Should You Experience an Erection Lasting More than Four Hours . . . and Further Guidance

by Donald Anderson

HERE’S WHAT YOU’VE HEARD: Don’t eat at a place called “Mom’s,” don’t play cards with a man named “Slim,” and don’t go to bed with a person who has more problems than you do. Don’t stick your fork into a toaster. Warned not to attach my tongue to metal in Montana during winter, I began eyeing the galvanized posts on the grounds of a house I passed on my way to Emerson Elementary. The mercury registered 30 below when I chaperoned my experiment. Then this: I did not stick a fork into a toaster; I stuck it into an outlet (lacking forks, a magnet will do!). Why saddle your kids with names like “Apple” or “Willow”—“Harley,” “Hubcap,” “Lug-nut,” “China,” “Bubbles”? Give attention to warnings: You could lose an eye. If I have to stop this car. Fragile. Give attention to what you read. Graham Greene: Innocence is like a dumb leper who has lost his bell, wandering the world, meaning no harm. Russell Banks: Fear of losing a woman and loving her are not the same thing. Albert Camus: It is all practice: when we emerge from experience, we are not wise but skillful. But at what? Frederick the Great: Artillery lends dignity to what might otherwise be a vulgar brawl. A professor friend may be plagiarizing when he says academics have more fears than medieval peasants, but the line sounds trusty enough to steal. William Burroughs was for thieving and against paraphrasing altogether. Trust haiku. A good chili requires cumin (or Italian sausage containing cumin). What the FBI said: Serial killers target Rest Stops. Hydraulic mining pollutes watersheds, kills fish. Lewis Grizzard: Instead of getting married again, I’m going to find a woman I don’t like and give her a house. Use Less Stuff. For a meal of SHEEP’S HEAD: Split head and remove eyes. Remove brain and soak in vinegar and water. Soak washed head in salted water. Blanch head. Boil (gently) brains. Scrape meat from head. Skin tongue and cut in slices. Add meat, tongue, and brains to white sauce. Reheat and serve with toast points and minced parsley. Walk with scissors. Remember the Alamo. Remember Oppenheimer. A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle. Remember Steinem. A’s hire A’s; B’s hire C’s. Humility is no substitute for a good personality. DON’T argue with Fran Lebowitz. Consider this distillation:

WHAT PEOPLE SAY

Below you will find the complete and unabridged record of the general conversation of the general public since time immemorial:

a. Hi, how are you?

b. I did not.

c. Good. Now you know how I felt.

d. Do you mind if I go ahead of you? I have only this one thing.

What to engrave on your tomb: I told you I was sick. Shun platitude. William Stafford: Some haystacks don’t even have any needles. Admire Oscar Levant as he condenses Doris Day: I knew her before she was a virgin. A favorite teacher, poet Edward Lueders observed: What antique superstition stands behind the notion that damn and hell are bad words and that kill and murder are not? Certainly rape is a more obscene concept than fuck. Why then do we not consider it a more obscene word? What I learned in the military: Nothing is impossible to people who don’t have to make it come true. And Anatole France: To die for an idea is to set a rather high price on conjecture. On his other hand: There is a certain impertinence in allowing oneself to be burned for an opinion. Nietzsche understood that the trouble with war is that it induces stupidity in the victor and vengeance in the vanquished. Before we made fire, before we made tools, before we made weapons, we made images. Art, at its deepest level, is about preserving the world. John Cheever: Avoid kneeling in unheated stone churches. Ecclesiastical dampness causes prematurely gray hair. Milan Kundera: Nothing beats an argument from personal experience. Pack Tabasco for long trips to remote locations. If you were blind, would you be in love with a different person? Approaches: Don’t talk to pit bull owners about pit bulls—they don’t know what you’re talking about. Always bet on black. Let your children paint their bedrooms. Edward Lueders: Character is determined by what one respects; the rest is a personality or style. Style is a matter of how you handle things. It is movement, touch, arrangement, speed, care, and carelessness, not just how you handle words, but how you pick up a child, pet a dog, or make and throw a snowball. My wife’s step-great aunt died in a nursing home where she had lived in her own apartment. While settling her affairs, we lived in that apartment as the rent had been paid through the month and was not refundable. What will not occur in a nursing home shower: (1) You won’t be scalded; (2) You won’t drown. Esteem agreeable bumpers: JESUS Loves You. Every One Else Thinks You’re An Asshole. Don’t eat yellow snow. Had my first wife asked once more: Is that a joke?—I would’ve had to have had her killed. ARGUMENT: Marry someone who thinks you’re hilarious. Which counters my father’s advice about broads: Eat crow. But he was the same man who advised If you have to fight a Negro, crack his nose. It takes the starch right out of them. An apple a day. Don’t buy surplus ammo from India. If nine Russians tell you you’re drunk—lie down. What to do: Give your love a cherry that has no stone. The power of the atomic bomb comes from the forces holding each atom of substance together. What the doctor said: If you experience sudden loss of vision, stop using Cialis. Keep in mind that the nearest exit may be behind you. Don’t immerse in water. Stand up straight. Floss.

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Editor of War, Literature & the Arts: An International Journal of the Humanities, Donald Anderson is editor, too, of aftermath: an anthology of post-vietnam fiction, When War Becomes Personal, and Andre Dubus: Tributes. His collection Fire Road won the John Simmons Short Fiction Award. His most recent book is Gathering Noise from my Life: A Camouflaged Memoir (University of Iowa Press, 2012).