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   The State of My Fat Ass                                  December 2004

December 29, 2004

-- Friends, I sit here a free man. Not only are Sunshine & Mumbles now safely returned to their Bitterness World Headquarters in the mountains of North Carolina, but I'm also in the very early stages of the first day of a big honkin' five-day weekend. Could there be a better feeling? I submit that there could not. I'm about to soil my EuroUndies here; it's paradise on earth.

The holiday visit from S&M was fairly irritating. I know some of you may be surprised by this, but it's true. I'm not going to cast a gloom over my wonderful day by talking about it too much, but my mother-in-law is like a sixty year old Veruca Salt. Not the rock band, she's nothing at all like a rock band, I'm talking about this one. She's as spoiled as they come. And a little of that... ruins the whole bunch. Or whatever.

One day earlier this week she talked to Nancy on the phone, and something was said that set her off for the rest of the day, and beyond. Apparently Sunshine had a cactus that meant a lot to her. Yes, you read that correctly. Supposedly she received it as a hospital gift when she "almost died" back in 1998. And she's nurtured it and raised it up to be a strong and upstanding cactus, and thinks of it as "karma." I don't really understand that, but it's what she said. She has potted karma. Anyway, when they changed apartments recently, there was no place to sit this prized cactus where it could get the amount of sun a cactus needs. So she asked Nancy if she could leave it on the windowsill in their kitchen.

Yeah, Nostrils killed it.

He reportedly knocked it into the floor while dusting, exploding the pot and rupturing the karma itself. He then attempted to replant it, and used some kind of watery soil that is a death sentence to cacti. (I have no idea.) And Nancy told her that the thing was officially dead, and they'd tossed it in the trash the previous day. 

Man, oh man. I wish I'd been running tape during the resulting hours-long rant on that deal. She was cussing like a worker on the Alaska Pipeline. It was enough to make the cast of Deadwood shake their heads in disgust. Toney had to shuttle The Secrets out of the room, and put towels under the door.

To be fair, it would piss me off too. Nostrils has a way of "accidentally" causing mayhem and destruction at fairly convenient times. There's a track record with that guy, and it's enough to make a person question just how accidental it all really is.

But the anger never ended; she just couldn't let go of it. And that's the difference. The day it happened there were two plumbers here, fixing a leak under our kitchen sink, and Sunshine was standing in the middle of the living room spewing obscenities and pontificating as if she were running for political office in some parallel universe where "fuck" means "and," and "faggot" means "the." One of the plumbers walked out with me as I left for work, and patted me on the back, laughed, and wished me luck. As I drove away I could still see him laughing and shaking his head in the rearview mirror.

And when Sunshine left here yesterday, with a flamboyant wave of her matriarchal robes, she was still seething about her fallen karma cactus. I really think she may kill Nostrils before it's all over. I haven't seen her this worked up since Burger King discontinued the Chicken Whopper.

-- There's a bunch more I could write about Sunshine, like how she tries to plant ideas in Toney's head about me being a controlling bastard. That one makes us laugh, since we both know who wears the pants in this house. It's actually a fairly sad laughter, if you want the truth... Or I could tell you about how she has a shopping addiction like something off a very-special Oprah. A couple of nights ago she was watching The Sopranos in our family room, with the volume turned up to a level where passing aircraft could hear it -- as is the tradition. She was nodding off, her head whipping around on a swivel, and fighting to remain conscious. (Also a tradition.) Then she suddenly snapped awake, sat straight up, and said, "I think I'm going to go back to Burlington tomorrow and buy that green shirt." Then she faded off to sleep again. I'd never seen anything quite like it before. Or I could tell you about how she sits on her ass barking orders and bitching at Toney all the time, eating See's candy like Tic Tacs, and pissing and moaning. But I'm not going to, because I'm off for five days. And I'm in a good mood. Veruca ain't bringing me down today, goddammit. She's North Carolina's problem now.

-- Thanks to everyone who sent in Smoking Fish favicons. One in particular looks really good to me, and I'm gonna use it. I appreciate the help!

-- And I have another five gmail invitations, if anyone wants 'em. Those Google people won't leave me alone with the invitations. It's one step forward and two steps back. Please take them off my hands, I beg of you! Send me an email if you want an account, don't just post it to the comments. I get confused easily. Thanks.

-- And here's a really cool Smoking Fish Sighting, captured for the ages by loyal Surf Reporters Arlye, Frank, Scott, and Jo -- all the way from Norway! Awesome. Thanks guys.

-- Now I'll turn it over to a flu-ravaged Metten, and wish you folks an excellent Wednesday. 

I might update tomorrow, or maybe the next day. I'm winging it for the rest of the year. 'Cause I'm off. And free!

See ya.

Wait! I just checked my email and there are about ten messages there informing me of the passing of Scrote!? Noooo!!! How could this be?? Scrote is an icon, a legend, a towering cultural figure with scrote-like features. I just saw him last night, and he looked, um, OK. He said that the assistant district attorney they found murdered in Central Park had "lost his final argument." He was cracking morbid jokes just a few hours ago, and now he's dead?? I bet Nostrils had something to do with this... How much you want to bet? Dammit! This is too sad...


December 27, 2004

-- I hope everybody had a great holiday, or is in the process of having a great holiday, or whatever. I can't keep up with it all... Ours wasn't bad, but I hesitate to put it under the heading of "great," for fear of devaluing the term. Ya know? You can't just go around calling things great, all willy-nilly.

Sunshine & Mumbles are here, of course, so there were plenty of moments when I wanted to chew down a few writing instruments. But it ain't cancer. That's what I keep telling myself, when the urge to commit some kind of cide strikes -- at least it ain't cancer. It does seem to help.

Mid-morning on Christmas day this place was like a funeral parlor, and that's no joke. Sunshine was laid out in the family room, looking dead, Toney was in our bedroom crying, and Mumbles and I were sitting beside each other on the couch upstairs, with our hands folded in our laps, not saying a word. I won't go into the details; I don't want to be repetitive here. And it doesn't take a genius to connect the dots anyway. Sunshine has a talent for turning normal suburban homes into virtual funeral parlors.

-- On Christmas Eve Toney and I "went to the store" again. Of course that means we tore ass for the bar, and some much-needed relief. Then we stopped and picked up an onion on our way back home, for cover. We've been "going to the store" for years, when visitors are in town.

Anyway, I ordered some kind of fancy-pants beer from Ireland, called Smithwick's or some deal. I don't know... It tasted like I was sipping a liquefied wheat field. It was a little too rustic for my tastes; I think there were actual twigs floating in it. And maybe a little soil. Fuck dat. Give me a good over-hopped American microbrew any day.

After I choked down my pint of hay, I suggested we go to Jim Dandy's for a martini. Toney looked at me with confusion. We don't drink martinis. In fact, I'm not even sure I'd ever had a real one. Rocky and I used to go to some crazy bar in Huntington, where the bartender had a live parrot on her shoulder, and order vodka martinis "painfully dry." But that was just novelty-drinking. I can't remember ever having a real gin martini in my life. But I needed a hook to prolong our visit to "the store." I didn't want to go home yet, and knew that the prospect of having a 1940's cocktail in a big wooden bar is a hard one to resist.

It was fun. The place was rockin'. We had a hard time finding a seat at the bar, but finally squeezed in. We ordered our drinks and looked around. Everybody seemed to be in a good mood, old Sinatra-style Christmas music was blasting, the bartenders kept bringing out big platters of kielbasa slices for the patrons, and it was the first time this year I felt even the tiniest flicker of holiday spirit. I was worried that I'd gone over the edge, and had become completely cynical. But all it took was alcohol and sausage to get the blood pumping. How could I not have known?? I feel so stupid!

By the way, the martini tasted like Scotch tape with pepper on it. Good god, how do people drink those things? It made me long for the twig brew I'd left behind earlier in the hour. Shit.

-- I need to get to work. I only have to go in today and tomorrow this week, then I'm off until 2005. Excellent. And the visitors are leaving tomorrow (I think). It's gonna be great. Oh, I'm gonna log some couch time, and watch more movies than Ebert. But before I go today, I need to get caught up on a few things...

Here's a new (and true) update from our good friend Buck. He sent it to me a day or two before Christmas, but I never got around to posting it. Sorry about that.

And here's a new Smoking Fish sighting, this time from the South Pacific.

And this is really cool. It's all of the silly-ass Christmas recordings the Beatles did for the members of their fan club, throughout the years. Very rare, and very goofy.

Finally, I decided to revisit the Great Cookie Experiment on Christmas Eve (I'd had a martini), and attempt to document it this time with photographs. In case you don't remember, the Experiment involves our dog Andy, who is TERRIFIED of the vacuum cleaner, but absolutely LOVES cookies. So... I place a cookie on the vacuum and see what happens. It's the classic good vs. evil scenario, and is fairly fascinating. The photos aren't that great -- there's lots of movement when the vacuum is out of the closet -- but you'll get a general idea of how it went. Right here.

-- More tomorrow. Oh, I have more, lots more. See ya then.


December 22, 2004

-- Sometimes I fear that I might be the asshole. Within fifteen minutes of Sunshine & Mumbles' arrival I was experiencing a full-body clench. They'd only carried in their bags and crap, and I was already irritated. Could it be me? Am I just an anti-social fat man in checked pants? Anything's possible, I guess. I reviewed it all in my head, and couldn't really identify anything specific that would make a normal person want to bite a pencil in two, yet there I was. I blame it on knowledge. And history. And common sense. I know how it's gonna go; visits from S&M don't occur in a vacuum. No, there have been plenty of them in the past, and most have gone straight down the shitter. There's a thin line between being an asshole and a realist, I've learned. And I walk that line daily.

Yesterday morning I reluctantly dragged my ass out of bed, came downstairs and poured myself a cup of coffee. I flopped down in a chair and began the process of eeeaasing into the day. Unlike Toney, I'm not instantly awake in the morning. She can go from a deep sleep to wide awake in a split second. It's nothing short of freaky. But I'm different. It takes me a while. And at the very beginning of this fragile process Sunshine started in again about my DVDs. Somehow she believes she has a right to some of them. After all, I have so many, and she has so few. It's a kind of Ralph Nader style of thinking that makes me crazy. She said something along the lines of, "Are you sure there aren't some of those movies you could let me have?" Who does this?? I got up, said nothing, went downstairs, and got on the computer. I ask you, is that anti-social checked pants assholism? I submit that it is not.

When I came home from work last night I opened the front door and was punched in the face by a powerful garlic fist. Sweet fancy shit, are they bathing in it?? Garlic is the fruit of Satan, in my opinion, and there I was standing inside a clove. I hate the stuff, but whatever... Other people seem to like it, and who am I to dictate what they ingest? But I was looking for a pencil to gnaw, I can tell you that much. I was ready to chew one down. I seriously think the funk saturated our bedding, and my clean clothes. We may have to have a bonfire. But I just open another beer, smile like a retard, and press onward. What else is there to do?

Oh, and this was on the counter when I got home last night. I just don't understand; it's an absolute obsession. It's like a security blanket or something. She probably has a sack of the stuff on the console when they drive. How does a person reach the point where they turn their life over to artificial sweetener?? It's completely baffling to me.

I could go on and on, but I'm not gonna. In the grand scheme of things, it could be much worse. I mean, Nancy and Nostrils could be here with their passel of screeching translucents. It's Christmastime, and I need to count my blessings. Ho ho ho.

-- I've got a cold, goddammit. I'm all run-down and drippy. I woke up this morning and it felt like someone had come in during the night and filled my nostrils with raw biscuit dough. Somebody was in the upstairs bathroom (always), so I went to the kitchen, tore off a paper towel and snuck away by myself. I'll spare you the details of what happened next, but I'm fairly confident that not even Picasso himself ever managed to incorporate so many different colors and textures into one single project. It was magnificent!

-- We're ready for Christmas, if you can believe it. We finished up last weekend, and all the stuff that needs to be mailed has been mailed, etc. This is highly unusual for us. We're usually scrambling around at the last minute, like everybody else. But this year we've earned ourselves the right to drive by the mall, stick our noses in the air, and feel all superior. If the opportunity affords itself, we may even roll down our windows and indulge in some hollering of sheep noises. These chances don't come along too many times during a lifetime, and you've got to seize the moment.

-- Thanks to all of you who bought holiday gifts from Amazon, through my link on the homepage. I really appreciate it. Because of that banner TheWVSR is almost literally self-sufficient. I'm not making a profit or anything, but the credits that pile up every quarter pretty much replace the hosting fees I pay. So, thanks! You folks rock da house. Well, most of you, anyway...

-- And now I'm gonna ask for yet another favor. Do any of you know how to create favicons? They're those fancy little logos that appear beside the link description, when you bookmark a site. At least I think that's right... For some reason I feel like I need such a thing, but my efforts to create one have been very sad indeed. If somebody could whip one up for TheWVSR, without too much trouble, I'd be much obliged. Something simple and easy would be just fine. Fat beggars can't be fat choosers.

-- Now I'm gonna turn it over to Metten, who is asking a question that I've been asking myself. I mean, what the hell, man?

I probably won't update again until after Christmas. I hope y'all have a great holiday, regardless of the one you celebrate (or not). I appreciate all the support throughout the year, and I'll most certainly raise a glass of Lager in your honor this week.

Take care, and I'll see ya next week.


December 20, 2004

-- This is the last normal day. Shit's about to get crazy. Sunshine & Mumbles are supposed to arrive here tonight, and the holidays will officially kick off. The traditional sitting around on couches, and the old-fashioned ripping of new assholes will be underway for another holiday season. Ahh, it just wouldn't be Christmas without ridicule, mockery, and bitterness... I've got a three-day work week this week, and only have to go in on Monday and Tuesday the next. So, everything's about to be turned upside down. Updates to the site will probably be sporadic from here on out. I'll update as much as I can, but I don't know how often that will be. In fact, I don't know how anything is gonna be. Because this is the last normal day.

-- The high temperature today is supposed to be 12. Right now it's zero, but they say it's gonna "warm up." It's colder than Hillary Clinton's ass, while questioning the professionalism of a well-digger.

-- We pretty much finished our Christmas shopping on Saturday. We were up early and had everything knocked out by noon. Then it was off to Bennigan's for one of their Land Of The Giants salads. Damn, those things are good... I wish I had one right now. But before we left the house in the morning Toney balanced the checkbook, to make sure we were still at least semi-solvent. She had papers spread out all over the table, the phone wedged between her shoulder and head, and was engaging in some hardcore checking off of items. (Is that why they're called checks?) Almost as an afterthought she decided to balance my sad little "allowance" account as well, and asked if I had anything outstanding. And I said, "Well, I like to think so. I might not go so far as to say outstanding, but pretty darn good." And she gave me one of those looks I've come to know so well.

-- Yesterday we made cookies together, if you can believe it. Toney wanted to get them all baked before Sunshine arrives, and insists we use Splenda in everything. Sunshine is obsessed with Splenda, and will probably request to be buried with a box tucked into the crook of her arm. So I mixed us a couple of hearty bourbon and Cokes and we made cookies. My job was to put foil on the cookie sheets, and to measure out oats. And I don't want to blow my own horn, but I think I'm one kick-ass oat measurer. Nobody rolls with the oats like I do. While I stood around drinking, I mean helped with the baking, I put on A Very Special Christmas. It's good '80's-style fun for the most part, but when that pretentious prick Sting comes on, we always hit the skip button. Same goes for Madonna. And Stevie Nicks has the power to bring the whole thing crashing down. As soon as we hear the first tortured bleatings of her version of "Silent Night," we both scream like school girls and dive for the boom box. Good God, it sounds like a sheep giving birth. It's never planned, but it always works out the same way. Every December, since we've been together, we slap on A Very Special Christmas, drink, listen, skip, scream, and dive. Holiday traditions are born, not manufactured.

-- I watched Bad Santa over the weekend. I think the midget summed it up nicely: too much booze, bullshit, and butt-fucking. Man, oh man.

-- Finally, if there's anyone left out there who doesn't yet have a Google gmail account, and wants one, drop me a note. I've got ten more invitations piled up. I get rid of them, and they send me more! Too much pressure... Let me know and I'll be more than glad to fire one off to you.

See ya tomorrow. Or the next day.


December 17, 2004

-- Sorry about yesterday, I just couldn't get it going. My brain seized up and was largely inoperable. Oh, it was working well enough that I could still dress myself, and drive to work and whatnot, but an update? Forget it. I'm better today. I got a little sleep for a change. In fact, a little more than expected. Around 10:15 last night I woke up in a chair with a half-eaten bowl of Rice Krispies tilting dangerously on my lap, and the Seinfeld DVD in an eternal loop. That bass guitar in their theme song was just playing over and over, so I dragged my sorry ass to bed. After finishing the soggy Krispies, of course. That's when they're best!

Ninety percent of the problem is my job, but the gym doesn't help either. I'm committed to five days a week, but it's mighty difficult to fit it in. I haven't been getting home from the office until about eight o'clock every night, then I have a re-heated dinner alone, and spend some time with the family. Then around 9:30 I head over there with my bottle of water and my Green On Red CD, and walk in place for an hour. By the time I get home, and the day finally comes to an end, it's 10:45 or so, and I'm wound up tighter than a goddamned banjo string. I mean, you can't just take a brisk three and a half mile walk, and go straight to bed. No, at that point I feel like re-roofing the house or something. So I stay up way too late, get up way too early... and so it goes.

-- The Christmas dinner, oh, I mean Winter Holiday dinner... I hope I didn't make anybody cry with that little slip-up... Sorry about that. No need to call the ACLU. Anyway, it went as well as can be expected. I didn't know 75% of the people, and since I have no social skills to speak of, that made for some low-grade anguish. But nothing too horrible.

When I first arrived somebody said, "Hey, you don't have tassels on your shoes, do you?" And the whole room erupted in laughter, as if Lenny Bruce himself had risen from the grave and was there doing "material." Oh, this is getting off to an excellent start, I thought. I gave the guy a What The Fuck? look and he explained that somebody with tassels on their shoes was stinking up the men's room on a daily basis, but nobody could identify the culprit. He's now known as The Mystery Shitter, and has apparently become a mythical character in their office. One guy leaned over and said, "Oh, this guy's shit'll bring tears to your eyes." I don't believe I'd ever heard someone say "shit'll" before.

I had filet mignon and several bourbon 'n' Cokes made with Maker's Mark, from way up on the top shelf. Since I wasn't paying, and had already been the subject of a feces-themed inside joke, I decided to just go for the gold. Screw it. And boy, it was good. Sometimes those fancy-pants restaurants are all style and no substance, but this place delivered. I could get used to that style of living real quick, I think. On the other hand, I can't really imagine ever being able to plunk down fifty bucks for a single steak. Seriously. Even if I was a millionaire I don't think I could handle such a thing. It would make me a nervous wreck.

Of course, a few people had too much to drink, and were acting in a manner which undoubtedly made them sit straight up in bed the next morning and scream, "Oh God, what did I say??" Always good fun. One woman said her husband has a gigantic beer gut, and he claims that whenever you have something of value you build a porch over it. Apparently he was talking about his wang. Then she added, to much laughter, that the porch didn't need to be quite so big. You gotta love it.

It was a good time, despite my inadequacies, and I got out of there unscathed, I think. I consider it a victory.

-- We had to trade in our DVR box this week. We've had an inordinate amount of trouble with it, so Toney called the cable company in a huff. Lately it's been skipping, if you can believe it. We'll be watching something, the picture will jump, and an entire sentence or two of dialogue is just gone. We watched an episode of Lost in about twenty minutes a few nights ago, and were completely baffled. Big chunks of the show were missing. And it's purged itself a couple of times, of all the stuff we had recorded on it. And one night there was no sound, which required a thirty-minute call to the help desk. Very irritating.

So they sent a guy out to look at it, and he said it wasn't "right" and gave us a new box. Of course that means I lost all of the movies I had saved on there. I was bitching about that, and the man started to openly mock me in my own home. He said, "Oh, I'm sorry if you lost Home Alone 2, sir." What the hell, man? I don't think I appreciated that crack, and deemed it unnecessary.

He was also one of those guys who likes to one-up you. I was telling him about some of the trouble the thing had been giving us, and he'd say, "Well, if you think that's bad..." Then he'd launch into some crazy-ass story about one of the boxes exploding or some shit. Overall, it was quite unsatisfying.

But hopefully our troubles are behind us now. ...Why do I feel like an idiot for even typing such a thing?

-- Here's a really funny DUI video, submitted by Mr. Jason Headley.

-- And this is a site where you can check the popularity of your name, throughout the twentieth century. Quite addictive.

-- And finally, a fresh dispatch from our favorite educated hillbilly, Buck.

Have a great weekend, folks. I'll see ya on Monday.


December 15, 2004

-- On Saturday, after returning from Jim Thorpe, we had dinner at a nice little Italian place near our house, and enjoyed some tasty square pizza and Yuengling Lager from ridiculously elongated glasses. And I started doing the math. Counting the two tires we'd purchased that morning, it was official: we'd spent a shitload of money that day. We'd been toying with the idea of going to New York on Sunday, since Saturday was a washout, or a blowout, or whatever. But then we went through the ritual of counting the money in my pocket, subtracting it from the amount I took from the ATM earlier, and trying to figure out where in the humpbacked hell it had all gone. And we decided to forego NYC, right there in the corner booth, with pizza sauce on our chins.

But on Sunday morning, at an outrageously early hour, I realized that Toney was poking me with two fingers, trying to wake me up. The heck? I was blinking and confused, and at least a tad bit irritated. It was six am! "Let's go to New York!" she said. What? New York? Don't I have to go to work today? Isn't this Thursday?? Who am I? What time does the band go on??

She said she couldn't stomach the idea of just sitting around the house all day, or going to Sam's again, and those are words straight out of my playbook. And hell, I'm always up for an adventure. And as long as it's somebody's else's idea, and I'm off the hook for any liability, count me in! Let's go to New York! Damn right.

The trip there was fairly uneventful. We did stop at a New Jersey urination station just over the state line, and they had a big guest book in the lobby. I was checking it out and saw that the last person to sign it was "Turd Ferguson" and under the comments section they'd written "oversized hats!" Completely baffling. I saw several entries that said "NJ sucks!" and also the helpful comment, "Your bathrooms smell like shit." Heartwarming.

We got to the Park 'n' Ride near the Meadowlands without incident. We bought our tickets from a vending machine, the bus came, and within minutes we were in Times Square. How cool is that? I love it. They've taken nearly all of the hassles away. And it costs next to nothing. The shit works, and so much shit doesn't.Sweet sainted mother of Lyman Bostock! The people! They were everywhere!! The sidewalks were fast-moving streams of humanity in which you insinuate yourself, and literally go with the flow. I wanted a street vendor hotdog, a delicacy I've still not enjoyed, but forget it. Once you're in the "river" there's no stopping. You just have to float downstream and fight your way to shore every once in a while. And you have to preserve your energy for the really important stuff. I've never seen anything like it in my life.

We battled our way to Toys R Us, and passed a doughy man wearing an unsanctioned and possibly bootleg Spiderman costume. People were taking pictures of their kids standing beside him, which seemed pretty trusting to me. The guy could've had a straight razor in his novelty briefs, for all we knew. I mean, it's just some guy dressed as a cartoon character! It had Scrote investigation written all over it.

The store was insane, but really cool. They have a full-sized Ferris Wheel in there, and loads of elaborate, massive displays. A whole GI Joe room, with Joe himself parachuting in, a huge pink Barbie castle... Gigantic Lego sculptures, a life-sized dinosaur that moves and roars... It's the greatest store ever! We baby-stepped around that place for forty minutes or so, amongst roughly the same number of people who live in my hometown, and just checked it all out. With my hand on my money.

Then we flung ourselves back into the river and made our way upstream to John's Pizzeria for lunch. Again, I have nothing to bitch about here. I apologize, but it was really good. The wait for a table was brief, and the pizza was great. It's in an old church and much of the ceiling is constructed of stained glass. The ovens are right out in the middle of the dining room, and are powered by coal. Everything tasted really fresh, and when the check came I was floored. West Virginia-style prices! My god, I had to fight back the tears. It was just all so beautiful.

After our religious experience inside God's house we floated over to Rockefeller Center. And at that point the crowd ceased being individual people and became one solid mass. It was moving like a glacier and was so densely packed that I began to panic. I was starting to fear for our safety; it was like The Who in Cincinnati. Along the way there was a little alcove or opening or some shit, filled with more of those unsanctioned cartoon characters. Some were quite sad looking, with stains and rips in their suits. We found sanctuary there, because you could actually move your arms and whatnot. But I watched out of the corner of my eye, in case that suspicious-looking Cat in the Hat pulled out an assault rifle or something.

The big tree didn't seem so big in person, and neither did the ice skating rink. I remember having the same feeling in Dallas, when we checked out the spot where Kennedy was shot. It all seems larger than life on TV, but life is much bigger in reality. It was cool though, and I actually felt a twinge of Christmas spirit. And that's saying something. Despite the crush of people, everybody seemed to be in a good mood and happy, which really is contagious, I guess. Who knew?

After that, we got the hell out of there. We were only in the city for less than four hours, but were completely exhausted. The craziness of it all sapped us, I think. We made our way back to Port Authority, jumped on our beloved 320 bus, and was on the highway headed home in no time. Whoa. That was some wild-ass shit. We really need to take advantage of it more. We should go once a month or so; it's so close and so frickin' awesome.

Toney had arranged for one of her Pennsylvania buddies to check on Andy while we were gone, and let him out during the afternoon to expel waste. But when we got home he darted out the front door, pee'd directly into the lawn for a full minute, turned about ten circles, humped up and made a Lincoln Log starter set right before our eyes. Apparently he had to go. Toney called her buddy and she said she'd come to our house but Andy was snarling at her, showing his teeth, and the hair on his back was standing straight up. She said he looked like a coyote, and she was afraid of him. So he hadn't been out all day! Poor guy.

I took our pet dingo for a walk as Toney cooked dinner, and it started to snow. People had their fireplaces going and it smelled all smoky and wintry out there. The neighborhood looked like a romantic Hollywood version of New England. And when I got home I mixed us up a couple of stiff bourbon and Cokes, and we toasted one kick-ass weekend.

Here are some photos from the day.

-- And here's Metton, with a really funny update to close out this fine Wednesday.

See ya tomorrow. I'm invited to a Christmas dinner tonight, at some fancy-pants restaurant where they serve fifty dollar steaks and shit. I'm sure I'll have some stories to tell. ...I am a man with no social skills.



December 14, 2004

-- After the flat-tire fiasco was resolved, we pledged that it wasn't going to ruin a perfectly good weekend day. Sure, it wiped out our plan to go to New York, but we could do something else, couldn't we? Of course we could. We toyed with the idea of going to a movie, but that didn't seem quite right. Movies are only two hours long, after all; we needed something with a little more heft. I suggested a trip to Jim Thorpe, an interesting little town in the mountains with loads of history and charm, and that idea seemed to meet with approval. So that's what we did. We went home and got our shit together, and headed out for Norman Rockwell country.

I think I've mentioned a few times the incredibly high Turnpike bridge that towers over our town, and has become a favorite amongst people bent on suicide? Folks reportedly drive hundreds of miles for the opportunity to end their lives in dramatic fashion by flinging themselves onto the streets below. I'm not joking, it happens a couple of times per month. And it's funny, very few actually land in the street. Apparently it's not an easy thing to gauge, and most come crashing down in the brush beside the grocery store parking lot. A disappointing end to a disappointing life. They should really paint some arrows up there, so people don't have to guess...

Anyway, we had to drive across it on our way to Pie Country, and we noticed something new. Every few feet there are now blue telephones on poles, and signs that say, Emergency Crisis Counseling. I guess a person can pick up the receiver and have a chat with some man in a twead coat, smoking a pipe in Pittsburgh or somewhere, before diving into the brush. Is that not bizarre? Mental health hotlines along state highways?! What is this, France??

We rolled into Jim Thorpe, formerly Mauch Chunk, and decided to go directly to the old jail. It's haunted y'know, and I've never seen the inside. Toney and Sunshine & Mumbles toured it once, and said it's pretty darn creepy. Back in the early coal mining days there was an attempt to bust up a newly-born worker's union, called the Molly Maguires. Several of its leaders were convicted of murder, and it was all very questionable and suspect. One of the Mollies supposedly made a hand print on the wall of his cell, before being hanged, and proclaimed that the print would remain as a testament to his innocence. And over the decades they've painted over it, scrubbed it with Ajax and 409, and it just won't go away. Today you can still see it -- for a small fee.

But, unfortunately, the jail is closed during the winter, and I've still never gotten inside. It's part of the curse, it's obvious!! What's Art Bell's number?

We drove back to the center of town and parked. And as soon as Toney opened her door we heard this really horrible singing, artificially amplified and really loud. What in the hell? It was coming from a balcony on the front of an old hotel. People were up there singing Christmas songs and, almost without exception, they were bad, really bad. I'm still not clear on who these people were. Perhaps the general public? Or maybe they brought in a Really Bad Singers troupe from out of town? I just don't know, but they were hollering into those microphones the whole time we were there, and you could hear it all over town. People on the streets were looking at each other with alarm. Are we going to be on Punk'd?!

We walked around, went in and out of various shops, bought some kick-ass fudge from a street vendor (chocolate on the top, peanut butter on the bottom!), and basically enjoyed the Christmasy vibe of the place. Sure it might've been a bit contrived, but who cares? They had carolers and brass bands and horse-drawn carriages and a big decorated tree in the middle of the town square... It's hard to work up a good head of cynicism in such wholesome surroundings.

Then we toured the Packer Mansion, and that was fun too. Asa Packer was a big-shot there in the late 1800's and had a huge house overlooking downtown. He made his fortune through coal and the railroad he owned, and reportedly died with today's equivalent of about three billion dollars. He was the mack daddy of his day. And his house is EXACTLY the way it was when he lived there. After his last child died in 1912, they boarded the place up and it sat empty for almost fifty years. Then, in the late 1950's, they started having tours of the joint. And all of the original furnishings are still there and everything. It's cool as hell!

One thing I noticed is that they basically had the same stuff we have today, just in a much more primitive state. They had refrigerators, an intercom system, hot and cold running water, indoor shitters, typewriters, some kind of monstrous machine that played music, etc. They were quite cutting edge, I guess. They even had central air conditioning. There's a two and a half story ice house behind the mansion, and every winter they would have massive chunks of ice cut from local rivers and lakes, and placed inside the curious structure. It wouldn't melt all summer long, and they somehow had it rigged so that the cold air from inside the ice house would be pumped into the main residence. Supposedly it cooled the first floor by almost twenty degrees. Asa was the man!

Another thing that stuck with me was the fact that the butler's bedroom was slightly elevated. You had to take one step up to get in there. This was to signify that, among the "staff," he was king. You don't fuck with the butler, son. His shit is elevated. Is that not excellent?

The whole deal was fascinating, and turned out to be well-worth the twenty bucks they took off me to allow us inside. I was skeptical, but it's not too often you get to go back in time. And when we finally emerged from the big-ass place we heard what sounded like a Down Syndrome patient singing "Jingle Bells" into a public address system.

It was a good day, despite the way it started. On our way back home we saw about a thousand hunters emerging from the woods along the interstate. Cars were parked everywhere along the highway, and the day was winding down. Large men with guns and unkempt facial hair were everywhere. One guy, and I'm not joking, was wheeling two dead deer out of the trees on a hand truck. Now that's something you don't see every day!

It's so much fun to get off the couch every once in a while. Of course, the couch ain't too shabby either...

In case you didn't see 'em yesterday, here are some pictures I took in Jim Thorpe on Saturday. And tomorrow I'll tell you about our brief but satisfying Sunday visit to New York City.

See ya later.


December 13, 2004

-- Crazy weekend.

We got up early on Saturday with the intention of spending the day in New York City, checking out the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, and all that seasonal kinda stuff. I was really looking forward to it. A diversion from our normal life, I felt, was just what the doctor ordered. My job has been terrible (terrible I tell ya), and the thought of escaping into a completely different world for a few hours was an appealing one indeed. And it doesn't get much more different than NYC.

So we got moving in good time and made a beeline for Waffle House. You just can't start a long morning drive without either Waffle House or Cracker Barrel, that would be a crime against nature, so we did our duty. The place was packed, and we sat at the counter again. I had my usual: scrambled eggs, sausage, hash browns with cheese, and coffee. Oh, it's one of the world's most perfect meals. And it'll keep your coat shiny.

Then, without warning, our New York dreams began to crumble. As we made our way back to my Blazer Toney gasped and pointed. Th'ell? Had I parked on top of a baby carriage or something? No, it was a flat tire. The whole deal was collapsed and leaning in the direction of the rear passenger side tire, which had literally let everyone down in an hour of need. 

Dammit!! We'd driven over a nail or some shit. Almost instantly my blood pressure began ratcheting upwards, and my skin tone was undoubtedly similar to that of, say, an alcoholic butcher.

Toney wanted to call AAA, but I said screw dat. Those jackasses move at the speed of a retired glacier and I knew we'd be standing in that parking lot like idiots for most of the day if we threw in our lot with the so-called "auto club." I just drove on it to the gas station, and pumped a quarter's worth of air into the sumbitch. Then I went hunting for tires. At this point I was still foolishly holding out hope that we could salvage the day.

I went to Kost Tires and saw about twenty people hanging out in their waiting room. Bastards!! I tore ass out of there, racing against an aggressive air-leak, and had a similar experience at Monro Muffler. By this time I was running my hands through my hair and my eyes were bugging out... I have a tendency to get a little worked up. Toney told me to settle down, and she called Sam's to see how long of a wait we'd have there. The guy said he could take us right in and have us on the road in a matter of minutes. Hell yeah! It was still early, it might just work out yet.

I parked right by their bay doors in order to eliminate the ten seconds it would take to drive it from an actual parking space, and we went inside. I went directly to the counter and there was some kid, barely out of his teens and absolutely filthy, standing there. I need two new tires for my Blazer, and we're in a honeybaked hurry, I announced. The guy thought about this for a second and asked if it was four-wheel drive. I answered in the affirmative, and he told me that under the circumstances he couldn't just sell me two tires, I'd have to buy four.

"What?!" I flew off the handle and practically grabbed the guy by the front of his shirt and demanded answers. He just calmly pointed a radically encrusted finger at a typed letter under glass by the cash register, and said, "Our policy is explained right there." Grrrrrr.... Yeah, like I'm going to stand around reading interoffice memos -- and I'm also the bastard son of Vic Tayback. I turned around and walked out before I got myself into trouble. God I was pissed. I mean seriously, what kind of rule is that? You can only sell four tires at a time if the vehicle is four-wheel drive?? Can somebody please explain this to me?

We went to Pep Boys then, and I was so agitated colors seemed to be changing before my eyes. The guy started in with his salesman crap and I insinuated, with my attitude, that I was in no mood for games. So we settled on a make of tire fairly quickly, and he said he'd have us rolling in fifteen or twenty minutes. Of course it took about three times as long, and it was about 11:30 before we got out of that horrible place. We'd just plunked down $150, and the whole ordeal had kinda taken the wind out of my sails, so we threw in the towel on New York. It was just not meant to be, and we headed home, defeated

As we drove Toney asked why I hadn't asked about the West Virginia cap the guy at Pep Boys was wearing. Usually I launch an immediate investigation if I see a person wearing something from the Motherland, but I was in no mood for chit-chat that morning. I was more interested in, oh I don't know, bashing his skull in with a box of ratchets. But, to be fair, he was OK. He backed off on the sales bullshit at the appropriate time, and took care of us pretty well. And he didn't insist that I replace two brand new tires on the front of my truck, because of "company policy." I was finally settling down; I could feel it. I was giving strangers the benefit of the doubt.

But it was not yet noon, and we were already giving up on an entire weekend day. It just didn't seem right. "Let's go to Jim Thorpe!" I blurted. Jim Thorpe is a cool little town in the mountains which goes hog-wild with the Christmas festivities. For some reason I was craving some Norman Rockwell action, and it turned out to be a fine idea. We had a great time, and successfully turned the bullshit around.

I'll tell you all about it tomorrow, but in the meantime here's some pics from the day. And here's one from Sunday, goddammit! Stay tuned for the rest of the story.

Good day.


December 10, 2004

-- We're in the process of refinancing our home loan again, and I told myself I wasn't gonna get all worked up this time. Last time we did this, about three years ago, it turned into an ordeal. Or, at least, that's the way I perceived it; it was probably just a standard transaction. But it seemed like everything took at least three times longer than it should've, and we were constantly shuttling papers back and forth between our house and the guy's office. Ridiculous, baffling stuff... Oh, hi Jeff. Do you think you could provide us a photo of you and Toney wearing hats? Baseball caps will do, it just has to be some sort of headgear. We need it for the file. By the time it was over, I was a nervous wreck.

This time it's exactly the same, expect the guy is a little more half-assed. I think his motto is: If it doesn't get done today, there's always tomorrow. Getting from point A to point B with this man is an excruciating experience. He called me at work the other day and wanted me to verify my employment. I said, yes, I work here. And then I offered to bring in my camcorder and have somebody video me at my desk, reading email. He laughed and said I misunderstood him (ha), that he wanted a phone number where he could verify my employment. So I gave him my boss's number and, more than two days later, my boss has heard from nobody. And that's the kind of stuff that makes my crazy. What in the hand-rolled hell is going on??

Just this morning Toney shoved four sheets of paper in front of me filled with legal mumbo-jumbo, and said I needed to sign them for the refinance. I don't even question it anymore, I just do what I'm told. Screw it. If I start concentrating, I'll get too agitated. 

I'm constantly hearing radio ads for refinancing, where they claim you just fill out one form (or whatever), and they'll bring it right to your house or office, blah blah blah. Either those ads are complete bullshit, or we've been dealing with the wrong people. We practically have to keep a courier service on retainer. And it's been dragging out for weeks. 

Serenity now!!

We're doing this because we can save a point on the interest rate, and we really need to set up an escrow account for the insurance and taxes. The original lender didn't offer escrow for some unknown reason (outta state Lending Tree mofos), and the first refi people wanted us to pony up two years worth of taxes to get it going(!). The details are kinda fuzzy now, but I think that was the deal. And I said, fuck dat. So, since 2000 we've had to write physical checks to pay our Canadian-style taxes, and, man, that's something that'll make your sphincter flex. It's at a rate where even Michael Moore would say, "Shit!" I just want it included in the mortgage so I don't have to think about it anymore.

I'm striving for ignorance here, people. Sweet, sweet ignorance... Is that too much to ask?!

-- Have you seen the strange new Wal-Mart commercial featuring an Asian girl with a nose like a cauliflower? It's one of their ads that show us how humane and caring the company is, and how they take care of their employees and are excellent community partners. As best as I can tell (it's hard to get past the visuals), the poor thing is the daughter of a Wal-Mart worker, and their kick-ass insurance is gleefully kicking in to shave her shit down a little. Or a lot. I've never seen anything quite like this before, and I've seen some things. She looks completely normal except for this huge misshapen knobby mess in the middle of her face. It looks like somebody wound up and hurled a scoop of mashed potatoes at her. Very sad. And I'm glad her Dad works for the Waltons, so she can have the flesh-squash removed from the front of her head, and have a chance at a normal life. I just wish more of the shoppers at Wal-Mart would get jobs there. A lot of those people could stand a few radical corrections as well. Sweet Maria.

-- Speaking of physical defects and Wal-Mart... Didn't some show-off once say something about imitation being the sincerest form of flattery? Well, check this out. Wonder where that idea came from? Hmm? 

Unfortunately, I don't know any snappy sayings about straight-up ripoffs to make me feel better. So, this one kinda pisses me off. The guy even has a copyright notice at the bottom! Balls, I tell ya.

Oh well, it goes with the territory, I guess. With the help of exercise, meditation, and beer I've been somewhat successful in calming my jangled nerves, and not sweating the small stuff. And I find comfort in knowing that my nose doesn't resemble seasonal produce. So I'm cool.

See ya on Monday.


December 9, 2004

-- I skipped the gym last night, because it was Wednesday, and Wednesday means Lost! We're fully addicted to that show and are there every week, sitting on the front of our chairs and smiling like idiots in anticipation. So instead of a vigorous hour-long session on the treadmill I stopped at a "pizza and spaghetti house" on my way home from work, and picked up a large pie with sausage and pepperoni. And we watched great TV while polishing off an oversized disc of fat, and several vessels of Lord Chesterfield Ale. Ahhhh... who says you can't go home again? It was one of the greatest things ever. And I was just so damn comfortable with it all.

-- Somebody from Pennsylvania, a single winner, hit the Powerball lottery last night -- for 171 million bucks. Our reactions upon learning this news, and realizing we weren't the winners? It better not fucking be somebody we know! That's how it goes. After we verify that we don't have the numbers, stage two in the process is to make sure that the winner lives in Pittsburgh, or someplace else far away from here. I can handle not winning, I do it twice a week, but I don't think I could endure the spectacle of some asshole from work walking around in an ascot and smoking jacket, acting all "casual." Know what I mean? It's never even happened, and it pisses me off.

I actually sorta knew somebody who hit the California lottery, but he did it the right way. It was back in my Atlanta days, when I was a record weasel, and one of our pressing plants was in northern CA. My contact there was named Glenn, and he seemed like a decent enough guy. Then he won nine million dollars, and was out of there like yesterday's number one with cheese. There was no strutting around and rubbing it in everybody's face, he just never came back to work. And nobody ever heard from him again. You've got to admire the purity of his actions.

I also once knew a little dumpling woman in Atlanta, who fancied herself the psychic. She was always going on and on about her previous lives, and how her sister was her father in the 1800's, or some such insanity. She actually worked for one of those psychic phone services, where people call in and pay homage to the god of stupidity. Needless to say, I mocked her openly and frequently, but it never seemed to faze her.

One night she reportedly had a vivid dream in which that week's lottery numbers were revealed to her. I think this information came from one of her dead relatives, Jim Morrison or somebody. No joke. I can't remember if he was involved in this particular episode, but The Lizard King played a big part in many of her "visions." Sometimes he would appear as Val Kilmer portraying Jim Morrison, and other times it would be Jim himself. It was all very confusing...

But she had these lottery numbers and was convinced, was absolutely sure, that she would be a rich woman by the weekend. And then it didn't happen. None of the numbers hit, in fact they weren't even close. She was baffled. How could it be?! She'd been given the information, and had received assurances from the afterlife that it was a sure-thing. She was told that she needed to be wealthy so that she could devote all of her time to her important "work." But the numbers were no good. It just didn't make any sense.

A few days later (supposedly), she found out that her numbers had hit after all -- in California. She'd played the wrong lottery! Doh! Apparently Jim had left out one tiny little detail, and she'd played in Georgia. Ha! If only Buddy Holly had been the messenger... All of this could've been avoided.

-- And since I'm never visited by dead rock stars with insider information, I guess I'd better drag my sorry sausage-ass to work, and try to earn a living in the physical world. Like a loser.

See ya.


December 8, 2004

-- I saw a commercial last night for a new George Foreman grill that you can break down like a shotgun, then shove into a dishwasher. How in God's name did this happen, George Foreman and grills? George Foreman! In the '70's he was a scary-ass boxer who looked like he wouldn't mind eating a few people. He was scowling and dangerous and frightening. Now he's a lovable and huggable cookware salesman! How is such a transition made? How does a person go from one to the other? What should we expect next, the Phil Spector kitchen storage system? A line of G. Gordon Liddy marinades? It all seems so bizarre to me.

And what is Foreman's involvement in this grill venture, anyway? I've never really understood any of it. Some people I know believe he actually invented the thing, but that makes me laugh. I just can't see George Foreman(!) in a laboratory somewhere attempting to push the envelope on grill technology. And can you just imagine him going around pitching his idea for a cooking surface-on-a-slant to manufacturers?

Yes, I think you might find this to be very interesting...
-Hey, aren't you the boxer?!
It's a revolutionary new cooking concept which...
-Please don't eat my heart.

No, I think somebody brought it to him, not the other way around. And that brings up a whole new set of questions. Like, how does a marketing company decide to risk it all on a semi-obscure retired fighter from the 1970's? Is Tex Watson available? Still in prison, huh?... Screamin' Jay Hawkins? No? ...Hey, how about George Foreman! Yes!! Gentlemen, I believe we have our cookware spokesman.

It's all just seems so improbable.

-- And speaking of commercials, I'm starting to see ads for replacement body parts on cable. They're like those horrible pill ads, that doctors must just hate. There's something wrong, I think, with giving people more ammunition to be pains-in-the-asses. Hypochondriac shitsacks under knitted afghans don't need to be egged on by soft-focus television commercials showing people throwing sticks on a beach. Y'know? Their job is to just shut the fuck up and do what the doctor tells them. Cashiers and guys who work at Subway shouldn't be offering prescription advice to physicians. Or am I too old-fashioned in my beliefs?

Anyway, I'm starting to see commercials now for ceramic hips and replacement knees that both bend and swivel! I don't know. I'm unclear on whether they're trying to foster brand loyalty amongst people who have to switch out their joints on a regular basis (seems like a fairly limited demographic), or if they're attempting to convince people that they need new joints. I have a feeling it's the latter, and I'd bet good money that people are already showing up in doctor's offices demanding "a better pelvis," or whatever. It's sick. Somebody's probably signing up Linda Lavin right now to hawk synthetic sternums in infomercials. The end is near.

-- And to close out the TV commercial category... last night I saw one for a local furniture store trying to convince us to buy gift certificates from their place, for the holidays. Who buys gift certificates for furniture stores?? Have you ever heard of this? I've been to this store and I don't think there's anything in there for less than a thousand bucks. Again, I could be out of step, but my idea of a stocking stuffer is Pez, not a document entitling you to a four thousand dollar leather ottoman. But it could just be me.

See ya tomorrow.


December 7, 2004

-- Yesterday's projected "snow event" didn't pan out. It's very disappointing. I was ready for some serious build-up, but all we got was a light sprinkling, like powdered sugar on a friggin' muffin. (Does Scranton work as a metaphorical muffin? I believe it does.) Lame. According to Toney, who reads newspapers, we already had fourteen inches of snow by this time last year. In 2004 we haven't been able to muster even a single inch! Stupid Bush administration.

-- Speaking of that...

-- I forgot to mention yesterday that, in addition to the Christmas tree, we also put out the so-called trimmings, all the crap that sits around on tables and complements the main attraction. I wonder if that stuff, like the ceramic village and the team of nutcrackers, ever feels resentful? I mean, they're nothing more than an afterthought really. Let's be honest. They live in the shadow, both literally and figuratively, of the Big Guy. Decorating the tree is an event, filled with laughter and alcohol-fueled happiness -- then you throw out the rest of that shit. It must be a tough pill to swallow. In fact, I'm almost certain that one of the nutcrackers looks a little meaner this year, and I'm kind of afraid to go to sleep at night. He's got that big scepter and all... who knows what he might try? Nutcrackers can be very thin-skinned.

-- Toney asked me to stick with the accepted cast of characters this year, when setting up the nativity scene. I think last year's version made her nervous; she kept mentioning lightning for some reason. Who's ever heard of lightning in winter?? Strange.

-- Do you think Target would let me return the new U2 CD, on account of it being shit? I might call them today, to see what my options are.

-- I think we're gonna do a day trip to NYC on Saturday, and take The Secrets to Rockefeller Center to see the Really Big Guy, and the ice skaters, and all the fun stuff. And we'll probably swing by the big-ass Toys R Us, and maybe pick up a $20,000 jade-studded GI Joe at FAO Schwarz (or maybe a yo-yo or something). I've never been to New York at Christmastime, and it should be fun. Of course I'm gonna have to do some shopping first... I need a NASCAR-themed fanny pack, and a jacket with a complicated network of inexplicable straps and buckles on the shoulders. If we're gonna be semi-regular gawking hillbilly tourists in the big city, we need to do it correctly, goddammit. I ain't half-stepping here. That movie I saw last weekend, from the front row, has conditioned me to look up at tall buildings for extended periods of time, and I'll probably wear some of my Euro-underwear to cut down on the inner thigh-friction. Oh, I'm almost there...

-- By request (OK, nobody asked), here's what's currently waiting in queue on the trusty DVR: Miller's Crossing, Master and Commander, Ed Wood, Safe At Home (starring Mantle and Maris!), The Long Goodbye, Scream, The Life and Death of Peter Sellers, The Full Monty, and Bull Durham. As far as I can tell, the DVR has blown right past the over-hyped sliced bread on the list of the world's greatest inventions, and is fast approaching the polio vaccine. It's a great time to be lazy!

-- Now, here's Metten, with another excellent offering.

And I'll see ya tomorrow.


December 6, 2004

-- I can't really remember why, but it felt like we hadn't had a normal weekend in a really long time. And by normal I mean bullshitting around during the day, at our chosen speed, then free-falling into a chair with an adult beverage at night, and watching a movie off the DVR. My parents were here over Thanksgiving, and I'm fairly certain that something was askew with the previous weekend as well. A person needs his casual bullshitting and free-falling time; it makes sanity a more realistic goal. This week we got it all back, and it was highly satisfying.

Three weekend nights, three movies: Welcome to the Dollhouse, Sling Blade, and That Thing You Do! I'd seen Dollhouse before, but the other two were new to me. Enjoyed the hell out of 'em all. My DVR can beat up your DVR! 

And, on a whim, I shook things up by purchasing a case of Yuengling's Lord Chesterfield Ale, instead of the traditional Lager. The stuff is loaded with hops and tastes great from an old 1940's bar glass I have. It's a good beer to savor, which is something I'm still struggling with. I learned to drink beer in vehicles careening down country backroads with Van Halen 2 blasting; it takes some effort to slow down and smell the barley. But I'm getting better at it.

-- On Saturday morning I went into work for a few hours. I just can't keep up with my email, and shit had gotten out of control. Every time I take the time to thoroughly read a message, two or three more come in. It drives me crazy, so I spent four hours of my weekend cleaning out my inbox. It sucked, but it was like a weight lifted off my shoulders when it was done. I hope I can make it until noon today before I'm nervously running my hands through my hair again.

-- After work I met Toney for lunch at Bennigan's. They have something there called a club salad that is just about the best things ever. It's served in a bowl that could've been a prop from The Incredible Shrinking Man and has turkey, ham, bacon bits, and two or three different kinds of cheese. Mmmm... I wish I had one right now. Nothing like taking the concept of a healthy garden salad and... making it better.

There was a guy sitting behind Toney with no nose. I'm not kidding. He had a triangle of leather where his schnozz should be, and it was held in place by a rubber band around his head. How does something like that happen? How does a person lose their nose?? A gardening accident? Too many cocktails before the carving of the Christmas ham?? I don't get it. And was the triangle commercially made? It looked to be a quality product, with fancy stitching around the edges and everything. Is there a catalog for people who just have a three-sided cavity in their face, instead of the traditional flesh awning? Is his triangle a status symbol in the noseless community, is it the Cadillac of leather facehole shrouds?

These are some of things I was thinking about, as I worked on my ludicrously large salad. In the beginning I considered walking past his booth on the way to the bathroom and blowing pepper into his face, just to see what would happen, but I decided against it. The poor bastard had enough problems.

-- My ten year old Sony Discman shit the bed last week, and I haven't been able to get it to play. I changed the batteries twice, to see if it was just something simple, but its days are clearly over. So, as much as it pained me, I had to go out and spend forty bucks on a new one. As I've said before, I don't mind spending money to improve things, but it gripes my butt cheeks to have to lay out cash to get back to where I was yesterday. Y'know?

I have to have my tunes at the gym, though. It's not even negotiable. I tried plugging into the TVs they have there, but an hour of Geraldo talking about the mylar balloon lady just doesn't cut it. I need the Buzzcocks, or Prince, goddammit. Geraldo is wank, and I've just about had it with poker on television. I mean, what the fuck? What's next, high-stakes Ants In The Pants?

-- Last night I took my new player over there, with disc two from the Rhino 70's punk box set, and it was great. I was rockin' and the hour went by in about fifteen minutes. The only downside: I got a little carried away at one point and realized I was pumping my fist in the air and screaming, "Love comes in spurts!" I'd like to avoid that in the future, if at all possible.

It was good, but I did have to change treadmills after five minutes, because the guy running beside me smelled like a garlic creature from the Planet Garlica, after turning cannibal. It was unbelievable, the smells that man was emitting. He was a human fog machine of funk, and I moved across the room and resumed my high-speed European underwear walking over there. There's only so much a person can take; that sombitch needs to take a bath in tomato juice, pronto. Sweet Jesus.

-- We put up our fake Christmas tree yesterday, and unwrapped the pickle for another holiday season. No problems with the synthetic pine, it went up with no hassles. ...I know, I'm as shocked as you are.

See ya tomorrow. It's supposed to start snowing here around noon. I won't be saying this in February, but today I'm excited! 


December 3, 2004

-- I think Toney and I are going to put up our Christmas tree this weekend. It seems a bit early, but three weeks out is OK, isn't it? That's within the internationally accepted tree-window, right? Even if it feels like Halloween was just a couple of days ago? 

Three weeks! How could that be? I'm just not feeling it, not one tiny bit. No Christmas carols are being hummed, no seasonal spirit is even within walking distance. But the calendar is telling us it's time.

This is going to be our first year with an artificial tree. It's something we vowed would never happen. But, of course, we used to say the same thing about voting for a Republican... Who the hell knows what happens to a person? As John Kerry says, it's not a flip-flop, it's a nuance.

Toney was especially adamant about having a real tree every Christmas. It was one of those things that, for years, she dug her heels in about. But over time we've amassed quite a collection of real-tree horror stories. Besides all the needles, the fire hazard, the cost, the sap on my pants... we've also had more than one tree fall over in the living room, nearly killing or paralyzing various family members. And last year was the last straw. Somehow there was a small crack in the big plastic base, and water seeped out for days, into the carpet. Around Day Four we started to look at each other funny, and by Day Five there was no denying it: our house smelled like an open grave. It was like we were living inside a giant hamper full of moist summertime undergarments. And that was the day Toney became a big fan of artificial Christmas trees.

Sure, I'm going to miss the old-country tradition of driving to Lowe's and bitching about the high prices, complaining about the terrible service, and having a team of chainsaw-wielding lesbians tie our new tree to the roof of our car. But we'll just have to create new traditions. Maybe we'll have a ceremonial carrying up of the box from the basement, or something? Or possibly a Kay Family erecting of the center post? Who knows? Something will emerge, I'm quite certain.

All I know is, some bourbon will be needed for the procedure. If I'm going to be expected to build a pine tree, hang a bunch of stuff on it in an aesthetically pleasing manner, and also be in a good mood, I'm going to have to introduce some Kentucky exports to the mix. And maybe a Cinderella CD at elevated volume... or possibly a little Def Leppard. Oh, lots of pre-planning is necessary in these situations, and the mood has to be just so. You can't just go building pine trees all willy-nilly.

-- I took this picture the other day with my camera phone in the bathroom of a local restaurant called Fresno's. The guy crapping in booth two (who craps in restaurants??) probably wondered what I was doing out there, but I thought the sign was amusing. I'm just a sucker for pee comedy, I guess. But who isn't?

-- And here are the two latest additions to my wardrobe. I've already relayed the history of the Chick Magnet shirt, and the other one is something my parents brought me. It's an official 2004 Commode Bowl long-sleeve t-shirt, in the mildly insulting 3X size, from our hometown of Dunbar, WV. The Commode Bowl, of course, is a drunken football "game" that takes place every Thanksgiving Day in Dunbar. It pits a team made of alcohol-fueled folks who live on the river side of the railroad tracks (the River Rats) against a team from the hill side (the Hillside Rams), and has been played every year since the late 1940's. When I was a kid they used to have a crazy-ass Commode Bowl parade through town, which featured an inbred man sitting atop a giant rolling toilet, waving plungers in the air. And if you think I'm joking, you would be incorrect. These are my roots, dammit. Don't go dissing my roots.

I know this is a short update, but that's the way it goes sometimes. It can't be predicted. Have a great weekend and I'll see ya on Monday.


December 2, 2004

-- So, I was driving to work Monday morning, taking the normal route and absent-mindedly blasting The Eminem Show, just like a thousand other mornings before it. And when I began the final leg of my journey, by exiting onto a big swooping transition ramp, I went around the bend -- and encountered another car coming straight at me! Sweet fancy Jesus!!

The guy was going the wrong way on an interstate exit ramp, in a blind curve! I just about hyper-voided straight into the upholstery, and instinctively whipped the wheel to the right, like in the movies. I went off the road and began fish-tailing and whatnot, but was somehow able to keep my shit in check. Then I LAID on the horn for a really long time, and started the traditional shouting of obscenities and waving around of arms.

I saw the guy pull off the road on the other side, before he was either turned into a smoldering pile of shredded taco meat by an 18-wheeler, or actually made it onto Interstate 81 and caused a CNN-caliber "event."

I don't know this for sure, but I think he was a hunter. As our car hoods screamed past each other, going in opposite directions really fast, I'm almost certain I saw a flash of that curious combination of camouflage and retina-searing neon orange. I never understood that: look at me! no, don't look at me! wait, looky at me!!

Anyway, I'm pretty certain he was sporting the uniform of a deer hunter, and immediately I placed him in a tree stand since before dawn, guzzling Early Times from a filthy sport bottle, and now bed-shitting drunk and pissed he wasn't able to gut something today. By the time I got to work, with my heart banging off my ribcage, I had the guy's whole life story mapped out in my head. I knew his likes and dislikes, what his trailer looked like, how long he'd been married to Ol' Chinless, and his dirty little secret that caused him to leave Alabama in a hurry. Oh, I knew him. And I didn't like him one bit, the backwards-driving motherfuck.

Of course, he could've been an old black preacher for all I know...

The amazing thing about the event was how my heart went from zero to sixty in under one second. I mean that baby leaped into action from a sitting-still position, and did some pumpin'. It was an amazing display. All the residue from those 10,000 Wendy's burgers were blasted away at that very moment, I'm pretty certain. I bet I'm clean as a whistle now; not even one of those balloons on a hose they feed through your crotch could've done as good a job.

It's good to be alive, it really is. Except around 12:15 eastern, Monday thru Friday, when I have to dial into a ballbuster conference call. During those things I find myself imagining a fiery crash, and it doesn't seem too bad. 

I guess it's all about perspective...

-- Now here's a really funny update from Buck. I was laughing my robust ass off when I read it, and I think you will too. Good stuff.

See ya tomorrow.


December 1, 2004

-- On Friday or Saturday (for most of the weekend I had no idea what day it was) my Dad and I took The Secrets to see National Treasure at a massive sprawling theater complex between Scranton and Wilkes-Barre, and the place was absolute pandemonium. We had to park a couple of blocks away from the door, and hoof it in the rain. 

They have twenty theaters in this place: twenty full-blown theaters, no piss-ant little screening rooms. And I believe all twenty were full, or in the process of filling up. When we passed through the doors my Dad said, "I've never seen anything like this in my life." And I had the same reaction back in 2000, when I first went there. It's one crazy city of chairs.

Anyway, the nine year old girl who sold us our tickets warned us, before we handed over the cash, that there was only front-row seating available for the 1:40 showing. Everybody said they didn't care, so we pushed onward. When we finally located the door we were supposed enter (door 14), the Coming Attractions were already playing, and I thought I could actually feel the collective body heat of all the people crammed in there. Lips were smacking, popcorn was crunching, smuggled sacks of contraband were shaking... They were already into it.

We stumbled in the dark all the way to the front, and took our seats. And immediately I saw that we'd made a mistake in not waiting a half-hour for the next showing. We had to toggle our heads back so that our eyes were where the tops of our heads belonged, in order to see the screen. And the screen was massive. If something was happening on both the east and west coasts of the thing, it was necessary to pan back and forth to take it all in. 

When we first sat down I couldn't even process it, and wasn't sure what I was looking at. It was just moving colors, a towering wall of moving colors. But it didn't take long to adjust, and it turned out to be OK. Things were a little distorted and elongated, but Nicholas Cage looks like that under normal circumstances. So what's the big deal?

The movie wasn't very good, but entertaining enough. It wasn't one of those situations where I wanted to set myself on fire (like during Daddy Daycare), but I don't think the bloated ghost of Orson Welles has anything to worry about either. 

One thing I appreciated was that the Master Thespian Cage didn't give his character a bunch of nervous tics or a bizarre voice, or make him a slack-jawed dotard or anything. He played it straight-up for a change, and I was relieved by that. I'm not a fan of the novelty acting.

I had a hard time driving home because my head had grown accustomed to being slung way back on its flesh-base, but I somehow managed. It was an interesting outing.

-- One afternoon Toney and I snuck off, under the pretense of "going to the store," and headed directly to Jim Dandy's, a bar/restaurant near our house. This is sort of a tradition for us when we have visitors, to "go to the store" together. We always order a pitcher of Yuengling, and an appetizer, and it magically changes everything. We come out of there with a whole new outlook on life. It's amazing, really.

This time we opted for a basket of their kick-ass onion rings, which are nearly as good as the gold-standard rings served up by a bar near LA called The Londoner. The pitchers are sizable as well. Some places have taken to serving up pitchers roughly the size of a large mug, but Jim Dandy's still comes through with the big honkin' classic pitchers. Ya just can't go wrong with this place.

And all was going well until I took my first bite of the lightning-hot appetizer. I clamped down on the thing and successfully severed the inner onion band on one side, but the other side was still attached and it came out of its housing and slung down across my bottom lip, my chin, and underneath towards my neck. And it stuck there, and was the temperature of newborn lava. I started hollering like an Arab passing a stone, and pawed at the thing, trying to peel it off. Of course Toney was convulsing with laughter at this point, but I failed to see the humor. I'm almost certain the top layer of skin came off with the onion strip, and as late as yesterday it felt funny when wind blew across it.

I considered calling one of those lawyers on the back of the phone book. But I didn't want to be held responsible if they had to pay me a million dollars, and were forced to start using those little girly pitchers . I don't think I could live with myself if that happened. So I'll just suffer in silence, with my horribly disfigured chin.

-- And there weren't really many more highlights from the weekend. We ran around a lot, and logged some serious lounging and pie-eating time, but nothing too exciting.

We did see a woman in front of Burlington Coat Factory, in high-heels and expensive sweater, digging at her ass. I'm not kidding, she had her entire right hand up her booty, and a big portion of her forearm, and her butt cheeks were jostling with the effort. All of us, including my mother, were buckled over in laughter. That's just something you don't see every day, and I laugh every time I think about it.

Oh, and my Dad put up the Roman shades we bought for our living room about a month ago, which I'd been trying to forget about. I'm glad they're finally up, but I feel a little guilty that I didn't do it. Not that guilty though.

And my parents treated us to brunch on Sunday, in honor of my birthday (which was yesterday). Luckily a busload of retarded men in crash helmets, hollering about "creamy cheese," didn't descend upon the place like last time, and it was a pleasant meal. I had the Western omelet, which I believe is called a Denver omelet out west, for some reason. I never really understood that, but whatever. Maybe they're called a 23rd Street omelet in Denver? I just don't know, but they're good, regardless of their nickname.

-- And you're pretty much up-to-date on my kick-ass life. I'll have a really funny update from Buck tomorrow, who is undoubtedly packing his crotch with Bisquick at this very moment, and the story about how I nearly lost my life on Monday morning. And no, it had nothing to do with deep-fried food.

See ya then.


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