The shop with two names

It's almost surprising how much I don’t miss Macy’s, or most of the people there. It was a job like most jobs, and I hated it, and I’m glad I quit. My only mistake was dithering around and wondering so long whether I should quit. Should've told Macy's to pucker up on my backside years ago.

My favorite memory of the place is leaving without the traditional two weeks’ notice, fulfilling a promise I’d made to myself. Even before I was a ‘permanent employee’ (insert sarcastic laughter), one fine Friday Mr Macy laid off three people I’d been working with, with no advance notice. It was the first round of layoffs I saw there, but there were more every few months. Layoffs were routine, just part of working there, and you can't imagine how dispiriting that is.

When they hired me from the temp agency I'd already decided, if ever I had the chance to leave of my own accord, I’d give Mr Macy the same advance notice he’d given my co-workers — zero.

Which reminds me, I should call Kallie. I haven’t spoken with her since the Friday after I quit, and that was only a quick call. She’s phoned a few times since then, leaving messages to remind me that Darla has my last paycheck. Even with some money at stake, though, I ain’t too prompt about returning phone calls. Ask my mother about that; I owe her three or five calls.

♦ ♦ ♦

Went flyering on the J line, and for anyone looking to me as a bad example of how to waste your life, I strongly recommend the sticky paper for your odd-job flyers. I’d hesitated to buy it because it’s expensive — a dollar a page, four flyers per page — but the sticker-flyers look much better than the paper flyers, and they seem to last longer, too. Jerks love ripping my flyers down, but with the stickers that takes some serious work and effort and time. 

To check, I took an hour joyride on the N streetcar, where I’d flyered on Sunday, to see if they were still sticking on the telephone poles and newsboxes, and they’re still sticking.

Then I listened to yesterday's voice mail messages. The first was another idiot thinking I was hiring. Now, I ask you, what moron could read my little flyer and not understand the basic concept — I am looking for work.

The second message was much better. A lady named LeeAnn said she’s the co-owner of a store, had some work for me, and invited me to drop by any time to meet her. The address was a quick train ride down Market Street, just a few blocks this side of Castro, so I didn't even call her back. I simply took Muni, and I was there in about ten minutes.

I walked in and met LeeAnn and Stevi, her partner, and they seem like easygoing, likable ladies. Stevi wasn’t expecting me and said she hadn’t seen my flyer, so I whipped one out of my pocket, and she took it, and studied it seriously, as if it was a business card or a mini-resumé. Gotta respect that. And thirty seconds later I had the job.

After that, though, I wanted to spend thirty minutes browsing through the store. They have lots and lots of odd, interesting, and simply strange artifacts. I could blow my allowance there for sure, if I had an allowance.

They sell quality kitsch and drag, affordably priced. If I say it’s a second-hand shop, you’ll imagine something tacky, but it’s not tacky. If I say “they sell antiques and collectibles,” you’ll picture someplace stuffy and overpriced, but it’s not that, either. In a word, it’s simply ‘cool’, like shopping the boutiques on Upper Haight, but without the attitude, the pretentiousness, and the inflation.

The store has two names — it’s called Unusualia, and it’s also called Urban Mermaids. I didn’t ask about the provenance of that, but my guess is that the two owners couldn’t agree on a name, so they agreed to disagree, and put both names on the sign. That’s odd, but perfectly fits the shop. 

I’ll be heavy-lifting boy, as needed, but mostly I’ll be wearing a florescent green cape and a red & black hood, and handing out flyers — the store’s flyers, not mine — to people walking by. See, the shop is on the second floor, not at street level, so people don't know it’s there unless they happen to look up, or unless someone’s on the sidewalk invites them to come upstairs — and that someone is me.

It’s shitwork, to be sure, but it can’t possibly not be more fun than data entry at Macy’s, and the outfit I'll be wearing is fabulous. It’s just the green cape and two-tone hood with my street clothes underneath, but the cape is the greenest green you’ve ever seen, and the hood is shaped sorta like an insect’s head.

It’s steady work but short-term, 2-3 weeks they say, but it’ll put peas in my pan. And don’t tell anyone, but I kinda love wearing the outfit. The job starts tomorrow, but I asked if I could try on the cape and be ludicrous for a while this afternoon — my treat, no wages. They looked at me like I’m nuts, but Stevi said, “Go for it,” so I put on maybe the most outrageous getup I’ve ever worn, and for twenty minutes or so handed flyers to passers-by. 

Yeah, I think I’m going to like this.


To celebrate, I treated me to a double feature at the Royal Theater on Polk Street, Quiz Show and Ed Wood, two movies that got good notices, one of which was truly quite boring. Brought my own snacks, of course.

Quiz Show is about a big scandal of the 1950s: TV game shows that were rigged, but the story moves like my grandpa, who's dead. People face moral dilemmas, choose between right and wrong, and live with the consequences, while I was counting the Dots™ and popcorn on the carpet. When the movie briefly teeters on the brink of almost-interesting, along comes the ever-annoying Rob Morrow, with a phony accent that sounds like Kansas or Kentucky by way of Manhattan. Doug Holland, drama coach, says: If you can't do an accent, don't do the accent.

Maybe I'm more annoyed than the movie deserves, but it's like this: I'm poorer than I was a few months ago, can't go to the movies very often, and when I go it damn well better be worth the price. At $3.75 for the double feature, that means I paid $1.88 to see Quiz Show, and that's about $10 more than it's worth.

Ed Wood was enjoyable, though. It's a hugely fictionalized biography of demented moviemaker Ed Wood Jr, as told by Tim Burton, who knows a bit about demented moviemaking. It's chock-full of concurrent yucks and pathos, so I laughed at and with Johnny Depp's Ed Wood. His fetish for angora seemed perfectly logical to me, and I was thinking it might look snazzy with my green cape and insect hood. Martin Landau is a shriek in the dark as Bela Lugosi, too. It's a good story well-told, and unlike Quiz Show, there's no boring moral dilemma to snore through.

♦ ♦ ♦

Rode the cable car back to the rez hotel, and ya know, some locals sneer at the Rice-A-Roni belldingers — too many tourists, too un-cool — but such naysayers are idiots. Cable cars are the city's funnest form of public transit, far superior to the herky-jerky buses that make me seasick on most Muni routes. Sitting in the open air, even on a chilly early evening like tonight, riding 19th century transport through the ultra-modern mega-dull financial district — if that ain't cool, well, neither am I and that ain't news.

From Pathetic Life #10
Tuesday, March 7, 1995

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.

Addendum, 2021: I almost never take or keep pictures, but just this once I wish I could share a photo of me in the shop’s sidewalk suit...

Pathetic Life 

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