Leafing through the local daily last week, ever mindful of finding material for this column under any rock, the toss-up for intrigue was between the Scottish Highland Games and a tattoo convention. Ten years ago it would have been no contest. Tattoos were just beginning to appear -- shyly -- on women. Today, the sight of girls with sleeve-length body art, pierced tongues and hair that outshines the spectrum of the big Crayola box isn't unusual. They look cool, interesting and way more fun than the Gapsters. But they're all around us. No big news.
Although body art may have lost some of its shock value, it's still a part of our outlaw subculture. As such, its dos and don'ts are included in a new book dedicated to our seedier sides. When the authors of said book begin with a disclaimer (written by their lawyer), stating that they will not be held responsible for any actions you take based on what you find between the covers, you know you're in for a good read.
So starts Rob Cohen's and Dave Wollock's Etiquette for Outlaws, a useful guide to the high times and low life. You might wish that you (or your friends) had read this book long before you started partying, getting tattoos, having sex or engaging in other aspects of modern life that some may still consider vice but many consider weekend plans.
Law and disorder
Your plans for the weekend may not involve going to court but, in case they run afoul, Cohen and Wollock have included that subject among their many important points of etiquette. Unlike other books on manners, which might teach you how to make a good showing if you're invited to a party at the Kennedy estate, this one offers more earthy knowledge, like how to get a bartender's attention, behave on a one-night stand and address a judge if you end up in a brawl. Actually, it's perfect for learning to mingle with Kennedys.
Whether you're actually going to indulge in any of this stuff or not, Etiquette for Outlaws is fun and offers sterling advice for not looking like a jerk in front of your friends, the local head-shop clerk or the street gang you're trying to impress. Practically every act you wouldn't want your mother to know you're engaged in is covered. So, when you can't ask mom for advice, simply consult the text.
Consider the authors' sense of:
Chivalry: When friends puke after boozing, "try to hold their hair up out of the bowl water, and out of the path of the spew."
History: "Hey, what does the Royal Family have in common with Appalachian white trash? Inbreeding and dog races."
Public safety: "Airlines don't take kindly to those who try to bring weapons on planes. ... Unless you're a rock star `who` can pay your dues with a Public-Service Announcement, prepare for some jail time or a shitload of community-service emptying bedpans."
Housekeeping: To remove the odor of cigar smoke from your vehicle, "leave an order of McDonald's fries in the car overnight."
No form of adult entertainment is left unscrutinized:
Good pot-smoking form: "No showing without sharing!"
What you can pierce, what complications it might cause and how painful it is: There's a chart with graphics ranging from one screaming face to indicate minimal hurt up to five to indicate sheer torture.
What you can say during sex: "It's OK to scream, Ã?Oh, God!' even if you're an atheist. Ã?Oh, emptiness!' just doesn't have the same zing."
There is also advice on how to street fight: ("It's OK to run"), masturbation etiquette ("Lock the damn door"), rave rules ("Leave the DJs alone") and how to be a rock star ("Do your best to time your demise with the release of a new album").
This is all thoughtfully followed up by a section called "The Aftermath," which tells you how to deal with rehab, parole, homelessness and -- more cheerily -- how to indulge your debauched tastes when you travel the world.
Plus, you get tips from genuine celebrities on the virtues of vice. Penn Jillette (of Penn and Teller) tells you about casinos; Ice-T talks about strippers; Bow-Wow-Wow's Annabella offers clubbing dos and don'ts, and Florida's own Gen of the Genitorturers considers romance and piercing.
How have you lived without this book up until now? Probably, not admirably. But this guide, which mixes common sense with cool, will let you know everything you need to know about mixing right in the wrong circles. Like it says about tattoos, why act like you know more than you do and then end up unhappy (or in a painful removal process)?
If you'd take a guide book to a country that's foreign to you, you might also want to study one before going into a culture that's foreign to you -- even if it's been right next door all along.
But if you end up as a phone-sex operator, remember: The authors are in no way responsible. I am.