Arts + Entertainment

op frIf we are ever going to have any hope of stemming the bloody tide of mass shootings — which happens in our country with such depressing regularity that we might pause for a day to shake our heads before moving on with the awful knowledge that absolutely nothing will be done about it — then we must first agree with the all-powerful gun lobby that no single piece of gun legislation is going to make much of a difference in stopping the bloodshed. 

They are right — we do not need one piece of gun legislation. Or two. Or three. We need to change the entire gun culture, and not just the gun culture, but the “culture of me.”

op dirtycoffeeI had never heard of “The Red Pill Theory” or the “manosphere” until I saw references to them in the story that broke over the weekend concerning the co-owners of Waking Life Espresso, a coffee shop in West Asheville. By Monday, the story was in the Asheville Citizen-Times and on WLOS.

op fr2“So, you’re a band parent, huh? Boy, is your life about to change.”

My wife and I heard that a lot a few months ago after our daughter, a rising freshman at Tuscola High School, made the Color Guard. I had only the vaguest notion of what the Color Guard was, and no recollection at all of whether there was such a thing when I pounded the bass drum in the marching band for Alleghany High back in the 1970s. I was a freshman myself once upon a time, adapting as fast and as well as I could to this intense new world around me. Now it is my daughter’s turn.

op frSome of them arrive four or five days early, packed up and just sitting there on the Haywood County Fairgrounds like gigantic metal suitcases that won’t quite close all the way. The rest come later. The Scrambler, the Flying Bumblebees, the Pirate Boat, the rickety little coaster that somebody has to snap together like Legos. The booths that house impossible games, rows of cheaply sewn stuffed animals, the biggest the size of couch cushions. Overinflated basketballs and rims the size of pie tins that are never quite level. Five thousand plastic toys made in China, none of them bigger than a candy bar. Three throws, five bucks, everyone’s a winner.

op frI would wager that I despise politics just about as much as you do. Whatever your political affiliation, we would probably agree that the system is broken, that politicians on both sides of the aisle are too beholden to special interests, and that all too often, we end up voting against someone far more passionately than we ever vote for someone. Maybe that is just a different way of saying that we usually vote for the lesser of two evils.

Another thing that we might agree on is that politics is much too often the Theater of the Absurd, in which candidates — many of whom are extravagantly wealthy — are rebranded as “common folk” to appeal to the electorate. Without question, the vast majority of political ads we see these days are attack ads, ad hominem attacks on the character of the opponent, but on those occasions when we do get a glimpse of the candidate, the staging will be very studied and precise, calculated in such a way to convey the same message: he or she is just one of us.

op coxIt looked so good on paper, the way terrible ideas always do. Instead of boarding our miniature dachshund as we usually do when we go to the beach each summer, we were going to take him with us this year.

op edistoEDISTO ISLAND, SC — Whether it is a time-honored family tradition or simply the very real possibility that, as a family, we share a stunning lack of imagination, the Cox family always spends a week on Edisto Island every summer.

op coxI have seen more Confederate flags flying in the past couple of weeks than I have seen in years. A few days ago, I was at the grocery store and saw a young fellow with a Confederate flag waving above the tailgate of his truck. As he pulled out of his parking space, another guy walking by said something to him — I couldn’t hear what — and then gave him a big smile and a thumbs up.

op coxMany years ago, in a time and a place that seems so far away to me now, I courted a young lady and fancied I was in love. We were really just kids playing at being grown-ups, but we believed we were destined to spend eternity together.

op frBy the time I was in the fifth grade, I knew I wanted to grow up to be a lawyer. While other kids my age grew up with dreams of becoming race car drivers or ballet dancers or senators (surely you remember those student government types), I dreamed of fierce cross-examinations, roasting the accused on the witness stand until they blurted out desperate confessions, anything to escape my searing questions and the inferno of their own guilt, as I composed it like Dante for a jury of their peers.

“Who IS that man?” one attractive juror would whisper to another. “So brilliant, so dashing, so well-groomed and articulate.”

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