The laws against you

FRIDAY — It drizzled all morning, and clouds were thick and threatening when it came time to leave for Telegraph Avenue. The fish don't sell well in the rain, and I don't like getting wet, so I decided not to sell fish today. 

It's great to have a job where I can say screw it, not show up, make a call to the boss, and know it's OK. I'll still have a job tomorrow. Thanks for that, Jay.

So I stayed in my room warm and dry, and read and wrote for most of the day. Ate too much, and daydreamed of living in New York, which I'll probably hate.

Out the window, the clouds never cleared, but it only rained lightly, off and on, and not a drop after about 1:30. Which means, it was probably a mistake to stay home, but it was a happy mistake.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Lately I've been subsisting on grilled cheese sandwiches, except that grilling them takes too much trouble, so they're really just toasted cheese sandwiches. Bread, buttered, with mustard and a slice of cheese, then microwaved to melt the cheese a little.

Yesterday, though, I ate the last of my plastic-wrapped faux cheese, and today I didn't want to brave the drizzle to buy more at the convenience store. And you know what? The same sandwiches are just about as good without the yellow synthetic almost-cheese. You don't even have to microwave it, so it's 30 seconds quicker. Cheaper too. 

This feels like a major breakthrough, like I should write a paper, and submit it to a peer-reviewed scientific journal published by the Academy of Fat Slobs.

Try a toasted mustard sandwich, and let me know what you think.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

SATURDAY — Even though it didn't rain much yesterday, word on the street was that business was lousy. "You didn't miss much," Gerry told me. "It's supposed to be Christmas shopping season, but I actually lost money." I guess the clouds kept the customers away, so maybe 'calling in dry' was the right thing to do.

But that was yesterday. Today the sun was out, and we all made millions and retired to the Bahamas, after selling enough Xmas crap to stuff every stocking on this planet and the planets next door.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

It was not a pleasant day, though. The cops were hassling some homeless man a block up the street, and I of course paid no attention. It's not unusual, not at all. The cops come after the homeless every day, for being homeless.

Me, I had fish to sell, and the fish were jumping. And besides, I'm nearsighted. My view from that distance was too blurry to see who it was, until Umberto hurried to my table and said, "Isn't that your friend they're arresting at the corner?"

"My friend?" I asked, a little bewildered because I don't have many.

"The guy you had lunch with a couple of weeks ago."

"Danny!" I said, and "Watch my table please" to the vendor next to me.

Umberto and I jogged to the corner — jogged, because we're both fat and running is a distant memory. We got there in time to see a lady cop (as if) gently force Danny's head down, pushing him into the squad car's back seat, his hands cuffed behind him. They were across the street and we were still 'running', so we both shouted, "Officer! Wait! What did he do!"

To no avail, of course. Maybe the cops didn't hear us, more likely they didn't care, they were doing what they were doing and didn't want to discuss it. The doors slammed and they drove away as we jaywalked after them, too late.

"Why'd they arrest him?" I asked the vendors who were in front of where it happened. From three witnesses, we assembled the facts: The cops had demanded to search Danny's backpack, and found a couple of joints in it.

Oh fucking Christ, sometimes I hate this country.

I don't know whether Danny is really a friend of mine, as Umberto had assumed, but he's soft-spoken, smart, gentle, and mellow as the day is long. He wouldn't do anything to hurt anyone, but cops rarely arrest people for that.

Heck, someone who's hurt somebody could be dangerous. It's much easier for cops to forget the Fourth Amendment, search someone's backpack for no reason, and arrest a guy for pot possession. 

I was furious, probably close to tears, watching someone I like roll away in the back of a police car, but Umberto and I walked to our tables. Customers were waiting, and the vendor I'd asked to watch my table was busy with customers of her own. Back to work I went, a little low on breath from jogging, and lower on patience.

You know, there's a law in Berkeley that directs the police to consider marijuana arrests their absolute lowest priority. The cops were opposed to such a law, but the locals pushed for it and got it passed and we're proud of it. Many people smoke the demon weed out in the open, while strolling the Avenue. Unless you blow smoke in a cop's face, by law they're supposed to ignore it.

If you're homeless or scraggly or begging, though, the only laws that apply are the laws against you.

What I saw today simply isn't right, and I do wish there was something I could do. Now I've written about it, for what little that's worth. I could write more — a letter to the editor or the Mayor — and I will, but that won't accomplish anything either.

What the hell can one person do, besides saying that somebody ought to do something?

Things like this keep piling  up, and it hurts more when it's someone I know, and doing nothing starts to feel like I'm the Nazis' nice neighbor, pretending to be oblivious.

Well, I'm not oblivious. I'm well aware, and sick of this shit.

Probably my pissed-off feeling will pass. It's passed before. Right now, though, I'm really feeling the "I'm Not Gonna Take It" vibe.

Relax — I'm not someone who'd rent a Ryder truck and fill it with fertilizer. I'd be an ass if I did nothing, though, so I believe I'll call CopWatch, the local group that keeps an eye on the growing police state. I've only heard good things about them, and don't even know what they do, but — they don't do nothing, and that's what I'm feeling today. I don't want to be another man who does nothing.

From Pathetic Life #19
Friday & Saturday,
December 22-23, 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. It's ridiculous that after all these years pot (and any other drug) is still illegal. Somebody ought to do something about that.

    1. Still illegal in Wisconsin. If my sister hadn't mailed a steady supply for my wife, she would've been much more miserable and probably dead a few years earlier. Thanks, sis.


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