Acid Heroes

October 1, 2014

Interview with Hate Man, March 2000

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 7:48 pm
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Stepping into Hate Man’s world is akin to stepping into the Mad Hatter’s
tea party, or the Bizarro universe from Superman comics.

…………………………………………………………………………………..

A lot of people think they know who “homeless People” are. They have sort
of a stereotypical view of who the “homeless Person is. I guess then the
Hate Man is your typical, dress-wearing, former New York Times-reporting,
hatred-spewing, homeless freak. A legend among Berkeley street people
since 1986, Hate Man defies easy description. Raving wingnut or profound
street-philosopher? You make the call.

Certainly among the most resourceful and self-sufficient of street
people, Hate Man has survived – and even flourished – on the streets for
over a decade without getting any kind of check or relying on charity
agencies of any kind. And yet Hate Man manages to live like a veritable
“King of the Streets.” (Or is it “Queen?”)

Most evenings you can find Hate Man and his merry band of hate-cronies,
street lunatics, and assorted hanger-outers on the University of
California’s Berkeley campus. Ever the uncongenial host, Hate Man usually
sets up his own makeshift “living room” on the streets, replete with
crates to sit on, a table with candles and flowers, and plenty of day-old
coffee and whatever ground-scored refreshments were found that day.

The “Hate Scene” is sort of a floating men’s smoking club – part Andy
Warhol street-theatre of the bizarre, and part Primal Scream/Gestalt
Therapy encounter group session. It has a surreal logic all of its own.
Stepping into Hate Man’s world can feel akin to stepping into the Mad
Hatter’s tea party, or the Bizarro universe from Superman comics. I
suppose it all makes perfect sense if you’re nuts. AT the least, it
provides a waystation and a late-night social scene for many street people
who would have nowhere else to hang out.

Hate man is also noteworthy for having developed his own unique philosophy
centered around “acknowledging negativity.” He feels society has gotten
out of balance by “trying to have a nice day” – by stressing the positive
and repressing the negative. To this end, Hate Man has championed the
cause of restoring the yin-yang balance of the Universe by delivering a
hearty “FUCK YOU!” to the world. Is it any wonder I hate his fucking guts?
The dress-wearing, shoulder-pushing, dirty, rotten sunuvabitch.
…………………………………………………………………………………..

Interview by Ace Backwords

March 8, 2000 midnight. The deserted UC Berkeley campus.

ACE BACKWORDS: One thing that separates you from a lot of street people is that you originally became homeless by choice. Would you say that’s not typical of most homeless folks?

HATE MAN: Well, I don’t know. Because I feel in some way if I’m a person who’s living outdoors, I’m choosing to remain outdoors rather than kill myself
or figure out a way to get back indoors. I agree that a lot of people are forced, or pressured, by circumstances, to be outdoors.

ACE: You were a reporter for the New York Times at one point, correct?

HM: Yeah. I was normal for like 35 years.

ACE: What was it that made you go a different direction?

HM: I think I just decided to nut up. I was successful being normal. But I just decided – not consciously – that this isn’t everything. This is a lot of work! then I spent the next 29 years nutting up. And I wanted to
stretch it out. Because if I did it too fast I could get locked up or
beaten to death.

(Schwiller, a street person who’s been repeatedly interrupting us, shows
up and starts mumbling at Hate Man.)

SCHWILLER: I’m making a demand for a light.

HM: SHUT UP! I’M TRYING TO DO THIS INTERVIEW ONE-ON-ONE! PUSH IF YOU WANT
TO BE HERE! YOU’RE BUGGING ME!

S: I believe I’m not bothering Hate Man. I love Hate Man.

HM: THEN YOU DO THE INTERVIEW! I’M NOT DOING IT IF YOU’RE GOING TO BE HERE
INTERRUPTING! I’m leaving.

(Hate Man leaves.)

S: I was just going to push Hate Man for a cigarette and he’s getting all upset. He’s like a vision of a dream of a beautiful person.

ACE: Do you have any problem with him getting angry like that?

S: Sometimes he scares me a little.

ACE: Here, I’ll give you a little wine if you’ll go somewhere else while I
interview Hate Man, okay?

S: I guess.

(Schwiller leaves; Hate Man returns.)

Hate Man, around 1978.

ACE: Push for a cigarette, Hate Man, you dirty, rotten, hateful sonuvabitch.

HM: Slimy, fucking, motherfucking asshole.

(We push shoulders for a minute until Hate gives in and gives me a cigarette.)

ACE: Okay. That scene with Schwiller was definitely a facet of your outdoor life – having to deal with all these street characters.

HM: Oh definitely. That’s partly why I like the outdoor scene, because I’m vulnerable. And I want to come to terms with all kinds of energy. With
everyone, and different angles. Knock knock. I’m learning more about dealing with people.

ACE: How about social reactions to being a – quote, unquote – “bum.” CBS News did a feature on you with your Mom. What did she say?

HM: The CBS person said: “Your son used to be at the Times and now he’s
living outdoors, eating out of the trash. What do you think about him
now?” My mother looked away from the reporter, away from the camera, and
said: “Now he’s a bum!” It’s correct.

I am a bum. And I’m comfortable with the term. I mean, some people have an attitude about bums. Which I can understand. If I’m an indoor person and ambitious and everything, then I can be afraid of bums or have an attitude that bums are worthless. But I feel that’s a person’s problem who has that attitude. I mean, it could be a problem to me if I’m dealing with the person. Every now and then though,

fb_img_1490224683874.jpg

I talk to an indoor person who treats me like a person: You’re a person, I’m a person. That is such a relief. Most indoor people I talk to look at me like, “Eww! Gee! This guy is weird! This guy is crazy! This guy is a bum!” I have all these filters in there. I realize: OK. I’ll be wanting you to say, “I hate you” and push with me, and be straight with me. So I feel these things that I’m doing are ways to cut through attitudes over a period of time where you, the person, will start to think of me as a person. Adult to adult. Knock knock. But sometimes, I’m on the street and a car will drive by and people will be looking at me cross-eyes. I’m used to that.

ACE: You’re also unusual on the street scene in that you’re more
self-sufficient than most street people. You don’t get any kind of check. You don’t go to the free meal places. Is there any philisophical reason for that?

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HM: Well, I’m doing what I feel strongest about, so I prefer just digging in the trash to find what I need. To me that’s simpler. I feel a lot of the social agencies are a parent/child set-up, where the agency decides what I’m going to get, what food you’re going to eat, and when I’m gonna get it. Often times I feel the agencies expect me to be grateful or say “t.h.a.n.k. y.o.u.” I prefer the trash. It’s floating down the river. I don’t owe anybody anything.

ACE: I often see young street people sort of floundering around, and I’ve often felt it would be informative for them to just spend a day walking around with the Hate Man just to see how you operate, so it would give
them some tips on how to survive comfortable out here.

HM: I feel street people are pretty fucking resourceful. Someone that’s living outside is taking care of themselves, whether it’s with a check or
going to a free meal or whatever.

ACE: To me, that’s a lack of resourcefulness. Because they’re using other people’s resources to get by.

HM: I don’t put the person down for doing it. I don’t feel comfortable doing it. I feel it’s a major step just to go outdoors.

ACE: I’m not putting them down for it. But I think one of the big resentments that society has about street people is the fact that they are not taking care of themselves. Whereas you take care of yourself.

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HM: Well, there’s certainly resentment there. And I feel in some ways the outdoor thing is over. The Yippies had a funeral for the last hippie in ’67 or whatever. And I think somebody could have a funeral for the last outdoor person. Society has basically changed its attitude about outdoor
living. And from now on, it’s touch-and-go.

ACE: You feel there’s more of a squeeze now on the homeless people?

HM: Oh, definitely. I feel it’s a major crunch. An outdoor person has to adapt and flex because of the pressure. Not be as obvious.

ACE: How long have you been living outdoors all together?

HM: For awhile I had a garage. So somebody might say: “You weren’t really outdoors.” So it depends on how strict of a definition. But I’d say 10 years or so. I came outside in ’86.

ACE: And you also work.

HM: Yeah. I do a janitorial thing a couple days a week to pay for cigarettes. That’s basically the only thing I buy. I feel the most creative thing about an outdoor person is: Ordinary society, for thousands
of years, has been what I call “social reality,” where people take their identity from their group – family, clan, small town, racial/religious groups. And I feel we’re switching to “personal reality.” Groups are
losing control.

(Schwiller returns.)15826006_1729485640402305_6749196319324614433_n.jpg

SCHWILLER: Hate. Push for a cigarette.

HM: Okay. I HATE YOUR GUTS DOING THIS WHILE I’M TRYING TO DO AN INTERVIEW!

(Hate Man and Schwiller push shoulders, standing side-by-side and pressing
against each other with their shoulders.)

 fb_img_1491240451623.jpg

ACE: Maybe you could explain the concept of “pushing shoulders” while you’re pushing with Schwiller.

HM: Well, I call this whole system “oppositionality.” Can I care when
we’re opposite? That’s the hardest time to care. So on the verbal level, I feel the way to stay in there is to say “Fuck you.” “I hate you.” “I’m pissed.” On the physical level, pushing shoulders is a way for us to both to feel
how important it is for the other person. I can feel how important it is for you to get the cigarette by how hard and how long you’re willing to push. And you can feel how important the money is to me. At some point during the push one of us is going to give up.

(Hate gives in, stops pushing and gives Schwiller a cigarette)

ACE: Would you say being on the streets has given you more freedom to be
who you really are?

HM: Oh yeah. I feel moving outdoors is a major step in seeing what I am,
apart from a group.

ACE: But you still end up becoming part of the group of street people.

 fb_img_1490751890332.jpg
HM: But that’s an affinity group. That’s a group I’m choosing to associate with. But getting back to that other thing: If I accept help for being “down and out,” I have to play a certain social game there, and please you. That’s why I prefer eating out of the trash.

ACE: Also, you have to keep being more fucked-up all the time in order to get more help. That reinforces their fucked-upness. That’s the one thing about the street scene that I really hate. “I’m so fucked-up. Help me.”
They use that as their primary survival mechanism. Not that I mean to disparage the street people who are genuinely fucked-up and need help. But
some of these guys perhaps could be encouraged a little more to help themselves.

HM: Right. It rewards the person for being fucked-up. Which keeps them in
that head-space.

ACE: THAT’S THE WHOLE SYNDROME OF GETTING A CHECK, AND THE FREE FOOD PLACES.

HM: It reinforces in thinking that I’m helpless …. It’s 1 a.m. I’m going to
the café.

(Hate man leaves; comes back in 15 minutes with two large jugs of hot
coffee.)

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ACE: Tell me the deal with that cafe.

HM: This is a place that gives us coffee at the end of the night that
otherwise you would throw away.

ACE: You’ve developed other trips like that: getting the leftover pizza when Greg’s Pizza closes, getting potatoes from Spud Brothers, getting
day-old pastries.

HM: Yeah. This is delicate, though, because I don’t want to come in with an attitude of “You owe me!” I hate that when somebody asks me for a
cigarette and comes in with that vibe of “You have cigarettes. I need cigarettes. You should give it to me.”

ACE: That’s another big trap I see so many street people fall in. That “you owe me” attitude. They play on that. It’s sickening. And I think it’s been ingrained in some of these people by spending their lives going to social service agencies demanding service for doing nothing.

HM: And of course it works with some people. I’d rather work. If I didn’t
have cigarettes, I would rather mop floors than push for one.

ACE: Oh yeah. I’m the type, before I would ask someone for a quarter, I
would go around to every pay phone and check all the coin slots. There’s a
sense of freedom to being self-sufficient.

HM: Yes. Definitely.

ACE: Would you like to talk about the so-called “Hate cult” – the group of
people that are around you that sort of go along with your trip to some
degree. Are you surprised at how that evolved?

HM: Well, I hope that the way that I’m operating will be taken up. I’m
hoping, actually, that the whole world will do this eventually. Not
because of me, but because it works better than the other ways we’ve
tried. I’m pleased that other people are doing this.

ACE: One thing I find impressive about your trip: You have a good sense of
where the line is drawn; how far you can go. And then you’ll push it just
a little bit over that line to see how much space you can make for
yourself. Like setting up the drum circle every night in the middle of the
campus. A lot of street people sort of tip-toe around feeling they don’t
fit in, they don’t belong anywhere. Whereas you will seize space if you
see an opportunity.

HM: Definitely I’m pushing the envelope. But I”m still tip-toeing. I’m cautious. But right. I want to find where the spaces are, where the leeway is, to get what I want.

ACE: Do you find a lot of street people don’t know where that line is, so they either don’t push it, and limit themselves, or they blunder too far in the other direction, thinking: “I can do anything I want, man!”

HM: Well, I think that what gets mixed in is defiance. Resentment. I just want to be myself. If I can get away with that, to me that is a major achievement.

(Schwiller returns)

SCHWILLER: Yeah. I think so.

HM: Okay. But shut up! Let me KEEP DOING THE FUCKING INTERVIEW!

ACE: Do you find it odd that you’re someone that goes around saying “I
hate you! Fuck you!” and yet, basically, you’re accepted by people?

HM: I’m cautious. I don’t push it on people. I don’t speak to people first. If someone comes up to me and says, “How’s it going?” I’ll say, “Bad.” Then if you say, “Why do wear different shoes? Why do you wear a dress?” I’ll say, “Now wait a minute. I don’t trust you unless you say, ‘I hate you.” Since you initiate it, it’s not like I’m knocking on your door trying to sell you a Bible or something.

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ACE: What would you say is a mistake that a lot of street people make in
the way they’re operating?

HM: Pissing in people’s doorways. Getting obnoxious. Getting in people’s
faces. That’s heavy. And that’s pissed off society. Society is basically
pissed at the outdoor scene largely because of that.

ACE: Do you feel just by being respectful towards other people that that
saves you from a lot of the “oppression” that a lot of street people get?

HM: Yeah. I’m satisfied to be outdoors. Beyond that, I feel I’ll take care
of myself. When I was crashing behind this one building, the tenants would
come out, and I won’t even look at you. If you’re allowing me to crash there, and not calling the cops or going to the manager, that’s enough for me. Another strategy is to separate out the functions. I’ll crash in one place. I’ll read a book somewhere else.

ACE: Me too. I’ll score my newspaper at one coffee shop. I’ll table-score
food at another restaurant. I’ll use the bathroom at another place.

HM: Break it up. Then if I lose one function it doesn’t jeopardize the
others.

ACE: Any final words?

HM: No. That’s it. Fuck you. Have a lousy day.


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3 Comments »

  1. Too bad he does not discuss commitment or for the caring of his offspring. Tear drop … ..

    Comment by Talka Ka — October 2, 2014 @ 2:06 am | Reply

    • I admit, I’ve always found that aspect of Hate Man’s trip a little baffling. I’d see him spending massive amounts of time with some people that I would charitably describe as “the dregs of society.” But he had little interest in spending time with his own offspring. . . Part of it, I think, is that Hate Man got locked into this aspect of his trip where he almost NEVER approaches other people. Because of the weirdness of his trip, he’s very sensitive about not pushing his trip onto other people. He mostly leaves it up to them as to whether they want to engage him. I’m sure if Hate Man’s offspring approached him, he would be more than willing to spend time with them. But always on his terms. That’s just the nature of Hate Man, I guess. A very self-involved person. He likes being in the center and having the world revolve around him. I suppose it’s a certain kind of narcissism. Kind of a tragedy in a way, though. Because I’m sure most offspring have a need for their parents to reach out to them. Something Hate Man, unfortunately, isn’t really capable of doing . . . In a way, Hate Man is one of those people who belongs to the world, and not to individuals. I’ve known him for 25 years, and in many ways I’ve had an intimate relationship with him. But I think from Hate Man’s perspective my relationship with him is no different than the thousands of other people he relates to in the course of his days. I’m just one more replaceable, inter-changeable face. I think Hate relates to most people in the way that most stage-performers relate to their audience. He’s an unusual guy, Hate Man.

      Comment by Ace Backwords — October 2, 2014 @ 8:22 pm | Reply

      • Hateman is very skilled at diplomacy. He is very tactful at maintaining good relations with the Park’s groundskeeper, who is under immense pressure from the university. Hate’s task is not an easy one when many who stumble into his camp vandalize and litter, & cause any disruption you could imagine. Then the cops single out Hate too. Every time there is a university push to clear the Park of the homeless, Hate is singled out and arrested. Not too mention the violence he is subjected too, people walking up and taking swings at him. He is an amazing man, most definitely a genius.

        Comment by Jon — October 2, 2014 @ 11:38 pm


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