Self-styled scribes and sages have long lightened the hard and dirty work known as opining by whittling, boiling and breaking down entire Generations -- with their millions of stories and opinions and sharings-of-feeling -- into a few, easily-managed catch-phrases. For example: Generation X. "Rebels ... good with music ... maintaining their youthful persuasions well into their 40's ... think well of themselves ... quick to weary ... not inclined to defer a particular pleasure when the consummation of that pleasure can be had NOW," in my opinion.
All of this sufficing to explain why, some weeks ago, I decided I did not want to wait for my autopsy. I wanted my autopsy NOW.
It is not simply a matter of belonging to that generation delineated above. Fact is I have nothing in common with them. No, it is rather that as a practical man I wish to have my cause of death determined at a time when I can actually be edified by that information. Because I care. Not much, of course. Sitting here in my pajamas, eating cereal, I find that I am not passionate about it. But I do care at least a little. But later? I am only a scribe: I cannot predict the future. In the future I might not even feel like writing this item of miscellany. Maddening ... best to be safe.
I took note of an advertisement placed by Taggart Autopsy Friends. The ad claimed that owner Arthur Taggart had earned his stripes doing wartime and miscellaneous autopsies, and that, during their retirement, he and his wife Meg had come to specialize in in-home autopsies. Sounded good, and I made the call.
The elderly pair were there in my apartment the next day. "Mr. Taggart. Mrs. Taggart," I said by way of introduction. "I am not dead at this time. But I would like you to tell me what I died of if I was."
They stood there for a belabored moment before conferring briefly in garbled whisper; I observed a tremor in the old woman's hands. Then they turned and sort of looked at me, staring.
And I thought: ah, yes. The Greatest Generation. Saved the world for Democracy ... built the Interstate Highway System. All this while evidently being unable to follow simple instructions. No wonder.
I smiled calmly. "Taggart! I'm not paying you to stand there and pilfer my precious oxygen. Get moving!"
He blinked, and gave his wife a nod; I watched with mild interest as she opened her sewing basket and removed from it a miscellany of rococo torture devices. Taggart then plucked off his fedora and loosened his tie, and stepped towards me with hand outstretched. "Usually first thing is I check to see if they got a pulse."
"Dear Lord," I muttered, striking his old hand. "I don't recall giving you permission to touch me, Taggart. And I have an impeccable memory."
Let me expand on that. It is not that I have some sort of fear of disease, or obsession with cleanliness. That would be odd. No, it's a personal thing. Think about it. Touching is personal. After all: that thing being touched? That's me. Frankly it would be far more appropriate for you to touch fabric or fresh produce ... but no. So for those of you who have it in mind to put your thumb and fingers upon my wrist, well, you will have to explain to me what exactly you have done to deserve it.
Taggart: "Okay. How about you get down on all fours."
I rolled off the couch and assumed the position, slipping off my bikini briefs, as a courtesy, and folding them beside me.
Taggart did a quick look-see. "Bit of redness here," he said.
Some men are afraid of color. "The redness is to my liking." I've taken graphic arts classes.
He donned a lorgnette and leaned in, his wife manning the penlight. I could feel his dank breath. He'd been drinking.
Taggart: "Hmm ... you been taking poison? These here nodules look all wrong."
All wrong. Idiot. Patiently I said, "Is this the sort of ridiculous chit-chat you are accustomed to having with your ... 'clients'? Taggart?" And I let the silence linger there.
To no avail. And over the course of the next hour it seemed that not a single hair of me, not a freckle, not a scratch-spot or rash or bubo filled to bursting managed to escape the all-reaching grasp of his logorrhea. And later as I bid them a hurried adieu I reflected that, yes, I have squandered twenty dollars a time or two in my life. Many a time or two. But never so prolongedly.
And when the handwritten Cause of Death report arrived I gave it a responsible glance before discarding it with weary disdain. It wasn't merely been-there done-that. Frankly that has become a bit stale. It's this: who are you, Taggart, to on yellowed loose-leaf delineate the aches and pains and life-lessons of a man and condense them down into a dozen causes of death so jejune and overdone? The presumptuousness. I am the one who has been busily living the life whose sad demise you so flippantly distill.
Well. Got news for you, Taggart. I'm still kickin'.
But as to your question, reader: was I in fact edified? Of course I was. Learning is what I do. And I learned what I already knew yet needed an old couple from east of the mountains to remind me: that, no, I did not die on that day or on any day thereafter. But had I died ...
... I died of boredom.
English is the language of the Internet. But Spanish, too, has its place: Spanish is the language of adventure.
The history of the 7-11 corndog is a long and storied one. They were originally made in Texarkana in the '30's, and shipped around the world from that pretty part of the country. All-union and made of all-American beef, corn and parts wrapped around a stick of Mississippi Loblolly pine, 7-11 corndogs were a quick and convenient treat for Depression-era consumers.
Then we "won" the war. And comes the cost-cutting excitement of that time; and the plant was moved to Wahaca, Mexico. The recipe is changed, and our sweet corned pup is padded out with paraffin, fiber and human hair, and wages are set at twenty-five cents an hour.
More moves to come. Our savory friend flies to Hong Kong in '75, and is stripped of all corn and corn by-products (dog is added), and its little chefs are lucky to make a dime an hour on a good day.
The highlands of Vietnam. And ... making corndogs comforts the Hmong people because they are a starving people, and making corndogs puts them near food. So they do the work for no pay whatsoever, none.
And if you push a man and push a man until he begins to break, you may discover to your surprise that he stands up suddenly and cries: human hair? I ALREADY HAVE HUMAN HAIR. God damn you, 7-11. I decided to protest the WTO by blocking downtown traffic.
Next, finding a means to block traffic that would take into consideration my personal needs. I mean, I couldn't just block traffic with my body. My body's not suited for it. Maybe a car? Traffic is made of cars, so a car would be inconspicuous for such use. I borrowed a car for that but it was towed illegally I found out. Ah well, I sighed. Change requires sacrifice. I researched traffic-blocking options on the Internet.
Did you know that King County Metro has a website where you can block traffic simply by making selections on the on-screen map grid? So you can protest the WTO from home, saving time. I picked the intersection of 4th and Wall and some others and then clicked "BLOCK." But when I checked the next day, well, nothing.
See, this is exactly the sort of thing I would like to protest by blocking traffic ... but, gee, I guess I can't. Thanks, Metro. For nothing.
And I was sitting there one morning in my pajamas eating cereal when it struck me: eureka. I could block traffic the same way I could mow my lawn if I had one or make my bed if I did that: I could use illegal aliens.
I know what you're thinking. But if you're going to do something illegal like block traffic, you don't do it halfway. No one would take you seriously. "Legal" aliens? No way, José. Use the illegal kind.
I took an Internet Spanish-language course. Language comes natural to me. I know and can use all local patters and jargons (and that ain't no jive), and I learned html in less than a month. Spanish is elegant in design, and I had a fun time mastering it.
Next I paid a visit to the day-labor center down on Western and commissioned four of their illegals. I then marched them up to 4th and Wall and -- because effecting positive social change doesn't come naturally to some -- I gave them their specific instructions. "Buenos dios, protestores," I said by way of introduction. "Retarde la trafico! Now! Andante!"
They sort of looked at me, staring. Hmm. Maybe Spanish takes longer. Once again, then. "Obstruccion via su personas por trafico. Hasta!" And here I pointed.
The four of them conferred briefly, muttering in garbled Spanish. They looked at the traffic, my finger and me. FUCK, I thought. This is worse than waiting for the porn to download.
The nearest of them doffed his cap and held it in tremulous hands. "Kay?"
Who? Spanish! Even Spanish-speaking people can't understand it. I imagined them fumbling around on the Internet. They won't even be able to read this item.
Sigh. "Madre de auto robar El Diablo! (Mom's car was towed by the Bush Administration!) Por la perro a la maize! Viva!" And, using my laptop bag to block me from touching, I herded them patiently to their protest spots.
They were arrested -- I videotaped this from the sidewalk in case I needed to make an award-winning video about police brutality, but no -- and deported, I found out. Again, sacrifices.
And so it was done. And days passed. And the long nights ... and life made its weary way back to normal, as it will if we would only let it. And as I immersed myself in that busy enterprise called being very much alive I would sometimes find myself thinking about my valiant foursome. Where are you now, my friends? Wherever it is, I hope you didn't decide to give up Spanish. And I reflected on the irony of the fact that I never paid them. Cost-cutting ... eh, WTO?
And I was walking the avenues of my beloved city one day, taking notes and photographs and making recommendations where needed, when suddenly I espied, there on the corner, my old rival. Looking frankly a bit shabby, a bit old and beaten-down. Seemed sad in a way.
Something came over me -- call it impulse, an unspoken need, perhaps the hand of Change herself, that Muse so gentle you do not note her touch until she has departed -- and I marched right into that 7-11, plucked a corndog from under the warmer, flipped thirty-five cents onto the counter and took my purchase out into the sunny, sunny day.
Mmm. Crunchy ... chewy ... juicy good.
Muy delicioso, mi amigos, wherever you are. Muy delicioso.
I have always sought ways in which I might be a role model to today's teens without jeopardizing my trust fund. And a lot of people (some of them teens, I'll grant you) might recommend that I simply start with: a nice piercing. A dashing, handsome pierce, kept clean, positioned somewhere on the face where it could be shared. And certainly I realize that a piercing represents the very cutting edge of all that is radical in a young person, and I would very much like to be a part of that edge, leading the way.
But wait. I have danced with that partner. And she was, to put it kindly, an ungainly partner at best ...
I was out, of an autumn afternoon, staple-gunning my weekly anecdotes and items of interest to local utility poles, for the neighborhood. The staple-gun was defective, as fate would have it; and I ended up with a wicked tongue-piercing. Ouch? I should say so.
But I always think silver lining. And on the bus on the way to the Emergency Room I readied myself for the commendations on my fresh, through-and-through body-adornment, still healthy and unmarred by hideous jewelry. And it was on full display for my fellow travelers and then the nubile nursing assistants and their aides and the others.
But nothing. And I was reminded of that sad experience regarding Buddy Furly at the Three Bells last year. I was holding court quietly in the corner one night when in comes Furly sporting what he surely supposed would be the next cool thing: an eyeball piercing. Left eye, chrome Prince Albert stud, small gemstone of a pinkish hue to complement his natural hazel. And one and all agreed on the radicality of the thing, very much cutting edge, and he was commended for it for many days afterward naturally.
The problem? Cool though it was ... he could no longer get laid.
Poor man. And it affected his skate-boarding. So piercing's out. What about a tattoo?
Appealing ... but risky. Not that I'm afraid of risk. Needles, rough touching or the possible transmission of AIDS Disease are nothing compared to the personal risks I take every day confronting government and corporations in items of miscellany like this one. No, it's more about protecting my reputation. For example, let's say my tattoo is a witty epigram of my own design. But it turns out there's a typographical error in that tattoo. Teens who read would think me a fool, for the rest of my life. (Because of the permanent nature of tattoos.) Or what if some day I decide to get a vigorous massage, and my tattoo gets smeared? I would regret that massage for the rest of my life. Also, tattoo removal is done with lasers, which can blind. Clearly tattoos are not appropriate for my needs.
I have thought that I might simply claim to have a tattoo that I couldn't show anyone, because it's my PIN number. If someone asked if I had a tattoo, I would answer, "Of course. It's my PIN number." And they'd understand why they couldn't see it. But I don't have a PIN number.
And I was lying on the mattress one afternoon doing my exercises when it struck me: of course. I can simply have my Driver's License photograph tattooed.
I fantasized about the next time I got carded: people would really notice. Because no one argues with a Driver's License: it's an official document. People understand intuitively that if the government can certify your height and weight, then surely they can certify your tattoo. And I will acknowledge that I haven't been carded in almost thirty years, but things change. And a tattoo makes you look younger. Hello, radicality?
So, as to the License. I took an Internet Driver's Ed. course, and over the next six months managed to kick a little virtual driving ass. I sent them a certain amount of personal "information" along with a head shot, and two weeks later the license arrived.
I then phoned the Better Business Bureau and asked them to recommend a tattoo business, and was directed to Rudy's Tattoos, in trendy Ballard. I dropped in and met Rudy, and noticed that he himself was tattooed, and so was evidently comfortable with that, so I trusted him. I asked him in an off-hand manner what sort of tattoo would be quite cutting edge; he explained that most of the cutting edge kids get lizard tattoos. Who was I to argue? Lizard it was; and five minutes later, no photograph of me ever looked so bold. Then I had him pierce it for good measure.
And as I paid the man his money I thought: say. A driver's license is a government document, after all. So defacing it helps smash the state. There is a certain radicality in using trust fund money to partially destroy the system which created it. I couldn't wait to tell people.
That evening I ambled into the Three Bells and told them I wouldn't place my regular order until they had carded me. After all, I reminded them, that's the law; I threatened to call the police. I did in fact call the police, and when the officer arrived I asked him to card me. He did so, and then he placed me under arrest -- and when it came time for the formulaic pat-down I requested it be an "air" pat-down -- and I was taken down to County lock-up.
And there you have it, dear readers. Although the details of my three-day visit I will of course withhold, because they are private ones, suffice it to say that this has been the story -- with heroes and villains and tricks of fate -- of how I, Clark Hrumpher, got laid. You read right: got laid.
Now then. Role model ... teens?
It has long been my policy not to sell space here for advertisements. When an advertiser calls me wishing to place an ad in this space, that policy will change. Until then, rest assured that third parties will not intrude upon our time together.
But that doesn't mean I won't. And why shouldn't I? I am perfectly confident that any advertisement I devise for you will both please and engage. Yes, yes, I am aware that advertising is a daunting fusion of art and science and personal style. But I have spent a full and vigorous lifetime really focused on advertisements, and also I have looked extensively through my advertisement textbooks, whose dictums, I noticed, were correct.
An effective advertisement melds these abiding principles:
1: LOUD SELLS. Let's say you wanted to lead by example. What would you do? Be loud, of course. Otherwise no one would know that you are leading ... they wouldn't even know who you are. Be loud, and once you have their notice you can lead them, by example, and sell product to them if that is the way in which you wish to do so.
2: RED SELLS. Blood everywhere. You notice, immediately. Why? Red, that's why. It's the color of fire trucks, and we are imprinted by our schools and our courts to notice them and move out of their way, and if they were to be selling something, well, they already have our attention.
3: SEX SELLS. It's not clear why sex sells. It could be because of advertising, or the courts. Psychiatriasts are working on this. All we really know, as of this writing, is that sex -- the look-feel of sex, the idea of it -- attracts attention and sells product.
And now I would like to introduce my new fragrance for men.
As soon as I receive my first 10,000 orders I will contact a perfumery and commission a fragrance for this. I know you will like it.
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