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









A bowl of corn, motherfuckers.



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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 2004

September 30, 2004

-- There was no way to write the update this morning, it was utter chaos at our place. My parents are here with their dogs, every TV was blaring, we were all jacked up on coffee… It was insanity. I did try to sneak away a couple of times and people kept poking their noses in, and saying (with expressions like they’d just caught a whiff of fresh-cut turds), “What are you doing?” Finally I just threw in the towel. Absolutely no respect for the sanctity of the bunker!

It felt like the scene in the Waltons movie The Homecoming when John-Boy’s mother confronted him for repeatedly locking himself in his room. “What are you doing up here behind a locked door, John-Boy? We don’t keep secrets in this house. …Is it something you’re ashamed of?

To hell with it. I just packed up everything and went to work.

-- Yesterday I heard the news that the Expos are leaving Montreal, for Washington DC. Some bean counter apparently thinks they'll make more money there, and draw more than four or five thousand fans per game. I don't know anything about that, but I do know I don’t like it. Whenever there's a big change in baseball, it pains me. I don’t even follow the game much anymore, but I’d like for it to be there, and be recognizable, if I ever need it again. Selfish, you say? What of it?

I want baseball to be maintained exactly as it was when I was twelve. That’s when it was perfect. You start screwing around with the basic DNA of perfection, and you're playing with fire. I still haven’t fully recovered from the sacrilege of inter-league play. Holy crap, that one almost did me in. And whenever I hear the Milwaukee Brewers being referred to as a National League team, I cover my ears and try to block it out with a bunch of lalalas. I begrudgingly accept that the same players can’t still be playing, thirty years later, but the rest of it needs to be sealed up in one of those big infomercial freezer bags attached to an electric suction device, for eternal preservation.

The Montreal Expos are supposed to be shitty and play in a ludicrous “stadium” called Jarry Park. That’s where they played when I was twelve, and that’s how it should remain. The joint looked like a high school field and only held something like 25,000 people. The lighting was so bad there were dead spots in the outfield. A player would take off after a ball, disappear into darkness, then reappear a few seconds later, ten yards away. Now that’s baseball! I still hadn’t fully warmed to the new fancy-ass place they moved into in, um, 1976, and now the whole team’s going away! Sad.

And I don’t like the records that I knew by heart when I was twelve being broken either. Barry Bonds is approaching Babe Ruth’s lifetime home run mark, for god’s sake. Barry Bonds is my age, or something. So wrong on so many levels… This is the Babe we’re talking about. The man spent his adult life eating hot dogs, wearing crowns, and carousing with prostitutes, and he still managed to hit 714 homers. And he didn’t need Aisle Two of Walgreen’s to get it done either. Oh no. All he required was a big bottle of bourbon, a skillet of pork chops, and a tag-team whore squadron. Babe Ruth is a legend, like Lincoln and Moe.

And the same goes for The Mick!

I’m starting to get myself all worked up… So long Expos! Forever may you suck.

-- I finally watched Tales From The Crypt a few nights ago. It was the film they showed us back in Junior High School, as part of some shockingly ill-conceived Halloween assembly. Fox Movie Channel played it one night at 2AM several weeks ago, and I fired up the trusty DVR and captured it. And all I can say is, if they showed kids today some shit like that, they’d have to bring in grief counselors to help them cope… CNN would be there… lawsuits would be launched… people would be doing handsprings...

How did they get away with something like that, even back in the seventies? Sweet sainted mother of Yahoo Serious! I'm forty-one, and I experienced a full-body shiver watching the scene where the woman wished her dead husband alive again -- and her wish was granted, even though he was loaded up with embalming fluid. Shit! And then when she started chopping him up in the casket...

They showed that in school, to seventh graders?? If I didn't honestly think it was kinda cool, I might be tempted to climb atop some retroactive high horse. I really would.

-- And that's about all I can muster, under the circumstances. But I'm typing between whiny phone calls, and the reading of follow-up e-mails to confirm said whiny phone calls, trips to the vending machine for sacks of TGI Friday's Potato Skin Chips, and the guzzling of Mountain Dew Laughing Death Mask. Give me a little slack, won't you? 

We're off to New York in the morning, so this is it, I'm afraid, until Tuesday. Have a great weekend.


September 29, 2004

I don't have much time this morning, so this is going to be half-assed, at best. Perhaps even quarter-assed. Please know that up front. And if you'd like your money back, just see the cashier.

-- It rained all day yesterday, just a constant downpour from before I got out of bed in the morning until after I crawled back in last night. I had visions of Poppa Half-Shirt's stamp collection (or whatever) caught up in a furious whirlpool in the middle of his family room, along with a few throw pillows and Niagara Falls nick-nacks, and I started getting nervous. I envisioned his crazy-ass Teresa Heinz Kerry wife pushing pins into a crudely-fashioned Jeff Kay voodoo doll and vowing revenge through a contorted mask of rage. Shit!

Wonder if he's over there right now, I thought, consulting with one of those lawyers off the back of the phone book? What kind of legal fucked-upness are they planning next door?? I was getting paranoid. So I called him. And the man couldn't have been nicer. He thanked me and admitted that my downspout-redirection scheme probably wouldn't eliminate his problem completely, but it would surely help. He said he realized that I didn't build or design the house, and apologized for asking me to go to so much trouble. He was both civil and friendly.

Either the dude was drunk off his ass (perhaps because of the whirlpool), or I'm being lured into some kind of phone book lawyer trap. In any case, I was more nervous after I hung up than before I called. But, of course, there's nothing unusual about that.

-- Toney has a friend from California that she still talks to all the time. She and her family live in Oregon now, and they have two early-teen daughters and a younger boy. She's pretty strict with her kids and has a lot of fully-enforced rules. One is that the hooligans are not allowed in their parent's bedroom; she doesn't want them hanging out in there. It's an official DMZ. Well, last week the parents were out for a few hours and the daughters decided to throw caution to the wind and watch a movie in the forbidden room, while chilling on the forbidden bed.

Perhaps to mark the special occasion, the youngest daughter brought along a sack of some kind of blood-red Cheetos Fire, or some such thing. And she proceeded to polish off the entire bag during the course of the film, then promptly puked all over the comforter and (white) carpet. Bright neon-red vomit, all over the room that was designated Off Limits. Ha! I wish I had video of the older daughter's expression the moment the first crimson explosion went off, and splashed off the face of the credenza, or whatever. I bet there were some sizable bricks shit that night.

Apparently the stains cannot be removed. The bedspread had to be thrown into the trash, and they're pulling the carpet up off the floor. And the mother sends Toney profanity-laced instant messages all day long, just raging about it all. Good stuff.

-- There's a commercial for Verizon cell phones that I see all the time, which really irritates me. It shows this family of disconnected bored people sitting around a living room, when big doofus Dad bounds in and starts handing out phones to everyone. The teenagers get all excited, until Big Douchey mentions that it'll make it easier for them all to stay in touch. Just the thought of talking to a member of their own family apparently causes everyone to plunge into a state of abject depression. But they perk up again when he says they can also talk to their friends. Then everybody files out of the room, with their latest cache of goodies, right past The Dumbass. He calls for a group-hug and they just keep walking. There are no thank-yous, no signs of respect whatsoever. I hate that commercial. I know it's supposed to be funny, but I'd like to slug that whole family in the gut. Except for Dad, he's had enough abuse. We stereotype bumbling retards have to stick together.

-- And that's gonna do it for today, kiddies. I'll try to do better tomorrow, but I'm not making any promises. There's too much activity at the Compound to fully concentrate these days. Luckily, though, we have Jason to take up some of the slack for us. Mr. Castleberry?

See ya 'round.


September 28, 2004

-- My new computer should arrive sometime this week. It shipped yesterday, they say. I won't be able to get into it until we return from New York, since my parents will be here tomorrow and we leave on Friday, but just having it under the roof will be exciting. The boxes in the corner will provide me with comfort and support. And I can lift a flap, whenever the urge strikes, and take a great big whiff of the goodies inside... Ahhh, what a lovely smell. I've said it before and I'll say it again, some cologne company really needs to market a scent called New Electronics. They really do.

The only downside to all this is that my current computer is a lame duck, and every flaw is amplified a thousand times. The clicking and clacking is extra infuriating today, and the fact that I can't work and play streaming audio at the same times pisses me off a little more than before. Last week it was only a piece of shit, today it's shit so large you could saddle it up and ride it around the yard.

It's a lot like working out a notice at a hated job, I think. Everything that sucks about it is magnified, and it becomes nearly intolerable by the end. Luckily I haven't had too many jobs that I absolutely hated, but I have tasted the pain of at least one excruciating notice in my time. I carry the scars with me still.

When I first moved to North Carolina, back in the mid-'80s, I took a job as a stocker at a grocery store called Food Lion. I had some previous "marketing" experience, and they were willing to pay me some ridiculously large amount of money -- like seven bucks an hour, or something completely unheard of. I would join "the crew," they said, and work overnights, when the store was closed. I thought I'd hit the goddamn lottery.

The Crew consisted of three or four black guys, a NASCAR-lovin' redneck with long flowing mullet, a humpty-dumpty rosy-cheeked fellow with breathtaking body odor, and a little prick supervisor who apparently spent his spare time lifting weights and perfecting his arrogant sneer. I didn't exactly feel like I was meeting my second family as introductions were being made.

Each of us was assigned an aisle of the store, and we had to manage it completely. I had the "detergent aisle" as it was called. It was laundry detergent and bath soap and dishwashing liquid... that kind of crap. It was my job to keep the shelves fully stocked and cleaned, and make sure everything looked neat and organized. Plus, I had to order my own stock, and that was a constant thorn in my side.

They'd give us shit if we ordered too much of something, and cluttered up the backroom. And they'd give us shit if we didn't order enough, and there were holes in the shelves. It was like walking a tightrope, and I fell off repeatedly.

The bane of my existence became bleach, if you can believe it. During my time lording over the Detergent Aisle, we were constantly out of bleach, and management would practically do backflips of exasperation. But, hell, it only came six to a box, and it took up a lot of space. If I just said fuck it, and ordered a ton of the stuff, entire pallets would roll off the truck later that week. Then I'd be given a raft of shit about that. I never broke the code of the bleach, and to this day little beads of sweat break out on my forehead when I see a full-size bottle of Clorox.

(I have a feeling that the people of Greensboro, North Carolina use more bleach per capita than anywhere else on Earth. I really do. Goddamn, those people could buy some whiteners!)

Several times a week a big eighteen-wheeler truck would arrive from the warehouse, and we'd have to process the contents. We'd set up this long metal conveyor contraption in the backroom, run each box of stock down the length of the thing, cut the tops off, and sort it into whichever aisle-section it belonged to. It was during this processing time that The Crew got to bond.

The black guys talked a lot about "fucking," and delighted in the good-natured busting of balls. Mullet Head would try to convert us all to the world of NASCAR and turkey hunting, like some crazed Born Again. Fatty would usually work in silence as his cheeks grew redder and redder, with his musk escalating until it finally reached its zenith and began levelling off. The twenty year-old "supervisor" would invariably remove his shirt (because it was just so damn hot in there), and strut around showing off his pumped-up torso. I hated that asshole, and not only because he shaved his armpits. But that sure didn't help.

During each shift there would be several gut-sinking moments when I'd silently ask myself, "What in the hell are you doing here?!"

One night we were having lunch, at four in the morning, by the cash registers. Somebody was flipping through the Weekly World News, or some such thing, and there was a picture of a guy with no body below his ribcage. He was shown standing with his hands straight down, in place of his legs. This triggered many yucks and jokes, as you might expect. Eventually I wandered over to the deli to warm something in the microwave, and when I returned I found everyone engaged in a heated argument. And I heard someone shout, and I quote, "No, that's not right! A motherfucker can't shit if he ain't got no ass!!"

It was the greatest dumbass debate I'd heard since the gas station in WV, where two co-workers almost came to blows over who they thought would win a fist fight between Van Halen and the Rolling Stones.

They were all good guys (except Mr. Nair), just not very ambitious or curious. I think they felt they'd arrived at their life's work, and that was too depressing to even contemplate. It didn't take long to start hating that place with every fiber of my being. The job sucked, it was hard physical labor, management was made up of dicks, the people made me sad, and the hours kept me tired all the time.

I was also working at a record store, part-time, to keep my sanity in-check, and they eventually offered me a management job. It was a cut in pay, but I accepted it without hesistation, and turned in a one-week notice at Food Lion. And that week was horrible. It was all ratcheted up, everything sucked times ten. I considered just cutting and running, but a sense of guilt made me stick it out. And I'm here to tell you, it was pure agony.

I probably bitched and moaned a lot, I'm certainly capable of such a thing. But, for whatever reason, The Crew turned on me. They shat me out like yesterday's dinner. Apparently I'd committed an act of unspeakable betrayal. And before I left, Mullet Head tried to pick a fight with me, beside the cardboard baler. He said he was sick of hearing me badmouth the store, and fell into a fighting pose like something off the Bowery Boys. The hell? I can't remember how I handled it, but there was no fight.

And on my last day I'm almost certain I danced across the parking lot, like those guys in the Viagra commercials. Free at last!

So far my old computer hasn't threatened to kick my ass, or called me a faggot or anything. But there's still almost a week to go. I'll keep you posted on any further developments.


September 27, 2004

-- We worked our asses off this weekend. My parents will be here in a couple of days, and they have a different definition of "clean" than most people. I have a feeling they'd view the average American operating room as a little rough around the edges. So, every time they swing by the Compound we practically kill ourselves getting things up to code. Or close to it, anyway. I think the lower tip of my spine snapped off mid-afternoon yesterday, so I wasn't able to cross everything off the list. But almost everything.

We actually moved furniture, instead of just vacuuming around it, and I started to feel like an archeologist after a while. There was no way to predict what ancient artifact we might uncover next, and it was kinda fun. The hell? A bicycle pump under the loveseat?? Why? And what's this, a shirt on a hanger?! Sweet Jesus. It was like we were toiling inside the Great Pyramids.

And you should see our yard! It's a thing of beauty now. It's been mowed, whacked, weeded, raked, and blown into submission. It's enough to bring a tear to a suburban eye. Of course we'll act all casual and pretend it always looks that way, while sipping iced tea with our pinkies out. If I'm feeling especially full of shit I may even engage my father in a discussion about yard lime, or something. But, of course, that would be very risky.

Remember the episode of Malcolm in the Middle when they decided to clean out the hall closet, which was packed full of garbage ("What's this Hal, underpants?! Human underpants!!"), and discovered it was actually a second bathroom they'd completely forgotten about? Yeah, we're not that bad, but I have a feeling my parents think so. And we forfeited sections of our spinal columns in a desperate attempt to win back their approval. Hey, it's something primal; I can't really explain it.

God, I hope we didn't miss anything.

-- Under official protest we went to Home Depot yesterday and bought the stuff needed to re-route our downspouts away from the neighbors' house. There's no way in hell we're the cause of their water problems, but they've decided we are. And once something like that takes hold, no amount of arguing will change a person's mind. It's human nature to try to find somebody else to blame, and their search is over.

So, fuck it. It only cost us thirty bucks or so, and that's a small price to pay to avoid a years-long war with the folks next door. My Dad is going to help me with it, and by this time next week we'll be off the hook. I can't wait to see ol' Half-Shirt's reaction the next time we have a downpour, and his recliner and end table float down the hall again. Think we'll get an apology? Yeah, me neither.

I spoke to our insurance agent about the situation last week, and he was a bit surly. I think he was having a bad day. Perhaps he couldn't find a loophole in a policy and had to actually cut somebody a check? I don't know. But I told him about our neighbors' complaint, and my concerns, and he said, "OK, here's what you do... Go knock on your neighbors' door and tell them they're FULL OF SHIT. Christ, everybody has water in their basement; it's been raining for days!" I said, "Wait I'm writing this down... full of shit... got it!" Very helpful.

We went with the thirty dollar option instead.

-- Last week I wondered what had happened to Joan Rivers and her Man 'o' War-faced daughter, since neither was insulting people at this year's Emmys. Well, as if on cue, our answer came in Saturday's mail. There's a big article about her in the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly, and she reportedly jumped ship to the TV Guide Channel -- for eight million bucks! The TV Guide Channel? The hell is that?! I thought it was just a scrolling television schedule? Whatever. They stole her away, and are paying huge bank for her sarcastic services. In the article she mentions that she hates Jesus freaks, and claims they're ugly. If Jesus really loves you so much, she says, why didn't he give you a fucking chin? I'm not sure eight million is quite enough!

-- On Saturday morning we had to run a few errands, and Toney likes to get moving early. So she was hassling me to get on the stick. I jumped in the shower and threw on some clothes, and was all the way across town before I realized what I was wearing. I was sporting a pair of green shorts, and a big ol' green shirt, and everything matched like something a toddler would wear. I felt like a big dotard dressed for a day in the city. People probably thought I was wearing something from the Garanimals For Adult Retardeds Collection. I couldn't make eye contact with anyone, and lived in abject fear of running into someone from work. It was horrifying, and I was bitching up a storm. Why does everything have to be done in a frickin' rush? Is an extra fifteen minutes really gonna hurt anything??

-- A reader sent me this picture, recently snapped while passing through the West Virginia motherland. Ya gotta love it.

-- Another loyal Surf Reporter alerted me to this mention of our Fucks In Deadwood page, in the fancy-pants pages of Vanity Fair! How cool is that? I bet every single person at HBO has checked the FPMs by now. And I couldn't be more proud.

-- And I think that'll do it for today. I'll turn it over to Danny Maverick now, and wish you folks a nice Monday.

See ya tomorrow.



September 24, 2004

-- This is quickly becoming a weekly tradition, but sorry about the lack of an update yesterday. My internet at home went down Wednesday night, and was still down Thursday morning. The only uploading I was doing yesterday was when I put the Pop-Tarts into the toaster. Or is that a download? I'm not sure, but my computer was little more than a prop, like those plastic electronics shells you see at furniture stores.

All my life I've heard the phrase "you get what you pay for," and that's what makes this situation even more frustrating. We pay a fucking lot! But what choices do we have, really? Go back to dial-up? I should think not. No, we'll just ride it out. And I have a feeling the service will greatly improve the day Adelphia has some real competition here. It's just a cynical gut feeling on my part...

-- Of course, it's not like you guys missed a lot. I've been working and watching TV this week. Little else. We're easing into the new television season here at the Compound, trying to incorporate a few new shows into the mix.

We watched something called Lost a couple of nights ago, and it was... interesting. It's about the survivors of an airplane crash, living on an island not unlike the one where Gilligan and the gang resided for many years. Well, except for the invisible dinosaur, or whatever, that eats the heads off people like frickin' nectarines... Other than that, it's a lot like Gilligan's island. The star of the show is Charlie from Party of Five. You know, the oldest orphan who came down with, what Larry David called, "the good Hodgkins"? He's a doctor on this show, and the unofficial leader of the forty or so survivors. It was pretty darn good. We'll be back next week.

On Wednesday I checked out Scrote's replacement on Law & Order, Dennis Farina. Yeah, the jury's still out on that deal. It felt strange not having good ol' Scrote around making smart-ass comments about every little thing. And the new Farina character is not exactly instantly likable. He wears fancy suits, flashes his money around, and sports gold jewelry. It's gonna take some time.

SVU is still kick-ass, though. It's my favorite non-HBO show, I think. I like all of the characters, the unpredictable fucked-upness of it all, and the fact that it takes the entire hour to solve the crime. On the original show the lawyers take over at the half-hour mark, and the lawyers are wank. It's all about the investigation, as far as I'm concerned. I don't care much about plea bargains and motions to suppress evidence. I find it far more entertaining to watch Ice-T, or that '70s stand-up comic, smash a whore-killer's head through a wall of corrugated metal. Call me shallow if you must.

We never really warmed to that other Law & Order, the one where the guy cocks his head for an hour each week? And we've never seen a single episode of any of the CSIs; I don't even know what that show's about. Isn't there a man with red hair in every series? What's the deal with that?

I suspect we're out of touch with the popular culture, but we're trying, dammit. Give us credit for that much. We may have missed the boat on The O.C., but we're planning to watch the new James Spader/William Shatner show. And the invisible-dinosaur good-Hodgkins island program looks like a keeper. We're doing our best, but it's an uphill battle.

Where does the time come from to sample and be knowledgeable about every show on television? Seriously. Sometimes I think the Mylar balloon lady and I are the only two people in America who don't have a firm grip on the imaginary world inside the flickering box. I hear folks talking at work, and it sounds like they watch the entire prime time line-up, on every network and a few cable channels -- every single night of the week. How?!

It's exhausting, but we're trying to keep up. We really are.

-- I don't really like doing this, but I'm required by the Bloggers Union (Local 514) to link to a certain amount of crapola each month, or risk losing my operator's license. I prefer to think of this site as more of an online journal, but the Union disagrees, and I don't need any trouble. So, here goes:

This is a fun site where one can type in a keyword, then sample a myriad of tiny sound files related to your search word. Of course my first go-'round was with the word "fart." Then "belch." Then "vomit." Hours of fun.

This man is taking photos of all the pasta he eats, and posting them to the web!

Here's some exciting news: DVD box sets are coming, containing a large selection of vintage ABC Afterschool Specials! Awesome. The ones about angel dust were stellar.

And here's a short quiz you can take, to learn where you stand politically. Mine came back as socially liberal(?!), economically conservative, and best described as a libertarian. The interesting part is at the end, when you can pull up a collage of famous people's faces, arranged by their ideology. And they show you where your face would be in the crowd. I'm right between Donald Trump and Adam Sandler. WTF??

Snopes is very skeptical about the theory that God is punishing Bush voters in Florida with a shitload of hurricanes.

I had no idea that the Nancy comic had become so edgy. I like it!

This is a German car commercial. Or is it?

And now I get to keep my card! Thank you for your patience. See ya on Monday.


September 22, 2004

A few more things:

-- Toney was cleaning out the refrigerator over the weekend and broke the seal on some Tupperware, which unleashed a mushroom cloud of funk with the power to bring a maggot to its knees. I was standing at the counter preparing a nice sandwich for lunch when she freed the demon from its eternal resting place, and my entire windpipe began to pulse and constrict. We were both gasping for air, bent at the waist, coughing and hollering. The culprit appeared to be cauliflower-based, which doesn't smell too good even under the best of circumstances. But, boy, just let it start the process of breaking down, and see what happens... It stunk like an open grave.

And that's not even the bad part. After we'd recovered from our hacking jags, Toney grabbed the container and whipped it in the direction of the sink, in preparation of sending it down the grinder. But as she whipped, she also managed to sling some of the horrifying funk nectar -- across my legs! I was wearing shorts, and suddenly had decaying cauliflower juice striped across my naked calves.

"Goddamn!" I screamed. I felt it before I smelled it, but knew what it was immediately. And that's all I could manage, to say "goddamn" over and over, frozen like a statue with a slice of provolone in my hand. Toney, of course, found this to be the absolute pinnacle of comedy, and was still laughing when I emerged from my second shower of the hour.

Yes, a person needs a strong support network.

-- On Sunday we had breakfast at the sparkling new Waffle House in town, and there was a wait for a table, as usual. So, we were standing in the little lobby area with several other grease 'n' gristle aficionados, when an old man suddenly came around the corner and coughed right in my face. He didn't do it on purpose, he just rounded the corner and I was there. But I felt the wind on my face, it rustled my hair a bit, and that's not really my idea of a good time. I mean, I know exactly what the man had for breakfast. Sure, it smelled pretty good, but still... If I don't come down with some bizarre disease by the middle of next week, it'll be a miracle. A goddamn miracle.

-- The cool weather we're enjoying is getting me excited. Man, I'm ready for winter. Over the weekend I even considered going out into the yard to try to build a rainman. But I thought that might be pushing it a bit, and figured there'd be plenty of time for such things in the coming months.

-- And speaking of cool weather, a few people have asked me about Bourbon Season, like when it starts, and such. Officially, of course, it kicks off on Halloween night, and lasts until New Year's Eve. In past years we've jumped the gun a bit and started the Season in, oh, I don't know, late August? But we're going to try to stick to the rules this year. We don't want to burn ourselves out before December -- because we may be playing host to Sunshine and Mumbles for the entire month. So, you see, we simply can't risk it. There are good reasons why the Founding Fathers named Halloween night as the start of Bourbon Season; they didn't just pull that date out of the flap of their union suits, people.

-- I watched an old Burt Reynolds movie the other night, called White Lightning. It was about moonshiners Down South, and had a lot of car chases in it. But one of the characters said something that's stuck in my mind. It was one of the hick shine runners, I think, and he said, "Damn, I'm so hungry I could eat the ass out of a hobby horse." I don't know why, but I just love that.

-- Most of my California colleagues attended an all-day corporate pep rally yesterday, so I had very little to do. Usually I can rely on them to generate a few dozen ball-kickings throughout the day, but they were out of commission on Tuesday. So, I sat there and surfed around on the few non-blocked websites I have access to, and ended up purchasing a new computer(!?). I had no intentions of doing such a thing, but I stumbled onto and got myself all whipped into a frenzy. Before it was over I'd placed an order for a new PC with an 80 gig hard drive, 512 megs of memory, Pentium 4 processor, and all the bells and whistles. I mean, the deals were just so friggin' good! I may ultimately regret such a hasty decision, but I doubt it. In fact, I might buy another one today, just to recapture the high.

But I'm gonna need some help... What's the best way to migrate files from this old dinosaur, to the new fancy-pants machine? I'll need to move the website, of course, and a few other odds and ends. What's the least painless way? My knowledge of such things is extremely limited, and would be much obliged for some tips.

-- And finally, our good friend Jason is back from a three-week "assignment," and has weighed in on a few things. Check it out.

More tomorrow, unless I'm sidelined by the Black Plague of Death. Have a great day, folks.


September 21, 2004

-- Toney and I watched the Emmy Awards on Sunday and they were disappointing on at least two fronts.

First, and most important: what the hell happened to Joan Rivers? We turned on E!, as normal, to watch her and her Seabiscuit-faced daughter drink cocktails and ridicule the rich and famous, but were greeted by an ass-snorkeling Star Jones instead. What happened?! There's almost no reason to tune into an awards shows if Joan's not there. I'm sorry, but I have little interest in watching an outsized sassy black woman make high-pitched noises for two hours. Over-animated sucking-up is not entertainment. I want an inebriated and tactless marionette, asking people their annual salaries, and telling powerful movie stars they could really use a mint. I believe as a country we have a right!

The starkest point came when a midget lady approached Ms. Jones, and was interviewed without once being reminded that she was, indeed, a midget. Such an oversight would've never happened on Joan's watch. Oh no. She would have said something like, "What in the hell is a midget doing at the Emmys?! Or are you technically a dwarf?" -- before asking if she was wearing an actual dress, or if it was just the scraps left over from the bolt of fabric used on Tyne Daly's gown. It was a gut-wrenching moment in show business history, when that midget woman was given a pass.

Nobody at the network asked me, but I believe a serious mistake has been made here. Before the Golden Globes they'd better make nice with Joan and Seattle Slew, or risk losing it all. Just swallow your pride E!, and roll out the liquor cart again. We've all been to the mountaintop, and won't be fooled by cheap imitations. Nice ain't gonna cut it anymore; it's crass mockery that we crave. Get your fingers on the pulse of America, for god's sake.

To be fair, it was mildly entertaining to watch celebrities talk to Star Jones. For some reason many of them felt the need to adopt her speech patterns. What's the deal with that? I don't know either, but it's sort of fun to watch people like Martin Sheen, and the auditors from Ernst & Young, holler, "Ooooh girl! You lookin' fine tonight!" It really is.

The show itself was dull as a motherfucker. Garry Shandling is sometimes funny, but on Sunday he was about as amusing as a catheter. Here's a photo Toney snapped of me watching the opening monologue. I don't believe I even cracked a smile. Highly unsatisfying. And the political commentary didn't help either. Blow it out yer ass liver lips, and just make us laugh. I couldn't give a three-pronged shit about your opinion on the Patriot Act. Just introduce Ty Pennington and get out of the way.

The Sopranos won some big-time awards, so that was good. If Christopher had been passed over again this year I think he might have snapped and starting throwing punches. Last year he looked like he wanted to sock Doris Roberts, or somebody, in the gut. Adrianna won too, and so did the show itself. I like to see people I recognize win. I have no idea what that Angels In America is all about, but the people involved didn't seem like they'd be much fun on a long car trip (lapel ribbons make me very skeptical). Eventually I found myself booing them, after about three wins and twice as many Yuenglings. I may have thrown a little food as well.

The only other highlight was some crazy-ass woman named Elaine Stretch, or Stitch, or something. She won for a performance film of some sort. I have no idea. They showed a clip and there was a brass band a-blaring, and what appeared to be Bea Arthur onstage caught up in a swarm of hornets. There was a lot of flailing, and brass instrumentation. Toney and I just looked at each other in confusion, and opened a container of dip.

I don't know why I continue to put myself through it. I always think something interesting might happen, and it rarely does. Then at the end of the night I feel all dirty and ashamed, and have to turn it over to Sportscenter to bring my dignity level back up to an acceptable level.

One of these day I fear I might go in too far, and will return dressed as Dolly Parton. And that's why I have the Dirty Harry box set behind glass at my house. You just can't be too careful.


September 20, 2004

-- On Saturday we were served the leftovers from Hurricane Ivan. All morning it rained, as my Dad would put it, like a cow pissing on a flat rock. The main street of town was turned into a swiftly moving brown creek, impromptu waterfalls sprang up where decorative retaining walls used to be, and the whole area was plagued by flash floods. It was a lot of water quick, but inside the Compound we were dry and toasty.

Until the phone rang.

"Oh crap, it's the people next door," Toney said, viewing the caller ID display. We both knew what it was about. A few months ago Poppa Half-Shirt as I call him (it's a long story), said something to Toney about water running through our gutters, down our hill, and into their basement. Our house sits on top of an elevation, and theirs is down below, and he's convinced himself that we're the cause of his basement flooding problems. He apparently wants us to re-direct our downspouts.

Both homes have been here for almost forty years, and I'm fairly certain none of the drainage has been tampered with since day one. Now it's suddenly a problem, in 2004?? Hell, it was all set up when I was a baby in West Virginia, crapping into a cotton ass-wrap. Now it's my fault? I just wrote it off as crack-pot ravings, and never addressed the issue. I did talk to a couple of people who know about such things, and they all seemed to agree that our neighbors were just trying to find someone to blame their troubles on.

Toney answered the phone on Saturday, and it was Half-Shirt's wife, and she was livid. She said they were "beside themselves" because we'd failed to do something about the "water problem," and now their basement was flooded again. Toney handed the phone to me, and threw her arms up in the international gesture for "I'm washing my hands of this shit."

When I got on the line the woman was in the middle of a sentence, she hadn't even stopped ranting while we made the hand-off. I started to remind her that the houses have been here since the 1960's, but she cut me off. She was hot, and wasn't really interested in hearing my opinions on the subject; she just wanted to give a speech. I finally was able to tell her that I didn't believe we were the source of her water problems, but I'd look into it, and if there was something reasonable we could do, we'd do it. And then she said, "Well, I should hope so!" and hung up.

That pissed me off, and I slammed the phone down and let out some kind of involuntary animal growl. "They need to show me some proof of this shit!" I shouted, and ran out the front door into the rain. As I went around the corner of our house I fell down in the grass and got covered in mud from shoetops to man-tits. But I was still hacked off by the haughty dismissal I'd received on the phone, and ventured on. As I started down the hill both my feet flew out from under me again, I landed on my left side and just kind of slid the rest of the way down, until I came to rest at the bottom in a large mudhole.

As I was almost finished with my humiliation slide, Poppa Half-Shirt emerged from his backdoor in time to see me splashdown. "Whoa Jeff, you need to be careful out here!" he said. But I could detect a trace of a chuckle in there somewhere, as I struggled to get to my feet in a large pool of standing water.

Something like that has the power to take the steam out of your engine, and I just calmly stood there on his back porch listening to his theory about the water. It's not easy to be Johnny Bad-Ass when you look like you've been strapped into a harness and repeatedly dipped in swill. I promised again that I'd look into having our downspouts re-directed, and hopefully that will take care of the problem. I have my doubts, but I was in no position to put up a defense.

And when I got back inside the house, looking like an acid-freak from Woodstock, I saw in the mirror that my shirt was also inside-out. Big-ass tag on the back. Boy, I'd showed them! They'll think long and hard before they mess with Jeff Kay again.


-- Here's Friday's radio extravaganza. This is proof that Jack Boston is a master in the editing room, because I was stumbling all over the place with this one. Thanks Jack!

A funny story about these radio spots... Last Friday I received an email from a woman I used to work with at Peaches Records in Greensboro. She lives in Durham now, and doesn't read the website and knew nothing about any of this. She said her clock radio is set to go off at 6:45 every morning, and the radio had kicked on that day, and she'd heard somebody say something about "my friend, Jeff Kay." Then she heard my voice emanating from the general direction of her nightstand, and she sat straight up in bed. It was a surreal start to a Friday morning, and you just gotta love it.

-- And here's a local news report about a very dangerous intersection, complete with the kind of visuals a person could only dream of. If I'd been the reporter I have no doubt I would've tripped, blew the ass out of my pants, and gotten my head run over by a sausage truck, or something. Some guys have all the luck.

-- Finally, here's the latest from Danny Maverick.

And that's all I have time for today, children. I'll give you my thoughts on the Emmys tomorrow, and a few other odds and ends.

See ya then.


September 17, 2004

-- I had a dream last night that we were enjoying ourselves on vacation, when disaster struck. I'm not sure where we were, since there was both an ocean and several Atlanta landmarks, but that's not really the important part... We were having a great time, laughing and eating ice cream like in those out-of-focus TV montage segments that signify "good times," and during Day Three or so I suddenly realized that I'd never asked for the time off from work! I'd never told them I was going, or had anything approved or anything. I'd just gone to this strange Port Atlanta, instead of to work where I belonged. High, high stress. How was I going to explain? What would they think?? Wonder if they've replaced me yet?? No fun.

I don't dream as much as I used to, but when I do it's usually anxiety-based. Sometimes I spend the night poring over thick computer reports, printed on big-ass 90's-era green-bar paper, and wake up completely exhausted. Other times I'm outside a building at West Virginia State College, preparing to take a final exam for a class I haven't attended in months. Of course, that one is based on real-life events, but they happened about twenty years ago. What in the high-gloss hell am I doing still thinking about it? And why am I always outside in the yard?? I bet Melfi could tell me. ...You know, if she weren't a fictional character.

What happened to all the fun dreams? Like the ones where I'm able to float a few inches off the floor, and just glide all around? I used to do that about once a week, but for the past few years there's been no gliding. No gliding at all. And I'd pay good money to return to some of my excellent high school dreamscapes. I want to be the mayor of Tit Town again!

But apparently that's all behind me now. Today it's either a complete blackout, or I spend the night trying to control my bowels, and play mind-over-sphincter, because I botched some paperwork somewhere. It's not unusual for me to wake up with my heart racing, thinking we're on the verge of losing the house. And I don't like that.

Maybe after we hit the Powerball I can relax, and start giving out keys to the city again? I sure hope so. I was a good and popular mayor.

-- We watched Joey again last night, and it was a painful thing to behold. Because it's a piece of crap. And because the producers had everything going for them, and screwed it all up. Joey is the kind of thing real anxiety dreams are made of. We made excuses last week, saying they had to establish the characters and situations, and that's why it wasn't very funny. But last night's episode was even less funny than the first one, and it's quickly becoming clear that this ain't Friends, it's According to Jim. Sad. It was all teed up for them, and they not only missed the ball, but also lost the club and hurled it into the sitting area of the snack bar.

And in case you're interested, that last metaphor is also based on real-life events. I was asked not to return.

-- I have an old movie called Tales From The Crypt saved on the DVR, and I plan to watch it tonight while enjoying a few frosty Yuenglings. It's a flick they showed us at school for some reason, in Junior High, as part of a Halloween assembly. And it scared the living hell out of all of us. I don't remember much about it, except for its effect on the school population, and a gut-wrenching segment featuring a maniac dressed as Santa Claus, trying to break into a woman's house. It'll be interesting to see if it's still scary. Some movies that seemed mind-meltingly frightening back in the day, are laughably retarded now. But others, like Stranger in the House (aka Black Christmas), still have the power to yank the ol' drawstring. We'll see how it goes tonight.

-- Thanks to everyone who suggested dive bars for us to visit in New York. They all sound good, especially Rudy's and the one in the old hotel. It'll be hard to choose, so there's only one thing to do: go to 'em all! Does MapQuest offer a barhopping feature? If they don't, they should. Thanks for the tips, folks.

And that's about all I have for today. I better drag my sorry ass into work, before they suspect I ran off to Buckhead-by-the-Sea or something.

See ya on Monday.


September 16, 2004

A few quick things:

-- We finalized our New York City plans yesterday. I got the time off, and was able to secure the big fat corporate discount on our hotel room (yay corporations!), so it's a go. In two weeks we'll be there. I'm really psyched. I know it's a cliche, but there really is no other place like New York. And I'm kinda proud that we're following through on at least one of our beer-studded deck schemes. We come up with a lot of 'em sitting out there, but few come to fruition. This validates the Cult of the Deck, and that's a good thing. We need hope. Now, if someone can suggest an interesting bar in the general vicinity of Times Square, I'd be much obliged. We have everything pretty much mapped out, but need an evening drinkery for Friday. Let me know. We like the classic corner bar kinda place, with a jukebox, severely scarred booths, and a history. Help us out.

-- Speaking of New York, yet another Ramone died yesterday. That's three of the original four members. The hell, man? If I was Tommy I think I'd start going to church or something; the Grim Reaper is collecting punks! It's sad. The man was only 55 and, from all accounts, a good guy. I believe I'll crank Rocket to Russia on my way to work this morning, as my tiny personal tribute to the band. They were great, and I'm thankful I got to see them a few times -- including the day Kurt Cobain was found with his toe on the trigger. Nobody's gonna be forgetting the Ramones anytime soon.

But, y'know... now that I think about it, I doubt I ever saw all four original members together. I believe by the time I got to them there were guys in the band named Gary Ramone and Walter Ramone, or whatever. But it still counts, so get off my back! Don't be dissing my Ramones shows! Walter rocked in his own right!!

-- A reader sent me this scan from a children's book he was reading with his five year old a few days ago. Said I immediately came to mind when he saw it. I'm not exactly sure what to make of that, but I think I like it!

-- I passed a guy in Target the other day who was wearing so much cologne I could actually taste it. I'm not exaggerating, it was inside my mouth, adhering itself to my tongue. Nasty! I almost spit right on the linoleum, by electronics. I sincerely don't understand such a thing. He must have a baptismal of cologne at his house. Why?! I believe you'd have to be a mental patient to want to smell like that. My nose hairs burned down like firecracker wicks, and my eyes were watering. I hope somebody was able to get close enough to him to kick his ass. There's just no call.

-- Our little Leave It To Beaver community is being hit by a hefty wave of "criminal mischief." That's the term used by police. Cars are being broken into, but not much is being stolen. People are reporting things being added to their vehicles, not taken away, such as a trash can full of grass trimmings, and the like. Toney went out a few days ago and the door handle on her car was packed full of peanut butter. Campaign signs are being moved around for comedic effect, and toilet paper is hanging from the trees. The kids need to go back to school, they really do. When the teacher's strike starts to translate into late-night sandwich spread sabotage, something's gotta be done. Or, at the very least, they might think to invite me along. Sheesh, no respect for the past masters. My friends and I played a big part in bringing the concept of criminal mischief into the modern era. Where's the respect?!

-- Have you ever seen a gay albino? I hadn't either, until yesterday. I was leaving work last night and was passed in the parking lot by a young glow-in-the-dark gentleman who was sashaying like a choreographer, and generally mincing about. Not a single drop of pigmentation -- or masculinity. In Scranton! Talk about your profiles in courage... His skin, hair, and eyebrows were all the same pale hue, and he was talking to a woman about a man named Larry, who he termed "a bitch." I don't really have a point with any of this... I just thought it was worth mentioning, because he was, you know, a hyper-effeminate albino man.

-- Finally, here's a Smoking Fish sighting sent in by loyal Surf Reporter Lucie, from the path of Hurricane Frances. Holy crap in a Bundt pan! I'm glad to know everybody's OK -- and that the t-shirt made it through, without even coming unfolded! I told you they were quality products.

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


September 15, 2004

-- Adelphia screwed us all. I got up yesterday and wrote my morning update, like a good boy, and when it came time to upload it, I found my internet connection was deader than Kelsey's nuts. I had to get to work, so, no Tuesday update. What I wrote is below. And if you hadn't noticed, I'm taking advantage of the situation to slack off today. Thank you Adelphia... you motherfuckers! 

-- Toney and I have started watching The Sopranos again. We have all of the DVDs, and a couple of weeks ago we decided we'd start over at the beginning. What I'd forgotten about the early episodes is how funny they were. They're almost full-blown comedies -- with a few savage beatings thrown in. We sit there and just laugh our asses off. What a great show. Holy shit.

But that's not really what I wanted to talk about today... This ain't the TV Guide, goddammit. No, a character in one of the shows we watched recently mentioned going to a "package store," and that triggered a story from my past, which eventually forked off to a couple of other mini-stories, loosely feeding off the main story, and that's what I wanted to talk about today. I believe that's right...

Anyway, when I was in high school my Dad got me a job as a toll collector at a city-owned bridge in our town. It cost twenty-five cents for the privilege of using the luxurious structure to cross the river, and they needed humans to stand inside the tiny booths at the bottom, and collect quarters from the motorists. It paid $4.60 an hour, back when the minimum wage was $3.35, so it was a pretty good job for a hygienically-challenged high school kid. The funny thing was, Dad never even mentioned anything about it. One day he just came home and said I was going to be working there. I think he was embarrassed that I still had a paper route in high school.

One afternoon an agitated middle-aged man came across the bridge, and demanded to know where he could find the nearest "package store." I'd never heard that term in my life, and had no idea what he was talking about. Package store? What is that, a place that sells postage supplies and whatnot? By the end of the conversation the guy was really pissed, and called me a stupid hillbilly peckerwood or something. What the hell, man? If he'd just said liquor store I could've helped him. I could've helped him real good.

A similar thing happened when a man asked where he could find a Wal-Mart. Wall Mart? What is that, a place that sells paint and and wallpaper, and stuff like that? People can be very hurtful with their Appalachian-themed insults, they really can.

But here's where the story forks off... When I was in ninth grade one of our teachers had a heart attack, proving to many of us that prayers do get answered. She was both evil and crazy, and I believe we actually willed her heart to stop. So, after she went down they brought in a permanent substitute, who would be there for the remainder of the school year. It took me about a week to get myself kicked out of her class -- for good. For the rest of the year I had to report to the principal's office for fifth period. And he made me clean out closets and shit.

Hell, I'd only shot a rubber band directly over her head, at close range. What's the big deal? I could've easily adjusted my aim down a few inches, but didn't. I thought I'd showed remarkable restraint and maturity, but you just can't reason with some people.

That was in ninth grade. Fast forward to eleventh grade, two full years later. That same teacher, who I barely even remembered, came across the bridge while I was working. She did a double-take like on cartoons, and sped off. Hey! That was the rubber band lady! It was all coming back to me, but I wondered why she seemed so freaked out. Had she finally snapped and lost her walnut-sized mind? I chuckled and moved on to other things.

But she didn't move on. Oh, no. I'm still amazed this actually happened, but the next day this substitute teacher from Junior High, returned to my workplace and had a conversation with my boss. Luckily, he thought it was all just hilarious and told me everything. She said I was a "ringleader" and should be watched closely. And she questioned the wisdom of even hiring me at all. He said she seemed very angry and fidgety. Can you believe that?! It still blows my mind to this day.

My boss, who was only about five years older than me, started calling me Ringleader after that. It was all a big joke to him. But I didn't think any of it was funny. What kind of crazy-ass bitch goes to somebody's job, years later, and tries to poison management against them? Unbelievable.

Later that same year she substituted at our high school. I saw her in the hall and once again thanked the gods of revenge and juvenile delinquency for smiling down upon me. One day it was snowy outside so the rubber band lady wore boots to school, then changed into sneakers once she arrived. A friend and I went into her classroom after we saw her headed toward the cafeteria, opened her second-story window, and flung her goddamn boots out in the yard.

They landed at the feet of a couple of cigarette-puffing hoods in Ozzy shirts, or whatever, and they looked up in confusion. "It's the sub's boots!", we yelled down. And the hoods promptly ran her footwear up the flagpole, and tied them off so they were hanging on the same level as her window. It was just so frickin' pure and perfect, it almost brought a tear to my eye.

We all loitered outside her room, waiting for her to return, acting all casual and innocent. We were probably even looking at our watches and whistling and stuff. By the time she came back half the school was aware of the situation and the hallway was packed. She shoved her way through the crowd, walked into her classroom, and Rocky (I think) said something like, "Excuse me, are those your boots madame?" And there was an avalanche of laughter as she saw them dangling off the flagpole, twisting in the wind.

She spun back around in anger, and noticed me standing there. We locked eyes for a second or two, and I gave her a little Dick Cheney smirk. Her face turned tomato-red and she stormed off in a huff, beneath a towering wall of laughter.

I heard through my vast network of spies and backstabbers that she vowed never to return to Dunbar High until I was gone, and that brought me some of the greatest satisfaction I've yet to know.

And speaking of sweet, here's the commemorative plaque at the site of the old Toll Bridge, after I complained a few years ago that my name had been left off. I sure hope the rubber band lady has seen it!

Yes, you get by with a little help from your friends... Just like Silvio and Paulie and the boys.

September 13, 2004

-- On Saturday morning I got out of bed, poured myself a cup of coffee, exchanged a few sleep-choked words with Toney, and turned on the computer. Then I flopped down and began the daily ritual of checking email, bouncing from news site to news site, from crazy shit to crazy shit, and getting myself caught up in an endless loop of trolling for something that'll make my brain explode. And once I'm in the loop I have a hard time getting out; round and round and round I go. I seem to have a few addictive personality issues...

But on Saturday something unusual occurred: I became enraged, for no apparent reason. About ten minutes into it I suddenly lost my shit and wanted to hurl my monitor through the family room window, into the backyard. What the hell am I doing here?! What's the point of all this? I was screeching like Al Gore, and went all Chris From North Carolina inside the bunker. I felt like my soul was being sucked into my monitor, and it pissed me off. I've kinda grown attached to my soul.

I told Toney I was quitting the website and buying a goddamn manual typewriter. I'd work on my goofy little novel like it's 1957, I proclaimed, and would never again see The Drudge Report, or The Portal Of Evil. If people wanted to send me a note they could damn well write it on a piece of paper, put it in an envelope, give it to a man who would give it to other men, who would eventually put it inside a metal box bolted to the front of our house. I was clearly out of my fucking mind.

But I turned the computer off, and left it off for most of the weekend. And I slowly began to feel better, healthier. I was like those people in Pleasantville, changing from black & white to color. We took walks around the neighborhood, I read a few three-dimensional newspapers (a very interesting experience), we watched a couple of movies together, and talked more than usual. And it was good. Human interaction ain't all bad.

I don't know what's happening to me. I think I need to check myself into a "hospital" for a "rest." Something ain't right. Isn't this the way the Unabomber got his start?

-- I hate to disappoint you good people, but we didn't go to the RV show over the weekend like we'd planned. It was in Harrisburg, a two-hour drive from here, and we just couldn't justify such a thing. Four hours in the car, to look at campers? What the hell were we thinking? We just stayed close to home.

On Saturday we decided to check out a new Chinese restaurant in Scranton, for lunch. Toney read somewhere that it's really good, and good Chinese food ain't too easy to come by in these parts. But we couldn't find it. We got all turned around and ended up in The Great Depression. I'm not sure how we managed it, but I believe we actually went back in time, to about 1934. The faces, sweet Jesus, the faces!

We gave up the pursuit, but had our minds set on Chinese. So we settled for a mediocre little buffet, a few miles from our house. It's not bad, but not great either. For one thing, they don't label the selections on the feed trough. And since I'm not a fan of garlic, I'm highly suspicious. If I'd happen to get a mouthful of some kind of saucy garlic mess I know my lower jaw would retract, and my stomach might turn itself inside out. So I was on Chinese pins and needles.

Boy, there was some flesh in that building. Wow. I wondered if we'd interrupted a fat farm field trip or something. But I didn't see any heavy duty buses in the parking lot, with hydraulic swaddle lift. Toney just shrugged and reminded me we were at a buffet: all you can eat. Hell, I'd forgotten.

One woman who looked like she had sofa cushions inside her clothing, and Tupperware lettuce keepers in the back of her stretch pants, used a four-legged cane to travel to the food. The exertion caused her to huff and puff like the Cass Scenic Railroad, and she could've clearly used a refreshing washcloth-on-a-stick after each taxing journey. A big truckdrivin' pillar of beef kept walking past our table with plates of food that appeared to defy the laws of gravity; it was mildly confusing, like an optical illusion. How was it possible?!

Yeah, there was some massive in the house, but at least it wasn't the scary-ass people you'd find at the Old Country Buffet. A Chinese restaurant seems to attract a higher-grade of beef than yer average meat and potatoes joints. At no time did I feel a knife fight might break out, or anything like that. That sort of thing seems to happen when cutlets and white gravy are involved, never around garlic mushroom caps. And I didn't see anyone who appeared to be sporting a botched Mexican skin graft, or a dangling face mole that threatened to drop into the fried rice. It was a more upscale group of fatties. If you absolutely must visit a buffet, make it Chinese or something mildly exotic. It keeps out the riff-raff, I've learned.

-- And, finally, do you ever agree to something, then almost immediately wonder if you've made a big mistake? Just a question. Here's the debut piece from our newest columnist, Danny Maverick. Please welcome him to the Surf Report family. ...Ahem.

See ya tomorrow. Probably.


September 10, 2004

-- The teachers are on strike here. Again. This is an annual event, and it's not an easy thing to take. They're out there every morning with smug looks on their faces, marching about with signs, like it's 1947. I wouldn't mind giving some of those teachers an apple -- hurled from the side window of a speeding car. Or, to be more precise, their union representatives.

Somebody once told me that if people received their entire pay every two weeks, with no withholdings deducted, and were forced to sit down and write checks to the various tax commissions, there'd be an uprising. And I have no doubt that's true, because it's sorta happening to us. For reasons I can't now remember we were unable to set up an escrow account when we bought our house here. So, we have to write physical checks to pay our various "property" taxes.

These taxes are busted into three big chunks, and the biggest chunk by far is the school tax. I believe our most recent bill was for about $2200, just for the school portion. Then there's a couple of smaller more-vague fees, like the borough tax, or whatever. (Borough?? What is this, Scotland?) I assume this money goes toward snow-removal and whatnot, and that's all good.

But the teachers... that's a different story. They're well-paid, work 180 days per year, enjoy benefits fit for a king, and bitch bitch bitch. Always with the bitching, as if they're some modern-day Norma Raes, rising up against a dark and evil injustice. Their current complaint, which they're trying to pass off as being akin to the plight of the 1928 West Virginia coal miner? They have to make five-dollar co-payments when they visit a doctor. Co-pays! My God, how could this happen in a civilized society?! How can we hold our heads up in public??

Rightly or wrongly, I blame the union. And I blame the teachers for blindly following. I understand why unions came into being, but it's 2004 and I think most of them are now just shakedown outfits. What are you gonna do for us this year? It's not about protecting the worker against injustice at this point, it's about repeatedly kicking management in the luggage. And threatening and extorting.

Do I sound bitter?

-- A follow-up on the janitorial situation at my job: my trash is being emptied, but not by the guy who likes to incorporate a dash of mimery into the process, and tears shit up. Now I'm being visited every afternoon by a woman who seems to be a lot more careful, and is obviously providing cover for the other guy. They all stick together, those janitors; it's sort of a Brotherhood of the Pail. I saw the guy yesterday, though. I passed him on my way to purchase another Mountain Dew Excessive, and he grunted a nervous greeting and looked at the floor. "How ya doin', clock-breaker?" I said in a cheerful voice, and kept moving. It brought me great satisfaction.

-- Perhaps to verify completely my current status as a boring old fuck, Toney and I are planning to travel to Harrisburg this weekend, to visit a gigantor RV show. Twenty-six football fields of recreational vehicles! But don't worry, I'll have my camera. You'll feel like you were there with us!

-- Finally, I'll leave you with my latest sixty-second look at America, as aired only this morning on Star 102.9 FM, in Raleigh. Thanks again to Jack Boston for allowing me this opportunity. It's starting to be fun, instead of just pure bowel-ripping terror. Who could've predicted such a thing?

On Monday I'll debut a new Surf Report columnist. Danny Maverick is his name, and he's from Texas. Mr. Maverick wore me down with a tsunami of email, asking for a spot, and it's difficult to ignore such enthusiasm. We'll see how it goes, starting Monday morning.

Until then...


September 9, 2004

-- The new Westerberg CD came out on Tuesday and I don't have it yet. I'm slipping. By this point I'm usually near the tail-end of a white-knuckle 48-hour perma-repeat session, well on my way to aural burnout. I sometimes do that sort of thing, you know, gorge on the candy until I make myself sick, then swear off the stuff forever. Sure, "forever" might only last a day or two, but at some point full-blown saturation is reached, and that ain't pretty.

I don't listen to a lot of my favorite music anymore, because it's like home furnishings now. My collection is riddled with CDs I love, but are now so known as to not have any effect on me anymore. Know what I'm talking about? London Calling may as well be a forkin' umbrella stand at this point. A quality product, sure, but just another hunk of familiar surroundings. I've played it so many times I can't even hear it anymore.

And all of that "classic rock" stuff... it's like wallpaper. I listened to it when it wasn't even classic yet, and somewhere along the way the stations threw in the towel and stopped adding new songs. Apparently they just said fuck it, we have enough good music, why knock ourselves out looking for more? And a quarter-century passed. Every once in a while I tune into one of those dubious exercises, the coin-stacking at the beginning of Pink Floyd's "Money" kicks in, and my brain becomes a bald tire on ice. All I hear is a low buzzing sound in the background. 

Nobody needs to hear no Pink Floyd no more.

If I want to listen to the Beatles I have to dig deep, like side four of The White Album. A lot of the Randy Newman catalog is like nuclear winter to me now. And even the mighty Replacements have become audio draperies. It's sad. And I've learned that time doesn't heal it either. I can slap on Rubber Soul after a five-year break, and there's just an irritating clicking noise in the room. I wish I'd paced myself better, I really do. I'd love to hear Rubber Soul again.

For reasons I don't quite understand, some artists seem to be immune to this phenomenon. Like Nick Lowe. His best-of CD, Basher, has been played so many times over the years, inside my various vehicles and at such ridiculous volume levels, I'm sincerely surprised it continues to function. But it's still like a shot of adrenaline to me. And even the latest Fountains of Wayne album... I'm way past the point of saturation on that deal, and am still lovin' it. Maybe it's the pure-pop that makes it through? I just don't know.

When I finally pick up the new Westerberg I'm gonna try to control myself, and only dole out a little at a time. But it probably won't work out; I've attempted it before. More likely I'll rip the shrinkwrap off, and begin using it up like a fat boy in front of a blueberry pie.

And we'll own another well-crafted umbrella stand.


September 8, 2004

-- So, I was sitting at my desk yesterday at work, talking on the phone, when one of the janitors came in to empty the trash. He was doing his thing, with a certain flourish, and swung the recycling can around, knocking a clock off my desk. Since I was involved in a semi-important conversation I couldn't get up to check things out, and the guy just looked down at the floor and left. The hell, man? When I finally hung up I walked around my desk to see if I'd imagined the whole thing, and there was my clock -- in three pieces! I was sitting right there and watched the whole thing. Did he really think he could just pretend it didn't happen? What is he, a disciple of Castanza?

I know how these things work, and my trash won't be emptied for about two weeks, starting today. He's gonna hope I forget. Crap'll be stacked up above my desktop, and balance and wind currents will become an issue. But the thing is, I don't really care about the stupid clock. Shit happens. If he hadn't knocked it off, I eventually would've. Yeah, I'm a little irritated that he was showing off and introduced theatrics into the process, it's simply not necessary to roll a garbage can across one's shoulders, but it's not the end of the world either. Now the guy's gonna have to disappear into the shadowy world of the janitorial underground, and it's all so unnecessary.

It'll be fun fucking with him, though.

-- Yesterday I was listening to Clive Bull, my favorite British radio "presenter," and he was asking people to weigh in on who they believe is the ugliest man on television. I'd never heard of any of the people being discussed, not a single one of them, but I couldn't stop laughing anyway. I think the fact that I had no frame of reference somehow made it funnier. "My god Clive, that chin! And those teeth!! He's hideous!" There were lengthy discussions about mashed-in faces (with mashed-in voices to go along with them), elephant ears, and protruding foreheads. One man was described as having the top half of a normal person's head, grafted onto the bottom half of somebody else's face. They were putting thought into it. An old lady was whipped into a frenzy about the sheer repulsiveness of the host of a British makeover show and said, "I'm just glad nobody in my family looks like that!" I almost swallowed my tongue on that one. The whole thing was just highly entertaining.

Who are the ugliest men on American TV? If you have an opinion, why not share it with the rest of us in the comments? I can think of a half-dozen candidates right off the top of my head, but I'll let you folks handle this one.

-- I have a few remaining Gmail invitations, if you're interested. Send me a note and I'll fire one off to ya -- first come, first served. And in case you don't know, Gmail is Google's new fancy-pants email service that is supposedly still in the testing phase. At this point the only way to get an account is by being "invited" by an existing member. It's sort of the Studio 54 of web-based free email. Let me know if you want to join the party. I'll warn you though, it's already getting kinda crowded in here.

-- Recent DVR offerings at the Compound: The Ring, The Getaway, and The Front. Enjoyed 'em all. I want to legally adopt my DVR, and raise it as one of our own.

-- During one of our deck-sitting and beer-drinking sessions over the weekend, Toney and I decided we need to get back to New York City before winter sets in. Of course this was all triggered by food nostalgia, specifically Sammy's Noodle Shop in Greenwich Village. Whenever we pine for a city, it's usually rooted in food nostalgia of some sort. We never say we want to visit Atlanta because of the culture or the vibrancy, it's always about the OK Cafe and Manuel's Tavern or whatever. But, we weren't just blowing smoke about NYC. We made reservations yesterday, and we're going. First week in October. Sure, it'll cost us hundreds of dollars but, dammit, that orange chicken at Sammy's is killer.

-- Here's a Surf Report classic, for your Wednesday enjoyment. A friend mentioned it to me earlier in the week, and I'd completely forgotten about it. Good stuff.

And that'll do it for today, children. I'd like to remind (beg) you to continue using the Amazon link at the bottom of the homepage, especially if you're thinking about starting your holiday shopping. It won't cost you anything extra, and the TheWVSR Foundation receives a tiny sliver of each sale. Believe me, I'm not making a profit off this site -- if I could someday break even I'd consider it a triumph. And I sincerely appreciate your help.

See ya tomorrow.


September 7, 2004

-- It was a beautiful weekend in suburbia. Three days off is somehow the perfect amount of time. One more day and it feels like vacation, with a completely different set of expectations and pressures, and one day less just isn't enough. A three-day weekend is one of the world's most perfect inventions.

On Saturday we ventured into downtown Scranton to check out the Italian Festival. It's a much-anticipated annual shindig that is reportedly one of the biggest of its type in the country. This place is simply crawling with the Italianos, my wife included, and every year we plan to go, but never quite make it. This year we finally managed to drag our asses through the world-famous gauntlet of sausage and sauces.

It was frickin' hot out there, and really bright. I'm not sure what the deal was, but the sunlight was searing my retinas; I could barely keep my eyes open and was walking around with tears streaming down my face. People probably thought I was really fond of cannoli, and couldn't contain myself. Is the ozone layer completely gone now, or what's happening? It wasn't just normal brightness on Saturday, it was extreme brightness. My sunglasses were rendered useless and felt like twin magnifying glasses mounted on a wire rack. A couple of times I almost did a desperate forward roll into the shade, to escape the onslaught.

The Italian Festival turned out to be dozens and dozens of food booths, serving up pastries and pastas and sausages and something horrifying known as "tripe." At one point, after we'd passed the fourth or fifth sign, I asked Toney for some more information on the subject. Like, what the hell is tripe?? Some guy overheard me say the magic word and inserted himself into our conversation, with gusto. "Aaaahh, the best tripe is at the booth in the corner!" he said, gesticulating wildly. Then, as punctuation, he rubbed his stomach, acted as if he were about to pass out, and let out another extended "Aaaahhh..." Apparently tripe is the stomach lining of a cow, which goes a long way in explaining our new friend's excitement(!?).

It was a tough decision but we passed up the linings (shit!) and had tear-stained cannolis in the grass instead, beneath a big shade tree, as three Junior Soprano lookalikes serenaded us from the stage. A man and woman danced in the street, and everybody seemed happy. We decided to return on Monday, and have lunch there. We'd bring a blanket, we said, and a cooler of water, and make a picnic of it. ...But we never quite made it.

-- On Sunday I slept in, a rare treat, and when I got up I found that summer had been replaced by fall, under the cover of darkness. It was overcast and cool, and I decided to go fishing. Toney wanted to go to some stores, and I took a raincheck on that deal and headed for the lake instead. There's nothing like autumn in this part of the country, and I wanted to be out in it.

I stopped at the bait shop to procure some grub worms, the cleanest and most maintenance-free of all the serious baits, and got myself enmeshed in a lengthy conversation with the owner. He had a really old pinball machine in there, which I'd never noticed before. It didn't even have flippers, it was so ancient. I commented on it, and he plugged it in and let me play a few games. It was cool; you just kind of jimmy it around, to try to make the ball do what you want. He told me the whole history of that machine, about how he had to have it overhauled and rebuilt, and how the electronics were corroded and whatnot. He said that during the winter, when business is slow, he sometimes plugs it in and "a cuppa two tree" hours pass. He's a nice guy, always laughing and happy. I used to suspect mild brain damage, but now I believe it's genuinely his personality.

The fishing itself was fairly uneventful. I caught one tiny little guy, and quickly sent him back to his family with only a small hole in his lip. But that's not the part I enjoy -- when I actually catch something it feels like an interruption. I like to just stand out there in the quiet, looking at the water and the trees and all that good stuff. I know it's a cliche, but it really does clear the mind and calm the soul. And when it's misty and cool, it's even better.

Later, Toney and I had lunch at Long John Silver's. For some reason it sounded really good to us, and they delivered on their deep-fried promise. It was damn good. They have a jukebox there and it's always wailing at an inappropriate level, but on Saturday it was silent. As Toney ordered our heart-halting specials, I walked over to investigate. I figured it was out of order, but it wasn't. It was just waiting for somebody to tell it what to do. How could it be possible? No songs in queue? I'd never experienced such a thing, and seized on the opportunity. I instantly became the DJ of a Scranton fast-food restaurant, a life-long dream. I hit 'em with a mixture of the familiar, some lesser-known favorites, then drove it all home with a climactic "Candida" by Tony Orlando and Dawn. I expected a standing ovation, but believe people were simply too awed to applaud. I bowed on my way out anyway.

Here's a nightmare-generating photo I snapped inside a store, following the ingestion of our lava-hot grease baskets. Click with caution.

The only downside to the weekend was all the coverage of that friggin' hurricane in Florida. Sweet sainted mother of Blanket Jackson, are the news channels completely oblivious to the concept of overkill? Seriously. Each of them played an endless video loop of damaged gas stations, broken palm trees, traffic lights lying on the ground, etc. Just over and over and over, as a jackass in makeup repeated little scraps of information over the images. It was nothing short of excruciating.

Geraldo Rivera was shown wearing neon yellow wader-pants, standing in the wind and tilting to the left as if he could barely remain upright. Toney and I both were praying for a limb to fly off a tree and take his ass out. Or even a car fender, or an F off a Waffle House sign; we weren't picky. He would walk up to people who were surveying their ex-house and demand to know "what they were feeling." (Well Hi-raldo, it's hard...) How someone hasn't yet put a bullet into that man, is beyond me.

-- On Monday we spent the day working around the house, I don't think I was even in a vehicle of any type. I mowed the grass, weed-whacked, raked, and muttered many a filthy word. We pulled the camper onto the driveway, and Toney cleaned the inside. She remembered there was a sack of dog food in there, and became convinced it was going to draw raccoons and shit. We worked hard, all day, then spent the evening on the deck. The weather was great, and we cooked up some steaks and had a few Yuenglings. Even our stick-in-the-ass neighbors were friendly, they waved at us and addressed us by name. Obviously they were all drunk, but it was kinda nice anyway.

It was nothing short of a perfect weekend. And in just a few minutes the bubble will burst, and the bitterness will return. But four days would've thrown it all off. I know that, and it's why I'm at peace today.

Pass the beer nuts.


September 3, 2004

-- Word out of Bangkok this morning is that a cup of urine a day will keep the doctor away. Dat's right. Supposedly a person will derive many a miraculous health benefit from regularly chugging a tumbler of their own waste, including the elimination of both dandruff and cancer. I don't know. Cancer I can sorta see, but dandruff too? Sounds too good to be true.

Yeah, I admit to being a little skeptical, but what do I know about it really? I may be just another fool who flushes away quarts of a miracle drug each week. I'm a part-time adopter of the Water Cure, a health system promoted by a local auto parts chain(?!), so I'm probably a good candidate for pee-swigging. I seem to make a lot of it, for one thing, and I'm apparently open to unconventional health theories.

But before I seriously consider such a thing, I have a few questions...

Like, should the urine be served chilled, at room temperature, or freshly-squeezed at 98.6 degrees? Does it matter? For some reason I think I'd prefer it over ice, or from a frosted mug. And do you have to drink that day's output or can you just keep a pitcher in the fridge, and re-fill it as needed? Maybe every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I could come downstairs in the morning and whip up another frothy batch, right there in the kitchen? Seems like that would cut down on some of the logistical hassles, like keeping a shelf of clean glasses in the bathroom.

And what about mixing the urine with other ingredients, to maybe dress it up a little? I'm afraid that just drinking cups of straight pee every day might get a little boring after a while. Is it possible to make Kool-Aid with human waste? How about a stiff vodka 'n' urine, to help take the edge off a long work week? Hell, a person could even cut up some fresh fruit, on a rainy Saturday afternoon, and throw together a nice piss-based sangria!

So many unanswered questions... If anyone can help me with this I'd be most appreciative. I may be sitting here right now holding back the fountain of youth. Seems a shame to waste it.

-- Speaking of liquids and bathroom visits, I must warn you good folks about an insidious new concoction known as Mountain Dew Pitch Black. I saw it in the vending machine at work yesterday and being a hardcore Dew loyalist, felt compelled to give it a try. I'm a big fan of their other variations on the main Mountain Dew theme, like the orange Dew and the cherry Dew. They always have dramatic names, like Severe! and Grim!, and are unfailingly tasty. This new version really is black, and fairly scary-looking, but it's grape flavored. Well, sort of anyway. I think it's regular Mountain Dew dosed with a hefty shot of grape Nehi. As I was sipping it in my office yesterday I thought it was a bit strange, but oddly appealing. Kinda tangy. But then I felt the rumblings in my gut... 

Within seconds of tossing the emptied bottle into the trash I realized that my nearly 25-year streak of never crapping at work was being threatened. I felt like I needed to go down to the river and have a Dave Matthews Band blow-out all over a tour boat. Needless to say, I gritted my teeth and rode out the storm. But, never again. That stuff is evil and dangerous. What kind of marketing maniac thought the public would beat a path to purchase a black diarrhea-triggering soft drink? 


--  Today Toney and I are celebrating our eleventh wedding anniversary. By "celebrating," of course, I mean we both said happy anniversary this morning. Last year on this date I believe I posted a sappy tribute to my marital good fortune here, and one year later it's all about poop and pee. Guess which one I'm more comfortable with?

And that's gonna do it, folks. No update on Monday, I'm taking the full three-day weekend. In case you couldn't tell, I'm in bad need of a break. I'm gonna log some serious DVR time, and maybe even sleep more than five hours per night. Can't wait!

See ya on Tuesday.


September 2, 2004

A few quick things:

-- One of the kids next door is building a skateboard ramp. Is that the correct term, ramp? It's supposed to be a U-shaped deal on which a person with large pants can skate down one side, across the bottom, then back up the other side. You know what I'm talking about, right? Well, his persistence and focus must be commended, he's out there every night hammering and sawing and making a godawful racket. Unfortunately, though, his carpentry skills appear to be on roughly the same level as mine. And that's to say, a palsy victim could do a better job.

I was checking out the curious apparatus as I was mowing the lawn a few days ago. It has two slanted sheets of plywood on each side, there's no curve to them whatsoever. They just go straight down at a certain angle, then there's another flat piece across the bottom. So, instead of a U-shape, it's more of a Dixie cup shape, and there's no way something could roll on it. The shit changes directions radically where each piece of wood comes together. I had to look away, because it looked like something I'd build, and it made me sad and ashamed.

Toney told me that he and a friend were out there testing the new ramp yesterday, and it didn't seem to go very well. She said they'd start down the sides, and everything would be fine until they hit one of those harsh junctions. Then the skateboard would come to an abrupt halt and the kid would continue traveling -- until his face mashed into the plywood on the other side. And they repeated this exercise again and again.

At least they'll have some good firewood for the winter. Plus, skateboard injuries are cool. So, there'll be a happy ending.

-- How come when somebody really likes a book, they always say they read it "cover to cover"? Isn't that the accepted manner in which books are generally read, even the bad ones? How else would you read a book other than cover to cover? I've never understood that. It's like telling an actor, "I really liked your new movie, I watched the whole thing!" Wow, thanks.

-- Speaking of books, my novel's coming along nicely, thank you very much. Here's another sneak peak, only for readers of TheWVSR!

-- A little reminder from last week: eating like a hog ain't a gland. Worth repeating...

-- I've got it in my mind that I want a copy of the Sex Pistols' Never Mind The Bollocks, on 8-track tape. It seems like the ultimate two-worlds-collide artifact from the 1970's to me. Johnny Rotten for long-haul truckers! I'd like to have it framed or something, for the bunker. I'm watching eBay, but haven't had much luck so far. Any tips on this would be appreciated. I must have it; the idea has burrowed into my brain stem and there's no turning back.

-- Now it's time for a word from our sponsor.

-- And, we're back... I saw a guy in a record store a few days ago wearing a t-shirt that said WTFWJD? I thought that was mildly amusing, even though I'd never admit it to the jackass with the bolt through his nose who was sporting it. 

-- And that's all I have for today, kiddies. My notebook of "comedy" is pretty much depleted, in case you couldn't tell. So I'll turn it over to Jason now, and wish you all a pleasant Thursday.

See ya tomorrow.


September 1, 2004

-- When we were at a pet store over the weekend we stopped to take a look at the fish. They have two entire walls of aquariums there, stacked from the floor to above my head. And a few of them house some pretty bizarre creatures. Like a needle fish, for instance. The thing looked like a swimming rectal thermometer. And ghost fish, which are see-through, so it appears a fish skeleton is dancing about. One looked like a scoop of mashed potatoes with fins, and another resembled, I shit you not, Boris Yeltsin. PetSmart is the poor man's Ripley's Believe It Or Not.

But it was after we finished with the freak show section, and worked our way to the more traditional "normal" fish, that I started thinking. And God knows nothing good can come from that.

I noticed that the upper-most aquariums usually only had two or three flamboyant residents. They were generally bigger than the other fish, with show-offy fins that looked like ruffles. They moved slowly, and had an air of royalty about them. Their tanks were tricked-out with the fanciest of gravels, exotic plants, and novelty treasure boxes incorporating the latest in bubbling technology. And some cost as much as thirty bucks each. They were, both figuratively and literally, at the top of their community. How did they get there? Looks? Character? Connections? I'd like to know.

Move down a row and they had many more roommates, but the digs remained luxurious. They still enjoyed colorful gravel, nice plants, and a great view. The toys may have been a bit more scarce, and there wasn't as much moving-around room, but certainly nothing to fish-bitch about. They were priced in the seven to nine dollar range. The residents themselves were a bit more frantic, darting here and there and occasionally fighting one another. But they were generally civil. Some stayed off to themselves acting all regal and aloof, as if they thought they belonged in one of the penthouse tanks. And others seemed to be highly stressed, not unlike a person carrying high credit card balances.

And so it continued, all the way to the floor. With every level you dropped down, the more crowded the tanks became, and the less perks the fish enjoyed. Finally, at the very bottom and off to left, the aquariums became cloudy and seething with non-descript li'l swimmers. No gravel, no plants, and no bubbling comedic ceramics. They were just packed in there, all looking the same, and costing twelve cents each. Twelve cents! Talk about low self-esteem. There seemed to be a lot of fighting, and fish swimming in menacing packs. In one tank I thought I saw a tiny Chevy Impala on fire, but it may have just been a reflection on the glass.

I wondered if it was possible for a twelve-cent fish to distinguish himself and get bumped up a level? Did they have hope? Are there legendary twelve-centers from the past who have made it, and now serve as role-models? I could imagine some of the inhabitants of the middle-aquariums being upwardly-mobile, but how to get out of the twelve and twenty-five cent tanks? It seemed next to impossible to me. 

I considered asking one of the clerks about it, but they all looked to be about fifteen years old and were flirting with each other, so I didn't bother. Plus, a few months ago when I tried to understand the pecking order of the donut racks at Krispy Kreme, and what they represented on a grander scale, I got treated like a mental patient. I've learned to watch what I say in public.

But on Saturday I'm going in. I plan to observe the twelve-centers for a while, pick a few who show promise, and elevate them to the buck forty-nine tank -- and damn the consequences. Some would have me move fish down, to penalize the prosperous, but I don't believe that's the way to go. Socialism never works. No, I'm going to give the lower fish a chance to grow and prosper, and hope that over time the entire bottom row will begin to realize there's something more available to them. Then they'll demand it, and rise up!

Mr. Petsmart, TEAR DOWN THAT WALL!!   


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