Heat simmers, and U/A sucks

A reader of the zine called and wanted to meet me, not to freak me out by being sociable but to hire me, which is awesome. Said his name is Saul, he's in a wheelchair, and he needs me to drag his furniture down a flight of stairs, into a truck, and over to the new place he's moving into. Not today, but by the end of the month.

Today, though, he wanted to meet me and buy me a burrito, and I don't generally argue with food when someone's buying. We met at Kim's Super Burrito, a Mexican place off Telegraph, owned and operated by a Korean couple (I love the bay area).

He was easy to find, what with the wheelchair and everything, so we shook hands and ordered and took a table. They specialize in Mexican food, so of course I had a Denver omelet with wheat toast and hash browns.

Kim's has very slow service, pretty good food, and excellent hash browns. It was less than four bucks, and Saul paid. He called it a business-related expense, and saved the receipt to show Uncle Sam. I didn't ask what the business was, but I suppose Uncle Sam will.

Guess it was a working lunch, since we agreed that I'll help him move in a few weeks, but we'd pretty much agreed to that already, on the phone. We also talked about zines and movies and love gone wrong and politics gone wronger, but he's a Republican so everything political he said made my head hurt.

"The Republicans would love to deny you any kind of medical coverage, wheelchair repairs, prescriptions you need," I said. He said maybe we shouldn't discuss politics, so I changed the subject to religion, and on that we seemed generally agreed. 

He's not monstrous for a right-winger, had more sense of humor than most, but I don't understand the politics, and wouldn't have guessed anyone of his persuasion was reading my zine.

"Polio," he explained after breakfast, as the hydraulic machinery whooshed him into his van. I hadn't asked, or even wondered, really. None of my business. "I was one of the last kids to get it before they developed the vaccine," he said. "I've always had bad timing."

"Rotten luck," I said. "My sister was one of polio's last victims, too, but all she got was a few corrective surgeries and a slight limp."

Saul offered me a ride home, but I declined. I'd rather walk than ride in a van festooned with Rush Limbaugh and Pat Buchanan stickers.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Besides, I wasn't going home. Josh and I were meeting on Shattuck, and planning to see Dead Man Walking at the ghastly U/A complex, because I had a pass for two someone had sent for a copy of the zine.

Things did not go well, though. The girl at the ticket window, and then her boss, said the pass was no good. It hadn't expired but its size and shape and color weren't in their big catalog of possible passes.

Which is bullshit. The format and phrasing was exactly the same as the examples in the book, and I seriously doubt anyone's counterfeiting U/A passes to buy zines. The manager (just a kid, actually, a corporate lackey in training) was perfectly polite telling us no, so I got hot and cussed him out.

Josh didn't say much as I made a fool of myself fuming and raging, but after we'd walked away he asked to see the pass, and noticed that it said, "Courtesy of United Artists and KPFA Radio."

So he slipped some coins into a phone booth and called KPFA, explained the situation to whoever answered the phone, and with no runaround at all, they told us to stop by the station any time, and they'd trade the U/A pass for a Landmark pass.

We went right away and made the switch. Landmark is a better chain anyway, and shows better movies, so other than not seeing the movie we'd intended, we came out ahead on the deal.

It's also an object lesson in getting things done. My method was to scream at some 20-year-old so-called manager, and when that didn't work my back-up plan would've been to sulk all afternoon and eventually write a seething letter to U/A's Department of Don't Give A Damn, or maybe throw a rock through the theater's window.

Josh's method was a polite two-minute phone call, and a four-minute drive to the station. His way worked way better than mine.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Then we scanned the paper to see what was playing at the various Landmark cinemas, and traded our new and improved pass for two tickets to Heat at the California Theater, a block from the dratted U/A that hadn't let us in half an hour earlier.

Heat is a new cops-and-robbers thriller, three hours long, by Michael Mann. Al Pacino is the cop, Robert De Niro is the robber, and it's a complicated competition between good guy and bad, reminiscent of The Spider and the Fly, which we'd seen and loved a month or so ago.  There's a large supporting cast of lesser thieves and cops, and wives and girlfriends, and everyone's allowed the chance to seem human and real and they do. There's tension and genuine emotion, and jeez, talk about realism — I saw pimples on one of the women, something you never see in a movie.

Heat simmers, would be my headline. It's never dull, often fascinating, starts off pretty good and gets better as it goes, and it's a complete kick by the end. I'll want to see it again, when it's eventually double-billed with Mann's other great cops-and-killers flick, Manhunter.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Afterwards, Josh bought us burritos at Taqueria de Berkeley, next door to the theater, and we we listened to each others' complaints about our respective pathetic lives. When I mentioned my utter ongoing bankruptcy, he said, "Oh, that reminds me," and tried to give me twenty bucks to renew his subscription, but that's nuts. I don't take money from friends. 

Turned down a bonus from Jay around Xmas time, too — she'd wanted to give me an extra $50 on top of my wages, but it felt strange. If you, dear reader, want to give me money for nothing go right ahead, but it's weird when a friend makes that offer, so I told Josh I was chewing on his renewal — he'd just bought me dinner. And he scored the Landmark pass. And he's bought me enough movies and burritos his subscription is pre-paid through the end of the century.

Probably it's a stupid stand to take when my wallet's empty, but stupid is as stupid does and that's me.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

And a word about Taqueria de Berkeley. The chow was cheap, and almost as good as the movie. Delicious burrito, sure, but this is California — land of 10,000 taquerias with great burritos.

It's the chips that I want to rave about. A shitty taqueria charges extra for tortilla chips on the side, and when that happens I never come back. A so-so taqueria gives you a handful of chips. This place, though, gave each of us a big bowl of tortilla chips, with a 12-ounce bowl of guacamole and three other dips on the table, all at no extra charge. Then, when the burritos came, they came with a big bag of more tortilla chips to take with us.

I am munching on chips now, as I type this the next morning, and I gotta say: El Castillito is still my favorite taqueria in San Francisco, but my favorite in Berkeley is Taqueria de Berkeley.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Two people bought me meals today, keeping me fat with no money spent. My goal in life would be three free meals in one day... every day.

From Pathetic Life #21
Thursday, February 8, 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.


  1. Did you ever see Dead (not Dean, my friend) Man Walking? I remember loving it, and as I look at that year's Oscar noms, it was better than all five, though Babe (yes, the pig movie) was nominated and fantastic, and I can't believe that Leaving Las Vegas wasn't nominated.

    1. Yup, I saw DEAD MAN WALKING... with you I thought, at Jack London Square in Oakland. It couldn't have been you, though. You were still in New Joisey. Definitely a very good movie.

      I read a few reviews of LEAVING LAS VEGAS when it came out, and decided it wasn't for me.

      BABE was nice, though. That'll do, pig.

    2. In case you didn't catch my drift - you misspelled the title as "Dean Man Walking" in the post.

    3. Thanks. Fixed.

      I never catch anyone's drift.

  2. I'm definitely interested in knowing more about this 'wheelchair Republican.' Was he raised this way and never gave it another thought? Does he actually have Limbaugh and Buchanan bumperstickers or was that a little 'sweetening' on your part? He's not just a little rightwing if he puts those stickers on his bumper. Naturally, I've met a few Rs in my day and usually they have such a skewed vision of what liberals are (gee, I wonder how THAT happened?) that I have to use myself as an example and ask if I resemble anything they've been told about liberals. It seems like it's just ingrained in what they believe their persona is. Usually, it comes down to racism. Sometimes G-d. Mostly racism. It's a shame, of course. They're screwing themselves over because an imaginary 'person of color' is getting 'something' they aren't. -- Arden

    1. I am occasionally guilty of sweetening or souring the pot, but for the most part it's a true story, and that guy with the wheelchair really had the stickers (not on the bumper, but on the back doors).

      I wouldn't have said it then, probably wouldn't even have thought it, but things have gotten worse and I don't believe it's possible to be both a decent human being and a Republican.


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