Blockbuster: Mankind, In His Natural Environment

I daydreamed about American business today.

I don’t usually. It’s ugly. Business is what we substitute for living in the animal kingdom, where most residents meet their fates by being eaten. So, too, in business. The race to the swift. The weak are devoured by the strong. Mercy is not in the equation.

Except when Michael was involved. He had a way of humanizing everything. Even Blockbuster Video.

That’s where he worked, most of his adult life. Loved the movies, loved the free rentals he got. Even when I invited him to live with me in DC, get a fresh start, that’s where he took his first job. When I was out of town one weekend and had him watch the house, he had mercy on a woman who walked into the store, claiming she was being followed and fearing for her life.

Michael invited her over to sleep on his couch. When he discovered she was a derelict, he gave her what money¬†he had, and gently evicted her before my return. I was initially angry, but it turned out to be harmless. Humorous, even; the woman was so touch by Michael’s kindness she would routinely bring him food from the soup kitchen. Beets, kidney beans, shit no one wants. But she would pack them up, leave them on our front step.

“MICHAEL!!!!” we’d hear her yell from the porch. “GOT SOME FOOD FOR YA!!!!!”

We laughed often about Blockbuster. Once, I went in to register membership at my local store. My first is technically Guy, which is how I fill out all paperwork. But, apparently, the Mensa member logging my membership thought it was Gary. So he misspelled that name. Then my last.

Then, over the loudspeaker, I’m alerted.

“Gray Bowels,” the guy said. “Do we have a Gray Bowels here? Your membership is ready.”

You could have shone a spotlight on me as I walked through the snickering crowd, which must have had pity on the poor guy named after unhealthy excrement.

Or the my cotton candy craving. I was jonesing for it one weekend, and discovered that one store in L.A. — Blockbuster — carried cotton candy. No doubt aged, congealed and putrified for mass consumption. But it bore a resemblance. Then I became a junkie.

Every Friday night, with a couple rentals, a bag of “Fluffy’s.”

“Boy, you sure do like cotton candy,” said the guy, whose pimples were a teenage connect the dots. “You get it every week.”

“I know,” I said, staring at the road map. “But where else are you going to find cotton candy?

Without hesitation. “The circus.”

To Michael and all things fleeting as laughter.


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