Word of the Day

October 28, 2013 § Leave a comment

Along with the free and open dispersion of porn, the greatest beneficiary of the Internet: Ultracrepidarianism, the habit of giving opinions and advice on matters which one knows nothing about. The word first appeared as an insult in an 1819 letter by essayist William Hazlitt.


Ode to Billy Thompson, on the Anniversary of His Death

October 15, 2013 § Leave a comment

Friends, Texans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to re-bury Billy Thompson, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
What good there may be is interred with their bones;
So let it be with Billy Thompson.

I know little of Billy Thompson; no one alive can claim to. But from what I have read, he had considerable charm and few redeeming virtues.

He was lucky to have had a faithful brother like Ben Thompson to look after him.

How ironic then, that church going and family man Ben Thompson died with his boots on in a hail of bullets, while Billy died with his boots off in a Catholic hospital bed surrounded by sisters of mercy. Some say he even repented while breathing his final breaths. I cannot say.

But here I am to speak what I do know.
His family did love him once, not without cause:
But what cause holds you then, to mourn for him?
O judgment! thou art fled to brutish beasts,
And men have lost their reason. Bear with me;
Your hearts are in the coffin there with Billy,
And I must pause till mine comes back to me.

Please, “Heinie,” Won’t you warm my wiener, ’cause he really don’t taste right cold

October 15, 2013 § Leave a comment

Thanks, Bo Carter. May your wiener stay forever warm.

The Wienerwurst Man as Much a Mystery as Are the Ingredients of the Delicacy He Dispenses — Extent of His Trade.

When day merges into night the fakirs of day, as if they were a race of ephemera, disappear or are metamorphosed and an entirely new set of characters are found scattered along the streets downtown. They come out when the electric lights begin to buzz and sputter just like the storms of insects which besiege the white globes and fall to the sidewalk, where they crackle under the feet of the pedestrian. Conspicuous among these people of the night is the wiener wurst man. He is invariably German, and as much a mystery as are the ingredients of the delicacy he dispenses. He is at times a stationary institution, though more often peripatetic, for he cannot long occupy any corner without attracting rivals to his place to destroy his business. The traveler by night runs across him in all kinds of dark places, tramping through dark alleys with the light under his can flashing on the stones or the walls on either side.

Then, again, he is found posted at a corner with his steaming can upon his big basket and ever and anon giving vent to a lugubrious cry, “Hot veeny,” or perhaps he’ll vary it by rasping out “Hot veeny v-e-r-r-r-s-t,” with a sound as though he was tearing the shirt off his back or running his hand down the movable slats of a window shutter. He answers indifferently to the name “Chorgh” or “Owgoost,” or anything else bestowed upon him by his customers in their humor, and he’ll say in reply to a question as to his price, “one,” or maybe “two f’r-r-r-r a niggle.” When the lucre is forthcoming he opens his can with his knife, dips his fork down through a cloud of steam and draws forth the ruddy and odorous sausage red hot. Then he shuts the can, pries open the lid of his big oval basket and whips out two slices of bread and a square bottle. With his knife he spreads out some horseradish on one of the slices, deposits thereon the wurst and then slaps on top of that the other slice of bread and hands it over, a kind of a sandwich, with the heads of the wurst sticking out like amputated fingers and the horseradish oozing out all around under the pressure. It is eaten just like a sandwich, with much spluttering, because it is very hot, but it is a delicious morsel to the man who is filled up with beer or something stronger. He sells, perhaps, 100, in a night, providing the hoodlums don’t kick over his hand or steal it from him, or fill it up with beer or play some other pranks upon him. Where he obtains his wurst no one knows. His stock for a night costs him maybe 10 or 15 cents, and his sales when business is good may net him one dollar. When sold out, he just turns off the little jet of gasoline burning under his can, thrusts his arm through the basket handle and and boards an owl car with one wurst as a kind of offering to the driver in lieu of his fare. Occasionally the gasoline tank on his can explodes and he loses all his stock, but a dollar or so will fit him out again all right. His life is not a happy one, for his customers are mostly gay young men who are “out for a time,” and they guy him or take his goods and refuse to pay, or otherwise treat him badly. He is uncomplaining, however, and he cherishes no ill will towards those who pester him.

But one thing ruffles his temper, and that is to speak disparagingly of his wurst. When a purchaser, holding out a nickel, remarks, “give me some dog,” a shade of sadness passes over his face. When he has a rush he can turn out the wurst as rapidly as cook flips pancakes, and his face is a perfect picture of enjoyment as he watches a crowd around burying their faces in their wurst and rolling the hot morsels in their mouths to prevent their being burnt. He pays tribute to the policeman on his beat and to the various night barkeepers. From the former he receives protection when he don’t particularly need it, for the policeman isn’t around when the gang bothers him. From the barkeeper he receives a glass of beer in exchange for a wurst and in the winter is allowed to warm himself at the stove.  He makes his rounds two and three times in a night, and can be heard calling out his wurst in the darkness where he can’t be seen. He is never visible in the daytime; he sleeps until night, and then he’s out with his can and his basket, and his cry, “hot Veeny” or “Veeny ver-r-r-r-s-t. ”

St. Louis Globe Democrat, August 1887.

The Hit That Refreshes

October 5, 2013 § Leave a comment

“Take a hit.” It’s one of the most well-known phrases in drug-dom, whether it’s a hit of pot, hash, opium or acid. Webster’s II New College Dictionary describes “hit” as a slang term for “a dose of a narcotic drug,” but fails to provide any etymology for that particular definition.

The Blunderbuss has always been intrigued by the origins and evolution of slang words and phrases, and has explored the topic previously here, with specific words like “dude,” and criminal slang in general. Think for a moment of the other meanings for “take a hit,” such as when your finances “take a hit”; when you or someone/something else suffers some other sort of setback; or as is the case in football or boxing, you literally “take a hit.”

Today we shall stick with the drug culture meaning. As far as Austin goes, what follows is the earliest recorded use of the phrase, which “hit” our local lingo shortly after the city’s first opium den did. It is not hard to see how this early usage of the phrase evolved into the current usage.

So, “Take a hit,” but “Don’t Bogart that Joint, my friend.”

August 19, 1886


How The Opium Smokers Hit The Pipe, And Its Wondrous Effects On The System.

What A Statesman Reporter Saw And Experienced While On A Visit To The So-Called Joints.

The moon had reached the zenith and was preparing to sweep down westward through the constellations. It was an hour or more after midnight. Quiet brooded far and wide over the city, and in the palatial residences, in cottage and hovel, the god of the night had exercised his wand with magical effect, and sleep held sway and ruled with gentle, but firm, authority. The streets were deserted and, with the exception of a policeman and a Statesman reporter, not a living human soul was on the Avenue. The policemen went north, the newspaper man south, stopping in front of a Chinese laundry from which a light streamed out over the sidewalk, the reporter saw in the front room, even at that hour, one of the almond-eyed sons of the flowery kingdom diligently at work, ironing a pile of shirts. The process was watched for some time and it would do scores of housewives good to see how deftly, neatly and rapidly the work is accomplished. But the reporter’s mission, at that time, was not to see the skill of the Chinese laundry man. It was far otherwise. He was on a voyage of discovery, hoping to enlighten and interest the readers of the Statesman. He was out to see how the “pipe is hit,” and if possible to show up some of its evil effects. The first  he can, but the latter he cannot, for the very simple reason that if there is any really any evil effects following the smoking of opium, the custom is of too recent importation and confined to too narrow a limit in this city for the evil to show itself. The reporter heard voices in the room, in the rear of the one used as an ironing apartment. He boldly entered the door and passed through into the room where, to say the least of it, he was surprised. He had been a led, from leading reports, to believe that the interior of a Chinese laundry was one of filth and squalor. Not so. Everything was scrupulously clean; not a bedroom in this city more so. The one of which the Statesman writes was about 8 by 10, and in one corner, and taking of nearly the entire side of the room, was a bed neatly and comfortably canopied with a mosquito bar, which had two of its sides drawn up. On the bed were two Chinamen with a small spirit lamp burning between them. Both spoke English, one of them fluently. Although an entire stranger, and entering their private room unbidden, the Statesman’s reporter was received courteously, but neither of the Chinamen rose from the bed. He was asked to sit down, and to a question of how they liked to live in America, one of them, evidently an educated man, replied, “Oh, very well.”

“Are you smoking opium?” asked the reporter, as he peered over at the lamp on the bed. It was on a tray which contained, besides the unique lamp, a lot of long steel needles resembling darning needles, or more properly, crochet needles, a small tin box and a pipe.

“Yes, all Chinamen smoke opium. It’s a national custom with us, like smoking tobacco with Americans.” And he picked up the pipe and began to handle it. The pipe, the first ever seen by the reporter, for smoking opium, was of peculiar shape, the stem about two feet long by one inch in diameter, being of bamboo or some other cane growing in China. Both ends of the stem were of the same dimensions, with the mouth piece tipped in ivory. About two inches from one of its ends, the bowl, if it can be called such, was fastened. It was a hexagon pyramid about three inches high with the base, some three inches across, and inverted. It was made of hard clay, but some are of brass, and others still of wood with the crown covered with ivory or silver, in the center of which is a small hole about the size of a large darning needle.

“Do you want to smoke?” asked the kindly disposed Chinaman.

“How do you do it?”

“Oh, it’s easy. Show you how,” and the Chinaman picked up one of the steel needles from the tray and taking the small tin box lying near the lamp, opened it and inserting one end of the needle rapidly rolled the other between his finger and thumb. In a moment or two he drew it out with a small quantity of a black ropy substance with about the consistency of half cooked molasses adhering to it. This was the prepared opium and he held in for a moment in the blaze of the lamp where it sizzled and crackled and sputtered. He then kneaded it on the broad face of the pipe and again held it in the flame of the lamp and again rolled and kneaded it on the pipe. He repeated this several times, until finally he had a small ball of black looking opium about the size of a large buckshot, sticking to the end of the needle. He then inserted the needle and ran the point down into the bowl of the pipe and on withdrawing it the ball of opium adhered to the surface. He then placed the stem in his mouth and still lying down, turned the pipe and brought the opium in contact with the flame. He then drew six or seven deep inhalations, sending volumes of smoke through his nose. This exhausted the opium and he again resorted to the little box and went through the same process, but this time when he drew the needle from the pipe the opium refused to adhere to the surface. He replaced it on the needle and held it in the flame, and again kneaded it until it did adhere, leaving the needle clean and bright.

“Try it,” said the affable host, as he passed the pipe to the apostle of the Statesman, who at that hour, when the other preachers and missionaries were calmly snoozing, was down among the heathen, trying to find out something about their habits.

“Try it,” he repeated, as the reporter hesitated, “try it, it no hurtee you.”

In the interest of science and to satisfy a curiosity peculiar to all reporters, the Statesman scribe concluded to do so.

“Get on the bed,” he said, as he made room and threw the newspaper man a pillow, “you must lie down.”

A reclining position is necessary, so as to reach the lamp with the pipe, which must be held in the flame as long as the pipe holds out, for in the instant it is removed the opium ceases to burn.

The reporter did as directed, and down among the heathen (?), reclining on one of their cleanly beds, while all about him civilization and the police men slept, he hit the pipe.

It was a difficult job, but under the direction of the Chinamen, the type was exhausted at just six draws.

The smoke was rather pleasant to the taste and free of irritation of any sort, not withstanding it was ejected through the nostrils.

At the time it had no effect, as it requires at least two or three pipefulls to affect a novice, while those accustomed to it can and do smoke from 12 to 20 at one siesta, or one “hit.” Inveterate smokers will smoke, the reporter was informed, as high as 60 pipes, such as described. And it can be smoked at one “hit,” until you go to sleep, but this is not the effect generally saw.

It affects persons differently, except in two ways. In all the tendency is to create a desire for more, and when once a man succumbs to its power there is no antidote except the drug itself. At least so say the Chinese. There is more than one pleasure connected with opium smoking, some of them voluptuous, sensuous, fascinating and captivating. One of among the greatest pleasures derived is, after you go to sleep. Then it is that you go off in to dream land and roam among most enchanting scenes, and revel amid empyrean pleasures. Whether or not it is injurious to health, is not for the Statesman to say. This is left for the doctors. There is very little opium smoking in this city, and it is confined exclusively to certain classes. There is one public joint in the city, and it is run by a white man.

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