“If, as they say, life is mostly hard work, Yob, then I suppose that I haven’t really lived.”
Count Victor Justin was in an unusually expansive mood; his eyes were shining, quite possibly from insufflation of “asthma powders,” and he walked with a steady but ever so slightly weaving gait, which indicated that he’d had a few of what he called his “baby brews” before commencing his peripatetic and pedantic perambulations with the young Cadger Tandy.
“What was it that Lincoln said? ‘My father taught me how to work, but he never taught me to love it.’ Yea bo, I think thass ’bout right. Do ye ken the saying? ‘Hard work never killed anybody?’ Yass, walll,” he said in a crafty croaking voice. He stopped dead still in the middle of the sidewalk, and, after a strategic pause, resumed. “I beg to differ. The man who told that despicable lie was probably some grouchy cigarface fatty who in his free time frolicked in Newport or Saratoga Springs over the broken bodies of his bohunk varlets. The very thought of such miserable sententious cant being promulgated far and wide as the honest truth to corrupt the sensibilities of small boys and sucking babes is enough to make a little dog laugh. Why, it’s almost enough to make a fully grown man long to batten down the hatches and hoist the Jolly Roger.”
Count Victor Justin smirked, then frowned, and suddenly he didn’t look quite so drunk anymore. “You know, Greenie, some people become killers because they just can’t get along with society. I have always believed that individuals such as that are not bad. Rather, they are sick. They don’t need to be put in a prison. They belong in a mental hospital, though who knows what new horrors would await them there. I guess that there was once a time, among the Eskimos, when they would just maroon all the murderers on a frozen desolate island and let them fend for themselves. I wouldn’t be surprised if it wasn’t quite a peaceful society. The toil of the run of the mill keeps most men from committing crimes and murdering people and going stark staring bonkers. Hard work means you’re too damn tired to make noise. No anarchist has a mortgage. Peter the Painted probably lived in a filthy alley or some other vile rookery. Small wonder the government urges you to buy your own house. Home ownership is the surest path to becoming a respectable Yob, because having to pay a mortgage takes a lot out of you, and, besides, the damn house won’t fix itself, now, will it? There’s always something that needs looking after, even if you live there all by yourself. A cracked basement window. A tree on the property falling down. The panes in the window sashes coming loose. Or how about clinging vines growing up the side of the house and loosening the gutters? Or snow and rain leaking through the roof? Or squirrels getting up into the attic? Or enormous raccoons munching on your garbage? Or the neighbors complaining because you don’t shovel your walk ner cut your grass ner rake your leaves?
“No–it’s apartment life for me. Of course, if you have to share a tenement bathroom, that right there is a big strike agin it. But even if you have your own damn water closet, there’s still the banging of the pipes in the winter as the steam struggles to get through ’em. There’s the noisy neighbors. You can tip-toe around in your rooms, and still the neighbor downstairs will complain that you’re keeping them awake. And meanwhile, the upstairs tenant stomps around like Jumbo the Elephant, and what can you do, other than shoot the jinky wretch? Plus, there’s the noise of filthy brats playing stickball in the street and no doubt screaming their fool heads off as they get run over by trolley cars. There’s the gossipy women who offer up yards of talk, but who don’t have even a thread of sense in their heads. They will discuss your doings all day long with no better idea of who you really are than a butterfly has of how to operate a steam press. You have to be friendly to these Zooks, or they’ll cut you up behind your back. Only you can’t get too familiar with them either, or their husbands will come after you. Better to simply be pleasant to the neighbors but to keep yourself to yourself–and if you want hot water, be sure to bribe the janitor with a box of good cigars every Christmastime.
“No, no, you just can’t win. Unless it’s one of them exclusive apartment buildings with an elevator and a winking doorman catering to an altogether better class of people. But for what you have to pay to live in such a place, you might as well take up residence in a second-rate hotel.
“Better still than any flophouse or dosshouse or boarding house or house of ill repute is hotel life. Just so long as you contrive to bribe the bellboys and grease the manager’s palm every now and again, you can do as you please, come in at all hours of the day or night, bring women up to your room if that’s your inclination, and the Hotel Dick will never say a mumblin’ word. Besides, there’s nothing you can do in a hotel that they haven’t seen there a hundred times before.
“You may hate the slow pace of the working life. You may resent having to live in a noisy tenement room with lousy lighting. You may hate having to put on a front in order to even stay in your place in this world, let alone advance. But listen, little Master–your fine scruples will butter no parsnips, as my old colored Mammy used to say.
“Maybe if you’re lucky you might stumble into the type of job where you don’t have to work very strenuously. Some good brainless white collar occupation, like mail clerk, or customs official, where mostly you sit around all day and pass the time in gossiping with your officemates. That would be quite a trick, just so long as you don’t act like a sorehead. Just so long as you’re smart enough to act dumb enough to curry favor with your boss and get ahead. And pony up two bucks to buy flowers whenever somebody has a funeral.
“You might even get a job with the government. Only trouble being, when the election rolls around and they turn the old rascals out, you may be among that number. I’ve seen it happen more than once. And, unless you’ve made some connections during your years of service, ordinary businesses don’t want to hire you. You have the stink of a government sinecure about you. Best that you can hope for is a job as a streetcar conductor. Or selling bedroom slippers in a trig department store.
“You certainly don’t want to work out-of-doors. You’ll roast in the blistering heat come summer, and freeze in the icy cold when winter rolls around. Your fellow wage-slaves will most likely be drunks who will resent you if you don’t do as they do and squander your weekly pay packet on strong drink. And God forbid you should injure yourself on the job. They’ll let you go with a handshake and a fifty dollar bill–if you’re lucky–and it’s very likely you’ll be reduced to a life of abject beggary. And then you’ll go crazy, and start muttering to yourself, and will want to kill all the men you meet with a gun, and stab all the women who spurn you with a knife. And then it’s off to the loony bin for you, where you are likely to encounter conditions like you wouldn’t believe. And also run into Yellofs who you would never in your worst nightmares want to meet. And you’ll suffer a fate–like so many others before you–that’s worse than death. And all because you were careless and stupid in planning your life, and your choice of occupation–or lack thereof.
“As for me, I’m not actually a confidence man. No matter what the police might have me down in their books as being. No, I’m more like a manipulator. I see my opportunities and I take ’em, as the famous politician once said.
“Why not get wise to yourself, and go on the grift? I ask you–what are the alternatives to a life of indolence and ease? Rather than building an empire of laziness, you’ll instead be squandering half your life in doing work that you hate. But if you do choose the easy path, just remember one thing, Yob: The more you have to struggle for power, the less powerful you are. To be a true grifter, you first have got to sucker yourself that you’re a powerful person before you can sucker anybody else into believing that you are. That’s the be-all and end-all of the matter. ‘The question is whether you can make words mean so many different things.’ No. ‘The question is, which is to be master—that’s all.'”
COLONEL SANDERS SPEAKS OUT
I take out a Filet O’Fish and flop it on the desk next to the Egg Mc, the Kremes, the Big Breakfast, the Big Mac, and the shake.
“Now when it comes to fish,” says the Colonel, “I’m kindly Jewish.
“I’m afraid I’ll get a codfish, and codfish has worms in it. They’re scavengers, y’know. They eat the seal dung off the bottom.”
He poked at the Filet O’Fish with his gold spoon. “Now I like sole, fried or broiled. I like catfish—they’re mild, but they’re good. And I love oysters, if they’re good oysters. But now su-ward fish. I’ve seen worms in a su-ward fish as big as that ink pen you’re holdin’ there.”
TACO BELL SAYS MCDONALDS IS A TOTALITARIAN GOVERNMENT
MUSIC APPRECIATION AND SOCIAL CLASS
SUPERMAN EATS LIKE A PIG. HIS NAME SHOULD REALLY BE “SUPPERMAN”
Q: Do you have to eat? If not, do you like to eat? Is there anything in the morning that you generally like? Do you drink coffee? Do you eat generally more or less than human beings?
A: Again, please don’t hate me. But one of the perks of being Superman is that I can almost literally eat anything and suffer no ill health effects. My body’s pretty efficient about converting any organic matter into energy. But my tastes are actually pretty simple. My favorite breakfast consists of 18 farm fresh eggs, sunny side up, fried in butter, a half gallon of orange juice, whole wheat bread still warm from the oven, and six or seven grapefruit, which I peel and eat like oranges. Caffeine has no effect on me, but I do like the smell of coffee and will drink an urn or two, if it’s hot enough.
Q: Do you try to eat healthy, or given your natural advantages, do you let yourself pig-out once in a while?
A: I am able to eat a really embarrassingly huge number of ice cream sandwiches.
The 25 Best Soups, In Order
SOMALI SOURDOUGH PANCAKES
“As a European this is how I imagine Americans have breakfast”
I TOO MUST WRITE SONGS ABOUT TRANSVESTITES AND HEROIN LIKE LOU REED
SO THAT I TOO CAN HAVE MY FACE ON A SUBWAY WALL
11* DEVIATIONS FROM THE PREPARED TEXT: A REVIEW OF OTHER MEDIA
PITCHFORK’S SUNDAY REVIEWS OF CLASSIC ALBUMS
*11A BOOKS READ AND REVIEWED
ANATOMY OF A SONG. MYERS. ***1/2
ANYTHING GOES. MOORE. ***1/2
AVENGERS: STANDOFF. ***1/2
BLACK SUMMER. ELLIS. ****
BLACK WIDOW 1. SHIELD’S MOST WANTED. WAID & SAMNEE. ***1/2
CHILLING ADVENTURES OF SABRINA 1. THE CRUCIBLE. ***1/2
COMPLICATED GAME. PARTRIDGE & BERNHARDT. ****
COUCH TAG. REKLAW. ****
CRECY. ELLIS. ****
DAREDEVIL BACK IN BLACK 2. SUPERSONIC. ***1/2
DC COMICS BOMBSHELLS 2. ALLIES. **1/2
DICTIONARY OF MODERN PROVERBS. DOYLE, ETAL. ****
THE DILLINGER DAYS. TOLAND. ****
THE GODFATHER COMPANION. BISKIND. ***1/2
HARLEY QUINN: NIGHT & DAY. ***
HARLEY QUINN GREATEST HITS. ***1/2
HARLEY QUINN: VENGEANCE UNLIMITED. ***1/2
HARLEY QUINN 5. THE JOKER’S LAST LAUGH. ***1/2
KILL OR BE KILLED. BRUBAKER. ****
KITARO. KITARO MEETS NURARIHON. MIZUKI. ***1/2
LAID BARE. GILMORE. ***1/2
LIVING HISTORY. GARLAND. *****
LOS TEJANOS & LOST CAUSE. JACKSON. ****1/2
MANDRAKE THE MAGICIAN 1. FALK. ***1/2
MOB LAWYER. RAGANO & RAAB. ***1/2
THE ONE HUNDRED NIGHTS OF HERO. GREENBERG. ****
ONE PUNCH MAN 1-10. ONE. ***1/2
OUR LADY OF BIRTH CONTROL. JONES. ****
THE OTHER SIDE OF HISTORY. GARLAND. *****
PAPER GIRLS 2. VAUGHN. ***
PARACUELLOS. GIMENEZ. *****
THE READER’S BOOK OF DAYS. NISSLEY. ****
ROBIN SON OF BATMAN. 1. YEAR OF BLOOD. ***
SANDMAN MYSTERY THEATRE. BOOK TWO. ***1/2
SOVIET DAUGHTER. ALEKSEYEVA. ****
SP4RX. MCDONALD. ****
SUPERGIRL 1. DAVID & FRANK. **1/2
SUPERGOD. ELLIS. ****
TURNCOAT. O’SULLIVAN & KLAUS.
WONDER WOMAN 1. RUCKA. ***1/2
WRETCHED WRITING. PETRAS & PETRAS. ***1/2
CONTROVERSIES IN POPULAR CULTURE.
917. Conservatives tend to reason with their lizard brains.
918. THE DISFIGURED: THE BIRTH OF DADA
921. FIRE AND ICE: THE SEQUEL
Some say the world will end in fire.
Some say in ice.
I think that’s pretty fucking nice.
So this is my riposte
To Mr. Frost.