"See you tomorrow."

Yesterday it was hot, so I ripped the garbage bags off my window.  They went up when I moved in a few months ago, to blot out the midday sun, but they were also blotting out most of the airflow when the window was open. 

With the fake-Hefty bags gone, there's a view of a sorry-ass atrium, from the backside of this hotel to the backside of three other buildings on the block. They're other hotels, I think, but the McMillan is the tallest. From the fourth floor where I live, there's a glimpse of the upper stories of downtown's skyline.

The air that blows in sometimes has a whiff of urine, presumably from people peeing out their windows. Something I haven't tried yet. 

It would have to be from their windows, because there doesn't seem to be access to the small patch of litter-strewn ground between the buildings. It's paved, about the size of an ordinary living room, but nothing could live there.

It has lots of litter, including a cheap air conditioner that must've landed with a hell of a crash. When the clouds clear and you look down from a certain angle, you can be dazzled by the sun's reflection off the myriad discarded syringes on the window sills and roofs below. 

My window was still wide open when I left, because the forecast for today was Hot. Trudging the cart up a hill much steeper than it had been yesterday, I was thinking heart attack. Another vendor's radio said that it hit 101°. All day I wiped sweat from my eyes, and when no-one was looking, from between my asscheeks.

♦ ♦ ♦  

A young girl was sitting on the sidewalk, with a backpack and a sandwich. She looked 11 or 12, completely normal and uninteresting, and I gave her no thought at all until she came over to my table and started looking at the merchandise.

She seemed to be unaccompanied, but I'll sell blasphemy to anyone who wants it, so I gave her my ordinary sales pitch: "All the fish come as stickers or magnets," and then went back to the book I was reading (The Death Ship, by B Traven, for the third or fourth time).

When I looked up, she was looking at me more than at the fish, and I wondered why. "Hello again," I said blankly.

"Can I have twenty dollars?" 

I scrunched my face, annoyed. She wasn't homeless, or even poor. She was dressed fresh from The Gap. "Why would I give you twenty cents," I said, "let alone twenty dollars."

"I give a good blowjob," she explained.

I shook my head no, and she walked away.

Kids say the darnedest things. 

If she would've giggled at how she'd frightened the fat freak, it might've been an outrageous joke on the crusty old man that's me. There was no hint of kidding about her, though, no indication that anything out of the ordinary had happened, except perhaps that someone had said no.

♦ ♦ ♦  

Back in the city, I finally found out how Sam, the neighborhood news vendor, died. Among the dozen or so tributes and cards taped and nailed to his abandoned newsbox, there's a poem (a terrible poem, of course) that includes the line, "died of intestinal cancer and never let on."

That takes a special kind of stoicism, and courage. My father died of liver cancer, but first he consented to months of torture — radiation therapy or chemo, they call it.

Thinking back, I've known several people who had cancer, and most had chemo. Somebody's making bundles  of money off the sick and dying, that's for sure.

Sometimes chemo works and life goes on after the hell of it, but usually it's only added agony, making a bad way to go even worse.

When it's my turn for cancer, I think I'll say no to the chemotherapy, and skip the leeches and bloodletting, too. When the pain becomes more than the pleasure of life, I'll ride the #28 bus to Golden Gate Bridge and hurl myself over.

Cancer was rare in my grandparents' time, but now it's common and strikes at higher rates every year. Most of the millions and millions dead from cancer were murdered by Monsanto, or some equally evil big-money entity. We let giant corporations pollute the air and water, kill us all, and the killers get rich, never get justice. That's the American way.

If the poem and one of the cards can be believed, Sam's cancer was inoperable and he didn't want chemo. In growing and endless pain, telling only his closest friends, he continued selling Chronicles and Examiners from his big green box at the BART station.

On Thursday, nine days ago, I bought a paper from him. He smiled and said thanks, and probably he wanted to say more, because that was Sam. He always wanted to say more, and me, I usually want to say less. I waved and said something like, "Thanks, Sam, see you tomorrow."

From Pathetic Life #25
Sunday, June 2, 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. El Capitan del pockets of hamJune 4, 2023 at 11:30 AM

    >Among the dozen or so tributes and cards taped and nailed to his abandoned newsbox, there's a poem (a terrible poem, of course) that includes the line, "died of intestinal cancer and never let on."

    This is the specific line I remember, that I referenced a few days ago. Probably because of our mutual loathing of shitty zine poetry.

    Sandwich Sandwich Sandwich

    1. Oh, man, I just laughed out loud.

      Tell the sandwich sandwich sandwich story again, please.

    2. Captain HampocketsJune 4, 2023 at 3:58 PM

      So, we were coming back from your old Jones Street mail drop. You had a bag full of zines for trade and / or review. We were at the donut shop across from the old mint, at the end of the 26-Valencia bus line. The shop exists, but the bus line has changed in the intervening... fuck... 25 years, at least.

      We were in the donut shop, doing donut shop stuff, with coffee and copious donuts. You reached into your bag and pulled out a zine at random. It was a poetry zine, name unremembered. You opened at random and started reading out loud.

      Understand, I am paraphrasing, except for the last line.

      The poem was something like:

      My heart is bereft
      I am nothing but sadness
      black is my heart
      Sandwich sandwich sandwich.

      Douggles, I can honestly say that I have never laughed as hard as that in my entire life. I thought I might pass out from lack of oxygen. The fine young man at the counter must have thought we were higher than balls.

    3. A chunk of doughnut lodged in my throat that afternoon, and my laughing turned to coughing and jeez it was funny then and still is.

      Again how I laugh
      hilarity stabs me bloody
      like a mosquito without wings
      Sandwich sandwich sandwich.

    4. Once upon a midnight dreary,
      while I pondered, weak and weary,
      Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
      Sandwich Sandwich Sandwich.

      It works with everything!

    5. What the amateur poet was trying to say, saying sandwich thrice, one can only wonder. Was it *supposed* to be ridonkulous?

    6. I prefer to think they were trying to be profound. Makes it funnier.


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