Off the Estate

I had a visit from PUDFARB ICE (People’s United Democratic Free Anarchist Republik of Berkeley Immigration and Customs Enforcement). My Dad passed so the fact that I am off the estate living in the capital of racism is a renewed outrage. If I knew what was good for me I’d sign off on my inheritance and agree to live in Amistad House.

It is likely that I’ll inherit some money. It’s fast money, though. Fast money tends to go as quickly as it came. As you hold the check in your hand the legion of ways to spend it rave in your head. As an example, all those lottery winners who are broke within a few years of cashing the check. PUDFARB ICE had an answer they thought was awesome: give it to them.

A pretty girl was running point. She had a sheaf of papers I was supposed to sign. Somehow a rumor surfaced that I would take my windfall and start a business. Incredibly, PUDFARB ICE claimed that I was not free to do as I pleased with my own money. No, I had to sign it over to them.

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The potential crime was owning a business that PUDFARB ICE could not control. It was fine as long as their union goons could dictate how it would be run. In the small print was language that said my business would be taxed at 90% of the gross revenue. But that tax would pay for a free Cadillac and a new iPhone plus art classes and getting fast-tracked for Medicaid and Section 8.

What’s wrong with socialism?” My son asked this. Many things are wrong with socialism. Signing over my inheritance to PUDFARB ICE in exchange for being fast-tracked into Amistad ought to be a reasonable choice. It isn’t. Nor is spending the imagined amount on “reasonable” purchases that leave me destitute and unable to refuse commitment to Amistad House.

Pretty girl said I was getting old and I’d need someone to help me run the business. She offered to be office manager. There was an employment offer in my name for cab driver. PUDFARB ICE would own the business and Pretty girl wanted to run it. How about . . . no.

Not Silent Now

Because, tbh, it’s not about being down for the struggle.

I don’t like answering the phone because of PUDFARB ICE. They are like a corrupt collection agency. Except that the thing in collections is me. They call, e-mail, post to my FB wall, and generally try to intrude. I left in 1992 for Cal State EBay (Hayward). 25 years ago and they persist.

After 25 years they’d gone silent. Then my Dad passes and they found a way to interrogate me while I was working in Philly. Same thing as always, I need to understand that I didn’t belong out of PUDFARB. I had to come home. The room in Amistad was nice, they said. I could devote myself to writing propaganda and be taken care of.

Taken care of” to a guy who grew up with Greek Mafia neighbors has a bad ring to it. I don’t trust it. Nor do I trust the pretty girl from PUDFARB ICE who just wants me to sign my life away. First class flight to SFO if I would just sign my name to multiple forms. I’m not signing.


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I own a house on Lost Souls Road far, far off the estate. Sometimes when I go to the curb to get my mail I find bodies in the gutter. Some of the bodies are people who got disappeared by PUDFARB ICE. Others are SJW’s who knew what we ought to be doing instead of being a hot mess and didn’t get the hint. You can live a quiet life on Lost Souls Road if you make the right friends.

I mention my address because the pretty girl from PUDFARB ICE triggers memories of those bodies I sometimes find. This pisses ICE off. If I was a good man I’d just sign and make things easy for everybody. Come home and stop posting to the blog. Stop spewing hate. Pretty tells me that they have a special meal plan I’d really enjoy. Uh Huh.

Idea #2 is that they’d take the money coming to me and buy an annuity which would fund my retirement living in Amistad. Pretty girl could be my home care aid. Good idea but not happening.

On Bottom Everything Points Up

Then the threats come. They’ll ruin me financially. I’ll be eating dog food and living on the street. My adjudicated criminal cases will be re-opened and I’ll have to serve all the time. My reputation will be destroyed.

These are threats that would intimidate someone who believes they have something to lose. PUDFARB ICE pretty girl is a fool. I am one of Billary’s deplorables. I’ve been down, been homeless, convicted of crimes, broke and lost my reputation, thrown off the estate for being a WASP. Every threat they have is something I survived. I’d rather not start from the bottom at my age. But if I must I will.

Socialism asks us to surrender everything to the government and trust that they will be less corrupt than the rest of society. I should trust the pretty girl from PUDFARB ICE with the social work degree. Everything is taken care of, she says.

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Don’t care. I decided last summer that I wasn’t going back to work as a cube rat. It was cab driving even if that job ruined me. If I’m headed to bottom I’m going down fighting, king of my own sandbox.

And with that, they showed me a video of my sister reading a prepared statement. I was a disappointment to my father. I’d failed him. And now I’d broken my trust with her. All I had to do is sign the papers and come back to PUDFARB. Everything would be fine.

I don’t know what’s coming in the next year. 2019 is only a day old as I started this post. One thing it won’t bring is a docile me who behaves as my kin wishes. My sister wants me to conform to her norms. Be a good brother and live as she believes I should. The nice people at PUDFARB ICE told her that things would be good if only I would sign the papers.

Lipstick Isn’t Enough

She signed. They gave her a house in the Berkeley hills. Her daughter is in a private school for the deaf. Her husband works at an NGO. She got a job teaching school for PUDFARB. It’s lovely. I should visit some time.

Then I noticed something. She was quietly signing just with her hands over and over. bs, bs, bs, bs. Thought so.

The problem with socialism is us. Socialism needs perfect compliance. It tends to get into a destructive spiral where control is resisted so control is increased, rinse repeat. Ergo Nazi Germany. The other destructive spiral comes from the idea that those with ability will feed those with need. Very quickly those with ability figure out that survival means becoming one with need. In short order, there are no resources nor people with ability to feed on.

Sign the Contract

The pretty girl put the package of papers in front of me. I looked them over. and told her I could do better with the principle if I invested it and lived off the capital gains. I think it was the word capital. Anyhoo, she lost her shit. A stream of cuss words and crimes of old, fat WASP men spewed out of her mouth. I was every sin ever committed by ever man throughout time. It was an impressive tantrum. Capital is an evil word, it seems.

My Dad was given an offer he couldn’t refused. Take a pension buyout or get fired. He took the buyout. It was about two years worth of salary. He was a little younger than I am now. His two years of salary had to take care of him and my Mom until they died. It wasn’t enough.

It could be enough if he did what my family has done since we were landed gentry in England–invest and live off the profits of said investments. Pretty girl slapped me for saying that. Fuck her . . . no, asshole, not sex, shit. Right, so my Dad used his initial amount in the buyout to grow it into income that supported him for nearly thirty years and paid for my Mom’s care as she declined from dementia.

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Capital gains or passive income is the answer to the wish to drink Mai Tai’s under an umbrella on a tropical island beach. Somehow, “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” is racist. Whatever. Read it if you want to escape a cube rat life.

His hard work and wise investments mean we are left with an inheritance that PUDFARB ICE wants. Sucks to be them. Free will is a problem for socialists. People might not fully comply. They might take a small pension buyout and get rich with it. I might do that.

So, PUDFARB ICE, do your worst. I’m not signing. I’m not agreeing to give you my inheritance for an annuity that you say will take care of me for the next forty years. Our family has survived retirement by remaining king of our own investment sandbox. Thanks for the offer but I’ll keep my faith in an absurd martyr from Nazareth who was crucified at the request of his church elders and the power of compound interest.

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The Last Hippie

Berkeley thinks too much of itself. Within the small world of the Bay Area the recent riots on Telegraph Avenue are still news. 3,000 miles away in the Capital of the South we are worried about whether it will snow next week. Inger had a room at the Hotel Carlton that weekend. She had one of the better rooms with its own bathroom. It didn’t prevent her from finding a nigh comatose heroin addict collapsed just at the top of the stairs as she headed to her room from Blondie’s Pizza.

Last Hippie, Berkeley 2017 RiotsLong before the protest made the news, Inger was hitching her way to Berkeley because she’d gotten out of rehab, hadn’t really found a place to live or a job, and heard that there was going to be a protest in the Bay Area. When she shipped her purse home with her clothes she kept her id and one of her high limit credit cards. She wanted to be disconnected from her parents and the life set before her. Roughing it is fun for a few days but it doesn’t take Inger long to be a little homesick and wish for hotel towels and a hot shower.

Inger is all about social justice. She very much wants world peas and an end to all the miseries white wealthy are accused of fomenting. All that helicopter parenting did not instill in her a desire for a quiet, Stepford Wife ride to the shores of the Styx. It left her with an appetite for Lucifer’s buffet. She was at core, an obedient daughter. The heat of living on the uglier side of the railroad tracks has been a siren call since middle school. It has felt more authentic to her than the sterile world of Staten Island. Berkeley was her Mecca, her place to pilgrimage where she could find sage hippies and a thrill that ran down her leg.

Eugene Lefkowitz is a fictional Berkeley eccentric often found in People’s Park. He is variously deluded and believes he is the Emperor of the People’s United Democratic Free Republic of Berkeley or in more centered moods, an acolyte of Gurumayi. Gene was off his meds, had left the ashram to find some of his old friends from his Taxi Unlimited days, hoping to quiet some of the voices in his head and find the camaraderie he remembered from the 1980’s squatting under the house behind the cab office. Gene had some money, always did, and was driving an old Dodge Dart still painted with scenes from the Sistine Chapel by another of the Taxi Unlimited collective members. Gene was headed back to Berkeley, stopped at Einstein Brother’s for breakfast in Farmville, VA where Inger had parked herself outside with a sign and a cup.

Rehab didn’t take for Inger. She was supposed to do six months, did three weeks and signed herself out. She had her ID and one of her credit cards so she could have run a tab and gone full first world. First world is what set all this off so like, no fucking way, seriously. No, she was miserable on the sidewalk in front of an Einstein’s Bagels in Farmville, VA determined to beg and hitch her way as far from the old life as she could.

Not everyone comes out of Bishop Eustace ready to major in MRS and settle in to kids and an expensive divorce by age 29. Some, like Inger, just can’t get rid of the feeling that all this privilege and setting up for success is bullshit. There has to be more and it isn’t catechism, Women’s League and all the rest. The Baptists just seemed to want to do friends with benefits with the preacher. She’d seen enough of the Reformed tradition that she thought they were pussies for hiding in the Bible and not taking on all of what it meant to be Catholic.

Inger was on pace until that coworker smiled at her. In the short span of time it took to reach the guard desk she’d decided to opt out. Gene knew none of this. He just wanted a Lox bagel and cream cheese as he stepped past her into the chain store version of Noah’s Bagels.

Most of us see people like Inger with their sign and cup as a sad part of our landscape. We want there to be an answer to this public challenge to our well-intended practice of checkbook missions. There doesn’t seem to be so we walk by and have a quick, conflicted conversation with God about whether to give a quarter or not. Mostly, we don’t.

Gene stopped, “Hi. Are you hungry?” The implicit social contract in this is that beggar gets money from beggee. It’s way off script to greet the beggar and offer a meal. Gene does very little on script.

What Inger should do is refuse and counter with an ask for money, reinforcing the implied social contract, “yeah, kind of.”

“Come on inside. Order what you want. I got you.”

Inger looked him over. He was a big dude, kind of hill billy looking, with a chrome dome then a salt & pepper ponytail half down his back and an unkempt beard. But his boots were not cheap and his leather jacket was at least designer if not tailored, “why should I trust you?”

“Because you are way out of your comfort zone in a place that arrests people like you just because you look like you do. I give you an hour before the cops show up and encourage you to leave.”

Inger had picked out her idea of grunge fashion while shopping in Richmond’s Fan district. Hello Kitty t-shirt, jeans, Doc Martin’s, Real Tree camo jacket, “Like I care. I been to jail. I just got out of rehab. Whatever. You got a dollar?”

“Come on. Eat. After that? Up to you.”

“Where are you from?” She thought upstate New York, maybe Finger Lakes. There was a bit of biker to him.

“Born in Syracuse. But I travel a fair bit.”

Inger stood up, gathered her things, dumped the cardboard sign and empty plastic cup in the trash, and walked inside Einstein’s. Gene followed.

She ordered an Americano with soy and a chicken cuban. It’d been a couple days since she’d been able to order anything not on the dollar menu. Gene added a Chipotle Turkey wrap to his bagel order so she would have a late lunch, “why are you doing that?”

“Doing what”

“Being generous. Old guy dropping cash on young girl. Makes a girl wonder.”

“First, I am gender fluid. Lately I’ve been celibate. You are attractive but I’m not into sex these days.”

“Weirdo.”

“Yep. Still want the turkey wrap?”

Inger just stared back, “Wait, what? You in a dress?”

They went through the line after placing their orders. Gene paid cash, “Sometimes.”

“Eew. Don’t.” Inger picked up her Chicken Cuban and soy Americano, “so, are you like, a biker?”

“No. Never really kept a job. Didn’t want one. The universe provides for me.”

“So, are you rich?”

“I have enough.”

“What are you?”

” A citizen of the universe and Emperor of the People’s Free Democratic Republic of Berkeley.”

“You are scary.”

“I’m safe, you needn’t fear me.”

“I don’t know. Wears a dress, thinks he’s an emperor of some Berkeley thing, sounds sort of scary. You are a scary hippy?”

“Was a hippie. Not scary. All the real hippies either died or got married, had kids and settled down.”

“What about you?”

“I travel. I never liked being in one place long enough to keep a woman or a job. Both are needed to have kids.”

I interrupt the start of this narrative, sorry, right about when these two are going to talk about something other than trifles and food. As I write I realize this is probably 13,000 words rather than 1300. It’ll have to be serialized, sorry. I never got to the reason I started talking about Gene and Inger. You’ll have to follow the blog to find out.

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Getting My Entitlement On

First Posted 08-Sep-2018

Promises were made. Offers proffered. If I’d sign papers saying I was mentally ill to the point of being disabled, I could get Uncle Sam to pay me a stipend, make groceries for me, pay my rent, and cover all my medical bills. A quick signature and I could have my pot of government issued gold.

hippy-chickThe agents of the Peepluz Free Democratic Republic of Bezerkeley had me alone in a room in a mansion on Berkeley’s Northside, up there at the top of Hearst Street with other student housing and frat houses. I had been offered weed, cocaine, heroin, beer, whatever I wanted. There was a petite girl, of indeterminate age, appearing to be legal, but barely so, braless, in a wife-beater that rebelled against keeping her covered, and a tie-dyed peasant skirt. She was very attentive and said she’d be even more attentive if I did as I was told. All I had to do was sign the papers.

I didn’t sign the papers. I told the caseworker I’d rather work a job than be stuck on welfare in public housing having to prove, twice a year, that I was crazy enough to be disabled. Faster than I could process it, I’d been slapped by the girl, accused of hitting her first, then bum rushed on to the street by faux Hell’s Angels in Castro Street Sadomasochism drag. I knew the psuedo-bikers were fake because they spoke in a countertenor with a distinctly Sunset Blvd. pidgin. Their chaps had designer labels from couture houses in Paris. So, there I was, in a ‘tween fog & rain, at the top of Hearst Street, with a walk to my room at the YMCA.

A University cop stopped me about when I started to cross Euclid against the light. The usual blah, blah, blah, with a warning not to jaywalk and he let me go. It occurred to me that I felt safer with the cop than I did with the doe-eyed, doting hippie chick and her friends. I’d grown up in a family that was agin everything, starting with the government. I was an outlier in my family because I never really believed that God could make a world which was such a vicious playground for minions who took pleasure in torturing humans. I liked saying the world wasn’t black & white, nor iterations of gray, but technicolor, more interesting. I continued down Hearst Street toward Shattuck Ave., talking to myself outloud in the best tradition of Berkeley eccentrics. Nobody cared.

I got back to the Berkeley YMCA, where I was renting a room, and ended the night. Maybe some would be down with the program—with living on disability, in the comfortable, confining arms of Uncle Sam. I chose the less traveled road and that has made all the difference.

A few days later story came out in the Grassroots election rag about a Merritt College student found wandering around Northside muttering something about being gang raped by pledges to Sigma Nu. There were a couple guys with Sigma Nu logo sweatshirts at the same house I was at that night. They were  passed out on a tree-swing in the front yard. The story gave a description of the alleged rapist that almost matched my description. Police were quoted as saying that no charges would be filed because there was not enough evidence. This was before rape kits had become S.O.P. in cases like this.

 I saw the girl a week or so later outside Au Coquelet with a donation box for the Berkeley Free Clinic. She looked awful. Behind the big sunglasses was a black eye. Her upper lip was cut and swollen. There were handprint bruises on her neck. It was like People’s Park had seduced her in and then shoved her out a shunned, shameless hussy. The subtle fashion cues identifying her as a Moonie were gone. She looked like she hadn’t had any sleep.

Life inside pudfarb is ugly. The numerous laws make it hard to follow all of it. Something as small as a paste earing worn on the left side is an infraction worth severe penance. The girl had scabs on her right earlobe where someone had yanked out the earing. I felt sorry for her. I put a dollar in her box. She mumbled, “Thanks,” as I started walking down Milvia towards Allston Street.

I saw her again a couple months later as UC Berkeley students were moving back into housing. I was waiting for the 43 at Telegraph and Dwight. She walked past my as she went into Buffalo Exchange. We exchanged glances. She was dressed in a Sorority t-shirt and designer jeans. She cleaned up nicely. The northbound 43 bus came and I got on my way.

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