I always liked the song “Cinnamon Girl” by Neil Young.
I remember this one night. I was working at my vending table at the corner of Haste and Telegraph. And it was around midnight (I was working late that night). And I was drunk and stoned out of my mind (I used to smoke a lot of goddamn pot back then).
And I had this big ghetto blaster on my vending table. And I played that goddamn song “Cinnamon Girl” 20 times in a row. And LOUD.
What can I say? I was stoned as fuck. And every time I played “Cinnamon Girl” it sounded better than the previous time. So I kept playing it. And playing it.
So I was just about to spin “Cinnamon Girl” for the 21rst time — in a state of mindless stoned-out ecstasy.
When this guy came up to me and said:
“FOR GOD SAKE MAN WOULD YOU PLAY ANOTHER SONG?? YOU’RE DRIVING US ALL NUTS PLAYING THAT SAME SONG OVER AND OVER AND OVER!!”
And I suddenly realized at that moment that I was drunk and stoned and acting like an ass in public (eventually I do come to that realization)..
So I played “Cinnamon Girl” for the 21rst time. And then I switched over and played some Rolling Stones songs. And everything was cool after that.
For 19 years I considered the corner of Telegraph and Haste in front of the Cody’s Books building as “my corner.” I basically claimed that space for myself and used it for 19 years. I set up various vending tables over the years. So it was my place of business. But it also served as my livingroom. And my clubhouse where me and my friends could hang out.
I was able to claim that space because, when Fred Cody — the original owner of Cody’s Books — first built the Cody’s Building (I think it was a gas station before that) he wrote into the lease that the space in front of his building should be reserved for “noncommercial vendors” for “political” and “community service” and “free speech” purposes (Fred was a cool liberal). And I felt my various vending tables fit into those parameters. So there I was.
Over the years various people would dispute my legal interpretation of Fred’s lease. And try to run me off of that corner. Cops, business owners, City vending license officials and even a couple of my fellow street bro’s. Because it was a very valuable piece of real estate and a lot of other people wanted to use the space. But I was slippery enough to hold onto that corner for 19 years.
* * * *
Running a vending table on a street corner can get pretty wild. Its kind of like running a bar. The clientele can get a little sketchy. Because you’re on a street corner and you’re open to anybody. So sometimes you had to act as bouncer and run off unruly customers (plenty of the Telegraph street vendors keep a baseball bat discreetly placed under their vending table for that purpose). Anyone who has had a “service job” where they have to deal with the general public will attest to this fact: A certain percentage of the general public are flaming assholes. So, just by the laws of averages, you have to deal with them.
So, in the course of my street vending career, I’ve had to explain to certain individuals:
“I have the right to refuse service to anyone.”
They would invariably counter with: “I can hang out here if I want.”
And I would counter with: “No you can’t.”
And then I would prove it. Ha ha.
Several times I had to pick up my folding chair and chase some asshole down the street, waving my chair over my head like a tomahawk.
And I knocked some people on their asses. And some people knocked me on my ass.
* * * *
On top of that, I hung with a fairly wild crowd back then. I knew most of the street people on the scene. And plenty of the drinkers and druggers. So things could get a bit raucous at times. I, myself, liked to drink a beer or ten while I was tending to my vending duties. Interspersed with some good strong pot to add a surrealistic touch to the proceedings. So I’d generally get a good buzz going.
And I had a big ghetto blaster on my table which I used to blast out loud rock’n’roll. And that usually drew a crowd. Sometimes I’d be having so much fun, I’d still be sitting there on that goddamn corner well after midnight. It’s a miracle I was able to pack up all my vending stuff and get out of there with my life intact some nights. Ha ha.
I know I’m nuts. But part of me wishes I could go back in time and do the whole thing all over again. *sigh*