At least somebody’s paying attention

by Brian Clarey

Warning: The following column may contain adult language, adult situations and brief nudity.

I get a lot of letters. Always have, going back to my college days when a reader of the Loyola Maroon accused me, after a Valentine’s Day column I had written, of being hung up on the “mysteries of menstruation” or some such thing.

He also used the phrase, “Bully for you.”

If I think for a minute I can probably remember that clown’s name’…. Nope. I can’t.

At any rate’… I get a lot of letters, many of which express’… less than favorable opinions of me, my writing, my decision-making abilities, my appearance, my audience, my wardrobe, my general aroma and my personal code of ethics.

It gets intense sometimes, but it’s part of the gig and I’m used to it.

In fact, I kind of like it.

And I try to run them all in the Letters section of the paper, somewhere over by Jim Longworth’s slot on the Voices pages, as long as they have names on them, and not names of the “Richard Fitzwell” and “Haywood Djablomi” variety.

We prefer to print things that come from traceable sources because we want to know that the opinions are valid and come from actual people; we also think that snipers who fire barbed missives behind that giant “cloak of anonymity” the internet provides are kind of lame.

So not every piece of correspondence that comes through my mailbox makes it to the printed page or to our website’s article comment threads.

That’s, folks.

Here’s a letter that I got that until now I’ve been sharing for my own private joy:

“How can you arrogate the title of ‘custodian of the language’ to yourself when you put obscenities in your own page 50 column?”

It was signed, “The Silent Majority.”

How does that grab ya?

For the first time in my career I’ve moved a group who by definition is committed to silence – and a majority at that – to break from generations of speechlessness, to rouse from a slumber, really, of belabored tolerance and quiet suffering.

The Silent Majority has spoken. And it’s all because of little old me.

But I wasn’t immediately sure of what I had said to trigger this unprecedented correspondence. I’ve spent a lot of time over the years in places where people speak without regard for conventions like “obscenity” and “vulgarity.” I was, however, once evicted from a bar in a trailer in Slidell, La. by a woman who claimed that my use of “that talk” aggravated her ability to play video poker.

Anyway, I am sometimes unaware when I let the “potty talk” fly.

I realized it was a problem when my oldest child, at the age of 4, called me a “douchebag.” Though in all fairness I was acting like a pretty big douchebag at the time.

At any rate’… I went back and searched all my columns from the last three months looking for something that might have prompted this letter and I came up with a “Greatest Hits” list.

Here goes.

In the July 5, 2006 issue I used the phrase, “see more ass than a toilet seat” when attempting to predict the future lifestyle of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s love child.

On July 26 I wrote: “I’ve blown out the ass in every pair of jeans I’ve had since high school.”

In August I went on something of a roll, using the phrase “Sugar tits” on Aug. 9, quoted during the course of making a Mel Gibson joke; and then on Aug. 16 I used the term “kickass,” again in a quote that referred to a particular style of music, the word “butt” and also “prick,” referring to a magazine with that name. For the Aug. 2 issue I used the word “prick” referring to myself.

Throw in a couple “crap”s, “damn”s and “hell”s and also that “douchebag” I just dropped a minute ago and you have it: Things I said This Summer that May Have Pissed People Off.

As far as I can tell, anyway. Like I said, sometimes these things don’t even register in my mind.

But I can assure you that I’m working on it. Around the house I’ve already taken to using words like “a-hole” and “mofo” which are not quite as satisfying to mutter but still get my point across. I’ve also taken a page from my Italian relatives and started using elaborate hand gestures to convey dissatisfaction with a situation or an individual: flicking my thumbnail against my top front teeth, biting the fingers of my open hand and shaking it or slapping my left hand into the crook of my right arm.

And I’m finding that to get your point across, sometimes you don’t need to say a word.

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