Tuesday, August 04, 2009

A BYGONE ERA

I just finished John Drummond's "Thirty Years in the Trenches Covering Crooks, Characters, and Capers." I can't say that it is a tremendous piece of literature. It is real, like Bulldog always was. It does capture a series of turns of phrase that you don't see so much anymore. Check these out:

"As time went on the park became a haven for jackrollers and male prostitutes."
Apparently a "jackroller" is a prostitute who robs her clients. In fact, when I googled "jackroller" we got an urban dictionary definition that is 5 up, 3 down. And that did not require that the "jackroller" be a prostitute. Sex-Lexis.com says it is a prostitute who robs her customer. Any clarification? Anyone?
"Although critics of the magazine called it a rag, Kahn claimed his publication enabled 'visiting firemen' to know where the action was."
Clearly no magazine could be a "rag" if it shows "visiting firemen to know where the action is." I am pretty sure that it doesn't mean "visiting firemen" literally.
"Joe liked the sauce when he was young and by the time he was working as a short order cook at a North Side greasy spoon he was drinking heavily."
If I were a saucier as a younger cook and had to work at a North Side greasy spoon, I'd probably start drinking too.
"Pritchard was on bad paper with the warden."
I figured out that "on bad paper" meant in trouble. I just don't know why it means that. Is "bad paper" bad because it has too little linen in it? Or is a bad paper something like USA Today?
"Jaworskyj had gone into witness protection and was singing for his supper."
Cripes! Should Drummond have told us what the guy was doing for a living? I mean, in this day and age there just aren't that many live music venues, youo know?
"His wife, Pamela was doing a twenty year stretch at another Federal prison when Jack did the 'Dutch Act.'"
The Dutch Act? It took a surprisingly short time to find on line that it meant "to commit suicide." You know why? Me neither. This page claims that it was coined by the St. Louis Police Department because so many prominent German ("Dutch") St. Louisans killed themselves. Others claim that it has to do with the English-Dutch rivalry in the 17th century. Of course, that page does not indicate whether the Dutch Act is or was used by Britons . . . I guess I lean closer to overly emotional Dichtern und Denkern killing themselves than some foolishness from the 17th century.
"Middleton's CIA ties didn't keep him out of a Federal hoosegow."
"Once an idol of fistiana in Chicago, Johnny Bratton for all practical purposes had been forgotten."
"Hoosegow" and "fistiana" are both words that, to quote John Drummond have "for all practical purposes been forgotten.
"Although the matches may not be the 'Real McCoy' wrestlers have got to know how to . . . choreograph a pier six brawl."
I didn't know about Pier Six's reputation. I knew about Pier One, and knew about Pier 39. The trick is getting from Pier One to Pier 39 without ending up in a pier six brawl.

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