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May 21, 2004

Harry of Five Points
Posted by Teresa at 12:07 PM *

As posted by John M. Ford in the Syr Agricoli thread: Shakespeare by Damon Runyon by John M. Ford.

Act I, Scene 2 of Harry of Five Points, in which is explained the Salic Law:
So let me put it thusly, boss, and youse Who is the molls and goons and likewise guys
To him who is your leader. You got nix
To keep you outta French guys’ speaks and joints,
But some bull from this mouthpiece Pharamond,
“In terram Salicam mulieres ne succedant,”
“No doll can get the goods in Salic land,”
Which neighborhood those Frogs make like what is
The French North Side, which this guy Pharamond,
Pulled out of his own keister, so to speak.
Yet judges bought with their own moolah say
This Salic property is German, like
Up in Detroit and on the Pittsburgh side,
Where Big Chuck having whacked the Saxon gang,
They set up shop and started making gin.
And, since they did not fancy German dolls
(Though I got no such preferences myself)
They made this regulation that no broad
Can wear no pants up in no Salic land. [Laughter from the nobles.]
The second installment:
HARRY. Let’s hear the guys what Dolphin-boy has sent.

[Some flunkies take a powder.]

So now we make to parley. On our feet,
Is everybody packin’ proper heat?
We own that joint. They just ain’t got the word.
And if they still don’t, we must bust stuff up,
And run things big, like Barnum tendin’ bar
In big fat France, her racetracks and her numbers,
And maybe we will blow it. Them’s the breaks.
There have been lots of guys we only knew
From all the flowers at their funerals.
And if I get a daisy-patch in France
These Frogs will know that they was right messed with,
And all of Harry’s guys will take the Fifth.

[The Consiglieri slouch in.]

AMBASSADOR. Bonjour, Big Henry. You is lookin’ good.
But I have gotta make things understood:
You wanna sit and listen for a while,
Or shall we settle this back-alley style?

HARRY. What is not messed with, there we do not mess.
Our beer is strong, our judges paid on time,
And every jerk we whack has whacking won.
So lay it on the table from your boss
And what is up his snoot.

AMB. Let’s cut the crap.
You sent a note that him what’s runnin’ France
Should give a wad of territory up
‘Cause Crazy Eddie ran a game there once.
On this, my boss the Dolphin ain’t so keen,
Says that you is a, or is smokin’, dope,
An’ wonders how you got in them long pants.
You risk a grabbing by the wide lapels,
And havin’ your hat handed you real hard.
But hey, he pays his markers. So here is
A bunch of boodle that should square things up,
And put this stupid tsimmis in the bag:
So’s all the gloves stay on. Thusly the swag.

HARRY. What ante, Uncle?

EXETER. Crooked dice, big guy.

HARRY. Dis Dolphin, he’s a stand-up guy, with style.
We thank you muchly, as we like to say.
But tell youse, when we make our come-out roll
On your green felt, we’re gonna hit a streak
That you are gonna pay some vig to fade.
You let him know we got a golden arm,
And he had better hock the silver now
‘Cause Dolphins do not swim too good with sharks.
I guess he heard how we hung out with grinds
And welshers. But, y’know? That marker’s paid.
We sniffed at our joint here, ‘cause of its looks,
But then we saw the second set of books.
But, you know kids. They ain’t got no respect.
And what ain’t theirs, it gets it in the neck.
But you tell Fish-face that my dice are square
As is his noggin, and he can lay odds
When I step up to make my play in France
The way I knot my tie and wear my hat
May make me look a Reuben at the Ritz,
But I got me an open-fronted suit,
And when I hoof it on your bully-vards
You’re gonna think I came from MGM.
And tell the welsher that his lousy dice
Will knock him over like a hick-town bank,
And he may end up short a rib or two
When dem bones roll. For Adas from Decatur
And corners and Big Reds are on the line,
He’ll get the hardways, make a cocked-up toss
And find he’s starin’ at two bloodshot eyes
Till he can grab a boxcar out of town.
But hey, we’ve drawn, but we ain’t seen the flop.
Your boss, he might get lucky. And he might
Get called while holdin’ bupkis. Get my drift?
He’s ponied up his bankroll like a mensch,
So tell him I will cover all of it.
My boys are all dressed up; can’t keep ‘em down
On no damn farm, when they see Paris town.
Now eighty-six these wiseguys. Toodle-oo.
But don’t plug them or nothin’. We is through.

[Ambassadors make tracks.]

EXETER. Cripes, what a buncha patzers.

HARRY. Like the man said, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
Third installment, y-clept ‘A Coupla French Chicks Sittin’ Around Talking’:
[Rouen. The FRENCH KING’S resort and casino.]

[Here comes ALICE. solus, she thinks.]

ALICE. Bon Dieu, achetez-moi un Mercedes-Benz, Je travaille pour Katy —

[KATHERINE busts in.]

KATHERINE. Alice, tu as ete en Angleterre, et tu parles bien le langage.

ALICE. Un peu, madame.

KATHERINE. Je te prie, m’enseignez; il faut que j’apprenne a parler. Comment appelez-vous le café en Anglais?

ALICE. Le café? Elle est appelee de joint.

KATHERINE. De joint. Et les gentilhommes?

ALICE. Les gentilhommes? Ma foi, j’oublie les gentilhommes; mais je me souviendrai. Les gentilhommes? Je pense qu’ils sont appeles de guys; oui, de guys.

KATHERINE. La café, de joint; les gentilhommes, de guys. Je pense queje suis le bon ecolier; j’ai gagne deux mots d’Anglais vitement. Comment appelez-vous le alcool?

ALICE. Le alcool? Nous les appelons de hooch.

KATHERINE. De hooch. Ecoutez; dites-moi si je parle bien: de joint, de guys, et de hooch.

ALICE. C’est bien dit, madame; il est fort bon palaver.

KATHERINE. Dites-moi l’Anglais pour le musique.

ALICE. De boogie-woogie, madame.

KATHERINE. Et le boulevardier?

ALICE. De cheap bastard.

KATHERINE. De cheap bastard. Je m’en fais la repetition de tous les mots que vous m’avez appris des a present.

ALICE. Il est trop difficile, madame, comme je pense.

KATHERINE. Excusez-moi, Alice, ecoutez: d’hand, de fingre, de hooch, d’bookie-wookie, de cheap Bastille.

ALICE. De cheap bastard, madame.

KATHERINE. O Seigneur Dieu, je m’en oublie! De cheap bastard. Comment appelez-vous la danse?

ALICE. De Sharleston-Sharleston, madame.

KATHERINE. De Sharleston-Sharleston. Et le chevalerie?

ALICE. De made guys.

KATHERINE. De made guys. Sans peur et sans reproche?

ALICE. Peut-étre, madame.

KATHERINE. La danse, de Sharleston-Sharleston; le chevalerie, de made guys.

ALICE. Oui. Sauf votre honneur, en verite, vous prononcez les mots aussi droit que les natifs de Brooklyn..

KATHERINE. Je ne doute point d’apprendre, par la grace de Dieu, et en peu de temps.

ALICE. N’avez-vous pas deja oublie ce que je vous ai enseigne?

KATHERINE. Non, je reciterai a vous promptement: de joint, de guys, de pooch —

ALICE. De hooch, madame.

KATHERINE. De hooch, de boogie-woogie, de sheep-bastard.

ALICE. Sauf votre honneur, de cheap bastard.

KATHERINE. Ainsi dis-je; d’cheap bastard, de sharleston-sharleston, et de made guys. Comment appelez-vous les flics et la prison?

ALICE. Les cops, madame; et le joint.

KATHERINE. Le cops et le joint. Mais le joint, c’est le café aussi! O Seigneur Dieu! ils sont mots de son mauvais, corruptible, gros, et impudique, et non pour les dames d’honneur d’user: je ne voudrais prononcer ces mots devant les seigneurs de France pour tout le monde. Foh! le cops et le joint! Neanmoins, je reciterai une autre fois ma lecon ensemble: de joint, de guys, de hooch, de boogie-woogie, de cheap bastard, de Sharleston-Sharleston, de made guys, de cops, d’autre joint.

ALICE. Excellent, madame! Madame c’est prêt á la fête de soir!

KATHERINE. C’est assez pour une fois: allons-nous a Yves Saint Laurent.
Thank you, Mike Ford.
Comments on Harry of Five Points:
#1 ::: Dan R. ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2004, 03:46 PM:

Coffee through the nostrils!

#2 ::: Moira Russell ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2004, 04:10 PM:

((dies of mingled admiration, envy, and sheer happiness))

#3 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2004, 04:50 PM:

I'm SOOOO glad I keep my Making LIght reading at home! I don't think I'd have coped reading that at work!

#4 ::: Kathy Li ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2004, 04:57 PM:

Damn. Now I'm gonna be singing Katherine's Lament from "A Little Scene to Monarchize..." all day. :-) Thanks indeed, Mike!!

#5 ::: Tim Kyger ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2004, 05:13 PM:

Briliant; simply fucking briliant.

Way better than the Simpson's McBethI saw about half a year ago.

#6 ::: Nix ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2004, 07:58 PM:

Wonderfully done: changing the metaphors appropriately and everything.

Printed out and stuck on my wall (the first blog post ever to get that particular accolade, although my lack of a printer until last week may have something to do with that as well).

#7 ::: Steven desJardins ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2004, 10:29 PM:

I've always thought Damon Runyon would've written a kick-ass "Oedipus Rex". Only he would've called it something like "The Case of the Sorefoot Shamus".

#8 ::: Chris Quinones ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2004, 01:19 AM:

Mike Ford is not human. That's the only explanation.

Has anyone else noticed what the first line of the French Chicks passage scans to and roughly means?

#9 ::: Catie Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2004, 02:25 AM:

That's absolutely magnificent.

(And yeah, ChrisQ; I'll be singing it all night.)


#10 ::: Sara ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2004, 02:27 AM:

Good God, I laughed so hard I cried.

First "Troy in Fifteen Minutes" and now's been a good day to laugh.

#11 ::: cyclopatra ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2004, 06:54 AM:

Un.Be.Lie.Va.Ble. I want the rest, dammit. And I'm especially glad I spent those years in Canada so that I can stumble through the French bits, even if I do have to not-so-subvocalize it.

#12 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2004, 11:27 AM:

Chris, Mike Ford's perfectly human. He's just really really smart, and inventive, and funny, and has major knacks for language and storytelling, and several of the Muses like him a lot. Y'all are clear on the fact that he writes books, many of which are commercially availa ...

JMF: Mike, I was just about to say "If you liked what he did to Shakespeare, you should see what he did to the Star Trek novel," but I thought I should check first over at Amazon to see what's currently in print. (Answer: lots of stuff, the which it's nice to see.) However, the corrupt Amazon database just outdid itself.

I found one of your books and clicked on your name from there, which yields cleaner results than one gets from a search on an author name from the main page. And in fact it gave me a fairly clean list, though it's got your books mixed up with a cetaceologist named John K. B. Ford. However, smack in the middle of the list was the 1536 edition of John Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion. That's got to beat the time it told me that if I liked H. W. Fowler's A Dictionary of Modern English Usage, I'd surely like the boxed DVD set of Sex in the City.

#13 ::: Leslie ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2004, 02:50 PM:

Chris Q: up until the "I work for Katy" part, it should continue: "My friends all have Porsches, I must make amends," mais no?

Bravo, Mike. Hilarious, brilliant, superb.

#14 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2004, 03:21 PM:

What did the Amazon database do, Teresa? I just went over there, picked “Books” from the drop-down menu, typed “john m ford” into the search field, hit return, and got back a list of ten John M Ford books, #1 being his most recent collection, #2 and 4 being his Star Trek books, and #3 being his most recent novel.

#15 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2004, 05:10 PM:

I'm getting very confused.

You see, I've recently watched the movies "The Gange of New York", "West Side Story", and "Guys and Dolls", and read "The Alienist".

My sense of historical sequence is now somewhere on a par with Mr. Shakespeare's, as Teddy Roosevelt and the Salvation Army fight the draft riots. And there are probably identical twins involved somewhere.

#16 ::: Kathy Li ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2004, 06:19 PM:

Sara, IMHO, Mike Ford has also beaten "Troy in Fifteen Minutes" all hollow. Take a gander at Troy: The Movie

#17 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2004, 06:52 PM:

Omigod. Swoon.

I really needed that today. Les natifs de Brooklyn indeed...

#18 ::: Rachel Silverman ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2004, 10:28 PM:

Was pointed here by my friend Manny. That's AMAZING. And I love the French part too, and am very happy I still retain the ability to read it. :)

#19 ::: Castiron ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2004, 10:43 AM:

How hard do we have to beg to get the St. Crispin's Day speech?

#20 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2004, 12:34 PM:

Hats off! Huzzah! Brilliant.

And I speak from experience, as the author of the (subsequently republished in a textbook on Shakespeare):

Jonathan Vos Post

a short, short story;
winner of Honorable Mention in the
1995 International Imitation Raymond Chandler Competition;
approx. 500 words

"Something was rotten in Denmark, rank and gross, as rotten as a dame
named Gertrude in bed with her husband's killer while the caterer recycled the
funeral baked meats for the wedding reception, at which the bride did not wear

"Hamlet was sharp for a prince, good with a knife, but not sharp enough to handle
his old man kicking the bucket with an earfull of murder."

"My name's Horatio, Hamlet's gumshoe buddy, trying to stay clean in a dirty castle.
A grizzled ghost pleaded the Fifth when I gave him the third degree, then split the scene
when the cock crew, like a guilty man before a marshall serving a summons."


I've been collection rejection letters for over a year for "Raymond Chandler's Lord of the Rings" -- which is uncomfortably novelette length, unless someone wants to pay me to expand it...

Mike Ford is consistently amazing.

Remember that Twlight Zone episode where a TV writer summons the ghost of Shakespeare to literally ghost-write sitcom episodes?

I heard from one of my Hollywood contact, btw, that there had been a special screening of "Troy" to studio executives. One rushed from the room and barked to his secretary: "get me the agent for this Homer guy. I want to buy an option on his next book."

#21 ::: joe ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2004, 02:21 PM:

This is indeed brilliant, but it reminds me fully of the Boomer Bible, right down to the Messiah Harry and his foul-mouthed gospels of debauched egocentrism, not to mention the "Book of Frogs"

IMHO, The Boomer Bible is the best value on Amazon's used rack (starting at $3 bucks sometimes), and in case you aren't familiar with it, it's a full-length "parody" of the Bible, complete with working concordances, that is (believed to be) the apocryphal creation of Philadelphia's South Street Punks in the 80s. A sign of the times, to be sure.

It's certainly blasphemous and guaranteed to contain something to offend anyone and everyone, but then, Ezekial had some pretty raunchy stuff to say, too.

#22 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2004, 02:18 PM:

Was that an advertisement?

#23 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2004, 02:39 PM:

Either that or it's remarkably clueless - a brief browse leads me to believe that the only things that the book and this post have in common is that they are both parodies and both have characters named "Harry."

Both the book's site and are located in Colorado, but it's a big state, and I don't see any other obvious connection between the two.

#24 ::: Dan Blum Now, that's definitely spam ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2004, 11:25 PM:

Of the porn variety.

#25 ::: JDM Finds Comment Spam ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2004, 07:46 AM:

What more can I say?

At least this time it's real links.

(Oh -- and joe's post of June 08, 2004, 02:21 PM was comment spam, but of the hand-made variety.)

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