The Art of the Palm

We have in Chicago what is known as “The Art of the Palm”.  That term is typically used in a pejorative sense, indicating that something nefarious is about to take place, or has happened.  It usually refers to the passing of cash, as in giving someone a bribe.  But, let me tell you about a time when “The Art of the Palm” was used in a good sense, and for what I hope is a good purpose.

Readers of my previous blog postings will know that I have befriended a StreetWise sales vendor, who plies his wares in the late afternoon near that commuter rail station that I use to come into and out of downtown Chicago. The vendor’s name is Standard.  He is a kindly gentleman in his 50’s, I would guess–a fellow veteran, so he tells me.  On my way to the train station to come home, I always buy a StreetWise paper from him every Wednesday (when a new issue comes out) for $2, and slip him a dollar bill on other days when I pass by where he stands.

On the day before Christmas Eve last year, however, as I was hurrying to catch the evening train home, I folded a $20 bill in the palm of my right hand, in the best Chicago “Art of the Palm” style.  As I passed by Standard, I shook his hand, and transferred the twenty to him, saying “Merry Christmas, Standard!”  He immediately knew what happened, without opening his palm to look at what I had given him.  He gave me a hug, looked at me,  and with a beautiful warm glow in his eyes whispered with a breaking voice in my ear, “Merry Christmas, sir!”

I scurried to my train home through the snow flakes and bitter cold air.

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