- MODERN WISDOM PRESENTS: THE MODERN WISDOM DYSLEXICON
MAXIM: Esquire for Bastards.
MUSHROOM. Honeymoon suite.
NIETZSCHE. A crazy man who said something bad about whipping women.
OPTIMIST’S CLUB. I tried to join–but I knew they wouldn’t let me.
PARANOIA. Certain people say I’m dangerously paranoid…I would kill to know who.
PLUM. Rehydrated prune.
POTATO SALAD: Adult ice cream.
PRESIDENT. I’d rather riot than be President.
PROVERBS. Wisdom lite.
- NOIR MISFORTUNE COOKIES
- They are never going to stop kicking your dog around.
502. Famed for reliability. No. They call you a “real liability”.
503. For Halloween you should dress like the failure you really are.
504. Your Heart is made of Stone; your Jaw, of Glass.
505. Haven’t you heard the news? You’re all washed up.
506. The hangovers never used to be that bad before.
507. You learned, too late, that things are different in The South.
508. Don’t try to do the thinking–it doesn’t suit you.
509. Your life has been a Carnival–a Carnival of Crime.
510. Nobody’s fooled–everybody knows your name and your alias.
511. They will hunt you like the rabid dog you are.
512. You’re the biggest drunk in town–and it’s a big town.
513. Someday you will pay and that someday is right now.
514. You’re impossible to kill but they will find a way.
515. You are never lonely, for you are surrounded by enemies.
516. Midgets are good luck, until they shoot you.
517. She is nothing like the Little Girl you once knew.
518. Big mistake–referring to The Don as “Fatso”.
519. No more Sex Kittens for you–only the sad Cat Lady.
520. Like Jesus, you will die for someone else’s sins.
521. Eating this Fortune Cookieensures a lifetime of misfortune.
522. Even the Psychotics whisper that you are completely insane.
523. Are you really Paranoid? Only They know for sure.
524. Listen, Hillbilly–Leave the musket. Take the pork rinds.
525. He who laughs last will be the first to die.
526. Your craven drunken partner does not got your back.
527. You are World Class all right–a World Class Chump.
528. Even the indulgent priest will never absolve you.
529. She’s either started smoking cheap cigars–or there’s another man.
530. Coward! You left your Men behind, to die in Tiger Cages.
531. The Early Bird gets helplessly swept up in the Dragnet.
532. Even your most educated guesses are illiterate.
533. Nobody gets fat by standing in the Big Man’s limelight.
534. Only change the Dame and the tale will be told of you.
535. You always said you wanted nothing, and now you got it.
536. Hunchbacks are lucky; all YOUR hunches have been dead wrong.
- You’ve gone straight–why must they drag you back in?
- Take only the clothes on your back and flee town–now.
539. They can easily prove your story is nothing but lies.
540. Poor Fool. You were so sure you could outsmart The Brain.
541. Your dog will accidentally maul the Boss’s youngest son.
542. This isn’t over–they aren’t through with you yet.
543. They’re not afraid of you and they will kick your ass.
544. They’ll find you long before you manage to find them.
545. They thoroughly discussed you. You thoroughly disgust them.
546. You’re acting like a dizzy sap over that two-timing Dame.
547. You’ll never breathe easy until all the witnesses are dead.
548. Chase her all you want–catch her, and you’ll be sorry.
549. They’ll call you ‘Chuckles’ because you never smile.
550. You’ll forever think the Fuzz are breathing down your neck.
551. You’ll beg for cheap liquor in a bar you once owned.
552. All men love the darkness, for their deeds are evil.
553. You will soon see even more of the world’s backside.
554. Very few people can match your callow, vain stupidity.
555. It’s a GOOD Sterno; it’s not a GREAT Sterno.
556. Your apartment smells like cat piss; you don’t own a cat.
557. You had better change your mind; it’s full of shit.
558. A million men and a million dollars can never be defeated.
559. Didn’t you even know enough to get out of their way?
560. You have lit the firecracker at both ends.
561. Hatred of you shall unite all feuding clans.
562. Your long nightmare is only just beginning.
563. When elephants dance, the dwarves must die.
564. At the Laughing Academy a padded room awaits you.
565. They tolerate your cowardly fear; it is fun to watch.
566. The strangers watch your house for a very good reason.
567. The Boss once found you entertaining; you bore him now.
568. No excuse can possibly explain your sinister behavior.
569. Your troubles will never end; not even in the grave.
570. You will never be permitted to atone for your sins.
571. You won’t know what you are until you lose it.
572. People are much happier when you’re not around.
573. You will never be allowed to eat solid food again.
574. You will die a million deaths, and yet live.
575. It is far from over. It will never truly be over.
576. A daily apple keeps away doctors–not policemen.
577. Justice will always be a luxury you can never afford.
578. None of the gossip about you can be refuted.
579. Enjoy your day; it may well be your last.
580. You are too experienced to ever be optimistic again.
581. Your marriage is made in Heaven but lived in Hell.
582. The explanation is a simple one: They all lied.
583. Survivor’s Guilt? You are fooling absolutely nobody.
584. You are far more spinned against than spinning.
585. Destiny whistles through your hollow existence.
586. Your wife will always put her business before your pleasure.
587. You are wearing a mask which will eat your soul.
588. A hand which you know not shall lay you dead.
589. You know everything, and yet you can do nothing.
590. What are your saving yourself for? You die tomorrow.
591. You’re living on borrowed time; now They want it back.
592. You are wise to run away, but not THAT way.
593. The man with the gun is looking strangely at you.
594. Bums will ask you for directions to the homeless shelter.
595. Magical Thinking? Magical Lack of Thinking will do you in.
596. The small, still voice inside you says you must die.
597. They’ll call you the cutest serial killer on Death Row.
598. She’s a smart cookie–too smart for your own good.
599. You have the virtue of being consistent–consistently troubled.
600. Dignity and self-respect are words you never heard of.
- DOWNWARD NOBILITY
Every since his head injury, my brother-in-law Dix has taken an ardent, if somewhat addled, interest in the whole question of pitbulls. Are they the Frankenstein dogs of the Chicken Little media, or an unfairly maligned but noble breed? He says the former, but I’m not so sure.
Just last Friday I drove for several hours and paid a family visit. Which mostly consisted of me tagging along behind Dix and his wife, my sister Terry, during Saturday morning as they “made their rounds”.
Of course, this need not have taken place on a weekend at all, since neither of them happen to work at actual jobs.
My sister is currently collecting unemployment. Or trying to. She can frequently be heard on her government cell phone engaged in screaming matches with the person on the other end of the unemployment hotline. She picks up some under-the-table spending money on Saturday and Sunday nights bartending at some shitty ramshackle joint just across the state border. It’s the kind of cow palace of a place that makes your average beatnik basement dive of yore look like a regular Valhalla. She makes most of her money in tips, since she is a compulsive chatterbox and had an easy way with the regulars. Dix usually has nothing better to do than to hang around the bar to “protect” her, as a sort of semi-official but unpaid bouncer. Because he has prior convictions, he has to be very careful about getting into fights–but once he gets into the whiskey, it was anyone’s guess as to whether he might drunkenly beat the shit out of some tough guy for the serious crime of simply looking at Terry the wrong way.
It was my distinct impression that my sister mostly spent her windfall tip money on Mani-pedis and extravagant orders at McDonald’s. (“I used to work there,” she told me. “I know how to get the good stuff.”) McDonalds was her favorite meeting place for a night out on the town, presumably because Applebee’s, Chili’s, and The Olive Garden were “too swank”.
My Brother in Law is known as Dix, both to his friends and to the local police. (His real name is something like Sylvester Percival Murphy, but he doesn’t like to talk about it). Seeing as how he has lived all his life in his Godforsaken little town, He also knew the names of all the local cops, the lenient ones and the tough ones, as well as the lenient and the tough judges, since he had been to court several times on various beefs–drunk and disorderly, child support from his first marriage, assault, driving an unregistered vehicle–the usual panoply of sad sack brushes with the law. No felonies, though. Lucky for him. Felons can’t legally own firearms, and Dix has quite a few.
He’d recently “won” what some wags in my neck of the woods refer to as “Disability Powerball.” Meaning that he collects disability payments from the Federal Government, even though he’s not even 40 and still seems to me to have quite a knack for heavy lifting, if very little else. Of course, he makes more money than that, under the table, doing odd construction jobs.
How did he qualify for disability? It seems as though a plastic garbage can fell on his head while he was on some kind of Municipal make-work Job with Parks and Recreation.
Dix doesn’t beat my sister, as far as I can tell. I am glad. He is a big fellow with a broken nose. Looks like he’s been in more than a few fist fights. I’m not sure I could take him. In fact, I’m sure I couldn’t. I don’t have the killer instinct. He does. One look at him would convince you of that.
Well, he does wear a wifebeater t-shirt. But since I know for a fact that Terry buys all his clothes, that was her choice of apparel, and not his, I suppose.
Dix calls my sister Terry “Boo Boo,” or “Mama” when he feels affectionate and “The Duchess” (pronounced “Doosh-ess”) when he feels as though she’s behaving like a bitch. This is usually when he’s drunk.
He’s a sarcastic drunk, for the most part. Given to saying things like, “Hey there, high and mighty–you think you’re better’n me?”
I overheard them arguing late on Friday night, when I first got there. I was sacked out on a sofa near the kitchen area of the trailer.
Terry: “Be quiet, my brother can hear you!”
Dix: “I DONT FUCKING CARE IF THE WHOLE WORLD CAN HEAR ME!”
Terry: WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?
Dix: SHUT UP! THAT’S WHO I AM! NOW SHUT UP!
Dix: Most every night finds him drunk to at least some degree. But especially Friday. Meaning that on Saturday morning he usually has a pounding hangover and chooses to sleep in. Which he does every day of the week anyway.
Leaving Terry to do the grocery shopping that Saturday morning, bright and late. In their 1992 white Honda Civic that is beat to shit. It is a car with a dented white body and a black hood. It looks vaguely boxy and sinister. The rear bumper seems to be held together with bumper stickers for such delightful institutions as Wrestle Mania, Easy Riders, The Big Johnson, Rebel Yell, and the local tattoo parlor. She’s got Rosary beads hanging from the rear-view mirror, which is funny because she’s not even a Catholic but a member of some weirdo Protestant sect that her foster parents once belonged to–one that preached the Prosperity Gospel, though it certainly hadn’t done her a lot of good. She also had an evergreen-shaped pine air freshener which had long since stopped doing its job, because even though her two children by her first husband out of High School are in their twenties and mostly on their own, the car always smells like Marlboros, mildew and sour milk.
Anyway, she’s my sister, and I love her, of course, but ever since she’s had her two daughters she’s really blown up. She looks, from behind, a lot like one of those houses that people put on casters and haul down the highway behind enormous flat-bed trucks. She gets welfare and food stamps, only, of course, they aren’t stamps any more but a little credit card pre-loaded with a couple hundred dollars every month. You’d think that you could buy quite a bit of healthy food with that money, but I notice that Terry buys all sorts of expensive junk, like bottled soda, and coffee in K-Cups, and bags of candy and potato chips, and then she complains on about the 20th of the month that the money doesn’t go far enough. Whatever happened, I wondered, to buying potatoes and rice and bread and tuna, I ask her. You could easily feed your family for a month on what she spends in a week, on junk. She says, “I’d rather die than live like that.” Then she’d go out and loudly rev her car engine for like, ten minutes.
Of course, who am I to criticize? I suppose if I were what our elders used to quaintly call “collecting relief” and out of work and depressed, I too might be tempted to gorge myself on ice cream and Beefaroni and Vienna sausages and Treet–which, I was interested to learn, is Spam for people who can’t even afford Spam. And if I were on disability, maybe I too would be tempted to use my girlfriend’s maxed-out credit card to rent a big-ass television from Rent-A-Center, and then have them take it back because I didn’t keep up with the payments.
You’d think that instead of sketching designs for new tattoos he was planning on getting, Dix would spend some of his ample free time improving the conditions around their trailer. But no. In spite of the ancient, sun-bleached beach ball and rusty girl’s bicycle, the weed garden in the back yard was hardly what you’d call ornamental; the cracked asphalt in driveway looked like it belonged in a panorama of the origins of the earth, and the quack grass overrunning the front yard provided the only sign of active human habitation because at least it was desultorily mowed once every six weeks or so. Although he would miss patches here and there. A Mohawk lawn. Charming. There were nip bottles and empty Dunkin Donuts cups scattered around the doorway, as well as a delightful congregation of cigarette butts and Blunt Cigar wrappers. During seasonal weather, Dix would sit on the front stoop either drinking fireball cinnamon-flavored whiskey from a coffee mug, or smoking reefer. Just like he just didn’t give a shit what the neighbors thought. Because he didn’t. Not that the neighbors were any better. Most of them were doing the exact same thing. Never let it be said that Dix was any kind of an Odd Man Out. Protective Coloration was his own peculiar form of genius. When it came to his local environment, he could fit in nearly anywhere. He would have made a good undercover agent, though that particular boat had left the dock a long time ago.
No matter what the weather, Dix was nearly always seen wearing a sleeveless t-shirt, usually wearing on top of that his red leather jacket with the elasticized orange cuffs. His perpetually slavering Pitbull puppy, Sergeant, was generally to be seen industriously straining at the end of a rust-flecked chain which was attached to a metal stake driven deep in the ground–but not deep enough, as we were to tragically discover later.
Watching Dix, you got the distinct impression that Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms was not only a Bureau–it was his weekend.
As loopy as Dix was, his mother was altogether another story. She lived in the trailer two down from his. Her Eyes: Bloodshot. Her Nose: Deviated septum. Her Mouth: Running cold sores. Her Teeth: Ground down to yellow stumps. Her Breasts: Saggy. Her Ass: Bony. Her Shoes: Flip-Flops, in all weather. Her fingernails: Chipped and broken. Her Employment history: spotty. Last known place of employ: Some sketchy “collection agency” that eventually got shut down by the federal government for extortion.
The collection agency must have paid well, or otherwise she must have been upwardly mobile a long time ago because she drove a grey 1985 Chevrolet Impala. The thing looked like a deracinated monolith on wheels. Nowadays, she had fallen on hard times. Her ex-husband was incarcerated, her bank account was overdrawn, and yet she still managed to make at least one trip a month to the local casino, and was never seen without her scratch tickets. She told me she made some pocket change giving rides to old folks who had lost their drivers licenses because they couldn’t see very well, or because they had drunk driving convictions, but I can’t imagine she had any other source of visible employment. I have a feeling that she hung around with bikers and shared her fading favors with Truckers, because her daughter-in-law was always gifted each Christmas with a variety of Biker and Trucker souvenirs. Outsized caps. Too-big t-shirts. Scale replica toy trucks. American Flag patches. Small jugs of maple syrup which you only ever see sold in interstate highway gas stations. Every time I saw her, I threw up in my mouth a little.
Other than that, she was a perfectly nice woman, I guess. She had a variety of tattoos from back in her glory days, when she was a Foghat groupie.Up and down her arms. On her ankle and lower back. Mostly cheap amateur jobs. A martini olive. A butterfly. A red star. A Chinese character meaning ‘Good Fortune’. And something mystical. Actually, it was supposed to be a big fat unicorn. It was stamped on her flabby arm, which was the size of a joint of roast beef.
She chewed cinnamon gum, which she always parked outside whenever her son took her to her weekly visit to the Chinese Buffet, which was some 45 miles away. Which they invited me to on Saturday night. They spent three hours there, and ate everything in sight, until even the case-hardened Chinese waitresses were giving them death glares. Their secret? Apparently, they starved themselves for days, and took laxatives in between their third serving and their fourth, fifth, and sixth helpings. Dix’s Mom also had a purse the size of a duffel bag lined with cloth napkins into which she surreptitiously stuffed goodies wrapped in napkins “for later”.
Afterwards, we–meaning me, Dix and his Mom–went back to Dix’s Mom’s trailer, where they drank a 30-pack of Keystone Light. It’s a very good beer, she said, for the price. I took a sip. It left a distinct aftertaste of soapy dishwater and old leaves. “Wassamatter?” said Dix. “Too good to drink with us?” I had my own instinct for protective coloration. “All I ever drink is Budweiser. You got any?” Turns out the answer was no. So I borrowed Dix’s Mom’s car and went to the local bar to buy a six pack. Driving her Chevrolet Impala was like piloting a tank. The car burped and popped whenever it was in idle and the brakes, I found tout seconds too late, were mushy. I very nearly plowed into three motorcycles which were parked in front of the local brewmongers.
I had hoped to be in and out without incident, but one of the locals–a Biker, from the looks of him–sized me up and said, “You’re not from around her, are you, Boy?”
“I’m visiting Dix. He’s a good freind of mine.”
“Well, Boy Howdy,” he said. Say hello to his Maw for me.” And he actually winked at me. Him with his fat, bearded and hoggish face. It would have been enough to make a cat laugh, only I was terrified, and got out of there in a hurry. The guy wore a chaion for a belt, and it looked small on him.
Anyway, as I mentioned before, Dix, bless his soul, is what you might call a firearm aficionado. He has a modest selection of guns which he kept in the trailer he shared with my sister. All duly registered, he was careful to tell me. A scofflaw he wasn’t. At least, not at present. Though he seemed peculiarly eager to show me the scar left by his compulsory ankle bracelet, “Back when I was on house arrest, before I was on fucking probay-shun”.
“With that kind of attitude, it’s a wonder you ever got off probay-shun.”
I thought this. I didn’t say it. Why take chances angrifying a man whose biceps were the size of Cincinnati Hams? And who counted among his close freinds a Biker the size of Godzilla?
On Friday night, when I had just gotten in, he showed me one of his rifles. Actually, he pointed it at my head. His idea of a practical joke. When I got mildly annoyed, he explained slowly and carefully, as though talking to an imbecile, that it “wudn’t loaded”. That’s the only time, by the way, I ever heard him speaking below a dull roar. He was what you’d call a loudmouth. Still, salt of the earth all the same, I suppose. Also, as I mentioned, he was very much taken with the idea of owning a Pitbull, though he was as lazy and ignorant as the day was long, and he did absolutely nothing to train the animal. Instead, he spent that Saturday morning sitting on the doorstep of his trailer and taking large sips of fireball whiskey as he watched Sergeant the Pitbull straining and quivering on the end of his vibrating chain, presumably trying to reach some invisible antagonist. “Sarge,” as Dix called him, was a brown and white brute with a glassy stare. “Don’t worry, he don’t hurt no one,” Dix would shout. To no one in particular.
Why did Dix name him Sergeant? To get back at a hated Topkick in the Army? Prior to his Dishonorable Discharge? I never bothered to ask.
Actually, Sarge’s brown and white coloration did make him look vaguely Army-like. Sergeant the Pitbull would have blended right in with a group of rifle-toting jarheads sporting camo gear in some post-apocalyptic fantasia.
Personally, I’m a big dog-lover, and would have been willing to give Sergeant every chance to worm his way into my heart–worms and all. But not after what I saw him do up at Friendship Park on Sunday afternoon.
We spent Sunday morning going to the oddball hard-shell Baptist Church that my sister favors. Dix was dressed up. It was October, and in lieu of his usual t-shirt he wore his fancy black cowboy shirt with the white piping and a white bolo tie. He spent most of the church service bullshitting outside with the other bored husbands, many of whom, like him, wore leather jackets and world-weary looks of utter dissatisfaction with their lot in life. I could indulge in no such practice. My sister had apparently told her Pastor all about her brother from back East, and she was counting on me to listen with devoted attentiveness to the fantastical hogwash the preacher was giving out. There was something about “Looking at the world through Christ-colored glasses,” and a whole lot of other nonsense I can’t even bring myself to remember, let alone repeat. The church pews were hard wooden benches. In that particular House of Worship there were no padded kneelers or any other creature comforts as far as I could see. In fact, it looked not unlike the bar where my sister had spent the previous Saturday night hustling drinks. After the Service, the Pastor wanted to know how I liked the sermon. I told him that ‘Christ-colored glasses’ seemed to me to be a particularly apt metaphor. He looked at me with mild curiosity. He apparently had no idea what I was talking about. I blustered my way through with a translation into localese: “It was fine, I liked it fine! It was fine, fine!” He smiled, and asked me if I planned on watching The Game. I said “Sure, sure. It’s gonna be great!”
And thus we parted, on mostly friendly terms.
Sunday afternoon was to be devoted to letting Sergeant off the leash, so he could “socialize” with the other dogs at Friendship Park. Having seen the pup in action, I wasn’t sure this was such a grand and glorious idea. That very morning Sergeant had pulled the stake out of the ground and chased a squirrel up a tree, leaving claw marks all around the trunk as he barked until he was out of breath and, incidentally, long after the squirrel had migrated to another tree.
Dix assured me that Sergeant would be fine. “Won’t he, Terry?” My sister Terry said nothing. She felt a little intimidated by Dix, who was a high school graduate, while she was putting off getting her G.E.D. because she was afraid that the third try might not be the charm. (She was severely math-challenged. She also couldn’t write a coherent sentence with a noun or verb to save her life.) But her feelings were hurt, so she decided to stay home while Dix and I took Sergeant up to Friendship Park.
It was really a Park in name only. Just a narrow strip of land which extended for about a fifth of a mile with some desultory trees and a winding path.
I was busy kicking fallen leaves between my feet when I heard a snarl and a yelp. I turned around to see Sergeant attacking another dog and Dix trying his best to extricate the the wrinkled ass of the yelping pug dog from between the clamped-down jaws of the ravening Sarge. Dix finally got the dog free and, grabbing his Pitbull, ran from the park. I hung around for a few minutes to see how badly the Pug was hurt. He had puncture marks on his back from Sergeant’s teeth and was pathetically licking the face of the lady who owned him, who was screaming and crying and hugging the pug dog. Helpful fellow dog walkers gave her the name of a nearby pet clinic, and she carried her dog to her car and sped off. I noticed that her licence plate read PUGGS.
I saw no sign of Dix, or his mother’s car, which he had borrowed for our little expedition. So I walked the roughly three-quarters of a mile back to the trailer park.
I found Dix in his mother’s trailer. The two were seated at the tiny built-in modular kitchen table, drinking Keystone beer–the old lady must have had a 30-pack in reserve–and conferring.
“The bitch had it coming. Walking around with that fancy dog of hers, like she owned the world.”
“Did she see my car?”
“Does anybody up there know you?”
The old lady turned to me. “You didn’t say anything, did you?”
“Call me Mom,” she beamed. And she exhaled a drag from her Kent. And offered me a beer.
I already had one.
The first of many.
- THE ANYTOWN ‘YOUNG TURKS’
By “Peanuts” Butler & Arentino Capriccio
Staff Reporters, TIDINGS Magazine
These brash upstarts aren’t the ruling elite—yet! But they’re poised to take over when their time comes nigh! Meet:
Charles ‘Chick’ Mouseear
Ennea Graham Starling
Taki Taki Wordman
Yew Yah Yew