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  Willard "Bill" Hershberger

 The State   April 2007    


Your Ad Here


April 30, 2007

-- We had a great time in Gettysburg yesterday. I think it was our third visit, and I was a bit concerned I might be bored. 

I mean, just how many times can a person walk around the battlefields and stare at the monuments? And how many times can he wander through the stores and look at shot glasses with cannons on them? And how many times can he contemplate five hundred musket balls under glass at the battle museum? Well… apparently lots of times, ‘cause we had a blast.

The whole thing is surprisingly satisfying. It’s like when you’re getting ready to leave on a long car trip and don’t really have to pee, but feel like you should try it anyway. And then it goes on and on and on…. I’m not sure the Chamber of Commerce would approve of such an analogy, but it’s accurate, I believe. A Day at Gettysburg : It’s Like A Great Pee That Sneaks Up On You!

This one isn’t getting off to a very good start, is it?

When we arrived in town we took a wrong turn and ended up in a park we’d never seen before. We drove on a narrow one-way road between the trees, and there were monuments and markers everywhere. 

It was pretty darn amazing, and creepy as well. I could just imagine being seventeen and scared, and up in those woods with the knowledge there are hundreds (thousands?) of people in the general vicinity who’d like very much to blow your freakin’ head off. I wouldn’t want to be in that so-called park after the sun went down. No way.

We drove and drove, and I started to worry we might not find our way out. It seemed to go on forever, and there wasn’t even a hint of civilization in any direction. Finally we were deposited at the base of a KFC, and I breathed a sigh of relief.

We had lunch at a place called The Pub (I think that was the name of it), and I ordered a club sandwich but forgot to say “no mayo.” Every time I bit down on it, that terrible crap (the devil’s condiment) oozed in every direction, and I was fairly grossed-out. 

The food was really good otherwise (provolone = yum), but the restaurant clearly understands that most people only use sandwiches as an excuse; in most cases they’re nothing more than a vehicle with which to transport spreads. And I don’t swing that way.

After we finished our meal, and I got mayonnaise off my pants and out of my eyebrows, we walked around the neighborhood there. We bought the Secrets each an authentic Civil War-era bullet, which are so plentiful every store in town has buckets of the things, and sells ‘em for three bucks a pop. They’re incredibly heavy, and could flat-out ruin a person’s day, I imagine.

There must’ve been some kind of greyhound convention going on. Because we saw about thirty of those hilarious, high-stepping animals being walked by people who looked a little like greyhounds themselves. Plus, and this is a new one on me, many stores had professionally-made (permanent?) signs in their windows that read: Greyhounds Welcome! Very strange. Can anyone explain this to me? Because I’m baffled.

And speaking of animals, we passed a pet store with puppies and kittens in the display windows out front. Needless to say, this drew a crowd and everyone was hollering the word “cute,” and acting like their legs were about to give out. 

There were four tiny cats in the cats section, and one was spread out on the floor like a bearskin rug. The other three were romping around and putting on a show for us. One (I shit you not) actually climbed a ladder, which almost caused an old lady to black-out and fall face-first into the gutter. I was prepared to step in and catch her if she fully succumbed to the cuteness, but she was able to dial it back at the last minute.

Toney said, “They sure are cute, aren’t they?” And I answered, “Yeah, but wonder why they don’t do something with that dead one?” Man, oh man. That little joke didn’t go over very well. I thought it was pretty funny, but white-hot dirty looks came flying at me from every direction. Sheesh. I guess there’s no joking allowed when it comes to kittens? I felt like Don Imus.

We finally went back to the parking garage where we’d left our car, and the woman inside the boof had a big ol’ TV with her. I’d say she was in her early 60s, and looked like a stereotypical school teacher. But I’m almost certain she was watching Scarface. 

I handed her my ticket, she shoved it into a machine on the counter, and there was just continuous gunfire on the television. She said I owed her a dollar, I handed it to her, and as we were driving away I saw a close-up of a man screaming in pain and covered in blood.


We spent a half-hour or so at the museum, and that was pretty cool. They have cannons in there, about a million guns, tents, playing cards, shaving kits, uniforms, and every tiny (or otherwise) item a Civil War soldier might encounter. 

I was most intrigued by the ammo display. It appeared that most of the stuff wasn’t even designed to explode, it was just balls of metal to be launched in the other guy's direction. And how bad would that suck? You’d be sitting there minding your own business one day, maybe eating some cold oatmeal or whatever, when a twenty pound sphere of iron comes sailing over a tree and strikes you full in the back. 

No, I don’t think I’d much care for that.

They also had a huge display of photographs taken at a reunion in 1938. It showed very old men, many sporting ZZ Top beards, seated at picnic tables and eating pie. Supposedly they were all veterans of the battle at Gettysburg(!), just sitting around, chilling – blue and gray together - all the old issues long ago settled. I could be wrong, but it appeared the only thing on their minds that day was getting another slice of that good blueberry, and maybe catching a quick nap under a tree somewhere.

The battlegrounds never fail to get me in the gut. I’m no Civil War fanatic, and I'm certainly not a member of the thuper-thenthitive Oprah Nation, but just walking around those fields where so many people died has the power to move even a cynical bastard such as myself. I took some pictures, but when I got home I realized they were almost exactly like the ones I got last time. So I’ll just save myself some time and link to the old ones. Screw it.

Here’s one from yesterday. It’s the marker for the graves of unknown West Virginia soldiers. People leave coins on them, for some reason, and WV’s dead didn’t have too many. So, most of those are from my own pocket. The site of Lincoln ’s Gettysburg Address got much more respect, and I think I was experiencing a mild case of coin-envy. Next time I think I’ll bring a roll of quarters and even the (four)score a bit.

-- And that’ll just about do it for today, my friends. But before I go… we've got yet another Smoking Fish sighting, this time in Chile! Check it out. Our logo, man, he gets around. 

Also, I want you to know that your peer pressure worked. On Saturday I went out and bought a copy of The Stand. I was called some very hurtful things at this website, and finally broke-down and bought the damn thing.

But I’m telling you, the book is HUGE. I don’t think my concerns are unfounded, pussy-boy or no. Take a look. That’s me waiting in the checkout line at Borders. It’s a wonder I wasn’t killed!

I'll see you guys tomorrow. 

April 28, 2007

-- We’re going to spend Sunday in Gettysburg , as part of our just-launched Distractions For A Man On The Cusp Of Losing His Shit Full-Out program. It’ll do us all some good, I think, to walk around with the ghosts of Civil War dead for an afternoon. I know it’s worked wonders in the past.

We also picked our dates for Myrtle Beach , and made our reservations. It’s sometime in June; I’m not sure of the exact days. But my parents are letting us use their big manly camper. So we’ll get to spend a week or so sleeping almost literally on the beach, without all the pain of dragging that ridiculous box o’ beds across the full thickness of America . 

No, it’ll just be a leisurely drive in the Camry, with Tom Petty in the CD player and a big sack of Jelly Bellys on the console. Just the way God intended.

Like I say, I think it’ll do us all some good.

-- I do have another interview on Wednesday, so at least I’m getting some action on the job front. This is for an inventory manager gig, and the location of their office is freaking me out, man. It’s literally on the same plot of land as my former job.

I’m not kidding, the building where they’re based is the former corporate headquarters of the manufacturing plant where I worked for the past seven years; it’s located literally in the shadows of my old place of employment! Several years ago the powers-that-be decided they didn’t need the outside building, and sold it off. And now I’m interviewing for a job there.   

And how forkin’ weird would that be?

But it sure would be nice to get back to work, regardless of the location. I’m starting to go batty in this house. Lots of exciting things have happened since I’ve been able to devote more time to the site, but I really need to get back to a “normal” life. I think I’m only a few weeks away from building poop castles in the living room. Or, even worse, Sudoku.

Will somebody please hold me?

-- Sunshine and Mumbles are coming for one of their marathon visits soon. By this time next week they’ll be here, unless something changes, and they’re supposed to stay for at least ten days. And I have no job where I can hide-out… Sweet sainted mother of Luther Mahoney.

While they’re here we’re supposed to spend a day in Philadelphia , and presumably the rest of the time will be taken up with Sunny sitting around on couches fanning herself, gasping for air like a trout on a pier, and complaining like a person entered in a complaining contest.

What’s that old John Denver song? Sunshine on my soooofa, just a-bitchin’? Yeah, I think that’s right.

Why me, Lord?

-- A man told me yesterday that many large companies try their best not to hire white males, in an attempt to demonstrate their devotion to diversity in the workplace. It’s nothing I didn’t already know, of course, and I shrugged it off. But I was thinking… 

Perhaps if I tweaked my resume a bit, and listed my name as Jeff K’ay? Or maybe Gephree Que? What do you think? Would it get me more interviews? And how else could I enhance things to get past the moratorium on big fat middle-aged white guys?

-- Toney got called for jury duty yesterday, and I’m extremely jealous. I’m 44 years old and have only been called once, and it was for Los Angeles
County after we’d already moved to Scranton . 

So I’ve never had the experience of serving on a jury, or even going through the jury selection process. Why?? I’m always registered to vote, wherever we live, but I never get called.

All my adult life I’ve wanted to be one of twelve angry men, even if I’m just pretending to be angry for the benefit of the other eleven. (Passion is for suckers.) Why am I continuously denied the right to roll up my sleeves, eat Chinese takeout at a conference table, and run my hands through my hair at 1 am?

Hell, I can vote GUILTY AS ALL CRAP, as well as anyone.

Have you ever served on a jury? Tell me about it, won’t you? Use the comments link below. Since, you know, I’m apparently never going to be called, and can only live the experience through others. Wotta ripoff…

I’ll see you guys on Monday. 

April 26, 2007

-- We went to the Old Country Buffet last night. This is a significant development, because Toney and both our kids claim to hate the place. It’s long been my contention, however, that they don’t really hate the restaurant itself, they hate the other patrons. And that’s not really fair. 

It’s like people who supposedly dislike Lynyrd Skynyrd. I’m convinced it’s almost always because a significant percentage of the band’s fans are shirtless, Old Milwaukee-hoisting, rebel-yellin’ rednecks. And that doesn’t have anything to do with the songs, does it? I submit that it does not.  

Oh sure, the Old Country Buffet draws hillbillies out of their hollers, and there’s generally people there with catastrophic skin conditions, and botched grafts, and the like. But that’s what the sneeze guards are for, right? And just because there might be a mountain man seated beside us with 6 ounces of Thousand Island dressing in his Robert E. Lee beard… how does that affect us?

The Secrets especially have dug their heels in about the place, and we’ve had actual arguments about it in the past. One time we were driving to meet Toney at a Chinese restaurant both boys love, and I pretended to be talking to their mother on my cell phone – and changing the plan. 

I acted like Toney and I had decided at the last minute to go to the Buffet instead, and nothing good came from that, nothing at all. I think somebody eventually started crying, everyone was mad, and I ended up calling my sons Niles and Frasier.

But last night I floated the idea, and there was surprisingly little resistance. So I seized the opportunity, and we went.

It cost $33 for admission into the Gravy Kingdom , which is pretty damn steep, I think. But whatever. Since I only get to go there once every six months or so, no use focusing on the negative.

One thing you’ll notice about those kinds of places: the Keeper of the Meats is the anchor position. Everything revolves around that one person. They’re in place to make the customer believe they’re receiving hand-carved freshly-prepared ham, turkey, or steak, just like in fancy restaurants on TV shows.  

But, of course, their true role is to limit the consumption of the Expensive Stuff. Truly accomplished keepers can make a person feel like a disgraceful glutton gently, and discourage most folks from asking for more. The Keepers of the Meat are the goalies of the standard family buffet, and a good one is invaluable to the entire organization.

At least that’s the way I see it.

Last night I had two full adult meals, possibly three, and it was good. The only thing I didn’t care for was the meat loaf, which was kinda saucy. My last trip to the bar featured said meat loaf, taters ‘n’ gravy, a fully-loaded taco, and some sort of Chinese stir-fry. All on one plate. I wanted to wedge a little lasagna in there, but was afraid the plate might fold-under while I was carrying it.

Toney and the boys ate their share too, but I couldn’t get the Secrets to admit they liked it. They’re fully invested in hating the Old Country Buffet, but I know the truth. The truth lives inside me.

-- After we left the restaurant, we went to Borders. I wanted to have a look at The Stand, and try to decide if I really want to undertake a 1200-page novel.

I found the thick-ass thing, and opened it to the middle. Immediately I saw that not only is the book ridiculously large, but the print is ridiculously small. My pupils began to dilate as I tried to read a random paragraph; the font was, I think, the same as used in those disclaimer pamphlets they put inside packages of cold medicine.

Ferget it. No way I’d read some shit like that; I’d probably end up having a seizure. They did have a hardcover version, with a less-painful print-size, and it was only $14.99. The paperback was $8.99, so that would be an easy decision to make. 

But I just couldn’t do it. I left every copy sitting there. I’m sorry, but I’m intimidated by books that carry a warning label on the outside that shows a man lifting with his legs and not his back.

Then I happened upon the Score of the Day, my friends. It was in the bargain books section, and the floor of my ass nearly fell out when I saw it: the National Lampoon Sunday Newspaper Parody, for $3.99!

This thing was originally published in 1978, in the format of an actual Sunday newspaper. For reasons I can’t explain, I never owned a copy of it. I had the 1964 high school yearbook parody (genius!), and most other Lampoon products from that era, but never the Sunday newspaper. I tried to buy a copy on eBay several times, but the prices always got way out of hand.

Then I recently learned that it was reissued as a book, and it’s been on my Amazon wish-list ever since. And now it’s mine, all mine, for less than five bucks. Not to be too graphic, but I think I had to stand a little farther from the shelving than normal.

And speaking of that… seconds before the Score of the Day, the oldest Secret almost caught me flipping through another bargain book, called the Bible of Great Sex, or somesuch. It was a big glossy hardcover, and I’m only flesh and blood here.

I flipped it open to a random page, and it seemed to feature hundreds and hundreds of color photographs of a Barbie and Ken couple pretending to have sex in improbable positions. The man looked like that guy on the news, Stone Temple Phillips, or whatever. And the woman was sporting a Hitler moustache in an area of the female anatomy Hitler himself probably never saw.

When the oldest Secret came bounding around the corner, I slammed the thing shut and hid it behind my back, like I was ten years old again. 

Indeed, it reminded me of a time in fifth or sixth grade when I was sneaking a peek at a Playboy in the local Kroger, and a female classmate (Janet S., who sometimes reads this site…) caught me. I think I literally shrieked and dumped the magazine in a freezer full of Eggo waffles, before bolting the store, completely horrified.

More recently, I was in an airport somewhere, casually perusing a rack of magazines. I reached for a copy of Hustler that was missing its plastic wrap, and the second I touched it the entire shelf of smut came loose, and crashed loudly at my feet. Every head in the place turned, and there I was, standing amongst a pile of close-up vaginas.

And I don’t know how any of this happened today, how I went from chicken gravy to pornography. I’d better just wrap things up here.

But, you know, if you've got any embarrassing porn stories to tell...

Tomorrow I’m supposed to take part in something called a Supply Chain Roundtable, which is apparently a schmoozing event for out-of-work operations managers, or some deal. I’ll have to leave the house at 9 am , so there’s a real possibility I won’t update on Friday. 

I’ll try, though. And if I’m unable to pull it off… check the site over the weekend. I’ll do my best not to shortchange you folks this week. I really will.

Before I turn it over to Buck, can any of you guess who this is? (No, not Booji Boy.)  Brad sent me the pic yesterday evening, and it caused me to toss and turn through the night. Sweet sainted mother of Danny O’Day. 

Also, I added a new item to the Ads vs. Reality page, one that probably pruned two full weeks off the back-end of my life. Damn good though. Check it out, at the top o' the page.

Now here’s something new and good from our old friend Buck.

And I’ll see you guys again real soon. 

April 25, 2007

-- Last night Toney was on the phone with her mother (Sunshine), and the boys were playing on the floor of the living room making one hell of racket. The TV was on as well, and it sounded like there were 25 people talking at once.    

I couldn’t take it anymore, so I yelled, “It sounds like a freakin’ Chuck E. Cheese in here!” and went upstairs and started reading on the bed. Andy apparently couldn’t handle it either, and joined me.

So it was me, Bentley Little, and man’s best friend, in the quiet sanctuary of the bedroom. Then Toney opened the front door downstairs, and our stupid dog was thrown into one of his frenzies. His ears perked up, he stood on the bed at high-alert, then used my right thigh as a launching pad for his investigation.

He cut a twelve-inch swooping gash in my leg with the big Kruegers on his rear paws. Well, gash might be a bit dramatic, but it was a big honkin’ scratch. And I started howling like a retard at a potato-sack race, as that idiot dog crashed through the hallway, and down the stairs.

And when I showed Toney the giant blood-drizzling rip in my skin, she laughed. Laughed! I don’t know what it is, but whenever I get hurt my wife thinks it’s nothing short of hilarious. Every. Single. Time.

Yes, it’s very important to have a strong support network.

-- Since we’re on the subject, I’ve got a little more information on the ridiculous novelty dog I’ve been seeing tip-toeing around at the neighbors’ house all week.

Before he nearly amputated my right leg, we took Andy for a walk yesterday evening. The neighbor with the new laughable dog was in her front yard when we passed by, and Toney struck up a conversation.

Apparently they're only keeping the hilarious Dr. Seuss hound for a friend, and it doesn’t actually belong to them. But check this out: she said it’s a chow. Now, I’m no expert on the subject, but I’ve never seen a chow with long spindly legs, and a mane. I’m highly skeptical. I think she’s hiding something. It reminds me of the Coneheads telling everyone they’re from France.

And another thing… there were delays in the conversation, disconcerting delays. Toney would ask the woman a question, and there’d be a gap of silence before she answered, as if she were speaking via videophone from Iraq .

What up wit’ dat? Do you think our neighbors are from outer space? I believe it’s a real possibility. I’ll try to get a picture of this so-called “chow” in the coming days, and maybe we can put this mystery to bed.

Unless, of course, I’m sucked into the mothership the very
moment I upload this. Holy shit on a sugar cone!

-- We’re planning to spend Sunday in Gettysburg
. We need distractions, people. I’m losing my flakin’ mind hanging around this house, just eating chicken salad sandwiches and looking out the windows all the time like Mrs. Kravitz. A day away will do us all some good, I think.

And we’re also going to take my parents up on an offer they made us a few weeks back. They have a big camper in storage at Myrtle Beach
, and they said we could use it whenever we want. 

It’s one of those big babies, with the slide-outs and the whole nine yards. And all we’ll have to do is make reservations at the campground, and the people there will have it all set-up and ready for us when we arrive.

How cool is that? No dragging the rolling box o’ beds up and down the east coast. No more emasculating camper-backing episodes. No propane tanks working themselves free in Virginia
, and blowing up a Stuckey’s. None of that, with all the benefits.

So, when Toney gets home this afternoon we’re gonna pick four or five days on the calendar, and just do it. Because we need distractions, people.

-- I received an email this morning from a guy who wants to interview me for a radio show in Switzerland
. He’s interested in the Ads vs. Reality page (of course), and says he read about it in an Italian newspaper. 

My brain is starting to hurt…

-- Yahoo sent me this icon yesterday, and urged me to place it on my website. So, I’m doing as I was told.

-- Surf Reporter Matt sends along these photos he snapped in the parking lot of a school near his house. Man, those auxiliary classrooms are getting smaller and smaller, aren’t they?

-- Here’s a handful of fresh new Smoking Fish sightings, including one that might be pushing the limits a bit. But thanks folks, I really appreciate it. And keep ‘em coming!

-- Before I turn it over to Brad, I have a quick question (or two) for ya…. For reasons I cannot figure out, I’m suddenly very interested in reading Stephen King’s The Stand. The problem? It’s 1168 pages long. 

I’ve never read anything that thick. I did read a biography of Benjamin Franklin once that was something like 800 pages. I didn’t think I’d ever get to the end of it, and the thing hung around my neck for weeks and weeks, almost causing me to cry a few times. 

But this Stand deal is that, plus another book or so tacked-on!

Have you read it? Is it worth the pain? And if you haven’t read it, what’s the tallest book you’ve ever taken on? Can you beat my 800 page Ben Franklin book which seemed to unfold in real-time, and lasted roughly as long as the man actually lived? Tell us about it, won’t you?

-- But not before you read the latest from Brad, right here. Do that first.

And I’ll see you guys tomorrow. 

April 24, 2007

-- Before I took the Secret to school this morning, I put on a pot of good ol’ Eight O’clock bean coffee, so it would be ready to go when I got home. It’s part of the unemployment ritual I find myself settling into. 

Toney usually comes upstairs and prods my back fat around 6:45
, and tells me to get up. I wallow around in heavy fabrics for the next ten minutes or so, then finally hoist myself off the dormancy platform. After an urgent visit to the Smallest Room, I go downstairs and sit around for a while, grunting reactions to whatever is being said at the time.

I usually have a cup or two of the coffee Toney brewed when she came downstairs, hours earlier, and it’s pretty much like something from a 1970s Esso station by the time I get to it. But it’s there, and it’s hot, so screw it.

When I can’t take anymore Danny Phantom at Cheap Trick volume, I shuffle down to the bunker and check my email and see if there’s anything exciting happening in the world. Like, you know, celebrity death. 

Then I click over to my special “employment search” mailbox, hoping for the best, and finding instead a computer-generated message from CareerBuilder: “We have two new hand-picked, specially-selected opportunities for you today, Jeff! Nuclear physicist, and assistant key-person at Lids.”

I sigh with deep, deep sadness, take a shower, pop in my contacts, and all that crapola. Then it’s time to start the real pot of coffee, the one that will fuel my Surf Report update that day.

I drive the Secret to school, and sometimes allow our dog Andy (Black Lips Houlihan) to ride shotgun. As we wait for the aides inside the building to finish their honeybuns, wipe the glaze off their lips, and lick their hotdog fingers clean, we concoct elaborate stories featuring the other people waiting in line there. This morning High Neck was hit with a powerful diarrhea ray, and comedy ensued.

Then I come home, pour myself a freshly-brewed cup of good ol’
Eight O’clock , and we’re off and running.

But not this morning. Today I pressed my Baseball Hall of Fame mug against the dispenser button on the front of our fancy-ass coffeemaker, and hot water came out. Nothing but clear water, heated.

The shit?! I’d forgotten to put the basket with the coffee in there. It was still sitting on the counter, over by the toaster.  Grrr…

So, needless to say, my whole day’s shot.

-- Our neighbors have apparently purchased some sort of ridiculous dog. I keep seeing the thing walking around down there, and find myself doing repeated double-takes.

I can’t begin to tell you the breed of this animal, since I’ve never seen anything like it before in my entire life. In fact, I’m not even 100% certain it is a dog. But I think it is. I think it is, in fact, a dog.

It has tall skinny legs, like a greyhound, but there are rings of fur around its body. It seems to walk on tip-toes and has, I’m almost sure, a mane. It’s a real high-stepper, and possesses a tail that looks like a single Arby’s curly fry sticking out of its ass.

At least that’s the way I’m remembering it. I could be slightly off…. But believe me, it’s full-blown Dr. Seuss down there these days. I’m fully expecting to be walking to my car soon, and seeing that thing spinning plates on a stick.

Those folks obviously don’t believe in having just a regular ol’ mutt from the pound. Their previous dog was some sort of designer deal as well, completely white and as big as a Shetland pony. He could walk up to our house and look in the front windows, literally. 

He was almost exactly the same age as Andy, but contracted a neurological disorder when he was four and began walking on a slant. Eventually the owners were forced to put him down. It was really sad, because that dog was big, dumb, and eager to please. It seemed like he was smiling all the time, and you couldn’t get mad even when he ripped open every single one of your trash bags, and dragged the contents halfway to Dunmore

Andy hasn’t had the opportunity to interact with the exotic new pipe-cleaner dog yet, and it’ll be interesting to see how it goes. I’m not sure he’ll know how to react to something so delicate and hilarious. But, of course, I’ll let you know.

-- I’m listening to the latest CD by John Wesley Harding. His voice reminds me of Atlanta
. Because, you see, I was a big fan of his when I lived there. And, if I’m not mistaken, he lived there as well.   

His early albums sound exactly like Elvis Costello. But they’re also really good, so he got away with it. He used to play around town all the time, and I probably saw him five or six times. He’s one of those guys who talk as much as they sing in concert, and is completely hilarious.

I actually shot a game of pool with him once, back during the record weasel years. It was upstairs at the Variety Playhouse, and I think the Judybats had just finished performing. He kicked my ass, all up and down.

So anyway… I’d kinda lost track of the guy over the years. Then I read a gushing review of his latest, and picked it up at half dotcom. It’s really good, and his voice reminds me of Atlanta
, in case I hadn’t mentioned it. Are there any voices that remind you of a city? Or am I the weird one, again?

And that’s about all I can muster today, my friends. The coffee situation has me all out of sorts….

I’ll be back tomorrow. 

April 23, 2007

-- Check this out. Is that not excellent? I submit that it is. But you know what they say… Take a blurry picture of a hamburger, and the world will beat a path to your door. Then demand better lighting.

-- The Ads vs. Reality page is still kicking, in case you give a tiny seahorse-shaped craplet. I figured it would last for a couple of days, then start to fade. But it’s not fading, it’s not fading at all. In fact, it looks like today might be the biggest traffic-day so far. Completely amazing.

And all I can say is I’m thankful I changed webhosts a couple of years ago. I’m with Hostito now and have been in constant contact with them during this whole crazy ordeal. Yeah, the extra traffic is costing me some money, but nothing like the old days.

Right now, as I type this, I’m a whopping 151 gigabytes over my allowance for April. But the good folks at Hostito have acted like partners, not enemies, and we came to a fair agreement. 

Jason Headley hooked me up with those guys, and I owe him a huge debt of gratitude. If you’re looking for a new host, do yourself a favor and consider Hostito. I (and Jason) couldn’t be more pleased.

I don’t want to embarrass anyone by mentioning my old host by name (Earthlink), but I did the math a few minutes ago and I’d be looking at a charge of $15,100(!!) if I was still a customer there. I don’t think they’d hold me to that, but they’d probably insist I pay half, or something. Anyone who was around during the Neti Pot Debacle knows it’s true. 

And divorce proceedings would be underway in Scranton
, the movers would be here, and I’d be sitting on a box in the basement blubbering softly in the darkness....

So there you go; you’re up to date on all that crapola. Let’s move on to the Regular Stuff, shall we?

-- The weekend was incredible, weather-wise. Maybe it’s the contrast with last weekend, when there was nearly a foot of snow on the ground, but the past few days have seemed like paradise itself.

The sun is shining here, the temperatures are reaching the high 70s every day, and the bugs aren’t awake yet. Perfect!

Because of this, we spent a lot of time outside on Saturday and Sunday. I think we visited every park within a 25-mile radius of our house, and logged many miles of walking and sun-soakin’.

We even fired up the grill on Saturday, popped open a few Magic Hat #9s, and had ourselves a full-on summer-style cookout. 

It was great. I hope it was the same in your neck of the woods.

-- Not to turn a positive into a negative here (ahem), but why are state parks such trash magnets? Can anyone explain this to me? Like I said, we went to several parks over the weekend, and the state park alone was crawling with white trash. 

The whole time we were there, I was humming this song without even realizing it.

We walked beside the lake, and I think there were people actually fishing for food there. They didn’t look like they were out there for the sport of it, or for leisure, I think they were making arrangements for supper. 

Most of the guys were shirtless and heavily-scarred, and the women were tattooed, pushing their tube-tops to the very limit, and hollering at their little buzzcut hicklets with terrifying cigarette and bourbon voices.

I saw what I presume to be a man fishing near the pier, and he looked like a human embryo in a NAPA
cap. Remember the “baby” in Eraserhead? It was something along those lines. I wondered how he’d ever reel in a fish, if he actually caught one. But something tells me that embryonic man-husk is shockingly strong, and could probably kick my ass.

As we were walking back to our car we encountered a morbidly obese woman with a cig dancing on her lips, having a shouted conversation with a chinless man down by the lake. Always with the shouting…. She hollered that Bobby was getting a timeout in the truck, because he’d gone “over the line.”

I told Toney their “line” was undoubtedly located somewhere other than our line. Wonder what Bobby had done, anyway? Burned down a church? I just don’t know.

Here are some pics I snapped at the same park, a few years ago. 

The other parks were far less colorful. However, we did see a deaf couple arguing, and that’s a new one on me. Man, they were going to town with their signing. Both were stabbing at the air, and getting all violent with it. At one point the woman let loose with one of those big swooping signs where the pinkie is extended, and I thought the man’s head would surely explode. He didn’t much care for the swooping.

What did you guys do this weekend? Anything exciting? Tell us about it, won’t you?

And I’ll be back tomorrow. 

April 20, 2007

-- I went for a long walk yesterday afternoon. I needed to clear my head and get away from this babyshit-green subterranean bunker for a while. The walls are closing in on me, man. So I put on some sneakers and a jacket, and went wandering like an escapee from an Alzheimer’s camp.

I thought about taking Andy with me, since all dogs live for that sort of thing. But he’s a huge pain in the ass, both east and west of the Great Divide, and I didn’t need it. So Andy stayed home. Poor Andy.

For reasons unknown, I’m fairly stressed about my job situation right now. I wasn’t stressed a few days ago, but I am now. And I don’t know why.    

I read in a book, or maybe it was mentioned in Allentown
, that many people experience an emotional crisis around the two-month anniversary of losing their job. In fact, a significant percentage of folks temporarily give up their employment search at that point; they decide it’s hopeless, and just say screw it. Or so I’ve heard. 

Crisis is a bit melodramatic in my case, but something is definitely happening – and it’s been almost exactly two months. I don’t know about you, but I don’t take kindly to self-help books correctly predicting my emotions.

I thought if I burned myself down to a smoldering nub it might relieve some of the tension. So I set out for the longest of walks. I wanted to be exhausted when I returned, and maybe have a few blisters to bitch about as well.

So I hoofed it all over town, must’ve walked miles. It was a beautiful day: the sun was shining, the snow was melting, the birds were talking amongst themselves… And I answered interview questions the whole time.

It wasn’t something I’d planned, of course. I even tried to change the subject in my brain a few times. But it just wasn’t going to happen. For the entire two hours a man (sometimes a woman) inside my head asked questions, and I answered them in full interview mode – always mindful that I’m trying to sell myself.

And when I got home I was exhausted alright. Oh, I was exhausted real good. I did a free-fall into a couch, and promptly fell asleep. 

Yeah, the walk was a good idea, I guess. But it’s been my experience that beer works better.

-- I listened to George Noory again last night. I think I’m becoming mildly obsessed. His guest was an “expert” on secret government facilities, like Area 51.

Apparently there’s a massive underground complex right here in Pennsylvania , called Site R, where guards are instructed to “shoot to kill” if any unauthorized person comes near it. Here’s some info on it.

Yes, it’s all very interesting. But do you ever get the feeling every woman who calls into that show is morbidly obese? It might just be my imagination, but sometimes I think I can actually hear fat pressing up against their voiceboxes. And the men, I believe, are all skinny, middle-aged, and balding, each with a ham radio license and all manner of antennae bolted to their roofs.

Or is that just me?

In any case, I’d like to make a standing offer. If anyone can capture an image of the Smoking Fish inside Area 51, I’ll send you a free t-shirt. Same goes for a pic of J.D. Salinger holding our logo, or a shot of it on the moon, or imbedded in bin Laden’s beard.

What other Ultimate Fish Shots can you come up with? There’s gotta be a million of them. Help me out with that one, folks.

-- And speaking of radio shows, a few nights ago I was listening to an old Jean Shepherd program from 1961. He was talking about hipsters, and how they’re prone to rejecting and mocking the culture of their own country, and embracing and elevating the cultures of other countries.

He told a story about visiting a friend in Rome
, and the guy was eager to take him to the hippest place in town. He kept going on and on about it, saying it was the coolest, most cutting-edge joint in all of Italy .

So they went there, and it turned out to be a fake Brooklyn hamburger stand. There were guys behind the counter wearing white t-shirts with the sleeves rolled up, and trying to talk with a New York
accent, and the whole nine yards. 

The place was completely packed with Cool People. And they were serving, he said, the worst hamburgers he’d ever tasted. It's amazing how the douches of 1961 are almost exactly like the douches of 2007...

Of course Shepherd’s description of all this is completely hilarious. If you ever get a chance to listen to him, you should do it.

I bought a collection of 700+ shows (spanning the late '50s to the late '70s) in mp3 format off eBay, for around fifteen bucks. And I’m here to tell ya, it was money well-spent.

-- I wandered into a Big Lots store a few days ago. I don’t like those places, and generally try to steer clear. But I needed batteries, and they always have ‘em cheap.

I do enjoy browsing the strange shit they sell there, I guess I should admit that. Especially the food. You’ll see something at a distance which looks like Pringle’s potato chips. But when you get closer you find the color of the can is slightly off, and it’s actually called Bringle’s. Or whatever.

I passed through the toy department the other day, and I’m almost certain I saw a big canister of Nixon Logs. But, of course, I was in a hurry and could be mistaken.

I bought eight AA alkaline batteries there, for about three dollars. And some kind of freaky candy that tasted like meat.

I guess I don't dislike Big Lots, after all? What was I thinking??

-- Check it out. They’re talking about us over at Metafilter. Smile and wave, everyone! And here's a snippet of Surf Reporter Barbra, aka CitizenX, calling into the national Computer America radio show last night, and spreading the good word. Very cool. 

And I think that’s enough for one day. I have more, but it’s feeding time. ...Hey, a man needs to eat. You guys have yourselves a great weekend.

I’ll see ya on Monday. 

April 19, 2007

-- I missed the garbage truck this morning. Thursday is Trash Day here, and I usually drag our cans to the curb after I take the youngest Secret to school. Since it’s usually not collected until the afternoon, this is a system that’s worked well for me. 

Some of the neighbors put out their drums of nastiness the previous night, but animals get into it. I told you about the time I looked out our front window and saw a massive white dog strutting up the middle of the street with a full-on Thanksgiving turkey carcass in his mouth. I can’t have that.

It’s often windy here as well, and shit starts flying around. I was once nearly decapitated by a pizza box (I had to bust out with some ancient Kung Fu techniques to get out of the way of it), and several times I’ve been driving and an airborne Tide bottle, or whatever, comes sailing through the air and crashes violently into my quarter panel.

So I’ve developed a Trash Day routine, in an attempt to avoid such things. And it’s been highly successful, until today.

This morning I was sitting in the living room talking to Toney, and having my second cup of good ol’
Eight O’Clock bean coffee, when I felt a low rumble in my sternum, and heard loud Scranton-talk off in the distance. The crap??

Then there it was, the maggot-masher -- at
6:45 am . I watched helplessly as a guy dropped off the side of the truck and emptied our neighbors’ trash. I sat paralyzed, and saw the same man lift a can high above his head like King Kong, and hurl it into the middle of our neighbor’s driveway. (I knew they did that!) Much laughter ensued, the rumbling started up again, and they were gone.

And now we’re going to have to hang onto our garbage for another week. By next Thursday our garage will smell like an open grave, and there will be trash bags stacked up with various sauces and gravies pressed against the insides, wanting desperately to come out and play. Grrrr…

But, at least it’s not as bad as it was in California
. Out there we had one big can on wheels (known as a wheely bin), and that’s what you had to work with. They’d only take what could fit inside that thing, with the lid completely closed. If the lid was lifted a bit, they’d leave your crap sitting there. 

There was also a weight limit, 75 pounds I think, and their trucks were apparently equipped with a scale of some sort. If you happened to have 76 pounds of garbage that week, well, you’re out of luck, sucker.

California: better living through regulation.

Those assholes were on high-alert for reasons not to pick up your trash. I was in a constant state of aggravation because of it. They had little pre-printed explanations that they’d stick to the lid of your can, telling how you’d violated the intricate garbage code that week. I’d see the bright green card as I pulled into the driveway after work, and that was that. Another evening ruined.

Because of all this, a Garbage Underground emerged. Various neighbors began helping each other out, on the sly. No doubt it was against the rules, but if someone had been out of town for a few days, or whatever, and found themselves with extra room in their bin, they’d invite others to fill it. So we spread it around, and utilized every available square inch of garbage space.

It takes a village.

When I was in grade school a teacher asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up. Being a smart-assed little prick, even then, I answered, “garbage man.” This made the teacher mad, and she called my mother at work. 

My mother was always getting called at work, because of something I’d said or done. But this time she flew off the handle. “It was a joke!” she hollered into the telephone. “Aren’t you familiar with the concept of jokes??” 

She still talks about that one, as well as the time I smeared Elmer’s Glue all over a toilet seat. Those are two that she found funny. Other such calls? Not so much.

Yeah, I was making a joke. But Toney knows a woman whose husband travels to Staten Island
, NY everyday, where he’s employed as a trash collector. And his salary is reportedly $80,000! That’s one hell of a commute, but shit… I might have to give the man a call. 

My great fear, though? The first thing out of his mouth would be, “Do you have a four-year college degree?”

Anyway, if this update doesn’t prove that I can go on and on about almost any subject, I don’t know what will. I’m gonna turn it over to Metten now, and go fix myself a big ol’ chicken salad samlich.

See ya tomorrow. 

April 18, 2007

-- Our little Ads vs. Reality page has officially joined the ranks of the gargoyle, Mike Piazza, and the guys and gals of Deadwood. Unbelievable traffic. In fact, there’s been so much activity it makes me nervous. Twice yesterday the entire site went down, and I had to call my webhost and plead for mercy.

Today is starting out just like yesterday, and I’m kinda wishing it would slow down a bit. Sure, I’m happy so many people are interested in what we do here (these folks, for instance), but can’t we spread it out a little? Jesus J. McChrist.

I’m never satisfied, am I?

-- I haven’t written about this, because I feel like I’ll jinx myself, but I had a second interview last week with a company I’d love to work for. That happened on Wednesday, and I haven’t heard a word from them since. 

I know it’s only been a week, but it’s making me crazy. Crazy, I tell you! As one of our great philosophers, Tom Petty, once said, the waiting is the hardest part.

There are lots of exciting things happening on the website/writing front, but I’d feel like a million pounds had been lifted off my shoulders if I could land a new job so early in the process. 

I don’t want to go into all the details, but the current situation has cast a gloom over the House of Kay. Toney and I don’t do uncertainty very well, it’s becoming clear, and are both craving a return to normalcy.

So, since not writing about it didn’t seem to help, maybe writing about it will? I’ll let you know how that goes.

-- And speaking of job interviews… That gives me an excuse to link to this again, the best Dilbert ever. Man, that is Nostrils, personified.

-- My Netflix queue has fallen into disrepair, my friends. I have no passion for it anymore, and everything’s gone to hell. There are weeds in the yard, a rusted-out washing machine 'neath the oak tree, and a muddy tractor tire on the front porch.

I hate to admit it, but I’ve become a flixbilly.

Oh, I still enjoy watching the discs, that hasn’t changed. But I no longer move things up and down my queue, or add new releases, or any of the maintenance necessary for a full and rewarding Netflix experience.

Also, I’m finding I prefer old TV shows to movies these days. My mind is constantly racing and besodden with worry, and it’s hard to focus for two hours straight. So I’m clinging to Homicide, Veronica Mars, and 24. They’re just what the doctor ordered, it seems.

I’ve had The Good Shepherd here for several days, and don’t have even the tiniest of desires to watch it. It’s almost three(!) hours long, and I just can’t see that happening. I think I’m going to send it back this afternoon, unwatched.

Like I said, flixbilly.

-- Jason Headley sends along this glistening jewel of video brilliance. It’s purportedly taken from an Atlanta
public access TV show, and you owe it to yourself to watch it. Just about as good as it gets….

-- Remember those pills they used to give us in school that made the filth on our teeth turn red? Wonder if they still do that? I have a feeling it was outlawed years ago, because of concerns about self-esteem, etc. 

Indeed, there was a girl at our school, Cathy S., who looked like she was wearing a boxer’s mouth guard after chewing up one of those things. Just solid red, all the way around. I bet that didn’t exactly make her day.  

But I think they should bring back the Filth Illuminating Tablets, don’t you? It’s was a simpler time when authority figures forced us to turn bad hygiene into whimsical novelty colors. Ya know?

Hell, I think they should take it one step farther and make every kid put on a funk suit. They could slip it on over their regular clothes, and the thing would change colors in places where it doesn’t smell quite right.

I can hear it now: “Here comes Sister Blue Crack!” or “Everyone make way for Johnny Red Pits!!”     

I think that would be excellent.

-- I don’t really have a question for you today, unless you’d like to suggest some other TV shows for me to watch through Netflix. I’m not interested in sitcoms right now, just crime stuff, mostly. I’m very intrigued by The Wire, and might go that route next. Any other suggestions?

I’m gonna turn it over to Brad now, and call it a day. His latest can be found right here. Hopefully the site will stay up long enough for you to read it.

See ya tomorrow. 

April 17, 2007

-- I went to a job fair yesterday, in Wilkes-Barre
, and a more demoralizing event I cannot imagine. There were two companies in particular I was interested in, and both blew me off like I was a street person sporting a fecal monobrow.

I almost didn’t go, because of the snow. There was four or five inches on the ground when I got up yesterday, and it just kept coming. By the afternoon we had upwards of a foot of the stuff to contend with, and it took the four of us an hour or so to shovel the driveway.

But I wanted to talk to those companies…. 

I’d watched The Pursuit of Happyness a few nights before, and if that guy could eat so many shit-sammiches and still come out on top, I sure as hell could drive a few miles on wet roads. So I decided to go for it. Because of Will Smith.

The “fair” was held at the Wachovia Arena, and there were dozens and dozens of companies in attendance. I wanted to talk with representatives from a pharmaceutical firm, and a large health insurance provider. Both are advertising operational opportunities I feel I’m qualified for.

I drove through snow the entire way, and by the time I parked at the arena, it was pouring down rain. I hoofed it across the parking lot and jumped over great ponds of standing water. When I finally reached the lobby I was soaked, and had full-on Michael Jackson hair.

A woman shoved an informational packet into my hand, and told me where to start. I did as I was told, and noticed the place was teeming with people all trussed-up in dress clothes. Nobody looked comfortable, and most had neck fat cascading out of the tops of stiff collars; they could barely swivel their heads. They looked like a gang of terrified muffin monsters. 

I’d dressed much more casually, thank you very much, and my fat was allowed to move around without hindrance. Nothing was propped up on a tee of fabric.

A lot of the boofs were taken up with people peddling popcorn machines(?!), and home cosmetics businesses, and that kind of crapola. And, of course, there were military recruiters on hand, and plenty of outfits looking for hourly warehouse workers. 

McDonald’s even had a presence, and the guy behind the table looked like every fast food manager in the world. I guess if things get desperate, and I’m forced to go that route, I’ll have to make an attempt at growing a big bushy moustache? I’ve already got the body-type covered.

But I wasn’t there for McDonald’s.  I needed booths two and thirteen. And that’s where I headed.

At boof two the woman smiled and took my resume, then said, “Do you have a four-year degree?” It was the first thing out of her mouth. I said no, but I do have seventeen years of real-life experience. 

And that was the end of that. I went from being an actual prospect to a six-foot stack of filth and garbage, in two seconds flat. She handed me back my resume, as if it had been soaked in sewage, and told me they wouldn’t be able to help. She was wearing the expression of a person who’d just entered a public restroom stall, and discovered a toilet already loaded-up.

I took four of her freebie pens, shot her a “take that!” look, and walked away. And over at thirteen, we didn’t even get to the resume stage. The guy said my best option would be to apply for an entry-level customer service job, and work my way up. Because, you see, I’d been a misguided dumbass during the Reagan administration.

So, that was a lot of fun. It reminded me of the World Series game I attended in 1976, and the night I touched a living, breathing female breast for the first time. Oh, it was quite exhilarating.

I headed for the exit, parting a sea of muffin monsters along the way. Apparently I looked pissed and deranged, I just don’t know. 

And as I began to drive away, my cell phone rang. It was one of my BITs coming to fruition: a literary agent calling to offer me a contract. He works at one of the most-respected firms in
New York City , and said he wants me as a client. 

The floor of my ass almost fell out.

When I got home, I checked my email, and there it was: a contract. Apparently I hadn’t been hallucinating, after all. The first paragraph ends with the phrase, “We are pleased to accept this engagement.” Sweet sainted mother of the Great Gazoo!

So there you go. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. And I’m focusing on the former today. Fuck ‘em. I wish I'd taken five pens!

I’ll leave you now with a couple of fresh and extra-cool Smoking Fish sightings. Right here. Keep your eyes open, folks. ‘Cause our logo, man, he gets around.

See ya tomorrow. 

April 16, 2007

-- We’ve got five or six inches of snow out there this morning, and the wind is tearing it up. The schools are closed, and it’s the kind of day where everything is the color of pewter. It’s also bitingly cold and snow is swirling around in a fine mist, just looking for an open collar to fly down.

And it’s April 16!

Whatever. As Mark Twain once said, everybody talks about the weather, pass the beer nuts. Or was that Norm on Cheers? I always get those two mixed-up.

-- We went bowling on Sunday, if you can believe it. I used to bowl a lot when I was a youngling, but it’s down to maybe once a year at this point. Every time I go I vow to do it more, then don’t. Then Don’t is going to be the title of my autobiography. 

Back in the day the local bowling alley gave every student in Dunbar a card that entitled us to one free game of bowling, Monday through Friday, during the summer. Shoe rentals are extra, and please don’t forget the snack bar and pinball machines….   

My friends and I went over there every day, every single day, and took them up on their offer – much to the chagrin of a child-hating old bastard with a head the size of a softball, who supposedly “managed” the place. We drove that man to the brink of insanity, and had a great time doing it.

I got banned for life at least five times. I seem to remember a pin coming back through the ball return, but that would be impossible, wouldn’t it? Perhaps it was just one of my goals? 

And I remember us pushing the button that caused the gate to drop, just as someone let loose of a ball. CRASH! Yes, that was one of the classics…. And I remember us sneaking behind the pin setters and throwing foreign objects in there, like shoes and whatnot. Good times. You ain’t lived until you’ve watched the setter come down, and instead of a nine pin, there’s a can of Lysol. 

And I remember my friend Mike taking a Blow Pop out of his mouth, and just hurling it down the way. The thing went end over end, from about lane two to lane nine, and finally came to rest in some kid’s Bobby Brady hair. And it was in there deep. I didn’t think I’d ever stop laughing.

And this went on for years. After a while I became a pretty darn good bowler. Not great, but good. If I’d stayed with it, I might be really good by now. But you know how it goes.

On Sunday we took the Secrets and a couple of their friends bowling, and Toney even participated. It was a blast. I bowled a horrible 109 (my first ball went straight into the gutter, as if I’d been aiming for it), then 154. 

By the end of the second game I was starting to get my groove back. But at $3.75 per bowler, per game… Yeah, we stopped after two. When did bowling become a rich man’s sport, anyway? It cost us fifty bucks!

There was a woman bowling beside us in a full-on winter coat, buttoned all the way up to the top. I have no idea… And on the other side was some fancy-ass dude who’d brought his own shoes from home, and was sporting all manner of apparatus strapped to his wrist. Wotta douche. He’s the bowling alley equivalent of the slightly-too-old guy who used to hang out at every roller rink, and skate backwards with the wind blowing through his feathered hair.

Unfortunately though, none of this stuff happened.

-- After we got rid of the extra kids, we went to the Chinese buffet again. Yum. I’m probably losing my edge, but that place seems damn good to me. Here’s what my fortune cookie told me. I was thankful for the information.

-- On Saturday afternoon Eninen and their passel of translucent children passed back through town. We had an early dinner with them, and then everyone went to the park, before the royal family hit the road again. 

During the meal Nostrildamus couldn’t keep his eyes off the TV. I don’t think he said three words to us. He doesn’t believe in owning a television, but is sure as shit transfixed when he’s around one. 

When the weather report came on he apparently wanted to hear it, but the place was really crowded and loud. So he got up and pressed his head against the speaker of the TV, putting on a big show. Everyone in the place was laughing, and talking about him out of the corners of their mouths.

Here’s a pic I snapped with my cell phone. And this is the middle translucent’s high-waters and used sneakers that are at least three sizes too big.  They cause him to repeatedly trip and fall flat on his face; the shit’s like clown shoes. But, dammit, they’re recycled, and that’s the important thing.

-- And that’s about all I can muster today. I’ll leave you now with a question based on a story Toney heard this weekend. 

One of the kids we took bowling is apparently getting “mouthy” with his parents, and getting Ds on his report card, etc. So the mother punished him by getting his hair cut real short. The kid’s eleven, and it’s apparently one of his greatest fears. She told him that if he didn’t straighten up, she’d take him back and have it taken down to a “two.”

I thought that was, um, creative. Kinda cruel, but definitely creative. It reminded me of sixth grade, when somebody carved the word FUCK into the bathroom door. The principal came to our room and demanded to know who did it. When nobody confessed, he ordered the door removed.

These were little bathrooms, one in every class. And we had no door until someone fessed up. We’d go in there and have to stand at a 45-degree angle to pee, and the girls had it even worse. It didn’t take long for the “artist” to step forward; there was a bit of social pressure.

Can you imagine something like that happening today? They’d have the principal brought up on charges, Bill O’Reilly would be calling for his execution, and the students would be forced to undergo intense therapy. You know it’s true.

What’s the most creative form of punishment you’ve ever been subjected to? Or, for that matter, heard about? Tell us about it, won’t you?

And I’ll be back tomorrow. 

April 13, 2007

-- When I was moving to Atlanta from North Carolina I rented an apartment sight unseen, via long-distance telephone. And it turned out to be located a few feet away from a world-famous scuzz-bucket strip club called The Clermont Lounge. 

This so-called lounge was in the basement of a large residence hotel, catering (as best as I could tell) to alcoholics, mental patients, derelicts, hobos, and career criminals. During my first few months there I was afraid to walk past it – even in broad daylight.

One time a man approached me from the front doorway of the Clermont "Hotel" and offered to sell me a queen-size box spring. I told him I wasn’t interested (I mean, what the hell??) and he followed me for a couple of blocks screaming all sorts of nasally belligerence. I was certain he was about to lunge at me with a sharpened spoon, and stab me in the liver.

Another time I was walking near there and the door of a parked car suddenly swung open, and vomit came rocketing out. Never saw the source.

The Lounge itself regularly featured strippers with the same general body type as former Chicago Cubs manager Herman Franks. There were stretch marks, cesarean scars, beer guts, and pubes that went higher than the belly button. Oh, and ice cold Rolling Rock.     

On the other end of the street, the corresponding bookend of fucked-upness, was a big rock club called the Masquerade. It was a former mill of some sort, converted into a freakin’ rock ‘n’ roll complex. Inside was three separate clubs: Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory.

Heaven was the big concert hall, located upstairs. The floor of that place was terrifying. It would literally bounce beneath the weight of a thousand hipsters. I saw Iggy Pop there once, and Primus too, and it felt like we were on a trampoline. Every once in a while we’d literally go airborne. 

And that building is old, really old... I’m sincerely surprised the whole thing hasn’t collapsed by now.

Hell was the dance club downstairs, and I can’t remember ever going inside. It was all flashing lights and assholes and seizure-triggering house music, or whatever it’s called. I’d rather plunge my face into an airplane engine.

Purgatory, of course, was located somewhere between Heaven and Hell, in a tiny room off the main staircase. It was a trendy little bar where they played Bauhaus at ear-shattering volume, and all the patrons wore fingerless gloves.

I attended a lot of shows at the Masquerade, mostly for free through my record weasel job. And a couple stand out as especially horrible.

My girlfriend and I went there one night to see a British goth band called Alien Sex Fiend. As best as I could tell, the whole thing was done by computers. Sometimes the band itself wasn’t even onstage, yet the music continued. And by music I mean drums, lots and lots of drums. Controlled by software.

The show went on for hours. Hell, for all I know, it’s still going on. Around four o'clock
in the morning, or whatever, a man who looked like a heroin addict, and sporting Alice Cooper makeup, was standing in front of a microphone screaming over the drums: “Smells like!  Smells like shhhiiiiiiiit!!”

Of course he was right.

The other one that leaps to mind is Porno for Pyros – outside. The owners of the Masquerade apparently felt three clubs wasn’t quite enough, so they carved out a chunk of the woods behind the building and constructed a stage there as well.

I think Porno for Pyros was the first event at this new outdoor facility, and it was advertised heavily. The concert itself featured people walking on stilts, men juggling fire, and someone wearing a huge papier mache head. It pretty much sucked.

But the thing I remember most was the mosquitoes. There were thousands of them, maybe millions, and they were the size of hummingbirds. Everyone had a six dollar beer in one hand, and slapping frantically at exposed skin with the other. I think I lost a full pint of blood that night. It’s a wonder we didn’t all die of malaria.

The apartment itself was inside an old house. The place was broken-up into three units, and I was upstairs in the front. I had a bedroom, a kitchen/living room hybrid, and a crapatorium which attracted horrifying palmetto bugs that looked like a lady’s brooch come to life.

At first there was a gay man who lived downstairs. He was really into Georgia
football, and would completely lose his shit while watching games on TV. One time I’m almost certain I heard him shove over a china cabinet down there, in the grips of some sort of sports-fueled frenzy. After he left a group of fat girls moved in, who liked to drink.

Across the hall lived several members of Arrested Development. This, of course, was before their first album came out, and they all became millionaires. They were really nice, but loud. And sometimes it smelled like an REO Speedwagon concert out in the hall.

I remember standing outside talking to Dionne Farris one day, about the drunken pudgies downstairs. They’d put up a sign in our hallway, telling us where they wanted us to park our cars. Dionne, who would appear as the musical guest on Saturday Night Live a few months later(!?), was not amused. 

“If someone wants to talk to me, they need to talk to me,” she ranted, “You don’t put up a fucking sign!”

Dionne had a problem with the pudgies, and I didn’t much care for them either. Their leader was a disagreeable little bowling ball of a woman with a martini glass surgically attached to her right hand. I have no doubt she was the one who’d taped up the parking proclamation, under the cover of darkness. We should’ve looked around for Frito’s crumbs to prove it, but didn’t think about it.   

And that’s a little bit about My Most Memorable Neighborhood. What was yours? Tell us about it, won’t you? Use the comments link below.

-- Before we call it a week, be sure to check out this cool new Smoking Fish sighting – coincidentally captured in Atlanta
. And, as if that weren’t enough, we’ve got something fresh and extra-good from lakrfool today. Right here.

You guys have yourselves a great Friday the 13th.

I’ll see ya on Monday. 

April 12, 2007

-- I’m about halfway through a book called The Green Ripper, by John D. MacDonald. It’s part of the Travis McGee series, something that’s become near and dear to my big sluggish heart. 

McGee is a character created by MacDonald back in 1964, and went on to star in 21 novels spanning a couple of decades. This is a good summation of it all, and here’s some stuff about MacDonald himself. 

A few years ago I started reading the books in order, and I’m almost to the end. There are only three left after this one, then there will be no more.

And that makes me sad.

I guess I can start reading them again, and will probably do that, but I have a feeling it won’t be the same. I envy anyone who hasn’t read them yet, because they’ve still got 21 to go. And I don’t.

Those books have become comfort food for me. When things get a bit stressful in my life, I often turn to Travis McGee. The man lives on a houseboat in Florida, answers to nobody, gets himself into (and out of) great adventures, then settles in with a big glass of gin and a beautiful girl at the end of the day. 

He’s the greatest superhero of them all!

In the early books MacDonald describes Travis as a Korean War veteran, and that always makes me smile. Because another of my heroes, Phil Hendrie, created a memorable character that was a Korean War vet, as well. And the two couldn’t be less alike. Travis McGee will kick your ass from here to there, then start over again. And this is Hendrie’s Lloyd Bonafide, a complete mess.      

MacDonald got his start cranking out pulp fiction, making a living generating trashy dime novels. I love the thought of that, it’s a romantic vision... 

I picture guys who wouldn’t, or couldn’t, join “the real world,” sitting in shitty apartments in 1950s Los Angeles
. There’s a filterless Chesterfield smoldering in the ash tray, and an open bottle of cheap whiskey beside the big, black manual typewriter. He sits there in his wife-beater, day and night, just knocking out desperate, unlikely stories.

Yeah, most of those guys were hacks, and probably alcoholic as well. But some were really good, and got even better after writing day and night to earn the rent money.

By the time MacDonald started the Travis McGee series, in the early '60s, he’d become very good. There doesn’t seem to be a wasted word in those books, every letter is important. It’s the kind of writing that seems simple and easy, and makes amateurs (like me) believe they can do it too.

And good luck with that, my friend, if you decide to try it.

Just so you know... The Travis McGee books all have a color in the title, a device many others have loosely (or explicitly) copied, including the woman who writes all those S is for Shitsack books, or whatever. And the character Travis McGee was originally supposed to be called Dallas McGee, but the assassination of JFK was still fresh in everyone's mind, so his name was changed to Travis.

Also, as odd as it might seem, John D. MacDonald was a close friend with Dan Rowan, of Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In fame. In fact, a book of their letters to each other was published in 1986. Is that not bizarre? I submit that it is. What's next, the J.D. Salinger/Rip Taylor papers? 

Another of the dime novel refugees who started a series later in life was Charles Willeford. He wrote four Hoke Moseley novels before he died. Also really good, and funny too. It’s a shame Willeford didn’t start the series earlier, or live longer, because good ol’ fucked-up Hoke was an excellent character.

These are some of the guys I admire. They didn’t strive to create art, they just did what they did, and did it well. Their stuff is almost completely free of pretension, and that’s something to appreciate. Oh, sometimes pretentious-as-all-hell is fun too, like, say, Radiohead. But it doesn’t really work as comfort food.

I know this one’s a bit different, and I hadn’t intended to go on so long with it, but that’s the way it happens sometime. 

What do you turn to when things get a bit challenging? Besides, of course, your family and religion, and those types of things. What movies or books or music, or whatever, has the power to make you feel whole again? Tell us about it, won’t you?

And I’ll be back tomorrow, with The Normal Stuff.

See ya then.  permalink

April 11, 2007

-- You know that phrase about having a full plate? Well, I’ve got one today. In real life I like full plates. In fact, there are few things better than a full plate. Ya know?  It's how I developed my powerful upper-body. But, unfortunately, I’m not talking about chicken and salt gravy here, I’m talking about Big Important Things to do. And I’m a tad stressed.

Someday I’ll tell you all about it, but not today. I’m far too superstitious to talk about BITs before they actually come to fruition. I’m like Sparky Anderson making sure he doesn’t step on the foul line when he’s walking to the pitcher’s mound. A man needs to take precautions.

What’s a peptic ulcer feel like?

-- There was some little hooligan at our house a few days ago, running rampant and acting like a full-on zoo animal with the youngest Secret. Both of our kids seem to be drawn to wild-ass friends, for some reason, and this one certainly fits the bill. The noise he was generating was incredible.

Feeling generous and friendly, I asked the kid if he’d like to stay for dinner. We’re having pizza, I told him, and he said he loves pizza. So Toney called his mother, and it was all set.

Then he wouldn’t eat a thing. Because there was pepperoni involved. He said pepperoni is “disgusting,” and wouldn’t touch a slice even if we picked off the offending items. There was knowledge, you see, that the food had recently come in contact with something extremely foul.

Who doesn’t like pepperoni pizza??

Toney offered to make him some chicken nuggets or macaroni and cheese or something, but he declined. So we’d asked him to stay for dinner, and he wouldn’t eat anything. Simply excellent.

I told him there’s nothing disgusting about pepperoni, it’s just ground-up pig lips and hog butts. And he started saying that, over and over, while marauding through the house: Pig lips and hog butts!  Pig lips and hog butts!! He was running from room to room with a crazed look on his face, waving his arms above his head and repeating that phrase. 

And he was doing it in a thick Hee Haw-style Southern accent.

The hell?? Is that little shit making fun of the way I talk? Toney said I was being paranoid, but why would he suddenly go all Gomer like that? I think he was mocking me, and I didn’t much care for it.

It reminded me of a Cuban family that lived near us when I was a kid. They had maids and a “library,” and it was a whole different vibe at their house; they were exotic. 

But I’d be there playing with their youngest son, and someone would suddenly crank off a little Spanish. Then they’d all bust out in hysterical laughter. A private joke, kept from the visiting hillbilly child…. I was convinced they were making fun of me in a different language.

That same Cuban kid wiped so many boogers on the wall beside his bed, they had to take an electric sander to it. They were forced to hook up a booger-removing machine! But that doesn’t really have anything to do with what I’m talking about today….

The thing is, I don’t believe I even have much of an accent anymore. In fact, my friend Tim is always busting my balls for “abandoning my roots.” So, I don’t have enough of an accent for West Virginia
, and too much for Pennsylvania . I guess.

One time my friend Steve and I were sitting at Five Guys, having their kick-ass burgers and fries, and talking. And some high school chick interrupted us, and asked where we’re from. She got a scholarship at a university in Alabama
, she said, and thought we might be from there. Ha!

So apparently it’s true. I sound Southern to the people up here, and Northern to the people down there. And talk about your regional accent bastardizations…

-- The question of the day has to do with this article. Erica in Charlotte
sent it to me, and it’s a real mind-blower. Check it out and let me know what you think. Sweet sainted mother of Black Lips Houlihan.

Here's an excerpt:

Occasionally, Legotown leaders explicitly rebuffed children, telling them that they couldn't play. Typically the exclusion was more subtle, growing from a climate in which Legotown was seen as the turf of particular kids. 

The other children didn't complain much about this; when asked about Legos, they'd often comment vaguely that they just weren't interested in playing with Legos anymore. 

As they closed doors to other children, the Legotown builders turned their attention to complex negotiations among themselves about what sorts of structures to build, whether these ought to be primarily privately owned or collectively used, and how "cool pieces" would be distributed and protected. 

These negotiations gave rise to heated conflict and to insightful conversation. Into their coffee shops and houses, the children were building their assumptions about ownership and the social power it conveys — assumptions that mirrored those of a class-based, capitalist society — a society that we teachers believe to be unjust and oppressive. 

As we watched the children build, we became increasingly concerned.

-- I’m gonna turn it over to Brad now, and start tending to my BITs.

I'll see you guys tomorrow. Or should I say, see y'all in a cuppa two tree hours?

Sweet Maria. 

April 10, 2007

-- When I was a kid my mother would often enlist my brother and me in the household chores. I guess she thought it was teaching us something useful, I don’t know.

But we’d be forced to dust the furniture with some nasty-ass rag that was stiff and loaded with about a hundred years-worth of Pledge drippin’s. And we’d have to take the trash out to the garage, which required one of us to leave the air conditioned house in the summer, and walk all the way across the backyard in the raw elements. And sometimes we’d even be “asked” to vacuum the carpet. 

Or, as we say in West Virginia
: run the sweeper.

I hated running the sweeper, because I was always afraid one of my friends would walk by and see me. Remember that freaky Queen video where Freddie Mercury was sashaying about with a vacuum cleaner and tits? That’s exactly the way it made me feel. And I can’t have that.

Of course I vacuum all the time now, it’s one of my default jobs. And when I was tending to the carpet in the family room this past weekend, I remembered something from the old days.

Were any of you warned to never vacuum in front of a TV that was turned on? Or is that something that only happened at our house? My parents always made us turn the television off before we started emasculating ourselves. Because, they said, it would cause dead spots in the picture tube. What in the hand-painted hell?! 

It’s one of those little things that remains buried in the folds and scar tissue of the brain, and suddenly springs free decades later. 

Can any of you shed any light on it for me? Was this a legitimate concern, sweeper-generated picture tube dead spots? What do you know about this? I have a feeling it might be boolshit. Any ideas? 

And just so you know…. We always had the big console TVs that were an actual piece of furniture. They weighed about a million pounds, and probably had a nineteen inch screen, or something. Heh. Oh, and one of them was a Quasar, with the “works in a drawer.” Fancy.

-- My friend Bill sent me this news article yesterday, about some doucheketeer who jumped to his death from the balcony of his apartment. The story contains this sentence, which makes me laugh every time I think about it:

A woman in the building who was looking out her window, waiting for her daughter to arrive, saw a set of legs go by, Sisson said.

A set of legs. Man, that’s good, good stuff.

-- I received this note from Surf Reporter BCD a few days ago:

I thought you might be interested in something I uploaded to YouTube – an interview with the Replacements from 1984, that prominently features Bob.

The interview was conducted by a fat guy named Mike Eck, and was part of a "video magazine" from the '80s called "Real George's Back Room." The VHS cassette has been sitting in a box in my closet for 22 years, and I finally dug it out and digitized it.

And here it is. Extremely cool. Thanks for sharing!

-- This is Sad Kermit. What’s that frog so bummed about, anyway?? And is he blowing a dog puppet in that video? Did I see that correctly? I guess I’m sorta confused…

-- Any opinions on Sunday’s episode of The Sopranos? I thought it was excellent, and the Monopoly brawl hilarious. When Tony got up with that green plastic house stuck to the side of his face, I was dying. Still a great show….

-- In Little League the coaches would often tell us to “make some noise” when our team was in the field. Then all of us would start yelling complete nonsense, something like “Uuumbay uuuuumbay.” So it wasn’t just random nonsense, it was organized nonsense. 

How does something like that get started? What in the Ford Frick is an umbay? And why am I thinking about it in 2007?

-- I'm currently addicted to the new(ish) Belle and Sebastian CD. Sure, they sing like they've got a gayness in the anus, but that dude can write one hell of a pop song.

-- Have any of you noticed that Greta Van Susteren’s facelift is starting to slip a little? I think it’s time she goes in for a tune-up, because she’s slowly but surely looking like a stroke victim again. At this point she’s got an almost full-blown Buddy Hackett mouth going, just like she did on CNN. 

Also, isn’t it about time for her to arrange for another college student to be kidnapped? That Anna Nicole Smith crap is wearing mighty thin. She’d better send someone out to snatch a jogging co-ed soon, or I predict her ratings will start drooping like the right side of her face.


-- Yeah, this thing is about to come off the tracks…. I’m going to turn it over to our old friend Buck now, and go buy a sweaty bag of lard through a hole cut in the side of a Burger King, and get myself centered again. Here ya go.

I'll see you guys tomorrow. 

April 9, 2007

-- I have a job interview this afternoon, the first one in about seventeen years, I think. Oh, I had various “interviews” inside my old company throughout the years, but those were usually with people I knew and had previously exchanged filthy jokes with. Not exactly high-stress. 

In fact, in most cases those so-called interviews were nothing more than obligatory affairs, required by HR to keep everything legal and above-board. By the time I got there, decisions had already been made.

So, this is something I’m not accustomed to. I can’t really say I’m nervous, I don’t have a problem sitting in a room and talking to someone, but a tad uneasy. I believe job interviews are fishing expeditions for an excuse to disqualify a person. One poorly-chosen word and you’re officially weeded-out, Jack. 

So, I’m going to have to watch what I say, and run my responses through a filter that doesn’t get much use. I’ll have to temper my natural tendency for smart-assed and/or “witty” answers. And hope to God I don’t shift in my chair and accidentally let one loose.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

-- Close Encounters of the Nancy Kind…. The royal family was in town briefly this weekend. So briefly, in fact, I never saw them. They were traveling to Canada
, and stopped for the night in our little town here. And since the trip was being financed by a college, they stayed at a motel(!?).

Toney went out for a drink with Nancy
on Saturday night, but our kids were already in bed at the time, so I stayed home. Eninen left early the next morning, and that was that. I never saw any of them.

I did find out, however, what the translucents received as Easter gifts. Our kids got big overflowing baskets of candy, complete with life-sized mammals constructed entirely of chocolate. 

The offspring of Nancy & Nostrils? They received one jelly bean each, for every year they’ve been alive. For example, the eight year old got eight jelly beans, and the five year old got five. I’m not kidding. And they probably came out of Nostrildamus’s pocket, with lint stuck to them and everything.

Toney also heard one of them say to
Nancy , “Mama, can I have a Thomas the Train toy, since it has neither a penis or a vagina?”


-- Tell me if this would make you mad…. Toney went to Wal-Mart over the weekend to buy some groceries. And when she finally got to the front of the checkout line the teenage cashier was talking to another teenage cashier about the kinds of cigarettes they each prefer. No “good morning,” or anything of the sort. 

The other cashier finally said, “Well, hurry up with this one and we’ll go on a smoking break!” And she motioned dismissively in Toney’s general direction.

After each item was scanned, Toney slid her ATM card through the little machine, and it was rejected. What the? There’s plenty of money in that account; our tax refund is there, as well as the remnants of my most recent paycheck.

Toney wondered aloud if the strip on the card was damaged, and the girl said, in a real sarcastic tone, “Yeah, that’s probably it.  Are you going to be one of those people who try every card in their purse, hoping one will work?”

She told me about this on her cell phone, while driving home, and I just couldn’t believe it. I started out shocked, and that quickly gave way to anger. I asked Toney if she was going to call the manager, or if I should do it.

Toney called, and the guy was apologetic and said he’d “deal with it.” But can you believe that? It’s pissing me off all over again, just writing about it.

We later learned the credit union’s computer system was down yesterday. They were having some sort of issue, and couldn’t approve transactions. 

Of course ol’ Flashy Trash would never believe a word of it.

-- We somehow ended up at the
Scranton Welcome Center on Saturday. I was up there scouting out the location for my interview today (I’m glad I did it too, because it’s freakin’ hard to find), and I ended up in the parking lot of the Welcome Center on a whim.

They have a gift shop there, and sell figurines made of coal and expensive golf shirts with
Lackawanna County on the breast. Do you own anything with the name of your home county embroidered on it? Yeah, me either. Why would I? And they also sell a yellow coffee mug with the word “ Scranton ” printed on the side in red. 

Why does that make me laugh?

The guy there was really nice, and told me the Red Barons stuff is marked way down, and is buy-one-get-one-free on top of the huge price-cuts. 

The Red Barons were the Philadelphia Phillies’ AAA farm team that played here, but they’re no more. I think the team is moving to
Allentown , once a new stadium is built, and is playing this summer in Canada somewhere.

So… they have all this Red Barons stuff and the team isn’t even in existence anymore. I bought two New Era fitted caps, very high quality, for five bucks. Not five bucks each – five bucks total. I like the idea of wearing the logo of a defunct minor league baseball team, for some reason.

As I was paying for my hats, I told the guy they should start selling shirts and mugs and crap from The Office. And he informed me the show isn’t really filmed here, it’s filmed in
California . “They only pretend to be in Scranton ,” he said.

I thanked him and went on my way.

-- I have a lot more, but I’d better pace myself. If you didn’t catch Friday’s LATE EDITION update, you might want to check it out. We’ll see how it goes, but there could be more multi-update days in the near future. I’m trying some different things here….

Oh, and I hate to even bring this up. But if you’re on the monthly donation plan, now’s the time. I appreciate everyone’s support, I really do. Now let's move on...

My question of the day has to do with job interviews. It’s very simple, really: let’s hear your interview horror stories. What was the worst one you ever experienced? Are there any legendary stories at your office about terrible interviewees? Has anyone ever actually farted during an interview session? 

I told you about the one I attended (for a gig at a place called Magnet Bank) where they asked me just one question: “What would you do if I were to give you an elephant?”      

What about you? Use the comments link below.

And I’ll see ya tomorrow. 

April 6, 2007 

-- I went out to buy a suit this afternoon. I’ve never owned one, I don’t think, since my mother dressed me up like a miniaturized Fast Freddie used car salesman when I was five, in a so-called “Easter outfit.” 

That thing was white with multi-colored stripes, and featured a full-on bowtie. I looked like I should be talking up the attributes of a Plymouth Scamp, and conveniently leaving out the part about it spending time at the bottom of a lake in Indiana

In all of my adult life I’ve never really had a reason to own a suit. Whenever I was required to dress-up, which was rare indeed, I’d put on some Dockers, a shirt and tie, and some kind of sports jacket. I’d just cobble something together from my closet, and always got by.

And for the last seventeen years (actually longer than that) I’ve worked in the entertainment industry, where you could wear a grass skirt to work if you wanted. They were all into free-expression, and not harshing your vibe, man. So I was 44 years old, making decent money, and wearing an untucked flannel shirt and jeans to work every day. It was great.

But it’s all over now, and starting next week I’ll be going on job interviews, and that sort of thing. So Toney and I went in search of an honest-to-goodness suit of clothes today. For reasons I can’t put my finger on, I was extremely nervous.

In Allentown
they told us we should wear black, dark gray, or dark blue suits only, with a red or blue tie. They’re supposed to remember you, not your clothes, they said. When they’re sitting around after the interviews are done, trying to decide on a candidate, they shouldn’t be referring to you with a nickname; they shouldn’t be saying, “Well, what about ol’ Fantasy Island ?” I don’t know anything about that, but I appreciate them narrowing down the choices and easing the pain a tiny bit. 

We started at the mall.

There are three big anchor stores there, Macy’s, Sears, and JCPenney, and we hit every one of them. We started at JCP, because it was the first one we happened upon, and it looked like we were going to have luck right out of the gate. I found a really nice charcoal gray suit on sale for less than $200, and they had a jacket large enough to house my substantial torso.

I was ready to get the horribleness behind me, and just go with it. The thing looked good, it was a brand I recognized (can’t remember it now), and the price was right. What’s not to love?

Then some old gay man sashayed over to “help,” and everything went straight down the crap funnel. He clucked his tongue a couple of times and told me I needed to go up one size on the jacket. Then he went over and retrieved an even more gigantic one from a rack marked PORTLY (which I’d been trying to avoid). 

I'm not sure about this, but I think it was from the Junior Samples Collection.

Then Toney said I should try on the pants, which made me groan. I hate going back in those little rooms and hopping around on one foot and seeing some other guy’s jeans fall to the floor beneath the partition and reading the sign that says something about wearing “undergarments” while trying on bathing suits and trousers. The whole thing is to be avoided, if possible.

But I’m glad I did as I was told today, because the slacks that came with that suit looked like Hammer Pants. I don’t know what was going on, but they were incredibly wide and blousy at the top. I stood in front of that three-way mirror and just busted out laughing. I looked like a court jester who’d let himself go.

Dr. Smith said the problem was the pleats, and that he’d be right back, before spinning on his heel and gliding onto the sales floor.

But it was not to be. The “flat-fronted trouser” required a different jacket, and they didn’t have any in my size. And everything came crashing down at JCPenney.

We went to Sears, where they had about three different suits to choose from, all petroleum-based and shiny, and none in the desired size. Then we hoofed it roughly two miles to Macy’s where everything was wittle itsy bitsy tiny, and cost, like, $10,000. Funk dat. We were done with the mall.

Next stop: Men’s Wearhouse. As we drove I told Toney we should call a store in Burbank
I used to visit, called It’s A Wrap. They sell clothes there from the sets of TV shows and movies. Maybe they have some old Cannon suits still hanging around?

But, of course, there’s not enough time for that sort of thing, and we ventured on.

I don’t think I’d ever been inside a Men’s Wearhouse. And before I knew what was happening a bald man who looked like Mr. Carlson on WKRP had a tape measure around my gut, and scratching his chin with concern.

He led me to a rack of jackets, and started handing them to me, one after the other. As far as I could tell, they were all the same. I finally asked how much one of them cost, and he said $349. 

Shit! I told him I was hoping to stay closer to two hundred, and that’s when the relationship started to break down. He half-heartedly hooked me up with a dark gray suit that looked perfectly fine, and was priced at $219. But the pants were apparently made for a morbidly obese former NBA star. The waist was like a hula hoop of fabric, and the legs just kept on going.

Toney urged me to try them anyway. “Maybe they just look big,” she said, hopefully. Clearly she was eager for it to end.

But they didn’t just look big, they were big. In fact, I’ve never encountered a person who could wear such laughable pants; I don’t believe there’s anyone in the world shaped like that. They literally didn’t touch me around the waist, and I was forced to hold them up. And my feet stopped around the knee section of the legs; there seemed to be yards of extra fabric piled up at the bottom.

I took them off, without needing to unbutton or unzip; I just let go and they fell like a curtain. Mr. Carlson was waiting for me as I exited the fitting room, and I told him I’d never be able to wear such hilarious pants.

And what happened next blew my mind. The guy walked off without saying a word, and asked someone else if they needed help. No suggestions for me, no sales pitch, nothing. The man literally turned his back on us. I couldn’t believe it.

We went to Kohl’s from there and found nothing, then Toney suggested Burlington Coat Factory. I hate that place, but it’s roughly the size of my hometown so I figured it was worth a shot.

And that’s where I ended up buying my first suit in 39 years. It cost something like $225, and looks like every other suit we saw today. And it fits, and doesn’t feature Hammer Pants or something Manute Bol’s mayonnaise-loving brother could wear.

So that’s what we did on Friday afternoon. 

What did you do? 

April 6, 2007

-- I was talking to someone in the hallway of my high school one day, out on the far edge of another larger conversation that included Popular People. I wasn’t paying close attention to what the other guys were talking about... probably something to do with getting high, “fucking,” and Pink Floyd.

But suddenly there was one of those freakish moments when everything goes quiet. It's something that can’t be explained, I don’t believe: a whole group of people just stops talking at the exact same time, for no known reason. Perhaps it has something to do with sunspot activity? I just don't know.

And through this sudden silence one of the Populars said, “Well, all I know is… I wouldn’t kick Mick Jagger out of bed.”

Man, you could’ve heard a wispy moustache hair drop in that place. There was shocked silence for several beats, then everyone launched into a full menu of howls and taunts, with a light sprinkling of FAG!

But he wouldn’t back off his statement, and even went so far as to insinuate the rest of the guys in the school felt the same way, and wouldn’t admit it. 

Obviously, that last part didn’t go over very well. But he was a Popular so kids just shook their heads and walked off. If I or one of my friends had suggested that the entire male population of Dunbar High wanted to have sex with Mick Jagger, the beating would probably continue to this day. 

But in high school, as in real life, certain people are afforded extra considerations.   

The reason why this episode is so memorable, is because it happened in 1979 or 1980. This was a time when guys wouldn’t admit to having ever touched their johnsons, even while peeing. It was all done with salad tongs and spatulas, thank you very much.        

Today it appears teenage boys talk openly about waxing the dolphin, or whatever you want to call it. (“Man, I was going at it last night with the bra section of the Kohl’s ad…”). Back then? You couldn’t have pressed a gun barrel to a guy’s temple and made him admit it: 

“Go ahead and pull the trigger, I guess. I sure don’t want to die, but I ain’t sayin’ nothin’ about none of that….”

A joke(?) about having gay feelings for a <gulp> Rolling Stone was simply beyond the pale. It was more than anyone could even process. 

And it’s why I still remember that conversation, 27 or 28 years later, as if it happened yesterday. Oh, it was definitely one of those “where were you?” moments, like the first Space Shuttle explosion, the OJ verdict, and the cancellation of Alice. 

Do you have any high school where-were-yous? Tell us about ‘em, won’t you?

Before I close out the category, I have one more thing I’d like to say about it: Mick Jagger?! Ho-ly shit. I’d rather stick it in an oscillating fan.

It's very important that you know this.

And that concludes a very special (and abbreviated) Easter edition of The West Virginia Surf Report, created especially for the holy season.

I’ll see ya on Monday. 

April 5, 2007

-- I just went upstairs to get myself another mug of delicious Eight O’Clock Bean coffee, and it’s snowing. Freakin’ snowing! In April, after baseball season has already started. And following the annual emergence of dipshits who want desperately to believe it’s actually warm outside, and walk around shivering in shorts as a nor’easter blows straight up their ass cavity.

Man, once the first signs of spring start appearing, it’s mighty disheartening to see snow again. Ya know? Pass the non-dairy “whitener.”

-- I think I’m going to start telling you folks what music I’m listening to as I tap out these updates. I know it’s a teenage bloggy thing to do, but I don’t care; it’s a subject that interests me, and it might give you an idea of the mood in the bunker each day.

So… I just finished with the first CD by the Libertines, and am now blasting Luna. This album, to be exact. Next up? Young, Guitar Days.

And now you know.

-- This morning Toney said, “I’m probably going to have to make a Sam’s run tonight. We’re almost out of coffee, and dishwasher detergent, and trash bags--”

And if this doesn’t give you some insight into the current state of affairs here, I don’t know what will…. I interrupted her and practically hollered, “I’ll go with you! I’d love to go with you!!”

Love to go with her, to buy trash bags at Sam’s. And hollering it! But you have to understand… the highlight of yesterday was when I went out and mailed a Veronica Mars DVD back to Netflix. 

You see, I know of a drive-up mailbox near here, with one of those big hyper-extended slots on the front of it. It practically reaches through your car window, and vacuums up your mail for you. For some reason it makes me feel good to use that thing. It’s just so convenient and friendly and reliable. And it’s my little secret too, not many people know about that beautiful, dare I say it? erotic mailbox.  

I need a fucking job.

-- I’m going to call the T-Shirt Lady this afternoon, and see if she can get her hands on some army green shirts that look like they’ve already been washed a hundred times. I’ll let you know what she says.

I’d also like to explore the possibility of Surf Report coffee mugs soon. I have a great mug idea, but have a few reservations as well…. I can see those things getting broken all willy-nilly in the mail, people opening the box and finding something that looks like shards of ancient crockery unearthed during an archeological dig, and the whole thing turning into a “situation.” But I’ll check it out, at least half-heartedly.

-- There’s a bunch of stuff in today’s Scranton
Times about The Office. From what I can tell, they sent a couple of reporters out to Hollywood to hang around the set and bug the living shit out of the actors.

I can’t read it though, at least not yet. Because Toney has this “thing” about newspapers. She has to be the first one to read it, you see, and everything is ruined if it’s in disarray and misaligned, etc. So, out of courtesy to my wife, I leave the paper alone until she’s had a chance to go through it.

Lord knows she has her share of “things” to deal with when it comes to me.

Anyway, I want to see what they have to say about the many local references they make on the show. How they do the research, and so on. The show is surprisingly genuine.

For instance, the snacks they have in the vending machine are always regionally accurate (usually Herr’s). And the inspection stickers on the windshields of cars are always from Pennsylvania
. And the road salt all over the vehicles… And the restaurants they mention… And the way Michael sometimes asks question with “or no” at the end:  “Are you going to help me make this video, or no?” Stuff like that.

They must have people living here undercover, and sending back information. And just how does a person get a job like that, anyway? Hell, I’d be perfect for the gig! It’s what I do naturally, without even trying. I’m always sending back information.

So, B.J. Novak, Ricky Gervais, and Stephen Merchant… When this post shows up as a Google Alert in your email, please give me a call. I’m rested and ready to go, and already live here. Just hand me my first assignment, and I’ll hit the ground, well... walking a little faster than normal.

My email address is at the bottom of the homepage. I’ll await your letter. Thank you in advance for taking the time to hire me at an exorbitant rate of pay. I sincerely appreciate it.

-- Check out this review of the new WKRP In Cincinnati  DVDs. The dude says it’s an absolute butchery, like something out of Helter Skelter. Or whatever.

-- And my friend Tim sent me this link this morning, featuring breaking news about our old pal Sean Combs.

Sean "Diddy" Combs claims to be the crown Casanova who can last 30 hours in the bedroom with his girlfriend Kim Porter.

“As soon as we landed, we went straight to the Eiffel Tower, drank champagne at the top and just kissed and kissed. Then we went up to my suite and had tantric sex for at least 30 hours, ordering up whipped cream and strawberries while we were at it," he told the London Mirror, regarding a romantic visit to Paris with the mother of his new twin girls.

Combs added, “As meticulous as I am with my work, I'm more meticulous with lovemaking. I like to do it for a long time.”

And according to London Net, the music mogul magnifies his manhood by shaving any pubic hair.

"I shave down there. I do it myself — or I have my young lady help me, because I don't want to get no nicks,” he told the site.

Tim also included a few famous quotes at the bottom of his email:

"I regret that I have but one life to give for my country." --- Nathan Hale

"A house divided against itself cannot stand." --- Abraham Lincoln

"I don't want to get no nicks." --- P.Diddy

-- And I’ve got some other things, but suddenly lost the will to continue, somewhere around the word "pubic" in that last article. I’ll leave you now with a rare treat: something new from lakrfool. That’s right, lakrfool. He’s been away for a while, but now he’s back and you can read his big bunker-buster of a return, right here.

See you guys tomorrow. 

April 4, 2006

-- I believe I’m on the mend here. Oh, I’m still a tad phlegmigated, but I feel roughly 1000% better than Monday, and even better than Tuesday when I put the number at 500%. In fact, just as quickly as the illness descended, it departed. Usually it doesn’t work that way. Ya know? 

In any case, it looks like we’re all in luck. Pretty soon I’ll be completely better, and you guys won’t have to put up with my whining anymore. About that, anyway.

-- My music plans for the day: the complete Steely Dan box set. Then the entire Police box. Then whatever I feel like. Just wanted to put my cards on the table…

-- And speaking of music, I went to an actual record store yesterday, and bought a CD at full retail price on its release date. It felt like the 1980s again. 

Except, of course, I had a harder time wedging my heft through the turnstile by the front door, and almost turned over a rack of “bawdy” greeting cards with my starboard love handle. 

And the “you may approach the throne” kid behind the counter failed to treat me like a contemporary; he didn’t say “thanks man,” or anything of the sort. No, he acted like I was one of his teachers, or his pastor, or his Dad’s insurance agent. 

And he didn’t turn up his nose in distaste at the music I was buying; he just rang it up and handed me the bag, as if there wasn’t even an expectation of coolness.

Plus, I took one look at his comically-oversized sideburns and thought: wotta hi-flo douche nozzle. What is this, Buffalo Springfield?

Other than that, though, it was just like old times. ….I’m sorry, I’m getting a little emotional here.

-- Since my employer restructured my ass right out the back door, like yesterday’s Filet-O-Fish value meal, I’ve been put in charge of taking the youngest Secret to school every morning. Our older son takes the bus to the middle school (aka Junior High), and Toney has a part-time job now that requires her to leave the house at
7:30 .

So, it’s up to me to get our youngest boy to class on time, which is risky business, indeed. But, I’m proud to announce: so far, so good.

The aides put down their bear claws or honeybuns and wipe the glaze off their quivering lips around
8:15 , before swinging open the doors. Then each parent waits inside their car until they’re within a reasonable distance to the new opening in the side of the school. Their kid or kids finally jump out, and that parent makes way for the next car. And so it goes.

Because I have a reputation for running late all the time (something I protest, by the way), I’ve been over-correcting and arriving at the school way too early. So I get in line behind the other over-correcting parents, and we wait for the honeybuns to be polished-off, and the frankfurter fingers to be licked clean.

And a funny thing is happening…. The youngest Secret and I have started creating a big epic tale, featuring all the other parents and kids and aides, and whatnot. We assign names and attach personalities, then put them into “situations.”

We’ve got The Knitter, Gino Vanelli, the Turtle-Neck Warrior, Pitcher Lip, High Neck (aka Tower Neck, Chimney Neck), Mrs. Puff, and a cast of thousands. In this morning’s adventure the Knitter almost died in a fiery crash when a large ball of yarn got wedged beneath her brake pedal, and she went rocketing off a cliff.

Intricately woven plots and sub-plots are starting to develop, and characters are becoming fully fleshed-out people with opinions and individual quirks. And the Secret has no problem holding his own in the process; he’s good, real good.

I groaned when Toney gave me this assignment, but it’s turned out to be the best part of each day. We’ve got a full-blown Cecil B. DeMille Technicolor production of insensitivity going on. And I’m loving every minute of it.

-- Before I turn it over to Brad and the Question of the Day, I need a little input from you folks. 

What do you think about an army green Surf Report t-shirt this time around? I think it would be pretty cool, but sometimes my opinions don’t exactly jive with the rest of the world’s. So, what do you think about that? Please let me know. 

According to this poll I’m going to have to stock every size of shirt known to man. I still find it hard to believe there are adults out there who wear a small, but whatever. If that’s what you want, that’s what you’ll get. Heck, I can probably save postage by mailing it in a regular business-sized envelope.

Anyway, let me know about the color. If it sounds good to everyone, I’ll call the T-Shirt Lady and start the proverbial ball to rolling.

-- Now here’s something new and extra-good from Brad. Don’t miss it, it's even better than last week’s installment.

-- I’ll leave you now with the Question of the Day…. This one’s specifically for people who are married, or currently living with someone, I guess. 

And I’d like to know if you have stuff sitting around your house that a former boyfriend or girlfriend gave you? In my case, I have a ceramic piggy bank that an ex named Kelly gave me, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth. And there’s a big magnet on our refrigerator of an old 1950s car, that Sharon
bought in Atlanta . And there’s probably other stuff as well, that I’m not remembering.

What about you?  Do you have Trinkets from an Ex at your place? And does your current Significant Other have a problem with any it? Has it ever caused any problems?

Toney’s not the jealous type, but some of my previous girlfriends would’ve tossed that stuff into the trash years ago. You got anything to report on this subject?  If so, use the comments link below.

And I’ll see ya tomorrow. 

April 3, 2007

-- As if it’s not bad enough that I’m fat, unemployed, and have a pair of lungs full of lake water, now TheWVSR is screwed up. I don’t know what’s going on, and neither does my webhost. I spent a big part of yesterday afternoon on the phone with them, trying various things, and tinkering with this and that. And nothing worked. 

George is getting irritated!

When I’m sending files to the server everything is good until it gets to “processing web updates,” then it promptly bombs out. So any page that happens to be in queue before that part of the process makes it to the site, and everything else does not. 

You’ll also notice that The Mountain is now gone. Gone! What in the hand-picked hell??

Last night the guy at the hosting place told me not to do anything until after
9 o’clock Central Scranton Time. He was going to try something on his end, but needed a couple of hours to get ‘er done. 

So I waited until about 10, and started my shit uploading.  And just like before, it came crashing down. Then a big Norton window popped-up and bragged that they’d just stopped an “attack” on my computer. The crap?! 

Usually I’d be bouncing off the walls about this, and running my hands through my hair at such an accelerated clip the human eye would only be able to process a blur. But I’m in a weakened state here, and am only able to muster an unenthusiastic torrent of highly-predictable profanity. 

It’s a sad state of affairs.

-- Actually, my illness has moved into a different phase now, and I’m not so uncomfortable. My chest doesn’t feel quite as congested, and I’m no longer gasping for air between wild coughing jags. In fact, I don’t think I’ve coughed in upwards of fifteen minutes or more. Pretty cool.

But… my nose has started running and I still feel fairly yuck. There’s a constant drip drip drip at the center of my face now, and I’m fighting an urge to just free-fall into a couch and turn on some Green Acres.

I’m better than yesterday, though. So maybe I’ll make it? Perhaps the boys down at the crematorium won’t have to fire up “Big Daddy,” after all?

-- Yesterday’s Braves/Phillies game was blacked-out here. I’d flopped down with a big bowl of salted peanuts in the shell, a pub glass full of tap water that’d passed through a Brita filter, and my orange & blue Scrote watcher, ready for baseball.

The last thing I saw, before everything went black, was a commercial for raisins. It featured a cartoon foreigner picking grapes and putting them into a basket, or whatever. Then:  wham! The screen went dark, and not even a sliver of sports got through.

Man, I was pissed. Philadelphia
isn’t exactly local, it’s two hours from here. Plus, the game had been sold out for months. I’m fairly certain the Phillies wouldn’t have lost one dinglin’ cent if Comcast had let the broadcast go forward. They do the same thing with Mets and Yankees games here, and it’s infuriating. What is this, 1978?

Wonder if there’s any other section of the country where three baseball teams have their home games blacked-out? I have a feeling
Northeastern Pennsylvania leads the league in that particular category.

And you can forget about listening to a Major League Baseball game on the internet anymore. They’ve got that shit completely locked-down, and want you to pay a subscription fee to access radio play-by-play. Ha! They must think I’m a complete douche. 

I know XM offers it, but I don’t have XM, so that’s not going to do me much good, is it? Over the years I’ve learned that services I don’t have, provide very little.

I really like the idea of getting back into baseball this summer, but they’re not making it easy on me. Yesterday was Opening Day, and I’m already a bit soured on the whole thing. One more bump in the road and I’ll probably just throw in the rally towel again.

-- Just so you know, this update was written on the Grateful Dead. I’m not much of a fan, but every once in a while they hit the spot. And today is one of those every once in a whiles.

It’s long been my opinion that the Dead only had two good albums during their entire decades-long career. And they both came out in 1970. I’m talking about American Beauty and Workingman’s Dead. Everything else was either spotty or full-blown crapola, as far as I know.

Of course, I don’t consider myself an expert and could very easily be wrong.

However… a couple of years ago Rhino Records released a best-of CD, imaginatively titled The Very Best of the Grateful Dead, and it appears they agree with me. About half of the songs on the collection are from those two albums. And how many albums did the band release? A hundred? I just don’t know.

So anyway, that’s the disc I now reach for when I’m hankering for some hippie music. It’s really good, and I recommend it highly. Along with, you know, the band’s two good studio albums.

And that’s what this update was written on, in case you’re keeping score.

I’ll be back tomorrow with something new from Brad, and whatever half-assery I might be able to come up with.

See ya then. 

April 2, 2007

-- Not to be overly dramatic, but it feels like my lungs are packed with wadded-up paper towels that have been soaked in sea water. I coughed all night, real deep and painful coughs that required great effort, each letting loose a thousand flying needles inside my torso.

Toney says I have a chest cold, the same thing she had last week, but I’m not so sure about that. I’m fairly certain I have tuberculosis.

It’s been nice knowing you folks.

-- I took the youngest Secret to school this morning and there’s a strange fog out there. It’s extra-thick, and smells like toast. I don’t know the significance of this weirdness, but it can’t be good. It sounds very much like one of those things Old Indians warn you about: beware the toast fog. Ya know?

-- One of the original Rules of Thumb is “nobody cares about the weird dream you had last night.” But I’m going to break my own Rule here and tell you about a dream I had on Saturday night….

We were camping, I think we were at a place in Milton
, PA , and it was full of punk rockers. Well, not full of them, really. But it was about half regular camping folk, and half punks. For reasons unknown. 

In the dream I was sitting in a Coleman chair outside our rolling box o’ beds, drinking cans of Yuengling lager. And every once in a while a punk rock girl would go by, all freaked-up and wearing combat boots, etc. 

Each would walk past our camper, then stop and turn, and say to me, “What the fuck you looking at?”

The end. That was the whole dream, and it seemed to last for hours. There were at least a dozen such encounters. Must be the TB….

-- Saturday felt almost like spring here, and we went to the park for a little sun and fresh air. Here’s a pic I snapped of myself in some sort of crazy stainless steel “mirror.” I don’t know the buzzcut child peaking over the top.

-- The oldest Secret told me a story over the weekend about a kid in his class who sneezed and sent a ball of snot rocketing across the room. This triggered my own set of stories, and I will share them with you now.

When I was in grade school and beyond, there was a kid in my class named William P. He had one Mr. Spock ear, and that’s not a joke. 

Supposedly he loved Star Trek and wanted to have pointed ears like Spock. So, for an entire summer he tugged at the top of one of them every day, sometimes for hours on end, and it eventually started growing that way. I’m unclear on why he only did one ear, but that’s the way it was.

One day in fourth grade (I think), ol’ Pointy suddenly sneezed and a great rope of snot ejected from his nose. It remained attached at the top, and almost reached the floor. The thing was swinging back and forth, and everybody in the room was howling in protest.

Then, just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, he reeled it back in! With one great snort the snot rope shot straight back up his nose, as if it was never there. 

Kids were practically knocking over desks to get away from that shit, and it was instant pandemonium. And here I am thirty-some years later writing about it.

Good times.

-- Speaking of grade school… I have a question today. Was there ever an item that became all the rage during your elementary years, which the teachers finally banned and began confiscating on sight?

I can think of three, right off the top of my head: Super Balls, yo-yo’s, and Clackers.

We’d buy the Super Balls from vending machines at the local Kroger store, for a dime each. And they’d get flung around during class, and bounced from floor to ceiling, even in the “multi-purpose room” where the rafters were seemingly a hundred feet in the air. A splendid time was had by all. 

Each classroom at our school had its own tiny bathroom as well, and kids would go in there, close the door, fling a Super Ball and duck for cover. Everybody else could hear it ricocheting around in there, and we thought that was just about the height of comedy. Most of us walked around with Super Ball-sized welts on our faces and necks, but it was worth the pain for the laughter.

Teachers, of course, promptly put an end to our fun.

You can read about Clackers here, in case you’re not familiar. Supposedly people were getting hurt around the country with these things, when the hard plastic balls would explode and shards of flying shrapnel would blind everyone in the room, or rip open throats all willy-nilly. Or somesuch. 

Plus, there were kids at our school who threatened to use their Clackers not in the accepted manner, but as some sort of makeshift Kung Fu weaponry. They’d spin them high above their heads, with a maniacal look in their eye, and the administration was having none of that. 

So a drawer in every teacher’s desk began filling with Clackers.

Yo-yo’s were nothing more than Clackers Lite, really. Kids would claim to be attempting an “around the world” and repeatedly strike their classmates in the small of the back with a fast-moving hunk of plastic on the end of a rope. As I remember it, that particular fad barely got off the ground before we were met with The Clampdown.

What about you? What did teachers confiscate at your grade school? Tell us about it, won’t you? Use the comments link below.

And that’s going to do it for today, children. I’m not at the top of my game this morning, but I hope it wasn’t too horrible. The Braves are playing the Phillies this afternoon, and I think I’m going to take it easy, climb inside my iron lung and watch a little baseball.

I’ll see ya tomorrow.