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   The State of My Fat Ass
                                   January 2002

January 31, 2002

A few things:

-- A quick follow-up on the Yankee/West Virginia accent accusations that have been thrown my way recently: I asked a born and bred Scranton man at work yesterday if he thought I had a West Virginia accent and he said, "Ummm...not too bad" -- which means yes. And I asked a friend in West Virginia if I had a "Yankee accent," and he said yes -- which means yes. How could a person have regional accents from two different regions of the country at the same time?! What the hell's wrong with me? We're planning a trip to Canada this summer, am I going to come back and tell everyone aboat it? Fuck. Some accents I barely notice while others drive me up the wall, so I'm conscious of how I sound to others. People will pre-judge you if you give them half a chance, and I should know since I do it all the time. It's no problem talking like Flatt and Scruggs when you live in Atlanta, but pull that shit in LA and you're instantly a cartoon character. I thought I'd completely eradicated any traces of regionalism in my speech -- I sound like Paul Harvey in my head -- but apparently I have some more work to do. It's mildly depressing.

-- Speaking of regionalism, I just started reading a book set in West Virginia, called Crum. It's actually the second time I've read it; I plowed through it when it originally came out in the late '80s, but don't recall much about it. I remember it was pretty crude and profane, and that I liked it, but not much about the plot. The strange thing is, I picked up a little freebie entertainment newspaper when I was home a couple of weeks ago and there's apparently a sizable controversy swirling about this fifteen year old novel. I thought, why now?! Well, it turns out the book has been out of print for many years and is now being reissued. (Check out the prices of the edition I have!) I guess many people are just reading it for the first time, and are not pleased. It's mean-spirited and stereotypes West Virginians, they say. Again with the stereotyping! So tiresome. Why do people think they have a right not to be offended? Nobody has that right. Plus, it's well-known that West Virginians never stereotype others, right? We're generally a very tolerant people. Ha! This kind of hypocritical crap makes my blood boil. The author grew up in Crum, WV, so it can be assumed he knows what he's talking about. Hell, I'd like to shake his hand. He's doing something right if he pissed off so many people -- only the truth has that much power.

-- I'm going home again this weekend to spend a little time with my parents, now that my mother is on the mend. She was pretty out of it and still in Intensive Care when I had to leave a couple weeks ago, so I want to go back and visit her at home. Her personality is slowly coming back, it's very nearly Mom Classic at this point, so I look forward to the visit. If I get the chance I may take a couple of hours and drive to Crum, to check things out. The novel is set in the '50s, but I'd like to see if the town looks at all similar to the way I have it pictured. If I go I'll have plenty of photos to share.

-- I'm not 100% sure of this, but I think I saw an Amish woman driving a Pontiac station wagon yesterday.

-- Many people in our neighborhood still have their Christmas trees up, and continue to fire up the lights every night and everything. I mean, shit. We're not exactly balls of fire when it comes to working around the house, but we had our tree stripped and ripped down on December 26. Admittedly it has no affect whatsoever on my life, but it pisses me off to see Christmas trees in people's living room on January 31. I want to park my truck, knock on their door and tell them to get up off their Funyun-eating asses and give dignity a chance.

-- Very exciting news is trickling into us from our vast network of spies. Apparently "Nancy" and her so-called husband, Banana Nostrils (married on a beach by an actor amongst a pack of leaping dogs) have published a family newsletter! It's reportedly one of those yearly Christmas-letter types of thing, designed to bring people up to date on what's been going on in their life the past twelve months. We haven't received our copy yet, but it's expected any day now. This is just too good; I'm nearly giddy with anticipation. This document can't fail to be a comedy classic. Stay tuned, my friends.

-- Speaking of Nancy, Toney was talking to her this past weekend and she was telling her how Banana Nostrils likes to sometimes "caffeinate," and enjoys an occasional splash of "caf" in his "de." I swear they talk like this. And they act as if they're Sid and Nancy if they have a beverage that contains caffeine. Once when they were visiting we all went to Friendly's for breakfast, and Banana Boy launched into a big production number in front of the waiter about how he wanted a coffee mug filled with two parts "de" and one part "caf" topped off with tepid spring water, or some shit. It went on for at least a full minute. It was like a scene from Frasier. The waiter had a look on his face like, why me Lord, why me? Of course after he ingested his science experiment, Rambo grew faint and proclaimed that he had "over-caffeinated" and was in the throes of a blinding headache. Then he spent the entire afternoon "sleeping if off." I'm not a violent person but I constantly have the urge to kick this man's ass.

-- We had dinner at The Old Country Buffet a few nights ago and Toney saw a fight nearly break out between two women. Apparently one cut in front of the other at the white gravy trough and the cuttee said, "What's your problem?" And the cutter shot back, "You, bitch!" Hilarious. I wish it had escalated into a full-blown ham-throwing free-for-all, but it was apparently over as fast as it started. One of the women walked past our table cursing under her breath and wearing her bad-ass face, but that was about it. Man, that place attracts only the classiest of clientele. I love it.

That'll do it for today folks. There will be no update on Monday, I'll be driving all day. Hopefully Tuesday though. Have a great weekend!


January 28, 2002

A few very short things:

-- Dave Thomas has barely had enough time to assume room temperature and already the suits have done away with the classic old Taco Salad at Wendy's! Taco Salads have been a staple of my fat-boy diet for decades. This is simply devastating. But I was afraid shit like this would happen. One could feel he was in good hands with Dave at the wheel, he was one of us and looked out for our interests. But now the bean-counters are gonna ruin the greatest fast food chain this world has ever known. Wait and see. It just keeps getting sadder and sadder.

-- When I was in WV a friend accused me of having a "Yankee accent"(?!?), and near the end of my stay Toney told me by phone that I was slipping back into a "West Virginia accent." Shit, I must sound pretty fucked up.

-- Speaking of my recent trip to West Virginia, my friend Mark called a few nights ago and was trying to light a fire under my ass to get to work on a new article for the next issue of his Crimewave USA zine. "I've been reading your website," he added, "do you think you can try to be funny again for Crimewave?" It's important for a man to have a strong support network.

-- I haven't had a drop of alcohol since New Year's Eve. Oh, this might not seem like such a grand feat to some of you, but to me it ranks right up there with the parting of the Red Sea. Or the career of Tony Danza. I feel like Lou Gehrig. Near the end.

-- Here's the final(?) report on Jason Headley's experiment of giving up the ball and chain that is shampoo. Thanks for everything Jason, it's been fun. Keep us updated on further developments up top, ya hear?

-- I'm currently in the midst of a very strong Lloyd Cole jag.

-- I'm also nearly finished reading an old Harry Crews novel called Car, about a Georgia hick that attempts to eat a 1971 Ford Maverick. He wants to make a name for himself; he believes he's destined for greatness. Hilarious.

-- What's the deal with all the brown polyester crap at Old Navy these days? It reminds me of a kid from elementary school named Earl Fortney -- and that's not exactly a look I'd immediately think to cultivate. Am I out of step with the culture? Is Earl Fortney now the bomb?

-- There's a guy who makes sandwiches in the cafeteria where I work that simply amazes me. He's flamboyantly gay, barely touching the floor when he walks and mincing about like something straight off a Mel Brooks soundstage. When I see him outside the building, sashaying to his car or whatever, he's always wearing a ridiculously oversized white cowboy hat with a giant pink sash tied to it. It's unbelievable. He also drives an old limousine. It's all beat to hell and has rainbow-themed bumper stickers all over it, so I don't think he runs a business on the side -- I think that's just his mode of transportation. Man, they should do a Profiles In Courage about this little meat-stacking homo. Scranton's gotta be a tough town to be queer in. People can be so crass here.

-- Speaking of that... NPR types are always lecturing us that we shouldn't deal in stereotypes (expect when discussing Christians, Southerners, or Republicans). But take a walk around a Barnes & Noble store on a Sunday afternoon and you'll be reminded that stereotypes don't become stereotypes simply by accident. Yesterday I saw a woman with a hemp handbag over her shoulder and a head of hair that apparently hadn't been combed since the day I last purchased salt. Yes, she was in the Nature section. And I saw a group of skinny, zitty, glasses-wearing, nasal-droning geeks hanging around in -- you guessed it, Science Fiction. Then I moved on to the computer section and there was guy there with an ass that cast a shadow all the way to the cafe. I tried not to notice, I swear I did.

-- I watched a Ken Burns documentary about the life of Mark Twain this weekend. It was roughly four hours long, so I watched it over two nights. Damn good film. I've always been intrigued by Twain. To be truthful I haven't read many of his books, I just like the idea of such a person having existed. He was self-made, an adventurer, a brilliant wit, a wildly popular author who was also critically acclaimed, subversive, and had balls the size of Montana. My only complaint: he died at the end. I hope I'm not ruining it for anyone.

That'll do it for today. Have a good one, folks.

            

January 25, 2002

Part III:

The rest of this is just random notes, stuff that happened during the blur of last week. The chronology may be a little off, but who really gives a shit at this point? This ain’t U.S. News and World Report. Let's get this over with, shall we? I'm tired of dwelling on it.

-- By pumping a river of drugs through a tube in my mother's neck, the nurses and doctors finally got her seizures to stop sometime Tuesday night. She was on a respirator though, and we were all secretly preparing ourselves for her death. We'd never say it out loud but we just knew she was taking the Final Taxi. The respirator told the tale. The waiting room was crawling with obscure faces from my youth, and I was on sensory overload. It was an evening choreographed by Salvador Dali. I remember talking at length to a man who was divorced from one of my aunts somewhere around the Gerald Ford administration (I shit you not, these were the types of people there that night), and he kept telling me about how great one of his daughters is, and the many adventures she's had in her life. His daughter is one of the biggest pieces of shit that's ever walked the Earth, but I just smiled and nodded. After a while the room began to clear out, when it became obvious nothing was going to happen that night. (Do I seem bitter?) Finally it was down to my dad and my brother, and we weren't going anywhere.

-- I pretty much stayed at that hospital from Tuesday morning until I left town the following Monday. I went to my parent's house for a quick shower every day, but that was it. We eventually figured out a fairly comfortable way to sleep, but hadn't yet perfected things that first night. I'd scoped out a bigger and more plush waiting room on a different floor, and thought it might be a good place to bed down for the night. So I secured a bedsheet from one of the nurses (as close as I was going to get to a blanket, apparently), and positioned a coffee table in front of a row of chairs to make my nest for the night. It wasn't as comfortable as it looked. A tabletop isn't exactly a Sealy Posturpedic, and I was constantly aware that my head was laying on a chair cushion into which a million asses had pumped ten million farts. Maybe even the farts of the diseased! At one point I woke up from a shallow doze, and there were eight or ten people sitting all around me. Just sitting there talking, while I was asleep. Sweet Maria.

-- My mother was unconscious at this point, but they assured us she wasn't in a coma. She responded to pain, so she wasn't in a coma. I wondered what they did to administer pain, but that was the least of my worries. When we'd go back to see her during visiting hours, she was constantly wriggling around in bed, moving her legs like she was riding a bicycle. I felt guilty but I couldn't stay in the room for more than a minute or two. It was too freaky. I was sure she'd been lobotomized.

-- There were other families camping out there as well. One group said they had been there for forty-seven days! Their mother had had a stroke, and wasn't making much progress. They were real quiet, and reminded me of the Darling brothers on the old Andy Griffith Show. And there was a spunky woman there keeping vigil for her sister who had also had a stroke. The patient was around my age, which was a little unsettling; people in their thirties aren't supposed to have strokes. But her sister was a hospital pro and taught us some of the ins and outs of the joint. She's the one that helped us get real blankets and real pillows and eventually even reclining chairs to sleep in. She also knew where there was a shower and a washer & dryer in the hospital, but I never used any of those. She talked constantly -- either to us or to various people on her cell phone. Damn, she could talk. She was like an auctioneer. There were others as well, just less interesting. After a few days I started to feel like I had been indoctrinated into a tiny neuroscience intensive care community. We relied on each other, and helped each other out like neighbors. That part was kinda cool. People are generally nice, when the chips are down. It's when life is good that they're bastards and bitches.

-- I've sometimes complained that time passes too fast, wondered where my youth went and so on. But it's just the opposite sitting around a hospital. I swear each day lasted at least 72 hours. It was excruciating. After a while you just become numb and slip into a sort of hibernated state of suspended animation. Hours and hours of sitting around and talking and trying to convince ourselves that there were small signs of improvement in my mother, signs I secretly suspected were nothing more than wishful thinking.

-- One night as we were sitting in the waiting room an old woman wandered out, wearing a robe. She was obviously a patient and we guessed she wasn't supposed to just be walking around like that. But she stopped and talked to us, and I don't know if she was funky on the junk or just plain nuts. She rambled on at length, jumping from subject to subject and sometimes becoming agitated for no apparent reason. She told us her niece had had two bouts with cancer and if it came back again her goose was cooked. And she told us her nurses wouldn't help her, even though she was in great pain. They were always on a smoking break she said. She threatened to go downstairs and call a cab and get out of there, and railed about her doctors taking away her arthritis medicine or some shit. She said they'd better stop messing with her or she'd steal a piece of equipment before she left. I busted out laughing when she said that, the first time I'd laughed for a while. Then she started wandering back to her room and turned to us and said, as an afterthought, "I'm not crazy, just sick." At that point a nurse started screaming at her from down the hall and herded her back to her bed, scolding her unmercifully.

-- A limping guy in pajamas hobbled past us every couple of hours and would disappear down a never-used corridor behind the elevators. Seconds later we'd smell cigarette smoke. A few minutes later he'd limp back past us, careful not to make eye contact with anyone. Is that a pack of Winstons in your underwear, or are you just glad to see me?

-- One night a guy with a ZZ Top beard rolled out in a wheelchair and began talking to my dad. He was there for back surgery, and had the same doctor as my mother. My dad mentioned that the good doc wasn't much in the personality department and Billy Gibbons said he didn't want to take him fishing with him, he just wanted him to make his back stop hurting. Then he added, "At least he's white. I'll be damned if I let one of them Abdullahs cut on me."

-- With the help of the auctioneer we got ourselves a collection of reclining chairs to sleep in, and some actual blankets and pillows. The one I got looked like it had been manufactured sometime shortly after the first world war. It was a ridiculous excuse for a chair, and my dad laughed every time he saw it. "Look at that thing," he'd say. It seemed to offend him. I think we were all starting to get a little goofy by this point. When I got it all reared back, with my blankets and everything, I was a full four feet off the ground. I felt like an idiot. My dad and brother laughed their asses off. Somebody said an orderly would probably come in the middle of the night and take me to surgery by mistake. After we'd turned the lights off we started worrying about that crazy woman in the robe wandering out there again and attacking us in our sleep.

-- I pretty much lived on cafeteria hot dogs, corn chips, coffee and Dr. Pepper. It pains me to report this, but at one point I was reduced to taking a high-pressure dump in a public rest room. As any regular reader here knows, that goes against my principals, but there were no other options. Well, no other options I was willing to explore. My brother and I also developed severe cases of bunker-busting flatulence, and we raised the roof every chance we got. It was a horrible week, on many levels.

-- The nurses and doctors would tell us nothing. We craved a few words of encouragement, but none were forthcoming. It was very frustrating. At some point my mother stopped moving around in the bed as much, and they told us it might be a good sign, or it might not. Thank you very much.

-- The auctioneer told us a charming little story about her nephew standing on his mother's dialysis tubing in order to get his way. "Who's in charge now?," he'd ask. This was presented as a cute kids-will-be-kids tale, complete with exasperated eye rolling and all that stuff, but it sounded pretty fucked up to me. Who's in charge now?! Shit.  Why do the words Gary Gilmore come to mind?

-- I found out that we have a relative in Ohio named Rudy Toot. This is apparently not a joke.

-- My dad told a story about a former Fire Chief in the town we're from (my dad was a fireman, and eventually became Chief himself), named Jake Thumm. This was probably the late '60's. Chief Thumm was apparently famous among his peers for his ability to produce farts so amplified it would boggle the human mind. You could reportedly hear them for four miles. One day he was talking on the phone in his office, with his back to the door. A reporter from the local newspaper, a female reporter, had stopped by to talk to him about something, and you can guess what happened. Yes, the Chief leaned across his desk, lifted a leg theatrically and let one fly "that you could hear all over City Hall." When he turned around he said, "Oh, sorry ma'am, I didn't see you standing there" and went on like nothing had happened. To this day, almost forty year later, whenever wind is broken at the fire department somebody invariably says, "Oh, sorry ma'am, I didn't see you standing there." It's become part of the local folklore.

-- Thursday night, forty-eight hours after her final seizure, my mother opened her eyes. She was still completely incoherent and non-responsive, but irrefutable progress was being made. Some tears were shed that evening, even a couple by your humble correspondent. It was a real sign that things might actually work out after all.

-- My friend Bill stopped by one day and we went to lunch. It was great to get away from the hospital for a while, and it was great to see a friendly face. We laughed and talked and I had hot bologna, West Virginia round steak. He told me about going to Cincinnati to see a football game, and getting into a bar brawl there. Some guy bumped into him and knocked a beer out of his hand, words were exchanged, and Bill knocked a few of his teeth out. Then a bunch of the guy's friends came after him, intending to administer a little payback. They ended up chasing him through the streets of Cincinnati, over fences and down alleys. After he'd lost the posse that was hunting him, a whore suddenly appeared behind him, reached around and put her hands over his eyes. He said she smelled like pussy, and he had trouble getting away from her. Ol' Pussy Hands was trying to get him in a headlock, for some unknown reason. Hilarious. Of course I would expect nothing less from my former partner in crime. I miss spending time with him, but it's probably a good thing we don't live in the same town anymore. I'd probably be pressing vanity plates by now.

-- When we got back to the hospital we bumped into one of our teachers from Junior High -- Mr. Yerrid. Good ol' Uncle Nate, the man who coined the catch-phrase, "You think that's funny, Kay?!? That's not funny! You're sick!!" He looked exactly the same. It was incredible. I don't think he had a clue who we were, but he was doing a pretty good job of faking it. He said he was up there because somebody (I can't remember who) was having surgery after coming down with that kind of cancer "that starts in your ass." When we were in school Mr. Yerrid constantly talked about his nephew. I remember him telling us about taking him to see the movie The Gauntlet, and how he had to cover the kid's ears because of all the bad language. Well, now that little kid is a lawyer and was involved in one of the big tobacco lawsuits. He supposedly is receiving six to eight million dollars a year for the next twenty-five years, and has his own private jet. Holy shit.

-- My mother's progress continued, so slowly it was barely noticeable. Like the minute hand on a clock, it was impossible to see movement by staring, but if you went away and came back you could see that things were indeed progressing. On Saturday morning she started talking, and later that day she began putting sentences together. She told the nurses my name and my brother's name. Much celebrating ensued. After that things moved fairly quickly. The pieces started coming together. She remained in intensive care until Tuesday, and was released from the hospital yesterday. I actually talked to her on the phone last night, which was really cool. She'd been teetering on the edge of a coma just a few days earlier, and here I was joking with her via long distance. Her voice was real raspy for some reason and I told her she sounded like Rose Marie. She laughed, and I very nearly cried. Awesome.

January 24, 2002

Part II:

After the doctor called the waiting room and gave us the good news that my mother was out of surgery, the nurse told my Dad that a few of us could go upstairs and see her, as she was moved from recovery to Intensive Care. We were feeling pretty great at this point, because the report had been completely positive. The surgery was a success, she was moving both sides of her body, and told the nurses her name and the president’s name - all important stuff. I felt massive relief, like we’d gotten over the hump.

We were practically giddy as we rode the elevators up to the fourth floor. Of course they told us it would be an hour, and it was more like two. But by this point we were getting used to hospital time, and it didn't bother us too much. You could pretty much take whatever they told you, multiply it by two, and you’d be pretty close to real people time. Whatever. We felt like we'd been freed up to laugh some, and loosen our mental belts a little. This was no time to sweat the small stuff.

Then the elevator doors opened.

Two women rolled her bed towards us, and what I saw made me feel like somebody had sucker punched me in the gut. I wasn't -- could never be -- prepared for that shit. My mother, or what used to be my mother, was wriggling around like a reptile, and screaming belligerence and nonsense. Her eyes were shut tightly and she had an expression of absolute fear on her face. It was like a horror movie. She'd busted my balls just hours earlier for not knowing how to iron a shirt, and now she was...like this. We'd allowed them to do this to her. We'd driven her to the hospital. I almost went down. Sweet Jesus.

Then, incredibly, things got worse. Fifteen minutes or so after they got her set up in ICU, a nurse, roughly twelve years old, came out and talked to my dad. We were all standing there watching, getting bits and pieces of it, and it became clear that things weren't going well. It turned out she was having seizures, had stopped breathing a couple of times, and was now on a respirator! My mother was on a respirator. That word scared me the most. She finished by saying, "I wish I had better news." My dad had to walk off by himself, and my aunt sobbed uncontrollably. My brother's eyes bugged out like Tim Russert, and I felt like I had fallen down Alice's rabbit hole.

The rest of the day was a blur. I'm not equipped to handle this kind of stuff. It was like Vietnam. My system was overloaded, and I don't even remember much of the rest of the evening. I know there was a parade of obscure relatives and family friends pouring out of the elevators, obviously there to support the family when my mother died -- which didn't help matters at all. They'd deny it now, but that's why they were there. The over-dramatic aunts were working the phones like telemarketers of gloom, and people I hadn't seen in twenty or thirty years were suddenly before me. It was all too weird. Way too weird. I can't be sure of this, but I think Ronald Reagan was there for a short time. I think we talked economics, and played a few games of ping-pong.

And thus began the strangest, most intense week of my life...

I'll finish this up tomorrow, I promise.  Some of it's even a little funny.  What a novel concept, huh? Have a great day, folks. --Donna

January 23, 2002

Pretty much everywhere I've worked there's been at least one person (always a woman, and always fat) that likes nothing more than to stand around and talk about medical procedures and ailments and treatments and symptoms, blah blah blah. They seem to look forward to doctor's appointments like most people look forward to a night on the town, and invasive tests delight them like a trip to a theme park. I suspect they're all hypochondriacs, if not full-blown batshit crazy; I always feel sorry for their husbands without even meeting them. The worst was in Atlanta when I was forced to work with a woman named Donna that droned on and on to the point where I had to occasionally fight myself not to walk out to the parking lot, start up my car, drop to my knees and wrap my lips around the tailpipe. I don't want to become a Donna so I'll try not to drone, but my mother had brain surgery last week and that's pretty much all I've been thinking about. I've gotta write about it folks, so please accept my apologies in advance. Following is the first installment of some random notes I jotted down about the most intense week of my life. I'm sorry. If you'll just bear with me for a few days, I promise to get back to semen comedy soon.

-- I went to West Virginia the day before the surgery, and spent the evening with my parents and brother, and his wife. None of us had any experience with a brain surgery eve, so it was a little awkward. Nobody really knew what to say, and I think we were all nervous. God knows I was. I'm a flat-out coward when it comes to medical stuff, and the thought of some stranger rooting around with an X-Acto knife in my mother's brain terrified me. The list of possible complications was too horrible to even contemplate, so I kept telling myself that there was only a five percent chance of something going wrong. Or so they said. It was a surreal evening, almost normal yet not anywhere near normal, at the same time. We all went to bed early to end the misery, and to try to get some rest (ha!) before our early-morning departure for the hospital. Holy shit in a handbasket! Brain surgery.

-- My mother had an unruptured aneurysm that was discovered when she came down with some bizarre thing called Bell's Palsy. She woke up one morning with one side of her face drooping and paralyzed. My dad thought she'd had a stroke and rushed her to the emergency room. They found the unrelated bubble in her brain while they were checking her out. Bell's Palsy is apparently caused by a virus of some sort, and eventually goes away. Very strange. Wrap up good Johnny, it's paralysis season. It was hard not to think that somebody or something was watching out for her, and made all this happen so the bigger problem could be discovered.

-- When we arrived at the hospital they immediately took my mother backstage somewhere, and we stayed out in the waiting room greeting the various relatives who started showing up at that ungodly hour of the morning. Our annex of the waiting room eventually filled to capacity and overflowed into another family's space. Among the attendees was a group of over-dramatic aunts that thrive on this type of situation, and who have long considered me to be "the weird one" in the family. I wandered off by myself, to indulge my loner tendencies and to possibly avoid additional huggings. Then they said we could go back for a few minutes and wish Mom well before they took her to surgery.

-- My brother and I went to see her together, and one of the three pastors who'd shown up (who were these guys?!) asked if he could go back with us. Um, sure. What was your name again? By this point I was a basket-case, and when the preacher said a prayer over her -- last rites?!? -- I just about lost it. I don't think I've cried since they canceled Get A Life, but I nearly broke down then. After he finished his duties we told our mother we loved her and returned to the back-stabbing aunts and the room designed for waiting. Sweet Maria! Brain surgery and preachers calling in favors.

-- Surgery was scheduled for 7:30, and was supposed to last four to five hours(!!). We thought the doctor would come out and see us in advance, but he didn't. Later we'd find out he's not much for, you know, conversing with other human beings, but we didn't know that then. So it was just a matter of waiting, and repeating silent prayers.

-- Everyone seemed to be in a good mood, and there was a lot of laughter during the wait. The family hadn't been together like this since my grandmother died ten years ago, so it was a reunion of sorts. I thought some of the frivolity was a little inappropriate, considering the circumstances, but I grinned and bore it. The Weird One, remember. Hours passed, then a couple more. I kept thinking of her back there with her skull opened up like a jewelry box, and I had to fight to put those thoughts out of my head. Finally there was a phone call for my dad from the doctor. Whew! It was over, we thought. We got ready for the good news.

-- They'd started the surgery several hours late! It was time for it to be over, but they'd only just started. Some kind of staff scheduling mix-up or something. Why they waited so long to tell us, I'll never know. Fuck. We had nothing to do but to reset our internal clocks and do it all over again. Incredible.

-- Around four o'clock, eight or so hours after the surgery was scheduled to start, they called again and said she was in recovery. She was doing well, we were told -- moving both sides of her body and telling them her name and the president's name -- and would be moved to Intensive Care in an hour. We could go to the fourth floor, if we wanted, and see her as they transported her to her room. Great news! It felt like a giant weight was lifted. Holy shit, what a day. We thought the worst was behind us, but we were sadly mistaken. What followed was one of the most horrifying evenings of my life.

And I'll tell you all about it tomorrow...  

Just like Happy Days, huh?

January 13, 2002

A few things:

-- We found out late on Friday that my mother is going to have surgery on Tuesday. Brain surgery. To repair an unruptured aneurysm. On Tuesday. Shit, I still can't believe it... Tuesday is supposed to be the day Frasier is on, not the day your mother has brain surgery. I wish I would've been awake enough to appreciate all the Tuesdays that have passed, when we just watched TV and went to bed. No heads shaved, no "window" incisions, just Frasier, two or three chapters of a Harry Crews novel, and sleep. Those days weren't savored enough, and now I feel guilty about it. Anyway, this will be my last update for a while; I'm leaving for West Virginia early Monday morning, and don't know when I'll be back. I'll have no way to update the site, nor the inclination, so read Mike Jasper while I'm gone. He's better anyway.

-- I don't want to spend too much time on my mother's situation, it doesn't seem appropriate (and isn't exactly pants-shitting funny), but I do have a few quick comments.

My dad is from an era before Phil Donahue and Alan Alda made it fashionable for men to act like hand-wringing pussies. He shows very little emotion, and can be counted on for clear-headed advice and counsel in any situation -- like a much-funnier blue-collar Ward Cleaver. But this is obviously getting to him, and that fact freaks me out as much as anything.

On Thursday they met with the doctor, and he went over all the complications that are possible, if far from probable. It's a legal necessity for doctors to scare the crap out of their patients nowadays, because people are so quick to sue. But one of the possible scenarios is that she will have problems with memory, and in a worse-case situation wouldn't even recognize us! Freaky. Knot's Landing freaky. I don't even want to think about it.

There wasn't an abundance of information to be found, but I did some Internet research on the surgeon and didn't turn up anything of concern. No malpractice suits or jail sentences, or anything like that. Here he is. He looks OK to me. I'm not sure about that tie, but I'll let it slide under the circumstances.

One last thing that must be mentioned: I'm scared of male nurses. They freak me out -- almost as much as clowns. I've seen too many "angel of death" stories on 20/20 and 60 Minutes to be able to trust them. You know what I'm talking about, those doughy mama's-boys who are genetically men, but have pursued a career in nursing for some reason, and whose patients drop like flies -- even the ones who've come in for earwax removal. I'm going to be on high-alert for those guys. High alert.

And that's enough on that subject. Let's move on, before I start wringing my freaking hands.

-- Some good news for the most critically under-appreciated band ever: Lynyrd Skynyrd was named by Spin as one of The 50 Greatest Bands of All Time. Are things finally turning around for them, nearly 25 years after their leader died? Is it now safe to like these guys? I hope so. Lord knows I don't want to be unhip. Here's what they wrote:

From the nasty-ass drum break on "I Ain't the One" that opens their first album to Ronnie Van Zant's cock-walkin' gun-control anthem ("Saturday Night Special") to his get-off-our-dick answer to a Neil Young song ("Sweet Home Alabama"), Skynyrd were some complex, drunk-ass Beatles fans. Nobody's yet matched their dark hillbilly verse, driven by three guitarists who knew when to wail or chill.

I'll have all three discs from their box set with me as I drive tomorrow, like I do on all long car trips. Read into that what you will.

-- A dream-team of three has tentatively agreed to cover the Critter Dinner for us next month. The Critter Dinner is an annual event in my hometown, where hunters bring in all kinds of "exotic" meats and fishes for the citizens to sample. I've never attended, but I think they serve up mountain goat tacos and owl pudding and shit like that. I may be a little off on the details, but you get the idea. The "correspondents" are even going to wear Surf Report press passes! Stay tuned. Considering who's involved, there could be an incident to report.

-- I'm currently in the midst of a strong Robyn Hitchcock jag. These things happen.

-- Here's Jason Headley's sixth report from the frontlines of hygienic warfare. Only one week to go! I think there's definitely a miniseries here. I'm thinking Fox. Remember where you read it first.

-- I came across this article on Friday and grew almost giddy reading it. I can't imagine anything cooler. Flatulence pumps, a wall of pimples, foot odor as an interactive display... It's better than Disneyland. I think they need to expand their concept and open a log flume that shoots you through a colon. I can envision carloads of smiling people flying out of a puckered sphincter with their hands raised above their heads, into the swirling whirlpool below. This could revolutionize the theme park industry. I wonder if they're selling stock?

-- So I guess Baretta's going to get away with it?

-- "Nancy" told Toney this morning that she won't let her li'l translucent vegans watch Teletubbies because it's "obviously post-nuclear." She said she doesn't want her kids exposed to such violent imagery. You know, brightly-colored egg-shaped fellows who eat toast and cavort amongst bunnies on a lush English countryside? This woman is a tenured professor at a major university, and is crazier than a bag of bugs. Too much of anything is bad, and that goes for education. Especially education.

-- This was the house next-door when we lived in California. Please note the asking price. All these shacks have the same basic floorplan, and this one has the exact floorplan of the one we lived in. They're thirty years old, and most haven't been maintained very well. This particular place had the original roof, through which you could practically see the family eating Funyuns in their living room. It also had neon blue shag carpet, complete with gigantic dark stains of unknown origin, no doorknob on the backdoor, no covers on the electric outlets, and a half-assed covered patio that was thrown together by the owners and was in constant danger of falling off the house. It's also the home of the kid I wrote about that would spontaneously drop his pants and shit on people's grass and sidewalks. Their backyard was a landscape of toddler piles. I'm surprised they didn't advertise it as having a naturally fertilized lawn. But it's the price that kills me. You could own an Evander Holyfield house for that amount of cash in Scranton. It would be like those places they show on Cribs. We didn't pay anything near that much for our house there, the loan officers would've soiled themselves laughing if we'd even tried. And we didn't sell it for that much either. We were in California when things were in a funk, when Clinton decided we didn't need a military and the aerospace industry went into the shitter. Now we couldn't afford to move back into our old neighborhood. There's something psychologically troubling about that. It's supposed to be onward and upward, ya know? Southern California doesn't recognize the normal laws of the universe, and is thus a ball-buster. I'm glad to be out of there.

That's all for today. Thanks for reading. I hope to have good news to report next time.


January 10, 2002

-- I feel foolish writing about the weather all the time, this ain't flipspiceland.com, but it's been the big story here at The Compound this week. We got another inch or so of snow on Monday, and it topped out at nineteen big-ass inches. Amazing...to me anyway. When I was a kid in West Virginia we used to get hammered like this, but it's been a long time. I like it; it's awesome -- and I mean that literally. I haven't even complained that much about having to shovel the driveway (three hours!), or about the city snowplow that came along minutes after I was done and shoved a metric ton of the crap back over the area I'd just cleared, or about my truck slipping and sliding all the way to the office on Tuesday. No, I've been pretty subdued so far. The first few snows of the season always put me in a good mood. I'll probably want to turn to black magic by late February, to try to drive the shit far away from here, but right now I'm OK with it. Here are a few pics I posted late on Monday, in case you didn't see them.

-- Last year I had the bright idea of filling the bed of my truck with snow, as I was shoveling the driveway, to give it some extra weight in the back. The thing is so light it would undoubtedly fishtail on a loogie. I thought it was a great idea, and wondered why I didn't see more people filling their truck beds with snow. I soon found out. As it started melting, the mass turned into a big iceberg, and started sliding around back there. When you hit the gas, it would crash against the tailgate, and scare the hell out of you, then when you hit the brakes it would come hurtling right back and slam against the cab. It sucked. It was like being repeatedly rear-ended. Well, this year it happened again, but I didn't have much to do with it. Sure, I threw a couple of shovel-loads on there (what can I say?, I'm a dumbass), but most of it was natural. Yesterday during the day it transformed into a solid ball of ice, about four feet in diameter, and made my drive home very interesting. ...sssssh ...thud!!! ...sssssh ...crash!!! ...sssssh ...ka-blam!! I considered pulling over and dropping the tailgate, and just letting that bitch slide out on the road somewhere. But I was afraid it would drop off in front of another motorist, and they'd end up strapped to a bucket seat in the woods, covered in gasoline and holding a steering wheel. So I drove home with a hyperactive iceberg at my back, and finally dropped the tailgate when I got to our neighborhood. I casually drove up and down the quiet streets, looking innocent as hell, and when I got home the iceberg was gone. It's only a matter of time before the homeowner's association calls an emergency meeting about me.

-- Ozzie Smith was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame yesterday, which seems logical. But some of the other names being mentioned as possibilities for the future really irritate me. Like Gary Carter. Ha! Goose Gossage, Jim Rice... Please. Those guys were good players, but they weren't legendary. The Hall should be reserved for the legendary. Gary Carter shouldn't be honored alongside Mickey Mantle and Ty Cobb and Joe DiMaggio, he just shouldn't. Which brings me to another point. When I was a kid baseball players seemed like gods to me. I remember seeing Dave Concepcion walking around the concession area of Riverfront Stadium during a rain delay, and I nearly voided my bowels right there, with a corndog in my hand. But now every single player in the Major Leagues (as far as I know) is younger than me. That changes everything. I'm not sure why, but it does. It's hard to worship a guy that's not old enough to remember The Fonz.

-- Great line from this week's Boston Public: "Smell this sock! It's the sock of homosexuality!" I bet that fancy-pants West Wing doesn't have quality writing like that.

-- Why didn't anyone tell me Foster Brooks had died? This is the kind of information I need, people. The greats are dropping like flies. Foster Brooks, Dave Thomas, the guy who created Josie and the Pussycats. It just keeps getting sadder and sadder. At least we still have Sinatra. That might be the only thing that keeps me going.

-- The guy in the cubicle next to me at work (I had a nice big office in California, overlooking Warner Bros. studios, but don't get me started on that...) likes onions. He goes to the cafeteria and buys big sandwiches -- hoagies, as they call them -- piled high with the things. Then he brings them back to his desk and smacks and slurps them down, like a pack of dingoes on a hitchhiker. It's a disgusting thing to behold. He's on the road a lot and hadn't been in the office for about three weeks, so I'd gotten used to him being gone. But he made a return performance yesterday fit for the Queen. You could smell him coming, with his Styrofoam funk container, from way down the hall. And when he opened the lid on that thing, a mushroom cloud of nasty rolled out that brought tears to my eyes. And I think he gets "Italian" hoagies, which contain all kinds of strange meat hybrids, like cappacoli or some shit. I don't even know what they put on those things, all I know is they're completely outside the realm of my existence, and they smell like natural childbirth. And, of course, he gets them loaded with onions. The smell is enough for me to take the memory to my grave, but he also makes a lot of noise when he eats. He lapses into a full-on frenzy over there, and I'm pretty sure I see scraps of lettuce fly up above the wall, out of the corner of my eye. It's like a cartoon. One of these days I'm sure I'll catch him with an onion pizza spinning on his finger, and his mouth making sounds like a buzzsaw -- like Shaggy. Holy crap. No home training, whatsoever.

Well, that's all I have time for today, my friends. Watch for a new Dispatch From The Bunker email later today, or tomorrow, and I'll be back on Monday. Have a great weekend, folks.

January 7, 2002

Snowstorm Expected To Hit Area Forecasters don't expect much in accumulation from fast-moving storm --yesterday's Scranton Times

Yeah, right. Punk bitches. There's eighteen inches out there this morning -- and it's still snowing. Unbelievable. I think I just saw a pack of penguins walk by. Shit. The second I pulled the curtains back and looked outside, I decided I wasn't going to work. I'm still a little bitter about having to forfeit all those vacation days last year, so if they think I'm going to go to great lengths to get there today, they're crazy. Of course, the hardcore locals will show up and make me look bad in the eyes of my tanned California employers, but that's just the way the cannoli crumbles. Insanity is not something to aspire to.

-- As predicted, I just called the office and the operations manager answered.

"You went in?" I said.

"Of course I came in," he answered, "it's Monday."

"There's eighteen inches out there!"

"Well yeah, that's how long my dick is. What's your point?"

?!?!

"I'm not coming in. Fuck it."

"Suit yourself. I'll just tell Ed (my boss) that I made it in, and I don't know why his guy can't get here."

The love and support I feel on a daily basis is immense. Doesn't change anything though. I'm still not going in.

-- This morning I rolled over in bed and something disgusting and slimy stuck to the side of my face. What in the honeybaked hell?! I sat up and peeled a thoroughly chewed hunk of rawhide, saturated with dog slobber, off my cheek. How it got on my pillow, I don't know. But man's best friend is lucky I'm such a nice guy. Considering some of his recent hijinks, I don't think even PETA would object if I buried my foot deep in his ass.

-- I received this email last night, a blast from the past:

Dear Sir,

I am writing to say that as a baseball fan, I am appauled that you would post a link for people to see Mike Piazza's paycheck. While he is a public figure, this goes way too far. I would have hoped that you would have had enough sense to use good judgement and not post such a thing.

If you have any good sense you'll remove it.

Sincerely,

V. Lynch

Ah yes, brings back fond memories. I really miss the days when frenzied, grammatically challenged New Yorkers would fill my email box with threats of bodily harm and pleas for me to come to my senses. Once you've had it all, it's hard to settle for less.

-- I was telling my dad, on the phone yesterday, about how I blew out my pants last week at work. He said, "Hmm... Wonder why that happened? Must've been a defect of some sort." Rodney Dangerfield is John F. Kennedy compared to me.

-- I mentioned that I watched Dirty Harry recently, and thought it was really good. Now I'm watching all of the Dirty Harry flicks, in order. I watched Magnum Force Friday, and The Enforcer Saturday. I've got a lot of catching up to do. I'd never seen any of those movies, because I thought I was too hip and sophisticated to waste time on such drivel. Yes, I would've preferred a foreign film, or perhaps an underground movie made for twelve hundred dollars about an epileptic French mime, or some shit. Jesus, I was such a pretentious prick. I used to be these guys. But that was then. Now I read Dean Koontz and Stephen King, and watch friggin' Dirty Harry. I guess it's my new rebellion, and I feel so alive!

-- Here's Jason Headley's fifth dispatch since he stopped washing his hair. If you get the urge to walk the hygienic plank, please consider writing about it for The West Virginia Surf Report. We're ready and waiting, baby.

-- I've been adding a bunch of new links to The Mountain page, including this classic. If you haven't scaled the peak lately, now might be a good time.

-- As usual, I took a few minutes to read the ads in the Sunday paper yesterday.

-- This is my hometown, and so is this. Is there any wonder I ended up like this? I'd love to make it for The Critter Dinner next month, but probably won't. If anyone would like to serve as a correspondent for the site, I'd be much obliged. I won't be responsible for any parasites you might pick up though. That's completely on you, bucko. If you contract a heart worm, don't come whining to me.

That's all for today. I may post some pictures of the snow later, but I make no promises. I took time in the middle of writing this crap to shovel the driveway, and now I'm shaking like Janet Reno at a rubber band shooting contest. I feel like eating a Jethro Bodine-sized bowl of stew, and watching Sudden Impact. Nobody fucks with Harry Callahan! Or stew.

See ya.

Here are a few pics of the snow I snapped today.

             

January 4, 2002

-- I blew my pants out yesterday at work. I was walking to the cafeteria for my one o'clock feeding, when I felt something give-way down below. I was moving along at a pretty good clip, when it suddenly felt like my pants came unzipped. The hell? I ducked behind a rack and began examining my crotch. I was conscious of how it might look on security cameras, but I had to get to the bottom of this. Pants don't just unzip themselves -- at least that's been my experience. Unfortunately, it's not as easy to see my crotch as it used to be, but I was able to figure out that the teeth of the zipper had just said fuck it, and gave up the ship. It was still attached at the top, but everything had pulled apart down where it counted. Oh great, this was just fucking superb. Five hours to go in the day and I could feel a breeze on my dick! I untucked my shirt and let it hang down over the crime scene, but I felt like the world was mentioning my unmentionables as soon as I left each room. I spent the rest of the day sitting at my desk, or with a prop file-folder held up strategically in front of me. Man, it's getting pretty sad.

-- I'm not going to go into the details of my new year's resolution, this ain't Oprah: The Magazine, but it's the same one I have every year. I'll check back with you in a month or two, and let you know how it's going. By the way, I mean it this time... I'm completely disgusted with myself; I've turned a vital corner of disgust. I'm now a walking, talking, flesh and blood Homer Simpson.

-- Since I'm still suffering with this hick hack, I'm glad to have a couple of quality reader contributions to pass along. The more you folks write, the less I have to do! Here's one from Rocky in the Insane Asylum that I think you'll enjoy. Thanks Rock, as always.

-- And here's what Eugene (AKA Max DeMeaner, the pride of Greensboro radio) had to say, in response to the story about my friend Mike stealing a yellow flashing light from a construction site. Thanks, man.

-- I picked up a copy of the new Tom Waits compilation yesterday, Used Songs. It's all older stuff, pre-swordfishtrombones, and is another ass-kicking anthology from Rhino Records. I'm listening to it as I type this. Very jazzy and boozy. Good stuff. And, as does most things, it reminds me of a story... When I was in the "record biz," back in the Atlanta days, I had a boss who'd been around the block a few times. He'd started in the early '70s, and had seen his share of debauchery. He told me that Tom Waits was in town, around 1975 or so, and was supposed to stop by the office to meet and greet everyone. They waited and waited and finally, a couple of hours after the scheduled arrival time, he stumbled through the door. He was reportedly dressed like a bum, stunk to high heavens, and was carrying five beers by the plastic six-pack ring. He was also shit-faced drunk. Apparently nobody could understand his mumblings, and he continually fidgeted around with a cigarette. I can just imagine the expressions of the secretaries, especially the old black ladies. Eventually he flopped down in a chair, slid down so far he was practically sitting on his spine, and fell asleep. Before leaving he managed to blow vomit all over the bathroom, in the general direction of the sinks, and to catch a trashcan on fire. There's something to be said for good old-fashioned promotion. I bet not a single person who was there that day ever forgot the name Tom Waits, and they didn't even have to buy billboards or newspaper advertising or anything. Very nice.

Well, that's all I'm gonna do today. I've gotta get through one more workday, and then I'm gonna lay around until Monday. Hopefully I won't cause a pair of pants to explode and fly off my ass today. Have a great weekend, everyone.

January 2, 2002

I'm not feeling too hot, so I'm gonna make this brief.

-- I've got the hick hack. A few days before Christmas Toney complained about being in line at K-Mart, in front of a trashy holler-dwelling family who were hocking and hacking like they were in the beginning stages of tuberculosis. They were reportedly filling the air with illness, without even bothering with the ceremonial gesture of covering their nasty ol' rind holes. "I'm gonna be sick in a couple of days, just wait," she said. And she was right. A day or two later she woke up with a sore throat, and it eventually morphed into a scary, seal-like cough -- which I dubbed "the hick hack." But now I've got it, and it's not so funny anymore. Uncivilized shitstacks. My chest feels like it's packed full of Brillo pads, and my throat hurts like a bastard. My voice started to go yesterday afternoon, and I'm already barking like a dog. May a thousand-year plague be visited upon their '78 Charger!

-- Well, we made it through another New Year's Rockin' Eve, or whatever, without anything horrible happening. That's a relief. I heard people complaining about all the police presence at Times Square, but shit man, think of the alternative. If something would've happened, those same people would be whining about not being properly protected -- well, them or their next of kin. You can't win. I'm just glad everything went OK. Now we can all look forward to seeing Bon Jovi up there on stage again next year.

-- Yesterday we went to the mall. I wanted to see if they'd marked down their calendars yet, plus we just needed to get out of the damn house. The calendars were fifty-percent off, but that ain't low enough. I'll wait a week or two more, and maybe get a few for a dollar each. Oh sure, I might have to settle for the Connecticut Countryside calendar, or the Biker Bear calendar, but what do I care? I only draw the line at the greased-up gay man looking wistfully over his shoulder in ripped jean shorts calendars. Anything else is cool with me.

As we were walking into the mall, I started wishing I'd popped a couple of aspirins before leaving home. My various aches and pains were kicking, probably agitated by the imminent onset of hick hack. Everything was hurting mildly, so I stopped at a little newsstand just inside the entrance and bought a travel-sized tin of Bayer from Muhammed Atta. Then I started looking around for a water fountain so I could wash the bastards down. Of course, they have businesses in that mall that sell soft drinks, so there were no water fountains to be found. Shit. I didn't want or need a two-dollar Coke the size of a table lamp, I just needed a swallow of good ol' Scranton tap water. Screw 'em, I thought, I'm not giving in to their evil games. I'll just try to choke two of 'em down dry. Have you ever tried that? I started gagging and coughing in the back of a shoe store, and very nearly filled a Bass loafer with my breakfast. Holy fuck.

Wiping the tears out of my eyes, I spied a kiosk in the middle of the mall with about fifty bubble gum machines bolted to it. I decided I'd buy a handful of Skittles, to try to take the bitter taste out of my mouth. I confirmed that I had a quarter, found the correct machine and placed the coin in the proper slot. But when I turned the lever, one single piece of candy came out! Twenty-five cents for an individual Skittle! It never stops, I swear it never stops.

We went into Spencer's to see if they'd added any new Spongebob items to their shelves, and a very young kid was yelling for his parents to come take a look at something. They finally acknowledged his existence and sauntered over. The kid pressed a button and a man made of plastic instantly jerked into motion on a high shelf. It bent over, pulled down its pants, and shouted, "You can kiss my ass!!" Very lovely. The mother gasped, and said, "Oh honey, I don't think that's appropriate," and herded her family the hell out of there. Of course I was laughing hysterically, and the dad shot me a dirty look on his way out. Oh, lighten up Charlie.

We walked around a half-dozen or so stores, including The Gap which had hampster-music blaring so loud I was nearly in tears, and got out of there. When we'd arrived one of us commented that it wasn't very crowded, but by the time we left it was like a Moroccan street fair. There are few things in this world that get on my nerves more than big crowds, so I was beginning to bitch a little. Usually I'm a sunny individual who sees the best in every situation, but that fucking place was getting under my skin. So our big outing came to an abrupt end.

-- We had a traditional Southern New Year's meal last night: Ham, cooked cabbage, and blackeyed peas. I think each symbolizes something, but I don't have any idea what, we just go with the flow. Toney had a hell of a time finding blackeyed peas in Scranton. She finally went to the biggest grocery store I've ever seen in my entire life, Wegman's, and had to ask a member of the staff to help her find them. The person wrinkled her nose and told her to try the international section. Excuse me, but the South is not a foreign country. I'm thinking about contacting Jesse Jackson about this outrage! I bet he could shake their ass down, like he did Toyota. Yeah, maybe that's not such a good idea... Anyway, we had the traditional dinner, and once again I realized that blackeyed peas are one of the shittiest foods in the entire world. They taste like potting soil. Fuck. What were we thinking? Everything else was good though, and we plowed ahead.

After dinner we watched yet another movie, which leads me to...another round of but-reviews.

-- I've watched a scary number of flicks over the past few weeks, and I watched three more this past weekend. Here they are.

Cabin Boy: One of the funniest movies ever but most people would disagree.

Female Trouble: Hilariously mean-spirited early John Waters film but it goes on a bit too long.

Traffic: Intriguing and well-done but a little artsy-fartsy and confusing.

That'll do it for today, kiddies. Happy new year.

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