JULY 2015
Copyright 2015 Francis DiMenno


CORN. the food ingredient that dare not speak its name.

CORNY: Anything that happened more than 50 years ago.

COST OF LIVING: If you have to ask how much it is, you can’t afford it.


CULTURE. A Petri dish of the mind.

DEAN MARTIN: Patron saint of inebriates who was popular in the 1960s.
DADA. Is beginning to look sane.

DEATH: Like taxation, only kinder. Because it only happens once.

DEMOCRACY. May the worst man win.

DISNEY: A poisoned lollipop.

  2. You might have escaped but greed was your undoing.
    101. You will end up like your father–a hopeless drunk.
    102. Your brother will recant his exculpatory testimony.
    103. They’ll refuse to believe it was actually your evil twin.
    104. A ricochet will incapacitate your youthful sidekick.
    105. Suicide? A suspicious detective will conclude otherwise.
    106. One more stupid wisecrack will earn you a fat lip.
    107. You’ll certainly rue the day.
    108. Don’t you get it? You are already a dead man.
    109. The old man kept a notebook. He wrote it all down.
    110. Someone’s got it in for you.
    111. Everyone is fully aware of your utter impotence.
    112. Your opposition is more than a match for you.
    113. They are monitoring all your calls.
    114. Scratch all you want–the insects will never go away.
    115. Even your lapdog is addicted to the fumes of opium.
    116. You will never be able to locate all the hidden bugs.
    117. Your life as you once knew it is now over.
    118. Your legal problems have only begun.
    119. You will never live to spend that stolen loot.
    120. An escaped lunatic is lurking in your garage.
    121. You’re thinking you can’t sink any lower. You are wrong.
    122. You are only a pawn in their evil game.
    123. You should have known she was another man’s wife.
    124. Your friendly pawnbroker has ratted you out to the cops.
    125. You never should have double-crossed the Syndicate Boys.
    126. Both you and your associate are doomed.
    127. You haven’t gotten away with it…yet.
    128. You want something done, go see the Boss.
    129. Who benefits? Everyone but you.
    130. Looks like your luck has finally run out.
    131. Stupid! You never say “No” to the Big Man!
    132. You just made a deadly mistake.
    133. They can practically smell your desperation.
    134. Heads, you lose; tails, you lose again.
    135. The old lady across the street is spying on you.
    136. For you, one drink is one too many.
    137. You will soon be murdered by your psychotic sidekick.
    138. All of your actions will have unwanted consequences.
    139. Everlasting grief and sorrow will be your destiny.
    140. You were born dead. So die, already.
    141. They are just beginning to pay you back.
    142. Trouble is all you know.
    143. Sanity has left you, forever.
    144. Misfortune is your middle name.
    145. What part of ‘surrender’ do you fail to understand?
    146. Your wound is far more than merely a scratch.
    147. It is far too late. They are inexorably closing in.
    148. You have lost everything but you will lose even more.
    149. It’s a trap. Even a child could tell you that.
    150. Just when you think you’re safe is when they’ll strike.
    151. Mister, you do not have a lucky face.
    152. They are doing this to you simply because they can.
    153. Vital information they withhold will seal your fate.
    154. There is nothing you can do to stop them.
    155. Everybody knows you are a stupid coward.
    156. This is indeed happening. This is very much happening.
    157. You will be trapped by your own excuses.
    158. It is far too late to try to make amends.
    159. It is you who are your own worst nightmare.
    160. You have signed your own death certificate.
    161. She never had eyes for you. Only your money.
    162. They just can’t wait to throw you under the bus.
    163. When you’re dead, you’re dead, and you…are dead.
    164. God has never liked you and He never will.
    165. They will dance at your funeral, and scalp tickets.
    166. They will call your parrot to the witness stand.
    167. Confess? Forget it. The police will laugh in your face.
    168. Your dealer has been arrested, and you’re next.
    169. You only think you left no fingerprints.
    170. Your new best friend is an undercover cop.
    171. Dad would be very disappointed, if you hadn’t killed him.
    172. You are not feared in your neighborhood or anywhere else.
    173. That girl from the church social is a crack whore.
    174. You will be interrogated by Bad Cop…and Worse Cop.
    175. Your paranoia will be your downfall.
    176. The elderly pensioner knows your secret.
    177. You will never again experience serenity.
    178. You can cheat the casino, but not the hangman.
    179. Peaceful death was never meant for one like you.
    180. You were set to take the fall from Day One.
    181. Past indiscretions will haunt you forever.
    182. Whatever is under the bed wants to kill you.
    183. The police blame the crime wave on you.
    184. You have run out of veins to stick the spike.
    185. The police dog snarls at the smell of your guilt.
    186. Nobody makes the Big Man look like a chump.
    187. You will be murdered by a vengeful psychotic clown.
    188. The Doctor knows you were a shaken baby.
    189. Your enemies operate at the highest level.
    190. The conspiracy is real but you will never prove it.
    191. Spring flowers portend renewal for everyone but you.
    192. That snooping reporter will never stop until you are arrested.
    193. Your Malibu’s belt-driven pulley-type fan will decapitate you.
    194. The nosy pensioner reports that he saw you do it.
    195. You’d have escaped detection, if not for those meddling kids.
    196. The crooked sheriff will murder you in your sleep.
    197. Your evasive answers deceive nobody.
    198. You are trapped in your own web of deceit.
    199. Your wife is secretly a stripper who dances for ruffians.
    200. Your daughter is now in love with an evil stranger.
  2. The Tea Party is mad as hell because the government has too much  power. And now they’re demanding that the government do something about it.
    2. I’m a jolly sort of guy. I love to share a husky laugh in the courthouse elevator with policemen I don’t really know…yet.
    3. Death is a lot like taxation, only kinder. Because it only happens once.
    4. On the weekends I let myself do whatever I want to do, because I strongly believe in having spontaneous fun on a very strict schedule.
    5. An elephant never forgets. But what does an elephant have to remember? Peanuts? The hook? Or maybe that clown he mutilated back in Cincinnati….
    6. Canada has a 100 per cent literacy rate. But what do they have to write home about? “Dear Mom: It snowed. Again. Love, Pierre.”
    7. Canadians tend to be more diplomatic than Americans. What choice do they have? When their militia is told to haul out the big guns, that means they’re being directed to put rocks in the snowballs.
    8. The microbiologists at the Center for Disease Control always sweat over the small stuff.
    9.  “Jim Morrison” was a pseudonym. His real name was Fatso McBeerhart. They say that Mr. Morrison died in the bathtub. That was probably the first bath that man ever took. It wasn’t the drugs, it was the shock of cleanliness that did him in.
    10. The trouble with the United States is that all the fat jokes aren’t really jokes.
    11. I sure could go for a fat, plump missionary right now. Gather up the kindling and stack it below the implausibly large iron pot which my ragged and destitute people have somehow contrived to have delivered to the middle of the depths of the impenetrable jungle. Ho! Light the fire–quick! before the bwanas with the boom sticks come! 
    12. Nobody ever seems to fight for slavery anymore.
    13. Nowadays the Reactionaries are cocksure while the Progressives are full of doubt. 
    14. I’m still pissed off about the ending of the movie “Titanic,” where the wheezy old dame bores the dredging crew for 2 1/2 hours then drops the sparklers in the drink. Some gratitude!
    15. Sooner or later, even Mantovani becomes hip.
    16. I was in a bank and a Roosevelt dime fell out of my pocket. I picked it up and said, “Get back in there, Frankie–you’re with the big boys now.”
    17. Starbucks is the opiate of spendthrifts. Patronizing that fine establishment, with all its arcane rituals and paraphernalia, is like announcing to the world, “Oh God, I wish I still used drugs!” 
    18. The gummint won’t never knock on my door: I got me a big sign in front that sez, “I Heart Zog.”
    19. A bank run must seem perfectly logical to an ant. 
    20. Most people are familiar with the song “Five Guys Named Moe.” In my neighborhood, it was more like “Five Moes Named Guy.”
    21. High white finance is a black art.
    22.  If dogs ruled the world, this old earth would be a much better place, except maybe for all the leg-humping and begging for treats. 
    23. Science fiction is kind of like baseball for people who throw like girls.
    24. Media commentators are upper class people with lower class minds. Or vice versa.
    25. I have found that when the pundits disagree with me, they are idiots and traitors, but when they happen to share my point of view, they become peculiarly insightful savants and I marvel to discover to what degree their thinking has matured.
    26.  It’s my birthday, so today I get to tell the President what to do. (Note: It’s not really my birthday. Also, the President doesn’t return my calls.)
    26. Why is it that people with Libertarian sentiments are, 90 per cent of them, prematurely senile Get Of My Lawn-style grouches with severe substance abuse problems? Who don’t even HAVE lawns?  
    27. I tried to vote the straight anti-Masonic party ticket, but was told that the party hasn’t existed for 168 years.  Needless to say, the man who told me this was a Mason. It’s a conspiracy!
    28. At one time I was convinced that the black helicopters were following me. Of course, I was slightly delusional. I now know that they were actually following my dad–because he owed them money.
    29. Johnny Thunders was Dean Martin with the puke out in the open.
    30. We are all (strictly speaking) purely a function of the algorithm.
    31.Your life: If you break it, you pay for it.
    32. Our lives do not belong to us. We are, all of us, merely a tiny part of a vast web of interconnectivity. To maintain otherwise is simply a comfortuing self-delusion. So gimme a dollar.
    33  I’ve never met an Irishman who said, “They’re after me Lucky Charms!”
    34. It’s hard to care about the world caving in, if you’re already living in a cave. 
    35. They will take away my copy of “Gandhi On Non-Violence” when they pry it from my cold dead fingers.
    36. Ideologies are like fine wines–they need to be swirled around in the mouth then vigorously spat out–never swallowed. 
    37. Ideology–melts in your mind, not in your mouth.
    38. We must stop glorifying violence. The alternative? A boot grinding a face forever. Yay!
    39. It’s always nice when homicidal maniacs and coldblooded fascists can resolve their differences and agree to disagree.
    40. I’ll be the first to admit: I’m not such a remarkable guy. But my terrier, Jacko, once killed 1,000 rats in an hour and twenty minutes. When he died, he was buried in a piano crate. He sure did like those rats!
    41. Cave Deum.
    42. Never sell America’s shirt.
    43. I have yet to see polar order.
    44. Be fruitful and multiply. I’m hungry. 
    45. Insincere politeness is and has been a commonplace gambit of many civilized societies. F*cker.
    46. Just when you think you’ve seen everything, you get glaucoma.
    47. My motto: Peace out, bitch.
    48. I will pray for you, because God hates a loser.
    49.Life is like watching a fornicating ball of garter snakes. Initially, fascinating in a horrible way. Then, disgusting. Finally, unbearable.
    50. Always remember that no matter how high you may rise in life, that God’s alias hangs over your scene.

    All knockabout hoboes, twinkly-eyed coots, and sassy fat black women have lived unquestionably noble lives of incredible suffering and hardship and are therefore incredibly wise.

    The timer for the doomsday bomb is always defused at 00:00:01.

    Free spirit shows tight ass how to enjoy life. 

    The People-getting-to-know-and-gosh-darn-it-enjoy-each-other’s-company montage scene.

    All businessmen and political authorities are evil and have something to hide. (Particularly in 70s films).

    All war vets are psychotic (Ditto).

    We are almost never told how affluent people made their money, unless they gained their fortunes through trickery and deceit.

    From about 1933 to around 1958, men seemingly always “talked turkey” in a clipped, staccato tone. Like every second of the spoken word costs them a year of their life so they’ve got to say it FAST. Of course, SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS (1958) is where this trick was mastered.


This story is all too common. Allow me to describe, in admittedly passing detail, the downscale groggery in which the tasting takes place. Strip Mall. Garish neon sign, visible from the local highway. Shop is sandwiched between a dollar store and a sneaker shop. You enter through the wide glassy automatic doors and are greeted by an array of security cameras. The wine is arranged in open displays. Cooler cases stocked with cheap beer on the far end and pricey beer within eyeshot of the counter clerks. Baseball bat behind one counter; loaded pistol behind the other. The only small sign of gentility here at World of Wines is the weekly wine tasting. And here comes somebody to spoil it. A morbidly obese wheezing welfare mother with a twitchy left cheek and a bad blonde dye job has arrived, holding in her pudgy biceps a screaming brat with a dripping diaper. He–I think it’s a boy–it’s hard to get past that screaming face–is remarkably ill-featured. “I didn’t think it was possible for a baby to have acne,” I mutter to myself. The fine vintages on offer here at World of Wines are as battery acid when the acidulous howling of the autocoprophagous stripling arise, siren-like, and ascend in a slow wheeze like the inharmonious groans of a terminally defective accordion. What manner of fiend in womanly guise arrives at an adult gathering toting a screeching, baboon-faced, dyspeptic moppet? One notices with dismay that on her left arm she has a tattoo of a red red rose. With myriad thorns. On her right arm–she proudly wears an oversized short-sleeved shirt emblazoned with an enormous Tweety Bird–is a tattoo of the inevitable butterfuly. Bringing along her little crumb-crusher would be bad enough. But the woman, who has big blubbery lips and dirty hair, is also drinking as much wine as she can get her hands on. “Hey Lady–it’s a TASTING–not a GUZZLING”. I actually muttered this out loud. She either didn’t hear me over the roaring of her kid or she heard me and she just didn’t care. She reminds me of the woman at the Walmart who cuts into the 12-items or less line with 30 items. “It’s OK,” she assures you–but it isn’t. I see this sort of societal breakdown constantly reenacting itself on a larger scale. OK–cry me a river–on an annoyance scale of one to ten, this is, at most, a two. SLOPPY BLONDE BRINGS TOT TO LIQUOR STORE; GULPS FREE VINO, the newspaper headline would read.Then she switches the baby back to her left arm, to free up her champion drinking hand. “Yuh got anything bigger than these teeny cups? I can barely get a buzz.” I wait in suspense to see if a larger glass is forthcoming, but it isn’t. A cheese and cracker tray is brought out, and the screaming bairn is temporarily assuaged with a Ritz cracker, which it gums with preternatural quietude while his rowdy Momma grabs a handful of cheese and begins whooping and hollaring for “more of that juice.”  I suppose such atrocities are the price we pay to live in a free society. But sometimes, I think, that price is too high. Finally, the store manager, a grizzled gent–who wears a grey wool scally cap and looks for all the world like a squinting cab-driver of the old school–makes an appearance and peremptorily announces that the tasting is over. The disappointed Mom stumbles off toward the blistering hot parking lot, and the few remaining customers desultorily mill about the cheese and cracker tray  “Hully chee,” slurs the blond, switching her dripping whippersnapper to her other arm, “Wait’ll I tell the girls at the laundromat about this joint.” As she pases through the automatic doors, I visualize a new headline; this one in the newspaper’s Living Section: FINE WINE TASTINGS ATTRACT NEW AUDIENCE: UNWED MOMS. And then I shudder, and throw up a little in my mouth.  

6. I am being asked via email to participate in the “Men’s Wearhouse National Suit Drive” (“give a suit, change a life.”). There, I think, is a story in itself.


Imagine it’s sometime in the 1950s, in the Midwest. Bum from off the street–John “Bum” Howard–ex-con–alerted by friendly cop, Gunnar (“Gunner”) Eriksson. (“Here bane a ten spot–whyn’t you get yourself cleaned up?”) strays by chance into the Suit Depot, gets himself fixed up in gray flannel, goes and wows personnel over t’ the car lot and gets a job as a salesman. “I like the cut of your jib!” says the Boss/Owner (“Honest Jim” Pixa). Sells three new cars in three days; passes probation, gets a nice apartment, starts into shady sales practices, feels guilty, turns to the booze, the gray flannel is soiled but he goes to Robert Hall and is fitted with five new suits, falls into debt due to his newly hubristic lifestyle, takes a fancy to the Boss’s wild daughter–Boss says she’s not for him, warns him that he’s straddling a thin line–he takes heed–gets back on the water-wagon, meets a nice girl at the Boss’s church, daughter of a Greek immigrant, confesses his former sins, they marry in the Greek Orthodox Church (in spite of the querulous greenhorn protests of her Pappy) have three dark-featured chillun; he eventually falls off the wagon due to job-and-family-related stress, goes on a bender, gets snared in a botched robbery attempt, goes back to the big house for a dime, kids are farmed out to resentful relatives, Wife gets a job as a receptionist in a Doctor’s office. Meets a handsome young intern, divorces Hubby. 

At first the cons are resentful that their old buddy, “Bum” Howard has gone all high-hat on them; him, what with his snazzy gray flannel suit. But he entertains them with wild tales of life on the used car-lot. “Most of them are worse bums than me. They’re all crooks as ought to be in jail with us. You wouldn’t believe half of what goes on in a place like that. If I ever get out of here I’ll blow the whistle on the whole rotten racket, sure.” “Bum” Howard keeps his nose clean and gets sentenced to an early parole. His Boss “Honest Jim” Pixa takes him back. Puts him to work as a janitor. “Bum” Howard makes good and soon is back to selling cars. Pixa’s wife is incredulous.. “You hired an ex-con? With HIS record?” Pixa: “He has a lot to prove. He’s a good worker. He’ll sell lots of cars for us.” But Pixa’s wife is not convinced. Sure enough, “Bum” Howard has been passing along tips to favored tough guy customers about which cars not to buy. The lemons he unloads on “civilians”. The Boss doesn’t mind this; he would just as soon stay on the good side of the tough guys. But he’s curious about “Bum” Howard. How did he end up in stir in the first place? Turns out he was an ex-serviceman on leave who was also the prime suspect in a lurid murder of a femme barfly out in Cali.They held him in the county lock-up for several months, but none of the leads panned out and the cops had had to cut him loose. Pixa wonders if, by chance, he was guilty. He’s also worried that his wild daughter might get involved with him again. He decides to make things hot for “Bum” Howard. This makes our pal turn back to lushing, and pretty soon he’s back out on the street. Gets a job as a bouncer at Dizzy’s Lounge, his favorite watering hole. Kills a man by accident. Cops have him pegged as a three-time loser and back to stir he goes, pursued by an over-zealous D.A.   

At first the Boss’s wild daughter visits him in jail, but her visits grow less and less frequent and eventually she meets somebody else and her visits finally cease. Desperate, “Bum” Howard participates in an ill-advised escape attempt. He improbably succeeds in eluding the lawmen and makes a new life for himself in New Orleans as a colorful bohemian “character”. He gets a job as a janitor in a law office, and soon becomes an errand and delivery boy. By now, of course, he’s considerably the worse for wear. On one occasion a visiting cop–none other than Gunnar (“Gunner”) Eriksson–recognizes him. Urges him to turn himself in. Says the prison warden will go easy on him. He surrenders to the lawmen, but, when asked to name his accomplices, “Bum” refuses, knowing that to have a reputation as a snitch is a death sentence in the big house. (“I wouldn’t rat out a yellow dog!”) They put him in “the hole”. But “Bum” is made of sterner stuff than they suppose, and he won’t talk. He is something of a hero to the cons who know his story. 

Improbably, he’s given another chance to make good. Gunnar (“Gunner”) Eriksson vouches for him–gets him a job as a cook in a Greek Diner in Florida. There he whiles away the years until his retirement. He is eventually reunited with his children. He tells his story to a local newsman, and publishes an autobiographical book with a small local press. “My Wild Life”. He is pictured on the back of the dust jacket wearing a suit.

A gray flannel suit. 

    My grandmother’s head exploded.

    Oh, not literally. I don’t mean to say it actually blew up, like in
    those cartoons I used to watch while lying on Grandma’s green shag rug
    sipping from a chalky white mug of Swiss Miss hot chocolate with
    little marshmallows floating in the grayish brown liquid like tiny
    submarines bobbing to the surface following some very fearsome

    Every Saturday morning, as televised mayhem thundered and boomed,
    Grandma would sit in the corner of her living room–she called it her
    parlor–like some big white fireplug angel with her knitting needles
    going click click click….

    Grandma didn’t like me watching those cartoons. She was a very proper
    Presbyterian lady, Or maybe she was an Episcopalian–in my childish
    mind I never could keep the differences between the two religions
    totally straight.

    I think she might have been an Episcopalian, because one time I
    remember my fearsome Uncle Ralph made her very upset by referring to
    her as a “Piss-in-a-pail-ian.”

    Grandma was very devout, and she told me the reason that she didn’t
    like me watching cartoons because she thought they filled my heads
    with deviltry and mischief. Those were her words.

    Maybe she was right. This was when I was five years old, going on six,
    and Mamma had had to leave me in Grandma’s care because she had to
    work because Pappa wouldn’t work but instead he would go off with his
    older brother Uncle Ralph.

    Off to God Knows Where, said Grandma, doing God Knows What.

    The television programs I would so avidly gaze at for hours on end
    were beamed to us all the way from the incomprehensibly enormous city
    of Chicago, which, as a farm girl who was born in Mukwonago, seemed
    magical to me. I now realize that the kiddie fare they used to show
    was mostly the standard Dog versus Cat versus Mouse cartoons which
    were then a lingering presence still on every Saturday morning. But to me, amid all their shrill clamor and zany sound effects, they seemed new, and fresh, and sometimes, even profound.

Saturdays were special, Grandma was up by five in the morning. I would
wake up at six and tumble into the dining room to eat french toast, or
waffles, or eggs in the basket, which is fried toast with a fried egg
in the middle.

Uncle Ralph would shock Grandma by calling them “Gas House Eggs.” One
time, Grandma–who was squat like a fire hydrant but strong and
feisty–actually attacked him with the straw end of an ornamental
broom for referring to her scrambled eggs on toast as “Adam and Eve on
a Raft, and Kissing.” Only he didn’t say “Kissing.”

I remember that Grandma would always urge me to go out and play. Even
on those frosty winter mornings in February when icicles hung even
from the carrot nose of Mr. Frosty, the snowman that Pappa constructed
every December behind grandma’s farmhouse, on the back forty. She
would bundle me up from head to toe with warm, goose-down puffy
clothing and swat me on the bum and playfully tell me to shoo, as
though I were some sort of unwanted stray cat.

Life was normal. I always knew what to expect. I wasn’t happy,
exactly. First grade in Mukwonago was no picnic. At recess the girls
would laugh at my home-made clothing. After school the boys would
follow me down the dirt road back to Grandmas house, and snicker.

But other than that, you might say I was contented. Mostly because of
Saturday mornings.

Until May 5th.

That was the fateful day when Grandma’s head exploded. I was only six
years old, and, at least, that was the way I understood what had happened. The story I pieced together during the summer weeks that followed was that Uncle Ralph had said something to Grandma and Grandma fell over and the ambulance came, and Grandma was put on a board and taken to the hospital and then she went to a place called a Hospice and then they took her to a funeral home and then they buried her in a graveyard.

On the day of the burial the story that Mamma told me as she was
combing my hair while we waited for the babysitter was that Grandma
had gone to “a better place” and was watching me “from up in heaven”.

For weeks and weeks I believed that my watching television had had
something to do with Grandma going away, and so instead of watching
cartoons, I took to reading the Bible, or trying to. In the month of
June I got as far as the end of the book of Genesis, and then in the
month of July I started all over again. All that summer long I was a
gloomy and devout child.

Nowadays, we would call this “mourning.” Back then, people said there
was something wrong with me. Uncle Ralph said I gave him the creeps,
the way I used to stare at him every time he walked into the
threadbare apartment where Mamma and Pappa lived.

The two room apartment was in a dirty, noisy section of the city of
Waukesha, and it was on the second floor of a beauty parlor. I had had
my own bedroom at Grandma’s house in Mukwanago. But I had to share a
bedroom with my mother in Waukesha.

Every day that summer, starting at eight in the morning, the rising
fumes from the ladies getting their hair fried downstairs would make
me sick to my stomach.

So I would walk down Carroll Street and up North Grand Avenue to
Cutler Park. I spent a lot of time at the Waukesha Public Library.

This too meant that there was “something wrong with me.”

That entire summer we didn’t go to Grandma’s house even once.

It belonged to Uncle Ralph now.

In November of the year I entered second grade, we went to Uncle Ralph’s
house for Thanksgiving and I got a horrible surprise.

Grandma’s beautiful house was full of trash.

And Uncle Ralph was seated at the kitchen table, drinking from a bottle of cheap whiskey, and laughing.

Like he knew something we didn’t. And maybe he did.


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