No answers, FishGuy

Since Christmas, I've been selling fish only part-time, generally on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, weather permitting. But Jay asked me to take the cart out today, because she thought there might be some Valentine's business for our Fuck fish, or the Condom fish, or the Venus fish. Or maybe she knows I'm bankrupt, so she's offering a day's wages as charity.

Either way, I was glad to have the work, and also happy to get out of the house, so maybe my gnawing depression wouldn't have all day to chew on me.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

On Telegraph Ave, my only nearby neighbors were Bo, who sells iron-on patches, and B N Duncan, the local street character and artist (his Telegraph Avenue Street Calendar is on my bedroom wall). I set up my stand in front of the flower shop, figuring there'd be plenty of saps and suckers in love buying roses all day, and maybe some of them would have a craving for fish. 

Nope. Lots of people bought flowers, but very few saw the romance in a mylar sacrilegious sticker or magnet. Furthermore, the parade of people going in to the florist empty-handed and walking out with roses or helium hearts tended to make my gloominess even gloomier.

It was a sunny summerish day, though, so there were thousands of pretty women walking by in halter tops, very shorts, sun dresses, loosey goosey skirts, bra-less silk blouses, plunging bouncy v-neck t-shirts, too-tight tank tops, and one — oh Lordy, that one — blonde driving past in a red sports car. She was waiting to make a left turn not five feet from me as I sat on the sidewalk, and when she glanced at me, I smiled, and she smiled, so I smiled bigger and held out my arms, intended comically, and she laughed and lifted her shirt and drove away laughing.

Boobies brightened the moment, but only momentarily, and didn't substantially improve my mood.

I'm living this life alone because alone is so much better than time spent with most people, but damn, I enjoyed the time spent with Sarah-Katherine, and that time has ended. I am really feeling the aloneness now, and not in the usual good way.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

When vendors need to take care of non-business business, you ask a nearby vendor to watch your stand for a few minutes. That's how it possible to pee, poop, or get a cup of coffee when you're working a booth alone. 

So in the early afternoon, Bo asked me to watch his table while he went down the street to feed a parking meter.

While Bo was gone and I was running both tables, some skinny blue-haired twit tried heisting one of Bo's patches (not blue-haired meaning he was old, just a fake punk kid with hair dyed blue). He wasn't even a competent thief — he looked both ways all theatrical, then stuffed a pot-leaf iron-on into his inside-jacket pocket.

He thought it was free because nobody was sitting at the table, but he jumped when I said, "It's customary to pay." He didn't argue, though. He took the patch from his pocket, and handed me three dollars. Dunno why, but the three bucks and the patch were in his same hand, so I snatched the money and the iron-on, and said, "No, it's five dollars."

At that his mouth fell open. "The sign says three dollars!" he complained, pointing at Bo's sign, which said, 'Any patch, $3'."

"Three bucks is the price for shoppers," I explained. "The price for shoplifters is five, or if you'd rather I could call a cop." I'd never call a cop, of course, but I enjoyed the frightened look on his face, and that's when Bo returned, so I added, "And this is the guy who runs this table. You want to try dickering with him?"

Bo, I should mention, is a big black man with a snarl on his face even when he's happy. "What's going on?" he asked, bewildered.

"Shoplifter," I said. 

"Oh, yeah?" he said, and snarled even more, showing some teeth. The punk opened his wallet again, and gave me the five dollars I'd demanded, so now I had eight, as Bo continued. "Shoplifters piss me off. I'm poor, you poseur punk, and you're stealing from me?"

"He thinks a pot-leaf sticker is worth eight bucks," I said, showing Bo the cash. "What do you think?"

"That patch?" he said, playing along. "On no, that's one of my favorites. Can't let it go for less than ten."

"Ten dollars!" and the kid's voice cracked as he said it, so maybe he was even younger than he looked.

"Or we could call the cops," I said.

The thief scowled and handed me another five dollar bill, so now I had $13, and the patch, and it occurred to me that this early-teen with blue hair and a leather jacket had more money than I did. I handed the now very expensive patch to the punk, and to Bo I said, "Should I give him his change back?"

"Keep the change," said Bo. "Consider it your tip, for keeping your eyes open."

I gave both fives to Bo, but gave the three ones to the thief. "Here's my tip," I said, "Get the hell out of here, and don't come back."

The story should've ended there, but Bo came out from behind his table as the would-be thief was walking away, and literally kicked his ass. One swift boot to the butt, and the kid was sprawled across the sidewalk, between the young romantics waiting in line for roses.

Bo laughed heartily as the boy picked himself up and walked away, and I think the kid was crying. At about half a block's distance, he turned around and gave us two middle fingers, and Bo laughed again.

Bo was in a good mood all afternoon. Now, if you ask me, the kick was uncalled for. Bo didn't ask me, though, and it wasn't my table the kid stole from.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Valentine's Day is just a marketing ply to sell candies and flowers, but it would be nice to have someone to buy candies and flowers for. Or even better, to have someone buy me candies and flowers.

To look at me, you'd think I'm a typical loser — too damned fat, wearing second-hand clothes, bad hair, rarely a smile. Get to know me, you'll find I can be friendly enough, sorta cynically chipper. Under the surface, though, I'm never far removed from utter emotional desolation.

And that's where I was for most of today, scissoring fish out of mylar, sitting in my folding chair of self-pity, and realizing for real how alone I am in the world.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

This being Wednesday, the new week's SF Weekly was stacked tall in their free distribution box. There were about sixty copies, and twenty at a time I took them to my table, and inserted one of my "I'll do anything" flyers in each, then returned them to the paperbox. 

As I was doing this, I noticed a beautiful young woman chatting with some homeless people leaning on trash cans. She was a long-haired brunette, and I knew her from somewhere — ah, she'd been at the CopWatch meeting last week, and for Valentine's Day she was handing out roses to the bums.

Bums need roses as much as anyone does, I suppose.

She talked to my semi-friend Danny for a minute, then handed him a flower and kissed him on the cheek, and that's sweet indeed.

Then Danny walked by my table without saying a word, probably without recognizing me, or maybe in a daze from the smooch.

The woman gave out more roses than kisses, and then she walked by my table, without stopping and without recognizing me.

Well, why would she recognize me? At the CopWatch event, I hadn't said anything to her. I rarely say anything to anyone, certainly not to a pretty woman I don't know. So every pretty woman remains someone I don't know.

I was feeling invisible. Blue and invisible. Watching the never-ending river of people rushing into the florist to buy flowers, I hated them all, and wondered how many were really in love, and whether there's any such thing.

I have my doubts about "love." People talk about it endlessly, write about it and sing about it, but true romantic love is something I may have never seen in my life.

There've been two women who briefly made me consider the possibilities, but I'm skeptical. I've come to my senses. 

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Satan came by. That's what I call him, since I don't know his name and I'll never bother to ask. He's a teenage boy, homeless I presume, with horns tattooed on his forehead, just above his eyebrows. Nice kid, though.

He said hi, so I asked him, "What's it all mean?" He shrugged and looked confused so I continued, "Why does life only get worse every day? What's the fuckin' point? What is the answer, Satan?"

"I have no answers, FishGuy. Nobody does." And he walked away.

Shouted a similar question at PinkMan when he unicycled up the block in his spandex suit and blew me a kiss.

"Think pink," he yelled at me, and then he was gone, too.

Spent a few minutes chatting amicably with Duncan and his friend Moby, so I asked them my question.

Moby only shook his head no, but Duncan said, "You get back what you give." Which is probably my problem — I don't give much.

Danny walked by again, now headed in the other direction, and this time he saw me and said, "Hi, Doug." That's twice he's remembered my name, and it made me happy so I gave him a banana from my backpack, and asked my same questions. 

"There's no purpose," he said, "no point to anything at all. We're here to make the best of a bad situation," and he paused for a moment, then added, "or to make bad of the best situation. Something like that." He thanked me for the banana and smiled as he walked away.

Saw a homeless guy whose name I don't know, but I've seen him around and knew he was at least semi-sane, so I asked him, "What's the point? What's the answer?"

He thought it over, rubbing his chin. "Happiness," he announced. "Happiness is the most important part of poverty." We smiled at each other and he added, "Now get the hell away from me," so I did.

Rufus is another homeless guy I've spoken with a few times, so I continued the survey by asking him, but he sorta sidestepped the question. "There's not enough love to go around, even on Valentine's Day," he said.

Buzz the pot man was working a nearby table, so I asked him, too. His answer was, "We're all floating in the ocean without a boat, so learn to surf."

The beauty from that CopWatch meeting came by again, and this time she stopped at my table and said hello. "How's your Valentine's Day going?" she asked.

I thought about asking her the same questions I'd been asking everyone else, but instead I mumbled, "Valentine's Day is another Hallmark holiday to ignore, like Father's Day and Xmas."

She smiled and said OK, but I was obviously a waste of her time, so she flirted with Bo instead.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

After packing up the stand, I walked to Jay's house to stow everything for the night, but I walked a residential route instead of the main drag. It's slower, but I'd seen enough humanity for one day, and wanted some quiet time, ya know? Time to think to myself, talk to myself, and argue with myself, because half of me still wants to find a way to New York with Sarah-Katherine.

On my way, I saw two girls running a dandelion stand in the driveway of their small, kinda run-down house. They looked about six and eight years old, and one of them said to me, "10¢ for a dandelion, mister."

It was the cutest thing ever on earth, but what is this, 1956? I thought about buying one of their weeds, to make the kids smile, but what am I gonna do with a dandelion? So I smiled, but said, "No thanks," and kept pushing my fishcart down the street.

At home, I played ball with the dog, had a cup of cocoa with Judith, and alone and lonely I crawled into bed, and deeper into my funk.

From Pathetic Life #21
Wednesday, February 14, 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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