2016 would be Hate Man’s last Christmas. He would be dead in 3 months. Of course we didn’t know it at the time. We just figured the tough old bastard would live forever. It was hard to imagine a Berkeley without Hate Man. . .
As usual, Hate Man had a Hate Camp Christmas tree. That was one of the great things about Hate Man. A lot of life on the streets is just a grim, gritty survival trip. But Hate Man always took the time to add that extra little flair. A fresh flower in his hat. And a Christmas tree just for the street people.
And we decked out the Hate Camp Christmas tree with tinsel and electric lights, and a star on top. But the night before Christmas this crazy tweaker chick (hi, Sunshine) grabbed the tree when nobody was looking and dumped it in a garbage can. Hate Man was able to track down the tree, but the tinsel and lights were gone. Merry Methmas!!
But that was sort of what Hate Man’s life was like during his last years in People’s Park. He was surrounded by a pack of lunatics, basically. He had two different tweakers that would regularly sneak into his campsite when he was gone and rifle through all of his stuff and make a big mess. They wouldn’t necessarily steal the stuff. They’d just carry it off and deposit it in a garbage can for no particular reason (aside from the “reasons” that made perfect sense in their meth-addled brains).
Of course there were other thievin’ bastards that would actually steal Hate Man’s stuff. And then there were all the vultures that were constantly hitting Hate Man up for his cigarettes or his money or anything else of value that they could gouge off of him. And then there were the ones that would physically attack him. I saw Hate Man get punched in the head and knocked to the ground on multiple occasions during his last years.
But Hate Man never really complained (aside from his usual line “I’d like to kill that guy!”) (To which my standard response was: “I’m not stopping you.”).
But that was another great thing about Hate Man. He never felt sorry for himself. He always viewed life like it was a challenging (and ultimately fulfilling) adventure. Along with his endlessly repeated catch-phrase: “It’s up to me to defend myself.” And he always had this great sense of gamesmanship. He often talked about life being a “battle” or a “war.” But in truth, I think Hate Man looked at life as more of a game than a war. In a war, you want to obliterate your opposition. But in a game, you just want to neutralize them. So that you can play another game with them tomorrow. And Hate Man looked at all of his nemeses as worthy and respected adversaries. That he would spar with, like sort of a fencing duel. With his stated goal being that he hoped to learn how to relate to everyone, and all the different “vibratory types.”
I don’t remember any of the details of that last Christmas at Hate Camp. All the memories sort of blur together of a thousand nights at Hate Camp. Smoking cigarettes, drinking our drinks, talking the gossip of the day, or discussing Hate Man’s latest battle with his latest adversary. Hate Man didn’t make a big deal out of celebrating the holidays. Because Hate Man celebrated every day.
Hate Man’s body, at age 80, was finally wearing down, piece by piece at this point. He had a pacemaker in his heart, and a tube up his dick, and regular chiropractors for his back, and his lungs were finally starting to go. He had just started slipping into that pattern of regular trips to the emergency ward. And ever-more frequent stays at the hospital, of ever-increasing duration. But he’d also often snap back, periodically, into being the vibrant, vital Hate Man he had always been. So we all just figured he’d defeat this latest obstacle — death — just like he’d defeated all of the previous obstacles.