The action never stops at the Berkeley Dollar Tree

The action never stops at the Berkeley Dollar Tree. There’s a long line of people waiting on line, and this one guy is quite angry about.


He starts haranguing the cashier, as if it’s her fault. Finally she has enough of his abuse and says, “I’m sorry, sir, but I’m not going to ring up your items.”

That really sets him off. He steps out of line and confronts her at the other end of the cash register and really starts jawwing at her. For awhile it looked like it might come to blows, until the cashier said, “I’m calling the police,” and started talking into a phone. The guy continued to jaw at her:


“I’m the one who’s working,” she said. “You’re the one who’s shopping at the Dollar Tree.” (ha ha).

“I’M A MILLIONAIRE!!” he said. “I USED TO PLAY PROFESSIONAL BASKETBALL!!” And he slowly made his way to the exit with his dignity intact.

As I was leaving the Dollar Tree he was still loitering around outside the store, just as the cop car pulled up. . .

Nano Scaredy the feral kitten

Last summer Micro Scaredy got noticeably pregnant for the first time. I watched as her belly grew bigger and bigger over a three month period.  Then one day I could tell she was no longer pregnant.  But her kittens were nowhere in sight. She had the litter stashed in a secret nest somewhere in the Berkeley hills. I could tell Micro Scaredy was nursing the litter because she had the distended nipples. And she’d show up to my campsite for breakfast, but instead of hanging out like she used to do, she’d immediately leave after eating to get back to her litter. A friend of mine — another homeless camper — told me he spotted the nest for a short time, hidden in between these big rocks, near the Greek Theater, about a mile from my campsite.

Then, about three months after Micro Scaredy gave birth, a little black feral kitten wandered into my campsite one morning. After hiding off in the distance for some time, she finally mustered the courage to approach the cat food dish.  I dubbed her Nano Scaredy — the fourth in the lineage, starting with Scaredy Cat, then Mini Scaredy, then Micro Scaredy, and now Nano Scaredy.

Nano Scaredy never quite trusted me. She would often hide behind a tree and watch me, like she was studying me, trying to figure out what I was. Friend or foe.



After about two weeks she started getting a little comfortable at my campsite. She was usually waiting for me when I woke up in the morning, and she’d often call out to me, meowing for her breakfast. And every now and then she’d even dare to curl up on my blankets for a nap after she ate breakfast. She let me pet her a couple of times. But usually she would run away if I tried to approach her.


I was just starting to make arrangements to take Nano Scaredy to the vet to get her fixed, when she disappeared. Mini Scaredy — the dominant cat of the tribe of feral cats — got into some kind of territorial conflict with Nano’s mother, Micro Scaredy. And ran Micro Scaredy off. And Nano Scaredy apparently went off with her, never to be seen again.

Such is the precarious life of a feral cat.

Gone but not forgotten, Nano Scaredy.


Feral cats in the rain

I always wondered how my feral cats handled living outside in the rain. On this day last year I got a little idea.

I was sleeping at my campsite and the rain caught me by surprise. It started at 4 AM and came down steadily for 3 hours. Not a heavy rain. But 2/10th of an inch. Which is a bit of water. My blankets all got soaked. And there were puddles of water all around my cardboard matting.

When the sun finally came up, I noticed two of my cats were sleeping peacefully on top of my blankets down by my feet. The rain hadn’t bothered them in the least. I think to some degree their top layer of fur acts as a rain-repellant. Their own built-in raincoat.

At any rate, this is the look Mini Scaredy gave me when she woke up that morning. Like, “Would you get your ass up out of that puddle and feed us our breakfast??” Ha ha.

Image may contain: cat

The Perils of Piss Jars


For nine years (1998 to 2007) I rented out a little office in the legendary Koerber Building (Ramparts magazine, KPFA radio station, and many others had previously rented out offices in the building). . . $115 a month rent. And for nine years I secretly lived in my office (it was against the law, it was zoned for business and not residential, but I’m an outlaw, man. . . or at the least a border-line criminal).

Anyways I had just moved into the building in 1998. And I was trying to be as discreet and secretive as possible. For my big fear was that if they manager or the owner of the building found out I was secretly living in my office they’d give me the boot and I’d be back to being homeless and sleeping in the bushes or in doorways — a fate worse than life itself. So I was really trying to mind my P’s and Q’s.

So to avoid detection that I was living in my office, instead of using the restroom down the hall 30 times a day, I would urinate in a “piss jar” — this big gallon water bottle that I used. And then deposit the contents in the restroom toilet down the hall, every couple of days when the jar got full of piss. I was being discreet, you dig?

Then one night in 1998 — I think I’d only been secretly living in my office for about 2 months at this point — it’s around 2 in the morning. And the building is virtually empty aside from me (everyone else — the normal people — worked a 9 to 5 at their offices and then split). So that was the perfect time for me to take my gallon jug of piss and empty it in the restroom  (I’m playing it cool as usual).

Only SOMEHOW I managed to drop my gallon piss jar on the floor of the hallway. I forget how it happened. But I dropped it. And all I could think was “YOU STUPID FUCKING ASSHOLE!!” Especially when the cap to my bottle came off and all of my bright yellow urine began spilling out onto the floor of the bright red carpet of the hallway.

So now, suddenly, it’s 2AM. And I’m no longer “discreet.” In fact, I’ve just made a big fucking yellow stain on the bright red carpet.

So now I’m in a panic. There’s a big puddle of my personal urine that I’ve just dumped onto the hallway carpet of this nice pristine office building. I’m exposed. And in a very vulnerable position.

The only thing I could think of doing was getting a whole bunch of rags and getting down on my hands and knees and try to mop up as much of the urine as I could. 

Then I got a bucket of water and dumped that on the carpet. To try and clean up the urine smell. And I then I dumped a whole bunch of liquid hair shampoo on the mess. That was the only kind of cleanser I had at my disposal. So I’m scrub scrub scrubbing over and over.

And I spent HOURS on my hands and knees vigorously rubbing and massaging and wetting and drying and scrubbing that plot of carpet in the hallway of the Koerber Building. In the hopes of concealing my terrible blunder. I think it was 4 in the morning when I finally gave up and collapsed in a heap in my little office that I was still sleeping in (at least up to that point).

The first thing in the morning when I woke up I rushed out to assess the damage. You could still see the remnants of the wet spot. But when I stuck my nose in it, it didn’t smell of urine. And gradually the stain faded away. And I lived happily ever after for another 9 years in my office until I finally got thrown out. The End.