The State Of My       Fat Ass
OCTOBER 2001   
   

October 29, 2001

Weekend update:

-- Sometime during the day on Friday Toney spoke with “Nancy” and, as usual, there were three or four mind-boggling highlights to the conversation.

A few months ago Nancy and her so-called husband (married on a beach by an actor amongst leaping dogs) decided they wanted to simplify their lives. They’re both paid by the state of North Carolina to stand in front of classrooms and feed young people incredible loads of bullshit and mumbo jumbo, and they apparently have managed to paint themselves into a financial corner along the way. A lot of thought went into possible solutions, and they finally decided they’d sell their large house and buy a much smaller one closer to work. Sounds logical, right? Well, there’s more to the story.

First of all, Nancy and Banana Nostrils have two young kids. They need space. This new house is supposedly less than 800 square feet, which is roughly the size of a Lincoln Town Car. Don’t people with kids usually look for more room? Am I off-base here? Also, this new house is actually more expensive than the other one, once you factor in all the upgrades they insisted upon (like ripping up the carpets and having the hardwood floors refinished). So you can see how they’ve simplified things. Less room, higher payments. Problems solved!

Anyway, Nancy told Toney that the smallness of the house is starting to take its toll. The kids are driving them crazy. Of course they all sleep together in something called a “family bed,” which I think is some kind of hippie fucked-upness, and they use cloth diapers, and sit around in big tofu chairs singing traditional Brazilian tribal anthems. Or something like that, I can’t really keep it all straight. But the point is they refuse to do anything to make their lives easier. How would it look to their colleagues? There's apparently no place to escape in this new house, located in the much cooler neighborhood (the real reason they moved), so they’ve come up with a new solution: they’re going to take turns sleeping at friends’ houses! One night Nancy will sleep away from the house, and the next night Banana Nostrils will impose on a soon-to-be ex-buddy. Yes, it’s the second coming of Ward and June Cleaver over at the Nostril place. “Mommy, where’s Daddy?” “Now now, son. You know he sleeps at Brian’s on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, because you and your brother drive us crazy. Now eat your spelt jonnycakes, and I'll read you another chapter of The Communist Manifesto.”

One final note on The Big Move: Nancy said she was a little sad to say goodbye to the old house “because, after all, we buried two dogs, two cats, and two placentas in that backyard.” I shit you not.

Oh, and they gave their two-year old boy a haircut in the park for his birthday. His first haircut. They had a little ceremony, and that’s what he got for his friggin’ birthday. Can anyone say Kip Kinkel? Nancy had a big argument with her mother over the kid’s birthday, because she wanted to buy him a “Max Steel” action figure. Nancy forbade it, absolutely, because the “doll” is gender specific and highly muscled. She told her it set an impossible body standard for little boys to live up to, and made them vulnerable to a lifetime of self-esteem issues. She’ll just have to wait on that David Hyde-Pierce action figure, I guess.

-- On Saturday we and Toney’s folks went to a Chinese buffet for lunch. Naturally they hated it. They complained about the food, the prices, and the service (at a buffet!). They were also raising a ruckus about the “octopuses” in one of the entrees. “Can you imagine one of those tentacles flopping out of the corner of your mouth!?” they practically shouted in the crowded restaurant. Actually, I’m with them on that one. Just not so loudly.

Afterwards there was yet another session of mindless wandering from store to store, staring at items we can’t afford to purchase, and saying “excuse me” a lot. Then we returned home in time to take in our town’s Halloween parade at 3 o’clock.

As late as Thursday the temperatures were in the 70s, but by Saturday it was as cold as a well-digger’s titty on election day. We brewed a pot of coffee, fixed up some strong Kahlua drinks in travel mugs, and ventured out into the elements to participate in a little slice of Norman Rockwell Americana. Well, the booze kinda shattered the illusion, but it was close enough. The wind was whipping, the skies were gray, and it was heart-stoppingly cold. Everyone was walking around with their shoulders all hunched up, apparently convinced that that particular posture would generate a little extra heat. And then it started to snow.

It snowed for the entire length of time it took for the parade to pass by, and pretty heavily. Everyone was soaked, and hunching like a pack of maniacs. The parade itself was pretty typical: a marching band, fire trucks, various local dignitaries, etc. There were also a ton of kids shivering in Halloween costumes, and a few humiliated dogs in capes. This, however, was quite possibly the coolest thing I've ever seen in my entire life. It made the whole outing worthwhile.

After the last straggling scrap of parade passed by there was a mad scramble to get the fuck out of there, and back into warm cars and houses. The place cleared out like Chinese missiles were on the way. We went back home, enjoyed a few more adult beverages, had dinner, watched Pennsylvania Polka, and then a little of the Bravesless World Series.

-- On Sunday we made another attempt at capturing some of that elusive Norman Rockwell magic by attending a Fall Festival. Basically it was just a bunch of food booths and the like, as well as games and stuff for kids. The howling wind had died down, and there was no snow, so it wasn't too bad. I was looking forward to checking out the much-ballyhooed "haunted locker room" at the middle school. I was excited to see what they'd done with it, but was ultimately disappointed. The possibilities were numerous. I was picturing Satan's Tampon Dispenser, and swooping flocks of vampire jock straps, but there was nothing of the sort. It was just a bunch of skeletons hanging on strings, and a few rubber rats peaking out of lockers. Lame, lame, lame. Next year I need to volunteer for that particular committee. The haunted locker room could stand a high-pressure Surf Report enema.

The best part of the Fall Festival was a goofy guy dressed in the preppiest of clothes, passing a tennis ball with a kid. He was standing right beside us while we were eating, and the ball whizzed by our faces over and over again. The guy seemed too freaky to notice, and never apologized for nearly knocking my in-laws to the ground. I was getting pretty annoyed with the asshole when suddenly he froze, and cocked his head to the side like a dog, and just stood there for about thirty seconds. It was like he was receiving a transmission from the mother-ship. Toney's mother looked at me with a "what the hell!?" expression, and I just busted out laughing. Watching the seriously fucked-up can be highly entertaining.

Sunday night Toney and I slipped away for beer and appetizers in the late afternoon. I talked her into trying the State Street Bar and Grill, home of the formerly seedy John K's Pub. She hated John K's but I assured her it's a lot more upscale these days. The dumpster out front is gone, for instance. She hesitantly agreed, but it didn't work out. They seated us in a room by ourselves, and handed us a pretentious menu which didn't contain any food that I recognized from the first 38 years of my life. There were no nachos or mozzarella sticks or anything like that. They had trout tacos, and mushroom towers, and crap that I simply wasn't able to comprehend. We just drank our beers and left. They used to sell hot dogs in that place! And club sandwiches!! So sad to see the fall of a once proud neighborhood tavern.

We went to a real drinkery, JJ Bridjes, and had nachos and Yuengling. We sat by the fireplace, and it was perfect. We don't do that often enough. When we were leaving we saw a man and woman having dinner, and the woman was reading a paperback book! They probably do that all the time.

We went home and eventually had dinner, then I got into a heated argument with my brother over the phone, and then it was time for bed and some rest before the start of another week in Rockwellian paradise.

Please keep in mind that these are only the highlights of my weekend. I live on the fuckin' edge, boyee.


October 25, 2001

A few more things:

-- I’m writing to you this morning (it’s 5:40 in the AM) from our dining room table, using my work-issued laptop, because I’m unable to access the bunker. Toney’s mother and her husband arrived last night, for a two-week visit, and they’re piled-up in the room next to my office. I’m mildly resentful, sure, but the alternative is maybe kicking somebody’s head in the dark, and accidentally getting everything cranked up two hours early. Being stubborn could very well get me an extra hundred minutes or so of amplified commentary on world events, and spoken-word op-ed pieces laced with the phrase “Jew bastards.” So I’m writing to you this morning from our dining room table.

-- They won’t fly (especially after the Jews hijacked all those planes), and they’re hearts weren’t into driving cross-country again, so Toney's folks decided to give Amtrak a try. It took them four days to get here. Four days! A flight would’ve taken about four hours, but whatever. They said that sometime during the middle of the night, around Denver, a 500 lb shoeless man was apparently forklifted onto the train, and he laid in the floor reading a book and saying, “Hi, how ya doing?” all the way to Harrisburg, PA. The guy was obviously too big to fit into a conventional people chair, so they just had him lying in the floor, between the seats. Toney’s mother said every time she got up to use the bathroom or get a cup of coffee she had to walk past his “big fat sausage toes” sticking out into the aisle. They said he never got up (probably wasn’t able to), he just laid there smiling and reading, a jiggling mound of flesh with a human head on top. Do you think he had one of these tucked into his folds?

-- Speaking of parents, I thought about my Dad yesterday when I was at Wendy’s for lunch. I was accessorizing my meal at the condiment bar, when a thirteen or fourteen year old boy walked up and grabbed a straw. Such a thing would’ve been unthinkable when I was his age, because my Dad had some kind of hang-up about males using straws. Yes, you read that correctly. He called them “sissy sticks” and would make fun of you, usually including wildly exaggerated lisping and the waving about of hands on comically limp wrists. So, to this day, I'm unable to use a straw to drink a soda; I'd feel like I was slow-dancing with a dude. What can I say? It's part of me now. He also had a problem with men using the word "wallet" for some reason. Billfold was the only acceptable term...wallet was fruity. So I say billfold, and never wallet. Hey, I know some of this isn't pretty, but we serious journalists are charged with reporting the raw facts.

-- One day over the weekend I went into the basement to grab my first Yuengling of the day and when I opened the door to go down the steps I heard a loud roaring sound and was punched in the face by a chlorine smell. What in the honey-baked hell!? I raced down the steps to find water shooting out of some unknown white plastic tube hanging from the ceiling, and all over the wall at the rear of our house. And it looked like it had been at it for quite some time. Fuck! I found a little lever at the top of the tubing, and turned it until the water stopped, but a lot of shit was soaked. I wiped up the important stuff (like Toney's boom box), then did what every mature adult homeowner does: I called my Daddy.

I learned that the tubing in question led to the icemaker in our refrigerator, and he told me it would be a fairly easy thing to repair. Of course I was skeptical...an easy thing for him to repair, not me. But he gave me detailed instructions and it did sound pretty simple, so I decided to give it a shot. The next day.

A couple days later I felt I couldn't put it off any longer so I returned to the scene of the crime, determined to be a real man and engage in some hardcore home repair. Of course it wasn't as easy as good ol' Dad made it sound, and everything quickly went to hell. And I instantly became agitated and could barely contain the urge to hurl my adjustable wrench through the goddamn window. I had to call him back a couple more times for advice, and he began addressing me sarcastically as "Mr. Fix-It" (it's a wonder I'm not a serial killer). After about three of these calls it was painfully obvious that I was going to need to go to Home Depot for a "farrel" or "furrel" or some shit. I hate Home Depot, but what choice did I have?

It took me about five minutes to get into it with one of the hot-shot employees, because he thought he had all the answers. I left him standing in Aisle 31, red in the face, screaming, "It's not a coupling, it's a farrel!! It's not a coupling, it's a farrel!!!" Hey whatever, dude. I eventually found a wall of tiny drawers, and began pulling them out one by one. Finally I found what appeared to be the right item and made my way to the register with it, careful to let Mr. Hot Shot in the orange vest witness my act of defiance.

Yeah, it didn't work. I'm sure it has something to do with me, but I could never get it to stop leaking. I think I actually made it worse. So I just said fuck it, and we filled up some ice trays. It's not the end of the world; people have made do with ice trays for decades. My Mom and Dad will be here for Christmas, and he can probably take two minutes out of one of his days, and repair it for me. The ridicule will most likely stop in a week or two, and everything will then be back to normal.

-- The evening after I threw in the handyman towel, Toney told me about a conversation she'd had with my Dad when they were here a few weeks ago. Apparently they were discussing what a big dumbass I am, and Toney told him she wishes I'd picked up some of his talents for working on cars. He assured her that he'd tried to teach me some things when I was a kid, but that I'd always need to go in for a glass of water or something, and he'd find me an hour later lying on my bed listening to music.

Yep, it's nice to have a good solid support network.

See ya in a day or two.

October 23, 2001

-- I made a conscious effort to live like a normal human being over the weekend, and stay away from this trance-inducing computer screen, and the 24/7 “war” coverage and all that entails. For whatever reason, I was feeling the need to interact with other human beings for a change, and go wading into the muddy waters of the community. Yes, it was an interesting experiment, but pretty much doomed to failure from the start. Who could’ve predicted that?

I took Friday off from work, because I goddamn felt like it, and Toney and I went to lunch and browsed around a few stores. It sounded like a good idea in the abstract when we were planning it the night before, but when the reality of it hit, my heart just wasn’t in it. I sleep like five hours a night anymore, because of my various mental illnesses (I look like Frank Torre now; the bags under my eyes could hold a head of cabbage each), and I’m generally exhausted and bitchy all the time. I was bitching up a storm Friday.

We went to Friendly’s for lunch, and I stupidly ordered chicken quesadillas. Who orders Mexican food at a sandwich shop? Only your dumbass correspondent, that’s who...and for good reason. As my reward for being such a fool, the waitress brought me a steaming platter of shit to eat. I think that's actually what she said: "OK ma'am, you ordered the Swiss mushroom burger and fries, and for you sir...a big steaming plate of shit to eat. Could I get you folks some mustard or anything?" The so-called chicken that was insinuated into the stinking mess she placed in front of me was the color of nickels, and as stringy as cat food. I hesitantly broke the seal on the pool of congealed grease, freed a wedge of dripping gloop, closed my eyes, and choked it down. It was as bad as it looked. It tasted like a dirty oven.

After a couple more death wedges I pushed the plate away and ordered a hot fudge sundae. I needed to get the taste out of my mouth, and quick. But the ice cream wasn't able to make contact with my tastebuds, because of the thick quesadilla coating I had going on. It was as if the inside of my mouth had been sprayed with New Shit-Flavored Pam. I ate an entire hot fudge sundae without tasting it; I could only notice the temperature of my mouth decreasing. Then I handed them twenty of the dollars I'd earned at my my job, and left.

We went to Barnes and Noble afterwards, but everything is so expensive you pretty much have to make plans to buy something. You've got to budget for it, and check reviews and do your research. There's no impulse purchases of $35.00 hardcover books, at least not by me. And why don't they have fiction in their discount section anymore? All they have are big picture books about motorcycles and battleships and shit. Are there people who actually purchase such items? We wandered next door to the Eddie Bauer outlet next, to look at tables full of $75.00 sweaters that had been marked down to the crazy blowout price of $60.00 each!! Yeah, right. Like my spiritual leader Kid Rock, says, "I was born at night, but not last night, baby."

I guess Toney got a headache or something, because she said she wanted to go home after that. So we went home, and I decided to walk to the State Street Bar for a couple pints of Yuengling with the locals. But I'd forgotten that it was Friday (it felt like Saturday), and the place was crawling with people just off from work, chain-smoking and drinking as if they were engaged in a contest of some sort. I took the only seat at the bar, and ordered a lager. "Seventy-five cents," the bartender said after he'd placed the fizzing glass on the napkin in front of me. "Pardon?" I said. "It's happy hour," he said, "Yuenglings are seventy-five cents until six o'clock." Things got a lot better after that.

The world would be a much better place if every business offered reasonably priced draft beer. Little details like that make all the difference, I've learned.

-- I watched the McCartney concert Saturday night, and enjoyed the spectacle of Hillary being booed unmercifully by the heroes of the World Trade Center tragedy. Those guys are on a roll! And Richard Gere told a roomful of people who'd just lost friends and loved-ones in the unprovoked terrorist attack that we should show compassion and understanding for the people responsible. Yes, he came very close to being yanked from that stage and having the gerbils beaten out of him. It was genuinely great entertainment! I just wish Barbara "Old Yeller" Streisand had been there to endure some abuse as well. That would've made the night a complete success.

-- We haven't told him yet, but our dog's balls are coming off on November 6. We have a coupon. Do they actually cut them off, or just unplug them? I'm unclear, but I have a feeling somebody's not going to be happy with whatever route they take.

-- I watched with sadness as my beloved Atlanta Braves were eliminated from yet another post-season Sunday night. And to add insult to injury they were beaten by one of those fake baseball teams, the Arizona Diamondbacks. Call me crazy, but I have a hard time respecting any team that wasn't in existence when I started following baseball, in the mid-'70s. I'm just now begrudgingly accepting the Mariners and Blue Jays, but I'm a long way from warming up to the Diamondbacks and the Devil Rays -- or even those Florida Martins, or Merlins, or whatever they're called. And it makes me sick to see one of them going to The World Series, for God's sake. I'd say thirty or forty years need to pass before an expansion team should be allowed to make it to the World Series. Anything else is just... wrong. Also, was Fox using one of those Afghanistan Videophones to broadcast the game? What the hell was going on with that? Did they get a bunch of cameras from the old Soviet Union or something? I noticed the Yankee games are coming in crystal fucking clear though.  What's the deal? Hello, Art Bell?

I've got more to write about, lots more, but I need to go to work. I'm saving up for that new Nick Hornby novel and I can't afford to miss too much time.

See ya next time, boy and girls.

October 20, 2001

A few more things:

-- I'm not sure what came over me last time. I started writing an appreciation of all the people who've visited this site, and contributed to the relative success of the first year, and it was turning out to be so disgustingly sappy I just decided to insult everyone instead. I guess I'd rather lose all my friends than turn into some simpering Oprahbot, crying and hugging and thinking of the children. But, without nearing that line, I want you all to know that I really appreciate you coming here, regardless of how often you come, and for participating, even if your participation consists of only the occasional "This site sucks" post to the forum. I'm not always oozing with sincerity, but I'm being sincere now. Thank you. The first year has far exceeded my expectations, and you folks have made it a blast.

Is it hot in here?

-- When my parents visited a couple of weeks ago they brought us a trunk load of Cheerwine. In case you're unfamiliar with this regional favorite, it's an odd-tasting cherry-cola concoction that's popular (and produced) in North Carolina. Even though "wine" is in the name it's non-alcoholic; it's a mildly bizarre soft drink that you can purchase only in a tiny pocket of the South. It tastes a little like Dr. Pepper, but not really. It's more like Dr. Pepper after you've gargled with Plax. When I lived there I developed a fondness for the stuff, for whatever reason, and good ol' Mom and Dad remembered and picked me up a case on one of their many treks to Myrtle Beach. Man, I'd forgotten how sweet it is. I defy you to drink more than one can per day without spiraling into a diabetic coma. I'm not kidding, I may have to go shopping for an insulin pump by the time I make it through the twenty-four cans. Yeah, it's sweet, but it's good. Damn good. At least I think it is. Something way in the back of my mind is telling me it's really just shitty swill, and I'm romanticizing it because it's regional and hard to get. But I'm trying to suppress those thoughts, and just enjoy my goddamn case of soda.

God, sometime I think I should just check myself into a hospital for a "rest"...

-- Toney likes to make new friends. I say I have a good collection already, and don't see the need to add any more to the mix. If it happens in the regular course of living my life, fine, but I'm not making any special efforts. Ya know? But she's now going to breakfast with a bunch of neighborhood women, and hanging out with an ever-evolving group at the coffee shop, and that sort of thing.  It seems like a big hassle to me. But anyway, she told me that last week a new person was present, and somehow the conversation turned to breasts. (I knew that's what women talk about when they're alone!!) This person proceeded to tell everyone, at a high volume, that, "By the time my daughter was twelve she was in a D cup...yep, she had quite a rack for a sixth grader." This was a mother talking about her twelve year old daughter's RACK. Toney said there was shocked silence, and then they just continued on as if none of it had happened. I was disgusted at their lack of investigative curiosity. I asked her if I could tag along next time, since the proper follow-up questions are obviously not being asked. She hasn't given me an answer yet.

-- I set our alarm for 6 AM today and it went off at 5:36. What would cause something like that to happen? Should I worry about it starting a fire?

-- From the Who Gives A Good Goddamn? desk, here are the CDs I've purchase in the past few weeks:

Ryan Adams, Gold This guy's like 25 or something and he's a friggin' song machine. He's like Neil Young now. He keeps cranking out great records full of great songs without even the smallest hint of burn-out. And this new one's the best yet. I'm listening to it as I type this, and it's just amazing. When I was 25 I was sitting around the house playing with my wiener.

Weezer, Pinkerton I read that this album was written and recorded while the band's leader was going through a nervous breakdown of some kind and that, even though it was a commercial flop, it's developed a cult following among disenchanted youths. I'm a sucker for that kind of thing. I haven't listened to it enough to give a proper review, but it sounds good so far.

The Jam, Collection Yes, I'm reliving my youth, what can I say? I might play this in my Camaro once the mid-life crisis goes into full effect.

Built to Spill, Ancient Melodies of the Future Idaho's greatest band. I just got it yesterday so I've barely had a chance to listen, but I have little doubt it'll turn my crank in the ways I like it turned.

-- Here's yet another prestigious endorsement of TheWVSR.com.  Maybe Teddy Glass was right.

                                 

-- And finally, Rocky in the Insane Asylum has forwarded his review of the package of microwaveable pork rinds I sent him -- along with illustrative photographs! Apparently he cooked them up at work, and spread around the pork goodness to his co-workers. Here ya go:

I knew, in the back of my mind, that these Microwave Pork Rinds would go over well where I work. Please keep in mind that I work at a state mental hospital in the middle of West Virginia where there is a fine line between employees and patients. (the employees wear badges and work less)

I was concerned about the warnings posted on the back of the bag, but figured what the hell. In the event of a tragedy, I could always blame a patient. I was quite aroused that it took only 60 seconds for the rinds to cook. The smell was no worse than the usual odors wafting from the cafeteria. I proceeded to take the bag-o-rinds around the hospital to see what the staff would think.

Jani, a switchboard operator, wouldn’t try them. Slut. She asked what I was carrying around. “A digital camera,” I replied. “Don’t take my picture!” she said. “Don’t worry, there’s no film in the camera." Dumb slut.

Next I mosied toward the Security Office. Larry the guard wouldn’t try them at first, but John the guard dove right in. Once Larry determined that I hadn’t laced them with anything that would make his bowels instantly let loose, he tried them. They both loved them!!! They demanded to know where they could get some. I was lucky to leave the office with my bag intact.

I then ventured to the Training Department, where Melissa tried and like the rinds. I’d do her. Queer boy Jerry the trainer wouldn’t try them. I wouldn’t do him.

By this time the rinds were about spent. I decided that I needed to try one, and I did. While I’m not a big pork rind fan, these really weren’t bad. And, as with all my experiences with Jeff, my ass was no worse for wear.

Thanks Jeff.

No, thank you, Rocky. I'm not ashamed to admit I wiped away a tiny tear while reading your report. The tenderness of the piece touched something deep inside my soul.

And that'll do it for me. I took a vacation day from work yesterday, and stayed away from the computer as much as possible.  I needed to get my riffled ass out of the house for a change. I'm becoming a goddamn shut-in. A Cheerwine-swilling, rack-thinking shut-in. I needed to get out amongst some living, breathing people, and I'm going to try to do some more of that today.  If I'm not careful, I'll end up reading science fiction novels, and quoting Monty Python in a British accent.  And that's something I simply can't allow to happen.

See ya on Monday...or Tuesday. 

October 17, 2001

-- Today is a big day here at the Surf Report Compound. Not only is this the one hundredth State of My Fat Ass entry, but yesterday also marked the one year anniversary of the launching of TheWVSR.com. I can't believe it's only been a year; it went by so slowly. Most of it was simply excruciating. It feels like I've been getting up before the rooster crows and grinding out this crap since the late '70s. Fuck. And I've only written a hundred of these things? I would've guessed twenty thousand, at least. I think a big part of the problem is the people I've met through the site...assholes almost to the person. And my old friends have all worked to undermine my efforts here, almost from day one. No support, no respect. And my family! Don't even get me started on that. I give it another month, at the outside. Who needs this shit?

-- On August 1 Toney called me at work and asked me to stop on my way home and buy salt. Salt. Nobody runs out of salt. You buy one of those round, blue containers with the umbrella chick on it once, and use it for the rest of your life. I've never known anyone to actually deplete a box of salt. I'm pretty sure that in some families they're passed on from generation to generation, along with that little cup of toothpicks in the cabinet above the stove. But whatever...I do as I'm told. I'm nothing if not dutiful. But I'll be giving you occasional updates on how our renewed salt supply is holding out, and how many days have passed since we last purchased it. This is the kind of thing you can expect in the second year of TheWVSR.com. I'm toying with the idea of making this a pay site, by the way.

-- I mentioned a few days ago that I've been listening to a British radio show every day, through my computer at work. The host is a guy (I'm sorry, a bloke) named Clive Bull, and he's really good. Plus, I'm just intrigued by the normal day to day lives of people in England. I've always had a fondness for England, for some reason, and you can't really get a sense of how things are in a place simply by staying in a hotel there for week. I like to listen to real people bitching about their doctors and discussing the London mayoral race, and to hear their views on the "war." I get off on the commercials as well. And I may be a pathetic sap, but I still think it's cool as hell to be able to sit in my office in Nowhere, USA, and listen to a radio show being broadcast on the other side of the world. Anyway, on Monday somebody sent Clive an email asking for his opinion on the Wonderbum, a newly invented undergarment for women that lifts and separates the butt cheeks. It's sorta like a Wonderbra for the ass. He laughed it off as a joke, and quickly dismissed it. He thought someone was pulling his leg. But it was real, I'd read an article about it earlier in the day. So...I found the piece and sent it to him by email, along with a short note. And, roughly five minutes after I hit SEND, he read it on the air! Made my day. People driving in their cars in London, were hearing Clive Bull read a note that I'd typed in Scranton five minutes before. How fuckin' cool is that?

-- I've also been listening to the new Wilco album at work, over and over and over. I don't know if you've been following the Wilco soap opera, but earlier in the year their long-time record label rejected their new album, and declared it "unlistenable." They demanded that the band go back and make it better. They refused, and said it sounded exactly how they wanted it to sound. A big stalemate ensued, finally ending with Reprise Records allowing the band out of their contract. Wilco then purchased the master tapes back from the label, and began shopping them around. Undoubtedly to the chagrin of Reprise, every label on the planet Earth, and possibly a few on Mars and Mercury, have aggressively courted the band for the opportunity to sign them and release their "unlistenable" album. As far as I know they haven't signed with anyone yet, but they've started streaming the entire album in question at their website. Listen to it here, and tell me if you think it's unlistenable.

-- It's been 77 days since we last purchased salt.

-- A friend and I were exchanging emails back and forth yesterday, talking about various subjects, and this was his final message in the series:

Well, let me see. In the last 4 minutes you've managed to trivialize a terrorist attack and ridicule a deaf man. You, sir, are in peak form, the likes of which haven't been seen since '79.

-- Check out this headline.

-- Remember how cool half.com seemed when it first started? You could buy used CDs for less than half their list price? I bought a ton of stuff through the site, and was completely ecstatic about its existence back then. But now that half-price thing has gone out the window, and I haven't bought anything for months. Check out these sample titles that appear on my wish list, if you want to know why.

I momentarily considered apologizing here for the brevity of this update, but I'm not going to do it. I don't owe you people anything. Not one damn thing. In fact, I'd appreciate it if you wouldn't come back here anymore. I've fucking had it.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I've got some celebrating to do.  This is a big day.

October 15, 2001

-- One of last week's Further Evidence links led to a site designed for men who enjoy looking at photos of other men's big, black, hairy armpits. Yes, you read that sentence correctly. Let me go out on a limb here, but I suspect there might be a little gayness at work over there at Pits-O-Phrenia. I apologize if I've misread things, but I'm pretty confident I'm correct on this point. Anyway, I got an urgent email from my brother to look at one of the pictures in particular, and before I could even read his message he called me on the phone. "Have you seen it yet?!" he asked, frantically. The hell? This sounded good.

I went to the website, with him still on the phone, to see what all the hubbub was about. He instructed me to click on a link (against my better judgment) titled "bear on couch in briefs, two pits, very cool," and the mind-bending image of one my cousins in his nasty old underwear slowly materialized on my screen. "Goddamn!!" I shouted into the receiver. "Goddamn's right!!" he screamed back, across long distance phone lines.

The rest of the conversation was us trying to figure out how in the living hell a picture of Little Danny (as he's affectionately known) could end up on the internet, especially on some obscure website dedicated to gay armpit fetish. It was all too bizarre, but there was no getting around it -- it was him. Holy crap, wotta classic! My brother told me he was going to try to track Danny down, and tell him about it. I hung up, laughing my ass off.

Of course, Danny was irate and had an idea who might have such a picture: an ex-girlfriend from years ago. There was some talk about asses getting kicked, and how the person in question wouldn't hesitate to sell the picture, if she could get a decent amount of money for it. That part really cracked me up. Yes, the first thing that would jump to my mind after I got a roll developed at Wal-Mart, and found this picture in the envelope, would be, "You know, I bet I could get good money for this in the gay underground." Too funny.

Danny didn't have access to a computer right away, so we wouldn't know for absolute sure if it was him in the photo until he could get a look at it. But a few days later, to my disappointment, he told us that it wasn't him. He and his wife conceded that it looks a little like him (a little!?), but it's indeed someone else. This guy doesn't even have a howlin' coyote tattoo, they said. (Of course! How did we miss that obvious detail?) Apparently this particular Bear in Briefs is not Little Danny, after all. Dammit. Does this mean the ass-kickings are off, and everything? Talk about anti-climactic.

-- I actually sat down and watched two movies over the weekend. I rarely watch movies, because they require an investment of too much time. I have little trouble pissing away hour-long chunks of my life, but generally balk at giving it away in larger servings. I need an occasional break from the "war" though, and God knows there's nothing worth a damn on regular TV. So, I watched the Travolta flick Swordfish, and the Christopher Guest/Eugene Levy mockumentary, Best In Show. Both were fun.

Swordfish is an over-the-top adventure film about...well, I don't really know what it's about. An underground terrorist/patriot, or possibly a high-stakes criminal/con-man, or something, tries to steal nine billion dollars by hacking a government computer. He coaxes a well-known hacker back into a life of crime, and all hell breaks loose. There's no following the "plot," but the action is insane, and the dialog, especially from Travolta's character, is pleasingly quirky. I liked it, but have no idea what really happened. The ending was confusing as hell.

Best In Show is another fake documentary, in the spirit of This Is Spinal Tap. This one's about a group of people (and their animals) involved in a big dog show in Philadelphia. It's all dead-pan, like a real documentary, and feels like the old SCTV series. A lot of it seems improvised, but the people involved are great. Fred Willard is perfect as the crass and inappropriate TV commentator covering the event, and Eugene Levy's character literally has two left feet -- he was born that way, and wears two shoes that point to the right. Hilarious, and highly recommended.

-- I had to spend twenty bucks on a new computer mouse yesterday. My old one developed a ball disorder, so I had to put it out to pasture. The same thing will probably happen to me someday, but I'll cross that bridge when I get to it. Anyway, I don't have a problem spending money on something that improves my world, like a new CD or something, but it pisses me off to have to spend money in order to bring things back to where they were yesterday. Ya know?

-- I somehow ended up with a subscription to Spin magazine. I think I stayed on the line five seconds too long during one of those dinner-time sales calls, and now I'm getting strange magazines in the mail. But that's OK, I'll never pay for them; it's not even a consideration. But I was flipping through Spin this weekend, and I'm so far out of touch it's pitiful. I have no idea what's going on in the music world, and I used to be an absolute fiend about that stuff. I vowed it would never happen, but I think I've become my parents (without all the pesky maturity and sense of decency). I mean, who the hell is Incubus? These people are big enough to warrant a cover story? Never heard of them. What about Alien Ant Farm? Is that a real band? Tenacious D? Sounds like an ingredient. It's sad.

-- I saw an ad in the paper saying they're gonna let people go through the frightening corn maze I mentioned here last time, after dark, with flashlights. I was fearing for my life in broad daylight, I'll be damned if I'm walking into that quagmire of fresh produce after the sun goes down. Who thought up this idea? Why the need to ratchet up the danger? It's as bad as backwards roller coasters...some things just shouldn't be fucked with. My prediction is they'll find skeletons clutching flashlights next spring. I hope I'm wrong.

-- I want to go to the Baseball Hall of Fame before winter gets here. I've been twice, but fall puts me in the mood for old woolen uniforms and musty odors. It's #437 in the series of things I just can't explain. Speaking of fall, my friend Eugene (aka Max DeMeaner, the pride of Greensboro radio) tells me that people like the season they're born in the best. Any truth to this? I was born in November, so I'm anectdotal evidence that he's right.

-- As good as anything Christopher Guest and Eugene Levy could ever come up with is a local show, on Public Television up here, called Pennsylvania Polka. God, it's a riot. It's sorta like a geriatric version of American Bandstand, with loud wheezing accordions. When we first saw it we assumed it was old re-runs, based on the clothes the people were wearing, but the copyright date at the end told us we were wrong. Copyright 2000?! No friggin' way!

We've probably watched twenty episodes since we've been here, and the show is always worth a couple dozen belly laughs per week. It's fun to watch while having a few adult beverages, if you know what I mean. The host wears a toupee that is simply mind-boggling in its badness, and the band members look like they drive forklifts by day, and rock the polka circuit by night. Some of the "dancers" appear as if they've already died, but their partners just couldn't resist one last night on the town. Some have given up all pretense of dancing, and simply walk around. One old guy sashays about the dance floor with, I shit you not, a canister of oxygen strapped to his side. Old women are regularly seen dancing together, and they occasionally roll out a severely fucked up gentleman in a wheelchair, with hands curled up like a dinosaur and his head permanently cocked to the right. One week somebody had placed a sombrero on his head that was roughly four feet across. Professional comedy writers couldn't provide this caliber of entertainment.

I didn't think it was possible, but this past Saturday night's show actually surpassed any we'd seen before. I nearly shit myself laughing. They were doing some kind of fucked-upness called a "broom dance," where a kitchen broom was supposed to be passed from person to person, for God knows what reason. But things went awry when a retarded woman got hold of the broom and refused to let go. People would be-bop over and attempt to take it from her, but she'd snatch it away and continue on with her spastic dance of dementia, a crazed smile plastered on her face. At one point a virtual tug-of-war broke out on the dance floor as somebody finally decided enough was enough, possibly the show's producers. I couldn't believe my eyes. She was howling like a wild animal. When they finally wrested the sacred item from her clutches, the toupee man rushed in and began dancing with her in a series of accelerated spins, probably to avoid violence. Several minutes later the couple danced past the camera, and she had that same wild expression frozen on her face, and the crazy smile. I nearly convulsed with laughter; I couldn't catch my breath for a full minute.

Holy shit, I wish I had it on tape. I've seen a lot, but nothing quite like that.

October 11, 2001

A few more things:

-- Suddenly it’s fall. Just a couple of weeks ago neighbors were outside making lots of noise, wearing shorts and riding bikes, having barbecues and washing their cars. But just like that there’s orange, red, and brown leaves all over our lawn, we’ve had to burrow deep into our hall closet to find jackets, and the smell of burning wood dominates the outside when the sun goes down. And all is quiet.

I love fall, it’s my favorite time of year. Most people seem to prefer spring, but give me autumn any day. It's invigorating, and puts me in a good mood. I swear I could live in Portland or Seattle, someplace where’s it’s gloomy and rainy a lot of the time, with little problem. Well, the goddamn Communists might be a problem, but you know what I mean. Even when I was a kid I remember loving cold overcast days; my parents made jokes about me being a lost member of the Addam's Family. It's been that way forever. Please feel free to psychoanalyze if you’d like.

-- Since the leaves are changing and the temperatures are falling, I made the ceremonial first trip to the liquor store over the weekend for the traditional big ol' jug of fall whiskey. Forget about that stupid groundhog, the day Jeff Kay purchases bourbon is the true indicator that summer is officially over. I hardly ever drink liquor, but there's something about a good belt of booze when the leaves are falling. It tastes like the season, or the season tastes like the whiskey…or something like that. Or perhaps I'm just a drunk, making a pathetic stab at romanticizing my addiction? That’s a possibility as well...

-- My parents were here this past weekend, and it was a difficult adjustment to have visitors and not feel the urge to choke someone into a state of unconsciousness. Comparatively, at least, they're easy to get along with. (We'll get to experience the flipside in a few weeks when Toney's mother bursts through the door and starts spreading around her own unique brand of joy, but I'd rather not think about that right now...) They somehow know to stay out of your way when you need them to stay out of your way, and to help out when you'd like them to help out. I guess you could say they have common sense, and consideration for others. Yes, it was a jarringly foreign experience; we're just not used to that sort of thing around here.

On Sunday we went to a big pumpkin patch/ Christmas tree farm close to our house, and took a hayride and drank apple cider and had some good clean country fun. The highlight was the corn maze, a big cornfield with trails carved into it. We went in, thinking it would be little more than a pleasant walk in the cool air, but then we couldn't find our way out. Man, oh man, somebody put some serious time into designing that thing; it seemed like there were a thousand overlapping paths, most leading to nowhere. We walked and walked, and passed the same things over and over again. It was like a Scooby Doo cartoon. We kept seeing the same people, and I thought I could detect expressions of escalating concern on their faces. Or maybe it was just me that was getting scared. I started wondering if anyone had a cell phone, in case we were still milling around in that bitch when the sun went down.

Here's a fatboy eating a candy apple, that we must've passed a dozen times.

And then it started snowing. Yes, snowing. The skies grew dark, and big snowflakes began to fall. Toney said something about the Donner Party, which I tried to ignore, and my dad said the flakes were going down the back of his shirt collar, and making their way all the way to his belt. The wind started whipping up, it was incredibly cold, and we were lost in a giant cornfield with oblivious apple-eaters, the morbidly obese children of the corn. And I had to urinate like the proverbial racehorse.

Round and round we went, through the ten-foot tall cornstalks, the novelty long since worn off, until we finally found… the entrance. After an hour we were back to where we started! I asked the guy if there really was an exit, and he laughed and assured me there was. But we were in no mood to keep looking and went Out through the In door. Shit. A few more minutes and I probably would’ve freaked, and started thrashing my way through the walls. When it comes to building a corn maze, those people ain't half-steppin'. Next time I'll probably just stick to this less challenging version.

-- After our narrow escape I made a beeline to a row of small huts situated over a foamy pool of human waste. I opted to use the plastic urinal attached to the wall, so that I didn’t have to stare down into the abyss, at the great wads of fudge-striped toilet paper bobbing around in the cess below. As I found sweet relief I was alarmed to hear a pronounced rush of liquid through a large pipe over my head, and on to places unknown. Fuck! I was sure that everyone within twenty-five yards could hear the melody of my bodily fluids being whisked away by some insidious gravity-defying piss pump. When was this invented? My instincts told me to pinch it off and stop the roar immediately, but I quickly came to my senses. When I stepped out I must’ve had a look of disgust on my face because my dad said, “If you think those are bad, you should’ve seen the ones at the Putnam County Fair. They hadn’t been sucked out in about a week, and were piled up almost to the seat. It was enough to gag a maggot.” I guess he didn't hear.

-- Sunday morning a couple of Mormons came to our door and I went into immediate defense mode. “We’re getting ready to go out…to church, actually…we’re devout Catholics…and we need to get ready for church…we’re late for mass, or whatever…thanks for stopping by though…” Slam. My mom said, “Jeff, how many lies did you tell those men? They were religious."

-- I’ve been reduced to “watching” the Braves - Astros playoff games on the internet at work, using the pitch by pitch feature on espn.com and cnnsi.com. It’s a far from satisfying way of following a baseball game, repeatedly hitting REFRESH and reading that B.J. Surhoff was hit by a pitch. But I'll be damned if I'm going to pay the $9.95 Major League Baseball is charging for access to radio broadcasts via the internet, of the playoffs and World Series games. Wotta ripoff. They’re on TV and radio for free, but you’ve gotta open up your wallet to listen through your computer? Where’s the rationale? They run ads on the internet, Lord knows. I’d be interested in meeting someone who actually paid this fee. I’d like to interview them for the site.

-- I've been seeing a commercial on TV that's trying to convince me it would be a good idea to take some of the money I make at my job, put it in an envelope and mail it somewhere, in exchange for a large box of colorized Shirley Temple movies. So far I've been able to resist this temptation, but I have a question. Why did they colorize everything except people's teeth? It's all Easter egg pastels, and over-the-top skintones, but when they open their mouths: gray. Their teeth are still in black & white! What's the deal? Can someone explain this to me?

-- I don't listen to Rush Limbaugh much, but I like him. Regardless of what you might think about his politics, it's hard to deny that he's damn good at what he does. He's pretty much the Elvis of talk radio, and The Beatles. Of course liberals hate him, and accuse him of being mean-spirited, intolerant, and partisan. Check out some of the comments here though, about Rush's recent announcement that he's lost most of his hearing. These are the people who are always up on their high-horses promoting diversity, and preaching to us to be accepting of those who are different than we are. Ha!

Sorry it was so long between updates. Visitors always throw off the rhythm of my world, and I've been getting by on about four or five hours of sleep lately. Yesterday when I sat down to write this crap, it was like trying to squeeze out a little more toothpaste from a depleted tube. But I got a whopping six hours last night, so I'm rested and things are back to normal.

See ya on Monday.


October 9, 2001

October 5, 2001

A few stupid things:

-- As of this writing I’ve lived in West Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, California, and Pennsylvania, but as far as my co-workers are concerned, I’m a California Guy. Never mind that I only lived there for four of my thirty-eight years, it’s the most exciting place on the list so that’s where I’m from, goddamnit. Case closed. I’m not making fun of them (much), but I’d guess that seventy percent of the people in my office have never been west of the Mississippi, and a good number have never even been on an airplane. So that means the only California they know is the romanticized version from TV, the movies, and radio. And it also means I've got to be a major disappointment to them, since Brian Wilson didn’t write too many songs about forty year old fat men who sit around eating peanuts in the shell and scouring the internet for pictures of people with their asses glued to toilet seats. There might be one or two from late in his career, but definitely no hit singles. Regardless, the fact that I moved here from the land of swimming pools and movie stars is never far from their minds. Most are either curious (“Do all the women out there really have big, fake tits?”), or defensive (“I’m sure the Snickers bars in the vending machines out in California are better than the ones we have here…”), but it’s always simmering right under the surface. Earlier this week I came hobbling into work, because I’m a broken down old man on the cusp of a mid-life crisis, and a group of mustachioed loud-mouths asked what I’d done to myself. I told them my back was hurting again, and one replied, “Must be all that wild California-style sex!” And that instantly touched off an avalanche of roaring laughter that went on far longer than the quality of the joke warranted. California-style sex… yes, we’ll probably never get the avocado stains out of the mattress… I just kept on hobbling, and didn’t say anything else. We California Guys are cool like that.

-- If you’re in the market for fucked-upness (and who isn’t?), check out your local Party City store. I went into one a few days ago, and the stuff on their shelves is downright bizarre. They’re getting cranked up for Halloween, and they’ve got items that I’ve never seen before, and could never imagine even if I quit my job and sat around trying. I saw a wall of masks that looked like heads of people who’ve been ripped apart by wild dingoes. And I checked out a wide array of strange makeup kits that help you create the illusion of a nest of spiders busting through your cheek…or a ballpoint pen plunged into your cranium… or a baseball driven deep into your former eye socket. They also have chest wigs (!?), plumber costumes, big ten-pound rubber rats, longshoreman hooks dripping in blood, and ten thousand other freaky items. Like Disneyland, it might require more than a single day to experience it all, but I highly recommend a visit or two.

-- Speaking of Halloween, I want to dress up like a skeleton this year, but not a human skeleton. I want to be a donkey or horse skeleton. Do they make such a costume? Please let me know if you see one.

-- Sometimes when it’s slow at work I search around the internet for talk radio stations in foreign countries. I get tired of listening to domestic bitching all the time, so I seek out bitching from overseas. Right after the World Trade Center attacks I stumbled across a show from the UK hosted by a guy named Clive Bull, and now I’m completely addicted to it. It’s a late night program out of London, that starts at four in the afternoon Scranton time. I’d never heard of Clive Bull (the station’s website describes him as a “legend”), but he doesn’t put up with much crap. He forces people to stay on topic, and won’t let them get away with fuzzy logic or ideological spin. It’s a really good show, and I’ve tuned in almost daily for three weeks or so. I’m to the point where I recognize some of the frequent callers, and know the London weather forecasts far better than the local ones. I’m up to speed on the internal debate over national ID cards and whether Britain should join the Euro, and have heard many Londoners’ views on the U.S. War on Terrorism. It’s enjoyable and addictive but... I think I’m picking up an accent. I’ve noticed myself adopting a new cadence to my speech, and it concerns me. Obviously it’s OK for British people to talk British, but it’s incredibly geeky for an American to do so. I may as well put on the fucking Dungeons and Dragons robes, if I allow this to happen. If, in a couple of months, I start writing here that it’s quite blowy out, and I had to wear a mac and rubbers to work, I beg of you to perform an intervention. Your help is needed, and appreciated.

-- When I was trolling the internet for filth a few days ago, I came across this very disturbing photo. When I look at it, a thousand questions jump to mind. Like, how could this poor man function in society? Where would he find suitable undergarments? Is an erection even possible? If so, is there a woman alive who could accommodate it? Does he have to drive from the back seat? Does he knock groceries off the shelf while shopping? Is he able to fly on commercial airliners? How does he keep his balance while walking? Is a turnstile simply out of the question? The list goes on and on. I’m just thankful I don’t have anything like that to deal with. Thank God for small miracles.

-- One of my favorite shows of the recent past was Freaks and Geeks, which was too good for television and was predictably canceled after a single season. But now the people behind it have a new half-hour show on Fox. It’s called Undeclared, and it looks pretty good. I saw my first episode Tuesday night, and it had the same tone as the earlier show and seems to be just as smart. It’s not fall-down-and-hit-your-head-on-the-coffee-table funny, at least not the episode I saw, but there are plenty of great moments. It doesn’t stand a chance in hell, so catch it while you can.

-- When we moved into our house a year and a half ago we bought a bunch of “five-year” light bulbs, and now they’re all burning out. Bastards. I not only want my money back, but I also want some additional dollars, because my sense of trust has been destroyed forever. And I’m not sure I can continue to work, because of the severe mental anguish I’ve suffered. So they may have to pay my salary for the next thirty years too. This is bad, really bad. I’m on the verge of a complete breakdown.

-- The results of our latest Surf Report mini-poll are in, and it appears that I am the freak here. People who’ve never shit at work make up only ten percent of the people who responded, while there was a tie for the top response: thirty percent said “Once in a while, I don’t know what the big deal is,” and “Only when there’s no alternative.” Hey, whatever. You people keep on crapping on stage like GG Allin, and I’ll continue to do it in the comfort of my home, behind closed doors, and with towels stuffed under the door.

I’m mildly shocked at the results of the poll, but I have to admit that my way has its limitations. Years ago, when dinosaurs roamed the earth, I went to Charleston, SC with my girlfriend and her family for a long weekend. We stayed with a friend of their family, in a really nice house on an island off the South Carolina coast. I remember that the place was immaculate, and had wall-to-wall snow white carpeting. I was terrified that I would flip a meatball off my plate onto the virgin rug, or track in railroad grease or something. I’ve been known to do that sort of thing. But I’m getting off track here….

When we got to the house I was distressed to see that the only bathroom was right off the kitchen(?!), which is where everyone hung out and drank cocktails. There was no other option than to try to “hold it” until we got back. Four days would be pushing things a bit, but I thought I could pull it off.

The first couple of days were a breeze, but then I started feeling sluggish. Eventually I became puffed up like the Michelin man, and was in a continuous state of distress. I kept looking at that bathroom (which was mocking me), and weighing my options. But I couldn’t do it, not with four people standing just ten feet away. I’d simply have to tap into some unknown inner strength and see it though to the end.

One night, probably night three, my girlfriend and I went out and had a few drinks. And while we were driving around afterwards, we parked and one thing started leading to another. It was dark and we were in a secluded area, so we decided to climb into the backseat to continue the festivities. And that’s when disaster struck. As I was trying to get over the seat, a loud sustained booming noise erupted from my body. It sounded like the Queen Mary had pulled into Charleston Bay. Or like somebody was practicing the bassoon nearby. A flock of sea birds took to the air out of fear for their safety. It caught me by complete surprise, and for a split second I was confused by the intrusive noise. But then I realized what had happened, and I wanted to crawl inside the glove compartment and pull up the door. Talk about a showstopper! If my girlfriend hadn’t been such a good sport about it, I would’ve had myself a good cry right there on the spot.

The next day I discovered a second toilet in the corner of the garage, slipped away and took care of business in a tiny plywood room that was roughly the temperature of a jet engine inside. Afterwards I went back into the house, covered in sweat but walking on air. I felt like goddamn Fred Astaire, and I think I may have even kissed a few hands in an accelerated fit of enthusiasm.

So, you see, even the Colon Master has his limits.

-- Jeff and Toney's Bed and Breakfast Inn and Old Country Tavern opens its doors for the season today. My parents will be here this weekend, followed by Toney's crazy mother (for a month!), and who knows after that? There's been some talk about my brother and his wife coming, as well as "Nancy" and her so-called husband ("married" on a beach by an actor, amongst leaping dogs), so we're going to have a busy fourth quarter here at the Inn. Better get your reservations in now.

Have a great weekend!

October 1, 2001

The Spongebob thing was insane. I had it in my mind that there'd just be some local burn-out in a suit, casually bopping around the mall and shaking hands with kids in varying degrees of pants-shitting freak-out, like they do at amusement parks. I thought there'd be plenty of access to the little yellow dude, and I might be able to slip the guy a ten, in exchange for the opportunity to photograph him standing at a urinal, or drinking a stein of beer or something. I wanted to try to talk him into letting me sit on his lap, at the very least, while Toney snapped pictures for the website. But, as so often happens, the movie that plays inside my head has no correlation with what actually goes on in the real world.

I got a bad feeling before we even entered the mall, because the parking lot was friggin' packed. It was like Christmas-time packed, and we had to park way up at the top of the lot. All these people couldn't be here for Spongebob, could they? It had to be a coincidence, right?! What the hell's going on here?!! I was trying to talk myself out of what I already knew to be true, and Toney told me to calm my ass down. I have a tendency to get a little over-excited in certain situations.

Inside it was absolute mayhem. I couldn't believe my eyes. There was a stage-like area partitioned off in the middle of the mall, with a big curtain as a back-drop, and an incredible, disheartening line of people that snaked down and around and up and back. There was a sea of kids, and lots of teenagers and adults as well. Everywhere I looked people were clutching Spongebob dolls, and wearing Spongebob shirts. It was all too bizarre, and my heart sank. There was no way I was going to get to spend quality time with The Sponge, what with the entire goddamn tri-state area trying to do the same thing. And I didn't like it one bit that other people felt they had a claim on my hero. I've been with him from the very beginning, before he  became a cultural icon. These were just a bunch of Plankton Come Latelys. I felt like I was being two-timed. I gave them all dirty looks.

We walked up to the stage, but Spongebob was nowhere to be seen. I asked an authoritative-looking woman what was going on, and she cheerfully said, "Spongebob Squarepants is here!" I asked her if he was on a smoking break or what, and her smile instantly disappeared. "Spongebob does not smoke," she said, in a stern voice, then added loudly, "SMOKING IS VERY BAD." Apparently he was on a bathroom break(!), and would be back in a couple of minutes. Bathroom break! Maybe I could get my urinal shot, I thought. But I had no idea what bathroom he was in, or if he was even a dude. Shit. I looked around at all the people, and there was nothing to do but get in line. At least I might be able to get my picture taken with him. That was something, anyway.

As I moped toward the end of the line, someone shouted, "There he is!!" and a palpable wave of electricity rolled through the crowd. Cameras started flashing, and voices started buzzing. I looked over and a big-ass Spongebob was slowly making his way out of the Dairy Queen, and he was surrounded by an entourage, like P. Diddy. Since I was still close to the stage area, he was heading in my direction and I stayed put. When he got close, I was surprised to see him flanked by armed security! I looked around for men in dark suits and sunglasses, talking into their sleeves, but I didn't see any. The whole scene was surreal though -- sorta like Beatle and/or Pope mania.

He walked past me, and entered the stage area to wild applause. After a jaunty little bounce-dance, Spongebob's loyal subjects were allowed, one by one, to approach the throne. Invigorated by my brush with greatness, I joined the massive line of people. Suddenly the wait was worth it. Spongebob Squarepants was in the house!

In line I marveled at the number of non-kids there. It was probably only half kids, and the rest were teenagers and young adults. A group of hipster teens was in front of us, and they were all decked out in the latest Spongy fashions. After about fifteen minutes, my friend Steve and his wife Myra showed up. They joined us in line, and I unsuccessfully attempted to talk him into going into Applebee's and getting us a couple of beers to help pass the time. After an hour or so we were getting close to His Royal Highness.

Here's a shot of one of the hipster teens, right after he'd planted a big flamboyant kiss on the side of Spongebob's head. We were next.

Steve went first, and Myra took a few shots of him. Then I went up and tried to strike up a conversation, but the person inside the suit was having none of it. Maybe they're under orders not to say anything? I don't know, but if there is such a rule, I can understand it. When I was a kid I saw the San Diego Chicken at a baseball game, and he walked right past me, lisping and mincing inside his chicken suit in an incredibly gay voice. He sounded like Jim J. Bullock, and it was pretty shocking. I'll never forget it -- even if I develop Alzheimer's, that memory will undoubtedly make it through. Anyway, I stood beside the Great One, and he bent down so I could sorta lean against the top of his big yellow box head. Then Steve jumped up there, we took a quick group shot, and it was over. More than an hour in line, and it was over in seconds.

Next Saturday we can pick up the professional portraits they took, and probably order reprints and keychains and mugs and stuff. If they turned out well, I'm going to have Christmas cards made.

Watch your mailboxes.

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