A pirate, a ninja, and a cowboy walk into a bar. Or actually, it’s a saloon. Maybe it’s on a ship. But so the pirate says, “Arrrr, it’ll be rum for me,” and he’s got a peg leg. The cowboy says, “Howdy, pardner.” He says, “I’d like me a whiskey, pardner.” The ninja doesn’t say anything, because he’s a ninja. He’s all quiet. And then they, well, they drink their, um. They drink their drinks. Maybe the ninja has a water?
Huh. I’ll be honest. I don’t think I can land this plane. This is my eighth and final editorial, and I still don’t really know how to tell a joke. I can write something that resembles a joke, and sometimes it’s close enough that people don’t notice. But when you really get down to it, I might just be a fraud. What do ninjas drink? What does the bartender do? Is there a funny animal character in the mix who puts everything in perspective? It’s beyond me.
Once this issue goes to print, I’m finished. They’re turning me into glue. That’s okay, I guess. All that lives must die, and nothing gold can stay. Still, I can’t help but wonder if there’s more I could’ve done. I could’ve dangled less prepositions, or confused “fewer and less” fewer. I could’ve made my editorials opinionated, done biting satire about our disappearing coral reefs or the need for universal healthcare. I could’ve printed the White Text On A White Background Issue, which is a dumb bit to commit to but would’ve saved time and money. Instead I mostly talked about gibbons and apes and macaques, even in issues that weren’t about gibbons and apes and macaques.
Even now, I don’t know that I’m making the right call. This is getting self-indulgent, which might just be a waste of everybody’s time. Maybe I should start over. Maybe I should stick to pirates and ninjas, and also to cowboys.
We live in modern times. Today you can travel the American West without being accosted by a band of rough-and-tumble good-for-nothin’s on horseback looking to make a quick buck. You can sail the Caribbean without your dinghy falling prey to a schooner with a black flag. You can enjoy a nice soup without fear that it contains the deadly poison of an enemy daimyo’s elegant killer-for-hire. It wasn’t always this way, though. Fewer than two hundred years ago, three warrior castes were locked in a blood feud that spanned the high seas, the coast of the American West, and the fertile lowlands of Japan. These battles are lost to history, but live on in the schoolyard games of children and fun-loving adults.
When I was a small boy, I played pirate sometimes. There was a joke I liked a lot that went: “What’s a pirate’s favorite kind of movie? (Arrr rated). What’s a pirate’s favorite restaurant? (Arrrrrby’s).” It would keep going like that until I asked, “What’s a pirate’s favorite letter,” and the listener would say, “Arrr,” and I’d say, “No—it’s the C (sea)!” I don’t know what more you can ask of a joke. It does the job it needs to do, quietly and without any fuss.
They’re turning me into glue, and maybe that feels good. I really made this magazine my thing this year, for better or worse. Now my buddy Clio is taking over, which is cool but also sad for me because I am not my buddy Clio. Now I’ve gotta figure out a new type of guy to be now, because I can’t just be the Record guy anymore. I’m worried I’ll go back to being the type of guy I used to be, which is Tall.
This editorial is about pirates and cowboys, but it’s also about ninjas.
Walk with me, now, to the port of San Jose in 1824. There’s a man on horseback, galloping along a dock with no sign of slowing. His eyes are blurred from whiskey, and his hand rests on a six-shooter. Waiting aboard a rickety ship is a man with a neat beard framed by greasy locks. His left arm narrows to a stub, punctuated by a wicked hook. Without warning, both men fall, and something gleaming protrudes from their necks. You’ll never see the third man—he’s already gone, riding the shadows to his next kill.
This sort of thing happened pretty much every day from around 1809 all the way to the Civil War, and it got to be a real hassle for everyday people. They couldn’t go about their business without stumbling into yet another pirate fighting yet another ninja fighting yet another cowboy. If you ran a merchant vessel, cowboys would constantly commandeer it and ninjas would constantly stow away in the cargo, taking the battle to the sea. If you worked in a saloon, your walls would be filled with bullet holes, shuriken slots, and the occasional entire boat. If you ran a humor magazine, you might wake up one day to find a pirate, a ninja, a cowboy in your office telling you you didn’t run a humor magazine anymore. The ninja wouldn’t say anything though, because he’s a ninja. Yeah. That’s right.
A pirate, a cowboy, and a ninja walk into a bar at the stroke of midnight. The pirate orders a rum, the cowboy orders a whiskey, and the ninja orders a water. The bartender asks, “What brings you all here at this hour?” The cowboy says, “My horse was eaten by a larger horse right on the edge of town, friend. I’m waitin’ on a letter from my lady love, with a chunk o’ cash for a new horse.” The ninja nods, and uncharacteristically says, “I was attacked by a materialistic macaque who stole my Ford Focus and left me penniless. I’m waiting for a letter from my daimyo with money so I can rent a car, even though I am only twenty-two.”
The bartender turns to the pirate, and asks, “So, what are you doing here so late at night? Waiting on a letter as well?” The pirate puts down his rum, flashes his golden teeth, and says, “Aye. But the only letter I’m waiting on is the C (sea).”
That’s all I got. That’s all I’ll ever have. I hear the Glue Man’s bell a’ringing, so it’s time I hit the road. Enjoy the issue, folks.
It’s a good one.
Outgoing Editor in Chief