The Yearbook Office
Writings on staying alive

Roll up, roll up, don’t be shy folks, plenty of room up front, that is if you don’t mind being in close approximation to me. I’ve been told that I radiate a sort of intensity that has been known to make the ladies swoon and the menfolk downright uncomfortable. That’s a lie of course, everyone loves me, I’m a fantastic human being.

Now roll up and hear what I have to tell you, friends, you are not going to want to miss what I have to say. Is this everyone? Can you all maybe call five or six more people?

Not that each and every single one of you isn’t important to me, because you are. I look forward to getting to know every single person within the sound of my voice better than I know my own mama. That’s a lie, of course, I never knew my mama, it’s a long sad story, and one I won’t trouble you with because I am here today to bring you good news.

GOOD NEWS! That’s the kind of news we can all use, am I right or am I right?

Folks, let me tell you a little about myself. I know you’re looking at me, envious of the fact that I am festooned in the finest denim known to mankind. Every piece of clothing you see on me, from my jeans, to my jeans jacket, to my jeans jacket shirt, to my jeans jacket shirt boxer briefs, was stonewashed in an old crick by a group of monks devoted to two things: Praising their lord and savior, and making me look like a vision in indigo. That’s a lie, of course, I got this outfit entirely at Old Navy, and let me tell you, they do not make you pay a lot for a quality product.

And isn’t that what we’re looking for, friends? Quality on the cheap?

Why just the other day, I was in the cold, black, vacuum of space, conversating with the ghost of Eleanor Roosevelt, and she was telling me that things just cost too damn much these days, and what do you get for your money? Things that break, things that warp, things that tell you they’re gonna do fifty things but by the time you take it out of the box, it’s barely as useful as the box from which you just removed it. That’s a lie, of course, I was talking with the ghost of Helen Herron Taft, and I gotta tell you, she is a straight shooter.

That’s something we’re missing these days, wouldn’t you agree, folks? A straight-shooter? Someone who’s gonna tell us what we need to hear, what we want to hear, and what we need to want to hear?

Well this is your lucky day, mi amigos y amigas. But I think you all knew that already. I think you saw me in my swell denim finery, standing next to this shimmering, gleaming example of automotive splendor that is the 1978 Chevrolet El Camino. And you thought to yourself, “Insert Sucker’s Name Here, I want to listen to what this man has to tell me. I think this man possesses all of the answers I need to really make something of myself.” That’s a lie, of course, your name is “Tom,” all of you are named “Tom,” even the women, it’s short for “Thomasina” or in some rare circumstances “Tomette.” But it doesn’t matter who you are, or what sort of variation on “Tom” your name happens to be. That is, unless your name is “Tombalaya,” because have you ever met a Tombalaya you can trust? If you have, could you please stick around afterwards? I have a brief questionnaire I need you to fill out.

Because friends, we don’t want to waste our time. Time is a precious resource, like water, or oil, or denim. You don’t want to wake up one morning, with the old grim reaper sitting at the foot of your bed, looking at you and tapping his watch with that big ol’ bony finger of his, and you’re all like, “PLEASE SIR, JUST GIVE ME 58 MORE MINUTES, THERE’S SO MUCH LEFT I NEED TO DO, SO MUCH TIME I WASTED.” That’s a lie, of course, the Grim Reaper doesn’t wear a watch, it would keep sliding off his wrist, on account of there’s no skin or musculature to hold it in place.

He’s a little like you and me, don’t you think? Aren’t we, in one way or another, skeletons wrapped in giant shrouds who are possessed of the terrifying spectral ability to rob people of their very lives?

My point is, we’re busy. Just 14 days ago, I was painting a portrait of my cat, giving myself a haircut, giving my cat a haircut, adjusting the portrait of my cat to reflect her new haircut, and writing out whatever bullshit I was going to spout at whoever I could get to gather around my goddamn beautiful 1978 Chevrolet El Camino 14 days later. And in the middle of everything, I just stopped. I just stopped, and dropped my paintbrush, my Flowbee, my kitty scissors, my Bullshit Journal, and my ball-point pen. And I said to myself, “Tombalaya,” there has GOT to be a better way. That’s a lie, of course. I haven’t written in my Bullshit Journal in years.

Because, esteemed colleagues, do you want to hear bullshit? Of course you don’t. Nobody does. So I’ll cut to the chase. And what I’m going to say may very well be the most amazing thing you’ve ever heard.

And that thing is this: Folks, I have no idea what I’m saying. Literally, I just started shouting loud enough so people would pay attention to the sound of my voice, because I am a deeply, intensely lonely human being. I wish I had some kind of product to sell you, or any kind of transaction that would make this time we’ve spent together worthwhile for you. I know every street corner in this fine American city has a sharp-dressed huckster, looking to take your hard-earned money in exchange for whatever gossamer dreams he or she may be peddling. I have no such stuff, gossamer or otherwise. I am truly a charlatan in every sense of the word. That’s a lie, of course. I merely aspire to be a charlatan.

But isn’t that the story of all of us? Ask yourself a question. Ask yourself, “Do I think I’m a fraud?” Of course you do. We all think we’re frauds, but wouldn’t it be great if what we were getting away with was something extraordinary? Wouldn’t it be amazing if I walked away from here with thousands upon thousands of dollars in my denim pockets, just for talking real nice and folksy like? Wouldn’t it be amazing if you didn’t think you deserved your job, or your spouse, or your cat, but you were the President of Earth married to a professional model who could manifest cold hard cash from nothing with the eerie power of their mind, and you owned Battle Cat from “Masters Of The Universe,” only he was always Battle Cat and never Cringer, because Cringer was the worst?

It would be something. But in reality, I will walk away from here twenty bucks poorer, thanks to the gentleman a few street corners over who sold me the “How To Be A Con Artist” book that turned out to be an old issue of “Good Housekeeping.” And in reality, you all have all earned and deserve the lives you live. We can aspire to be better frauds, but maybe we should just be happy with the frauds we are.

That’s a lie, of course. It was an issue of “Better Homes And Gardens.”