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You don't understand. I'm a mysterious loner, not lonely.

2003

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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 2004

August 31, 2004

-- I have a friend who is a college professor up here in these parts. As impossible as it may seem, he teaches various flavors of advanced mathematics. Math! The dark, dark nemesis of my educational upbringing, and he knows it so well people earn actual recognized credits toward a college degree by listening to him talk about it. The concept is amazing to me. The manner in which he earns a living is as inconceivable as those flying Wizard of Oz monkeys in waiter's jackets. Maybe even more so. I mean, flying vest monkeys could happen.

My brain is simply not wired for math... or science, or foreign languages. I tried them all along the way, and it wasn't pretty. I could tell a good dick joke in school, or ridicule a haircut like an ancient master, but start in with all that X to the third power bullshit and I'd almost physically shut down. I hit the wall around eighth grade or so, and I'm pretty certain nothing math-related soaked in after that. I went to the classes, but all I heard was a clicking sound. And on exam day they'd hand me a copy of a Korean shopping list, and say, "You have ninety minutes... starting... now!" It was excruciating.

In college I signed up for a required course in algebra, or some such exercise in futility. On the first day of class the instructor walked in wearing a green turban and commenced to making low guttural noises that one fellow student swore was the English language. After that enlightening session ended, I walked straight across campus and dropped the class. If the man had been able to enunciate like Paul Harvey it would've been a task equal to digging the Panama Canal. But when you've got to struggle to get to the point where you don't understand, who are you fooling? And that was my final mathematic hurrah. Truthfully, I haven't missed it much.

Rightly or wrongly, I always lump foreign languages in with math and science. Maybe I think they're connected because I suck at all of them? I don't know, but they must be related in some way. And my biggest accomplishment during four years of French classes came in ninth grade. A girl showed up one day wearing a t-shirt with a French saying written across the chest. The teacher said, "Jeff, can you tell us what Shawn's shirt says today?" When I said no, she exploded. "Why not??" she spat, along with a little venom. "Too bumpy," I said, and the whole class erupted in sustained laughter. Other than that, I didn't take much away from four years of French instruction.

But I'm getting off track here... Besides teaching the impossible, my friend is also a student advisor. And one of the duties associated with that role is to visit students who are doing internships for credit. He has to make sure they're actually doing something, and not just sitting in a chair somewhere reading Hustler or whatever. The other day he told me he had to check on a business major, who was interning at -- get this -- a nudist colony!

Supposedly this place is world-famous, and has been in existence for more than fifty years. And it's not too far from our house! Who knew?! Hell, we've been looking for a weekend getaway spot. Maybe I could start taking my pop-up to the nudist colony? Maybe even my camper!

But he halted my runaway visions when he began describing the people there. He said they were mostly sixty or older, and appeared to be aging hippies. Old naked hippies?? That took the wind out of my sails right away. And that's all?! I hoped the question didn't sound quite as desperate as it did inside my head. He said he was standing in the front office with his advisee (both full clothed, btw), when a maintenance man walked in. And he was wearing a tool belt and boots, and nothing more! He said he looked like Schneider on One Day At A Time -- except you could see his scrotum and whatnot.

That's all I needed to hear. It suddenly didn't sound as promising as during those first heady minutes when he began the story. I imagined a seventy year old naked man hammering an awning spike outside an RV, and "Schneider" a-mowin' and a-vibratin', and everything went sour for me. 

I think I'd prefer some more of that Libyan trigonometry.   

 


August 30, 2004

-- It's hot again. Really really hot, and humid. It's 5:56 am as I type this, and I'm sweating. I can't begin to describe the injustice of such a scene, especially after the extended glimpse of autumn we were given last weekend. Right now there's a fan going full-blast in the corner, and I think the blades are having trouble cutting through the thick air; I sure hope it doesn't fly apart and imbed itself in my back. My face is shining like a Granny Smith apple, and the local ducks are undoubtedly unpacking and paying another month's rent. It's grotesque. I've never been to Central America but I feel like I'm there now. Throw up some mosquito netting and have Toney walk around with an automatic weapon, and the illusion will be complete. And I don't like that.

-- Yesterday we went to the mall, and a few other places of business that offer artificially conditioned air. Since we had ample time to kill we went into some stores that we usually ignore, like The Gap and Kauffman's. I mean, who buys sixty dollar shirts? Seriously? As we entered the latter a woman in a labcoat asked if we'd like to sample Tommy's latest fragrance. I don't know who Tommy is, perhaps an employee of the store, but I was certain I didn't want a whiff of his new "scent," regardless of how proud he might be of it. I practically stiff-armed the woman and kept moving. I've met some arrogant bastards in my life but this Tommy takes the prize, sending surrogates into a mall to round up strangers to partake of his essence. The man needs to be brought down a few notches, if you ask me.

Saturday morning I blew the ass out of yet another pair of jeans shorts, and I thought Kauffman's might have some of their summer crap on clearance, and I could cheaply replace the exploded garment. It took us about ten minutes to find the men's department, we first had to pass through a sea of expensive kitchen gadgetry and a Nebraska cornfield of bras and improbable panties on hangers.

Finally we found the men's clearance section, and it looked like a war zone. A good portion of the merchandise was on the floor, some emblazoned with a big gray shoe print, and others were strewn across the tops of racks and whatnot. It was one step above a Goodwill donation box. I found some shorts advertised at 75% off the original wildly-inflated prices, and I thought I'd hit paydirt. But it was not to be. They must've had a hundred pairs of Levi's shorts in a size 26, and another fifty 28's. I held up a pair and I seriously don't think I could get one leg into them, even if the entire crotch was removed. Yeah, size 26 pants in Scranton... Great move, buying department!

After the mall we went to Home Depot, to daydream about the new ten thousand dollar kitchen we'll never have. And I became mesmerized by a toilet equipped with new space-age flushing technology, that can supposedly whisk away two dozen golf balls in a single flush. They had it there, on display, piled high with the sizable payload, and it was indeed impressive. It, of course, represented a late-night mega-shit, without being too gross about it. The sign should've said: This toilet will handle anything you throw at it, so go ahead and order that extra burrito! Toney had to drag me out of there.

As we were leaving I overheard a family arguing about Baskin-Robbins ice cream. Some wanted to go, others didn't... it's the age-old dilemma. But it reminded me that in California they called it Baskin and Robbins. That drove me crazy. There's no and. Everywhere I've ever lived they respected the dash, but not in Cali. They removed the dash and replaced it with something they liked better. The arrogance! One batty old woman in my office there called it "Baskin and Robbins 31 Flavors." No joke. She said the whole thing, every time. Something like that should be grounds for incarceration.

And at Petco I was reminded of something else that drives me crazy about the general public: pre-teen girls practicing their cheers. There was a girl there in the depths of a familiar daze, stomping her feet and struggling to clap her hands at the right time. What's the deal with that? It's absolutely universal, and makes me slightly nuts. If I were to take a team of sled dogs to a village on the polar ice cap, there'd be eleven year old girls there with their eyes glazed over, stompin' and clappin', inside the igloo. I know this to be a fact. Stop it, please! I can't take it anymore.

I think I need a short rest in a licensed medical facility...

 

August 27, 2004

-- Toney and I lived together before we were married, back during a previous lifetime in Georgia. Shocking, I know, but true. Around 1991, or so, we moved into an apartment in the Little Five Points section of Atlanta, and "lived as husband and wife" for about two years. Two really fun years, I might add... I realize that such brazen shenanigans are frowned upon by members of the clergy, and people like Dr. Laura (You're living like whores!!), but I can't see where it did us any long-term damage. A week from today we'll celebrate our eleventh wedding anniversary and, as far as I know(?!), everything's chugging right along.

However... there are a few holdover habits from those days that remain, and they tend to make people raise their eyebrows and jump to inaccurate conclusions behind our backs. That's fine by me, of course. In fact, I do what I can to encourage rumors and speculation. But I don't believe it's a huge deal if a few inconsequential shacking-up practices bleed over into marriage. Ya know?

For instance, I still do my own laundry. Back in the beginning we had no washer or dryer, and had to visit the Doin' It For The Lord Fluff 'n' Dry, or whatever it was called. There we could make our shirts all nice and clean, have some Chinese takeout from next door, and put an insurance policy on our eternal souls. It was one-stop shopping at its best. But neither of us wanted the other rooting around in our freshly-used intimate wear (it was still fairly early in our relationship), so we kept the duties separated. In fact, we usually didn't even go there together. Toney did her laundry when she found the time, and I did the same.

And we still do it that way. We didn't come to a grand cosmic decision on the matter, we're not making a political statement of any sort, we just never changed the process. Of course, my draws are now frequently on public display in several different rooms of the house, and sometimes in the yard, so the shyness factor is long-gone. But the old habit remains. If it ain't fixed don't broke it. Or something.

We also have separate bank accounts. Well... sorta. We have the main account, which Toney manages, then I have another one which I use for my own personal dumbassery. Every payday a small amount of "walking around" money is direct deposited into my account, and that's what I live on for the next two weeks. I use it to buy gas, Funyuns from the vending machine, used CDs, malt beverages, and whatever else might come along.

I have little idea what happens with the bulk of our money, it just goes into some unseen woodchipper somewhere, and is blown into the backs of various trucks. And that somehow pacifies The Man, and we're allowed to keep living in this house with the lights on. I don't know many of the details, and I like it that way. Whenever I've gotten involved, bad things have happened. So I stay away from it.

I basically live the same way as I did when I worked at Peaches #36, in Greensboro, during the mid-1980's. I get a small amount of money every two weeks, and try to make it last. I still literally exist paycheck to paycheck, and sometimes have to go to Wal-Mart and write a check for "twenty over," to make it to the next payday. It's kinda crazy, maybe, but it never occurs to me to tap into the general funds. Hell, I never even know if there are any general funds. I've been doing this for so long I'm a master at it, and am comfortable with the circumstances. If the necessity arises, I can float a (Curious George) check like Monet painted pitchers.

Arrested development, you say? Perhaps. But it works for us, and gives our family and friends something to talk about -- just like when I went to my high school reunion and spoke repeatedly about my "partner."

 

August 26, 2004

-- I like taking long walks on Wednesday evenings because the neighbors have their trash out at the curb, and we can have a look at it. You can get a good read on people by their trash and recycling bins, I've learned. Eyes may be the windows to the soul, but an overflowing garbage can ain't too shabby either. We know, for instance, who are the tee-totalers, the drunks, the wine snobs, the freaks, and many varying combinations of all those things.

There's a man and woman at the top of the hill who are very partial to Busch beer and, in fact, may actually own the brewery. It's brand loyalty gone mad! One family has at least one member who is apparently experiencing a rather severe case of painful brick-house constipation (the worst kind), judging from the abundance of prune juice bottles in their recycling. I checked their main trash barrel and didn't see any cheese wrappers, but I bet there's some down in there somewhere. Give me ten minutes per house and a pair of rubber gloves, and I think I could solve a lot of the world's problems.

A rosy-cheeked dumplin' family a block over probably claims to have inherited a glandular problem, but I know better. They eat shit like Pizza Bagels and E.L. Fudge cream cookies like the Russians are in Pittsburgh. Eating like a hog ain't a gland. Another family apparently shops at that mysterious grocery store called Aldi, where none of the brand-names are recognizable. Have you been in one of those places? They give me the heebie-jeebies. There's comfort in identifiable corporate logos, and crap like Arco chicken noodle soup makes me feel naked and alone. But it doesn't seem to bother the folks in the white stucco house in the middle of the block. Not one bit.

We put our trash out on Thursday morning, so nosy people can't check it out and make wild judgments about us. The exercise doesn't work unless you have a highly trained eye, like I do. There's nothing worse than an amateur garbage appraiser with an axe to grind. They're losers.

-- Last weekend I sent an email to jeffkay@yahoo.com, jeffkay@hotmail.com, jeffkay@aol.com, etc. and invited them to take a look at my website, and provide a review. So far, nothing. We Jeff Kays can be a bit stand-offish, but I think they'll eventually come 'round. Stay tuned. I dream of a future world in which all Jeff Kays can live together in perfect harmony, like the keys on my piano keyboard. Or whatever.

-- I meant to link to a really cool site on June 18, but forgot. I wrote it down in a little calendar book I have beside my computer, but I apparently need another calendar to remind me to look at my calendar. Anyway, this family takes photos of themselves every June 17, and posts them to the web. Check it out. The pictures date back to 1976, and are strangely fascinating.

-- And speaking of forgetting, that reminds me...(?) Jason's Wednesday column was up all day yesterday, I just forgot one small detail: a link to it. Sorry about that, man. It was chaos in the bunker yesterday, these self-imposed 9 am deadlines are a bitch, but here's the link today.

-- It's very disorienting, but after I upload these updates each morning, I race to work and have no access to the site until I get home, around seven in the evening. I can't read your comments, I don't know if there are embarrassing grammatical errors, or if the links work, or anything. I hate it. Every day it feels like I'm sending a kid off to college, knowing I won't be able to watch over the little prick anymore, and wondering what kind of trouble he's getting himself into. Something's gotta be done. Ninety percent of the internet is now blocked at my office, and a parent shouldn't have to live this way.

See ya tomorrow.

 

August 25, 2004

-- Many months ago I told you about a giant Sam's Club-sized bottle of Pert shampoo that just suddenly leapt off the shelf while I was showering, and came down on the top of my left foot. Here's a reminder of the carnage. Tiny bird bones which perform intricate duties were turned to powder by the brute force of the big seven-pound weight that inexplicably hurtled from the heavens. I briefly considered filing a complaint with the Wal-Mart Corporation. I mean, I like value as much as the next guy, but I don't believe haircare products should be packaged to weigh the same as industrial cinder blocks. I really don't. But blaming others is not my style, and I just bought myself an inexpensive pair of steel-toed work (shower) boots and everything has worked out reasonably well.

Anyway, that bottle of shampoo is finally gone. It's taken a really long time, but it has now been depleted and removed from the house. When I first wrote about this I received many notes from readers who were aghast, simply aghast, that I was using Pert shampoo. I'd never given it much thought, ya know? It's frickin' shampoo. But somebody told me it was like washing my hair with dishwashing liquid, and that's a mighty difficult thing to forget. So, I decided to take this opportunity to try something a little more ...Kerryesque. I'm well aware that this could turn out to be a gateway toiletry, and I could be powdering my ass before Thanksgiving, but I decided to throw caution to the wind.

Toney bought me something with the brand name Lexxus, I think. Never heard of it. I was thinking more along the lines of Prell, but whatever. I told her not to even tell me the price, because I don't want to know; the bottle itself makes me nervous. I've been using it all week and maybe it's just my imagination, but I think it's good stuff. My hair doesn't feel quite so... assaulted. My one complaint: I'm sitting here right now smelling like a goddamn coconut cream pie. If it weren't for that, if I didn't smell like dessert, I'd give it an unqualified thumbs-up. I really would.

And so far, I'm proud to report, my butt-cheeks remain powder-free.

-- I was on a file-sharing website a few nights ago, trolling for filth, when I came across this rather bizarre photo. Apparently these folks were married at some kind of "kudzu festival," and you can see that the bride is carrying a big hunk of the fast-growing weed as if it were a bouquet of roses. Retarded, to be sure. I'm not a big fan of novelty weddings. In fact, Toney and I were married by an Atlanta judge in a conference room, beside an overhead projector.

But I kind of like kudzu. It blankets The South, and is strangely reassuring. Just seeing it makes me feel good. Here's a history, in case you're interested. When I first moved to North Carolina a co-worker told me I'd better not sleep with the windows open, because the stuff would come in and get me. And, indeed, it can cover a vacant lot in nothing flat. Tear down a house in the southern U.S. and it's replaced by kudzu, it seems, within weeks. In Atlanta there was a girl who worked at one of our favorite pizza joints (mmm... Everybody's Pizza...) who had tattoos of kudzu vines growing up her legs. I loved that.

But not enough to act like a deep-dish jackass at a regional "festival." I didn't love it that much.

-- Speaking of The South, a reader recently sent me this newspaper from Johnson County, NC. Check out the headline. Ya gotta love it. And it makes perfect sense to me. ...I don't know whether I should be proud or alarmed.

-- Buck sent me news this morning that Abercrombie & Fitch is screwing with West Virginia again. They've obviously learned that they can generate instant controversy by making fun of my home state, because people there will rise up with torches and pitchforks if they think they're being mocked. Check it out. They're pushing their luck, and are about one in-breeding joke away from experiencing an old-fashioned 360-degree Appalachian ass-whoopin'. It's only a matter of time.

-- Finally, I don't often link to news stories here (don't call this a blog goddammit), but I've got to make an exception for this one. Apparently there are education "experts" out there who believe that a teacher's use of a red pen, when grading papers, is simply too terrifying for some students. The trend now is to use a less-threatening purple color. No, this isn't an article from The Onion, it's real. It's my understanding that kids today are being traumatized by the stark and brutal red color. Is that not amazing? We may as well just get it over with now, and start wearing berets and riding around on bicycle with a loaf of bread under our maggot-gagging pits. Patton and The Duke are spinning in their graves like egg-beaters...

Have a great Wednesday, or whatever. More tomorrow.

 

August 24, 2004

-- Yesterday I told you about an open-house we attended at a big old farm house in our town. It was cavernous and funky, and reminded me of something I couldnít quite put my finger on. But Monday afternoon it came to me. It was a lot like my great-grandmotherís place, which my family visited a few times when I was a kid. MawMaw Racer was what she was called, and she always scared the bejesus out of me.

It was quite an adventure getting to her house. We had to go way out in the country and drive over creeks, across swift running water, and continue until the road finally petered out. Then weíd abandon the car, and start walking. Weíd tramp through the woods and across open fields, and would occasionally have to climb fences(?) and run from bulls. No joke. I remember my parents, my brother and myself, and sometimes a few aunts and cousins, screaming and laughing and running away from bulls in a pasture. Needless to say, I was fairly traumatized. I'd had little experience with outsized livestock sporting built-in dismemberment tools, at that point in my life. My dad always reminded us that bulls hate the color red, and Iíd invariably be wearing a red shirt that day. I think he planned it that way, for comedic effect. Good olí Dad...

The house was just sitting out in the middle of nowhere, there were no roads leading to it or anything. Surrounding it were a dozen or so mysterious outbuildings that smelled like soil and decay. Chickens and other farm-style animals strutted around, peckin' and snorklin'. I guess they had electricity out there, but Iím not completely sure. They certainly didnít have a bathroom, I remember that much. 

They had an outhouse; a two-holer, I believe. Two people could sit in there, shoulder-to-shoulder, like they were riding the cross-town bus, and let it fly. Can you imagine?! Iíd look down the throat of that thing, and be absolutely amazed. They basically just crapped into a deep hole in the ground, and thatís a fascinating concept to a seven year-old boy. Hell, it's pretty fascinating to a forty-one year old boy...

I had the unforgettable experience of stepping in a cow pie on that farm, in my bare feet. It was still warm, just out of the oven, and it squished between my toes. There was grass and stuff sticking out of it, and it was huge -- about the size of a dinner plate. Everybody thought that was just just about the funniest goddamn thing they'd ever seen, on the level of Johnny Frickin' Carson. One of my aunts nearly fell off the porch laughing. I failed to see the humor, and wondered how people could live that way. What was the point of it all?

I don't think MawMaw Racer liked kids. Or maybe she just didn't like city kids who cried over spilt cow poop? I'm not sure, but she seemed pretty severe to me, and unfriendly. I only have a sense of her now, and it's not exactly an Aunt Bee-like image. She spit, for one thing. And used snuff. She had canisters of the stuff with labels that looked like they'd been printed in the 1800's. I remember her stash lying on a table beside her chair, along with a small discolored toothbrush. WTF?! To this day, I have no idea...

She was married to a man named Lon, who went around in circles when he walked downhill. Again, I can't explain, I can only report. Sometimes he'd be sitting on the porch, and suddenly freeze and cock his head. Then he'd jump to his feet and take off running, way out into the middle of one of the fields, and drop to his knees and start talking to Jesus. "I hear you! I hear you, Savior!!" I've heard it said that he was so dumb he couldn't figure out how to get into a car. Supposedly he didn't know to duck into the seat, and would repeatedly walk into the side of the vehicle standing bolt-upright, completely baffled. But that can't be true, can it? I mean, come on! He told one of my aunts that he was normal when he was younger, but then he "caught the mentals." That phrase is now an oft-repeated piece of family folklore -- caught the mentals.

A single generation separates me from that world. Just a tiny hiccup of time. There were childhood outhouses on my mother's side of the family as well, and a hand water pump in the middle of the front yard, and a cellar built into the side of a mountain, and snakes hanging from the trees like something off Chiller Theater... Sweet Maria. I feel like running out into the middle of a field and giving thanks for being born so late in the century.

See ya tomorrow.

 

August 23, 2004

-- Man, the weather here has been nothing short of spectacular. Sunny and cool and crisp, with no humidity. It's almost fall-like, and I love it. Did I mention that I saw the ducks last week? I don't think I did. They're starting to pack up their birdly possessions and head south for the winter; one evening last week I watched a half-dozen big V's fly over our house, a-quackin' and a-glidin'. The V's make me happy in my soul. They're an unmistakable sign of better days ahead. May God bless the V's, and the United States of America.

On Sunday we went to three open houses, and got kicked out of a park because we were letting our dog Andy have himself an illicit run on the abandoned soccer field. It was big and flat and green, and I just couldn't deprive him of such a joy. We went inside the fence, removed his leash, and Andy blasted off like a rocket. He glided across the grass at an amazing speed, barely even touching the ground. He ran and ran and ran. It was all good, until the cops came.

"Sir, did you not see this sign?" Cop 1 said, clearly relishing the moment. Then, as if he were addressing a large retarded man, "It says, No. Dogs. Allowed. On. Athletic. Fields." And he asked again, with a sneer, if I'd failed to see it. Twenty years ago I would've said exactly what I was thinking: "Yeah, I saw it. I just ignored it."

But somewhere along the line I learned that's not always the prudent course to take when dealing with law enforcement. A long time ago I was pulled over by a police woman in my hometown, and she asked why I'd taken a corner so widely. I told her I was being careful not to spill my beer. And there were no happy endings to that story, none whatsoever. So yesterday I just told the guy we'd clear out. "I'll be back in five minutes to check," he warned. A real prince of a man.

As we vacated the sacred grounds we realized that one of the busybodies across the street had obviously called the cops -- probably via the 911 emergency line -- when they saw us approaching with a dog. The field itself is raised, and nobody can see it from the street, not even a policeman. He couldn't have known Andy was there; the cruisers here are not equipped with canine sensing technology, as far as I know. So, we'd been ratted out!

That whole strip of houses across from the park is full of humorless fucks whose life work, it seems, is to monitor the activities at "their" soccer field. Each probably has a red phone in their house, under glass, that rings directly into the mayor's office. And in extreme emergencies, like if a kid with a skateboard is spotted walking in the general direction of the grounds, they probably throw on a big spotlight with the outline of a soccer ball in the middle of it. I'm surprised they don't wear special armbands, or berets, or something.

The leader of this asshole squadron is a man who looks like Mr. Carlson on WKRP in Cincinnati, only not as lovable. When we first moved here I made a few attempts to be nice to him. I'd throw up a wave or shout a friendly hello, and he'd just stare back and say nothing. He has a ridiculous high-pockets dog that walks around on its tip-toes and looks to be constructed entirely of pipe cleaners. It's a greyhound or a whippet or some shit. When he takes this ludicrous animal for a walk he puts on a big show of cleaning up after it, making big exaggerated movements with his scoop as if he's performing in a Broadway play. He's leading by example, I guess, and I wouldn't mind egging his house. I really wouldn't. The man's just crying out for eggs.

-- One of the open-houses we attended was a fully-restored farmhouse, built in 1832(!). It's huge, with about a hundred bizarre rooms. I don't know what a person could do with such a monstrosity. How could you furnish five or six identical rooms, for instance, the size and shape of a standard ping-pong table? Did it used to be a TB hospital or something? What the hell?? The thing has hallways that go nowhere, floors that slant in every direction, doors that have been shaved down to a rhombus shape so they'll fit in the distorted frames... The upstairs bathroom was added, somewhere along the way, to one of the biggest rooms in the house. You could play Wiffle Ball in that shitter! And the asking price? $269,000. No thanks. Character and personality do not trump crazy-ass -- or a passel of angry ghosts from the American Revolution (or whatever). Oh, you just know it's full of ghosts in three-pointed hats...

Another place we checked out was a townhouse, built in 2000. They wanted two hundred grand for it, and it was really small. Eleven hundred square feet, or so. Amazingly, the beds weren't made, and there were dirty dishes on the kitchen counter -- the day of an open house. In the master bathroom it looked like somebody had eaten an entire sleeve of thin mint Girl Scout cookies, then brushed their teeth without rinsing the sink. Somebody had expelled something dark in there, in the very recent past. Nasty. I did admire their bar, though. There was more liquor in that house than at Jim Dandy's Saloon. But even if they threw in all the booze, and the furnishings, their place would still be overpriced by about sixty thousand dollars.

And those are the highlights of the weekend. Pretty exciting, huh? See ya tomorrow.

 

August 20, 2004

-- The wheels are flying off the operation. All of a sudden I'm having trouble getting the updates done on time. I don't know the cause, but I'm thinking maybe my water to beer ratio is out of whack; I think I might need to calibrate again. I've been slacking off on the Yuengling. In any case, I'm making some changes. I won't bore you with the details but, if all goes well, look for my morning dispatches to be uploaded Monday through Friday before 9 am, eastern. That's the bold new goal, and it'll require an adjustment to the official Surf Report Standard Operating Procedure.

Basically I'm gonna try to stay a day ahead (sorta), and do some of the writing during the previous day. It'll be a safety net for unforeseen fucked-upness, the likes of which I've become intimately acquainted. I'm a bit concerned that my tone might change if everything isn't created all jacked-up on Eight O'Clock bean coffee, inside a babyshit green room, Buzzcocks blasting and a deadline snarling and backing me into a corner. But it'll be OK, I'm almost certain. Especially after I recalibrate, and reinstate The Beer Cure.

Nine eastern, eight central. Write it down, goddammit.

-- Remember how I threw a mini-tantrum after the internet was blocked on my computer at work? I told you how I whined and threatened and sulked and yelled, until I got it back? Well, this week I picked up a virus somehow, via the internet, and it took a tech several hours to get rid of it. It was some sort of trojan deal and it showed up in every system scan for about a day and a half, and triggered hourly red-letter large-font alerts to a brick-shitting IT staff. They were calling my extension: "What the fuck, man? What the fuck??" I ran SpyBot and AdAware repeatedly, but it didn't do the trick. Finally they had to send in a professional virus killer, and even he had trouble with it.

When I left work on Wednesday the guy was sitting at my desk sweating profusely, wearing a jeweler's lens, and removing bizarre dentistry tools from a leather attache case that was handcuffed to his wrist. OK, that's an exaggeration, but it's what it seemed like to me... As I walked out the door he was having a panicked Star Trek conversation via speaker phone:

"I've tried everything possible, Jim!"
"Well, try the impossible!"

Needless to say, I received a stern talking to, and there's no convincing them that I don't spend my days on cumfiesta dotcom, or some such thing. I told them that I basically only look at news sites, but they gave me that "don't bullshit a bullshitter" look. Instant non-reversable reputation. Simply excellent.

And yesterday they ratcheted up the Surf Control, or whatever they use to block questionable sites, and two-thirds of the internet is now inaccessible to me -- including TheWVSR! I can't even read your comments until I get home from work. And I can't visit Amazon, or Fark, or MetaFilter either. It's all been replaced by that cartoon hippie, and the words No Surfing Here! It's a sad state of affairs, but what can I do about it at this point? If I complain, the only thing they'll hear is, "Give me back my sausagesisters dotnet!" No, I'm screwed. All I can do is accept it and shut up. I have no options. <sigh>

-- I was talking to a guy at work this week, and he asked if I'd be willing to move to Nashville if it ever came to that. When I answered an enthusiastic "Yeah!" he seemed taken aback. He's Scranton, born and bred, and I get the feeling he's never ventured too far from home. He's never been on an airplane, and seems proud of the fact. He clearly can't fathom the course my adult life has taken, bouncing from city to city and whatnot. A move to Tennessee probably seems like a move to Moscow to him. He just likes it here, he says, and sees no reason to leave -- not even for a short vacation, now and then. I don't understand that kind of thinking, but to each his own.

Several years ago he said he went on a hunting trip to South Carolina, with some of his friends. It was some kind of chartered, organized deal, with guides and all. They ended up killing seventy-five more quail than they were allowed, and their guide bagged them up in trash bags and hid them in the bushes along the road, to be retrieved later under the cover of darkness.

One of the local hunters invited them to his house afterwards, and he said the road looked like it had been created by running water. It was like they were driving up a creek bed or something. And when they arrived at the guy's "house," there were two trailers sitting there. One had a door, and the other didn't. One, the man explained, was their home, and the other was where they stored their auto parts. The parts went into the trailer with the door, for security reasons, and they slept in the trailer with no door.

They had a few beers then decided to go out back and do some "shooting." When they walked behind the mobile home there was a Civil War cannon sitting there, and the man commenced to hootin' and hollerin', and blasting limbs out of the trees with Budweiser cans filled with cement. And he fired that cannon, and consumed large amounts of distilled spirits, late into the night.

"And you still don't want to travel and explore, even after all that?!" I asked him. And he looked at me like I was wearing an overcoat constructed entirely of turds.

-- Finally, here's Rick James in his casket, and my all-time favorite video game. I bet you've never read that sentence before!

Have a great weekend, folks. See ya on Monday -- before 9 am!

 

August 19, 2004

-- I was listening to Phil Hendrie (aka The Genius) last night on a Los Angeles radio station, and a news story came on about killer bees. Some kids in Santa Ana were reportedly throwing rocks at a hive attached to a cinder block wall, and the occupants of the hive didn't take too kindly to the disturbance. 120,000 pissed-off Africanized killer bees poured forth, and began doing what killer bees do best: stinging shit all willy-nilly. Here's the LA Times story. Two dogs were swarmed and killed, and many people were stung as well. Authorities had to use fire hoses to keep the beasts at bay, and it was apparently just absolute mayhem. Thanks kids! Thanks a lot.

When we lived out there killer bees (some preferred the gentler undocumented flying insects), had just arrived in Los Angeles County, and it was yet another thing to worry about. It was added to a list that already contained earthquakes, mudslides, forest fires, and image-obsessed neighbors. And right after we started hearing about the arrival of these insidious insects on the news, the tree in our back yard filled with bees!

And I mean filled. In February and March of every year the big tree behind our house would start buzzing. Loud, loud buzzing. There must've been a million bees in those branches, and the noise they created was amazing. It was like something out of a horror film. We never saw many of them, we could only hear them up there, humming to each other. And freaky isn't a strong enough word.

Since we couldn't afford to hire a professional bee-removal service (all of our extra money went toward banding our appliances to the walls with "earthquake straps"), we just pretended we didn't hear the maddening buzz of the backyard, and only used the FRONT door until mid-April. And I kept telling myself that it couldn't be killer bees, they were still relatively rare at the time. Nothing to worry about... The neighborhood surely wouldn't die a horrible and swollen simultaneous death because of our shade tree. No way. That's just paranoia talking, fueled by sensational news reporting. Right? Heck, they were probably just making honey up there, like in Winnie the Pooh. ...Hello?

We got away without being charged with manslaughter, but the people who bought our house cut the tree down almost immediately. They just had it removed altogether, and I can't blame them. The shit was menacing. We would've done it ourselves, if we hadn't had all that strapping to deal with, and if milk and eggs weren't priced like Chinese missiles were on the way.

In addition to the humming foliage, we also co-existed with large prehistoric birds that would sit in the tops of trees and on rock cliffs, and watch our every move. Sometimes they'd fly over our house and we could hear their powerful wings flapping: whoosh whoosh whoosh. I have no doubt whatsoever that they were capable of carrying off a medium-sized man. And I don't like that.

Also, our garage was chock-full of black widow spiders. You could spray all the poison you wanted, and it didn't make a difference. They'd frickin' bathe in the stuff, and get a little bigger for spite. The simple task of getting a rake or a shovel was like an episode of Fear Factor. Put your hand in the wrong place, son, and you could end up with an arm the size of a sixth grader.

And every morning the weather man on TV proclaimed it "another day in paradise." Until he was fired for sexual harassment, anyway...

Ah Southern California... I couldn't wait to get out of that shithouse.

 

August 18, 2004

-- Somebody called our house last night at 2:37 AM. Toney fumbled around in the dark and finally picked up the phone. Here's the conversation that followed:

"Hello?"
"Is this the Kay residence?"
"Yes"
"Well, I took some Viagra and I've had a boner for days!"
click

Not exactly Lenny Bruce-caliber comedy, but mildly amusing. It was clearly the work of a rookie, but there was potential there; I admired the timing and the sheer stupidity of the payoff line. I chuckled and rolled over, and tried to get back to sleep. Toney got up and checked caller ID, and it only said UNKNOWN. Typical. That shit works when one of the neighbors call, but is useless when you really need it.

After that, to my dismay, I laid there wide wake for an hour and analyzed the situation. A stupid-ass prank phone call, and it got the gears to moving... I must be getting old. But I didn't like the personalized nature of call. How did they know our name? I don't think we're listed in the phone book. Was it somebody we know? The hell, man? And why didn't the caller ID work? What would make it come up UNKNOWN? Was this some kind of pro, just posing as a snot-nosed prick? What would they now do with the confirmation that we were indeed home?!

And that's how it went, for an hour or so. Somebody successfully punched a great big hole in the middle of my six hours of sleep, with about fifteen retarded words. Toney was tossing and turning and was obviously thinking some of the same thoughts. It was a ten-second non-threatening conversation, but it packed a considerable wallop.

The kid clearly has potential...

-- Speaking of crayons, I pronounce it cray-ons, the way it's spelled. All my life I've boycotted the more popular crans or crowns. But, truthfully, it hasn't really paid off. People just think I'm a weirdo, and roll their eyes behind my back.

-- With the help of my good friends at Shoecabbage I've now done my part to teach the world how to say "wooden bowl" in the Zarma language. I wish some of my high school teachers could see this! Who's laughing now, Mrs. Wagner? Hmm??

-- I think it's time to do a little housecleaning in the bunker. Here's an actual (and rare) shot of the Surf Report command center, as it appears this morning. Shit is getting out of hand.

-- I have a friend in West Virginia who sends me email from atop the toilet. His house is equipped for wireless internet, and he clearly delights in taking his laptop into The Small Room, and trying to trigger full-body shivers all across the fruited plain. "I'm crapping and writing you a note at the same time!" Yeah, he thinks he's grossing me out, but it's not working out that way. He's only succeeding in making me jealous, not disgusted. Is it a sin to covet thy neighbor's wireless router, and e-shitting capabilities? I'm unclear on that.

-- And that's all I have time for today, boys and girls. Jason will pilot this ship the rest of the way into port, and I'll see ya again tomorrow.

 

August 17, 2004

-- I needed to buy a new pair of tennis shoes over the weekend. My old ones were getting pretty raggedy and had successfully completed their transformation from crisp white to a sort of dusty-ass beige. They'd crossed over into trashy about three or four weeks ago, but I was in denial. I hate spending money on crap like tennis shoes, and will avoid it as long as possible. It's sort of like buying tires. They're functionary items that just aren't much fun.

I know there are "shoe people" out there who practically become sexually aroused when they pass by a shoe store, I dated one once(!), but I'm not among them. I view shoes as foot protectors, and not much else. If there wasn't a social stigma attached to it, I'd just wrap my feet in burlap and be done with it.

And that's another thing... Not only am I required to keep reasonably "new" shoes in my closet, but they have to be certain brands too. I can't just go to Target and buy a cheap pair of canvas sidewalk-slappers. Oh no, society dictates that I remain within the product-lines of ten or so specific brands. And they just happen to be the most expensive shoes on the planet. But to venture outside those bounds is to make an unflattering announcement about oneself. May as well wear a sign that says, "I generally don't smell too good."

It's always been that way, though. Even when I was a kid in West Virginia, you couldn't be caught dead in anything but Pro Keds, Converse All-Stars, and a half-dozen other "acceptable" models. When somebody arrived at school in something not on The Master List, they were ridiculed unmercifully. Word quickly spread throughout the school that somebody was sporting a pair of "K-Mart dobies," and that person's life instantly became a mini-hell. I still don't know what the word dobie means, but it was a label everyone avoided with every fiber of their being.

One poor bastard from elementary school had a couple of parents who were full-blown drunks, and they lived in a converted garage that wasn't much more than a lean-to. All of his and his brother's clothes came from yard sales, and sometimes they'd arrive at school with the homemade masking tape price tags still stuck to the collars of their shirts. Pretty sad...

One day the youngest brother showed up in a pair of Converse All-Stars, undoubtedly his first non-dobies, but they were something like an adult size 15. They were huge and flat and long, and were cinched really tight at the top to keep them from flying off when he walked. He was really proud when he arrived at school, but went home early that day. I remember people literally buckled over in laughter, and some were teachers. One kid asked if he was going to build a dam across the creek after class, and that caused another avalanche of laughter. It was pretty cold-blooded, and I sat that one out. Most people deserve what they get, but some don't. Goddamn.

But I'm careful to adhere to society's dictates. Who needs the grief? I refuse to invest much into it, though. On Saturday I set myself a budget of forty bucks, which doesn't go too far. We tried those terrible "discount" stores first, like Marshall's and Ross, but had no luck. Those joints always seem like a good idea in the abstract, but I never actually purchase anything there. They always have baby-blue polyester shirts and jeans with the cast of Fat Albert painted across the ass. I don't think I'm in the proper demographic... On Saturday they had shoes with recognizable labels, just not ones you'd generally associate with footwear. Like Bayer, I think. And Kawasaki. WTF?

We went to a place called Shoe Dept., but everything decent cost about seventy bucks and required a gas-powered air compressor. They had nozzles and springs and moving parts. Ridiculous. Credit managers were on-hand in case anyone wanted to purchase a pair of shoes with the New Balance N on the side: easy terms for qualified buyers! I took my forty bucks and left.

After visiting a half-dozen similar places, we finally found an acceptable pair of Nikes at Dick's Sporting Goods, and I reluctantly forked over the cash. (Three CDs-worth.) It was an all-day ordeal, but I stayed within my budget without venturing into dobieland. Mission accomplished. I took 'em out to my truck and strapped them onto my feet, and began the all-important process of blunting the blinding whiteness of new shoes. They can't be too new, or too old. They can't be too cheap, or too expensive. They have to be certain brands, but not others. And I'm not entirely confident I know all of the current rules of engagement...

Shit. By the end I was exhausted, and a nervous wreck.

 

August 16, 2004

-- It was a lazy and rainy weekend. We did nothing of any consequence, and it was just what the doctor ordered. I haven't been firing on all cylinders lately, for some unknown reason. Maybe I'm ready for Geritol? I'm not sure, but I've been in a fog for the past few days. I'm like that Putty character on Seinfeld now, and I'm not sure why. So, I spent the weekend trying to get a little rest and drinking massive amounts of water, as part of the Water Cure regimen endorsed by a local auto parts dealer(?!).

I watched a movie per night -- 8 Mile, 28 Days Later, and Airport -- and enjoyed 'em all. Whoever invented the DVR should be given a dinner. Every night I can just free-fall into a chair, and flip through a selection of eight or ten quality movies cherry-picked off the past week's schedule, and settle in for another evening of open-mouth Putty-staring. It's excellent. I've only had that little box of magic for a couple of months out of my 41 years, and I literally can't imagine life without it. As far as I'm concerned, its invention ranks near the discovery of penicillin in the Grand Scheme of Things.

One thing that kinda irritated me about 8 Mile: Eminem can fucking act too?! Man, that guy pisses me off. He's tailor-made for hating, but I just can't seem to pull it off. I hate the fact that I can't hate him. How could he be a good actor? Seriously. How could such a thing be possible?? Grrr... And here I am sounding like Al Gore on Raleigh radio. It's just not fair.

And I know this ain't Siskel & Ebert, but don't miss 28 Days Later. The shit is good, and you can quote me on that. Dude wakes up from a coma (28 days later) and finds that London, and much of the rest of the world, is devastated by something called the Rage Virus, which turns its victim into wild murderous madmen. Great fun.

-- On Saturday Toney and I went to an RV dealership in Dallas, PA, to take a look at the 2005 Coleman pop-ups. Both of us are feeling the urge to log some more camping time, but it's not working out very well. Who knew you had to make reservations at campgrounds weeks in advance? Not me. I had visions of us being spontaneous, waking up on a Saturday morning and deciding to just hitch up the camper and taking off. But no, you've got to plan for it in advance. Way in advance, with deposits and confirmation letters and logistical considerations. So, we just end up daydreaming about it instead.

Coleman came out with a new Gucci-style pop-up camper last year, with high sides, beds that you need a stepladder to get into, a real bathroom with solid walls, a full-blown stove with oven, microwave, fridge, etc. We saw one last year and it was pretty amazing -- with an amazing price tag. And this year's model is supposed to be even better, so we went to check it out.

Unfortunately they didn't have one of the Rolls Royce models (probably figured they'd never sell one), but they did have a few watered-down versions. In a couple of them -- and I'm not making this up -- they had couch cushions that you could lift up to reveal a hidden toilet underneath. Right out in the middle of the sitting area! Who could use such a thing? Are you supposed to get up in the middle of the night and take a whiz into the sofa?? Isn't there a danger of splashback to the upholstery? What if you were drunk and lifted the wrong cushion without realizing? One was situated so that a person could literally take a crap while preparing a nice garden salad. All I can say is: never.

-- On Sunday we drove up interstate 81 to check out a New York state park, that Toney had heard was really nice. It kinda blows my mind that we're so close to New York State. We rarely go north, but Binghamton is less than an hour away. It's as surprising as the Los Angeles signs I used to pass by in California every morning. Good god, how did I get here? What am I doing??

Anyway, the park was nice enough, I guess. But I think we're too snobby for that brand of camping. I have this feeling, and I could very easily be wrong, that the prices aren't high enough to keep out the riff-raff. Whenever I drive through the campground at a state park I see people on the run and/or sleeping off a three-day fortified wine bender. I see long faces and rock 'n' roll teeth and self-inflicted hardship. Is that unfair? Possibly. But I have a hard time getting past it. Bearded men sleeping in the dirt don't encourage confidence, I've learned.

Toney picked up a flier in the office containing a warning about the abundance of bats in the park. Bats! It said that a "small percentage" of them are rabid, and should be left alone. Should be left alone? The bats?? Hey, not a problem. And -- here's the kicker -- they supposedly like to roost in the bathhouse roofs! That's all I needed to hear. Goddamn! We'll stick with camping resorts. I don't need no diseased flying rodents swooping at my genitalia, thank you very much.

Before we left we stopped to take a look at the so-called beach, and was promptly kicked out because of Andy. No dogs allowed! No dogs allowed!! Shit, sister, calm yer ass down. This ain't the Pentagon. So we walked around the picnic area instead, and waved away a million or so gnats. Paradise on earth.

As we neared our car we noticed the curious spectacle of a very burly man dragging a steel picnic table across an open field. "I'm comin' baby!" he hollered at someone we couldn't see. Then a morbidly obese woman carrying sacks of snacks emerged from behind a stand of trees. She was huffing and puffing with the effort of locomotion, and was instructing Paul Bunyon to hurry it up with that table. Her legs hurt. And I risked my life to capture the moment.

See ya tomorrow.

 

August 14, 2004

-- I pass by a business every morning on my way to work that offers to sell your crap on eBay, for an unknown percentage of the selling price. It used to make me laugh every time, but I've kinda gotten used to it and only laugh occasionally now. They have a big sign in their window that says, Let Us Sell Your Car In An Internet Auction! Good comedy. Apparently they're catering to people without computers, or people with computers who aren't very bright. I mean, eBay isn't exactly Chinese trigonometry, y'know? I have a feeling their customers are some of those "undecided" voters they show on NBC all the time.

Anyway, it gave me an idea. Toney's constantly giving me a raft of shit about the state of our basement. For some reason she's irritated that I have roughly a thousand boxes of old magazines and CDs and videos down there. And just the sight of my Bobby Sherman lunchbox or disembodied ventriloquist dummy head is enough to send her flying into a rage. "We've moved that crap all over the continent!" she hollers. And it's true. Many of the boxes were taped up in Atlanta, and haven't been opened since. A few undoubtedly date back to Greensboro, a town I left in 1989.

So, I was thinking... Maybe I'll start dragging one box at a time up here, and selling its contents on eBay? Slow and painless. It could even be fun, and maybe I'll make a little cash? Hell, I've got a rubber shark packed full of ticket stubs. That's gotta be worth something, right? And a vintage 1970's ball of tape, handmade by a hillbilly sixth grader with unfortunate hair. It's a one of a kind item! Sure, it'll be hard to part with some of the stuff, thereís a lot of sentimental value attached, but it needs to be done.

Any tips on this are welcome, but Iím feeling ready. I am now prepared to start selling items on eBay - without the use of a professional broker. No use in trying to stop me, my mindís made up. Ladies and gentlemen, itís go time.

-- I was listening to Neal Boortz this week and he said the French government is considering stripping Lance Armstrong of his most recent Tour de France title, because of some baffling findings discovered during a random field test. Can you believe it?! Apparently they examined Armstrong and detected trace amounts of soap, deodorant, and toothpaste. So sad. First he gets a ball hung in the spokes, now this.

-- Yesterday I wrote a sarcastic piece about hurricane Charley, which was then bearing down on Florida. I was blaming it on the Bush Administration, and saying it was funny that the path of destruction just happens to pass over several key battleground states. I wondered why there were no hurricanes in red states such as Wyoming and Montana, and speculated about brother Jeb's role in it all. I insinuated that it was weather cooked up in Texas, designed to divert our attention from all the deep deep suffering going on out there... by some people somewhere. It would allow Bush to visit, with his trusty bullhorn, and be the hero again. And I hinted that his buddies would probably reap juicy government cleanup contracts after the fact. You just can't trust Big Cleanup. The payoff at the end: We will not be fooled by your phony hurricane stunt, Mr. Bush! We cannot be manipulated or brainwashed!!

Yeah, it was kinda funny yesterday, but widespread destruction and massive loss of life can sure ruin a good joke. Men on the news with fence posts plunged through their torsos do nothing for the amateur smart-ass, I'm here to tell ya. Nothing whatsoever.

-- Speaking of yesterday, I got up at the normal time, wrote my update, and just wasn't satisfied with it. Something was off, so I didn't upload it. All day I tinkered with the thing at work, but it wasn't happening. Lack of sleep, I think, was the culprit. My brain was fried up like a skillet o' scrapple.

I could barely form sentences, and completely lost my train of thought while talking to a woman on the phone; my mind just suddenly went blank in mid-sentence, and I hung up. Scary. I got to a word I wanted to say, couldn't think of it, then forgot what I was talking about altogether. There was a long silence while the wheels in my head spun wildly, then I put down the receiver without saying anything else. Later I blamed the episode on the "goddamn phone system," but I don't think she was buying it.

But I'm all better today, I think. I came home from work last night, drank roughly a gallon of water, had some salted peanuts in the shell, watched 8 Mile, and slept about two-times the normal length of time. Today I scrapped about half of the garbage I wrote yesterday, and cobbled together this half-assed update. I apologize, but I'm feeling pretty relieved that I've apparently stemmed the onset of time-release retardation. At least temporarily. Hey, it's something to cling to.

-- Here are a few more Smoking Fish sightings, reported by alert Surf Reporters around the country. That fish, he gets around. And the photo at the top of the page might help me get around, compliments of Mr. Ashcroft. I just want to say up front: I know nothing. And that's the goddamn truth.

-- And finally, a little something special. Well... something a little different anyway. A few weeks ago the host of a popular morning radio show in Raleigh, NC contacted me and asked if I'd be interested in doing a weekly Andy Rooney-like diatribe on his program, based on TheWVSR. His name is Jack Boston and he apparently reads, and enjoys, the site.

In true Jeff Kay fashion I hemmed and hawed for a couple of days, while I contemplated the deep deep humiliation that was surely right over the horizon. I mean, I have no experience in broadcasting whatsoever, and I'm fairly terrified of public speaking. I had to give the toast at my brother's wedding a few years ago, in a packed-out union hall near Pittsburgh, and I very nearly disappeared into a mound of my own solid waste.

I wanted to say no to the offer, so I wouldn't have to deal with it, but I also wanted to give it a try. It sounded fun and exciting -- if it weren't for the small fact that I'd be required to "perform" for tens of thousands of people. I spoke with some folks I trust, and they said I should do it. Buck called me a pussy (again), and said it was tough-love (again), and I finally decided to go for it.

Jack is a nice guy. In addition to being really funny, he also offers advice and lots of encouragement, and seems to genuinely believe we can make this thing work. I'm actually starting to believe it myself. The first week didn't go too well, I think, but the second try was much better. And here's the raw tape that was played on Thursday of last week. It doesn't contain Jack's intro or his reactions, it's just my "reading," over a G. Love groove.

I sound a little NPR-ish, I know, but hopefully I'll loosen up over time. I'll keep you updated on the depth of the stick up my ass. Now, let the tough-love begin!

See ya Monday. I promise.

 

                        

August 11, 2004

-- I recently purchased a British import of all six Madness albums, in one tidy little expensive-ass box set. It's called The Lot, and I've had my eye on it for years. The price tag kept causing my testicles to retract, but it was something that had to be done; I simply had no choice in the matter. The first four records were never released in the U.S. on CD, and two were never even released here at all. In America they cherry-picked songs off the British LPs, and excreted a couple of sad and unsatisfying compilations. It was a crime, I tell ya. And so, with a single click of the mouse, and only a small amount of marital strife, a huge gap in my collection was filled. And I'm a little more whole.

Funny thing though... the CDs make me think of fall. All six albums give me a strong feeling of autumn, and I can't figure out why. It seems improbable that Madness only released records in October and November, doesn't it? I seem to remember listening to their stuff in my glittery redneck Nova in the heat of summer, back when I was a Jiffy-Pop haired youngster. And it's not the style of music either. A lot of that stuff is pure manic craziness, which shouldn't conjure up images of pumpkins and fireplaces. Yet it does. It's a real mystery.

Usually I can trace the source of such feelings, but this one has me baffled. There's an old Elton John album, for instance, called Rock of the Westies, which transports me to childhood during the Christmas season. Somebody gave it to me as a birthday (11/30) present back in the day, and I listened to it all during the run-up to that year's gift-yield... I mean, religious observance. To this day, ten seconds of that album makes me think of Christmas trees and candles and shiny presents with bows. It's amazingly powerful, and a bit strange considering that Elton sings on that album about cowboy assassins and getting his ass kicked in Jamaica.

When I was in high school I spent three or four days on my death bed with the flu, and listened to the new Utopia album over and over. (I can't explain such a thing, I'm merely reporting the facts...) It was a bad week, and for years I was unable to listen to that album. A minute into the first song and my stomach would start churning, sweat would erupt from my forehead, and I'd feel like I was ready to swing open the front and back doors. Even today it's kinda iffy. The spell is a little weaker now, but not completely eradicated. I generally just stay away from it. It's my own personal audio anthrax.

Smells will do it too. My office is located inside a massive manufacturing plant, and the place is full of chemical odors. I can take a walk to the cafeteria and pass through a half-dozen distinct funk pockets. Sure, some are created by temp workers, but most are chemical-based. One smells exactly like the Dunbar Bowling Alley, where I hung out every summer as a budding hooligan. And I mean exactly. I can be on my way to purchase a Mountain Dew Severe in 2004, and suddenly I'm twelve again and being chased into the street by a man named Steamboat, because I turned my bowling shoes in again with the toes packed full of mustard packets.

They had a dark and mysterious storage room there, behind a door marked Employees Only near the pinball machines. We used to "bowl" into that room. One of us would open the door, step aside, and another would roll a bowling ball into the darkness. The first guy would slam the door, and we'd all wait for the payoff. Sometimes there'd just be a dull thunk, and that would be proclaimed a gutter ball. Other times there'd be a satisfying crash involving metal of some sort, and we'd say that was a spare. Once, my friend Bill managed to explode five or six fluorescent light bulbs that were propped up in the corner, and that was a strike. Steamboat almost stroked-out over that one.

So, I like that particular smell and am happy whenever I draw it into my lungs -- despite the fact that it's probably flipping the cancer switch. I may write to the Yankee Candle Corporation and ask them to create a Dunbar Bowling Alley scent. Do they do requests?

Anyway... I'm surprised and confused by this Madness situation, and am racking my brain over it. I may have to allow myself to be hypnotized to get to the bottom of it. It's making me a little crazy.

I'll keep you updated on any important developments. ...Hello?

-- In the meantime, here's Jason, our Southern correspondent.

And I'll see ya tomorrow.

 


August 9, 2004

-- Andy snarled at me yesterday, and showed me his teeth. That's not an advised business model for a dog living in our house, and lounging on our couches; it's really not. Snarling at me? The person who makes sure he's part of spaghetti night, even though he's, you know, an animal? Oh, he's treading on thin ice here. I'll sell him on eBay, and I'm not joking. We'll see how he feels as they're boxing his ass up at Mailboxes Etc., and taping the bubble-wrap around his torso.

I was trying to take him for a walk but he was acting even crazier than usual. He was pulling the leash as if he were attempting to drag a bus full of deaf children out of a lake, and just going off in every direction. It was business as usual, just a little more so. I started yelling at him and shortening the leash until he had to hold his head high in the air, but it didn't make much difference. He was digging with all his might, all low to the ground and deranged. Fuck this, I said, and turned to take him home. We'd only gone fifty yards or so, and I was already hollering like some fat woman at Wal-Mart with a herd of nondescript kids sporting tails in their hair.

When I changed direction Andy did some kind of Harry Houdini maneuver, and escaped from his collar. I was left holding a leash attached to nothing, and he was loping all around, absolutely batshit crazy. Oh, I was pissed. And when I finally got him cornered, and attempted to put the collar back over his head, he growled and put his wolf-teeth on display. And then it was my turn to do some draggin'. This hound must be completely out of his mind. I pulled his ass into the house and slammed the door, and we went for our walk without him.

It was like something off the Lucy Show, and some of the neighbors were watching by the end. I saw one guy snickering, and I had to tap into some inner reservoir of strength to not invite him to eat something improbable.

All evening there was tension. Andy wouldn't even look at me; he moped around and would leave the room if I entered. I kept pointing my finger at him and telling him he'd better watch his goddamn step, but he maintained an air of defiance. He slept downstairs, instead of his usual spot beside our bed, and I was little afraid to go to sleep. I thought he might go airborne, and try to rip out my throat. I wondered if he was in the early stages of rabies or something? Shit.

But all is well now, I think. After the alarm went off at five, he came into our room and licked my hand. A truce. And he's wagging his tail again, and giving me his irresistible border collie smile; he's not known as Black Lips Houlihan for nothing. So maybe I'll give him a second chance? Maybe I won't start the bidding just yet?

It's mighty hard to stay mad at a smiling dog.

-- We got a nice little check in the mail on Saturday. It was from the car dealer where I bought my Blazer, in the amount of $350.99. It's reimbursement for some work we had done on the vehicle in April, the day before we left for Myrtle Beach. If you remember, I did a little bitching about it here. I know it's hard to believe, but true... But my bitching has paid off. An astute and knowledgeable reader of TheWVSR, named John, alerted me to the fact that the problem we encountered was the subject of a GM recall. What?! They sold us a car under recall, but didn't fix the problem? What's Clark Howard's number??

I started sniffing around and, after four months of jumping through flaming hoops and standing on one foot and whatnot, we actually got our money back. I never thought I'd see the day, and that's the truth. I'd had similar dealings with General Motors in the past, and it ended with a Detroit lawyer strong-arming me ass-over-tits via speaker phone, and nearly making me cry. For whatever reason, they seem to be a lot more understanding these days. And more fair.

Why am I suspicious?

But, whatever. The story has a happy ending and I want to thank John for alerting me to the recall. It's something I would've never known about in a million years. So, thanks. I appreciate it, and Lord knows I need all the help I can get.

Have a great Monday.

 

August 6, 2004

-- My right contact lens inched its way into my skull yesterday, and for a few minutes I worried that I might have to go to the emergency room. At one point I couldn't even find the thing, I thought it had worked its way to the cords on the back of my eyeball and shit. It was scary. I wear hard lenses because I have a condition that doctors call "bad eyesight," and they occasionally go off wandering on their own. I don't know why, I don't bang my head against the wall or anything, they just periodically start traveling. Then I have to spend the next five or so minutes in front of a mirror, trying to coax it back home.

I've gotten pretty good at it, and it's usually no big deal, but yesterday was different. I couldn't find it, but I could feel it. It was in there deep, and every time I blinked it went deeper. Holy shit! I was howling and hollering and pawing at my eye socket. I took at least one break, to calm myself down, and the episode dragged out for a long time. Then I finally found it, way up top. I used my fingernail to gently pull it down, like I'd done so many times before. It fought me for a while, then took off and swung around the corner, and was suddenly down below. Grrr... What is this, Tom and Jerry??

Eventually, of course, I captured the thing, and gave it a long time-out in saline solution for punishment. This morning it feels kinda off. It's burning a little, and just isn't comfortable. It probably thinks it can get back at me, but it's sadly mistaken. I will not be intimidated by dime-sized plastic in my own home; as long as you're living under my eyelid, mister, you'll live by my rules. 

What have I done to deserve this? ...You do and do for your contact lenses, and this is the thanks I get? It's just not right.

-- We watched an old Law & Order episode a few nights ago, and they were tracking a murderous biker who frequented internet chat rooms(?!). It must've been written and filmed in the mid-'90's, when the internet was still young, because it was fairly over-the-top and hilarious.

When one of the detectives used the term "chat room" another said something like, "Oh, you're talking about the internet, the world wide web?" And he said it in a knowing tone, as if they were using highly specialized police shop-talk. Everything was cyber-this, and e-that. Funny stuff. Scrote even used the phrase "electronic mail," and shook his head in amazement at the possibility of such thing.

They finally captured the guy by enlisting the help of one of the anonymous laboratory-dwelling Asian geniuses, who only come into the story when things turn technical and meticulous. He fired up a laptop the size of a couch cushion, and attached it to an apparatus that resembled a 1960's-era rooftop TV antennae. They then tracked the perp down as he chatted with other murderous bikers in their murderous biker chat room.

The detectives were taking part in this "cyber-conversation" as well, on their Soviet laptop, while running down the hall of an apartment building -- years before wireless technology was in use. As one chatted the others were waving their ludicrous TV aerial around and shouting, "Keep him talking! Keep him talking!!" Eventually they found the door of the criminal's apartment and promptly kicked it off its goddamn hinges, and had the guy on the floor before he knew what hit him. 

I'm not sure how all that works really, it seems fairly impossible to me. But, then again, I'm no Asian man in a lab coat.

It was good comedy though, that much I know for sure. I have a feeling that in five years or so the episode will take its rightful place alongside such cult classics as the LSD episode of Dragnet, and the time Quincy had to deal with those filthy punk rockers. Mark my words.

-- Finally, I'm gonna turn it over to Rocky now, who has apparently been lured out of semi-retirement by a reader named Amy. For months I've been badgering him to come back to TheWVSR, and kept getting the brush-off. But Amy, presumably of the female persuasion, posted a short note asking about him and, bam!, he's suddenly struck by a wave of inspiration. Funny how that works. Here's Rocky.

Have a great weekend, folks.

 

August 5, 2004

-- This is gonna have to be a quickie, I couldn't hoist my heft out of bed this morning. Toney was forced to say some very hurtful things to get me to move today. By attempt number two there's always an edge to her voice, and by number three she's downright nasty. We went to Defcon 3 this morning, and I'm here to tell you, it wasn't pretty. She's the type who sits bolt-upright the moment she wakes up, and has no compassion for us folks who have to eeaaase into the day. It's a whole different kind of wiring, I try to tell her, but she just looks at me like I have a cat turd pinned to my shirt. Anyway, I'll try to make it up to ya tomorrow...

-- I'm not sure what happened, but the temperatures here suddenly plunged about twenty degrees. It's downright nipply out there right now, and I love it. If it holds I might actually mow the grass. I've been on strike because of the soul-sucking humidity and high temperatures, and the lawn is pretty shaggy. I'm sure the country club neighbors have been holding emergency catered meetings behind our backs, but they can all line up behind my back and commence to kissin'.

It's still pretty early, but I'm hoping the summer is beginning to run out of juice. Every year around this time I find myself wandering around the yard, looking to the sky for big V's of quacking ducks headed south for the winter. My bird friends are the ones who will finally make it official. So far nothing, but they're coming; I can feel it. I bet they're holding V practice somewhere right now, headed-up by a sashaying choreographer duck with a flamboyant, dramatic feather in his crest.

-- A couple of months ago I started entering the serial numbers from Mountain Dew bottles into a promotional website that promises free and kick-ass Dew goodies for loyalists of the golden elixir. Well, I'm proud to announce that yesterday I passed sixty Dew points, and was able to order this shirt with the original hillbilly logo, and Tickle Yore Innards written on the back. I'm so excited. In ten to twelve weeks, that shit will be mine. The only problem? I think I now have diabetes, and a neurological problem that's causing me to twitch and jerk. There's no such thing as a free lunch... But, dammit, I'll be twitching in style.

-- I made another friend at work yesterday. Toney packed a Tupperware container of her world-famous Mexican corn salad in my lunch, which is really good but smells pretty funky. Predictably, an unknown woman walked into my office about five seconds after I'd broken the seal on that baby, and it funked like a thousand farts in there. Her face contorted in disgust, and I leapt to me feet and tried to explain. "It's the corn salad that caused it!" I shouted, a little too desperately. She looked even more appalled than before, and turned and left. It took me about ten seconds to realize what I'd said, and how it all must've looked to her. Yet another success story.

-- Finally, I want to thank everyone who took a second yesterday to tell us from where you read TheWVSR. Some of the entries are pretty amazing, some are flattering, and others a bit disturbing. And I wouldn't have it any other way. If you haven't signed our yearbook of fucked-upness, please do so now. The link is a few inches down the page, under yesterday's date. And thanks again. I appreciate y'all stopping by here every day, I really do.

More tomorrow.

 

August 4, 2004

-- About two hours after our visitors left town on Sunday, my parents rolled in. Actually, they rolled into a campground in the Poconos, thirty miles from here -- in their Blue Oyster Cult bus, on the second leg of their Overdoing It Tour '04. So, there was no down-time, even after the insanity ended. No chance for recovery. We spent Sunday afternoon and evening with my Mom and Dad, and I went directly to the campground on Monday after work. It's been crazy, I tell ya.

When I was at work on Monday the only thing I wanted in this world was to be able to flop down in a chair in a pair of big-ass shorts, and watch Law & Order. If a genie had emerged from my Mountain Dew bottle and granted me a wish, I think I would've gone with the chair, the shorts, and Scrote. I really do. Under normal circumstances, of course, I'd wish for more wishes (a loophole I thought of as a youngster), but Monday was different.

My parents are great, and are welcome anytime, but a person can only go so long without some flop-time. The DVR keeps recording things, like the good soldier it is, but I haven't been able to relieve any of the pressure by actually watching any of it. Stuff goes in but nothing comes out, and I think we all know what kind of problems that can cause.

But everything's back to normal now, at least for the time being. My parents got up yesterday morning and decided they'd, you know, go into Canada for a while(!?). So they took off. And last night after dinner I put on my Scrote-watching pants, and watched Scrote. Then I took in the two most recent episodes of The 4400, and all was right with the world again. I feel like somebody drilled a hole in my skull and relieved the pressure.

I sincerely believe that the lofty dream of world peace could be achieved if every person on the planet had access to a comfortable chair, big shorts, and Law & Order re-runs on a regular basis. Throw in some Funyuns, and ya got frickin Utopia. Get W and The Mule on the phone!

-- My parents recently bought a new cell phone, and they don't know how to program it. When it "rings" there's a voice that announces, in an authoritative tone, "You have an incoming call! You have an incoming call!!" I don't know why I think that's so funny, but I do. It went off in the store at the campground Monday night, and I nearly lost my shit. I think I was starting to get punchy at that point.

-- Can you folks do me a favor, just for fun? Can you tell me where you're from? No real reason, I just think it would be interesting to know. Please take a second to click on the link below, and tell us your city and state, or country, or whatever. And be honest, don't say you're from Mars or Rotten Crotch, Wyoming, or stupid crap like that. Stay anonymous if you'd like; it's all good. Thanks in advance.  

-- Oh, you've simply gotta listen to this. It's a recording of Lyndon Johnson ordering slacks. Yes, you read that correctly... I know it doesn't sound too exciting, but trust me on this one. It's one of those things that'll make your brain melt-down a little.

-- And that'll do it for today. I'll pass the baton to Jason now, and wish you folks a very pleasant Wednesday. See ya on Thursday.



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