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Davis, California

Monday, December 4, 2023

Column: Criminology

What is the meaning of crime? Is it criminals robbin’ innocent mothafuckas everytime? That’s what the GZA says, at least. The Wu love their acronyms.

Well, innocent isn’t the first adjective I’d label myself with, but I certainly was robbed late last Saturday. I was unlocking my bike after a long night of indulging the usual vices when I noticed something dreadfully out of the ordinary. Instead of having a wheel at the front of my bike, I had a heap load of nothing. I had been unicycle’d, if you will.

This was a bummer. I don’t ride some kaleidoscopic fixed gear or anything, but I have put a lot of time and money into my bike. The wheel was expensive. I was also really far from my house and it was three in the morning. (Don’t worry, I made it home safely.)

At first, I was mad as hell. I was ready to run around the neighborhood and garrote every damned thing that moved until I found my wheel. Half an hour later, however, I had come to terms with the ordeal. There was nothing to be done about it. Do I wish I hadn’t been the victim of thievery? Absolutely. But I also understand that sometimes shit just gets stolen. Hell, I’ve even stolen plenty of things in my life. I’ll be damned if there’s anyone reading this who hasn’t.

Good God, you might shout, completely aghast. Will Long, a thief? Before you and your roommates get riled up and come hunting me with torch and pitchfork in hand, you should know that I’m not really a thief.

I’ve stolen only things I needed. I liberated, for instance, my neighbor’s copy of Super Smash Bros for N64 because he was an asshole and he left it at my house. I took a $5 bill from the sidewalk, even though I saw the guy drop it a dozen yards ahead of me. I even stole a girl’s heart once, but that didn’t last very long. Turns out we weren’t really a good match, so I gave her the heart back. Also, the heart is a vital organ, you know, with that circulatory system and whatnot.

But here’s the big heist. Junior year in high school, I stole a quart of chocolate milk from a Kum & Go in Leadville, Colo. (I swear that’s what the place is called. Both places.) I was with a bunch of my friends, things started getting rowdy and I accidentally walked out with the milk. I didn’t intend to steal it, because there’s no real point to stealing chocolate milk because it costs about a dollar. I just kind of forgot I was holding it.

A gripping tale, I know. It’s a good thing I got away with it, because I’ve heard that in Pelican Bay, milk thieves are treated only slightly better than people who don’t recycle. And you know how dangerous not recycling is.

None of my thievery was essential to my survival nor particularly awesome, and those are the only two types of crimes I condone. I count myself lucky that I’ve never had to steal in order to eat. Sure, I’ve lived off Cup O’ Noodles and potatoes for a month or two, but I’ve never been faced with utter starvation.

A crime of necessity. What a loose term. Like all loose terms, it’s open to any fool’s interpretation and thus likely to be taken advantage of. I suppose it’d be great if no one had to steal from anyone else. I’m sure that utopia will exist right after we wipe out hate, fee hikes and the entirety of the human species. (So keep up those protests!)

Anyway, who knows, maybe that thief really needed my bicycle wheel. It could be that he had a bomb strapped to his chest and he only had three minutes to get to Aggie Liquor before it detonated. Maybe it was Jason Statham doing some method acting for his upcoming film Crank 3: Blimey, dey ‘as strapped a bomb to me chest. Bollocks! I would be fine with that.

I started with the GZA’s thoughts on crime, and I’ll end with something from the High Imperator of Truths, Bob Dylan: “Well, lookit here buddy/ You want to be like me/ Pull out your six-shooter/ And rob every bank you can see/ Tell the judge I said it was all right.”

I haven’t gotten around to my bank-robbing career just yet, but when I do, I’ll let you all know if that defense holds any water in court. I can see the headlines now: “Famed outlaw Billy Christmas thrown in jail for armed robbery, milk theft.”

WILL LONG urges you not to fall in love with him. But if it simply cannot be helped, he’ll be waiting for your e-mail at wclong@ucdavis.edu.


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