h. brown's columns for September 3,
September 3, 2002
by h. brown
[He] had no money, no staff, no allies, no
power base and he also appeared to be crazy.
- Hunter Thompson on Al Haig
The good doctor could have been talking about not only
myself but any number of people seeking public office in San Francisco
this year. Or for that matter, any other year. What a town.
Status report on h. brown campaign
There are 64 days remaining until Gavin Newsom & I sit
down separately with our friends and family and find out just what the
voters of San Francisco's District 2 think about us. I did it before but
this time is different.
Two years ago I ran in District 6 and spent $20 to pull
in all of 186 votes. That was a nifty 1% of the vote in that race. To
this day, I still haven't figured out how I managed to fool that many
people. True, it WAS the 6th District and most of the town's loonies
live there, but the competition for the crucial "lunatic fringe" vote
was intense. The polling places in 6 are like clips from movies like "Oh
Brother, Where Art Thou" and "Ironweed" and "The Grapes of Wrath" and
yes, "Ferris Buehler's Day Off." An iconoclastic place to stand around
drinking fortified beer out of a brown paper bag. Still, I truly, like,
"related" to those people.
I'm just not sure the people of District 2 will "get" my
message. Oh, I can dream. Of course, my goal is to drag Gavin into a
runoff. If I don't catch fire, then maybe with Segal or Roosevelt or one
of the other folks running in the Marina or from atop the hill will do
the job. A runoff should kill his chances of being mayor next year and
that's all I really care about. We're trying to save San Francisco here.
Before it becomes like one of those contrived scenes inside a snowball
pape weight. Pretty but not real.
But, seriously folks
I do have a staff this time. Take a second. Catch your
breath. Uh huh, I do. And here's the big Kuh Ching! It is better than
I kid you not. I'm doing much better than Al Haig ever
did. And while it is true that two of the three members of my "dream
team" staff refuse to be photographed or filmed with me (a big thanks to
Marc Salomon - whose name I intend to learn to spell - for having the
balls to get out there in front of God and everyone), while it is true
that my staff fears being linked to me for a variety of excellent
reasons, they are nevertheless diamonds. Were I to actually take their
advice and act upon it, I could end up being Supervisor from District 2
and I hate that thought even worse than you do.
Last night one of them sent me a list of some 2,000
voters in 2 with Chinese surnames. That's lots of bashing and
cross-bashing of voter demographics to define a single target for a
single operation within the campaign. It impresses the hell out of me.
All I, as the candidate, have to do is to somehow get the message to
these people that Gavin cares more about money than religious freedom.
That is, the Falun Gong. Hell, maybe I'm wrong. Maybe those 2,000 people
all have dollars signs in their eyes too. But, that ain't the point. The
point is to check out the present supervisor's strength with Chinese
voters across San Francisco. You get the idea.
Setting up a home base
Fleas, nests of spiders, sewage back-ups, cats in heat,
and a total lack of nookie. These are the problems I face as we enter
the post-Labor Day stretch. Let me take them in order of import.
I had to move my computer yet again over the holiday
weekend and this time I wanted it in a place where I could flail away 24
hours a day with no interruptions. Now, that's a tall order for a guy
one step from living out of a shopping cart. Fortunately, there was such
a place. It did, however, have all of the above problems. I spent the
entire weekend cleaning and clearing a path for a couple of hundred feet
of phone line through the dusty, infested bowels of an old building to
reach my potential Eden. All along, I bathed & treated the four feral
cats I'm trying to save (they pay you back by either purring and loving
or else by biting and clawing the crap out of you). I kept doing my
laundry over & over and throwing away more and more of my wardrobe (down
to 5 shirts and 2 pairs of pants - you'd be surprised at how little
clothing you REALLY need) and bedding (who needs more than 2 pillows? or
1 blanket?). As I cleaned, I ran a fresh phone line, piggy-backing it
along phone lines run by Al Bell himself through the catacombs.
I took time out to hose the backup from the
partially-blocked sewage line that spilled into the backyard. I was apt.
sitting and had no authority to call a plumber. (One will be here this
morning.) I rubbed the heavy flea repellant into the cats as I caught
them one by one (I have enough flea repellant in my bloodstream now to
kill a condor vulture). And I drank bourbon and beer and smoked great
pot with my campaign manager, Jens Nielsen. It helped me to stay
Then the sewage line started backing up and 2 of the 4
cats chose the same day to go into heat and start yowling. … all night
long. One of the 4 is a "retired" tomcat who tries to answer their
needs, but it's kind of like me hanging out with a 22-year-old nympho.
Although she might purr and pat me on the head, no way am I going to get
the job done. Still, Shaka/Buddy tries mightily. And I can imagine his
frustration. He's obviously been there and done that before and now he
has 2 hot ladies and no competition and he can only quiet the intense
yowling for a time. Then he crawls panting into my window, drinks some
water, and tries to sleep a bit on the ledge until he hears that yowling
again and he MUST go try again. If he lives, he will be a wiser kitty,
who goes and hides under the bed when he hears those calls of the wild.
(Please write me at the below address and adopt this boy - he and the
other 3 are available for adoption through me.
Boneyard - aka Bonesy has been the toughest project. Let
me tell you the scene in which I met her.
I meet Boneyard
I was just back from seeing my mom a couple of weeks
ago. I'd been using the space described above as an emergency crash spot
and had been feeding a little feral we'd named Luna out the window. I'd
washed and de-loused her and she was sleeping curled up & purring at my
leg when I left.
Five days later, when I returned, there were 10 of them
and they looked like the cast of a feline version of "Night of the
Now, that's a cold thing to say, but when you've dealt
with hundreds of strays as I have, you'll understand. Something was
wrong with the new picture. This is not East St. Louis. Hundreds of cats
do not run free here and pass word of the newest garbage source.
Clearly, something was up. With respect, it looked like someone had
opened the gates to a kitty concentration camp and the inmates were
staggering around, trying to stay alive.
It was, kind of, such a case. Someone had died in a
building on the other side of the old horse corral that abuts my secret
window and after too long without food or water, they had been freed.
There were 35 cats, I'm told. Eventually, through the efforts of the San
Francisco Humane Society and a Berkeley group headed by a woman named
Pam (who was always in a has-mat suit when I met her, owing to the
concentration of death & disease and fleas and lice she and her team
were dealing with), more than 20 of the cats survived. My friends in the
building and I decided to try and do our part by saving 3 of them. They
were all jet black. Part of a family, I'd suspect but, black like Luna
who was probably a relative.
You are responsible forever for what you have
- Antoine Exupery
Some of the cats just died in the corral. A tenant
hosing something in back reported cats coming from nowhere and leaping
at the stream of water in their insane thirst. It was ugly.
Two of the cats made it to my ledge, where I fed and
watered them. A gray striped tabby and a coal black female with haunting
and determined eyes. The tabby had its last drink and snack, then
staggered over to some bushes, lay down, and went to God. The black cat
looked me over & decided to fight death. I petted her a bit and withdrew
a hand full of fleas and worse. She'd lost most of her fur from her
mid-ribcage back and her skin felt like shoe leather left in the sun. I
didn't give her much chance.
But I couldn't let the team take her and destroy her
after I'd seen the look in her eyes. I took her upstairs to a friend's
tub and gave her two long flea baths. That was a couple of weeks, a
couple of pounds, and numerous baths ago. Now, at least, she has a
chance. While I would have preferred to fatten her some more and give
more of her fur a chance to grow back, her incessant yowling moves her
to the head of the list for the next free spay job. This one (tomorrow -
though I may take her in today) at Pets Unlimited (they do some charity
work). Bonesy will go in and we'll see if she gets to live. Not much
time to prepare for the prom, huh? Imagine that. If you look good enough
and have no lice, you get to move to the next level and could be
adopted. If not, you die. And, who knows what happens then?
September 6, 2002
Watching City Hall
by h. brown
If it's sympathy you want, look in the
dictionary between shit & syphilis.
- Advice given every rookie firefighter
The world can be a hard place. It was designed that way.
If you're going to be a catcher-in-the-rye for
endangered creatures in this space, you will need to develop some
calluses. I know. I wore a uniform and responded like a trained
Pavlovian beast to bells, whistles, claxon horns & verbal commands for 8
years of my life.
First, in the U.S. Navy, 1962 till 1965. I think
everyone owes their country at least a couple of years’ service. Doesn't
have to be military. Personally, I had no problem with being a hired
killer for $78.50 a month. Some people need killed.
Then I fought fires for 5 years. In Webster Groves,
Missouri. A hundred-plus year old community bordering St. Louis. Fire
people are a remarkable breed. I've seen a professed white bigot give
mouth-to-mouth to a vomit-encrusted black child and save their life. And
I've watched the laziest, most malicious person on the force connive
enough to become the chief. On the flip side, I've watched a man (Walter
Stevens, if you MUST know) go back to school and earn straight As in
genetics because he was just a smart, smart, concerned country boy who
realized that some women could not provide milk for their children and
cow's milk would have killed the kid, but goat's milk worked, so Walter
raised the best milk-producing goats in the United States.
Why the hell am I telling you about Walter? That was a
really long time ago. I think it was because I just came back from
another place that specializes in standing between life and death. I
just got back from the SPCA.
Please spay & neuter your animals
Mary Ann Buxton reminds me of my sisters. Oh, she's
younger and taller but they're the same. My sisters (the ones I'm
thinking of - there are others, we're a big family) are serious nurses.
One is a practitioner (a master's in medicine - next thing to a doctor)
who has published in the Oxford Medical Journal. They both won
scholarships to the city nursing school across from the projects where
we all grew up and then “earned their caps” working in a brutal & bloody
emergency room across the street. They don't rattle.
Let me repeat that: they don't rattle. That is a very
important quality when you stand between life and death. Not many folks
can do it.
Having been born and raised in hell, I recognize quality
people and quality character traits. I can see in your eyes if you are
in it, as they say, for yourself. I can see if you'll fold and run or
sell out. I have a nose for these things. That comes from watching lots
of life go by. It comes in handy for a political reporter in San
At 7:30am weekdays, Ms. Buxton handles intake triage for
the SPCA's feral cat program. Every morning, she opens the door for that
half-hour window of time in which San Franciscans of conscience and full
of love can bring trapped strays to the clinic for spaying, neutering,
shots, and evaluation. For free.
No place in the world supports their SPCA like San
Francisco. We are number one. Not just the staff. Ms. Buxton can call
upon a network of volunteers to search out, feed, trap, transport,
socialize, and provide a loving temporary home for the thousands of cats
that come through the facility. It is amazing. Now, I've done this kind
of thing as a hobby for years, so I've seen good things. But nothing
Get this …
Aliens in the back yard
I was hammering away at my keyboard a week or so ago
when a friend came hammering away at the door of my hideout. "h, they're
after the cats!!" I looked out to see 3 people in what looked like basic
haz-mat (hazardous materials) suits going through the old horse corral
behind the apartment house. They were a Berkeley group who work with the
SF Animal Shelter & the SPCA to rescue strays. Someone who had way too
many pets went to the hospital and died and left them unattended. 35
cats. Dogs. Birds. A very rare turtle. Death, infestations, disease,
filth, suffering. A real tragedy. The team cleaned, disinfected,
rescued, soothed, and faded away over the next 72-hour period. No
fanfare. No accolades. For free.
Neighbors had been attending the animals who made their
way out of what had become a death trap for several days before anyone
realized from whence came the sad beasts. We agreed to take
responsibility for 4 of them. Pam, who spoke for the Berkeley team, put
us into touch with Ms. Buxton and aside from a few scratches & flea
bites, within a two-week period, we have cleaned, loved (“socializing”
them, it's called) & gotten 3 of the 4 removed from the breeding ranks.
Now, it is up to you to adopt these 4 fabulous cats. They are all black.
One “tom” with the stylishly clipped ear that proves he's been to battle
& 3 little girls who are all around 6 months old. email me to complete
Back on the campaign trail
Weird vibes today.
You get days like that? It doesn't feel right. I lost
the first version of the column and this one is all out of whack. Lots
of politics going on but I wanted to pay homage to the animal rescue
people and I started with that funky fire department quote.
Maybe it's fleas. Or cleaning crap. Or getting back into
the political arena. I was passed out when they came for me.
I was taking a nap
Say what you will, I needed that hour's unconsciousness
before doing Diamond Dave's radio show on KPOO (98.5 fm) at 3:00 pm
yesterday (Thursday). There are advantages to being completely
disorganized and one of them is to be able to take a nap anytime. I'd
been drinking and killing fleas and washing things all day and I'd never
been in a radio studio before. So at the last moment I crashed & was
awakened by my campaign manager, Jens: "h., they've come for you!"
“They” would be the film crew who had already picked up Adriel Hampton
of the Examiner. We were going to do Diamond Dave's show.
The film crew, by the way, is comprised of Courtney
Heslet and Rich Hillis. They're making a documentary of the District 2
race, in which I'm running to both the left and right of Gavin Newsom on
every issue. (That will confuse em.)
Dave had put together a show with Hampton (the
Examiner's young ace political reporter), Keith Savage (homeless poet) &
myself (homeless columnist/candidate). Jens Nielsen, my venerable
campaign manager, came with us in the hope that some pot would get
Young Hampton was resplendent in suit & tie having just
finished doing cable Channel 23's City Desk News Hour where he is a
regular panelist. I immediately attacked the Examiner.
And got my ass kicked. Hey, lots of people are smarter
than me. That's no surprise. It's unusual when EVERYONE in the room is
smarter, but that was the case yesterday. I ended up agreeing to try and
collect 500 signatures in front of Marina Safeway to prove my candidacy
was viable. I kept losing my train of thought. Ever do that? Let me just
put it this way. The Progressive movement was weaker when I left the
radio studio than when I entered.
We hit the street.
Miles to go before we sleep
We had miles to go before we slept. The boys wanted to
film my plea before the Green Party in a couple of hours and we figured
the best way to prepare for that and get the bad vibes of my poor
performance behind me was to go somewhere and drink pitchers of
margaritas. It made sense. Plus, we had lotsa good pot. No sense of
taking the chance of another poor performance by not having my head
right. The 49'ers were about to kick off their season opener (anyone who
doesn't think the Greens are wonks, consider this - would you schedule
ANYTHING during the Niners' opening game?). They had a good crowd.
We chased the margaritas with a few Coronas & drove
directly to the wrong place. Being both drunk and high, we hung out in
front of Green Party headquarters for a good half hour mocking their
tardiness before we realized we were in the wrong place. During that
time, we were joined by fellow candidate Tom Radulovich from the 8th
District who also, apparently, couldn't find home plate with both
Eventually, a street shaman stopped to pray with us,
then directed us to the actual location of the party's endorsement
event. It was dry. Fortunately, the candidates were not. I puffed a big
doobie with James Dunn of the 6th District & insulted the other
candidates as they entered the hall. Hey, it's expected.
I am not agendized
Say what you want about education, hard work, sobriety &
faith … it's the squeaky wheel that gets da grease. If you yell loudly
enough, you can overcome most of the requirements to enter, get a table,
or even be the featured speaker, at many prestigious events. Just ask
Amos Brown. Or for that matter, me.
While the 49'ers and Giants pounded away at one another
3,000 miles away, I went eyeball-to-eyeball with my choice in the 4th
District, Barry Hermanson, about whether or not I was going to be
allowed to speak. Barry is a Green and was standing at the rear of the
meeting, so I hit him first. It seems there was some minor technicality
about not returning a questionnaire. Was I going to lie and say I hadn't
gotten the questionnaire because I am a poor and homeless waif?
I like that excuse. Having always been a liar, politics
comes naturally to me. Anyway, I didn't want to recite the Gettysburg
Address here. I just wanted to give the film crew some footage of me
haranguing yet another unresponsive audience. They let me talk.
Newsom hides under his bed
Gavin Newsom is half my age. He's twice as smart. He's 3
times as good looking. And he's scared shitless of me! I mean, hey, go
He didn't show up for the Green Party Endorsement event.
He doesn't show up anywhere I'm scheduled. I can only assume he's afraid
of me. For good reason.
I am accused of rehearsal
Hey, I was great. Apparently, there is something about
just the right amount of tequila & mixed pot & beer & … you get the
idea. I was inspired. Also often ignorant and senselessly aggressive.
But without a doubt, entertaining. Least, that's the way I saw it.
The film crew later accused me of planting questions in
the audience. That was pretty funny, considering I wasn't even organized
enough to even know where the event was being held. Anyway, I held
ground and exposed evil. Hey, ain't that what we're supposed to do? And
it means nothing.
Cut to the chase
It means nothing if no one knows what
happened. It’s all about name recognition. Blah, blah, blah. Imagine the
magnitude of the defeat for the rich if Newsom loses in his own
district! I can beat that boy like a cheap drum every day and night of
the week on stages from here to Bangor, Maine & it won't matter if the
Examiner and the Chronicle & the Guardian refuse to cover it. And they
all will. They have their own reasons ($$$$$). So let's save everyone a
bunch of trouble and cut right to the chase.