The Brief Autobiography of Good Bad Old Young Mudd
(Young Mudd, a self proclaimed guru of tobacco, begins his biweekly column Saturday, April 10th. In the meantime, enjoy this introduction. If you have a question youâ€™d like answered by Young Mudd, post it in General Questions. Questions will be chosen at random in the coming weeks.)
It is no wonder I was born to become a longhaired, gray-bearded, bourbon drinking, tall-tale-telling, logger and mine-digger of the vast yet uncharted reaches of unspoiled wilderness we call the U.S. of A. The notion was born into me as faithful as my fingerprint, and although Iâ€™ve never picked up an axe per se, never climbed into a mine shaft (claustrophobia, diagnosed), and although some men maintain the wacky belief that America is no longer â€œunchartedâ€ and â€œunspoiled,â€ Iâ€™m confident that Iâ€™ve lived true to my earthly Calling. I do wear my hair just long enough to be called â€œunruly,â€ and pedestrians, upon crossing my path on a rural mountain road, often repeat the wisecrack, â€œHey big guy, whereâ€™s your giant blue Ox?â€ Oh how we laugh together as I pose for a picture on their digital cell-phone camera. They usually beg me to instant message them or join their Friendster community but I, a simple man of the woods, must decline.
â€œMy messages are not instant,â€ I say. â€œThey arrive with the rain and leave with the wind. The trees and my cat are my only Friendsters. But sheâ€™s a house cat so trees really arenâ€™t her Friendsters. If I were to guess, Iâ€™d say that her Friendster is her feather toy or her catnip mouse, or maybeâ€¦â€ By now theyâ€™ve usually left me to my previous state of Zen-like solitude. With a slow wave I bid them adieu.
Youâ€™re assuredly asking yourself one question: How did this awesomely slow-motion man come to be in such a fast-forward nation? Like all questions asked, I have an answer.
I was born in the rural fishing town of Boston, MA, a town known only for its clumsiness with tea crates and its residentsâ€™ predilection for unnaturally sweet beans. My father was a full time hunter. By this of course I mean that he sold used cars at Wallyâ€™s Car Mart off I95 on the Dedham/Norwood line (â€œâ€¦ with deals so hot you could fry an egg on them!â€). To create the perfect marital balance of Yin and Yang, my mother was a full time gatherer. Whenever my father would sell a car sheâ€™d gather up his earnings and head to the mall for a new pair of shoes and a matching handbag. She gathered credit card debt, Hummel figurines, estate jewelry, anything Ralph Lauren; heck, she even gathered lovers on the side.
My parents were plains-type people is what I mean, and as a youth in the dawn of self-discovery, I found myself desiring something more hilly and truer to the nature of my soul. So I skinned and tanned my very first hide from what appeared to be a small dog, stitched together a knapsack for provisions, and sat my father down for one last man-to-man talk.
â€œI understand your need for self-discovery, Rupert,â€ my father said. â€œThere comes a day in every manâ€™s life when he must leave his zone of comfort and take a risk. It can be frightening, but it must be done. Are you sure youâ€™re not being too hasty though? I mean, youâ€™re only nine years old.â€
I assured him that â€œnineâ€ was just a number and in itself meant nothing. â€œLook at you, Dad. Itâ€™s only nine in the morning and youâ€™re already half in the bag.â€ My father looked at the stack of crumbled beer cans beside the couch.
â€œJust be safe, son.â€ Those were his last words to me.
While my mother searched the house frantically for her Maltese show dog, I slung my homemade leather knapsack over my shoulder, clasping it to my belt loop with a tiny pink collar that once adorned its yapping neck. I leashed my cat, Coco Puff, and together we embarked on the very journey that would one day lead me here, to the fine men and women of www.pipes.org .
But it didnâ€™t happen overnight. Iâ€™m no longer nine years old. Iâ€™m not even nine and a half! Thatâ€™s right, you guessed it: Iâ€™m twenty-five years old.
My journey proved trying. Even with a saddle, Coco Puff was just too small to carry my weight into the mountains. She was a good, well-intentioned cat, but so very weak. So we did what so many adolescent boys and their pet cats had done before. We hopped a merchant steam liner to the land of opportunity, the land of mountains and glaciers, milk and honey, high-end retailers and despondent actors. We hopped a ship to Los Angeles, California. In retrospect, an ocean liner might not have been the wisest mode of transportation. I had a good knack for knowing thine self, but knew little about geography. Incidentally, very few oceans flow directly through the continental United States. None, even. As a result of such poorly designed natural waterways our journey took nearly seven weeks, Coco Puff and I huddled in a damp storage bin among three-foot oak barrels filled with Tennesseeâ€™s finest small batch bourbon whisky. But these seven weeks would reveal themselves to be the defining 1176 hours of my life. I canâ€™t begin to imagine how many minutes that might be.
After only three days traveling our food supply â€“ 3 fruit rollups, 2 Twinkies, a devil dog, and a few handfuls of Friskies dry food â€“ was spent. Coco Puff ceased chasing invisible mice and collapsed at my feet, gasping tiny cat gasps into the soggy air. I knew that I would need to act fast if I expected ever to set foot on the land where dreams come true, but from the looks of Coco Puff I was off to a failed start. I could feel the waves colliding with the boat, could hear the yelling of men above, the squeal and gurgle of the engine, yet I couldnâ€™t answer the nagging question: Act fast? How? And what good would California do us if we had to live there dead?
Nearing exhaustion and much without hope I experienced for the first time what I thought was luck but later learned was really good luck. I was floating in and out of consciousness and certain of imminent doom when, from a few feet away in the dark of the aging barrels, came a trickle inching towards my feet. It weaved snakelike across the steel, pooling in oily circles then inching forward, halting at the furry dam of Coco Puffâ€™s back and beginning to collect. The smell startled me back to consciousness and by the grace of God I finally had the answer to my question. This liquid, this precious liquid, would nourish me and my feline friend. Small batch bourbon whisky would be our bread and deliver us into salvation. Upon finding the source of the trickle I lifted the long, dangling body of Coco Puff and provided her with the first drink. As her claws extended and her body began flailing about I realized that I had in fact found the elixir of life. Thus I too began to drink.
I awoke what might have been only a few minutes later to a light tapping â€“ a gentle beating, if you will â€“ against my forehead. The room spun gently in the heat of my buzzing head and my body tingled with warmth.
â€œWake up, Rupert,â€ came a voice, low and affectionate. â€œWeâ€™ve got some business to take care of.â€ I turned to find Coco Puff beside me. She was lying on her back with her hind legs crossed, filing her front claws with a discarded fishbone. She wore a green felt hat adorned with a single pea*censored* feather and a black leather vest laced up the front like a running shoe.
â€œCoco Puff?â€ I asked. â€œIs that you?â€ The room still spun, but slowly now like a merry-go-round.
â€œFirst things first,â€ Coco Puff said. â€œIâ€™m not a girl and my nameâ€™s not Coco Puff. Itâ€™s Ronald Livingston. But thatâ€™s not really important, is it. Whatâ€™s important is that Iâ€™m your animal guide and Iâ€™ve been sent to help you become the man you feel you need to be.
â€œBut Coco Puffâ€¦â€
â€œPlease, Rupert. Ronald.â€
â€œIâ€™m sorry, Ronald,â€ I said. I would need to adjust to this new name, and to the fact that my female cat was a boy. â€œBut Iâ€™m not sure I know what to do.â€ Ronald wiped the sweat from his fluffy brow and gave me another slap on the back.
â€œYouâ€™re not expected to know what to do, Rupert. Thatâ€™s why Iâ€™m here.â€ Ronald stood up on his hind legs and looked rather frightening. â€œTell me what you want and Iâ€™ll tell you how to get it.â€
Iâ€™d never seen a cat stand on its hind legs before. But I found myself unable to run away. â€œI just want you to look like a cat!â€ I yelled. With a tap tap noise his two paws walked closer. â€œYouâ€™re really scaring me,â€ I insisted. Then using some sort of Exorcist special effect Ronald fell back into his quadrupedal haunches and carried on as though he were not the only bipedal cat stowed in an ocean liner headed for Lose Angeles. â€œThank you,â€ I exhaled. â€œNow let me think.â€
By the time Iâ€™d organized my desires and felt confident that I could relate them to my now-male cat, Ronald had turned bright pink and had begun waltzing with a miniature gorilla. I began to wonder if perhaps the whisky might not have been suitable nourishment for a boy so young. But it was too late to second-guess myself. So I took another drink, the gorilla curtsied, Ronald Livingston bowed, and I began.
â€œOkay,â€ I said at last. â€œI know what I want.â€ I looked at my freakish two-leg-walking cat-beast and continued. Clearing my throat I said, â€œI want to be a real man. Tell me how.â€
Ronald offered a resounding smile. â€œRupert, there are three things you must do. First, youâ€™ll need to change your name. Second, youâ€™ll need to grow a beard. And third, youâ€™ll need to smoke a pipe. If you do these three things then all else will follow.â€ I could feel the incessant rocking of the boat and fought to keep my stomach from turning with it. Change my name? I hadnâ€™t thought of that.
â€œWhat should I change my name to?â€ I asked.
â€œWell, Rupert, letâ€™s face it. Nobody can be a man with a name like Rupert. Tell me who you want to be and Iâ€™ll tell you what youâ€™re to be called.â€
This was tricky. â€œHhmmâ€¦ Letâ€™s see,â€ I said. â€œI want to be old, like my father. But still I sort of want to be young like me. And I want to be a good man, you know, but with an edge, something bad. Thatâ€™s all, I think.â€
Ronald looked perplexed. â€œThat doesnâ€™t help me much, Rupert. See, now your name is Good Bad Old Young. Those are all adjectives. You donâ€™t want to be a bunch of adjectives your whole life, do you, stupid? I suggest, in the foul state youâ€™re currently in, that your name be Mud.â€
â€œMud?â€ I hammered back. â€œAbsolutely no way. No sir-ree. Mud! What a terrible, short name. Itâ€™s soâ€¦ short. Itâ€™s the stupidest name Iâ€™ve ever heard. Mud!â€ Ronald rubbed his whiskers. A look of ah ha crossed his face like a look of ah ha.
â€œHow about then,â€ he said, â€œMudd?â€
â€œGenius!â€ I exclaimed. Mudd is perfect! Not like that stupid suggestion you first had. Itâ€™s so deep, so mountainous, so lacking pretense, yet so vulnerable. Mud is terrible, but Mudd! An inspired choice, Ronald.â€
Without further delay I promptly grew a beard. It took a few minutes of focus and concentration, but when it was complete, twelve inches of Brillo and bristle, I felt pretty comfortable, as though I had had it for at least nine years.
I, Good Bad Old Young Mudd, was nearly a man. If only I had a pipe. As I turned to ask Ronald where one might acquire such a tool the motion of the ship finally caught up with me. I continued to turn and turn and turn. And turn.
Ronald and I survived the trip, although as soon as Tennesseeâ€™s finest single barrel elixir of life had cleared my blood Ronald lost his ability to talk. And despite my attempts to prop him up on his hindquarters it became clear that Ronald again required four legs to walk. Together we hiked the forest and tundra of Los Angeles in search of the abandoned cave of a mountain Lion or some other suitable housing. My beard and I decided on a dark, thatched hut that once housed Native American hunters. One might argue that this hut was nothing more than a studio apartment in West Hollywood. One would be wrong.
It was here that my journey into pipedom truly got its start. Ronald and I traversed the countryside on a quest to learn the art of pipe craft, the skill of smoking, the history of the holy weed. Along the many and winding rural roads of Brentwood and Santa Monica, the tribal enclaves of Beverly Hills and Compton, Shaman of the brotherhood of pipes welcomed me, a bearded boy named Mudd, and my spirit guide, Ronald Livingston. There became no briar beyond our collective knowledge, no secret residing in a land too far for our six collective feet to discover.
In the following weeks I will offer my services to you, the patrons of www.pipes.org. Every two weeks I will select a new question from General Comments and answer it here in this column. The stories of my travels are many, and I will share them many. Many will I share.
Saturday, April 10th the first of many questions will be answered.
Why, you ask? What prompted me to give so charitably, you ask?
Simply put, my new wife expressed to me yesterday her awe of my talents and vast sadness that the miracle that be me should fade into history without so much as a block of stone in which my brilliance is etched. Her exact words were, â€œGod damn it, Young Mudd, why donâ€™t you get your fat ass off the couch and do something god damned productive with your life. Iâ€™m sick and tired of cleaning up after your lazy no-goodâ€¦â€
Ask away, friends! Until Saturday,
Good Bad Old Young Mudd