Slack tide: The Answer is Blowin' in the Wind... or on Wikipedia

Truly, 2012 has been a year of many important anniversaries: 100 years since the sinking of the Titanic, 75 years since the opening of the Golden Gate Bridge, 60 years since the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II and perhaps most notably, three years since the release of “2012” the movie.


But this year also marks the 50th anniversary of Bob Dylan’s classic song, “Blowin’ in the Wind.” Written, performed and published in 1962 -- though not released until his 1963 album “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” -- he poses a series of rhetorical questions now so famous, they provide some of the best examples you’ll find of that particular figure of speech. In fact, when my daughter recently asked me what a rhetorical question was, I couldn’t help but respond “the answer my friend, is in ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’.” She just stared at me the same way my wife does every time I see a bumper sticker that says “War is Not the Answer,” and point out several cases in which “War” actually is the answer (e.g. “What 70s funk band scored hits with ‘Low Rider,’ ‘Spill the Wine’ and ‘Why Can’t We Be Friends’?”)

Anyway, Dylan’s lyrics speak of peace, war, civil rights and freedom, born of the turbulent decade in which he wrote them. But what if he had written “Blowin’ in the Wind” today, when most people’s anxieties revolve around whether or not they’re eligible for an iPhone upgrade and any question, rhetorical or otherwise, can be answered in a how to video on YouTube?

I think it might go a little something like this:

How many roads must a man drive down before he admits he should’ve sprung for a GPS at the car rental place instead of starting off the family vacation by getting thoroughly lost?

How many days must a man pay for unused long distance before he cancels his landline?

Yes, and how many years in advance of presidential elections must candidates start to campaign?

Yes, and how many times can a man watch “The Princess Bride,” and still crack up during the Billy Crystal-Carol Kane “Miracle Max” scene?

Yes, and how many hairs must he pluck from his beard to admit that he’s starting to go gray?

Yes, and how many coffee machines must he try before he finds one that doesn’t dribble?

Yes, and how many English muffins must he lose before he buys a new toaster?

How many times must a man caulk his doors, before they finally don’t leak?

Yes, and how many bones must a man break and/or bruise before he asks someone to hold the extension ladder?

How many times must a man explain the infield fly rule before his wife understands?

Yes, and how many times must a wife ask what an infield fly is before she admits she really has no interest in knowing?

Yes, and how many years will the previous owner receive pornography and weapons catalogues at a man’s house before that man is tempted to look inside rather than just tossing them straight into the recycle bin?

Yes, and how many visits to Costco can he make without giving in and buying the Nutella double pack?

Yes, and how many cracks can his windshield take and still he pretends that he just doesn’t see?

How many miles must a family fly before it earns free first class tickets to Hawaii?

How many times must a man log onto Facebook and compare the relative cuteness of his own children against the kids his old love interests have had?

Yes, and how many half-price ice cream sales will it take till he realizes that some brand of ice cream is always on sale, which is how the store gets him to buy ice cream?

Yes, and how many months after his kids go back to school can he play the stay-at-home dad card as an excuse for not working a regular job?

How many years will the “Simpsons” sputter along until someone finally pulls the plug?

How many days can a man use nasal spray before he becomes physically addicted and/or psychologically habituated? (Seriously, a man’s getting worried.)

Yes, and how many mouths will it take to get burned before someone class action sues the maker of Hot Pockets?

How many times can a man leave the house while still forgetting his wallet?

How many episodes of The Learning Channel’s “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” can one man stand before he steals back the remote?

Yes, and how many years has it been since anyone has actually learned anything from The Learning Channel?

Yes, and how many texts must one wife send to coordinate pick up and drop off at gymnastics?

Yes, and how many containers must fill up with glass before they’re brought to the recycling center?

How many snooze buttons must one man press before he realizes he’s not any less tired and his outlook isn’t any sunnier so he may as well get up and get on with it?

How many years must Doritos exist before they just sell the cheese dust by itself?

How many years must a state capital exist before someone opens an Indian restaurant there?

Yes, and how many times must a man look up before his face doesn’t get pelted with rain?

Yes, and how many years can a pair of jeans be worn before they’re thrown in the wash?

How many miles will a warning light flash before a car runs out of gas?

Yes, and and how many times must a man promise to cut firewood before he just pays for it to be delivered and stacked for him?

How many bouts of the blues must he face before he amps up his dosage of homemade prozac (aka half-off ice cream slathered in Nutella)?

How many ears must one man have before he can hear his own horrible snoring?

Yes and how many times must a toddler pee on the rug before his parents stop letting him run around naked after baths?

Yes, and how many deaths will it take ‘til they know that too many house plants have died?

The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind. The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

Speaking of, the national weather service predicts gusts up to 80 knots, so be careful — it can get pretty dangerous out there with all those loose answers blowin’ around. Probably not a bad idea to stock up on flashlight batteries, too.

• “Slack Tide” appears every other week in Neighbors. Read more of Geoff’s work at


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