Monk Eastman, Purveyor of Iniquities



Borges writes of Monk Eastman, infamous gang leader of the New York underworld, that:

‘At the age of nineteen, about 1892, his father set him up in business with a bird store. A fascination for animals, an interest in their small decisions and inscrutable innocence, turned into a lifelong hobby. Years afterwards […], in a period of opulence […], he started a second business, a front, that accommodated a hundred cats and more than four hundred pigeons – none of which were on sale to anyone. He loved each one […]

He was a battered, colossal man. He had a short bull neck; a barrel chest, and scrappy arms; a broken nose; a face, although plentifully scarred, less striking than his frame; and legs bowed like a cowboy’s or a sailor’s. He could usually be found without a shirt or a coat, but not without a derby hat several sizes too small perched on his bullet-shaped head. […] Eastman used to strut about his underworld kingdom with a great blue pigeon on his shoulder, just like a bull with a cowbird on its rump.’



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