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"And how's life?"

"Hope you make a million bucks today," a bum said as I pushed my pushcart past his shopping cart, on the sidewalk's fast lane. Like we're old buddies, both of us in good spirits.

We weren't and I wasn't, but I can fake it, so I said, "When I make a million bucks on Telegraph, I'll give you ten percent." A lie, but a nice enough reply, yes?

"Hey, you don't have to say that," he said. "I wasn't begging." He was annoyed, so I slowed my cart, and stopped to consider.

He wasn't a bum I know by name, but I've seen him around Berkeley since before I moved here, when I used to come for movies at the UC or PFA. We've talked a few times, and I gave him 50¢ once. Decent guy, for a bum. I wouldn't have thought he was any more nuts than anyone else on the street.

"I was just making conversation," I said, keeping my voice low and casual. "No insult was intended, sir." I thought 'sir' was a nice touch.

"Ah, kiss my ass," was his retort.

Mine was, "Blow me, ya lazy crackhead."

He started yelling profanities, and I stood and glared at him for long enough to prove that I, too, have testosterone. I didn't yell at him, though. I don't have that much testosterone, or stupidity. When I'd heard enough, I resumed rolling my cart down the sidewalk. We'd been headed the same direction, but he didn't follow right away, and his hollering faded into the distance behind me.

I try to be kind to down-and-outers, to anyone actually, but I don't try too hard.

♦ ♦ ♦  

Worked on Telegraph, cutting out fish, talking to the street crazies, and singing along when the Hare Krishnas made their daily trek up the Avenue. I like the part where they chant about hairy ramen. Lugosi sheds, so I can relate.

Toward the end of the day, a vendor I semi-know and occasionally chat with pushed his cart by, and said hi. I asked how's biz?, he said OK, and I should've left it at that, but instead I said, "And how's life?"

"Not so good," he said, suddenly glum, and proceeded to tell me the details of his mother's death in a natural gas explosion in New Jersey, that ended her life and ruined the turkey on Thanksgiving Day.

"Sorry," I said, after listening too it all, and what the hell else could I say? Why are you telling me this? I wanted to ask, but I guess I'd literally asked for it.

My mom makes me nuts, but if she's dead before I am I'll be saddened, too. I'll spend a long time missing her and kicking myself for every time we argued.

What I won't do is bother anyone with the news of her death, except close friends and the unfortunate readers of my diary. I won't be dropping my grief on casual acquaintances and co-workers who say hello.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Me and people are never a good mix. Dogs neither, I guess.

When I got home, Lugosi bit me. He jumped at me like he always does, playful not mean, wanting to play fetch or lick my face, but he nipped my nose instead.

There was more than a nose worth's of blood, but it's nothing serious, and my face won't be any uglier than it already was. Probably stained my shirt, but with the mustard and ketchup blops the blood won't be noticeable.

From Pathetic Life #18
Wednesday, Nov. 29, 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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