29th October 09
A few years ago Nate came up for a visit, and we were at the Half Price Books in St. Louis Park. Nate was stocking up on Henry Roth paperbacks or whatever, and I was perusing a very handsome three-hundred page hardcover volume on Tijuana bibles. We’d been in the store for about an hour, and it was about time to leave.
“What’s that?” asked Nate.
“Oh, it’s a book on Tijuana bibles,” I told him. “Really interesting. Very titillating, very scholarly — that’s a rare combination.”
“Well, bring it up front and let’s go.”
I shook my head. “Naw, I’m not going to buy it,” I said, admiring a crude rendering of Cary Grant’s wang before reshelving it.
“Why not? It looks great.”
“It is, there’s some really good essays and really charming drawings of Cary Grant’s wang, but I don’t have any money.”
“How much is it?”
“Five dollars? Are you kidding? You have five dollars! Come on! Buy it!”
“Naw, my personal library doesn’t need an informative, well-researched illustration-heavy book featuring drawings of Cary Grant’s wang,” I said dismissively. ”Let’s go.”
“Fine, but you are going to regret not buying that,” he warned.
I waved my hand and frowned and made that pfffft sound. We left the store and drove back down Excelsior Boulevard and the Miracle Mile, back into Minneapolis.
That was four years ago. There is not a week that goes by where I don’t think about that god-damned book.
18th September 09
A few years ago I was sitting at the bar at Nye’s Polonaise with a friend, making the bartender mix me obscure, fruity cocktails from the ’60s that I’d never heard of (the bartenders at Nye’s are almost all ancient Northeast natives that have a sense memory of every cocktail ever created, even the really farty ones, like a “Blood and Sand”). It was still pretty early in the evening, before the 8pm rush, so there weren’t many people around. Just me and my friend, some lone diners, the bartender, Gina the hostess, and two identical twins in their 50s, sitting a few seats down.
The identical twins were bickering about something or other, and the conversation began to spill over to our end of the bar. I forget what the dispute was about, but it came down basically to them politely accusing each other of being assholes, and then asking me and my friend for some arbitration on the matter. I don’t like to call people assholes because I’m a wuss (who else drinks a “Blood and Sand”?), but the twins were adamant. Cheerful, even.
“The thing is,” said one of them, “that we have studied this issue for a long time. We are both assholes. You are, too, probably.” These two brothers had a very elaborate personal taxonomy of assholes, identifying themselves as Number One Type assholes, and me as a Number Two Type, or possibly a Four. They began to describe their system in some detail.
“We’ve written a book on the subject,” said the other. “If you give us your address, we’ll send you a copy.”
They seemed like OK guys, so I gave them the address of the house in Phillips I was living in. They thanked me and both left the bar, and I went back to my Blood and Sand and forgot all about it.
Six months passed.
One day, I received a mysterious package in the mail. It was a copy of The Ordering of Assholes: A Useful Study by Craig Wiese and the Brothers Oberpriller.
The Ordering of Assholes is less a book than a pamphlet, but a fascinating one. It’s copyrighted 1989, though the “eleventh printing” I own seems to date from 2003. “We’ve thought about this very hard and our findings are important because the world is full of assholes,” it begins.
They then go on to identify four types of assholes:
- Perfect Assholes: Guys who are totally conscious of being an asshole and enjoy being one.
- Real Assholes: Guys who are assholes but don’t think they are.
- Can Be an Asshole: Guys who the skills to be PERFECT ASSHOLES.
- No Assholes: Guys who aren’t assholes, and don’t try to be, as in “he’s no asshole.”
“You’ll note we said ‘guys,” they clarify. “Females don’t count in the world of assholes. Most of them would be TWOs or FOURs anyway.” The distinctions being drawn here are rather delicate, of course, but I am fairly certain I’ve known at least a few female Number One types. Still, they wrote the book, not me.
Regardless, the brothers go on to identify the four types in some detail. “Perfect assholes” will often “do the exact opposite of what you tell them to do” and “make people very nervous at social gatherings where certain behavior patterns are expected.” “Real assholes” are “not a good thing to be”; they have “a self-perception that is wildly out of sync with reality.” Number Threes “are very successful drinkers because they can often become ONES for an entire evening.” Number Fours are “just nice,” and “very relaxed.”
The pamphlet concludes with this enigmatic statetment: “There are certain Hall of Fame assholes who have achieved the rare distinction of 5-STAR ASSHOLE status. There is no honor higher known to mortal man. Pay homage to this rare breed of asshole.” Who are they? We aren’t told. Presumably, once we’ve absorbed the lessons in the pamphlet, we’ll be able to identify them in the wild.
There is no contact information in the text, though the Brothers Oberpriller are written about here; turns out they were part of a twins study at the University in the 1950s.