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 The State 
    
of My Fat Ass  March 2007

   
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March 30, 2007

-- I think my throat is going to have to come out. Itís all sore and inflamed this morning, and Iím afraid the doctors will want to remove it. My entire throat. Is that irrational?

I felt fine yesterday, until the evening. I went over to my old office and finally mailed back my computer and crap, then came home and got dressed-up in fancy pants and went to a ďjob fairĒ at a company nearby. We had dinner at Applebeeís (which Iíll tell you about in a few minutes), and during all this I felt completely normal.

Then, suddenly, I was sick. There was no discernible transition period; I was good, then bad. Just like that.

It happened as we were preparing to watch LOST. What did that guy on The Office say? ďIím going home tonight and getting my beer on, getting my LOST onÖĒ Heh. Thatís exactly when it happened, when I was preparing to get both those things on.

And now my throat feels like itís just lousy with disease. I sure hope they donít have to carve it out.

-- I donít have much faith in so-called job fairs, but the one I attended yesterday was hosted by a company Iím really interested in. So I gave it a shot.

Most of the positions theyíre trying to fill are for general labor, but their website said they have a few management jobs open as well. And I figured if I hand-delivered a resume, instead of just hitting the SEND button while wearing humongous hamburger pants, it might do some good.

I followed the computer-generated signs with arrows on them, to a room way down at the end of a hall. As I walked I passed several offices with people inside. Working. They all have jobs, and I do notÖ. And thatís how my brain sees things at this point.

Inside the room was a big U-shaped table, and about ten people were seated there, apparently filling out applications.  Most looked pretty normal, but a couple of them were wearing baseball caps, three or four gigantic t-shirts, and gold chains around their necks.

Call me a crotchety old fart if you want, but I wouldnít even waste my time talking to guys like that. If I was given the responsibility of hiring a dozen workers, or whatever, and someone waltzed in with a Yankees cap balanced on top of his head, and making all sorts of rapper gesticulations, heíd be out of the running before he even opened his mouth.

And thatís what it was, too: balanced. The cap wasnít pulled down, it was just sitting up there all tall and slightly askew. I donít know how it didnít fall off. And hereís the clincher: it wasnít even a real Yankees cap; it was white with a pink logo. I mean seriouslyÖ.

The law says you canít discriminate because of race, religion, sex, etc. And I completely agree with that. But thereís nothing on the books (yet) about assholes and the practitioners of high-douchery. Right? Shit man, at the very least pull on a polo shirt. This is a job interview, not ďBitches NightĒ at Club Metro.  

Anyway, I was taken to a separate room, for reasons unknown, and spoke with a person there for about ten minutes. He was really nice, and asked me some questions and told me a few things about the company. He barely glanced at my resume, but said someone would contact me if they wanted me to come in for a formal discussion. And that was that.

Right before I left he called me back, tapped his chin in deep thought, and said, ďI donít know your situation. But would you ever consider moving to
Houston  I told him Iím not ruling anything out, and he said, ďThanks for coming in.Ē

What the?!

-- We donít eat at Applebeeís very often. I donít know why, but of all those types of chain restaurants, we visit Applebeeís the least. Iíve got nothing against the place, really, I just never think about it. Ya know?

But last night Toney suggested we go there, and I shrugged and said it was fine with me. 

We were seated in a corner booth, and the place was pretty crowded. A woman who seemed almost giddy appeared at our table without delay, told us about the ďspecials,Ē and took our drink order. She was just so freakiní happy about everything.

I started looking at the menu, but was having a hard time concentrating because the oldest Secret never stops talking (never!), and there was a stereo speaker right above our heads, blasting classic rock. As I attempted to make my selection I was also paying attention to a recap of that dayís Mythbusters, and trying to ignore a blaring song by Canned Heat, or some such crapola, that was boring a hole straight though my brain stem.

It seemed that every item they offer at that place contains at least one ingredient that disqualifies it. Stuff like garlic and mushrooms and chutney(?!) and any of the novelty mayonnaises. I felt a tiny twinge of panic as I realized time was running out. The shiny happy waitress would be there soon, smiling like a retard and eager to take our orders. 

And you donít send a waitress away during that delicate part of the process, because theyíll stay gone for a loooong time. Trust me, I know about these things.

The oldest Secret was telling me about a dummy that was hurled out of an airplane, or whatever, and Aerosmith was now rocking, and everything had the words Portobello or pesto attached to itÖ. I was beginning to run my hands through my hair.

Then the cell phones started ringing, and people began having really loud conversations into them about delivery confirmations and decorative gravel and shower gel. Mountain came on after Aerosmith, and a couple near us, I shit you not, pulled out a portable DVD player and put it on the table in front of their toddler. Then they proceeded to turn on Dora the Explorer, at full living room volume.

Backpack backpack Backpack backpack Mississippi Queen if you know what I mean and the head came completely off the dummy and one arm too I always liked the apricot gel but whatever is fine....  

It was incredible. I thought I would surely have a nervous breakdown, right there in the corner booth of an Applebeeís. I seriously wondered if we were being Punkíd.

I ordered last, so I could have a few extra seconds, and finally went with the chicken fajita wrap. It featured some kind of questionable spread, called MexiRanch or something, but I asked her to leave that crap off. I didnít like the sounds of that, not one tiny bit.

The volume never eased up. It was like eating dinner on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. The good news? That chicken wrap was quite good.

And youíre all caught up, my friends. Iím going to start doing Google searches now, for prosthetic throats. Have a great weekend.

Iíll see ya on Monday. 
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March 29, 2007

-- Not to trigger any unpleasant memories of yesterdayís update or anything, but this oneís gonna have to be brief. Iíve got a few non-website things to take care of today, and Iím no longer accustomed to putting on pants and leaving the house. 

So letís jump into it, shall we?

-- Spring is finally making an attempt at breaking through in these parts, and itís putting us in the mood for camping. Unfortunately, of course, we have no way to haul the rolling box oí beds anymore, since I ditched the Chevy TearMaker. Plus, thereís the inconvenient fact that, you know, we never really had much fun doing it.

But it gets in your blood for some reason, and the change from winter to spring causes certain chemicals to slosh together in the brain, and you start thinking about camping.

Iíve talked to Toney about this, and she sort of agrees. It is my contention that the best part about camping is the planning of it. You have all these romantic visions dancing in your head. You get all the supplies out and start scratching things off checklists. You scrub down the camper while whistling a cheerful tune, and make sure the fishing poles are in good working orderÖ. 

Yes, thatís the pinnacle of the experience. When you actually pull away from the house, I think, is when everything starts going down the shitter. 

Within hours you find yourself plunged inside a laughable chair in the middle of a mudhole, youíre covered in a mixture of grease and filth, there may or may not be a tick setting up operations in the crack of your ass, and itís way too early to start drinking.

Plus, thereís that nagging fear youíll wake up one morning like this.

So maybe thatís what we should do? Just plan camping trips, and never actually take any. Perhaps we should trim away the fat, once and for all? What do you think?

-- It looks like the good folks at collegehumor linked to our Pulitzer-caliber feature, ďPeople in newspaper ads who look like theyíre farting.Ē  Thereís massive traffic this morning, at least to that particular farty page. Good times.

-- A few days ago I invited everyone to join the Surf Report mailing list. And now itís maxed-out at 500 subscribers. Needless to say, the company that hosts the list wants me to give them money to increase the number allowed. And, of course, that ainít gonna happen. Iíve decided to take a different route: cheating. So give me a few hours and all should be well in Mudville. Or whatever.

-- Earlier this week I spoke with the T-Shirt Lady, to make sure she still has our logo on file. And she does. Iím thinking about making shirts available again, for a limited time, and need your input. 

Please take this poll about sizes desired, and also let me know if you have a preference for color. Last time we did black, as evidenced here, and Iíd like to try another one this time. But, of course, if itís black you want, then itíll be black you get. Itís no skin off my scrote.

A couple of things Iím NOT going to do: maintain multiple inventories of different colors, or change the design. Itís hard enough keeping track of the sizes requested. If I had to add colors to the mix, Iíd probably just take your money and never mail you anything. And I like the design, so it stays.

Oh, and no Cafťpress crapola either. No reason to even suggest it. They suck on it.

So let me know, and maybe we can get the Surf Report Distribution Center up and running again.

-- Check out the new West Virginia Tourism slogan. And the entire country shrugs its shoulders, and says, ďOK. Not a problem.Ē

-- Hereís some crazy news straight from my hometown. Sweet sainted mother of the entire decorative concrete industry!

-- I have more, lots more, but Iíd better get the show on the road here. However... Iím going to leave you today with something extra-special: a new weekly columnist! 

Brad, my old friend from Peaches Music & Video in Greensboro, has agreed to tell us whatís happening off Exit 149 every week, and Iím appreciative. I know you folks will be too.

In addition to being a good friend, Brad is also a talented and funny writer. And he wore a Surf Report t-shirt to his wedding.  Howís that for dedication? You can read his first column here.

And thatíll do it, boys and girls. Have yourselves a great Thursday.

Iíll see ya tomorrow. 
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March 28, 2007

-- I think I grew up at the height of the tighty-whitey era. I havenít researched it, of course, that would be incredibly creepy. But itís what I believe.

As best as I can tell, all boys in the 1970s wore the same kind of underwear, and it was the style Spongebob currently favors. In fact, I wasnít even aware of any alternatives. Oh, weíd sometimes happen upon plastic tubes of animal-print flyless mini-briefs at JCPenney or Sears, but those were just put there for comic relief, I think. I mean, seriously. My brother and I would howl with laughter.

No, there was no known deviation from the norm. We all wore the same stuff, and it wasnít even something to consider. It was purely a functional item, designed to throw up a cottony barrier between your jeans and your junk, and cut down on the friction a banana seat can create. And to the dismay of mothers everywhere, it also served as a nifty air filter.

There was nothing more to it; it was like putting on a third sock. Nowadays kids have Ninja Turtles doing battle across their butt cheeks, and Spiderman swinging out of God knows where. But we had nothing of the sort; there were no fashion calculations to be made. It was either tighties or the Schwinn supernova, and those were your choices.

In those days there was a seam running up the sides, I recall, as if the fronts and backs were created separately then sewn together. I donít think itís like that anymore, I believe the practitioners of underwear science have made giant leaps forward over the years.    

I wonder if it was more prestigious to work on ďfrontsĒ than ďbacksĒ at the Fruit of the Loom factories back then? After all, the fronts are far more complicated affairs; the back is just one big sheet of material. Wonder if folks went out for celebratory dinners after being promoted to briefs fronts? Wonder if anyone has ever been the recipient of a front-themed toast in a restaurant or bar? Wonder if people were sometimes busted back to backs for insubordination?

Yeah, these are questions Iíd never pondered until todayÖ.

And so it went, for many years. I saw no reason to make any changes. Why should I? They served their purpose nicely, and Iíd only witnessed one catastrophic tighty-whitey malfunction in all my days. In high school I watched a guy (who is now a big-time insurance hotshot) receive a wedgie so atomic in nature the entire waistband came off.

But that was a single isolated incident, and word on the street was that the underwear was already in pretty sad shape before the wedgie even commenced.

So I had no reason to alter my course. Until I reached my early twenties, anywayÖ. Thatís when I suffered my first and only undergarment crisis of faith. 

My longtime girlfriend and I broke up, and I was suddenly faced with dating. I started questioning everything, all the way down to my skivvies. Perhaps it wasnít so cool to be sporting the same style of draws third-graders wear? Maybe the ladies donít care for that sort of thing anymore?

I was entering uncharted territory, my friends, and it was all fairly unnerving. But I made the leap to boxers cold turkey. I tossed all my old underwear into the dumpster behind the apartment, and replaced it with a stack of striped and checkered boxer shorts.

And thus began the most uncomfortable year and a half of my life.

There was a glacier effect that I hadnít counted on. Over the course of a day everything would move southward, I found, slower than the human eye can perceive, until I ended up with a situation to contend with. Then Iíd find myself doing these freaky little knee-bends, and constantly wanting to make ďadjustments.Ē

I hated it, but fought the urge to backslide. Sometimes Iíd pass displays of the old underwear in stores, and sigh sadly. Youíre too old, I told myself, and would venture on, a-pinching and a-tugging, and doing virtual squat Ďní thrusts in the blender aisle.

Then I started dating a woman who said to me one night, ďWhy do you wear that old-grandpa underwear?Ē This was the eighties, and apparently it wasnít yet cool to wear boxer shorts. And thatís all I needed to know. It was one of the happiest days of my life. I practically danced to Target.

Since then Iíve dabbled in other styles, and made a few minor changes. Oh, nothing too exoticÖ. I never went to the tubes, or the poofter designers, or any of that strange European stuff with the horizontal wiener slots. Just some minor age-appropriate tweaks to the original formula.

And, Iím proud to announce, I am once again completely at ease with my underwear.

Now, if you folks would like to break up into individual discussion groups and explore this essay further, please do so. Footnotes and bibliographical information available upon request.

See ya tomorrow. 
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March 27, 2007

-- Toney took today off, for no particular reason, and after we delivered the Secrets to the local indoctrination centers, the two of us went to breakfast. 

Our usual destination is Waffle House, but I had some recent trouble there and Iím kinda soured on the place. They double-charged my ATM card a few weeks back, and it took multiple phone conversations with a woman whose voice sounded like the latter-day Babe Ruth, to get it all straightened out. And I canít have that. I go to Waffle House for glistening ďbreakfast meats,Ē not terrifying relationships.

I suggested a little diner down the road, and Toney groaned.  Once again. You see, Iíve suggested this restaurant many times before, and her reaction is always the same: a groan. One of her friends said the place is constantly full of cigarette smoke, and you come out of there smelling like you ďspent the day in a bingo parlor.Ē Always a bingo parlor.

Plus, my wife has a low-tolerance for small town cliques, and that sort of thing. It pisses her off. So she steers clear of places where the longtime locals congregate, and this is definitely one of them. You get the feeling everyone in the joint went to grade school together, back during the Warren G. Harding administration.

But I like that kind of thing, and gently insisted. Iíd been there alone several times, and the food is excellent. The fact that weíll still be outsiders even if we live here for forty years doesnít detract from the quality of the bacon. Why sweat the small stuff?

So thatís where we went. We took a booth as deep inside the non-smoking section as possible, and told the waitress weíd both have coffee, thank you very much.

Itís a great place. Itís been around since the 1960s, I think, and I doubt much has changed in that time. There are individual jukebox terminals at every table, but they probably havenít worked since I was in Little League. In fact, the one at our table this morning was soldered by the years, and you couldnít flip the pages inside. Our best bet, as far as I could tell, wouldíve been ďCandidaĒ by Tony Orlando and Dawn.

The walls are covered in dark paneling, and on top of that: framed pictures, many with autographs and praise of the eggs. They have Kramer up there, Jesus (not signed), a few unknown NASCAR drivers, customers in wacky hats, etc. And way up near the ceiling, in the center of the back wall (a place of obvious reverence), is a formal portrait of John F. Kennedy.

Toney went with a bacon and cheese omelet, and an order of hash browns with onions (yum), and I opted for the breakfast sampler. It was scrambled eggs, bacon, two sausage patties, and three slices of French toast, all for $4.75.

While we waited on our food to arrive, we took in the ambience. And by ambience, of course, I mean the people. We were children compared with the general clientele, and many of our fellow breakfast-eaters were all gnarled up, probably with Jap shrapnel buried in them somewhere. Some had to basically tuck a fork into a crevice at the end of their arm, and go to town.

A man seated at the counter went off on a frenzied coughing jag shortly after we arrived, and was still going strong when we left. Straight into his pie. I was worried he was about to go down (or start puking), but nobody else seemed to notice.

Everyone in the house was talking real loud (needless to say), and if you concentrated you could eavesdrop on a whole host of conversations. Two women across the aisle were discussing a granddaughter, and her lifelong dream to be a nurse. And a man I never actually saw was railing against tattoos and people with multiple piercings. ďSome of them even have stuff pierced down there,Ē he said with a shudder.

Highly entertaining.

Supposedly the owners of this place have some sort of axe to grind with school teachers, and if they know you are one, forget about being served. Thatís the word on the street anyway. They reportedly believe teachers are more dedicated to their union than to the children, and have a wild hair up their ass about it. Oh, itís quite a rich tapestryÖ.

And the food is nothing short of great, far superior to Awful House. Actually, I like Awful House as well, but this place is even better. Toney even had to agree. And while there were some tired-looking people swigging cigs on the other side of the room, I never caught wind of it. Another myth busted.

I love little diners, and shady dive bars. And that's the reason for this late update.

See ya tomorrow. 
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March 26, 2007

-- I returned to my office on Friday, planning to box up my computer, monitor, printer, and digital camera, and ship Ďem back to Burbank . It was pretty freakiní weird, man. 

My passcard worked as normal, and I walked by the security guards as if nothing had changed. I made my way across the mezzanine, where the Shuffler works (worked?), and there was only one guy there. Usually itís a beehive of activity, but there was nobody around on Friday. The dude gave me a knowing nod as I walked past, and I gave him one back.

I unlocked my office door, and it was like stepping into a Twilight Zone episode. I know itís only been a few weeks, but theyíve been looong weeks, filled with all manner of exhausting emotions. Everything was exactly as Iíd left it on my last day, including a half-eaten bag of barbecue chips beside the phone.

I powered-up the computer, and logged into my email account. All passwords worked without a problem. I had 1035 unread messages, including about fifty from Friday alone. I sorted them by sendersí names, and checked to see if there was anything of interest. Nothing.

I sighed loudly, and began deleting files from the desktop. Most were Phil Hendrie mp3s, and I started one playing while I worked. It had something to do with a ďretardĒ on an airplane that kept licking a slice of baloney and sticking it to a window. 

I also had this file saved, for reasons unknown, and this greeting by Richard from Greenford, a regular caller to the Clive Bull Show. The manís voice box has been completely destroyed by decades and decades of smoking ďciggies.Ē

So many cherished memoriesÖ.

Then people began stopping by and asking what Iíd been up to. It was a parade of folks and I was glad to see them. Many will be in the same situation as me, starting in June. So we talked about our plans, and what we hoped to do. 

Weíd been forced together by work, and spent a substantial chunk of time in each othersí company, and now itís over. That particular group will soon be gone, never to return. Sure, I was always the outsider, the ďguy from California
,Ē but it was a role I played well. I was a part of the group that is being scattered to the wind.

I spoke with the General Manager, and he sounded depressed. He told me heís down to one shift now, instead of three running Ďround the clock, and if I wanted to ship my computer back Iíd better hurry. Theyíd be closing soon, he said.  

Closing! I never thought Iíd see the day.

Screw it. Iíd just send the stuff back next week. I deleted everything that wasnít crucial to the computer, including the temp files and surfing history, stripped it completely to the bone using a savage little program called CCleaner, and shut it all down. 

I know they could recover all that crapola in one of those Law & Order labs, but just a regular olí douche in Burbank
wonít be able to see any evidence Iíd ever even used the computer. And thatís the way I prefer it.

But what should I leave on the memory card in my camera? Perhaps just a single well-considered snapshot as my going away message? Help me out with that one, folks. It needs to be something dramatic.

Yeah, I admit that I get sentimental about things, even things I donít really like. Whenever I move I invariably begin thinking about all the fun times Iíve had at that particular house or apartment, even if itís a shitty dump. And then I get a little sad. 

Same goes for the cars I trade in. I remember walking away from a beat-to-hell Chevy Luv truck with a baseball-sized hole in the floor, through which mud and rainwater would regularly rocket, feeling like I was about to start crying. I hated that thing, but weíd been through so much together. 

Yep, I have a hard time closing doors. My parents on the other handÖ they just make huge life-altering decisions all willy-nilly, and seemingly donít give it a second thought. I donít think they have a sentimental bone in their bodies. It wouldnít surprise me to learn that they long ago tossed my baby pictures into a dumpster out behind the Union
76 station, to give themselves more drawer space. 

Me? Iíve got boxes and boxes of souvenirs in the basement, and am guilty of romanticizing the past. Like Atlanta
for instance. When we lived there we wanted out. In fact, I remember us buying out-of-state newspapers (places like Portland , OR ), and plotting our escape. But when I think about Atlanta now, it was all fun, all the time: a freakiní paradise.

What about you? Are you the sentimental type like me, or a Klingon like my parents? Use the comments link to elaborate, if youíre so inclined.

And Iíll get back to the funny stuff next time. I promise.

Oh, and just so youíre up to dateÖ. I did indeed eat a few of the chips I found in my office on Friday. They werenít very good, but I had to know.

See ya tomorrow. 
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March 23, 2007

-- Iím living with a dark, dark shame, my friends. I can barely look at myself in the mirror. When I awaken in the morning thereís a split-second when it feels like everything is still normal and good, then reality comes crashing down and Iím plunged, once again, into a horrible despair. I cannot believe what I have doneÖ.

Are you all sitting down?

This is so difficult to talk about. But they say itís best to just get it out there. Right? So thatís what Iím going to do. Oh GodÖ Earlier this week Toney and I, um, watched, thatís right, an entire episode of Dancing With The Stars.

There, I said it. And I wonít blame you at all if you now click away from this site, never to return. Itís a fair reaction. But in my own defense, just let me say: there was a one-legged woman on there. And she was, you know, dancing. So itís not as bad as it might seem. ÖOr am I just making excuses?

Also, there was the spectacle of Billy Ray Cyrus doing some sort of frenzied cha-cha-cha that resembled a gas-huffing hillbilly caught up in a swarm of hornets out behind the shithouse. Man, he was going to town.

And the one-legger isnít even a sympathetic character; sheís always up on her high-horse about something or other, and is currently in the process of Screwing Over a Beatle. So thereís little to no guilt when you sit there and pray that she does one of those big leg kicks, and her prosthetic comes flying off and hurtles end-over-end into the audience, with shoe still attached.

So anyway, itís all out in the open now. Do what you must, my friends. I am so ashamedÖ.

-- I have to go to my old office today, box up my computer and printer and crap, and UPS it all back to Burbank
. Iíve been putting it off, but theyíre starting to bitch a little on the left coast. So, I guess, todayís the day.

Earlier this week my ex-bossís assistant called me, and said, ďWhatís going on?Ē I answered, ďOh nothing. Iím just sitting here pushing pins into a voodoo doll.Ē She didnít know what to say to that, so she got right to it and asked about my computer. I promised to overnight it someday this week.

And if I were a less-mature man (ahem), I might consider ending my twenty-five year streak today. Right in the pencil tray of my desk drawer. But, of course, that ainít gonna happen.

-- Yesterday I received my THIRD damaged and unplayable 24 disc from Netflix. Since Iíve been a member of that elite outfit, Iíve rented dozens and dozens of DVDs, maybe even a hundred or more. And the only problems Iíve ever encountered were 24-based.

I donít know what the story is. Perhaps folks get all cranked up on Jack Bauer, start walking different and being rough with things. Iím just not clear on it. But those 24 discs are beat all to hell, and sometimes arrive with a milky glaze that I donít even want to think about.

Pass the 409.

-- Yesterday I sent out a brief Note From The Bunker email, through the Surf Report mailing list. If you believe youíre signed-up for that so-called newsletter and didnít receive it, thereís a problem with your email address. In fact, about seventy-five bounced back to me as undeliverable.

I havenít been maintaining the list very well, which is but one of the many half-asseries in the world of Jeff Kay, and itís been a long time since Iíve even used itÖ.

So, Iím going to clean up all the bad mojo on this end, and if youíd like to receive periodic updates on Surf Report happenings, please subscribe here. You can expect a short email note, every month or so, with bits of information that might be of interest.

And Iím suddenly very, very tired.

-- Remember how I was worried that LOST was starting to list a bit toward suck? Well I take it all back. The last several episodes have been excellent, as great as ever.

I didnít much care for the six or eight shows that started the ďFall Season,Ē where Sawyer and Kate were locked in tiger cages, or whatever. But theyíve got the old magic working again, and Iím back to proclaiming it Best Show on Television.

Itís so good, in fact, we donít even fast-forward through the commercials, so we can stretch it out longer and savor the experience. And thatís sayiní something.

-- Iím thinking about buying one of these; Iím most-definitely an edge man. Man, I love me some edges. Toney, on the other hand, likes only the land-locked variety. Weird, huh?

-- This is a really cool collection of TV show opening credit sequences, that supposedly fit each program perfectly. And it includes freakiní Mannix. Oh yeah.

Which ones did they miss?

-- And finally, hereís a short video clip entitled West Virginia
911. Check it out.

You guys have yourselves a great day.

I'll see ya on Monday. 
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March 22, 2007

-- What does it mean when light bulbs just start burning out on you, all willy nilly? Over the past couple of days it seems that every time I turn on a light in this house thereís a hollow popping sound, then darkness. 

Nobody else has had this problem, only me. Iím all the time changing bulbs, first screwing to the left, then screwing to the right, and muttering Very Bad Things.

Toney says it might be a sign of some sort, and I donít like the sound of that. Iím no expert on the subject, but ďsignsĒ that involve sudden blackness concern me. Ya know?

What do you folks know about this? Should I be getting my will in order? Should I be making a list of friends and family members Iíd prefer ďtote me to the hole?Ē Wonder if it has anything to do with that pineapple? So many questions.

-- While I was sitting outside the elementary school this morning waiting for the aides to finish off their bear claws, wipe the glaze off their quivering lips, and finally open the doors, a few things occurred to meÖ. 

When I was a kid my Dad used to threaten to box my ears all the time. Heíd say, ďJeff, if you donít stop that racket, Iím gonna box your ears!Ē What in the hell? 

Also, I had an aunt who was a teenager in the late Ď60s, and I remember her and her friends using the phrase, ďOh, suck my nose!Ē It was injected into situations where ďbite meĒ might be used today. Suck my nose. Man, thatís about as disgusting as it gets. Iím surprised the phrase hasnít stood the test of time.

During that same period, I recall my grandfather promising to set my aunt on fire. I think he was threatening to spank her, but heíd always get mad and holler, ďIím going to set you on fire!!Ē Holy crap! When youíre five, or whatever, thatís some scary-ass stuff. I had visions of kerosene slinging, maniacal laughter, and the whole nine yards.

What are some of the other disturbing and bizarre down-home threats or put-downs? These are just three that popped into my mind while the bear claws were being polished-off. Iím certain there are many others.

-- Speaking of disturbingÖ. I get some great email. And by great, of course, I mean quite fucked-up. I guess I bring it on myself, I donít know. 

Anyway, check this one out. For reasons that are unclear even to me, Iím going to withhold the personís name. This note was received last night under the heading, ďI Nearly Prolapsed.Ē

Tuesday afternoon before we were to go to the Funeral Home (?! Ėed.) I was in terrible pain and in need of a poop. I went to the bathroom where I found the process very uncomfortable.

It seemed that my bowels lacked the proper moisture to properly dispense my shit. I was in misery as I tried to push and nothing moved. My butt hole would not close, there was shit stuck in there and it would not move.

I sat on the toilet for a long time and finally had to get up and try to go about my duties with my butt hole still opened. I felt horrible. Here is a picture of what I felt like at this moment.

I soon cramped something awful and had to return for another round. This was much like the first go around except my asshole did close after I was able to drop a couple of marble sized pieces out.

But this did not mean the job was finished, not by any long shot. I was still full of shit that just would not go. About 30 minutes after this second incident I once again returned to the toilet and after a rough start was able to push out a large load and rid myself of the pain that I had felt. However, I am not sure that I may not have hurt myself, it hurts to fart with any kind of force now.

Thank you, Reader, for the update. Iíve forwarded your note to other equally relevant recipients, folks like Willie Mays, Boris Yeltsin, and the Supernanny. Please keep us apprised of any further developments.

-- I spent a good part of yesterday in Allentown , attending career counseling seminars. Specifically: self-marketing and networking. It wasnít as satisfying as usual, for a number of reasons.

First of all, we were packed into a tiny conference room (the main room was already in use), and about fifteen of us were sitting literally shoulder to shoulder. I donít much care for the shoulder to shoulder, if you want to know the truth. When you can smell another man, youíre entirely too close, I believe.

Also, the advice we received seemed a tad, you know, crackpot. Oh, some of it was solid, but many of the things they suggested we do I will never do, in this lifetime or the next. So I spent considerable energy rolling my eyes, and chuckling inside my head.

At one point I realized I was scribbling a note to myself, while my entire professional career hangs in the balance, about the teeth of a woman seated across the table from me. 

They were black & white!  Iím not kidding, the rest of her was in color (of course), but when she opened her mouth it was pure American Movie Classics in there. How does something like that happen? How does everything just go gray?

And is it possible that Iím not yet taking this job search thing seriously enough? Iím starting to wonder.

-- Iíve got more, lots more, but Iíd better pace myself here. Iíll leave you now with a Few Cool Things.

This is a photo of Surf Reporter TxTy backstage at a recent Toadies show in Houston , along with an honest-to-goodness Toadie. Check out Tyís excellent choice in wardrobe.

And hereís a really funny YouTube video, short and, um, sweet.

At this site you can do a search for your surname, and find out where other folks with your last name are living. Supposedly there are more Kays in California than in West Virginia . I have a hard time believing it, but whatever.

And finally, hereís something new from our good friend Buck.

Iíll see you guys tomorrow. Have a great day.  
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March 20, 2007

--  When I started this website, back in the early days of the universe, the only people who visited it were my brother and a few guys I went to high school with. Iíd spend a couple of hours writing my daily updates, and seven people would read them. Or six, if Rockyís computer was on the blink. I felt like that guy in the Lyres.

Before TheWVSR I published a paper zine. Since I had no deadline, real or imagined, things moved s l o w l y, and Iíd publish, on the average, one new issue per year. So, Iíd spend literally twelve months or so ďwritingĒ it, have 500 copies printed, and mail out about half of Ďem. 

Yeah, you can do the math on that one. A full yearís worth of effort for 250 readers Ė at the most. I mean, just because I mailed people a copy didnít mean they actually looked at it, right? I received lots of zines in the mail that were hardly even glanced at. Iím certain my little Surf Reports received the same treatment.

So, Iíd frequently get frustrated and quit. Then, like clockwork, Iíd start acting all squirrelly and pacing the apartment. Iíd stand around looking out the windows like a dog, run my hands through my hair as if I were funky on the junk, and wanted to be out doing something all the time. An old girlfriend and I had constant arguments about this; I never wanted to be home.

I eventually realized that I need to have something creative happening in my life, or Iíll very likely end up in the wacky shack, talking to foil.  

During one of those dark periods when Iíd given up on the zine, I came across something called an ďonline journal.Ē This was shortly after Iíd bought my first computer, and the internet still seemed like fantastic voodoo black magic. It was written by another zinester, named Krista Garcia. 

Krista published the always-excellent Scaredy Cat Stalker. She grew up in
Oregon , but had recently moved to New York City. Her journal (the word ďblogĒ hadnít been invented yet, as far as I know, and it was a better time) was nothing more than a daily, or semi-daily, recounting of the things that had happened to her. And it was highly entertaining. I began reading every update, and thought it was just about the best thing ever.

I sent Krista a few gushing emails in the early days, but got the feeling she was a mildly frightened by them. So I disappeared into the shadows and became a lurker. And Iím still there, grunting softly in the darkness.

Somewhere along the line I started thinkingÖ. Hell, I could probably do one of those journal things as well. It wouldnít be as good as Kristaís, but it would be something to keep me busy, and possibly out of a mental institution.

So I started TheWVSR. I wanted it to be simply WVSR, but the West Virginia Split Rail Company already had that domain name. The bastards. In the early days I only updated on Mondays and Thursdays, and I had the aforementioned seven readers. Or six. 

During that period I also won at least one prestigious award for Shockingly Ugly Web Design. It was something Iím proud to say I earned.

Then everything promptly went ass-over-tits. Through my vast network of liars and backstabbers I got my hands on a scan of one of Mike Piazzaís paychecks. I posted it to the site, and it felt like a scud missile hit the bunker. Fark linked to it, and many others followed suit. Suddenly I went from no traffic, to hundreds of thousands of unique visitors per day. I received actual death threats, and people were talking about my little site on the radio, and everything.

It was great! Scary, but great. I met some of the best and most loyal Friends of the Surf Report during the Piazza era, folks like NJGirl, Lucas, and MsDeniseWight. And man, I wanted to keep it going. I was intoxicated by it all. It had been a long time coming.

So I worked hard at building readership. I put in massive effort, and it often felt like I was bashing my skull against the bricks. For a while I was literally doubling my traffic every few months. But it was hard work, real hard.

Along the way I had a couple of other Piazza situations, most notably the Deadwood Fuck Count, which was simply insane. In fact, I turned down a lot of interview opportunities during that craziness, for reasons I still donít want to reveal. (Maybe someday.) It couldíve been even insaner.

AnywayÖ Iíve gotten lazy with the site. Thatís the point of this whole longwinded update. Iíve been on autopilot for the past year or so, and havenít been putting forth as much effort as I once did. And Iím making a vow to rectify the problem. 

Yep, Iím all fired up again; Iím a street-walking cheetah with a heart full of Wendy's. Soon this site will be more than just reports of my latest visit to Samís Club, even more!

Not tomorrow, though. Iím taking tomorrow off to attend a networking strategies seminar in
Allentown . Soon though, very soon.

Please stay tuned for the new era. You know, as soon as I can get around to itÖ.   
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March 19, 2007

--  This time they were right about the snow, the pricks.  We got about twelve inches of the stuff on Friday, and I spent a big hunk of the following morning shoveling the driveway and sending my back muscles into a state of distress.  

Folks are driving around with a big snow mohawk (snohawk?) on the tops of their cars again, and parking lots are just a gray slushy mess. 

And all of this happened after daylight saving time had already kicked in.  I donít much care for it.

--  Iím not feeling so hot this morning.  I think my husky torso is acting as an incubation chamber for some sort of quickly-mutating illness.  Like maybe a cold, or something.  I want to lie on a couch Ďneath the Scrote-watcher, turn on the TV and hope for the best.  And nothing else.  Just thought you should know.

--  Yesterday Toney went to Samís, the exclusive club that pursued us as members, then asked me to help carry in the stuff sheíd bought.  I sighed loudly, put down my steaming vessel of Eight OíClock, and began hauling the crap indoors.

ĒHow much did all this cost?!Ē I asked, with genuine alarm.  Hell, Iím unemployed.  What are we doing filling an entire trunk of a Honda with food??  Hondas have big trunks.

We finally got it down to the last few items, and I spotted a full-on pineapple in there.  No way was I touching that thing.  Pineapples are menacing; theyíre sharp in every direction.

So I refused to carry it in, and we actually got into a mini-argument about it.  Toney said I was being purposely ďridiculous,Ē and I asked her whatís wrong with just canned pineapple.  I mean, who buys the whole thing, with those razor-sharp Bowie knives sticking out of the top, and needle-like briars going everywhere?  This is
America , for crying out loud.

She apparently thought I was joking, and wasnít in the mood for that particular brand of levity.  But I wasnít joking, pineapples are scary.  Those things could cut a man wide open.

--  On Saturday I almost called 911 because I needed a haircut, bad.  It seems like I just had one, but it was clearly time to do it again; the back of my neck was all fuzzy, and the top of my head was thick and misshapen.  And I canít have that.

So I went to my regular shop (the place where I met the Brit who smelled like poop), and nobody was home.  There was a CLOSED sign in the window, and the parking lot hadnít even been plowed.  The hell, man? 

I thought about giving up, but I looked in the rearview mirror, saw something that resembled Bert Convy on a five-day drunk, and decided to press on.  Iíd try the other place a few blocks away.  Theyíre too expensive, and you always have to wait there, but this was an emergency.

I put my name on the list, and settled down with a battered copy of Us magazine, prepared to log some substantial time.  Itís one of the reasons I gave up on the jointÖ.  But to my surprise, I was barely into an article about Mary Kate Olsen when they called me back.

Iíd forgotten that they wash your hair in that place.  And itís another thing I dislike.  I wash my hair at home, thank you very much.  I donít require a hair-washing professional, at an offsite facility.  Plus, they use some kind of shampoo that makes a person smell like a walking, talking salad bar.  But whatever.

When I finally got to the elevated chair, the girl started in with the forced chit-chat.  Howís your weekend going?  Just hanging out today?  Have I cut your hair before?  On and on it goes.

Needless to say, these types of conversation-starters donít go very far with me.  Iím like an emotional cul-de-sac when it comes to forced chit-chit.  When they ask me how my weekendís going, I always want to tell them not so good.  I canít stop the music thatís playing in my head, Iíd like to say, the merry-go-round music that just keeps getting louder and louder, and makes me think Very Bad Things.

But I usually just answer, ďfine.Ē

--  Speaking of music, I watched the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame ceremony on VH1 Saturday night.  It was pretty good, especially REMís performance.  Perhaps I was slightly drunk, but I thought REM sounded damn good. 

The Van Halen situation was fairly pathetic.  Nobody showed except Sammy Hagar and Michael Anthony, and another band, Velvet Revolver, performed Van Halenís songs.  Apparently Eddie is in rehab (again), and David Lee Roth was engaging in some sort of hissy fit (again).  Sad.

Whatís the deal with the lead singer of Velvet Revolver, anyway?  Itís the guy from Stone Temple Pilots, correct?  Why does he act like Dieter in Sprockets?  ďWould you like to touch my monkey?Ē  Freaky.

In any case, I thought it was a good show.  And it caused me to break out my REM CDs yesterday, and get all excited about them again.  Especially this one, the most overlooked album in their catalog, and one of my all-time favorites.  Oh yeah.

--  A couple of things before I call it a day hereÖ.  I need your help in solving a crime.  Thatís right, a crime.  Please view the evidence here, and Iím confident we can bring a murderer to justice.  Pass the beer nuts.

Also, Iíve added a new friend to the Big List of Friends over on the sidebar to the left.  Longtime Surf Reporter brianf has started a blog, and you can check it out right here.

Thatíll do it for today, boys and girls.  This afternoon Iím going to Staples, Long John Silverís, and JCPenney to buy slacks.  Not pants, mind you, slacks.

Will somebody please shoot me? 
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March 16, 2007

-- What in the wash and wear hell?? There's up to twelve inches of snow coming our way? A day after I raved about the changes of season?! It's unbelievable. Twelve inches! Oh, that might not be a full-blown Milton Berle storm like last time, but it sounds like it could be a Don Johnson, and that's bad enough. A Don Johnson is nothing to dismiss, my friends.

I didn't know anything about any of it, until Toney told me last night. I never turn on the TV during the day (fat people crying on couches), rarely glance at the newspaper (house fires and people bitching about change), or listen to local radio (more bitching about change, only in a real nasally voice), so I'm pretty much cut off from society. The world could be coming to an end, and I'd be sitting in the bunker smiling and listening to Barenaked Ladies.

I do pay close attention to the news during some of those old Jean Shepherd broadcasts, but they're from, you know, 1960, and don't really help me much. I tried to strike up a conversation with a man at the credit union the other day about all the vacation-time Ike has been taking, but it didn't really go anywhere.

I was planning to drive down to Allentown today, for another "seminar," and maybe a cigar and snifter of brandy with my colleagues. But I guess I'd better stay close to home. I don't want to spend the night in the Lehigh Tunnel, sobbing into my airbag and sucking the grease out of old Burger King sacks for sustenance, after another well-managed Governor Rendell "snow event."

Hello?

-- Last night we went to an art show at the oldest Secret's school. It was your standard stuff: watercolor paintings of soccer matches between two teams of men with elephantiasis, or some similar disease that causes one leg to grow real big, papier mache sculptures of striped snakes or what appears to be angry potatoes, and so on. I walked around, scratched my chin, and made the approving noises required of a father in such a setting.

Then I got to the Big Wall of Self Portraits, and everything began to break down. I try hard to be a mature adult, I really do. But it's just so difficult.... Check it out. I have no idea who drew this, or his (her?) story, but I do know it's funny. Real funny. Sweet Maria.

-- Since I suddenly have a lot of free time on my hands, I've been observing our dog Andy (Black Lips Houlihan), and his various pee methods. He has three, in case you're interested, and switches back and forth depending on situation and/or terrain.

If he's in a hurry, if there's an urgency of some sort, he'll just drop down in the back, like a girl dog. I'm not really a fan of this style of canine whizzing, probably because I'm not accustomed to it. I've never owned a female dog, they've all been boys, and this dropping-down technique still feels foreign to me.

I cringe when Andy does it, but, I'm sorry to report, it's probably his most-favored method. Perhaps we should let him out more frequently? I don't know. But he often walks into the middle of the yard, the back-end collapses, he raises his head high in the air and makes his body into a 45-degree angle. Then you hear it slapping the grass.

His second-favorite is the much more acceptable hike-the-leg technique. This happens when he's just out there taking his time, tiptoeing around and snorkeling everything. Like most dogs, he simply cannot walk past a tree or a post or a mound of snow, without raising his rear passenger-side leg and slinging a little piss on it. I'm often amazed at how long he can hold his balance while in this tripod configuration. I guess it's just a natural doggy talent?

Andy's third, and rarest, pee method is the "going statue" variation. It's very similar to dropping-down, but is done standing completely upright. Sometimes he'll be walking and suddenly stop, then let it go without changing his posture whatsoever. I like this one, for some reason. Maybe it's the element of surprise? Or perhaps I envy his ability to seamlessly work peeing into his lifestyle. There's no fuss, no prep work, nothing. He's just walking along, needs to take a leak, and, by God, does. Right where he's standing. ....I'm sorry, I'm getting a little emotional here.

I've seen our dog kick after peeing as well, I call it urination punctuation. But he usually reserves this for post-crapping festivities only. And he doesn't do it every time, just sometimes. I haven't been able to figure this one out yet. What triggers a kicking episode, and what doesn't? Is it weather-related? Does it matter if he's on grass or on gravel? Perhaps it's no more complicated than mood? I just don't know.

But rest assured, I'm working on it.

-- Have you ever heard of a band called the Lyres? They're from Boston and were (are?) led by a maniac who calls himself Mono Man, or somesuch. They sounded like a sixties garage band all cranked-up on, um, coffee, and I really liked 'em back in the day.

The reason I bring this up is because I heard one of their songs yesterday on a Rhino punk compilation, and it brought back a memory that I'm now going to attempt to work into a Question of the Day....

When I lived in Greensboro there was a funky little club in operation called Underground. I used to go there to see Dash Rip Rock and Jason and the Scorchers, and bands like that. One night the Lyres were supposed to perform, and I was highly excited. Their On Fyre album was a favorite, and it didn't seem like the band played outside of New England very often. No way I was going to miss this one.

So, my friend Cam and I went to the club, and there was almost nobody there. It was just the two of us, and maybe ten other people. When you talked there was a slight echo, and you could actually hear other people swallowing their beer. Unbelievable. I felt uncomfortable, and embarrassed for the band.

But to their credit, the Lyres came out and played a full set. Oh, they rocked the place, and all twelve of us had a great time.

Afterwards, this Mono Man character walked off the stage and went to the beer window. We walked over to congratulate him on a great show, and the dude went off. "What's wrong with this town?!" he snarled. "Don't you people support live music here?? I was told this was going to be a show tonight, not a fucking garden party!"

That's exactly the phrase he used, garden party.

Oh man, he was spewing venom. And one of the Faithful Dozen said, "Dude, don't be pissed at us. We're here." Mono Man considered this, accepted it, and apologized. Then he stood there and talked to us while finishing his Budweiser, or whatever. From that point on, he was, well, semi-friendly.

So that's the Question: have you ever been at an event where the crowd was so small you felt uncomfortable? It doesn't have to be a concert, it can be a baseball game, or whatever. Use the comments link to tell us about it, won't you?

And I'm going to go watch it snow.

See ya on Monday. 
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March 15, 2007

-- When I took the youngest Secret to school this morning it felt like baseball season outside. I didn't even wear a jacket, and can't remember the last time I left the house without first encasing myself in some sort of commercially-produced quilt sewn roughly into the shape of a man.

The thick granite-hard snowpack that's been on the ground for the past month is melting away, from the bottom up it seems, and it feels like the whole world is getting a much-needed bath. Birds have been chirping, caribou wandering around....

Man, you'd have to be one hard, hard sumbitch not to love the changes of season.

-- I went to Subway yesterday for lunch, and they now offer apples as a sandwich topping. Apples! They sure are attached to the novelty fixin's at that place, aren't they?

Perhaps I'm out of the loop (anything's possible), but I have a hard time with a lot of that stuff. Even back in the old days, before things went completely crazy, they would ask if I wanted black olives on my seven dollar lettuce sandwich. Do I look insane? Am I wearing a sombrero of turds here? Is my wiener out? Olives? On a sandwich?? Blecch. Those things taste like a mouthful of buffalo nickels.

Hell, they're not even shaped right. You can't have a sandwich topping that rolls. Am I wrong about that? It seems to me society decided the sandwich rules a long time ago, and Subway is in repeated violation. You're supposed to stack it up with stuff that's generally flat. You make layers between two slices of bread, or inside a bun of some sort; it's not a difficult concept. Keeping the sandwich level should NOT be a concern.

And don't even get me started on fruit. That's just showboating, plain and simple, and not worthy of a reaction.

-- I finally received my Shoes CD a few days ago, and it was indeed a CDR. A bit of a pisser, but not completely.... Sure, I would've preferred an actual, collectible, commercially- produced compact disc. But, I didn't buy the thing as an investment, I bought it to hear all the great songs again. So mission accomplished on that front; it sounds great, all the music is there, blah blah blah. I'll just try to ignore the little "Is it live or is it Memorex?" printed around the middle of the disc. Try, I said.

On a similar subject.... I received a note from eBay yesterday informing me that the person from whom I bought a four-year subscription to Blender magazine is, apparently, a complete fraud. They'd shut down his operation, etc., and are urging me to "take all possible steps to receive reimbursement." Bastard took off with my $1.99!

-- I saw this today in an article about the death of Boston lead singer Brad Delp:

Toxicology tests by the state medical examiner's office showed that Delp committed suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning, said Lt. William Baldwin. Police said Delp had sealed himself inside a bathroom with two charcoal grills sometime between 11:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday afternoon, when he was found by fiancee Pamela Sullivan.

Locked himself in a bathroom with a bunch of grills going?! Have you ever come across that one before? Yeah, me either. That's the weirdest suicide method I've heard about since a guy in my hometown strapped an entire weightlifting set, bars and all, to his body, and casually walked into the Kanawha River.

What are some of the other strange ways people have hastened their departure from this world? Do you have any local stories to share? Please tell us about 'em, won't you?

-- I don't know why, but I struggled with this update like a man atop a toilet at a cheese festival. Every word was earned, believe me. I apologize for its brevity, but I'll leave you today with something I know you'll enjoy. 

This, my friends, is Brenda Love's vision of Nancy & Nostrils and their brood of l'il translucents. And I'm telling you.... she's pretty freakin' accurate. Don't miss this one, folks! And thanks Brenda, for salvaging my Thursday update.

See ya tomorrow. 
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March 14, 2007

-- I've been spending considerable time in Allentown, at the office of an outplacement firm my former employer hooked me up with. They offer seminars and classes, and help with your resume, etc. When I first learned of this, I rolled my eyes and dismissed the whole thing. It sounded suspiciously like counseling, and I had visions of grown men sitting in small rooms blubbering into tissues, and possibly even hugging each other. And that's not the way I roll.

But Toney convinced me to give it a look, and I'm glad she did. To my surprise, the information they're providing seems to have actual value. It's good solid advice, and not all about emotions and feelings. Well... there's a little of that, but not much.

Plus, I just enjoy going there. I always come away feeling hopeful and positive, which is a welcome departure from the norm these days. There's a group of guys who seem to hang out at the place, all of whom are going through exactly the same thing I am. So, in addition to all the stuff in their formal mission statement, the joint also serves as a social club for middle-aged overweight unemployed professionals of eastern Pennsylvania. And, for reasons I can't quite put my finger on, I like it. All that's missing is the cocktails and cigars.

Of course, when all those guys start getting jobs it'll be a different story.... That's the downside, I fear. If I'm one of the last to go, I can see myself working up a good head of bitterness, and walking around with a powerful urge to start kneeing balls. Just random balls, and lots of 'em.

But I'm enjoying it while I can.

-- Last night we were having dinner and four fully-grown deer casually walked past our front window. We live in an established neighborhood here, not a thatched hut in the middle of the forest, and aren't really accustomed to seeing, you know, fucking caribou. It was one of those moments when you're not fully convinced your brain is processing things correctly, and sit there silent for a few seconds waiting for it to correct itself.

But it really was deer, four big 'uns, and they didn't seem to have a care in the world. Until Andy saw them, anyway. And man, he went wild. I was afraid he might actually crash through the front window. He'd never seen dogs that large.

The big-ass things heard the ruckus coming from inside our house, and all four bounced across Half-Shirt's yard, and disappeared somewhere down the street.

And last night when I was outside with Andy, letting him sling a little urine before bedtime, I had a small but nagging concern that one of those beasts would suddenly burst out of the bushes, and start doing that thing where they stand on their hind legs and pummel you into submission with a wild flurry of flying hooves.

Is that unreasonable?

-- My friend Bill told me that a guy he knows recently had a boil on his ass "the size of a can of tuna." He went bowling with the thing, and everybody could see it through his sweatpants. Finally it exploded, while the dude was sitting on the toilet, and it took considerable time to clean up. But, he told Bill, it's nice to be able to sit level again. Just thought you should know....

-- I watched Borat last night. I believe I might've been the only person left in the world who didn't know anything about any of that stuff. I wasn't familiar with Sacha Baron Cohen, or Ali G, or the Borat character, or anything. Oh, I knew it was supposed to be popular and hip, and there was some controversy, but it was all very vague and murky to me.

Good God, I laughed my ass off. That has got to be one of the funniest movies ever made. So many great scenes.... All morning little snippets of the flick have been popping into my head, and I start laughing all over again. I think I'm going to have to watch it again, before Netflix gets it back. The shit is Hendrie-level genius.

-- Here's an interesting email I received from Surf Reporter Lucie earlier in the week:

So you got me hooked on Bentley Little & I have been requesting 3 of his books at a time from the library. So I go in yesterday & pick up 3, one of which is ďThe ReturnĒ and as I was removing the slip of paper with my name on it a frigging razor blade fell out of the book! First off he totally creeps me out with his books & then one of his readers almost cuts me up with a RAZOR BLADE!!!!!!! WTF???

I don't really know what to say to that, except it feels somehow appropriate that a Bentley Little fan would use a super-sharp sliver of steel as a bookmark. Disturbing yes, but not all that surprising. Next time it might very well be a ring finger.

-- I spoke with a guy yesterday about possibly redesigning the site. The dude didn't hear a thing I said, and just went on and on with his own ideas. He apparently thinks it would be a fabulous idea to turn TheWVSR into some sort of storefront(?!), with shopping carts and that sort of thing. I told him that wasn't at all what I had in mind, and it was is if I hadn't even spoken those words. He said he'd be glad to build me a fully-functioning e-commerce site for $3000. 

Perhaps there was a bad connection? I don't know. And $3000?! All I can say to that is: Ha!

-- I've got a few more half-assed little things, but I've suddenly run out of enthusiasm. But I do have a rare treat to share with you folks today -- a new update from Metten. That's right, Metten. Check it out, right here.

And I'll see ya tomorrow. 
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March 13, 2007

-- The annual St. Patrick's Day parade is one of Scranton's crown jewels. It's supposedly one of the biggest such events in the country, and the city is proud, proud, proud of it. It also has a reputation for being quite wild, and for featuring all manner of drunken debauchery.

In fact, on Parade Day the bars are allowed to open at 7 am -- and are reportedly full. I can't even imagine such a thing. The only time I've ever started drinking at 7 am was after working a midnight shift at the old Dunbar Toll Bridge a few times, and didn't much care for it. There's just something unnatural about cracking open a Schlitz during Coffee Time.

But on that one day every year in Scranton, all such rules go out the window, I'm told. And, of course, things get crazy. Having young kids, I never felt comfortable attending this so-called parade, and have stayed away. I had visions of the gutters running wide with vomit.

This year, however, we decided to go. I think it was Toney's idea. She said we need "distractions," and I'm all for that. Wallowing in despair can take a lot out of a man.

We parked beside a Ukrainian church, or something similarly confusing. The guy there charged us ten bucks, and told us we'd have to be gone by four, because the church is having a "supper." Not a problem, I said, I have a feeling we'll be gone long before the cabbage roll cutoff. I hoped none of us would be stabbed.

We walked on muddy, uneven, and collapsed sidewalks toward downtown, and our shoes were covered with what looked like black soot from a factory furnace by the time we reached level ground. As we walked, the number of people increased until we found ourselves in the middle of a seething crowd.

In addition to public intoxication, one of the traditions of the parade is apparently novelty headgear; it was wacky hats as far as the eye could see. There were big green Dr. Seuss top hats, three feet tall and tilting in the wind, knit caps with the words "Kiss My Irish Ass" lovingly sewn into front, and great eruptions of sparkly shamrocks on sticks, then attached to the skull. I felt woefully underdressed in just my Brooklyn Dodgers cap. It doesn't blink off and on, or anything.

And t-shirts, there were also plenty of interesting t-shirts. Some said "Kiss Me I'm Shitfaced," others read, "Irish, drunk, and horny," and lots referenced The Office with "Ain't no party like a Scranton party, 'cuz a Scranton party don't stop!" In fact, The Office has now been fully-embraced by the local population. When it first appeared there was some grumbling about Hollywood making fun of the city, but that's all gone now. It seemed like every other person at the parade was sporting a Dunder-Mifflin shirt.

I told the Secrets to assume everybody is drunk, and to act accordingly. I'm not sure what I meant by that, but it felt like good advice. To my surprise though, it seemed like only about a quarter of the crowd was under the influence. Huh. Who could've predicted such a thing?

We found a spot near a corner, past where the parade would soon be passing. The congestion was a bit thinner there, so we decided it was a decent place to stake our claim. An old woman shoved a shopping cart past us, full of what looked like pretzels she'd cooked in her own oven at home, and sandwich bags full of Cheetos (blechh). She told everyone to get the hell out of her way.

People were everywhere, and most were dressed like mental patients: huge glasses, big feathery boas, ludicrous necklaces, jackets that made noises.... I've never been to the Mardi Gras, but feel like I have.

To be fair though, we had no problems. In fact, everybody seemed to be in a good mood (heh), and I only saw one small argument break out. A teenage girl and a suburban mom got into it, and somebody called somebody a "fatass." But it was over pretty quickly, and didn't amount to much.

The parade itself seemed never-ending. A piece in the newspaper said it took three full hours for it to pass by -- three hours! There were thousands of people involved in the thing, and many thousands more watching. Supposedly the equal of the entire populations of several local counties was in Scranton on Saturday. It's one big-ass "parade."

But we didn't stay for the entire three hours, not even close. About halfway through, I'd guess, the boys started complaining, and we left early. On our way back to our parking spot we saw some doucheketeer with his hat on sideways driving on the sidewalks, spinning his wheels, and yelling out his window for no apparent reason. He went across a yard, almost took out a newspaper box, then fishtailed on down the street. 

I think we got out just in time.

Here again are some of the pics I snapped. Hopefully they'll give you a feel for the cluster-fuck that is the Scranton St. Patrick's Day Parade.

And I need to cut this one a little short, my friends. I'm driving down to Allentown again, to meet with a headhunter. <sigh> Thanks to everyone who contributed to the Surf Report cause yesterday and today, either with cash, or by spreading the word. I appreciate it, sincerely.

For a question of the day... how about drinking before ten in the morning? Have you ever done it? Under what circumstances? Tell us about it, won't you? 

And I'll see ya tomorrow. 
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March 12, 2007

-- I hate to even go into all this, because it's not very funny. In fact, it's not funny at all. But I spent a big part of the weekend thinking about this website, and how we've somehow arrived at one of those proverbial crossroads. I'm concerned that TheWVSR as we know it may be in jeopardy, my friends.

Please allow me to explain....

I was in a unique and perfect situation with my job. I was working at a large manufacturing/distribution facility that operates 'round the clock. The company that actually paid (pays) my salary is located in California, and I had to sorta straddle the Eastern and Pacific time zones. Because of the three-hour difference, the workday here is almost half over when they're just getting cranked-up in Burbank, and those Cali boys can sure generate their share of last-minute mad-scramble Chinese fire drills. So I went in later than most people, and drove home in the dark.

This schedule allowed me time in the mornings to write my ridiculous updates, and still put in a full-day's work. And I can't see that happening again. Ya know? I just don't believe there are too many zone-straddling opportunities available out there.

No, when I do go back to work it'll almost certainly be a "normal" deal, where I'm required to arrive at 8:00 am, or whatever. And if there's a commute on both ends of it.... Well, you can see what will happen to the site: it'll sit dormant most days. There simply won't be any time for me to maintain it. I can imagine a scenario where I'm struggling to squeeze out one pathetic update per week, on Sunday mornings or somesuch.

And that makes me sad. It sounds like a joke when I say this site is the only thing that keeps me sane, but I suspect it may be true. Except for my family, it's my favorite thing. I'd probably go spiraling into depression if I didn't have TheWVSR to cling to. That, or I'd get really into collecting things, and spend my evenings in the basement wearing a jeweler's glass.

Will somebody please hold me?

Some of you have suggested I make an effort to "monetize" the Surf Report, and try to turn it into an actual business. And while the realist in me scoffs, I have to admit it's a mighty appealing idea. I know there are people who maintain sites similar to this one, and reportedly make a living from it. Why not me too?

Well, I did some research and it appears those folks thrive on a combination of ad revenue and donations from their readers. None charge for content, via subscriptions or anything like that, it's just voluntary contributions. One doesn't even run ads at all, it's completely reader-supported.

So... I'm going to give it a shot. Over the next few weeks, while still looking for a real job, I'm going to explore the idea of having TheWVSR overhauled by a professional site designer. I think it looks amateurish, and I'm ready to take a shot at legitimacy with my very one "web guy." I want the RSS feeds to work automatically, I want it to be slick but cool, and I want to be able to update from any computer. I'm willing to plunk down some bucks to make it all happen.

Also, I'm going to research ad programs, and try to hook up with a good company. I've got a half-assed hodgepodge going right now, with no focus or clear strategy, and the results have been predictably lame. TheWVSR receives thousands of unique visitors every month, and an impressive number of pageviews. I'm confident I can get better results.

I've been monkeying around with a secret side project as well, a planned one-shot zine-type of booklet to be called My West Virginia Jobs. I've got a complete first draft finished, about 20,000 words, and am going to work hard at finalizing it over the next few weeks. I'm hoping it'll generate a little excitement, and maybe lead to something fun. More on that later.

Now here's the hard part.... I'm asking for your help. I've set up donation accounts with both Amazon and PayPal, and added a big red DONATE box at the top of the second page. (I'm sure you've already seen it.) If you believe the site is worthy, I would appreciate a small monthly contribution. Or hell, if you can swing it, a large monthly contribution. Whatever.

If you can't, or don't want to contribute, that's cool. I can't see who is or isn't dropping anything in the ol' tip jar, so there's no social pressure here. The last thing I want is for anyone to walk around with deep-seated Surf Report Guilt.

One last request, as if I haven't asked enough already.... Please tell your friends and enemies about the site. If I have even the tiniest chance of pulling this off, I'll need to increase the readership. So, if you know someone who might enjoy what we do here, please spread the word. It's important.

And that's about all I can stomach. God, I feel like I need to take a shower.... I appreciate your help with this particular Ralph Kramden-style pipe dream, and promise not to whore myself too much in the coming days.

Tomorrow I'll tell you about our very first encounter with the cluster-fuck that is the Scranton St. Patrick's Day Parade. To whet your appetite, here are a few pictures I snapped. Man, talk about your picture-taker's paradise.... If the Secrets hadn't complained so much, I might still be down there.

See ya tomorrow. 
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March 9, 2007

-- I thought our dog Andy was about to die Wednesday night, I really did.

He was acting normal when I got home from Allentown. He greeted me at the door with a smile on his face and his tail a-wagging, as always. I took him outside and he ran a few laps, slung a little urine around, then assumed the kangaroo position and engaged in some low-grade turd-tumblin'. Nothing out of the ordinary.

After dinner I gave him a piece of fish one of the Secrets left on his plate, and the hound devoured it with the usual ferocity. Then he wanted more: Please, more! Just like every other night.

As soon as the boys went to bed we cranked up an episode of Veronica Mars on the Big Ass Television, and afterwards Toney said she was going to hit the sack as well. And as she was heading upstairs, she said, "What's the matter with this crazy dog?" He was standing at the top of the steps, panting heavily and staring into the family room with his head all hyper-extended and low.

Who the hell knows? Probably just another of his ploys.... He constantly wants to go outside; it seems to be his biggest non-food related ambition in life. And he's become a master at manipulating us, and getting his way. He's all the time pretending to be on the verge of exploding in a great supernova of pee. Then, once in the yard, he doesn't do a thing except tiptoe around and snorkel stuff. It's maddening.

But this time it might be for real, I thought. He doesn't usually pant like that. So I went up there and opened the front door, and noticed that he wasn't walking right. His legs seemed to be wobbly, and he grazed the door as he passed through it. The hell? Then I watched our dog s l o w l y walk out into the middle of the snow-covered front yard, and lay down. Oh no!

I hollered for Toney, and started trying to convince Andy to come back into the house. He finally hoisted himself to his feet, with great effort, and wobbled into the living room. He was panting and shaking and his head was waving all around, like one of those felt-covered dogs people used to put in the rear windows of their cars.

Then he tipped over sideways, like he was made of ceramic or some shit. And he just laid there, breathing real hard, with all four of his legs sticking straight out.

Andy was dying! What had happened to him?? Did he have a stroke, or something? Had someone poisoned him? Oh man, the Secrets are gonna freak. Hell, I'm freaking. That crazy dog gets on my nerves a lot of the time, but I sure don't want anything bad to happen to him. And it doesn't get much badder than dying.

Toney and I sat in the floor beside him, stroked his fur, and waited for it to happen. But after a few minutes of this, Andy suddenly turned his head and deposited what looked like the world's largest fried egg on the hardwood floor. I don't know what was in that vomit, but it was white around the edges, and yellow in the center, like an egg. And it was as big around as a serving platter.

I began howling in protest, because I'm the one who's always on puke detail around here. I'm not sure how that happened, but it's one of those pre-defined roles we have. And man, that looked like it would require a whole roll of Bounty.

But Andy was a little better after that. He went upstairs, walking almost normally, and laid down on his blanket beside our bed. He even managed to wag his tail a little when I checked on him. Maybe he was going to be OK, after all?

Toney blamed it on the piece of fish I gave him. But he's eaten an entire ocean of fish in his life. Why would one tiny piece suddenly cause him to go all spastic like that?

Then I found out he'd run-off earlier in the day, before I got home. Toney had been carrying in groceries, she said, and Andy took advantage of the situation and went on an adventure. And it was trash day. God only knows what he might've gotten into. Maybe Mama Half-Shirt had cleaned out their refrigerator, and Andy got holt of a furry length of bratwurst, or something? The possibilities are almost endless. On trash day.

So my wife was sorta blaming me, and I was sorta blaming my wife. And so it goes.

But Andy seemed like he would pull through, so Toney went back to bed, and I returned to the B.A.T. I had a disc of 24 episodes from Netflix, and got myself all wrapped up in that particular ridiculousness. A couple of hours later I decided I'd better call it a night, and shut everything down.

And when I went upstairs there was a landscape of vomit in the living room. There was a big meaty pile beside the front door, another on the rug in front of the couch, and a third in the dining room. All were humongous, and seemed to be built on a foundation of pot roast. Sweet sainted mother of Bonnie Franklin!

It must've taken thirty minutes to get rid of all that puke. I ran up and down the stairs with big wads of toilet paper, flushing every second or third trip, and trying not to notice the warmth I could feel through the paper. It was full-on disgusting.

But Andy's back to normal now, and I'm already calling him a dumbass again. He's returned to his tried and true method of staring, and willing me to do his bidding with his non-blinking laser-beam gaze. And he's right back to begging, gobbling, tip-toeing, and snorkeling, as if none of that tipping-over-like-a-ceramic-doo-dad stuff had ever happened.

The dumbass.

-- Before I go.... I took a really time-consuming computerized test yesterday, as instructed by my "career coach," and it told me I'd be happiest working as a writer. How's that for groundbreaking information? Hell, I could've saved myself the hour. 

I also sat through two classes on Thursday: one on interviewing, and another on negotiating. I'm supposed to meet with an executive headhunter on Tuesday, and there are a few other little things going on as well, all at least mildly encouraging.

But I keep going back to that test. I wish I'd never taken it. Because the OBVIOUS bright spots of the week were the writing of that dog puke story you just read, and when I told you about our bed collapsing, and all that stuff. The test only serves to rub it in.

I know it's dangerous to even contemplate such a thing, but just how great would it be if TheWVSR could somehow become my actual job?  Extra-great, I say. 

And I'd appreciate it if one or two of you good folks would drive up here now, shoe me square in the nuts, and bring me back to the real world.  I thank you in advance for your assistance in this matter.  

See ya on Monday. 
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March 7, 2007

-- I'm driving down to Allentown today to meet my "career coach." I'm from Dunbar, WV and don't know nothing about no career coaches, but we'll see how it goes. My ex-employer is paying for the service, and I've been told by more than one person that it's a valuable asset. So I'm gonna sit down with them and see what they have to say.

It's been a bit frustrating, because I haven't really gotten started. The information packet from that consulting firm screams, over and over again, not to apply for jobs or approach any companies, until I've met with them first. So I've been laying back a bit. I did answer a couple of internet ads for gigs that sounded like a good fit for me, but haven't yet felt comfortable jumping into it with both feet.

We're burning daylight here, foo's! I'm itching to get the ball rolling. And yes, I realize I used both the words "itching" and "ball" in the same sentence. What of it?

Yesterday I got my fax machine up and running. A year or so ago you folks helped me buy a really nice Canon all-in-one machine, via your Amazon purchases. It's a kick-ass little unit, but I never had a use for its faxing capabilities until now. So I had the phone company come out and re-activate the old phone jack in the bunker, a relic from the dark, dark Compuserve days, and I now have yet another way to communicate with the outside world. It's like freakin' NASA in here. Except, you know, for the loud Wreckless Eric music.

And I'm getting calls from so-called recruiters who don't have my best interests at heart. One wanted me to come in and interview for a position as an insurance salesman(!?). Apparently they contact every single person who posts a resume to the internet, and past experience isn't relevant. If I created a CareerBuilder account for our dog Andy, I bet "Barbara" would try to issue him a briefcase. I told her I wasn't even remotely interested, and she hung up on me. How's that for phone etiquette?

I also have odd emails waiting for me every morning when I turn on my computer. They're supposedly lists of new job opportunities "selected especially for me," based on my work history, etc. Completely baffling. They're sending me stuff like bio-chemist, house painter, rhythm guitarist, and steamboat captain. What in the tan and sandy hell?

Yeah, this is going to be an excellent adventure, I can just feel it. I think I've sighed more during the past week than the previous forty-four years combined. Pass the discs o' lard, dammit.

-- I listened to Clive Bull yesterday, for the first time since everything turned upside-down. It was like comfort food. He did almost an entire hour on whether or not his producer should eat a sausage roll that had been out of the refrigerator all day. He was taking calls, and carrying on lengthy detailed conversations about it. Good, good stuff.

I love radio. I love television as well, of course, but I think I like radio even more. There's just something about it. I've written before about my fondness for the old Larry King overnight show, which I believe was what first got me hooked on the medium as an ugly teenager. He aired calls from all manner of nutcases, kooks, conspiracy theorists, religious fanatics, and maniacs. And it was just highly entertaining.

Now I'm addicted to Clive, and Phil Hendrie, of course. I'm a former disciple of Christopher Rude's hilarious old morning show in Atlanta, and still tune into Neal Boortz a few times every week. And one of the best things about taking a long car trip is scrolling through the AM dial and hoping for the best. It makes Toney crazy, but it's like archeology to me.

Oh, I've unearthed some real gems doing that. We once stumbled across a religious program Down South somewhere, to which a hysterically sobbing woman called-in and said she'd caught her husband masturbating in the bathroom the night before. I almost drove my car into an embankment because of that greatness. And then there was the bizarre swap-meet type of deal where a man was looking to trade twelve good laying hens for a stump-remover that works, or whatever.

Long car trips are often great, but especially below the Mason-Dixon line.

I've also got a fairly massive old time radio mp3 collection, including more than 800 episodes of Suspense, and practically every existing recording of Gunsmoke, Dragnet, I Love a Mystery, Escape, and others. It's not unusual for me to turn the TV off in the evening, and fire up something from 1948.

Just a couple of weeks ago I purchased a huge cache of old Jean Shepherd broadcasts, off eBay. He's the guy behind A Christmas Story, and for more than twenty years lorded over a legendary late-night program on WOR in New York City. There were no callers or gimmicks on his show, it was just Shepherd talking and telling stories. Great radio.

I was recently listening to one of those programs from the late '50s, and Shepherd was talking about being unemployed. He said that one of the best things that can happen to a man is for him to lose his job. He invariably ends up happier, he claimed, and stronger. "You learn that nobody can hurt you. Not really," he said.

Those were words uttered in the middle of the night, almost fifty years ago, by a man who's now dead, into a microphone somewhere in New York City -- bringing me comfort in 2007. 

And just how cool is that? 
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March 6, 2007

-- I've been watching a show called Mythbusters with the oldest Secret. ....You know, seeing as how I've got a little extra time on my hands. I was aware of the program, knew the general idea behind it, but had never actually seen it until recently. And it's pretty darn good.

In case you're like me and maintain only the most tenuous of connections to popular culture, the hosts of Mythbusters conduct experiments to discover whether or not certain "myths" are true. For example: cell phones can cause explosions at gas stations. Stuff like that. 

The two main guys are supposedly special effects professionals, and really get into it. They're always blowing shit up, and crashing cars, and all manner of coolness. It's a perfect show for a son to watch with his unemployed father.

Anyway, I saw one last week about farts. The myth had something to do with a fat man who went on a "bean and cabbage" diet and flatulated himself to death. The dude reportedly lived in a tiny apartment, and eventually succumbed to the fumes.

Heh. As urban legends go, that's gotta be one of the weaker ones, right? I mean, who's ever heard of a bean and cabbage diet? That just makes me laugh. I have a sneaking suspicion this particular "myth" was created by a sixth grader somewhere.

But it sure makes for good television.

The first step was to "capture a flatus" and have it analyzed, to see if there are any actual lethal components. One of the Mythbusters, the guy with the horn rim glasses, stripped down to a Canadian-style wiener-wrapper bathing suit (blecch) and sat in a bathtub full of water. The other 'buster attached some sort of apparatus to the tub, with a big fart-collecting funnel on the bottom. Then everybody sat around waiting for the bubbles to commence. Oh, the suspense was palpable.

Once they finally had a fart under glass, they rushed it to a laboratory where it was, um, broken down by scientists. (I told you this was good.) And it turned out there were trace amounts of three gases in there that can literally kill a person.

The next step was to see if beans and cabbage really make people more gassy. They did this by asking three members of the staff to keep track of how many assplosions they experienced in a given day. The numbers ranged from three (a girl), all the way up to fifteen (Mr. Horn Rim again). Nobody asked, but all the numbers seemed mighty low to me. What are your feelings on this?

Then they went on the diet and reported back. This meeting featured a person uttering the phrase, "6:17 am: good long brap, followed by two pops." I couldn't believe what I was seeing.... Back during the Brady Bunch days they weren't even allowed to show a toilet on TV. Now it's good long braps?? I'm sorry, I'm getting a little emotional here.

Bottom line? All three increased their flatulence substantially. One was all the way up to thirty-some farts per day. Or as it's commonly known: the real world.

So they built a replica of the tiny apartment and began pumping in the three gases, one by one, to see how much it would take to reach a lethal level. 

And when it was all said and done, they calculated that a person would have to lie in bed and fart continuously, almost in a non-stop open-ass flow, for about twenty-three years, before it became deadly.

See what you guys are missing by working for a living?

-- This baseball card was supposedly Photoshopped "as a joke" by an employee of Topps, then accidentally released to the public. As you can see, the Prez is in the box seats (standing extra-tall), and Mickey Mantle is chilling in the dugout. Publicity stunt? Of course it is.

-- Here's a fortune I found in my cookie a few days ago. It's the best news I've received in months.

-- This is reportedly the Surf Report's ranking around the world. We're fucking huge in Romania.

-- And finally, here's some rare video footage of me watching The Aristocrats a few nights ago.   

See ya tomorrow.  permalink



March 5, 2007

-- On Saturday morning Toney came upstairs and woke me by prodding my back fat, the preferred method. I groaned loudly, wallowed around in the covers for a while, then finally extracted my heft from the dormancy platform. Another day of uncertainty was upon me. Or something.

I found my gigantic sleeping pants on the floor, and pulled them on. There might've been a minimal amount of scratching and "adjusting" at this point as well. As I was preparing to exit the room, Toney returned. She was telling me about something she'd read in the newspaper that morning and, still loopy on the sleep, I flopped down on the corner of the bed to listen.

And the whole thing collapsed.

There was a loud cracking noise, the sound of wood exploding, and everything was suddenly on a slant. The corner near the footboard, on my side, had given way, and I was now sitting in a hole with my knees above my head. The corresponding corner, near the headboard on Toney's side, was way up in the air. I don't think my wife stopped laughing until shortly before lunch.

Screw that, I muttered, I'll deal with it later, and made my way to the nearest pee-catcher. I'd enjoyed a few pints of the golden elixir the night before, and that had resulted in a familiar urgency. I stood there and took care of the problem, then flushed. And right away I saw that something wasn't quite right.

Instead of the expected roar of power, there was only a tiny GULP when I pushed down the handle. It sounded like a man with a mild case of the dry heaves. Then the water started swirling lazily -- and rising! Holy crap!! I began howling in protest, and right before my panicked eyes a small turdlet appeared, as if by magic, and rose to the top. It was roughly the size of a Super Ball, and was rotating round and round, seemingly above the rim.

"Water" came rushing over the sides, and across my feet, and I looked around to see if, by any chance, Allen Funt was convulsing with laughter behind a partition. What the hell, man?? This had never happened before. Who'd unleashed something so large as to obstruct, you know, sewer pipes? The Secrets! I ran downstairs and retrieved the plunger, and put that ridiculous thing to work for a while. Then I mopped the bathroom floor, and finally made my way to the kitchen for my first cup of coffee.

Needless to say, Toney was having a great time with it all. I'd only been awake for ten minutes, and was already collapsing beds and overflowing toilets.... It was like a Buster Keaton movie come to life.

I sat in the living room with a piping hot mug of good ol' Eight O'Clock bean coffee, and talked with the family for a while. I asked the boys what they'd eaten the night before, but neither of them would take credit for sealing off the waste removal system. Kids today.... The oldest suggested that I might've been the culprit. "Maybe your pee's too thick?" he said. I didn't really know what to say to that.

Eventually I made my way to the bunker, and turned on the computer. And a godawful buzzing noise filled the room, causing me to duck and cover. The shit?? It sounded like it was coming from the front of the computer tower, and it was loud. I frantically shut the thing down, before there was a fire. Or an explosion.

I couldn't believe it. It was literally one thing after another. And now my computer?! Oh, I can't live without that thing, especially at this particular point in time. I convinced myself it was a simple issue with a fan or somesuch, and tried to push away the nasty thoughts about the hard drive buying the farm. 

Hoping the problem had magically corrected itself I hit the power button, and the horrible screeching started all over again. Sweet sainted mother of Big Bob Pataki.

I managed to take a shower without slipping and falling, and caving my skull in. Then I called a computer repair shop near our house. For some reason I believed they were only open Monday through Friday, but a man answered. I told him what was going on, and he said he'd be there until four o'clock and would be happy to take a look at it. But, he warned, I might have to leave the computer with him for a few days. My ass was already starting to hurt.

The shop is located next to a strange little cigar store with a barber chair in the middle of it. I'm not kidding, I once got a haircut there. The barber had been outside when I arrived, repeatedly revving the engine on a motorcycle for some reason. The woman behind the counter told me to have a seat, then hollered through the screen door and told the old guy he had a customer.

While I waited a man who looked like Travis Tritt came in and bought two boxes of cigars, as I sat high atop a 1940's barber chair. Travis gave me a little nod and left, as if it were a normal everyday occurrence. 

The barber smelled like gasoline, and proceeded to scalp me down to the raw skin with some sort of huge vibrating box that was throwing off sparks and making halting noises. I thought the whole place would surely go up in flames, and was relieved to walk away with only the worst haircut of my life.

Anyway, the computer repair shop is next door to that place, and I went inside fearing the worst. The man popped off the cover, and said, "Christ! It's a wonder this thing will work at all." Everybody loves to yell Christ! up in these parts.

He was referring to all the dust. It looked like the floor of the tower had been carpeted, and all the parts above it appeared furry. It embarrassed me, but who vacuums the inside of their computer tower? He grabbed a can of pressurized air, and took it and my machine outside. Then he began kicking up a great mushroom cloud of dust. People driving by in cars were doing double-takes and almost rear-ending each other. Oh, it was a sight to behold.

Finally, he plugged the computer in, and it immediately began it's terrible howling. It's the floppy drive, he said, without hesitation. Then he unplugged something, and the noise stopped. I told him I don't use floppy discs anymore, so he just changed the setting to "not installed," and that was that. He charged me five dollars.

I went home and fixed the bed, plunged the toilet again just to be sure, and everything was back to normal by early afternoon.

And it had all looked so bleak on Saturday morning. 
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March 1, 2007

-- Before everything went upside-down, Toney found a good deal on airfare and bought us tickets to Reno in July. We're being required, via industrial-strength guilt, to fly out there and visit Sunshine & Mumbles this summer. Under the circumstances I'm not sure we'll actually be able to make the trip, but we're still operating with the assumption it'll happen. Hopefully we'll be back amongst the living by July.

A couple of things, though....

If/when we go, we're staying at a hotel, and this is going to be a HUGE problem for Sunny. As is quite obvious, she doesn't believe in such things. She thinks that any city on the globe where a relative lives, is a city where she has a free place to stay. The idea of renting a hotel room when there's a perfectly-good floor to curl up on, just doesn't compute with her. And she'll almost certainly take it as an insult when we tell her.

But this is non-negotiable, as far as I'm concerned. S&M live in a tiny apartment with one bathroom, and we'd literally be living on top of each other. And a person needs a little decompression time at the end of the day, and their own space to retreat to. Ya know? One of the things that's hard to take when they come to our house for another of their marathon visits, is that there's almost literally no down-time. Every waking moment is taken up with "entertaining."

Also, I'm allergic to cats, and Sunshine has one that's roughly the size of a miniature collie. The thing has freaky blue eyes, clearly hates me, and is the spawn of Satan himself. No way I'm sleeping with that creature prowling around, for a number of reasons. At the top of the list is the knowledge I'd return to Pennsylvania, not in the passenger cabin of the airplane, but in the cargo hold -- inside a box.

So, the hotel will be a bone of contention. Plus, Sunshine wants us to go camping while we're there. With tents. In the Sierra mountains. And there's nothing about that that sounds appealing. Nothing.

For one thing, you don't fly then camp. Am I wrong about that? The whole concept seems bizarre to me. And I'm no fan of the idea of sleeping in the freakin' dirt either, with a pine cone eating into my pancreas. Call me a radical, but that's not exactly my idea of a good time. What are we, a bunch of hippies here?? Will we be vacationing at the Spawn Ranch this summer? Perhaps I should buy one of those big cotton shirts with shoelaces in it?

I remember an overnight rafting trip I took years ago, where the "bathroom" was nothing but a wooden box amongst the trees, with a toilet seat nailed to the top. I got up in the morning and our guide was sitting atop that ridiculous thing, reading a magazine. He just gave me a jaunty little wave, and turned the page.

And I can't have that.

Plus, aren't there, like, saber tooth tigers in those woods out there? The east coast forests are full of all sorts of scary things, but I believe it's even worse in the west. Shit gets bigger in those parts. I'd be lying there terrified and wide awake the entire time, believing that every sound was a mountain cat circling and waiting to pounce. A thin layer of fabric might seem like a valid shelter psychologically, but who are we fooling here?

So, we've got some issues to hammer out before boarding that plane. Why does everything have to be so difficult? Why can't we just go out there, have dinner at Claim Jumper a few times, scarf down a dozen or so Jim Boy's tacos every day, visit the car museum, and return home? Would that be so horrible? I think not.

-- And that'll just about do it for today, children. My current unemployment emotion: mild panic. Stay tuned for continued coverage. I'll leave you now with a realization of my worst fear, straight from my hometown of Dunbar, WV. 

This poor woman
went out as a Fark link. Check it out.

See ya next time. (Notice how I don't say tomorrow anymore?)  


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