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Today’s Heartwarming Creepy Old Man Story June 16, 2017

Posted by Jim Berkin in Books, General.
Tags: ,

No, not me. This is ANOTHER creepy old man.

So today I had to drive down to some medical office and give my mom a ride home when her regular ride could not be reached due to telephone problems (long story, whatever). We made the most of it and swung by the best deli in LA for lunch since it wasn’t too far off, and then I dropped her off.

Then I figured since I wouldn’t be back in the Valley for a while, I’d swing by a big thrift store I liked over in North Hollywood to see their book selection.

Hell, yesterday between a YMCA fundraiser and a big dumpy thrift store in Reseda, I’d scored BIG – 9 total books between the 2 stops, with material on stolen art rings, history of food, old movies, and an autographed first edition of a Martin Yan cookbook, among some other items.

I hoped my luck would continue. So I took the long way back to the freeway which would swing me by a regular book hunting stop.

Unfortunately, pickings were thin. It looked like they’d been gleaned pretty well without replenishment from new donations. The only books worth getting were ones I already had (some Lidia Bastianich cookbooks) and ones I really didn’t need (even more cookbooks). Meh, whatever.

Two guys going through the books discussed how the store had been “going downhill” and how there wasn’t as much to pick from. Then one of ’em told a story I eavesdropped on as I browsed about buying some big box of English lace at an auction. I kept hoping he’d discuss wearing it so the story would really get interesting, but he only mentioned it since he had found a book about British lace at this store shortly after that where he discovered that some of the stuff he had was evidently worth quite a lot. Who knew?

And then there was the creepy old dude.

He lurked in the aisles, browsing books. I’m guessing in his 70s.  Lanky, with a subtle menacing quality in a schlumping 6’6″ height, with a grin only to be found on the incredibly guilty.

If they ever need guys in a police lineup to look like a flasher in the park or a NAMBLA chapter president, this is their man.

I walked by him and tried not to look.

As I worked my way back along one shelf, he placed a stack of books near me and said “Oh, those are mine. Just want to put ’em down for a while.”

“Oh, yeah, no problem,” I said.

“Look at this one, brand new! Not a mark on it!” He said, holding up a copy of some book on the Kennedys.

Then I made the mistake of continuing to talk to him. “Do you resell ’em? I see people in here all the time with phone apps checking prices and such.”

“Naw,” he answered. “But you mean that little guy with the oily mustache? He’s always in here! I come in here pretty much every Wednesday and Friday and always see him.”

“I’m in here only a few times a year,” I answer, and honestly.

Then he holds up another book, Dinesh D’Souza’s The Roots of Obama’s Rage.  Thrift stores are always chuck full of old political pundit screeds and books on which way the economy is going, circa whenever they came out. Browse enough stores over enough years, and you’ll soon realize, as I have, how both political and economic prognosticators are WRONG practically EVERY GOD DAMN TIME.  Especially the economic ones – I’ve lost count of how many “the economy is doomed/here’s how to survive it!” books came out in the late 80s-early 90s before the biggest stock market boom in history, only to be outdone by the “how to make millions in house flipping” books that came out right before the housing bubble burst, etc. Rinse/repeat.

I ignore all those books. I think others must as well, since they seem to keep landing on thrift store shelves, serving as artifacts to remind us how hindsight is 20-20, and supposed foresight is blind drunk.

Anyway, Captain Creepazoid holds up D’Souza’s book and says “I don’t agree with this guy, but I like how he writes! He’s always angry!”

I’m thinking that puts this guy in a minority of D’Souza’s fans. I’d assume the people who read political books agree with ’em already, whether they’re D’Souza or Coulter on one side or Picketty or Elizabeth Warren on the other. But this guy just liked ANGRY.

“I bet if he wrote that book after they put him in jail for some finance law violation, it’s even angrier,” I said. Then I spotted some other anti-Obama book from a few years ago and handed it to him, hoping he’d check it out and shut up.

Nope. He kept talking.

“My son doesn’t care about politics,” he said. My first thought was OH SWEET CHRIST, HE HAS A KID. This guy has ACTUALLY BRED. “He never votes, doesn’t care at all about it,” he continued. “But his girlfriend, oh, she’s a real liberal, really far left. I’ll give this book to her!”

I really shouldn’t strike up conversations with random people in places like this. Sometimes I can’t help myself, though. And every now and then, I’ll be rewarded with comedy gold.

Next came this: “After eight years of all this, the Democrats, they’re not gonna stop! The only thing that’ll stop ’em is to gas ’em all and grow strawberries!”

I tried not to laugh. Strawberries? Seriously, what the fuck was that?

I had NO IDEA that’s what they used for fertilizer.

“I like strawberries,” I answered, and simply walked away. I’m hoping a response like that made this creepy old bastard think I was more insane than him.

It must have, since he didn’t follow me and continue the conversation. I moved away from the books, took a quick walk surveying some other parts of the store, and left empty handed.

On my way out to the car, I bump into a guy I recognize from many yardsales and other thrift stores. He recognizes me as well. Once we discovered we don’t hunt for the same stuff, we could be civil with each other whenever we saw each other at some junk sale.

He mostly buys antique-y stuff and, if he was being honest with me when I asked him, keeps it himself and does not resell until he replaces it with some other antique pick. Some years back I think I tipped him off to the address of some estate sale loaded with Depression glass. Maybe that’s why he remembers me.

“Hey! Haven’t seen you in a while!” He says.

“Yeah, I moved far from here, don’t get to valley sales as often. No books today, this place was really picked clean.”

“Oh, well this store has been really going downhill. People sell on the internet or just hold onto stuff now. Not as much donations out there.”

“I was thinking that,” I said. “I noticed some other charities have closed some stores, consolidated stuff. Not as easy as it used to be to find interesting things cheap.”

“Don’t I know it,” he said. “Well, see you around.”

He went inside and I went to my car. The internet has certainly made it easier to hunt down obscure stuff if you know how to search. But it’s also devastated the odds of finding the same obscure stuff at the odd garage sale or junk shop because if it’s worth ANYTHING, someone’ll easily find out about that now.

And so, the wonderful light of serendipity is dimmed. The joy of finding the item can often surpass the joy of owning the item. The joy of the find is an endangered species.

I suppose someday, instead of unfortunately entering into random conversations with them at dirty old thrift stores, we’ll also have to find our creepy old genocidal lanky dudes via targeted internet searches.

Oh wait, you’re already doing that on eHarmony. I stand corrected.





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