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A bowl of corn, motherfuckers.

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Is that an erection I smell?

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

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   The State of My Fat Ass                                       August 2003

August 29, 2003

-- I was at work last night until after nine o'clock, and received several calls from work after I got home. At multiple points during the day yesterday I had two phones up to my head, like a character in a sitcom, attempting to carry on two conversations at once. Early this morning I was standing in the kitchen drinking my first cup of coffee, rubbing the kitty out of my eyes, when the calls from work started again. The forkin' sun was barely up. And I worked all last night in my dreams, making frantic calls and giving people direction. Strangely enough, one of my co-workers was the lead singer of Three Dog Night, and I don't know why. I'm exhausted, and I think shit is starting to misfire. I believe I'm starting to get bleed-over from I Love The 70's.

I don't want to be too technical and boring here, but we're now experiencing what is known in my industry as a "cluster-fuck." The implication being that things are not only fucked-up, but are in fact a large ball of fucked-upness. In my industry we also routinely encounter a "pain in the balls" and "nuts in a vise." I know that all this specialized insider shop-talk may be confusing to some of you, but it's the only way I know to explain what I'm going through at the moment. Indeed, last night around 7:30, as I nursed a warm Mountain Dew Severe at my desk, I realized that I was experiencing the relatively rare phenomenon of a "dick in the ass." It was quite a moment, and I made sure everyone around me learned the news. They said they felt it too.

And the best part? The net result of all our efforts was nada. We failed. Yesterday afternoon we were given our assignment by our all-powerful Burbank overlords, and the entire world knew it was an impossible task. Try anyway, was the message received. So we tried, and it looked like we would actually pull it off -- until around ten o'clock last night, when the whole thing collapsed around us and we instantly went from being heroes to guys you can't really count on in a pinch. Simply excellent. We were so close, and yet so far. In the end, though, we would've had the same results if we'd knocked off early and gone for cocktails at the International House of Skag.

And now I get to go back in for another big dose of joy. My man-tits are swollen in anticipation. But, thankfully, we're staring into the eyes of a big three-day weekend. There's light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. And I have a feeling the Yuengling Corporation may just exceed their sales projections this week.

I'm near tears.


August 28, 2003

A few stupid things:

-- I went out on the lawn last night, like the good sheep-man that I am, and looked at Mars. I saw people on TV doing it, so I thought I'd better do it too. Supposedly the Red Planet is closer to Earth right now than at any time in the past 60,000 years. Seemed a shame not to at least get off the couch and have a look. If it had only been 20,000 years I probably wouldn't have bothered, but 60,000 is a really long time. Plus, it's the cool thing to do, and I'm nothing if not cool.

On the local news they showed other members of the flock in Australia and Japan, and a few other places, standing in line at observatories to catch a glimpse. I'm not that big of a douchebag; I have a little dignity left. I just traipsed out onto the grass, barefoot, and hoisted a Yuengling lager at the brightly shining dot in the sky. It was OK, I guess, but nothing to write home about. I thought it was going to be the size of the moon or something. I thought I was going to see monsters in flying cars and glistening Martian cities. I apologize, but I think I want my money back. Baaaaaa.

-- I couldn't give two shits about the controversy in Alabama concerning the Ten Commandments. I think both sides look like loony fanatics.

You've got crazed lefties on one side who find Christians distasteful and unsophisticated, so they're using legal loopholes and activist judges to eliminate as many mentions of God and Christianity from public view as possible. They say it's a concern about separation of church and state, but we all know the truth, don't we? If it were a passage from the Koran on display they'd have no problem with it whatsoever. And I find it curious what touches off moral outrage in these people. Thou shalt not kill?? It's like Dennis Miller says, the ACLU will protest if a town puts up a nativity scene at Christmas, but if somebody breaks into that nativity scene and fucks a sheep in the ass -- well, they'll defend that to the end.

And on the other side of the controversy are a bunch of right-wing religious nuts, praying and twitching and waving snakes around. And defying the law -- because they don't like it. Things don't work that way, Gomer; you can't just pick and choose the laws you're going to obey. You lost this one. Pack up your revival tent and go home. You're not helping your case by acting like a bunch of scary Jesus freaks. It just verifies the things your critics are implying.

So, there's nobody to get behind in this fight. They're all losers. And that's why I couldn't give two shits. One maybe, but certainly not two.

-- I was in a grocery store last night, called Price Chopper, and I almost fell down after twisting my ankle on a high ridge in the linoleum (thus aggravating my shampoo injury). It looked like something had shifted below the building and caused the floor to become uneven. Here we go again, I thought.

Years ago, in my hometown in West Virginia, they built a grocery store almost literally on a pile of trash. It was a landfill of some sort, and they built a shopping center there with a Kroger store as the anchor. Everything was fine for several years, but then the building began to sink into the ground.

The floor started cracking and getting grooves in it, and it felt like the whole place was on a slant. I'm not joking, if you let go of your shopping cart there was a good chance it would start rolling, pick up steam, and take out a pack of senior citizens buying baloney at the deli, or whatever. It was like a funhouse in there. Orange road cones were everywhere, steering people away from the more serious dips and hollows.

Eventually they tore the whole deal down, and rebuilt on the same spot. I guess they figured it was only a matter of time before some poor bastard got swallowed up with a box of crackers in his hand. And the lawyers probably ran the numbers and decided they'd better not let that happen.

Price Chopper's situation hasn't quite reached that level of seriousness yet.  I'll just have to remember to wear my shin guards and kneepads when I go there for my salted peanuts in the shell.  

-- I don't know what made me read Dilbert yesterday, but I did and I thought it was brilliant. Yes, that's right, brilliant. I took the liberty of violating copyright law in order to share it with you. Check it out. It's funny because it's true.

-- I went to two stores yesterday trying to buy the new Animal House DVD, and both were sold out. I'm about to start throwing punches. If I'd just stayed loyal to the internet, I'd have it by now. I'm very frustrated. My toga is all pressed and everything.

-- Toney and I had to take a break from watching Six Feet Under, because it was making us feel too creepy and sad. There's not a character on that show that isn't deeply flawed in some way, and none are happy in the least. Everybody just mopes around and acts fucked-up. Plus there's a lot of fudge-packing ("You like that, don't you, faggot?" - David), so it's a cocktail best taken in small sips. I'm feeling mildly panicked just thinking about it.

-- Here's the latest from Buck, straight from the holler. Suicide, Kiss rapists, and wave pools... Check it out, yo.

-- I found an interesting website yesterday at work, where regional expressions, phrases, and pronunciations are examined.

Here are a few that I liked the best:

The stuff that collects in the corner of your eye... known affectionately as eye boogers in the Compound, but apparently called (?!?) kitty in other places.

The general term for rubber-soled shoes worn in gym class. Should be tennis shoes (pronounced "tenna"), obviously. The term "sneakers" gives me the creeps, in much the same way "underpants" does.

The activity of driving around in circles in a car? Doing donuts, right? Wrong. It's whipping shitties. What in the harelipped hell??

And check this one out: the term for a long sandwich containing cold cuts, lettuce, and so on. Notice where the term "hoagie" is used? Yes, right over my house. People get offended if you say "sub" here. In fact, if you go to Subway -- a place with sub in its name -- and order a sub, they'll look at you like they don't know what you're talking about. "Do you mean hoagie?," they'll ask, deeply confused. It's like those people in Canada who want to fine you for speaking English. They're very protective here of their goofy phrases, and don't want to know how they do it elsewhere. They also call sloppy joes "wimpies", and will gladly die to ensure the phrase's survival. Hey, don't blame me, I only report the news...

That's all for today, kiddies. How are the daily updates working out? What do you think? Is it a good thing, or a bad thing? 

See you tomorrow.

August 27, 2003

I got up yesterday morning inspired by the dying Warren Zevon, positive and enthusiastic, eager to nurture my inner retard, when tragedy struck while soaping up my love handles in the shower. (How's that for an opening sentence?) For no apparent reason the twelve-pound Sam's Club bottle of Pert Shampoo (or Perts as the brothers in Atlanta used to say) fell off the shelf and crushed my left foot against the tile floor. I was howling like a mental patient, thrashing, kicking, and cussing. Fat, naked, and in-pain is no way to go through life, son.

Check out the damage. It fuckin' hurt. I think some of the little bird bones in there are shattered.

I've always been suspicious of bulk packaging. It makes me nervous. When I was a kid I'd pick up the pace when walking down the grocery aisle with all the industrial-sized stuff. What, in god's name, would anyone do with a five gallon bucket of mayonnaise? A lifeguard should be on duty when the lid is removed from one of those things. And what is the logical purpose of purchasing a glass jar containing enough dill pickles for every man, woman, and child in the county? Seriously.

They look exactly like the real-people version of the products too, only enlarged to the point where you feel like The Incredibly Shrinking Man. Too freaky. I never saw anyone actually buying the stuff and it was all very mysterious, foreign, and strange to me. Instinctively, I knew that nothing good would ever come from it.

Sam's and Costco are full of that crap. It's entire stores of ridiculously oversized products. To this day I steer clear of the food section at Sam's. I hang out by the DVDs and computers, while Toney buys the drums of Giganto-Chowder, or whatever. It makes me feel claustrophobic and nervous to walk through the valley of olive aquariums, it really does.

Plus, they have all those warehouse racks in there, with skids of stuff a hundred feet in the air. I'm always afraid a case of 128-ounce Downey fabric softener will fall from the sky and explode my spinal cord, making it necessary to update this website with a special tasking rod strapped to my face. 

Is that irrational?

But look at me now, hobbling around on a foot that's nothing but a sack of bone chips. Why was it necessary to own a ten-year bottle of shampoo anyway? We'll go through two or three cars before we go through that shit. And now that I know it has the ability to leap off shelves...

It's also causing friction between me and Toney. She nagged me all evening yesterday to "put something on it." She was spinning doomsday prophecies of horrible infections and amputations, while I picked sock lint out of the gaping hole in my foot. "I'm not rubbing cream in an open wound," I hollered. And she called me a fool. A fool! My own wife. I compromised and sprayed some kind of foam on it that's supposed to kill all the germs. It just felt cold for the first five minutes or so, then it was like I'd plunged my leg in acid. Goddamn! How did I get to this point?

So, you see, it's further evidence that my gut instincts are almost always correct. They may be impossible to understand at first, but it always becomes clear in the long run. I'll probably lose a foot because of bulk packaging, and I somehow knew it all my life.

My inner retard is slightly agitated.

August 26, 2003

I mentioned yesterday how this past weekend made me feel happy to be alive, and it did. The weather was perfect, we had loads of fun, and the world just seemed bright and cheerful inside my head. The chemicals somehow mixed together, just right. As melodramatic and beer commercialish as it might seem, I actually sat on our deck and thought that thought: it's good to be alive.

In case the point wasn't quite clear enough, the weekend ended with the viewing of a short documentary on VH1 about the making of Warren Zevon's (almost certainly) final album. It was the Hollywood ending that drove it all home. And if that won't make you appreciate what you've got... well friend, you're one hardened son of a bitch.

As you probably know, Zevon is suffering from terminal lung cancer, and was given three months to live -- about a year ago. He decided he'd use what time he had left to write and record as much new material as possible. And he gave a group of documentary filmmakers access to it all, including his visits to the doctor, and "private" time spent with his adult children.

Parts of it weren't easy to watch, including a scene outside the Letterman show where fans crowded around him and didn't seem to know what to say, other than, "Thank you, Warren... Thanks for everything." That really got me. I had to concentrate and force myself to man-up.

But, if you're a Zevon fan like I am, you probably won't be surprised to learn that he's not walking around feeling sorry for himself. He doesn't use this opportunity, like many people would, to submerge himself into an Oprah hot tub of naked emotion and theatrical "courage." His thesis on the whole deal seems to be that it kinda sucks he'll only be able to hang around for fifty-five years (it's a sin not to want to live, he says), but he's thankful to have had even that much time. And his advice to us all: enjoy every sandwich.

That pretty much spells it out, in Zevonian terms. Every minute of every day is a gift. And I agree with him. Always have. I'm frequently in an agitated state (just ask Toney) but I also have the capacity to see the good. Seriously. I'm not a complete curmudgeon. I get almost giddy over some of the most stupid shit. People probably think I'm semi-retarded the way I act sometimes. My challenge, I guess, is to let that little retard out to play more often. Maybe that's everyone's challenge?

Thank you Warren... Thanks for everything.

August 25, 2003

-- I'm burned out on a decade. Toney and I watched nearly every episode, last week, of VH1's I Love The '70s in just a few short nights. Somehow 1970 got past us, but we ingested the other nine hours of programming in big two or three hour chunks. By the end it wasn't really fun anymore (I don't think you're supposed to eat the whole sack in one sitting), it became a test of endurance. Sort of like the decade itself, really.

The ratio of commercials to meat was around 1:1, I believe. You get five minutes of show, then five minutes of ads. And they showed the same ads over and over. Carson Daly attempting to get into a nightclub, only to be pushed aside by the AOL cartoon man... The douchebag at the party pretending to dip chips into an imaginary bowl of guacamole... That festival of cinematic faggotry Chicago is being released to DVD... I was near tears. By the final night I had to physically remove myself from the room whenever the dip-chipper showed up again. I couldn't take it anymore, emotionally.

A lot of the people making sarcastic remarks on the program looked to be too young to even remember the 1970's, but they were funny nonetheless. The guy who plays Phil Stubbs on Ed is my personal favorite. The man has a black belt in dry mockery. When they were talking about Deep Throat he launched into an earnest speech about how the human body is beautiful in all forms and should be celebrated, then added, "especially if it can take eight inches."

Others didn't come off quite as well. Lisa Marie Presley, for instance. The woman has the personality of carpet remnants. She's a full-blown dullard. If Elvis weren't her daddy she'd be a cashier. And Uncle Kracker sucks the big one, as does Edwin McCain -- just a couple of unfunny hicks. And whenever they propped up some actual person from the '70s it became painfully clear why they relied so much on the youngsters. Grace Slick made me physically recoil in horror, and David Lee Roth's fast-talking shtick went out of style with the AMC Javelin.

Tom Arnold was good though. I know he's a human punch line, but I've always liked him. I relate to Tom Arnold in some strange way. I remember when he and Roseanne were going through their divorce and she was running around telling everyone he had a small dick. Some reporter finally asked him about it and he said, "Hell, even a 747 would seem small if it were flying into the Grand Canyon." I've been a fan ever since.

One thing I did find curious about the whole exercise, sociologically speaking, was all the open talk about masturbation. Everyone was cracking jerk-off jokes left and right. When they were discussing Wonder Woman, for instance, people were fondly reminiscing about all the organ solos the show prompted. In my day that was a taboo subject; not even Rocky would go down that road. In fact, if a person were to walk into my high school and put a gun in the mouth of any random boy, they wouldn't be able to get him to admit to ever doing such a thing. Death would be preferable. Did Seinfeld change all that, or what? I'm not sure I like it.

Anyway, I recommend both I Love the '70s and I Love the '80s. There are worse ways to blow twenty hours of your life, that's for certain. Plus, how often do you get the chance to sit in your living room and scream, "Hey, I remember Body On Tap shampoo!!" That opportunity just doesn't come up often enough. Y'know?

-- It was a great weekend here. Suddenly it's fall-like, and I couldn't be happier about it. We sat on the deck and had some beers both Saturday and Sunday nights, and it was absolutely beautiful. One of the neighbors actually had their fireplace going and it made everything smell all smoky and autumnal. I love it; it makes me glad to be alive. This is the skipping season. I practically skip around during September and October every year, and it's starting a little early. Not even a long line at the ice cream shop could shatter my good mood.

On Saturday Toney and I ran around and spent some money, then went to a rare movie in the afternoon. The following day she went to see a friend's son play football(!!), while I mowed the grass. Afterwards, I went fishing, then it was home for some more deck-sitting and beer-drinking. It was perfect, one of the few weekends that actually lived up to its advance billing.

-- Saturday afternoon, on a whim, we went to see Pirates of the Caribbean. We don't go to movies very often, mostly because it'll suck twenty-five bucks out of your pocket, and we'd rather spend that money on something substantial. Like sandwiches. But I think our minds were clouded by the low temperature and sudden absence of humidity, and we forked over the cash. It was a fun flick: way too long, but still enjoyable. Johnny Depp, despite his communist leanings, is a great actor. His Captain Jack Sparrow is one of the more ridiculous (in a good way) characters I've encountered in the seven movies I've seen in a theater since 1990. He should win some kind of award for it. Perhaps from the government of Cuba?

Actually I thought the full title of the movie was Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Girl, but it turned out to be Black Pearl. So, I was mildly disappointed about that. I had it in my mind that a sassy black woman would be battling pirates on the high seas. I had a girl from school pictured in the lead role. Her name is Feenie and I could actually see her swashbuckling in my mind, surrounded by a cloud of pot smoke.

In seventh grade Feenie used to show up for homeroom with a plate of eggs, bacon, and toast under Saran Wrap and would eat it right there in class. The teacher (Mrs. Ours) would occasionally protest, but Feenie would become indignant. She'd jump up and start wagging her finger back and forth and say, "Oh no, oh no... You can't teeeellll me that I'm not entitled to a well-balanced breakfast. What's the matter, you don't want black folks starting their days out right??" And Mrs. Ours would slink away with her tail between legs.

Feenie would be a perfect person to do battle with pirates (assuming she's not in prison for the trafficking of narcotics). But it was not to be. They chose Geoffrey Rush instead and, like I said, I was mildly disappointed. Here's a picture I took inside the theater. It didn't turn out very well, but that's Captain Jack on the screen.

-- My new lawnmower has shaved a full thirty minutes off the task of mowing our ridiculously large and tilted yard. It used to take two hours, now it's down to ninety minutes. A half-hour is an eternity when you're mowing grass, bucko. What makes the difference is that the self-propelled feature actually works, whereas with the old mower it was like pushing a shopping cart full of hams up and down a grassy hill. It still sucks a big bent one, but it sucks a little less deeply.

-- I caught the biggest fish of my life on Sunday. It was a big-mouth bass, somewhere in the neighborhood of twelve inches long, and thick. The thing had my pole bent almost in half and my reel was on the verge of saying fuck it. Stupidly, I didn't take my camera along (because I almost kicked it off the pier last time), so I don't have any pics. But it was an impressive catch, trust me. Well, maybe not to Buck, but to me.

When I first got to the lake there was a guy fishing off the end of the pier with (I shit you not) a Fishin' Magician. Remember those things from the old Ronco commercials? It looked like a Dirt Devil handvac with fishing line attached. And he didn't seem to be embarrassed by the ridiculous gadget at all. He was proudly casting and shooting the shit with everyone. I'd have to wear a bag over my head... but perhaps that's my problem?

Also, as I was standing there waiting to make The Big Catch, my next door neighbor powered by in a kayak, raised his hand jauntily and hollered, "Ahoy there, Jeff!" I couldn't fucking believe it. That guy is a thorn in my side. He mows his lawn four or five times per week, and sprints behind his mower. When I drive to the store I sometimes see him power-walking through the neighborhood, carrying his groceries. He's the type of guy who makes you feel inferior at every turn. His house is a showcase and he's a lunatic for yard work. It only makes sense that while I'm standing by the lake, he'd zip past in a tiny boat, oars a-blur. Ahoy, my ass.

-- Here's Chris's latest, straight outta Boone. It's a good 'un, so read it. He'll be mayor of that burg pretty soon, count on it.

-- And here's a classic article about a dumbass getting fired for viewing porn on his work computer. Make sure you read to the end, where he attempts to explain why there was a picture of his naked ass saved to his hard drive. It's all just a big misunderstanding, you see.  And a vendetta.

-- Finally, this is a great pic I stumbled across on the internet this weekend. It appears to be some kind of protest, but one of the protesters can't seem to keep his mind on the cause they're fighting for. Ya gotta love it.

More tomorrow.

August 22, 2003

-- When I woke up this morning I had the old Camper Van Beethoven song "When I Win The Lottery" in my head. As far as I know I haven't heard it in years. Obviously it's a sign from God (cleverly employing the use of an obscure 1980s underground rock band) to proceed to a convenience store, posthaste, and gamble a few bucks on state-sanctioned games of chance. I'm going to stop on my way to work.

With any luck I'll be like Jack Whittaker in West Virginia and just completely lose my shit following a massive influx of cash. I want to be rich, drunk, and horny. I want people to talk about me behind my back and not give a good goddamn, because I'm frickin' loaded! Who doesn't, really?

My only concern: which state's lottery should I play?

When I was in Atlanta I knew a crazy woman who fancied herself the psychic. She did private readings and spent thousands on her own personal "counselor," and genuinely seemed to believe all that crap. A few times she told me about her past lives and how her sister was her father in 1700s France or some such ridiculousness. I just smiled and nodded and tried to act amazed. I didn't want her to know what I was really thinking. She was a nice person, after all.

Anyway, she told me that a few years earlier she had awoken one morning after having a vivid dream in which that day's lottery jackpot numbers were revealed to her. The dream was so clear in her mind that she could actually remember the numbers, so she wrote them down and bought a ticket. All day she just knew she would be millions richer that evening, and began making plans in her mind. She may have even called a lawyer... I don't remember.

Needless to say, her dream numbers didn't pan out, and she didn't win anything. She didn't even get her dollar back. She was both shocked and confused. How could it be?! It was revealed to her in no uncertain terms. There was no ambiguity, no interpretations needed. She just couldn't figure it out.

Then, somehow, she learned that her numbers had indeed come up -- in California. And she had just recently turned down an opportunity to move there for a job! Sweet fancy mother of Sissy Spacek!!

My theory is that the Goddess had told her she needed to take the California job, but she had ignored that advice and was now getting it rubbed in her face from the great beyond. She didn't tell me this, but it wouldn't surprise me if she was teased unmercifully about it during her next seance. Jim Morrison, I've heard, can be quite cruel, and she was constantly chatting with the Lizard King.

So, you see, I know I have the opportunity to win big bucks this weekend (Camper is a very reliable prophet) but I'm not exactly sure how to go about it. Maybe I'm in a bad cell, but I don't generally receive advice from dead relatives; there's no telling who I've pissed off over the years. So, I may take a nap at work today and see if I dream about a specific state. Yep, I think that's the best route to take.

I don't think my boss will mind, if I take the time to explain it all to him. He's quite a reasonable guy.

August 21, 2003

-- So, I was in the ice cream shop last night, and it was completely slammed with people as usual. It's run by a local dairy and is incredibly good -- they brag that the ice cream you're eating today was probably in the cow yesterday -- and good stuff available at a low price almost always translates into seething, mouth-breathing mobs. There was a line out the door when I got there, and that's pretty much what you've got to expect.

Somehow, though, I'm willing to endure it. It's that good. And coming from a person who will leave one Wendy's in a huff if there are three or four people in line, and drive from Wendy's to Wendy's all over northeastern Pennsylvania until I find a less-crowded situation, that's saying something.

But last night almost sent me over the edge. I could feel an aneurysm bubbling up. The workers there are all hipster teenagers and have that bored disinterested thing going on. I think the owners attempt to hire only cool and good-looking young people to scoop their little balls of heaven, but sometimes their aim is tad off. A few ugly ones do get through. I've left notes in their suggestion box about it, but so far things haven't really improved. And their affected aloofness often makes me want to trip them or shove them to the ground.

But that wasn't the problem yesterday. It was their infuriating slowness, and the bitch in line in front of me who obviously thinks her stool sample is spangled with gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

When you walk in the door of this place there's a long counter running the length of the wall to your right. People go in and stop as soon as they reach the first edge of the counter, even though there's twenty-five feet of unoccupied space in front of them. This leaves the people in line behind them standing outside in the heat. It never fails to get my blood to moving. It's the same as when somebody in front of you goes to the first gas pump, instead of pulling through to the second one, to make room for you. This happens, you see, because people are fucking assholes. They don't understand how one thing effects another, or don't care. Toney attributes it to a "northern attitude" but I believe it's more universal than that.

Last night there was a woman dressed all in black at the front edge of the counter, oblivious to the fact that she could move her fancy ass up so that others could be helped as well. She almost bit some guy's head off when he made a move to go around her and secure a spot further down the counter. "I'm next!" she snarled. Everybody's blood ran cold as if Hillary Clinton was on the place.

She'd probably been in line for fifteen minutes, but when it was her turn to order she had no idea what she wanted. She was asking for samples and tapping her chin while she decided, as everybody else stood and watched. When she finally settled on a flavor she told the worker that she wanted the "chips" knocked off her cone. The guy actually had to pick off the jagged edges of her cone! I've never even heard of such a thing. As she squeezed past me to leave I had to fight a powerful urge not to slap the ice cream out of her hand.

After her performance we all moved down the counter and the place was instantly packed beyond any and all fire code regulations. And the teenage workers were moving as if they were under water. No hurry whatsoever. People were ordering complex items like sundaes and shakes, with tons of special requirements. And the workers were acting as if they were preparing themselves a nice leisurely midnight snack. I stood and watched this and could feel my brain expanding and contracting inside my skull. I wanted to scream: "Move it! Pick it up goddammit!! There's people waiting, ya zit monkeys!!!" But I said nothing. I've matured, you see.

When it was finally my turn, I ordered Toney's cone (she won't set foot in the place), and the guy promptly brought it to me. I then told him I wanted a single scoop of Oreo on a cone, he nodded and walked away. And I waited, and waited, and waited, as the ice cream in my right hand began to melt down my forearm. What the fuck, man? I looked down the way to see where my dessert steward had disappeared to, and saw him counting and sorting the money from the tip jar! He obviously decided the best time to undertake this task was right in the middle of my order. I couldn't believe it. After he finally had it all spread out in three even stacks, he got my cone and my right arm was coated in peanut butter cup ice cream, and it was dripping off my elbow. Needless to say, he got nothing from me to add to his precious little stacks.

When I got back to the car I was bitching like a man in a bitching contest. Obscenities were spewing forth and melted ice cream was all over my pants. Toney said, for the fifteenth time this week, "Why are we so negative all the time?" Translation: Why are you so negative all the time?

She's been hanging out with a woman down the street who is the head of America's Most Perfect Family. They smile all the time, remember your name, seem concerned with your welfare, and generally irritate the hell out of me. They dress nice, have a nice house, and are just... nice. I think they're all on something -- or should be. And, they make me seem like a crazy person. Compared to those people I'm a raving lunatic; I'm the father from This Boy's Life. Those freaks undoubtedly would've banded together and helped out with chip-removal.

I just grunted, turned on a Steve Earle cassette, and took it all out on my Oreo ice cream. I made that cone pay a steep price, I'm here to tell you. Oh, it learned its lesson.

-- We were watching one of those wacky game show outtake programs the other night, and there was a great moment. It was from the $25,000 Pyramid and a man was describing hippie-related items to another man. At one point he said, "Oh, they're those ugly sandals that lesbians wear!" And his partner immediately blurted out the correct answer: Birkenstocks. I laughed for a full minute. But then "we're" very negative people, so it's to be expected.

-- This is one of my favorite bands of the '80s.

-- Have you seen the commercial for a Cristy Lane CD you can purchase through the mail for a mere seventeen thousand dollars (plus shipping and handling)? I see it all the time, and it scares me. Not only because of the shitty dentist office music, but also because the woman has no lips. Oh, she has a hole near the bottom of her face through which foodstuffs can pass, but there's no fleshy ridge. It's just face, then opening -- no transition. She's painted a red ring around the edge of this hole to simulate lips, but it ain't real. I've had nightmares about this, and when it comes on I have to look away. I'm not joking.

-- Toney and I are currently addicted to I Love the 70's on VH1. It appeals to us because it's loaded with sarcastic bastards making snide comments. It's a concept that is so pure it nearly brings tears to my eyes. It's like witnessing the birth of a child.

-- I found a website where they supposedly analyze other websites and tell you how "evil" they are. I'm not sure what criteria they use, but the results are pretty interesting. I plugged a few into the machine this morning, and here's what came back. Fairly accurate, I'd say.

-- Finally, here's the latest from Buck. This is an especially good one. I think you'll enjoy it.

And I'm late for work... Have a great day folks. See ya tomorrow.

August 20, 2003

-- West Virginia being in the national news all the time is starting to freak me out.

In just the past few months we've had the homecoming of ex-POW Jessica Lynch, the pervert who sexually assaulted an 11-year old girl amongst the Swiffer accessories at Target, Powerball zillionaire Jack "Don't Judge Me" Whittaker getting bed-shitting drunk and losing a suitcase full of money at the Scary Mountain Trash All Nude Revue and Massage Parlor, and the lunatic who attended a school board meeting with two buckets of gasoline and various assault weapons and, surprisingly, caused a bit of trouble. Now it's a sniper.

They're on quite a roll back home. The biggest thing that happened when I lived there was when the Secretary of State organized a march on New York City because he was outraged by the way Donny Osmond portrayed a West Virginian on the The Love Boat. We never experienced such a myriad of tragic shenanigans. It's quite exciting -- and freaky.

Every time I turn on the TV, it seems, I see somebody being interviewed in the doorway of the Kanawha County Courthouse in Charleston. It's a building I've known semi-intimately as far back as my memory will take me. I've driven past it all my life, on shopping trips to "Penney's" with my parents as a youngster, all the way up to the last time I was there. And now it's appearing nightly on cable news. It's like seeing your fourth-grade teacher turning letters on Wheel of Fortune, or something. It just ain't right.

When I was listening to Clive Bull in London earlier this week, they did a segment about the goings-on in my hometown. In frickin' England! And check this out: news reports from Ireland, and Switzerland, and Singapore, and Australia... It goes on and on, and I can't tell you how surreal it all seems to me.

So far the coverage I've seen hasn't been too damaging, which is a relief. Like Chris Rock, who says he chants to himself, "Please don't let it be a black guy," whenever a report of some heinous crime comes on the news, I chant, "Please don't let him sound like Junior Samples," whenever a West Virginia man-on-the-street is about to be interviewed. There's plenty of intelligent, thoughtful people in the state, but the news people seem to delight in featuring the dumbest, dirtiest shitkickers in straw hats they can find. If they can locate one with crossed-eyes, well, that's just gravy.

The worst thing I've seen so far was on the show hosted by that woman on Fox, Greta, whose extreme forehead wrinkling forced her into surgery a couple of years ago, and has now left her looking like a very ugly man. There was some kind of satellite delay, and it made the people in front of the courthouse seem dumb. Forehead would ask a question and there'd be an uncomfortable pause while they heard what she'd said, and the West Virginians came off like Homer Simpson with gears grinding in his head. If I were the former Secretary of State, I'd swear it was done on purpose.

And so far I haven't heard any banjoes either, which is always a positive. When I was in California I used to listen to NPR a lot, All Liberal Things Considered, and whenever they'd do a story about West Virginia, Kentucky, or Tennessee, they'd have banjoes playing in the background. I swear it's true. Those promoters of tolerance sure can be condescending pricks sometimes.

But, as well as it's all going, PR-wise, it's a shame all the attention has to come this way. Believe it or not, there's more to the state than insane criminals and horny millionaires in ludicrous hats. But that's the way it goes, I guess. You're nobody until some hick in the woods starts picking you off. I think Teddy Roosevelt said that.

August 19, 2003

-- Last week I was listening to an Atlanta radio station at work, and they mentioned in a news report that the fire department was summoned to what was thought to be a brush fire behind a shopping center, but when they arrived they found a man on fire there. A homeless person was inexplicably AFIRE in the tall grass. And this little item was tacked onto the end of the news at noon, like an afterthought. If it happened here, it would be the lead story for three days running. But in Atlanta it's just something to go out on a humorous note with -- a little something light to take the edge off the really bad shit that came before it. Atlanta is admittedly an acquired taste.

If I ever hit the lottery, though, I'll move back to the South in a sluggish heartbeat, because it's my favorite part of the country and I feel most at home there. But in the meantime it appears they're trying to bring the South to me. There's a shiny new Krispy Kreme three miles from our living room, the new Drive-By Truckers CD arrived in yesterday's mail, I get to listen to Neal Boortz over my computer at work every day, the Braves are on cable, and now this...

In today's paper there's an article about the fate of an old grocery store in our town, which was recently abandoned by the company for fancy new digs a few miles down the road. The old place has sat empty ever since and the locals (in which I begrudgingly include myself) have been curious about what will happen to the space. Now we have the exciting answer: a bank, a KFC/Long John Silvers combo, and (get this!) a Waffle House!!

The site will be the first Northeastern Pennsylvania location of Waffle House, a fixture along southern highways known for large servings of inexpensive breakfast fare served around the clock. The restaurant chain is based in Norcross, GA.

I've read that paragraph a few times now and I still can't believe it. It'll be almost literally within walking distance of our house. In fact, it would be within walking distance if I hadn't already eaten so many Waffle House meals. Now I'll need a car, or something else with a motor on it. But I'm almost giddy here. When the snow is blowing and the skies are gray, I'll be able to latch onto a big ol' plate of eggs, toast, and hash browns that are scattered, smothered, chunked and covered, just like God intended. I'll get to hear "Waffle House Christmas" during the holidays, and drink big cups of coffee that can take varnish off a door, and laughs in the faggoty face of Starbucks. God, I'm so happy!

Now all we need are a few free-standing Chick-fil-A's, some black folks, an aggressive insufferable prick reclamation project, and maybe a restaurant or two that knows barbecue is a noun, not a verb -- and it'll be almost like home.

Of course, we might occasionally have to burn up a few people out behind the TJ Maxx, but it's a small price to pay for what we're getting in return. 

I can almost taste Bert's chili already!

August 18, 2003

-- Goddamn, it's a mess in here. The bunker looks like the inside of my brother's car, and that ain't pretty. (I used to worry that when he flipped on the air conditioner a bunch of dehydrated Wendy's fries would shoot out of the vents and lacerate my throat with their flinty points.) I haven't dusted in weeks and there's so much crap lying everywhere I can barely move. I'm starting to feel clutterphobic; it's all closing in on me now. You could write Please Wash Me on the lid of my scanner and I think there might be some kind of perishable in here, perishing.

A few days ago Toney angrily removed a load of my clean and fluffy undies from the dryer, simply because I'd left them in there for days on end and was using the appliance as a big-mouth dresser. She then hurled them in the bunker with malice. Apparently she just stood in the doorway and flung them on the floor, underhanded like a ten-year old girl shooting a foul shot. Touchy touchy. Now I keep getting my feet tangled up in the hula hoop-sized waistbands, as I wade through underwear to get another donette. It's a sad state of affairs. Perhaps I should clean all this shit up? Yeah, I'll pencil that in for tomorrow. Tomorrow is a perfect day for such a project.

-- Toney and I are getting heavily into Six Feet Under. I know we're about three years behind the times, but that's actually pretty good for us; that's goddamn cutting edge. We have the first season on DVD and have plowed through the first seven episodes in just a few nights. Great stuff. But we only have a few more shows to go, then we'll be afloat with no organized way of seeing the next two seasons. We'll be thrust into a world of chaos. I know they play them on HBO all the time, but how can we possibly watch them in order? There doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to the way they're presented. I can't have that, I need it to be organized and neat. I can't just be watching them all willy-nilly; it'll make me crazy. I get an uneasy feeling when I think about it, like when there's only three or four lagers left in the box and it's still only eight o'clock. Why do I do this to myself?

-- We forked over $250 this week for a new lawnmower. The old one was a lemon and I was tired of screwing around with it. It was only a matter of time before the thing flew apart and killed a neighbor kid or something. But I can't begin to describe the irritation of having to forfeit that kind of money, just to get back to square one. It just ain't right. I bought a new mower when we moved here, in 2000. It cost something like $350, and it didn't even make it three full summers. It sucks. We could've bought a TiVo with $250, or a home theater system, or a digital camera with a big Ron Jeremy zoom lens. But no, we had to buy ANOTHER lawnmower. Goddamn adulthood. And speaking of that... We received our school tax bill a few days ago: $2274, due by December 31. Outrageous. They actually serve shrimp cocktail in the school cafeterias here, and many of the teachers have maids. Or so I've been told. It's socialism. Fuckers won't let me have my TiVo, until everyone can have a TiVo. No winners and no losers. The whole thing's un-American, and the founding fathers are spinning in their graves like egg beaters in powdered wigs. ...I swear I'm about two years away from shouting into a phone receiver: "Yuengling swilling, salted peanuts in the shell dittos from Scranton, PA, Rush!"

-- And speaking of angry white men, here's the latest from Chris in Boone.

-- Apparently there's a sniper on the loose in the mother land, Charleston, WV. Whenever I read about this, or see something on the news about it, I picture a certain person in my mind. Now, I don't have any real reason to believe he's the sniper (FBI, don't waste your time... I know nothing), in fact I don't even know if he's still in West Virginia, but he's the guy hiding in the woods in my brain.

Years ago I worked with him and he owned an expensive pickup truck, raised so high in the air he had a flip-down ladder installed on the side, so he could get in. It was also loaded with every white trash accessory available for sale. He had gigantic chrome fog lights that made you think a locomotive had pulled up behind you in the dark, leather seats like something Churchill might chill in, a horn that played "Dixie," and wheels that cost more each than my first two cars combined. It was one of the more ridiculous things I'd ever seen.

And he couldn't make the payments on it. Finally, after a lot of soul-searching, he put it up for sale. It was a difficult decision, but it had to be done. Unfortunately, the people who could afford it had better taste than to own such a ludicrous vehicle, and the people who drooled over it couldn't even afford the lighted whip antennae on its roof.

He began to panic. Eventually I was forced to sit and read the newspaper and pretend I wasn't hearing the plans he was concocting with a shady character who is almost certainly dead or in prison today. Then a month or so later somebody "stole" the idiotic truck, stripped it of all its "good" stuff, and burned it in the woods. And, as far as I know, the insurance paid off on the whole deal. But not before it was recommended to me that I'd best keep my fucking mouth shut about it.

Since I'm more big pussy than Big Pussy, I never said a word. I didn't even tell my girlfriend, or my closest drinking buddies. In fact, it made me a nervous wreck just walking around with the knowledge inside me. My style of wildness ran more towards the running of a substitute teacher's snow boots up the flagpole, not felony insurance fraud. And I had no doubt that if those guys got caught, and thought I was the reason, authorities would find my skeleton in a strip-mine with my hands tied behind my back, and a bullet through my skull.

So, even though I don't know a damn thing about it, the West Virginia sniper is being played by a specific actor in my mind. Probably everyone who's ever spent time in the state has their own idea of who might be lurking in the bushes with a rifle. Hell, that substitute teacher probably thinks it's me.

-- A couple of weeks ago I had to visit an outsource company here locally, to check on a project they were doing that indirectly affected my job. I printed out the MapQuest directions, and they led me to a dilapidated warehouse beside some railroad tracks with weeds growing up around them. This couldn't possibly be the place, could it? I made a call on my cell phone, and was told that I was where I was supposed to be. Fuck.

I walked inside and the guard looked me over suspiciously and wanted to see my driver's license. He called somebody, told me to have a seat, and eventually a nervous-looking man came and got me and led me into the bowels of the operation.

As soon as we left the frosty lobby and walked into the warehouse proper, it felt like I'd been punched in the face by the heat. I'm not exaggerating, it must've been 120 degrees in there. Literally a sweatshop. And there were Mexicans everywhere. They were scurrying about, working their asses off and shouting at each other in Spanish. Sweet sainted mother of Sissy Spacek, what kind of place is this?! I felt like I was in a Mexican prison.

The nervous guy showed me around, and I tried to take it all in, but I could barely breathe and felt bad for the people who had to spend eight hours a day in that oven. It was horrifying. Then he showed me his office, and I just about shit. Hardwood floors, Persian rugs, leather chairs, high-powered air conditioning, big-screen TV, and a bank of monitors where he could zoom in on a single strand of hair on the head of a sweating grandmother toiling in his warehouse. Good lord, I thought, how are you still alive? Why haven't you been knifed yet? Wotta blue-ribbon prick.

I had to get out of that shithole. If I'd stuck around much longer I would've been up on a table like Norma Rae, trying to organize a union. I wouldn't be surprised if he pays them in scrip too, good only at the company store. It's like a visit to 1925 West Virginia.

-- I'm gonna try something new, starting today. I'm going to begin updating the site every week day, instead of just on Monday and Thursday. Oh, I'm still going to have the Big Updates on the regular days, but will now upload some additional stuff in between. I don't know how it will work out, but I'm gonna give it a try. If you have any thoughts, don't be shy. If it's too much, tell me. OK? I have little doubt it will be a miserable failure.  

-- Finally, here are a few links I enjoyed recently:

This is a classic -- the complete and unedited comments by Neil Armstrong when he first stepped on the moon.

Here's a review of the Phil Hendrie Show from a Eugene, Oregon newspaper. Eugene is, of course, lousy with hippies, and the thought of tofu-munching patchouli freaks listening to Phil Hendrie is pretty amusing. Predictably, they're not big fans.

Somebody spent big bucks on a study that showed that it's not a good idea to go around bumping into Southerners. I would've broken the news to them for less than half what they spent. All they had to do was ask.

And here's a creepy-ass story about a little girl who fell out of a car on her way to a wedding, and still participated in the ceremony -- complete with blood-soaked dress.

Have a great week, folks. See ya... tomorrow. Yikes.

August 14, 2003

-- It's been so disgustingly humid here, I bet if we plugged in a dehumidifier in our living room it would just fill with water as quickly as a garden hose could do it. It's nasty, and has been nasty for weeks. The sustained heat and dampness are now unlocking latent smells and odors in an old couch that we had in California, back when Toney did daycare out of our home (aka The Golden Years). I was sitting on it the other day and I thought, hmmm, where have I smelled that before? And then I figured it out: the oozing shit of an ever-smiling Pat Robertson toddler freak named Brian in Santa Clarita, CA. Goddamn. The moisture activated it and set it free. From five years ago! Time to get a new couch. In the meantime, just put some yellow tape around it, so nobody gets near it.

Just for kicks we called a few places around town for estimates on having central air conditioning installed in our house, and, in true Scranton fashion, only one place called us back. They take out expensive ads in newspapers and in the Yellow Pages, but don't bother calling back prospective customers. It's one of life's mysteries. Anyway, the one place came out and spent hours measuring and rooting around in our closets and crawling under our house. They were still here when I got home from work that day, so, when I got to our driveway I just kept driving. I drove round and round the neighborhood until they left, because I didn't want to face them. I figured they'd already exhausted their sales pitch on Toney, and if I walked in it would just be triggered again, as if by motion detector.

They finally gave her a price, and I was able to return home: $6700. Ha! That will never happen, unless we hit the lottery or inherit the Kay Jewelers fortune or something. May as well be $6.7 million. We're just going to have to continue stewing in our own natural broth, like third world peasants. But I'm not bitter. That's the part to remember, I'm not bitter in the least.

-- Yeah, this has been a bad summer, but there is a glimmer of hope. I was watching a rerun of Raymond the other night after work, sweating and bitching, when I suddenly heard a lot of quacking outside. My eyes widened, I bolted from my chair and careened through the front door, out into the front yard. I knew that sound. And, sure enough, I looked into the sky and there was a huge, majestic V of ducks flying over our house, pointed southward! I almost broke down, right on the spot. Thank you, God.

-- I watched Game Four of the 1972 World Series a few nights ago, on ESPN Classic. It was great. Cincinnati's Big Red Machine vs. Charley Finley's brightly-colored, arrogant Oakland A's. It all happened thirty years ago, yet I found myself pumping my fist in the air when Joe Morgan scored all the way from first (when I was nine) on a double to right. The Reds were my team as a kid, and I got a big kick out of watching them again. Rose, Bench, Morgan, Perez, Concepcion... I know the way they move and their expressions, like old friends. Greatest team ever. Seeing them now, though, I wonder how some of those guys could even see a pitched ball over their sideburns? Holy crap. Hal McRae looked like he had Nancy's armpits grafted to his face. It's a wonder a ball never took a bad hop and disappeared inside one of those things. Wonder how they'd score that? Ground rule double?

-- I renewed my Norton subscription this week, for $24.95, after the latest big-time virus shut down Europe or some shit. It even screwed up our work computers here in Scranton. Supposedly the thing's not spread by email, it just sneaks in the backdoor through your cable line. For some reason that freaks me out. It's like spending a nice day at the beach, but finding out later a vicious parasite crawled into your ass while you were having an Italian ice. If some anti-capitalist asshole in the Philippines or somewhere terrible destroys my hard drive because they're pissed off at Microsoft or Starbucks or whatever... well, I'll just yell and stuff, and stamp my feet.

-- Toney and I met at Don Pablo's last night after work, for dinner. We didn't know this in advance, but it was fajitas night, and the place was packed with people eager for sizzling meat. It's a showy meal that I object to philosophically, but, shit, for $7.99... I ordered the chicken, and Toney opted for the half chicken, half steak. Then we attempted to talk to each other, but it was very difficult because of the din. It was incredibly loud in there, what with all the people shouting at each other over Genesis's "Abacab" or whatever. I'm not sure why they had the music set at concert volume, but they did. I found myself hollering, "Could you pass the salt?! ...No, no, the salt!!"

Since we couldn't talk I just sat back and took everything in. There was a mountain of flesh directly in front of us, continuously chewing and pushing cheeses through his beard. He was chewing when we got there, and he was chewing when we left. His huge t-shirt must've surely come from Pep Boys. I tried to look away, but kept getting drawn back in by the rhythmic motion of his blubber-jaws. When the waiter couldn't hear what we said to him (how could he possibly hear?), he would extend his neck forward in some kind of international sign for "what?" After he went away, I yelled across at Toney and asked her how she thought the extension of ones neck and the squinting of eyes became a wordless symbol for "I didn't hear you." But she just extended her neck at me.

The meal was kind of frustrating. I'm thinking about having some rules and regulations printed up on little cards, and presenting them to our waiters when we go out. First, there should be no gaps in dinner. Once it has been set into motion with drinks and chips & salsa or whatever, it needs to flow from there. We finished our chips, but had to wait a full ten minutes for our meals. I don't like dinner gaps. There needs to be a rhythm to it all, it shouldn't be all herky-jerky. And an empty iced tea glass is simply unacceptable. I'm from the South, and a waiter can be imprisoned down there for such an offense. That rule needs to be rolled out nation-wide. Also, I need five tortillas, not three. It'll all be on the cards.

After our irritating dinner we received our check, and I asked Toney why it's called a check. Shouldn't it be called a bill? A check is something you pay with, not something you pay. And she said that I've asked that same question every single time we've gone out to eat since 1990, and will I please stop it? But I think it's a question worth asking. Don't you?

-- I believe I've mentioned that my Dad practically forbade me and my brother from drinking liquids through straws when we were kids, right? He called them Sissy Sticks, and felt they weren't manly. I've always wondered if it was just one of his little quirks, or if this is a widely-held belief. The other day I was checking out the kick-ass site TVParty.com, and happened upon this Dairy Queen commercial from 1968. Check it out. My Dad may have directed it.

-- This past weekend I received a nice email from a fellow named Gus, in Boise, Idaho. He told me he's a fan of TheWVSR, and it inspired him to start a site of his own. Pretty cool, huh? I bet none of my high school teachers would've ever predicted I'd someday become an inspiration. No, they were too busy yelling at me and calling my parents about all the bad stuff I'd done (Jeff stole my Hitler poster... Jeff almost burned down my classroom by jamming rulers in a fan... Jeff filled the home ec clothes dryer with silverware and pans, and turned it on... wa waa waaa!) to see the potential beneath the Gabe Kaplan hair. Anyway, here's Gus's site. Read it and bookmark it. He seems to be one of the good guys.

-- On a similar note, several friends recently launched custom-designed clothing lines on the internet. Who could've predicted such a thing?

Mark Maynard and Linette Lao of Crimewave USA fame are now selling nice-looking Iggy Pop t-shirts, and Ypsilanti, Michigan-themed ladies undergarments on the web and in a local hipster clothing store near their house. The Iggy shirt looks great, but it doesn't come in my required Husky size. Maybe I'll buy two and have them sewn together?

And, my old Peaches buddy David Iversen has banded together with a couple of his friends to launch PeaceRebels.com. There they offer a huge collection of tongue-in-cheek Southern items for sale at reasonable prices. You know you need some of this stuff. Why fight it? For those keeping score at home, David is an accomplished filmmaker and served as cinematographer on the ill-conceived documentary that Mark and I concocted in California years ago. It's never been edited and sits on a shelf here in the bunker, and is basically twenty hours of me and Mark riding in vehicles and drinking beer. Someday it will show up on the Sundance Channel, but not anytime soon. Surprisingly, there doesn't seem to be much of a demand. In the meantime, why not become a Peace Rebel?

-- I think everybody who is running for governor of California should be required to pose like this. Instead of debates, just run a slide show of these photographs. If Janet Reno had gone this route, who knows who would be running Florida today? Wait, is that Janet?

-- Speaking of candidates, the dandy little fancy lad from Massachusetts, John Kerry, shot himself in the foot recently, by revealing his snooty, elitist ways over a Philly cheesesteak. He's toast. A man who nibbles Swiss cheese "daintily" is not going to appeal to the common man. Is there any doubt he wears lavender manties? And do we really want Niles Crane in charge of national defense?

-- This guy bought some penis enlargement pills advertised in spam mail, and is chronicling their effect on him. He's just getting started, and it should be fun to watch. On a personal note, his "before" stats made me feel a little better about myself yesterday when I read them; it put a little extra spring in my step.

-- Finally, here's Buck's latest dispatch from the Holler. Today he discusses salad-on-a-stick, and burning couches. Check it out, yo.

And that's gonna do it for today, boys and girls. I'm thinking about making some minor changes around here, and will tell you all about it on Monday. Nothing negative, only positives here at TheWVSR. See you then.

Have a great weekend.


August 11, 2003

-- I've been on a Chris Stamey/dB's kick the past few days. I've been playing the first two dB's albums (masterpieces!) over and over, and occasionally throwing in the Stamey solo disc It's Alright for good measure. But I was wondering, how does the man make ends meet? How does he stay afloat, financially? As far as I know, he hasn't released an album in ten years, and even then it probably sold roughly 237 copies. Surely he didn't make enough loot during the band's heyday to become independently wealthy? Did the dB's even have a heyday? Most people have never even heard of them.

It makes me depressed to imagine Chris Stamey, who must be pushing fifty by now, to be working for the phone company or something. I have visions of him jumping out of the side of a bread truck in front of a convenience store, sporting a bread man's uniform, with "Chris" on the chest. There's the pop genius, rotating loafs in my mind... Sad.

A lot of the musicians I admire the most probably make less per year than I do, and that just doesn't seem right. Until his recent flurry of activity I have no idea how Paul Westerberg put Stamey bread on the table. I'm sure he gets songwriting royalties, but he's not exactly Sting, ya know? Steve Forbert tours constantly, playing shitholes like Wilkes-Barre, PA, so he's probably doing OK. Same for Joe Grushecky. Nick Lowe finally cashed in his chips when one of his songs was included on some terrible Whitney Houston soundtrack, and he became an instant millionaire. And the DEVO guys do a lot of TV work, and are probably making more now than ever.

But what about Wreckless Eric, Lloyd Cole, Marshall Crenshaw, and Tom Verlaine? There will never be a Tom Verlaine song on a Whitney Houston soundtrack. That's a fact.

And this is the way my mind works. I can't even enjoy a CD without worrying and wondering and wringing my hands over the injustice of it all. I see Chris Stamey wheeling in a stack of hamburger buns, and it pisses me off. It just seems incredibly wrong that talent and hard work and accomplishment isn't enough. It should be enough, goddammit.

My friend Mark interviewed the lead singer of Pylon for the latest issue of his Crimewave USA magazine, and she's now working as a nurse. Nothing wrong with being a nurse, of course, but I used to lie on my bed in Dunbar, WV and listen to her, and think that she and her band mates were just about the coolest people in the world. They inspired me and created a special kind of magic in my soul. She should be Joni Mitchell by now, living off her past and smoking pretentious cigarettes by the sea.

But there's nothing I can do about it, really. If I were a billionaire I might open the Wreckless Eric Dinner Theater in Branson, MO, but that ain't going to happen anytime soon. I've got bread to haul, and no glorious past to make it seem sad. 

Shit, who am I feeling sorry for?

-- I blacked out again this weekend. Second time this year. I'm mildly freaked out about it, but I think it was caused by getting out of bed too quickly. At least that's what I'm telling myself... and so far the cantaloupe-sized tumor that's surely growing inside my brain hasn't interfered with me accepting that explanation.

Saturday night (technically Sunday morning) around 3AM I woke up and my ass hurt. I'm not sure why my ass hurt, but it did. I'd had a sit-down earlier in the evening, but couldn't recall any unusual pushing or straining. It was just a standard session, no Lamaze breathing techniques or anything like that. But my ass was hurting, and pretty bad. I felt like Kobe Bryant's prom date. So I decided to go downstairs and pop a couple of aspirins.

When I was in the kitchen, shaking out some pills from the massive Sam's Club Bayer bottle, I suddenly felt cold and sweat leaped from my body. The fuck?! I stumbled toward the living room, holding onto the refrigerator, and cartoon birds and exclamation marks were spinning around my head. Then I collapsed across the dining room table. I can barely remember that part, I can only recall being spread across the table, my legs wiggling like a tape measure. I finally made it to the couch and laid there for God knows how long. After I felt better I went back to bed.

The next morning Toney woke me up at 6:30 and wanted to know what had happened. She said the dining room table was turned sideways, a glass of water had been turned over, and there were aspirins "everywhere." I told her my ass hurt and I passed out -- then rolled over and went back to sleep. I'm sure that gave her something to think about until I got up.

Should I pay a visit to my doctor, or just forget about it? Both times it's happened was in the middle of the night, after getting out of bed from a deep sleep. That's gotta be it, right? Or is that what Bob Marley used to say?

-- I saw a teenage girl spit twice in the Wendy's parking lot Sunday afternoon. I couldn't believe it. I don't think I'd ever seen a girl spit in my life. And I'm from West Virginia. She didn't look trashy either, just a normal girl out for burgers, and a good spit. How did the expulsion of saliva become a hipster fad? Big pants I can sorta understand, but this has me baffled. I don't like it.

-- Here's the lake where I fish every weekend. I didn't catch a damn thing this week, and that's just fine by me. It's the serenity that I enjoy. (Serenity now!) I'm completely addicted. I think it's even better than beer.

-- Have you seen Arnold Schwarzenegger's new campaign poster? Interesting strategy; I think it just might work. (Hey, he really is a Republican.) I'd vote for him. After all, he thinks that kids should have books. How can you argue with a platform like that?

-- I have a little game that I play at work, to make my days a little more tolerable. At exactly three o'clock every day I turn on Spinner's 80's alternative channel, and listen until the first Depeche Mode song comes on. I could never stand those creepy poofters, so I turn it off when they show up, and see how far I've made it. On Friday I set a new world record: 5:05 PM! I smashed the previous record by a full twenty-three minutes. It's one of those achievements that I'm almost certain will never be matched. I feel like Hank Aaron -- without the tiresome racial chip on my shoulder.

-- Last week I screwed up Buck's new Surf Report column, so I'll give it another try today. Here's the intro he wrote, and the correct title. Sorry, dude. I'm having health issues.

-- And here's Chris's latest dispatch, straight outta Boone. Thankfully he didn't threaten a public official this week. Yikes. No wonder I'm blacking out. After that, and his praise of the aforementioned Depeche Mode, I'd like to somehow distance myself legally from Chris and Buck.  The editor of the West Virginia Surf Report does not necessarily agree or disagree with anything they might write or say. Ahem.

-- Check this out, it's cool as hell. I've been receiving some excellent smoking fish photos, and have begun a gallery to display them. Thanks to everyone who's participated so far, and I'm looking forward to more. This site has the best readers, I swear. I love you all.

-- I haven't updated this in a long time, but I did on Saturday. Mind boggling. OK, I don't love all of you...

-- And finally, I was in the basement on Sunday and found about a million old zines taped up in dozens of copier paper boxes. Most hadn't been opened since we moved out of our house in Atlanta, and I believe Toney is secretly plotting to sneak them out in the dead of night and hurl them in the river. I'm not joking... I'm under siege. But I started flipping through them this weekend, and found something I'd completely forgotten about. Back in the day there was a great zine called Bananafish that I was a big fan of, published by "Seymour Glass", and he did an issue devoted to Karen Carpenter. Somehow (I can't remember the details) I submitted a short piece to him, and he accepted it. Here it is. It's about fifteen years old by now, but still as heartfelt as ever.

More on Thursday.

                   

August 7, 2003

A few things:

-- When I was a kid there was a guy listed in the Charleston, WV phonebook named Hogjaw Twaddle. I used to (and still do) think that's just about the greatest name ever. I did a search for him on Google yesterday and not much came up, although he apparently was/is a college professor(!?). Also, there was a family in Winfield, WV with the last name of Zitzelberger, and my friends and I would call their house all the time and "order" two Zitzelbergers, with cheese, to go. If the husband answered he would always come unhinged. Great fun. For years my Dad worked with a man named Jack Goff. I went to grade school with a girl named Candy Crisp. And there was a hard-ass biker tattoo artist in Greensboro who called himself Snake, but is really named Harry Cox. I thought you should know.

-- Sunshine & Mumbles left for Reno on Tuesday, and she told us before she left: see ya in a few months. Months! Not days, but months!! That's practically a light year in the world of S&M. I'm not completely confident that it'll work out that way, but at least I have a good solid hope to cling to, and that's a real luxury. Apparently they're staying with a 75 year old woman Black Jack dealer who stays drunk 'round the clock, constantly warehouses two year's worth of booze and cigarettes "just in case", and spent several years in a French prison in the '70's for smuggling hashish. I shit you not. Good ol' "Mom."

-- During the last three or four days before Sunshine left town she constantly, and inexplicably, cleared her throat at an incredible volume level. I'm serious, it was all the time. It drove me up the frickin' wall. Sometimes I would actually jump, it was so goddamn loud and violent. It sounded like rapid arms fire, like we were living with someone who randomly squeezed off machine gun blasts in the dining room. My nerves were shredded by the end.

-- I finally got the chance to take my new fishing pole to the lake this past weekend and, predictably, it didn't work out too well. I got it all ready to go: leader, hook, bait, etc. Then I made my inaugural cast and the top third of the rod snapped off and went into the water. It was like something off The Lucy Show -- complete with laugh track. (Fishermen can be extremely cruel). The fiberglass just broke in two. Who knows why? Mumbles said it was ten or fifteen years old and was maybe "rotten." I'm not sure what that means, but I went to Wal-Mart and bought myself a replacement rod, and will try it again on Saturday. The reel is still sound, and seemingly free of that pesky fisherman's rot, so I think I'm all set. I'll be out there early Saturday morning. And I have little doubt that I'll end up in the water, after crashing through a pier railing, and will emerge from the lake with some kid's bobber lodged deep in my ass, to uproarious laughter.

-- A black man wearing a suit in a bar in Philadelphia repeatedly called me "big guy" Saturday night. I was mildly offended. What am I, Cannon now? The first person to call me Tiny is getting punched in the mouth. Know that now.

-- I saw a commercial this week for a product that supposedly neutralizes funk in the air. It wasn't Febreze, but was clearly along the same lines. The part that confused me though, was when the woman said that her daughter is "a real tomboy," and was standing over a laundry basket wrinkling her nose as if on the cusp of regurgitation, and spraying that shit all around. I don't really understand what being a tomboy has to do with stink. I really don't. Are masculine girls somehow unclean? She may as well have said, "My daughter is a bull dyke lesbian and, as you know, that can lead to unpleasant odors." It doesn't really add up to me. Am I missing something?

-- I got an email the other day with the subject line, "Get a bigger dick for your wife!" I thought about it for a minute, but I don't really want any of my co-workers living here. We don't have the room. Sure, it would be a nice gesture, but we're just not currently prepared to keep and care for an even bigger dick. As a compromise I'm going to try to be a little more sarcastic and disagreeable than normal this weekend. I know it's not the same, but it's the best I can do under the circumstances.

-- My friend Steve gave me this t-shirt this past weekend. How cool is that, huh? Very cool, I say.

-- They sell something in the vending machine at work called a Big Azz chicken sandwich. And all the stores around here offer a full line of Helluvagood dips. I remember when you couldn't say "damn" on television, now a quick trip to the grocery store is like a Richard Pryor routine. What's next? Pushy Bastard maple syrup? Shut The Fuck Up slaw dressing? Whore corn? It's kinda sad.

-- West Virginia's most famous millionaire, Jack Whittaker, apparently had a wild night this past weekend, when he reportedly got shit-faced drunk at a skanky strip club, and returned to his vehicle to find a window smashed out and a briefcase full of cash missing. This, of course, led to a frantic investigation, and what they found behind the nightclub was fairly shocking. Check it out.

-- Speaking of West Virginia, a reader sent me this joke, and it actually made me laugh:

A couple attending an art exhibition at the National Gallery was staring at a portrait that had them completely confused. The painting depicted three very black and totally naked men sitting on a park bench. Two of the figures had black penises, but the one in the middle had a pink penis. The curator of the gallery realized that they were having trouble
interpreting the painting and offered his assessment. He went on for nearly half an hour explaining how it depicted the sexual emasculation of African-Americans in a predominately white, patriarchal society. "In fact," he pointed out, "some serious critics believe that the pink penis also reflects the cultural and sociological oppression experienced by
gay men in contemporary society."

After the curator left, a young man in a West Virginia T-shirt approached the couple and said, "Would you like to know what the painting is really about?"

"Now why would you claim to be more of an expert than the curator of the gallery?" asked the couple.

"Because I'm the guy who painted it," he replied. "In fact, there are no African-Americans depicted at all. They're just three West Virginia coal-miners, and the guy in the middle went home for lunch.

-- Finally, here's the first installment of Buck's new weekly Surf Report column View From The Holler. I think you'll enjoy it.

And I'll be back on Monday. You can count on it, Charlie.

August 4, 2003

If you're interested in experiencing the weather we enjoyed here this weekend in the non-air conditioned Surf Report Compound, I suggest you take three large fluffy blankets, drive to the nearest ocean beach, submerge the blankets in sea water until completely saturated, then have someone place them over your head, one on top of the other. After wearing the salt water bedding for several hours you will have a close approximation of the wonderful world of Scranton, the first week of August, 2003.

It's 6:49 AM as I type this, and my face is shinier than a Chevy Cavalier; I need a washcloth worse than James Brown. I just took a shower a half hour ago and I'm sitting here stewing in my own natural juices. Sweet Jesus, I'm ready for the Ozzy solution.

Of course, despite the suffocating and demoralizing heat and humidity, I really shouldn't be bitching. After all, Nancy's visit was canceled(!!), and I made it back and forth to Philadelphia Saturday night without being involved in a fiery crash. These are unquestionably outstanding developments, and yet I'm focused on the negative. And so it goes.

-- Nancy and her gang were supposed to arrive Friday evening. We hid away all the valuable and breakable items, in anticipation of a visit from the family who could, in the words of my father, tear up an anvil. I had my beer supply stocked up and my portable DVD player with headphones ready to go. Like a ninja, I tried to prepare myself for extreme mental and physical anguish. I attempted to put myself in a state where absolute and sustained chaos has no effect. I may have even cried a little.

But it was not to be. The family of geniuses broke down in their smog-spewing hippie van, somewhere near Fudgepack, Tennessee, and flapped their elitist, superior gums until the mechanics impounded their vehicle and told them to go fuck themselves. I'm not joking.

The junk heap they drive as a symbol of their advanced sense of social awareness and individuality shit the bed in rural Virginia, and was towed to a garage across the border in Tennessee. This is the fourth time they've been stranded by their We're Bettermobile, in just the past year or so. After four or five hours of debate (a mere blink of the eye for Nancy and Nostrils), they decided to rent a car and go check on their van, then continue on to the Compound.

When they arrived at the garage they found that the "toothless Southern hicks" had already begun rooting through their engine for signs of trouble. According to Nancy they had not authorized any work to be done, but the guys at the garage tell a different story. Who knows? The man who owned the place told Nostrils there was a problem with their fuel pump, and he could fix it for thirty dollars. Thirty dollars! If they were scamsters, they sure weren't very good ones.

Nostrils reportedly became indignant and told the guy he wasn't paying them anything -- in fact, they were having their van towed back to North Carolina where a more sophisticated group of technicians could diagnose the problem. The garage guy told Banana Holes that he'd been working on cars for almost sixty years, and he knew what the problem was. I guess the argument got pretty heated and Nancy and Nostrils finally called him a hick, and he impounded their vehicle and wouldn't let them have it back. He wouldn't even let them get their stuff out of it. They owed him money, he said.

Nancy told her mother they'd never allow some "shitkicking Appalachian (pronounced appa-lackin) hillbilly" to work on their imported vehicle. (It's an exotic make known as a "Volkswagen".) Ha! Those people, who preach tolerance and acceptance, have more prejudices than your average Klansman. You should hear Nancy talk about Christians, for example... I haven't heard such rabid anger since Jerry Falwell.

I'm not sure what finally happened, but the van is now back in North Carolina, in the able hands of the men who had prepared it for their journey to Scranton (for a mere $600). And the whole trip is off. That's the important part: it's all off! I can bend a spoon with my mind at this point, but it's always best if you don't have to. That's what they taught me in ninja school.

-- The Eels show in Philly on Saturday was incredibly good. I'd seen them once before, in LA, but now they fuckin' rock. They didn't used to rock, but they sure do now. I wasn't prepared for a night of loud roaring guitars, but that's what we got. At certain points they even approached Cheap Trick volume. And, of course, Cheap Trick is the standard by which all rock show volume is judged. My right ear is still whistling. Goddamn.

After snagging an ultra-rare (free!) parking spot on the street I met my friends Steve and Myra at a bar next to the theater, called Blarney's. There we each ingested a large tube of shredded meat, known as a cheesesteak -- and a few Yuenglings, of course. Following our healthy dinners, we walked up and down South Street, checking out the many hipster shops along the way. Everything was really expensive and crazy. People were everywhere. The sidewalks were packed, and it felt like we were in New Orleans or something. I had the feeling that everybody was at least slightly drunk.

They opened the doors to the theater at 8:30, so we went inside to soak up the air conditioning. It was ridiculously hot outside, but it was cool inside. Immediately I noticed that the whole place was full of geeks. It was like a Dungeons and Dragons convention. Everybody looked like the lead singer of the band, even the girls. I'm kind of out of touch these days, when it comes to music, but apparently The Eels are big amongst nerds. I actually saw a woman carrying a paperback copy of Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five. What the fuck, man? I like to read, but it never occurred to me to take a novel to a rock concert.

We staked out our plot of real estate in front of the stage, and prepared to wait. There was a group of hipsters in front of us, and they were sitting and laying on the floor. Shit. I didn't even like the fact that the bottom of my shoes were touching that hideous surface. I'm sure it's coated in years and years-worth of puke, sweat, piss, shit, jism, and God knows what else. I'd rather roll up in a Holiday Inn bedspread, and that's saying something.

Then a Laurel and Hardy lesbian combo wriggled in front of us. One fat, one skinny. They were the exhibitionist types, and put on a show for everyone by rubbing their hands all over each other, and looking dreamily into one another's eyes. Highly entertaining, but it would've been even better if they hadn't been so incredibly ugly.

MC Honky was the opening act, and it was simply ludicrous. A person dressed as an old man came out and screwed around with a couple of turntables and some electronic equipment, as pre-recorded house music blared from the loudspeakers. Occasionally the guy would light his pipe, but that was about as animated as he ever got. He never said a word. It felt like an Andy Kaufman bit gone horribly wrong. I just don't understand the point of the entire exercise.

The Eels finally came out, and played for a long time -- at high speed and at high volume. Songs that are cute little pop tunes on CD became thundering Ramones anthems in concert. The lead singer, E, is funny and personable and slightly demented. At one point he went on at length about how everyone should do something nice for themselves the next day -- like buy that sweater you've had your eye on, but thought was too expensive. Hey, whatever dude. I won't bore you with a full-on review of the show, but it was a lot of fun. We had a great time. Ya gotta go, if you get the chance. They'll flat-out kick your ass, and who could've predicted such a thing?

-- Speaking of rock, Harv has left a golden legacy behind. Apparently he didn't manage to achieve much himself, but he bought tickets to see a lot of people who did. RIP Harv.

-- Our dog Andy took off with my hillbilly teeth this weekend, and it looked like he was actually wearing them. By the time I took this photo, they had slipped sideways a bit, but you get the general idea.

-- The Surf Report in the Magic Kingdom!  Thanks Buck.

-- Shit, I'm all out time. I have a surplus of great stuff I wanted to talk about, but it's really late. It'll have to wait until Thursday. I'll let Chris take it from here, with his first installment of Straight Outta Boone! Take it away, Chris.

See ya later.

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