Today popular radio show, This American Life, conducted an on air interview with Cornealious “Mike” Anderson, who is represented by our appellate law firm, Brownstone Law. Below is the transcript from the show as it appeals on their website. If you Prefer to listen to the interview, you can do so by clicking here.
ORIGINALLY AIRED 02.14.2014
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© 2014 Chicago Public Media & Ira Glass
When Mike and Sara bought their house, they were in their 30s– been renters all their lives, not married, no kids yet, but heading there.
We had saved some money for a down payment, and we used all of that. So we had no money to furnish the house with.
And we were two people who had been living like grad students, basically. So yeah, we moved in our futon, and we moved in our–
They had a little table that they got from Mike’s dad’s garage. Their chairs were these plastic stacking deck chairs– the ones from Kmart. They had two desks. And that was about it. So most of the house was empty. Most of the rooms had nothing in them.
And so on the weekends, they would go looking for furniture. At first, they tried yard sales. And then they learned about estates sales, barn sales. They live in Maine.
The thing that they wanted more than anything was to get a dining room table. If they had a dining room table, they could have friends over for dinner, and they really wanted that. But the problem was they never had enough money to win at these barn auctions. Somebody would always outbid them. And Mike says he was seeing a side of Sara he had never seen before.
She turned into an absolute different person at these barn auctions. They would hand her a paddle, and she would have to win– which is not good when you don’t have any money.
Yeah, you give me a paddle, and I’m not going to sit there with it on my lap the whole time. And so then I would get a little wound up.
After this one time when she spend hundreds of dollars that they did not have on something that looked from the back of the room where they were sitting like it was kind of a table but did not actually turn out to be a table, the two of them decided, OK, no more barn auctions. But Sara was not done.
Well, then I discovered this little thing called eBay.
Now, this is, like, 1998, 1999. EBay is really new. They had just gone public. People like Sara are calling on dial-up modems. And Sara said that the first thing that she did when she got onto eBay was enter “dining room table” into the search box.
And then I was amazed because suddenly there were all these pictures of tables, and you can just get them. Today it seems kind of old hat, but back then it really was exciting.
So at first, bidding on eBay was a lot like the barn auctions. Sara would bid on some piece of furniture and then ultimately did not have enough money to win. But she says that she was able to get a nice side table for $20. That gave her hope. Then one day–
The listing was “round walnut table and two chairs.” And I clicked on it, and the starting bid, it was, like, $10. But then the shipping was really low.
I remember seeing a picture of it. It was kind of fancier than something we might normally go for. And the chairs looked great. It looked like what grown-up people would put in their house. Like, if we could put that table in here, that’s it. That’s the beginning. You could kind of see your kids sitting around that table someday.
So there’s a brief bidding war and Sara wins the table. She remembers it costing $20. Mike remember it as $40. But the moment she won, that she’s totally clear on.
Are you kidding? On that front, I was elated. That felt great. It just felt like, wow, I could furnish our whole house for $400. I felt like suddenly, oh, we’ve been looking in the wrong places. We’ve been going to these barn auctions, but people already know about that. But nobody knows about eBay yet. So yeah, I was really fired up about it.
So a couple of days pass. And one day Sara goes out to the mailbox, and there’s a package. It’s a box, like, half the size of a toaster.
I’m sort of like, oh, what’s this? I brought it inside and I came into the kitchen and I opened up the box. And there was my walnut table and two chairs. And it was just as beautiful as it had been in the picture, but it was about 2 and 1/2 inches high. But it had the little velvet cushions, and it had a crocheted top on it. And it was from some guy in Maryland who makes doll furniture.
And I sat and I stared at it, dumbfounded for so long, trying to decide how I felt. That was the first thing when I was staring at the doll table. You know, it was one of those “do I laugh or do I cry” moments. And then I do remember getting back on eBay and realizing that when you put in a general search term, there are still categories, because I went and found the listing, and it was under doll furniture.
Next, she showed it to Mike. And Mike says that when she show him the toy table, at first he couldn’t even understand what it was that he was looking at. Like, his brain could not process the information– like, what is this?
But then we were like, OK, that’s fine. So we set it up in the dining room. So we have this big empty house and this tiny doll table with doll chairs set up in the dining room. And our friends started buying us little, you know, doll dishes and glasses.
So it was a perfect transaction except for that one thing.
Yeah. Yeah, until the cardboard box arrived.
I do remember wanting Mike to see what a beautiful table it was, even if it was the wrong size. Like, that didn’t matter. It was a nice table. And I remember when our friends came over and they would all mock me, it really was important to me that they saw. I mean, it was a beautiful– the guy who made it is an artist. I’m going to give him that. And it was walnut and it was hand-carved and it had a nice little rim around it. And it was a miniature version of exactly what I wanted.
Well, today on our radio program, “Except For That One Thing,” we have stories today where everything is just like you would dream, right, just like you would wish for except for one pesky detail, one flaw. And the people involved, they have to decide if they can live with that flaw, that one problem in how things worked out, or if they cannot live with it.
That’s what growing up is about, right, living with things not being absolutely perfect. Am I just talking for myself here? Hope not. OK. From WBEZ Chicago, it’sThis American Life, distributed by Public Radio International. I’m Ira Glass. Stay with us.
Act one, Not Okay Cupid. So we start today with a piece of fiction by BJ Novak– a piece of fiction that, with his help, we have turned into a little radio drama. It takes place in a restaurant. Hold on, let me bring in some restaurant sound.
There we go. OK, here’s our story.
OK, now, you, sir–
Julie finished the second-to-last half sip of her third complicated cocktail.
You, sir– now, I am– OK, I feel like we’ve only talked about me, but I don’t know anything about you, other than that you’re very, um, charming and, well, very cute, of course. Don’t let that go to your head. Shouldn’t have said that. Shouldn’t have said that.
OK. If– if this is my– [LAUGHS] OK, what do you do?
What do I do? You mean, what is my job?
Sorry. I hate that question too. It’s like, is this a date or an interview, right?
He finished his bite of sauce-soaked broccolini and answered.
Mm? All I heard was lord.
Oh, OK. OK, this is fun. Are you a– landlord? Because I do not have the best history getting along with landlords. My first apartment–
I am not a landlord.
Are you a drug lord?
Julie stroke-poked the side of his face with her finger.
Because that could be a problem.
You’re not the Lord, are you? Because I haven’t gone to temple since my bat mitzvah. Don’t tell my grandma.
She could tell he was laughing just to be nice, and she liked that more than if he had laughed from finding her funny. A nice guy– now, that would be a real change of pace for her.
Then what kind of lord are you anyways, huh?
God, she was a bit tipsy, wasn’t she?
I’m a warlord.
Interesting. Now, I don’t know exactly what this is, but I want to learn. So what exactly is a warlord?
She rested her chin playfully on a V of two upturned palms.
OK. Can you picture where the Congo is on a map?
This is Africa.
He pointed to an imaginary map in the air between them.
This is the Indian Ocean. This is the Democratic Republic of Congo. This is just regular Congo.
Wha– what? Hold up.
I know. That’s just how it is. I didn’t name them. Anyway, this, all this here, this is what I control.
So you’re like the governor of it?
No. There are areas of the world, Julie, where it will show up on your map as a certain country. But in reality, no government is in control of that region in any real way. They cannot collect taxes. They cannot enforce laws. Do you follow?
The people that are in charge are the warlords. They– we– bribe, kidnap, indoctrinate, torture, and, uh– what am I forgetting? What’s the fifth one? Oh, kill. (CHUCKLING) It’s weird that I forgot that one. We kill the population of any region that falls above a certain threshold of natural resources but below a certain threshold of government protection.
It’s not exactly that simple, Julie. But basically that determines where I’m based. Once those conditions reach that level, me and my team, we show up and terrorize that area until the entire population is either dead, subdued, or ideally one of our soldiers. Ideally-ideally, dream scenario, a child solider.
But that does not sound legal.
No, it isn’t legal at all. Have you been listening?
Julie blushed and rotated her fork on her napkin in a four-point turn so she would have something to focus on besides her embarrassment.
This is a show of force outside the ability of any government to enforce its laws.
He went on and on. The words rape and limbs came up more than on any other date she could remember.
Have you ever seen a picket fence made of limbs?
No. But what about, like, the international community? Don’t they ever pressure you to stop, or– or something?
Yes, sure. For example, there was this thing about me on Twitter a while ago. Are you on Twitter?
She said she was but didn’t check it often.
Yeah, I am, but I don’t check it often.
Same here. I have an account but I can never figure out if it’s a thing I do or not. Anyway, I was trending. Do you know what that is?
I’ll be honest. It weirded me out. I got into this pattern where I was checking my name every two seconds, and there were, like, 45 new mentions of me– all negative.
You can’t let yourself fall into that.
Exactly. Anyway, it passed. You know Twitter. Before long, everyone’s on to the next thing.
What about, [GULP] um, the ethics of it? How do you feel about that? Doesn’t that trouble you?
The warlord gestured to Julie with his fork.
That top you’re wearing– Anthropologie?
H&M, but thank you.
Even better. Do you know the conditions in the factories that made that top you’re wearing? Do you ever think about that?
Yeah, OK– no. That’s not– nice try. But just because– no, no. And yes, I know this phone right here that I use every day– but no. No, you can’t– it doesn’t help anything to equate– look, there’s no excuse. But that also does not mean–
(WHISPERING) Just in case you’re thinking about dessert.
The waitress dropped off too stiff sheets of artisan paper in front of Julie and the warlord.
Remember when they used to ask first if you wanted to see a dessert menu? Now everyone just ambushes you with a dessert menu without asking. When did that start?
I know. Everyone started doing it at the same time too.
How does stuff like that happen?
I don’t know.
Everywhere just [SNAP] changing their policy at the exact same time.
I have no idea. Better get Malcolm Gladwell on that.
I know, right?
They both scanned the menus, each pair of eyes starting in the unhelpful middle of the dinner menu for some no-reason, then tipsily circling around and around until most of the important words had been absorbed.
I have never understood flourless chocolate cake. Is flour such a bad thing? I mean, compared to the other things in chocolate cake.
You want to split that?
Flour is probably the least unhealthy thing I can think of in a chocolate cake. Is that supposed to be a point, that the whole cake is just all eggs and sugar and butter? And anyway, who cares? It’s chocolate cake. We know it’s not a health food. Use whatever ingredients you want. All it has to do is taste good. We don’t need to know how you did it. Just make it.
You want to maybe split that?
We shall split the flourless chocolate cake.
Great. So do you get to travel a lot?
Not as much as I’d like. Now and then we’ll reach some ceasefire, especially after some big massacre, and things get quiet for a bit. That’s what allowed me to take some time off, travel, meet you, stuff like that. Oh, I meant to say, you look even better in person than in your profile picture.
Oh. Thank you.
Yeah, I’ve been meaning to tell you that. It’s a nice surprise. Rare that it goes in that direction.
Well, thanks. Um, same. Don’t let it go to your head.
Thanks. So I lost my train of thought.
Right. So you know, ceasefires, they never stick.
Yes, I think I saw something about that on Jon Stewart. That must be frustrating.
It is. Thank you, Julie. That’s exactly the right word. It’s very frustrating.
Flourless chocolate cake?
Can I get you anything else? Another drink?
I really shouldn’t. Are you OK to drive, by the way?
I have a driver.
Julie ordered a fourth and final cocktail.
BJ Novak. That story, “Julie and the Warlord” is from his new book of short stories called One More Thing– Stories and Other Stories. Our amazing actors– Allison Brie played Julie, Tunde Adebimpe was the warlord.
Act Two, Hungry Hungry People. There was a period in the early 1900s in our country when meat was actually scarce because of huge waves of immigrants coming in. Plus, there was also a growing demand for us to export meat to other countries. And meat was scarce enough that the thinkers and journalists and politicians of the day didn’t just call it a meat shortage. The problem was commonly referred to by this loftier, more zen-like name, the Meat Question.
Jon Mooallem wrote a long story about this for the Atavist online. He says that there would be newspaper editorials about what are we going to do about the Meat Question? It pops up in congressional testimony on unrelated subjects. People will say, well, you know, that’s just like the Meat Question– the question being how are we going to raise enough meat for all the people here? Jon Mooallem talked to This American Life producer Alex Blumberg about all this. He said, it wasn’t like American industry wasn’t trying to produce more meat.
This is like Upton Sinclair, The Jungle era. So you have the industry just ramping up and trying to become as efficient as it can, but it’s just not happening. The supply was still being dwarfed by the demand.
No matter how many rats and human fingers they added, they just couldn’t produce enough meat.
Well, right. And people were actually a little bit worried. There were rumors that Germans were eating dogs and all this stuff, and could it happen here too? And in that way, it was also really an existential crisis for the country at the same time, because literally, we had gone all the way West. You had people talk about the frontier being closed. There wasn’t a sense that there was more to scoop up in America.
Passenger Pigeons and buffalo had been decimated. You had
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