On Having a Calling

Delightful seeing you, laddie buck. Do sit down. Would you like a drink? Feel free to help yourself. I presume you are somewhere you can do so, hah-ha. No danger to my own, more valuable, liquor supply, as it were. Libation in hand now? A sporting dog nearby, perhaps?  They help to keep the blood pressure down, you know, but that’s nihil ad rem. To business. The time has come to talk about how you are going to earn your living in the modern world.

Dash it all, that was thoughtless of me to spring it on you unawares. Now you’ve spilled some of your drink. Five second rule, you know, applies to sucking expensive scotch out of carpeting. Better? Now don’t be so afraid. You knew someday you would come face to face with this problem. You’re nearly six feet tall; you can’t go on pretending to be a jockey. So what, pray tell, will you pretend to be?

Good god, man. You didn’t think I meant you actually had to work, did you? Are you sure you’re cut out for this life? You seem, pardon my candor, but you seem rather witless. That five second rule for scotch, for instance, was actually a joke. I’d have stopped you but I was interested in your gusto for the project.

Never mind. We must decide what it is you will spend the next several years pretending to be. Here are the best options, and believe me, generations have gone into refining this list. You do not want to choose this time to be creative. You may select among the following:

1) Raffish, bold, sensitive, jaded writer

2) Cultured, alcoholic, sensitive, paranoiac artist

3) Suave and vaguely effeminate confidence trickster

4) Uber-suave and openly homosexual (while secretly a roaring heterosexual) masked adventurer

5) Consummately suave gentleman thief

6) Ridiculously suave serial killer

So, you see, although there are only six opportunities it provides a wide range.

Being a writer is an excellent choice for those who aspire to be distinguished modern gentlemen but unfortunately possess repugnant personalities, no fashion sense, a dead palate, a tin ear, and a complete lack of rhythm. Your story is that you have abandoned all your earlier work. Yes, you were published. You wrote under a pen name and made a bloody fortune but the art wasn’t there; you felt like an odorous hack, a foul, punk pretender to success. You have chosen to chuck it all, to free yourself from your cack-handed success so you may explore the language anew with a fresh voice. You dare not even divulge the name under which you wrote, lest the drab commercial part of you come thundering back, insistent with its need for yet another Porsche, when all you’ve ever really wanted was a used Bentley and a proud Asian to drive you around in it.

No matter how horrible and unpersonable a cad you might be, if you claim to be a writer then you will enjoy the part of society’s magical sauce which ensures that other people are therefore fascinated and inclined to protect and nurture you. This is probably just as well. We’d have long since run out of writers otherwise.

But now there is a dalliance which requires my attention, so we defer discussion of the other callings for another time. I’ll let you find your way out, if I may.

Yr obt svt,


Welcome back, my own true loving friend, and as we were just saying yesterday, today is all about discovering your past. Not your true past.  While doubtless wonderful enough, your rise from behind the barbecue counter in Soso, Mississippi may not provide the social heft to propel you onward to the haughtiest of haunts and the hoitiest of toits. No, we want to discuss the past you must create from whole cloth, or (ideally) manipulate others to create on your behalf.

Because everyone has access to the Intermesh these days one might assume that it is nearly impossible to keep one’s past a secret. I admit it was certainly easier back in the days before computing machines, but that doesn’t mean it is impossible now. First, you must accept that meddlers will probably learn all there is to be learned by checking the usual sources. Let them. It simply does not matter. If you are prepared to throw yourself into the role wholeheartedly then nothing anyone ever says can really challenge your right to sit among a sea of ascots and monocles. For the past you create is a secret past, filled with mysteries you are pledged to protect. That past is secure from inquiry because a) you have always taken great caution to keep it hidden, and b) it is complete hogwash.

Observe as one handles threat of exposure and disgrace.

“I say, sir, I have taken the liberty of looking you up and I find that you are an ordinary bloke from Baby Head, Texas where your parents live and operate a gravy storage facility to this very day. I declare you a rogue pretending to gentility, sir. A mountebank, I name you.”

You grimace, rise, and in a cold controlled voice you say, “I congratulate the gentleman on using his considerable secretarial skill to learn what is freely available to anyone who bothers to look. I have never hidden my name or my background. I honor my mother greatly, and it does you no good service, sir, to tarnish her reputation by referring to the man she married as my father. Have you no decency? She was a simple country woman, unused to the world. How could she refuse the attentions of the prince…” the guests around you gasp, “…but I have said too much. As have you. Tread further on the honor of my mother and I shall use this same hand with which I have just been pleasuring your wife beneath the table to cut your heart out.”

“I am stricken with remorse, sir. I did not know. Please forgive my appalling behavior.”

Like a good gentleman you do, but now everyone is talking. “A bastard!” they say, and you are set. You need never name the man whose throw you are pretending to be. Bastards have always enjoyed great favoritism at court and among the worldly and decolleté company.

Too, bastards are permitted a boldness of language which is envied by all, particularly those at the greatest heights of nobility who are forced to abjure such language in public for the sake of delicacy. However much some king somewhere would like to tell someone to hang a calf’s skin on their recreant limbs, he cannot do it. Bastards do it all the time, and that is how the term “lucky bastard” actually entered the vulgate: from kings constantly muttering it under their breath.


Welcome, darling, and let’s talk about old things today, like your past. Plato tells us Socrates believed the unexamined life was not worth living, following which the people of Athens examined the great man’s life thoroughly, found him wanting and sentenced him to death. It is difficult to understand how the spewer of such balderdash became so revered, but again, we have Plato to thank for it. Acting as a kind of ur-PR man, Plato spun Socrates’ patter to emphasize “self-examination.” So successful was this boffo repackaging we now automatically accept the hoary cliche “Socratic reasoning” as among the very best kind. Perhaps it is and perhaps it isn’t; I am personally trying far too hard to be fashionably shallow to give the subject too much thought. But whether the reasoning is tight or not, the initial idea of examining one’s own life is a jolly good one.


First, what kind of person are you on the grand scale? Ask yourself these questions:

1) Have you ever, outside of any extraordinary circumstances such as verbally stripping the hide off a highwayman, used profanity?

2) Have you ever worried over the comfort, safety, or feelings of someone other than yourself?

3) Have you ever given freely of anything?

4) Do you understand how you get mail?

5) Have you ever brought a woman to full arousal and climax?


If your answer was “yes” to any of these five questions, then I regret to inform you that you are not “gently born.” That’s right. You are not now and can never be noble.


Please, stop crying. That’s a good chap. Try to remember that we endeavor only to become a proper sophisticate, a distinguished modern gentleman. Granted, being gently born is an automatic ticket. Royals define gentlemanly behavior just by walking around, squinting, their tiny in-bred eyes glittering  like lights on the fuselage as they bring those Airbus heads they all have in for a landing on their wattled and powdered necks. That’s right, it is the nobility and royalty of the world that we want to emulate and move among for they bring more to us than centuries of plunder and treachery and murder and incest and hemophilia: they bring grace as well.


This is why we must prepare a detailed and preposterous past of our own choosing, one which enchants the upper crusted right out of their socks until all the Dukes and Earls of England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland and Motown line up to throw money at us while their women swoon, pleading that we plumb their yippee-yi canal-works until we literally drip of aristocracy.


How do we make this happen, base born as we are? We begin a detailed plan of assault and instruction with tomorrow’s segment: On Being a Proper Bastard.


Until then, adieu.


Americans place a great value on humility. Going all the way back to colonial times we were known to dismiss the braggart as an uncouth cad, and to condemn him to the Coventry of public scorn. At the same time we humble pioneer souls determined to govern ourselves by means of a system which relies solely on hubris to function. A man must wake in the morning, look about him and decide that he and no other is the most fit human being to govern the rest of us, then be about the business of convincing us of that fact so that we will elect him. Extraordinary. But therein is a lesson for all who would set out to live an enlightened, sophisticated life: humility is for losers.

People respond to confidence, they respond to swagger, and the distinguished modern gentleman gives it to them with style and just the right touch of smug superiority. What will make you wealthy, what will make you the darling of the social pages is your panache, not your wits. Mind you, wits count as well. You must strive constantly to improve yourself mentally that you may engage in competition with the other swaggering, preening gentlemen around you for your fair share of booty, both fleshy and piratical. But if you may flaunt only a single grace, make sure it is the one with style and dash instead of the one with accuracy and knowledge. After all, which do you want, a bigger “John Thomas” or a more precise way to measure it? Go with the show.

Think Sean “Puffy” Combs, a man so certain of his own worth that he invents endless sissy names for himself with a straight face and then insists we all call him by them and we do. And lest you think this is some bizarre affectation peculiar to modern culture remember that it is in the House of Lords where more often than not you will meet Lord Henry Archibald Candyquimmed Fidspitter of Kensington Town, Marquess of Codswallop, called “Tootie” by his friends.

Indeed, I expect any day that my own style of jaunty insouciance will be buttressed by an army of Hip-hop artists, all of whom suddenly eschew profanity in favor of excruciatingly correct speech, who begin to address each other in terms of nobility and respect, and carry flexible walking sticks, the better to strike some scoundrel tradesman square across his mazzard for trying to mulct Baron LL Cool J over the cost of a dozen silk boxer shorts from Indonesia.

This is the dawn of a new age, an age of soft answers backed up by steely nerve. To the surly, drunken bully: “Did you ever forget what you were about to say? Yeah? Now would be a good time for that.” To the fastidious git at the bank: “Sorry, sometimes I worry too much about being polite. You probably wouldn’t understand that.” To that nasty Waffle House waitress: “How heartening to know that there is still a place in America where a girl with a goiter can get a job.”

Humility is a fine trait in a priest, but a poor one in a predator. We have inherited a world where very few control almost everything. It takes confidence and steely nerve to snatch the prey from the jaws of a wolf. The humble wait to see if the wolf leaves them any. For the distinguished modern gentleman wolves are puppies. Remember my children. Be bold. Be dangerous. And be polite! But don’t get carried away with it.

Go practice. Dress as nice as these guys, then go for a long solitary walk in the worst part of town. Keep telling yourself. I am somebody. I am a gentleman. We are changing the world, baby! Watch as the youth gangs back away after they’ve given it a little thought. Yeah! And if they don’t back away, if they start moving in? Whip out the cane, tip your hat with style, and say, “Me and LL Cool J, we’re like that!” Then hope they’re music lovers.




Darling, so wonderful to see you. And we were pondering, weren’t we, how modern society presents such a deuced challenge to ordinary thoughtful behavior. There is such a demand on one’s time, so many marvelous people who must be constantly reassured that they are important to you. It is no longer sufficient to rise in the morning and say, as Bertie might have done, “My word,  what an extraordinary day the Creator has given me, I shall rush to the park and dance to spring with my whangee, my best yellow shoes and my green homburg.”  But no, we must say “What a wonderful day and special blessings to @querolousmalcontent, @Mollyteaserac, @swallowedgum, @pleasetellmeyouloveme,…” and so on, and don’t forget your Friday Follow lists or your Tuesday Take Tablets Together (T4) or whatever the hell other supposed social rule you are supposed to follow instead of using the intermob to actually enjoy yourself and expand your circle of acquaintance. While it is true that all groups have their singular dynamic this is the first time in social history that so much of that dynamic has been designed and defined by people afraid to go downstairs and buy a box of raisins.

The distinguished modern gentleman greets this singular challenge with all the respect and regard it deserves. He rushes to assure you that he will instantly retweet or share whatever original and interesting thing you have to say the very moment he thinks it is worthy of it and for no other reason. (Unless of course you did it for him, or he has reason to think you might be worth canoodling, or someone else he wishes to canoodle asks him to do it, or he is paid in cash.)

If he were only inconvenienced when on the actual computer, he might be able to live with it, but with the rise of smart phones, every moment of every day is fraught with extradimensional intrusions. While he cannot prove that cellular phones cause brain cancer, he can certainly hope they do with all his heart. True social savants understand that cellular phones are one-way tools, useful only for phoning out. If any fool with a phone can encroach on your time whenever and wherever you are then you are truly a donkey, and you ought to simply open a vein and be done with it. Why bother to keep living? You have no life; the people at the other end of that call have the life, and you are simply a monkey answering a bell, or a hip-hop lyric, or Katy Perry’s vaginal farts, or whatever other “clever” ring tone you’ve chosen to ruin the atmosphere for the rest of us.

For too long the modern sophisticate has accepted the thoughtlessness of clueless brutes out in the world with their personal noise-makers. You do not have to take this.

When you sup at a comfortable restaurant, and the people at the next table begin to gush and coo as if they have climaxed at the simple arrival of their food, and they begin to snap pictures of it with their phones and text away so all the little people can know what fabulous aliment they can afford to let get cold while they disrupt your evening, stand immediately and demand attention. Declaim to the rest of the diners, “Your attention. Please. We are under attack. Aliens from the planet Reticulous have invaded the earth disguised as Tournedos Bearnaise. These brave people.” (here you should point to the miscreants in a staunch, convincing manner) ” have cornered the devils now and are collecting evidence for the Department of Homeland Security. Nobody move until the authorities arrive. Snap on, brave defenders. God bless you and all your ilk.”

When in public people insist on talking in a loud voice on the phone approach them happily and shout, “Is that Charles? You talking to Charles? I tried to call him. His line is busy. Is he talking to you? Charles? Can you hear me Charles? No? It’s your sister? Ask her does she have Charles on hold? Does she? You didn’t ask her. Ask her.”

When you are visiting among a group and someone, while talking, is both reading and writing texts, whip out the old malacca and beat his hands viciously. When he complains, explain in your most affectionate voice. “That person is not here with you, but I am. I have gone to all the trouble to be with you personally. I deserve your attention. If you would prefer to be with that person then you should go to them. If you stay here and continue to do that I will kill you. I won’t want to. But I will kill you.”

“But I was just telling my friend what a cool guy you are.”

“As last words go, those are as good as any. Up to you,” you say, smiling.

We can make things better. We can. But as the comedians say, we have to “commit to the bit.” You might want to start with the routine about Charles, and gradually work up to killing your friends. As you will learn in the course of your growth as a sophisticate, murder is often the simplest answer to a knotty problem. Just ask the English royal family.

Today’s sophisticate is often sought out for his insight into the murky world of politics and banking. “Sophistication” may strike one as an odd word to connect with either discipline, until one realizes the man of taste and erudition is far more likely to be straightforward in his answers than your average financial or bureaucratic pirate. But considering the amount of attention suddenly devoted to this mundane, prosaic issue by the hungry-for-a-fight press one does long for a gentleman to step into this process and put the foundering ship of state aright.

First, we must consider the participants. There is little doubt that John Boehner falls far short of the gentleman’s rank. First he exudes the kind of befuddled intensity which is anathema to gentlemen everywhere, and which results in his uncanny resemblance to a startled moose whenever the camera breaks through to his attention. Second, he is a weeper, and gentlemen simply do not weep except at the retirement of an oceangoing vessel on which they personally served and buggered a seaman, or on the anniversary of David Niven’s death, and always these few tears are followed with a healthy slug of Glen Morangie and a quick squeeze of Isabella Rossellini’s marvelous buttock. 

Obama at least comes closer to the standards required for a gentleman’s bearing, but with a kind of oleogeneity that skirts frighteningly close to the coast of Eddie Haskellry. We are never entirely sure he isn’t diddling us, and while that can indeed be an admirable trait for a gentleman we also suspect that it is somehow important to him, and this will simply never do. The kind of compassionate nonchalance that was the specialty of Carey Grant and even FDR is simply beyond him although he may mature into it later. He is very young after all.

Finally, neither of these two seems to be personally very dangerous. The distinguished modern gentleman knows that the threat of imminent physical peril is a great spur to moving two parties briskly along toward mutually satisfying goals. Many a poor man has experienced the panic that rises from the base of one’s spine as the Hell’s Angel snarls across the bar, “What the hell are you looking at?” But only the distinguished modern gentleman can smile with a soft, yet vaguely minatory curl of the lip and say quietly, “There is little so delicate as the tender feelings of a knight of the road. Forgive me, Paladin. Bartender, give that man a Schlitz.” A hush falls, followed by the grim biker’s chuckle. “You, sir, are unflappable. I salute you.”

Imagine then, how much more quickly the budget process would have gone if even one of these two pols had somehow ascended to sophistication. 

Obama: The budget, Boehner.

Suddenly sophisticated Boehner: Forgive me Mr. President, but the distinguished modern gentleman never discusses money.  It is vulgar. Let’s leave it to staff, shall we?

Obama: Can we trust them?

Boehner: Does it matter, Mr. President? Will a few numbers here and there really make a lot of difference? America’s progress is assured. Like a mighty glacier it moves slowly, but ever forward.

Obama: Glaciers can melt, Senator.

Boehner: Perhaps, Mr. President, but in the meantime they don’t take a lot of lip from the likes of us.

Obama: Well said, sir. You are unflappable indeed and oddly menacing as well. By jiminy, the matter is settled. You there, Biden, fetch two tumblers of single malt scotch for me and my new chum. And summon Isabella Rosellini.

It was not to be.  They waited until the last second and no one is happy. Perhaps there is still time and one of them will read this fair dinkum primer before it all begins anew over raising the debt ceiling next month. We can but pray. In the meantime, I wait to be called to assist, one hand filled with single malt; the other…but I am a gentleman, and I jolly well know how to be discreet.


Charmed, I’m Sure

You dear child, how splendid to see you. Welcome to this, my bagatelle, my attempt to corral the all too dwindling attention of an increasingly jaded and unhappy public. It is my fond and perhaps ridiculous hope that I might help my fellow beings recover some of the joie de vivre we all seem to have lost the last few years. If when reading the bits of advice and observation you find herein you think something ill-considered or poorly reasoned, you can relax knowing that at least the doggerel was whipped out with hardly a moment’s thought, so no harm done.

Have you been unhappy lately? Do you find each day that shortly after waking a rush of depression washes over you? Is your job unsatisfying? Do politicians annoy and disappoint you? Do your friends fall short of their obligations to you making you wonder if they are really worth it? Are you constantly on the phone jawing over the minutia of your life with relatives and associates to the point where you hardly have the time to breathe? Do you feel that in the world of misery, you have become a carrier? Do you want to just stand in the middle of the street and scream up at God crying, “What the hell is wrong with my life?”

No problem, my pet. Let me help you. Here’s some straight talk.

First, there is every probability that you are a stone drag, so you should fix that. You must take a deep breath and vow to become a different person, specifically a distinguished modern gentleman. Distinguished modern gentlemen are always welcome everywhere; they are the life of the party; they are the bellwether for the entire male gender. It would behoove you to become one right away. Now, I know that some of you are women, and that cannot be helped. My advice is that you become male immediately or, alternatively, attach yourself to William Powell. That dealt with, let us address your job.

All jobs are unsatisfying. It is perfectly okay to do your job well, but it makes the day go much better if you can convince everyone around you that you could care less about it. This will almost instantly make you feel better, and will improve your long term prospects as well. Management cannot stand thinking there is someone they employ who does not take them seriously, and they will soon start promoting you, trying to trap you in a level high enough that you will become engaged and fretful. Take the promotions but continue to conduct yourself with an air of jaunty insouciance. Soon you will be running everything every day from the deck of your boat, and believe me that will eliminate your job worries just like that. Have your deckboy make you a cocktail!

As for the politicians and friends and family and associates and all those problems? What the hell do you care; you got a boat!

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