“Why, the most monstrous of all hypocrites are these bears: hypocrites by inversion; hypocrites in the simulation of things dark instead of bright; souls that thrive, less upon depression, than the fiction of depression; professors of the wicked art of manufacturing depressions; spurious Jeremiahs; sham Heraclituses, who, the lugubrious day done, return, like sham Lazaruses among the beggars, to make merry over the gains got by their pretended sore heads — scoundrelly bears!”–Herman Melville
WHEN THIS WORLD CATCHES FIRE
BOOK THREE: SAVAGE NOXTOWN
CHAPTER TEN: PART SIXTY-TWO: KINGDOM COME
“Back in the olden days,” said Count Victor Justin, “once upon a time, when pigs spoke rhyme and monkeys chewed tobacco, I remember suffering me some lean and rugged days. As fast as I rooked the suckers of their ooftish, it seemed I was spending it even faster. Of course, in my line of work, flashing a Chicago bankroll is practically a compunction. ‘Getting and spending lays waste my hours.’ Giggly water also runs into a sum. As do oysters on the half-shell. And fifty-cent cigars. Plus, a man’s got to look good, especially in my game. Nobody pays any attention to a man who dresses like a tramp in need of a shave and a bath. Hence the heavy expenditures for some trig rainment. Just as the robin is known for its red breast, so the professional grifter for his smart attire. You can’t be buying your duds from the Jewish rags and old clothes man when you’ve got a front to maintain. Diamond tie-pins and pearl buttons and felt derbies and the like. The front that worked best for me was always ‘prosperous businessman’. You may scoff if you like, but I’ve made many a pretty penny simply from looking the part.”
“I remember how I got my start. Standing on the street corner in a strange town, luring strangers into a saloon, advising them in a friendly way that there were pickpockets abroad and offering to hold their watches for them until tomorrow. Of course, by then I’m long gone, and ‘tomorrow’ never comes. Only once did I fail with that cute little stunt. Some thrifty Scotsman handed me a busted ticker. Set me back the price of two drinks. I just about broke even on that one.
“There are any number of small grifts that the apprentice con man can use to get his feet wet and raise some ooftish on the q.t. and tout suite. I’m sure I’m not giving away any trade secrets when I tell you the gist of them. Of course, any grafter worth his salt usually disdains a penny-ante score, but these stunts are useful when you find yourself financially embarrassed of a sudden. Let’s say you were robbed by an enterprising whore and her fancy-man; or you bet your whole wad on a piece of horseflesh that didn’t even finish in the running; or a big score you’ve been nursing for months fell through because the damned mark was a mackerel-snapper and he confessed it to his priest, who told him it was a sin and urged him instead to donate a big chunk to the church—yet another competing racket.
“Explore any dark and twisted alley and you’ll find a groggery where you can ply your trade with saloon bets—coin tricks and stunts with cards and matchsticks and the like. There’s a pretty rough element that hangs their hat in those joints, though, so it’s always best to have a confederate—someone with sheer muscle. A real Mutt and Jeff team. Of course, from time to time you run across a piker as won’t pay up, and there’s nothing much you can do when you’re facing down his whole rotten crew of Plug-uglies. Except to vow eternal revenge.
“Then again, as a last resort, you can always say you’re selling tickets to Commodore Dutch’s big soiree, or any other charity you care to make up out of whole cloth; it scarcely matters, just so long as you can spin a convincing yarn. You can even sell tickets to the Policeman’s Ball; only you have to be careful lest the vindictive coppers get wind of your doings, for they’ll be sure to shake you down. I’ve seen them take a pair of scissors and cut the hidden seams of a grifter’s jacket just to extract his hidden greenbacks; money he’d been saving against taking a fall.
“You may say that such small-time grifts are strictly from hunger, but if you’ve ever been on your uppers, you wouldn’t be so quick to turn up your nose at such cute little gags. Hell, I’ve even been known to steal a dog or two from own his back yard and sell him to the highest bidder at a neighborhood tavern on the other side of town. There’s all sorts of ways to make your way in the city– if you ain’t too proud. Sure beats working for a living, I’ll tell you that. Oh, I’ve worked some—I’ll admit it. In my younger says I was a hod-carrier. Back-breaking work, and your fellow playmates are all a bunch a broke-down mules with hardly two nickels to rub together. I’d almost rather be a farmer. Then there was the time I was a strikebreaker without knowing it and was offered a job as a streetcar conductor. A brick tossed at the side of my head by a hot-tempered Hunkie sure cooled me of that notion in a hurry. ‘There’s nothing,’ says he, ‘that’s worse than a low-down scab,’ and me, I didn’t argue. I was a smart-aleck in my youth; but I was no dummy. And now I’m older and wiser still. I’m not about to tangle assholes with the IWW. You meet a fair amount of them huskies while hoboing. The railroad bulls hate the Wobblies like poison. Especially down south. You’re taking your life in your hands anyway, riding the rails in a state like Mississippi. They got the chain gangs, and they’ll work you. You’ll bunk down in the Stockades at the Parchman Farm. First they break your spirit, then they break your bones. God help anyone who’s misfortunate enough to end up chopping cotton in a place like that. Escaping from such a place is worth your life to try; and yet, it’s the only way. Otherwise, all hope is gone, for God has forsaken you.
“I need not remind any of you gentlemen that the grifter preys on hope. Hope is his bread and butter. Like the little rascal who ought to have his britches dusted pines for his warm apple pie, so suckers are always whining for an easy buck. It’s plain and simple an axiom. Womenfolk pine for money so they can buy gew-gaws and fancy duds; menfolk want them the ooftish so they don’t have to work and can laze their days away with booze and card-playing and wild wild women.
“So. Show the Mark a crooked deal where he stands to make a pretty penny–and you’ll see his glims light up like a hophead when he spies the needle.”
BERNIE SANDERS ISN’T GOING TO BE PRESIDENT
ALL THE TERRIBLE THINGS HILLARY CLINTON HAS DONE
New documents reveal how Donald Trump’s racist dad inspired Woody Guthrie’s most bitter writings
Jerry Lewis Praises Trump and Says Refugees Should ‘Stay Where the Hell They Are’
Jerry Lewis briefly had his own themed restaurant, in competition with Dino’s.
5*AVATAR OF THE ZEITGEIST
AMERICA’S WORST GOVERNOR
6* DAILY UTILITY
The demographic trends shaping American politics in 2016 and beyond
DONALD DUCK: HIGH PRIEST OF THE ILLUMINATI
THE TRIUMPH OF THE HARD RIGHT
FOUR FACEBOOK PAGES LIBERALS SHOULD NEVER SHARE FROM
SNOPES’ FIELD GUIDE TO FAKE NEWS SITES
THE BRAINWASHING OF MY DAD
11* DEVIATIONS FROM THE PREPARED TEXT: A REVIEW OF OTHER MEDIA
CONTROVERSIES IN POPULAR CULTURE.
839. As you probably know…I get all all my news from these reliable sources.