“Layze Ameeze de tayze ameeze sont mayze ameeze.”
A drunken redneck recited this at me late one night in 1965, at Andy’s Lounge. Andy’s was one of Charleston’s last “blind tigers”—a speakeasy, complete with gambling and homely B-girls, that defied even the closing laws that the other scofflaw establishments observed. I went there often to enjoy the diversity of the clientele. The green-teethed drunk, whom I had just met, was giving me the business about being a student. “Whatchyou studyin’ anwyway?” I wisely did not say Greek, knowing what response that would elicit, and answered, “French.”
“I know some French,” he replied, shooting a crafty look in both directions, before delivering his well-rehearsed line, which I initially mistook for some bit of rustic mysticism, like “larroes catch medloes.” By the time I realized what he was saying, the conversation had moved on to “You look like you a Jap or maybe a Jew, and what’s a Jew-Jap doing in Charleston, anyway?” I was annoyed at the time, but in retrospect it seems a reasonable question.
To this day I have no idea if the French really believe that the friends of your friends are really my friends, but I certainly do not. Nor do I subscribe to the bit of American political...