Knock, knock. Who's there?

The knocking woke me this morning. It started at the crack of 10AM, with a couple of loud knocks down the hall, followed by a brief and annoyed conversation between two male voices. Then a few footsteps, and more loud knocks. I was groggy and grumpy and immediately in a bad mood.

Someone was knocking on every damned door, and the knockings were coming closer. At 405 and 404, the knocks and conversations were enough to piece together what was happening, which only made me grumpier. 405 even let the the bastard inside. 404 didn't answer, so the landlord unlocked that door, and both men went inside.

403 is me. I was next.

Knock, knock.

"What!" I yelled loudly at the knocking door. 

"Health inspector."

"I'm healthy!" I shouted through the door. "What, are you here to make me turn my head and cough?"

"We need to inspect your room," said the voice, and I responded with the loudest silence ever.

A different voice I recognized as Mr Patel said, "He wants to see if your room is OK, or if you have any complaints."

"Oh, I got a complaint," I yelled, through a door closed and with no intent of opening it. "Some fuckwad 'health inspector' is pounding on all the doors." 

"Sorry," said the inspector, quieter, and I may have heard Mr Patel chuckle, or may have imagined it. A moment later they knocked on the door next door, so they'd given up on me, thank your Christ.

What was that about? I'd never heard of health inspections at a hotel, but here comes the benevolent government to protect me by inspecting me. The term 'health inspector' sure sounds like he's inspecting people, not rooms, doesn't it? And even if he only wanted to inspect the room, well, I live here so that's really inspecting me.

At someone else's doorway, the inspector said the inspections are "for your own good," that he was there to make sure the windows open, the sink isn't leaking, the baseboard heater heats, and he'd write a violation is there's evidence of roaches or rodents. "I'm on your side," he said to someone else at the last door down the hall, and in theory, OK, maybe — but still, No.

On Telegraph Ave all the vendors get the clipboard treatment, but nobody's ever tried clipboarding my damned apartment before.

Do you want a city official taking notes in your bedroom? If he sees a roach clip and seeds on the table, does that get jotted down, too? If he sees skid marks on your shorts, pornography at the bedside, if your room is a pile of dirty laundry and old books and stale food, like my room? 

No, man. The inspector isn't on your side. I could rant about this all morning and I gotta get to work, but here's the most obvious thing in the world: If the inspector is on your side he wouldn't pound on your door unexpectedly — he'd make a damned appointment.

Whatever the inspections are really about, they're also about hassling poor people, and harassing landlords who rent to poor people.

Do you think middle-class apartments full of white people are subjected to unexpected knocks from a city inspector who wants inside? No, and by no I mean Hell no.

♦ ♦ ♦  

After that came a grumpy shower, a grumpy train ride, and a grumpy day on Telegraph.

After talking about it for months, well, Jay's the boss, so today the fish-stand started selling noisemaker nuns and honking Buddhas, and a few other mildly sacrilegious toys and knickknacks.

The only addition that I slightly like is a half-size squeezable Holy Bible that squeaks. Something was stacked on top of the squeaking Bibles, so as I pushed the goods toward Telegraph, my cart squeaked rolling over the bumps along the sidewalk.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Two cops on ten-speed bikes rounded the corner of Haste, headed the wrong way down Telegraph. It's a one-way street, and they were headed the other way, but they're cops, so of course no laws are applicable. 

As they rolled past me, they slowed, eyeballing a 30-ish couple sitting on the sidewalk by the book store. People get ticketed for sitting on that sidewalk, right at that spot, but only certain kinds of people — street waifs, hippies, the homeless, and the otherwise undesirables.

It took the cops — and me, too — a moment to decide what type of people these were. They were dressed shabby, one wearing a faded punk rock t-shirt and the other in jeans with a rip. The man's hair was shaggy, and the woman might've not been wearing makeup. Their shoes were new, though, and the peace sign dangling from a chain around the man's neck was too shiny to be sincere; must've been a souvenir, not a statement.

They looked bemused as they looked at the cops looking at them. The man waved, and the lady took a picture of the smiling cops. They're tourists, I decided, and so did the cops. They rolled away.

Maybe where that man and woman live, cops don't patrol on bicycles, but they were laughing and talking, pointing at something else, and clearly didn't understand that they'd just been through a trial and found barely not guilty.

They were within the sound of my voice, so I sounded off, "Those cops aren't really for taking pictures, you know. They were sizing you up. You came close to getting two $110 tickets, for the crime of sitting."

They looked at me, wearing that same bemused expression as when they'd looked at the cops. The lady even started fumbling with her camera, so's I could be in their California freakshow slideshow too, but I didn't smile nor did I say cheese. Only shook my head.

♦ ♦ ♦  

Way back when I had a real job and occasionally money, I gave some to Food Not Bombs. They serve hot, free, vegetarian meals to anyone who's hungry, no questions asked.

That's beautiful, so they're often hassled by cops and sometimes arrested because they don't have a permit from the city. As if the city would issue a permit. You serious? Officially allow feeding the homeless? Why, that would attract undesirables to the park… or to the city, or to the planet.

When I was regularly sending FNB twenty dollars in the mail, I didn't know that I'd eventually be in line for lunch myself. They serve daily at People's Park, only a block off Telegraph, and at least until tomorrow, payday, it's the lunch I can afford.

Vegetarian chili with warm bread — it tasted good, and even better for pissing off people in power.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Philosophically, selling Bibles that squeak seems kinda trashy. I want to be the fish guy, not the squeaking Bible guy. Gotta say, though, when I put the new merchandise on the table, people insisted on buying it.

From Pathetic Life #24
Friday, May 31, 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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