Cinemax unscrambled

Stepping out of the shower, I accidentally knocked a spray bottle off the shelf. It was somebody else's bottle, so I got nosy and looked at it, picking it up. It said, "For the temporary relief of itching and pain associated with minor skin irritations," an invitation I couldn't decline.

I've had a recurring rash around my groin for a while now, probably from not changing undies often enough, so why not lightly dust the bottom of my balls with this stuff? Just two or three squirts, I thought, but I only pressed the button for a fraction of a second before screaming and almost falling to the floor.

It felt like I'd nestled my testicles in hot charcoal, a pain infinitely greater than the jock itch has ever been or could ever be. The label said, "Thrifty Drugs Anti-Itch Spray," but it might as well be Agent Orange. I tried stifling my screams of agony, unsuccessfully. 

"You OK in there?" asked the voice of one of my male flatmates, and I don't know and don't care which.

"Yeah, yeah," I sniffled through the door, and through tears. 

After my long and slow recovery, the bottle's small print told me that the medication "expires 3/89," but it's still plenty potent. For a few minutes of excruciating pain, the itch was gone, but as the drug-induced agony faded the itch under by nuts came back, and I have never been happier to scratch my balls.

♦ ♦ ♦

Walked to Telegraph with Danny again, the homeless economist I met a few weeks ago. "Hi, Danny," I said, and we talked for a few blocks.

Again he made me laugh, and he seems to be mostly there, but when I said goodbye I had to introduce myself. "Have we met before?" he asked.

♦ ♦ ♦

Three middle-aged women walked by the fish stand, and eyed the display. They slowed, paused, and one of them pointed at the condom-fish, and giggled, but religion quickly overruled her sense of humor. One of her friends sorta scoldingly said to her, "Do you know what all this fish imagery means?"

At that, the giggler stopped giggling, became very serious, and said, "Yes," in a pre-programmed tone straight from The Stepford Wives. Then the three of them stepped away, one of them literally shaking her head no, and I thought I heard "tsk tsk" as they faded down the street.

I don't want to sound too haughty myself, but Jesus H Christ — it's batty, of course, to believe in something you can't see and there's no evidence for. That's God. But then you let this imaginary entity overrule your own sense of humor? Something you know is funny can't be funny because 'God' wouldn't like it? 

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Spotted Andrea on the sidewalk, and said hello. Hadn't seen her in a month or so, and we're not friends or anything, but we know each other's names and I'm lonely enough it's a genuine pleasure when a pretty woman seems happy to see me and says, "Hi, Doug!"

She's read my zine and I wanted to give her a copy of the new issue, but I'd forgotten to bring any in my backpack. Instead I handed her one of my "I'll do anything" flyers. Maybe she needs a man about the house, hubba hubba?

She was in a hurry, though, and just stuffed it into her purse. Which means, wow, a pretty woman has my phone number in her purse…

♦ ♦ ♦

Speaking of pretty women, where I work on Telegraph Ave, there are always lots of them. The university is just a few blocks away.

One of today's pretty women was very memorable. She was maybe 20, and wearing a transparent dress. Not translucent, something you could see through when the sun hits it just right — no, this was simply see-through, almost as plain as you see through air.

She stopped and looked at my fish, wearing a low-cut high-hem barely baby blue and barely-there dress, and my attention naturally went to her pink lacy brassiere and white panty triangle. One moment I was reading a zine on the Ave, the next moment it was Cinemax unscrambled.

I don't think I glanced at that woman's eyes for even a moment. She could've been someone I knew, and I'd never have known it. And that's sad, isn't it? Thinking about it afterward, I'm at odds with myself. Confused.

It is none of my damned business what someone else wears, but also it's none of my business to be seeing what color her underwear is. Thanks to my dumbass Christian upbringing, it felt uncomfortable looking, but of course I looked, and couldn't stop looking. As she walked off, and all the way up the Avenue until she disappeared around a corner, I was still looking, and I wasn't the only one.

Much as I appreciated it, which is much, it made me sad, and made me wonder, what's going on in her life, to be walking through the biggest crowds in Berkeley wearing basically a bikini?

Maybe she was making a well thought out statement: I will wear whatever the hell I want, and if so, that's a good thing. If it happens again, I promise to force myself to look at at a woman's eyes no matter what she's showing me.

And maybe I'm getting old. I am of her parents' generation. Maybe I'm ready to start saying, "Kids today...", but it feels… wrong (is that the word?) or at least strange to show that much of yourself.

Correct me if I'm wrong. Psychoanalyze me, please.

From Pathetic Life #18
Saturday, November 11, 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. Yesterday, November 11, was the 100th birthday of the author Kurt Vonnegut, who saved me from a distraught adolescence by writing books, particularly his first six novels, which portrayed governmental and institutional leaders as the crazy people, and the people who those leaders labeled as crazy, deranged, or unpatriotic as the sane ones. He did so repeatedly and convincingly. He reinforced my own belief that continuing to drop millions of tons of bombs on agricultural communities in southeast Asian countries like Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos and others constituted irrational acts by a series of American governmental leaders, and that those who opposed these acts of violence against a mostly civilian population constituted a sane constituency rather than the bunch of troublemakers the whackos portrayed.

    Mr Vonnegut was an essential element of my transition to adulthood, and his books continue to occupy my modest library. His writing, filled with abstract ideas about social conventions and governmental ineptness, didn't translate well into movies and other media, so he didn't attain as much popular acclaim as some other social and political writers and critics, but in my life he was a heroic writer and relentless troublemaker; I wish his memory a distinguished and joyful 100th birthday, with thanks and a doughnut. Cakes are getting expensive.

    john (Manolito) thebasket

    1. As a Vonnegut virgin -- someone who never got past second base -- I'll also wish the man a happy birthday across the boundaries of death.

      And you know why? Because all the people I've ever known who loved that man's writing, which is five people, present company included, were brilliant. Even my wife loved his books.

      And something else: None of those five were Republicans, which is higher proof than vodka.

      He's not my can of Fresca, and in lots of other instances I believe the critical consensus is full of shit, but regarding Mr Vonnegut, the consensus is right and I'm missing out.

  2. I don't mean this harshly but Doug, you're a caveman who is at least trying not to be, and I respect that. Look a woman in the eyes please, no matter what she is wearing!

  3. Ooga ooga. That's me speaking fluent caveman.

    That piece was written in 1995, and I've gotten better at eye placement, thanks mostly to working at Black Sheets in the 1990s. They had monthly orgies, and I worked at the check-in table and oversaw the undressing room, and learned to look women in the eye.


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