Mr. Cope's Cave: Done... and Done 

I have two things going on at the same time here and they're butting heads like a couple of presidential candidates at the same urinal. First and foremost, I'm trying to get this "Cope's Cave" done early because sometime Thursday, we're taking off for Jackpot. Yup, New Year's in Jackpot for the Copes. Wish me luck.

As a result of our plans, I need to get this in no later than Thursday morning (yesterday, should you be confused which Thursday I mean)—because I won't be around Friday morning (today) to get my blog over to BW Central, as is my usual custom. So starting Tuesday morning (right now as I write this), I started fishing around for a theme I could slap out quickly, if for no other reason than my own selfish desire to head out of town in 48 hours (or so) with no worries.

On the other hand, this is (will be) the first thing you read from me for the whole coming year. The very first thing. I doubt that matters nearly as much to you as it does to me, but still, it matters to me. There is something about the beginnings and endings of years that compels me to put extra effort into whatever I'm passing off as reading material. I admit, I'm sentimental about the beginning of a new year or the ending of an old year. I mean, years don't start (or end) every damn day, do they?

The way I look at it, New Year's Day (right now as you read this) is like a birthday everyone on Earth shares in common. After today, it will be another whole year before I will be called on to say something about the dawning of another new year, and I want it to be... I don't know... something extra, know what I mean? Extra pithy, extra profound, extra insightful, extra funny, extra goofy, extra reflective, extra hopeful, extra witty, extra silly... hell, I don't know exactly what I'm after. But it's what all that jazz about old years slipping into new years is about, isn't it?—renewal, remembrance, regrets and resolve—the recognition that we're getting another pull at the slot machine of time. Another roll of the dice at the eternal craps table. A reshuffle of the temporal cards.

Trouble is, after that night the old year of 1999 slipped into the new year 2000, it just ain't been the same. Most of you were around for that and I'm sure you remember. A new year, a new decade, a new century and a new millennium... all on the same day! Throw in the anxiety that civilization as we know it was coming to an end at midnight as a result of the Y2K bug, and there hasn't been a day like it since... since... well who knows when!? After that, writing something for the new year has been like being the band that gets picked to follow the Beatles on stage.

I actually went back to take a look at what I wrote for New Years, 2000, and was surprised at how so much of it seemed appropriate material for this day, 16 years later. So, in order to, 1) have something extra for you on this first day of the brand new 2016, and, 2) get it done pronto, I have decided to rerun that column. I promise you, the only change I've made is to drop a final paragraph I shouldn't have put on it in the first place. All the rest is exactly as it was then.

One more thing: Remember when I asked you to "wish me luck" earlier? Well, don't bother. When I needed the luck was last night. Any luck you wish me now is just wasted gunk I'll have to get rid of somewhere on the way back from Nevada.


Here it is, from Jan. 6, 2000...

***

Apocalypse Not This Time

Really, I wasn’t worried. Really.

OK, so I took a few common sense precautions—filled the crockpot with extra water and hid a dozen Snickers bars under the storage shed. I cashed out my IRA and put the money into Beanie Babies, and I had my kid’s baseball bat where I could get to it quick. It’s Nerf, sure, but I was hoping looters wouldn’t notice in the dark.
Had the power indeed pooped out, I had the ol’ Weber set up in the pantry, chock full of briquettes and ready to rumble. I didn’t truly expect to need it, though. Not because of any computer problems. Nope, I figured anything we pay for by the hour, by the kilowatt or by the flush would be fixed up Y2K compliant long before any serious revenue loss occurred. I mean, if we can’t trust our utility companies for regular billing, who can we trust?

So things turned out all right—no plane crashes, no nuclear disasters, no collapsing economies. Still, I imagine there’s some disappointed folks around. And if I’d I spent the last year stockpiling freeze-dried food, burying barrels of water, converting my assets to gold bullion, and trying to find room in the garage for 33 cords of firewood, a generator, a ‘72 Ford Pinto retrofitted to hold kerosene, 500 pounds of spare Energizers, an AK-47 and 20,000 rounds of ammo, I’d be disappointed, too. Pity that poor neighbor of yours—the odd fellow who posted those nice hand-written ultimatums declaring that if you dare cross his property line, you die—what’s he have to look forward to now?

Just watch, we’ll be seeing a lot of post-paranoia depression in the next few months. That, and a whole lot of generators for sale. Cheap.

***

If I sound smug now, I must admit there were a few weeks coming up to New Years Day when I was getting a wee bit nervous. The Y2K bug is one thing, but North African terrorists driving down from Canada with chemically-unstable stuff in the trunk is something else altogether.

That’s not the half of it. Did anyone notice how many serious earthquakes have been rattling around lately? There were the big ones in Turkey and Taiwan, of course, but from early autumn on, there were also a lot of middle-of-the-desert quakes and off-the-beaten-path quakes and bottom-of-the-ocean quakes. They hardly registered on the human misery scale, but they shook the crap out of my “ominous omens” meter.

And those Venezuelan mud floods, how about that? And how about that big wind that tore the roof off Europe? And those hurricanes, the worst season ever? And then that moon just before Christmas, the biggest, brightest full moon in something like 200 years. And that last Schwarzenegger movie… and Donald Trump running for president… spookier and spookier.

Tell you what, if I’d heard even one word about it raining frogs somewhere, or an unusually high locust count for December, I’d probably still be down in the basement, rationing Snickers out to family members.

***

I’m glad it’s finally over. People have been getting much too coincidence crazy for my taste. Seems like whenever
we start seeing patterns in isolated incidents, it usually turns out bad for someone. Like, an earthquake stuck off in the 18th Century by itself doesn’t mean beans to anyone but the folks buried under the rubble. Yet put the same earthquake together with a solar eclipse, throw in the French Revolution and a newly-born two-headed calf, and before you know it, people are bouncing around like sub-atomic particles in a Russian nuclear plant hollering the world is coming to an end… and looking for someone to blame. It’s been going on since Homo sapiens became just sapient enough to notice two or more things at once, but not sapient enough to remember those same things happen all the time with no catastrophic effect. I’m beginning to think if there’s any one page of history we are doomed to repeat more assuredly than all others, it’s that inclination for impressionable minds to find arcane meaning in the juxtaposition of random events and call it the fulfillment of some prophecy or other. Alas, I’m thinking that, to impressionable minds, prophecy might always be more powerful than proof.

So, here at the outset of a new millennium, as the beef jerky gathers mold and Rapture hopefuls straggle back from Jerusalem, I’d like to make a prophecy of my own. I prophesize there will come a day when mankind accepts that dates are arbitrary, not portentous, that the fates are capricious, not fore-ordained, and that not everything has to do with us. That sometimes, an earthquake is just an earthquake.

Then I prophesize that sooner or later, another two-headed calf will be born, and everybody will forget what they learned and start burying water again.


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