INTRODUCTION, by DM Schwartz
When Rocco St. James first approached me to write the forward to this book, I was more than a little alarmed. I was shocked. He was naked below the waist, for starters, and the dangling sway of his “Jolly Roger” was wildly out of place in the produce section of Whole Foods. Then the pungent, suffocating reek of Rocco’s comingled scents – cheap cologne, stale beer and days-old sweat – seared my nostrils and eyes. I recall gagging and stumbling backward before succumbing to the stench and toppling into a crate of organic avocados.
The second time Rocco pitch the idea went better. We met at a sloppy little basement speakeasy that oozed slime from its walls (the sewer pipes in the gaming hall above had ruptured). Rocco had arrived hours prior and was on his sixth Tom Collins, fourth Whiskey Sour, second cigar and an unknown quantity of uncut Peruvian Lady. His clothes were classic St. James – vintage leather jacket over a polyester shirt and Dacron pants with a sheen like an oiled python.
Orbiting around this fading star was the usual assortment of admirers, minions and misfits. Some college kids hoping to party like rock-and-rollers. A pilgrim from Brooklyn seeking the guru’s advice. A trio of pole dancers. Various autograph hounds. And Rocco’s personal physician with his ever-present black bag full of antidotes, tourniquets, sutures, adrenaline shots, tranquilizers and whatever else the good doctor needed to keep St. James semi-coherent and out of the gutter.
The dishrag tramp seated beside Rocco passed out and toppled to the grimy floor, so I took the open seat.
“Fugger you?” Rocco asked, his bloodshot eyes unable to focus. I reminded St. James about the book. He blinked through a haze of incomprehension. “Book? What fuggin’ book?”
It was during our seventh meeting that we finally came to our understanding and I agreed to open his book. Why me? Rocco was familiar with my work and admired it. But more than that, I think the man saw me as a great, balancing, bathed, sober “ying” to his rampaging, filthy “yang.”
What follows are Rocco’s thoughts and observations. Essays, news articles and anecdotes. Unfiltered ramblings from his brilliant, troubled mind. Rocco St. James pours forth a thought provoking, offensive, humorous, insightful, satirical, lewd, poetic and ultimately rewarding antidote to the oh-so-serious protestors, social justice warriors, cancellers and thought police so prevalent today.
Rocco St. James once fought a Burmese Giant King Cobra. Forty feet long and weighing five tones, this reptilian demigod had fangs the length of your arm and venom potent enough to impregnate a blue whale. The battle raged for days through the streets of Rangoon. Thirty-eight people lost their lives to the scythe-like strikes of the cobra’s tail and the concussive blasts of Rocco’s flexing biceps. The conflict decimated the city’s colonial era urban core and ended in the Bay of Bengal. Rocco yanked an unexploded torpedo from the muck and shoved it down the devil-snake’s throat. The blast sent Cobra bits into the atmosphere that still rain down on the Rakhine minority population to this day.
They were going to raise a statue in Rocco’s honor, but then they forgot.
ARTICLE: THE GAMERS.
For the past decade or so, video gamer and notorious pot smoker Phillip Downs had been known as the “Scent of Weed, Centipede,” at times holding the world record for the highest score in the popular arcade game Centipede. But now his legacy is under dispute. His official high scores from the 1980 Atari classic have been stripped and he has been banned from submitting any future scores for consideration.
Twin Galaxies, the Iowa gaming institution that tracks these kinds of records, said on Thursday that they had collected enough evidence to determine that Downs was “obnoxiously high” when scoring his winning Centipede scores, three of which exceeded 1 million points. According to their report, Mr. Downs “did knowingly withhold his stash of sweet, stinky weed from this gaming commission.” Marijuana and other drugs are not strictly forbidden for record submissions for the classic arcade-style games.
As of Thursday, Downs had not publicly responded, though thick clouds of smoke were seen streaming from the slightly cracked windows of his 1992 Honda Civic as the car reverberated with Bob Marley and Led Zeppelin tunes.
Downs became an unpopular face in the video game world after his rivalry with fellow Centipede and blunt smoking competitor Steven “Weed and C’ede” Weider was explored in the 2018 documentary Gamers and Ganja. Now that Downs has been deposed from his throne, Twin Galaxies notes that Weider has become the new official record holder. “Weider also shares from his stockpiles of Maui Wowie and Super Lemon Haze.”
Downs continues to hold the record as the first “stoned-out-of-his-fucking gourd” person to achieve a perfect score in Pac-Man in 2015.
“Twin Galaxies administrative staff has unanimously decided to remove all of Phillip Down’s scores as well as ban him from participating in our competitive leaderboards,” reads a statement. “We gave that asshole ample opportunity to share his stashes of Sour Diesel, Mango Kush and Cannatonic.”
Mr. Downs did hire an independent investigator to examine the facts on his behalf. The investigator disagreed with Twin Galaxies decision, stating that “Downs and I lit up with some incredible Laughing Budda and then some of the best Nine Pound Hammer I’ve ever smoked. I’m still feeling it!”
This did not, however, sway the gaming council. “From a Twin Galaxies viewpoint, Mr. Down’s private investigator is either smoking Permafrost or Alaskan Thunder Fuck. The only important thing to know is whether he will share.”
PAMPHLET EXCERPT: GRANDMA SERGEANT’S TACTICAL PRESCHOOL.
Grandma Sergeant will take your lowly globs of pediatric protoplasm, ages 2 to 5, and turn them into pitiless and hardened units of kindergarten readiness. Our punishing regimen of physical discipline and psychological duress coupled with nap time and cookie breaks are guaranteed to severe the proverbial apron strings while giving your child the skills necessary for introductory reading and the ability to violently suppress classroom uprisings. Plus, our “Weed Out or Bleed Out” playground now features three fewer teeter totters and fifteen more yards of razor wire!
MYSTERY OF THE SECRET RIDDLE: A ROCCO ST JAMES STORY
The night was as hot as a Dutchman’s bunghole and twice and rank. Private Detective Rocco St. James sat alone in his third story office and privately detected the bottle of bourbon he kept in his desk.
“Well,” he muttered to no one in particular, since he was alone, “Might as well. Maybe it will help me relax.”
He unscrewed the cap tossed back a hard, long swig straight from the bottle. The brown liquid hit his empty gut as hard as some fat bastard tossed off a three-story roof and onto the grimy pavement below.
“Damn,” Rocco gasped. “That hit my empty gut like a fat bastard.”
Relaxing wasn’t going to be easy. Not after the day he’d had. Being on the side of law and order in Gangster City was as hard as the Devil’s erection in a concrete condom. But today Gangster City had Viagra, and its chemically reinforced concrete crime-boner had pounded Rocco’s metaphorical ass hard. As hard as some stupid ugly kid trying to understand pre-algebra while lobbying to be Homecoming King.
It had all started the day prior. Rocco’s partner, Patrick McIntire, was as Irish as a four-leaf clover strapped to a drunken, red-headed IRA bomber. Patrick brought in their new client. Her name was Vikki Von Villainy. She’d broken Rocco’s heart. And then his ribs.
To be continued…
MOVIE TEASER: THE LIBRARIAN.
In a city where library patrons rampantly abuse the overdue book policy, one librarian takes matters into his own hands. With his cardigan sweater, quiet demeanor and a smoking .44 Magnum he rids the city’s inter-loan system of tattered pages and missing book jackets. But can he face his biggest challenge when he’s arrested for homicide?
PRO-TIPS BY ROCCO ST. JAMES. NUMBER 637.
Never play Minecraft with anyone younger than you, ever. You’ll be like, “Hey, I found some coal,” and they’ll be all like, “Yeah. I no longer use coal because my enchanted redstone diamond pickaxe runs on emeralds and nether-fumes.” Then you’ll feel stupid.
NEWS ARTICLE: A CAUTION TO FOR TOURISTS BOUND FOR MEXICO.
CORA GABO (Roiters) - Travel experts say that as spring break approaches, a State Department warning against visiting Playa del Carmen in Mexico in light of an unspecified security threat is diverting tourists from the popular resort area.
“Passengers are definitely steering away and concerned about the destination,” said Olaf Ramond, CEO of Tenuous Travel in Cora Gabo, Fla.
But the experts add that Mexico is a large country with many large destinations, such as Puerto Vallarta or Huatulco, that tourists could choose instead.
“Specifically related to Playa del Carmen, I would probably follow the State Department’s alert and suggestion, and stay away for a while,” said Pablo Escobar Junior, the senior advisor to the Mexico Travel Institute. “But there are tons of other places, wonderful places, to vacation in Mexico.”
The Mexico Tourism Board issued a statement acknowledging the U.S.'s right to warn travelers. But the Board called the State Department warning “counterproductive” and said Playa del Carmen is safe for travelers, other than a recent ferry explosion, nightclub bombing, machete riot, cartel shootout and the “usual amount of indiscriminate violence, bloodshed and predatory sexual deviancy that one would expect in any cosmopolitan third-world resort town.”
“It’s simple math,” the Board argued. “Let’s say you’re a wealthy American tourist in a luxury swimming pool with a hungry a sharkadillo. That’s a shark mixed with an armadillo, by the way. Would you rather be in that pool with one other wealthy American tourist or with one hundred? The more people who stay away from those sharkadillo infested resort pools, the higher the chance that those remaining will be savagely ripped into meaty chunks and eaten. That blood is on the State Department’s hands, not ours.”
“Messages like this, which imply factual safety issues without any basis in opinion, are counterproductive to the goal of informing and educating wealthy American travelers to Mexico and we strongly disagree with this rationale approach,” the Board said. “Playa del Carmen is the largest destination in the Riviera Maya, and is surrounded by beautiful caves and pristine cenotes, wonderful resorts, beach clubs, boutique hotels, and trendy shops with international brands. Does this also make it a target for cocaine-fueled pistolerros, xenophobic rapists and the cash-starved lieutenants of drug kingpin underlings? Of course. But this plague of horrific beatings, beheadings, sodomies and robberies can easily be ignored by simply having another shot of Tequilla and zip-lining through a waterfall.”
The Tourism Board said steps the Mexico government and tourism industry have taken to ensure safety and security led to growth during the last five years in a row. These safety measures include anti-decapitation posters and the hiring of armed guards sworn to limit their involvement in tourist murders, abductions and ransoms. Playa del Carmen continues to be one of Mexico’s most popular destinations for international travelers, with a murder rate that grew by only 18.3% last year compared to 21.6% the year prior.
“It’s true,” the Board added, “that the majority of the Mexican populace sees Americans as pudgy, pink piggybanks that they’d like to crack open with hammers or the butts of illegally obtained AK-47’s with the serial numbers removed. But come and spend your money in Mexico. Wait. Can we strike this last part from the record? No? Oh, shit.”
Rocco St. James does not have a pathologic, long repressed man-crush on Michael Fassbender. Rocco has barely noticed the actor’s tall, broad, hyper-masculine physique, the fierce intensity of Fassbender’s gaze or chiseled angles of the man’s perfect German-Irish jawline, brow and nose. The itinerary of Rocco’s annual pilgrimages to Heidelberg (Michael Fassbender’s birthplace on April 22nd, 1977, Rocco seldom notes), no longer include nights spent spooning an effigy of the actor in public parks, just as the judge ordered.
The point is, many cinephiles develop dangerous obsessions manifest by incoherent fits of jealousy and hypervigilant stalking behaviors around said actor’s residence after disabling elaborate security systems. But Rocco isn’t one of them. Not when he’s on his meds.
A BRIEF ESSAY ON CAN OPENERS.
Most people think they know all there is to know about can openers. And most people take these indispensable devices for granted, the way a wife might take her husband for granted as he sits home alone at three AM while their kids, little Jenny and Todd, sleep unaware that she’s out cavorting with God knows who until finally stumbling home, reeking of cheap cologne and stale bourbon, her lipstick in a smear and her blouse half buttoned. But did you known that after the invention of canned food it took some fifty years before anyone thought to invent an opener?
The first can openers were unwieldy steel monsters designed to puncture the metal lids guarding your unsalted meat puddings and spinach jellies. But oh, how times have changed! Much like a woman changes from the one you thought you knew into a skulking stranger who flinches with disgust when you touch her arm or suggest counseling.
Can openers have evolved into various forms, from Church Key openers to Butterfly openers and from Bunker openers to the oh-so simple Single Wheel openers. We now live in an age where opening a can requires almost no thought or effort, similar to your one-time soulmate who now invests no time or effort into the relationship you believed would fulfill you physically and emotionally as she continues to devolve into a morally bankrupt harpy.
THE ‘KREMLIN’ SHIRT.
Submit, Comrade, to the anti-capitalistic might of this Bolshevik masterpiece! Purge your wardrobe of any counter-revolutionary garments. No more shall the enemies of the people subvert our glorious Party with their substandard fashion and “fifth column” accessories. By mass collectivization of our apparel we shall present a united front of style and glamour that will shatter the democracies of inferior linens and reduce the Old Guard to smoldering ash heaps of the woolen trousers, kosovorotkas and sarafans by which they mean to repress us. Our iron will and our debonair trappings propel us to victory!
Rocco St James helped influence today’s fashion. True story. Rocco was on the fashion team at Sears HQ. They were sitting down to go over fabric samples when Rocco had his epiphany. “My God,” he thought, “I’m on the Sears fashion team. That’s like being on the all-quadriplegia dance team or the orphanage family reunion planning committee. How did I sink this low? I’m squandering my three semesters of fashion design at Kalamazoo Community College. Five more semesters and 48 credit hours and I’d be working for Versace. Too bad I started frequenting Hooka bars and dabbling in bubble melt hashish.”
THE LONG-HAUL TRUCKER.
Breaker-breaker 1-9. You got your ears on, good buddy? Smokey has his bear traps out today and there’s a fox in the henhouse at yard stick 207 out on big road 65. I’m rolling my Reefer in new sneakers and y’all are coming in wall to wall and treetop tall. You 4-10-ing me?
If you’re readin’ the mail, then tune in close. I had a dung beetle on my donkey ‘till I pulled into a pickle park called Sally O’Malley’s for some go-go juice and a tango with the lot lizards. If you gotta pay the water bill or grab some grub, you can do worse than Sally’s. Then it was on to a turtle race with some Billy Big-Rigger in a black-eyed Thermos. I gouged on it, got into boogie and left that crackerhead in my back pocket.
Then some gear-jamming bear bait in a bobtailed Bulldog hammer-laned me in Georgia overdrive. I kept my cool and a few miles on I seen a County Mountie handin’ him a driving award. That’ll soak up some green stamps and serves him right, I thought.
I drove on, once again filled with a churning resentment that no one had yet invented steering wheel that would allow me to chain smoke Pall Malls, suck down 64-ounce Mountain Dews and cram either Pork Rinds, Cheetos or the remnant pizza crusts from breakfast into my ever-widening face. Oh well, nothing a line of coke won’t obliterate from the consciousness of my tedious, cargo hauling existence.
I’m Left Coast bound, feeling sound and I’ll see y’all in Shaky Town. Keep it sunny side up, rubber down and K-O, K-O.
SOME SOLID ADVICE FOR ECONOMISTS.
When running a Regression Analysis, it’s best not to let passion get in the way.
Excel spreadsheets inherently provoke high emotion. Like a well-worded sonnet or a classic orchestral arrangement, these spreadsheets can evoke the very best and the very worst in our psyches. And a Regression Analysis, even one that’s well run, sits at the red-hot, smoking apex of that festering volcano of our human angst. It’s that raging angst that drove us to become Economists.
Planning ahead is the best advice.
Know what you’ll do in advance if your “scatterplot seems scattershot” or your “standard error is substandard.” This will keep the natural, seething homicidal impulses present in every Economist in check and keep you from going to prison again.
Is your t-Stat too small? Remember, that’s not a referendum on your inherent worth as a being. And if your Adjusted R-Square value is off, don’t start slashing away at variables in your data set (or pedestrians outside your squalid studio apartment, the cramped, suffocating space that no woman has visited since the Nixon era. If only you still had legal access to firearms, you think. Then you would show them!).
Take a deep breath, repeat your mantra, crush a Xanax between your teeth and chase it with a swig of your favorite store brand liquor. This will keep the demons away and keep your correlations below 0.70.
THE CLASSIEST TARTTOO ARTIST.
When choosing a tattoo, it behooves one to listen to his or her innermost child. What fundamental part of one’s self is yearning to be expressed? What fragile inner flower do you wish to display to the world? Which ink rendering will give others a window into your tender soul?
Take Daniel Peterson form Florence, Iowa. After an anguished period of thoughtful introspection for three minutes, Daniel chose to represent the delicate nuances of his being with a Swastika-adorned zombie Hitler riding a flaming Harley through a seething nest of impossibly busty, fork-tongued, naked lady demons. One must assume this was symbolic of some latent sense of inadequacy, perhaps stemming from an overbearing mother or an absent father.
And Dianna James of New Burnsing, Vermont? This angelic soul chose a stoned, blunt smoking Hello Kitty face with the body of a winged serpent. This spiraled upward around her left thigh with a caption reading “Damned if you Do.” Perhaps this displayed the lingering grief she’d suffered as a young woman. Had a beloved boyfriend tragically died? This wasn’t art imitating life. This was art amplifying life and capturing it in a fragile, beautiful form.
And who can forget Sherman Davis of Oak Brook, Illinois? Here was an innocent man-child pleading for acceptance. The defiant “FUCK YOU” stenciled forever on his forehead was the public expression of anger that we all feel at times. If this doesn’t demonstrate humanity’s dichotomy in the physical-spiritual realms, then nothing ever will. We are all in this brave man’s debt.
THE GRANDFATHERS OF HIP HOP.
Perhaps you’ve heard of Hip Hop music. Did you know it was invented by Mr. Herman J. Hippen and Dr. Claudius von Hoppel in 1849? It’s true.
According to Hip Hop lore, this occurred whilst these gentlemen were attempting to change a pressed recording. They accidently agitated their phonograph machine, producing a sound pleasant to the ear. Subsequent experimental disturbances to the normal clockwise rotations of said device yielded further acoustic variances, many of which caused all heads to bob in rhythm and many “tapping of toes.”
Word of Mr. Hippen and Dr. von Hoppel’s strange but energizing new sounds quickly spread. Soon such deliberate phonographic agitations were accompanied by synchronized drum beatings and even improvised vocalizations.
Still later, on Saturday evenings after the milking of cows, the slopping of hogs and the cording of wood had been finished, groups of youths might be seen congregating to share their unique compositions. These groups prided themselves on flamboyant names. Such early names included The Bestial Boys, Jeff the Jazzy and His So-Called ‘Fresh Prince,’ Iced Tea, Iced Cube, Iced Lamb’s Liver Pudding and Not Without Angus (often foreshortened to ‘N.W.A.’). These youths would frequently and admiringly “shout out” the names of Mr. Hippen and Dr. von Hoppel as they festivized or otherwise cavorted.
Sadly (but perhaps predictably), this “Hippen and von Hopplel” craze was soon beset by feudings aplenty. The loudest and most prolific effrontery persisted between those of the East Coast and the West Coast (of Lake Michigan). The discordant “Hippen-Hoppel” artists could often be heard leveling all manner of salty and unflattering language at their opposites. Some of these feuds degenerated into outright fisticuffs.
Not much has changed in the ensuing decades. “Hip-Hop,” as it came to be known, remains a lively but fringe phenomenon, still practiced by various faddists in honor of the two progenitors of their craft. If by happenstance you encounter one of Hip Hop’s practitioners, be sure to mention Mr. Hippen and Dr. von Hoppel and bask in your due acknowledgement.