NOLA Recycling: Mrs. Fagin and the Urchins

I’ve been calling my recycled (used? pre-owned?) post feature Letter from NOLA but that’s way too highfalutin for this bit of japery. I wanted to post something that was Naturally N’Awlins on the occasion of Obama’s first visit to Debrisville as President but the wrangling over what he should do and see while here is tiresome so I thought I’d flash back instead toJanuary 5, 2009.

Here’s the proper set-up: I own a small business in French Quarter with a prime location at Jackson Square. Having a business in the Quarter can be both very interesting and utterly appalling. Here’s a post that fits the latter category:

I had a rather Dickensian
afternoon in the Quarter yesterday. It was the best of times, it was
the worst of times: yadda, yadda, yadda. The better bit was the absence
of football redneckery, Crimson Tide style. Don’t get me wrong: most of
the grownup Alabamians were charming and even civilized but the
younguns were barely housebroken or is that trailer broken? Whichever
it was, I wanted to rub their noses in their mess but they’re gone now.
But that wasn’t even the worst of times…

Theliverwurstworst of times involved two episodes; neither of which had anything to do withMartin Chuzzlewit,
which is a name I love saying. There were two stringy haired harridans
who came into the shop reeking of tobacco and stale beer. As one of the
most fanatical non-smokers this side ofJoe Califano, I can always tell a heavy smoker: they tend to smell like an ashtray from the set ofMad Men.
If they weren’t awful enough, they were accompanied by 6 surly lads who
ranged in age from 8 to 15. Initially, I was relieved that these blond
suburban urchins stayed outside. Mrs. Fagin and her friend (Mrs.
Jaryndice?) barraged me with banal questions, chattered incessantly and
were intensely annoying. The urchins stood glowering in the doorway.
The oldest one who was, more or less, the Inartful Dodger of the lot
began puffing smoke into the shop from the open door. I walked over,
told him to knock it off and before I closed the door, he flicked some
ashes inside. In the immortal words of the sarcastic teevee slobOnslow
: Niiiiice. Since the door was shut, the head urchin and his sidekick
naturally leaned against it while the others played “let’s leave our
fingerprints on the windows.” At least dusting for prints will be easy
if something goes awry or if I start craving rye bread…

spell was broken by a nice woman from Noo Yawk who was willing to run
the urchin gauntlet and entered shaking her head. Mrs. Fagin and her
friend exited stage right. The new customer looked at me and said:
“What kind of mother lets her son blow smoke in people’s faces? I know,
a bad one.” The tension was broken and I guffawed loudly likeDangerblond or even worseMaitri who has a laugh that’s almost as loud as a Ramones concert. Alas, I’m unable to reach the sonic level of Liprap’s cackle, which is loud enough to break glass…

(Oliver) twisted adventures were not over. I went around the corner to
the drug store to get a snack. I was relieved that Vincent the surly
guy with elaborate dreadlocks wasn’t working the register. I’d had
enough of surly yoots for one day. The girl working the register is as
sweet as molasses and twice as slow but, hey, she’s pleasant and
doesn’t do surly. As I stood in line, I felt a hand graze my back
pocket. It was-you guessed it-an urchin of the street entertainer
variety trying to boost my wallet. I almost went Bill Sikes on his ass
but decided instead to lightly elbow the little bugger; and told him
that if he did that again I’d elbow him where it would *really* hurt
and call the cops on him. To my surprise, the store manager asked the
urchin for ID, which was, even more surprisingly, produced. The manager
made a copy, returned the urchinoid ID and told him he was banned from
the store. It warmed the cockles of my heart whatever the hell they
are. Hmm, I wonder if Bill Sikes had cockles? I guess not: a heart is


Above is a picture of my favorite cinematic Bill Sikes: Robert Newton in David Lean’sOliver Twist.
Newton is all snarling menace and gives the best performance in the
film. Alec Guinness’ turn as Fagin is too Shylocky (they forgot to tell
him that ham isn’t kosher, apparently) for my taste and pales in
comparison to his performance as Herbert Pocket in Lean’sGreat Expectations, which is on my all-time top twenty film list. Speaking of Fagins and pockets (picked and otherwise) here’s Ron Moody fromOliver:

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