I remember my last day at my vending table on the Cody’s Books corner. It was right before Thanksgiving, 2009. …
My friend Duncan had died 5 months earlier. And it just wasn’t the same without my old vending partner. Plus, the ruthless Telegraph mogul Ken Sarachan had recently bought the Cody’s building. So all the signs said that the party was over. And it was time to pack up my pop stand.
A big rainstorm was forecast to come in that afternoon. And you could feel it coming in the air. So I quickly packed up all my vending stuff before I got soaked. As I went to grab my cardboard “25 Cent Books” sign a huge gust of wind suddenly hit and sent the sign flying in the air down Haste Street. I considered running after it and trying to save it as a memento. But it seemed symbolic. Let it go. Cast your fate to the wind. One part of my life was ending. And a new part of my life would soon be beginning. Whatever that would be.
I managed to get all my vending stuff packed into my shopping cart just as the rains hit. This sudden outburst of pouring rain. I forget if there really were explosions of thunder and lightening. Probably not. But that’s how it seems in my memory. This sudden explosion of rain pounding down on the pavement.
I put a plastic tarp over my shopping cart, and stashed it in the corner under an awning, then ran to this doorway on Telegraph to get out of the rain. The doorway of the Kingpin Donuts shop, boarded up and vacant at the time. And I stood there by myself as the rain came crashing down. People were running up and down Telegraph frantically trying to get out of the rain.
And I suddenly started laughing. This loon laughter. Not quite hysterical, but almost. That kind of laughter where you’re so overwhelmed by emotion it just bursts out of you. And it’s not much different than crying. Laughing and crying are the same thing at that point.
And I thought back to all the memories of all the years at that vending table. 19 years ago when we had first started. With such great hopes. And now 19 years later it had come to an end. And I was overwhelmed by this flood of memories. It was like the tape of my life was on fast speed. And all the scenes rushed by me. One after another. All the dramas at that corner over all those years. The triumphs and the tragedies. The lives and the deaths. And it was almost too much for my brain to take it. Just overwhelmed by all the things I had experienced, it was mind-boggling.
And I stood there in that doorway. As the rain came crashing down. Laughing and crying and blubbering to myself.
And that’s how that ended.
It really does feel like the end of an era. Hate Man occupied this shed for nearly 40 years. And today we moved the last box of Hate Man’ stuff out of it. So his last physical presence on the scene is gone, gone, gone.
I spent a few moments lingering in the empty shed this afternoon. The only thing left were a few pictures and nick-knacks that Hate had tacked to the walls. I shut the door and locked the lock for the last time. And that was that.
I had had a key to the shed, off and on, for the last 6 years. It started when I was working the recycling gig with Hate. I would regularly ferry his big garbage bags of recycling from his campsite in the Park to the shed. And Hate let me store some of my stuff in the shed. Which is a great luxury when you live on the streets — to have some of your valuables behind lock-and-key.
And it felt good that Hate Man trusted me with the key. Because, with the incredibly public life Hate led, the shed was his one private space. Hate Man was a man who literally welcomed the entire world to be part of his life. But the shed was the one place where he tried to keep the world at bay.
I remember the first time I heard of Hate Man — God, it must have been around 1980. And when they told me he lived in a garage, that seemed like one of the craziest things I had ever heard. “How does a grown man live in a garage? Where does he go to the bathroom? How does he cook his food??” Ha ha.
I remember a favorite period where me and Duncan and our friends would go down to the shed every evening to hang with Hate Man after we packed up our vending tables at the end of the day. And we’d pound a couple cans of Olde English as we quietly unwinded from the day. And the conversation around Hate Man was usually pretty lively and entertaining and often very funny. And those were some golden moments.
My last interaction with Hate Man involved the shed. He had suddenly rushed off to the hospital with a medical emergency. And he’d left all of his camping stuff on the sidewalk. I got an urgent message to pack up all of Hate Man’s stuff (and anybody who knows Hate Man knows that Hate Man had a LOT of stuff, ha ha) and haul it all to the shed before it got soaked by the rain or thrown out by the groundskeepers. And I managed to get it all stored safely in the shed just before the rain started to come down.
Unfortunately Hate Man died shortly after that. But at least all of his crap lived on. Ha ha.
But it was a weird feeling. After all the years of experiencing Hate Camp — the decades of this wild, crazy, free-form, street circus — which was dutifully packed up every night at the end of the day. I had packed up Hate Camp for the last time.