by RIP RENSE
(Nov. 1, 2006)
them everywhere. Blowing down sidewalks, crumpled up in bushes,
rumpled and stained in curbside gutters. Bits and pieces of daily lives,
discarded or lost, there at your feet. Each one a chapter from a story,
somewhere in the middle of a human book. Call them city footnotes. . .
City Footnote # 1:
The little white bunny
and the yellow birdie lay on the sidewalk, unmoving. Both had been run over
repeatedly by unknown vehicles, trampled by unknown shoes. They had served
their purpose in this world.
Which was to decorate the
front of a Hallmark “Thank You” card, along with a couple of striped
bouncy-balls. I braved TB, drug-resistant staph, and flesh-eating bacteria,
and picked it up.
“Dear Kuntura,” it began
No. Nobody could possibly have named their daughter Kuntura. Some things are
too ridiculous even for this race of sorry bipeds. Could it have been “Kantara?”
Not much nicer, but less chance for a porno career.
“Thank you so much for
all the books and the (sheet or shirt)! You are so sweat! (Well, it
might have been “sweet.”) Thank you also for all of the baby advice,
everything has been so helpful!!”
It was signed either “Danielle” or “Danulli,” depending on which handwriting
expert you use.
Well, I should have been
heartened. My burden should have been lightened. My toes should have tripped
more merrily along. This had niceness all over it. An expectant mommy
thanking a friend for her baby shower gifts and advice. But. . .
Have you seen how many
pregnant women there are lately? Or maybe it’s just that they are all
proudly baring their slick, shining bellies in public. Either way, it
distresses me. Yes, widdle babeez are sooo cuuuuuute, but damn it,
they grow up into hairy, gap-toothed, limping, smelly, snarling, greedy,
nasty, cunning, callous, libidinous beasts who drive SUVs, host talk shows,
and run for office.
So the note gave me
I hope Kuntura’s advice
to Danielle included baby names to be avoided.
City Footnote # 2:
The notebook paper was
white, the horizontal lines blue and vertical red, but the whole thing could
not have been more transparent.
It lay crumpled into a
ball just outside a west side high school. At the top was the word,
“Please,” abandoned before it could become a fuller request. Begun half-way
down the page was what the author had intended for the top: “To whom it may
The next line explained
“Please excuse.” Except
“excuse” had been spelled “excues.”
The good-old fake
get-out-of-class note! Author had started over half-way down, probably in
order to tear the sheet in two, and just submit the bottom part. He or she
had the right idea with the generic, “To whom it may concern,” and had,
miraculously, even gotten the grammar right. But “excues,” well, that called
for starting over on a clean sheet of paper.
I confess to finding
evidence of such a quaint old crime to be almost heartening, in view of
school lockers full of AK-47s and crystal meth.
And hell, anything to
help kids improve their grammar and spelling. . .
City Footnote # 3:
I’m going to guess this
was a transcription of notes dictated by a teacher:
“the function of the
storyteller in African Societies and Among the diosporo (sic): First of All
with storytelling they were able to use ther’s own language “Mother-tongue”
which proven the existence of these societies. and Also the storyteller
enabled them to use many other art forms such as singing. the stories were
rich of myths and a broad picture of the writer’s imaginations.”
I’m guessing this is a
matter of dictation owing to the jibberishy nature of the content, the
misspellings, and misuse of caps and quotation marks. To assume it was an
actual attempt at a composition is just too horrifying a prospect. Still. .
Diosporo? What is
that, a new detergent? And I’ve seen “there,” “their,” and “they’re”
mixed up a million times, but I have never once in my life seen “ther’s.”
Maybe I should congratulate this poor student on unwitting originality. The
mercurial use of caps is not excused by the willy-nilly, anything-goes
writing style of IM and e-mail, but that might explain it.
I wish desperately,
though, that new generations of U.S. citizens might grasp the particular
function of quotation marks that renders words not-what-they-really-are. If
you put “sale,” in quotes, it’s really not a sale---it’s a piss-poor excuse
of a sale, a fraud of a sale, a sale in name only. So “Mother-tongue” would
not mean “mother-tongue.” Given the cap “M,” it would more likely refer to
the student’s mother’s actual tongue.
This wadded up,
crippled bit of high school work was obviously the product of an English
class. But it was not entirely without value. The topic was storytelling,
and I think this piece of paper told a very important story, all right---one
of students being pandered to by politically correct curriculum designers
looking to be “inclusionary.”
Meaning this: the
phenomenon of African “storytelling” is perfectly nice and interesting, but
its importance in education has been artificially and enormously bloated by
kneejerk liberal egalitarianism. Myths and legends are worthwhile study, but
what of stories that were written down by Faulkner, Twain, Chaucer,
Cervantes, Du Maupassant, Washington Irving?
I think ther’s works are
far more important to any diosporo.
City Footnote # 4:
Defoaming at the mouth
You know, you want to
wash the goddamn rug, just wash the goddamn rug.
You put your soap into
your water, and you dump it into your damn machine, and you turn your
machine on, and you wash the goddamn rug.
Not any more.
Now you hire the Unit
Chemical Corp. of Los Angeles, see, and it supplies you with “Pink Unit
Pink Unit Defoamer?
Wasn’t that a film starring Kuntura?
Then you take your Pink
Unit Defoamer, see, and you put it in your “Von Schrader Carpet Deterger.”
Yes, you heard me,
deterger. You don’t use a carpet-cleaner anymore, you get a
deterger. And a Von Schrader at that. Then, you “add approximately 4
ounces” (as opposed to exactly 4 ounces) of UNIT DEFOAMER to EXTRACTION
(You put the goddamn soap
in the goddamn hole.)
But be careful---
“Amount may vary
according to the type of detergent used, soil conditions and thickness of
Type of detergent?
Wait a second. The instructions on this piece of paper, which I found on the
street and not nearly close enough to an open flame as I would have liked,
were all about Unit Chemical Corp.’s “Pink Unit Defoamer.” Wasn’t that a
goddamn type of detergent? Soil conditions? Feh. How about “how dirty the
damn rug is.”
As Frank Zappa used to
sing, “shall we take ourselves seriously?”
City Footnote # 5:
Twenty or thirty sheets
of kids’ homework blew down a Westwood sidewalk. I grabbed one.
It was a page from a
workbook,“Comprehension and Language Arts Skills,” unit two, lesson one.
This was a section that sought to instruct kids in how to recognize the
“Main Idea and Details” from a short piece of writing---in this case, an
essay entitled, “Starting a Business.”
Judging from the large
pencil-printing, I would guess this student to be perhaps in fourth grade.
“Successful entrepreneurs take time to plan their business before they
start,” the kid had scrawled as an example of “main idea.” And the “detail”
from the main idea was “they ask themselves many questions.”
Chief among them being
“how many illegal aliens can I employ?”
City Footnote # 6:
Gramps' writing cramps
A cow, pig, birdie, crab,
mouse, fish, frog smiled and frolicked maniacally. I would too, if I were a
cow, pig, birdie, crab, mouse, fish, frog these days. Frolic maniacally, as
all too soon a human will either eat, poison, or kill you.
Come to think of it,
that’s good advice for humans, too.
I couldn’t resist picking
up the little card, though, so merry were the little creatures, all
anthropomorphized idiotically in little party hats. They were arranged
colorfully around a two-layer birthday cake with four candles on top.
Because I have a few more
than four candles on top of mine, I was feeling a little low, and perhaps
that’s why I interrupted a brisk walk with my female superior in order to
inspect the card’s interior:
“Happy Birthday for
Danielle 1st. from grandpa and The The.”
Either this was written
by a stutterer, the same person who tried to fake the excues to get
out of class, or poor old gramps was having a little trouble seeing. Though
not so much that he didn’t throw the little card away and, I hope, fill out
a new one.
I hope it had maniacally
frolicking animals on it, in order that little Danielle might get the
impression that this is a happy world.
City Footnote # 7:
As I have often observed,
L.A. is one big cutting room floor---trashed with spent actors, directors,
sets, buildings turned into sets, and scripts. They litter this town like
confetti on New Year’s morning. You can close your eyes, stick your arm out
the window, and pull in fistfuls of pages-that-will-never-be-shot.
I found pages 10 through
12 of “Madame Nadja’s Day” on Wilshire Boulevard near Sepulveda one
afternoon. They began with two crooked fortunetellers, if that is not
redundant, discussing a young girl they had just fleeced:
“I threw in the
mysterious illness just for good measure,” says Madame Nadja. “Don’t
worry. She’s also the kind who will tell all her friends. Pretty soon she’ll
be giving me all that money that she wastes on cocaine.”
The rest of the pages
involved a fourteen-year-old boy skateboarder being surrounded by older boys
who attempt to rob him of five dollars he stole from his mother---and then
threaten to rape him.
Cocaine. Fraud. Theft.
Robbery. Homosexual rape.
It’s got success written
all over it.
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