It's time for our second Christmas story by Damon Runyon - a little bit of escapism from mid-Twentieth Century New York, when organized crime meant gangs of hoodlums rather than a Covid "relief" bill sluicing eight-figure sums to favored clients of the Permanent State. So on to the escapism. Tonight's tale begins in traditional Runyon fashion:
Now one time it comes on Christmas, and in fact it is the evening before Christmas, and I am in Good Time Charley Bernstein's little speakeasy in West Forty-seventh Street, wishing Charley a Merry Christmas and having a few hot Tom and Jerrys with him.
This hot Tom and Jerry is an old time drink that is once used by one and all in this country to celebrate Christmas with, and in fact it is once so popular that many people think Christmas is invented only to furnish an excuse for hot Tom and Jerry, although of course this is by no means true.
But anybody will tell you that there is nothing that brings out the true holiday spirit like hot Tom and Jerry, and I hear that since Tom and Jerry goes out of style in the United States, the holiday spirit is never quite the same.
If you fancy a Tom & Jerry, it's a sort of variant of eggnog, with rum and brandy, but served warm. The versatile British journalist Pierce Egan invented it about two centuries back, and named it after the protagonists of his bestselling book of 1821, Life in London, or The Day and Night Scenes of Jerry Hawthorn Esq and his Elegant Friend Corinthian Tom. "Tom and Jerry" became a commonplace term for roughhousing tykes in 19th-century London, and thus somewhat indirectly Pierce Egan inspired the name of the famous cat-and-mouse cartoon double-act of the mid-twentieth century. The "President-elect" of a hundred years ago, Warren Harding, was very partial to the drink - and, given the way December's going, I don't rule out being face down in it by Christmas Eve.
Members of The Mark Steyn Club can hear me read "Dancing Dan's Christmas" simply by clicking here and logging-in. Our first Damon Runyon Yuletide yarn can be found here - and a cavalcade of Christmas tales by everyone from Dickens to Steyn is awaiting you here.
Thank you for all your kind comments about our Christmas Tales for Our Time. Maggie, a Steyn Club member from Pennsylvania, knew where yesterday's story was headed:
As soon as notice popped into my email I eagerly clicked 'play' to hear the conclusion of the Damon Runyon story, without pausing so much as to look at the picture. Of course, as soon as Mark was into the final sentence of the story, we all knew that the last words would be, 'Bethlehem, Pennsylvania'.
But I am not just Maggie from PA, I am Maggie from Bethlehem, PA. I grew up here in the fifties and remember well those garlands of red and green lights festooned across Main Street. It was a big deal for Dad to drive us downtown and drive under those lights. To a four-year-old they were absolutely magical. Main Street has most of the same buildings, some from the 18th century, but the light display is rather more sophisticated now. And the congregation that founded the town in 1741 and named it on December 24 of that year, will hold its Christmas services by Zoom.
Thank you for that, Maggie - although I do not like to think of Bethlehem, PA having a gloomy Zoomy Christmas.
If you'd like to know more about The Mark Steyn Club, please click here - and don't forget our Christmas Gift Membership. See you back here tomorrow for both The Mark Steyn Show and another seasonal Tale for Our Time.