September 1997
s m u g
smoking jacket
by Jack Smith

Playing by the Rules

Lately, I've been sitting in my apartment sucking down 20 piece McNugget's like they're going out of style. After sating myself I like to ponder my favorite celebrity double-team fantasy (Mira Sorvino and Jodi Foster on the reference desk of the New York Public Library, if you're counting) while trying to fill the hole left in my heart with the passing of Dr. Carl Sagan. One day I was making a list of every woman I've ever had sex with when I realized that the number ended in a fraction. More disturbing than that was my revelation that I had an obsession for making lists. Now, I have these little epiphanies all the time. I usually lack the will or the proper medical training to fix them but this one was different. I embraced my obsession. (As the frequent reader of this column knows, this is the point where the "wackiness ensues.")

Because I have such a poor memory, I'm constanly writing these lists down. Occasionally I'll run across a receipt from Target with my scribbling on the back:

-Eat more fish
-Learn to calf rope
-Don't be such a freak
(That last one was crossed out.)

The one list that I've had for years is Jack's Rules for Living, a collection of misjudgements and gross generalizations that renders obsolete the bumper sticker "God is my co-pilot." My friends often ask me to recount them. Unfortunately, I'm not sure where they see the humour in them. But being laughed at for my misguided take on things is an easier laugh than, say, farting the alphabet, so I usually oblige.

This list has taken on quite a meaning for me. It's my I Ching, Meetings With Remarkable Men, and Mickey Mantle rookie card all rolled into one. I have a feeling that this could come to be regarded by the undergraduate mentality as more important than On The Road, The Bell Jar, or even the butterfly flick. As a one time hipster, a chronic note taker and one of the few people who still pathetically think the words, "I saw Mudhoney before Superfuzzbigmuff even came out" actually mean something, I think I've earned the indy cred to dispense meaningful advice to the young. I'm killing two birds with one stone here to be perfectly frank, simultaneously justifying a freakish habit with passing my legacy of hard fought wisdom to the youth of today. So here it is in no particular order. Everything that I have learned in my entire life. Written by me for possibly the 357th time and put forth on the IN-ternet for all the world to see.

1. Never trust anyone who uses the word "party" as a verb. This practice worked it's way into our collective vernacular in the days of the heavy metal parking lot. I'm the first one to pipe in with a dated reference but, I'm sorry people. The day Joey Belladonna left Anthrax was the day "party" lost verb status.

2. Never go to a party (noun) on a boat. This is common sense but this proverb goes well beyond the thought that if the party sucks you can't leave. It would be my luck to end up on the Lusitania with a would be William Randolph Hearst and get tossed into the drink for trying to bag his aspiring starlet du jour. I don't really want my life story ending with, "Didn't Natalie Wood fall off a boat, too?"

3. Never date a girl who hates her father./Never date a boy who hates his mother. No explanation necessary.

4. Don't proffer sympathy to the mentally ill. It is a bottomless pit. I stole that one from Burroughs. The mentally ill suck the life out of me like nobodies business and I try to avoid them. I was once stuck in an office for a year and a half with a guy who wore urban cammo and was so paranoid that after about six months I started varying my route home and I swear I could occasionally hear the whirring of the black helicopters employed by the government to spy on me. I still haven't gotten over that.

5. Avoid people who live in a home that has more than two cats per person. Cats are weird. I don't care what anyone else says. And a high cat to people ratio changes the personality of every human who spends more than three hours a week with them. The times I've spent around a bunch of cats have made me jumpy and their constant cleaning ritual just rubs in the fact that I'd be so much happier if I could only lick myself.

6. If you're going to shoot someone famous, plan an escape route. Otherwise you'll end up like Jack Ruby, John Hinkley, and Squeaky Fromme. The modern day Travis Bickle needs to be smart enough to know that he doesn't want to be sitting in the pokey and see his neighbor on the news beginning a sentence with the phrase, "He always kept to himself."
(As a side note, when you actually commit the murder you should carry a copy of Catcher in the Wry by Bob Uecker, in the off chance that you do get caught. That'll keep 'em wondering for years.)

7. Never see a movie starring Bette Midler. Lemme see... what were those circles of hell again? Give you a hint, the last two were First Wives Club and Beaches.

Okay, so it's a short list. Now that I read over it it's closer to something you'd see in a Dorf on Life video but that's it. The world is full of child molestors and cardboard box salesmen and if just one morsel from my list helps just one young person avoid those bad people, then <earnestness> I've done my job. </earnestness> One final bit of advice - No matter what the asian philosophers tell you, never get rid of your ego. I've read too much zen and while not completely rid of my desires, they're a little less prominent and overcoming as they once were. And nobody wants that. As good an idea as it is on paper, living the Tao isn't that much fun. There's no excitement in a life of enlightenment. Stay arrogant and ignorant.

Oh, yeah, I almost forgot one... any sitcom involving men dressing like women, no matter how bad, will be a hit. Ohhhh - that's a good one. I gotta write that down.



back to the junk drawer

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