It's Jim Cranston Day!

Before going to work, Cy and I and Judith and Joe took another load of Cy's stuff to his rented storage space. The three of them will be lugging the rest of Cy's possessions around today, while I sell fish.

Cy's gotta go, and so does Joe, and so do I. But today I had to sell fish.

♦ ♦ ♦  

There's a retarded woman, probably homeless, who sometimes loiters on the avenue. I don't know her name, but we've spoken a few times, briefly. Always briefly, because she's too dim for genuine conversation. Not much more than "Good morning" and "How ya doin'?"

She was sitting on the sidewalk, that's all. A cop on a ten-speed bike rolled up and stopped, asked her a few questions, and started writing a ticket. The cop's victim had so little understanding, she smiled and kissed the cop on the forehead. Officer Friendly smiled and chuckled, but kept filling in the blanks on the ticket.

I wasn't about to say anything. A cop mean enough to ticket a retarded woman for sitting on the sidewalk would probably charge me with obstruction of injustice.

As I understand things, there's a restraining order against enforcing the vagrancy laws. Cops aren't answerable to the law, though.

If the woman was anyone else, I would've told her about the restraining order, but of course, she wouldn't understand my meaning any more than she understood the ticket.

One of the other people who'd watched said, "She can fight it in court," but of course she can't. She wouldn't know how to fight it, wouldn't know what she was fighting, and probably wouldn't remember to show up.

She won't be able to pay the fine either, but the City of Berkeley doesn't want her money. It isn't about collecting $75.

What the city wants is to ensure there's an outstanding warrant against her — against anyone they target like this. The intent is to have a handy pretext to put people in jail. Can't jail people for sitting on the sidewalk, but they can jail 'em for failure to pay the ticket.

Nobody in city government says it out loud, but what they're trying to do is make life miserable for the poor, so the poor will go Elsewhere. 

Elsewhere must be getting quite crowded, though, since Oakland, San Francisco, and every city across the country has the same tactics. 

♦ ♦ ♦  

For the first time in weeks, a Christian gave me crap about the fish. A middle-aged white man looked at the fish display, and I knew something was coming, from the scrunched-up look on his face. "I hope you know," he said, "that these fish are an insult to Jesus."

I pondered my reply, and finally said, "The fish are funny, that's all."

"They're an insult to Jesus!" he said again, much louder, like I hadn't heard him the first time.

"Jesus wears army boots," I said. "That's an insult to Jesus."

At that he simply started raving, telling me I'd underestimated the danger of mocking Christ, and blah blah blah. Something about him being so pissed off pissed me off, so pretty soon we were yelling at each other. All I remember is asking him, "Do you worship the Lord, or do you worship the Fish? And which is sillier?"

Umberto somehow sweet-talked him away while the man was still sputtering, and his God never got around to striking me dead.

I suppose He'll get around to it some day, though. We're all struck dead in the end.

♦ ♦ ♦  

"My name is Jim Cranston," said a bearded stranger a few minutes later. So what? was what I was about to say, but he continued, "and I've been subscribing to Pathetic Life since #10."

I vaguely remembered his name from addressing envelopes every month, and also remembered Josh telling me I should be more patient with readers who approach me on the ave. So I was... not patient, certainly, but more patient than I wanted to be.

Jim Cranston is not instantly obnoxious, stupid, or Republican. Maybe he's a decent guy. So we talked for two or three minutes, mostly about how much I hate it when people approach me on Telegraph to talk about the zine.

I've explained why I hate it, Jim, in the zine you buy and read and say you like. So why are you approaching me on Telegraph?

♦ ♦ ♦  

After work, on my way to what'll soon be my former home, I stopped at a corner store to buy a tiny roll of cough drops. The price wasn't marked, but they're 45¢ at a discount store, or 89¢ at a rip-off convenience store, so I took them to the counter and held out a dollar bill.

The cashier was talking to someone else, barely paying me any attention at all, but he rang me up and announced the price: "$1.57."

Global thermonuclear war! $1.57, for nine cough drops? I stood there blankly, trying to decide whether to kill the cashier with slow torture or a blunt blow to the head, and he kept talking at his co-worker about some concert he'd been to. He took the dollar from my hand, and I'd decided I wasn't giving him any more than that, so this was going to be a confrontation. I hadn't said anything to him — he was still talking about the concert — but as he looked at me he seemed momentarily confused, probably seeing the rage in my eyes.

Then he counted out my change from $1.57 to the five-dollar bill he mistakenly thought I'd given him, and he said, "Um, thanks," as he slipped $3.43 into my hand.

I'm so nauseatingly honest, normally I'd have corrected his mistake, but I said nothing and left with my cough drops, a few dollars richer.

♦ ♦ ♦  

Judith and Joe finished moving Cy out today, so he's gone. And then there were two.

From Pathetic Life #22
Saturday, March 30, 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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