One of the best and most liberating things

"Can you drive?" was the first question the man asked, when I returned his call from my voice mail. 

"Sure, I can drive," I said, "but not legally."

To that, a long silence. "Your license is suspended?" the voice finally asked.

"No, it doesn't exist. I moved to California several years ago, but never got a Cali license, and my Washington license expired in '93." Another long silence, so this time I interrupted: "I take the bus or BART." More silence, like what I'd said was incomprehensible, so I added, "Prefer it, actually."

Came the silence again. For so few words, ours was a rather long conversation. Finally he asked, "Do you have a car?"

"If I had a car, mister, I'd mention it in my flyers."

Click. He hung up, but that was an enjoyable couple of minutes of my life. His last silence suggests that he might've been willing to hire me to drive without a license — a getaway car after a bank heist, perhaps — but not without a car of my own.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

I have no car, don't want one, and don't miss driving. You ever stop to think what driving entails? Paperwork, for a driver's license and vehicle plates, and insurance, and gas and oil and trips to the garage. And traffic. And parking. And cops eager to pull you over. And always the risk of hitting something, or being hit.

Screw all of that. In San Francisco and the bay area, there's noplace you can't get to on the bus or the BART, the trolley, the subway, or CalTrain.

I came to California for new surroundings, fewer obligations, broader horizons, some distance from my family, and maybe better weather. Not needing a car wasn't among my expectations, but it's become one of the best and most liberating things about living here.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

By now, Sarah-Katherine has received my letter saying 'no' to New York. She probably crumpled it and cursed me almost as much as I deserve.

I feel shitty about what I've done — she wanted someone with her, so she wouldn't be jumping to NYC alone. I said I'd be that someone, so she made her plans. And then I backed out. I've stood her up, on a transcontinental date.

If she writes back "Go to hell," or if she never writes back, I'll understand.

And it's not the first time I've been a weasel in life. Probably it's not the last. My intentions are usually good, but my follow-through sorta sucks.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

When money's tight, canned cat food instead of tuna is not a joke. You might make a few mistakes along the way, though. My advice is to buy several different brands, until you find one to your liking. Some of them smell too ghastly to eat, and I've given a few to the cats in this house.

It's curious that the list of ingredients on a fancy "tuna" cat food begins with poultry by-products, water, and meat by-products, before there's any mention of fish. But the "chopped mackerel" reads better. Most tempting is Nine Lives "tuna in sauce," which promises tuna, water, soy grits, calcium carbonate, choline chloride, vitamins, zinc, thiamine, niacin," before getting to the preservatives and emulsifiers, all of which sounds as healthy as a bowl of granola.

Perhaps surprisingly, Safeway's generic 'fish' flavor cat food is my favorite, and it's only 29¢. Not that you won't know it's not tuna, but it has the right texture, and the taste is... a fair approximation, when mixed with mayo and mustard and spread on cheap bread.

From Pathetic Life #21
Wednesday, February 7, 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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