Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Vanity Of Death

The true rake should constantly be thinking about how awful other people's lives would be without him. The average man should constantly be marveling at how much more fulfilling the rake's life is than his own, while women should, at every moment of the day, be fantasizing about how much better their life would be with the rake instead of with their beau or husband. This vanity should not confine itself to one's daily routine. Rather, it should extend to every moment of the cycle of life and death. The life of the rake ensures that, unless he is endowed with superhuman genetics, his allotted span will be poor short--no more than one score and ten. Accordingly, he should take many of the idle hours of his day (and there are more than many) planning his own funeral.

Here are a few rules to follow:

1. If funds permit for an elaborate sarcophagus, the rake should never be cremated. This allows for an open casket wake and funeral. It maximizes viewing time of one's lovely young face. Yet do not forget to make arrangements for a closed casket if your demise is of a grisly nature. It would be devastating (for you, of course) if your closest lover's final glimpse of you made her question your comeliness.

2. When selecting a dirge to be played during the funeral rite, choose the saddest song available. Here are a few off the top of my head that are sure to have everyone in the church sobbing hysterically.
- Schoenberg's Verklaerte Nacht
- Siegfried's Funeral March from Göterdämmerung
- Chopin's Piano Sonata No.2, 3rd movement
- Tchaikovsky's Meditation de Souvenir d'un lieu cher
and appropriately
-Ravel's Le Gibet from Gaspard de la Nuit

These are, of course, just a few sad songs on a very long list. You need not limit your choice to artists who are deceased themselves. There are plenty of contemporary musicians who can pen a sad tune with the best of them. Here is a particularly sad piece that will have everyone who has ever spent a night with you devastated for months.

I Go To Sleep

3. There has been a tendency in recent years to treat funerals as "Celebrations of Life." This is absolute nonsense. After you die, no one should be celebrating anything for years. Leave specific instructions that the word "Celebrate" and any of its derivatives may only be mentioned in the eulogy , as in, "Gaspard could celebrate harder than almost anyone I have ever met."

For what greater peak of vanity is there than to premeditate the extremity of sorrow that others will be feeling on the day of your premature death? Put simply, you want them to realize that they hadn't lived until you died. If you can swing it, they should also feel that they cannot live after you have died.

This applies particularly to every woman whom you have wooed throughout your short but brilliant career. You cannot simply begin to make her feel remorse on the day of your mortuary rites; you must begin doing so almost from the moment you meet her. It is imperative that you make it abundantly clear that she will, barring any fatal accidents or contagions, outlive you. Moreover, you must ensure that on the day of your internment, she truly believes that she and no other was the cause of your early demise--though of course the real cause was your inveterate hedonism. Given that there will be many such women, the goal is to ruin as many emotional lives as possible. A particularly effective method of doing this is to intentionally script your last will and testament so that, at its somber reading, every single one of your dozens of lovers will believe that it is she and no other that has driven you to the grave. This will of course require that you word it in the vaguest and yet most poignant terms possible. For example, when bequeathing a personal object such as a hair comb or bathroom vanity, write, "I leave this to you, my most beloved, for whom I spent so many hours bettering my appearance." Such a comment will not only confuse many a lass present at the reading of your will, but will also remind them how much they miss your beautiful youthful face.

Although the rake is fundamentally allergic to work, he should devote as much effort as possible to this one project, as it will be his last and most vain. There is a fantastic website called My Wonderful Life that allows all funeral planning to be done ahead of time. It has a simple format and allows one to set all the parameters for a successful funeral. If his drinking and wooing is so demanding that he cannot spare even an hour for such an activity, he should delegate this duty to his most trusted domestic. If you are in such financial straits that you have no domestics, then you should gaff the project off to your favorite nebbish (but more on that later).

Monday, February 16, 2009

A Missive from Abroad

It is in the rake's nature to be constantly on the move; exploring new cities, regions and countries. In doing so, he alleviates his constant boredom by continually finding refreshing scenery, female companionship and new and interesting varieties of food, tobacco and spirits. In the course of my rakish wanderings, I have had the privilege to meet many fine young bounders who share my worldview and passion for consumption. One such gentleman I met on a cold winter's night on the streets of Vienna. He was staggering about in evening clothes, simultaneously blessing and cursing the gods for inventing the female form. In my rudimentary knowledge of die deutsche Sprache, I asked him his name and his occupation. He merely laughed, saying something about how die Arbeit was for the common. As for his name, he replied "Félix Bandolier, at your service." We returned to my hotel and spoke at great length about the problems facing our fragile youthful frames over several bottles of the finest champagne available. At some point I dozed off, and when I awoke, he was gone. An exhaustive search of the city's taverns, publikhausen, and rathskelleren over the next several days yielded no results. According to the barmaids and street walkers of the fair city, no one by the name of Félix Bandolier has ever walked the cobbled lanes of Vienna, and judging by what I know of him, these women would know. Upset at losing contact with one who shared my thoughts on as many subjects as bottles of liquor he could drink without falling over, (I assure you it was several) I hoped that one day I would hear from him again.

Ladies and gentleman, that day has arrived. Just tonight, I noticed a letter sitting on my kitchen table, postmarked with several stamps of indeterminable origin. I will transcribe to you here exactly what was written, with no omissions.

Dear Gaspard,

Hope all is well. I am sorry for my abrupt and unexplained departure at our first, and last, meeting. I was being pursued by creditors and needed to flee the country.
In my weekly internet perusings I noticed your site and would be pleased if I could share my knowledge with your readers. Here are some recent thoughts inspired by a brief stint in Rome.

It is no passing maxim that church breeds the most adept rake, as dualism is the prevailing force on the human spirit. As the curious schoolboy becomes the seasoned cad, notions of guilt and deliverance may come into play during the melancholic haze of a Sunday morning. Ideas of failure, evil, and sadism could very well dominate a mind that had thought itself free of ethical bondage only a few hours before.
The best medicine for such issues would be a midday Satanic ritual or sigil casting to expel any grievances lingering. While sex magick could work here, and it all truly depends on the psychological construct of our given man, the best angle to play is one of cleansing and penance. A simple black magick ritual should be enough to reprogram your mind for yet another night confronting the retina of chaos.
Lastly, when one is experiencing the tremors of the soul, a clean suit may solve most of the problems right off the bat, particularly if a poignant tie clip is utilized.

I will send more when time permits.

Yours Truly,


Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Long Arm of the Law

Considering the habits and behaviour of the rake, it is inevitable that one will eventually cross paths with some branch of law enforcement. For Alisdair and me, that time was last night on the feast of St. Valentine. We had just re-entered the borough of Manhattan after a misinformed foray into Brooklyn and were briskly striding towards a late-night club of ill repute. We were singing some old German drinking songs we had picked up on our last trip to München and swigging quite freely from a bottle of Canadian whiskey when we were blocked by an undercover squadcar and accosted by the local constabulary.

I was asked to provide identification and questioned about any possible outstanding warrants for my arrest. Fortunately, most of my debts had been settled at the New York City courthouse before the new year, and after receiving a summons to appear before a judge in two weeks, we were on our way.

Although this encounter was relatively insignificant, it reminded me of a few points of advice that I would like to share with you.

First, in the event that an arresting officer is female, it is wise to refrain from mentioning to your partners in crime that she looks "passably attractive" while she is exiting her car. It is still wiser to refrain from asking when women were allowed onto the police force. Although this line of questioning may seem to you like a polite and interested way of getting to know someone, these members of the force seem to take offense at such queries. Keep the conversation to a minimum. A simple "yes, officer" or "no, officer" should suffice to such questions as, "Are you wearing a German Hussar's Busby?" or "Did you really think it was a good idea to be shouting so loudly at 3:30 in the morning in a residential neighborhood?" and "Aren't you cold wearing only trousers, suspenders and a side cap?" (The correct answers, of course, being yes, yes and no.)

Second, when drinking in public, it is a good idea to be discreet when trying to avoid arrest. Instead of carrying a 2 liter bottle of whiskey, try a simple hip flask instead. Although you will only be able to carry around at most only a few ounces of the sweet nectar, it should be enough to hold you over on the walk from pub to club. A flask is essential to the rakes arsenal of gadgets. I myself use a half glass, half brass model with my family's name engraved on the leather case. It is a bit bulky, but can carry almost a full pint of a liquor of my choosing. Alisdair on the other hand opts for a smaller, rectangular Sterling model that is shaped discreetly like a cigarette case. An English chum of ours called Sigmund who was with us at the time of said encounter uses a steel tube that is capable of holding not only 5 ounces of liquor (always Mezcal or Navy Rum in his case) but a fairly sizable cigar as well.

Third, if receiving a summons for an "Open Container" as the ticket so ineloquently stated, one is allowed to finish the contents of his beverage. In our case, we were lucky enough to have half the bottle left after the bobbies went on their way. In accordance with a brilliant Double Jeopardy law, I could not be charged twice for holding the same bottle, so as long as I held it and poured it into the awaiting gullets of my 2 fellow cads, we were committing no error in the eyes of Johnny Law. If you happen to receive such a ticket, don't become discouraged and leave your drink on the street - instead walk proudly down the parkway holding it high, knowing that you are completely immune from any prosecution, as you have already been charged with the crime!

A Penny Saved, No Pennies Earned

It may be said that the rake's life is a string of deftly managed concealments. One such secret is the cad's relationship to Change. We are speaking of course about coined money, and not the variety of change touted by this young Obama upstart. Quite simply, given that the rake is nearly always short on money, he must never let even a nickel slip through his fingers. However he must exert all his efforts never to be seen handling or known to have handled any such denomination of money, lest he sully his hard earned reputation for magnanimity and utter disregard for saving or any sort of planning beyond his next bar tab.

In order to maintain this delicate balance, he will be forced to develop a sleight of hand usually reserved for Houdini and his ilk. When exiting a restaurant, with one arm around his companion of the night, whispering sweet nothings into her ear and telling her fantastic lies about how he will treat on their next outing, he should be able to swipe any number of coins off of empty tables silently and casually. Do not worry about the waitress with whose tip you have just absconded. Remember, other peoples' needs are insignificant in comparison with your wants. Similarly, when a rake finds himself refeuling his motorcar at a petrol stand or popping into a corner bodega for a pack of cigarettes (more on that here), he should always take a penny, and should never leave one.

Keep a weather eye out for these pieces of eight, so to speak: any gold coin picturing Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, J.Q. Adams, Jackson, van Buren, or William Henry Harrison. (We here at The Rakish Life are ourselves eagerly awaiting the May 21 issuance of a striking John Tyler piece) Also look for Susan B. Anthonys, Gobrechts, Seated Libertys, Trade dollars, Morgans, Eisenhowers, Liberty Heads, Indian Heads, Sacagaweas, or any coin with a redskin on it, for that matter. Most especially do not confuse them for quarter dollars. One need not be a numismatist, but inattention to detail in this matter may cause you to lose seventy-five cents or more. Others' carelessness, however, can be used to your distinct advantage. In a pinch, you can pull the old switcheroo and substitute a toonie for a Tyler. Canadian pennies are, at a glance, virtually indistinguishable from American ones. Euro nickels also resemble the penny, although if current exchange rates persist, just save it for the next time you visit grand-oncle Frédéric on the Continent.

There may be many situations in which the rake is forced to confront the necessary evil of coinage, but he should always remember the cardinal rule: never, under any circumstances be discovered to have any dealings with dimes. If his pocket is ever once heard a-jingle, his reputation will be marred irrevocably. If someone you know ever observes you using petty change, you should immediately locate the nearest vagrant and give all of it to him, very publicly. If no tramp can be found, claim that you either need the coins to call a sick aunt, play a game of billiards, or purchase a prophylactic device in the bathroom of the local public house. (Note: These particular fibs perpetuate the myths that one is a devoted family member, a good sportsman, and a practitioner of safe sex, despite the fact that a true rake is none of these things.)

One more thing, gentlemen. Cell phones be damned--the CoinStar is the greatest technological advance of the past several decades, at least as far as the rake is concerned. For a small fee, this wonderful device allows one to exchange all of those terrible pieces of tin for bills. Look up the location nearest you, and memorize it. You will thank us later.