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Rivers of living water

"Fish!" is my cry whenever I'm on the Ave. I sit at my table and say, "Fish!" When I'm feeling extra talkative, I'll say, "Fish! Get your fish! I've got fish, right here!" 

"Gee," Umberto said, after hearing me shout "Fish!" maybe 10,000 times since last summer. "It's a good thing you don't sell crabs."

So for a while I shouted, "Crabs! Get your crabs! I've got crabs, right here!" 

♦ ♦ ♦  

Brenda worked next to me today, and she handed me a long, funny, handwritten letter filled with her reactions and comments about my zine, which I'd given her. You'll find about half of her letter in this month's letter section, but I always edit out people's compliments. I'm more comfortable being insulted.

Then we talked for most of the day. We've known each other for two months and we haven't pissed each other off in the slightest. If she was single and 25 years younger I'd ask her out.

♦ ♦ ♦   

It's amazing that we could communicate, as Christians sang god-awful songs at the corner most of the day, with preaching between the hymns. They did it all through microphones and amplifiers, making normal conversation and rational thought almost impossible anywhere on the block.

Of course, what use would Christians have for rational thought?

After a while, the preaching set me off. What brainless rot. What a collection of nonsense for halfwits.

"In heaven," the idiot Reverend explained, "there will be rivers of living water." He said it slowly, dramatically, and then repeated it slowly and dramatically, as if the phrase meant something.

But does it? "Rivers of living water"? It's another Christian crock, a line I heard thousands of times at church as a kid, but never thought about until today. There's an entire hymn built around it, which the Christians sang twice:

Drinking at the springs of living water
Happy now am I, my soul is satisfied
Drinking at the springs of living water
Oh, wonderful and bountiful supply

What does that even mean? The water is alive? That's just sickening, isn't it? Maybe you eat meat, but you wouldn't eat meat while it's still living and breathing. Would you drink water that's alive?

"Rivers of living water" was the theme of the preacher's sermon, so when he said that line a third time, I started heckling him. Using a loud and obnoxious mock moron voice, I shouted "Rivers of living water? What does that mean?"

And every time he mentioned the rivers of living water, I shouted it again: "Rivers of living water? Tell us more please about the rivers of living water!"

But he never did, and after half an hour or so, Umberto asked me to shut the hell up. He said I was bugging him more than the Christians were.

♦ ♦ ♦   

A pretty blonde smiled at me, which in itself could be the high point of any day, but there's more to tell. 

"Don't be mad at me," she said, and I wondered what's the catch? A pretty woman smiles at me, and she thinks I might be mad at her for smiling?

"I'm Corina," she said, "from Sacramento," but she also said her last name, which is uncommon enough that it clicked in my head. The zine has a subscriber in Sacramento with that last name.

Well, hell, I'd promised Josh that I'd try to be nice when readers approach me on the Avenue, so Corina and I talked for 20 minutes or so. She told me about herself — she's 30, divorced — but I didn't tell her much about me, because she's read the zine so she knows all about me.

Had a nice time talking with her, and she said I'm not as obnoxious as I make myself seem in the zine. Fooled her!

Then she had to go — the friends from Sacto she'd come with we're waiting for her, so we hugged goodbye. The hug hurt my sunburn, but she left me in a good mood that lasted all afternoon — my longest extended non-grumpiness in at least a month.

♦ ♦ ♦  

Working on the Ave, I'm often annoyed by the other vendors, and the customers, and the street preachers — everyone, basically, but especially by the constant presence of cops.

Telegraph Avenue always has police patrolling, on bikes, on foot, and in squad cars, looking for a chance to hassle the homeless, or search someone who seems suspicious (meaning young and black, or young and poor).

With all these cops patrolling a few blocks, the effect — especially for a cop-hater like me — is that you always see police, police, and more police. It's like there are 500 cops on the beat, but they're really the same five or so cops, over and over and over.

Well, today, bizarrely, there wasn't a single cop. No coppers on bicycles, no coppers on foot, no coppers in cars cruising by. Saw a couple of meter maids, but that's it.

Lawmen don't decide for themselves where they're going to patrol. A police department is a military organization, so they're given marching orders.

When the police suddenly disappear, it's because they've been ordered away, which means something's going down — a sting, an undercover operation, a set-up of some kind. The department's higher-ups have ordered the heat off the street, so as not to give the prey the jitters.

I mentioned the absence of police to Umberto, and to the guys who sell marijuana brownies, and they'd already noticed.

Probably it sounds like paranoia and maybe it is, but I prefer the term 'awareness'. It is not possible to expect the worst from cops, because whatever you're expecting, cops can make it worse.

From Pathetic Life #22
Saturday, March 16, 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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