The informant

When I started selling fish way back in June, the table was a licensed art booth, as are most of the stands on Telegraph Ave. Jay, my boss, had paid the fees and attended the required hearings to prove herself an artist to the City of Berkeley's official satisfaction, so I sold the playful fish stickers and magnets she'd designed.

By popular demand, I also sold the Darwin fish, which is manufactured by some other company. Selling a fish we didn't make was, of course, a violation of the law, but I'm an anarchist and it's a stupid law, and so what?

Well, it got us in some slight trouble, so Jay jumped through a thousand ever-changing hoops, and as of last Friday, instead of being classified as an art table, we're now classified as a rabble-rousing table. With our oxymoronic "free speech" permit, we are now your leading and legal source for sacrilegious fish.

What necessitated the switch, what got us in trouble, was when a certain vendor went to city officials and complained abut me selling Darwin fish. That's an absolutely normal turn of events, something you'd expect from conformist Americans, shocked to discover that a rule, any rule, every rule, isn't being zealously enforced. What makes it laughable is that the person who filed the complaint is Jasper — the Avenue's best-known anarchist.

He's a street vendor who sells bumper stickers and t-shirts with anarchist slogans, and he also sells the same manufactured Darwin fish I sell. He was worried about the competition, so he ratted me out. See, he could sell Darwin fish, because he's a "free speech" vendor, but I couldn't, by law, because my table was licensed.

And now, bearing the same "free speech" permit he has, confined to the same free speech ghetto, Jasper is my neighbor every day.

He isn't particularly loud or rude, and you wouldn't instantly judge him a putz. He maintains a pleasant demeanor on the Ave (with everyone except me), until something sets him off, but something sets him off often enough that most of the regulars know he's irregular.

He argues and shouts with people for five minutes at a time, and then sits down at his table again, all smiles. This afternoon, when the police were arresting some homeless guy for no crime at all, again, Jasper inserted himself loudly, screaming insults at the cops — so he has his good points, too.

But he makes a screaming scene at least once almost every day, and even half a block away his voice is as much a part of the Telegraph soundtrack as anything on Ace Backwards' famous CD.

There was no drama between me and Jasper today, though, so why am I dedicating my daily column to him? Because today, in passing conversation with another vendor, I learned that Jasper hosts a weekly anarchist talk show on Free Radio Berkeley.

And that pisses me off. If you're not an anarchist, picture Ralph Nader making commercials for Chrysler, or me doing public relations for Mensa. Certain people are just plain wrong for certain assignments. Jasper should not be the voice of anarchy on FRB.

A couple of months back, when I told my buddy Josh that an anarchist had ratted me out for illegally selling Darwin fish, I didn't name names. Didn't say it was Jasper. I didn't think Josh and Jasper knew each other, and I am discreet by nature.

So he didn't know it was Jasper we were talking about, when Josh said there's a term for someone who professes anarchy but reports petty violations of the rules. "That term," he said, "is 'police informant'." 

It mostly made me laugh, because Jasper's harassment of our fish-stand was small-scale, and really, who cares? I'm more concerned, though, knowing now that an informant works at the pirate radio station.

Josh works there, too. Everyone at Free Radio Berkeley is breaking the law 24/7, and the 'anarchist' who fingered me for a fish violation works there?

After a maybe ten-second ethical debate between my ears, I called Josh to let him know that there's an informant working at the pirate radio station — that the host of Anarchy on the Air had sold his principles for a Darwin fish. I don't know what Josh might do with that knowledge, but I thought he ought to know.

From Pathetic Life #19
Wednesday, Dec. 6, 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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