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  Willard "Bill" Hershberger


   The State of My Fat Ass                                         April 2006

April 28, 2006

-- So I was at work yesterday, listening to the previous day's Phil Hendrie show, and he mentioned (for about the thousandth time) the rancid mule turd of a sitcom he appears in, Teachers. It's a mid-season replacement series on NBC, and Phil plays a "wacky" secondary character who basically sits around eating donuts and making sarcastic remarks.

The show is not anywhere near funny, and a complete waste of the Hendrie genius. It makes According to Jim seem like Dorothy Parker at the Algonquin Round Table. Here's video footage of me watching the latest episode.

I wondered how Teachers was doing in the ratings, hoping that this unsavory chapter would soon be behind us, so I typed Phil's name into Google News. And this came up. It was a brand new article, posted just eighteen minutes before. I read it, blinked a couple of times, then read it again. I was sure I'd misunderstood what I thought it said.

But apparently it's true. Phil Hendrie is walking away from radio, to pursue an acting career in Hollywood. And I don't want to say too much about it, because it sounds silly to people who Don't Know, but I'm just... profoundly sad. There is nothing in this world like the Phil Hendrie radio show, it's a lunatic universe unto itself, and it looks like it's all coming to an end.

And that means no more Bobbie and Steve Dooley of the Western Estates Homeowners Association. No more Ted Bell, owner of Ted's of Beverly Hills steakhouse, and inventor of The Ted cocktail (rum and Coke) and the Baked Potato Tree. No more "gay man and gay journalist" Doug Dangger. No more Jay Santos of the Citizen's Auxiliary Police. No more Korean War veteran Lloyd Bonafide, who was up to his eyebrows in bowl haircuts defending this country. No more Frank Gray, with his gender confusion and three fingers of Cutty...

Yeah, we're not only losing Phil, we're also losing dozens of old friends and acquaintenances. The whole gang is hurtling down a winding mountain road in a burning bus right now, headed straight for a guardrail and the jagged rocks below. 

Oh god, I can't look...

In twenty years time, when Phil is on the other side of the dirt, as he might say, future hipsters will latch on to him, and he'll become an immortal icon. He'll be the Velvet Underground of comedy, and tapes of his show will be treated like holy scripture. Rhino will release a twenty CD (or whatever format they're using then) box set, and liars everywhere will claim to have been Phil fans all along.

Shit. I haven't felt this way since I was thirteen and the Reds traded Tony Perez -- I've got the same exact feeling in my gut as I did then. 

But hey, at least I'm not as bad as the guy who posted this reaction at a Phil fansite yesterday. Right? ...At least I'm not that bad.

Sorry I'm not funny today. I'll give it another shot on Monday.

Have a good one.

(Other journals commenting on this subject: here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here. and here.)

April 21, 2006

-- On Thursday we all piled into the Sunshine & Mumbles minivan and went to New York City. Toney's brother had never been there before, and wanted to see it all. A hell of a lot of ground to cover in a short period of time.... Plus, Sunny can't walk for more than ten yards without getting winded (unless she's in a Super Wal-Mart, of course); she claims to have lungs the size of tea bags. Who the hell knows?

Somebody made the decision that we'd take one of those big red double-decker tourist buses around the city. That way the brother would get a crash course on NYC, and Sunshine could sit in a chair all day long. The downside? It cost forty bucks a head for adults! With tax and everything, we forked over $136 for me, Toney, and the Secrets. What am I, Ted Turner??

But the real fireworks happened before we even got there. Mumbles was driving, Sunny was his co-pilot, and the rest of us were wedged in the seats behind them. It was an excruciating ride; I was packed in so tight, it felt like astronaut training.

And Toney's brother was drinking Coors Light from the can at nine in the morning(?!), belching and what have you. He said he was going to "drink heavily" while he was on vacation, and had a shitty beer surgically attached to his right hand almost 'round the clock. Mission accomplished, I guess.

And then we got lost. We missed an exit somewhere, and ended up in Armpit Township, New Jersey. Sunshine flew off the handle, and we were instantly a rolling bitterness wagon. She blamed Toney for some reason, and me too. "I don't know how you people get anywhere," she sneered. And then proceeded to give Mumbles (who should be nominated for sainthood) an undiluted ration of shit for the next hour.

We went through a toll plaza three times, twice going one way and once going the other. And Sunny had her bitch on. We saw a sign for Vince Lombardi Boulevard, or some such thing, and I made the mistake of commenting on it. I wondered why this road was in New Jersey. Toney's mother spat, in a voice dripping with utter disgust, "He was only the most famous coach in all of NFL history."

She said it as if she'd just caught a whiff of fresh-cut turds, and it pissed me off. "Yeah, but Green Bay is in Wisconsin," I said, "not New Jersey." I thought I'd exercised remarkable restraint, because other words were galloping through my head.

She just rolled her eyes like she was dealing with a dotard. And I sat back and remembered an old Phil Hendrie show about a guy who'd had it with his wife always talking and talking, so he shoved her out of a moving car at 75 mph and said her jaws were still working when she hit the pavement. It brought me comfort.

We finally got landed, and Sunshine had gone from hostile, to quiet and wounded. It's a natural progression. We were at a park 'n' ride on the NJ side of the Lincoln Tunnel, and while we waited for our bus, Sunshine looked off into the distance and wouldn't talk to anyone. The martyr.

We had lunch at John's Pizzeria in Times Square, and it was good. Toney and I certainly don't claim to be experts on New York, but we do have a couple of favorite eateries there. John's is one, and Sammy's Noodle Shop in Greenwich Village is the other. Everybody seemed to approve of the place (a miracle), and the group polished off three large pies in short order. Good stuff.

One irritation, though... Toney's brother fancies himself the full-blooded Italian. In fact, he wore a t-shirt one day that said FBI: Full Blooded Italian. Whatever. While we were having lunch he started acting like those people on Olive Garden commercials, holding his food high above his head and dropping it in like a sword-swallower, talking with his mouth full and waving his hands all around. Suddenly he was ethnic.

And this really made my skin crawl: he'd bite the tip off a slice of pizza, then fold it in half sideways. He probably saw somebody do that in a Godfather movie once. And, for reasons I can't explain, it really bakes my potatoes.

While we were eating, we saw a shaking woman walk past the window using what appeared to be cross-country ski poles to remain upright. And this brought Sunshine out of her shell. Cruel mockery, I believe, has the power to soothe the savage beast.

The rest of the day was pretty much what you'd expect. We sat on the top of that bus, and drove past famous Manhattan landmarks. A couple of times people yelled smartass comments at us from the street below, but can you blame them? I'd probably do the same thing if I lived there. I'm surprised they didn't throw stuff at us.

Toney's brother wanted to see Ground Zero, so we jumped off there. We looked through the fence at the big hole in the ground, walked through St. Paul's Chapel across the street, and boarded another big red bus.

We were only halfway through the tour loop, and it had already taken hours. Traffic was a bitch, and we did a lot of sitting still and listening to the guides tell "witty" stories. A German family was in front of us, and kept playing musical chairs. They'd sit still for a few minutes, then the whole gang would get up and move to other seats. Over and over again. I quickly grew to dislike them.

And here, for the last time, are some of the pics I took during the day. The weather was absolutely perfect, and I thought it was a pretty successful outing. Again, Toney and I vowed to visit New York more often, since we live so close and love it every time. But Mumbles proclaimed the place "a dump," and said he doesn't care if he ever returns. I think it was the only audible thing he said all day.

Hey, to each their own.

And now I'm gonna turn it over to our good friend Buck, who will close out the week for us.

See ya next time.

April 20, 2006

-- So we parked and made our way into the massive ballroom where the swimming shindig was to take place.... Along the way we learned that there was a raucous wedding reception underway in another room, and that's why there were suits and ties in the parking lot. I was trying to act like I didn't give a shit, but was secretly relieved that we weren't under-dressed. That "we all look like hicks" comment had stung a little.

As soon as we passed through the door a gang of the oldest Secret's friends descended upon him, and that was that. We never saw him again, until it was time to go home. Members of the swim team sat together at their own tables on one side of the room, and the parents and grandparents were segregated on the other side. So it was youth to the right, old farts to the left. Whatever.

Since we were arriving so late we had a hell of a time finding a table. They were all large and round, and almost completely populated. Thanks Sunshine! Eventually we found a spot, so far away from the stage I felt like I was at a Doobie Bros. concert in 1980. I had to squint to figure out if I was looking at a potted plant or a man's enormous head. Shit. They could hold the Academy Awards in that joint.

It was a "family style" dinner, which means we were required to share our table with complete strangers. Or, as the complete strangers probably looked at it, they were being forced to share a table with us. Luckily, though, the couple we were to break bread with seemed OK. Just another Mom and Dad feeling all uncomfortable and bound-up in their clothes, like us. Pass the beer nuts.

By the time we were situated in our chairs, Sunshine had already taken out the large square of cardboard she carries in her purse, and was fanning herself furiously and gasping for air like a just-caught fish. I'd been thinking it was a tad chilly.

I got up and wriggled my way through the crowd, in search of the bar. Toney said she wanted a glass of red wine, and I was more than ready to kick-off the evening's beer-intake.

Apparently you can't just say "red wine" to a bartender. Oh no. Those two words unleash ten follow-up questions, which I can never answer. I told him he was the expert and waved my hand theatrically, giving him license to freely exercise his knowledge. What do I know about it?

My Yuengling draft was served in a tiny glass, the kind they use for tomato juice at Denny's. And I don't like that. Hell, I'd be wearing a groove in the carpet, walking back and forth to the bar all night; the shit gave new meaning to the phrase microbrew. I bitched about it when I got back to the table, and the Dad I didn't know joined in the protest. We were quickly forming a beer-bond.

Some teenage girls were going around placing large platters of munchy stuff on the tables, raw vegetables and dips and that sort of thing. And Sunshine & Mumbles immediately began using the food as nothing more than a scoop with which to transport ranch dressing to their glistening mouths. And Sunny promptly slung some of it on her shirt (and a little in her hair), which triggered an eruption of white-hot rage and profanity. Good times.

When I finished my beerlet, I went back to the bar and begged the guy to sell me a pitcher of the stuff. To my surprise, he said no problem. There was a big cardboard box a few feet away, from which he removed a large plastic pitcher. Thank you God! I took it back to the table, told my new brother to help himself, and his wife said, "Oh boy, you've just made a friend for life!"

Then I noticed that almost every male I'd passed along the way was now at the bar ordering pitchers of beer. And smiling from ear to ear, like retards.

There were a few speeches, including one by the captain of the swim team. The kid is fourteen, and taller than I am. I'm not kidding, when I first saw him I thought he was a coach. He got up there, in front of all those people, and spoke without notes. He was making jokes and talking intelligently, just completely at ease. Amazing. They would've had to fire up the demumblifier if I'd been required to speak, then broken out the air fresheners after I shit my pants.

Right before dinner was served, the head coach took the podium and spoke some amazing words. He said that not only did they defeat every other team in the district this year, they destroyed every other team. (Uproarious applause.) Incredible. I'm so used to the hand-wringing brand of youth sports, where nobody keeps score and they're just tho thenthitive about the feelings of every fragile child. Not these guys. They set out to kick ass, and do so. I love it.

Dinner was excellent, not even Sunshine could find anything to bitch about. They served tossed salad, grilled chicken, ham, five or six different vegetables, homemade bread, and it was all really good. And during the whole affair my buddy and I took turns getting the pitcher re-filled.

As alcohol was consumed, and guards were dropped, the Other Couple become part of the family. We were all laughing and talking, and having a good time. At one point I went to the bathroom, and when I returned Sunshine was saying to them, "...and where we live, there are a lot of them. They pull up beside you at traffic lights with their horrible music blasting: boom chaka chaka boom chaka..."

Sweet Jesus.

After dinner they gave out a metric shitload of awards (the Secret received two trophys and a stack of ribbons), a way too-long video recap of the seaon was shown, then it was time for dancing! No shit, they had a DJ, a mirror ball, and everything. Unbelievable. We were at an awards banquet for little kids, and they had a cash bar and dancing. We were a long way from West Virginia....

The dance floor instantly filled with younglings and a few (probably drunk) adults. They lined up and started doing something where they'd slide to the left, slide to the right, hop forward three times (ONE! TWO! THREE!).... I don't even know. They were all into it, apparently familiar with the "dance," and it was just a full-on roar of noise.

After all the sliding, clapping, and hopping, they started pumping out the standard Earth Wind and Fire, and "Super Freak." And that's when we spotted The Woman.

She was probably in her mid-forties, dressed in an expensive business suit, and just throwing down. She was in the middle of a pack of kids waving her arms in the air, thrusting her pelvis forward, and screaming, "Woooooo!!!" It was like that shampoo commercial where the woman gets a little too excited. 

All of us stood there and watched this amazing spectacle, and I had to wipe away the tears of laughter a few times. I just couldn't believe what happening before us.

I looked around and half the room was watching her, and just laughing and laughing. At one point she kicked it up another notch, and it looked like she was caught up in a swarm of bees. She was flat-out bringing it.

I wondered if she even belonged there. Perhaps she'd been at the wedding reception, gone to the bathroom, and returned to the wrong function? It wouldn't surprise me; I don't think she knew where she was. 

In any case, I'm fairly certain she woke up the next morning, and thought, "OH NO! What did I do?! Was I surrounded by... children??"

Against great odds the evening turned out to be a lot of fun. There was plenty of beer, good food, blue ribbon mockery... 

Who could ask for more?

April 19, 2006

A few quick things...

-- Why are people now using the phrase on accident? I'd never heard anyone say such a thing in my entire life, and over the past year or so it's suddenly everywhere. "Yeah, and then he knocked over his beer on accident, and his wife got really pissed..." On?? What in the honeysuckle hell? How do these things take hold? Is there a newsletter of wrong talk or something?

"On accident" is apparently the new "You know what?" and I'm not a fan of any of it. It's almost as irritating as "You wanna go with?" And that's saying something. Crazy.

-- Toney and I are seriously thinking about ditching our home phone. I almost never use it, and she's on it less and less. Cell phones are just so much better, with the free long distance and the convenience and everything. And our landline, I'm told, costs us almost fifty bucks per month. What do you think about this? What are the pros and cons? Is there a downside that I'm not thinking of? 'Cause we're ready to pull the plug on that crap.

-- Sunday's episode of The Sopranos was hilarious. I guess it's safe to say that none of those guys ever attended a sensitivity seminar? Heh. And the whole springer spaniel thing.... I'm laughing just thinking about it. It's all saved on the DVR, and I have a feeling we'll be revisiting it soon. Like tonight.

-- I watched a really good documentary yesterday evening, called New York Doll. It focuses on the recent life of Dolls bassist Arthur "Killer" Kane -- but it's not really a music movie; I don't think you need to have even heard of the New York Dolls to enjoy the flick. Check it out sometime. It's one of the best things I've rented from Netflix in a while.

-- Finally, my Blazer may be mended now. My mechanic, Johnny Sack, swears it's all better. But, of course, he told me the same thing last Friday. Time will tell, I guess.... He claims that the "secondary" problem was caused by an aftermarket remote ignition system that a previous owner apparently installed. 

He yanked all that shit out of there, and said it was like doing exploratory surgery. Supposedly there were two long antennas that snaked all the way into the roof, and everything. He promises that this will take care of my problem. I wish I could believe him, I really do.

And it's chaos here. Sunshine & Mumbles are preparing to leave, and there's quite a bit of distracting activity. I'll try to finish up the country club tale and upload it later in the day. 

So check back, if you should give a crap.

See ya soon.

April 18, 2006

-- Ugh. Is it possible for a person to actually grow tired of beer? Two weeks ago I would've had to wipe away tears of laughter if someone had suggested such a thing, but now I'm starting to wonder. Holy crapballs. It takes an awful lot of medicine…

Since we last spoke the gang has completed a trip to New York City, Toney, her brother, my friend Steve and I toured the Yuengling brewery, and I've dealt (and am still dealing) with an irritating car issue.

We made it through the "Mexican fiesta" without a catastrophic deck (or toilet) collapse, and so far there haven't been any major emotional melt-downs, or blow-ups. Quite a few small ones, of course… but nothing that will lead to any permanent scarring.

I'd intended to keep updating the site all last week, with a rolling commentary on the fucked-upness, but I just couldn't do it. Sorry about that. Things should return to normal very soon. Toney's brother leaves town today, and her mother and stepfather are SUPPOSED to be a day behind him. So, if all goes as planned, it'll be our house again in just a matter of hours.

And man, the stories have been piling up….

Today I'll tell you about something that seems like ancient history by now: our evening at a country club with Sunshine & Mumbles. So let's get started, shall we?

-- The oldest Secret joined a youth swim team this year, and it's turned out to be one of the best things ever. It's very well-run, serious business without being crazy-intense, and a real confidence booster. My only regret about the whole thing is that we didn't steer him into it earlier.

A few months ago Toney told me that the team holds a year-end extravaganza dinner at a local country club, and that made me nervous. I'm a bit more pizza joint than country club, ya know? I mean, what if I'd be required to wear slacks or something?! I can't have that.

During the ensuing weeks Toney learned that the dinner would happen during a visit from her mother. Not good. We had visions of her throwing coffee in somebody's face, or calling someone a "Jew bastard," or some such thing. I've personally witnessed her being barred for life from a sandwich shop in Nevada, so I know that the potential for almost anything exists.

But what were we to do? Toney tried to paint it as something they wouldn't enjoy, in hopes that they'd opt-out. But, of course, her mother was enthusiastic about it. So we bought them a pair of tickets, and started saying our prayers.

Toney told everyone that we needed to leave the house at 5:15 on the night of the Big Event. In fact, she reminded everyone over and over again for emphasis.

And at 5:00 Sunshine was still sitting in the floor of the family room, casually flipping through the latest Star magazine and snickering at unflattering photographs of famous people. I was even ready by then, and that's saying something. But Sunny hadn't started yet, and Toney's face was cycling through the full spectrum of colors, and she had some sort of John Wayne Gacy look in her eye that I'd never seen before.

Why can't Sunshine just go along with the program once in her life? Why must she insist on turning otherwise normal people into The Killer Clown?

Around 5:30 she finally emerged from the bathroom, huffing and puffing and complaining of the suffocating heat. (I was waiting by the front door in a winter coat.) She was ready, she said, but it was easy to see that she had a full-bitch on. And Toney wasn't exactly happy either.

Yes, it was all coming together…

And when the front door was opened Andy took off like a bullet and began running laps around the yard. I was so ratcheted-up about Sunshine's antics and complete lack of respect, I snapped and started yelling like a maniac and chasing the dog around. It was like something off cartoons. Then he leaped into the open side door of S&M's van, huddled down in the floorboard and refused to move.

I thought I was going to have a stroke. I headed back into the house to get his leash (so I could commence to dragging), and almost fell on my ass after stepping in a pile of dog shit.

By the time I'd changed my shoes, extracted a stubborn dog from a van, and we were actually rolling, it was almost time for dinner to be served. And I think my head was literally expanding and contracting.

Sunshine was playing some godawful hippie music on the way, quite possibly Jethro Tull. It was almost a thirty minute drive to the country club, and I'm almost certain the same song played the entire time. It was just flutes and noodling guitars and keyboards… It was all I could do not to break down in tears.

When we were almost there the road narrowed and Sunshine freaked. She grabbed the dashboard and started hyperventilating. "Oh my god," she wailed, "I've only seen two-lane roads in movies! I didn't know they actually existed!!" Batshit crazy.

This continued, with Sunshine clamped to the dash and acting like we were in the midst of a death plunge, until our destination came into view and we spotted a group of people in the parking lot wearing suits and ties. "Oh noooo!" she hollered, loosening her grip on the air conditioner vent, "They're all dressed up, and we look like a bunch of hicks!!"

Gee thanks.

And from there, if you can believe it, we had a really good time. But I'll have to tell you the rest of the story tomorrow.

Believe it or not, I'm still hassling with my Blazer. I paid Johnny Sack, or whatever his name is, the four hundred bucks he asked for -- and I'm still having the same problem as before. In fact, I had to abandon my truck at work last night, because it simply refused to start. Toney had to come rescue me at 8:30, and by that point I'd said quite a few bad words.

The guy promised to "make it right," but I've got to try to get the vehicle to him today. If it doesn't start, it's his problem; I'm washing my hands of the deal. He can have it towed at his own expense, I'm not dealing with it anymore. Screw it and screw him.

Tired of beer... yeah right. 

April 12, 2006

-- I took my Blazer to the Italiano garage early this morning (hence the lack of an update), talked to the guy, answered a few of his questions, then went to work and waited. With my sphincter pinched off like a Russian submarine. Finally the call came, and it wasn't good news. Not good at all.

Have you ever heard of a passlock sensor? Yeah, me either. But that's what I'm being told is shitting the bed this time. Supposedly it's an anti-theft feature that prevents someone from starting the vehicle with an "unauthorized" key. So it was going haywire and shutting my engine down all willy-nilly.

And, of course, it's even more of a kick in the balls because I'd WELCOME a little grand larceny at this point. Ya know? Anti-theft?? Where's Allen Funt?

I hesitate to even tell you how much it's gonna cost me, because the comments section will instantly fill with "you got raped!" and "it's a six dollar part!!" messages. I know how you guys operate. But screw it, I'm too tired to fight. 

Four hundred bucks is the bottom line, and I don't know if I'm picking up some residual effects from Sunshine's no-fat Pringles or what, but I'm feeling the beginnings of an oily discharge taking shape. I really am.

-- I apologize now, but I seriously don't know when I'll ever be able to update this site again. Today was screwed because of that Chevy shitbox, tomorrow we're going to NYC for the day, and Friday I think Toney, her brother, and I are going to make a trek to the Pottsville holy land, and tour the Yuengling brewery.

I might be able to write something on Friday morning, but I can't promise anything. It's utter chaos at our house right now, and it's only going to get worse.

The best I can do is promise to take good notes.

-- Here's a very cool, and semi-obscure, Smoking Fish sighting. Oh yeah. Our logo, man, he gets around.

-- This is an amazing story with the power to bring tears to the eyes of aging record geeks everywhere. Incredible!

And that's all I can manage today. I'll do better next time. Maybe.

Where am I? What is my name??

April 11, 2006

-- Everybody, except for me and the Secrets, went to Philadelphia yesterday to pick up Toney's brother at the airport. The kids went to a friend's house after school, and I made arrangements to leave work a little early to pick them up.

Miraculously, I was able to get out of my job exactly when I'd planned, and was looking forward to a few hours of peace before the insanity was ratcheted up yet another notch.

But, with impeccable timing, my truck refused to start. I cranked it, everything fired up as normal, then immediately died the second I let go of the key. And this happened over and over again. WTF?? It's literally one thing after another with that rolling shitbox. Now the kids were at somebody else's house, I was stranded fifteen miles away, and Toney was in Philadelphia. Simply excellent.

I found the receipt in my glove compartment from the Italiano garage that diagnosed and corrected the last batch of electrical problems I had with that Blazer, and gave them a call. The guy said it sounds like an ignition switch, but he couldn't be sure. I asked if that was a bend-me-over-the-couch type of item, and he never really gave me a straight answer.

I went back into the building to urinate furiously, and to see if I might be able to bum a ride home from someone. The first item was handled without incident, but everybody who lives near me was already gone for the day. I called a cab company and the guy said it would be about thirty bucks, plus tip. I told him he could jam it deep in his ass, and hung up.

It was like something off Candid Camera. I called the woman who was watching the Secrets, and she told me not to worry. Our kids were outside playing with her kids, everybody was having a great time, and it was not an issue, she said. But I thought I could detect a hint of irritation in her voice, like she thought I was really at a bar somewhere, knocking back the Jager shots. The whole situation was starting to make me run my hands through my hair.

During the ordeal I spoke with Toney several times, and we were discussing our options. We decided that they'd pick up the kids as soon as they got back, I'd make arrangements to have the Blazer towed to the Italian Wiring Masters, and eventually she'd come pick me up at my job. And I heard Sunshine in the background screaming, "I thought we were going to order cheesesteaks when we got home?! Oh grrrrreat!"

Serenity now!

I decided to go out and give it another try. Maybe it healed itself while I was inside whining? Or perhaps the gods of car repair saw fit to grant me some mercy?

And it worked! The thing fired up like normal (after more than an hour of playing havoc with my stomach lining), and I tore ass down the interstate, Pearl Jam a-blasting. I was almost giddy; I estimated that there was still two full hours remaining before the gang returned. Maybe the Secrets and I could go somewhere for dinner, and decompress before the craziness kicked in? Perhaps even a place that offers up sweaty pints of Harp to its adult patrons? 

But did I dare risk turning off the engine? Dammit! I just couldn't do it.... We ended up going through the Burger King drive-through instead, for a big greasy sack of heartburn.

Tomorrow the Blazer is going to spend the day with Vito and Frank (or whatever their names are), and have even more repair work done. What do you think? Am I going to be face-down in a couch cushion? How much is this going to cost me? Those Italianos are really good at what they do, and charge accordingly. How bad is it going to hurt?

-- And speaking of nervous breakdowns... Yesterday morning Sunshine was doing some laundry, and said she doesn't like to put her shirts in the dryer. She asked Toney if it would be OK if she hung them from the tree in our front yard(!). I thought Toney was going to have a stroke. She's pretty good at going with the flow, and not getting herself all worked-up over the ridiculousness, but this touched a nerve. "No!" she yelled. "Nobody's hanging laundry from the trees! This is not Kentucky!!" Good times.

And I know I said I'd tell you about the country club today, but it'll have to wait. I'll get to it eventually, I promise. The gang is on their way to Gettysburg right now, and I probably won't see them much today. I'm taking Toney's car to work this morning, and it'll just be me and the Secrets alone for dinner, with that long-overdue pint of Harp.

See ya tomorrow.

April 10, 2006

-- Sunshine and Mumbles (S&M) arrived on Friday evening, we had dinner, then they wanted to dig right into the four new episodes of The Sopranos that we had saved on the DVR. They're obsessed with the show, and have spent hundreds of dollars buying the box sets, first on VHS then DVD, but won't spring for the eleven bucks a month (or whatever) it takes to subscribe to HBO.

Toney tells me that they sometimes become hypnotized by the program, and go for days on end with the DVDs playing 'round the clock in an endless loop. They watch it for fifteen hours straight, fall asleep with it on, then go for another fifteen hours the next day. Rinse. Repeat. She says they've lost four or five whole days at a time to these types of frenzies.

I watched the first episode of the new season with them, so as not to appear rude, then bailed out for the night. I went upstairs and fired up the portable DVD player, watched a couple of 24s, then hit the sack.

A fairly painless beginning.

-- On Saturday morning Toney came upstairs and told me to get my big ass out of bed (or something along those lines), then asked me to please not come down the stairs hollering and screaming and waving my arms about the temperature in the house. We don't need to start the day with a fight, she pleaded. Heeeere we go.

It was about forty degrees outside, and Sunshine had all the windows thrown open, and was sitting at the dining room table fanning herself and gasping for air. She's always saying she's hot and on the verge of blacking out, regardless of the actual temperature. Could this possibly be true, or do you think she's showboating? I have my opinions....

I grabbed a cup of coffee, grunted good morning to everyone, and went straight to my subterranean bunker and rock 'n' roll sanctuary -- in order to keep my promise to Toney. Grrrrr.

Eventually we went to lunch at Wegman's, as Sunny requested. Wegman's is a big-ass grocery store, with a really good (but far from cheap) food court. I opted for the Chinese food, at $6.49 a pound. Shit! My lunch alone, which was a normal-sized portion (I was holding-back), came to almost nine dollars. We probably could've gone to Damon's for ribs with the amount of money we spent.

But whatever.

During lunch Sunshine told us that she didn't like seeing the dreams that Tony Soprano had while in his coma. "It makes me sick to see Tone (she refers to them all by shortened versions of their names, like intimate family members) acting like such a pussy," she said. Good ol' Grandma.

After our expensive meal, we went to a giant indoor flea market not too far from the store. Toney hates that kind of thing, but I don't mind it on a limited basis. I'm always on the lookout for cool old beer advertising and whatnot, and can spend some time rooting through, as my wife calls it, "other people's old shit."

Unfortunately I found nothing I couldn't live without, and it was all for naught. And the place was pretty grotesque (just as Toney predicted), full of morbidly obese people in huge retina-searing Garfield t-shirts hollering, just hollering, at their buzz-cut hillbilly kids, and carrying their cigarette packs in leather snap-cases, complete with lighter pocket on the outside.

Since we'd been to the flea market with Sunshine before, we'd insisted on taking two cars and it was a wise move. When we found S&M, to tell them we were leaving, they were only the second aisle, with about ten to go. Mumbles was elbow-deep in a wooden crate full of what looked to be old shopping cart wheels (wtf?), and he raised one at us to say, see ya later.

I went through the Krispy Kreme drive-thru (my blood sugar was plummeting), then went home and scoured my hands and forearms with antibacterial soap, before polishing off one entire row of chocolate iced glazed. Purely for medical reasons.

Saturday night we went to a country club(?!) for dinner. Yes, you read that correctly. It was the big year-end banquet for the oldest Secret's swimming team, and it was one fancy-pants shindig. But I'll have to tell you about all that tomorrow... There's a lot to tell, and I just don't have time to get into it today. Stay tuned, though.

On Sunday Toney and her mother went out shopping for many, many hours. Therefore, it was surprisingly laid-back at the compound. I talked to my parents on the phone, washed and vacuumed my truck, and generally lazed around.

In the afternoon we all went out to a few stores together. Mumbles forgot and left his expensive-ass DVD camcorder at home, and it had been eating at him for days. The man is all about his camcorder. Finally he snapped and said he was going to buy another one. He'd rather have two, he announced, than miss an entire trip's worth of footage. 

I was getting a little antsy by this point, so we all headed to Best Buy, packed inside the S&M mini-van with the weird seatbelts that go straight across your throat.

It turned out to be a huge error in judgment. We ended up going to all sorts of horrible places, not just the fun ones like Best Buy, and Sunshine can disappear inside the horrible ones for hours. At K-Mart I sat on a bench outside the store for what must've been sixty minutes. I'm not kidding, I was ready to wrap my lips around a tailpipe by the time it was over. Nothing short of excruciating.

When they finally emerged from the store, and after we'd wedged ourselves back into the strangulation buggy, Sunshine offered me some Pringles from a can that was printed in black & white (who the hell knows?). As I was lifting the first chip to my quivering lips, she said, "These are those no-fat Pringles, with the weird stuff in it that makes you fart oil." 

What in the everloving crap??

I don't know what she was talking about, but was having none of it. Fart oil? The hell?? I hid the chips behind my leg, and planned to ditch them as soon as possible.

Toney asked to stop at a grocery store, for salad fixins, and I saw my chance. "I'll go in with you," I said, and tossed the chips up underneath the van as I was getting out. We bought our lettuce, cucumber, and tomato, and returned. Sunshine asked if I wanted anymore chips, and I politely declined.

And as Mumbles backed out I saw, with horror, about ten Pringles scattered over our former parking space, spinning round and round in a mighty vortex. I just about swallowed my tongue. But nobody else seemed to notice. Heh.

More of this golden material tomorrow, including the tale of Sunshine & Mumbles at a country club.

See ya then.

April 7, 2006

-- A few nights ago I attended a PTA fund-raiser at the Secrets' elementary school. Needless to say, this was all engineered by Toney. She coaxed me into it by spinning intoxicating tales of "all-you-can-eat pizza," and that's the only part of it that registered with me. It wasn't until I actually arrived there that I realized I would also be forced to play multiple games of Bingo.

I'm not really a Bingo kinda guy. In fact, I don't much care for games in general. I don't play cards, do my best to stay away from Monopoly and that sort of thing, and make a beeline, a fucking beeline, for the exit whenever someone breaks out the Pictionary box, or one of those "adult" party games. I think I'd rather put my head in an oven...

But we were "doing it for the kids" at the school, so I suppressed my natural instinct to bitch, and just went along with the program. I bought three cards and lined them up in front of me, and put on a big frozen charley-horse smile.

The markers were pieces of dried corn(?), and I couldn't understand the caller over her tinny piece-of-shit $99 Radio Shack amplification device. It sounded like she was saying things like "unfortunate" and "free byzantine." WTF? I was lost within minutes, and wished I'd thought ahead and sneaked-in a flask.

Then somebody hit me with a piece of corn. It was a kid at another table, and he got me right above the left ear. I looked over and there was a whole gang of fourth-grade smartasses just laughing and laughing.

Oh, this meant war.

And by the time it was over a bunch of kids AND ME, received a stern talking-to by the youngest Secret's teacher. (I've never seen my son look quite so mortified.) There was corn everywhere, and some people even had it in their hair. Other adults were shooting me dirty looks, and I was giving it right back to them.

Shit. I don't know why everybody was getting all high and mighty, and giving me attitude. Because, as I explained to the teacher, they started it.

-- As I was driving home that night I began worrying about all those corns we left littered around the gym. What if somebody slips on one, I thought, and brings a lawsuit against us?! We could lose everything: the house, my Jam box set, everything! My brain is constantly in scan-mode, trying to figure out the worst possible outcome of every situation.

But it's not inconceivable, you know. Right off the top of my head I can think of three instances where a person I knew (or sorta knew) was injured or killed in a slapstick comedy-style accident.

At my grade school we were explicitly banned from bringing raisins as our daily snack. It seems that an elderly second grade teacher (ironically named Mrs. Young) once slipped on one, and exploded her pelvis, or some such thing. I'd be willing to bet that they're still banned, to this day. Do any of you have kids at Dunbar Elementary? What do you know about this? It's still a raisin-free zone, isn't it? I knew it!

The mother of one of our classmates worked at the Dunbar Bowling Alley, in the snack bar. One night she stepped on a frozen package of wieners, her foot whipped high in the air, and paramedics had to carry her out on a stretcher. (Now that shit is funny.)

And a really tragic one... One of my former co-workers at the toll bridge, a nice old man, got his feet all tangled up in the power cord of his vacuum cleaner, and went cascading down the basement steps at his house. Broken neck. Dead.

So there you go. It could happen. I bet you know some of these stories too. If so, why not tell us about it in the comments? I think I'm in the clear with the kernels; it's been several days now and I've heard no horror stories. Heh.

-- A little while ago Buck sent me a puzzling email, something about seeing Katie Couric "stroking her monkey" on the Today Show this morning. I'm unclear on it. Is the woman just saying screw it now, and going all Crispin Glover over there?

Here's a screen shot of her yesterday, announcing that she's leaving NBC. Bizarre.

-- And finally, a fellow Surf Reporter is turning to us in her hour of need. Here's her story, in her own words:

I could use some suggestions. I know it occurs often, but I am getting so tired of dealing with it. My food at work is constantly getting stolen. So far this week alone I have had a frozen breakfast sandwich & a SoBe Black and Blue juice swiped out of the fridge. I am walking around pissed. I don’t think it is an office worker (although I am starting to treat everyone like a suspect) I think it is a night shift employee out in the warehouse. I went to the boss and was told it was my fault for bringing in food, but everyone who wants to eat has to! And most employees do, except the managers who can afford to order out every day. We have cameras, but the asshole boss won't waste his time (rather be surfing the internet) looking back on the cameras to see who our thief is!

I need some ideas on how to exact revenge on this faceless sticky fingers (with a full belly). I thought of buying another SoBe and tampering with it, but don’t want to go to jail for killing a son-of-a-bitch by poisoning MY OWN FOOD! .. but making them a little sick or finding a dye that goes on clear, but shows up bright purple would be cool. I just need some ideas to get this jerk back (this has been going on for months & I am not the only victim, just the most frequently stolen from.)

I don't know if she wants me to reveal her name, so I won't. (Lucie.) But please help her out with this. We need to stick together in our daily battles. ...Or something.

And that's all the time I have for today, boys and girls. I'll see ya on Monday.

April 6, 2006

-- Yesterday I went to the post office to check on the contents of good ol' PO Box 4. I knew there wouldn't be anything there, but a man can always dream. Right?

I swung open the little door, and to my surprise it looked to be completely packed-out. There was a copy of Jeff Somers' always-excellent Inner Swine zine crammed up-front, and some other stuff too. Cool. Few things are more exciting than the promise of quality mail.

I began extracting it all from the tiny space, then lowered my head until it was even with the box, so I could peer through and make sure there wasn't anything left. And I was hit squarely in the face by the clenched-fist stench of a molten-hot cauliflower fart.

There was a doughy man back there, humming and sorting -- and apparently channeling the ghosts of last night's supper. And every time somebody opened a door on the Big Wall of Doors, some of it escaped into the commons area. I guess there was enough to fill every box, and more?! Sweet sainted mother of Blue Moon Odom.

I'm not proud to know this, but I'm fairly certain that on Tuesday night my postal buddy had baked ham for dinner, green beans, cauliflower casserole, rolls, and a single ring of pineapple. I bailed-out before I could get a good read on dessert, but if I was a betting man I'd go with chocolate cake.

-- And since we're on the subject... Surf Reporter Jennifer made me aware of this new product yesterday, and I'm very excited. Wonder if it can be set to play "Dixie?"

-- Our dog Andy (Black Lips Houlihan, Sirius Black & White) is starting to shed, just like he does every spring. There are tumbleweeds of fur cascading through our house, and he looks all unkempt, like a doggish version of Bob Geldof. So I asked Toney to pick up one of those fine-tooth wire brushes the next time she was at Wal-Mart, and I vowed to take a few pounds off the hound.

And I did. He hated it (anything out of the ordinary sends him reeling), but I combed so much hair off of him we could've built another dog. Insane.

However... he wouldn't let me near his ass for some reason. He reluctantly allowed me to tend to the rest of him, but drew the line at the hindquarters. It still looks pretty Boomtown Ratty back there, but I'm just not willing to risk losing a hand to fix it. Ya know?

The exercise did give me a new threat to throw around, though. And last night Andy was snorkeling around in the yard, sniffing every blade of grass and taking his sweet time as usual. I wanted to free-fall into my chair, dammit, and was getting pretty tired of waiting on him. 

"You better hurry up, dog!" I shouted out the front door, "Or I'll comb-out your ass!"

I really wish I'd known that Half-Shirt's wife was out there.

-- Over the weekend I bought a copy of Def Leppard's Greatest Hits for $7.99 at Circuit Shitty. And man, that stuff sounds mighty fine blasting inside a car that's careening down an interstate highway. Mighty fine. In fact, it's enough to make a person contemplate playing hooky at work, buying a couple of six-packs of Mickey's Big Mouths, and letting the chips fall where they may.

I was thinking about picking this one up as well, but decided to wait a few weeks. I've got responsibilities, and just don't know what might happen if I were to introduce both CDs into the mid-life crisis setting at once. Clinical tests, so far, have been inconclusive.

-- Last night's episode of LOST: completely baffling. What in the open-face hell is going on??

-- Here is, apparently, the complete story on the so-called Replacements reunion, including a quote from the always-cool Slim Dunlap. Can't hardly wait to hear the new songs!

-- And I think that'll just about do it for today, kiddies. I'll leave you now with yesterday's Clive Bull topic: What cartoon character do you think you most closely resemble? 

I'm having a little trouble with this one... Does Duke count as a cartoon character? 

See ya tomorrow.

April 5, 2006

-- Yesterday I told Toney that I was going to stop at the store after work for a gallon of ice cream. All day I'd had a powerful hankering for a big bowl of Moose Tracks (or as it's known around our house Moose Crack), and I was bound to remedy the situation. She said OK (and undoubtedly rolled her eyes in exasperation), and I turned off my computer and prepared to call it a day.

Then my phone rang, and it was the oldest Secret. He asked if I was going to the store, and I told him that I was. He said, "Can you get me a jar of dill pickles?" The hell? I'd never seen him eat a pickle in his life. Where was this bizarreness coming from? But whatever. I told him to sit tight, the dills are on their way.

So there I was, standing in line at the store with my second-trimester gut, holding pickles and ice cream in my arms. Some things are just a matter of destiny, aren't they?

-- My friend Tim just sent me this in an email:

Does it bother you that Cap'n Crunch's voice is totally different than it was when we were kids?

I guess I'll just answer that here... Yes Tim, yes it does. And the same goes for that fake Fred Flintstone they're trying to pass off to us on those brake commercials. That's not Fred, it sounds more like the guy who does the Step Back! announcements at the Atlanta airport. Who do they think we are, a bunch of idiots?

And not only is it insulting, but it also makes me a little sad. I can't explain that part of it, but it does.

-- Remember how I told you that it was like spring here over the weekend, and we cooked burgers on the grill and had a marathon Yuengling-fueled deck-sitting session? Well, check it out this morning. It's the day after tomorrow!

-- Surf Reporter Brian sends along this interesting photo. Does it mean that I'll have to begin fashioning myself after L. Ron Hubbard now, and sign my name J. Scott Kay? I really don't think I can do it. ...Hello?

-- I also received this puzzling photo yesterday, along with a short note written in (I think) German. Um... what the fuck?? Does anyone know what "Eyecatcher im Eingangsbereich: Lagerregale mit blindem Hund" means? I'm extremely confused.

-- And Lucie says Toney should buy this alarm clock for me, so I can't "puss out" anymore in the mornings. Puss out?! It's the Buckification of TheWVSR! Deeply offensive, to Night People everywhere... 

Anyway, that thing would last exactly one day, and I'd throw it straight through the wall. It pisses me off just looking at it.

-- Believe it or not, I have more. But, alas, I'm all out of time. I'll gonna turn it over to lakrfool now, and wish you folks a wonderful, wonderful Wednesday.

See ya tomorrow.

April 4, 2006

-- A few days ago we were walking through the exclusive club that we belong to, a place called Sam's, and passed the soda department. And I think I actually did a double-take.

How could the containers get even bigger? How is it possible? Already they're so large it almost takes two hands to lift them to your mouth, yet it's not enough to satisfy the national thirst? Apparently not. There was pallet after pallet there, piled high with bottles the size of oxygen canisters, filled with neon-brite liquids. 

It was almost shocking.

Every once in a while I fall prey to a short-lived Mountain Dew frenzy (especially the variations like Mountain Dew Black Death), but I don't generally drink sodas. Thick sugary syrup just doesn't do it for me, over the long-haul. I know people who live on the stuff, it's literally the only fluids that pass their lips, and I don't know how they avoid lapsing into a diabetic coma.

Nobody in our family drinks it; the only time there's soda in our house is during bourbon season. The Secrets think of it as a rare treat, and I like it that way. They're both skinny, while many of their classmates are Campbell's Soup Kid dumplin' children. They can get fat in their mid-thirties, the way God intended.

No, I'm a water guy. When I'm not drinking coffee, or beer on weekends, I'm pouring great amounts of water down my neck. I buy a bottle from the vending machine every morning at work, then refill it over and over again from the bloop-bloop coolers located around the office. 

I drink so much of it, in fact, my pee is crystal clear. I'm not kidding, it looks the same going in as it does coming out. When you walk into a public restroom and find a urinal filled with something that looks like Tropicana Homestyle Orange Juice With Pulp, you can rest assured that I was not the culprit, thank you very much.

When we first moved here I started hearing bizarre (crackpot?) commercials on the radio about something called The Water Cure. These ads were presented by the owner of a local chain of auto parts stores(?). The guy claims that we're all severely dehydrated, and if we'd just drink water every day we'd avoid most common health problems. He's decided that he's going to make it his life's work to spread the word, and continues to spend large amounts of money promoting "the cure." So much, in fact, it's reportedly caused friction within his own family. Apparently the man's a tad obsessed. Here are some of his letters.

I'm not quite ready to go all Scientologist about it, but I have a feeling that there's some truth to the theory. I've been drinking a lot of water ever since I heard one of his infomercials while driving to WV early on a Saturday morning, several years ago. Consequently, I now view soda as kinda pukey. 

The ads have recently started lapsing into Art Bell territory, ranting about grand conspiracies by the medical community to suppress the word, and whatnot. I don't know anything about that, but I'm still on the water, and still urinating like a pure glacier stream. Oh, it's a beautiful thing to behold. Maybe I'll post some photos?

And on the rare occasion that I do crave a soda, I try to find just a regular 12 oz. can. But it's getting harder and harder. Convenience stores only stock the two-fisters that won't fit into the cup holders in my truck, and block the radio dials with their great height. I feel like an idiot carrying one of those things, all elongated and brightly colored; they may as well call it Mountain Douche. When a store does carry the old-style cans, I get the feeling they're being presented as whimsical retro novelties, like cinnamon toothpicks and Mallo Cups.

Whatever. I don't even know how I got started on this... I have a whole list of things I wanted to talk about this morning, and got all carried away like an auto parts guy. There's always tomorrow, right?

And luckily, for all of us, there's always Buck.

See ya.

April 3, 2006

-- Toney and I kicked off the deck-sitting season yesterday, and it was good. I brought the cushions up from the basement, went at the chairs and table with 409, then settled in for some open-air Yuengling and pretzels. The weather was perfect, exactly right in the sun and a little nipply in the shade, and I doubt even Sunshine herself could've found anything to bitch about.

In fact, I made that statement yesterday afternoon, and it led to A New Concern.

I mentioned on Friday that Toney's family will be converging here for Easter - eight extra people and a filthy satchel o' ticks mongrel dog - and Toney is planning on staging some sort of Mexican night of drunkeness on the deck. She's going to have nachos and homemade salsa and margaritas and whatever else goes with the theme. Sounds like fun, but I'm seriously concerned that the deck might collapse.

As far as I know, everything is sound out there. In fact, we had a guy look at it a couple of years ago (I'm neurotic), and he said it was "solid as a rock." But there's gonna be a lot of heft on that thing, and I'll be a nervous wreck that it'll just say 'fuck it,' come off the house, and fold up like a giant TV tray. I can already imagine the news reports: "What started as a fun-filled Mexican fiesta quickly turned to tragedy Saturday night...." And I don't like that.

The upstairs toilet too. When I think about it logically, I know that it should be the strongest room in the house. Because a few weeks after we bought this place we found a bad water leak in there (something the expensive home inspectors missed) and we had to have the entire floor rebuilt. But even though I know that, I can't help but worry. Once a weak spot, always a weak spot....

Maybe they did a shoddy repair job? Hell, how would I know? Maybe it won't hold the load that is Toney's brother, and he'll end up in the family room with his pants around his ankles, wearing a fez of turds? Even if he wasn't seriously hurt, he'd sue our asses via one of those "lawyers" that advertise on Maury! or whatever. Yeah, there'd be no happy outcome of a full toilet collapse, none whatsoever.

It doesn't help that he spends an inordinate amount of time atop the throne either. He once stood up during Thanksgiving dinner at Sunshine's apartment, walked straight into the bathroom and unleashed a five-megaton assplosion that could be heard for a city block, then returned to the table and said, "Could somebody pass the mashed potatoes?" Constantly with the crapping.

So, in addition to the normal concerns (the translucents having one of their "episodes" and hurling a fifteen-pound rusted-iron 1970s-era Tonka truck through our storm door, Nostrils burning the Olympics logo into our kitchen counter with his ridiculous Soviet coffee maker...) I've got a few new things to worry about.

And so it goes.... It all starts on Friday and, needless to say, I'll keep you updated.

-- I can't even begin to tell you how crazy this morning has been... I've already walked, in the rain, to the elementary school and back, and sent Andy frantically scampering under a bed with some sort of wild primal scream that came out of nowhere. Maybe I'll tell you about it tomorrow, and maybe I won't... Fuck it.

In any case, this update is a lot shorter than I'd hoped. But I'm gonna have to call it a day, my friends.

I'll leave you now with a slightly disturbing picture of Buck in a Box (not our Buck, thankfully), and a brand new Smoking Fish sighting.

See ya tomorrow.