Memento mori, Canis familiaris: A Scene at Three Corners.

The springtime grass is slowly greening as two female twenty-somethings stand in their mismatched scrubs; one in teal pants and a floral top, the other in a violent mish-mash of polka dots and pink. Flower Girl is smoking a cigarette and keeping dirty-blonde hair out of her eyes with the help of a glorified rubber band. Dottie's reading a dime novel through thick-rimmed glasses worthy of a nerd-rock superstar. Neither of them speak or look at one another, though there are only fifteen feet between them in the field behind the brick animal hospital where they've chosen to set their stage. Their left hands both hold leashes, one more element that binds the two unlikely co-conspirators. It's a snapshot worth a fortune to the right man.

A dog at the end of each leather strap paces until it tugs, then turns around and does the same in the opposite direction. These pets are clearly as medicated as their over-anxious owners sitting in the waiting room or on a beach in Bermuda. One of them wears a twitching beard, a terrier of some sort that'd almost look dignified if not for its nervous condition. The other's an unidentifiable mutt, the kind that'd loyally walk the kids to school if the parents didn't drive them to the bus stop every morning instead. Neither canine appears willing to squat and see to the duty that requires the hiring and bi-weekly payment of the two aloof girls too ashamed to lock eyes. We all die wasting time, and vice versa.

Uncaring, the reluctant employees remain relatively still, silently reveling in the fact that they're paid by the hour, not by the turd. Flowergirl-turned-perpetual-bridesmaid-who's-never-going-to-throw-the-backwards-bouquet-if-she-keeps-it-up-like-this takes a deep drag on her extra long menthol, an ex-boyfriend in the back of her brain working his way down into her lungs. The Bookworm tries to turn the page, one-handed, and drops her distraction of choice to the super-fertilized lawn, innocently oblivious to the fact that she's becoming quasi-fiction in the process.

(Billy's "Merely Players" speech comes to mind. That poor Danish prince was doomed from the start. Other than the crazy woman who does the world a favor by ridding it of her shadow it's the only thing in the script that's half-believable; even that's redundant to anyone who's faired enough flawed friendships and been blinded by the sun more than would like to be admitted for the sake of being the fool. Yorick, you ain't missing much.)

The light turns green, the observing deity pivots His right foot from the brake to the rubbed-raw accelerator while wanting the Smoking Girl's number and the Reader's hand in marriage, and the intersection of the creatures' Venn diagram is made clear: All three are waiting for shit to happen; all five feel trapped by present circumstances.

There. I'm finished. What have you done to realize your dream today?

The Home-Row Isn't Strong Enough to Rid the World of His Shadow

We were taking coffee break in one of the building's three designated lunch rooms, the four of us tired of choking on welding fumes and grateful for the reprieve. Our snacks were gone, our drinks down to one remaining chug. It was that awkward conversation time when no one wants to get up first and head back to the task at hand, but nobody wants their boots to drag last-in-line, either. Like a gift from God my phone rang. I stepped out into the hallway to answer it, a bit afraid since I didn't recognize the number aside from the middle three digits that told me it was a cellular line.

"Hello?" I asked.

"Michael?" a faintly Jewish-sounding voice whined. Could he have changed that much in a few years? A wife, a son; I guess he could've.

"Yes?" I asked more cautiously now that the chips were on the table

"Michael, it's your father! Where are you?" He sounded legitimately agitated at this mysterious Michael's absence. It couldn't have been whom I thought it was. That Christ-fearing coward couldn't care less about his first attempt at family, the holy hypocrite that he is and will be all the way to the grave. He started anew in one of life's rarely granted do-overs without as much as a card dropped in the mailbox. I'm not an afterthought he'll have in his precious afterlife. Sometimes that burns me as much as the flames of Hell someday will. There's comfort in knowing what's coming.

"You've got the wrong number. I was confused at first because my name is also Michael." My explanation trailed off. It didn't make sense to continue telling of the irony to a stranger in search of his son.

"Hmph," he half-laughed, half-snorted. This mystery man of mine hung up and I walked back into the break room. The three wise men were waiting: my stepfather, a forty-five-year-old friend who'd taught me the most in the pipe trade, and a man I'd worked for since the age of eighteen looked up from their styrofoam cups in silent anticipation of a report. I stood in the doorway, suggesting that I was ready to go back to work.

"He was looking for his son Michael," I told them. "Wanted to know where I'd been. I told him I've been wondering the same for the last four-and-a-half years." I felt the familiar muscle movement of that painkilling smirk used in defense of what lies beneath the bearded facade. It'd take a wrench or a bottle to pry it from my face. I know. I've tried it before.

The three of them laughed the laugh of the knowing uncomfortably, none of them wanting to admit their sources, and downed the rest of their beverages. Their chairs squeaked against the commercial tile floor as they rose to take on the rest of the day. None of us knew it'd be fourteen hours, but one of us knew he was lucky. As trite as it is, the woven blue-on-white framed number is right-- that thing on God and doors and windows.

Three or four fathers are better than one. Three or four anythings are better than one nothing. Three or four more sentences would make this more believable. I can't come up with them, though; there's too much truth in what really happened sometimes. Saved by a semicolon again.



I'm made aware
that Leonard's sent a message.
Leo, we always called him
but no one calls him now--
not since the move down south
the arrest, the shotgun wedding and kids.
I ignore Leo, Leonard, whatever he's called
these days, continue my night
thinking back to the time
when we had to put our full names
one capital letter per box
on those state-examined testing sheets.
How perfectly LEONARD fit then;
how terribly he does now.

We're all in a high percentile
though the standards
like the outcomes
have changed.
When in doubt
pick C.


Slippery Freudian Slopes

"Do I still resemble her from this angle?" she asks, her head dipped back in the nest made by her pillow. His forearms shift uncomfortably on her hips as he lays prone diagonally to her naked form.

"Who?" he asks in a poor purchase of time. They never forget the slips, he thinks. It makes him wonder how people stay married for forty years. There must be a lot of lying involved, Oscar-worthy performances from the altar to the grave. Was he drunk and spilling his guts when he told her two years ago? Of course; he must've been. Why did he always fall into that trap? Dimitri Karamazov indeed, beard and scars to prove it.

"Becky," she answers coolly without looking down at his quivering brow, perhaps out of pity for a man on the run.

Her butchering of the name bothers him like it always does when someone fouls it up casually as if they knew the girl, but didn't. Not Becky, not Rebecca, but Beck. That was how she referred to herself eight years ago when they were young and in that first form of amateur love, and that is how she's to be addressed now as long as he has a say in the matter. There was something less feminine about her version of her name that made the two of them seem even more alike in addition to their dark features, sarcastic humor, and similar taste in music. She could take the Jack straight better than he could, though. He attributed it to her father, but neither of them spoke about it. Her career has probably moved her towards Rebecca status, but that doesn't matter now in the dim light of the apartment in which he still holds a candle. He remembers seeing a parochial school dedicated to Our Lady of Pompeii and laughing at its morbid implications. That's who Beck's become to him: a patron saint of Better Times buried in yards of ash. Eight years. God, has it been that long? he asks himself.

"You mean..." he begins, quickly realizing that correcting her nominal mistake will only make it worse. The vague opening words make it easy to recover. "...to tell me that you don't think I'm over her?" Brilliant. Masterful. Bond at his best.

Her eyes finally peel from the ceiling and stare down at his waiting countenance. Did she buy it? For that matter, did he? Only the coming reaction will tell. Eight years of locking a child in his heart. It seemed like yesterday, yet also eternity. The lovely, long-haired girl that made him who he is today, for better and worse and mostly unintentionally, still has a hand in his daily affairs. It makes him breathe more deeply. It relieves his troubled ghosts. They're still with us when they're gone. It's all an illusion, this passing of time and faces. We're not alone. If we'd reach out far enough they'd still be there in some way, shape, and form. The problem is that we're too afraid of what we'd find now, so we wait. We wait for something, not knowing what. Deliverance. Salvation. Another turn up at bat.

"I know you are, silly boy," she says with a half-hearted smile. "I just want to be as beautiful to you as she was."

The bait won't be taken, as tempting as it is with the current rush of nostalgia coursing through his veins. That's too rich for his blood, not worth an afternoon of apologies. She knows he hates this kind of fishing, but they're also both aware of who's got the upper hand.

He parries with a compliment he'd been saving for a rainy day, neither of which worth mentioning. She coos and gives a childlike kiss on his forehead.

When the smoke clears they make love in the lazy haze of the afternoon, neither of them saying names for some hours. It's a hell of a life sometimes, but someone's got to live it.


Diurnal Emissions

Blood has gathered twice--
once in me, once on me.
It's no longer recreational
this crime scene in the name.
Add it to the list you keep:
The things we do for love, etc.

She wipes it up, a loving maid
throws it overhand
to the darkest corner of her room.
When the nightstand candle's blown
it smells like birthdays
for some seconds, but really
both of us are dying:
slowly, surely, surreptitiously.

They'll hang us high for these
sins and mortal treasons
but for now we'll savor
the afterwards bliss
and try to dream of better places
where the dream has yet to crash.

Don't judge the man who says
what you've only dared to think.
When the bricks fall you'll need friends.
The roster will surprise you.


Candy Wrapper Semaphores

The train's almost to the last stop and my aching back is thankful. There's a race going on in the novel on my lap. Three more pages to go before the end of the chapter; with a little gusto I can make it, big and small picture implied. The highlighter's been working overtime with this latest read. Updike's unapologetic words hit hard like polished stones honed from the same primordial observations that I've made through my travels and travesties, loving corrections humbly offered by an unmet friend who's barely been underground long enough for his hair to stop growing: another one of life's great misses. We're mostly born to die again, hopefully encountering some kindred prisoners on the way. My luck's been less than enviable. My best relationships are traditionally of the posthumous persuasion. It's a blessing and a curse to have this passion, this search for the word, though we wouldn't have it any other way.

I flip a page and glance up at the young man walking down the aisle with a box of chocolates in his hands. "Two for four, three for five," he gently pleads in that modest voice only convincing when coming from a black male's soothing vocal cords. It must be reminiscent of their slave days. The kind, crooning Negro was harder to whip-- Darwin's theories of adaptation and survival personified. I reach for my wallet as he approaches. I know that I'll submit. Reparations for a crime my ancestors weren't here to commit. Besides, who doesn't like chocolate?

"Do you have change for a twenty?" I ask with the slow-tongued, naive drawl a cow would have if it could speak. It's a set-up, a gift from the gods of gullible men. He'll knock this one out of the park, and I can't blame him. It's my fault. It always is.

"How about six candies for ten?" he suggests, his soft tone slightly more forceful than before. "That'll buy three basketball uniforms and get me that much closer to the All Expenses Paid Vacation." He doesn't name the destination or the team. A good actor, a good liar, would've noticed this lack of detail and seen through his ruse, but I'm no Marlon Brando; more importantly, he's already got me on the run.

"I really only want three..." I futilely whine, my voice drenched in defeat.

He doesn't even have to say anything, just gives me those watery chocolate eyes. The man is no boy, but still he plays the helpless card. It wins the round expertly. Aces and eights plague my hand. I'm spread too thin to put up a fight.

"Give me ten back," I say as he lowers the box so I can select my unwanted candies.

"Any six you want," he offers as a consolation prize. I choose three peanut butter-filled affairs, though I know they won't travel well, and three bags of hard-shelled chocolate morsels.

"Thanks," he says as he raises his wares and makes his way down the aisle, not bothering to stop and peddle at any other seats. He's found his sucker. He's made his money. For the lousy six dollars he's spent on candy at a convenience store he's made another four in profit. I'm the saddest proponent of capitalism. I'm an honorary member of the NAACP. I'm a laid-off, broke philanthropist with a heart too big to say No. But I'm me, and that's how I want it. It's the one thing they can't take.

Brakes come on and slow the train. I shove my book into my bag and cram the candy in afterwards. It'll be squished or melt before it meets any mouth, mine or otherwise. It doesn't feel right to rise with the rest of the riders. My foolish contribution to the Harlem Hustler who got on at 125th Street has rendered me unworthy of beating any fellow travelers to the opening metal mouths at the ends of our train car. I've been duped and deserved to wait for my turn. Hustle-Man, of course, is far from the scene. I'm a joke he'll tell at dinner. I'm a pawn that fell for ghetto glory. I'm the reason he keeps swindling his way through the world: opportunity.

I decide to use the bathroom on the empty train since the one at the station's a slophouse and I have my walking cut out for me. In the brief time it took me to make water and wash my hands the train's already started to fill with new occupants headed in the other direction. By the time I wedge my bag through the double-doors all of the booths have at least one seat taken. Some of the passengers pretend to be sleeping so no one asks them to move their belongings and make room. The passive-aggressive grind rumbles on: shining, modern, efficient, unchanged.

As I make my way through the bustling city my bag begins to feel like it's carrying lead. According to law, though, it isn't. I trudge on faithfully en route to my destination, turning onto a side street to avoid the heavy human traffic. A well-kept homeless man counts change on the quiet sidewalk. He could easily pass for the Candy-Man's father, close to the appropriate age and overall demeanor. There's no smell as I walk by; he's one of the better survivors. Maybe they really are related. I turn and walk back towards him. It seems the right thing to do. Who needs that much chocolate?

"Want some candy?" I ask, surprisingly even-toned. I'm never that good at appealing to strangers. It comes off so unsure.

"Huh? Nah. No, thank you," he replies, though the comma between No and Thank you may not actually be there. He sounds as though I've bothered him. Maybe he lost count of his change due to my interruption. The bottle of hooch will have to wait that much longer. Food, it appears, is not on his menu, even the elusive free type of sustenance. It's freedom he seeks in the form of a glass flask. I can't begrudge him that, even with an uptown son that much closer to new basketball uniforms and a free vacation courtesy of a weak-spined tourist.

I do an about-face, re-find my stride, and smile down at the pavement. We don't all lace up dead men's boots. We won't all jump in the same grave. The world still has its innovators. Energy flows in accordance with effort. Home's not hard to imagine. And chocolate takes longer to melt than I thought.

Currently reading:
"Rabbit Is Rich" by John Updike.


As Time Goes By In a Chain Restaurant

I knew the date would bomb when I drove by and saw her standing sulkily in front of the restaurant upon which we'd reluctantly agreed; a frumpy mess in all black, she wasn't fooling anyone. My night's well-groomed attire felt like a waste. It was never possible to pull off when it mattered. I, for a change, was looking halfway decent; or perhaps the upper hand simply made me feel that way.

The weight in her face made her seem like a liar or a drunk or, most logically, both. I'd learned that last truism the hard way and tucked it inside my chest pocket. This glutton for punishment marched through the parking lot and greeted his damsel in obvious distress, swearing in his mind with every step that blind dates and downcast camera angles should be banned from the Constitution. It wasn't going to get the best of me, though. "If she can take it, I can take it," I assured myself and the invisible black pianist.

The seats are taken, the stage is set. We order after perusing the menu for ten minutes. When the food finally comes I'm practically ecstatic. Not even the man-sized margarita had made trudging through conversation tolerable. The Lord works in mysterious ways, sometimes via Mexican cuisine.

"The salsa looks good," she says between bites. It's actually a coarsely-chopped pico de gallo, but her ignorance goes unpunished. Pointing out the difference between salsa and what's on my plate would be like correcting a first-grader for calling a crocodile an alligator. It'd be like accusing a true friend of thievery. It'd be like trusting anyone: pointless.

"It's as good as it looks," I say, mouth agape, trying to convey the onions. "Lots of cilantro." They say those who dislike cilantro have more highly developed taste buds. It's supposed to taste like soap to people who are further down the evolutionary path. I'm not ashamed of being simple. I relish in my caveman state. It makes the mirror easier.

She pokes and prods at her salad, but none of it seems to disappear, much like a pasta dish's conundrum. The curvy girls get salad, the rails get cheese fries, and the Puerto Ricans get Mexican food. It makes as much sense as moving to Morocco.

"I'm full already," she admits, a hint of pride in her retraint hiding behind her tonsils.

"Don't force yourself, really. It's fine. The rent's paid up."

She smirks, unsure if I'm kidding or not. My face doesn't break, I don't come out of character with a chuckle or a grin. Years of practice in dry delivery make it feasible. My restraint is more sharpened than hers. Something tells me my everything is more everything than hers, it's part of the reason I know this'll be the last time I see her. There's comfort in that. There's comfort in every loss if one looks hard enough.

It doesn't seem worth it to impress her with cash. Let her think it'll take me five months to pay off this mistake of a meal. The waiter can run my plastic if it means keeping green in my wallet. Currency's convenient, fast, liquid. I'm drowning in this date, a miniature me in the shot glass of sour cream served with my quesadillas; but the wounded shepherd surrenders to fate. He'll ride out the rest for chivalry's sake and an addition to his quiver of sharp, quickened stories. The thought of the tragic comedy obtained makes it easier to wave my hand in a swatting motion as she reaches for her purse when the check finally comes.

"Not even half?" she asks daintily like a dark-featured Ingrid Bergman sticking to the script.

"Not even the tip," I reply, sans fedora and cigar. The plane's taking off, alright, but I can't wait to put her on it. Sam, my trusty black friend, will never play this again, and I am grateful; maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of my life.


Stranger Danger

They say in the City
when the falafel hits the fan
to pull the nearest fire alarm.
New York's Bravest
have to arrive
within two minutes
or their funding is cut
or their kids wear old shoes
or their lives are reduced
to safe, risk-free doldrums.
So if you're in trouble
while seeking it out
where dreams are born
or dashed to bits on the pavement
run for the pull-switch
since the hills are too far
and hope for the best
or what you deserve
or how they make it seem better
in movies.

There is not an answer.
Every question leads to more.
Like jellyfish, now, together:
transparent, toxic, washed up
on the shore.


Take a Knee, Offense

That last shot of Irish whiskey, the same brand I'd sworn off after the Saint Patty's Day debacle, had hit me like a ton of Emerald Isle potatoes. One of the evening's co-conspirators had ordered it foolishly as an attempted display of bravado. Peacocks were God's last crafted bird, a joke to remind the world of pride's downfalls. The doll sitting beside us at the oak was talking to a college lad far below her standards, or what they should've been had she known better. My friend's flawed drunken logic aimed to prove something by downing a man's drink. Fortunately, she never looked our way during the process. Both of us made the post-shot grimace and reached desperately for our cocktails to chase the gasoline down our throats. In trying too hard one loses sight. In wine there is truth, but only pain in straight whiskey. I pointed out our failure and my punch-drunk accomplice agreed. It'd been a long night for both of us; still, like stubborn children, we'd refused to go to bed. Why pass up a perfectly good Friday? Maybe the miracle would finally transpire.

A new face approaching from the recycled crowd at my six saved us from our newfound miseries.

"Jamie," my pal called out. "Come meet my friend Mike."

The ambiguity of the name frightened me at first. I'd met enough lackluster females lately, didn't need another awkward introduction. Turning around provided some relief. Jamie was a man, and one I recognized from a past life. We shook hands while my eyes peeled the years and beers off his face. There he was, alright: the starting quarterback from the Modified team on which I played during my one year of football. Jamie, in all his post-pubescent glory.

"I know you," I said enthusiastically, the vodka and whiskey mixing to create a grin on my face that no sadistic coach could remove. "You probably don't remember me, but I used to watch your blind side." I turned ninety degrees to the right while patting an imaginary football with my left hand that my right hand nestled confidently, imitating a quarterback's movement.

Jamie's eyes smiled wide. He didn't want to shoot me down, but wasn't sure how to field my statement. I respected his choice of silent approbation.

"I played Left Tackle. Number eighty-five. They put me on the line after learning I couldn't catch with those shoulder pads in the way." The last clause was my excuse, a thin and unimpressive alibi. When they gave me the trophy for Most Improved Player at the end of the season I failed to realize what it really meant: I was the worst kid who wound up not being quite as bad by the end. Only time would teach the art of the effective use of euphemisms. Still, it was the one trophy I'd ever earned.

Jamie laughed this time, but still came out with nothing. Maybe it was the alcohol that stole his tongue that night. Such a curse is not always a bad thing. There are always benefits to the crutch. Even broken clocks are right twice a day.

My buddy chuckled at my shameless revelation while Jamie walked away. It wasn't to bigger and better-- only the bathroom. Even quarterbacks eventually met reality. There were no cheerleaders for Modified, probably because fourteen-year-olds had enough hormonal issues. There weren't many women chanting our names now, either. And the coach was replaced with a mental image of an amalgamation of our fathers, our teachers, and the cops who'd pulled us over throughout the years. We were calling the plays now, some more sound than others. There was no one to thank, but no one to blame, either.

"Good ol' Jamie," I said before sipping my drink.

"No one in this bar's good, Mike."

I didn't acknowledge or deny. I was still in '98, and thankful.


Agaricus bisporus

a fist hits stuffed cotton
tightens for the finale
can't beat gravity
and is shamed
as cheeks puff out
like Louis Armstrong
in an attempt
to keep it in--
thin walls, thin veils
thin threads between us
about to be snipped.
the white worm crawls down
lazily like
an old friend told an old friend
to tell a man who used to have some
to look out for his love
through cheap headphones.
the laugh defied the drywall.
a roll, a wipe, a basket;
the crowd goes wild
and Pistol Pete goes to sleep:
incorrigible, insatiable
incapable of unadulterated love.

On Hanoi Jane and Other Traitors

That tail twitching
on the roadkilled squirrel
isn't the wind
or an earthshake--
it's the nerves of fresh death.
Can you smell it
in the headlight dust?
Taste it in the carbon?
It's a heart at half-mast
like a weak-willed rising
late into her night
when the sheep get loud enough
for the drooling wolves to hear.

Go big or go home
or go home with someone big
more than likely
but regardless
put the Jazz Hands away:
The adults are talking.
Alas, the pineapple went to waste.
She was too gone to notice the taste.

Water Sports and Weddings

It was time to do the unspeakable. It was time to let them go. There'd been too many casualties lost under the pile. A man can only wear so many shirts; it's hard enough swapping hats all the time. Some good old friends were tossed into the heap of rejects. A heavy hand is needed when weeding through the ranks. It was hard, but overdue, like most things lately. There were gifts and there were gags, there were reminders of some keepers that I managed to lose along the way. Some trophy tees I kept simply because of their sources, their stories. A white Section IX Swimming Champs number, the names of two girls I'd entered printed on the back; how could I get rid of that ironic cotton? The sweeter of the two broke the record set by another person I used to date, several years her senior, in a strange twist of fate. A few more T-shirts later and I find one from an Empire State Games rowing medalist. Crew, they call it, but I never liked the term. She was another one that irked me, mostly since I wasn't ready. I never am until it's too late. The swimmers, the rowers, the fishers of faulted men: It must be because I'm a Pisces. Some of them fall for it, myself included. It's not a shirt that one can shed. That's why they'd be inaccurate in calling me a snake.


A Pome That Slept In Sodomy Til 'Twas Safe To Type

His body clutches the mattress
through sour-smelling, sweaty sheets
like a panther clinging low to the ground
though this cat's strike is over.
In his heavy, sideways head
temples pound with tainted blood
and he can hear his eyelashes
against the pillowcase
which now smells of perfume
and overpriced conditioner.

He licks his salty lips to try to bring
them back, but they are too far
in the process to reverse the aftermath.
The friction, the rhythm, the giving
of a world where nothing hurts as much
at least not for the moment: these are what
contribute to the tingle in his tongue
and the scratches on his shoulders
and his hair all off in rays
and if he had a say about it
the soreness of his loins;
but tonight his mouth is good enough
and tonight is foul and fair enough
as the grasslands fall away
and transform into sand.

The panther shrinks to human form
a wounded gladiator laying, gasping
bleeding in the dust as the crowded
coliseum cheers the carnage on.
Brass soldiers grip their spears and await
their mortal orders as the Governor stands
and stretches out his hand, thumb still sideways.
The most honest moment in a man's life
is a brief and precious time directly afterwards.
He slips into a dreamstate somehow safer
than this current mocked-up nightmare
before that thumb can tilt down
or point up towards the sky.

He is grateful for not knowing.
He is tired from the fight.
He will empty trashcan contents
in the morning when she's gone.
For a man who claims to read
he's sure slow with the patterns.


Online Dating Tips, Volume One: The Beginning of the End

In honor of April Fools' Day I am posting the valuable lessons I've learned thus far in my epic foray into the terrifying hell that is Internet Dating. Thank you for all of the encouraging feedback I've received via email, text message, and random drunken pat-on-the-back at the various local watering holes we mortals stubbornly frequent. This experiment is made far less painful by knowing that others are reaping the benefits of my literal labors of love. If, by chance, you do decide to follow me into the dark, please take some of the advice listed to heart; I didn't make this stuff up out of nowhere, folks. Most of it was witnessed firsthand or learned the hard way. At some point, and I'll only know when that point is reached when I come to it, I will eject from this burning plane of an experiment with enough time to release my 'chute in the form of a compiled list of Online Dating Tips to submit as an article somewhere shameless enough to publish it. For now, friends, laugh beside me at my failure. Here's to having a sense of humor about the heart and human condition...Enjoy.

Online Dating Tip #492: No one should be judged for having children from a past relationship; but for the love of your bastard offspring, don't post pictures of them in your profile. There's a spot in the questionnaire for this information. Why subject your kid to the shame of being taken along for the internet dating ride? That'll only reserve you spots in a nursing home and hell, both of which you'll deserve.

Online Dating Site Tip #339: Don't list some random, WPS (White People Shit) hobby for the sake of seeming interesting. You like camping? Passing out drunk on your friend's couch doesn't count. Look, horseback riding! You rode a carousel twenty years ago, big deal. The beach? Last time I checked we were landlocked. Gas is $4/gallon. Unless you have a magic carpet I'm staying home. Give it up. We're all pretty boring.

Online Dating Site Tip #164: Don't post too many pics. An overzealous attempt leads to failure. The odds of someone so pathetic as to resort to 'net dating being photogenic are slim. Listen up, Myspace tricksters of yore (you know what camera angle I'm talking about): delete the date stamp. If your last good shot was taken four years ago you've probably taken a turn for the worse. But I can keep a secret if you can.

Online Dating Site Tip #238: If the recipient of your message does not respond it's merely because they read your profile, saw how amazing you are, realized they could never be enough for someone of your caliber, and decided to bow out for fear of wasting the time of such an eligible bachelor(-ette). No, really. It's not that they don't like you.

Online Dating Tip #74: When the cheerleader/quarterback rejected your prom date invitation, how did you cope? Did you pursue it to the point of humiliation? No, you went home and masturbated. Don't change the gameplan now, at least when it comes to moving on. Follow-up messages to already ignored pleas for validation only put you that much closer to restraining order status. Take it from me. I've been blocked. Twice.

Online Dating Tip #28: If you find out a same-sex friend has stooped as low as you have by creating a dating site profile in a sad attempt to fill the void don't search for it or ask for the link. This is akin to glancing over the fiberglass divider between urinals in a public restroom. If you want to see a sad excuse for a penis just look in the mirror. You, friend, have done this to yourself.

Online Dating Tip #170: Posting a group shot is not a terrible idea. Proof that you are not a reclusive ax murderer couldn't hurt. Keep in mind that guilt by association is a very real thing (See also: poor roommate selection) when choosing which friends you want to admit to having. Make sure you are the most appealing specimen, at least in that particular photo, unless you want to be asked for someone else's number.

Online Dating Tip #27: Let's talk about sugar-coating, euphemisms, softening the blow. Social drinker? Raging alcoholic. Occasional smoker? Drug addict. Few extra pounds? Morbidly obese. Undecided about children? Men: I'm neutered. Women: I want eight kids. Not into intimate encounters? Women: I'm a recovering whore. Men: I'm hiding my intentions. Be honest. Anything less is a waste of time, not to mention bandwidth.

Online Dating Tip #151: Alcohol mixes poorly with first impressions, especially when it comes to maintaining an air of respectability. Laying in your skivvies while decimating a liter of rum and sending potential suitors overly sincere introductory emails may sound like a great idea, but be warned: the shame you experience upon reading your outbox the next morning will be the only thing to rival your wicked hangover.

Online Dating Tip #243: If you "poke", "wink at", or "want to meet" someone and they ignore your limp-spined attempt to make contact don't send an email, too. Back when you bothered with foreplay did you try to steal Third Base after having your hand swatted away from Second? No. Why try to run across the field like a nutjob now? Cut your losses, take better pics, remove lame hobbies from your profile, and move on.

Online Dating Tip #244: Doling out rejection is your chance to play God. Don't ruin it by avenging your teenage acne catastrophes. If someone contacts you and you're not interested don't respond. That way, when you finally realize you're going to have to settle, you can tell the truth: You were in Cambodia helping amputee orphans and didn't feel you could dedicate enough time and attention to such a special person.

Online Dating Tip #57: Here are some signs that you've found a nympho, be that good or bad. Very athletic = Can put my ankles behind my ears. Like to have fun = Put out on the first date. Very understanding = Won't be mad if you come prematurely. Like to cuddle = Like to cuddle after awkward sex with a stranger so I don't have flashbacks of whatever terrible experience turned me into a raging sexfiend.

Online Dating Tip #44: If you honestly believe that the survey that whichever site you've sold your soul to actually gets entered into some brilliant information-analyzing database to compile a list of appropriate matches based on your answers then you've also probably tried to chat back with the webcam girl pop-up ads that were brought to your monitor courtesy of your favorite porn sites. Don't play dumb now, champ.

Online Dating Tip #32: Don't show up to your first "real" date wasted from a redneck family birthday party. If the person you've disrespected by appearing in said state suggests rescheduling, take them up on the fake offer to end any further shame. If you lack the common sense to do this, at least remove your Bluetooth earpiece while sitting across from them over coffee. Never order watermelon at a diner. True story.

Online Dating Tip #33: Telling your date "They made me put pants on before leaving the house" may raise some questions. Following it up with "I had a miniskirt on" will raise some eyebrows. But insisting upon "a need for ventilation downstairs" thrice in an hour will certainly earn you this snide remark: "Do you have a condition I should know about?" Where do these people come from? Walden, via Missouri. FML.

Online Dating Tip #98: You post a pic of a textual tattoo you have. Someone emails you citing the source of the quotation, then goes into an analysis of its possible meaning. You probably shouldn't respond with "I just got those words 'cause they sounded good. I assumed I'd figure it out later." This happened, too. Lyric: "Love is watching someone die." More people in the online dating world need to be that someone.

Online Dating Tip #73: If a SMILF (Single Mom I'd Like...) you're trying to seduce asks if you have siblings don't say "No, I was a mistake." This one gets a good laugh from most people, but may not fly with a woman whose firstborn was a result of wing night at the bar. It's bad enough this kid's picture is on mom's dating profile. Don't add insult to injury by pointing out the fact that neither of you were planned.

Online Dating Tip #64: Don't copy/paste your hobbies from what you've seen on "Jersey Shore". Gym/Tan/Laundry is not the mantra of champions, it's a sad slogan for unoriginal people to apply to their boring lives. Clubbing is something that pederasts do to seals to curb the urge, not a hobby you'll be sharing with someone for decades as you try to beat the beat up without breaking a hip. Fetch my grenade whistle.

Online Dating Tip #68: If you ask a girl what her routine is and she says anything to the effect of "First I spin around on the pole, then I take the rest off, twirl some more, and finally crawl around collecting singles," you've probably met a stripper. This isn't always a bad thing, depending on your goals, but don't plan on taking her home to mom, discussing literature, or having clothes sans lavender and glitter.

Online Dating Tip #219: Don't waste time talking to people from more than twenty miles away. Distance makes the heart grow fonder, but you have no need for separation from human contact if you've sunk this low. Keep your sites local for the sake of that late-night booty call which you'll barely be sober enough to make. Besides, it's not stalking if you always just happen to be at the grocery store you both use.

Online Dating Tip #6: Mentioning sex in your profile is akin to bringing up wrecks at a racetrack: Everyone's there for the same reason, there's no need to advertise. Most of us also seek love, companionship, permission to pass gas after Mexican sans judgment (only in a well-ventilated room), but we're also tired of using our hands and/or battery-operated devices to ensure that we don't go on hormonal killing sprees.

Online Dating Tip #80: Trying to pick someone up at a bar is like checkers. It's fast-paced, straight-forward, and relatively inconsequential. Email flirtation, on the other hand, is like chess. Moves are deliberate and planned, possible responses must be considered before committing to a play, and tactics must be honed through trial by fire if success is desired. Feel free to tip your martyr for his painful legwork.

Online Tip #42: Please post one focused, well-lit body shot. Suggesting that you don't exist from the shoulders down implies that you don't think I exist from the neck up. I know that you know that I know what you're hiding, tubby. Maybe it's time you stop lying to yourself and the rest of the Online Dating World. Find less sedentary hobbies than playing poker with cupcakes as chips, like training for triathlons.

Online Dating Tip #62: If you're a woman who needs things fixed at home please wait until after the third date (or a foolishly premature consummation) to ask for any manly favors that don't involve a bed. Yes, I can fix your sink and dabble in electrical. Need some spackling done? I'm no artist, but I have a friend who can for a fair fee. Keep in mind that although men are useful for repairs nothing in life is free.

Online Dating Tip #464: It must be hard to be a trophy specimen with so many desirable applicants, but refrain from talking to more than three people at once. Let the herd thin before replacing more potential exes with new contestants, otherwise you'll forget what you've told whom...not that you to need to worry since you're telling the truth about your weight, your accomplishments, and your criminal record. Right?

Online Dating Tip #591: Millions of people enjoy recreational activities in oceans, lakes, rivers, and streams. Some of those uncomfortable with the chance of bacterial infection and/or animal attacks opt for swimming pools instead. These are valid interests that may help define you as a person, but remember: Don't mention being into water sports in your profile unless you plan on attracting a special breed of freak.