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A brief history of fish

Elton, that darn cat, used to sleep with me. She'd eat cheese droppings from my sandwiches, and she'd let me pet her, always purring louder than an unmuffled Oldsmobile. Then came the fleas, so now she sits outside my bedroom door and yowls to be let in, but I'm not letting her in until I remember to buy her a new flea collar. It's not even about the money. I just keep forgetting to buy it.

Made my morning trip to the john just now, and Elton followed. When I closed the bathroom door, she'd snuck in with me, meow, there she was at my feet, then nudging my ankles as I sat on the porcelain. Then she jumped onto the sink, which put her at perfect petting distance.

I have missed that cat since evicting her from my room, and apparently she's missed me. With Sarah-Katherine so far away, Elton is the only warm furry thing I'm allowed to touch. When I flushed she fled, of course, and then I came back to my bedroom and closed the door, closing her out. She meowed and seemed so sad, I grabbed a big felt pen and wrote FLEA COLLAR on my left hand.

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Sold fish in front of Noah's bagelry, next to a nice lady vendor whose name I can never remember, so all day when we talked I called her Hey.

For lunch, Hey bought a bagel, then showed me Noah's latest promotional flyer. I've said things now and again about the homeless people all around the Ave, so she thought I'd be interested. Here's the deal: Purchase six 8-ounce schmears within thirty days, and you get a seventh schmear free, plus Noah's will donate a dollar to some charity for the homeless.

After years as a social problem, homelessness has become a sales gimmick.

Look, Noah's is a giant chain of bagel shops. All day long, they seem to have customers lined up out the door and onto the sidewalk. They're not struggling to get by. You'd hope maybe someone somewhere in their corporate structure might have the conscience or common decency to give a dollar to the homeless, without tying it to the sales of schmears.

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Speaking of scumbag corporations, an outfit called Evolution Design makes the hard plastic Darwin fish we sell, or used to sell before Berkeley said we couldn't. Mostly, though, we make and sell soft plastic fish of many varieties, including one that says Evolve.

Well, Evolution Designs has sent Jay three cease-and-desist letters over the past several months. Two of them demanded that we stop making and selling Evolve fish. Evolution Designs doesn't make an Evolve fish, but they think it's telling the same joke as a Darwin fish, and somehow stealing their intellectual property. The third cease-and-desist demanded that we stop gluing magnetic material to the back of their fish — which we buy from them — and selling them as Darwin magnets.

People are such idiots about things like this. Especially lawyers, and people who live their lives in neckties.

Jay's response is a management function, and I'm not management, so I'm not sure what she's doing with all these cease-and-desist letters. Maybe she's ignoring them, like I would, or framing them for display in her living room. More likely she's paying a lawyer to answer their lawyer.

Well, today, guess who stopped by the fish stand and talked to me? No, not a lawyer from Evolution Design. Also not the inspector from the City of Berkeley, because of course we're not selling the hard-plastic Darwin fish in violation of city edict. I'm shocked, shocked that you would think so. 

Nope, today's special guest was Al Seckel, who's an inventor, he says, who has documentation proving that he first doodled the Darwin fish as a parody of the far-too-popular Jesus fish, in the early 1980s, for an atheist newsletter he was editing. That's interesting indeed, because "© 1990" is stamped onto the back of every Darwin fish from Evolution Design.

Mr Seckel says he's aware that Evolution Design is marketing his fish, but he doesn't see a penny in royalties, because the manufacturer traces the fish's evolution to someone else — someone who came up with the idea several years after Mr Seckel did, while living in the same metropolitan area where Seckel was making and marketing Darwin fish.

To his credit, Seckel told me he liked all our fish, and has no interest in going to court over a fish. He hates lawyers, and anyway, judging by the man's suit I'd say he's quite well-off already. He says his only interest is in seeing his fish spawn, spreading as widely as possible the gospel of science over religion.

I love all that, of course, but here's the part I like best: Seckel says he's been in contact with Evolution Design, sent them proof that he invented the Darwin fish, but asked for no compensation. His only stipulation was that they not block anyone else from making funny anti-Christian fish, too. And they'd agreed, he says.

When I told him about our dealings with Evolution Design, cease this and desist that, he became visibly angry, and promised that despite his strong distaste for lawyers and lawsuits, he'd contact his attorney and do whatever it takes to get Evolution Design to stop hassling our fish stand.

Being skeptical by nature, I have considered the possibility that everything Seckel told me might be hooey. I'd never met him before, and he wasn't carrying proof to back up his story. I once talked to a homeless guy who claimed that his mother owned First Interstate Bank. People do lie. But you can see truth in someone's eyes when they're truthing, and I believe what Seckel told me.

A simple twist of fate on Telegraph Ave. Seckel could've not been there at all, could've not noticed the fish stand, could've noticed but walked right past. But instead he stopped and talked with me, and maybe became the hero of our fish stand. When I called Jay to tell her what happened, she whooped in delight.

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Stopped at a drug store on the way home, and bought a new collar for Elton. She's not my cat, but nobody knows whose cat she is, and she's claimed me, so she's mine.

From Pathetic Life #17
Sunday, October 15, 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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