Sunday, February 27, 2011

MY FUNERAL WILL BE AWESOME



My funeral, if these instructions are followed, will be awesome. Please pay attention.

1. All living things die, so I suspect I will as well. (This is reasonable to assume, right? I'm pretty sure it's incredibly rare for something to keep going forever. I can't think of any documented cases off the top of my head. So let's just stick with the assumption that everything dies. For the sake of argument.) In the case that I do die, which is probable, I want my body roped off for at least twelve hours. If I drop dead on the sidewalk, for example, I would like a team to rush to the scene, and set up a series of ropes around my corpse, at lease six feet away on all sides. Those velvety ropes on brass stands would be perfect for this. The kind that are used to make lines at movie theaters and horrible bars.

With my body crumpled in a heap on the ground, separated from other humans, it will be a nice time to reflect on personal space, and how nice it is when people aren't all up in your business. Passersby will think "at least in death, he finally had a few hours when he wasn't being bumped against or squeezed past or forced to hug someone."

2. In the top left drawer of the wide dresser in my apartment, there is a kilt. Find that, and stow it somewhere safe. It will come into play later. Do not dress me in any of the fine clothes or fashionable garments in my home. Whatever I am wearing at the time of departure-from-this-mortal-coil will be acceptable. I should be lain out across a stone slab of some sort, fully clothed. (Hopefully my glasses will still be intact. I would like to keep wearing them throughout the process. Not that I will need them, but I become an unrecognizable mole person when they are removed, and I would like for the bereaved and grieving to recognize me through their tears.) All those who have ever met me will be in attendance at this point, as I am well-loved and much admired.

After I am on this stone slab, someone should solemnly approach, hold a gong in the air, and ring it once, shouting "THE FUNERAL HAS BEGUN!" This person should be wearing a robe of some kind. Not a cloak. A ROBE. Perhaps a mask. It can be a hired actor. Actually, that's preferable, as long as auditions don't go on for too long. The mask should be something unsettling. I want people to be on their toes.



At the masked actor's announcement, the funeral will begin.

3. Not knowing what will eventually "do me in" means that I will have to trust you, dear reader, to exercise some improvisation. For example, if this stone slab is indoors, the bonfire will have to be further away from my corpse, so as not to interfere with fire codes. If it is outside, the fireworks may begin much earlier. Improvisation is fine as long as the spirit of the thing is observed. I trust you. Don't let me down.

4. At this point, the bagpipes begin. Four men will play DON'T STOP ME NOW by QUEEN. They should be Real Men, with hairy knuckles and smelling like corned beef and football turf. If one of them has too much to drink, this is acceptable. The man beside him will have to help prop up this fellow from time to time, and the bourbon on his breath will be pungent. This is all perfectly acceptable. While they are playing, everyone in attendance will line up, and pay their respects, one by one. The men will leave small tokens around me, such as pocketknives, or vintage presidential campaign buttons. The women will weep, and their tears will be collected in a silver chalice, carried by a registered nurse. No one should spend too much time admiring my corpse. Courtesy shall be enforced. In the case of a fatal headwound, I will allow a bandana to be lain across the gore, as long as part of my face is still visible. (This is the last chance people will have to admire me; we musn't deny them that.) As the line comes to a close, my "pall bearers" will gather the items left by men, the chalice of tears, and the aforementioned kilt, and be escorted to the nearest exotic dance club by the bagpipers. Several women of strong arm and backs will carry me on their shoulders to the same strip club, following the men at least six paces behind, as is custom among civilized peoples.

5. At the strip club, a LORD OF THE FLIES scenario will begin, where my "pall bearers" will struggle for dominance among the other male patrons and staff (except the DJ, who may remain safe in his booth). Weapons are allowed. When an Alpha Male is determined, and this could go on for days, all other men must leave. I suspect at this point he will be in a near-feral state, wearing war paint and possibly a makeshift headband. In total silence, and under the strange and likely nauseating neon lights of the gentleman's establishment, the Alpha Male will arrange my corpse in whatever manner he sees fit. The gifts and tokens will be arranged as well, and the kilt will be lain across everything; a tartan shroud that smells vaguely of old closets. The strippers will have watched this since the very beginning. His testosterone at this point will be so overwhelming, it will no doubt provoke ovulation among these women. In years to come, the babies born of this Alpha Male's seed (as he will certainly take all the strippers as wives) will be known as "Cox Funeral People". They will be a genetic strain unto themselves, eventually settling on a volcanic island and shunning the modern world.



6. With my body prepared, the Alpha Male will nod to the DJ, who will begin playing SEXXX LAWS by Beck. My corpse will be soaked in Jameson Whiskey, and lit aflame. A torch if available, but anything will do. The kilt is old and the wool is going to make excellent kindling. As my body burns, the strippers will wail and rend their garments (assuming they have any on). It will be strictly Old Testament. Gnashing of teeth and everything. This burning will take many days, until I am nothing left but char. The doors will have to be barred, and I imagine an altercation with a SWAT team might occur before the process is complete.

7. My ashes should be ground into a paste, mixed with the tears of the female mourners, and used by the Alpha Male to paint and decorate the bodies of his new stripper wives. When this is complete, he will collapse, exhausted from days of fighting and impregnating and tending to my remains, fueled only by booze and primal urges. The attendees at the earlier procession will have a vague idea who this was, but will never speak of it. The Alpha Male will fade into obscurity, along with the actor who began the ceremony. (After a few failed auditions, he realized that he wasn't going anywhere, and the best he could hope for would be infrequent local commercials.) Those who attended my funeral will be given polaroids of the strippers painted in my ashes, taken by the DJ, to remember me by. It is all over, except for one last thing...

8. Everyone goes to Hawaii!




My funeral will be awesome.

ALKA-SELTZER (in three parts)



1. I have discovered a thing. No one before me has known it. I have found it all by myself, and I am the first person to bring it down from the mountain. The world started the day I was born and ends at the edge of my vision. I discovered this thing all on my own. I deserve a medal or a ribbon. Someone get me my medal. Or ribbon.


2. Dear Planet Earth. I am angry that you waited until I was 34 before you let me know the benefits of the product Alka-Seltzer. I am so mad at you over this. I blame you. Even though this product has been popular for decades, and has one of the catchiest and most famous jingles of the television era, it has never occurred to me that this is something I should buy and use with regularity. There are too many people on this planet for there to be an excuse. Every time I woke up with a headache and a tummyache, someone should have told me there was an answer. Someone should have told me. This should be common knowledge. There is a fundamental flaw in the universe that this miracle cure for all-that-ails-you was not given to me sooner. So many wasted years...

3. When you are the type of person that drinks too much and eats too much, chances are that you feel like shit at least a few hours daily. Rich food and strong drink are the enemies of delicate human machines. Being a model of sobriety and healthy living, I only know of this second-hand, but it seems many people, after a night of libation, have salved themselves with an early morning cocktail of mylanta, pepto bismol, advil, aspirin, coffee, and several pints of water. This is breakfast, when you live a horrible lifestyle. Or so I have heard. I wouldn't know first-hand. I have healthiness.

Apparently, Alka-Seltzer has been around for decades, but no one bothered to tell me about it until the last six months (see number 2). So it seems that there have been entire decades of drunks and reprobates who have soothed the wounds of a long night's revelry with a familiar plop-plop and fizz-fizz. I was surprised and delighted to also find that this product can also help people with clean, sin-free lives. It just makes you feel good, no matter how deep in the devil drink you may wallow.

Without doing any research at all, I have determined that Alka-Seltzer is aspirin or something, with a magic potion that makes it fizzy. It turns water into something that smells like a YMCA, and tastes like hospital. I encourage everyone to keep a few tablets stowed on the old utility belt. Whether you are in the murky, pukey haze of a hangover, or maybe just after eating a jalapeno and sauerkraut sandwich, Alka-Seltzer has been getting pudgy middle-aged dudes through the working day since the 1700s*.

Alka-Seltzer is awesome.




*right?

Saturday, February 5, 2011

FLEUR-DE-LIS



The fleur-de-lis first came into your Humble Narrator's brain as a young lad, as it was (and remains) the worldwide emblem of the Scout movement. It was on patches and banners, and in the 1980s edition of the BOY SCOUT HANDBOOK, there was a full-page spread of all the many variations of the Scout emblem used by different countries of the world. Each one was different, and several were amazing, like the one from Thailand which featured a screaming tiger face prominently in the center.

This was my introduction into the world of symbology. Being raised Cumberland Presbyterian (a church rooted in eschewing higher education for clergy, and dropping old-world formalities as it crept into Appalachia), I was not familiar with the iconography of Catholicism, and my father was not a Freemason nor an Oddfellow, so that particular strain of Arcana was not readily available to me. Without Chi Rhos or Squares and Compasses in my life, I was delighted and surprised to find that occasionally, abstract forms mean something beyond the immediate and obvious. (Rosicrucians and Catharine Wheels loomed on the horizon, ready to break my eager brain.)

The fleur-de-lis, in the instance of Scouting, represented the north point on the mariner's compass. It directed us towards something meaningful to follow, always pointing to a higher ideal. The trefoil of leaves represented the three points of the scout oath, and the shape was that of a flower, representing nature, but also an arrowhead, which hearkened back to the Native Americans and Zulu Tribesmen, from whom Scouting took much of its lore and inspiration. When the icons of the U.S. were laid across the top (making it a symbol for the Boy Scouts of America, complete with eagles and stars and scrolls and knots), the layers became thicker and more convoluted. It was amazing. It was a set of secret things to memorize and study, and even though the Scouting movement only started in the 1900s, it seemed ancient, like finding the wisdom of Babylonia written on a scroll.

Of course, the fleur-de-lis is, in actuality, quite ancient, and as I grew older, it began to appear more and more in my various hobbies and obsessions. In learning about religious traditions, it shows up in ancient Catholicism (that strange, polytheistic cult where Symbols-with-a-capital-S are so well beloved). The three foils of the fleur-de-lis represent the Holy Trinity, and the resemblance to a flower has attached it to Mary, and her famous virginity. An interest in medieval weapons led to antiquated armor, and then on to heraldry, where the fleur-de-lis pops up frequently, complete with the bad-assery inherent in being painted on a tower shield. It appears as the symbol of many European countries and Great Houses, but particularly France, where it reminds us of that stretch in history where the French were a full-throttle world power, regularly putting England across their plate-mailed knee and spanking Her little bottom. Through France the fleur-de-lis traveled to Louisiana, becoming the totem of that state, and while I hold no special love in my heart for New Orleans, I do root for the Saints, and much enjoy the spastic (yet Championship winning) stylings of quarterback Drew Brees.



Aside from the historical and religious connotations, the fleur-de-lis is simply a great piece of design. It is symmetrical without being dull, and florid without being busy. Very few symbols make good patterns, while also standing alone as a single icon, but the fleur-de-lis has been used as both, and serves both well. It can incredibly ornate, or simplified down to the stark essentials, and is possibly only rivaled by the Crucifix for sheer amount of variations on the core concept. In architecture, it has been used as finials or frieze motifs, and in street art it makes an excellent stencil. It is a near-perfect design element in terms of flexibility of use, and the infinite ways it can be distorted and replicated, while still being recognizable. Ultimately, no matter how it is used, or how it is modified, it always remains rife with the semiotic richness it has acquired over the past several thousand years.

The fleur-de-lis is awesome.