The State Of My       Fat Ass

NOVEMBER 2001
   

November 30, 2001

"I would've sent a shorter note, but I didn't have the time." 
-Mark Twain, or some shit

Please allow me to apologize for the long-winded and drawn-out account of our Thanksgiving trip to West Virginia last week. My job is starting to cramp my style. I'm having trouble staying focused on the important stuff, but the fourth quarter will be over soon and I'm confident everything will return to normal shortly.

I'm going to sprint through the rest of this bitch, because I'm getting tired of thinking about it and I need to move on to newer things. I'm starting to bore myself, and that's not exactly a sterling indicator of quality. So, here goes...

Our Thanksgiving trip to West Virginia, The Final Chapter.

FRIDAY

-- "Black Friday", to be more precise. Where the hell did that come from? I've never, ever heard that term used in conjunction with the day after Thanksgiving until this year, and now everyone's using it. What gives? Did somebody send out a fax? I don't even know what it means. Black Friday? Isn't it the traditional start of the holiday shopping season? Isn't it supposed to be a festive time? A bustling time? An exciting time? I'm fuckin' confused.

-- We were worried that our rambunctious puppy Andy wouldn't mix well with my parent's more established brother/sister doggie team, Pepper and Patches. I was imagining violent living room brawls, and lots of snapping and snarling and airborne dog slobber. But after a fairly short probation period (during which P & P sat around sulking and making sounds like fax machines) Andy was accepted into the fold...and he immediately returned the favor by taking on many of his host's habits and traditions. By the end of the second day he was joining them in their wild ape-shit barking jags, that can be triggered by a leaf falling off a tree, or a neighbor turning on a lamp in a bedroom down the block. If somebody has the audacity to actually walk past the house, all hell breaks loose. Those hounds lose their shit and commence to doing backflips off the couch and trying to walk up the walls, and creating a cacophony that you just wouldn't believe. It's incredibly annoying, and I think Andy actually managed to make matters worse by injecting some youthful enthusiasm. We pulled him aside and tried to explain that you're judged by the friends you choose, but I don't think we made much progress. He just looked at us.

-- We went shopping in the afternoon, against my better judgment, and paid a heavy price. We went to several stores, including Sam's Club and Toys R Us, and they weren't too bad. I was pleasantly surprised. Then after a quick lunch at A&W (mmm...footlong slaw dogs and onion rings), we headed to another little shopping center down the way, and that's where everything went south. None of the stores are very old, in fact I don't even think the road they're on even existed when I lived there. This particular center includes Target, Lowe's, Circuit City, Pier 1, and a bunch of smaller places. Well, far be it for me to judge, but I think a slight engineering error was made in the planning of this place. You could get into the parking lot, but you couldn't get out. No shit. I've lived in Atlanta and Los Angeles and traveled all over the country, but I've never encountered anything like the mess we wandered into that day. It was absolute gridlock. No cops were on-hand either, just Lowe's employees trying to direct traffic. Sweet Maria! My blood pressure spiked, and I frantically looked around for an establishment with a liquor license. After everyone finally scratched their shopping itches, my parents joined the line of non-moving cars pointed toward the exit (we brought two vehicles, because they apparently thought we'd want to stay longer, and needed a getaway car) and we walked to a bar to try to wait out the traffic situation. After a few microbrews in stylish 22 oz pilsner glasses things didn't look so bleak. We eventually got out, but it was an unbelievable mess. A spectacular mess.

-- That night an aunt and uncle came to visit and stayed a long time. I could tell Toney wanted to go to bed, but the visitors wouldn't leave. During one extended stretch, my uncle talked about a new fireplace insert he'd been eyeing that burns some kind of pellets and/or corn(?!?). He told us in detail how it worked, how you drop the corn into the top and a conveyor belt carries it to the fire chamber, and how a fifty pound bag of pellets will burn for twenty-four hours, etc. etc. It went on and on. And at one point everyone (except us) started talking about NASCAR, and my mom suddenly joined in. And she seemed to know what she was talking about! The hell?! If Andy had walked into the room, stood up on his hind legs and belted out the theme to St. Elmo's Fire, I wouldn't have been more shocked. Holy deep-dish head-fuck, Batman! But they finally went home, and I saw Toney's eyes flash with anger. She got up and announced, "That was the most ridiculous conversation I've ever heard!" I couldn't believe it. My mom was obviously offended, and I followed Toney into the bedroom to see what was going on. "Goddamnnascarcornonafuckingconveyor...!!" She was going off, in a modified whisper that's louder than most people's regular speech. I was unable to console her, and I'm still not real sure what happened. I made a mental note to never bring up corn-burning stoves in the future.

SATURDAY

-- Toney and I wandered off by ourselves and checked out a few furniture stores. We really need some new furniture, but have roughly a dollar available to spend on it. Looking's free though, so we went looking. We visited a couple of places, and fantasized about how nice our house would look if we could furnish it with real furniture, and with pieces that actually match. Of course everywhere we went we had salesmen hanging around us, like ass-sniffing dogs. But then we walked into a place called Value City Furniture, and nobody would even make eye contact. We walked all around that store, up and down every aisle, and nobody said a word to us. When a salesman would walk by, he'd avert his eyes. It was very troubling. As irritating as it is to have salespeople constantly badger you in a store, it's even worse when they don't. What's wrong with us, we thought? We began to doubt ourselves, and examine our clothes and perform quick smell tests. I decided they had a policy not to bother people, but that theory was shattered again and again as they accosted every couple that passed through the doors. Shit. My self-esteem took quite a hit. I'm thinking about contacting Alan Dershowitz.

-- I treated my wife to a very special lunch at a place in Dunbar, called Big T's Dairy Bar. When she married me she had to know she was getting herself into a fast lifestyle, and that's exactly what she got. I had a couple of West Virginia delicacies: hot bologna and white beans. Yum. Hot bologna is a sandwich with an inch-thick slice of bologna that's been cooked for a long time in barbecue sauce. I've never seen on it a menu outside of the Mountain State, but the rest of the world is missing out on a helluva treat. And white beans are great northerns, I think, and are just about the best things in the world. My grandmother made the best white beans ever, and I had them pretty much every day when I was a kid. I was in a state of nostalgic euphoria, with sauce smeared all over my mouth and hands, as Toney looked on with great concern.

-- After lunch we went tooling around Dunbar, just checking out my old stomping grounds, then went for a pitcher of beer at a bar called Griff's. Toney asked me again about why there seems to be so much over-the-top state pride in West Virginia. Everybody seems to wear West Virginia shirts, and West Virginia hats, and have West Virginia stickers on their cars, and hang West Virginia flags from their houses. I told her I think it's because the state is constantly the butt of hillbilly jokes, and people feel defensive about it. I could tell she wasn't really buying the explanation though, which just goes to show you how much respect we West Virginians receive. We also discussed my plan to give up beer from January 1 to July 1, as we drained a jumbo pitcher of Budweiser. That's a plan that still needs a little refinement, by the way.

-- We stopped at a convenience store and bought gum to help cover up the bouquet of barley and hops that undoubtedly trailed us. Lord only knew who would be at my parent's house when we got back, and alcohol is a sticky subject for some of the more uptight members of my family. But that store sells Teaberry gum, and friggin' Mallo Cups! Are they making that stuff again, or have they not rotated their stock since like, 1965? Holy shit!

-- When we got home my mom played me a message on their answering machine from The Home, about my grandmother. A worker there was asking somebody to please come help them calm my 86 year old granny down, that she was "cussing and kicking" and wouldn't let the paramedics in the house to "work on Elsie." You could hear my grandmother ranting in the background. Man, oh man.

-- That night we watched Monday's episode of Ed, which I had asked my mom to record for us. It was a great one, with Chris Elliott playing a freaky, cosmic lawyer. There was a classic scene where he took off his shirt in the middle of a meeting, with no explanation, and just continued on as if nothing had happened. I love that show. When it was over we kept watching in case there were scenes from next week's show, and Michael Dukakis's head suddenly popped up on the screen. The hell? Apparently she had recorded it on a tape containing the 1988 presidential debate! 1988. My folks are right on the cutting edge of popular culture.

SUNDAY

-- Traffic was a bitch going home. We were at a complete stand-still before we even got to Charleston, which is just twenty or so miles away. I joked that we should've had somebody haul us back to Pennsylvania on a flatbed truck, so we could put the seats back and sleep the whole way. Not a bad idea, really. It finally broke free though, and there was a beautiful rainbow over the Monsanto sarin gas plant (or whatever) as we left town. A tiny tear of emotion may have escaped the corner of my eye, or perhaps it was just all the chemicals in the air.

-- We stopped in a town called Clendenin, on the other side of Charleston, to void our bladders and maybe pick up something to eat. There's an interstate sign claiming a Tudor's Biscuit World is off the exit, but we had to drive for miles to find it. I noticed my cell phone said NO SERVICE as we were driving deeper and deeper into uncharted territory. We finally found it in the downtown area, and it felt like we'd passed through a time warp. I'm not sure what era we were in, but it sure as hell wasn't 2001. Here's a photo I snapped. We urinated to beat the band, and had some kick-ass biscuits at Tudor's. You can get pretty much any meat on a biscuit in that place. They had pepperoni biscuits, and I think pork chop and mutten biscuits too. We opted for the more traditional sausage, and they were good...damn good. Kick-ass biscuits.

-- Here's how we spent most of the rest of the day. As my ex-boss in Atlanta might put it, it sucked monkey balls. It took us about twelve hours to travel five hundred miles, and we were arguing by the time we got home. Both of us had fucking had it. We both vowed to never travel on Thanksgiving again, which is an annual tradition for us.

And that's that. Sorry to be so long-winded. I'll get back to basics on Monday. Today's my birthday, so lift a glass to my continued decline, if you're so inclined. See ya soon.


November 28, 2001

Our Thanksgiving trip to West Virginia, Part Two:

THURSDAY

-- Thanksgiving day. My mom and dad were cooking before I even hoisted my big ass out of the bed. There was much clanking and smells of food coming from the kitchen as I had my first cup of coffee, and watched war updates in the den. I don't understand how a meal that will be enjoyed in the afternoon has to be started before the Appalachian rooster crows, but whatever. That's not my department. If I were in charge we'd go to the Old Country Buffet, then on to a pub for the traditional Bottomless Pitcher of Thanks. I tried not to analyze, and just enjoy. My mother is most likely going to undergo some frightening surgery in the next few weeks, and I've been appreciating her and my dad a lot more lately. I'm very lucky in the parent department, and that's no joke. I can't even imagine a time when they won't be around. And when those thoughts start creeping into my mind I force myself to think about baseball instead.

-- My grandmother joined us for the day. My dad went and picked her up, from The Home. She's eighty-six (or thereabouts) and doesn't really know what's going on anymore. It's pretty sad. She had a big hand in raising me, but doesn't even know my name anymore. My mom worked when I was a kid, and my grandparents lived across the street. I had thousands of meals in their kitchen, and my grandmother counseled me constantly on how to be an upstanding young man. The fact that I turned out this way isn't her fault, she sure as hell gave it her best shot.

-- I eventually drank enough coffee to get my blood moving again through my fat-boy arteries, and took a shower. Afterwards Toney and I flipped through the big stack of ads that came with the morning paper. Everybody was having "early bird" sales, designed to lure people into their stores during the middle of the night. You could pick up a 27-inch TV for like a buck, if you were crazy enough to go get it at five in the morning. Yeah, right. I wouldn't go to a Circuit City store at 5 AM if J.D. Salinger and Syd Barrett were there in sombreros, juggling torches.

-- We had our Thanksgiving meal in the early afternoon, and it was quite a spread. I employed my usual rule of thumb and ate until I was on the cusp of a blackout. I've learned through experience that when the light-headedness kicks in it's time to stop. But it was damn good. Everything was good. As usual my mother tried to get me to "just try" the sweet potato casserole, but it makes me queasy just to look at it. I've been refusing that particular offer for thirty years now. I was relieved when they refused my offer to help clean up, and I waddled back to the couch.

-- My friend Bill called and give me an update on the Commode Bowl, the traditional hometown football game between the Hillside Rams and the River Rats. In Dunbar you either live on the hill side of the railroad tracks, or the river side. On Thanksgiving day, every year since the late 40's, they have a football game between the two sections of town. They call it a football game, but it's a very loose term. Basically it's just a bunch of flabby drunks running around on the high school field in ridiculous get-ups. They also have a Commode Bowl parade (which used to feature an inbred man sitting on a giant toilet waving a plunger at cheering crowds!), and a "dance" the night before. Yes, it's quite the social event -- almost a festival, in fact. Apparently the Rats kicked much Hillsider ass this year, which is as it should be, I guess. I missed it all, which kinda sucked. My parents live about fifteen miles from Dunbar now, so I didn't even make it to the parade. I suck, without a doubt.

-- As we were recovering from our self-inflicted anguish my grandmother suddenly blurted out, "Where's the fence? I've gotta pee!" Yes, the fence. And no, I have no idea.

-- In the late afternoon my dad and I made an obligatory visit to an aunt's house in Dunbar, because a ton of cousins were in town. I can't go into as much detail as I'd like, because I can't be sure who's reading this crap, but it was like a scene from The Beans of Egypt in that place. Former drug addicts, ex-hookers, hillbilly lesbians, religious fanatics, semi-retards, Negroes, the severely overweight, the severely underweight, hepatitis sufferers, show dogs...the list goes on and on. The place was jammed to the rafters with people and animals, and it was hotter than owl piss in there. Everybody was talking at once, and smoking cigarettes, and coughing and hocking. It was incredible. We sat down and visited for a while, and a cousin's husband, whom I'd never met, was telling me about his trip to LA a few years ago, and how he got to see a filming of The Price Is Right...when out of the blue somebody plunged a fork-load of cake in my mouth! What the fuck?! It was another aunt, and she was going around making people -- forcing people! -- to try the cake she was eating. I had no way of knowing how many mouths that fork had visited before mine, but I was thoroughly disgusted. If I come down with Hepatitis C in the next few weeks, I'm going to be pretty goddamned pissed. After she left me, she got my dad, and I wish I had a picture of the expression on his face once he realized what was happening to him. Unbelievable. Who would do something like that? We talked some more, and one of the lesbians told an interesting story about how she recently took some antibiotics and it made her tongue wiggle like a snake, involuntarily. I'm not making this up. You can insert your own joke here; it's too easy to even bother with. My dad finally said we'd better be heading back, and we left. We talked about that fork all the way home.

-- An aunt and uncle from my mom's side of the family came to visit that night, and we ended up talking about "Nancy" a lot, and everybody got a big kick out of that. They especially enjoyed the story about how she showers while standing in washtubs, then transfers the trapped water to the washing machine to help save the Earth's natural resources. We were all drinking more of the beers my dad had bought (except for my mom and dad, who don't drink), and it was a pleasant end to a long day.

I know I'm stringing this shit out, but I'm going to have to finish this story tomorrow. There's more, but I'm late for work. Gotta go.

November 26, 2001

Our Thanksgiving trip to West Virginia, Part One:

WEDNESDAY

-- The refinance of our house had gone through and we spent the morning signing and initialing about two hundred sheets of paper in an office in Wilkes-Barre in front of a couple of besuited phonies smiling like Jack-O-Lanterns, so we didn't get on the road until after noon. We could've waited until we got back, but we were faced with the opportunity of not having to make a mortgage payment in December, so we hung around. No house payment, and no car payment in December. How cool is that? If we'd waited until today to sign, our month off would've become January and that just doesn't have the same feel. Maybe I won't have to snatch purses at the mall this year to buy us a Christmas turkey.  And maybe Toney won't have to sell her hair to buy me a watch chain, or whatever.

-- Our dog Andy had an expression of deep concern on his face as we forced him onto his blanket in the backseat of our car, amongst all our shit. Oh, this didn't look good at all. What kind of foolish scheme had these people cooked up this time? Dear god, what are they going to put me through, and what is this shiny contraption they're trying to push me into? He refused to make eye contact with us for several hours.

-- We saw the big black military helicopters circling Three Mile Island nuclear power plant near Harrisburg. Scary stuff. We saw two moving silently high in the sky, and another hovering closer to the ground. Shit. Each of those things are probably loaded with more fire-power than the entire country of Canada. And I thought my toll collector job was stressful!

-- The roads were packed out with holiday travelers, and we were at a complete standstill a couple of times before we got out of Pennsylvania. But things got better the farther we traveled. Our bladders became swelled to the point of discomfort somewhere in Maryland, but the rest areas were simply out of the question. Too many hideous people in sweat suits, stretching and digging underwear out of their asses, and getting in my friggin' way. We eventually saw a sign for a state park, and got off the interstate to give it a try.

The signs directed us out an old country road, and we drove for a long time. I was worried we'd get so far from the highway we wouldn't be able to find our way back, but my concerns shifted suddenly when I heard Andy erupt in the backseat. He puked up a pile of maroon-colored goodness the size of a dinner plate onto the upholstery beside his blanket. When we looked back he was still smacking his lips. And then the funk hit us. Sweet Jesus!!

We rolled down the windows and picked up our pace on the bumpy road. I was on the verge of jumping on the puke-wagon myself, and Toney had her shirt pulled up over her nose. We finally found the park and it was completely empty, not another living creature in sight. It was an historical Civil War spot, a fort of some kind, possibly called Fort Frederick. Pretty cool -- it sure beat the hell out of those shitty rest areas. We bailed out before the car had come to a complete stop.

I located the bathrooms, down a flight of dark stone steps behind an old log cabin, and found sweet relief there. Toney had all the doors of the car open when I got back, and Andy was running wild in an open field, terrorizing birds. A pile of maroon-stained paper towels was lying on the sidewalk beside the car, and Toney had a look of utter disgust on her face. I tossed the trash in a can, and went exploring while she made her way down the stone steps.

Here's Andy, the Civil War buff, taking in the scenery.

The dog and I walked inside the fort and looked around. Nobody was there and I wondered if we were even allowed in the park. It was kinda creepy. There were two big buildings inside and a lot of firewood and stuff. Andy was sniffing everything like a fiend and I walked up onto the porch of one of the buildings. And then I heard voices. They were coming from inside, and somebody was getting worked up about something. It was two or three men having a conversation, and things were getting heated. The hell? We high-tailed it out of there. I think I almost interrupted a Klan meeting, and nothing good could've come from that.

-- The rest of the drive was uneventful. I talked at length about my plans for a clothing line called Famous Maker, which would have instant name recognition, but I got the feeling Toney wasn't really listening. We stopped at Cracker Barrel and loaded up on home cookin' and finally made it to my parent's house around ten o'clock. After we carried in all our stuff, and had a couple of the beers my Dad had so thoughtfully purchased for his son the drunk, we hit the sack. Another day in the life.

Tomorrow, the rest of the story...

November 20, 2001

Some odds and ends:

-- We leave for West Virginia in the morning, and I'm braced for a long long day. Traveling on Thanksgiving is always a Montana-sized hassle, but it's gonna be even worse on the roads this year, because folks are afraid to fly. So it's gonna be ten or so hours of riding with other cars just inches away from us on three sides, and worrying about the dumbasses behind the wheels and what idiotic stunts they might pull. I hate going home for the holidays. I like being home for the holidays, I just hate the going part.

-- At least we're not going to Reno. When we lived in California we always had to drive to Reno to break bread with Sunshine and Mumbles on Thanksgiving. I remember some horrifying trips up that long, boring slaughterhouse-lined highway. I remember traffic so bad cars were on the freeway in PARK, and people were out walking around and socializing. I remember seeing a Mexican gentleman pissing an awe-inspiring golden arch in front of hundreds of captive motorists, without even bothering to turn his back. The nozzle was clearly visible to all, and was equally awe-inspiring. I remember us driving with a giant futon tied to the back of our car, because we didn't need it anymore and Sunshine had graciously offered to "take it off our hands." Every time there was a gust of wind we almost became airborne. We were a hang-glider waiting to happen. I was convinced we were going to go off a cliff in the Sierra Nevadas, and they wouldn't find our headless bodies until the spring thaw. I was terrified that affordable apartment furniture was going to cause us to be eaten by grizzly bears. So, at least we're not going to Reno.

-- We're going to have to take our dog Andy with us, and that should prove to be an interesting experiment. He's never ridden in a car for an extended period, so who knows what will happen? I'm envisioning projectile vomiting. Or perhaps he'll freak out and turn on us? Maybe he'll become terrified with claustrophobia and rip out our throats in a wild, savage frenzy? These are just a couple of possibilities that jump to mind.

-- This is what "Nancy" will most likely be having for dinner on Thursday. No wait, isn't Thanksgiving racist for some reason? Never mind.

-- I was talking to my friend Steve on Sunday and he told me he'd spent sixteen hours of the weekend grading papers. He's a college professor, and teaches frightening advanced mathematics courses like calculus and statistics and the like. I hated math and science and foreign languages in school -- but especially math. I sucked at it, and by the time I got to college-prep algebra in tenth grade (or whatever) I was in way over my head. I'd sit there and look at the problems and sparks would fly off my scalp, like Patrick on Spongebob. I'm simply not wired for it. In my brief stint at Marshall University I signed up for algebra or geometry or some shit, and when I saw the instructor wearing a fucking turban and talking in some unrecognizable language I calmly walked across campus and dropped out of college. I mean, who was I fooling? Anyway, Steve told me he'd just spent sixteen hours going over the same eight math problems, and he still sounded like he was functioning and coherent. I joke around a lot here, but I'm serious when I say I'd put a shotgun in my mouth if I had to do something like that. After about twenty minutes I'd have my toe on the trigger. Sixteen hours of math! It's as impossible as having a Yuengling on the moon.

-- It's snowing like a bastard outside as I type this. Just like a bastard.

-- I watched Osmosis Jones over the weekend, and was disappointed. It's a kids movie, but it's by the Farrelly brothers so I thought it might be pretty good. There are two or three memorable scenes, like when the huge zit on Bill Murray's forehead explodes and sprays pus all over a woman's lips, but it's mostly just noise. In fact, I didn't even finish watching it. Another hour of my life I'll never get back.

-- People magazine passed me over once again this year and named Pierce Brosnan (ha!) as Sexiest Man Alive. Obviously they've never seen these photos, from early in my modeling career. Oh well, there's always next year. I'm like a fine wine, baby.

-- I finally got my Pennsylvania driver's license on Friday, after almost two years of living here. Predictably it was a huge pain in the ass, and took way more time than it needed to. I sat there and watched the people behind the counter move as if they were under water, and couldn't help but think how Democrats insisted on making airport security personnel government employees. Yeah, the skies are going to be much safer with these people in charge. But anyway, when I took my eye test the woman looked at me sideways and said, "Uh, you wanna try that again?" Shit, I thought, I'm gonna fail this thing. I pressed my face against the cologne-scented eye-piece and rattled off the letters again. She stared at me for a beat and finally said, "OK. Good enough, I guess. Have a seat." Whew. Perhaps I was too harsh in my earlier assessment; complacency and apathy clearly has its merits. I waited and waited and they finally called my name to take my picture. The Civil War veteran manning the camera asked me to verify that my name and address were spelled correctly on the form, and of course there were mistakes. Two of them. I considered telling him everything was cool, because I knew what was going to happen if I didn't, but I didn't want to carry around a license riddled with spelling errors for five years. So, I had to start all over. They stuck me at the bottom of the stack, and eventually got around to fixing their mistake. Stonewall Jackson took my photo, and there was more waiting. Finally, my license was ready. My fifth state! Pennsylvania falls. When I looked at the picture though, I got an uneasy feeling. It looked kinda familiar, but not really like me. I couldn't put my finger on it for a while, and then it hit me. Holy shit!

I hope everyone has a safe and happy Thanksgiving. I'll be back on Monday, if Andy doesn't take out my neck on a Maryland interstate. I'll be with family for days on end, so there will undoubtedly be tales to tell. See ya soon.

November 16, 2001

There's not much new to report, so this update is gonna be a short one. We've just been lazing around and enjoying the unusual peace and quiet that has befallen The Compound, and eating "weird shit" like Mexican and Chinese food. There's little comedy in two grown adults lying around on couches, but I'll give you what I've got...

-- After a month of fevered anticipation I completely blew off the Steve Forbert show Wednesday night. I was still planning to go, up to the point where I was walking to my car the night of the show, but I just couldn't pull the trigger. I'd already worked all day, come home, had dinner, and watched a little war news. The thought of tacking another four or five hours onto the day was about as appealing as getting branded. So I just said fuck it and went back inside and watched Ed. I beat myself up all night for being such a quivering sack of shit, but I guess I'm just going to have to accept it. I'm an old old man.

-- We've been here almost two years now, and I've decided to get my Pennsylvania driver's license. Something inside me says it's time. There's still about two weeks of life left in my California license, but there's no point in waiting until the last minute. To be quite honest, I'm not real conscientious when it comes to taking care of stuff like this. I got pulled over in Georgia once, after I'd lived there for years, handed the guy my (expired) North Carolina license, and he flew off the friggin' handle. He completely lost his shit and threatened to impound my car and throw my ass in the "Jefferson Street Jail," wherever that is. For a few seconds I thought he was going to start pounding on me with his wooden stick; it was incredible. So this is nothing new. At least I'm able to hang onto some of the habits of my youth.

-- Have you seen a commercial on Fox for a special that features Donny Osmond completely covered in maggots? Did I dream this?! Should I cut back on the MSG?

-- A grocery store close to where I work, called Price Chopper, now has four self-serve checkout lanes. You just walk up and scan your items, and feed your money into a slot. It's bizarre. How do they know people aren't walking out of there with shit? How are they sure people aren't filling their carts with ham, and scanning a pack of Certs on their way out? This merits further investigation.

-- A friend sent me an urgent email a couple of days ago telling me to check out some lame-ass message board that was set up for people who graduated from our high school and feel the need to keep each other updated on what their kids ate for breakfast and how their grandmother's foot surgery went. It's the same board that I hijacked a few months ago and drove everyone crazy under the assumed name Brenda Colley. Well, it appeared that one of the more active participants was having a public breakdown! She was insulting everyone and ranting about religious hypocrites and calling everyone ugly. It was great! My friend urged me to resurrect Brenda, and to get back into the mix. This is part of the reason I stayed in trouble all the time when I was younger. But, of course, he was right. Brenda simply had to make a return visit. So, for the past two days she has been doing her level best to drive this chick right on over the edge. It's been great fun, but I think I actually cured her. She seems all better now. I've got to sharpen my skills of irritation, or go into practice as a therapist.

-- I guess we're going to West Virginia for Thanksgiving. Every year we vow we'll never again travel on this particular holiday, because it's an absolute cluster-fuck on the roads. But once again we've caved. Actually this year we didn't have much choice; my mother is having some health issues, and we've gotta be there. So I'll get to spend all day Wednesday shouting every variation of the words faggot, asshole, and dick-licking bastard. Maybe I'll bring along a rhyming dictionary this year, to spice things up a bit.

I'll be back on Monday, with a real update. See ya soon.

November 13, 2001

Weekend update:

-- It's a difficult thing to fathom, I know, but I believe I may have had a little too much to drink on Saturday. In my defense though, I had some valid excuses: it was Toney's 36th birthday, for instance…and her mother was preparing to leave town.

She and her mother (AKA Sunshine) were out in the morning, doing whatever it is they do, and I stayed home to wrap Toney's gift. Actually I stayed home to get a short reprieve from the steadily building bitchiness and anger that traditionally comes when one of Sunshine's marathon visits nears its end. Oh, there's always bitchiness and anger, mind you, it just gets ratcheted way up when it's time for her to leave. I think she's resentful that we don't allow her to live in our house and run our lives year-round. This sounds like a joke, but it's really not. 

I bought Toney a rather expensive robe she'd apparently been eyeing for a long time, on my lunch break on Friday. My hand was shaking as I signed the credit card receipt, and I was wondering what was wrong with just putting on a big sweatshirt when it gets cold. And why wouldn't she ask for a more practical gift like, say, a Madness box set? I got through the process though, and when I asked the cashier if they offered gift wrapping, she practically laughed in my face. "You're dreaming, boy," were her exact words. Boy?! Is this like a real store?

Dammit. I'd have to wrap it myself, and I had no idea if we had any wrapping paper, or where to find it if we did. Everything you do leads directly to some other damn thing you've gotta do.

Saturday morning, after turning down the tempting invitation to join Toney and her mother on their shopping excursion, I said fuck it and went to the dollar store for wrapping paper. They only had Pokemon paper, a bizarre Barney the Dinosaur variety with French writing(??), and some hideous dark psychedelic deal that didn't seem appropriate for any gift-giving occasion -- except maybe a ceremony where a goat is sacrificed to Beezelbub. I opted for the sacrifice paper, and picked up some cool-ass yellow sunglasses that Toney later proclaimed "ridiculous."

The robe was in a square box, but it looked kinda round once I wrapped it. Apparently I didn't pull the paper tight enough. Who the hell knows? I'm pretty much useless when it comes to...you know, living and functioning as an adult. She seemed to like the gift, but didn't act very surprised. She'd probably been dropping hints for weeks. Good thing I picked up on them -- the day her mother pulled me aside and told me what she wanted, and what size and color to buy. I'm nothing if not a keen observer.

So after she opened her gifts, and all that good stuff, Toney and I escaped by ourselves for a couple of hours. It was around two in the afternoon, and we made a beeline for a bar. We ordered a pitcher of Yuengling, and a giant pile of nachos called, appropriately enough, Nacho Piles. We sat there and made fun of her mother, and plotted our future. Most of our biggest life decisions have been made over pitchers of draft beer, which may explain a few things -- but I'd rather not dwell on it. We’re considering refinancing our house, and using the downturn in the economy to our advantage, so I felt slightly grownup talking about such things. Of course at the end of the day I know I can’t even wrap a fucking birthday present. Financial positioning? Real estate strategizing? Yeah, right.

It was a sad thing to behold, but the pitcher was eventually emptied and Toney wouldn’t let me order another, so we dragged our asses home. We found Sunshine and Mumbles knockin’ back the cocktails though, which was a pleasant surprise. They’re a little easier to take when they’re boozing it up, and it gets even easier when we join them. So I mixed us each a drink, then another. The edge on the day was starting to wear down. For an hour or so it seemed like everyone was having a good time, at the same time. It was an unheard of phenomenon.

After a couple of pleasant bourbon and Cokes we made our way to the restaurant for Toney’s birthday dinner. We went to one of the roughly 7,000,000 family-run Italian joints around Scranton, and I promptly ordered another pitcher of Yuengling - you know, to get us through the menu perusal stage of the evening. Things were still going well at that point. We somehow got on the subject of office Christmas parties, and Toney’s mother told a funny story about going to a big fancy dinner at somebody’s house years ago, and when they flung open the doors to the formal dining room there were sanitary napkins beside every plate. The hostess screamed in horror and said, “Oh my god, my little girl asked if she could put out the napkins!!” Probably never happened, but it was funny anyway.

We were chugging right along, and I don't think any of us realized that the window of civility had already begun to close. There were no forks on the table when we arrived and that didn't sit well with Sunshine. It was obviously a personal attack. The restaurant management didn't like our looks, saw us parking our car, and raced to our table and removed all the forks - you know, just to fuck with us. So that set the stage. Then the waitress was bitchy (she really was bitchy, it wasn’t just a skewed perception this time), and that tipped the scales completely. Everything went south from there.

“Not a goddamn nickel!” she practically roared every time the waitress walked away from our table, “We’re not leaving one red cent as a tip!” I was slinking down in my chair, and wishing she’d at least wait until our food arrived before berating the staff. I was convinced they were in the back-room pissing on my rigatoni. “Another pitcher, please!” I finally managed.

We somehow made it through the meal without a one on one confrontation, and without anyone being banished from the place for life, but it was touch and go there for a while. I witnessed her being banned from a diner in Reno once, and it wasn’t pleasant. She was convinced the management had shut off the air conditioning on purpose when they saw her drive up -- you know, just to fuck with her. They finally told her to leave, and never to come back. It’s like dining with Erin Brockovich.

I left a small tip on the table, careful not to let Sunshine catch me, and we left. I had another couple of Yuenglings at home and watched Pennsylvania Polka (the guy with the oxygen tank was on!), and some hokey old “rock n roll” variety show from the ‘60s called Hullabaloo on AMC. I was fading in and out by that point, but I seem to remember the Mamas and Papas singing “California Dreaming” on a stage amongst bathtubs with go-go dancers in them. I have no idea what bathtubs have to do with that song, but that’s the way I remember it. Of course I had more alcohol in me than Peter Buck, so I could very well be mistaken. I also seem to remember seeing Jerry Lewis dressed as one of Paul Revere’s Raiders and acting like a goddamn idiot, and that couldn’t have possibly been real, right?

-- On Sunday morning I didn’t feel too hot for some reason, but we had to take Sunshine and Mumbles to Harrisburg to catch an Amtrak train back to Reno, so I crawled out of bed fairly early. Things got off to a terrible start, nerves were on edge, and nobody was in any mood for putting up with anyone else’s bullshit. Toney’s mother immediately started complaining that she needed some donuts or something to settle her stomach. She said her “antibiotics” had upset her stomach.

She takes random pills that have been prescribed to her (and her friends!) through the years for various reasons, like aspirin. She calls them antibiotics, which may or may not be true, but they’re definitely not being used for what they were prescribed for. And aren’t antibiotics supposed to be taken over a week or so, and then stopped? She pops one whenever some “symptom” rears its head, like a cough drop. Years ago in Oregon, before I knew how crazy she was, she gave me some unknown pill that she swore would knock out my hay fever, and quick. I stupidly took it and my ears started buzzing and colors began swirling and I was knocked on my ass for about twenty-four hours. Lord knows what I ingested that day. I’m probably lucky to be alive.

But she wanted donuts, and I knew there was a Krispy Kreme in downtown Scranton. So we got off the highway, and promptly got lost. The bitching was incredible. The car became a rolling, seething buggy of hostility. When we finally found the damn place Toney’s mother was screaming, “Just get some donuts!! I need something to settle my stomach! Antibiotics!…the anguish!…Oh, God!!” I asked Toney to come along and she snapped at me, “Just get a dozen glazed donuts!” And her mother hollered, “Glazed?! Is that all you’re getting?? Gawd!!!” Everybody was talking at the same time; it was utter chaos. I said, “Holy shit, I feel like I'm in an episode of Mama’s Family. My brain's about to explode!” I asked Toney to come with me, because I wouldn’t be held responsible for getting the wrong mixture of donuts. And Toney’s mother, apparently offended, said meekly, “Oh, we don’t care what kind you get. Whatever you guys want." Ha!

The rest of the day was pretty uneventful. We went to Cracker Barrel for lunch, and Sunshine bitched about the food, but it was a relatively subdued performance. We walked around Harrisburg and I took a few pictures. It looks like a pretty cool place. It’s old, like Scranton, but well-maintained - unlike Scranton. I could live there easily. There were little hipster bars and restaurants everywhere, and it seemed clean and safe. I was pleasantly surprised.

We took them to the train station, and that was really cool too. It was built in 1887, and looks as if it hasn’t changed much in the last 114 years. I love that kind of thing, and walked around exploring for a while. The in-laws got themselves situated, and we eventually said our goodbyes.

As always, her absence was immediately felt. She’s crazy and bombastic and reactionary and completely batshit, but she has a way of dominating a room. After she’s gone calm returns, and it takes some getting used to. Last time I thought I was actually sad to see her go, which scared the living hell out of me, but in retrospect I think it was just the equivalent of that period when astronauts must undergo a radical readjustment after returning from space.

They called from Chicago Monday morning. Apparently people have been fucking with them the entire way.

November 12, 2001

I'm sorry, but it was a little nuts around The Compound this weekend and I wasn't able to get my shit together enough to write a proper update.  I didn't want to settle for a half-assed version, so I'll just wait until tomorrow and do it correctly.  In the meantime, I'd like to share a couple of concert reviews sent in by loyal Surf Reporters, and extend another invitation to you all to email me accounts of your interesting experiences.  Concert reviews are cool, but don't stop there.  I'd like to read about run-ins you have with bitchy cashiers and encounters with "urban outdoorsmen" wearing their own solid waste as a hat, and the like.  If it fits into the flow of things, there's a good chance it'll show up in a future Assay.  How's that for exciting? 

Now, here's a review of They Might Be Giants, by MsDeniseWight, and another of Ratt(!!), by Eugene (AKA Max DeMeaner, the pride of Greensboro radio), and I'll be back on Tuesday. 


November 9, 2001

A few things:

-- We’re taking the in-laws to Harrisburg on Sunday so they can get on Amtrack and start their four-day journey back to Reno. I’ve never traveled by train, but I’d sure like to do it someday. Heck, I’d like to do pretty much everything within reason. I like the idea of sitting in a club car and sipping beer late at night as sleepy American towns pass by outside. Every foot traveled is a million personal stories. I’d sit there and wonder what the people in all the houses were worrying about, and happy about, and looking forward to. Then I’d order another beer and do some more wondering. There are few things better in this world than new experiences, and beer. The in-laws are bitching about it, but I’m kinda jealous of what they’re about to experience. Traveling cross-country by train? Sign me da fuck up.

I don’t know much about Harrisburg but Toney tells me big black helicopters circle continuously over Three Mile Island these days, so I’m kinda looking forward to seeing that. If I can get some pics, I will. Of course there’s a good chance I’ll be shot dead by an overzealous National Guardsman hyped up on donuts and Maxwell House, but I’m happy to lay my life on the line to get a few cool pics for the website. I do it for you.

-- Our dog Andy is recovering nicely from his Bob Barker surgery, thank you very much. He was moping around the first evening, moving close to the ground like a ferret and sleeping a lot, but now he seems to be back to normal. He’s a real trooper, but it’s going to be interesting to see what happens when we take him back to that evil house of nut extraction next week to get the stitches out. I have little doubt he’ll go for some throats.

-- The local Sam’s Club has remodeled and one of the exciting new innovations they’re bringing to Scranton is the Costco-style of distributing customer’s developed photos in open self-serve bins. Most places require you to deal with a clerk behind a counter to get your pictures, but Costco just puts them out on the sales floor, alphabetized by last name. The old system only allows employees to sneak around and look at other people’s photos, but the Costco system opens it up to the general public. When we were in California I never went there without flipping through a pack or two of some unknown family’s snapshots. I guess it’s a voyeurism thing, I’m not sure, but it’s oddly exhilarating. It always made Toney nervous, like a group of people would walk up and catch me looking at a photo of their granny sitting in a recliner, but the chances of that happening are almost zero. Man, if this had been in style when I was younger I would’ve mixed up people’s pictures, and inserted ones I brought from home, and all kinds of irritating things. I might’ve taken a picture of some poor innocent bastard at my school, had fifty copies made, and put them in various envelopes. The possibilities are endless, but I'm too grown up to do something like that now. I think.

-- Speaking of photos and hell-raising, it brings to mind something I did a few times as a teenager. My friend Mike and I would walk around at night with a camera, and knock on random people’s doors. When the door was answered we’d snap a picture and take off running. Then, a few days later, we’d mail them the photo with no explanation. Wonder how many sleepless nights that caused? Hell, we probably caused a couple of divorces. Yes, it was great fun.

-- If I never bought another one, and lived to be a hundred years old, I don’t think I could read all the books I’ve amassed over the years. But I continue to buy them faster than I can read them. I foolishly just finished the second novel in John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee series, and now I know I’ll eventually own them all. All twenty-one. I was kinda hoping they’d suck, but they’re really good. I’m doomed. I’d describe the books for you, but  this guy has done a much better job of it than I could ever hope to do.

-- When we first got HBO in West Virginia (no, not last year Shit Lips, but that was a pretty good one!) everybody at our school pretty much watched everything and anything they broadcast. It was the coolest thing in the world to be able to watch uncut movies in your living room, with all the shits and fucks left in. I saw Car Wash like a hundred times for instance, that's how hard up we were for entertainment in those days. But I remember a movie from that era that absolutely scared the solids out of me, and I've been trying to find a copy of it for a few years now. It was called Stranger In The House, and it was a slasher flick about a maniac terrorizing a sorority house, and when they're finally able to trace one of his crazed phone calls ("Keep him on the line! I need more time, dammit!!"), they realize it's coming from INSIDE THE HOUSE! It's sounds hokey now, but it had me squirting ice water when I was fifteen. Well, the reason I couldn't find any mention of the movie anywhere is because it apparently has a couple of different titles. I finally tracked down a VHS copy of it under the name Black Christmas(??), and I watched it earlier this week. It's not as scary as I remember, but it's still a lot of fun. It's from 1974 (with a pre-insane Margot Kidder) which predates the Halloween and Friday the 13th movies, but it's along the same lines. If you have a list of favorite obscure flicks from the early days of HBO, why not share it in the Surf Report forum? I'm interested to see which of those flicks are memorable to others. Another I remember fondly is Kenny and Company. Remember that one? Yeah, nobody does. But I swear it existed, and was really funny. I'm almost certain I didn't dream it.

-- I was talking to my friend Steve a couple of nights ago, making plans for our upcoming trek to the Baseball Hall of Fame, and he casually mentioned that his wife Myra had had a bad day at work that day. My ears instantly perked up because Myra is a pathologist, which means she does autopsies and works with dead stuff. A bad day at work for her almost always makes my day more fun. Anyway, Steve said another pathologist, who is known for passing the buck (every office has its share of assholes I guess, regardless of the pay scale), passed off a rancid pair of legs for Myra to examine. Yes, a pair of legs -- a nasty pair of freshly-amputated, pus and infection-filled legs. She said they were so rotten people were running from the room in disgust, and these are people who are used to rotten. I love it. Why am I picturing the legs sitting upright in the middle of a desk, with tube socks on? Yeah, it's funny but I couldn't do Myra's job even if I was smart enough. One whiff of some shit like that and I'd go down like Bobby Kennedy, I just know it. Holy shit.

Well boys and girls, that's all the time I have for today. In case you're interested, my latest Crimewave USA article is up now. Check it out if you're so inclined. Have a great weekend, and I'll be back on Monday.

November 7, 2001

-- So we were watching The O’Reilly Factor at Cheap Trick volume last night, and they did a story about one of bin Laden’s chief donkey washers that’s imprisoned in this country for his involvement in the first World Trade Center bombing. I’m not sure what his problem is (besides a black black soul), but he was recently moved to a public hospital in Virginia, and that’s caused a local uproar. Logically or illogically, the folks who live nearby fear that radicals will attempt to free the old lunatic and touch off mayhem in the streets. I started thinking what would happen if the roles were reversed, if the Taliban had one of our generals in their custody, and it’s not too difficult to imagine how they would handle it. Do you think they’d be looking out for his health, and spending government (taxpayer) funds to make sure he has the best medical care available? No, I think they’d boil the poor bastard on TV and make underwear out of his skin, graft his head onto a dead dog and drag it around the countryside -- or some variation thereof. We’d never do anything like that, and I don’t think we should, but we could clearly do more with the opportunity at hand. For instance, the guy’s blind so why don’t we dress him up like Ronald McDonald and parade him through the streets of New York? Then we could broadcast the image of him stumbling around in big red floppy shoes and tight striped pants, ‘round the clock on CNN. That’d piss ‘em off on several levels. Or we could turn him over to some NYC drag queens for an afternoon and let them “pretty him up.” I don’t know, these are just a couple of ideas off the top of my head, but we obviously need to use this opportunity to our advantage. If there are any high-ranking government officials reading this, I’d like to offer up my consulting services to help in the war effort. Just give me a call, I’m here to serve.

-- Yesterday an apparent escapee from one of the many local mental institutions was in front of me in line at Wendy's. He had on a pair of pants that may have been designed for use in a three-legged race, and they could’ve sat a tray of food on his massive underbite. He was mumbling to himself and stinking like an open grave. Yes, there were some serious issues at play in the Dunmore Wendy's yesterday afternoon. I stayed as far away from him as I could, with my shirt pulled up over my nose, and ordered my standard number one with cheese, no pickles. The guy was fidgeting around the condiment bar for an extended period, acting all herky-jerky and right on the verge of a "street performance," then finally wandered off across the parking lot talking to his sack of meat. With his bouquet still fresh in the air, I approached the bar for ketchup and various meal accessories, and was horrified by what I saw there. All the napkins were wet! Fuckin' wet!! God only knows what was the source, but there was a deep saturation that looked like it had worked its way through the entire stack. I almost hurled. Shit, I'm about to hurl now just writing about it.

-- Yesterday was election day and the incumbent mayor in our town was re-elected with around 1400 votes, to his opponent's 7. I'm not joking. Hell, I could've done better than that, running on the salt ticket. Well, the fact that they close the bars on election day would undoubtedly work against me, but I bet I could do pretty well. Maybe I should launch a listening tour?

-- I have a couple of exciting things to look forward to in the coming weeks. Well, three if you count the upcoming departure of my in-laws. But my friend Steve and I are traveling to Cooperstown, NY on November 29 to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame again. I only live 135 miles away now, and view it as an obligation to visit the museum at least once a year. I owe it to what's left of the kid inside me to take advantage of the situation, because my employer could call tomorrow and tell me I'm moving to friggin' Memphis (or friggin' Detroit) in two weeks. So we're going again, out of a sense of duty. Also, I'm planning to see Steve Forbert at a little bar in Wilkes-Barre next week. I didn't know much about him, except for that "Romeo's Tune" single from a hundred years ago, but somebody gave me a promo copy of one of his recent CDs when we were in California, and I became addicted to the damn thing. How is this guy not a huge star? Every one of his albums are at least damn good, and a few are great. Check out American In Me if you don't believe me.

-- If I make it to see Steve Forbert, it'll only be the fourth show I've been to in the last five years. How's that for a happening social life? When I lived in Atlanta I probably went to a hundred shows a year, but now I have little interest. I swore it would never happen, but it did. Now it has to be somebody really special to get me out late at night to a smoky bar far from my house. Who needs the hassles, ya know? Besides, everybody thinks the old guys in the clubs are pathetic anyway, so it's a no-win situation... In case you're interested, I saw The Eels at the Roxy in LA, an X reunion show (with Billy Zoom!) at the Hollywood Palladium, and The Beautiful South in Philly last year. That's been it for me since 1996. You can send comments to oldfatloser@thewvsr.com.

-- Speaking of concerts, here's a review of a Jane's Addiction show a loyal Surf Reporter attended recently. If you see or experience anything excessively cool, I urge you write it up and send it in. I've reached the point in my life where I need to live vicariously through others. There's a good chance I'll run it on the site too.

That's all the time we have for today, kiddies. I'll be back on Friday, with more hard-hitting investigative journalism. See ya then.

November 5, 2001

More stuff:

-- All last week Toney’s mother and step-father hashed out plans to drive to Asheville, NC to visit Toney’s sister, and it involved the use of one of our vehicles. I wasn’t thrilled about it, but it wasn’t the end of the world either. After all, there was something in it for us - we’d get our house back for a few days. So, after a hundred or so changes to the plans (and after having to tell them that, no, they couldn’t use my truck…and shaking my head at the sheer balls of the request) they finally left on Friday morning, in Toney’s car.

I was looking forward to watching my new Pink Flamingos DVD Friday night, and having a few leisurely Yuenglings, perhaps even indulging in some husband/wife activities if the mood was right. But by noon they had called and told us they were on their way back. It was too windy to continue on. They had made it to Harrisburg, PA, and were turning around…because the wind was blowing.

I felt foolish for not even considering it as a possibility. I like to kid myself I’ve got them figured out, but I’m clearly out of my league here. I’m nothing more than a lightweight in this game. They’re the ’27 Yankees of cluster-fuck, and I’m B.J. Surhoff. They're John Lennon, I'm John Parr. They: Jack Benny. Me: David Arquette. Who am I fooling?

So, no Pink Flamingos, no husband/wife, a lot less Yuenglings than the situation called for…just the Fox News Channel at full concert volume and a lot of coughing and sighing. This is my life.

-- Somehow, since the in-laws’ arrival, the toilet seat in the downstairs bathroom has become completely liberated from its hinges. It just sits on top of the bowl now, balanced. You have to line up all the holes and be careful not to shift your weight while sitting there, lest you slide off and end up in the floor with your balls mashed underneath a wooden ring and your entire bodyweight. We’ve lived here almost two years, and the seat has remained attached to the toilet, but now it’s a free agent. Coincidence? You asking me?

-- Speaking of balls (how did this become today's theme?), our dog Andy will be howling goodbye to his set tomorrow. I can’t tell you how guilty I feel about this. He trusts me. What good does this do, anyway? It’s not as if he’s out roaming the streets and mounting everything that casts a shadow. He's not Gary Condit. He comes from a good family, dammit. He lives in our house, and his balls haven't caused a single problem to date. But, oh no, society says they have to come off. I think Bob Barker started all this nonsense. He’s got a lot of nerve having a last name like that and advocating such a practice. I think I read somewhere that he doesn’t even really care about animals anyway, he’s just trying to impress Betty White. I don’t know if that’s true, but I choose to believe it. My poor dog’s balls are doomed to ruin so a horny old game show host can have a shot at bedding Betty White. Seems fair to me.

-- Have I mentioned that Andy has a microchip under his skin? It’s true. He came from the pound, and before they handed him over to us they injected a chip in his neck. I’m not real clear on what the deal is, but I think they can scan him like a can of Hormel Chili and pull up his mailing address and medical history. Hell, how do I know they won’t install a listening device in his nutsack tomorrow? I'm going to be on high alert, and if I notice feedback coming from his scrote when he gets near the cordless phone base, I'm calling...somebody.

-- On Friday I stopped at the beer store on my way home from work, and some asshole in the parking lot pissed me off. When I was walking away from my truck I activated the alarm, because my laptop was inside, and some redneck covered from head to toe in retina-searing NASCAR-wear said, "You've got an alarm, on that?" The hell?! It's a '98 Toyota, not the Sanford and Son truck, you pig-fucker. Is it so shocking that it came with an alarm system? Should I be embarrassed about this? And why the hell do you shit-kickers think you have a license to comment on anything vehicular, anyway? It hacked me off and that apparently came through in my expression, so the guy started making a half-hearted attempt at apologizing and backpedaling. His bodysuit rustled with the effort. I said nothing, but now I'm paranoid about using the (factory installed, dammit!) alarm on my pickup. It's like that episode of Seinfeld, when the guy calmly called Elaine "Big-head" and she spent the rest of the episode convinced her head was abnormally large: "I'm a walking candy apple!!" That's what the bastard's done to me.

-- I went bowling with my father-in-law yesterday, and I'm simply horrible at it. I used to be at least decent, but now I'm like an arthritic monkey out there. I feel awkward, like there's a stick jammed up my ass, and I'm suddenly unable to bend at the waist. Maybe it happened when I started voting Republican, I don't know. But I bowled 123 the first game, then 91. 91! Stephen Hawking could do better than that. When we were almost done, I noticed a guy from work standing in the shadows watching. Why, Lord?

-- The index finger on my right hand has been twitching all morning. This is how it all started with Michael J. Fox too. I'm going to spend the last thirty years of my life waving, I just know it. The shaky handwriting is on the wall.

More in a day or two, if I'm able to manipulate the keys...

November 1, 2001

A few odds and ends:

-- Ninety-two days have now passed since we last purchased salt.

-- We watched the season premiere of Boston Public on Monday, and it was awesome. The show is pure over-the-top trash and I’m glad it’s finally back. In the first episode of the second season a teacher called a classroom full of students “dicks,” another teacher discussed his masturbation habits with students, a group of full-figured gals attempted to start a fat acceptance group, and an honor student brought his mother’s severed hand to school so he and a midget biology teacher could dissect it. And that’s just the highlights. The scene where two of the teachers go to the honor student’s house to find out if the boy’s mother is indeed sporting a fresh stump reminded me of Twin Peaks. Friggin’ bizarre. Entertainment Weekly regularly disses this show, but I’m here to tell you they’re wrong. And someday they’ll come around to my way of thinking, mark my words.

-- I bought a cool 50-inch wide panoramic photo of my hometown (taken on September 23,1924) in an eBay auction. It arrived in the mail yesterday, and you can clearly see laundry hanging on clotheslines, and outhouses in backyards, and dirt roads, and a thousand other tiny details. I can’t really get my footing as to where the photo was taken, from what vantage point, but I plan to have it framed by Christmas and get my parents' input. My dad knows that town like the back of his hand and he can probably tell me the family history behind each house. The next obvious step is to take a similar picture from the same spot today. Is that too geeky?

-- I read in Spin that Pat Dinizio, leader of The Smithereens, will play a private concert in your living room for $2000. How cool would that be? I love The Smithereens. I don’t have an extra two grand, but if I did I’d be tempted to give him a call - especially after a few Yuenglings. I wish he’d been making this offer back in ’93 when I got married; I could've had him play the reception. I would've sold plasma and sperm to make it happen. How romantic!  Hell, if Nick Lowe were to make a similar offer today I’d be on the phone with my credit union discussing my options. You think I’m kidding?

-- I had to turn the porch light off at nine o’clock last night, because of late-arriving trick or treaters. I think some teenagers get off on being menacing and making people feel ill at ease by continuing to ring doorbells well after the accepted cut-off time. But at least the ones here wear costumes. In California we would get people in regular street clothes banging on our door at ten, demanding candy, then driving off in a car parked at the end of the block. It goes against the grain to hand over mini Snickers bars to "kids" wearing cologne. One time a group of girls, well into their child-bearing years, came to our door, and a couple were smoking. Bored-looking teenage girls dressed in half-assed costumes and smoking cigarettes were on our front porch expecting me to hand them candy. Yes, it was a scene straight off the Saturday Evening Post. One didn't even have a bag with her. She just held out her hand, and then stuffed everything inside her bra. I'm not making this stuff up. We used to have two bowls of candy: the good stuff for the real kids, and the shitty cheap-ass crap for the brooding teenagers. It's not as bad here yet, but give 'em a couple of years to catch up. Things move slow in Scranton.

-- I can't confirm this but I heard rumors that some do-gooders down the block were handing out toothbrushes and travel sized tubes of Crest last night. If ever there was a house just asking to be hit with a raw egg cluster-bomb, that's it. The audacity!

Gotta go to work, or I'd ramble some more. I'll have more to say next time. Bye for now.

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