Street Justice

 Posted by on October 12, 2006  Elephants, JourneyMan, Thoughts, Updates
Oct 122006

Another pic for my Dad’s book, to illustrate a story about the Bangkok police implanting working elephants with tracking devices, to keep them off of the downtown streets:

Lately I have been in lockdown; just sleeping or working on the illustrations, with periodic breaks to eat, when I normally head out of the house to an internet cafe. I can get some change of scenery, food and some emails (and maybe a quick blog post!) done all in one go. I needed just such a break a few nights ago but it was late in the evening and the cosy internet-cafe I normally go to for such a break was closed. So I took my laptop over to another cafe that I knew was open late. It was crowded inside and the music was loud, so I sat outside in the fresh air to do some emailing and web-surfing on my laptop as I drank my hot chocolate. Late in the evening is a good time to send emails to Australia (where the book production is happening) because the working day has already begun down there. I had just sent an email to the designer of the ELEPHANT book, when some snatch-and-grab/crack-head scooped my laptop and ran off with it, bolting downhill into San Francisco’s charming Tenderloin neighbourhood.


After a brief startled pause, I gave chase, trying to make up the head-start he had on me, sometimes running down the road in the oncoming traffic. I was giving this pursuit everything I had, and there was some great motivation: ALL the artwork for my dear old Dad’s Elephant book was on that laptop! As I chased the junky, the life of the ELEPHANT BOOK was flashing before my eyes… After about three blocks running as hard as I could, he wasn’t getting any further away, but I wasn’t getting closer either and I was reaching the limit of my middle aged adrenaline capacity, whereas he had both youth and the performance enhancing properties of CRACK on his side. I didn’t think that I could keep up with him for much longer…

Mercifully, I was helped out by some folks in the street, who clearly read the situation when they saw a wiry dude clutching a laptop chased by a red-faced puffy bloke screaming obscenities. They realised that they needed to intervene and spare me a heart attack. Several people on sidewalks along the way tried to grab the thief or trip him up, and a few times he did stumble, giving me the chance to gain on him. Pretty soon there was one hell of a hulla-balloo; random passers by yelling “STOP THAT GUY!” and me yelling stuff I can’t write here. As he rounded a corner, a group of people who had time to react in advance, tripped the thief up for good and I got the laptop back…

In other good news, one of the guys who tripped up the evil doer absolutely beat the stuffings out of him, after wrenching the laptop out of his fingers. This BADASS Samaritan briefly paused his expert pummelling of the baddie to give me a chance to get in some hits myself (almost like he was graciously offering me the last slice of a tasty desert) but I declined; I was too busy gripping onto the laptop with both hands… and bent double trying to get my breath back. Besides, the (muscular, tattooed, and menacing) dude beating on the baddie was doing a superb job on his own, and I didn’t want to mess up his syncopating rhythm. So the miscreant definately got a form of punishment before he limped away, and he didn’t look in very good condition…

Even though the wretch was tried, convicted and punished in the court of STREET JUSTICE, In hindsight I should have held him and called the cops, because that very same creep is probably going to pull the very same slimy move again… Although after that savage walloping, his getaway speed may not be quite as impressive… I really wasn’t thinking straight. I ALSO ought to have gotten the name of the anonymous avenger who helped me out (a tattooed SUPER HERO in my eyes) so I could buy him dinner, a beer or a monogrammed pair of brass-knuckles or something. He was in the middle of helping some friends move, and they just headed off after shaking my hand. I did get a chance to thank him profusely, between gulps of oxygen, but I really should have got his phone number for a follow up…

But at that point I was already pre-occupied with the thought that I had left my shoulder bag on the table outside the coffee shop 3 blocks away and that it contained my check-book and some other stuff. It occurred to me that if this thief was an experienced operator he would have a partner to scoop my bag when I head off in pursuit. So I ran as fast as I could back to the cafe… When I got there, sure enough, my bag was gone and I figured that I had to call the bank and tell them a check-book had been stolen… but I still counted myself very lucky that I had gotten my laptop back especially when I found out that, remarkably, despite the crack-head’s spectacular sprawling wipe-out, it seems to be working OK…

At that point a guy came up and congratulated me on getting it back. He had seen the snatch from across the street and wanted to hear the story of its recovery. I told him what had happened, and that the only minor bummer was the loss of my bag. He told me that my bag wasn’t stolen; it was now waiting for me in the coffee shop as he had taken it in there for safe-keeping. I was very lucky to have had so many people help me out that day. Even now, a few days later, I get horror-shudders when I consider what today would be like if I had NOT gotten my laptop back…


  35 Responses to “Street Justice”

  1. I think this post is the all-time champ for number of comments.

    JSHU>> Heh… that would be fun… except WE would get in trouble for that…

    Daniel>> Thanks for the supportive feedback.

    John>> Bourne Identity eh? Well then, where’s my cute, punky German girlfriend?

    Stew>>Got your “heart Pumping” huh? Yeah mine too! One positive outcome of this episode is that I have conclusively proven (to my own satisfaction anyway) that those weird chest-twinges I was getting a few weeks ago were NOT angina… If I was a candidate for a heart attack I would have had one THAT night for sure…

  2. That is a FANTASTIC elephant image you have posted. The colour is wonderful. The story is even BETTER though. Man, that was one heck of a story Jamie. I enjoyed it immensely, especially the part where you got your laptop back and a special form of tattooed street justice was unleashed on the cracked up thief.

  3. Jamie, it’s kind of embarrassing that you told everyone how I beat that guy up. Glad to hear you’re okay.

  4. What a story! A terrifying lesson for all us laptop/computer users. Back it up!

    Glad this story had a happy ending to it. It’s pretty comforting to know that people will help out given the right opportunity.

  5. I heard Dan’s retelling of this story this morning. Had to come and check out your account of it. Great story with an audience-pleasing third act. I’d love to see it as an autobiographical comic.

    BTW, love the color technique you’ve come up with for these elephant illustrations. Take care.

  6. Jamie >>Ah yes… AREQUIPA, Peru… 1989… Do you remember those Badass Israeli guys we met?

    Pedro. Yes, I still laugh about those BadAss guys spending so much time and effort dishing out retribution to people residents of a country THEY had decided to visit. Its one of my favourite stories – along with the one of us having huge chunks of drugs (or explosives) planted under our bus seats while we passed the police checkpoint into Lima. Ohh my how differently that could have ended.
    Anyway glad to hear all is well and that have the means to backup.

  7. Oh great story, Jamie.

    Good to hear everything turned out okay!

    I get a visceral thrill thinking about the pummelling that loser got.

  8. Nice stuff btw.

  9. M8,

    Rool one, Male Backups.
    Rool two, buy security cable, lock laptop to cafe desk.
    Rool three, see rool 1!


  10. Unbelieveable story Jamie! Wow! The image of you barreling down the streets of the Tenderloin is now burned in my brain–that and the Goodfellas style beating the crook got from tatoo guy.

    So glad to hear you got the laptop back. Can’t wait to see your finished book–the paintings are amazing!


  11. Steve P>>yeah a few people have suggested that I storyboard this or make a comic out of it.. I suppose it is a good story in many ways… It has a ROMANTIC INTEREST (boy gets computer boy loses computer, boy gets computer) and a 3 act structure… though I don’t think the tale passes the ROBERT McKEE test because the PROTAGONIST (me) is saved by a “deus ex machina” plot device (Tatooed Avenger) rather than by any heroic actions of his own.

    Brian>>daBRAWN! thanks for coming by!

    James2>>Yes yes yes…. backups… I have learned that lesson alright.

    Ted>> I can’t wait either… but we’ll have to hold on till April/March 2007.

  12. wow ! awesome Jamie … phew …


  13. High drama I tells ya!

  14. Holy crap!! Great story! I’m glad there were so many friendly people out and about on that particular night!!

  15. Thanks, Kathy. Yeah, it was harrowing to go through but turned out well. Whew!

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