Out of whack

Part 2 of this issue's
letters to Pathetic Life

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Last weekend was nuts down here. It started out bad.

Walking to the Post Office, I pass a trolley stop and here's three guys fighting over a beat-up boombox, two against one. I know who won that fight.

Then on the busiest corner downtown, an alcoholic Indian guy named Tony must've asked the wrong person for spare change. They're pushing and shoving each other. It'll be a long hot summer for sure.

Full moon and summertime heat. Temperatures in the 80s after dark. Walked home from a double feature (Executive Decision and Mulholland Falls) and the streets were alive with cop cars, lights and no sirens, speeding down the wrong side of the road.

I pass a liquor store and here's some guy on the sidewalk, in handcuffs. A couple of blocks away here's half a street blocked off, something else going on. About a mile later the copter is in the air shining its lights on a bunch of cops doing something. It's like the city's ready to explode.

First the unseasonably hot weather, then the rain. You start to think, hey, things are out of whack, but things are always out of whack. That's the meaning of life. 

I liked your comments on the Bill of Rights (PL#20). It's so typical. Only idiots look for salvation in a piece of paper. People are hiding in their dream worlds thinking things are like they're supposed to be. How can anyone believe the myth that our 'founding fathers' were even interested in equality? Those guys were only interested in protecting property rights.

The Bill of Rights is just a list of exclusionary police powers, but it has come to symbolize the opposite. What a great con job. There was no "fight against tyranny." It was just a land grab. The Revolutionary War was a test of who had the most people they could coerce into killing the other guy's people. England didn't lose because they were wrong, they just had a transportation problem getting their poor people into position.

The trolley passes a cemetery. There's the regular people's graves, where the grass is yellow, and the war dead graves, where the grass is bright green and well-kept. On Memorial Day the whole place is filled with little flags. Dying for your country is a trade for a well-tended grave.

It's a typical deal one can expect from t he government. I wonder if the holes the little flagpoles make let the worms get to the bodies quicker? Maybe it's not such a bad deal. That's the meaning of life: We're preparing ourselves to be maggot food. Might as well get as big as possible, so we can feed more maggots.

—Tim Lauzon,
The Voluntary Poverty Newsletter
San Diego

Pathetic Life has gotten some good reviews, but honestly, a letter like this is why the reviews always seemed inflated to me. PL wasn't anything special.

What you've written here, Tim, could be another entry in my zine, and better than most. It's telling a story on pretty much the same theme, and unlike most of what I write, I don't know what you're going to say before you say it.

One of the things I'll miss most is incoming mail with letters like yours. —DH 


You missed a great dinner (see PL#24).  Thirty people showed up, and they were not ordinary people, oh no. They were very interesting losers like you and me.

—Ashley Parker Owens,
Global Mail,
San Francisco


Note: On 5/22, a security guard at a downtown Walgreens demanded to inspect my backpack. In a typical-for-me snit, I got haughty, and was ordered to leave the store. Maybe I'm on double-secret probation, banned forever from buying the substandard but overpriced everything they sell.

Denied their charmless plastic retail wonderland, I came home, still haughty, and wrote a letter to Walgreens apostrophe-free corporate headquarters. There's been no reply, and of course, there never will be.

I also wrote to Stephen Elliott, the only admitted lawyer on my mailing list, and asked whether "we the people" of this so-called free country are assumed to surrender all civil and human rights as the price for stepping inside a Walgreens. —DH

Jesus, you wrote Walgreens a letter, like a lawyer? That's OK, but I doubt they'll reconsider their company policy.

Legal opinion: I guess they can do anything they want on their oh-so-holy private property, including full-body, cavity-probing searches. If you go in, I guess you're consenting to the scanner, agreeing to check your bags, and all that.

But then, where does their right to intrude stop? Can they lock you down once you're in the store? There are false arrest tort cases arising out of store detentions.

Translation: I don't know.

"Your lawyer,"

—Stephen Elliott,
Bridgewater MA


Greetings, Colonel. I am writing to you from a rather peculiar old hotel — the Blackstone, in Chicago. I'm in a very Barton Finkesque room, complete with peeling wallpaper, broken bed, and furnishings from before the war (the Peloponnesian War). Even the shower is busted.

Why am I complaining to you? Well, when I went down to talk to the old guy at the desk, I discovered he was basically deaf. After attempting to communicate with him through a series of hand gestures, I gave up and shouted in frustration, "I just want to take a shower!" Half an hour later, he sent a prostitute up to my room, and she offered to piss on me for forty bucks.

I'm in Chicago on an all-expenses paid trip. A friend of mine from high school days gave me a round-trip air ticket and two nights lodging at the infamous Blackstone (they shot that famous stairwell scene in DePalma's The Untouchables here).

This old chum had discovered that his runaway daughter had been seen in the Windy City selling the local homeless paper. It's a rather tedious story; don't know why I even started to bring it up. Anyway, this fellow did not want to go to Chicago himself, since he figured his daughter would just bail if she saw him coming down the street, so he sent me, as if she's always liked her Uncle J. 

Of course, I haven't found her. Chicago is a big city and my feet are rather delicate. I did manage to score a good pizza, though.

—J Rassoul,
The J-Man Times
Ann Arbor MI

Another letter that's like an entry in the zine, and again better-written than most.

I hope you find the runaway girl, J-Man, and I hope you got the golden shower, and you did say it was all-expenses paid, so I hope it was free. —DH


I've been virulently anti-Christian since I was a teenager. I like the music, hate the words.

Actually, I'm not just anti-Christian. I'm anti-every organized religion. I get really steamed about the New Agers around here cooing about Buddhism or Tibetan or Beef-Marinated Buddhism, going to India, or how great the American Indians were. Yeah, right.

Buddhist monks tell Buddhist nuns that if they're good enough, maybe next life they'll come back as Buddhist monks. Tibetan Buddhism is now full of peripatetic pervert monks bedding every babe they can holy talk into the sack. Indian gurus are a bunch of mobsters. And I won't even get into the rest of the rotting corpse of East Indian culture insofar as the treatment of women and lower castes. Also, one has to look long and far to find a Native American tribe that didn't treat its women as lesser beings.

How anybody, and in particular how any woman can be part of organized religion is a feat of sheer ignorance I have yet to fathom. 

That's not to say I'm not spiritual, but rather than plunge into that murky territory, I'll just say that I think there's more to life than meets the eye and the scientists' instruments. But I certainly can't say what the "more" is.

I did the vendor thing myself last weekend. I was trying to sell Bummers & Gummers samples and subscriptions at the Saturday Market, which is probably like your Telegraph Avenue, one day a week with hundreds of vendors selling cheesy, allegedly homemade items.

For a while I was between a Satanist selling t-shirts on which he'd drawn assorted demons and arcane glyphs and a guy who sells stuffed tails you can pin onto your pants. Being a newcomer I cheerily said "Hi" when I set up my booth, and they both recoiled in icy horror. Later, when I was stuck between two talkoholics, I understood why.

I made $30 once or twice, $50 once, and then went into some bizarre slump. Last week I made a dollar. And it's brain-fryingly hot on our stretch of the sidewalk, where they station the riff-raff vendors with no "seniority points." Now I'm conveniently re-thinking my strategy, while the heat of summer sizzles the rest of the suckers to shriveled husks.

—Loki Quinnangelis,
Bummers & Gummers
Lorane OR

Yet another letter that reads like an entry in the zine, only sharper, wiser, and with more to say.

Hey, without Pathetic Life I have plenty of spare time. Maybe I could keep the zine going only as editor, taking submissions from zinesters and other writers, and publish month after month of entries like these, from other pathetic people's pathetic lives.

It's an idea, not a good one, and I'll have probably talked myself out of it by ramen-with-tuna-for-dinner-time. —DH

More of this issue's
letters to Pathetic Life:

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From Pathetic Life #25
June, 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. Captain HampocketsJune 19, 2023 at 12:40 PM

    Re the Walgreens thing:

    Here is my understanding. Places like Costco CAN as to check your bag, look at your receipt, etc, because they are a membership club. When you sign up, you certainly agree to that.

    Walgreens or Target? Fuck no. They DO absolutely have the right to deny you shopping privileges because you don't check your bag. But they CANNOT force you to check your bag. They can simply say "Fuck off outta here."

    1. That's basically my understanding, now, but it was news to me then. I still turn around and leave when anyone wants to "check my bag."

  2. Man, I had completely forgotten about that trip to Chicago until I read this entry. Feel like I time traveled.

  3. Did y'ever find the girl?

    And were y'really looking, or just taking an expense-paid vacation?

  4. As I recall, she was eventually located in Milwaukee, staying with some riff-raff. I did end up seeing the Screaming Trees at the Metro the second night in Chicago. Great show!

    1. Toddlin' town. I've been there twice, both times very briefly, not even overnight. Rode cool elevated trains, saw the Field Museum, and accidentally bumped a mobster.


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