News & Politics

Overheard at the White Horse Tavern

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Clip Job: an excerpt every day from the Voice archives.

May 6, 1959, Vol. IV, No. 28

Saloon Society

(The White Horse. It’s 3 in the afternoon, the Hip Hour, when only the idle poor can afford to be in a bar. Two friends meet.)

“You want a beer?” the short one asked.

“You got the loot?”

“Ernie? Two. How are you man? I haven’t seen you around.”

“I was making it Uptown a while, I knew this chick up there.”

“Uptown?”

“She had a TV set.”

“Oh.”

“You know what one guy said on TV? He says the people are beat because they’re dragged about the hydrogen bomb. Man, you ever THINK about the hydrogen bomb, except when you see it on some lousy newsreel? I told that to some Partisan Review stud, some Dissent stud or something, came up her pad, Martha’s, one night. He got mad. You know, angry? He told me: ‘Indifference is a protest, but protest without action is impotence.’ You know how they talk?”

“I’m hip. What he want? You should join something? Sign petitions, and have fund-raising parties?””

“Yeah. Finally he says: ‘Do you agree?’ And I say: ‘Agree what?’ And he says: ‘That it’s impotence?’ And I say: ‘Yeah.’ So he says: ‘Then, clearly, by your own admission, you yourself must take action!’ And I say: ‘No, man, why?'”

“You ready for another?” the short one asked.

“OK.”

“Ernie—two bags of sugar plus? You know, I seen a thing on TV too. They were asking Ike how come he talks so tough, but doesn’t want to ante up a couple of bucks to get the drop on the Russians? So he says it don’t matter if the other guy’s got more blast than we got I guess he figures one American can lick three foreigners, any day.”

“…The Russians come here, and they divide everything up and we start all over again, you and me, we got to come out standing higher than we do right now…”

“I tell you, man, you’re wrong. You and me, we got a lot to lose. They come here, there’s a shooting, man, like you can get killed.”

“I don’t figure that way,” the tall one said. “Man, I’m so beat with me death would be a promotion.”

[Each weekday morning, we post an excerpt from another issue of the Voice, going in order from our oldest archives. Visit our Clip Job archive page to see excerpts back to 1956.]

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