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The criminal next door 

It wasn't just that Criminal Records owner Eric Levin let me, a hack writer, hold a political rock 'n' roll reading in the parking lot of his store. It wasn't that he let me give away free beer (and drink several) during the show, while harassing curious/frightened passers-by with demands that they sign up to vote. It wasn't his acceptance of Monkey Zuma, the half-woman, half-monkey who also attended the show. It was something much simpler that told me how much Eric supports the arts.

The reading was to be attended by Spider-Man, and though I had the costume purchased, I had yet to find anyone willing to be Spider-Man. So, at the appropriate time in the show, I ran upstairs to Eric's office, and while he messed with his e-mail and refused to bat even a single eyelash, I donned the Spidey costume. But before racing downstairs again, Eric told me to hold on a minute: He played tailor and adjusted my costume to its best effect, making sure the collars from my seersucker shirt were nicely displayed. Then he sent me on my way.

That is how you support the arts: It's letting the community -- talented musicians and court jesters -- send out their voices to anyone passing by the store. Call it "good karma."

As Criminal Records celebrates its first ever Customer Appreciation Night for its 14th anniversary Sat., Sept. 17, at the Earl, there are countless artists who have all kinds of appreciation for Eric and his merry/caustic band of employees. After the East Atlanta Strut wraps up, WRAS-FM (88.5) personality Marc Crifasi hosts musical performances by the Selmanaires, Blame Game, the Licentious 5, the Roy Owens Jr., Drylung, and Anagram and the Chops, as well as Mike Geier's traditional tea party and DJ Swivel. Steve Pomberg premieres his new film, "Basement with a View," and Tommy Chung displays his photography.

Show up to the event and you even get to heckle those Criminal clerks for prizes. Who knows, maybe Spider-Man will show up, too.

Criminal Records' Customer Appreciation Night, Sat., Sept. 17, 7 p.m. $3, or free with Criminal Records receipt over $6.66. The Earl, 488 Flat Shoals Ave. 404-522-3950. www.criminal.com.

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