Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Amarillo Slim

I had reason recently to revisit a book I've read a number of times over the years, Make-Believe Town, by David Mamet. It contains several essays previously published elsewhere, then gathered together in 1996. 

Earlier in the day, I'd been discussing the place of funding bodies in Australian filmmaking with some friends, which naturally led to thoughts of poker, a card game to which Mamet (like David O. Selznick and Chico Marx and others before him) had been addicted for many years.

He describes his voyage through the game, makes a series of points, then says this:
Businesspersons got all giddy in the decade now past (1980s) over Musashi, Tesso, Sun Tzu, and other Oriental strategists and warrior-sages. But I cleave to the books above. To which I add that of Thomas Preston ("Amarillo Slim"), who wrote of a game in Arabia. He was asked, and he came. But before the game, he writes, the Big Boys came to his hotel and asked for 25% of his take in exchange for protection, and insurance that his winnings would be collected and paid to him. I remember reading this bit as a child, and I expected the next paragraph to reveal his rage and indignation. But Slim tells us he thought not at all, and accepted their terms. His lesson is that one hand full of quietness will beat two hands full of vexation of spirit, which lesson has served me well every time I remembered to remember it.
The Godfather Part II expressed the idea in entirely other terms:

          This is my neighborhood.   You and 
          your friends have to show me
          little respect, ah?  This truck  
          you hijacked was in my neighborhood.    
          You should let me wet my beak a 

Three thousand years ago, it was written that, "One hand full of rest is better than two fists full of labor and striving after wind." (Ecclesiastes 4:6, NASB)

And so it it is, and so it goes.

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