come into existence; take on form or shape
Everything I’d ever heard about New York City was exciting—things like Broadway’s bright lights and the Savoy Ballroom and Apollo Theater in Harlem, where great bands played and famous songs and dance steps and Negro stars
skillfulness in avoiding wasted time and effort
Vaughn worked with almost unbelievable
efficiency in the cramped quarters.
affect with wonder
astounded to find in the nation’s capital, just a few blocks from Capitol Hill, thousands of Negroes living worse than any I’d ever seen in the poorest sections of Roxbury; in dirt-floor shacks along unspeakably filthy lanes with names like Pig Alley and Goat Alley.
a high standing achieved through success or influence
For the Negro in Washington, mail-carrying was a
Later on, even later that night, I would find out that Harlem contained hundreds of thousands of my people who were just as loud and
gaudy as Negroes anywhere else.
a sudden and decisive change of government by force
The Theresa is now best known as the place where Fidel Castro went during his U.N. visit, and achieved a psychological
coup over the U.S.
deviating from what is considered moral or right or proper
I was going to become one of the most
depraved parasitical hustlers among New York’s eight million people—four million of whom work, and the other four million of whom live off them.
having excessive or compulsive concern with something
We were in that world of Negroes who are both servants and psychologists, aware that white people are so
obsessed with their own importance that they will pay liberally, even dearly, for the impression of being catered to and entertained.
obvious to the eye or mind
Cadillacs, secondhand and new,
conspicuous among the cars on the streets.
lacking refinement or cultivation or taste
By that time, they had a laughing bet going that I wasn’t going to last, sales or not, because I had so rapidly become such an
uncouth, wild young Negro.
incapable of being avoided or prevented
inevitable that I was going to be fired sooner or later.
feel desirous of another's advantages
My appearance staggered the older boys I had once
envied; I’d stick out my hand, saying “Skin me, daddy-o!”
Both of these, depending on how they liked the waiter, could make his job miserable or pleasant—and I meant to become
recall the past
There, I heard the old-timers
reminisce about all those great times.
characteristic of a father
Some of the ablest of New York’s black hustlers took a liking to me, and knowing that I still was green by their terms, soon began in a
paternal way to “straighten Red out.”
be a regular customer or client of
Whites who came at night got a better reception; the several Harlem nightclubs they
patronized were geared to entertain and jive the night white crowd to get their money.
cause somebody to adopt a certain position or belief
I heard stories of how they had “
persuaded” people with lead pipes, wet cement, baseball bats, brass knuckles, fists, feet, and blackjacks.
thin and tattered with age
A man who, in his prime, could have stolen Dollarbill’s whole roll, blindfolded, was
threadbare, comic old “Fewclothes.”
an event resulting in great loss and misfortune
In another sense, the
tragedy of the once master pickpocket made him, for those brother old-timer hustlers, a “there but for the grace of God” symbol.
characterized by propriety and dignity and good taste
Actually, for the night-life crowd, Small’s was one of Harlem’s two or three most
rule or exercise power over in a cruel and autocratic manner
Domineering, complaining, demanding wives who had just about psychologically castrated their husbands were responsible for the early rush.
characteristic of a man
They said that after most men passed their
virile twenties, they went to bed mainly to satisfy their egos, and because a lot of women don’t understand it that way, they damage and wreck a man’s ego.
held back or restrained or prevented
People in show business, of course, were less
inhibited by social and racial taboos.
inspiring mixed contempt and sorrow
He looked dumb and
pitiful and just up from the Deep South.
make worse or less effective
It wasn’t only Small’s Paradise law, it was the law of every tavern that wanted to stay in business—never get involved with anything that could be interpreted as “
impairing the morals” of servicemen, or any kind of hustling of them.
close observation of a person or group
Even if I wasn’t actually what was called ‘‘hot,’’ I was now going to be under
surveillance—and the Small brothers had to protect their business.
something that serves as a model
And a few were amused, seeing me as the “Harlem jigaboo”
instinctive knowing, without the use of rational processes
The next time I went into one of those games,
intuition told me to stick my gun under my belt right down the middle of my back.
use or manipulate to one's advantage
I was a true hustler—uneducated, unskilled at anything honorable, and I considered myself nervy and cunning enough to live by my wits,
exploiting any prey that presented itself.
pause or hold back in uncertainty or unwillingness
As is the case in any jungle, the hustler’s every waking hour is lived with both the practical and the subconscious knowledge that if he ever relaxes, if he ever slows down, the other hungry, restless foxes, ferrets, wolves, and vultures out there with him won’t
hesitate to make him their prey.
marked by extreme anger
Old-timers told me that Harlem had never been the same since the 1935 riot, when millions of dollars worth of damage was done by thousands of Negroes,
infuriated chiefly by the white merchants in Harlem refusing to hire a Negro even as their stores raked in Harlem’s money.
And we laughed about the scared little Chinese whose restaurant didn’t have a hand laid on it, because the rioters just about
convulsed laughing when they saw the sign the Chinese had hastily stuck on his front door: “Me Colored Too.”
a ball at which young ladies are presented to society
The already Croesus-rich white man can’t get another skyscraper hotel finished and opened before all these integration-mad Negroes, who themselves don’t own a tool shed, are booking the swanky new hotel for “
cotillions” and “conventions.”
have confidence or faith in
I came to
rely more and more upon my brother Reginald as the only one in my world I could completely trust.
a group or class of persons enjoying superior status
West Indian Archie had the kind of photographic memory that put him among the
elite of numbers runners.
He also required
integrity and sound credit: it wasn’t necessary that you pay as you played; you could pay West Indian Archie by the week.
articles of commerce
I believed that a man should do anything that he was slick enough, or bad and bold enough, to do and that a woman was nothing but another
a feeling of evil to come
She has since told me that she had a steady
foreboding that I was on my way into big trouble.
naive and easily deceived or tricked
Gullible women often took the girls all over their houses, just to hear them exclaiming over the finery.
reflect deeply on a subject
But people are always
speculating—why am I as I am?