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  Willard "Bill" Hershberger

    
    

   The State of My Fat Ass                                    January 2007


January 31, 2007

-- An open letter to Matt Drudge: Sir, I visited your website yesterday in good faith, expecting the usual mixture of political headlines and "wacky" news stories. And what did I receive in return? That's right, high resolution photographs of Harry Potter in the nude, one featuring a full shot of his private hair. I am both flabbergasted and, as Harry (or should it be Hairy?) himself might put it, gobsmacked.

What's next for the Drudge Report? Johnny Whittaker shirtless and riding on the back of a stallion at full trot? Bobby Buntrock in a pair of assless pants? While these references might not be as contemporary and "with-it" as you're accustomed to, down there in your hep bachelor pad in tony Miami, I think you get my drift.

Mr. Drudge, you owe us all an apology. This might come as a shock to you, but we do not patronize your site for photographic evidence of puberty amongst the child stars. I thank you very much for your attention to this matter.

-- And now that that's out of the way.... Something very strange is going on at work. It has to do with the loudspeakers/paging system throughout the building.

In the old days they played XM Radio over the thing, and it was pretty great. One day we'd hear a Hits of the 70s channel, then Classic Rock, and maybe a Motown station sprinkled in. But my favorite was a channel that seemingly played nothing but old reruns of Casey Kasem's American Top 40. I loved that. I found myself sitting on the edge of my seat, eager to learn if "I Can't Go For That (No Can Do)" would hold the Top Ten for yet another week.

But somewhere along the line, they stopped playing music over the loudspeakers. Apparently a member of upper management was tossing and turning at night, worried that somebody somewhere might be having a good time. So he ordered that the plug be pulled. Since then it's just been people paging each other, and cries of Code White! whenever another person's heart seizes up beneath the pressure of forty years of cheesesteak hoagies.

Until Monday, that is. All this week there have been bizarre sounds coming out of the paging system, and sometimes it's frighteningly loud. I'm not sure what the hell's going on.

Yesterday when I arrived there was white noise blasting out of the speakers, so amplified I thought it must be a joke. It sounded like a TV tuned to a channel where nothing is broadcast. Like channel 749 or something. And it was cranked. I asked the security guard about it, and he just shrugged, like it was nothing out of the ordinary.

As I walked to my office the noise started fading in and out, and the volume was rising and falling. Eventually I could hear voices buried deep beneath the hissing, and possibly uproarious laughter. WTF?? It was like something off side four of the White Album.

I sat at my desk blinking real fast as the bizarreness continued. At one point there was some kind of game show erupting from the speakers, complete with all manner of buzzers, dinging, and wild applause. And I think they were speaking one of the Baltic languages. Then it would fade out, and it was if we were suddenly eavesdropping on the air traffic controllers at the Houston airport, or somewhere Down South.

A woman walked past my door, on her way to the pee chamber, and someone interrupted the cacophony with a page. And the person's voice was so thunderous, the woman in the hall literally covered up, as if in physical danger. There were points throughout the day when I had to close my office door because I literally couldn't talk on the phone. All the shrieking and animal sounds and engines revving blocked out whatever was happening on the other end of the telephone.

What the hell, man? Is it some kind of medical experiment, where scientists are somehow broadcasting the sounds heard inside the head of a severe schizophrenic? I just don't know. But it's freaking me out a little. And today I'm getting to the bottom of it.

Which brings me to my next point.... If, by any chance, my lifeless body is found in a landfill during the next few days, please do me a favor and print all this out, and give it to the authorities. I feel like I might've passed through a portal and entered a Dean Koontz novel here. And nothing good can come from that.

Thanks for your help.

-- Finally, it's time for our Question of the Day. This article reports on a recent poll, where people were asked what they believe to be the "worst sounds in the world." As you can see, the answers aren't very creative. Fingernails on a chalkboard? Please. What about lip smacking, or Sean Penn talking, or the person in line in front of you saying, "Yes, can you tell me a little bit about the Big Mac sandwich?" 

I have complete confidence that we can do better. Use the comments link below.

And I'll see ya tomorrow.
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January 30, 2007

-- It's that time of year again, my friends, time for winter fantasizing about summer trips. Yes, it's a tradition we cherish. And since we now have no way of hitching up the rolling box o' beds, it's taken on a whole different feel this season. We're forced to be more creative, and shake things up a bit.

Unfortunately, one trip in particular is going to dominate the cash flow, and will therefore limit our excursions. After years of broken promises, it looks like we're going to have to fly the entire family out to Nevada in July, for a Sunshine & Mumbles extravaganza. I don't mind visiting them (I guess), I just hate to pay all the airfare and hotel costs. But apparently the time has come.

We'll try to make the best of it. However, I fear it'll end up being five days on Sunshine's couch, listening to batshit rants and crackpot conspiracy theories. Thousands of dollars for the privilege!

Both Secrets have flown several times, but were so young they can't remember it. So that part will be an adventure for them. And it could be OK, if we're not held hostage in Sunny's apartment. We can spend a day at Lake Tahoe, and maybe knock back a few brews at the Bucket O' Blood Saloon in Virginia City, etc. And, of course, there's always the outlandish buffets at the casinos.... I'm a big fan of the outlandish buffets.

We'll just have to set the agenda, which is not an easy thing to do with Sunshine involved. She's, as they say, a strong personality. But the money will energize me; anger and resentment are a powerful motivator, I've learned.

I'm far more excited about our other big trip. We're planning to drive down to West Virginia in June and leave the Secrets and Andy at my parents' house, for several days of spoiling. And Toney and I will continue on to Atlanta. We haven't been there in ten years, and I'm all fired up about it.

At my job I can get discounts on various things, and through that program it looks like we'll be able to stay at a fancy-pants hotel in Buckhead, for about $80 per night. And while we're there we'll eat and drink and submerge ourselves in all our favorite Atlanta places.

They include, but aren't limited to Manuel's Tavern, Moe's and Joe's (where Pabst draft is the beverage of choice, known as "the finest"), La Fonda Latina Cuban restaurant, Wallace Barbecue in Austell, the Vortex ("it's never too late to start wasting your life"), the Colonnade (put some South in your mouth), The Varsity ("What'll you have?!"), and Everybody's Pizza.

Those are just off the top of my head, and there are lots of others, I'm sure. Atlanta is all about eating and drinking.

We're planning to take in a Braves game as well, inter-league play with the Boston Red Sox. I've never been to Turner Field, I left Atlanta during the Olympics and was only back once -- during the winter of '97. So that'll be a blast. You know, if we don't get knifed in the parking lot.

The rest of the summer will have to be filled-in with day trips to Knoebels, and Philadelphia, and maybe NYC again. 'Cause Sunshine is siphoning off all our fundage. But it's not a bad lineup, not bad at all. ....Anybody want to buy a rolling aluminum motel room?

What are your travel plans for the summer of 2007? Tell us about 'em, won't you?

And we've got "visitors" at work, so I need to cut this thing short. I'll get back to the regular stuff next time. If you need more, download this classic Hendrie segment. It features Lloyd Bonafide performing his original song, "I've Gotta Rock," and is freaking hilarious.

Oh, and one more thing.... Happy Birthday Steve! He turns 44 today, and catches up to me once again. Ho-ly shit, we're old.... Send him a birthday email, why don't you? He'd love that: dozens of strangers flooding his inbox with Viagra jokes and whatnot. 

His address is stevewilkerson(at)hotmail.com. Do it! But be nice....

See ya tomorrow. 
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January 29, 2007

-- We're planning to upgrade our kitchen with new flooring and counters soon, and spent much of the weekend looking at samples and talking to people who don't have our best interests at heart. Some were merely clueless, while others clearly wanted to up-sell us things we don't need or understand. It's an excruciating exercise.

At Home Depot (I think), the guy asked how handy I am. I said I barely know which end of the hammer to hold. So he told me I should consider installing my own floors. Does my answer in any way correspond with his advice?? I'm sorry, but I'm having trouble tying the two together.

Some other place bombarded us with "additional fees," and we left there not having any idea how much the project might cost us. It was an additional fee of $1.11 per square foot for this, another additional fee of $35 for this.... The additional fees kept piling up until we couldn't breathe anymore, and had to run for our lives.

I'm very seriously considering just handing this project over to Toney. I'm not sure I can handle it, emotionally. And there's nothing sadder than the expression on an 8 year old Secret's face, during hour three of a sink discussion. There really isn't.

I'm about ready to wash my hands of all future sink discussions.

-- We also went to K-Mart over the weekend, because Toney wanted to check out something in their Sunday ad. I almost never go to those stores. In fact, I've worked it so I almost never go to Wal-Mart either. In most cases I'd rather just pay an extra fifty cents per item, and buy stuff at Target. It's a much more civilized atmosphere, and doesn't usually make me want to cry.

And that's exactly the way I felt at K-Mart yesterday. Is there a more depressing place on Earth? I submit that there is not. A hospice facility would surely seem like a Saturday night rave compared to K-Mart. They're not only cut-rate and trashy, but also empty. At least Wal-Mart is vibrant. There's lots of mullets and black concert t-shirts and women SCREAMING at their fat little hicklets with Yoo-Hoo smeared all over their big Charlie Brown faces.

K-Mart doesn't offer any of those distractions; the place is almost always a barren wasteland. It's just you and the ironing boards and the Fiddle Faddle and the off-brand jeans. It's enough to send a grown man spiraling into depression.

-- Speaking of hospice facilities.... Toney knows someone who is very sick, and probably won't live much longer. She said she wanted to send her a card, which is a nice gesture. But what kind of card? Get Well is a popular choice, but not very realistic in this case. And I don't believe Hallmark makes a Sorry The Cancer Has Spread series. Ya know? She ended up going with a Thinking of You card, and I can't really argue with that.

But there are lots of little niches the greeting card industry simply doesn't exploit. Maybe this is our chance to get rich? We could have a line of Sorry Your Baby Is Ugly cards, a Liposuction Success series, and maybe a Congratulations On Beating Your Brickhouse Constipation line?

Help me out with this, won't you? I believe this might be the ticket.

-- Have you ever bought a magazine subscription through eBay? I have. About a year ago I paid $7.75 for a four year subscription to Rolling Stone. $7.75! And I haven't had a single problem with it. Last week I read an article about rock critic Robert Christgau, in which he praised a music mag called Blender. I don't know anything about it, but will soon. I plunked down $1.99 for a three year subscription on Friday. And what's that, 66 cents per year? I'm willing to take the risk, my friends, because I like to live life on the edge.

-- On Saturday I watched Saving Private Ryan. It's one of many Big Important Films I'd never seen. But our new mondo-TV has got me all fired up, and itching to watch 'em all. It's a different experience seeing them in widescreen, like the directors intended, instead of all cramped-up on the old 27-inch water-driven unit. 

However, I've got a lot of catching up to do....

I'm still fairly obsessive about music, but never felt the same passion for film. I suspect I'm pretty much out-of-it, compared to most of you, when it comes to movies. And I'd like to verify that. 

I've listed all of the Academy Awards Best Picture nominees since 2000 right here, and the ones I've seen are in bold. Out of 35 movies, I've seen eight.

How do you compare? Is there a big gaping hole in my popular culture awareness, as I suspect? Tell me about it in the comments, OK? I need to hear the truth, the ugly ugly truth.

And I've got more of this stuff, but am all out of time. I'll pick it up right here, tomorrow.

See ya then. 
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January 26, 2007

-- The current temperature in Scranton? 3. That's forkin' cold, my friends. In fact, that's cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass doorknocker, or whatever the saying is. They're predicting a low today of 10, and it's currently 3. Does that make any sense to you? Yeah, me either. Oh well, who cares? That's your weather report for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, and the entire upper Perogie Belt. Stay tuned for Obnoxious Bitches On A Couch.

-- I had a little run-in with my friends at Best Buy, about my Big Ass Television.

They called and spoke to Toney on Friday, and told her they'd deliver the thing on Saturday morning between 8 and 10. "Probably closer to 8," he said. Cool! I asked Toney to get me up early, so I'd be fully prepared to watch that beautiful item come off the truck.

At 7:55 they arrived, and I could feel a lump forming in my throat. I hoped I wouldn't break down and start sobbing in front of everyone. The two guys removed it from the box and all its packaging, and carried just the TV itself into our house. Oh, it was a sight to behold. And that's where things went a bit sour.

"You brought the free stand, right?" I asked, all innocent and everything.

Of course they hadn't. They stared at me with a look of confusion, as if they'd never heard of such a thing. And I could instantly feel my blood pressure ratcheting upward. Because, you see, I'd specifically told those people at the store to make sure the TV and stand were delivered together. I was very skeptical about the fact that the stand didn't appear on my receipt, and had visions of a fuck-up dancing in my head.

The woman who processed the sale called a manager over, just to make sure she was doing it correctly, and I repeated my concerns to him. And he started talking to me like he was dealing with the retarded. "Sir, sir...." he began. Then he told me it's automatic that a stand be delivered with all JVC televisions, and I had nothing to worry about. The tone: any fool knows this.

I told him I was going to mighty pissed if I didn't get the stand. He said I would be pleasantly surprised, and seemed sure of it.

And that's why it was especially irritating when it didn't arrive. I tried not to take it out on the two delivery men, who seemed nice enough, but I'm only human. I shot a few sarcastic comments their way, and they were very apologetic about the "mix-up." They blamed the store, and later when I talked to the store, they blamed the delivery guys. And so it goes.

Long story a little less long.... I had at least five phone conversations with the manager who assured me everything would be OK, and started to suspect he was stringing me along. He kept telling me he had no stands in stock, but would have more in two days. In two days it was the same thing. Finally I told him to have someone come pick up the TV, I'd just buy one at Circuit City.

And guess what? I now have my stand.

We had a little trouble getting everything up and running, but not too much. And so far I've watched Twister (the traditional Big Ass Television inaugural event), Snakes On A Plane (good old fashioned dumb fun), Idiocracy (hilarious for a while, then not so much), and a boxing match on the HBO HD channel (it was as if two men were beating the living shit out of each other, right in the family room).

I don't want to be overly dramatic about it, but this changes everything. The rest of my life, I believe, will be measured as Before BAT, and After BAT. I'm sorry, I'm getting a little emotional again....

-- I'm pulling the plug on my Adelphia email tomorrow. They're starting to send Final Notice messages, ordering me to set up a Comcast account right freakin' now. I've put it off as long as I can, and I'm gonna take the plunge tomorrow. My concern is that I have almost everything tied to that account, and am afraid I'll forget something and find myself in a world of hurt. But I've spent the last couple of weeks preparing, and believe I'm finally ready.

Just so you know.... There are lots of unanswered emails from Surf Reporters in there that'll be lost forever. I'm sorry about that, I'm the world's worst with email. But believe me, it's nothing personal. I love receiving them, and reading them, but no matter how many times I beat myself up about it, I can't seem to find the time to answer them all.

But this will be a new beginning, and I'm going to be better about it. I promise. So keep 'em coming, and we'll start all over again with a fresh new sparkling inbox at Comcast. I vow that I'm not going to allow this one to go all to shit like I did last time. I'm going to trim the hedges and do all the edging and everything.

Hello?

-- Finally, I saw an item on Drudge last night about a probable Van Halen reunion tour this summer, with David Lee Roth. I like Van Halen, and if the opportunity arises I might check out one of the shows. I believe the Police are reuniting as well, and I wouldn't mind seeing them again either.

The question of the day: what other bands would you like to see reunite and tour? 

At the top of my list, of course, is the Replacements. Yeah, yeah, I know, Bob is dead. But they made their best album without Bob, and a few of my most cherished rock 'n' roll memories were born at Replacements shows without Bob. So don't give me the Bob argument, goddammit. I'm weary of the Bob argument.

I'd also like to see the Talking Heads, and if they can dig up Joe Strummer and reanimate him, the Clash. What about you? Tell us about it, won't you?

And I need to get out of here.... Can you tell I'm rushing?

See ya on Monday. 
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January 25, 2007

-- I arrived at LAX ridiculously early, because I'd miscalculated the amount of time it would take me to drive the 405 freeway. On the day I arrived in Los Angeles, I'd sat on that horrible strip of concrete for more than ninety minutes. But the time was cut in half on the day I left town. It probably had something to do with sunspot activity, I'm not sure.

Immediately I was given a few more things to worry about. The woman who checked me in said my flight had been delayed thirty minutes, because of "weather back east." Then she proceeded to cast serious doubts on whether or not I'd make my connection in Cleveland. "If you have to spend the night there," she said, "Continental is not responsible for your hotel room or food, because these delays are being caused by weather and out of our control."

Wonderful. They're already laying the groundwork for another cluster-fuck.

I went to my gate, and had lots of free time on my hands. So I wandered into a nearby eaterie, called Ruby's Diner, and had breakfast. And I don't know if I was just especially hungry or what, but that shit was awesome. And how many times can you say that about food at an airport?

Then it was a waiting game. Here's a guy who was sitting beside me, all reared back and making snoring sounds like a luxury liner coming into port. Oh, this was going to be an excellent day.

After we finally got going, the pilot told us that despite the delayed departure, we'd only be arriving in Cleveland about seven minutes late. That made me feel a little better, but I had visions of us sitting on a runway for thirty minutes. Or me being trapped inside the plane once we arrived, behind some fatass with all his earthly belongings packed into the overhead bins.

I'd never make it; I only had twenty minutes to work with, and it was pure fantasy to believe anything else. My only hope: the flight out of Cleveland would be delayed as well. Supposedly it was snowing there, like a bastard someone said, so that was my only chance. I was trying to prepare myself mentally for a night in Ohio without a toothbrush or change of clothes.

A few minutes before we landed, one of the flight attendants made an announcement. She said there are several passengers aboard who have very tight connections to make. Please be courteous, she requested, and allow these folks to exit the plane first. Cool!

But she might as well have been blowing diarrhea in the wind. Nobody gave a crap about anyone but themselves, and clogged the aisles like a hunk of cheddar in a poopshoot. I started hollering that I needed off, but there was nowhere for anyone to go. An Asian woman a few feet away joined me in my campaign, and finally the sea parted. It was me, the woman, a well-dressed man, and a not so well-dressed man.

And we were off to the races.

"Here they come!" a woman shouted into a walkie-talkie, as we sprinted off the plane. "They need D25 and D28!" she said. We were running, just full-out. Man, my love handles were in motion. We made it to an escalator, and took a breather on the way up. All of us except Well-Dressed Man, that is, who continued sprinting up the moving stairs. And I tried not to laugh when he tripped and fell, and his briefcase exploded in a mushroom cloud of business memos. Good stuff.

At the top of the escalator was one of those beeping carts, with a Civil War veteran behind the "wheel." Jump on, he hollered, and we went tearing through some sort of underground tunnel. The old guy was blowing his horn, and sending people scrambling. I was concerned we might crash, we seemed to be traveling at a speed far beyond the boundaries of common sense.

But we made it, to another escalator anyway. He told us to ride it up, and run like hell to our gates straight ahead. And that's what we did. Asian Woman and Well-Dressed Man went to D25, for a flight to Philadelphia. Not So Well-Dressed Man and your humble correspondent went to D28, for a flight to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

I was huffing and puffing, as DEVO might put it, like a fat boy in lead shoes. I ran up to the gate attendant and handed him my boarding pass, and my partner in hilarity was right behind me. "Oh, we haven't even started boarding that flight, sir." he said. "We're running a few minutes behind."

"Christ!" screamed Not So Well-Dressed Man. Yep, he's from Scranton, I told myself. The guy seemed all pissed off about it, but I didn't care. I wouldn't be spending the night in Cleveland after all. We'd freakin' made it. It was a shocking turn of events, and I called Toney to give her the good news. I don't think I adequately conveyed what I'd been through, because she seemed unimpressed that I was at my correct gate in time to make my next flight. There was an air of "that's what you're supposed to do" to her voice.

We flew home on one of those little Amelia Earhart planes, with propellers and the whole nine yards. The flight attendant was a recording, and I think there were only eighteen seats on the thing. I could feel the vibration of the engines in my wiener, and it was noisy as all hell. We swayed and swooped and rumbled through the sky. But it got us to Scranton, and that's all that mattered.

The much-dreaded trip was behind me now, and my new Big Ass Television would be delivered in the morning. As I drove toward home, I was almost giddy. I considered stopping at the beer store for a case of the golden elixir, but was a good boy and drove right past it.

And I'll pick it up from there tomorrow.

See ya then. 
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January 24, 2007

-- On Thursday morning, the Day of the Meetings, I got up at six o'clock, took a quick shower, then got all trussed-up in dress clothes. Generally speaking, I only have to tuck my shirts in when somebody dies, but this was an exception to the rule. I felt like I was shrinkwrapped.

I met my Nashville counterpart in the restaurant downstairs, and we each had eighteen dollar omelettes, and about fifty cents worth of coffee for four bucks. He had his laptop, and all manner of notepads and writing instruments with him. And I had nothing. Already I was second-guessing myself....

We rode to the office in his car, and I was the navigator. It's amazing how everything comes back to you. I had him taking side streets and whipping here and there. Oh, I was putting on a freakin' Burbank-driving clinic. I knew my way around.

There was high-security at the office building, and the guards eyed us with suspicion. Finally, after exhausting all their asshole-options, they reluctantly handed over a couple of passes which would allow us to park in the garage and ride the elevators up and down. We'd just have to pass through one more phalanx of guards in the lobby, and we'd be home free. And yes, I just used the word "phalanx."

The lobby guards were all behind a giant marble counter, and there were metal detectors and odd-looking gates everywhere. I approached one of the gates, and saw that it was two sheets of plexi-glass that slide together or apart, depending on the situation. The sheets were apart when I walked up to it, but slammed together as I neared. Whoa! 9/11 or no 9/11, if my nuts get caught between those things, there's gonna be a situation.

We went upstairs and met up with a few bigshots. Then we got on the two Ballbuster conference calls, this time from the point of origin. Pretty cool. After that, it was time for our first "meeting."

It wasn't really a meeting, it was more of a seminar. The company is going-live with a new operating system later this year, and this was reportedly part of the training that everyone would be required to take. Today's topic? Change readiness. I nearly reverted back to my roots and blurted out, "You're shitting me, right?"

They led us to a conference room, where a person who looked like kd lang was waiting for us. Only, on further review, I saw that it wasn't the singer, in fact it wasn't even a woman. It was a man, a man who looked like kd lang. He was sporting some sort of hipster/western wear hybrid outfit, and boots that came to a radical point, then flipped up on the ends. Ho-ly shit. I wish Buck could've been there to see it.

Ol' Genie Shoes proceeded to provide us with pre-emptive grief counseling, and strategies to deal with the big changes a new computer system will bring to our lives. I simply couldn't believe it. Change readiness seminars?? They flew us across the continent for this? It's like something off a Mike Judge movie.

We went to lunch at some expensive restaurant, where the prices are printed on the menu as: 17. Not $16.95, but 17. They had about four things to choose from (apparently it's chic to have a tiny, tiny menu), and all were loaded with freakish ingredients that I wanted no part of. I finally decided to go with a blackened chicken sandwich, hold the weirdo designer mayonnaise. Shit man, I wanted to find an In 'N' Out Burger, or an El Pollo Loco. I was already getting tired of all the poofter eating.

This restaurant is supposedly one of the best places around to see famous actors and whatnot. But they stuck us in a private dining room, off to ourselves. Wotta rip-off. I wanted to see Martin Scorsese, not Ben from accounting. Somebody returned from the bathroom and said George Clooney was seated right outside our room, but who the hell knows? I never saw him, or anyone else of note.

The afternoon was taken up by an elaborate corporate "road show." It was held in a full-on movie theater, and there were probably 200 people in attendance. Some of the big wheels got up and gave a State of the Company address, and general pep talk. Then there was some info on the new computer system, and we were released.

My counterpart and I were supposed to receive our annual reviews after the road show, but it never happened. We ended up walking around the building, talking to people we speak with on the phone every day, but had never actually met in person. Man, that was a mind-blowing experience. I recognized all the voices, intimately, but the faces and bodies attached to them just didn't compute in many cases. I'm sure they had the same reaction to me.

Dinner was at a high-roller Italian place, a few miles away. Again, we had a private dining room, and the joint was crawling with VPs, Executive VPs, Senior VPs, etc. Simply excellent. And once again, we had four entrees to choose from. I opted for "medallions of beef," or somesuch, because everything else featured shit people from West Virginia just don't eat.

I asked the waiter what kinds of beers they had, and he said they only serve Peroni. "Well, that'll make it easy to choose, won't it?" I said. That caused a ripple of laughter, which gave me a small boost of confidence.

The guy who was sitting beside me said he'd just finished writing a novel, and it would be published in the summer. It took him eight years to write, he claimed, and three more to edit. Genuinely interested, I started asking him follow-up questions. But he clearly didn't want to talk about it. WTS??

I picked at the bloody beef on my plate, and quaffed several Peronis (which tasted like Moosehead, I thought). Then it was over. A few of us stood on the sidewalk out front and talked for a half hour or so, then it was back to the hotel, and back to Scranton the next morning. THOUSANDS of dollars spent....

I had an adventure in the Cleveland airport trying to make my connecting flight, and I'll tell you about that tomorrow. I also need to give you an update on my Big Ass Television, which has been kinda interesting. And I'll get into some other small things as well.

See ya then. 
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January 23, 2007

-- I was highly skeptical, but my bag actually did arrive on the 2:17 flight from Atlanta. The woman at Delta acted like I should fall to my knees and thank them, but I reminded her that I'd arrived on the 12:30 flight. She just shook her head in disgust, and walked away. Of course I was glad to see it, but no way I was going to give her the satisfaction of knowing it.

I took the Avis shuttle to their expansive complex a couple of miles away, and eventually rented a car. It was a white Chevy Malibu that smelled like coconuts on the inside. The seat and mirrors were adjusted for the guy in The Incredible Shrinking Man, at roughly the halfway point of the movie. I almost exploded my spinal column getting into that thing.

I jumped on the 405 North, everything immediately coming back to me. I'd printed out MapQuest directions, but didn't need them. It was as if I'd never left. Except for one thing: the stoplights at the end of the freeway entrance ramps. That had completely slipped my mind, and I went whipping around a big curve and almost rammed a man in the ass, like Tom Cruise.

The 405 freeway was packed-in solid, just like every other time I'd ever been on it. Worst. Highway. Ever. I only needed to go about 17 miles until I transitioned onto the 101, but it took about 90 minutes. Oh well. I'd already given up on my Amoeba/Frontier Wok dreams, so screw it. I'd get there when I got there. I just sat still and marveled at the motorcycles driving between the cars, something that's legal in California. They call it white-lining, or some shit. Pure insanity.

My hotel was extremely fancy-pants. They had no parking garage, only valets. And, of course, a doorman in a red uniform. He asked if I needed help with my bags, and I told him no. But he wedged his way in there anyway, and grabbed my suitcase. When we arrived at the front desk he stood nearby like he was expecting a tip, and I just thanked him and turned my back. No means no.

The room was on the fourth floor, and was very nice indeed. I was dying of thirst, and saw a bottle of water on the desk. I grabbed for it, and there was a tag around the neck of the thing that said, "A charge of $6 will be added to your bill upon consumption." Or something along those lines. I think I actually shrieked, and returned the thing to it's previous resting place. Six dollars my big riffled ass.

I got my computer out, and tapped into the hotel's wiffy hotspot. Then I called home and talked to Toney and the boys, and after that, my boss. He told me my Nashville counterpart was having a bad day, and was stranded in Texas somewhere, because of "weather." He wasn't due to arrive until eight or nine that night, and wouldn't be able to join us for dinner. Whatever. We made arrangements to meet at the restaurant at 6:30, and I went and had a shower. I felt like I'd been breaded in filth.

Right before I left for dinner, somebody knocked on my door. It was a maid, and she asked if I wanted my bed turned down. I told her I could lift it, but thanks anyway. She acted like she couldn't give a tiny seahorse-shaped shitlet, one way or the other. And I admired her attitude.

Here's where we had dinner. It's some kind of crazy Brazilian festival of meat. They have a salad bar with various side items to choose from, then the restaurant employees continually bring skewers stabbed through all manner of meats, right to your table. You can accept or decline, and I only declined twice: some sort of garlic chicken (not a fan of garlic), and lamb (smelled like a hamper full of dirty underwear). It was tiny little slices of each, but over time it added up to a ridiculous amount of food.

Each table has its own wooden block, one side painted red, the other green. As long as the green side is up, they keep bringin' the meat. And we kept it green for a good long time. By the end I was completely loaded down, and it felt like my stomach had escaped its housing. I felt miserable. Moments before we cried uncle, and turned the block over to red, a waiter arrived with prime rib, and I just couldn't do it. I never thought I'd see the day when I said no to prime rib, but it finally arrived. I would've surely puked, and I don't see how something like that could further my career.

We sat and talked for a long time, letting all that meat settle. My boss's cell phone rang, and it was my counterpart, finally arrived at LAX. He said he'd just see us tomorrow. Fuck it.

I was extremely tired. I'd been up since 1 am LA time, and it was now pushing 9 o'clock at night. My boss told the waiter to bring separate checks, one for me, and one for him and his assistant. I thought that was kinda weird, but was too brain-dead to contemplate it. But now.... What does it mean? Why did he make me pay for my own dinner?? Any ideas? I'm still baffled.

As I was driving back to the hotel I decided to call the Nashville guy, to see how he was doing. He was staying at the same hotel as me, and was already in the lobby bar. I told him I'd be there in a few minutes, and would join him for a beer or two. I've talked to him almost daily, for years and years, but had never actually met him. We had to tell each other what we were wearing, so we'd recognize one another, like some kind of blind date or something.

He looked nothing like I'd imagined, and he clearly had the same reaction to me. Ever experienced that? You get an impression of someone in your brain, and sometimes it's accurate and sometimes it's not. This time it was a "not," in both directions. But he's a good guy, and we sat and exchanged airport horror stories for an hour or so. He shotgunned several margaritas, and I had two or three Harp Lagers (at $5.75 each). Then we threw in the towel. Tomorrow promised to be another long day.

I went upstairs, completely maxed-out on beef and beer, and hoped the ridiculous little European toilet in my room was up to the task I was about to throw its way. The thing was all one piece, tank and bowl together, and extremely low to the ground. But it performed admirably, I must say. I doubt it had experienced such a challenge too many times before, and held up under the pressure.

And just a few hours later I was in my boss's office, preparing for a full day of uncomfortable meetings and presentations, and awkward meals. Here's a pic I snapped with my cell phone through one of his floor-to-ceiling glass walls. Pretty nice view, huh? All I got's the Shuffler.

I'll try to wrap-up this tale tomorrow.

See ya then. 
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January 22, 2007

-- I hadn't flown anywhere since before 9/11, and was uneasy for a number of reasons. 

I was concerned a fellow passenger might start screaming belligerence and explode a Bass loafer above George Bush's Texas ranch; I was afraid the plane might crash because of some non-terrorist reason, perhaps the luggage compartment would be left "wide open," or the pilot would drop dead; I was convinced I'd be ensnared in some sort of nightmarish security bottleneck, and miss my plane; I simply knew the flight out of Scranton would be delayed, I wouldn't make my connection in Atlanta, and would spend the day adrift in a sea of uncertainty.

On and on it went.... I was a freaking basket-case.

Because of this, I got up at 4 am on Wednesday. It was the middle of the night, and my brain was throbbing with disapproval. I left the house a few minutes after 5, and the first leg of my flight was scheduled for 7. The previous day I'd acted like the ultimate nerd, and gone to the airport to scout things out. I wanted to make sure I knew where long-term parking was located, and all the places I'd need to go. I didn't need any surprises, dammit.

Since I was fairly confident I'd allowed myself plenty of time for douchery, and knew my way around the sprawling Scranton/Wilkes-Barre airport (ahem), I stopped at Sheetz to hit their no-fee ATM ("money for nothing"). And the place was packed. It was 5:10 am, and almost every gas pump was in-use, and the store was pandemonium. It was bizarre. Apparently there's this whole other world operating out there while I sleep? Who knew?

I got checked-in with lots of time to spare, so I went upstairs and talked to Toney on the phone. Finally I decided to drag my ass through security, and find my gate.

I was ordered to remove my laptop computer from its case, take off my shoes, and empty my pockets. I did all this, and as soon as I passed through the metal detector a man with not even a hint of a neck ordered me to the side. He hadn't ordered anyone else to the side, only me. And he made me stand on a rug with the outline of feet on it, and hold my hands straight out like a retard at a circus. He proceeded to pat me down, rub my ass, and check out my most personal of carry-on bags. Simply excellent.

The flight was on-time and completely full, and I was seated beside a neo-hippie who smelled like olive oil. It was a small jet, but a jet nonetheless. This probably wouldn't be too bad, I told myself, and it wasn't. The gingerbread cookies they gave us as a snack were even pretty darn kick-ass. Olives checked the ingredients on his pack, sniffed with disapproval, and stuffed them in the magazine flap on the seat in front of him.

I had to change concourses in Atlanta, which meant riding that crazy-ass train. I was mildly disappointed that the recordings had been changed, and they no longer had a mechanical hick giving directions over the loudspeakers. In the old days it sounded like a cast member of Hee Haw in that place: "Stawp! Doors will not bouince back!!" Now it's some accent-free chick and sophisticated classical music. Wotta rip-off.

I had over thirty minutes before my next flight was scheduled to leave, and was starving. There was an Arby's a few feet away from my gate, and I decided to pay them a visit. And that's where I got a taste, just a small little nibble, of the Atlanta experience. The people working in that restaurant were moving so infuriatingly slow, and with such a complete lack of urgency, I felt an old familiar rage building up inside me that I recalled from my years living there. I'd forgotten all about it, but it came rushing back on Wednesday.

Jesus J. McChrist man, pick up the beats per minute! It looks like you're working underwater!! I pissed them off with my Yankee-ass impatience, and they practically hurled my food at me. That shit is ridiculous, and when I returned to the gate I saw that nearly every other person had already boarded the plane. I was almost literally the last one through the door. Grrrrr....

It was a massive 777, and there was an empty seat between me and my closest neighbor. Oh yeah. He was an Asian hipster, and was already asleep. Or maybe he was just acting, to avoid having to talk to me? I just don't know.

As I strapped myself into my seat, I saw some hillbillies trying to wrestle a virtual steamer trunk into an overhead compartment. It was passed to a very stout woman, and she allowed it to slip from her hands. It fell from above her head, and the corner of the thing struck a Korean man above his left ear. He started howling like a mental patient, and rubbing his head, and not a single person said anything to him. The big-boned woman simply picked up the piece of luggage, and went back to work. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. The guy sported a perma-wince, and rubbed his skull for the next thirty minutes. And nobody ever asked if he was OK.

One of the movies they were showing was School for Scoundrels, so I bought some headphones for two bucks. But my remote was all fucked-up, and wouldn't work properly. All I could get from the thing was in-flight radio. So I listened to "Johnny Gold" count-down his thirteen favorite rock songs of all time. They included "See No Evil" by Television, and "September Gurls" by Big Star. Pretty freakin' hip for Delta Radio, I thought.

We arrived at LAX around 12:30 local time, and I made my way to baggage claim. I had visions of Amoeba Records dancing through my head, and was eager to grab my bag, pick up my rental car, and get the show on the road. I was supposed to meet some folks for dinner at 6:30, so I had six full hours of free time. It was actually going to work out, just as I'd planned. Suddenly I realized I was excited.

But it was not to be. I stood in front of that baggage carousel and watched other peoples' suitcases go 'round and 'round, for a long long time. The big crowd kept getting smaller and smaller, and I was still standing there, waiting. Finally it was just me and a handful of other folks, and I had a sick feeling in my stomach. Then they turned the conveyor off, and that was that. My bag was not there.

I looked around, and saw Olives standing near a pillar a few feet away. He had the same "What the crap?!" look on his face as I had. Clearly, his bags hadn't made it either. I walked over to him, and said, "Weren't you sitting next to me from Scranton to Atlanta?" He glanced around, like he was afraid someone had overheard me, and said, "No, I didn't get on until Atlanta." Then he walked off.

The hell? He most certainly did get on in Scranton. I sat beside him, and smelled him, for more than two hours. What the shit was that all about??

I went to an office called "Delta Baggage Services," and a woman with a strange accent (Czech?) told me my bag didn't make my plane (Atlanta again!), and would be arriving on a flight scheduled to land at 2:17. She said I could wait on it, or they could bring it to my hotel. I asked how long it would take to receive it at the hotel, and she said six to eight hours after the courier service has it in their possession.

And that's how how my Amoeba Records and Frontier Wok dreams went straight down the ol' porcelain poop funnel.

I didn't want to drag this deal out, but it looks like that's the way it's going. More tomorrow.

In the meantime, this is a funny YouTube video my friend Tim sent to me. And here's an interesting quiz that Surf Reporter John forwarded my way. It supposedly tells you how "Dixie" or "Yankee" you are. In case you're interested, I'm 70% Dixie, which feels about right to me. What about you? Tell us about it, won't you?

I'll have more of this stuff on Tuesday.

See ya then. 
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January 16, 2007

Here are some follow-ups to stories previously covered at the West Virginia Surf Report....

-- A few nights ago I finally watched Christmas Evil, a movie suggested to me as a good alternative to the original Black Christmas, which Netflix STILL hasn't sent to me. And it wasn't very good. The thing is extremely low budget, paralyzingly dull, and the anticipated payoff unsatisfying. However.... there was something about it that got under my skin.

I think it was the guy who played the main character, an actor named Brandon Maggart. He portrays Harry, a psycho with a deep-dish Santa hang-up. His apartment is filled with Santa doo-dads, he sleeps in a Santa suit, and he watches the neighborhood kids through binoculars, then records their activities in two giant books: The Good Boys and Girls and The Bad Boys and Girls. He's one creepy mofo.

And that's the best part of the film, that Brandon Maggart dude. I'd never heard of him, but he's great in this movie. Too bad the writing and directing, and all that stuff, wasn't anywhere near as good as the lead actor.

I wanted to learn more about the guy, and it turns out he was an original cast member of Sesame Street, and is Fiona Apple's father. And that somehow feels right to me.

-- I mentioned that I bought a CD at Best Buy on Sunday.... And once again, the cashier tried to sell me magazine subscriptions. What's the story with that? I walked up to her with some obscure hipster disc, and she immediately launched into a sales pitch for Sports Illustrated and People? Where's the logic? Where's the connection? What's next? Time-shares? Colon cleansers? Wiener enhancers? I don't understand.

I told her I didn't want any magazines, and I didn't want to enroll in their Rewards program, and I wasn't interested in the CD replacement insurance policy, and no, I didn't want to enter a contest for a chance to win a set of barbecue tools. I just want this CD, that's all I want, and please stop asking me questions; you're making me freakin' crazy here!

"Can I have your zip code?" she said. Grrrr.....

-- I told you about having my palm read, years ago, at Venice Beach in California. I was there that day with Mark Maynard, and we were in the midst of harassing a Seinfeld writer named Peter Mehlman.

Mehlman was quoted in a magazine as saying Hollywood needs good comedy writers. There's not enough of them, he claimed, and it was almost an emergency state. Then he added that anyone who is funny should come to California, right away. Come by plane, by train, by automobile, it doesn't matter, he said. Just come!

So we started calling his office and saying, "OK, we're here. When do we start?"

We never actually got through to Mehlman himself, but we spoke to his assistant multiple times. We told her we'd walked to Los Angeles, all the way from our home in Kentucky, because Peter had offered us a job. You know, indirectly. Through a magazine article.

The assistant was not amused, and eventually warned us to stop calling. So we began mailing them stuff. Mark's wife Linette is a graphic artist, and she dummied up a newspaper article from our "hometown." It was a heartwarming piece about two local boys who were about to make it big in show business, and had been offered a writing job from industry bigwig Peter Mehlman. It featured a photo of me walking along a highway, headed for Hollywood and carrying a sleeping Mark on my back(!?).

That didn't elicit a response, so we decided to go out and take pictures of street people holding up homemade signs. We planned to continue sending them to Mehlman, claiming the streets of Southern California were littered with people who had taken up his offer, and were now despondent and homeless.

Here's one of the photos I snapped that day at Venice Beach.

But we never sent him any pictures. As so often happened, we lost enthusiasm for the "project," and switched over to some other ridiculousness. Heh. If Mark and I hadn't moved away from each other, we would've surely been arrested, sooner or later. Every time we sat down to have a beer together, some crazy-ass scheme was hatched. Then we'd actually follow through with it, which was the amazing part. Good times.

-- And finally.... our new TV will be delivered on Saturday! I'm still in a state of shock. So many times I've brought myself all the way up to the cusp of buying one of those humongous televisions, then lost my nerve at the last second. Yesterday I finally did it. My hand was shaking as I signed the credit card slip, but I went through with it. And now I feel like I'm ten years old again, and it's Christmas Eve. Man, there will be no reason to ever leave the house....

I'll see you guys next week. I'm flying to Los Angeles tomorrow, returning on Friday. And my sphincter is clicking like a paparazzi's camera lens. Sweet Maria.

I'll tell you how it went on Monday. 
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January 15, 2007

-- I don't have to report to work today, because of Martin Luther King. And I think I'm going to celebrate the great man's accomplishments by going out and buying a humongous television.

Yes, my friends, I believe the time has finally come. For years I've been hemming and hawing, and dragging my feet, and all other alternative phrases for stalling. And now I'm.... well, I was going to say I'm ready to "pull the trigger" but that might not be an appropriate choice of words under the circumstances. Ahem. I'm ready to close my eyes, hand over a credit card, and let the chips fall where they may.

Here's the one I'm going with. It's on sale at Best Buy for $1749, with a free stand. And now you can go ahead and tell me it sucks and I'm making a big mistake and I'm the biggest douche who ever douched a douche. My email address is jeff(at)thewvsr.com.

Do I sound bitter? Last time I wrote about TVs here I mentioned that I wanted a 1080p set, and it triggered about ten emails from people who seemed almost angry about it. You can't tell the difference between 1080p and 720p, all of them e-hollered at me, and nobody broadcasts in 1080p anyway, etc. etc. And I openly acknowledge all that. In fact, I believe I even said it in my post that day.

But I don't care. I want 1080p. 

We're still using two 27-inch antiques here at the Compound, both purchased in Atlanta, back when Hector was a pup. And when you only buy a TV once every fifteen years or so, what's the matter with making yourself believe you got the best? Am I so wrong for wanting to fool myself into thinking I'm on the cutting edge, at least for an afternoon or two? Shit man, one of those 27-inchers has fake wood grain on it. I believe I've earned the right.

And tomorrow I'll let you know if I actually went through with it, or just parked in front of Best Buy and sobbed uncontrollably into my airbag.

-- I lost another four pounds last week. That's an average-sized newborn baby that's been removed from my ass since New Years Day. Man, I'm all fired up about it. The strategy? No junk, no beer, no Mountain Dew. And I've been burning myself down to a smoldering nub every day, atop a torture device known as an elliptical machine.

So far it's been amazingly easy. I still eat plenty, but now I'm paying attention to what's being shoveled in. And I've refrained from burying my arm to the shoulder in a "family" sized sack of sour cream 'n' onion chips while watching Scrote track down yet another whore-killer, and that sort of thing. I've replaced those so-called snacks with water and fruit and Rice Krispies. I'm still eating regular stuff at mealtime, I'm just staying away from the ass-expanders, and downsizing the portions so they can fit onto one standard dinner plate.

And I know it's still very early in the process, but so far it's been a breeze. Almost too easy.

I can't wait until I'm able to walk around acting all superior, and become a huge pain in the balls with non-stop droning about healthy-eating and weight loss. Everybody needs a goal, I believe, and mine is zealotry: relentless, mind-numbing zealotry.

Wish me luck.

-- When I was over at Best Buy yesterday, checking out my future television, I picked up the new CD by The Decemberists for $6.99. I've read nothing but raves about the thing, and several of you have suggested it to me as well.

I immediately loaded it onto my iPod, and have been listening to it. And I just don't know.... I'll have to give it more time, I think. Right now it sounds like an Al Stewart album to me; the dude's singing about the sea, and all manner of literary allusions. But, of course, the truly great albums often need time to sink in. And this could very well be one of 'em. I'm willing to do the work required.

My other recent CD purchase carries no such qualifications. It's this two-disc XTC anthology, and it's freaking amazing. Of course XTC is one of my all-time favorite "bands," and I know all their stuff by heart. But this collection somehow gets me excited about them all over again. I think it's because you get to hear most of their best songs, one after the other. There's no filler, no weak links, it's just one hunk of genius after the next.

I bought a used copy, that looks brand-new, for less than ten bucks. You should really check it out, if you're so inclined. It's better than the sum of its parts. And the parts themselves ain't too shabby. Ya know?

-- A couple of weeks ago I was at Target, perusing the $1 bins by the front doors. Amongst all the cheap-ass plastic crap, I noticed some sample pouches of Jack Daniels brand coffee. Hmmm, I thought, that sounds interesting. So I bought two, put them in the freezer at home, then promptly forgot about the whole thing.

Yesterday morning I was digging around for something, and saw one of the bags wedged between some ice trays and a box of peas. I decided to give it a try, and brewed up a pot. And it tasted like truck stop coffee laced with vanilla; there's not even a hint of Jack in there, that I could detect. I drank several cups and went from disgusted, to mildly appreciative, right back to disgusted again.

And I don't want to be too graphic about it, but I'm willing to bet that stuff would give even Miss Wisconsin the squirts. Sweet sainted mother of Meghan Coffey!

I've got more, but suddenly lost the will to continue.

See ya tomorrow. 
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January 12, 2007

-- Do you think it's just a coincidence that no sooner than one of Greta Van Susteren's missing-person "stories" gets solved (or too boring), another pops up to take its place? Are there really so many of these sensational cases out there, she can just pick and choose the juiciest ones? Or, like me, do you suspect she might actually be behind some of it?

Obviously I don't have any special insider info, this is purely speculation, but I think she might be kidnapping people for ratings. Well, maybe not Greta herself.... I can't really see her crouching behind shrubbery in a ski mask, then wrestling college co-eds into a waiting van. But I wouldn't be surprised to learn that her staff is doing it.

What do you think about this? Could I be on to something?

-- I saw an orange boy at Sam's Club a few days ago. And I'm not screwing around here. His skin was orange, and his hair was the same color as his skin. What would cause such a thing? Why would a grade-schooler go all carrot like that? People were doing double-takes, and walking into displays. Because, you know, it's not very often you see an orange boy.

-- My Dad is one of the funniest people I've ever known. His dry observations are hilarious, and almost always right-on. Sitting with him on a bench at a mall, for instance, is better than any Daily Show. He just sits there, observes, and reacts. And I'm almost always left gasping for air, and all hunchbacked-up with laughter.

But he doesn't tell jokes. I don't know why, but I can't remember him ever coming home from work and giving us the latest knee-slapper he'd heard during the day. And that's why I was so surprised when he did exactly that, earlier this week. Here it is:

An old man was at the doctor's office for a check-up. Since he couldn't hear very well, his wife had accompanied him. After the exam, the doc said, "Well, everything looks good. But before you go, I'm going to need a urine and stool sample." The old man turned to his wife and shouted, "What did he say?!" And she answered, "He wants you to leave your underwear."

I'm hoping Dad returns to his roots soon.

-- Check out this recent post at Phil Hendrie's blog. What do you think are the worst big cities in America? I can't really contribute much to this one, because I haven't spent enough time in any of 'em to have a valid opinion. I've only lived in one actual Big City (in California we lived way out in the suburbs, with the tarantulas and minivans), and that was Atlanta. And I loved it, for the most part. ....Phil also lived in Atlanta, at the same time I did, and you'll note that he doesn't include it on his shit list. 

Any opinions on this? Use the comments link below.

-- And speaking of Phil Hendrie.... Here's a quote from a character in one of his recent podcasts: "What in the name of Christ carrying his own cross up the hill without so much as a refrigerator dolly are you talking about?!" I love that man.

-- And to close out the category, you can download a great old Hendrie clip from 2000, right here. It's the play by play of the Los Angeles Dodgers vs. People Who Cry In Public.

-- Finally, another question for ya.... Have you ever visited a psychic? And if so, what did they tell you?

The only time I ever had an encounter with a so-called psychic was at Venice Beach in California. Here he is, in fact. He was a very surly man, apparently not impressed with the ten-dollar "donation" I gave him. 

He told me I could potentially have five kids, and that I could potentially live a long and healthy life. I asked him about all that "potentially" crapola, and he said people have free will, and can easily alter the course of their lives.

Um, OK. But couldn't I potentially have hundreds of kids? Maybe thousands? You know, under the right circumstances? Possibly if there was some sort of production line in operation? What did he mean, five? I just don't know.

What I do know, is the dude wasn't very specific with any of his "predictions," and it was ten dollars straight down the ol' poop-catcher. 

Have you ever had an encounter with a palm reader or Tarot card person, or any of that stuff? What about the ones who read the bumps on your head? Or the voodoo queens in New Orleans? Tell us about it, won't you?

And I'll see ya on Monday. 
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January 11, 2007

I'm getting an unusually late start with this one, so I wouldn't go around expecting much. I really wouldn't. But, as they say, time is of the essence (whatever the crap that means), so let's get right into it....

-- While perusing the itinerary for my California trip next week, I noticed a small glimmer of hope. Most of my stay will be eaten up with meetings and standard corporate crapola, but it looks like I'm going to have a few hours of free time on the day I arrive. It's hard to believe, but seemingly true.

I'm supposed to arrive at LAX a little after noon, and figure I'll be checked into my hotel by two. Then there are no known obligations until dinner that night, at six. That means four big honkin' hours alone. And my mind has been racing with ways to fill them.

Here's what I've got planned so far.... I'll go for a light (and late) meal at Frontier Wok, my favorite lunch destination when I worked out there. Then I'll swing by a Rite-Aid and pick up a disposable camera, and drive over to Hollywood to check out Amoeba Records. I've never been there, mostly because it didn't exist back in the day, and my sources tell me it's enough to move an aging hipster to tears. I'll have my Smoking Fish with me the entire time, and will be on high-alert for photo opportunities as I navigate the fabulous Sunset Strip.

Yes, it has the feel of a perfect afternoon. How much you want to bet it'll get all screwed up, and none of that stuff will happen? I'll be moved to tears all right. While sitting in a beige cubicle, sporting a painful perma-smile. Man, I'm pissed-off just thinking about it.

-- Speaking of the California trip.... One of the big-shots out there sent an email to the entire company, telling them that my counterpart and I will be in town on Thursday, and inviting them to have lunch with us. It said something along the lines of, "This will be a perfect opportunity to meet and talk with Jeff and Gary, in a relaxed setting."

I'm getting a sick headache.

-- A few days ago I received an email at work, with the subject line, "There's no such thing as too much penis." I'm not sure, but I think it came from Human Resources.

-- And since we're on the subject of email, I'm still stressin' about the eminent changeover from Adelphia to Comcast. About a week ago I received an email from the Comcast overlords, ordering me to choose a new email address. According to the Frequently Asked Questions, my old Adelphia inbox will disappear almost immediately, once I've established a Comcast address. And I've got all sorts of things tied to it.

So.... I've been in a frantic dash to get it all sorted out, and believe I'm getting there. But, inevitably, I'll forget something vital, and will soon find myself ratcheted frontways across a davenport. I just know it.

Why can't they just leave us alone?

-- Surf Reporter Bill sends along this fresh Smoking Fish sighting, proving once again that our logo not only gets around, but is also extremely sophisticated and cultured. Thanks Bill! Very cool.

-- Several folks forwarded me the sad news of the passing of Lily Munster yesterday, and something in the obituary caught my attention. She reportedly died at the Motion Picture & Television "facility" in suburban Los Angeles. Do you know anything about this place? It seems I read somewhere that the actor's union, or somesuch, set up a nursing home, or old folk's home, or something along those lines, for aging actors and industry professionals. Any idea who lives there now? I find this fascinating. (Talk about your Smoking Fish opportunities!) If you know anything about it, or have any relevant links, please use the comments section below.

-- I'm just about out of time here.... But yesterday I saw this linked somewhere, and believe it might be worth a few minutes of your time. It's a TV news report from 1967, about the "hippies" in San Francisco, and features an interview with the Grateful Dead, and part of a performance as well. Good stuff. Harry Reasoner ("Show me an intelligent sheepdog, and I'll show you a hairy reasoner." -Soupy Sales) can barely contain his deep, deep disgust. Check it out.

-- And now I'm gonna turn it over to our old friend Buck, and drag my riffled ass into work.

See you folks tomorrow. 
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January 10, 2007

-- Toney's mother, Sunshine, gave us a $35 Chili's gift card for Christmas. She might've given us other stuff as well, but who the hell knows? It's all a blur, a great big blur.

I can only remember visiting a Chili's once before. It was in Atlanta , I think, back before I met Toney. I'm picturing it way out Roswell Road somewhere, possibly even (gasp!) outside the perimeter, in the parking lot of a Kroger store. But my memory is quite dim about that as well. The only thing I can recall clearly is that I didn't like it very well.

But that was what, fifteen years ago? Back then I was probably intimidated by the exotic southwestern fare they serve. What the shit is a fuh-jeeta?? But, you know, I'm always ready to give it another try. Always ready.

And on Sunday Toney suggested we go to Wilkes-Barre to pick up a few items at a store there, then have a late lunch on Sunshine. Sounded like a fine idea to me.

When we walked in, there were two teenage girls standing near the door, each sporting the universal teenage girl disgusted-with-it-all expression. Presumably they were hostesses, but they didn't say anything. They just looked at us, waiting for us to speak. No "Welcome to Chili's," no nothing.

"Um, would it be alright if we eat here?" I said, a bit smart-assed. But, of course, it's never a good idea to mock or ridicule the folks who will soon be handling your food, so I kept a lid on it.

After begrudgingly asking if we'd prefer smoking or non-smoking, she took off with a stack of menus. Apparently we were supposed to follow her, so we did. Toney looked back at me while we were walking, and shot me a laser-guided "I'm about to kill this bitch." And I just smiled back at her.

We were seated in a small alcove, near all the other people with kids. Our boys are pretty big now, but it doesn't matter, especially to a teenager. Just stick 'em all together, and they can throw macaroni 'n' cheese at each other. Screw 'em.

Before I'd completely wedged my heft into the boof that was presumably designed for tiny Japanese people, a sashaying gay man in his early twenties was there, talking to us like we were patients in a nursing home. "Well, how are we today?" he said, all sing-songy and deeply concerned about our welfare.

He took our drink orders, and swished with great energy around a wooden partition, his feet barely touching the floor as he walked. It looked like he was just gliding across the carpet.

I watched this amazing spectacle unfold, then turned back to my menu. I knew better than to make eye-contact with the Secrets, because they surely would've started laughing. And I try not to encourage such things. Sometimes.

I didn't see anything on any of the "leather" encased pages that sounded even remotely interesting to me. I didn't want a burger, or anything like that, and most of the entrees featured at least one ingredient that automatically disqualified it. Like garlic or guacamole or any of the novelty mayonnaises.

I decided to play it safe, and just go with chicken tacos. Both Secrets wanted ribs, and Toney said she was planning to order some sort of quesadilla deal. I just don't know.

Our waiter floated back with our drinks, and I noticed that whenever he spoke he tilted his head to one side. It would remain upright until he opened his mouth, then everything would ratchet off to the left. I watched him conversing with other patrons as well, and it was always the same. I wondered aloud if he was unable to speak with his head straight up-and-down, perhaps as the result of a catastrophic windpipe injury or something. <Insert own joke here.>

After that it was difficult for any of us to keep a straight face. He was very attentive, and checked back often. And his head would instantly default to a 45-degree angle. I warned the Secrets, but it was all they could do not to snicker openly. We started calling him the Sideways Talker.

My tacos looked OK when he brought them out, three of them all snuggled together beside a small bowl of black beans. But it turned out to be 90% lettuce. I'm not joking, it was even worse than Subway, who are famous for selling six dollar lettuce sandwiches to an unsuspecting (suspecting?) public. It was just three tortillas piled up with lettuce, three or four hunks of tomato, a dusting of neon orange cheese, a squirt of salsa or somesuch, and a couple of soppy, gray-ass pieces of "chicken" in the bottom. A pathetic excuse for a taco.

But without prompting, Toney said her meal was really good, and the boys didn't seem to be having any trouble with theirs either. I didn't want to be a wet blanket (ahem), so I just swallowed my many complaints, along with all that lettuce. Sweet Jesus, the lettuce.

A woman and a ten year old girl stood up to leave, and both immediately plucked their asses, like they'd just arrived at a rest area along an interstate highway. The girl tugged creeping fabric out of her crack very near my face, as I was lifting food to my mouth.

Ahhhh, the ambience....

The first taco disappeared without incident, but the second one collapsed completely. I picked it up, and the entire bottom fell out of it. I was left with shredded produce, pinched between two halves of a ripped and wet tortilla. All the stuff inside was now on the edge of my plate, and/or the table. Grrrr....

By this time Toney had adopted a look of distress. She said, "This was good for a few minutes, but now it's not so good anymore." I was worried we might be seeing those quesadillas again, but everything worked out in our favor.

The Secrets said their ribs "rocked," so at least they were happy. And I gave the Sideways Poofter a seven dollar tip, so maybe he was satisfied as well. But me and Toney? Not so much. As chain restaurants go, I'd have to rate Chili's down near Bennigan's, way at the bottom of the list. In fact, it might be another fifteen years before I return.

Oh, and for the record.... Don Pablo's and TGI Friday's are at the TOP of my mega-chain list. Both are surprisingly good. What do you think? What's best and worst, in your opinion? Use the comments link below.

And tomorrow I might write a 1500 word essay on oats, or possibly fabric softener.

See ya then! 
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January 8, 2007

-- I woke up in a foul mood this morning, as if I'd been conceived on the wrong side of the bed. Which, of course, is a real possibility. I stopped in the living room to spend a few minutes with the Secrets, before retiring to my subterranean dungeon of "comedy," and one of them immediately farted. It sounded like a tire spinning in mud, and I just stood up and walked out of the room. 

I'm sorry, but I hadn't even managed to take my first sip of coffee yet; under the circumstances, I saw no humor in the wanton venting of a digestive tract. What is this, Roseanne?! Now I'm down here listening to Tom Petty, who is also irritating me, and mumbling to myself. The chemicals are not my friends today.

-- I lost two pounds last week, by not eating garbage and staying away from the Mountain Dew machine. Yeah, I know, two pounds doesn't sound like much, especially considering the fact I've got, like, a fourth grader to go. But just think about a two-pound can of coffee. That's been removed from my ass: a can of Folger's. This week I'm introducing daily exercise into the mix, and hopefully the blubber will start disappearing a lot faster. I'm completely disgusted with myself -- for more reasons than usual. I'm tired of being a pile of meat with a snarky attitude. The thought of drinking a beer even makes me sick right now. ....Will somebody please hold me?

-- Speaking of semi-healthy foods, have you ever put berries on your cereal? I see that on TV commercials all the time, and on the front of cereal boxes and everything, but I've never actually seen anyone do it. In fact, who eats berries at all? I don't eat berries, it never even crosses my mind. I mean, seriously. Berries?!

-- On Saturday the oldest Secret had a much-anticipated swim meet with another undefeated team, at an away pool. And it was a long trek from here. We had to take a highway I didn't even know existed, and drove forever. I'm not even sure we were still in Pennsylvania, although Toney assures me we were. The cars in the parking lot seemed to have an even mix of PA, NY, and NJ license plates. So who the hell knows?

The school was, shall we say, a bit rough around the edges? Apparently the cost of groundskeeping is simply not covered in the budget. Plus, there was a lot of your standard Wal-Mart shoppers milling about: women sporting gargantuan pastel t-shirts with teddy bears on the front and forearm tattoos, men with mullets and vests, and fat little Campbell's Soup kids, many with modified mohawks. Oh, it was a heady stew.

But their swim team is tough, and a rival of ours, so there was electricity in the air. Toney is now involved with the team in a formal fashion (it's always only a matter of time), and immediately left me and the youngest Secret to ourselves. We were on our own in this foreign land, and both sighed loudly and went in search of the "observation deck."

It was upstairs in a balcony, and already depressingly crowded. We saw no open seats, and were forced to stand with our backs to the wall. It was roughly 120 degrees in there, and we were looking at three full hours of it. Simply excellent.

After the teams finished warming up, a little dumplin' child on the other team came up into the stands, still dripping water, and asked his dad for two dollars, so he could buy something at the concession stand. "What are you doing out there?!" the dad bellowed, "It looked like you were taking a freaking coffee break every time you got to the wall! You've got to make those turns quick, quick, quick!!" The man had a tone of utter disgust in his voice, and I felt sorry for the kid. All he wanted was some Twizzlers, and got public humiliation instead.

The Secret was in the third race (which he won, thank you very much), then he wasn't supposed to compete again until twenty-two. Screw this, I said, let's go out to the car. My face was shining like James Brown (two weeks ago) and I was starting to develop a mild case of claustrophobia, up there in that packed-out subway car in the sky. So the youngest Secret and I went outside, listened to an entire Fountains of Wayne CD, ate some SmartFood, and let the cool breeze perform its magic.

When we returned, a full CD later, they were still only on race sixteen. But at least there was a place to sit now, way down on the end of a bench seat. We grabbed it, and I had half a cheek hanging over the edge. Within minutes phantom ass syndrome kicked in, and the suspended quarter of my rear end was completely robbed of blood flow. Somebody could've stabbed me in the ass with a hunting knife, and I wouldn't have felt it. Oh yeah, it was nothing short of paradise.

Long story a little less long.... Our team won, but it came down to the final race. It was very exciting, and people were screaming their heads off. After it was over I heard a few parents raising hell about something or other, claiming one of our swimmers should be disqualified. I was afraid things were about to turn ugly (forearm tattoos, remember), but the complainers weren't getting any traction with their bitching, so they let it drop.

By the time we got home it was completely dark, and the day was pretty much shot. The meet had eaten up an entire Saturday, but, in retrospect, it was time well-spent. Pass the yogurt nodules.

-- Today's question is kinda abstract, but I'll give it a shot anyway. I was listening to Lynyrd Skynyrd on Sunday, on our way to Chili's in Wilkes-Barre (which I'll tell you about tomorrow; Sweet Jesus), and started thinking.... What would've become of that band, if their plane hadn't, you know, plunged into a swamp.

And I believe Ronnie Van Zant would've eventually left them, and become a "serious" songwriter. I think he would've outgrown the drunken boogie band image, and went off on his own. Of course, when money was tight, he'd embark on a summer tour with his old friends. But for the most part, he'd become a Steve Earle type of guy. At least that's the way I see it.

So my question today.... What do you think would've happened to musicians and actors who died young, if they'd lived a full life? Tell us about it in the comments, won't you?

Or, if you prefer, you can just talk about today's Further Evidence link. Heh.

See ya tomorrow. 
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January 5, 2007

-- Wow, it's Friday already. How did that happen? Pretty cool. I guess it helps when you're actually busy at work, and arguing with people, and muttering profane insults under your breath all day, huh? Awesome. Another successful and fulfilling work week in the bank.

Tonight I'm going to watch a movie called Christmas Evil, which was suggested by one of your fellow Surf Reporters. I'd never heard of it, know nothing about it, and am not sure what to expect. Just the way I like it.... It's so much better when you don't go into something with a handcart full of prejudices, ya know? When it comes to this movie, I'm as open-minded as we all pretend to be about everything.

I rented the DVD from Netflix, which continues to skip right over Black Christmas, even though it's been at the top of my queue for weeks. The pricks. I need me some old-school holiday-themed mass-murder. To add insult to injury, they sent me a Homicide: Life on the Streets disc that was broken in half. I'm not kidding, it was in two pieces. Plus, the sleeve looked like somebody had recently wiped their ass with it.

George is getting irritated!

-- I got a message yesterday that chilled me to the bone. It said it's now time for me to migrate from my Adelphia email, to Comcast. "It's simple!" they say. And "it only takes a few minutes!" Yeah? Well, how come my nuts already hurt?

-- Toney and I are trying to buy a new stove for our kitchen. The one we inherited when we bought the house is, as they say, shit. All the rest of our appliances are the same brand and white. The stove is another brand, and some kind of sickly beige. The oven gets red-hot on one side, and a mild pinkish hot on the other. And it's just crying out to be in a landfill somewhere.

So, we've been looking around, and found one that meets our needs at Sears. It's on sale for eighty bucks off, and we almost bought it. But wait! Through my job they offer us discounts on various items, and we can buy Sears gift cards at fifteen percent less than face value. Maybe we should order the cards, I told Toney excitedly, then use them to buy the stove?! She reluctantly agreed, and that's what we did.

And now Fed-Ex has been trying to deliver the damn things all week. Somehow they seem to know exactly when nobody will be home, and they require a freakin' signature. The sale ends tomorrow, and today is our last chance at receiving the gift cards. I'm probably going to end up driving around in the dark tonight, frantically running my hands through my hair and trying to hold back the tears, in a desperate attempt at finding the Fed-Ex distribution center.

We should've just bought the stupid stove.

-- On a happier note, I had a little birthday money still festering in my savings account, left over from late November. It was calling to me: Jeeeeeeff, please spend me. Spend me now! Just think of all the beautiful things I can buy you. Since this freaked me out a little, a bank account with a voice like Marilyn Monroe's, I decided to get rid of it.

I had fifty dollars to play with, and here's where it went. Oh yeah. That's my purchase summary from yourmusic dotcom. And the discs will be delivered today. How do I know? I just know. I have a sixth sense for such things. All my life I've been able to predict the mail. Seriously, I should be on the Tonight Show or something, predicting the mail.

Anyway, if you have the same strain of mental illness as I do, yourmusic is a great resource for cheap CDs. They raised their prices on January 1, from $5.99 to $6.99 -- free shipping. But it's still a great deal. As somebody once said on Monty Python (or was it Murder, She Wrote?), my nipples are exploding with delight.

-- Will, the keeper of the blanket, has announced the addition of a few new quotes to his Surf Report quotes page. You can check 'em out here, at the top of the list. Thanks Will, as always. I appreciate your ongoing efforts.

-- And finally, the question of the day.... Sometime over the holidays Toney mentioned a phrase her grandfather used to use, and I thought it was hilarious. Whenever he'd walk into a room and smell something questionable, as if there'd recently been an assplosion, he'd sniff the air and say, "Did somebody just open a can of peaches in here?"

Why is that so funny? I'm laughing all over again.

My Dad holds a black belt in that sort of thing. He's a master of the old-time, colorful sayings. For instance, a bucktoothed person "can eat an ear of corn through a Venetian blind." A garbage truck is a "maggot-masher." A fat person is "two hoe-handles across the ass." A person who talks too much is "windier than a sack of buttholes." And whenever someone tells a story with too many unnecessary details, they "went all the way around Fisher's hog pond" with it.

What are the rest of 'em? I don't think we'll be able to catalog them all, but we can give it a try. What mildly-bizarre country-fried phrases like that have you heard, perhaps from your parents or grandparents, and remembered all your life? Use the comments link below to tell us about it.

And I'll see ya next time. 
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January 4, 2007

-- It looks like the California trip is on. Yesterday my boss emailed me, and told me to go ahead and make the necessary arrangements. Which, of course, means call an "approved" travel agency, give them a credit card number, then bend over the proverbial couch and bite down on a metaphorical dishrag.

I did as I was told, and it wasn't as bad as I'd feared. My airfare is less than four hundred bucks, and I got some kind of corporate discount on the fancy-ass hotel, which will run me $213 per night. I've got a car reserved with Avis, and apparently I'm all set. In two weeks I'll be seated in an outsize tube of aluminum, hurtling through the sky toward the western horizon.

I probably shouldn't admit this, but I've got a twinge of concern about the whole thing. About the flying, I mean. I don't think I've been on an airplane since early 2000 (that's before 9/11), when we were in the process of moving from that "paradise" out there. Up to that point, I flew quite a bit. But it all came to a screeching halt when we moved to Scranton.

Back in the Atlanta days, before kids and mortgages, etc., Toney and I did a little traveling. We went to San Francisco a couple of times, out to see Sunshine in Nevada once or twice, and spent an excellent week on the Oregon coast one summer, where I magically transformed into a fully-realized beer snob. Best. Beer. Ever.

Plus, I attended a lot of "meetings" and such through my job. And I put parentheses around that word because it happened during the record weasel years. One such trip featured Prince and the New Power Generation performing in a hotel ballroom in Chicago, with Oprah Winfrey herself gyrating her big flower-print ass on the dance floor. So you can see, these were not meetings, they were "meetings."

But that was then, this is now. And now there are four of us, and we're not the freaking Vanderbilts here. Four airfares at once will cost ya. Plus, my "new" job doesn't require me to travel like my old one did. So, without really noticing, I find myself sitting here having not flown in about seven years. And I recently watched United 93, and really want to see We Are Marshall before it leaves theaters. Yesterday I heard Lynyrd Skynyrd on the radio, and on Tuesday I talked to a guy at work who grew up a rabid Yankees fan. His favorite player as a kid? That's right, Thurman Munson.

But whatever. It's not a major panic, just a little nagging concern way back in the battle-scarred folds of my brain. My bigger worry is the meetings in Burbank. And the meals with bigshots, where my counterpart and I will basically be onstage. Man, I hate that kind of thing with every fiber of my being. And, mister, my being is just lousy with fiber.

It's going to be an excruciating three days, and I have a feeling it's not going to be a beer-free January, after all. In fact, I'd better watch it, or I might end up like the guy in this Fountains of Wayne song.

-- And speaking of getting my shit together.... So far so good on the ass-reduction project. I know it's only been a couple of days, but I've managed to stay away from the candy bars at work, as well as the sexy-as-all-hell Mountain Dew machine. And, as they say, every journey starts with a single step, or some such bullshit. 

Now I just need to add in the exercise component, which is going to be the hard part. I'm not joining another gym, what with the nauseating stew of funk-suppression smells, and the bobbing penises in the locker room. And I can't really see me wallowing around in the floor doing sit-ups like something off a 1950s sitcom. What am I, a complete douche? I've tried walking and even running, and that's not for me either. I always resent having to wave at people. 

But I need to figure something out, before I'm over at Dick's Sporting Goods, wearing a fake moustache and buying a stack of sports bras. I really do.    

And that's about all I can muster this morning. I'll try it again tomorrow.

See ya then. 
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January 3, 2007

-- I watched the second-half of the Fleet Enema Gator Bowl (or whatever) on Monday. I'm not much of a football fan, but this was a big game and it featured West Virginia, so I tuned in. You know, once I remembered it was on.

It was halftime when I turned on the TV, and there was some gay man on a stepladder waving his gloved hands around in an effeminate manner, apparently giving hints to the marching band on what to play and how to play it. I've never understood why the waving poofter is necessary. Don't they practice? I'm not kidding, shouldn't they all know it by now?

Anyway, it looked like WVU was getting its ass kicked. Again. I'm no expert, but I know the school has a long history of making it to bowl games, then promptly losing. It appeared this one would end the same way all the rest of 'em ended; there would be no joy in Mudville, or Pinch/Quick either. But I decided to stick with it anyway.

And a funny thing happened.... As soon as I started watching, WVU began playing well. They pulled off some sort of gimmicky deal, called a "sleeper play," then it was all West Virginia from there. And they ended up winning, fucking winning, the Big Game.

All because of me.

-- I'm not sure I have this story completely correct, but it's close. My brother bought, or was given, one of those deers covered in Christmas lights you see in people's front yards. He set it up in mid-December, and all was well with the world. 

Then one night he came home from work and the lights on the body of the thing were no longer working, only the head was lit. And it was wagging to and fro, this floating deer head, in front of their house. Back and forth it went, as he stood there watching: in perfect cadence, a waving and levitating brightly-lit animal face to celebrate the holidays.

-- I was passing through a room yesterday morning, and one of Gerald Ford's many funerals was on TV. The camera focused on a woman sitting amongst the mourners, and I thought, "What the hell's Mary Kate Olsen doing there?!" Then I realized it was Nancy Reagan.

-- Speaking of that, is the post office finally going to start delivering the mail again today? Shit man, it's been, what, a week? I have CDs to hoard, and Netflix movies to obsess about. I can't have these big gaps, screwing up my mental illness rhythms. And why are we going so overboard about President Ford, anyway? He seemed like a good guy, but I can't remember the mail stopping because of any other presidential deaths. Heck, I think the post office worked extended hours when Nixon died. But I could be wrong about that....

-- I turned on a lamp in the family room this morning, and it was shockingly bright. I asked Toney if she'd replaced the bulb recently, and she said no. Very weird. And it just kept getting brighter and brighter, until you could barely walk into the room without shielding your eyes; it looked like somebody was filming a TV show in there. Finally there was a loud popping noise, and it went out.

Have you ever encountered anything like this before?! I'm 44, and it's a new one on me. Sweet Jesus.

-- Apparently I'm going to have to go to California in a couple of weeks. Since I started my current job, in early 2000, I've been told, on a consistent basis, that my Nashville counterpart and I will be making occasional trips to the home office. But it's never happened, not once.

However, my boss actually sent me an itinerary yesterday. It's never gotten to the itinerary stage before, so I'm starting to believe it might really happen. It looks like I'll be flying out there one day, have meetings and highly uncomfortable meals the next, then fly home on day three. A short but painful journey.

And, of course, it's all expense-account funded, meaning I'll have to fork over the cash for everything up-front, then The Company will pay me back when they get around to it. We're supposed to stay at a fancy-ass hotel($), fly into a tiny boutique airport($$), and on top of everything else, I'll probably end up having to tuck my shirt in.

The whole thing makes me sick to my stomach....

-- This is a pretty interesting site, listing "strange" happenings in thousands of U.S. cities. What's happened in yours? All I got was a piss-ant little UFO sighting.

-- On a similar note, here are Psychic Nikki's(?!) predictions for 2007. Last year, she claims, she predicted the death of Lou Rawls. Why does that statement make me laugh? This year, according to Nikki, thousands of us will perish because of poison potatoes(!). As well as a bunch of other horrible things.... What are your predictions for 2007? Let's see if we can do better than this so-called psychic. I have a feeling we can. Use the comments link below.

-- And finally, we have something new from our good friend Buck. The two of us had a lengthy phone conversation over the holidays, and I was laughing my ass off. He's a funny guy, straight up. And contrary to popular belief, I didn't know him until I started this website; he's not one of my old Dunbar buddies, like Bill and Rocky and Chris. But our conversations have a way of branching off into myriad ridiculousness, and veering here and there, as if we have a long history in the bank. Good times. And here's his latest.

See ya tomorrow. 
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January 2, 2007

-- And we're back. I hope everyone had a great New Years holiday, and managed to stay out of jail, etc. That's not really an issue for me since I've never gone out on a New Years Eve in my life, at least that I can remember. I'm not really a noisemaker and novelty hat kinda guy, ya know? And if somebody ever blew one of those hyper-extending whistles in my direction, there's a very good chance something inside me would snap.

No, I've always planted myself squarely in front of the flickering humbox, watching horror movies when I was a kid, and whatever catches my interest today. This year, for instance, I kept jumping around between Twilight Zone, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Hee Haw marathons. Somehow the combination worked; it was like trail mix for the soul.

Then I watched Little Miss Sunshine, which I liked a lot, and finally Dick Clark's "rockin'" show. And since I don't want to start the new year out with cruel insensitivity, I'll just stop right there.

Ho-ly shit.

Did you do anything interesting? And did you wear a cardboard hat, with chinstrap? Tell us about it, won't you? I'm very interested in the chinstrap culture.

-- We had visitors over the long holiday break, and that pretty much dominated our lives. I had something like eleven days off in a row, and got very little accomplished. Oh, I had big plans, but they all went straight down the ol' poop catcher. Too much chaos....

Here's something I discovered after our visitors left (the first time) on Thursday. It's a cookie stashed on my CD shelves. It's too far from the ground for any kid to have put it there, so it had to be an adult. And I know which adult too. Grrr....

It won't surprise me if we find food hidden all over this house, for weeks to come. The guy's like an alcoholic with booze. The next time it snows I'll probably try to put my boots on, and drive my foot straight through a congealed pork chop. You think I'm joking?

-- After our visitors left (the first time) we went back to Five Guys hamburgers in Dickson City for lunch, then stopped off at the liquor store for one final smallish bottle of Maker's Mark to close out the season. I bet the people at my credit union think I had one hell of a New Years Eve party this year. This thing looks like a page out of a Barney Frank expense report.

-- Somehow, and I can't even remember the series of events that led up to such a thing, Toney and I, and both Secrets, recently ended up at Steamtown Mall in Scranton. When I tell you the past week or so is a blur, I'm not just being dramatic. It's all one big soupy mess inside my head. But I'm fairly certain we were at that horrible place, it seems like only a few days ago, and it sucked.

I hate malls. There was a time in my life when I didn't mind them. You could walk around with friends, get into this and that, eat some Chick fil A, browse the cut-out bins at National Record Mart.... But now there's nothing for me there. The prices are too high, the places are always crowded, and we have no Chick fil A, not a single one. In the year 2007, malls only manage to depress me.

And I hate Steamtown especially. It's a white trash magnet, and I always feel like scrubbing down whenever we leave the place. I'm always telling the Secrets, "Don't touch the handrails! For the love of God, don't touch the handrails!!" That joint is a grossness mill.

Toney dragged us into one of those Abercrombie stores, so she could look at sweatshirts for the boys. I had never been inside one of those places in my entire life. For one thing, I can't recall ever seeing anyone over the age of 21 entering or leaving. Plus, and this is the big one, I'm fairly certain they have a strict "no ugly" policy. It would be mighty embarrassing to be kicked-out of a retail store, because of aesthetic reasons.

But she assured me it would be OK, and we walked through the front door. Hanging there, right by the entrance, was a huge black & white poster of two sexually ambiguous 14 year olds lounging around in wife beaters and boxer briefs, or some such thing. I think it was a boy and a girl, but who knows for sure? All I know is that when I was fourteen, I didn't look like either one of those two people. If they'd put up a poster of me at that age (or any age), lying around in soft-focus, the mall would have to provide grief counseling.

As we made our way around the mildly disturbing photograph, my head snapped back like the money-shot in the Zapruder film. There was this massive, gargantuan guitar riff that came blasting out of hidden speakers all around the store, then an impossibly-loud Oasis song was crashing down on us. What in the candy apple hell?! Were they experiencing some sort of catastrophic malfunction of the sound system?

But no. I looked around, alarmed and fearing for my health, and everyone was acting completely normal. A girl wearing jeans that continuously threatened to dip below the Mendoza line, was happily singing along and folding shirts. A couple of douchey guys with ludicrous hair coloring continued browsing the racks of $75 pants, or whatever. I couldn't believe it. It was like a Cheap Trick concert in that place.

"I'm going to wait outside," I told Toney. I went out there, leaned against a railing and waited for the lightheadedness to pass, as a parade of fatties in pastel "sweat suits" lumbered by. Finally, she and the Secrets emerged from the store, and Toney was carrying a big Abercrombie shopping bag with handles.

Holy shit! She actually bought something in there?! I started to ask how much she'd spent, just a reflex reaction, then decided to let it go. Experience has taught me that it's often prudent to just let it go.

-- And finally, the question of the day is an obvious one: what's your new year's resolution? I need to lose about sixty pounds, so I guess I'll go with that. Again. Yeah, I know.... I'm celebrating my tenth year of the exact same resolution, I think, but this time it's going to be different. By golly.

Also, I'm going to stay away from alcohol for about a month, to cleanse my system of all the toxins. My system is just lousy with toxins.... Maybe, if all goes well, I'll even invest in one of those colon cleansers, where you end up crapping sea weed and hunks of beef from the Johnson administration? I think that would be cool.

What are you shooting for? Tell us about it in the comments, won't you?

And I'll see ya tomorrow. 
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