Paul and Jason shared a flat on South Van Ness. It was an old Victorian and in a bit of a state but the landlord was never about so they could do what they liked. They'd painted the walls some decent colors and there was loads of Jason's art lying about so it looked OK. They worked at a yuppie health food store so money was pretty tight. They always seemed to know someone who was DJing somewhere but hanging out in bars required buying drinks. They spent a lot of time on the couch, drinking 40s of malt liquor, watching afternoon TV meant for old people and stay-at-home mums. Columbo was their favorite programme.
There was this one guy they'd always see around the Mission. Tall and skinny but with these dark, serious eyes. He frequented the same thrift stores. Everyone was looking for the same shit. Velvet paintings, kitsch ashtrays, 70s McDonalds glasses. This guy was always hunched over the stacks of used vinyl. What was he looking for? Everyone knew there was nothing good in those stacks. If someone had something good to sell they went over to Berkeley and sold it at Amoeba. (This was before they opened up the massive Amoeba in an old bowling alley on Haight Street). The other thing about him was he looked exactly like the murderer on an episode of Columbo that seemed to come around on TV every other month or so. It got to the point where Paul and Jason were calling him 'Killer' to just about everyone except the man himself. "Saw Killer at the corner store today, he was buying Anchor Steam. Must have dough." It got so that just about every white, gay hipster in the Mission knew him as Killer, although he was none the wiser.
Well back then the neighborhood was like a tiny desert island. People hardly ever left. The beach? That was miles away, the streetcar took like an hour, are you crazy? Especially for artists and musicians, and the people who dressed like artists and musicians. Rent was still cheap and you could work in a pizza place and hang around the rest of the time trying to look like an artist or a musician. No one remembered how it happened but one night Jason went home from the Uptown with Killer and soon after that they began dating. Eventually the rest of us got to know him too and he turned out to be not that scary. The name Killer became ironic as it couldn't be further from the truth. I forget what his real name was actually.
One night everyone went back to Killer's apartment on 18th Street after the bars closed and he played records 'til 4am. We found out what he'd been looking for all this time in the thrift stores - absolutely anything. He had wall after wall stacked with albums, the kind of stuff you find for 25 cents in any thrift store in America. You know, some of it was good and some of it was shit but it was all there. Genesis "Invisible Touch" - check. Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass - check. Michael Jackson "Bad" - Check. Plus the obligatory marching band, gospel, and classical Christmas themed compilations. He wasn't a discerning record collector, like I was used to, he just collected anything, so long as it was cheap and he couldn't recall having it already. Fair play to him. Statistically, there had to be something amazing in those stacks, but I wasn’t going to spend hours inhaling dust-borne germs trying to find it.
Not long after that people started drifting away. Paul moved back to Boston and Jason moved to New York. Last I heard he was making music videos. I still see Killer around from time to time. Word must have got to him about the nickname because now he has it tattooed on the back of his neck.
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