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A bowl of corn, motherfuckers.

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Is that an erection I smell?

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

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   The State of My Fat Ass                                 September 2003

September 30, 2003

Toney and I have started watching a show every night called House Hunters, on one of those terrible cable channels that send out camera crews to follow around "normal" people, and then package the footage into television shows. I think it comes on right before Shopping For Pants. It supposedly chronicles, in thirty minutes, the process of buying a house -- with an emphasis on locating the perfect property. As much as it pains me to admit this, it's fairly interesting. We like to crash open houses on weekends, at places we couldn't afford in a million years, so this show is right up our alley; it scratches a certain voyeuristic itch.

One thing, though... On almost every episode the buyer walks through a room in a prospective house, and announces, "Oh, this would be perfect for entertaining!"

Entertaining? Is that really something that people do? This baffles me. I don't believe I've entertained in my entire life. The word conjures up visions of people in uncomfortable clothing, selecting "delightful" little mounds of crapola off silver trays, and working hard at being charming. None of that has ever happened, by design, under any of our roofs. (Nancy and Nostrils act that way, but they're just dipshits.) I'm almost certain that we don't even own any trays.

Our house is a refuge away from the assholes, why willingly invite them inside? Once you start feeding the assholes, they're just going to keep coming back. Sure, we have friends, and they're welcome at any time (within reason). But when they arrive, nothing will happen that will even remotely bring to mind The Great Gatsby. It'll be more along the lines of Roseanne. If I remember, I might offer everyone a Coke, and then we'll hang out. Because, you see, we bought our current house based largely on its perfect hanging-out space. Oh, it's simply fabulous...

Occasionally Toney brings up the idea of inviting over some of her friends, and their husbands, for a cookout or a party of some sort. Is that entertaining? I would submit that it's the exact opposite. Just the thought of such a thing makes my bowels ripple. I wouldn't know these husbands (or their wives, for that matter), if they came to my front door and tried to sell me a raffle ticket.

Apparently one of them is a social worker. I'm not exactly sure what that means, but I have a feeling we wouldn't have much to talk about. I could be way off base, but I'm imagining Beavis and Butthead's "Men Have Feelings Too" guitar-strumming, water cress-munching school teacher. What would I say to somebody like that? Hey, did you hear about the man with five penises?

My theory is that the people on House Hunters are full of shit. They're just putting on a show for the camera, implying they enjoy the company of others, for effect. It's a concept far too bizarre to believe.


September 29, 2003

-- It's time to start watching baseball; the playoffs begin this week. I used to hate people who ignored the regular season and suddenly became big-time baseball fans, with foam fingers, as soon as the post-season began. Now I am one of those people. I doubt I watched three full games this season, and had only a casual knowledge of which teams were doing what. Oh, I knew the Tigers were having one of the worst seasons in the history of the game, but that's only because it's really fun to watch people fail. I checked their record several times per week, and it warmed my soul to see them eating a big shit sandwich, day after day. And I knew my Braves were having another great year, but what does it matter? They have a great year every year, then fly apart in the playoffs or World Series. No, now's when the excitement begins -- for me, anyway. ...And so continues my slow and steady metamorphosis into Everything I Hate.

-- Randy Newman is on tour, and I will almost certainly not catch any of the shows. Indeed, he's in my neck of the woods as I type this, and I'm sitting in my house wearing fat-boy pants, drinking Snapple. I have neither the disposable cash, nor the energy, to hit the road in search of musical nourishment. Randy's one of the faces on my personal Mount Rushmore of Deep-Dish Admiration, but our New York trip took the wind out of my sails. The timing is all off. If he'd only delayed the shows for a month or so... Sometimes I wish I were Catholic, so I could cleanse my soul, through confession, of my myriad sins. A priest would know what to do about skipping an entire Randy Newman tour, I'm sure of it.

-- Speaking of musical tours, Simon and Garfunkel are (for reasons that elude me) kicking off their world tour here. I wouldn't mind checking that out; I'm a big Paul Simon fan as well. He's a great songwriter, and if you don't believe me, pick up his first solo album, Paul Simon. The shit is genius. I was never much into S&G, what with their turtlenecks and singing like girls and all, but there's historical value to this tour. It's an event. And it also costs $87.50 per person to get in. Therefore, I will remain here in my fat-boy pants, with my Snapple, scratching my ass with a pen.

-- Toney was sick this weekend, and I did my best to be a good husband, going above and beyond the normal call of duty. Here's a snippet of a conversation we had Saturday night:

Toney: You've been really nice to me during all this...
Jeff: And this surprises you?
Toney: Yes.

Simply excellent. It ranks right up there with this classic exchange:

Toney: You know what we should make this weekend?
Jeff: Sweet, sweet love?
Toney: No, deviled eggs.

-- Yeah, you can say what you want, but at least I don't showboat my flatulence in front of her. I believe I deserve some credit there. Growing up, all the dads in the neighborhood (including the one at my house) routinely let fly with assplosions, right in front of their wives. I don't do that... I am the West Virginia Rosa Parks.

I remember being twelve or so, and over at a friend's house playing Stratego or something. This guy's dad was drinking beer with salt in it (what in the honeybaked hell??) and farting like a man entered in some sort of contest. His wife was sitting right there, during the whole performance. Periodically he'd tip over on the couch and let loose a majestic, prolonged trouser blast that would fill the room with the aroma of fresh-cut turds. It was like being inside a human ass. Eventually we gathered up the board, and retreated to a bedroom, closing the door behind us. Five minutes or so later the doorknob turned, the door opened a few inches, an ass encased in denim poked into the room, and it fired off a twenty-one second salute. Then the door slammed shut, and we were launched into hysterics, trying to both breathe and not breathe at the same time. I believe we eventually employed the bedspread as a makeshift filter.

Such fun and games are not for me. Some people make their marks by being the first in the family to go to college, or the first to break from the family business... I have chosen a different, equally noble, path.

-- I thought about addressing the unusually high concentration of criticism I've received lately. In just the past few days I've been called a racist, a homophobe, and a purveyor of "spooky" historical revisionism (Wow! I'm kinda proud of that one! ). I considered defending myself today, and clearing the air. But, to be quite truthful, I'm not really in the mood. I will say this much, though: thtop being tho thenthitive. Just thtop it!

-- Here are the punchlines of three of my favorite jokes:

"Rub it and it turns into a suitcase."

"That's what I was waiting for, a hot meal!"

"Same disease, better insurance."

-- Toney's been talking about buying a Subaru Forester, once her car finally eats the big Detroit shit sandwich. Hey, it's her decision, but I'm not really a fan; they have a faint whiff of hippie about them. Every one I see has at least one bumper sticker on the back with the Earth on it, and I wouldn't be surprised if the gas pedals are extra-wide to accommodate a Birkenstock sandal. Toney keeps stressing the safety value of the vehicle, but I don't know. I'm thinking about ramming a couple with my SUV, in a parking lot somewhere, to see how they hold up. I bet I can find a few parked outside the Simon and Garfunkel show. What do you think?

-- Speaking of S&G (again), it reminds me of a story... Years ago my brother was gambling at a dog track in West Virginia, when an announcement came over the loudspeaker. "May I have your attention please? If you are the owner of a blue Chevrolet Impala, tag number blah, blah, blah, please be advised that your car is.... running!" The whole place erupted in laughter. And, of course, it was my brother's car. He had apparently pulled into the parking lot, slammed it into PARK, and had just gotten out and walked away. When he went out to investigate, he said the car was sitting there, motor chugging, and Simon and Garfunkel's Greatest Hits blasting from the inside. He's lucky he even remembered to put it into PARK. He gets a bit preoccupied. I can imagine him pulling into a parking space, getting out, and the car just leaving without him noticing. "If you're the owner of a blue Chevrolet Impala, please be advised that your car is headed southbound on Interstate 64... without a driver!" You think I'm joking?

-- Two of the postcards I left lying around New York have come back. Since my scanner (as well as my printer) have suddenly stopped working, I can't show you the actual cards, but here's what the finders wrote:

1. Found on 53rd and Seventh Avenue in NYC. Mailed by Good Samaritan! (heart) KY

2. Hey, Just got off the 213 (??.. hard to read) train at 13th St. & 7th Ave in NYC - my cell phone broke so I went to call my cousin on his cell, on a pay phone, and found this card.

I'm a musician/singer/songwriter here in NYC, enjoying a fine day on the West Side, hanging by the river, about to play a show tonight.

I'm just living, loving, and being - that's all. Thanks for brightening my day, y'all.

Jeremiah Birnbaum (www.jeremiahbirnbaum.com)

How cool is that? I went to the guy's website, and played the sample songs there. Really fuckin' good! He has a bit of a Chris Stamey thing going, and you can't go wrong with that. Check 'em out.

-- And we'll round out today's festivities with the latest from our favorite Angry White Man -- and this is an especially good one. Take it away, Chris.

More of this quality entertainment tomorrow.

                           

September 26, 2003

There's a great song on the new Fountains of Wayne CD called "Bright Future In Sales," in which the narrator is a disinterested, under-performing office worker who drinks too much. He describes his life of half-assery in little episodes that span perhaps twenty years.  And the chorus that follows each never changes: "I've gotta get my shit together. I can't live like this forever..." The refrain is the same, year after year.

I'm thinking about suing. I like Fountains of Wayne but at no time did I give them permission to write a song about my life. This is an outrage! The man on the back of the phonebook may be receiving a call today.

The guy in my office has taken his campaign of aggravation to the next level and is now playing ESPN radio at a volume that precludes me from listening to anything at all. I don't think he appreciates my daily lineup of Boortz, 80's Alternative Radio, and Clive "The Bush-Hating British Liberal" Bull. He's always sneering at me, "What in the fuck are you listening to?" He doesn't seem to appreciate the subtle talents of, say, a Sonic Youth. I believe his tastes run more towards the Electric Light Orchestra. So he gets to the office before me and cranks up the ESPN. And starts eating apples.

Sports talk radio is perhaps the worst thing the human race has ever invented. There's a guy on there named Tony Kornholer or something, and he almost literally makes me crazy. Everything he says is in a belligerent tone of exasperation. He's the guy at every bar who's too loud and too boisterous. I have no doubt he wears muscle shirts and gold jewelry. I don't know the man personally, and yet I hate him. Why would anyone willingly listen to that shit? Seriously. He makes me want to drive staples into my neck.

It's all about to come to a head. A line has been drawn in the sand. This won't stand. Hard feelings are inevitable. I'm getting all wound-up about it. And this is my life... I'm a regular Thomas Jefferson, aren't I?

I can't even get the TV thing right. I made plans to add a few new programs to my lineup this year, but so far I've only gone back to the old favorites: Boston Public, Ed, Friends, and Raymond. I did watch Coupling last night, but that was only for mockery purposes. My intentions were not pure. I'm a creature of habit, and it makes me sick. My habits are for shit. I thought about watching CSI last night, but I just couldn't pull the trigger. Too unknown and murky, and requiring far too much work on my part. I got on the Internet instead.

I joked with Mark recently that there are only two creative things I ever get done: updating this retarded website, and adding things to my to-do list. I'm very consistent with both. Mark offered to publish my to-do list in the next issue of Crimewave, and I may take him up on it. The only problem with the list is that items only go on, they never come off. I have two or three half-finished projects in the works, and I beat myself up daily about not getting them done. Then I have a beer or two to push it all aside.

I've seriously gotta get my shit together. I can't live like this forever.

September 25, 2003

Here are a few more things about New York then, I swear, I'll shut up about it.

-- One thing I noticed, and bitched incessantly about, is that nowhere we went had adequate air conditioning. I'm not sure what that's about, but it seemed to be true. It was pretty hot this past weekend, and really humid, and my body expects a blast of machine-generated teeth-shattering cold upon entering a business under those circumstances. I didn't get it, and I wasn't happy. There was no escape, no oasis. I dobbed the sweat off my forehead in FAO Schwarz with a $200 stuffed unicorn, and felt shinier than James Brown for most of the visit. Is it the old buildings? The high ceilings? What's the deal? This is America, goddammit.

-- We saw a little kid crouched down behind a light pole in Times Square, pissing into a McDonald's cup, as his parents attempted to shield his white ass from the throngs. Classy. I won't even venture a guess as to what state they were visiting from.

-- The entire time we were in New York, I wasn't in my truck once. It was really nice. I parked it when we checked in, and didn't even see it until we were loading our luggage to leave. After a while I'd undoubtedly begin feeling confined and limited, but dreams of never having to drive again were leaping through my head. I'm not a character from a Springsteen song who views driving a car as a metaphor for the human condition, or whatever, it's just a necessary evil. It's something I've gotta do. Under the right circumstances, I could give it up for good. It's one of the more irritating and fuck & goddammit-triggering actions in my life.

-- There's a Coldstone Creamery in Times Square that we wanted to visit, but were always scared away by the long lines that often extended out the front door, and down the sidewalk. We still haven't experienced a Coldstone's. The one in West Virginia that's listed on their website wasn't yet open when we visited this summer, and now this. We could see it, but couldn't have it: very cruel. Every once in a while we'd see people walking around Times Square eating something from a Coldstone cup, and I'd get so jealous I'd have to concentrate to stop myself from slapping it out of their hands, and onto the sidewalk. If I can't enjoy it, nobody should be allowed to enjoy it. Is that dysfunctional?

-- New Yorkers seem to have a fascination with Indiana. Apparently it's their ideal of middle-America. A lot of restaurants offer simple and common meals with Indiana in the name, there's Heartland Brewery that sells Indiana-themed microbrews, and a place called Popcorn, Indiana. For whatever reason, whenever small-town, porch-sitting mom & pop, white picket fence USA is conjured in the mind of a New York native, it's located within the state of Indiana. Hey, it confuses me too.

-- We had a Curb Your Enthusiasm moment in a restaurant one evening, involving the tip. The stewardess, or whatever they're called, took our money, and shorted us 64 cents in change. I'm not clear if she just made a mistake, or thought she was rounding off in our favor. I believe it was the latter, but I'm just not sure. When it came time to leave the tip I didn't know whether to take the 64 cents into account, or pretend she'd given us an extra 36 cents as a favor. It was very confusing. I didn't want to over-tip her, since she really wasn't very good, but I didn't want her to think we'd stiffed her after she'd gone the extra mile for us with the change. See the dilemma? In the end I opted for sticking it to her. If she'd kept my iced tea full, the scales would've surely tipped in the other direction. It's a fact of life.

-- There are a lot of bug-eyed people in New York. I haven't developed a comprehensive theory on that one yet, but I'm working on it. I'll let you know.

-- The hotel where we stayed offered a free breakfast every morning, and they advertised it as a full-on "hot" meal, not just a basket of muffins and a bunch of bananas. That sounded pretty good. It would save us some bucks that we could later spend on beer. The first morning we went to the lobby and the place was absolutely crawling with loud and obnoxious tourists, probably from Indiana. When we submerged ourselves into the sea of fanny-pack sporting fatties I was nearly overcome by a thick miasma of various deodorants, body washes, soaps, and colognes. I nearly puked. It was all mixing together with the coffee and waffles to create a funk so thick, I literally couldn't handle it. Toney and I grabbed a cup of coffee and a muffin and went back upstairs to our room. I'll be damned if I'm eating a meal while huffing the musk-masking emollients of strangers.

-- I visited New York in the 1970s, with my family, and Times Square was a seething shithole then. Whores, junkies, burned-out storefronts, porno shops, degenerates... Now it's squeaky clean and a beehive of good ol' capitalist activity. I remember when Guiliani was kicking out all the riffraff, and he was called every name in the book, including "Nazi." (Never mind that the Nazis were socialists, that's just an inconvenient fact best ignored.) In any case, I sure hope that Nazi runs for president in 2008, because I'll gladly give him my vote. He's a man who actually gets things done, and some people hate him for it. ("Won't somebody please think of the whores?!") New York is now a place that makes you feel optimistic and excited. When you visit there you come away feeling that anything is possible. In the old days you just hoped you could dodge the tuberculosis bullet, and kept your hand on your wallet. You'd have to be seriously deluded to think it was better the old way.

And I think that'll do it for today, boys and girls. We'll end things with another dispatch from Buck, Straight From The Holler. Enjoy.

September 24, 2003

Instead of testing everyone (especially me) with a long, complex narrative about our New York trip, I'll just jot down some of the highlights, and show you a few slides, or whatever. These are not necessarily in chronological order, but then again they might be. I just don't know at this point. In any case, grab yourself a big can of Poppycock and an orange drink and enjoy our trip.

-- We had a really hard time getting there. We stayed in Sopranos country, in New Jersey by the Meadowlands. It took us less than two hours to get to the exit, but another hour to find the hotel -- even though Mapquest said it was something like .4 miles off the interstate. We kept getting sucked into traffic and being whisked way out into the middle of gigantic corn fields or some shit, and the tension inside our car was getting a tad ratcheted up. A few bad words may have been spoken.

I finally stopped at a convenience store and asked a cop there how to get to our final destination. He acted like he didn't hear me, and just as I was about to start over he launched into an animated set of directions that included much hand waving and eyebrow manipulation. The only problem was, I didn't understand a goddamn thing the man said. His accent was so thick I literally couldn't make out the words he was speaking. He sounded like Joey Buttafuco attempting an Edward G. Robinson impression. I thanked him for his help, and jumped back into the car, scratching my tiny Duke head.

But we finally made it, and here's the fabulous view from our room. Actually, the place was really nice, and now that I know it's hidden away deep inside a business park with no visible signage from the road, I hope we get the chance to stay there again. It's our little secret, and a perfect home base, located within walking distance of much food and alcoholic beverages served via oversized plastic pitchers. Ya gotta love it.

-- We dumped all our crap in our room and went outside to catch the commuter bus, which runs every ten minutes or so. Also a kick-ass set-up. The things are nice and clean and highly air conditioned, and the other riders seemed to be at least semi-normal. Nobody was wearing, say, a Quaker Oats box strapped to their head, or anything like that. And it took us to Port Authority, right down in the belly of the beast. No driving, no parking, no corn fields... it was great. I'll gladly leave the driving to a surly man born and raised in Mozambique. In fact, I will deem it an honor.

-- The first day and evening we just walked around Times Square and attempted to take it all in. It's not an easy task, though. There's so much going on everywhere, and so many flashing lights, the human brain has a tendency to periodically shut down, to save itself. We marveled at the more interesting sights, and pointed them out to each other. Both of us worry about looking like ugly-American tourists, so we kept it fairly low-key, attempting to appear bored with it all, while nearly shitting our collective pants in secret.

MTV was broadcasting their Total Request Live show, or whatever they call it. Some guy from The People's Court was interviewing shitkickers on the street, and talking to himself like a mental patient when the camera was off. A man dressed like Lawrence of Arabia was screaming into a Radio Shack microphone about the evils of the white man. Street vendors were everywhere, and people kept thrusting pamphlets advertising cheap suits into our hands. It was a magnificent cornucopia of fucked-upness. It's one of the best places ever.

-- We stopped for a beer at a famous old bar called Joe Allen, that our tourist book said is largely unchanged since the 1940s. The place was almost empty, and the bartender had the personality of drywall. We ordered two Anchor Steam drafts, and Mr. Fun barked, "Twelve dollars!" Ho-ly fuck! Six dollar drafts?! We're a long way from Scranton. We sat there and sipped our liquid gold and soaked up the old world atmosphere. Pretty cool, but nothing overly outstanding. Two men beside me at the bar greeted another man who came through the door by kissing him on the lips and hugging him and rubbing his back. They all attempted to order something with the word "citron" in it, and were each told that they only have Absolut Citron. By the time they were halfway through their settled-on cocktails and squealing like schoolgirls, we were out the door. I was experiencing a mild case of cultural discomfort.

-- We had dinner at a place called Burritoville, beside a Muslim cleric or some shit, and it was really, really good. We were hoping it would be something like Tortillas in Atlanta, and it was. It brought back memories of a simpler time. The only thing missing was the Dead Kennedys at ear-shattering volume, and a parade of puking crack whores.

-- The next day was a blur. We walked so much I was worried my left heel had actually detached from my foot. We hoofed it as far south as 33rd Street, and as far north as 74th -- with a lot of criss-crossing in between. We had coffee in a cool little coffee house, and sat on a balcony overlooking the street. We saw a $4800 life-sized stuffed buffalo at FAO Schwarz, complete with huge felt livestock penis (with hair). We checked our email at a Yahoo kiosk in Times Square, and saw that Mark Maynard had once again called me a "motherfucker" for some transgression or other.

We had ham sandwiches at the Bloomingdales cafeteria (we like to do as the locals do), and spent a big chunk of time in Central Park. The weather was perfect and the park was crowded with people eager to take advantage of the last few warm days before winter. Toney mentioned that she wasn't used to seeing attractive people, and I thanked her for that. We went into St Patrick's Cathedral, and it appeared they were putting on a play of some sort. Two men were on stage arguing with each other, and the people in the audience were flicking water around and lighting candles. I was very confused, but Toney informed me it was mass. Scary.

We went to the Empire State Building with the intentions of going up to the observatory, but the place was packed with people in turbans and full African tribal dress. We had to go through high security and they x-rayed our bags. We were then informed that it would be at least an hour wait, and it would cost us ten bucks a piece to go up in their fancy elevator. Fuck that, I nearly hollered, let's drink. And we went under the ropes and left the place. Outside Toney stepped into a manhole that was about five inches lower than the street and nearly plunged her head beneath a moving cab. All the stuff she was carrying went flying, and a schoolteacher from Wisconsin or whatever came over to help us. Very exciting.

We had dinner at a joint we'd highlighted in our book, called Prime Burger. They had old-fashioned school desks out front, but we were ushered to the back where the fat-people tables were located. I was convinced they wouldn't let us sit in the desks because they thought I wouldn't fit, and had a bad attitude the rest of our time there. The food was mediocre at best, all the walking had me crippled up like a polio victim, and I was starting to bitch a bit. So we found ourselves a bar.

It was called Heartland Brewery, or something along those lines. The bartender looked like John Stamos and when he saw us approaching, he actually turned his back on us. He acted like he was screwing around with something beside the cash register, and when he realized we weren't going to leave, he sighed and took our order. The fucker. I gave him a load of attitude, flinging money on the bar and whatnot, and he gave me the evil eye the entire time we drank there. We each had three of his over-priced microbrews, and he didn't get a nickel beyond the price of the beers. I think it was the first time in my life I stiffed a bartender on a tip; I'm a very good tipper. What's the story with New York beer-servers? I felt like punching every one I came into contact with. The arrogant fucks.

-- We headed back to our room before dark. Both of us were in severe anguish from all the walking and Empire State Building body-surfing and stuff, and I felt like I'd been buttered and breaded. I would've gladly paid twenty dollars for a wet and clean wash cloth at that point. So we jumped back on our bus, went back to the room, showered, drank beer, and watched TV. I had (and still have) a blister on my right foot, the size of Susan B. Anthony dollar. I tried to get Toney to feel how hard it was, but she wouldn't do it. Eventually I took it too far and she got pissed.

-- On Sunday we bought bus passes, and I was bent over like an old woman who'd never drank a glass of milk in her entire life. We spent the day walking around Greenwich Village, checking out the Strand bookstore, and visiting the South Street Seaport. It was fun, but we were both about spent. The excitement of the previous two days had now been beaten out of us.

At one point I sat down on the (city) bus and put my hand in huge gob of snot. I shrieked like a woman and held my arm up. Snot and boogers lined my forearm, and Toney put her hand over her mouth in an attempt to suppress the vomit that was coming up on her. I cleaned up with Kleenex from Toney's purse, but I was convinced hepatitis was working its way into my system. When we got off that bus in Greenwich Village a black woman with a Quaker Oats box strapped to her head walked past us, singing an old-time Negroid spiritual or something. Here's a photo, if you don't believe me.

In the Village (I am so cosmopolitan!) we had kick-ass pastries at a tiny bakery, a great lunch at Sammy's Noodle Shop, and saw a massive line of people snaking down and around an entire city block. I asked a cop what all the hubbub was about and he said that Paul "Walshowitz," the under-secretary of defense, was giving a speech. He meant Paul Wolfowitz, and here's an article about it from the NY Times. Toney and I walked around the neighborhood and checked out the cool old brownstones there, and wondered how much they would cost to buy. We later found out: millions. Toney saw a single apartment -- 648 square feet -- listed in the Times for $580,000! Simply mind-boggling. How do Ross and Rachel and all those people afford such big places?

-- While we were there we also saw this guy, this guy, and this guy. And we saw a man trying to hail a cab, and a group of teenagers rode past on bikes and high-fived him while his arm was in the air. I thought that was pretty funny. And we made fun of a group of pretentious theater-hopping snobs in the Manhattan Chili Company, by saying stuff like, "Oh, do you remember Tayback in the King in I? Simply fabulous!!" We were talking really loud, but I don't think they ever figured out what we were doing. I think we just sounded like everybody else.

-- Before we left Scranton I had some postcards printed up with the following on them:

Congratulations! You've found a West Virginia Surf Report message without a bottle. Only a very few were cast out to sea, and you've found one, you lucky freak. Please now take a couple of minutes to jot down a few lines about yourself, where you're from, what in God's name you think you're doing, etc. and mail it back to us. We'll then share it with the sophisticated readers of TheWVSR.com. Seriously. No shit. Straight up.

I self-addressed and stamped twenty of them and left them lying around Manhattan, in coffee shops and bars. We'll see what happens. If anything comes back, you'll be the first to know. I also littered New York with Surf Report business cards, in hopes that Larry David will find one somewhere, and take us far away from this lackluster life we're leading.

-- Here are some random photos from the trip, and a few new Smoking Fish sightings as well.

I hope you've had fun on our little trip to New York. There's a bunch of other stuff, of course, and I'll probably tell you about it later. But today I'm kinda burned out on the subject, to be perfectly frank. I'll leave you now with the first installment of Chris's new column, Rants From The Angry White Guy. Enjoy.

September 18, 2003

-- We're out of here tomorrow morning, for our slightly delayed ten year anniversary trip to New York. Originally we were planning to go to London, but that didn't pan out. It's just another in a long line of great ideas we didn't follow through on. But New York City isn't a bad compromise. People talk funny there too.

Through an employee-benefits program at my job I was able to reserve a hotel room in that high-dollar city for about what you'd expect to pay at a Red Roof Inn in Spartanburg, SC. (Big Business rocks!) We've got a little spending money squirreled away, and no real clear idea of what the hell we're doing. We bought a guide book, but it's so overwhelming I barely even looked at it; it made me too upset. There are two or three things I want to do on every page. I'd just rather not know.

The plan is to spend tomorrow in and around Times Square, then, over beers at the end of the day choose a couple more neighborhoods to explore the following day. Rinse. Repeat. Every night we'll just put our drunken finger on the map, and pick a neighborhood. That's as structured as it's going to get. It's a method that's worked well for us in the past.

Of course, we're apparently driving directly into the eye of a hurricane, so that's a tad troublesome. My boss is giving me a little attitude for leaving, as well. And yesterday morning both Toney and I woke up with bad colds, which I blame directly on the mosquitoes. (I'm feeling a bit juicy today. My mucus membranes are going gangbusters, cranking out its product like it's a matter of national defense -- especially through the left hole.) But we're going, goddammit. We're going.

Wish us luck. I don't know what to expect.

-- Speaking of work, I had to fill out a ridiculous "self-appraisal" form this week at my job. Six pages long, and an essay at the end -- it took two hours to complete. It's another ludicrous touchy-feely load of crapola that some human resources manager picked up at a crapola convention in Vegas, or somewhere horrible. It started with the diversity training, sexual harassment seminars, and the alphabetizing of everyone's name on the phone lists using their FIRST NAMES. Now we're writing our own yearly reviews!? Ha! What is this, Canada? I felt like listing one of my goals for the coming year as: to develop a better attitude towards all the bullshit. But I thought better of it.

The best part was a sample Job Description my boss sent me, to be used as a guide for the terminology they were looking for. It was for a position very similar to mine, at a different facility. For physical requirements it listed sitting, standing, talking, walking, and finger-manipulation. That made me laugh. They forgot pissing, scratching, and Baby Ruth-eating. And for physical hazards it cited fax machines, copiers, and telephones. Yeah, you never know when a fax machine might blow up, or burst into flames. And I doubt many of us have forgotten the first time we witnessed a co-worker being sucked into a Xerox machine. Lord knows I haven't. RIP Donna... The cardboard cross is still attached to the toner box.

-- Nancy is having a baby shower this weekend. She's pregnant with her third child, which I predict will be named Swiffer. She and Nostrils like to name their kids based on where they were conceived, and this one was reportedly set into motion on the kitchen floor. Sunshine tells us that this "shower" is actually a lesbian sleepover in a secluded mountain cabin. I'm not embellishing, that's exactly what she said. It's a slumber party of sorts, and most of those attending will be gay women. Hey, whatever. It has all the makings of an interesting evening, the likes of which I haven't seen since we got rid of Cinemax. But the part that really got me was when Nancy requested that all gifts should be for her, not the baby. She has too much of that baby stuff, she says, so please just think of her. Balls: she hates 'em, and yet she's got 'em.

-- Check this out, my friend Eugene, the Pride of Greensboro Radio (WKRR and Rock 92, baby!), mentioned the Surf Report on the air earlier this week. This is from Rock 92, the big classic rock station there. Apparently my material is now being used to segue between Bob Seger tracks, and I couldn't be more proud. He promises more in the future. Thanks, E!

-- And here's a reminder that you should always check the small print on every sales offer, even if it's hanging on the bulletin board at your local laundromat.

-- Here's a handy guide for driving in Turkey. About a third of the way into it, I realized that it can also be used for Scranton. If you're planning a trip through northeastern Pennsylvania (or Turkey) you would be well-served to print this thing out in advance, and study it. Seriously.

-- Since tomorrow is National Talk Like A Pirate Day, it reminded me of a story. Go figure...

When I was a kid my parents had an "insurance man." I'm not sure why. I'm forty years old and I've never had one, but back in the day a humorless man wearing a suit and carrying a briefcase would periodically show up at our door. He was our insurance man. Maybe I should ask my parents about this? What did this guy do for them, anyway? What is an insurance man?? And why did he need to stop by so often? But I'm getting off track here...

This besuited official had a metal hook for a right hand, probably the result of an unfortunate copy machine accident, and my mother reportedly had a hell of a time keeping me and my brother in line while he was sitting at our kitchen table, insurancing or whatever he did. We'd stand off at a distance and stare, mesmerized by the way he shuffled papers with his hook, and wrote notes, and everything. After he left we'd pepper her with a thousand questions, like, "How does he wipe his butt?!"

One day he showed up and rang our doorbell with his shiny clip-on hand, and my brother answered the door. When he saw who it was he turned and yelled, "Mommy, Captain Hook is here!!" My mother was in a different part of the house and when she heard this she said the blood drained out of her face, and she spent the next half-hour apologizing over and over. I have no doubt that he used the occasion to sell her a new policy that day, probably earthquake insurance, or something to protect against the effects of guerilla warfare in Dunbar, WV. If he didn't he was one hook-handed fool. That's for sure.

-- Finally, here's the latest from Buck, straight from the holler. I had no idea Playboy was planning a Ladies of Wal-Mart spread! That's awesome. I'm picturing a group of plump ladies with expressions of white-hot sexual hunger, clutching pricing guns behind boxes of coincidentally-located Fiddle Faddle. I simply can't wait.

And that's it, boys and girls. No more updates until next Wednesday. Be strong. And have fun.

September 17, 2003

I'm not long for this world. I got bit by a mosquito last night, after mowing the grass. Yes, that's correct, after mowing the grass. I was sitting in the living room, sweaty and watching Raymond, when a nasty-ass bloodsucker swooped down and landed on my right knee, then proceeded to plunge its filthy needle deep into my flesh, as I froze in a momentary state or paralysis. It was as if time stood still and I was physically unable to act; I sat and watched the entire procedure take place. And all this happened in front of Raymond, inside the house, after I'd been outside for an hour.

Once the evil prehistoric beast had drank its fill from my bloodstream, and replaced it with God knows what, I leaped from the chair, slinging water and slapping my thighs like a mental patient, or an extra on Hee Haw. I don't know what happened to the insect, but almost immediately a large skin biscuit began forming above my knee cap, and visions of Congo sickness flashed through my brain. Within five minutes it appeared that I had a single vanilla wafer just below the skin's surface. When I was a kid a mosquito bite looked like a zit, but now they're like something from the bakery. It's yet another thing I don't understand. Are the mosquitoes mutating?! Shit.

Just last week, or the week before, Toney read me a newspaper article about a dead bird they found in our little town that was saturated and sopping with West Nile Virus. I'm not sure they used that exact phrase, but you get the point. Our town is small, maybe four thousand people, and there's a freaky-ass foreign sickness flying around amongst us, fresh from the River Nile. The chance of catching it is far greater than hitting the Powerball. How do I know it's not coursing through my veins right now, preparing to shut my shit down?

The website for the Center for Disease Control lists the symptoms of severe West Nile Virus as headache, high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, and paralysis. That's like a normal day for me. I'll mark half those off by lunch. I won't know until it's too late, and I'm delirious and running through the house naked, convinced a stain on the carpet is my partially decomposed fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Hill, returned from the grave.

My dad likes to talk about one his neighbors who is terrified of West Nile. Apparently he slathers on layer after layer of insect repellant, wears long sleeve shirts buttoned all the way up even on the hottest days, and won't leave the house after the sun goes down. He's all the time launching into wild slapping and smacking frenzies, whipping around in circles and shit, then proclaiming with exasperation, "they were all over me!" One day this guy was at my parent's house, lost track of time and allowed it to get dark outside. This is no joke, he then asked my dad to drive him home -- roughly a hundred yards down the street. It was just too risky out there.

Yes, the paranoid neighbor is a source of high amusement for my father and uncle, but wonder who will have the last laugh? Hmm? It's been nice knowing you all. Please scatter my ashes on the grounds of the Yuengling Brewery.

September 16, 2003

Buck mentioned recently that he's reading Jerry West's autobiography, Mr. Clutch. Jerry West is, of course, the basketball legend who played for the Los Angeles Lakers and was later their highly-successful general manager. He's also a native of West Virginia, and is practically a god there. If they ever re-create Mount Rushmore in my home state, it will include the gigantic rock heads of Jerry West, Chuck Yeager, Don Knotts, and Soupy Sales. These are our greatest exports. Mary Lou Retton gets left off because she's too damn annoying, and don't even get me started on Robert Byrd, that shaking and quivering ascot-wearing former night-riding Klansman.

I met Jerry West once, when I was a kid. He was still playing for the Lakers, and was in Charleston signing autographs on the roof of one of the big banks downtown. I have no idea why he was on a roof, but that's where he was. My mother took me and my brother up there to meet him, and we stood in line for a long time. When we were finally allowed to approach the throne, he wasn't very friendly. He wasn't openly hostile, but bad vibes rolled off him. And the pictures he "signed" had his signature already printed; he'd just add the To Jeff or To Hogjaw, or whatever. Wotta ripoff.

I was really disappointed, because the great Jerry West seemed to be a bit of an asshole. I was just a little kid but I remember thinking that he didn't appreciate the state anymore, and wished he didn't have to mix with the riff-raff like that. He'd outgrown us and now viewed us as distasteful, or whatever. I may have been wrong, but that's what I thought. We West Virginians are very sensitive to that sort of thing, and I never forgot. Obviously.

But, as bad as it was, it wasn't my worst childhood autograph experience -- by a long shot.

We had a AAA minor league baseball team in town when I was a Jiffy-Pop haired youngster (the mighty Charleston Charlies), and former major leaguers were constantly making appearances at the stadium. I got to meet some of the greats, and most were surly and angry. 

But there are degrees of surliness...

Pete Rose was a lot like Jerry West, fulfilling a contractual obligation and not even attempting to hide his distaste for all us bucktoothed shitkickers. Mickey Mantle was almost certainly drunk, and showed up hours late. Willie Mays screamed at adoring school kids to get out of his face. Sparky Anderson looked at me like I was wearing a suit of turds, and held my pen gingerly as if he believed I'd been storing it in my underwear all day.

But the worst of all was Hank Aaron. The guy was fat and mean and chain-smoking. He also did a lot of yelling, and ignoring. I never saw him willingly sign a single autograph and would just barrel through groups of kids. My friend Steve and I asked him to sign something and he sneered at us:  he was trying to watch the game. His equally rotund brother Tommie was managing the opposing team, and I guess Hank was pretending to be interested. Whatever. He just sat there, the homerun king, smoking one cigarette after the next, fat and angry.

At one point a woman rolled up a kid in a wheelchair, and set the brake. I swear it's true. The poor guy was just a torso, with a head leaning off to one side. The woman had a crude painting of Aaron that I guessed the kid had painted, perhaps with the use of a brush mounted to some sort of face harness. When she approached the "great" man, he snapped at her and began yelling, nostrils a-flaring. She started backing up, frightened and surprised. When he saw the kid in the wheelchair he reluctantly snatched the painting and signed it, then shoved it back at her.

After that he stood up and signaled his entourage to follow him, and disappeared up the steps, into the press box. He had a posse like Prince, and they all blew past the kid in the wheelchair like he was a bag of garbage. I have no doubt the kid had tears streaming down his face at this point. Later I looked up at the press box and could see "The Hammer" in the window, behind a cloud of cigarette smoke, scowling and frowning, far above the cripples and hillbillies. One great guy.

Bob Feller and Satchel Paige were the only ones I remember having positive attitudes, the rest were mostly shitheads. But Aaron not only holds the record for lifetime homeruns, he also holds the record, as far as I know, for being the biggest asshole in all of sport.

His autobiography should be titled: Home Runs, Menthol, and Crying Torsos: The Henry Aaron Story

Ahem. 

It was touch and go there for a while, but Chris is back, with a new rant. And here 'tis.

And tomorrow I will bring the love again.

September 15, 2003

-- I don't have much to report today. We indulged in a little Dullness Therapy this weekend, and did a lot of hanging around and cleaning and that sort of thing. It was excruciating, but necessary. I did spend a wheelbarrow full of cash on Saturday, which I'm still stressed-out about, but it was for nothing exciting. Two new tires for my Blazer, a couple of shirts, jeans (check out all the shit I plucked off a single pair of Levis), a pair of extra-wide tennis shoes (last year's model) off the clearance table at the Finish Line... My man-nipples are erect just recalling the excitement. At the end of the day I sat on the couch in our family room and added it all up in my head, and felt a panic vibrate through my soul. It pisses me off that normal life is so high-maintenance and costly. But then I remembered John Ritter, and realized that my aorta is still attached to my heart... so who am I to complain?

-- I finally picked up the new Kings of Leon CD on Saturday, for a mere $7.99 at the local hipster indie store. And you people dissed me for saying $11.99 was too much to pay? Ha! I'm almost like a gay man in my ability to lie in wait for a bargain. Sometimes it worries me, if you want to know the truth...

-- Our New York City trip is set to begin on Friday, right around the same time the biggest hurricane in all of man's recorded history is scheduled to slam into the northeastern seaboard. Excellent. We'll probably be decapitated by Donald Trump's runaway wig, or lose our eyesight in a storm of Rolex knock-offs and Matrix Reloaded bootlegs. I'll likely come home with one of those Rush Limbaugh listening devices embedded in my skull, without needing it. But, by God, we're going. No pussified Class 5 ocean storm is going to stop our vacation. We've been planning this thing all summer; everything has pointed to this. We're going, goddammit.

-- Speaking of the Storm of the Century, I heard a woman on a radio show last night say that it's not really that bad of a hurricane, but it's being hyped by the Bush administration to help jump-start the economy. Makes sense. People on the coast of Virginia are probably buying a lot of bottled water and batteries and stuff, and that will undoubtedly prop up the United States economy. Today we're likely to learn that Bush had the hurricane created, using secret military methods. Man, people have a rabid hatred of this president, to the point of blocking their ability to think even semi-logically. I haven't seen anything like it since... well, the previous president. He and his wife had, like, two hundred people murdered, remember? Crazed fanatics are so much fun to watch. Highly entertaining. Dance, Bush-haters, dance!

-- Since we're on the subject, I saw this picture last week and saved it to a disc because it makes me laugh. Apparently John Kerry was able to wipe away the tears of deep concern long enough to rock a little while. Next week we'll see him with a hardhat sitting high atop his $150 haircut, driving a forklift loaded with peat moss. Then maybe another crying jag penciled in for late November... Wotta dipshit. I have a question stored away for him, in case he comes to Scranton for a town hall meeting or a "listening tour" or whatever. I want to stand up and say, "Senator, why the long face?" Again, I'm just biding my time.

-- Why are people now wearing jeans that have been treated at the factory to create the illusion that the front of the upper thighs are worn out? I don't understand. I can figure out most things, but this one baffles me. How would one wear-out a pair of pants in such an unlikely location anyway? What is this, furniture-mover's chic, or something? Bizarre.

-- Over the years various people have attempted to recruit me into the NASCAR religion, including several good friends whom I respect. At the risk of pissing some of you off, here are but a few reasons why I don't think it's ever going to happen with me. Call me misguided if you must, but I'm still far outside the flock. Try the neighbors, I think they're home.

-- I watched Soylent Green Saturday night. I'd never seen it before, and didn't even really know what it was about. But it turned out to be pretty great. It's set in 2022, after over-population and pollution has turned the earth into an apocalyptic nightmare. It stars Charlton Heston and every time he goes into his apartment building he has to climb a flight of stairs completely covered in Hollywood extras pretending to sleep. It's classic stuff. And it's great to know that in the future people will be using rotary phones again, and dressing in 1973 fashions, complete with Charles Nelson Reilly man-scarves. Hopefully I'll still be alive in nineteen years, but I'm not sure I'll be able to wear my pants so high and so tight. It was painful just watching the man strut around in those ludicrous high-pocket trousers; I kept making involuntary adjustments. And I may as well start now trying to track down a house's worth of Dating Game furniture. The future is going to be one fucked-upness after the next, and I need to be prepared.

And that's going to have to do it for today, people. More tomorrow, including (I hope) a new rant from Chris. Have fun.

       

September 12, 2003

John Ritter got caught up in the "all celebrities die in threes" thing. It's obvious. How else to explain the man just suddenly dropping dead yesterday, at the age of 54, right behind Warren Zevon and Johnny Cash?

I feel like somebody up in God's group overlooked something, and Ritter was just tossed in at the last minute in a classic CYA move. An innocent victim of office politics -- I see it happen every day. I mean seriously, the words John Ritter Is Dead just don't roll off the tongue that easily. Ya know? Wonder if anyone had him listed on their Dead Pool roster? If so, they're sitting pretty this morning.

I liked him. Three's Company was a smoldering pile of corn-spangled people-poop, but he made it bearable and sometimes even mildly amusing. And I saw him a few years ago on an episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, and he was great. One creepy mofo. I don't know anything about his new sitcom, 8 Things You Can Feel Free To Do To My Daughters, or whatever. (Wasn't the great Kristy McNichol involved in some way?) But regardless of how terrible it was, I bet he elevated it a bit.

Johnny Cash's death is not exactly a surprise. He was on Larry King recently and I seriously didn't think he was going to make it through the interview. I thought Larry was going to have to pull down his suspenders, spring across the desk, and begin administering CPR. (Now that would've been great television!) He was one of the legends, of course. I don't know anyone who didn't like Johnny Cash. He, like Zevon, made the most of his time here. They frickin' lived. Here's a classic photo from happier(?!) times.

I hate to see talented and unique people leave this world. There's not nearly enough of them around. And in the case of Ritter, it's especially unsettling. I guess it's the surprise element, and the suddenness of it all. It makes you think mortality thoughts. I'm just happy I've never heard people say that mediocre office workers all die in threes. For that I'm thanking my lucky stars.

If I were a celebrity though, even Scott Baio or Flo Castleberry, I'd hide out in my bedroom every time one of my brethren bites the dust. There's no telling when somebody in the Acquisitions Department will screw up again. It's obviously being run by incompetent government workers, whose union protection extends all the way into the afterlife. Of that I'm almost certain.

September 11, 2003

-- My Low Fuel light was on in my truck a couple of days ago, and I let the needle drop well below the red line of doom before I finally gave into society's pressure, and stopped to buy more gas. The only problem was, I was in the neighborhood where I live, where gas is about seven cents higher than in the neighborhood where I work. It irritates me to buy it over here, so I decided I'd just put five bucks in, to keep me going until I'm in a more favorable gas-purchasing position. So, I put the five dollars in, and my Low Fuel light stayed on. It wasn't even enough to get me out of arrears. I believe it was roughly the same amount my lawnmower holds, and it took me longer to get the cap off than to pump it. Shit. It's like Germany now. Five dollars used to buy me two or three days worth of driving. I need to get me one of those Daryl Hannah cars that run on trash, or whatever. I don't have a problem taking out a long stick every morning and stuffing Fritos bags and baloney wrappers into the tank. That's no big deal to me.

-- Speaking of shit-ass European countries, did you see that 15,000 people recently died in France, because of high temperatures?! Ha! And these are people who constantly hold their noses in the air, and lecture the United States? I'm sorry, but I don't take moral direction from people who haven't yet figured out central air conditioning. Once you get the basics covered at home, Jacques, then maybe we'll talk. I don't really want to hear your snotty thoughts on a soldier-a-day dying in a war right now. You're not really in a position of authority, y'know? Just think of that: the equivalent of five 9/11s -- because it got hot. I wonder how many succumbed because of the smell? None of the articles I've read mentions that stat, but I bet it's a big factor. French armpits are science in action. Say what you will, but America would never allow a tragedy like that to happen here. Never. And it took us less than 225 years to get to this point. We're not perfect, but we're closer than most. How's that for American arrogance?

-- Since we're on the subject, I punched my yearly salary into this calculator and I'm apparently one of the richest motherfuckers on the planet. Woo-hoo! This is a little hard to believe since I only have eight dollars until pay day, but who am I to argue with news like that? Obviously this thing is designed to make decadent Americans feel guilty about all that we've got, but it's not working with me. I want more. I want to move it further down the line. It's like those breathalyzer machines they installed in bars a few years back: I view it as a challenge to see how high I can get it to go!

-- I received forty or fifty emails yesterday from folks suggesting new TV shows to watch this year. I appreciate it, sincerely. The only problem is, I don't believe the same show was mentioned twice across all those messages. Can there really be that many good programs on right now? Who knew? I've obviously got my work cut out for me. I figure I need about an hour per night to scratch my pop culture itch, and apparently that's not going to be a problem. Thanks to everyone who wrote in with suggestions.

-- On Tuesday night Toney had something to do in the evening, so I was on my own for dinner. Obviously, I made a beeline for Wendy's and ordered the number one with cheese, no pickles, and a Coke -- the world's most perfect food combination. Then, on a whim, I added a 99 cent chili. I was feeling a little wild and went for the gold, but it turned out to be a mistake. I rarely have this problem, but I almost shit my pants. And that's not a joke. I put something in there that didn't like it, and wanted out right now. I had to race home and sprint to the toilet. I almost tore the screen door off the house. Of course, it was over in a flash, and afterwards my intestines felt like they'd been exposed to a severe trauma. And there were aftershocks as well, on into the evening. Yesterday was a little better, but still not anything I could fully trust. Even today, 36 hours later, I'd prefer to be a tad more firm. Goddamn.

-- I'm reading a Dean Koontz book, and every night after I turn off the lights I lay awake scared for a while. Every little noise I hear has horrifying implications. But I find that it makes things better if I put the covers up over my chin. For some reason that takes me out of harm's way. If they're just at my neck I feel naked and vulnerable, but once the chin is covered everything's OK.

-- Here's something that has the insidious power to make a person go insane. Click at your own risk, I will not be held responsible.

-- This stuff is being presented as White Trash Recipes, and yet I grew up eating most of it. Five years ago I would've been offended by such an affront. Today? I'm completely secure in my hickness.

-- And this is what's popularly known as Cold Shit.

I realize this update is a bit abbreviated today, but I couldn't get my sorry ass out of the sack this morning. I, along with my ass, am sorry. I'll let Buck take over from here... He has a few things to say to the heckler who dissed him in the Surf Report Forum a few days ago. Buck?

More tomorrow. Have a great 9/11. Enjoy every sandwich.

                        

September 10, 2003

I need to watch more television; I'm not getting nearly enough.

As the new season approaches, the lineup of shows we watch is fairly pitiful. It's dwindled to four programs, equaling just three skinny hours per week. And all four are getting a little long in the tooth (I love that phrase), and may not even be around a year from now. So, we're watching three hours of tired-ass network television every seven days -- in America. It's almost a sin. I'm now feeling the urge to go out speculating for fresh meat, and need your assistance.

What's currently on the docket, here at the Compound:

Friends Sure, sneer all you want, but it's a funny show and always has been. I resisted it the first few seasons as well, because I too am a hipster snob, but I finally gave in and became a fan. I will go down with the ship, saluting with pride, just as I did with Beverly Hills 90210. And next season I will tune into Joey In California, or whatever they call it.

Everybody Loves Raymond  Funny as well, but I guess the cast is fighting over how to divvy up the massive wall of cash they're generating. Supposedly they're going to pull the plug after this season, but I wouldn't bet on it. Early next year I predict the network and production company will begin administering currency enemas, pumped directly from the US Mint, and they'll agree to do another season -- because they're all still having so much fun together. Excuse me, I'm getting a little emotional here...

Boston Public They moved this thing to Friday at nine, which is the television equivalent of, well, Scranton. The shit is on life-support, but I'll keep watching because you literally don't know what kind of fucked-upness you might encounter each week. The hook-lady, intellectual midgets, an old Jewish man who discovers late in life that he has "an African American Negro" son... It's just highly entertaining. I may be wrong, but I suspect the writers and crew know their show is a load of crap, so they're just having fun with it. It's like Mark and I finally got that big Hollywood writing gig we wanted so badly. I have little doubt that sooner or later they'll introduce a new character who is an actual life-sized puppet on strings.

Ed  I love this show, and hate it. They milked the sexual tension between Ed and Carol for three whole seasons, until you wanted them all to die. They'd almost get together, then it would all fall apart... over and over and over again. It made me want to drown the entire cast in a bathtub, like a crazed Texas housewife. Apparently the two are actually together now, and will spend season four fornicating, but I've developed a bit of a bad attitude towards the show. The writing is great, and the supporting cast is stellar, but I'm very suspicious now. At the first sign of cheap manipulation, I'm outta here. Fuck 'em.

And now I need some new stuff to watch, and I'd really appreciate some advice. I'm like a man fresh out of the Ukraine here, I sincerely don't know shit about shit. Years ago I accepted the notion that sitting around watching TV is for losers, but I radically over-corrected. There has to be a happy medium, I just don't know how to get there. And that's where you folks come in...

But before you get started, a few guidelines: I generally steer clear of sitcoms because they make me too upset, but I can make a rare exception for something really good. (Is the great Linda Lavin involved in anything these days?) I also won't watch anything with a Sheen in it, so please keep that in mind. I'd really like to add a few hour-long crime shows to the mix, but don't know which are the good ones. They all have a jumble of letters in the titles that don't make sense to me: Law & Order OSHA, ELO: Miami, Special Crime Unit OB-GYN, KFC RSVP, it's all so confusing. I need a tour guide, bad.

Help me become whole again, won't you?  

Drop me a line:  jeff@thewvsr.com


September 9, 2003

While trolling Metafilter this past weekend I stumbled across a site that offers up scans of all the classic old Mad magazine covers. I invested a half-hour or so of my precious life to clicking through the roughly ten years of covers from when I was more or less obsessed with the magazine, then moved on. But I'm still thinking about it...

Here's the first one I ever had. April 1971. I was eight years old. An older cousin was reading it at my grandmother's house, and was laughing and acting obnoxious as usual. I was intrigued and asked her what she was reading, and she said I was too young to read such a dirty "book" and hid it behind her back in a theatrical manner. Dirty? No way. She's looking at something dirty right in our grandmother's living room?!

That did it. The deal was sealed.

A few days later I was in the Kroger store (or Kroger's as the natives call it) in Dunbar, and saw the same magazine on the stand there. My begging mechanism was immediately triggered, and I started in on my mother to please please please buy it for me. For some unknown and unfathomable reason she actually flung it into the cart, and I was on my way to a life of bad taste and inappropriate humor. I must've been in second grade.

I carried it home like it was full of magic. The forbidden fruit. It was as if actual electricity were coming off the pages. My underdeveloped mind was swirling with the possibilities of what I might find inside the "book." It was probably written by hippies! I felt like I was getting away with something, and the feeling appealed to me. And that's the slipperiest of all slippery slopes.

Amazingly, I wasn't disappointed. I devoured everything in the issue, over and over. I didn't really understand all the Nixon and Vietnam jokes, but there was plenty of stuff I did understand, and I loved it. It was sarcastic and disrespectful and subversive... I thought Mad magazine was just about the greatest thing in the entire world, and I began (desperately) asking my Mom when another issue would be published.

Then I made a tactical error.

My other grandmother was at our house one day and I was reading aloud from my constant companion (I must've been an insufferable little fuck), and one of the characters said, "God is dead." Well, that did it. My grandmother shit a brick the size of a washer/dryer combination, and began yelling at my Mom: "What kind of filth are you letting this boy read?!" After that Mad was banned from our house, and my whole life came crashing down.

I missed two whole issues before I wore them down and the moratorium was lifted. Indeed, as I click through the covers now, I don't recognize the two issues that appeared after my prized April '71 copy. It's like a large scar on my Mad consciousness. But once I was back in the saddle, I never looked back. I learned that it's best to keep certain things from your parents, if you want to maintain the status quo. And who says the magazine isn't educational?

I plunged into a full-on Mad magazine frenzy, and even began seeking out the low-rent knock-offs, like Cracked and Sick and Crazy, to help me make it from issue to issue. I was like a drug addict, and when I met a girl in third grade who had the same addiction as me, I decided I wanted to marry her someday. We'd be the Sid and Nancy of Dunbar, WV, strung out on inappropriate comic books, while raising little babies that looked exactly like Alfred E. Neuman. (Hey, I was in third grade... give me a break.)

That girl rides a motorcycle now, and my cousin has had her, um, problems in life. My parents still nervously indulge my "worldview," and my grandmother is in an assisted-care home and thinks I'm a representative of the Salvation Army(?!). And I'm a fat, grouchy man in baggy sweatpants, typing bullshit into a computer amongst Beavis & Butthead and Three Stooges memorabilia in a tiny room in Scranton.

I shudder to think where we would've all ended up without good ol' Mad magazine.

                         

September 8, 2003

-- I think I need to stay out of the shower. A couple of weeks ago, you may remember, a twenty-pound bottle of shampoo fell on my foot and shattered the tiny bones inside, like a sack of raw rotini noodles. Then yesterday morning I wrenched my neck in there and spent the next twenty-four hours hobbling around like an old woman who never really liked milk all that much.

It's worth noting that I wasn't doing anything untoward in the shower when the injury occurred, it wasn't like Kevin Spacey in American Beauty or anything like that, it was just the normal shower-time activities. Then something popped and a sharp pain shot across my shoulders and up the back of my neck. The hell?!

Maybe we shouldn't be so quick to criticize the French for avoiding the bath, and stinking up all of creation with their nasty, fetid cheese pits? Perhaps they're a little more savvy than we give them credit for? I'm starting to develop a Pavlovian reaction to the sound of running water...

It hurt all day yesterday, and still hurts this morning. A clump of oft-used muscles was apparently stretched, twisted, and/or ripped from the bone. I don't know for sure, but I do know that it's virtually impossible to get into a position where the muscles are not in use, and causing me to make tortured faces like Gilbert Gottfried. It's not much fun. I've had lower back pain before, to the point where I was forced to enlist the help of a cabinet door to get into a pair of underwear, but I'd never had any problems up top. It's a whole new brand of joy.

I think I need to just stay out of that watery Cubicle of Anguish and get a trained monkey with a sponge on a stick, to keep my folds irrigated. It's just too risky in there. As soon as I'm physically able to remove the phonebook from the drawer, I'm going to start making a few calls.

-- Despite being crippled up in pain, and walking around like a T. Rex with my hands curled up near my chest, I made it to the lake yesterday for a little fishing. The bait shop was out of grubs last time, and I had to use some slimy nastiness the guy called "nightwalkers," and I hated it. The things were long and wiggly, and as thick as my pinky. And they were covered in something very similar to the snot-like grossness on Vienna Sausages. When you punctured them with the hook, a huge load of pus would come rolling out and mix in with the snot and the dirt. It was nothing short of horrifying, and it ruined a whole week's worth of fishing.

They had the grubs this time -- the nice clean hardshell grubs -- but the lake was all screwed up. We've had a lot of rain (I mean a lot) and the water was the color of coffee and cream, and was loaded with twigs and sticks and some kind of seaweed garbage. Every time I reeled in my line it looked like one of those vines that Tarzan used to swing on. I'd then have to spend five minutes picking all that crap off, and it just basically sucked a big bent one. I didn't get so much as a single nibble in two hours -- probably because the fish couldn't see my bait through the cafe au lait.

If things don't start improving on the fishing front, I'm just going to go out and buy a Playstation. Fuck it. What am I, an asshole here?

-- On Saturday Toney and I worked our asses off. We were a whirlwind of domestic activity: dusting, vacuuming, window-washing, grass mowing... I changed all the five-year light bulbs outside for the third or fourth time this year. And Toney even took the screens off all the windows and scrubbed them down.

We also carried a heavy treadmill from the basement, up three flights of stairs, to the spare bedroom. Toney is convinced there's something in the basement that makes her sick, so we moved the thing. We bought it used about three years ago, and it's the same kind they have in health clubs. It's not some lightweight K-Mart model. By the time we wrestled that monster to its new home, I was covered in sweat and was forced to come up with new and innovative cussing combinations, like "son of a cock bitch!"

Of course, during all this shucking and jiving our dog Andy was a complete basket case. Anything out of the ordinary sends him over the edge. Toney calls him the Woody Allen of dogs, and that's pretty accurate. He's as neurotic as they come. He spent the whole day either cowering or prancing around on his tip-toes. And I kept yelling, "Everything's about you, isn't it Andy? It's all about you!!" (He's a little like Toney's mother in that regard.) By the evening he was spent and looked like a bear rug spread out on the floor of the family room. They say a dog's brain is about the size of a walnut, but I think Andy's is slightly smaller.

-- Here's where the Waffle House will be built. Mmmm... I can almost taste the terrible acid trucker coffee already. In just a few short months, on this very spot, serial divorcees in tight waitress uniforms will be hollering with husky cigarette & bourbon voices, "Scramble plate, scattered, smothered, chunked, and covered, bacon side!" I still can hardly believe it.

-- There was a fourteen or fifteen year old kid in line in front of me at Wendy's yesterday, and he was six foot eight. I know this because three different people asked him while we stood there. It's very disconcerting to have to look up at a child. I think I now know what it must feel like to be Paul Simon or Tom Cruise. ...OK, I don't have any idea, but you know what I'm saying.

-- My friend Steve dropped by the Compound Saturday night, bearing gifts. Check it out. How cool is that, huh? I'm a big fan of gifts.

-- I'm thinking about buying some of that fancy underwear in the tube for our trip to New York in a couple of weeks. If things get really wild (and I think they will) I'll be wearing only the tube by Saturday night.

-- There's a new Paul Westerberg CD coming out next month (under the name Grandpaboy again), and you can hear one of the new songs here. Sounds damn good to me. It makes me want to go out and drink beer. But then, so does daylight. And darkness.

-- I saw Rush Limbaugh on a show over the weekend, talking about becoming a sportscaster on ESPN, and he has what looks like a transistor radio embedded in his skull, behind his left ear. He went completely deaf a couple of years ago, then had an implant of some sort that restored his hearing on one side. The technology is pretty amazing, but the looks of the device is a little freaky. I think you could probably insert a compact disc into that thing, and dance the night away. Very strange. Everything has changed in the past twenty years. When I was a kid we had a big clunky black telephone with a rotary dial (that could probably withstand a nuclear blast), and we shared a "party line" with a shitload of neighbors. Now, people are taking photos of their own naked asses with wireless phones the size of a pack of cigarettes, and transmitting them to the internet where they can be viewed by thousands of perverts equipped with personal computers. In my day a computer had a screen door on it, and you could walk inside and have lunch. We've gone from American Movie Classics to the SciFi Channel in a single generation. Yowza.

-- And now we'll let Chris wrap things up for us on this fine technologically advanced Monday, straight outta Boone. Take it away, Chris...

More tomorrow.

September 5, 2003

The waterless urinal experiment is over, and it was apparently a complete bust.

I mentioned a few months back how they went to great expense and aggravation at work to rip out all the old-school flushable urinals, and replaced them with strange seashell-looking deals that you just whizz into and walk away. No water, and no flushing. It was very disconcerting. It left you with a nagging feeling that there was unfinished business at hand. Plus, they looked so ridiculous and feminine, it just took all the joy out of it.

Now they're pulling down the peeshells and bringing back the vintage urine collectors we all know and love. I saw a load of the classic old heavyweight Harry Truman urinals go past on a forklift yesterday, and there's a pile of the discarded and ludicrous wafer-thin Ed Begley Jr. tulip pisseries at the foot of the stairs to my office. Wotta colossal waste of money.

The building where I hang out, in exchange for cash and gifts, is no hole in the wall. It's a massive complex with thousands of workers, and its own zip code (no shit). So, there are dozens and dozens, maybe hundreds, of human waste portals, through which people can let it fly in a sophisticated and sanitary manner. Switching out all those fixtures must surely cost tens of thousands of dollars, right? And why?! What happened??

I don't know. The Surf Report doesn't currently have a mole on the janitorial staff (although I'm working on it), but I can venture a guess.

Somebody in a position of authority probably received a pamphlet in the mail that showed a green, leafy rain forest filled with exotic birds and flowers on the front. And on the inside I imagine there was a photo of Sting or Don Henley standing at one of those laughable urinals, looking over their shoulder in a righteous and correct manner. (Perhaps they were also giving the thumbs-up sign with their one free hand?) And there was undoubtedly much text explaining how Earth's precious resources are needlessly wasted on a daily basis by selfish people pissing directly into water.

And Authority Man was probably overcome by guilt (maybe he'd also listened to NPR on his way in that day, and was in a weakened state), and fired off a directive to bring in the waterless urinals. Damn the cost! We have to all work together at being responsible Urinating World Citizens!!

Then after the novelty of the things wore off and the rumors started going around that pee was being collected, recycled, and pumped straight to the drinking fountains... And after two or three prospective new clients buckled over in laughter at having to piss into a flower -- then taking their business elsewhere -- a new directive came down: Bring back the Trumans! Bring them back now!!

Of course, this is all speculation on my part. I don't know anything about anything. But I bet I'm not too far away from the truth. What do you think?

And since we're on the subject, here's a pic my friend David sent me a couple of days ago. He took it at "the beach." I'm not sure which beach, he just said the beach. I bet these folks don't peddle faggoty little waterless urinals. Oh no, the King don't play that shit.

September 4, 2003

-- Yesterday's anniversary update earned me a few emails in which it was either implied that I'm a pussy, or I was just told straight-up that I'm a pussy. This response saddens me. Not because you folks are now resorting to name-calling and the questioning of my manhood, but because you obviously haven't been paying too close attention. Of course I'm a pussy! It's well documented. I'm a man who can tear up during a commercial about fabric softener. I can barely put gas in my car, and wouldn't have any idea how to perform an oil change. Just yesterday I hired a man (for $140) to clean our gutters, because I'm afraid of heights. I'm frequently frightened and have difficulty dealing with everyday life. I may not be the dainty, fragile brand of pussy like, say, Banana Nostrils, but you can rest assured, I am a pussy. And you can take that to the bank.

-- I recently bought a Steve Forbert CD on which he pays tribute to Jimmie Rogers, the legendary old-time hillbilly musician. Both are apparently from the same small town in Mississippi. It's a really good record, but the man should've never attempted to yodel. Oh, I'm here to tell ya, it's a painful thing to endure. Somebody should've pulled Stevie Baby aside, and leveled with him: Dude, you sound like Helen Keller ordering lunch. Cut it out, OK? Seriously. Bob Dole could do a better job. But, that intervention apparently never took place, and now I find myself in the bunker making faces like somebody's threatening to shoot me with a rubber band, whenever he cranks off one of those pitiful hollers. It's a sad state of affairs.

-- Speaking of Helen Keller (America's favorite deaf mute and laugh generator), a girl told me a joke in Jr. High School, some 25 years ago, that I still think is one of the best jokes I've ever heard in my life. When I'm old and ravaged by Alzheimer's I'll probably still be breaking it out on special occasions. What do you think?

Q:  Why does Helen Keller masturbate with her left hand?
A:  Because she moans with her right.

Classic.

-- When I take our dog Andy for a walk, he always wants to take a shit at the most inopportune times. Even if I clean it up, some of the people around here don't take too kindly to a border collie on their lawn, humped up like a kangaroo. I have to keep him in the middle of the street when we're around the nice houses, because he won't crap on concrete. Then when we get to a run-down dump I steer him to the grass, and he lays out a big tan one. Hey, that's just the way it goes. If you refuse to mow your grass, and trim your bushes, you're going to get a tan one, compliments of Andy. It's just an unfortunate fact of life.

-- We bought a guide book on New York City, and are attempting to do a little research on the place before our trip there in a couple of weeks. The only problem is, the book has 342 pages and there are one or two things on every page that I want to see or do. Even if we never sleep and do stuff 'round the clock for four days, I have a feeling we'll come away feeling unsatisfied. I finally just sat the book aside because it makes me too agitated.

-- Speaking of that, I asked my boss yesterday, via email, if I could take a couple of days off for our trip. He wrote back and said it was OK, but I'd need to be accessible by cell phone at all times. He wasn't joking. Forgive me, but I think that has a faint whiff of bullshit about it. I can just see us now, sitting at a sidewalk cafe in Greenwich Village, while I'm talking to a hub manager in Terre Haute, or something. "Any chance of team-driving that load into Florida, man? I could really use a favor... Oh yes, I'll have the jambalaya... Happy Anniversary, Toney...smooch smooch... What do you mean the skids aren't double-stackable?! This is an outrage!"

-- I saw that John Kerry, the pretty boy from Massachusetts who's running for president, cried on the campaign trail yesterday as a woman whined to him about something or other. I think she was whimpering about not being able to pay her electric bill (seriously), when he suddenly felt her pain and was overcome by emotion -- in front of the cameras, of course. Please. John Kerry hobnobs with rock stars, gets $150 haircuts, and walks around in tailored suits. He couldn't give two shits if some old hag can't pay her bills, and you're a fool if you think otherwise. The man rubs me the wrong way. Of all the Democrat candidates, he makes me the craziest. I'd vote for Sharpton before I'd pull the Kerry lever. He's an old money New England snob trying to pass himself off as a Regular Joe. He ordered swiss cheese on a cheesesteak in Philadelphia, for god's sake. Yeah, he's one of us -- and I'm TV's Mel Sharples. Don't even get me started on that freakishly elongated mule face. I think this just about sums it up.

-- They killed a guy yesterday, who killed a doctor who they say killed babies. I think I got that right... Anyway, I didn't hear much protest from anyone about this particular state-sponsored lethal injection. Usually there are demonstrations and deeply concerned people on TV complaining about the barbarian nature of capital punishment, but not with this guy. This was some crazy-ass anti-abortion zealot, so it confused people. On what side should I be on this one?? I'm so confused. Oh god, my brain hurts... People were so perplexed, their homemade signs didn't even make any sense. Check it out. I just don't understand.

-- And, I've never really understood that thing where people put a spoon on their nose. Ya know? All my life I've seen people on television with spoons on their noses. It seems to be a shorthand indicator that a character is acting "wild." I don't get it. I don't understand how the spoon stays there, and I've never seen a person in real life do such a thing. I'm baffled by it, and have been baffled by it for at least 35 years.

-- Before this thing spins any more out of control, here's Buck's latest, straight from the holler. Thanks Buck, as always. Even though you called me a pussy, you're still the man.

More tomorrow, unless I'm whacked by men in designer slacks.

See ya.

September 3, 2003

Toney and I were married ten years ago today, on 9/3/93 -- a wonderfully easy date to remember. And, for your "entertainment," I'll now use this opportunity to tell you how it all got started. Strap on your seatbelts, people, you're in for high adventure!

-- We met at work, in Atlanta. A long-term girlfriend and I had recently broken up, and I was out of my goddamn mind, attempting to date and be a man about town, but not really knowing how. It was a profoundly sad period of my life... I can't begin to tell you. I was fond of some strange Canadian beer then, that came in 11 ounce bottles and had an opener built into the bottom of each container. I drank incredible amounts of that swill, in an attempt to dull the pain. If I tasted it now, I'd undoubtedly roll into a fetal ball and sob for hours.

I was going out with freakish women who repelled and/or frightened me, and I was in a big-ass city with no local friends to confide in. All of my whining had to be done long-distance, and since I was making about seven bucks an hour, that wasn't really a viable option. I've never felt so alone in all my life.

I did have a female friend that I'd known since North Carolina, but she ruined it all by telling me she had feelings for me. That was the end of that. And I went out with a secretary at Geffen Records a few times, but she ruined it by being a mental patient, and walking into the living room of her apartment completely naked and purring, "Tonight I want to explore your body." I almost swallowed my tongue trying not to laugh, and spent the rest of the night sweating profusely and plotting my escape from her musky den of fucked-upness. Once I got away, I never went back.

Then I started noticing Toney. She hung around the hipster girls at work, the ones who dressed like Madonna and talked loudly about seeing the Stray Cats the night before, and all that stuff. But she wasn't really one of them, she stood apart. She was cool, but also a little shy and apparently sane. I remember she sometimes wore a jean jacket that was a little too big and the sleeves hung over her fingers, years before everyone started doing it that way. I finally decided I'd risk apocalyptic humiliation at the hands of the hipster herd, and ask her out. When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose.

But I couldn't get the chance. It was pissing me off. A week went by and I never saw her alone. She was always with those stupid girls. So, being the suave player that I am, I paper-clipped a note to her timecard, and asked her to call me. She did, I finally asked her to Sunday brunch (playa!), and she accepted. It was a tall mountain to climb, but I had a good feeling about it.

I think it was on our third date that she casually mentioned that she had a boyfriend, and he, um, kinda lived with her. I nearly voided my bowels, right there in the dining room of Eat Your Vegetables. A boyfriend? A live-in boyfriend?! Jesus H. Alou, why me?? Why am I sent all the freaks? I wanted to crawl into a hole somewhere and open a bottle that was also a bottle-opener.

She went on to explain that while they still physically lived in the same apartment (along with one of the Madonna girls), they weren't really a couple anymore. Things hadn't been right between them for months, and they were only still together because it was convenient financially. She said she still wanted to "hang out" with me (an alarmingly casual phrase, I thought), and asked me to understand.

Well isn't this just fucking grand?!

At work one day she was complaining that her "roomie" was going out with one of his ex-girlfriends for Valentine's Day, and she was getting to sit at home alone. Without thinking, I offered to hang out with her, and we went to At'sa Pizza and drank beer and ate kick-ass sub sandwiches with sprouts on them, and talked and laughed for hours. It was great fun, which only served to make me that much sadder. I had all these state hospital escapees throwing themselves at me, but the one I actually liked was off-limits.

When I dropped her off at her apartment, I grew a set of balls and kissed her, and then all hell broke loose. She recoiled as if I were brandishing a handful of my own solid waste, and started crying. She apologized and said she had to go, and disappeared inside her apartment -- before I even knew what had happened. I think I stood there with my mouth open, looking at her door, for a full minute.

Apparently it wasn't as "over" between her and Bobby (a name I grew to hate) as she thought it was. Simply excellent.

After that we didn't talk much, and there were no more evenings spent in the booth at the pizza place, and we kind of averted our eyes if we'd pass in the hall at work. There was loads of tension and discomfort between us. It sucked. I finally asked her to a movie one day, to see where we stood, and she turned me down. Shortly after that I learned that she and Bobby were spending the weekend at a bed and breakfast in North Carolina. Screw it. I just gave up and conceded defeat. It was a shitty thing, but I didn't really have any options. She'd chosen, and I felt like somebody had punched me in the stomach.

I spent the next couple of months holed up in my filthy apartment downing bottle openers, and watching Beverly Hills 90210. Even though my foray into the dating world had been nothing short of a rousing success, I decided to give it a rest. I didn't have the energy anymore; the wind was out of my metaphorical sails. My ex and I occasionally got together for beers after work, but that was my only human contact. I'm pretty sure she was seeing someone else too, so it was just a strange, tense "friendship" thing. Nothing more depressing than that.

I'm not real clear on the details of what happened next. I got sick, deathly sick, and my ex-girlfriend Sharon was really nice to me. She brought me food and took care of me. Then there was a company night at a Braves game, and Toney was clearly flirting with me. The hell? Sharon and I started seeing more and more of each other, and went to a Dinosaur Jr. concert together. I saw Toney there, and it felt really weird. Somewhere along the line Toney called me and we started going out on Sunday afternoons again.

I met Toney's sister over beers at Aunt Charley's (she's introducing me to her family?!), Sharon and I went to an art museum together, brunch on Sundays, beer after work at Manual's... I wondered how their boyfriends were doing? I sure hoped the chaps were doing well. And I may have also called myself a pathetic pussy loser a few times, as well.

Then Sharon and I had a crazy drunken argument outside a Buzzcocks concert, and we parted ways hollering at each other. Some bad stuff was said, and a few old wounds were opened. That was that, I guessed. How did it even happen?! On auto-pilot I drove to a party where Toney was at, emotions a-racing.

The party house was rockin'; music was blaring and silhouettes of people holding drinks and flailing their arms were in every window. Breaking glass, hysterical laughter... it was crazy. And Toney was standing on the porch by herself, just as I probably would've been. When I walked up she smiled and gave me a shy little half-wave, and I felt like my insides melted down. At that moment, I knew, and apparently she did too.

We've been hanging out ever since.

Bobby got his receding-hairline, bluegrass-listening, cous cous-eating art fag ass kicked to the curb. I'm not sure what happened to him, but I ran into him in a store a year or so later, and he looked horrible. Who says prayers don't get answered?

Sharon and I are still email friends, and she's seemingly happy and doing well in Colorado. She's still really cool, and I'm glad I know her.

And Toney and I have been together for twelve years and counting -- ten as a married couple. We've been through a lot, and I thank God I didn't go straight home that night after the Buzzcocks show. Who knows what institution I'd be in today?

And since year ten is the traditional "embarrass your spouse all over the internet" anniversary, I wrote all this stuff down. For her. Because I'm a romantic.

Sniff.

September 2, 2003

I hope everyone had a pleasant Labor Day. I might be a little crazy, but the holiday has always felt slightly Soviet to me. Labor day -- in celebration of the workers. I feel like I should slip into a bulky black sweater and eat salted fish. It conjures up visions of hammers and sickles, and red stars, and parades full of military tanks and missiles the size of tractor trailers. I realize I could be far off base here (I don't know shit about which I speak), but that's what goes through my mind every year at this time. One of these days, perhaps, I'll look up the history of Labor Day? Tomorrow might be a good day for such a project. Or the day after.

-- On Saturday Toney and I gave in to a three day-old craving for Chinese food, and went to a really good buffet in a neighboring town. I got my usual: cashew chicken, orange chicken, pepper steak, etc. etc., but at one point Toney came back to the table with what looked like a plate of vaginas. I'm not kidding, she sat across from me with what appeared to be three or four disembodied cooters stacked up. "What in the hell is that?!" I shouted a little too loudly inside the hushed dining room. (You can take the boy out of West Virginia, but you can't the West Virginia out of the boy...) She said they were pot stickers, or pot lickers, or snot kickers, or something like that. I looked at them a little closer and saw something oozing out and smelled a powerful stench, then experienced a full-body shiver. Jesus J. McChrist.

-- After our satisfying lunch of the female reproductive system, we did a little shop-hopping. Our supposed NYC trip is coming up (I'll believe it when we're actually on it), and we're going to need a few things. We don't have any money to buy it with, mind you, but just looking does the trick, for the time being. I need a vacation, bad, and at this point planning and talking about it is enough to calm my jangled nerves. The promise of a few pleasant days with no pressure is a carrot worth chasing.

In the parking lot outside Target I saw an old man cursing into one of those personal walkie-talkies that have become the rage. It's great that technology has advanced to the point where people can now be insufferable pricks within a full two-mile radius. Before we got to the front door I also heard a woman end a cell phone conversation with, "Oy!" I don't think I'd ever heard a person use that phrase in my life, except on television. I thought it was a myth perpetuated by old-school comedy writers. Who knew?

Inside the store a teenaged couple walked past us and the girl was lifting one leg and grimacing, while pinching and picking at her ass. As they went past she said, "My underwear is bunching up inside my pants." She was using a tone of voice that people might use when saying something like, "I think we need more laundry detergent." It wasn't anywhere near a whisper. And she walked right past us and straight into the bathroom. I'm all for being open and honest, but a little well-placed discretion doesn't hurt anything either. Later we saw the pair again and she was able to keep both feet on the floor, and her pinchers by her side, so I guess she'd gotten things flattened out.

One of our other stops was at Burlington Coat Factory. It's a sleazy, low-rent place to shop, but I've found some real deals there on tennis shoes in the past. While we were walking through the housewares section I got my gut caught on a Japanese screen and it tumbled over, taking out a plant stand and a couple of candlesticks in its wake. Toney attempted to stop the domino cascade, and hurt her shoulder in the process. I really need to do something about my stoutness, before my wife gets killed. Everybody says that being overweight is dangerous, but I didn't realize it was the spouse that's at risk. Makes sense, though.

I felt a little better a few minutes later. I found a huge pair of boxer shorts with (appropriately) the characters from Fat Albert on them. They were size 6X, and were ludicrously large. I had Toney snap a picture of me holding them up, and here it is. Seriously, there can't be a person alive who requires such an enormous ball sock, can there? And if there is, can he really expect to buy his clothing off the rack? I'm picturing a jiggling man-mountain on a flatbed trolley being shoved around the underwear department of Burlington Coat Factory, wielding a metal reaching-stick and a surly demeanor. Shit. I may be slightly outsized, but I'm not wearing a fitted sheet in my pants. And my clothes don't have to be shipped in by rail, on wooden pallets. At least I can say that much.

In the parking lot of Sam's Club we saw a red minivan with a license place holder that said at the top, "Born To Rock!" And at the bottom: "I'll Die A Journey Fan!!" Toney and I were standing there laughing, just as the owner walked up. She shot us a dirty look and jumped behind the wheel. She reminded me of my second grade teacher, skinny and very Mom-like. I felt a twinge of sadness, because the woman was roughly our age, and the ridiculous message on the back of her rugrat buggy was likely the final remnant of her former "wild" life. It's not much different than the huge Rockpile poster I have here in the bunker, really -- except I have infinitely better taste. Plus, I'm not tacky and predictable and lacking a sense of adventure. And I'd never sport a sweatsuit as fashion. As I worked all this out in my mind, I ultimately had no problem laughing and pointing as she sped away.

-- On Sunday I went fishing (a fiasco, due to the bait shop being sold out of my beloved grubs), and afterwards swung by Best Buy to check their asking price on the new Kings of Leon CD (an unacceptable $11.99). As I approached my retail destination, traffic was standing still. The hell? There are never traffic issues here, what gives? When I got past the entrance of Lowe's Seething City of Hardware, or whatever, there was an old pickup truck with a large stack of drywall piled on the back. And the shit had completely collapsed beneath the weight, and was now abandoned in the middle of the road. I couldn't believe my eyes.

It appeared that the rear axle had snapped in two, housing and all, and the load was now touching the ground, along with the back third of the truck. And the front end was pointing towards the sky. Somebody had some real problems on their hands.

And I couldn't have been more entertained by it. I nearly crashed as I struggled to get my camera from behind the passenger seat, and out of its case. Here's the pic I snapped as I went past. It didn't turn out very well, but you can see that I'm not just making this stuff up. It's all real, all the time.  For what it's worth.

-- I flipped on the Jerry Lewis Telethon on Sunday, to see if I might catch a bloated and sweating Jerry belting out a show tune. But it wasn't to be. Instead, I was treated to a gnarled-up man in a wheelchair, under a bright spotlight, sobbing uncontrollably. I switched it over to TVLand.

-- I am both saddened and shocked over something I witnessed on Saturday night, with my own two eyes in my own living room. 

I finally bought a copy of the new Animal House DVD late last week, and had watched the movie and all of the bonus material in one sitting on Friday. I was so pumped-up by that experience I went out and rented the 20th anniversary edition of National Lampoon's Vacation, to watch the following night.

I can't believe I'm typing these words, but the movie has been EDITED for content. Yes, you read that correctly, they've cut out some of the more offensive and insensitive material -- apparently so people's feelings won't get hurt. Ha! And it has "National Lampoon" in the title. A touchy-feely Lampoon! It's high treason.

The whole scene where the Griswolds take a wrong turn in St. Louis and end up in a rough black neighborhood has been sliced and diced down to nothing. The part where they pull away with the words "honky lips" spray-painted on the door of their station wagon has been completely eradicated from the film. They're trying to pretend it never happened, and hoping you'll forget.

I switched on the director's commentary, after it was all over, and heard some of the most pansified hand-wringing since the cancellation of Donahue. Harold Ramis (a co-writer of Animal House!) was gnashing his teeth over the St. Louis segment of the film, and said that if he had it to do over again he would've refused to shoot it. He said it "demonizes" blacks. I have no doubt he demanded the movie be edited before release. Wotta pussy.

I understand being ashamed of things from the past (God knows), but you've got to own up to it. Re-writing history to your benefit is both dishonest and a sin. It makes me sick. It's a stupid Chevy Chase movie, full of exaggerated characters and situations, for God's sake. I seriously doubt that many people have mistaken Vacation for a documentary. Ya know?

And how come the Cousin Eddie section, where they make fun of poor white trash, wasn't edited? Are they saying that the feelings of a good portion of my extended family don't matter? They're demonizing my roots, and saying it's OK! 

I don't think I can go to work today...

-- On a much happier note, I received news over the weekend that a quote from this website was being used in the syndicated comic Shoecabbage. Check it out. And while you're at it, why not bookmark the Shoecabbage page at UComics? It's always interesting and fun, and the creator is a full-fledged Friend of the Surf Report. Thanks, Teresa! Please forward all "Who the hell is Jeff Kay?" emails to my box. I'll answer them. Oh, I'll answer them real good.

-- And thanks Chris, for such a fine ending to this Tuesday update. He's coming at ya, straight outta Boone, people. Don't miss it. I'm thinking about just turning this whole sombitch over to him. Fuck it.

And there will be even more of this crap tomorrow, if you can believe it.

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