Street Justice

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 the thief 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..

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 furniture when he came to my aid.

After making it clear that they dealt with a lot of such snatch-and-grabs in that area (and thus helping me out was cathartic) 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 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…


43 thoughts on “Street Justice”

  1. Geez Jamie- What a mess! I’m sorry you had to go through that, but those people that helped you out are great, for going out on a limb. As I read, I thought your bag was gone for sure,towards the end, but was relieved to read the happy ending. Things could’ve easily turned out differently… this latest limited-color elephant peice, is great, by the way!

  2. yikes!!
    sorry you had to go through that Jamie , really happy you were able to get back your stuff…that must have been some really scary moments ..yikes~! stolen from right under your fingers..crazy!
    There are a lot of decent people out there , who given a chance I’m sure are happy to help :)Not a such a bad world after all , uh?
    By the way…this last pic is fan-tas-tic , very very pretty…what were u sying about making “cool” pics ..?

  3. Rhode&Sho>>It’s true… those people really did go out on a limb for me; a total stranger. I just cashed in a HUGE kharma dividend. Come to think of it, it was more likely a Kharma-LOAN that I now have to pay back to the world….

    …which is fine by me!

  4. I cried, I laughed, I worried, and then laughed again… What a great story!!! I’m glad everything turned out ok Jamie! Thanks for sharing…


  5. Geez, that is one of the most exasperating cliff-hangers I’ve ever read! I am so glad you recovered that laptop. Geez, to have been reading your posts these last months and then to think all that hard work would vanish….

    ‘Street Justice’ was indeed the correct name for this piece. That bad apple was counterbalanced by the Tattoeed Avenger, and the Elephants move on to their next chapter!

  6. Vigilante sprinter Jamie B!! I was getting shudders as I was reading this. Thank goodness there are a few individuals out there, seething with righteous rage, waiting to give some villain a good trouncing!! I hope your having fun with these elephants, they keep getting better and better!! Thank goodness you have them back to finish!!!

  7. Alina>> I am glad that you like the pic (unless you meant that it was “brilliant” of me to finally get out of the house and get some exercise).

    J>> I know… it is certainly the most dramatic post in this blog so far. Normally my posts are about what I saw on TV, or some doodle I’m working on…

    Jav>> You are right… imagine if I lost all this stuff?! I simply wouldn’t know how to break it to my Dad, (not to mention the publisher) Jeez! i get shivvers just thinking about it…

    BKO>> My impression, from the brief conversations with TATTOOed AVENGER and the guy who had saved my bag, is that people who live in that neighbourhood often have their bikes, bags and other valuables swiped by junkies… So I think I was the beneficiary of a lot of pent-up frustration. T.A. was certainly beating that crack-head hard enough for it to have been HIS OWN laptop that was taken… Some kind of cathartic physical therapy I guess you’d say.

  8. My son the West Coaster hero! how glad I am not to have known anything about all this till after its happy conclusion

  9. Wish I’d seen all this before meeting up with your Dad yesterday. We talked a lot about you but we could’ve ridden this story for quite a while at Liz’s wedding.
    Rob wants help with adding comments – I came in tonight to remind myself how I got on in the first place so to tell him. We’re a pair of learners I think – I didn’t think I added a comment properly last time but Rob said he saw it.

  10. Jeeeezzz you are getting old. Let me get this right – you ‘sprinted’ after a man who was carrying 20 or more elephants. Time to get to the GYM my old friend !!
    Oh and on the way, for heavens sake buy a $200 external disc drive and back up all your stuff, I still cringe at the loss of your diary and phenomenal sketch book when we where in Arequipa many years back.

  11. Pedro>> Hah Hah! I hadn’t thought of it quite like that; I was chasing a man carrying 20 elephants (actually, it’s more like 40 at this point) and yes, I do need to get back to the gym… (BTW, I had backed the stuff up a month earlier, so it would not have been a TOTAL loss… but a disaster never-the-less as the UN-backed up stuff amounts to a lot)

    Ah yes… AREQUIPA, Peru… 1989 I do believe… My Diary/sketchbook and camera stolen… major buzzkill. Do you remember those Badass Israeli guys we met?

    For the rest of you: we met these tough as nails israeli soldiers on a South American backpacking holiday who had pretty much ALL their bags stolen during a “distract, snatch and dash” manoever in the Town square of Arequipa, Peru. As revenge/therapy they filled their only remaining backpack with rocks and left it out for bait as they sat in the Town Square again a few days later. One after another, several thieves snatched the bag but didn’t get too far because of the unexpected weight… at which point the Israeli lads would catch up to them and unload; translating their frustration into a world of hurt for the bag-snatcher. They never actually found the guy who had taken their other stuff (which was their plan) but they explained that beating the bone-marrow out of about 10 thieves made them feel much better. (For my part, I have to admit that hearing these two street-wise, wily guys were also taken in by thieves made me feel a little less stupid at the time).

  12. we’ll mock up a lap top shell with batteries and capacitors wired to the edges and watch the crack’er play hot potato with his booty!

  13. Man Jamie, WHAT A STORY!!

    I’m sorry that you actually had to live through it to have it to tell… but I’m very happy that it turned out alright for you.

    If you had endless time, I can almost see the storyboards now…

    Next Con, I’ll be certain not to try to outrun you or your big-fisted buddies. :)

  14. He was the perfect weapon until he became THE TARGET. They should have left him alone…In this the third and final instalment of the Bourne Trilogy, Jamie explodes into action when his laptop – containing a tracking device database of all the elephants in Zurich – is snatched from his control. In the thrilling chase that ensues, Jamie’s finely honed body and mastery of languages are rigorously examined. This is a thriller of the highest calibre…Baker puts in another fine performance as Jamie Bourne.

  15. Jamie,
    I am so glad this “heart-pumping” story came out with a sweet victorious ending. Man! You got me on the edge of my seat here reading this. Awesome! It’s so good, that if you had made this up, I’d still be on the edge of my seat! I’m glad you are ok too, my friend!

  16. 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…

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

  21. M8,

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


  22. 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!


  23. 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.

  24. A riveting tale that had me glued to my chair and teased my mustache! Justice was served cold and with bitters. Never carry elephant illustrations into the tenderloin is my takeaway. And always wear your best running shoes.

    • We ended up deep in the The ‘Loin after the chase, but where the drama BEGAN was much further up, towards Nob Hill. Let’s call it ‘Tenderloin Heights’. But you are quite right that I shouldn’t have taken anything of value anywhere near the area.

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