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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

In Defense of Bullsh*t

I hate rainy days.  Now don't get me wrong: I love a good thunderstorm now and again, and I am glad I don't live in a drought zone.  It's just that persistently rainy days make me want to drink bourbon and listen to old blues music.  The kind of music made by folks who had good voices and bad vices and generally didn't live to be much older than 40.  A day spent in such a way can be pleasant in its own miserable way, but it does absolutely naught to make one feel better.  The best way to pass time among the raindrops is, unfortunately, also a dying art: The Bullsh*t Session.

In recent years, the term "bullsh*t" has taken on some disturbingly and dishearteningly negative connotations.  If your mechanic tries to overcharge you by $1000, you might say "What kind of bullsh*t is this?!?"  If your air conditioner dies on the first hot day of summer (which is always on a Sunday - the hardest and most expensive day to get a service call), you might say "This is such bullsh*t!"  Worst of all, every time anybody sees a politician move his lips, he or she is automatically and violently compelled to say "BULLSH*T!"

This corruption of such a beautiful word breaks my heart.  For, you see, in simpler times that weren't that long ago (1989, actually.  It was a Tuesday, I think....), "bullsh*t" was a medium in which the best storytellers of the day worked.  It was noble, it was right, it was fun.  And there was no better way to watch masters of bovine effluvia work than in a good, old-fashioned Bullsh*t Session.  A quality Bullsh*t Session was the kind of event where a few folks (at least two, but no more than five - that's entirely too much manure for one room) would gather, usually spontaneously, and pass stories back and forth all day.  The kind of stories that no one believes but everyone enjoys.  And a quality Bullsh*t Artist would let you know up front that you were in for a tall tale.  His stories would almost always begin with "You're not gonna believe this, but this one time...." or "That's a good story, but I've got one better...."

Now, to really enhance the effectiveness of one of these sessions (or, as the French say "improve the odeur d'ordure"), they have to be in the right setting.  The best time is any rainy day.  The best place is in a room or a house or a cabin that can be described as anything from run-down to rustic, depending on how long it's been since your Better Homes & Gardens subscription lapsed.  The kind of place that has screen doors on either side of the room - for proper ventilation, of course, and to watch and hear the rain fall.  The only other things you need are a few chairs, a table to sit around, and a couple of bottles.  It was a well-known fact that the various, adult-oriented beverages found in bottles helped keep the Bullsh*t Artists from getting dry throats.  Strictly medicinal, I swear.  Oh yeah: There are only two rules.  1) Do not call anyone out as a liar.  It's like a magic act: everyone knows it's fake, but the fun is seeing what happens next.  2) No stories about sex, religion, or politics.  Sex stories lead to bragging, religious stories lead to lightning strikes, and only politicians are qualified enough to pull off bullsh*t of their magnitude. 

The session would usually start with a few low-key but well-timed "Yeps" and "Mmhmms" aimed at nothing in particular.  Then someone would always get things going with an actual true story, usually related to the weather: "Yep.  This kinda weather reminds me of the last time my basement flooded.  Took me three days to get that cleaned up."  "Mmhmm" a few others would comment.  The next person would gently steer the conversation towards the realm of fertilizer by grabbing his verbal muck-rake and chiming in with a "Y'all aren't gonna believe this, but I remember this one time MY basement flooded.  We couldn't get the water out, so we turned it into an indoor pond.  Stocked it with trout, we did.  Cheaper than the grocery store, y'know."  From there, the tales would escalate into stories of swimming across the Chesapeake Bay for just the right fishing spot, single- and bare-handedly taking down a bull moose, tickling a charging bear to stop him attacking, etc.  (In case you hadn't noticed, hunting and fishing stories lend themselves to Bullsh*t Sessions.  I'm pretty sure the first words in any language were "No, really!  I caught a fish THIS BIG!")  Eventually, the entire session devolves into a bunch of seasoned Bullsh*tters, 3 sheets in the wind (6.2 metric sheets), sitting (or lying) around and singing the wrong words in the way wrong key to songs no one's heard in the better part of 20 years.  You always know the bullsh*t's over when you hear the second verse of Conway Twitty's "Tight-Fittin' Jeans".

So, next time you find yourself stuck inside on a rainy day, I suggest you phone a friend, grab a bottle, and see who can tell the best tale.