|The State Of My Fat Ass JANUARY 2001|
In California we lived in a tiny house on a cul-de-sac absolutely crawling with kids. They were everywhere, and almost none were older than five. They scattered like chickens whenever a car entered the street, and they screeched and screamed from sun-up to sun-down. It sounds horrible, I know, but I actually enjoyed it in a way. That's pretty much how I grew up, running wild with other kids in the neighborhood, and I had thought that kind of thing wasn't possible anymore. So, for the most part, I got a kick out of it -- in a nostalgic sort of way. But there were a couple of brothers among the flock who were a little troubling. They were WAY ahead of the other kids as far as motor skills and athletics were concerned. I used to joke that they probably skateboarded out of their mother's vagina. Predictably, they were also dumber than a box of rocks. Both were fairly mean and aggressive as well, and were almost free of supervision and parental guidance.
They exploded out their front door every morning before the dew was off the grass, and didn't call it a day until the sun went down. Their father worked constantly, and their mother almost never checked on them. Indeed, the younger of the two actually carried a hammer with him wherever he went, starting as soon as he was old enough to remain upright with it in his arms. This was a real full-sized carpenter's hammer, with a vicious-looking claw on one side. I was convinced somebody's head was going to get opened up like a can of Campbell's chowder during some tense dispute over stick-ownership or something, but luckily it never happened.
Other parents were constantly "discussing" the brother's latest antics with their Mom and Dad, to no avail. Unless you had proof, you see, you better tread lightly mister. And how dare you call into question their parenting technics! It's an old story, familiar to anyone who ever had the privilege of growing up. This went on for a long time, but things finally came to a head when the two started shitting in people's yards. Whenever the urge hit them, they'd simply unbuckle their pants and drop a glistening load wherever they stood.
In this neighborhood a hammer-brandishing two year old was one thing, but humans pooping on sidewalks was over the line. And so, after more "discussions" with the parents, the boys started shitting only in their own yard. This was the compromise. They'd throw down a Wiffle Ball bat in the middle of a game, sprint into their front yard, take a big dump in front of the picture window, then return to the batter's box. After a while, they apparently got a little self-conscious and started only using the back yard. It was something we all just learned to live with. The neighborhood gossip was that the same thing went on inside the house as well, that the toilet was but one of many options open for the act of defecation. After all, you don't want to stifle a child's expressionism, right?
I had almost blocked out this chapter of my life when Toney received a call a few days ago from our old next-door neighbor, the mother of a five-year old boy. She just called to catch up, and things eventually turned to the two criminals-in-the-making. Nothing's reportedly changed in the year we've been gone. The public crapping continues to this day, and I can't help but think their piles have gotten bigger with age. She then went on to tell a story straight out of a horror movie.
She said her kid was outside playing recently, and when she went out to check on him he was nowhere to be found. She started screaming his name, growing more and more frantic. Finally he answered her back -- and it sounded like his voice was coming from the brothers' back yard! She ran to the fence and looked in, and almost passed out at what she saw. He was in the backyard with the brothers, running around without shoes -- in a field of feces. He was laughing and frolicking in a landscape of human waste. She said there were piles everywhere, that she'd never even seen anything like it in a zoo. She snatched him out of the yard and took him home and spent the rest of the afternoon scrubbing him down with anti-bacterial soap.
I recently watched Seven and Born on the Fourth of July, both disturbing films to say the least. But neither caused me to have nightmares like this story did. For the last few nights my dreams have been filled with toddler shit. God, how I wish I could sleep without seeing those tiny piles.
A few things:
-- Two or three weeks ago I mentioned that weather forecasters were whipping folks around here into a frenzy over threats of what they were calling a "snow bomb." It was the storm of the decade, they said, and while we slept Saturday night as many as twenty inches of snow would be piling up outside our windows. Grocery stores were overrun with people buying survival supplies, and old women were stockpiling milk jugs filled with tap water "just in case." It was seemingly the only topic of discussion for a couple of days and, of course, we ended up only getting three or four inches. Much ado about nothing. Fast forward to this past weekend, when the same forecasters were telling us to expect scattered snow showers amounting to little or no accumulation. And when we woke up on Sunday morning there was about ten new inches piled on top of everything else that was already there. I guess there's a reason why these guys are working in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre market.
-- And so, I got to spend about two hours on Sunday morning shoveling the "little or no accumulation" out of our driveway, and it was a killer. I took a break at one point and told Toney that if she looked out the window and saw me laying in the yard, not to assume I'm making snow angels. Today I feel like I've been run over by a Jeep. My arms are jittery and buzzing, and I'm pretty sure the tip of my spine has snapped off at the base. I can feel shards of frayed bone grinding into the flesh of my upper-ass as I walk. Even my love handles ache. If they don't start predicting more blizzards pretty soon, I'm going to end up in the hospital.
-- Toney told me that she and her mother were walking through the K-Mart parking lot earlier this week, when an old red Honda pulled up beside them. A Korean man was driving, and he said, "Excuse me, are either of you ladies single?" They said no, and picked up their pace a little. He said, "My friend looking for an Asian lady or a white lady to marry. Are you sure you're not single?" They again said no, and then he sweetened the pot: "My friend very rich!" After they resisted even this final temptation, he moved on to another woman walking nearby. It may have taken him the better part of the day, but is there any doubt that this industrious young man is on his honeymoon right now?
January 21, 2001
I try to make a conscious effort to stay at least semi-informed when it comes to music. For some reason it's important to me. I used to be an absolute fiend, tearing through magazines and buying records like a man possessed, but Iíve cooled way down during the last several years. Still, Iím determined not to become one of those people who spend the rest of their lives listening to whatever was popular while they were in high school. I refuse to be a man who thinks of new music as the latest Bob Seger or Don Henley album.
But thatís not to say I donít have my favorites. I have a core group of artists that I've turned to consistently through the years, and undoubtedly will continue to do so until they place me in that fancy wooden display case. People like Randy Newman, The Kinks, The Beatles, Elvis Costello, The Replacements/Paul Westerberg, and Nick Lowe have been faithful traveling companions, and all have improved my life by their presence. Truthfully I don't listen to any of them all that much anymore, mostly because I'm so familiar with their work it doesn't have as much of an impact as it once did, but I go through periodic jags where I'll listen to nothing but one of them. It's like when you have a strong urge to call an old friend and catch up on things. Right now I'm in the midst of a fairly powerful Nick Lowe jag.
To celebrate this current monomania, I've compiled a few memorable Nick Lowe moments from my life. They're memorable to me, at least...
-- Around 1990 Nick released Party of One through Warner Bros., and I weaseled my way into a corporate meet & greet with him in Atlanta. There were maybe thirty people there, mostly retail geeks and jaded music insiders. I was neither (at that point). I was a huge fan though, and was almost giddy at being able to get so close to one of my idols. He was dressed in a silver suit, and was taller than I had imagined. I'm six foot and he towered over me. His hair was starting to go gray, and he looked like a really cool high school teacher. The Guidance Counselor of Cool. He was also slamming back Coronas at ten o'clock in the morning, which I thought was pretty amazing. When I got there he was just milling about and talking to people. I didn't dare approach him, except for a timid autograph request, but lots of other folks weren't so reserved. One poor bastard (from Tower Records) presented Nick with a bag of CDs he'd personally picked for his enjoyment, only to have it returned with a dismissive "Sorry mate, I don't 'ave a player." I felt bad for the guy, but I tried to twist it in my mind as being a cool move on Nick's part. I remember telling people about it later, like it was really eccentric and funny, but knowing deep-down it was actually pretty shitty. It's my only negative memory of the event though, and Nick eventually made his way to the front of the room and picked up an acoustic guitar. He did three songs: "All Men Are Liars," "Refrigerator White," and "What's So Funny ('bout Peace, Love and Understanding)?" It was unbelievable. Awesome, even. It was like one of those movies that make you walk differently. Afterwards I heard the Warner rep tell Nick there were only two beers left in the cooler, and asked if it would be enough to get him to the airport. Nick asked him how many miles it was, and the guy told him "about ten". After a second or two of contemplation Nick said, "I'm sure there'll be a store along the way..." This brought uproarious laughter from everybody, but I'm pretty sure he was being serious. The whole event was a real highlight for me, and I have little doubt that the guy from Tower has fashioned the story to his advantage by this point -- so I don't worry about him much anymore.
-- A friend from Greensboro made plans to visit me and Toney a few years later in Atlanta, and it just so happened that the date coincided with one of the biggest snow storms to hit the east coast that year. Highways were closed from Baltimore to Savannah, so we assumed he wouldn't make it. But somehow he got through. He miraculously pulled up in the parking lot and released a mushroom cloud of smoke when he opened the door of his Volkswagen. He bounded out smiling, and yelled his customary greeting: "Dude!!" He's a bit of a hippy, you see. Later that night at Manuel's Tavern, over impossible amounts of adult beverages, he told us a story. It was a long and detailed account of a visit to Big Lots to buy a mop. He told of standing in line to make his purchase, and noticing a rack of cassettes nearby. He couldn't stand the suspense, and finally gave up his spot in line to see what titles they had to offer. And it was there that he discovered Party of One. It was an epic story, that lasted for at least ten minutes, and was full of vivid details and emotional highs and lows. And the dramatic climax was, "...and it only cost me...one George." It was a remarkable performance, and I'll never forget it. We music freaks can get a little passionate about the simplest things, and I rode in that roller coaster of emotion right along with him that night. Of course, I'm sure the beer helped.
-- Nick toured the States to support The Impossible Bird, and he announced a date in Atlanta at The Point. I had already missed him with Little Village (I was out of town), and I sure as hell wasn't going to let this one pass me by. I secured tickets far in advance, and went with Toney. It was a great show, in a small smoky joint in the dicy neighborhood in which we lived. Not a person on the stage was less than fifty years old, but this was no Lawrence Welk Show. Those geezers rocked. Atlanta doesn't always treat performers with the respect they deserve, especially at small clubs like The Point, but it made an exception in Nick's case for one night. Even during his quietest songs there was a hush over the place that is hard to come by in a bar full of fucked-up people late at night in the South. It was an amazing display, and I was shocked and pleased at the amount of restraint and dignity the folks in the audience were able to muster. And Nick was absolutely brilliant. It was the first time I'd seen him in onstage, and he was as good as I had imagined he would be. If I didn't already own everything, I would've ran out and bought his entire catalog after that show. Hell, I would've bought Nick Lowe Takes A Coughing Fit if there were such a thing.
-- Nick Lowe is a great songwriter and producer, and has unparalleled pop sensibilities -- but Whitney Houston is largely responsible for making him a millionaire. I can't stand Whitney Houston (she deals in schmaltz, she doesn't write her own songs, she's a goofball, and she sounds like a car alarm going off), so her involvement in Nick's good fortune is highly ironic in my mind. It seems that some hack did a cover of "What's So Funny..." for The Bodyguard soundtrack, and Nick received at least one seven-figure royalty check as a result of the massive sales of that album. I'm happy for him, regardless of the source (and I guess he can now afford a CD player), but I wish it could've come from somewhere else. After producing so much quality work, for so many years, it's hard to accept that he had his biggest windfall because of Old Yeller. Of course I know you can't look a gift horse in the mouth -- even if there is an irritating high-pitched whistle coming out of it. And at least it wasn't Streisand. I'm thankful for that anyway. I really can't stand that bitch.
But that's a subject for a different day... Right now it's time for some Coronas.
January 14, 2001
I received a call earlier this week from a guy I used to hang around with in Atlanta. He wanted to know if The Jenny Jones Show was filmed in Los Angeles or Chicago. I told him I had no idea, and that seemed to confuse him -- since I'm the obvious person one turns to when such questions arise(?!?). But he quickly moved on to some completely unrelated subject, and so began another typical conversation with Scott From Atlanta.
Scott's a good guy, and we've both made a half-assed effort to stay in touch over the years, but he's not the most focused or mature person I know. Of course, anybody who knows me knows that I don't exactly set new standards in those departments myself. But Scott makes me look like William F. Buckley. Conversations with him inevitably lead to a lengthy discussion about his latest sexual adventures, and this one was no different.
He's older than me, probably forty or so, and he's the horniest person I know. He's never been married, but he goes out with countless women and apparently has a sex life that would impress a professional basketball player. He also has a real talent for giving vivid accounts of his exploits, full of the most graphic details, without coming across as being overly crude or rude. And maybe I'm naive, but I believe all of his stories. I really don't think he's a bullshitter. I'm almost sure of it.
His latest news is that he did the logical thing and took a second job at night in a porn shop. Hell, I joked, the employee discounts alone could save him thousands. He laughed, and then the flood walls came down. He started by telling me that during his first week there a woman came in and ended up blowing him in the alley behind the store. And she left no DNA, if you get my drift. How does something like that happen? This is the type of situation that I can't even imagine. I've worked retail, and I can't remember even holding hands with any of the customers.
Apparently the nighttime clientele of this joint also has a tendency to go behind the counter and vigorously rub the cashier's crotch before exiting. I don't know if this is some kind of porno culture vote of confidence or what, but he says women are constantly yanking down his zipper and giving him a hand, right there behind the cash register. What the hell's that? I've had employers jerk me off, but never customers. I told him I'd hate to see the tip jar in that place.
I asked if they only sold magazines, or what, and he said they also sell lubes and dildoes and inflatable dolls and butt plugs and on and on and on. And he said they have a bank of those curtained booths where people can view adult films in private. They sell travel-sized packets of hand lotion and individual condoms for people's use in the booths, which really disgusts me. Maybe I'm a prude, but I couldn't work in a place where a parade of men flog their logs all night, just a few feet away from me. I'd rather flip burgers, and that's not a euphemism.
He went on to tell me about selling dildoes to wealthy Buckhead housewives, and how some of them are shy about it and won't make eye contact, while others proclaim they want something that will "fill me up completely." By that time I was starting to feel a little dirty, just hearing all this stuff. It sounds exciting at first, but realistically I'd never allow some random person to handle my organ, and I'd just as soon dip my goods in an open sewer before I'd let some demented stranger service me in an alley. I know I may have to turn in my guy card for saying this, but the whole notion of going to almost any length to get your rocks off is pretty creepy to me. I started steering the conversation to its end.
But just before we said our goodbyes, almost as an afterthought, he dropped one more bomb. He said that a few weeks ago he had gone home with a husband and wife he met at the store. And he had sex with the woman as her husband stood there with an erection and a camera, snapping off photos. That was too much. I mean, what is this, the '70's? I asked him if he was aware the pictures would undoubtedly end up on the internet, and he said that wasn't going to happen. Apparently he trusts these people, which tells you a lot right there.
One of my wife's friends thinks Scott's obsession with sex is a "disease." I don't know about that, but I don't think there's any doubt that it's at least clouding his judgment at this point. He supposedly was reprimanded at work recently for having a screen saver on his computer that showed a hair brush handle repeatedly entering and exiting a vagina(??). And going home with strangers you meet late at night in an Atlanta porn shop is a good way to enhance your chances for an early death. The guy is literally laying everything on the line for sex. I don't think I've ever been that horny.
At least not since high school.
Some more crap:
-- I donít know about you, but Iíve just about had it with that commercial for the new Beatles CD. Itís taken the place campaign spots recently vacated on the long list of annoying things on TV. Iím a big Beatles fan, but is there really a need to promote them so relentlessly at this point? I think itís safe to say that Capitol has now broken the band. They could release an album called The Beatles Urinate! and it would zoom to the top of the charts. I know that the label wants this thing to eventually unseat The Eaglesí Greatest Hits and Michael Jacksonís Thriller as the top selling album of all time, but this is just overkill. And that offer at the end of the commercial to sell the disc for a mere $18.95 plus 4.95 shipping and handling is laughable. What kind of fool would spend $24.00 for a compact disc that you can pick up at Target for $12.99? If you know somebody who has actually taken them up on this marvelous offer, please send me their phone number or e-mail address. Iíd like to interview them for this site.
-- Today, when I was driving to work, I saw a car with the words ďFlowered CabĒ painted on the door, and dozens of decals of pretty little flowers all over it. Funny stuff. I can just see a drunken steel worker climbing into one of those things late at night. What were they thinking? Obviously the founders of the company were sitting around one day trying to come up with a gimmick that would instantly catapult them into the taxicab big leagues, alongside Yellow and Checkered. And they settled onÖflowers?! I imagine three or four grizzled old men with cigar stumps in the corner of their mouths batting around ideas, and one of them says, ďHey, how about some nice flowers? Flowers are nice, eh?Ē And the rest of their eyes instantly light up and they shout in unison, ďMcNally, youíre a genius!Ē Bizarre.
-- I noticed a hole in one of my favorite t-shirts yesterday, and Iím preparing for the worst. It was purchased in a bar in Greensboro, NC called College Hill Sundries -- one of my all-time favorite watering holes. Iíve literally had this shirt for a decade. Itís gray and has the words College Hill Alumni on the front. Itís served me through happy times and sad. I wore it at least once a week the whole time I was in Atlanta and L.A., during the many adventures I got myself into during those eventful years. And now it's starting to show its age. How do you calculate t-shirt years? I donít think they last as long as dogs, so maybe eight or nine for every people year? I donít know, but I know its days are numbered, and Iím not just being dramatic when I say Iím sad about it. You donít come across a perfect t-shirt every day. Please send cash donations in lieu of flowers.
-- FYI - "Pouring lighter fluid on my genitals and setting them afire" appears just one spot below "Sitting down and watching an NBA game" on my checklist of Ideal Ways to Spend an Evening.
-- Yesterday I checked my post office box and there was an odd little catalog mixed in with all the rest of the junk. It was addressed to ďMrs. Jeff KayĒ, which made me laugh because my wife pretty much remains in a perpetual state of disgust when it comes to me. Sheíd probably slug the fool who actually called her Mrs. Jeff Kay to her face. But anyway, this catalog is full of all kinds of strange and mysterious female products. Frankly, a lot of it baffles me. Is all that gear really necessary? I have no idea. But I did see one item that I might order for myself (under the name Mrs. Jeff Kay, of course). This could be a godsend for a man of my robust dimensions. Of course, it will need to be modified with something badass before wearing, like a Skynyrd patch, but it could come in handy during the coming heat rash season. Don't you agree?
January 7, 2001
A few more things:
-- I mentioned that the new Beautiful South album has the potential of planting evil seeds in my brain, that I'll probably start worrying about getting old and panicking that it's all coming apart on me as a result of playing the damn thing almost continuously for weeks on end. Well it's starting to happen. As I was flipping through the television channels the other day I noticed that American Movie Classics is showing Mel Brooks' Silent Movie. I saw that thing in the theater when it was first released, and now it's being presented on a nostalgia cable network like it's some rare old artifact from the days of yore. When that AMC museum curator guy strolls out and starts setting up a film with a reverence usually reserved for ancient paintings and pieces of Native American earthenware -- and it's something that you remember seeing as a new release, it'll send chills up your spine. Fuck. I've got to get me a Camaro, and quick.
-- Speaking of Viagra, have you seen that commercial they're running now with the good-looking guy in his forties apparently just happy as shit he's getting to go to the doctor that day to discuss his inability to achieve an erection? What's that all about? If I ever develop a hole in my inner tube, and everything goes flat on me, I certainly won't be skipping down the sidewalk, shaking hands and dancing about it, like this guy's practically doing. I'll probably resemble Mickey Rourke in Barfly. And why's the guy so young? Dear god, why's he so young? Should I go for a convertible, or just a T-top?
-- The price of postage stamps go up today by one cent, so let the bitching begin. Whenever this happens, you can count on a bunch of blowhards to get up on their high horses, and pontificate in superior tones about the poor service and how unnecessary the rate increase is, blah blah blah. It's a penny. Shut up about it. If it were a dime increase, it would still be a good deal. The postal service does a damn good job, regardless of what it's popular to believe. Quit yer bitching, you bitter bastards. It's fucking stamps.
-- Yesterday I was sitting on the couch reading and Toney came home from the grocery store and spiked a gallon of milk in the middle of our living room floor. I couldn't believe my eyes. Milk was halfway up a wall, all over the floor, and covering us both from head to toe. She said she tripped over something, and dropped it, but I think she did it on purpose. Out of the corner of my eye I'm pretty sure I saw the jug raised above her head, right before the explosion. It will be interesting to see if this "tripping" becomes a pattern.
-- I know I'm probably slitting my own throat here, but would you like to see one of these online journals being done correctly? Click here for one of the best that I've come across. Go to the section called "Project Me". It's by a woman named Krista Garcia who lives in NYC, and used to do an excellent paper zine called The Scaredy-Cat Stalker. She's a damn good writer, and her observations are almost always right-on. I'm a big fan, and I like to share. Just don't leave me for her, OK?
-- I watched the new DVD "collector's edition" of Seven the other night. Good flick. I had no idea that Brad Pitt could actually act. I was unfairly lumping him in with Keanu Reeves, and other pretty boys that are about as expressive as an oscillating fan. I was wrong. Do you think Brad will ever forgive me?
January 4, 2001
Well, it's 2001 and I have to say I'm pretty disappointed so far. I went back to work yesterday, and didn't see a single flying car. All I saw were the boring old fashioned kind that roll along the ground...on wheels! What a ripoff. I've been looking forward to this since I was nine years old. When I was a kid, the future was always represented by the year 2001 -- and there were always flying cars. Where the fuck are the flying cars? And where are the housecleaning robots? And all the cool creatures walking around in people clothes, but with horse heads? Ripoff, a major ripoff. I haven't felt like this since I met Hank Aaron.
Of course it's January, so that also means it's time for my sixth or seventh annual resolution to cut way down on the beer consumption. I've always believed it's important to have holiday traditions.
Toney and I spent New Year's Eve cleaning the basement and, uh, drinking beer. It was quite a festive event. We have boxes that are still sealed from when we moved from Atlanta to Los Angeles in 1996. We're trying to weed out a bunch of the crap, so we don't have to keep transporting it and storing it. Toney's a lot better at it than I am. I simply cannot part with my endless cartons of old Creem magazines and classic issues of National Lampoon and Mad and Trouser Press (most with the flexi-disc still intact, thank you very much). And I'm not going to toss my albums, even though I don't have a turntable anymore, and I'll be damned if I'm giving up the contents of my childhood nightstand drawer. There are some important items in there, like cinnamon toothpicks and superballs and a five-pound transistor radio and Dum-Dum suckers from haircuts I got in 1976. It's hard to explain the importance of all this stuff to Toney, especially as she's building a massive trash pile out of old letters from dead relatives and school yearbooks and the like, but I did my damndest. She thinks I'm mentally ill.
But anyway, in one of the boxes I came across some old photos of me (taken by my girlfriend at the time), from around 1982 or 83. They're absolutely horrifying. I can't believe I went out of the house looking like that, and I can't believe my parents or any of my friends didn't pull me aside for a little talk. In some I was wearing extremely tight shorts, the type that only gay men or Canadians would wear today. And I had a slight bubble-butt, and big-ass Gabe Kaplan hair. And the worst offense of all -- the kind of pitiful wispy moustache that should be grounds for incarceration. I was a complete and absolute mess. Of course I was acting like a goddamn idiot in most of the shots as well, apparently to insure that the future humiliation would be absolute. The fact that Toney -- my wife -- spent about ten minutes buckled over in laughter with a photo of me in her hand says it all, I think. Yes, it was one of my prouder moments.
It took me a couple of days to decide whether or not to share the pics with you here but, of course, I will. Please be aware, however, that The West Virginia Surf Report is not responsible for any damages that may occur to computer equipment, clothing, carpeting, window treatments, etc. as a result of projectile vomiting or any related bodily eruptions. Proceed at your own risk.
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