Paranoia runs deep.

I'm the fattest of the five people living in my flat, and undoubtedly eat more than any of them. With three big meals daily and plenty of snacks between, when I gotta go it's never one plop or two, it's a lot of plops, often more than the toilet can take. Gotta remember to flush halfway through, or I'll have to plunger the plumbing afterward.

This morning I forgot to flush halfway through. When the waters began to rise I plungered as fast as plungering is possible, but it spilled over and got the floor and the mat wet. After the plunger came the mop, and then I rinsed the floor mat, and now it's hanging on the shower rod.

All this has happened before and nobody's asked about it, but still — damn it, Doug, gotta remember to flush halfway through.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Sold fish on Telegraph Ave today, and watched from across the street as cops frisked a young black man.

They must've thought he was a drug runner, literally, because they made him take his shoes off. While the man stood in his socks on the sidewalk, one of the cops scrutinized the shoes one-at-a-time — loosened the laces, looked under the tongue, pulled at the soles, as if the man's footwear might be hiding something illegal. Both shoes got a very thorough investigation, but nothing incriminating was found or planted, and after five minutes the cops left.

He'd never complained, at least not loud enough for me to hear, and he didn't even shake his head as he reshod himself and walked away. That man's been through this before. 

If it wasn't so wrong and offensive it would be downright silly. It's a free country, so they say, where armed agents of the government are well-paid to examine a man's tennis shoes.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

The table next to mine was one of the Avenue's marijuana booths, with pamphlets about legalizing it, and pot-centric stickers and buttons and stuff. Buzz is the man who runs that table, and he's a little paranoid (stereotype alert) but he's friendly, and sometimes funny. He once told me several minutes of offensive but funny Helen Keller jokes, so I kinda like the guy.

Well, I was sitting in my chair scissoring fish from the mylar, and glanced up as a cop rode past on a 10-speed bike. He and I made brief eye contact, and the cop nodded at me as he wheeled past. I nodded back at him, just barely. It's instinct, one of the slight social niceties.

But suddenly Buzz was at my shoulder, and he asked, "Do you know that cop?"

"No," I said. "Why would I know a cop?"

"Well, you nodded at him."

"I nodded, Buzz, same as I'd say 'nice doggie' to a Rottweiler off its leash."

He looked cross. "I don't like cops, man."

"Hey, I hate cops, OK?"

"OK, OK," he said, wandering back toward his table.

See, in addition to telling people the health benefits of the demon weed, and collecting signatures for an initiative to put pot by prescription on the ballot, Buzz also sells delicious marijuana brownies on the Avenue. He's sold me a few, but not today cuz I didn't have two dollars.

So some wariness is to be expected, but it struck me as amusing, so I jotted a few words in my notebook, to remind me to write about it later.

Suddenly Buzzard was back. "What are you writing, man?" He sounded seriously concerned, semi-panicked.

"I keep a diary, Buzz, so I take notes all the time." He still looked distressed, so I handed him my notebook, open to the page I'd been scribbling on.

"'Nice doggie, Rottweiler'," it said, and he said, but he still looked skeptical.

"Turn the pages," I suggested, and he spent a minute flipping through some of my pathetic pangs for Sarah-Katherine, the ingredients in various brands of cat food, a shopping list for tomorrow's grocery run, and other stuff so boring that a lot of it won't make it into the zine you're reading.

When he looked up at me I said, "You want to check my shoes, too?" We'd talked about the morning's tennis-shoe inspection after it happened.

"No, I ain't doing that," he said, and looked at my notebook for another moment. "You take notes about everything, huh?"

"Yup," I said, "but my diary is nothing to worry about, Buzz." He didn't seem quite convinced, but there's only so much I can offer in the way of counseling services. 

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Couple of hours later, as I was packing my stuff to leave, Buzz came back to my table and said, "Sorry, Doug, about giving you the third degree," and he handed me a brownie, free of charge.

"Oh, man — thank you! All is forgiven for a brownie."

From Pathetic Life #21
Friday, February 9, 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. Hello Doug,

    Came across this news article. Is this one of of our old zine buddies?? I'm pretty sure it is, just can't remember the name of her zine.

    Beloved Oakland bakery owner dies after violent robbery, friends

    1. Deep in the article, it says "She was also the publisher of CLAMOR MAGAZINE, a bi-monthly alternative magazine." I'm not sure I ever met Jen, but I definitely remember CLAMOR.

      Sounds like she was a hell of a dame. "If a suspect is arrested by police, Angel's family said she would not want her assailant to be prosecuted in criminal court. Angel did not believe in incarceration as an effective or just solution to social violence and inequity."

      Thanks for letting me know, so I can be suitably saddened, and I am.

      Can I also ask bluntly but with respect, what the hell happened to you, man? I go to your website, and you're all about Jesus, and I don't detect any layer of sarcasm. Honestly, it's a waste to see a *very* *good* *writer* writing about Bible verses.

      [Henry used to publish THE J MAN TIMES, an on-paper zine I liked a lot, way back when.]

    2. I thought she was a ziner, too bad. . .I probably traded with her back in the day. . .unfortunately I no longer have most of those old zines, though I still have a few Pathetic Lifes and an old Brian Johnson zine.

      Oh, no offense taken at the question about the bible verses. I guess you don't remember I was always interested in the bible. Probably a book I just finished and put on Amazon would be more to your liking, it's probably the kind of stuff you recall. I'd be happy to send you a copy if you want. I don't have a single review of it on Amazon, not that you'd have to review it, but if you did, that would be cool. Even a negative review is good. If you want a copy, just send me a mailing address.

      I hope you are doing well.

    3. Thanks for not being offended. Really, who has the time for that?

      Like you, I also have none of the old zines from back then. I do remember that you wrote about Jesus a lot, but my recollection is that you also wrote other things, and your website these days seems to be all Christ all the time.

      Thanks for offering a freebie book, but I'd never do that to another do-it-yourself guy. Agatha Christie can send me a freebie if she wants, but not you, so tell me the title and I'll buy it from Amazon, if you promise it's light on Jesus. :)

    4. PS: All this would be of interest on my site — would you mind if I published this entire exchange? I would byline you as Henry L. Racicot and include links.

    5. It's The J-Man! My second favorite writer in all of zine land! I've bought all three of his books on the dreaded amazon.com and suggest everyone else do the same.

      Jesus or no Jesus, he's a great writer.

    6. Sure, no problem, go ahead and post it. You can also say Henry L. Racicot used to publish his own paper zine The J Man Times. Maybe some old-time ziner will remember it. If you want to include an email address for me, use thejman99@aol.com. Twitter = @HLRacicot (I'm giving you a lot more than you axed for, right?)

      The book is titled Broken Crown. Here's the Amazon link:


    7. Well, you sold me a book. I'm a notoriously slow reader, and going back to work next week so it'll be a while before I read it. But if you're still the J Man I remember, pretty sure I'll dig it.

    8. Pretty sure Doug reviewed Broken Crown in an old PL or ZW, and I even seem to remember it was an unbound ream of paper at the time. It was a positive review and I was delighted to be able to buy a copy twenty years later, thanks to the genius of Jeff Bezos.

    9. Ha! That 'Broken Crown' is not the same! I just re-used the title! Totally different set of words. I wonder if anybody has any of those old 'Broken Crowns' still laying around?

    10. Thought for a moment I'd ordered a book I've already read.

      I'm old, and some things I remember sharp as sitting on a thumbtack, but some things I don't. The title BROKEN CROWN rang a distant, perhaps cracked bell, but I *definitely* remember reading and enjoying an unbound book.

      If that BROKEN CROWN no longer exists, it's a raging injustice.

  2. >[Henry used to publish THE J MAN TIMES, an on-paper zine I liked a lot, way back when.]

    Holy shit, I was just thinking of The J Man! He was damn fine as a writer.

    1. Add me to the list — J Man Times was one of my top ten favorite zines of the 1990s.

    2. Here's one more bit about the J Man, from 1996. My habit back then, same as today, was to collect quotes that seemed profound and insert them into my zine as filler, and as I'm typing up old PATHETIC LIFE entries today, I found this filler/quote from the J Man's original, loose-leaf BROKEN CROWN:

      "It's not over until you're dead. That's when you can have your hopes."

    3. I'm pretty sure I remember this also from Broken Crown, or maybe it was in a letter to you (or maybe even me), where he said something like "I imagine that I'll one day open the store for business, hang myself, and have the first customer of the day come up and tug on my pant leg asking where the batteries are."

      Medium-sure that was J-Man

    4. Ah jeez, that's frickin' hilarious. Haha!

      Did you read the original BROKEN CROWN too?

    5. I honestly don't remember. I think so.


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