Saturday, March 20, 2010

A Missive From Abroad, pt. 3: Félix's Flight

Dear readers,
I trust that you all remember Gaspard's old chum Félix Bandolier, a man of great spiritual depth and erudition, whose advice has formerly graced the pages of the Rakish Life. Well, today I am the bearer of the sad news that Félix Bandolier has lost his mind. Either he is deep in the clutches of an opium addiction--something about which I myself know a thing or two--or his syphilis has finally progressed to the tertiary stage. Which is it? You be the judge! Whichever it is, his most recent letter will make it abundantly clear that old Félix is off his rocker, gone completely insane. Despite this unfortunate development, it is quite entertaining. Enjoy!

Dear MEN,

May I offer my deepest apologies on the behalf of fate, as an egregious gap in our correspondence has occurred. Then again, a properly sealed letter is difficult to send from an airship leering 12, 000 knots above St. Louis. Though all things come to pass and as luck would have it a precocious family of high-altitude pigeons found domicile on the back rudder of my zeppelin, enabling me to train that long-time-coming courier to arrive at your house of erudition, correspondence in claw.

Cruel events of tumult and sadness have led to my state of levitation, and though nothing more would please me, I’m afraid a complete account of a sometime colorful life is completely out of the question as I have vowed silence to certain organizations veiled by steady tongues. Be that as it may, I can, at the very least, inform you of my most fortunate purchase of an airship and the events leading to my current location amidst the troposphere above St. Louis.

For you see, after a falling out with a cutlery salesman I was often fond of, over the unfortunate circumstance of his nubile daughter’s seduction and following abandonment, I felt as a man, very much alone in this mortal coil. Whilst not solace nor fraternity come easy to my demeanor, there I was drinking a fine coco-port like I had promised myself never to do again. Port was a consolation and the pillowed mid-afternoon light massaged my spirit, for I can say without any caveat that it was as fine a tavern as any in South Carolina.

Emanating through the fine luminiferous aethyr the sound of shouting woke me from a daydream. There standing, at the other end of the bar, was a man cloaked in black with a delicately donned montera; pointing a stiff, accusatory finger at the barkeep. The man berated the bartender claiming his whiskey was gin in disguise, and the poor man with the white towel receiving all of this was, for his part, utterly confused. The barkeep poured the tempestuous man a comparative glass of gin, and after tasting both, the fervor cooled.

After this explosive altercation, the man in black grew silent and pouted at the far end of the bar. I soon struck up a conversation, which is unlike me, and learned that this man who we’ll call, X, had mixed the mortar for the pyramids and it was to his feet that laurels should be placed for the structure’s longevity. Computing the mathematics in my head, I leaned back and said-“My God man, that would make you several thousand years old!”

I came to understand later that while in good health, his confusion over the liquor could be explained away as a symptom of the kind of dementia that takes hold of a man who has contemplated his own existence for a span longer than 500 years. Then, he told me it was his birthday. Rejoicing, I bought him cocktails, as is customary in South Carolina.

As we swayed down the foggy moonlit cobblestone hill. X straightened his gargoyle countenance and spoke: “I’d like to make you an offer that I, perhaps in a more sober state, could not pronounce,” he smiled and continued. “You see, novelty wears off my friend and I have only six miles from here a blimp, one which I have tired of, that I will give to you for the contents of your coin purse.”

I gasped, “Perhaps you have taken me for a richer man because I was able to make timely comments on the contemporary arts, however the contents of my purse amount to exactly three piastres.”

Lifting his stiff finger once more, he spoke: “3 is a prime number, a prime and fine number.” X embraced me. “This is the best birthday I have had in 856 years. The money you offer up is merely to concretize the transfer of will in our economic relationship.” At that, the man cloaked in black ran off into the fog.

Confused on my next step, I cleared my voice to yell, but X’s chant echoed through the darkness: “Your left pocket!” Inside was a key. I walked straight for six miles, found the airship, and from there began following only the whimsical strumming of the Aeolian harp.

That should suffice for an answer as to how the blimp came into my possession. But why by the sacred hands of augury, St. Louis? You see an arch is not an arch when looked at from above and so St. Louis keeps my faith in God, esoteric principles, and the possibility of Platonic transcendence.

Look forward to missives more frequent. I cannot sign my name, due to some of the aforementioned issues, but in case the author is unclear, this is the only man whoever beat the two of you fine gentlemen in Australian doubles badminton while holding a tonic in each fist. Godspeed.

Square the Circle,


Sunday, March 14, 2010

On Fatherhood

Dear Readers,

The Rake's lifestyle, while at times glamorous and fantastic, is not without its hazards. Secret disease, imprisonment, malnourishment, and paralyzing substance dependency are commonplace and should be expected. However, for the most devout aspiring cads, there is one stumbling block that has the potential to financially cripple and truly reveal the heartless nature of the rake; I am referring, of course, to Fatherhood.

Attempts to prevent these little complications are bootless; an unfettered, hedonistic lifestyle is bound to produce several illegitimate spawn and they - like death and divorce - are inevitable products of the path we have chosen to follow. Instead, I will essay to instruct you how to deal with these little bundles of joy when they come running to you with outstretched palms and opened mouths.

Now, I am not some base scoundrel who has no interest in ever knowing these petits Gaspards et Gaspardettes - verily, I long for the day when I can proudly watch my son get disqualified from a high school fencing match for an illegal flèche. The fact is that at the moment, I am simply too young and insolvent to support anyone but Gaspard - a Herculean task in itself.

So what to do if a child from an old affaire de coeur comes to collect? For sons, the matter is simple. I merely tell the little scamp that we in the Lerâteau family follow the ancient Gallic custom wherein male children do not appear before their fathers nor endeavor to be seen with them in public until they are of age to bear arms, at which point the father will see it fit to admit them into their society. Taking this tack usually gives one between 8-10 years to come up with a more permanent plan.

If you are not French, or the issue in question is female, the situation is stickier. First, take the child for iced-cream. It is well known amongst our kind that any severe emotional blow delivered to a child is softened by sweets. Explain to them softly and kindly that the term "bastard" does not carry the social ramifications it once did. Swear to include them in your will*, and promise that one day you will accompany them on a walking tour of the country where you will exchange your life stories. Essentially, keep hope alive for the future without alienating yourself from them completely. After all, it is confirmed that children from broken homes either go on to be fantastic successes or miserable failures. It is also confirmed that successful children, whether out of filial piety or guilt, nearly always end up aiding an ailing father who may or may not be homeless and thirsty.

I could write volumes more on this subject, but that is all for tonight. I shall soon relate to you how to actually raise a child if he is clever enough to endear himself to you. Goodnight


*Do this verbally, with no notary present.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Vox Populi Results p. II

Results of Poll: 2 March - 9 March 2010
If Gaspard is scheduled to take the 4:15 express train out of Gare de Nord towards Brussels and Alisdair is scheduled to take a 3:30 express out of Berlin Hauptbahnhof, also towards Brussels, who will arrive first, and how many drinks will he have had?

Total Votes: 50

Gaspard, having had 15 drinks: 4 (8%)
Alisdair, after downing 22 drinks: 7 (14%)
Gaspard, after Alisdair is ejected from the train in Dortmund for groping a woman: 35 (70%)
Alisdair, after Gaspard has perished on the trip: 4 (8%)

Readers, I take umbrage. Clearly, you all don't have much faith in my moral rectitude--rightly so, I suppose. In fact, I have something of a history of unexpected and unceremonious exits from moving locomotives. Just last winter, I was unceremoniously accosted and thrown bodily off a Belgian train after being caught in flagrante delicto with the conductor's wife in the coal room. So your suspicions are a bit warranted. But what gets me mad is not that you think I would grope some saucy tart, but that you imagine she would get querulous about it. Let me tell you something: I've laid hands upon thousands of women, and not a one of them has ever complained.

No, as it turns out, all of you were wrong--all of you except one. That modern-day Cassandra, the Marquis de Vouvray, unheeded by the masses, correctly guessed our fate. After forty-five drinks apiece, give or take a few, Gaspard and I were both too juiced to make our trains. We both dozed rather soundly, he in his usual spot in the Jardin du Luxembourg, and I in the arms of the bierfrau who got me that way.

So, to all of you who doubted me, I demand that you each pay one of my outstanding bar tabs as redress.  Otherwise, look to your own. And to our Belgian procuress, Gaspard and I will make it up to you somehow...

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Dash the Supernaculum!

Throughout our adventures and travels, Gaspard and I have learned many things about a great many subjects. For instance, it is damn near impossible to win the British Literary Fiction Award with a collection of fetish erotica, especially when it's written in French. Gaspard - my condolences.

However, without a doubt, the lion's share of our accrued knowledge concerns drinking - a subject we haven't explicitly touched on in a while, but one which is very close to our hearts (especially as we always keep flasks in our breast pockets). I know that some of you see us as very straight-laced, buttoned-down types, but would it shock you to learn that even Gaspard and I like to cut loose and get drunk every once and a while?

I'm joking, of course. Some of you may have been drunk since the early evening; some, even, since the early afternoon. Gaspard and I have been drunk since the early 1990s. As tipplers we are, to put it modestly, the stuff of legend.* So it is with great authority that we may dictate what exactly the rake should be drinking. And the answer is, of course: everything.

This is not to say that the rake should not be cultivated. Gaspard is the first one to scornfully spit out a mouthful of Chateau Lafite Rothschild '86 if there is a Lafite '89 lurking in the cellar. I, on the other hand, can identify any single malt Scotch whisky, by brand, age, and even peat bog, merely by its aroma. What is more, in repeated trials I am 93% accurate at naming rye whiskeys even when mixed in Manhattans.

Yet, while the rake has a discerning palate for every different type of alcohol, ultimately his crippling dipsomania trumps his refinement. Simply put, he needs booze and any booze will do: he is equally at home drinking champagne with uptown swells, and rotgut gin with even-further-uptown winos.

We here at The Rakish Life often make much of hanging out with the well-heeled club crowd. But to be honest, those people are painfully boring. Stuffy, obnoxious, close-minded. Exceedingly rare these days are your real bon vivants like that capital rake Lord Byron--now there was a man with whom to share a real jag. Get him a few glasses of claret, and he just might whisk you away on a month-long bender around the Continent, covered by the entire proceeds of his last book. But sadly, in these sorry times, the people who generally have the most of "It" are hard-working stiffs who can't or won't appreciate the humor in, say, the grand smash and cheerful tinkle of the lowball glass you've just slung against their antique marble mantle. The only reason we do hang around with them is to drink their fine liquors and wines and make merry on their palatial country estates.

What you need to understand, and what is indeed the point of this lesson, is that when you are not able to cadge off the jet set, you will be forced to drink whatever is available. Forget 'Top Shelf". Forget "Bottom Shelf." Forget even the loathsome "Well." The alcohols you will be forced to consume when drinking alone cannot be found on any shelves in any bar - we are talking about rubbing alcohol, lighter fluid, bathtub gin, moonshine, toilet wine and any sort of malt beverage that can be fermented in a coffee can or pickle jar.

Yes, many of you are probably wincing at the thought of an Isopropyl and Tonic, but I assure you, if you have enough ice and a few wedges of lime , not only does it get you blindingly drunk**, it tingles the mouth in an ever so pleasant way! For you see, the grim reality is that despite his dreams of grandeur, the rake must often subsist on cheap booze and cheaper cigarettes.

As we have said many times before, the rake's lifestyle is not for everyone. Drinking literally every form of alcohol you can find will earn you the ire of the 12-Steppers, the self-satisfied pity of upstanding burghers, and when performed in public, the unwanted attention of local constables. But pay these pedants no mind: the rake must always stay assured that this is what he must do. N.B.: being extremely drunk greatly helps in maintaining this certitude. For, as a friend of mine named Finley D. once sagely observed, "Alcohol is necessary so that a man can have a good opinion of himself, undisturbed by the facts.”

So, raise up a glass of Scotch or gin if you can lay hands on it. But if not, grab the nearest bottle of mouthwash, pour it down your throat, and rake on!

*VSQ (Vicious Sots Quarterly) has called us "pre-eminent."

** At times, quite literally - be careful.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Vox Populi: Results

The votes are in, and clearly those of you who read this little chronicle are well-versed in the dangers of quicksilver. Although Alisdair stubbornly maintains his attachment to exanthemata mostly ending in ulcerations, for my part I agree with the judgment of the masses. After all, it is nigh inevitable that one raking properly will contract Syphilis: that unholy child borne of Salomé and sired by the Devil himself. It is also very likely that he will have recourse to the older wisdom of using iodide of potassium and mercury to treat this ailment, as those of our tribe are inherently distrustful of these quack charlatans who go around with "M.D." affixed to their names these days. Besides, who would not be proud to die in the company of Stendhal, Schubert, de Maupassant and de Toulouse-Lautrec?

Of course, because I recognize the pitfalls of mercurial cures, I would not use it to combat syphilis, even if I had it. That's right--par la grâce de Dieu, I have thus far avoided contracting that awful bug. You must excuse me now, though. It's time for me to daily my daily dose of Radithor for my St. Denis' Fire.

Results of Poll: 21 February - 28 February 2010

What is the rake's most common medical woe?
Total Votes: 60

Syphilis: 18 (30%)
Mercury poisoning, as a result of trying to cure the syphilis: 23 (38.3%)
Exanthemata mostly ending in ulcerations: 6 (10%)
Consumption: 13 (21%)