How to Be an Old-School Bad-Ass

by Dan Berkman

We have all at one point woken up in the morning to find one hand still inside an unfinished bag of popcorn, like Winnie the Pooh with a jar of honey, except he’s adorable when he does it because he isn’t 35 and unemployed. It is at these times that we wish were a little more purpose-driven, a tad more important, a smidge more…bad-ass. I’m not talking about the type of bad-ass that kicks helicopters or blows up islands by throwing knives at them. I’m talking about the older, more even-kelled bad-ass. He wears a lot of under shirts. He has 65 grandchildren all frolicking amorously in his front yard or living room. At all times. He can handle his liquor like it’s motor oil. Think Clint Eastwood. Doing anything. How can you be a pinch more…bad-ass?

1. NEVER MOVE QUICKLY
A true bad-ass never has to move quickly. They say that for the best basketball players, the game slows down for them so they see it moving at their tempo. For the bad-ass, life is his game. He never has to run to catch an appointment or jut out a leg to keep an elevator door from closing. If he has an appointment, someone is coming to see him. If he needs an elevator, he actually doesn’t. Even if someone shoots at him, he takes the bullets rather than break a sweat (more on this in a moment). Oh, and he never twirls around with swords.

2. NEVER BREAK A SWEAT
This rule is not a metaphor or a piece of flowery language. Quite sismply, a bad-ass does not perspire. If you have ever seen an old western, like one with John Wayne, you will notice the protagonist never so much as glistens. Not only is he lugging around a gun large enough to hunt buildings, but he’s wearing a pear of heavy pants, chaps, a buttoned-up shirt, a kerchief of some variety, more pants, a vest, a jacket, and life-proof boots. And it’s 108 degrees inside. No shade. The man’s internal body temperature, though, is a frosty 86 degrees. That’s no typo.

3. NEVER MAKE EYE CONTACT
Eye contact is for wusses and opthamologists. A bad-ass is neither. When a new acquaintance moseys into the room, the bad-ass never so much as look in the direction of the new person for the first few minutes, hours, or decades of the relationship. Instead, he looks off, focusing his attention somewhere else. Maybe he’s remembering a forest he burned down in Nepal. Maybe he’s petting a kitten, painting an oil landscape, or piloting a trans-Atlantic flight. Matter, it doesn’t. The new person has to earn his contact.

4. UPON FIRST ACQUAINTANCE, ENGAGE IN A COVERSATION OR ACTIVITY COMPLETELY UNRELATED TO THE PURPOSE OF THE MEETING
Someone visits his place of business/workshop/private men’s room with important business matters, but he can never seem to be in a hurry to handle said situation. He doesn’t move fast, remember? In that first encounter, of course while never making eye contact, he will stare off out the window asking how pretty you think the leaves turn in Autumn, or he will hand you an eggplant and ask you to peel it. You might be there to explain that his family has been taken captive by remnants of the ancient Maya, but you must wait until he finishes his harp sonata. By the way, you must join on piano, and you will know how to play piano for this very purpose.

5. HAVE A BACK ROOM WHERE HAPPENINGS UNFOLD
This is the final and most important element that sets a bad-ass apart from douchebags. A bad-ass has a back room for doing business. It could be a kitchen where he chops garlic like the boss that he is or a large tool shed where has instruments for making bad-ass things. This location must be slightly dirty and respectfully dim, for otherwise too clean an environment would imply he doesn’t get his hands dirty now and then. But most importantly, there is one feature that makes the room: some slightly rickety chairs with insufficient back support. The man’s a bad-ass, loaded, connected, and able to acquire the best chairs money can buy. Cushions stuffed with bald eagle down? He could. But he doesn’t. Instead, his back gives the middle finger to comfort and toughs it out on a piece of furniture crudely made from one two-by-four.

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