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Is that an erection I smell?

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  Willard "Bill" Hershberger

    

   The State of My Fat Ass                                  November 2006


November 30, 2006

-- Toney told me she thinks there are "critters in the crawlspace," near the Surf Report bunker. She was up extra-early this morning, and said she heard scratching and scampering behind the wall that separates my office from the garage. And as you might have guessed, I don't much care for that sort of thing. The term "critters" is disconcertingly vague, and could encompass a wide array of exotic animals and small woodland creatures. And don't even get me started on "scampering."

I haven't heard a thing in here, but I'm unable to fully relax. I just know it's only a matter of time before a chipmunk or a grouse or something comes free-falling out of the drop-ceiling, and attaches itself to my face. Remember that scene in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation where Chevy Chase is running through the house with a squirrel stuck to his back? Well, I do.

I'll keep you updated on this developing story. Sweet Maria. Aren't rabies shots administered through the belly button? And every day for two weeks straight, or some shit? Yeah, I can't have that.

Critters in the Crawlspace is a pretty good name for a band, though.

-- Toney's cousin was reportedly sitting at a stoplight in Philadelphia a few days ago, on her way to pay her ailing mother's Sears bill (or whatever). She was looking at the bill, not paying attention to the light, and the guy behind her honked his horn when it turned green.

And just as she was moving her foot from the brake to the gas pedal, a car came screaming through the intersection, running the red light on the cross-street, and struck a pedestrian. The poor bastard went sailing through the air "like a rag doll" and landed in a heap on someone's front yard. Predictably, the car just kept going.

Everyone jumped out of their vehicles and ran to check on the injured man, and he was supposedly unconscious with his eyes open(!). Blood was pouring out of his ears and eye sockets, and I'm no doctor, but that doesn't sound very good, does it?

If Toney's cousin hadn't been preoccupied with that Sears bill, she probably would've been in the middle of the intersection when the car came barreling through, and could very easily be dead today. And it probably would've been a closed-casket funeral. Ya know?

That's the kind of thing that'll flat shake a person up. I remember driving in Atlanta once, through a quiet residential neighborhood, and a car came rocketing off a side street, completely disregarding the stop sign, and whooshed past my hood at a high rate of speed. I don't think the color came back to my face until the following day, and I can't remember the details, but it's very likely I had to just toss my undergarments (including t-shirt) into the nearest dumpster; I have a feeling they were completely shot.

Has anything like this ever happened to you? Have you ever found yourself thinking, "Sweet sainted mother of Fantastic Sam! If I'd left the house just five seconds later...." Tell us about it, won't you?

-- Buck sent me this picture today, and said it made him think of me. I'm not really sure how to take that....

-- Last night I was skimming an article about Rod Stewart in the latest issue of Rolling Stone (yes, you read that correctly), and came across this puzzling sentence: 

"He smiles, because Elton John, whom Stewart sometimes refers to as Sharon..."

WTF??

-- I stole this link from Mark Maynard. It illustrates hate group activity in each American state, complete with a whimsical map populated with jaunty little Klansmen icons, etc. Here's Pennsylvania, for instance.

As you can see, there is supposedly some kind of skinhead Nazi activity going on up here in the northeastern corner of the state. I don't know anything about that, but I did once see a woman standing in line at the Gerrity's deli who looked a lot like Heinrich Himmler. Does that count?

What's happening in your neck of the woods?

-- I think that'll just about do it for today, children. In case you should give a tiny seahorse-shaped craplet, today's my birthday. Exactly forty-four years ago I came tumbling into this world (that's right, tumbling), and it's been a pretty good ride. How I've managed it, I have not a clue, but it's been a good time, so far.

And since it's my birthday, that means it's also Shawn B.'s birthday. She and I were born on the same day in the same year, and shared the Big Birthday Chair all through elementary school. We're linked forever, regardless of how she may feel about that.

So, once again, happy birthday Shawn, wherever you are!

Oh, and this year I'm really going to do it. I'm going to use the $100 my parents send me, to have my prized Shane MacGowan poster framed. I've had it now for about ten years and vow to get it framed annually, and properly displayed in the bunker. But, for a variety of reasons, it never actually happens. This is the year all that comes to an end, my friends, and Shane will officially join the Surf Report Collection. 

Yep, Mom and Dad will be so proud I put their money to such good use....

-- To celebrate this semi-special day, I've taken the liberty of breaking several copyright laws, and uploaded one of my favorite Phil Hendrie segments to YouSendIt. It runs about thirty minutes, and features Ted Bell, owner of Ted's of Beverly Hills steakhouse -- home of the baked potato tree. The first 100 interested parties can download it here.

And I'll see you folks tomorrow. 
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November 29, 2006

-- When we were in a Target store in WV last week, Toney and I looked at outside Christmas decorations. I think we generally hang a wreath on the front door, and that's the extent of our efforts. The Secrets are always pushing us to string up lights, and all that nonsense, but that takes money, effort, and the climbing of ladders. So, screw it. I'll just pretend I don't go in for such ridiculous suburbanite rituals, and sit on the couch instead; when I can be both above it all and do nothing, I consider it a victory.

But we came across these strange-looking blue lights that were shockingly bright, and really cool. They were cobalt, or some deal, and I'd never seen anything quite like 'em. Hey, wonder if we could buy a bunch of these babies and decorate the little tree in our front yard? I said this in a rare fit of optimism, and actually meant it. Toney agreed that it would look good, and I banked the idea deep beneath the scar tissue of my brain.

On Sunday I was still feeling the pull of our little tree agenda, and decided to ride over to the local Target and buy-up some of those strange blue lights. Toney was with the oldest Secret, at swimming practice, so the youngest youngling and I went on a mission. By God, by sundown we'd have the best looking little tree in town!

"$11.99 a box?! What are we, the Vanderbilts here??" I couldn't believe how expensive they were, but it's typical. Whenever I like something, it's almost always the highest priced thing in the house. Rarely do I become enamored with a product, then find that it's some cheap crap straight off a Chinese freighter. Ya know?

I looked at the regular lights, the ones offered at normal-people prices, but just didn't feel the magic. It had to be the weird ones, or I wasn't bothering it all; there would be no half-stepping. I could sense my blood pressure rising, and my right hand started to move towards my hair, involuntarily. All the assholes crowding me in their laughable pastel "workout" clothes didn't help anything either. I was about to start throwing haymakers.

I called Toney, who was inside the pool complex at the University of Scranton, and it was like this: "He-? I -an ---- he-- you. I-- --eak-- -p!" I think I literally growled like a dog in frustration, and the baby blue "athletes" ceded me a little extra room, with concern in their eyes. I was on my own here, and would be forced to make the final decision. Everything rested on my shoulders, and I don't like that.

I wondered if I could get by with just one box? It is, after all, a very little tree. But deep down I knew I was engaging in more of that "hopeful estimating" I'm famous for, and not living in the real world. Reluctantly, I grabbed two boxes of the expensive-ass things, and we made our way to the checkout stand.

The Secret asked if he could get some candy, and I told him he could. And as he contemplated his many options, I snagged a York peppermint patty, that gayest of all candy bars. Don't tell anyone, but I love those things. Every time I buy one, though, I look around to make sure there's not someone from work there, to witness it. May as well slip into a leather face mask, and a pair of assless pants....

I gritted my teeth, closed my eyes, and handed the eleven year old girl my bank card. It didn't take long, the pain was over before I knew it, and we got out of that madhouse.

And as we drove I actually started feeling good about it. For once I was doing it the right way, and not cutting corners. I got the lights I wanted, and plenty of 'em, and it would all pay dividends when we got home. I felt as if I'd risen to the challenge, without the help of "--ney," and did the right thing. I was feeling almost like an adult.  While polishing off a discus of homocandy.

When we arrived at the house I went immediately to work. I wanted everything to be in place by the time Toney got home, so she could see the splendor of our little tree that very same night. I got the extension cord out of the garage, and ran it across the grass. I wished it wasn't neon orange, but whatever. I then broke into the first box of NASA lights --

-- and the string went around the tree one time.

It made a single pathetic loop, all the way at the top, and that was it. When I added the next box (another $11.99!) it made a second flaccid loop, leaving roughly 75% of the tree still lightless. 

If I'd been Mr. Krabs my arms would've fallen off. I couldn't believe it. And I walked straight into the house, closed the door, and made myself a bourbon and water.

When Toney got home, she asked what the heck was going on. There was an electrical cord stretched across the lawn, so orange it could've been spotted by aircraft, the very tip top of a tree was decorated with the Rolls Royce of Christmas lights, and I was slamming back cocktails in the kitchen. All I could do was wave my hand in the general direction of the front yard, and grunt a little.

The next day she went from store to store and found the same cobalt lights, for $6.99 at K-Mart. They were on sale, marked down from the regular price of $9.99. (Grrr...) She bought three more boxes, along with a green extension cord, and went home and finished the job. All in all, we now have more than sixty dollars in that so-called little tree, and all the fun has gone out of it for me. Every last drop. 

We shoulda just stuck with that old sandwich bag wreath, or whatever it is. Sure, some of the "berries" fell off around 1997, but you can't really tell from the street. I should've known better than to aim so high.... Pass the poofter patties.

-- And I don't know how this happened, we didn't synchronize our watches or anything, but Metten has a similar tale to tell. Right here. Be sure to check it out, it's excellent as usual.

I'll see you guys tomorrow. 
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November 28, 2006

-- On Thanksgiving, before the festival of gluttony kicked-off, my Dad and I took the dogs for a walk. Next door, in the driveway, was a man piling a stack of folded clothes into the extended cab of a pick-up truck. My Dad greeted him, and the guy walked over to us.

"She kicked me out again," he said.

My father, as confused as I was, chuckled and said, "Oh, is that right?" We thought it was some kind of weird joke.

But it wasn't a joke. The man's wife had apparently told him to get out (on Thanksgiving day), and he was loading up his crap and leaving. He told us that it had happened once before, when my parents were in Florida last winter, and he was "stupid enough" to come back. This time, he vowed, the same mistake would not be made again.

As the man continued, I could tell he about to start crying. He said he didn't really have anywhere to go, he didn't want to burden his son's family, but that he'd figure something out. His voice was shaking, and his bottom lip was quivering. Holy crap! The guy was on the verge of a full-on meltdown.

I'm sympathetic to such things (I think), but don't really want to witness it. Ya know? So I acted like Andy was pulling me in the direction of a telephone pole (it was an award-worthy performance), and extracted myself from the conversation.

Sweet sainted mother of Mordecai "Three Fingers" Brown.

-- I saw that my parents now have a big star mounted to the front of their house. I'd noticed that several other houses had it as well. I asked my Dad what it was all about, as we walked, and he said, "Oh, I don't know. One of those monkey-see, monkey-do deals, I think." Wha'? Was he being evasive with me? Any ideas on this? What does it mean? I've never seen such a thing up here in PA, but they were all over the place in WV.

Why do I keep flashing back to the "party scene" in Rosemary's Baby? Crap!

-- My Mom prepared the standard holiday spread: so much food you practically have to climb beneath the table and hammer in extra supports to avoid a catastrophic collapse. And, just so you know, I'm a big fan of the extra-supports style of dining. An aunt and uncle were there, along with the four of us and my parents, and we all ate until our organs were threatening to shut down. Good stuff.

During the meal we started talking about how Thanksgivings used to be at my grandmother's house, on my Dad's side. It was a huge family, and there'd be dozens of people in attendance. And for some reason(?!), they had a pecking order when it came to dinner.

The men ate first, then the kids, and finally the women. By the time the ladies got their turn at the table the meat was reportedly picked over, and the vegetables and bread completely cold. So it would be a pile of gristle with a slice of congealed gravy balanced on top, and dinner rolls not warm enough to melt the butter.

I'm kinda surprised that everyone went along with such a questionable scheme. Oh, I have a few uncles who wouldn't have a problem with it. But my Dad's certainly not like that, and some of the women involved weren't exactly delicate flowers, if you know what I mean. In fact, I know of them very well.

"It's just the way it was," was the best explanation I could get out of my parents. Heh.

-- After dinner there was a lot of sitting around, and that was OK for about ten minutes. After that, it got a little old. The Secrets were bored all the way up to the cusp of a coma, and I wasn't far behind them. Needless to say, there wasn't a drop of booze being consumed, and the whole thing was quite excruciating. The situation cried-out for alcohol, with a high piercing tone.

And the next day, on the front page of the newspaper, there was an article about how West Virginia doesn't drink. Supposedly the state ranks at number 49 for alcohol consumption per capita, ahead of only Mormon-spangled Utah. The article attributed it to a strong Methodist presence in the state. I think I blamed the Baptists last week, but whatever. Six of one, half a dozen of the other.

I much prefer the Catholic puking-into-foliage style of holiday celebration that's practiced here in northeastern Pennsylvania, thank you very much.

And in case you couldn't tell, I am a major theologian.

-- The dogs, Andy and my parents' two yappers, were enough to make a dead man come back to life and yell, "Just shut the hell up!!" Continuous, sustained barking.... At least that's the way it seemed, anyway. Every car that drove past the house would trigger another wild barking jag, and every leaf that fell from a tree, I think. If someone farted in a kitchen three doors down, one of them would hear it and start turning back-flips in the grip of some powerful and primal seizure-like fit. By seven o'clock on Thanksgiving day, I was ready to slam my face through plate glass, I'm not kidding. It was like astronaut training in there.

-- On Friday we got out of the house for a while. We took the kids to some money-sucking joint, and let them ride Go-Karts. That was kinda fun. The grouchy shockingly-long-cig-ash man who ran the place kept yelling, "This ain't bumper cars! Stop running into each other!!" Good times.

We also went to several stores, including Dick's Sporting Goods where we saw two celebrities: the governor of WV and the football coach from my now-defunct high school, Coach Good. The governor had his kids with him, and an entourage. He was walking around smiling that fake politician smile, and apparently doing a little shopping. Outside we saw that he'd arrived in a Shania Twain tour bus. No word on Coach Good's mode of transportation.

And I've got a few more items jotted down in my Big Notebook of Fun but, frankly, I'm losing enthusiasm for the topic. Question of the day, before I sign off: Was there anything in the mountain of Black Friday newspaper ads on Thanksgiving that got yer blood to pumping? I saw nothing, and that's unusual. Generally I flip through those things and come across at least one item that gets me all worked up and ready to storm the Bastille (or whatever).

But I went page by page through every advertisement, and found nothing. It was all very low-yield. Not even a single CD, or DVD, or anything. It's shocking. What about you?

Now here's something the National Lampoon sent out last night, obviously hoping we'd all link to it today. My natural inclination is to ignore such blatant self-promoting efforts, but found myself actually laughing this time. So there you go.

And today's Tuesday, so it's time for another dispatch from Around Normal, over at Jason Headley Dotcom. Right here.

I'll get back to the regular stuff tomorrow, boys and girls. 

See ya then. 
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November 27, 2006

-- We left early on Wednesday morning, for our big Thanksgiving trip to West Virginia. Not as early as Toney had hoped, but early nonetheless. Especially considering the fact I was involved. I think we were on the road by 7:45, and getting me up and moving in the middle of the night like that is nothing short of a miracle. She should be commended on a job well-done.

I had the inside of my car covered, covered, with sheets and old bedspreads, in anticipation of Andy and his big Freddy Krueger claws. I had visions of him ripping open the upholstery, and skinning the pleather off my console like a monkey peeling a banana. But he did OK, I guess. With Black Lips Houlihan you expect the worst, and hope for the best. I was pleasantly surprised.

He couldn't sit still, as usual, and kept shuttling between the backseat and Toney's lap. But he didn't do any permanent damage. He shed all over everything, which is something that happens when he gets nervous, for some reason. At one point the sun was shining straight through the car, and you could see dog hair just swirling around in a huge vortex; each of us probably has a quarter of a border collie lodged in our lungs. But at least he didn't tear shit up.

We got through I-81 (the ball-crushing part of the trip) before anything horrible happened, and stopped in Cumberland, MD. It's almost exactly the halfway point in our journey, and we had lunch at a fancy new Chick-fil-A there. Yum. After we polished off our delicious meals, I told Toney I was going to get a chicken salad sandwich for the road (I'm a man of size, what of it?), and the youngest Secret wanted one of those terrible wax novelty brownies they sell. Both trips to the counter combined: almost $25.

Shit! That's some pricey-ass fast food. Those people have no respect for the five dollar rule, none whatsoever. What am I, Ted Turner?!

Somewhere between Cumberland and my parents' house, Andy shifted us into neutral during one of his neurotic journeys between the front and back seats. Suddenly there was a loud engine noise, and we started losing speed. What in the Rowan & Martin hell?! For two or three panicked seconds I thought the transmission had shit the bed, and we'd be stranded in Upper Mule Scrotum, WV for the holiday. But it didn't take long to figure out the problem, and correct it. I then hollered at Andy for three solid minutes, causing him to eject even more hair, like a million tiny rockets off his back.

We arrived at Chez Kay around 4:30, and from there things get kinda blurry. I'm not going to attempt to keep the rest of this in chronological order. I'll just give you the "highlights," all willy-nilly. Pass the white gravy.

-- For reasons unknown, my parents have dehumidifiers all over their house. There's not even a hint of moisture in the air there. Is that something that happens once you reach the age of 65, a chronic addiction to dehumidifiers? I'm just not clear on it. But we were all coughing and creating boogers to beat the band. In the mornings I'd sit straight up in bed, frightened and stricken with a horrible dryness. Toney, who normally has curly hair, walked into the room on Thursday looking like she was sporting a Cher wig. I mean, what the hell, man? Aren't you supposed to leave just a little water in the air? It was like the surface of Pluto in that house.

-- On Thanksgiving morning I casually mentioned, over coffee, that I wanted to wash my car. I had to get rid of all that dog hair, it was literally attached to the doors. I'm not kidding. I inspected it when we arrived, and not only was it stuck to any exposed surface of upholstery, but the inside of the doors were plastered with the essence of Andy as well. And I can't have that.

By the time I finished taking a shower, my Dad was already soaping up the Camry. His ears perk up whenever someone mentions washing a car. He had some sort of complicated Mr. Clean apparatus out there that apparently blasts a myriad of cleaning agents. I just don't know. But together we knocked that baby out in short order. It reminded me of those car washes in California, where a team of Mexicans converge on your vehicle while you sip a latte, and the thing is completely detailed within seconds.

As we worked a man in a pick-up stopped, and greeted my Dad. He jumped out and ran around to the rear of his truck, and dropped the tailgate. "Check it out!" he said, proudly, as a bloody deer head with a pronounced "rack" tumbled out of the darkness. It was (is?) deer season in WV, and the whole place seemed to be abuzz with excitement. Men were everywhere, sporting the confusing combination of camouflage and neon orange (see me! don't see me!), and smiling broadly through unkempt facial hair.

The guy stood there and talked for a while, and seemed nice enough. But I noticed he injected an "uh" into his speech, randomly. I've encountered this before in my travels, and it's fascinating. He asked my Dad, "So, are you planning uh to go to Florida again this year uh?" It was an amazing thing to behold. And the next day, the same guy stopped again, with another deer. He was clearly on a roll uh.

-- As we washed my car, I noticed that the front passenger-side wheel cover was all scratched-up. I hit a curb in Philadelphia a couple of weeks ago, when we went to see the Beautiful South, but hadn't noticed how badly I'd wrecked the hubcap. Grrrr....

After we finished vacuuming out the interior, with some hilarious R2-D2 deal straight out of the 1950's that my Dad dragged out of his garage, he asked if I wanted to go look for a wheel cover. On Thanksgiving? He said he knew a place that was probably open, one of those roadside hubcap sheds, where the business is also somebody's house. If you know what I mean.

And sure enough, the place was in full operation, and there were other folks already "shopping" when we arrived. There were hubcaps everywhere: hanging from the branches of trees, nailed to the side of a trailer, lined up in great rows across the lawn. It was nuts. And how in God's name were we to find the one we were looking for, in that cluster-fuck of chrome?

We poked around for a while, and finally a man walked over to us and said, "Hep ya?" He had a protruding forehead and eyes that were apparently free agents; they seemed to just roll around in their sockets with no relation to what he was actually looking at. 

Banjoes began playing inside my head.

I told him I needed a hubcap for my Toyota, and pointed it out. He apparently surveyed my car, even though it appeared he was looking at a tool shed over in the corner of the yard. Without saying anything he went inside the trailer, and we could hear a bunch of clanging and bashing around. Finally, he emerged holding a filthy hubcap that appeared to have spent considerable time at the bottom of a lake. 

"Here it is," he said, with one eye pointed straight at us, and the other ratcheted off to the left.

We looked the thing over, and it was in great shape. It just needed to be scrubbed real well, and it would probably be as good as new. I asked how much he wanted, and he said, without hesitation, "Twenty."

Holy shit! I asked if he'd take ten, and he looked over at my Pennsylvania license plate, this time with both eyes at once, and repeated, "Twenty." 

Son of a bitch!!

After hemming and hawing for a few seconds, I reluctantly gave him a twenty dollar bill. He pocketed it, smiled, and said, "Y'all have a nice day." And maybe it was just my imagination, but I seemed to sense a hint of "who's the retard now?" in his voice. As we drove away I saw him putting another piece of wood on a fire beneath a mysterious black kettle, and he looked to have a satisfied smirk on his face.

And I'm all out of time here. I'll have to do part two tomorrow. Did anything exciting happen on your Thanksgiving holiday? Tell us about it, won't you? 

And y'all have a nice day uh. 
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November 22, 2006

-- You guys have yourselves a great holiday. We're shoving off this morning for my parents' house, where we'll partake of outrageous amounts of food and not nearly enough drink. Because that's the way we roll on Kay family get-togethers, I'm afraid. I think it has something to do with the Baptists. Or whatever.

I haven't yet reached the point where I carry a hip flask during family gatherings, and completely check-out, but estimate that I'm only about two or three years from it. Yep, my inner barometer is telling me I'm roughly 24 to 36 months out, from being crowned a full-blown "drunk uncle." You know what I'm talking about, right? Those surly, distant men (that don't literally have to be an uncle) who continuously need to "check on something in the car," and always smell like Old Spice and Early Times?

Wish me luck. I've got a lot invested in this.

When I was a senior in high school we took a school- sanctioned trip to King's Island amusement park near Cincinnati, and a Reds game on the following day. We were warned, repeatedly, that our bags would be searched and no alcohol would be tolerated. Therefore, lots of booze was transported via decoy shampoo bottles.

After an evening of horrors inside the park, we returned to the hotel and got "settled in." Within an hour I was walking into rooms and finding classmates taking blasts off bottles of Breck, and passing 'em down. I hunkered down for an extended period with a couple of guys who were enjoying a tall VO5 (for normal hair), and some spirited baseball talk. And much later in the evening I stumbled into a room at the end of the row, and encountered a girl completely passed out, smiling, and cradling an empty container of Salon Selectives in the crook of her arm.

So I'm thinking I might go that route, once I get the call-up. This might shock some of you, but I believe it's time for a complete overhaul of the Drunk Uncle program. And ass flasks will be the first thing to go. I mean, what is this, the Dean Martin Comedy Hour?

Anyway, we'll be driving today for a long, long time, and our dog Andy has never been inside my new car. So far I haven't even allowed him near the interior with his big Freddy Krueger hands. But I guess that's all about to change. I'm planning to cover everything with blankets and sheets, and will try to keep the damage to a minimum. But I'm not exactly bubbling over with confidence here....   

And yes, I'm aware it's only a tiny leap from covering the interior of your car with bed sheets, to going around the house and unplugging appliances before leaving on a trip. And I know, intellectually, that it doesn't make any sense to believe your electrical outlets will just suddenly burst into flame the moment you back out of the driveway. But what's there to do? There's no fighting nature. And if unplugging is the next mile-marker then, mister, I'm ready for it. I am ready to embrace the unplugging!

Ahem. These frantic late-night Yuengling-fueled updates never really work out, for some reason.

I think I'd better just wind this thing down.... I hope y'all have a great Thanksgiving. If, on the off-chance, you should feel the need to complain about anything, we're here for you. If, say, a brother-in-law is really getting on your last snappin' nerve around the holiday table, just log onto TheWVSR and cut loose with it. 

Use the comments link below as your own personal therapist and/or bartender. Because we're all in this together.

Now pass me some of that Pert, goddammit. 
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November 21, 2006

-- Well, so far there's been no obvious consequences from us guzzling turds all weekend. As far as we know the town is still under a "boil alert," and we're not supposed to drink the water unless it's been heated to a degree high enough to kill-off the shit spores. And that's fine, but it would've been nice to know about all this before three full days had passed. Ya know?

Last night at ten o'clock the phone rang and I wasn't able to get to it before the answering machine kicked in. (I happened to be reading Entertainment Weekly, thank you very much.) It was a recorded message updating us on the state of the water main break that's been causing all the problems. 

Supposedly repairs have been made, and everything will be back to normal soon. By Wednesday, the over-amplified person said, all customers will have water service again, and local businesses should be able to re-open.

I'm not certain, because the message was so loud and distorted, but near the end I think she said, "Our dark, dark Dunkin Donuts days are almost over, comrades." But, again, I'm not sure I heard it correctly.

-- I've mentioned before how Toney and I operate on two different schedules. She likes to go to bed early and get up early, and I prefer to go to bed late and get up late. Of course, during the week I'm forced to curb my natural inclinations and climb atop the dormancy platform much earlier than I'd like, so I'm able to drag my over-caffeinated ass into the bunker and tap out these ridiculous dispatches. But it's not how I'd do things if given a choice.

And by "late" I don't mean that I get up on weekends at noon, or anything like that. I'm almost always out of the sack by 9:30. But Toney and the boys are usually three hours into it by then, and it sometimes causes "issues."

This past Sunday for instance.... I got up and was having a piping hot mug of diluted feces and flipping through the newspaper. I saw that both Circuit City and Best Buy will be selling the new two-disc Oasis compilation for the crazy-low price of $9.99, and was making a mental note to go buy that bitch before we leave for West Virginia -- when I noticed that Toney was putting on her shoes.

I asked her what she was doing, and she said she was going to rake leaves in the front yard.

What?! I'd just gotten up, I didn't feel like dealing with that crapola yet. No, I need to eeeease into the day. What in the fluff 'n' fold hell??

"I didn't say you had to do it," she answered, "I said I was going to do it."

Grrrr.... I sat there for a few more minutes, a-sipping and a-flipping, until the guilt became too great, and I finally went downstairs and jerked on a pair of jeans. When I went outside Toney remarked again that she didn't expect me to help, she just needed to get out of the house for a while. "Noted," I said, all pissy like a teenage girl.

Then I proceeded to rake like a mental patient for the next hour, looking stoically into the distance and saying nothing. It was very important, after all, that this job be done right now, and the fact that it was practically the middle of the night clearly didn't enter into it.

Then it started raining, and the rain turned to ice. But I wouldn't stop raking. It had to be done. I continued on with a determined expression, in a driving ice storm, and didn't quit until the entire front yard was leaf-free. Neighbors were doing double-takes in their cars, and I saw at least one bust out laughing. But this was highly important.

When I finally went back inside my hair was a solid dome of ice, and I was soaked clean through my underwear. Toney was standing in the kitchen, casually munching a still-hot blueberry muffin, and never even acknowledged my pitiful state. She just asked if I had any preferences for lunch, and said nothing about my rain-soaked clothing or the polar ice cap on top of my head.

I'd seen her do this many times before with the kids, and always admired it. But with me? Yeah, I didn't much care for it.

-- Since Christmas is right around the corner, I've been doing a little work on the side to make extra money. Be careful where you click this, because it's not really safe for work, but it shows how I'm insuring that Christmas will be extra-memorable this year at the Compound. I do it for the children.

Oh, and the moustache? That's fake, I keep it in the glove compartment of my car. One of the artists in that class is the youngest Secret's Sunday School teacher, and I don't want her to recognize me.

-- Of course I'm joking about all that, but I'm not joking about this: Yesterday I received an email from a man who's writing a textbook "to be published in Japan for students of contemporary English and American culture." He's using entries from thirty American "bloggers" as examples, and wants to feature pieces from TheWVSR(!). "We hope to show the Japanese reader a view of ordinary life in the USAEnglish-speaking countries and the use of English in everyday circumstances," he writes.

Needless to say, I'll be extending my heartfelt permission. Because America has no better ambassador than me wallowing around in Scranton. 

I forwarded the email to my friend Tim yesterday, and here's part of his reply:

Wow! Using the life of Jeff Kay to bridge international ties between the United States and Japan. You can go ahead and wake me up now.

(AP) Tokyo-- In a stunning moment in international relations, the Japanese Prime Minister showed an unusual amount of sarcasm in the midst of treaty negotiations with North Korea, going so far as to ask Kim Jong-Il to pull his finger.

-- And I really need to go to work now.... Black Friday (so-called) will be here in a few days, and the whole world will be locked into a full-on shopping frenzy. If you find yourself falling under the influence, I'd be much obliged if you could remember our Amazon links here. By entering the Amazon site through one of our ads, then buying a ridiculous amount of products, you'll be supporting our efforts here at TheWVSR -- and it won't cost you one extra cent. Everybody wins!

So, don't forget us, OK? And if the ads don't show up on your computer for some reason, here's yer link. I appreciate it!

-- Before I go, I have a question for you. Earlier this morning I was blasting Rum, Sodomy, & the Lash by the Pogues. That, of course, is one of my favorite album titles; I believe it's a phrase lifted from a speech by Winston Churchill. (What the speech was about, I can't imagine.) What are some of your favorite album titles? I need to know, with a great urgency. Use the comments link below.

And I'll be back early tomorrow morning with a quick little piss-ant update.

See ya then. 
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November 20, 2006

-- This is going to be a short week here at TheWVSR. Most likely I'll only be able to update on Monday and Tuesday, then we'll be pointing the Toyota hood in the direction of West Virginia and flooring it.

Come Wednesday morning, it'll be time once again to kick-off our annual Thanksgiving journey to the motherland, for several days of eating ourselves right up to the cusp of a blackout at my parents' house, power-farting through thick recliner velour, and all the holiday traditions Americans hold dear. A splendid time is guaranteed for all, or something.

I've been loading my iPod with Phil Hendrie, and might try out the fancy-ass FM transmitter I bought a few months back. On previous attempts it didn't seem to work correctly. There's a high probability it was pilot error though, because I'm dumm. But if we're going to be in the car for eight or ten hours (I have a feeling traffic is gonna eat it), a little Phil might be just what the doctor ordered. A Bobbie Dooley marathon would probably calm my shattered nerves during that long stretch of I-79 where there's no cell service, and you may as well be hollering "Please help us!? Dear God, my legs!!!!" into a Dorito. I don't much care for the big honkin' NO SERVICE chunks of West Virginia.

And speaking of cell phones, Fed-Ex tracking says my new one is currently in Newark, NJ. It spent the weekend in Memphis, TN, then went on the move Sunday afternoon. Supposedly it will be delivered to the Compound at 7:00 pm tomorrow night. My nipples are erect with delight. Is there anything more exciting than fresh gadgetry? I submit that there is not.

Last night, with a sweaty bourbon in-hand, I went down to the basement to find my copy of the best holiday movie of them all. As soon as Thanksgiving is in the can each year, it officially becomes Homecoming time! I wanted to have it ready it to go. So I rifled through the massive Surf Report film library, housed inside the traditional K-Mart under-bed storage cartons, and started getting a sinking feeling in my gut. It wasn't there; I was sans Waltons.

Sunshine!

Grrrr.... The woman is notorious for using my DVD collection as her own personal Amazon dotcom, without, of course, all the hassles of paying. Last year I personally removed, with my own sausage fingers, our copy of A Christmas Story 2-disc special edition, from her purse. We almost had a war over that one. I mean, what the hell?!

But, as it turns out, Sunshine hadn't lifted our copy of The Homecoming, I'd just missed it the first time through. She gets falsely accused of a lot of things around here, I admit, but there's a reason, goddammit; this stuff doesn't just happen in a vacuum. Anyway, the DVD is now safe and sound inside the bunker. And when we return from our trip we'll start the process of watching it two or three times before Christmas.

Because it's the best holiday movie of them all.

-- Last Thursday it rained here like something out of the Bible. It poured and poured for hours, and the streets were transformed into fast-moving streams. The wind was blowing, trees were toppling over all willy-nilly, and lots of folks lost their electricity. Our recycling bin is gone forever, apparently caught up in a gust of wind and probably floating out to sea right now. Crazy, man.

Once it stopped going to town, we walked around the neighborhood for a while and it felt really weird out there. It was too quiet, the air seemed strange, and it was crazy-hot. And that was the part that creeped me out the most. Earlier in the day it had been cold, but the rains made it warmer. It was the day after tomorrow!

The next morning we heard lots of horror stories about flooded basements, trees having fallen on parked cars, etc. But it quickly became old news, at least as far as I was concerned. We hadn't had any damage, and never lost our power. Pass the beer nuts.

But, as it turns out, that weird-ass storm did a lot more damage than I'd realized. Several businesses still haven't been able to re-open (including Krispy Kreme!), and all the schools are closed today. A water main reportedly shit the bed somewhere, and it's causing all manner of problems. And some of us are being forced to settle for Dunkin Donuts! Will someone please hold me?

Now for the really disturbing part.... Toney was watching the news last night and they mentioned that our town is still under a boil alert. Don't drink the water, they say, unless you boil it first. There's still a possibility it's not safe for human consumption.

Still?! We knew nothing of this so-called boil alert, and chugged the stuff down all weekend. We made coffee with it, cooked with it, showered in it, and the whole nine yards. And now we're told it's turd water?? Well, that's simply excellent.

All four of us feel a bit queasy this morning, our stomachs a little upset. Do you think it's all in our heads? Please tell me it is. Holy crap. We've been guzzling ass since Friday! And I'm not feeling so hot....

-- Last night, while partaking of the golden elixir and trying to pretend I hadn't repeatedly brushed my teeth with diarrhea, I decided it was about time to update the Search Engine page again. So here it is. The new entries are at the top. 

Still, after all this time, I'm amazed.

-- I've received a very suspicious Smoking Fish sighting. Someone with a fake email address ("notjeffkay".... no @ or domain name or anything), sent me a note with an attachment a couple of weeks ago. I clicked on it, and my anti-virus program went wild. So I deleted the whole thing, and murmured much profanity under my breath. 

Then it showed up again, but with a message that made me believe it might actually be legit. Here's the pic that was attached. The whole thing's quite baffling.

And that'll do it for today, boys and girls. I don't really have a question, so just tell us about your Thanksgiving plans. Are you doing anything interesting this year? Use the comments link below.

And I'll see ya tomorrow. 
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November 17, 2006

-- We took Toney's car in yesterday for its annual state-mandated inspection. And guess what they told us? Yes, that's correct, they said it needed ball joints.

When I was a kid it was tonsillitis that was all the rage. Everybody was having their tonsils out, it was the thing to do. And whenever I'd get a sore throat, or even sneezed a few times, someone would always predict that I'd be under the knife soon. I lived in fear of waking up with a scratchy throat one day, and becoming the victim of trendy surgery by nightfall.

When our kids were really young, it was ear infections. That was the malady du jour then, and I have no doubt it's something different but similar now. Those doctors were constantly itching to insert tubes(!?) into the heads of our children, put them under sedation and wheel them into an operating room, and the whole nine yards. Tubes, whatever they are, were in high-fashion at the time, and I didn't much care for it.

Now it's ball joints. I don't think I'd even heard the phrase until a few years ago (and I would've remembered because it's hilarious). Now, it seems, the whole world is talking about ball joints. I hear it at work, I hear it when I talk to my friends.... It's the rip-off currently en vogue, I think. And it's starting to piss me off.

-- Since we were out and about extra-early yesterday, it would've been a shame not to have breakfast at Waffle House. Right? Right.

I was careful to steer clear of the gut-crushing booth, the one where there's not nearly enough clearance for my thick torso, and we settled in for a fiesta of fried delights. Then I heard what sounded like a piece of machinery attempting to run without a drop of oil in the engine. It was a horrible grinding noise, loud and sustained. The hell?! Had the ball bearings fallen out of something in there?

No, it was our waitress's voice!

I don't know if it was just decades of bourbon and filterless cigarettes that did it to her, or if her voice box was destroyed in a catastrophic industrial accident, or something along those lines. But it was like nothing I'd ever heard. And I'm from West Virginia.

Holy shit, I'm going to have to go back in there with a tape recorder, I'm not kidding. I nearly wrecked my own voice, attempting to imitate her for the rest of the day. It's unbelievable.

-- As we were paying, a boisterous and robust woman came cascading into the restaurant. Once again. Toney sorta knows this person through the school or whatever, and it seems like we run into her everywhere we go. She dominates every conversation and talks really loud. She usually has one of those bluetooth devices stuck in her ear, and I find that to be hilarious for some reason. I suspect she receives auto-alerts from Krispy Kreme through it, whenever there are hot donuts available.

Anyway, I've noticed this woman always seems to be continuing a conversation with my wife, not starting new ones. Know what I mean? She doesn't begin with "Oh hi, how are you?" She just goes right into it, as if they'd already been talking for a few minutes. 

Yesterday, I swear it's true, she came bounding over to Toney and the first word out of her mouth was "and." Who starts a conversation with the word and?! 

Have you ever encountered such a thing? It's bizarre.

-- I went to Best Buy Wednesday night to buy a CD by the band TV On The Radio. I saw them on Letterman a few weeks ago, and they sounded pretty good. Best Buy has their new album on sale for $7.99, and I decided to give it a shot. Someday soon I'll give you (and Buck) a full report.

As I was walking into the store I saw that a full-on nerd village had been erected beside the main entrance. There were tents and canopies and kerosene heaters.... It looked like they had a community happening out there, with leaders and protectors and the whole deal. Huh. People waiting to buy Playstation 3, I assumed. What a grand gang of douches.

I asked the cashier when PS3 was going on sale, and he said Friday morning. This was Wednesday night! How long had they already been there? I just chuckled and left with my hipster purchase in-hand.

Then I stopped on my way back to the car to snap this photo with my cell phone camera. You'll notice that it's even more out-of-focus than normal. That's because I got a little spooked at the last second. What if they realized I was mocking them, and I got my ass kicked by a gang of angry virgins with super-human thumbs?

Why, you guys would never let me hear the end of it.

-- Speaking of cell phones, our Verizon contract ended yesterday and I've already re-upped with them this morning and ordered my new phone. It's the most exciting time of the year! I went with this one, and I'm hoping it will be delivered before we leave for West Virginia next week.

I thought about just going to the Verizon store in Wilkes-Barre, but you get an extra fifty bucks off if you do it online. So I'll just sweat it out and hope it arrives on time. I don't want to go on the road with my boring old phone again. It wasn't boring and old last week, but it sure is today. Know what I'm sayin'?

Plus, the kick-ass camera in the new phone will allow me to take cruel mockery to the next level. I'm almost giddy with excitement!

-- Believe it or not I have more of this crapola, but I'm all out of time here. The question of the day is in relation to the Best Buy nerd village.... Have you ever camped-out to buy anything? Like concert tickets, or something like that? I haven't, not once. What about you? Tell us about it, won't you?

Have a great weekend, folks. I'll see ya Monday. 
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November 15, 2006

-- As I was leaving my job yesterday, I think I saw Larry Tate from Bewitched. He was working in a mysterious part of the plant where they do unknown things with unusual items, and was wearing one of those lifting belts or whatever they're called. Chances are, of course, it wasn't him, since it appeared to be Larry circa 1966. But it sure looked like him.

There are roughly 2000 employees where I work, and I see celebrities there all the time. Just a couple of months ago, for instance, I'm almost certain I saw Dr. Henry Kissinger repairing the motor on a forklift. Who could've predicted such a thing? I also run across quite a few folks from high school, and people I knew in different cities. And the weird thing? None of them have ever aged since I knew them.

Then there are the smells. No, I'm not talking about my old office, located across the hall from the bathrooms. I mean the chemicals and solvents they use in that place, to do God knows what. As I walk to the cafeteria I generally pass through multiple pockets of distinct funks, and some of them remind me of things. Like the Dunbar Bowling Alley. There's a huge room in that place, the size of several football fields, that smells exactly like the Dunbar Bowling Alley. I always expect to look over and see Steamboat serving someone a slaw dog and a large orange.

Yes, it's a veritable wonderland, my workplace. You know, as long as you don't allow reality to get in the way. But back to Larry Tate for a moment....

Years ago my brother and I were at a bar in Greensboro, NC, called Fuzzy Ducks. They had a deal where you could buy an outlandish yellow mug for five bucks, or whatever, and they'd fill it up with beer for you "for the rest of your life," at a dollar a pop. So you'd see people in the parking lot get out of their car, grab a filthy and ridiculous plastic drinking vessel from the greasy-ass spare tire well in the trunk, then enter the fine establishment with a big shit-eater plastered across their faces. Ready for action! 

Of course the beer they gave you was the cheapest swill known to man, and you'd always wake up in the middle of the night freezing because you'd succeeded in farting the sheets and blankets clean off your bed. But the stuff was cheap and gave you a buzz, so there you go. I'm almost certain I still have a couple of those battle-scarred mugs boxed-up in the basement somewhere. If I ever unearth one, I'll snap a photo for you folks.

Anyway, my brother and I were there one Saturday night and a band was playing on the patio. They were some power-pop outfit who traded in bass, guitar, drums, three-minute songs, and bad attitude. Just the way I like it. We were sitting on a picnic table enjoying the show -- when we spotted Larry Tate.

This time it was the Larry from the final seasons of Bewitched, opposed to the younger Larry I saw yesterday. He was well into his fifties, but had what appeared to be a college co-ed sitting on his lap(!). And she was no hag, believe me. I nudged my brother who almost did a spit-take when he saw what was going on. The girl had her left hand plunged down the back of his pants(?!), and a tongue stuck in his ear.

We'd already polished off quite a few outsize dollar beers, and began hollering our support. The band was extremely loud, and my brother and I started yelling, "Way to go Larry!" And as the action got hotter and hotter, we screamed even louder: "YOU THE MAN, LARRY TATE!!" We were getting carried away, just shredding our throats as the band worked to drown us out. For some reason we found this to be hilarious.

Then one of the songs abruptly ended, and all you could hear was this belligerent "--AAAARRY!!!" coming from the rear of the patio. Every head turned and saw me and my brother sitting there hollering like mental patients, with tears of laughter rolling down our cheeks.

It's a wonder they didn't strip us of our "Big Yellows."

-- Speaking of North Carolina, check this out.

-- And I saw this linked at Drudge this morning. Did I read that thing correctly? I went through it twice, and am pretty certain I got it right. Yet I still can't believe it. I didn't commit the murders, but if I had, here's how they probably would've gone down.... Incredible.

-- Surf Reporter Andrew sent me this interesting little tidbit yesterday. How in the stir-fry hell did Google generate such an ad at TheWVSR? How did their software conclude that it was relevant to what we do here?! And what's with those praying hands above it? I've never seen that, have you? Freaky, man. What does it mean?!

-- Here are a couple of fresh Smoking Fish sightings, captured for the ages by Joe. Thanks, dude! The rest of you guys keep your eyes open out there. Because, as you know, our logo, he gets around.

-- Finally, from the Stealing Clive Bull's Topics desk, have you ever owned, as an adult, a shirt or other piece of clothing that featured a design dedicated to a TV show? You know, like a t-shirt with The Fonz on it, or something like that? Or, have you ever adopted a fashion straight off television, like those hilarious Miami Vice "suits?" Tell us about it, won't you?

I'm taking a vacation day tomorrow at work. Actually, a floating holiday.... (How cool is that?) We've got a load of errands we need to take care of before leaving town next week on our annual Thanksgiving trip to West Virginia. So, I'll try to update in the morning, but don't be surprised if I don't. My days off are usually more hectic than regular workdays.

In any case, see ya soon. 
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November 14, 2006

-- Since the elections last week, I've pretty much divorced myself from current events. I've been staying away from news on TV, only listen to music, Phil Hendrie, and Clive Bull at work, and go directly to the Best Buy ads in the newspaper, skipping everything else. It gets to be overwhelming, all the lying shitboxes regurgitating the talking points of their Democrat or Republican overlords, just spewing forth so much turd-spangled sewage. And when it reaches that point, it's nice to retreat back into comfortable ignorance for a while.

Last night Toney and I watched last week's episode of Friday Night Lights. Our DVR buddy captured it for us on election night, and polling data was streaming across the bottom of the screen the whole time. I could feel the draw cord in my sphincter being tugged, ever so gently. Once, during the final fifteen minutes of the show, local news broke in with something dull and ate up a big hunk of our mediocre drama. Bastards! Why can't they just let me be stupid?!

Over the weekend I found myself breaking out the Seinfeld DVDs, and man, those hit the spot every time. I've also watched the first three games of the 1975 World Series, which is even better than I could've imagined. I mean, I know how it's all going to turn out, yet find myself genuinely getting into it. I've been having Toney or one of the Secrets put the discs into the player for me, so I don't know the final score. (They print it right there on the DVD itself, and all over the boxes.) Then I settle back and commence to hollering at thirty year old sports.

And speaking of that, I'm having a little trouble with Joe Garagiola. When I was a kid he was my favorite announcer. He was enthusiastic and silly, and obviously loved the game. His fifteen minute show The Baseball World of Joe Garagiola, which aired before Monday Night Baseball, was not to be missed. When he was behind the mic, it made every game a little bit better.

But watching him now, I'm not so sure.... He doesn't seem to have the analytical skills of the other announcers, and it felt like Tony Kubek was always stepping in to rescue him from some crackpot "observation" that led to an intellectual cul-de-sac. And his little homespun sayings often made no sense whatsoever. An outfielder might dive for a ball and make a spectacular catch, and Garagiola will say something like, "Boy, that was just like a Chinese man eating a picnic lunch in the top of a willow tree, wasn't it Tony?" TF?!

I still have a warm spot in my heart for him, though. He was the man, back when baseball was still baseball. Pass the chaw.

Phil Hendrie has been doing these short little podcasts for his subscribers, and the last two have made me a tad uncomfortable. The earlier installments featured him simply talking about things that are going on in his life, along with a few stray comments about pop culture, etc. It was like an audio version of a blog, sorta kinda. But the last two have been full of racial slurs and profanity. Apparently he's trying to take things in a different direction?

In one he's playing a character, and says the N-word, as it's known, about a hundred times. It was mildly amusing for about, oh, sixty seconds, but it went on for eight or nine minutes(!). The guy was Southern (of course), droning on about something or other, and kept interrupting his speech by yelling at his son to turn off "that n---- music." The "son" answered, "But Dad, it's Simon and Garfunkel." By my calculations, the thing was too long by roughly 97%.

The latest edition is dedicated entirely to anal sex, with all manner of coarse language. I didn't much care for it either. It's nice that Phil no longer has to deal with the FCC and corporate censors, but that doesn't mean he has to go full-blown Junior High School with it. Ya know? Repeatedly saying fuck is not an acceptable substitute for humor. I think Gandhi said that.

Here's a photograph of me listening to Phil Hendrie's latest podcast.

Eventually, I'm certain, he'll get his sea legs and start delivering the genius again. In the meantime, of course, I'll continue to view his radio archives like a tuberculosis patient looks at his iron lung. Or whatever.

During my self-imposed exile from the "real world," I've also discovered My Morning Jacket. I'd read positive things about them, but for some reason believed they were a garage band from New Zealand. No joke. It turns out they're actually from Kentucky.... I ordered their album Z through yourmusic dotcom, and man, that shit is excellent. I've been all up in it, for days now. It reminds me, at the same time, of Wilco and Neil Young. How come you guys didn't tell me about them? I'm holding you all personally responsible.

And I've got 49 Up coming from Netflix, and Police Squad! arrived yesterday. I just polished off another Bentley Little book, and started a biography of the late great Doug Kenney. With all these things combined, I've been able to effectively block out the life-sapping drip drip drip of the 24-hour news cycle, and the high-douche world of political punditry.

With any luck at all, it'll take hold and eventually I won't know anything of value. Wish me luck. 
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November 13, 2006

-- Saturday's trip to New York went reasonably well. As I mentioned last week, we stripped our itinerary down to the gristle: a museum visit and lunch. It doesn't get much simpler than that. We sometimes set our goals too high, and come away feeling guilty and unsatisfied when we can't accomplish everything. But, as it turned out, even the adapted agenda was too much. The museum and restaurant were too far apart, we ran out of time, and everything devolved into low-watt turmoil.

But it wouldn't be a day trip without it, right?

We like to leave our car at a park 'n' ride on the New Jersey side of the Lincoln Tunnel, then take a commuter bus into Port Authority. It only costs ten bucks (or so) and I recommend it highly. No crazy-ass traffic, no prison-rape parking fees.... it's clean and easy. OK, not exactly clean, but definitely easy.

Even though we've been there multiple times, we almost always get lost. It's a tradition at this point, and we've come to expect it. There's a part of the journey where MapQuest always lets us down. It tells us to "bear slightly to the right" at a certain exit, and there are, like, four or five options. Invariably, we go the wrong way and comedy ensues. ("Bear slightly to the right?! What in the bucktoothed shit does that mean?! IT DOESN'T MAKE ANY SENSE!!!") But this time Toney used Yahoo Maps, or whatever it is, and it was so much better. We just rolled into our destination, like we actually knew what we were doing. It was so easy I almost felt guilty about it.

We toyed with the idea of taking the train to the museum, but were a tad intimidated. Toney walked up to an information booth at the bus station and asked if they had a subway map. The woman said, "No," then turned her back and started in on what appeared to be a tuna melt. Friendly! Screw it, we finally decided, we'll just jump on a city bus. One wrong move and we'd end up in Spanish Harlem, with TOURIST written across our backs. And I can't have that.

It took forever. We had to go thirty-some blocks, and literally could've walked there faster. Traffic was packed in tighter than yesterday's cheese-lover's pizza, and the dude had to stop at every other corner it seemed. Needless to say, I was running my hands through my hair, repeatedly and with a heightened sense of purpose.

Eventually we made it to the museum, of course, but we'd already lost a big hunk of valuable time. I was starving, even though we'd had a big breakfast, and told Toney I wanted to hit one of the street vendors for a filthy hot dog. The Secrets each wanted one too, and Toney bought a pretzel, so we had an impromptu picnic on the front steps of the American Museum of Natural History. Along with about five other families.

As we enjoyed our delicacies (yum!), a fight almost broke out in the street. I have no idea what happened, but a man jumped out of a truck and started screaming at a pair of Japanese guys. Man, he was pissed about something. The two Asians instinctively huddled behind their photography equipment and didn't have much to say. Finally, the irate motorist just threw his hands in the air, looked to the sky, and said, "What a couple of dunces!"

Dunces? What is this, 1945? A wave of nervous laughter rippled through the hot dog contingent, and it was over almost as quickly as it started.

There was a massive crowd inside the museum lobby. Literally hundreds of people were in line to buy tickets, and it was a demoralizing sight to behold. We shuffled over to the end of the line, and as we stood there Toney spotted some kiosks in the rear of the room. Huh. She walked over to investigate, and it appeared you could buy tickets right out of the machines. And that's what we did. I slid my ATM card through the slot, it sucked $44.00 out of my checking account, and four tickets printed. I don't know why so many people insist on standing in those lines. Can any of you locals help me out with that? It's a real mystery.

The museum itself was fun. Clearly parts of it haven't changed in decades, but I like that sort of thing. There are great blast-from-the-past halls there that feature all manner of exotic animals, all taxidermied-up and posed in "natural" settings. I suspect we were looking at the exact same things shorter and skinnier people looked at in 1938. On the rear walls are really cool hand-painted murals showing a jungle scene, or whatever, and those so-called dioramas were my favorite part of the place. Here's a sample; none of my pics were worth a damn.

The dinosaur section looked much more current, like a regular museum, and that was really cool as well. I'd never actually stood beside full-on dinosaur skeletons before. Some of those guys were pretty big, weren't they? Who knew?

Without really realizing it, we spent hours inside that place; it just keeps going on and on. And by the time we left it was going on four o'clock, and looked like it would be dark soon. The restaurant we wanted to visit is in Greenwich Village, sixty or so blocks away. If we'd attempted to ride a bus all the way down there, it would've been a midnight snack instead of dinner. So we decided to go back to John's Pizzeria instead, then head over to Port Authority and get back on the road. The Secrets weren't very happy with that decision, but that's the way it goes sometimes. Quit yer bitchin'.

We walked through Central Park for a while, and it was a beehive of activity. Folks were strolling hand in hand, two men wearing Mets caps were passing a baseball, horse-drawn carriages clomped past.... The gold and brown leaves were blowing all around, and it felt like we were suddenly plunged inside a romantic comedy starring Billy Crystal. Good stuff.

We couldn't remember if John's was on 44th or 42nd street, and were proceeding with a pronounced lack of confidence. Finally, on 44th, we passed a security guard standing in front of a parking garage, and I started to ask him about it. I said, "Excuse me, is John's Pi--" The guy just kept looking straight ahead, and interrupted me by pointing purposely to the left. 

Thank you sir, it was nice talking to you.

The pizza was really good. Again. I think we've been there four or five times now. We always plan on going to other places, and end up back at John's. But the food is excellent, cheap (for NYC), and convenient to the bus station. So there you go.

After we finished polishing off a large sausage and onion, a small pepperoni, and a pitcher of root beer, they brought us our check. $42.00. I tucked my much-abused ATM card into the little plastic slot in the check portfolio, and handed it back to our waiter. "I sorry sir," he said, "Our credit card machine not working."

What?!

It was certainly nice of them to give us this little nugget of information after we'd finished eating. I had enough cash, but what if I hadn't? I gave the guy some grief about it, and insinuated that we couldn't pay if we couldn't use a credit card, but quickly gave it up. Why bother? What's the point? 

But seriously, what if we'd only had a Visa card? There have been plenty of times in the past when I'd been in that situation. What would have happened? And the place was packed Saturday evening, how many weren't able to cover their tab, I wonder? Crazy, man.

It was almost dark by the time we got back to the car, and the interstate was chaos. There were taillights as far as the eye could see. We pointed the hood in the direction of Pennsylvania, put a Talking Heads CD in the player, and hunkered down for a long trip home. But almost as suddenly as someone snapping their fingers, we were the only car on the road. It was like something out of the Twilight Zone, I'm not kidding. One second there were cars all around us, then not another vehicle could be seen in front of us or behind. Just like that. Bizarre.

Now you're pretty much up to date on our big trip to the city. Most of the pics I took during the day sucked a big bent one, but here are a few that were salvageable. I'll try to do better next time.

And the question of the day.... Have you ever found yourself in a restaurant situation where you're unable to pay the check? Maybe a credit card is declined, or whatever? What happened? And, on a related note, have you ever attempted a dine 'n' dash? 

I can't remember me ever doing such a thing, but it seems highly unlikely that it never happened. A friend once walked out of Shoney's on the Boulevard in Charleston, and the manager chased him. My friend, apparently believing he was James Bond, dove into the Elk River and tried to escape. Heh. Wotta douche.

What about you? Tell us about it, won't you?

And I'll see ya tomorrow. 
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November 10, 2006

-- I don't really have much to report this morning. Work is work again, and it's eating into my goofing-off time, which is starting to piss me off. I wish I had a union representative, so I could call and complain. I really do. 

And home life is chaotic, as always. The Secrets are running wide-open, with school work and school activities and whatnot. And the oldest is back in swimming three or four nights every week. I don't know how Toney keeps up with everything. You practically need a schematic, and that's not a joke.

Yesterday at work I walked downstairs to the vending machines and purchased a 100 Grand bar. I have a small problem with those things, because the manufacturer changed the name without explanation. For all my life they were $100,000 bars, then one day I wake up and they're suddenly called 100 Grand. What the hell, man?! It's enough to knock a husky-man's world off its axis.

But I perused my options through the greasy forehead and nose-print covered plexiglass, and there wasn't much to choose from. Abandoning my principles, I finally sighed loudly and punched in the letter and number that would deliver me one of those bastardized 100 Grand deals.

And as I was returning to my office, I passed the receiving manager in the hall. He looked at the candy bar in my hand and said in a normal conversational tone, "Do you really think you need another of those things?"

I'm sure you'll be excited to learn that I watched a couple of Netflix movies this week. One that I thought I'd like, but was disappointed by, and another that I figured would be kinda lame, but turned out to be a lot of fun. They were Nacho Libre and Poseidon. You can connect the dots on that, if you want.

The oldest Secret said he mentioned to a kid at school that he'd seen Nacho Libre, and the kid answered, "I don't watch movies with Mexicans in them." Just thought you'd want to know.

Yesterday was Toney's birthday, and today is the youngest Secret's. Tonight we'll have cake and presents for the boy (he already had his FINAL big-time birthday party at the pumpkin patch, you might remember). Then tomorrow we're off to New York City, to fulfill Toney's birthday wish.

Our NYC agenda is simple and uncluttered: a few hours at the museum, a late lunch, then back to Scranton. Sometimes we're guilty of attempting too much in too short a time, and come away feeling disappointed. Maybe we're starting to learn our lesson? Unlikely, but possible. In any case, tomorrow will be dedicated exclusively to dinosaur bones and orange chicken.

I ordered the new 2-disc REM early years CD  from Amazon recently, and the accompanying DVD  from an individual at Amazon Marketplace. I went the Marketplace route because I saved seven or eight bucks. Both were delivered yesterday, and guess where the DVD came from? That's right, Argentina. I watched a little of it last night, fearing the worst, but it seems to be legit, and plays and everything. If it's a bootleg, it's a quality bootleg. And that's good enough for me.

The CD is excellent, but it led to a slight misunderstanding here at the Compound today. I'd been playing it all morning, before wandering into the upstairs bathroom for a much-earned sit-down. Toney passed by the door as I was in there, and heard me yell, "And this one goes out tooooo the one I love!"

Yesterday morning, as I was reading Buck's diatribe about my occasional forays into half-baked music criticism, and how I sometimes go "on and on" about bands nobody's ever heard of, I realized I was blasting "Kilimanjaro" by The Teardrop Explodes. Heh.

So I guess I should now refrain from cranking off a caffeine-fueled 1500-word essay on the band's importance to my "developmental years?" Is that what I'm hearing? Man, what a pisser; I already had a page full of notes, with multiple cross-references to fast food meals and everything. 

But something good did come from the exercise. While listening to the CD again, after so many years, it led me to seek out the band's Wikipedia page, and caused me to find this inspirational quote from their leader Julian Cope:

Cope has gone on to a successful career as a solo artist and writer. When asked if the Teardrop Explodes would ever get back together, he said: "Would you ever return to having your mother wipe your asshole?"

Could somebody hand me a tissue, please, I'm getting a little emotional here....

Speaking of Buck, he sent me one of those "comedy" emails this morning that had been forwarded between about a hundred people, each with an all-caps note at the top: THIS IS FUNNY. He told me to pay special attention to "number four." 

Ha! I took the liberty of copying this thing into one of our world famous Surf Report templates, and here it is. I am deeply offended.

And I don't really have anything else to say this morning, except that Toney and I are completely and utterly hooked on Ice-T's Rap School on VH1.

So I'll leave you with that. Have a great weekend, boys and girls.

I'll see ya Monday. 
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November 9, 2006

-- Grade school gym class mostly consisted of running around the "multi-purpose room" and hollering, if my memory holds. Oh, every once in a while they'd break out the balance beam or the parachute, or some other novelty item. But it was mostly just running and yelling, I think.

The parachute was pretty cool. We'd all stand in a big circle, holding the edges of the thing, then lift it high in the air to create a giant bubble. Then we'd run underneath and shriek like mental patients. Or we'd lay it on the ground, let the teacher put a bunch of rubber balls in the middle, then shake it as if our lives depended on it. This was called "making popcorn." Heh.

There was a rope in our gym (AKA the lunch room, AKA the auditorium), and when we got to fifth and sixth grades we were expected to climb it. Being both afraid of heights and in possession of pipe cleaner arms, this never really worked out for me. I'd basically just hold onto the rope, and lift my feet off the floor. Next!

But I remember some of the hotshot boys climbing all the way to the top, then doing pull-ups on the ceiling beams. That still makes me a little queasy, thirty years later. And I also feel a bit guilty about the things I wished would happen to those guys while they were up in the rafters showboating. Yeah, it's a good thing I didn't have the powers of Carrie....

During gym we'd also have to square dance every once in a while. An old man with one darkened lens in his glasses would show up with his portable public address system, and do the calls. I always "danced" with the same person, a girl with red hair named Reed. For some reason I can't come up with her first name this morning.... But she'd always get pissed at me, because I sucked and would constantly trample her feet.

And when ol' Dark Lens would order us to "swing your partner," I'd get her going so fast centrifugal force would kick in, and she'd be practically horizontal. She didn't much care for my lack of seriousness, but kept dancing with me anyway. I was too stupid to understand any of it.

Lens always had a semi-retarded girl from our class serve as his "maestro." Her name was Paula M. and he put her in charge of the record player. After he gave out his instructions about the next dance we were to do, he'd turn to Paula and say, "Maestro?" Then she'd drag the needle across the record and a big SCRAAAAATCH! noise would come blasting out the speakers, causing the entire class to cover their ears and make expressions of high distress. Every. Single. Time.

Once, when our teacher and Lens were both out of the room, a kid named Keith L. grabbed the microphone and yelled, "Swing your partner up against the wall, stick it in, balls and all!" We laughed and laughed and laughed, but I came away thoroughly confused. Balls and all? Is that right??

When we got to Junior High, everything became even more complicated. We had to "dress" for gym, which meant changing clothes in the locker room, and everything that entailed. No fun, no fun whatsoever. We were required to shower after class, and the coaches would go around making sure our hair was wet, as proof that we'd done it. Needless to say, most of us would go into the shower room and just stick our heads under the water without ever removing our clothes.

But a few people followed the rules, of course. And it was not a pretty sight. I remember some big ol' Baby Huey doofus in there with a freakin' solar system of nickel-sized zits on his ass. Blechh. And I remember walking toward the showers one day, and a big rough and tough guy who was always running his mouth came barreling around the corner, completely nude.

And he had the smallest penis I've ever seen.

Luckily, I haven't encountered too many of those things in my time, but that one takes the cake. I'm laughing just thinking about it. There wasn't even enough for it to hang, if you know what I mean. It just stuck straight out. It looked like he had a bird's nest with three robin eggs in it, stuck to his torso. A pitiful excuse for a wiener....

Of course there was also a guy in there who took things in the exact opposite direction. He'd strut around, actually pointing at it. Most of us were huddled behind our locker doors in our tighty whities, and this guy was doing penis-based performance art. And I'm here to tell you, it was a larger-than-life production. Mercy.

Both ends of the spectrum: equally disturbing. Call me crazy, but I'm not really a fan of the extreme penis.

There was also some bullying in the locker room, of course. Some kid was standing in front of the urinal one day, and someone shoved him down for no reason. His dick retracted back inside his jeans, but he just kept on peeing. His clothes, from the waist down, were completely saturated with urine. And because it wasn't me, I found this to be hilarious.

There were also rampant reports of guys sneaking up behind people in the showers, and pissing on them. Yet another reason to just stick your head under the water, and get out of there.... If I'd been peeed on by Boobie Washington, I probably would've had to leave the state, and undergone years of intense counseling.

By the time we got to high school, it was almost over. We were forced to do some sort of President's Fitness something or other, where we had to demonstrate that we could do a minimum number of pull-ups, sit-ups, etc. Then we could choose gym as an elective. Or, as in my case, not choose it.

I've already told the story of me doing the sit-ups portion of the President's test, when I accidentally farted. There were two or three girls standing there watching, and one spat, "That's disgusting!" before stomping away. My friend Tim was holding my feet at the time, and I think I parted his hair straight down the middle. You should've seen the look on his face at the time of detonation. Hilarious.

After I passed the President's test, I never looked back. Screw dat. At that point gym became an elective, and I elected to go with Rock/Pop Music Survey, Consumer Math, and something called Singles Survival instead.

And it's that last one that provided my final gym-related high school memory. Singles Survival was basically home ec for boys. Supposedly it taught us how to cook meals, sew buttons on shirt, do laundry, and that sort of thing. They'd just packaged it in an acceptable manner, so they could get boys to sign up for it. Whatever.

This has nothing to do with the story, but Rocky was in there at the same time I was. And he switched some guy's sugar supply with salt. The dude had no idea, and proceeded to make the world's worst cheesecake. Man, that guy was pissed. He'd been so proud of his creation.

Anyway, my partner and I (this sounds mighty gay, doesn't it?) had made an apple pie from scratch. Oh, it was a thing of beauty, and featured actual sugar. We put it in the oven, but it wouldn't be done before the period ended. The teacher gave me a note that I was to give to my next teacher, allowing me to leave class for a few minutes to check on my delicious project.

My next teacher? That's right, Coach Kuhl. As is always the case with coaches, he also taught several history classes. And I can still remember that long walk up to his desk, with that sweaty note in my hand, to ask if I could be excused for a few minutes -- because I needed to take a pie out of the oven.

The man gave me a look of utter disgust, and just waved his hand at the door. As I left the classroom I looked back and he was staring at some papers on his desk, shaking his head as if he'd just encountered something profoundly sad.

And that's that. You're all up to date on my gym memories. It was an exhilarating journey, wasn't it? I don't really have a Question of the Day, but Buck does. Right here.

See ya tomorrow. 
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November 8, 2006

-- This might come as a surprise to some of you, but when I was in school I hated gym class. When I finally reached a point in my sub-par public education where "phys ed" became an elective, I elected to steer way clear of that swirling pit of assholes and armpits, and went with other valuable options instead. Such as Rock/Pop Music Survey, Singles Survival, and, of course, Office Aide.

See you in hell, Coach Comer!

This morning my brain is fried-up like a skillet of grandma's scrapple, and I've decided to just briefly relay to you some of my gym memories that jump immediately to mind. This will certainly not be a complete set of gym-related fucked-upnesses, and probably won't even be very well-executed. But what are you going to do? I'm barely upright here.

-- During Junior High they occasionally rolled a big-ass trampoline out into the middle of the floor, and we were required to jump on it, do flips, and engage in all manner of nonsense. But it wasn't the the jumping I hated, it was the "spotting."

When we weren't on the trampoline itself, you see, we had to stand along the edges of the thing and make sure nobody came rocketing off and exploded their spinal cord on the hardwoods. 

I didn't care for that. And if one of those big bulls had ever come hurtling in my direction, I almost certainly would've stepped aside and let them continue on their journey. Like I'm going to be able to catch, in my arms, freakin' Paul Spradling free-falling from the rafters of a gymnasium. Oh, those guys probably didn't know it (or maybe they did), but they were completely on their own....

One day some kid was jumping on that bouncy platform of concern, when he suddenly sprang forward and smashed his face on the canvas. We all chuckled, but instantly stopped laughing when he stood up looking like Gene Simmons. He had impossibly-red blood gushing out of his mouth, and running down his neck. The dude jumped off the trampoline and ran outside, where he commenced to hawking up the big chunk of tongue he'd just bitten off.

Shit!

-- In high school we were required to wrestle. Some new high-pockets gym teacher showed up, all jacked-up on wrestling, and insisted we be exposed to the "sport." He showed us some moves, and went through the whole thing, then paired us off with people roughly our own weight.

I had to wrestle a guy called Ziggy, and when it was our turn to, um, compete, I basically just laid down. I tried not to be too obvious about it, but put forth very little effort and let the guy pin me. And just like that, I was out of that little tournament of homo-eroticism. Excellent.

Some guy named Edens was wrestling after me, and didn't lay down at all. Man, he was going after it! And as he thrashed about, we all heard a loud CRACK! It sounded like somebody snapped a tree branch in two. And the dude started hollering like a wild Indian. He jumped to his feet, and his right arm looked like it suddenly had two elbows in it. The shit was all ratcheted off to one side, bent at an angle unfamiliar to most humans.

High pockets got him out of there, and to the emergency room, and rest of us just silently walked back to the locker room, our faces whiter than notebook paper. Even the black guys'.

-- In Junior High we had to line up so the coach could verify attendance, then he'd often blow his whistle and let us do whatever activity we wanted. (Teaching at its finest!) On one such day I ended up playing a pointless game called Four Square. I was at the first square, where the serving was done, when some kid came running over and ordered me to move.

I'd been having trouble with this asshole for a few days. I barely even knew him, but he'd started needling me and giving me shit for reasons unknown. I told him to get out of my face, and he shoved me.

That's when something inside me snapped, and I was overcome by a blinding white-hot rage. I reared way back, brought my fist all the way up from Cincinnati, and blasted the guy right in the face, below his left eye. Man, I'd never hit someone so hard in my entire life. There was a loud smack, like in the movies, and the whole gym went silent as the kid sat there blinking wildly, with cartoon birds circling his head.

The gym teacher grabbed me by the shirt and dragged me to the locker room, where he yelled for a really long time. After class ended, and while kids were getting dressed, he called everyone over. He had them circle around, then ordered me to assume the position. I was forced to put both hands on top of a desk, while the coach whacked my ass with a big wooden paddle with holes drilled through it. He gave me three or four good licks, while my classmates laughed and cheered him on.

Good times.

-- Also in Junior High, there was some homo from England who suddenly showed up out of nowhere. How a kid with a thick British accent ended up in 1970's West Virginia, I'll never know. But he was there, and he was a prick.

One day we were playing volleyball, and I hit one into the net. Prince Albert, who seemed to actually give a crap, came running over and started screaming in my face about it. He was hollering all sorts of apeshit belligerence, in front of the whole class, and I felt that familiar old Four Square rage bubbling up again. I was still holding the ball, and as the guy continued yelling I hurled it at him at close range, hitting him full in the face. Jets of blood shot out of both nostrils, and he began howling like a bloodhound.

Again I was dragged to the locker room, and given a raft full of shit. And to my surprise, a bunch of kids in the class told me afterwards I was out of line. I figured I'd be received as a hero, but they all turned on me. 

Junior High School just sucked and sucked and sucked, and continues to suck to this day, deep inside my battered psyche....

And we'll see how it goes, but I might finish off my list of violent and brutal gym class memories tomorrow. I only made it through about half of 'em. I haven't even taken you guys inside the locker room yet.

Do you have anything to add to this subject? Use the comments link below.

And I'll see ya tomorrow. 
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November 7, 2006

-- We received a catalog in the mail a few days ago from Sam's Club. I figured it would be full of jewelry and kitchen gadgets and luggage, and other items designed for holiday gift-giving. And those things were certainly there, but also a few surprises.

Like a Cessna jet, for instance, on sale for $2,734,600. "True 340-knot (391 mph) speed, cabin class seating for six, single-pilot simplicity and a good half-continent of range...." Just don't forget to have your membership card with you while paying.

On page 21 they list several DVDs you can order from them, including Barnyard, then on page 23 there's an offer for the "Ultimate Super Bowl Weekend Package For Four," for $71,000.

There's also a $27,000 necklace, a travel package to see Tony Bennett live in London listed at $44,000, and a $33,000 aluminum wine vault that houses 1500 bottles and features a computerized inventory system.

Usually we just buy, like, Oreos there.

-- I watched the first game of the 1975 World Series on Sunday, and it was great fun. I already knew the Reds would lose, yet still found myself getting into it and hollering my displeasure at various points. Don Gullett pitched a good game, but the bullpen let him down. Stupid Clay Carroll....

The announcers were acting like Yaz was a walking, talking relic from a forgotten era in left field. And exactly how old was he at the time? That's right, 36. Jim Rice was hurt, but Fred Lynn was there looking like the reincarnation of Joe DiMaggio (Joe had already morphed into Mr. Coffee), headed for immortality. I think he works at Sears now.

And of course there were all my beloved Big Red Machine heroes: Bench, Morgan, Rose, Perez, Concepcion.... Each batting against that freaky Luis Tiant, twisting and turning and sometimes pitching almost underhanded.

I enjoyed it even more than I thought I would. I was twelve when the games were played, and saw every pitch when it was broadcast live. On Sunday I could feel that old childhood excitement being reawakened again, from somewhere deep beneath the scar tissue.

For the rest of the games I'm going to have Toney put the discs in the player for me, though. They print the scores right on the boxes and the DVDs themselves. If I don't know the outcome of each individual game, it'll be even better, I think. I might even throw food.

During the middle innings Curt Gowdy read a promo for a new program debuting on NBC in a few days, called "Saturday Night, Live From New York." George Carlin would be the host of the first show, he said, and Paul Simon, with special guest Art Garfunkel, would be appearing during the second week.

Heh, sounds pretty stupid.

-- Toney's birthday is in a few days, and a couple of weeks ago I asked her what she wanted as a gift. She said she'd like to spend a day in NYC, take the kids to the Museum of Natural History to see the dinosaur bones, then have dinner at Sammy's in Greenwich Village (I almost said the West Village, but don't feel I've yet earned the right to use such insider lingo).

Wow, it sounded like she'd already given this some thought! So don't tell her, but she's getting her wish. I've got some money socked away, and we're going to do all of those things on Saturday, later this week. Should be fun... for everybody except Andy.

-- Here's the signature file one of Toney's friends uses at the bottom of her emails:

-Feenie
*Devoted, beautiful wife of a hard working executive
*Mother of three wonderful, bright, good looking kids
*Daughter of a loving father who looks great all the time except on weekends.
*Senior domestic engineer of the Boxley residence

I changed the woman's first and last name (to that of a freaky chick from Junior High), but nothing else. Have you ever encountered such a thing?! I mean, seriously. Talk about being pleased with yourself.... And I don't want to be mean here, but I know this person and believe she just might be stretching the truth about a few things. If you catch my drift.

I don't use sig files, not even at work. When people put their title beneath their name, it makes me involuntarily shout, "Big fukkin deal!" And why in God's name would I want to advertise my telephone number? The fewer assholes who call me during the day, the better.

Do I sound bitter?

What about you? Do you use a signature file, maybe a quote from a book or a movie or something? Tell us about it. And have you ever run across a file that made you laugh, cry, or scream profanity? We need to know about that as well.

-- This is really scattered and haphazard today. I wasn't going to tell you this, but between the Cincinnati Reds stuff above, and the NYC item, Toney and I took the youngest Secret to school, voted, then had breakfast at Waffle House. We've been all over town already! 

During our meal we had to move from one booth (boof) to another, because the table was eating into my gut. The waitress asked if there was a problem, and I said, "Only with my fat ass." Then I ordered scrambled eggs, sausage, hash browns with cheese, toast, and sweet tea.

I know that probably shatters the illusion of me sitting down at the computer this morning, and pouring out my soul with tears cascading down my cheeks. And I'm sorry about that.... But I think it helps explain away some of the half-assery, and decided to confess. 

Luckily for all of us though, we've got something new and good from old friend Buck. Right here.

I'll try it again tomorrow, and make a special effort to focus. Promise.

See ya then. 
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November 6, 2006

-- The Beautiful South went on at ten o'clock or so, and played for almost two hours. They were as fun as ever, and this time we staked out prime real estate way up front, and were standing fifteen or twenty feet from the band the entire night. It was a blast. As I knew it would be.

On Thursday night, after I'd learned the band would be in Philadelphia 48 hours later, we reviewed our babysitting options, and were coming up empty. Under normal circumstances the boys could've spent the night with a family a few houses up the street from us. Toney knows them (I don't know anyone), and the oldest Secret is friends with their youngest son. They wouldn't have had a problem watching our younglings for an evening. But.... they're experiencing some fairly serious family "complications" up there, so the timing wasn't good.

Toney is friends with the mother of another of the oldest Secrets' partners in crime, but the woman doesn't believe in sleep-overs for some reason. So that was out, as well. We considered asking the teenage daughter of another of Toney's friends, but we'd never used her before and didn't feel comfortable going off for so many hours with a stranger in charge. For all we know, she could be a budding Courtney Love. And fuck dat.

By the time we went to bed on Thursday, we were pretty much resigned to the fact we wouldn't be seeing the Beautiful South this time 'round. And maybe I was tired or something, but I'd accepted it and wasn't overly irritated. It was just one of those unfortunate things.

Then came Friday. I wrote about it here, and got myself all ratcheted-up. And as the day continued, it just got worse. By noon I was bouncing off the walls, calling Toney every few minutes and imploring her to be creative, to think outside the shitbox. Surely we could work something out. We even briefly toyed with the idea of taking the kids to the show with us, a clear sign of desperation.

Hey, maybe the Secrets could spend the night with Steve and Myra, my old friends from WV? They live 75 miles in the exact opposite direction of Philadelphia, but beggars can't be choosers. It was a long-shot, for sure; Steve and Myra are busy. He's a college professor, involved in all manner of campus activities, and she's a medical doctor, frequently on-call, etc. Plus they travel a lot, and I knew it probably wouldn't work on such short notice. But dammit, I was ready to throw the Hail Mary pass.

And to my surprise, Steve said he'd do me one better, and come stay with the kids at our house. He was only planning to watch a football game on TV that night, and do some school work afterwards. He could just as easily do it here, he said. And just like that: problem solved. I think I actually pumped my fist in the air, like a douche.

I went online and bought the tickets. They were $25 each, but a pair cost $68.12 after Ticketmaster got finished with us. But who cares? They could've put a 1 in front of that price, and I woulda paid it. This was going to be great!

The opening act, Smash Palace, was scheduled to take the stage at 9:00, and we finally found a parking space in a nearby residential neighborhood around 8:30. There are plenty of parking lots near South Street in Philadelphia, but it costs something like twenty bucks to leave your car there on a Saturday night. I'm sorry, but that makes my sphincter wink... I was exceedingly pleased with myself when I found us a parking spot for free.

We went to the Will Call window at the theater, with our required documentation. The website said I'd need to show photo ID, the credit card I'd used to purchase the tickets, and a printout of the transaction receipt with confirmation number. I had all my paperwork in order, and approached the guy behind the glass.

"Name?" he said.

I told him, and he started flipping through an accordion file.

"Here you go," he said, as he passed the tickets through the partition to me. Not a single ID checked, no confirmation numbers confirmed.... And I'd come so prepared. Wotta rip-off.

We made a beeline to a bar a few doors away, a place called Blarney's. I'd been there on multiple occasions, but it was Toney's first time. We sat at a table and drank delicious pints of Sierra Nevada, and bludgeoned a basket of onion rings into submission. The first ring I put in my mouth exploded with molten liquid, and it felt like a hole had been burned clean through my tongue. I was hollering like a retard at a rodeo, and it still feels tender today. Sweet Maria.

But it was fun, like old times. Toney and I don't get the opportunity to go out as a couple much these days, and we had a good time just sitting there drinkin' and talkin'.

We somehow ran up a bill of $35 there in an abbreviated length of time (shit!), and around 9:30 we made our way to the theatre. Smash Palace was already onstage, and sounded pretty darn good. Their name was vaguely familiar to me, but I couldn't come up with any details. Turns out they're an '80s power pop band, reunited and rockin' again. I wished we'd caught their whole set.

I bought us two Yuenglings from the bar, in miniature cups, for $10, and we wriggled our way through the loosely-packed crowd near the stage. We'd vowed to get as close as possible, since we both fear this will be the last time we ever see the Beautiful South. It wasn't too difficult to get really close

Oh, this was going to be amazing.

And it was. The band was as fun as ever, and were seemingly enjoying it as much as the audience. Their new female singer has a lot more stage presence than the previous one, who had a great voice but about as much charisma as a stack of folded bath towels. We've seen them four times now, over fifteen years or so, with all three of their female vocalists. The new one is almost as good as Briana Corrigan, the original. Almost.

Some guy (I assume) in the crowd kept farting during the show, and I couldn't believe it. What kind of person gets themselves packed into a crowd, then just vents their digestive tract all willy-nilly? Perhaps it was a disgruntled smoker, protesting the club's new No Smoking policy? I don't know, but it was disgusting, and everybody kept looking around for the culprit. Maybe I'm just paranoid, but I became convinced they all thought it was me. I was worried that I was being thought of as The Farter by my Beautiful South brethren, an innocent man accused.

While Paul Heaton spoke to the audience between songs, a guy beside Toney yelled out, real loud, "You're fucking brilliant!" Then everybody cheered their agreement. I looked over and the dude was about 50 years old, with salt and pepper hair. He looked like a pharmaceutical salesman from the suburbs, getting all crazy on a Saturday night. Heh.

They played an eclectic mix of songs from their whole catalog, with some real surprises thrown in, and a splendid time was had by all. Near the end of the show stagehands rolled out these huge-ass balloons, which were batted around by the audience until they each popped. We were standing directly beneath a cluster of lights, and people kept jacking those balloons straight up, making the lights shudder and shake. It's only a matter of time, I told myself, before one of those bastards comes loose and renders someone Mylar. I kept looking at them shaking, completely nervous. When the last balloon popped, it was like a giant weight lifted off my shoulders.

After two encores, the lights came up. I looked at my cell phone and it was a few minutes after midnight. Two solid hours of Beautiful South, with us standing fifteen feet away from them. And in Europe they sometimes play stadiums. Amazing.

The parking ticket we found on my car didn't even put me in a bad mood. I mean, what's $26 in the grand scheme of things? Sure, the sign said two-hour parking during certain hours, and didn't say a damn thing about Saturdays. But whatever. I'll just send them a check. Fuck it. It's a small price to pay.

Here are some pics I snapped with my terrible cell phone camera (in just few short days I'll finally have a phone with a real camera), and an mp3 of one of my favorite Beautiful South songs, "Good As Gold (Stupid As Mud)." Copyright laws are for suckers, right?

So that was my latest concert, what was yours?

I'll see ya tomorrow. 
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November 3, 2006

-- I don't even want to think about it. That's my goal: just put it out of my head. Grrrfuckinrrr...

Yesterday afternoon I clicked over to the Beautiful South website, just to see if there was anything of interest happening. I don't go there very often, because my only access to the band is via new CDs (which must be purchased for hyper-inflated import prices). And since they only recently released a new album, and I already forked over an obscene amount of money to purchase it, what's left to know? 

Forgive me, but I don't really care if some radio station in Ireland is playing their new single four times per day. That's not really information I can use here in Scranton.

But sometimes they have links to interviews with the band, so I check things out every few months. Yesterday I absentmindedly clicked on the LIVE SHOWS link, expecting the usual lineup of pending concerts in obscure European cities with no vowels in their names, but that's not what I got. No, I found out they're in the United States. Right freakin' now.

The Beautiful South is our band. Mine and Toney's, I mean. We've seen them three times over the years, and they don't come to this country very often. Three times is pretty much a miracle. In fact, they usually don't even have an American record label -- like today. They're superstars the world 'round, but nobody's ever heard of 'em here.

Somehow we got hooked years ago, and own everything they've ever released. When we travel we play their CDs in the car, and they're always blasting around the house. Toney's iPod is filled, simply filled, with their songs, and I've got a load of 'em on mine as well. Our kids have grown up on the stuff, and it might sound ridiculous, but we feel connected to the Beautiful South.

Toney, who has pretty much washed her hands of music, has said many times that there are only two shows she'd attend at this point. The first would require a dead person (Joe Strummer) to rise from the grave, his old band to reunite, then go out on tour. I hate to be a pessimist but I'd say the chances of that happening are fairly abbreviated. The other, of course, is the Beautiful South.

And they're going to be in Philadelphia tomorrow night, 130 miles from us, and we can't go. There's just not enough time to make logistical arrangements with babysitters, etc. So I'm trying not to think about it, and pretending it's not true. If I'd only gone to their site a few weeks earlier, we probably could've worked it out. Or if I'd not gone at all, that would've been OK as well.

It's a sad state of affairs. And here's a quote from Toney, said without even a hint of humor : "Don't even think about going with Steve." Westerberg and the Eels and Steely Dan.... those are OK I guess, those are perfectly Steveable, but not the Beautiful South. That's our band.

-- We've got a little snow here this morning. Not much, but it's on the grass and the roofs and whatnot. It's exciting. When I let Andy out to blow urine last night, it was coming down and really pretty. Hard to believe I'll soon be cursing the stuff, and hating it with every fiber of my being.

-- Here's an update on the new external hard drive I bought last weekend: still in the sack. Stay tuned for further developments.

-- Did you notice the fancy-pants new advertising on the homepage this morning? Yeah, it's National Lampoon-controlled. I have no say in the matter, they just pump it in. A few weeks ago they sent out a mass email to all Lampoon "affiliates" thanking us for the great job we did promoting the DVD release of Benchwarmers. Big fat checks would be forthcoming, watch your mailboxes, blah blah blah.

TF?? I didn't know of any such ads, and hadn't even heard from NL in months. I assumed their humor network experiment wasn't going very well, and weren't securing many advertisers. But I was wrong about that, they're kicking ass. I saw a list of their clients a few days ago, and it's pretty damn impressive. I just wasn't being included for some reason.

I sent a note of inquiry (a bucketful of bitching), and they sent the code to add to my site with no explanations. Maybe I slipped through the cracks? I don't know, but it doesn't exactly make me bubble over with confidence. I feel like the kid in grade school who only received valentines because the teacher threatened everyone.

-- Peaches Records and Tapes alum David sent me this a couple of nights ago. He said it's from a "toy coffee pot" one of his friends bought for his 3-year old son. Good stuff.

-- You know how some people get stuck in a certain era? They continue to sport the hairstyles of past decades, and wear clothes that were questionable even when they were in fashion? For reasons unknown, they just stop. Well, Toney and I always yell out the year when we see someone like this. 

Last weekend we were in a local pizza joint, and a woman came strolling in with fried-up hair, blonde from a bottle with black roots, and an acid-wash denim jacket. I hollered 1986! And at the exact same time Toney yelled 1984!! The woman looked at us with a puzzled expression, then continued on.

-- Where did the term "so long" come from? I know it means goodbye, but why? It doesn't make any sense.

-- This is a terrible cell phone picture, but I took it in a Hallmark store near here. It's all one piece, a statue sort of thing featuring an American soldier with an angel looking over his shoulder. My only complaint: no bundle of fiber optics that majestically changes colors.

-- I turned on Clive Bull a few days ago and a female caller was saying, "You know what I don't like about men? It's when they do a number 2 and -----" Then the connection died, and I was left looking at my computer, blinking real fast. It took roughly three seconds before I yelled, "Noooooo!!!!" Now I'll never know her complaint. It'll be forever hanging out there (so to speak), unresolved and haunting. Any ideas what she was about to say?!

Man, I tried to empty my notebook this morning, and almost made it.... The few odds and ends left over will just have to keep until next week. You guys have a great weekend.

See ya on Monday. 
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November 2, 2006

-- A few days ago we were in Sam's, the exclusive club we belong to, and there was a corpulent young lady there passing out samples of gravy. Needless to say, it was an offer I couldn't refuse. She put a gob of instant stuffing into a tiny shot glass-sized plastic cup, smothered it with steaming liquefied meat, then passed it to me. And it was damn good.

Sensing interest in her product, the fleshy career-girl quickly launched into a sales pitch for my benefit.

She held up a large container filled with what looked like playground sand, and told me one cup (or whatever) makes a gallon of gravy. She said that most people use an old plastic milk jug, pour in the sand, top it off with tap water, and instantly they have a gallon of delicious beef, turkey, or chicken gravy. It's so simple anyone can do it, she said, and it even has authentic "bits."

I was mildly offended by the fact she felt the need to play the even retards can do it card, but that wasn't what I was thinking about as I walked away. No, I was contemplating the repeated coupling of the words gravy and gallon.

Maybe I'm behind the times, but I couldn't think of a single situation where a person, under normal circumstances, would require 128 ounces of turkey gravy all at once. I really couldn't. Maybe if we were running a shelter for the homeless, or something like that.... But this woman seemed to be pitching it to the Average Joe. Are Toney and I the ones out of touch, yet again? Should I be ashamed to admit to you folks that we don't stockpile gravy in bulk, here at the Compound?

As I strolled past a display of faggoty men's underwear, and tried to ignore the disturbing photo of a man on the front with what appeared to be a baking potato stuffed down the front of his britches, I kept thinking about that gravy. And the gallon milk jug. And what the benefits might be.

I mean, we're planning to drive to my parents' house for Thanksgiving. Maybe we can mix up a big batch of the stuff before we leave, and have it in the car for the long journey? Whenever one of us gets hungry (thirsty?) we can just grab the jug and take a big hit off it?

And if I were still going to the gym (ha!), it would be great to fill a sports bottle with a light chicken gravy, and sip it while working out on a treadmill. Ya know?

I believe I'm starting to warm to the idea.... Can you think of any additional benefits of maintaining an inventory of outsize containers of gravy at your house? I have a feeling I'm only scratching the surface of the tip of the iceberg here. Help me out, people.

Oh, and what the fuck are "bits?"

-- I know this one's kinda short, but I'm almost done here.... Before I go, I'd like to alert you to this great Weird Al video where he's channeling Bob Dylan and speaking in palindromes. The man's a genius, I tell ya. The new one, "White & Nerdy" is excellent too.

And were you aware that after next week's episode of LOST, it's going off the air until February 7?! I wasn't, but apparently it's true. ABC is promoting next Wednesday's installment as the "Fall Season Finale," which I'm almost certain is a phrase they pulled straight out of their asses. There's no such thing as a fall season finale, who are they trying to fool here? 

Man, what a kick to the luggage....

Finally, I was listening to a Phil Hendrie bit yesterday that made me think of Buck, if you can believe it. It featured one of my favorite Hendrie characters, Korean War veteran Lloyd Bonafide, who was agonizing over a neighbor he's convinced is a hooker. As any regular Surf Reporter will know, this is a scenario straight out of Buck's world, who frequently writes about his dealings with a "loose" neighbor. 

The file is too big to feature directly at the site, but I uploaded it here. It'll remain there for seven days or 100 downloads, whichever comes first. Give it a listen if you're so inclined, it's freakin' hilarious.

And that'll do it for today, children. You guys have yourselves a great Thursday, and I'll see ya tomorrow. 
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November 1, 2006

-- Yesterday was no good. ....The hours I spent at work anyway. Sure, we all complain about our jobs, and prove Loverboy right again and again, but there are degrees. And yesterday was way up at the top end of the Peter Gibbons scale. It was enough to make a man purchase five Powerball quick-picks instead of the standard three.

My mornings are dominated by reading and reacting to the pile of email that's stacked-up since I left the office the previous night, usually at the hands of people in California bitching in a different time zone. Then I have to get ready for the conference call, The One O'Clock Ballbuster. My role is to compile and interpret a load of data, summarize it all in an Excel spreadsheet, and distribute to every Ballbuster participant prior to each day's call.

Usually this process takes me roughly an hour. I've been doing it so long, I've got it down to a science. In the early days it would drag out for three, sometimes four, hours. I'd be a complete basket case before it was done; it sucked a whole corral of donkeys. But practice makes perfect, they say, and I'm now able to knock that shit out in short order.

Most of the time, anyway. Remember how I said I had trouble writing yesterday's update? Well, that "trouble" continued for me at work. I just couldn't get the rhythm going, and twice had to delete spreadsheets and start over. I was sprinting to the finish line, playing Beat the Clock, and just a-stressin'. I barely made it, and was bug-eyed and running my hands through my hair by the time I was finally able to hit the SEND button.

As they say back home, it was boolshit.

After choking down yet another dry-ass turkey and cheese sandwich at my desk, it was time to start working on my "self-evaluation." My boss sent me the forms at least a week earlier, but I waited until the very last second before I even opened the attachments. Everything was due to him no later than October 31, and that's the day I first looked at it. Just like high school....

Have you ever been subjected to a self-evaluation at work? Man, what a gargantuan waste of time. Our forms are six or eight pages long, and under normal circumstances it takes hours to complete them. Applying for a mortgage is a breeze compared to this annual chore. And it's pointless, as far as I can tell. It's like walking out into the middle of a field, pulling down your pants, and blowing diarrhea straight into a strong headwind. It pisses me off just thinking about it.

But, of course, I take short-cuts. Every year I ask my boss's assistant to send me my previous year's report, and basically copy and paste it (with a few tweaks here and there) into the new report. And that's what I did this time. By the time I was finished, I had a reasonable facsimile of last year's evaluation, based on the previous year's evaluation, which was loosely inspired by the evaluation from the year prior. Time well-spent.

And anyway.... shouldn't these kinds of things be done by our bosses? What's the deal with this pussified, I'm OK you're OK, self esteem-boosting, polyester suit human resources seminar crapola? A self-evaluation! The whole thing just makes me laugh. Like anybody is going to tell the truth. Hilarious.

As I work, of course, I need to have something playing in the background. I turned on woxy.com, but the first two songs I heard were slow dirge-like suicide tunes, so I X'd out of it. I went here and looked at the current talk radio menu, chose a couple of items, and promptly sent them back to the kitchen. I finally opted for the 80s Alternative channel at AOL Radio, and played that until the first Depeche Mode song came on (roughly four minutes), then clicked over to the Big Band and Swing channel. I just couldn't get comfortable.

In times of emergency I usually have the Phil Hendrie archives to keep me company. But yesterday I had no access, there was only a Coming Soon notice at his site. Thankfully, it's up and running again this morning. When I get to work I'll cheerfully send them $6.95, and will have my security blanket back.

While I worked and grumbled about my evaluation, an email from the HR department in California dropped into my inbox. It said they show I'm completely maxed-out on vacation days (50!), and that I haven't taken any of my "floating holidays" this year. Because they apparently don't have confidence in their own records, they wanted me to fill out even more forms, and fax them back -- before October 20. And this was being ordered on October 31.

I looked at the forms, and they were asking me to confirm every vacation day I took in 2005 and 2006. Then I was to swear that the information is correct, sign it in blood and acknowledge that I could be put to death if an error is found. Or something like that.

I felt like I was trapped inside an episode of Green Acres. What in the thin and crispy hell?! I don't remember what I did yesterday, how in God's name can I tell them what vacation days I took in 2005? I could feel my eyes returning to their previous Pat Sajak settings, and my right hand involuntarily moving up to the top of my head. I wondered what would happen if I just turned my computer off, and walked straight out the front door.

But I finally cobbled it all together. Beside my signature I put an asterisk and wrote "All information reported is to the best of my knowledge." I faxed it (eleven days late), sent my evaluation to my boss, drove home and commenced to drinking heavily.

By the time the first trick or treater arrived I was smiling like a retard and moving a little slower than normal. One little boogermeister insisted on reciting a long Halloween-themed poem to me, and I could feel myself drifting. If he'd gone on for one more stanza, we might've had a situation at the Compound; there's a very good chance I would've ended up head-down inside decorative foliage. But everything turned out OK.

How was your Halloween? Our old friend Buck has a few things to say on the subject, right here. What about you?

See you guys tomorrow. 
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