Monday, January 26, 2009

503 Recession? Not for Uncle James the Smuggler

503 Recession? Not for Uncle James the Smuggler


Uncle James the smuggler  is on the corner of Broadway and 125th one recent Saturday night, making his living.  And not a bad one, at that.  Uncle James is about a zillion years old, but still has all his marbles and rolls them around in a 15 year old Buick, a little rusty, but with a good engine, good enough for the round trip to Virginia every few weeks, and the return, with a trunkload of smuggled goods.

James comes back with enough cigarettes to supply the neighborhood, but not so many that he’s a cop magnet.  The car rides even – no tell-tale trunk dragging. The Buick?  Still passable transportation, but not the kind of car some trooper on the turnpike’ll stop just because the guy behind the wheel is black.

Uncle James the smuggler was thinking about a BMW or maybe a Lexus.  He’s got the money.  But that would attract too much attention.  So he sticks with the Buick, runs about two, maybe three miles an hour over the speed limit, attracts no attention.  Sometimes, and this is even better, he’s got Aunt Mae in the car with him.  Just an older couple driving to New York from a southerly direction.  Under the racial profiling radar of several states.

Uncle James the smuggler used to sell packs.  You want Kools or Newports or Marlboro Lights or whatever?  $4.00 a pack and a nice profit, even with the hours on the road and the gas prices.  Cost you twice that at the deli. James never dealt in cartons.  Sparked too much competition.  Guy could buy a carton for, say 40 bucks and sell the packs for five a piece. 

But times have changed.  Now, no packs.  Just singles.  So James is skirting the law in a whole new bunch of ways.  Can’t smuggle. Can’t sell on the street.  CERTAINLY can’t sell singles.

“Nobody’s got money.  I sell the singles for a buck a piece. You want ten, it’s 75 cents each.  Everyone’s happy.  Pack brings me 15 bucks, minimum. Cost me three bucks. That’s a dozen dollars profit.  A little less when you subtract the gas money.”

In World War II, they sold singles over the counter.  After the war, Truman put a stop to that.  Well, Truman and the tobacco lobby.

But no one’s got any money.  Bloomberg makes cigarettes more expensive than the rent.  So, it’s singles on the corner, where there’s no recession.



--The new computer won’t run software for the Palm PDA.  Too much security.  A relief, since those Palm terrorists lurk everywhere.

--The good guys shouldn’t get sick but they do.  A nice young fella, Aaron O. is in the hospital with some preposterous combinations of ailments.  Wish him well.

--Happy Chinese New Year.  It’s the year of the Ox.  A year to think about less meat.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own, but you’re welcome to them.®

©WJR 2009


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