The State Of My       Fat Ass
MAY 2001
  
   

May 29, 2001

I'm relieved and disappointed at the same time. "Nancy" is here as I type this and, of course, she's the hedge-pitted, militant vegetarian, left-of-Nader, uber-environmentalist friend of the family who rarely disappoints in providing a hemp sack full of incredible stories whenever she visits. I get a lot of pleasure out of laughing at her, but I have to admit this stay has been an uncharacteristically easy-going affair. She's here with her so-called husband, and their two young boys, and I think the pressures of parenthood have helped knock them off their high-horse -- at least temporarily. Things have gone amazingly well, and things never go well when Nancy's in town. I don't think she has the energy anymore to be as zealously judgmental and superior as she once was. Being absolutely correct about absolutely everything is a lot of work, and she's just not up to the task at the moment. Fatigue can sometimes bring out the best in a person.

Like during our recent visit with Toney's cousin and aunt in Philadelphia, the highlights have been few and far between, but there were some notable moments...

For instance, the so-called husband still eats like a goddamn pig; nothing's changed there. I've been kicking around for nearly forty years, and I've never seen or heard anything quite like it. You better run for cover whenever this man sits down in front of a plate of food. The smacking and chomping is simply unbelievable, and the flaring of his giant banana-shaped nostrils that goes along with it is like something off The X-Files.

A while back we were forced to watch an hour-long video about the first year of their oldest son's life, and there's a scene where the kid is sitting at the dinner table in a high chair. The camera is on the baby, but Dad is nearby smacking up a storm. He's off-camera but his lips can be heard slapping and slurping clearly through the mic. I worked so hard at suppressing laughter watching that shit, I thought I would wake up the next morning with six-pack abs. They should show it at parties.

And Toney, knowing all this, decided to prepare a huge platter of nachos one day this weekend. Nachos! Talk about asking for it. It sounded like a car wreck, I swear to god. The speed, the volume, the violence, the intensity...you don't want to look, but you just can't help yourself. We were fools to not be wearing protective eye gear. Once it was all over I said a silent prayer. I was thankful we'd all made it through without injury.

Yesterday morning Nancy came out of the bedroom wearing a t-shirt that said "Mild-mannered women rarely make history", or something to that effect. The slurper indicated casually that he was going to have a cup of our normal-people coffee, and this sent Nancy flying into a panic. "You can't have full-caf!!" she screamed, "What are you thinking?!" It was as if the man had proposed a game of Russian roulette. He quickly came to his senses, and French-pressed a few oily black dirt clods or some godawful shit, into a nasty chipped mug they probably dug out of an Indian burial mound in Peru. Disaster narrowly averted, order restored...history in the making.

On Sunday we went to a state park to get some fresh air, and to let their l'il translucent vegans burn off some of their soy energy. When we pulled into the parking lot there was a group of black people standing by a car, blasting hip-hop at a fuck-you volume. As we were walking, Nancy asked me if there is a large East Indian community here. In Scranton?! I asked her why she would think so. She said she thought the people in the parking lot were most likely from Afghanistan, based on their music (?) and skin color, and her "husband" said he thought they were a little darker than Afghans, that they're probably from East Timor. I was speechless. I guess I should've picked up on their traditional native garb: black baggy jeans and Tommy Hilfiger shirts. It was a group of black people getting ready to have a goddamn picnic, not a landmark melding of international cultures. What an impressive load of horseshit these people can shovel!

There were a few other little incidents as well, like when she emerged from the kitchen and said to me, "I hate to ask a man for help, but I can't get this lid off this jar." You could tell she was being sincere, and I felt a pang of guilt for possessing superior wrist strength. Wotta brutish asshole. And she also went off on an entertaining diatribe about the fact that most of the voice-overs on the video their kid watches (about Canadian road construction!) are done by men. This, of course, is a slap in every woman's face, the world 'round. Also, she couldn't get over the low price of groceries when she accompanied Toney to the store on Saturday. It goes without saying that she shops only at co-ops and funky Birkenstock freak markets, and she has no idea what things cost in the real world. She told Toney she pays six dollars for a single organic red pepper! Her grocery bill is reportedly between six and seven hundred dollars A MONTH, but she considers it "philanthropy." I consider it something else altogether.

But all in all it hasn't been so bad. Absent are the snooty comments about our televisions, our lackluster attempts at recycling, our commercial produce, our meat consumption, our non-German cars built in this half-century, our consumerism, our lack of sophistication, our typical American ways, our knowledge of baseball standings, our two refrigerators, our daily showers, etc. etc.

All hail lack of sleep!


May 24, 2001

We here at the Surf Report Compound realize that television is evil. We're aware of its ability to transform normal functioning adults into lethargic Cheeto-dusted meat sacks, and how it robs folks of valuable time that could otherwise be spent on more rewarding endeavors, such as reading or hollering at each other. And that's probably why we only watch five shows a week. If it weren't for the terrible, terrible guilt associated with the experience, we'd probably allow ourselves to get sucked into plenty more programs. For instance, I've never watched The Practice, ER, The West Wing, The Sopranos (except on DVD), Law & Order, any of those "reality" shows like Survivor, and countless others that people jabber on about all the time. I don't watch them for the same reason I've never got into illegal drugs -- I'm afraid I'd like it too much. But I'm not a complete puritan; I do occasionally dabble in the dark world of network television, and I'm gonna feel the post-season finale letdown like everyone else. (Thank God for the Atlanta Braves and their 120 televised games every summer.) In case you give a damn, here's a run-down of the Five Shows we allow to be piped into the Compound. Only time will tell if they prove to be gateway shows that ultimately lead us to more frightening and destructive fare, like Dharma and Greg and Becker. Weíre headed down a dangerous path I know, but weíve always lived on the edge.

-- Boston Public A prime-time soap opera, created by David E. Kelley, set in the fictional Winslow High School in Boston. Lots of colorful, distinctive characters, led by the bear-like principal Steven Harper. Most of the staff has memorable soap opera names, like Scott Guber, Harvey Lipshultz, Harry Senate, Milton Buttle, etc., and they continually find themselves involved in the most incredible situations. Every episode is just one thing after another. Itís relentless - and a hell of a lot of fun. The final scene of the season revealed that an honor student has his drill sergeant-like mother tied to a chair and gagged in their basement. I guess heís finally had enough of her shit. The show is really funny, and fast-moving, and the producers donít seem to have a problem killing off, or otherwise dispatching, any of the characters. Itís literally unpredictable. Itís also over-the-top and ridiculous. I love it.

-- Ed Along with Nickelodeon's Spongebob Squarepants, this is probably my favorite show on television. It comes from David Lettermanís production company, Worldwide Pants, and is written and created by ex-Late Show honchos Rob Burnett and Jon Beckerman. Itís about Ed Stevens, a New York City lawyer who, after losing his job, returns home to catch his wife in bed with their mailman. Following that memorable day, he retreated to his hometown of Stuckeyville, bought the local bowling alley, and set up his law offices there. As ludicrous as that premise seems, it works. Like with the old Andy Griffith Show (the greatest show of all time), the strength of Ed is in the writing and the casting. The shows are wacky and hilarious, but also sometimes touching. And the characters, including the supporting cast, are played to perfection. The kid who plays Warren, the teenage geek, should win an Emmy. Heís genius. And Phil Stubbs, the lunatic bowling alley manager, is a pleasing goofball. I like everything about the show, but I have to admit I was mildly disappointed by the season closer. Would they just let Ed and Carol get it on already? Shit! Both of them want it.

-- Everybody Loves Raymond Another great show from Worldwide Pants - and this oneís really well-written and character-driven as well. Rayís irritating family, who live across the street, is the key. Both the mother and father are hilarious, and the guy who plays the brother is a master at reacting to the lunacy around him. Like Jack Benny, he can have you soiling yourself without saying a word. Some episodes are funnier than others, but when theyíre funny theyíre really funny. The final show of the season was nothing out of the ordinary; no cliffhangers or surprises, which is fine by me. Interesting factoid: the guy who plays the dad, Peter Boyle, used to be John Lennonís best friend. Heís an old man now, and I have a really hard time imagining him as a young hipster, on the scene. Bizarre.

-- Friends Getting a little ragged around the edges, but still sporadically funny. I enjoy seeing what size Chandlerís going to be from week to week; thatís the real entertainment these days. Sometimes heís horribly skinny, with a big light bulb head and giant Chicklet-sized teeth sticking out of his mouth (what the hellís the crazy dentures all about?!), and then bloated and puffy the very next week. Iím no doctor, but all that contracting and expanding canít be a good thing. Holy crap. Anyway, in the final episode Chandler and Monica finally tie the knot, and the big surprise ending was that Rachel may be pregnant. I watch it nearly every week, and I canít remember her doing any recent screwing. I guess thatís the part that ďwill keep you talking all summer.Ē I donít know about that. I had to stop and think to remember what the episode was about before writing this. Extra points: Kathleen Turner as Chandler's dad.

-- Malcolm in the Middle A great show about a middle class couple with four hell-raising sons. The one that got me hooked was from last season, when Malcolm and the kid in the wheelchair sneak out at night to go to the arcade. Somehow the wheelchair is stolen, and Malcolm has to drag the kid home on a big sheet of plywood. I instantly knew this wasnít just some retarded sitcom. Also, the episode where the family pulls together to beat the hell out of a group of clowns was excellent, as was the one where the boys rigged up a giant slingshot on their roof and launched various wads of grossness onto unsuspecting neighbors. Heck, there are lots of great episodes. Both the mother and the father are stellar, and the kids do a pretty good job too. When I grow up, I want to be a writer for a show like this one. Not to be missed.

And thatís that. As I mentioned, I also watch Spongebob Squarepants whenever I possibly can, as well as Braves baseball and some political stuff like Hardball, The OíReilly Factor, and Hannity & Colmes.

Pretty exciting stuff, huh? Next week Iíll discuss the social significance of everything in my underwear drawer, or perhaps present an exhaustive overview of antiperspirants.

May 21, 2001

Weekend update:

-- On Saturday we drove to Philadelphia to spend a few hours with Toney's cousin and aunt, and their family. It was fairly non-eventful, although before we met them we did browse around IKEA, and had Chick-fil-A for lunch. I'd wanted to have breakfast at Chick-fil-A as well, but we got a late start and screwed ourselves. Another missed opportunity. I cursed myself the rest of the day for not being more aggressive and pro-active in our pursuit of chicken and biscuits. This is no way to live a life. But the glass is half full; we managed to have lunch there, and it was damn good. Those fundamentalist Christians sure know how to cook up a chicken!

The Philadelphia annex of Toney's family are what you might call well-to-do. Her cousin lives in a neighborhood that undoubtedly includes surgeons and high-powered lawyers. The houses are large, the cars expensive, and the lands impressively scaped. They're all nice people, and unfortunately don't give me much ammunition for ridicule and mockery. I can't tell you how frustrating it is. The rest of Toney's family are like wildly-exaggerated sitcom characters, and these people are so normal and civilized. The bastards.

It was slim pickings, but there were a couple of minor highlights. At one point Toney's aunt went on at length about a pair of oven mitts she had bought, that are apparently the gold-standard of such items. She said you can wear them and pour boiling water over your hands, and not even feel it. I thought that was pretty amusing. I pictured her in her kitchen wearing her new mitts, with her hands plunged inside bubbling pots of water, her head thrown back in maniacal laughter.

Also Toney's cousin's in-laws came by, and they're very, very Italian. I believe they were actually born in Italy, but in any case they're the real deal. They brought a big bag of peas in the pod from their garden, and everyone started eating them raw and remarking about how "tender" they were. They were pretty good, I must admit, but I can't vouch for their tenderness, as compared to other raw peas I've had in the past. Somehow they got on the subject of their honeymoon, which took place in 1951. They had gone to a resort in upstate New York, near Niagara Falls, and Mickey Mantle and Billy Martin were there. They said the pair of Yankees stayed drunk the entire time they were there, drinking lots of beer and a green cocktail they're pretty sure is called a Grasshopper. Great story, except for the sissy mixed drink part. I don't want to think of The Mick with an umbrella in his glass, thank you very much.

All in all it was a pleasant day spent with sane people. Believe me, it hurts me more than it hurts you.

-- On our drive home I became goofy with fatigue. I kept nodding off behind the wheel, and I was twitching like Andy Rooney. We pulled off the Turnpike to get out of the car for a few minutes, and to buy some caffeine. I was still loopy when I went in pursuit of giant Mountain Dews, and I somehow got turned around and managed to lose my wife and our vehicle -- in the parking lot of a convenience store. Although I'm embarrassed to admit this, I went in one door and out another, and found myself completely baffled. Nothing was as it was before, and I momentarily panicked. Of course, Toney was watching all this from the car and laughing hysterically. It was like something off cartoons.

-- Saturday night I had a few Yuenglings and watched Full Metal Jacket on DVD. I think I'm the only person in the world who had never seen it. Great flick, and now I can feel fully informed the next time somebody launches into, "Ahh, me so horny...I love you long time, Joe...fucky fucky...sucky sucky..." I'm a more well-rounded person today.

-- Sunday morning I went out to mow the grass, and there was a neighbor a few doors down messing around in his yard as well. As I was filling the mower with gas in our driveway, a woman in a minivan drove up and stopped halfway between the neighbor and me. She rolled down her window and said, "I'll pray for you two this morning -- IN CHURCH!" Shit lady, I know it's the Sabbath but doesn't all that Christian chicken count for anything?

-- Sunday afternoon we went to a Scranton/Wilkes -Barre Red Barons - Toledo Mud Hens game. The tickets were from work, and the seats were practically on the field. We sat above the visitor's dugout, on the third base line, and the players were about six feet from us. Of course the whole time I was thinking about all the horrible things that could happen. Every time a left-handed batter came to the plate I was convinced he would rocket a line drive off my temple, and I'd spend the next forty years in a wheelchair shitting in a bag. I was also leery of taking a length of shattered bat through the neck, but surprisingly nothing like that happened. However, we did see a group of nine or ten year old boys walking around the concession area with bats held to their crotches, simulating masturbation. That was nice. And I got carded by a humorless man with a severe under-bite when I bought a Mt. Pocono Lager, which made me happy. And they played a high-energy dance number between innings with the chorus: "Smells like shit...goddamn!" Very interesting indeed. There's nothing like minor league baseball. It's as American as it gets.

May 17, 2001

A few very random things:

-- I was sitting in a restaurant earlier this week and didn't even really notice the music playing softly in the background. It's non-intrusive by design, after all. But then my ears suddenly perked up and I couldn't believe what I was hearing. Above all the lip-smacking and the silverware clanking "8:05" by Moby Grape came on. Moby Grape! Mixed in with the likes of America and Christopher Cross. Somebody at the Horrible Background Music Co. of Baltimore has been cursed with good taste, and a subversive streak. I hope he's saving his money.

-- This past Tuesday the primary elections were held in our little town, and candidates were out going door to door trying to scare up a few extra votes. One guy, who was running for mayor (he got stomped like a bug), stopped by to bad-mouth the current mayor for five or ten minutes, and he told me something I find to be incredible. He said that police officers here make seventy to seventy-seven thousand dollars a year! Shit! It's not exactly Fort Apache, The Bronx -- nothing ever happens. I bet the cops in South Central LA (or Beverly Hills) don't make that much. What's the deal? No wonder our taxes are at Canadian levels. Something fishy's going on here. What's Rush Limbaugh's number?

-- Well, they've finally rendered Napster impotent. The world's now safe from the menacing specter of rampant clandestine downloading of "The Devil Went Down to Georgia." We can all sleep a little easier. Now that that's out of the way, let's move on to wiping out that pesky cancer!

-- On Saturday we're going to Philadelphia to spend the day with Toney's cousin and aunt. Philly, of course, has a lot to offer. Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, the Franklin Museum, South Street...the list goes on and on. But I'm fixated on one thing, and one thing only: a Chick-fil-A in every mall! I'm going to try to work it out so we have at least three meals there during the day. And I may take a cooler to haul back chicken salad. Only two days left, and counting...

-- I watched the Behind the Music episode about Journey earlier in the week, and Steve Perry needs the shit kicked out of him.

-- I mentioned that I'm going to be traveling to Greensboro, NC next month for a reunion of sorts with some folks I used to work with at a record store there. We've been e-mailing back and forth, working out the details and doing a little advance reminiscing. All this has caused me to recall a freak who used to come in the store when I was night manager. This guy would call us up and ask if we had a particular classical LP in stock, and if we didn't he'd keep going until he found one we did have. Then he'd request that the album be put into a plastic shopping bag, and taped down real tight. Then a second bag should be taped on top of the first one. He wanted us to use a lot of Scotch tape, this seemed to be very important to him, and he wanted us to make sure it was an extremely tight little bundle when he got there to pick it up. Against my better judgment we would do this (we were a full service record store), and the guy would come in and stand there, rub the tape and lapse into a state of sexual euphoria. He'd stroke it lovingly, as his eyes glazed over and rolled back into his head. I've never seen anything like it. One of the other workers swore that the man had lengths of Scotch tape lining his forearms under his jacket. I shit you not.

May 14, 2001

A few things:

-- I watched the McCartney special Friday night, and it was pretty interesting. I'd never seen (or don't remember seeing) most of the archival footage shown, and the "interview" of Paul by his daughter, that ran throughout, seemed to be honest and devoid of pretension. I use the term interview loosely, because it mostly consisted of Paul talking, and his daughter grunting in agreement. But I enjoyed his candor when discussing such touchy subjects as Yoko, and the Japan pot bust. I also liked seeing the footage of the McCartney family living in a literal shack in Scotland after the Beatles broke up, with all their money frozen by Beatles-related court action. Here was one of the most famous men in the world living in a dump with rats in the walls. Good stuff. And Paul McCartney on horseback is a memorable image to be sure; it ranks right up there with Telly Savalas underwater in Beyond the Poseidon Adventure. I enjoyed the show, except for one small unsavory detail: Linda really got under my skin. I hesitate to speak ill of the dead (yeah, right), but she irritated me almost every time she appeared on camera. Maybe it's only my perception, but she seemed to have an attitude of being a musical contemporary of Paul's. Her interruptions and attempts at being cute and coy in interviews didn't serve her well at all. I know she died of breast cancer not too long ago, but I sat there thinking, "Yeah lady, your stellar tambourine work made all the difference. Why don't you go take some pictures, and let us talk to your husband?" I'm sorry, but I like her a lot less after seeing this show. Sue me.

-- Speaking of dead people, I saw Dean Martin on TV Land the other night, on some old black & white variety show hosted by Johnny Carson, and he was a riot. One of his lines that I really liked: "I feel sorry for you folks who don't drink. When you wake up in the morning, that's as good as you're going to feel all day." Indeed.

-- I've started work on a new issue of The West Virginia Surf Report, the paper zine, and I'm really jacked up about it. It's in the stage where there's a notebook full of ideas, but almost nothing actually written, and that's the best phase of all. The sky's the limit! It won't be until I start putting words on paper that things will go horribly awry. Right now everything's perfect...inside my head.

-- During the last couple months I've had visitors to this site from the following countries: United Kingdom, Canada, Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Australia, Belgium, France, Ireland, Italy, Malaysia, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, South Africa, Sweden, and Switzerland. I've always suspected that bad taste transcends cultural and geographic lines, and here's the proof.

-- Recently I mentioned the trouble I'm having with "telephone birds", those smart-ass creatures that live in our yard and make noises that sound exactly like the phone ringing. If you didn't believe me, take a look at this. Damn those telephone birds! Damn them!

-- I was very disappointed by Jeff Somers' novel Lifers. I really wanted to hate it, but the bastard had to go and write a good book. How insensitive is that? Jeff, of course, publishes the humor zine The Inner Swine, and has done the unforgivable by selling an actual novel to an actual publisher, thus setting himself up for some deep-dish jealous resentment from less-successful underground writers everywhere. The book is about three post-collegiate buddies living in NYC who are growing disenchanted with their lives, and make a drunken decision one night to commit grand larceny. "The Caper" is supposed to bring them enough money to jump them out of the various ruts they've found themselves in, and most of the book deals with its planning -- over more drinks. The characters are funny and distinctive, and the dialog is real. A couple of scenes made me laugh out loud, and there's an abundance of great lines throughout. I especially enjoyed the section where the narrator, Dub, is coerced into reluctant and awkward sex by a girl he has no feelings for. Although a robbery is plotted and committed, this isn't an adventure story. It's more about the three main characters, and their attitudes toward their all-too-typical situations. At the end of the book, as the trio begins to drift apart, I was horrified to feel a twinge of sadness that they weren't able to remain friends. I actually cared. Damn you, Jeff Somers!  Damn you!

-- I did an actual cartoon double-take while flipping through the local entertainment newspaper over the weekend. I was checking out all the cutting-edge musical talent coming to the area, when I saw an ad for a show that caused my brain to momentarily lock up. See if you can spot what I'm talking about by clicking here.


May 7, 2001

A weekend update:

-- I took a vacation day on Friday, and hung out and did stuff around the house. The major accomplishment was mowing the lawn for the first time this year, and boy did it suck. Our yard is average sized, but it's really sloped and hilly. In fact, on one side of the house everything tilts at about a 45-degree angle, and rises to a rather intimidating altitude (it's above the roof of the house next door!). I've considered tying a rope around my waist for this portion of the job, or at least wearing cleats of some sort. One little slip and I could find myself at the bottom of the hill with my head plunged inside the blade housing. But I made it through (this time) without losing any body parts, and without my cream-filled heart blowing apart in my chest. It was so much easier in California when a team of illegal immigrants converged on our lawn and whipped everything into shape in about fifteen minutes, as I sipped highballs on the porch and hollered "suggestions".

-- Speaking of cream-filled, I caught a glimpse of myself in a full-length mirror this morning and something simply has to be done. Thick is the word that jumped to mind. I look like I'd be at home working in a goddamn butcher shop, with a cigar in the corner of my mouth. I should legally change my name to Jeff "Tiny" Thickman, and learn my cuts of meat. No wonder I was huff-puffing like a fat boy in lead shoes (to paraphrase DEVO) behind that lawnmower -- I'm a mess. I guess the results of my twenty-year 'all beer/no exercise' experiment are starting to come in.

-- I also washed my truck Friday, only to wake up on Saturday to find it completely covered in pollen. It looks like an extended cab tennis ball. That's just wonderful. Big, cocky trees spent the night blowing their sperm all over my clean vehicle. How much longer to fall? I'm gonna get a lot of personal satisfaction in watching their shit shrivel up and fall off.

-- Friday night I saw a couple new episodes of Spongebob Squarepants, and one of them had music provided by Pantera! Could that show be any cooler?

-- On Saturday Toney and I "celebrated" Cinco de Mayo by eating spinach quesadillas and nachos, and drinking lots and lots of margaritas. I know this may be shocking, and I probably shouldn't admit it, but we had no idea what we were celebrating. We just used it as a flimsy excuse to eat and drink to excess. Please don't hate us.

-- As we celebrated foreign cultures by getting drunk in our family room, we also got sucked into a VH1 special about the 100 greatest rock 'n' roll moments on TV. It was pretty interesting, and had some good bits mixed in amongst the many cheap, calculated stunts by Madonna. I'd never seen Bob Dylan's television debut on the Johnny Cash show, for instance, and the Sex Pistols appearance on the British Today Show is always fun. But the thing that struck me the most were the commercials. I had no idea that vaginal dryness is such a problem in this country. We kept seeing ads for jugs of a clear liquid, made by the good folks at KY, that is apparently the answer to many a people's prayers. Toney said, over a salted margarita glass, "What are you supposed to do, stop in the middle of something and just slather it on?" Call me naive, but I wasn't aware that hordes of American women are apparently being driven by their devastating lack of personal moisture to purchase supplementary vaginal fluids over the counter. When I go back to work I need to make sure my retirement funds are positioned appropriately. I need to be on the forefront of this thing. In thirty years I'd like to point to our vacation home in Hilton Head, and be able to say, "A nation of bone-dry vaginas bought us that!"

-- On Sunday I was walking in the park close to our house and some kid plowed into me on a bicycle. One zipped past at about 20 mph, then a second later another ran into the back of my legs, and brought my big ass down. We tumbled in a big pile, and when everything finally came to a stop he had a look of absolute terror on his face, like, "Oh shit, I've done it now." I was mildly irritated, but managed to laugh it off (despite the blood trickling down my left leg), and he seemed relieved. But in a sixth grade classroom, somewhere in Clarks Summit, PA, a kid will be telling a story about how he knocked down a fat man in the park, for days to come. Of that I'm certain.

May 4, 2001

A few more things:

-- Hanging out in our backyard is a bird (or group of birds, who the hell knows?) that makes a sound almost exactly like our telephone ringing. Whenever the thing goes off, it triggers an instinctive reaction and I start the preliminary process of moving toward the phone. Then a split-second later I realize itís just that damned bird again, and I get really annoyed. Iím pretty sure itís mocking me (itís not like I canít hear the other birds laughing). One of these days Iím going to snap, and take to the yard in my draw's, screaming and waving a tennis racket -- which will only confirm what the neighbors already suspect about me. If it's not one thing it's another. God, how I hate telephone birds.

-- So, Tom Cruise is suing some guy whoís going around LA claiming to be his homosexual lover? Big deal. I was called Jeff Gay almost daily when I was in junior high, and I never turned to litigation. But you know how hyper-sensitive some of those gay guys can be...especially the really short ones.

-- I've been listening to a lot of Lynyrd Skynyrd lately. Every spring this happens. Winter's finally over and it's time to put away all those depressing discs by fey and brittle Brits, like Belle and Sebastian, and break out something with a little more muscle. Every spring I turn to classic rock stuff from my youth, and it doesn't get much better than Ronnie Van Zant-era Lynyrd Skynyrd. As I was enjoying Disc Two from their boxset, I started thinking about the bad rap this band gets. To hipsters and scenesters, Lynyrd Skynyrd is nothing but a punch line, and it's not fair. Van Zant was a hell of a great songwriter, and he was no stereotypical backwoods hick either. If people could wipe the smirk off their smug and pasty faces long enough to actually listen to their records, they might be surprised at how sophisticated they are. They were singing about race relations, handgun control, and the horrors of drugs -- way back in the '70s, when most other rock bands were almost exclusively concerned with getting stoned and fucking. I think it's the band's fans who've tarnished their image. The shirtless, drunken, snaggle-toothed shitbags holding up their warm cups of Old Milwaukee and screaming, "Free Bird!!!" have provided the accepted image, not the band. It's too bad history hasn't been kinder to their memory, because they were great. And it's also too bad the remaining members continue to tour under the Lynyrd Skynyrd name, because without Ronnie Van Zant they're nothing but a cheap tribute band.

-- There was a plastic card on my Wendy's tray yesterday that can be redeemed at a local clinic for a free cholesterol check. It seems a bit strange that a fast-food chain would be involved in something like this. It's like a donut shop offering no-cost ass measurements. Or a comic book store sponsoring a prom.

-- I saw a truck today that had painted on its side: "Your scaffolding and bendable vinyl coil answers!" Talk about niche marketing.

-- And finally, a rare transcript of life inside the bunker; this is an actual conversation that took place between me and my wife on Thursday morning:

Toney: You know what we should make this weekend?

Jeff: Sweet, sweet love?

Toney: No, deviled eggs.

May 1, 2001

A few things:

-- Those pains in the asses down at the health department have shut down my favorite local watering hole: John K's Pub! I'm stunned. How could this happen?! That place was an institution. Who cares if their kitchen was steeped in filth? If you're foolish enough to actually order food in a dump like that, you get what you deserve. No amount of government regulations can completely protect people from their own stupidity. Anyway, the squalor was a big part of the charm. Stinking busy-body bureaucrats, hell-bent on screwing around with anything that adds color to our bleak everyday lives. I drove by there Sunday, and the windows were covered in newspaper, as if the citizens need to be protected from even seeing inside, and two men were carrying out a large stainless steel cooler. I'm not ashamed to admit a single lager tear escaped one of my bloodshot eyes.

-- Thanks to the new Who Wants to be a Millionaire? game, I found myself sitting in a booth at McDonaldís yesterday afternoon mumbling to myself, ďBenjamin Netanyahu? Yes, I think itís Benjamin NetanyahuĒ, and then the former prime minister of Israel helped me score a free breakfast sandwich. I could not have predicted this event when I got out of bed yesterday.

-- While the in-laws were driving cross-country, returning to Americaís Anus (Sparks, Nevada), they found a large bag of dope on the floor of a gas station bathroom. What to do? Should they hand it over to the police? Turn it in to the stationís manager? Flush it down the toilet, so it doesnít end up in the wrong hands? Yes, those are all good options butÖthey smoked it.

-- I love the Beatles, and really like Paul McCartney in theory, but whatís he doing wasting Colin Powellís time with his hippie-dippie cause du jour? Heís a singer, dammit -- write a frigginí song about it. Oh thatís right, he canít write songs anymore because of his devastating nuclear-winter marijuana burnout. I canít believe Powell even agreed to talk to him. I think ďThe Cute BeatleĒ is on a landmine kick (so to speak), because his new girlfriend is missing a leg and landmines can cause girlfriends to lose legs, or something along those lines. But it doesnít sound like he got very far with the Secretary of State. I imagine Colin ending the meeting, ďIíd like to help you Paul, I really like Say, Say, Say and everything, but I donít think the timingís rightÖcould you send in Eddie Money on your way out?Ē

-- Thereís a sign on the bulletin board at work that says the companyís offering free English lessons to all employees who desire them. Forget the fact that the sign itself is in English, but this is Scranton, Pennsylvania for godsakes -- not exactly a swirling sociological petri dish. This place is, to paraphrase Nick Lowe, so white, so white, refrigerator white. Maybe they should offer lessons in how to merge onto a goddamn freeway. Or how to talk without hollering. Or ways to temper the urge to be an overbearing know-it-all asshole. You know, something that could actually do the people some good.

-- On a related note, I've been craving Chinese food for a few days, but this area doesn't have much to offer along those lines. The few places I've been brave enough to try serve up gloopy and sticky piles of crap shot through with shiny gray "meat." Damn, I'd kill for a half order of orange chicken from Frontier Wok in Burbank right about now. Anyway, I started thinking about how a bunch of us at work used to go to a really good Chinese restaurant a couple days a week when we were in Atlanta. After we ordered our lunch combos by number (I always got #7 -- cashew chicken), my boss would invariably say, "It doesn't matter which one you order, it's all gonna end up as #2 eventually." It was as inevitable as the sunrise.

-- So Pete Buck got shit-faced on an airplane and went berserk when they cut off his flow of alcohol, shoved a few people and hurled a cup of yogurt at someone? Excellent. Thatís the way musicians are supposed to act. See, this man obviously still has a lot to offer. And I bet he doesnít give a ratís ass about landmines. Rock on, you crazy swollen-headed bastard!

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