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Tuesday, September 3, 2002

h. brown's columns for September 3, September 6

September 3, 2002

Watching City Hall

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 Gavin's.

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 on-task.

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 Living Dead."

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 tamed.

- 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?

adopt-my-friends: sobone@juno.com

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 Francisco.

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 like this.

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 the cycle: sobone@juno.com

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 smoked.

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 hands.

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?

Uh huh.

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 figure?

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.

getting basic: sobone@juno.com