Let's turn our detective-like attention to the recent death of an old Portland man who collected rare comic books and pulp fiction. His: James Strand. His age at the time of exiting all there is: 88. Where he finally collapsed: Near the kitchen, which, while alive, he rarely used. Mudede's connection with all of this? His recently late father-in-law went to elementary school with the dead collector. How Strand's niece, Susan Hasty, described him in The Oregonian: "[A] soft-spoken recluse who rarely shared his passion for fantasy and horror literature." (Hasty admits that she hardly knew the man and last saw him in 2008).
Apparently, Hasty was the only family member contacted after Strand's body was discovered and recovered—he had been dead for "several days." Though the writer of this Oregonian story, Steve Duin, first claims the body was found by neighbors, he later writes that it was actually found by a bookseller, Scott Brown, on August 12. So, who found the body? Let's put that aside, and move directly to the answer to this question: Why did a bookseller find lifeless Strand?
Here, things get interesting.
The weekend column. If you know more than I do about this theft, please DM me. https://t.co/PcITGXh58y— Steve Duin (@SteveDuin) September 23, 2023
Steve Duin writes:
Scott Brown, one of the more thoughtful people in town, first realized something was seriously wrong on Aug. 12 when a Portland bookseller list serve reported a flurry of books inscribed to the mysterious James Strand.
“My involvement started as a welfare check,” Brown says. “The working assumption was he was still alive and was getting robbed and no one could get hold of him.”
The Portland bookseller, who clearly found Strand, was familiar enough with all of the rare books and comics stuffed in a small and dark Southeast home. (Black tape and plastic covered the windows to protect Strand's books from the eroding rays of the sun.) The bookseller found several very expensive items missing from the treasured library and spread the word about the loss on relevant websites. Some of the stolen items were worth, according to Steve Duin, $20,000. Now for the twist.
Duin blames drug addicts and homeless people for the thefts. They somehow knew two things: His death and the value of his books.
As early as Aug. 11, James Strand’s extraordinary collection began showing up at Portland bookstores and comic shops. The $5,000 Stephen King firsts and the $10,000 pulps and the $20,000 Bernie Wrightson original art arrived with a bald guy on crutches, a woman in a nurse’s outfit, a car without license plates.
How did the "local tweakers" get a hold of Strand's stash of pulp and comics? "The odds are good [they] were watching [when his body was removed from the house on August 4]." Duin then gives the address of the house so other tweakers can, after reading the paper in the morning, take advantage of this raw free-for-all. Indeed, one tweaker had the wherewithal to sell books valued at $4,000 on eBay.
But, you might think: What if those addicted to drugs and life on the seedy streets did not know the value of first editions signed by, say, Stephen King, but went to secondhand bookstores in the hope of fetching a few dollars? To make this scenario plausible, we have to imagine someone in the know buying Strand's valuable books at a song from the "bald guy on crutches" and so on. It's also possible that a large number of people living on the streets were formerly employed in bookstores. Why not? Portland sure has lots of them. Maybe the tweakers had the collector's knowledge needed to exploit Strand's exposure. At this point, you can see the point I'm making with this very Portland crime. This point connects with the current (forgive the pun) rash of Bartell closures in Seattle.
For comparison, Rite Aid gutting Bartells footprint seems to be getting only cursory play even though it’s a much bigger impact. But maybe that’s because Rite Aid seems not to be screaming crime, crime, crime, just bland corporate jargon. https://t.co/a4AWUXxIGO— Darryl Sclater (@DSclater) September 28, 2023
When the first drugstores closed, all of the blame was placed on crime, the homeless, tweakers. But the closures just didn't stop. And some happened in places that were considered pretty safe by Safe Seattle standards. What was going on? Eventually, the Seattle Times had to make this very painful admission: It was Bartell's merger with Rite Aid. That's when the trouble really started. Were tweakers in on this deal? No. So it was just capitalists buying capital? Yes. But aren't mergers a good thing? The company becomes bigger and, in this resplendent bigness, can offer cheaper and cheaper products to consumers?
Most studies assert that between 70% and 90% of mergers fail. The reasons can range from clashes between management of the acquiring company and those of the acquired to overpromising shareholders, as well as failure to understand the business or distinctive market of the company on the losing end of the merger.
In the rare occasions where mergers and acquisitions succeed, they require massive cutbacks.
It turns out the Rite Aid/Bartell Drugs merger was no different. But our society has not been structured to feel negatively about job-destroying corporate mergers. We are only structured (or socially engineered) to feel mad about tweakers. If you put this fact of feeling (be it with the unsolved Strand crime in Portland or Bartell's closures in Seattle), you should stop and think twice about a news story that opens like this: "Target will close nine stores in major U.S. cities including two in Seattle because of crime and safety concerns, the company said Tuesday."