Honest Conversation Is Overrated
Actual Human Interactions Witnessed Or Overheard
In Twentieth And Twenty-First Century America
In Twentieth And Twenty-First Century America
It's called "Amazing Fantasy #15!"
"Guys, I have a comic that's never been touched, that's worth, like, $200. It's the original Superman comic." says a kid whose future includes congress, lobbyist, Fox News reporter, or whatever job description includes Obvious Fraud.
Comrade: "Did you hear about the six year old kid who saved his sister from the dog attack?"
Comrade: "He's a big Captain America fan."
Me: "Oh yea. Chris Evans sent him the actual shield from the movie."
Comrade: "Maybe I could have a dog attack my sister, and then resuce her, and get cool stuff."
Me: "You're not six."
Comrade: "I could fake it."
Me: "You're a little tall for a six year old?"
Comrade: "Some six year olds are tall."
Me: "And you're a little scruffy for a six year old."
Comrade: "I would shave. STOP TRYING TO CRUSH MY DREAMS. THIS IS WHY EVERYONE LEAVES YOU."
Today the red line was running late for reasons not listed on any apps, or revealed through their social media. As a result, I waited about twenty minutes at Downtown Crossing for the red line to come, making me about five minutes late for work.
While I was walking down the platform, I saw one of our subscribers and gave him a head nod. He either didn't see me or didn't recognize me, and didn't respond, which is totally fine.
When the T finally arrived, he got on the same car, and sat down across from me.
When we arrived at Harvard, he trotted up the ramps and the escalator, so that I was still getting on the bottom escalator as he was exiting the top.
I watched him turn the corner toward the store, as I passed where Curious George used to be.
Clearly, he was going to the store, so I picked up the pace, and probably arrived about forty-five seconds after he did.
Repeated Customer: "There you are. I've been waiting, like, ten minutes for you to get here."
Me: "No. You just got here. We were on the same train. I was sitting across from you."
RC: "I've been waiting ten minutes. I was about to leave."
So I shrugged, turned around, went to the CVS and bought some energy drinks. He wasn't here when I got back.
I'm not starting my day by enabling liars.
What's America like in 2019? people from the future may ask.
It's a bunch of things. Here is my last night from a non-poetry perspective.
Near the end of the night, I overserved someone. I recognized they'd reached cut-off point, and then someone bought a drink that I assumed they were buying for themselves, but they were buying for the inebriated person. This happened twice.
Bearing the responsibilty for this person, I followed them outside, where they appeared to be doing ok (update: they were totally fine, and are totally fine now). I was about to head back inside when they were approached by someone I thought looked like a sleazebag. Mainly because they were hanging outside of the 7-11 in Central Square around midnight. The city has a lot of homeless. Central Square has a lot of homeless. Homeless people are not sleazebags. But the 7-11 is a magnet for rapists, thieves, and scammers who need you to donate money to a school they are opening up on another continent. Sleazebags,
I made my way toward their conversation, and it was harmless. The guy was trying to bum a smoke, which is totally reasonable behavior.
The person I overserved gave them a cigarette, lit it, and went about their way. But before I could leave the guy asked where I was going, and I said "Back to work."
Sleazebag #1: "Not me, man. No more work for me tonight. I'm going to hit up some bar."
Me: "Cool. Have a good night."
S1: "I'm going to pick up some bitches at that bar over there." He points to The Cantab. "Mabe some rich bitch will take me home."
"There are no bitches there." I said. "You should go to Tavern." (They're better staffed to kick out a drunk, misogynist sleazebag.)
I went back to work.
Work was fine. I was ready to leave when I got a text that someone had left their backpack behind, and it had their keys in it. So I went to kill time at the 7-11 while I waited for them to get back.
While I was deciding which overly sugared American drink to get, a Very Drunk Individual waved a can of Chef Boyardee at me and made indistinguishable noises.
"I don't know man." was all I could think of to say.
He moaned at me in a threatening manner and went outside.
There is a particular late night employee at that 7-11 that I always view as a Sloth (no, not a Goonies reference, just a very slow moving dude who probably eats lots of plants). Sloth practically ran outside, and I realized that moaning guy had shoplifted the Chef Boyardee.
I put my not important sort of groceries on the counter, bar code up, waiting for him to get back. I had time to kill. It was fine.
Sloth came back in, still moving faster than I'd ever seen him. He picked up the phone behind the counter and called the cops. "I am at the 7-11 in Central Square, and we have a shoplifter who--"
And then Moany Sleazebag came back in. "YOU MIND YOUR BUSINESS!!!" He slurred. "NOSEY. SO NOSEY. WHY ARE YOU BEING NOSEY MAN? I JUST WANT MY. I JUST WANT MY WHATEVER THIS IS. BUT YOU GOTTA BE NOSEY."
"He's in the store yelling at me." the 7-11 employee said.
"NOSEY DAMNED FOREIGNER. TRYING TO. TRYING TO GET ME IN TROUBLE WITH HIS DAMNED NOSE. I'M GONNA CALL ICE ON YOU."
And this sack of shoplifting MAGA hat took out his phone and called 911 and asked for Immigration.
The cops arrived pretty quickly while this guy was yelling about ICE to a 911 operator. Prompting more cops to show up.
While I paid for my not important purchase, MAGA sleaze was yelling "DAMN NOSEY FOREGNERS COME TO OUR COUNTY. DON'T WANT TO SELL ME MY. MY DINNER OR WHATEVER. TOLD ME I COULDN'T HAVE IT. NOT EVEN FROM THIS COUNTRY. TELLING ME HOW TO EAT."
(None of that ever happened.)
"SHOW HIM. GET THEM. GET THEM ICE GUYS. SEND HIM BACK TO AFRICA. WHEREVER HE'S FROM."
(I would be remiss to point out that this paradigm of social decay was not a White Dude, and may have spent some time deflecting "back to Africa" comments from other MAGA turds.)
"YOU SHOULD. YOU SHOULD TAKE HIM AWAY TO AFRICA RIGHT NOW. LET ME EAT MY DAMN DINNER IN PEACE."
I had to get out. In this particular instance, at least, the police were very aware that this was a drunk shoplifter with possible mental issues (apart from being stupid enough to buy into racist bullshit). They also knew the 7-11 guy, and were just letting him do his work.
Outside, a woman approached me. "Young Man!"
No good will come of this.
"Young Man, do you--"
Another police SUV pulled up to the curb. Making four, total.
"Nevermind. You have a good night Young Man. I'm getting the fuck outta this noise."
"That bitch wanted more than your phone number." said Sleazebag 1 from earlier. He was standing in The Bar doorway. "I'm bouncing, too. Too many pigs"
And Then He Fucken Skipped Past The Police Officers who, of course, stopped him. Because one can not non-chalantly skip. Anyone trying to avoid police by skipping is too stupid to be on the streets alone.
So now there are four cops in the 7-11, two detaining Skippy The Wonder Sleaze, and two lightly nudging a homeless guy who had been passed out in front of the 7-11 for hours.
The Bar's "bouncer" came out.
CB: "Where did that guy go."
I pointed at Skippy and the police.
CB: "Ok. Good. Why are there so many ---" he gestured at the police SUVs.
"There was a shoplifter at the 7-11, and --"
He gestured at the 7-11. "Always something going on here. That's why they call this Mentalist Square."
I wondered about the populace of psychics and hypnotizers in the immediate area, and then realized what he was trying to say.
There is an unstable old lady who comes in every couple of months to ask me what time the copy shop is open, and to "steal" the free comic previews we keep by the door.
I think she gets a thrill from stealing, and, thusfar, she has only gotten far enough into the store to get her hands on the pile of giveaway comics we have by the door.
If you tell her a thing is free, she shakes her head, and sighs.
For the last couple of weeks, we've had a ton of promotional mugs for The Dead Don't Die. She noticed them immediately, and asked how much they cost. They're free, but I lied, and told her they were $10.
Unstable Old Lady: "Ten dolars that's very reasonable, I have a grandon who's ten. He likes ninjas but not ninja turtles. Is there anything I could buy for him? It has to be something good. He gets so mad when I give him the wrong things."
"I don't have any ninja books right now." I make a big presentation of looking at the all age stuff, as I hear her stuff one of the mugs in her tote bag.
UOL: "I wish Staples made copies."
Me: "They do. They have a copy center. As you walk in, it's on the left.
UOL: "They don't do copies, though."
Me: "They do. There are four or five machines where you can make copies yourself, or you can give them the originals and they'll make copies for you. Unfortunately, they closed at six tonight."
UOL: "They don't do copies, though."
Me: "Oh. Ok. They make copies for me. They must like me."
UOL: "Why aren't they open across the hall?"
Me: "They are closed on weekends in the summer. Their hours are posted on the door, if you want to check."
UOL: "What time do they open?"
Me: "You'll have to check the hours posted on the door. I don't know what time they open."
UOL: "How come?"
Me: "I'm new."
UOL: "Ok. Well, I will go and try and find another place to make copies. But I'll be back to buy more ninja books for my nephew."
UOL: "Hi Brandson. I'm Olivia. Nice to meet you."
Me: "Certainly a pleasure."
She eyes the mugs again, then looks at me. "Goodnight Brandson."
Me: "Goodnight, Olivia."
If Boston realtors worked at hardware stores:
Me: "Hi. I saw in your circular that you have stepladders for sale for $50."
Boston Realtor: "Oh, I'm sorry. We don't actually have $50 stepladders, if you'd read the fine print, you'd have seen that it says 'stepladders may no longer be available'. I actually haven't seen a $50 stepladder in over ten years."
Me: "But there were pictures. In a flyer YOU gave me. Yesterday."
BR: "I have this $700 executive ladder. It's thirteen feet high, and painted blue. One of the legs is shorter than the other, but that's just the way the economy is right now."
Me: "How much is your cheapest stepladder?"
BR: "I have this phone book with half its pages torn out. You could stand on that. It's $160. Also, it was sprayed by a skunk about an hour ago."
Me: "How about a stepladder? How much is your cheapest one?"
BR: "This half broken milk crate is only $300. I, personally, know it's not safe enough to step on to reach anything, but it might be just the thing for you."
Me: "A stepladder. How much would a stepladder cost? I don't want a broken milk crate or a half-torn phonebook. A stepladder."
BR: "I'm seeing....based on the fact that you have one full time and one part time job that, combined, equals twice what we're asking for a $400 stepladder...that the person who owns the hardware store doesn't think you can afford it."
Me: "I have the money right here. Plus no debt, and excellent credit."
BR: "Yea, but this hardware store owner blows all their money on cocaine and lawyer fees, stemming from all the lawsuits from all the people who've fallen off our cheaply constructed stepladders, so they're very cautious with people. It's easier to just sell stepladders to students with rich parents. You just aren't what the hardware store owner is looking for."
Me: "But I have the money, which is eight times the amount of the stepladder YOU advertised in the flyer."
BR: "Have you considered sharing a stepladder with four of five people at a time?"
Me: "Yes. That seems uncomfortable, and would lead the stepladder to break pretty quickly."
BR: "Oh, it's already broken. But if four of you go in on this stepladder that's missing all the steps, except for the one that says Don't Stand On This Step, then it will only be twice as much as I originally told you."
Me: "I'm going to go to another hardware store. There's one down the street that advertised a $75 stepladder."
Calls the other hardware store. Seven people are loudly talking in the background.
Other Boston Realtor: "HI. ARE YOU *****STATIC***** STEPLADDERS?"
Me: "Yes, I'm responding to your--"
OBR: "YOU'LL HAVE TO SPEAK UP. I'M TOTALLY LEGITIMATELY A HARDWARE STORE IN BOSTON. AND I HAVE MANY STEPLADDERS."
Me: "Ok. I'm just looking to buy a stepladder in Somerville. I saw you have some advertised for $75."
OBR: "WHERE IS SOMERVILLE? IS THAT, LIKE, NEAR FENWAY PARK? I HAVE A NICE $500 FOOT STOOL ONLY THREE MILES FROM FENWAY."
Ace And Mel
11:00 AM: A compatriot offers me a ride to The House Of No Gravity, which is being shown by The Realtor With No Memory (who, for brevity's sake, we will call Ace). Or, it would be, but they have double booked, so a different realtor is going to show me the house.
***a giant statue in front of a Buddhist temple mocks the trip to Clam Point, there are no clams on the street, no point to this journey***
11:20 AM: Ace's spouse/business partner shows up. The apartment doesn't match the photos. The "giant living room" is the size of a travel box of Ritz crackers. The carpet has pulled a great deal of its hair out. Every wall and cabinet face has started to peel away. If two people enter the dining "room" at the same time, the walls will burst and the window will shatter. There are no knobs or handles on the solitary closet door. The door to the murder basement is locked. The apartment is a five minute walk to the T, but it's only forty yards from the commuter rail track, which sounds like it coming through the bedroom. The back "porch" is missing a railing and a step. Someone was definitely murdered in that bathroom, and I wouldn't have taken the time to clean it up, either. I thank Ace's business partner, and text Ace that I'm not interested.
***I wish there hadn't been gravity there, so I wouldn't remember how that carpet felt Through My Shoes.***
11:30: I get a ride to Fields Corner. Y'all, someone needs to start a GoFundMe for Fields Corner. The stairs are, literally, crumbling. At least they match the walls? None of the people waiting for the T made me fear for my life, but I could absolutely see that entire station being swallowed in a sinkhole.
11:45: Ace has found a place near Shawmut, and I am on the train going the other way, but I get off at Andrew, and head back. I finally meet Ace, and we enter what is a one bedroom apartment that is more expensive than I'd pay for a two bedroom apartment. And it smells like someone peed on the wall. Not a cat or a dog. A person. Once again, Ace had told me a place was renovated when it clearly hadn't been murd---I'm sorry renovated, why would I think someone had been murdered, there, too? It clearly hadn't been renovated since the previous tenant/serial killer moved in in 1981.
***At least the bloodstained carpet matched the curtains?***
12:15: I eat lunch, and get a text from a different realtor who wants me to meet them on Dorchester Ave at 3. They seem nice.
***I hate nice people.***
12:45: Ace has a place in Everett. Everett is not a real place. There are no trains there. How does a city exist without trains?
1:00: Ace has a place by JFK, but only if I can get there soon. I grab a Lyft. I arrive on time. The place is not actually available. I consider banishing Ace to the dimension of Failed Realtors. But they're very nice.
***I hate nice people. Choo-choo.***
2:00: I am already in JFK, so I wander around the area checking out the bars, restaurants, convenience stores, laundromats, and various businesses. I decide the nice realtor who is not Ace will be called Mel.
***There is no house at the street address Mel gave me, but I hover in the space where the apartment should be, in hopes it will eventually appear.***
2:30: Ace messages me about a house in Quincy. The landlord sounds like a dick before I even meet him. I can hear him pounding his feeble chest and slinging poo through the way Ace asks me various questions about my job and income that were not a factor for any other apartment. He wants us to meet at 4:30. I am certain he will not be there.
***I will him to not be there.***
2:40: Ace messages me about meeting at another apartment near JFK. I tell them we can meet at 4. They will then give me a ride to the 4:30 appointment in Quincy.
***The Quincy apartment is a block away from where I lived with the Millerz family on-and-off between 1999 and 2010. I've missed the neighborhood, and wouldn't mind being back there.***
2:55: Ace calls me to let me know they will be late. It is 2:55. We are supposed to meet at 4. I tell them I will wait for them at 4. They sound disappointed.
2:58: Ace calls me to let me know that the 4:00 house is no longer available, but they'll meet me at 4:30 in Quincy. SHIT. The last call was not from Ace, it was from Mel, who I am supposed to meet at 3, but who I just told I couldn't meet until 4. I call Mel back, explain the error. Mel is already on their way back to the office but will U-turn to meet me at the address that I can't even find.
***Fucken Ace's scatterbrain is contagious. Choo-choo.***
3:15: Mel tells me that the apartment I can't find is above the liquor store I've been standing in front of for twenty minutes. They will be there soon.
***I don't need to live above a liquor store. I really don't need a roommate who will be excited to live above a liquor store. I am calling it a convenience store because it also has eggs, and juice, and soda, and candy. It's convenient that it contains nothing I currently need.***
3:20: My dad calls. My IRS refund came in. Our inheritance from my grandmother is still five months away. My passport is on the island. My social security card is on the island. A check from my last freelance job is on the island. Scotch is on the island, and my father is determined to drink all of it. We make plans to meet if I find an apartment I like.
3:40: Mel shows up. The apartment above the liquor store has been renovated Since the ad was placed. It's beautiful. It's two beds, a bath and a half (one shower and a toilet in one room, one toilet in another), the kitchen is modern and just tiled. Both bathrooms newly tiled. Hardwood floors gleaming. View...acceptable. Fire escape off the kitchen. Roof access. Closet space. Cats no problem. Landlord has already run background check. Credit check. Doesn't ask for references. I tell Mel I have at least once more apartment to see with Ace, but that I really like the apartment. Mel tells me that I am the first person to see that apartment, and there are no more appointments left for the rest of the day. The landlord is taking the keys. Won't be back until Monday.
***Sometimes I dance on the inside. Sometimes the outside, but this time just the inside.***
3:55: I order a Lyft to Quincy. The driver shows up. Back seat tarped over. Stench of vomit. Stain on the tarp. Cheap weed stink. Has GPS but asks me where Quincy is. Otherwise doesn't address me at any point. Becomes only the second ever Lyft driver I don't give five stars to.
4:15: I arrive in Quincy. I wander over to the formerly Millerz house. It is almost unrecognizable, apart from the location of the doors. The sun porch is now a room inside. The tree in the front yard is gone. The trash barrels are not pink.
**Ask me about the pink trash barrels next time I see you.***
4:25: Ace arrives. I am reading a book. Ace asks if I am Adam, even though we have seen each other twice today within five hours. They reinforce my negative opinion of the landlord. I say the price is pretty good for a 2 BR that allows cats so I'm still interested. Ace says "Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck." This is not going to be a pet friendly apartment. It is not a pet friendly apartment. The landlord doesn't show but a maintenance man lets us in. There is an altar in the front window. The maintenance man tells me that if you put money in the dish at the altar's feet, it will bring you good luck. Ace asks about pets. The maintenaince man says "No cats, no dogs, no snakes, no hamsters, no rats, no lizards, no crickets, no rabbits, no rocks. No pets. If we let one in, we have to let 'em all in. Not on my watch. I rebuilt this place after the last property manager destroyed it, let me tell you" a bunch of racist shit about Asian people. I am definitely not moving here. Ace mentions my cats. The guy says "No way, Jose." like I knew he would. Ace apologizes profusely to me. I am very nice about it. I must hate myself. I take my quarter back from the altar on my way out.
6:15PM: Back at the place I'm staying, I e-mail Mel about the apartment. They e-mail me back immediately saying no one else has seen it, but that they are busy, and can't get back to me again until late tonight.
I believe them.
Going Home? How Very New England.
Ten minutes before close, Annoying Painter Who Did Too Many Drugs In The 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s comes in. Already in the store is someone who has been asking me about comics in the warehouse for at least four years. I am certain neither of them will ever leave.
Annoying Painter: "Is Tony--"
Me: "I told you yesterday to come in on Friday. I wrote it down. I told you to put it in your wallet. Friday is the day to come in and talk to him. Only Friday."
AP: "Are you--"
Me: "I can't price things, buy things, evaluate things, tell you what he's looking for, or tell you what's in the warehouse. YOU. HAVE. TO. COME. IN. ON. FRIDAYS."
And then my boss walks in with boxes of stuff to put away.
Tony: "Hi. I have to bring in a bunch of boxes. I don't have time to talk to you right now. Try coming in on Friday."
AP: "Of course, of course. You're busy. But I have these old comics, and I don't want them. But I think they're valuable, could you --"
Tony: "I have five more boxes to bring in. You should come in on Friday."
He leaves to get more boxes. I start putting away some of the books from the boxes he's already brought in."
AP: "I think Mad should do something with Trump because Alfred E. Neum--"
Me: "They have." I grab the Mad About Trump book. "We've talked about it before. Have a look again."
AP: "Did you know Stan Lee died."
AP: "Did Kirby write for Mad Magazine? Is Kirby even an artist?"
Me: "Not that I know of, and yes."
Me: "I'm sorry. I have to put all these things away, right now. Could you come back on Friday?"
Tony arrives with more boxes.
AP: "So some of the comics I brought in are pretty rare."
Tony: "You said that. I'll be right back."
AP: "How much do you thi--"
Me: "I don't do pricing or evaluating."
AP: "Got ya. Because he's the boss."
Me: "Sure. Just so you know, we are closed right now."
And to my eternal shock, the usually super annoying What Do You Have In The Warehouse Guy comes up to the counter.
WDYHITWG: "Sorry, I forgot you guys closed earlier now. I'll buy these."
And he actually buys two comics. And leaves.
While I ring in his sale, Tony comes in with the last of the boxes, and starts to put them on the shelves.
AP: "How much do you guys give for these books? Thirty percent of resale? Forty? Half?"
AP: "If you want to take a look at them, they're pretty exciting."
Tony: "Could you bring them in on Friday. I'm not really supposed to be here tonight, I'm just dropping off these boxes, and then I have to go home and read with my son."
AP: "Of course. Of course. No rush man. I've been to California before. Aren't you from there?"
Tony: "Yea, I'm from LA."
AP: "Do you remember...." And here begins a ten minute conversation about dead people from California. High schools in California. Venues from California that closed decades ago. California. California. Califuckenfornia. And nothing about how it knows how to party, or why Jonathan Coulton hates it.
Tony: "Well, it's great talking to you." Liar. "But I have to go home. And Adam has to close out and go home, and I'm in his way."
AP: "Of course, of course. Hey, do you have some time to look at these comics before you go?"
At this point, I would have decided not to buy anything from him, or totally lowball whatever crap he has. This guy has wasted hours of my time, usually talking about how much he hates comics, and what a waste of time they are. And how everyone steals from him, yadda yadda. And I think, if people do steal from him, maybe it's in the hopes he will be so mad that he'll never bother them again. Because Fuck This Guy.
But Tony looks at the comics, finds four he's interested in, and gives the guy thirty bucks.
Tony: "But now I have to go. And I can't go until you go."
AP: "What about the rest of the books? I don't want them."
Tony: "Bring them Friday."
AP: "Yea, you're the owner. You only have to come in once a week."
Tony: "I'm in other days, but I'll be busy. Bring the books in on Friday."
AP: "Could you write that down for me?"
Me: "NO. It's in your wallet already. I gave it to you last night."
AP: "I lost it."
Tony writes it down.
AP: "Hey, when you were in California, did you ever go to---"
Tony: "I really have to go. It's been great talking to you." Liar. "But you'll have to come back on Friday. I need to get home."
AP: "Sure. Sure. It's very New England. Having to go home."
He walks into the hallway. Tony and I exchange a look. AP picks up one of the boxes we use for shipping.
Me: "Hey. Those are not free. Or for customers. Those are our shipping boxes."
AP: "You need all these?"
Me: "We do. We do a lot of shipping." Liar. "Please don't take our boxes."
AP: "They're a perfect fit for my paintings."
Me: "Then you should get them from the Post Office. But we need those."
AP: "Of course. I would never take them without asking." Liar. "Do you have anything I could put paintings in?"
AP: "I used to do a lot of concert posters. There's this website--"
Tony: "It's time to go. it's been great talking to you." Liar. "We have to close."
AP: "Right. Right. Have you ever seen the Jimi Hendrix poster? The famous one."
I go into the bathroom. Not because I need to use it, but to get away from him. I immediately turn on the hand dryer. When I come out, he is gone.
Tony leaves. I am ten minutes into closing when there's a knock on the window. I see that it's AP. I get up, walk out the door, and sit in the hallway and play on my phone for five minutes. When I come back within sight-lines, he is gone.
How much do you want to bet he'll be back in tomorrow, asking if Tony is in? Or if I can price his books?
For the fourth time this year, an artist who did way too many drugs in the 60s and 70s comes in, just as I'm about to close the store.
Artist: "You guys probably don't buy original art, do you?"
Me, the first two times: "It depends."
Me the most recent two times: "No."
Artist: "I'm a famous rock and roll painter. I designed posters in the 60s and 70s."
Artist: "They sell for a lot of money online."
Me, the first time: "That's fantastic."
Me every other time: "Sure."
Artist: "It's not fantastic. I don't get any money from them. Do you know that website rockandrollpostersorsomethingdotcom?"
Artist: "They sell my work for hundreds of dollars, and I don't get a penny."
Me: "That sucks."
Artist: "I have a lawyer send a cease and desist, and....nothing. They keep ripping me off."
Me: "That's terrible."
Artist: "You guys sell comics."
Artist: "Comics are terrible. They're all violence and murder and rape."
Me, the first time: "No, there are a lot of different subjects, there are---"
Me, every other time: "All murder all the time."
Artist: "The people that read comics. They're sickos. What happened to peace, man? And love? They don't make love comics."
Me, the first time: "They do. There was a whole line of romance comics that started in the fifties, and now there are ---"
Me, every other time: "Nope. Murder murder murder, death, death, death."
Artist: "Sickos. Ditko, Kirby, Eisner. A bunch of sickos. Do you know any bands that might be looking for an artist to make posters?"
Me, every single time: "Nope. I don't listen to music. Or read."
Me, today: "Just murder murder murder, all day long."
Artist: "When's a good time to stop in and sell my posters."
Me, the first three times, "Come in on" I give him my boss's schedule. I write it down. All three previous times, I wrote it down for him.
Me, this time. "Alternating Thursdays during a month with two new moons. I think. It might be Wednesdays."
Artist: "You sickos probably don't buy original art anyway."
Me, the first time. "Not often. But you should come in, any way, and talk to my boss.
Me, the second time: "Nope."
Me, the third time: "It interferes with all the murdering."
Me, this time: "No. We spend all our money on knives and guns."
He leaves. Every time, no matter what I say.
I hadn't realized this time that there was another person in the store, until she laughed when I said "murder murder murder, death death death" in my sing-songy Fuck Off voice.
She was very nice, and bought a Junji Ito book, after asking where I kept all of the store's knives.
(Spoiler alert: unlike my previous comic book employers, we are a knife-free store. Though I do have a very adequate hammer, and three pairs of dull scissors.)
The Annotated Absolute Woogums
An absolute Woogums and his female compatriot come into the store, and he starts giving her a Very Incorrect Tour of the place.
"They organize the back issues alphabetically because that's one of the things corporate makes all the stores do."
"But this is where they keep all their indie and underground books" Woogums says, pointing to the nostalgia section.
"Are these trading collections or graphic novels?" asks his even less-informed but also less-infuriating friend.
"Graphic novels." He says.
They are hardcover collections of old newspaper strips and EC comics.
"Everyone in this place knows me." he says, waving to me.
I have never seen him before in my life. And, Diamond willing, will never see him again. I do not wave back.
"This place used to be all porn and indie comics but the corporate office made them turn it into more of a superhero store." he says.
"What are you talking about?" I ask. "There is no corporate, and most of our our collections and graphic novels are what would be considered independent, as they're not put out by Marvel or DC. This entire section here. That section over there. Most of our all-ages books are Scholastic or other smaller presses. We have a European comic section. This entire shelf here. We're not really a superhero store, although we do, of course, carry the most popular DC and Marvel comics."
"You didn't used to, though. You didn't carry any at all."
"Weird." I say. "The owner, who shopped and worked here since the early 80s told me that when he started, about 90% of their sales were the Chris Claremont X-Men comics, with the rest being spread between Superman, Batman, and Cerebus. If anything, there are less superhero comics in the store now than there have ever been. Maybe you're thinking of another store."
"Must be." he says, and goes back to talking to his poor companion. "I think you'd really like The Watchmen."
I grab Mjolnir from its drawer and debate hucking it his head.
He continues to misinform her before he leaves without buying anything.
I start to ponder that I am too judgemental and grouchy when one of the guys from the print shop comes in.
"Do you believe that guy?" he says. "He just came into our store and demanded we print a color copy of a hundred dollar bill. That's ILLEGAL. Color copiers are designed to detect currency, and when they Xerox guys come in to repair or upgrade copiers, it reports how many times a person attempted to copy currency, and they have to report it to the government. And when I told him, he said that The Other Guy always let's him do it. But we're all here today, so I asked him to tell me which Other Guy and he huffed at me and walked into your store. Do you believe that?"