THE INFORMATION #911
“By’m large,” said Count Victor Justin, to the mostly drunken and entirely half-attentive loochers at the Seven Stars Tavern, “circus freaks and carny geeks don’t give a good goddamn what you think of them, just so long as the ooftish keeps flowing. All these little squirrels, busy a-gathering up their nuts. Most of all, the Clowns, who tend to be clannish, and keep to themselves. You know the red noses they all have? That’s to hide their real red noses, because they’re all drunks, and worse. Gagsters and gangsters–there’s not much of a difference between ’em, when all is said and done. Don’t get me wrong–I don’t think I’m any better than a clown. Well–maybe just a little better. But, after all, we’re all a fool for something. Me, I’m a fool for the long con, and swindling people out of their shekels, and spending all of it as fast as I can make it. I agree with Victor Hugo: ‘An intelligent hell would be better than a stupid paradise.’
“But the thing about being a clown is, unless you were born and raised in the circus and grew up knowing all about the life, it’s not something that you would get into on a voluntary basis. It’s more like being a trash man, or a janitor, or a hod-carrier. It’s something you do when you got no brains and you’ve run out of all your other options. Let’s face it–nobody is ever going to elect a clown as Citizen of the Year. That’s because most clowns are actually little more than police characters who aren’t even good at being bad. They even failed at failure. They came in second in a stupidity contest, because they were stupid. Clowns are not funny in and of themselves. That’s not the point. That’s never been the point. If they were funny, they would be a success, and then they wouldn’t be funny anymore. No–what clowns are good at, more than anything else, is being laughed at. Some people, it should point out, are more talented at this accomplishment than others. You might say they were to the manner born.
“Now, there’s a reason why the clown’s pratfalls and slapstick usually seem to revolve around policemen and firemen. It’s because, in civilian life, many of these selfsame clowns used to be burglars and firebugs who were well known to the authorities. Let me set you straight about something: It takes enormous brass balls to be a burglar. Not that I’m encouraging anyone to take up that particular occupation. Good Lord, no. It’s a mug’s game. Most of them are washed up by the time they’re in their 40s. But, just think of it. To be a good second-story man, as opposed to a garden-variety smash-and-grab artist, like Uglyface Conklin, you need to be in good physical shape. There’s lots of climbing up and down trellises and the like, and squeezing your way into and out of basement windows. I’ve never once seen a fat burglar. You also need to have some smarts, and be able to think quickly on your feet. If you’re a wised-up gee, you don’t get caught; or, if you do get caught, you know what to say in order to get yourself off the hook. I don’t pretend to know the trade secrets of the burglar’s racket; I’m simply repeating what some well-known cracksmen have told me from time to time, when they were in their cups. I make it my business to know about these things.
“Like, how do you know when a house is ripe for the picking? Well, usually the owners have gone away for an extended period. That’s why burglars read the society pages, and the funeral notices. It may seem kind of ghoulish, but funerals are some of the best reasons people leave their homes unoccupied, and you can go and rifle though their belongings to your heart’s content, provided you got the timing right. Also, when people go on vacation, they might tell the milkman and the iceman and the coal man not to deliver. But very few people remember to have the mail held for them when they’re on extended trips. They might have some neighbor go and pick up the mail; only, more often than not, the neighbor forgets. Or can’t be bothered. Same thing with newspapers. Sometimes the neighbor just forgets, and that right there is a sure sign your mark has gone on an extended trip. Also, if it’s the summer, you watch to see if the grass is mown. Little things like that. To be a good cracksman, you’ve got to be observant. Is there a dog? Sometimes, if there’s a dog, you can bribe the mutt with choice cuts of meat. But, usually, it’s a no-go. No burglar ever wants to have to kill a dog, especially a big slavering brute, so chances are, unless he has the dope jitters, he’s not going to bother with a house that keeps a vicious, barking dog.
“Of course, sometimes homeowners make it easy for a crook. They leave a spare key under the doormat, or some lawn ornament, or a milk jug, or a flowerpot. Every crook checks those places first. And they hide money and jewelry in their underwear drawer, or in the icebox, or under their mattress, which are always the first three places any housebreaker is going to look.
“But, like, what do you say when the owner catches you in the act red-handed? Well, here’s a cute stunt I heard of once. The yellof put on a lush act and said he was dying for a drink, and thought the homeowner might have some good old booze stashed away. This was a minor stroke of genius. Unless the yellof has a gun, he might be inclined to simply let you go, because you planted that small seed of doubt in his mind, and really–he doesn’t want to try to hold you, and have the police tramping through his house–unless’n he’s a hard case, or a shitheel.
“Anyway, clowns have a lot in common with house robbers, and maybe that’s why women don’t tend to like ’em very much. They are both lonely professions and both of them take a lot of falls and tally up a whole mess of failures.
“You see, circus folk and criminals and such, why, they’re really a tribe in and of themselves. Just like streetcar conductors, and policemen, and yellofs who pan for gold. All of ’em got their own specialized lingo. Although,” he said with a crooked smile, “‘Shitheel'” is a good all-purpose denunciation amongst every last one of them.”
Here are the first 30 seconds of the truly great version of “Heart of Darkness” found on the Pere Ubu bootleg “Don’t Expect Art”:
Passages from the writings of Amanda McKittrick Ros (1860-1939), widely considered the worst novelist of all time
TEN THINGS YOU SHOULD NOT SAY TO A DJ
50 PHOTOS WHICH SUM UP EACH OF THE 50 STATES
5*AVATAR OF THE ZEITGEIST
66 WAYS TO PROTECT YOUR PRIVACY
6* DAILY UTILITY
How Half Of America Lost Its F**king Mind
The CIA’s Simple Sabotage Field Manual
EASTER WEEK CANDY FROM 1971
11* DEVIATIONS FROM THE PREPARED TEXT: A REVIEW OF OTHER MEDIA
I can’t wait until the election season is over, so we can all go back to pursuing our callow enthusiasms amid a waist-high tide of media sewage.
CONTROVERSIES IN POPULAR CULTURE.
870. TOP 20 FILM NOIRS