Lauren and Russ discuss garbage — literal, figurative, and human.
Episode 1: Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout Would Not Take the Garbage Out – Shel We Read a Poem?
British Voice: Shel we read a poem.
Russ: Hi, everybody. Welcome to Shel We Read a Poem. I’m Russ.
Lauren: And I’m Lauren.
Russ: Lauren, shall we read a poem?
Lauren: Yes. We’re going to do “Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout Would Not Take the Garbage Out.”
Russ: Are we?
Lauren: We are.
Russ: I’m sure this isn’t topical in any shape, form, or fashion.
Lauren: Not a bit.
Russ: No. Purely just an artistic liberty we’re taking here.
Lauren: It’s all for joy.
Russ: Laughs. I don’t think there’s a lot of joy in “Sarah Cynthia” is there?
Lauren: I mean, it’s supposed to be a funny poem. But I always resented it when I was a kid.
Russ: That’s interesting: to resent a poem. Tell me about that.
Lauren: It seemed very judgmental and also naggy. It was like, “Oh, I know you. You’re a shitty little kid who doesn’t do her chores.”
Russ: How much of that carries into adulthood where you just don’t want to do that thing?
Lauren: I mean, so the interesting thing about Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout is that she actually did all of the chores except for taking the garbage out, which is kind of strange for a kid. In adulthood I have chores that I just don’t want to do and I am not opposed to other chores but as a kid I was opposed to all chores.
Russ: I see. Well, shall we dive in.
Lauren: Go for it.
Russ: “Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout Would Not Take the Garbage Out,” by Shel Silverstein
Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout would not take the garbage out!
She’d scour the pots and scrape the pans,
Candy the yams and spice the hams,
And though her daddy would scream and shout,
She simply would not take the garbage out.
And so, it piled up to the ceilings:
Coffee grounds, potato peelings,
Brown bananas, rotten peas,
Chunks of sour cottage cheese.
It filled the can, it covered the floor,
It cracked the window and blocked the door
With bacon rinds and chicken bones,
Drippy ends of ice cream cones,
Prune pits, peach pits, orange peel,
Gloppy glumps of cold oatmeal,
Pizza crusts and withered greens,
Soggy beans and tangerines,
Crusts of black burned buttered toast,
Gristly bits of beefy roasts…
The garbage rolled on down the hall,
It raised the roof, it broke the wall…
Greasy napkins, cookie crumbs,
Globs of gooey bubble gum,
Cellophane from green baloney,
Rubbery blubbery macaroni,
Peanut butter, caked and dry,
Curdled milk and crusts of pie,
Moldy melons, dried-up mustard,
Eggshells mixed with lemon custard,
Cold french fries and rancid meat,
Yellow lumps of Cream of Wheat.
At last the garbage reached so high
That finally it touched the sky.
And all the neighbors moved away
And none of her friends would come to play
And finally, Sarah Cynthia Stout said
“OK, I’ll take the garbage out!”
But then, of course, it was too late…
The garbage reached across the state,
From New York to the Golden Gate.
And there, in the garbage she did hate,
Poor Sarah met an awful fate,
That I cannot right now relate
Because the hour is much too late.
But children, remember Sarah Stout
And always take the garbage out!
Lauren: What chore do you hate the most, Russ.
Russ: So there’s two: anything dealing with hairy clogs. We have one of those filters in your bathroom drain that when I touch it, makes me wretch and the other is dusting. Laundry: I kind of like laundry a little bit. Insomuch as, I don’t know, some kind of Sisyphean absurdism. And dishes, cooking don’t bother me at all. How about you?
Lauren: I have to say I am similar in that, of chores, if I had to say I had a favorite, it would be laundry. For me, I really hate anything involving mixed and rotting food. So I do not like the dishes at all. I do not like the dishes. I don’t want to deal with old food. No.
Russ: Interesting. Old food doesn’t particularly bother me. So, I recently moved to British Columbia, for anyone who ever hears this. And they are much greener than my previous Texan locale. A big part of it is the composting and recycling program, so any food waste goes into this little bin thing. Do you have those were you are.
Lauren: Yes. Same in Portland.
Russ: At first I thought it would bother me a bit because previously I had a garbage grinder in the sink, which in some places is called a garburator, I learned. That’s wonderful.
Lauren: I like that.
Russ: Now it’s just become another thing. I don’t really…
Lauren: To me there’s a stage of it that I’m particularly grossed out with. It’s the stage between eating and when it’s completely started to mold.
Russ: Really? Why so?
Lauren: I think because it still resembles something you can eat, but it’s obviously something you shouldn’t eat. Where once something is really molding it becomes compost and it’s a molding, rotting thing that isn’t food. It’s that between stage that I get really freaked out by.
Russ: So the act of, say, going from the plate to the compost bin is vaguely hateful to you.
Lauren: It’s mostly when I’m doing dishes. It’s when it gets a little water and bits of noodles start to float and the oils get on your hands. Or you pull something nasty out of the fridge and you have to get it out of the container and then get that into the dishwasher. Once it’s in the garbage or in the compost—as all food in Portland goes—then it’s ok. Then it’s not food, it’s compost.
Russ: The mid stage is just unacceptable.
Lauren: Right. And so this poem, when you’re describing all of the different gross foods that are just lying around, definitely gets me. It definitely grosses me out. I’m really unhappy about it.
Russ: I was pretty fortunate growing up in that my parents didn’t hoard anything. I never had to deal with any kind of unsanitary condition or dishes sitting about. And when I was little I think my chores were more garbas and laundry based. I don’t remember washing a lot of dishes as a kid, but I also don’t remember a lot of family meals. It’s kind of a wonder I’m as skinny as I am because I remember a lot of fast food when I was a kid.
Lauren: I didn’t really do any chores as a kid, just because I was a brat. My sister and I were just utter and total brats and would not do chores. We definitely wouldn’t take the garbage out but we also wouldn’t candy the yams and spice the hams. We would engage in cooking sometimes but we would not scour pots or scrape pans. And by the way, I still hate that part.
Russ: So the souring pans, scraping pots… what is it about that?
Lauren: It’s the same thing I just said earlier. It’s the water and the congealing fat…
Russ: You’re feeling the scouring pad beneath your hand, feeling all squishy. There you are raking the sides of the pot up and down.
Lauren: And it’s getting under my fingernails. And the sponge smells gross.
Russ: When I was a kid I did no cooking.
Lauren: I remember once I handed you an onion to cut and you just looked at me dumbfounded.
Russ: I had no idea. I love looking back on that aspect of me, at this time where the most complicated thing I could make was peanut butter and jelly. But, I completely empathize with what you are saying because in my mind, my icky about “I don’t want to touch that hairy thing” doesn’t make sense in my head. Here’s the hair on my head. I can touch that. Here’s the hair on my beard. I can touch that. They’re both hair. So why is it different when it’s in the bathroom?
Lauren: Oh, it’s very different. It’s not just hair. It’s also soap scum and water minerals.
Russ: Isn’t that cleaner?
Lauren: No! (Russ laughs.) It actually starts breaking down the hair and the hair starts to get jelly-like and very foul smelling.
Russ: Don’t justify my weirdness.
Lauren: Oh no! I get it. That’s one of the chores I would really prefer not to do. But I can.
Russ: I suspect, Lauren, that you have an ulterior motive by selecting “Sarah Cynthia” for this week and the perils of not taking out one’s garbage.
Lauren: Right. So these days, we often like to say that people are “garbage” or that the year was a “dumpster fire.” We have seen what happens when you just let the garbage people exist. They’re just there and you pretend that they’re fine and normal and that it’s normal to just have garbage there, making your life miserable. The Republicans are garbage people. Just bluntly, they’re garbage people. Trump was just the biggest nastiest pile of garbage, and the other garbage are still advocating for that garbage, and the dumpster fire of 2020 isn’t over. The garbage president, Nazi Cheeto, has been impeached for a second time and he can’t be removed from office because he has already left office, but the hope is that somehow there will be some consequences. Now, it’s going to take 67 senators to call a spade “a spade” and call the garbage “the garbage” and convict him and that’s never going to happen. These Republicans just won’t take the garbage out.
Russ: That’s true. Let’s talk about Q.
Lauren: QAnon is garbage.
Russ: How do you deprogram that? When you have a QPerson that cannot respond in any way other than “But Joe Biden’s worse! But investigate Hunter. But…” Part of living in a cult requires no degree of self-reflection. You have to deflect everything.
Lauren: Right. I would say that QAnon, more than a political movement, is a religion.
Russ: It’s a cult. It’s 100% a cult.
Lauren: Right, and with Q either as a prophet and Trump as the messiah or maybe Q is the messiah and Trump is his prophet. I don’t know.
Russ: But it grew legs. Because Q hasn’t been doing anything since the election. Q has gone silent and the movement is carrying on without it.
Lauren: Religion can still continue even after the supposed apocalypse hasn’t come about. They just make a new apocalypse and move on.
Russ: Yeah. Christianity has had any number. Like the first end of the world was 33 years after Jesus died or something. I’m just making up numbers.
Lauren: People are just big into there being an end of the world that they can predict.
Russ: So what happens on March 4, when Trump isn’t president again? Do they just move the goal posts again?
Lauren: What’s happening on March 4? Apparently you know a lot more about QAnon than I do.
Russ: I eat it up like garbage TV, speaking of garbage. I watch it in the same way. I never got into reality TV. Like, I never got into Desperate Housewives. Nowadays, I absorb Q in the same way like I absorb trash TV, like “Oh, what’s going to happen next?” And so the new thing is that on March 4, America was sold as a corporation in the mid 1800s and Ulysses S. Grant was the last legitimate president, and so, on March 4 Trump will be inaugurated as the 19th president of the United States.
Lauren: Uh… That… Ulysses S. Grant is an interesting choice. Why Ulysses?
Russ: I don’t know. laughs. None of it makes… You could fill in any blank with anything and you would have a Q conspiracy.
Lauren: Yeah. Today Russ sent me a chart.
Russ: Which GOP conspiracy are you!
Lauren: Yes. You choose your birth month, favorite color, first initial. My GOP conspiracy would be “The Blacks can shape-shift into a food stamp for the ghost of Hugo Chavez.”
Russ: The thing is: It’s so good because it works perfectly. I could not make up something better than what a QPerson actually believes.
Lauren: On this chart, what is yours?
Russ: Hunter Biden bought stock in Antifa to keep the lizard overlords happy.
Lauren: I feel like I have heard wilder.
Russ: I don’t have a favorite color. Let’s see. If I used a color that I like.. Oh! This one’s much better. I can’t change my birth month. Let’s do this one: Hunter Biden will harvest your trigger finger while wearing a hijab.
Lauren: I’m envisioning this and it’s very strange.
Russ: And what do they use the trigger fingers for? Well, they use them to start a compost program.
Lauren: Oh. Ok.
Russ: Can you imagine anything more hateful to a Republican than a green initiative?
Lauren: You know what that makes me thing of? Composting fingers? That makes me think of the piles of feet that you see in Ken Burns Civil War documentaries.
Russ: Yeah! Very much.
Russ: How do you get someone to give up their religion? It’s impossible. If you have watched Trump for four years…
Lauren: sings. That’s me in the corner. That’s me in the spot light losing my religion. Alright. Enough of that.
Russ: You’ve watched this for four years, and—again, cycling back around a good tangent because we didn’t take the garbage out—you literally 100% believe that Joe Biden is coming for your guns, that the lizards rule us all, that they’re going to drink blood of the innocent to maintain their youth. You believe that, what can anyone say that’s going to change it
Lauren: Right after the insurrection, I was involved with looking through videos and photographs trying to identify people who were causing violence and giving orders and things like that. Or at least I was until my dad died and I lost steam to deal with all of that. I remember one person’s video. There was this old man who was just crying about what a good president Trump was. He was moved to tears thinking about how wonderful he was. So what is the person they’re seeing—this made up version of Trump? What does it look like?
Russ: It requires such a doublethink.
Lauren: Does it require a doublethink? To have a doublethink, you need to simultaneously hold two conflicting views.
Russ: No, it’s not knowledge of doublethink, it’s literal doublethink. It’s practicing it without knowing you’re practicing it. It’s the purest form of doublethink, because you can have this person that 100% was associated with Jeffrey Epstein, has gone against any Christian notion of morality, but is also your savior because the Democrats are worse.
Lauren: You just perfectly described a garbage person, a heinous garbage person.
Russ: So there’s this person who “says it like it is,” and the Democrats are worse. They’re leading a literal demon -summoning cabal of pedophiles that is going to bring down the Earth in conjunction with the lizard people because they are drinking the blood of the innocent. You believe that. When Trump lost, they just watched Captain America die. It’s as though you are a comic book fanboy and you went to see Avengers Endgame and Captain America got shot in the head.
Lauren: So they’re seeing the yellow lumps of Cream of Wheat and thinking it’s the finest French vanilla ice cream.
Russ: That is filet mignon, because they’ve been told it is. I’m convinced that Q was an augmented reality game that got out of hand.
Lauren: It is strange to think of what the origins were and why the person kept it up even seeing how much damage it was doing. I usually assume things things are actually a coalition of people.
Russ: Q was probably two or three people. They’re living in the Philippines right now and they’re probably pedophiles.
Lauren: Laughs. Garbage all the way down.
Russ: It is the gist of it. But the thing is, any argument you would have with a Qbert right now would be: “but you.”
Lauren: With COVID and everything, I have pretty much not come across QAnon people except I sold a tire to one. I was selling a tire on Facebook Marketplace and I was exchanging the money, the guy handed over the money and there was the Q tattoo on his hand. And I was like, “Oh god!” But because I don’t really see anybody, I haven’t really had any conversations with people who believe in Q. If this were a normal year I probably would have been in some sort of social situation a some point with someone who was sympathetic with that line of thinking.
Russ: And I got to follow it from afar. They’re in Canada. They’re in Japan.
Lauren: Where do you get your information on Q?
Russ: Reddit. So there’s a whole lot of subreddits that I follow. There’s r/QAnonCasualties. It’s a really good one. QAnon Casualties is people who have family members that they’re trying to rehabilitate or cut out or deal with.
Lauren: I feel so bad for those people.
Russ: You feel awful reading it. But then you deep dive like I do and it’s like “what is the the psyche behind this?” How can this person turn into this thing? It’s always people who are like “I’ve known them 30 years and now I can never speak to them again.” They choose Trump over their lives. I can’t wait for the studies on it. Maybe I should write some.
Lauren: I’d read it.
Russ: It is absolutely beautiful. It is asking them to give up religion. I don’t think—had COVID-19 not happened—I think Q would have had legs, but I don’t think it would have had tank treads. Because with COVID-19, Q got a rocket launcher.
Lauren: Right. They could see the restrictions as proof that the conspiracy theories were actually happening.
Russ: And you can paint anything onto it. Q exists in Japan. You’re not voting for Trump. What does this have to do with you? Well, because Q is so good, you can project whatever you want onto it. And so, what is Trump? He’s tough on China. What do Japanese people want? Tough on China. There’s your in. And then you’re down the rabbit hole. Children, take your garbage out, unless you see the garbage as the Democrats.
Lauren: Well, the Democrats can definitely be garbage. Maybe they’re more like recycling that hasn’t been properly cleaned.
Russ: At least they’re not saying that forest fires were started by Jewish space lasers.
Lauren: True. I shouldn’t say things like that. It isn’t comparable. I just don’t ever want to be complacent.
Russ: Would that we were Samuel Beckett or something and just embrace absurdity, because let’s say we live to be 75 years old. It’s not going to change.
Lauren: We can’t really embrace absurdity because absurdity just became reality this year. People were saying and doing so many strange, unbelievable things that people then went and believed, that you couldn’t really be like “life is meaningless, let’s go!”
Russ: Unless you’re me.
Lauren: There’s no joy in it. To embrace the absurdity there has to be a certain amount of enthusiasm and happiness with the lack of meaning but it was bringing so much destruction and misery to people that…
Russ: And that is what you will see breaks a lot of people out of Q, is that they get tired of being mad.
Lauren: Interesting. Can you tell me more about that.
Russ: I would have to look up the lady but there was one particular story that I’m remembering right now that was from QAnon Casualties where she was married to this guy who deep dove and really got his hooks into Q, and was like “Oh yeah. This is the answer.” And then, for a lot of people the day of the capitol siege. For some people that was a breaking point. It’s like, “Whoa. No. This is not ok.” And then for a lot of people that was a doubling down point. The people who doubled down on that day, they’ve drunk the Kool-Aid. It would be Jonestown. They would be the people who followed Jim to his island. This individual was watching the capitol siege and—the story as it was relayed on Reddit—was wordless for a long time, just sitting there watching, then went in their room—where they had a lot of Trump merchandise, shirts and hats and what have you—brought it all out in a box, and almost methodically, almost ritualistically just sat tearing it up. And then took it outside, put it in the bin, walked back inside and said, “I’m tired of being angry.”
Lauren: That sort of ritual sounds like a necessary thing for a lot of people to leave a religion.
Russ: And it’s true.
Lauren: So what would taking the garbage out in this case be? How would it be done? How will we know when the garbage is taken out?
Russ: That’s the most problematic thing, because the world that you and I have envisioned could not be accomplished without a solution that would appeal to a Q adherent.
Russ: How do you take the garbage out? Well, what could you do? Could you fire them from all? How could you do it in a diplomatic fashion?
Lauren: I wouldn’t say you should start with your average QPerson. I would think you need to start at the top. Get rid of Cruz and Hawley and everybody else who supported the insurrection.
Russ: And they were elected.
Russ: That’s the voice of democracy.
Lauren: Not exactly. With all the voter suppression that we have, if everybody was actually able to vote the Republicans would have a much harder time being elected.
Russ: But that’s also the exact same thing that any Q will say.
Lauren: What do you mean?
Russ: They’ll say that Republicans are the ones being suppressed. Voter fraud! Dead people voted.
Lauren: Right, but in this case we need to be like, “Hey, there are actual facts and we need to stop pretending.” The two-sides-ism needs to stop and we need to say “This is garbage. Throw it out.”
Russ: We do, but they’ll say, “but you.” Find someone religious. Find someone who believes in god or Allah or pick your religion. Ask them, “What would it take for you to give up your religion?” When you have that answer, you know how to beat this. The only solution is to outnumber them.
Lauren: See, I’m not sure that we have been like, “Hey, this is garbage.” And then they said, “No, you.” I mean, they definitely say, “No, you.” when some people say, “This is garbage.” But i don’t think enough people—I don’t necessarily mean a majority—but I don’t think enough people with any kind of power have been saying, “Yes, this is garbage.” For the longest time they’ve been like, “Ehh. You know, there are different opinions on whether this is garbage or not. Some person’s trash is another person’s treasure. You know, maybe all of the garbage we’ve been stepping over, pretending it isn’t there, is actually just lovely treasure. And you know, let’s just wait and see what happens.”
Russ: That came out when the election happened.
Lauren: But it should have happened so much more than that. So much earlier.
Russ: Sure. And these are people who lash themselves to power. You had the individuals like Pence. He had no problem supporting a sociopath for 3.5 years and then only towards the end, when it became a losing proposition, did he turncoat. What is it going to take to convince Ted Cruz? Nothing. He got elected on the strength of, “I am just going to say lies.” When you’re dealing with that brand of individual, facts aren’t facts. Facts don’t matter. It’s all feeling. It’s all: What riles me up? It’s: How can I feel like I’m the hero in this story?
Lauren: Well, you are from Texas and probably understand the mindset there better than I do.
Russ: But, no. It’s not even me understanding the mindset. It’s everyone wanting to be the hero in their own story. That’s how cults get you. “You know the answer. I’m the only one who knows the truth. I’m the subject of a higher power.” And welcome to Q. And so taking the garbage out… you’d have to undo democracy to take the garbage out. Fifty years from now, you will still have people saying, “Trumps still my president. The election was stolen.”
Lauren: But I think you’ll have more people who supported Trump and then pretend that they never did once he becomes unpopular. “Oh no. Oh no. I never supported him. That was just Jeff. I was just going along with what Jeff said to make him feel better.”
Russ: But how do you undo all of Cruz’s votes? How do you undo all of Green’s votes?
Lauren: Just because someone is voted into office doesn’t make them magical and immune to consequences.
Russ: But it does make them elected.
Lauren: Right, but you can have somebody who is elected who you then charge, or in Trump’s case, you impeach and hopefully convict—even though he won’t be convicted. There are things you can do.
Russ: Sure. And for Marjorie Taylor Greene, there was a motion introduced either to censure her or to remove her from office. That’s not going to go anywhere and she’s just going to keep wearing her Trump Won merchandise and roll up in the House.
Lauren: I know that both Cruz and Hawley are facing something in the Ethics Committee but I don’t know what that will do and if it will go anywhere except be like, “Bad! Bad boys!”
Russ: It will just be, “Bad.”
Russ: So how do you take the garbage out? Russ sighs. You reinvent the system from the ground up.
Lauren: Well, I definitely appreciate that I have compost and recycling (Russ laughs.) and that it’s not like back in Silverstein’s days where all these items would necessarily go into the garbage.
Russ: I took my compost out today. It was starting to attract fruit flies, which I did not know lived in winter.
Lauren: Yeah. Welcome to mild climates. We have all the bad things, all year round. But most of the good ones, too.
Russ: I don’t mind fruit flies. They’re stupid.
Lauren: My favorite thing is when I get a small spider that just takes care of them all near by fruit bowl. In “Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout” Silverstein does not mention insects at all, but I imagine it would be terrible.
Russ: Not even the illustration. It’s just a pile of garbage.
Lauren: A pile of garbage about to fall down on a little girl.
Russ: I wonder if Shel put spiders out or if he killed them. I feel like he put them out.
Lauren: I put spiders out.
Russ: I do, too, now. I haven’t seen a spider in ages, not since winter started.
Lauren: You are becoming a Pacific Northwesterner.
Russ: I am. I have killed a spider since I moved here. They’re friendly here. (Lauren laughs.) They’re not aggressive.
Lauren: I mean, yeah. You have different spiders here than you do in Texas.
Russ: Thanks for listening to Shel We Read a Poem. And remember, take your garbage out.