True story: I’m running through the Common on Friday night, minding my business, when one of those motorcycle cops pulls up beside me and starts asking me all these questions about why I’m not wearing any pants and where I got the ten-foot party grinder.
As a homeless person, I’ve learned to place nice with the police over the years. Yes sir. No ma’am. Of course I’ll put on pants. I was given this very large sandwich by a concerned citizen.
But sometimes nice isn’t enough, and they want to talk. I hate that. I feel like I’m bound to slip up and say something offensive or incendiary or ingenious. Friday was no different. Turned out the cop was a real book freak.
“That’s funny, I review books,” I said. Like an idiot.
All of the sudden I’m getting suggestions left and right. He’s all “Have you read this?” and “Have you read that?” He wants me to review Dennis Lehane. He wants me to review the Boston Police blog. He wants me to explain why I’ll wear a shirt or pants but not both.
In honor of all the big hitters who go unnoticed while people like me get lectures about sandwich larceny, I thought I’d review Confessions of a Master Jewel Thief, an autobiography by Bill Mason.
Kids, they don’t teach this shit in school, that’s why there’s me. This is one of those wonderful you-can-do-crime-if-you-really-want-to books. Mason makes it look easy. He reminds you that not every crook ends up on TV for being a “stupid criminal” — some wait out the statute of limitations and then pen important memoirs just to rub it in the face of anybody who ever tried to catch them. Why else would you confess to stealing Elizabeth Taylor’s pearl-handled pleasure wand? Or Fiona Apple’s emerald-laced toilet plunger?
I jest, surely I jest. But Confessions is definitely worth your while, and not just because Mason has the best first name in world history. The book’s full of high-risk capers and dangerous stunts performed in ridiculous conditions. Mason’s the real deal, a dude living a double life where on the one hand he’s normal and successful and on the other he’s conning his way into high society parties and ripping off Truman Capote and being hunted by every police department from here to the moon. It reminds me a lot of my own story, only mine has half-eaten donuts instead of jewels and locked dumpsters in lieu of high society.
Here’s another reason why Confessions is marvelous: Mason seems to have evaded a little thing the government has called the Son of Sam laws, which prohibit criminals it doesn’t like from making money on tell-alls involving their lives and crimes. Granted, these are usually aimed at people convicted of especially hideous offenses, like David Berkowitz, the serial killer the laws are named for, but any sort of secondhand censorship which stifles freedom of speech and ignorizes the population is heinous itself.
And nobody should stand for ignorizing.
Bill Benson is the former manager of Galaxy Bowling Lanes in Decatur, Illinois. He likes to read.