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   The State of My Fat Ass                                          July 2005

July 29, 2005

A few quick things:

-- I'm off today, because we're supposed to be camping. But there's no camping, none whatsoever. There are only tears and E.L. Fudge cookies. As I mentioned yesterday, our reservations got screwed up somehow, and we have no place to go. They had us down for August 29 & 30 instead of July 29 & 30, and the place is completely booked. So that's the end of that story. We thought about scrambling and trying to find an alternative, but screw it. Our hearts aren't really in it anymore. It's been a shitty week, and we'll just take the three-day weekend (that's tree-day for locals), thank you very much. Under the circumstances, it might be just what the doctor ordered.

-- I was bitching to an old friend in West Virginia yesterday, via electronic mail, about how things have been going lately. And here's one of his heartfelt replies:

Remember when you claimed there was a Paula McClain armpit hair in your food at the high school cafeteria? And you wonder why bad things happen to you....

I have no idea what he's talking about. Paula McClain was a "special" student at our school, but beyond that, who knows? I'm not sensing a whole lot of sympathy, though.

-- Last night I went upstairs and began the process of closing all the blinds and curtains for the evening. And when I tried to turn on my nightstand lamp, nothing happened. Grrrr.... Toney never uses her lamp, and I decided I'd just secretly swap the two bulbs instead of going all the way downstairs to fetch a new one. So I unscrewed my bulb, unscrewed hers, put my bulb in her lamp and her bulb in mine, and -- nothing. What the hell, man?? Had I already done the switch earlier? It was entirely possible, since I'm known for such half-ass measures.

I sighed loudly, and reluctantly went downstairs to get a new bulb. Mumbling obscenities all the while, I saw that we only had the 100 watt flavor. Seemed a tad excessive, but what choice did I have? I trudged back up the steps, unscrewed Toney's bulb that was now in my lamp, replaced it with the new bulb from downstairs, and -- nothing.

The damn thing was unplugged! Apparently Toney had been vacuuming, and had unplugged my lamp. And when I plugged it back in, it was like Shea Stadium in there. I literally had to shield my eyes.

Later, when Toney was getting ready for bed, she came storming back downstairs and asked, in an exasperated tone, what I'd done to the bedroom. It's like the Kenny Rogers Roasters episode of Seinfeld, she shouted. 

And I said, "What do you mean?"

-- Here's a little girl just flat-out playing a xylophone. Wonder if Netflix has this video?!

-- And here's an exhaustive review of The Cereals of the 1980s.

-- My brother reports that on 9/6/04 he bought a standard-sized box of salt, and it lasted until 7/23/05. Almost a year, and it probably cost 69 cents. I was mocked viciously the first time I brought this up, but seriously, how does Big Salt survive? Don't they have to dig that stuff out of the ground? And then when they finally get it to the surface, it's worth nearly nothing? It baffles me. 

Being a salt miner must be at the very bottom of the mining food chain. Am I wrong? Mining for gold is one thing, and coal another, but mining for table salt?! Admittedly, I don't know shit about which I speak, but the concept of selling something that lasts a full year, for less than a dollar, seems like a very poor business model indeed. 

It reminds me of an old cartoon I saw when I was a kid. It showed a bunch of businessmen sitting around a conference table, with a sign hanging behind them that read Acme Toothpick Company. And the guy at the podium says, "Gentlemen, we would've turned a profit this year, but we had to buy another log."

-- And speaking of my brother... He tells me that the cops came to his workplace last week, handcuffed a guy, and carted him off to jail. His crime? Fishing without a license, then failing to show up for his court date. 

Makes me laugh. I can see the poor bastard in a holding cell with rapists and murderers, and someone asking what he's in for.

I'm never risking it again, not after hearing that story... The fine was $185, and he ended up in jail for it. No, the days of pinning a Dairy Queen napkin to my hat, to fool the lazy park rangers, are over. Eventually one of them will get out of their SUV and actually waddle down to the water to check licenses. And I'm going to be prepared, dammit. I'm not going to be the new bitch on the block, because of fishing.

-- Any opinions about our new fancy-pants RSS feed? The stats tell me that a few people are actually using it, but I've received no feedback. If you have suggestions on how I might make it more useful, I'm all ears. Just let me know, 'cause I know nothing about any it.

-- And remember, the t-shirt shop is fully stocked again. I was pretty much out of business for ten days or so, but all four sizes are now available, with no waiting. Once these are gone, I most likely won't order more. So, if you want one, now's the time, boyee.

-- Yesterday I received some news that will probably, at the same time, make most of you very happy, and me pretty damn sad. Apparently we're going to be having visitors next week... I'll give you more details later, but it looks like we're about to be serenaded by the sounds of female armpit hair gently rustling in the breeze. And no, it's not Paula McClain... Stay tuned for further developments.

-- And finally, I have something that I'm really excited about. It's a Surf Report world exclusive -- at least for the next few hours, until a hundred blogs steal the file and claim it as their own. It's a real voicemail that someone left on Brad's phone at work, and it's nothing short of classic. Is it Buford T. Justice? Senator Ernest Hollings?? Your guess is as good as mine... But I've given it its own special page, and here it is.

That'll do it for today, folks. Have yourselves a great weekend, and I'll see ya on Monday.

July 28, 2005

-- Well, yesterday pretty much sucked.

As I was driving to work I noticed a new light on my dashboard, and it looked somewhat like a car battery. It was a little rectangle with plus and minus signs in the middle. Kinda batteryish, right? But what did it mean? Lights are always going off and on in that thing, including one that says my security system has been activated. The only problem is, I don't have a security system. So it didn't cause me any immediate concern. Everything felt OK, and I was chugging right down the road like any other day.

But the more I thought about it....

I finally called my Dad, who is camping somewhere with my Mom in their Def Leppard bus. I started to describe the situation, and after I got six or seven words out of my mouth, he said, "Alternator!" Not what I wanted to hear. If there was something wrong, I wanted it to be the ($60) battery. Maybe it just melted down in the high heat? "Well, that's a possibility," he said, "but my guess is the alternator." Fabulous.

I called the garage where we always go, and I don't think I even got to seven words before the guy cut me off: "Alternator!" Dammit, what's with these people? Hasn't anyone ever heard of the art of hopeful estimation?? It was starting to piss me off. He said they weren't overly busy, and I could bring it in today and he'd take a look at it. "But it's probably the alternator," he added, just to twist the knife.

So, after the conference call I took off. And the Blazer fired right up, like always. Nothing felt different, but that stupid light came back on. Hey, maybe it's just a fuse gone haywire? Yeah, that would be even better than a sixty-dollar battery! Oh, I'm good at that sort of thing, real good.

But after about five minutes of driving, shit started to shut down. First the stereo went. One second I'm being reassured by my good friend Steve Forbert, and then suddenly I'm all alone with my sweaty palms and flexing sphincter. Then the dashboard stopped working, and it told me I was going zero mph and had not a single ounce of gas in the tank. While I'm going seventy down Interstate 81!! What in the hot buttered hell??

I turned off the A/C, not knowing if it was somehow tied in with something vital, but the power windows wouldn't roll down. And it was hot. So I was sweating like a moose, and absolutely certain the engine was about to cut out. I passed through sections of the highway where there was no shoulder, only big concrete barriers....

I had visions of me sitting in a car that was now little more than a prop, in the right lane of the interstate, and eventually being knocked ass-over-tits by an eighteen wheeler hauling medical waste. I could see my organs, a steering wheel with two hands still attached, and bloody gauze from Virginia, all raining down on the unsuspecting citizens of northeastern PA. Oh, I was stressin'.

But I made it off the highway, and was about a mile from my destination when it finally said fuck it. I let it roll onto the shoulder, and called the garage. We have AAA, but they take a small lifetime to respond, and I wondered if the guy might have some other idea. And he did. He sent someone out with a battery, and got me rolling again. I was standing there for about twenty minutes, cars whizzing past with people inside gawking at the poor bastard with his shit car, and it felt like three hours. When the rescue vehicle finally arrived, I was ecstatic. I'd never been so happy to see a man with a shaved head and a dragon tattoo on his neck, in all my life.

Of course it was the alternator, and I was looking at a bill for $286, plus tax.

But there was apparently some uncertainty about the battery. He said it might very well be damaged, and a replacement would run me $79. Rip-off alarms started going off in my head, and I was sure they'd try to stick me for that crap as well. As I waited on the verdict, I made up my mind that I wasn't buying a battery from them. I'd get one at Sam's Club, or whatever, and put it in myself. I was born at night, but not last night, baby. I was getting myself all worked up about it, certain they were taking advantage of the situation, and piling on. The thieving pricks! They'd swim in a lake of fire for this shit!

Then: "Hey buddy, your battery is fine. It's holding a good charge, and you shouldn't have a problem with it. And we'll forget about the road service, and just pretend it never happened, OK? If you don't tell anyone, I won't..."

I felt guilty about my earlier thoughts of eternal damnation, and all that stuff, but realized I was happy to be forking over "just" three hundred dollars to the guy. Three hundred dollars to get back to where I was yesterday, and I was just as giddy as shit about it. And I walked out of there wondering if I'd been manipulated after all? 

Damn, he should be working for the CIA or something... The dude has crazy skillz! Or am I just being overly paranoid? Ha.

-- And when I got back to work Toney sent me an instant message that said, "Call me. You're not going to believe this!" 

What now??

We were supposed to go camping this weekend, at a campground about ninety miles from here. I'm taking Friday off, and we were going to have us a nice little weekend away. Well, Toney called the place to ask some unrelated question, and it came up during the course of the conversation that our reservations were all screwed up. Whoever took them put us down for AUGUST 29 & 30, not July. And they're completely full this weekend!

So that's that. No way we can find a spot anywhere decent, on such short notice. So, no camping for us this weekend. At least we found out about all this before we dragged our camper all the way down there, with a cooler full of meat and everything. But it's only a small consolation....

Yeah, like I said, yesterday pretty much sucked.

July 27, 2005

-- When I started up my truck last night after work it told me that the outside temperature was 104 degrees. I'm not sure how accurate that is, because within seconds it had plunged to 98. But it was hot. So hot, in fact, I was able to use it as justification to have dinner in a restaurant again. I mean, who wants to turn on the stove or oven in this kind of weather? Right? Right??

So Toney and the Secrets chose a place, and I met them there. It was a steakhouse type of deal, and I used to really like it. But the last couple of times have been kinda disappointing. I got a burger there for lunch a couple of months back, and it tasted like, oh I don't know, blanket? Plus, it looked like a smoldering meteorite on the outside, but had blood trickling out of the middle of it. They must've flash-fried that shit on some kind of special ultra-hot flavor-extracting NASA grill, or something.

But I'd had good meals there as well, and decided I'd try to remember the good and forget the bad.

The place was crowded, and overrun by children. Apparently it was kids-eat-free night? We had no idea, but that was fine by me. I have no problem with the younglings, now that we have a couple of our own. Oh, back in our hipster days in Atlanta we'd get all huffy about crying babies and whatnot. But all that's been wrung out of us, by time spent on the other side and being the subject of those snotty, disapproving stares. Now I'm much more understanding -- to a point.

But I saw no filthy Nancy-children walking around and sampling food off the plates of strangers, or anything like that. It was just your standard-issue low-grade chaos and sustained noise. And we were seated almost immediately, right in the center of it all.

Our waitress, who was wearing a perfume that smelled a little like motor oil, came by and tried to talk us into a pitcher from their new line of alcohol-laced lemonades. I'm no fan of the novelty cocktails, and told her I'd just have an iced tea. Everybody else ordered dull stuff as well, and she went away acting overly disappointed. Perhaps they were having a contest there, and we'd just cost her an iPod or something? Simply excellent.

Toney ordered one of those big meal-salads that are served in a Jethro Bodine bowl, with salmon on top. And I went with the tried-and-true twelve-ounce sirloin with baked potato and dinner salad. I remembered the bloody meteorite I'd been served a few months back, and told ol' Valvoline that I'd have it cooked medium. I don't like 'em with a still-functioning vein network, but don't want to eat a plate of charcoal either. So I went with medium and hoped for the best.

And it was during this ordering process that I made a fundamental mistake. I believe I was distracted by the pressing "how do you want your steak cooked?" dilemma, and completely dropped the ball. That's right, I failed to ask for my salad dressing to be served on the side.

So, what she brought me was a bowl full of Thousand Island, with some lettuce leaves floating around in it. It was more of a soup than a salad. I may as well have been swigging it straight out of the Kraft bottle. And I hate that. I'm very particular about my lettuce-to-dressing ratio, and it can't be left to a second party; it's something I have to do myself. Because, apparently, all the world likes their shit marinated, simply marinated, in salad dressing.

Call me a freak, but I don't view my food as merely a transport system through which saucy condiments are delivered to the mouth. Same goes for sandwich spreads. It's clear that a large portion of the population considers a sandwich nothing more than a surface designed to move mayonnaise. I'm sorry, but I ain't running no spread ferry here. And it's something I have to fight nearly every day of my life.

But it was my fault, because I know better. So I picked at that poor assaulted salad, and did with it what I could. Which wasn't much. I promptly pushed it away from me, in the internationally-recognized sign of disgust. Hopefully my meteor would be a little more satisfying.

And while we waited for our main courses to arrive I took a drink of tea, and the ice cubes shifted in the glass and about ten ounces of the stuff cascaded down the front of my shirt. Needless to say, when I'm in the seated position (or when I'm standing, for that matter) there's a lot of horizontal fabric. And all that got soaked. When are they going to invent an ice cube with a little structural integrity? When?! I looked like an idiot sitting there with a big ol' tennis racket-sized wet spot on the front of my shirt. Jimmy, don't stare. He's a big retarded man, and can't help it.

But the steak was pretty good, and everything ended on a positive note, I guess. And because it was kids-eat-free, the check wasn't even that bad. My instincts told me to dock our waitress for her crimes-against-produce, but finally gave her a pass on it. She was only giving the people what the want, after all. So Valvoline received my standard generous gratuity; I'm a complete pushover when it comes time to figure the tip.

And when we walked into our house twenty minutes later, and felt the blast-furnace heat, all my petty gripes went out the window. It had been one of my better decisions, and we may very well eat all of our evening meals in restaurants through September. I mean, when you're forced to sport a full set of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar sweatbands to get through a plate of pasta... something's clearly wrong.

-- And that'll do it for today, kiddies. I'll leave you now with a sound file that Buck sent, and asked me to share with y'all. And here it is. It's reportedly an actual voicemail message left by a guy in Texas, to one of his friends. Very funny stuff. And highly descriptive!

See ya tomorrow.

July 26, 2005

-- My boss is on jury duty. He's been out for days. His assistant says it's an embezzlement case, and doesn't know when he'll be back. Maybe I'm the weird one, but I think that would be an interesting experience. 

I'm not sure I'd want to sit on some drawn-out murder trial, or anything involving men who can orchestrate revenge killings from prison. But I wouldn't mind being involved in a nice little white collar crime case. I'd like to see how everything works, and what really goes on in the deliberation room, and all that jazz.

But I have my doubts it'll ever happen. The only time I've ever been called was to L.A. County, and that was after we'd moved to Scranton. So they gave me a pass on that one. Other than that, I've never been summoned, during my entire forty-two years, even though I'm constantly registered to vote. Luck of the draw? I guess so.

Of course, even after I'm called, I seriously doubt I could make the cut to the jury itself. During the selection process I'm sure I'd be power-shat out of there like yesterday's gordita. Oh, prosecution would love me, but defense would probably ask for me to be escorted from the building. I'm not really the type to fall for Oprah-style displays of hyper-emotion, or to buy into harrowing tales of victimization, or anything like that. It would be all I could do not to start rolling my eyes, and screaming, "Oh please!"

So it'll probably never happen for me. I'll just have to watch it on TV, and continue to listen to my "compassionate" co-workers (people more adept at recognizing the shades of gray in bank robbery) tell me all about it.

A few of them seem to be called every year. Can trial lawyers do requests? How does that happen?? I'm not joking, some of the people at my office seem to be perpetually on jury duty. And my letter never comes.... It's sad, and a little insulting.

Oh well. In all honesty, it's probably best for everyone if I'm kept far away from such proceedings. After all, I might very well vote to convict a person simply for using the term "anywho," or something along those lines. I can see that happening. So maybe they know what they're doing? I guess anything's possible.

-- Clive Bull was talking about driver's tests yesterday. He was asking people to call in with stories about the day(s) they took their test(s), and some were mighty interesting, indeed. A couple of people actually crashed their cars during the test itself, and one guy was involved in a road rage incident, and almost punched a stranger in the mouth.

Clive told a funny story about showing up for his test in a tiny Fiat, that was basically a two-seater. The administrator was about 6-4, and sat the entire time with his knees packed up underneath his chin. After the test was over the man could barely extract himself from the tiny car, and was visibly pissed. But, to Clive's surprise, he passed the test anyway.

Nothing that dramatic happened to me. I did have to take the driving part of the deal twice; I was failed the first time 'round. But it seems like everyone I knew either failed the written test, or the driving test, at least once. So I didn't feel much shame. I think my problem was parallel parking between two orange cones, but it was a long time ago and my memory of events is very hazy. I was probably driving my Dad's Chevy Land Barge, and was almost certainly nervous to the point of mild seepage. I'm kinda surprised it only took two attempts, if you want the truth.

In any case, if you have an interesting story on the subject, please feel free to share it. Because we're stealing Clive Bull's Topics, goddammit.

-- On a related note, it occurs to me that I've now had driver's licenses in five states: West Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, California, and Pennsylvania. Pretty good, huh? Ten percent of the entire freakin' union. The only test I remember being difficult was North Carolina. I passed it, but it made me sweat a little. California was a slam-dunk; I think they showed us a picture of a stop sign, and asked what we should do if we ever encountered one. I don't even remember taking a test in Georgia; I have no recollection of that, whatsoever.

But I do remember being pulled over in South Carolina, and the cop studying my Georgia license, and saying, "I'm just curious... All states have different laws, so I'm not really sure how this works. But in Georgia, if you see a sign that says No U-Turn, does that mean to just go ahead and make a U-Turn? Because, you know, I'm not up on all the laws of every state...." 

On and on it went. It was an excruciating experience, and I was certain I was about to be carted off to the city lockup in Prolapsed Rectum, SC.  Or was it New Prolapsed Rectum? I can't remember, but it's not really important. I guess busting my balls for an extended period was enough for the man, and he finally let me go.

So I know I had a Georgia license, I just can't recall the process of securing it. In Pennsylvania the test was easy, but the DMV was an infuriating exercise. It was a full-on festival of half-assery and lack of logic, and I left the place so pissed-off I wanted to try to eat one of the quarter-panels off my car.

And I don't really know where any of this is going, so I'll just stop right there. Ho-ly shit.

See ya tomorrow.

July 25, 2005

-- Around five o'clock this morning I was awakened by what sounded like the end of the freakin' world. It was one hell of a lightning storm, and it was happening in the early morning. Isn't that a bit odd? It sure felt that way to me... Where I come from thunderstorms don't happen in the morning, they happen at night and in the afternoon. If I had a little time (and cared more) I'd check my Southern Superstitions book to see what it might mean. Maybe a kind stranger is coming to visit, or perhaps we should beware the kick of a bee-stung mule?

I don't know, but it was tearing it up this morning, and as I blinked awake the bedroom was flashing like a goddamn disco club. Toney was gone and Andy had taken her place, and was pressed hard against my torso. When it's thundering he has to be touching someone, because he is, after all, the Woody Allen of dogs. But it did sound like warfare outside, and I heard everyone downstairs talking. It was 5:16 am, and the whole family was up. And now I was wide awake as well.

The cable was out, which made the Secrets mildly panicked, but I assured them that if we could all just stick together, we'd make it through. Toney was in the kitchen starting the coffee, and we talked for a few minutes. Then I wandered off to take a shower.

But wait! You're not supposed to take a shower when it's storming outside. Right? Because, presumably, lightning could strike the plumbing(?) and cause a crackling bolt of electricity to come blasting out of the shower head, and fry your naked ass where you stand. The same goes for telephones; during a lightning storm they are, for all intents and purposes, flame throwers. Pick one up and it's all on you. I laughed at that, and decided to move forward with my original plan.

The whole thing seemed as paranoid and crazy as the way my grandparents used to go around the house and pull every plug out of every outlet, before leaving on vacation. "Just in case," they'd say. Yeah, leaving a clock radio plugged in while you're in Florida is just tempting fate. Those things are nothing more than glorified hand grenades.

So I took a shower while it was lightning outside, and lived to tell the tale. But I have to admit, I was a little nervous. I don't think I'll do it again. I mean, who am I trying to impress here? I'm lucky to be alive....

-- The Surf Report t-shirt shop is fully-stocked again. On Friday after work I met my supplier in the parking lot of the Tunkhannock McDonald's, and we did the exchange. I discretely passed her the money, without speaking or making eye contact, and she turned over the shirts. We then grunted at each other, and drove off in opposite directions. I'm not sure why we have to do it that way, but it is kind of exciting. Every time I call her I expect her to scream, "Are you calling me on a cell phone?! You fool!!" In any case, I now have plenty of shirts again, in all four sizes. So if you want one, now's the time to order. No waiting. Those babies are ready to go.

-- Toney sent me to the grocery store on Saturday, for a tomato and a bag of tortilla chips. She was making a big honkin' Mexican dinner, and had forgotten to buy those two items.

So, I grabbed 'em off the shelf, and went to pay. And every checkout was backed way the hell up. Grrrr.... Even the self-serve machines were clogged with people running whole carts of stuff through there. And that pisses me off. I know it doesn't say so, but isn't it implied that the self-serve stations are designed for a quick getaway? Aren't they the modern-day express lanes? I think they are, but on Saturday it was every man for himself.

I checked out the regular lines, with real humans in charge, but didn't like the looks of any of them. So I reluctantly got behind some guy with half a cart full of crap, and tried not to get too worked up about it. But he was picking up every item and turning it over and over in his hand, trying to locate the barcode, then casually waving it across the reader. Then he'd grab the next item, and do it all over again. I began looking around for something large and heavy that I might use to crush in his goddamn skull.

And then he started in with the produce. He seemed like one of those assholes that's really pleased with himself for eating such a healthy diet, and was putting on a big show for everyone. He had sacks and sacks full of unrecognizable green stuff. Collard greens? I have no idea. But it looked like the kind of crap we leave by the curb for the city to pick up, after we do a little yard work. And he was shaking them all around like pom-poms, and taking his sweet time trying to locate the correct code for each item.

Then he called over the self-serve steward, or whatever she's called, and was practically shouting, in a Nancy-like sing-songy tone, that the "bib lettuce" was ringing up at $1.89 per pound, when everyone knows it should be 99 cents per pound (or whatever). Bib lettuce?? What in the hell? I wondered what would happen to me if I just wound up like Rollie Fingers, and flung my tomato right at his stupid face? Would I be arrested? Might I get my ass kicked in public by a skinny man in sandals? I decided it might not be a prudent move.

I did shout "Jesus Christ!" and stormed off to another line, so I got my point across. And even though my human cashier was moving as if she were on muscle-relaxers (and had a dangling mole that was threatening to break loose at any moment), I got out of there well before my lettuce nemesis. Which I considered a victory.

But, unfortunately, it was a one-man race. The guy was clearly unconcerned, and viewed the store as his own personal house of douchery. As I was going out the front door I looked back and he was standing there casually putting his bags inside other bags, and pressing his pointer finger to his lips as if he were trying to decide what to do next. And the guy behind him had a look of pure coal-black murder in his eyes.

And so it goes.

-- And speaking of murder... I think one of your fellow Surf Reporters is trying to do me in. Seriously. This is an attachment I received in an email on Friday. Obviously the man is trying to send me into cardiac arrest, or plunge me into a Yankee Bean state. I mean, why else would a person send such a thing? Cruel, I tell ya. Cruel.   

And that's all I have time for today, kiddies. See ya tomorrow.

July 22, 2005

-- And speaking of amusement parks.... Have any of you folks ever experienced the Disney Letdown? Oh, I have, and it was a major blow.

When I was a youngster our family logged many an hour at King's Island, near Cincinnati. It was one of our favorite places, and we made the trek up there a couple of times every summer. It was just one big sprawling complex of fun, loaded with more thrill rides than you could shake a frozen banana at, and simply one of the world's most perfect places. I doubt even Sunshine herself could've ruined a day at King's Island, and she sets the bitching bar pretty high.

The first time we went was sometime in the early '70's. We rode the tram from our parking space way out in Scooby Doo 4, or maybe it was Penelope Pitstop 2? I can't really remember, but it's not that important... Let's just say it was a long ride from our car to the gate, and during the journey the driver told us, via the PA system, that an episode of The Partridge Family was being filmed in the park that day. That got the crowd to buzzing, I'm here to tell ya. And why not? It was the Partridges!

And yes, we saw them. The kids, anyway. Mom and Reuben were nowhere to be found, but at one point a slow-moving red convertible came rolling past, and sitting inside were David Cassidy, Susan Dey, Danny Bonaduce, and those two dull tambourine shakers. Teen girls were screaming like it was A Hard Day's Night, and chasing the car; it was full-on pandemonium.

And to a hillbilly child such as myself, this was almost mind-bending.

Strangely enough, the Bradys also filmed an episode at King's Island(!?). But the Partridges easily kicked their asses in the hipness category by enlisting my favorite baseball player, Johnny Bench, to play the part of a waiter. And just how cool is that? Huh? Here's some info on the episode, and an old TV Guide article about it, as well.

Over the next few years we spent a lot of great days at King's Island, riding The Racer (I was always partial to the Red Racer), and later The Beast (one of the most outrageous contraptions I've ever laid eyes on), as well as the million or so other great rides there. The place was just a blast.

Then one summer my parents told us we were skipping King's Island that year -- because we were going to Disney World instead! Holy shit, I thought, this is going to be even better!! I started counting the days, and was extremely excited.

But it wasn't better. In fact it was worse, much worse. There was a pronounced shortage of actual thrill rides, and way too much emphasis on singing and dancing. I was fourteen, or whatever, and wanted excitement, not bears playing string instruments, or a sea of women spinning around in hoop skirts. I craved The Beast, not some scary-ass robotic Theodore Roosevelt jerking and twitching on an elevated stage. And I couldn't have given two good craplets about what the average kitchen would look like in the year 2015. I mean, what the hell, man? Why are we talking about kitchens??

Oh, Space Mountain was fun. And I really liked their virtual reality theater where it felt like we were riding on the back of a fire truck. But, on the whole, I was pretty disappointed. And it felt like we were betraying King's Island as well, throwing over an old friend for some flashy newcomer that didn't have our best interests at heart. The whole thing made me mildly sad.

I've never been back to Disney World since then, and still carry a bit of a bad attitude about it. We went to Disneyland a few times when we lived in California, and it was a lot of fun. But that one in Florida? I don't know... I hear that people are regularly dropping dead there now, so maybe they've improved the selection of rides? 

I'm not ruling out some future visit, especially since we have kids and everything, but they're going to have to show me something.

Because, goddammit, I've been to King's Island.

-- Here's a headline that almost made me do a spit-take. I've read it five times now, and never fail to laugh.

-- And this is an article you can hang on your fridge, for those times when you actually believe you're having a bad day. Ha.

-- Please note that I have NOT stopped stealing Clive Bull's topics. It's just that he hasn't done much lately that was particularly stealable. Yesterday he was asking people if they've altered their lives at all since the London terrorist attacks. Not much I can do with that. And the previous day he was asking his listeners to come up with a new slogan for the town of Sussex. Apparently they're looking for a new slogan, to help change their image. I have no idea what they're talking about, or anything about this Sussex. But a couple of the suggestions were: "Sussex: It's Not As Bad As You Think" and "Sussex: High Heels and Low Class." Yeah, I don't know either... But stay tuned for further developments.

-- Finally, the replenishment supply of t-shirts is supposed to be ready today. Apparently it's true this time. So, I should be able to clean up all remaining orders by Monday. Once again, I'm sorry for the delay. But it's almost over. And I'll have more of every size too, so order away if you want one.

And that'll do it for today, boys and girls. Have a great weekend. Thanks to my friends at Netflix, I have a Ramones documentary and Midnight Cowboy to keep me occupied. 

Seriously, has there been a better time in history to sit on our ever-expanding asses? I submit that there has not. We're the luckiest of them all!

See ya on Monday.

July 21, 2005

-- This probably won't be very funny, because we had a really great time yesterday. Yes, I know, I'm as disappointed as you are... But somehow the planets aligned, and everything worked in our favor. I'm sorry, I really am.

As is the tradition, we were slow in getting our asses moving in the morning, and didn't get to Knoebels until around 12:30. But, of course, there's value in eaaaaasing into the day. You can't just get out of bed and do an immediate cannonball right into the middle of a Wednesday, y'know? Something like that could completely throw off your calibration, and ruin everything. It's something I've been trying to make my family understand for decades, and it's been an uphill battle, believe me.

After spending an inordinate amount of time navigating through all the freakin' road construction on I-80, we finally arrived, and parked our car way out in an open grass field. I love that. It's literally a field of grass, and they charge you nothing for its use.

Ancient trams, looking like something right out of 1948, constantly work their way around the "parking lot," and will carry you to the main gate, if you want. But we opted to hoof it. We needed to get this show on the road.

There's also no charge to get into the park. Supposedly Knoebels was a popular attraction during the Depression, and the owners wanted it to be open to everyone. You could theoretically go there for a swim, and partake of some black belt people-watching, and not spend a nickel. Its a tradition that lives to this day. But, of course, we spent many a nickel.

As soon as we walked into the place Toney went to one of the ticket windows and bought twenty bucks worth (the first of several such visits), and my cell phone rang. It was Steve, and he was inside the park. He lives nearby, and said he might meet us there. So we hooked up with him in front of the Ferris Wheel, and were off.

Immediately the oldest Secret grabbed my arm and dragged me to some tall hydraulic apparatus that gave me a nervous feeling in the pit of my stomach. It was called the Downdraft, I later learned, and I didn't like the looks of it, not one tiny bit. "Can we go on it? Can we??" he said. Gulp. That shit was hissing and whipping around in circles and blowing great jets of air out of its motor... But what could I do?

We handed over our tickets and they strapped the two of us into fiberglass chairs specially-shaped to accommodate a human ass; each cheek dropped right down into a comfortable little cheek-holder. And then the ride started, and I didn't think it would ever end. Round and round we went, getting higher and higher. Then periodically there'd be a loud whooshing noise, and we'd free-fall toward the ground. I was praying for my sphincter to hold, and I'm proud to report that it did. But it was touch and go there for a couple of minutes.

Goddamn. When it finally ended, roughly two hours later, I was walking funny and my stomach was sucked-in on itself... "Fried food," I muttered, "I need fried food." I hobbled a few steps behind Steve and my family, until we found the desired artery-clogging facilitation center, and we sat there with cheese fries until I got my shit back together. 

As David Johansen might say, too much too soon.

And the rest of the day was kind of a blur. We rode a ton of rides, and the kids rode a ton more than we did. It was a blast, a really good time.

The old haunted house was especially fun. Usually those things are pretty hokey, and this one is as well. But it does a good job of keeping you on edge. It's really loud and... busy. It's a short excursion into massive over-stimulation. At one point everything's black, then suddenly two headlights flash on right in front of your face and an extremely amplified car horn starts blaring. I seriously wonder how many people have been sent into cardiac arrest by those frickin' headlights? I'm not joking. I think I literally shrieked. I'd be willing to bet that at least a handful of those cars came out with corpses riding in them.

Supposedly the Knoebels haunted house is considered to be one of the best in the world, by people who fancy themselves amusement park aficionados. I don't know who these people are, or how they earned their credentials, but whatever. It is really good, and we went through it twice. Good times.

The ancient old bumper cars are kick-ass as well. A twelve year old girl in a tie-dyed shirt was wreaking much havoc, and quickly became my nemesis. After she rammed me so hard I thought one of my lungs had collapsed, I made it my mission to get her. Of course, it didn't work out as I'd planned. She kept countering my fancy maneuvers by, you know, knocking my shit into the next county. Oh, she was good. A little too good in fact...

And I don't really know what else to say about the day. We went, we had fun, and came home. It was pretty hot, but the humidity was way down for a change. So it wasn't a situation where we were walking around feeling our souls draining away, and contemplating flinging ourselves into the path of a bus. It was crowded, but not too bad. Waits were short for everything, including the fried goodies. And we were all inexplicably in a good mood, all at the same time. And that doesn't happen too often.

So, it all came together for us, and we couldn't have asked for a better time. Knoebels is a blast; it's good old-fashioned no-nonsense amusement park fun. And I recommend it highly.

Here are some pics I took during the day. I don't think they're all that spectacular, but should give you a flavor of the place.

And now I'm gonna turn it over to Metten, go to work, and start plowing through the hundreds of emails that undoubtedly piled up while I was shotgunning Pronto Pups yesterday.

See ya tomorrow.

July 20, 2005

-- Y'know, I don't mean to rub it in or anything... But in just a couple of hours I'm going to be at an amusement park clutching a corndog (or as it was known at my elementary school: pronto pup), and enjoying some good wholesome sweaty fat boy fun. That's right, today will not be spent at my desk watching a grown man eat an entire peck of apples, or hearing mysterious sounds from the bathroom across the hall that may or may not be someone trying to get the last bit of mustard out of the squeeze bottle. No, I'm gonna be at Knoebels, goddammit. Riding rides and eating crap straight out of the deep fryer.

My oldest son is suddenly the bravest kid alive, and is lobbying for me to accompany him on rides with scary names, like the Cambodian Death Drop, or whatever. I'm telling him I might ride the merry-go-round, and we'll play it by ear beyond that. But, of course, I'm going to do whatever he wants. Today is for fun, not for hand-wringing and half-stepping. I only draw the line at things that take you upside-down, or spin you around in circles real fast, or go way up in the air. Beyond that, it's wide-open.

Heh, wonder if they'd even let me on the merry-go-round? Isn't there a weight limit? I might climb up on one of those fiberglass beasts, there'd be a godawful wrenching noise, and the horse would be lodged in the down position and pointed slightly out. I can see me going round and round on that collapsed stallion, sobbing all over my funnel cake, as cruel children point and laugh. It would be known as the Day of the Pathetic Spectacle. But I'm pretty sure they wouldn't let me anywhere near those vintage horses now; I'd undoubtedly be limited to riding "the bench" with the old ladies and palsy patients at this point. So I'm probably safe.

At least I'll be able to preserve a little dignity today... Because there's no shame in the bench. Right? That's what my mother always told me.

-- Our yard work was done yesterday by a gang of hired professionals, and it plunged Toney into a state of deep regret and guilt. "We could've easily done this ourselves," she kept saying. I feel no such emotions. The shit looks good, and I didn't have to lift a finger. Pass the beer nuts.

-- Somebody told me recently that it's impossible to hold your breath and pee at the same time. Does anyone know if this is true? I've been meaning to do some field tests, but keep forgetting. Let me know if there's any validity to this claim. I'm highly skeptical.

-- Why do people put AAA stickers on their cars? Seriously. I was stuck in a rare Scranton traffic jam the other day, and saw several of these things glittering in the sun. Why?? Is it prestigious to be a member of the Auto Club? Does that announce to the world that you've arrived? I thought it cost, like, twelve dollars per year? And the same goes for the ones that advertise insurance companies. Why should I give one tiny ass-droplet that you're with State Farm? How is that information helpful to me? It is my opinion that if you mail the average American citizen a sticker, they will feel compelled to use it. Especially if it's sparkly. Am I wrong?

-- Here's what looked like ten years ago. Pretty damn fancy-pants, huh?

-- I was in a real bricks-and-mortar record store the other day, flipping through their used CDs, and came across a BoDeans album I'd never seen before. The copyright said it was from last year(?!). Huh. Who knew? I figured those boys were long gone by now, and was pleased to see it ain't so. 

The BoDeans were a perennial in-store favorite at good ol' Peaches Records in Greensboro back in the day, and hold a special place in my beleaguered heart. So I bought the CD. And it's good. It's been on perma-repeat in my player for several days now. And just hearing those two voices again transports me back to a former life in a magical time.

Yeah, so much for preserving my dignity....

-- For what it's worth, I've started up a Surf Report RSS feed, as evidenced by the prestigious little orange button on the home page. (The AAA sticker of the internet?) I don't really know what I'm doing, and can't really see how it's going to benefit me anyway. But, dammit, you've gotta keep up with the Joneses, right? So, it's there if you care.

And now I'm gonna bid you folks a fond farewell. I have a very important appointment with a rolly coaster and a fistful of pronto pups...

I'll tell you all about it tomorrow.

July 19, 2005

-- I was driving home from work last night and only had one CD with me, The Jam Greatest Hits. I listened for about half a song, but wasn't really in the mood. It doesn't happen often, but sometimes highly-familiar music from home just doesn't do it for me; sometimes I crave a connection to the outside world. So I switched over to radio.

I hit the FM button and a classic rock station kicked in by default. They were playing some old song by The Who, just like they've been doing every day for the past thirty years, or whatever. Man, it must be the least stressful job in the world to be a program director at a classic rock station, y'know? I mean, I'm pretty sure their playlists are printed on parchment. "OK people, I've put a lot of thought into this, and I've decided that during the next ratings period we're going to play the same fifty songs we've been playing since 1975... If you need me I'll be at Boston Market."

I stuck with that station until "Money" by Pink Floyd came on, which was roughly four minutes. And when I heard those goddamn cash registers at the beginning, I very nearly crashed my truck. Man, if there's one song that simply never needs to be played again, it's that one. Complete saturation was reached, I believe, in the fall of 1986. Maybe it was the winter, but I believe it was the fall... After that, the song was officially worn out and should've been shelved for the rest of eternity. At this point it makes me want to whip my steering wheel violently to the left, and let the chips fall where they may.

I switched over to FM2, and the local hits station came on. Occasionally I start feeling even more pathetic than usual, and decide to make a half-assed attempt at getting "with it." I make a vow to begin listening to what the kids are listening to, so I can at least understand the cryptic, insider references on, say, Entertainment Tonight. I don't have to like it, I tell myself, I just have to be familiar with it. And that's why the station is programmed into my radio: desperation and panic.

The "song" that was playing seemed to be nothing but percussion. There was a woman, or girl, grunting and yelping on there, as if she'd been on a strict Cheese Lover's Pizza diet for the past two weeks or so, but she was way down in the mix. The clear emphasis was on the percussion, and it reminded me of being in some kind of manufacturing plant with a lot of machinery running. Maybe something to do with aluminum? Yes, that's it! It sounded like I was on the production floor of a huge lawn chair factory.

I gritted my teeth through that terribleness, and then ten or fifteen commercials came on featuring manic people hollering and screaming. Holy hell. What do they have at that station, water coolers full of Red Bull? Every one of 'em needed to be brought down about three notches. I can't remember this ever happening before, but I wanted to drive over there and just start slapping people. Oh, I often fight the urge to slug random strangers in the gut, but all that forced enthusiasm made me alter my fantasy to include a lot of open-handed slapping, for some reason. I can't really explain it.

Finally an old Police song started playing, and it was a huge relief. Not one of my favorites, to be sure, but welcome nonetheless. I could feel the tension in my chest start to ease up a bit -- when suddenly someone started talking over the music. "The hell is this?" I said out loud, while looking at the radio for answers. This isn't Sting, it sounds like Malcolm-Jamal Warner! What's Theo doing in the middle of my Police song?? Fuck dat.

I hit the AM button and immediately heard Bill O'Reilly pontificating in his earnest self-satisfied way. Man, I can't stand that guy, especially on radio. His TV show is irritating enough, but on radio he ratchets up the arrogance even higher. Even when he says something I agree with, I feel like changing my mind just to spite him. Everything out of his mouth is The Final Word on the Subject, or so he believes. Wotta douche.

And he was taking calls from humorless pricks with nasally voices (why do people who call radio talk shows always have nasally voices?), droning on and on about Karl Rove and the Downing Street Memo. Blah blah blah... Jesus J. McChrist. My old gut-punching feelings were back. 

These people, who were simply sputtering with righteous anger yesterday, would be contorting themselves like pretzels to defend the exact same things if their guy were in office. And you know it's true. It's political ideology as religion, and it cuts both ways.

A few years back, when people actually visited the Surf Report forum, big political arguments would often break out, and the subject would inevitably turn to Halliburton. (Halliburton was the Downing Street Memo of '03.) So I went into the control center and set it up so that whenever anyone typed the word "Halliburton" it would automatically be changed to "I have a tiny penis." Great fun. I wish I had the power to program my radio to change the words "Downing Street" to "I am an arse log." If I could do that, I might listen to the radio a lot more.

But in the meantime, I think I'll just stick with my Jam CDs and Phil Hendrie, thank you very much.

And so it goes...

July 18, 2005

-- We were hanging out at the Compound Friday night, like any other Friday night. We'd had dinner and cleaned up, Toney was in the family room scrolling through the TV channels and hoping for the best, and I was upstairs reading a few chapters from an old Goosebumps book (The Barking Ghost) to the Secrets, before they went to sleep.

And suddenly there was an explosion.

I'm not exaggerating, it shook the whole house. The windows rattled, and I could actually feel the concussion of it. It seemed like one entire end of our house had blown off. Holy shit!

I shrieked like a woman, dropped the book on the floor, and went running. I yelled to make sure Toney was OK, and she answered, "What in the hell was that??" Exactly! My first thought was that one of the propane tanks, or perhaps the canister of lawnmower gas, had gone up inside our garage. That, or maybe the Chinese were bombing Scranton?!

I burst out the front door absolutely certain I'd find the left side of our house engulfed in flames. But there was nothing. I opened the garage door and everything was as it should be: a goddamn mess. Surprisingly, nothing was aflame, and there was no black smoldering hole where the box o' beds used to be.

Then what was it? A transformer? But everyone still had electricity. Doesn't the juice usually go out when a transformer explodes? And why weren't any of the neighbors out investigating? There's no way in hell they didn't hear that. Bizarre.

Hey, maybe it was the hot water tank?? I knew a guy in Atlanta who was involved in a hot water tank explosion years ago, and after they finally got finished with all the skin grafts, he had a patch of pubes growing out of the center of his back. Or something like that.

Sweet Jesus, the basement is probably a lake of fire!!

But that wasn't it either. And we never figured it out. We seemed to be the only people who heard it, and we could find no evidence that it ever actually happened. Perhaps it was a jet breaking the sound barrier directly over our house? I simply don't know. It was a Friday night mystery explosion.

I'm baffled. Any ideas?

-- Speaking of a goddamn mess, I've kinda let our yard go this year. Oh, I keep the grass mowed, and the weeds whacked (for the most part), but the previous owners had a lot of fancy-pants landscaping installed, and I've let all that go to hell. It's simply too hot and humid to be outside wallowing around in soil. Ya know?

So it looks pretty shabby right now, and it bothers me. Not enough to actually do anything about it, understand, but enough to make me feel bad. Toney says I'm exaggerating, but I think our house looks abandoned. The bushes are all misshapen and overgrown, the red mulch we spread in 2003 is now mostly gone. And what remains is no longer red, but more of a chalky pink. The whole deal is clearly in need of some TLC.

And so, we've been contemplating the unthinkable: devoting an entire weekend to working in the yard. God, just typing those words makes my hands shake uncontrollably... But that was our plan. We'd devote a Saturday to trimming the bushes and trees, and bagging up whatever was lopped off. And Sunday would be set aside for weeding and the laying-in of some new mulch.

Yeah, that's exactly what I wanted to do, link together two full weeks of work hell with a couple of days of torture beneath a blazing sun. The whole thing was making me incredibly sad. So I let my fingers do the walking...

Toney and I had a "disagreement" about this, but I called about eight different lawn services, and asked them to come out and give me a price on just knocking that shit out for us.

Blame it on California, because when we lived there I saw with my own two eyes what a team of men equipped with whackers and mowers and rakes can do to some landscaping, in just a matter of minutes. God, it's a beautiful thing. The truck rolls in, they all disembark, there's a whirlwind of activity for a short period, then your yard looks like something out of a magazine. And all this happens while you're in the living room having a nice iced tea.

I'm fully aware that the experience has ruined me, but I consider it a good kind of ruined.

Then we received the first quote, and I felt my California dreams fading away. No way I was paying that much; not even I could justify such a thing. Sweet sainted mother of Curly Neal! It was like a sharp blow to the gut. We may as well just get out the hedge trimmers and the salt pills now, because it was the only way any of it would ever get done. Extremely depressing.

And on Friday a miracle happened. I was on one of my ball-mashing conference calls at work, and Toney sent me an instant message asking me to call when I got the chance. "I have some news that might make you happy," she wrote. What did that mean?? Was Wendy's finally going to start serving breakfast again? Hell yeah!!

But, of course, it was about the yard. Each quote was a little lower than the previous, she reported, and she went ahead and booked (under protest) one of the services to come out on Tuesday to do the work.

That's tomorrow, my friends! By the time I get home from work it'll all be done, and it's not even costing us all that much. I'm sure both my grandfathers are spinning in their graves like egg beaters right now, but it's a new day. I think it's time they get down from their high horses in heaven, and maybe relax a little? I mean, shit.

Of course, there's no real need for my Dad to know about any of this... OK? Let's just keep it between the two of us, if you wouldn't mind.


-- Another load of Surf Report shirts is being mailed out today. I still don't have my replenishment order of Mediums and XXLs, though. I apologize for that. I talked to my supplier on Sunday, and she's "fully aware" of the situation. I think she's officially tired of me at this point but, dammit, I need my shirts. I just don't understand the delay... Every time I talk to her I feel like saying, "Why can't you do them right this minute? What's wrong with right now??" But I bite my tongue.

Once I get 'em, of course, I'll turn them right around to you folks who are still waiting. I appreciate your patience. And I'm sorry.

But hey, at least some people have their shirts. Like John and Terri in Franklin, TN! This is a great idea. Why not send me photos of you wearing your new TheWVSR Casual Wear, and I'll start a Big Wall of Surf Report Shirt Wearers? Very cool.

-- And I'm going to close out the category with yet another Smoking Fish sighting. Check it out. The sharp-eyed reader who noticed it, writes, "Scientists believe that the Mayans worshipped this god by drinking large quantities of malt-based beverages while frying up sausage-like meats." Oh, you got that right, Bucko.

See ya tomorrow.

July 15, 2005

-- I'm mailing out another big batch of t-shirts today, and all orders that can be filled have been filled. I'm still out of business on the mediums and XXLs, but expect to have more momentarily. Sorry for the delay on that front. 

I'm going to have to make a decision soon... At some point I'm going to need to go into sell-off mode, and close down the shirt shop; these are strictly "limited time only" items, after all. So let me know. Does everyone who wants 'em, have 'em? Or should I order a few more, and keep it going a while longer? I appreciate yer feedback.

-- I watched an HBO special last night about the life of Mickey Mantle, and now wish I'd only watched the first half. I didn't much care for the post-baseball alcoholism and money problem years. Ya know? I didn't need to see him standing outside Mickey's Pancake House, or some such bad business decision. And I didn't really need to hear about the shitty way he treated his fans after he left the game. And the footage of him near the end? Oh, I'm probably going to have nightmares about that for years to come. He was the size of a seventh grader!

No, I much preferred the first half of his life, before the chickens came home to roost. The inevitable downfall is fun to see when it's Motley Crue, or Billy Idol, or some random rock 'n' roll doucheketeer over on VH1. But this was The Mick. Way too sad.

I met him, you know. I got him to sign a baseball for me, and here it is. (Not sure why my hand looks like a sweet potato there, 'cause it doesn't in real life...) 

He was scheduled to make a personal appearance at a department store in Charleston, and didn't show. This was a looong time ago, I was probably only eleven or twelve. Lots of people turned out to see Mickey, of course, and most left disappointed. But the spokesman for the store said he might be there later in the day. Supposedly he was "delayed" somewhere. (Ha!) 

But that might was all I needed to hear, and we stuck around. Steve and my brother were there with me, and we just stayed put, right in front of the table where Number Seven was supposed to be seated. Employees of the store kept telling us we were probably wasting our time, but we were true believers.

And then, several hours later, he came walking into the room! Mickey Freaking Mantle!! (Contractual obligations are a beautiful thing.) He sat down and wasn't anywhere near friendly. He wasn't openly hostile, but was obviously doing something he didn't care for. He signed my baseball without saying a word to me, or even making eye-contact, and I couldn't believe how big his wrists were. That's what I remember the most: his huge-ass wrists.

And that was that. We were promptly ushered away from the table, and our brush with baseball royalty was over as quickly as it started. Right there in the men's department of the Diamond department store, in Charleston, WV.

Exciting story, huh? I'm surprised the producers of the HBO special didn't ask me to be involved in some way.

-- Here's an interesting article about the kid who played Charlie in the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Lots of stuff I didn't know. And since we're on the subject... I know I'm probably in the minority here, but that new movie looks incredibly obnoxious to me. What's with the novelty teeth, and all the mincing about? I'm sorry, but color me skeptical.

-- Check out this fucked-upness. Apparently these starting showing up in Toronto recently, stapled to telephone poles. So many unanswered questions... And I think that's why it makes me laugh.

-- And finally, from the Stealing Clive Bull's Topics desk, what are some of your favorite unusual smells?

Here are a few that Londoners came up with: Play Doh, new beach balls, supermarkets, new catalogs, airplane fuel, laundromats, indoor/outdoor carpet(?), inside an acoustic guitar's sound hole(!?), and my favorite -- the part of a seat belt when it's pulled all the way out, where it attaches to the seat itself. I mean, what in the honeybaked hell??

Do you have any to add to the list? Mine would have to be new electronics, firecrackers, and the smell of skunk when you're driving in the country. I know skunk is supposedly a bad smell, but I've always liked it. Kinda sweet.

And I think that'll do it for this edition of Half-Ass Theater. More on Monday. 

See ya then.

July 14, 2005

-- Did I ever tell you about the time I took a "job" selling meat door-to-door? That's right, meat. It was one of the darkest two weeks of my life...

When I was, what, twenty-one? twenty-two? I was what's commonly referred-to as adrift. I was working in a little half-assed neighborhood grocery store, stocking the sanitary napkins and bagging up frozen pizzas for assholes, and bringing home a big honkin' $102 per week. I'd recently (half-heartedly) begun attending classes again, this time at Marshall University. As casual as it may have been, it was at least an improvement over my previous college experience, when I was enrolled at West Virginia State but didn't actually attend any of the classes. In the back of my mind, though, I knew it was a futile exercise and would lead to nothing.

I was dating a girl named Kelly, the person I'd asked to the senior prom a few years earlier, and that wasn't going anywhere either. She was/is a fine person, but we were young and I was stupid. We were on a treadmill and were still together, I think, because of convenience.

At night I was running around with friends, drinking beer and blasting Van Halen. And that was OK when we were seventeen, but it was starting to get a little pathetic.

I had no idea where my life was going, and didn't have much interest in doing anything about it anyway. I was in a deep funk. Shit had gone awry so fast after high school. I had the maturity of a twelve year old (I'm giving myself the benefit of the doubt with that estimation), and the concept of voluntary school simply wouldn't work on a person like me. "You mean I don't have to go to class? You're not going to call my parents if I don't show up?? Fuck it then, I'm going to the record store." ...Oh, my future was rosy, I'm telling ya.

Then Kelly broke up with me, and I lost my shit.

Mental health professionals would almost surely label it a nervous breakdown, but I didn't know nothing about no mental health professionals. All I know is that I was sad beyond belief, and could barely function. I stopped showing up regularly for my pizza-bagging duties, and had absolutely no capacity for happiness. I was in some kind of horrible black daze.

I had to get my shit together, I told myself (I now have that embroidered on a throw pillow, since it's turned out to be a life-theme), and began flailing around in a ridiculous frenzy of desperation. If I could just start some kind of "career," or at least move in that direction, maybe Kelly and I could repair our relationship of convenience, and I could return to the wonderful days of low-grade disappointment and shiftlessness? Dammit, I had to do it! I couldn't just give it all up without a fight!!

So, I started looking through the newspaper for job opportunities. I believe it was during this period that I had the Magnet Bank single-question interview: what would you do if I gave you an elephant? I filled out a thousand applications and went on a half-dozen or so interviews, and had no luck whatsoever. Needless to say, I was a freaking basket case.

And then I answered an ad under the heading of "sales," and to my surprise the person on the other end of the line seemed eager to talk to me. I should've known something was wrong right there, but was operating on diminished capacity.

It was some kind of con outfit, run by a scary guy from out-of-state with a ridiculous little car from Czechoslovakia or whatever. Like everyone, I've run across many assholes in my day. But this guy was something more. He was an asshole, to be sure, but also really scary. There was evil in his eyes, and all sorts of alarms were going off inside my head. A voice was telling me: Dude, if you get involved with this maniac they're going to find your skeleton in a strip mine somewhere, with your bone-hands still bound behind your back and a bullet rattling around inside your meatless skull. 

But the guy was spinning intoxicating tales of huge money to be made (like thirty grand a year or something!), and I took the bait. I mean, this would solve everything, right?


This "company" sold up-market meat and seafood door to door, and we were given some bullshit rap that we were supposed to lay on people, like, "Hi, I was making a delivery today to a grocery store down the road, and somehow have a few extra boxes on the truck. I was wondering if you'd be interested in taking some of it off my hands for a really good price?" Or something like that. It was all a lie, and didn't even make much sense to me. But whatever. I was gonna rake in thirty grand a year!

They sent me out with another guy for a couple of days, so I could see how it's done, and it didn't seem too bad to me. He already had a bunch of regular customers, and sold quite a few high-dollar boxes of the stuff, making fifteen bucks profit on this transaction and twelve on the next. Amazing!

All the products that this place sold were really expensive and high in quality, and it seemed like there was actually a market for such a thing. Meat, door to door!? In West Virginia?? None of it seemed logical, but I was seeing it with my own two eyes. My trainer made over a hundred dollars for himself on my first day, without even breaking a sweat. Sweet Maria, that's week's pay.

Finally they issued me my own little white truck, with freezer attached to the back. It was time to make some money! We started the day at five am. Mr. Scary made us all line up, military-style, and gave us a slightly-threatening pep-talk. Then we stocked our freezers and hit the road. 

We were asked to report what town we were going to work that day, during the "meeting," but they didn't really seem to give a crap. All they cared about was results; how you got there wasn't important. Sell my steaks and shrimp or I'll slit your goddamn throat from ear to ear, was the general vibe I was getting.

And sold, I did. On my first solo excursion I made a cool seventy dollars. Oh, I was ecstatic. It was a long, hard day, but you couldn't argue with the results. Seventy dollars, boyee. I was well on my way to fixing everything: better living through meat!

Then I was back over there at five the next morning, feeling like I'd been beaten with a tube sock full of nuts and bolts. It was as if I'd only slept for twenty minutes. And I stood in the same military line, heard a similar slightly-threatening "motivational" speech, and was now involved in the daily reporting of the previous day's events. Every morning Scary would go around the room and ask everyone how much money they'd taken in, and if it was less than spectacular he'd belittle and burn holes through the person with his evil black bird-eyes.

I was mighty proud of my accomplishments, but Scary only grunted and said it was a "good start." What?! A good start? Why, it was a spectacular start! What was that lunatic talking about?

And after the meeting one of the other "salesmen" approached me, and asked if I'd been in a certain town the previous day. I assured him that I had, and he said that I'd sold to his customers, and wanted half of my profits. Said in a conversational tone that he'd "fuck me up" if I didn't cough up what was rightfully his.

Well, that's simply excellent.

I had no idea what the rules were about such things, and was in no emotional state to argue about it. I cut a deal with him for fifteen dollars, I think, and heard lots of snickering as he walked away with "his" money. What kind of place is this? Who are these people??

And on my second day I worked about fourteen hours, and netted eighteen or twenty dollars. I tried not to torture myself by doing the math in my head, and figuring out my hourly rate of pay for the day. I preferred to tell myself I'd made over ninety dollars in just two days. 

But holy crap, was day two excruciating. People were treating me like I was sporting a full-on turd bonnet. I'd knock on their door, say my scripted opening gambit, and SLAM! Over and over, for hours and hours. I got a full mixture of reactions: disgust, fear, pity, and hurtful laughter. And, more importantly, I didn't move much meat.

God, how I dreaded the next day's meeting.

But after about fifteen minutes of sleep, there I was, back in the military lineup. And Scary let me have it. He said my performance was pathetic and "pussy," and then went on to make fun of my clothes: "You're supposed to be delivery man, you moron, not a fucking choirboy!" Holy shit, what had I gotten myself into?!

That morning I nearly fell asleep behind the wheel, and decided to pull over for a while. I parked my meat wagon in a grocery store parking lot and closed my eyes. And an hour later I jerked awake, my heart racing. Valuable meat-selling time just wasted! I'd never get it back.

And that day went worse than the one before. I only sold one box, and had to cut the price way down to accomplish that. I made nearly nothing, and had put in over twelve hours.

During the meeting the next morning I was informed, between blasts of mockery and profanity, that there is a three-box minimum, and if we don't sell that many we have to make it up ourselves. Meaning, if we only sell one box during the day, we, ourselves, have to buy two boxes of something to meet the minimum. And that's what I had to do, buy two boxes of the cheapest thing they sold: onion rings. I believe they were seven dollars each.

The next day I backed into a pole and turned one end of the back bumper of my wagon into something resembling a pork rind. It was all gnarled and bent downward. It was all going so well!

And once again, I worked my ass down to a smoldering nub, and only sold one box. Which meant two more mega-cartons of onion rings to be wedged into my mother's freezer. "Jeff, what are we going to do with all these?" she said, with a hint of panic in her voice.

After a couple more days like this, I was ready to quit. I was a walking zombie, depressed and tired. Maybe the grocery store would take me back? I'd go over there and talk to them tomorrow, I vowed. I was sure they'd understand.

And that's when I crashed into the Camaro.

I was in Parkersburg, and had just sold a big box of crab legs to a woman working at a car dealership. I was driving on a busy road, and changed lanes. Because of the big-ass freezer box on the back of the truck I couldn't see much, and plowed right into the side of a car. Yeah, I did a pretty good job of ripping hell out of the whole driver's side of that baby.

We pulled into a parking lot, and a woman jumped out of the Camaro and started screaming at me. I was one defeated motherfucker, and told her it was all my fault and that I'd tell the cops the same thing. She calmed down after that, and told me she was on her way (I swear it's true) to take part in a parade. Her redneck-mobile was all detailed and ready to cart around the mayor, or some such thing. 

I wondered if any of the cops down at the station house would be interested in purchasing a box of sea scallops, after I was arrested? I'd be willing to cut them a good deal.

The next day I told Scary I was finished -- but it wasn't going to be that easy. He told me, in a menacing tone, that I'd be working for him until I paid for all the damage I'd caused in Parkersburg the previous day, and also for the pork rind bumper I'd created. And, on top of that, I was being demoted back down to trainee for a few days.

But the ordeal only lasted one more day. I went out with my trainer the following morning, and we were way out in some horrible mining town in the middle of nowhere. Who the hell knows? Ass Cyst, WV or something? It looked a lot like Deadwood, now that I think about it, but it was 1985, or whatever.

I don't believe I've ever been more depressed in my entire life.

I snuck away while we were having lunch, and called Kelly. I needed some reassurance, just a tiny glimmer of hope. But she didn't want to talk to me. I got the feeling somebody was there, and that she was itching to get off the phone. And something inside me snapped.

When I met back up with my "trainer" he tried to get tough with me, and said I needed to improve my attitude. I told him he could go fuck himself, and Mr. Scary could do the same. I wouldn't be back the next day, and he could just leave me there if he wanted. I didn't care. Hell, he could run over my head with his truck if he wanted, or I could run over his. It was all the same to me.

That night I called Scary's "emergency number" and told him I wasn't coming back, and didn't care how much money I owed him. He could sue me if he wanted, or have somebody kick my ass, whatever. He just chuckled and told me to have a nice life. And that was that.

Within six months I was out of West Virginia for good, and was finally starting to grow up a little. Kelly and I made one final attempt at trying it again, but it was a hopeless cause. We were too young and hadn't experienced much of anything. Shortly after I moved to North Carolina, we finally put a stake through the heart of that deal. It was long overdue, but really sad nonetheless; we'd been together for six years.

And I'm pretty sure my parents are still eating those onion rings.

July 13, 2005

-- Apparently the Space Shuttle is going back up today? That's what I understand. I caught a news item about it this morning, and they said a panel of some sort fell off the thing yesterday and damaged a few critical tiles, but they're going ahead with the launch anyway.

Am I just being paranoid here, or is that story a tad concerning? The craft is just sitting there, not moving, and shit is falling off? I'm no historical expert, by any means, but don't those shuttles have a record of occasionally, you know, blowing up? Yikes. How must those astronauts feel right now? Hell, I'd be a basket case even if panels weren't snapping off all willy-nilly in a sitting-still position.

But, of course, Chuck Yeager I ain't. I mean, the task of backing a pop-up camper into position almost sends me over the edge, and I very nearly require a Nostrils-style "sick headache nap." It's not something I'm proud of, but I've long suspected that I don't, in fact, have the right stuff. There's no way in hell that I could perform even the simplest of tasks inside a freaking Space Shuttle, as my mind worked overtime conjuring up images of my jawbone (with teeth attached) coming to rest on top of a carport in Tampa somewhere, following the catastrophic explosion.

Yeah, those guys have my utmost respect. And I wish them all the best -- from my desk chair in Scranton. Sirs, I raise this Kit Kat bar in your honor!

-- The site was down last night, wasn't it? I tried to pretend it wasn't true, but I'm pretty sure it was. Before I hit the sack (with ass and danglers fully contained) I clicked over to read a few of your comments, and TheWVSR was nowhere to be found. I got one of those sad white Server Can't Be Found messages. I tried it a few more times, and it wasn't there. So I just turned off the computer and went to bed. And let's just act like it never happened, OK? Because of the sustained heat and humidity (Worst. Summer. Ever.), I simply don't have the energy to work up a good anger/worry session at this point. Which is convenient, since I don't need to. Right? Since the site was never down, and is always up. Always fucking up.

-- From the Stealing Clive Bull's Topics desk: What do you think of War of the Worlds? (The new Spielberg version, not the radio show from 1938...) What would you rate it on a scale of one to ten? And is it suitable for kids? Not exactly his most inventive of topics yesterday, but entertaining as always. It seemed to come down to gender in London. Males loved it, females not so much. Let me know what you think.

-- Yesterday I requested next Wednesday off, and we're planning to take the kids to Knoebel's. It's a really cool old amusement park with wooden coasters, vintage bumper cars, and the whole deal. We were there once before with Sunshine, and she, of course, bitched the whole time. So we're gonna try it again without Madame Happiness. Maybe we'll actually get to see a few things if we're not required to sit around on park benches for extended periods, and watch a 60 year old woman gasp for air and fan herself with the lid off a pizza box? We shall see.

-- Check this out. The man is fed up with being fat, and is walking across the country to get his head straight, and possibly shed his flesh-parka. The ultimate mid-life crisis, and I fully sympathize. Here's a Washington Post article about it too. Under normal circumstances I'd mock the guy, but this one hits kind of close to home. Sir, I raise this sack of Bar-B-Q Fritos in your honor!

And that's gonna have to do it for today, kiddies. A little brief, I know, but that's the way it goes sometimes. Maybe it's because I'm listening to Simon & Garfunkel this morning? Who knows?

In any case, have a great Wednesday and I'll see ya tomorrow.

July 12, 2005

-- 99% of the t-shirts are now working their way through the United States Postal System, and should be in your hands in a day or two. And I'm excited to report that I did indeed man the canvas trolley yesterday afternoon, and filled that baby up. The postmaster even came out and introduced himself; I felt like a VIP. A large pile of oversized envelopes carries a lot of weight in certain circles, I guess. Next time I might even get a dinner out of it... Anyway, the shirts are on the way, and I hope you enjoy 'em. The orders that came in yesterday and over the weekend will go out tomorrow, and then we'll be all caught up. Just for fun, anyone want to guess the final postage cost on this? I had a number in my head beforehand, and was pleasantly surprised at the actual total. Thanks again for the support!

-- Here's something I received from a college professor a few days ago. (Notice the ambiguity this time?) It's an internal memo circulated to all faculty members, and is pretty interesting, I think...

Change in Nomenclature - Created: 6/30/2005 10:14:00 AM

Date: 6/30/2005 10:14:00 AM

Over the years, many students of color have reported their dislike for and disappointment with the term "students of color" and even more notice the power dynamics of being called a "minority." To that end, I would like to introduce a term to our lexicon which is being used across the nation to define these populations. The term is ALANA--which stands for African American, Latino, Asian, and Native American. This is a much more inclusive term as it also captures those who may identify as one of the above and not be "of color."

Please begin practicing usage of this term as it will be used in all publications from my office, is being used in this year's Homecoming materials, and more.

What in the sweet fancy hell?? People actually sit around and wring their hands about stuff like this, don't they? It's not just a comedic stereotype of "institutions of higher learning," is it? It's real!? Maybe I'm the shallow one (anything's possible), but I just call myself Jeff. It's a system that seems to work for me...

But hey, at least the author of this memo undoubtedly got to jump into his beat-all-to-hell Volvo with 270,000 miles on it, barbershop quartet music (or something eccentric) blasting, and drive across town to meet a gang of his weirdo "colleagues" and tell them how much he cares. And that's the important thing.

Hello? ...Is this thing on?

-- Bill from WV sends along this ad that he says has been running in a local newspaper for more than a week:

Couch, no tears, body solid. Lots of stains. $3.00 (304)988-0512

Tempting! And how much does it cost to run a classified ad in a newspaper for an entire week, anyway? Thirty bucks? Good fun.

-- Here's a picture a reader snapped while traveling in New England recently. The only thing missing is The Fish. Here's the website, in case you think the photo is 'shopped. I can imagine the workers inside answering the phone in the traditional bored retail tone: "Bunghole?" (It always has to be said as a question.)

It reminds me of a story a guy in Atlanta told me about the time he was having "complications" and was sent to a medical specialist in town. And while he sat in the waiting room the receptionist repeatedly answered the phone, "Anal and rectal?... Anal and rectal?" I'm tempted to tell that whole story again (it involved an enema and a hand mirror), but don't currently have the energy. At some later date...

-- I'm reading this book  right now, and it's one of those rare works that makes me laugh so hard I shake the bed and wake up Toney. The author is the creator of the Freaks and Geeks TV show, and it's an autobiographical journey through his early sexual escapades. Classic stuff. But I don't know how he's able to look his family and friends in the eye anymore. Seriously. The man writes about stuff that most people wouldn't admit even if there was a gun pressed to their temple. Highly recommended. It's wife-wakingly good.

-- And finally, I'm going to introduce a new Surf Report feature here, and see how it goes. It's called Stealing Clive Bull's Topics. From time to time I'll list one of Clive's topics from the previous day's show, and we can discuss it, if we want. Pretty simple, huh? And, more importantly, it's really easy on me! So, let's get started... 

Yesterday Clive asked people to call in and tell him what they sleep in. Like pajamas or underwear or whatever. And a surprising number (to me, anyway) said they sleep in the nude. Not really my cup of tea... I'm having visions of one big skidmark from headboard to footboard, but whatever. What do you sleep in? It's a simple t-shirt and shorts for me. 

And that's all for today's edition of Stealing Clive Bull's Topics!

See ya tomorrow.

July 11, 2005

-- It was the weekend of the Surf Report t-shirts. Friday after work I went to the exclusive club that Toney and I belong to, called Sam's, purchased a metric shitload of large padded envelopes, and set up a nice little processing center in the family room.

First I got out the vacuum and made an attempt at ridding the area of Andy-hair, in at least a five-foot radius around the work table. Then I Pledged the crap out of said table, and laid out my tools. 

I had two different kinds of pen, several pads of paper, my mailing labels and cheat sheets, a vintage 1980's Fas Chek-issued box cutter, two rolls of that mailer tape that makes a godawful sound every time you pull off a hunk, like a senior citizen moving phlegm around in their neck... Oh, it was a beautiful set-up. I made an individual pile of each of the four shirt sizes, and was ready to get down to bitness.

Then I promptly opened a beer, loaded in the last disc from the first season of 24, free-fell into a chair, and never moved again.

So there went my plan of breaking up the task into three evenings. Oh, well. Such things are pretty standard in my world. I'd just work extra-hard the next night. And that's what I did. On Saturday I watched the documentary Dig! twice, and got most of it done. Then I finished on Sunday, while enjoying The Long, Long Trailer (yet again) and lots of hurricane coverage.

Check it out. I guess I'm going to have to borrow one of those rolling canvas sacks at the post office today? Kind of exciting! I've never manned the canvas sack before, but all that's about to change, bucko.

One final note about the shirts... I'm now sold out of mediums and XXLs, but placed a restock order on Saturday. Hopefully I'll have them in just a couple of days. Shouldn't be a big deal, but I thought I'd mention it.

And once again, thanks for all the support. As the kids say these days: you guys rock. And your shirts are on the way.

-- On Sunday we went to an unusual open-house in a nearby town. While sitting in traffic earlier in the week I'd noticed a sign saying that the boyhood home of Baseball Hall of Famer Christy Mathewson(!) is being sold, and would be open to the public on Sunday. Christy Mathewson's boyhood home?? Weird. Oh, I simply had to check it out. Here's an article about it. And these are some pics I took. Mathewson supposedly taught himself to pitch by throwing at a hole in the side of that barn, back in what, 1890 or something? Man, I just love stuff like that. 

Of course, we're not going to buy the place, for a variety of reasons. Chief among them: it's out of our price range. Also, it's, you know, really old; and I barely know which end of the hammer to hold. But it was fun walking around the property, and poking around inside the house and imagining the baseball great and his family living there back in the day. Good stuff.

-- I received this email yesterday morning:

Dear Jeff,

One day doing a search on some of my previous publications I found my name in your website: German Creamer.

I know my name may sound funny in English. However, German is Herman in spanish. My great grandfather was from Ireland, my grandfather was from Spain and my parents are from Latin America. I suppose that because of this cultural mix I have a spaniard name with an english last name. It may sound funny for somebody that does not know anything about other cultures and other languages. However, educated people may appreciate the value of a name that represents different cultures.

In my case, I have lived in the middle of many cultures. So, it is not uncommon to find a mixture of names. You could see a similar situation in children of diplomats, UN officers, etc. Would you like to make fun of them too?

I understand that the popularity of your website in part is based on making fun of other people. However, have you ever thought about how these "other people" may feel when somebody else's popularity is based on making fun of their name?

I appreciate if you can delete my name from your website. I really do not like to have my name associated with "a list of funny names found in the New Orleans phone book ". I lived few years in this fantastic city and I have a much better recollection than being part of this funny list of names.

I assume that the rest of the people in this list may feel in a similar way. Even more, some extreme people may take legal action. I suppose it is not necessary because once you realize how offensive this list is you may decide to completely eliminate it.

I suppose you will understand my position.



I could barely even remember what this guy was talking about. But it was indeed a list of funny names found in the New Orleans phone book, as reported by an astute reader of this website back in early 2004.

I've taken the liberty of putting this important information on its own page, for easy viewing. And here it is.

If, um, German Creamer had been a little nicer about it, and not made that snotty Nancyesque comment about educated people, I probably would've just removed his name.  But not now. Humorless pontificating from atop a high horse is not the way to my heart. 

So, when I get the chance I'm going to add this new page to the Best of TheWVSR, for the sake of higher visibility. And if anyone has other names to add to the list, drop me a note. This could turn into a fun feature!

-- And since we're on the subject of funny names... Good god. Must be one of those diplomat's sons I've heard so much about?

-- The Smoking Fish has been spotted in Europe. Check it out. Our logo, man, he gets around.

-- Finally, I need your help with something. Please take a look at this short video clip, and tell me how in god's name he does it. It's making me a little crazy. I've watched it three times, and am now thinking that it might really be magic. Not a trick, but actual magic. How is it done?? That crazy Japanese hamburger man is freaking me out here!

And that'll do it for this fine fine Monday. See ya tomorrow.


July 8, 2005

Just a few more quick highlights from the Cooperstown trip...

-- Above the door to the men's elimination chamber was a fully-operational bird nest, built on top of a flood light, complete with four or five young birdlets peaking over the top. Chirp, chirp, chirp they went, day and night. Incredibly cute. And on a telephone wire nearby, always on high alert, was Mama Bird. She sat up there and kept an eye on things, and would spring into action roughly a million times per day. Even the slightest movement was perceived as a threat, and she was constantly on the defensive.

I've worked with people like this mama bird before. In fact, I'm picturing one right now, piled behind her disgusting city dump of a desk in her radically distended purple stirrup pants, trusty bear claw pastry glistening on a napkin nearby... But I'm getting a little off track here.

It was almost physically impossible to walk past that nest of cuteness and not stop and watch for a second or two. And once your feet stopped moving Mama would start making a loud, scary noise, leave her wire, and swoop right at you. And I'm here to tell you, it's pretty freaking frightening to suddenly see an angry, squawking winged creature coming straight at your face. The first time it happened to me I very nearly hyper-shat.

Who needs TV and the internet? We sat in front of our camper, beers in hand, and watched person after person get drawn in by the chirping baby birds, then promptly be assaulted from the skies. Highly entertaining, especially when a big Jesse Ventura lookalike squealed like a schoolgirl. Good clean hillbilly fun.

I risked my life to take this picture of the birdlets, and I hope it's appreciated. Mama Bird was not amused by my actions, and it's a wonder I can still see out of both eyes today. She was doing her best to empty one of my sockets for me, and make it a place where I could just carry my car keys or spare change. I think the camera nearly sent her over the edge.

Also, when we were leaving I let Andy off his leash, and she didn't care for that either. She dive-bombed him a half-dozen times as he walked around snorkeling trees and whatnot, but he never even noticed. Completely oblivious to it all. Hilarious. The Secrets were doubled-over in laughter. Wotta douche-hound.

-- On Monday I was doing my Wiffle Ball pitching duties again, ran after a ground ball, and stepped in a hole. My right foot rolled over on its side and the full heft of my heftiness came hammering down. It felt like my brain exploded with pain. That was all for me, goddammit. It's a wonder I didn't turn all those little bones in there to dust. I spent the rest of the trip limping around, and it still hurts right this minute. No fun. And I should've known better... Stuff like that always happens when you get out of your chair.

-- On Monday morning the freakishly well-behaved college kids packed up and left, and a lesbian couple with tents took their place. One looked like your average fortysomething suburban mom, but the other one didn't. She had a brush-cut, walked like a man, and was wearing a t-shirt with loads of writing on the front. I never was able to read it all, but the first two words were "My girlfriend." Who the hell knows?

One had a (presumed) daughter with her, and she was kinda scary. She was probably nineteen or twenty, and looked to have been around the block a few hundred times. She had a burning cigarette that was seemingly part of her right hand, and appeared to be very tired and perpetually agitated. The first time I saw her I started humming this song, without even realizing it. 

She cut across our site to go to the bathroom at one point, belched loudly, and with no regard for my presence, and, I'm not lying, a big ball of smoke rolled out of her mouth, then slowly disappeared into the sky. Classy.

Andy didn't like Brush Cut for some reason, and would go wild whenever she passed by. He had no problem with ol' Smoky, or fortysomething, but Brush Cut pissed him off. One time she sneered at him and said, "Oh, a tough guy, huh?" Holy shit, I thought, she sounds just like Larry King! 

I then gave Andy a bit of fatherly advice: "You'd better watch your step, dumbass, or she'll pick you up and eat you like a corn on the cob."

Good times.

-- As we drove home we did the traditional Grading of the Trip, and both of us rated it a solid A-minus. I had to dock it a point or two for all the trouble I had with the charcoal, and for the fact that I was now a crippled man. But other than that, it was nearly perfect. I guess we'll keep the rolling box o' beds for a while; it's been given a reprieve from the guvna.

And that's that. Sorry I dragged it out. Again.

Here are the pictures, in case you missed them (nodded off) the first time around.

-- Now let's get ourselves caught up on the Smoking Fish sightings, what do you say? Our logo he gets around, and was apparently very busy over the Fourth of July holiday. Check it out. Thanks to everyone who sent in pics. Very cool. Keep 'em coming!

-- Also, thanks to everyone who's placed orders for v.2 Surf Report shirts. Lots and lots of you, in fact, which blows my mind. I really appreciate the support and the interest, and I'm not just bullshittin' ya. Thanks, sincerely. There are plenty more available, but you'd better hurry if you want one. They're very literally going fast. And just so you know, I'm going to make an attempt at getting them all in the mail by Monday. <gulp>

-- And I'm going to turn this bitch over to the able hands of Metten now, and get this work week behind me.

Have a great one, folks.

July 7, 2005

I've been watching the coverage from London this morning, and am once again up against the clock here... Plus, our Cooperstown trip already feels like old news to me, so I'll just hit the highlights and make room for the "regular stuff" tomorrow. 'kay?

-- After we checked into our Paradise in the Corn, we realized that our site was directly across the road from both the pool and the crapatorium. Excellent! The Secrets immediately jumped out of the Blazer and headed off to the bathroom with their swimming trunks. And within minutes I heard one of them yell, "Caaanonbaaaaalll!" and that was followed by a big splash.

Toney and I set up camp, and marveled at the really great all-grass pull-through(!) site we'd somehow wrangled. And the weather! God, the weather was simply perfect: low temps and no humidity. Man, this was getting off to a stellar start. I couldn't believe it; there was almost literally nothing to bitch about. And I'm a fairly accomplished bitching expert.

Once our base camp was established, and the kids had finished their "swim," we all piled back into the truck and went in search of a grocery store. We needed several things that I cannot now remember, and I ended up adding a twelve-pack of some highly-hopped local microbrew to the list. And, boy, that hit the spot. Ya just gotta love the highly-hopped.

Even when I had all kinds of trouble lighting the charcoal at dinnertime (cheap-ass Wegman's store brand shitcoal), and when I couldn't get a decent campfire going (flash-burning kitchen matches surely purchased at a joke shop somewhere), or when the simple act of stringing up some novelty lights on a canvas awning turns into an hour-long ordeal (grrr...), or even when I spilled a beer inside the camper and all down my shirt and shorts, did my good mood evaporate. No, we had ourselves a great little evening, thank you very much.

There were a billion bright stars in the sky as we sat around the fire, and the adult beverages were flowing. The kids roasted marshmallows and played with sparklers, and it was as close to a Norman Rockwell setting as a Kay family outing is ever likely to get.

As I headed off to bed I even realized that the dozen or so college kids camping behind us in tents weren't making much noise. I figured they'd kick up one hell of ruckus when I saw them roll in earlier in the day. But it was pretty subdued over there. Huh. Must be a gang of Christians, I thought. Only the Lord could keep a lid on that swirling co-ed hormonal tinderbox. It was all mildly disappointing, for reasons I can't really explain.

-- The next morning, as we sat around drinking our outsize mugs of coffee, we saw a half-dozen or so Amish carriages clip-clop past, apparently on their way to church. It was foggy and actually kind of chilly. Loved it!

I'd woken up with a sore back for some reason, and was walking crooked like a ninety year old man. But the pain quickly faded as I sat at the picnic table, bolt upright like a mental patient. Eventually I was even able to play basketball with the Secrets, if you can dig it. I don't think I'd shot a ball at a hoop in fifteen years, and it showed. I undoubtedly looked like a palsy patient out there, flailing away.

The basket was situated at the end of a too-small concrete pad, located in the middle of a large sloping open field. And the ball would often come down right on the edge of the pavement, and rocket down the hill. So I spent a large percentage of our time there chasing a rolling ball, and trying not to go ass-over-tits after stepping in a hole, or whatever. A highly flawed example of recreational engineering...

In the early afternoon we headed off to the Baseball Hall of Fame. It was my fourth visit, and it's like a house of worship to me. I'm a big-time baseball history nerd, and could spend hours just wandering around one corner of one floor of that place. But it was obvious that Toney and the boys couldn't have given two good shitlets about any of it; we may as well have been looking at linoleum samples at Tile City. They humored me, but there was no magic in their eyes. None whatsoever. In fact, I became worried that they would become so bored that it might cause permanent damage.

So, we didn't linger long. I paid homage to the permanent Big Red Machine exhibit, lovingly touched the Ebbetts Field home plate, went through the Babe Ruth room, and sat in a row of seats ripped from the Polo Grounds. Then I crossed myself twice, and we all went for a late lunch at the Half As Good At Twice The Price Diner down the street.

That night it was more Norman Rockwell action (with malt beverages), as I found myself the official campground pitcher in an impromptu Wiffle Ball game. And later, we all climbed aboard a flatbed trailer and was hauled through the cornfields by a constantly-smiling man on a tractor. It was the official campground "hayride," and I was certain that everybody in the place could see my butt crack as I sat high up on that ridiculous apparatus, and also that I'd return with my calves covered, simply covered, in ticks and possibly leeches. But it turned out OK, and was really pretty, in fact.

Then we had ourselves another excellent campfire (with malt beverages). Everything was just going so freakin' right. How could it be?? I was certain things would go down the shitter soon, and this was based on past history. But for the time being... it was all good. At one point the wood in the fire popped and a ball of flame landed in my lap. I thought I was going to have to drop and roll, but even that turned out to be a non-event. I just flicked it away, and that was that. On previous trips I surely would've been roasted alive, and gone home looking like Freddy Krueger with a lawn chair baked into his back. But not on this night. No, the gods of camping were clearly watching over us.

As I prepared to hit the sack around eleven o'clock, a couple of the college kids walked past and I heard one them say "fuck" about five times, like he was a character from Deadwood. Huh. Maybe they're not Quakers, after all. It was all so baffling... Why weren't they causing trouble and being obnoxious? Pleasant and considerate college kids??  It was a real mystery.

-- And, dammit, I can't keep control of my own website. I'm still not done, but I'm gonna have to jump ship anyway. Here's something new from our good friend Buck, and I promise to put a stake through the heart of this Cooperstown stuff tomorrow.

See ya then.

July 6, 2005

-- I spent the last hour or so putting together some of the pics I snapped on our Cooperstown trip, and now I don't have time to write about it. Doh! I tried to get all that crapola together last night, but I just couldn't do it; I was exhausted all the way through to my skeleton. So I'll just do what I can today, and finish it up tomorrow. OK? OK.

On Friday morning there was an email from my boss, telling us we could leave work any time after one o'clock that day "as long as everything is covered." Standard operating procedure before a three-day weekend, and I'm almost never able to take advantage of it. The "as long as everything is covered" clause is what does it, and I usually don't get out of there until 5:30 or 6:00. But I was determined to sneak away early this time, and get my shit correct before leaving town the next morning.

Around 3:30 I brazenly quit working on a spreadsheet that was due that day, turned off my computer and walked out the door. It felt like I was cutting class; it was very exciting. And today I will act as if I forgot about the spreadsheet, and pretend to be exasperated, simply exasperated, by my forgetfulness.

But I got out of there, goddammit. And I was able to gas up the Surf Report company car ($34!?), get a haircut (the 2 and the 4), mail a package, and drive to Tunkhannock to pick up the t-shirts! All before dinner.

I'd been told that the shirts probably wouldn't be ready until late this week, but my "dealer" called on Friday morning and said I could come and get 'em. So, version 2.0 is now in my possession, and I think they turned out great. Here's where you can order one (or seven), if you should be so inclined. They're dark blue with white print, and come in four sizes this time 'round. They're a little more expensive than the first version, but still reasonable, I think. I mean, they'd be around $25 if I sold through CafePress like everybody else, y'know?

Anyway, I got a lot done on Friday, and we were able to have a casual evening, and Saturday morning. Check-in time at the campground in Cooperstown is noon, and since it's only about 135 miles from our house we didn't need to get up at the crack of dawn or anything. We could just eeeeeaaassse into the vacation, which is a luxury I'm not too familiar with.

No, I'm the type who's often still packing as the car is being loaded up. It's not unusual for me to frantically run across the lawn and hurl, overhand, a nearly-forgotten bundle of underwear into the open hatch of the Blazer, and be near-tears with stress. But this one was different, and we even worked in a quick trip to Waffle House before we hit the road. Simply unheard of.

The drive was fairly uneventful, until we started getting close. At some point the interstate ended, and we were on a two-lane road through farming country and really small towns. Under normal circumstance it would've been nice and charming, but the rolling box o' beds changes the dynamic. All the stoplights and narrow roads and tractors... I wasn't exactly at ease behind the wheel. Then Toney started noticing that there were no other campers on the highway. "We're going to be all by ourselves, in the middle of freakin' nowhere!" she was hollering. Well, that's simply excellent.

We finally reached Cooperstown and the place was insane. The sidewalks were jammed with people, and the main road was just one big traffic jam. But we needed to go through the town, and keep on truckin.' The campground, a KOA, is about fifteen miles beyond Cooperstown itself. And the road on the other side was even scarier than the one we'd just left.

Up we climbed, on winding roads with a mountain on one side and an incredibly blue lake down below on the other. It felt mildly like Highway 1 in California. My hands were locked tightly in the ten and two o'clock positions as I navigated the craziness, while my eyes were being drawn to the impossible lake to my right. I'm not being dramatic here... I'd never seen a body of water that blue before. And I've been to Lake Tahoe a few times. Just incredibly beautiful.

And we kept going, farther and farther out in the country. Eventually, of course, we began wondering if we'd missed a turn-off or something. We were out in the middle of a massive cornfield, for god's sake. But we finally saw a KOA sign, and knew we were still on the right track. Then there was another sign, and another. And finally one read, "Cooperstown KOA Next Right." And we made a turn directly into a literal field of corn.

Deeper and deeper we drove, amongst the stalks, and I was absolutely certain we'd screwed-up badly. I thought some old farmer, and his clay jug-toting sons, would surely approach us with their muskets lowered. When we passed a horse-drawn carriage, I wondered if we'd somehow gone back in time. 

But, incredibly, carved into the middle of all this agriculture, was a really nice campground. A bizarre location, to be sure, but a cool little hidden-away oasis nonetheless. And the place was a packed-out beehive of activity. It was all very pleasingly strange.

Here are those pics I worked on this morning, and I'll tell you the rest of the story tomorrow.

See ya.

July 1, 2005

A few quick things:

-- Yesterday wasn't my fault. For a change. I got up like a good boy, and wrote the Thursday update. But when it came time to upload it, I saw that I had no internet connection. It was working fine earlier in the day, but wasn't there when I really needed it. Suddenly it felt like 1978 at our house, and I didn't much care for it. Stupid Adelphia... 

I waited around for a while to see if it might come back up, but finally had to abandon ship and go to work. I did, however, sneak away in the afternoon, race home, and put things right. So that's what happened. Not my fault, goddammit.

-- I made a vow not to bitch about the weather anymore, but it's supposed to be another demoralizingly hot and humid day here today. It's only July 1 and already this summer has thoroughly kicked my ass; it's just day after day after day of suck. And, of course, we have no central air conditioning in our house. All that's been very well documented... Last summer, I think, we had a couple of companies come out and give us quotes on having a big honkin' unit installed, and because we have no ductwork the cost would be somewhere in the neighborhood of four million dollars. So that's out.

But what do any of y'all know about "ductless" air conditioning? It's something that's advertised pretty heavily in these parts (don't even get me started...), and I don't know much about it. I found a short article online, and I guess it's what they use in Europe? I don't think I much like the sound of that; the words "European air conditioning" don't exactly fill me with confidence, ya know? But let me know if this is an alternative we might want to pursue. 'Cause something needs to be done. I'm sitting here shining like Nat King Cole, and it's not even 8:30 am.

If you know anything about these so-called ductless air conditioning systems, and have an opinion, I'm all ears. Or maybe we should just bite the bullet and have one of these installed? I need some guidance here, people!

-- Toney got us all together a few days ago, meaning me and the boys, and gave us a short lecture about peeing. She said she's tired of cleaning up our "high grossness" and that we need to be a little more considerate with our streams. Apparently one (or more) or us is guilty of "just slinging it around." And she isn't very happy about it. I think she was using exaggeration to get her point across, but she claims that somebody pissed into the basket of silk flowers on the back of the tank! 

I made a serious miscalculation and attempted to inject a little humor into the episode, and said, "You mean we can't do bank shots anymore?" Yeah, that was a mistake. I've been so paranoid over the past 48 hours or so, I've considered just going the Larry David route and sitting down to pee. I probably would do it, but I'm afraid my dead grandfathers are watching...

-- Speaking of the Secrets, we were in Sam's last weekend and passed a meat case filled with blackened hams. At least that's what I think they were. They were shaped like regular hams, but looked to have been thoroughly burned up. It was just big hunks of black meat, behind glass. And our oldest boy pointed at one of them and said, "Look, it's Anakin Skywalker!" I'm here to tell ya, I've never been prouder. I nearly shed a tear. If I can find 'em, I might reward him with a big bag of these babies.

-- During that same visit to Sam's (the exclusive club we belong to), I walked past some kind of NannyCam apparatus. It was about the size of a pea, but was actually a real operating video camera. They had the thing mounted to a plastic stand, and a TV beside it was showing its video feed. And when I walked past, and caught a glimpse of myself, I literally gasped. My gut entered the picture first, then my stout trunk with tiny Duke head jerking and pivoting nervously, and finally the only thing on the screen: my ass. I was certain that the picture was distorted and was flaring out radically at the bottom, and had one of the kids stand in front of it to make sure. And to my horror, he looked normal! I went home, changed clothes, and went straight to the gym, where I did 75 minutes atop a treadmill. Sweet Jesus. I'm well on the way to becoming Orson Welles -- without all the charisma and achievements. Not good.

-- The Smoking Fish has been spotted again, this time on the set of a television show! Check it out.

-- And finally, here's another holler dispatch from our good friend Buck. Please note that I screwed up his last two updates, and ran them in the wrong order. His 4th of July piece was supposed to run today, and this one was for earlier in the week. But what are you gonna do...? I've got a lot of things on my mind here. Like pissing etiquette and an ass that looks like a funhouse mirror. It's a wonder anything gets done.

And that's gonna do it, boys and girls. We're off to Cooperstown tomorrow morning, and there won't be any more updates until Wednesday of next week. But I should have plenty of pictures to share, and some stories as well.

Oh, and that reminds me... I have a friend who knows a guy who used to work at a newspaper in Cooperstown. One of the perks of his job was a VIP pass to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Apparently he had his run of the place, and could come and go as he pleased. And you know what he did with this super power? He used the Baseball Hall of Fame as his own personal outhouse! That's right, he would leave his office, where the bathrooms were reportedly less than plush, and walk across the alley to take fecal advantage of the opulence of the Great Hall. 

Man, there's something wrong with that. I can't quite put my finger on it, but it feels very Costanza-like. I bet the people at the front door thought he was a great student of baseball history, a lover of the game, and then he'd go in there and take a shit. There's just something wrong with that... very very wrong.

And for the record, as if it even needs saying, there won't be any Baseball Hall of Fame sit-downs in my future. Oh, I might visit the Jim "Catfish" Hunter Memorial Urinal (after some loosening up and stretches, of course), but I ain't crapping in there. I mean, seriously.

See ya next week.

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Copyright 2005 by Jeffrey S. Kay.  All rights reserved.