Baltimore, Maryland, May 12, 2015
“They sure have let this place go to hell, haven’t they?”
Iggy said that. I’m sure that’s not his real name, or not his full name. Given ‘Iggy’, my guess would be Isaac or Ishmael, but I didn’t probe for better information. He was sitting one seat away from me in the cheap seats, close enough to chat, but not too intimate. Which was well, since Iggy stank. Not like a man who had showered that morning, then worked up a sweat before stopping at the track on the way home. No, he stank like a man who hasn’t worked in a month and hasn’t bathed in two.
“My pops started bringing me here when I was a kid, on the days I got to stay at his house. It seemed like high style back then, the gambling elite. But they haven’t put a dime back into the business since then.”
That was an exaggeration, but not an outrageous one. We were watching horse racing by simulcast at the Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, home of the Preakness Stakes, and everything in the place seemed to be old and dirty and badly maintained. No skin off my nose. You can leave your bankroll in a carpet joint just as easily as in a sawdust joint, and I lost my gamble a couple of years ago anyway. But I can’t walk past an open race track or sports book without stopping in to handicap the handicappers, and Iggy was a prime specimen of degenerate gamblitude.
“Fuckin’ kikes have let this whole neighborhood go to shit.”
I had no idea how to react to that. Iggy was Jewish, I was sure of that – short, fat, dumpy, bald to just above the ears and five days away, at least, from his last shave.
“When we lived down here, we were the schlubs and the schnorrers, the poor cousins to the rich folks up in Kikesville.” The name of the town is Pikesville, a tidy, tony, mostly-Jewish suburb. “But then the schwarzers moved in and ruined everything.”
I said, “Schwarzers? Really?”
“You’re right. I meant kafirs.”
“In Yiddish or Arabic, a slur’s a slur.”
He nodded vigorously. “Yeah, but I’m a Muslim now.”
That made my eyes pop. Half the prison population is Muslim by now, with the other half being skinheads. And really dumb kids with really absent fathers can be lured into converting to Islam. But middle-aged Jewish boys? Not so much.
“It’s true! I’ve been a slave to Allah for more than a year now.”
“More than a year,” I said. “Such a commitment.” I lived in Pikesville for a couple of years, a long time ago, the only Irishman in the shtetl. I can talk like a native.
“You laugh, but it’s changed my whole life. Before I was just a bum, but now – I’m a gangster. I just ask myself, ‘What would Mohammed do?’ And then I go ahead and do whatever the fuck I want.”
I smiled at that. “A deep and abiding religious faith.”
“Damn betcha! Suppose I want to steal somebody’s stuff? What would Mohammed do? The answer is right there in the man’s life and works. Suppose I promise that I won’t steal your stuff, but I want to take it anyway? What would Mohammed do? Your stuff is mine. What if I want to abduct your woman? What would Mohammed do? What if I want to rape a little girl and call her my wife? What would Mohammed do?”
The horror I felt must have written itself on my face, because Iggy said, “I don’t do all that stuff. But I could, if I wanted to. I’m a jihadi now, just like the prophet.”
I grinned despite myself. I said, “I love it! Jews for jihad.”
Iggy shrugged. “Moses was a schmoo. Jesus was a pussy. But Mohammed – Mohammed was a gangster, a relentless, remorseless, cold-blooded psychopath. What better role model could a man ask for?”
And that observation made me wonder what kind of man Iggy’s father is.“Face it,” he said. “Power belongs to the people you can’t make fun of. Blacks can make fun of whites, but whites can’t make fun of blacks, not even while the blacks are burning down half of West Baltimore. Homos can make fun of breeders, but breeders can’t make fun of homos. But nobody can make fun of Mohammed.”
I lost my gamble a couple of years ago, but still I said: “Wanna bet?”
He waved that idea away, but I didn’t care. I’d had about enough of Iggy.
A tall, elderly black man had been sitting a couple of seats to Iggy’s right. He got up to shuffle off in quest of another beer, leaving a half-empty pack of Kools on the seat beside him.
Iggy snagged his pack of smokes and stashed them in his shirt pocket. I must have looked aghast, even despite myself, because he said, “C’mon! What would Mohammed do?”