02 February 2009

Toots Shor; Or, What's Needed in a Recession

Studying up on the late New York "saloonkeeper" Toots Shor—as I have on late—I suddenly realized that the old palooka is exactly the guy I need in this recession/depression. He's the fella everyone needs in this recession/depression. He's the guy you can walk up to and, with no preamble, say, "Lend me $100." And he'd do it. No questions asked. Lay those sawbucks on the bar and walk away.

In hard times, you need a right guy you can put the touch on, with no guilt and no hard feelings. A guy who knows you're good for it, and you'd do the same for him. Toots Shors used to be everywhere, but they're hard to come by today. You're more likely to get a fisheye than a handout when you ask for a loner these days. And even it you get the dough (unlikely), the lender never lets you forget about it. It's hanging there in the air like the Sword of Damocles. In better, more humane times, people knew that everybody needs a little help now and then, and you don't make it worse by asking the whys and wherefores.

I used to know a Toots. His name was Bill Van Horn, an actor/bartender from Long Island with a basso profondo voice. Bill was not a master of his affairs. He took on a hundred jobs to make ends meet and was late to every appointment he made. But he had a heart of gold. He was the only man I ever knew that I could accost out of nowhere, with no taint of shame on my face, and bum twenty bucks off of. I never had to give an explanation. It was just, "Bill, can you let me have $20?" A friend needs $20, you give him $20. Bill was always happy to fork it over. And he always offered to hand out more. I miss Bill. He lives in Maine, now, lending Franklins to down-and-out Down Easters.

Bill, by the way, was not rich. He was a subsistence guy. Every Toots Shor I've ever known has been of meager means. When a loan is asked for, a poor guy knows where that question is coming from, because he's lived it. I've never met a richie who parted with their money willingly or happily. Witness the Wall Streeters who still won't give up their bonuses, even when the President calls them out on it. Meanwhile, you know the guy hanging out at the corner bodega is slipping his buddy a fiver for whatever.


Anonymous said...

I love this post. I kind of want to marry it, actually.

Thanks for introducing me to Toots.

Ken Mac said...

well said.