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  Willard "Bill" Hershberger

      

   The State of My Fat Ass                                  December 2006


December 29, 2006

-- This is the final update of 2006, and I'd like to start by thanking Buck, Metten, and lakrfool for their excellent contributions throughout the year. They've added a lot of laughter and fun to the festivities, and I don't thank them nearly enough. So, thanks guys. This is an all-volunteer army, and I appreciate your service, sincerely. 

Tonight I'll hoist yet another golden elixir in your honor. Pretty special, huh?

Now I'd like to share with you a heartwarming holiday tale.... Steve told me this one on Wednesday, and it's got Hallmark Hall of Fame written all over it. You know, if the Hallmark Hall of Fame was broadcast over on the Fucked-Upness Channel.

Steve's sister Teresa lives in South Carolina. She has a friend with a beloved dog that was nearing its final days. The animal had already survived cancer, and had been a cherished family companion for many years. Now it was very old, and increasingly unstable. Clearly, the end was near.

A few days before Christmas the man was out walking his beloved hound, through a wooded area where they'd walked many times before. About halfway into the journey, the dog began breathing heavily, then collapsed. Upset, he dropped to his knees and checked to see if his old friend was still breathing. Then, in a fit of desperation, he attempted to resuscitate the animal by repeatedly pressing on its chest.

It was no good. The dog was gone. But, he told himself, if it had to happen, he was glad it happened here, the place where they'd spent so many fine days in the past. He sat there for a while, emotional and drained. Finally, he began hoofing it back home to get his truck, so he could retrieve the dog's body, and give it a proper burial.

And when he returned, he encountered something amazing. He walked into the woods, and saw his old pet running down the path toward him! He was wagging his tail and looked friskier and in better spirits than he'd been in months. It was a miracle, nothing short of a Christmas miracle!

Then the dog died again, right at the man's feet. This time for good.

Happy holidays!

-- Before I call it a year, I'd like to share with you two of my favorite Christmas presents, and a not-so-fave that I gave the Secrets personally.

Toney and I focus most or our attention on the kids at Christmas, and for a long time didn't exchange gifts at all. A couple of years ago we started giving each other presents again, but they're still fairly modest. Someday, maybe, we'll get back to the dating and early-marriage level, but we're not quite there yet. 

This
is the kick-assiest of the kick-ass gifts that Toney gave me this year, proving that you don't have to spend a fortune.... It's Quality Street candy, straight out of England, and impossible to find here in Scranton. Oh yeah, I'm gonna be all up in that.

And here's what Steve gave me, a replica jersey of the Charleston Charlies minor league baseball team, that used to play in our old stomping grounds of Charleston, WV. The team has been defunct since 1983, but they started going downhill after the Pirates left town following the '76 season, in my semi-humble opinion. As you can see, this is a jersey from the glory days, when they were the Pittsburgh Pirates' AAA farm team. 

Steve said, "Is it big enou--? I mean, is it the right size?" I don't know, it's an XXL. Perhaps if I sew another panel of fabric into it?

Finally, I went out on Christmas Eve and bought the Secrets a video game called Bully. It's something that was quite controversial when first released, but I've always been intrigued by it. It takes place in the halls of a fancy prep school, and you're a semi-nerdy kid forced to negotiate the many bullies, pricks, and assholes also enrolled there. I thought that was a pretty cool premise for a video game, and have had my eye on it for months. Toney was completely against it, but I broke her down, and went out and snagged a copy at the very last second on Sunday.

And on Christmas day I sat in a chair and watched our kids beat the living shit out of a virtual Mexican, or Puerto Rican, or whatever, with a baseball bat. Maybe he wasn't Mexican, but that's the way I remember it, a full-on hate crime. And I told them to hand it over. I'd made a tactical error, and they'd just have to focus on their other gifts for a while. The disc is now hidden inside the bunker somewhere, and I don't know what I'm going to do with it.

Blowing up hicks with a death ray from a space ship is one thing, and administering a savage beating with a length of lumber is another. Toney was right, and I was wrong. As usual.

What were your favorite gifts this year? And have you ever given somebody something that you later regretted? Tell us about it, won't you? Use the comments link below.

-- And before I go.... I've added a couple of new sites to the official Friends of TheWVSR list, over there in the long, manly blue column to the left of this page.

The first is a blog authored by none other than The Genius himself, Phil Hendrie. There was some debate as to whether it was really Phil, or an imposter. But he confirmed that he is indeed the man behind the site in a recent interview. Good stuff.

The second is by a new blogger named Bill Oates. He's just starting out, but there's something about his writings that feel right to me.... We've been in correspondence over the past few days, and once he gets his site up and running at full capacity, I think we'll all enjoy it. 

So check 'em both out. You'll find the links under Friends of TheWVSR.

You guys have a great and safe New Years, and I'll see you on the other side! 
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December 27, 2006

-- I've been away for a while, and I'm not going to apologize, even though I'm feeling the urge. It was Christmas, it was chaos, and I refuse to say I'm sorry. So there. I will, however, try to bring you partially up-to-date....

The bottom chunk of Saturday was fairly uneventful. I didn't drag my swollen carcass downstairs until almost 10 in the morning, and by that time Toney was long gone. She told me the previous night she planned to do the grocery shopping early. And when she says early, she means early. Like 7 am, or some such wack.

By the time I got out of bed she'd already been to three different stores, and spent a terrifying amount of money. As I was plucking a nighttime wedgie from the dank, dark recesses out back, Toney was somewhere contemplating the heated exchange she'd had with a seasoned citizen at the Wegman's olive bar ninety minutes earlier. She'd already logged a day's worth....

My assignment was to dust and vacuum the house, but it's necessary to eeeease into a Saturday. I put on a pot of Eight O'Clock bean coffee (the stuff she'd left was like something out of a 1970s tire store vending machine by now) and flopped down with the newspaper. The Secrets were killing off Krauts or Japs or whatever on PS2, and I decided it was a good counter-balance to the pussified crapola they're taught every day in public school. So I contentedly read about the latest house fires and sinkholes in and around Scranton, and power-farted through thick upholstery.

Toney came home, and nothing was accomplished. Nothing. I helped her schlep in the groceries, hoping it would be enough to stave off an argument. But she was in a good mood, and my half-assery wasn't even brought up. Merry Christmas!

After some internet time and a shower, I started dusting the house. No fun. I'm not really a fan of sashaying from room to room with a rag and a spray can, rubbing wooden fixtures. It's a bit gay, isn't it? But I'd agreed to do it, so what options did I have? After finishing the task, I broke out the vacuum cleaner (promptly snapping off the power button in an explosion of broken plastic) and sucked-up about a dog and a half-worth of dog hair. The house was slowly taking shape.

In the afternoon we went to a few stores, to finalize our Christmas shopping. There was very little remaining, so I wasn't too concerned about it. I knew it would be a monster out there, but there wasn't much pressure on us, and I was prepared to laugh right in the beast's face.

Target was our first stop, and it looked like a war zone. At the time there wasn't an inordinate number of people inside, but there clearly had been. Many of the shelves were empty, a few were completely collapsed, and at least one was bent in a giant V, as if someone had karate-chopped it. I saw a sequined red sweater lying in the middle of an aisle, with sneaker prints and shopping cart tracks running across it. A woman in her mid-20s walked past with what appeared to be a large ham hock, even though Target has no known meat department.

But. surprisingly enough, the place wasn't any more busy than on a normal day. We found our items, walked right up to a zitster in a holiday-themed novelty-hat, and paid without incident. It was shockingly easy. On our way to the car I called a woman in a Ford Explorer, who almost ran us over, a "pig woman." And the Secrets seemed to enjoy that immensely.

Drunk with success, I even indulged in another impulse purchase of a York Peppermint Patty -- the official candy of homosexuality. Let 'em talk, I don't care.

We drove past the mall on our way to Sam's (our exclusive club), and it looked like full-on pandemonium. Cars were parked everywhere, including atop the decorative landscaping. I wouldn't have agreed to submerge myself in that mess, even if someone had pressed a gun to my temple. I feared what we might find at Sam's. We'd dodged the bullet once, and were obviously pushing our luck. I hoped the wheelchair-bound greeter wasn't tipped over, his clothing shredded.

But there was nobody in the store, almost literally. We walked around and it felt luxurious. Now this is an exclusive club! Toney picked up the two or three items she needed, and we chose one of several waiting cashiers, paid and left. Kick-ass. The roads were completely clogged, but we were on a roll with our chosen destinations. A freakin' roll.

Our shopping done, we headed for a bar/restaurant called Jim Dandy's, where we planned to have our traditional Christmas Eve martini a day early. Since visitors would be arriving at the Compound on Sunday, we decided to recalibrate and go with Christmas Eve Eve this year.

None of us were very hungry, so we just got a few appetizers. And Toney and I ordered our once-a-year drinks. "Two martinis up?" the waitress asked. I had no idea what "up" meant, until I got home and found an explanation on the internet. But I told her yes, of course, it must be up. Why, you're not dealing with a common gang of shit-kicking hillbillies here, madame.

We were served vodka martinis, which wasn't what we'd ordered. But whatever. We nursed 'em slowly, scarfed down the 'tizers, and called it a day. Our last sane day. Since it was now dark, somebody suggested we drive around and look at Christmas lights before returning home. With Russian booze still burning my sternum, I said that sounded like a fine idea.

And that's when we got into a lengthy conversation that I need your help with. It's my feeling that white lights only is a bit pretentious, and kinda uptown. Colored lights are the lights of the common man, I believe, and Toney surprised me by agreeing. Usually she shoots down my "theories" with a theatrical roll of the eyes, but she signed-on completely with my whites vs. coloreds observation.

Yeah, we've had white lights only in the past. And it corresponded exactly with the period of our life when we were pretending to be yuppies -- on a Dairy Queen clerk's income. But now that we're older and more comfortable in our skin (ahem), we've returned to our roots. Our Christmas tree is now covered in colored lights, and even our "little tree" in the front yard has gone from blue-only to a bastardized mix of blue, flashing white, and some kind of pale green. It's not very Christmasy, but who cares? It's a tree in a yard.

What do you think about this? Are we way off, or on to something here? Do white lights say one thing, and colored lights another? Tell me about it in the comments, won't you? I need closure on this subject, straigh' away.

And one more thing.... I shouldn't have skipped dinner Saturday night, I really shouldn't have. When we got home I had a few Yuenglings while watching TV, and before I knew what was going on, I was feeling it

I woke up the next morning with my first hangover in years. I don't usually drink enough to generate hangovers, and don't think I drank all that much on Saturday. But the lack of food did me in.... I arose on Sunday, Christmas Eve, feeling like someone had snapped-off a screwdriver in my cranium; I had the liqui-shits and the whole nine yards. I tried not to be too obvious about it, but I was dragging ass all day long. 

And so it goes. 

More of this stuff next time, whenever that might be. And yes dammit, I'm sorry for the extended downtime. Happy now? Jesus.

See ya soon. 
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December 22, 2006

-- As another Bourbon Season nears its end, I'd like to take this opportunity to thank you good folks for making our little exercise in ridiculousness a daily, or semi-daily, ritual. 

TheWVSR is self-prescribed therapy, and helps keep me, well, saneish. And it warms my big sluggish heart that it's somehow attracted so many funny and talented readers. The site got infinitely better the day I discovered Haloscan, and everyone could suddenly contribute to the fun. Your comments are often smarter and wittier than my updates, and I wouldn't have it any other way. I thank you, sincerely.

Things are going to turn quickly to chaos here on the Surf Report campus, and I can't tell you when (or if) I'll be updating next week. I certainly plan to, but this place is going to be like a crawlspace just lousy with critters. The kids are out of school, we're going to have visitors staying with us, and people will be in and out every day. Plus, you know, there's adult beverages that need drinking.

So just check back from time to time, and I'll do my best to get something up during the week. I've got my laptop, so I can barricade myself inside the baffroom if necessary, and write while pretending to experience digestive complications. Maybe I'll even go the extra mile and take a nearly-empty squeeze bottle of ketchup in there, and create sound effects? We'll see how it goes.

In the meantime, we'll gather 'round the ceramic logs, listen to the gentle hissing of the natural gas jets, raise a comically-oversized tumbler of bourbon 'n' something, and enjoy the soothing holiday sounds of Run-DMC and Bryan "Pockmark" Adams. It'll be an old fashioned Surf Report Christmas: On Half-Shirt! On Shuffler! On Bill Oates! On Mumbles!! ...I'm sorry, I'm getting a little emotional here.

So I hope all of you have a pleasant Christmas or Hanukkah, or any combination thereof. I hope the food is good and plentiful, and the cocktails are flowing. I don't want to catch any of you posting stories at this site, y'hear?

If, over the next few days, you feel the need for some great, obscure holiday music in that mp3 format the kids are so crazy about, here's your resource. And make sure you don't miss this one, from my spiritual advisor, Father Ray

I've also taken the liberty of uploading a Christmas-themed Phil Hendrie segment to YouSendIt. It's from 2002, and features Coach Vernon Dozier, one of my favorite Hendrie creations. He doesn't much care for people who lie in wait for prime parking spaces at shopping centers. And it's hard to disagree with the "man." The first 100 visitors can download it directly to their desktop computer sets, as if by magic.

And before I call it a day here, I'd like to alert you to a little non-holiday greatness, right here. It's not only a list of the 50 Greatest Cartoons of All Time, as decided by the "animation industry," but there are also links to almost every one of 'em. Incredibly cool. Needless to say, somebody else did all the work on this, and I didn't lift a single sausage finger to help. But I hope you'll accept it as my gift to you....

Have a great holiday, folks. And beware the Nog Lip! 

I'll see ya soon. 
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December 21, 2006

-- Since it's standard operating procedure for me to stumble around sleep-deprived, I've never really had a problem drifting off at night. I climb atop the raised platform, start to read, and in no time begin to feel the pull of the creepy-ass insect-like dormancy state taking over. Then Toney has to prod me awake six hours later, and we start the process all over again. Sleep has never been an issue for me, during my entire adult life.

Until now, that is. A couple of nights last week I hit the sack exhausted, then proceeded to wallow around in the sheets, flipping and flopping for what must've been a couple of hours. And it happened a third time earlier this week. One night I actually got up and found myself wandering aimlessly around the house, like some old man.

This is completely foreign to me, and freaks me out a little. I'm nocturnal by nature, and am always fighting an inclination to stay up late. Then I have to hoist my swaddling heft out of bed before the rooster crows, to get these ridiculous updates written, etc. It's a bad combination that's surely shearing years off the back-end of my life.

But what's going to happen if I can't even sleep during the standard six hour window of time?! How am I going to maintain my high-wire act of family/work/website? Already I'm wobbling, occasionally nodding off at red lights and whatnot. If I continue to have these flipping and flopping episodes, I'll probably end up in the lumber aisle of Home Depot, with a stranger packed into the wheel well of my car, and a wad of orange vest embedded in the radiator.

And I can't have that.

-- How much you wanna bet this kid sleeps just fine? Oh, I imagine he has a few nightmares (especially after this article was published), where he wakes up terrified and screaming. But he probably doesn't have a problem falling asleep. You know, since he's fond of committing "acts of self-love," all over household items. Heh. Wonder if Katie Couric covered this story?

-- And speaking of terrified, you've simply gotta see this YouTube video of Neil Young rockin' with DEVO. It features Booji Boy inside his playpen, and is one of the most amazing (scary) things I've seen in a good long time. Sweet sainted mother of Baxter Mothersbaugh, and Todd.

-- I have a sense of recently seeing, or hearing, a TV commercial advertising a show called Surgery Saved My Life. I say I have a sense of it, because I can't really remember any actual images, only the name of the show. But who would watch such a thing?

I can't even stomach House, because there's always some sort of medical procedure happening, and it gives me the freakin' heebie jeebies. I sure as shit don't want to get myself a big bowl of salted peanuts in the shell, snuggle 'neath the Scrote-watcher, and tune in for another exciting installment of They Had My Lungs Out and Lying on a Table! Ya know?

Everybody works with someone (usually a fat woman, for some reason) who likes to drone on and on about their medical "complications," and those of their children. And our brains are always racing, trying to find some tactful way to extract ourselves from the conversations. Why would anyone willingly subject themselves to a televised version of this? 

I'm completely baffled.

-- Toney recently overheard two neighborhood kids talking as they walked past our house, about their MySpace pages. We sorta know one of them, he used to play with the oldest Secret back in the day. But he's in seventh or eighth grade now, and is a million miles removed from our kids (who still act like boys, not pasty-ass gangstas). 

Curious, I did some detective work, and found his page. There's a big Q&A thing on there, where he answers a million or so questions. One is, "What's the first thing you think about when you wake up in the morning?" His answer? Yes, that's correct, "titty fucking."

-- And I know this one is sorta brief, but I need to get to work. Before I go though, I'd like to get your feedback on something. A few nights ago a woman, who is working on our mortgage refinance, called our house around 10 pm. Just as chipper as shit, she said she just wanted to give us an update. 

This irritated me a little, not because I was asleep or anything, but because it breaks the rules. It's my understanding that you're not supposed to make business calls after 8 o'clock, and you shouldn't call friends or family after 9. Isn't that the standard? Or did I just make that up in my head?

What do you think about this? And what are the other telephone rules? I need to verify a few things here.

Use the comments link if you have anything on this, or anything else for that matter.

And I'll see ya tomorrow. 
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December 20, 2006

-- I'm almost at the end of the road with 2006, at least as far as my job is concerned. Tomorrow is my last real workday of the year. I might go in for a couple of hours on Friday, to take part in the Ballbuster, but then again, I might not. We'll just see how it goes. My boss left it up to me, and I instantly thought, "Hell yeah! I'm outta here, jack!" But then the guilt started creeping in....

In any case, it's almost over. Today they're having the big holiday buffet at work. As you might've guessed, I'm not really a fan. But at least it's not a "pot luck" (aka other peoples' filth), it's catered. Yes, it'll probably be five or six stainless steel vats up on stilts with fire beneath them, housing canned green beans, some sort of sausage and peppers conglomeration, and a few other things.

Then we'll get to eat with people we don't like ("Busy?"), and walk away somehow hungrier than when we went in. Happy holidays!

Wonder if they'll ever find a cure for chronic cynicism?

-- I was at the beer store a couple of nights ago (go figure), and the whole front end of the building was missing. What was once brick and plate glass was now outsize sheets of plywood. I asked the guy what happened, and he said an old woman came crashing through a few nights earlier. She pulled into a parking space out front, then mashed the gas pedal instead of the brake. "Jimmy was sitting in that chair right over there, and could've been killed," he said, with high concern.

I made a joke about her gas pedal getting stuck, a vehicular malfunction that seemingly happens only to people in their 80s and 90s. But he didn't think it was funny, and neither did the woman in line behind me. She looked at me with sadness, then shook her head. And the guy behind the counter reminded me that "Jimmy could've been killed."

Damn, man. Beer store patrons don't usually have the paint stirrer stuck quite so deep up their asses. They might need to up the dosage.

-- It could be a bit late to get my requests in, but I'd love for Santa to bring me one of these babies for Christmas. For an aging hipster such as myself, it might possibly be The Greatest Thing Ever. I'm not going to allow myself to get too excited too early, but if it does all the things they claim, I'll probably be forced to change into looser-fitting trousers soon. Hello?

-- Here's another just-added item to the Surf Report wish list. It's the first season of Saturday Night Live, complete and uncut. Apparently it was a wide-open bitch to get all the music rights straightened out, and it's a minor miracle the DVDs ever made it to market. Season 2, I hear, might not ever see the light of day.

Anyway, there's undoubtedly big chunks of the first season that I've never seen, because the show wasn't carried in my neck of the woods then. I think they just ran old movies, or some such crapola, during the time slot.

I remember sitting in a waiting room somewhere, flipping through a Time or Newsweek, and seeing an article about the hippest show on television. There was a picture of Chevy Chase sitting behind the anchor desk, and another of Belushi dressed up as a bee. I knew nothing about it (who are these people?!), and couldn't find it on the dial anywhere. Surprisingly enough, Charleston, WV was late to the party. And it made me a little crazy.

So I plan to purchase the box set and exact my revenge on WSAZ TV, just as I vowed to do thirty-one years ago. Soon, I will rule the world!

-- And speaking of DVDs, Netflix has skipped over Black Christmas three times now, and it looks like I won't be able to watch it until after the holiday. Dammit! Brad has a copy at home right now, and I'm convinced it's the only one Netflix stocks. To help prove this theory, I've asked him to put a small red dot on the sleeve, before returning it. If/when I receive the movie, and the dot is there, then... by golly, I'll know.

-- How does something like this happen? Today I need a haircut, rather urgently, and yesterday I didn't. How is it possible?

-- Here's a heartwarming little video for the holiday season. Gather all the children 'round, grab yourself a 'nog, and hit the play button. ....I'm sorry, I'm getting a little emotional here.

-- It irritates Toney that whenever a new issue of Rolling Stone or Entertainment Weekly arrives in the mail, I immediately turn to the back and read the reviews. It's one of those unexplainable little things that gets under her skin, and we've had actual mini-arguments about it. She says that magazines are not meant to be read back-to-front, and I ask her why she's getting so worked up about it.

Heck, the reviews are the only things I care about in those magazines. I have no interest in a 15,000 word profile on Gwen Stefani, and I sure as shit ain't reading the political articles in RS. I mean, seriously. I'd rather slam my face into the whirling blades of an industrial fan.

But I understand things like that. Hell, this whole website exists because of things like that. People get on the tip of my very last nerve every single day, with their irritating quirks. And it often sounds ridiculous and nit-picky when I try to explain it to people. So I usually just keep it to myself until it festers, and I end up writing about it here.

So, my question today is about things people do that drives you nuts, unexplainably so. I'm not talking about the smacking of lips and the mispronouncing of words like "library," Those are highly explainable. I'm talking about the things that you can't really justify. Hopefully I'm being clear here....

Use the comments link below to tell us about it, won't you?

And I'll see ya tomorrow. 
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December 19, 2006

-- In the Circuit City ad on Sunday, there was a TV listed that I was prepared to buy. "This is it!" I proclaimed, gesticulating wildly as if I were onstage. I was ready to take the plunge, to whip out the MasterCard and let the chips fall where they may. It was, as they say, almost too good to be true.

Here's the television. It's a 42-inch Samsung, and the ad said it featured a 1080p Full HD picture -- for nine hundred bucks! As we used to say back home, fuckin' A! I'd be there when the doors opened, inappropriately aroused.

But, as so often happens, it really was too good to be true. There was a "misprint" in the ad, and the TV's not 1080p, it's 720p. I did some research online, and went from hyper-excitement to crushing disappointment in nothing flat. I know, deep down, that I wouldn't be able to tell the difference between the two resolutions. But I keep TVs for a long time, and if I'm going to fork over a wheelbarrow full of cash for a new one, I want to be able to fool myself into believing that I bought the best.

So, the waiting continues. I read somewhere that after the holidays TV prices are going to plunge. Supposedly 50-inch 1080p sets will be available for less than $1000. And when that day arrives, mister, I'll be there with my fleshy smiling face pressed against the glass, as they unlock the doors.

-- A week or so ago I mentioned that Sunshine might appear in the studio audience of America's Funniest Home Videos. Well, we didn't see her, even when we slowed everything down with the DVR. She was apparently sitting somewhere where the camera couldn't find her. However, her friend's son won the ten grand, with a video that featured a dog playing the drums.

Over the weekend they returned to Los Angeles to compete for $100,000, and it sounds like it didn't go the way they'd hoped. Because Sunshine is now spinning wild theories involving the Disney Corporation and the international Jewish banking conspiracy. Or some such thing.

Everything's a conspiracy with that woman. It's hilarious. When her candidate loses an election, it was stolen. When her football team gets beaten, the mob had it fixed for gambling money. Nothing is as it seems. We're all being fooled, and it's so completely obvious to anyone willing to open their eyes. Highly entertaining.

-- A few days ago I linked to a list of the 10 Creepiest Fast Food Mascots, which I thought was incredibly on the mark. Surf Reporter Carolyn has now upped the ante, and taken it international. Here's a pic she snapped in Paris, of a horrifying fry man. You can actually see others doing double-takes in the street. Good stuff. Thanks Carolyn!

-- Yesterday I picked up the latest addition to the world-renowned Bunker Collection. I'd planned to have my Shane MacGowan poster framed, along with an old poster advertising the notorious Mr. Mike's Mondo Video, but got cold feet. The guy wanted way too much to frame Shane (I don't think he cared for it), but gave me a decent price on Mr. Mike. So I decided to just go with the latter.

And here it is, finally in its rightful place on the babyshit green walls of the Surf Report bunker. Don't worry Shane, you're next....

-- This doesn't have anything to do with anything, but Toney bought two pounds of Dunkin' Donuts coffee a few days ago, and the shit is damn good. It'll keep your regular too.

-- It's Tuesday, and that means it's time for another dispatch straight outta Normal, over at Jason Headley Dotcom. Right here. I think I forgot to link to last week's update, and it was especially good, so be sure to check it out as well.

-- This is a funny promo for the new season of 24, that Brad alerted me to. Happy holidays, from the folks at the Christmas Toys Unit.

-- And it's time once again for the question of the day. Let me set this bitch up, like I'm on Letterman.... Yesterday I told you about an encounter my brother and I had with a rogue turd in a motel swimming pool in Canada. I'd like to flesh that story out a bit, if I might.

When I was twelve or thirteen we went on a great family vacation to the northeastern part of the country. We visited New York City, took in a game at Fenway Park, and went to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. It was the best vacation ever!

We also saw Niagara Falls, and ventured into Canada for a day or two. On the first night inside the exotic foreign land, we stayed at a motel on the other side of the border from the falls. It was just full-on tourist, with hotels and motels and cheesy wax museums lining the streets. My parents chose a place that looked OK from the outside, but was pretty goddamn shabby on the inside.

I remember there were little tables beside the beds, with no legs. They were just attached to the wall, and were slanted radically, as if people had sat on them with their big fat American asses. When I flipped on the bathroom light, roaches scampered in every direction. And on the wall, between the beds, was a print of Blue Boy, and it looked like someone had shot out one of his eyes with a .22 caliber rifle.

My brother and I began howling in protest, and my Dad got mad. He rarely loses his cool, and when he does it'll get your attention. I can't remember the exact words he used, but he basically accused us of being a couple of pampered fancy lads, and went on at length about some of the places he stayed when he was our age. This is like the Plaza compared to those dumps, he told us. He made it very clear that we would be staying there, and it was in our best interest to just shut up about it.

Tension hung in the air during the silent minute that followed his diatribe, then he looked over at one of those comically slanted tables, and said, "And if any of you see that glass start to slide off that nightstand, try to catch it. I don't want it to break."

Uproarious laughter, and an instant end to hostilities....

After we got settled into our horrible room, my brother and I wandered down to the pool. And we found kids scampering for the ladders, and screaming in horror. The hell? There was a turd floating in the water! How in God's name does something like that happen? It had to be on purpose, people don't just go around accidentally ejecting full-sized logs all willy-nilly through a leg of their swimsuit. Ya know? At least not here in America.

A boy, roughly our age, was standing on the side of the pool, doing a play-by-play and quoting the opening segment of the Six Million Dollar Man: "It's breaking up! It's breaking up!!"

Yes, it was quite a memorable stay, there north of the border. And I'd be much obliged if you could tell us about your worst hotel/motel experience. Use the comments link below. I have a feeling this could be a good one....

Have a great day, boys and girls. 

I'll see you tomorrow. 
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December 18, 2006

-- I'm not working today. A couple of weeks ago Toney and I circled December 18th on the calendar (figuratively speaking only... no actual circling took place), and vowed to use the day to finalize Christmas shopping, and generally tie up whatever holiday-related loose ends remained. This had to happen on a weekday, of course, when the Secrets weren't around. So, I asked for the day off, it was approved, then everything promptly went to hell.

I won't bore you with all the boring details, but I'm on my own here. Toney has to be elsewhere today, so it's all up to me. And not only will I be shouldering responsibilities, but our pleasant lunch without the younglings won't be happening either. It's not exactly the way I had it pictured.... It went from being a nice time away from the office, submerged tits-deep in Christmas, to a day of chores all by myself.

Sucks. My usual role in these situations is to tag along, make sarcastic comments, and mock the general public. To have me actually in charge is risky, at best. And it casts a whole different light on the day. I think I'd rather just go to work....

-- A week or so ago I told you about my internet being down, and how Adelphia (Comcast?) blamed it on my wireless router. Remember that? Well, at the time I didn't believe them, I figured they were just engaging in a wee bit of blame-shifting. But guess what happened? That's right, the router shit the bed.

This occurred last week sometime, and I tried everything to get it going again. I reset it multiple times, read the manual and did all the Stupid Human Tricks it suggested. I may as well have been blowing diarrhea in the wind.... The thing would function correctly for five minutes, I'd get all excited, then it would go down again. Finally it just stopped working altogether.

Grrrr... I bypassed the router, and plugged the cable directly into my computer. And that was fine for me, but Toney couldn't access the internet upstairs. Plus, we're supposed to have visitors for Christmas, and I'm gonna need my laptop so I can barricade myself in the bathroom with a Yuengling, cry softly, and surf the Web in peace.

On Thursday (I think), I passed one of the MIS guys in the hall at work, and jokingly asked how much he'd charge to come out to my house and get our network straightened out. Without hesitation, he said, "My standard fee is fifty dollars." I started blinking real fast, and said, "What do you mean, standard fee?"

Turns out he does a lot of that kind of thing on the side, and said he'd be happy to get me squared away. For, you know, fifty bucks. I didn't commit to anything, but it sounded mighty tempting. I'd somehow screwed-up the passwords on the thing, and was worried about uninstalling the software and reinstalling the new stuff, etc. It had fiasco written all over it.

Long story short, I called him and he came out on Sunday. He told me on the phone that he'd installed dozens of networks, and it should be quick and easy. I explained that I already had a wounded router, and he'd have to rip all that out and replace it with a new one -- which I planned to buy later in the day. He said no problem.

But it was a problem. The dude was here for hours, and that made me happy. Not because I especially enjoyed his company or anything, but because I felt like I got my money's worth. If he'd come in here and set it all up in ten minutes, then took fifty off me, I would've been pissed. So I was silently cheering all the problems he encountered, and kept noting (accurately, I believe) that for every hour he worked, it would've taken me ten.

Money well-spent. Pass the goddamn beer nuts.

-- Speaking of work, the Shuffler actually said something to me a few days ago. Usually she just shuffles past my office door, like she's cross-country skiing, with the same expressionless expression frozen on her face. But one day last week she stopped me in the hall and asked me a question:

"What exactly do you do here?" That second do seemed to be loaded with implications, and I didn't much care for it. Plus, I was amazed that her expression still didn't change, even when she was talking.

I told her my job title, and that didn't seem to register. "Yeah, but what do you do?" she demanded, again putting emphasis on the do out-back. I started to answer, and she interrupted me. "Every time I walk past your office, you're in there watching that television."

The crap? It's not a television, I explained, it's a computer monitor. And, I wanted to add, you're taking great liberties in calling that walking.

Ho-ly shit.

-- Mark Maynard has involved me in some sort of questionable chain-letter type of deal, where I'm apparently required to tell you folks five things about myself, that you probably don't already know. If I don't, I'll be blind by dawn, or experiencing something akin to a projectile miscarriage, or some such thing. Boy, he's gonna pay for this one....

To maintain my "health," here are five things:

I've never smoked pot, or taken any so-called recreational drugs. (Except for alcohol, of course.) It's never even crossed my mind.

I've never been outside of the United States, except for one brief (and terrifying) trip into Canada, where my brother and I encountered a turd in a motel pool. A kid stood on the edge and did the play-by-play: "It's breaking up! It's breaking up!!"

I've never been in a real car wreck. I once sideswiped a woman driving a shiny Camaro, in Parkersburg, WV, but that can hardly be considered a wreck. She did, however, call me a fucker.

I've never eaten Lucky Charms.

I'm very good with tongue twisters.

So there you go. I'm now supposed to pass this hex on to five other "bloggers," but I refuse to perpetuate it. If that sends me into miscarriage, then so be it. Of course, if you want to list five things on your own (and maybe save my life), that's your business. Use the comments link below. I'm washing my hands of the whole thing, right here and now.

Thanks Mark! That's simply excellent.

-- Speaking of tongue twisters, here's the hardest one I've ever encountered: Which wristwatch is a Swiss wristwatch? Just so you're up to date on it.

-- Dwight from The Office was in Scranton this weekend, for a paid public appearance, but I didn't go. I briefly considered trying to get a picture of him holding the Fish, but common sense finally kicked-in. And judging from this article, it was a wise choice. People flew in from Boston to be there!? I would've surely had a nervous breakdown in a crowd like that.

-- On Saturday the four of us went to Five Guys hamburgers, in Dickson City, for lunch. It was very good, as always, but check out the way the charge appeared on my bank's website! I'll never be able to look those people in the eyes again....

And I've got lots more of this dingleberry material, but I'd better get the highly disappointing day started.

See you folks tomorrow. 
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December 15, 2006

-- I made it through the company Christmas party last night without incident. No fires, no fist fights, and no uncontrollable sobbing.... You won't find my photo on the Smoking Gun this morning, and I didn't spend the night in a jail cell with a man known only as "Chicago." I consider it a victory.

The party was scheduled to start at 5 o'clock, and was held at a bar I'd never been to, in a town I'd never heard of. I followed another guy from work, and we wound through residential areas, across bridges, and past grocery stores with unfamiliar names. I began to wonder if we were even still in Pennsylvania. How in God's name would I find my way home?!

Finally we arrived, and it was a drinking establishment of the shitkicker variety. They were blasting horrible contemporary "country" music inside (Hank Williams is spinning in his grave), and the bathrooms were labeled, Cowboys and Cowgirls. There were dozens of strangers surrounding the bar, many still bound-up in work clothes, talking real loud and pouring draft beer down their necks as if they were entered in some sort of contest.

And, of course, smoking. The whole world, it seemed, was smoking. I think I'm going to have to throw my coat in the trash.

They'd partitioned-off a corner of the bar for us, and a few people had already arrived. Nobody seemed to know what to do, and there was a brief period of standing around and feeling uncomfortable. But a hostess(?) finally passed out stickers that said PARTY on them, and we were told to put them on our shirts. These stickers, she said, gave us full access to anything and everything served there. "So, have fun!" she shouted, just as chipper as shit.

Most acted like it was Christmas morning, and almost sprinted to the bar. They were treating it like a buffet of booze: let's see, I'll have one of these, and maybe a couple of those....

But, because of the full line-up of mental illnesses, I started looking into the future, and saw myself pulled over by a cop with five or six beers sloshing around in my belly, and a comically-oversized signboard stuck to the front of my shirt that read PARTY. And it wasn't a pretty picture.

I ordered some kind of Samuel Adams winter brew (tasty!), and got a few, "Well get a load of Mr. Fancy Pants" glances. But I'll be damned if I'm drinking Coors Light, out of the plastic bottle with easy-pour neck, or whatever. Especially when everything is free. I defiantly took my fag beer and returned to our corner.

And it wasn't too bad. They eventually brought out a bunch of pizzas and hot wings and a giant sub sandwich cut up into about a hundred individual servings. I talked to people, drank a few more of those spicy beers, and ate sausage pizza. But, way back in the musty recesses of my mind I worried about a DUI. It was nagging at me, not allowing me to fully cut loose.

Lord knows I never used to give it a thought. I'm not proud of it, but I have a long history of not giving it a thought. I used to quote Kinison, the great philosopher, who once said, "How are we supposed to get home?!" 

But, of course, that was in the old days, before I was married and had kids and responsibilities and common sense. Now I live in fear of the DUI roadblock, and "Mr. Kay step out of the vehicle, and remove your pants and undergarments." I don't know why that last part is always tacked-on, but it is.

I talked to a guy who saw the queer beer in my hand, and was shocked to learn that he has an apparent encyclopedic knowledge of microbrews. Who knew? We talked for a long time about the Pacific Northwest beers I love, and not only had he heard of them, but also knew their history. I would've never guessed him the type. And now I suppose we'll have something to talk about at the office, besides, "Busy?"

There was only one uncomfortable moment. A woman asked where I live, I told her, and her face scrunched-up with open disgust. It was as if she went from liking me to hating me, in an instant. But, of course, this is nothing new, and I shouldn't let it irritate me. I shouldn't but I do.

Somehow we ended up buying a house in a town the locals view as uppity and snooty. When we moved here we knew nothing of the area, and based our decision on school district, and nothing else. As it turns out, our town has a reputation for being full of rich snobs who believe their solid waste carries the aroma of fresh flowers and apple pie.

It's not really true (if I'm rich then the Pope plays bass in Night Ranger), but that perception took hold a long time before we got here, and there's no changing it. And folks will let you know how they feel about it too, loud and clear. Just speaking the name is like blowing a big saucy cauliflower fart in their presence. Assumptions are jumped to, and opinions are formed, all willy-nilly.

Whatever. I slowly savored four beers, between the hours of five and eight, and got the hell out of there. By the time I left, a big chunk of the group had splintered off and were doing shots and getting wild. There was chanting going on, and the whole gang was sporting big ol' Jack O' Lantern grins. I have a feeling many of them won't be at work today....

But that's their problem. Fuck 'em. Have Jeeves bring the car around.

-- I promised to tell you about my conversation with the Shuffler today, but it'll have to wait until next time. I need to call it a day here. Before I go, though, I have a few bloggy links for ya.

This is an excellent list of the Ten Creepiest Fast Food Mascots. I think I've written about Mr. Softee before. Holy shit! And who can argue with their number one choice? Certainly not me.

And here's another list, also excellent, of the 40 Best Celebrity Rumors. Some of 'em are new to me, and most of the descriptions are hilarious. Be sure to check it out.

Did they miss anything on either of those lists? If so, tell us about it in the comments. Tell us about it, real good.

And finally.... a Surf Report holiday tradition. This is Red Sovine, performing the seasonal favorite "Billy's Christmas Wish." As I've mentioned before, I am a blood relative of Red Sovine; he was my paternal grandmother's first cousin. I'm not sure what that makes him to me, but something. The song is a real uplifting experience, featuring Santa Claus, tales of drunken abuse, and orphan death. Pass the eggnog!

You guys have a great weekend, y'hear? 

I'll see ya on Monday. 
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December 14, 2006

-- I was coming out of the oldest Secret's swim meet on Sunday, when my cell phone rang. It was Steve, and he wanted to know if I'd heard the news. What news? I asked. "Charlotte died!" he shouted.

What in the stir-fry hell?! My aunt Charlotte died? I think my Dad said she was supposed to have dinner with them that very day. Wonder what happened? And why was I getting this information through Steve?! It was all so very confusing.

"No, no," he hollered, "Not your aunt Charlotte! Charlotte, the owner of Charlotte's Grocery in Dunbar!"

Wha'? Charlotte's Grocery? That place was open when I was in grade school, we're talking the early 1970s, and closed by the time I reached Junior High, I think. What did he mean, had I heard the news? Did I miss an episode of Obscure Retailers of the Distant Past on the Discovery Channel, or something?

But, of course, Charlotte's was mighty important to us when we were younglings. In fact, as best as I can tell, it existed exclusively for kids. My recall capacity might be a tad skewed (anything's possible), but I can't remember any adults ever being in that store. No, it was all about candy, ice cream, and soda. 

I'm pretty sure they stayed afloat almost exclusively because of allowance money.

And I used the term soda up there, but that's not what it was called. It was Coke, regardless of the flavor or brand. This led to people saying things like, "Dr. Pepper is the only Coke I like." I had cousins who lived in Ohio, and they called it "pop," which made (and makes) my skin crawl. But I digress....

Charlotte's was your standard neighborhood store, a small cinderblock building with glass doors in the front, planted in the middle of a residential area. When you walked in, the counter was to the left and a big chugging ice cream cooler was to the immediate right (I think). The entire front-end of the place was piled high with candy and baseball cards and all manner of greatness. If a kid went in there with a quarter, they could spend upwards of thirty minutes deciding on what to buy, because the selection was so massive. It was best to just limit yourself to one dime at a time.

I remember buying comically oversized blocks of bubble gum there, roughly the size of a pack of cigarettes. I believe it was called Big Mouth, but I could be wrong about that. The block was perforated down the middle, and came in regular bubble gum flavor, grape, and green apple. That shit was a dentist's wet-dream. And we treated it as sport to see if an entire pack could be crammed inside our mouths at once. The whole kiddie population of Dunbar, it seemed, was walking around with green juice dribbling off their lips, and gasping for air.

I also bought a lot of those giant Pixie Sticks there, which were nothing more than a length of rubber tubing filled with processed sugar. It was diabetes by the yard! (Or, as the disease was called back then, sugar.) And those round orange ice cream deals, called Push-Ups.... I remember eating about a million of those babies. I liked when they started melting a little, up against the cardboard. Yum, I wish I had one right now.

Charlotte also introduced us to gambling. She had a bubble gum machine by the cash register that took nickels. Inside was the normal crapola, but mixed-in were several striped balls. If a person was lucky enough to get a striped ball, they won one of the coveted "purple cows" on display high on a shelf behind the counter. The cows were plastic figurines, or some such, and I have no idea why everyone wanted one. But it was very exciting indeed, gaming there at Charlotte's Casino.

My cousin Larry and I bought a metric shitload of trading cards in that store as well, with pictures of motorcycles on them. But not just any motorcycles, choppers! Between the two of us, we surely had the complete set of that dubious series. It's too bad they didn't include any actual bikers in the set, perhaps pictured with their boot on the neck of a hippie or something. And maybe a glossary of the terms they used, like "riding bitch."

And even more bizarre.... Do any of you remember a brief but baffling trend where folks plastered stickers all over everything, that said nothing but VOTE? It was probably around the 1972 presidential election, and every kid had the word VOTE, in varying fonts and designs, stuck to their notebooks. Needless to say, you could purchase the stickers at Charlotte's, in packs of five. And what the hell, man? VOTE??

What are the other strange-as-crap non-sports trading cards? I seem to remember an unpopular series that featured inventions of the future, or something along those lines. And founding fathers trading cards! "I'll trade you an Alexander Hamilton for your Aaron Burr...." I mean, seriously. Who did they think would actually buy something like that?!

Ahem.

So there you go. I guess the news of Charlotte's passing wasn't so obscure after all? In fact, the update you just read was almost twice as long yesterday morning, and I decided not to use it. The thing was so rambling and batshit, it felt like a Robert C. Byrd speech on the floor of the Senate. And I can't have that. So, I spent this morning unwriting -- for what it's worth.

The building that was once Charlotte's is still standing in Dunbar, but it was turned into a "house" somewhere along the line. It still looks exactly like a neighborhood store though, except there's a wooden door on the front, and a porch light. Apparently some folks believe a porch light possesses the power to transform any structure into a home. And they are sadly mistaken.... I bet drunks still occasionally stumble into the current owners' living room, and ask for a pack of Pall Mall straights.

-- And that's all I can do today.... My brain is fried-up like a skillet of pork. For the first time in my life, I'm having trouble sleeping at night. What's that all about?! I don't know, but I don't much care for it. In any case, we can all be thankful we've got Buck to bail us out of this thing. Right here

Thanks man, your timing is impeccable.

I'll be back tomorrow, hopefully refreshed and amongst the living again. I've got my Red Hatter Christmas party tonight, and I really need to tell you about the insane conversation(!) I had yesterday with the Shuffler. Ho-ly shit.

So don't touch that dial. 
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December 12, 2006

-- I'm invited to join a bunch of people from work Thursday night "for a few drinks," some sort of informal Christmas party in lieu of, you know, an actual company-sanctioned event. We're supposed to meet at a bar in a town I've never heard of, at five o'clock. The ending time, according to the email, is a wink-wink nudge-nudge question mark.

I automatically accepted the invitation, but now I'm hearing talk in the halls that concerns me. Apparently everybody, everybody, is planning to get bed-shitting drunk. I'm not sensing even a hint of restraint among the participants. There's discussions of kamikaze pitchers and shot slamming and toasting the sunrise with tequila. One guy, in regular conversational tones, said, "I'm going to drink myself straight into a coma."

An older lady, who is, I think, a member of that Red Hat gang of shrieking senior citizens you see at malls and whatnot, has vowed to "get crazy."

What am I getting myself into? I don't even know what a kamikaze is, and have no intentions of finding out. I don't want to get trapped with a bunch of pukin' assholes inside a musty wood-paneled "banquet" room in the rear of a neighborhood tavern, all of 'em slurring, "Oh come on Jeff, you California faggot, drink like you're from Pennsylvania!" If I'm here for fifty years, I'll still be from California to these people.....

And the thought of Red Hatters Gone Wild is not exactly my idea of a pleasant evening. Ya know? She'd better just keep her hands to herself, that's all I'm sayin'.

Have you been to any of these so-called parties this year? How did it go? I know it's important to be semi-social, but I've got a bad feeling about this thing. Visions of paramedics are dancing in my head. There's a palpable and still-gathering dark energy surrounding the event, a lot of pent-up aggression, or some such.

I'll probably end up on the Smoking Gun.

-- On Saturday I went to church. No, that's not a typo, it actually happened. Several years ago we decided the Secrets should have at least a casual exposure to religion, and Toney started taking them to the local Catholic church. She was raised a Catholic, and went to Catholic school, and all that stuff, so it was a natural thing to do. The bulk of my religious background is confined largely to the half-season of Seventh Heaven I watched a few years back.

This weekend our youngest boy had to apologize for the first time. Is that what they call it, apologizing? I'm not sure, but it's a big deal. I got myself all trussed-up in dress clothes, and the four of us went to the church. Our Lady of the Perogies, I think.

Our names were posted at the end of a certain row of pews, and we took a seat there. A woman was up in the balcony playing an organ, something slow and mournful. Once she got all cranked up, and I could've sworn she was about to break out with "Crocodile Rock." But she got hold of herself, and quickly backed it off.

It's all very ceremonial, isn't it? I found myself feeling intimidated. When the priest arrived the whole crowd began standing and sitting in unison, and there was some sort of mysterious call-and-response going on. At one point everybody in the place yelled out, "Lord have mercy!" Where I come from, that's what you say when the chili's too hot.

I was completely confused, and thought the crowd was about to start doing The Wave. I felt like I was the only person in the house who didn't know what he was doing, and that everybody else knew it.

Finally they had all the kids line up, and there were four priests there to expedite the process. Each child waited their turn, then approached a priest to confess their sins. I'm not sure what an eight year old has to confess, probably some cookie-based crime in most instances, but that's what they were doing.

The youngest Secret went into it without any obvious traces of fear. I would've been a basket-case, needless to say, so I was proud of him.

After the apologizing was over, we made a beeline for home. I stripped out of my sausage-casing dress slacks, then it was time for the all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet. There I committed the sin of gluttony with cashew chicken, followed by an afternoon of blatant bald-faced sloth.

And I plan to do it again.

-- Speaking of religion, the Pastor McPurvis sends along this photo of himself sporting the Surf Report colors during a recent hospital stay with his daughter. He reports that she's now doing well, and the shirt easily withstood the stresses of the event. Good deal, all around!

-- Surf Reporter Brian has contributed two new extra-cool Smoking Fish sightings, right here. This land is your land, this land is my land/From the Pink Pony, to the grassy knoll, man.... Thanks, Brian!

-- Here's a Christmas tree infinitely cooler than ours -- dryer lint or no dryer lint. Next year I might try that out with the golden elixir. It would make everyone so proud!

-- And finally, the video for one of the greatest Christmas songs of them all: "Fairytale of New York." Oh yeah.

See you folks tomorrow. 
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December 11, 2006

-- We got the Christmas tree up this weekend, and it's a darn good thing we employed the strategy of tree and lights one night, decorations and ornaments another night. Because there were some problems.

Last year we bought all new lights for the tree. We used them, then took time to roll the things into neat loops, gingerly placed them inside a box, and stored it high on a shelf in the basement. And now, one year later, half of one string won't work. The artificial made-in-China tree went up without incident (although the paint has started wearing off a few of the limb tips, pointing to future "opportunities"), and there was no issue with stringing up the lights either.

Cocky and drunk with success, I wondered if we should just go for it, and do a full-on decoration in a single evening? We were on a roll!

Then Toney plugged the lights in, and there was a big chunk of the tree that remained dark. WTS?! I did some investigating, and it wasn't a complete strand that refused to work, it was half a strand. We pinpointed where everything shit the bed, and checked the wires around it. It looked fine. I changed the first bulb in the non-cooperating section, thinking that maybe we'd gone back to the 1960s somehow, but it was a laughable waste of time. Grrrr....

My right hand involuntarily began running through my hair, and I yelled, for reasons unknown, "Balls and bitches!" (It takes great effort not to just let if fly in front of the kids, and things sometimes get mixed-up during the editing process.) What would cause a string of lights to just suddenly stop working? They were fine last year, and were put away and stored in the proper manner. Now they're all shorted-out and mis-firing? Infuriating.

We reviewed our options, and Toney suggested we simply rearrange the lights, space them differently, and leave it as-is. I didn't like the sound of that. I had visions of a giant smoldering black spot where our house used to be, with a toilet and chimney the only things left standing.

Screw it. We'd have to buy more lights. I yanked the offending strand off the tree, then made a big production of carrying it to the garage and flinging it into the trash. Then I built us a cuppa two tree stiff drinks, and the Secrets had themselves yet another cherished holiday memory to cling to. Pass the beer nuts.

The next morning Toney pulled one of the bulbs from the strand in the garbage, and went to Target. Miraculously, she was able to find the exact same lights, and we were back in business.

Then Saturday night we put on the Elvis and Sinatra CDs, and our copy of the original A Very Special Christmas, and had ourselves a fine time with the ornaments and whatnot. Everyone was in a good mood, and a splendid time was had by all.

Yes, I highly recommend separating the bad part of the job from the good. It's the only way to go. ...At least around here.

-- A few years ago we tried to start a tradition of us all going to a store every December, and choosing one new tree ornament each. This lasted, I think, two seasons, then just kinda petered out. One of the Secrets brought it up on Saturday, and asked why we don't do it anymore. 

I told him they should make new ornaments every year, and that could be the tradition. (Notice how I never actually answered his question?)

The boys didn't seem to care for the idea too much, and asked what materials could be used to make a real Christmas ornament. Clearly they weren't interested in the half-assed paper versions (with yarn loop), like they do in grade school. I said they should be creative, then illustrated it by creating a new ornament right there, on the spot.

Check it out. It's a wad of dryer lint with a metal hook through it! Pretty cool, huh?

-- This is an old picture, but the pickle is officially on display for another season. Toney and I bought that thing at a hipster emporium in Atlanta years ago. I think it's straight out of Germany, and cost a small fortune. Those were the days when we were trying to act like sophisticated yuppies, even though Dairy Queen clerks were likely pulling down more bucks. 

Ahhhh, the memories....

-- Brad sent me this a few days ago, and it's one of the more disturbing things I've ever encountered. In case you can't tell, that's my face stuck to a sashaying elf's body. Scary, man.

-- And since we seem to have a theme of sorts going here, here's an mp3 of the Flaming Lips doing "White Christmas." Check it out, it'll grow on ya like black mold.

Waaay better than that Sting song on A Very Special Christmas. Holy crap. Have you heard that pretentious pile? Every time it comes on I get a powerful urge to sit in an empty room, in a straight-back chair, and repeatedly slug myself in the genitalia. It's something I'm unable to explain....

-- I've got more, but suddenly lost the will to continue. I'll leave you now with a vague question, about cursing in front of your children. How do you handle it? I try (and succeed, I think) to keep it to a minimum. But I'm only flesh and blood here, and you'd have to be some kind of man o' steel to not let fly while driving.

I never say any of the sexually-based curses in front of 'em, it's mostly ass and shit-themed. Like, for instance, if some Civil War veteran is driving forty-five in the left lane of the interstate, I might holler, "Get out of the way you turd-gobblin' ass-faced piece o' crap!" That sort of thing. I keep all the really bad stuff under wraps, and somehow refrain from cutting loose in front of the Secrets.

My Dad was/is the same way. He liked to add "shit" to seemingly random words, and apparently created his own phrases. Like shitheel and shithook, etc. Are those legitimate cuss words? I don't think I've ever heard anyone else use 'em. ....I'm sorry I'm getting a little emotional here.

So there you go. If you have anything to say about that, we're all ears.

And I'll see ya tomorrow. 
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December 8, 2006

-- Earlier this week I hired a guy to clean our gutters, and do a few minor repairs. A nail had come loose on the front of the house, for instance, and the gutter was drooping like Buddy Hackett's bottom lip. And I can't have that. I'm not a fan of heights, and since the rear of the Compound is way the crap up there, I much prefer to just let my fingers do the walking.

No, I'd likely get to the top, look down, and it would be like the standard vertigo scene in any movie: much spinning and zooming in and out. Then I'd surely free-fall into foliage, and explode all my organs. Every single one. And I have a feeling something like that could very well cast a gloom over an otherwise fine day.

So anyway, I thought our dog Andy was about to spontaneously combust. He completely loses his shit if a Fed-Ex trucks even drives past our house. When the people across the street turn on their porch light, it triggers a maniacal barking jag. Any deviation whatsoever from the norm makes him crazy, and a man walking around on our roof was almost more than he could handle. I was afraid he might take off running and crash straight through a window. And I'm not kidding.

This morning we're preparing for our Christmas tree, so he's at it again. We moved furniture around in the living room, and Toney's going nuts with the vacuum cleaner. Andy's pacing the house, looking over his shoulder (do dogs have shoulders?) and generally acting like a mental patient.

One of these days something inside him is going to just let go, and they'll find our bodies in the spring once the funk really gets going.

-- We're late with the Christmas tree this year. Last weekend we talked about it, and it had felt too early. I see now that it was a miscalculation on our part, but what are you going to do? Tonight, after dinner, the tree itself is going up, and all the in-house doodads are coming out of the boxes, etc. Then tomorrow it'll be time for the official Decoration Festival. The Elvis and Sinatra Christmas CDs will find their way into the Surf Report ghetto blaster, some whiskey will be poured, and we'll whip that baby into submission.

Then, of course, it'll be time for the first seasonal viewing of The Homecoming. "John-Boy, what are you doing up here with your door locked?! Is it something you're ashamed of?" It's a cult classic without a cult!

Just an FYI.... I find it much better to put the tree up the night before any actual decorating takes place. And that's because I always get pissed off and in a bad mood about something. The stupid stand won't cooperate, an item's missing or broken, the damn thing insists on leaning to one side like my Little League coach.... Before it's over, I'm invariably raging about something or other, and nobody wins.

So it's best to just remove all that unpleasantness from the Decorating Festival itself. For the good of the family, and humanity in general.

-- I saw in the newspaper this morning that a new restaurant just opened in Scranton, serving "contemporary Southern cuisine." From what I can piece together, that means traditional Southern dishes done-up fancy-pants. I don't know about that.... Slow Roasted Pork Shoulder on Roasted Corn, Jalapeno, and Cheddar Foccacia Bread? Color me skeptical.

I'd love the opportunity to put some South in my mouth, but have a sneaking suspicion I'd leave that joint desperately looking for a Wendy's. What the fuck's foccacia?! Sounds like something a dermatologist might treat with steroids. Why can't they just put it on a hamburger bun? Is that too prole, or something? Man, I'm starting to get irritated, just thinking about it.

What I'd rather see is a restaurant that offers fine West Virginia cuisine. Hell, maybe I could do it? We'd serve things like hot baloney sandwiches, pizza bread, half-runner beans, chicken-fried steak, and hot dogs with cole slaw. It would be great!

But I need your help with this. I only have a germ of an idea here, it needs some fleshing-out. What would be the name of this restaurant? And what other foods would we serve? Help me out, people. And please stay away from the standard yukkity-yuk "jokes" about 'coon casserole, and that sort of thing. I want to tap into the real West Virginia experience at my restaurant.

Hello?

-- I'm not sure what to make of this, but I'm going to try to take advantage of it. I believe it's high-time to put my flaps to work for me. 

Oh, I understand what they're attempting to do (lure us back into their stores and hope we become intoxicated by the idea of instant movie rentals), but don't believe it'll work. I think they'll just end up doling out a bunch of free rentals, and at the end of the promotion we'll all return to the cool and sexy world of Netflix.

Oh well. 'Tis the season for flap-whorin'.

-- Speaking of Netflix, here's another great and obscure Christmas movie that I didn't even realize was available on DVD. It's from 1974 (I think), and aired constantly during the early days of HBO, under the name Stranger In The House. It scared the ever lovin' ice water out of me, back in the day. In fact, for a long time I considered it the scariest movie I'd ever seen.

A few years ago I got my hands on a VHS copy of it, and watched it again. I figured all the passing time would've surely rendered it lame, but it scared me all over again. It's certainly not high art, but it is a nifty little horror flick. Check it out, if you're so inclined.

And what are the other great and obscure Christmas movies? I'm sure there's a bunch of 'em. Right?

I have more things I wanted to talk about today, but I'd better stop right here and drag my ever-thickening torso into work. You guys have a great weekend, y'hear?

I'll see ya on Monday. 
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December 7, 2006

-- Have you seen the commercial where a guy is sitting in a comfy chair 'neath his Scrote-watching blanket, and suddenly gets a wild hair up his ass to order a Dell computer for his daughter? He shrugs his shoulders, picks up the phone, and within seconds he's talking to a nice, helpful woman who speaks clear English, and proceeds to walk him through the process easy as pie. Then his chair and side table start rocketing through the town, but that's a subject for another day....

Have you ever actually called Dell? I have, and my experience was nothing like the man's in the ad. Every time I've spoken with them I'm almost certain I could hear elephants going off in the background and bamboo being crushed, the person couldn't speak a lick of English (even though his name was supposedly "Mitch"), and I'm running my hands through my hair faster than you can say Lower Congo Basin. Once I think I even heard the sound of someone shooting a blow dart, but I could be wrong about that.

I like their products; I'm using a Dell-made PC right now, and have a Dell laptop as well. But what happened to truth in advertising? The commercial should show the man frustrated and perplexed, and eventually shouting into the phone receiver. Then when he hangs up, he should shake his head in amazement, and mutter, "Lord only knows what they'll send me. Probably four monitors and a goddamn croquet set."

You know, if they were interested in making it accurate.

-- On a semi-related note, I got my cool new cell phone a couple of weeks ago. I had fun setting it up, choosing the ringtones, transferring my phone book, etc. Is there anything more exciting than fresh gadgetry? I submit that there is not.

Anyway, I was reading all the warnings in the user's manual, and found some of them to be a tad curious. I've noted a few below, along with a fake and completely absurd one that I wrote. See if you can figure out which one doesn't belong. I bet you can't.

Never place your phone in a microwave oven, as it will cause the battery to explode.

Make sure that no sharp-edged items, such as animal's teeth or nails, come into contact with the battery. This could cause a fire.

Do not expose the battery charger or adapter to direct sunlight or use it in places with high humidity, such as bathrooms.

Never set the device to vibrate, place adjacent to genitalia, then repeatedly call the number from another phone. This could cause injury, followed by a Fark link. 

-- This is going to sound like a joke, but it isn't. There's a good chance my mother-in-law, AKA Sunshine, will appear in Sunday's episode of America's Funniest Home Videos

Please allow me to explain....

Sunny has a friend, a woman who reportedly has "an ass so big you could sit a tray of food on it," with an adult son. This adult son, who still lives at home, recently videotaped one of their dogs doing something "hilarious." I have no idea what this means, even though I've begged for more information.

But he had this so-called funny video, and mailed it to the show. And, amazingly enough, a producer contacted him and said they'd like for him to be a finalist, eligible for the $10,000 prize.

So.... A few weeks ago the son, his girlfriend, Sunshine, and her buddy went to Los Angeles for the taping. They all sat in the studio audience, and were sworn to secrecy about the outcome. (Do people in Vegas have money riding on it, or something?!) 

The "boy" and his lady sat down front, and Sunshine and her friend were up in the stands somewhere. Sunny doesn't know if they'll actually appear on camera or not, and she's not even 100% sure of the air date (typical). She thinks it'll be this coming Sunday, but she could be wrong. 

In any case, we'll be there, way out on the edge of our seats, and I'll let you know on Monday.

Pass the ass tray.

-- For some reason it irritates me when the media reports that the recent E. coli outbreak was likely caused by tainted "scallions" at Taco Bell. Um, they're called green onions. Quit being such pretentious pricks already. What is this, the south of France? We're talking about shit-saturated produce at a cut-rate fast food chain, popular with folks on a three-day drunk. It's not a review of Loire Mountain cuisine. I mean, seriously.

-- Speaking of fast food, I was handed this highly disturbing flier a couple of days ago at Wendy's. Will someone please hold me?

-- And finally, here's a great addition to our Big Swollen Gallery of Smoking Fish Sightings. This one comes from Richard H., from the good Dunbar High Class of '81. Thanks Rich, I appreciate it!

-- Before I go, I have a quick question for you. The oldest Secret came home yesterday, just bursting with excitement. It seems that a girl puked right in the middle of class, and the whole school is abuzz. He gave me the entire thing, complete with animated facial expressions and sound effects. It was quite a compelling tale, I have to admit.

I've told the story, probably more than once, about the kid who vomited in a trash can when I was in Junior High. Everybody in the class began hollering in protest, and the teacher (Mr. Yerrid) ripped into us unmercifully.

"Can't you see the boy is sick?!" he screamed, "What's wrong with you people??"

Chastened, we all sat quietly as he told the vomiter to go on to the clinic, and he'd be there to check on him in a few minutes. Then, as soon as the kid left the classroom, the teacher turned to us and said, "Oh God, did you see that?! Baloney sandwich and bean with bacon soup!" 

Uproarious laughter followed, for five solid minutes. And I'm still talking about it today, thirty years later....

So, my question is about non-drinking related puking. I'm almost sure we've covered the drunken variety already, but what about the standard-issue flu puking? Tell us about it, won't you? Use the comments link below.

And I'll see you good folks tomorrow. 
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December 6, 2006

-- A guy was in my office earlier this week telling me about the deer he killed over the weekend. He seemed exceedingly proud of himself, and that's fine. I have no problem with hunting, it's just an activity that never much appealed to me personally.

When I was a youngling, many of my classmates would go out in the woods with their fathers and uncles and whatnot, and shoot squirrels and rabbits. I was always happy that my Dad never invited me to join him for an afternoon of slaughter, but it was something I kept to myself. ...That, along with the fact that I couldn't give one tiny butt squeezin' about football, pro or otherwise.

In West Virginia, and everywhere else, I'm sure, you learn to keep your mouth shut about certain things. (Do you have any such dark secrets to share?)

When I moved to Scranton I was talking to a guy in the warehouse at work, who was busy dismantling a wooden pallet. I asked him what he was doing, and he said he was going to use the boards for a tree stand. I said, "For your Christmas tree?" The man looked at me like I was wearing a sash of penises. But I was serious, I had no idea what he was talking about. And that's how much I know about it.

Since I don't golf either, I'm probably missing out on a lot of networking opportunities. Right? Men earn big-time promotions in the woods and on the golf course, I'm convinced, and I've shut myself out of both. While the rest of the world is out laying the groundwork for vice presidency, or whatever, I'm sitting off by myself scouring the internet for Boomtown Rats CDs. And, as far as I can tell, that doesn't usually translate into career advancement.

So I was thinking.... It's the violent act of shooting the animals I don't believe I'd care for. But what about strangulation? That's not nearly as brutal, and it probably wouldn't generate quite so many nightmares. Wonder if that would be an acceptable alternative?

I could start out small, like the kids back at good ol' Dunbar Elementary. I could go out on a Saturday morning, sneak up on a squirrel, and choke the life out of him. From there I could work my way up to rabbits, and maybe even those scary-ass turkeys. And if all goes well, I'd be ready to take on deer by the time next year's hunting season rolls around.

What do you think? I'm excited! I can almost smell the leather furniture in my corner office already.

-- Speaking of work, there's a woman there who shuffles past my office at least ten times daily. And I mean shuffles, literally. As far as I can tell, her feet never actually leave the floor. She just drags one forward, holds it there, then drags the other one in front of it. And this is repeated until she finally arrives at her destination. It looks like she's cross-country skiing, without all the hassles of equipment.

When she first showed up a few months ago, I thought something must surely be wrong with her, and I'd give her a friendly little nod as she shuffled past. But she never returned my nod, not once, so screw her. In fact, her expression never changes, regardless of the situation. And it's no expression at all: she just stares straight ahead, like she's watching CNN.

So I've been absolved of feeling sorry about whatever condition causes her feet to be so heavy. Right? I was trying to give her the benefit of the doubt, because of her Concrete Block Syndrome, or whatever it is, but she vetoed it. And now I'm free to express my feelings openly, whenever she shuffles past, complete with loud sighing and the rolling of eyes.

Am I wrong about this? Am I out of line? A person can't just refuse to return a nod, then expect no consequences. Especially when you're a shuffler, wracked with CBS, and making all manner of foot-dragging noises in the hallways.

-- I've mentioned this before, but it's happened again. Every five or six weeks or so, my printer at work loses its shit. When I turn it on in the morning, it goes through its normal warm-up process, then starts spitting out page after page of gibberish. It prints a single line across the top of each sheet of paper, of symbols like stars and smiley faces and half-moons. And it prints and prints and prints.

I've tried everything I know to make it stop. I've tried canceling the print job, but there isn't one to cancel. I've turned the printer off, let it sit for five minutes, then turned it back on. And as soon as the power switch is thrown, the craziness starts all over again. Same goes for pulling the actual cable out of the back of the thing. As soon as I replace it, I've got three hundred additional pages with lightning bolts and envelopes at the top. And I don't know about the rest of you, but I don't have much use for such a thing.

I talked to someone on the help desk, and the guy said, "Is it an HP?" I told him it was, and he answered, "Well, there you go." What the hell does that mean?!

It doesn't happen very often, but when it does I just have to let it go. When the paper runs out, I put the same stack back into the tray, and wait until it runs out again. Over and over. By the time it gets finished, it smells like I'm sitting inside a toner cartridge. And it causes me delays, and makes it very difficult to prepare for the One O'Clock Ballbuster.

Any ideas on how I can stop this from happening again? Other than, "Well, there you go?" I'd be much obliged. My boss's input? Uproarious laughter, and a suggestion to bring in a Catholic priest for an exorcism.

Why doesn't anyone take me seriously? 
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December 5, 2006

-- Fair warning: This one's going to be kinda quick and unsatisfying. I've been on the phone all morning with Adelphia, or Comcast, or whatever they call themselves this week, talking to a man who sounded like he was floating in a cardboard box out in the middle of an ocean somewhere.

"What I want you to do next is unplug the router!"

"What?!"

"Your router! Unplug it!! ....Oh shit, here's comes a cruise ship full of Canadians!!"

My internet wasn't working last night before I went to bed. Since that's nothing unusual, I just turned it off and climbed atop the dormancy platform. I figured all would be well in the morning. Pretty hilarious, huh? I may as well have been trying to access the internet through an oscillating fan.

The first guy I spoke with at Comcast said our service had been disconnected because we're behind in our payments. That didn't sound right, but I verified it with Toney the Bill-Payer. And she was aghast, simply aghast, at such a suggestion. We'd paid them in full on November 17, and haven't received a new bill since then.

But the guy insisted we owe them $136, and that's the reason our internet wasn't working. He had no explanation as to why our cable TV was still in operation, but he knew why our internet was down. He wanted me to give him a credit card number over the phone, but I wouldn't do it. I had a sneaking suspicion the man didn't know what in the hand-rolled hell he was talking about, and hung up.

Toney (now pissed) called back and spoke with someone else, and that person said the first guy must've been "mistaken." We are not behind in our payments, and our internet service had not been interrupted. 

She transferred Toney to the man floating inside a refrigerator box on the ocean, Toney handed the phone to me, and together we got it up and running again. The guy blamed it on our wireless router, but I'm not convinced. But, in any case, I'm back in bidness.

And I'm also way behind, and preoccupied. And that's the reason for the fair warning.

-- Over the weekend I tried my hand at "cooking." Surf Reporter Kimberly posted a recipe in the comments last week on my birthday, and it sounded really good. So I gave it a shot.

I printed it out, Toney did an inventory of the many required ingredients, and bought the items we didn't already have. And on Saturday morning I got everything together, displayed them in a dramatic fashion, and snapped this photo. Needless to say, the bourbon and Coke were not part of the bean dish, they were just hanging out in the background to lend moral support.

I put everything into the Crock Pot around noon, and turned it to high. My only half-step was with the dark beer. I'd meant to stop at a pizza joint on Friday evening, to buy a bottle of Guinness or something, but had completely forgotten. So I made do with a can of the golden elixir. Other than that, I followed the recipe exactly as described.

When we returned from our "nothing short of horrible" trip to the JC Penney Portrait Studio, I tested the beans and they were still the consistency of peanuts. They had a long way to go. Toney had been on my back to get the things going earlier in the day, but I'd thought noon was plenty early. I should've listened to her.

I kept checking them, and was unwilling to eat until they were perfect. And that didn't happen until around 8 o'clock that night.

But it was worth the wait! I served it in bowls, over white rice, and it was excellent. A little spicier than anticipated, but not to the point of ridiculousness. Toney made cornbread, and everything was damn good. A perfect meal for a cold fall evening.

I'd wanted to snap another photo of the completed project, but by 8 o'clock I'd already had a couple of those Jim Beams, and couldn't muster the energy. So you'll just have to use your imagination on that....

And what about Kimberly's claim that this is a bean-based meal that is almost fartless? Well, I'd have to say the jury is still out. When I woke up on Sunday morning the ceiling fan was spinning, even though it was turned off. But that's fairly standard, and it might be unfair to automatically blame the Beer Drinkers Bean Pot. Further study is required to make an accurate assessment. I'll keep you updated.

Oh, but she was absolutely right about it being better the second time around. I had another big bowl of the stuff on Sunday for lunch, and something had happened to it overnight. It went from being excellent to great, while in the fridge for a few hours. All the flavors blended together, or some deal, and it got thicker and even more delicious. Yum.

My Dad used to make a big production out of cooking beans when I was a kid, and I think that's why I was drawn to this. I'm not generally the type to attempt such a thing, but this one captured my imagination. And I'm glad it did.

Thanks Kimberly! I'm going to polish the rest of 'em off for dinner tonight. It's the birthday present that keeps on giving. Just ask the ceiling fan.

-- Have you seen this? It's a nice day for a.... White Christmas!

-- And what about this? Just how cool would it be to fall asleep on a beach while sunbathing, wake up and find yourself surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of bags of Doritos? I think I've actually had dreams about that.

-- On a related note, Brad suggested I be on high-alert for this stuff. I've never seen it, be he recommends it highly. And since I'm a sucker for such things, I will try it out, ASAP. 

What other novelty snacks would you suggest? I need to know, people. Use the comments link to hook me up. I'm making it my life's work to find the "new" Prontos

And that's going to do it for today, children. I have more, but I spent the morning plugging and unplugging modems and routers. Like a trained monkey.

See ya tomorrow. 
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December 4, 2006

-- Several weeks ago Toney told me she'd made an appointment to have the Secrets' picture taken (made, for those of you in Atlanta) at JC Penney portrait studio. A framed 8x10 "professional" photo of the grandkids is an easy slam-dunk Christmas present for my parents and Toney's Mom, and I grunted my acknowledgment, then quickly forgot the entire conversation. As required by the Couch Wallowers Union, Local 813.

"Remember, we have to take the kids to the mall today," Toney said on Saturday morning, "to get their pictures done." Wha'?! It was an OK idea when it was to happen on some abstract future date, but it's not a good idea at all when it's, you know, today. The pre-bitching kicked-off immediately.

And, as it turns out, it was bitching for a good reason. Sweet sainted mother of Warren Cheswick, have you ever been subjected to one of those places around the holidays?! I hadn't, and if I have a say in the matter (hilarious), I never will again. It was nothing short of horrible.

We arrived ten minutes before our appointment time, and the woman just about ripped Toney's head off about it. She started gesticulating and getting her double-chin all in motion, and we slinked away to wait with the other unfortunate bastards in the bullpen of discomfort. Over by the lamps and the clocks.

The place was complete pandemonium, cramped, and sweaty hot. And they were playing the worst Christmas music I've ever heard, at least two notches too loud. I think it was supposed to be jazz, and there wasn't even a hint of melody. One tune, which seemed to go on for 45 minutes, featured a woman scatting and making noises like a retard eating spicy foods. Another had an ear-piercing coach's whistle in it(?!), and I began to contemplate the logistics of breaking a mirror and stabbing myself in the heart with a jagged shard of glass.

The other people in the bullpen were all trussed up in "dress clothes," stiff and uncomfortable. It was hilarious to watch them moving around like robots, unable to completely lower their arms, because their shirts were at least a size too small. One man was wearing a white button-down, with a tiny sticker with an L on it stuck to the back of his collar. Heh.

Another guy, who looked like Travis Tritt, had a cherry-red high-blood-pressure face and dinner-plate sized sweat stains under his arms. And that's something everyone needs in a brass frame above their fireplaces. Such a cherished memory.... I wondered if they'd have him leaning on a "fence," in front of a snowy backdrop, as sweat poured down his face and blood vessels exploded in his eyes?

There was also a family all duded-up in novelty sweaters, with two young boys sporting painfully combed hair. I'm not kidding, it looked like their parents had rubbed synthetic motor oil into their scalps, then sculpted their hair into place. I felt an automatic urge to swipe my bank card through their parts, they were so straight and deep. The shit reminded me of those old plastic DEVO hairdos, with chin straps.

We waited, and waited, and waited. I was pacing around and grumbling, and Toney was on high-alert, convinced the SS officer behind the cash register would start playing favorites and taking others in front of us. I looked at every clock in that store, and can now tell you the price and main features of each of them. Go ahead, test me.

Here's the very first picture I snapped with my new cell phone camera. You can see the guy with the L back there, all posed and looking so very natural.

Finally, they called our name, and we were allowed entrance into one of the "studios." There was a girl on-duty, in her mid-twenties I'd guess, and she scanned the Secrets up and down and said, "Well, at least they're not babies." That's the way she greeted us. Then she launched into a lengthy diatribe about how she "hates" to photograph babies. Babies and two year olds, she said, quickly lengthening the list of things she hates.

While speaking, I could tell she was getting angry; it was pissing her off just thinking about it. The chick clearly needs to find a different field of employment.... I thought she was about to confess that she secretly fantasizes about taking a sword and running it clean through a baby, but she stopped herself before going too far. I'll be watching the papers for news stories about this woman. It's only a matter of time.

She started ordering us around, and was so abrupt and mean the youngest Secret was on the verge of tears. She told me to "be quiet" at one point, and raised her voice at our kids repeatedly. What kind of place is this?! But it was over quickly, and I didn't have enough time to work up a good boil. She was pretty good at taking the edge off with little jokey pre-scripted asides, so things never got openly hostile. But we were right up to the cusp of it.

Toney said she'd pick out the poses and order the pictures, and all that stuff. The boys and I should just go, she suggested. I didn't have to be told twice, and we made a beeline for Dairy Queen.

There, I ordered four medium Blizzards, and it cost more than thirteen dollars(!). The zitster behind the counter handed them to me, and the outside of every cup was slick with ice cream and crap. Before it was over, my hands and forearms were sticky and I was getting all worked up about it. Perhaps it was latent aggravation, left over from the so-called portrait studio? I just don't know.

"Jesus J. McChrist, man," I said to the guy, "Have you ever heard of wiping this shit off with a rag?" He just looked at me like I was making porpoise noises.

We went around the corner and sat down on some benches, waiting on Toney to call my cell phone. As I enjoyed my Oreo Blizzard, a fat man who looked like Cannon flopped down beside me. Then he farted. I could actually feel the vibration in the wood. And that was quickly followed by a stench heavy on the cabbage.

I sprang to my feet, and a teenage girl immediately took my place beside the corpulent, gassy crime-fighter. Almost without hesitation she adopted an expression of complete disgust, and shot me a dirty look. I'd gotten the blame! Grrrr....

When Toney called I suggested we just meet at the car. I wanted to get out of that madhouse as quickly as possible. She could just have her Blizzard on the road, thank you very much. The shit was getting out of hand. 

And fifteen minutes later I was pouring bourbon on top of a pound of ice cream and cookies inside my gut, and soon all was right with the world again.

See ya tomorrow. 
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December 1, 2006

-- In the cafeteria at work they have an ATM that doesn't charge a fee. It's free to employees and, needless to say, I use it as much as possible. A few months ago Sheetz convenience stores began offering the same thing: "money for nothing," they call it. Because of this, I've found myself becoming quite anal about avoiding ATM fees. Six months ago I just accepted 'em as a fact of life, but today it kills me to pay extra for the privilege of extracting beer money. Kills me!

Just to be clear, I'm not one of those retards who believe banks should buy expensive machines, install them all over town, maintain them, and provide convenience -- for free. I mean, seriously. But if there's a legal way around paying, I'm going to take it. And I've become pretty good at it. During the past three months I believe I've only forked over $1.75 in ATM fees, and that was in West Virginia last week.

Pretty good, huh? However.... Last month I noticed that my credit union has started charging me something they call an "ATM usage fee." It was five dollars the first time 'round, and today they hit me up for another three bucks. What the hell, man?!

I'd been meaning to call them about it, so they could explain it all to me in an exasperated, condescending tone, but kept forgetting. Today I'll be making that call, because they're undermining my life's work here. They never charged me such a fee until I figured out a way to beat the system, now they're bending me over the proverbial couch.

I need answers, people!

-- We went to Don Pablo's last night for dinner. I've mentioned this several times to Toney: either that place is damn good, or I'm losing my edge. I hope it's the former, but suspect it's the latter. In any case, I've eaten my share of excellent Mexican food in my day, having lived in both Atlanta and Los Angeles, and find myself enjoying Don Pablo's as much as almost any of it. As chain restaurants go, it's one of the best, in my opinion.

But, and I can't believe I'm having to report this, they've apparently stopped serving my favorite item, the Real Burrito. It was a conglomeration of goodness roughly the size of a Nerf football, and featured black beans, a kick-ass cilantro-laden salsa, and grilled chicken. Yum. It's what I ordered almost every time.

Last night I couldn't find it, and started to feel a twinge of panic. I kept scanning the menu, certain I'd overlooked it, but it wasn't there. Noooo!!  

Once again, I've become addicted to a dish, and some corporate weasel sitting behind a desk somewhere has, for all intents and purposes, slapped it from my hand as I'm lifting it to my quivering lips. Incredible.

In place of the late great Real Burrito, they now offer something called the Fajita Style Burrito. I gave it a shot, but it just wasn't the same. For one thing, there are slimy strips of green pepper in there, and that just doesn't belong inside an outsize burrito. Ya know? It wasn't horrible, but I won't be ordering it again. Ever, for as long as I live.

I thought about asking the manager about this serious misstep they've taken, but decided against it. Like he has anything to do with it.... Plus, we (I) have a history with that place, as it pertains to the management staff. And I don't want to aggravate things to the point where we think we're eating the standard guacamole, but it's actually an extra-special recipe just for us.

Years ago we'd go to Don Pablo's and would invariably be seated in a certain booth (boof). Somehow this booth (boof) was a blind-spot in the operation, and every waitress believed it was the responsibility of someone else. So we'd sit there for a long time, and nobody would wait on us.

Needless to say, I'd get myself all charged up and go looking for someone to holler at. And every time this happened the same little unpleasant pot-bellied manager would be working, and we'd go 'round and 'round. Eventually he'd just toss a free bowl of melted cheese into the middle of our table, say, "Here's some cheese," and act like that wiped the slate clean.

Of course he was right (cheese!), but it shouldn't happen every single time. And, over the months, he and I developed some sort of unspoken rivalry. He'd give me a knowing nod from across the room whenever we'd arrive, and I'd return it. Then we'd start doing battle.

I haven't seen him for a long time, perhaps he's moved on. And I don't really feel like getting it started up again with somebody else; I don't think I'd much care for a ball-hair flauta, thank you very much. So I guess I'll just find something else to eat at Don Pablo's.

And so it goes.

-- When we were in West Virginia last week the whole family piled inside my parents' minivan, and we went to a pizza restaurant for lunch. My Dad was driving, my mother was in the passenger seat, and we were all loaded behind them. We arrived at a stoplight, and pulled in behind a filthy white panel truck. As my Dad brought us to a complete stop, I saw that someone had written, in the dirt on the rear door of the truck, "The driver of this vehicle takes it up the ass." In great big highly-legible letters.

An uncomfortable silence overtook our party, and I believe I actually checked the time on my watch, even though I wasn't wearing one. My Dad asked the Secrets if they like pizza, a question that now makes me laugh. And there was also much theatrical neck-scratching, and unnecessary clearing of throats.

Longest red light ever.

-- Yesterday I mentioned that Toney heard a "critter in the crawlspace," and how I was afraid some kind of small woodlands creature might get into the bunker, attach itself to my face, and require me to undergo a series of painful rabies shots. Well, a reader named Joseph says he actually went through something like that, and told us all about it in yesterday's comments. And it was such a great story I've decided to highlight it here. Be sure to check it out, it's hilarious.

Thanks Joseph!

-- And before I punch-out for the day, I'd like to alert you to this short video clip of Alice Cooper appearing on the old Soupy Sales Show. Soupy, of course, is one of West Virginia's favorite sons, and an autographed photo of him is on permanent display inside the Surf Report Bunker. This one, to be exact. Watch the video, it's pure Soupy Sales-style ridiculousness.

And my question of the day: What do your burps taste like, right now? Personally, I'm still reliving that green pepper and onion burrito from last night. (It's actually better the second time around.) What about you? It's very important that we know the answer to this pressing question.

Have a great weekend, folks. 

I'll see ya on Monday. 
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