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   The State of My Fat Ass                                      August 2005

August 31, 2005

-- Things are clearly worse than many of us knew, in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. And I wish all of y'all down there (whenever you're finally able to read this) the best. I can't imagine such a thing and, for what it's worth, my thoughts are with you. I'm sure I'm not alone here. You guys check in when you can, and let us know you're OK. OK? ...Shit.

-- In light of current events, I hesitate to use the term "crisis," but that's what I have on my hands at this point: a full-blown clothing crisis. I've now reached the point of no return, and something has to be done. I need to undertake a complete overhaul of the Surf Report wardrobe closet, and quick. It's a situation of great urgency.

Part of the problem is the fact that I work in a really casual setting, and it almost literally doesn't matter what I wear to the office. I could show up in nothing but a huge Garfield sleep shirt, and it would be perfectly fine. Combine that with the fact that I'm one cheap bastard, and it's a recipe for disaster. Something has to be done.

And I think I'm going to do it on Monday. It'll be like an episode of What Not To Wear, except I won't have $5000 to spend. No, it'll be more like a hundred and a half. Plus, of course, there won't be any snarky homosexuals there to tell me I look like a bag of Vidalia onions in a hideous shirt. Or film crews, or a catered lunch... Other than that, though, it'll be just like the TV show.

But I need some help.... Where should a man of my, um, stature, go for shirts? I can handle shoes and jeans, I think, but am utterly lost when it comes to shirts.

A few days ago I made a quick run through the men's department at Target, and there was nothing there for me. In fact, it felt like a trip back to the 1970s. Brown sweatsuits, shirts from the Bobby Sherman Collection, t-shirts advertising Tab cola.... Why?? And what's the deal with the jeans that are designed to look filthy? Why would a person want to go around looking like they need to be introduced to the concept of Oxydol? I mean, the crap I'm getting ready to throw away looks better.

I can't afford $75 Ralph Lauren shirts from Macy's. And at the other end of the spectrum, stores like TJ Maxx and Marshall's make me depressed. I'm not sure why, but the second I walk through the front door of one of those places, a black wave of sadness washes over me. Certainly, the racks and racks of giant pants with Fat Albert's face sewn into the ass don't help, but it goes deeper than that. So, all of 'em are out of the running.

Are there any sensible places in between? Old Navy is too hipster, and the Gap too expensive. Those mysterious mall stores, like Banana Town, or whatever, are just confusing to me. Are they actual stores, or some kind of half-baked street theater? I simply don't know. I never go to joints like JC Penney, mostly because it doesn't occur to me. Is that the route I need to take here? Am I at the JC Penney point in my life? Help me, people.

'Cause something needs to be done, and I'm completely lost.

-- I don't usually like to talk about weird dreams here, because it's, you know, dull and irrelevant. But, as that great philosopher Dave Pirner once said, rules are made to be broken. So... I had a dream last night that I received an email from our old friend Chris From North Carolina, and there was a video file attached. The message said something along the lines of "You've GOT to use this on your site." I clicked on it and it was lots and lots of footage of fancy-pants show horses(?!) prancing around and high-stepping, with bows in their manes and the whole nine yards. Then at the end Detective Green, Scrote's partner on Law & Order, violently shoves a man into the milk case of a grocery store. The end.

Yeah, who the hell knows?

-- Finally, my brother sent me a link last night (in real life), and it almost made me do a spit-take. Do any of you remember this cartoon? I'm relying on nothing but an ancient feeling, buried deep in my beleaguered brain somewhere, but I believe it had to do with a Christian dot-boy. I'm almost certain it was religious in some way, like that Noah's Ark show with all the puppets. I haven't had time to fully investigate the site yet, but will today. Anyone else remember this show? Or any of the other SUNDAY morning cartoons?

And I need to get my outsize ass to work. Have a great day, folks, and I'll see ya tomorrow.

August 30, 2005

-- Rough night last night. And not the good kind either, when you wake up wearing an Indian headdress and your underwear backwards. No, this had to do with a friggin' work crew workin' almost literally beneath our bedroom window. All. Night. Long.

As I was driving home yesterday evening I saw that the telephone pole in front of Half-Shirt's house was a tad askew. The thing was leaning at a 45-degree angle, and the various wires and lines it was assigned to keep a safe distance from the citizens below, now looked like they might actually touch the top of my Blazer. In fact, I briefly considered backing my shit up, and going home a different way. As I've said before, I don't really want to go out as a Fark link.

But I made it without experiencing the feared Scooby Doo skeleton illumination. And then I promptly forgot about it. I made a mental note to ask Toney if some old man had just ceased living behind the wheel, and crashed into the pole or something. But in the twenty seconds it took me to go around the corner and park, it was all gone and I'd moved onto something else. Probably apple butter-themed, but I'm not completely sure about it.

While we were watching Shepard Smith broadcasting from New Orleans, talking about his natural disaster diet of Vienna Sausages and Doritos, I heard activity kicking up outside. People were talking loudly, and it sounded like big trucks were rolling in. Eventually a Yankee Stadium floodlight was flipped on, and it was suddenly like noon outside.

The pole!

I went to bed around 10:30, which is pretty early for me. But I needed some sleep; the bags under my eyes are starting to change color, and that's nature's way of telling me to turn the computer off and get my sorry nocturnal ass upstairs. And then I laid there listening to all the racket, and watching all the strange shadows dance around, for god knows how long.

It was a heady stew of laughter, sawing, grinding, hydraulic wheezing, pounding, and the wrenching of something or other. Every once in a while I'd also hear a ping!, like a microwave going off. Were they making Pizza Pockets over there? What the hell's going on?? And whenever a new sound would be introduced into the mix, our dog Andy would go ass-over-tits and run from room to room, barking and snarling with the fur on his back standing straight up, looking like a razorback hog. Well, this is simply excellent, I muttered to myself.

I finally drifted off to sleep, but was awakened around two o'clock. The power was going off and on, and there was a weird humming noise. I think it was the sound of stuff shutting down, then cranking back up again. Over and over. What the hell, man? Toney and I laid awake for at least an hour, listening to all the racket and watching our ceiling fan stop and start. Whenever there'd be a loud noise outside I'd rub my stomach and say, "Oh, excuse me!" It's one of those jokes that never gets old, and it worked especially well with the ping! Good times.

But my mood bags are still unusually dark this morning, and I should've just stayed up and watched Anchorman or something. This living responsibly crap always seems to come back and bite me in the ass. So screw it, from here on out. It's strictly for suckers.

-- This morning, in our groggy but caffeinated state, Toney and I came up with a crazy plan for the three-day weekend. 

On Saturday: the Italian Festival in downtown Scranton, where we'll eat until we're on the cusp of a blackout. Then it's back to the compound for adult beverages and disjointed conversation on the deck. 

And on Sunday: a day trip to NYC(!), where we'll be complete tourists and take the kids on one of those big double-decker tour buses. We've done those things before, in other cities, and they're surprisingly satisfying. They're geeky to be sure, but they're also stress-free and you get to see lotsa stuff quick. Plus, there are so many of them, you're able to just jump off and on and take your sweet time, whenever the mood strikes. 

So, we'll have lunch at Sammy's in Greenwich Village (mmmm...), show the Secrets the Empire State Building, and all that good stuff, then head back home. They need one more summer adventure before school cranks back up on Tuesday. And I wouldn't mind one either. Pass the egg rolls.

-- People are asking me where they can buy one of the cool rubber bracelets I mentioned yesterday, and here's your link. I don't know anything about this outfit, but they appear to be the main source for all your trendwhore needs.

-- And finally, some disturbing news... Yesterday afternoon I took a half-hour out of my busy schedule (ahem), to scroll through the rosters of every major league baseball team. And I'm sad to report that, as of today, there are only three active baseball players who are older than I am:

Julio Franco, Atlanta Braves
Roger Clemens, Houston Astros
Jamie Moyer, Seattle Mariners

And even worse, there are two managers who are YOUNGER! Managers!!

They are:

Ozzie Guillen, Chicago White Sox
Eric Wedge, Cleveland Indians

Horrifying. The day I'm older than every player in the major leagues will be very sad indeed. I don't know why it matters, but it does. Baseball players are heroes in my book, but not if they were born in 1983. Ya know? I mean, seriously....

See ya tomorrow.

August 29, 2005

-- The wall-to-wall hurricane coverage is starting to take its toll on me. All day yesterday, seemingly on every television station and internet website, there was a large spinning mass of color. I'd walk into almost any room in the house, and there it was. Just spinning and spinning and spinning. Around four o'clock in the afternoon I started to feel strange and tingly, then everything went black. Toney said she eventually found me six blocks away, wandering aimlessly with my arms stuck straight out in front of me. And I don't remember any of it. Scary.

-- I love the way the local news is covering this event. I'm paraphrasing, but this is roughly what they're saying: "Later today in New Orleans they're likely to be finding human heads, frozen in an expression of horror, lodged in the tops of trees. And the city will essentially be turned into Venice With Gators. But the important question on everyone's mind is how it will affect us. Stay tuned through the next half-dozen or so stories about house fires and sinkholes, and I'll tell you!" Deep-dish compassion, I tell ya.

-- Last night around midnight our phone rang. All of us were asleep, and it was one of those things that send a tiny chill up your spine. If a person's calling that late at night, something must be wrong. Right? Visions of dead relatives danced through my head. Massive heart attacks, head-on collisions, hot water tank explosions... my mind cranked up in a hurry. Toney and I exchanged groggy looks of concern, and she lifted the receiver to her ear.

It was Sunshine, wanting us to help her remember all five members of The Eagles. And if you think I'm joking you'd be wrong, terribly wrong.

For the record, I could only come up with three. It's been my experience that a person needs to be wide awake before they're able to pull the names Don Felder and Timothy B. Schmit out of their ass. And it also helps if you're not repeatedly pantomiming the international symbol for what the fuck?!

-- As soon as Bourbon Season gets here I'm going to try out a new drinking game. I'm going to sit down and watch any random television show for an hour. And whenever someone on a commercial uses the phrase "employee pricing" I'm going to take a big slug of Maker's Mark. Hopefully I won't require hospitalization.

-- A friend in another city sent me an email yesterday telling me that there was a big story in the local newspaper about one of my ex-girlfriends. Apparently she gave up one of her livers (or was it a kidney?), to her ailing husband(??). He told me that she was quoted as saying that she'd never known a man with such "class, power, sexual prowess, and comedic timing." I did some frantic internet searches, and finally found the story. It turns out that the kidney part was true, but the "quote" was a fabrication designed to screw with my head. 

And I'm here to tell you, the bit about comedic timing was over the line. The rest I'm sure is true, but that last item cut me. Deep.

Yes, it's important to have a strong support network....

-- Someone has finally come up with a rubber bracelet that I can get behind. Check it out. It's a thin line between those things and magnetic car ribbons, and I've stayed far away from both. Until now!

-- Clive Bull is back today, from a two-week vacation. Or holiday, or whatever. It's been a rough two weeks for me; my whole radio schedule was thrown into disarray by his extended absence. I found myself flailing about in the late afternoons, feeling like a man without a country. I'd try to listen to internet music radio, and grew to like the Listening Post channel at Accuradio quite a bit. But it just wasn't the same; it felt like there was a gaping hole in each of my workdays. All that comes to an end today, though, at three o'clock. All will be right with the world again, in just a few short hours. And I really hope my employer doesn't read this site....

I think that'll do it for today, boys and girls. I'll have more of this golden material tomorrow.

See ya.

August 26, 2005

-- Toney and I watched 35 Up last night, and the "kids" are starting to get a few wrinkles and gray hairs. Most are now married and raising their own younglings in the 'burbs. Two are divorced, and one is struggling with mental illness. They're just regular people, doing regular stuff; there are no worm-eating scenes, or boar-infested islands, or fat people struggling to roll themselves onto a set of giant scales. No, these are just folks sitting around on couches and talking, and it's somehow fascinating.

My good friends at Netflix will be sending me 42 Up shortly, and we'll be up to date -- at least until 49 comes out later this year(!). Oh yeah.

One of the women said something last night that got me to thinking... She was talking about strangers recognizing her from the show, and claims it happens from time to time. Most are nice, she said, but not all. Apparently some people are really rude to her, and offer up a load of unsolicited criticism about the way she's lived. (Is there any doubt?) And she said, almost as an afterthought, "They're just lucky this wasn't done to them."

By "this" she meant a film crew documenting the progress of their lives, starting at a very early age. Her implication seemed to be that most everyone goes through periods they're not exactly proud of. And, I think, she's right. Some more than others. <Ahem>

It made me wonder how it would be for me, if I'd been one of the subjects in an American version of this series. Maybe Hillbilly Evolution! or something like that? I've tried to break it down....

Age Seven: A fairly normal kid, I guess. I'm in second grade, correct? My teacher is an alcoholic, as my fourth grade teacher will be, and several others throughout my school "career." But I don't know anything about that yet, I'm still an innocent little booger machine. And I'm unable to wax poetic about.... anything. Many of the kids in 7 Up seemed to already have opinions and theories, and plans for their future. I would most likely be talking about poop and/or underwear, while sporting one of those knit shirts with a fake "vest" sewn into it.

Age Fourteen: Puberty has now taken that "normal" kid and rendered him hideous. Hideous, I tell ya. Imagine Joey Ramone with Bobby Brady hair. And zits. And clothes straight out of the Sears catalog. The interviews consist of me staring at the floor, and viewers require an optional Demumblifier(tm) unit to understand a word I'm saying. I try to sound deep, but am faking it.

Age Twenty-One: I'm exploring the exotic world of ludicrous facial hair: a wispy moustache, and perhaps a chemotherapyesque "beard." I'm dating Kelly now, my first girlfriend. I'm taking a year or two off from college (or so I claim), and working as a toll collector(!). I'm miserable and absolutely adrift. I have no idea what I'm doing, or where I'm going. I'm obsessed with alternative music, baseball, and drinking beer in cars with people who don't have my best interests at heart. My opinions and attempts at self-analysis sound like that of a smart-ass twelve year old boy, whom you'd love to just kick the living shit out of, if you could get away with it

Age Twenty-Eight: I'm in the early stages of my record weasel years, in Atlanta. I'm dating Toney now, and we may be living together in our den of sin. (I can't keep the dates straight.) At long last I'm starting to grow up a little, but a lot of stuff happened between the last installment and this one. And I'm glad the camera crews weren't there to document it. Real glad. It was a long painful journey, believe me. Why was I so immature, for so long? Good god, why?? Did it have anything to do with the Carbide plant in our backyard when I was a kid? Or is it just a simple case of semi-retardation? In any case, I'm happy now, and things are starting to look up.

Age Thirty-Five: We're in California, have one kid and another on the way, and are experiencing heavy-duty money problems. I'd recently been promoted to the home office in Burbank, but our quality of life went straight down the shitter the moment we left Atlanta. (Why does a dozen eggs, for instance, cost $2.49 in California? Are there no chickens west of the Mississippi??) Toney is running a daycare business out of our house, and those freakin' kids are tearing the place down. My wife is resentful and angry, I'm miserable and disenchanted, and it's not a very pleasant time of our life. I'm once again dabbling in ludicrous facial hair, and keeping the Pabst Brewery afloat.

Age Forty-Two: We're in Scranton now, the money problems are finally behind us, the kids are people that you can actually talk to -- not just wriggling noise and funk factories. And I'm happy, fat and happy. I have a website that keeps me sane, and a great family. The job is not very fulfilling, but I delude myself into thinking it's only temporary. Something good will happen sooner or later, I keep telling myself. And I actually believe it, which provides comic relief for the viewers at home. Occasionally I sit down in front of my computer and type the words, "And now I'm gonna turn it over to Buck, and wish you folks a fine, fine weekend."

More in seven years.

August 25, 2005

-- I forgot to mention... When I told my parents I was going to be meeting Buck for lunch on Monday they, of course, wanted to know who he is. I shrugged and said he's just some guy I met online, and left it at that for a while. That triggered a few secret glances behind towering slices of eclair cake, let me tell ya. Good times.

-- While we were in WV my Mom kept capturing ultra-obscure people from the distant past, shoving them in front of me, and saying, "Do you know who this is?!" Nothing like being put on the spot, especially when you have absolutely no idea, none whatsoever, who's just been thrust into your personal space. When we were at the Milton Flea Market I saw her out of the corner of my eye almost literally dragging a man across the floor. And he turned out to be the father of a person I went to high school with. Not a friend from high school, mind you, but just some other guy who graduated the same year I did. I acted like it was good to see him again(?), he did the same, and we parted ways. And his son? Yeah, he's working for Frito-Lay. Whatever.

-- Some family friends had a house built recently, and we went to check that out as well. Very nice.
I'm not sure I'd ever want to go through that hassle, though; I'd surely stroke out before it was done. Dealing with contractors and electricians and plumbers and the guys who install the carpet... it makes me anxious just thinking about it. It nearly sends me over the edge if we have to call the cable guy twice a year; dealing with five or six cable guys every day for months on end would almost certainly turn me into the Mylar balloon lady.

I like new houses, but I think it's better to let some enthusiastic young couple put in the sod, argue with the cabinet makers, and all that fun stuff. Then we can swoop in a couple of years later, during divorce proceedings, and cut a good deal. That's how it worked for us in Atlanta, and I recommend it highly.

As we were touring this newly constructed house, I noticed a large collection of gallon bottles, tubing, funnels, and a plastic face mask on one of the nightstands. I pulled my Mom aside and said, "The hell?" She told me the husband suffers from sleep apnea. I thought that over and said, "And he hooks himself up to a jug of windshield washing solution before turning in every night?"

Hell, I thought he was running a moonshine still from the comfort of his bed.

Sleep apnea. Ha! It's another of those fake ailments we make up for ourselves, to add drama to our lives. Like peanut allergies. When I was a kid everybody gobbled down peanut butter sandwiches as if the Russians were in Weston, and I can't remember them hauling away any body bags. Ya know? Not once did I witness one of my classmates bite into a peanut butter cracker, drop to the floor, and proceed to expand to twice his normal size. It would've been pretty cool, though.

-- One afternoon Toney and I "went to the store." Which, of course, means we made a beeline for a bar. It was just some nondescript neighborhood drinkery, and everybody in the house was power-chugging cigarettes. I think I saw one guy with two going at once. I looked around for a table as far away from that action as we could get, and noticed a sign directing us to a no-smoking section. Cool, I thought.

But it turned out to be a soundproof booth, like on old game shows. It was an actual room, off in the corner, with a storm door on it. And nobody else was in there. I hated the thought of drinking inside an isolation chamber, but looked back through the blue haze and decided it was our only option.

Their lineup of draft beers was pitiful, and we opted for a pitcher of Amber Bock which, I believe, is made by that purveyor of fine craft brews, Michelob. But it served its purpose, and we sat there inside our booth of conspicuousness watching the fat flies, too heavy to gain an altitude of more than three feet, and waiting for Gene Rayburn to turn our sound up. 

Pretty sad, now that I think about it....

-- And speaking of adult beverages, we were blown away by the low price of liquor down there. Sweet Maria. Here in the Tax Belt nothing is cheap, and we just couldn't believe our eyes. One afternoon we snuck off by ourselves, went to Sam's Club, and got ourselves prepared for the coming Bourbon Season. With Maker's Mark, boyee. Heck, when it's that cheap, just go for the good stuff. Right? Halloween night is just around the corner, and another Season will be underway.

-- Check out this cool as all hell Smoking Fish sighting. Brought to you, indirectly, by the Band of Brothers. What do they have up there now, an Applebee's?? Heh. As it should be.

-- Finally, I'm gonna hand the reigns over to the very talented Mr. J. Robert Metten, who will take us the rest of the way home.

And I'll see you folks tomorrow.

August 24, 2005

-- Mission accomplished. We made it to West Virginia and back without any problems. The Blazer behaved itself and performed in the manner expected, and we successfully navigated the 18-wheeler playground that is Interstate 81, both coming and going. 

The trip was fine, but a little bit frustrating. Fairly standard, I'm afraid.... I always go down there with a mental checklist of things I want to do, and it never quite works out.

It goes with the territory, I think. When visiting the parents you've got to remember to set aside large blocks of time for sitting around and eating pie, visiting with aunts and uncles and old family friends, and massive money-sucking kiddie activities. Somehow I always leave those items off the checklist, like the dumbass that I am.

Anyway, I'm not going to go into any great detail here, but below are a few highlights of our latest excursion. I took a bunch of pictures, but most of them are terrible. I'll share a few with ya, but I wouldn't be expecting much. I really wouldn't.

-- We stopped at our traditional stopping grounds in Maryland, at Rocky Gap State Park. It's a really pretty place, and is almost exactly the halfway point between here and my parent's house. It's become customary to take a breather there, expel fluids, have a sandwich and a few medallions o' lard, get the circulation moving in our legs again, and mentally prepare for the second half of the journey.

It's pretty much perfect, except for the gnats. And boy, are there some gnats in that place. In fact, we don't even call it Rocky Gap anymore, we call it Gnatstone State Park. The kids say, "Dad, how much farther to Gnatstone?" And I say, "Oh, about thirty miles." It's just what's it's called now.

And, living up to its unofficial name, I stood out there with a Mountain Dew and a ham sandwich on Thursday afternoon, and my face transformed into a friggin' theme park for pests. They were in my eyes, spelunking up my nose, buzzing inside my ears, racing up and down my neck.... The state of Maryland really needs to fly over that shit with a crop duster and bombard those little bastards with some good ol' chemicals. It's a shame to have a naturally beautiful spot like that, and not go the extra mile with some harsh pesticides. Ya know?

They also don't have trash cans there. Have you ever heard of such a thing? I hadn't. Not a trash can in the entire park, just signs that say, "Take your filth with you," or some such thing. Crazy. 

And the Secrets and I saw an old man pissing through the leg of his shorts in the bathroom. Again, something new. He didn't unbutton or unzip, he just lifted his left leg off the ground, balanced his knee against the wall, and peed right out the leg hole.

They do things a little differently down at Gnatstone.

-- My parent's VCR is upside-down. It's one of those things that make you worry a little. Are they starting to get old? I mean, their VCR is upside-down. The kids had to insert their Spiderman video with the sprockets facing up. A tad concerning....

-- My uncle told a story about a house across the street from his, that is only rented to gay men. He said that five or six black guys with shaved heads, each carrying a tiny dog, lived there for six months or so. One day he heard my aunt screaming, "Oh my god! Oh my god!!" and he came running to find all of them out in the street wearing pink satin shirts, doing a dance routine and sashaying about. They finally moved on after a supposed rival gang of "dancers" vandalized their cars in the dark of night.

One man took their place, and was heavily into gardening. He was reportedly in his yard for several hours every day. And over time my uncle started to notice a change in him. He told my aunt, and some of his friends, and they all laughed it off. But eventually the gardener turned into a full-blown woman. The landscaping project was started by a man in jeans and a t-shirt, and is now being maintained by a "big ugly woman" in a sun dress.

This is my hometown, by the way. In West Virginia.

-- One afternoon Toney and I slipped away and took in a movie. We rarely get to see films in theaters anymore, unless they're somehow associated with Nickelodeon or Pixar. But my parents took the kids to some sort of cash-suction facility, and we decided to escape the terrible, terrible heat by going to a movie. We saw The 40-Year-Old Virgin, and it was really funny. Needless to say, when we approached the ticket window I shouted, "Yes, two forty year old virgins, thank you very much!" And the teenage girl on the other side of the glass said, "Enjoy the show. And just the show!" Not sure what that meant, but I laughed anyway. Oh, and I give the theater six months. It's brand-new, with stadium seating and the whole nine yards -- and nobody was there on a broiling hot Saturday afternoon. I guarantee it'll be a craft mall the next time we're in town.

-- On Saturday morning we went to the Milton Flea Market! Damn straight, we did. It was just incredibly hot in there, like a blast furnace, and it wasn't a whole lot of fun. I don't mind those kinds of places in small doses, and with sensible temperatures, but this was just brutal. Here are some pics I snapped. I think they tell the story quite nicely.

-- And on Monday I went to lunch with Buck. We'd never met before, but had spoken on the phone a few days earlier. I'm generally not real comfortable in those sorts of situations; I always believe the other person is going to be disappointed. I'm pretty laid-back by nature, and think people are expecting Jim Carrey or something. But I wanted to meet him, and we went to a great Mexican restaurant that I didn't even know existed. The shit was good.

When we arrived there were two doucheketeers out front snapping photos of a Corona poster hanging in the window. Not sure why a person would crouch and spend time focusing his camera on a beer ad, like he was witnessing the raising of the flag at Iwo Jima, but whatever. We mocked them unmercifully and then inspected the poster to see if there was something scatological hidden in there somewhere. I was expecting to find a rigid phallus sticking out of the six-pack carton being carried by one of the bikini-clad women, but there was nothing. Apparently the two guys were just douchebags, and it was no more complicated than that.

We had lunch and laughed a lot, and Buck seemed like a really nice guy. I'm not sure he wants that fact exposed, but it's true.

After our meal I took the scenic route back to Charleston, where the Buck Company Car was parked. He put in a pinch of Copenhagen, and we drove past crack whores and whatnot on Charleston's west side. Beautiful country. He had me swing past the new ballpark in downtown, and it looks like a miniature version of Camden Yards. Crazy, man. Charleston looks pretty damn good these days (except for the haggy whore district). It's really making a comeback, it seems. The whole of downtown was pretty seedy for many years, but not anymore. I was glad to see it.

And I dropped Buck off at his truck, we shook hands, and that was that. I hope he wasn't too disappointed that I didn't jump up on the table during lunch and start talking like a German homosexual, like Robin Williams, or whatever. But what are you going to do?  I yam what I yam, pass the beer nuts.

-- I'll tell you some more about the trip tomorrow. I'm all out of time here. In the meantime, here's a picture of my parent's house. That's my Dad's new truck out front. He's pretty proud of it, and why not?! ...I'm sorry, I'm getting a little emotional here.

See ya tomorrow.

August 18, 2005

-- There's a woman at my job who has a freakishly small head. I sometimes joke about my tiny Duke head, but this lady makes me look like John Kerry, and that's no lie. She's very boisterous and often pokes her face into my office and hollers a load of ridiculousness. I look up from my soul-sucking spreadsheet, and think I'm seeing a levitating softball with a mouth, nose, and eyes painted on it. And I'm momentarily confused.

How does a noggin that size house all the necessary items? I've seen grapefruits bigger. Either it's fully packed-out, everything's scaled way down, or a few things are missing. And I wouldn't think any of those options are exactly ideal. Ya know?

But it seems to do the trick. I wouldn't go so far as to say this person is "normal," but fairly close, I think. I mean, she walks around and talks and stuff; everything apparently functions.

I thought you'd want to know.

-- I drove my Blazer to and from work yesterday, and didn't notice any difference. How am I to know that those people actually did anything, except run my debit card through their machine? Shouldn't I be able to go faster now, like when I buy a new pair of sneakers, or something like that? It felt exactly the same, the bastards. If I knew how to get my hood open I might take a look around in there. And then I'd show 'em! Oh well...

-- I came out of work the other day, jumped into my truck and grabbed my sunglasses off the console, just like every other day. But apparently they'd been baking for hours in the blazing sun. And when I clamped them to my face I felt immediate and searing pain at four strategic points on my head: above both ears, and on the east and west coasts of my nose. "Shit!" I screamed, and ripped the fiery hunk of metal away from eyes, and flung them into the floorboard. I still have a red circle on the west coast.

-- As I was cleaning out my Blazer last night, preparing for our trip, I found something kinda interesting packed deep underneath one of the seats. Check it out. At one time I believe it was a full-blown cotton candy, and now it's become blue concrete set around a paper cone. I ain't joking, you could club somebody over the head with that thing, and do some real damage. I'm fairly certain it's been jammed under there since we went to Knoebels about a month ago. Good stuff.

-- Check it out, Jimi Hendrix was the original Klinger!

-- I received an intriguing email last night. I don't want to talk about it yet, but let's just say it's along the same lines as the LA Times interview. And by that, I mean it has the power to make a grown man run to the bathroom, rip down his pants, and expel a powerful jet of crystal clear mountain spring ice water. I'll tell you all about it, of course, when the timing is appropriate. Wish me luck, my friends.

And that'll have to do it. We're all packed and ready to go. I'll try to update again next Wednesday. And hopefully I'll be able to tell you about my Lunch With Buck. We're gonna try to hook up tomorrow afternoon, and break white bread together. I feel like I know the guy, but have never met him. Stay tuned for that.

I'll have my laptop and will be checking email, so drop me a line if anything exciting happens. Send it to thewvsr(at) The regular address is a swirling cesspool of spamulation. 

See ya next week!

August 17, 2005

-- The readers of the Surf Report have spoken, and the rochester box, or serpentine belt, or whatever it is, is being replaced as I type this. Sixty-five more dollars down the proverbial shitter for yours truly. What am I, Ted Turner here?? The guy at the garage even tried to charge me forty-five bucks for labor, instead of twenty-nine, and we had a few words about that. He finally "remembered" our previous conversation, and the number he'd quoted me. But everything's a battle, I tell ya. Every little thing's a battle.

And that stupid Blazer is nickel and diming me to death.... It feels like I'm constantly pouring bushel baskets of cash into that shit. And I don't like that. There's a guy who drives around here in a massive elevated pickup truck with "Built with tools, not chopsticks" painted on the tailgate. But I believe I'll be returning to the land of the rising sun for my next vehicle, whether he likes it or not. I drove a Toyota pickup for six years, and all I had to do was keep the oil changed in it. This Chevy is killing me slowly. Pass the spicy mustard.

-- When I got home from work last night Toney asked me to read a paragraph in a flier she'd picked up, advertising an upcoming 10K run or some such thing. Here's what it said, with misspellings and erratic capitalizations left in for flavor:

The overall Male and Female will receive a Cash prize of $50 plus a trophy, also second and third place overall will reveice a trophy. The top 3 males and females in each age group will receive a medal. Master Award (40+) for first male and female. Special Clidesdale award for the first 200 lb. finisher.

Clydesdale Award?? Well that's excellent. Maybe next year they can add a Jigaboo Division?

-- She also alerted me to a really bizarre local story. Apparently a man was hit in the head by a falling tree branch, suffered severe headaches but sought no medical treatment, and was found a few days later in a ditch with a plastic sandwich bag packed deep in his trachea. Here's the story. After I finished chuckling, I asked Toney if she knew how the bag had gotten into his throat. She shrugged and said, "I think he was just having a sandwich, and things got out of hand." I almost did a spit-take.

And that's one of my biggest fears, to go out as a Fark link. Dear God, please don't let me go out as a Fark link. I swear I'll be good.

-- Toney was preparing to bake some Muffins For The Road last night, getting ready for our upcoming excursion to the Motherland, and saw that she was out of flour. (Nancy!) And you know what the means... Yes, I was forced to separate myself from the couch and go to the store. "It'll only cost you ten minutes and two bucks," she said. A half-hour later I returned with two big bags of, you know, goodies. I had Hershey's syrup, ice cream, an outsize sack of Herr's sour cream and onion chips, a jar of apple butter, a loaf of Italian bread, and a large box of Little Debbie Medallions of Lard. Oh, and the flour (which I almost forgot). Those stupid muffins cost me fourteen dollars.

-- My PS2 Intellivision disc arrived in yesterday's mail, and I played several games of Astrosmash last night after dinner. It was excellent. Everything is just as it was in 1981 -- except for the woman singing softly in French in the background. What in the honeybaked hell?! She's crooning, for reasons unknown, way off in the distance behind every game. Oh, the regular sound effects are still there, but they've added a European lounge singer to the mix. I don't get it. In fact, I'm not anywhere near getting it. But what can you expect for $4.22?

And that'll do it for today, kiddies. I'll try to post a short update in the morning, but I ain't promising anything. We're leaving for West Virginia tomorrow, so I'll have to see how it goes.

See ya.

August 16, 2005

-- A few days ago we were talking about toilet paper, and I missed an opportunity to tell a story. It must be the heat, the terrible terrible heat.... But there's always today, right?

When my brother and I were a couple of Jiffy Pop-haired youngsters our mother always took us to an ancient old dentist in Charleston who had, I believe, been her dentist since she was a little girl. I might not have it completely right, but I believe he was about ninety when we were going to him. And the elevator we had to ride up to his office had no door on it, just a scary-ass retractable metal cage, through which we could see the passing bricks and whatnot. Freaky.

Since I was the oldest, and the wimpiest, I always had to go to The Chair first. I'd go in there and grip the armrests, try to think about baseball, and do my best not to succumb to a full-blown freakout. The old man would drill and suction, and jab me with sharpened lengths of metal for no apparent reason. And he'd periodically stuff his entire hand inside my mouth.

This was the era before dentists started dressing in hazmat suits and motorcycle helmets. The guy would just waltz in there and drop his booger hooks right into my mouth. Sometimes I wondered if he might just b warming them? I'm sure he had poor circulation at his age.

And one day I got an idea....

After my torture session finally came to an end, I removed my bib-on-a-chain and wobbled back out to the waiting room. Then I pulled my brother aside and told him that the doc had gone into the bathroom while I was back there. And, I said, he'd opened the door a crack and asked the nurse for a new roll of toilet paper. I told him she had trouble finding a roll and he finally shouted, "Oh never mind, I'll just use this ONE LAST SQUARE!"

I did a very nice job of selling this complete fabrication of events, and after the nurse called my brother's name, and he was heading back to The Chair, his eyes were bugged out like Marty Feldman's. Good stuff.

-- I got an oil change in my Blazer Saturday morning and asked the guy to look it over, since we're leaving for West Virginia on Thursday. I should've known he'd find something. He says my serpentine belt is cracked, and suggests that it be replaced. Serpentine? What in god's name?! Sometimes I think these guys just make this shit up. "Um Mr. Kay, your Rochester box is pretty much shot, and if I were you...."

But he says it's cracked, and could last forever or might snap the next time I start it up. Then he added, "I'd hate for you to get stranded along the highway somewhere. Especially in this heat." Oh, he's good. Only a pro would know to throw in that part about the heat.

What do you folks think about this? Am I being scammed? It'll cost me thirty-two bucks for the part and twenty-nine for labor. And don't tell me I can put it on myself, because I can't. You may as well tell me to build a duck from scratch.

I'm leaving it in your hands; I'm tired of making decisions. Screw it.

-- Here are a couple of new Smoking Fish sightings, including one that's highly concerning. Holy crap!

-- This is a note from a wife to her husband. Probably written on a Saturday morning.

-- And this is excellent. A sharp-eyed reader has uncovered evidence that folks have apparently started warning each other when a high-horse pain in the ass is in their midst. Check it out. It warms my heart when I see communities pulling together like this, and looking out for each other's best interests. I'm sorry, I'm getting a little emotional here...

-- Be sure to check out Roger Ebert's snarky review of Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo. He's trying to tell us how unfunny it is, but includes this sentence:

Oh, and he goes to dinner with a woman with a laryngectomy, who sprays wine on him through her neck vent.

Kinda disproves his own theory, doesn't he? Shit, I'm laughing just thinking about it! Can't wait to see it!!

And I think that'll do it for today, my friends. I want to remind you that we are leaving for my parent's house early Thursday morning, serpentine replacement or no serpentine replacement, and tomorrow's update will be the last for a while. We'll be returning the middle of next week, and I might update again on Wednesday. Or it may be Thursday. We'll just see how it goes.

Also, I made a couple of minor changes to the second page of the site over the weekend. I added long-overdue links that take you directly to the latest columns from Buck and Metten.

And I removed Recommended Books, and replaced it with Friends of TheWVSR. This is a work in progress and I'm adding to it daily. Don't be shy about "recommending" sites for inclusion, but I'm gonna be pretty picky about it. I ain't linking to some stranger's blog about downhill skiing, and stuff like that. It's gotta be relevant, 'kay?

Oh, and I made a page called The Essentials (also a work in progress), where I attempt to list a bare minimum number of books, CDs, and DVDs I'd like to have in the bomb shelter with me after the Chinese bomb Scranton. For what it's worth.

More of this high entertainment tomorrow.


August 15, 2005

-- On Friday I got up at the normal ungodly early morning hour to write my update, cuss a lot, and then shove off for work. But it just wasn't coming together for me. After an hour or so in front of the computer I only had two pitiful little skinny paragraphs, and finally threw in the towel. My delusional plan was that I'd go to the office and maybe tap out a respectable update there (sometimes a change in venue helps), then race home for "lunch" and upload it in the afternoon.

But there's no leaving that place. Once you're there, you're there. I should know that by now, it's like the Hotel California, but I was engaging in some more of that hopeful estimating. I wrote the update, a little here and a little there, but wasn't able to get away. So I adjusted my plan, and told myself I'd upload it the moment I got home that evening.

And then the Bible-style thunderstorms hit. As I was leaving the building it was raining and lightning and thundering... Creeks were forming where no creeks had been before, rain was hammering down like we were in Atlanta again, and when I finally reached my truck and turned on the radio the Emergency Broadcasting System was broadcasting something other than a test(!). It's the end of the world as we know it, I told myself, and my underwear is all wet.

I drove home through sheets of rain with my windshield wipers on that hyper-setting that makes me nervous. I was supposed to swing by one of the 774 local pizzerias and pick up a couple of pies for dinner, and did so. But from there I couldn't get home. The roads were like rivers, and the main drag through town was closed. I could see cops out walking around in yellow rain slickers where I should be driving.

They funneled us onto a side street and through a residential neighborhood. Bumper to bumper. People were blowing their horns and hollering... it was full-on chaos. It took me about forty minutes to go two miles. Just me, our two pizzas, Tommy Stinson, and my turgid bladder.

When I finally reached the Compound the oldest Secret greeted me by saying, "You're going to be really mad." Man, if there's one phrase that'll get your brain to racing, it's that one. Instantly a thousand horrifying visions began galloping through my head. I'm going to be really mad?? I didn't even know what he was talking about yet, but was already getting worked up about it.

It wasn't as bad as I'd feared. The cable was out, and the DVR box was a prop. Oh, and we had no internet connection. But it was only a temporary problem, and surely we'd be back in bidness in an hour or so. Right? Hell, I thought somebody had spilled a Dr. Pepper into the tower of my computer or something. I could live without the internet for a few minutes; no bid deal. Whew!

And it never came back on. All evening we had no connection to the outside world. Toney called Adelphia and the guy told her that a telephone pole had been knocked down by some douchey doucheketeer during the storm (not sure of the exact wording), and it caused a widespread outage. (And the road closure, I realized.) They were working on it, he promised, but he couldn't estimate when service would be restored. Grrr...

I had no Netflix movies, so we popped in an Andy Griffith Show disc and made the best of it.

The next morning everything was still down, and I was starting to get really irritated. Why does it take so long?? This is 2005, dammit. Recovery time should be quick, really quick. We have the technology, and god knows the bastards aren't under-funded.

Around lunchtime I decided to give my buddies at Adelphia another call. Of course I was dumped immediately into Your Call Is Very Important To Us purgatory, and could feel my blood pressure rising. Every once in a while some loud-talking pre-recorded woman would come on the line and tell me I should watch sensitive television shows with my children, and then discuss the programs with them afterwards.

"Don't tell me how to raise my kids!" I hollered, "Just turn my cable back on!!" I was yelling so much that I didn't realize that an actual person had come on the line, and after I screamed, "I don't take child-rearing tips from utility companies!!" I heard a woman say, "Sir, can I help you?"

She had no new information for me, was sassy and attidudenal, and I could see black dots starting to form before my eyes. If I didn't settle down Toney would be singing the "Yankee Bean" song to me by evening. So we went out for a while.

We went to The Glider Diner in Scranton for lunch. It was good, but overpriced by about twenty-five percent. Nine dollars for four slices of roast beef and some mashed taters? Am I on Candid Camera?! It was mixture of pleasure and pain, and didn't really help things much.

Then we went to Target, I think, and some other such places. And when we finally arrived back home, around four o'clock, everything was still down. I couldn't believe it; almost 24 hours. But I realized I wasn't all that angry anymore. At some point you just say fuck-it, and accept things as they are. I'm not sure if that's good or bad. I can think of some good arguments for both sides of that deal.

Finally, at six o'clock or so, shit started to happen. It was a little like Dawn of the Dead, as the electronic corpses strewn about the house began to jerk back to life. Cable came back first, then the DVR box lit up, and finally I was back on the internet. It felt like Christmas morning! It all looked so bright and shiny, I nearly wept.

And I was able to upload the update I'd started early Friday morning. I don't think anyone read it, but I didn't care. I could breathe again.


August 13, 2005

-- With the help of our good friends at Netflix, Toney and I have been watching this great British documentary series. It started in 1964 with a made-for-TV film (Seven Up!) about fourteen "average" seven year old kids, from various backgrounds. They were interviewed about their hopes and dreams, and asked for their views on a host of subjects. And it turned out far more interesting than it sounds.

So interesting, in fact, the filmmakers decided to check back with the "kids" seven years later, for a progress report. And then seven years after that... and so on. It's a cool concept, expertly executed. By the end of the first movie you feel like you know these people, and want to find out how everything's working out for 'em. Which, lucky for us, isn't much of a problem, since it's all on the next disc.

The project is still going. too. Just yesterday I read that 49 Up is being readied for release by Christmas. 49!? Freaky, man. They were just seven Tuesday night.

We're only up to 21 thus far, but I'm gonna go out on a limb and recommend the whole series now. There’s no point in waiting, right?

-- Last night I ordered a Playstation 2 disc that supposedly contains about sixty vintage Intellivision games(!). It's still shrinkwrapped in the original packaging, and cost me $4.22. So I'm not expecting much. But, dammit, if all I get out of it is the opportunity to once again flop down and play a few games of Astrosmash... well, I'll be one happy fat man. I might even go out and buy a beanbag chair to complete the effect. And perhaps a string of Zotz.

-- The fifth season of Curb Your Enthusiasm kicks off on September 25, which is very good news indeed. I won’t even mind switching off the window unit for that baby. Also, it sounds like HBO is making some inroads with their campaign to convince David Chase to keep The Sopranos going for a little while longer. And that’s good news as well. Both shows are about as off-worthy as they come.

-- There’s a commercial running on local radio that claims there are 774 pizza restaurants listed in the Scranton phone book. I don’t know if that’s true, but have no reason to believe it isn’t. Because you can flat-out buy some pizza in this town; the place is simply lousy with pies. I’ve never seen anything like it before in my life. Bars and pizza: there’s one or the other on every corner -- almost literally. It’s the Disneyland of Fat. And that’s not a complaint.

-- Be careful when you click the link below, because it features, you know, tits. I’ve taken the liberty of naming it “Busted by Dad.” Get it? Busted?! Pretty good, huh? …Anyway, check it out, discreetly. 

I like the way Dad realizes what's going on, then suddenly decides it's very important he look out the window.

-- In yesterday’s comments section a few people reacted to this photo of Evel Knievel, with harrowing tales of assholery. For the record, I’ve heard the same things about him; from all accounts he’s a most unpleasant man.

And it got me to thinkin’…

What celebrities have you encountered in your life, who were a little less than friendly? Or it could just be a story you heard from a friend of a friend… whatever. This ain’t a court of law. Hearsay and unsubstantiated rumors are not only allowed, but encouraged!

Three examples jump immediately to my mind:

My father-in-law (aka Mumbles) was a 21 dealer at a large casino near Lake Tahoe in the 1960’s. I guess the place was frequently crawling with celebs, and many were assholes. But the biggest sphincter of them all, according to Mumbles? Yes, that’s correct, Desi Arnaz. He’d regularly be roaring drunk, I’m told, and treated everyone like crap. One time, Mumbles reports, Ricky Ricardo actually unzipped his pants right there in a crowd of people, pulled it out, and proceeded to piss on a roulette wheel. He swears it’s true, and I believe him. Lucy I’m home!

Shortly after our first Secret was born, back in ’96, Toney took him with her to a restaurant in Atlanta, and was having breakfast with a friend. This was Baker’s Café, in case you should care…. And seated a few tables away was Martha Stewart. The baby wasn’t crying, but was reportedly making “baby noises.” And Martha didn’t like that. She began looking in Toney’s direction, and sighing loudly. Finally she asked the waitress to “do something about it.” Toney left before anything ugly happened, but we both believe, sincerely, that Martha Stewart was plotting to kill our baby.

An ex-girlfriend, in North Carolina, lived next door to a guy with all sorts of physical problems. I’m not sure about the details, but he was a mess. Basically, and I say this with the utmost respect, he was a pile of meat in a wheelchair. He was also a huge REM fan. And my ex, being the nice person that she is, somehow wrangled a pair of tickets to one of their concerts, complete with backstage passes – and took him to the show. It was a dream come true! Backstage she was going around to all of the band members, asking them to sign a poster for her friend. And when she got to Pete Buck, he looked over at him, turned back to my girlfriend, and said, “What’s its name?”

Do you have any similar stories? Why not share ‘em with us in the comments? Because gossip is fun!

And that’ll do it for today, kiddies. Buck will take it from here. No, not Pete Buck… our Buck. Right chere.

See ya on Monday.

August 11, 2005

-- I had something kind of unusual and intriguing I wanted to bring up today, and now I can't remember what it was. It came to me as I was having coffee with Toney this morning, and I did a little mental "hell yeah!" Now it's gone, all gone. I blame it on The Fairly Oddparents.

The Secrets came downstairs as this golden idea was still in its gestation period, and turned on Nickelodeon. Instantly I was plunged into a world of animated chaos, and felt like I was on the cusp of one of those Japanese Pokemon seizures. Now I got nothing; my shit has been wiped clean.

Wonder if I have any legal recourse? Maybe a little class-action action? There's no telling how much damage that show has done, and continues to do. Something's gotta be done!

-- Since the weather in these parts is now coming the same way Sunshine uses the kitchen stove, either off or wide-open and nothing in between, I've added a third window unit air conditioner to the lineup.

This actually happened about a month ago, but I forgot to mention it, probably because of cartoons.

I picked it up at Sam's Club one day on a whim, and came straight home and "installed" it in the family room. It's a General Electric and is supposed to be super-quiet, which was a consideration since it's to be used in the Scrote Screening Area. The A/C we have in our bedroom roars and hisses, and clicks and clacks, and makes all sorts of strange noises. No way a man could follow the capture and prosecution of a whore-killer over all that racket. So I picked out a model that specifically bragged about its quietness.

And apparently they're all a bunch of unrepentant liars over at GE, because if that thing's quiet then I'm TV's Floyd Smoot. It's like trying to watch a movie on the back of a flatbed truck traveling down I-81.

At first we attempted to simply goose the volume, but that didn't work. I'd go upstairs to grab a bowl of salted peanuts in the shell, or whatever, and realize that our television could likely be heard by people in passing aircraft. You could actually feel it in your sternum, and I can't have that. The place was like an old folk's home.

So now we turn on the ridiculous contraption hours beforehand, cool things down, and flip it off as the TV comes on. It's not a perfect situation, to be sure. During the last half of a two-hour movie I'm often experiencing a little "personal moistness." Oh well. Better than nothing, I guess....

But I still wouldn't mind taking our realtor's purse and throwing it in a lake or something. No physical violence, mind you, just a little something to bring me some closure on the subject. That woman clearly missed her calling as a high-ranking executive at General Electric.

-- On a related note, about three weeks ago Toney called an outfit that installs "ductless" air conditioning. Since it would cost roughly a million dollars to have central air put into this house, we're now grasping at straws and/or European cooling systems. She left a message and nobody called back, which is a pretty standard Scranton response. And "screw those people!" is our stock reply.

But nearly a month after she left the message, a man called Toney on Monday and asked if he could come by right this minute. He poked around, and measured things, and scribbled stuff on a piece of paper. Then he scratched his chin and said he could install a unit that would cool the living room, dining room, and kitchen. It would also, he said, make the bedrooms upstairs "comfortable." And it would cost us $2100.

Not as bad as I'd imagined, but there are plenty of unanswered questions. Like, what about downstairs? That wasn't even mentioned. Would we need another unit for that part of the house? And how much would that shit cost?? Plus, I don't really like the way he was hedging his bets about the bedrooms. Because one man's comfortable is another man's Christ, it's hot!

So, if we're essentially cooling three rooms for $2100.... Well, that doesn't seem like such a good deal, does it? The whole thing just makes me sad and despondent.

Where's that purse?!

August 10, 2005

-- I have to be truthful: I'm very surprised that the Space Shuttle went up and came back down without anyone getting the Anakin treatment, or being blowed into a million Tart 'n' Tiny-sized pieces of meat. I mean, shit was falling off of that thing while it was sitting still, and when they launched it... well, didn't something vital wrench off and come to rest in the parking lot of a Publix? I may have some of the details a little mixed-up, but I think I'm essentially correct.

I hate to be a doom and gloomer, but there's simply no way I'd go up in one of those things. As far as I know it's 1970's technology. Right? And hell, I don't think I'd feel completely safe riding in a car that old, never mind being blasted into space in one. I imagine it would be like orbiting the earth in a '74 Plymouth Scamp. And I don't like that.

I'm glad it went well, but I think it's time to come up with something new. When you're in a zero-gravity situation and listening to the Grass Roots on 8-track, something's a little wrong, if you ask me.

-- Another Surf Report Rule of Thumb: At high school car washes the cute girls hold the signs, and the ugly girls scrub the tires. Am I right? ...Hello? Is this thing on?

-- I don't generally link to "wacky" news stories here, it's such a bloggy thing to do, but I'm making an exception for this one. Because it successfully passed through the ever-expanding Jeff Kay filter, and still seemed exceptionally fucked-up and funny on the other side. And that's a rarity, my friends, because I'm one jaded and burned-out mofo.

-- I was talking to Toney yesterday about my old record weasel days. Through a series of improbable events I landed a job in Atlanta, years ago, with a gigantic music distribution company. And suddenly I found myself jetting off to other cities for "meetings," and riding in limos, and eating in fancy-pants restaurants, and staying at hotels like the Helmsley Palace, and the whole ridiculous music biz nine yards.

I, of course, was your standard-issue hillbilly shitkicker, who, generally speaking, didn't know his ass from a concierge-by-the-wall. (They don't have such frivolities at Quality Inn.) Plus, I wasn't making any money whatsoever. So it was all just one great big, terrifying fraud.

Thankfully, I wasn't alone. All of us clodhoppers in the operations department were pretty much in over our heads, getting paid Dairy Queen wages, and just doing our best to fake it in front of the high rollers.

Sometimes it worked out, and sometimes it didn't.

I remember a colleague from Philadelphia attempting to order "kwessadillos" at a high-dollar Mexican "cantina" in Los Angeles, and everyone at the table just about swallowing their tongues simultaneously. 

And there were those excruciating moments when I'd be standing in front of a five-star restaurant in Atlanta, with the guy who signed Led Zeppelin or whatever, waiting for the valet to bring around my smoking Hyundai with the catastrophic oil leak. 

Good times.

One time we were in NYC and one of my counterparts was angling for a promotion. He was sucking up in a disgraceful manner, and putting on a big show. Needless to say, I was soaking up as much alcohol as I possibly could, and the guy's shenanigans were getting progressively more irritating as the evening wore on. We were at some criminally expensive restaurant, and made it all the way to dessert before I couldn't take it anymore.

This doucheketeer, who was attempting to act sophisticated and worldly for the benefit of the big shots, actually spoke this phrase: "Oh my, this tart is simply delightful." And I busted out laughing, right in the guy's face. "Who are you, David Niven?" I said, as everyone shifted uncomfortably in their seats. And I just kept shaking my head in amazement, way past the expiration date.

I figured I'd done myself some serious career damage with that mini-outburst, but six months later I was working at the home office in California, in the very position that the tart aficionado had been lobbying for.

And yeah, it sucked; it was the beginning of the worst four years of my life. But it was mighty sweet when the memo announcing my promotion went out. Mighty sweet indeed. In fact, I'd go so far as to say it was delightful.

And that'll do it for today, my friends. See ya tomorrow.

August 9, 2005

-- Jeff and Toney's Bed and Breakfast Inn and Old Country Saloon is now closed for the season, and will reopen during Bourbon Season, following some minor but much-needed emotional renovations. Thank you for your continued patronage. -The Management

It felt kinda strange coming home from work last night to calm and quiet, and not being gut-punched by a giant fist of garlic the moment I walked through the front door. But it was nice. We had an actual dinner, seated around a real table, and talked to each other and everything. Then we ate ice cream (Tin Roof Sundae!), I read the kids a few chapters from a Goosebumps book (Vampire Breath) before they konked out for the night, and Toney and I watched The Graduate in the family room -- a part of the house we'd almost forgotten about.

And I'm here to tell ya... it was high luxury. Throughout my ridiculous life I've had the good fortune of staying in some of the country's finest hotels, and none compared to last night, just chillin' in our own house with my nasty toes elevated.

God bless America, and pass the freakin' beer nuts.

-- I woke up a few days ago craving apple butter. And I don't know why. It's not like I eat the stuff, ever. I like it, but rarely think about it. Ya know? I mean, it's apple butter. And this is 2005.

But it was a powerful hankering, and I figured I'd better not fight it. You go around fighting hankerings, son, and you're just asking for trouble. So I added it to the grocery list that hangs on the refrigerator, later assured Toney that it was not a joke (dammit), and the next day I was standing in the kitchen spreading some of the stuff across two slices of toast.

And it was good. Oh, I've been flat-out eating it. Every morning I wake up and think, "Who am I? How did I get here?! ...Hey, we have apple butter!" And I'm off on another tangent. Within minutes I'm downstairs looking like the lead singer of The Cure, with the shit smeared all around my mouth.

It's the strangest thing. How does something like this happen, out of the blue? How does a person just suddenly desire obscure country condiments?? I remember a similar situation years ago with graham crackers; my family nearly had to perform an intervention during that one.

It's all so bizarre. Am I the only one? Have you ever found yourself under the spell of some strange craving that makes absolutely no logical sense? Please tell me I'm not alone.

-- A few people sent me links to Peggy Noonan's latest column yesterday. Very cool, check it out. She was one of Ronald Reagan's speech writers back in the day, and has now discovered the Mother Land. It's a great piece; I laughed out loud at the guy's guess as to why the La was dropped from La Fayette's name. Funny stuff. 

And I'll be there in just few days! Back home.

-- Speaking of West Virginia... the Smoking Fish must be doing a little advance scouting for us down there. Here's your evidence.

And I know this is short, but I'm tired of apologizing.

See ya tomorrow.

August 8, 2005

My brother is in town, and I'm severely limited on time this morning. Sorry, but I'm feeling one of those lame-ass Monday updates coming on.... I'll do what I can here, but I wouldn't be expecting too much, if I were you. Just a bit of friendly advice.

-- Nancy and the gang pulled away from the compound on Saturday with a dramatic broccoli-fart electric car horn beep, and hummed off into the sunset. And I must say, the visit wasn't too bad. In fact, it was fairly uneventful. Either things are getting a little less crazy in Nancyland, or I'm handling it a lot better. And who could've predicted either scenario?

I did wake up one morning to a hellacious crash that sounded like a china cabinet going over, and I cocked my ear for wild reaction-crying, or frantic screams of, "Oh my god! Somebody help me lift it off his head!!" But there was nothing, so I rolled back over and caught a few more winks.

When The Gang is in town, stuff that would normally cause you to leap four feet in the air and go running, elicits little more than a raised eyebrow. That morning I actually thought to myself, "Well, whatever turned over is already over, and there's nothing I can do about it now." Under regular circumstance I would've ripped down several sheets of drywall trying to get downstairs to see what terrible thing had just happened.

So I clearly make adjustments for wartime, but, to be honest, it really seemed a lot less insane than before. The kids are older and they play with our kids, and there's not nearly as much wailing and freakish warbling as in the old days.

One afternoon a violent thunderstorm rolled through, and the lights at work were flashing off and on. Rain was pounding against the roof, and the computer system eventually said fuck it. Rough stuff. I knew that everybody was out and about, so I called Toney's cell phone to make sure they were OK. And as soon as she hit the answer button I could hear something that sounded like a British ambulance. The hell?! Had a double-decker bus exploded in Dickson City?

Apparently they were in Target when the lights went out, and the oldest translucent launched into one of his "spells." When one kicks off he starts making the damnedest noises, and it goes on and on; there's simply no consoling him. But they were here for almost a week, and the Terrible Target Darkness episode was the only time he freaked. It used to be at least daily, if not more often.

And it helped (me) that I was at work, and could just hang up the phone. Which was exactly what I did. I told Toney to be careful, I heard a noise that closely resembled that of a dial-up modem attempting to connect to the internet, she promised she would, and: click!

When you can turn off the chaos with the push of a button, well... it just helps matters.

And, of course, they continuously (and I mean continuously) ate their look-at-me! foods, and regularly funked-up the house with the essence of their strange-smelling bathroom visits.

One day Nancy prepared her younglings a scrumptious lunch of cold tofu pups, slathered in mayonnaise, and wrapped in a tortilla. Mmmm! And a few hours later I heard a toilet flush, and seriously thought I could smell an electrical fire. I'm not joking, I was ready to gather everybody together, grab the photo albums, and climb out a window to safety. But then I realized that somebody had just taken another of their weird metallic dumps.

By the end of the week I found myself actually feeling nostalgic for good ol' Shit Classic.

Overall, though, it was an OK visit. There wasn't the usual condescension and snottiness that generally mark a Nancy fiesta, and that helps a lot. It's much easier to tolerate a little insanity when it's not accompanied by a couple of superior hyper-judgmental "tolerant" people with their "progressive" noses in the air.

So, I'd have to rate it as a pleasant surprise. Sorry about that.

-- My new laptop arrived on Friday, and if it hadn't this update would most likely not exist. My brother and his family are fast asleep downstairs, in the room next to the Surf Report database. I'm typing this at the dining room table. Spongebob is blasting in the living room, and the oldest Secret is eating waffles to my left. This baby is already paying dividends! The bunker is now wherever I hang my Brooklyn Dodgers hat. Thank you John Cougar Dellencamp, or whatever your name is.

-- Here's an email I received over the weekend:

Do you have an electronic copy of the instructions for Toss Across by Mattel?



Yeah, who the hell knows?

-- And here's another Smoking Fish sighting, this time featuring actual celebrities! Check it out.

And that's gonna do it for today, children. It didn't turn out as bad as I'd feared... 

More tomorrow.


August 5, 2005

-- In Pennsylvania they have a crazy-ass system for selling beer. Grocery stores can't sell it, and the same goes for most convenience stores. No, you've got to visit the dark and dusty, Soviet-style, state-sanctioned beer "distributors" for your brewskis in these parts.

There's no personality to these places, they're purely functional, like an H&R Block office with pallets of Stroh's. They can only sell it by the case, and there are all sorts of antiquated and bizarre rules about how much you can carry to your car at any one time, etc. It's regulations gone mad. But, of course, I deal with it. If I have to occasionally slip behind the iron curtain to secure my Yuenglings, then so be it.

But I was recently given a harsh lesson in Beer Economics 101 by our local distributors.

Since I've lived in this little town there have been two main beer stores, competing against each other. Competition is good, of course; it keeps the prices down. And that's the way it's worked. Between the two of them, I could pretty much count on being able to secure a case of the golden elixir for $13.95. But now all that's out the window.

Recently one of the distributors was gobbled up by the other, and a single person now owns both. So, say goodbye to all that healthy competition. And say hello to paying $16.95 for a case of Yuengling Lager. Day in and day out: $16.95. There are no sales, no specials, just the same high price all the time. It's nothing short of sickening.

And you thought Microsoft was bad? Ha! Somebody get me Alberto Gonzales on the phone, stat!!

-- Last Friday I watched part of Phil Hendrie's latest webcast, and his first "guest" was a member of the citizen's auxiliary police, from a small town in California. He was on to discuss a new initiative they'd kicked off, to try to stop men from going to the beach in mirrored sunglasses and checking out the underage girls in bikinis. He said that many of them are only there to "make a deposit in the spank bank," and he was going to do his best to stop it from happening in his community. Phil asked what he meant by "make a deposit in the spank bank," and he explained that the men are obviously storing away thoughts and memories for future use. And he later added, "Phil, you know as well as I do, the spank bank is open 24 hours!" Genius, I'm tellin' ya. Genius.

-- Here's another pic of a reader sporting a very fashionable Surf Report t-shirt. And this one's a high-concept photo, so be sure to check it out. Excellent! If you'd like one of these beauties for yourself, here's yer link. All sizes are in stock, and ready for quick shipping. I've even set up a rolling, mobile t-shirt distribution center in the back of my Blazer, while "the gang" is in town. So get to it, y'hear?

-- And here are a couple of new and very cool Smoking Fish sightings. I'm afraid of heights, and hate garlic with a white-hot passion, but the pictures are great nonetheless.

-- From the Stealing Clive Bull's Topics desk: Do you have any hang-ups about toilet paper? Like, do you have to have matching colors, or are you locked into a certain brand or consistency, or anything like that?

One caller said she goes to great lengths to make her "loo rolls" all but invisible in her bathroom, even going so far as to installing a recessed holder with drop-down lid. She also keeps her spare rolls inside a giant "doll" with a frilly dress. Clive told her he just buys a big multi-pack and stacks them up in the windowsill, and I believe she nearly fainted. After the call ended he accused the woman of not being able to get past the actual function of the paper, and of being ashamed that she actually required it.

He also touched on the scrunching vs. folding debate, how the perforations on two-ply sometimes gets out of sync, and how the ancient Romans supposedly used a sponge on a stick. One person said the term "getting the wrong end of the stick" came from that Roman thing, but who knows? Clive also had a laugh about the singer Lou Rawls, and how his name sounds like loo rolls. Good stuff.

And there was a very strange call from a man who claims that his wife eats toilet paper. Supposedly she has an odd nervous habit, and literally sits down with a fresh eight-pack of rectum ribbon every night after work, and starts gobbling it down. He said she takes the plastic off and puts it off to the right, and stacks the TP up on the left. Then she packs her mouth with the stuff, sucks on it for a while, then deposits the resulting globby mess into the plastic. He claims she usually goes through six rolls a day this way, and says the living room gets completely covered in dust by the time she's finished. She used to literally eat the stuff, but had to make an adjustment to the process after she got really sick.

Ever heard of that kind of weirdness before?? Sweet sainted mother of Lindsey Buckingham.

-- And I hate to do this, but my Eninen update will have to wait until Monday. I don't really have much, it's gone surprisingly well, but, of course, I do have a few things. I'll bring you up to date on Monday, I promise.

In the meantime, here's the latest from Metten. And I'm going to work.

Have a great weekend, boys and girls.

August 4, 2005

-- Yesterday I had the entire update written, and had just clicked on the save button when the electricity went out in our house. It only stayed dark for about fifteen seconds, but it was enough to flat-out ruin my day.

Laugh all you want, but I still use floppy discs like it's 1998, mostly because I'm comfortable with them. And this particular disc was pretty much full, and was taking a little time to save. When the power went out the process was apparently stopped in mid-stream, and all the stuff at the bottom of the document was lost. And that included Wednesday's update.

When I realized what had happened it was like a scene out of a thousand movies. I grasped both sides of my face, looked to the sky, and screamed, "Noooooo!!"

So, I'm going to attempt to recreate the update now, as best as I can. Sure, it pisses me off; it pisses me off real good. But what options do I have? I'm bent over the proverbial couch here.

This time I'm saving it straight to the hard drive, though....

-- On Saturday Toney and I were talking about how crazy the rest of the year is going to be. Eninen are here now, and my brother and his family are coming for a brief visit starting Sunday. The following week we're off to West Virginia for a few days at my parent's house, and then school cranks up again.

Toney and I are hoping we can take our annual anniversary trip to NYC in mid-September, and I believe my parents will be here for Christmas. I don't know what Thanksgiving will bring, but something, I'm sure. It's probably unreasonable, but we'd also like to take one last camping trip before the snow starts flying.

And woven into this rich tapestry is the fourth-quarter at my job, which is traditionally just one big extended ball-hammering.

Oh, I'm not bitching, mind you (except about the first and last items). I'm just sayin', the rest of 2005 promises to be a tad active.

And that was the justification I used to buy a laptop.

I've wanted one for a good while, but just couldn't work up the gonadial fortitude to pull the trigger on it. But if I had one, I told myself, I could write my updates anywhere, including the deck, the front seat of my truck, and the corner booth at Jim Dandy's bar, with tears streaming down my face. I wouldn't be tied to the bunker anymore, next door to the room where the guests sleep. Plus, we wouldn't have to search for public libraries when we travel, to check our email. It all makes perfect sense, right? Right??

So I logged onto the Dell website, and started poking around. I told myself not to think too much, because that's when everything goes to hell. Just find one, order it, and walk away. That was the plan: get in and get out, before the brain and central nervous system figure out what's going on.

They were having a lot of Back to School sales, and the prices seemed mighty inviting. I picked out a bare-bones model, perfect for my needs, and began the process of ordering it. They ran me through a manly gauntlet of optional items I could add to the tab, including magazine subscriptions(?), and I finally worked my way to the end.

Then my heart sank. The agreeable number on the first page had ballooned to something not agreeable at all. In fact, it was quite disagreeable. I realized I was starting to get cold feet. Stupid thinking....

There was a $150 mail-in rebate for one thing, and, god, how I hate those things. They're telling you, "We're going to advertise this shit at one price, sell it to you for a higher price, and hope you lose a receipt or a barcode, or screw up the paperwork somehow, so we can legally keep all the extra cash. That's right, we're betting on your stupidity and half-assery, and have found that, generally speaking, it's money in the bank. Have a nice day!"

They also wanted to charge me $55 for shipping, which is a high-flying ripoff. And $44 tax! I thought the internet was a tax-free zone? Did I just dream that? What the hell's going on here?? Is the governor of Pennsylvania running the internet now?

Anyway, the total was something that was making me sweat in unusual places, and I sat there with the cursor hovering over the Confirm Order button for far too long. And I finally X'd out of it, a complete basket case.

Dammit. And I really wanted the thing too. Far too much thinking took place in the final minutes of the game, something I'd tried to guard against. A very poor showing, very poor indeed. I hung my tiny Duke head in shame, and shotgunned five or six E.L. Fudges to help soothe my shattered nerves.

Then Nancy and the gang arrived on Monday, and Toney called me at work to provide a progress report. "They're still talking about buying that damn computer!" she said in an exasperated tone. I believe this is year number three of this particular debate, and it's enough to make a sane man douse himself in gasoline, and flick his Bic. You think I'm indecisive? Ha! I'm freakin' Harry S. Truman compared to these people.

I'm not joking. For two geniuses, they sure do walk around a lot of the time not knowing what to do next. Oh, they can discuss at length the socio-economic ramifications of the French Revolution as it pertains to the state of Mississippi (or whatever), but when it comes time to, say, order a pizza? Forget it. You may as well just flop down on the couch and turn on The Right Stuff DVD. 'Cause you'll have plenty of time to watch the movie, as well as many of the special features. It used to drive me right up to the cusp of insanity, but at this point? Pass the beer nuts.

Of course, it was hard not to tie together my pathetic weekend laptop episode, and Eninen's incessant computer waffling, and it was all I needed to hear. I'll be damned if I'm going to act like those two, and went straight to the Dell Outlet page and bought myself a laptop.

I got a lower price, no shipping, no rebates, and a free wireless upgrade, boyee! And the best part? It'll almost certainly be delivered while the gang is still in town. How sweet will that be? They've been agonizing and researching and soliciting advice on a new computer for years, and are still not quite ready to buy.

And I'll waltz in after work one day, all casual and cool, and say, "Oh, did my new laptop get here? Great!" Harry Fukkin Truman.

Ahhh, the power of spite and rubbing it in.... Great fun. But, at the same time, I'm really glad they're not still talking about buying a new car, because that was a big topic for months and months. If it were still the case, there might very well be a new Hummer sitting in the driveway right now. And after everyone left town, and I'd gotten a little sleep, I'd be out there looking at the ludicrous vehicle and thinking, "What in god's name have I done?!"

Yes, it's a dangerous game, this childishness. But I can't help thinking that it all worked in my favor this time 'round. 

So, nyaaahh!

-- And that's roughly Wednesday's update. A little long-winded and choppy, but a reasonable facsimile, I think. Of course, now there's no Thursday update, and I'll never get caught up.... 

More of this crapola tomorrow. Have a great day, folks.

August 2, 2005

-- I watched The Taking of Pelham One Two Three over the weekend. For some reason I'm a fan of 1970's crime movies, especially the ones set in New York City. I like the griminess, I think. I dig all the trash and boarded up buildings and hookers and jive-talking black men in ludicrous hats.... I visited NYC in the late '70's, when I was but an ugly teenager, and it was indeed an armpit. Yet, I liked it; it was an armpit I could warm to. Or something.

But there was another reason I watched it, a more personal one. You see, it's a semi-notorious flick in the annals of Kay history. Oh, I doubt anyone involved could remember the exact movie, or anything about it, even if you put a gun to their head. But I do. I was eleven when it came out, and I recall everything. (The pre-beer years are crystal clear.) I remember all the painful anguish and embarrassment, as if it happened yesterday.

As bizarre as it now seems, my parents and an aunt and uncle decided to take my grandmother to a movie. This would've been in 1974, and the whole premise makes me laugh. Because I can't remember my grandmother ever going to a movie. It's hard to explain, but she just wasn't the type. And the one they chose! The Taking of Pelham One Two Three. Good god, were they drunk?? I should've put on my counting cap before watching, because the thing gives Deadwood a run for the money in the dialog department. Just the thought of the five of them sitting in a theater watching it is both hilarious and surreal.

Indeed, it led to an excruciating evening of high embarrassment, and to weeks of head-shaking and various family members muttering, "When did they start making movies like that??" Again, you'd have to know the players to fully understand any this. But my Mom and Dad were clearly mortified that they'd witnessed such a fuck-laden spectacle in the presence of my grandmother, and my aunt and uncle couldn't stop talking about it either. They were all clearly scarred, and to an eleven year old kid... Why, this must be the greatest movie ever made!!

And it was pretty good. But, of course, I couldn't help from watching it through the eyes of my Dad, with my dear departed granny sitting beside me, and that was quite an interesting perspective. SquirmVision!

The next day I called my Dad and asked if he remembered anything about the episode, and all I heard was a sick moan coming over the line, as if he'd gotten into some bad mayonnaise. Even after thirty years he has a little trouble with it. We talked about how he wanted to dig a hole in the floor of that theater, and climb inside, then he laughed and said, "Wonder why we thought it would be a good idea to take her to a movie? She didn't go to movies!" Simply excellent.

The whole thing must've been like those old clench-triggering tampon and panty-liner commercials (anything to do with "freshness") when I was a kid, but extended out to 104 minutes.

Good times.

-- I checked the webstats this morning, like I do every morning, and just as predicted, the baseball voicemail is exploding. Our old friends at College Humor (a key player in the Neti Pot debacle) linked to it, and a few blogs followed suit. When I looked at it around 7 am there were more than 100 people on that page, at the same time. The stats only go up to 100, so the shit was maxed out. Thanks Bradley, for sharing it with us! I've listened to it more than ten times now, and laugh every time. A true classic.

-- And finally, the Eninen visit is going surprisingly well so far. I apologize, but it's true. They took us to Don Pablo's for dinner last night, and all the kids were well-behaved and everything. Nobody was milling about and eating food off the plates of strangers, or standing in the middle of the table singing the Canadian national anthem, or anything like that. Hey, I'm as shocked as you are....

BN left for a week in New York City this morning. He's going to be doing "research" there, whatever the hell that means. Sounds like a scam to me, but what do I know about it? He took off on a Greyhound bus, and has no lodging lined up whatsoever. All he has is a photocopied list of youth hostiles in NYC(!?). The man is pushing fifty, for god's sake. But whatever. If he wants to hang with Sid and Nancy, that's his business. (I'll just watch it on TV, thank you very much.) He called one place and the price was $126 for the entire week. In Manhattan! Heh. I'll keep you updated on this still-developing Nostrils in Hostiles situation. Should be good.

Oh, and their dog... He continuously, and I mean continuously, tries to mount Andy. When I tried to shove the sack o' ticks away from our poor beleaguered border collie last night, the thing tried to bite me! I'm not really a fan of any of it, if you want the truth. That prison-rape hound is very close to spending A Week on the Deck. Andy's a nervous wreck, and trying to keep his butthole to the wall.

See ya tomorrow.

August 1, 2005

-- It was a pretty laid-back weekend, thank you very much. So laid-back, in fact, I'm having some trouble remembering exactly what we did... Kinda scary, huh? I'll quickly hit the "highlights" below, and then clear out of here. I'm getting one of my patented late starts today, and don't exactly have an abundance of time. Also, Nancy and her brood are due to arrive today, and I'm feeling a powerful urge to put some distance between myself and this house, ASAP. I know, logically, that their tiny electric car won't be buzzing into town until this afternoon, but some kind of ancient survival instinct is kicking in. So, let's get to it, shall we?

-- On Friday we went to the farmer's market in Scranton and bought up a ton of vegetables. Contrary to popular belief, I love the veggies, and we got tomatoes, corn on the cob, cucumbers, and all sorts of goodness. Toney goes there quite often, but it was my first time; I'm usually working when they're open. And the place was absolutely crawling with seasoned citizens, many with oxygen canisters and/or battery-powered locomotive devices. Toney says the city of Scranton gives the oldsters a $25 gift card every month (or something along those lines), good for purchases at the market. And boy, they were out in large numbers on Friday. The cards must've just gone out.

We could barely walk through the place, and there was a sustained cacophony of loud beeping noises, as they'd slam their buggies into reverse and move away from the pole bean stand, or whatever. One tiny woman, who could probably stand in the middle of my palm, almost ran over our kids because she could barely see over the massive mound of produce piled up in her basket. And, of course, there was quite a bit of that "I've made it to this advanced age, and you will now cater to my assholery" attitude that usually pisses me right off.

But I was in a good mood on Friday, and nothing was fazing me. Not even the petrified Civil War veteran who kept reaching in front of me everywhere I went, and was flat-out asking for it. Yeah, all the ingredients for a gold-standard bitching session were in place, but they weren't having an impact. My brain chemicals were being my friend, for some reason, and I just walked around amongst the chaos, eating cinnamon donuts and smiling like a retard.

I wish I could manage it more often but, alas, the chemicals play by their own rules.

-- After the farmer's market we stopped at U-Haul, and I got one of our propane tanks filled. We've been having trouble with our grill, and I wanted to see if a different tank might do the trick

When we got home I hooked it up, and the damn thing still wouldn't light. I just don't understand it. I've messed around with it for weeks, and can't figure out the problem. When I hook up the tank, and turn on the gas, I can't even smell it. I wondered if there was some sort of pain-in-the-ass safety feature that I'd triggered without knowing it? Highly frustrating.

Grasping at straws (again), I started unscrewing the nozzle, and screwing it back on repeatedly, and suddenly there was propane funk in the air. Progress! I turned on both burners, hit the ignition button, and a full-on ball of fire erupted from the thing. It made a loud whooshing sound, and sucked up all the oxygen on the deck. It looked like a miniature Hiroshima out there, and I'm pretty sure my face went completely white. Scary shit.

But it was lit, for the first time in a month, and I kept it going for a half-hour or so to maybe clear out whatever blockage there might have been in the lines. Who the hell knows? Maybe it was spider eggs or something?

And that evening, when I was preparing to cook up some steaks, the piece of crap wouldn't light again. I messed around with it some more until I was finally able to coax another atomic blast, and we were off. But it can't be right, can it? Every time I start it up there shouldn't be a column of fire, visible from aircraft, should there? Also, one side of the thing cooks way hotter than the other, and I have to constantly move stuff around like I'm playing meat checkers, to even it all out. Not right, is it?

Yeah, I'm this close to just shoving the whole deal out to the curb and calling the city to come get it. I'm going to end up looking like Freddy Krueger before it's all over, I just know it.

I like charred animal flesh as much as the next guy, but I'm not prepared to die for it.

-- And this is one of the worst updates in the history of the internets... But I've gotta go. There's plenty more to tell, but it'll have to wait. Sorry. 

See ya tomorrow.

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