I found myself being drawn to the computer section at Sam’s (especially Sam’s for some reason), and standing in front of the machines giggling with wild excitement. All that RAM, all that hard drive space, the incredible processors… It’s a wonder I didn’t just whip it out.
My desktop now seems ancient to me. Internet Explorer gobbles-up my resources like a fat boy at a pie festival (I’ve switched to Firefox and that helped a little), and when Carbonite is doing its back-ups, I may as well just go fix myself a sandwich. ‘Cause nothing is going to be happening on that clickin’ and clackin’ computer for a while.
To be fair, however, it’s not nearly as bad as my old laptop. That thing was useless. My current home computer isn’t useless, just nowhere as slick and kick-ass as my new laptop. And when it comes to computers, I prefer slick and kick-ass.
So, I’ve been toying with the idea of buying a new one. But it’s only the beginning stages of the illness, and it usually drags out for months, if not years. Yesterday, however, I threw everything into a state of disarray…One of the Well-Known Electronics Chains advertised a Dell with 6(!) gigs of RAM, a 640 gigabyte hard drive, an Intel quad-core processor, and a 19-inch flat screen monitor – for a very agreeable price. I showed the ad to Toney, and tossed the circular aside.
Then I returned to it, over and over again, which is never a good sign. And on the front of the advertising section I noticed something I hadn’t before: 18 months same as cash, on all purchases over $699. Damn! A good deal made even better.
I didn’t have an account with that particular store, so I applied online. And after I was approved the screen told me I could start shopping immediately. Just print out the acceptance page, it said, go to one of our stores, and knock yourself out.
So Toney and I drove over there. “Is this nuts?” I kept asking her. “Not for eighteen months, no interest,” she kept assuring me. “But is it nuts?” I’d say, starting the conversation-loop all over again.
We parked and went inside, and found the computer within minutes. Oh God, it was a thing of beauty; I nearly wept. We stood and admired it, waiting for one of the vultures/sales people to swoop down.
And nobody came. It was still fairly early, and the store wasn’t exactly slammed with customers. But the staff left us alone, which is the exact opposite of what happens when I’m just browsing in that joint.
I sighed, and went in search of someone willing to help us. And the first guy shoved us off to someone else, a girl with no enthusiasm for any of it. I told her what I wanted, gave her the printout from their website, and she scurried away.
Then: “Um, my manager says you can’t use this thing you printed? Um, he says you have to wait for the actual credit card to arrive in the mail?”
I knew it! Every time I go to that store, something happens to make my crazy. It never fails, and that’s not an exaggeration. “Your website says the exact opposite of what your manager is saying,” I told her, trying to keep my cool.
“Well, um, he says you can’t use this piece of paper? He says you have to wait for the, you know, actual card to come in the mail?”
“Why is something else stated on the website?” We were already repeating ourselves.
“Um, I don’t know? But maybe you could go talk to him, and he could explain it?”
Go talk to him? I don’t think so. He can come over here, and talk to me. But I’m not approaching the throne of some ass-faced twenty year old ball-pouch who thinks he’s a captain of industry.
“Forget it,” I said, and snatched the paper away. “I’ll just go somewhere else, where they actually want to sell computers to people.”
“OK?” she said, not giving a coal-black seahorse, one way or the other.
As we drove home I had rockets of steam blasting from my ears, and the profanity was being manufactured at such a pace, it started to pile up inside the car. And that’s the way I’ve left that store, many times. But what to do, since their main competitor is even worse?! What is it about big-box electronics stores? They make me insane.
I still wanted that computer, though. So I called their 800 number, and asked if I could order the thing online and still get the 18 months of free financing. “No,” was the very helpful and friendly answer. And isn’t that simply fantastic?
After I ranted and raved, and was moved further up the food chain, I finally found someone interested in helping me. She said she’d waive the finance charges for eighteen months, and gave me a name and reference number, in case there’s a problem.
However… I’d have to pay sixty dollars(!) for the computer to be shipped to our house. Sixty bucks!! No way, I said. So she suggested I pick it up at the store, for free.
“Will they give me a bunch of crap, because I don’t have the credit card yet?”
“They shouldn’t, sir.”
“I know they shouldn’t, but that doesn’t really answer the question.”
So, long story a little less long… I now have that kick-ass NASA computer; it’s currently in the fambly room, just a few feet away from me. I probably won’t have time to set it up until Friday or Saturday, but just the sight of those boxes makes my nipples explode with delight.
But how much you want to bet I have many, many hassles with the financing? Anyone care to take that bet? Yeah, I didn’t think so.
I’ll leave you now with an assignment… A guy at work has his cell phone programmed so a different song plays, for every person on his contact list. If his mother calls, it plays a certain song, if his girlfriend calls, it plays another song, etc. Pretty slick.
So, I was wondering: what songs should my phone play if the following family members would happen to call me?
Help me out, won’t you? The see-thrus don’t have a phone, of course, but I’d like to prepare for the future.
And what do you guys think about new Surf Report t-shirts? Any opinions on that? Any interest in it, or is it too soon? Any color preferences, etc.? Also, if any of you are graphic artists and would be interested in maybe helping with the design, send me an email. I think it’s high time for a change.
And this concludes your Monday update.
I’ll see ya tomorrow.
Tuesday night, while in the throes of an uncommon cold, I went horizontal on the couch and watched four episodes of Green Acres in a row, then an entire DVD of Beavis and Butthead. And it was just what the doctor ordered. I felt a lot better the next morning (although I still wasn’t quite ready to go limbo dancing), and I credit my TV choices from the night before.
Mr. Anderson to the cops: “One of them calls himself Butthole, and the other one’s name is Joe. I believe they were Oriental.”
I think I dislodged twelve pounds of phlegm laughing at that line…
You know how everybody says they don’t know a person who’s actually participated in a national political poll? Well, I used to say the same thing, but no longer. Because yesterday afternoon Toney took part in a so-called focus group, at a local hotel, and represented thousands of registered voters(!).
She said they asked her a lot of questions about local races, showed her campaign ads and asked questions about them, then grilled her about McCain vs. Obama.
The whole process took about 35 minutes, and they gave her a crisp $50 bill at the end. Man, I’m jealous… I never get called for such things. Hell, I’d give them a hundred dollars worth of opinions, for their fitty.
Near the end, Toney said they showed her video footage of what was supposed to be average citizens from the area, pontificating about politics. They asked her if she believed they were really locals, or actors.
Toney guessed they were actors, and they asked why. “Because they’re all nice looking, and well-groomed,” she answered. And this reportedly triggered much laughter amongst the polling staff.
Buck sent me this picture today. It’s supposedly a toilet in the Ukraine. Not a urinal, but an actual toilet – in a ladies room.
Can someone please help me out with the logistics of such a set-up? What do you have to do, remove all your clothes from the waist down, including shoes and socks, and straddle that thing?
Good God. Can you imagine the splash-back? Forget crapping at work… I might not even be able to do it at home, if I had to deal with something like that. It makes me all nervous and anxious, just looking at it.
I asked Buck about the mechanics of using such an apparatus, and here is his reply:
You drop trou, squat and pray the back of your pants and underwear are far enough forward so as not to become a cloth catch basin. It’s the same thing as when you’re shitting in the woods while hunting–except there’s heat, privacy, and water to rinse things off. But now that you mention it–I see no toilet paper holder. WTF?
Do any of you have information on this curious Ukrainian crap-catcher? And what other ridiculous novelty toilets have you encountered in your travels?
Remember how I was having trouble reading, all of a sudden? Well, that’s over, and here’s the book that broke the spell. For whatever reason, I was into it from the very first page. Whew! I was afraid I was in the early stages of time-released retardation.
When I finish, I might feel confident enough to finally tackle The Stand. But we’ll see how it goes.
And thanks to Rhino Records, there are even more must-own CDs on record store shelves – mocking me, and calling me hurtful names. On Tuesday they completed their Replacements reissue project, by re-releasing the band’s four major label albums: all remastered, expanded, and fancied-up.
Here’s a brief overview, and your inevitable Amazon links:
The first two are stone-cold classic gottabuyems, and the last two aren’t too shabby either. Snap ’em up, before they start making you feel guilty.
And I’ll leave you today with a Question, based on a conversation Toney and I had last weekend: have you ever seen a ghost?
Toney tells a story from her childhood, in which her family was staying at an old farmhouse in Montana for a couple of months. Yeah… who knows? Sunshine was involved, so it’s best not to even think about it.
In any case, Toney says she woke up one night and thought she saw a lady ironing clothes in the middle of the room. Believing she was only dreaming, she allowed herself to drift back to sleep.
And the next morning Sunshine stumbled out of the bedroom, and said, “Man, I had the weirdest dream last night. I thought I woke up and saw a woman, in an old-fashioned dress, ironing clothes at an ironing board.”
So, there ya go. Have you ever seen what you think might’ve been a ghost? I haven’t, so I can contribute nothing to this one. But if you’ve got something for us, use the comments link below.
And I’ll see ya next time.
UPDATE: Jorge sends along these photos of another, um, exotic toilet. He explains:
My wife was in the Peace Corps in Ecuador and stayed with a family with this set up for a month or so during her training.
The laundry area is to the left of the photo and the hog pen is to the right. There is toilet paper, but no seat, no tank. Just a bowl. Afterwards you pour a bucket of water in to create the “flush”.
A few years ago I received an email from a guy in Raleigh, North Carolina, who claimed to be the host of a morning radio show at a local adult alternative station. Somehow he’d stumbled across the Surf Report, and was writing to tell me how much he was enjoying it.
Near the end of the note he mentioned that some of my updates were tailor-made for “performance.” He wanted to know if I’d be interested in possibly reading a few of them on his show.
Without thinking twice about it, I told him no. I’m not a “performer,” I’m a pasty-skinned guy who sits in a tiny room and types. I’m no good at public speaking, or even being the center of attention at a dinner party. Just the thought of going on the air with him, with the expectation of being funny, made my sphincter wink.
But he wouldn’t let it drop, and finally convinced me. He said we could record it, rather than going on live, and he’d fix any mistakes I might make, etc.
We probably did fifteen installments, before there was a format change at the station and we had to put the questionable exercise on hold. But, he assured me, we’d have it back up and running in no time. In fact, he said, we should think about syndicating it. Gulp.
During that period Jack Boston (as he was known on the air) and I became friends. We spoke on the phone many times, and our personalities and senses of humor meshed nicely.
Jack was no over-caffeinated morning show buffoon, going for the cheap laughs and non-stop sexual innuendo. He was smart and genuinely funny, and had an ability to root out the absurdity in everyday life. Our weekly over-the-phone recording sessions featured a lot of laughter – before we even got to the task at hand.
I remember one conversation in particular. He was telling me about a picture that had appeared in the Raleigh News & Observer. He said it showed some guy holding a big pot of soup, or something, and one of his hands was ghost white, for reasons unknown.
While we were talking I found the picture online, and we spent the next ten minutes riffing on that guy’s one freakishly white hand. I wish I had a tape of the conversation, because it was hilarious. Much funnier than any of my wooden “readings.”
One day Jack sent me an excited email, telling me he’d been chosen to host North Carolina’s Morning News, proclaiming it his dream job. This was a prestigious position, at a powerhouse station, and he’d be only the fourth host of the show since 1952.
I congratulated him, and followed it up with another message a week later. “How’s the new gig going?” I asked. And his answer was terrible.
He’d been feeling exhausted, and went to see his doctor on the afternoon of his very first show. Blood tests indicated he was suffering from “myoblastic leukemia,” and they’d immediately begun aggressive chemotherapy.
I still have that email, and in it he talks about what happened after a doctor uttered the C-word for the first time: Now I’m sure it wasn’t the first time she had been called that by a future patient, but I’m certain I delivered it with much more elan than the others.
That was roughly two years ago, and Jack went into remission at one point, and returned to the air. I was relieved and hopeful, but when he suffered a relapse, I feared the worst.
I kept checking on him, but his responses became more and more infrequent. Eventually I stopped hearing from him at all, and then I read the sad news of his passing earlier this week.
I’m glad to have known Jack Boston, even if it was only through email and phone conversations. He was a great guy, and my most sincere condolences go out to his family and real-life friends.
I have a feeling, however, he wouldn’t be comfortable with our grieving. During the entire affair he seemed absolutely positive, never negative. Indeed, this is the way he closed one of the last emails I received from him:
In the words of I think it was Ol’ Lodge Feathers in the film Little Big Man, “My heart is soaring like a hawk.”
This is really starting to get old, but I’m sick again. I’m not usually the sickly type, but just a couple weeks ago I had a sinus infection (during which my face swelled-up and I looked like that kid in Mask for a few days), and now I’ve got a bad cold – with all the trimmings.
Not to be too graphic, but if Mark Twain were still alive he might feel compelled to write a novel about a couple boys (the Secrets?) growing-up alongside the river that’s currently running from my nose. Dat’s right.
For the first time at my “new” job, I called in sick today. I almost made it a year, but not quite. I’m from West Virginia, therefore I feel guilty about it. But I just need to log some time on a couch, preferably watching Green Acres. Sitting upright will be my major accomplishment of the day, I’m afraid.
Toney says I’m getting sick because I don’t sleep nearly enough. Maybe so; I don’t know. I get roughly six hours per night, when I’m working (4:30 am til 10:30 am), and maybe seven hours on the other days. Is that a lot less than most people? Let’s take an informal poll, in the comments section… What do you say?
We have a new employee in my department at work, and a few nights ago I was showing him how to do something. He listened to me ramble, then said, “So, what part of the South are you from?”
Huh. I almost never get that question anymore. When I moved to California people made their Gomer Pyle jokes, and I started self-correcting. And I think I’ve done a pretty good job of neutralizing my speech. I’m certainly not embarrassed by my Southern roots, but the constant commenting on the way I talked made me conscious of it.
But, for some reason, it made me happy when the guy picked up on my accent on Sunday. It’s a very complicated matter…
I was taking the younger Secret to school last Friday, and got in line behind a perfectly-preserved Ford Pinto – a brown one. And the license plate said Vintage Car, or Antique Car, or something along those lines.
A turd-colored Pinto, with a classic car designation? I find that to be amusing. Time is the only determiner of classic, isn’t it?
From the Stealing Clive Bull’s Ideas desk: what is your most cherished autograph? You know, if you collect such things. Mine, without a doubt, is a baseball signed in person by Mickey Mantle.
He did a personal appearance at a department store in Charleston when I was a youngling (The Diamond, to be precise), and Steve, my brother, and I camped out like groupies. After we’d already been there a ridiculous length of time, a store official came out and told us Mantle was “delayed” (code for drunk off his ass?).
The dude told everyone to come back in two hours, but we were at the front of the line and refused to leave. He just shrugged, and walked away.
Finally, after we’d endured many hours in the men’s department, Mickey Mantle strolled in. Mickey freakin’ Mantle. He was a mythical character, so much larger than life, and standing right in front of us!
I’d brought along a baseball for him to sign, which he did. And it’s inside a holder, a foot away from me as I type this.
Yeah, Mickey wasn’t very friendly to us. In fact, he was kinda surly. But we didn’t care; we were in the presence of unspeakable greatness. He could’ve pissed on our shoes, and we probably would’ve thanked him kindly, and went back to Dunbar to brag about it: guess who peed on me today?
I remember his wrists were huge, and his hair was starting to go gray. And those are the two main things I recall about him that day. Those two things, and the surliness.
So, I have no problem naming my most cherished autograph. What about you?
I’ll have more to say about Jack in the coming days. I want to tell you about a specific phone conversation I really wish I had on tape, and also the email in which he told me about his leukemia diagnosis.
He really liked the Surf Report, which was a great compliment. Jack was smart, talented, and accomplished, and his approval meant a lot to me. When I read the news of his passing yesterday, it felt like someone socked me in the gut.
I’ll write more about him, when I’m feeling a little stronger and less-puky.
See you guys tomorrow.
Toney and I snuck away on Friday afternoon for a couple pints of happy-hour Sierra Nevadas at the local pressed-slacks bar. And while we were enjoying the hops, we remembered something from our California days that had us both laughing.
When we first moved out there my new boss tried to include us in a lot of social activities. He’d uprooted us, with small baby in-tow, from our comfortable life in Atlanta, and was obviously trying to make the transition a little easier. He’s a nice guy, who, I think, took it personally when I moved to Scranton years later; from the day I told him my decision, things were never quite the same between the two of us.
Anyway, he and his wife would invite us to dinner on many of those early weekends, and we’d go over there and try to think of interesting things to say. I’m not comfortable making semi-formal chit-chat with people I don’t know, so it was all fairly excruciating for me. But I did it, for the sake of my “career” (ha!), and because it was a nice gesture on their part.
They live in a sprawling home, with a spectacular view. It was obviously built in the 1970s, and reminded me of the Brady Bunch house. Not exactly, but close enough to make me see phantom Alices out of the corner of my eye.
In the backyard was an incredible swimming pool, with a rock cliff and waterfall at one end. I’d never seen anything quite like it, except in Sir Mix-A-Lot videos.
And inside, probably because of the ’70s influence, everything was on different levels. Every room, it seemed, required a person to take one step up or one step down, upon entering and exiting. In fact, some rooms had multiple levels within them. The architect must have earned his chops designing fun houses for amusement parks.
So, what do you think happened? That’s correct, we’d go over there and trip and stumble around, like big ol’ doofuses.
The problem, you see, is that we were uptight and focusing on the conversation. And we’d forget about all the step-ups and step-downs. I remember following them through their living room, toward the den at the rear of the house, and suddenly stepping off one of those curbs.
My right ankle folded under, both my legs went rubbery, and I free-fell onto an end table. Knick-knacks went sailing in every direction, and a lamp almost tipped over. Highly embarrassing.
And on our next visit, I believe, Toney tripped on our way to the front door, and might have done a full forward roll. Probably not, but that’s the way I choose to remember it…
After two or three of these humiliating incidents, I started to believe the house was conspiring against us. I was sure rooms that were sunken on previous visits, were now elevated, etc. It was like a Bentley Little novel.
It got so bad we’d actually park in front of their house, and give each other a pep talk before going in. “What are we going to do tonight? We’re going to pay attention to where we’re walking – at all times!”
Then we’d go inside, stumble into the kitchen, and almost plunge our heads in a pot of boiling spaghetti noodles.
Yeah, we tried to laugh it off in a self-deprecating manner, but I once caught our host and hostess shooting each other a conspiratorial “Holy shit, what’s wrong with these people?” look. So, it was no good, no good at all.
It got a little better with time, but I don’t believe we ever fully mastered their big ol’ house o’ levels. Ever-changing levels, I’m convinced…
And that’ll do it for today, boys and girls. I’m hoping you’ll make me feel better with some stories of your own. Have you ever humiliated yourself in front of a boss, or authority figure? I can’t be the only one?
Tell us about it, won’t you? Use the comments link below.
And I’ll see ya next time.