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The Duluth News Tribune, November 21, 1918. The global flu pandemic of 1918 was a doozy–somewhere between 30 to 50 million people died from it, disproportionately young and hitherto healthy adults. In the U.S., the death toll was around 675,000–about as many as in the Civil War. Oddly, the plague didn’t produce much in the way of cultural ripples. Blind Willie Johnson sings about the “influenzy” in a couple of his songs, but by and large the whole thing was a dead letter. Anyway, life goes on even when the world is ending, and here’s this Runyonesque jeu d’esprit making light of the fact that Duluth public health officials had ordered citizens to carry a 200-square-foot buffer zone around with them in public.
By “cash carrier” is maybe meant one of those little belt-mounted change dispensers that transit train conductors used to have?
Drunks–inherently funny.

“Shootin’ snuff into his wrist with a hatpin”–more Burroughs than Runyon, that bit.


  1. “restaurong”?

    I’m assuming that’s some sort of neologism he’s trying to get the world to adopt, as in “Burger Bazooka isn’t a restaurant, it’s a restaurong!”

    And I’m adopting that word now. It’s not just a neologism, it’s neologreat!

    Oh, and a “cash carrier” was a little overhead tramway they used to have in stores (for sending money between the back room and registers.) By 1918 the original tram-style ones had started to be displaced by pneumatic tubes, which I think were still called “cash carriers”.

    I’ve only ever been in one store that had the railway type, and a couple that had the later pneumatic type. I suspect the joke is that he was shooting gravy out of the pneumatic tubes, like they used to before the 5th time “Futurama” was cancelled.)

    So, to sum up, the words of the day are “restaurong” and “shooting gravy”.

  2. Our local department store had wire-and-covered-basket style cash carriers well into the fifties, and when I was a tot in the early 70s, the wires were still visible. The idea was that the sales assistants might embezzle, so a completed sales slip and the customer’s money went into the basket and whizzed up the wire to a clerk upstairs, who would re-tally the order and make the change.

    I assumed the gravy would drip out of the basket as it sped along.

    Again, a fine band name: Shooting Gravy.

    • I saw them open for Restaurong at SXSW. They were awesome.

  3. I beg to differ : no cultural endeavour with nomenclature that follows the format “—ing (insert noun or proper noun here)”
    is ever any good.Whether it’s Killing Zoe , Crossing Jordan , or Blowing Chunks ,… it blows.

  4. Chasing Amy. Crossing Delancy.

    It would appear, quincy, that you are on to something big.

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