As George Carlin put it: “If God’s so great how come everything He makes dies??”

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I do this thing constantly — and I’m not sure it’s a healthy thing — where I’m constantly thinking about people that have died. They’ll just pop in my head for no reason. “Remember Mott? . . Chip . . Annie . . Robin . . Bubble Guy . . Soup . . Harold . . David . . Craig . . Teddy. . Claire . . Vince . . Yumie . . Duncan . . Hate Man . . .?”

I don’t know why I do it. Maybe its a way of trying to understand the mystery of death. Or maybe its a way of AVOIDING thinking about death — if I keep their memory alive it’s like a part of them is still alive.

As I get older this world seems less and less solid and less real. When I was younger the world seemed more solid and real (you’d think it would work the other way around). And I think its because so many people I know have died. They just disappeared, and its like they never really existed in the first place. And maybe I don’t really exist. Maybe I’m just a ghost temporarily trapped within human flesh.

Of the 7 billion people on the planet (or is it 8 billion? we’re multiplying so fast its hard to keep track) almost all of us will be completely forgotten within 200 years. Entire ancient cultures are completely forgotten — the kings and great men of their ages now little more than dust, gobbled up like all of us, by the endless expanse of eternity.

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One more rainy night on Sproul Plaza

It’s fucking unbelievable! The weather tonight is like a middle-of-the-winter type rainstorm. On fucking April 6th. Sirens and firetrucks are blasting in my ears on the Ave. The wind actually breaks my umbrella in half. I start screaming “FUCK!! FUCK!!” at the top of my lungs as I’m walking down the street in the pouring rain. So I’m handling adversity with my usual maturity.

For a second I thought I was gonna completely crack up. But then I remembered I had cracked up a long time ago. So that was a relief.

I grab my back-up umbrella from my stash spot and head to my favorite late-night hang-out spot — this secluded awning over-looking lower Sproul Plaza.  But some other bum has already grabbed that spot. Fuck!

So I trudge in the pouring rain to my second favorite late-night hang-out spot — this little nook in the basement of Dwinelle Hall.  But wouldn’t you just know it??  There’s someone else hanging out there, too.  Fuck!

So I go to my third favorite late-night hang-out spot — the lobby of Dwinelle Hall. It’s almost 10 o’clock, but there’s still a fair amount of people hanging out.  But I find a spot in the back where I can probably get away with discreetly drinking my beer while I charge my cellphone.  So I take off all my wet jackets, plug in my cellphone, pull out my 6-pack of Racer 5, and reach into my backpack for my bottle-opener. But wouldn’t you just know it?  My bottle-opener is gone. Fuck!  I search through every pocket of my backpack.  Pull out everything in my backpack.  To no avail.  My bottle-opener is gone.  I briefly try to open the bottle of beer with a pair of scissors. But there’s too many people milling around to be able to pull it off discreetly.

So I pack up ALL my shit, put ALL my jackets back on, and trudge off in search of a bottle-opener. It’s been just an unbelievably weird sequence of events over the last half hour.  Where everything that could possibly go wrong, went wrong — one thing after another after another after another.  Like the Universe is fucking with me for sport, or something.

As I’m heading for the door I noticed a discarded umbrella lying on the floor by the trash can.  I already got an umbrella, but I figure I might as well grab a back-up in case the wind destroys this umbrella, too.  But as I’m walking out the door, this college student sidles up to me, and he’s following me step-for-step as I’m walking, and glaring at me with anger. So I stop and face him to see what his fucking problem is.

“Did you just steal my umbrella!!” he said.

“You mean this?” I said holding up the umbrella.

“Yes!  That’s my umbrella!”

“Oh man, I just thought it was discarded and was gonna get thrown out.” I hand him his umbrella.  “I apologize.”

“OK. It’s cool,” he says, still glaring at me. And storms off into the storm.

So it’s unbelievable. How everything keeps going from bad to worse. And everything I touch turns to shit.  I mean, 90% of the time that would have been a perfectly good move, grabbing that umbrella — I ground-score all sorts of great stuff lying around that’s been abandoned. But when the stars are aligned against me — like they obviously are now — it was stupid of me to make any unnecessary moves. Because whatever I do is likely to back-fire on me. So I feel like an incredible fool.

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Now some Hindus believe that when a person dies, his spirit lingers heavily in the area where he lived for several weeks. Before it finally disperses and merges back into the Cosmos.  And for those several weeks, the spirit can have all sorts of effects on the area.  In extreme cases, it can rein lightning bolts down on it’s enemies. Or it can bestow gifts to it’s friends. Or it can just send out weird little signals as a way of saying good-bye.

So, as I’m walking in the rain, it occurred to me.  The whole bizarre sequence of events that I just experienced was probably being directly by Hate Man and his recently disembodied spirit (he had just died a couple days ago). I mean, the whole thing was exactly out of Hate Man’s playbook.  Battling with a rainstorm on Sproul Plaza.  Cursing in rage.  And getting into an angry confrontation that managed to somehow resolve itself peacefully.

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So I head to my fourth favorite late-night hang-out spot. This secluded table under an awning in the back of the patio of the Golden Bear restaurant on Sproul Plaza.

And — miracle of miracles!! — the spot is deserted and I can actually hang out there.

And there’s a metal grating on the side of the wall. I put the top of my beer bottle into the grating and pull the bottle cap off with ease. The beer foams up out of the bottle, like champagne when you pop the cork in celebration.  But I manage to pour most of the beer into my cup before it all spills out.  I take a big hit off the beer.  And it tasted damn good.  Things are finally starting to go my way.

I look in my backpack. Notice I have one last cigarette in my pack of Virginia Slims 100s that I bought yesterday in honor of Hate Man. I light it up, take a big hit. At that exact moment the Campanile Tower bell starts chiming as the clock hits 10 PM.  Just as it had done on the countless nights when Hate Man had set up his Hate Camp on Sproul Plaza back in the day.  Adding an other-worldly dimension to my smoke.  And I thought back to the countless nights I had spent on Sproul Plaza with Hate Man and the crew.    Thinking of all the memories. From all the years. . .

The rain kept pouring down for hours.  Pounding down relentless on the pavement. The over-hanging tree branches nearby me kept swaying back and forth in the fierce gale winds.  It was a pretty powerful storm. So there was really nothing I could do except hole up at my table under the awning and pop open 5 more beers over the course of the evening.  Mostly thinking about nothing.

Then — it must have been after midnight but I was starting to get a little sketchy on the details at this point, if you know what I mean — after having finished off all the beer. I took out a couple of slices of leftover pizza that I had also ground-scored earlier at Dwinelle Hall (and no, I didn’t “steal” it!).  And as I’m eating the pizza, completely out of the blue.  A skunk shows up.  And starts trotting towards me. Fuck. I have no idea what the skunk was doing back there.  He was probably holed up in the far back corner of the patio, huddling under an awning, waiting out the storm. Just like me. But the smell of my pizza had probably roused him.

So I tossed the skunk one of my slices of pizza.  Which he gobbled up readily. And then trotted past me. And disappeared out onto Sproul Plaza.

And then it occurred to me.  That skunk was probably also a manifestation of Hate Man’s spirit.  I mean, the similarities were striking.  The skunk was black-and-white. Just like Hate Man’s black-and white shoes and uniforms.  The skunk was kind of an “outcast,” mostly living on the fringes of human society.  Just like Hate Man.  The skunk had been huddling under an awning on Sproul during a rainstorm. Just as Hate Man had done countless times over the years. And I had shared a slice of leftover pizza with the skunk. Just as I had shared countless slices of leftover pizza with Hate Man, night after night after picking up the leftover pizza from Greg’s Pizza every night.

Even weirder. Just as the skunk disappeared onto Sproul Plaza. The rain suddenly completely stopped.

Which made me even more convinced that that skunk had been a manifestation of Hate Man’s spirit and magic.

Or maybe it was just a fucking skunk.  Who really knows.  But one thing’s for sure. This life is a hell of lot more mysterious than some people think it is.

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Blondie the feral cat turns 50

 

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Blondie the feral cat turned 50 recently.  That’s 50 in cat years.  Which is about 10 in human years.  But it was a poignant birthday.  For Blondie disappeared 3 months ago.  And she’s almost surely dead.

Blondie was of the first litter of feral cats to show up at my campsite in the Berkeley hills when I first started camping there in 2007.  She was still a kitten, actually.  About 9 months old.  Her mother had been hit by a car (I could tell it was Blondie’s mother when I spotted it lying on the side of the road because she looked just like Blondie).  So she was faring for herself at an early age.

Incredibly wary and timid, it took Blondie years to come to trust me and be comfortable around me.  If I made the slightest movement in her direction, she’d immediately jump backwards, always keeping a certain distance from me.  And I never pet her in all those years.   It was only in the last years of her life that I could tell she had come to accept me.  Like a gear finally clicked in her cat mind:  “OK. This one is on my side.”

Blondie used to do this thing that killed me.  Every night around midnight she’d be waiting for me at the foot of the trail that led to my campsite.  As soon as she spotted me, she’d go running up the trail towards my campsite.  Leading me to the cat food dish, natch.  And it was very helpful.  Because the woods were often pitch dark at night, especially on moon-less nights.  So it was helpful to follow Blondie’s blur of white fur which really stood out in the darkness.  It helped me to stay on the trail (as opposed to bashing my head against tree branches or falling down the hill to my death).  Any cat owner will tell you that they benefit from having a cat in all sorts of unusual ways.  It’s definitely a two-way street between cats and humans.

But anyways, as Blondie was running up the trail, she’d do this odd thing. About every hundred yards or so she’d stop running and she’d roll over on her back.  And she’d rub her back on the ground back and forth like she was petting herself.  And she’d stare up at me with this incredible expression of pure joy and happiness.    All night long she’d been waiting for me to show up.  And now her cherished dream of supper-time was about to come true.  So it was like she was beside herself with happiness as she laid there on the ground, wriggling around, rubbing her back over and over in ecstasy.

Then she’d jump back on her feet and resume running up the trail.  Cats. Ha ha.

I always thought Blondie was the most physically beautiful of all the feral cats.  She had this spooky, ethereal, self-possessed quality.  Haunted almost. Like she was always thinking about something.  But I could never be sure of what. Of course I miss Blondie. But I don’t mourn for her.  She had one hell of a great life.  She had the best of both worlds. Being able to run free and wild and feral in the woods all of her life, completely indulging her natural cat instincts.  While also getting regular meals twice a day.

 

RIP Blondie.  2007-2016.

 

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