Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Worn Collars - Part Twelve - "Grifters"

Worn Collars

Part Twelve


            Grift, grifting and grifters are the biggest occupational hazard to the ‘old (rare) book man at his old (rare) book desk in his old (rare) book room... and any other “I am here”... as a ‘rare bookman’.  Often time a grifting alert occurs when “I am here” is ‘as a normal person’ but... upon being spotted... one becomes an old (rare) book... man... grifted.  I mean ‘grifted’ right out in front of everyone of the ‘normal people’ while they, often, watch, listen... do nothing to help... AND this including an ‘egg ‘em on’ participation “OH MY BROTHER WANTS ALL THE RARE BOOKS FROM DAD’S (home) OFFICE I KNOW THEY ARE VERY VALUABLE.  THAT’S WHAT YOUR TALKING ABOUT RIGHT?”.
            Get it?  It goes from there.  You know ‘your sunk’ when a ‘they’ approaches you, openly, with an ...open... ‘an old book’ open to the... “title page”... and hovers it in front of you and your current physical world view... after reversing it so you can (commonly called) “SEE IT”... doing this without saying ...anything... about doing this (approach, reverse, old book, title page)... at all.

            OK you want a better in-your-face specimen of grifting?
            Right now... as I am writing this (composing this word processing (“writing”) on a ‘lap top’ computer in the front seat of my truck at 6:47 AM on a ‘this Saturday morning’ in the parked truck in the parking lot of the flea market where the flea market manager has gone ‘inside’ to ‘open’ the flea market (opens at seven A...m) so I am WRITING THIS essay (blog post) while I “WAIT” and
            There is a finger knuckle rap over my left shoulder on the truck’s side window and there is a ‘Mr. Picker’ ‘of himself’ attracting my attention so I
            Stop typing this and put the key in the... and ‘roll down the window’ and, as the window lowers I... face to face the rush of banter from this “HEY DUDE” who... parked at an odd angle with the ‘still running’ behind him, spits “I JUST GOT A PAIR OF QUEEN ANNE CHAIRS AT A YARD SALE THEIR SEATS ARE NEW TAKE A LOOK AT THEM TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK”.
            I work for free.
            Right now?
            “NO they’re not for sale yet I got a map too its of Androscoggin County (Maine) is that any good?”
            “Those get better if you put your baseball cap on backwards.”
            “Yeah... Where’s Androscoggin County?”
            “Lewiston (Maine)”
            “I thought so”.
            “Think so?”
            “It’s big.”
            “Wall map?”
            “It’s torn along the top bar (the thin usually painted black ‘stick’ that the map is tacked to and hangs... on the wall... from; a ...wall... map) but it’s still attached”.
            “How much is that?”
            “How much?”
            “I don’t want it.”
            “Want it?”
            “No:  I don’t want it”.
            “But its nice looking.”
            “Right.  But it’s Lewiston.”
            “Yeah... pretty good.”
            “No money.”
            “Lewiston:  They won’t spend any money.”

            I get out of the truck and look at the chairs saying “Dutch” as I “SEE” the first one.  I don’t need to see the second one.  Or look at the first one further.  Oh they are OLD and all that but:
            “Dutch?” he says.
            “Dutch, Belgian... German, Austrian.  Swiss.  Whatever.”
            “It’s a country.  Ever been there”.
            “How can you tell?”
            “The Baroque influence.
            “Style; they’re Queen Anne right?”
            “You think this wood is maple?”
            “No.  They’d be New England if they were (made of maple).  It’s some light (colored) European wood.  Like Yew wood.  You know; ‘DUTCH’.
            He’s looking at me.  I know what that means.  Here it comes:
            “Anything your interested in?”
            And I never look at the wall map either.  I hear about these ‘antiques’ and ‘rare books’ (wall maps are a rare book) all morning.  “I said I’d give him a hundred.” for the chairs.  By mid morning the price was just about to plunge toward that from their fixed fortification of “TWO HUNDRED”.  Someone ‘bought’ the wall map “For sixty-five he said.  He paid fifteen.  He did OK.”
            “The guy knows nothing about any of it.” I said to one who then queried “You didn’t like that map?”
            “I like it OK but what am I gonna do with a beat up wall map of Lewiston.”
            “Yeah but you could sell it.”
            “No I can’t.”
            By ten I had one on one grifter chats with at least six grifters “about the map” and about eight grifters trying to ‘figure out’ ‘the chairs’.  “Some day your gonna figure out you need to study German Baroque to do this (be an antiques dealer).  When was the first time you realized this (antiques and rare books) is about art?  How many years before it hit you?  Twenty-five?  You don’t know what I’m talking about do you.”
            I said to one of them.  He just stood there, took it, looked out over the flea market and then said “How much you think that map is worth anyway?”.  All of this; the ‘I just wrote out’, is a perpetual procedure... of the grifting... of me.

            I learn something... sometimes.  I even write thank you notes to those who enlighten me.  Jack Kerouac called the sudden enlightenment titled ‘satori’ a “kick in the mouth”.  I don’t get it that good much.  Most of my ‘learn something’ is just a stone skip on the water surface.  That’s good enough these days.  I write a thank you note to Arlington St. John right now.  He was a rotten book collector and a rotten man.  He didn’t kick me in the mouth.  But:
            He mastered grifters and their grifting... fluid... smooth as silk... rock skip water surface ‘piss perfect’.  Expostulation of this... attribute... returns us to the earliest chapters (Parts One through Four) where Arlington attaches to the titled ‘rare’ ‘book’ ‘man’ ‘ship’ and his titled ‘boiled dinner set’ and the ‘his silver spoon’ and the ‘pretend’ and the...:
            He successfully set up shop as a rare book man seated at a rare book desk in a (his) rare book room for forty... fifty years and ‘took all comers’ ...masterfully.  WAY PAST my patience level... he ‘sitted’ and DAMN that bastard was good at it.  In fourteen minutes he’d have one of the drool beads petted like a purring kitten and “buying lunch” (as a figurative expression) and fussing with some NOTHING of a “rare book” he (Arlington) was “SHOWED ME” and “LET ME HANDLE IT”.  “Would you... when we have a chance... please go outside and pick up the neighbor’s dog’s poop in my yard.” he could suggest and THEY’D DO IT.  “Jesus”.

            They’d sit there; ‘sitted’ in the ‘his rare book room’ HOLDING A PLASTIC BAG of DOG POOP they’d “JUST BOUGHT” and... never could they be a happier merry man to be that; sitted in Arlington’s “RARE” “BOOK” “ROOM”.  “The BOOKS he has:  They are BEAUTIFUL.  SO RARE.  Too”.
            He was the Pope.  His rare book room was the Vatican.  ‘Grovel’ is what the ‘all comers’; the “boiled dinner set” of antiques pickers and ‘rare book scouts’ did ‘upon knees’.  A week after a visit one of the turkey calls would be showing me ‘an Irving’ (an ‘old book’ of some ilk by or of or about Washington Irving).  SMUG with ‘no price on that yet what do you (I) think? (grifting)... they’d “SAVING IT” to “SHOW” (offer for sale) “TO” .... “SOME”... “ONE”... in the divine sense.  Forever; for forty to fifty years in total and perpetually from 1969 ‘here’ (in Maine) when, that year, he ‘showed up’.  I ‘gosh’ the first few years... ‘this guy is... like... real?’.  Once I got to the Mr. Wallet side of Arlington; the, ah... ‘no show’ of he and him (Mr. Wallet) and his mastery of THAT ‘slight of hand’ (rock skip on water):
            And the innuendo.  Yeah... that side of that... side of... that mastery...:  He did more to ‘literate’ these them ‘boiled dinner set’ as to “POE:  I ALWAYS LIKE POE.”  He had these... faux flannel shirttail out... dribble fast food franchise special sauce down their front... “NO NOT WITH YOUR DIRTY HANDS” ‘touch’.  Arlington had the ‘that touch’. “Fuck” did they swallow it whole.  And... giddy... leave still carrying their rejected plastic bag full of dog poop.  It was genius.  I never see this peddled parley purloined FRAUD ‘done better’.
“I SEEN HIM... with one old book and two short sentences... take that fella’s shirt off, wipe his ass with it and wrap it around his head.  They’d be giddy.  To have it; done to ‘em.  Stand right there all smiles.  NEVER KNOW.  Come back the next day with another book to get a second go-through the line – all you can eat.  Again.”

            Every one should write Arlington... graveside... a thank you note. He just explained the whole grifting issue to us.  WHO WAS grifting who?  Arlington was the best damn grifter of rare books, rare book men, rare book desks and rare book rooms in the State of Maine for FIFTY YEARS.  Mrs. Snotweed and her “RARE” old books from “DAD’S OFFICE THAT’S WHAT YOUR TALKING ABOUT RIGHT?” got snuffed out like her cigarette butt under her ‘pumps’ (shoes) by Arlington’s “Shows... what the man really knew... when you line them (her dad’s books) up on a bookcase.  You should do that with those to REMEMBER HIM.”  He said that to her.  And she did.  They are ‘there’ (on the ‘proudly display’ shelves of her bookcase) to this day.


  1. Hey, take a look at these French post cards from the WWI era. Notice that they have the kind of pictures that "men like". They must be valuable, huh?

  2. 15 to 65 may be okay, yet part of that 50 difference is not "profit", some of it is cost of doing the business, time, gasoline, et cetera, AND even if available you cannot sell a map such as that of Lewiston, Maine every day. Grifters start at the bottom of the ladder each day, I suppose that it's commendable that they know what they don't know, they hustle up the info that others have worked to gain, and they do know that you know, even if they don't understand how you know.