Cash and Carry

Gather 'round, children, it's time that you hear a What's So Funny holiday tale full of wonder and cheer.

It's not every day that What's So Funny gets to wax all daily columnist and stuff insipid doses of Hallmark happiness down your throat in an attempt to harvest some sort of upchucked literary foie gras. Rarely do we get to bring it Gary Massaro-style straight up in your grill; even more rarely are we allowed to Tina the bejesus out of that Griego. But sometimes, dear readers, a story comes our way that so tugs at our tattered and withering heart strings (cocaine), we are forced to share it. A story that, while not edgy or in-your-face or hip, must be told simply because it's such a good tale. This is one of those stories.

And it even involves alcohol.

We wouldn't leave you completely out to dry.

John "Yanni" Balafas has owned Campus Liquors at 1100 South Logan Street for the past fifteen years. He says it's the only liquor store in the state that does an exclusively drive/walk-up trade. What's So Funny chooses to believe Yanni, because fact-checking makes us break out in sores. Yanni's made a good go of things, but like many business owners in the area, he's been affected by the thrashing mechanical teeth of the crazed and insatiable T-Rex, with the part of Buchtel Boulevard that runs in front of his store having been shut down and torn up by the highway-expansion beast for the better part of the past two years. Not go-out-of-business-then-show-up-at-the-Department-of-Transportation-with-a-sawed-off level affected, but affected nonetheless. Certainly affected enough that he would miss a wayward wad of cash.

Which is exactly what happened the day before Thanksgiving.

High on holiday cheer, the always-friendly Yanni gifted a man by the name of Tom with two 375s of Aristocrat Vodka. Yanni has known Tom for quite some time and reports that he was once a successful man who lived in a nearby house and had a good job. But alcoholism got the better of him, and he lost everything. Yanni hadn't seen Tom for a while before that Wednesday, and since he was obviously a man in dire need, Yanni gave him not just the vodka, but $10 for food. Before he closed up, Yanni loaded a bank-deposit bag containing $718.50 into a brown paper bag, then added two bottles of wine for his own holiday feast. On his way out, he encountered Tom in the parking lot and agreed to give him a ride. As Yanni pulled up to Tom's requested destination, Tom asked for a bag to disguise his Thanksgiving vodka. Yanni took the bottles of wine from his brown paper bag and handed it to Tom, who promptly exited the vehicle.

The money was still in the bag.

Yanni didn't realize his mistake until the next day, and he immediately called the police to report the missing cash. Their search yielded little, but Yanni kept getting reports of Tom hanging around Logan Liquors, some ten blocks north of his store. He was purportedly buying lots of vodka.

Never content with merely the cold facts and insipid statistics behind a saga full of raw human emotion, last week What's So Funny made the long and arduous trek to Campus Liquors to learn more about Yanni Balafas. No sooner had we rung the doorbell than we were ushered into the building by Yanni himself, a beaming smile spread across his Greek countenance.

"You will never guess what happened," he told us. "The woman from Key Bank called today and said that last night, someone anonymously deposited the bag!"

A Christmas miracle!

Some stranger had slipped the bag through the night-deposit slot. Although about $300 was missing, Yanni doesn't care so much about that. He's happy to salvage any of the cash. And he's not mad at Tom, either; he's called off the cops. Yanni is the type of guy who believes in karma and treating people right, and he knows that no bad deed goes unpunished. Besides, he says, Tom probably needed that money.

And if Yanni ever sees Tom again?

"I'll ask him why he stole that money," Yanni said. "I'll ask him why he didn't just ask me instead."

And so, dear readers, as fat Christian children stuff their faces with daily doses of advent calendar chocolate and little Jewish children dreidel their hands into horrible, misshapen hooks in anticipation of Hanukkah, we remember all that we have learned from the holiday tale of Yanni and the Wino: that if you're a boozed-up hobo, or bozobo, you can get away with stealing $300 if you eventually do the somewhat right thing. And that if you're a good man with a good heart, no good deed goes unrewarded.

To wit: Next week the city will begin reconstructing the sidewalk in front of Campus Liquors. Buchtel, that promising thoroughfare of commerce, shall open again soon.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

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Adam Cayton-Holland