Who's Got The Juice?

Every once in a while, a perfect conflagration of events comes along unexpectedly and makes you feel like a high-roller. Let's discuss. As many of you know, I've been putting together a high-grade run of Uncanny X-Men from #100 to #200. As of this writing, I'm about a third of the way through already, owning about 32 of the 101 issues I'm seeking. Assembling this run that has numerous key issues and first appearances is fun, but challenging. This is no small task. Finding the books at all is at medium difficulty level, and finding the books in VF/NM (that's Very Fine to Near Mint, for all you non-comic heads out there) is extremely tough. That said, when I find a stash I'm ready to spend some money if they're the issues I need.

I stumbled upon a shop in San Diego (which I won't yet reveal until I'm finished looting it for the X-Books I need!) which isn't widely known, but is a humongous warehouse of all things comic, it almost overwhelms the senses with its completist attitude toward everything. In short, it's the largest single collection of Silver Age I've ever seen amassed in one place. In fact, they just recently made an acquisition of a large collection in LA with a nice quantity of early Marvel issues. They even have a CGC'd copy (that's Comics Guarantee Corporation, a professional grading service for high end books) of X-Men #1 and even in its less than stellar condition (4.0 out of 10.0), it's still $1,200. That's how rare and sought after this thing is.

Anyway, so I'm in there last week with only about an hour to kill before I have to meet up with some people elsewhere. I'm pulling beautiful copies out of the bins and I'm pretty early in the run. I'm snagging #105 (Phoenix), #109 (first appearance of Vindicator from Alpha Flight), #118 (Sunfire), etc. And I know these things carry a price tag, but I'm not really paying attention. A combination of having about $2,400 on me and just being pressed for time. Now the bins containing these issues are pretty close to the front entrance, so the owner of the shop and his two female assistants can see what I'm doing. They're carrying on some mundane conversation about North Korea's nuclear proliferation and Kim Jong-il having a god complex. I'm half listening in to their pedestrian comments, they're trying to conjure the name of the Defense Department agency that was the precursor to the CIA, which I know is the clandestine OSS, but it's kind of amusing hearing them prattle on with other acronyms, X-Files sounding things like "The Black Bag," and confusing it with British agencies like MI-5 and MI-6. In the midst of all that, and because I'm eavesdropping, I hear them start to notice me. Suddenly there's chatter about the guy pulling a pile of expensive back issues like it ain't no thang. And I'll be honest, it's feeding my ego. Not only am I having a ball finding these issues and admiring some of the copies, but now I'm knee deep in this little cultural anthropology field trip.

I'm glad the owner's there, I think to myself. This is the third time I've been to the store and it's going to serve as a further litmus test regarding how I feel about shopping at the place. First trip, I thought he was an asshole, dismissive, and almost rude. The customer service was crap, but I ceded the fact that he may have been preoccupied processing the new LA acquisition. Second trip I found him to be much more friendly and had a nice conversation about some CGC'd Mister Miracle issues. I'm also noticing his female assistants. They're cute, look a bit younger than me, and are dressed just right. One of them is, apropos of how I'm starting to feel about this whole scene, named... Berry. That's right, her name is Berry. I'm digging that. So, they see me. They know what I'm about to do. And I'm seeing them, after hearing their little 3-way diatribe. Suffice it to say, glances are exchanged.

My pile is assembled. I'm watching the clock; I'm out of time. As I enter the room they occupy, I can feel their looks. In my peripheral vision, I can see their heads slowly turn as I stroll across the room. The owner is watching the pile, seeing only the money. But these 2 little mudhoneys are clocking me. They know I've got the juice. I shoot one of them a small smile; her big eyes lock on me, she blushes.

"The Juice." Allow me to explain. My coworker and I (who shall remain nameless) use this term all the time. Actually we use a few terms, with subtle distinctions. Sometimes we'll talk about someone having "the swing" or "the stroke." This is used in a business sense. As in "so-and-so VP really has some 'swing,' he can really get shit done." It means you have this quality, the ability to influence, credibility, the ability to navigate in high-powered circles, etc. It's an external attribute. Something you cultivate professionally. The "juice," on the other hand, is an internal attribute. It takes all the wonderful qualities of "the swing" and adds charisma, charm, power, control, a warm dangerous quality that guys want to have and girls want to be around. And of course, there's the implicit sexual connotation. In our little warped corner of the universe, anyway. ;-)

The owner beelines for me, "I'll handle this cutomer" he proclaims. His open arms greet my stack of books as the mudhoneys look up in what can only be described as awe. As I listen in to their thoughts, all I can hear is "Who the fuck *is* this guy?" in the most intrigued internal monologues I can muster for them. As the owner does some quick calculations, I motion over to a case that contains X-Men #1 and the first 4 issues of The Avengers, as if to imply "yes, I might just buy those books too."

The owner shoots out a total figure that's pretty high in the 3-digit range. I give him my best poker face and only offer a non-chalant "ok" in return. And sure enough, he bites on my feigned indifference. He says "you know what, I'm going to knock off 20% for you." Now we're talking. This is what I wanted from my third trip into this guy's pad. It's obvious he remember me from before, he makes a comment about those Mister Miracle issues we discussed the previous time. I know who he is. He knows who I am. And he knows, that I know, that he knows. We're on track. Meanwhile, the honeys are still vibing me hard. I can feel it. As he bags my purchases, I decide to spread the love a little. I give a playful little sideways glance to one of the girls and offer a simple "hi, how ya' doin?"

"Oh, I'm good," she smiles back. This one doesn't blush. This one has a black bra strap exposed against her tan shoulder. This one is Berry.

I start peeling off Benjamins as the owner wheels around in mid sentence. "Will this be cash or..." as he notices what I'm doing. "Ah, cash..." his entrepreneurial eyes dance with a capitalistic flair that brings me back to Kim Jong-il and the Communists. What an antithetical circle we've made. "If you're paying cash, then I'll eat the sales tax," he says proudly. "Oh, thanks" I say, genuinely surprised. "I really appreciate that."

Berry now inserts herself into our exchange. She lifts my bag of books, comes out from behind the counter to hand them to me, locks her glowing eyes on mine and says "Thank you... very much." And there's that pregnant pause, between "you" and "very," emphasis on the "very."

I smile a goodbye to everyone, turn and head out to my car. I'm so very happy that my third trip to the place was a pleasant consumer experience. Pleased that I found the books, found a retailer willing to hustle for his dollar and reward a customer, pleased knowing that I'll be back for more, and of course, pleased with the harmless flirtation of Berry. I chirp the alarm on my BMW and crack a smile to myself because of what I'm about to do.

As I pull my car door open and lift my seat back to place the books snugly in the back seat, I cock my head to the right sharply only to catch Confident Berry, Blush Girl, and The Owner looking out at me. They're all intrigued for different reasons. One is shy and intimidated. One is curious and playful. One is content and planning ahead. Today, I've got the juice.


At 7:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is there an emoticon for rolling one's eyes?:P

At 8:38 AM, Blogger Justin Giampaoli said...

HAHA! Hey Felix, yes, yes, I know. This was a little self-indulgent. =)


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