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Do crazy

It works every time


Never ask Grant's advice, because usually he'll only tell you one of two things: "suicide," or, "You need to fuck a fat black man."

Personally, I don't think either qualifies as real guidance, but I guess it depends on who you are.

Take Lary, for example (though I doubt he ever fucked a fat black man). That suicide part, though -- I have to wonder about that.

As far as I know, Lary is still alive, but not for lack of not trying. Almost annually, he ends up in the hospital because he flung himself off the top of something. He argues this is just a hazard of his job, which has to do with production lighting and involves a lot of scaffolding and ladders and whatnot -- combined with the fact that he likes to take acid while climbing things. "I'm not suicidal," Lary says.

"Ha! You are a lying goddamn sack of rabid bats!" I tell him. "You had a goddamn gun to your head once!"

Here I'm just going by what he told me. I never actually saw Lary point a gun to his own head, though the mental visual I can conjure is very pleasing. No, the gun incident is what Lary himself told me he did way back when his neighborhood was crime-ridden shit pit, and people often tried to break into the dilapidated warehouse Lary calls a home -- or they simply knocked on his door, which Lary hates just as much.

So Lary bought a gun and waved it around with his drapes open, which was only half-effective in keeping criminals away. So then he started wandering the street in front of his warehouse, waving the gun around and shouting, which was a little more effective. But the problem wasn't completely eradicated until he started wandering the street, shouting, waving the gun around and then pointing it to his own head.

"After that, nobody came near me," Lary says. "It was great."

"That's right. Do crazy," Grant concurs, adding a third piece of advice to his standard string. "It works every time. People stay away from crazy. People are afraid of crazy."

Grant didn't always know this. He once bought a rundown house in Kirkwood with a dead chicken nailed to the door jam and a drug club across the street where crack whores went just to get roughed up. In the first three months, they stole $1,500 worth of landscaping equipment from Grant, as well as his entire illegal collection of taxidermied endangered animals.

At that point, Grant thought the appropriate measure would be to get tough, so he stood vigil in his living room night after night, and the second he saw a miscreant set foot on his lawn he would sound the house alarm, an ear-piercing shrill he thought surely would train them, Pavlovian-style, not to come near his house.

He was wrong. They stole his ex-wife's entire collection of heirloom Christmas decorations next, as well as other stuff. "I'd always see people in the neighborhood wearing my clothes," he laughs. He sold that house the next year, then bought another one in an even worse neighborhood, Peoplestown.

At first, people stole from him there, too, making for some well-dressed crack addicts in Peoplestown. But then Grant met Papa Smurf, a wizened, drug-and-alcohol-addicted neighborhood crony, whose habit was to stand on the sidewalk and stare at Grant through rheumy eyes every afternoon. When Papa Smurf finally approached Grant, he was wearing shoes too big and too familiar.

"Is you a saint?" he asked.

"No," Grant answered, "I am not."

Papa Smurf must not have believed him, because he took to confessing to Grant on a regular basis. "God has given me the affliction of addiction," he'd say. Then he'd totter off to his apartment located above a corner market across the street, where he lived alone. Nobody ever bothered Papa Smurf.

So Grant asked his advice. "How do I keep people from bothering me?" he said. Papa Smurf offered this wisdom: "Don't do mean. Mean don't work," he counseled. "Do crazy. People's afraid o' crazy.""

As it turns out, Grant does crazy very well. He festooned the outside of his house with crack lighters, painted religious figures and plywood signs with sayings like, "God Is Coming. Repent Immediately." Nobody bothered him again. A few months later, Papa Smurf died alone in his apartment. He'd been dead four days before officials gained access to his home, where they found him near the door, on his knees.

"Four days in 90-degree heat," says Grant, remembering that he'd watched from his porch as the coroner carried a shovel up the stairs to remove Papa Smurf's body.

After that, Grant didn't care much about his stuff anymore. He invited people over to take what they wanted. I got a concrete Virgin Mary painted "haint" blue, a pair of wooden shoes and a lamp-stand covered in crack lighters.

In the end, Grant started life over with little more than one pair of shorts and eight sets of prescription sunglasses. Of course, we all think he's insane. He wouldn't have it any other way. "Don't do mean. Do crazy," he says. "People's afraid o' crazy."

Hollis Gillespie's commentaries can be heard on NPR's "All Things Considered." To hear the latest, go to Moodswing at

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