The Pillars of the Earth & World Without End

I feel like a dick, because a customer was in the other day looking for a mass market of Ken Follett’s World Without End, and all we had was the quality paperback. Four days later, what arrived in the stockroom? A couple boxes full of World Without End mass markets. I snagged one that following Sunday, started it on Monday, and finished it a week later, which was yesterday. At over a thousand pages, tightly packed (no James Patterson font 20 triple-spaced drivel for Follett), it’s truly an epic novel, the sequel to Pillars of the Earth, set during the Hundred Years War and the Black Plague.

It’s my belief the mass market release was driven by the forthcoming adaptation of Pillars of the Earth by Starz: an eight hour miniseries that I’ve been alternatively anticipating and dreading. On one hand, it could be like Lonesome Dove: an amazing adaptation of a long, epic novel. On the other hand, it could be like just about everything else adapted for TV: lousy, especially when compared to the source material. And there’s so much going on in Pillars of the Earth, so many characters, involved in so much, over such a long period of time …

So I was kind of happy (kind of? Thrilled!) to read a positive review of the miniseries on HuffPost:

Redmayne makes the biggest impression as the heroic Jack but he is given stiff competition by Ian McShane as Waleran Bigod, an official of the Church, and Parish as the power hungry Regan. McShane plays Waleran as half evil and half crazy while Parish makes her role as Regan a study in motherly obsession.

The characters, the turbulent times, and the battle between the citizenry and the church all combine to make this must see entertainment. The first two hours of the mini-series are playing this week on Starz, with new one hour episodes to be shown on July 30, August 6, August 13 and August 20. On August 27 there will be a two hour conclusion to the story. Since this is a cable show there is violence and nudity in the program.

Having watched all eight hours of the series I can assure you it is worth your time. When the last segment has been shown you will feel a sense of loss as to the continuation of the story. But cheer up, it has been rumored World Without End, Follet’s sequel of sorts to this book, will be filmed as another mini-series next year. If it is as good as this adaptation then we truly do have a television event to look forward to in 2011.

In any case, if you haven’t read either book, they’re both absolutely amazing, and I highly recommend them. And I’m looking forward to seeing Pillars of the Earth when it’s released on DVD (or is it on Hulu? Anyone know?)

As always, links here refer to my Amazon Associates web page. I will earn referral fees from anything purchased on Amazon via these links, and I thank you kindly in advance.

The Girl Who Got To Sleep With Daniel Craig

When I heard about a forthcoming American version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (long story short: it’s the first book of a best-selling Swedish mystery thriller trilogy, which made it to the silver screen already, but is now being redone for idiots who don’t understand subtitles in films), I expected it to be filmed in, y’know, Seattle or something. Pennsylvania. Anywhere but Sweden.

Anyway, so I was pretty jazzed to read that the film is actually going to be filmed in Sweden (which, among other things, is where my dad’s side of the family hails from).

Entertainment Weekly confirms that Craig, 42, has signed to play the lead in the American adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s best-selling mystery novel The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, to be released Dec. 21, 2011, and followed by two other movies based on Larsson’s Millennium trilogy.

Filming will take place in Sweden, David Fincher (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) will direct, and Scott Rudin will produce. So far, no one has been cast in the role of Lisbeth Salander, though Ellen Page, Mia Wasikowska and Rooney Mara have been mentioned.

This might just be me, but I think they should just cast Noomi Rapace. She already knows the part!

And since we’re talking about Steig Larsson’s books making it to the silver screen, let me jump back in time one week, to last Monday, when I was lucky enough to be accompanied by the Suicide_Blond to the E Street Cinema to see the adaptation of the second book in the trilogy, The Girl Who Played With Fire.

Here’s a quick review: while The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was filmed for the Silver Screen, the two other books were adapted as TV miniseries, and this was particularly evident in the graininess of the picture at E Street. It’s been well over a year since I read the book, so I’m not entirely sure what never made it into the film, except to say that while they kept the major plot points of the book, a considerable amount is left out. Beyond the image itself, the presentation of subtitles was disappointing: too often, the subtitles were lost into the images of the film.

The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest opens in the US this October.

As always, links here refer to my Amazon Associates web page. I will earn referral fees from anything purchased on Amazon via these links, and I thank you kindly in advance.

Week Weight Twenty: A Quicky

This is going to be a quicky:

Last week: 237
This week: 234.5
Difference: -2.5lbs

Still not a lot of walking home from work after work, but hopefully I’ll get back on that today. I spent copious time (an hour each day) in the gym Saturday and Sunday, and my surprise early release from my day job yesterday allowed me to make an unexpected trip to the exercise bike as well. Things looking good, can’t fucking wait for autumn.

Yesterday Was A Really Strange Day

Yesterday was a strange day.

My office is in northern Bethesda (like, “We’re too cool to be Rockville, so let’s call ourselves Bethesda” Bethesda), and with the summer storm on Sunday, our building was one of those affected by the power loss. Apparently, building management was telling people “It’ll be back soon, it’ll be back soon”, but as it was, power wasn’t actually restored until three o’clock this morning: I know this because that’s the time stamp on the email from our CFO. None the less, they kept us here until 10am yesterday before finally closing the office.

We were, quite literally, the last office in the building to close.

In any case, it was nice to get to go home early: I played some Red Dead Redemption, had scrambled eggs for lunch, and spent forty-five minutes on an exercise bike. I also got a panicked call from the Bookstore asking me if I’d already left my other job.

“Well, yeah, like four hours ago!” At which point I was told that I needed to go work at our sister store on 14th Street that night.

As you might know (especially if you click the link there), the store is closing in August, due primarily to a massively expensive lease that Clyde’s (restaurant chain) wants to take over. It was so depressing: the staff was cheery, but I wonder how much of that was just an illusion, the customers? I mean, most of ’em were just “buy my books and get the hell out of the door”, but a lot of people were openly belligerent: Why don’t you have this book or DVD in stock? I want to buy these books, but I’d like to wait for the price to drop more – why won’t you hold them for me?

My favorite was: “What do you mean ‘all sales final’? I can’t return this?” Yes, shockingly, that is indeed what is meant by “all sales final.”

Really, it just felt like a bunch of vultures picking over a diseased corpse. The “All Sales Final, Everything Must Go!” and “Buy fixtures & tables!” signs really sort of added to the free-for-all feeling: I really have a lot of sympathy for the staff remaining, I can’t imagine it would be easy for me having to work the final weeks if my store was going out of business.

I’m back at my store tonight, and I can’t express how happy I am about that. Mostly because I actually know where sections are: a rather assholeish European demanded directions to the Health section last night and when I told him I had no idea where it was, he scorned me: “How long have you worked here?” To which of course I replied: “Two minutes, asshole.” (Minus the “asshole” part, which I really should have left in).

June Booklist

Well, there’s nothing like procrastinating until the end of the month to put up a monthly post that usually finds its way to the Interwebs no later than the 7th of any month …

Contact by Carl Sagan.

Dune by Frank Herbert.

The Passage by Justin Cronin.

A Case of Exploding Mangoes by Mohammed Hanif.

Spies of the Balkans by Alan Furst.

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurty.

I remember traveling into DC to see Contact, way back when it came out in — I want to say 1996 — at the Uptown Movie Theater (and now I live just a few blocks away!) It was only my second movie there (first was Dances with Wolves, which I found ridiculously boring, but have come to appreciate in later years). What a wonderful movie, and yet it took nearly fifteen years for me to read the source material, by noted astronomer Dr. Carl Sagan. The movie sticks very close to the book (obviously, there are liberties taken), yet, watching the film shortly after finishing the book, I couldn’t help but notice how true to the spirit of the novel it stayed. Here’s a fun fact: Francis Ford Coppola is a real fucking douchebag, as he filed a posthumous lawsuit against Carl Sagan SIX DAYS after Sagan died! What a douchenozzle.

Dune was a total impulse buy. It’s always been something I’ve resisted in the past, but there’s something about a 40% coupon and a $7.99 book that I find hard to resist (oh, I know what it is: it’s the price). I’m familiar with the story: I saw both the David Lynch film (years and years ago), and the Sci-Fi miniseries. Fortunately, those had both faded from my consciousness enough that the book was new and fresh and wonderful. That said, I’ve no desire to read the remaining books in the cycle, and certainly not the continuation by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson (which I’ve heard are just awful).

I was on the fence about Justin Cronin’s The Passage, and finally snagged it as reading material for my trip to Boulder (my sister got married!). Okay, so here we go: it’s the first of a trilogy, and if you’ve ever read Stephen King’s The Stand, this is going to feel familiar to you: population decimated by disease, elderly wise black lady, all hope rests on a child, and they’re going to Colorado. But it’s really not much like King’s amazing apocalyptical masterpiece at all. It was a tremendously enjoyable read, although I will admit, one scene in particular (where a previously assumed dead villain jumps out of a compartment he couldn’t possibly have gotten to) had me rolling my eyes.

When I first started working at the Bookstore, I worked with a six-foot tall Swedish lady named Rebbecca. She got pregnant and moved back to Sweden, but one day, we were both trying to hunt down a book called A Case of Exploding Mangoes for a customer. Is that not the most hilarious title you’ve read, or what? Let me answer for you: yes, it is. I spotted this in the Boulder Bookstore (which is lovely, truly amazing — I was so tempted to move to Boulder just so I could work there!) on the remainder table, and snapped it up. I finished it the next day waiting for my flight at Denver International. Great, funny, amazing.

Our Mystery/Thriller section at the Bookstore is packed with a lot of novels set in WWII, but that aren’t particularly suspenseful, or thrilling. Or, for that matter, mysterious. They’re just sort of blah. Furst’s name was first given to me (hahahahahaha) by a dude at one of my professor’s post-semester parties at her Baltimore home, probably seven or eight years ago. He only had a handful out at the time, but he publishes one a year: they’re all spy novels, set in Europe in World War II, featuring protagonists only loosely connected to the Allied powers, but who struggle against the Nazi War Machine none-the-less. I won’t say Spies of the Balkans is Furst’s best (my personal favorite is Dark Voyage), but it’s a solid entry, and worth the investment of time.

I’d only just begun to read Larry McMurty’s Lonesome Dove by the end of June, but as you might guess, by the time I got around to writing this post, I’d finished it. I will say this: it was far, far better than I had any expectation of it being. A further review will follow for my recap of my July reading (and with luck, you won’t have to wait a week for that).

As always, links here refer to my Amazon Associates web page. I will earn referral fees from anything purchased on Amazon via these links, and I thank you kindly in advance.

MTV: Not As Fun As Watching Excrement Float In A Toilet Bowl

If there’s any good news to MTV’s “What the hell were they thinking?” decision to pass on DC blogger LivitLuvit as their MTV Twitter-Jockey, it’s this: MTV is a channel that hasn’t been relevant since they stopped playing music videos in favor of TV shows about how famous people’s kids have huge houses and three horses and don’t realize how fucking spoiled they are.

Keep it “real” MTV. In the meantime, I’ll still choose to wash my poop flush down my toilet, because that’s always more entertaining than your lowest-common-denominator programming.

“I just want to say that there is absolutely no truth to the rumor that Batman drinks blood.”

I like to say that I bought an Xbox 360 so I could play Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. And while that’s true, it’s also true that if I had known how awesome Arkham Asylum was, I would’ve bought the machine to play this game instead.

I finished Arkham Asylum last weekend, which left me with a quandary: should I start Assassin’s Creed II, or replay Arkham? In any case, I’m replaying Arkham. Because it’s just that damn good.

My favorite levels aren’t even the ones where Batman goes up against one of his Rogue Gallery, either: fighting Joker? Evading Scarecrow? You can keep ’em, along with Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, and Killer Croc. Especially Killer Croc. That whole sequence was horrible.

My favorite parts of the game have been the Predator Challenges, where you find yourself in a large environment (usually a mixture of enclosed and open spaces) where the Dark Knight has to take down half a dozen armed targets, all without being seen — because if he’s seen, he’s going to get shot, and if he gets shot, he’s going to die.

Because the man isn’t immortal.

Which surprised the hell out of one of the directors of my department, who is Croatian, and has apparently been laboring under the delusion that Batman is like Superman, only instead of tights and a red cape, he dresses up as a bat. I lent him Batman Begins to help see the error of his ways. “So, basically … he’s nuts,” was his conclusion, and let’s be honest: yeah, he’s fucking nuts.

I, meanwhile, am already looking forward to the sequel, expected to be released sometime in 2011. What I would really like is a multiplayer function. While this might be skipped for actual game play, I’m picturing a series of stand-alone predator challenges which two players could collaborate on, with a split-view feature similar to the newer Lego games, or, heck, Call of Duty. One player could choose Batman, the other could have a whole slew of side-characters to choose from: Catwoman, Nightwing, Batgirl, why not? I think it’d be the bee’s knees. I really, really do. “Okay, Robin — go run over there!” And then when all the goons with guns are shooting the idiot in the yellow cape, you swoop down and take two or three of them out.

Considering that the PS3 version of the game has the option to play as the Joker, I don’t see why this would be such a crazy idea (PS3? And not XBox? WTF). Playing as the Joker also has limitations: you don’t have access to Batman’s toys, so you can’t go dangling from gargoyles. And because Joker wears no armor, even a single round can take him out. On the other hand, he’s got his own strengths, and I think it wouldn’t be that hard to configure similar playable characters to complement Batman on a multi-player mission.

Okay, look – if you don’t mind my raving over the game, and it still hasn’t convinced you, go read The D.C. Universe’s post.

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Week Weight Nineteen: Ginger Fucking Snaps

It’s true: it’s my fault. I control how much I’m going to weigh each Monday. I don’t mean this like “I want to weigh 180 pounds by next Monday” and I magically shed all that excess weight, just that my determination to go for walks or get to the gym, and my will power, say, to keep me from eating a whole bag of ginger snaps and an accompanying quarter gallon of milk (or buying the ginger snaps in the first place!), is pretty much a key indicator of how stepping on the scale Monday AM is going to work out for me.

Which is to say, I was sorta fucked Saturday when I bought the ginger snaps to begin with.

But then we had a mandatory staff meeting at the Bookstore Sunday night, and they fed us pizza, and having been there since 9am (we got out a little after 8, but fortunately we were paid for that time), I scarfed down several slices of Papa John’s pepperoni pizza. Because I was hungry, okay? And while I’d walked to work, true, I opted to take the bus home (because I was tired, okay?)

In any case, I was back at 237 yesterday morning, up a pound and a half from 235.5 the previous week. I can do better. I will do better.

In other news, that thunderstorm Sunday night was wonderful. If I hadn’t been so tired, I probably would’ve clambered out of bed and watched it from the windows. As it was, I just sort of buried my head further in the pillows and crossed my fingers that the cats weren’t pissing the carpet in terror.

Countdown to Zero

Saw this trailer attached to The Girl Who Played With Fire tonight at E-Street Cinema — it looks fantastic, and I might just make a real effort to catch it in the theaters.

The DVD Baskets

I am not what you would call a neat freak. Every couple of weeks I take a trash bag and I throw out all the crap that’s accumulated around my apartment, and then I grab all the books scattered about and I stuff them on a shelf somewhere. A few times a year, I take everything off every shelf and I dust and vacuum everything. The next time I do that, while I’ve got all of the books off the shelf anyway, I’ll probably try to sort them somehow.

My DVDs are sorted. I sort them into those large wicker baskets sold at IKEA. They’re perfect for DVD storage, each capable of holding about forty discs, give or take. I’ve got ten of these baskets — filled. Don’t look at me like that!

I own a lot of DVDs. Honestly, I’m pretty certain that I could cancel my Netflix subscription, and still have something different to watch every evening for well over a year — heck, if you expand that to include all of the TV shows I have on DVD, you could probably triple or quadruple that number.

I got my first DVD player for Christmas 1999. That player bit the dust a long time ago, and so did it’s replacement, and so did it’s replacement’s replacement. In any case, I did some math: roughly, I’ve bought an average of three DVDs a month since I first bought a player.

Anyway, so recently I started delving into the baskets for movies I haven’t watched in a very, very long time. I had a bit of a mind-twisting moment when I pulled out the basket labeled He-K (I buy shipping labels and use those) and found the copy of Jaws I knew I had. See, last weekend was the 35th Anniversary of the movie’s theatrical release, so along with 1776 (which I always watch July 4th), was one of two films I’ve wanted to watch this holiday. (I had to Netflix 1776 as I’ve meant to, but never actually, picked up a copy of it). And as I pulled the disc out of the basket, I realized, holy shit: I’ve never opened the DVD. It was still shrink wrapped. And, um, I’m pretty sure I bought it ten years ago.

(I don’t actually know for sure … I don’t keep those kinds of records, yanno?)

In any case, I’ve been pulling films that have been collecting proverbial dust in my collection for years and putting them in the player. So, I think I’ll be sharing what I’m watching with you lovely readers (all two of you?), and maybe some info on the circumstances under which I bought it (if I can remember). In any case, here we go:

The Long Kiss Goodnight

Samuel L. Jackson, Geena Davis

Geena Davis plays a school teacher who suffers from amnesia: one day, her amnesia goes away and she remember she’s actually a highly trained government operative. That’s like a bare minimum recap. Lots of violence, swearing, and hilarious one-liners (“Mrs. Daisy, I be honking.”/”Back when we first met, you were all like, ‘Oh, phooey, I burnt a muffin. Now you go into a bar, ten minutes later, sailors come running out — whatup with that?”). I remember the last time I saw this: I brought it in to the Indy Pizza shop I used to work in and played it on the TV in the back while we worked. I think I bought this at a Best Buy, and I must’ve seen it by that point (pretty sure I was working at Blockbuster when it first came out on DVD). Unexpected high points of the film include Brian Cox, and the very underrated David Morse, who I’m thinking was actually in just about every movie in the 1990s.


Tom Hanks, Robert Clarke Duncan

Stephen King wrote this as a marketing gimmick — a novel in six parts. I think what surprised me most was that my younger sister was the one who was really into it, collecting each individual little book: I didn’t read them until she already had all six (er, Em, I’ve actually got them all now, if you were wondering what happened to them). From what I remember of the books (it’s been ten plus years since I’ve read it), the movie’s a pretty accurate adaptation, with — guess what! David Morse! Holy shit! OMG! — a first class list of stars, including James Cromwell. I remember watching this at my apartment in Towson, so I guess I must’ve rented it from the local Blockbuster. I’m guessing it was one of those double-VHS deals. The DVD case was one of those cardboard flip boxes DVDs came in when they first came out, so I’m pretty sure I bought this pretty close to when I first saw it, although I’m pretty sure this was my first time actually watching it since then.

The Quick and the Dead

Gene Hackman, Sharon Stone

Wow, what a long time since Leonardo DiCaprio has been in a movie’s cast and not gotten top billing. A quirky western from Sam Raimi, Gene Hackman stars as the mostly-evil-and-twister lord of a desolate town called “Redemption”, where every year a pretty violent “shoot to the death” pistol match is held. Oh, you know who else is in this movie? Russell Crowe. Yeah. No top billing for him, either. Other people I didn’t see: Bruce Campbell. Sad. (Gary Sinese is also in this movie, but let’s be honest: who cares?)


Sandra Bullock, Ben Chaplin

Dear God, what the fuck was I thinking when I bought this movie? And then, what the fuck was I thinking when I kept it?


Kevin Costner, Kevin Kline, Danny Glover, Scott Glenn

This is … wow. Such a great film, such a wonderful Western, and I have my high school friend Nathan Nadell to thank for introducing it to me — Nate, if you ever read this, shoot me an email. Four strangers — well, two are brothers, so they aren’t strangers to each other — cross paths on their way to Silverado, a town ruled by a crooked sheriff and a cattle baron. Yeah: there’s gonna be some shooting. And no matter where you look in this movie, there are faces you recognize: admittedly, I didn’t actually recognize Jeff Fahey until this last time watching the film. Notable fact: Kevin Costner’s first film. Technically he was in The Big Chill, but he played a corpse, so I don’t know if that should count.

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Weight Week Eighteen: um, WTF

I don’t get it.

At all.

I walked a few miles on Friday after work: okay, not home, but over to Chinatown, and then over to Franklin Square for a bus. Saturday morning, on four hours of sleep, I was in the gym for over an hour, burning fat on the exercise bike. I went back later that evening for another thirty minutes. Sunday I started and ended the day with twenty minute biking sessions, and in between, I walked four point four miles to and from work.

Okay, I drank two beers Friday night. I may have eaten a hot dog or two this weekend. But I wasn’t consuming as much junk as I did last week. And yet, I only dropped a pound. Whereas last week I ate ice cream, and hot dogs, and drank beer to my heart’s content and only gained a pound (admittedly, I also worked out like crazy, but no crazier than this week, right?)

Maybe I am building some serious muscles and this is just muscle weight gained. (Hey, a guy can hope, right?)

In any case, this morning I was at 235.5, a loss of a pound since last week, and back to my weight two weeks ago.

So there’s that, anyway.

Stupidest. Book. Question. Ever.

Any bookstore can essentially be divided into two sections: Fiction, and Non-Fiction.

Okay, we’ve got a cafe, and a magazine section, too, but in terms of books, they’re either Fiction, or they’re Non-Fiction.

Fiction, as I’m sure you’re aware, is a story that is not, in fact, factual. It’s imaginary. It may be based on real events (or not), but it’s made-up.

Non-Fiction, however, is fact: it’s true. Or, at the very least, it purports to be true. Going Rogue, I’m looking at you.

Non-Fiction, then, at the Bookstore, includes the following sections: Politics & Government, Economy, Psychology, Sociology, Business Life, Management, People and Profiles, Small Business, Accounting, Law & Labor, Metaphysical, Religion, Biography, General US History, Modern US History, Civil War, African-American Studies, World War I, World War II, Vietnam War, Gulf Wars, European History, African History, Asian History, Israel History, Travel, Travel Planning, Self Improvement, Cooking, Sports, Reference, Writing Style, Word Play, Foreign Language, Art, Architecture, Photography, True Crime, and many many many more!

So, when you come in, and you walk up, and you ask, “Where’s the non-fiction section?” Please don’t be offended when I roll my eyes.

Mister, the Non Fiction Section is everywhere the assorted fiction sections aren’t!

Mr. Columbia Records

At the Bookstore, we have crazy customers, and then we have CRAZY customers.

The crazy customers are no big deal. They take some time to deal with, but they’re usually worth a good hearty laugh afterwords. The prime example of this is the old lady who left her over-the-counter-cheap-pharmaceuticals in the store, then called us and requested that we ship them to her. She agreed to pay the shipping fee, and I asked for her address: it was just a few miles up the road, directly on the same Metro line that’s got an exit a block from the store, and also accessible to a bus route that drops off a block in the opposite direction. Never mind the fact that she could just trudge out to a CVS and buy the drugs — again! — for less than what she was willing to pay in shipping, I didn’t understand why she just didn’t hop on the damn bus.

But, being in downtown DC, we get a lot of legitimately CRAZY people. Like folks who should be in a mental institution somewhere, yet are cruelly left to wander the mean streets of DC. This is as selfish a wish as any, as I would prefer not to have to deal with them myself. Alas.

We give them nicknames. There’s Cave Man. He cuts his own hair. He stinks. He pulls books from all over the store and makes a big pile. He has a particular preference for books and magazines that feature naked or mostly-naked women. There’s White Manga Man (to distinguish him from all the other Manga Men), who our Operations Manager would dearly like to pummel to death with a magazine (“Why a magazine?” “Because its softer — it’ll hurt more over time!”). There’s Inker, the dude who draws on and in books and mutters racial epithets under his breath when white staffers are nearby. There’s the white lady who, although she doesn’t draw on books, takes store pens and draws on herself, and when we ask her to leave, informs us all that the FBI is looking for her and we should forward all requests to Robert Mueller (in DC, even the crazy people have delusions of grandeur).

Last night, one of the CRAZY customers was being ushered out of the cafe. He apparently missed all three “dear customers, we’re closing soon, get the fuck out” announcements, but thankfully began packing his bags when told face to face. Sadly (for me), I was on door duty last night. Door duty starts at five minutes to closing: a staff member locks the right-hand inner door, and stands at the left-hand inner door to allow customers out, and to warn ones coming in, “We’re closing in a couple of minutes.” That’s how I do it, anyway, everyone has their own style.

Anyway, this guy, (now known as Mr. Columbia Records) to my great and everlasting regret, recognized me. As I’m trying to get him into the vestibule so I can lock the door and we can finish what we have to finish so we can all go home. And then he wants to talk. At which point I said, “Oh, so sorry, the alarm is about to go off”, and closed and locked the door in his face.

Back story: about two Sundays ago, he came in looking for some obscure Jazz CD. I can’t remember which one, except that it was a trio of artists. While I was able to pull up a listing for it in our computer, our store didn’t carry it, and none of our other locations in the region did either. Up to this point, our conversation had been pretty kosher: no warning bells were going off.

But hooo boy.

The record was published by Columbia Records. He told me this. Then he started telling me about how Columbia Records had fifteen letters in its name, which, coincidentally, was the same amount of letters in the name of the agent who signed his disability paperwork: at which point he pulled out a file folder, strained beyond belief, and showed me a disability form dated 1980. And then he told me the names of the artists, added up, had seventeen letters, which was the same amount of letters as the name of someone else who’d signed some social security forms of his. And this, plus the fact that the two dollar bill, added to the one dollar bill, equaled the three dollar bill, was evidence of why the world was out to get him. (The sad thing is, I’m not even making this up).

At this point, trying to lighten things up, I joked that the two dollar bill and the one dollar bill added up to twelve quarters, and he gave me this look like fucking Mork had jumped out of my skull and was dancing a jig on my scalp. I really wish Mork had jumped out of my skull, because with any luck I’d be too busy being dead for this guy’s tastes and he’d find someone else to harass.

But, no.

But oh god was the joke a bad idea, because the next thing I know, he’s telling me some story that starts with him and a buddy hooking up with the same girl, and then they fight, and then one of the disability agents from before is burning down a building in a conspiracy to keep Mr. Columbia Records from his billions of billions of virgins (yeah, I was surprised too, I thought he was going to say “billions of billions of $2s.”). The best part of the story was when he said, “…and then the bitch called the Po-Po and tried to have me committed to a mental hospital! Now, let me ask you: do I seem the least bit crazy to you?”

It took all of my self control to maintain a straight face and say “No.”