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Is that an erection I smell?

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

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   The State of My Fat Ass
                                          July 2002

July 24, 2002

-- On our way home from Philadelphia on Saturday we jumped off the Turnpike for a Coke, and I was again amazed at what a huge industry pissing has become. Between Philly and Scranton there are these massive Urine Temples, sprawling complexes that include souvenir shops, ice cream parlors, a food court, a slightly more fashionable sit-down restaurant, arcades, and other crap -- all built around the tried-and-true concept of "people have gotta pee, why not sell 'em something afterwards?" It's an amazing thing to behold, they're like Brazilian Piss Carnivals at this point. It makes you proud to be an American.

Anyway, Toney went for the Cokes while I proved the first part of their business model to be ironclad (in this case urgently so). But during our quarter-mile hike from the outer reaches of the parking lot I begged her to exercise a little restraint in her soft drink purchases. We'd both been complaining of severe thirst, I think our innards were encrusted with some kind of weird baseball residue, and I've seen her when she gets this way. I didn't want or need a drink so large you have to hold it with both hands. Through experience I've learned that it's mighty difficult to maneuver a car with a mop bucket of soda sloshing around in your lap, and that the drink-holders will only open so far: they have a finite expanse. She assured me that I had nothing to worry about, and we parted ways in front of the bathrooms, which were roaring like goddamn Niagara.

Of course I don't have to tell you what happened. When I emerged from the den of dicks Toney was standing at the McDonald's counter in front of two comically oversized novelty glasses of Coca-Cola, which required special customized straws roughly two feet in length. "What in the hell?!" I said, and she tried to convince me they were "mediums." Yeah, right. And I'm Linda Lavin, TV's Alice. They were shaped like old fashioned Coke glasses and were constructed of some heavy-duty polymer, complete with a dome-like lid as big around as a saucer. I wondered if the Army Corp of Engineers had been involved in the design. I felt like an idiot even carrying the thing. People were staring, and I think a little kid actually pointed at us. I just looked down at the ground and made a run for it, attempting to cover my face like criminals on the news.

When we finally got to the car, and placed the gargantuan vessels into the cup holders, half of my field of vision was blocked by soda. I had to look around our drinks to drive! The things wouldn't even stand straight up; they had to lean to the sides, because of their exaggerated girth. And the straws nearly reached the bottom of the rear-view mirror. Goddamn.

Good thing she didn't get the large ones.

-- Toney thinks our dog Andy is depressed. I don't know what he could be depressed about, he lives like a king, lying around on sofas and eating steak and shit. But he does seem a tad melancholy. She thinks we need to get him a playmate, another dog to romp around with. Yeah, that'll never happen, if I have anything to say about it. We're not running a frickin' doggerie here. Anyway, I have a better idea. I'm thinking of buying him a flock of sheep! He's a border collie, so he could spend his days bossing them around, plus they'd keep our grass neatly trimmed. It's a win-win! Pretty smart, huh? Where does a guy buy a flock of sheep anyway? Is that something Wal-Mart might have? Maybe in their garden center?

-- We saw a fat chick at the mall wearing one of those short shirts that leaves your stomach uncovered, and I'm almost sure she had a billiard ball in her navel. She had a lot of tattoos and stuff, and definitely had something embedded deep in her belly button. I think it was a twelve ball. At least that was the one in front...

-- Finally, here are a few interesting links for your surfing enjoyment:

This guy has put together an exhaustive list of albums that he feels haven't stood the test of time. There's something here to piss off every member of the family. Tim?! Is he fuckin' nuts??

Here are some great porn-store clerk stories. At least I don't have to dodge semen at my job. Not generally anyway.

And here's a piece of artwork I'm sorry I missed out on.

This chick has scanned her entire body, top to bottom. Check it out. Way better than Nobscan!

And this is an event that cries out for a Surf Report correspondent. Rocky? Lucas? What do you say??

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


July 22, 2002

The baseball game on Saturday was good.

We met Toney's cousin, and her husband, at a Best Buy store off an agreed-upon Pennsylvania Turnpike exit, then followed them to Veterans Stadium. In the parking lot of the store he handed me our tickets, and a printed set of directions to the ballpark, "in case we get separated." He's Philadelphia, born and bred, and likes to show off his knowledge of the city, which is fine by me. The more information the better, right? No way I was going to allow myself to feel patronized, get all worked up and ruin a day at a Major League baseball game. I appreciated the gesture, under the circumstances.

When we got to the stadium, he backed into his parking space (a personal pet peeve of mine), then told me I should've done the same. He explained that at large sporting events, such as this, it is sometimes difficult to get out of the parking lot -- especially if you have to back out into traffic. "There's not much love in the City of Brotherly Love," he said. The sheer passion of his argument swayed me, and I got back in the car and backed into the parking space, like a goddamn idiot. Afterwards I felt like I'd kissed a man, or something. What the hell was I doing?! It went against everything I'm about.

After a brief history lesson on "The Vet", and a quick discussion about the the Eagles' new stadium being built next-door, he took off walking at an incredibly accelerated clip. At first I couldn't figure out what was going on, but I guess it's just the way he normally walks. Toney and I struggled to keep up, and her cousin was doing only slightly better. I started wondering if he might be the starting pitcher for the Phillies or something, and needed to get to the bullpen to warm up. Goddamn. By the time we reached the entrance I thought my heart was going to blow up; sweat was pouring off of me and I was gasping like a trout in a bucket. The shit was insane.

The crusty old bastard at the gate took one look at me and an expression of utter contempt overtook his face. "No backpacks!" he spat, then waved his arm for me to step aside and allow the people through who are respectful and smart enough to actually follow the rules. "It says it right there on the sign, buddy. No backpacks!!" he hollered, after telling the backpackless patrons to enjoy the game. I told him I was sorry I couldn't read the sign from the parking lot, but I got the feeling he wasn't interested in anything I had to say. He thrust a fistful of clear plastic bags into my hand, and told me to remove everything from my backpack. "Take everything out and put it in these bags, then roll up the backpack itself and put it in another bag," he ordered, in a disgusted tone. And I did as I was told. I kept repeating in my head: Major League baseball, Major League baseball...

With my idiotic collection of sacks in hand, we began sprinting again, in an effort to keep up with Mr. Philly, who had already taken off like a rocket in search of our seats. Fuck. What's with this guy?

We finally got situated, and the tickets were, as predicted, excellent. Here was our view. I just sat there for a few minutes, catching my breath and allowing the fire engine hue of my face to subside a bit. I exchanged knowing glances with another poor schmuck carrying the Plastic Bags of Disgrace, and that made me feel a little better. At least I wasn't alone; I had brothers there.

The game was great. The teams wore vintage uniforms, the Braves from '74 and the Phillies from '80, and Atlanta ultimately won -- as it should be. Andruw Jones made this incredible catch, and it was all really exciting. I love going to baseball games. There's just something about it. The crowd, the smells, the sounds... It all adds up to a perfect way to spend an afternoon.

Around the third inning I took out my cell phone and called my friend Tim in West Virginia, as tradition dictates. He's a baseball fanatic and I always call to rub it in whenever I'm doing something baseball-related. He really enjoyed it when I called him from the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown a couple of years ago, and I thought he'd appreciate this as well. Unfortunately though, he wasn't home on Saturday when I called, and I don't think his wife "gets" me. I think she mistakes me for an asshole or something.  Can you imagine? In any case, she had the same tone as the backpack man.  

Besides the excitement of the game, there was quite a bit of interesting activity in the stands as well. At one point a group of cameramen and Phillies personnel started swarming around a man and woman seated a few rows over, and their images popped up on the scoreboard. The guy dropped to one knee and theatrically presented the woman with a diamond ring, as a collective "Ahhh" rose up from the crowd. I was hoping she'd shake her head, and voice the words "Are you fucking kidding me?" but I guess she actually let him get away with such a retarded stunt. We should've banded together and beaten him mercilessly. In retrospect I fear we let her down, as a society.

And late in the game a foul ball landed very near my feet, which scared the living hell out of me. I wasn't like those guys on TV you see diving across rows to try to get a souvenir, I was running for cover. People get killed by line drives, it happens, and being killed doesn't really fit into my current plans. Those other fools can risk broken bones and brain damage for a five-dollar ball, I'll be hiding behind my wife, thank you very much. "Is it over yet, honey?"

Yes, it was a blast. We need to do it more often. My only complaint was the heat. It was incredibly hot, and I was convinced I'd stand up and have a big sweaty ass for a stadium full of people to see. I was afraid they might put it on the JumboTron as I waddled up the steps, a big heart-shaped stain on the back of my shorts, eliciting peals of laughter. But other than that, it was a great day. I recommend it highly. Just take a lot of money with you -- the beers are $5.25 each! Sweet Maria!!

-- And speaking of great days (and beer), check it out. I got these on Friday, and I'm frickin' psyched.

I have a lot more, but I'm gonna stop right there. Check back on Wednesday for... the rest of the story.

July 18, 2002

-- I won an eBay auction for a Beautiful South CD a couple of weeks ago, and the seller lives in Liverpool, England. For some crazy reason I felt uneasy doing the transaction via credit card (I had visions of swarthy men in grass huts on an uncharted island in the Caribbean, outside the jurisdiction of all civilized countries, tapping into a fat cable running across the ocean floor, and hijacking the $500 available credit on my Visa -- or worse, doing something to damage my impeccable eBay rating! I'm not sure why, but everyone was wearing headphones in these visions, like ham radio operators...), so I asked the guy if I could send him an international money order. He was cool with that, and I went to the post office the next day to take care of it. I went on my lunch break, to the branch near my office, and told the woman at the counter what I needed.

"Jessup," she answered.

"Pardon?"

"The Jessup branch sells international money orders. It's not far from here."

She gave me convoluted directions which included the word "viaduct." I didn't like the sound that, since I'm not real clear on what it means. Viaduct? Sounds aquatic. The hell?

I did as she told me, and I eventually found the place, after getting lost for about ten minutes, and wondering if I was still in Pennsylvania. I worked to suppress a mild panic that was starting to bubble up inside me. How am I going to find my way back to work from here?! Wonder if my cell phone will even work in this place? Could the signal possibly get through?? And, good god, look at the people!

When I passed through the doors of the Jessup post office it was like I'd stepped out of a time machine, into 1943. There was a wall of PO boxes, constructed of wood(!), and an expanse of linoleum on which people had probably bitched about that bastard Calvin Coolidge. If I'd taken the time to look, there was undoubtedly a poster on the bulletin board urging us to turn in our bacon fat to our butchers, and do our part to fight The Fuhrer.

As soon as I said the words "international money order" I could see the woman get nervous.

"What country?"

"England."

She retreated to the back of the cluttered room, consulted a crumbling chart, and hesitantly returned to me. I had the feeling she was trying to decide whether or not to contact Tom Ridge at the Office of Homeland Security.

"Let me explain how this works," she began. Then she went on to tell me that I would need to give her the money and fill out some forms, it would all be forwarded to some accounting office somewhere, and within six weeks I should have my money order.

"Six weeks!?" I practically shouted. This is eBay we're talking about, sister, six weeks ain't gonna cut it.

"Well, they say six weeks, but it usually only takes four or five," she answered.

Incredible. I stormed out in a huff, leaving the 1943 of the Jessup post office, for the 1965 of Jessup itself. I jumped in my "rice-burning Jap crap" and sped back to work, not once seeing anything remotely resembling a viaduct. Don't tell anyone, but I may have said a few bad words along the way.

Back at the office I threw caution to the wind and paid for the CD through PayPal. It took me about, oh, two minutes. So there you go: government versus private industry. I'll refrain from making any political statements about the prospect of socialized medicine, and things like that, for fear of sounding like Pat Buchannon. But I'm thinking them. Oh, I'm thinking them... thoughts of kidney dialysis at the Jessup post office are dancing through my head.

Holy crap in a Bundt pan.

-- I haven't been doing too well in my ass-reduction project. I'm still not eating fast food, I take a nice low-fat lunch with me to work every day which often includes a large sack of celery, but I've become addicted to an obscure candy bar called Caramello. Damn, those things are good. I'm starting to wonder if they put trace amounts of heroin or something in them? Maybe OxyContin? I don't know, but they have them in the vending machines at work, and I can't stop thinking about them. They will probably be the source of my eventual downfall.

-- This is just too sad for words.

-- Have you been following the bizarre story about Ted Williams being frozen solid, following his death a week or so ago? Apparently one of his kids has a reputation for being an opportunistic little shit, and pushed to have his baseball legend father cryogenically preserved. The son supposedly forced his Dad to sign autographs, almost up to the minute of his death, because each was worth big bucks to collectors. ("Sign these papers, old man!!") Very strange. I wonder what he has planned for the body? Will he take it out on tour, and display it at baseball card shows? Will he dress it up in a Red Sox uniform and let people have their pictures taken with it? Will he allow people to rent it for an evening, as a conversation piece at parties? Will photos of it wearing a sombrero at frat parties begin to circulate on the internet? Will it appear in music videos, in body surfing sequences? If money starts getting tight will he start selling off the DNA, or perhaps body parts? You are bidding on the ring finger from the left hand of Ted Williams, Teddy Ballgame, the last player to bat .400... Bizarre.

That's all I have time for today, boys and girls. Gotta get to work. Shit's heating up there again, plus they have those candy bars... Toney and I are going to Philadelphia on Saturday to hook up with Toney's cousin and her husband. He's a big wheeler-dealer hotshot businessman, and he got us some tickets to Saturday's Phillies/Braves game. I haven't been following baseball much, but there's still nothing like spending a few hours at the ballpark. It should be fun! (Mmmm... hotdogs.) I'm sure the tickets are superb; we'll probably be sitting on the bench between Bobby Cox and Leo Mazzone. Mr. High Roller will see to it.

Have a great weekend, and if you hear about a fat middle-aged man being killed at Veteran's Stadium, after getting struck in the temple by an Andruw Jones line-drive, say a little prayer for me.

See ya.

July 15, 2002

-- I've got to do something about this website. It looks horrible; it's like something designed by a dairy cow with Downs Syndrome. Every time I see it I get depressed. The writing ain't going to get any better, I'm afraid (except I'm trying to reign in the ever-building tsunami of "fucks," as suggested by a loyal Surf Reporter who shall remain nameless -- he claims I'm currently clocking in at around 17 fpp's, fucks per paragraph), but the layout is clearly in need of a radical overhaul. I'm getting a little discouraged about the whole thing, to be quite honest. I had to move a metaphorical mountain to get to this point, and the thought of starting that process over again makes me sad in my soul. I know nothing about web design. When I try something new it's like I've been scooped out of my bed and airdropped into Tienneman Square. I really don't want to go there again. I've thought about maybe hiring some local geek to help me prop things up, and I might still elect to go that route. But for some messed-up reason (notice how I didn't say "fucked-up"?) I feel like it would be a cheat not to do it myself. Maybe it's that pesky zinester/DIY background I have, I don't know, but I'd be wracked with guilt if I brought in a hired gun. It would be a little like cheating on my wife. Another option is to simply steal somebody else's design, and I think that may be the way to go. I'd have no problem with that -- as long as it's me that's doing the stealing. You've got to remain true to that Do It Yourself ethic, right? Ahem... Anyway, I know this isn't exactly mesmerizing reading, but it's what's currently weighing on my mind. Moo.

-- A couple of nights ago I thought I heard something moving around outside, in our backyard. Andy, our dog, heard it too, and his radar equipment was instantly activated. He was homed in on the window, ears perked, and teetering on the cusp of an apeshit barking jag. (Defcon 4.) The hell? We'd just finished watching the final two episodes of the first season of The Sopranos, so I was imagining someone sneaking up behind me and putting a wire around my neck. I grabbed a baseball bat and walked around closing and locking all the windows, then went out on the deck to see if there was anything to see. Nothing. It was probably just a raccoon. Maybe a raccoon who likes The Sopranos? I went back inside and Andy and I had a few barbecue potato chips in the kitchen, then I hit the sack. In the middle of the night Toney shook me awake and said, "Why's there a baseball bat in the kitchen?!" She said I looked at her, didn't say a word, and rolled over and went back to sleep. She then laid awake for hours imagining why I'd felt the need to arm myself, conjuring up images of scrotum-faced members of The E Street Band wriggling through the windows, etc. Goddamn Sopranos.

-- Have you seen the commercial that's now running, for a new Robin Williams HBO special? It's nothing short of excruciating. The guy's marching around, making faces, waving his arms... You couldn't pay me to watch that crap. Robin Williams is about as funny as ball cancer. Talking in voices, and yelling, is not comedy. I've never understood the appeal of the man. The thirty-second ad is almost more than I can bear. It's like somebody told him years ago that if you can't think of anything funny to say, just say it real loud or with a stupid accent, and the world will beat a path to your door. I guess they were right...

-- I wish I had a dollar for every Amazon.com review that begins, "Well, what can I say?" What is that? Well, maybe you could say what you think of the goddamn book? That's one idea. Grrr... Why do I find this so irritating? I mean, just cut the crap and get to the point, Hemingway. Christ.

-- One day last week we had some strange pasta for dinner, and it's thrown off my entire system. I've been perpetually hungry since that meal, and there's seemingly nothing I can do about it. I think it's called gnochi, but the thoroughbred Italianos in Toney's family pronounce it "nyuks" or something close to that. (It's undoubtedly Curly's favorite food.) I don't know. I have a feeling it's an Italian word for "wads of goo." It doesn't taste bad, in fact it's pretty good, but I was hungry fifteen minutes after we finished, and I haven't been able to catch up since. It's like some kind of weird anti-food. I have a feeling it should be against the law. I wonder if the Food and Drug Administration even knows about these things?

-- We went into Scranton yesterday to check out an open-house, and it turned into a fiasco. I'm intrigued by old neighborhoods that have fallen into disrepair, but are now being reclaimed by yuppies and homosexuals. When I first moved to Atlanta, for instance, the Inman Park section of town was just a collection of crackhouses. But by the time I left, six years later, doctors and architects had moved in, and the mayor even lived there. They swooped in and bought up those old Victorians, shooed away the junkies, and began renovating. Now it's one of the hippest addresses in town, and the houses went from being worth $50,000 to $500,000. There are parts of Scranton that are like that, and I always check the paper for some mythical investment property that we'll never buy.

So, I printed out the driving directions from Mapquest, and we went to check out this hundred year old house in a neighborhood that's slowly turning around. It was listed at $125,000, and I had visions of a dilapidated mansion that could be fixed up and sold for a million bucks. I know, I live in a fantasy world, but what can I say? We got lost almost as soon as we reached Scranton, because half of the streets aren't marked. Mapquest tells us to turn on Sanderson, but there is no Sanderson. Or maybe there is a Sanderson, but we don't know it because somebody's stolen the street signs to sell as scrap metal. The roads are like something you might find in Czechoslovakia, there's broken-down cars everywhere, a sleazy drinking establishment on every corner, and bars on every window.

We finally find the place, and it's nothing like I had pictured. It's just an old house, with not an ounce of character or charm. It's a glorified barn, in fact. And the neighborhood is a little too early in the transformation process for my tastes: the houses are still a bit crackish. It was depressing. Scranton is one bleak-ass city. Somebody else can renovate it. I don't have the nerve for something like that. I mean, Lewis and Clark we ain't. Screw it.

-- Besides, who could think about moving when there's a Krispy Kreme ready to be born just a mile down the road?

July 12, 2002

-- I know we’re not exactly on the cutting edge of popular culture here, but Toney and I are hopelessly addicted to The Sopranos. We don’t have HBO (Twelve dollars a month? Yeah, what am I, an asshole?), so it’s the DVDs for us. We’re ripping through the first season, with absolutely no regard for pacing or common sense, and the second season is sitting seductively in the on-deck circle. Season three comes out in December, and we’ll undoubtedly be ready to knock over a liquor store, if need be, to acquire it. Anyway, that’s what we’ve been doing since my parents left town. I come home from work, we eat dinner and fling the plates into the dishwasher, I go out and water all our new foliage, then it's time for The Show. I look forward to it all day. It’s sick, but it’s a good kind of sick. Ya know? It’s a great, great program.

A few thoughts:

I hope the guy who plays Tony Soprano doesn't have any ideas about ever doing anything else, as long as he lives, because it ain't gonna happen. His character is huge. The day that show acquired an audience cooked his goose, as far as typecasting goes. If he doesn't invest wisely he'll be doing openings of LensCrafters stores in 2015 as "TV's Tony Soprano." I know it's a bitter pill to swallow, but I think he's already Gilligan and The Fonz.

Little Steven Van Zandt kills me. He looks like a human scrotum at this point, but he's charismatic as all hell. It's hard to reconcile the memories of him in a sweaty bandana leaning against Springsteen back in the glory days, and the bitchy uber-Italian he plays on television. But, again, I like it.

There's not much I don't like about The Sopranos. The characters are big, but not larger than life. They all have mundane, real-people problems to deal with, and don't go around with all the answers conveniently filed away in their heads. They act, then second-guess themselves, or don't act and agonize about it, just like real folks. The fact that they work in the shadowy field of "waste management" is ultimately secondary to the great characters, excellent writing, superb acting, and all the rest. It just works, and there's a magic that is conjured when it all comes together like this. And I don't have to tell you how infrequently it happens. Just watch an episode of The District if you need proof.  The Sopranos is a small miracle, that makes me feel optimistic for some reason.

And after we blast our way through all the episodes I'm planning to check out a new comic strip I just found out about, called Dilbert. Have you heard about this thing?  It's supposed to be fantastic.

-- Speaking of magic, Paul Westerberg is preparing to hit the road for his first tour in six or seven years. Apparently it's just going to be him and a U-Haul full of guitars, no band or anything. Hey, whatever; however he chooses to do it is OK by me. He's supposed to be playing Philadelphia on 8/17, and I'll be there. I don't care if he's just planning to show up and talk about The Sopranos, or something really dull like that. I'll be there.  That man wrote the soundtrack for the most fucked-up decade of my life.

-- If you're inclined to give a damn, here's an MP3 of "If Only You Were Lonely," an early Replacements track that was never released in America. It was one of the first indications that there was more to Westerberg than met the eye, that he wasn't just another dumb punk. Check it out, it's great.

-- My latest DVD purchase is Slapshot. Still on the docket: Airplane, Animal House, and a thousand other titles. Maybe I should get a night job at Bojangles to help fund this mental illness? Somebody please hold me, I'm scared.

-- This is simply excellent.

-- As is this.

-- I'm seriously considering taking a loan against my 401k account and completely filling our house, attic and all, with these products, in preparation for "Nancy's" upcoming visit.  I daydream of being in the kitchen, frying up an outsized skillet of Treet Lite, when she arrives.  Do you think there's still time to get George W. Bush's face silkscreened on a set of pot holders?  There's just so much left to be done...     

-- I didn't watch one second of the baseball All-Star game on Tuesday. Baseball now ranks just above "how shampoo is made" on the list of things that interest me. Boy, I could've never predicted this would happen. Years ago I was an absolute junkie. I practically had to get up in the middle of the night and play tapes of Joe Garagiola speaking to calm my jangled nerves. Back in those days I completely devoured the All-Star game, and felt wounded when the post-game coverage went off. I probably could've told you each player's date of birth and social security number, but now I don't even recognize the names of 75% of them. I'm not sure how it happened. It certainly wasn't some idiotic protest of "all the money in the game," or anything like that; that's the stuff of cranks and blow-hards. It was just a gradual thing. Now when I turn on a game I don't recognize the faces, the lingo is baffling ("Giambi goes yard with the bags juiced!!"), presumed heterosexual men are wearing earrings, the ballparks are unrecognizable, the American League is playing the National League, cats are sleeping with dogs... it's utter chaos. I may as well move to Mexico and get involved in the cock fighting circuit. It's sad.

I know this isn't much of an update, but it's free so quit yer bitching. I'll be back on Monday, unless I decide to just pull the plug on this whole deal. Frankly I'm getting a little bored with it, but I'm sure it'll pass. It always does...  

Fuck it.


July 9, 2002

Goddamn!

I feel like I was run over by a bus, and it went around the block and ran over me again. It's as if my muscles have been ripped away from the bone, like an hour-old dark-meat dinner at Popeye's. And I think my spine has snapped off at the base, and it’s just floating around in there, grinding up against shit. When will I learn to never mention to my parents that there's work to be done around our house?

They arrived on Wednesday evening, and my Dad was admiring our new screen door and shutters, and I just casually said that we now need to get busy on the yard -- an innocent conversational comment -- and BAM!, the next thing I know we're hurtling out of control on a four-day hayride to hell.

I love my parents, they’re supportive and easygoing and caring, and a bunch of other good stuff, but they clearly don’t know how to make the most of a four-day weekend. Their idea of a good time is hard physical labor. Toney and I just aren’t wired that way. Tramps like us, baby we were born to… sit at outdoor cafes and have beer and nachos. But not the ‘rents! Oh no, I seriously think they’re misplaced frontier people; they’re like Charles and Caroline Ingalls, in the year 2002. It’s a wonder we didn’t have a goddamn barn-raising this weekend! Holy crap. We worked for four solid days, in the “blazing heat,” for hours and hours and hours, and they were happier than school kids at a farting contest. Here’s a general rundown of what was going on inside my head:

Day 1 “What in the honeybaked hell are we doing here?! FUCK!!”

Day 2 “Man, this sucks, but it’s gonna look really good when we’re done.”

Day 3 “This is incredible! And we’re almost finished!!”

Day 4 “What in the honeybaked hell are we doing here?! FUCK!!”

It went a day too long. The dramatic arc was blown all to shit. We clearly should’ve stopped on Saturday. When we went back out there on Sunday I was ready to douse myself in gasoline and light a match. I was conducting a bitching clinic! I mean, enough is enough. Damn. It already looks like Architectural Digest out here, let’s drink! And it wasn’t just me, we were all snapping at each other and grumbling under our breath. Even my Dad, who is a veritable saint, was getting a little touchy. At one point I thought he was going to leap at me with a gardening trowel.

But now, a day later, I couldn’t be happier. I guess it’s that satisfaction of a job well-done stuff I've heard so much about. I wouldn’t know, but that’s what I’m guessing. We ripped out loads of overgrown shrubs and ground-cover, trimmed bushes, moved stuff around, sowed grass seed, installed edging, spread mulch, etc. etc. It doesn’t even look like the same house; it’s incredible. And Toney and I would’ve never gotten around to doing it all. If we were in charge of this particular project we would’ve said fuck it somewhere around noon on Thursday and went to Don Pablo’s for margaritas. Sometimes it pays to have parents who are like bizarre science fiction creatures who derive their life-sustaining powers from working their asses off.

Now if only I had use of my spinal column…

-- My Dad and I went to Home Depot and Lowe’s to buy the supplies we needed for our Platoon-like weekend, and he was killing me with his observations of the locals. “These people like to say ‘Christ’ a lot, don’t they?” he said. And he’s right; I’m surprised I never noticed. We were walking to our car at Home Depot, and an old man with dyed blonde hair(?!) started talking to us about my foreign vehicle. (This seemed to bother him greatly, my Toyota pickup.) “Christ,” he said, “we could build a truck better than that… We could build one that never wears out, if we wanted. Christ, we send people to outer space…” blah blah Christ blah. I could barely keep a straight face. And then we went to a lawnmower repair shop, and the same thing happened: “I’ve never seen a wheel bolt like that! Christ, what brand is it?” I think I bruised some internal organ trying not to laugh. He’s hilarious. My Dad makes everyday life a riot. A simple trip to Wendy’s with him is like an episode of Seinfeld. Christ.

-- I’m proud to announce that I’m now sporting a genuine Wal-Mart haircut. Thank you, thank you very much. I’d started to edge into ABA territory, and I’d been complaining about needing a good shearing, but there just wasn’t any time to take care of it, what with our landscaping project and all. So we were in Wal-Mart early Friday morning, buying grass seed or some shit, and I wandered off to expel excess coffee into a porcelain piss-catcher, and on a whim I ventured into the old-lady hair shop there. They told me there would be no wait, so I got a quick cut, right on the spot. And when I rejoined my parents and Toney, I’d had a friggin’ haircut! They couldn’t believe it. I was literally gone five minutes. You just can’t beat Wal-Mart. Those Arkansas hicks know how to give the people what they want, boyee.

-- I came very close to buying a 1999 Jeep Cherokee a few days ago, with massive engine problems. Yeah, I'd like an SUV, but I believe I'm past the obsessive phase. In fact, I’ve pretty much given up on the idea for the time being, but one of the dealerships keeps calling me and sucking me back in. Last week the guy called and said he had “the vehicle for me.” He told me all about it, and said it had just been traded in that day. I went out there that evening and checked it out, and it looked great. It was in perfect shape, and had relatively low miles. I was getting fired up again! I was ready to betray my loyal little truck, and start whoring around with a younger, flashier model. But they called again and told me they didn’t want to sell it to me, because they’d done a “diagnostic” on it, and the thing had big engine problems. Holy shit. They knew how sold I was on it, and they could’ve easily bent me over the proverbial couch if they’d wanted. I would’ve been like Barney Fife, when he bought that car off Grandma Walton, with a transmission full of sawdust. Barney: “What was that?!” Andy: “I don’t know, but whatever it was, it fell off and can’t hurt us no more.” I guess there is such a thing as an honest used car salesman? Who knew?

-- I can’t believe this, but I forgot to take a donut shop photo last week! There’s been a lot of activity the past fourteen days, so click with extreme caution. I probably shouldn't lay all this on you at once, but I will not be held responsible for fainting and/or heart stoppages. You have been warned.

-- My current musical obsession is an old Paul Carrack album I used to play the hell out of on vinyl, back in the day. It’s called Suburban Voodoo, and I just picked up a used (and out of print!) CD copy of it off eBay. The shit sounds good! It was produced by my man Nick Lowe, and I seem to remember reading that it was basically written and recorded by the pair during a three-day drunk. It's just pure, unapologetic pop, with hooks as big as Montana, and heart-touching lyrics like "I need you like a fly needs a plate, I need you like a bull needs a gate..." I'm sorry, I'm getting a little emotional here... forgive me.

-- I might just be paranoid, but there's a big muscle-bound fucker at work who always seems to be watching me, and when I look his way he gives me a jaunty little wink and a smile. I think he wants to stir my fudge! Good god, my life is like a sitcom.

-- I don't generally like to complain, but it's getting hot up here again. We had a couple of days where it cooled off, but now we're frying again. What is this?! This is supposed to be the Poconos, cool year round, and all that crap. Back in the days before good taste, rich New Yorkers used to vacation here, to escape the summer heat. The last few times we've cooked burgers on the grill I haven't even needed to turn on the gas. I just go out there and throw on the meat and it cooks right up. Of course that's an exaggeration, but only a slight one. It's sucking up here, with great gusto. I can't wait until I start to see the birds flying south in great big V's. Every day I look up at the sky, for some sign it's almost over. But so far, nothing. Bring on the V's, I crave the V's!

-- And that reminds me... The two or three "cool" days we were blessed with were smoky and hazy because of all those forest fires in Canada, 700 miles away. That blows my mind, that there could be such a strong smoky smell, from so far away. But a couple of days ago it was amazingly powerful. At night it was actually kinda nice though, it smelled like a campground outside, with a hundred campfires going. I told Toney that I was really enjoying it, and they should maybe think about just burning big hunks of Canada continuously, for America's benefit. Mass aromatherapy! Pretty good idea, huh? I'm full of 'em, babies! I think I'll write my congressman; we could take over that place in an afternoon, and have it smelling nice down here by sundown!

And that'll do it for today. More in a day or two. Rock on, rockers.

                            cmon

July 1, 2002

I have nothing to report, almost literally nothing.

There wasn't anything particularly wrong with the weekend, it was just uneventful. Our friends Steve and Myra came to visit on Sunday, we did a little yard work, followed by some house work, on Saturday, and you're pretty much up-to-date on the highlights. We had our new $225(!?) screen door installed by a handyman on Friday (it would literally take me a month to do it, and it would probably drag a groove into the porch once I finished), so I did a lot of standing in the front yard looking on in admiration, trying to convince myself it makes a dramatic improvement to the appearance of our house, and trying to reject the knowledge that it doesn't make a hell of a lot of difference one way or the other. Not even if I squint and tilt my head... Damn. Anyway, I don't exactly have a comedic horn o' plenty at my disposal here today, so please bear with me. I mean really, is it gonna kill you to bear with me?

-- Apparently there was a big Kay family picnic in West Virginia on Sunday, and I wasn't invited. Didn't know a damn thing about it. I'm sure it was just an oversight though, and had nothing to do with me being "peculiar," and "uptown." ...Do I sound bitter?

-- Speaking of the Kay family, my parents are coming to visit this week, and it's supposed to be blazing hot up here. That's the term the newspaper used: blazing hot. Well, that's just excellent. It's been so disgusting and humid the past couple of weeks I've been contemplating suicide, but I guess it's actually gonna kick up another notch on the hell-scale starting tomorrow. How is that even possible?! Yeah, Mom and Dad will have a great time sitting around Scranton, PA for five days, stewing in their own natural juices, and staring at our dog continuously "cleaning" his anus. It'll undoubtedly take the place of their two weeks in Hawaii as Best Trip Ever. Hey, maybe we'll take them down to check out the old burned-out coal tipple one day? They'd probably enjoy that.

-- I was at Wendy's on Saturday and overheard some guy telling his wife about his wild and crazy antics, "back in the '70s", when he was apparently capable of just about anything. He said that he and a few of his buddies went to Wendy's once and ordered triple cheeseburgers, chili con carne (that's what he called it), and "smoothies." I think he meant Frosties, but whatever. I was preparing myself for a sordid tale of alcohol consumption, followed by mass-vomiting and/or pants-shitting -- possibly in conjunction with a Black Oak Arkansas concert. But he just shook his head and said, "You shoulda seen us. There was no way we could've eaten all that food!" End of story… Outrageous! It's a wonder he made it out of that insane era alive!! Shine on you crazy diamond.  Woo!

-- Check it out, at this page you can listen to the new Flaming Lips album, in its entirety, before it's released. How flippin’ cool is that?

-- And this is pretty weird… A piece of fiction from the New Yorker that portrays Babe Ruth as a sashaying poofter. Actually, there’s a good chance I’m going to have nightmares about this one, if you want the honest truth.

-- I’m not one to pass judgment on people (ahem…), but I simply can’t believe The Who are going to continue their Fleet Enema Tour 2002, just a few short days after one of their members dropped dead of a heart attack. I mean, John Entwistle was not just some anonymous sideman, he was an original member from, what, 1963 or something? Unbelievable. That’s gotta be one of the tackiest moves in the history of rock. Pete and Roger must really need the money. Maybe they’re raising the property taxes on their castles back in England or something? I don’t know, but it looks pretty shit-laden in my book. Pete Townshend is a great songwriter and musician, but he rubs me the wrong way as a man. He never fails to infuriate me in interviews, and he just seems a little, um, peculiar and uptown, I guess. But, like I say, I don’t like to judge people. It’s simply not right.

-- Speaking of poofters, hey George Michael...

-- On Saturday evening I was somehow tricked into telling a story from my pathetic "dating days" in Atlanta, and Toney had a hearty laugh at my expense, so I thought I'd share it with you good folks here.

I moved to Atlanta with Sharon, my girlfriend at the time, and we broke up a year or so later, when she’d finally had enough of my shit. Between Sharon and Toney I made a bumbling attempt at playing the field and being a man about town(?!?). It was easily the most miserable period of my life. I was socializing and going out, but I was lonely as a motherfucker. I remember one weekend I went out with a different girl on each night, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (I know, I can’t believe it either!), and was absolutely miserable. I didn't see much in any of these women, and they clearly weren't too impressed by me either. It just sucked. All of it. I'd try to make a joke and they'd look at me like I was wearing a suit of turds, then they'd launch into some story like the chili con carne tale above, and I'd be near tears with depression. I was in a purgatory of incompatibility, in a huge-ass city where I knew no one. It fuckin' sucked.

Anyway, during this time I went out a few times with a woman I'll call J. She worked (works?) at a major record label, and I drunkenly ordered her to give me a call sometime, right in front of her date at a party. I didn't think my unorthodox "technique" had made much of a positive impression (since there was almost a fistfight), but a couple of weeks later she left a message on my answering machine, and we eventually went out to dinner. From the first five minutes together I could tell it wasn't going to work. There was nothing wrong with her, really, we were just two completely different people. She was sparkly purses and high heels, and I was flannel shirts and Pabst Blue Ribbon. She was Vogue, I was Harry Crews. She was Moby, I was The Pixies. Plus I got the feeling she was trying to snare a husband!

The first night went about as well as it could, under the circumstances, and we went out again a few nights later. She wanted to get dressed up and go to Peachtree Plaza, which is one of those rotating bars at the top of a hotel, the likes of which you can find in any big city on the globe. I had, I don't know, forty or fifty bucks on me, which I thought would be plenty for a night of boozing. I was used to corner bars though, where beers are two bucks each, not the Peachtree Plaza. She started sucking back big fruity cocktails in glasses a foot tall, and I think they were about nine dollars each. After a while I began to panic. She was looking dreamily at the skyline, clutching her comically oversized highball, as I deposited buckets of sweat into the fine upholstery. We were about to write a check my ass couldn't cash! After some careful manipulation though I was able to pull her away from her romantic mai-tai stupor, or whatever the fuck it was, and we narrowly avoided a humiliating scene involving angry Arabs in suits. My relief was short-lived though, because I didn't have enough cash to get us out of the parking garage!

The guy told me it was eight dollars or some lunacy, and I only had two or three left. I had to sit there and plead with this zitty bow-tied fucker, as the Mercedes and BMWs piled up behind me -- and with J. curled up in the passenger seat absolutely mortified with embarrassment. She gave me attitude all the way home. I'm not joking, at one point I was ready to put her ass out on the street. All I could think about was how Sharon would've found the situation hilarious, and we would've laughed about it for days. But not this chick. Oh no, she was embarrassed. The poor thing. The whole episode made me sad. I went from being sad to pissed to embarrassed, and back to sad again.

Then, just when I thought I was rid of her, she thrust her head in my face and gave me a grotesque, inappropriate tongue-wiggling kiss at her door, which completely confused the issue. It was like an open mason jar full of worms mashed against my face. Goddamn!

A couple of days later she called me at work and apologized for giving me attitude, and asked me to her apartment for dinner. She was gonna cook for me, she said, which was apparently a grand gesture of some sort. For reasons I can't now understand, I accepted.

"Hi, honey!" she said as she answered the door, and I got a sinking feeling in my stomach. What in the holy hell? Honey?! Is this woman a mental patient, or something? We had an uncomfortable dinner, a few drinks which didn't help nearly enough, then she suddenly got up and threw on some pretentious synthesizer music and turned off a lamp. Oh shit! She then excused herself, and I finished my beer (under romantic lighting) in fear of what might happen next. A few minutes later she came back into the room -- completely nude! I just about crapped my pants, on the spot. It was all right there, front and center, and on full display -- Moe, Larry and Curly. Then she purred in a seductive voice, "Tonight I want to explore your body..." I swear to god, it's true. If I hadn't been so distracted by the surprise trifecta, I would've surely laughed in her face.

She grabbed my hand and led me back to her bedroom, and I noticed a box of rubbers on her dresser the size of a carton of cigarettes. The little voice in my head was screaming, "No no no no no!!" In a state of sheer panic I started babbling about how I don't take this kind of thing casually (the truth), and I don't feel right about it, blah blah blah. (“I’m not saying you’re a slut or anything….”) Then she tried her best to get me in the mood, including the performance of an interesting little trick with a scarf that I won't go into right now, but it wasn't going to happen. There was no way it was going to happen. After a while she dozed off, and I was still in her bed, a big sack of sexless potatoes, wondering if there was any way I could sneak out of there without waking her up. I feared the mason jar!

Needless to say, I never talked to her again. A few days later somebody told me she was going around telling everyone I couldn't get it up, but what did I care? It was a fair trade, in my mind, to have people whispering about my sexual prowess behind my back, and to never have to spend another evening trapped in her evil lair. Shit, tell 'em I have a cherry tomato dick too! I welcome it!! And who cares what her mai-tai sparkly purse Moby buddies think anyway? Screw 'em. ...Or not.

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