Snubby Schwartz says to me, “you got that twenty you owe Slick?”
Because it's Snubby and because his teeth are two rows of stainless steel hooks and slightly curved nails, it sounds more like, “wooat vat venny yo Vick?”
After a while you get used to it and you start adapting to Snubby-speak.
I fork over the twenty without a word. There's no better convincer in the world than to have Snubby standing there staring balefully at you like some hideous deep sea creature. But it's what makes him the best bill collector in New Kowloon----that winning smile.
He eyes the bill almost absentmindedly, half-whispering to himself, “Varevarevareware.....” He does this a lot---probably reveling in the fact that he's still capable of speech. “Varewareware.....” He recedes back into the teeming Friday night crowd.
He's a New Kowloon success story, Snubby is----he came here with dreams of anarchy and endless free trim, nothing but the shirt on his back and no marketable skills. One bad run-in with the Red Dragons and cheap New Kowloon dentistry did the rest.
Anyone's welcome to come in and mind their own business, of course----but when they settled here, the clarion call went up; New Kowloon needs doctors, scientist, civil engineers. Yes, in spite of all your dirtiest, most pessimistic hopes, anarchy needs doers. Cops. Psychologists. IT guys. Dentists.
Some have the good economical sense to play it cheap and work with what they have. They don't get to cush it in the upper strata of the city, but they get lots of customers, they get a loyal base and goddammit, they never go hungry. If they don't get paid in legal tender(or whatever passes for it----bitcoin? Hell Money?) then they're awash in dope, guns, pussy, dick, macaroni art or whateverthehell else you can use.
He's a libertarian hero, you know, like a bottomfeeding George Washington. There's a hierarchy of dentistry here in New Kowloon. See, if you were a Trust Fund Baby who rolled in here, you'd have it made. Can you get guns? Drugs? Women? A private army? You can probably get a nice set of pearly whites installed in your yammering craw. Snubby, for one, was not so lucky----all he came here with was a hope in his heart and a willingness to raise some hell.
It's not a pretty thing.
Some of us Americans grew up on tales of George Washington and his wooden teeth....the truth, sadly, was way past those fabled cherry trees and a whole lot else besides. Wooden teeth? Shit. Try nails, screws, chunks of plywood, monopoly game pieces, chunks of particle board from Ikea and even wads of paper. It was a septic hellhole that would scare the living piss out of a Komodo Dragon....that was the mouth of the Father of Our Country......
Father of my FORMER Country. When you hit New Kowloon you renounce citizenship everywhere. You're given the flag of the city and you're told you can pledge allegiance to it if you wish or desecrate it if you don't. It's no big deal.
But I digress.
Snubby's network of gnarled appliances aren't about to make anyone comfortable. It's a selling point for his services as a collector. I find myself wondering whether he ever gets any. As is a big edict in New Kowloon, my big inclination is MYOB. He's no fun to be around, but where there's a will in New Kowloon there's a way. Once he got the new oral setup and went to work for the big boys, the core members of the Red Dragons started turning up dead. The shadow of the Dragons that are left pretty much operate under some big dog's thumb, which was definitely not the case back in the day. Me, I turn a blind eye. MYOB. Something tells me whoever's buttering Snubby's bread , he's doing alright for himself.
from DISPATCHES FROM NEW KOWLOON, a work in progress
copyright 2016 C.F. Roberts/ Molotov Editions
THIS WEEK'S PLAYLIST:
THE BUTTHOLE SURFERS-Rembrandt Pussyhorse/Cream Corn
TYPE O NEGATIVE-Life is Killing Me