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Beaned

Today I was selling fish on Telegraph Ave, not far from Cody's bookstore, when what to my wondering eyes should appear? A nondescript late-model mid-sized car pulled up and parked half a block from the store, a few yards down the street from me and my fish stand.

Two men stepped out of the car. One of them was barrel-chested and muscular-looking, like somebody's bodyguard. The other man was bookish, mostly bald, with a face I'd seen somewhere before.

They walked into the store, with the big guy kinda blocking a good view of the little guy, and soon murmurs from a few nearby vendors told who we'd seen. Salman Rushdie has a new book out, and he was presumably making an appearance at the bookstore… though I hadn't heard any publicity about it, understandably.

I haven't read any of Rushdie's writing, or at least not successfully. Tried once and failed, but anyone who questions or mocks any organized religion is OK by me. By nature I'm pro-free thought and free speech and anti-death threats from dipshits.

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Among the many street characters trying to separate you from your money on the Avenue, there's sometimes a guy who juggles sticks all day. I don't know (because I don't care) whether he passes his hat for donations after the entertainment or whether he's selling the batons as souvenirs; that's his business.

He walked and juggled and I paid no attention as he passed behind my table, and then I guess he slipped or farted, and a wayward stick came down on the back of my head.

I didn't know what had hit me until the guy was standing over me, apologizing. "Sorry, man, it got away from me…" Too lightheaded to be angry, I simply waved him away. I wasn't gonna go for the juggler.

Bud pun, but it's a true story.

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A little later, I was fourth in line to use the urinal at the bar up the street, and Very Abdul was third. He's always a talker, some days about ordinary things, and other days he tends to rant about what's moral and what's not. Today he was all about football and other sorta normal stuff, but still, I discreetly didn't mention that Salman Rushdie was a block away.

As we waited our turn to pee, Very Abdul pointed out some graffiti on the wall, and said it reminded him of New York, so I mentioned that I'd been thinking of moving there. Turns out he's a native New Yorker, who moved to the Bay Area in the mid-1980s, and being Very Abdul, he had an opinion.

"It's not just three thousand miles away," he said as we peed, "it's a hundred years ago. It's a very racist place." He looked over at me in the next stall to make sure I was paying attention, and I was, so he continued. "Out here in California, there's racists too, but they stand out from the crowd. Back there, they're the crowd, just a fact of daily life."

He zipped up and continued from the sink, "And black or white or any color, most everyone there is full of hate and rage. Here, nobody cares enough to hate you."

I zipped up and followed him out, skipping the sink, and midway up the stairs he asked me, "Why would you want to move to New York?"

"Everyone keeps asking me that," I said, and we said no more as we walked back to our stands.

From Pathetic Life #20
Saturday, January 20, 1996

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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