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A bowl of corn, motherfuckers.

2002

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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 2003

July 31, 2003

You're going to be disappointed. Know that up front. I just flipped through my notebook, and it's a sad state of affairs. The thing is picked-over like the ham kiosk at Old Country Buffet on retard night. I've got nothing but a shiny bone here (metaphorically speaking, of course). I'll do the best I can, with what I've got, but you're going to be disappointed. Know that up front.

-- I guess I'm going to Philadelphia on Saturday, to see the Eels. I like the band and all, but I'm a little concerned about the drive. Especially coming back in the middle of the night. I'm going to meet my friends Steve and Myra there, but they'll be coming from New York. So it'll all be solo flights for me -- roughly 150 miles each way. Since I'm an old man now, I worry about that sort of thing. Usually Steve rides with me on such outings, and we're able to bullshit each other into sustained consciousness. I can imagine myself falling asleep Saturday night and ending up on the roof of a Best Buy store, still strapped to my bucket seat and on fire.

Of course there's always good ol' convenience store coffee, which is nothing more than liquefied trucker speed really. And I went to Wal-Mart yesterday and bought a brick of blank cassettes. (Yes, my new truck has a tape player in it -- I'm gonna party like it's 1979!) I'm recording the first two Molly Hatchet CDs as I type. Next up: Thin Lizzy. I need ballsy 70s arena rock, with none of that faggoty art to get in the way. That's my only prayer. Considering my sleep habits, I could nod off at any time. When you live on four or five hours per night, sitting still is a dangerous game. It usually ends up like the time Gomer got caught in the gas leak at the jail.

And, of course, I'll have to limit my Yuengling intake, which really irritates me. This is no way to live -- responsibly. It chafes my ass. Oh, I'm a regular Hunter S. Thompson here. Everybody stand back!!

-- I almost turned Steve down when he suggested this convoluted little road trip, but then I realized it would take place right in the middle of Nancy's visit. And that sealed it. An opportunity to get away from the Rolling Circus of Fucked-Upness? Sign me up! Supposedly they'll be here on Friday and, of course, they'll be bringing Absolute Chaos with them. I've never met people who can turn the world upside down like Nancy and her brood can. If a truck pulled up to our door and released a dozen dingoes into our living room, it would pale in comparison. That would be a fuckin' walk in the park. Next week I'll catalog all the stuff that got broken, for your entertainment. Stay tuned.

-- Mumbles surprised me this week by giving me one of his fishing poles. I couldn't believe it. It's really cool, open reel and the whole nine yards. Mumbles is a nice guy. Why he ever got mixed up with all these freaks, I'll never know. (I guess the same could be said of me?!) Maybe I should take him with me to see the Eels on Saturday? The fact that he's 67 and couldn't hear a rhino fart inside a boxcar doesn't mean he wouldn't appreciate the smooth song stylings of A Man Called E. Right? Maybe I should consider that. I can picture him standing on the floor of the theater, oversized black concert t-shirt hanging to his knees, Robert E. Lee beard a-bobbin', a big ol' beer hoisted in the air, hooting. Then we could hit the lake with a bucket of grubs.

-- Speaking of fishing, I'm going to make myself legitimate tonight. After work I'm going to buy a license, so I no longer have to tape a napkin to my hat in order to fool the game wardens. This is very exciting to me, for some reason. I have a new hobby, and this makes it official. Now I'll have the legal right to buy those big jumping fish decals for the back of my truck, and a collection of ridiculous hats. I'm so happy!

-- Night before last we had spaghetti for dinner, and since we're running a goddamn hostel for wayward mental patients there were no leftovers for our dog Andy's traditional pasta throwdown. He was prancing around and smiling, anticipating his feast, and there was nothing to give him. It made me feel so damn sad I got out the pots and pans and cooked him up a batch special. Toney and her mother thought I'd lost my mind, but spaghetti night is like Christmas to Andy, and I just couldn't disappoint him. I made him a heaping helping, and ladled some extra meaty sauce on top, and the guy was in ecstasy. He gobbled it down and licked his lips, then went out in the yard and took a towering shit. Then he checked out for the night, completely satisfied. It warmed my heart.

-- Buck took the day off, so I don't have a new Educated Hillbilly update from him this week. He'll be back next Thursday. I'm not sure where he is, but he's on the road carrying a stack of TheWVSR fliers. So hopefully we'll have some new pictures of the smoking fish taped to Important Things. Remember, if you're visiting something Important, bring along a Surf Report flier and hang it up. Then take a photo and send it to me, and I'll add it to the gallery. Right now the gallery is only one photo, but I have high hopes. Hell, maybe I'll visit the Liberty Bell on Saturday? Hey.... excellent idea.

-- Since I'm reduced to begging now, please remember to click through the Amazon ad at the bottom of the homepage when you're buying your Coldplay CDs or whatever. It doesn't cost you anything extra, and I get a few nickels from every purchase. I used some of the money to buy a CD burner a while back, which allows me to back-up the site, etc. It all goes back into TheWVSR somehow, so please do what you can. I really appreciate it.

-- Finally, here's a picture I found on the internet yesterday. It's apparently a group of protestors, bitching about something or other, and showing everyone who's boss by taking off their underwear. My question is, what possible reason could the guy in the middle have for being outraged -- about anything? He's got a lot of goddamn nerve, I say.

And that's all for today, boys and girls. You can't say you weren't warned. Unless I leave the Pennsylvania Turnpike Saturday night in a place without a formal exit, I'll be back on Monday. And God knows I'll have some stories to tell. See ya then.


July 28, 2003

-- I need to join a New Age cult or something. I feel adrift most of the time, and crave something to fill the huge cavernous void in the center of my soul. I don't sleep enough, therefore I'm constantly dazed and slightly out of it. I'm always restless, but can't seem to get anything done. Instead of exploiting my restlessness for good, I end up flipping through the TV channels and bitching because there's nothing good to watch. Or I plop down in front of the computer and bounce back and forth between the same twenty-five websites, for hours on end. My job's OK, but I've been doing the same thing for thirteen years or so, and at this point I can just phone it in. There's little satisfaction to be found there. I'm like the Beach Boys now, stuck in an endless tape-loop world where I go out every day and play the same songs over and over and over.

I also feel guilty during all waking hours. My lawn is full of clover, I'm full of hops and barley, I feel like I've disappointed everyone I've ever come in contact with, and I'm irritated all the time. The way people eat drives me up the wall, the way they talk, their attitudes, the way they drive their cars... It goes on and on. And that's just a scratch on the surface of the tip of the iceberg. I spent a good part of Sunday afternoon hidden away in the bunker listening, for reasons I can't explain, to Molly Hatchet's "The Creeper," -- after making a conscious decision that it was too hot to fish. Then, in the evening, I walked through the woods in the rain to see the dam again. I'm a living, breathing basket case.

I know a guy in Atlanta who was seemingly stable and normal for decades. He was married with a couple of teenage kids, and had been at his job for close to thirty years. One day out of the blue he came home and told his wife he didn't want to be married to her anymore, and moved into an apartment. Soon afterward he had a girlfriend, and quit his long-time job. He just walked in and turned in his one-week notice with no explanation. Last I heard, he and his chick were getting ready to move to Mississippi, with no jobs or plans. Everyone was shocked and confused by his actions, but I wasn't. I know exactly what happened. He'd fucking had it up to here.

Never in a million years would I take the course that Mid-Life Crisis Man in Atlanta took -- I'm too intellectually honest to be able to justify such betrayal and abandonment. I don't buy into the popular notion that everyone deserves to be happy and fulfilled all day, every day, and, God forbid, if there's a bump in the road, well just fuck all y'all. I'm from West Virginia, not Oregon. Plus, I like the people in my life. It's not them, it's me. I'm the one who needs to learn how to live in this world; chasing mirages is not the way to go.

I have the old fashioned notion that you've got to create your own greener pastures. It's the pursuit of happiness that's a birthright. My life is about half over (if I'm lucky), and I'm still working at getting it right. I have my pasture, I just need to learn how to irrigate it, and cultivate it in the proper way. Right now it has big bald patches (probably caused by outdoor urination), and old rusty appliances lying about. But Toney and I are slowly but surely clearing away all the crap, and turning it into a nice plot of metaphorical real estate.

But the shit is really really hard. And that's why I'm thinking of becoming a Moonie.

-- We were in Long John Silvers on Saturday, and there was a woman sitting beside us who resembled the Bubblebass character on Spongebob, wearing a cardboard pirate hat. I wanted to pull her aside and whisper in her chubby ear: "Do you really think it's a good idea to draw such attention to yourself? You have an ass the size of Denmark." But I just ate my Fish 'N' More, and kept my comments to myself. Eventually I realized that it was another example of the attitude my mother explained to me years ago, that she titled, "Don't Hide It, Decorate It." Walk around any mall in America and you can see many examples of the phenomenon of which she speaks.

-- I've changed the name of my imaginary rock band that will never exist again. Originally we were the Lint Donkeys, then Hammer Pants, then Spackle Happy, now Ham Candle. Watch your fantasy record stores!

-- My lawnmower completely shit the bed on Saturday. The last few times I've used it things didn't sound quite right, and I'm almost certain the self-propelled feature quit working a couple of weeks ago. It's just one thing after another with that expensive piece of junk. Just two months back I forked over eighty big-ass bucks to have the thing serviced, now I think its days are completely over. What the hell, man?

I fired it up this weekend and it started making a loud clanking sound, like the blade was hitting something. I turned off the motor and tipped it over, but could see nothing. As far as I could tell, everything was as it should be. I moved the blade with my hand and it was all free and clear. I shrugged and pulled the cord again, and finished two-thirds of the front yard, when it began really making a clanking racket. It sounded like an extended mix of a Ministry song. Neighbors were in their yards looking on with concern. Then it bogged down and began losing power, and finally shut off.

I rolled it over to the driveway and gave the cord another tug, but it just came out with no resistance. It was like pulling a string out of a box. And it had no effect on the motor whatsoever. I flipped it over again, and the blade was a free agent. I gave it a spin and it went round and round like a pinwheel. What in the honeybaked hell?!

I went inside and called my Dad. (Yes, I'm forty, what of it?) He listened to my description of the problem, asked a few questions, paused a couple of seconds, and rendered his verdict: "I think it's time to buy a new lawnmower."

So there you have it. That piece of crap cost something like $350, not counting the eighty I poured into it recently, and it didn't last me even three full summers. Grrrr. Now I'm going to have to cough up another $350, just to get back to where I was on Friday. Buying lawn care equipment goes counter to everything I'm about -- especially stuff I already own. I could buy a home theater system for that kind of money, or TiVo. Dammit! Will somebody please come to my house and kick me squarely in the balls? I'd really appreciate it.

-- To make things even more fun, the weather up here had me singing the chorus of this song all weekend. Toney was ready to stab me in the neck with a fork.

-- I found a new piece of artwork for Chris's yard in Boone. I think Ardna and the Evergreen Homeowners Association would really appreciate it. I suggested it to Chris and he said he might just assume the position himself.

-- Speaking of Chris, here's the final chapter of his Florida saga. In this episode he embraces sobriety, wrestles an alligator, and hurls his employer's customer files into the Sarasota landfill. And to think, I used to play Wiffle Ball with this guy. I'm pleased to announce that Chris will not be leaving us after this. Absolutely not. Next week he'll debut his new weekly TheWVSR column: Straight Outta Boone! Watch for it.

-- I bought this at Sam's Club on Saturday for $4.57. Five pounds! God bless Sam Walton, and all he stands for.

-- I listened to about fifteen minutes of Matt Drudge's radio show last night (while my Molly Hatchet CDs cooled off), and learned that the Kobe Bryant hotel sex may have been anal, and that Saddam Hussein's two sons were carrying $100 million in cash and a large quantity of cologne when they were illegally killed by American assassins last week. Make of that what you will. I'd rather not think about any of it, to be perfectly frank.

-- Sunshine and Mumbles will be back tonight. I think they're going to stay for about a week this go 'round. Hey, no problem! Come on in!! And on Friday Nancy, her so-called husband Banana Nostrils (married on a beach by an actor amongst a pack of leaping dogs), their brood of l'il translucent vegans, and the shit-drizzling dog-like mongrel with the Please Kill Me eyes will be converging on the Compound, along with their special brand of joy. (We're apparently running an underground railroad for lunatics on the move.) Time to fire up the portable DVD player with headphones, and my beer store platinum card. Together we'll make it through, just like we always do. <Sigh> I'm about to start drizzling myself.

-- These folks apparently had a good time adding a bunch of new entries to my Rules of Thumb last week. Nice job, I must say.

-- Finally, I've been reading Jim Goad's new journal for a few weeks, and I'm officially hooked. Check out Sunday's entry. Good stuff. Or should I say, Goad stuff? I also picked up a copy of his latest book, Shit Magnet, but haven't gotten around to reading it yet. Goad is a controversial character, but he's also funny and smart and that's a combination that's in short supply these days. And I should know.

More of this garbage on Thursday... for God's sake, mark your calendars.

July 24, 2003

-- The end is near. Not only because of this, but also because of the crazy-ass, Old Testament weather we’ve been enduring. On Monday, as I was leaving work, it was raining so hard I seriously wondered if the roof on our building might collapse. It sounded like it was pouring down bread dough outside. The lights eventually began to flicker, finally said fuck it, and I made my way towards the exit under emergency generator mood lighting. After the guard rifled through my backpack for excuses to jump Johnny Bad-Ass on me, I went outside and it was like something from a movie. The sky was dark, like dusk, hours before it was appropriate, and there was a strange greenish tint to everything. And it was raining like nothing I’ve seen in years. It pounded the ground and the cars and the awnings with a force that made me feel mildly panicked; the shit was roaring. I wished some of the native Californians I worked with in Burbank had been there to witness it. Those people think they know rain. Ha! They’d void their bowels directly into their ludicrous underpants.

I waited for about five minutes beneath an overhang, hoping it would let up, but eventually came to the realization that I was in for a long wait. The skies were black, and getting blacker. So I took off running for my truck, huffing and puffing and flailing and splashing, and when I finally threw myself behind the wheel I couldn’t have been more wet if I’d hurtled off a pier into the Atlantic Ocean. Unbelievable. I wiped my face and hair with some Taco Bell napkins, and put my wipers on a juiced-up hyper setting that made me worry they might fling off and pierce somebody’s torso. And the rain never let up for my entire ride home. Cars were pulled off the side of the road with their flashers on, and great rivers were running across the interstate. It was frickin’ incredible.

That night our cable was off, and I couldn’t get on the internet, so we went to bed early. But nobody slept. The lightning and thunder started around eleven and, again, it was extreme. The skies were flashing like a strobe light, rain was pounding our windows and roof, the big-ass trees in our yard were whipping around in a frightening manner, and the thunder shook the entire Earth. And it just kept going. After a while the siren that summons the volunteer firemen to their posts began wailing, then I could hear what I assumed to be fire trucks and ambulances. Our dog Andy was prancing around with a concerned look on his face, walking on his tip-toes, and repeatedly jumping on and off the bed. And to tell you the truth, I wasn’t completely convinced we were safe either. I could just imagine one of those big pines crashing through the top of our house, or one of the crackling bolts of lightning blasting down a wall or two. But I finally checked out and everything was calm when I woke up in the morning. And we were all still alive, which is always a plus.

It turns out my concerns were not unfounded. Lots of folks sustained property damage, and the poor bastards in the valley experienced some substantial flooding. A woman I work with has a new skylight in her living room, compliments of a random hunk of flying steel or some shit. It was a crazy twelve hours or so, and it’s been only mildly better in the days since. Every night we’ve had thunderstorms, not the Normandy Invasion kind we had on Monday, but pretty hellacious nonetheless. And it’s never really stopped raining all week. Obviously God's pissed at Scranton. Probably because of all the insufferable pricks.

-- Speaking of that, the powerful California overlords recently sent me a digital camera, so I can take photos of problems and points of interest at our facility here, and email them back to the big-shots in Burbank. It's something they've been talking about for years, but getting things done in Corporate America is very similar to pushing a bill through Congress, I imagine. Anyway, the thing finally arrived, and when I tried to take it into the building at work, the security guards reacted as if I'd walked in with explosives strapped to my chest.

The old guy at the desk had a look of panic on his face when I showed him what was in the box (gasp!), and told me in a harsh voice to "just hold it right there, buddy." He said he needed to get the captain(??), and began hollering frantically into a walkie-talkie. A few minutes later a fat bastard with a moustache, as humorless as a robot, showed up and eyed me suspiciously as the husk of a man told him about all the terrible things I had done. Doughboy's face turned a couple of different colors, like on cartoons, he got too close to me and demanded: "Who said you could take a camera into this building?!?" And every time I started to answer he'd interrupt and scream, "Who said it was OK??" What the hell?! It's a camera, fatty. Don't get your man-tits in an uproar.

Obviously, all the dramatics and the invasion of my space by a moist moustache pissed me off, and I started getting sarcastic with them and made it clear to "the captain" that he'd better back the fuck up. I tried to stay calm, I realize there are rules and regulations that have to be observed, but there's no need to get stupid about it. If I'd known they were so touchy about cameras I would've taken the appropriate steps in getting mine approved. Unlike a lot of people, I don't go around looking for trouble; I generally just go with the flow and rarely have problems with people. But these guys were getting the opportunity to act important and bad-ass, and were running with it.

Before it was all over they had the king of security guards down there (he had medals on his uniform), and two members of upper management. When The King found out who I work for, and my position, the entire tone changed. They all started acting like it was ridiculous but necessary to get this thing cleared up, and they actually apologized for the inconvenience a few times. I just stared at them and said nothing. If I'd been some hourly schmo (like I was not so many years ago) they would've probably beaten me down with a length of wood. Idiots.

-- I think my reputation at the post office is being damaged by Maxim magazine. I mentioned a couple of months ago that I somehow scammed a free two-year subscription, right? Well, I don't think the old ladies behind the counter appreciate it much. In the past they always called me by my first name, and treated me like their fat little grandson. I got the feeling they thought I was a Good Boy. But now their attitude towards me has changed, and I think it has something to do with Maxim. Here are some of the things written on the cover of the new issue, which I retrieved from my PO Box yesterday:

Get in bed with Anna Kournikova! You have two wishes left...

Panties Away! Teach your gal the joy of stripping

America's Sexiest Girls-Next-Door! 100 Photos Inside!

Gary Busey Spins Off The Road: "I snorted coke off my dog!"

Now I'm "Sir" at the post office.

-- I was lying in bed reading the other night (one of the world's great underrated pleasures) and, out of nowhere, a big furry moth swooped down from the ceiling and landed on my face. I shrieked like a woman, flung my book into the floor and began thrashing about, nearly dumping Toney into the floor. She got pissed for waking her up, but that thing was the size of a teddy bear. I'm still a little freaked out. And it didn't take us that long to put the sheets back on the bed.

-- I saw this in an article yesterday about Saddam's fine young sons -- the ones the American military recently "assassinated," according to shameless partisan hacks.

Twice Uday, 39, turned up at wedding parties and raped the bride-to-be as her and the bridegroom's families were held at gunpoint, listening. At the second such occasion, in 1998, the groom shot himself.

Kinda makes those Wedding Horror Stories shows on cable seem a little petty doesn't it? "You say you spilled wine on your dress? Ahhh... poor thing. Wanna know what happened at my wedding, sister? Do you want to know?!"

-- This is mildly disturbing. I don't really want to get into the specifics of my results, other than to say: a football field?! Goddamn.

-- Boy, you can tell we're living in pretty good times when this is the kind of graffiti that's showing up in our inner cities. The streets are ready to explode with rage!

-- So you think you're tough? You think you're a man? I challenge you to try to listen to the dozens of bonus tracks at the end of the new Elvis Costello reissue CDs. Go ahead, give it a shot, tough guy. I predict you'll end up naked and rolled up in a fetal ball within thirty minutes. Rule of Thumb: previously unreleased tracks were previously unreleased for a reason. Holy shit.

-- Surf Reporters are everywhere! OK, that might be an overstatement, but they're in a few places... Check this out. A reader who prefers to remain anonymous attended the Jessica Lynch homecoming party in Elizabeth, WV a couple of days ago, and hung self-produced TheWVSR fliers around the place. How cool is that? Here are a few more pics from the day. I love this! I'd like to urge all of you to print this out, make a few copies, and photograph it taped to famous tourist attractions, national monuments, and famous celebrities around the world. Seriously. We can start a gallery here! I'm completely psyched with this idea. Help me out, people.

-- And while we're on the subject of Buck, here's his latest tale of hillbilly debauchery. In this episode he may or may not have had sex near a creek, with a jug of 'shine in his hand. Who among us can't say the same?

And that'll do it for today, boys and girls. See ya on Monday.

July 21, 2003

-- I've been fighting the urge to write about politics today. It would be irresponsible of me not to make this fact public. Oh, you can rest assured that it's not going to happen, but it was a very close call. For a frightening hour or so this morning we were at DEFCON 2. I was loaded to the teeth with diatribes about an uninformed population, intellectual dishonesty, manipulation, and ideological blindness. I even had a nice little analogy comparing partisan Democrats to internet hucksters selling penis-enlargement pills to cherry tomato-dicked men who desperately want to believe. But I've stepped back from the brink, and everything is going to be OK. We're now back to a normal state of preparedness here at the Compound. Whew!

-- I'm not sure if you saw anything about this, it didn't seem to get much coverage, but Kobe Bryant is apparently in some kind of trouble. Somehow his seed ended up in a woman who claims she didn't want it there, or something along those lines. I was lucky enough to catch the press conference where he apologized and proclaimed his innocence, and he continually ran his tongue round and round in his mouth as if he'd just eaten a caramel apple and had shit stuck to his teeth. I'm not sure what that means, but if I were on a jury I think I'd vote to send him away based on that fact alone. I don't get a good feeling from a man who nervously acts like he's struggling with a Starburst. Something just ain't right with that man; I can feel it.

-- I attempted my first Mumbles-free fishing trip on Saturday, and it didn't work out too well. They were holding some kind of "fishing derby" at the lake, and the place was lousy with kids bearing metal hooks on string. I took my normal spot on the pier and a pudgy little girl around ten years old was behind me, continuously casting (no patience whatsoever) and paying no attention to the fact that she could easily rip an eyeball out of somebody's skull with that shit.

Sure enough, fifteen minutes into the fiasco a woman a few feet away took a hook deep in the neck. It was apparently in there pretty good, and wouldn't budge -- probably because of the brutal little spurs along the length of the hook, designed to prevent fish from escaping. People were huddled all around her, but they couldn't work it loose. A little kid screamed to an unfortunately dressed man on shore: "Daddy! Mommy has a hook in her neck!!" Somebody finally cut the line, and she walked past me holding her bloody throat, trailing a plastic cord. I promptly packed up my gear and left.

I located Toney, who was doing some kind of crazy power walk around the park, and I talked her into abandoning that crap and having an Italian ice with me. I got tangerine, and she opted for the lemon. We found a place to sit, on a stone wall, and sat there and took in all the activity around us. Kids were everywhere; it was an absolute zoo. Who knew that fishing derbies were such a big deal? I'd never heard of such a thing. When I was a kid we just got together and threw rocks at people's houses. We never fished en masse; maybe if they'd allowed us to fish with rocks?

Right before we got up to leave we witnessed one of the funniest things I've seen all week. I'm laughing right now, just thinking about it. Some muscle-bound show-offy asshole came down the trail, putting on a demonstration for everyone, and eventually ended up on his back in the dirt. You know the type: tight shirt, sleeves rolled up, dying for attention -- probably into martial arts. He was walking on his hands and doing cute little leaps from the wooden posts in the ground. Then he jumped i[ on another post, while doing a mid-air twist of some sort, it came out of the ground and he landed flat on his back. He laid there for a long time, and everybody attempted to muffle their laughter. It was one of those moments that was so perfect and pure and right, it made me consider going to church.

-- But I didn't go to church; I'm not sure I could even find one, to tell you the truth. I went fishing on Sunday morning instead. It was a lot of fun this time. The park was practically abandoned, and the weather was perfect. I hung out there for a couple of hours, and didn't get a single bite. But that's OK, I don't really go to hurt the fishies anyway. Truthfully, it makes me kinda sad when I hook one. I just like the quiet and calm, and the beauty of the place. And I like being a regular at a bait shop. A bait shop! How cool is that?

Afterwards I hiked into the woods and found the dam where the river is closed off to create the lake where I fish. I walked across the top of it, and it was pretty cool. I don't know what's happening to me, but I'm really starting to get into the outdoors. Who could've predicted such a thing? In the past I would've maybe visited a bar with a fern, but that's as close as it would've come. The one little downside to all this nature stuff: I'm almost certain there's a tick tunneling through my brain stem as I type this. I can feel him in there working away right now.

-- I watched two "scary" movies over the weekend.

Friday night I saw Rosemary's Baby on AMC, and it did a pretty good job of freaking me the fuck out. There was nothing gory, it just had that sustained creepy tone that made it so famous and so effective. The part that really hit me was near the end, during a bizarre cocktail party scene. Hope Summers, the actress who played Aunt Bee's best friend, Clara Edwards, on The Andy Griffith Show was shown shouting, "Hail Satan! Hail Satan!!" Now that was difficult to digest. No wonder Clara Edwards won so many pickle-making contests in a row. She went down to the crossroads and cut a deal! Bee never stood a chance, once the Prince of Darkness got into the pickle-making business.

On Saturday I watched the new Crispin Glover remake of Willard. It's a good flick, but not terribly frightening. Glover is a strange guy, I think, in real life, so he plays a really good strange guy in movies. The film is a fascinating tale about an unstable little man who completely loses his shit. And I mean completely. But it's more a drama than a horror movie. The scariest part was when the end credits rolled and Crispin Glover's version of Michael Jackson's "Ben" began playing. That sent chills up my spine. Check it out.

-- Speaking of movies, a new documentary is about to premiere in San Francisco about Paul Westerberg's latest tour. Here's a review. Gotta see it, right away. Of course, being in Scranton, right away will undoubtedly mean the day it's released to DVD. Or ever how fast Amazon can get it here. But that's cool. Who am I to bitch? At least the thing exists. That's something you couldn't have said a year ago. ...What's happening to me?

-- And speaking of tours, I'm planning to travel to Philadelphia in a couple of weeks to see my one show of the year. I used to go to two or three per week, back in the heady Atlanta days, now it pretty much averages out to one concert per calendar year. For 2003 my friend Steve and I are gonna go check out the Eels. I actually saw them once before, in LA -- where I went to three shows in four years. (The Eels, X, and Randy Newman.) So I'm pretty excited. We get to be the two old guys standing in the back again -- it's a role I've come to accept and actually embrace. I may wear a tie this time, just to screw with everyone. Maybe I'll even talk into my sleeve?

-- Have you seen the Mercedes-Benz commercial where a bunch of people have strings tied around their fingers, apparently so they won't forget to buy a hundred thousand dollar car that day? What's that?! Are those wily Germans attempting to touch off class warfare in America? Is that their latest ploy? Because it's working. Every time I see that thing I feel like going out and slapping down a rich person. Arrogant string-tying pricks.

-- Sunday afternoon I was coming downstairs in our house, down a staircase I've handled thousands of time before without incident, and I suddenly lost my rhythm. Somehow I thought I was on the bottom step, but I was on the second one from the bottom. I stepped off thinking the floor was five inches away, but my foot just kept going down down down. When I finally landed I jammed my right leg into the floor, and stoved one entire side of my body. I felt like Mr. Fancy Pants at the park. This morning my ankle is swollen and my entire leg aches. I'm lucky the whole deal didn't just fold up like a telescope. Needless to say, Toney found it all highly amusing, and laughed for an inappropriate length of time. She claims to despise the 3 Stooges, but convulses with laughter every time I bump my head or fall down. Perhaps she has nothing against Shemp? Maybe it's as simple as that?

-- Finally, here's the latest chapter of Chris from Boone's Florida adventure. Yikes. Parts of this episode make my palms sweaty. I think this is what's commonly known as bottoming out. Why does that seem to happen so much in Florida? What's the deal with that? That place frightens me.

And that'll do it for today. Have a great week, folks.

July 17, 2003

-- Yeah, I don't have much today. S&M are gone, work hasn't been too bad, the weather broke and my chestnuts aren't currently being roasted... it's a slow news day. There's just not a lot to complain about. I've longed for this moment, and now that it's here I don't have anything to write about. Shit. This is something straight out of O. Henry. Like an oyster I need an irritating grain of sand or two, in order to create pearls. This kinda sucks. Where's all my sand?! A pudgy oyster needs his sand! Oh well, I'll just link to funny stuff other people have written, like everybody else does. Fuck it. There's always that option.

-- I know we're still a month and a half out, but I'm starting to get excited about our NYC trip in early September. It'll be our ten year anniversary, and Toney and I had planned to go to London to celebrate. For years we snuggled up to that plan. But after checking airfares, and comparing it to our bank account, we decided to just drive an hour and hang out in New York for a few days. Not too bad of a second-choice, I say.

I've already booked the hotel room, and got an incredible deal through my evil corporate connections. (Big Business!) I'm paying about a quarter of the published price, and that should allow us to have a good supply of spending money on hand. Spending money, of course, is the lifeblood of all successful vacations. I hate trying to get away from it all, and still having to watch every cent. Worrying about money casts a gloom over everything -- and I should know. Vacations are supposed to be a departure from everyday life. If I want a shoe box full of salt water taffy or a twelve-dollar "yard of beer," then, by god, I should be able to get it. I'm on vacation here! Know what I'm sayin' yo?

We're planning to buy bus passes and just spend four days exploring Manhattan with no clear plan. Neither of us are exactly experts on the city, so it'll all be new and exciting to us. Last time I mentioned this I received several suggestions on cool places to eat and drink, but I'm always open for more. Any tips are appreciated. There will be no Broadway shows, however. Don't bother with that suggestion. I'm from West Virginia, and we know that Broadway is faggotry.

-- Here are two articles that irreparably warped my developing brain as a youngster. They're both by John Hughes, who, of course, went on to become an 80s icon by giving us The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, Pretty In Pink, etc. etc. But these are from The National Lampoon, years before anyone knew who he was. I read both pieces dozens of times, and cherished them, biblically. They were just so wild and profane and hilarious. The Lampoon was filled with things that hit me like a hammer back then. Imagine making a living writing that kind of stuff! I remember sitting down and trying to duplicate the style, but it never came out right. It all looked so easy, yet wasn't. Those guys were my heroes. I wanted to have a varsity jacket made with Michael O'Donoghue High School on the back. Seriously. Yes, others were challenged by the works of William Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway, while I aspired to emulate "My Vagina." Kind of explains a few things, doesn't it?

-- Yuengling just came out with a Lager Light. I resisted trying it, because the thought of a compromised Yuengling Lager makes me sad. But I bought a case recently, and it's really good. It's exactly the same, as far as I can tell. And only 99 calories! So, by this time next year I should be a svelt little prancing nymph of a man. I'm so excited. I've always wanted to be described as sprite-like.

-- I can't decide whether to spend $250 to talk to Karen Valentine on the phone, or have a CD player installed in my truck. Decisions, decisions...

-- This guy is blogging about jerking off, which seems a little redundant to me. Of course, it's better than jerking off about blogging. That would be really sad.

-- This article has made the rounds by now, but it needs to be highlighted here. It's about a kid who has house flies coming out of his dick. Yes, you read that correctly. Apparently they're emerging periodically from his pee-hole, then taking flight. And I complain about the cable company?!

-- Before Mumbles left town Toney put him to work removing nails from the living room walls, then filling in the gaping craters with spackling. She told me on the phone that he had gotten a little carried away, and had gone "spackle happy." And I instantly had a new name for my future fantasy band that will never exist.

-- I had to shave my ears again today. It's only a matter of time before I'm shopping online for decorative colostomy nozzles.

-- Here's a guy with some real class.

-- What's the story with teenage boys spitting all the time? Is that cool or something, continuously ejecting saliva from the mouth? Does it have something to do with Eminem, by any chance? Goddamn. We were at Manning's ice cream shop the other night and a herd of guys was standing outside, spitting and eating cones. Lickety-spit, I guess is a way to describe it. And in West Virginia we seemed to be constantly alongside a big group of zitty spitters. It seems to be a fad, and it just ain't right. In my day we were much cooler.

-- And I'm all out of juice, as it were. I'll let Buck take it from here. Buck?

Have a great weekend, folks. I better drag my sorry ass into work. A big-shot from The Coast is supposed to be there today, and God knows I don't want to miss that momentous event. I love watching grown adults nuzzle a man's sack. See ya on Monday. Hopefully something really irritating will happen to me between now and then.

July 14, 2003

-- When I wake up every morning, emerging from my daily insect-like dormancy period, my brain immediately begins calculating how much longer it is until the weekend. What day is it?! What fuckin' day?!? Every molecule of my hideously swollen body has been trained to point towards the two days at the end of the week (or is it the beginning?). It's not something I'm proud of, in fact I'm kind of ashamed. I feel like one of those sad working-class characters from old Kinks songs. Or worse, I'm validating the entire career of Loverboy, making them appear as keen observers of the human condition. But the truth is the truth.

And, even more tragically, we rarely take full advantage of our two reward days, opting to sit in chairs and complain instead, or shop for shit we don't need in bloodless, characterless strip malls. By the time Sunday evening rolls around I usually find myself sunk deep in the couch in front of a flickering image of Newt Gingrich or Redd Foxx or Chipper Jones thinking: is this it? Is this what I attempted to will into existence all week?? Then I get myself another beer and transfer my sopping undergarments from the washing machine to the dryer, in preparation for another work week.

It's our fault, of course. We have free will and can come and go as we please. No way to blame this one on the French. We could venture out and explore the world, and experience new things -- even if it's just a walk around an unfamiliar park, or lunch in a diner that's been serving up burgers since Herbert Hoover. It can be simple, it doesn't have to be all Disneyland and whorehouses. But we don't do much exploration, and it pisses me off. It feels almost like a sin. I'm afraid we've become common suburban middle-class ugly Americans -- with an ergonomically-shaped car-washing sponge in the garage, and a universal remote so enormous we practically have to slip into an OSHA-approved back brace before turning on Bewitched.

And knowing it doesn't seem to change it. Oh, I've been knowing it. Sweet Jesus, when I was twenty-five I swore this would never happen to me. Even back then I knew to watch out for the danger signs. Didn't make much difference though. One of these days Doctor Dot is gonna tell me that a vital organ is about to say fuck it, and I'll want all these stupid Dick's Sporting Goods Saturdays and Sundays back. Hell, come to think of it, I want them back now.

How did I get here? And who do I apologize to?

-- This was all brought on by fishing. Mumbles and I went to the lake again on Sunday, and there's plenty of time to sit and think while you're waiting for the bobber to jump. It was a perfect day yesterday, and our fishing spot is really beautiful. Looking around at the water and the trees and the birds -- far away from TVs and computers -- the mind tends to pull towards self-examination. It's a great opportunity to take stock of your situation, and see things clearly. Perhaps I should just stop all the fishing?

Of course, I'm not exactly a deep thinker, and it didn't take long to start having goofy thoughts about the fish, and the meal worms we were using as bait. But really... Just imagine the fish, innocently out getting themselves a bite to eat, when everything is suddenly turned into a mind-boggling world of horrifying fucked-upness. It would be like me walking through the mall, noticing a Dairy Queen across the way, and being dragged by the mouth into the depths of a dark lake by a rusty hook, just as I attempted to take my first bite of Oreo Blizzard. What in the honeybaked hell?!?

Or the worms. They were probably chilling with their families in the dirt somewhere, and were suddenly scooped up, put into a large container, and transported to a strange unknown land. Some were probably separated from their loved ones, or witnessed their parents being whisked away in Satan's Styrofoam coffee cup. Eventually the interned would be on the move again -- then quickly speared through the gut, hurtled through the air, and submerged into liquid. And I complain? Ha! At least I'm not a meal worm. ...Maybe I should get that embroidered on a throw pillow?

-- On Saturday we went to a big indoor flea market with Sunshine and Mumbles, and I bought this lamp for ten bucks. The woman wanted fifteen, but I drive a hard bargain. Weird thing, though. As I was walking away I thought I heard hysterical laughter coming from her general direction. Must've thought of something funny she saw on TV or something. Who knows? People are generally idiots.

-- In the afternoon I mowed the grass and fell down twice. The first time my feet nearly went underneath the mower, and the second time I went down face-first in a patch of some kind of ivy. I'm not sure, but I may have uttered a few off-color words. The first crash, when I landed on my ass, caused everything inside me to jar violently, and I nearly puked. I'm not joking. All my innards bumped together, and it wasn't pleasant. What were we thinking when we bought a patch of land like a football field on a radical slant? How could we have been so stupid?? I am a human douchebag.

-- We watched Pennsylvania Polka Saturday night, for the first time in months. It was awesome, as usual. All the regulars were there: Dottie Stanky, oxygen tank man, the guy with the painful toupee and tiny suit, the paraplegic fighting for his right to party... It was just like old times. Afterwards we watched Ballroom Dancing, another public broadcast show featuring unsightly local citizens twitching and jerking around a dance floor. This one, however, features people in formal dress. So you get to see women with turkey arms in sleeveless dresses and fat men packed into sausage casing suits, doing the rumba. Simply terrific. You ain't lived until you've witnessed thirty neck pouches swaying in time to "Mambo #5." At one point they were playing something that sounded like the I Dream Of Jeannie theme, and there was a shot of a woman in front of an easel, hopping up and down, dancing, and painting a picture. And she was never acknowledged or explained. The hell? I swear, it's like a new Christopher Guest movie every week here.

-- Speaking of movies, I saw a really good one Saturday night: Run, Ronnie, Run! It's the mythical Cross/Odenkirk project that was never released to theaters, but is finally coming to video in a couple of months. Through my vast network of underground connections I was able to obtain an advance DVD copy, and it's incredibly great. I thought about it all day on Sunday and am in absolute awe of the tasteless beauty of this movie. It's the Doctor Zhivago of filth, I'm not kidding. When this thing finally comes out, I'm afraid I'm going to have to make it required viewing for all Surf Reporters. I know this is highly unusual, but necessary.

-- Finally, here's the latest Sin and Sun, by Chris from Boone. It's mind shattering as usual, so don't miss it.

And that's it for today, boys and girls. Gotta go.


July 10, 2003

-- I find it painful to talk about, but Sunshine and Mumbles are back. They're practically homeless, poking around the eastern United States in an old battered travel trailer, bouncing from child to child, and spreading the joy. I guess we're just going to have to accept the fact that they're always going to be too close for comfort. Constantly. They'd been planted down south since they left here a few weeks ago, and I thought we were safe for a while. I thought we'd done our time, and were now being rewarded.

I was sadly mistaken. Toney called me at work on Monday afternoon, and started the conversation with, "You're not going to fucking believe this..."

Apparently Mumbles attempted to secure a North Carolina driver's license, and ran into trouble when "the bastards" wouldn't accept the back cover of a Lane Bryant catalog they'd received in the mail, or whatever, as proof of residency. This caused a full-on emotional meltdown in Sunshine, and prompted a sobbing, hysterical phone call to Toney. Sunshine believes they're being harassed, simply because they're not Southern hicks. It's amazing how she's always being picked on and singled out, while attempting to run a scam. It's just really, really sad.

So, within twenty-four hours they were here again. Without their trailer. They're gonna try their little ruse in Pennsylvania. These people routinely bend and shape the rules to fit their own needs, and are now losing their shit over an expired driver's license? You'd think they were on the run from Pauly Walnuts. It's a stupid license... I've driven around for years without one. But they must have their paperwork in order, for some reason. I just don't get it. And truthfully, I prefer not to think about it. Somehow, I know, I'm going to become the subject of an investigation by the Department of Homeland Security because of this.

It was obscenely hot on Tuesday, the day they arrived, and Sunshine was complaining even more than I was. And that's saying something. At one point I looked over at her, and she was fanning herself with a dainty little fan straight out of Gone With The Wind. It's the kind that folds out, and is made of black lace or some shit. This made me laugh. I think it had something to do with the femininity of the item, alongside my memories of her yelling at a woman in a parking lot years ago: "The last thing you're going to see alive, bitch, are the headlights of my van!!" Yes, she's a delicate little flower.

All evening she floated the idea of sleeping on the floor, in the hall outside our bedroom(!?). She wanted to get some of the air conditioning from our window unit. I couldn't believe it. What's next, all four of us in our bed, lined up like the Little Rascals of Discontent? It never stops. Thankfully, I think Mumbles (the mumbling voice of reason) nipped her sleeping idea in the bud, and they crashed in the normal place. But I'm sure she's got plenty of other tricks up her sleeve; it would be foolish to underestimate the woman. Stay tuned.

-- There have been further developments in the office of a Surf Report loyalist, where people have apparently taken to wiping their asses with hand towels, and causing many janitorial opportunities to arise. Here's the latest:

We have recently had to call a plumber several time to unclog the Men's bathrooms on the 2nd and 3rd floors. It appears that someone is stuffing paper towels down the commodes which causes them to over flow and put them out of operation, thus necessitating the service calls. This is not only expensive, but also inconvenient for us and our clients.

Please DO NOT put paper towels in the commodes. Hall passes will be issued if this continues.

Your friendly, but exasperated Building Committee

It sounds like sabotage to me. I'm no Mannix, but my gut is telling me that somebody in that office has a fecal axe to grind. It may have started out with innocent ass-wiping of an inappropriate nature, but I think it's now moved beyond that. It'll be interesting to see how this one plays out, especially if they start pairing people up with Poop Buddies.

-- Since we're on the subject, here's a fun little bathroom survey to take. I found out that I'm pretty normal... straight down the middle of the road, when it comes to defecation. Where are you?

-- I think the bags under my eyes are getting infected. Do they still make Bactine?

-- I'm kinda embarrassed to admit this, since I raved about Earthlink so much, but, on a whim, I signed up for Adelphia high-speed internet this past weekend. They had one of those bundle deals where you get digital cable with HBO, and their Power Link internet service for some outrageously high price, and I went for it. And I've gotta say, it kicks ass.

I installed it myself, and I'm still on an emotional high about that. Man, you should've seen me manhandling that cable splitter. At one point I considered removing my shirt, but thought better of it. I don't want Toney to move out or anything. I got that baby in though, with no problems. It was one of my greatest married-man accomplishments to date. Who needs the $25 professional installation? Just give me the parts, sister. If I'd had a cigar (and Toney said it was OK), I would've smoked it. Because I'm a man.

I miss Earthlink's Pop-Up Blocker, which is obviously one of the greatest things ever invented, and the Start Up Page, where I can see the current temperatures of every town I've ever lived, peruse the news headlines, check on the progress of the four shares of stock I own, etc. etc. This new service doesn't do anything to block ads, and it just kinda dumps you onto the internet. There's no staging area or welcome center, it's like a water slide and you just fly out into the middle of everything. Other than that, there's no comparison.

For purely investigative purposes, I signed onto Kazaa last night and downloaded a Jesse Malin song. The speed was insane. With dial-up it would've taken ten or fifteen minutes. I doubt it took thirty seconds with this crazy cable. Just to make sure it wasn't an aberration, I may have to do a little more investigating tonight. I want to be absolutely sure.

Also, I can listen to radio stations from around the world, with just a simple click now. There's no more popping and percolating for minutes and minutes. The shit just comes on. I feel like a hillbilly on his first visit to Louisville, KY. I'll never be the same again.

-- I checked out a Trading Spaces newsgroup at work yesterday, and it was highly entertaining. For instance, I read a lengthy discussion where people were speculating on the shaving practices of the females on the show. There was a clear consensus that Paige has "bare hardwood floors," while Genevieve is probably sporting a "hallway carpet runner." Where were we before the internet? Seriously.

Also, there was a long thread about the perceived gayness of the cast. Apparently Frank is straight and married to a woman named Judy. If that's true, then I don't know shit about anything. Frank is a country-fried poofter of the highest order. Nobody could come to agreement on the rest of the crew, and a few misguided souls even think that Edward character is straight. Ha! And I'm TV's Sam Drucker. There were, of course, a few people on there with sticks of humorlessness jammed way up their asses, chastising everyone for even caring who's gay and who's not. Why does it matter? they demanded in superior tones. But these self-righteous fucks were quickly slapped down, and it was back to pondering Vern's sexuality.

Here's some nifty wallpaper I discovered of Ms. Hardwood Floors herself, who is both straight and married.

And may God continue to bless the United States of America.

-- Finally, another fine dispatch from our Educated Hillbilly friend "Buck." I mentioned earlier that Buck is a well-known media personality in West Virginia, who (wisely) will not allow me to use his real name. When we were visiting the state a couple of weeks ago I checked him out, doing the thing he does, and he's incredibly professional and accomplished. It's quite intimidating, if you want to know the truth. I'm more accustomed to people who holler and cuss for a living, and suck their teeth during cool-down periods. This kind of thing is pretty new to me.

And that's it for today, folks. How did I do?  

There will be more of this stuff on Monday, and there's very little you can do about it.

               

July 7, 2003

-- I know this is almost sacrilege to all you jetskiing, frisbee-flipping, bathing suit hard body freaks out there, but I hate this time of year. The three-day weekend we're just emerging from was so hot and humid, and sticky and gross, it took nearly every last ounce of energy to even turn my head and look at the clock, to see if it was time to go to bed again. The entire undertaking was just incredibly taxing. At least in our bedroom, you see, we have one of those Soviet Union gray humming electric boxes wedged into the window, and it manages to reduce the temperature to a level where the dangerous brain-swelling can subside a bit, and make the hallucinations stop.

Toney complained about the winter so much she refuses to say a negative thing about this devil weather. She's very stubborn that way. But I'd rather have snow piled up to the windows and a hawk wind blowing, than this crap. And I mean that sincerely. A sloppy freezing February day looks like prom night from this perspective. Not a summer day goes by that I don't feel like hunting down our real estate agent and making her pay for the blatant lie she told us about not needing air conditioning here. We're in the mountains, she kept saying, don't worry about it. The liar. She needs to be taught a lesson.

I finally bit the bullet on Sunday and mowed our grass, after putting it off as long as I possibly could, and I felt like a Ford Festiva on the upside of Fancy Gap Mountain. My core temperature was something only NASA is equipped to deal with. I was a pizza oven trapped inside a man's body. I wondered if I might explode, like those spontaneous combustion people they're always talking about on Ripley's Believe It Or Not. Before I even pulled the cord on the mower I was gushing sweat like Al Gore. People who say they like this time of year should be slapped down.

Is it too early to start watching for the birds flying south? Is that just foolish wishful thinking? Goddamn.

-- I'm not sure if this is heat-related but every morning for the past few days I've woken up with my right ear completely sealed shut. It feels like it's been filled with plaster of paris, then trowled off. It throws off my equilibrium and I feel goofy and out of it, until mid-morning, when something pops and everything's suddenly OK. What's that all about? I'm sitting here right now with it sealed off tighter than a jetliner, and I'm having trouble concentrating. I've learned that you can't do anything to try to rush the pop either, that only delays things. No, you can't tamper with the pop, you've just got to ride it out. ...I'm falling apart.

-- Friday afternoon Toney and I went to Ruby Tuesday for lunch. We picked a place with bad service so we'd be stuck there for a long time, soaking up their institutional air conditioning. Plus, we had a coupon. True to form, our waiter was as half-assed as they come. There were huge gaps between drinks and salads and entrees, and you could never achieve any kind of rhythm. It was all herky-jerky and mildly irritating.

At one point the guy climbed up onto a table near us (while my iced tea glass sat empty), presumably to turn the channel on the TV. As soon as he got up there something suddenly shifted, the table collapsed, and he crashed to the floor, sending a fake Tiffany lamp swinging and whipping menacingly. Wotta dipshit. The other workers laughed at him with gusto, and he spent the rest of the time frantically trying to bolt the tabletop back onto the legs -- as our lunches congealed in the kitchen.

After our meal he brought us a check for thirty bucks, and I told him he'd forgotten to subtract the coupon (buy one entree, get one free!). He apologized, and disappeared for another ten minutes. Finally he returned with a new check -- for twenty-nine dollars. He'd taken off a dollar. Um, I hate to interrupt your bolting there, but I still don't think this is correct. He snatched it away again, and brought us back a third check for eighteen something. Shit. I believe he over-corrected a bit, but who am I to argue? I didn't want him to think I was being difficult or anything.

When we left he was sliding the damaged table back into place, with some kind of ratchet tool hanging out of his back pocket -- and two crisp dollar bills by our uncollected plates, so he could buy himself something nice when he got off.

-- On the Fourth of July Toney and I went to a Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons minor league baseball game, because they have the best fireworks in the area. The place was packed. It was completely sold out and they were actually offering standing room only tickets -- at a minor league baseball game. We had to park by a State Farm office down the street, because the stadium parking lot was completely maxed out. The roads outside the stadium were lined with illegally parked vehicles, and sweat-slickened humans were everywhere. There were over twelve thousand people sardined in that place (many sporting fanny packs), and it was hotter than owl piss.

There isn't really much to report about the night, other than it turned out to be pretty fun, against great odds. We had a couple of five dollar Yuengling drafts, watched the game, and indulged in some black-belt people watching. I have to say, all those people, all that sweat... and no funk. Americans generally smell OK, and you've got to admire that. Can you imagine, say, a trip to EuroDisney on a hot summer day? Whew!

After the game they swung open the gates and allowed everyone to pour onto the field for the fireworks display. Toney and I claimed a spot in short left field, and did as everyone else did -- laid on our backs on the artificial turf. Then they did a countdown, flipped off the lights at zero, and let 'er rip. It was great. I'm no expert on pyrotechnics, but it seemed pretty kickass to me. And it felt like it was happening right above us. Extremely cool. I've never laid on a professional baseball field before, beneath spectacular explosions. It was one of those things we're not likely to forget.

-- I was talking to my brother yesterday, and we somehow got onto the subject of a crazy woman who lived across the street from us as we were growing up. Her name was Beulah, her husband was Delbert, and both were at least semi-retarded. Actually I believe she may have been inbred. Her brother was her father, or something like that. Delbert was just really slow, but she was crazy as well. Oh, they offered us great entertainment as kids, proven by the fact that we're still talking about it twenty-five years later.

She thought that my grandfather, who lived next door to them, was a peeping tom and had Delbert paint all their windows black. She routinely called the police because she was convinced somebody was under her house "pumping gas" into her kitchen. She would go to the grocery store and return with nothing but several fifty-pound bags of onions. After she finally died they found, amongst all the garbage, a collection of thousands and thousands and thousands of bread ties in her house. They were lovingly sorted by color, and boxed with care. The stories just go on and on.

One summer I got roped into mowing their grass, and Beulah was never satisfied with the job I did. I think she wanted a professional landscaper. I told her she was lucky I was mowing it at all, and she'd squawk like a pterodactyl. One of her biggest bones of contention, which she told my parents about repeatedly, was the strip of grass on the left side of their house. There was no way to get to it, because of the big wall of garbage shrubs in the way, but she wanted it cut. So I actually had to drag my mower onto their front porch, start it up, and drop it off the side with the motor running, then climb down behind it to mow her goddamn strip of grass. Absolutely insane.

But here's what we were talking about yesterday... a bit of family lore that we'll go to the grave with. Beulah sat on her porch all day long, every day, and Delbert was usually inside talking on his CB radio. (His handle was Cornflakes, I shit you not.) That's what they did, for decades. One day my dad was out in the front yard, and asked Beulah how she was doing. And she said, "Well John, my bladder dropped last night and it's coming out of my vagina." My dad said, "Well, um, I hope you feel better real soon," and my brother and I didn't stop laughing until the middle of the following week. Oh, sweet Maria, that's one for the book of quotes. John F. Kennedy had some good ones, but Beulah's belongs right alongside them.

-- And on that note, let's top it off with a great new episode of Sin and Sun in Sarasota.

Have a great week, folks.

                            

July 3, 2003

-- Boy, it didn't take long to get back into the swing of things here. I was barely through the door at work before I had my climbing gear back on, and was once again scaling the Big Wall of Shit. And here I am on Thursday morning pumping coffee into my system in a desperate attempt to jump-start whatever it is in there that keeps me upright and moving forward. I could store heads of lettuce in the bags beneath my eyes. And I'm all swoled up, fatter'n a goddamn Appalachian Buddha; I look like the Liberty Bell in a short sleeved shirt. I'm hot and fat and tired... and I think that about covers it.

-- Yesterday at work I received a new company phone list from my employers in California, and the damn thing was sorted by FIRST NAMES. All the Rons are grouped together, and all the Michelles, etc. What is that? Is that the way it's done now? Does it promote a friendlier work environment or something pussified like that? I hate all that trendy corporate crapola, and it's turning me into a curmudgeonly old Andy Rooney of an office worker. Just give me the tools I need, the authority and objective, and leave me alone. Don't expect me to participate in "pot lucks" (nasty) and company picnics (people don't suddenly become tolerable simply because they're outdoors), and feel free to acknowledge my last name. It won't shatter my self-esteem. Really. And please please please don't subject me to stylish new corporate phrases and buzzwords. It's idiotic. I've noticed that people are starting to ask me to "take ownership" of issues and problems now. It makes me want to kick a few nuts in. What's wrong with just asking if I can take care of it? Is that not sporty enough now? I think I'm developing a bad attitude.

-- Speaking of work, a reader forwarded me this email that was sent to everyone in his office last week, by the building manager:

We have had a few stopped up commodes lately and the problem seems to be the use of an excessive amount of paper or in one case the use of paper towels when toilet paper was readily available. Please use good judgement in the amount and type of paper you are using . Remember not only do each of us use the restrooms but our clients do also. Last week an attorney avoided what could have been a very embarrassing situation with a very important client by checking the restroom outside the conference room before the client arrived, saw there was a major problem and later directed the client to a restroom on another floor. Thank you for your cooperation. John

A couple of things jump out at me here. First, why are people wiping their asses with hand towels? Are they the type on big rolls that you have to rip off, like in my office? Goddamn. Those things could lacerate a colon. May as well swing open the door on the Xerox machine, grab yourself a handful of copy paper, and go take a big dump. I've never shit at work, not once in my entire life, but if I ever do I'm almost certain I won't use towels afterward. Also, I really wish ol' John had gone into more detail about the "major problem" they recently encountered outside the conference room. My imagination is running wild.

-- I went into a beer store the other night and a classic rock radio station was broadcasting live in there. They had their brightly colored van in the parking lot, with an antennae raised about a hundred yards in the air, and there were banners hanging everywhere. I almost put it in reverse when I saw all that, and drove off. But I didn't really want to go all the way across town to get my Yuengling, when I was already right there. I told myself to man up, and just go on inside.

They had two speakers that were as tall as me, and something by The Who was blasting out of them. Possibly "Substitute" but I can't be sure. There was a guy sitting in a chair, wearing headphones, holding a microphone and reading something on a clipboard. Oh, shit! I felt the same kind of panic as when I was in school and had to give an oral presentation. As soon as this song's over, I knew, that asshole is going to thrust his mic in my face and expect me to be entertaining. It was high stress in a retail establishment.

I walked past the guy, careful not to make eye contact, and grabbed my case of lager. One of the clipboard guy's henchmen came running towards me while I was paying, and handed me this. I mumbled thanks and tore ass out of the place, continuously looking over my shoulder for signs of wacky on-air personalities.

They probably thought I was a maniac. But years ago a news crew came to the record store where I worked, and interviewed me about the success of compact discs, or some such bullshit. I was having trouble maintaining the integrity of my sphincter while this interview was taking place, but I thought it went pretty well. Then when I watched it that night on the 11 o'clock news I was absolutely mortified. They'd edited it to make me look like a hick retard. (Ahem.) And they'd apparently used some kind of special studio effects to make me appear incredibly ugly and unsure of myself; a special filter had obviously been used to make my forehead shiny and my shoulders droopy. It was awful. After the piece was mercifully over the anchor made a face, like what the fuck was that?, and all the blood drained out of my head. I've been camera shy ever since.

-- A reader sent me an email a few days ago raving about a CD he said I must purchase, and it seemed right up my alley. It's called Iron & Wine, and you can read a little about it here, if you'd like. The guy's sort of a Southern American Nick Drake, if you can get your arms around that concept. I bought it last night, and it sounds great. I've already played it six or seven times, and there's no end in sight. It earns the prestigious Surf Report Seal of Approval.

-- While I was at Border's buying the Iron & Wine disc I noticed a counter display of Harry Potter-exploiting Jelly Belly jelly beans that come in many disgusting flavors. Oh, I had to try them -- even though they carried an outrageous price tag of two bucks for a tiny box. Here are my quick thoughts on the various flavors:

Black Pepper -- Kinda nasty, in a black licorice sorta way, but nothing that will leave a permanent emotional scar or anything.

Booger -- There was only one of these in my box, and it tasted like a glob of salt and sugar. I've never tasted a real booger (although I have had boogers the size of jelly beans throughout the years) so I can't vouch for its authenticity, but this wasn't too bad.

Dirt -- These were tough to choke down. It was like wriggling into the crawlspace beneath your garage and eating a handful of soil, right after the exterminator's been there. Caused me to contort my face like the late, great Buddy Hackett.

Ear wax -- Again, I'm not in the habit of sucking the ends off of used Q-Tips, so I don't know how real these are. But I do know they're gag-inducing. Kind of musky, if you can dig it.

Grass -- I have eaten grass (it's a long sad story involving the police and alcohol), and I don't remember it tasting anything like this. Not too bad though, especially compared to some of the others.

Sardine -- The worst of all. I can't begin to describe my revulsion. My entire lower jaw retracted when I bit into this ball of nastiness, and I very nearly puked. Seriously. I'm sorry, but I just can't get behind fish-themed candies. One of the worst things I've ever had in my mouth.

Spinach -- Really good. I never understood the public's mythical problem with spinach. I like it. This should be added to the Jelly Belly permanent lineup, along with broccoli with cheese sauce, which is also yum.

Vomit -- Nearly as bad as sardine, but not quite. It didn't really taste like vomit, but it almost allowed me to sample the real thing. This shit had me clapping my hands together like a seal, but I certainly wasn't applauding. The box says they used both natural and artificial flavorings... you don't think??... Nah.

Overall, I'd suggest you steer clear of this crap. Eating them wasn't nearly as fun as I thought it would be. It was actually quite painful. I threw a bunch in the trash, and you know it's gotta be bad if I'm throwing away candy. Yechh.

-- Finally, here's another excellent edition of Buck's Chronicles of an Educated Hillbilly. I think you'll enjoy it as much as I did.

And that'll do it for today, boys and girls. See ya again on Monday.

Oh, one more thing... I'm still behind on my email, after our vacation last week.  So, if you've sent me something over the past couple of weeks and I haven't responded yet, please don't take it personally.  I'll get it all caught up this weekend.

Bye.

July 1, 2003

Here's more on last week's journey into the heart of West Virginia, the Mother Land. If you wanna read the first part, go to the June 30 update. I know it's confusing, but together I believe we can make it through. Just hold onto my love handles, and follow me...

-- One of the more striking things I noticed as we stomped around my old stomping grounds is that people there are infinitely nicer than they are in Scranton. I'm now conditioned to expect nasty, abrupt assholes and bitches to be everywhere we go. I've been in PA for three and a half years now, and open-face shittiness is my new reality. Toney and I went into a store in Charleston early in our visit last week and a smiling woman greeted us and said, "If there's anything I can help you with, just holler." I immediately began trying to unlock the secrets of her devious scam. What's this chick up to? But people were really pleasant and nice everywhere we went. It was refreshing. All my life I've heard it said that West Virginia's greatest asset is its people, and there might be some truth to that. Then again, I think back to my high school graduating class, and realize that nothing is universal. No shortage of dicks in that group. Generally speaking though, my home state is a really friendly place. A quick trip to the gas station there usually doesn't result in your blood pressure spiking off the chart. It's a nice change of pace.

-- Toney and I walked around the mall in Charleston one afternoon, and wandered into a place that sells big novelty flags that people like to hang off the front of their houses. We have one on our deck and Toney is always on the lookout for interesting designs. As she flipped past the many Dale Earnhardt banners and the ones with college football logos on them, I asked her what's the deal with the pineapple flags. You see them everywhere, and I guessed it stood for something correct and Oprahish, like "have you hugged a minority child today?" But Toney said it means "welcome." Ha! Screw that, I said, do they have any with a red slash through the pineapple? That's the flag we need. A big one.

-- I noticed an unusually high concentration of homoactivity in Charleston. Maybe I was naive, but I don't think there was much of that back in the day. Or maybe they just hid it better back then? I imagine 1980's West Virginia wasn't an especially easy place to be gay in. I don't know, but I saw a lot of men who were very light on their feet this visit, moving about as if on wheels. Some were just openly sashaying around, sporting moustaches and muscle shirts and the whole nine yards. We saw one guy buying an ice cream cone at Dairy Queen who probably goes by the name Dan Francisco. It was hard to tell whether he was wearing jeans or had just slathered his ass in denim colored paint. How did Charleston, West Virginia turn into America's Amsterdam? I haven't been away that long, have I?

-- There's a store in the mall that sells West Virginia stuff, like glittery sweatshirts with cardinals on them, and big hunks of coal that've been transformed into overpriced hideous mantle clocks, and stuff along those lines. One of the more amazing things I saw there was a jar of "West Virginia Salsa." Boy, those are three words that I never could've predicted I'd see grouped together on a label. I considered buying it, but it cost something like fifty or six dollars -- something outrageous.

-- I went to visit my grandmother one afternoon, and that's always an uplifting experience. I generally feel like flinging myself off a bridge after seeing her, and this trip was no different. She's almost ninety and no longer recognizes us. She lives in an assisted care home with five or six Alzheimer's patients who sit around muttering and yelling for their husbands, who've all been dead since 1968 or so. It's incredibly sad. One old lady there supposedly burned out her brain years ago with "bad medicine," whatever that means, and has been known to come crawling into the living room nude. Another looks a lot like the baby on Eraserhead. Apparently one old woman escaped a few days before we were there and was caught in full nightgown sprint, heading towards Route 60. I don't like going there, but feel it's the right thing to do. My granny played a big part in raising me and my brother, because both my parents worked when we were kids, and now she doesn't know who we are. She was/is a great person. I sat with her for a while and held her hand, then told her goodbye. As I got up to leave she asked if I was the man from the Salvation Army. And I went looking for high bridges.

-- My dad told me a scary-ass story about the new subdivision they're building a mile or so from their house, which will probably generate nightmares for years to come. Apparently the contractors had several large trailers on the site, where they stored supplies and crap. A couple of them sat undisturbed for over a year, and when they finally went to move them they discovered that dozens and dozens of copperhead snakes had taken up residency inside. The workers shit their collective pants and ran for the hills. And when they finally got up enough nerve to return, all the snakes were gone -- probably now in the woods behind their newly constructed high-dollar homes which are currently chock-full of babies! An order was given for the workers to begin a snake-hunting mission, and they eventually killed twenty-seven poisonous snakes. They have no way of knowing how many escaped, but they got twenty-seven. And I just experienced another full-body shiver.

-- Here are some lawn ornaments in front of a house not too far from where my parents live. Jesus and dinosaurs... very strange.

-- We bought two Powerball tickets at the convenience store where the guy in the black hat won $315 million last Christmas. Unfortunately they won't be installing any signs commemorating my purchase. Jeff Kay threw two hard-earned dollars down the shitter here on 6/26/2003!! You just don't see those much.

-- There's a grocery store near my parent's house that we seemed to visit on a daily basis, for some reason. And every time we walked down the milk aisle we'd be accosted by an overzealous (and slightly effeminate) dairy worker with a thick accent, who kept trying to talk us into buying their "aigs" which were on sale, 99 cents for eighteen. Each time we were there he'd remind us how good a deal it was, and we'd always turn him down. We're visiting my parents from out of town, we'd explain, but that didn't deter him. Heck, surprise them tomorrow with a big breakfast of "aigs and biken," he'd holler. We almost had to get a restraining order.

-- One day late in the visit we went to Carter Caves in Kentucky. We were running out of things to do, and somebody suggested we check that out. It was fun. I'd been there as a kid, but didn't remember much. We went on an hour-long tour of a cave that had huge lakes inside and stretched for over two miles. Really really cool. The guy said people used to moonshine in there, and hold drunken wild-ass parties. I bet they did. It was like a whole other world underneath the ground. I took a bunch of pictures inside the cave, but none turned out. I did, however, get some Kay-O-Vision shots inside the park itself, and here they are. This was Kentucky, remember, not West Virginia.

And that's about it. We left on Saturday, and I think I could hear my Mom's can of Pledge spraying before we got off the driveway. She runs a tight ship. But it was a fun visit. We got to see some good friends and spend a little time with my parents -- and turn our brains off for a few days from the drudgeries of everyday life. That's the important part. But now it's back to harsh reality. And I'll see you again on Thursday, with more of that bullshit for ya.

                      

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