Monday, February 16, 2009

Still more Adventures in the Comic Trade

Lower Fourth Street in Santa Rosa in 1974 was still largely unimproved. Winos and whores, old derelicts with colorful alcoholic pasts, young hustlers with no prospects and bad judgment. A perfect place for a comic book store.
One day an older lady came in. She was the spitting image of the Aunt character on Sanford and Son, a black lady of sixty-something, floral dress, fake pearls, face like that of Redd Foxx. "Honey," she said, "Can I use your rest room?" I said "Of course you can," and waved her around the front counter. I got a little disturbed when she went into the bathroom and didn't close the door. Ever the gentleman I faced front and paid attention to my customers. Time passed. Finally I couldn't stand it. I said "Ma'am?" and peeked around the corner. She was sitting on the toilet, still fully dressed, with a hypodermic syringe hanging out of her tied-off arm. She'd nodded off. She awoke with a start, said "Oh, excuse me." I gave her her privacy and in a minute she stepped out of the bathroom, thanked me, and left.
Another time a young wino came in. He was a hulking native American, zombified by booze years before, living now only to alter his mind as much as possible. Usually he was non-responsive, but today he wandered in, waited until I wasn't busy, and came to the counter. "Can I get a dollar or two?" he asked. I shook my head. It was store policy to deny requests like this. "I can't start giving people money," I said. He looked blearily around, then reached up and snatched a comic off its display tack. "Y'know, I could rip up this comic book!" he said. I reached down and pulled out a little league baseball bat I kept below the counter. "Yeah, and I could beat your head into pulp," I said, and I banged the bat down on the counter which made a startlingly loud bang. He dropped the comic and ran, and I chased him down the street, pounding the bat on the sidewalk. For a wino he moved pretty well and I soon lost interest. The next day he wandered by me in a daze and showed no hint of recognition. He'd forgotten the entire incident.
Then there was the hooker who one day asked if she could use my phone. I said sure and she proceeded to use it to crack a walnut and eat it.
Perelandra also carried the largest selection of science fiction and fantasy paperbacks in the county. One day an older man wandered in, bypassed the rows of comics and went straight to the books, stopping only to introduce himself as Philip K. Dick. He was kind of in a daze, and soon his handler showed up, acknowledged that it was indeed Dick himself. He looked at books for awhile, then left.
That was abut the same time (1977) that a Marin County model-maker named Matt Cavanaugh asked me if I wanted to go to a movie preview in San Francisco with him. He was acquainted with some guys who made models for this upcoming science fiction film called Star Wars. I went with him to the Northpoint Theater in SF, saw Francis Ford Coppola introduce the unfinished print that was minus some sound and some special effects. It was also about ten minutes longer than the finished product. This was a month or so before the movie debuted.
A local high-school kid was one of my customers. He was into gaming and tried unsuccessfully to get me interested in Dungeons and Dragons. One day he brought in his pretty girlfriend, who I found I knew...she was the little girl who lived down the street. She'd grown up, and was eighteen. I hired her to help out in the bookstore part time, and before you knew it we were living together. Then we were married, had a kid, and separated, although we're still living together, me, her, her boyfriend, and our daughter, one sometimes big happy family.
But that's another story.


  1. At least you were able to pursue your dream and get another perspective on life. Haven't we all dreamed of doing something for a living that we really love. Your hobby is never the same when you have to do it for a living. Great series of posts amigo.

  2. Yeah, BHC! These are great posts. I am enjoying the heck out of learning more about where you "come from", so to speak.
    Keep 'em comin', hombre!