The IMF Good-As-Gold Card

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Dear Third World Dictator or Corrupt, Impotent Figurehead of a Failed Pseudo-Democracy:

Not everyone deserves the IMF Good-As-Gold Card. It’s designed especially for nations that know how to make other people responsible for their debts. Nations that know spending other people’s money is always spending wisely. Nations with a timely, regular record of complete nonpayment. It’s these special nations, like your own, that deserve to be pre-approved and pay less for the card that never stops giving.

Our rate is the lowest in the known universe: a negative 6.9% APR. That’s right — simply by acquiring our card you will start earning money, because any outstanding loans will decrease at the rate of 6.9% a year until Bono manages to convince everyone they should be wiped off the books. And you can be certain that this rate will never change, regardless of changes in the Prime Rate, the global market, or the structure of reality itself.

Your credit line is limited only by Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle and by your ability to add a string of zeros to the right of a “1” (if you haven’t yet mastered this essential skill of international finance, our trained advisors will be only too glad to show you how).

A credit line of this magnitude allows you to buy what you want when you want it. What is your country’s main need? Transportation (new Mercedes for mistress)? Education (singing coach for mistress)? Infrastructure (facelift for mistress)? Health (penicillin shots for mistress)? Whatever it may be, you’ll find that the IMF Good-As-Gold Card opens a whole world of spending possibilities for you.

With an APR this low, you can save by transferring your countless smaller bad loans into one gigantic consolidated bad loan. Why go through the monthly hassle of defaulting on all those nickel-and-dime debts when you can default on one easy, unimaginably large debt?

Unlike many other gold cards, which charge an annual fee of up to $75, the IMF Good-As-Gold Card has no annual fee. In fact, we’ll pay you $75 million right now just to take it.

Even better are the IMF Good-As-Gold Card’s many other benefits. For instance, our Emergency Next-Day Credit Line Two-For-One Policy, which automatically doubles your credit limit if your card is lost or stolen. And you can call our 24-hour Customer Service Center for help at any time to hear a prerecorded message from Bono about the importance of spending money like a drunken sailor. If it’s an emergency, you can also speak directly to an actual IMF Good-As-Gold Card representative about the vital need to spend money like there’s no tomorrow.

So be sure to take advantage of this extraordinary pre-approved and eternally non-rescindable offer today. An insanely low negative 6.9% APR. A credit line higher than Madonna’s hem. Guaranteed savings that will continue until the heat death of the universe. And the kind of service only a highly motivated, lifelong bureaucratic corps can offer. What does it all add up to? A card only certain nations deserve: The IMF Good-As-Gold Card.

Sincerely,

Daniel P. Frothenmouth

Marketing Manager

International Monetary Fund

P.S. You deserve more, so call now for your pre-approved IMF Good-As-Gold Card with no annual fee (except to the American taxpayer) and a negative 6.9% APR. Please take a moment right now to fill out and return the attached Bank-So-Big-It-Must-Not-Fail Acceptance Agreement, along with the Debt-So-Large-It-Can-Never-Be-Repaid Waiver of Responsibility. Or you could just wait a while. After all, if Bono has his way, this special offer will never expire.

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Clarifying My Relationship

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Last year I married a very nice lady, developed a relationship with her 22-year-old daughter from a previous marriage, divorced the very nice lady because of philosophical differences, had a child with her 22-year-old daughter, and then was at a loss for words, for I was caught in a mysterious web of undefined relationship titles.

My new child, a daughter, was certainly my daughter, I don’t deny that, but wasn’t she also my grand-step-daughter, since she was the daughter of my step-daughter? Or did the step-daughter rule not apply since I had already divorced the very nice lady who was the mother of the step-daughter, thereby nullifying all relationship titles associated with that key central relationship? And what was I supposed to call the mother of my new daughter, the 22-year-old, whom I had not married nor even dated? She wasn’t my wife or girlfriend, but calling her my step-daughter from a previous marriage seemed a bit, I don’t know, square.

To get myself out of this embarrassing headache I married the 22-year-old daughter, who was the mother of my new zero-year-old daughter, formerly called my grand-step-daughter. I say formerly because when a man and a woman get married and produce a baby girl, the baby girl is called the daughter, case closed, right? All previous relationships involved in producing the baby girl go out the door, right? For clarity, that’s what I’m assuming. Also, the 22-year-old daughter of my ex-wife, my step-daughter, was now also my wife, which I decided must supercede all other relationship titles.

I rested easy for a few minutes after the wedding, kicking off my dress shoes in the back of a Lincoln as we rode to the airport, thinking I had finally sorted out these relationship titles. My “wife” and I had a new baby “daughter,” I thought, smiling slowly at the image of this perfectly nuclear family I had helped create. We would grow up together in a quiet cul-de-sac, with other families such as ours living next door, shooting free throws on our driveway in the afternoon, watching office-based sitcoms in the evening, and erasing our Internet cache at night. It would be so perfect.

Then it struck me: Since the title of wife supercedes all other titles, what about my ex-wife, the very nice lady? Sure, we divorced because of philosophical differences, but the fact remains that she was my wife, and it was through her that I met my new wife, her 22-year-old daughter. If the divorce nullifies all relationship titles associated with the key central relationship, in this case my marriage to the very nice lady, then my relationship with the very nice lady’s 22-year-old daughter, my step-daughter, would have also been nullified. She was just a 22-year-old woman then, and not anything else. I began thinking that I had got married for nothing.

Then I remembered having this same thought well before getting married to the 22-year-old daughter. Look back a few paragraphs if you don’t believe me, for this thought is well documented. It seems I may have acted too hastily, though, because here I am now, with a gold band around my finger, telling the whole world I got married because I had to when I didn’t necessarily have to. I mean, why didn’t I just slow down a bit, think it through, and realize that the key central relationship here, the marriage, affects everything only when the marriage is intact. This makes sense, right? What I’m saying is clear and logical, right, and I’m just a few paces ahead of the crowd on this whole matter, aren’t I? This doesn’t all loop around backwards and end up in nonsensical circle of rhetoric, does it?

Because if so, if I married my 22-year-old non-wife and non-girlfriend just so she would become my wife so that I could mentally supercede the only other title she had in my mind, as a step-daughter from a previous marriage, then that would seem a bit, I don’t know, square.

Then again, wouldn’t you be caught in a nonsensical circle of rhetoric too if your ex-wife was now your mother-in-law?

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Los Perros Bravos!
or, Death At Teatime
(With No Apologies Whatsoever To Ernest Hemingway)

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At the first dogfight I ever attended I expected to be horrified and sickened by what I had heard would happen to the horses. I had been told that what happened to the horses would make me cry and spit up like a nino (little child), even though I am not a nino. What happened to the horses, I had been warned, would make my nalgas (buttocks) quiver like those of a maricon (fairy), even though I am not a maricon. I am an hombre (man). Un hombre mucho macho (very masculine) con muchos cojones (many testicles). I lost one or two cojones in the War, but that is another story which is neither here nor there and I will not tell it to you. I will only mention the War in such a way that you will know I was in it, and then I will tell you what I know of the dogfights in Madrid in the spring when the air is clean and cool and an hombre may drink four bottles of wine and only pay for three, for there is no place on earth like Madrid in the spring and the only dogfights worth seeing happen in Madrid and the only time they are worth seeing is in the spring. Comprende?

I had heard about the horses (los caballos we call them in Spain), about the tragedy of their suffering in the plaza de perros (the dog ring to you turistas). I was delighted to discover that nothing more happens to the horses than happened to me during the War. They are merely disemboweled, and the disemboweling is done so cleanly and so coolly and with such an air of good humor that one cannot help but smile as one smiled at the Kaiser. It is the exact opposite of tragedy to see the horses trot into the ring with the picadors on their backs dressed in bright red polka-dot costumes and wearing red rubber noses and carrying pickaxes, and then to see the picadors swing their picks into one another’s horses and the suddenly red horses falling on their riders and the picadors all killed or maimed in a way that makes everyone smile, some of them crushed instantly, others left to die in the sand from their concussions, for that is the sort of thing that happens to one if one happens to be a picador or a horse in Madrid in the spring. Madrid, by the way, is the best place to see the dogfights, unless you wish to go the extra distance to Valencia, where the air is cleaner and so cool that you will have to wear your mittens and the water is so clear that you can see through it and even the natives will bathe in it if you hold a gun to their heads and smile. The dogfights in Valencia make the dogfights in Madrid look like a slumber party for interior decorators.

After the picadors and the horses have been carried off by an honor guard of bastardos (favorite sons), the dogfight begins in earnest. The Spanish, by the way, have no word equivalent to our dogfight, and refer to the event as la corrida de perros (literally, a running of dogs, or in Cuba, running dog lackeys of the imperialist stooges).

The band plays a march, and very badly, too, and the three doggieadors (dog killers) enter the ring wearing red rubber pants and the little tri-cornered hats folded from yesterday’s newspapers. If the music is happy they skip gaily around the arena while the crowd shouts its approval and throws botellas (bottles); otherwise, if the music is sad, they hold hands solemnly and approach the presidential box, where el presidente jabs each one in the eye with his forefinger and calls them hijos de putas, a term of such respect that I will not translate it for you. Temporarily blinded, the doggieadors stagger to the center of the ring, each crying “Mi ojo! Mi ojo!” (my eye, my eye!). The blinding is mainly symbolic of the Inquisition and, to a lesser extent, of God’s pact with Abraham, but it is also meant to even the chances between man and dog at the Moment of Truth.

The dog, meanwhile, has been kept in complete isolation prior to the fight. His teeth have been cleaned, his coat trimmed, and his cojones tied off with twine to give him more of an edge. Only a cowardly doggieador, a real schoolgirl, will fight an immature or sickly or ill-bred dog. The ideal fighting animal is a pure-blooded adult Chihuahua standing a full seven or eight inches at the shoulders and showing nails at least half an inch long. It is true that in certain towns, like Valencia, the authorities have given in to the public outcry from fairies and ballerinas and dogfighting is no longer the manly art it once was. In such places they fight Chihuahuas whose nails have been clipped to almost nothing and the doggieadors wear hard hats instead of the traditional paper hats, thus entirely avoiding the Moment of Truth. But that is only in Valencia, where the toughest hombre in town could not beat up your grandmother and you would have to beat her up yourself. For a real dogfight, the kind your grandmother knew, you must go all the way to Seville, where the air is so clean you can bathe in it and so cool that you can walk around all day with a block of ice on your head and the ice will not melt and the putas will charge you less because they can count only as many pesos as they have fingers. The dogfights in Seville make the dogfights in Valencia look like a petting zoo full of tranquilized hamsters.

When the doggieadors have partially recovered their eyesight and are moaning quietly to themselves, a muchacho (little bastard) lights the firecracker that has been tied to the dog’s tail. The explosion scares everyone, especially the dog, who will run in circles trying to bite what’s left of his tail. Before he knows what has happened the dog’s antics have brought him to the doggieadors, who by this time have got to their feet and are trying to skip gaily around the arena once more, but the heartiness has gone out of it and they know it.

The dog advances with a death growl rumbling deep in its throat. The doggieadors freeze in their tracks and suddenly the crowd is very, very still. No one breathes. The Moment of Truth is at hand. With a fierce, primitive cunning, the Chihuahua licks the feet of one of the dog killers, and says, “Yip!” In two shakes of a tall tale, the three doggieadors have skewered the dog on their fencing foils and are roasting him over the fire that has just broken out in the stands. “Chinga tu madre!” yells the crowd (roughly, honor thy mother). The doggieadors respond good-naturedly with “Besa mi huevos!” (kiss my eggs, or in this context, our eggs, the eggs of all good citizens).

And so it is over at last and you feel very fine and the bottles are empty and your pockets have been picked and the dog is dead. Is it right? Is it wrong? Who knows? I know only that what is moral is what you feel good after and what is immoral is what you feel bad after and judged by these moral standards the dogfight is very moral to me because I feel very fine while it is going on and have a feeling of life and death and mortality and immortality and solvency and insolvency, and after it is over I feel very sad but also very fine and dandy. That’s when I can put the gun to my head and smile and say to the world, “Besa mi huevos!”

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Garage Sales

By:
ernstluchs@gmail.com

Who can pass up a garage sale? I know I can’t. Mostly they’re just tangled heaps of useless junk which no one without serious mental problems would want. Yet, everything I have was purchased or stolen at garage sales. It used to be that only gypsies or Scotsmen would dare to be seen picking through piles of rags and button boxes. Nowadays, even the very rich will pick diligently through piles of rags and button boxes, pausing only to raise a monocle and inquire, “Is this Scotsman really for sale?”

The garage sale is a tradition which goes back to long before the invention of the garage. In the Elizabethan Age, noblemen and peasants alike would gather under brightly colored tents to barter:

“I will give you this fine goose for that old Gutenberg Bible.”

“Nay, this is a signed original, the only one of its kind. I will not part with it for less than two fine geese.”

“‘Tis a pity I have but one goose. But take a gander at yon maiden. I offer you the hand of my daughter, if such be fair trade.”

“What? My Gutenberg Bible for that? Surely you jest!”

“Nay, do her looks startle you? ‘Tis but the pox, which soon will pass. Let us bandy no more. Take my offer, oh merchant of Venice.”

“Oh, fudge! Behold, while we have haggled your goose has laid waste to my wares. Begone with your goose and your geek daughter! I don’t know what came over me, wanting to sell this rare first edition for a couple of smelly birds.”

Truly, Gutenberg would have rolled over in his grave. Except for a few plague years, the Renaissance fairs were so successful that they soon surpassed in popularity other social gatherings such as witch burnings and hangings.

After the invention of the garage, some aspects of the sales changed. It became harder to find a rare first edition and it became harder to get the owner to part with it at an absurdly low price. But bargains can still be found today. A friend of mine recently bought an antique milk pail for five dollars. Unknown to the previous owner, inside the pail were five long-lost copies of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The scrolls made a unique decoupage covering for the outside of the pail, with enough left over to do a suitcase and a lunch box.

A number of art objects are rediscovered at garage sales. If it hasn’t been used as a dart board or a place mat for too many years, an old master can go for millions at auction. I once finagled a painting away from widow woman in Missouri. I thought it was a Rembrandt. She thought it was a Van Dyke. In fact, she did have a genuine Van Dyke, but that was on her chin (and not for sale). I told her, “You know, I like this old Schickelgruber. I’ll give you a few bucks for it. What do you say?”

The old lady parted with it very reluctantly and only on the condition that I call her once a week to tell her how it was doing. I called her a week later and said, “Hey, I just sold your painting for ten million bucks. How about that?”

She’s probably still standing there in Missouri with the telephone glued to her ear. I was only joking at the time, but the real joke was on me because the painting was a Rockwell, not a Rembrandt. I couldn’t get more than four million for it.

Garage sales mean very many things to very many people and very few things to a few other people. Even a couple of other people that I forgot to mention before have some kind of opinion about sales in general. But don’t let them boggle you. Follow my example. Wherever there’s a stack of old newspapers, a bushelful of chipped procelain or a lampstand made out of petrified French bread, that’s where I’ll be. Unless I’m somewhere else.

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