1. MODERN WISDOM PRESENTS: THE MODERN WISDOM DYSLEXICON
CANNIBALS. Show not only bad taste but poor judgment.
CARNIVORES. Would gladly eat vegetarians.
CAT. When you’re drawn by a cat, every portrait looks like a mouse.
CATARACTS. Something to keep an eye on. Just when you think you’ve seen everything, you get cataracts.
CATFISH. The garbage can of the river-bed. Seriously good eatin’.
CELLS. Basic units of life, and of life imprisonment.
CENSORSHIP. Censor me. I’m mediocre.
CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY. Ask them if you’re on their list and they’ll hound you to death. There’s a certain poetic justice here, I suppose.
CHILDREN’S BOOKS. I had a job writing children’s books–but I got fired for using the word “poop”.
CHOCOLATE-FLAVORED LAXATIVES: An enema of the people.
CICERO. Roman stoic now principally celebrated as Porky Pig’s nephew.
- BUMPERSTICKERS, TRANSLATED
THESE COLORS DON’T RUN
I am adamant that the entire world know that, in my opinion, my country’s military does not consist of cowards.
JUST SAY NO
Children: Implausibly resist peer pressure encouraging your illegal use of contraband pharmaceuticals through acts of sheer will power.
MY CHILD IS AN HONOR STUDENT AT…
I an so neurotically proud of my child that I feel compelled to boast to indifferent strangers about his obscure scholastic achievements.
I ♥ MY DOG
I strongly identify to a very public and almost maniacal degree with certain purebred canines.
I am strongly committed to preventing the very ecological degradation which, incidentally, my car is helping to cause.
GLAD TO BE GAY
I am not only an avowed sodomite, but I am also anxious to reveal my sexual orientation to the entire world.
IF YOU CAN READ THIS YOU’RE TOO DAMN CLOSE
I dread, and yet, nonetheless, simultaneously–and paradoxically–invite your scrutiny of my declaration that you are needlessly tailgating.
BABY ON BOARD
I fear your erratic driving, for I have successfully fostered hapless infantine progeny who may currently be riding in this vehicle.
YOU CAN’T HUG YOUR CHILDREN WITH NUCLEAR ARMS
I prefer physical contact with my children to paying taxes to purchase atomic weaponry, and I would like to gently remind you of that fact.
My special status as a woman who has given birth lends added moral force to my admonitions regarding the operation of potentially lethal transportation devices while under the influence of intoxicating beverages.
GOD IS MY COPILOT
Not literally, perhaps, but in a figurative sense, I am willing to publicly affirm that this vehicle is in part also being piloted by a jealous deity first worshipped by a tribe of Semitic nomads several thousand years ago.
IF GUNS ARE OUTLAWED…
If my ready access to firearms (which I fearfully cling to as a secure raft in a storm) is in any way impeded, I am convinced that this country will become a nightmare land in which armed criminals roam free to commit their felonious assaults with impunity.
ONE DAY AT A TIME
Because I am avowedly an alcoholic, I feel the strong need to attest, publicly, to the need for a diurnal approach to the myriad stressful exigencies which plague the quotidian existence of sensitive addicts such as myself.
Philadelphia! Ahh, “that essence so rare”! Obesity, HIV and asthma are just a few of the attractions you’ll find here, along with burning tires, leaky diapers, squeaky brakes, milk puke, gunshot wounds, cheesesteaks, and scurvy. Don’t take my word for it! It’s the place to go if you love:
Hordes of homeless bums
Fabled Philadelphia! Birthplace of Bill “Rapemaster” Cosby, John “The Cool Ghoul” Zacherle, and seduction king Wilt Chamberlain, who claims he slept with 20,000 different women.
Home as well to eminentos such as Gayraud Wilmore, E. Digby Baltzell and kooky Margaret Mead.
The starting-out point for dignitaries such as Phoebe Gloeckner, Robert Crumb, Bil Keane–and Green Lantern creator Martin Nodell!
Native town of Frank Baldino, Jr., Pat Olivieri, and Randal Pinkett. Randall Pinkett!
And leave us not forget such famous native sons as Danny Bonaduce, Joey Bishop, Curly Joe DeRita, Lola Falana, Mario Lanza, M. Night Shyamalan, and–gasp!–Jean Vander Pyl!
And leave us also not forget Henry “Box” Brown, Donald Barthelme, and Chris Matthews! To say nothing of Jim Croce, Stan Getz, Joan Jett, and Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes.
If drinking overpriced liquor in bars that close at 2am and getting held up at gunpoint outside of the selfsame bar and then getting brutalized by Philadelphia’s finest who want to know why you’re wandering the streets bleary-eyed, with no wallet, and blood in your socks is your idea of a good time, then PHILLY IS THE PLACE!!!
- AMOEBA, AMOEBA, WHERE YA BEEN SO LONG?
Headline: Mom raises awareness of brain-eating amoeba that killed Calif. newlywed
A Temecula, California, mother is raising “amoeba awareness” after her newlywed daughter died last October from brain-killing amoeba called Balamuthia.
The Battle Against Balamuthia
We Must Slay the BEA: Brain-Eating Amoeba
We Can’t Fight the Amoeba Without You and ME
- GINGER ALE TASTES LIKE LOVE
I went looking and found this ghastly commercial. Which looks like something out of The Parallax View.
But, possibly even worse, there’s this ad.
Look upon Canada Dry’s mighty work, ye Gods, and despair!
Ask any woman what love tastes like, and she won’t say it tastes like ginger ale unless there’s something terribly, terribly wrong.
Also, if I were a cop, I would wring that hippie’s neck. I mean it, maan.
What’s the cop doing in front of the apples? Preparing to steal one?
Is the ambisexual hippie actually the store’s proprietor? A hip capitalist? “Take one, officer dude–it’s free because it’s YOURS.”
Find someone and share it?? Is the cop having an affair with Paisley Boy? Let’s hope, that at the very least, the ginger-headed wretch is his bottom.
17.5 cents per apple seems rather high for 1972. What is this, New York? In which case–anything goes.
I am a liberal, and I personally find this ad offensive in ways I can barely even begin to enumerate.
1) The commodification of dissent, alongside of
2) the glorification of military prowess
3) Those fucking granny glasses. In NYC? In 1972??? M-maybe. But they don’t suit the suspiciously clean hippie’s face at all.
But after further scrutiny, I realize why the two of them are yokking it up. They’re both Irishmen, and probably like to hoist a drink, or several. Actually, the way I see it playing out is like this. Officer Manly turns our hippie friend into some 20 year old Irish Whiskey, while the red-headed bastard gets the Officer foozled on some outasite dope.
I just hope they don’t pollute all that good Whiskey with cheap Ginger Ale.
- BUMPER STICKERS FOR INTELLECTUALS
Not all pointy-headed intellectuals drive fifteen-year-old Volvos or
VW diesel Rabbits or putter around town in modified
golf carts or Italian scooters. Some of them actually
own respectable vehicles, and even though no real
intellectual would put a boiled-down and facile
version of his own (or anybody else’s) profound
philosophic insights onto a mere bumper sticker and
affix it on the back of a moving vehicle for all to
see, here is a sample of the sort of thing you might
expect to read if they actually did.
ASK ME ABOUT MY COUNTRY’S TWO-PARTY DICTATORSHIP
REAL MEN DON’T DO NIETZSCHE
SELF-RIGHTEOUS HEDONISTS MAKE BETTER LOVERS
CASH IS THE BEST FIREBREAK
HONK EN MASSE IF YOU LOVE MINDLESS CONFORMITY
TELL PROZAC TO SHUT UP, ALREADY
I’LL HUFF AND I’LL PUFF AND I’LL BLOW YOUR MIND
ASK ME ABOUT MY PROFOUND DEPRESSION…ON THE OTHER
HAND, WHY BOTHER…
ACTUALLY, AL FRANKEN IS ALSO A BIG FAT IDIOT
START SENSIBLE SLAUGHTER
CUTENESS DOES NOT AMUSE ME
PLEASE HAVE A SPECIAL SYMPATHY FOR INTELLIGENT MISFITS
IF YOU MUST BRAG, PLEASE MUMBLE
CONSIDER GOD’S WEIRD PLENTY
PRESENT TRENDS CONTINUE
I MAY BE A FOOL, BUT AT LEAST I’M A RATIONAL FOOL
IN THE EVENT YOU WERE TO HARM MY VEHICLE IN ANY WAY I
WOULD MOST ASSUREDLY HAVE RECOURSE TO AVENGE SUCH AN
ACTION IN A MANNER YOU WOULD BE BOUND TO FIND MOST
MY GOD MAKES EVERYBODY HAPPY
ASK ME ABOUT MY INCESSANT ATTEMPTS TO BROWBEAT YOU
MY CHILD WOULD BE AN HONOR STUDENT AT AN EXCELLENT
LOCAL HIGH SCHOOL BUT I HAVE BEEN TOO DEVOTED TO MY
OWN INTELLECTUAL PURSUITS TO SPAWN PROGENY
I MAY TELL LIES, BUT THEY’RE IMPORTANT LIES
I BELIEVE IN JUDICIOUS ANARCHY
ASK ME ABOUT MY SUPERIOR GENE POOL
IF YOU LIVED HERE YOU’D BE LIVING IN THE MIDDLE OF THE
CAPITAL PUNISHMENT IS THE NEW COMMUNISM
INTELLECTUALS SUCH AS MYSELF EXERT A PECULIAR
FASCINATION WHICH ENABLES US TO CREATE AN ENVIRONMENT
MORE CONDUCIVE TO PLEASURABLE COITUS
LET’S END POETRY AS WE KNOW IT
ASK ME ABOUT THE MISCONCEPTIONS THAT BEFUDDLE OUR AGE
TODAY IS THE NEW PAST
CAREFUL: STUDENT SLAVEDRIVER
ASK ME ABOUT MY GRADUATE ASSISTANT
DON’T SEND JESUS, THIS IS NO JOB FOR A BOY
…AS OPPOSED TO THE OLD MILLENNIUM?
I AM PERPETUALLY POISED BETWEEN BASELESS ANXIETY AND
ASK ME ABOUT MY USE OF SELECTIVE EVIDENCE DIVORCED
FROM ITS CONTEXTUAL FRAME
MY FICTIONS ARE A TRUER ACCOUNT THAN ANYTHING FACTUAL
I NEITHER SPEAK NOR UNDERSTAND URDU
HONK IF YOU LOVE MAGICAL TALES WHICH PANDER TO THE
CORRUPTED TASTES OF UNDISCERNING CHILDREN
HOW’S MY TAILGAITING?
ASK ME ABOUT MY ADHERENCE TO OBSOLETE CONCEPTS
HONK LOUDER, I’M DEEP IN THOUGHT
READ MY LIPS–NO NEW LIES
ENTER THE ORBIT OF MY VANITY AT YOUR OWN PERIL
IT’S NOT THAT I’M ALWAYS RIGHT BUT THAT I THINK I AM
THAT YOU PROBABLY FIND ANNOYING
HONK IF YOU LAMENT THE FORGOTTEN STRAINS OF HAPPINESS
WEB SURFING IS THE NEW GOLF
I BRAKE FOR INTERESTING SPECIMENS
I HATE THOSE PARAMECIUMS TO PIECIUMS
ASK ME ABOUT MY POST-MODERN LIST OF WORDS I’VE JUST
SMASH THE STATE AT LUDDITES.COM
BEWARE ZERO RESULTS
I BRAKE FOR HALLUCINATORY SUPEREGOS
IN THE FIGHT BETWEEN THE TOURISTS AND THE TOWNSFOLK,
BACK THE TOWNSFOLK
MY GOD PROVES MY GENOTYPE IS SUPERIOR
NOW THINK YOURSELF BACK INSIDE THE BOX
NOW IS THE DISCOUNT OF OUR WINTER TENTS
I HATE MY DREAM LIFE
I OPPOSE FORCES OPPOSED TO HUMAN EVOLUTION
ASK ME ABOUT THE VIEW FROM NOWHERE
I HAVE NOT READ THE NATIONAL BESTSELLER
I AM INTERESTING
I’LL GIVE YOU THE BENEFIT OF MY CERTAINTY
I’D RATHER BE MOCKING THE CONVENTIONS OF OBJECTIVITY
MY BIBLE YES, MY RIVERSIDE SHAKESPEARE MAYBE, MY
UNABRIDGED OED, NEVER
TIMOR MORTIS CONTURBAT ME
MELISSUS OF SAMOS IS MY CO-PILOT
I AM HARDWIRED TO ENJOY PERIODS OF RESPITE FROM TOIL
YOU WILL TAKE AWAY MY COPY OF THE ANATOMY OF
MELANCHOLY WHEN YOU PRISE IT FROM MY COLD DEAD FIST
MY OTHER VEHICLE IS A NON-POLLUTING ALTERNATIVE TO THE
INTERNAL COMBUSTION ENGINE
One dripping wet mid-winter morning early in 1966, it must have been, or maybe it was 1969, I decided, much as if I were fully grown, to take the day off; in this instance, from the third grade.
So on a morning bright with cold I sauntered past my schoolyard, concealed my schoolbooks in a paper bag which I set among some bushes, then wandered north toward the down town, choosing a path that skirted the park. There I fell in with an older boy, a stranger to me.
He was standing at an outdoor pay phone posted upon a pole just next to the Bigelow Planetarium. He wore no hat. It was also a windy day and his longish hair half stood in the breeze. He looked over as I hurried past and said to me, “Hey Kid, you got a dime?”
I was afraid he would beat me up, so in a fearful voice I said, “No,” and began to walk away.
He said, “Hey Kid–c’mere.”
My legs were shaking as raw February cold was stung my unprotected cheeks.
The boy looked me over and said, “You got a dime?”
“I said I didn’t.”
He appeared to mull this over, and then he asked, “How come you ain’t in school?”
“Me too,” he said. “Where you going?”
I told him I was going down town and he said “Me too,” and began to walk alongside me.
He told me as we walked that his name was “Virgil”. I don’t remember his face. He was tall with sandy hair, blonde or even white, though this seeming whiteness might have been a trick of the egg-white light of the hidden winter sun.
We walked together, mostly in silence, across the bridge from the Noxtown section of the great city into the north side, known then, as now, as “Old Town”.
Virgil took it upon himself during that dripping wet morning to show me around his treasured haunts in Old Town. He told me of the wondrous fables to be found upon the spinner racks within Card’s Department Store.. He would often skip school, he told me, and in that wonderful department store a kindly lady would let him stand there by the cashier’s station and read to his heart’s content the legendary tales of the Scarlet Speedster and the Man of Tomorrow; and of Death Man who knocked three times for the Black Knight.
One summer day, or so he told me, a parrot got loose from the pet department and began screeching and whistling amid the drop-ceiling rafters of the ground floor. On another occasion an excited pitchman stood in front of the housewares department and swore that oranges could be made into a delicious treat for adults and kids alike merely by purchasing at virtually no cost a simple plastic juicer with a straw sticking from the end of it.
Back of the old Card’s establishment on Sixty-sixth Street, Virgil pointed to a derelict office building with boarded-up windows where established concerns once had operated. The bottom floor of this building had been converted into a type of burlesque theatre, though at that time neither he nor I knew what a burlesque theatre was. As we looked, we saw through the grimy window there at the basement level a woman in a giant cage adorned in feathers who appeared to have her head caught between jail bars. Raucous music pulsed and its vibrations filtered out from behind the window pane.
“What is it?” said Virgil.
“I don’t know,” I said. Then I thought that Virgil would think I was a child, so I said, “I saw something like it on TV once.”
Virgil looked at me and said, “Stuff on TV ain’t real.”
The enormous doorman wearing a blue greatcoat sees us gawking and begins to approach us with his fists bunched up next to his sides. We flee around the corner to an alley with a loading dock.
“We ought to do something to help that woman,” says Virgil.
I was sad because I was only eight years old and I didn’t feel as though I could help anyone.
Virgil circles around the building to investigate further. I silently follow. I don’t know why. I didn’t have to. At that moment I could have walked away. But it was though I had fallen in love with the boy, and his heroic magnetism.
When we again approached the front of the building, it seemed as though someone might have built a small fire in the alley. There was smoke billowing from somewhere. It wasn’t long before we realized that the lower floor of the building was on fire. Smoke began to flow and pour. We went to look for a policeman or a fire alarm. We were confused to see a half-naked woman run out of the place, followed by half a dozen men who then stood around and watched as the sill around the great window smoldered. “Someone’s playing a trick,” said the doorman. He spotted us, standing about thirty feet away. “Hey you kids!” he shouted. We ran away, in our blinded panic nearly running across the street directly into traffic. We stopped short. A fire truck drove by. A man who said he was a doctor came running up to the door. Then there were police cars, lights, and sirens. Two big, pink-faced policemen wearing woolen hats were using a crowbar to pry open the rear door. Three people ran out and the smoke from the inside followed them like cloudy fingers. Someone yelled to “get them kids out of there.” It took me a few panicked seconds to realize they were talking about us. Only where was Virgil? I thought I saw him far away, across the street, entering Card’s Department Store.
A gray rabbit trailing a leash ran past me. Where did it come from? And then I saw a dog. It was a furry German shepherd that was pulling itself along the sidewalk as though its back had been broken. As it inched along its broken leash was just long enough to trail along the sidewalk. I thought that maybe the animals had escaped from a pet store. Shaking, I walked up Sixty-Sixth Street looking for the bus that would take me back home.
Then I see Virgil. He is running from the Woolworth’s, which is also on fire. He is on fire. He is surrounded by firemen.
A woman in a Navy Blue suit holding a microphone runs up and grabs my arm. “An eyewitness to the scene. Can you tell us what happened young man?” I twist away from her and run. She shouts something. I run behind a building on Sixty-Fifth Street, across the street. That building, too, is surrounded by police cars with their flashing lights, and fire engines with men spooling out fat gray hoses and playing bright water upon the steaming building. I dodge the outstretched arms of policemen and run up the grime-black metal stairs of the loading dock. In the rear bottom floor of this building is a dance studio. It is deserted. This must be where the women in the cage came from, I think. I enter the studio from sliding glass doors imperfectly tracked on their sliders. I run, sliding, across the newly waxed wooden dance floor. I try to leave through the front door, but it’s locked. I smell smoke. I try to exit the way I came. The sliding glass doors are stuck. A fireman wearing a yellow helmet is shouting at me from the other side of the glass. He breaks the glass. My face is showered with splinters of glass. I fall and cut myself. I am fascinated by the little beads of blood that begin to form on the palms of my hands.
The last thing I remember thinking is that everyone will blame me and I will be in prison for thirteen years until I’m 21 and I will also have seven years of bad luck or maybe they will make me join the army and I will have to go and fight the Germans.
I don’t remember much of what happened next. They must have taken me home. In the bright yellow kitchen my mother unwrapped a bandage from my hand and put something on my cuts that stung and made the tears well up at the corners of my weary eyes, and then she took me to my room and put me to bed for I now had a raging fever.
When I woke up, it was midnight of the following day. 36 hours had passed. I had a dry mouth, a dryness in my eyes, and a headache. I remember, before resuming my long sleep, I heard my mother at the door.
She came into the room and as she was drawing the covers over me again she told me in a whisper that it wasn’t my fault, none of it. And now I think that maybe that’s the only thing that saved me.