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   The State of My Fat Ass
                                       August 2002

August 29, 2002

-- So, I see that CBS is planning a new reality show called The Real Beverly Hillbillies, where they'll take some dumb Southern family and stick them in a posh California setting, with butlers and maids and all the trimmings. Then we'll all get to sit back and shit our collective pants in laughter at how unsophisticated and unworldly they are. Sounds like great fun, but I've got a slight bad feeling about it, if you want to know the truth...

I sure don't want to sound like those hyper-sensitive anti-defamation bitches who cry incessantly about Jar Jar Binks and the Taco Bell dog and whatever else is setting back the culture at the moment, but this seems to have all the makings of a festival of Southern mockery. Ya know? The rest of the country already thinks the South is full of banjo-plucking inbreds and gun-toting Klansmen, and I doubt this show will do much to dispel those stereotypes. I mean, who would want to watch a sensible, normal family in that situation?

No, they'll undoubtedly find a group of semi-retarded pig-fuckers with muskets and unkempt facial hair, and all the smug assholes in New York and Chicago and LA will think it's a representation of the average Southerner.

I think that's the part that gets to me, when people believe that the extreme is the norm. All my life I've seen how people react when I say I'm from West Virginia; they all have their preconceived notions about the state, based largely on incest jokes and barefoot people on TV shows with a piece of straw sticking out of the corner of their mouth. I can be in downtown Dog Balls, Alabama and people will cop a condescending tone when they learn I'm from West Virginia. It gets kinda old after a while, that presumption of superiority. I mean, I spent my formative years listening to the Buzzcocks and The Clash, and watching Taxi Driver, just like everybody else. But after somebody asks me where I'm from, I slurp down wooden bowls of possum stew in their minds.

But whatever. Who am I to criticize anyone for mockery and ridicule? That's what I'm all about, after all. I just hope they find a family worthy of the treatment; I hope they don't destroy some good people in their pursuit of mean-spirited fun. And I hope they're from Kentucky or Tennessee or Mississippi or somewhere. Dear God, please don't let them be from West Virginia... I beg of you.

-- Speaking of West Virginia, I'm writing an article for Crimewave USA about my time spent working at a grocery store there, and I refer to the owner of the place as "an alcoholic praying mantis." I thought that was a pretty apt description, and kinda funny, but then I did an internet search to see if the man's still alive. I found an announcement about he and his wife celebrating their fiftieth wedding anniversary. It mentions all their kids and grandkids, and I actually started feeling a little guilty. Grandchildren? Gulp... Little 
kids who probably think he's a cool old man who gives them chocolate and tells them funny stories? And I call him a drunken insect? ...Good Lord, what's happening to me? I'm sliding into pussydom here.

-- And speaking of Crimewave, Mark has already moved his weblog to a new address. It can now be found at markmaynard.com. I urge you to check it out at your earliest convenience.

-- Rocky from the Insane Asylum has checked in with his latest Op-Ed piece, entitled Ninny Heaven. As usual, keep a box of tissues nearby, because this is a very tender and touching piece...

-- Now, a shocker: some things I've actually enjoyed recently.

The Dukes of Stratosphear, "Chips From The Chocolate Fireball" This is XTC acting like a 60s psychedelic band, and it's incredibly good. It came out around 1986, or so, and is as good as any legitimate album the band ever released. I've listened to it a thousand times in my life, but I just recently brought it back down off the shelf, and I'm hooked all over again.

"This Is Easy, The Best of Marshall Crenshaw" Perfect pop record that should be a greatest hits collection, instead of just a best-of.

Insomnia I barely even remember hearing about this movie when it was in theaters, but it's fukkin great. It stars Al Pacino, Robin Williams (in one of his non-irritating roles), and Hilary Swank, and it's about the murder of a high school girl in Alaska, and the ensuing investigation. Pacino is the old-school detective from Los Angeles, sent to help the resentful local cops solve the crime. Because he's there during a period when it never gets dark, Pacino's character can't sleep, and eventually starts to unravel. The man, of course, is not what he seems: he's a very complex fellow. If you haven't seen it, check it out when it comes to video in a few months. Good stuff.

Curb Your Enthusiasm I've only seen one episode, but it was classic. Larry David, co-creator of Seinfeld, plays himself in this half-hour HBO series, and it feels a lot like that earlier show. The one I saw was about Larry's male acupuncturist sending him flowers, and him trying to interpret the gesture. Very funny, with an ending that had me cackling like a moron.

John D. MacDonald I like to read, and I rip through a lot of books every year. Most of it's fiction, and I try to read quality stuff. I generally steer clear of titles on the best seller lists, because, you know, it's usually crap. But every once in a while I break out a MacDonald book, starring the philosophical tough-guy Travis McGee. There's 21 McGee books, and I'm almost finished with the fifth one. They were written for a mass audience, but they're really, really good. If it's popular, it's not always shit. Usually, but not always. Here's your proof.

The Phil Hendrie Show I've written about this before, but Phil Hendrie is an LA radio talk show host who has "guests" on every night who are really just him talking in a different voice. I know it sounds stupid, but it's really not. The guy is a flat-out comedy genius, and I know people in our old neighborhood in California who've actually had to pull their cars over to the side of the road because they were laughing so hard. He's hilarious. I listen to him on the internet whenever I get the chance, and I tuned in a few days ago to hear him interviewing a former NASCAR driver. The guy was pushing the idea that there should be a 75 MPH speed limit in all races, and that drivers should be forced to use their turn signals and horns whenever they're changing lanes. Whenever a clueless caller would challenge him about it, he'd say, "Sir, you're spitting on the grave of Dale Earnhardt." I was dying. By the time he got to the point where he was talking about the drivers consulting road maps while going around the track, I just about lost it. Maps! That's simply excellent.

And that's all the time I have for today, folks. I wanted to tell you about the herd of unsightly computer techs that converged on my office at work this week, but it'll have to wait. 

Have a great weekend.


August 26, 2002

Some weekends are simply more exciting than others. Take the last one for instance: I traveled to Philadelphia for a rare and mind-shattering appearance by one of my personal heroes, which left me buzzing like Michael J. Fox playing Operation, and the very next day infiltrated a private party at the world's newest Krispy Kreme shop, coming away with two big boxes of illicit donuts. Somehow all the planets aligned, for a brief few hours, and there was magic in the air.

This weekend, however, we went to the mall and got a converter box so we can watch HBO.

Oh well. If they were all magic, none of them would be magic, right? I think that makes sense... Anyway, don't tell anyone, but I felt more at home with this weekend than the last. It's more my speed these days. But let's just keep that as our little secret, OK?

-- On Friday Toney went to Wal-Mart and bought a new VCR, to replace the one Nancy's translucents sent to the dump. It cost forty-nine bucks -- a four-head VCR! How could they be so cheap? The box and the Styrofoam it's packed in probably costs more than that! Amazing. When my brother graduated from high school, in 1982, he took all the money he'd received as gifts and went out and bought one of the world's first VCRs. I think it cost six hundred bucks or something, and was approximately the size of a nightstand. When you'd hit the power button all the lights would flicker and dim, and the thing would begin humming like a refrigerator. All house plants within a ten foot radius of the vibrating unit died within days. I'm not sure about this but I think we had to run a water line into the back of it; I believe it was water-cooled. Oh, it was a big bastard alright, and my brother used it all the time. The fact that you could tape a television show was an incredible novelty in 1982, and recording a show while watching another seemed almost like black magic! Indeed, crazy religious fanatics at the time claimed VCRs were the tools of Satan. I remember an old black lady on TV claiming that the little red LED power indicator on the front was "the eye of the devil" peering into your living room. Regardless, my brother taped everything he could, interesting or otherwise. He had volumes and volumes of videocassettes full of six o'clock news broadcasts, and insignificant, random Cincinnati Reds games. It was ridiculous, now that I think about it, but back then it was all so very cool. The vastly superior fifty-dollar model we bought on Friday wasn't nearly as exciting. I bitched because I had to carry the empty box to the garage.

-- On Saturday we went to a mall in Scranton, for no other reason than to walk around a few air-conditioned stores. Generally speaking I don't like malls that much, but this one particularly gets on my nerves. Scranton is a fairly scummy city, and many of its citizens are the trashiest of white trash. And I say this as person who grew up in West Virginia. Toney told me to quit my bitching and just try to enjoy myself for a change. After we parked in their underground garage we had to sit still for a couple of minutes as the family beside us took their time climbing out of their AMC Matador, or whatever, with all four doors standing wide open. A teenage boy walked to the front of our car and snorted so hard I thought his face was going to collapse in on itself, then promptly hocked up a quart or so of some kind of milky grossness! I started howling in protest, and Toney looked at him just as he began picking his nose, and we both watched as he absent-mindedly inspected the yield. Then, as an added bonus, he stood there and scratched his ass, at length. All four fingers on his right hand disappeared and you could see the muscles in his arm working. I couldn't believe my eyes. The kid was a multi-faceted gem of disgust. Welcome to Scranton!

We walked around the mall and I didn't buy a thing. I thought about picking up a CD I want, but it was almost twenty bucks, so that ain't gonna happen in this lifetime or the next. I'll just screw the artists out of their royalties and get a used copy off of half.com. I'm looking out for number one, Jack. Toney bought some shoes, I poked around a dollar store run by extremely suspicious Asians, then we decided to stop by the Adelphia store to pick up the converter box, in preparation for the upcoming Sopranos season premiere. Oh, it was an exciting day, that's for certain.

-- When we got home I amazed myself by hooking up the box without ruining the TV or DVD player, or burning down the house, and I settled back to check out all the new channels. It's that "digital TV" deal, where you have the fancy-pants interactive menu and all that stuff. We had it once before but it was so stupid we took it back. Unfortunately though, if you want HBO you've got to have the box. It's just another way for The Man to keep you down. We now get something like 700 channels, and they're all pretty much shit. I sat there and flipped through the entire lineup and saw nothing of interest. Who the hell watches the Golf Channel, for god's sake? Or Oxygen? I mean, come on. And why are there so many Discovery Channels? One is too many. Who gives a shit about moss? And when did they come up with so many HBOs? We get HBO, HBO Zone, HBO 2, HBO Family, HBO Amish, HBO Severe, HBO Penetration, and a few others I can't now remember. I think they made a mistake and gave us access to all the other movie channels as well. We get them all, baby: The Movie Channel, Starz, a shitload of Cinemaxes, a buttload of Showtimes, and a bunch of others. None is worth a damn, as far as I can tell. They all seem to be showing Dude, Where's My Car? all the time. As soon as The Sopranos season ends, the box is going back. It makes me too sad.

-- While I was flipping from one ridiculous channel to the next I remembered an idea for a cable network I came up with a few years ago: The Coughing Channel. 'Round the clock video footage of people having coughing fits! If you don't have it, ask your cable company.

-- I recently realized that our dog Andy (aka Blacklips Houlihan) absolutely loves spaghetti, if you can believe it. Oh, he'll eat anything; I've seen him make a foot-long stalk of celery disappear! But whenever we have spaghetti he becomes crazed, prancing around and wide-eyed, until we put some in his bowl. Then he wolfs it down like a dog possessed and walks around smiling, with an orange snout, for an hour or two -- until he wipes it off on the couch cushions or whatever. We're going to start making a little extra for him from now on. You simply can't deny an animal that kind of pleasure.

-- Just a week after opening, the Krispy Kreme backlash has begun. Some of the local businesses have taken to mocking their famous Hot Doughnuts Now! sign. It's about to get ugly, people.

-- Toney and I went to an open house yesterday at a place listed at $359,000. I don't know why we do it to ourselves, I guess we just like to see how the rich folks live. But it was absolutely beautiful, of course, and Toney said, "Do you think we'll ever be able to afford something like this?" I led her to a tiny accent table, in one of the hallways, between two of the six bedrooms, pointed to a silk flower arrangement, and said, "We can't afford this."

When we were dating I would've said, "You never know! Anything can happen!!" Now it's just painful honesty, all day and all night.

-- Last night we were flipping through our Berlin Wall of cable channels and saw a commercial that made me laugh. It was an ad for some retarded new sitcom, and an enthusiastic voice proclaimed, "From the network that brought you Everybody Loves Raymond!..." Classic. That's like saying, "From the country that brought you Mother Theresa!" or "From the animal that brought you filet mignon!" How stupid do they think we are? Or should I say, how stupid do they know we are?

And that'll do it for today, boys and girls. I've got to get to work. Have a great week, and I'll be back on Thursday.

                       

August 22, 2002

Howdy. Before we get started here today I need to get a couple of things out of the way. First, if you're looking for the Westerberg show review it can be found under the August 19th entry, on the next page. Click here, if you're confused. Also, please be aware that it's 6:52 AM as I type this, and I have almost no time to write an update. I'm afraid it's gonna suck even more than usual, folks. Sorry, but I'm sure you're getting used to it. Right?

For what it's worth, here's what's on my mind...

-- A few days ago I fell out of my chair at work. It's a standard desk chair, with wheels and everything, and I was sitting on the very front edge of the seat, leaning way forward for reasons I can't now recall. Anyway, the thing suddenly wrenched backward and squirted out from beneath me, and I fell flat on my ass at work. The chair skittered noisily across the floor, and came to rest against a wall a great distance away. It was one of those situations where your mind can't immediately process what's going on, but I seem to remember also having considerable trouble in getting my big ass out of the floor, and nearly tipped my desk over in the process. It was like a Jim Carrey movie. The good news is that nobody was around when it happened. Of course, it was probably all captured on security video (there are cameras everywhere!), and the guards have undoubtedly made copies for their personal use, and will break them out at parties for years to come. "Wait, watch this part! Watch him almost turn the desk over!  Look at his face!!" Excellent.

-- As usual, this episode brings to mind a couple of other stories...

When we lived in California we had a porch swing, and Toney was sitting in it drinking a cup of coffee one morning, when I decided to join her with my own steaming cup of joe. Yeah, you can guess what happened. Fat ass? Porch swing? Use your imagination. When I sat down the thing immediately collapsed and I think most of our coffee ended up on the neighbor's roof and aluminum siding. We laid there and laughed for five solid minutes. After I struggled to my feet and helped Toney up I tried to figure out what had happened. And amongst the rubble I found a formerly s-shaped connector bolt, now straight as a nail and hot to the touch. Goddamn.

-- What's the story with CNN Headline News these days? It used to be a good place to get caught up on the day's events, but now I literally don't have any idea what I'll find there. A few weeks ago I turned it on and saw The Violent Femmes playing "Blister In The Sun" in the studio!? I mean, what in the hell? I like the Femmes and all, but CNN Headline News? What's next, arena football? And there's so much crap on the screen it looks like QVC now. Shit's flashing and spinning and scrolling and winking, it's crazy. The anchor's head is reduced to a small box in the upper left-hand corner. The human brain just isn't designed to handle all that at once.

-- I was listening to the Mike Gallagher Show at work earlier in the week and he was talking about the black bear in New York state that snatched a baby out of its stroller. He was saying that this sort of thing happens maybe once a century, and was making fun of people who were getting carried away with it and demanding that "the government do something." He screamed, "What are we going to do, set up an Amber Alert system for black bears now?!" This made me think, and I fired off an email to him. After the next commercial break he came back on and said, "I just received a message from Jeff and he's very concerned that I use the proper terminology... He says I should be referring to it as a "bear of color" and he's right. I apologize if I've offended anyone." I thought for sure Leno's people would call and offer me a job after that, but so far nothing.

-- Remember a few weeks ago I mentioned that I was unhappy with the look of this website, and was considering a major overhaul? Well, it's taken some time but I think I've finally found the people for the job. These folks are supposedly tops in their field! I'm completely psyched.

-- Want Chris Rock or Hootie to play your birthday party? No problem, here's a price list.

-- And speaking of birthdays, why not buy that special someone in your life a Big Ass Diamond this year?

-- And ladies, once you have that Big Ass rock on your finger, you may want to consult this highly scientific penis estimator before proceeding.  Keep in mind though, it's a British site, so you can probably add an inch or so for Americans.  Ahem.

-- Since the Krispy Kreme is now open I've taken the liberty of rearranging all the photos, so they can be viewed in easy chronological order. Oh, it's an exciting ride, and you can climb aboard here.

That's all I have time for today, folks. I'll try to do better on Monday, but can make no promises. Mark Maynard is busting my balls to finish my latest Crimewave article (about my years spent working at a shitty West Virginia grocery store), so I need to devote a big hunk of time to that. Please feel free to blame him for my failures. God knows I do.

See ya.

August 19, 2002

What a weekend! Not only did I get to witness a rare appearance by The Great One, Paul Westerberg, on Saturday, but Sunday kicked ass as well -- with an unexpected treat from out of left field. I'm still tingly just thinking about it all! I've been to the mountaintop, my friends.

First, the rock 'n' roll extravaganza...

The waiting was a bitch, but Saturday was finally August 17th. Just when I was starting to believe it would remain "a few days away" for eternity, it finally arrived. My friend Steve and I headed down to Philly in the afternoon to see the once and future leader of the mighty Replacements, voice of a generation, and poet of the disenchanted... or something. He was playing at the Theater of the Living Arts, in the heart of the hipster-encrusted South Street section of the city. I've been droning on about this show to anyone who would listen, for weeks, and it had gotten to the point where I was boring myself with it. I kept telling myself, self, you've got to quit talking about this goddamn concert; you sound like a hillbilly getting his first glimpse of skyscrapers and Negroes. But, in my own defense, the man hasn't toured in years. I get excited; sue me.

I scribbled down a few random notes about the day, and I've taken the liberty of fleshing them out for you folks, if you should happen to give a shit.

-- Steve and I left my house around three in the afternoon on Saturday, a little later than I'd hoped, but my computer wasn't cooperating and I needed the MapQuest directions. I can't go anywhere without the MapQuest directions! When we pulled out of the driveway I was sweating like a frickin' plow mule, and spewing a litany of fucks and goddamns. But we finally got on the road, stopped almost immediately for gas and comically oversized Mountain Dews, then paid the initial thirty-five cent installment for the privilege of driving on the luxurious Pennsylvania Turnpike. My truck was well-stocked with Westerberg/Replacements CDs, of course, and we shot the shit and listened to 14 Songs, Mono/Stereo, and Let It Be as we made our way to Philly. It was a very pleasant, uneventful ride. Then we got there.

-- Twelve dollars and fifty cents to park! Holy shit!! I don't want to buy a car, I want to park the one I already own!! (I'm a lot of fun to go places with.) Since we had no other options, we forked over the cash and stepped out of my frigid Toyota pickup into the suffocating heat of Philadelphia. Great Christ almighty was it hot! As soon as I stepped into the air, every pore on my body swung wide open. It was hot. As we were heading toward the Mardi Gras atmosphere of South Street we were almost run over by a gigantic SUV, I think it was a Cadillac Escalade, and Steve's eyes lit up. "That was Allen Iversen!" he shouted. He looked at me for confirmation but I told him I wouldn't know Allen Iversen if we walked up to me and tried to sell me a magazine subscription. He's convinced it was him, but I couldn't say one way or the other. Is he a football player?

-- We walked up and down both sides of South Street, checking out the piercing salons, tattoo parlors, used record stores, bars, fucked-up clothing boutiques, etc. etc., and occasionally stopped at one to peruse the wares. We saw some fairly unusual things. We went into a place that catered to the Japanimation crowd, and also stocked an incredible number of action figures. I had no idea you could get Colonel Klink bobbin' head dolls, toys commemorating the ear-slicing scene in Reservoir Dogs, and rare bloody-stump edition Luke Skywalker figurines. Who knew? We had Battling Tops when I was a kid. The place was packed to the rafters with obscure pop-culture references captured in plastic -- and seizure-triggering Japanese cartoons on homemade videotapes. Weird. We also checked out a place called What's On Tap?, an entire store of beer paraphernalia. In my best Butthead voice I told Steve, "This is the greatest store in the history of the world." But then I saw the prices (fifty bucks for a polo shirt!) and almost swallowed my tongue. It sure is expensive to appear casual and aloof! We walked up and down, and it was sizzling out there. Finally I said, for roughly the 48,000th time in my life, "Fuck it, let's find a pub."

-- We went into a promising-looking joint called Blarney's South, and it turned out to be really cool. We had cheesesteaks and Yuengling drafts, and everything was simply excellent. They had a sign out front, just like every other bar and restaurant we saw, that proclaimed, "Voted Best Cheesesteak on South Street!" Hilarious. The city must pass them out when you apply for a business license. But the cheesesteaks were pretty kick-ass, and I wasn't complaining. I'd found my sanctuary. Yo, could I get another lager over here, please?!

-- Earlier in the day we'd passed the theater where Paul was playing, and his tour bus was parked out front. Then we went past it again on our way to the bar and there was a long line snaking down the sidewalk. I'd read on the Internet that the show was sold out, and it was general admission. I had no interest in standing in line to try to get a spot up front, or anything like that, but the big line was a tad troublesome. I didn't want to have my back pressed against the rear wall either! We kept watching the clock as we drained our Yuenglings, and finally headed toward the theater at 8:40 or so. I felt like it was a little early, but I didn't want to risk it. This was Paul Westerberg, after all.

-- On our way we both stepped out of the flow of traffic for a moment, to call our wives on our cell phones. (Insert whip-cracking sound effect here.) We were yacking away when we were both suddenly cut off at the same time. It was really bizarre. Then we noticed we were standing in front of a Sprint Wireless store, and I have no doubt the cashier has a button in there that they can push to knock people using competitor's phones off the air. That's my theory anyway. They probably used binoculars to see our AT&T phones!

-- We finally went inside the theater, and it was surprisingly cool in there. I'd read that the place is notoriously oven-like, but it was comfortable, and it was a relief. I'd mentally prepared myself to sweat profusely, and was glad I wouldn't have to tap into some rarely-used reservoir of strength to remain conscious and upright. We found a spot about halfway back on the floor, and a little to the left. Very nice real estate indeed.

-- Westerberg was great, as usual. I saw the Replacements on several occasions, and have seen the man solo many more times, and he never fails to please. He came out and said, "Paul couldn't be here tonight, so I'll be entertaining you instead," then started rockin'. It was just him and a bunch of guitars. No band, just Paul by himself. It doesn't get much more stripped-down than that.

-- He played some solo stuff before he started venturing into the Replacements catalog, and it was all good. He seemed to be in great spirits, even though his voice sometimes betrayed him. The audience was in a state of full-on hero-worship. A guy behind me kept screaming, "Everything you do rules!!" He must've said it ten times, and while you might be able to fault his lack of finesse, you can't really argue with his message.

-- Some of the highlights:

"Can't Hardly Wait" The hair on the back of my sappy neck stood up when he played the opening riff. Goddamn!

"We May Be The Ones" A new song that sounded incredible live.

"Skyway" Performed while wearing a mask. He mumbled something about it being the only way he can sing the song(?!).

"Alex Chilton" He changed the line, "I never travel far, without a little Big Star" to "a little G 'n' R," an inside joke about former Replacement, and current Guns 'N' Roses member, Tommy Stinson.

During "Achin' to Be" he suddenly stopped singing, and said, "I'm lost, baby..." So the audience promptly picked it up for him, and allowed him get back on track.

After people in the crowd kept yelling for him to play "Unsatisfied," he finally said, "I'm not going to do that one. ...Do I look unsatisfied?"

About halfway through the show, for no apparent reason, he flew into a momentary frenzy and began hurling stuff into the crowd, handfuls of unidentifiable crap that was lying on top of the amplifiers. I screamed, "My eyes!!" and a few people laughed, but many more shot me dirty looks. It's possible they weren't there to see me perform.

During "Swinging Party" he spat, "Right Bob?" a reference to original Replacements lead guitarist Bob Stinson, who was a notorious partier, and died of an overdose a few years ago. Some cold shit, if you ask me.

At one point he got visibly pissed because of some kind of technical problem with his guitar and said, "I can't get this thing to stay in tune... and I'm too lazy to break it!"

Near the end he invited some audience members to sit on the big couch he had onstage, and he plopped down in the middle of them and played a few acoustic tunes. It reminded me of an Elvis movie, with The King serenading a bunch of snow-bunnies at a ski lodge. This is what it looked like at the Chapel Hill show. It may seem a little dramatic, but I swear I almost lost it a few times during this portion of the show. I very nearly broke down and started sobbing, it was so beautiful. (The Yuengling may have played a part, but I don't think so.) He played "If Only You Were Lonely," "Swinging Party," and "Here Comes A Regular" -- surrounded by people fully convinced they were in the presence of greatness. The last song "Here Comes A Regular" was especially amazing, because Paul didn't have to utter a word. The audience knew every syllable, and was louder than the big black amplifiers. Early in the song he just turned the microphone around to face the crowd and we finished it for him, while he strummed his guitar. It brings a lump to my throat just thinking about it. Fucking awesome.

The scariest quote of the night came when he bounded onto the stage for the encore: "OK, I'll do a few more, then... then, I'll never be back."

Say it ain't so!

-- We got back to my house at 2:15 AM, and I felt like I'd been marinated in a heavy syrup of swamp water and menthol. I'll probably just have to throw the clothes I was wearing away, they're saturated with the funk. Also, my throat was scratchy and my voice was cutting in and out all day on Sunday. I can't take it anymore. I guess I'm just a delicate little flower now. But it was worth it, and in two or three months I should be fully recovered, and able to walk again without the aid of clip-on crutches, and the show will have grown to epic proportions in my mind. It'll become The Who at Leeds, or The Beatles on Ed Sullivan or something. I know how I am. But it was amazing, and that's the truth -- the truth uncorrupted by time.

On Sunday I was draggin'. It was hotter than hell, and I just wasn't firing on all cylinders. We hung around the house for a while, and I couldn't manage much more than the occasional mumble. Around noon I pried myself off the couch and decided to drive down to the Krispy Kreme to take my weekly picture. It opens on Tuesday and they've done an amazing amount of work to it in the past week, including landscaping and paving the parking lot, so the pic couldn't help but be dramatic. Little did I know, however, that I was in for an unexpected bonus!

When I pulled onto the Friendly's parking lot next door I saw that the Krispy Kreme lot was almost full, and people were walking out with big boxes of donuts! What in the harelipped hell?! The sign out front still said "2 Days 'til Hot Donuts!", but people were already taking them home? Oh, I had to get to the bottom of this.

I walked in, and the place was teeming with people. A cute, cheerful teenage girl greeted me at the door, welcomed me with a smile, and thrust a menu and a giant $10 bill into my hand. Like an idiot I said something about them opening early, and she said, "Oh this a private party for the family of the owners..." Then she looked at me suspiciously, and was getting ready to question my being there, but I was gone. I'd disappeared into the donut-eating crowd by then.

People were walking around in suits and corsages and fancy dresses, and here I was, crashing their party in my big-ass shorts. I went to the counter and asked the guy what I could do with the clown money and he said, "That's what you pay for your donuts with, man!" Fuckin' A. A dozen glazed was $4.99 each, so I asked for two dozen, paid up with my Incredible Shrinking Man bill, and got the hell out of there.

It was only a matter of time before donut security was going to ask me to leave anyway, so there was no point in pushing my luck. I snapped a quick pic of the guy loading up my box, with donuts right off the conveyor, and to my surprise the flash went off, which only drew more attention to me. I was sure some of the men in suits were looking at me and talking into their sleeves, so I made a run for it with my hot boxes of freshly-fried dough under my right arm. Then I went home and ate the things until I was on the cusp of puking.

I was in a frenzy, and attempted to talk Toney into going back down there and trying to get two more dozen ("Just act like you belong there!"), but she looked back at me with that expression of disgust I've seen so many times before.

Here are some photos.

What a monumental weekend! They don't get much better than that, folks. Holy crap. Paul Westerberg and illegal donuts... can you ask for more? I submit that you cannot.

More in a day or two...

August 15, 2002

A few more things:

-- I set the alarm to go off this morning at 5 AM, so I could get up and have enough time to do some more whining and cursing on the Internet before I left for work. (Yes, thatís what itís come to.)

After what felt like fifteen minutes, the clock started making its irritating up-and-down grinding noise, and I dragged my sorry ass out of bed to escape it. I headed directly to the bathroom to do what it is you do in the bathroom when you first get up, and I started feeling strange. My head was swimming, and a cold sweat broke out all over -- I felt like I was about to go down. The hell? Visions of Elvis dying in the bathroom floor with a turd popping out of his ass, like the Caddyshack gopher, stampeded through my racing brain. At least Iíd go out standing; thatís a little better, right? At least I wouldn't suffer the indignity of falling off the shitter with my pants around my ankles.

Iím not kidding, I very nearly blacked out. I had to hold onto doorways to get back to the bed, and I collapsed there, heaving and sweating, colors swirling in my eyes. I mean, what in the honeybaked hell? This doesnít happen to me. Whatís the deal?!

Toney made a crack about me having a Tony Soprano panic attack, but I was taking a leak; thereís not a lot of stress involved in that. Ya know? Iíve pretty much got that down to a science at this point.

To be honest, it worries me a little. If it happens again Iíll probably have to go to the doctor. And theyíll undoubtedly want to run me up into one of those big humming tubes (I have kick-ass insurance!), then when I come out the other side I imagine theyíll all be shaking their heads in front of a scan of my brain with a big Australia-shaped black spot in the middle. Fuck. All I wanted to do was get up, put on some coffee, and complain about the weather. Now Iíve got a cluster of brain tumors to worry about? Itís just not right.

-- And on a similar note, some distant relative of mine died recently after falling asleep behind the wheel, and driving up underneath a flatbed truck. I think he was decapitated, but that mightíve just been an embellishment I added in my mind. Anyway, I was thinking about this as I was driving to work this morning (and after I nearly drove up underneath a flatbed truck, while worrying about that map of Australia), and I remembered the wording of the obituary. It said something about him dying after a sudden illness! Yep, illnesses donít come much more sudden than that. They were certainly right about that. That was one sudden-ass illness! And Kurt Cobain "died unexpectedly at home." What's wrong with the truth? This is a nation obsessed with reality television, Jerry Springer, unauthorized biographies, etc. etc., but if somebody drives into the back of a parked truck we avert our collective eyes? What's that all about? If I die in some goofy way, like if a pallet of Hi-C falls off the top rack at a Sam's store or something, I hereby give the local newspapers carte blanche to milk it for all it's worth. Have a great time with it!

-- Wednesday evening Toney and I were having dinner and I thought I saw, out of the corner of my eye, somebody walking on the neighbor's roof. Then there was a loud SPLASH!, followed by uproarious laughter. What in the hell?! I got up to inspect, and saw one of the neighbor kids, I think he's around ten years old, climb up a handrail, onto the roof of his house, and do a frickin' cannonball into their pool! The kid was jumping off the second-story roof!! I simply couldn't believe my eyes.

Toney and I abandoned our dinners and stood there and watched them do this over and over. The older brother and a friend were now in on the act, and the little instigator was in some kind of crazed frenzy. He started jumping in with his bathing suit around his knees, and was chattering like a mental patient, for some unknown reason. He was acting like Beavis when he became The Great Cornholio. And where the hell were the parents? The kid's flinging himself off a twenty-foot structure, with his wiener flapping in the wind, and they're inside watching Raymond? Holy crap.

The dad flies off the handle at the slightest infraction, I've seen him completely lose his shit over a basketball bouncing off his gas grill, veins a-bulging, spittle a-flying, and I was certain this would be enough to make his head blow clean off his shoulders. We debated on whether we should call them, since one of the little shitheads could easily be hurt (or killed), but decided to play dumb. People are touchy when it comes to their kids, so we just took it all in, lurking in the shadows.

Eventually the parents came out and caught them in the act, and told them to stop, but there was no yelling or anything. I was shocked. I'm certainly no expert, but it appears that those kids get screamed at when they shouldn't, and skate when they should get screamed at. But what the hell do I know?

-- We just paid our local "school tax" for an amount more than double the cost of my first car. My hand shook violently as I wrote the check. I can't believe how fast the taxes are increasing in this town; it's like Canada or Sweden or something. I think somebody's trying to create the socialist utopia of Nancy's dreams here. And to add insult to injury, the teachers are threatening to strike! I think they want us to give them free cable or something. I'm not real clear on the details... But I swear, if it continues I might just have to get involved in local politics. I think Toney could show me where City Hall is.

-- You people are really starting to slip. Nobody's sent me this pic yet, with a note saying, "I thought this might remind you of home." C'mon folks, snap out of it! I know it's hot outside, but this is just sad.

-- There's a radio commercial I hear almost every day that drives me up the freakin' wall. It's from some group called The Compliance Alliance, and it's supposedly a bunch of hip teens sitting around talking (and lecturing us poor ignorant schmucks) about how kids under the age of eighteen are not allowed to buy cigarettes. (What am I, a fuckin' shopkeeper?) The pseudo-hipster street talk, and condescending tone makes me want to rip off my pants and do a cannonball off the roof. All of the spots end with one of the average everyday teens saying "peace out" or "keep it real, baby." I swear it makes me crazy. I've never smoked a cigarette in my life, but I might take it up just to spite these smug little assholes. Do they still make Lucky Strikes? Those seemed pretty cool. I think I'd look good with a Lucky Strike danglin'.

-- I can't remember how we got onto this subject, but Toney and I were talking about Clackers the other day. I realize I'm an old fart, so many of you may not remember these things, but they were briefly popular when I was in grade school. You can read about them here.

For a month or so, when I was in fourth or fifth grade, everybody carried around a Clacker. But eventually emergency rooms started filling up with children after they started realizing what a nifty weapon they make. Kids started swinging them above their heads, and braining their buddies with them! At our grade school they would immediately confiscate the things if they caught you with one. And at some point it actually became cool to have had your clacker confiscated, so I gave mine up for the larger good. I remember seeing an overflowing box of them in the principal's office -- it would probably be worth a thousand bucks today on eBay.

What a bizarre toy. They were very testicle-like now that I think about it. But even more bizarre is the fact that they actually caught on. How much fun is it to stand in the middle of the floor and bounce two glass balls together? But Clackers were the shit for a few weeks.

The last time I thought about them was when a co-worker in California went to a high school basketball game with his son, and got into an argument with some assholes in the parking lot. And, apparently out of nowhere, a guy came running up, swinging above his head a tube sock with a billiard ball inside, and completely shattered this poor bastard's jaw with it. He wore scaffolding on his head for months, and talked like a ventriloquist. I bet the pool ball guy played with Clackers when he was a kid. How much you wanna bet?

-- Now here's something to get excited about. My once and future partner in crime, Mark Maynard, has started keeping a weblog, and it's damn good. Check it out. Mark is one of the funniest people I know. Do yourself a favor and bookmark his site. I'm serious, do it. You can thank me later.

-- Finally, here are a few interesting links I came across this week...

Want to buy a partially eaten pack of Twizzlers purchased by Madonna in 1996? Well, today's your lucky day, bucko.

Here's a site where you can check to see if celebrities are dead or alive. I checked Bjorn Borg, because Toney and I have been arguing about him for years. She insists he committed suicide -- on a boat!?! -- but he's still alive, just as I thought.

When I was a teenager there were three magazines that I devoured, front to back. Now all three have websites. Check 'em out: Trouser Press, Creem, and The National Lampoon. These publications warped me into what I am today.

Kinkos in da hood, yo. Peace out.

This is simply bizarre. What marketing genius came up with this concept?  Michael Jackson?

Want to build an exact replica of The Sopranos house? Print out the plans here.

Here are the top-earning dead celebrities.

And here are the amounts your favorite baseball teams have given to each political party. I think the Pirates have it figured out.

And that'll do it, folks. Big weekend for your corpulent correspondent: the Westerberg show in Philly is Saturday night. My friend Steve and I are going down there in the early afternoon, and making a day of it. I didn't think I still had the capacity to get excited about anything, but I guess it's still in there somewhere, buried beneath all the bitterness and cholesterol. It's gonna be great. If you want me to call you on my cell phone during the show, so you can hear "Unsatisfied" (the unofficial TheWVSR theme song), just let me know. I'll do it -- if I remember.

See ya on Monday.

August 12, 2002

-- So, I was watching one of the news channels yesterday morning (Fox? I'm not sure...) and they were reporting on Jason Priestley's spine-snapping car crash, which had just occurred. They kept repeating that he was apparently very seriously hurt, and had to be airlifted to the hospital. They showed still photos of the actor strapped to a hospital gurney, and pointed out that he had a ventilator tube inserted in his mouth -- just in case we couldn't see it for ourselves. Stock footage of Priestley giving various interviews (without sound) ran in a continuous tape-loop between the photographs of him being wheeled to the ambulance. The news people had that "concerned" tone to their voice, and it was all very dramatic. But then they got the bad news: he apparently wasn't going to die. Dammit! The hospital released a statement saying he had stabilized and was responsive, and you could actually hear the disappointment in their voices. One anchor sneered that we should keep in mind that it was just his "current" condition, insinuating that there was still hope that he'd take a turn for the worse. Morbid bastards.

-- We have a friend who works for CNN and he told us how they have shelves of biographical reports on almost every celebrity imaginable, that they can throw on the air in the event of a sudden death. ("We'll leave you now with a brief look back at the career of Buddy Hackett...") I wondered if all that stock footage of Priestley talking to Jay Leno or whatever was pulled from Fox News Channel's Jason Priestley Death Folder? Sick.

-- We're all caught up on The Sopranos now. We watched the final episode from season three last night, so there's nothing left to do but swallow my pride, order HBO, and wait for the fourth season to start. I can't wait! Paying fifteen bucks a month for a movie channel rubs me the wrong way (how many times can you watch Patch Adams?), but I have no choice in the matter. I'm like a drug addict at this point. They got me hooked with the "samples", and now it's all coming home to roost. But the new season doesn't start for another month. What am I going to do?! Would it be too obsessive to go back and watch the last season in Portuguese?

-- A few nights ago I was awakened, at 3:11 AM to be exact, by a godawful screeching noise coming from the backyard. It was incredible. I'm almost forty and I've never heard anything quite like the racket I heard that night. It may have been a bird of some sort, but I'm not sure. It was impossibly loud, and kept going off, over and over again. When I was still half asleep I briefly wondered if "Nancy" had returned and one of her kids was having an episode. I got up and looked out several windows, but it was dark out there and I could see nothing. And there was no way in hell I was going to open a door. Fuck. One of these days I'm going to be outside mowing the lawn and a pterodactyl will swoop down and carry me off to a rock cliff in its talons, where it will proceed to eat my head like a meat apple.

-- I know He supposedly works in mysterious ways, but what kind of cruel God would design and introduce gnats into the mix?

-- And speaking of cruel, why did the Lay's potato chip people discontinue those kick-ass Cracker Barrel cheddar-flavored chips? Those were the greatest thing man has invented since the banana hanger.

-- I gave our dog Andy a bath yesterday, and I thought his brain was going to explode from fright. He's the most neurotic animal I've ever known. I had to practically wrestle him into the tub, and once he was there he shook like Janet Reno until I was finished with him. Pitiful. Toney calls him the Woody Allen of dogs, and that's pretty accurate. He's a frickin' mess.

-- Check this out. Somebody's apparently going to launch a satellite into space, carrying a buttload of personal messages from all us losers, and it'll be programmed to return to Earth in 50,000 years, when our future relatives will have the opportunity to partake of our wisdom. I think I'm gonna tell them about those kick-ass chips!  I mean, how else are they to know?

-- Big doings at the donut shop this week. We're only about a week or so away from the due date, and I'm starting to get a little nervous. I have a feeling I'll be doing some big-time pacing in a few days...

And that's all for today, dudes and dudettes. Have a great week. Be sure to check out the latest on Nancy, if you haven't already, and I'll see ya in a day or two.

Bye.


August 9, 2002

A few things:

-- This is probably going to seem a bit strange, but I've always considered sleep to be a little creepy. Toney and I have talked about this on several occasions, and she thinks I'm a complete lunatic. But allow me to explain...

Doesn't it seem a little weird that people need to assume a periodic state of dormancy, like insects or rodents, in order to function? Doesn't it feel a tad vampire-like? And isn't it scary that bright and energetic people regularly slide into a state of suspended animation, rendered useless and helpless, in order to go on living? I do. It all gives me the creeps. Sometimes I wonder if I'll sink too deep into sleep and won't be able to come out of it on the other side. It's like Death Lite.

It freaks me out that we build houses with special rooms (chambers) designed for us to assume our freakish suspended science-fiction states, complete with fancy raised coma platforms. And I find it odd that there are stores like Bed, Bath and Beyond that peddle frilly, scented dormancy accessories. It's pretty damn freaky, if you stop to think about it.

Toney likes to sleep. She looks forward to it, as if it's a refuge of some sort. I'm the exact opposite. I want to stretch the day out as long I possibly can. Even a documentary about the history of starches on The Food Network is preferable to turning myself over to six hours of rolling around in layers of heavy fabric, and drooling like an idiot. Not much comes from that, ya know?

And don't even get me started on dreams! Whenever somebody says, "Oh man, I had the weirdest dream last night..." I look for the nearest exit. I don't want to hear about your mental malfunctions and misfirings, thank you very much -- it frightens me. "I was playing leap frog in a jockstrap with Willie Mays and the cast of Rent..." Shit!

People sleeping on TV and in movies make me slightly uncomfortable as well. It's just a reminder that we've given in to it. We're like big, intelligent squirrels at this point. People like Thomas Edison (and Kramer) had the right idea, by trying to cut down on their amount of sleep. I know there's an unfortunate physical need for it, but if we could all tack on five or six hours to our days, just imagine what could get done! Surely some hotshot scientist somewhere can come up with a sleep substitute in tablet-form, right? Now that's a project I could get behind! If I could take a prescription drug that would allow me to stay awake all the time, with no physical harm, I could rule the world! ...or at least watch a shitload of DVDs.

-- I went out on my bike yesterday evening, in the suddenly pleasant fall-like weather, and passed a lemonade stand set up by a group of neighborhood kids. I stopped and bought a cup for a quarter, and experienced an uncharacteristic wave of happiness. Ten years ago I would've mocked and sneered at the Leave It To Beaver world we now inhabit, but today it makes me happy. Instead of peddling lemonade, the same-aged kids in our old neighborhood in California would probably be out selling X, or perhaps a snack-pack of coochie. I might be exaggerating that a little, but not much.  At this point in my life I'll take the wholesomeness, without hesitation. Who could've predicted it?

-- I walked past a woman at Burger King the other day standing in front of the gigantic wall of nutrition data they've been forced to set up so that fat slobs can't sue them. Ahem... Anyway, her face was all twisted up with concentration as she attempted to decipher the tower of statistics, then there was an expression of sudden understanding and she blurted, "Shit, I would've been better off not knowing!..."

-- What happened to all those aluminum foil windshield screens that people couldn't seem to live without a few years ago? I don't see anybody using them anymore.  Hmm...  It makes me wonder if they were really necessary in the first place? I mean, if it was a good idea it would've endured, right? Baa-baa, Mr. Sheep, Baa!!

-- For reasons I can't now explain, I was watching Greta Van Susteren the other night and Henry Kissinger was on. While I was sitting there trying to understand whatever the fuck it was he was muttering about, it occurred to me that I'm almost forty and that man has been old my entire life! I hope I get the chance to be really old for forty years.

-- I'm listening to a CD by The Smiths right now, and it sounds really, really good. I can't explain it but every once in a while there's no substitute for whiny, self-indulgent, celibate British homosexuals. It touches a particular, hard-to-reach corner of the soul.

-- Earlier this week I re-read Jason Headley's excellent odyssey into a world without shampoo, that we featured here a few months back, and I'd like to suggest a revisit.  Check it out, it's good stuff. The installments are now linked together, and are a little more user-friendly. Enjoy! And Jason, if you have anything new to add, by all means drop us a line.

I think that'll do it for today. Have a great weekend, folks. I'll try to be back to normal on Monday, but I can't promise anything. Nancy is finally gone, and if you still care about any of that, you can read the latest here. Bye for now.

                 

August 5, 2002

-- Major developments on the donut front. Check it out. I nearly wept.

-- And I'm not the only one who's excited!

-- We here at TheWVSR like to think we have a positive effect on people's lives, and want to offer support and advice whenever possible. With that in mind, here are some wise words we can all live by. Now, go take on the day.

Have great week everyone. I'm sorry this sucks so bad, but I feel like I'm writing from a WWI foxhole here. I'm taking Thursday off from work, so that'll probably be the next time I update. The weather is supposed to break today, so I'm pretty excited. Yesterday was 97 or something, and tomorrow the high is only supposed to be 70! Can you believe it?! I am fully engorged.

Until next time...

August 2, 2002

A few things:

-- It's 6:22 AM as I type this, and I'm sweating. I'm sporting a fine patina of evenly-distributed perspiration, from head to toe -- I'm ready for the goddamn breading. This is one of the worst summers in memory. Hot and humid and sticky and gross. I lived in Atlanta for six or seven years, and I can't remember being this miserable there. Of course, in The South they don't view an air conditioner as a sign of weakness. Here, it's like a badge of honor to have a house like a pastry oven. Then again, these are the same people who call green peppers "mangoes." I mean, what the hell? I can still hear our real estate agent assuring us that we won't need an air conditioner, because we're "in the mountains." I was skeptical, but it was February and I wanted to believe her. It sounded like paradise, a place where it never got hot. In retrospect, how stupid was I? Scranton as a paradise? Ha! She's probably off somewhere right now, head thrown back in maniacal laughter like The Joker. I watch the skies every day for the birds. I'm like an Indian now. As soon as I start seeing those big V's pointed south I'll know it's almost over. Just sittin', and sweatin', and waitin' for the V's... that's what it's come to.

-- Speaking of Scranton, I mentioned recently that I fantasize about taking part in the renaissance of one of its rebounding neighborhoods. There are parts of the city filled with beautiful old Victorian homes that have fallen into disrepair, but are now on their way back. Crack houses today, mansions tomorrow. Yeah, it's a fantasy, but it'll never happen. I don't have the nerve, I'm afraid; I'm more Baskin and Robbins than Lewis and Clark. But check this out: $82,000! The mortgage payments would be around six hundred bucks -- for a full-blown frat house! Of course, you'd probably have to wear bullet-proof pajamas to bed, but still. A fellow can dream, can't he?

-- We're still deep into The Sopranos. We had to stop watching while "Nancy" was here, but picked up where we left off as soon as their traveling carnival of fucked-upness pulled out of the driveway. Through my quickly-diminishing network of connections, I've managed to get my hands on the third season DVDs, a month and a half before they're released. (Don't ask questions, just move along...) We've been ripping through them, one episode per night. A few days ago we saw the one called "Employee of the Month," in which Dr. Melfi is raped. It was one of the most frustrating hours of television I've ever sat through. The last ten seconds made me want to bite a pencil in half; I was howling like a coyote. If you've seen it you know what I'm talking about. It's a strange, strange program. You literally don't have any idea what's going to happen next. Is there any doubt that it's one of the best TV shows ever? I'm completely obsessed. I'm even going to spring for HBO in the fall, to watch the fourth season. It's expensive, but what choice do I have? I'll knock over a convenience store if I have to. It's beyond my control at this point.

-- Should I send this guy twelve dollars to holler "Holy crap in a Bundt pan!!" into a tape recorder for me? I think we all know the answer to that one, don't we?

-- Check it out, TheWVSR gets a mention in the latest issue of my hometown entertainment newspaper. Pretty cool, but it's only a matter of time before somebody stops my parents at Sam's and tells them about The Map. "Why, Jeff? Why would you do something like that? ...And when were you in Oregon?"

-- On a related note, here's Puff Daddy on a jet ski.

-- I've updated the search engines page. These are actual phrases typed into search engines that ultimately led people here. And you thought Al Qaeda was scary?

-- For what it's worth, here's last weekend's donut shop photo. They're working inside now, so I'm only going to do this once every couple of weeks. The outside isn't changing much, but it looks like they'll be open shortly.  My ass will soon reach a point where it can't be contained by denim.

-- Finally, this is one of the funniest columns I've read lately. Mike Jasper is a great writer, and this piece is especially tasty. Enjoy.

And that'll do it, kiddies. There's a possibility (probability?) that "Nancy" and her gang will be back this weekend, but we've heard nothing so far.  I'm preparing myself just in case though. And in the meantime I'll be watching the skies for the V's, listening to the new Springsteen CD (excellent!), and waiting for the Westerberg tour to reach Philly. Oh, and watching The Sopranos, of course.

I hope all's well in your corner of the world. Have a great weekend folks.

                   

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