So, yeah, we went to pick up Jonathan–after a couple more pages back and forth and then a phone call to confirm his flight information and make sure he was okay with being kidnapped by us that night. Apparently, he was.
Tony was happy to have something to do in the meantime, so we had him take us around a couple of places in the afternoon. Ziggy had some kind of a dance training appointment he decided not to skip so we dropped him off and then Tony took me to do some shopping.
“What kind of shopping?” he asked, as we moved through midtown traffic. “I thought that’s what you guys did yesterday.”
“Eh, that was mostly window shopping.” Ziggy had bought some clothes and I had considered a new leather jacket but I liked the old one even if it had the BNC logo on it. Saying so led to Ziggy getting a Sharpie from the cash register clerk and blacking it out. Perfect. “I need a new pair of high-tops,” I told Tony. “Pretty much wore the soles right off these.”
“Lemme see ’em.”
I was sitting in the front seat, because I felt like an asshole riding around in the back with Tony driving, so I put my foot up on my knee and he turned his head to look before putting his eyes back on the road.
“Nobody wears Chucks like those anymore, man,” Tony advised. “Nike is where it’s at.”
“I’m not trying to look like an actual basketball star, you know.”
“Not like anybody’s going to mistake you for one. No offense, boss.”
“None taken. But these are really the best.”
“You’re a throwback.”
“If they were good enough for the Ramones, they’re good enough for me.”
“Point. You white dudes and your weird fashion sense.” He shook his head. “Anyway. I’m not even sure where to get those anymore. Where’d you buy those?”
“At a K-Mart in New Jersey when I was eighteen,” I said.
“Shit. No way are we going there. What about Macy’s. You think they got ’em at Macy’s?”
So that was how Tony and I ended up going to the big Macy’s department store right by Madison Square Garden. I don’t think I had actually been inside the place before. The closest I’d been was probably looking in their windows at Christmastime. The place was historic and huge, and Tony had a friend who worked as a security guard there. We met the guy and shook hands and he told us where the shoe department was, then decided to take us there himself.
He dropped us off with a sales clerk who asked my shoe size, then told us to check the junior department, where he passed us off to a woman who sat us down, then had me get up again to measure my foot just in case, then went off to find the shoes I asked for. I sat back down.
“You know somebody everywhere we go,” I remarked.
Tony nodded. “Pretty much.”
“Is that why we came here instead of, I dunno, any other department store?”
“Of course…?” Tony had his sunglasses perched on top of his head and every time he swiveled his head I felt like he had an extra set of eyes on the lookout. “You’d do the same, wouldn’t you?”
“Well, come to think of it, I would, but what makes you say that?”
“You’re loyal. Not a lot of people these days loyal. Especially in the business.”
“Yeah, tell me about it.” I thought about the fact that I was going to have to start hiring musicians in a few days, when my week was up. “Well, depending. I mean, if I have to put together a band I’m going to call the guys I know long before I start auditioning strangers. But is that loyalty or is it just because it’s better to work with someone you know?”
He shrugged. “Dunno. In this case, it’s a lot easier here than anywhere else.”
“Think about it. When a six-foot-two three-hundred-pound black dude walks into a department store, what’s the first thing the security guards do?”
“Oh, I get it. They freak.”
He nodded. “And that’s unpleasant for everybody.” Tony’s a master of understatement. And stoic calm.
“I used to get stalked through the mall for being a teenager,” I said.
“Right? Right? They think if you’re there alone you must be there to steal. But if you’re there in a group you must be troublemakers.”
“Exactly. And the only reason I was there was it was better than being at home. Even with being stalked by rent-a-cops.”
“The only time I don’t get a hassle in the mall is if I’m with my mother. Or my grandmother.” He shook his head. “And she was the worst shoplifter you can imagine.”
“What? You’re kidding.”
“Nope. Grandma was a devil. My mother hated it and thought it was embarrassing. She’d refuse to accept a gift if she thought it was stolen and she taught me and my brothers that stealing when you didn’t need to was beneath our dignity. She would be like, ‘Do I work hard and put clothes on your backs and food in your mouths? Yes? You insult me if you steal. It’s an insult.”
“That reminds me, did I tell you what Digger did?”
Tony chuckled. “You mean ‘speaking of relatives who were crooks?'” Then he slapped himself on the back of the hand. “I shouldn’t talk bad about a former employer. What’d he do now besides try to sue everybody?”
“Showed up at a couple of the venues on the West Coast during the Nomad tour, trying to shake me down for ten grand.”
“Ten grand? Man.”
“We had security ban him but he kept trying to get in anyway, and he gave me some whole cockamamie sob story about–jeez I don’t even know–how Galani Gilliman got pregnant and somehow this led to Digger needing ten thousand dollars or he’ll get evicted.”
“You think any of it’s true?”
“Only the part about needing ten thousand dollars. The rest, who knows.”
“Well, that girl’s a handful, but I don’t know.”
“I shouldn’t talk shit but if you want my opinion, totally spoiled Hollywood brat.”
“Digger made it sound like her family are traditional Hindus or something.”
Tony snorted. “If by traditional he means the kind whose daddies drive a Lexus to their Beverly Hills plastic surgery practice and vacation in the French Riviera.”
“Ah.” I began to wonder where the shoe clerk was and looked around a bit.
Tony stood. “She’s coming.” He could see her over the top of the racks, I guess.
“I’m so so sorry,” she said when she sat down in front of me on one of those little leather-padded stools with the slanted pad for the person trying on a shoe to rest their foot on. She was young, probably my age, with straight dark hair held back by a ribbon or hair band of some kind. “The boxes got mixed up somehow and I kept finding ones that were marked right but the shoes in them didn’t match and it was a total mess. Give these a try.”
There’s not a lot of variation in the make or sizing of Converse All-Stars. They fit fine. I walked up and down in them just to make her happy.
“Do you want to wear them home?” she asked, holding up my old pair and the empty box.
I had a flashback then, to the store where Digger had worked when I was a kid. That’s what they always asked children with new shoes. Maybe they asked the adults that, too, and I didn’t remember.
She put my old shoes into the box and then took us around to the cash register where I paid and she put the box into a shopping bag and handed me the whole shebang.
As we walked out Tony said, “See, the bag is important because it shows we bought something and didn’t just make off with the shoes.”
“Which always makes me think, if I was going to steal a pair of shoes, wouldn’t I go prepared with a shopping bag to make it look like that? How does that help?”
“You might be surprised how dumb some criminals are,” Tony said. “Most of the ones who can plan that well ahead can pull off much better crimes than walking out with a pair of shoes. Insurance fraud, for instance.”
I shrugged. “Or ripping off a family member.”