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Story time with Gertrude

Trains to the city were delayed this morning, due to a medical emergency. That's BART-talk for a suicide on the tracks. They don't want to tell the truth over the public address, that some schmuck went splat at MacArthur Station.

Announcements of medical emergencies are not uncommon. The Golden Gate Bridge will always be number one, but throwing yourself in front of the train must be the second most popular way to make an exit around here.

Hey, suiciders: If you gotta go you gotta go, and you have my compassion and condolences, but if you shuffle off this mortal coil on the third rail, or jump in front of a passenger train, good riddance, asshole.

It's rude to interrupt a hundred thousand people's commute and ruin a driver's day, just because you can't handle life any more. Have the common decency to off yourself someplace private.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

BART eventually took me under the water, and I rode a #33 bus to listen to Gertrude again, while doing her housework. She looks and sounds like a nice little old lady and she tips well, but she's a bitch, in addition to being a constant talker. 

When I ask a chore-related question, sometimes she answers but more often she'll criticize something else I've done. Like, today when I asked if she had any vacuum cleaner bags, she answered by complaining that I hadn't dried the dishes I'd washed. Other than on sit-coms, who really dries their dishes?

Last week when I asked where the dustpan was, she answered by complaining about a speck I'd missed washing the window. And it was a stain, Gertrude, not a speck.

If I don't ask any questions, she'll talk and talk about her family and dead husband. Which is boring, but better than being scolded, so I'm about done asking her questions.

She had me box up lots of her crap in the basement, and while I worked she sat in a chair and told dull details of her little old lady life. Trying to be polite (I'll do anything for a tip) I listened to stories about her grandchildren, her friends at church, and the candied apples she'll be making for Halloween, and then I made the mistake of again asking a question.

"Jeez," I said, "do kids—"

"Don't," she said quite loudly, "take the Lord's name in vain."

Jeez, I guess 'jeez' is cussin'. Short for Jesus.

My question was going to be: Do kids still go trick-or-treating? In the shitty neighborhoods and slum hotels where I've lived the past several Octobers, no kids have rung my doorbell.

But I didn't ask again, even without the jeez. With no further comment, I started tossing things into boxes a bit more enthusiastically, hoping to hear something shatter.

Story time with Gertrude continued until the basement was mostly organized. Then we went back upstairs, and she brought me a glass of lemonade and paid me $25 for two hours of work. Decent tip, and thanks for the lemonade.

She asked me to come back next Wednesday, and I wanted to say no. She reminds me of my mother, with all her talking and scolding. My mother wouldn't tip, though, so I said, "Sure, see you next Wednesday."

♦ ♦ ♦

And then I walked a few blocks for another daily double at the Roxie.

Brainstorm (1965) is a sweaty melodrama, but all the good stuff is in the first few minutes. After that it's just a widescreen yawn.

Jeff Hunter (Star Trek's Captain Pike) is banging Anne Francis (Honey West), but she's another man's wife, so they decide to murder her husband. Double Indemnity it's not, though. This is so campy you'll want to pitch a tent. Richard Kiel is the movie's only interesting character, and he's only on screen for half a minute.

Experiment in Terror (1962) is about some batty bad guy who drops into Lee Remick's garage and demands she embezzle $100,000 from the bank where she works, or he'll kill her. It starts strong and the tension is taut all the way. It's not quite noir, but it works as a corny thriller, and it's only ridiculous when you stop and think about it.

Would the FBI would put their eavesdropping and entrapment of civil rights protesters on hold, to send a dozen G-men, set up 24-hour surveillance, hover a helicopter, and bring in dozens of city cops for good measure, all to protect one woman, and all on the basis on a ten-second phone call that got cut off?

Maybe they'd do all that if the woman is red-hot Lee Remick, but they wouldn't do squat to protect you or me.

♦ ♦ ♦

After the show, walking past a gay bar on Valencia, a beautiful drag queen offered me a free condom. She was the prettiest woman I've seen in October, so I smiled and said sure, and now there are two rubbers in my wallet.

Unless I give them to panhandlers, that should last the rest of my life.

♦ ♦ ♦

There are other phones in our house, but the guest room has the only touch-tone, so again I stepped in there to check my messages, and it's the fleas' metropolis. By the time I'd sat in the chair and dialed my voice mail, they were jumping across my lap. 

I double-drenched the carpet, the chair, and under the bed with insecticide, though I'm starting to wonder if Raid is a flea aphrodisiac.

Judith and I will be buying a 12-pack of bugbombs and fumigating the entire house this weekend. Until then I'll be checking messages at the phone booth across the street.

♦ ♦ ♦

Got another very nice letter from Sarah-Katherine, with word that she's coming to San Francisco again. She'll be accompanying her brother on a business trip in December. No word yet on exact dates, or how long they'll be staying. 

Maybe this time my temperamental erection will pop up and say hello. Maybe those condoms won't last long at all and I should've taken a handful.

I wouldn't mind not meeting her brother, though. Jeez (and I do mean Jeez, Gertrude), I do bad enough meeting women's fathers…

From Pathetic Life #17
Wednesday, October 25, 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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