March 11, 2008
The streets are a stage. A circus. A freak show. Or a clown show.
The other day it rained. So Food Not Bombs set up under the awning of Amoeba Records on Telegraph Ave. This local wing-nut — I call him Crash Helmet Dude because he always wears a shiney, silver crash-helmet on his head — got into a weird scene. He’s an ass and I got into a low-level violent confrontation with him once at Hate Camp on the campus a couple years ago. I forget what started it, probably him grabbing too many slices of pizza from our table. Hes a classic grub and mooch. I remember tossing his bicycle at him, and him circling around me making crazy, threatening sounds.
I don’t know what his ethnicity is. He looks like a bad cross between White, Puerta Rican, and Mongolian. He’s got thick, coke-bootle lens glasses that accent his crazed bug-eyes. He’s a bum with attitude. A weasel, okay? He made his presence felt immediately on this day, by bumping into me as I waited on line, as he reached for the box of day-old bananas. Grabbed as many as he could carry. Flits around you like a ball of nervous energy.
Anyways, he set his lunch on top of this portable plastic garbage can in front of the tattoo shop. One of those things with a lid, like the blue recycling bins. And, of course, he’s got 5 times as much food as he can eat laid out on top of the lid. Day-old sandwiches and fruit and bread and a heaping plate of Food Not Bombs food. And he’s standing there stuffing it into his face, in between his manic, nervous, high-pitched patter (which you can never quite understand, and don’t wanna’ take the trouble to find out).
But then — as usual with this wing-nut — a complication develops. A worker from the tattoo shop comes out and wants to put a bag of their garbage into their garabage can.
Crash Helmet Dude is righteously indignant, as always. He’s just standing ther minding his own business trying to enjoy his lunch. And this asshole wants to put garbage into their own garbage can. It is The Clunky Street Person scenerio yet again. Some bum, who shouldn’t be living there in public in the first place, who is always in the wrong place at the wrong time, doing the wrong thing. But it is always the other party who is the offensive one. Who is the offending party. The classic bum-with-attitude scenerio.
Crash Helmet Dude stands there in outraged disbelief. Then he starts pacing around the garbage can like a headless chicken. He can’t believe this oaf is actually asking him to move all the food he has carefully arranged on top of their can.
Wise-guy Fernando is standing nearby. And he starts braying at Crash Helmet Dude in a mocking tone.
“Clown show! HA-HA-ha-HAH!!”
“Clown show! HA-HA-ha-HAH!”
He repeats this about 5 or 6 times right in Crash Helmet Dude’s face, accenting the mockery with a leering grin and a machine-gun blast of HA-HAs, Elmer Fudd-style.
“Hey, fuck you, man!” squawks Crash Helmet Dude. So now the two of them are jawing back and forth.
Meanwhile, the tattoo worker is still standing there with his bag of garbage.
“C’mon, man, you gotta’ move your food.”
I forget what happened next. I think Fernado flipped the lid up and splattered the food all over the sidewalk.
Now, Crash Helmet Dude is really mad. He’s buzzing around like a hornet and moving towards Fernando in a threatening manner like he’s going to start throwing punches.
“Go ahead and swing on me,” says Fernando with his leering smile. “So I have an excuse to beat your bitch ass. C’mon. Do it! You’re nothing but a clown show. HA-HA-ha-HAH!!!!” They start dancing around , feinting punches at eachother.
Then the tattoo guy gets into it. Tells Crash Helmet Dude he’s got to clean up the mess. So it keeps escalating. Crash Helmet Dude is righteously indignant, so he takes the garbage can and knocks it into the middle of the street. Cars are veering to avoid hitting it. Then he knocks another garbage can into the street. A woman from the tattoo shop comes out and starts yelling at Crash Helmet Dude.
“I guess you can see why he always wears that crash helmet,” I said to Fernando. “People are always trying to bean him over the head.”
Then, one of the Berkeley activists (a tree-sitter) gets into the middle of it, and I don’t know if he’s trying to play at being the big Hippie Peace Maker or if he’s giving Crash Helmet Dude a stern lecture about his civic duty. But it just keeps going from bad to worse for Crash Helmet Dude. Its like a Curious George misadventure. An endless regression. Now, somebody else is yelling at him, threatening to call the police.
“Go ahead and call the police, you fucking assholes!” yells Crash Helmet Dude in a manic squawk. Now he’s flitting all over the place like he’s defending himself from attacks from every direction and trying to rouse an offense. He jumps out into the middle of the street, right in front of a big, on-coming street bus. Which slams on the brakes just in time and comes to a screeching halt inches away from Crash Helmet Dude, who looks momentarily stunned, and then resumes his headless chicken routine.
I look up and notice Fernando is sitting inside the Caffe Med at the window seat, like he’s got front-row seats at a play, with a big smile on his face, enjoying the street theatre that he helped instigate.
Now, Crash Helmet Dude is across the street with all his food set up on the sidewalk But somebody is hassling him over there. Then two cops start walking towards him real slow. Crash Helmet Dude starts backing away slowly, waving his umbrella in front of himself like a sword. Then, he starts back-pedalling faster, until he’s running around the corner. With the cops in hot pursuit. So now we’ve got a Keystone Kops routine. Soon, there are cop cars fanning out in every direction, circling around the block in pursuit of Crash Helmet Dude, public enemy number one.
Meanwhile, Fernando comes out of the Caffe Med and says to me with a smile. “Hey, isn’t that Crash Helmet Dude’s bicycle that he left there by the pole. Thats a pretty nice bike. I know somebody that could really use a bike like that. HA-HA-HA-HAH!!”
Its so weird, some of these wing-nut street people. They come to these free meals like Food Not Bombs, and all they have to do is shovel the food into their faces. They don’t have to buy it. They don’t have to cook it. They don’t have to clean up afterwards. All they have to do is sit there and eat it.
And some of them can’t even do that right.