Regular Life

Regular Life

In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on. – Robert Frost


Crestfallen Cup

I first saw this late one night, and my brain refused to accept it. I was just driving into work for a planned hardware upgrade, not expecting earth-shattering kabooms. The next morning I captured the image above, where a truck had barely beat me to the first spot at the red light.

It just couldn’t be. The light turned green and I followed the truck toward the intersection.

Then I saw this:

The Defiant Ones

My mind rested for a moment and I was able to concentrate on work the rest of the day. I figured that now, with the board very nearly in the way of traffic, the cups would draw more attention (see links to all backstory posts, including video, here).

Since then, events have spiraled out of my control. My nearly real-time account of that will have to wait a few paragraphs.

Blue Straw, as it has affectionately come to be called, was there first, at least as long ago as June 2006. Red Straw came along in March 2007 and, although a newcomer, has survived many a deluge with no signs of budging.

Some followers of this story have made Star Wars references, calling Blue Straw the plucky Jedi, and Red Straw the evil Sith. Blue light saber vs. red light saber — but I’m sure everyone got that, right?

When will the cups lose their hold if left alone? Silt has come and gone. Workers in nearby buildings have been fired and hired. Some of the cars that have passed undoubtedly have gone on to the great junkyard in the sky. Heck, I’ve had jobs I didn’t keep that long.

By now, I know other motorists have noticed my aiming the camera toward this gutter. Surely those who followed me after the light turned green took a look for themselves. Is anyone else keeping tabs on these seemingly immovable cups?

That was the end of this post until I realized I had reached a crossroads. When I was a journalist, I often lamented that I was tired of just writing about what other people did, and wanted to be the one to actually do for a change. Now I had to make up my mind. Let the cups eventually disappear by means unknown to me, or become a participant.

I decided to take action, but what I wanted to do depended on other people. So, rather than just go grab the cups on my next lunch hour, I had to enlist help.

I’m afraid I started a chain of events that I’m powerless to stop.

First, I sent e-mail to the catch-all address on the City’s web site. I figured I would inform them what’s happening, and tried to do so without seeming like a crazy person.

I drive to work in (city name redacted for this blog post) every weekday.

For the past year, I’ve noticed a large cup lodged in a storm drain in (redacted). I’ve even written a series of blog posts about it, including pictures and video. Since I first noticed it in June of 2006, another cup joined it (March 2007). I’m a bit of an amateur photographer and filmmaker, so this has been a lot of fun for me. My readers have enjoyed it, as well. There is talk of having t-shirts made.

I think it’s time for me to remove the cups and end this whole thing. I don’t want to wait it out, as much as I’d like to, because then the cups would end up as litter in the system, and nobody wants that. In addition, I would like to retain the cups, as they have taken on a strange sentimental meaning for me.

What I’d like to do is have someone from City of (redacted) (or whoever is responsible) remove the manhole cover above this storm drain and let me take some pictures and/or video by lowering my cameras down into it and aiming them out the storm drain. This would give me and my readers a great new angle before I remove the cups.

Can someone there help me with this project?

Here’s the link to my page about the cups:

Do you think that says, “crazy person?”

After sending the above, I called the City. The nice lady routed me to a man in the Streets Department (but not a “man in the streets” Department, which is completely different). I’ll call him Rufus.

“My name is Mark Williams and I’ve noticed a cup stuck in a storm drain for at least a year. There’s another one beside it that’s been there since March. I thought about pulling them out myself, but they’re at the end of a busy offramp and it could be dangerous.”

“You say it’s been there for a year?”

“At least.”

“Do you have any pictures you could e-mail me?”

I’m a straight man, but at this point I could have kissed Rufus right through the phone. You mean you want to see my pictures?

“I have quite a few, actually,” I said.

As sanely as possible, I recapped the story.

As politely as possible, Rufus gave me his e-mail address and again requested that I send the pictures and my phone number along to him. I cobbled together the pics I had and clicked “Send.”

The following morning, I received an e-mail from Rufus.

Mark, I am going to forward all your emails to Mr. Cuthbert at the area office of TXDOT in (redacted). Since you are requesting access to their inlet I decided it was best for them to handle it.

Thanks for your email, I went to the ‘blog’ and read some of the posts, made for an interesting start to the morning.


I tried to reach this “Mr. Cuthbert” (made-up name), and the nice lady who answered explained he’s out until late afternoon. When I was dealing with a local city guy, familiar territory thanks to my former job at the City of Bentonville, I felt fairly comfortable that I could end up with the cups.

Now that it’s been sent to the state level, I’m feeling a little more disconnected. I had to leave him a voicemail.

After work, the cups and the board still were there. I hope to hear something soon.

To see the end of the cups’ first chapter (with video), click here.

This just in!
Reader and fellow blogger Moksha Gren posts his own tribute to Blue Straw.

16 Responses to Crestfallen

  1. Mark, you never disappoint. This was a witty email and I loved your recount of everything.

    Two things…

    1. Yes, you sound like a crazy person (in case you were really asking that question)


    2. I need 2 adult and 3 kids shirts please as soon as they are available. I totally want THAT t-shirt.

    I hope that you hear soon. I am OFFICIALLY intrigued.

  2. Another vote for “crazy,” in the best sense of the word.
    I’m sure you’ll share the unfolding of the rest of the story and we’ll be on cups and straws, er… pins and needles until you do.
    Um, don’t be surprised if these guys are “out of the office” more often than “in”…
    The board? Maybe Blue and Red are sneaking out at night, amassing building materials to make their home a little more, uh, substantial. Planning for the weather if you will. After all, now that they’ve been there through all the seasons, they have come to know what to expect.

  3. *ROTFL* All this about 2 plastic cups with straws…..

    I hope they help you with this Mark!

  4. I’m beginning to wonder if “crazy” really covers it, Mark ;) But then again…the city official didn’t even seem to bat an eye at the obsurdity…so maybe this is all very normal to him.

    I’m hoping for full offical cooperation. Operation: Blue Straw. You’ll hav eto bring Shannon along so we can get some shots of you taking the shots. I mean…now that the journalist is part of the story…we need the story and the meta-story.

    I’m still not entirely sure what you plan to do with Blue Straw after you rescue him…but I am truly loving the story arch here.

  5. No doubt the board will have to go. I don’t think it can stay on the street very long. Someone will surely move it. I just hope they don’t move the cups at the same time. I’d hate for you to go through a “CastAway-Wilson” experience. I think some of us would as well. Success to Operation: Blue Straw.

  6. “Now that it’s been sent to the state level…”

    I had to read that sentence three or four times before it really sunk in. This, combined with today’s post by Moksha, have lent a surreal tinge to my entire day that I doubt I’ll be able to shake any time soon.

    I’ll need one large T-shirt for myself, and a note for my wife explaining why I’m wearing it, since she won’t believe me when I tell her.

    I can’t believe Rufus asked for pictures.

  7. Had to check. Type red vs blue straw storm drain and hit “I’m feeling lucky” on Google.

  8. Mark,

    Just pick up the 2×4 and throw it somewhere else.

  9. I am wondering when the television stations will have reporters to show up at the door and ask why all the fuss?

    Then, we all get to hear about it on the national news because you have been watching these two cups stuck in that storm drain.

  10. Great story. I can’t believe they have lasted so long through those massive gulley washers you guys get.

    I am with Anna…XL t-shirt when they are available!


  11. OMG Josh, LOL.

    This whole saga is seriously, curiously surreal.

  12. Anna – I think Shannon would have a point to make on that “you never disappoint.” Ha!

    If I do come up with a t-shirt design I like, you’ll be my first order.

    Linda – Oh, there’s no doubt they’re sneaky. I started trying to imagine stories for these guys. And, yes, it’s surreal.

    “Red straw, I’m gonna tear your playhouse down!”

    “Oh yeah, well… oh, geez, do you see that board over there? It almost hit me.”

    “That’s from the last guy. I tore his playhouse down!”

    Dave – There’s no doubt I need help of some kind.

    Moksha – At such a busy spot, I’ve been trying to figure out a good way to get myself in the picture. Might have to enlist my buddy Alvis on a lunch hour. Gotta do it quick, though. I’m afraid those TXDOT guys are going to just grab everything and run.

    Curt – Oh my gosh. You just made the best comparison. It’s just like Wilson the volleyball on that movie. Except, the cups haven’t been my only “companion” for (years?) on a desert island. Dessert island, maybe.

    Simon – I almost fell down in the breakroom when Rufus asked for pictures.

    Hey, that might be a good movie title. When Rufus Asked for Pictures. Now all I need is a story to go with the title. I mean a new one, not this cup business. It would never sell.

    Josh – That’s the first time I’ve ever used that feature of Google’s search. Cool!

    Alvis – Pragmatic bastard.

    John – Oh, dang! We didn’t drive over and show you the drain while you were in town. I was hoping more people would get to see it live before it’s all over.

    Mike – Any friend of Anna is a friend of mine. Unless she’s really a psycho posing as a missionary in London who loves to take pictures. Then, not so much.

  13. I’m telling you buddy, you HAVE to get that cup and get it bronzed. It would be such a great conversation piece sitting in a place on honor in your home.

    It could then be passed on for generations with the story of how crazy old great-great-great grandpa was back in the old days.

  14. Great update! That board could very well cause the demise of the cups. That’s for sure. Don’t you think they’re at least a little p’d off?

    Red Straw – “Blue, this is crazy. We’ve been here dealing with all sorts of weather, and here comes a lame washed up board that could foil all of our efforts to hang on. This is BS.”

    Blue Straw – “Yep, it’s BS alright. You think you’re p’d…I’ve been here way longer than you, whippersnapper! I can’t believe it. Maybe that crazy dude who keeps stopping to take pictures will save us from certain demise.”

    Mark, the saga of the two cups has been too good. Like Alvis, I think you would have been better served to do a swerve, open, and nab technique, and just removed the board.

    I think maybe the story of the two cups is going to have a sad ending. All of those efforts down the drain…literally. badaboom..ching.

  15. So we are clear……

    I mean photographically and blogwise you never disappoint…

    I am sure I should have made myself more clear….

    You know Shannon, one wife to another! :) Sorry Mark!

  16. Great anectdotal story about trash. Will have to come back for the ending, now. ;)


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