3 rules

In the neighbourhood where I grew up, we had three rules.

Beware of the guy on the curb, with dark glasses, saying — Crazy man, crazy — snapping his fingers out of time to absent music, and smoking cigarettes without inhaling. This is the guy who bought his zoot suit at a department store with his mother’s money, instead of from a teamster off the back of a truck in an alley. This is the guy with the loafers where there oughta be spectators, and corduroy where there oughta be sharkskin.

And never ignore the passions of a one armed woman, the one on Union Street who washes dishes at the White Lunch, and reads the Raymond Chandler novels to the old blind Navy boys. The one with the room over the butcher, just up from the Dime-a-Dance, where the cheap .38s explode on Saturday night, but the cops don’t show because they’re playing blackjack in a room at the Ivanhoe Hotel.

And never accept absolution from ol’ Father Nick at St Mary’s Cathedral. The guy with the pencil mustache and the patent leather collar. Who smells like sulfur the way some fellas smell like Aqua Velva. Who clips his nails in the confessional, anoints the dying with hair tonic and locks the joint each night with a Solomon key. Who cheats at bingo, calls Jesus Jake and offers up saltines and Orange Crush for the Eucharist.

These were the rules we lived by in my day. Things have changed mightily.


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