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Advice for the Worried


Dear Mr. Cope,

We are worried. And by "we," we mean a group of anonymous Boise residents who have been reading your columns for years. As a point of fact, in our weekly discussion group (which we call "The Cope's-Latest-Column Discussion Group," in reference to what it is we discuss every week) we even have a hierarchical ranking of sorts based on the number of years our members have been reading your columns. Those who have followed you from the very beginning are what would be in most secretive societies the exalted masters, so to speak, who are appointed to decide which of your statements we will discuss at any given meeting, while those who started reading your columns only recently are appointed to bring the cookies and juice. Currently, our cookies and juice providers are a nice retired couple who moved to Boise last summer from back East somewhere. I want to say Minnesota. But it might be Maryland. I'll ask again at the next meeting.

Anywho, we much prefer to remain anonymous because we don't want you blaming what we have to say in this letter on the actual people we are, some of whom either know you personally or would recognize you were we to pass you on the street. Our fear is that you might know us, too, especially since you have actually met some of us at various functions and events, and there are people within our assembly who would be mortified beyond tears were you to see us again at another function or event and say, "You're one of those people who wrote that letter, aren't you?"

Hence and therefore, we prefer to remain anonymous. And we are extremely worried because we have reason to believe you are running out of ideas to write your columns about. Those of us who follow your life most attentively have even heard rumors that you might convert your column into something entirely different, such as a cooking column or a household hints column. This prospect alarms us most alarmingly. For over 10 years, we have met every Thursday evening to decipher the mystery of what you may have meant to say in your Wednesday column, and not a one of us want to convert our gatherings into a cooking class or a seminar on how to get red wine spills out of a white carpet.

In short and in sum, we are all accustomed to having our wits challenged by trying to figure out the deep transmissions that we know you go to great lengths to disguise with what you actually write. We do not want this challenging challenge to end. Please reassure us that you are not running out of ideas and that you will continue to convey your insightful insights to us for many years to come. It is so important to us. We even have one charter member who is convinced that by trying to figure out what you are trying to say every week, she has delayed the onset of Alzheimer's.

—Signed: All the members of the The Cope's-Latest-Column Discussion Group, except for one member who wasn't here tonight because she's down with shingles and another member who died.

My Dearest Anonymous Members of the The Cope's-Latest-Column Discussion Group,

By all rights, I should be thoroughly creeped out to learn there is a long-standing organization dedicated to figuring out what I'm trying to say. Oddly enough, though, I'm not. In fact, I'm pleased to know there are others who, like myself, realize that the most profound profundities more often than not come wrapped in tangled and unintelligible packages. Yes, Truth—in its highest and purest form—is a cluttered mess, and I have long held that writers who write clearly, succinctly and to the point just don't get it. Thank you, thank you, thank you for validating my life's work.

Sad to say, there is much truth (in one of its lower, more crapped-up forms) in your fear that I am running out of column ideas. I have dreaded this day from the beginning as I have for long felt in my bones that, eventually, Democrats would regain control of both Congress and the presidency, and that, eventually, my daughter would grow up and move away. Alas, what I could never have foreseen is that both of these things would happen within three months of one another. With both George Bush and my child no longer available to be kicked around anymore, I feel much like Thurgenson the Explorer must have felt when his boat burned up.

Of course, I could become journalistically impartial in my waning years and be as critical of the Obama administration as I have been of the Bush Administration. (Ha ha, just messing with ya'.)

Or I could turn all my attentions to local politics, Idaho politics, seeing as we are living in one of the few remaining smears of conservative goo left in the country. But somehow, the thought of spending the rest of my days following what Jim Risch or Sharon Ullman are up to would be like being locked in a bait shop all night with Toby Keith music playing on a radio I couldn't find. Ugh!

I have talked with my wife about having another baby so I could continue to write (what I refer to as), "Kids Are the Damnedest Things" columns, but as she is soon turning 60, we would undoubtedly have to get some sort of fertility specialist involved. And I have found that the further I stay away from doctors, the better I feel.

I could concentrate all my energies on waging cultural war, yes. I could write column after column poking sarcasm at people who don't believe in evolution, people who don't believe in global warming, people who go to NASCAR races, Bronco football fans, etc. etc. But at some point, this would be like tripping cripples. Not only is it too easy, it's cruel.

So frankly—and I don't mean to alarm you any more alarmingly than you are already alarmed—my future as a fly in the prevailing soup is uncertain. I have indeed investigated the options of a cooking column, a household hints column, as well as a gardening column, a personal hygiene column, and even a column on the ins and outs of writing a column. But what I'm really looking for is a specialty column in some field which is, as yet, unrecognized as requiring any need to write about it. Do stay tuned.

In the meantime, please consider inviting me to one of your Thursday gatherings. I'm not sure I could be of any significant help in your attempts to figure out what I'm getting at, but I'm absolutely coo-coo for cookies and juice.