February 8, 2014

“Oh man, I really love the zombies!”

cat_in_the_hatThe Cat In The Hat at Normals Books and Records

Al Ackerman worked at Normals Books and Records in Baltimore from about 1993 until early 2012. During this time, he was a great conversationalist with customers (a more literary fellow would be hard to find), but he also obsessed on different species of customers that drove him nuts (“Cloggers,” “Duckvillers,” etc. and many other descriptive categories of his invention).

Sometime in the mid-00′s, Ackerman began to say “Oh man, I really love the zombies!” with fair frequency. It took a long time to find out where it came from, and at first I assumed it was just something he’d made up—a bit of inspirational nonsense.

Turns out the story was this: For a year or so, Normals Books had been bedeviled by a young heroin addict and occasional shoplifter who lived in the neighborhood, and who Ackerman had given the nickname (not to his face) of “The Cat In The Hat.” This was because he would burst through the door, always unaccountably exuberant like the character, but ultimately not someone that you would want in the store. He may have also had a floppy hat–not sure about that. Ackerman was never one for running people out of the shop—he generally couldn’t be bothered.

One day, Ackerman and a co-worker were at the front desk of the store and had forgotten that “The Cat In the Hat” was in the back in the store, where he had been hanging out for hours. Suddenly the boy’s voice rang out, totally un-self-consciously: “Oh man, I really love the zombies!” Followed by silence.

Ackerman was highly amused and never found out what provoked the outburst, but he got a ton of mileage out of it, always delivering it with a ridiculous slightly drunk sounding Ackerman cadence.

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