November 3, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

There is of course, an old saying, “Free advice is worth every penny you spent on it.” But then, I’ve never had enough money to afford any truly valuable advice, so I’ve come to trust in a few nuggets given to me gratis over the years. Besides, that old saying is in and of itself “free,” isn’t it? Life is full of logic loops.

Oscar Wilde—in a book I paid for, so it was therefore not in the worthless category—once said, “I always pass on good advice. It is the only thing to do with it. It is never of any use to oneself.” With that in mind, I offer you a few gems, no charge.

I had an uncle who left the farm to move to New York City back when Times Square was, shall we say, a bit more “grown up” than the current Calvin Klein version. In fact, he once claimed that while there, he met a heavily armed Kurt Russell trying to escape the island. Anyway, when he returned to his small Iowa hometown years later, he said to me…

“Never trust a naked bus driver.”

It’s a bit of advice that still rings true.

I once had a friend whose home went up in flames, a total loss. When I ran into him a week or so after the conflagration he seemed remarkably sanguine despite the disaster. I asked him how he could be so accepting of the calamity, and he leaned over his third pint of the night and told me…

“Never own so much that you’ll be secretly pleased to watch your house burn down.”

Possessions do evolve into clutter, don’t they?

I recently ran into a woman I had dated a few times in high school before she tore out my heart and stomped on it. Every teenage romance is dramatic, don’t you agree? She recounted to me that she had subsequently been married six times and divorced five. “Wow,” I said. “That’s a lot of failed marriages.” After she finished laughing, she replied, “Failed? Not failures by any stretch. Four were victories and one was a draw.” As for the institution, she advised me…

“Marriage is like a track meet. The pistol should be used at the start, not the finish.”

I’m not sure I understand the gun’s role at all, but I have to admit she had more experience than I do.

Most advice that we get in life seems to be about money. Heck, there’s a whole profession full of people called “financial advisers.” Some of them are even licensed. Go figure. I once spoke to one of those folks. I’d avoided them for years, but after the 37th invitation to a “free” steak dinner at a local eatery, I found myself a bit peckish and decided to take these money gurus up on the deal. After the some-what subpar sirloin was consumed, I found myself cornered by one of these name-tagged hustlers who babbled at me incessantly while I searched vainly for that lint-covered extra-strength Tums I knew I had left in my sports coat pocket a few months earlier.

After he mentioned how my money should work for me, and I explained that my money was as lazy as I was, he brought out the big guns. “You need a plan,” he said, which was no surprise since he was a planner. Suddenly, something my grandmother had told me years earlier popped into my head.

“Money is like cheese. If you’ve got more than you can eat in a week, invite some folks over.”

He wandered off. I went home. I leave you with this last bit of free advice, though I have no “license” to do so…

If someone tries to bait you with free meat, stay in the Barcalounger.


Otis Twelve hosts the radio program Early Morning Classics with Otis Twelve on 90.7 KVNO, weekday mornings from 5-9 a.m. Visit kvno.org for more information

This column was printed in the November/December 2017 edition of Omaha Magazine. 

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