Gee, I wish I could be a happy idiot. Just think, then nothing to worry about except whether Tom Cruise and his wife are going to have another baby or not. Gosh, life would be swell; it makes you wonder why Steinbeck wrote all those depressing stories about poor people. How could anyone sit through Hemingway’s story about an old fisherman and a fish when they could have been reading about who Clark Gable was dating?
It really makes you wonder about this world, perfectly good stories about people stranded upside down and naked on a ski lift, and the media focuses on bombs dropped on cities from jet planes. Why is that news? Didn’t the media already explain that they all deserved it? But do we know if Reese Witherspoon recycles? Is Oprah putting on weight?
Maybe reading is just too hard and too depressing; maybe I should just watch television. Ooh, there’s a program on about a family of six going to Hawaii and staying at the Four Seasons Hotel. Gosh, it’s fun to watch the rich play, and the new season of American Idol starts soon. We can watch people have their dreams crushed right before our eyes; now that’s entertainment.
It’s just too hard for me, no matter how hard I try to ignore it, reality just keeps seeping in under the door. Maybe it’s just a by-product of being unemployed, because no matter how many happy-ass articles I try to write, the phone calls from bill collectors ruin my mood. If you’ve never been harassed by a bill collector it goes like this.
“We have this debt and we want to know when it will be paid.”
“I’m unemployed and will pay it as soon as I find a job.”
“When will that be?”
“I don’t know.”
“Would you be willing to sign a promisary note at 24% interest?”
“No, I’d file for bankruptcy if I had the money.”
Then, in two or three hours they will call you again, every day and every night from 9:00 AM till 9:00PM. In most cases the callers work for agencies that bought your debt for pennies on the dollar, looking to turn a profit, but I digress. Did I mention that the rich folks in Hawaii all went for a helicopter ride? Seventy-five dollars apiece, boy, that’s entertainment! $4,500 to amuse the family for an hour. I’m so stupid, I’m writing about children dying in house fires because their utilities have been turned off.
When will I learn? The writing market abhors the truth; the readers don’t, but publishers do. I wonder if that might have anything to do with major newspapers filing for bankruptcy? Nah, not enough stories about Tom Cruise and George Clooney and Paris Hilton, you know, those important newsmakers. In Japan a stray cat was named an official stationmaster and is now worth over a million dollars from TV endorsements. Wow, now there’s a story!
As dumb and limited as I am, I am wise enough to try and pick my spots. I know that stories about melamine-tainted baby food won’t fly in the Readers Digest or the TV Guide, so I submit them to hard news and opinion outlets. But in the back of my mind I wonder if I shouldn’t be working on a story about Knute, the once popular polar bear at the Berlin Zoo. Knute is no longer cute and is as expensive to keep as he is unpopular to see. That’s hard news. I applied for a job at a website looking for investigative journalists; my first assignment was to be about watchbands and I’d be paid $25.00.
So, I submitted my work to a news site that advertised, “Journaling The Human Condition.”
“Dear Mr. Cox, Thank you for your recent submission of fiction and opinion pieces. As Publisher, I sincerely appreciate your consideration of XXXXX & XXXXXX.
At this time I will pass on the two fiction pieces you submitted. I felt that they were too dark in tone for my, and our readership’s, liking. I had a similar reaction to your opinion pieces; I think they are well-written and well-thought out commentaries, but ultimately they didn’t pique my interest as Publisher.”
Oh well, back to work on the Knute piece. It’s not that they don’t like tragedy, they just don’t like everyday tragedies, you know, your tragedies. Photos from the Travolta funeral would bring a fortune, but photos from Dover are verboten. People being evicted from their homes isn’t news, but Ed McMahon being evicted from his McMansion is newsworthy. Especially when Donald Trump feels so bad for Ed that he buys his mortgage and saves his home. Kind of makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Kind of the way you feel right before you puke.
You see, I’m doomed, I can’t turn it off. I just wasn’t raised right. I was raised on “What if Everbody Did? instead of “Captain Underpants.” I was raised that Jesus overthrew the tables of the moneychangers because he wasn’t happy about the situation, and Woody Guthrie did the same thing for the same reason.
I relate to Woody because Woody got into the music business when his real job as a sign painter disappeared during the Depression. I began writing when my real job in industrial engines disappeared during this new depression. So I look for jobs in both worlds with equal success. I might be convinced that I have no future in writing, except for the heartfelt “thank you’s” that I receive. The people who don’t know me but relate to what I’m saying and want me to know that they don’t care about Knute or Ed or rich folks in Hawaii, either. They appreciate that I’m speaking for them, unfiltered, unchained and unalterable, just like Woody, and what the hell, he never made that much money either.
Gee, I wish I could be a happy idiot, but I can’t, so be it. But I ain’t the kind of guy to leave you hanging. The rich folks had a real good time in Hawaii, but it is very hard and stressful to travel with children, even when you stay at four-star hotels.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.