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  Willard "Bill" Hershberger

    

   The State of My Fat Ass                                 September 2006


September 29, 2006

-- When we were at that school meet 'n' greet earlier in the week, Toney sneezed -- in a room full of Catholics. And man, you should've heard it. It was just an avalanche, a freaking tsunami, of God bless yous. In fact, it caught me off-guard and sorta jolted me. I come from a place where people just shoot you a dirty look, and purse their lips in a disapproving manner when you "make a disturbance." I'm not too familiar with the Vatican-mandated sneeze ordinance.

-- How come bacon and sausage are considered banjo meats? Know what I mean? When those two products are advertised on television there's always a down-home country feel to it. Usually checkered table cloths are involved, also overalls, and banjoes playing in the background. Other meats don't receive this treatment, it's only bacon and sausage. How did this happen? I'm looking for an explanation.

-- I uninstalled AOL instant messenger this morning, because it was a pain in and of my ass. There was so much garbage loading upon start-up, that it took an eternity to get my computer running in the morning. I could turn it on, go upstairs and have some toast and apple butter, watch an episode of Spongebob, then come back and it would almost be finished shucking and jiving.

There'd be page upon page of crapola like movie trailers, news articles about the latest crackpot diet craze that won't make your ass any less riffly than it is today, celebrity gossip, and all manner of lowest-common-denominator bullshit. And for some reason it would come over in this ....creeping ....crawling slow-as-crap feed. Serenity now!

So I removed it, and it asked me about five times: "Are you sure you really want to do this?!" I kept saying yes, and it begrudgingly exited my computer. Afterwards I ran Spybot and saw that they'd left me a little going-away present: dozens and dozens of tracking cookies, and adware. I cleaned all that stuff up, and maybe it's all behind me now?

Yeah, I know. I'm fooling myself, right? AOL is like the Hotel California. You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.

-- I think it's now time to break the seal on the 1975 World Series DVD box set. It's very definitely fall outside, and bourbon season starts this weekend, so I believe the appropriate moment has arrived; it's time to go all the way with it. Some folks enjoy a good thirty year old scotch, but there's something to be said for slow-aged baseball as well, I think. Bench, Rose, Morgan, Perez, friggin' Yaz.... AND Carlton Fisk's body-english homer in Game Six -- the greatest game ever played. Oh, it's gonna be deep-dish childhood nostalgia. I'll probably have tears streaming down my face the entire time. Can't wait!

-- The deadbolt lock on our front door has been jamming, and sometimes it takes a long time to get it to open. Earlier in the week the oldest Secret had to leave for school through the back door, because I couldn't get the lock to let go. But guess what? I fixed it. That's right, you read that correctly. I took it all apart, sprayed some WD-40 up inside, put it back together, and now it works like the deadbolt lock of kings. The shit is smooooth. Because I am a man, a real man. I repair things. With tools.

-- My parents were here for a quick visit last weekend, and brought the kids this ridiculousness to add to their ever-expanding Halloween decoration stash. It's a dancing skeleton/pirate hybrid sort of thing, and is taller than I am. It's standing in our living room right now, and dances to Rick James' "Super Freak," a couple of ZZ Top songs, and "Slow Ride" by Foghat.

When the thing kicks off it commences to jerking and twitching like Skippy Hicks in that Ford commercial. And the "singing" reminds me of a guy I used to work with who had to have his jaw reconstructed after being mugged by a gang of young toughs, and hit in the face by a tube sock with a cue ball inside.

Simply excellent.

-- My Mom and Dad recently bought a minivan. It's a Dodge Caravan, and is pretty darn nice. They do a lot of traveling, and wanted the extra room, they said. Anyway, the doors on that thing automatically lock when you reach 18 mph. Not 15 or 20, but 18. Why? And why don't they just lock when you put it into gear, like on most vehicles? Can any of you explain this to me? I'm baffled.

-- On Saturday all of us went to the Pumpkin Patch, to let the kids engage in some good ol' fashioned sausage & bacon country fun. It was a good time, as always. I don't know what it is about that place, but I always enjoy myself there. Maybe it's because I associate it with fall, my favorite time of year? I don't know. But we did it all: the pig races, the pumpkin launch, the hay loft, and, of course, the corn maze.

The maze is the big attraction, and has the power to blow a man's mind. It's massive, and a person can get lost inside for hours, literally. Indeed, we've been trapped in those things for so long during previous years, I started to get nervous. It's just one dead-end after another.... everything looks the same.... and it'll drive you to the brink of a breakdown and make you want to just go thrashing through the walls of that fucker.

But not this year, thank you very much. We let the oldest Secret be the guide, and it only took us 34 minutes. We entered through the entrance, and exited through the exit, as well. Sometimes we end up going out through the in door, but we did it correctly this year. It was good clean fun, as they say.

Here are a few pics I snapped during the day. Now pass them Jimmy Deans over here, goddammit.

-- One of the Secrets told me a story yesterday about a kid in his class who is driving him crazy. I guess he's one of these competitive little shits who has to be first in line, and the best at everything. After he finished with his tale, an old saying from grade school popped into my head, from somewhere way beneath the scar-tissue and catastrophic damage:

"Yeah, that kid thinks he's hot snot on a silver platter, but he's really cold boogers on a paper plate."

Heh. I don't know where that came from, but it leads to the question of the day. What are your favorite grade school put-downs? I'm sure you can do better than the one I came up with. Use the comments link below to tell us about it.

And you guys have a great weekend, y'hear?

I'll see ya on Monday. 
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September 28, 2006

-- So, I was buying a sack of donuts over the weekend, apple cider donuts to be precise (yum), and it cost $3.18 with tax. I gave the acne-spangled high school girl behind the counter a twenty, then began digging in my pocket for change. But she didn't know I was digging, and went ahead and tapped 20.00 into the cash register. Then I said, "Wait, I have a quarter!"

And you should've seen the panic that overtook her.

She had no idea how to proceed, and said so. She mumbled, "Oh man, I won't be able to figure this out.' Then all the gears jammed, and it was a case of suspended animation at the donut shop. She started looking off into the distance like Putty.

I said, kind of low, so as not to embarrass her, "You owe me $17.07." Her reaction? Yes, that's correct. She got pissed, and slammed the money into my hand, and made a bunch of those teenage girl faces we've all seen, like she can't believe, simply can't believe, the stupidity she's forced to endure.

All I wanted was some damn donuts.

-- I ordered a copy of Phyllis Diller's autobiography yesterday. I think it only came out last year, yet it cost me $2 plus shipping through half dotcom -- in "new" condition. Kinda sad.

When I was a kid Phyllis Diller was some crazy woman who appeared on game shows and Johnny Carson, and laughed real loud. I didn't know much about her; she seemed to be one of those professional celebrities, like Elizabeth Taylor.

But then I caught one of her stand-up routines on HBO, and the shit was funny. I remember she launched into an extended jag of cruel one-liners about a fat woman, that practically had me hyper-ventilating. Oh, my Gabe Kaplan hair was undoubtedly on the move that night. I just couldn't stop laughing.

I've been a fan ever since. In fact, shortly after that HBO special I sat down and wrote a batch of my own fat jokes, and mailed them to her. I'd done some research on her, and read that she bought jokes for $50 each. So I sent her a packet, and hoped for the best.

I can still remember one of them: She's so fat, when she changes her clothes she has to pull the blinds down in four rooms!

Yeah, I never got a response. But I still like her, and I'm looking forward to reading her story.

-- Speaking of funny, October is supposed to be a big month for us Phil Hendrie phanatics. That's when his website will no longer be owned by the MegaCorporation radio syndication company, and reverts to Phil himself. And he's been promising Big Things.

Like, for instance, an archive that's to include every show ever broadcast during his California years, each in their entirety. That's ten years of material, a mind-boggling amount of genius. Plus, and this really has the geeks a-buzzing, he's been hinting at doing three hours of brand new web-only material each week. For subscribers only, of course.

Already there are full shows on the site, dating back to 2001. I listen to one every day at work. I'd only been a full-blown nerd about Phil Hendrie for the last two or three years before he retired. Prior to that I listened casually, when I could, and there's tons of stuff from 2003 and earlier that I've never heard. The seven dollars I spend every month for a Hendrie "backstage pass" is an investment that's paid big dividends for me.

But I'm concerned.... I worry that once the site becomes Phil's responsibility, it'll prove to be a pain in his ass. He said several times that about 15,000 people subscribe. But that was back when his show was on the air. You know that number has dwindled big-time by now. I have a feeling it's only the hard-core, the true mental patients, who are hanging on at this point. And the site must be very expensive to maintain, what with all that streaming audio and everything.... I just have a bad feeling.

So I need to know: how can I quickly and easily convert the streaming shows into mp3 files, and start building a serious archive here at the Compound? I have a nifty program called Total Recorder that works really well, but it has to be done in real time; the entire show has to play, and it "records" it. Is there a way I can do it quickly, without having to let the shows play out? That would take forever, and I'm a very busy man, what with all the Funyuns and whatnot.

Right now they offer Real Audio and Microsoft Media streaming only. Supposedly they're going to add mp3s, but they'll have to strip out all the music, and I hate that. I'd like to make my own mp3 files from the streaming audio. Can any of you help me with this?

Someday, before everything goes away, I need to have all that stuff on my own external hard drive, all safe and sound. Talking Points appreciates your assistance in this matter.

-- Sheryl is the official winner of the Guess How Many E-mails Jeff Will Have contest, from earlier in the week. She said 729, and I had 691. And for the record, I never invoked the Bob Barker rule, so it doesn't matter that she went over. She was the closest, and she gets the prize. Sheryl, if you're still out there, send me a note to jeff(at)thewvsr.com. My people will get with your people, and we'll get this all hammered out. Thanks to everyone for playing.

-- One more follow-up, before I throw in the towel on this bitch.... I watched Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo last night, and the verdict is in: still funny. The Tourette's segment is a personal favorite (scrotum!), but the whole thing is full of inventive low-brow stupidity. And if you think that's easy to pull-off, smart guy, just try it sometime.... 

Is the second movie any good? I'm very skeptical. Lightning never strikes twice, as they say. Any opinions?

-- And I don't really have a question of the day. So I'll just ask you about a subject I've had scribbled in my notebook for months, and haven't done anything with: drive-in movies. Do you have any interesting stories to tell about them? I do, but don't have the time or energy to get into it today. Shockingly enough, alcohol plays a big part in most of my stories. Plus a little vandalism, and a carload of teenage boys hollering at the top of their lungs, "TITS!! LOOK AT THOSE TITS!!!"

What about you? Why not tell us about it in the comments, huh?

And I'll be back tomorrow. 
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September 27, 2006

-- Check out the "high temperatures" they're predicting for us this weekend. Yes, my friends, Bourbon Season is officially upon us. Last night I was standing outside, letting Andy sling some urine before bedtime, and it was an autumnal wonderland out there. The air was crisp and clean, leaves were blowing around, it smelled like a hundred fireplaces were fireplacing.... I love it.

And just to make sure I didn't miss the point, the booze gods delivered to me a check from the National Lampoon yesterday. Could the timing just be a coincidence? No, I didn't think so either. It is clearly funds with which to purchase Maker's Mark handmade whisky; they should've just typed it on the memo line. And it was dropped from the sky at just the right time.

Thanks to the folks at the Lampoon, the Wal-Mart Game (the gift that keeps on giving), and the distilled spirits fairies, we will be pouring us a nice solid foundation on Friday, the kind upon which many a successful Bourbon Seasons have been built. Cheers!

-- Today I should be receiving, from Netflix, a rental copy of Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo. I've had that movie in my queue since I signed up with them; in fact, it might be the very first thing I added. But I've never allowed them to actually send it to me, until now.

You see, a couple of years ago Sunshine and Mumbles were visiting, and she found the flick on cable somewhere. I think it was back when we had Starz for free. I walked in and saw what she watching and I think I audibly groaned, then mumbled to myself, "This woman will watch any retard-o-rama that comes down the pike. What's next Juwanna Man?"

Then I flopped down to be semi-social, and to my amazement.... found myself laughing my ass off. It was hilarious! And just thinking about certain scenes right now ("ball hair!"), I'm laughing all over again.

My concern, of course, is that it won't be anywhere near as funny the second time around. Sometimes a person is loopy, or shit is misfiring in their brain or whatever, and really stupid crap turns into comedy gold.

Am I going to be disappointed? Will the spell be broken? Or is it really an underrated classic of the low-brow genre? Our genre?

-- Speaking of queues.... For the past year or so I've been a satisfied customer of yourmusic. It's basically a repackaged BMG Music Club, simplified and modeled loosely around Netflix. CDs cost $5.99 each, with free shipping, and the only requirement is that you buy at least one per month. You build a queue, like with Netflix, and they automatically send you whatever's at the top of your list on your anniversary date, and bill your credit card. In between those dates, you can order additional discs to your heart's content.

And they cost $5.99 each, with no shipping and no strings attached! Did you get that part? Sweet Maria. For a junkie such as myself, it's an offer that can't be refused. Sure, it takes them a long time to get new releases, and some things never become available at all, but it's an excellent way to fill in holes in your collection.

So anyway, a couple of weeks ago I bought the Byrds box set from them (four discs: 4 x $5.99), and I've been playing that thing almost in an endless loop. Except for Sweetheart of the Rodeo and whatever songs they play on the radio, I didn't know much about the Byrds. I think I was prejudiced against them because that hippie walrus David Crosby was involved. But man, that's some good stuff. And 80% of it's new to me, so it's a virtual treasure chest in the bunker.

I'm sorry, I'm getting a little emotional here.... If you're interested in joining yourmusic, mention my name. Maybe they'll give me something free?

-- Yesterday a guy stuck his head in my office at work and said, very seriously, "Unless you have a strong stomach, I'd steer clear of the men's room for a while." It was said in the tone of someone warning a person about traffic on the interstate, or an impending snow storm. Simply informational in nature. 

And clearly, he couldn't understand why I was laughing so hard as he walked away.

-- This is a blog where "ridiculous infomercials" are reviewed, and I think it's pretty darn funny. Check it out. And definitely don't miss the two short video clips linked at the bottom of the main page. Heh.

-- And I know this update is all over the map today, but that's the way it goes sometimes. I'll leave you now with the question of the day.

Last night Toney and I watched the second episode of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. I think that's what it's called.... It's turning out to be pretty good and it looks like we might have a new TV show to watch. Praise the Lord.

It's made by the same people who did The West Wing, a show I never watched on principle. The reason? Smugness. That's reason number one. The whole thing felt smug and earnest to me. Plus, there was that little sawed-off Sheen character, who has a political axe to grind in real life; always with the I'm-smarter-than-you gotcha! comments. I didn't watch that show, almost as a statement.

Another one I've never watched is Desperate Housewives. I was soured on that from the beginning, because it seemed to be the must-see program among people at work who don't have a hip bone in their bodies. Maybe a hipbone, buried under all the beef somewhere, but not a hip bone. Plus those women from the show are exceedingly obnoxious in interviews, and seem very full of themselves. They were has-beens before this happened, and the moment the show goes off the air.... it'll be a return to the Whatever Became Of? hall of former fame all over again. And instead of being thankful for the opportunity? They all act like they're doing the entertainment industry a favor. They can all blow it out their ass, collectively.

So, my question is: what TV shows (or movies for that matter) have you avoided on principle? ....Something you might very well enjoy, but simply can't bring yourself to watch, because of some personal deep-seated bias? I'm not really talking about a comedian that you don't find funny, or anything like that. I'm more interested in unrelated prejudices. Know what I mean?

Tell us about it in the comments.

And I'll see ya tomorrow. 
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September 26, 2006

-- Toney and I attended a parent/teacher thing last night at the oldest Secret's new school. It wasn't really a conference, it was more of a meet and greet, and an opportunity for parents to see the school and the kids' classrooms and all that good stuff. Perhaps I'm operating from a point of arrested development (anything's possible), but just being there, in a public school setting, made me feel uneasy. Just like it was 1979 all over again.

There's a schooly smell that gets you the second you pass through the door. All schools smell exactly the same, and it has the power to transport you back through time. As soon as we started down the construction paper-decorated hallways to "our" classroom, my nostrils filled with the funk of old books and industrial disinfectants, and I could almost hear Mrs. Wagner hollering at me: "Jeff Kay, what are you on?!"

All the other dads (well, most of them anyway...) looked the part. There was a lot of neatly tucked polo shirts and conference room-confidence. I was wearing jeans and a battered pair of Van's skate shoes, and wanted to hide behind a partition. Toney, of course, jumped right into it with both feet and had made a couple of new friends within minutes. I found a chair way over by the side wall, and acted like I was engrossed, deeply engrossed, in a hand-out about the U.S. Bill of Rights.

After what seemed like forty or seventy minutes, "our" teacher came in. She looked like Marshall Crenshaw, despite the fact that she was, you know, a woman. She seemed nice though, and I liked her teaching philosophies, as they were explained to us. This was no hand-wringing, wishy-washy, I'm alright you're alright, blissed-out wind chime hippie chick. And that's always a good thing.

I only wish she would've performed "Someday, Someway" for us. That was the only disappointment.

Following a brief stop in math class (where the utterance of certain ancient words made my sphincter turn to granite, just like Pavlov's ass), we were escorted to the other side of the building to tour the rooms that house what used to be called electives back in my day. You know, like music and art and gym, and that sort of thing. Now they're apparently called specials. I don't know what that's all about. But it was clearly important to the school administrators that we see these rooms; they were practically holding our hands and guiding us there.

Yes, it was our tax dollars at work. They have the finest computer lab known to man, home ec facilities that look like the kitchen at a four-star restaurant, and an art room that feels like a massive NYC painter's loft. Very impressive indeed.

And then I found myself looking around and imagining all the fun my friends and I could have in such a place. There was so much to get into, such an abundance of hell-raising accessories. It would've been paradise to us, and I could feel the beginnings of a wistful tear forming in the corner of my left eye.

In the home ec room, for instance, I walked past a bank of washers and dryers, a scene straight out of any mid-sized coin laundry. Can you imagine all the great stuff that could be "washed" and "dried" in those things?! The mind boggles at the possibilities.

At my high school there was only one washer and one dryer, but we made the most of what we had. My friend Bill and I slipped into the home ec room one day during lunch and filled the dryer with several handfuls of silverware, a couple of big metal platters and a cookie sheet or two, then turned it on and left. As we ran out the door there was a racket so impressive I still consider it one of our finest "achievements." Man, the adults came running from every direction! It was excellent.

There was also a hospital bed in that room, and we'd routinely crank it up so high the mattress would almost touch the fluorescent lights in the ceiling. Underneath you could see the works all hyper-extended and stretched out, and it made the teacher completely lose her shit. For some reason she was extremely sensitive about that bed being cranked up, so we did it about once a week.

But the tools at our disposal was nothing compared to what they have today. Sweet sainted mother of Bobby Buntrock. I briefly considered "drying" a few items last night, just for old time's sake, but then I looked around and saw all the polo shirts and remembered that I'm forty-three. Dammit!

At least I still feel ill at ease, though. Walking those halls and smelling those smells instantly put me on the defensive again, and that's a good sign, I think. Because the day I feel comfortable in a public school is the day I'll know for certain that the fire has completely gone out. Then there will be but one thing left to do: go buy a book of Sudoku puzzles, and just say fuck it.

Ya know?

-- A couple of things before I go.... I had 691 emails when I got to work yesterday. I deleted roughly half without opening them, and worked all day long to plunder the rest into submission. When I left the office last night I had three messages in my inbox, and order had been restored. As best as I can tell, Sheryl is the winner of our little contest; she guessed 729. Once that's been confirmed, a special Surf Report-approved CD will be in the mail to her. Congratulations! And pass the beer nuts.

Finally, an item from the Stealing Clive Bull's Topics desk. Clive asked his callers yesterday what celebrity his radio station would be, if it were a person. So, let's do the same with TheWVSR. What famous person would our little house of ridiculousness be if it were human? Use the comments link below to participate in this rather questionable exercise.

And I'll see ya tomorrow. 
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September 25, 2006

-- As I was saying.... My week of vacation went well. I generally come out of these things beating myself up and wanting to throw my head beneath a bus wheel, for blowing yet another golden opportunity. But not so this time. I got a lot accomplished during my five days away from work and the website, and don't feel guilty at all. Go figure.

My plan was to finish at least a first draft of one of my extracurricular writing projects, and while I didn't get all the way there, I got almost all the way there. And based on my history, and being completely honest with myself, I recognize it as the miracle it is. On Friday afternoon, when I finally threw in the towel and looked back at everything I'd finished during the week, I was amazed. I'd fucking done it.

Toney even admitted she was surprised I didn't find some excuse along the way to abandon my writing plans, and just lay around watching Jimmy Stewart movies all week, and power-farting through the upholstery. She didn't come right out and say it like that, of course, but it's what she meant. And I knew exactly the way she felt.

Every day I got up at my normal time, as if I were going to the office. I was fully shitted, showered, and shaved and in front of the computer before the Secrets left for school, and Toney went to work. And, except for a brief lunch break, I worked continuously until they got home.

It was great, the kind of thing that makes a man think dangerous thoughts. Like, how absolutely kick-ass would it be if I could do this for a living? But, of course, there were no monetary pressures last week, nothing at risk, so it's not really an accurate portrayal. If I knew my family might not eat unless I'm able to crank out twenty more halfway-decent paragraphs tonight, I have a feeling the fun would go right out of it. Ya know?

But it's a nice little fantasy to cling to, reality be damned.

A weird thing though... Near the end of Day Two I started feeling like I was becoming disconnected. I'd been locked inside this room for a couple of days by then, with little contact to the outside world. Oh, I checked Drudge a couple of times per day, just to make sure we weren't in a nuclear war or anything, but for the most part there was no internet, newspaper, telephone, radio, or TV. It began to take its toll.

That evening I took the youngest Secret to his soccer practice, and hung out to watch. Everything felt strange, like I was visiting a place where I didn't truly belong. Dads were standing around in their pressed slacks, talking about work stuff. I hadn't been at work for four days, and wouldn't be there again for another six. And, to my amazement, I realized I hadn't even been thinking about it. I'd been so busy, so into something else, I was having a hard time relating to the crapola that generally dominates a person's life. Already.

By Day Four I noticed I was also starting to develop hard and fast eating-based routines, like an old man who goes into retirement and almost immediately turns nutty. I had a really good lunch at Taco Bell on Monday, and unconsciously began structuring the following days around that one magic meal.

It was the #5 combo, in case you're interested: Nachos Bell Grande, a taco supreme, and a large Mountain Dew Baja Blast. It costs $5.71 with tax, which breaks the five dollar rule. But screw it, everything was out the window last week.

I had to leave the house at exactly 12:30 for my #5, this became very important to me. And I attempted to eat at the same table every day as well. If somebody was already sitting in my regular spot, I'd endeavor to at least be facing in the "correct" direction. One day I was delayed and wasn't able to go to lunch until almost 1 o'clock, and was highly agitated from that point on.

Imagine my alarm when I realized what was happening to me. I was one step away from jigsaw puzzles and/or Civil War figurines! I can't say I'm happy to be going back to work today, but for the sake of my mental health.... I believe it's time.

Here's a sneak peek at last week's extracurricular writing project, especially for the readers of The West Virginia Surf Report. Thanks for your patience, and for returning here today.

-- My parents are at the Compound visiting, so my first day back is gonna be kind of lame, I'm sorry to say. I'm surprised my mother hasn't been in here already, looking over my shoulder and busting out with a full interrogation. I'll get back into it tomorrow, I promise.

In the meantime, here are few random items for ya....

This is a soon-to-be-released National Lampoon book that reportedly features The Wal-Mart Game. The check is in the mail, they say. Maybe it'll arrive this morning? Hello?

Lucas, a Surf Reporter with more seniority than almost anyone, sends along this beer-themed haiku:

yuengling
golden elixir
from our oldest brewery
best served for breakfast

Thanks man!

And I, like all of you, regularly receive forwarded "comedy" emails all day long, every day of the week. I'm fairly confident I've seen them all by now, and have a mighty itchy delete finger. But somebody sent me a collection of least popular children's books last week that actually made me chuckle. It seems like I might have seen it before, but it's pretty good, nonetheless. Check 'em out, here.

Finally, the question of the day.... How many emails do you think I'll have at work when I get there this morning? I was out all last week. I turned on my "office assistant" which is an auto-responder that hints around to not, for the love of God, send me any unnecessary messages during the week. But I'm not sure how much good that does.... 

The person closest to the correct number will win an honest to goodness Surf Report-certified compact disc, procured via the massive network of liars and backstabbers.

So get your guesses in, boys and girls! Only one per person, please. I mean, seriously.

And I'll be back tomorrow with a coherent update.  

See ya then. 
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September 15, 2006

-- Unless something unexpected happens, this will be my last update for a while. Until September 25, to be exact. I'm planning (plotting) to take next week off from work, and the website too. We're right on the cusp of shit turning crazy at the job, and this will probably be my last chance for downtime until January. So I'm taking it.

During the week I want to get some sleep, as well as bust my ass during the daytime and finish writing a little booklet, a zine type of thing, that I've been tinkering around with for months. Under normal circumstances there's no time for extracurriculars, and I really have to get it finished or I'll very likely lose my mind. I'm in a situation now where I'm all fired-up about the project, but can't work on it. And that's a bad combination.

I hate the thought of TheWVSR growing cobwebs for a week, but I'm sure we'll all make it through. I will update the Further Evidence link every day, and leave the webcam on, but there probably won't be any written dispatches from the puke-green subterranean walk-in closet that is the Surf Report bunker, until Monday 9/25.

Just thought you should know.

-- To complicate matters, a California big-shot is in town, and I need to get to work early today. I thought I was going to get out of the traditional Power Dinner last night, but the e-mail came at four o'clock. I had been summoned.

We went to an Italian place that was new to me, and had an over-the-top expense-account meal with all the trimmings, and showed our visitor some hospitality. It wasn't too bad, I guess, but my personality goes counter to such things. 

I love going out with friends and family, but career-related networking and ass-snorkeling and playing the game are not exactly my cup of tea. I'm not good at it, it makes me feel like a phony, and I do what I can to avoid such situations.

Last night I took a seat way down at the end of the table, away from the main attraction, and just tried to blend in with the ferns and whatnot. With any luck I could just sit in silence, adjust my facial expressions to correspond with conversation, and be home by nine.

I saw that most of the pasta dishes seemed to involve seafood of some sort. And since I'm not a big fan of the crustaceans, I ordered an outsize steak. It was good, and should've been at those prices. I also had some calamari before dinner, which seemed to get bigger the longer I chewed. Again: not a fan of the sea creatures. I kept thinking of Squidward.

The waitress was good at keeping the Yuenglings coming, and the ordeal wasn't overly painful. It was one of those things that's far worse during the worrying stage, than in reality. And the guy who likes to make pathetic WV jokes wasn't even there, so I didn't even have to listen to any of that crapola. So Jeff, did you have a one-hole or two-hole outhouse growing up? Hardy-fucking-har; I'm simply buckled-over in laughter.

So anyway, the California guy is still here and plans to spend the morning with us. I guess I'd better be there. Right?

-- It sounds like the New York Yankees are on the verge of moving their AAA farm team to Scranton. Unbelievable. They've been in Columbus as long as I can remember: the Columbus Clippers. But there have been negotiations going on, and the Yankees announced yesterday that they're leaving Ohio. And on Monday there's supposed to be a local announcement of some sort. 

Pretty cool.

The Phillies top farm team was located here for many years, but they left in a huff over a disagreement about the remodeling of the clubhouses, or some such thing. What a grand gang of douches.

I was reading about all this earlier today, and found out that the departing team, the Phillies team, is the direct descendant of the old Charleston Charlies, which used to play in Charleston, WV when I was growing up there. After they left Charleston, in 1984, they went to Maine, and then to Scranton. Am I following them around, or are they following me? I just don't know.

But I'm excited that AAA ball will still be played here, because I was highly skeptical. I've watched these things play out before.... I was fully expecting a team from the Women's Fast-Pitch Softball League to take the Red Barons' place. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

-- I've probably mentioned the fact that Paul Westerberg, another of my spiritual advisors, did the music for an upcoming animated film, called Open Season. Seems kinda weird, but I guess they gave him a wheelbarrow full of cash, and I'm glad to hear it. The man deserves to be paid.

Here's an article about it, and it says there's even talk of a possible Academy Award nomination. Holy shitballs, Batman! Paul at the Oscars?! I think my brain would finally, and completely, say fuck it, and just shut down.

Here's one of the new songs from the soundtrack. Sounds good! Love you in the fall? Is he singing about bourbon?!

-- I really need to go.... But before I do, check out this greatness. It tells you what talk radio shows are on the air right now, and provides handy-dandy links to their live streams. And it's not just American shows either. A few days ago they had Clive Bull listed. And last night it helped me find a station in California that was playing old Phil Hendrie shows. Very cool. I've got that baby bookmarked both at home and at work.

-- And I'm gonna turn this thing over to our good friend Buck now, and wish you guys a great weekend.

So have a great weekend, and I'll see ya soon. 
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September 14, 2006

-- Steve told me about this weeks ago, and I failed to pass it along. He said he was driving home, from somewhere north of here (I can't keep track of all his excursions), and came upon something unusual. 

He was on a well-traveled stretch of road, not an interstate but one of those blue highways that reportedly take you the through "real America." And suddenly there were people everywhere.

He said that folks were lined up on both sides of the road, some standing and some sitting in lawn chairs. The crowds grew larger as he continued driving, and he wondered if a parade was scheduled to come through. But it sure was a strange time of day for a parade....

He noticed that some people had gas grills with them, and were cooking up burgers and hotdogs. Everyone was smiling, and a few were passing footballs and throwing Frisbees around. And this went on for miles.

The shit?

The curiosity eventually got the better of him, and he pulled over to investigate. And it turned out to be an annual event, something the locals look forward to all year: the NASCAR trailers were coming through!

No joke. There was a race in New York somewhere that weekend, and the trailers that transport the cars always use that stretch of road on their way back home, and this has triggered an unofficial holiday. Folks turn out by the hundreds to watch.... the trailers go by.

And as Steve stood there, they started rolling through! A big cheer went up, and everyone started making that pumping motion with their right arms, urging the drivers to blow their air horns. 

Most answered this request, and it made the crowd cheer even louder. And after it was all over, at least for that particular group of trailers, grown men were seen hugging and high-fiving each other, with just a hint of tears in their eyes.

Man, I wish I could've been there with him.

-- Remember that fancy-pants new Amazon store I told you about last week? Well, it turned out to be kinda lame. When they "invited" me to take part in the beta test, I was excited. I thought they were offering up some templates with which I could quickly build a mini-Amazon, stocked only with items that have received the Surf Report seal of approval, and which I could embed into TheWVSR.

But it was much less than that. Check it out here. Basically they allow you to highlight nine products (nine!), and everything else is just regular old Amazon searches. I thought I'd be able to build a CD store, a DVD store, etc. Yes, it's a classic case of good idea, poor execution....

I haven't given them my feedback yet, but lots of other folks have. I checked out the discussion board for Amazon associates yesterday, and people are not happy. Oh, they're bitching. Maybe Amazon will listen? I just don't know.

In any case, please continue to use our links when you're doing your online shopping. It'll cost you nothing extra, and we'll get a tiny sliver of whatever you spend. It's an easy and painless way to support our ridiculous endeavors here. And, for what it's worth, I appreciate it.

-- Somebody linked to this yesterday in the comments, and I thought it was excellent. It's a song, supposedly leaked from a not-yet-released Weird Al CD, called "Ridin' Dirty (White & Nerdy)." Here's some info on it, and these are the lyrics. Good stuff.

-- And speaking of music, I recently watched a documentary about the Minutemen. It's a good flick, and you should check it out if you're so inclined.

To be quite truthful about it though, I never was a huge fan of the band. Oh, I had my copy of Double Nickels On The Dime, as required by the hipster handbook, section seven item six, but I never really warmed to it. There seemed to be too much going on at once, too much jumping around; I'd always feel like screaming, "FOCUS, goddammit!!" It was like punk rock for people who were good at math. Or something.

But I liked the idea of the Minutemen, and I always respected D. Boon and Mike Watt. They were suburban kids just bursting with ideas and passion, and they created something that will outlast us all. So, that's pretty cool, and I hoist an adult beverage in their honor.

Plus.... I saw them in concert exactly two weeks before D. Boon was killed. They opened for REM in Winston-Salem, literally days after I moved out of my parents' house, and into the WV version of the Land of Opportunity: North Carolina. I didn't know anyone in my new hometown, so I went to the show alone. It was at a high school auditorium (no shit), and the tickets were printed on construction paper.

Through the magic of the internet, I found the exact date of the show and REM's playlist:

8 December 1985 - Reynolds Auditorium, Reynolds High School, Winston-Salem, NC

support: The Minutemen

set:
Feeling Gravitys Pull / Harborcoat / Crazy / Maps And Legends / Shaking Through / Driver 8 / Good Advices / Sitting Still / So. Central Rain / Swan Swan H / Can't Get There From Here / Seven Chinese Brothers / Auctioneer (Another Engine) / Old Man Kensey / Pretty Persuasion / Life And How To Live It encore 1: Gardening At Night / 9-9 / Windout / The Counting Song / Second Guessing / (Don't Go Back To) Rockville encore 2: Tired Of Singing Trouble / Little America / See No Evil
notes: Mike Watt guests on See No Evil

I remember being back at home in Dunbar for Christmas, and a news report came on MTV that said D. Boon had been killed in an auto accident in Arizona. The bottom almost fell out of my ass. I'd just seen him, all fat and jumping around, a few days before!

So that leads us to the question of the day.... What dead people have you seen in concert? Presumably these would be shows that happened before the person died, but whatever. I also saw Kurt Cobain and that's about all I can come up with, right off the top of my tiny Duke head.

What about you?

Knock yourselves out, and I'll see ya tomorrow. 
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September 13, 2006

-- There's a high-pitched tone inside the bunker this morning, and I can't find the source. It's not very loud but I can hear it, and it's making me crazy. It's definitely not my computer or the stereo, I think it might be the fridge in the corner.

Do refrigerators ever emit a brain stem-piercing hearing-test noise? And if so, what does it mean?! I guess I could unplug the thing and confirm if it's the culprit or not, but the plug is way behind a table and I'd have to hoist myself off this chair and move stuff around....

Screw it. I'll just live with it, until it catches fire.

-- My eyes have been goopy and runny for almost a week now. I look like a person who was forced into a crackpot experiment by a mad scientist, and am now part man/part basset hound. On Saturday I went to one of the Secrets' soccer games (matches?), and had tears streaming down my face the entire time. I'm certain the other parents thought, holy shit, that guy's a tad too passionate about all this.

And it's not just me. Everyone around me, at home and at work, is sneezing and clearing their throats and making irritating grunting noises like goddamn woodland creatures.

What the hell, man? Toney says it's ragweed, but that doesn't seem right to me. Hay fever in September? I can't recall that ever happening before. No, I think I picked up some sort of eye-eating virus at the doctor's office last week, and everyone else is just being a pain in the ass.

Any ideas?

-- On Sunday I removed three of our window air conditioners (Soviet humboxes), and dragged them to the basement. I was going to do all four, but ran out enthusiasm. The one remaining is in the living room, and is the big 'un; it's all bolted in, and you have to pull the works out of the case, and all manner of crapola.

So I looked at that last one, scratched my chin, and decided I'd better pace myself and do it at a later date. To quote one of my spiritual advisors, Stan Ridgway, I'll do it tomorrow, that seems like a pretty good idea today.

Besides, it was cocktail hour.

Yep, it's already getting to be fall up here, and I'm loving it. I even went out and bought a brand new Scrote-watching blanket for the new season. In fact, I bought Toney one too, and we'll be at the absolute zenith of Scrote-watching comfort this year. Mine has orange and blue stripes, and hers is red and yellow. Oh, we're ready.

And in just a few weeks, Bourbon Season '06 will kick off. The official start of the season is Halloween night, of course, but there's no harm in cheating a little, and getting the festivities underway a few days early. Right? Nobody likes a bourbon season zealot.

We'll start with the traditional First Bottle, always Maker's Mark, during the early days of October. Then we'll make a vow to drink only Maker's Mark this year, before realizing that the shit is expensive, and opting for Early Times in the big plastic jug with easy-to-carry grip, for the second go-'round.

You see, there's an accepted rhythm to these kinds of things. And I can't wait to get back into it.

-- And speaking of adult beverages, I went out and bought a six-pack of Magic Hat #9 on Sunday, on the recommendation of several Surf Reporters. It cost me $10.75, which may have prejudiced me against it, but I wasn't blown away. Toney liked it more than I did, but I found it too fruity. And I don't mean that it'll make a straight man prefer the company of gentlemen, I mean it tasted like fruit.

Dammit, when I'm forking over that kind of money for beer, I want hops, not apricots.

But it was far from horrible, and I'm glad that I finally sampled it. Now there are only seven million more microbrews to go!

-- Since we're on the subject, check this out. A reader named Brandon sent me the following note a few days ago:

Jeff, On a recent road trip through Yuengling country I brought a few cases back to Tennessee like I was truckin' Coors East of Texas. We can't buy Yuengling here. One of these cases made a birthday present for a good friend, a fellow Yuengling lover from Galax, Virginia, now living here. The gift caught him by surprise and he's written a song all about how much he loves the beer. It seemed WVSR appropriate.

You can hear the song here, an ode to the golden elixir, and it's darn good. ...I'm sorry, I'm getting a little emotional.

-- And finally, here are three new Smoking Fish sightings, all captured by Blitz Krieg. I'm fairly certain that we've never had an underwater sighting before, so that's pretty cool. Keep your eyes open, folks, and send us your pics. Our logo, man, he gets around.

I couldn't come up with a question of the day. I thought about asking if you've ever called into a talk radio show, but I have a feeling that wouldn't generate much heat. So, you're on your own today. 

...Hey, what do you want from a man with basset hound eyes??

See ya tomorrow. 
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September 12, 2006

-- I went through a period, back in the early days of this ridiculousness, when I'd log onto TheWVSR in the morning and react to current events, or interesting little tidbits in the news. I approached it from a "humorous" point of view, and tried to inject some low-rent social satire into the mix. But it didn't take long to realize that I was one of about ten billion other people doing the exact same thing. And, what's worse, roughly eight billion of those other people were doing a better job of it.

So screw it, I made adjustments. Adapt or die. And today if there's some hot topic at the office, something everyone's buzzing about around the ol' water cooler, there's a good chance I won't be talking about it here. Instead, I'll be discussing boxes of salt, and how long it takes to empty one during normal household use -- or some such thing. Because that's what I'm best at, what I enjoy the most, and what hopefully makes an occasional visit to our humble domain worthwhile.

I also try not to link to "wacky" news articles with a twelve-hour shelf life, or to YouTube videos that will be as stale as bottom-layer hamper underwear by the time you click on it. In short, I attempt to make TheWVSR somewhat unique. It might not be good, mind you, but I like to think that it's kinda different.

And while we're not setting any world records here, traffic to the site indicates that we might be doing something right. When I started it was just me, my brother, and about five guys I went to high school with. Now at least twice as many people visit on a given day. At least!

Anyway.... I tell you all this because I'm about to break one of my own rules, and talk about the death of the Crocodile Hunter. Please know that this is NOT a return to the old way, and I hope you'll at least give me some points for waiting until the world moved onto the Next Big Thing (9/11). I didn't just jump right in there and start making tasteless jokes about it, then add, with a big douchey wink, "Oh, I'm sorry, is it too soon?"

You know, like ten billion other people.

-- When Toney told me that Steve Irwin had been killed, one morning last week, my first reaction was, "Who the fuck's Steve Irwin?" Then when it all became clear to me, I thought, "Oh man, he has little kids."

It didn't surprise me that the dude died of something other than natural causes. I mean, seriously. He teased alligators with pork shanks for a living. No, the news itself didn't shock me. It's just the fact that he had young children that made me think about it for more than five minutes. And that's pretty weird, considering my history.

Before I had kids, I wasn't very tolerant of them. I know you're not supposed to admit such a thing, but it's true. When I'd go to a restaurant and some wailing brat would kick-off like a siren, it was all I could do to maintain my composure. Sometimes I'd roll my eyes and sigh theatrically if someone with a crumb-cruncher was even seated near us, anticipating the cacophony that was sure to come.

I was the classic asshole.

One of my recurring "jokes" (there were lots of them) was to suggest that eateries provide not only a no-smoking section, but also a no-lip smacking section, AND a no-kids area. On the rare occasion that I'd encounter the lip-smacking children of smoking parents, it would almost be enough to send me straight to the wacky shack.

When Susan Smith, the dumbass wood-hick in South Carolina who strapped her two young sons into the back of a Mazda Protégé, then rolled the vehicle into a lake so she could impress a big shot at the rendering plant where she worked (or whatever), I made another recurring "joke." I said, over and over again, that I just couldn't understand how a person could do such a thing. Then I'd add, with a big douchey wink, "That Mazda probably had less than 20,000 miles on it."

Then the Secrets came along, and I suddenly found myself on the receiving-end of people like myself. I remember taking a cross-country flight with our oldest boy, just the two of us, and people were openly hostile. He was a toddler at the time, and had trouble sitting still. Compared with other kids his age he was well-behaved (honestly true), but he wasn't just sitting there like Putty on Seinfeld.

And people shot me dirty looks and exhaled loudly and made big exaggerated motions to show that they were turning up the volume on their headsets -- all the way from LAX to Yeager Field in Charleston. I was shocked that people could be so rude and unsympathetic.

Why did they have to be such assholes?

Once, when the youngest Secret was still a baby, we were at a restaurant with another couple. They didn't have any kids at the time, and were thus experts on child-rearing. During the meal our son dropped some macaroni on the floor near his high chair, and the golden couple were aghast at the "terrible mess" he'd created. In fact, it bothered them so much, they snuck away and apologized to the waitress when they thought we weren't looking. Man, it pisses me off all over again, just thinking about it....

Years later, we were out with the same people, and the tables were turned. THEY had a small child this time, and he acted like the ape-boy Donny from The Wild Thornberries. He shrieked and hollered through the entire meal, stood on his chair, flung food, and wandered around the dining room with impunity. At one point he actually walked up to a stranger's table, picked up a dinner roll, took a bite of it, and put it back.

And when people had the audacity to act irritated…. Well, they were waaaaaay out of line, and probably Republican to boot. Needless to say, I reminded them of the earlier incident, and they proclaimed it a figment of my imagination. Not only had it never happened, but they'd never even been to the restaurant in question. Grrrr....

Anyway, I don't view children as the enemy anymore, as creatures put on this Earth to ruin yet another of Jeff Kay's meals. My instant reaction to the Steve Irwin news makes that clear enough. Kids are innocents, and I feel protective and give them plenty of leeway now. In fact, I like to see the younglings having fun and being silly, just being kids. It makes me happy, even if it generates a lot of racket.

I guess you live your life and gain new perspectives? Pass the beer nuts.

But.... that doesn't mean I'm any less irritated at restaurants or on airplanes these days. No, I've just shifted the blame. Because in lots of cases, more and more it seems, it's NOT just kids being kids. It's parents who don't set limits, who don't enforce rules, and who expect the rest of the world to adapt to their wild-ass circus when it rolls into town. Discipline Deficit Disorder (DDD) is my newly-adjusted pet peeve, and I'm blaming the adults!

Nowadays restaurants should offer a no-smoking section, a no-lip smacking section, and a wishy-washy parent pavilion, where kids can set the goddamn place on fire but go home with their self-esteem intact. Now Donny, let me explain why it makes Mommy sad that you killed our waitress....

Heh. Perhaps I haven't matured as much as I like to give myself credit for?

Whatever. As it turns out, this wasn't really about the Crocodile Hunter at all, was it? In fact, I'm not even sure what it was.... But all that apologizing and hand-wringing wasn't necessary, huh?

-- Oh well, let's not let it go to waste. Here's some half-baked "social satire" inspired by the news of Steve Irwin's death, a statement from our dog Andy: 

"Since September 4th, many Animal-Americans have been subjected to searches at Petcos and other locations based upon their four-footedness and snoutly origin, without any credible information linking individuals to criminal conduct. Animal profiling is fundamentally un-American and must be made illegal. I beg of you not to be swayed by raw emotions on this sad occasion, and to view the actions of a single misguided militant stingray as it is.... Hey wait! Do I smell cheese?"

Yeah, see why I moved away from that sort of thing?

-- And since we're on a roll of sorts, breaking rules all willy-nilly, here's our question of the day: where were you, and what were you doing, when you first heard about the 9/11 attacks? 

I was at my desk in Scranton, and some guy with high-pockets came busting in and said a plane had just crashed into the World Trade Center. I assumed it was an accident, and casually began reading about it on the Web.

Then the second plane hit, and all the news sites were no longer accessible; the entire Internet was on the verge of shitting the bed. We had to go out in the hall and listen to news reports over the loud speakers, like it was 1941. It was surreal; nobody could believe what they were hearing.

By early afternoon my employer told us all to just go home and be with our families. We watched TV for hours, then I decided to take Andy for a walk. We'd just "adopted" him two days before, and he was still a novelty. And while we walked I noticed that there were no sounds outside; the whole world was quiet. Even the birds in the trees seemed to be shocked into silence.

What about you? Where were you, and what were you doing? Use the comments link below to tell us about it.

And I'll see ya tomorrow. 
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September 8, 2006

-- I took a vacation day yesterday (you know, since I have fifty of them), and got a lot done. After finishing up with the daily bunker broadcast I went to my eye appointment, where, I'm happy to report, I wasn't asked to close the door behind me. The only downside? More eye doctor casualness.

The doc greeted me with, "Hey, man!"

Am I the only one that feels uneasy about this sort of thing? Shouldn't medical practitioners be older gentlemen, with white moustaches? Or, at the very least, carry an air of authority? All of my opticians from the last ten years or so have looked and acted like guys I went to high school with. And if that won't scare the shit out of a person, I don't know what will.

After my appointment, and after ordering a fresh pair of NASA contact lenses, I made a beeline for Waffle House. There, I got myself perched on a stool at the "high bar," ordered scrambled eggs, sausage, hash browns with cheese, and sweet tea. (Never order coffee at Waffle House, trust me.) My waitress nodded, backed up a few steps, stood at attention behind a strip of tape on the floor, and hollered out my order to the cooks. Except she didn't say it the way I'd said it; among other things, she instructed them to "drop a ring." I didn't like the sound of that, but tried not to think about it.

Then it was time for a haircut. The Jiffy Pop situation upstairs was once again tall and unwieldy, so I shuffled out of Waffle House and drove to a "men's hair salon" not far from our house. They have a lot of sports memorabilia in there, and other "manly" touches. One time I wasn't paying attention and almost knocked my front teeth out by walking into a Penn State football helmet bolted to the wall. Other than that, though, it's a pretty good place to go for a quick sheep-shearing session.

But, dammit, SHE was working again.

I've thought about it, and can't really come up with a clear and concise explanation, but I can't stand one of the women that works there. She has hair straight out of Charlie's Angels, and wears high-heels all the time. There's not a drop, not a single drop, of hipness about her, and that gives me the heebie-jeebies. Yet, she's not some Jane Hathaway librarian-type, either; hell, I'd welcome that. This is a more difficult thing to get my arms around....

I'd bet good money that she has Celine Dion CDs in her car, watches Desperate Housewives and Grey's Anatomy, and reads a lot of self-help books. She never colors outside the lines, and does everything expected of her, in the order dictated. She almost certainly goes to dance clubs on Saturday nights, but not because she enjoys it. She goes because she's in her mid-twenties, and that's what she's supposed to do.

Know what I mean?

I went out with a girl like this once, in Atlanta, and it wasn't a pleasant experience. She had no sense of humor that I could relate to, wanted to talk about all the horrible problems she'd had with other guys (yeah, no shit?), and tried to have her way with me on our first date by walking into the room naked, and purring in some sort of hilarious "seductive" voice, "Tonight I want to explore your body."

I mean, how can a person be expected to keep a straight face in a situation like that? It wasn't my fault that I busted out laughing. Man, some people can be so sensitive....

Anyway, this heebie-jeebie chick cut my hair and I sat there and tried to put all the pieces of the puzzle together. By the time it was over I'd come up with the above-mentioned reasons for disliking her, but I have a feeling there are plenty more. And it drives me crazy. I like to get to the bottom of my strong reactions to people and situations, but this one is complex and challenging.

Perhaps I'm expending too much energy on it?

After the haircut I went home and mowed the grass. Then I did the weed-wacking, raking, blowing, etc., and brought everything back up to code. Hopefully that'll make the Michael McDonald fans next door happy....

There was even enough time left to finish the last few pages of a Bentley Little novel, with good ol' Black Lips Houlihan curled up beside me, before Toney and the Secrets got home. And after dinner I took the younger Secret to his soccer practice, and watched (away from the other parents, of course) -- something I'm never able to do, because I'm always at work.

It was a day of high-achievement! And I celebrated with beer.

-- All that stuff you just read was supposed to be three or four paragraphs, then I was going to move on to other things. But I got a little carried away.... Oh well, there's always next time, right? I'll leave you now with a few bits of coolness sent in by your fellow Surf Reporters.

Here's a breathtakingly beautiful Smoking Fish sighting, captured for the ages by Kyle. And Scott was in the actual town of Deadwood this past weekend, and snapped this picture for us. Heh. That would be perfect for a wedding engagement portrait, wouldn't it? And finally, Buck wants y'all to see the trailer for the upcoming West Virginia-based film, We Are Marshall. He said it gave even him, a self-described "cynical insensitive bastard," goose bumps. Here's your link.

And finally, the question of the day.... Since I told you about mine, what was the worst date you ever went on? Use the comments link to tell us about it.

Have a great weekend, folks. I'll see ya on Monday. 
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September 7, 2006

-- I have an eye doctor appointment this morning, so I'm working under an actual deadline today. We'll see how it goes....

This may come as a shock to some of you, but I'm not a big fan of the medical examinations. I'm always convinced, fully convinced, that they'll find something horrible, and I'll be asked into the doctor's business office and told to close the door behind me. I've learned that nothing good ever comes once you're told to close the door behind you.

One of these days I just know the guy is going to say, "Mr. Kay, it's your eyes. They're going to have to come out." Or I'll be handed an informational pamphlet on seeing eye horses, or whatever. I've been this way all my life. I'm faced with something out of the ordinary, and my brain automatically starts trolling for the worst possible outcome.

And it doesn't have to work too hard when it comes to doctors.... Oh, I've seen my share of made-for-TV movies. Shit!

But I'm sure everything will be fine, right? I need a new pair of contacts, and that's all there is to it. He'll do the exam, order the things from the NASA labs or wherever they get my crazy corrective lenses, and I'll be at Waffle House by noon, enjoying a big bowl of Bert's Chili. That's what I keep telling myself, anyway.

In any case, the local guy is nowhere near as fun as my Cursing Eye Doctor in California. Out there he'd lower the big apparatus to my face, and start flipping various lenses into place. Then he'd start asking me what I thought: "Is this any better? How's this? Shitty? And this one? Shitty or better? Is this one shittier than the last one, or better? Shitty? Better? Shitty? Better?"

Now THAT was an eye doctor who spoke my language.

-- Speaking of doctors, a guy at work told me an excellent story yesterday that I'm compelled to share with you. Because, you see, it involves the nutsack.

He said that yesterday morning he was toweling off after stepping out of the shower, and noticed that he was smearing blood all over himself. The hell?? He had it all over his chest, down both legs, and up both arms.

Following a frantic examination, he realized that his scrotum was dripping blood!

This understandably freaked him out. He put pressure on his sac (not too much!), and eventually got the bleeding to stop. But he thought he'd better go see his doctor about it. Because, once again, his scrotum was dripping blood!

When he arrived at the doctor's office he was informed that his regular doctor was not there, and wouldn't be there until next week. If it couldn't wait, he'd have to see the doctor's partner -- a woman. He groaned, but told the receptionist he'd better see her today; he didn't think it could wait.

Sweating bullets, he told the doc his story. She chuckled, and said it's probably nothing to worry about. She showed him an entry in a medical book that described his situation almost perfectly, and she assured him that it was no big deal.

But just to be sure.... she'd have to take a look. And, this is the best part. She told him that her insurance required that a third person be in the room during the exam, and nobody else was there except the receptionist -- a woman in her sixties that he knows from church!

He gulped and said OK, then added, "If you decide to start bringing in people from the waiting room or off the street, I want to charge admission."

It was something along the lines of a busted blood blister, which is what the doctor suspected. She gave him the option of doing nothing, or having it "repaired." He went with the latter, fearing that his "balls would explode" in a business meeting, and he'd suddenly be wearing a pair of khaki Dockers with a big sagging bloody crotch.

It was a great story, and the way he told it was perfect. I wish I had it on tape, so I could break it out on long car trips, or whatever. The dude had me buckled over in laughter.

Has anything like this ever happened to you? If so, we need to know about it, right away. Use the comments link below, posthaste. Chop chop!

-- And I think that'll just about do it for today, boys and girls. I have a date with destiny this morning, and need to be strong.

I'll leave you with a picture from yesterday's Charleston Gazette, of a man near and dear the heart of anyone who grew up in West Virginia during the 1970s: Mr. Cartoon! He's still around, at the age of 82, and is reportedly being inducted into the West Virginia Broadcasting Hall of Fame.

Damn right! Why wasn't he there already? Was he black-balled by a bitter and jealous Beeper? I demand an investigation!!

And finally, I have three extra-cool Smoking Fish sightings to share with you. Check 'em out. Are those great, or what? Thanks, folks! 

The rest of you guys keep your eyes open out there, and your cameras ready. Because our logo, man, he gets around.

See ya tomorrow, I hope. 
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September 6, 2006

-- On Monday one of the Secrets asked if we could drive down to Jim Thorpe, PA, and visit the old haunted prison there. Toney and the kids had been there once before, with Sunshine and Mumbles, but I'd never been inside for a tour. And because of the supposed coolness that transpired that day, the Secrets had adopted it as a personal project to get me there.

On their first visit, you see, Mumbles was supposedly alone inside one of the women's cells, videotaping with his trusty camcorder. And when they played that part of the tape back, they could clearly hear a woman's voice (all cigarette and whiskey-ravaged) holler, "Get out of here!" I've seen it countless times, and Mumbles swears he was completely alone at the time. Spooky, man.

Needless to say, this has captured the imagination of the younglings, and they want to go back to the jail on a fairly consistent basis. We had no plans for the day, and it wasn't a bad idea, so why the hell not? We told 'em we'd do it, and there was much celebrating.

The jail, more like a small prison, was built in 1871, and was the site where seven men, accused of being murderous members of the notorious "Molly Maguires," were hung. All professed their innocence to the end, and there's plenty of evidence to suggest that none were guilty of the crimes they were accused of committing.

Here's some info on the jail, and here's a little historical background on the curious town of Jim Thorpe itself. Jim Thorpe, the man, never set foot in the place, if you can dig it. ....At least not while he was alive.

So we headed down the turnpike, promptly missed our exit and had to drive way the fuck out of our way to get turned around. Exits are few and far between on that stretch of pay-as-you-go road, and I was running my hands through my hair, trying to maintain. Finally, long after we should've been there, we were there.

It's a cool little town. It's in the mountains, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, and feels like a Swiss village or somesuch. Downtown is now dominated by antique shops, and that sort of thing. But it's fun to walk around, check out the old buildings, and try to imagine the place in its heyday. Here are a few pics I took on a previous visit to Jim Thorpe.

The prison isn't far from downtown, just up the main street a few blocks. It's scary-looking, as most nineteenth-century lock-ups are -- not the kind of place any sane person would aspire to take up residence. Sweet Gothic Maria. I felt a little uneasy just parking near it.

The next tour would kick-off in ten minutes they told us, and the four of us could be a part of it for the nominal fee of sixteen dollars. Grrrr.... Yuengling charges nothing for their tours, and there's beer and ridiculousness at the end. But whatever.

After we had our tickets we were ushered into a small room, where other members of our tour group were already assembled. There was a TV inside, playing The Molly Maguires, an old Sean Connery movie about the whole sordid affair. The scene that was playing on the screen was clearly filmed on the streets of Jim Thorpe. Pretty cool. I made a mental note to see if Netflix stocks the DVD. They do, and it'll arrive here at the Compound on Friday.

Here's a sign that was propped up on the mantel of the fireplace.

The tour guide was, oh, I don't know, twelve years old? That might be a slight exaggeration, but I'd be willing to bet that she's still in high school. She was OK, though. I had a little trouble understanding her, but it was everybody there, not just her. The locals talk really fast, and clip off the ends of their words, leaving me scratching my tiny Duke head in confusion much of the time.

She showed us the warden's quarters, where his entire family, often including little kids, cohabitated with killers and thieves. We saw the main cell block, where the Molly Maguires hangings took place, complete with a re-creation of the gallows. She took us to the exercise yard (chic!), and down below the prison to check out the solitary confinement cells.

And that was the coolest part. It was like something out of Edgar Allen Poe -- creepy as all hell. She told us that psychics claim the "dungeon" is a hotspot for spirits and still-pissed ghosts. There are hundreds of stories, she said, of strange encounters down there. Many tourists have supposedly snapped photos inside the cells, returned home, and found more people in the pictures than there should've been. All sorts of stuff like that.... people being shoved, anguished cries from abandoned cells, etc. And when you're standing in the middle of it all, your skepticism starts to melt away.

Here's one of the pics I snapped in the dungeon. Do you think the spirits know what scares us the most, and customize their apparitions to fit the individual? Shit!

The final stop on the tour was a visit to cell 17, in the main cell block, to see The Handprint. One of the Molly Maguires supposedly placed his grimy hand on the wall, as he was being led to the gallows, and proclaimed that the print would remain forever, to shame the county for hanging an innocent man. Over the years they've painted over it, washed it with every cleaner known to man, and even knocked the original wall down.

Yet the handprint always comes back....

This is a good summation of the legend. And here are a couple of pics that I snapped -- before I read the sign that told me pictures aren't allowed. Not that it would've made any difference, of course....

It was a fun day, well worth the sixteen bucks and no beer. If you're in the area, be sure to check it out. It's an off-the-beaten-path classic, and receives the Surf Report seal of approval.

-- And on that note, I'm gonna turn it over to Buck now, and hit the dusty trail.

Have a great day, folks. See ya tomorrow. 
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September 5, 2006

-- How was the weekend? Ours was good, thanks for asking. It was damp, overcast, and cool here, and that's perfect for mushrooms and me. 'Cause man, I love this kind of weather; gray and dreary makes me happy deep-down. If I didn't think the Half-Shirts were monitoring our every move, I would've stripped down to a pair of fire engine-red micro-briefs and gloom-bathed on the back deck.

Anyway.... What follows are a few bite-sized "highlights" of the big three-day holiday weekend here at the Surf Report Compound. Please note: bite-sized means I'm running late again, and fully intend to half-ass it. Thank you for your attention to this matter.

-- On Saturday the remnants of Ernesto (did it ever actually make it to hurricane status?) passed through, and it rained most of the day. We considered taking in an afternoon movie, Ricky Bobby to be exact, but ruled it out because we already had an expensive anniversary dinner planned for Sunday. And what are we, Ted Turner here? I mean, seriously.

We ended up at the Chinese buffet again, where the Secrets each ate their own body weight in orange chicken, and I, the pain in the ass, ordered off the menu. The buffet is fine, but they don't label the selections and I'm always afraid they'll be saturated, simply saturated, in garlic. Therefore, I end up eating the same thing over and over again, and it gets old. So screw it, I just went with the #2 lunch special: cashew chicken.

And needless to say, I was reminded of my old boss in Atlanta who made the same joke every time we had Chinese for lunch: "It doesn't matter what you order, it's all gonna end up as #2 eventually." For six full years I heard him say that, and it'll probably be one of the last things to go once the Alzheimer's kicks in.

After visiting a few stores, we returned home and I watched a show about cluster-bombs way up on one of the three-digit cable channels. That made me happy, and after it was over I told Toney I was going out to buy a Powerball ticket, and stop at the dive bar for a couple of beers. That last part didn't seem to go over very well, the normal reaction, and I promised to be quick.

For the first time ever, the big mannish fat girl wasn't holding court at the end of the bar. She'd always been there on previous visits, and I felt myself spinning complicated explanations for her absence in my mind, and hoping she was OK. 

There was a Penn State football game on the TV, and every head was ratcheted in that direction. I don't know a thing about it, and couldn't give a candy-coated crap. But I watched too, powerless to do otherwise, while nursing a sweaty pint of the golden elixir.

It was an uneventful outing. The only thing that came out of it was a possible new addition to the Rules of Thumb list: men with moustaches drink piss beer. It's true, you know. And I was sad to see that they're apparently doing renovations of some sort. Highly concerning.... If they bring in a single fern, or mop the floor, or anything crazy like that, it's all over. I've seen it happen time and time again.

-- On Sunday we went to the Italian Festival in Scranton, and it was fun. I think we've been every year that we've lived here, and food is the reason we keep going back. Last year we made the mistake of not being very hungry when we arrived, but timed it perfectly in 2006.

I ate some sort of strange (and supposedly "not to be missed") sandwich called porketta, which turned out to be a pile of gray, peppery pork on a hamburger bun. It was only OK, I thought, and couldn't really understand the massive line of people trying to get at those things. Man, they were in a full-on porketta frenzy! More power to 'em, I guess.

Then it was two massive slices of pizza, a full 45-degree angle on my greasy paper plate, prepared by the good folks at one of the oldest Italian restaurants in town. Yum. A giant tumbler of fresh-squeezed lemonade came next, and before we finally threw in the towel: cannoli. I always walk away from those festivals gorged to the point of hallucination, yet kicking myself I wasn't able to "sample" more things. 

And so it goes.

I took some pics, but they looked a lot like last year's. So I'll just link to those again, screw it. Here's one new one, a couple in front of me at the pizza stand. And anyone who attended Dunbar Junior High School will understand why I didn't patronize this particular stand. No thank you! Heh.

That night, many hours later, we went to a fancier restaurant than we're accustomed to visiting, and had our anniversary dinner. Since it was a special occasion, we had 'em roll out the appetizers and the whole nine yards, and Toney and I indulged in vodka martinis. I'm not really a liquor kinda guy, but it just felt right under the circumstances. For dinner I went with the Flintstones-sized prime rib, and Toney opted for some sort of fish in garlic butter. I just don't know....

But it was good. And I didn't even gasp too loudly when they brought me the bill. Maybe that's why people insist on having a stiff before-dinner cocktail in those kinds of places? It takes the sting out of the payment booklet they bring you when you're done. Sweet sainted mother of Helga Pataki!

-- And I'm all out of time here. I'll have to tell you about Monday on Wednesday, and our tour of a spooky-as-crap nineteenth century prison. Very cool! 

In the meantime, what did you guys do over the weekend? Use the comments link to tell us, won't you? 

Also, did you see anything interesting on the Jerry Lewis Telethon by any chance? I tried to watch some of it, for curiosity's sake, but quickly became bored and found a special on flamethrowers instead, way up in the 170s. Did I miss anything?

And is it very obvious that I sprinted through this bitch? If so, it's our little secret, OK? I appreciate your discretion.

See ya tomorrow. 
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September 1, 2006

-- I watched Inside Man last night, and had a great time. It's directed by Spike Lee and, needless to say, when I learned that I groaned. Heeere we go, I thought, more high horse axe-grinding: an automatic reaction, organic in nature. But it turned out to be a straight-up crime movie filled with interesting characters, and one of the more enjoyable flicks I've seen in a while.

Check it out, if you're so inclined.

It's the first Spike Lee movie I've seen (and I certainly haven't seen them all) that didn't make me want to immediately leave the house, walk up to random strangers, and say, "I'm sorry." Pretty cool.

-- Yesterday something popped into my head that I haven't thought about in years. And nothing prompted it either, I was just scrolling through my Amazon want-list when it suddenly appeared out of nowhere. Bam! How does that happen?

Anyway, back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth I was in Myrtle Beach with a girlfriend. We were in our early twenties probably, or maybe even late teens. We stopped at a Dairy Queen for milkshakes, and as we were parking a guy came busting out of the store all agitated and muttering to himself. We tried not to make eye-contact with him, and began walking toward the promise of creamy and cool dairy desserts.

But, as I somehow knew would happen, the dude started yelling at us. At first I thought he was berating us for some reason, but he was calling us over to his car. WTS?? Stupidly, we walked over, and he asked if we were planning to go inside the Dairy Queen. Uhhhh....

Before we were able to formulate an answer, he pulled a piece of paper out of the trunk of his car and wrote what I assume was his name on it. It was something generic, like Mike Johnson. Then he handed it to me, and told me it was a "coupon." Use it man, use it! he ordered me, and jumped into his car and left.

Completely confused, we went inside and ordered our shakes. The person at the register rang it up, and told us the total. My girlfriend and I looked at each, shrugged, and I told the cashier we had a coupon. After I handed it to her, she stared at it, then began voiding the sale(!).

She made our milkshakes nervously and in silence, handed them to us, and said, "Go! Just go!" And I still don't know what any of it's about.

Can any of you help me with this? I believe I need closure.

-- Amazon is offering some newfangled beta test program to their "associates." It's a template-based store that you can create and maintain within your own website, and features a shopping cart and all that fancy-pants stuff. I usually don't participate in these so-called tests, but I might screw around with this one.

I'd like to use it to list all the semi-obscure things I've discovered through the years, which turned out to be genius. In my opinion, anyway.... Like Norwood, for instance. It's a book that few people are familiar with, but is one of the funniest and best novels ever. I'd gladly sacrifice a 'nad, the high one or the low one, to be able to write like Charles Portis.

So, I think that could be sorta fun. It'll be a gathering together of what I believe are pop culture's best-kept-secrets. And I make this vow to you now: I will never begin a product description with the sentence, "Well, what can I say about this (CD)?" Also, none will end with, "'Nuff said."

It's my little gift to you.

-- Toney and I were married on an easy-to-remember date: 9/3/93. So, our thirteenth anniversary will happen over the weekend. And you know what that means. Yes, I'll be springing for the fried mozzarella sticks at Bennigan's! Hey, it only happens once a year.... There's no harm in going crazy on special occasions. Right?

-- It makes me sad in my soul, but I think I've once again reached a point where I need to buy new underwear and socks. Man, I hate spending money on crap like that. It's almost as bad as paying some guy to come out and make your washing machine exactly the way it was yesterday. Oh, thank you sir, thank you for your kindness! And here's a check for a million dollars.

But it's gotta be done, at least once every decade or so. Everything's all distorted and stretched now, holes are starting to appear, and I think I need to just gather it all up in a Wal-Mart sack, toss it in a dumpster (or bury it in the backyard), and start anew. I've reached the point of no return with my intimates.

Hey, maybe I could frame each pair of old draw's and sell them as art, like Warhol did? That might offset the outlay of cash I'm faced with? Hey now, there's an idea! Stay tuned.

-- And finally, another question for y'all. This one might not pan out, but I'll try it anyway....

Which of our most popular conspiracy theories do you really and truly believe? I'm not big on them, personally. I think that in almost every case things are exactly as they appear. I don't believe that large groups (or even small groups) of people are capable of keeping big secrets. And I think human nature causes us to seek some other, usually more sinister, explanation for Bad Things.

However.... I'm willing to believe that the royal family in England had Princess Diana knocked off, via carpool tunnel syndrome, or whatever. And I wouldn't be surprised to learn that Lee Harvey Oswald was somehow in bed with the communists in Cuba and/or the USSR.

But even in those cases I have my doubts. What about you? Do you believe any of those wink wink nudge nudge theories? Tell us about it, won't you? But please.... no long political diatribes, OK? Don't make me stop this car!

-- And I'll see you folks next week. On Tuesday, to be exact. Monday's a holiday, and since everyone reads this site at work, a Monday update would be like blowing diarrhea in the wind.

Have a great super-sized weekend, boys and girls. 
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