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









A bowl of corn, motherfuckers.



Do I smell wiener?



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



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   The State of My Fat Ass                                          May 2005

May 31, 2005

-- Ahh, it's a new day. We successfully made The Big Switch over the weekend, and are now up and running on the Hostito servers. I can't claim that it was a slam-dunk, there were a few problems. But it was all self-inflicted (I'm dumm), and it didn't take long to get my shit correct.

So, I can give Earthlink a call later in the week and officially bring an end to an era. It's weird, though... I'm not feeling the white-hot anger towards them anymore. I've never really been able to sustain such a thing; it's a shame, really. But whatever. I'm still glad to be away from them. It was like I was dealing with some shady credit card company in the end: fee upon fee upon fee.

So, that's that. Now maybe I can be funny again? If not this week, then possibly the next? It always pays to stay hopeful.

-- We had a nice three-day weekend, and I hope you did as well. Don't you just love the three-day weekend? God knows I do. Two days just isn't enough, and four or five feels like a vacation. And that's a whole different thing with an entirely different set of expectations attached to it. But three is just right. It's one of the world's greatest creations, right up there with brown gravy. It really is.

-- On Saturday I broke down and took the Secrets to see the new Star Wars movie. I was mildly concerned about the PG-13 rating, but was leaning towards taking them anyway. But once their unrelenting campaign of propaganda and influence kicked in, there was no turning back.

Toney wouldn't go, so it was left to me. The thing was showing on five screens(!) at the big Curvature of the Earth Theater Complex near here. Every fifteen minutes it cranked up again, and this all started around 11:30 in the morning. Screw dat, I said. I'm not going to a movie before lunch, and randomly decided on the 3:20 showing. A tactical error. I was asked the question, "How much longer?!" roughly seven million times during the morning, and on into the early afternoon. I should've just gone to the 11:30 showing, and smuggled in a goddamn hoagie.

The place was packed, as usual. It's huge, but always crowded. To avoid having to sit on the front row, and to finally bring an end to the how much longers, we arrived way early. (A good thing, too.) 

I bought us a medium sack o' corn, and a soda so big it threatened to wrench my shoulder from its housing, and the total was $7.75. I just about power-shit. Eight bucks for a bag of popcorn and a Coke?? Jesus J. McChrist.

Despite the fact that it was only 2:45, the theater was almost full. We had to climb way up to the top to find three seats together. We wedged ourselves in between an old lady, apparently there alone, and two pudgy fifteen year old boys who didn't smell quite right. Terrible country music was blasting over the loud speakers, and local ads for cosmetic dentistry and buy-here pay-here car lots were being flashed on the screen. Paradise.

Finally the lights dimmed and the first of about ten Coming Attractions trailers came on. Unbelievably loud. I wondered if there was some kind of equipment malfunction, and it was running wide-open? The shit was at the Cheap Trick setting! I looked around to see if anyone else was alarmed, but they were all just chomping away at their popcorn like it was the most natural thing in the world, this impossible volume. I hunkered down with a Gilbert Gottfried expression on my face, and waited for the assault to end. Or at the very least, for them to show a trailer for a chick flick, where skyscrapers aren't exploding and buses aren't being rammed. I was near tears by the end of it.

The movie itself was entertaining enough. I'm no Star Wars expert, but was able to follow the "story" with little trouble. A few times I had to consult the kids about who a certain character was, but never got too lost. "Daaad, that's Obi-Wan," they'd say, completely exasperated by my undiluted doucheness. Excuse the hell out of me.

Steve had warned me about a scene where Anakin Skywalker, new to the Dark Side, goes into the Jedi Temple and slaughters dozens and dozens of young boys. He thought that might be a bit too much for the Secrets, but they didn't even flinch. 

It was the scene where Anakin gets his legs cut off, then set afire that made me nervous. That shit was gruesome; the man looked like a wriggling beef roast by the time it was over. But after we left the theater they were joking about having "Anakin steaks" for dinner that night. "With dipping sauce!" the other hollered. ...Mildly concerning.

The scene where they put Anakin/Darth Vader back together again is a Star Wars geek's wet dream come true. When they slip the familiar black helmet over his hideous Uncle Fester head, and he takes the first few breaths through that freaky ventilator, a palpable nerd energy went surging through the place. The two pudgy teens to my right hugged each other (no joke), and I got the sense that people were whipped into some kind bizarre sexual frenzy. I was relieved when it was over, and we were safe in our car again. 

There was a heavy musky smell in that screening room that made me uneasy. It was like shore leave for men who've only seen photographs of naked women.

I'll tell you about Deck Feast '05 tomorrow. I'm all out of time here.

See ya.


May 27, 2005

-- Hi, my name is Jeff, and welcome to my blog!!! I'm located near Scranton, PA, and today I am feeling "orange." I have a whole crapload (tee-hee) of freshtastic links to share with you this morning, and I hope you find them as yummy-yummy as I do!!! It's going to be bloggeriffic!!!!! And don't forget to check out my friend Brandon's band this weekend at the Elbow Room downtown! Their called Butt Lettuce, and their all just the nicest guys....

Yeah, I'm not doing that through the whole update. It seemed like a good idea in the shower, but I was mistaken. So fuck dat. What follows are some links to stuff that I found amusing, or interesting, over the past few weeks. I don't usually do this sort of thing, but I can't afford to lose my health insurance through the blogger's union. Especially after this morning's bathroom "development." I hope you understand.

-- This is actually funnier the second time you watch it. It's some drunk chick at an office party, editorializing. Classic.

It reminds me of a Christmas party I attended in California years ago, at the CEO's Malibu mansion. An office-friend of Toney's got bed-shitting drunk and began stumbling around with a cigarette dangling from her mouth, asking people for a light. The CEO's wife finally pulled her aside and told her she preferred that nobody smoke there, and Toney's buddy said, "Yeah, well thanks for nothing, bitch!" And for some reason she was passed over for promotion after promotion after that. Ha!

-- Here's a site where you can find tips on buried treasure in your state. One of these days I might have myself a few lagers, grab a shovel and go looking for that lumber company payroll that's supposedly buried near the river in Wilkes-Barre. I could go for a lumber company payroll right about now, I really could.

-- You'd have to be nuts to buy insurance from these guys. Unless, of course, you wanna get the shaft.

-- Here's a list of the hottest TV high schoolers in history. And the bottom ten, as well, which includes Andrea from 90210. Hey, what's wrong with dull and old??

-- I've been aboard this vessel many times. Most recently, during Wednesday's conference call.

-- This poor bastard pulled off the road to take a quick crap, and comedy ensued. Good thing his buddy was there with a camera; you can always count on your friends.

-- My friend Brad sent me a strange audio file the other night, and it freaked me out a little. It's apparently a Cold War-era shortwave radio transmission, exact origins unknown. Coded spy messages? Probably. In any case, it provided Wilco with an album name, and caused me to get the willies and go around the house making sure all the doors were locked. Here it is. More are here. And this a Washington Post article about the bizarre transmissions. I find it all really fascinating for some reason.

-- And finally, we can all sleep a little better, I think, knowing that one of the Doobie Bros. is in charge of national defense. That's what it says, right? In a nutshell? And I'm not seeing things? Sweet sainted mother of Blanket Jackson...

Have a great weekend, folks. I'll get back to the regular stuff on Tuesday. And it'll be with a new host too! See ya then -- if not earlier at the Butt Lettuce show. (Their all such nice guys.)


May 26, 2005

-- Sorry that I've gone on and on about the Earthlink situation, but it's what's been on my mind. Day and night. I realize I've been droning like a fat office clerk describing her disgusting medical procedures, but I think you'll be pleased to know that it's almost over. I sure as shit am. I paid Earthlink off yesterday, and now owe them zero. Then I called Hostito and bought six months (plus two free bonus months) of hosting from them, and plan to make the Big Switch over the long weekend.

I wanted to call Earthlink management and tell them to plant their service deep, deep in their collective ass, but the guy at the new place advised against it. He said the two should overlap for about a week, to insure that the site doesn't appear to be down. So I'll have to delay my goodbye speech for a few days. But it's written, and I've practiced it. The extra time will allow me to fine-tune some of the more poignant passages, and maybe replace a few "eat my balls" with something more creative.

In any case, by Tuesday the Earthlink era should be over. To celebrate, I've removed the Neti Pot Relief Fund button from the second page, and hopefully those words will never need to be spoken again. 

I feel like I've just made the final payment on a thirty-year mortgage (not that I know exactly how that feels), and it's a huge weight lifted. Thanks for helping me out with this crap, and for being so patient with my sniveling. I appreciate it, sincerely.

Now on to more pleasant and interesting things...

-- The upcoming three-day weekend WILL include a big honkin' deck feast here at the compound. Oh, it'll include one real good. Last weekend was lacking in the deck feast department, and we're not making that mistake again. Already things are getting out of hand, just during the planning stage. Thick monstrous steaks, margaritas, microbrews, more side items than the Old Country Buffet... We're getting fired up, and carried away. I may have to take a loan against my 401k, but we'll get 'er done. God bless America.

-- As ridiculous as it might seem, Toney and I have been arguing about me (supposedly) leaving the toilet seat up. It's like I've been plunged into a 1970's sitcom here, but that's the situation. Until recently the seat in the downstairs bathroom was broken, and it was impossible to leave it up. Unless you used duct tape, and I'm nowhere near that energetic. But now that we have the new fancy-pants replacement seat, she says I'm leaving everything flung open. The whole thing just makes me laugh, but she seems to be serious. I tried out my Dad's old line: "I'll put it down for you, if you leave it up for me." But she just stared and tapped her foot. Shit... a man can't even take a leak without feeling the burn of society's judgmental eye. It's all just one great big plastic hassle, man.

-- I haven't had much luck in convincing the kids that we own a dog named Cliff, and am considering suspension of the campaign. For a couple of months now I've been telling them that we not only have Andy, but also his twin brother. Known as Cliff. During their early herding-animal training in England, I say, they were taught to never be in the same room at the same time. So, the dog they see is sometimes Andy, and sometimes Cliff. But they're not buying it. And, in fact, the oldest Secret said a few days ago, "Dad, I don't really like all the Cliff stuff." So I'm thinking about pulling the plug on the operation. And I had such high hopes for it!

-- Last night's season-ending episode of Lost was highly frustrating. Entertaining, as always, but frustrating. I was hoping for some answers, just a few crumbs to cling to over the summer. But we got nothing, not one damn thing. In fact, things are more messed-up now than they've ever been. More questions, and no answers to any of the old ones. Grrr... What are we going to do until September?? It's just not fair.

-- And that'll do it for today, children. I'm gonna grab my already-battered copy of Besterberg and hit the highway. Tomorrow I'm afraid I'll need to act like a blog, link to a bunch of things and make "witty" comments about them. I'm sorry, I really am, but it's that time again. I received notice earlier in the week from the blogger's union that my link quota is way down, and I need to do something before I lose my health coverage. So that's what we'll do tomorrow...

In the meantime, I want to alert you to a new journal that's well worth checking out. It's by longtime Friend of the Surf Report, Erica from Charlotte. And here it is. Bookmark it and check back often, y'hear? She's damn good and really funny. And you can thank me later.

See ya tomorrow.

May 25, 2005

-- I'm not going to go into it again, but the situation with Earthlink just keeps getting worse and worse. I called them yesterday afternoon to confirm that they'd credited me $508 like they promised, and learned that they'd only credited $369(?). I was on the phone for over ninety minutes, and at various points was literally screaming into the receiver. People at my job were poking their heads out of their offices to see who'd finally snapped. I was so pissed by the attitude and absolute refusal to admit any wrongdoing or mistake, I think my heart was stretched to the size of a human head. I just couldn't believe it, and still can't.

I know it's an overused phrase, but it fits in this case: they suck. I don't know what's happened to this company that I used to recommend at every opportunity. It's quite literally one thing after another now. And last night I laid awake thinking about it, deep into the night. It's beginning to take over my life. So, fuck it. I'm using the t-shirt fund and getting out of there. I'm paying them whatever I "owe" them, and by the weekend I plan to have Earthlink in my rearview mirror. I'm sorry, but the shirts are gonna have to wait. I'm about to have a goddamn stroke over this stuff.

By Saturday I hope to be up and running with these folks. They come highly recommended and their company name sounds like a snack item. It's a perfect fit!

-- Another local television station called our house yesterday, wanting to interview me about the Deadwood page. I didn't even call them back. Can I tell you a secret? Let's just keep this between the two of us, but I'm kinda glad the season is over. I love the show and everything, but things got out of hand with all the fuck-counting. Drudge, LA Times, industry trade magazines, every morning radio show in America, Rush Freakin' Limbaugh... It was all very exciting and fun, but I'm glad it's over. I don't think I'm cut out for that sort of thing, I really don't. I was being called The F-Man, for god's sake. I don't want to be The F-Man. I don't want my headstone to read: He counted obscenities in the works of more accomplished men. Hell, that's a sadder legacy than Harv's. I just want to get back to the good ol' days, and start making fun of people at the Dairy Queen again. As is so often the case in trying times, I'm feeling an urge to return to the classics.

-- Speaking of Deadwood, here's the Season Two recap, as compiled by Surf Reporter Jeffrey Earl. Thanks, dude! That's one beautiful piece of fuck-based chartage. Just beautiful.

-- Here's a quite unfortunate headline. Could it possibly be an honest mistake? Yeah, I didn't think so either.

-- And check this out. They've finally gotten around to making a movie about a couple of guys I went to high school with! Cool.

-- Now I'm gonna turn this thing over to Metten, and apologize once again. I know I promised a real update today, but I'm just not up to it. It feels like my brain has been destroyed by one of those Ronco in-the-shell egg scramblers. 

Good thing there's tomorrow...

See ya later.

May 24, 2005

-- I think Earthlink is trying to get rid of me. They host this site, as you may know, and have done so for several years. But the last six months have been a tad... rocky. I've reported (whined) at length about the Neti Pot over-bandwidth disaster from a few months back, and many of you were kind enough to donate to a relief fund to help get me out of that dark, dark hole. I appreciate that, but I don't think they're finished with me yet.

About ten days ago I gave them another $250 from The Fund, bringing my unpaid balance to $341. I used my handy-dandy Paypal ATM card to make this payment, and all was well. Then one day I checked the balance in the account, and saw that they tried to double-dip on me. There were two attempts to withdraw $250, and the shit had been thrown into disarray. I believe the official banking term to describe the scenario is "a fucking mess." An honest accounting error? Perhaps.

Then on Saturday I received a bill from them, and when I ripped open the envelope and took a look at what was inside, I think I actually shrieked like a schoolgirl. Amount due: $1101.12. What in the pan-fried hell?? My hosting fee is $19.95 per month. Why am I getting bills with so many digits in them? My blood pressure rocketed up to dangerous levels, and I launched into a sustained rant (with a little raving thrown in) that carried on into the night.

They didn't show the $250 payment, which is understandable, I guess. And they charged me another $508 for over-bandwidth in May! Impossible. I was nowhere near my limit in May. Believe me, I monitor that stuff now. Plus I have it set up so that warning emails are generated to me, once I reach the 80% usage plateau -- and the site goes down altogether if I ever get to 100% again. So there's no way I owe them another $508.

"Give me that phone!" I shouted to nobody in particular, and dialed their 800 number. After listening to about ten minutes of their oh-so-sophisticated string quartet hold music, I was finally connected to a person with a thick accent named Cindy, or whatever. I'm not certain, but I thought I heard elephant sounds in the background as I spoke with this "Cindy."

As she pulled up my account I was barely able to contain myself; I was ready to get into it and mix it up. The quartet had done nothing to calm me down. After reviewing my numbers she told me I'd gone over my limit in May, and began "explaining" to me what bandwidth allowance means and how I'm fined if I exceed my allowed usage, blah blah blah. She was talking as if addressing a large retarded boy with his pockets full of apples, and I thought my head would surely blow clean off my shoulders.

Through clenched teeth I told her that there was no way in hell I exceeded my limit, that I monitor it closely, and various alarms are in place to insure that it never happens again. "Please hold," she said, and I was thrown back in with the sophisticates.

Finally "Cindy" came back on the line, and told me she'd requested a credit for $508 to my account. But she wouldn't admit that they'd made an error.

"So, you guys made a mistake, huh?"

"I've requested a credit, sir"

"Because it's wrong, right?"

"The credit should go through within three business days"

And just before I hung up the phone I thought I heard the sound of a rhino horn crashing through bamboo thatching. Of course, I could be mistaken...

Any chance all of this is just a coincidence? I'm going to call today to see if the credit went through, but I don't have any confidence that it has. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if there is no record of me calling on Saturday at all. It's literally one thing after another with these people.

The sad part? They provide a really great service. The site is never down, and if I ever have a technical question they're always very helpful. I feel safe with them; they're not some half-assed deal in somebody's basement. 

But the time has come for a change. This company is going to give me a stroke, and Toney will be feeding me Yankee beans for the rest of my days. Or until she takes off, anyway.

I spent an hour or so on Sunday looking up whois information on a bunch of the more well-known blog sites, to see who hosts them. But there was no consensus. As far as I can tell there is exactly as many hosts as there are sites. All of them host one site each, or so it seems.

So, I don't know what I'm gonna do. I had a bad experience in the early days of TheWVSR with a tiny company that cost something like sixty bucks a year. The site was down all the time, and when I'd call their "customer service" line I'd get somebody's house. I'd ask if I'd called the right number, and the person would yell, "Daaaad!" I can't go back to that.

As always, suggestions are welcome.

And tomorrow I'll write a real update. Promise.


May 23, 2005

-- We had ourselves a nice full weekend, thank you very much. Not much lounging around, and I'm fairly certain I didn't step foot inside a single store. Good for the soul. In retrospect, it could've used a good beer-soaked evening on the deck with the meat cooker a-cookin' meat, but that was the only flaw. And there's always next weekend.

-- We went to the baseball game on Friday, and that was fun. The place was absolutely packed and we had to park down the road, behind a doctor's office or something. It always amazes me how these folks support their minor league baseball team. It's a good thing, but I'm not really used to it.

When I was growing up near Charleston, WV, the Pittsburgh Pirates' AAA farm team was based there, and nobody gave a good goddamn. You could listen to one of their games on the radio and hear a guy fart in the left field bleachers. Few people went to the games, and eventually Charleston was busted down to a single-A town. And that's what they are today.

But, boy, they support the Red Barons here. Every game I've attended has been crowded, and the fans are into it. They know the players, and holler and scream. It's pretty cool. I need to make an effort to get out there more often, myself.

I like the way everything is sponsored at those games. The Coca-Cola pitching change... the Verizon Wireless seventh-inning stretch... the Wachovia Bank shaft shift and crotch pluck... I wish I could get giant corporations to sponsor my every move. Maybe I'll work on that? I'm currently receiving nothing for my shaft shifts.

I tried to resurrect Kay-O-Vision, but it didn't work out. There were lots of opportunities, believe me, but my timing was off. I thought I had a great shot of a Dancing Bear poofter deep-throating a ridiculously elongated hot dog, but he moved his head and I got nothing. And there was the obese woman with funnel cake sugar all around her mouth and in her hair... But the gods of mockery weren't with me on Friday. Sad.

But it was a nice evening. Pretty cheap too, and you know I like that. I'm always down with the cheap.

-- On Saturday it was cold and overcast. I'd planned to tend to the lawn, but the sky looked like it was ready to burst open at any second. So I got to put it off!

The Secrets really want to see the new Star Wars movie, but it's rated PG-13 and we're a little uneasy about it; more research is required before we let them loose on that deal. And it being opening weekend and all... I had visions of us being wedged in between a Wendy's-scented Darth Vader, and a sweaty middle-aged man with his saber extended.

So we compromised and took them to see Kicking and Screaming. I think Toney and I enjoyed it more than the kids. I thought it was funny, in a goofy Chevy Chase sorta way. But I believe the Secrets were engaged in some low-grade sulking, and wouldn't allow themselves to get too into it. 

Hey, their loss. By this time they should know that that shit doesn't work with me. Keep it up and it'll be C-Span next weekend. A few hours of House debate on United Nations reform, and we'll see who's sulking.

-- Saturday night we started a new game involving the local news. A few minutes before the six o'clock broadcast comes on, each of us guesses what the first story will be about. "Devastating house fire!" Toney shouted. "Car wreck!" the kids said. And I went with the giant sinkhole. These three topics pretty much cover everything here, and we waited. Finally: "What you're seeing are the charred remains..." the voice-over began, and Toney raised her arms in triumph. Dammit! I just knew it would be a sinkhole.

-- On Sunday I spent many hours outside working on the lawn. I mowed and whacked and raked and blew. It looks good now (relatively speaking), but it sure sucked getting there. Some of our neighbors obviously love yard work, and are out there puttering around constantly. They're obviously mentally ill. I hate it with a passion, and have all my life. As soon as my ship comes in, I'm calling a service. It'll be the greatest luxury ever, not having that crap hanging over my head all the time. Because that's what it does, it hangs over my head and casts a dark shadow across my life. Stupid lawn. I feel like blacktopping the shit and painting it green.

And that'll do it for today, boys and girls. The final season two Deadwood numbers were posted last night -- within fifteen minutes of the end of the show. And that's that, until next year. And with HBO next year might really be next year, or it could be 2008. Who knows? But whenever it is, I'll be there with my fuck-counting hat on. Oh, you can count on my countin'.

See ya tomorrow.

May 20, 2005

I'm getting a late start this morning, but here are a few quick things:

-- I talked to the t-shirt people yesterday, and it looks like we'll soon be back in bidness at the Surf Report Lifestyle Boutique and Always-Fresh Hoagie Shop. She gave me a price which was agreeable, and seemed very nice and normal. I have a feeling it'll be a different experience than the first time 'round. I didn't hear a matted hippie beard scratching across the receiver, for one thing, or a mysterious bubbling sound in the background as we spoke. So I've got a good feeling about it. 

I'll try to work up a simple design this weekend, and get the proverbial ball rolling next week. If any of you graphic arts geniuses want to suggest anything, I'm all ears. I want to keep it very basic, with just the Smoking Fish, the name of the site, and in there somewhere. I'll send you a free shirt if I use your design. Help me out people. There's a very good chance I'll screw this up. Very good.

-- A producer at one of the local TV stations called our house yesterday and wanted to talk to me about the Deadwood page. Toney took a message, but I wasn't able to immediately call them back. A couple of hours later the anchor of the 6 o'clock news called(!). Supposedly they were interested in sending out a cameraman and shooting video of me watching the final episode on Sunday. As I cleaned myself up the best I could in the bathroom at work, I made a decision: no frickin' way. 

I had visions of a news van parked on our driveway... cables running into our house... neighbors on their porches... And after the piece ran, on the 5, 6, and 11 o'clock broadcasts, the Secrets' teachers whispering to each other, "Yes, their father is the one I was telling you about. So sad." And my co-workers, and neighbors... God, it's all too horrifying to contemplate. So I politely declined their invitation. I appreciate the interest, I really do, but I'd have to leave the state in the dead of night. Sweet Maria. Of course, it would've been compelling television, me sitting on a couch. Oh, well...

-- Speaking of local news, I saw a report last night (or the night before) about the new Star Wars movie. They were broadcasting live from a local theater, and it was highly entertaining. They interviewed one guy who'd been standing there for hours, dressed in a full-on Darth Vader costume. He did the interview through the mask, and I thought I was watching SCTV. Another guy, with a big honkin' Scranton accent, had his own custom-built light saber that incorporated actual neon tubing and a large battery pack strapped to his back. The thing was so heavy it looked like he could barely hold it up. I nearly swallowed my tongue. And these were not kids, they were, like, my age. Great fun.

-- I was talking to somebody at work yesterday about our dark, dark days in California when Toney ran a daycare business out of our home. The worst. Those kids ripped hell out of our house, and it was just constant top-shelf chaos. The parents were hard to deal with, half wouldn't pay on time, and it was just a bad situation. There was one little kid named Brian who annoyed me especially. He always had the same expression frozen on his face, whether he was happy or sad, sleeping or awake. It was like some goofy mask. One day I was getting ready for work and he came toddling in and said, "Are you my daddy?" And I said, "No, if I were your daddy you'd be much smarter." 

Was that mean? Ha! As if he had any idea what I was talking about... The kid was like a potted plant.

-- Over the past few nights I've watched Shaun of the Dead and the remake of Dawn of the Dead. Now I'm ready for the Stones summer tour!

-- I'm thinking about buying one of these, hooking up Andy, and maybe taking a quick trip out to the Oregon coast. A three-day weekend should do it.

-- Unless it rains, we're going to take in some good ol' minor league baseball tonight. The Durham Bulls are in-town, and I'm feeling the urge to sit in a baseball stadium and drink seven dollar beers. I'll have my camera, of course, and share any "special moments" I capture, on Monday. Maybe it's time to fire up Kay-O-Vision again? We'll see how it goes.

And I apologize for the shittiness of this update, but I just couldn't get it going this morning. I'll try again on Monday.

Have a great weekend, folks.

May 19, 2005

-- Last night I passed the big Powerball lottery billboard on my way home from work, and it said the jackpot was $129 million. Shit, I thought, I wouldn't mind a little of that action; somebody promising to pump millions and millions of dollars into my account would be the perfect end to an otherwise blah Wednesday. Sure, I'd have to put up with "relatives" crawling out of the woodwork with their sob stories of pending medical disaster, but I can say fuck off with the best of 'em.

So I aimed the Blazer for the parking lot of a grocery store, and figured I could kill two birds with one stone (or as Nancy says: feed two birds with one crumb), and also pick up a big sack of Lay's cheddar and sour cream chips to augment the viewing of Lost later in the night. Toney has to continuously goose the volume when I'm in a cheddar and sour cream frenzy, but she usually doesn't complain too much.

I went to the counter where I do my gambling, and there was nobody there. An Asian woman holding a giant sheet cake had arrived before me, and she was clutching a bundle of lottery paraphernalia in her right hand. "Nobody here?," I said, like a dope. She had no reply to that, and I turned my eyes back to the place where the lottery steward should be stationed. After a while I began slapping the counter like Kramer when he saw DiMaggio, but that didn't do anything except make the sheet cake lady flee.

What the hell, man? It was the customer care counter, or whatever they call it, and nobody was there. What are they trying to say to me?!

In a huff I went and bought my lard parcel through one of the self-serve lanes, and barged out of there with an attitude that nobody noticed or cared about.

I sped across the street to one of those giant Sheetz gasoline complexes, where I planned to buy my two Powerball quick-picks. Because, as it's been documented, you can't win it if you ain't in it. I went inside and there was a line of people stretched halfway back to the soda coolers, and that's a long way. "Sweet Jesus!" I hollered without thinking, and several people laughed. One guy looked to be holding a goddamn rotisserie chicken. What kind of place is this?? I stood and watched the lone zitster behind the counter move as if underwater, and I turned on my heel and stormed out of business number two.

I just want a lottery ticket here, a simple lottery ticket! The entire process should take ten seconds. My blood pressure was escalating and I was spraying obscenities like an auctioneer gone bad. Screw it, I finally decided. Toney probably has dinner ready, and I'm not wasting any more time driving around, trying to pay the stupid tax. I'll just go home and forget about it.

But I couldn't do it. I went home, but I couldn't forget about it. I felt like fate was screwing around with me. What if I was supposed to buy a lottery ticket that day? What if I'd noticed that sign for a reason? And because of my impatience I was costing myself a pre-ordained $129 million, paid evenly over twenty years? By the time I was halfway through my spaghetti mound, I'd decided I needed to go back out and buy those two quick-picks. It could be the biggest mistake of my life if I didn't.

I strapped my shoes back on, and drove to a convenience store a few blocks from our house. There was an old lady in there who looked like the mother on Everybody Loves Raymond. She had a big sheet of paper and was telling the guy what numbers she wanted, and he was manually keying them into the lottery machine, verrrry slowwwly. It went on and on, and then the old bat moved to the scratch-offs, taking two of those, and three of these... I thought a convulsing Allen Funt would surely emerge from behind a cookie display and give me a big hug.

The woman finally paid ($43!?), and I was able to purchase my two lines of numbers. "Wanna power-up?" the guy said, cheerfully. Just give me the ticket, I said, and snatched it from the top of the machine. I don't even know what he was talking about; I think he was trying to sell me drugs.

As I exited the parking lot I saw that Marie was back at the counter, reading off even more numbers to the Ice Man, or whatever his street name might be. But I had my ticket, and there was nothing more they could do to me. The gods of fate spoilage had been defeated once again. My numbers were on the console... mission accomplished. Screw all y'all!

Didn't win a damn thing.

May 18, 2005

-- I think we need to dust ourselves off and climb back atop the camping horse. At this point we're feeling fairly negative about the whole idea; the thought of hooking up the box of beds again, and hitting the highway, just causes groans all around. And I worry that we're on the verge of just saying to hell with it.

The bad feelings about the Myrtle Beach trip don't seem to be fading, they're picking up steam for some reason. I won't even listen to the CDs we had with us that week. The stack is still sitting here on my desk, and I won't touch them. Just the cover of that Paul McCartney Anthology causes an extreme puckering down south. I'm concerned that we're going to be soured forever on camping if we don't get back out there and have some fun.

Toney agrees (somewhat), and has been poring over the Los Angeles phonebook-sized campground guides for places in our general vicinity. We need someplace within two hours, so we're not sitting in a car like assholes for days on end. And it has to be a real campground, not a state park. State parks, I'm convinced, are full of felons on the run from Johnny Law. Maybe it's an irrational hang-up on my part (anything's possible), but I believe state park campgrounds are one step above the Spahn Ranch.

Yesterday she called around to a few promising places in the Catskills in New York, and couldn't get a weekend site anywhere. All were booked solid for every weekend through 2011, or something. Incredible. The problem is that the season is so short up here, and there are so few campgrounds, they're difficult to get into. Highly frustrating.

One place had received a cancellation that morning, and told Toney they had one site available for the Memorial Day weekend. Cool! Then they got into the details and it all quickly went down the crapper. Four-night minimum... an additional holiday charge... an additional ten bucks per night for our two kids... a shower fee... a nominal shitting surcharge... By the time it was over we could've booked a room at the Marriott Marquis for less. And the four-night minimum just wouldn't work for us, so screw it.

And we're exactly where we were before we started this dubious exercise: we got nothing. But something needs to be done, and quick. The window is closing, and the box of beds is in danger of becoming nothing more than a condominium for squirrels. We need to use that thing for fun and wash away the bad feelings, stat. Time is of the essence! Whatever that means...

-- I was singing "Waitress in the Sky" at the top of my lungs this morning while shaving, and noticed something alarming in the mirror. Oh, I'm used to seeing alarming things in the mirror, but this one was new... I was singing out of the corner of my mouth like Buddy Hackett or Greta Van Susteran or some random stroke victim. What the hell?! When did this start, and why? I tried to think about it, and I'm certain I've seen myself singing in a mirror before. Maybe with a hairbrush, belting out "Crystal Ball" after a few drinks? Or had I? Perhaps I've been doing the Hackett from day one and just didn't know it? Good God, I looked like Eddie Money after the fall. I shouldn't be allowed to leave the house.

-- I'm going to try to get the ball rolling this week on the Surf Report t-shirts. Any preference on a color? Last time I did black with white writing, and I'd like version 2.0 to be different from that. I'm thinking about gray, or maybe dark blue. I don't want to get into multiple colors because it would be too complicated with the different sizes and all; I ain't running a friggin' Target here, goddammit. No, I'd like them all to be exactly the same, except for the sizes. Let me know what you think. Also, what are your feelings on these oval stickers? Are they yesterday's news, or do you think folks might want them? I need guidance here, people. I'm fat and 42 and living in Scranton. Help me out.

-- E Online lists the Deadwood page as a "guilty pleasure." Check it out. Cool. Guilty pleasure is fine by me; I couldn't ask for more.

-- And now I'm gonna turn this thing over to Metten, who's emailed in yet another stellar effort just to make me look bad. And I'm gonna drive across town and run spreadsheets like a trained monkey. Mr. Metten?

See ya tomorrow.


May 17, 2005

A few very important things:

-- What would make a dog just suddenly start kicking after serving up a batch of yard biscuits? I know that some dogs do this, but Andy never did. Until recently, anyway. He was always the type to hump up like a kangaroo, hold the position to completion, then just gallop away with a smile on his face. But now he's started a new ritual of taking a few steps, stopping, and kicking his hind legs in the direction of the pile, like he's some sort of majestic stallion or bull or something. What would trigger such a change? Why the sudden shift in technique? I'd like to know, if anyone has a theory.

-- Our new dryer was delivered on the Monday after we returned from Myrtle Beach. They charged us a delivery fee, and made us buy a new electric cord. Said they wouldn't touch it unless the cord is brand new, for insurance reasons. Ha! Yet another fresh-roasted bend-me-over-the-couch ripoff. But what are you going to do? Go rent a truck and do it yourself, then figure out a way to dispose of the old played-out unit? I don't think so; I'd surely have a stroke. No, we just paid the fee, and bought the cord. Under personal protest.

It's nice, I guess, but kind of confusing. The control panel looks like the dashboard of a 747 to me. Way too many options. The thing supposedly has sensors in it, and will continue running until it "senses" the clothes are dry. Oh, I don't trust that at all. And there are a thousand other choices and variations as well. Too much. I just throw my stuff in there, spin the wheel, and hope for the best. So far there hasn't been a fire.

-- Speaking of dryers, my friend Bill and I picked one up for my Mom back when we were in high school. It was probably 1980 or so, and I remember the guy at the Sears loading dock saying, "Um, Kay... Is that spelled with a C?" That was 25 years ago, and my parents are still using it. Works just fine, they say. How come I never have that kind of luck? I'm always replacing stuff, and spending large sums of money to get back to where I was yesterday. And I don't like that.

-- Over the weekend I had the #27 lunch special from the new kick-ass Chinese restaurant in our neighborhood. Number 27 is sesame chicken, in case you're keeping score at home. Of course, as my old boss in Atlanta would surely say, "It doesn't matter which meal you order, it's gonna end up as #2 eventually." Anyway, as I was shoveling it in, I started thinking... What do Chinese people eat for breakfast? In my travels I've never come across a restaurant that serves Chinese breakfast. Obviously they eat breakfast in China. What does it consist of? Seriously.

-- The Smoking Fish has been spotted once again, this time near the Canadian border. Our logo, man, he gets around. Check it out.

-- I bought a copy of this book this morning, through half dotcom. It's a collection of writings from the 1800's by a crackpot English woman with an axe to grind. It's a travel guide of the world's countries, written by a person who almost never traveled. She never set foot in most of the places she "reviewed," but that didn't stop her from voicing her strong opinions about them. "The Spaniards are not only idle, they are very cruel... The Irish are very kind and good-natured when pleased, but affronted, are filled with rage... The religion they teach is called the Roman Catholic religion. It is a kind of Christian religion, but it is a very bad kind." Should be great fun!

-- This morning I dropped my booger hooks into the bag of jellybeans we took with us to Myrtle Beach. About a third of the bag remains, and I thought I'd partake of a handful with my coffee (not as bad as you might think). But I ran into a bit of a problem. I considered just gnawing on it like an apple, but decided against it and put it back. I didn't really have the time for any high-intensity jellybean maintenance, so I'll hack it up later.

And I think that'll do it for today, friends. This is what provided the soundtrack for the writing of today's update. Please make a note of it. Have yourselves a nice Tuesday, and I'll see ya on Wednesday.

May 16, 2005

-- I realized over the weekend that I didn't tell you folks about everything I ate while we were in Myrtle Beach. I mentioned Crabby Mike's and Chick-fil-A, but there were many others that I left out. So, if you wouldn't mind, I'd like to take this week and revisit every single meal we had while we were away. OK? So let's get right to it, shall we?

Day One/Saturday In the morning before we left I had a sizable bowl of oats, which turned out to be a bit too paste-like for my tastes. I'm not sure how that happens, but sometimes it's just a big bowl of gloop. You do everything exactly the same, and it comes out differently somehow. I remember years ago when I had the perfect bowl of oats. It was when I was a toll collector and oatmeal had become very important to me, both emotionally and spiritually...

Just kidding. I wouldn't do that to you. Not today, anyway. I do reserve the right, however, to break it out in the future, on slow days. I can do 500 words on oats, easy, and I'm keeping it in the bullpen in case of emergencies. ...Hello? Is this thing on??

-- I had a dream last night that I was a jockey. Not a very experienced jockey, mind you, but a jockey nonetheless. I was entered in some kind of bizarre horse race that involved a straight track, like in drag racing, with a very short distance between finish line and a brick wall. My big concern was that I could make the horse go full-out, but still be able to stop before crashing into the wall. 

There was only one other horse in the race, and its rider was John Locke from Lost. (These must've been some big-ass animals!) He was very confident of himself, and was actually giving me advice before the race. This pissed me off to no end, the cocky bastard. After a lengthy speech by Ice-T in support of our troops in Iraq (I'm not making any of this up), the race was about to begin. 

Locke was aboard his giant stallion and was looking over at me with a smirk on his face, and I was on my horse as well, petting him like a dog and feeling very concerned about that wall. The crowd was screaming, the guy raised the starter pistol... and I woke up. I have no idea what happened. How cruel is that?

-- Yesterday afternoon Toney and I were at Target and saw a couple of free-roaming nerds in the parking lot, heading for the store. One was egg-shaped and had long hair pulled back in a help desk ponytail, and the other was wearing some kind of black cloak and a Sherlock Holmes hat. I chuckled and said, "There are a couple of guys who'll be at the first Star Wars screening next week." Then we forgot about them as we got down to the shopping tasks at hand. But twenty minutes later, as we were transitioning from the clothing departments, heading in the direction of sporting goods and luggage, the pair walked past us in the opposite direction. And we heard one say to the other, "Yeah, but you know Obi-Wan wouldn't do something like that..." We proceeded to laugh our asses off, right there beside the Febreze endcap. Whoever said you can't judge a book by its cover is a goddamn liar.

-- Speaking of help desks... I got into a rather nasty argument with Earthlink on Friday. For months we've been going back and forth on the Neti Pot situation, and the $667 over-bandwidth charge levied against me. I've probably spoken with ten different people about this, and they usually give me the impression that a partial credit is possible. A few weeks ago I paid them $120 towards the balance, just to keep the site up and running. But last week they sent me a letter saying I needed to pay up or I'd be taken off the air. Grrr...

It's a long confusing story, but they're stringing me along and lying to me, attempting to squeeze a hundred bucks here, a hundred bucks there. That's it in a nutshell. A so-called "manager" gave me his name and told me he would be personally working on my case, and I could call and ask for him if I wanted a progress report. It's now clear to me that this "name" is a code for something, and throws me into some sort of whiny-bitch bucket.

I finally got into a shouting match with a woman on Friday, and I believe we've now reached the end of the line. They'd promised me earlier in the week that a senior member of management would call me on Thursday with the final disposition of my case. Nobody called, not a frickin' person. So I flew off the handle. And they told me there is no reason to call anymore, because I will be paying them the money.

I said, "Oh yeah? Well I don't believe your name is Lisa, I don't believe it at all. I think you're an Indian woman." Hey, it's the best I could do under pressure...

Reluctantly, I called the accounts receivable department and gave them another $250 from the Neti Pot fund. I still owe about three hundred bucks, but this will keep me up and running through June. And I'm going to continue being a whiny-bitch about it. Eventually I might wear someone down.

-- The Smoking Fish has been spotted south of the border, and I'm not talking about Pedro's place in South Carolina either. Check it out.

-- And, as mind-boggling as it may seem, our Deadwood page was reportedly used by a math instructor at Susquehanna University to teach statistics! Here are pics of the three classes who received this fuck-based education. You can't really see it, but some of the students are holding Smoking Fishes. Freaking me out, man.

-- Finally, here's another mention of the Deadwood "project" in the pages of Broadcasting & Cable magazine. The first mention is here. Do you ever get the feeling that things are getting out of hand?

And I think that'll do it. I have more, but it'll keep (like this). Have a great day, folks. See ya tomorrow.

May 13, 2005

Day Six/Thursday A fog of demoralization

-- I laid awake most of the night, not because of the noise or the shaking caused by the wind, but because I was convinced it would eventually rip the goddamn awning right off our trailer. It was the windiest night of them all, and I watched our canvas box change shape right before my eyes. One second it was a rectangle, then a square, then a rhombus, then a circle... It was science fiction. Everything was expanding and contracting, and flapping and groaning. Grrrr...

I could hear the awning taking its punishment outside, and our chairs tumbling around, but I just couldn't muster the energy to get out of bed and do anything about it. I just laid there atop the platform, worrying.

Around 3:30 am I couldn't take it anymore, got up, slipped on my jacket and went outside to batton down the hatches. I should've taken Andy out there to help with the chairs, since he's supposedly a herding animal. The things were all over the place and it took me a few minutes to collect them. Then I went to work folding them up and putting them into their cloth storage bags.

And that's when the awning collapsed on my head. An extra-powerful gust came roaring up from the devil's anus, and the thing just said fuck it. It all came crashing down, wrapping me in a wet, heavy canvas, aluminum poles flying through the air like javelins.

Toney came running out and I asked her to hold onto the awning itself while I got the poles under control. Another big gust came roaring through and the thing puffed up like a sail, nearly lifting Toney off the ground. Together we finally wrestled it back into its housing, and I may have used a few bad words during the process.

There was no sleeping after that bullshit, and we just laid there in our shape-shifter, staring at the ceiling. I think it was around 6 am when the monsoon struck.

Great sheets of rain, relentless and strong, all day... It sucked. We were operating on almost literally no sleep, and sitting in the middle of a friggin' mudhole in South Carolina. Par-tay!

Both of us were pretty much fed up, and walked through the day in a fog of demoralization. We were questioning whether camping is really for us, and were kind of pissed that our much-anticipated vacation wasn't working out like we'd planned. Two gloomy mofos.

We went to Ripley's Aquarium that day, a family favorite, but I can barely even remember it. They had a really cool Titanic exhibit where you could put your hand in 28-degree water, the supposed temperature of the ocean that night. It was pretty interesting, but the rest just seems like a distant dream.

Toney and I went to some random yuppie bar in the afternoon and drowned our sorrows in beer and nachos. She wanted to fold everything up and go home, but I insisted we stick it out; tomorrow might be a better day. We talked about upgrading our camper to something with real walls and a little floor space, and wondered if that might make things better. But we came to no conclusions, there above our giant platter of melted cheese. And by the time we reached our car in the parking lot both of us looked like we'd fallen into a goddamn lake.

Back at the campground we returned our golf cart two days early, since, you know, you can't really use it in driving rain showers. And I took the kids back to the arcade.

Toney went to bed around six in the evening, I think, and I hung out at my parent's self-contained camping pod. The wind was still blowing, and the rain was still pounding down, but everything was calm and quiet there inside the Shania Twain bus.

We watched a lovely episode of SVU about a man who killed people, and then had sex with the corpses. Perfect viewing matter for an evening with the parents... "Any way to tell if the semen was left pre or post-mortem?" Well that's just excellent.

Eventually I shuffled off to our sleeping bellows and ended the evening sucking on a sad can of beer in our low-rent Shoney's booth, watching Gabe Kaplan play poker for reasons I cannot explain.

Day Seven/Friday A bittersweet experience

-- And it was indeed a better day. During the night the rain stopped and the wind calmed down. Then the sun actually came out. And the campground began filling up with folks who still had a pulse. 

Behind us was a group of people camping together, maybe four of five families. The parents drank beer all day, cooked great-smelling stuff on their grills, and the kids ran wild through the place, sustaining one hell of racket.

See, this is all we wanted... Why'd it all have to happen on the last day?

We spent most of the day messing around inside the campground, enjoying the sun and just bumming around. Obviously, it's all about the weather when you're living inside a tiny box of canvas. Thursday was awful and we were about to cast ourselves into the sea. Then the clouds parted and we were into it again. Livin' and dyin' by the weather.

Late in the morning Toney wanted to go to an RV dealership to see what might be a good alternative for us. I was starving so we stopped at Chick-fil-A on the way, where I had the greatest meal in the history of mankind. Damn, that shit was good. Not sure why, but it all came together, right there in the corner booth of the Dwarf House.

Toney found this flier inside the restaurant, and we laughed about it. Doesn't that chick look like a stroke victim? And this is the portrait you use to advertise your service?? Hilarious. We were in a good mood again. Amazing.

We located the perfect camper for us, a 23-foot hybrid. It has a slide in the living room and three pop-out beds. It looks gigantic inside, and only weighs about 4200 pounds; I could still pull it with my Blazer. It has a bathroom with shower, a real fridge and microwave -- and solid walls! The only downside? It costs twenty thousand dollars. So that ain't happening. Not in this lifetime or the next.

We took the dogs for a long walk on the beach and let them run and play with each other. A good time. And that night we built a big fire and had several containers of the golden elixir. The place was alive again, and I was getting kind of sad that we had to leave. Teenagers were tooling around in golf carts, blasting their terrible music and flirting with each other. The people behind us were getting rowdy after a full day of drinkin' and grillin'.

Why'd it all have to happen on the last day??

The man who was now camping in front us, in a huge-ass fifth wheel, came over to talk while we were sitting around the fire, and he said it was his inaugural voyage. Incredibly, he claimed to have won his fancy-pants rig in an eBay auction, and had no camping experience whatsoever. He seemed positively giddy about the way things were going. He'd just arrived that morning, and was nothing short of positive about his first day.

Yes, I remember those early days of innocence, before the bitterness and self-pity took hold. I envied the man, I really did.

As the sun disappeared, the couple across the road sat down in their picture window again and began their nightly ritual of staring at us. What the hell, man?? What's with these people? Giving me the creeps.

After everyone went to bed I put a couple of cans of beer in my jacket pockets and walked down to the beach, where I stood and sipped and stared out at the waves. I'd like to say I came to some deep realizations during this time, but I didn't. I had to piss like Man O' War, and was mildly concerned that somebody was going to sneak up behind me in the dark and crush my skull in with a large rock.

And so it goes...

The next morning we hitched up the rolling box of beds (in the blazing sunlight), and hit the highway.

We'd decided, over those nachos, that we would try to make it all the way home in one day, and that turned out to be one of the more insane decisions we've made to date. We left at 9:30 in the morning, and finally made it to our driveway at 11:30 that night. One of the longest days in the history of the world. By the time we got home my right leg was a solid piece of oak. I could've jammed a fork into it and felt nothing.

As we traveled our propane tank came loose somehow, and nearly flew off our camper. We stopped for gas and the shit was cocked sideways and I think we were about thirty minutes away from tragedy. Either there would've been an explosion and fire, or the tank itself would've hurtled through someone's windshield and I might have spent a few years in a Federal pound-me-in-the-ass prison. I bungee corded that bastard down so tight a nuclear explosion couldn't have touched it, and loaded my oak log back behind the wheel.

And a few minutes before midnight we were home. Yeah, I'd give it a B-minus. That sounds about right.

Now here are some pictures from the trip, and I'll get back to the normal stuff on Monday. Thanks for being so patient.

See ya.


May 12, 2005

Day Five/Wednesday The last good day

-- After a surprisingly uneventful night 'neath the canvas, we (Toney) decided to cook breakfast, outside on the handy-dandy clip-on propane griddle. I hooked it up for her, and she took it from there. She loaded in a bunch of bacon, and few things smell better than bacon cooking while camping. I sat at the picnic table drinking coffee and trying to wake up, as our breakfast gestated.

Of course the wind was blowing at a good clip, and it didn't take long for the splattering grease to start flying around. "Ow!" somebody hollered. "Shit!" I screamed, as a circle of arm flesh disappeared in a puff of smoke. "Cover your eyes!" Toney said as she fought her way to the Death Skillet.

I remembered lovely Hyatt breakfast buffets of the past, and sighed.

After our wind-tunnel breakfast my Dad and I took the Secrets fishing. That was fun, even though the kids got bored and started feeding the ducks, completely abandoning their fishing poles. We caught nothing, which was OK by me. It wasn't like we were trying to rustle up dinner or anything.

Then we went to the arcade inside the campground, and allowed those people to suction a goodly amount of money out of my pocket. I played an insane Monopoly pinball machine, and at one point had three balls in play at the same time. They were flying all around and crashing into each other. Never seen anything like that before... They had Skeeball too, but it was pink and blue, and the balls were white. It was called Ice Ball or some such bastardization. 

It was a good time, something I wouldn't have predicted.

In the afternoon we went to Broadway at the Beach, a fancy-pants outdoor mall type of place. We had lunch at a joint called Liberty Brewpub, where I partook of a grouper sandwich and a pint of their India Pale Ale. Mmmmm...

Then we walked around and checked shit out. The oldest Secret climbed a really tall wall while strapped into some sort of harness apparatus, and that made me nervous. I was convinced the entire wall would turn over and crush him beneath it. That's the way my brain works, I can't help it. I see something tall, and I just know it's gonna turn over. I probably should be on some kind of medication.

We found a t-shirt shop that sells tasteful Myrtle Beach stuff. And that's a rarity. Usually it's retina-searing neon colors with a beach umbrella on the front, or something to do with getting drunk, or whatever. So we picked up a few items, like good little tourists, and kept moving.

While we were making our selection at the Tasteful T-Shirt Shop, a gang of fat girls came in, looked around, sniffed and walked out. A few minutes later we ran into them again at another shop down the way, and all four were buying matching "It's Five O'clock Somewhere" shirts with big beer mugs on the front, size 3X. They all had happy expressions like they'd finally found what they were looking for. Bono would've been proud. Or not.

And I know this is going to sound juvenile, but we bought the youngin's these silly fart devices called Wind Breakers, and they proved to be the source of big-time laughter. And I mean big-time. They're plastic cups with some kind of Play-Doh material inside. You plunge your fingers in there and it makes a realistic (and really loud) fart sound.

We sat on a bench and I schooled the oldest Secret, the wall-climber, in the art of comedic timing, so that the extended and wet-sounding farts would occur just as strangers walked past. He proved to be a very good student, and within minutes he'd developed a Carson-like timing, and I'm not lying, I almost crapped my pants laughing. The reactions were absolutely classic.

Needless to say, Toney and my mother abandoned ship. But my Dad and I stayed, and were buckled over in laughter for a full half-hour. And yes, I'm forty-two. What of it?

Back at the campground we had some new neighbors across the road. A couple was in the process of moving in, and they looked to be, oh, late eighties, early nineties? The man "ran" around setting up their camp as the old woman sat slumped in her wheelchair, her head slung down on her chest. After he had the awning out, and his carpet in place, he set up a long ramp to the door, and rolled his wife inside. As they climbed, the old woman's head whipped round and round on her neck, doing about five full rotations before they disappeared inside the camper.

And last year had been just like the MTV Beach Party and Debauchery Jamboree.

My mother made the West Virginia delicacy "hot baloney" sandwiches for dinner, because she knows I like 'em. It's basically thick slabs of baloney fried up in barbecue sauce, and served on a giant hamburger bun. It's really good with lettuce, onion, and tomatoes, and makes one hell of a sloppy mess. West Virginia round steak is what it's called back home, and I recommend it highly.

After I scrubbed the sauce off my face, and wiped it out of my hair, we started making plans to watch Lost. My parents said we could watch it in the Thin Lizzy bus, but they've never seen the show and it felt like an imposition. So I went over and ran a great length of cable (always come prepared) from the empty site in front of ours, and set up a nice little TV viewing lounge in front of our box o' beds.

At eight o'clock we settled down in our chairs, with adult beverages in hand, and watched the show in the bitter, frigid cold. Froze our fool asses off. 

And our neighbors on the other side, young whipper-snappers in their mid-70's, inexplicably sat at the rear picture window of their RV and looked at us the whole time. At least it felt like they were looking at us. They just sat there, in front of that big window, brightly lit and shoulder to shoulder as if riding on a bus, staring straight out. The hell, man? Craziness.

I was starting to realize that this camping trip was a lot of fun, except for the camping part.

And I'll finish this long-winded tale tomorrow, and share some pictures too. Sorry it's dragging out like this, but it's almost over. 

So, until then...

May 11, 2005

Day Three/Monday Staying close to "home"

-- I woke up in the morning to the sound of a thousand birds hollering, and competing with each other for volume supremacy. Some were just making noise, but others seemed to have their own catch-phrases and were repeating them endlessly. One said, "Uh oh" over and over. Another screamed, "Wee wee," and, incredibly, a bird perched right above our camper kept saying, "Yes, I'd like a club sandwich with fries, and have a nice day Sally." You think I'm joking?

Before I even climbed down from the platform I was seized by a powerful sneezing jag. They were coming one after the other, barely allowing me enough time to take a breath in between, and it lasted for several minutes. My Dad claimed to have heard me sneezing inside his Jethro Tull tour bus. With the windows closed and the heater running.

There was something in the air that was kicking my ass, and I couldn't wake up. I felt like I'd taken cold medicine; I just sat there breathing through my mouth and staring straight ahead. It's not a feeling I much enjoy.

Toney and I decided to take the golf cart to the little campground snack bar, and get some sausage biscuits, or whatever, for breakfast. I was a zombie and just drove as if on auto-pilot. There were a few people there eating in the outdoor seating area, but nobody was at the window ordering. We walked up, told the woman what we wanted, and she handed me a receipt that was roughly a foot long, told me we were number 59 and that we could pick up our order at the next window.

And when our food was ready, the same woman slid open the window and started hollering NUMBER 59? 59? We were still the only people there, and she'd just taken our order three minutes before. Crazy.

As we ate, the kids began throwing tater tots to the squirrels, and before we knew it a whole gang of them were surrounding us. An old man walked by and laughed about it, and he was wearing a large straw hat with a chin strap situated between chins number three and four.

We didn't even leave the campground that day. We took the Secrets to three different pools in there, and spent an hour or so on the beach. The waves seemed to be seething with jellyfish, and it made me nervous. The horrifying gelatinous creatures littered the sand; they were frigging everywhere. I think they can sting you even when they're dead, and it was like walking in a minefield. Every time a wave would hit my leg I'd prepare myself for the fiery pain, but somehow I got away with it.

By four o'clock in the afternoon it had grown so cold we had to slip into jackets. And the wind was blowing again. Grrr... We sat shivering by our campfire and sipped our adult beverages as senior citizens in Members Only jackets peddled past in slo-mo on their giant Wizard of Oz bikes. It was like we'd been plunged into the middle of a goddamn Geritol commercial. In winter.

Doubts about the whole deal were now being voiced out loud.

Day Four/Tuesday Stretched tight and shiny

Toney said she only slept about two hours during the night, because of the wind. It shook us pretty good and pretty consistently all night long. Our canvas box was rattling and puffing, then quivering and collapsing. It felt like we were trapped inside a giant set of bellows. I probably woke up ten times myself, but drifted off again with no problem. I think I could sleep inside a European soccer stadium during a championship match.

When I took my morning shower at our private bath house, a facility which nobody used except us, I realized that I was sunburned in a few places. As the water hit me I felt pain on my forearms, on the insides of my shins, and behind my ears. I didn't remember contorting myself into a position for such a thing to happen, but apparently I had.

I was really jonesing for the internet, and asked the front desk people where we might find a public library. They directed us to Surfside Beach, a little town a couple of miles away. We found it with no problem, and within minutes were flopped down in front of an honest to goodness computer. But what the hell, man?? Half the stuff I wanted to look at was blocked. Then I noticed some kind of Senate bill or whatever posted beside each monitor, talking about the filtering of library computers.

Bastards! TheWVSR was blocked because of, quote, profanity and jokes. Jokes?? Oh, I was pissed.

After that highly unsatisfying experience, the whole gang of us went to Jurassic Golf, one of the million or so over-the-top miniature golf places in Myrtle Beach. I insisted on paying for everyone, including my parents, and the total came to forty bucks. (SWEET JESUS!) But it was fun, in an over-the-top miniature golf sorta way, and I realized we were all enjoying ourselves for a change. I didn't even get too irritated when my ball ended up floating in the middle of a lake.

Once we got our eighteen holes in, my parents took off with the Secrets, and Toney and I went to downtown Myrtle Beach to have a look around. When I was a kid the Pavilion and all that insanity was the nerve center of the whole place. But on this day everything was deader than Kelsey's nuts. Half the stores were closed, and the ones that were open were empty. The ancient Skeeball machines in the arcades sat unused, and the boardwalk looked like something out of The Omega Man.

Some asshole tried to rope us into a long-winded rap about timeshares, and I told him, in the nicest way I knew how, to get fucked.

Man, there's nothing sadder than a tourist trap with no tourists. It was both depressing and demoralizing. We were now openly admitting that things weren't going very well, and blamed it on the weather and lack of electricity in the campground. Last year was like a party, and this year was an anti-party. It kinda sucked.

That night we went to a well-known restaurant called Crabby Mike's. It's an enormous seafood buffet with 120 items (supposedly), including such high-dollar items as crab legs and prime rib. It was one of the things we'd vowed to do this year, because we'd heard so much about the place. All raves too. Crabby Mike's, we were told, is the ultimate fat man's paradise, a full-on temple of gluttony.

And the advance buzz turned out to be right on the money. Sweet Maria. I ate until I could barely walk. My skin was stretched tight and shiny. I had about five full dinners, I think. I had prime rib, crab legs, seafood jambalaya, ham steaks, and beef tips -- along with a whole universe of side items. It was obscene. By the time I threw in the towel there were colors swirling in my eyes.

I'm not big on seafood, really, and bypassed some of the more puzzling things on the bar. Like the crustaceans, the water bugs, the Wal-Mart bags in milk, and the pot pies with pinchers and faces. But there were clearly some seafood pros in the house. Seated a few tables away from us was a Korean couple who had apparently brought their own nutcrackers, in velvet pouches emblazoned with their family crest. They had all their sauces and dips lined up in front of them, and were systematically attempting to empty the goddamn oceans. It was something to see.

My Dad told a story about a guy he used to work with, who talked about Crabby Mike's all the time. The man reportedly loved to eat more than anything else in this world, and thought Crabby Mike's was the absolute pinnacle of the human experience. He was always bringing it up, and the guy jumps to my Dad's mind whenever the words crabby or mike's are spoken.

Years ago this man attended a company picnic, and asked if he could take home all the leftover food. Nobody had an objection, so he loaded it into his vehicle. And on the way home he was involved in a head-on collision and nearly died. Several days later he finally regained consciousness, looked around the room, and said, "What happened to all that food that was in my truck??"

These are the kind of people who are dedicated disciples of Crabby Mike's, and I'm proud to now count myself among them. The food was really good, and the service was great. My outsize glass of sweet tea was never less than a third empty, and everyone was friendly and helpful. Good times.

And when my parents picked up the (quite hefty) check, that made it even better.

That night I waddled over to my private bath house and thanked God for the large Costanza buffer zone He'd afforded me. Then I shuffled back to the camper, had a couple of beers while wrapped up in a friggin' Indian blanket, and climbed back into the living, breathing canvas bellows for a night of sleeping and waking and sleeping and waking... <sigh>

More tomorrow.

May 10, 2005

Day Two/Sunday Hopeful Estimating

-- After a good night's sleep at the Hampton Inn, building three, way out back, I felt halfway normal again. My flu-like symptoms were gone, and my brain was no longer grinding out all-negativity, all-the-time. I had an actual spring in my step, and was excited to get the final leg of our journey behind us. This was the real beginning of our much-anticipated vacation, and I was feeling it again.

The rolling box o' beds was still hitched to the Blazer, and I moved it from the RV lot halfway across town, and parked it near the door of our room. We loaded up our junk and took Andy for a short walk, allowing him to sling urine and serve up piping-hot yard biscuits like a high-stepping champion. Then we hit the road, jelly beans on the console and Paul McCartney and Wings in the CD player.

The truck was packed-out with snack items. We'd gotten ourselves into a preparation frenzy on Friday, and overdid it, I think. We just kept adding stuff to the mix. Brownies, cookies, a goddamn flat of Frito-Lay products meant for vendors and retailers... It was crazy, but we'd been excited and wanted everything to be perfect. We also had two coolers which required a lot of ice, and that was going to be the purpose of our first stop.

We found a convenience store and I topped off the gas tank, then went inside to buy the ice and fill my travel mug again. Behind the counter was a sashaying teenaged boy with highlights in his hair, and a woman with teeth like a dog. I ain't kiddin', her face was mildly snout-like, and she had dog teeth. Complete with those big curved ones up-front. I handed over my money to this curious pair, and The Highlighter waved his arm in the direction of the ice machines, in a flamboyant manner, and we were off.

Next stop: Myrtle Beach! Not counting urination stations.

As we merged onto the highway I heard a loud roaring sound, like one of the windows was down. I pushed all the buttons and asked the Secrets if they'd been screwing around again, but that wasn't it. What the hell, I hollered, is there a muffin wedged in one of the doors?! For some reason this pissed Toney off, and we had a few "words" about it. It turned out to be her seatbelt, not a king-sized Snickers, or whatever, and we corrected the problem with no further incident.

It wasn't long before we started seeing the South of the Border billboards, and that's an exciting development indeed. All my life they've verified that we're getting close. South of the Border is a sprawling tourist trap just over the North Carolina border, in South Carolina. And I-95 is positively littered with their silly-ass billboards, many showing a cartoon Mexican man named Pedro wearing a comically oversized sombrero. One has him holding a giant wiener, and the sign says, "You never sausage a place!" How Pedro hasn't come under attack by various anti-defamation leagues is fairly amazing to me. They knocked off a very-similar Frito Bandito years ago, after all. But Pedro remains, and I'm glad. He tells us we're getting close.

Somewhere along the way we began fooling ourselves with "hopeful estimating." I try not to indulge in such activities, but it seems that we always do. It's where you calculate how much driving time is left, using highly-suspect methods, so as to convince yourself it's almost over. For instance, 190 miles equals two hours of driving. When we were about three hours away we'd hopefully estimated the campground to be just around the next curve. By the time we were off 95, and actually in the home stretch, I was clinging to a sack of Chips Ahoy for emotional support.

This year we stayed at Ocean Lakes, one of the three or four massive ocean-front "camping resorts" that stand shoulder to shoulder in Myrtle Beach. Usually we opt for Lakewood, but they pissed Toney off, so that's that. We already had our pass so we didn't have to stop at the office to check in, we just breezed right past the security shack.

My Dad was waiting for us at the gate, and he guided us to our site. He and my Mom camped right next to us, in their Blue Oyster Cult tour bus, and had arrived the day before. All the sites at Ocean Lakes are pull-throughs, which is huge. It means I don't have to embarrass myself by attempting to back our box o' beds into place, as the neighbors look on in amusement. I just pulled it through, stopped where I wanted the camper to be, and unhitched. Excellent.

It seemed like it took forever to set up our camp. I was operating completely on sugar and caffeine, and was shaking and sweating profusely. But we finally got it done, and it looked mighty homey in the end. When I flopped down in a chair with a celebratory chocolate chip muffin, I could hear the waves crashing at the beach only a few yards away from our camper. Ahhh, this was gonna be great...

After the traditional roughing-it lasagna supper, over at "the bus," Toney and I hoofed it to the office to rent our golf cart, and to check on those much-ballyhooed internet kiosks. The cart was no problem, and I didn't even stress too much about the price. The fact that we could've rented a frickin' mid-sized sedan for less didn't even get me down. We're on vacation here. Fuck it.

But the internet situation was bad, real bad. The kiosks were down, and wouldn't be back up anytime soon. What were we going to do?? I couldn't go a full week without checking email; I'd go insane. This was a real kick to the luggage, and I was mumbling a daisy-chain of profanity as we exited the lobby.

We jumped on our cart, swung by and picked up the Secrets, and tooled around the park, just to have a look around. It was kinda dead in there. Last year we'd come during Spring Break, and everything was rockin'. This year it was half-empty, and the median age of the people there looked to be about seventy-five. There was nothing rockin' this year, except the old woman across the road from us, and I think she was mentally defective.

Plus, it was kinda cold, especially when riding on the golf cart. I could feel the wind all the way to my skeleton. These were things we were thinking to ourselves, but weren't saying out loud. To voice them would be to confirm them as problems. And we weren't allowing ourselves any problems just yet. This was our vacation, goddammit.

That night we built a fire, bundled up in jackets, and consumed a few indulgent Harp Lagers to mark our first real night away. We could hear the ocean roar, and it was a nice, relaxing evening.

When it finally came time to climb atop the dormancy platform, I locked our beer cooler inside my Blazer. Last year somebody stole our stash in the middle of the night, and I wasn't going to allow such a crime against humanity to occur again. Of course, by the looks of our fellow-campers this year, I didn't think any of them could actually lift the cooler, but I wasn't taking any chances.

Our trip was getting off to a good start, but things wouldn't be quite so fairytale-like in the coming days.

And I'm gonna tell you all about it, in far too much detail. 

Stay tuned.

May 9, 2005

-- We made it, safe and sound. We arrived back at the Compound late Saturday night, following the seventeenth longest day in all of human history (I researched it), and spent Sunday getting ourselves reacquainted with the real world. As we were driving on Saturday I asked Toney how she'd grade the trip and she thought for a second, then said, "C-plus." I was thinking B-minus, so we were in the same neighborhood.

Every time we go out with our rolling box of beds we learn a few new lessons, or are reminded of some old ones previously learned but forgotten, or pushed aside for the sake of convenience. And I'm here to tell ya, when you're living inside a box of canvas, it's all about the weather. Rain can flat-out ruin a day, and a brisk breeze can make you feel like you're trying to sleep in the back of a dumptruck barreling down Interstate 95. We know all about that now. Oh, we know about it real good.

But I'll get to the gory details soon enough.

Did everyone read the LA Times article from last Sunday? Can I say, whew!? I was really stressing about that thing, in classic Jeff Kay fashion, but I think it turned out really well. I have no beefs with it whatsoever. I'm always worried that people might misunderstand my intentions, and think I'm making some kind of "statement" with the Deadwood page. Drudge tried to frame it that way, I think, and when Rush Limbaugh is talking about your shit on the air, and whatnot... But the writer I spoke with seemed to recognize the fact that it's all just an exercise in goofiness, and treated it as such.

My brother read the article to me on Sunday as I was driving, and I felt a huge sense of relief. You have to pay the LA Times cash-money to access their archives, but here's an exact reprint of the piece in a Florida paper. Apparently my fuck-counting moved on the wires last weekend? Ha!

Of course the part of it that caused my brain to crack open is the quote from David Milch. How surreal is that? Just the fact that he knows about the page, and has an actual (humorless) opinion on it, seems incredible to me. I mean, seriously. It's all so freakin' bizarre.

On a semi-related note, there was a message from a guy at Broadcasting & Cable magazine on our phone when we returned on Saturday night. He said he wanted a quote from me about the Deadwood thing, and asked me to call him back if I got the message on Friday. I didn't, so I didn't, but the piece appeared anyway. It's the last item here. Cool.

And, for the record, the Deadwood page is now up-to-date and current. I watched last Sunday's episode at two in the morning Saturday night/Sunday morning, and did my counting with trembling hands. After last night's horrifying installment, only two episodes remain of the season. I'll be sad to see it end. It really is a great show, and I'd be all into it even if I weren't counting the fucking fucks. Ya know?

But enough of that... Let's get the travelogue underway, shall we?

Day One/Saturday Who spilled the Hi-C?

Toney was monitoring the weather like an air traffic controller. She was constantly referencing, and cross-referencing, several internet weather sites, and the Weather Channel was blasting through our house all day on Friday. And it didn't look good. The map they kept showing looked like somebody had spilled a big glass of red Hi-C on the overheard projector, right over the states where we would be traveling. Monsoon-like rains and severe thunderstorms was the general consensus. And I don't like that.

We were starting to freak out a little. We had reservations at a place called Americamps, near Richmond, for Saturday night. But we sure didn't want to do it in the rain. The thought of starting our trip with a camper full of mud, and bed sheets all moist and gritty, didn't really appeal to us.

At some point during the day Toney began calling around for motels that accept neurotic border collies as guests. She finally made reservations at a Hampton Inn in Emporia, VA, just as a back-up plan. We still had the Americamps reservation too, but we now had a Plan B.

All the talk of rain reminded me that I needed new windshield wipers on my Blazer. I'd heard somewhere that Advance Auto Parts will install them for you, if you buy them there, so that's where I went. I have previous experience at trying to install wipers, and I wanted to smash my face through plate glass. Laugh all you want, but I just couldn't get the sumbitches on there. When I finally did, an hour later, I was convinced they'd fly off going down the interstate; I had little confidence that the bread ties would hold. So screw it, I'd just let somebody else do it, somebody with a little know-how.

I know you're not supposed to buy into traditional gender roles and such, but they sent a girl out to put my wipers on, and I felt like a real dipshit. She was ripping open those packages with her bare hands, snapping shit into place, and moving with confidence. And all I could do was stand and watch, and finally mumble a weak, "Thank you ma'am for handling my car repairs, for I am a pussy-man." So sad.

I felt horrible on Saturday. I'd gotten little sleep the night before, or the night before that. I can't really remember why, but I'm sure it had something to do with the internet, DVR, beer, and a last-minute clothes-packing frenzy. On Saturday I think I was actually running a fever. Is that a symptom of severe sleep-deprivation? I believe it is. I think I was on the cusp of full-on lack of sleep-triggered influenza. Not a good first step.

It rained off-and-on all day long, and there was fog too. I hate fog worse than anything; it scares me. I just know I'm going to get confused and leave the road, cascade over a cliff, or drive up underneath a parked flatbed truck, like Detective Benson's mother. But it wasn't too bad, and before I knew it we were in Virginia, and needing to make a decision on our two reservations.

It wasn't raining at the time, but the skies looked mighty threatening. And since I was starting to experience mild hallucinations, we opted for the motel. Toney called Americamps and canceled our reservation there. The woman wanted to know why we wouldn't be staying with them, and Toney told her it was because of the rain. "Stupid Weather Channel," she spat, "they did this to us last weekend too!" Bitter.

We checked into the Hampton Inn and parked the Blazer and box o' beds a country mile away, in their special RV parking lot. They put us way in the back in building three, where people can keep pets. That was fine by me. I just wanted to free-fall into a chair and crack open a Yuengling. Segregate us in a leper colony away from the regular guests, I'm cool with that. No problems here.

Of course I immediately removed both bedspreads, using my pointer-finger and thumb on my right hand, and piled them in the corner. There are few things more horrifying than motel bedspreads; I know, deep in my heart, that they're all saturated with semen and ass gravy. And they immediately go into the corner. There is no other option.

Then I free-fell and Toney asked if I wanted a ham sandwich, made from cobbled-together and waterlogged ingredients from our cooler. That didn't sound appealing in the least, and I suggested she walk over to that Shoney's next-door and get us something there. "You go," she said. "No, you," I answered, "it's just a few feet from our door" And it went on like that for several minutes.

I finally called the front desk and asked for the number to Shoney's, and gave them a call. Apparently I was going to be forced to walk all the way over there and get our dinner. It just wasn't fair.

I asked the woman who answered if they still serve the Slim Jim sandwich, and she said, in a deep Southern accent, that they do. I wanted to show Toney that I am still fluent in the Southern language, and asked the woman at Shoney's to fix us a couple of them Slim Jims and to also cook us up a mess of fries, put it all in a poke and I'd be over to fetch it directly. "You're an idiot," Toney said.

When I got to the restaurant there was a big splash of vomit on the sidewalk right in front of the door. What an endorsement! I stepped over it, and went inside to get our samliches. The place was packed and it was chaos in there. When I finally got my order the girl told me the total was $15.27. Holy shit! I tried to will myself not to worry about it, this is vacation, after all, and I just handed over a twenty with a smile. She gave me $8.10 in change(?), and I stepped over the vomit again and went back to our room.

The last thing I remember is the Secrets watching Drake & Josh on Nickelodeon, around 8:30 or so. And then I slipped into a deep coma and slept until 7:30 the next morning, still in the same exact position as the night before. Toney was bitching about the bed, proclaiming it "harder than a marble slab," but I hadn't noticed. I could've slept in the middle of the parking lot, and that's no lie.

More tomorrow. ...Damn, it feels good to be back! See ya.

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