Have a very hateful Thanksgiving

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“IN-COMING!!”

One thing I remember about last Thanksgiving 2016. It was the beginning of the rainy season. And we had already gotten 5 inches of rain (we would go on to get 37 inches). Hate Man had recently turned 80. But he still seemed strong and vigorous. And we all just assumed he would live forever, and the pushing and slapping and making demands would never end. Of course it turned out to be his last Thanksgiving. And it turned out to be a brutal winter. Hate made it all the way through the rainy season. But by the time April 1rst finally rolled by he was pretty much shot. And he died the next day.

The thing I remember about last Thanksgiving was hanging out at Hate Camp all afternoon. And group after group kept converging on People’s Park offering free turkey dinners. There must have been at least 10 different groups bringing complete Thanksgiving dinners for the homeless. And they kept coming at us from every direction. And each time Hate would shout out “IN-COMING!” as we were bombarded with more food. Ha ha.

And then, late in the afternoon, this guy pulls up to People’s Park in his van and announces: “I HAVE FREE TURKEY DINNERS FOR ANYBODY WHO WANTS ONE!!” He has big trays full of turkey and mashed potatoes with gravy and cranberry sauce and pumpkin pies and etc. The works. But all the street people are laying on their sides in the grass groaning. I mean, at this point we can’t even LOOK at any more turkey. But the poor guy is going up to person after person announcing “HEY I GOT FREE FOOD IN MY VAN IF YOU’RE HUNGRY!” But we’re all like. “Yeah yeah. Great. You got any Alka-Seltzer.”

I finally felt a little sorry for the guy. Standing there all alone by his van with all that food and nobody to eat it. “All revved up and nowhere to go.” So I went over and got a plate. Thanked him profusely. Happy Thanksgiving.

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The day after Hate Man died

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The day after Hate Man died, I was waiting on the line at the Dollar Store buying some crap. The guy on line in front of me was talking to this other guy:

“Hey, did you hear? The Hate Man died on Sunday. Yeah. The famous person from Berkeley. The Hate Man. I just heard about it 5 minutes ago on CBS News. Hate Man lived in People’s Park for years and years. He used to be a reporter for the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post. . . ”

I thought I was gonna start crying right there in the fucking store.

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A very hateful Fourth of July

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I don’t spend too much time at Hate Man’s old spot in the Park anymore. I prefer to drink alone these days. And too many people know me at that spot. But yesterday was the Fourth of July
So I figured why the hell not.

Of course before I even finish pouring my beer, some homeless guy pulling a luggage-on-wheels is making a direct bee-line towards me like a guided missile.

Turns out it’s this guy Mumbles, so named because — you guessed it — he mumbles every word he says. On top of that Mumbles rarely speaks in complete sentences (he’s a little “out there”), making it even more difficult to follow what he’s saying. Mumbles is a bit on the coarse side (for some reason he always reminds me of sand paper). But he’s a good guy with some real heart. And he was always very protective of Hate Man. Mumbles has done his fair share of time in prison. But it’s mostly for being a fuck-up. As opposed to a fucker. If you know what I mean. He’s 44 but he reminds me more of a high school kid than an adult. One of those. And what with the mumbling and his shaved head he reminds me of a character in Dick Tracy.

I poured Mumbles a cup of beer and we lit up some smokes (I had quit smoking after Hate Man had died, but I had found an American Spirit cigarette pack that was full of snipes — they hadn’t been previously smoked, but they had been neatly cut in half for some unknown reason, but were otherwise perfectly smokeable, and what the hell it was a holiday).

So me and Mumbles sat there on the bench, drinking and smoking and reminiscing about our last interactions with Hate Man.
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Hate Man had rushed off to the hospital for what would be the last time. And I got a frantic message from Hate that he had left all of his camping stuff on the sidewalk, and he needed it packed up and hauled off to the shed before the cops threw it all out.

Now anybody who knows Hate Man knows he has a LOT of stuff. So I knew it would be a major chore. But as luck would have it — I consider it a matter of divine intervention — there just happened to be a big, empty Berkeley Bowl shopping cart just sitting there on the sidewalk right near Hate’s stuff. The perfect tool for the job!

So I somehow managed to cram all of Hate’s stuff into the cart. And only just barely. His mounds of bedding was precariously hanging out of both sides of the shopping cart. And I had to keep one hand on top of his stuff, and the other hand steering the cart, as I winded my way down the narrow and pock-marked sidewalks of Dwight Way (one wrong move and the whole cart topples over).

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On top of that, it starts raining. I don’t have a jacket on, let alone a rain jacket. So I get completely soaked. My shirt is clinging to my body. And it’s more than a little ironic. Having survived one of the wettest winters on record, mostly staying completely dry, I finally end up getting completely soaked by this piddly-ass little March shower at the very end of the season.

But I manage to get all of Hate’s stuff safely packed away in the shed before it gets wet. Victory!

But then as I’m heading back to the Park, Mumbles calls out (or I should say mumbles out) to me: “Hey, d-d-id you happen to notice m-m-my white sleeping b-b-ag? I had it stashed w-w-with Hate Man’s stuff.” (street people often stashed their stuff with Hate because it was a relatively safe spot). So now I had to go all the way back to the shed and dig that thing out.

Hate Man ended up dying shortly after. So it turned out Hate wouldn’t be needing his stuff after all. But I at least felt good that my final transaction with Hate Man had ended on a successful and completed note. As opposed to when somebody dies and there’s this loose end or unfinished business that you can never complete. I hate when that happens.
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“And then after Hate Man d-d-died you g-g-gave me a bunch of V-V-Virginia Slims to smoke in his honor,” mumbled Mumbles.

“That’s right,” I said.

So me and Mumbles sat there on the bench, drinking and smoking and talking and mumbling and thinking of many things, as the sky went dark and the Fourth of July fireworks started going off in the distance. And it occurred to me that Hate Man had been dead for 3 months now. As Hate Man recedes farther and farther into the ancient past.

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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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