[I (I of course being college baseball enthusiast and Red Cup Rebellion contributor Catfish Powe-boy) enter the Baton Rouge Waffle House and flick my eyes across the room a few times, finally landing on a back corner where Rust Cohle is apathetically sprawled across a booth. He gives me a disinterested look as I approach the table, then goes back to staring out the window at nothing]
Powe-Boy: Hey, Rust. Thanks for meeting me. Perfect baseball weather we got here, should be a good time this weekend.
Rust: People incapable of guilt usually do have a good time.
Powe-boy: Er… yea, whatever. So I know you spent some time in Texas but moved to Baton Rouge a while back to work Louisiana state CID. How long have you been in town again?
Rust: Since '95.
Powe-boy: Oh yea, that's when that whole Yellow King business cropped up. Congrats on finally getting that settled, by the way.
Rust: I was just doing my job.
Powe-boy: So living here for 19 years, you must have seen a lot of LSU games. Do you fancy yourself much of a baseball fan?
Rust: I'd consider myself a realist, alright? But in philosophical terms I'm what's called a pessimist... I think human consciousness is a tragic misstep in evolution. We became too self-aware... I think the honorable thing for our species to do is to deny our programming. Stop reproducing, walk hand in hand into extinction -- one last midnight, brothers and sisters opting out of a raw deal.
Powe-boy: Well shit, Rust, that's pretty fucking macabre. You must at least like the people around here to stick around this long.
[An overweight couple, both wearing matching "LSU: 2007 BCS National Champions" shirts, amble through the door and climb laboriously into the booth behind us]
Rust: What do you think the average IQ of this group is, huh?
Powe-boy: Well I don't know, Rust. They don't seem that bad.
Rust: I see a propensity for obesity. Poverty. A yen for fairy tales. Folks puttin' what few bucks they do have into a little wicker basket being passed around. I think it's safe to say nobody here's gonna be splitting the atom, Marty.
Powe-boy: It's Catfish Powe-boy, not Marty. Let's get back to baseball, how 'bout? The Tigers have had their ups and downs this year, but they've been on a hot streak recently and are only a game and a half out of the SEC West lead. What do you think of their chances of getting back to Omaha this season?
Rust: I used to think about it more, but you reach a certain age you know who you are. Now I live in a little room, out in the country behind a bar, work four nights a week, and in between I drink. And there ain't nobody there to stop me. I know who I am. And after all these years, there's a victory in that.
Powe-boy: That's not really what I asked, bu…
Rust: Shit, sorry, I drift... sometimes when I've had a few. That's why I like to drink alone... one of the reasons anyway.
Powe-boy: Yea, I wasn't gonna say anything, but how drunk are you right now? We're at a Waffle House and it's like one in the afternoon.
Rust: It's Thursday and it's past noon. Thursdays is one of my days off. On my off days I start drinking at noon. You don't get to interrupt that.
[A rather stereotypical diner waitress -- you know, the kind that looks 15 years older than she probably is and smells like maple syrup and cigarettes -- approaches the table and asks what'llitbe through a surprisingly energetic smile]
Powe-boy: I'll have the patty melt with hash browns and a coke. Rust?
Rust: I'll take a sixer of Old Milwaukee or Lone Star, nothing snooty.
Powe-boy: Man, I don't think they serve...
[The waitress shuffles off, confused]
Powe-boy: So anyway, we were talkin' LSU baseball. What are your thoughts on Coach Mainieri? He's done a great job of keeping the program at an elite level since coming on in '07. I would assume he's pretty highly regarded around these parts.
Rust: Transference of fear and self-loathing to an authoritarian vessel. It's catharsis. He absorbs their dread with his narrative. Because of this, he's effective at proportion to the amount of certainty he can project.
Powe-boy: Yea… I'm not really sure what that means. So the Tigers lost big-time closer Chris Cotton from a season ago, but Joe Broussard has really stepped into that role this year. He's fourth in the conference in saves and has an absurd 0.49 ERA. Must be nice to have that kind of closer in the back of your pen.
Rust: Fucking closure... and fulfillment, whatever the fuck those two fucking empty jars to hold this shit storm. Nothing's ever fulfilled, not until the very end. And closure… nothing is ever over.
Powe-boy: Look, you can at least admit the kid's pretty good, right?
Rust: Life's barely long enough to get good at one thing. So be careful what you get good at.
Powe-boy: [sighs] We're not getting very far with this. How about the recent attendance issues at Alex Box Stadium? It's the premier venue in college baseball, but actual attendance numbers have fallen off a bit this season. There has yet to be a physical crowd of 10,000 folks, which is odd in Baton Rouge.
Rust: This place is like somebody's memory of a town, and the memory is fading. It's like there was never anything here but jungle.
Powe-boy: That seems a bit dramatic. I mean, it's still a really nice place to play ball.
Rust: It's all one ghetto, man. A giant gutter in outer space.
[The waitress returns -- much to my relief -- and sets a plate down in front of me with an unsteady hand. She places a water in front of Rust, who just keeps staring out into the distance. He pulls out a battered cigarette and lights it deliberately. I start to tell him he can't smoke in here, but think better of it]
Powe-boy: I'm not sure how closely you've followed Ole Miss baseball in recent years, but Mike Bianco's seat has been heating up a bit. He built this program almost from the ground up, but there's a growing contingency of fans that are growing tired of his inability to get to Omaha. Do you think it's fair that he's being judged in that light?
Rust: Look, as sentient meat, however illusory our identities are, we craft those identities by making value judgments: everybody judges, all the time. Now, you got a problem with that... you're livin' wrong.
Powe-boy: Well he's been here for 14 years now. At what point do you just accept that he can't get you to Omaha and move on? How much time do you give him?
Rust: In eternity, where there is no time, nothing can grow. Nothing can become. Nothing changes. So death created time to grow the things that it would kill and you are reborn but into the same life that you've always born into. I mean, how many times have we had this conversation? Well, who knows? When you can't remember your lives, you can't change your lives, and...
Powe-boy: Yea, yea, "time is a flat circle" and all that shit. Look Rust, I'm getting nothing from this, so I'm just gonna grab my ticket and get out of here. I'm asking you questions and you're giving me these rambling, existential musings that have nothing to do with baseball.
Rust: Then start asking the right fucking questions.