Where am I?

12 November 2012

Are you wondering where I am?

I am here. I am listening to Pines by A Fine Frenzy. I purchased this album through a program called iTunes. On iTunes, which is spelled with a lower case “I,” you can purchase full albums or individual songs.

A couple of weekends ago I went into a Barnes & Noble bookstore. These still exist. In these shops of the past one can purchase compact discs with music burned on to them using lasers. (This may or may not be the process of putting information onto a CD.) I had the odd realisation (which I am sure many of you had in 1996) that the day of hard copy music is done and is pointless. Why would I spend $17.99 on 12 songs when I can purchase the same 12 songs for $8.99? Physical music as a commodity is impractical. I am ready for the future, but I do mourn the past just a little bit out of nostalgic obligation.

I am drinking a Murphy’s Irish stout and looking out at a snow covered Salt Lake City.

Since the beginning of the month, I have participated in National Novel Writing Month. I have written nearly 25,000 words, which puts me about halfway to the goal of 50,000 words in 30 days.

I have not worked on Cone Alone, much to the chagrin of many of you. I promise it will return, but I haven’t been ready. I will announce a winner of the summer holiday photo series. I will probably come up with something clever like, “Hey everyone, sorry for any delays, but there was a lot of summer construction and most of us were working overtime. Now we’re back and ready to…” you know, something like that. It will be back. I promise. Thank you for loving it so far. It will love you back soon.

In the meantime, why not purchase Pines by A Fine Frenzy and think about love and friendship and sadness?


Through the desert and into the future.

7 October 2012

I drink coffee from my Wonder Woman coffee mug and listen to Rachael Yamagata’s eponymous EP. I discover this album while walking around Athens, GA one day. I stop into SchoolKids Records (which I believe is now defunct), walk over to the listening station and press play. I am hooked from the moment the drums pump into my ears.


We are in Wendover with The Hippo’s parents and Adamantium. Wendover is a gambling city on the border of Utah and Nevada. Wendover is the line between blond men and women who wear magic underwear and old women in short skirts and corsets selling drinks to adults mesmerised by instant opportunity and flashing robots.

We stop at the Bonneville Salt Flats rest stop. We take pictures. Three persons ask The Hippo to take their photograph. The lone woman in the group compliments The Hippo on her necklace, which is a coat hanger symbolising America’s dark past (and present) of limits on access to abortion. Adamantium and I throw rocks onto the salty ground. The Hippo and I race toward the distant mountains as a joke. As we run, we note that the distance we run for the joke is equal to the distance we have to return to the car and reality. We stop in our tracks and walk back. If only the Donner Party had our adherence to reason and understanding of our own limits.

Ready to get on with our own hopeless venture into quick riches, we return to the car. The car does not start. The Hippo’s dad thinks the car hates him. We wait for 10 minutes, which is the trick to get the car started again. We have to wait for two 10-minute sessions before we can proceed. We are only nine miles from Wendover.

The drive is sagebrush, white salt flats, hazy mountains, yellow wildflowers and brown rocks. A train chugs parallel in the distance. All the train cars are the same.


I move on to Xiu Xiu’s Women As Lovers. Wonder Woman looks at me suggestively with her lasso of truth over her shoulder like a trench coat she is ready to remove. Now I feel strange about drinking coffee from a hole in her head. Maybe this is how she gets her kicks. After all, William Moulton Marston wasn’t the most conventional guy.


We arrive in Wendover and drive to the Peppermill straightaway for lunch. Darkness. Sounds. Flashing. Buzzing. There is no time here. Smoke. Money going down the drain. I order breakfast. Neon and fake light and dimness. Reds. I imagine vampires would/do live here.

I know we are in the right spot when we all have our first sighting of an old woman in a shiny cap (gold).

We sit around the table after our meal and catch up on one another’s lives. We have not all been together for a couple of weeks now. The casual chat is to become my favourite part of the outing. I joke that my meal of eggs, chicken-fried steak, hashbrowns and toast will provide me the energy I need for gambling. I forget the more energy I have, the less tolerable gambling seems. I wish I had chosen a more enervating meal. Later, I have a mildly dulling gin and tonic. It is not enough.

An older woman in the restaurant wears a sweatshirt. On the back and at the bottom (assuming she is wearing the sweatshirt properly) is the word “cute.” The “U” is red to indicate support for and allegiance to the University of Utah, which is called “The U.”


I lay awake last night trying to think of a comedy bit about the need to throw all religious leaders in jail and why pastors are, in many ways, more dangerous than imprisoned criminals.


We split up after lunch to throw away our money. I play games called Rich Girl (which I was sure would be my ticket out of debt) and Mine Mine. The Hippo plays a game called Fiesta Chihuahua. She wins a bonus and piñatas fill the screen! Lights flash! Bonus spins activate! Five bonus spins!

She wins a quarter.

The game is in Spanish. We press the translation button and “ganancia” becomes “winnings” and “winnings” become zero (which is the same in both languages).

I order a cappuccino from a tiny, pregnant woman whose nametag indicates I can call her Joceline. I remember our lunch server says, “Thank you so much” at least 50 times during the meal and flashes a large, toothy grin just as frequently.

I spend $17 on gambling. I set aside $20, but it just seems I should not continue. I look forward to the dinner buffet, as I have never had a buffet in a gambling city.

A man works here. He wears an oversize green jacket with the sleeves hanging at least three inches over his hand. The Peppermill is out of rooms. The Rainbow has rooms for $180 per night.


I get up to pee. Is it a good idea to drink coffee after 6:00 pm when I need to go to sleep by 11:00 pm? If she knows any better, Wonder Woman certainly isn’t saying.


We visit Blue Boutique, a store geared toward sex-related items (books, clothing, games and videos). We look at parody porn videos. One is based on Superman. Upon looking at the back of the box, the parody seems to have little to do with Superman except for one scene in which a man wears a knock-off Superman costume. The store contains edible clothing and a book about anal sex positions. The book confuses me, because I imagine anal sex positions would be the same positions as vaginal sex, just with a slightly different location. But then again, I grew up Southern Baptist, so what do I know?

We leave the Blue Boutique and drive to the liquor store. We clearly want to get in as much sin as possible before returning to Utah. I buy a red wine called Vampire. On the back of the bottle is a quote from Lord Byron. The clerk at the store asks if I’m here for the concert hall. I say no. She says Cheech and Chong are playing, which I know from the advertisements. She says she does not like them. She says they are too old to be making marijuana jokes.

We go to the Montego Bay for dinner. We eat at the Oceano Buffet. The persons working at the buffet wear black pants and blue shirts with images of fish printed on them. The carpet has images of fish. The light fixtures feature images of palm trees and the lampshades are covered in thatch. We eat in a tropical simulacrum in some strange, lazy future. The neon signs tell me where I can find DESSERT, ASIAN, SEAFOOD, BBQ, CARVING and PIZZA. The food is exactly what I hoped it would be. I eat shrimp prepared in five different ways.

We eat and get to the real reason we are at a table in a shiny, reflective aluminum dis/utopia: catching up some more. We talk about school and writing and online gaming and enjoy one another’s company as my stomach wonders why a person would choose to eat shrimp in so many different forms when it is just going to destroy them (the shrimp) with acid before sending the results to oblivion.

The Hippo’s parents and Adamantium wander back in to the casino. The Hippo and I sit and talk. I drink coffee. I get sleepier the more coffee I drink. We get up and walk over to the Wendover Nugget. We get there via sky bridge.  No reason to go outside. I find something oddly appealing about traveling with no need to be out-of-doors.

I finally win at a game called Fast Food. The bonus round involves feeding a hungry man different foods with various point values. I learn the soda always has a high point value. I feel smug and disturbed.

We all meet back up and begin the drive home through the alien, desert landscape. In the distance are the lights of the waste-treatment facility. We breeze through Tooele, UT, where my friend Justin and I stopped one night in 1999.

I could not have predicted I would end up living in Utah twice in my adult life. I am here and I have a second family. I am in the midst of mountains that care as little of my life as the trees with which I was raised. I am in the midst of a religion just as deadly as the one I know from childhood. I am just as alive in the sere browns as I am in the verdant greens.

Somehow, I am still home (and only out $20).



4 October 2012

In DC, I took classes at the DC Improv. In my second class, I met a woman called Bri Lux. She made (and continues to make) the point that her name sounds like the cheese, but IS NOT spelled like the cheese. She clearly has issues.

Nevertheless, we became friends during our time at the Improv and soon realised we were neighbors across the river in Virginia.

On a day like today, I am already missing her company. Fall is in the air. I shivered as I drove to work with the window barely cracked and Kimbra’s Vows pumping through the car’s inadequate speakers. On a day like today, we would text one another and meet up at Fireworks, a pizza joint in Arlington, VA with a dessert consisting of STILL-COOKING, but SLIGHTLY-UNCOOKED cookie dough. We would sit outside and drink beers and eat vegetarian pizzas and discuss work and jokes and relationships.

Then, she does something that makes me miss her even more.

I miss her. I am proud of her. You should follow her on Twitter – @brinotbrie (See, I told you she had issues.)

Timeline out of mind

15 February 2012: DC Exile Day 22

[Author’s note: I initially wrote this blog over a week ago as I prepared to leave the Facebook platform. I had last-minute doubts about departing the site when Cone Alone had its most views yet yesterday. I do not know if persons found the blog because of Facebook, but I felt a moment of intense panic that people would never be able to find the blog again if I left Facebook. I thought about going back on my challenge to myself. I thought about saying, “My mistake” or “By popular demand, I’m staying.” In the end, I am moving forward with my decision. I sincerely appreciate every single friend on Facebook who has read and shared Cone Alone and my work. Thank you so much. I hope I can continue to produce stuff that you like and that you can continue to find it.]

I keep telling myself this step is not a big deal. In fact, it is not really a step at all. In reality, I wrote “step” to have something for “this” to modify. I didn’t wish to have it (this) just hanging out with nothing to do. This starts loafing then this turns into vandalism and gang violence and who knows what else. This cannot be left alone.

Today is the day I deleted my Facebook profile.

I did everything I could to prepare for this day. I tried to find my friends on Twitter via their handles. (Do you think [Karen] Handel’s handle is @handel or @messiah_h, baroquen_handel or something else?) I posted way too many posts on Facebook telling my friends that I was leaving and telling everyone to follow this blog (Cringingly Personal), follow the Cone Alone blog, follow my current three Twitter profiles (@mentalmacguyver for the quotidian, @JoeRichardsShow for updates about my podcast and @ConeAlone for the latest on traffic cones around the world) and email me at either oapowerbattery@gmail.com or josephpatrickrichards@gmail.com

Was it enough? I have no idea.

It feels a bit strange to depart from Facebook, but at the same time it feels ever curiouser that departing the social networking site should be such a massive task. Of the 200-plus persons who are my friends on Facebook (of course some individuals have multiple profiles), I wonder who will remain in contact. I assume most people will be happy to have me out of their newsfeeds, if they had not “unsubscribed” from me already. [I really should avoid such unnecessary self-deprecation.] I admit I did enjoy the ability to “unsubscribe” from a person. Like being in their online presence was too much of a burden and hinderance that I had to take myself off the list of their public friendship. I think I shall begin carrying a black marker with me at all times. When I get into public and have to “mingle” with “new” “people” I will simply use the marker to make a check mark on the forehead of these “people” from whom I wish to unsubscribe. Observe:

[Our scene opens on a crowded party. Drunken and tipsy socialites and snotbags are pouring alcohol into their boring mouths. Mitzy and Tad chat incessantly about the awesome sports play they saw yesterday. Wasn’t it so awesome how Quarterback Phelps threw a hurling spiral-back twisty into the reaching hands of PomPom McGee? Oh, yes it was Mitzy. (The author apologizes for placing so much dialogue in the scene set-up italics, but the author just does whatever the fuck he feels like, even if it makes no sense.) Our handsome, winsome, lonesome, awesome protagonist, JPR, walks into the scene and winces visibly. The undeniable din of Good Charlotte’s Greatest Hits blares through the speakers from the host’s mp3 player device. Fuck, this is going to suck.]

Chip – Hey there JPR. Have a shot of this balmy nipple. It’s got Schnapps and Schwepps and Starburst and rubbing alcohol and WD-40. And Country Crock.

JPR – Hold still Chip.

[JPR uses a black marker to make a check mark on Chip’s forehead, indicating that JPR has unsubscribed from Chip. Chip withers back into the corner mumbling the lyrics to “Lifestyles of the Rich and the Famous”]

This has been a practical application. Brought to you by Mark-O’s Markers. Writing unwanted marks on strangers’ skin since 1992. (When an unknown fan wrote on Eddie Vedder’s arm prior to their Unplugged performance.*)

So. I am no longer on Facebook. I guess I’ll keep you informed of what that means for me in the months ahead.

*This statement may or may not be historically accurate, but is absolutely inaccurate.