Yesterday, I posted a little something about how I started my life of crime by stealing Brach's candy and that got me thinking about what else I've stolen over my four decades of life...or at least those things from, oh, the first two decades. The answers are pretty standard, I suspect. Any time I had to sell candy bars for some team or school activity, I managed to eat a lot of the merchandise and thus had to tell my mom that neighborhood toughs had stolen both the candy and the money I should have earned from legit sales (turns out eating a lot of candy makes you thirsty, so I had to, you know, ride my bike to McFarland's, the local ice cream and sweet shoppe, and get a root beer slushy or seven...and then I'd get hot from, you know, drinking all that slush, so I'd have to ride my bike to Thrifty and get three scoops of ice cream for 35 cents...and then I'd get hungry for something with a little protein, so back on my bike I'd go to Evie's, which sold terrible cheeseburgers, and I'd get one of those, and then, well, all the money was gone). This was no easy task considering I grew up in Walnut Creek, a town so bucolic no one seemed to notice that there was an entire series of streets and roads named for slaughtered Native Americans (I grew up on Cochise Court, for instance, just down the road from Natchez), though of course there were bullies about, though they all had the same job to sell candy bars so they were mercifully kind in not fucking with you.
I also remember a period of time where it was important for me to have more pens and pencils than other kids, so I admit now to stealing pencils out of Jennie Bartlolero's desk in 4th grade. What else? Oh, when I worked at the Wherehouse and the entire managerial team was shooting heroin in the break room (true story) I admit that I occasionally took some liberties involving cassingles (I couldn't see spending money on MC Breed's entire album just for "Ain't No Future In Yo Frontin'" for instance) and may have housed some CDs, too, which was harder to do back then because they were in footlong jewel cases. And I may have looked the other way when a cute girl from my anthro class at Pierce College asked me if it would be cool if her brother stole a Nintendo system. Of course it was okay, particularly since the entire managerial team regularly traded Nintendo machines for heroin. (The managers used to like me because I was the only person who worked at the store who wasn't a junkie, so they even gave me a raise, all the way up to $4.75 per hour, which also felt like stealing. $4.75 per hour! To sell music! A steal!)
But the one thing that I've always wondered about, in terms of thievery, is something I was deeply involved in...along with every other kid I knew: The great Columbia House bamboozle. You remember Columbia House: for a penny you'd get 11 cassettes or albums and then every month they'd send you another album (usually Aldo Nova and Boz Scaggs, for some reason) and then one day you'd get a bill in the mail for $76 for the nine Aldo Nova and Boz Scaggs records that you hid under your bed and that's when the panic would set in. Because when you're 11, $76 may as well be $10 million. Then the letters would start coming, demanding payment. And the phone calls. And eventually you'd have to explain to your mother that, uhm, you may have defrauded a record company. The weird thing, however, is that we did this scam about three times a year. I remember, vividly, waiting for our next door neighbors, the Hayworths, to go out of town for their annual three month summer vacation so that I could order 12 records in the name of their son and then collect them from the front steps of their house immediately upon delivery. Woe be the family that asked me or my sister Linda to water their plants for the summer, because when they got back there would be a bill waiting for them in the name of Bud Lurvey and a nice new copy of Foreigner 4.
At some point, I remember realizing that no matter what happened, I wasn't legally liable for these bills because I was, you know, 11 and couldn't enter into a contract. I suspect my sister Karen or my brother Lee informed us of this after learning about my existential fear that one day I'd come home and the Columbia House cops would be waiting for me, my vast collection of Mac Davis, Journey and Quarterflash albums confiscated as evidence. I was no criminal genius and yet I managed to scam this company out of 100-some-odd albums, as did all of my friends, which makes me wonder who the fuck actually paid Columbia House. Presumably good, kind, moral people...sadly, I didn't know any of these growing up, but I'm sure they lived somewhere.
*If you'd like to steal something with my consent, this is free until this Friday.