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Channel 7 van man

Brenda was back and I was glad to see her, selling her art on the Avenue. I set up my table near as I could to hers.

She'd spent the past several weeks on the east coast, and she had a few stories about that but not so many as to be boring.

Brenda talks true, knows what's what about everything, never drones on with long-winded political opinions, and never minds when I do.

Barbara stopped by, too. She lives way up in Santa Cruz and doesn't have a car, so I was surprised to see her huge smile for the second consecutive month. I introduced her to Brenda, and the three of us talked for a while, mostly about weird movies and our overbearing mothers.

Mothers, man. Brenda had seen hers while she was away, and said she'd need 6-8 weeks to regain her sanity. Barbara's mom sounds like a haughty chimera, and they're completely disconnected, haven't spoken in years.

So Brenda and Barbara swapped horror stories I couldn't match. Makes me wonder if I haven't been too harsh about my dear old mum. After all, she's merely prying, intrusive, very Christian, queen of the guilt trips, and repeats the same stories and nagging endlessly — but she's not abusive, not cruel and mean and awful like Brenda and Barbara's moms.

Mother's Day is coming up. Maybe I'll send my mom a card.

♦ ♦ ♦   

Directly behind me on Telegraph, waiting for the light to change, was a snazzy TV news van with a satellite dish on the roof. Channel 7, said the logo painted on the side.

The driver had his window down, his elbow at my eye level, not six feet from my table, and TV news is so vacuous, I had to toss him a sarcastic comment.

"Ooooh," I said, loudly, snidely, rudely. "It's a professional journalist."

"Yeah, and you're a professional street salesman," he said, smiling and unperturbed. "Which is OK," he added, "long as we both have our professional credentials." The light changed to green and I heard him chuckle as he drove away. 

That was a quality retort. It left me speechless but eager to argue, but I couldn't — he was gone.

The man's face hadn't been familiar from billboards advertising happy anchors, and he wasn't handsome enough. Kinda ugly, honestly, so I'm sure he works behind the cameras, not in front.

In typical TV news fashion, though, he'd gotten the facts wrong. I'm not a street salesman — I don't sell streets. The term is 'street vendor', ya schmuck.

♦ ♦ ♦  

Most jobs, at least most jobs I've had, you see the same people every day, and hate most of them.

Working on Telegraph Ave is different. You see the same vendors every day, yeah, and hate most of them of course, and there's the recurring theme of Christians offended by fish, merchants offended by hippies, and city bureaucrats hoping to find offense against the dumbest rules imaginable.

But there's also someone in a passing van you can trade insults with, and braless bimbos selling incense, dropouts and debutantes might dance on the sidewalk, anyone walking by might be talking about anarchy or atheism or the summers on Saturn, and yesterday's panhandler was (literally) selling hash today. Strangers sometimes kiss on Telegraph, and the woman shouting angrily on the sidewalk might be a philosopher worth listening to. Or she might just be drunk.

Humanity is highly overrated, and generally I hate the entire species, especially when large numbers of them gather together. There's always large numbers on Telegraph, but it's a weirdly welcoming, wholesome kind of crowded craziness, and it soaks into you.

I'd rather be alone in my room, sure, but that doesn't pay. If I have to be around people, the people I want to be around are on Telegraph.

It's taken ten months for me to truly figure out the scene, the characters, and this one simple fact: For all my complaining, a guy's gotta work somewhere to survive, and selling sacrilege in Berkeley has to be one of the greatest jobs in the world.

Suck it, Channel 7 van man — I'm a street vendor, and I love it.

From Pathetic Life #23
Sunday, April 21, 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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