Out of Characters

Julie Caniglia, January 22, 1992


In their careers as repo men, Latvaaho and Bolkcom have been shot at, chased by bikers, dogs, and cops, threatened with death, cursed at, threatened with plastic explosives, lied to, threatened with pipes, punched, shoved, and scammed. Even so, they like their jobs.

Bolkcom parks the Mustang 25 yards away from the Chevy, which sits just off the front yard, and opens his trunk. Silently, the repo man gathers the tools of his trade: the Slim Jim, a large metal yardstick with which to trip the door lock; a box of ignition keys; and a leather pouch that houses a set of lock picks. He says he's forgotten his Mace at home, and opts to leave the blackjack on the front seat of the car.

Jim Walsh, June 24, 1992


"How do you like it here, Kevin?" [Grace House executive director] Keith Dorenbach asks softly.

"I like it, I like it just fine. No complaints. I like going out into the garden. It's a wonderful garden. I go out there on the gazebo and I smoke out there. I smoke all the time. I smoke my brains out. Yes, indeed. I smoke in the garden and I kill ants left and right."

"When did you move back to Minneapolis?"

"Eight years ago. More than eight years ago."

"Was that right around the time you found out you had AIDS?"

"Yes, it was. Exactly. I've got cigarettes here in my pocket. My top pocket. Four left. Four more. Nooo kidding. Nooo doubt about it."

"When did you first hear about Grace House?"

"Right before I came. I don't know."

"Didn't you have a friend who lived here?"

"Yeah, Keith. He lived here. He died here. In my bed."

"Is that kind of creepy for you?"

"Yeah, it is...."

"How old are you, Kevin?"

"I'm 34. And I'll be 35 December first. Yippee skippee, I can't wait 'til I'm 35. I hope I'm alive for it."

"I hope you are too, Kevin."

Jim Walsh, November 4, 1992


"RO-OO-OCKS FOR SALE!" The little boy sits on a plastic bucket filled with, yes, rocks. On the sidewalk before him he's got hundreds of them, most perfectly ordinary, carefully arranged in rows and ready for sale. And the kid's got an impressive reserve in case of a rush: Another plastic bucket and an empty 12-pack beer box sit brimming at his side....He's a good salesman, explaining the fine points of his products and lingering admiringly over one he says contains a fossil. Charmed by his laid-back pitch, I pick out four rocks and let him name the price. "I think about 80 cents," he says, after a moment's ciphering. I offer him a dollar and tell him to keep the change. Ecstatic at first, he pauses and then suggests, "Well, you can take another rock if you like." A happy customer is a repeat customer.

Joyce Turiskylie, August 18, 1993


"We've won $6,000, three trophies, and a dozen plaques since our first tournament in Milwaukee in '92, and OH MY GOD!" Fred Richardson gasps. His partner-in-pinball, Paul Madison, leaps back like he's been jolted by Whitewater, a game in Blondies' on the West Bank. The machine seems to be having some kind of mechanical orgasm, every light, bell and whistle strobing full force as the points slowly rack up. "He got the Vacation Planner shot!"

Julie Caniglia, September 8, 1993


Maybe you know the type: Greg makes do with three 45-cent bagels for breakfast and lunch each day, and one $92 session with his shrink each week. Amy squeaks by month to month working a few shifts at a coffee shop, yet her bathroom is stocked with expensive aromatherapy toiletries. Andy sees a Persian rug for sale on the street and runs to the cash machine, even though he knows he doesn't have enough to cover it. "You just sort of trust in the fact that things are going to work out," he explains simply. Somehow, they always do.

Julie Caniglia, March 23, 1994


Then comes a '59 LeSabre, lowered, nosed, decked, metallic ruby, no door handles, just a tiny hole where you key the solenoid so the door pops open. Sometimes Neil gets up and goes out at night and just cruises because there's no feeling like it. "I put 8,000 miles on this thing last year and I didn't go nowhere." When he graduated high school in '57 he got $125 and spent $95 of it on a '48 Ford....

It's hard to understand the attachment if you didn't live through it. But it's real simple. When most of these people were little kids, the big war was on and they didn't make cars. So for years they sat in the musty back seat of the family rattletrap and figured, well, this was it. This was cars. Then came the Fifties and good times and gorgeous, powerful chromewagons, and suddenly the big moments of your life had to do with the car you were driving.

Like Jerry and Judy. Back in '64 Judy was sitting in a white '61 Skylark three rows in from the fence when Jerry comes over from this burgundy '61 Invicta and he works it around to where he gets her phone number. And here they are tonight in a perfect, lemon-yellow '53 Nash Rambler. Huh? Yeah, but wait. Jerry has put a CZ-1 in it, a 350-cubic-inch custom block that gets 345 horsepower along with a new tranny and beefed-up rear end. Don't mess with him.

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