A stranger's dead uncle

When I have the money, which isn't often lately, I like going to see odd or old movies. San Francisco has several theaters that show nothing but offbeat stuff — the Castro, the Roxie, the Red Vic, Pacific Film Archive, the Stanford, the UC, maybe a few more I've forgotten. And there's also the Cinematheque, which I intentionally forget. 

It's the ultimate artsy-fartsy avant-garde cinema of pretentiousness. That's an un-informed opinion, since I've never attended a film there, but yesterday I picked up the latest Cinematheque calendar, and this morning I've studied it. And again, same as every time I've looked at their listings, nothing seems worth the price of admission, let alone BART and bus fare to the Art Institute.

There was one event at Cinematheque a year or so ago that sounded so insane that I almost regret not going. They showed Yoko Ono's feature-length documentary about butts, called Bottoms, which the calendar described as "an aimless petition, signed by people with their anuses."

Tragically, I'll wander through life without the enlightenment of watching people's butts on a big screen for an hour and a half.

♦ ♦ ♦  

I've been feeling off-kilter the past few days, and even off-er today. I had work lined up, though, and can't afford to call in sick, so a bus took me to Oakland, where I helped a guy clean "a complete disaster" apartment.

At least, that's what I'd been told on the phone. A stranger's uncle had died, leaving his apartment in a horrid condition, he said, so my client (the nephew) and I spent the day plowing through the mess.

But honestly, the place wasn't that bad. I've seen worse. I've lived in worse. Next to nothing was rotting, and most of the mess was newspapers.

The dear departed had subscribed to the Oakland Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, and San Jose Mercury-News, but he didn't believe in recycling or taking out the trash. Newspapers were everywhere. Some were stacked haphazardly, but most were simply pushed up against the walls. The oldest papers were from 1991.

So my entire day was stacking and tying up newspapers, and hand-trucking the stacks to the recycling bin. I made more than a hundred trips with the handtruck, and we didn't see the floor until around 3:00. 

The nephew spent his day sorting through dead uncle's possessions, and our work isn't finished, but I had to stop hauling when the dumpster got full. The last hour or so, I was just tying up more bundles of newspapers, and stacking them near the door.

The nephew was all sad and stuff, not at all interested in talking, which was fine with me. I didn't know his uncle, and wouldn't want to share the grief. Plus, of course, he's people, and I never know what to say to people even when nobody's died.

To me it was just a job, and it earned me $35 for the day's labor, plus the nephew said I could have anything I wanted from "the junk pile" — and that was the best tip ever.

I brought home an old-style wind-up alarm clock, a few books, a cool folding yardstick, a vial of prescription sleeping pills, lots of canned vegetables, and about a hundred pens that were lying around everywhere.

I'm busing back tomorrow for what looks like another half day's work, and I've already rolled up a second backpack and stuffed it inside my first backpack. That way I can take home twice as much of the dead uncle's junk.

From Pathetic Life #21
Tuesday, Feb. 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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