Sunken Ship

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Sunken Ship
Original Broadcast Date
Joe Frank
Narrative Monologue, 26 minutes
Preceded by: Isolation
Followed by: The Poor Are Always With Us

I'm visiting mom at the home.

Sunken Ship is a radio program produced by Joe Frank and broadcast on KCRW's UnFictional Series. It originally aired on October 24, 2014.


1:20: Joe's visiting his mother at the nursing home. She tells him how awful it is: tainted food, mistreatment. She wants to move in with Joe. In lieu of that she wants Joe to suffocate her. Then she suggests going on a cruise to Japan.


'Hockey puck, treetop lodge, railway crossing guard, cashew nut, luggage tag, Tibetan business card, hunter's hat, canvasback duck, nightmare snowdrift, black pepper éclair.'

8:50: Joe's in the hospital. 'A big fat washerwoman…' washes the corridors and Joe.

10:10: A fascinating woman reads Neruda to Joe; they 'spent hours discussing the merits and follies of different forms of worship.' They go on a drive.

11:40: While having dinner at an Indian restaurant Joe sees a driver swerve into a cyclist then drive into the restaurant.[1]

13:00: While jogging on a track in Santa Monica Joe sees a Black woman with huge breasts. He imagines how inconvenient they are to a runner. He flags her down, identifies himself as a cosmetic surgeon, recommends surgery.

14:10: A few minutes later, eating at the Tandoori Palace, Joe sees a famous Russian fashion model. He asks her, 'Your fingers look like sausages. You must come from peasant stock. What did your grandfather do? Dig in the dirt for roots?'

15:10: Joe describes what women do to improve their appearance: to their hair, with jewelry, perfume, makeup, high heels.

16:50: Joe's mother has escaped from the nursing home.


'Golf in the kingdom. Ampoule of pure light. Children find cadaver. Harlequin at mass. Eucharist on roller skate. Volleyball and cancer. Rushing water brings headless body. Life of rapture. Death in the dark. Accidental pilgrim goes from cave painting to Ohio. From suspension bridge to martyrdom. From test tube to the unreflecting famous. An object lesson to the doubtful guest.'


'I know I was never meant to whisper endearing words into the ears of a beautiful woman in a Bloomingdale's catalog, but this is what the tiny man with huge banana fingers urged me to do as we stood under a spider web dangling from a lamp like a mute orchestra of corpses. I'm no fool and only feign deafness like a stranger at a dinner table pretending ignorance of a language so that he might better discern the thoughts of others.'


'Once, walking back to my apartment, I passed a couple fornicating in a graveyard. The man's eyes had been poked out by thumbtacks, the woman's hair was on fire, and a small orchestra passed them on a float pulled by slaves.'

20:50: Joe describes jogging on the track in the evening. Once, afterwards, he sees a naked woman in the fountain in the town square.

22:10: The hospital calls. Joe's mother won't take her medication, won't let them change her after she shat. She's afraid of what they will do with her.

24:00: 'It Always Comes Back Around' (the song)

24:30: Joe's eating a sandwich in a deli. He sees a woman; she's his eighth grade first love.

25:20: 'It Always Comes Back Around'

26:10: 'Get winded just thinking must lower expectations.'

26:30: 'It Always Comes Back Around'

Legacy Synopsis

Joe struggles with his mother in the nursing home and reflects on aging.


Additional credits

External links

Available at ""


  1. Joe remembers a car crashing into a restaurant while he was eating in it in Karma Crash