before.

What saddens me most is something I haven't mentioned, and that's the dull-faced stupidity of most of the people on the Ave. It's not Berkeley-specific, it's everywhere, but this is my first job since high school where I have direct interaction with strangers all day.

And jeez it's depressing. Almost all of them are sad, stupid, or blank.

Sure, a lot of people on the sidewalk are just walking from one place to another, so they're not at their sparkly best. I'm sure not.

But still, the look on most of their faces just cries out, "I'm enduring it, but how much longer?" Almost nobody looks like they're enjoying their day, any day. They all hate it here, and by here I mean life.

♦ ♦ ♦

Whoops, thought it was lights out for the night, but I've popped out of bed to add one more vignette before snoring:

This is corny, but I want to say that I miss you, Sarah-Katherine. We've only spent parts of eight days together, in May and then in July, but for me anyway, those were eight pretty good days. I'm looking forward to more.

You want to move to New York City, and I want to move with you, but I'm tired of waiting. Tired of wishing I was saving up for the expense of it all, when the money isn't accumulating nearly fast enough.

Here's an idea, an invitation for you, Sarah-Katherine: Instead of saving saving saving until we have enough money to move like responsible adults, let's go now. Let's go with the $45 that's in my wallet, and whatever you have in yours, without having everything planned. Let's pack a change of underwear in our backpacks, whatever luggage we can easily carry, and ride our thumbs to New York with nada. We can get to know that city from its smelliest alleys on up, not months from now, but now. Tomorrow morning. Or better yet, tonight.

From Pathetic Life #17
Sunday, October 22, 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. This one is so sweet and strong, Doug. Sometimes I skip the pathetic life articles because it's so long ago and they seem smaller but I shouldn't. Thank you.

    1. Thanks and yeah, I can understand skipping the Pathetic Life stuff. Those entries were written to be read like a little book, once monthly, 30 essays in a row -- and on paper. Often they don't work, one day at a time, but they also absolutely wouldn't work as thirty essays in a row, on-line.

      Oh well. :)


🚨🚨 Click here if you have problems posting a comment. 🚨🚨