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The Ten Suggestions, by Phil Fountain

People, often younger people, come to me for advice. The best advice I can give them is usually, “Don’t come to me for advice.”

I’m not a sage or guru or teacher. I’m not a doctor (though I once played one in third grade). But these poor, unfortunate souls are seeking wisdom and with nowhere else to turn, still turn to me. A poet once said you shouldn’t lie to the ears of youth, so I won’t. What I offer is the pure, unvarnished and unsanded truth as I perceive it. Be forewarned — my understanding of the world has thus far led me to middle age, unemployment and shilling advice on various websites. Keep that grain of salt nearby.

1. The first rule, make sure you remove ALL the tinfoil from your baked potato before eating. There is nothing more harrowing than biting into a little tinfoil nugget. This rule falls to #4 on the list if you’re old and you’re wearing store-bought teeth.

2. Secondly, redneck jokes are not funny. Stop telling them. Don’t forward any email that starts out, “You know you’re a redneck if…” Should I learn of your continued insistence on propagating these offenses to all that is funny, I will personally hunt you down, drag you out of your trailer and slap you silly. With both hands. I’m not kidding. I don’t rule out the use of shaving cream pies, either.

3. When buying shoes, before leaving the store look in the box and make sure you have two of them. Ensure there is a left one and a right one and they are both the same size and color. I know you saw the clerk look in the box before they rang you up but they weren’t really looking. The depth of their concern for your footwear and your convenience can be measured in cc’s. Now, there are variations on this rule; if you have more than two feet or less than two feet, own two left feet or just like to wear one white sneaker and one brown loafer, adjust the application of this rule accordingly.

4. Never, under any circumstances, buy “a pig in a poke.” I don’t know why. I don’t even know what that means, but Granny used to say it, and she made some damn fine cookies, so I’ll go along with it. Then again, Granny thought Orson Bean lived in a teacup in her china cabinet and revealed the identity of tomorrow’s Mystery Guest on “What’s My Line” to her. But, dang, those cookies were goo-oood.

5. If you live anywhere near Redding, don’t ever ask someone, “Is it hot enough for you?” You already know the answer, don’t you? Yes, Bub, 119 is freakin’ hot enough for me.

6. Everyone who is considering marriage is looking for advice. Actually, they’re looking for someone to talk them out of it. Take it from a man who has been married for 28 years… sure, a sense of humor is nice. Being easy to talk to is good, too. Love is important, but do not underestimate your prospective mate’s ability to earn a decent wage. There will be times in your life that will necessitate you living off your Sugar Mama. After all, you’re barely employable as it is, right? During these times when your contribution to the family’s coffers has been compromised it is best to keep a low profile around the house. Do a load or two of laundry and keep up on the dishes. You’ll just have to trust me on this.

7. If you have children, well, sorry, pal, you’re screwed. I can’t help you with that. I myself have five of them. No, I’m not Catholic, just easily distracted. Some people like kids — these people usually don’t have any. Hell, I like tigers in the zoo but I don’t want to bring one home and have it go all Siegfried and Roy on me.

8. Now, if you’ve already ruined your life by not heeding Rule #7, make sure at least one of your kids likes you. Pick that one out and make sure they get a good education — a college degree in a field that is lucrative enough to allow them to care for you in your dotage. So, you get postcards postmarked Corcoran from the others.You’re sippin’ orange juice in a terrycloth robe out by the pool, aren’t you?

9. Never agree to the vacuum cleaner demonstration just to get a free two-liter bottle of Pepsi. I swear to God I’ve done this and those are three hours of my life I’ll never get back. And now I have four vacuum cleaners.

10. Last but not least, the most important advice I can give you is, don’t pay any attention to advice columns you see on the Internet. You don’t know who’s writing this stuff. It could be a roomful of monkeys with typewriters, a 9-year-old with a behavioral disorder or even an unemployed cartoonist. Be careful out there. Oh, do you still have that grain of salt? Good.

Phil Fountain

Phil Fountain is a cartoonist and writer based in the far reaches of Northern Californey.

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