Hate Man: “I’ve got to work on my bugs”

Hate Man was a very original thinker. He thought of himself, first and foremost, as a philosopher. And he had interesting and unusual ideas on virtually every facet of human life. Many of his ideas were bizarre and off the wall. But they were usually grounded in some kind of basic logic. Sometimes it was a Bizarro world, upside-down logic. But logic nonetheless. And many of his craziest-sounding notions often turned out to be surprisingly practical, at least in terms of living and functioning on the streets.

But one idea that I could never quite fathom was how Hate Man dealt with his body lice.

Hate Man had persistent body lice for decades at a stretch. Right up until the day he died. Now anyone who’s had body lice knows there’s only one way to get rid of them. Body lice live in the linings of your clothes. So you need to take a good, hot shower or bath. And get rid of, or thoroughly wash, your clothes. To kill off the lice. Sometimes you have to repeat the process twice. Because if you miss just one lice, or one egg, they can multiply within a couple weeks to where they’re festering all over you all over again. But that usually does the trick.

Whereas Hate Man’s unique approach was to try to pick them off of his clothes, one by one. For whatever reason, he refused to shower or change his clothes. And took the manual approach instead. Anyone who spent time with Hate Man over the years was well familiar with his regular refrain: “I’ve got to work on my bugs.” And he would spend several hours every day methodically picking the bugs off of his clothes, one by one, and putting them in a bag. A nit-picker, literally.

And unlike most people, Hate Man felt no shame or embarrassment about having lice. For example, if a woman expressed an interest in getting intimate with him, he would immediately warn them right up front: “I’ve got bugs.” To let them know they might catch them if they slept with him.

Occasionally Hate Man would announce that he was very close to finally getting rid of the lice. But of course he never did. For one thing, the eggs are virtually microscopic in size. And impossible to completely get rid of by hand.

Even during his last days in the hospital, age 80, where the nurses demanded he got rid of his clothes, Hate Man refused. And the nurses ultimately relented. I always wondered if Hate Man’s clothes — his uniform — was such an integral part of his identity that he couldn’t bare to be without it.

Who knows. But like I said, that was the one part of Hate Man’s unique trip that I could never quite figure out

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