Retail Anecdotes, Pt. 2

(Trying for Friday amusement, here.)

A slight down of my post-dentist visit to the music store was that a lunatic showed up and started hassling some French tourists. They handled it like champs and he disappeared. Did remind me …

When I managed a music store in Missoula (before Boston), the kooks were not extremely kooky and it took only one “get out and don’t come back here” to shoo them away.

But in Boston, working the record stores as the Designated Big Guy I had to get troublesome customers out the front door and their Big City Intensity clued me that sooner or later something terrible was likely to happen. A motive to get outta that and into journalism.

I should, though, mention my all-time favorite shoplifter. It was still vinyl in those days and you can’t have everything crowded in the back of the store, though the box sets were always behind the counter. Anyway this speedy ace comes in, grabs a fat armload of LPs and is out the door, with me right behind him.

I’m sure he could outrun me under regular circumstances, but he was bogged down with all those records. After half a block, I was catching up. So he began shedding LPs, dropping one on the sidewalk every couple steps. After he’d gotten rid of more than half his stash, I realized I’d lose more merchandise by continuing to chase him rather than go back and collect the discs dumped on the sidewalk. So it worked out for both of us, man. You got away with some goodies. I got credit for at least mostly foiling a robbery.

Thank Yod He’s Dead

At least the scumbag died violently.

I would like to think such horrors would be a lot harder to pull off now, but there are potent lessons behind how creeps like Harvey and Swango got away with it.

Serial killers were protected for ages because too many law-enforcement people thought they were a myth. Likewise, people just did not realize that lower-level staff in hospitals had lots of opportunities to off the patients. And if yer cold-blooded enough, you pick the right old and sick and it didn’t seem suspicious back in the day. Now I think anybody who had unusual numbers of patents dying would be investigated pronto. Normal folks aren’t used to psychopath tricks — if this guy were up to something he wouldn’t joke about it, would he? Both Harvey and Swango did this to blunt attention. And there’s an additional lesson with Swango: more than once, when suspicions arose about him, the hospital cared more about its reputation than the patients, and simply let the murderer go or transferred him.


Put It To Death

This essay has several rotten sentences in it  (all of them include the word “populism”), but it’s a worthy topic. For decades I have maintained three points about the death penalty.

  1. The argument that it “deters crime” is the most transparently juvenile and untrue excuse ever offered for anything. It’s like believing if you cross your fingers you aren’t telling a lie.
  2. It persists in large part because too many people can live their whole lives and not know executions are happening on their watch. There should be mandatory, all-TV-channel broadcasts when they occur. And the murderers should be killed exactly the same way they killed their victims — shot, strangled, stabbed, etc. “Eye for an eye” is lots more brutally honest than what we do now.
  3. Humm. Must be tough to find executioners who would do this, right? Oh no no — the most pissed-off, vengeful relatives and/or friends of the victim are asked to do the deed, no penalty. If they can’t do it — no execution. If they do, all-TV-channel broadcast and everyone gets to see what a primitive, barbaric system we are endorsing.

Looks Like the Sat. Eve. Post Was Right After All

I mocked the idea nonstop in my teens and 20s when it still had some force. The implicit message of mainstream average-American Establishment publications like The Saturday Evening Post was that if you didn’t embrace their all-calm, all-square vision of life in these United States:


We would all too soon end up in the world of True Detective (a big favorite of sadists and actual murderers back in the day):


A moment of silence for the Post. Absurd as it seems, they were right.


Worlds At Once: Guillermo Del Toro at LACMA

Great hunks of the objects presented in this article are currently on display at a special exhibit at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. And we spent a whole afternoon checking it out. Absolutely overwhelming.

I was amazed how much our fascinations overlapped — esp. up until the start of high school when I was equally obsessed with becoming a painter/comic-book artist and a fantasy writer. (My mother refused to let me take the one art class Park Senior High offered — because “artists starve” — but she couldn’t prevent me from taking English.)

Shortly after I began exploring the, yes, labyrinthine arrangements of rooms and themes, I fell into multiple simultaneous states and experiences:

I was awake and asleep. I relived the dream when I was eight where a giant rattlesnake was coiled in our shower stall and the most hideous creature my imagination ever created blocked my escape into the hall. I was watching TV shows and films that scared me so much I shivered and cried. I was being bitten by the monkey in the rock shop. I was so deep into comics in the sunny corner of my bedroom they felt like films unreeling before me. My father slammed the car door on my hand. I saw a shadow man dancing for many minutes at the foot of my bed. I saw whimsical, slightly scary creatures that nobody else could see scramble across floors and up walls. I poured over stills from horror movies that I longed to view. The 7th Voyage of Sinbad changed my life. Dinosaurs were the perfect obsession because they were monsters that had been real and were hiding somewhere in this current Earth. I was feeding hay to a hippo in a circus that came to town. I was looking at the carcass of a dead sheep as my father skinned it. I encountered Abominable Snowmen: Legend Come To Life. I saw the headlines that a second murder-suicide had happened in our little town in the space of 18 months. I flowed through the hallucinations caused by raw ether when my tonsils were cut out in first grade that prepared me for every drug illusion of my life.

I witnessed a collector who thrilled and gratified my heart.

Like they say, a must-see.