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You don't understand. I'm a mysterious loner, not lonely.

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A bowl of corn, motherfuckers.

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Is that an erection I smell?

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I'm loaded with tumors darling, and I don't even know it.

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   The State of My Fat Ass                                         April 2004

April 30, 2004

-- Do you ever have the strong urge to eat something fresh and healthy? I do, right now. It's 7:35 in the morning and I want a big salad, freshly cut and really cold. I think it's nature's way of telling me something's missing; some important vitamin is bottoming out. I know that TGIF Potato Skin chips are an almost perfect food, but I guess they don't contain everything you need to stay healthy? It's too bad, really.

And I've long suspected that the expensive multi-vitamin I take every day, at the suggestion of Dr. Dot, dissolves and is pissed out within minutes. I just know that nothing's being absorbed from those nasty-ass pills, that cost me about fifty cents each. Wotta racket.

I think I'll be hitting the salad bar today, in the cafeteria at work. Actually I visit it quite often. It's the only bar where I'm a regular these days (it's nice to have a place to go where everybody knows your name). Me and the other ladies line up there and chit-chat while we build our dainty lunches. I'm a little self-conscious about it, if you want the truth... I go at off-hours, so few people see me. The guys who drive forklifts and hoist heavy boxes already want to kick my ass; if they saw me holding a salad tong full of celery, it would all be over.

It's a cross I've had to bear all my life, liking salads. It might not seem like such a big deal to, say, a Holocaust survivor, or Christopher Reeve. But it's not much fun, believe me. There's a palpable salad stigma in our society.

But my shit is bottoming out! If I explained it to them, they'd understand. Right? ...Hello?

-- I watched Friends last night, and it was nothing short of excruciating. This entire season has been sappy and sickening. Obviously they didn't adopt the Seinfeld motto: no hugging, no learning. It's all hugging at this point, all the time. And crying. As Iggy might say, no fun. There's only one more episode, and it's a big honkin' two-hour extravaganza. I'll be there, of course, but they've made it a lot easier for everyone to say goodbye to their "friends." They're so goddamn irritating now, it'll be a relief when it's over. Shit. And is Chandler back on the goofballs? He's starting to look really weird again, like a few years ago when he apparently sported a set of oversized novelty teeth all season. Is he back on the hillbilly heroin?

-- I have to mow the grass this weekend, for the first time this season. Summer comes late here in the great northeast, but not late enough for my tastes. I think I'd rather take a cross-country Greyhound trip with Madeline Albright, than mow our lawn. It's huge, and on a slant. What the hell were we thinking when we bought this place?! Were we insane?? It's the same questions I ask all summer long; it's become a family tradition of sorts. Would it make sense to get a second job to pay for a lawn service? I'd probably only have to work fifteen or twenty hours per week, to get out of the torturous ninety minute task. What do you think?

-- Sunshine and Mumbles left yesterday. It was an abbreviated visit (for them), and wasn't really that bad. Maybe I've built up an immunity? I don't know, but it was fairly painless. The week in June with Nancy and Nostrils, and their brood of translucents, will be the test. I have a feeling that'll be something along the lines of Green Beret training. I'll go in a boy, and return a man. It might turn me into a John Rambo, sewing up my own wounds and shit? That would be kinda cool. I'm serious, they should do a season of Survivor there: Survivor 13: Nancy's House. It would make the Australian outback look like a weekend at the Hyatt.

And that's all I have time for today, children. Have a great weekend. Somehow Toney has gotten us mixed-up in a neighborhood-wide yard sale tomorrow, so that should be interesting. And the grass-mowing... <sigh>

See ya Monday.


April 29, 2004

-- I feel disorganized. I wasn't able to fully recover from our vacation before Sunshine & Mumbles rolled into town with their Traveling Caravan of Bitterness. I'm not able to devote the proper amount of time to the site, and things are slipping. I completely missed the eBay wedding dress, for instance, and only learned about it after it had become yesterday's news. Same with the Subservient Chicken. It's a sad state of affairs.

On top of that, my notebook is all screwed up. I usually keep an impeccable notebook (and probably would be diagnosed with OCD if I went in for that sort of thing). But it's a mess today because I haven't properly tended to it. It's all making me crazy. I have unanswered email dating back to 4/4, and the Bunker looks like a walk-in Goodwill donation bin.

There's a cloud of uneasiness over this whole operation, and something has to be done. I'm starting to feel panicked. Everything has to be in its place and I must be working off constantly-updated lists, or I'll go insane. I'm losing control.

Somebody please help me.

-- Toney made a big vat of kick-ass banana pudding a couple of days ago, and last night I went into the kitchen and caught Sunshine standing over it with a fork, eating directly from the pan. So that's the end of that. The banana pudding is dead to me, and buried. In fact, I may never eat banana pudding again. Shit!

-- We were in Toney's car a few days ago and hit a giant pothole in front of Borders. It felt like the front axel shattered, and the windshield wipers came on. I've never seen that before, a pothole so deep it turns on your windshield wipers. It was kinda cool. I might go by there again today and see if I can get it to change the channel on my radio.

-- When we were driving back from Myrtle Beach we were on the same pee cycle as a carload of people from New York state, with surfboards strapped to their roof. Every time we felt the urge, and pulled off the highway, they were there too, peeing. Over time I began to feel a urine-based kinship with them, and considered going over and introducing myself. But Toney stopped me, with a look of exasperation on her face.

She obviously wasn't in tune with the Brotherhood of the Tinkle, like I was. But you pee with people all the way up the eastern seaboard and a bond forms, I believe. I thought we might exchange addresses and phone numbers, and maybe stay in touch. Unfortunately it was not to be, and that's a sad commentary on our modern isolated society. Sad indeed.

I'm still intrigued by those interstate piss centers, though. They're huge business and recreation complexes, all built around urination. Sometimes you walk into the bathroom at one of those places, and it sounds like Niagara Falls -- the roar is simply amazing. If somebody could figure out how to harness the power of the collective rest area urine stream, we could tell OPEC to go use their oil for ass lube. How come Al Gore's not all over this by now?

-- Speaking of stiff political losers, do you think it would be physically possible for John "The Horse" Kerry to speak for more than ten seconds without mentioning George W. Bush or Vietnam? I don't. I bet he couldn't order a sandwich at Denny's without bringing Bush into it. The Republican administration led by George W. Bush and Big Oil would undoubtedly opt for the Monte Cristo sandwich, but let the records show that I am choosing the reuben! Zzzzzzz.....

-- How come being a war hero didn't mean shit when Dole was running against Clinton? Bob Dole has a hand like sweet potato, courtesy of Adolph Hitler, but it was all irrelevant in 1996. It's funny how things change over time.

-- Thanks to my vast network of spies and backstabbers, I've been listening to an advance CD of the new Wilco album for the past week or so. It sounds a lot like the previous record, which is to say it's really weird. Is it sacrilege to admit I liked their first album best, the one with simple three-minute songs about casino queens and boxes full of letters? I'm sorry, but it's true. This new stuff makes me want to walk into the ocean, and just keep on truckin'.

-- The Wal-Mart in Myrtle Beach has a laser eye surgery center in it. I shit you not. It's in the front of the store, right between the travel agent and the barber shop. I don't generally buy into all the hand-wringing sky-is-falling hysteria surrounding Wally World, but when they start doing surgeries... I don't know. Wal-Mart healthcare seems a bit much to me. Of course, it would probably be really good, and cheap, if you could ever get used to the idea. They'd certainly kick the ass of any similar governmental effort on that front. Maybe it wouldn't be such a bad thing, after all? The prices are falling on kidney dialysis! And extension cords. ...I think I could get behind it, in time.

-- The apple-eater moved out this week. He got his own office, which means I did too. I must say, it's fukkin great. I can listen to anything I want, as loud as I want -- and that doesn't include a forty year old man eating a peck of produce every day, that's fer sure. I was blasting the craziest Spinner channels I could find yesterday, at a ridiculous volume. Just because I could. Today I might listen to World War II news broadcasts, just one after the other. All. Day. Long. Ahh, freedom.

-- And before I dig this hole any deeper, I'm gonna turn it over to Buck. He's got a great video clip today, that I'm jealous I didn't get to first. Don't miss it.

And I'll see you folks tomorrow.

April 28, 2004

-- The savaging of our Constitution continues, my friends. I'm sad to report that I was disenfranchised yesterday. Yes, it's true. It was election day here in Pennsylvania, and I was denied my right to vote by a systematic and dastardly campaign to confuse the shit out of people. And I'm sorry to admit that it worked in my case. I felt like a Florida Democrat, frantically trying to vote for Al Gore inside a JC Penney dressing room, or whatever.

How do I contact Jesse Jackson? This can't be ignored. I had an Important Vote to cast, and was turned away twice from polling places. Hell, Jermaine Jackson would do, if anyone knows how to get in touch with him. I'm no snob.

Usually I vote on my way to work, but I had to go in early yesterday (for something known in our industry as "bullshit"), and just didn't have the time. So, I tore ass out of there during my lunch break and drove back to our town to cast my Important Vote.

We've always voted in the lobby of a high-rise old folk's home, so that's where I went. Usually they have an antique voting booth set up in there, with a faded Choose Hoover For Change sticker above the door. But there was nothing there yesterday. Well, except for a Civil War veteran sitting in a chair, so slumped over I was afraid his body would eventually form a big hoop, and he'd roll out into traffic. But there was no sign of the Herbert Hoover hardware anywhere.

What the hell, man?

I called Toney and she said she'd voted once in the basement of the Catholic Church, Our Lady of the Cheesesteak or whatever. So I careened over there, yelling for fuckers to get out of my way as I drove. I saw nothing that would indicate voting was happening there. I asked a guy carrying a Bible if he knew anything about it, and he didn't. I thought about going into the church and looking around, but I didn't really have time to go spelunking for booths.

I just went back to my office, and on the way I called Toney and asked her to find out where we're supposed to vote (goddammit). I figured I'd try it again after I got off from work. She called back a few minutes later and told me to go to the Methodist Church. What?! We've never voted there, not once. Grrr...

After work we were all supposed to meet at Bennigan's, me and Toney and Sunshine & Mumbles. I got there first and the hostess said it would be a twenty or twenty-five minute wait. When Toney arrived I told her I was going to try to vote again while they waited, and I ripped out of there on two wheels. I made my way to the Methodist Church, yelling at the freaks to move to the frickin' side. Important Vote comin' through!

There were actual Hoover booths there. I was excited, and relieved. I got behind a guy who looked like he was college-age, carrying a filthy backpack and looking a tad Nancy-like. I figured he had one of these on his forearm. But when he went to vote the guy asked if he was Democrat or Republican, and he answered, "Republican!" I was shocked.

When it was my turn they couldn't find my name in the book. Lots of confusion ensued, and they finally said I needed to vote across the room, because I was in a different district. There was another table over there, and I huffed away and got into that line.

Again, when my turn came they couldn't find me in the book. The woman asked my address, then said I needed to go to -- get this -- the Catholic Church. I was certain that Alan Funt, convulsing with laughter, was about to come out from behind a partition and give me a big hug. I wondered where the cameras were hidden.

I called Toney as I drove and she said they were being seated, and I needed to get back to the restaurant right away. So... the disenfranchisement of a United States citizen was complete. I was denied my right to vote, at the hands of a sly and sinister scheme of confusion. Get me a Jackson on the phone! Any but Michael will do!! This cannot stand.

What? You say I should've checked the newspaper beforehand, to make sure I knew where to find the polling place? You say it's my responsibility to learn that information? Well, that's hate speech, son, pure and simple, and we don't condone that sort of thing here. Don't you have a Klan meeting to attend? Maybe they're discussing the best wood to use for cross-burnings during the damp spring months?

I'm the victim of a conspiracy.

April 27, 2004

-- While we were sitting in front of Camp Slop in Myrtle Beach, doing our nightly beer-drinking and people-watching routine, it occurred to me that there is no rock music anymore. The beer thievin' hooligans were all listening to rap or some crazy rap hybrid, like Kid Rock or whatever. It seems like it's been this way for years.

Back when I was a professional music weasel, one of the cliches I'd often hear is that no matter how things change, hard rock and heavy metal will never really go out of style. The theory had something to do with horny and pissed-off teenage boys being universal and exempt from passing fads. I'm starting to wonder; the pendulum of angry erections should've swung back a long time ago.

Sure, bands like Van Halen and Metallica are still around, but they're basically nostalgia acts at this point, for old fat men such as myself. They'll be playing State Fairs within a decade, with Billy Ray Cyrus and An All-Star Tribute To Conway Twitty. I believe Styx and Journey are already there, performing between the pie-eating contest and the judging of prize goats, under a tent.

There are no new Van Halens, and no call for any. I believe that that kind of music is now looked upon by the youngin's the same way we viewed doo-wop outfits from the 50's. David Lee Roth is like some old guy from The Coasters at this point. And Led Zeppelin is the Count Basie Orchestra.

I sincerely don't understand how a group of boys could be careening down a country road with a cooler full of Mickey's Big Mouths on the floorboards, hooting and hollering and blasting Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott. I really don't. Ronnie Van Zant is probably twirling in his grave.

I hated them when they were here, but I'd sure feel a lot better if a bunch of new Poisons and Cinderellas would emerge, and become huge. All this other stuff makes me feel out of touch. Big hair and sequined capes I understand, big pants and wife-beaters I don't.

And I swore this would never happen...

-- Traffic to this site fell way off while we were on vacation. Apparently new content is important in attracting an audience? Interesting... Anyway, in order to bring things back into line I'm gonna have to do something I wouldn't normally do. I'm forced to show you folks a photo of (over here Google!) the Olsen Twins All Grown Up, with milk dripping off their lips. Yes, you read that correctly Yahoo search engine: The Olsen Twins with creamy white dairy products smeared all over their fresh young faces -- that's Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen, to be exact.  Sometimes spelled Olson. And here it is. I'm sorry you folks had to see this, but some things are necessary.

--  Apparently the new issue of Utne magazine is on the newsstands, and it contains my article "Sleep Is Creepy."  At least that's what I've been told; I haven't yet seen my contributor's copy -- or my paycheck. Just an FYI, for those who give a good goddamn.  

-- And I'm gonna turn it over to Jason now, because I have to be at work this morning at the ungogly hour of 8AM. It's for something... I can't remember. Oh yeah! Bullshit.

See ya tomorrow.

April 26, 2004

-- Before I get started today, I'd like to publicly thank Mark Maynard for going above and beyond the call of duty in capturing to videotape the episodes of The Sopranos and Deadwood I missed while on vacation. Apparently it wasn't a simple task to get them from TiVo to tape, but he finally managed it, after spending a big chunk of his Saturday monkeying around with electronic boxes and a thousand miles of wire.

Yikes. I had no idea my desperation call from Myrtle Beach was going to turn into such an ordeal; I probably would've called anyway, but would've started feeling guilty about it a little earlier. Maybe it's time I figure out how a VCR works?

In any case, around ten o'clock on Saturday night the phone rang, and here's how the conversation began:

"Hullo?"

"
Eight hours, motherfucker! Eight hours!!"

"Who is this? Dad??"

Following the extended period of effort, the shows are now reportedly safe on tape and in transit to the Compound. And you can read about the whole episode on Mark's website, under the heading "Fucking friends... who needs them?"

Thanks Mark, I appreciate it, sincerely. And the world at large thanks you as well, now that we'll finally be able to bring the Fucks in Deadwood page up to date. Last night's episode was a bunker-buster of fucks, and I can't wait to view the missing show, and start crunching the numbers again. It may not have been fun on Saturday, but it was important work. Please know that, my friend.

-- I attended a Catholic Mass this weekend. Toney and I went with Sunshine and Mumbles, and it was quite an experience. I was raised a half-assed Baptist, and don't know much about other flavors of religion. Well, I don't know much about the Baptists either, now that I think about it... The day my mother stopped forcing me to go to Sunday School was the day I stopped going.

Anyway, I got all dressed up in my funeral clothes and we made our way to a giant church in the middle of nowhere. There were a thousand other people there all trussed up in uncomfortable fabrics, and we took a seat in the very last row, our backs to the wall like gunfighters.

I asked Toney if the glassed-in room off to the side, containing additional pews, was a skybox or something. I imagined it was reserved for Very Important Christians, and featured catering and a wet bar. But she said it's the place where you take crying babies. Huh. She also explained to me about the flip-down bar situated on the back of all the seats. Apparently it's to kneel on while praying, not an aid to spiritual dwarves, like I'd guessed. I felt like a visitor from another planet.

Immediately I remembered that we were a long way from Myrtle Beach; we found ourselves awash in a sea of ugly. Gone were the Victoria's Secret models in bikinis; they were replaced by broad-backed women with severe features, and pasty men sporting avalanches of gut, and who made me feel like freakin' JFK Jr. A lady in front of us had a face like a pie pan, with two eyes, a nose, a mouth, and a dangling mole drawn on it. Her daughter was sporting a pair of double-decker glasses, the kind jewelers wear. I'm not sure what that was all about, but Sunshine said she was about to ask her for an appraisal of her wedding ring.

The service itself was OK, I guess. I don't know all the hand gestures and can't participate in the call and response portions, so that made me feel a little self-conscious. It was kind of an interactive deal, and everybody else seemed to know what to do, and when to do it. I was certain that before it ended everyone would start throwing toast, like at the Rocky Horror Picture Show. I just stood there, trying to look casual and respectful, but my mind was reeling.

I don't think I'm really cut out for organized religion, because when talk of "taking the wafer" began I had to suppress a Beavis and Butthead chuckle. Taking the wafer: it sounds like something you do on prom night.

I'm certain I'll be reincarnated as urinal bacteria, once it's all over.

-- After church (I can't believe I just typed those two words...) we went to Red Lobster (Ret Lopster to you folks in Atlanta), for lunch. S&M wanted to treat, and things quickly got out of hand. Toney and her mother ordered ridiculously large cocktails, appetizers were brought out, and the bill was undoubtedly large. Our waitress was kept hopping for an hour by the many special requests from Sunshine, and she did a great job in keeping everyone happy. Then, as a reward, she was given a five dollar tip.

I offered to pick up the gratuity, but they were getting everything, they insisted. I felt horrible. The bill must've been around a hundred dollars, and they left the chick five bucks. I attempted to hang back at the table, so I could throw down an additional ten or something, but it took Sunshine an eternity to wriggle out of the booth. And she would've gone ass-over-tits crazy if she'd known I corrected their tip. So, the kick-ass waitress got screwed, and I had something else to feel guilty about.

Maybe I'll put a ten dollar bill in an envelope and mail it to Red Lobster, attention: waitress who helped the overdressed non-tipping clodhoppers on Saturday?

-- Mumbles on Nancy's homemade cookies: "I tried dry dogfood when I was a kid, and it tasted exactly the same."

-- Sunshine on her pants: "Shit, I can't get these things buttoned. I think my liver is swollen."

-- Me to Toney:  "How much longer?!"

-- We watched an hour or so of a public broadcasting auction Saturday night, which should tell you a little about the excitement level of this past weekend. But some of the stuff they were hawking on there blew my mind, and I just couldn't turn the channel. For instance, they were auctioning off 100 gallons of heating oil. Doesn't that seem a bit odd? Heating oil?! And there was a spirited contest over who would walk away with the cat neutering service; I was on the edge of my seat for that one. I'm not completely clear on it, but I'm almost certain they were also selling twelve sessions of physical therapy, at a local rehabilitation center. And somebody purchased a $50 grocery store gift certificate -- for $48. This place is so damn bizarre...

And that's gonna have to do it for today, boys and girls. It feels weird not having a new update from Chris to link to, but hopefully he'll rethink his retirement, once he gets settled in Florida. I'll keep pestering him, so stay tuned.

More tomorrow.

April 23, 2004

Day Seven/Thursday Fun in the Sun, Finally

The wind stopped blowing and the temperatures creeped up, so we decided we'd just spend the day in the campground, soaking up the warmth.

We'd talked about how we weren't really getting the full camping experience, because my parents were supplying most of the meals we didn't eat in restaurants. So, we fired up the griddle and Toney cooked scrambled eggs and bacon, outdoors. There's nothing like the aroma of bacon cooking outside; the moment you smell it, and know you're responsible, makes it official. That's when you're camping, son.

My dad came by and we put up the awning on our camper. It was near the end of the trip, but it was our first chance to set it up. Twenty-four hours earlier and the thing would've violently ripped from its housing, and come to rest somewhere in Georgia. It was a fairly complicated and unwieldy process, but we got it up and it made Camp Slop look kinda homey. I kept admiring it, from different angles.

We took a break and were having a little coffee, when an old man came by on a golf cart. He didn't see us sitting there, and as he sped past he made car sounds with his mouth: vroom! vroom!! He was probably seventy-five and was having the time of his life, in the beginning stages of dementia, or both. In any case, I thought it was highly amusing.

Toney and I spent a big part of the day walking on the beach, and tooling around in the golf cart. It was really relaxing and nice, just as we'd hoped. I worked hard at not focusing on the fact that it wasn't this way all week, like the last time we'd been there. I tried to make myself believe the glass was half full, and did an adequate job, I think.

We saw a guy on the beach with a metal detector and asked if he'd had any luck. My jaw dropped when he reached inside his pocket and pulled out a jumble of men's watches. What the hell, man? Did we just miss a watch-losing convention? Or did he carry those around to impress people?

Sometime during the day I visited the bathhouse, to get rid of my vroom! vroom!! coffee and whatever else had built up, and the showers were full of springbreakers. The whole bathroom was foggy and humid, and the culprits were all talking to each other. I can't imagine such a thing, having a conversation with a friend while soaping up my crack. I know (assume) they were in separate stalls, but it still had a certain Amsterdam feel to it. And if that weren't enough, by the time I finished, the shower buddies were passing bars of soap to each other! I had to get out of there, the envelope was being pushed. I like Trading Spaces and all, but I ain't ready to swap bath soap with my friends. Yo, can I borrow your Zest, man? Wait, I still need to wash my bag... OK, here ya go.

Toney and I played a game of miniature golf (known as Putt-Putt in West Virginia) in the late afternoon, then had a Blizzard at Dairy Queen. A fat man came in with a rosy-cheeked dumplin child who resembled the robot on Lost In Space, with skin. They waddled to the counter and ordered $25 worth of ice cream snacks (I'm not exaggerating), while huffing and puffing from the effort of walking from their swaddlemobile to the food. I just looked on in awe. Something like that takes discipline.

On our way back we stopped at the fireworks store, and I bought some larger bottle rockets. I was like a drug addict, craving bigger thrills. Bigger! Better! More!! If we'd stayed another week I would've been breaking into houses, for M-80 money. I know how those things go.

We cooked dinner for my parents (guilt), then settled in for the traditional evening of beer and sarcastic remarks aimed at passersby. I told Toney that it seemed like a month ago that we went to Medieval Times, and she agreed. It was amazing. Weeks and months speed past at home, but we were in another dimension down there. That day's morning felt like last week and last week felt like the fall of 1987. It's hard to explain, really.

Day Eight/Friday Grand Strand larceny

At 2:30 in the morning Andy completely lost his shit. He started barking and snarling and turning back-flips... The hell? I dragged my outsized ass out of bed and went outside to see what was going on. Everything looked normal. I heard a bunch of hooligans hooting and hollering on the beach -- maybe that's what set him off? Stupid dog. Then I noticed that our beer cooler was gone. Somebody'd stolen our goddamn beer!

If they'd taken my car that would've been one thing, but you don't touch a man's beer supply. That cooler was packed out with Rolling Rock longnecks, Sierra Nevadas, and a South Carolina microbrew loaded with more hops than the entire nation of Germany. I was pissed.

I called security, and they said they'd send somebody out. The guy on the phone said thieves were hitting all the resorts, and were coming in from the beach. For some reason it made me feel a little better to know it wasn't just our beer that was hijacked.

As we waited on Security Cart 611, or whatever, a little fuzzy-headed fucker came slinking between the camper and the Blazer, and was clearly surprised to see us sitting there at three in the morning. We both started giving him shit. Toney said, "Come back for more?" And the kid, of course, professed his innocence. He was just cutting through, he said. I asked him if, by chance, he knew anything about coolers being stolen, and he seemed offended that we'd even suspect him of such a thing. "Get the fuck out of here," I told him. Somehow, I knew, I'd be the bad guy if I beat the living hell out of a fourteen year old boy on vacation.

The kid ran off and joined a bunch of other shitasses down the road. The place was crawling with teenage boys, in the middle of the night. It was kinda weird, and menacing.

Security came, followed by a sheriff's deputy. And when the deputy pulled up in his shiny cop car, those beer-thievin' bastads scattered in every direction, like cock roaches.

The cop came over and talked to us, and basically told us we could kiss our beer stash goodbye. He said they might find our cooler a half-mile down the beach in the morning, but the contents would be long gone. Dozens of coolers had apparently been stolen the night before, from Lakewood, Myrtle Beach Resort, and Pirateland, and they were clearly hitting tonight as well. He said he wished he could help us, but he really couldn't. Then he gave us a jaunty little salute, and left.

They stole my goddamn beer. I felt violated on some primal level. You just don't touch a man's beer. What happened to honor among thieves?

While we were waiting on security to arrive, after our visit from L'il Fuzzy, we watched another drama unfold before us. Somebody in a huge SUV pulled up to the sand dunes and went across the bridge to the beach. Within seconds teenagers came pouring back across the bridge, into the campground, and the SUV owner reappeared, practically dragging a girl by the arm.

"Get in the car!" he hollered at her.

"But Daddy, I lost my cell phone, and was just down there looking for it!"

"Shut up and get in!," he screamed, I'm in no mood for your lies!!"

A lot of interesting stuff apparently goes on in campgrounds, in the middle of the night.

Toney and I went to lunch later that day, to a place called Liberty Brew Pub. It was good. I had a grouper sandwich, and Toney had blackened swordfish, if you can believe it. Afterwards we stopped at a massive RV dealership, to take a look at a tiny camper they had on their lot, which had intrigued us all week.

It was called The Teardrop, and it cost thirteen thousand dollars(!?). The woman admitted they hadn't sold any, but it had drawn a lot of people in off the streets. It was one of the more ridiculous things I'd seen all week, and I wasn't surprised that they weren't exactly flying off the lot. You could practically hold it in your hand. If you farted inside one of those things, every window would explode.

We stopped at Kroger and bought an 18-pack of Bud Light, to reduce our exposure to shrinkage, and returned to the campground. And every boy between the ages of twelve and sixteen pissed me off. I just knew that every single one of them had conspired to steal our beer. I was profiling like a mofo, and scowling like a mental patient. The pricks.

That evening my parents came by Camp Slop, and we were sitting around talking when we heard a gush of water erupt from beneath our camper. The hell? Before my brain could process what was happening, my Dad sprang to his feet and wriggled under there and began fusing hoses with some crude fastening tool he'd fashioned on the fly, from a gum wrapper and paperclips (or something). Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to be a man, but I can't really picture it.

After it was over he made me feel better by saying I couldn't have fixed it even if I knew how, because I'm too "thick" to fit under the camper. Good ol' Dad.

Day Nine/Saturday Goodbye

I asked Toney to get me up early, to see the sunrise. It was our last day, and I'd wanted to watch the sun rise over the ocean all week, but had never made it out of bed in time. I made it this time, and it was pretty awesome. Surprisingly, there were quite a few other people down there, with the same idea.

My Dad helped me break down Camp Slop, and we had a farewell breakfast at their place. It was sad, we didn't want to go. The week had started out rough, but it ended on a high note. You live and die by the weather, I guess, in those situations.

We don't hug, so I told my parents goodbye, and left the campground for the highway. I realized that I'd been coming to Lakewood since I was five or six years old. Well, there was a twenty year gap in there when I was too snobby to set foot in the joint, but off and on since I was five or six... It's a nice place, and we'll be back. That's what we told ourselves as we drove, we'll be back.

And that's pretty much the story of what I did on my summer vacation. We spent Saturday night at a place called AmeriCamps near Richmond, but it was fairly uneventful. The best part of that deal was the thirty-five cent ice cream cones at the general store. When we finally got home on Sunday our house felt like MC Hammer's place. It looked goddamn huge, and walls that don't move in the wind?  Luxury.

A week later, I'd have to rate our inaugural camping excursion a strong B. Plenty of room for improvement, for sure, but clearly successful. It could've very easily turned into an episode of Lucy, but it was OK. Semi-shocking. 

Here
are a bunch of photos I took on the trip.

I hope this hasn't been too painful. I'll get back to the normal stuff on Monday. In the meantime, I'll let Randi take us into the weekend. Randi?

See ya.

April 22, 2004

Day Six/Wednesday Earth, wind, and fire

Sometime around midnight, in a half-awake stupor, I became convinced that our camper was going over Niagara Falls. What the?! The wind was incredibly strong and was beating hell out of our canvas pod. Everything was shaking and shuddering and we could occasionally feel a gust go up underneath the trailer, and literally lift it off the ground. I seriously thought the whole deal was about to fly apart, and we'd be left sitting on a thin mattress in the middle of a vacant lot. It's funny now, but it wasn't funny then. It was scary.

It was like the security-camera footage they show on TV, after a major earthquake. Violent shaking, shit falling in the floor, the sound of metal wrenching. If we made it through the night I was convinced we'd never be able to crank the thing back down to its compact state again. I was sure the vitals were now bent and ruined. We'd probably have to abandon it all somewhere in South Carolina, in the dead of night.

We quickly realized that it's probably not such a hot idea to camp in a pop-up, right up against the ocean. It would be much smarter to be three or four sites back, protected by a high wall of Clay Aiken rigs. You live and learn...

That day we went to Ripley's Aquarium, which is really fun. We visited there once before, several years ago, and were looking forward to going again. It's still awesome. I'm not usually a fan of such things, but this place is mind-blowing. It's like riding an electric sidewalk across the floor of the ocean; you're surrounded all around by huge sharks and stingrays and thousands of colorful fish. Really cool.

Afterwards we walked around the shopping center next door, and everybody stopped for ice cream at Ben & Jerry's. I don't like those guys, so I didn't get anything; radical high-horse hippies and dairy desserts don't mix in my world. I'm just funny that way. If there'd been an Anti-Abortion Pie Shop there, I would've avoided it as well.

It was the second day in a row I saw a teenage girl getting a henna tattoo, while her mother watched. This one was having the back of her neck decorated with a drawing of the sun. Hey, whatever. I wondered if he could do a Smoking Fish on my gut? And would it generate such a large crowd of spectators? I made a mental note to pursue that later, but I never did.

Since we hadn't eaten anything of consequence all day (there didn't seem to be any actual meals during the week, except dinner) I was on the cusp of passing out. I insisted we stop for burgers somewhere. Goddamn. We chose a Wendy's, and the place was packed. As we waited in line an old black man, dressed to the nines, came through the door, saw the crowd and left. I guessed he didn't want to wait, but my Dad had another theory. "If I had a hat like that, he said, "I'd want to eat uptown." The guy kills me.

It was a good day. It was kinda cold outside, but the sun was out and it wasn't raining. My Dad and I went fishing in the afternoon, at a stocked lake inside the campground. I didn't catch a thing, except a mosquito bite on my leg, but it was fun anyway. And Toney and I took a long walk on the beach and breathed in the intoxicating aroma of a fish-fry getting underway beside one of the swimming pools. We already had plans for dinner, with my parents, but really wanted to get all up in that shit. It smelled incredible. Eight bucks per person, all you can eat. Mmmm... It had Jeff Kay written all over it.

That night we built a campfire for the first time since arriving, and set off a few fireworks on the beach. I'd bought a package of fat bottle rockets earlier that day, and we launched them from a Rolling Rock bottle plunged in the sand. They were pretty darn impressive, nothing like the piss-ant rockets of my youth. Good fun.

We sat huddled around the fire until bedtime, had a few beers, and did some more people-watching. Dipshit teenage boys kept riding past on golf carts, saying, "Do it! Do it!!" for whatever reason, until security made them stop, presumably for violating the annoying ordinance. And a guy walked past wearing a pair of shorts with fake ass cheeks busted out of the seat. As he went by he reached around and scratched his rubber butt, and all the people with him cracked up laughing. And we laughed too.

Now this is what we had in mind when we were thinking vacation. A nearly perfect day. Maybe camping is OK, after all? Wednesday left us wanting more.

And I promise I'll wrap this up tomorrow, and share some photos as well. I need to get on to other things, which, for better or worse, will include Sunshine & Mumbles. They're due to arrive at the Compound late this afternoon for one of their patented open-ended stays. It could be a week, or a month. Who knows?

In the meantime, here's the latest from Buck, straight from the holler. It's a good one today, so read it, y'hear?

See ya.

April 21, 2004

Day Four/Monday Camp Slop

It started raining sometime in the night, and when we emerged from our canvas cocoon in the morning we saw that we were situated right in the middle of a goddamn sloppy mess. Standing water, sand, mud, more sand, more mud... It was sick. Everything you touched left a coating of moist filth on your skin. By the time I emptied the pools of water from the seats of our four chairs out front, I had sand inside my underwear. I could feel it in there, sanding things.

The sky was the color of old nickels and the weather man on TV said we should just write today off. But it would be better tomorrow, he promised. Within fifteen minutes of opening the door of our camper, the inside of our little sanctuary was smeared with mud and crap, and our bed had sand in it for the rest of our stay. It looked like everything was dirty, and would never be clean again.

What's going on here?! This didn't happen in our daydreams about this trip.

I called my parents and we decided to go to Broadway at the Beach, a big glorified tourist mall, laden with touristy stores and restaurants. Whatever. Just get me away from Camp Slop. It's too demoralizing to look at.

We took showers, for what good it did. You needed an astronaut suit to keep the sand off of you. Toney said a Southern-fried woman at the bathhouse told a little girl, "Now sweetie, you stand right here while Mama goes tee-tee." And Toney also asked me, while we walked to my parent's place, to stay away from my mother's baked beans today. Apparently I'd made the tent camper a tad unpleasant in my sleep.

Broadway at the Beach was extremely crowded, and there were Los Angeles-grade traffic jams all around it. No fun. We walked around and took it all in, but the weather was taking the wind out of our sails. Perhaps we weren't cut out for camping, after all? A goddamn Hyatt, with oak lobby bar, seemed pretty appealing at this point.

That night we went to Medieval Times, a money-sucking operation of the highest order. It's a dinner theater type of place, with knights joisting and shit on horseback during your main course. It cost a fortune to get in, and every little thing you did once inside cost extra. I didn't take a leak there, but there would've undoubtedly been a surcharge.

They led us, cattle-call style, into a large holding area with gifts shops on two walls, and bars on the other two. Some guy in a Lord of the Rings outfit was standing on a balcony hollering into a microphone. Just hollering, incessantly. It was so crowded in there people were touching me on all four sides. And I don't like that.

A man tried to sell us a time-share while were in this holding pen, I shit you not. Who runs this place, Mr. Haney?

As we entered they told us we'd be rooting for the blue knight, and gave us blue paper crowns. I wore my new crown to the nearest wall containing a bar, and forked over $5.75 each for two beers.

Eventually they let us into the main auditorium and all the people with blue crowns had to sit together in the blue section. My Dad asked a woman in period costume where we could find Table 142, and she pointed and said, "Right up there, my lord." Dad had a puzzled look on his face and said, "Up there with the Lord?!" He was completely confused and I was laughing so hard I nearly lost my novelty headgear.

The "show" was interesting enough, but way too long. People doing tricks on horseback under the pretense of some loosely plotted story... It wasn't boring or anything, but I wasn't exactly into it either.

The best part, by far, was the falconer. He let loose a huge bird and it flew round and round the auditorium, just above our heads. Pretty cool, but I guarded my food and Toney's purse.

There was no silverware -- it hadn't been invented in the eleventh century, they said, although Diet Coke had, apparently -- so we had to eat with our hands. They gave us chicken, a sparerib, garlic bread, half a potato that tasted like what I imagine doorstops taste like, and some other stuff I can't now remember. When the blue knight aced a competition involving spears and rings, I waved a chicken leg above my head and screamed my approval, and a big piece of skin flung off and landed in my hair.

Toney went to bed soon after our return to Camp Slop. I filled a giant plastic cup with beer and walked over to the beach, and watched them shoot off fireworks for an hour or so.

I had confidence that tomorrow would be a better day.

Day Five/Tuesday My Eyes! My Eyes!!

The weatherman said almost exactly what he'd said the day before. You can write today off, but tomorrow will be better. The prick. It continued to rain and Camp Slop was practically an open pit with a camper floating in it at this point.

I'd woken at 4AM with the urge to urinate like one of those Medieval Times stallions, and had to hoof it in the dark to the bathhouse. Then I couldn't get back to sleep for a long time, and was paralyzed by laziness in the morning. I couldn't move, I just sat there drinking coffee with my mouth hanging open, as rain pounded the roof. Good god, what had we gotten ourselves into??

Toney and I decided to go off by ourselves, and visit the downtown area of Myrtle Beach. It's full of funky shops and a hotbed of strangeness and tourist traps.

I watched a teenage hardbody get a henna tattoo right above her ass crack, as her mother looked on. I thought the guy applying the tattoo didn't really need to rub his hands all over her like that, but what do I know about it? A chainsaw-wielding man in a hockey mask ran out of a haunted house attraction, onto the sidewalk, screaming and waving his arms around.

I bought an iron-on patch from the Gay Dolphin giftshop (a Myrtle Beach institution for half a century), that had undoubtedly been on their shelves since 1974 or so. It says, "I can't believe I ate the whole thing!" I also purchased a bumper sticker from them that reads, "Beer: Helping white people learn to dance since 1837." I strongly considered getting a temporary tattoo of the Pillsbury Doughboy on my forearm, but didn't like the looks of the guy who owned the shop. He had a U-bolt through his nose, and was wearing cologne.

We had a fancy lunch at Chick-fil-A, and noticed that the sun was actually out. But it was cold as a mofo, and really windy.

We returned to Camp Slop and when I stepped out of the truck it felt like somebody walked up to me and hurled a handful of sand directly into my face. My eyes! My eyes!! My contacts felt like discs of Velcro, and tears were streaming down my face. I ran for the camper, which was rocking in the wind, and by the time I got it unlocked I could taste sand.

I removed my lenses and put on my glasses, and we decided we needed to take advantage of the sun being out. We may never see it again, we knew. We took my parent's golf cart and decided, on a whim, to rent a paddle boat at the lake. Jesus J. McChrist, I had no idea it was going to be so much work. It looks so effortless from the shore. I was sweating and huffing and miserable within minutes. At one point we got hung up on the edge of the lake, and couldn't go one way or the other. I was sure they would have to send out a rescue mission, possibly by aircraft, but we finally broke free. No fun.

On our way back Toney told me to quit my bitching, and as we busted through a herd of teens headed for the indoor pool, I hollered, "Step aside! Buggy of Bitterness coming through!!"

That night we cranked up the heat and sat in the little booth of our camper, drinking beer and hoping the trailer wouldn't fucking flip over. It was like a visit to the world's worst Denny's. All night long I tried to blow the sand out of my mouth, and around 9PM I just went to bed, in our sandy sheets, and prayed that when it went over, neither of us would take a length of aluminum through the neck.

I had confidence that tomorrow would be a better day.


April 20, 2004

More Myrtle Beach "adventures":

Day Three/Sunday Camper Envy

I could still walk. I couldn't believe it. I was sure I'd wake up, after spending our first night in the new camper, bent and gnarled and jerking like a palsy victim. But it wasn't too bad. In fact, it was pretty good. After downing a few cups of coffee sunk deep in a folding Coleman chair, I reluctantly started my death-walk towards the bathhouse. I wanted a shower before we hit the road again, and a sit-down wouldn't be unwelcome either. Of course, I knew better than to set my goals too high.

Indeed, nothing of consequence came of the visit to the toilet stall. I thought it was going to work out, things were heading in that direction, then I heard the screen door screech open and it all sealed off like a Navy sub. But one of the first steps of recovery is a desire and willingness to get past your problem, and I had high hopes for the future.

I showered inside three painted walls of cinder blocks, and it was OK. Everything looked clean enough. But the little dressing area was out in the open floor, and there was no way I was going to put my shit on display in the middle of that stage. I knew a group of 12-year olds would come busting through the door as soon as I stepped out there, and I could imagine their howling, hurtful laughter. So I dragged the bench, and my clothes, all the way over to the door of the shower, and decided I'd get dressed inside the stall itself.

When I finally emerged from my cell of concern there was a large man standing across the room waiting to use the other shower, but I'd blocked him with my discretion network. He wasn't happy, and was big and shirtless and muscular. He looked like Mr. Clean's hard-living and pissed-off brother. I put the bench back and muttered a feeble, "How ya doin'?" He glared and answered, "I'm doin." Please don't hurt me, scary military man.

As I made my way for the door, my K-Mart flip-flops began whistling and sighing, and that didn't help a thing. Besides being less than manly, I was certain that I was about to find myself plunged in a Larry David situation, and Mr. Clean would lift me off the ground by the neck, and scream, "Did you just whistle at me, faggot?!" I felt lucky to get out of there alive.

We had all sorts of trouble getting the camper ready for the road. We couldn't get it to collapse down far enough to lock. What the hell, man? I wondered if we'd left Andy inside? But we finally got it all hitched up, after about forty minutes of cursing and cranking and tucking canvas. It was a pretty irritating morning. I was sweaty and pissed by 9AM.

We arrived in Myrtle Beach mid-afternoon. My parents greeted us at the office of the campground. They have a permanent place there, and we'd called and told them we were near. We're not hugging people, so we just kinda said hi to each other, and smiled.

I went inside the office with Toney, to make sure we were getting HBO. I didn't want there to be any bullshit on that front. I had to see The Sopranos and Deadwood. But it was not to be. They had full hook-ups, including cable TV, but no HBO. Fifty or sixty channels, but not the good one. And you couldn't upgrade either; I was willing to throw a little money around, like Sinatra, but it wasn't possible. Grrrr... Our biggest setback yet.

My father looked at me with mild disgust as I complained about the lack of premium cable channels, while we made our way deeper into the massive Lakewood Camping Resort. We had a prized oceanfront site, reserved since the late 1980's, so we drove and drove through canyons of massive tour bus travel trailers. Good God. What do all these people do for a living? I make OK money, but I can't afford a Shania Twain rig. It's like the Beverly Hills of campgrounds there. And here I was dragging around a ten year old pop-up. I didn't want to make eye-contact with anyone.

My Dad helped us set up our camp, and it was literally feet from the ocean. There were sand dunes blocking our view of the water, but you could hear the waves crashing and that was exciting.

We had dinner at my parent's place, and I decided I'd sneak away and try to use their bathroom. It's one of those airplane toilets, but it was private and I thought that might make the difference. But nothing doing. It was like a phone booth with the top half cut off, and a roof attached. I could barely fit in there, and nearly ripped down a towel rack with one of my ass cheeks. It was ridiculous to think I'd have any success in such a setting. Anyway, don't those things suck peoples' innards out, through their asses?

After dinner Toney and I tooled around on my parent's golf cart for an hour or so, then returned to our campsite. We opened our first beers of the evening, and settled in for a long evening of people watching. And we were in the perfect spot for such an activity, too. The main thoroughfare through the campground went right past our place, and the joint was crawling with teenagers on spring break.

Golf cart after golf cart of flirting beautiful people went past, all night long. There didn't seem to be an ugly one in the bunch, and most of the girls were wearing next to nothing. Pass the beer nuts!

We did see an occasional cart of geeks go past, but they compensated by incorporating props into their presentation. One guy had an acoustic guitar and crooned something unrecognizable. Another had a bullhorn. These were the Carrot Tops of the campground teen peacocking set.

As soon as it got dark people began shooting off fireworks on the beach, and they were almost as good as Scranton's Fourth of July celebration. Seriously. They're legal in South Carolina, and apparently it's a tradition for people to put on "shows" every night, over the ocean. They were just civilians, but they had elaborate launching stands, equipped with metal pipes and everything. Brightly colored explosions lit up the sky all evening, all up and down the coast. Cool as hell.

Andy surprised us by just lying at our feet, and taking it all in. At home he goes ass-over-tits if a neighbor turns on their porch light, but with all that craziness going on before us, he laid still -- a disciplined, majestic beast.

After four or five Yuenglings I made my way to the bathhouse and had a moving experience in the corner stall. That was it! The secret was revealed. Public shitting, like dating, is much easier if you're slightly drunk. How could I have not known?!

This is going to be a great vacation, we thought. But, predictably, things quickly went to hell from there.


And this is clearly going to take all week. Sorry. I hope it's not too boring. I'll turn it over to Jason now, for some non-Myrtle Beach relief.

And I'll see ya tomorrow.

April 19, 2004

Mission accomplished. We made it all the way to Myrtle Beach pulling a camper, lived in it for a week, and got home -- all without the loss of limbs or the filing of divorce papers. Fairly successful, I'd say. It wasn't a flawless excursion, by any stretch of the imagination, but we made it back alive and there are no lawsuits pending, that we're aware of. Yowza.

Here's a little proof that we were there.

As impossible as it now seems, I have to return to work in just a few short minutes, and I'm completely wiped out. Camping is hard work. My muscles ache and I'm just as sleep-deprived as when I left. Plus, I have actual dirt under my fingernails. How's that for an unpleasant cliche?

We had fun though, and it was great to be completely (completely!) removed from our everyday lives. A person needs that occasionally. This house looks like the Beverly Hillbillies mansion to us now. So much space! And two private toilets only a few feet away, in which it doesn't appear that somebody recently dropped their pants and spun round and round while power-pissing? Unspeakably luxurious. Already I can't believe it all actually happened; I feel like we went to the moon and back, in a tent camper.

Anyway, I kept a half-assed journal while we were away, and I'll attempt to recount the highlights of our trip for ya, in case you're interested. I'll try not to drag it out, but I can't do it all in one day. Please indulge me while I show you some vacation slides, won't you?

By the way, if any of you have last week's (April 11) Sopranos and Deadwood on tape, I'd be forever in your debt if you could send me a copy. I thought we'd get to see them, but it didn't work out. Any help with that would be sincerely appreciated; my Deadwood fuck-count is all screwed up and I need to get back on track. Pretty please?

Now, let's get started.

Day One/Friday Multi Function Bitch

We were incredibly prepared. All our bags were packed and the camper was ready to go. I'd even washed the Blazer and filled the tank the night before. It was an unprecedented display of organization. And, of course, the gods laughed in our faces for being such geeks about it all.

I had the camper hooked to the hitch before 8AM, and we were ready to pull away on our much-anticipated beach journey. We just needed to have one more pee for the road, check to make sure the brake lights were working on the camper, and hit the road.

The pees went OK (for the record), but the goddamn lights wouldn't work. The hell, man? I unplugged it, wiggled it around, scraped the plug on the pavement, etc., and it just wouldn't work. Then Toney noticed that the brake lights weren't even working on the Blazer! Shit. Wonder how long that's been going on?!

I unlatched everything and hauled ass to the garage we trust, and the guy told me it would be 45 minutes before he could even look at it. I was frantic, running my hands through my hair like a speed freak, and told him we were trying to leave town. He said he'd try to get to it sooner, but it would probably be about 45 minutes. I told him to hold my spot, and I'd be right back.

I drove to another garage that we have no history with, and the mechanic looked at it right away. He checked the fuses and they were all fine. Same with the bulbs. What in the pan-fried hell?! He said it was probably a wiring problem, and he doesn't work on wiring. I was practically bouncing off the ceiling, seeing our vacation go up in smoke before my own bugged-out eyes. I thanked him and fishtailed off his parking lot, like Ol' Scrote chasing a whore-killer.

The first garage told me the same thing as the second garage. Must be the wiring, they said, and we don't work on "worrin'." Fuck! He apologized and told me my only hope was Vito Mozzarella (or whatever). He's the only guy in town that can fix that kind of thing, he told me. Vito Mozzarella? Is that a person?? He gave me all the details, and I went searching for this mythical worrin' expert.

I told him what was going on. I explained that the big brake light at the top was working, but the two down below are deader than Kelsey's nuts. He grunted, rubbed his chin, and opened a book that must've had 10,000 pages, each containing confusing diagrams and schematics. After briefly consulting this giant book that undoubtedly is exempt from Amazon's free shipping offer, he told me he thought he knew the root of my problem. The multi-function switch. Then he added that if he was correct, "it wouldn't be pretty."

I couldn't believe it. It was all crumbling around me. And we'd done so much prep work in advance, to insure that there wouldn't be any surprises. We had reservations, goddammit.

I sat in Vito's waiting room and listened to him tell an owner of a Mercedes SUV that he'd leave her key on top of the front driver's side tire, if she couldn't get back before he closed. (She'd apparently paid up-front.) The lack of discretion while discussing this scheme shocked me. I wondered what would happen to me if I returned and stole that shit? I wouldn't mind running a Benz into a lake or setting it afire or something, especially under the circumstances. But I quickly decided that grand larceny isn't really my style, and abandoned the idea.

Of course, it was the switch. A multi-function switch, whatever that is. If it doesn't exist, if Vito made it all up, please don't tell me about it; I don't want to know. He could've told me I needed a new Tayback Nozzle, and I would've said, "how much?" This little vacation detour cost us $350.99 -- and most of Friday. He said he needed to break down the steering column(!?), and it takes time. I'm not a big fan of the breaking down of steering columns, even under the best of circumstances.

We considered driving as far as we could make it and just winging it, but finally threw in the towel. We'd just try it again tomorrow; screw it.

We went to Don Pablo's instead, and had burritos the size of footballs and large amounts of beer from ludicrously oversized glasses. I felt like someone had beaten me about the head with a length of lumber. Toney said that with 350 bucks we could've bought a new computer, or a TiVo. But what did we get? Taillights. That just about sums it up.

But the alcohol helped.

Day Two/Saturday All Aboard The Yogi Train

We were planning to stop near Richmond and camp for one night, then finish the excursion to Myrtle Beach the next day. That was the original schedule. But we were sick about losing a day at the beach, and decided we'd drive farther than Richmond, so we could get to the beach early in the day on Sunday. Toney picked a campground out of the book called Jellystone Park, in Virginia, near the North Carolina border. It was about seventy miles more ambitious than the original plan.

The drive was fairly uneventful, but really long. I'm no expert at hauling trailers, so that kept me running with low-grade stress the entire time. Somewhere just past Wilkes-Barre the camper starting bouncing behind us, and I couldn't get it to stop. It was something about the surface of the road that made it want to hop up and down. Freaky. I had to concentrate in order not to shit my pants.

At a rest area in Maryland somebody was puking in one of the stalls, theatrically and with great volume. I knew how he felt.

Along the way we ate our traditional travel snacks: gourmet jelly beans. Toney bought something like a ten-pound sack, from Sam's, and we munched on those things while rolling southward. At this point they're as required on a long car trip as a stack of clean underwear.

Jellystone wasn't too bad. We made a vow that we'd never stay at a place that received less than four stars from Woodall's, and this one earned four. It seemed fairly family-oriented, I didn't get the feeling we were amongst people with trailers full of human heads or anything.

The girl at the front desk (and I do mean girl -- she looked like she was fourteen) had a thick southern accent, and that kinda surprised me. How far had we driven?? She put us off by ourselves, on a wooded site, and I liked that at first. But once it started getting dark I realized that the only thing protecting us against Bigfoot was a thin sheet of canvas. Holy crap.

We set up our camp and built a fire, and it was nice. We got into the Yuenglings in our cooler and started cooking dinner, when Yogi Bear paid a visit. It was somebody in a full-blown Disney-grade Yogi suit, going from site to site. He acted like he was going to drag away our cooler, eat our food, etc. It was kind of amusing for the first thirty seconds or so, but after about five minutes of that crap I wanted to kick Yogi in the crotch. I practically had to remove him physically from our campsite. Sweet Maria. I have a low threshold for stupid bullshit.

While we were eating our hotdog dinner the ground started shaking and there was a godawful wail, like something from the depths of hell. A train, possibly headed straight for our picnic table! It went past blaring its horn and click-clacking, and moving at a high rate of speed -- literally feet from our camper. And other trains followed, all through the night, one after another. The conductors, understandably, were getting a big kick out of unleashing as much noise as possible while passing the campground, and we didn't sleep much.

Woodall's didn't mention any of that in their review. They talked about the game room, but not the locomotives that speed past your pillow in the dark. It was a long night, there amongst the theme-park animals and ticks.


I'll write more tomorrow, and try not to be so long-winded about it. See ya then.


April 8, 2004

-- This is it, folks. The moment of truth is upon us. The flickering rhombus goes dark after today, for a full week and a half. Scary. We're gonna find out real soon whether I've got what it takes for membership in the kamping kulture. And, obviously, I have my doubts.

For the first forty or so years, my idea of the great outdoors was a nicely appointed screened porch with wet bar and cable television. I'm not exactly Daniel Boone here. More like an Appalachian Niles Crane, really. Sometimes if I go too long between haircuts it might appear that I'm wearing a coonskin cap, but it's all an illusion, believe me. If I tried to throw a hatchet I'd end up with a metal hook and a large chiropractor bill.

Here's the bio I wrote for myself, years ago, when I was a reviewer at Zine World:

Jeff Kay is a rugged, well-hung outdoorsman who enjoys snuggling and "just talking." He feels that if his West Virginia Surf Report helps save the life of just one child, it will all be worth it. He also holds the patent on Cheez-Its.

So, it's almost a joke, this little experiment we're undertaking. Like the old Letterman bit, "Camping With Barry White." What am I doing?! I have no confidence that I can even get the trailer attached to the hitch correctly, and seriously worry that it'll pass us on Interstate 81. And if it does stay latched to the bumper, I can't back the thing up. I (a forty year old man) had to go for backing lessons, remember, with my daddy last summer. And I didn't exactly earn a big thumbs-up from good ol' Dad, either; it was like a one-man retard jamboree out there. What little dignity I'd managed to bank over the years was withdrawn that afternoon, for good.

Plus, it's gonna be really cold tomorrow night, and I'm highly concerned about using public bathhouses. I'm sorry, but this rugged outdoorsman is just not wired for the communal bathroom experience. Looks like it might rain this afternoon... PLOP! The ground is already saturated... plopplopplop BRRZZZHHH! Whew! Those pinto beans are tearing me up. ...So, where are you folks from? Jesus J. McChrist.

I've gone whole weekends without crapping before, but I don't think I can make it nine days. I'm eventually going to have to have a sit-down with the general public, I just know it. Maybe I'll set an alarm for 3AM? Or perhaps I'll rent a shitting room from a Day's Inn down the road? It's a big concern, as is the thought of toweling my naked body off while a shirtless Chuck from Macon applies deodorant five feet away.

Good God, I'm freaking myself out...

But it'll be great to get away. Once we're set up in Myrtle Beach, and there are no further requirements for me to be a man, it should be a blast. I've got my camera and lots of fresh batteries, my Smoking Fish fliers, a stack of Message Without A Bottle postcards, my trusty notebook, a Charles Portis novel, a case of Yuengling (to get us started), and a folding chair that can handle up to 300 lbs. We're ready, Jack. Plus, our tax refund was direct-deposited yesterday. How's that for timing?

The thought of getting away from this town is extremely attractive at this point. The dreary weather, the deep rut we've dug for ourselves, the sudden strangeness of my job... It'll be nice to wave goodbye to it all. I have a feeling I'll have some Internet withdrawals, but I'm confident I can pull through.

Wish us luck, we're gonna need it. It's a new frontier.

-- And here are a few links to help keep you busy while we're away:

This is a really funny short film (16 minutes), suggested by Dave, over at DavesPicks. Check it out; it's worthy.

These are the 40 Things Every Drunkard Should Do Before He Dies.

This is a really cool site, especially the Vertigo pics. Somewhere on there, as well, is streaming audio of a 1960's album that was designed to teach us all to "talk hip." Great fun, cats.

A diary of motorcycle joy-riding -- in Chernobyl.

For some reason this had me laughing: the most mispronounced words in the English language. I believe I've heard them all.

Here you can read the entire issue of Action Comics, in which Superman made his first appearance. Cool.

People fucking with Nigerian email scamsters. Be sure to check out the photos. Hilarious.

And these are the 50 Most Loathsome New Yorkers.

-- And if that weren't enough, here's a new update from both Buck and Randi.

And that's that. See you on April 19th. Be good.

PLOP!

April 7, 2004

-- I wish you could see my monitor right now. The display is shaped like a trapezoid or a rhombus or something. There are big black bars on both sides, east and west, and I'm almost certain they get wider every day. All the text is distorted like the writing on a pennant waving in the wind. It's ridiculous. Eventually, if I don't do something, I'll be writing these updates on a page the size and shape of a Best Buy receipt. Waving in the wind.

I can't be replacing my monitor this close to vacation, plus I'm not sure it would even be wise to sink more cash into this relic from another era. Toney and I are now thinking about having a few drinks, signing onto dell.com, and going crazy. Two new systems, top to bottom. And if our telephone service is cut off as a result, so be it. You've gotta do what you've gotta do. It's asking if we want to upgrade! The answer to that would be resounding YES!! ...Do we have anymore dip?

Remember the old article from The Onion where the guy was reporting buyer's remorse after getting drunk and purchasing videotapes, off eBay, of every episode of Mama's Family? We aspire to be that gentleman.

Toney uses an old computer upstairs, that we bought in 1996. I'm not sure why, but you have to run a water line into the back of it, and keep the kerosene reservoir full. It hums like a bitch, and probably pumps large amounts of radioactivity directly into my wife's face. Its days are clearly over. We paid almost $2000 for the thing (1.2 gig hard drive, baby!), and I think we've now officially gotten our money's worth.

The bunker system is from 2000, and it's frustratingly slow. I have the kick-ass laptop at work, plugged into a powerful network, and it just flies. Then I come home to this groaning and clicking monstrosity, and it makes me sad in my soul. Plus, there's the small detail of the flapping rhombus...

I'm confident we've now reached the point where we need to do something we're going to regret. Can't wait!

-- We're gonna freeze our asses off Friday night, I just know it. We're stopping for a night near Richmond, on our way to Myrtle Beach, and there's supposed to be a low of 36 that day. Yikes. The camper has something called a "heat strip" installed in the air conditioner, but that phrase doesn't exactly inspire a large amount of confidence. Ya know? A heat strip? I get a bad feeling. I think that might translate into: a long night of chattering misery. Perhaps a little bourbon might be in order? 

Wonder how much it would cost to have a fireplace installed in a pop-up camper? Can bricks or river stones pop up and down? 

Shit. I may never see my genitals again. The possibility for major retraction exists, in those kinds of temperatures. As it is I have to stand like a lowercase r to make sure everything's still there. If I sleep in 36-degree weather, I'll probably have to straddle a mirror...

OK, I'm getting a little carried away.  Better stop right there.  See ya tomorrow. 

April 6, 2004

-- My brother sent me a couple of links last night that nearly caused the core of my tiny Duke head to meltdown.

When we were kids we used to regularly grub through our aunt's record collection with our boogery Kool-Aid hands, and cause her to scream at us from beneath her 1960's beehive. She had quite the selection. I remember The Fifth Dimension, pictured standing inside the gondola of a hot air balloon on the cover. And she had The Grass Roots, Gary Lewis and the Playboys, Sly and the Family Stone, and an album of speeches by John F. Kennedy. I personally preferred the Spiro Agnew 8-track, but people are different.

One of her records has been a topic of conversation, between me and my brother, for decades. It had a white cover, with drawings of the Beatles on it. The word "Beatlemania" was in the title, but neither of us could remember what it said exactly. The album contained a bunch of the Beatles' early hits, like "She Love You," and that sort of thing. But one of our favorite songs (we played her records while she was out buying brightly colored bell-bottom pants) was called "Did You Ever Get My Letter?" and it's been a mystery to us ever since.

There's no Beatles song called "Did You Ever Get My Letter?" We've consulted every Beatles reference book in the world over the years, and it's never mentioned. Did we hear an ultra-rare Lennon & McCartney tune? How did it make it to Dunbar, WV? What the hell, man? What kind of album was that?? Did it even exist? My aunt claims not to remember it and it's disappeared, even though the rest of her old records remain. But we can sing you the chorus of the song, we'd scream. We swear it's true! What's our overactive imaginations have to do with anything, goddammit?

Turns out it was a Beatles "tribute" (aka "rip-off") album, by a band called The Liverpools. My aunt probably bought it for $2.99 at Miller's Drug Store, or received it free from the Esso Bee with fill-up (how's that for an obscure 60's reference?). Anyway, it's the third one listed here. Thirty years later and the mystery is solved. I feel like a small weight has been lifted from my shoulders.

But wait! There's more, much more. This site has an actual mp3 of the song, if you can believe it. Check it out. It probably doesn't mean as much to you, but hearing it again last night nearly caused my aforementioned Duke meltdown. It's the song that helped make me a Beatles fan, and it's not even by the Beatles. And if all this doesn't prove that the internet is the greatest thing ever invented, nothing will. Awesome. Thanks, Al!

-- And this ain't too shabby either. The whole update has my head spinning... Holy crap in a Bundt pan.

-- Before I completely lose consciousness, I'll turn it over to Jason, who's probably buying me a visit from the Secret Service today. Shit. But I'm not going to let a small thing like that kill my buzz... No way.

Have a great day, folks.

                         

April 5, 2004

-- Man, what a lazy weekend. We didn't do, as they say back home, dick. On Saturday I got an oil change and a couple of new tires for the Blazer. And Sunday I didn't leave the house until about 7PM, when I went to the convenience store and purchased an overpriced six-pack of Yuengling Lager, in anticipation of The Sopranos and Deadwood. Those are the highlights. Pretty dramatic, huh?

I'd planned to give a couple of my friends a ring, but couldn't muster the energy. With those long distance calls there are so many digits involved and everything... And then you've got to hold the unit to your ear, so the hell with it. I just laid on couches instead. They were probably all watching the Green Acres marathon anyway, and who am I to interrupt Haney? A person's gotta be sensitive to the needs of others.

Sunday was a bad winter flashback. It was blustery, gray, and snowy. We're pulling out of here on Friday morning for a beach vacation, and there's snow on the ground. Whatever. We're going. I don't care if we have to put chains on the tiny wheels of the camper. It doesn't matter if there's a tsunami off Lake Wallenpaupack, or if the valley is devastated by a spectacular perogie factory explosion. We're goddamn going. We need to get away from this place for a while, even if it means freezing our collective ass off inside a low-rent recreational vehicle, in a real-life episode of Lucy. At least it'll happen somewhere else.

-- After I handed over my keys to a teardrop-shaped gentleman at Pep Boys who didn't exactly inspire confidence, Toney and I went to a massive indoor flea market down the street. It's where I bought this lamp, a year or so ago. They're open every weekend, and make Wal-Mart seem like an exclusive Rodeo Drive boutique. It's not exactly a high-class clientele shopping there. One gets the feeling, while browsing, that many a transmission is happening all around, from electronic ankle bracelets to police precincts here and there.

In the parking lot we saw a K Car that may have spent considerable time submerged in salt water. That's the only way I can guess that a vehicle might develop a hard flaky shell. I stood and looked at it for a full minute, having never before come across such a thing. It looked like it had been breaded, then deep-fried. And the trunk was secured by a padlock and some kind of latch deal that had been bolted on. Amazing.

After I was finally able to let the flaky car go, we headed towards the entrance and passed a woman who was walking in a seated position. I'm not sure what was going on there, but she was moving across the parking lot bent into a posture most of us assume while watching television. Perhaps she suffered from some sort of neurological disease?

Outside the door was a group of tables covered in razor-sharp knives for sale, cigarette lighters shaped like the pistols of foreign armies, and a large selection of flying death stars. Catering to the considerable Scranton ninja market, I assumed. The man behind the table actually said, "Step right up!" I'd never heard anyone say that, except on cartoons. But this guy was in full salesman mode, and tried to sell me a set of brass knuckles. I'm not currently in the market, but I admitted that they'd make a fine present for a schoolteacher, or a Mother's Day gift. He chuckled and waved me away with a canister of butane.

We walked around inside for about an hour, and didn't buy a thing. I almost picked up a button that said "President Nixon, Now More Than Ever." But the five dollar asking price was a tad steep, I thought. We passed a booth where a person could purchase large bales of diabetic socks, whatever those are. I wanted to ask if they had any cancer pants, but thought better of it. Inside the antique furniture store we found ourselves trapped behind a couple who smelled strongly of Slim Jim meat snacks. I seriously considered pushing a partition out of the way, in order to escape. But we eventually got away without causing a scene.

And that's about it, folks. Sorry, but it was a lazy two days, spent in large part inside a giant pair of flannel sleeping pants. I'll try to do better in the future.

-- In the meantime, here's the Deadwood fuck count.

-- And here's a cool new Smoking Fish sighting, with a Civil War theme(!).

-- And finally, an update from Chris you won't want to miss. <sniff>

More tomorrow.

                      

April 2, 2004

-- I watched a little cable news last night (TNT preempted Scrote with some stupid basketball game...) and I saw two or three commercials for pills that we're supposed to ask our doctors about, but we're given no hints about what they're for. The ads just show people smiling and spinning around in circles in a daisy field and laughing in slow motion, in dramatic sepia tones. Do they make us happy? Is that it? Are they designed to provide a little sunshine to our otherwise dreary lives? Is it for people who need to take the edge off, daily, but find alcoholism a tad distasteful?

If I were a doctor I'd resent those commercials. The doling out of pharmaceuticals should be left to the professionals, not some hypochondriac hairdresser all jacked up on cable advertising and Pepsi Vanilla. Ya know? I'm certainly no expert, but I have a suspicion that most of the people on those drugs don't really need them. I think marketing moles are sitting around right now creating new ailments for their parent company to "treat." Like adult ADD. Ha!

The rugged pioneers who tamed and settled this country are probably watching us from their big stagecoaches in the sky, and weeping like the Litter Indian.

-- Toney and I are planning a short guerilla run into Atlanta this summer. In June we're supposed to spend a week in North Carolina with Sunshine, Mumbles, Nancy, Nostrils, and the brood of l'il vegan translucents. And we're gonna break away from Kamp Bitterness for a day, and visit our old stomping grounds in Georgia. I'm excited; we haven't been back since January 1997.

We're going to check out the house we owned there, and hopefully it'll be a shithole by now. If my prayers are answered the place will be covered in graffiti and crack (or ADHD medication) will be available for purchase in the driveway, from men wearing professional basketball uniforms. Otherwise, it'll be too depressing. If it's still as kick-ass as when we left, we'll probably both spiral into a five-day funk. That place cost us less than a hundred grand, and it was a frickin' palace. It was the least expensive, and best, place we've ever lived. I'm just hoping it's riddled with bullet holes now. Or a whorehouse.

I like returning to places where I once lived. There's always a primal familiarity, mixed with an amazement over how things have changed. It's slightly disorienting, but not in a bad way.

Years ago, when my parents still lived in the town where I grew up, we were visiting and I wandered off by myself one afternoon. I found myself walking my old paper route, and it was a bizarre experience. I remembered nearly every crack in the sidewalks, and knotholes in wooden fences, and sewer covers that have been cockeyed since the beginning of time. But, the people on the porches were different and some of the houses were a color I didn't remember. A few places were gone completely. One had been replaced by a restaurant that sells biscuits in the mornings, and pizzas in the evenings. The house had been uprooted and moved across town, if you can believe it. It all had a certain Twilight Zone feel to it, but I liked it.

Atlanta will undoubtedly be the same. A lot can change in seven years, and a lot can stay the same. I can't wait to start exploring.

Our big challenge, of course, will be convincing Sunshine to stay home. Because if she goes we'll see nothing except the inside of a backpack store, and a sixty year old woman bitching like she's in a bitching contest. We're gonna have to devise a strategy to make sure that doesn't happen. Wonder if Rumsfeld is available for consulting work?

-- I was gonna share a few links today, but my heart's not really in it. Here's one I was going to talk about, but the hell with it. I'll skip all that and turn it over to Randi, and just call it a week.

Have a great weekend folks. There'll be more of this crap on Monday, you can count on it.

April 1, 2004

-- I think my monitor is about to shit the bed. Every once in a while it flickers and shudders, and occasionally everything gets all skinny and long on the screen. I have a bad feeling. I called the egg-shaped man at the computer shop here in town, to ask him about that pending disaster, and the problems I'm having with my printer and scanner. (I bought the machine in 2000 and fear that I've finally burned the bitch out.)

He told me the monitor is probably on its last legs if it's displaying aberrant behavior. Then he went on to explain that aberrant means it's acting weird. Well, thanks for the clarification there, Egg White. Them's some mighty big words you're using, and I just ain't much good with the big words. Want a swig of my Nehi?

But he made it pretty clear that it's about time to upgrade. I guess four years is about all you can expect from a computer; after that it becomes as obsolete as a waterbed salesman with a Burt Reynolds moustache (or whatever).

I know it's shocking, but he had a proposal for me. He said he'd build me a new computer, for six hundred bucks. Pentium 4 processor, 40 gig hard drive, all the bells and whistles... He claims it's something that would cost at least a grand at Circuit City. Is this something I should consider? Seems kinda risky to me. I mean, I've never called a garage to ask about a fuel pump, and had the guy offer to build me a new Toyota. Ya know?

Any advice on this would be appreciated. I think Ol' Humpty is honest, he's taken care of me in the past, but this feels like one of those deals that might end in tears and screams of "How could I have been so stupid?!"

-- On a whim I started reading Charles Portis's first novel Norwood again. I don't generally re-read books, because there are so many I haven't gotten to yet. And I'm almost certain I've never read the same novel three times. But this is my third go-round with Norwood, and there'll probably be a fourth and fifth. It's just so damn perfect, and good; I can't leave it behind.

I'm fairly anal retentive when it comes to books. I keep one, and only one, on my nightstand until I've finished it. Even if it sucks mule balls I'll finish it, before rotating in another. You can't start a book and not finish it, it's almost unthinkable. I read two books (fiction or biography), then a Travis McGee novel every third book or so. It's a system that's served me well.

And as anal as I am, I know in my heart that there are functional people who are much worse, so I don't worry about it. I knew a guy, for instance, who kept his CDs filed in order of purchase date. And he listened to them that way as well. He had to listen to every song on the disc before he could move on to the next one. So, if he stopped at song five one day, he was required to pick up at song six the next time he felt like a little music. When he bought something new he'd put it at the end, and if he happened to be near the beginning of the cycle he'd have to wait until he got through everything else again before he could listen to his new purchase. And that could take weeks.

So, fuck it. I'm sane compared to that guy. And since I'm sane, I feel qualified to suggest you go out and buy yourself a copy of Norwood, and read it. It's hilarious, and perfect.

-- The actress who plays Christopher's FBI-informing fiancee Adrianna on The Sopranos is doing a lot of interviews these days, talking about her new gig on the upcoming Friends spin-off, on which she'll play Joey's live-in sister. So, the only question that remains, I guess, is who'll do the honors of shooting her twenty times and burying her head in the Jersey soil? Will Tony make Chrissie do it?? Oh, this is gonna be good.

-- Today at work I might sneak around to people's computers, while they're at lunch, and open their browsers to Monster.com. That should generate a few rumors...  Then in a few days we can all have a big laugh together. Right? Ahem.

-- Hey, I thought Bush went into Iraq because of oil? How come I'm still paying $1.79 for a gallon of gas?? What the hell, man? Maybe it's time to take out another insane moustache country? We need to get that shit down to about a buck twenty. Goddamn.

-- Scranton has fallen. Doors opened this week. 

And in other news, sales of over-the-counter stool softeners in northeastern Pennsylvania have plunged during recent days, baffling experts.

-- Yesterday I had myself a surprising pee. I didn't really need to go, but thought I'd better since I was gonna be in my car for a while. I didn't think it was gonna stop! It was like something out of Cheech & Chong. Wonder if I'm losing my ability to recognize a full bladder? Not much good can come from that, can it?...

-- And on that disturbing note, I'll turn it over to Buck, for another update straight from the holler -- where I'm pretty sure they still pee outdoors.

I'll see you folks again tomorrow.

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Copyright 2004 by Jeffrey S. Kay.  All rights reserved.