The Rip Post                                Riposte Archive


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(Nov. 1, 2006)

          You find 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: Kuntura
          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
          Kuntura? Kuntura? 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 chills.
          I hope Kuntura’s advice to Danielle included baby names to be avoided.
          View footnote.
          City Footnote # 2: No excuse
          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 concern.”
          The next line explained all:
          “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. . .
          View footnote.
          City Footnote # 3: Sad Story
          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.
          View footnote.
          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 Defoamer.”
          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 TANK.”
          (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 pile.”
          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?”
          View footnote.
          City Footnote # 5: Main idea
          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?”
          View footnote.
          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.
          View footnote.
          City Footnote # 7: Coming Soon
          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.
          View footnote.

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