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I miss the "Pathetic Life"
By Gloria Diaz
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Fort Wayne Reader
When I was first asked to write a blog, I didn’t leap into it. I thought about it for a while. It’s flattering when someone asks you to write something in addition to the writing you already do, but the concept of a blog would be somewhat new territory for me. I’ve ranted online before, but I wasn’t sure as a blogger that I would be contributing anything new to the blogosphere. It seemed like most bloggers didn’t have anything more to say than, “the line at Starbuck’s was way long today. It was sunny. I came home, and my cat threw up.” Other people’s lives can be really interesting, if they say stuff the right way.
Blogs to me are the electronic versions of personal ‘zines, also known in ‘zine lingo, as “perzines.” The most compelling, hilarious and well-written perzine I ever read was “Pathetic Life: Diary of a Fat Slob.” It chronicled the life of Doug Holland, an incredibly poor guy who rented a room in a crowded, cluttered house in the San Francisco bay area. During the time I read his ‘zine, he was evicted from the house because the landlord found out more people than just the couple he was renting to lived there. So Doug had to move out, and found a roach-infested pay-by-the-week hotel in San Francisco. He made his living by working at Black Sheets, a sex ‘zine, selling magnets and stickers from a pushcart, publishing his ‘zine, and odd jobs he got by distributing flyers that read, “I’ll do anything legal for $5 an hour.” The tasks were usually mundane, such as dishwashing, housework and babysitting, but one day, Doug got a call from someone needing a lot of help. The man, whom Doug referred to as “Hairy,” had a rather furry rear end. Doug’s job? To shave the man’s ass. Which he did.
It was the strangest thing Doug had done for money, but it WAS legal and as Doug observed, “he really needed my services.” “Hairy” said it was hard keeping himself clean, so having his area shaved would be a big help in keeping his level of personal hygiene where it belonged. Doug, who explained he had a four-hour minimum, also told the guy he was charging him an extra $4 for rubber gloves. Doug knew he could milk an extra $4 profit for the gloves, which he could get for free from the sex ‘zine where he worked. The job, which took 15 minutes, went down without any weird stuff going on, and Doug, who made $24 in less than a half hour, was more than happy to tell the man he was “happy to help.” Doug left, asking the man to call him if “the stubble starts to itch.”
‘Zines like that give me hope that there are blogs out there that are just as entertaining to read. “Pathetic Life” was a glimpse at a lifestyle that I wouldn’t enjoy living, but for all his poverty and problems, Doug seemed a lot happier than people with more than he had in terms of money and consumer goods. Doug’s way of phrasing things and his sense of humor combined for some of the best writing I’ve ever read. In fact, a lot of ‘zines I came across were more fascinating than anything I’ve seen in so-called ”legitimate” publications. Sadly, I think all the ‘zines I enjoyed in the “golden age of ‘zines” (the mid 90s) are now defunct. Doug met someone, started a new ‘zine (“’Zine World”), and I’m not even sure he’s in California anymore.
I recently found some old issues of “Pathetic Life.” I try to save every piece of good literature I come across, and it took me back to a better, happier time. For me, that is, not for Doug. At the time, he was so poor, he bought cat food as a tuna substitute. He drenched it in mustard, and said the taste actually wasn’t too bad. And at one-third the price of tuna, he gave it a review of “two paws up.” Word.
Understated table lamps, La-Z-Boy recliners and hot chocolate to: