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  Willard "Bill" Hershberger

 The State   May 2007  

May 31, 2007

-- I ran over my sunglasses with the lawnmower yesterday. Not on purpose, of course - the things weren’t cheap. And, no, I wasn’t wearing them at the time. But that’s a good one...

I’d taken the glasses off and hung them from the pocket of my shorts while I added more gasoline to the tank. Then I guess I forgot to put ‘em back on when I began mowing again, and they fell to the ground. And on the next pass: kerflenk! I think one of the lenses is now in Half-Shirt’s gutter.

But I got the job done. It sucked like nothing has ever sucked before. OK, maybe not as bad as 9/11, but close. The backyard looks like it’s been assaulted. I’m just glad my Dad’s not here to see it. It’s gonna take several more mowings before it looks like a regular lawn again. Because it sure as shit doesn’t look like a regular lawn now…

Never again will I allow it to reach Depeche Mode proportions.

On a happier note, the front yard is a thing of beauty. I stay on top of it for the sake of the neighbors, and so they won’t find out how lazy I really am. And at this point I think even Hank Hill would approve of the carpet-like grass in front of our house.

-- Apparently Sunshine can’t reach Toney’s brother, and some mild panic is starting to set in. Sunshine & Mumbles are still at Nancy ’s(!), and Toney’s brother is supposed to be looking after things back home in Nevada . But he’s not answering the phone at the house, or his cell.

Oh, they’re not worried about him, this isn’t anything unusual as far as he’s concerned; the guy regularly wanders off the grid. No, they’re worried about those deep sea diver tanks they bought off eBay. 

If nobody’s staying at their house, have the tanks been laying on the porch all this time?! If so, it’s only a matter of time before they’re stolen, ‘cause S&M don’t exactly live in Beverly Hills . In fact, when we visit I always want to suit the kids up in body armor…

Anyway, it’s yet another drama. And why do I have a nagging feeling I’ll be somehow blamed if the tanks go missing? Since I was forced into handling the auction, it’ll be my fault because I didn’t tell the seller to ship the hilarious items later, or to a different address, or something.

Just wait and see.

-- A few leftover Sunshine & Mumbles tidbits, from their recent stay at Jeff & Toney’s Bed and Breakfast Inn and Old Country Saloon:

One day we were forced into watching some of their home movies - something that makes my sphincter wink every time. 

In one part of the tape they’re camping, in the Sierra Mountains somewhere, and Mumbles is shown cooking scrambled eggs for five solid minutes - while Led Zeppelin(!?) blares in the background. I briefly thought a mistake had been made, and we were somehow watching the Sundance Channel. But then my mind cleared. 

In another section of the tape Sunshine is shown walking to the edge of a fast-moving creek, or small river, or somesuch. And I have a strong suspicion she’d been into her “antibiotics” that day, because the next thing you know she’s sitting in the water fully clothed, with a giant smile on her face. I almost swallowed my tongue.

In the hands of a talented editor, I’m convinced S&M’s home movies could be repackaged and shown at the Cannes Film Festival.

While they were here I was taking a shower one day, when I heard a loud bang followed by wild hollering. The shit?! I turned off the water and yelled for somebody to give me a report on what in the living hell was going on. When nobody answered, I just shrugged and went back to it.

Turns out Sunshine had tried to bust into the bathroom, and konked her head against the door. Since she and her hubby each crap roughly fifteen times per day (don’t ask… I don’t know why), they always leave the bathroom door pulled closed with the fan running. Apparently she didn’t know I was in there, and almost rammed her head clean through a wooden door. Good times.

We went to a park on Mother’s Day, and cooked steaks over charcoal and threw a Frisbee around, and all that good stuff. Here’s a pic I snapped of two of the local bathing beauties… 

Sunny and I got into a low-grade argument about the grill. She wanted to use the ones at the park, the nasty-ass permanent grills that are located here and there. I said no way, “hippies pee on those things.” 

She just shook her head in exasperation and dropped the subject. But it was brought up with Toney later. Sunshine reportedly said, “Where does he get all that weird stuff?” Heh.

After we ate lunch (the steaks were prepared on a grill brought from home), Sunshine promptly fell asleep in a camping chair. Mumbles and I watched the Secrets do some fishing off the pier, and Toney was left to babysit her mother.

A little later I came back to check on them, and Sunny was still asleep. I stood there and talked to Toney for a few minutes, and her mother suddenly jerked, kicked one leg high into the air, and yelled (I’m almost certain), “BRIAN KEITH!!”

The following day I had a job interview, and when I returned home was horrified to find that Sunshine had removed my clothes from the dryer, and folded everything – including a half dozen or so pairs of underwear. 

Shit, I just had another full-body shiver! 

-- I’m starting to run out of steam here… Before I turn it over to Brad, I’ll take this opportunity to ask the Question of the Day. It’s very simple really, and has to do with pants-shitting. Do you have any stories to tell on this subject? Has it ever happened to you? To somebody else you’d like to now mock? Use the comments link below, won’t you?

The only time I can remember an adult crapping his pants was in Atlanta . 

Where Toney and I worked was an old gay man named Chuck who manned the switchboard. The dude was a mess, both physically and emotionally. He was really overweight, smoked all the time, and was prone to wild coughing jags. Supposedly he had a bad gambling problem as well, that left him in a perpetual state of financial misery.

This was at the office of a large record company, and I remember him putting issues of Rolling Stone into the mail slots of all the bigshots, and the lead singer of Skid Row was on the cover. Here ya go. Well, this sent ol’ Chuck (who was in his late sixties at the time) into some kind of wild frenzy of lust, and was almost literally panting with passion. 

I got no problem with the gay folks, but found this to be quite disturbing…

Anyway, he was up there answering the phones one day, and launched into yet another of his wild coughing fits. And promptly shit his pants.

Do you have anything to add to this? Help me out people, I’m floundering here.

-- Here’s Brad to close out the category.

And I’ll see ya next time. 

May 30, 2007

-- I think I pulled a muscle in my neck while washing my hair this morning. I’m not kidding, I was scrubbing my tiny Duke head when there was a sudden sharp lightning bolt of pain above my right shoulder. And now I have to turn my entire body to look to the side.

I remember hearing about a woman in Atlanta who supposedly slipped a disc, or broke her spinal cord, or something, while scratching a lottery ticket. I’ve made fun of that unknown person for years, and this might just be a little karma coming home to roost. Hell, I’m afraid to brush my teeth for fear of ending up in ICU.

I hope they don’t have to build scaffolding up my head, like those teenagers who get real tall real fast, or whatever. Because I can’t have that.

-- I think I’m going to have to do something quite unpleasant today: mow the entire lawn. You see, I sometimes (ahem) take the half-ass route and only mow the front yard, since nobody but Poppa Half-Shirt can see behind our house. And Halfy needs something to bitch about. 

But now it’s gotten out of hand out there, and I might have to use a sickle before I get started with the mower itself. It’ll be like the old Depeche Mode cover, and I’m not really exaggerating all that much. How did I allow such a thing to happen??

Oh well, I’ll just load my iPod with every Cinderella CD I own, and go to town. For some reason Cinderella feels appropriate for such a job. Pass the beer nuts.

-- Man, the weather simply couldn’t be any better than it’s been for the past couple of days up here. It’s warm, but there’s almost no humidity and it’s the brand of perfection we don’t see nearly enough of.

Last night after dinner all of us went to a park nearby, and took advantage of the walking trails for an hour or so. The Secrets threw rocks into a creek, we stopped and petted a big smiling golden retriever, and a splendid time was had by all.

Then we went to our favorite ice cream shop, where I had a single scoop of something called Charlie Brownie. I’m usually an Oreo kinda guy, but lately that Charlie Brownie has been calling my name. And it has a very seductive voice.

We had every window in our house open, and it felt great. After Toney and the kids went to bed I watched The Bourne Supremacy on the BAT, then slept like a corpse. I don’t think I moved the entire night, and was fully and absolutely asleep when Toney prodded my back fat to tell me it was time to get up.

It’s impossible to be in a bad mood in this kind of weather, even an unemployed fat man who has to twist his entire torso to look at a clock.

-- Are you guys seeing the National Lampoon ads on the Surf Report homepage? It should be a so-called tower in the right column, above the words Your Ad Here. For the past couple of days I’ve seen nothing but white space there. Sometimes that stuff gets blocked on my computer, but I’m starting to wonder. Is there anything there? What the hell, man?

-- Since my new afternoon office (Panera Bread) came online, I’ve decided I should probably invest in a few minor upgrades. 

The battery in my laptop works sometimes, and sometimes it doesn’t. The stupid thing never held much of a charge, and is now completely unreliable. A couple of weeks ago the computer told me there wasn’t a battery installed, it couldn’t even detect the presence of the POS! It was only a matter of time before there was a fire.

So I ordered a replacement. Dell wanted $139 plus shipping, but I found one on eBay for $60 – including postage. Genuine Dell parts, brand new, same item number, and everything. I was hoping the battery was part of the big Dell recall, so I could get one for free, but it wasn’t. And how predictable is that?

I also ditched the nerdy old briefcase-style computer bag I’d been using, for this super-sporty model that’s supposedly a replica of the one Jack Bauer uses on 24. I always wanted to carry the luggage of fictional badasses, and now it’s happening…

If you need me after one o’clock in the afternoon, I’ll be the guy at the corner table with tears streaming down his face, and a broccoli cheddar goatee.

-- I’m listening to the Zombies, in case you were wondering. This album to be exact. It’s one of the greatest things the human race has managed, to date. Yes, better than penicillin.

-- And before I call it a day here, I have a question for ya. Yesterday I went to Wendy’s for my standard #1 with cheese, no pickles, and a Coke. And I found a five dollar bill in the parking lot! 

Only once can I remember finding more cash than that. It was at Peaches Records in Greensboro , and I came across a wad of bills that included a ten and several ones.

Do you have any stories to tell about finding money? What’s your biggest groundscore? What were the circumstances? Was there any guilt involved? Tell us about it, won’t you? Use the comments link below.

And I’ll see ya tomorrow. 

May 29, 2007

-- I went for a haircut on Friday, and had to park my car roughly one hundred miles away from the place. I usually do that sort of thing on Saturdays, and had never encountered such a cluster-fornication before.

It was really hot and humid that day, and I was melting by the time I reached the building. And as soon as I passed through the door I saw the radically tattooed girl who works there lifting a giant dill spear to her mouth. And she spat in my general direction, “I’m on my lunch break for the next fifteen minutes!”

Grrr… I just turned around and left without saying anything. She can jam that pickle up her decorated ass, I’m going somewhere else.

And as I hoofed it back to my car I realized I was within walking distance of the post office. I needed to mail an old pager back to my former employers, and had been carrying the thing around on my console for at least a week. Maybe I should just take care of that now?

So I grabbed it, and the piece of paper where I’d written the address, and made my way to the post office. My butt cheeks were awash in perspiration by the time I finally arrived, and was happy to see that the line wasn’t too long. ‘Cause a slower group of people there ain’t…

As I waited I heard something that sounded like a thousand birds a-chirping. The heck? At first I thought a couple of robins or whatever had flown into the place, and were now up in the rafters raising hell. But this clearly wasn’t just a couple of birds, it was lots and lots of birds.

When it was my turn, I asked the guy what the crap was going on, and he answered quite cryptically, “Chicks.” Pardon?

He said somebody had mailed a bunch of baby chickens, chicks, and they were in the back room being processed. Have you ever heard of such a thing? Mailing chickens?! Was this some kind of joke?

I laughed and asked if they’d been required to put a stamp on each bird, and the guy apparently thought I was serious. He said, “No sir, that’s not the way it’s done.”

As I was walking back to my car I had to pass the haircut place, and on a whim went back inside. Why drive all over town, and go through this parking crapola again, just because of a grudge? Tattoo Girl began apologizing profusely, and said something about being diabetic. Who the hell knows?

She never stops talking, and this time was going on and on about CDs. She said she still likes them, and buys at least one per week. Her boyfriend, however, downloads everything. When he does buy a CD he instantly puts it on his computer, and sells the disc back to a store.

Whatever. I just grunted when it was appropriate, and let her spew forth. She went on to tell me that most of her friends download as well, because their CDs get scratched. After a few weeks, she said, they’re not even playable anymore.

Can this possibly be true? I have thousands of CDs, and God knows I play them. None, as far as I know, have a single scratch. What are these people doing with their discs to render them unplayable after only a few weeks? Strapping them to the bottoms of their shoes?

I thought about asking her, but I’d probably still be there listening to the answer. So screw it. Who gives a shit, anyway?

-- On Saturday I took the oldest Secret to lunch. I told him he could pick the place, and he said he wanted to go to Red Lobster (or Ret Lopster, for those of you in Atlanta ). I told him there was no way in hell we’re going there, so pick another place. It’s good to be king...

We went back to the Chinese buffet, and it hit the spot. I tried to strike up a few “serious” conversations with the boy, but he just wanted to talk about Knoebels. So that’s what we talked about. Apparently we’re going there next weekend? I was informed of this today.

After lunch we met Toney and the youngest Secret at a movie theater, and we all watched the new Pirates flick. Yeah, it’s not very good, and also incredibly long. You know that cliché where people say, “Sure, it’s three hours. But you don’t even notice!” That can’t be used in this case. Oh you notice it, you notice it real good.

Once it finally ended, we walked outside and found several ambulances, a fire truck, and two or three police cars. I said, “What happened, did somebody die of boredom?” This caused a few laughs amongst my fellow beleaguered theater-goers.

That night we cooked hamburgers on the grill, and drank more than our allotted number of Red Hooks. I always liked that beer, but these were kinda disappointing. Has something changed with Red Hook? What’s the deal? Does anyone know?

-- On Sunday I spent the day faxing out resumes, and running my hands through my hair. After dinner we went to the block party, and it wasn’t nearly as much fun as last year’s. Probably because the drunken harmonica master wasn’t in attendance; he was reportedly drunk somewhere else this weekend.

There was a hare-lipped man there, who was the de facto host. He walked around introducing people, encouraging conversation, and trying to keep things interesting. And it made me sad to realize that a person with a mouth like a tea pitcher has far more social skills than I’ll ever have.

It was fun to monitor the way he talked, though, as the evening continued and the beer flowed. By the end it sounded like somebody was turning his volume knob up and down; you could only make out portions of words.

Oh, and somebody else was wearing a Brooklyn Dodgers cap(!), which really glazed my bear claw. I wear the Brooklyn cap, not other people. It’s like showing up at Matthew Lesko’s house in a suit covered with question marks. It’s simply not done.

-- On Monday we took Andy with us, and watched the Memorial Day parade go by. That was fun, in a Mayberry kind of way. The weather was perfect, everybody seemed to be happy and in a good mood, and the parade was as interesting as small-town parades ever get.

At one point a large retarded man broke from the crowd and began marching beside a group of baton twirlers. He was stepping high and trying to emulate their every movement, with a big shit-eater frozen on his face. Eventually his handlers got him back under control, and order was restored. Good times.

I tried to get a good picture, but this is the best I could do.

In the afternoon I went to Circuit City in an attempt to take them up on their offer of “Every CD Is $9.99!” I jotted down a list of four or five discs I wanted (including the new Dinosaur Jr.), and had every intention of handing over some of my money.

But they don’t have anything there. Have you looked at the CD selection at Circuit City lately? I literally have more music at my house. Pitiful. I assume it’s because the young and tattooed consider a round piece of plastic to be far too inconvenient? I don’t know. But I couldn’t find a DAMN thing to buy, and that’s a sad state of affairs.

And now you’re up to date on our weekend.

Did you do anything fun? 

May 25, 2007

-- Any plans for the long weekend? We have a few, but nothing overly ambitious. 

I guess we’re going to take the younglings to the new Pirates movie (three hours?!), and I think Toney and I are supposed to take one kid each to lunch on Saturday. That’s something we do every once in a while, so the Secrets can have some alone-time with us away from their brothers. I think it’s a valuable exercise.

And there’s a block party on Saturday night, which was an unexpected blast last year. So we’re going again. Last time the kids all played together while the adults got drunk, and a man eventually started playing blues harmonica. It was crazy, and I'm a big fan of crazy.

What about you? Any plans?

-- Our dog Andy is back in the saddle. He remained distant and detached yesterday, and barely even yelled at the mailman. But at 3 am
last night he let loose and went on a wild barking jag that woke up the entire house. It almost brought a tear to my eye. 

Today he’s his old self again, and rode shotgun while I took the youngest Secret to school (dog is my co-pilot). Buck sent me another newspaper clipping this morning, and I’m starting to suspect these might be fakes. I have no recollection of dying, none whatsoever.

-- Speaking of Buck, here’s a voicemail he left on my cell phone the day after I lost my job. Yes, it’s important to have a strong support network…

-- I recently finished off complete seasons of three TV shows (24, Veronica Mars, Homicide) and am now filling in with a few movies, before cranking up three more series. 

Last night I watched The Queen, and it was pretty good, I guess. I’ve got Bourne Identity and Bourne Supremacy in the chamber as well, and might ingest a couple more.

Then it’ll be time for The Wire season one, The Shield season one, and Rescue Me season two.

Netflix is all about the TV shows for me. Is that unusual?  When I joined their comfy little cult I thought I’d be renting movie after movie, but find that I actually enjoy TV shows more.

Will somebody please hold me?

-- One last question about the Surf Report t-shirts, before I finally man-up and place an order for the things. Which color combination do y’all prefer, olive & tan or gray & black? Let me know, and I’ll put this thing to rest. It seems like I’ve been hemming for months now, and hawing even longer.

-- This is a good article about those Doc Martens ads I have linked on the homepage. Are the ads tasteless, or kinda cool? You can probably guess my opinion.

-- And finally, here’s yet another Smoking Fish sighting, this time in Hawaii
. Our logo, man, he gets around. Thanks for the pic, Tim! 

Hey, you know what would be great? If we could somehow feature a map of the
country here, and when you click on each state a Fish picture opens from that state. It could be a fun project to fill in the entire U.S., and would be really cool once finished.

So, let’s work on that, ‘kay?

You guys have yourselves a great holiday weekend, and check the site on Monday for a possible Sunshine & Mumbles update. I’m not promising anything, but I’ll do what I can.

And now it's almost time for me to abandon the subterranean babyshit-green bunker, and move to my afternoon office at Panera Bread. 

Laugh all you want, but I'm getting stuff done since my new office came online; I'm a freakin' word processor now that I've fully surrendered to pretentious bastardism. Yesterday I spent at least an hour instant messaging with Metten and Mark Maynard there, and still managed to crank off an amazing amount of bad writing. It's a beautiful thing.

See ya next time. 

May 24, 2007

-- Andy chased the white rabbit yesterday afternoon, and lived to bark the tale. I felt incredibly guilty tricking him into eating the peyote button, or whatever it was, and when he started walking around all wobbly, like he was attempting to climb a flight of invisible stairs, it didn’t help matters either.

But he went for his hair appointment, and was mellow, man. Usually he’d be a basket-case in such situations, quite possibly lunging at throats and whatnot, but he didn’t seem to have a care in the world yesterday.

And now he’s all clean and neat, and looks like a pup again. He’s still not acting completely normal, he’s kinda quiet and distant, but I’m sure he’ll be his old self again soon. Right? The big test will be when the mailman arrives. If Andy doesn’t go ass-over-tits as usual, I’m going to start worrying.

You don’t think we did permanent damage, do you?

-- We’re right in the middle of nose nectar season up here in northeastern PA. Everything is in bloom, and my nostrils are going to town: just as clear as mountain spring water… 

A few days ago I launched into an extended sneezing jag in the living room, then unknowingly walked around for fifteen minutes or so sporting a large brooch of snot on the front of my shirt. Toney said, for about the fifth time this month, “You’re incredibly gross.”

I’m not really a fan of nose nectar season. It reminds me of a vacation we took years ago, when I sneezed almost continuously for a full week. I’m not joking, it was nearly ‘round the clock sneezing, and I was pretty much incapacitated the whole time. 

Yes, Sporegon is a beautiful state, but I don’t think I could live there.

-- And speaking of that, my Mom told me yesterday that an old man who “dates” one of my aunts sneezed at a picnic recently, and his pants fell down. Is that not excellent? I submit that it is.

-- I have a couple of quick technical questions for you guys. 

First… will I be able to load Microsoft Word onto my laptop without encountering a bunch of running my hands through my hair problems? I have the original installation disc, but does Microsoft allow you to use it on multiple machines? Anything I should know before jumping into that swirling cesspool? It’s not gonna lock my shit down, is it?

And second… do you know of a way I might be able to save a cell phone voicemail to my computer as an mp3? I have a message from Buck that I’ve been hanging onto since February, and you guys really need to hear it.

-- Also, any opinions about the season finale of LOST? Toney and I watched it in real time last night, instead of recording it to the DVR like we usually do. And the thing that keeps jumping to the front of my mind this morning is the hilarious glue-on Paul McCartney beard Jack was sporting in the flashbacks, or flashforwards, or whatever they were. 

Wot up wit dat? It looked like they bought that thing at Party City .

Any thoughts on the show? Did it fold your brain in two, like it did mine? Sweet sainted mother of Zoogz Rift! And now we have to wait until February for a new episode... The basta’ds.

-- I know this one is registering a tad high on the blowsameter, but I’ve got about five things going on here this morning. Plus I’m really hungry all of a sudden, and have a powerful hankering for mashed potatoes and gravy.

So, I’m gonna turn it over to Brad now, and call it a day.

And I’ll see you guys tomorrow. 

May 23, 2007

-- Andy’s going on his Magical Mystery Tour today. I’m supposed to wrap a piece of ham around a pill at 11:30 , and feed it to him. And by 1:00 , when his groomer appointment is scheduled to commence, he’ll presumably be flying like Sunshine on “antibiotics,” and not have a care in the world.

Is it crazy that I’m wracked with guilt? The thought of exploiting Andy’s trust in me, and tricking him into eating drugs, makes me sad. I have visions of our poor border collie watching the sun rise in the desert tomorrow, and barking, “I get it! Sweet Jesus, I get it!!” 

I wish the whole thing was over, and he was back to just being on high-alert for the sound of potato chip bags rattling, and the engine of a UPS truck off in the distance. The way God made him.

-- Speaking of Sunshine… She left a single rose in a vase on the windowsill of our family room. I think Mumbles gave it to her for Mother’s Day, or something like that, and she left it behind. 

What do you think are the chances there’s a listening device in that flower? Wonder if they’ve spent the past few days in North Carolina eavesdropping on our conversations here(!), and drawing conclusions? Hell, maybe there was a bug in that cookie Nostrils left “filed” on my CD rack in December as well! 

Or have I just been watching too much Veronica Mars?

-- I watched Little Children a couple of nights ago, and immediately wanted to fling myself off Suicide Bridge . Have you seen that uplifting film? Holy shitballs, Batman. 

I nearly had to break the glass on the box in our family room, and remove the copy of Deuce Bigelow: Male Gigolo housed inside for extreme emergencies. But I was able to dial it back at the last moment. It was a very close call, though. Whew!

-- I’ve been doing a lot of anthropological work at local bars and restaurants lately, just observing people and trying to pinpoint the exact reasons they get on my nerves. And here are a few of my findings:

In addition to their Inner Sanctum voices, teenagers are always performing for each other. It’s just a never-ending show, complete with too-loud laughter for no apparent reason, and the wholesale waving of arms. That gets on my nerves.

A lot of people, teenage boys especially, seem to believe that if you take something that isn’t funny on its own, and say it real loud, it instantly becomes funny. “If you can’t be funny, be loud” is a theory that gets on my nerves.

Some men like to walk around acting like they’re muscle-bound, when they are not. It’s a certain way of moving, where their arms never actually touch their sides, because of oversized phantom muscles. Maybe they’re fooling some people, but they’re not fooling me. And they’re getting on my nerves.

Stay tuned for more science in the coming days.

-- Toney and I just finished the fifth season of Homicide: Life on the Street and a funny thing has happened. That show has pretty much ruined Law & Order for us. 

I’m not kidding, we can barely watch Scrote and his buddies anymore, because of predictability and high-lameness concerns. We used to think it was a pretty good franchise, before renting Homicide from Netflix. But now it’s all shot to shit.

We had two new episodes of SVU (a former fave) saved to our box, and sat through one of ‘em last night. And the second one got deleted, because we were shocked at the elevated level of suck we’d just endured. 

I didn’t think it was possible, but Homicide has driven a stake right through the heart of Scrote.

-- Some rare good news: the new Wilco CD  is excellent. I had some early concerns that the thing might be crushingly dull, but it only took three or four listens before the songs started worming their way into my brain. And now I can’t stop playing it. In fact, it’s cranking right now in the bunker, for the second time this morning.

-- And I think that’ll just about do it for today, my friends. I’ll leave you now with a question: what’s the most memorable example of bathroom graffiti you’ve ever encountered? 

Mine was at Moe’s & Joe’s bar in Atlanta . It read: “If you voted for Newt Gingrich you can’t shit here, because your asshole is in Washington .” The fact that it targeted Newt has nothing to do with it, I just think it’s funny.

Are there any such things that jump to the front of your mind? Tell us about it in the comments, won’t you? And if you’ve ever been the author of shitter poetry, we’d like to know about that as well.

I'll see you guys tomorrow. 

May 22, 2007

-- Yesterday afternoon I indulged my fantasy of becoming a Pretentious Bastard for a Day, and took my laptop to Starbucks. 

I figured I could buy a cup of their bitter diarrhea coffee, sit in an overstuffed chair for an hour or two, and act like I’m extremely busy creating art. And maybe, if all went well, I might even get a little work done. Not my main goal, of course, but a nice possible consequence….   

I even considered stopping at Eckerd Drug on the way, and buying a pair of half-glasses to wear way out on the end of my nose. But I thought that might be pushing it for a first-timer, so I just went in regular civilian clothing.

I’d never even set foot in the place. Oh, I’ve been in Starbucks plenty of times, just not this particular location. And I was surprised to find there weren’t any fellow Pretentious Bastards in attendance. It was just a mother-daughter team sitting in a corner designed to resemble a rich person’s library, and me.

I set up my computer, using one of their electric outlets (since my battery has completely shit the bed), and went to the counter to order a cup of fresh-brewed stool softener.

I told the girl I wanted coffee, just regular coffee, and she asked what size. As she said this she waved her hand like Vanna White past a lineup of sample cups, each emblazoned with the words Venti and Grande and that sort of thing. 

I said, “Medium.”

Once seated I attempted to connect to the internet, but there was no Wi-Fi in that place. Or, as some folks call it, wiffy…. And what’s the deal with that? I thought Starbucks is all about hanging out with your laptop and being insufferable? I considered asking the people behind the counter, but screw it. I hadn’t come there to read the Drudge Report, I’d come to “write,” and that’s what I intended to do.

So I located and opened the appropriate file, and got down to business. And that’s when the noise started.

For one thing, everybody working there was a teenage girl. And all were using that irritating “creaking door” voice. Man, I hate that. One in particular sounded like The Inner Sanctum was coming on, every time she opened her mouth. 

Wot up with the teenage girl creaking door thing?! Can somebody please explain it to me? It makes me want to start throwing haymakers.

They were talking about the word raspberry. One of the girls was amazed, simply amazed, that there’s a P in it. She told some long-winded tale about how she’d gotten into an argument with her mother about how to spell raspberry, and that she’d insisted there was no P involved.

While this gripping story continued, people were running blenders and apparently transferring great quantities of ice from one metal container to another, just continuously. And there was a stereo speaker right above my head, pumping out a recording of a woman scat-singing over cocktail jazz.

Perhaps I’m not Pretentious Bastard material, after all?

I finished off my coffee and, right on schedule, sensed a disturbance in the lower quadrant. Great. I considered driving home and taking care of the low-grade problem, but quickly abandoned the idea. By the time I drove there, let loose a grande scattershot, talked to everyone, then drove back, I’d lose at least a half-hour. I’d just tap into my old ColonMaster talents, and venture forth.

I decided to give up on Starbucks and go to Borders, another Pretentious Bastard hotspot. I called Toney as I drove, and she suggested I try Panera Bread instead. I’d never set foot inside that place either (I’m more of a Wendy’s kinda guy), and didn’t like the sound of it. But Borders is always crowded and insane, so at the last minute I decided to give it a shot.

And it was perfect. They have wiffy there, just as fast as hell, and the place is big and comfortable. I sat in a corner and got lots of extracurricular writing done, while sipping a bottomless Dr. Pepper. Plus, I was just one of a dozen or so other PBs, which put me at ease.

I think I might’ve found my new afternoon office. For whatever reason, I’m having trouble getting things done at home. I think all the time spent here is starting to get to me, and I’m feeling a powerful urge to shake things up a bit.

So, if you need me I’ll be at Panera Bread this afternoon, the fat guy in the corner with the Brooklyn Dodgers cap and broccoli cheddar goatee.

Now here’s our old friend Buck to close out the category.

And I’ll see you guys tomorrow. 

May 21, 2007

-- Toney and I took Andy to the vet on Friday. My wife insisted I go this time, so I could see how “bad” our dog acts at the doctor’s office. I’d heard wild tales of barking, snarling, shaking, and power-shitting atop elevated examination tables. And Toney wanted to prove they weren’t exaggerated.

A full-time job insulates me from this type of thing, but now I’m taking the kids to dentist appointments, and the whole nine yards. Three months ago I didn’t know where any of those offices were even located, and here I am today making small talk with receptionists like we’re old buddies... To tell you the truth, I don’t much care for it.

Anyway, it was time for Andy’s yearly checkup, and I was required to go. He jumped into my car, just as happy as crap, not having any idea what horrors awaited him. Toney, of course, had to navigate and tell me where to drive, and the place is located on a street I didn’t even know existed. 

From what I could tell, it’s a vet’s office/daycare center hybrid. So, it’s toddlers and diseased animals... Pass the beer nuts. 

I attached the leash to Andy’s collar, and he bounded out of my Camry with a spring in his step and a smile on his snout. He still didn’t know where we were. But when we got up to the door, and he took a reading with his constantly-working nostrils, the emergency brake was thrown. All four of his legs locked into position, and I had to practically drag him into the building.   

The woman at the desk told us to have a seat in the waiting room, and we’d be called shortly. 

By now Andy was shaking like Janet Reno on a hayride, and prancing around on his tiptoes. I took a look at the chairs in that room, and most were covered, covered, in dog or cat hair, so I decided to just stand. Andy finally sat on my feet and shuddered visibly. I told him he’d better not open the bomb bay doors, or I’d auction him off on eBay.

The receptionist eventually called us back to the exam room, and our dog barked at her. Like a Doberman at a junkyard. But the woman had apparently heard it all before, and didn’t even react to Andy’s diatribe. I had to pull him down a linoleum hallway to the room, and it was as if our family pet was constructed of some sort of heavy plaster.

Once inside Andy never stopped moving. He walked ‘round and ‘round, completely stressed-out, and I was certain it was only a matter of time before we’d all be treated to the majesty of a fecal fountain. I just hoped I’d be outside the shot pattern when it went off.

A teenage girl wearing scrubs came into the room, and forced Andy onto a scale. He weighs 40 pounds, which is apparently too much. I guess the spaghetti feeds are catching up to him? I don’t know, but they told us he should weigh around 32. And they looked directly at me when they said “no table foods!” Why me?? What’s that all about?

The doctor finally came into the room, and he was wearing a whimsical novelty tie. Not a fan. He checked Andy’s chart, and I guess there was a note in there about him trying to bite people who sport retarded neckwear, and he handed us a muzzle and asked us to put it on our poor, frightened doggie.

Here’s a pic I snapped with my cell phone. Is that not sad? Man, that just breaks my big sluggish heart…

I lifted Andy onto the examination table, careful to “aim” his ass away from me, and at the doctor when possible. The doc shined a flashlight into our dog’s eyes and ears, and suddenly it smelled like Fisherman’s Wharf in there. I’m not kidding, it was full-on fish market in that place. What in the hell?!

“Oh, he’s compressed his anal gland!” the doctor shouted. And he began wiping some kind of fluid off the wall with a Kleenex. He went on to explain that dogs have a gland “back near their anus” which they compress when nervous. This reportedly sends a spray of some sort of fishy mist into the air, and scares off predators. Or whatever. 

I’d never heard of such a thing in my entire life, and I’m 44. Was this guy pulling my leg? What in the sweet ‘n’ sour hell?! A mist-emitting anal gland? What do you know about this? Did I get Punk’d by a man in a Garfield tie? I need closure, dammit.

Andy received a distemper shot, which he apparently didn’t even feel, and we had to buy something like $150 worth of flea and heartworm medicine. Then it was over.

Before we left, Toney asked about grooming. Andy is in desperate need of some maintenance, but he gets so stressed great clumps of hair fall out. So we don’t subject him to it.

But it’s past the point of no return now, and we’re going to have to turn him over to a professional soon. The doctor nodded knowingly, and gave us a pack of ten sedatives. He told us to give Andy one pill ninety minutes before his hair appointment, “to take the edge off.” Or, if we prefer, we could give him two, to make him “like a drunken sailor.”

When we got home Toney called a groomer near our house, and made an appointment for Wednesday. During the middle of the day... When she’s at work, and I’m at home…

Well, that’s simply excellent.

-- Before I call it a day here, I’d like to alert you to some Big Media Attention we’ve received recently. 

Here’s a small piece from the latest issue of Rolling Stone, the one with Keith Richards and Johnny Depp on the cover. Pretty cool. It’s always been a dream of mine to have a sandwich I ate for lunch appear in a national publication, and now it’s happened!

And Buck sent me this one, from the pages of the Scranton Times. I don’t remember sitting for the interview, but apparently I did. Good stuff.

Finally, this doesn’t have anything to do with me, but it makes me laugh. As does this.

I’ll see you guys tomorrow. 

May 21, 2007

-- Yesterday was fun. But I still haven’t heard anything about the job opening, and that situation weighed heavily on my mind all day. 

Following the third interview on Monday (all three combined totaled seven hours) they said they would be making a decision soon, and I’d receive a phone call on Tuesday or Wednesday – one way or the other.

And now it’s Friday, and I haven’t heard a thing. It’s driving me right up to the brink of insanity. 

Toney believes they offered it to somebody else, and that person hasn’t accepted yet. So they’re stringing me along in case the answer is no. That makes the most sense of all the scenarios I’ve cooked-up inside my head over the past few days, but it doesn’t exactly give me a warm and fuzzy feeling. Ya know?

Hell, for all I know, it might be another of their "tests." Those folks are big on "tests."

One thing I do know. After the mail is delivered, I’m calling ‘em. I’ll wait until the mail gets here, in case there’s a Dear Jeff letter in there. But after that they’re receiving a person-to-person call straight from the Surf Report Compound. This can’t drag-out over a weekend, or I’ll end up in a state hospital laughing hysterically at a bread tie.

-- I tried my best not to drone on and on about it yesterday, for Steve’s sake. But I think I checked my cell phone for messages roughly 100 times. It pisses me off that I wasn’t able to fully submit to the Baseball Hall of Fame, but that’s the way it goes, I guess.

Last time I toured the museum the place was packed. But since school is still in session, and we went on a Thursday this year, we had plenty of elbow room. It was nothing short of excellent.

We were able to linger at certain displays, and take it all in, instead of having assholes breathing down our necks and willing us out of their way. There’s so much to see in that place you could visit it over and over again and discover something new every time. 

It was nice not to be rushed for a change.

After we finished with the Hall itself, we went to a few of the baseball memorabilia shops that line Main Street , and I bought a t-shirt somewhere, and a milk shake. Steve picked up a scary-ass Cal Ripken bobble-head doll, with a head that’s roughly life-sized. I didn’t even want to look at that thing; I’m almost certain it winked at me a few times. Shit!

Unfortunately, I can’t remember anything of note to report to you now (can you tell my mind is elsewhere?). But here are a bunch of pictures I snapped during the day, and hopefully they’ll give you a flavor of the place.

-- Before I turn it over to Brad, a couple of quick things... 

I did indeed win the auction for Sunshine & Mumbles on Wednesday, but I had to go all the way up to their price limit. As expected, there was a flurry of activity during the final two minutes, and it almost got away from me.

When I told Sunny the news she wasn’t exactly thrilled. She didn’t understand how the price stayed the same for two days, then rocketed upwards by $150 in five minutes. I tried to explain it to her, but the voices inside her head were apparently drowning me out.

Whatever. The strap-on oxygen tanks will be hers, and she’ll now be able to go on spacewalks inside Burlington Coat Factory. Pass the beer nuts.

Also… Toney woke me up at 5 am today, and told me the downstairs toilet had overflowed – big time. I said OK, and turned over to face the opposite direction. But apparently she wanted me to get up. At five o’clock in the morning!

With great effort, I went downstairs and there was water everywhere. The hell, man?! It was all the way out into the hallway, and the carpet was soaked.

Luckily nothing had been deposited into the shit funnel before the mishap occurred. Toney said she went in there and the water was real high in the bowl(?!), and it looked like there was shredded toilet paper swirling around. So she flushed it and there was a strange bloop sound, then everything went downhill from there.

We both spent at least thirty minutes on water-removal duty (before even an ounce of coffee was consumed), and the carpet is still slushy. It never freakin’ stops.

-- Here’s something new and good from Brad, and I’m calling it a day. I’ve got more, but screw it. If I get any news about the job, I’ll post it in the comments.

Have a great weekend, folks.

See ya on Monday. 

May 17, 2007

-- The first time I visited the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY, I was thirteen or fourteen years old. My family, for reasons unknown, decided to forego Myrtle Beach for a summer, and go north for a change. It was a hell of a lot of driving, but also one of the most memorable vacations of them all.

We took in a baseball game at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh , and another at Fenway Park in Boston. When we emerged from the tunnel at Fenway, and I saw the fabled Green Monster in left field, my knees almost buckled. My emotional reaction rivaled that of the Night of the First Three-Dimensional Breast, a few years later.

I saw New York City for the first time on that trip as well. We took a tourist bus around town, and it was quite a mind-blowing affair for a hillbilly child. 

This was back in the ‘70s, remember, when New York was still a swirling sewer of derelicts, drug addicts, whores, and vomit. We walked through Times Square and a man shoved a flier into my hand with a picture of a naked woman on it, with pubic hair the size of a coonskin cap. My mother almost had a stroke.

When our bus drove through Harlem they made an announcement warning us not to take any photographs. The residents there don’t like it, the guide said, and sometimes there’s violence. Gulp. I can remember block after block of long benches, on the outskirts of some seedy “park,” filled with black guys giving us the finger and throwing beer cans in our general direction.

I also remember a massive billboard advertising A Bridge Too Far. It must’ve been five stories tall, and stretched a full city block. Oh, and we drove past the home of Phil Silvers.

And those are my main memories of NYC, circa 1977 (or whatever).

On that trip we also visited Niagara Falls . We put on funky-ass raincoats and took a boat all the way up to falls themselves. And it seems like we went behind them as well. Is that possible? Or is my brain just over-dramatizing things?

That’s when we ventured into Canada and stayed at a nasty hotel, and my Dad got uncharacteristically pissed at me and my brother. The place was really gross, with roaches in the bathroom, tables on a radical slant, and a flea market print of “Blue Boy” hanging over the beds, with one eye shot-out via some sort of firearm.

My brother and I started howling in protest and my Dad basically told us to shut the hell up, we’re staying here. There was a clear implication he believed we were acting like a couple of fancy-lads.

Dejected and hurt, we walked down to the pool and found a crowd of people screaming and pawing at the ladders. There was a turd in the water! And some kid was on the sidewalk providing the play-by-play, while the butt chunk floated past. She’s breaking up!  She’s breaking up!!

I’ve been pondering this question for the past thirty years: how does a turd get into a swimming pool in broad daylight, with dozens of people around? Did somebody shit their pants while swimming(!?), pull back their waistband, and simply set free the poop? It doesn’t seem plausible on any level.

Cooperstown was really small and out in the middle of nowhere, which surprised me. But it was incredibly cool. I remember they had a telephone at the Hall of Fame that you could pick up and hear Babe Ruth talking to you. It’s not there anymore, probably because it freaked people out. You know, having phone conversations with the dead and all…

After the Hall itself, we walked around town and I accidentally ripped the cover off a 1947 Boston Red Sox scorebook, inside some shop. The owner heard the ripping noise, and came running. He saw what I’d done, and said calmly, “You’re not helping me any, kid.” 

That’s all he said, and somehow it made me feel far worse than if he’d yelled for ten minutes. Mind games, man…

And at the hotel a couple of girls, cute and roughly my age, complimented me on the t-shirt I was wearing. It was standard geek-wear, and featured the cover of Sgt. Pepper. Being thirteen and a big ol’ goober, I could only manage to look at my shoes and grunt, “Yeah.”

My Dad told me they were trying to flirt, and I needed to put forth a little more effort. Thinking back, I should’ve told him it was easy for him to say. He wasn’t seven foot tall, one hundred pounds, and sporting a ludicrous haircut straight out of the American Basketball Association. He wasn't hideous.

I believe I came very close to dying of puberty, I’m not kidding. And I really appreciated the critiques of the dark, dark struggle, I really did.  

Anyway, Steve should be here soon, and we’re going on our fourth or fifth excursion to Cooperstown
since I moved to Pennsylvania in 2000. After all these years it’s still one of the best places on Earth.

And I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow.

See ya then. 

May 16, 2007

-- I’ve been assigned the responsibility of monitoring and making appropriate bids in an eBay auction for Sunshine and Mumbles. It ends today, around noon , and somehow it’s been left to me to make sure they win that bitch. And I don’t much care for it.

They’re bidding on some sort of hilarious apparatus that looks like the oxygen tanks a deep sea diver might wear on his back. I guess it’ll allow Sunny to be more mobile, and presumably do even more shopping. Because, you see, she has lungs the size of tea bags.

Yeah, and I know how that’ll all shake out. Mumbles will end up having to strap on the tank harness, and then be required to walk near her all the time. It’ll be like she’s tethered to the mother ship and on a spacewalk inside TJ Maxx every day. 

I can hear her now: “Dammit Mumbles, the line is stretched! You need to stay within a two-rack radius of me at all times!! …Gawd, you’ve upset me; turn up the flow!”   

I just hope nothing goes wrong, and one of those auction assassins doesn’t come in with two seconds left to go, and the whole thing comes crashing down. Because I’ll get the blame, and it’ll never be forgotten. 

Both of them are completely clueless about the process (they think bids can only be placed from Toney’s computer, and that if you close the page you’ve “disconnected” and are thus out of the running) and are relying on me to make this Hilarious Apparatus procurement deal happen. 

They’ve already called me twice this morning to get updates. And, like I said, I don’t much care for it.

-- I didn’t hear anything yesterday from the company I’ve interviewed with three times. On Monday they told me they’d be making a decision on Tuesday or Wednesday, and would let me know either way. So, I’m stuck in the waiting mode.

My old boss in California told me they called him yesterday, and asked a bunch of questions about me. No way to paint that negatively, is there? They wouldn’t be making such calls if I were out of the running.

But, of course, there are still plenty of ways this might not work out for me. Like money, for instance. A 44 year old fat man with almost two decades of relevant experience doesn’t come cheaply, dammit. So, that could be a problem. Or they might just go with someone else, straight up.

All I know is, I need closure like a member of Oprah Nation. Waiting isn’t really my area of expertise. I’m sitting here running my hands through my hair like a retard at a cakewalk.

-- I bought the new Wilco CD  yesterday, for $11.96, at an honest-to-God record store. And the cashier called me “man,” and not “sir,” like I’d feared. All in all, a pleasant experience. 

I’m not so sure about the CD, though…. It’s either a) a grower that requires repeated listenings to unlock the beauty and magic, or b) crushingly dull. I’ll let you know my final verdict in the coming days.

-- Speaking of music, here’s yet another list from Burned-Out Hippie Quarterly, or whatever it’s called. Any opinions? How about additions? Two jump immediately to my mind: Goodbye Cruel World by Elvis Costello, and Monster by REM. Both of those albums, in my opinion, suck it to completion.

-- Check it out, they’re talking about our Ads vs. Reality page behind the Iron Curtain. It’s a real-life Surf Report discussion in Russian! Pretty cool.

-- Any of you have any experience with Carbonite? I signed up for a free trial a month or so ago, then decided to take the full plunge for a year. 

They back up your hard drive automatically, at an off-site location. So, if your house burns down, somebody steals your computer, or your machine shits the bed completely, you’re covered. 

A few months ago I bought an external hard drive to back-up the website, but that requires action on my part. So it doesn’t work very well…. I’m just using the thing now as an outsize Phil Hendrie depository. In fact, I’m thinking about having Phil’s head emblazoned on the front somehow.

Any opinions about Carbonite?        

-- Here are a couple of fresh new Smoking Fish sightings, this time from San Francisco. Thanks! And keep your eyes open, folks, 'cause our logo continues to get around.

And that’s about all you’re going to get out of me today, I’m afraid. Steve and I are going to Cooperstown tomorrow, but I’ll try to squeeze out a short update in the morning before we leave. Then you’ll get a full Baseball Hall of Fame road report on Friday, complete with full-color illustrations.

I’d better plant my ass in front of eBay now, and start fighting off assassins...

See ya tomorrow. 

May 15, 2007

-- Sunshine & Mumbles are gone. They left early this morning, and are now in transit to Eninen’s house, where they’ll trash me and Toney for the next week or so, as they did Nancy and the gang while they were here. Ahh… the circle of life.

The visit didn’t go very well. Something happened around Day Eight, and everything just kinda degenerated. We were tolerating each other until we reached that breaking point, then it became fairly tense here at Jeff & Toney’s Bed and Breakfast Inn and Old Country Saloon. 

It’s funny how there’s a limit to those kinds of things, and everyone seems to be in sync with it. One night you go to bed and there’s not a problem, then you get up the next morning and it’s officially Too Much. And the whispered obscenities start, and the sniping, and the fantasies about folks being shoved down flights of stairs. 

The visits with S&M always go past that invisible line, by at least two days. Always. And the staircase in my fantasy is very steep and leads down to a darkened cellar, in case you’re interested.

Early in the visit we went to the middle school for something called Family Fun Night. It was basically a fund-raising event for the PTA, I think, and they had various carnival-style games, food, etc. Toney’s involved in all that stuff, so we always have to go. And I usually end up leaning against a cinderblock wall while my wife has extended conversations with, what feels like, the entire Commonwealth of Pennsylvania .

This time, however, I had S&M to keep me company. And Sunny bitched the entire time. It was too hot, it was too crowded, the food was terrible and way too expensive, “rich bitches” kept looking at her, and the janitor was “clearly” a child molester.

At one point we were seated at a cafeteria table eating burnt pizza, and Sunshine flew into a rage because some bitch with a Pennsylvania haircut was laughing at her. I have no idea what a Pennsylvania haircut is, and didn’t see anyone laughing at anyone. But Mumbles had to talk her down, before the bitch was confronted. 

It never stops.

She also launched into a lengthy diatribe about the provocative way young girls dress nowadays. It’s always nowadays, as if teenagers ten years ago dressed like the Amish. 

That kind of crap irritates me, because it’s both lazy and dishonest. It’s like when people insist on adding the phrase “especially these days” at the end of sentences, insinuating we’re on the verge of another Great Depression. I’ve heard that phrase all my life, and it makes my skin crawl.

Anyway… Sunshine told the oldest Secret to be careful with those kinds of girls, because they’d get him into trouble. During this grandmotherly advice session I’m almost certain I heard her use the phrase “hoochie mama.” 

The oldest Secret turned eleven last month, and had no idea what she was talking about. He just blinked a few times, and asked me if he could have a dollar for cotton candy.

Shortly after her outburst about trampy teens, Toney was talking to a woman who’s a big shot with the swim team, and a group of girls sat down near us. They looked to be about twelve years old, and one had incredibly large breasts -- and a very tight shirt to accentuate her new arrivals.

I thought Sunshine was going to have a seizure. She dropped the pizza box lid she’d been using to fan herself, and started hollering about the girl’s “huge set.” 

She was basically yelling, and just wouldn’t drop it. Toney was clearly embarrassed, and the girls had to hear her. At one point my mother-in-law said, “I didn’t have tits that big even when I was pregnant! Those babies are Ds!!”

I decided it was a good time to go check on the Secrets, and got the hell out of there. Even a hint of decorum would’ve been appreciated. 

As we were walking to our cars a young girl came running past us and yelled, “Mom! I’m about to punch some fifth-graders in the face! If they call me ‘lesbo’ one more time, they’re going to have a black & blue eye!!” 

Heh, black & blue eye. Why does that make me laugh?

Needless to say, the lesbo part touched off yet another high-horse session from Sunny, about how fast kids grow up nowadays. This coming only minutes after she’d screamed the word “tits” in the cafeteria of a middle school…. 

I’m not a religious man, but I thanked the Lord we’d come in separate cars. It was only a ten-minute drive home, but it was the most beautiful ten minutes I can remember.

I’ve got more, lots more, but I’d better pace myself here.

I’ll leave you now with a question the Secrets asked me last night: What would you do if you could be invisible for a day? I answered in a kid-friendly manner, but there’s no reason you have to do the same, if you don’t want. Use the comments link below.

And I’ll see ya tomorrow.  

May 14, 2007

-- Following the four-hour job interview I lived-through on Thursday, I was told there wouldn’t be a third go-‘round, and I’d hear from them one way or the other within a week.

So, needless to say, they called me the following day and set up a third interview for Monday morning.

I was convinced they were going to make me an offer today, but it didn’t happen. It was yet another interview, this time with the president of the company, and the vice president. And they were mildly argumentative.

The prez had an obvious (manufactured?) problem with the fact I worked for a large corporation for so many years. He said people with such backgrounds are often “soft.” Big companies, he claims, are over-staffed, and the employees experience little to no real pressure. 

So I had to switch from selling myself to defending myself. I’d gone in there ready to fight about money, not discuss a prejudice of softness, and the whole thing was quite disorienting. Which, I’m sure, was part of the plan.

But, I didn’t let ‘em get under my skin. I stayed calm and answered their questions to the best of my ability. Again, I feel pretty confident about my performance. I’ve been around too long, and survived too many ball-busters, to get flustered easily.

As I said on Friday, we’ll just have to see how it goes. I’m supposed to know something tomorrow or Wednesday.

-- Sunshine & Mumbles are supposed to leave tomorrow. The weekend wasn’t easy, my friends, and I’ll get to it all in the coming days. I’m too drained to start down that bumpy road right now…. Stay tuned, though.

-- And I’m perfectly aware this is the lamest of lame updates (no need to email me about it), but it’s the best I can do under the circumstances. I hate to admit it, but I’m apparently not fully prepared for combat reporting.

I’ll just leave you now with a quick and fairly obvious question: what are the gayest rock songs of all time? The one that jumps immediately to my mind is “True” by Spandau Ballet. What are the others? 

Also, if you’d like to discuss gayest videos, this one by Billy Squier MUST be included. Wow. That shit is #7 on the How To Kill A Career Right Now checklist.

See ya tomorrow, with a real update. 


May 11, 2007

-- I’m completely off my game. Wonder why? Gee, I don’t know. Perhaps it has something to do with the gang of people sitting in the next room all the time, locked on perma-bitch and continuously goosing the volume on the TV? 

You know, I’m not the type to point fingers or anything…

As usual there’s a fully-engorged list of Things To Do this week, and I can’t get no satisfaction. It’s making me crazy. I have a schedule I try to follow which allows me to devote time to the site, the job hunt, and the extracurricular “book” project. 

This has worked reasonably well in the past, but I might as well just wipe my ass with it until our “guests” are gone; my carefully-constructed plan is barely fit for the removal of rectal residue at this point. Metaphorically speaking, of course.

-- Yesterday was interesting. I had a second interview for a job similar to what I’ve been doing for the past seventeen or so years, but in a completely different industry. The first go ‘round went well, I guess, and they scheduled a second interview the following day.

I was supposed to be there at 8:30 in the morning, so I walked in around 8:20. Immediately I was introduced to a guy with whom I was supposed to “sit” for a while. He seemed nice enough, and he’s in the same position as I will be, if hired; they're adding personnel, you see, I wouldn't be replacing anyone.

A while turned out to be three hours. The dude went about his normal duties, and explained it all to me as he worked. I was bombarded with information and seemingly nit-picky details about the gig, and it was a lot to take in. But I learned on my first visit that this place is big on tests, so I tried hard to absorb everything he was telling me. I just had a feeling….

And my feeling turned out to be right on-target. After we were finished “sitting” I was herded into an office, and handed a pen and a twenty-question test. Then they closed the door and told me to come out when I was finished. 

What the??

I looked at the paper and there were questions like, “What does an orange folder mean?” and other similar queries about office-specific minutiae. My sphincter promptly flickered.

But, it’s a funny thing…. I’m almost certain I answered every question correctly. Somehow I was able to pull up all the information requested, and don’t believe I missed any of ‘em. My Rain Man abilities kicked-in and saved the day; I laugh in the face of the scar tissue!

After the test, I was led to the room where the original interview took place, and questioned for another half-hour or so. Then they said they’d be making a decision next week, and I’d be notified either way. Have a nice day.

So, it’s out of my hands now. I think I did as well as I could possibly do, but have a feeling I won’t be offered the job. Not sure why, but it’s my gut instinct.

Of course, last time I had such a premonition, it turned out to be exactly wrong.

We’ll just have to see how it goes.

-- Ever been through anything like this? What’s your read on it? I’ve been out of the loop for almost two decades, so I have almost no experience with the modern methods of interviewing. Can any of you analyze this for me? I need your help here, folks. 

Also, is it wrong for me to be muttering, for several hours per day, “This eats ass, it eats ass by the yard.” Is this an unusual reaction for a man in my position?

-- Oh, and just so you know, the CD I chose for my drive to the interview was Squeezing Out Sparks  by Graham Parker. Its familiarity would be comforting, I reasoned, and its ferocity would shore-up my confidence, etc. 

I believe it worked nicely. I don’t want to be making any premature proclamations, or anything, but I might’ve just found my official Interview Preparedness Disc (IPD). Pass the beer nuts.

-- Here’s a Surf Report World Exclusive. Nobody, and I mean nobody, gets the mailbox photographs we do!

-- And this an interesting article about an attempted robbery in the Motherland, by the notorious Skidmark Bandit.

-- Check it out, they’re ripping me off in Finland ! Awesome.

-- Here’s a collection of predictions made in 1900, about what life would be like in America in the year 2000. Did they get any of them right? I just don’t know.

-- The youngest Secret went with me last night to pick up a stack of pizzas from one of the thousand or so local kick-ass pizzerias, and they gave us a free 2-liter of soda. We went with root beer, and the Secret was worried about its safety. So he took precautions.

-- And I had a lengthy conversation with the T-Shirt lady yesterday. She’s suggesting olive-colored shirts, and light-tan ink. I’m not familiar with this color combination, but she swears I’ll be happy with it. Any opinions? 

Also, these things are not going to be cheap. When I did the math I think I literally shrieked like a schoolgirl. You guys are gonna take ‘em off my hands, right? Sure, I could give them to a shelter and advertise on the homeless, but that’s not the preferred outcome. 

I’m not going to be stuck with boxes full of fabric and a Mrs. Kravitz sick-headache, am I? I think I’m getting cold feet on this deal….

You guys have yourselves a great weekend.

I’ll see ya on Monday. 

May 9, 2007

-- As I type this I’m still drinking coffee, right in the middle of the breakfast hours, yet I’m also in the grips of a powerful hotdog frenzy. I’m sitting here craving grilled dogs smothered in Sabrett onion sauce and mustard; really wanting ‘em, man. 

How does something like this happen? It’s meal-jumping, and it’s not natural. At this hour I should be daydreaming about donuts and/or sausage. 

Will somebody please hold me?

-- I played baseball with the Secrets last night at a park nearby. I used my Little League glove, which was probably purchased during the Nixon administration, and at one time bore the fake autograph of Joe Rudi. But, of course, that shit faded away sometime around the Bicentennial celebration….

I was the pitcher, and the boys each took turns batting and playing the field. Therefore, all I had to do was throw the ball, and wave at it in a half-assed manner whenever someone made contact. If it didn’t magically land in my glove, I’d yell, “fielder!” 

Yes, it’s my kind of baseball. Next time I might take a Coleman camping chair, and pitch from a seated position.

-- As I was checking out my ancient glove, I made a casual remark about how my mother probably got it with S&H Green Stamps. Remember those things? A lot of the “treasures” around our house came from S&H. 

This made Sunshine’s ears perk up, and she launched into a story….

She said she had a friend, back in the day, who went to the gynecologist for an exam. When she got her legs up in the stirrups and everything, the doc took a look down there and said, “So, you collect Green Stamps, do you?”

Confused, the woman said “Wha’?!” And the doctor proceeded to remove a stamp that was stuck to her “cooter.” Apparently it had previously attached itself to a Kleenex in her purse, and was transferred to her gynecological area in the bathroom.

Good ol’ grandma, always ready with the heartwarming tales.

-- And speaking of baseball…. I called Steve over the weekend and asked if he wanted to take another road trip to Cooperstown soon. So we’re going next Thursday. Can’t wait. I haven’t been there since 2005, and it needs to be a yearly event, at the very least. Because Cooperstown , New York , my friends, is good for the soul.

-- Yesterday I cut a big gash in the pointer finger of my right hand (the main booger hook) and have no idea how it happened. I just looked down and blood was pouring out. Has this ever happened to you? And how does a person tear a large hole in their earthly container, without knowing it? It’s scary.

-- This update, while fairly short, has been written over many hours (because of chaos). I just returned from lunch with Sunshine & Mumbles, if you can dig it. We went to Five Guys, and it was good. 

Sunny had a little trouble placing her order, and it dragged-out to the point of high anguish. Here’s a paraphrase of one portion of the process:

“Oh, and I want some of that…. What is it? What’s that stuff called again? Oh, you know what it is… Come on! Can’t someone help me?? Gawd!. Oh wait, mayonnaise.”

What the hell?!

Other than that though, it was good, really good. I still haven’t had my hotdogs and onion sauce, but plan to take care of that little problem soon, as well.

-- I had to mail back three signed copies of my severance agreement today, which makes my stomach expand and contract with discomfort. (Am I shitting a conch shell?!) I am officially off the payroll now, and into my severance. I still have many weeks to go, but the clock is ticking. And so is my sphincter. Pass the beer nuts.

-- And speaking of my old job…. I found out yesterday that somebody has already taken-over my former office. I don’t much care for it. I was kinda hoping they’d put a sheet of plexi-glass over the door, and keep the room as a shrine. But apparently that’s too much to ask? Boy oh boy, big business today... cold-blooded. 

-- I’m sure you’ve already seen it, but here’s some interesting news about LOST.

-- And here’s a term that caused me to pantomime the international sign for what the shit? during our first six months in California . It’s in the same category as Marietta , Georgia ’s “Big Chicken.” 

-- The battery on my laptop has completely shit the bed. It’s a Dell, and it’s never held much of a charge. But now it won’t work at all. I looked around on the internet and it looks like it’s going to cost me $75 to replace it. And what am I, Ted Turner here?? 

Plus, I need that thing right now, so I can escape the house (and the “guests”) and sit in Starbucks all day acting like an artiste. I’ve always wanted to do that, and the timing couldn’t be better. I was even thinking about going to Eckerd and buying a pair of those half-glasses, so I could push ‘em way out on the tip of my nose.

Wotta rip-off. 

-- So, is the Queen of England over here on an Acting All Offended tour, or something? What’s the story? Is it just me, or does the woman seem to be on perpetual high-alert for social transgressions, so she can turn up her nose in disapproval? How does a person get such a job? I think I’d be quite good at it.

-- I have another second interview tomorrow morning early, and there’s something else I must tend-to afterwards, so there probably won’t be a Thursday update. I tried to enlist Rocky as a guest host, but he’s acting like he hasn’t received my email.

My question of the day: I’ll have to drive roughly twenty miles in the morning, to the interview, and need some advice on what to listen to while in transit. 

Should I play a really rambunctious CD, to get my blood pumping, or something mellow to calm my jangled nerves?

Or should I go in a completely different direction, and stick with talk radio, so I’ll be used to the human voice, and the interpretation of, um, information? 

Perhaps I shouldn’t listen to anything at all, so I can get my thoughts straight?

What’s your opinion on this important matter?  Use the comments link below.

And I’ll see you guys, as they say, next time. 

May 8, 2007

-- I haven’t seen Toney in days. Or so it seems. She went to that seminar deal in Philadelphia
over the weekend, something to do with her job, and has been dragged around by her shopping-addicted mother ever since she returned. I’m starting to miss her.

Yesterday she came in from work and, before she could even lay down her purse, Sunshine said, “I thought we were going shopping?!” This was said in the standard impatient, irritated tone of the full-grown Veruca Salt.

We were supposed to have fish for dinner last night, and all the trimmings, but Sunny kept Toney hostage at a strip mall and it was decided we’d go out to a restaurant instead.

Toney called my cell phone (I was outside washing her car at the time) and asked if I could meet them at Don Pablo’s at 6 o’clock
, and I said I could. Then she called back and said Don Pablo’s wasn’t acceptable to the queen, and we’d be going to Ruby Tuesday instead.

Whatever. Who cares, really?

The Secrets and I were there at the requested time, but, of course, the other party was not. It turns out Sunny had insisted they go into Wal-Mart to look at clothes(?!). And they couldn’t get her out of there. The Other Party was about twenty minutes late, and that’s standard.

I ordered something called the Chicken BLT, and the salad bar. They have a really kick-ass salad bar at that place…. Everybody else ordered sandwiches as well, except for Sunshine who went with the big honkin’ Flintstones rack of ribs. Which, needless to say, turned out to be “shit.”

The woman huffed and puffed during the entire meal, and used roughly forty napkins. Some kid at a nearby table kept humming the whole time, and I thought my loving mother-in-law was about to physically assault the child. Indeed, she had to be talked-out of confronting the parents.

After we convinced her to put down the gun, so to speak, she sighed theatrically and removed a small, ornate case from her purse. She flipped it open and removed yet another of her “antibiotics,” then gobbled it down. This was apparently so she’d be able to cope with both the humming (a personal attack), and the barbecue sauce that was conspiring against her.

Once dinner was finished (everybody was satisfied except one person), I asked Toney if she wanted to get a beer with me somewhere. Hell, I hadn’t said twenty face-to-face words to her in days.

So we decided that S&M would take the kids home, and Toney and I would go for a cuppa two tree pints at a new Irish pub that just opened here. We promised to only be gone for an hour or so, and were true to our word.

The joint is called Kildare’s and seems pretty cool. Last night they had $4 pints of Guinness, and $3 pints of Harp. I went with the latter, because I was really full and Guinness is like liquid food. I didn’t want to blow-out my stomach lining, and have to be rushed into emergency surgery where plastic netting would be installed beneath bright lights. No, I can't have that.

We had a good time, except for the so-called Irish Jam. This “jam” consisted of one man, an acoustic guitar, and a stack of powerful amplifiers up near the front window. The shit was so loud it was hard to talk in there. And he was performing songs by such well-known Irishmen as Johnny Cash and Counting Crows. 

When the guy announced he was going to take a break, spontaneous applause broke out. He sounded OK, but needed to dial that bastard back a few notches. Shit.

Oh, and there was the couple sitting beside us drinking, get this, Coors Light. This place has some of the best beers in the world on tap at reasonable prices, and they were downing cut-rate mass-produced swill from plastic, big-mouth bottles. 

At one point I said, a little too loudly, “They both should be arrested, and taken to prison!” Some people, I’m convinced, like the idea of drinking beer, but don’t really like beer itself. And it’s none of my business, but it irritates me nonetheless.

After the boys went to bed, we all watched Sunday’s episode of The Sopranos. We had the previous four installments saved to the DVR, and S&M got caught-up on them in one sitting, I think.

Apparently the “antibiotics” were kicking-in last night, because Sunny drifted in and out of consciousness during the whole show. Every once in a while she’d jerk awake and yell, “Who?  Where??” At one point she started snoring like a truck driver, Mumbles gave her an elbow, and one of Sunshine’s legs kicked way up in the air like a Rockette’s. 

I was just thankful her shoe didn’t fly off and go through the screen of our Big Ass Television.

And that was Monday, and now it’s Tuesday. Sunshine is trying to convince me to go with her and Mumbles to some sort of “casino” in Wilkes-Barre this morning
. There’s no chance that’ll happen, of course, because I’d end up being stranded and near-tears inside a Marshall’s or a TJ Maxx all day. 

As that great American philosopher Kid Rock once said, “I was born at night, but not last night, baby.”

See you guys tomorrow. 

May 7, 2007

-- This is going to be a challenging week. Sunshine & Mumbles are in the next room as I type this, literally five feet from me, sacked out on a sleeper sofa. I’ve got a pair of headphones clamped to my head, with Unplugged by Nirvana coursing through them, to help drown out the disturbing sounds I keep hearing.

Out in the hall is some sort of compressor that’s humming and cutting in and out, with a long hose attached to it. The thing snakes down the hallway and across the family room floor, then goes straight into Sunshine. I simply don’t know…. I don’t believe she hooked herself up to machinery during previous visits. 

Last night I think I saw Mumbles pouring gasoline into the thing, and jerking a cord.

-- So far the visit hasn’t been too bad. They arrived on Saturday, instead of Friday, so I didn’t have to log too much uncomfortable-time with them while Toney was out-of-town. 

S&M offered to take me and the boys to lunch on Saturday afternoon, and the Secrets immediately began lobbying for the Chinese buffet. Man, they love that place; both kids can flat-out eat some orange chicken.

Our visitors didn’t seem to care for that idea too much, but reluctantly agreed. I think we went there once before with them and there was something on the buffet with tentacles, which Sunshine swore was still moving. Utter bullshit, of course, but over time those kinds of things become “truth.”

The boys each ate their own body-weight in chicken, I ordered off the menu like the contrarian that I am, and Sunshine & Mumbles picked and prodded stuff on their plates for 45 minutes, never actually eating much. Then they paid the bill.

After that, we went to a park where Sunshine said she wanted to walk off her “huge lunch.” We got about one-tenth of the way down the walking path, and Sunny started gasping for air. She sat down on a fallen tree and began having some sort of attack. Her lungs, I’ve been told, are the size of tea bags. Again, I don’t have all the information….

But the next thing I know, she’s down the embankment and attempting to cross the creek! The hell?! She was freaking-out and thrashing through the brush, trying to get back to the car and her oxygen tanks. All I could do was stand there and blink real fast, not believing what was happening before me.

Mumbles was standing on the path hollering at her with great alarm. And we watched in amazement as Sunshine broke off a huge limb from a tree (super-human strength!) and used it as a makeshift cane, before walking out into the swift-moving water.

She didn’t make it across. I was prepared for her to step on a slippery rock and slam face-first into the current, but she didn’t fall down either. After taking one step into the creek, and getting soaked all the way up to her ass, she simply lost her nerve and came back.

And you should’ve seen her climbing that hill, back up to the path… I thought we were going to have to race over to Home Depot and purchase a come-along.

Never a dull moment.

After Toney got home (finally!), I cooked up some kick-ass burgers on the grill, got into the Saranac sampler-pack, and a splendid time was had by all. It was a surprisingly painless day.

-- On Sunday Toney and Sunshine were out most of the day. I mowed the grass for the first time this year, then washed my car. Mumbles worked on his vehicle as well, freakin’ detailing that thing.

As I was doing my weed-whacking, a funny thing happened: Half-Shirt actually struck up a conversation with me. Yes, I couldn’t believe it either…. 

Apparently he’s making an attempt at putting our “differences” behind us. And that’s fine with me, but I never really had a problem with him. It’s his wife that makes all the sarcastic remarks and is always busting my balls about something or other. We’ll see how it goes.

After our chores were done, I asked if anyone was interested in driving over to Manning’s ice cream for one of their monster cones. Not too much arm-twisting was required, and I ordered up a flavor called Charlie Brownie, something I’d never had before. Fuckin’ yum.

When Toney and her mother returned, we had a full-on spaghetti feed. I made the salad, my standard contribution, and everything was extra-good. After dinner it was more Saranac, and an episode of Homicide for me and Toney. S&M retired to the family room to get caught-up on the new episodes of The Sopranos, and that was that.

Again, not too bad. So far I’ve been pleasantly surprised. But I’m gonna pay for it in the long run, aren’t I?

-- One small thing, though…. Toney told me that while she and Sunshine were out yesterday, Sunny told her I’m clearly depressed about my job situation. Possibly suicidal, she said.

When I heard this I just busted out laughing. Suicidal?! Nothing short of hilarious. That’s something that Sunshine and Nancy have been cooking-up via telephone, and they’ve decided I’m depressed. So I am. The facts and all evidence to the contrary are not important.

I’m not depressed; I don’t think anything’s changed with me, whatsoever. I’m not like Nostrils who wallows in emotions and has to use a water bottle on his vagina whenever they encounter the tiniest of bumps in the road. He’s the one who got caught driving in a rainstorm, shit his pants beneath an interstate bridge, and had to have Nancy bring him fresh underwear and ointment, not me.

But here’s what I’m going to do…. I’m going to replace the 100 watt light bulb in the bunker, with a 15 watt. Then I’m going to sit here in the gloom, staring straight ahead and saying nothing while playing the Nick Drake box set, over and over again.

Whenever I’m forced to leave this tiny room, I’ll be sure to sigh a lot and look out windows for extended periods. And maybe I’ll mutter “Why me? Dear God, why me?” a few times, as punctuation.

You’ve got to give the people what they want.

I’ll see you guys tomorrow. I don't really have a question for you, so why not tell us what you had for dinner last night? Did anyone else have a full-on spaghetti feed? I'm interested in knowing, for some reason.  

Have a great day, folks. 

May 4, 2007

-- Sunshine and Mumbles were in Indiana
last night, working their way across the continent on their way to Jeff and Toney’s Bed & Breakfast Inn and Old Country Saloon. Supposedly they’ll be arriving here tonight sometime.

And get this…. Toney won’t be here. She’s leaving at
noon today for a training session in Philadelphia , and won’t be returning until Saturday evening. 

So, it’s gonna be me, the kids, and Toney’s mother, for, like 24 hours in a row! Yes, the hits just keep on comin’…. If anyone needs any extra awkward silence or desperate clock-watching, just drop me a note on Monday. I’m sure I’ll be able to hook you up.

-- We already went back to the new burrito place I was telling you about. Last night they held their grand opening, you see, and all burritos were a dollar. Usually they’re $5.50, so that’s a deal. …Even for mediocre Americanized Mexican food prepared by people unsure of themselves.

As we pulled into the parking lot I saw that a radio station was broadcasting from the restaurant. Great. They had some sort of apparatus made to look like a boombox cranked way up in the air on hyper-extended scissor jacks, and I could feel some old Alanis Morissette song in my sternum.

We walked past a gang of people crowded around a table, and spinning some sort of novelty wheel. A man with a radio voice shoved a window decal into my hand, and told me that all burritos are a buck until
seven o’clock . I thanked him, stuffed the sticker into my back pocket, and will probably end up peeling it off the drum of the washing machine sometime Sunday evening.

The place was packed. There was a line from the counter almost to the door, spanning the full depth of the joint. I growled like a dog, my usual reaction to such things, and we fell into position. But it didn’t take nearly as long as I’d feared, and before we knew it we were seated with a tray full of semi-yummy burritos.

And the line to the counter continued growing, until there was a whole herd of people standing literally six inches from us. They were so close I could feel their body heat as I ate. (Good thing Americans don’t usually stink.) And every time I lifted some food to my mouth I’d see some twelve year old girl, out of the corner of my eye, watching my every move. I felt like our dinner was the opening act for Justin Timberlake, onstage at the Omni.

Oh, and just so you know… the food was still eh. I tried “steak” this time, instead of chicken, and the meat was so tough it felt like I was eating a Super Ball burrito.

They’ve only got fifteen more chances.

-- Speaking of unusually cheap food… We also took advantage of a Baskin-Robbins promotion earlier this week. They were offering-up 31 cent scoops of ice cream, and we took ‘em up on it. Oh, we took ‘em up on it real good.

I felt a bit guilty for cheating on our favorite Mom ‘n’ Pop ice cream place, but not enough to make me stay away. I ordered two scoops of something called chocolate Oreo, and it was excellent. We got four ice cream cones for less than two dollars.

And every time I think about Baskin-Robbins, it reminds me of a crazy lady I worked with in California
. She was shaped like a human bowling ball, and her car was full of garbage, literally floor to roof, except for the driver’s seat. One time she drove past me in the parking garage and I saw a box of aluminum foil on her dashboard, and a giant can of Right Guard. TF?!

Anyway… she called it “Baskin and Robbins 31 Flavors.” I don’t know why, but that always killed me. I think it was the and.

I also had a grandfather who insisted on calling K-Mart “K-Market.” And a friend who had a subscription to Sports Illustration.

Do you know anyone who gets things slightly wrong like that? Tell us about it, won’t you? ‘Cause I love that sort of thing.

And I’ve got more, lots more, but suddenly lost the will to continue…. Maybe I'll write more later? Probably not, but there's always a chance. 

I’m gonna turn it over to Buck now, and go have myself a Bacons Lover's BLT at Waffle House.

Have a great weekend, folks. 

May 3, 2007

-- The job I interviewed for yesterday is called Inventory Manager, which is a fancy way of saying Buyer. I have quite a bit of experience with that sort of thing, and tried to have my history all mapped-out and organized inside my head, in anticipation of the grilling I was sure to receive.

And during this preparation process I remembered my first exposure to the thankless world of buying, way back during the Greensboro days.

I’d gone on a ridiculous “job-hunting” trip to North Carolina , with a gang of drunken, pure-bred rednecks who were my co-workers at a West Virginia convenience store at the time. I say “job-hunting” because that was my genuine reason for going. The other guys? Not so much.

No, they just drank beer, smoked dope, and raised hell. 

We stopped at a roadside general store in Virginia somewhere, and my colleagues shoplifted as much stuff as they could carry. Stupid crap, like paperweights. Why?! And we were almost arrested for throwing lighted firecrackers from the windows of our car – while driving through a tunnel on the interstate. 

The motel room where we slept was completely trashed when we checked out, like something out of Hammer of the Gods. I remember an inexplicable cardboard box full of water(?) sitting in the middle of the floor, only minutes away from bursting open. I’m not sure of its origin... There were big burn-holes in the carpet where they’d set off fireworks (inside our room!), and somebody tried to flush a pillow down the toilet, leading to predictable results.

The police were called on us at a Roy Rogers roast beef restaurant. The manager came over and tried to make us quiet down, and was sporting a full-on cowboy hat. Man, I didn’t think the ridicule would ever stop…. They had that poor bastard on the verge of tears, and I’m pretty certain I was the only one in our party who felt sorry for him. 

He finally called the authorities when somebody announced to the whole restaurant: “Look everyone, it’s Roy Rogers! And HE’S A FAGGOT.”

But anyway… I was going to tell you about buying, wasn’t I? 

While on this so-called job-hunting trip, I wandered into a massive grocery store with the curious name of Food Lion. I talked to the manager, and to my surprise he offered me a job on the spot.

This never happened in West Virginia . Jobs there were few and far between, and when you were lucky enough to find one, you could count on being paid the least amount the law allowed. But this guy said he’d start me out at something like $6.80 an hour. To my ears he’d said $10,000 an hour. I simply couldn’t believe it.

So I went home and packed my clothes, and within days your humble correspondent was a highly-compensated stocker at Food Lion – in the exotic land of North Carolina .

We worked overnight, while the store was closed. Each of us was assigned an aisle, and mine was the “cleaning” aisle. It was where the laundry detergent was located, and dishwashing soap, and that sort of thing. Actual food aisles were reserved for seasoned veterans, I learned, and I was a newbie. So they stuck me with the soap. 

Your aisle was your baby; it was your ongoing project, your responsibility. We had to keep them clean, organized, and fully-stocked. I vowed to have the best-looking aisle the company had ever seen. I’d be working canned meats in no time, dammit!

But the buying did me in. 

One of the main responsibilities was to place weekly orders for the products in your section. I had no experience with it, and screwed up regularly. During the first couple of months there were big holes in my shelves, where stuff had sold-out. The managers were not amused, and open-face threats were sent my way.

Eventually, of course, I got the hang of it. But there was one item that continued to be a thorn in my side: bleach. Even today my stomach tightens a little whenever I see a bottle of Clorox, or whatever. Have you ever had nightmares, scary-ass nightmares about bleach? Well, I have.

They came six to a carton, you see, and the cartons were HUGE. So, if I brought in too much, it would completely fill the back room, and the grocery manager (who looked and acted like Sgt. Carter), would give me a raft of shit about it. But if I brought in too little, and it sold-out, the store manager would be up my ass, way way up my ass.

There was simply no winning with the bleach. I remember being in the store on a Saturday around noon , and every bottle of Clorox was gone. I was certain I’d be fired, and it ruined my entire weekend. Luckily, they only yelled at me that time, but I was clearly trudging on thin ice.

And I never mastered it, I’m sorry to report. It got the better of me. I allowed Frank Sutton to intimidate me into being too conservative with my bleach purchases, and the store continued to run-out on weekends. 

When it came time for my six-month review they told me I’d better get my shit together, and everything shut-down. I stopped showing up for work on a regular basis, and went looking for another job. My canned meat dreams were crushed beneath the weight of a giant Clorox bottle.

For a while I was bitter and angry, and walked around thinking, “Who buys bleach, anyway? What is this, 1947?!” I was trying to shift the blame, like the immature dumbass I was, but it didn’t work. Deep down, I knew the truth.

It was a horrible experience, and I will never allow it to happen again. Never! But it taught me a lot about inventory management, a job requirement that’s somehow followed me through my entire adult life. 

And that is: You must have enough, but not too much. How you accomplish that is your problem, Jimmy. Oh, and we’ll only notice you when something goes wrong. The rest of the time, you’re invisible. Have a nice day.

I can’t wait to get back to it!

-- Before I call it a day here, I’m going to link to Brad again. Because I updated extra-late yesterday, and think this week’s installment is especially good. 

And I’m going to alert you to a list of the world’s gayest cars, which, of course, features the one I drive. <sigh> 

And I’m gonna show you a current photo of the baby from the cover of Nevermind once more.

And offend a few of you. 

And share with you some news about My So-Called Life.

And, finally, briefly re-tell my favorite Food Lion story:

One night we were having “lunch” at 2 am , or whatever, and sitting around, as usual, on the checkout stands in the front of the store. Someone was flipping through a Weekly World News (I think), and found a picture of a guy whose body stopped below the ribcage. The dude was just a head, chest, and arms.

There were a few predictable jokes made, and I thought the conversation had ended. I wandered away to the deli to use the microwave, and was surprised to encounter a heated argument about the photograph when I returned.

And that’s when I heard a grown man actually shout the following phrase: No, no, no, that’s wrong! A motherfucker can’t shit if he ain’t got no ass!! 

See you guys tomorrow. 

May 2, 2007

-- Don’t bother asking about my job interview this morning, ‘cause I ain’t sayin’ nothing. At least not today. There will be plenty of time for that sort of thing in the future. Hell, maybe I’ll write a book about this whole portion of my swollen, bulbous life? God knows, the material is stacking up…

-- This is going to be a lame-ass update, so prepare yourself now. It’s almost two in the afternoon as I type this, and I’m so full of open-face roast beef sandwich, gravy, and mashed potatoes, I’m literally listing to one side. The right side, of course. Hello?

-- Speaking of restaurant foods, Toney and I visited a new place earlier this week. It’s called Panchero’s, and is clearly a Baja Fresh, um, tribute. 

I ordered a chicken burrito, and the people there seemed alarmed by this request. The joint just opened, and I get the feeling most of the workers aren’t completely at-ease with the operation yet. I’m sure this will improve.

They fried-up a tortilla on the grill, right before my eyes, and laid it on a plate. Then the guy began asking what kind of ingredients I’d like. Every time I selected one, he seemed to panic and acted like he was afraid he’d add too much, or too little. 

He kept scooping a little on there, moving to the next item, then venturing back, unsure of himself, for a revisit of something we’d already passed-by. It was chaos at the burrito bar. I'm sorry, but I prefer my Americanized Mexican food in a more linear fashion.

We finally got to the end of the road, and I think I asked for chicken, rice, pinto beans, pico de gallo, cheese, and sour cream. Each was a gut-wrenching adventure.

Toney had a similar experience with a different burrito steward, and we carried our trays to a table. 

And guess what? The food was only mediocre. The chicken was tasteless (there were black lines on it, as if had recently been on a hot grill, but I’m fairly certain it was done with stencils and non-toxic paint), and there wasn’t even a hint of cilantro. Man, ya gotta have the cilantro.

Oh, the things were plenty big, but also disappointing. Baja Fresh was always a good bet when we lived in California
, so I was excited when this place opened near us. Too bad it turned out to be non-linear and tasteless. The pico was even bland. 

They’ve only got five more chances. …OK, twelve.

-- Just so you’re up to date on important issues, I now have every complete Phil Hendrie show from 2005 and 2006 saved to an external hard drive, in mp3 format. Every freakin’ show. 

And, unlike hipster bands, Phil improved as he went along. There’s none of that, “I really liked them better when nobody knew who they were” bullshit going on with Phil Hendrie. He began as a genius, and elevated it from there.

Now it’s time to start on 2004.

-- Here’s an interesting site where you can find out trivial information about your birthday. For instance, I was reportedly born under the Native American zodiac sign of the Owl. TF?

-- And here are the most underappreciated rock artists of all time, according to Old Hippie magazine, or whatever it is. Where’s the Kinks? Where are the goddamn Kinks??

-- I’m gonna turn it over to Brad now, and maybe indulge in a short power-nap on the deck, preceded by an outsize schooner of the golden elixir.

See ya tomorrow. 

May 1 ,2007

-- When we were driving back from Gettysburg
on Sunday I looked down at my dashboard and was surprised to see a warning light in the shape of a gasoline pump. I don’t use much fuel anymore (ahem), and it had been a long time since that jaunty little pump paid me a visit. I was almost glad to see him. Almost.

We were on a stretch of I-81 where exits are few and far between, and when there is one, it’s a 50/50 chance there will be a gas station there. Many are simply labeled, “no services.” So we drove for miles with the light seemingly getting brighter and brighter, and saying, “Dude, this is serious!”

Finally we came upon an exit where there was supposed to be Mobil and Hess stations located, so I got off the interstate. And we drove for a long time again, way out into some kind of crazy cornfield. Our cell phones read: Forget It. 

Man, I hate it when promised gas stations and lard emporiums aren’t right off the highway…. I always feel like I was duped, and my blood pressure starts cranking. Unless they’re two miles from the exit, or less, they shouldn’t be allowed to advertise on the interstate signs. Am I wrong about that?

We eventually found the Hess station, and it was absolute pandemonium. There were cars lined up at every pump, two or three deep, and people were driving all around like a demolition derby. I saw a woman coming out of the store carrying what appeared to be a spiral-cut ham. WTF?!    

I began howling in protest, but what choice did we have? There was no sign of the mythical Mobil station, and the lighted pump on my dashboard was begging for relief. So I got in line behind an SUV roughly the size of my hometown. I think it was a Dodge Ridiculous, and we were third in line. 

I was now growling like a dog.

When the SUV was finally able to pull forward, I felt a little better. But the relief was short-lived. I saw the door of the truck swing open, and a roly-poly Hispanic lady in a baseball cap tumbled out. It was Dora the Explorer!

And the woman had apparently never laid eyes on a gas pump before. She stood motionless in front of it, as if she were staring at the control panel of a jumbo jet. Finally she got up the nerve to push a button, and immediately recoiled, apparently expecting an explosion.

The passenger door opened and a younger woman free-fell from the massive vehicle, and came to the rescue of Dora. Only she didn’t seem to know much about it either. She took the credit card and attempted to slide it into the slot where the receipt comes out.

I was just sitting there, unable to speak.

They finally got approval to proceed, and it took at least a full minute for them to figure out how to pop open the little door over their gas cap. Once they got that open, Dora inserted the nozzle and began pumping the handle, clearly believing it’s a manual process.

And it took forever. That thing must’ve had a 50 gallon tank on it, and it just went on and on. After they were full, both women got back into the late-model Ridiculous, and fired up the engine. I was thankful they hadn’t gone into the store to do a little shopping, like I’d feared. 

Then I saw the reverse lights come on, way up high and moving, and I yelled, “Oh shit!!

But Dora saw us in the mirror, and tragedy was averted. Hell, my Camry would’ve probably just wedged up underneath her rear bumper and we would’ve been dragged to God-knows-where.

So, I got to spend $43 on gas, and it took at least thirty minutes for the privilege. My nipples are exploding with delight just thinking about it….

-- Once we were back on Interstate 81, Toney and I started talking about how we’d almost been flattened by a vehicle the size of a Russian tank. And that quickly gave way to a discussion about car wrecks that we’d witnessed through the years.

Surprisingly enough, I can only recall seeing two bad wrecks. And I’ve never actually been involved in any.

One time Toney and I were driving home from work in Atlanta, and a tractor trailer changed lanes and clipped the rear bumper of a woman’s Ford Taurus. What happened next was amazing. 

The Ford just instantly turned to the right, and rocketed off the interstate. It cascaded down a slight embankment, and went sailing deep into a wooded area, where it violently crashed into a tree. From what I could tell, the accelerator was mashed-down the entire time. 

Another time, in Atlanta
again, Toney and I were stopped at a red light. We were in a residential section of town, but on a heavily-traveled road. Apparently the light on the cross-street turned yellow, and a sports car of some sort (Camaro?  Trans Am?) sped up and went careening through the intersection.

And it too clipped the rear bumper of another car, and immediately went airborne. It was the damndest thing… The car went flying through the air, cork-screwing before our eyes, and came to rest on its roof. And once it finally landed, the thing was spinning round and round, upside-down.

We hung around for that one, and had to give some kind of statement to the police. The girl in the car looked like she was about thirteen years old, and was crying hysterically. She was unhurt, but scared to death about what her parents might do to her. Go figure.

Toney was in a terrible wreck in
Atlanta , and could’ve easily been killed. The car she was riding in was smashed between two 18-wheelers. They were all rushed to the hospital, including Toney’s roommate who was dressed as a bee at the time. (It’s a long story…)

This was before I knew her, and I wasn’t there. But Toney said people from the truck line’s insurance company converged on the hospital without delay, and tried to strong-arm everyone into accepting checks for $1000, and signing release forms.

Thankfully I’ve never been through anything like that. But what about you? Have you ever witnessed, or been involved in, a bad car crash? That’s the Question of the Day, my friends. Use the comments link below.

And I’ll see ya tomorrow. Probably late tomorrow, since I have a job interview in the morning and will need to get myself all wedged into some fancy-pants, and everything….

I’ll see ya then.