Dear Dust

My uncle, who I was more or less raised by, kept a little flip pad in his top pocket and wrote down sayings that he thought a man should live by. He used to read them to me, licking his thumb before leafing through the pages to find just the right one for any given situation. One of my great regrets in life is that his pad was lost when he died. I came across your last few columns and it occurs to me you might be a man with a few sayings tucked away somewhere. Care to share any? Maybe I’ll start making my own list for when my son is old enough.

Dust Rocks!



Dear Jeremy

I do not, in fact, rock. Mostly, I lie on my side and listen to Debussy while sipping wine. But I appreciate the sentiment nevertheless. Your uncle sounds like a wise man. It’s well known that a handy apophthegm is often more useful than a Swiss army knife, and while it is unlikely to open a can of Boston Baked Beans by a railroad trundle, the artfully aphoristic is capable of opening both hearts and minds. In fact, many years ago I was able to cross back from East Berlin under very dire circumstances, with a bricklet of uncut Turkish hashish masquerading as my left boot heel, by employing the invaluable Caesarian phrase Beneficium dando acceptit, qui digno dedit. I said this in a calm voice beneath the harsh lights of a deserted and wire-barbed guardhouse, my red bandanna knotted like an ascot. The woman I was traveling with, a knife-eyed teenager who’d run away from her father’s Aragonian duchy with a Gladstone full of silver table settings, was no doubt soon to be searched, groped, and then forcibly repatriated. I would receive far worse, and probably never see the outside of a Ostzone borstal again. Fortunately, the guard was a learned man, and recognized that my dictum not only meant “he who has given to someone distinguished, receives good by giving,” but also “there are two thousand pfennigs folded between the last two pages of my passport.” His answer of “Ja, is okay, let dem pass” is one of the wisest and most profound utterances I have heard this side of early Confucius, by which I mean the album before he went all techno.

The wilding runaway and I decided to celebrate. We spent that evening in a stately Hamburg penthouse, having cashed in the last of her family’s engraved flatware. I dialed in Voice of America and we listened to Chet Baker while drinking a magnum of Heinkel Trocken. We took a scalding bath, scrubbing the fear-sweat and chained heat from our skin, and then enjoyed a cone of tobacco mixed with pinches of my fine Constantinople bhang, before retiring to the sickle-shaped bed. She whispered Basque curses in my ear all night long, while I merely responded corpora lente augescent cito extinguuntur, cogi qui potest nescit mori. I wasn’t really sure what it meant, but it sounded good and each time the last syllable rolled off my tongue she growled like contended lynx.

My point being, a man with a wallet full of Latin and the capacity to deliver a well-timed bribe will never be considered either vulgar, or Bastille-meat, by those toting machine guns and visa stamps alike. So why wouldn’t they work in situations less dire, and for outcomes far more prosaic?

My answer is an emphatic yes, Jeremy. Beyond the utility of the situational axiom, I do indeed have a number of sayings that I try to live by in a broader sense. In fact, dozens. And although I do not have them in a pad or committed to memory, and they may sometimes morph and entwine as the mood strikes, I am happy to share a few with you off the top of my head. As it turns out, it is quite pleasurable to be improvisationally epigrammatic, and just like the Grateful Dead in the mid-eighties, you are more than welcome to record, repeat, dub, bootleg, distribute, or internalize any or all of the following material.


Twenty Dust Sayings For Clean Dust Living


1. Any Man who’s not half in love with Helen Mirren is a hundred percent of a fool.

2. Jesus made out with lepers. The least you can do is hand that dude with the cardboard sign a dollar.

3. Expect absolutely nothing from anyone, ever, and you will never be disappointed, in debt, or on antibiotics.

4. Hugging people you don’t know is cool. Wearing a red cape is cool. Joining a local club is cool. Talking on a phone is never cool.

5. Even the worst human is in the process of evolving, even the best human has an agenda.

6. You are either destroying the world, or you are temporarily forestalling its destruction. If you’ve ever asserted at a cocktail party that by destroying you are forestalling, you work for Goldman Sachs and should throw yourself down a well.

7. Own your face. Celebrate your imperfection. Accentuate your clavicle. Keep clean feet. Shave the obvious.

8. The answer is always “yes” when the question is, “would the gentleman prefer release?”

9. The best thing a student writer can do is learn to steam soy milk.

10. The world’s most overused phrase is “he’s a genius.” The most underused is “I was wrong.”

11.You should always think of yourself as a promising, but shoddily-written chapter in desperate need of a another draft.

12. There are five types of personalities: creative, hording, industrious, near-mad, and empathetic.

13. The only thing that’s truly breathtaking is a cigarette. The absence of cliche is sublime.

14. Fixed gear, fixed mind, fixed dreadlock, fixed cat.

15. All is derivation. Originality died today, or maybe yesterday–I can’t be sure. In any case, there’s art in the well-wrought familiar.

16. Maturity means having the balls to disbelieve your deepest held convictions. Certitude is the mind-killer, death to the intellect, the end of humor.

17. Bad novels unwittingly tell the truth about their authors, although a talented asshole can easily sidestep this problem.

18. The difference between an aphorism and a bumper sticker is negligible, but when it comes right down to it, would you rather be locked in a room with sweatered grandpa and his handy sayings, or the guy who has It Will Be a Great Day When Our Schools Get All The Money They Need, and The Air Force Has to Hold a Bakesale To Pay For a Fighter Jet on the back of his Kia Sorrento?

19. No one cares about your dream, no one will ever care about your dream. Do not tell me about your dream, do not write about your dream. Never employ a dream sequence–the naked devil-mother with a knife in her teeth in your dream is not an oedipal symbol, it’s your dorsal lateral pre-frontal cortex telling you that even it is bored with your dream.

20. My God, it’s filled with stars.


Free Bonus Aphorism! : There is no Free Will, There is only Free Won’t.


Most sincerely,


The Dust


Ask Me Anything.

Talk Shit. Be Vulnerable.

Go ahead, I know it hurts.

[email protected]


All contact info is entirely confidential.


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J. ANGELUS DUST is not much interested in biography. J. Angelus Dust wants to know where it hurts.

34 responses to “Ask The Dust – Vol. 30”

  1. Becky Palapala says:

    #2 Not a fair comparison. Leprosy is exceptionally difficult to catch, but panhandlers spread like wildfire. So I only give out money in other people’s neighborhoods.

    #12: I dunno. Exceptional empathy is often a factor in both creativity and madness, near or otherwise. Whether or not that empathy is expressed or repressed and how much so plays heavily into whether the person is perceived as creative or mad.

    #16: My experience has been that almost all intellectuals (or aspiring intellectuals) say this, and almost none of them live, act, or otherwise talk like they actually believe it. It’s one thing to comprehend, abstractly, the nature of certitude and another thing completely to posses the humility to internalize it. I think a lot of intellectuals think it’s enough to just comprehend. They’re into comprehending.

    • Mary Richert says:

      I would add that to say “Certitude is the mind-killer, death to the intellect, the end of humor,” with true conviction could qualify a person as a real douche bag.

      • Becky Palapala says:

        To say it with certitude, you mean.

        Yeah. There’s an irony trap in there somehwere.

        • Darian Arky says:

          Nothing that a maybe can’t fix. Then again, Obi-wan probably wouldn’t let you get away with that if you wanted to be a Jedi.

    • Fabian says:

      Hi, I’m Fabian, The Dust’s personal assistant. Thanks for your query Becky Palapala! Mr. Dust says:

      “It’s not difficult to envision you sidestepping through just about any neighborhood with a little moue and all your cash intact. As far as intellectuals, or their aspiring brethren, I can’t speak to what they believe or intend. I’m not even sure I know what “intellectual” really means anymore. If I ever did. But the smartest people I’ve known throughout my life were almost uniformly those whose personal doctrine was under constant reappraisal.”

      • Becky Palapala says:

        I’m sure you can imagine well enough what I mean by “intellectual.” I’ll settle for an approximation.

        It’s not a moue. My face just looks like that.

  2. dwoz says:

    trying to come up with a pithy dwozism here, that shows how clever and interesting and “on the inside track cool” I am, but all I can come up with is:

    …oh, shit….

    • Fabian says:

      Hi, I’m Fabian, The Dust’s personal assistant. Thanks for your query Dwoz! Mr. Dust says:

      “I would have wagered heavy currency that five or ten solid Dwozzian epigrams rolled off your tongue with ease…I suspect you are playing aphoristi-opossum.”

  3. SAA says:

    “He who smelt it, dealt it.”

  4. Don Mitchell says:

    OK, here’s one from my friends the Nagovisi.

    Nadogoi loloana aka nainaialu: literally: she who is fucked on stinging nettles chokes as if drowning

    This is used as we would use “learn from experience,” but other uses are along the lines of “pleasure and pain can amplify each other,” “take the good with the bad,” etc.

    Substitute loloanala for loloana to switch gender.

    • dwoz says:

      I am battling stinging nettles on my property. They came in with the hay bales for the horses, and while they’re a nice looking plant that makes a good medicinal tea, they HURT LIKE A BASTARD.

      Grabbing a handful of stinging nettle (which I’ve done) is like grabbing an angry handful of bees, and the only saving grace is that your hand goes numb from the pain.

      All I can say is that stinging nettles separate the screaming, hysterical blubbering men from the plant botanists.

      • Don Mitchell says:

        Totally. One time in Nagovisi I was surveying down a small stream, in shorts and no shirt, as always, and managed to wipe one inner thigh and part of my chest on the plant called nado (the subject of the saying). I had to quit working that day. The pain was intense.

        The local leader came over to comfort me, which he knew just how to do — distracting me from the pain by talking about something interesting. He said, “You probably don’t know this, but the verb we use to describe your encounter with nado is the same one we use for when a crocodile bites you.”

    • Fabian says:

      Hi, I’m Fabian, The Dust’s personal assistant. Thanks for your query Don Mitchell! Mr. Dust says:

      “I like that phrase very much, and believe, with your approval, that I may add it to my canon.”

      • Don Mitchell says:

        By all means use it. Here’s another:

        Pialu nala aka ne napo lolopalu

        Literally: a retracted foreskin again covers the glans.

        Supply your own interpretation.

  5. Darian Arky says:

    How ever did you manage to slip 2,000 pennies between the pages of your passport?

    Drbna je ta, kdo s Vámi mluví o jiných lidech. Nudný je ten, kdo Vám vypráví o sobě.

    • Fabian says:

      Hi, I’m Fabian, The Dust’s personal assistant. Thanks for your query Darian Arky! Mr. Dust says:

      “A smug observation that simultaneously misses the joke while remaining unaware that pfennigs come in both coin and note denominations.”

      • Darian Arky says:

        One does miss your jokes like the broad side of a barn, it’s true. And, I’m sorry, I didn’t realize you made your border crossing just after the First World War, though I would have expected a stiffer drink than sparkling wine might have been needed to get over the shock of finding Germany a divided country. (Btw, it’s even slicker if you spell Pfennig with a big P, just for effect. Trust me, I know these things…)

  6. Darian Arky says:

    Speaking of intellectual pretense exposed, my Czech quote isn’t Czech — nor even complete, apparently:

    “A gossip is one who talks to you about others; a bore is one who talks to you about himself; and a brilliant conversationalist is one who talks to you about yourself” — Lisa Kirk (allegedly)

    I can see why you’d drop the last part.

  7. jonathan evison says:

    . . . you dazzle, dust! . . . btw, will you tell fabian to turn his ringer on . . .

    • Fabian says:

      Hi, I’m Fabian, The Dust’s personal assistant. Thanks for your query Jonathan Evison! Mr. Dust says:

      “I thank you, sir. Fabian has both been appraised and told to stop his incessant giggling.”

  8. Joe Daly says:

    Letter 1: Agree

    >>Certitude is the mind-killer, death to the intellect, the end of humor.< < Similarly, as Andre Gide cautioned, "Believe those who seek the truth; doubt those who find it." Illuminating list Dust, although I'm still struggling with the image of you lying on your side and sipping wine. Wouldn't lying on your back make more sense? Or sitting down? Or are you indulging in the obscure Zoroastrian practice of Sh'aa Bth'ahura, in which the asha fends off the dru by laying on one's side, thus drawing the organs closer to the earth, yet on top of each other, such that dru is unable to distinguish the vital from the non-vital organs and is forced to forego conquest of the Mazda?

    • Fabian says:

      Hi, I’m Fabian, The Dust’s personal assistant. Thanks for your query Joe Daly! Mr. Dust says:

      “The Gide quote is both apt and well-timed. How did you know I was a follower of Zarathustra? At least musically. An astute observation, yes, lying on my side does indeed have intentional health purposes. The wine possibly not so much.”

    • Dana says:

      Huh. I thought it was a Nissan.

  9. Gloria says:

    9. The best thing a student writer can do is learn to steam soy milk.

    You depress me, Dust. Fortunately, you also crack me up.

    17. Bad novels unwittingly tell the truth about their authors, although a talented asshole can easily sidestep this problem. Man… You have no idea how much I hope my talent out paces my crazy.

  10. dwoz says:

    it’s Joe Daly’s fault.

  11. Quenby Moone says:

    All is derivation. Originality died today, or maybe yesterday–I can’t be sure. In any case, there’s art in the well-wrought familiar.

    I make much out of the well-wrought familiar, so at least I’m doing something right.

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