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  Willard "Bill" Hershberger


   The State of My Fat Ass                                         June 2006

June 30, 2006

-- How ya'll doing this morning? Getting any? Personally, I'm in a really good mood. Because of something called "summer flex hours" I'm allowed to leave work, on every other Friday, as soon as the one o'clock ballbuster conference call ends. And it just so happens that this is one of my weeks -- right up against a big honkin' four-day weekend. How cool is that?

Originally we were supposed to work on Monday, and get Tuesday off for the holiday. But The Company ended up giving us Monday as well. The day that email arrived, early last week, Toney and I began frantically calling around to various campgrounds, to try to secure a space. But it was not to be. There's not a campsite within a two hundred mile radius of our house.

So I guess it'll just be more lazing around the house, and maybe a deck feast or two. But that's OK. Any downtime is good time.

I hope you're getting some time away from your job as well. Got any special plans?

-- A few doors down from us lives a giant white dog. I don't know what breed he is, but he's massive. He can literally walk up to the front of our house, and look straight through the living room windows. He's big and goofy and good-natured, and you'd have to have a black black soul not to like him.

However, he eats shit and garbage. Those are his big character flaws. I think I mentioned, a long time ago, that we saw him strutting up our street one day with an entire Thanksgiving turkey carcass in his mouth, aluminum foil and all. He'd dug it out of somebody's trash, and had his head all ratcheted back, happy as crap.

He's always rooting through garbage cans, and ripping open plastic sacks, and stringing moist, funky trash throughout the neighborhood. He also eats, on a regular basis, Andy's yard biscuits, hot from the oven. Blechh.

One of our neighbors had loads of expensive landscaping done last summer, and this outsize hound dug up their flower beds, within hours of completion. I saw him doing it, and nearly wrecked my Blazer doing a cartoon double-take.

Sometimes I'll see a person chasing him away with a broom, but nobody can stay mad at him. He's just so happy and stupid, and has a bark that literally sounds like woof! His personality earns him a lot of leeway, and that's for sure. If he was unlikable, I'm convinced he'd already be poisoned or shot.

Anyway, when I was driving home from work last night, I took a slightly different route, because I saw Half-Shirt in his yard and didn't want to have to wave to him.

There's a house near us where the people apparently hit the lottery, or had a rich aunt die, or something. Over the last year or so they've completely remodeled their place, put in an in-ground pool with waterfall, re-sodded and landscaped the yard, etc. It went from being your average home, to something out of Architectural Digest.

And yesterday evening, as I drove past, the big white dog was lying on their manicured lawn with his head completely inside a sack of garbage, just going to town. The trashcans at the end of their driveway were tipped over, and crap was strewn everywhere. Hilarious.

I told Toney about it when I got home, and we had a good there he goes again laugh. She asked if I could take the oldest Secret to swimming practice while she finished up dinner, and I purposely went past the house again.

The guy was out there cleaning up the mess, returning big stringy gobs of super-saturated paper towels (or something) to the trash cans, and patting the dog on the head. I drove real slow, and heard the man speaking in baby-talk: Dat's right big boy, dat's right.... You such a good dog.... And he was saying this as he used a square of cardboard to scoop something that looked like fettucine alfredo off his driveway.

What kind of crazy hold does this dog have over us?? I'm convinced that eventually we'll all be doing his bidding.

-- Something just happened to me that unlocked an ancient memory that was, I'm pretty sure, almost lost forever. I went into the downstairs bathroom, flipped on the light, and walked straight into a spider dangling from the ceiling on a string(!). The thing was face-level, and nearly went into my mouth. I almost tore down the shower curtain flailing about like Skippy Hicks, and I have no idea what happened to the spider. I keep thinking I feel it crawling in my hair....

And this reminded me of a story that a co-worker told me in Atlanta, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth. She said she'd gone into the bathroom at her apartment, to take a wizz. As she sat there, and without realizing it, a cockroach dropped out of the air vent above the toilet, into her underwear. Then she stood and pulled up her drawers, with the roach still inside. And comedy ensued.

Heh. I hadn't thought about that in years.... I guess there's still a little life left beneath the scar tissue?

-- And, since we're coming up on the Fourth of July, I was going to tell you about some of my boyhood M-80s adventures. Like how they were extremely illegal, yet I bought hundreds and hundreds of the things -- from a South Charleston cop. Yes, good times. But Buck had the same idea, and did a much better job of it than I could've, so I'll just let him take it from here.

I'm not sure when I'll update again. I'm getting a feeling that it won't be until next Wednesday, but we'll see. Today Toney and I are breaking down and allowing Secret 1 to buy an airsoft gun, against many of your warnings. So I might feel compelled to tell you about the resulting mayhem on Monday.

In any case, have a great holiday, and I'll see ya next time. 

June 29, 2006

-- As best as I can tell, it's been raining for forty days and thirty-nine nights here, and counting. Lots of roads are closed or gone, and thousands of people near Wilkes-Barre are under a mandatory evacuation order, because the levees are about to shit the bed.

Several people didn't heed the warnings of authorities (they knew better), tried to drive through high water, and... Well, let's just say there probably won't be quite so many demanding old men yelling at deli workers this week.

The holy land of Pottsville, home of Yuengling, is under assault -- a real concern. And I think Poppa Half-Shirt is building an ark.

He's over there right now hammering frantically. Later today I expect to see him load in several great stacks of Coors Light in the can, a rake, his lawnmower, some gasoline, and four or five large rolls of sod. If there's room, he might take his family too. But wherever he lands, dammit, he's going to have a yard to care for, and some bad beer to suck back as he surveys the fruits of his labor.

He's a man on a mission, the very survival of his culture hanging in the balance. Time is of the essence, and he must quickly complete the vehicle with which he will single-handedly salvage the entire suburban way of life!

Or, I guess he could just be fixing a bookshelf. What do I know about it, really?

-- Speaking of Yuengling, I did a search for it at YouTube, and found this. I mean, I like the stuff, but let's not get carried away.... Plus, if he's able to do to that bottle what I think he was doing, I'm pretty sure I know why his girlfriend dumped him.

-- One of your fellow Surf Reporters, Greg, suggested a movie to me a few days ago, after I raved about Dawn of the Dead here. He swore it was as good a zombie flick, or better, so I was compelled to check it out.

Have you ever heard of Dead Alive? I hadn't, but it was directed by Peter Jackson, the guy behind all those Lord of the Rings dwarves-with-swords movies. I was highly skeptical, but it turns out the tip was right-on. The thing is hilarious, and filled with so much gore it's almost impossible to take it all in. The term over the top doesn't come close to doing it justice. Holy crapballs!

I don't want to give anything away (ha!), but the last thirty or forty minutes of the film is just non-stop bloodletting. Yet I was roaring with laughter. It was like some sort of masterful ballet of fucked-upness. The lawnmower segment alone is worth the price of admission....

Oh, you've gotta rent this thing. Today. If I had any integrity, I'd throw it on the line right now, and guarantee your satisfaction.

Thanks Greg! I appreciate the heads-up. And the dancing spinal cord wearing a hat.

-- And finally, I'm gonna end this quarter-ass effort with two things that are pissing me off.

First, all the coverage that the firing of Star Jones is receiving. WTF?? This is big news? It was the main headline at Drudge for at least 24 hours, and splashed all over CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News... I just don't understand. I barely even know who this person is. I thought she was a big sassy black woman who did sleazy reporting from celebrity trials? Now she's skinny, and more important than world leaders?! What's it going to be tomorrow, a special edition of the New York Times because Jim J. Bullock is having hip replacement surgery? What in the tan and sandy hell is going on here??

Second is a Ford commercial that features some twitching spazz from American Idol. Skippy Hicks? I don't know, but the guy looks like a palsy patient flailing about on a round stage, and singing some "song" that doesn't have even a hint of a melody. The dude is far too exercised and into it, and I feel like I see him twenty times per day doing his Elaine Bennis dance. And I don't even watch much television.... George is getting irritated!

What two things are pissing you off?

And that's gonna do it for today, my friends. I need to get to work and finish out Thursday, and half of Friday, then it'll be four and a half days off in a row for yours truly. Ahhh... I can almost feel my butt cheeks sinking into the couch cushions already. May God continue to bless the United States of America.

See ya tomorrow. 

June 28, 2006

-- There's a lot going on in the world right now: a war in Iraq, renewed trouble between Israel and the Palestinians, starvation and disease in Africa, local flooding.... So, I feel a bit guilty that I'm going to dedicate today's update to a lengthy discussion about farting. But there ya go. I'm confident I'll eventually get over it.

I come from a background where Dads and sons fart, and Moms and daughters do not. I know that's unfair, but I didn't set the rules; it was simply reality. In fact, I'm almost certain that I never heard a female break wind until I was well into my twenties. Yet I lived inside a virtual vortex of male ass-blasting. It's the sexual politics of flatulence, and I can't begin to explain it.

No, I don't know why society says that women must clench and pucker, while men are allowed to showboat their gas with impunity, but I'm pleased to announce that I'm doing my part to level the farting field. Both of my grandfathers are probably spinning in their graves, possibly powered by gaseous outrage, but I'm bringing a whiff of equality to the farting game. So to speak.

I never made a conscious decision about this, I can't claim that any deep thinking went into it, but I've never let one rip in front of Toney -- not once. I believe it would be disrespectful. And unthinkable. I never held back in previous relationships (on the contrary), but with Toney it's somehow different. I instinctually choose to spare her the agony of, say, a post-broccoli "event." It seems like the right thing to do.

At the same time, though, I haven't turned my back on the time-honored tradition of father/son fart-bonding. It just takes place when Toney isn't around. Boys, I think, benefit from their fathers occasionally dropping a well-timed neutron bomb in the potato chip aisle of a grocery store, or suddenly letting loose with a big Price Is Right buzzer fart in a darkened theater. It provides memories to share, and cherish like heirlooms.

But the boys know that they can't just let it fly all willy-nilly. Unlike some of their friends.... There's a time and a place for everything, and I'm confident they'll continue down the path I've blazed for them.

It's not always easy being a pioneer, though. Sometimes the Old Way butts up against the New Way, and there's friction. When Toney and I were in the early days of our dating career I took her to meet my parents. While there, some friends of the family came by, and the husband almost immediately tipped to one side and sent up a rectal flare, right there in front of my girlfriend -- somebody he'd never met before.

It pissed me off, which was a completely new fart-based emotion for me. I remember being a little surprised that I was grinding my teeth and thinking, wotta crass-ass pigman. I was changing, and realized it at that moment.

Occasionally somebody tries to level the farting field in a different way, and results may vary. I once had a girlfriend who was prim and proper, and rarely said anything worse than gosh darnit. One day we were driving in my little Chevy Luv truck, when she suddenly squinted up like Renee Zellweger, and I heard something that sounded like a bald tire spinning in mud. The hell??

She started to chuckle, but I guess the horrified look on my face cut her off in mid-launch. I couldn't believe what had just transpired, my brain couldn't process it. Immediately she began back-pedaling, and making excuses. She claimed her stomach was upset, that it was all a big mistake. But it was obvious that she'd put her entire abdomen behind it. I mean, that baby had power. In fact, it seemed to increase in strength as it went along.

Then the stench hit me, and I was officially disgusted. It was like rotten produce and swamp water. I weaved all over the road as I frantically worked to roll the windows down, tears streaming from my eyes. Sweet sainted mother of Blind Lemon Jefferson! It was even worse than the translucents' weird chemical dumps, and that's no lie.

If it had been one of my male friends who'd channeled the devil's dumpster that way, I readily admit that we probably would've been laughing and driving down the interstate with our heads hanging out the windows. Big fun. 

But this was different. It had come from a girl.

She'd clearly made an attempt at farting a line in the sand that day, but there's no way I could handle such a thing -- double-standard be damned. Maybe she eventually found a man who could, but I am not him. ...NOT a preferred way of leveling the farting field.

So there you go. Are my theories sound, or way off? Am I unfair in my beliefs? Is my "transformation" typical, or should I be clinging to tradition? How is it handled at your house? Tell us about in the comments section.

And I'll be back tomorrow with more of this high-brow material.

See ya then. 

June 26, 2006

-- So, how was the weekend? Despite the fact that it feels like we're living in sub-Saharan Africa up here, ours was pleasant enough: a pretty low-key affair.

The oldest Secret is working us over, trying to convince me and Toney to allow him to buy something called an airsoft gun. I'm not even 100% clear on what they are, a BB gun kinda thing that shoots little plastic dingles? I just don't know.... But I do know that it's literally one thing after another with him. And the pros and cons of these guns dominated conversation on Saturday and Sunday, just like similar "discussions" dominated previous weekends.

Any opinions? I'm a little hesitant to allow our first-born to go all Scarface on us. I have visions of him leaping from the woods, filthy and stripped to the waist, barking at the moon and just spraying bullets in every direction. Am I getting carried away? Again?

-- Toney and I have been talking about digging our bicycles out of the garage, knocking off the cobwebs, and jumping back in the saddle. A few years ago I went through a brief jag where I'd ride my bike after work, and it was a lot of fun, and cathartic as well. I'm not sure why I stopped, because I have only pleasant memories of the experiment. But you know how it goes....

We've been casually floating this idea for the past few weeks, and I was ready to pull the trigger. You know, once the humidity breaks. But over the weekend Toney received a magazine in the mail, Better Homes Than You'll Ever Have In Your Entire Fucking Life and Gardens, and there's an article inside about people returning to bike-riding after years away from it.

And now the waters have been officially muddied.

Apparently one of those dorky helmets is pretty much required at this point? Is that true? According to the article it's completely foolhardy to ride without one, and if you do you'll almost certainly end up like the Mylar balloon lady, staring at a drop-ceiling for the rest of your life with your teeth all bucked out. Shit! And they say you'll need special pants, and all sorts of nonsense.... Hell, I'd look like a complete fruitstack in all that gear.

Also, the article recommends that you spend at least $700 on a bike(!). I think mine cost about a hundred bucks, from Target. So, what does that mean? It won't be able to handle my heft, and the wheels will go all egg-shaped within half a block, before the frame snaps in two and I'm impaled on jagged metal?

I'm about ready to just say fuck it.

-- And speaking of novelty pants, I'm sitting here right now in swimming trunks. All my regular shorts are in the dryer, so I dug these crazy things out of the drawer. Truthfully they're not too bad, except for the built-in ball net. I'm not really a fan of the ball net, and am thinking about cutting it out with a pocket knife. I've got far too much crotch fabric going on.... And when was the last time I went swimming? I'm pretty sure Reagan was still president, so it won't be a great loss if I wreck these bad boys.

-- I seriously considered driving down to Williamsport on Saturday, to attend this Garfield Convention. I saw a news report about it, and was dazzled. From what I could tell, it was just wall-to-wall future and current spinster cat ladies, many sporting pajamas(!?). I wanted to go there and do one of my Pulitzer-caliber articles, but, unfortunately, I peaked too early and lost enthusiasm. If only I'd seen the report on Friday instead of Thursday.... Today you could all be reading about me getting my ass kicked by an angry mob of Garfield fanatics, and how I was kicked unconscious by a frenzied gang of forty-five year old virgins in feet-pajamas. Too bad.

-- On a related note, Brad sent me this pic last night, along with this description:

Barry Williams, best known for his character of Greg Brady on the TV series "The Brady Bunch", autographs the stomach of Tiffany Witt of Norfolk, Neb., following an appearance during the Osmond Summerfest 2006 town festival in Osmond, Neb., Sunday, June 25, 2006. "When I take a shower, I'm going to put saran wrap over it so I can show it to all my friends," Witt reasoned for getting the autograph on her stomach.

He labeled it Further Evidence, but I'm not so sure. Greg apparently still has the power to trigger impromptu outbreaks of Farm Girls Gone Wild! And that's to be admired, I think.

-- I checked my webstats yesterday and saw that somebody in Israel was reading Buck's latest update. Why do I think that's funny?

-- Last night's episode of Deadwood was, once again, a little light on the fucks. It started with Trixie just a-stringin' them together, and I was preparing myself for a bunker buster. But, unfortunately, it petered out during the second half. A real shame. Here are the numbers.

-- And finally, the Phil Hendrie Show is no more. I listened as long as I could on Friday, to the final broadcast, but finally threw in the towel around midnight. The next morning I played the last hour, and it was a bit odd. He was doing just a regular show up until the last few minutes, when highlight clips started playing. That was followed by a call from Margaret, one of his regular characters, who sang "Come Sail Away" by Styx. Phil yelled, "Get the hell outta here!" then it was nothing but static. The end.

Weird. The last program was almost as confusing as the first one I heard. As it should be? I don't know. But here's how "the greatest show in the history of radio" ended its sixteen-year run. Net-shittingly sad. 

On a positive note, though, I bought this mouse pad on Saturday -- and they were all sold out on Sunday. Did I get the last one?! Cool. So, at least I'll have a little Phil here in the bunker: the mouse pad and about a million hours (and counting) of mp3s. 

Say what you will, but I am completely feet-pajamas about the Phil Hendrie Show. Funniest motherfucker, ever. I hope we haven't heard the last of him, I really do. 

And that'll do it for today, boys and girls. Thanks for stopping by.

See ya tomorrow. 

June 23, 2006

-- Recently I mentioned that I'd been trying to track down a copy of an old movie I used to watch during the early days of HBO, Damnation Alley. It's a cheesy post-apocalyptic tale of four survivors traveling across what's left of the United States, in some kind of crazy sand-burrowing war wagon. Along the way they encounter giant scorpions and armor-plated cockroaches (among other delights), and a splendid time is guaranteed for all.

It's not available on DVD yet. However, that didn't stop Surf Reporter John from securing a copy, via highly-mysterious means, and sending it my way. A few days ago I checked my PO Box (usually a barren wasteland of pizza coupons and Wal-Mart fliers), and there it was, snuggled inside. Cool!

Last night I dimmed the lights, popped open a lager, and watched this long-lost film for the first time in probably twenty-five years. The quality was pretty good, especially for a Chinese mafia bootleg, and the movie was just as I remembered it: This entire city is infested with killer cockroaches! I repeat: KILLER COCKROACHES!!

Yes, it was an enjoyable evening at the Compound. Thanks John! I appreciate your efforts. Give my regards to Big Louie Wu.

And if you're interested, and have access, it looks like Fox Movie Channel is actually going to show this cinematic classic three times over the next few weeks: June 24 (tomorrow!), July 30, and August 7. Check it out if you're so inclined. It's a lot of fun, and hard to find. Now's yer chance.

-- When we first moved here our neighborhood was crawling with children in the first years of elementary school. They rampaged through the yards, set up lemonade stands, and squealed and laughed at all hours... Now, to my horror, they're all growed up.

It's a disturbing state of affairs. I feel like we just recently moved to Scranton, but the kids in the neighborhood tell another tale. All the little girls look like women now, and the little boys look like Matthew Sweet. How did it happen??

Yesterday I heard a rumor that a kid who lives nearby is a well-known pot dealer(!). He supposedly takes payment in cash or iPods, and works regular shifts on weekends and evenings. WTF? I swear he was a second-grader just a few weeks ago, in a Winnie the Pooh sweatshirt. Now he's The Pusher, lurking in the shadows and saying things like "The eagle has landed?!" Say it ain't so.

I don't know... A year used to seem like a really long time to me, and now they click by like telephone poles beside the highway. It's depressing. And it's the kids that make you notice. Adults don't change much, they just expand over time, slowly like a glacier. It's other people's younglings that rub salt in your wounds.

And now I'm so bummed-out I'm thinking about paying Pooh a visit.... Should I wear a fake beard?

-- Tonight's the very last Phil Hendrie radio show. After today, the laughter dies. I usually listen to the previous night's show the next morning, using the "on demand" feature at his website. But I think I'll listen live tonight. He says it'll just be a regular show, nothing special, except he'll be hammering back shots of tequila. I feel like I need to be there, in real time.

When we first moved to California I worked crazy hours. I'd go to work in the dark, and come home in the dark. We had a young baby, no money, and were living in an apartment complex in Santa Clarita. Life was a tad challenging.

One night I was driving home and was half paying attention to a talk show on the radio. But something was a bit off about it. I can't remember the topic they were discussing, but the guest was ridiculous. And the callers were telling him about it. There was lots of shouting, and hilarious scatological insults.

By the time I reached the parking lot of our apartment, everything had escalated (devolved?) to complete chaos. It sounded like three people were talking at the same time, carnival music was playing in the background, and somebody was scratching himself into the phone receiver. It was insane.

But I couldn't stop listening. I sat outside our apartment in the dark, unable to turn off the radio. I wasn't able to figure out what was going on during that first night, but I knew I liked it.

And I've been listening ever since. His show got me through those years (along with the Pabst brewing company), and several times he had me laughing so hard I nearly lost control of my car and crashed into a ravine. It, and our youngest son, are about the only good things that came from those California days.

I don't like tequila (I always wake up thinking I've got a hatchet buried in my skull), but I'll be there tonight with another adult beverage in-hand, saying goodbye to a mad genius. It sucks that's he's leaving, but at least he was here for a while. Right?

-- And that'll do it for me, children. Kinda lame, I know. But, luckily, I've got Buck to bail me out. Take 'er away, my friend.

Have a great weekend, and I'll see you folks again on Monday. 

June 22, 2006

-- There's some serious caterpillar activity going on outside. The neighbors (not Poppa Half-Shirt, the other ones) have a big oak tree in their front yard, and it hangs over our driveway. A few days ago, as I was leaving for work, I saw that both of our cars and one entire corner of our property was covered in a weird mixture of shredded leaves, a white gooey grossness, and tiny dingleberries. Huh, I thought, there must've been one helluva storm during the night; wonder why I didn't hear it?

But it wasn't a storm, it's caterpillars. A whole gang of them have beset the oak, and are going to town. Every morning the remnants of their orgy cover my Blazer, and the driveway. Yesterday Toney washed her car, and is now parking it on the street, away from the tree. I might have to start doing the same. Here's a couple of pics I took this morning, to give you an idea of the havoc those little bastards are wreaking.

Yesterday Toney also called some agriculture department dude (Hank Kimball?), to get a little information on this weirdness. The guy said, in a nutshell, that it sucks for us, but it's worse for the tree, that the invasion might literally kill it. And he added that we can expect all the shredding and nonsense to continue until the first freeze.

Well, that's excellent.

The whole thing is kinda creepy. I look at the tree and it appears normal and comforting. But I know that the branches are just seething with thousands (millions?) of tiny creatures, wriggling over each other, breeding with abandon, and eating to beat the band. It reminds me of the opening scene of Blue Velvet, and triggers a full-body shiver.

Last night, as I was waiting on Andy to sling his urine one more time before bed, I'm almost certain I heard munching sounds coming from that tree. And I felt a twinge of fear. Is that irrational? Is it crazy that I'm now imagining myself waking up in the middle of the night, every square inch of my body covered in constantly-moving caterpillars? Because that's what happening. Shit!

-- Check this out. When I was in grade school that movie was the talk of the kiddie kommunity. There were constant over-the-top radio commercials for it (on WKAZ, home of Super Duper Charlie Cooper), claiming it was "rated V for violence" and that theaters were required to pass out barf bags at the door. It all just seemed so cool. Some older kids in our neighborhood claimed to have actually seen it, and we'd stand around listening to their tales of unthinkable cinematic fucked-upness, eyes wide. I still haven't seen the flick, and have no interest in doing so, but I might have to bid on them regurgitation sacks.

-- A couple of days ago I wrote about our recent trip to a state park, and how it seemed to be overflowing with criminals and mental patients. I'd meant to link to a picture I took during another such experiment last year, while visiting a state park in New York state. But I forgot, so I'll do it now. 

is a couple preparing to have a light lunch (as evidenced by the snack sacks). The young lady didn't want to walk all the way to the picnic table, and had "asked" her boyfriend/husband to bring the table to her. I'm a-coming, baby! Heh.

-- I'm proud to announce that our dog Andy is still undefeated, after nearly five years on the case. Our beloved border collie joined the family two days before 9/11, and during the ensuing years has never failed to make the mailman leave our property. Not once. Each weekday and every Saturday the personification of evil appears once again, and has the audacity to walk on our porch. Andy immediately launches into his patented ass-over-tits frenzy, and the guy leaves. Every. Single. Time. 

He's completely undefeated, with no end to the streak in sight. When he passes the five year mark, I might have a plaque made.

-- Slowly but surely I'm buying up the new Boomtown Rats reissue CDs. They're completely remastered and sound great, but there's one small problem.... Geldof (or as they say in WV, Geldorf) was involved in the project, and, for reasons unknown, insisted that the order of the songs be changed. He shuffled them all around in bizarre combinations, and I don't like that. Oh, they're all still there, with a few extras as well, but it bothers me that they're not presented in the order I remember. Is that nuts? It's sorta like when cartoon characters (Fred & Barney, Cap'n Crunch) suddenly have voices that are completely different than the old days. It makes me sad.

-- Speaking of music, right now I'm listening to Lloyd Cole's Don't Get Weird On Me, Babe, and enjoying it with gusto. Masterpiece.

-- The oldest Secret came home a few days ago and was all jacked-up on a rumor he'd heard about The Wizard of Oz. One of his friends (Johnny Paul Jason?) told him that a munchkin committed suicide during the making of the film, and you can actually see him hanging in the background for a few seconds, while Dorothy and the gang skip by. 

The words Urban Legend immediately flashed in my brain, but I didn't kill his buzz. He asked if we could go on the internet and find "the website." I said, "What is it, stubby kicking legs dotcom?" He said no, there's a site out there somewhere where you can watch the scene. 

It only took a minute or two to find it, on Snopes, where they ruin the whole thing. 

But I didn't tell him that the rumor is horseshit, I just played the video. And I can tell he's skeptical, but wants to believe. Because, as I'm sure you're aware, stubby kicking legs are awesome. Almost as much as movie theater barf bags.

And I have more, lots more, but I think I'm gonna stop right there.

More of this stuff tomorrow. See ya then. 

June 21, 2006

-- When I was but a young hillbilly child with unfortunate hair, we had a full lineup of distant relatives who lived "way out in the country." Outhouses, chickens in the living room, water from a pump in the yard.... They lived the way the rest of the world thinks all West Virginians live (despite the fact that I grew up with the Buzzcocks on my turntable, and an auto-renew subscription to the Village Voice).

My great-grandmother lived on a farm that was so removed from civilization you couldn't drive there. Literally, the roads didn't go that far. My Dad would drive until he couldn't anymore, then we'd abandon the car and start walking. The rest of the journey required us to climb fences and avoid roaming bulls in grassy pastures. My Dad always teased me and my brother and told us that bulls hate whatever color shirt we happened to be wearing that day. (I always believed him.) And we'd all laugh at the sight of our aunts tumbling over wooden fences. Good times.

The great-grandmother herself wasn't very nice. There was no warmth there, none whatsoever. She used snuff like a man, and scared me a little. Her husband was nice enough, but full-on crazy. We'd all be sitting on the porch talking, and the guy would suddenly cock his leg like a dog, get up and run as hard as he could, way out into the middle of cornfield, where he'd drop to his knees and start talking to Jesus. What in the pan-fried hell?? And when he walked downhill he turned circles for some unknown reason.

You think I'm joking? Oh, you would be mistaken.

There's a story about this man, who's long dead by now, that's recently been circulating amongst family members. I'm highly skeptical because it seemed to pop up years after the fact. But supposedly he was so dumb he didn't know how to get into a car. The story, as told by some of those very same fence-tumbling aunts, is that they were taking him somewhere in a car once, and he didn't know enough to bend his body when getting in. So, he walked straight into the side of the vehicle, standing bolt upright, bouncing off again and again. Could this possibly be true? I think there's a little creative embellishment at play here....

My grandmother's sister, on my mother's side, lived way out a holler where, it was said, "they had to pipe in the sunshine." She had a house that was little more than a shack with a big ol' Drucker's Store potbelly stove in the living room. There was no indoor plumbing and she had to go out in the yard and pump a big red handle that was sticking out of the ground, to get water to cook with and to drink. There was an outhouse in the yard that my Mom wouldn't allow us to go into alone, for fear we'd plunge down one of the holes to our turdly graves. There was also a "fruit cellar" near the house that was basically a door in the side of a mountain.

Here's a picture of my parents, with me and my brother, beside the "crick" on one of our visits there. I'm the one standing up (and probably scared shitless that a copperhead snake was about to spring from the bushes and attach itself to my face). And check out my Dad! Rockabilly.

I never really liked going out there. Oh, I enjoyed the fact that the road to the house sometimes was the creek itself (cool!), but once we arrived... far too snakey for my tastes. I remember us all hoofing it to an ancient cemetery once (where the headstones featured dates from, like, George Washington's time), and we heard rattlesnakes a-rattling. I just about shit straight through the Earth's crust.

And the local younglings, which we were always encouraged to play with, were like creatures from a different planet. I could barely understand a word they said, and when I did I was even more baffled.

The best part was the homemade ice cream they always made after dinner, in some kind of wooden-barrel contraption with a rusty crank on top. Mmmmm... Beyond that though, no.

Speaking of snakes, and as an aside, I went with my friend Mike to his grandparent's house a few times, way out some horrible Cape Fear river somewhere. And there were black snakes everywhere. It was PhobiaWorld! I remember being in a boat and the things were swimming all around us in the water. And, worst of all, there was a section of the river where snakes were literally hanging from the trees like Spanish moss. Man, talk about your nightmare-generators...

The grandparents had a birdhouse in their yard, at the top of a tall pole. We were having lunch outside one day, and heard what sounded like frantic bird-chirping. Everybody jumped up to investigate, and saw one of those nasty-ass snakes climbing the pole, winding round and round and inching its way up. Holy shit! Without a word, the grandfather went into the house and returned with a gun. He took aim, and blasted the snake before it could reach the baby birds at the top. The lifeless carcass then corkscrewed its way back to the ground, and I just couldn't believe what was happening before me.

Then the grandfather said, in an excited voice, "You boys want to go look for the head?" Look for the head!? Sweet Maria, it was the devil's egg-hunt! But, of course, we found it, down by the entrance of yet another country cemetery. He'd gotten good distance on that head.

Another of my grandmother's sisters lived way out a holler as well, but in a real house. In fact, they owned quite a bit of land and there were three houses and three families (all related) living together. It was like the Kennedy compound, with Bondo-colored Dodge Chargers in the yard.

There were a lot of wild-ass kids that lived nearby, and we generally had fun with them. We'd rampage through the woods and throw rocks at beer cans and try to catch crawdads in the creek.... For some reason I didn't worry about snakes there, and allowed myself to have a good time. The only thing I didn't like was an angry asshole husband who lived in one of the houses and was married to one my mother's cousins. He'd routinely kick his dogs, for no reason whatsoever, and it makes me sick to my stomach just thinking about it. I hope that old prick died a painful death.

Yeah, we had a good time with those wild-animal children. But one was a little different from all the rest.... He was roughly my age, but rarely wanted to play with us. He seemed to prefer staying indoors with the women, eating lemon squares and talking about the latest diet fads. We were in his bedroom a few times, and it was always neat as a pin; nothing like any boy's room I'd ever seen. Against one wall was an electric organ, and we'd begin hammering the keys upon sight, causing the kid to fly into some sort of over-exercised hissy-fit and almost completely break down in tears.

He clearly didn't like us, and was snotty at all times. But once we were invited to a "performance" in his room, and something instinctual kicked-in and told me to be on high alert. But it was nothing to be worried about, he just wanted to play the organ for us(!?). We sat down and the kid took his place behind the keyboard, and proceeded to roll his fingers and smile and camp it up like some sort of freaky Appalachian Liberace.

Ho-ly shit! I didn't yet know what gay meant, but I knew something was askew. And what's that kid doing today? That's right, he's a hair stylist. No joke. He was born and raised in Mudsuck Holler, or whatever, and is gay as the day is long. Go figure.

And I think that'll do it for today, kiddies. I know I've already covered some of this territory before, but I started thinking about ol' Elton John of the Hills this morning, for reasons unknown, and one thing led to another.

Do you have any country cousins, or backwoods relatives? Why not tell us about them in the comments?

See ya tomorrow. 

June 20, 2006

-- Have you ever felt so lazy that you'd really like to know what time it is, but just can't bring yourself to expend the energy required to turn your head and look at the clock? I'm not saying that this has ever happened to me.... I'm just curious. Hello?

-- I keep seeing commercials for those fancy-ass gadgets that give you directions while you drive: "TURN LEFT AT NEXT CORNER!" Pretty cool, I guess. But don't you need the mailing address of every place you're going, before it can help you? Who knows this information? I barely know my own address, I sure as shit don't know the address of the Frackville Cracker Barrel. Ya know?

I think it would be better if you could buy a special fast food model, and it would alert you when you're approaching one of several pre-determined restaurants: "DAIRY QUEEN IN FOUR MILES! AND IT'S A BRAZIER!!" Now that's some technology I could get behind.

I'd also like to be able to adjust the voice that comes out of the thing. On the ads it seems to always be a soothing female talking. That's fine, but I have a feeling I'd be craving variety in short order. I'd like a full package of regional accents, foreign accents, genders, and races to choose from. Maybe a few wildcard selections as well, such as "hick" or "brokeback." Perhaps celebrities could even get involved, and Colonel Klink (or whatever) could tell us how to get to the airport?

Yeah, I don't know much about it. For all I know, my concerns and wishes are completely misplaced. Anything's possible. But I'll never find out, one way or the other -- because I ain't clamping stuff to my dashboard. That goes for GPS or satellite radio or whatever other outsize signboards they're trying to convince us to erect in our vehicles. Years ago I made a vow, and I'm sticking to it.

When I was a youngster there was an old man who lived near us, and he drove a little station wagon. It was like a full-sized station wagon, with wood paneling on the side and the whole nine yards, but it was little. Did Ford ever make a Pinto wagon? For some reason I think this ridiculous vehicle was Pinto-based....

In any case, when I was sixteen and had just secured my driver's license, he asked me to move it for him. I can't remember the details of it, but he was in my grandmother's kitchen drinking coffee one day, and asked me to move his car from its regular parking space beside the railroad tracks, to the street.

Um, OK.

I walked down there, a little nervous (what if I backed it into a pole or something??), and climbed behind the wheel. And there was so much crapola in that car, I could barely concentrate on the task at hand.

On the driver's seat was some sort of wooden bead affair that dug into my back and was uncomfortable as fuck. He had a big fuzzy steering wheel cover that was so thick you almost had to drive with the flat of your hand. All over the glove compartment was a hundred or so refrigerator magnets, or stickers, or somesuch. One, I remember, said "Archie Bunker For President in '72"

And on the dashboard: all manner of apparatus. There was a crazy-large compass, some sort of gauge that measured novelty-distances (I just don't know), and a handle that controlled one of those extra-bright police lights that was mounted near the driver's side mirror. There was also a myriad of mysterious toggle switches and, I think, a section of shag carpeting.

Shit! I could barely drive that thing. I had wooden balls eating into my spinal column, the compass was spinning round and round, big heat-generating floodlights kicked on when I put it into reverse.... It was too much to take in.

I finally got it landed without incident, but my opinion of the old man was changed forever. From that day forward I suspected that he was probably some kind of mental case, one heartbeat away from the state "hospital" in Spencer. A sane person just doesn't take things so far....

I made a vow that day that I'd never indulge in such ridiculousness; I would always keep it simple and clean. And twenty-seven years later I'm sticking to my guns. 

I've never had crap hanging off my rearview mirror, or "comedy" signs in the windows, or stuffed animals, or wind chimes, or crystals, or any of that stuff. Yeah, it's usually a little rough around the edges (generally there are four or five crumpled Burger King bags in the floor), but stripped down to the basics: no nonsense.

My car is the first Ramones album, and that Pinto wagon was something by Emerson, Lake, and Palmer. What band is your car? What kind of crap do you have in there? Do you have a baseball-sized compass clamped to the dash? I'd like to know.

Hey, maybe I'm the one with the hang-up? Like I say, anything's possible.

-- I don't have any idea how this update happened the way it did. I'd meant to write two or three paragraphs about those direction gadgets, and now look what's happened. Oh well, I'll get to the other stuff tomorrow.... 

One reminder before I go, though. This is Phil Hendrie's last week on the air, supposedly forever. After Friday, no more new shows.

I hate that fact deep down in my groinal area, but he's been making it a little easier on us by not showing up for work very often, and turning in some weak (by his standards) performances. If he'd been hitting it out of the park every night since he announced his retirement, all us Phil phanatics would undoubtedly be in a fetal position right now.

So thanks Phil, for half-assing it over the last six week or so! It was very thoughtful of you.

Anyway, this week is your last chance to check out a live radio broadcast by, in my opinion, one of the funniest people who's ever waddled the Earth. People throw around the word genius all the time, diluting its meaning, but Phil Hendrie is a genius -- undiluted and full-strength.

And that's that. More of this stupid shit tomorrow. 

June 19, 2006

-- We've officially entered the hot and hazy days of summer up here in northeastern Pennsylvania. Yesterday when I was driving home from Lowe's (don't ask) my Blazer told me it was 100 degrees outside. 

The thing has a tendency to exaggerate, but its heart is in the right place; it was crazy hot. At a certain point on Interstate 81 it's like you're looking down on the entire world from on high, and I saw this gross, suffocating haze hanging over the valley: the devil's weather.

Some people claim to love this kind of heat and humidity, but I suspect it's just showboating. That, or they're shit-juggling crazy. No sane person could actually enjoy this. It's simply the worst.

Over the weekend Toney and I finally bit the bullet and installed the new window air conditioner we bought at Sam's a few weeks back. Yes, yet another one.... We have four of those ridiculous Soviet humboxes now, and it pisses me off. But ya gotta do what ya gotta do.

We'd been putting it off because the installation process is far more complicated than what we're (I'm) used to; those little bedroom units are up and running within minutes. But with this big baby you have to install the case first, then slide the works into it, etc. The whole thing sounded like one huge aggravation to me, so I kept saying, "Yeah, we'll get to that tomorrow."

But we'd put it off as long as we could, and on Saturday we got down to bidness. And within an hour that thing was in the window, completely sealed-off, a-purring and making wonderful cold air. It didn't take long before the temperature in the living room, dining room, and kitchen was noticeably lower, and eventually Andy stopped panting and drizzling slobber everywhere, sighed with relief and went to sleep on the cool hardwood floors. I nearly wept with joy.

The thing even has a remote control!

I'm not joking, that humbox changed everything. Our quality of life improved instantly. No longer will we be sweating directly into our mashed potatoes at dinner (no table salt required), and no longer will I be walking around peeling the underwear off my ass like the backing of a bumper sticker, after it becomes suction-sealed across the great expanse.

Yes, I'm a happy, happy man. At least until we get our first electric bill, and Toney says we can't use it anymore.... But that should be, like, several weeks, right? Ahhh, it's gonna be paradise until the first bill arrives.

-- On Sunday we were experiencing a bit of camping fever, and decided to go on a scouting mission to a state park not too far from here. Lots of people had suggested the place to us (Toney), but we'd never been. So, we took Subway up on their Three Footlongs For Thirteen Dollars deal, dropped them into a cooler, and hit the highway. With any luck, we'd finally discover our local camping paradise, that most elusive of destinations.

Supposedly it was only thirty miles away, but I think it was farther than that just to the interstate exit. Then we drove for what felt like another hour before we actually reached the park. But it looked really nice, and we had high hopes.

Toney went into the office to ask for directions to the campground, and I stayed in the car and cursed the FM transmitter I recently bought for my iPod, which works great for a half-hour or so, then just suddenly shits the bed for no reason. Grrrr.... That kind of thing makes me want to start kicking out windows.

Make a left, they said, when exiting the parking lot, and we couldn't miss the campground, "just a little ways down the road." And we drove and drove and drove. What the shit?! Did we do something wrong? I thought I could hear "Dueling Banjos," and somebody way off in the distance say, "You've got a mighty perty mouf."

We passed through a section of forest that was especially creepy, and we almost aborted the mission. There were big rocks everywhere and bizarre plants, and, I'm almost certain, pterodactyls in the sky. I was sure we'd taken a wrong turn in Albuquerque, but we eventually found the campground, along with a sense of relief.

But, unfortunately, our good feelings didn't last; the place was chockfull of hicks and derelicts. We drove around and saw people living in what appeared to be semi-permanent dwellings constructed of travel trailers, plywood, and trash bags. We saw filthy children walking around with great drooping diapers that didn't appear to be even touching their bodies, and lots of guys in horribly-stained undershirts and splotchy facial hair.

We went around a corner and saw some snaggle-tooth hag sitting in a radically-unlevel camping chair, with her cig plugged between her skeleton fingers and pointed straight up like a flag. She was hollering at her buzz-cut kids, just hollering. Her "man" was nearby, buried to the waist in the engine of some horrible car, and his back was covered in tattoos that looked like telephone book doodles.

Fuck dat. I hate to be a snob, but I ain't camping under those conditions. In fact, I think state parks are out altogether; their prices are not high enough to weed out the shitty. There's one about five miles from our house, and it's extremely nice, but the campground is often populated with people who look like they're on the run from something or other. One time we saw a couple just sleeping in the dirt beside their Camaro; they didn't even have a blanket with them. They were probably exhausted after a long day of armed-robberies-gone-bad.

No, my idea of camping is fifty dollars per night, a full package of premium cable channels, wireless internet, heated pool with water park, an on-site lounge with happy hour, and a full-time fire-building concierge. And I'm only sorta joking.

Hell, I'd be terrified to be in that place after dark with all those Flannery O'Connor characters. Ya know?

-- And since we're on the subject, check this out. You can now view both Jesco White documentaries, right on your computer. If you haven't seen 'em, you owe it to yourself to set aside a little time. Both are mind-blowing affairs, and highly recommended.

-- Here are last night's Deadwood numbers. A little lower than normal, but I have no doubt they'll make up for it in the coming weeks. It feels like some shit is about to go down.

-- And finally, I need some help here. My Norton ant-virus is about to expire again, and I really don't want to give them anymore of my money. Are there some good alternatives out there, possibly even free services? I don't know anything about it and would appreciate any guidance you can provide.

See ya tomorrow. 

June 16, 2006

-- I'm still not feeling so hot. Yesterday I stayed home from work and put in some couch time. It helped, but there's still a ways to go. 

Buck called me a pussy via email, so I'm going back to work today, and squeezing out this pitiful update. I will not be lumped in with Nostrildamus, even if it kills me. Plus, computer keyboards are fairly inexpensive these days, and can be easily replaced if, say, someone vomits full into one. Right?

I'm usually very antsy, and can't just sit around for hours on end during the day. (Like some people I know.) But yesterday I hung around and read the last sixty or so pages of the Lincoln book (excellent!), and the first twenty or so pages of my next selection. I ate a bowl of Rice Krispies around noon, and nothing else until the evening, when I had a strong craving for, of all things, a Burrito Supreme.

Toney went and got me one, but it wasn't properly prepared. The ingredients weren't distributed evenly, so one bite would be nothing but refried beans, and the next would be nothing but sour cream, etc. Those things are among of the world's most perfect foods, but only when a manager makes them. Kinda disappointing.

And last night I finished off, with a little help from my Netflix friends, the first season of Kojak. Good stuff. New York City at its 1970s-era grimiest is almost a character in the show, and I love that. Plus, Theo is one tough-ass mofo. I really hope they continue releasing them, but it's been over a year now and there's no news about the second season coming out. The bean-counting pricks.

Now that I'm finished with Kojak, I think I'll jump back into Homicide. I recently devoured the first two seasons in short order, and am ready for more. I might also slide Northern Exposure in there somewhere; for some reason I think I'd dig it. And next month the first season of Perry Mason comes out, and I'm gonna be all over that like a pack of rabid monkeys on a Labor Day picnic.

What old TV shows would you like to see come to DVD? At the top of my wish-list are Mannix and Fernwood 2Night. I know there are others, but I'm not currently able to access the files because of a virus. Help me remember, won't you?

-- Wednesday night I thrashed around in bed so much Toney abandoned ship before midnight. I couldn't get comfortable and kept getting up to blow my nose (shockingly high-yield) and pee with abandon. When I woke up on Thursday the sheets were twisted in a tight rope, like I was preparing to drop them out the window of a prison cell and attempt an escape. 

Last night I slept straight through, but Toney said I was snoring so loud people in passing aircraft could probably hear it. I suspect that she was exaggerating (I've never heard myself snore, not even once), but have a feeling that my wife isn't just thinking of me when she says, "I hope you start feeling better soon." Ya know?

-- Yesterday I spent a few minutes updating the Search Engines page, and you can check out the latest entries at the top of the list here.

-- And finally, here's something new from Mr. Tough Love himself, Buck.

You guys have yourselves a great little weekend, y'hear? 

June 14, 2006

-- I'm sick today. I suspected that something wasn't right yesterday afternoon and evening, and it turns out I was correct. My throat and eyes(?!) hurt, I've got the snots, and my stomach is gurgling and possibly fizzing. And the weirdest part of all: every time I sneeze or blow my nose, a gag reflex kicks in. So it's ahhhchoo! followed by an instant pre-puke humpback. And I don't like that.

So, I'll do the best I can here, but I wouldn't be expecting much. The couch is calling my name, in a soft, seductive voice.

-- Last weekend I watched three movies that I thought were exceptional, for a variety of reasons.

Since I pay Netflix eighteen bucks (or whatever) every month, I'm required by common sense to watch an ungodly number of flicks. And while I enjoy most of them, few stay with me. Let a month or two pass and I often can't remember if I've seen a particular movie, and have to consult with Toney to figure it out. But these three made an impression.

-- First was a documentary called Overnight, about a grand wizard doucheteer who was handed the keys to Hollywood, and screwed it all up via assholery. The dude was a bartender in Los Angeles who wrote screenplays in his spare time, just like a million other guys. But this one somehow captured the imagination of Miramax big-shot Harvey Weinstein, who offered him $300,000 for his script, a chance to direct the movie (The Boondock Saints), and half ownership of the bar where he was working.

The bartender was instantly the toast of the town, and featured in every entertainment magazine, and all over television. It was a rags-to-riches tale, and the public ate it up.

Then the good part starts. The guy, over the next couple of years, manages to fuck everything up by being an arrogant prick. He screams and yells, insults people and reminds them that he is the new golden boy, blah blah blah.

And this complete crash and burn is captured on film by the documentary crew who'd been hired to document the rise of Hollywood's new power player. It's all highly entertaining, and satisfying as well. Sometimes people really do get what they deserve.

-- On Saturday night Toney and I watched Saturday Night Fever. Go figure. It was from the DVR, recorded off HBO, not a Netflix movie. But I'd never seen it before, and Toney said it had been 25 years for her. So we fired it up.

Hilarious! The opening shots where he's sashaying around Brooklyn in his disco clothes and carrying a gallon of paint is funny as hell. And the continuous argument with his Dad is classic as well. But it was the dancing scenes that were the best....

At one point Travolta is dancing with a chick at the club, and insulting her unmercifully. He tells her he hopes she fucks better than she dances, or something along those lines. A bit harsh, I thought. Then the song changes, and our hero cocks his head like a dog who senses a UPS truck is near. He abandons the girl with a shouted, "Forget this!" and makes his way to the main dance floor with a look of intense purpose on his face (I was screaming with laughter by now), and proceeds to get down.

All the other dancers had apparently seen him catch the fever before, and immediately made room for him. They formed a circle around Travolta and he started whipping his hands 'round and 'round, like #19 here, then launched into that pointing up/pointing down thing. By the end he was scooting along the floor on his ass, like a horny dog. And I was gasping for air and wiping away the tears in Scranton.

God, was that shit funny. I saw where Toney's brother (FBI -- Full Blooded Italian) picked up his habit of folding his pizza in half, too. 

The whole thing was simply two hours well-spent. It's gotta be a cult classic. Is it? As you may be aware, the subscription to the hipster newsletter stops at the age of forty, so I don't know for sure. But I have a feeling... Am I right?

-- And the third movie is one of my all-time favorites: Dawn of the Dead. I've seen it five or six times by now, and it never gets old. Many of the flicks that I thought were genius as a youngling seem kinda lame today (like Close Encounters: two hours of people looking up), but not this one. I had just as much fun watching it this past weekend as I did in 1979, or whatever. A real classic.

You know the story: zombies are roaming the Earth and killing people who instantly turn into even more zombies. The USA looks almost post-apocalyptic because of all this, and the four main characters take refuge in a shopping mall filled with the lumbering undead -- who look a lot like normal shoppers on any given day.

The movie is chockfull of over-the-top gore, to the point where it becomes a comedy of fucked-upness by the second half-hour. While some of the most horrifying scenes play out, like intestines-eating and whatnot, jaunty mall Muzak is playing in the background, and I just think it's a true masterpiece.... At least as good as anything Shakespeare ever managed.

Check out this website that chronicles the history of the mall where the movie was shot. It's still open for business! Man, I need to go.

Years ago I took a girlfriend to see Dawn of the Dead at a midnight movie. She'd never seen it, and I was eager to get her reaction. 

Yeah, it didn't really work out the way I'd hoped.... Within an hour she was sobbing uncontrollably and we had to leave. She cried all the way home and I felt utterly shitty. The next day she wasn't much better, and told me she didn't want to go to hell(!?). 

And for the next three months or so she went to church day-in and day-out, and the best I could hope for was a friendly handshake at the end of the night.

I'd made a tactical error of the highest order, and I still cringe when I think about it. For many reasons.

-- And that's the question I'll leave you with today. Have you ever known somebody to go completely off the deep end after seeing a movie or reading a book or whatever? Maybe it was some crackpot self-help scamulation, or a flick that made someone decide to turn over their life to surfing or something?

I'm not sure how this one is going to go, but give me a break here; I'm bubbling over with illness....

Have a great day, and I'll see ya tomorrow. 

June 13, 2006

-- Toney and I went to a few more open-houses on Sunday.

The first was pretty old, built in the early 1930s, and too small for our needs. But it was well-maintained and nice. It also had a big old fashioned sittin' porch on the front, and stained glass in one of the living room windows. A charming place, but my inner-barometer said it was priced fifty thousand dollars too high.

The second was in a high-dollar fancy-pants neighborhood, and was built in 1990. It was NOT well-maintained, and my instincts told me it was priced a hundred grand too high. Well, maybe seventy-five, taking into account the neighborhood it was in.... But the carpets would have to be ripped out, they were all horribly stained(?!), and the kitchen was all screwed up; you'd have to gut the bastard and start from scratch.

Also, it looked like they'd recently painted the trim on the outside, and slung paint everywhere. It was all over the driveway, the shrubs in front of the house, and on the sidewalks. It appeared that they'd hired Muhammad Ali and Janet Reno to paint their house. Wotta sight. 

The best feature was the huge deck on the back, but they'd slopped that up as well. Dark wood stain was splattered a half-foot up the wall. Somebody needs to go to painting school, and quick.

And get this: there was no central air. It's a rich folks house in a rich folks neighborhood, not very old, and there were window units all over the place. Sometimes I just don't get these people up here.... Where I come from being miserable all summer is not a badge of honor. I mean, what in the honeybaked hell??

The third property was one of the strangest experiences of our considerable open-house careers. It's located on a high-traffic road, and has a big circular driveway in front. And when we arrived there were probably ten cars parked on the thing. Damn, we muttered, this one is busy.

We wedged the Blazer into a parking space that probably wasn't supposed to be a parking space, and made our way to the big sprawling ranch-style home with an asking price that seemed, at first glance, far too low. I mean, the shit looked like an estate. I wondered what we'd find inside. Oh, this was going to be interesting.

We had to wait for a family to exit before we could enter (it was a madhouse), and when we finally got in we saw an old lady sitting on the stairs, behind a folding card table with a cash register on it. The crap?

We squeezed past some more people, into the living room, and it was set up like an antique/junk store. There were big display cabinets, and clothes racks, and random items scattered about.

I was totally confused, but tried to act cool. I wandered around, scratching my chin and pretending to be in the throes of deep consideration. Two gay men stood nearby and were holding up an old rusted-out lantern, and one said, "This is a really nithe piethe."

Then the animal sounds kicked-in.

From somewhere deep inside the house there was a loud shriek, and it sounded like the flying monkeys on The Wizard of Oz. Good God, what was that?! I asked Toney. Her eyes were wide with concern. And we heard a woman laugh hysterically, from the bowels of the house, a full-throated cigarettes 'n' bourbon cackle. Then the "monkey" went off again.

And that's when we decided to leave. But when we reached the living room door, which led to the foyer and the exit, there was now a velvet theater rope pulled across the doorway. 

What is this place?? Is it the Addams Family?

I opened the rope, replaced the hook to its former resting place, and we high-tailed it out of there. And as we were making our escape, a man we hadn't seen before, dressed in full western wear (wtf??), emerged from behind a curtain and said, "Thanks for coming!"

Yeah. I think I slung gravel halfway up the side of the house, trying to drive away from that place. Holy shit! I still don't understand any of it.

-- Have you read about the new cell phone ringtone that only kids can hear? 

By the time a person turns twenty their hearing has already started to deteriorate, supposedly, and an inventor in England has figured out a way to exploit the fact. He's come up with a ringtone that adults can't hear, which includes teachers, of course, and allows kids to text each other in class without detection.

Here's an article about it. And here's a sample of the ringtone itself.

I can't hear a damn thing. Nothing. But, of course, I've seen Dinosaur Jr. in concert a couple of times, so I guess it's not that surprising. But what about the Secrets? I figured it would sound like a buzzer on The Price Is Right to them, and decided to find out.

Yesterday evening I huddled the whole family around my computer and played the file. And it was just complete silence to me and Toney, but the boys both said they heard a really high-pitched whine. Andy bolted from the room, but I'm not sure if it was related to the ringtone, or if he heard Poppa Half-Shirt's yapping pussy-dog again.

So anyway, can you hear anything? I'm a little suspicious, if you want to know the truth. I think this could be an elaborate hoax, a high-tech snipe hunt, designed to mock the over-twenty crowd. What do you think? Can you hear it? Is there even anything to hear? What the hell, man?

And once again I've been long-winded, and didn't cover all the things I'd planned. But that's what they make tomorrows for, right?

Have a great day, boys and girls. 

June 12, 2006

-- The new season of Deadwood kicked off last night, and the numbers were posted within fifteen minutes of the end of the show. A little slower than normal, but I was out of practice.... In the coming weeks I'll do better, once I find my fuck-counting groove.

Last night's episode served up a fairly typical ration of our favorite word, along with its sister-obscenity, cocksucker. But the surprising development, as far as I can tell, is that Trixie just might give Swearengin and Calamity Jane a run for their money this season. She's not quite as colorful as those other characters, but the girl has a world-class gutter mouth that cannot be ignored.

Anyway, the new season has started, and the first show was excellent as always. And we're here counting the fucks, which will lead to a thousand links on a thousand blogs, accompanied by the sentence, "Some people have way too much time on their hands."

Just the way nature intended.

-- On Sunday we dragged the camper, our rolling box of beds, out of the garage for the first time this season, and set it up on the driveway. We wanted to prepare it for another summer, put new batteries in all the flashlights, and load in the miscellaneous supplies we'd picked-up over the winter. Plus, I needed to make sure that a family of raccoons or hedgehogs or whatever hadn't taken refuge inside, an annual fear.

So we opened it up in front of our house, much to the chagrin of our uptown neighbors, and monkeyed around with it all day. It's exciting to start making plans, and to smell the campfire smoke-saturated interior. I think that it's nearly impossible to be in a bad mood while smelling campfire smoke.

The Secrets, of course, were bouncing off the ceiling the whole time, and wrestling on the beds, and all that stuff. I noticed that the thing was moving around a lot more than normal. The heck? For a few seconds I couldn't figure it out, but then I remembered: I'd failed to lower the four corner braces, the stabilizers. Oh well, I thought, we were almost done. Screw it.

And as we were folding it back up, I had trouble with one of the beds. The aluminum bar that holds up the canvas above the boys' bunk wouldn't come down, so I crawled up there to work it loose from the inside. It was wedged in pretty good, and I had to put forth some effort to get it done.

Then the whole deal tipped over. The big bed on the front end went way up in the air, and the smaller one that I was lying on tilted all the way the ground. The thing was like a giant teeter-totter, and I didn't know what was going on. Was the shit collapsing?? I heard Toney gasp and I jumped to the floor, which caused the camper to crash back down to earth with a sickening, bone-jarring racket.

Holy crap.

I was sure I'd damaged something vital, but I think we got away with it. We opened it back up, did a thorough inspection, and everything seemed normal. And as soon as we realized we were in the clear, we both started laughing hysterically, and couldn't stop for a while.

I am the real-life Homer Simpson.

-- On Saturday I returned to our neighborhood dive bar for the first time in several months. Again they were serving up frosty pints of Yuengling lager for two bucks each, every other one free. How do they even turn a profit?? I feel almost guilty drinking there.

When I arrived there were three or four people sitting at one end of the bar, all huddled around a big brood mare who looked like she was wearing a neck brace. She clearly fancies herself the Queen of the Bar and is apparently always in attendance. Every single time I've gone she's been seated in the same place, holding court with her cigs and boisterousness.

I planted myself on a stool all the way at the other end of the bar, by myself, and told the bartender to open up the Yuengling pipeline. As I nursed my vessel of golden elixir, I checked the place out again, and noticed that the bubble gum machine that looked like it had spent considerable time on the bottom of a lake was now gone. What the hell, man?? I'm pretty sure that nothing much has changed in that dump since the Nixon administration. Yet they'd removed my favorite feature in less than six months. Wotta rip-off.

While I worked on my second pint, I overheard a member of the Queen's court tell a disturbing story. He was an old guy, probably in his seventies, and wearing a fishing hat.

He said that years ago he'd been infatuated with a woman who had "incredible breasts." He'd see her at his favorite bar all the time, and lust after her in silence. Finally, on a night when he was extra drunk, he made his move. And to his surprise it worked out well for him. He ended up back at her apartment, making out with her on the couch.

Shocked at his good fortune, he frantically helped her out of her blouse and bra, and was prepared to see her "legendary tits" for the first time. The only problem was, he was so drunk he saw four of them. And it rattled him so much, he couldn't perform.

I experienced a full-body shiver, but the court thought it was hilarious. I looked over and the Queen had her head thrown back, and great puffs of smoke were coming out of her mouth as she laughed. Sweet Jesus.

A few minutes later a gravelly-voiced woman came in, with wet just-out-of-the-shower hair, and took a seat near me. She ordered a beer and a shot of something, and announced to everyone, "I need to pee," before heading off to the can.

And that's when I got the hell out of there. Ol' Wet Hair felt like a talker to me, and I didn't need any of that action. So I hit the highway.

Always an interesting experience, though.

-- And I had two more items that I wanted to mention today, but they'll have to wait. I'll leave you now with the cover of Friday's New York Post, which made me laugh.

Thanks to Brad for forwarding it to me, and also for suggesting, a really great internet radio station. You'll notice a small ad for them at the top of this page, and you should check 'em out if you're so inclined. Both the main broadcast and their vintage channel are unusually good.

See ya tomorrow. 

June 9, 2006

-- I was flipping through my Big Book of Comedy Ideas last night, trying to decide on a subject for today's update, and felt a twinge of panic. I got nothing here, almost literally nothing.... I don't even understand most of the remaining "ideas." One just says carpet. The crap?

But way back near the front of the book I came across a scribbled two-word notation that saved the day. It said school assemblies, and I think I can do something with that. I decided on it early enough for there to be a full gestation period, and I believe I'm ready to go.

So let's get to it, shall we?

-- During my twelve-year public school career I sat through lots of far-from-memorable assemblies. Many were so-called pep rallies for upcoming basketball or football games, where the cheerleaders would cheer and the band would band together, or whatever. Zzzzzzz. 

A few were supposed to be "whimsical" performances by some school-sanctioned club or other, and almost inevitably featured boys dressed as girls, with outsize balloon breasts and much sashaying, etc. High comedy. It seemed mildly homoerotic then, and still does today....

But a few were actually memorable, and I've jotted down the five or six that jump immediately to mind....

-- I remember a freaky old man coming to our school to talk to us about the health benefits of eating herbs and roots and whatnot. He called himself Catfish or Sea Bass or something, and supposedly lived in a hole. Seriously... that's what he said, a hole. 

The dude ate nothing but berries and lawn clippings and such, and fancied himself an expert on all things natural. He even appeared on Letterman, back during the NBC days. He told Dave that unless your urine is crystal clear, "you're dying." And Dave looked at the camera, made a face, and tugged at his collar in mock concern. Do any of you remember this man? He scared the living shit out of me.

-- During high school the entire student body was assembled together in the "little theater" for reasons unknown, and suddenly there was a rock band onstage. The hell?? They played "Sweet Home Alabama" and a few other songs, and were pretty darn good. But why were they there? None of it made any sense. This was school, after all, and there's no fun allowed in school; it's well-known. 

After they played several classic rock tunes, and had everyone whipped into a frenzy, the lead singer invited us to a full concert that night at 7:30. Still confused, we filed out and went back to class.

And that night a bunch of us returned to the little theater to see the show -- and it was all Jesus talk, beginning to end. They were traveling rock n roll evangelists or some such thing, and whetted our appetites with Skynyrd and Foghat, before dropping the bomb. Wotta rip-off.

Can you imagine such a thing in 2006? They'd probably be thrown into prison.

-- One time a couple of government officials (of unknown origin) came to our high school to talk to us about the evils of vandalism. They were wearing black suits, carried brief cases, and seemed rather severe. And while they were inside the gym talking to us, somebody vandalized their car. Is that not excellent?

-- Also during high school we were subjected to a young new gym teacher that was obsessed with wrestling. He showed us all the moves, and made us wrestle in class, and the whole nine yards. He'd pair us up, supposedly by weight, and I always had to wrestle a really tall black guy named Ziggy. And I use the term "wrestle" loosely, because I'd basically just lie down on the mat and let him pin me. I mean, seriously... Jeff Kay doesn't rassle.

But this new gym teacher also tried to get us all fired up about the wrestling team, and made arrangements for one of their meets to take place during school hours. It was some sort of much-anticipated grudge match with another local school, Poca High. He probably thought that the student body would really get into it, and he'd single-handedly turn wrestling into a spectator sport in West Virginia.

The big event of the day was the face-off between the two big beefy mofos, the heavyweights or whatever they're called. Our guy, Ed K., was really big and good. But their guy was a monster. He was a massive immovable object, a towering wall of flab, known as The Poca Dot. He'd never been beaten, but he'd also never come up against anyone as good as Ed K. There was electricity in the air. Or something along those lines.

To make a long story short, Ed took down that curtain of beef and pinned his ass within a minute's time. And when the ref raised our guy's arm in the air, dozens and dozens of wieners came flying out of the stands and landed near the gasping Dot. The wrestling-promoting gym coach started running around waving his arms, trying to make it stop. But the hotdogs kept raining down.

The best part: the guys who orchestrated this display of school spirit had gone above and beyond the call of duty. They'd carved heads in the hotdogs, so they'd look more like penises. Some had even been run through the home ec microwave, to make them plump-up. Good stuff.

-- And believe it or not, I'm all out of time here, with four more to go. So I started with nothing, and ended with too much.... Go figure. I'm going to hand over the reigns to lakrfool now, and drag my sorry ass to work.

If you have any school assembly memories to share, use the comments link below.

And I'll see you folks on Monday. 

June 8, 2006

-- For the past couple of months I've been seeing a KFC commercial (that's Kentucky Fried Chicken for those of you who aren't hip to the cool new street lingo, and for you folks in West Virginia, it's The Colonel), that gets on my last nerve. It shows a woman walk proudly into a room, place a bucket of chicken in the middle of a table, then proceed to act as if she's the reincarnation of June Cleaver herself.

The kids and the Dad (semi-retarded, of course) come running, and commence to ripping and tearing poultry meat off the bone, like a pack of wild mountain dogs, and the mother says, with a loving glint in her eye, "That's music to my ears."

Yeah, great accomplishment, sister. You went through a drive-through. That action certainly earns you the right to pat yourself on the back, and toot your own horn. Where's the freaking trophy? Why you're the mother of the year!

But you know what would've been even sweeter? If you'd sprung for a few lousy sides. Like maybe a tub of those smashed taters with the salt gravy? Or a little corn, at least. A greasy bucket of meat, bones, and ligaments is great. But can't you help a brother out with some side items? Goddamn.

Whatever. I hate it. The expression of pride on the woman's face makes me say things that the Secrets probably shouldn't hear.

-- And speaking of The Colonel, have you seen their latest menu item? It's a plastic bowl filled with mashed potatoes, corn, chicken nuggets, salt gravy, and cheese -- all mixed together in some sort of questionable bitches brew. I ain't shittin' ya; it's real. It reminds me of the stuff I used to eat during my poor-ass Greensboro years, like a plate of spaghetti with Campbell's Bean With Bacon soup as the "sauce."

Have any of you tried this KFC bastardization bowl yet? If so, we need a review. And if not, I'll get one this weekend, and do it myself. And while I'm at it, I might swing by Taco Bell and pick up one of their new berets of beef, or whatever they call them.

Is it just me, or is fast food starting to get a bit bizarre?

-- And since we're talking about commercials.... How do you think I could go about securing a part in an infomercial? I'm especially interested in the black & white segments that illustrate "the old way" of doing something -- before this wonderful new invention came on the market.

Know what I mean? It's the part where a person is shown cutting a tomato with a painful grimace on their face, then suddenly lunge their arm forward and the blade tumbles out of their hand and falls to the floor. Or there will be a guy raking leaves, again sporting a Gary Shandling grimace, just shredding the living crap out of a trash bag. Sometimes he'll also be shown with two or three massive sacks on his back, wiping away the sweat, then falling on his ass in the yard.

And that's what I want to specialize in: the black & white "old way" sections of infomercials. Any suggestions or tips? I'd like to get the ball rolling on this.

-- This probably won't mean much to those of you who didn't grow up near Charleston, WV, but check out the cool baseball my friend Steve sent me. The Charleston Charlies, baby! It's hillbilly nostalgia at its finest.

-- Here are a couple of cool new Smoking Fish sightings, sent in my Surf Reporter Jim. And by the way, he also wrote the Wikipedia article that's linked below the first pic. Awesome. Thanks Jim, I appreciate the effort. You guys keep 'em coming, OK?

-- And finally, a Stealing Clive Bull's Topics topic.... What's it gonna be for you, burial or cremation?

I'm going to go the burn 'em up route, because there's nothing creepier than a funeral. I don't want a casket, open or otherwise, and don't need people standing around in ill-fitting suits, or any of that horribleness. Why would I want to put my family or friends through such an ordeal? No, just load me into the oven like a big-a pizza pie, and hit a happy hour somewhere. I insist.

Also, if you have any funny cremation stories to tell, I'd like to hear those, too. Toney once helped a friend move, and one of the boxes she picked up was marked KITCHEN STUFF, TELEPHONE, DAD. Her father's urn was inside, packed away like any other household item. Heh.

And that'll do it for today, boys and girls. More of this crapola tomorrow.

See ya then. 

June 7, 2006

-- So I was mowing the grass last night and started thinking about the Steely Dan concert that Steve and I will be attending in August. I don't go to too many shows these days, since I'm old and broken-down, and have a tendency to get a little over-excited when I do. 

But for several years live music was one of the most important things in my life (hey, immaturity is the fountain of youth), and I guess there's still a bit of the old passion buried somewhere beneath the scar tissue?

Yeah, I'm fully aware that a Steely Dan concert in 2006 isn't exactly like seeing Cheap Trick in 1980. I know that there probably won't be an abundance of scary-ass holler-dwellers there with glassy eyes and muscle shirts, hoisting plastic cups of piss-warm Budweiser, and screaming, "ROCK N ROLL!" before exploding in a spectacular vomit supernova.

And I seriously doubt that I'll go to the bathroom and find a hundred guys shoe-horned inside, all pissing simultaneously into anything even mildly bowl-shaped: a trashcan, a sink, a floor drain, a stranger's back pocket....

No, it'll probably just be a bunch of middle-aged yuppies standing around in golf attire, sipping white wine and talking about the improvements they're doing to their beach house at "the shore."

But I don't care. I like the music, consider Donald Fagen to be a freaky little mad scientist (that's a compliment), and plan to have a good time. I'll be confident in knowing that I hate wine, couldn't give two shits about golf, and wouldn't be caught dead in a pastel-colored polo shirt. And I'm not even certain I know what "the shore" means. Is that some pretentious way of saying "the beach?" Whatever.

It got me to thinking though.... Steely Dan was at the height of their popularity in the mid to late 1970s. And that was roughly thirty years ago. So, when I was seventeen, in 1980, if I'd gone to see an artist who was popular thirty years before, it would've been somebody from the pre-rock 'n' roll era(!). Like Bing Crosby or Patti Page or somebody. And that freaks me out a little.

Do you younglings out there view Steely Dan as some dusty old relic from a forgotten era, the way I would've looked at Rosemary Clooney or Perry Como back in the day?? Fuck!

Here's a list of the most popular songs from 1950. Really weird, man. Were the Mills Brothers the Steely Dan of 1980? And is Cheap Trick the Mills Brothers of 2006? I just don't know, but it's making me a little sad for some reason....

-- And speaking of bathrooms at rock concerts, can you imagine having to take a crap in such a setting? I once had a nightmare in which I was hit with sudden-onset diarrhea at an early-1980's ZZ Top show, and woke up with my heart racing and sweat cascading down my face. Completely horrifying.

Do you have any arena rock bathroom memories to share? 'Cause I'd sure like to hear them. Use the comments link below.

And I know this is a short update, but that's the way it goes sometimes. There's always tomorrow, right?

Have a great day, and I'll see you then. 

June 6, 2006

-- I'm listening to Green Mind by Dinosaur Jr. this morning. It's a perfect way to start the day. And, man, there's no other album that takes me back to my Atlanta record weasel years like Green Mind. Oh, it has the power. As I type this I feel like ol' "Hi-Fi Set" is seated to my right, and Scott the Porn King is up in the corner bitching about something. Always with the bitching... I'm expecting the operations manager to bust in here any minute, deep-throating a Baby Ruth bar and acting all exasperated. I just know it's going to happen.

A few days ago I mentioned how certain smells can transport me to another place and time. Well, same goes for certain CDs. My entire stay at Peaches Records in Greensboro is wrapped up in the first BoDeans album, for instance. Whenever I slap that thing on, I can almost literally smell the incense that we sold there.

Just thought you'd want to know.

-- On Sunday Toney and I went to five or six open houses around town. We hadn't done that in a while, and it's a lot of fun. I find that there's voyeuristic value in rooting around some stranger's house, acting as if we're interested in buying it. Of course, by now all the realtors recognize us, and know our game.... But still, it's a good way to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon.

We checked out a townhouse that was listed at $262,000. I like the idea of a townhouse, theoretically, since I wouldn't have to mow the grass or any of that crapola. But at the end of the day, I think they'd start to feel like glorified apartments. This one was priced so high though, I wondered if it would prove my theory wrong.

It didn't. It was really nice, but also very small. I felt in my bones that it was over-priced by about $100K, and was located in a community that is apparently populated exclusively by senior citizens. I saw one old dude on his driveway beating the living shit out of a rubberized torso punching bag, delivering body-blow after body-blow. His headband appeared to be the elastic waistband chopped off an old pair of Fruit of the Loom underwear. I wondered if it was one of Phil Hendrie's regular callers, Lloyd Bonafide?

I think we'll pass, for several reasons.We also visited a massive house near the high school, that is being offered at $529,000. It has 3800 square feet of living space and an attic that's air conditioned and ready to be finished -- which would add an additional 1700 square feet(!). Plus full basement, and a garage so big you could play Wiffle Ball inside. 

We walked around the yard and I was stopped in my tracks when we came upon the big twin central air units, just a-humming with the effort of making wonderful, beautiful cold air. I tried not to be too obvious about it, but I had to wipe away a tear.

And the ball-busting part of it all? The list price on this mansion is almost EXACTLY the asking price of our old house in California, which was smaller than the unfinished attic in the Pennsylvania house. If we'd only hung on for a few more years....

One of the things we also like to do at these open houses, is act like the couples on House Hunters. We say things like, "Oh look, double sinks!!" and "Wow, the dining room is right off the kitchen!" and "This room is so bright and airy!!" Toney always snickers in the master bedroom, and says with a mock-mischievous tone, "Well, this closet is big enough for my stuff, but I don't know what you're going to do with yours." Yuk yuk yuk.

Hey, what can I say? It's one of our hobbies.

-- Here's a map of LOST connections that makes my brain hurt. Toney's been poring over this thing like a jeweler with a sack of diamonds, but I just don't have the attention-span required.

-- And here's an excellent Paul Westerberg interview from the latest issue of Newsweek. See you in the fall?? Did he really say that? Sweet sainted mother of Johnny Paul Jason!!

-- This is the design illustration of a proposed Barney Fife statue to be erected in Mount Airy, NC. If, of course, they can raise $35,000.... Whatever. Once this baby goes up, we're going to need a Smoking Fish pic, right away. It's not even open for debate.

-- And finally, today is 6/6/06, the devil's Thanksgiving, or whatever. I can almost smell the brimstone.... Or is that PopTarts? I'm just not sure. 

Today you can catch the remake of The Omen, lock into a thirty-year mortgage at 6.66%, and observe the National Day of Slayer.

But what about the parade? Surely they're having a parade in hell today? And if so, what dead celebrities are on-hand? Who will be waving and smiling from atop the flaming float of eternal torment? Who will be the grand marshall? I have a few ideas, of course, but will leave the speculation to you.

So what do you say? Who do you think is in attendance at the big 6/6/06 parade on the main drag of hell this morning?

See ya tomorrow. I hope. 

June 5, 2006

-- Last week it was soul-crushingly hot up here, and now it's turned almost nipply. In fact, I broke out the Scrote-watching blanket on Sunday (The Sopranos) and Saturday (Jaws), and it was all good. I don't know how the temperatures can plunge thirty or so degrees in a single day, but I'll take it. Pass the beer nuts.

-- On Friday it was still a little too hot for the Scroter, but I watched Scream that night, off the DVR. Lotsa fun, especially the girl in the garage door...

I also enjoyed checking out all the cutting-edge technology in that flick. It was made in 1996, which seems like only yesterday to an old burn-out such as myself. But they were still using computers with black screens and green letters. And people were running around hollering, "Do any of you have a cellular telephone?! Please, we really need a cellular telephone!!"

Hilarious. It sounds as dated as my old boss in Atlanta, who insisted on calling his home stereo a "hi-fi set."

Monica from Friends said she had one of these amazing newfangled gadgets inside her van, and proceeded to hoist a massive carton of cigarettes-sized hunk of electronics off the console, complete with Darth Vader light saber antenna. It looked like it took all her strength to punch in the numbers, and if the call had lasted for more than thirty seconds, some sort of leather head harness would've surely been required to keep the cellular telephone up to her ear. The shit was like a Vietnam War field radio.

Yeah, it was good fun, for several reasons. I'd seen it before, of course, but one of the benefits of mild brain damage is that you can watch the same things over and over again, and it's new every time. I had no idea who the killer was (I ain't shittin' ya), and enjoyed the ride.

I don't know why, but I'm in the mood for goofy summer blockbuster fun. I watched Jaws on Saturday, for the fourth or fifth time, and it never gets old. "We're going to need a bigger boat." I love that...

Any suggestions for next weekend? I'm especially interested in anything from the comically-oversized electronics genre. Thanks in advance for your feedback.

-- Check it out, the latest addition to the Bunker Collection. Patience pays off, once again.

-- One day last week the oldest Secret came home from school all jacked-up about smoke bombs. I kinda wish he'd come home jacked-up about literature or science or something, but who am I fooling? I remember being in elementary school, and looking longingly at the displays of half-assed Grade C "fireworks" they always sold at hip cutting-edge stores around town, such as Revco and Rite-Aid, during the run-up to July 4 every year. And I wasn't exactly daydreaming about Herman Melville either.

There's always sparklers, of course, and snap 'n' pops, and the lame-as-hell miniature champagne bottles with a tampon string that you yank, causing the bottom to pop open and a clump of confetti to roll out. Those are the mainstays, along with the big cones that emit a "shower of sparks."

But the best of all Grade C fireworks is also the rarest: the smoke bomb.

We had a lot of fun with those things back in the day. I remember Rocky lighting one on the windowsill outside of Steve's bedroom, in front of a whirling box fan, and sending an ample load of egg fart smoke straight into the house. Good times.

But just as it was in the old days, they're hard to find. One of the Secret's friends had obviously tracked some down, and had been spinning intoxicating tales about them at school. So I was required, by Dad Law, to find some as well. It took me roughly an hour.

On Saturday afternoon we went to the backyard, and set off eighteen of those babies. At first we were doing them one at a time, but quickly graduated to three or four together. The Secrets wanted to set an entire box on fire, and crazy shit like that, but I wouldn't allow it. And when they were all gone, they started begging me to buy more. I just shuffled back into the house, opened a Rolling Rock, and farted to the East. That was my answer to their request.

Yesterday, Sunday, one of their friends was hanging around, and they started working on me again about the smoke bombs. I was in a good mood, so I took them over to the store, gave them a five dollar bill, and told 'em to knock themselves out. 

When we got home I warned them that they'd better use them "the correct way," or I'd confiscate 'em. (I sounded shockingly like my own Dad.) They promised they would, and the three of them went to the back yard. And to their credit, they didn't try any craziness. They just laid them on a tree stump, and lit them. 

But there was a breeze, and the smoke went straight up, took a radical turn to the right, then went directly into Half-Shirt's upstairs bedroom windows! Oh shit. I considered telling them to quit, but decided against it. That dude hadn't earned such considerations.

So the boys just kept lighting off the bombs, one after the other, and eventually I heard Halfy's wife start screeching, "What's on fire?!" 

It was like something off cartoons: the smoke seemed to almost seek their open upstairs windows. I was laughing my ass off, inside the house. After a while I heard Half-Shirt holler, "Goddammit, just close the windows! The whole house smells like freakin' eggs!!"

I laughed so hard I literally got light-headed; I kinda wish Rocky could've been there to witness the whole thing.

And that'll do it for today, my friends. More of this ridiculousness tomorrow. See ya then. 

June 2, 2006

-- Toney recently purchased a big ass bucket of butter. Or margarine, or whatever. The thing is so large it takes two hands to hoist it off the counter, and she must've bought it at a supply house that caters to restaurant chains and/or the armed forces. Every time I see it, I laugh. But the thing is... I can never find it inside the refrigerator, despite the fact that it's comically oversized.

I know it seems improbable, but I think there's something spooky about that butter bucket. It has special powers, I'm telling you, and can blend into its surroundings. Again and again I find myself bent at the waist, peering into the fridge, trying to locate that giant tub of ridiculousness. And I experience a full-body shiver.

How could it be possible? I'm serious, how?? It's just one big butter-substitute optical illusion mind-fuck, man. And I don't like that.

-- Do you ever smell something that transports you, like a scene from Star Trek, to another place and time? I was mowing the grass on Sunday, and there was a section of the backyard that smelled exactly like a brand-new freshly-printed Sgt. Rock comic book. It's true. Suddenly I was standing inside Bowen's pharmacy in 1976 -- an ugly thirteen year old checking out the new comics on the spinner rack. It was amazing.

Also, my office is located deep inside a massive, sprawling manufacturing plant, and there's all sorts of chemicals and solvents being used there at any given time (I try not to think about it). As I hoof it to the cafeteria every day, I sometimes encounter "familiar" smells. There's one particular spot that smells just like the Dunbar Bowling Alley: a thick stew of floor wax, french fry grease, cigarette smoke, and ass. Sometimes I pause, close my eyes, and just breathe it in. And I'm sent hurtling, end over end, back in time. ...Which might be part of the reason that people tend to keep their distance from me at work.

A few days ago I also passed through a very distinct Lincoln Log pocket. I quite enjoyed that as well, resulting cancers be damned.

-- I watched three Netflix movies last weekend: The Family Stone, Capote, and Cinderella Man. In that order. It is my opinion that the first was bad, the second was good (despite the Hannah-Barbera novelty voice), and the third was great.

I'd been resisting Cinderella Man, because I figured it would be some long drawn-out "epic," calculated to bring Opie a few more awards from insufferable Hollywood pricks. But I finally gave in, after I noticed that folks were starting to make references to it in casual conversation, like with Full Metal Jacket and that sort of thing. I don't much enjoy being out of the popular culture loop (even though I am), so I bit the bullet. And I was shocked at how good it was. Yeah, it was too long, but I didn't really notice. Great flick.

But I am a little pissed at Netflix right now (I'm Netpissed), because I suspect they're milking the holiday on Monday, and using it as an excuse to drag their collective ass. I mailed back two discs on Saturday, and another on Monday. The two weren't received until yesterday, Thursday!, and the one still hasn't arrived. I call bullshit on that bullshit.

They're starting to act like our garbage men, who seem to jump at any opportunity to cast away their regular schedule, and unleash full-blown trash collection anarchy. Know what I'm saying?

In any case, seen any good movies lately?

-- Our mailman was just kind enough to deliver me a crisp new copy of this CD. Andy wasn't very happy about it, but I am. The dude's the shit, as they say. And I'm not talking about the mailman, although I'm sure he's a perfectly nice fellow as well. 

-- Yesterday I was listening to AC/DC on my way home from work, and Toney called my cell phone and asked if I could pick up the oldest Secret at swimming practice. I said no problem, and recalibrated my inner compass.

I swung by the pool in time to watch the last few minutes of practice, and saw some high school kid strutting around in one of those tiny Canadian-style bikini briefs. Yeah, it appeared that the doctor did a fine job with the circumcision, back in the day.... Wotta douche.

After that display was mercifully over, we hit the road and my CD was still playing. Without really noticing it, "Big Balls" came on, and I was afraid the Secret was going to go into a full-on convulsion of laughter. He thought that shit was the absolute pinnacle of comedy, and was still talking about it hours later.

I didn't really enjoy it as much, if you want the truth. All that chanting about swinging balls and whatnot... It was giving me horrible flashbacks of fifteen minutes before, and I almost crashed my car into a culvert.

-- I'm off from work today, which is why this update is a bit late. I took a vacation day, just because I can. And I'm starting to feel the pull of the deck already....

What follows is part of an actual real-life conversation that Toney and I had at the front-end of a very similar three-day weekend, a few years back. I've mentioned it before, but I like it and it's my website, so there.

Toney: You know what we should make this weekend?
Me: Love? Sweet sweet love?
Toney: No, deviled eggs.

Have a great weekend, folks. See ya on Monday. 

June 1, 2006

-- On Monday it was really hot outside, and somebody (ahem) suggested we go somewhere for obscenely large milkshakes. I was thinking about the ice cream shop near our house, but one of the Secrets asked if we could go to Johnny Rockets. Hey, fine wit' me; I'm down with Mr. Rockets. They just opened a new location inside the mall here, and I'd been wanting to check it out. So it was all coming together....

The kids and I ordered chocolate shakes, the classic, and Toney opted for a root beer float. While we waited the entire staff performed Aretha Franklin's "Respect" in the middle of the floor, complete with exaggerated hand gestures and much ass-wiggling. It was kind of embarrassing, and I couldn't make eye-contact with anyone until it was over.

Finally, the waiter brought us our order, and it was good. I made a conscious decision to pace myself and not suck it straight down; I wanted to savor the thing and make it last. But the Secrets made no such pact with themselves, and almost immediately it was time to transfer their surplus overflow from the metal canister into their glass, um, glass.

You know what I'm talking about, right? They give you the shake, and they give you the metal mixing canister with a little extra in it, as a bonus?

Right. I used a spoon to dislodge the thick shake material from the bottom of the surplus holder, and something strange broke loose and dropped into the youngest Secret's glass. The hell? I poked at it and broke it apart, and it looked like a slice of orange. Baffled, Toney began inspecting the oldest Secret's overflow, and it had one in it too. What in the sweet and sour heck??

I tried to get the waiter's attention, but it wasn't easy. The place was like the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Finally I snared him, and showed him the mystery clumps in the boys' milkshakes (mine didn't have one, btw). He stared at it for a couple of beats, and said, "That's not an orange, it's apple pie."

Oh, OK. For a second I was starting to get confused....

He said they sell an apple pie shake(??), and something must've gone awry during the preparation of our order. He asked us to hold on, and he'd be right back. 

About a minute later a man who looked like Goldfinger arrived at our table, and began apologizing profusely. He was sporting a Fu Manchu sweat moustache (that I was concerned might sling off his lip and fly in our direction), and told us that everything was on the house, etc. etc. He seemed sincere and nice enough.

So, no big deal. They probably had some zitster back there on shake duty, who couldn't give one tiny seahorse-shaped ass droplet about the quality of his work. Been there, done that, as they say. In fact, I was thankful that it was just apple pie, and not a tiny seahorse-shaped ass droplet. Ya know?

My big question is, what is an apple pie shake?? Do they put an entire slice in there?! I'd never heard of such a thing. I'm picturing somebody sucking with all their might, trying to work a length of crust through a straw. None of it makes any sense to me...

I believe I'll just stick with the classics, thank you very much.

-- I got a very late start this morning, so I'm gonna cut this thing short and leave you with a topic stolen straight off yesterday's Clive Bull show. It's very simple, but led to some interesting calls; maybe it'll work the same kind of magic here?

And the questions is.... what do you have in your pockets, right now?

I have eighteen dollars and a pile of credit cards, my driver's license, various grocery store "loyalty" cards, and so on. I don't carry a wallet, haven't for years, and just stuff everything into my front left pocket. 

Wallets, for some reason, seem a bit gay to me; it's nothing but an ass purse, really; may as well carry a European man-bag. Just the word wallet is kinda poofter, in fact. Say it out loud if you don't believe me.... Hey, we all have our hangups.

Anyway, what's in your pockets?

See ya next time.