The State Of My       Fat Ass
JUNE 2001
  
   


June 29, 2001

A few very random things:

-- I just about soiled my panties earlier in the week when my boss showed up at my office unannounced. Since I'm in Scranton and he's based in southern California, I don't see much of him. And on the rare occasion that he does visit, I'm certainly told in advance. But I was sitting at my desk Wednesday morning and heard his voice. I thought I was hallucinating, but there he was talking to the department secretary! I'm his only employee here, and a surprise visit could only mean one thing. Sweet mother of Jesus, I thought, this is it: balls are about to be separated from their host. My heart sank. I was going to be unemployed in Scranton, PA! How did I get to this point; who could've predicted it? Dear god, what would I do?! But apparently there was nothing to it. He had a meeting with some hotshot in another division, and business in NYC the following day. We talked for a couple of hours, he thanked me for my efforts, and was gone. Holy shit.

-- On a related note, the sister company where I worked for ten years recently offered everyone over the age of fifty, and with ten year's service, a generous early retirement package. Consequently, today is the last day for a lot of people who I've known for a dozen years, and I've been making calls all week saying my goodbyes. It's a little sad, but not terribly so. Almost all of them are bitter and jaded, unlike me, and I can't help but think this is a good thing for them. Most will never have to work again, for god's sake. But I was talking to an ex-boss in Atlanta earlier in the week, and he started trying to sell me on Amway. Amway! He'd been fully indoctrinated into the cult, I could hear it in his voice. I've been around other people who've fallen under this insidious spell, and they all take on the same unnatural cadence in their speech, and use the same scripted phrases. I have little doubt he goes down to the Porsche dealership and sits in their cars for inspiration too; they all do. Heck, the sky's the limit! The key to the universe, to unlimited riches and previously unknown happiness, can be found in this simple barely-legal pyramid scheme involving off-brand laundry detergent and dryer sheets! You just have to believe, brother. It's the Scientology of the middle class. And that's sad.

-- Yesterday afternoon I looked at myself in a mirror at work and I had a large zit on the side of my nose. It was roughly the size of a Certs breath mint. Who knows how long I'd been walking around with that thing? How many conversations had it dominated, without my knowledge? (Thinking back, I did notice that people had been taking on a slightly hypnotized look when I spoke to them. I just thought I was a mesmerizing conversationalist.) I'm 38 years old, what's it all about? Zits?! I'm a goddamn mess.

-- Speaking of that, I now weigh 230 lbs. Back when I worked at Peaches I ballooned to 200 once, and the store director told me I was getting a fat ass. I think he thought it would be bad for business, that people would come in and take one look at that ass and hightail it to Record Bar. I swear to God it's true; I can remember exactly where I was standing when he said it. I guess you could probably show the letterbox version of Ben Hur across the damn thing now, and not a single chariot would drop off. My current ass could probably bring down a Wal-Mart.

-- As I was trolling the internet for filth yesterday morning, I stumbled across this picture. It's a personal mind-blower, because it's from my hometown. This game is absolutely real, and has been happening on Thanksgiving day for longer than I've been alive. I think it started back in the '40's. The town is split almost exactly in half by raised railroad tracks, and folks either live on the "hill side" or the "river side." The Commode Bowl pits the Hillside Rams against the River Rats, and is basically an excuse for a bunch of middle-aged barflys to dress up in ridiculous clothes and run around a football field in front of a crowd of cheering "fans." The game itself never interested me much, but the Commode Bowl parade was not to be missed. It usually consisted of a couple of garbage trucks, a marching band, a string of constantly-revving "vintage" (read: Bond-o covered junk heaps) sports cars with a few already-drunken hooligans hooting and hanging out of the windows, some convertibles carrying Miss Plunger and Miss Septic Tank and other dignitaries -- and finally a flatbed truck with a toilet clamped to it and a retarded man sitting on it, waving plungers and brushes in the air to wild and sustained applause. I swear it's all true. These are my roots.

-- And finally, I'd like to share a funny note I received from a reader. It came from Chris in North Carolina, and it's in reaction to my recent mention that I was contemplating the purchase of a tent-trailer.

Hey-

Before you purchase any type of fold out camper/trailer/foldout/living quarters type thing, I thought I'd share this with ya.

Two years ago, before my father in law left his 27 year marriage to pursue sex again with his high school sweetheart and my mother in law pursued an abnormally large new set of tits, they went on a vacation out west. They took my wife's two younger sisters, 8 and 13 at the time, around the country with an above referenced device attached to the back of their car. After showing their young daughters the family fun of Bourbon Street and the safe environment of Houston, they proceeded to venture into the Arizona desert with their traveling apartment.

The wind caught hold of the flattened device and began to waver around behind their car, eventually flipping them over eleven times in the desert. Both my sister in laws got broken ribs, my mother in law got a bloody nose and my father in law got a good ass chewin' from my mother in law for buying such a stupid attachment to the car. The thing opened up and all their belonging for the trip scattered across the open horizon.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, an Indian appeared like a hallucination to Jim Morrison. He helped them gather their belongings, comforted my sister in laws, hit on my mother in law, and proceeded to tell my father in law what an idiot he was for buying such a stupid attachment to his car and putting his family's life at risk in the desert. The Indian then disappeared like a box of crackers in Bosnia.

My inlaw family had to rent a car, drive home and go their separate ways.

If they had only bought a van.....

Thanks, Chris! That's good stuff. I'd never considered that the trailer could act like a hang glider in wind storms, but now that you mention it... I can't seriously see myself dragging around one of those things, but it appeals to the cheap little bastard inside my head.

You guys and gals keep those cards and letters coming. The more you write, the less I have to.

Have a great weekend!


June 26, 2001

A few things:

-- Yesterday morning I grabbed a box of Rice Krispies off the pantry shelf and the bottom flap swung open, instantly dumping roughly fifteen pounds of breakfast cereal at my feet. It was one of those giant twenty-dollar Sam's Club boxes, originally designed for places of business like Denny's, and its contents was all over our kitchen floor. Of course there's little doubt who opened it from the bottom, inner bag and all: it was our esteemed muffin-huffing, banana-nostriled guest from earlier in the week. Only a person with that much education could do something so stupid. Under different circumstances I would've flown off the handle and let my blood-pressure get away from me, but I just calmly cleaned up the mess and moved on. What's the point of letting the dumbasses get you down?

-- I don't know what's happened to me, but this child-killing stuff in Texas (how come the Democrats haven't figured out a way to pin this on Dubya yet?) kinda bothers me. Whenever they show pictures of the kids on the news, it makes my stomach churn. I can't imagine a more horrifying story. I worry that I'm becoming a hyper-emotional Oprah fag. I remember a few years ago, when all the Susan Smith stuff was going on, I didn't feel any of this. Of course she's the chick in South Carolina who shoved her car into a lake with her two kids strapped inside, to impress a revoltingly ugly factory worker. I remember saying to people at the time, "I can't believe a person could do something like that, I bet that thing had less than 30,000 miles on it." I was pretty proud of that line, in fact. But, for whatever reason, I see little humor in this latest episode. And the sympathy this woman is receiving from the public is almost as distressing as the story itself. Today there's justification for any unspeakable act: depression, low self-esteem, frustration... What a nation of pussies we've become. The Chinese Army could take us over in a week, simply by convincing us we aren't loved.

-- A really scary thought has been crossing my mind lately, I've been batting around the idea of buying a tent trailer. I'm thinking it might be a good way for Toney and me to see New England on the cheap, before we're transferred again to God knows where. I have visions of camping on the coast in Maine, drifting off to sleep with lobster butter all over our faces, lighthouses in the distance. In reality, of course, it would be more like Jeff bitching incessantly because he's got sand in his shoe. And goddamn this humidity. And I need a fucking dataport. And what's the deal with all these big-ass bugs, that thing was the size of a Matchbox car?! I'm not the most outdoorsy person, I admit, but I like the idea of paying twelve bucks a night to stay in campgrounds, instead of hotel rates. Hell, we could do some traveling on twelve bucks a night! And in the abstract, I like the idea of staying in a place, instead of just viewing it from a window. But whenever I mention this idea to friends who know me, the unanimous and instant reaction is uproarious laughter, so I guess I should put a little more thought into it.

-- A few days ago I received a mailing for my twentieth high school reunion. Twentieth! Shit. I'm not just dealing in cliches when I say I don't feel as old as I am. Maybe it's the preservatives in all the beer I've consumed, but I honestly don't feel 38. As freaky as it seems, I can actually remember when my parents went to their twentieth: they were older than dirt to me at the time. No, I don't feel as old as I really am, but intellectually I know the clock is ticking and I'd be lying if I said it doesn't bother me. So I was doubly distressed to read that the opening night (the traditional vomit-spewing, tits-out beer bust) is being held at an old fart bar/restaurant. I've never set foot in this place, but when I was a young-buck toll collector I would watch all the sad and awkwardly dressed people filing in every night, from the safety of my toll booth across the street, and shake my head at the seediness of it all. It seemed like a bunch of traveling salesmen, trolling for recently-divorced skank. And they were recently divorced because their traveling salesmen husbands cheated on them. Maybe I'm wrong, but that's the impression I got. Now, apparently, this is our collective speed. How utterly depressing. I guess I should just quit fighting it, and order some Sansabelt slacks out of Parade magazine, get a gold pinky ring and a red sports coat, and start drinking scotch.

-- I received a couple of excellent e-mails in reaction to some recent assays, and I'd like to share them with you here. I'd also like to encourage more of this type of thing. If you have anything to say about any of this crap, please don't be shy. Unless you're a total dick, I'll ask for permission before I reprint anything.

This note is from Jerry Forren in West Virginia, concerning my rant about the power-pissing consultants at my workplace...

Hey Jeff. I have been on vacation for the last week and just this morning had a chance to read the last two updates to the WVSR. I just had to write to tell you that your take on consultants IS my life!!! The company I work for uses consultants for everything. I whole heartedly agree with your assessment!! As for the bathroom story, I have one of my own. Several years ago, I had the usual morning urge, after too much coffee, to go relieve myself. I am all for going in, taking care of business and getting the hell out. You never know when someone will decide to leave you a nice smelly present. Well, here I am....standing at the urinal when one of the newer attorneys at the firm walks in. This guy was an experienced lawyer, not a young buck, but new to our firm. He was hired for his healthcare expertise. Anyway, he walks up to the urinal beside me with a cup of coffee in hand. I am thinking what the hell???????? He proceeded to get his zipper down without spilling his coffee and then assumes the position that you described in your WVSR report. One major exception.......while he is pissing, he proceeds to drain his cup of coffee!!! One of the most fucking bizarre experiences I have ever had. He didn't say a word. He simply finished with both his pissing and his drink and lets out a big ahhhhhhhhhh.!!!!! I just stood there dumbstruck. I don't think I will ever see something like that again!!!! Unloading and reloading at the same time!!!!

Thanks Jerry. I have to admit I've never witnessed a person pouring it in up top, and squirting it out down below either. Let me know if you walk in on anyone taking a dump and eating a plate of spaghetti.

And this comes from MsDeniseWight in California, in reaction to our recent tofu-munching houseguests here at the compound...

Jeff- I am surrounded by the "Vegan Mafia," as I manage at the fifth largest natural foods co op in the United States. Nothing that my customers do or say surprises me anymore. When I reacted in horror to your house guest story, it was solely because of their awful manners, and total lack of consideration towards you and your good lady wife. Here is a good natural foods store story... Let me preface the story by telling you that we have a very large herb and vitamin department, and a staff there that does nothing but answer customer questions. Sometimes people get mixed up and think that the staff of natural foods store clerks are doctors/nutritionists/shrinks. One fine day, a gentleman approached one of the staff, complaining of some sort digestive upset. To emphasize the point, he pulls out a baggie with one of his turds in it, and says something to the effect of "look at this and tell me what is wrong!" We had to ask him to leave and take his bag of shit with him....

I don't know which part is funnier: the fact that a guy was waving around a bag of his own crap in a grocery store, or that some people consult store clerks with their medical questions. These are the same people, I'm sure, who "just can't trust" doctors. Hilarious. Thanks for sharing the story.

Until next time...

June 21, 2001

Remind me to never give anyone the benefit of the doubt again.

“Nancy” and her so-called husband (they were married by an actor, amongst a pack of leaping dogs) have returned from Canada, with visions of wealth-redistribution dancing in their heads, and have taken advantage of a rare vacancy at Jeff and Toney’s Bed and Breakfast Inn & International Youth Hostel.

If you’re a regular visitor here, you’ll remember that Nancy is “the hedge-pitted, militant vegetarian, left-of-Nader, uber-environmentalist friend of the family who rarely disappoints in providing a hemp-sack full of memorable stories whenever she visits.” When they passed through here a couple of weeks ago, on their way to a foreign (and therefore superior) country, I mentioned that they had apparently lost some of their edge. I hypothesized that the birth of their two children had slowed them down a bit, but I obviously jumped the gun on that assessment.

To be fair, they’re not really preaching and adopting their old holier-than-thou tone, they’re simply being a huge pain in the ass. I should say, the fake husband is being a huge pain in the ass. Nancy just seems tired.

Tuesday evening I came home from work and Toney was waiting for me on the driveway. The pseudo-husband wanted beer and we were out, so I needed to go get a case. Instantly I was pissed. “What in the hell has he been doing all day?” I whispered loudly. Toney had already told me earlier that the golden couple had been napping. What kind of man naps? Mumbling “motherfucker” and “son-of-a-bitch” under my breath, I hit the button to raise the garage door. I had barbecue potato chip dust on my hands, and I wanted to wash it off before I ran my freeloader errand. But the door only went up an inch, then back down. The fuck? I tried it again, and got the same result. I tried to raise it by hand, and it was jammed. The handle wouldn’t budge to the left or to the right.

“Maybe you could crawl in the window, and see what’s wrong?” By the time Toney uttered these words, I was livid. We’d never had this problem before, and I had a feeling who was at its root. Now I was going to have to climb up the side of our house, and wedge my fat ass through a window frame in broad daylight. This was like a sitcom. When I went in the house to grab the stepladder, I noticed that some of my clothes were lying on the floor in the hall. When I went back out I asked Toney about it, and she said Nancy had done laundry earlier and must’ve taken my stuff out of the dryer. “And threw them in the goddamn floor!?” I hollered, “Am I on Green Acres?”

I caught Toney suppressing laughter as I worked hard to maneuver my substantial set of butt cheeks through the small hole in the side of the house, getting a bunch of black crap all over my jeans in the process. By this time I wasn’t muttering anymore, I was yelling my “motherfuckers” and “son-of-a-bitches” with much enthusiasm. I somehow got into the garage without knocking my front teeth out, and un-jammed the lock. Toney pushed the button, and the door came up. And with perfect timing, the pseudo-husband came around the corner casually munching on some of our food. “What happened?” he asked between lip smacks. After Toney filled him in, he said, “Oh, I may have had something to do with that…”

Grrrr.

Tuesday night these former (and highly-judgmental) vegans suddenly decided they wanted milk shakes -- he drank one beer, after all that. So they put on a big ten-minute production number deciding where they’d get them, and finally a consensus was reached and Toney and Nancy left in pursuit of filthy, disgusting colon-destroying dairy products. I turned on the Braves game, and popped open a Yuengling. Pseudo-husband sat there silently for a while, and then started asking questions. “Who is that older gentleman sitting in the dugout doing crossword puzzles?” “Why do they have the number 41 on their sleeves?” “Why are these announcers so laid-back?” “How could they call it a no-hitter if the batters keep hitting the ball?” I had a few questions of my own, starting with, “why are you such a douchebag?” but I remained civil.

After growing bored with the game, in roughly two minutes, he got up and went into the kitchen. I heard him slopping something together, followed by the slamming of the microwave door. Then, I shit you not, there was at least one solid minute of beeps as he attempted to program the highly complicated device. It just kept going on and on and on. He must’ve hit a hundred buttons. This man has a PhD, and he can’t operate a goddamn microwave oven.

He wolfed down his saucer of stinking crap, and jumped on one of the milkshakes as soon as it came through the door, like a wild dingo on a family reunion. Of course he didn’t just drink it as a normal functioning human would, he filled the straw time and time again, held it aloft, and slurped it out with relish, his head thrown back in apparent ecstasy -- huge banana-shaped nostrils flaring, adam's apple a-bobbing. I’ve never seen, or heard, anything like it, outside of adult films. I decided it was a good time to check my e-mail, and retreated to the bunker.

When I got back he was standing in the middle of our living room floor, suddenly deeply engrossed in the 11-1 Braves game, brushing his teeth. Then he left and came back with floss, and proceeded to stand there and floss his teeth beside our sofa! I couldn't believe my eyes. I was trying to imagine what was next. A thorough ass-wiping? Perhaps a vigorous masturbation session during the post-game wrap-up? Freak.

There have been a few other highlights as well, like when I reached into the ice bucket in our freezer and found it full of gross, slobbery teething rings. How disgusting is that? Maybe some people like their drinks with a twist of baby spit, but I sure don't. Also, pseudo-husband is given to walking around in his underwear, which adds absolutely nothing to anyone's quality of life. He sports these ridiculous un-dyed hippie briefs that make me sad to be alive. Apparently he's saving the environment by covering his scrawny ass in beige fabric. You go, pseudo-husband! And yesterday morning Toney was baking muffins when I left for work. When I got there, fifteen minutes later, I had this e-mail message from her: He ate SIX muffins!!!!! SIX.

Yes, it's been quite the visit. We did manage to go to dinner last night without too much pain, and I think they're leaving this morning, so things have kind of petered out. But to be fair to the pseudo-husband, no mere human could've sustained the high-level of irritation that he set for himself in the beginning. The kid certainly has what it takes to be a world-class pain in the balls, but he's gonna have to work on his stamina. That's all that stands between him and immortality.

June 19, 2001

I once read that the human liver has the ability to repair itself, if given half a chance. I can’t remember where I saw that, but all day Sunday I was clinging to it and needing for it to be true.

Saturday night was the much-anticipated Peaches reunion in Greensboro, NC. Peaches Records and Tapes was a big Tower-like record store where we all worked, more or less, from 1986 to 1989. Through some unlikely planetary alignment, we were a group of people who clicked, and actually seemed to like each other, brought together by fate and forced to wear matching denim smocks. I’ve had plenty of jobs, and almost without exception I’ve wanted to get far away from my asshole co-workers at the end of the day, but there was some kind of mojo working during the Peaches years. We had fun on the job, and also hung out together after the workday was done. It was a beautiful thing, while it lasted.

A handful of us have stayed in contact over the years, mostly through e-mail, and a few months ago the idea of a reunion started getting kicked around. In the beginning I thought it was just talk, but to my surprise it came together with little difficulty. The list of people planning to attend kept getting longer and longer, and everyone seemed genuinely excited. The shit was actually going to happen! I was excited too.

And so, this past Friday I loaded up the Toyota and headed south. I picked out some CDs from the era for the trip, like the Smithereens, the BoDeans, Beastie Boys, Guns and Roses, etc. etc. It took about nine hours to travel the 500 miles to my brother Tim’s house in High Point, NC. I stayed with him and his wife Friday night.

We had dinner at a place I've always liked, called Ham’s. The restaurant was packed, but the food was worth the wait. Then we hung out at their house and drank BEER and shot the shit for the rest of the night. Their friend Rain came by and joined in the festivities, and we stayed up until the middle of the night. At one point I went outside while Tim smoked a cigar on the porch, and I’d forgotten about the smothering humidity in the South. Holy shit. It felt like I had an afghan soaked in sea water over my head. I miss a lot of things about the South, but that’s not one of them.

My brother cracked me up talking about somebody at his job who was written up for blatantly farting all over the place (or as Tim referred to it, “showboating”). Apparently this guy would just cut loose wherever the urge hit him, and some of the women complained when he blasted a couple their way while they were trying to eat a cheese sandwich in the break room. Some people can be so touchy. Tim told me that before The Man came down on him and ruined all his fun, this guy got a little overzealous and shit his pants a couple of times. And instead of toning down the theatrics, he just started carrying extra underwear with him. I've always admired a man who sticks to his convictions.

After a little sleep, a lot of coffee and a shower, I headed to Greensboro on Saturday afternoon. It’d been years since I’d been there, so I drove around a while. The first stop was the old Peaches building, and it was a pretty depressing sight. The store closed a year or so ago, but the signs are still up and the racks are still where they always were. The parking lot has grass growing up through the cracks, busted malt liquor bottles are everywhere, and a couple of old junked cars have been abandoned in front of the late, great record palace. A handmade sign is taped to the inside of one of the windows that reads, "This store is closed, and will not reopen." This is where it all began, and now it's like something out of Damnation Alley. What an absolute bummer.

I used to live in an apartment complex just a couple of blocks away, so I decided to swing by and see how it had fared during the last dozen or so years. Considering the condition of the store, I figured the apartments would be falling down or completely burned out. I was expecting a scene from The Bronx, circa 1981. But the old homestead looks good, at least as good as when I lived there. Very confusing. Don't any of those fuckers listen to music?! Or do they all go to that fancy new Best Buy store across town? Hah! Heresy.

I drove up High Point Road, the main drag through town, then around the college. No major changes. It felt strange being back, kinda dream-like. Brad, one of the ex-Peachsters, was supposed to page me around three o’clock to make plans for some pre-party partying, and at around four I decided to take matters into my own hands and went into the bar to begin the day’s intake of BEER, and await his call. He works overnight, and sleeps during the day, so I didn’t want to call him and maybe wake him up. Maybe he’d had a bad night or something. So I waited, and an aging hippie woman with a potbelly started talking to me about lawyers. She told me that if I ever needed one, I should seek out the dishonest variety. An honest lawyer doesn’t get anything done, she said. Then she added that if she’d hired a dishonest lawyer, she’d be in Puerto Rico by now.

“Can I use your phone?” I asked the bartender. Brad was awake, but he’d misplaced my pager number. He came to the bar and I followed him back to his apartment. There we drank BEER, and talked until it was time to meet some other folks for dinner.

We ate at a cool little place called Wild Magnolia. It’s a Cajun restaurant, in a building that was a Volkswagen garage when I lived there. We met ex-Peachsters David and his wife Michele, and Eugene and his fiance Susan. What a great time! It was like the past dozen years never happened. We just picked up where we left off, and the ladies jumped right in as well. We had spicy food, in my case jambalaya, and a lot more BEER. It was a hell of a good time. The evening was getting off to a good start.

After the restaurant, we all went back to Brad’s apartment for even more BEER and some continued conversation, until it was time to hit the bar for the main event. And this is where things start getting a little fuzzy on me. I think the five hours of drinking at this point was starting to take its toll. The rest of the evening happened really fast.

There was no reason to discuss where the reunion would take place, it would be at College Hill Sundries, of course. We’d logged many hours in the tiny BEER bar, and it was the only logical choice for such an event. As soon as we walked in I spotted Cambo, and his wife Lilana. We started talking, and Jeff Rainey came in, then Adrienne. Allyson was there, and so was Chuck. It was all so bizarre. It was like 1988 again, and everybody seemed completely comfortable with each other. If I hadn’t been drunk off my ass, I probably would’ve started crying at the simple beauty of it all.

Nobody puked, there were no fistfights, tits and dicks were not exposed, it was just a bunch of friends hanging out in a bar. With the possible exception of myself, there wasn’t a single asshole in the bunch. No tabloid behavior took place, but it was still remarkable. Of course, much more BEER was consumed during the evening -- much more. By the time Jeff announced he was going to move on to a “gay bar, where they have air conditioning” I was surprised that many hours had passed. It felt like minutes. We stayed until they wouldn’t let us stay anymore.

Outside on the sidewalk I mentioned that I needed a souvenir of the evening. Adrienne ripped down a band flier and handed it to me, but that wasn't going to do the trick. I tried to convince anyone who would listen to please remove the stain glass window from the bar, so I could take it home with me. Surprisingly, there was little enthusiasm for my plan, but Brad suddenly took off running and ripped down a giant canvas sign from the front of a nearby clothing boutique that said, OPEN. I had my souvenir, and it will hang in the Surf Report bunker forevermore.

I crashed on Brad's couch, and morning arrived almost as soon as my head hit the pillow. I didn't feel like moving, but I had a nine hour trip ahead of me. I knocked on Brad's bedroom door, and told him I was leaving. For some reason he didn't look like he felt too good. We said our goodbyes, and I started one of the longest days of my life.

Tired and sleepy, hungover or maybe still drunk, is no way to drive 500 miles. Add to that the inevitable worries that I had offended somebody, or made a fool out of myself the night before, and it translates into a miserable day. I stopped at a Waffle House for some food and coffee, but couldn't really eat. I remembered the first time I visited a Waffle House in Greensboro years ago. I told the waitress what I wanted, and she just pivoted on her heel 45 degrees, and hollered the same thing I had just said, to the cook. I thought hell, I could've done that. Then I made a mental note to someday open a chain of restaurants where people just come in, seat themselves, and scream their orders in the direction of the kitchen. ROAST BEEF! TATERS!!

I couldn't listen to music because it made me sleepy, so I kept surfing the radio dial for something other than church. I heard some weird crap traveling across Virginia: an American Top 40 show from 1986 (?!), a pointless radio drama about a couple of strangers who survived a plane crash, a talk show where people were calling in guessing who Gore and Bush were going to choose as their running mates (??!!). The experts seemed to agree it would be John Kerry and Christine Todd Whitman. But the worst of the bunch was ESPN radio. Are there any more cliched people on earth than athletes? They all say the same thing in interviews: "Well, I just try to go out there every day and do the best job I can. Sometimes it works out for your side, and sometimes it doesn't, but that's the name of the game..." Zzzzzz.

After I got my second wind, somewhere in Maryland, I popped in the CD David had made to commemorate the previous evening. It had a lot of the stuff we listened to in the store, and it sounded great. My ugly-ass picture is on the back cover, and it made me laugh.

Twelve years is way too long.

June 15, 2001

You can tell a lot about a man by the way he conducts himself in front of a urinal.

A few months ago I mentioned the horrible infestation of consultants at my workplace. Even back then they were scurrying about everywhere, making creepy little nasally sounds, and generally throwing off the rhythm of everyone’s working life with their all-knowing ways. Well, I’m sad to report that they’ve only multiplied and ratcheted up their smugness in the time that’s passed. Maybe I’d be supremely pleased with myself too if I were fresh out of college, making eighty grand a year and contentedly sucking at the Corporate American Express teat, but I doubt it. I'm not a bastard.

I think it’s their confidence that gets under my skin the most. They’re too young to be so sure of themselves. When I was twenty-four I could barely put on a pair of pants by myself. These people burst into rooms, wearing their professionally pressed power ensembles, and begin emoting with gusto, just praying somebody will disagree with them about something. They live to set people straight.

Every fiber of my being tells me it's a charade, that they've been trained to play the part. It's all a house of cards, and all the cards are jokers, in my highly biased opinion.

But it doesn't stop there; I don’t like their voices either. Most of them talk through their noses, like they’re from Chicago. But they’re not from Chicago, they’re from places like Dayton, Ohio, and that's simply not a good enough excuse. Also, they drive cars carefully chosen to telegraph both their high incomes and young ages, and they’re geeky and pasty and go out running after work, not for health reasons but so they can tell people they go out running after work. They gush about their fancy expense-account meals in front of people who can't afford them, and they talk smoochy-smoochy love talk to their wives and husbands back home in Dayton or Glendale over company-subsidized long-distance lines for all to hear. Blaa! I just don’t like them; they’re squirrelly, and they’re dangerous. And they have the power to wreck lives by justifying their professional existence. I've seen it happen.

Sometimes, in weak moments, I think I might be a little unfair about all this. I wonder if I’m simply jealous of their success. After all, didn’t they work for what they’ve got? I'm not generally susceptible to class envy, I genuinely admire achievement, but I guess anything's possible. Or maybe it's their youth? I think that's a big part of it, to be quite honest. Not enough dues have been paid. They were probably playing wiffle ball five years ago, and now corporate heads hang on their every word. But if I don't see one of the vermin for a while, I start to build up some guilt. I feel a little ashamed of myself. What a common working-class clod I am!

Then I take a leak beside one of them, and all my suspicions are verified.

They explode into bathrooms like they own them. They start tossing greetings and salutations all around, as if they're running for elected office. After a few wink-wink nudge-nudge inside jokes, and possibly some good-natured back slaps, they saunter up to the porcelain and assume the position: chest out, feet apart, fists on hips. Think Superman deflecting bullets. Afterwards you can count on much vigorous, sustained shaking of the nozzle, as if there's so much there a little extra effort is called for, and then the part that really gets to me, a jaunty little snap! of their underwear waistband for punctuation. Urination punctuation.

It's that little dramatic flourish at the end that tells the tale. I'm king of the world! Even when I'm voiding my bladder, I'm superior to you. Hahaha!! Ka-slap! I am a master urinator! No one can touch my pissing! Hahaha!! Slappety-ker-schlapp!!

A man who turns his bathroom habits into a performance piece is fundamentally flawed. I don't even think that's arguable. It's the height of arrogance.

But at least it gives me permission to hate them without that pesky guilt. That's the silver lining, I guess. And god, how I hate them.

-- I'm getting ready to drive 500 miles to attend a reunion of some folks I used to work with at a record store in Greensboro, NC. It's been in the making for months, and I'm wondering if it can live up to the expectations. But I'm pretty excited. I haven't seen most of these people in ten or twelve years. We had a blast together in the old days, and it will be interesting to see if the magic is still there. I have a hunch it is.

Of course, you can read about it all right here, next week. I'll be back in the saddle on Monday. 

Have a great weekend!

June 12, 2001

A few things:

-- My parents have been visiting, which has managed to throw off the rhythm of my assay postings. I apologize for the unusually long gap between updates, but access to the bunker has been severely limited. I don’t have a problem being rude to Toney’s family, and disappearing for hours at a time when they’re staying with us (their antics cancel out all obligations of civility), but I don’t like doing it to my folks. They returned home this morning though, so things should be back to normal momentarily. Below are a few items that I started last week, but was never able to finish, followed by some newer entries about the latest visitors to Jeff and Toney’s Bed and Breakfast Inn & Country Tavern.

-- Recently I’ve been turning on the MSNBC simulcast of the Don Imus show in the mornings as I get ready for work. I can’t decide how much I really like the show, I haven’t been exposed to it long enough to form a solid opinion, but he has interesting guests and seems like a decent alternative to the Matt Lauers and the Bryant Gumbels of the world. (Bryant Gumbel! How is that smug bag of shit not in the Black Box Stew by now? A shocking oversight, to be sure.) Anyway, last week Imus had Dick Cavett on. I know this may seem a little weird, but I’ve always sorta liked Dick Cavett. A hundred years ago I read one of his books, about his early days as a comedy writer, and it was really funny and good. I’ve been a lukewarm fan ever since, although I’m not real clear on what he does for a living. Unfortunately though, he’s apparently insane now. His appearance on the Imus show was a painful thing to watch. He was almost completely incoherent, injecting obscure and unrelated quotes into the middle of conversations, abruptly jumping from subject to subject, and just generally acting like a mental patient. At one point I think they were talking about Venus Williams with the sports guy, and Cavett suddenly began babbling about the greatness of Reba McEntire. (?!) He said standing next to her is like drinking nectar from heaven, or some such idiocy. Everyone just looked at each other with dumbfounded expressions. Then, inexplicably, he let loose with an unfunny literary quote about bigamy, and began smiling like a jack-o-lantern and looking all around for reactions that never came. What in the honey-baked fuck is the matter with this man?! I haven’t felt as uncomfortable watching television since the final days of Gene Siskel.

-- The most memorable part of the show was a commercial that came on during one of the breaks. It was an ad for a foot cream of some sort, and had several classic moments: a grotesque scaly toe popping through hosiery, a woman violently sanding a person’s heel with a big iron file, a foot that looked like it was recently on fire… America continues to suffer under a black cloud of personal dryness. Dear God, what will become of us if we don’t devise a plan for universal moisturizing soon?!

-- Speaking of dried up husks, I read that Bob Barker has signed a new contract to host The Price Is Right for another five years, which means he’ll be doing a daily show at the age of 82. He’s pushing his luck, in my opinion. It’s only a matter of time before one of those big Samoans wins a car, picks Bob up and waves him around like a flag, then hurls him to the ground and causes his hip to explode like glass. It would be a sad sight indeed to see good ol’ Bob Barker die onstage with his head wedged deep under the Showcase Showdown wheel, screaming, “I love you Betty White!!” I’d probably only be able to watch the bootleg tape twenty or thirty times.

-- For the past few days my mouth has tasted like a Baggie. I’ve been eating LifeSavers continuously, and brushing my teeth a half-dozen times a day, but I can’t drive away the powerful essence of sandwich bags inside my mouth. Does anyone have any idea what’s happening to me? Am I dying? Have I succumbed to dryness? What’s going on?!

-- We went to the state park near our house with my parents over the weekend, and saw two women walking pet rabbits. They had the things outfitted with harnesses, and attached to dog leashes. I’ve seen a lot of things in my life, but never that. We stopped to pet them, and one went wild and started running around in frenzied circles. It was in the throes of some kind of bunny fit. One of the women had a big hunk missing from her forearm, and said the crazed one bit her earlier in the day. If that little bastard had bit me like that, I’d grab his leash and helicopter him above my head for about ten minutes and see if his attitude improved any.

-- Before we left the park we stopped at the swimming pool concession stand for an ice cream cone, and I was once again amazed at the bizarreness of this world. When we walked up to the window we could hear loud opera music playing inside. The menu was impossibly cluttered, but we finally found what we were looking for. I ordered as planned, but Toney switched gears at the last second and said she wanted to try the canoli. The hell?! Canoli, at a swimming pool concession stand? As we waited we noticed they also have manicotti and tortellini and pierogies and other surprising items on the menu. After a while a man with a long white pointy beard stuck his head through the window and hollered, “Who ordered the canoli?” I sheepishly raised my hand, and he started telling me how he prepares it fresh everyday and it’s all homemade including the cream - just like you’d get it in Italy. Then he told me not to go anywhere, and left and came back momentarily with a big tray of puff pastries (sfogliatelle, if you can believe it). “Aren’t they beautiful?” he asked proudly. It was mind-boggling. We sat down at a picnic table, and Toney took a bite of her dessert and her eyes quickly rolled back in her head. “This is sooooooo good,” she swooned. I took a bite, and it was indeed incredible. I went back for the puffs, and the guy chuckled and told me he knew I’d be back. One of these days real soon we’re going to dinner there. That dude probably has a killer wine cellar under his hotdog stand.

-- On Saturday our friends Steve and Myra stopped by for a quick visit. I’ve known Steve since something like second grade. When we were kids we were at each other’s houses almost as much as we were at our own, and now we live in some far-flung place just 75 miles apart. Again, it's all so bizarre. On Sunday we were sitting in my living room drinking an ice-cold Yuengling, when Toney and my mother came home from shopping. Steve saw them drive up, began frantically chugging his beer, and ran to the kitchen and tossed his can in the trash. He didn’t want my mom to see him drinking a beer. We’re 38, and he has a master’s degree for godsakes! It was like we were sixteen again, sneaking Miller High Lifes behind the bleachers at the high school. Hilarious. It’s funny though, I don’t think I’d have the stones to drink in front of his mother either. Some things are just burned into you, and there’s no going back. Even now, Steve's mother could undoubtedly reduce me to tears within seconds. Sure I'm a man, but there are limits to everything. It's like a fear of heights, or something primal. What can I say?

-- On Sunday we took the folks out to some stores, and had lunch, and stuff like that. We were in a restaurant and saw a fat man with a ponytail applying a line of mayonnaise to each individual french fry before devouring it. I couldn't watch. Then I saw a fifteen or sixteen year old girl in a halter top with George Clooney's face under each arm, and that didn't help anything either. Later we were in Old Navy and walked into a heart-stopping fart cloud that was causing a mini mosh pit to form in the middle of a retail store. My dad summed it up when he said, "Sshhew! That thing was still hot when we got to it."

God bless America.


June 4, 2001

If weekdays zipped by like Saturdays and Sundays we'd be in good shape. It would be like living in Germany, without the scary language and the sausages. Don't they have fifteen-hour work weeks over there? Five hours a day, Tuesday through Thursday, then: beer, suspenders, & tubas! Shit, I thought they lost the war; why are we the ones who are working so hard? Maybe I'm a little confused on some of the details, but I'm not really talking about Germany here. I'm bitching about it being Monday morning again, so soon. How is it possible? It seems like Friday evening was yesterday morning. Or something.

Saturday was pretty much a waste. Toney went out in the morning, and I stayed home and cleaned house, drank coffee, talked to my parents on the phone, and watched Spongebob. It rained all friggin' day, and we didn't do much. In the afternoon I went to a used CD store in the world's oldest strip mall in an especially low-rent section of Scranton, and was repelled by the stench. It was sort of a wet dog, stale urine, mold, and semen combo. Spicy, yet robust. I was hoping to find an Elliott Smith disc there, that I'm too cheap to buy at full price. But, no luck. I did find an old Rain Parade CD that I'm pretty certain is out of print and rare, but I didn't buy anything. I started getting paranoid that the smell was working its way into the fabric of my clothing, so I got out of there. I sniffed myself all the way to the beer store, purchased a case of Yuengling and added to my growing collection of worthless lottery tickets.

Saturday night we drank some of the beers and watched State and Main. Through my vast network of Hollywood connections I was able to secure an advance screener of the flick, and it's really good. It's about a big-budget film crew taking over a small Vermont town, and has a huge cast like The Player. It's really funny, and well-written. Lots of great lines and memorable characters -- time well spent. In fact, I want to watch it again because I was getting a little loopy on the beer, and some of the jokes may have got past me. How's that for a tribute? Maybe they'll quote me on the video box: "I was drunk the first time, so I'm watching it again!" -The West Virginia Surf Report.

Sunday we went out and did a little shopping. It was still raining, so I couldn't mow the grass and piss off the Christians. We went to Best Buy and bought my Dad a cell phone for Father's Day. It's one of those prepaid deals, where you buy the phone then add minutes as you need them. My parents wouldn't use one enough to warrant a monthly contract. They'd end up paying thirty dollars every month for the privilege of calling each other from the grocery store to see how they're fixed on toilet paper at home. Anyway, the phone's usually seventy bucks, but it was on sale for fifty, plus there's a thirty dollar mail-in rebate -- and they give you a twenty dollar Best Buy gift certificate to boot. So it ends up not really costing anything. How can you beat that? I will submit to you that you cannot.

After Best Buy we walked next door to a new sporting goods store called Gander Mountain, for a somewhat freaky experience. The place is full of taxidermy. I mean, there's dead animals everywhere in that place. Snarling and fighting dead animals...to add to your shopping experience. Generally speaking, I'm not a big fan of stuffed carcasses. Maybe it was Psycho that took the fun out of it for me, but they make me uneasy. In the middle of the store is a big fake mountain with a waterfall, and it's completely covered with creepy formerly-living mountain lions and billy goats and rams and all sorts of fucked-upness. Animal heads line the walls, and huge turkey cadavers sit here and there like morbid flower arrangements. In the back of the store they have three life-sized cream-colored deers-on-a-stick made of ceramic or clay or something. What the hell are those for?! And they sell backpacks for dogs in that place, and cast-iron skillets the size of a goddamn manhole cover. It's all so bizarre...

Our final stop was Sam's, and that's always an experience as well. Like with its sister store, Wal-Mart, you can pretty much count on seeing an inordinate amount of crippled and damaged folks at Sam's, as well as an ample supply of holler-dwelling creek trash. Sam's isn't nearly as bad, of course, because they make you buy a membership, and sell everything in ludicrously large sizes, but it's bad enough. Before we got in some hardcore shopping for nightstand-sized boxes of cereal, we stopped by the snack bar for one of their big-ass emasculating hotdogs, and a root beer. As the endless parade of people marched past, with their casts and splints, crossed eyes and protruding foreheads, I told Toney Playboy should do a photo spread called The Women of Sam's Club. She's just as cruel as I am, and she busted out laughing.  It's the secret of our success.

After our John Holmes lunch, we walked around and saw a woman transferring roughly one thousand wieners from the cooler into her shopping cart. One thing immediately popped into my head: chemotherapy. After a while I went off on my own, to look at DVDs, and saw something I'll never forget until the day I die. There was a woman pushing a wheelchair around with a torso and a head strapped to it. No arms. No legs. Just a body and a man's head. How could something like that even happen?! I felt bad for the guy -- I'm not that cruel. But in his chair, propped up against his body sock, was the really sad part: a DVD copy of Wild, Wild West. All that and bad taste too. Shit.

Oh well, it was fun while it lasted. But now it's time to go back to work. Five days of tightly-packed bullshit stares me in the face.

And the stinking Germans sleep on...

June 1, 2001

A few things:

-- When I was in California I kept a micro-cassette recorder in my truck, because I almost wrecked a few times trying to write down some caffeine-fueled idea that popped into my head on the way to work. Since there’s nothing more frustrating than coming up with something memorable -- and then forgetting it, I’m always frantically scribbling down crap on little scraps of paper, and stuffing them into my pockets or backpack. And because the commute to and from my job was nearly an hour each way, I thought it would be a good idea to just record my "brilliance". It worked great, except I never took the time to listen to the tapes and transfer the contents into a notebook. I just filled up the tiny cassettes, and tossed them into the Dean Martin ashtray beside my computer, and they were all but forgotten. A few days ago I unearthed a few, and decided to give them a listen...and I sound like a mental patient. The stuff recorded in the mornings is loud and obnoxious like a radio commercial for a blow-out mattress sale, music blasting in the background. And the nighttime recordings are more like late-period Bela Lugosi, made in tomb-like silence. It's horrifying. At one point I'm obviously drunk (in my dementia, I started taking the recorder with me everywhere I went) and slurring like, well, Dean Martin. I mutter in a slow, too-deep voice, “…an offensive term for lesbians: cunt faggots.” Luckily I made it clear it was an offensive term. Good god! How many of us get the chance to re-live our proudest moments? I'm a lucky, lucky man. Now Toney has something she can play at my funeral.

-- Through an impossible-to-predict series of events, the guy who took my place when I left California is getting a big promotion. Generally, I try not to let stuff like this bother me, but I have to say this sucks a great big veiny cock. Not much seems to be going right these days for us here in the resort community of Scranton, PA, and the thought of being back in southern California, pulling down big bucks is mighty appealing. But what can you do? Considering the circumstances at the time, I still think we made the right decision. Who could've known that everything would change, so quickly? Oh well. I guess all I can do now is act all pissy to the guy, and insult him behind his back.

-- I'm working on a bunch of zine reviews for A Reader's Guide to the Underground Press. I'm a staff reviewer for that fine publication, but I'm not very reliable or punctual. In fact, if I were running the show over there I'd sack my sorry ass. To paraphrase somebody famous (I can't remember who), I don't like writing reviews, I like having written them. I'm trudging through though, and I think everything will turn out OK -- but it's like passing a stone for me. I remember talking to Chris Becker, from Factsheet Five, at the Santa Barbara Zine Fest a few years ago, and he said he wrote 750 reviews for the final issue of that magazine. 750! He's lucky to have escaped with his sanity, and that's no joke. Just reading 750 shitty zines would be enough to make you wrap your lips around a tailpipe.

-- I'm about halfway through To Kill A Mockingbird again. It's the third time I've read it, and it still blows me away. An English teacher forced us to read it in high school, and it caused me to become a reader. Before that I mocked and threw stuff at people who read for pleasure. But this book made me see the light. Every page is an amazing achievement, and Harper Lee is a god. Who knows what would've happened if that teacher had made us read The Scarlet Letter, or some other pile of literary dullness? I can't help but think the quality of the enema humor you find here would've almost certainly suffered.

-- We've been catching the latest VH1 countdown special in bits and pieces. I think this one is called The 100 Most Shocking Moments in Rock, or something along those lines. As usual, it's pretty damn good. I never knew, for instance, that someone dug up Ronnie Van Zant's remains, and dumped out his bones on the cemetery lawn. This just happened last year -- how did it get past me? Supposedly there's an urban legend that he was buried wearing a Neil Young t-shirt, and some freak wanted to see if it was true. Why it was so important to him, I don't know. Maybe he was crazy? Possibly? Also, I loved the story they told about L7. I guess they were being mercilessly booed at a big rock festival in England, so one of the members reached into her underwear, plucked out her tampon and hurled it into the audience, yelling, "eat my bloody tampon, you fuckers!" Hell, yeah! This woman should be working for Hallmark.

-- Krispy Kreme is building one of their shiny silver temples of fried dough right down the street from where we live, easily accessible on my route to work. I swear, I'm gonna be one of those guys who has chest pains, and the fire department will have to cut the picture window out of our house to get me out. The world is conspiring against me; society has made my ass fat.

-- I applied for membership in a group of online humor columnists called The Netwits last weekend, and was almost instantaneously rejected. I know rejection comes with the territory, but this one stung a little. The lightning speed with which it was delivered was pretty decisive, and the cold sentence at the end of the note -- "This decision is final." -- didn't leave much room for negotiation or interpretation. My own personal bloody tampon to the face. Is this any way to treat the father of the phrase 'cunt faggot'?

I need a fucking donut.

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