Friday, March 19, 2010

Mag 6

a bag of nailsI was in a fix and then some. I'd been a sap, and a dope and probably a couple of dozen of those ten-doubloon words that you pay top dollar for in fancy clinics. And I was in deep.

It had started with a dame - don't it always? She had shimmied into my office about the time when all the good little girls and boys go and turn into bad little girls and boys for the evening. The first thing I noticed was her dress. It was a nice shape and not much of that was the fault of the tailoring. She'd said all the right things in pretty much the right order and had shown enough of a pretty nice leg for me not to be too particular about how much dough she had in that purse of hers. She needed someone finding. A name: "Gerry" and a little something he'd left behind for her to remember him by. It wasn't much to go by but it was enough to make me promise to do something foolish.

Donovan's Bar on Seventh and Main was the sort of bar where girls like her met guys like him. It was the sort of joint where you could pay two dollars for a shot that was twelve parts Canada Dry and still come out with a headache. It was quiet, too early for the out-of-towners and too late for local gentry. I ordered a Scotch and got something which almost might have been one. The barman was an old Pole who used to kick about with the Paderewski mob on the East Side until the top rollers found themselves in a field with more than their fair share of metal in their insides. He knew me and wasn't surprised when I got to asking him questions. A little prompting and he told me about a place someplace that wasn't a place. I thanked him kindly and left him to clean up the glass as I went to get my flivver.

Coolidge Boulevard was as quiet as it could be without actually having cemetery gates either end. The apartment blocks were set just off the wide sidewalks, with thin ribbons of greenery to tell the folks inside what they were getting for that extra twenty bucks. I parked up a block down from the place I wanted and walked up. The celluloid strip from my shirt collar got me into the building without my having to bother the concierge any. I soft-shoed up the stairs. I reckoned the apartment I wanted was on the second floor, near the fire escape and so far it hadn't been my night to be disappointed. The light was out but I knocked gently anyway, just to be polite. Just to be extra polite I kept my right hand on the gat in the pocket of my topcoat.

The apartment wasn't much you'd care to write home to your ma about. Three rooms, if you count a bathroom that doubled as a damp armpit. I had a look round anyway, just in case I needed the exercise. I found it underneath a card table by the bedside. As clues go it wouldn't scorch any records on a salt flat but I'll take them as they come and act grateful.

Which is how I came to be in this fix. The Greek guy prodded my shin with the stubby toe of his shiny brown shoes.

"Hey, let's keep you in the here and now, eh?" he spat.

"Sure, why not?" I drawled.

He shook his head.

"You guys," he spat again. "You guys, you make me sick. You think just because you've got an office with some fancy nameplate and a desk with a Smith Corona you think you're the bee's pajamas."

Cat's pajamas. Cat's. I didn't offer to correct him. I reckoned he was good for another one-fifty and the blackjack in his hand didn't look in the mood for wordplay.

"You see, that's the trouble with you penny-a-word guys," he was saying. You have to go in for some dumb coincidence to get your cheap sensationalist plot movement."

"Says you dumb coincidence!" I would have curled my lip into a snarl but it was pretty well busy keeping a few teeth in one place.

"Says me! Now, a business card, or a packet of matches, well that's kinda traditional round these parts. You'd have to follow a clue like that, hell it would be downright unprofessional of you not to!"

All the time he was talking he was rolling an unlit cigarette from one corner of his mouth to another. This was fine by me. I was having more than enough fun without the smell of cheap tobacco. He was just getting to the point where he was going to list my saintly attributes when he stopped all of a sudden and glared at me. The light on his forehead bounced back like a sunlit day in Malibu. He leaned over and spat again.

"What sort of a dumb ox follows a clue like that, eh? You think you can come here to The Bag O'Nails and play gangbusters when the place is packed and the guys are loaded? You're lucky you can still feel where your teeth used to be."

He turned his back on me and shrugged.

"Ah, you poor dumb mutt!"

As he walked away I realised what a dope I'd been.

The Card Table was a dive just three blocks down from here.

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Monday, March 15, 2010

Transports of delight

A sign of just how out of touch the poor old CBI is getting these days is their call this weekend for 'radical' chnges to the daily commute for to alleviate rush hour congestion. Their radical solution is to stagger commuting times. Round our way, for the past couple of decades, the morning rush hour has stretched from about 6am to 10am and the evening one from 3.30pm to 8pm. And with scarce any effect on traffic congestion.

"The CBI would like to see the policymakers put the same amount of energy and vision into roads as they are doing on high-speed rail."

In that case the nation would be fucked. There'd be one motorway in Kent and the rest of the country would be served by B-roads that were laid out in the 1880s and re-metalled once every forty years.

Those that hadn't been grubbed up by Doctor Beeching, that is.

Saturday, March 13, 2010


Enough to whet your appetite!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

I've got a little list...

Just checking to make sure they're there:

  • People who insist on having window seats who then don't look out of the window.
  • Newspaper proprietors who are more than happy to tell their readers that Britain Is Broken and the country is broke, safe in their non-domiciled tax status.
  • People who put their feet on the seats in trains.
  • Those special people who don't have a ticket for the journey they've just made and waste quarter of an hour telling the ticket inspectors that they can't possibly queue up to buy one because they need to meet a friend elsewhere in the station.
  • People too busy on their mobile 'phone to tell the coffee stall girl what they actually want to order and too pig ignorant to get out of the sodding way so that the rest of us might be served.
  • Anyone who says: "If they don't like the laws of this country they should be sent back where they came from," and spend the rest of the day complaining about having to pay their taxes, conform to Road Traffic Acts and not be able to string up the tabloid demon of the day.
  • People who stand in a long queue to get out of the station and wait until they get to the ticket inspector before they start rummaging in their bag to find their travel card.
  • People too busy on their mobile 'phone to tell the bus driver either what fare they want to pay or which stop they want to get off at.

I think I'm mellowing with age.

Monday, March 08, 2010

The perils of manliness

For the past week I've been trying, and failing, to come up with a short and snappy comment on Tazeen's post about hopeless chat-up lines. I won't spoil things by telling you the offending comment but it is a classic of its kind.

Why do we do it? Oh, we all have done, let's be honest (perhaps not so spectacularly!). The answer, as always, is down to evolution.

Men are wired such that when they first approach a woman they find very seriously attractive they are more likely than not to say something utterly stupid. This is deliberate on Mother Nature's part. In the scheme of things the child-bearing partner in the relationship is bodily committed to a lengthy process of gestation and upbringing so she needs to be particular about finding a suitable mate. Now let's the honest, the usual combination of raging testosterone, general manliness and a pair of well-polished shoes would ordinarily be irresistible. So Mother Nature, in her wisdom, has redressed the balance by providing a hurdle for the gentleman to negotiate in the relationship. Just as the peahen is attracted by the peacock that can survive the rigours of the jungle despite the burden of an unfeasibly-long train of feathers so the female of our species stops and thinks to herself: "Bloody hell! Well, if they've not killed him by now he's either got a lot of money or he's very good in bed."

Nature's marvels don't end there. We're told that ladies forget much of the pain of childbirth so as not to put them off having more children.* Men are similar: we can none of us remember that first, calamitous opening line.

Luckily, we have the womenfolk to do that. Often. In company.

*I notice it's generally male doctors telling us this, not ladies who've had children.

Sunday, March 07, 2010


You know how everything's fine until you stop moving then the world ploughs into the back of your neck like a ton of bricks? Well that's pretty much how I'm feeling at the moment. Nothing awful or calamitous, just blechh...

I have come to three conclusions:

  • Next time my shoulder starts hurting as I'm typing up some notes I should stop. Halt. Cease. Desist.
  • Me and Ibuprofen aren't a good combination.
  • I need to replace that fire: it looks picturesque enough but an electric fire shouldn't make that noise (it sounds like my neighbour driving his steam roller over the speed humps again) and the living room shouldn't smell like a machine tools foundry.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

A Wednesday singalong

Drive home carefully now!