State Of My Fat Ass
November 25, 2000
Toney and I went to my parent's house in West Virginia for the Thanksgiving holiday, and spent much of Thursday kicking ourselves for not having the foresight to sneak in a flask of hard liquor. Thursday was simply excruciating. Of all the things I'm thankful for, the fact that Thanksgiving is now over ranks high on the list.
My parents, and pretty much my entire extended family, don't drink. I never understood such destructive behavior, and have had the personal strength to break that crazy cycle in my own life. It wasn't easy, but what important achievements are? And if ever there was a time that confirmed that booze is nearly a necessity in certain situations, it was this past Thursday in my parent's living room in suburbia surrounded by relatives, and more relatives.
All the cliches were there: loud elderly women invading people's space with their entire heads, screaming kids, irritating personalities, a blaring TV, pissed off people sulking in silence, dogs barking, people smacking their lips like livestock struggling with a caramel, and long extended periods of sheer dullness -- all with nothing stronger than coffee to help see you through it.
I've spent holidays with Toney's family, as well as with various girlfriend's families, through the years, and know my own is no more irritating than most. But usually there's some uncle performing the public service of mixing strong drinks in the kitchen. Anything else is like natural childbirth, and what right-thinking person would willingly choose that?
After the throngs of people either left or wandered outdoors in an attempt to "walk off" dinner, Toney and I shotgunned three each of the Bud Lites my Dad keeps in the back of the refrigerator for special occasions. I'm pushing forty and found myself frantically burying our empties in the trashcan beneath globs of discarded mashed potatoes, stuffing, and corn. How pathetic is that?
But it's all over now, and I've got a powerful bourbon and Coke sweating on the coaster beside my monitor as I type this -- deep underground in the Surf Report bunker with Muswell Hillbillies playing.
A BLAST FROM THE PAST: A few years ago I was in Reno, NV at my wife's mother's tiny apartment for Thanksgiving dinner. Again, there was a small army of people present. Right in the middle of the meal Toney's brother pushed away from the table and excused himself. He walked straight into the bathroom and let loose a high-pressure fecal explosion that was clearly audible at the dinner table. Everybody just looked at their plates and pretended they heard nothing. A few minutes later he returned, and said "Could somebody pass the rolls?" as if nothing had happened. Luckily, we were all appropriately drunk.
For some reason I'm in a biography phase. I read as much as I can, and most of the time I read fiction. But a couple of weeks ago I finished a really good book about Raymond Chandler, and now I'm into Let It Blurt, a Lester Bangs bio. Behind that is Stephen King's On Writing and Mr. Mike: The Life and Work of Michael O'Donoghue. I can't explain the sudden obsession with other people's lives and, truthfully, it probably wouldn't benefit anyone if I tried to figure it out. I'll save that for my next visit to John K's Pub (tomorrow).
But a few brief thoughts about Raymond Chandler, if I might:
After spending his early days being educated in Europe, serving in WW1, and bumming around the US, he finally settled in southern California. There he found a job with an oil company, as an accountant. Over the next dozen or so years he was a man possessed, pouring himself into his job completely. He climbed the corporate ladder and eventually became a high-paid executive. But then he got bored. And he started to drink - heavily. After he began showing up at work blasted, or not at all, the company had no choice but to fire him. And thatís where the legend began.
He went through the painful process of getting himself off booze, and made the decision to live off his savings while he taught himself to be a novelist. He used the same obsessive determination that fueled his early oil days, to learn the craft of writing. He re-wrote famous scenes in literature, then figured out the techniques the original authors used to make them so much better. He horizontally cut his typing paper into thirds, and made a vow that there would be a little "magic" on each sheet when he wrote. He worked at it all day, every day. Soon he was submitting detective stories to the pulp magazines of the day, and made something like $750 the first year he was a professional writer.
Of course, he went on to invent one of the most famous literary characters in history, Philip Marlowe, and became an international celebrity and millionaire. And he didn't publish his first novel until age 50.
This is, of course, a very inspiring story to people like myself who cling to some pathetic little thread of hope that it could still happen, even though the clock is ticking. Of course, I know deep-down I probably don't have the focus and discipline required for even Chandler's drunken years. When you read biographies of great people, you start to see a pattern: they're all almost maniacally driven. Chandler pushed everything to its limits, even his drinking problem. That's not really me, and it's not really 99.999% of people. I'm convinced there are folks all around us who are as clever and bright as Raymond Chandler, or Stephen King, but since they don't possess the fire in their belly to develop it, they'll never be recognized. It's sad, but true.
But don't count me out completely. I'm going to start kicking ass -- right after Thanksgiving.
-- Some other current obsessions: The Posies Frosting on the Beater, Malcolm in the Middle, Yuengling lager, Harvey Danger King James Version, the presidential election.
A few things...
-- I doubt I'm alone when I report that I'm still heavily under the influence of Olympic fever. In fact, I'm not convinced I'll ever completely come down from the euphoric high I reached while watching the Sydney games. I just can't seem to shake it. Especially my continual thoughts of that bald chick with no body hair. Highly erotic, to say the least. Yowza!
-- When I was driving to lunch today I passed by a cemetery, and saw something that had an impact on me. A woman was sitting on a grave, by herself, with a Thermos and TWO Styrofoam cups full of coffee. She seemed to be carrying on a conversation, complete with animated hand gestures. Five years ago I would've gotten a big kick out of it, and laughed and laughed and laughed, but today it made me feel a little sad. I fear I'm becoming a pussy.
-- A few weeks ago a teenage girl was brutally murdered in the Wendy's that I frequent, close to where I work. It's a horrible story. She was an 18 year old assistant manager, and was supposed to start college the very next day. When she was preparing to open the place early on a Sunday morning, somebody killed her and reportedly mutilated her body in the kitchen of the restaurant. A couple days later police arrested a fucked-up looking freak that worked there as a maintenance man, and charged him with the murder. It was a terrible, tragic occurrence and received wall-to-wall coverage on all the local news channels for days. The restaurant stayed closed for about a week, while authorities completed their investigations, but then it finally re-opened -- to mild protest. Many felt that the place should be ripped down, or at least radically remodeled. I heard lots of folks vow that they'd never set foot in there again, because the "vibes" would be too creepy. Indeed, the few times I was there right after it reopened I pretty much had the run of the joint. I assumed it wouldn't stay in business long, but today it was friggin' packed just like it used to be! I guess taco salads and tasty chicken sandwiches triumph over bad vibes in the long run.
-- I saw a news story today on the BBC site that said an epileptic woman's doberman attacked her while she was having "a fit." Maybe my metamorphosis into a full-blown pussy is still in the early stages, because that shit cracked me up.
-- And finally, some election day totals:
The Drudge Report 2,753,186 hits
TheWVSR.com 184 hits
That means that on the average, Matt Drudge and I received 1.3 million hits on our sites yesterday. Thanks America!
November 4, 2000
Saturday mornings are a magical time in the Surf Report compound. I usually get to sleep in a little, and then sit around for a couple of hours drinking coffee and reading or watching TV. Extended periods of calm are rare these days, and they're savored when they come.
Plus, I get to see my favorite TV show on Saturday mornings.
Today I crawled out of bed around eight, fired up a pot of hazelnut stool-softener and turned on the Fox News Channel to make sure the communists weren't bombing Seattle yet. In case you haven't heard, they weren't. There was just lots more talk about Bush's DUI a quarter-century ago. Shocking! Do the Democrats really think this kind of thing is going to damage anyone, after eight years of Clinton/Gore shenanigans? Please. Their relentless defense of those two clowns' myriad transgressions has taken the teeth out of their own eleventh-hour campaign dirty trick. But I shouldn't venture too far down that road; I want to talk about Spongebob here.
In case you're not hip to it, Spongebob Squarepants is an incredibly inventive and hilarious animated series on Nickelodeon. Its main character is a constantly smiling pants and briefs-wearing sponge that lives in a pineapple under the sea. He has a pet snail named Gary that meows, and a slow-witted pink starfish named Patrick for a best friend. Spongebob and Patrick's evil neighbor, Squidward (who sleeps with a clarinet), is a constant source of conflict. And their friend Sandy is an athletic female squirrel in diving equipment, with a strong southern accent. I'm not being ironic or dramatic when I say it's a work of genius. I know it's made for kids, but I laugh out loud watching it -- and I'm 37. I can't say the same for some "adult" comedy shows I've seen, like Becker or Daddio. That's for damn sure.
By now I've seen most of the episodes, but today two of the four were new to me -- and that's especially exciting. One of the two "new" episodes was a killer. It was called "The Paper", and concerned a discarded candy wrapper that Spongebob turned into a source of endless entertainment, through creativity and sheer energy. He turned it into a parachute, a moustache, a puppet, etc. He also did "oralgami" with it, where he'd pop it into his mouth and create incredibly intricate paper sculptures with his tongue. Squidward, who originally discarded the paper, sees Spongebob having a ball with it and ends up trading everything he owns to get it back. Of course after it's back in his possession he realizes it's just a piece of paper and, without Spongebob's semi-demented input, it's worthless.
Brilliant. Easily as good as anything I read in high school English.
I could go on and on about this show. It's really fun. And it's not just bizarre to be bizarre; it doesn't feel forced at all. It's absurd and smart and original, but never pretentious. The characters are sharp, and the stories strong. I urge you to check it out if you haven't. I'm convinced kids are getting better shows than we are.
Long live the Sponge!
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