A "Berkeley liberal"

Woke up in the dark hours of early morning, a little blue and a lot lonely.

In other words, I woke up, with all the usual hell of waking up, remembering again that I'm alone and alienated, always will be, hating it but unwilling to do anything about it. Plus, it was still raining.

So I turned on Free Radio Berkeley's Black Hat Show, and my man Josh was playing music that perfectly complimented but also exacerbated my feeling  of endless, empty overnight. To the technojazzy soundtrack of Blade Runner and some sad songs by Neil Young, I was mainlining self-pity with everyone else's syringe. 

Usually I fight these feelings off. You live, you die, you're born alone, die alone, and spend most of the time in between alone. That's how life feels for me. I try not to wallow in it too often, but lying here at 4 in the morning, luxuriating in my lousy life, listening to the rain, thinking of a woman who touches me but only physically, and a few others who've never liked me even enough to touch... Damn, I really am pathetic, and I was really feeling it.

Turned the music louder, but couldn't shake the depression, so I ate peanut butter sandwiches and looked out the window.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Six hours later, the specific bout of the blues that woke me had passed, and the melancholy had evolved into something more generic. I was just hoping the rain would keep falling, so I'd have an excuse to take a day off I can't afford.

Ain't it the shits, though? At 11:00, which is when I usually start getting ready for work, the rain suddenly stopped, the clouds floated away, and the sun burst through. Psychologically, I still felt like something you'd dribble into an ash tray, but it was a beautiful day in Berkeley, so God damn it all, I had to go to work.

I could hear the baby down the hall, crying, but what the hell do you have to bawl about, kid? Your momma loves you, and your life is all yours to screw up any way you wish. Mine's already screwed.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

For selling sacrilegious fish on the Avenue, Christians still give me shit quite often, but it's so repetitive I don't even take notes and write about it any more. Today's encounter was out of the ordinary, though — Jesus barely even entered the conversation.

Four clean-cut young men stood at the stand, distress on their faces, looking at the fish, so I knew it was going to be something sneering or snarky or save my soul. The youngest, cleanest-cut of them asked, "Why are you making fun of Christianity?"

"Because Christianity is funny," I answered, honestly.

"Funny?" he asked, with a question mark that hung in the air almost visibly. "I thought you people were supposed to be liberal. What's liberal about making fun of God?"

That line took me about a block aback. Liberals are more likely to laugh, I reckon, but — You people? And Liberal?

Selling fish that poke fun at their religion, I've argued with hundreds of Christians, been called some vile names and done some name-calling myself, but nobody's called me a liberal until today. I was momentarily speechless, but eventually I said, "Liberal?" 

"Yeah, you liberals are supposed to be—"

"Am I wearing a sign that says 'liberal'? We've never met, why would you accuse me of that?"

He looked at me dumbly for a bit and then asked, "You're not a liberal?"

"I'm complicated," I said, and got a very simple-minded stare back. "This in Berkeley," I explained, "but that doesn't mean everyone here is a liberal."

"Then you're a conservative?" he asked.

"Those are the only choices?" My question was greeted with more silence, so I started babbling to keep control of the conversation. "Not a conservative. Not a liberal. There are other choices, you know. If you want to talk politics, it's gotta be 3D because, you know, there's a lot more on the spectrum than 'liberal' and 'conservative'."

In the echoing silence after that, I frowned and added, "Do you want to buy a fish?"

None of them wanted to buy a fish. His friends gently tugged at the guy's sleeve, and then they were gone. 

I gave that exchange several mental playbacks, and still can't make sense of it. The fish are kind of liberal, sure, but nobody's ever gone after the fish as "too liberal" before. The line of attack is always Jesus and God and all.

What can I say except people are idiots? Sorry I didn't match your preconceptions.

I have some post-conceptions about those well-dressed young men — they're hicks, is my guess. They're from some shitty part of the country, almost definitely south of the Mason-Dixon line, where nobody questions anything, or else you must be a "Berkeley liberal."

I do live in Berkeley and like it here, but my political label would have to be anarchist with civil rights tendencies, atheist with a soft spot for things Jesus actually said, pacifist with mace in my pocket, capitalist until someone has ten times what anyone else has, and commie-sympathizer but without the gulags, please.

Liberal? No, the liberals are miles to my right.

From Pathetic Life #19
Friday, Dec. 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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