evious Notes








A bowl of corn, motherfuckers.



Is that an erection I smell?



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



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   The State of My Fat Ass                                 November 2003

November 26, 2003

-- When I was in West Virginia last week my mother had Oprah on, and they did an extended segment in which -- get this! -- Oprah went to Costco! It was mesmerizing television. She started out by buying a membership card (fuckin' A!!), then she pushed a shopping cart around the store, bought some things, and left. I don't mind telling you, I was on the edge of my seat. The part where she stopped and ate a chicken pot pie sample was my favorite. She really liked it -- and I like it too!! I used to make fun of Oprah, but no more. That shit rocked. Wonder if I can get a copy of it on DVD? I really would like to have it. Has she visited any other stores in the past? Please bring me up to date on this, if you know anything. I'd love to see her at Radio Shack! That would kick ass.

-- Toney said that yesterday's update, about how we're all a split-second away from a long prison stay, was "creepy." She reads what I write here, but usually doesn't have much to say about it. She made a point of relaying her displeasure about yesterday's assay, however. I think it was the part about the kid's head being run over by a trailer wheel that she didn't much care for. But I'm only guessing, because she refused to discuss it at length. Toney is usually a pretty good barometer for this type of thing, so I apologize to you all.

-- I'm a man of many obsessions: some big, some small. I'm the type who doesn't just casually get into something. If I buy a CD, for instance, and it flips my switch, I won't rest until I own every CD by that artist -- and by every similar artist, as well. It's clearly a mental illness of some type, but it hasn't caused me any huge problems so far. Of course I own thousands and thousands of CDs, books, and DVDs, and there's no place to sit in our house, but what's the big deal? Sitting is for pussies, right? And if you absolutely have to plop down, sissy-boy, just pull up a stack of Stereolab discs and take a load off. No problems here.

Anyway, my current obsession appears to be Law & Order. We're still in the beginning stages, but all signs are pointing to that. Last night I watched Law & Order USMC, or whatever, on USA at eight. Then I turned it over to TNT at nine and took in an episode of Law & Order 90210. That's the one with the old scrotum-faced man who talks about being a recovering alcoholic a lot.

At ten I flipped it to NBC and watched a new episode of the one with Ice Water and that really ugly comedian. It's been this way all week. I come home from work, snuggle up on a pile of John D. MacDonald novels, and frantically search the preview channel for the words Law, and Order. I want to see them all!

Unfortunately, I still don't have a handle on how many different flavors of the show there are. (Isn't there another one featuring a man with red hair?) And hasn't the original been on since the late 70s or something? This may be my tallest challenge yet. I really hope it doesn't lead to divorce, but I must see them all!!

-- I few days ago I asked you folks to imagine the head of James Carville sitting atop the body of a midget. Remember? Well, thanks to one of your fellow Surf Reporters there's no need to expend any additional imagination wattage on that project. Yo, check it out.

And, unfortunately, that's gonna have to do it for today. This may be my last update until Monday; I haven't decided yet. In any case, have a great Thanksgiving. It'll be a rare holiday here at the Compound without visitors, which is yet another thing to be thankful for. Have a great one, and if you think about it, lift a glass in my honor on Sunday. It's my birthday, so ingest something mind altering!

See ya later.

November 25, 2003

Sometimes I worry about going to prison. It's not that I'm some crazed desperado, or anything; the worst I'm guilty of is exceeding the speed limit, and occasionally violating society's unwritten laws of public decorum. But I have a longstanding belief that any innocent, decent person can have a really bad day, and end up in an orange jumpsuit for years and years and years. I think it could happen to anyone, and I think it could happen to me.

Say you're driving down the street and you're sick up to fucking here of the whiny, nasal yelps of The White Stripes, and you're searching for something (anything!) else to plug into your stereo. And during that split-second when your eyes are off the road you jump the curb and ram your car into a school-for-the-blind field trip. Kids and canes are blasted through your grill, packed beneath your fenders. etc. It's an election year, they decide to make an example out of you and -- wham! -- orange clothing and sodomy.

Or say you're at a deli, just wanting to pick up a half-pound of turkey for chrissake, and some old Civil War veteran jumps your shit for not taking a number. And he won't let it drop, he just goes on and on with it. One thing leads to another and you shove the old bastard, just to get him out of your face. He trips and hits his head on a summer sausage display, and expires with his precious number clutched in his gnarled hand. Orange sodomy.

Or, imagine you have a pop-up camper parked in your driveway. You think the wheels are secure, but you secretly worry that they might not be quite secure enough. One day your wife calls you at work, crying and hysterical. Through all the hollering you eventually find out that some of the neighborhood kids were playing around the thing, and it started to move. One of the little monsters fell, attempting to get away, and the wheel rolled over his head, smashing it like a sarcastic cantaloupe. In court, Senator Joe McCarthy is there and he gets you to admit that you had concerns about something like that happening -- but did nothing. And the next day you're bent over a bunk, getting acquainted with a man known only as "St. Louis."

I've been in the first act of all of these situations, recently, and will undoubtedly be in similar ones in the future. All it's going to take is a bit of bad luck, or a momentary loss of control, and my life could go horribly, nightmarishly wrong. I may be paranoid, but I think we're all just a split-second away from a long stretch in a penitentiary. And the odds for it not happening are getting worse and worse.

And, on that note, have a nice day.

November 24, 2003

-- The "Sexiest Man Alive" issue of People was released last week, and once again I was overlooked. Of course, I've grown accustomed to this annual slap in the face, but this year was a bit harder than most. This year I thought I stood a good chance. The scary Frank Torre bags under my eyes have subsided a bit, and my love handles are a tad more perky than in previous seasons (they're firm and riding high!). Also the slight graying of my temples, I think, has provided me with the look of a more distinguished tired, bloated, and bitter man-about-town. Apparently it wasn't enough though. I sat by the phone, with my arm buried in a can of Poppycock, and it never rang.

If that weren't a swift enough kick to the balls, imagine my reaction when I saw that a midget had made the list. No shit. Among the usual candy-asses like Depp and Pitt, was an unknown person with the body of a Cub Scout and a full-sized man-head. His name is Peter Dinklage, and he's a frickin' midget! Man, oh man. Nothing against the little people, of course, but "sexy" is not an adjective that immediately jumps to mind. It's their heads; the shit is way out of proportion.

I've never even heard of most of the other people on the list. Who the hell is Hugh Jackman? What about Caleb Siemon?? Who are these people? They all look like poofters to me. I bet they're just tho thenthitive. What a scam. That Clay Aiken wanker looks like a guy who rounds up shopping carts at Target. He's sexy?! He should be working at the yogurt shop. And doesn't Lenny Kravitz smell like the armpit of a Ukranian weightlifter? I heard that somewhere. Don't even get me started on James Carville; the man has a cranium straight out of 1950's science fiction. If he walked down the street in Roswell, New Mexico at night, he'd probably touch off an international panic that would send the world spiraling into depression and chaos. (Imagine that head atop a midget body!)

But anyway, I don't want to appear resentful. There's always next year. I just need to stop bathing and learn to worry more. Apparently the ladies like that: hand-wringing and a maggot-gagging funk. Give me a year and I think I can make it happen.

-- Yesterday Toney and I drove past a house with a pile of pink flamingos stacked up in the front yard. I wondered aloud what it was all about, and Toney said, "Oh, they must have not paid their flamingo insurance..." What in the honey-roasted hell? Flamingo insurance?? I was completely lost. But, according to my wife, some of the churches around here extort money from their members by threatening to fill their yards with pink flamingos in the dead of night. It's apparently a whimsical form of public humiliation, and the only way around it is to pay "flamingo insurance." Can this possibly be true? It seems like the fund-raising techniques of Tony Soprano and Big Pussy Bompensiero. It feels a tad mean-spirited to me. Hey everybody, either these people aren't Good Enough Christians or they're having money problems. In any case, please laugh at them and point an accusing finger.

-- We watched the British documentary about Michael Jackson again last night, on VH1. As the freak was shown scampering up a tree, and yelling "Yoo hoo!" at a shopkeeper, I realized: this man was married to the daughter of Elvis Presley! How did that ever happen? Seriously. What was that arrangement all about? It was obviously a sham, right? If The King were still alive would Michael have gone to him and asked for his daughter's hand in marriage? And wouldn't you like to eavesdrop on that particular conversation? I get the feeling it would've ended with the words, "Boy, if I were you, I think I'd just git." Somebody should write a play called "Michael Jackson Asks Elvis Presley For His Daughter's Hand In Marriage." I would, but I'm too lazy. I'm just the idea man here.

-- Toney saw an interview with the cast of Friends the other day, and she said David Schwimmer seems like a stick in the mud. Or he's got a stick up his ass, or something negative involving a stick. It's kind of disconcerting when a person who is funny on screen is a dullard in real life. It feels like a betrayal of sorts. Like Kramer. The man is apparently about as wacky offstage as, say, the Reverend Jerry Falwell. An interview with him conjures visions of a barren desert inside my mind, with a brisk wind blowing. And the British show Coupling has a crazed character named Jeff on it. I watched an interview segment on one of the DVDs with him, and I wish I hadn't. He's hilarious on TV, but he's like a long car trip in real life, with no Stuckey's. The man's about as funny as hospice care. It's all so very confusing.

-- Have any of you read this book? I'm thinking about checking it out. I'm still unclear on a few things.

-- Since we're on the subject, Nancy's Li'l Swiffer has still not made his debut. But he should be arriving any day now; I think her due date is, like, right this minute. Yes, the rubber sheets are on the bed, the splash guards are in place, and the Cuban CDs are already in the player. Nostrils is limbering up for a good cry and then a nap, and the midwives are hanging the wind chimes with care. Stay tuned, another abuser of women is on the way.

And that's going to do it for today. I'll now pass the baton of insensitivity to Chris, and I'll see you folks tomorrow.

Have a great week.

November 21, 2003

As you might imagine, this latest round of accusations about Michael Jackson's Sixth Graders Gone Wild nights at the ranch have sparked a few questions, and observations, here in the underground bunker.

First, what parent of a twelve year old boy would allow their kid to spend the night with a 45 year old accused pedophile who is not normal by the standards set forth by any culture on this planet, past or present? That's the first question that pops to mind. I can't imagine turning my child over to that creepy-crawly nightmare of a fancy-dancing mutilated freak. It's in the same category as shoving someone off a cliff; it's just unthinkable. I mean, seriously. I don't think I'd even let a kid of mine watch one of his videos, let alone snuggle with him in his NAMBLA-bed, amongst the llamas and tiny men who can't grow.

The fact that they'd allow him the opportunity to molest their kid is Jackson's best defense, I think. Geragos can just walk into court and say, "Look at that human abomination sitting over there. Just look at it for a minute! The accusers let their kid spend the night with that thing. ...And that is all I'm going to say, your honor."

I've read that the kid is a cancer patient, and his dying wish was to meet Michael Jackson. I find that a bit curious, considering the fact that Jackson hasn't had a hit since Reagan was president. How would the kid even know him? Hell, why didn't he ask to meet Donovan or Grace Slick? Why not Charley Pride or Roy Clark? Before I die, Mommy, I just want to meet country music personality Roy Clark... Can I please snuggle with Roy Clark in his bed?

I might be accused of coldness, but if I had a sick kid and his number one wish was to meet Michael Jackson, I'd have to tell him to drop down to number two. Just the fact that his nose is held on with masking tape is enough to warrant a veto, but there's so much more.

I'm also imagining the so-called King of Pop in prison, wearing his sequined socks. Wonder if they'd just let him loose in the main population? That would be fun to watch -- this guy at the weight pile in Folsom Prison, with Roosevelt "Felony" Jones and The Buffalo Power Saw.

Of course he has his defenders. There are plenty of people who refuse to believe anything bad about him, regardless of the evidence. Like these losers. People don't want it to be true, so they concoct wild scenarios inside their brains to make themselves feel better. It's intellectual dishonesty. Toney's mother is very good at it. She can engage in incredible bouts of mental acrobatics to make the guilty not-guilty -- if she likes the person. She still thinks OJ was framed, for instance, but President Bush is guilty of any wild-ass conspiracy theory that comes down the pike. She picks and chooses, based on her personal feelings toward the person, not the evidence at hand.

But, whatever. He'll (moon)walk again. Michael Jackson has more money than God, and a team of lawyers bound for hell. That's a potent combination. Somebody will be written a check, or they'll assemble another jury with an axe to grind, and it'll all be over. And Moms and Dads from all around the world will be running each other off the roads for an opportunity to let their boys slide between the sheets with him again.  

And I just experienced a full-body shiver.

November 20, 2003

So, I was at Travel Trailer Boot Camp, and my Dad, the drill sergeant of recreational equipment, told me I was ready to fly solo. We closed the camper back down to its compact state, and it was my mission to, um, make it big again. And I'm happy to report that I had the thing set up within minutes. I returned it to its full wingspan in no time, and it was exciting. I nearly forgot the support bars beneath the beds, which admittedly could've led to someone lying in a heap of metal and canvas with a length of aluminum through their neck, but it was nothing we needed to dwell upon. It literally took less than ten minutes to have it completely ready to go, with no help. Cool. I can actually do this, I realized. Utterly amazing.

My uncle, my Dad's brother, stopped in for a visit while we had the camper open, and he conducted an "inspection." He poked around and gave me a few pointers, and various bits of advice. Then he started in with his special brand of comedy, and warned that Toney and I wouldn't be able to "fool around" inside the camper. It might jump the wheel blocks, he said, and roll into a lake. This was in front of my parents, and I acted like I was busy straightening canvas so I wouldn't have to make eye contact with anyone until it was over.

And he just kept going on and on, saying I should get up in one of the beds, on my knees, and jump up and down a few times to see if it would hold. By this time the whole family was "straightening canvas," and he finally moved on to another subject. He started imagining each family member sitting atop the porta-potty instead. "Couldn't you just see her taking a crap on this thing?" he said, before imitating an aunt walking around with the device suctioned to her ass. These are my roots.

After we collapsed the unit back down to its travel size again, we hooked it to my Blazer and set out for the parking lot of an abandoned department store, for backing practice. By this time I was getting cocky, fresh from my recent success. And the drive to the store was easy; I didn't even feel the camper on the back of my truck. Shit, this is a snap, I thought. I'm home free. Then, predictably, it all came crashing down.

We spent about ninety minutes in that parking lot, and I just couldn't get the thing to do what I wanted it to do. I'd start backing and it would practically be against the driver's door within seconds. It sucked. I did it over and over and over, and it never really got any better. The slightest move of the wheel would send the trailer flying off in some unwanted and radical direction, and I'd be jackknifed in the Ames parking lot, near tears. My Dad patiently gave me advice, and I tried to follow it, but it never really worked. I felt like I did on that horrifying night in the late 1980s when some insidious cold medicine locked my equipment in the down position, and I was unable to "perform."

At one point a guy in a tractor trailer pulled up beside us, and said, "Backing practice, huh?" I mumbled a yes, and he said, "Yeah, you should try backing up one of these things!" And I had to fight myself not to tell him to go fuck himself. Don't you have some gay truckstop sex to engage in, Jim Bob? Move along, ya non-reading basta'd.

On the way back Dad kept telling me I hadn't done too badly, but I knew the truth. And it cast a gloom over the whole mission. I was imagining driving it home, and getting in a bind at a gas station or something. I could only go forward, and that's quite a restriction if you stop and think about it. But I had no choice; I'd just have to do the best I could. My stomach was expanding and contracting, and I could've used my sphincter to polish diamonds.

That night I went to visit my grandmother at the nursing home, and that's always an uplifting experience. She doesn't even look like the person who used to bust my ass every day, then set down some of the best food in the entire world. She no longer knows who I am -- or anyone else for that matter. It's pitiful. But, as bad-off as she is, most of her "roomies" are worse. Every door you pass while walking down the hall is an oracle unto a world of unimaginable horrors. There was constant caterwauling everywhere, twisted and gnarled people were propped up in chairs, a load of meat wheeled past in a wheelchair wearing a fez, I thought I saw a few disembodied heads lying on beds... It was depressing. And the scary part is that they're not all old; some are my age and younger -- messed up in car wrecks and such.

My parents spend about six hours a day there, every day, and I just can't imagine it. Fifteen minutes was all I could endure. On the way out my Mom and I stopped in the hall for a few minutes, and we were in front of a giant calendar of events. They have bingo nights and cooking classes(!?) and flower arranging, and on and on. I couldn't believe it. I can just imagine bingo in that place, the mouths of the players packed full of markers and their cards stuffed down their pants. I wouldn't mind seeing it, actually.

The next morning I loaded my diamond-polisher behind the wheel and headed out on the voyage of doom. I met Steve and his parents at a restaurant equipped with plenty of spacious parking, and no need to go in reverse. Breakfast was good. I've known Steve's parents all my life, and they're almost like family. We chit-chatted and ate, and I tried not to worry about what awaited us during the day. I'd be OK if I could just keep going straight, but what if?? My hash browns were going down kinda rough.

But, miraculously, it was OK. We had no problems, except the San Francisco-grade fog we experienced in the mountains of Pennsylvania. That kinda sucked, but we made it through. Every time we stopped for gas or food I was geekishly cautious, and we didn't get ourselves into any traps. We just rolled down the highway, blasting Thin Lizzy and The Specials, and it was surprisingly easy. Here's a gas pump we used in downtown Dog Balls, West Virginia. During this stretch of the trip my cell phone read NO SERVICE, and I was certain I could hear banjo music off in the distance. It's an area of the state where ugly stereotypes come alive.

I even backed the thing into our driveway with little problem. Colemania, the goddess of travel trailers, was obviously watching over me. I got it right where I wanted it, unhitched it, and popped open a Yuengling. Ah, success... I called my Dad, and he seemed as relieved as I was. Apparently he wasn't nearly as confident in my abilities as he'd pretended that morning. I don't blame him. And my sphincter assumed its normal state of a medium clench -- a yellow status, according to Tom Ridge.

And that's that. I won't talk about it anymore. Tomorrow we go back to making fun of Michael Jackson and Nancy.

But before that, here's the latest from our favorite educated hillbilly, Buck. 

And last, but certainly not least, a couple more Smoking Fish sightings.

See ya tomorrow.

November 19, 2003

The mission was a success; our "new" camper is now in the driveway with big wood blocks under the wheels. I dragged that shit 500 miles up the east coast, with little incident. I know, I'm as surprised as you are. I was certain there would be a series of problems involving cliffs, fires, and wild man-crying. But it was a virtual slam-dunk. I was thinking in the shower that if I'd gone that far in Europe I probably would've passed through three or four countries. (I like to make things as dramatic as possible, inside my head.) I'm one camper-hauling motherfucker.

Steve and I had two full days of driving, and I spent the day in between submerged in an intense Travel Trailer Boot Camp, at the hands of the no-nonsense Sergeant Dad. The man runs a tight ship, and I was put to the test. If he'd had a little more advance notice I'm certain he would've constructed a twelve-foot high wall in the backyard, and forced me to scale it with a Coleman lantern in my hand.

We (he) installed the hitch on my truck, as well as some kind of box that converts something or other, so the lights work on the camper. He showed me how to hook it up, and how to unhook it. I actually tried to pay attention, since he wouldn't be there to drag my walnuts out of the fire once I was in Jellystone National Forest, with Toney looking on in disgust. My mind began wandering at one point, about Cabin Boy or something, but I forced it back on task. I think I absorbed it all, and I was pretty proud of myself.

Then we opened up the camper on the driveway. When I first saw it, inside my parent's garage, it looked gigantic. I got light-headed over how big it was. I can't pull something like that, I thought, it's a frickin' house! What am I doing here?! I should be eating Funyuns in Scranton, in a pair of fat-boy pants. But when we rolled it onto the driveway it looked a little smaller. I hoped it would continue to shrink until it was the size of a suitcase, and I could just lift the hatch on my truck and toss it inside.

Sarge took it slow, and explained every little aspect of the opening of a pop-up camper. I did my best to push the Velvet Underground and The Waltons Homecoming from my mind, and concentrate on what he was telling me. After about thirty minutes we had the whole deal set up, and it looked massive. Here's a pic.

It's twenty-one feet long, and has a king-sized bed on one end. It also has an air conditioner, heater, hot water tank, two stoves, a refrigerator, etc. etc. It's incredible. And since it's almost ten years old, it didn't cost us much. The inside looks brand new. I don't think it was ever used, seriously. Some old man and woman owned it, and I think they just collected pop-up campers or something, and stood around admiring their beauty. In baseball card terms, it's in excellent to mint condition.

After the inspection we broke it all down, and returned it to it's compact state. Then good ol' Dad told me it was time to do it again -- this time by myself. When I started whining he thrust his face in mine and screamed, "Do you want to be a camper, boy, or remain pathetic and weak?!"

And I'll tell you how that went tomorrow, and all about the less-than-successful crash course in backing a trailer. I'm cramped on time this morning, but I'll fill you in on Thursday.

November 15, 2003

-- I overslept yesterday morning, and didn't get the update done before work. Someday I hope to be able to do this for a living and not have to worry about such things, but I'm not quite there yet. In the last three months I paid $59.94 in webhosting fees, and made $40.67 from my Amazon links, for a net of minus-$19.27. Multiply that by four and I'm at negative $77.08 for the year. Almost eighty bucks to get to zero. Last year I went $191.40 into the hole, so I made up $114.32 in 2003. If I keep up this pace I will reach my goal of $70,000 net, in 2616. I will be 654 years old, and ready to take shit down a notch or two, I imagine. Please bear with me until my entire plan is in place; this isn't yet the full-blown Surf Report. I should hit my stride somewhere around 2350, I predict. Thank you for your patience.

-- It's been incredibly windy here. I saw a Tide bottle fly over a house yesterday morning. I also nearly lost my hairpiece during lunch, and had to turn the steering wheel all the way to the left to go straight. Late last night I put our dog Andy outside, because he was doing the pee prance, and as soon as the wind hit him he humped up like an armadillo. Nothing was going to happen after that, and I don't think he's urinated in almost twenty-four hours. He just stands on the couch barking at all the garbage that's whizzing past our windows. I think it's pretty hard for a dog brain to process the sight of a baloney wrapper vortex swirling over the front lawn. In fact, I'm having a little trouble with it myself.

-- There's a guy on VH1's I Love The 80s Strikes Back, named Donal Logue (apparently it's an actual name), who perfectly illustrates something I've discussed here many times: he embraces the concept of "If you can't be funny, be loud." You should check it out; it's fascinating. Nerds often employ this technique when cornered, sometimes even throwing in a foreign accent for good measure, but it's been known to rear its ugly head in all walks of life. This Donal(?!) has it down to a science. Occasionally he says something mildly amusing, but more often the cameras are on him and he's got nothing. So he hollers. He thrusts his face into the screen and yells his "humor," believing the increased volume will miraculously transform the unfunny into funny. It's baffling, I know, but it happens all the time. Sometimes I forget where I'm at, and salute the phenomenon a little too excitedly. I've been known to point at strangers in the mall and yell over at Toney, "If you can't be funny, be loud!!" It's only a matter of time before I get my ass kicked by a herd of Lord of the Rings fans. And that's going to be mighty hard to explain.

-- A year or so ago I mentioned that Toney's sister-in-law wanted to get the Carney Wilson surgery, as a shortcut to an ass that would fit on a single park bench. But she went to the doctor and found out the disappointing news that she wasn't yet fat enough. It seems that a person has to be at least 100 pounds overweight to qualify for the radical procedure. She was only carrying sixty or seventy pounds of excess baggage. And so, there was but one thing to do: bulk up. Today we received exciting word that she's finally portly enough to go under the knife. She's now 110 pounds over her ideal weight, and all her hard work is finally paying off. It's a testament to the beauty of setting a goal, and achieving it. There's nothing more pure and noble. I'm sorry, but I'm getting a little emotional here...

-- Today we registered our new camper (which we still haven't seen), with the State of Pennsylvania. It cost roughly the same as a new TiVo, just to get the license plate. Ever feel like you're tossing cash down a septic tank? I do, almost daily. What in the harelipped hell am I doing here? A pop-up camper?! Wonder if I have a brain tumor?? Seriously.

-- In anticipation of my upcoming trip to West Virginia I paid a visit to JiffyLube today, for an oil change. It was an excruciating experience. From the moment I rolled up to their bay doors, I was peppered with question after question from their squadron of overly-eager Hitler Youth grease monkeys. "Do you want our signature service platinum series 2000 today sir?" ...Pardon? I just want an oil change; am I in the wrong place?! This led to a lengthy discussion about the benefits of a synthetic lubricant, a scary warning about clogged fuel filters, a demonstration of the disgraceful build-up on my air filter (and the fiery death it will surely lead to), an offer to rotate my tires for roughly the same cost as a whole new set...

The man finally led me to a waiting room and thrust an unwanted donut in my hand and strongly suggested I try some of their complimentary coffee. This seemed very important to him, and I wondered if it was laced with something designed to make a man not give a shit about money. During all this his teeth were chattering, and he was smiling like a Jesus freak. As I was paying he attempted to sell me a few more things including, I believe, a week at the JiffyLube timeshare community in Daytona Beach. By the time I got away from the place I'd forked over nearly fifty bucks, and was emotionally drained. I had to go home and lie down.

-- I was in Borders on Saturday and saw the new Pete Droge CD on one of their listening stations. I'm a fan so I slipped on the headphones to give it a quick listen. Before the disc had fully loaded I realized I had willingly placed my head beneath a metal clamp holding two wheels of communal foam. God only knows what had collected in the nooks and crannies of that filth-collector over the years, and I shrieked like a schoolgirl. All day it's felt like my scalp is crawling in bugs, and my ear canals are lined with parasites.

-- Steve and I are leaving tomorrow morning, to pick up Jeff's Folly in West Virginia. I need to get the camper out of my parent's garage before the snow starts falling, so we're going in. There will be no further website updates until Wednesday, but I'm sure we'll all make it through. 

-- Today I bought a brick of Maxell tapes at Big Lots (seven 90-minute jobs for $3.99!), and have been feverishly recording road music. I've got the first two Beastie Boys albums, some Clash, Sex Pistols, The Jam, The Specials, English Beat, etc. etc. And I already have Molly Hatchet, Thin Lizzy, White Stripes, and other good stuff to scream along with. When you're driving you need BIG MUSIC. Brittle shit like Radiohead won't do it; that's music to repair a watch to. Next up: Van Halen. I have two tapes left, and I ain't afraid to use 'em.

-- I've received news of a new Smoking Fish sighting, this time at a Halloween party in Austin, Texas. Keep me posted, people. The Fish gets around. 

-- Buck is back, and here's his latest. The man recently made a pilgrimage to a fine West Virginia eaterie, and it had a profound effect. Check it out.

-- And since I won't be around, here's Chris's Monday update on Saturday. I'm giving it all to you, baby. No holding back.

And that's gonna do it. I should mention, before I go, that I'm way behind with email again. If you sent me a note and I haven't answered it, it's nothing personal. Try not to hate me. I won't bore you with the whiny details, but it has to do with a job that's sucking the very marrow out of my bones. I appreciate every note I receive, sincerely, and hope to get things under control again real soon. In the meantime please bear with me; I'm a sad sad man.

Have a great week, folks.

November 13, 2003

-- A few nights ago Toney and I went to the sparkling new Bennigan's restaurant that has opened a few feet from our front door. A man at work had asked if I'd been there yet (to "that Brannigan's" he said), and I had to tell him no. The look of surprise and disappointment on his face compelled me to go. I have a reputation to uphold, after all. I'm the guy from California, on society's leading edge. It is my job to eat at the new Bennigan's, before anyone else. Why, I was letting people down.

Every night I drive past the joint and there are herds of Scrantonians outside waiting to get in. I have to control myself, not to roll down the windows and yell, "It's a Bennigan's, douchebags!!" People love chain restaurants here, for some reason. I think it makes them feel like they're finally joining the rest of the world. Being from West Virginia, I can sorta understand that. But it still makes me crazy to drive past a thousand kick-ass family-owned pizza and pasta houses, then to see a traffic jam in front of the Olive Garden, and people pushing to get in the door as if the Who are playing. It's just not right.

But because of my aforementioned "responsibilities" Toney and I decided to brave the crowds and check out the newborn corporate food unit. And they were apparently expecting us. There were at least a dozen people outside waiting for tables, all dressed up and excited. But when I told the stewardess, or whatever, my name, she said "Oh" and took us straight to a table. I couldn't believe it. I had mentally prepared to wait on the front lawn with everyone else. I have no idea what happened, and I felt slightly guilty about it. But we were seated immediately, and treated like VIPs. The manager even came out and welcomed us! And during the entire meal I was worried they'd realize their mistake, and kick us out.

For the record, I had some kind of huge-ass hamburger, with bacon, and it was really good. I wish I had another one right now, as a matter of fact. It would go great with coffee. Undoubtedly, we'll become semi-regulars at "that Brannigan's." When a business is serving up such excellent Hamburg sandwiches so close to your living room, there's no use in even fighting it.

-- Since Big Food discovered that Scranton/Wilkes-Barre is an unexploited goldmine, we've seen the opening of several Olive Gardens, Red Lobsters (Ret Lopsters, for those of you in Atlanta), an Outback Steakhouse, a neon-laden place called Smoky Bones, a Texas Roadhouse, and surely some other places I'm just not remembering. They're in the process of building a Cracker Barrel, have cleared a spot for the first Waffle House in northeastern Pennsylvania, and are even opening a friggin' Starbucks. Not to sound like Nancy on a Wal-Mart rant, but it makes me a little uneasy. These people already had some of the best food in the world; I hope that's not all about to change. By the time they figure out what's happened to them, it may be too late. Ya know? ...And somehow I'm sounding like a hand-wringing Ralph Nader of the Blooming Onion. The government should do something! Goddamn.

-- While we're on the subject, I saw an article yesterday about the Ladies of Wal-Mart spread that's scheduled to appear in an upcoming issue of Playboy. Apparently over 200 employees of the massive retailer contacted the magazine about being included in the feature. But that number was eventually whittled down to six as the editors physically recoiled in horror at the included photos, and vomited directly into their keyboards. (I'm paraphrasing.) There's only so much you can do with an airbrush, I've heard. Fixing a sweet potato arm is doable, I guess, but highly involved. And it's not easy to make a four-legged cane sexy in any situation.

So anyway, through my vast network of spies and backstabbers I've been able to obtain one of the pics from the upcoming issue. It's of Gretchen, a deli worker at the Waukesha, Wisconsin store #1312. She's twenty-five years old, and has been with Wal-Mart for four years. She dreams of being an actress, and her favorite foods include bacon bits and Slim Jim meat whips. See it here first.

-- Every night as I'm channel surfing in a desperate attempt to find something -- anything! -- watchable, I see these news shows, like Larry King and Greta "The Extreme Forehead Wrinkler" Van Susteren, going on and on and on about the Laci Petersen case. Who watches this crap?! It's just hour after hour of speculation and jumping to conclusions, by so-called experts doing double duty as overbearing assholes. I hate to be a spoil-sport, but that Petersen guy killed his wife and hurled her in the bay. And Barretta killed his wife as well. These facts are obvious to anyone with an ounce of common sense. Life is not a goddamn Agatha Christie novel. Get real.

-- I'm very proud of our dog Andy. He's started to pee like a boy. For the first two years of his life he'd drop down in the back, and look to the sky as he watered our grass. It was a pitiful display of effeminate urination. I feared that we'd ruined him by having his balls removed, and hurled into a landfill. But now he's lifting his leg like a real man-dog. And I couldn't be more proud. Our little boy is growing up.

--  Speaking of Andy, I got confused the other night and very nearly put a scoop of his dog food in the washing machine, along with my draw's. The combination of ass and lamb chunks probably would've cost me my life. Every dog in the county would've been here.  

-- These are supposedly the worst jobs in all of science. I'd be hard-pressed to offer up an argument.

And I think that's gonna have to do it for today, boys and girls. I don't have an update from Buck yet, but he's apparently working on one. Hopefully he'll be with us tomorrow.

See ya.

November 12, 2003

I watched the Andy Griffith Show reunion last night, and it wasn't too bad. I was a little hesitant going in, because I wasn't sure the cast would still be able to, you know, talk. Since most of them are now well past their hundredth birthdays, I feared the network would have them strapped to chairs with perma-smiles provided by the makeup crew, their ventilators wheezing and sucking off-camera. But I was pleasantly surprised.

Andy (110 years old) was especially impressive. He still has all his marbles, despite looking like John Madden's grandfather at this point. He was reminiscing and joking and running the show. You'd have to possess a dark dark soul not to like Andy Griffith. The man is an icon of decency. I'm glad he can still form sentences. He feels like a family member.

Barney (108) didn't fare quite so well. He was really quiet, and mostly just sat there and mumbled, "Why, thank you," and "So true." It reminded me of Jason Priestly on the 90210 reunion, filmed a few months after he'd had his head run over by a race car, or whatever. He provided a hint of that sad feeling I'd feared. Barney Fife is the greatest TV character of all time; I want him to live forever.

Gomer (104) now talks as if his mouth is wired shut. I'm not sure what that's all about, but his jaws never move and he sounds like a ventriloquist from the deep South. Perhaps his mouth and throat suffered some sort of repeated blunt-force trauma through the years? I'm just not clear on it. But he still has it together. He said that Gomer Pyle is the only character he ever played as an actor. I'd never really thought about it, but I guess it's true. It would be kind of hard to imagine him as Columbo or Kojak or Tony Soprano (although I wouldn't mind seeing him try). When a man becomes Gomer Pyle there's no going back. It's one of life's undeniable truths.

Opie (76) did most of the talking, because he's a young whipper-snapper, and seemed to really enjoy himself. He appeared to be genuinely fond of the other cast members, and admired their talents and all that good stuff. At one point he actually got a little choked up, and it wasn't that fake Oprah shit either. I had to steel myself in order not to break down. Toney would tell the entire family if I ever started crying during an Andy Griffith Show reunion, and I had to work hard not to allow that to happen. On an unrelated note, a bald man with a ring of red hair around his head is simply fascinating to look at.

I did think it was a little tacky when they rolled out Aunt Bee's casket and used it to serve the cast members fried chicken, but that was the only sour note of the whole show. No wait, that only happened inside my head... Never mind.

All kidding aside, I love The Andy Griffith Show. I've been watching it all my life, and never get tired of it. It (along with Seinfeld) is my favorite TV show. It's about characters, not jokes, and that's why it's still so popular. Most sitcoms, especially now, are just twenty-two minutes of people insulting each other, and making sexual innuendos. Watch an episode of Becker if you don't know what I mean. I seriously doubt that cast will be getting together in forty years, in prime time, to pay tribute to their old show. Ya know? Jokes about premature ejaculation have a very short shelf life. (Kind of ironic, isn't it?)

But, regardless of how shitty my job gets, or how much I hate myself, I can always go home to Mayberry and feel better for a while. And that's a big deal. Now, where are the goddamn DVDs??

November 11, 2003

It seems that every day I turn on my computer in the morning, and see that one of the Democrats running for president has made another insulting remark about the South, and Southerners. You've got Howard Dean, for instance, talking about pick-up trucks and Confederate flags, and Wesley Clark saying he wants your vote even if you're Southern and stupid -- or some such thing. What are these people doing?! I'm no political expert but I don't see how making fun of one-third of the country is going to get you too far in a national election. It seems like a curious strategy to me.

I have a feeling that they just can't help themselves. It's no more complicated than that, really. It's the way they feel, and the more they talk the more they reveal about themselves -- regardless of how hard they try to hide it. Under close scrutiny the condescending prick in a person eventually shines through.

Even though West Virginia came into existence by breaking away from the South during the Civil War, the people there are still very much Southern, in my opinion. If you drive north it gets progressively less WV-like, the farther you go. But if you drive south, it feels pretty much like home until you hit Florida (which sure as hell ain't the South, junior). We also say y'all and wear retina-searing neon NASCAR accessories, if you need further evidence.

Therefore, I feel qualified to give a Southerner's view of the nine Democrat candidates for President of the United States, a year before the election. But please keep in mind that my opinions are extremely suspect: I voted for Bill Clinton twice. Know that up front.

Let's get started, shall we?

John Kerry -- A New England dandy with a sweet-tooth for fancy clothes and expensive designer haircuts. Eats a sandwich daintily, and stacked with imported cheeses. Appears to have begun melting. Next.

Wesley Clark -- A right-winger until a week ago. Says a lot of bizarre shit, and may or may not be insane. Can't be trusted, because he's probably, you know, crazy.

Howard Dean -- Believes we all still have outhouses and wipe our asses with corncobs. Your quintessential elitist prick, who walks around feeling superior and more enlightened than the rest of us, yet is weighed down with anger and prejudice. Way too liberal, and apparently in need of a good laxative.

John Edwards -- Pegged as the Next Clinton, but it's not really working out that way. Seems that Clinton was interesting, and appealed to people.

Al Sharpton -- Hilarious, in every sense of the word.

Carol Mosely Braun -- Has no identity. If they made a movie about this campaign her part would be listed in the credits as Other Candidate.

Dennis Kucinich -- Apparently a communist. Also extremely ugly. Will receive roughly the same number of votes as I will get, because ugly communists historically don't do well in presidential elections.

Joe Lieberman -- The best of the bunch, I think. Changed most of his views when he was running with Al Gore last time, then changed them back afterwards. Very adaptable. Looks like Yoda, but has a voice like Froggy on the Little Rascals. Would give Saturday Night Live four more years of golden material.

Dick Gephardt -- Wants to be the first president with no skin pigmentation. Either has no eyebrows, or eyebrows that are completely translucent. Has a speaking style reminiscent of Gore's, and that's not a compliment. Tells a bunch of homespun stories that are apparently utter bullshit. Needs to remove the paint-stirrer from his ass.

I hope this analysis helps you make an informed decision. Y'all.

November 10, 2003

-- It was Toney's birthday on Sunday, and we had an old fashioned Walton's Mountain celebration for her, here at the Compound.

I checked on fancy store-bought birthday cakes, but since they cost roughly the same as a DVD player I decided to make her one myself. (You can't put a price on the personalized efforts of a cheap bastard.) I went down to Ike's and bought the ingredients, and put it all together using a giant metal bowl and a wooden spoon, while listening to President Roosevelt on our refrigerator-sized radio. I had no idea what I was doing, but I followed the directions and it turned out really well, I think. Some of the icing was riding a little high in places, but other than that...

To complete the Walton's theme of the weekend, our heat sorta stopped working on Saturday. I say sorta because it was working downstairs, but not upstairs. It must be the thermostat, because the furnace is working, it just never kicks on where we sleep. There are two different controllers, so I think the one upstairs has eaten the proverbial shit sandwich. The situation called for an obvious course of action: I made a quick phone call and whined into the receiver, "Daddy, what should I do??" Yes, I'm forty. What of it?

My Dad thinks I should replace the old thermostat; it's an easy job, he says. I told him I'd already bought the ingredients to make a cake, there was no need to push things. This brought a long silence, then a sigh -- something I've grown accustomed to. I finally told him I'd look into it, and I actually went to Home Depot and held a replacement unit in my hand ($23.77). But who am I fooling? You may as well ask me to build a duck. I can't install a freakin' thermostat; I can barely put gas in my car. I went across the street to Don Pablo's and had the Three Amigos Enchilada Plate instead. I had no problem completing that project.

And so, we sat around on Sunday eating homemade cake beneath quilts, and sipped a little "recipe" in the evening out of jelly jars. And I made plans to buy some yarn so I can make Toney's Christmas present -- a new pair of gloves and a muffler. It's all that Santa can afford, until this depression is ovah.

-- Let's not just gloss over this cake I made, OK? This is a big deal. I hadn't attempted something so ambitious since I was in high school, and had a class called Singles Survival. We would've never admitted it at the time, but it was basically home ec for boys. They taught you how to do laundry, sew on buttons, cook things, make a bed, and wipe your own rear end -- in the event that any of us found ourselves in a situation where any of that was necessary.

It may come as a surprise, but I didn't take the class very seriously. I think Rocky was in there, as well as my friend Bill. We secretly replaced other people's sugar bowls with salt, helping them to create some of the worst goddamn apple pie you're ever likely to taste. And Bill and I completely filled a clothes dryer with silverware and metal pans, then turned it on. Funny, funny stuff; you shoulda heard the racket. And there was a hospital bed in the classroom that we constantly cranked up until the mattress was at eye level and all the metal underneath was hyper-extended to its fullest expanse. This really pissed off the teacher, therefore we did it regularly. I think it took her a full ten minutes to get the bed back down to Earth. This was full-blown hilarious at the time.

But I made a kick-ass cheesecake from scratch in that class. In fact, it turned out so well I never attempted it again. I wanted to go out on top. So yesterday was a very risky endeavor for me. Let's not just gloss over it.

-- Apparently my friend Steve and I are going down to West Virginia next weekend to pick up the camper Toney and I bought, sight-unseen. Steve agreed to go with me, after only minimal arm-twisting. I'm glad, but it makes me feel weird. Like when my mother was in the hospital, I'm shocked and confused when people are nice to me. I wonder if I'd be as thoughtful if the tables were turned? I seriously doubt it. I'd probably say, "You want me to do what?! Are you fucking crazy??" He's giving up his weekend for this, and it's forcing me to look at myself in the mirror. Nothing good can ever come from that, whether its figurative or literal. Steve's a college professor and said he may have to grade some calculus papers while we're driving, and I told him I'd be glad to help him out with it at rest stops and shit. It's the least I can do.

-- A reader sent me this, and your guess is as good as mine.

-- This is an article worth reading, about a blogger's visit to a Reno whorehouse. Good stuff, and it ends in the only way I can imagine it ending.

-- I went fishing on Saturday, and it was incredibly cold out there. I wanted to go one more time before winter set in, but I think it's already here. The guy at the bait shop gave me a container of worms, as a reward for being brave enough to fish on such a day. (I thought I heard wild laughter as I was getting into my truck to leave, but I could be wrong.) My testicles retracted fully into my body after about three minutes on the pier and I just dumped the worms into the lake and gave the fishies a treat. When you've got a walnut shell in your pants, it's time to go home. I think Shakespeare said that.

-- Toney and I watched America's Funniest Home Videos again Sunday night, and please don't think ill of me, but that shit is still hilarious. Where else can you get a baby-puking montage, a collection of people fainting at weddings (surprisingly funny), snot comedy, a fat boy sitting on a toilet playing an acoustic guitar, and a whole myriad of men being slugged in the balls as a studio audience roars in laughter? Nowhere, that's where. It never goes out of style. One segment did frighten me a little. It showed some kids playing with their hamster in the backyard, when a squawking black bird swooped down from the sky and carried off the family pet. Talk about your nightmare-generators! Other than that, though, it was just an hour of having fun at other people's expense. And it'll go on forever; it's a business model without a flaw.

-- Speaking of baby puke, can any of you verify this for me? Toney says that Gatorade is now making their berry and grape-flavored drinks in a clear version, so parents can give it to their sick kids and not have to deal with terrible stains when they upchuck all over the couch, or whatever. Can this possibly be true? Are huge corporations now making marketing decisions based on vomiting adolescents? Any information on this would be much appreciated.

And that's gonna do it for today. I've got a few more things, but I'm out of gas. I'll just turn it over to Chris, and let him take it from here. Be forewarned though, he's especially angry today.

More tomorrow.

November 7, 2003

So, I dragged my tired and bloated body out of bed at 5:30 this morning, and was sitting in the living room having coffee with Toney, when the power went off. The lights flickered, then regained their composure, then went off, came on, went off, came on, then went off. And stayed off. What the hell, man?! This can't stand! We're tax payers!!

The situation presented a whole host of problems. There was only a small amount of coffee left, I'd have to shower in the dark, wouldn't be able to shave (I'm forced to use an electric razor because of the John Boy-caliber mole on my left cheek), wouldn't be able to iron a shirt... Fuck. I'm gonna go to work today looking like Bob Geldof, I shouted, while slurping my precious coffee in a demented state of agitation. I have no doubt I was making shifty-eyed faces like George W. Bush, in the cruel cruel darkness.

Toney called the electric company and a recording came on saying they're aware that a large number of their customers are sitting in the dark like assholes, and they are working feverishly to get the problem corrected. No need to talk to an actual human, just move along; we're very busy here.

There's no window in our downstairs bathroom, and Toney set up a couple of candles in there so I wouldn't be in Luray Caverns-style blackness. I then indulged in a required early morning shithouse sit-down, under romantic lighting. Quite an experience, I must say. I won't go into detail, but it's not as easy as it sounds. There were issues. I then took a shower in what Spongebob calls "extreme darkness."

I hung a shirt from the non-functioning lights above the sink, hoping the steam would knock out a few of the wrinkles. And beneath the gas-heated water my brain began analyzing the moment. I envisioned the shirt falling across the candles, and the authorities pulling my naked ass from the still-smoking rubble, roasted like a Kenny Rogers lunch, after they were finally able to extinguish the four-alarm fire. Shit! It was the fastest shower of my life.

Afterwards, the coffee was gone, I couldn't listen to The Jam, couldn't watch Imus, couldn't update the website... This sucks, I hollered in the arthouse shadows, sporting clothes that looked like they'd been slept in. I'll just go to work, I announced. (And if that doesn't illustrate my desperate state, nothing will.) Then, miraculously, the lights started their on-again, off-again dance, and finally stabilized. And I actually said these words: "Electricity! Sweet, sweet electricity!!" Stoopid.

And here I am again, in front of my computer and late for work. And all is right with the world.

November 6, 2003

-- Last week Toney and I were watching Ed and it was about a former student of Carol's who had moved to New York and become a successful writer. Through a series of improbable events, Carol was eventually offered a job at the magazine he co-founded, thus setting up the doubtless season-long questions: will Carol and Ed move to New York? Will just Carol move? Will they break up? Will they marry? Truthfully, it's one fucking thing after another on that show...

Anyway, the former student's name was Keith Kesler, and I have a friend in Greensboro named Brad Kesler who has a brother named Keith. Therefore I said to Toney, "Hey, that's Brad's brother's name!" Follow me so far?

Well, a couple of days ago I received an email from Brad asking if I still watch the show. He doesn't, he said, but told me that his brother's new wife is friends with one of the head writers, and for a wedding present he had promised to name two new characters after them. I was floored. How cool is that? Carol's ex-student had Brad's brother's name, and his partner at the new magazine in New York is named after his wife. And I'd noticed it, and commented on it. Awesome.

When Toney and I were married we received a U-Haul trailer full of picture frames, which I certainly appreciate (I never know who's reading this shit). But it would've been even cooler if a couple of new characters had showed up on 90210, named Jeff and Toney, who were on the run from the law and asking to hide out in their old friend Dylan's sideburns -- just until the heat was off. Ya know? Oh yeah, that would've kicked the crap out of all those, um, excellent picture frames.

-- Sunshine and Mumbles are gone. They left several days ago, but we never fully recovered from the Philadelphia fiasco. After that wonderful day things were a tad icy around the Compound. But now Sunshine is trying to pressure us into visiting them in North Carolina for Thanksgiving. The question that jumps instantly to mind is: why?! Why in God's name do we need to see them again, so soon? They're here twenty weeks out of the year, why the urgency to spend half of a four-day weekend in a car -- for the privilege of sitting in a living room with them again?? I'm baffled by it all, but she's pulling out all of the stops on this campaign and I have a feeling we'll end up doing it. Sunshine is a master manipulator, and she's only begun to fight. She'll have Toney in tears before it's all over, and I'll be loading the Blazer with all our shit, shedding a few tears of my own. Goddamn.

-- While they were here Sunshine used an entire bottle of Ranch salad dressing, on two salads. The woman eats sauces and toppings as if the survival of the human race depends on it. A ridged potato chip in her hand is a frickin' ladle, and she can decimate an entire tub of French Onion dip with a single flick of her wrist. I've never seen anything quite like it. Isn't dressing supposed to be a flavor enhancer? To her it's the other way around. She views the salad as merely a vehicle on which to transport the dressing. Lettuce is a carrier, and that is all. And a cucumber slice is nothing more than a platform designed to haul liquefied fat from her bowl to her mouth. She complains that she eats salads all the time, but just can't seem to lose any weight. Hilarious.

-- Sunshine also believes that Toney and I will soon be moving to Charlotte, for some unknown reason. What this is based on, I have no idea. There's been no discussion of it, ever. But she keeps starting sentences with, "When you move to Charlotte..." I mean, what the hell?! I think all that dressing is starting to damage her brain. I think she needs to check into the same place Rush is at, to once and for all deal with her sauce dependency. It's starting to become frightening.

-- I realized yesterday that I don't hate Stevie Nicks as much as I once did. And it's something I can't really explain.

-- I won't drone on and on about it, but please be aware that my job is draining the life out of me. If things don't lighten up soon I'll look like Orville Redenbacher by Christmas. Every fourth-quarter is bad, but this one is taking things to a new level. The fact that one of my co-workers hasn't yet shown up with a shotgun sincerely surprises me. It's only a matter of time. It's like something out of Midnight Express.

-- I received the new issue of Crimewave USA this week, and it looks great. The cover kicks ass -- their best ever. Because of the aforementioned midnight express, I haven't had a chance to read much of it, but will this weekend. You should too. You can probably find it at Borders or Tower Records. It's the one with a red bunny on the front. Or, hell, just order one directly from Mark and Linette. You won't be sorry. Crimewave began life as one of the best zines around, and is now one of the best magazines around. I have a short piece in there about my twenty second visit with Iggy Pop, and a longer article entitled "Sleep Is Creepy." But don't let that scare ya; there's plenty of good stuff too. Check it out.

-- For old time's sake, here's a letter I mailed Mark and Linette, back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, and before Mark and I were friends. Yes, it was a simpler time, back when I was merely a Mark & Linette fanboy, before I became a contributor and began receiving daily emails reading, "WHERE IS OUR FUCKING ARTICLE, KAY??" Ah, the memories...

-- Still funny.

-- I'd be willing to bet a dollar that I am the only person in Scranton currently listening to Elton John's Rock of the Westies. OK, make it two dollars.

-- Check this out... a Smoking Fish sighting from none other than NJGirl -- in Las Vegas. She sent several pics, but I liked this one best; it's blurry, like the vision of a drunkard. Every time I've been to Vegas, this is how I saw things. Thanks NJGirl! I appreciate it, as always.

-- And finally, here's a new dispatch from "Buck," straight from the holler. Apparently he put down the Mason jar of 'shine long enough to get it together this week. Last week worried me a bit, but he's back. Enjoy.

And I think that'll do it for today. More tomorrow.

November 5, 2003

We dodged the egg again this year. As far as I can tell, we sustained no Halloween "tricks" at the Compound. I'm completely convinced that an up-front investment in quality candies -- in our case full-sized Reese's -- is effective insurance against the insidious annual day when destruction of private property is snickered about and tolerated. (Who invented this bullshit?!) It feels a little wrong, but I don't really mind forking over extortion money to the young pillowcase-wielding hooligans, if it keeps me off a ladder and a soapy brush out of my hand. Paying money not to work is a concept I endorse wholeheartedly, regardless of the circumstances.

Again this year there were a bunch of little kids early in the evening, then big-ass teenagers later. I don't mind the youngin's, they're not assholes yet, but the teens rub me the wrong way. They're loud and boisterous, and the guys were practically turning back-flips to impress the girls. It's embarrassing and irritating. I believe there should be a local ordinance making it illegal to go trick-or-treating once the landscaping is in place. I'm not sure how this would be enforced, but it's something worth exploring.

In the meantime though, I'd like to pull the guys aside and remind them about the importance of dignity. Nobody did that for me, and I wish they had. God knows. Those years were my Vietnam, and sometimes I still wake up sweating and shaking, and Toney has to talk me down.

And everybody, not just horny teenagers, needs to remember the simple fact that something is either funny or it's not. Saying it louder doesn't increase its comedic value. Something retarded, yelled, is still retarded. I'm convinced this truism is lost on most of the population. I wish they'd do public service announcements about it, instead of all that crap about lupus.

But, thanks in no small part to distilled spirits, we made it through the yearly ritual of strangers coming to our door and pissing me off. I actually left work early, so I could "prepare." We were all slightly drunk by sundown, including Toney's mother. She was knocking back some kind of godawful frothy conglomeration she calls Separators. Who the hell knows? By the look on her face after every sip, it was threatening to separate her dinner from her stomach. But alcohol and good candy once again saved the day.  Where would we be without it?

November 4, 2003

I saw a really confusing commercial last night, for Volkswagen. (Is it just me, or are TV ads getting really fucking confusing?) This one concerned a man in his early 20's who apparently had one foot larger than the other. It showed his one freakish clown shoe in a flashback sequence, sticking out in the aisle at school, and a girl tripping over it. And it showed him in a swimming competition -- swimming in circles, presumably because of his mismatched feet. And then at the end we see him turning in his bowling shoes, one is size ten and the other is size fifteen. What does any of this have to do with the Volkswagen Jetta?! I don't get it. Is it an attempt to tap into the rich vein of potential customers with severe birth defects? Very strange.

Anyway, I was attempting to puzzle this out when my sluggish brain got bored and went off in a new direction. I began thinking about bowling shoes. Rented shoes. How nasty is that concept?! Very, I say. And yet I do it a few times per year, with no concern. It's an accepted practice. The next time you're in a bowling alley though, take a look around and imagine sitting down and exchanging shoes with those people. Please forgive the generalization, but I have a feeling that the folks who frequent bowling alleys have a higher occurrence of fungus and mold and weeping foot sores, than the general public. It is my admittedly uninformed opinion that a bowler is fertile ground for grossness.

I know they spray some shit in there after every use, but I think that's for public relations. It's probably just water, for show. Thank God the sport (is it even a sport?) doesn't require special bowling pants that you rent at the front counter. If it was something they'd been doing since the 1930's I'd probably just go along with it, like the dumbass I am. Hey Charlie, give me a 38 waist, 32 long. I can't wait to drop my goodies in there and get out on the lanes! Then they hand you a pair that had recently encased the flabby ass cheeks of a Korean War veteran, with the ball and fart zones sprayed down with "solution."

I went through a brief period, during the North Carolina years, when I frequented thrift stores. My girlfriend and I would dig through that crap in search of so-called treasures. The only thing I could buy though, with any degree of comfort, was jackets. Shirts were out, because armpits had been in there, along with deodorants and colognes, or absence thereof. Too horrifying to even contemplate. Pants were obviously not going to happen because they had once housed the scrotum of another man. Need I go on? Hats frightened me, because many people have hair on their heads, as well as skin. I even remember seeing men's briefs in those joints, on hangers, and with the skid mark of a stranger there, shouting a jaunty hello!. You'd have to put a frickin' gun to my head.

No, I wasn't a very good thrifter, in retrospect. I remember rushing home afterwards and scrubbing down, all the way to my elbows, with antibacterial soap and boiling water. Nasty.

But those new Jettas sure look nice. I wish my feet weren't the same size.

November 3, 2003

-- Our day trip to Philadelphia on Saturday was great fun. And by great fun, of course, I mean bad, really bad. I knew how it was going to go days before we left, and everything I felt in my bones came true. The Queen was uncomfortable... The Queen was unhappy... The Queen was unsatisfied... Bitch, bitch, bitch.

Sunshine fancies herself the family matriarch who should be allowed to sit around on pillows in long flowing robes, and direct all the action from atop her golden perch. And we should all just flutter around her, tending to her every need. She wants everything, and I mean everything, to be done her way, and loses her shit if anyone dares go against her royal wishes. She's also like a six year old child who wants instant gratification, and has the patience of a ground squirrel. Oh, she's a lot of fun to take places.

I drove, which right away irritated Big Mama. Several years ago she issued a proclamation that I was never to drive while she's in the car. I drive too fast, she says, and take too many unnecessary "chances" -- like venturing into the left lane from time to time to pass slow-moving vehicles. To Sunshine, leaving the far right lane of the interstate is akin to going over Niagara Falls in a barrel. She gasps and grabs hold of something solid -- in this case my head rest. The entire two-hour trip to Philadelphia she sat back there gasping for air, swinging on my head rest, bitching and rifling through our leftover Halloween candy. "Gawwwd, this stuff is melted! Goddammit, I got some on my shirt!! Pull over!!!" Good times.

When we passed through a tunnel she began hyperventilating and screeched for me and Toney to roll down our windows, as if it were a matter of life and death. She was fanning herself with a section of cardboard that she apparently carries with her (who the hell knows?) and was gulping oxygen like a bass on a boat deck. When we finally found sunlight on the other end, and after she was able to get her breathing back under control (she has one lung, the size of a deck of cards, we're told) she explained that tunnels scare her, because "trucks explode inside them." Hey, your guess is as good as mine.

When we got to Philadelphia the traffic on 76 was horrible, as usual. We sat, breathing exhaust, as the tension and irritation level inside our car was ratcheted up, minute by minute. By the time we got to South Street we were all sniping at each other, and the backseat driving was pushing my blood pressure up to dangerous levels. I probably could've used a little nitroglycerine beneath my tongue, or whatever. It's important to understand that she'd been to Philadelphia once, back when Jimmy Carter was president, and is now a full-blown expert on the city.

Before we even got there I warned everyone that the parking situation is pretty shitty, and I wasn't paying twelve bucks for the privilege of leaving our car on some dusty old asshole's lot. I wanted this to be known in advance, so the ground squirrel could steel herself for an excruciating five or ten minute search for a parking spot on the street. I should've known better...

"You're going the wrong way!!" she hollered around my head rest, "The Italian Market is in the opposite direction!!!" She could see stores out the window, and was unable to get at them because I was being unreasonable, plus we were going away from the place she wanted to visit. It was driving her absolutely crazy, like our dog Andy at mail time. I started yelling back at her and things were quickly spiraling out of control. At one point I said, "This is a one-way street, do you want me to throw this bitch into reverse?!" Disrespecting The Queen. "I'll pay the twelve dollars," she screamed, "just park this car!!" It was amazing. I thought she was going to swing open the door and do a body roll out of our moving vehicle, like on Streets of San Francisco.

When we finally got parked Mumbles stabbed me in the back by saying to Sunshine, loud enough for everyone to hear, "See, I told you we should've driven." Thanks a lot, guy. Last time I share my grubs with him! Usually he's a mumbling voice of reason. Jesus J. McChrist, the entire process of finding a place to park couldn't have been ten minutes. And we saved twelve dollars in the process. I viewed it as an absolute victory. I have no doubt they'll tell Nancy and Nostrils that we spent half the day driving around looking for a free parking space, because that cheap asshole wouldn't pay the "two dollars" to park. Then she'll add that she can't figure out how one of her daughters who she raised to be strong and independent puts up with such a domineering and controlling bastard. You think I'm joking?

After that, the day was ruined. She was in full-on pout mode, and wouldn't talk to anyone. We walked around the Italian Market, and left. So, basically we drove two hours to Philadelphia, walked four blocks up one side of the street, and four block down the other, then drove two hours back. Another fantastic success story.

These aren't the greatest pictures in the world, but hopefully they'll give you some idea about the place. Under normal circumstances (without The Matriarch), it would've been a really cool day. We had some of the best pizza I've ever tasted in my life there, in a little shop that was entirely too hot and stuffy for Sunshine's liking. But the whole pie cost six bucks and was made fresh right before our eyes, by a man who appeared in a picture on the wall with his arm around Frank Sinatra. Great pizza, and cheap as hell. You know how we penny-pinching assholes like that!

And there was so much happening on the streets it threatened to overload my senses. It was a melting pot of all nationalities, all brands of freaks, and myriad vendors of strange meats. Oh, we need to get back there, by ourselves. Didn't I say the same thing when we all went to New York last year? I believe I did.

But enough of that... I need to get to work.

Before I go, though, here's an odd Smoking Fish sighting -- in East Grand Forks, Minnesota.

And here's a really good update from Chris, The Angry White Guy.

And I'm outta here, to defend myself against The Ball Buster of Burbank. See ya tomorrow.

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Copyright 2003 by Jeffrey S. Kay.  All rights reserved.