My dishwasher and I have been at war for some time. This war is being waged on two fronts. On one side is my ongoing search for a bowl or plate or pot so dirty the dishwasher cannot clean it, but so far I’ve found nothing, including a recent plate coated with the super glue residue of leftover fried eggs. The other battle is a certain steak knife I’ve run through the wash at least five straight times. There is a bit of unrecognizable debris stuck to the tip of the blade that no amount of hot water and dish detergent will dislodge. I could easily scrape the debris off with a fingernail but that would be like conceding defeat. This is a ridiculous war because the dishwasher obviously possesses the horsepower to clean any dish it wants but refuses to acknowledge the steak knife. I think it’s mocking me.

* * *

I don’t watch a lot of television, and I don’t have cable, so the only way I get national news is to read it on the Internet. But I don’t even do that as often as I probably should. I’m too busy looking for that little red alert on Facebook that tells you when someone leaves a comment or sends you a message. Other sites I read with regularity are this one and DamnYouAutocorrect.com. But that’s not what this is about. This is about everyone sitting around watching cable news all day and then complaining how everything is wrong with America. The thing about America is there is so little wrong with it that we have the luxury of watching theater disguised as news and then complaining about how put upon we are. Of course what’s wrong depends on which network you watch. None of them can agree what’s wrong, only that something definitely is. The cable news networks also seem to agree they should compose theme songs for important news stories. Can you imagine being a musician who makes a living this way? Hey, Mutt! We need a quick ten second theme to introduce the war in Afghanistan. Can you whip up something by nine? But Mutt is expensive, and so are satellite trucks, so the way networks pay for their broadcasts is with prescription drug commercials. These advertisements are invariably more interesting than the news itself because they, a) suggest you diagnose yourself with an illness, and b) consume most of their precious air time warning you about side effects. Like this pill will stop you from peeing so often, but you also might shit out of your ears or die or see the future. Whose bright idea was it to put the lay public in charge of prescribing drugs to themselves? Am I the only person in the world who doesn’t understand this logic?

* * *

In downtown Memphis, moments after I emerge from the hotel, a man approaches me and begins to chat. It’s nine-thirty at night. I’m starving. The friendly fellows quickly ascertains I’m looking for a restaurant, away from the tourists, and helps me locate one. I know this game but pretend like I don’t. We talk all the way to the restaurant. He learns I’m a writer and promises to visit my web site and send me an email. I learn he has a “fifteen-mile walk home in the rain.” When I inquire about a potential bus fare, the amount he quotes is about the same as one of the vodka-laced Red Bulls I will consume with dinner. This sounds like a fair investment to me, so I give him the bus fare and go inside.

The restaurant isn’t perfect, but it’s close enough. There’s a bar, a few tables, and a stage where a live jazz band is preparing to play. The crowd is mainly young professionals, dressed a lot like me, having drinks and watching the local pro basketball team on flat screen televisions. I sit down and order a drink and a burger, and while I wait for my order to arrive I send flirty text messages on my iPhone. The band is decent and I snap a few pictures and text those, too. Eventually a girl walks up to the bar and stands next to me. I realize she’s the same blonde I noticed earlier at an adjacent table. She just stands there, drinking water, and I realize she expects me to say something to her. So I do, and when the girl turns to me I can see she is very pretty, like model pretty. She tells me about her job, about how she doesn’t like it, and asks where I’m from. I keep looking back at the table behind us because I’m pretty sure that guy over there in the pink shirt is her boyfriend. It could also be the guy in the suit, but my bet’s on Pink. I’ve got a nice buzz, and I should be feeling happy, but instead I’m confused. Why is this petite supermodel chick talking to me where Pink can clearly see her? And why am I pretending to care about her boring job? I’m texting someone who isn’t here and occasionally being chatted by someone who is, who apparently doesn’t want to talk to her boyfriend, and everything seems absurd to me. I’m listening to jazz music in a Memphis bar, and though it’s pretty good music I start to think how odd it is to be sitting in bar full of locals, listening to a band play jazz because they sort of have to, being in Memphis, like I’m watching all these actors play their parts. When the blonde and I run out of things to talk about, she wanders back over to her boyfriend and the rest of their group, and I turn my attention to the television. Occasionally my phone buzzes, and the conversation moves forward, albeit glacially, and I wonder if my text buddy were here in person, would we be on our phones talking to other people who were not here?

The guy who directed me to the restaurant never sends an email.

* * *

On the interstate, on the way home, I listen to stand up comedians to distract myself from the reality of a six-hour drive. I listen to music. I wonder what draws us to listen to music, to these same melodic rhythms again and again. Sometimes music evokes emotion in us, sometimes it inspires us, but very often we listen simply because we cannot bear the silence. On a normal day you might be working in a cubicle or in your living room, your hours might be filled with the concerns of other human beings, and time flies by with little knowledge of its passing. But when you’re on the road you’ve got nothing but six hours of asphalt and tractor trailers and drivers who won’t get out of the left lane, and suddenly the hours assert themselves. They become worlds, planet-sized, immensity so great you can barely detect their curvature. Which is why you distract yourself with pleasing melodies and rhythms, drumbeats that count off the many moments so you might forget about them.

And you wonder if maybe that’s what you’re really doing every day. Distracting yourself.

* * *

If our bodies are electrochemical machines, the core programming code instructs us to survive long enough to engineer successful offspring. But human minds, perhaps uniquely, possess the ability to override genetic commands. We use latex or hormones to defy industrious little swimmers. But to what end? For some, bearing children is the next, obvious step in their forward-marching journey. Others give no thought to the gravity of bringing life into the world. And maybe a few of us, consciously or not, look at parenthood as a concession of defeat, just one more reminder of the meaningless void. Maybe we see those smiling baby faces as the army that will eventually defeat us.

* * *

In the end, though music may often be a distraction, that isn’t always the case. Sometimes you hear a melody so beautiful you are compelled to stop the forward march and give yourself fully to the moment directly in front of you. Sometimes you make perfect contact with the golf ball and launch it four-and-one-half football fields into the distance. One day your first novel sells and the only response you can think of is to cry. Another day your eight-year old niece calls you on video chat and you read her a bedtime story over the Internet tubes.

If that smiling face is the beginning of military occupation, it’s certainly difficult to resist.

* * *

Today I ran the dishwasher. This time the blade of the steak knife emerged clean, pristine, like it was brand new all over again. I don’t know if it matters or not, but I won that battle.

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RICHARD COX is the author of The Boys of Summer, Thomas World, The God Particle, and Rift. He can be reached on Facebook or at his personal web site, www.richardcox.net.

123 responses to “The Washer of My Discontent”

  1. Erika Rae says:

    I have a little pyrex bowl that would be best friends with your steak knife. I’ve run it through about 12 times.I refuse to concede defeat.

    • Richard Cox says:

      Defeat is not an option. Not when you’re talking about the most important battles, anyway.

      • Erika Rae says:

        The military occupation is well underway in my barracks. Every day new battles are fought. Ammunition includes tears, screeching, gnashing of teeth and, occasionally, duct tape. The kids are just as brutal. Just yesterday, my 7-year-old insisted on playing “Ice, Ice, Baby” four times in a row. I threatened sending her to bed without any broth and managed to win the battle. Unfortunately, it would seem she won the war as that song has been playing on a feed loop in my head all day. And don’t bother saying it. I know I asked for it with my silly little FB gravatar. But what I want to know is this: how did SHE know about the gravatar, hmmmm? Coincidence, Mr. Cox? I think not.

        Radio as a distraction from life. I’ll show you distraction…

        ( :

        • Richard Cox says:

          Rollergirl, you know as well as I do there is no such thing as coincidence. There is only The Guy.

          And fucking emoticons.

        • Gloria says:

          One time, Erica Rae, when my twins were 2 (maybe younger), we were playing, there was duct tape, one thing led to another and I duct taped the boys’ hands together. They giggled. I giggled. Then I realized that they couldn’t touch anything with their hands taped together (as in Tolkien’s hands were taped to Indigo’s hands.) No shit was being knocked off shelves. No havoc was being created anywhere. They were not in discomfort. Look, I’m not saying that I left them taped together for over half an hour, because that’s not the point. The point: I won that battle.

        • Richard Cox says:

          Bahahaha. That reminds me of the time I asked my I dad if he would let me mow the yard.

          “Sure, son. Of course you can mow the yard.”

          That’s in the top 10 worst mistakes I ever made as a kid.

        • Erika Rae says:

          BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA *gasp* BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

          1) Gloria. You are my new idol.

          2) Richrob. You know what you did.

        • Richard Cox says:

          2) I was baited into it, Rollergirl. You know that.

  2. Zara Potts says:

    Richrob,

    I love these vignettes. I especially like how you tie seemingly unrelated subjects together in a ribbon of narrative and wind it all up into a lovely shape.

    It’s a lovely musing on life, the universe and all that. But as we have already spoken about – it’s the human connections that speak the loudest and touch the heart. The video bedtime story, the bus fare given, the snatched conversations. They are the stuff of life and no matter how benign or fleeting, they are what defines us. I like that you write about these in a wistful and introspective way.

    Quite simply – I love your work.

    Oh, and it’s best not to start a fight with machinery, I think. In my experience, it inevitably wins. You may have won the battle with the dishwasher but I think you may lose the war.

    • Richard Cox says:

      Thanks, ZaraPotts. It’s hard to know when you’re writing pieces comprised of multiple vignettes if you’ve tied them together well enough. Because obviously you want the post as a whole to say something larger than the individual pieces themselves. I’m glad you liked this one.

      The personal stories are where life is lived, you are correct. Everything else is just window dressing.

  3. Gloria says:

    You kinda made me cry and stuff. This is remarkably beautiful.

    Who were you texting????!!!

    • Gloria says:

      Sometimes you make perfect contact with the golf ball and launch it four-and-one-half football fields into the distance. One day your first novel sells and the only response you can think of is to cry. Another day your eight-year old niece calls you on video chat and you read her a bedtime story over the Internet tubes.

      **sob**

      I’m a gigantic baby.

      • Richard Cox says:

        Anytime you make someone cry you’ve either done your job or hurt their feelings. Or they’ve been out having drinks and are feeling especially emotional. Hahaha.

        Thanks, Gloria.

        • Gloria says:

          Fuckyouwha…

          For the record, by the time I read and posted this comment, I’d already passed out drunk (before 8:00), woken up, gone home, taken a shower and eaten. At 2:30 AM. I’M SOFTCORE!

          I hereby retract my tears. :-p

        • Richard Cox says:

          Hahaha. Well my apologies, then. I just looked at the time and made the assumption.

          Now you can tell me what happens when one assumes something. 😉

        • Gloria says:

          Woke up fully sober at midnight in my friend Amanda’s bed. Should I have eaten more than half a croissant sandwich all day before having drinks with my friend? Yes.

          Besides, I was sober enough to catch your typo.

        • Richard Cox says:

          That you were. The disheartening thing is I must have read the post six or seven thousand times before I posted it, and still I missed the typo. It happens to everyone, but that doesn’t make it any less absurd how your brain chooses the reality it wants to see, regardless of your very conscious attempts to be completely objective.

        • Gloria says:

          I stand firmly behind the idea that one should never be his or her only editor. I only catch my own mistakes (which abound) if I’m able to walk away from a piece for a long time. Like months.

        • Amanda says:

          it was really cute the way she was asleep and snoring before 8PM…

          Thanks, Richard, for a great read. We are always watching each other play our roles. Even the raw, personal, real… that’s how we get our cues.

        • Gloria Harrison says:

          I don’t snore…

        • Richard Cox says:

          Thanks for reading, Amanda. And sorry you had to listen to Gloria snore. Sometimes I can hear her all the way down here.

        • Gloria says:

          I don’t snore.

  4. D.R. Haney says:

    This feels a little like your “Vulcan Logic” piece, thematically, but I think I prefer the elliptical form you’ve got here. I also like that there are no real conclusions, only musings.

    I do think that if there weren’t anything wrong with America, we wouldn’t be in our current mess. Then again, maybe it’s our ongoing self-examination that helped to lead to the mess, insofar as we look in the wrong directions. In other words: we’re distracted.

    I tell myself that I turn to music (and movies and books and so on) to bring me closer to the world, though I know that’s not entirely true. It may finally bring me closer to the world, but first, I know, I escape into a world of sound (or images or words), and that informs the way I think, or anyway, respond. But I’m not a person who always has music going, partly because I want to respect music and the world beyond it. I don’t want to think of music as a given, and I don’t want it to drown out everything else, or perpetually color it, so that I exist too much in a landscape that I’ve had a large hand in designing. I do that enough during the act of writing, and of course I tell myself that writing, too, finally drives me deeper into the world, but that may be something I need to believe in order to do what I want to do.

    As you can see, there are no conclusions in this comment, only musings.

    • Richard Cox says:

      Yeah, Duke, ironically the original idea for this post centered around everything that’s wrong with America. So I get you that there are things wrong. Like cable news, for instance. But when I think about the problems we have, they seem awfully self-indulgent and trivial compared to people who live in, say, a third-world country. Not that we aren’t suffering through an economic depression right now, or that many people don’t have severe individual crises, but I think depression is somewhat cyclical and is always going to happen eventually. And a lot of the current problem has to do with easy credit, which makes for a bit of a challenge when you’re assigning blame. Like we got ourselves into this problem because we couldn’t manage our money? Try telling that to someone with flies buzzing around their head all day in a country with no food.

      So I was thinking mainly of our problems with relation to humanity as a whole. And also, regarding economics, I’m not sure Adam Smith or John Maynard Keynes or whoever really has a handle on how an economy should be run. I’m not sure anyone does. But try telling that to the robots yelling on cable news.

      I like the paragraph about music in your comment. And that there are only musings. Thanks, man.

  5. My basil died. FYI.

    I love this! You know, some people would tolerate shitting out the ears if they could see the future. I think I’d only tolerate it if I could time travel. I very much agree with you about the state of the news media. A couple of year ago, I was teaching journalism and had the hardest time trying to get them to understand the concept of unbiased journalism … because examples are few and far between anymore. It was very strange — they’d be tasked with writing a straightforward, unbiased news report and of course it wouldn’t be. But they couldn’t see that it wasn’t unbiased. They couldn’t see that certain word choices had connotations and that certain sentences were actually statements of opinion. Point is, I fear the barrage of cable news has reprogrammed the way people think. Or something like that.

    • Richard Cox says:

      When I imagine you trying to teach the nuance of certain word choices in a journalism class, and then think about Glenn Beck, it makes me want to shoot my face off. If I think of one thing that’s really wrong in our daily world it’s opinion news being broadcast 24 hours a day every day. People get addicted to watching that because it’s designed as entertainment, and then they make life choices and vote with that unbiased information. Blargh.

      That’s too bad about your basil. But it had to happen eventually, you know. I bet as it kept getting colder and colder, your basil plants resented all the seeds they had dropped during the growing season, knowing how they laid the groundwork for their eventual demise.

      Stupid circle of life.

  6. Nathaniel Missildine says:

    Man, it’s impressive the way this piece starts as funny, casual and stream-of-consciousness and then keeps snapping back into very lucid insight. This is the kind of piece I’ll come back to for a reread.

    With so many other ways to get news, I don’t understand why anyone with even rudimentary critical thinking skills would choose to watch cable news unless it’s for the purpose of mining it for joke material. That some people don’t see the theater and how it’s warped the public discourse is amazing to me.

    And the military occupation by those smiling baby faces is already well under way, if only they can remain focused long enough to fully do us in.

    • Richard Cox says:

      Thanks, Nat. What you said about the meandering humor and then focusing on actual situations is exactly what I hoped to do, so I appreciate you saying so.

      People I care about work in the news industry, and are very successful at it, and there is a lot of good journalism and caring stories that happen. I’ve seen them first hand. But specifically the pundit and opinion shows on cable news are the ones I think are the worst blight on the culture. That there is a comedy news show specifically built to combat misinformation, and that some of us rally around those comedians for political purposes, is just mind blowing to me. That the battle is often between a political movement and comedy says everything anyone needs to know.

      At least in my opinion. I could be wrong.

  7. Brina says:

    This is easily my favorite piece of yours– at least my favorite at this moment. That’s what I like about it, I think… how it seems to connect the fleeting with the enduring, momentary with lifetime.

    I tend to disagree about America and our problems, maybe even on the larger scale you discuss in one of your comments above. I think it would depend on the problems discussed, as to who is worse off than whom. Can a person actually say we’re doing alright, because just look how the neighbors are doing…? One could also argue that one of the biggest problems with America is that we’re among those who are spoiling it for everyone else, and to some degree a lot of their problems are really problems with us anyway, American-based multinationals stealing water from Bolivia and all that.

    Congratulations on your victory.

    The last couple of bits reminded me of a comment I saw on your last post here, and made me wonder… Is she pregnant, Dickie?

    • Richard Cox says:

      Thank you, Brina. One of the things I struggle with, being so literal, is writing with subtext. So I specifically tried to do that here, like little ideas and themes and maybe seem silly when you read them but evoke something more by the time you’re finished reading the piece. It was an experiment to see if I could do this effectively here and then maybe translate that style to a novel someday.

      I think I was too simplistic about America and her problems, because every country has problems. I think problems we bring upon ourselves when we have so many opportunities to do otherwise, are stupid. Like complaining about being hungover. I don’t have much sympathy for self inflicted problems.

      I guess here I was thinking about individuals and their perception of their own worlds. To me, people who spend all day watching cable news seem to be the kind of people who invent problems just to be angry about something. In the end, I think anyone fortunate enough to be born in the US should thank their lucky stars. There are so many worse situations in the world. We should do more not to spoil it for everyone else. But first we could simply admit we have it pretty good and stop feeling like the world is falling down around our ears.

      • Richard Cox says:

        Oh, and no, no one is pregnant. But I have been spending a lot of time with my nieces and nephews. They’re getting all smart now, like little people, and it’s fascinating to me.

  8. dwoz says:

    Vodka and Red Bull?

    ….really?

    why not just lay down in an elephant’s stall and squeak like a mouse? It’d be quicker and probably taste better…

    • Richard Cox says:

      I would try to make an excuse about the Vodka Red Bulls but I do like them in the context of going out to the bar. It’s not exactly a subtle experience, I realize this. In the particular case of this evening, I was being lazy and about to fall asleep in my hotel room, so I thought maybe these drinks would give me some energy. But I drink them from time to time and there is no apologizing for it. Haha.

      • dwoz says:

        No apology necessary. I am not above picking up a cup of coffee that I abandoned TWO DAYS AGO, and starting right back in to it.

        Hey, but you southern guys invented FRIED ICE CREAM, so who are we from the frozen north country to judge? How awesome is THAT?

  9. jmblaine says:

    You are singing my song.
    I know how very difficult it is
    to write like this
    & keep it entertaining
    & true.
    So, well done. Magic well done.

    Also, these are the sort of things
    a prophet says:

    The thing about America is there is so little wrong with it that we have the luxury of watching theater disguised as news and then complaining about how put upon we are.

    What is wrong with America?
    At my worst,
    I am.

    • Richard Cox says:

      Thanks, JMB. Not to get all JFK on you, but I imagine if we all looked at ourselves and wondered what we could do better, instead of cheering and jeering at the TV, collectively we’d be better off.

      Except that’s the kind of thing that’s easy to say but has no real meat behind it. It’s just letters on a screen. One has to just go and do it, I guess. One minute at a time.

  10. Becky Palapala says:

    I’m sitting here trying to decide why I think people like music.

    As far as we know, humans have never done without it, in some form or another.

    I mean, the first and most obvious question would have to be where do we find something like music in nature?

    A big deal is made, in evolutionary psychology literature, about the uncanny similarities between human social behavior, particularly socio-sexual behavior, and the socio-sexual behavior of birds, particularly as these things pertain to human artistic endeavors. It’s sometimes referred to, informally, as peacock theory. It’s not without its detractors, but it makes a lot of sense to me.

    Heap on top of that the huge role of speech/language as an identifying human characteristic, and it gets less weird, to me at least, that humans would be sensitive and attracted to pleasant noises. Or whatever they deem pleasant. I mean, a social talent that allows you to recognize the usually super-subtle differences between two people’s voices could easily result in amusement with sound-play as a side effect. Never mind we carry a drum beat around with us all day, and have been listening to one even in utero, at least ever since we could hear or feel a heartbeat.

    Personally, I have a lot of trouble with earworms. Songs getting stuck in my head. I know it is partially attributable to my obsessive personality, but I wonder why one song over another. I read somewhere, in the middle of one of these fits, when I thought I was going to go crazy, that earworms may be a case of your brain trying to make sense of an unconventional melody. If it surprises, or does not do what you think it will do, your brain will fixate, running it over and over, trying to understand what’s happening. Trying to get it to do something predictable. Until it forgets to think about it, manages to make sense of it, or simply accepts it as a new paradigm.

    If that’s the case, humans are way more aurally involved than simply liking music. We’ve got some kind of deep-seated, involuntary, subconscious, intuitive sense of what it is. We can actually become slaves to our brains’ obsession with musical sound.

    • dwoz says:

      Becky, I think it’s obvious. Music is not just pleasant arrangements and associations of audible frequencies…it’s language.

      In fact, it’s a language that is capable of a high level of recursion, which makes it exponentially better at expressing complex, abstract, high-level concepts.

      We recognize, internally, that this is what is going on, even if we don’t necessarily recognize it cognitively.

      Music is the next evolutionary step of language. A picture is “worth a thousand words”, but a single exquisitely-expressed note is worth a hundred pictures.

      So, we are in that weird cognitive dissonance of finding ourselves (at least on this end) thinking the same way. There must be a black hole nearby.

      • Becky Palapala says:

        I’m not sure I agree as much as you think. Especially the “next step in the evolution of language.”

        I won’t deny that it’s a communication tool or that our brains have a unique relationship with music, but declaring it the successor in the language evolution monarchy is getting a little grandiose and borderline metaphysical for me.

        What’s problematic for me is that depending on what you call music, for all we know, it arose near-concurrently with language. I’ll have to stick with my theory that music, as we recognize it, is a symptom of language. A consequence. I think the notion that music is amelioration may be a bit of professional bias on your part.

        It’s a subtle distinction, but an important one.

        • dwoz says:

          My supposition is that being largely if not completely serial, language as we know and define it today is only going to ever be able to provide a slow and non-experiential transmission of information.

          Music, on the other hand, is a parallel “language.” information can be carried on multiple simultaneous modulatable vectors, compared to the single (or perhaps in particular cases dual) vector of ‘normal’ language.

          So I don’t think it’s ameliorative, but rather a transformational leap of magnitude. The information density of a minute of music compared to a minute of language is dramatic.

          I also merely put it forth as a candidate example. We’re still a very long way from convening on the semantic constructs. Mathematics would be another example.

  11. Becky Palapala says:

    Part of that theory says, too, that novelty itself is attractive in sexual selection. Humans are into playing with stuff. Making new stuff. Trying, seeing, hearing new things. We’re attracted to instances of new stuff, including, presumably, new types of noises. More importantly, we’re attracted to the people who make the new stuffs. They may be, after all, on the cutting edge of the gene pool.

    • Richard Cox says:

      I read a lot about the history of music before I posted this. There are many ideas, which you mostly covered here. Some that you didn’t directly mention include an evolution from “motherese,” the communication between a mother and her infant child, and also as defense against predators. It’s a highly interesting topic to me because the way we consume music today seems vastly different from whatever the habitual origins are.

      Other than chicks going crazy over guitarists, I mean. That’s not special.

      • Becky Palapala says:

        Well, if novelty, for example, plays a conspiring role, then it’s not particularly outrageous. That is, if evolved tendencies–both biological and cultural–unrelated to sound are influencing our relationship with sound, one might expect some interesting permutations. That said, I’m not sure our relationship to music is all that different than it’s ever been. I mean, what do you use for a baseline? Different from what?

        • Richard Cox says:

          When I listen to Swan Lake in my living room, that’s different from using chants and beats to scare away animals, for instance.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          Well, maybe it is and maybe it isn’t. You did admit you were trying to keep the silence at bay in your car.

          And of course, that answer accepts that “predator deterrent” is the origin of music at all.

        • Richard Cox says:

          Also, another thing that fascinates me is how the various keys and notes evoke certain and predictable emotions. Like, why does that work? It appeals to how our minds are wired, I guess, but still. It seems so abstract to me. Abstract in this case means I don’t have enough information.

          Like why is D minor is the saddest of all keys?

        • Becky Palapala says:

          Okay, so I understand that’s a Spinal Tap joke, but I refuse to sit through youtube commercials.

          Anyway, it’s irrelevant, since everyone knows James Taylor’s “Fire and Rain” is the saddest song ever written and that’s in the key of C. C!

          So I call nonsense on the key thing. I think it depends on the execution.

  12. Slade Ham says:

    I wouldn’t have called your text messages flirty, but maybe I was reading them wrong. You could’ve just told them it was me…

    And maybe a few of us, consciously or not, look at parenthood as a concession of defeat, just one more reminder of the meaningless void. Maybe we see those smiling baby faces as the army that will eventually defeat us.

    Have you and I talked about this? It’s possible that we have and I drunkenly forgot it, a la the Woodpecker. The kids thing remains a scary notion for me. Resisting the underlying urge to make a person, to commit to it’s future… it somehow seems like I’d be giving up my own freedom and plans, though most people with kids swear it’s different, and my own experiences with my nieces suggest otherwise as well.

    Still, it’s that feeling of running up the escalator, against the flow of traffic, because once you get to the bottom, that’s it. No reentry, ya know?

    And it’s always the guy in pink.

    • Gloria says:

      …it somehow seems like I’d be giving up my own freedom and plans, though most people with kids swear it’s different…

      Slade, I, for one, will tell you: you 100% would be giving up your own freedom and plans. In addition, you’d be wiping shit off tiny asses and cleaning vomit up and learning Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star in foreign languages just to mix things up and save your sanity.

      I mean, there’s a lot of good stuff, too. Loads. I’d be happy to tell you all about it. **reaches for wallet with kid photos** But make no mistake – your freedom is a goner.

      • Haha. I was writing my own ominous “plan your children wisely” comment as you wrote yours, G-Lovely. But I forgot to talk about the shit. Oh dear god, all of the shit. The up-the-back diapers. Then the tub poops. Shit in the crib. Shit on the living room floor. Shit in his dresser drawer. Shit smeared on the bedroom walls during failed naps. Trying to clean shit out of his tiny underwear during potty training, and occasionally still during moments when my son has gambled and lost. And the horrifying news in the potty training books that I will be expected to wipe his ass until he’s five. WHA?!

        I can sum up parenthood in one sentence: This shit never ends. (:

    • Gloria says:

      “I feel about as useless as a mom’s college degree.” ~ Kenneth, from 30 Rock

    • “…it somehow seems like I’d be giving up my own freedom and plans, though most people with kids swear it’s different…”

      I don’t know who is telling you that having kids doesn’t mean giving up your own freedom and plans, but in my experience, this is exactly what it means. Since having a child, my life is not about me, and never will be again. Everything I do, every decision I make, is made with my son as first priority. I waited until I was 34 to get pregnant, so I had plenty of time to live only for myself, and I’m cool with my decision. Parenting is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I can’t imagine life without my boy.

      I know that you already know the positives from spending time with your nieces, so I hope I’m not coming across as negative. I just wanted to let you know that I think you are very wise to approach procreation with much caution and forethought. xoxo.

      • Richard Cox says:

        I’ve had a couple of friends recently who became fathers and mothers, people with life outlooks similar to mine, and it’s been fascinating to listen to their stories and watch parenthood evolve. It’s different than, say, with my sister, because she’s always wanted to be a mother. Which is wonderful, but just different than me. So to watch them handle it, I can imagine how I might do it. But also I can’t. Strange.

        I enjoy reading your FB updates about being a mom, Tawni, for the same reasons. Because I feel like we look at things similarly. I bet you’re an awesome mom. Even if you do steal the kitten dreams of little girls.

      • Slade Ham says:

        I think they say that to lure me into the trap with them. The biggest difference is that my plans usually involve a very unstable environment, unlike theirs. For some of them, they say it because it really doesn’t affect their desk job world. Those people that I speak of though, they didn’t have the biggest plans even before the kid(s). Of course, I come from a small town where working at the refinery IS a big dream to follow…

    • Richard Cox says:

      The reason I know it wasn’t you I was texting, Slade, is because you’re in the recent habit of not replying. And someone was definitely replying. Unless I imagined it. Which is not completely out of the realm of possibility. Ask Tawni.

      • Slade Ham says:

        Since when do I not respond? Except for maybe after 10pm.. which is drinking time. And that’s just because I can’t find my phone usually.

    • Richard Cox says:

      I forgot to address your other points.

      1) I’m exactly with you on the kids thing. It seems like something that requires the utmost consideration and dedication. Rather than saying, as an example, Hey, I’m 22! Time to start squirting them out! I could see myself doing it in the right situation, but not before.

      2) The guy in pink was such a tool, too. Maybe that’s why she wandered over to the bar to have a glass of water. And she wasn’t subtle about it. There was a whole bar of open space where one could have consumed a glass of water. The question for me is what did she really want, since she was already there with someone. To make him jealous, I suppose? To watch us fight over her?

      • Matt says:

        When exactly are guys in pink ever not tools?

      • Slade Ham says:

        1) If I had had kids when I was 22, they would all be on drugs now. Or they would be little homeless 12 year olds.

        2) You speak of one of life’s great mysteries, Richrob. It will take a better man than me to understand it.

  13. Judy Prince says:

    Richard, this article shows up on Google Chrome, but it doesn’t show up on Internet Explorer (in either Rodent’s or my machines). Weird.

    Now I’ll read the article….

  14. Judy Prince says:

    ” . . . when you’re on the road you’ve got nothing but six hours of asphalt and tractor trailers and drivers who won’t get out of the left lane, and suddenly the hours assert themselves. They become worlds, planet-sized, immensity so great you can barely detect their curvature.”

    Beautifully expressed, Richard. Excellent ideas and prose from an excellent thinker and writer.

    It’s not just that you’re alone on the drive, though it seems as if that might be the important factor. But you mention music as a distraction. Music is indeed an effective distraction, but as the most sublime of the arts, it’s fundamentally an underlay and overlay of sense involvement, an immersion into your limitlessly-creating self. Music takes you from the road’s boredom, drivers’ stupid moves and your disordered negative thoughts to deep associations in your memory, the mini-films in your mind. Music summons you from surface stuff to what you’ve felt most profoundly, the fighting and loving, the gains and losses, the amazing collages of past-meets-future, of possibilities to be given birth.

    Oh, and thanks for your totally true take on drug adverts!

    • Richard Cox says:

      “Music takes you from the road’s boredom, drivers’ stupid moves and your disordered negative thoughts to deep associations in your memory, the mini-films in your mind.”

      This is absolutely true. Well said, Judy. Listening to music on a drive like this helps you to enjoy those mind movies and even achieve an altered state of consciousness, so that an hour later you realize you can barely remember any of the driving you just did. It’s strange and magnificent and difficult to understand.

      That’s why I always write to music. And I always feel compelled to acknowledge the artists I listened to, because I usually feel like my projects wouldn’t exist without them.

      • Judy Prince says:

        “Listening to music on a drive like this helps you to enjoy those mind movies and even achieve an altered state of consciousness . . .”

        I think you’ve nailed it, Richard. There’s something incantatory about music, like in well metered and effectively alliterative writing such as poetry. And it’s no accident that mantras and chants evoke an altered state. Interestingly, if you, yourself, sing…..or read aloud excellent poetry……or chant……or say your mantra, it’ll deepen the altered state. Part of it, is, I think, the vibrations that you feel in your head and body.

        Ironic in the light of all the talk of music’s sublimity, I suppose, was the silent meditation I “learned” at Quaker meetings for worship. No music, no ambient sounds, and everyone just sat quietly, some with their eyes closed. Sometimes a person would stand, say a few words, and sit down. But often we’d have an hour of silence. It takes getting used to, at the beginning, believe me. I noted, for myself, that in each attempt to meditate there were at first excruciating itches I needed to scratch or wiggling I felt compelled to do. When those things ceased, suddenly I was meditating, yet equally aware of my body, but my body wasn’t itching or struggling anymore. A deep meditation always was as physically orgasmic as a sublime sexual experience.

        Re what many here have noted about wanting to escape “reality” into distraction of any kind, yes, it seems universal. However, it often reflects one’s cultural, spiritual and family backgrounds. Many Westerners have had no experience with a peace that comes from silent stillness. I once suggested that my friend meditate with me because she so needed some peace, as she was overwhelmed with news of an illness that eventually ended her life. After 5 minutes of silence, she burst out: “I can’t take this anymore!” anguished as if someone were torturing her. And my daughter-in-law’s first experience at a Quaker Meeting had her silently singing all the songs she knew, over and over again, for the hour. She was convinced that I had fallen asleep! HA!

        • Richard Cox says:

          I can’t say that I’ve spent much time meditating with silence, but I do spend a lot of time with silence anyway. Though I do always write to music, I’m not writing all the time, and for instance right now the only sound in my house is air being pulled through the return air ducts as the heater runs. I live far enough away from expressways in that in the morning and at night it’s virtually dead silent inside my house, and I love it. I don’t turn on the television unless I’m specifically watching something and spend many hours with no running, constant sound.

          And I’ve found some people really dislike that. I’ve lived with more than one person who would turn on the TV “just to have sound in the background.” Which, there’s nothing wrong with that, but for me it’s difficult to understand because I like the silence. I wonder if this is a learned behavior, that growing up with television and radio always on, that silence unnerves people? Or did we evolve to expect sound in the background at all times, like in the wild, and maybe silence was frightening because it was perceived as dangerous?

          Now that I’ve been away from an office environment for many months, I’m not accustomed to constant noise anymore. Over the holidays, at my parents’, it was odd and a little unnerving for the television to be on all the time, and especially the news. All those people barking all the time. One way isn’t better than another way. Just different. It’s interesting.

          I wonder what it’s like to live in, say, Manhattan? Where there’s almost never silence? Hmmm…

        • Judy Prince says:

          “I live far enough away from expressways in that in the morning and at night it’s virtually dead silent inside my house, and I love it. I don’t turn on the television unless I’m specifically watching something and spend many hours with no running, constant sound.”

          Terrific, Richard; in fact, ideal conditions.

          You describe, as well, what I remember at my parents’ and relatives’ homes:

          “Over the holidays, at my parents’, it was odd and a little unnerving for the television to be on all the time, and especially the news. All those people barking all the time.”

          Seems like once somebody’s turned on a tv, it’s mentally and physically impossible to turn it off. 😉

          I do recall enjoying hours and hours of fine sitcoms and good docu programmes, but that was so long ago, and now research and writing have become my substitutes. I can’t sit for a tv programme for more than a few minutes without getting frustrated and jumpy. It makes me want to read or write or make some jewelry—-anything but sit there like a prisoner to the programme.

  15. Joe Daly says:

    Meaty piece here, Coxy. Enjoyed the fuck out of it.

    In my own low rent, tainted, seasoned, shaken, broken opinion, a lot of the issues you raise above are symptoms of our society’s inability to simply be (comfortable in our own skin). We go to bars and drink because booze can change our mood. Music can, too. Talking to other people, even looking at them, keeps us from self-reflection. TV news gives us comfort because it overwhelmingly features what’s not working in the world, leading us to believe we’re OK because we’re not that bad. Wouldn’t it be something if the news gave us something to which we might aspire?

    Glad you made it back safe and sound. And as far as the guy who hit you up for bus/Red Bull fare- I won’t go to his web site. Hmph. That’ll show him.

    • Gloria says:

      Your comment made me think of this even though you were kinda saying the opposite. But still…BILL HICKS! WOOP!

    • Richard Cox says:

      Thanks, man. You mention society’s inability to be uncomfortable in our own skin, so the first thing that makes me wonder is if other societies are more comfortable, like is it an individual thing or a collective thing? I’d have to read about that because I certainly don’t know. Like does collective well adjustment exist?

      Also, regarding the directions dude, I will say this: He took me directly to a place where I felt comfortable. I was kinda looking for something where more of the art crowd was, but my favorite sushi place in Tulsa is the upscale professional type joint and I enjoy that, too. I think he earned his Red Bull bus fare. And since I knew better than to expect the email, I wasn’t too disappointed. But I’m going to keep checking my web site email address for a few weeks. You never know…maybe one day he’ll remember my name and show up there. Stranger things have happened.

  16. When I put a utensil back into the dishwasher for a second chance at clean, I always think about the saying that doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results is the definition of insanity. Sometimes I even move it to a different spot for the next dishwasher cycle so I won’t feel as crazy.

    ***

    “Like this pill will stop you from peeing so often, but you also might shit out of your ears or die or see the future.”

    Hahahahaha.

    I don’t understand those ads, or the mindset that there is a pill to fix everything. I think sometimes we have issues, and it sucks, but maybe that’s just how it is. So often, when a doctor talks hypersensitive-me into a drug, the side effects are worse than the affliction they are intended to cure.

    ***

    I was so psychologically uncomfortable reading about the dance between you, your money, and your restaurant guide. I hate those situations.

    ***

    Oh no. Are you trying to tell me that the slow drivers who won’t get out of the left lane aren’t all gathered here in Oklahoma like some sort of idiot parade designed to make me angry? They exist in other states too? Damn.

    ***

    “Maybe we see those smiling baby faces as the army that will eventually defeat us.”

    Jesus, Richard. Stop making us hate our children. You know that if we don’t all continue mindlessly procreating, the terrorists will win, right? DO YOU WANT THE TERRORISTS TO WIN, RICHARD? (:

    ***

    I really liked this. Especially your thoughts on music. Even though I play guitar and drums, I favor the drums, and never like listening to songs without them. A musical body missing its heartbeat always seems dead to me. xoxo.

    • Richard Cox says:

      Hi Tawni. I love how you divided your responses into sections to match mine. So organized you are. 🙂

      I definitely thought I was crazy for trying so hard with the steak knife. Persistence often pays off, but when you’re in the middle of a battle you have no idea if you’re nearing victory or if you’ll continue being stonewalled forever. It’s not easy to know when to give in. But in this case I won.

      Not a big fan of the disease mongering. I agree with you there. I mean drug treatments have come so far, and there are many great options out there, but the need for them should be diagnosed by a doctor, not a television commercial or the Internet. Wouldn’t you think?

      I just spent the evening with my friends who just had a baby and I got to hang out with another of the future military leaders. I even got to hold him. He’s three weeks old, and he’s a cute little guy. But I can see this is how their plan works. They get you to ooh and ahh over them, and one day they’re hiding you in a nursing home. I’m on to you, little soldier!

  17. angela says:

    i love the stream-of-conciousness of this, and how one thought subtly and quirkily connects to the next, bringing us back to the beginning – yet a little bit beyond – again.

    i haven’t had that experience with a dish washer but have many times with the vacuum. i’ll run it over the same space over and over – suck up that piece of lint, damn you! – instead of just picking up the renegade lint piece.

    • Richard Cox says:

      Thanks, Angela. I’m glad you liked it. And I do that all the time with the vacuum, too. But my frustration runs out on that faster than my persistence with the dishwasher.

      Pick your battles, right?

  18. Lorna says:

    Did that chick slip something into your drink or do you always think like this?

    Actually, I kind of dig the way our brains process stuff. I’m really intrigued when all these jumbled thoughts somehow come together and go “click”.

  19. invinciblechica says:

    “In the end, though music may often be a distraction, that isn’t always the case. Sometimes you hear a melody so beautiful you are compelled to stop the forward march and give yourself fully to the moment directly in front of you. Sometimes you make perfect contact with the golf ball and launch it four-and-one-half football fields into the distance. One day your first novel sells and the only response you can think of is to cry. Another day your eight-year old niece calls you on video chat and you read her a bedtime story over the Internet tubes.”

    beautifully written… and so easily applied to anyone’s life. this paragraph will stay with me for quite while because it’s so close to my life, and i’m sure everyone’s life who has read this article. a song has inspired me to leap and make life changing decisions, i’ve had conversations with people, that at the time seemed pointless, only to find out later that my words changed their life for the better, i cried the first time i saw my name in the credits of a movie that i paid to see in a theater, and while my nephews that live 1200 miles away are way too cool to let their aunt read to them over skype, i have found that i can stay connected with them through an xbox 360 and brushing up on my skills at killing zombies…you learn a lot over those headsets!

    yes, there may be a lot wrong with america, but there’s also a helluva lot right. in other places none of the above would be possible…

    • Richard Cox says:

      Hi Renetta,

      Playing XBox 360 with them is the same thing. That’s awesome. A few years from now your hologram self will be visiting them over the tubes.

      I love that about seeing your name in the credits. I always wondered what that would be like, since you would be sharing the moment with all those people in the theater, and if people liked the film you would be able to see that. All my moments were private, except when I called people to tell them my book had sold. Like when the galleys came, or the first copy of the book arrived in the mail, and the first time I saw it on the shelf. It was awesome but also a little anticlimactic. In fact, it was strange because I always imagined, after I was published, that I would feel different when I walked into a bookstore. And I had this ridiculous notion that the people who worked there would treat me differently. Like, I’m an author! And they didn’t give a shit. That’s one of those unfortunate life lessons. Hahaha.

      • invinciblechica says:

        in one word about the credits: surreal. the thing is, whether it’s a private moment or a moment shared with a theater of people, the thing that only you know is the road that took you to that moment. that’s part of the happiness. and it’s the part that is so hard to get others to understand. the sacrifice, the doubts (your own and others), and the complete fulfillment that you get from doing something you love.

  20. Matt says:

    I swear my dishwasher is now actively making my dishes dirty instead of cleaning them. Doesn’t seem to matter what kind of detergent I use.

    I wonder, sometimes, if one of the principle reasons Americans feel such outrage about the state of things is because, in our society of convenience, we have all this time to sit around and stew about how terrible things are. I agree with Duke, there is a LOT wrong, but not as much as we tell ourselves, I think. Cable news is part of the problem, but newspapers are guilty of it, too; my local paper is now little more than an editorial rag. I get most of my news listening to NPR in the mornings while getting ready for work. Heaven help me if they ever go off the air.

    • Richard Cox says:

      The definition of “wrong” is obviously key. What sort of society could we realistically envision that would be less wrong?

      Like, as much as I prefer culturally about Europe, or NZ or Australia, I can find many other things I prefer about the U.S. Every time a new president is elected these days, someone says they’re going to flee the country. But they don’t.

      I feel like, for everything that’s wrong with her, the U.S. affords the best opportunity for an individual to find a comfortable place. A nice way to live. But so many of us are hung up on the Horatio Alger myth that we maybe don’t realize just how great we have it.

      And yes, everywhere you look you find idiots who take for granted what we have here. Who use the word “freedom” as a weapon. We see so many of ourselves as enemies, like the Civil War never ended. But in the end, as you said, having the luxury to even discuss these things means we have plenty of time to invent problems or stew about our real problems.

      Like our rebellious dishwashers.

  21. sheree says:

    Interesting read.
    Happy new year.

  22. Lenore says:

    I don’t have a dishwasher, and I’m pretty sure I don’t have any steak knives, but that has nothing to do with anything. I think it’s odd that you walk out of a hotel in Memphis and nice people are standing around to help you find a restaurant. If I walk out of a hotel, the only people who talk to me are crackheads and crazy people who are responding to the crazy person magnet I have imbedded in my face.

    But seriously, I’m glad your knife is clean now man. That must be quite the load off.

    • Richard Cox says:

      Depending on your point of view, the guy is either running a racket or providing a service. To his credit, he did not ask me for money. He just mentioned the walk, and when I asked him why he wasn’t taking the bus, he mentioned he didn’t have money for the fare. Whether or not he used the money for bus fare or a bottle of hooch or something else entirely was less important to me than he directed me to a decent restaurant. I saw other fellows waiting at corners. There was a college bowl game two days later and Memphis was packed. I’m sure that guy made a killing over the holiday weekend.

      And the steak knife. It’s a new year miracle. What’s next? Winning the lottery?

  23. Simon Smithson says:

    I have decided to comment on this in dot points.

    – Hey Rich!
    – I can’t tell you how much I love it when machines do the specified job they are touted as being able to do. I love it when things work.
    – Kids? not for me.
    – I enjoy music.
    – Did you ever watch The Sopranos? Tony gets the idea from his one-legged Russian assisting nurse that only in America do people expect to be happy, because life is so hard everywhere else. His therapist points out that when you live in a country where you’re not constantly putting out fires (metaphorically), the real work of coming to understand one’s own humanity can begin.

    If I had the choice, I’d ditch the problem of, say, unexploded land mines, for the problem of the fact that cable news isn’t all Edward R. Murrow, as long as I have some faith that somewhere along the line the current state of media won’t grow to be the be all and end all, which it probably won’t. I hope. Living in a first world country is fucking sweet. Not only do we get the bread and circuses that people have thrived on throughout history, but we also get access to medicine, internet, mp3 players… we live in an age where once you hit a certain socio-economic point in a certain location, you have it better than many of the greatest kings and popes of history.

    And hey. When it comes to cable, they’re giving the people what they want.

    Ah. Now I’m going to have something from the freezer and listen to music on YouTube.

    • Richard Cox says:

      “If I had the choice, I’d ditch the problem of, say, unexploded land mines, for the problem of the fact that cable news isn’t all Edward R. Murrow…”

      This is exactly what I meant in saying things are pretty good here. They aren’t perfect, but we’d trade our flaws for theirs in most every case.

      But perception being relative, not everyone agrees that life here is good. And I suppose it would be rather boring for everyone to look around at each other and say, hey, this is pretty good. Let’s start fucking a lot more and eat some mushrooms and stop watching people pretend to fight on television. And if you do actually do that, you’re a communist hippie.

      I knew this guy who was a wealthy investment banker in Manhattan and one day he’d decided enough was enough and moved to Montana to raise rabbits. Everyone thought he’d lost his mind. But I think they said that because they realized he’d actually found his mind, and they were pissed because they didn’t have the balls he did.

  24. M.J. Fievre says:

    Love it. Richard Cox, you have a beautiful mind.

  25. Brad Listi says:

    i watch a ton of television news and really enjoyed that bit. for someone who doesn’t watch much of it, you got it pretty right. i’m fascinated by the media in this respect — grimly fascinated — and i like to think i pay attention so that i can know what kind of information is being fed to the masses. the old poet’s mantra: “i shall not avert my gaze.”

    one thing i would add is that there’s a lot of false equivalence in the mainstream press, and in people’s appraisals of it. there are a lot of people who equate one reaction with the next, one politician with the next, one party with the next. there are a lot of people who equate, say, MSNBC with Fox News. i’ve watched a ton of both, and it’s not a fair equation. certainly there are aspects of the two enterprises that are equally abysmal, but Fox is in a class by itself when it comes to warping news coverage in the name of ideology and political agenda. it’s a sinister outfit. roger ailes is a brilliant pigfucker.

    but then: how do you quantify this?

    particularly in the age of the 24-hours news cycle, that seems to be the paramount challenge. you can say what i just said until you’re blue in the face, but how do you prove it?

    do you sit there for hours on end, logging tape, fact-checking, keeping score? and even if you did, who would really give a shit about the results?

    i’m rambling.

    • Richard Cox says:

      You’re right about FOX Cable News being sinister. They are definitely in a class of their own, though your typical Republican would disagree and believes MSNBC and others warp the news just as severely. In this post I simplified to make the point more about how Americans seem to believe much is wrong with their country for no other reason than it’s shouted at them all the time by cable news anchors and pundits.

      For me, overall, it’s the system that’s mostly at fault. But if you made me pick a worst offender, I would pick FOX Cable News. They employ Glenn Beck, for heaven’s sake.

      • Brad Listi says:

        yeah, agreed. it’s this giant echo chamber of screaming people. sort of like the internet.

        it makes its money on manufactured conflict.

        watching a lot of cable news, and all the sunday shows, for years now, i can’t get past the sense that there really is some truth to be had underneath all the shrieking. it’s just hard to come by. you have to sit there. you have to sort of work at it. it’s depressing work. i can only stomach so much of it, and then i have to watch sportscenter.

        i think that’s why a show like the daily show is so beloved. it serves as a filter. a media analyst. it sits there and watches all the shrieking and tries to glean the facts. and call out the hypocrisy. and so on.

        • Richard Cox says:

          The Daily Show is genius. Jon Stewart is my hero. And while I love what he organized for the Washington, DC rally, I still find it strange and awesome and awful that the answer to Palin and Beck is comedians.

          I wish Philip K Dick were alive right now. It would be great to see his reaction to how his imagined cultural absurdities turned out to be real.

  26. Gloria says:

    It’s killing me:

    100.

    There, I said it.

    You know how some hotels have a thing about there not being a thirteenth floor? It’s like TNB has a thing about the dangling 99.

    • Richard Cox says:

      In my hotel in Memphis I stayed on the 14th floor, and when I mentioned this to ZaraPotts, she said that meant I was really on the 13th floor. I said surely hotels don’t do that superstitious crap anymore, but when I got in the elevator I saw there was no number for 13. So she was right.

      The world is a weird place.

      • Gloria says:

        3,000 birds fell from the sky in a blood bath of brunt force trauma in Arkansas on New Year’s Eve night. Last week, two million fish were found dead of the coast of whatever the hell of the 13 original colonies it was. Sarah Palin is a best-selling author.

        The world is a weird place and I have bigger things to sweat than the 13th floor.

        Nonetheless, the dangling 99 thing bugs me.

        • Zara Potts says:

          The world IS weird and I’m always right.

        • Gloria says:

          Well, don’t tell my boys that. They think I’m always right.

          Okay, they don’t think that at all.

          They do, however, expect me to know at the drop of a hat whether or not ants have stomachs or how long it takes to digest bubble gum. They don’t, however, believe that I know how to prepare green beans in way that doesn’t “taste like barf.” *sigh* More mysteries…

        • Zara Potts says:

          Green beans? a sprinkle of lemon juice and some toasted almonds on top.

        • Gloria says:

          See? You would think that was all it would take – and that was exactly how I prepared it (well, no almonds, as the boys have a nut aversion.) And they hemmed and hawed and complained and cried – and then at the damn green bean (singular) finally. Tolkien said, “Wow mom, I didn’t gag this time – like when you made Brussel sprouts!”

          You should see the things this kid has put in his mouth, Zara. **Shudders**

          I even put fancy salt on the green beans. FANCY SALT!

        • Zara Potts says:

          Kids.
          Making every mealtime a mission….

  27. Irene Zion says:

    Ricardo,
    I didn’t know anyone else was annoyed that the news stations actually make music especially for specific plane crashes and terrorist attempts and assassinations and wars.
    Thanks. I don’t like feeling alone.

    • Richard Cox says:

      Isn’t it strange, Irene? That and the drug commercials, where they spend at least half their time robotically listing all the side effects, makes watching cable news so absurd to me that I can’t believe it’s serious. I keep thinking it’s this big joke and someday all the shows are going to stop, and the Wizard of Oz is going to emerge and say, “Haha. We were just kidding. Gotcha!”

      • Zara Potts says:

        Or Glenn Beck will appear screaming: “Stop it!! Knock it off!”

        Oh. Wait. That wasn’t my imagination. He just did.

  28. Tom Hansen says:

    Ok, I’m confused. 1. Why didn’t you ask the girl if Pink (or Mud, or whatever the other guy’s name was) were her boyfriends? 2. It sounds more like you’re having a negotiation with your dishwasher, not a war. War is more like my one and only relationship with a dishwasher, which was broken and sitting in the yard of a house I was crashing in that I tried to destroy with my Volkswagen Beetle, after I had run down the wooden fence to burn for firewood

  29. Tom Hansen says:

    …but, aside for my silly confusion, nice post Richard…

  30. Tom Hansen says:

    …but, aside from my silly confusion, nice post Richard…

    • Richard Cox says:

      Because I was very sure, and when she walked back over to their table, she kissed him. So I turned out to be correct.

      How much firewood did the fence provide?

      • Tom Hansen says:

        I see. Bummer. The fence lasted a couple of weeks if I remember correctly. It was when I was in my ‘scorched earth’ phase of being a punk rocker, me and my friends left a trail of wreckage in our wake

        • Richard Cox says:

          Depending on where you burned the fires, it could have been literal scorched earth, no?

          It’s been snowing here the past few days, and I’ve been experimenting with not running the central heat, instead burning immensely hot fires and sleeping under an electric blanket. I’ve burned through half a rick of firewood in a week. It goes fast.

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