Arlanda airport, Stockholm—When I first saw this box from a distance, I took it to be some sort of dispenser. As in, get your teargas here. On closer inspection, I realized the locked box was a place to deposit your voluntarily forfeited pepper spray.
Every frequent traveler has a personal list of what he misses about home. The list varies depending on the type and length of travel. Items high on my list are gardening and cooking.
My garden at home is of the type a frequent traveler can maintain. Specifically, that means it will survive, if not thrive, with a sprinkler system on a timer. Save for a few herbs there’s nothing edible, since I’d certainly miss fleeting moments of ripeness.
We’ve spent this spring and summer bouncing around Europe. By the end of September, we’ll have been on the road five straight months. Flying every three to six days, changing time zones, putting new names and faces into short-term memory, packing and unpacking, all while trying to keep up the administratrivia of business.
Between business trips, we made Stockholm our base, and our Swedish garden is what kept me sane. Growing food thrills me. Picking the bounty of the garden is a joy. A fistful of fragrant parsley makes me breathe deeply. A bowl of basil leaves or a palmful of oregano make me salivate for the possibilities. Weeding brings tranquility, and flavor explosions in the form of smultron, tiny wild strawberries found throughout the yard.
When we arrived in May, the rhubarb was ready and the cherry trees were flowering gloriously above it. I carried long, thick bundles of the red and green stalks up to the kitchen the afternoon of my first day, chopping and baking it into a crispy-topped pie. Later in the season, I simply chopped it and cooked it in a pot for ten minutes with nothing but a little sugar and cinnamon.
The elderberry trees burst into big, feathery flowers. They’re called flÃ¤der in Swedish, and we make a sort of juice-concentrate from the flowers. Worth a separate post.
Cherries, huge black ones and shiny white ones, required long ladders to harvest. The birds like them before they’ve reached their peek and, with easier access, always win the lion’s share. Those we manage to gather are too delicious to eat any way but out-of-hand. But why, we wonder, do the birds have to take a little bite out of each cherry? Why don’t they eat a whole one instead of pecking at a dozen?
Raspberries ripened next; I all but ignored them for my garden favorite, the deep and complex svart vinbÃ¤r, black wineberry, aka black currant. These I gorged on—plain, on ice cream, with yogurt, thrown into a pan with a roasting chicken. It’s no wonder the most interesting red wines tout “flavors of black currant.” (Sure beats aroma of cat pee!)
Black currants are tedious to harvest, as they hang in loose, delicate bunches of only a few berries. But our bushes were so laden I could fill bowlfuls without moving my feet. Before each trip I took in July, I cooked a pot of these for five minutes and filled a jar to take with me.
Snails love black currants, too. The adorable baby ones, smaller than a bedbug, are impossible to see among the black berries. They quickly flee to the rim of the bowl though (as quickly as a baby snail can go), when I fill the berry bowl with water for a few minutes.
As the black currants dwindled, the red ones ripened, the berries becoming so dark and heavy in their grape-like clusters that the lower branches of the bushes laid in the grass. Red currants are easy to pick, and a fork quickly strips them from their little stems. They’re gorgeous, like little ruby marbles, but I find them too tart and one-dimensional in flavor. Still, they’re excellent over ice cream…
Golden green gooseberries fattened to perfection, overlapping the black and red currant weeks. My thumbnail was black for a month from topping and tailing them. I baked them with curried chutney chicken and chopped them with sugar for the freezer, to be eaten slushy through winter. Turns out they’re sublime arranged cut in half on a peanut butter sandwich. I always start eating the gooseberries too early, and only realize it when they’ve turned honey-colored and thin-skinned on their branches, and half of them are already gone.
Now the rhubarb has gotten a second burst of energy and the plums are ripe. These plums, called Victoria, are sweet as sugar, another favorite of the birds, and alas, this year, a little wormy. I can’t eat them without cutting them open for examination. But that just requires a bit of knifecraft.
It’s September 4th, and we’ve already had to turn on the heat. Sunny nights are long gone. The days are more often gray, rainy, and windy than otherwise. Bob and I are packing up, leaving Sweden for the last time this year, full of antioxidants and phytochemicals and glowing with good health. From our upstairs windows, we look down on reddening apples, but we’ll miss them.
Beware, pickpockets are working here. That’s the first thing an international visitor sees when entering Sweden at Stockholm Arlanda Airport. Face level signs are pasted on the glass doors you pass through at immigration. Show me your passport. Welcome! Oh, and watch out for pickpockets—you’re in Stockholm!
For a big city, Stockholm has very little street crime. For a city with so little street crime, there sure are a lot of warnings about it. Maybe that’s why there’s so little!
Digital platform signs in the city’s super-efficient subway system run frequent text warnings, in Swedish and English: watch your personal belongings, pickpockets are around.
Restaurants post reminders about watching your bags. I heard bus drivers on routes to DjurgÃ¥rden, where amusement parks are located, warn about pickpockets.
The Stockholm police have volunteers hand out little warning cards in the streets, and they thought it important enough to gather for a Bob Arno lecture last summer.
Is it a case of hysterics?
Let’s not compare Stockholm with other cities. Let’s compare it with itself over time. According to the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention, crime in general peeked in 1990, stayed rather constant for 16 years, and is now on a new rise. Specifically, bicycle theft is down and fraud is up. No surprise there. Burglary is holding steady, while assault is on the rise.
Reported robberies have remained fairly steady at about 9,000 incidents per year for the past ten. The Council includes shop and bank robberies in the figure, but says about 86% of the figure is robbery from the person. Remember, these are reported incidents. My research with Bob indicates that, as people lately tend to work hard and play hard, they also don’t sweat the small stuff. Who has time to file a police report?
I’ve already written about ATM crime, skimmers, and pseudo-cops in Sweden. The latest concern is criminal gang activity. Neighborhoods “have been hit by a wave of violent thefts recently.” Children 14-17 are conducting violent robberies in what seem to be initiation rites as they join the Black Scorpions. The Black Scorpions are starter gangsters who’ll graduate to become Black Cobras. Like Cub Scouts become Boy Scouts. The gang crept in from Copenhagen, and seems to be immigration-related.
The twin upward slopes of crime and immigration might lead one to believe that foreigners are perping on the Swedes. Ah, a politically sensitive theory. I can’t touch it.
Bottom line is that, for a capital city, Stockholm has very little street crime. The Swedes are rather trusting and naive and therefore make excellent victims, especially when they travel to places with significant street crime.
But speaking of Swedish victims of foreigners, here’s a vaguely related, rather humorous report. A woman in Thailand recently conned five Swedish men into sending her money “for a plane ticket to Sweden.” The five met at the airport arrivals hall when they found themselves alone together still waiting for the woman, who never showed up.
I want to wail even in Sweden, because the country has long been perceived as enjoying a relatively low crime rate. And it did. But not any more.
The day I arrived in Stockholm, the paper featured a spread on thieves lurking at ATMs who preyed on the elderly. The scam stars a shoulder-surfer lying in wait for seniors to come use a cash machine. He watches them enter their PINs, then tricks them into allowing their bank card to be physically stolen in one way or another. The thief may ask to change a ten crown note, or may meet the mark at the parking meter and ask for a small coin. Anything to get the mark’s wallet out.
Then what? “Magic arts,” one victim said. “Finger magic,” said the police. Hard to believe that a bank card can be stolen from a victim’s wallet right under his nose. Yet, Bob and I recognize the trick we call the “flower gift lift,” as practiced by women in Palma de Mallorca (and I’m sure other places, too). It’s forceful, brazen, devious, and it works. I’ve written about that here.
The Stockholm shoulder-surfer was part of an international gang from Romania. He and one other were sentenced to a few years in prison. Police say they’ve operated all over Sweden, targeting the elderly and handicapped. ATM surveillance photos show victims in wheelchairs and using walkers.
At around the same time. a community newspaper warned of “false policemen” also targeting seniors at ATMs. The thieves convinced the seniors that they needed their bank cards and PINs in order to control illegal withdrawals. Police report additional ploys: door-to-door police impostors warn of burglaries in the neighborhood and want to photograph jewelry and valuables. Whatever the ploy, the thief gets in—cash and valuables go out.
As I was writing this, the evening news came on. Seems some scammers are knocking on seniors’ doors to give them tips about H1N1. Rather, one scammer knocks and talks. While the senior is occupied, the other slips in and robs the resident.
Meanwhile, last month, police saw for the first time credit cards being skimmed at gas pumps. “So far police have no suspects and haven’t been able to determine how the skimming operation has been carried out.” I have advised them!
Skimmers have been found attached to ATMs at Ikea and a Stockholm Toys R Us store. There was a home invasion in the sleepy suburb where my family lives.
What has Sweden come to?
In Bangkok, seemingly corrupt police are extorting large sums from foreign visitors. In South Africa, pseudo-cops are stopping drivers and pedestrians, requesting wallets in order to see identification or “search for contraband,” then absconding. In Stockholm, thieves impersonating police lured seniors into give up their PINs at ATMs in the name of “controlling withdrawals.”
This strategy seems to have exploded recently, or at least is being recognized for what it is, or at least making it into the news.
In my book, Travel Advisory: How to Avoid Thefts, Cons, and Street Scams, I categorize thieves as either opportunists or strategists. Fake police are a specific type of strategist. They’re operating in small U.S. towns and cities as well as abroad. And it’s easier than ever to gear up for the job with fake badges and uniforms.
THE DUPLICITOUS STRATEGIST
The strategist elite are those who make participants of their victims. Like the Palma claveleras, they’re in your face with a story. Their only goal is to walk away with your wallet. Consummate con artists, they’re the slipperiest, wiliest, and most difficult to detect. Garbed in a counterfeit persona designed to gain your confidence, they lay bait and entrap their prey: usually the unsuspecting traveler.
These strategists concoct ingenious schemes. Who could avoid falling for what happened to Glinda and Greg? They were walking in a foreign park in—well, it could have been anywhere, this is so common—when a gentleman approached them with a camera. He asked if one of them would mind taking his picture, and the three huddled while he showed them how to zoom and where to press. Suddenly two other men arrived and flashed badges. The man with the camera slipped away while the two “officials” demanded to know if the couple had “made any transaction” with him. Had they changed money with him illegally? They would have to search Glinda’s bag; and they did so, without waiting for permission.
“It all happened so fast,” Glinda told me a few days later, “I knew something wasn’t right, but I didn’t have time to think.” The “officials” absconded with Glinda’s wallet, having taken it right under her nose. In variations on this theme, the pseudo cops take only cash saying it must be examined, and they may even offer a receipt. Needless to say, they never return and the receipt is bogus.
On first impression, the pseudo cops’ scam is believable; their trick requires surprise, efficiency and confusion: they don’t allow time for second thoughts. Theirs is a cheap trick, really. They depend on a fake police shield to gain trust; they can’t be bothered to build confidence with an act. Authority is blinding, and that’s enough if they’re fast. It’s a thin swindle, but it works.
Excerpt from Travel Advisory: How to Avoid Thefts, Cons, and Street Scams
Chapter Seven: Scams—By the Devious Strategist
Way back on July 7, 2008, I wrote that the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet interviewed Bob Arno, and I promised a link when available.
The interview was on June 30, 2008. The article was finally published in Aftonbladet on December 7, 2008. It hasn’t been uploaded to Aftonbladet’s website, so I’m posting a pdf file. The article has lots of photos, but is written in Swedish, of course.
The pdf file is here: 081207-aftonbladet
It was a mesquite, 35 or so feet tall, graceful in an awkward way. Craving light, the poor thing crooked its trunk this way and that, having been stupidly planted under a roof and beside a wall. I’ve liked the tree a lot all these years, for its lush green foliage and shade—rare commodities in Las Vegas.
For various reasons, it had to go. And there was only one man for the job.
My brother-in-law, the self-proclaimed Swedish Okie and country bumpkin whom I’ve written about before, single-handedly brought the tree down.
Now you can’t just take a buzz saw to the trunk of a tree in close quarters and yell “timber!” There’s no safe place for the tree to fall, and it’s weight is enormous, full of life juices and wearing a lush canopy of green. There are windows in the proximity, fences, landscapes, tiles, other trees, all of which would suffer damage.
Brother-in-law started with the canopy, removing all the light branches and a great deal of weight, using a hand saw. He did this while standing on a 10-foot ladder he had strapped onto a 16-foot ladder. Each branch was tied, cut, and lowered to the ground. Bob threw them over the wall. I bundled. When I began, the mound of branches was taller than I am. When I’d tied up a dozen bundles, the mountain of branches was just as high.
When it came to the hefty limbs, the lumberjack needed an assistant. The tree was to be dismantled from the top down in bite-sized chunks. A limb was tied, and its rope wound around a lower piece of trunk, pulley-fashion, and Bob was to keep pressure on the rope until it was cut through. When the new log was free, Bob lowered it gently to the ground with the rope. Brilliant system.
My brother-in-law knows all this because, like any good Swede who has the time and money, he has a country house. That is, he built a house in the forest outside of Stockholm. After clearing the land. Most of it he did himself. He’s still working on it, bit by bit, every summer.
The trunk of the mesquite was sawn into 23 gorgeous logs.
Something seems a little missing from my front courtyard now, but only a little. Other than the trunk, the tree’s glory was above the roof. I miss it anyway.
A family visit to Stockholm turned into a media circus. How did they know we were in town? First was an interview for an article in the Sunday supplement of Aftonbladet, one of Sweden’s national newspapers. (See it here.) Then Bob (Arno, the criminologist) was asked to speak to Stockholm’s street cops and detectives. Halfway through his two-hour presentation on street crime, TV4 showed up for an interview and demo.
The tv news reporters had to wait an hour for us, while Bob and I analyzed some tricky footage of a bag theft in Stockholm’s main subway station. The subway surveillance cameras are excellent, with high resolution and enough frames-per-second. We recognized the finale of a version of the pigeon-poop ploy, but earlier footage of the set-up was no longer available. Video footage is only kept for a few days before it is destroyed. The department’s looseleaf “book of criminals” is thick with mugshots. Stockholm is not what it used to be, even just a few years ago. Sad.
We drove Bob’s 97-year-old father out to his country house on an island in the archipelago. The old man built the three houses on the property with his own hands, and has maintained them reasonably well until the last year or so.
The grounds have always been a loosely-controlled wilderness, but now the meadows of wild orchid, lilly-of-the-valley, lupine, and Swedish soldiers are overgrown with tall grasses that hide the colorful flowers. As we arrived, a huge male deer munching leisurely on the trees looked accusingly at us, as if we were the trespassers. Within arm’s reach of the car, it didn’t bolt until we aimed a camera at it.
The weather was glorious and the old man was happy to be at his “summerhome.” I picked handfuls of smultron, tiny wild strawberries, until I was dragged away. I find it excruciating to walk on such delicacies, but they cover the ground and there’s no choice. I brought home a tick, but didn’t find it until the next day.
I can thank the Parsis for my passion for photojournalism.
Another man might have turned away, but when I saw a vulture picking the limbs of a dead child, I raised my camera. Perhaps that says more about me than I should reveal.
Instead of burning their dead and feeding the ashes to the River Ganges as Hindus do, Parsis lay the bodies of their dead on a grid suspended over a high tower. To attract vultures to the burial tower, corpses are smeared with rancid animal fat. The scavenger birds pick away the flesh and the cleaned bones then fall onto the earth, lime, and charcoal floor of the tower to decompose into the soil. How I came to witness this alien rite was through the same set of circumstances that so profoundly impacted my career.
At twenty I hadn’t yet decided whether to become an entertainer or a photographer. My true passion was travel, and the more off-beat and distant the destination, the better. To fund my expeditions, I took engagements as a performer for four to six weeks in faraway countries, and at the end of the gigs I would trek into surrounding villages and countryside.
Performing in the Far East in the sixties gave me a unique opportunity to visit cities that I otherwise would never have had a chance to visit for such extended periods. While my craving for photojournalistic excitement was supported by my show income, I made an effort to meet local authorities and make the right contacts intending to pursue photojournalism with a bent toward the absurd.
Even way back then my show was unusual—pickpocketing had never been seen as entertainment. It was my ticket to the exotic destinations most people only dream of. And on my journeys I witnessed, sometimes inadvertently, headline news. Neither ordinary tourists nor visiting journalists could have had such easy access to behind-the-scenes briefings. For I was tied to the U.S. Military.
I had always had a strange desire to capture macabre images with a camera. It started as a hobby, then became a semi-profession during my first journey to Asia. In 1961 I toured Pakistan, India, Thailand, Malaysia, Laos, Vietnam, Hong Kong, and Japan as an inexperienced entertainer. I augmented my performance salary by taking freelance photography assignments in locations where Western photographers were still a bit of a rarity.
The world was hungry for unusual stories from Asia then. As a young and raw journalist with little comprehension of the underlying political issues of the area, I came face to face with the dramatic events of the day. Being in the right place at the right time was at the heart of my earliest photojournalistic adventures.
With the beginning of the war in Vietnam, U.S. forces were building steadily in the Far East. These were the darkest years of the Cold War and the fear was of China’s involvement in the Indo-Chinese conflict. Everyone was concerned about the war escalating and spilling over into the Philippines, Thailand, and Korea. The large U.S. bases in the Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand, Okinawa, and Japan all needed entertainment for the troops.
Most of my performance engagements then were for these American soldiers. My comedy pickpocketing was new and different and audience participation was always a hit. I had long contracts on the military bases, as well as in the civilian clubs—camouflaged girlie-joints, really—which attracted the soldiers. It was this environment which fueled my taste for absurd and offbeat news stories.
Photographers in those early years of the conflict hung out together in the hotel bars of Saigon. That’s how I met Larry Burrows, a British war-journalist who worked for Life magazine and was one of the most-awarded photographers to come out of the Vietnam war. Burrows helped me gain contacts in Saigon, both with the American military command and with the opposing factors. Without leads and the contacts you wouldn’t get “the story.”
It was because of Larry Burrows that I was one of only five photographers in Saigon who were privy to the intelligence-leak that a monk was about to commit suicide. An immolation was to occur in the early hours of June 11, 1963, at a compound outside Saigon in front of a few select journalists. The Bhuddist leaders orchestrating the sacrifice schemed that the global reaction to the front-page photos of the monk setting himself on fire would create an anti-war movement. The goal was to speed up peace negotiations.
At three in the morning, we photographers were rushed from the hotel out to the compound. The unlucky monk who had been selected for the sacrifice had already been drugged into a semi-comatose state and sat on the ground. As soon as the media were ready with their cameras, other monks poured petrol over the “victim,” and he was then set alight. We let our Nikon motordrives spin throughout the ordeal and the resulting pictures, mine included, created enormous impact and news coverage in all major newspapers around the world.
[EDIT 1/2/13: See comments below for Bob Arno's elucidation on this experience.]
My first photo essay was from Pakistan where I shot the story on the Parsis and their infamous Towers of Silence. Their disposal of the dead isn’t so gruesome when you understand their belief in preserving the purity of fire, water, earth, and air. So as not to pollute these elements, they will not burn, bury, or sink their dead. Still, mine were morbid photos by an immature photographer. It wasn’t the historical perspective of the burial rituals which sold the story, but the stark and grisly images of vultures ripping limbs from human corpses.
In similar stark but shallow style, I photographed Hindu cremations at the burning ghats in Benares on the Ganges River, morning bathing rituals in the Ganges in Calcutta, opium dens in northern Thailand, the Bridge at River Kwaii, faith healers in the Philippines, and leper colonies in India.
One particular photo project had a strong impact on my career path. The story was on beggars and pickpockets accosting foreign visitors in Karachi. This was my introduction to a cynical distraction method based on sympathy and compassion. The pickpockets were lepers, and they were exploiting pity for profit.
In the early sixties leprosy was still a serious threat to the populations of India and Pakistan. It was common to see sufferers in various stages of deterioration roaming the streets of Karachi, Calcutta, Bombay, and New Delhi. Banding together, they often surrounded Western visitors coming out of banks, hotels, and churches. The sight of an outstretched hand with missing or rotting fingers usually caused people to react with horror and drop some coins, if for no other reason to get the infected limbs to go away. Compassion and revulsion metamorphosed into currency. The ploy was effective, diabolical, and unique to Pakistan and the Indian subcontinent.
My story showed a team of lepers who specialized in pickpocketing under the guise of begging. While one tugged at the left side of the mark and held out his diseased hand for baksheesh, his accomplice on the mark’s right fanned—softly felt for the wallet. When the victim looked left, aghast at the touch of such ravaged hands, his reaction would be a sudden jerk to the right to get away from the loathsome encounter. The partner on the right would lift his wallet in that moment of abrupt contact.
This was the most primitive of survival instincts, where rules of civility, shame, and respect didn’t apply. Just raw confrontation between the haves and the have-nots. I was only 22 years old when I first witnessed this subterfuge, and I was both stunned and fascinated. Stunned at the callousness of using the primeval emotion, fear, to accomplish distraction. Fascinated by the realization that there were people so desperate they would go to any extent to find money to survive for the next couple of days. It was a rude awakening for a youth raised in the privileged shelter of socialist Sweden.
Watching this base encounter is what inspired my lifelong effort to document, and to unravel, the mind-games which nearly always attend pickpocketing. I was intrigued by the fact that wit was as much a part of it as was technique. This is what challenged me to explore the criminal mind. Pickpocketing is not an activity that one only practices now and then. It’s a daily routine performed several times in a fairly short time span. It’s an intense crime based on dexterity and, equally important, on psychological analysis of the opponent. A good pickpocket must be able to read many signals and make an instant decision on whether to go for the poke or wait for a better opportunity.
I was also intrigued, in those early years, by the cleverness of the set-up. Although the theatrical theft of a wallet on stage is entirely different from lifting one in the street, the principles of distraction are the same. By studying the real thieves, I realized I could incorporate their techniques into my performance. I began a fanatical collection of stratagems, always on the lookout for the clever, devious, cunning, slick, duplicitous, ingenious, innovative, inventive, and creative new trick.
Much later in my career, exactly thirty years later, I would find that the lepers’ technique—begging on one side of a victim, pickpocketing on the other—was nearly identical to the methods used by thieving gangs in southern Europe today.
Another pivotal moment arrived for me that same year in India when I realized that gangs of beggars and pickpockets usually worked under controlling leaders. Not protectors or father-figures to homeless children, these leaders were brutal mutilators who intentionally crippled children in order to make them better beggars, allotted them territories, and demanded daily payments from them. My discovery of this grim reality was the spark that fired my quest to find, understand, and expose the manipulators’ deception.
From Indian beggars to east European gypsy families to American inner-city street toughs to North African pickpockets to Colombian tricksters, I have always asked this question: how did you learn your trade? Was it passed down within the family? Was it learned in prison? Was destitution the motivator?
For more than forty years a rumor has been whispered among police forces in America that an organized school for pickpockets exists. The School of the Seven Bells is said to graduate a certified pickpocket when he can steal from all the pockets of a man’s suit while it hangs on a mannequin, without ringing little warning bells tied to the clothes. A pickpocket in Cartegena told us that the school is nestled high in the mountains of Colombia. An American cop told us of a variation in Chicago, in which razor blades buried in the suit pockets replace the bells. And yet I have never spoken to a policeman who has succeeded in getting any detail from detained pickpockets about the school. Perhaps it is mere myth. My search continues.
One of the most common questions people ask me after they’ve seen my lecture or one of our documentaries on con games is how I got so interested in tracking criminals. The easy answer is that one thing led to another: stage pickpocketing to observing street thieves to adapting their tricks for the stage. But that denies the force of my own personality in steering my expedition through life. It’s far more difficult to define the eccentric quirk in my psyche that attracted me to deceit, deception, and double-dealing—but always on the right side of law and morality. I am fascinated by confidence games and have the great fortune to enjoy my interest as my career.
In my younger years, my trio of passions—travel, photography, and entertaining—seemed to be in conflict; I thought an inevitable choice would have to be made. Maybe I never grew up. I still travel the world non-stop and I still love it. I’m still deeply involved in photography, though it has mostly evolved into videography. And I am still a full-time entertainer working theaters and private corporate events around the world. I’m having a blast. How lucky can one man be?
Excerpt from Travel Advisory: How to Avoid Thefts, Cons, and Street Scams
Chapter One (part-l): High and Dry on the Streets of Elsewhere
Bob gets fan mail, especially from teenage boys who want to do what he does. We used to get a slew of them every time one of Bob’s tv specials was broadcast. Since YouTube, there’s no longer any pattern to when we get them, but they’re basically all the same. After breathless compliments, they entreat Bob to teach them “to do what you do,” they swear they “won’t use it in a bad way,” and they beseech him for a reply.
Bob is touched by the letters, but they sometimes provoke a scoff. Most kids (people?) have no clue how many hours—years—it takes to hone sleight of hand skills. 99% of these kids wouldn’t have the grit or moxie to persevere and fail repeatedly, in front of people. Bob’s job requires arrogance, cockiness, and audacity, of which he has an abundance.
I don’t know if you can recall me from our grammar school in Stockholm, but we were classmates a few years in the end of our school career. I remember a number of situations from school. One was when you tried to avoid a possible test so off you went to our school nurse. As I was sitting close to the window I had to put my school bag in the window as a signal to you if the test was on or not.
I can also recall some situations when Anders Rignell had a small microphone hidden in his hand and he whispered answers to you, as you had a hidden speaker in your ear. You were quite good on short answers!
In addition, we two made our national service in Uppsala together, though not in the same company. None of us were particularly successful, but you enjoyed your evenings entertaining at a restaurant down town. Sometimes also when we were out on night manoeuvres. I still don’t know how you could escape without anyone noticing. After a performance at the restaurant, back you came without anyone making any fuss about it.
One of my sons, just 13, is interested in magic, pickpocketing and that area. He saw a few clips on YouTube where you steal many things from people. When I told him that I knew you from school he was impressed.
Amusing stories from Bob’s school days. I’m not saying that young Bob was devious, conniving, and colluding (Bob would say it that way; but I say if you don’t mean it, don’t say it; Terry would say you’re framing), but his grammar-school-era traits—maybe wily and cunning are better descriptors—served him well as a neophyte pickpocket and blossoming entertainer. More important is fierce tenacity, indefatigability, and a willingness to follow his instincts. Bob unofficially redesigned his school curriculum to serve his unsanctioned educational pursuits. He went AWOL in the military to perform. No doubt to many he was considered a difficult kid, and to some a ne’er-do-well.
Most (not all) of the kids who write Bob have atrocious writing skills, and I’m referring only to the basics: spelling, composition, punctuation. I know they’re used to texting on their phones, but here they are, writing to a stranger, asking for help. Shouldn’t they put their best effort forward? Here’s an example:
Hello I have never wanted to talk to someone I don’t know OK not true I talk to people at my school that I don’t know I do it all the time I am 17 years old. I cant spell so sorry, i don’t think you will ever read this i wanted to ask you how do you get good at pickpocketing with out going out on the street and doing it can i get good at it? i am sorry for taking up your time or who ever is reading this i just wanted some help so if you can get back to me my e-mail is zeusxxx@xxx or greatandallmightybob@xxx the greatandallmightybob is going to be around longer but if you can send it to both. lol i am acting like you are going to get back to me o and don’t think i am going to go out and pickpocket someone i am not going to i just want to know how if you believe that OK thank you for reading this who ever it is sorry for wasting your time bye
For the record, we usually do reply.