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You don't understand. I'm a mysterious loner, not lonely.

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A bowl of corn, motherfuckers!

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Is that man-ass I smell?

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I'm loaded with tumors darling, and I don't even know it.

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The West Virginia Surf Report!

March 17, 2008

The Long-Haul Trucker

-- Operation Andy Drop is complete. Our dog is now at my parents' house, hanging around on their couches instead of ours, and I'm returned home with a chronic case of Phantom Ass Syndrome (PAS).

It pretty much sucked, but the rest of us can now leave on our Big Trip, assured our beloved Black Lips Houlihan is in safe, reliable hands. And that's the important part...

He and I left on Friday morning around nine o'clock. I'd wanted to get on the road a little earlier, but you know how it goes. I didn't exactly have my shit together, and was rampaging through the house like a retarded boy at a taffy pull, trying to avoid another "Why can't you get your shit together?" lecture from Toney.

I tossed a bunch of stuff into the trunk of my car, and flung some more into the passenger seat. It turned out I took some things I hadn't intended (I had no use for a spaghetti strainer, for instance), and forgot other items. I was already on the interstate when I realized I didn't have Andy's leash, and had to go all the way back home and start over.

I might've said a few bad words during this particular segment of the trip...

I didn't know where Andy would want to ride, without Toney in the car. Usually he sits on her lap on long car trips, with his snout pressed against the air conditioner vent. But without her there, I wasn't sure how he'd play it. Turns out he prefers the co-pilot chair. I made accommodations for him, and he rode beside me the entire 520 miles, motionless and looking like a decorative ceramic home accent.

I listened to a local talk radio show, which I generally can't stomach. The host is OK, but the callers are always ranting and raving about things they don't understand, and speaking in an accent that could very easily drive a man to murder. Many are elderly, probably shut-ins, and the rest are just belligerent assholes who troll the internet all day, believing every word of what they find.

One guy, who sounded like he had a wad of cheese wedged in his trachea, said he didn't trust Hillary or Obama, and was thinking about crossing party lines and voting for "McClain." He said the Democrat candidates don't seem to be informed enough.

I stopped at a state park in Maryland, to let Andy sling a little urine, and hump up like a kangaroo if he wanted. I put his leash on, and he immediately began pulling and tugging. He was making up for his time spent as a home interiors doodad, and I thought I might have to have Tommy John surgery before it was over.

After the hound peed for an impossible length of time, we headed back to the car; apparently there would be no kangaroo action… As we approached, a white van pulled into the parking space beside my Camry, the side door slid open, and about a dozen neatly-dressed Japanese men emerged.

I braced for
Border Collies Gone Wild! But Andy paid them no attention. A bunch of strangers, very near his space, talking in a curious and toothy manner, and he does nothing?! Man, that's simply not the Black Lips I know…

When I let him back into the car I saw loads of fur all over the passenger seat and door. When Andy gets nervous he sheds, and he must've been extra-nervous that day. I was hollering and cussing, and this caused the Japanese men to stop talking and ratchet their necks in alarm.

And when Andy sprang from the front seat to the back, I saw blood –
everywhere. When he was doing all that tugging he must've ripped open one of the pads on his feet, and there were red smears all over the console, and the front and back seats. I was howling in protest, and could almost literally see clumps of fur rocketing off Andy's nervous back.

And that's when he compressed his anal glands, and made the inside of my car smell like a fish and chips shop…

I had a few Wendy's napkins in the glove compartment, and cleaned up the best I could. I got the dog's foot to stop bleeding, as well, and had the windows rolled down to air out the interior. Wotta gigantic pain in the ass…

And my car! I was growling like a bear, and screaming illogical profanity. Later in the day, I showed it to my Dad and he said, "Good God, it looks like you killed a rabbit in there!"

I bet I gave those guys in the white van something to talk about, though…

I stopped for lunch at a McDonald's, about ten miles down the interstate. (Suddenly I was craving a Filet O Fish, for some reason). An old man was in line in front of me, and he ordered a coffee with a senior discount.

"Is it fresh?" the old guy demanded.

"I made it about fifteen minutes ago," answered the zitster, wearing an alarmingly filthy shirt. "I can make another pot, if you'd like."

"No, I don't have all day to stand around here watching people brew coffee. Just give me a cup."

So Filthy did as he was told, and handed over the requested packets, as well. And the old guy stood right at the counter and conducted a full-on science experiment (while the rest of us waited). He added a little of this, a little of that… blew across the lip of the cup… did some more stirring, and finally took a sip.

He considered it for a second or two, and said, "Well, I guess you and I have different ideas about what fresh means." And he walked out.

Filthy acted like he was used to it, and took my order without comment or reaction.

When I first bought my Camry I made it all the way to my parents' house on a single tank of gasoline. This time I had to stop in a town called Big Otter, WV. That’s right, Big Otter.

As I filled my tank I watched a teenage girl sitting in the passenger seat of another car, listening to an iPod and sporting several rows of teeth, like a shark.  

But I couldn't concentrate on the ugly: why was there such a difference in my gas mileage?! The tires were properly inflated, and I'd just gotten an oil change…. I was about 70 miles short of my goal. Man, that’s the kind of thing that’ll nag at me, for the rest of my life.

Andy and I finally arrived at my folks' place around 5:30, and "the Woody Allen of dogs" was emotionally distraught. He kept walking from room to room, really fast like those old Babe Ruth films, and panting to beat the band.

He drained a bowl of water my mother set out for him, and promptly vomited french fries and white gravy on their new living room carpet. Shit! I rushed him out the back door, while my Dad started cleaning up the puke. And when Andy came back inside his foot was bloody again, and it looked like a Sharon Tate dinner party in there.

I thought my mother was going to have a heart attack, and began wiping up the blood while I pressed a paper towel to Andy’s paw, to stop the bleeding. And as soon as that was accomplished, the stupid dog walked straight into the next room, raised one of his hind legs, and pissed all over a wall and some drapes.

Ho-ly crap. I was certain I'd be returning home with Andy, and not leaving him there, after all. My Mom and Dad run a tight ship, and aren't the types to just shrug off such a fiesta of flying fluids. I kept apologizing, and they kept telling me not to worry about it, but I could tell their jaws were tightening.

But Andy calmed down fairly quickly, and hasn't been a problem since. In fact, when I called to check on him yesterday, my Dad said, “Oh, he doesn’t miss you at all.  He’s our dog now.”

My Dad likes to push my buttons…

On Saturday evening an aunt and uncle came over for dinner (which was incredibly good), and we sat around afterwards drinking the recipe and shooting the shit. And within minutes I was beset by an almost Biblical fatigue.

I didn’t want to be rude, but I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I started fading in and out, and kept waking up to talk about flood insurance and gas prices, and the quality of meat at Nitro Supermarket, and would immediately slide back into darkness again. It was an excruciating affair.

Andy slept
under my bed that night, even though the thing is very low to the ground. I watched him flatten-out like a rug and scamper underneath, and it was pretty amazing. It’s as if he can collapse his skeleton, at will.

The next morning I got into an argument with my parents about the Beatles. I asked them why they didn’t listen to them, even though they’re almost exactly the same age as the band members. And I felt like my Dad was being unnecessarily provocative with his answers.

My Mom said they were too busy to pay attention to such things, trying to earn a living and raise two babies, which is a reasonable explanation. But my Dad added that music went downhill with the Beatles, and they ruined everything. He said they were grossly overrated, and never wrote a decent song(!).

I could feel myself getting irritated, and the conversation was heading into dangerous territory. It’s one of those things that’s not worth arguing about, but it seemed like he was purposely trying to get under my skin. And that’s what was pissing me off. What was the point of all this??

“Yeah, John Lennon:
what a hack!” I heard myself hollering at one point, and we both decided at the same time to just drop it. Afterwards I felt stoopid for getting angry like that, especially about such an irrelevant subject. But it didn’t really have anything to do with the Beatles...

After breakfast and some coffee I told everyone goodbye, and pointed the hood of my car toward Pennsylvania
. I felt kinda sad driving away, with Andy looking hopefully out the window at me. He gets on my nerves sometimes, but he’s one of the good guys. I wish he was here right now, smiling and stinking like old times.

I called Toney as I merged onto I-64, and she told me to pick up some Powerball tickets somewhere, saying it might be good luck to buy ‘em in a different state. I told her I’d go one step further, and get them at the convenience store where I used to work, in Dunbar
.

So I stopped there, and while waiting in line I overheard a woman in a foot-tall beehive hairdo talking to someone. Beehive apparently works there, and was complaining that the manager had accused some of the other employees ("kids," she called them) of smoking marijuana in the cooler, behind the soft drinks.

I couldn’t believe it. Twenty years later, and nothing has changed! When I was there, in the mid-1980s, guys were smoking dope in those coolers. Whenever someone would open one of the doors to grab a Dr. Pepper, or whatever, it would smell like Woodstock
in that place.

You can read about the whole sordid affair here. Apparently the adventure has continued, without my involvement.

I drove around Dunbar, and it looks pretty rough. There are still pockets of the place that resemble the hometown of my youth, but it’s fairly run-down, overall. Few businesses… little vibrancy… derelicts and criminals walking around… It always makes me a little sad to go there.

But, as my friend Tim always reminds me, I’m
part of the problem. I abandoned the place in its hour of need, etc. etc.

I tried to listen to CDs while I drove, but kept getting sleepy. So I started scrolling through the AM dial for some kind of talk radio; any program would do. It seems to be the only thing that does the trick on those long-ass rides.

I finally settled on the Kim Komando show, something to do with computers. A caller asked her (him?) about retrieving data from a damaged hard drive. I think he said he’d flown off the handle in a drunken rage one night, taken his computer tower into the yard, blasted it with a shotgun, set it on fire, and hurled it, still aflame, into a fast-moving river.

And now he wants to know if he can retrieve a Word document off the machine. You know, or something along those lines…

I stopped in Cumberland
, MD, and had Chick-fil-A for lunch.  And on my way back to the interstate I passed a fancy-looking “beverage” store. I parked and went inside, and ended up buying a six-pack of Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA, for $9.99. I put the bottles into my cooler, and Toney and I disappeared those bastards when I got home. Double-yum.

And when I got up on Sunday, Toney immediately wanted to know where I’d put the Powerball tickets I’d bought. She said there was one winner (for something like $275 million!), and the ticket was sold in West Virginia
. I about hyper-crapped.

But, of course, it wasn’t us. Instead of
all of the numbers, we got none of the numbers. And so it goes.

This is the final update before our big England Adventure, my friends. We leave tomorrow, and should be off to the races in London
on Wednesday. It still doesn’t seem like a reality, but I’m sure all that’s about to change.

I’ll leave you now with some fresh Smoking Fish sightings, here and here, and am going to start packing and running my hands through my hair.

See you guys next week sometime.



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I can smell an international incident brewing, and it's a lot like egg salad.

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