|The State Of My Fat Ass AUGUST 2001|
August 31, 2001
A few things:
-- For the first year or so after we moved to northeast PA, my wife Toney complained that it was hard to make friends here. She said the people seemed cold and abrupt and suspicious of "outsiders." Of course, I noticed none of these things myself, because I don't particularly want or need any more friends. The ones I already have suit me just fine, thank you very much. Oh sure, if a new friendship would happen to develop through the natural course of life, that's cool, but I'm certainly not going to pursue it; it wouldn't even cross my mind. Of course, I understand my attitude is not typical, and most people desire a few like-minded folks around them to bullshit with and to keep themselves anchored in sanity. Plus, in the early days after we left California Toney only had me to talk with: "Yeah, Cunningham really stunk up the men's room today. Wonder what that fucker eats?...Could you pass the salt, please?" It's certainly understandable that she would crave some alternative interaction. Anyway, over the months everything has turned around and now her army of friends are starting to drive her nuts. They call here all hours of the day, and make great demands on her time. It would be really obnoxious of me to say I told you so, which is why I do it all the time. But now it's threatening to impact my sad little world: there's talk about barbecues with the husbands and, even worse, dinners out in restaurants! I don't know these people even remotely; it would be like walking into a Denny's and just sitting down at any random table and making small-talk with a party of strangers. She's created a monster with her friendliness, and I'm beginning to get a little concerned.
-- One of Toney's friends was born and raised in Charleston, SC, but she reportedly doesn't have even a trace of a Southern accent. Toney asked her about it a few days ago, and she said her father forbade his kids from adopting Southern speech patterns. She said he'd make them sit on the front porch and repeatedly say words correctly, if he ever heard them speak "Southern." His theory is that people instantly think you're stupid if they know you're from the South -- and he's from South Carolina. Of course he's right, but I still don't like it.
-- Have you ever seen a person drinking coffee at Taco Bell? Me either.
-- While I'm at work I often listen to an '80s alternative station through Sonicnet.com, and they constantly play these loud, manic commercials for Oxydol between blocks of Pixies and Dead Kennedys songs. I think they're trying to make laundry detergent hip. It's hilarious. If you think I'm bullshitting you, check this out.
-- Toney ripped out a page from a magazine she reads and left it by my computer for me to read. It's letters from readers telling about embarrassing moments, and here's the one she highlighted: At my son's kindergarten orientation, the children and parents were sitting in a big circle in the gym. As an icebreaker, the principal asked the kids to say something about their parents. Some told what their parents did for a living, others told about parental or family hobbies, still others described their parents in general as "nice" or "fun." I was waiting for something along those lines. Instead, when it came around to us, my son said in a cheerful voice, "My daddy's a big fat man!" I have seen the future.
-- The results of our first-ever mini-poll are in and Places I've Fucked is apparently the least favorite feature of this website (35% of the vote), followed by Art House Funnyz (29%), and The Forum (18%). The Forum!? Are you people nuts? I had a feeling my map of fornication would prevail, and I may move it to a less prominent place on the site in the near future, to make room for something new. But The Forum's going nowhere, and neither are the Funnyz. Thanks for voting though.
-- Speaking of the website, here are some of the more notable phrases people have plugged into search engines that ultimately led them to TheWVSR.com:
nude west virginia women
ain't no state of west virginia
fuck ass cunt my sister his brother
my fat wife fucking
fart accident "shit my pants"
fucked web site
get fucked in west virginia
i fucked my mother-in-law
I've fucked page
jugs of west virginia
since hector was a pup
west virginia crap
women blackmailed into sex
I've never been prouder.
-- There's nothing funny about this final piece, in fact it makes me want to cry. Through my vast network of spies and back-stabbers, I have obtained a copy of one of New York Mets catcher Mike Piazza's paychecks. Yes, he receives a paycheck every two weeks just like the rest of us -- but the similarities end there. Click here to see it. This is a West Virginia Surf Report world exclusive -- it isn't stolen from another website. Don't even ask where I got it; we serious journalists will go to our graves protecting our sources.
Have a nice three-day weekend. See ya next week.
And now, part two of What We Did on Our Summer Vacation:
-- Whenever we visit West Virginia various aunts, and a smattering of uncles, stop by to visit and ask how I like my job, and how we like Pennsylvania, and that sort of thing. It's a nice gesture that I wonder if I would put forth if the roles were reversed. I doubt if it would even occur to me, to tell the truth. Outside of a room where draft beer is available for purchase, I have few social skills. Anyway, Monday or Tuesday night while we were having dinner, one of my aunts suddenly had a pained look on her face, and stood up and excused herself. We continued to eat, and just as she left the room we heard, "Smack! ...Slap-Smack!!...Pop Pop...Slappety-Pop!" It was like the sound a roller coaster makes when it's coming back into the station. She had apparently left the dinner table to release a little urgent excess gas, and didn't quite make it to a secure location. Of course, everybody at the table just about choked on their food laughing, but trying to keep it quiet. By the time she returned, we had all summoned up enough inner strength to be wearing our game faces, and not a word was spoken about it. Until she went home.
-- One afternoon my parents and Toney and I went to a place called Rock Lake. It used to be an incredibly cool swimming pool, surrounded by big rock cliffs and featuring trapezes and trampolines and shit -- not to mention one of the longest slides I've ever seen. It's been around forever; my parents used to go there when they were kids. Not that this has anything to do with the story, but when I was young they wouldn't let black people swim there. The owners were adamant about it. When the government told them to change their policy, or face a forced shut-down, they closed the place! It was one of the biggest money-makers in the area, and they just shut the bitch down. But I digress... The pool has been out of operation for a couple of decades now, and had fallen into disrepair. A few years ago somebody bought it, filled in the pool and turned it into one of those big entertainment complexes for kids: miniature golf, go-karts, arcade, noisy birthday parties, etc. etc. I had heard they did a good job with it, and had wanted to check it out. While we were there I asked Toney if she wanted to play laser tag. She looked at me like, "Are you fucking nuts?" But after some coaxing, she finally agreed. My parents (and another aunt) just sat in the background laughing at us. But it was fun. I had to adjust the straps on my electronic vest to its fullest expansion to fit around my ample trunk, but after that it was smooth sailing. We kicked some eleven year old ass. Don't even thing about fucking with the laser masters, boys and girls! I'm almost sure I only thought that, and didn't scream it out loud.
-- Another afternoon Toney and I went to lunch and a movie. We never go to movies unless we're on vacation. The last one we saw was Almost Famous, last October in Myrtle Beach. I had picked that one and Toney didn't like it much, so she insisted on picking this one. We saw Legally Blonde, and it was really funny. The next one we see probably hasn't been made yet, but I'm looking forward to it.
-- I think it's just that time of year, but everywhere we went there were friggin' gnats and mosquitoes. If you stood in one place outside for any amount of time, you'd have tiny bugs crawling on your skin and making weird buzzing sounds in your ears. I was convinced they were laying eggs in my face, but I guess everything's OK. When I was a kid, they used to have trucks that drove up and down the streets cranking out huge billowing clouds of yellow poison to kill the bugs (we used to follow it on our bikes, riding inside the toxic cloud!), but I think the environmentalists put an end to that. Don Henley and his pals have made the world safe for pests and parasites, thank God.
-- Wednesday afternoon Toney and I met my old friend Tim and his wife at Cracker Barrel. We talked about a million little things as our wives sat there looking mildly disgusted. It was a good time, but afterwards he insisted on picking up the check. I told him I didn't want somebody else paying for my dumplings, and he said, "I've been paying for your dumplings one way or the other all my life." I'm not sure what that means, but I don't think it's a compliment.
-- The day before we left, I took my new digital camera and went out by myself to do a little exploring. I went back to my hometown of Dunbar, and checked out the new school they're building and the houses we used to live in, and that sort of thing. I snapped off a few pics of some notable attractions, and I'll share them with you here:
This is the very first post office box home of The West Virginia Surf Report. Box 663. There's no shame in wiping away the occasional emotional tear, right?
This is the store where I bought my first beer. It was called Wagner's back then (and wasn't nearly as seedy), and it happened in 1979. I was sixteen, and brazenly walked in and bought twelve bottles of Miller High Life. The guy looked at me skeptically, but didn't push the issue. Two friends (including the future Statler Brother I mentioned yesterday) and I drank them by the high school track in a tiny blue car, then went to a basketball game inside the school. It's all been downhill from there.
This is the home of international singing sensation The Amazing Dolores. She's a local "character" that went to school with my mom and dad, and is now a cult hero to savvy hipsters and scenesters everywhere. A documentary film was made about her a few years back, which I recommend highly. I believe it's called Different Drummer. She performs spirited and frenzied shows nearly every weekend to enthusiastic crowds, and she's been seen riding a bicycle around town in leopard-skin miniskirt and feather boa. Five seconds after I took this pic, she came out on her porch with hair so high it nearly touched the sky. Dammit! A genuine missed opportunity.
-- After I left Dunbar, I went to Nitro to check out the cloning clinic that's been in the news lately. It's in the old high school, which is now being used for many purposes. There's a daycare center, a church(?!), a few offices, and the Nitro police department, among other things. But all this stuff is on the first floor, and I was looking for Room 201 which I assumed was on the second floor. I walked confidently, like I did years ago in pursuit of those underage brewskis, and went up the steps. There was nobody around, and it was pretty damn spooky up there. Trespassing in long dimly-lit hallways with the knowledge of bizarre medical experiments taking place on the premises, adds up to a memorable experience. And it didn't help that I'm reading a Dean Koontz book. I half expected some horribly mutated man-beast to jump out and rip my spine out with its curved claws. But I soldiered on, and finally found Room 201. There was white paper over the little window in the door, and it was locked. I snapped a quick photo, then immediately heard footsteps. It sounded like somebody was coming up the steps! I got the fuck out of there. I'm glad none of my laser-tag victims were there to witness my pathetic display of cowardice. But, holy shit, my heart was pounding.
-- The next morning we left, and drove forever back to the upper right-hand corner of Pennsylvania. It was a really good trip. One thing living in Scranton does, is make you see the good side of everywhere else. Charleston, WV is like friggin' Malibu compared to Scranton. But it's a cool place, even without the comparisons. When I left there ten or twelve years ago unemployment was really high, and the area was pretty depressed. But it's not like that anymore. It's thriving and bustling now. It's a comforting thing to see.
As we neared home, in need of a good ass-kneading, I started worrying that we'd find an empty lot with only a black smoldering square where our house used to be, and maybe a chimney standing by itself. I always think our house is going to burn down while we're away. Another sign of mental illness, I'm sure. But it was still standing, and the next day I ran over a big pile of dogshit with the lawnmower. For some reason it smelled like peanut butter. Odd. Wonder why?
Yes, the vacation was over.
August 27, 2001
Our trip to West Virginia went as smoothly as could be expected, even though we ran out of time and weren't able to see everyone we had wanted to see. I tend to make impossibly long lists (I'm an obsessive list-maker, which is a sure sign of mental illness) of things I want to do during trips, and almost always come away feeling mildly unfulfilled when we return home with a few of the items not crossed off. This trip was no different, even though it wasn't really my fault. All of our evenings were completely maxed-out with various family members stopping by to visit, and consequently we were unable to get together with my old partner in crime, Bill. I've known Bill since before elementary school, and we've got ourselves into enough trouble through the years to fill a dozen John Hughes movies, a couple episodes of Ripley's Believe It or Not, and several Bukowski novels. It doesn't feel natural to be in West Virginia and not see him, so that part sucked. But beyond that one major flaw, it wasn't a bad trip.
So, with no further delay, here's part one of A Few Things That Happened on Our Summer Vacation...
-- We had intended to cook chicken on the grill the night before we left, so Toney had taken the meat out of the freezer early that morning to thaw. It was lying on the counter changing colors throughout the day, and putting out some kind of nasty liquid, so we decided we'd just order a pizza instead. But what to do with the chicken? We couldn't just leave it in the trash while we were gone; it would stink like an open grave, and probably trigger a vermin rave in our garage. We had to get it away from the house. So Toney tied it up in a plastic grocery bag, and we made plans to fling it into a dumpster on our way out of town. When we got up Sunday morning the bag was really "juicy" and was putting off a high funk. I didn't want that shit in our car, so I tied it to the driver's side window. And we drove through town with a rancid bag of chicken bouncing off our door, drizzling poison poultry juice across the landscape. A perfect start.
-- We stopped for the first of our three visits to Cracker Barrel about an hour into the trip, and had my all-time favorite, the "Old-Timer's Breakfast." Here's a tip for ya: when ordering this meal, refer to it as the Alzheimer's breakfast. Waitresses seem to love this.
-- Before leaving The Barrel, I found a bag of Jelly Bellies in the general store comprised of "rookie flavors." Supposedly it was all new flavors of jelly beans they were trying out, as sort of a test-market I suppose. They already make some freaky varieties of those things (like cantaloupe), so I couldn't imagine what was inside that bag. I had to have it. Toney was driving during this leg of the trip, and I sat in the passenger seat doling out bizarre jelly beans for comment and review. Some were so gross they literally made us gasp. At a gas station in Maryland, Toney bit into a white one and her face contorted before she almost instantly hocked the half-chewed glob onto the pavement an inch from my feet. You don't really see women spitting often enough these days. We foolishly tossed the little booklet that listed the flavors so we may be a little off on a few of these, but here's a partial list of what we think we were eating: sauerkraut, old vacuum cleaner bags, tin, blackened sea bass, table salt, scotch, bleu cheese, and kerosene.
-- My parent's house is perfect. There's not a single blade of grass out of order, and not a speck of dust anywhere inside. It makes me feel like a goddamn slob. I bet they've never driven through town with a sack of chicken on their door. When I start wringing my hands about my feelings of inadequacy, Toney tried to reassure me that they're retired and have more time to work on such things. But it's always been this way, even when they were both working full-time and raising two lunatic kids. No, there's no getting around it, I'm a slob alright. A slob with a website that contains a map of places I've fucked, for god's sake. What the hell's wrong with me?
-- As usual, there was a virtual buffet of excellent foods available 'round the clock while we were there. It's like being on a cruise ship passing through Appalachia, if you can imagine that. My mom always makes sure to cook up a giant pot of "half-runner" green beans when we visit, which are a WV delicacy that the Jelly Belly people really need to take a look at. I love half-runners, with onions and a little vinegar. Yum. I read somewhere that people have tried to raise them in California and other places and they won't grow, which is the way it's supposed to be. The rest of the country doesn't deserve half-runner beans. Also for lunch one day, for my benefit I'm sure, we had another local favorite: hot baloney! West Virginia round steak. It's thick sliced bologna, fried in barbecue sauce and eaten as a sandwich with lettuce, tomato, and onion. There's nothing better, I'm not joking.
-- The clock in the bedroom we slept in sizzled. It sounded like bacon frying. I told my parents about it, but they said they couldn't hear anything. Hey, whatever. It fucking sizzled. It's probably sizzling right now.
-- My twentieth high school class reunion was going on the same weekend we arrived in town, but I didn't go. For some reason I had little interest in it. Bill went, and was reportedly the life of the party. Of course I would expect nothing less. After it was over I had a mild feeling of regret, especially after hearing about all the fun Bill had. Toney said something about a mid-life crisis, which didn't help anything. Not one little thing.
-- My mother has been telling me a lot about a guy I used to run around with when I was younger. I guess he's really religious now and has his shit together in almost every way. He's got a perfect wife and two perfect kids, and lives in a perfect house in a perfect neighborhood. He's like David Watts in that old Kinks song. I've long suspected that she wishes she could trade me in for this guy, which doesn't make me want to like him much. Anyway, she went to see him perform at a church recently, in some Statler Bros.-like gospel quartet, and she hasn't stopped talking about how great it was. My fornication map comes to mind whenever she starts down that road, needless to say. Well, at this performance (who knew he was a singer too?!), she purchased a videotape of their show -- obviously, so she could make me watch it and see where I should be in my life. Of course, she popped the thing in on the first night we were there; hell, every night we were there. I was praying it would be horrible, sitting on the edge of my seat waiting for it to suck. But, of course, he opened his mouth and it sounded like honey from the lips of angels. I mean, shit. The guy was dressed in a suit, and had all the hand gestures down, and was harmonizing and soloing and everything. My brain couldn't adequately process what was going on before me. And my mom had a look on her face like she was at a Sinatra concert. After it was over I tried to win back some points by telling her my Alzheimer's breakfast joke. But it didn't go over as well as I'd hoped, so I went to bed.
Part Two tomorrow...including my trip to the cloning clinic, a few pictures, the night of the gassy aunt, and more.
August 18, 2001
OK, that does it for me, boys and girls. After today the bunker goes dark for a week. I'll be cooling my heels in the resort community of Hurricane, WV, until next weekend. So, there'll be no updates to the site, I'm afraid. But to keep things hopping, I've left you with a Further Evidence link to one of the more amazing spectacles on the Internet, and I'll leave the bunker cam on as well. Maybe you'll catch a glimpse of one of the hellhounds we brought in to patrol the compound, and to keep the Surf Report archives safe for future generations.
While I'm gone, I'd appreciate it if you could take a couple of seconds to participate in this mini-poll. I'm thinking about making a few changes around here, and would value your input.
And finally, a little secret: Of course I'm looking forward to spending time with my family next week, and to seeing old friends, but I'm really looking forward to all the Cracker Barrels between here and there. Mmm, smoky thick bacon... See ya in a week.
August 16, 2001
A few more things:
-- We're going to West Virginia on Sunday, and will be there most of next week. That means no updates to the site after Saturday, until the following weekend. Yes, that's right...you won't know what television shows I'm watching or what the weather's like or what I had for dinner (or the amount of flatulence it generated). It'll be a loss I know, but please be strong; it'll be over before you know it. In the meantime, I'll have the laptop with me, and will continue to troll the internet for filth and degradation, and hopefully will find the time to squeeze out a dispatch to the mailing list while we're away. If you haven't signed up, what in the honey-baked hell are you waiting on? Click here to get with the program, Sam.
-- Speaking of my old stomping grounds, I've been following an odd story through the Drudge Report (yeah I read Drudge, what of it?) about a "top secret" cloning operation in the "rural hills" of West Virginia. Supposedly a French doctor has set up shop in an abandoned high school there, and is working feverishly to clone a 10-month old baby that died in 1999. He's reportedly being funded by a wealthy WV lawyer, who is the father of the baby. The articles read like something from the Weekly World News, but they're apparently reprints from a British newspaper (?!). It's all so bizarre and, frankly, unbelievable. The town where this is supposedly going down is less than ten miles from where I grew up! I asked my parents, who still live in the state, if they'd heard anything about it, but instead of a real answer I got a "there he goes again" chuckle. They think I'm making it up! No respect. Anyway, I'm planning to check it out for myself when I'm there next week. Hopefully I won't be shot in the back by a UFO cultist wearing an aluminum foil hat.
-- There are many interesting things about the WV cloning story, but I especially like the depiction of the city of Nitro as being in the "rural hills." Any story about the state, produced by outsiders, invariably depicts it as nothing but hollers and moonshine stills and Hatfields and McCoys and barefoot hicks living in shacks with their bloodhounds. Also, there's an apparent FCC requirement for TV networks to have banjo music playing in the background whenever a feature story is done about the place. I'm certainly not saying there's no white trash there (I'd never make that claim), but the popular image of the state is horribly distorted. Nitro is a small town in the suburbs of Charleston. Hundreds of thousands of people live all around there, including more than a few yuppies; it's far from being a remote area that can only be reached on foot. Sheesh.
-- Another thing I'm planning to do while I'm home is to check on the status of a plaque at the foot of a bridge where I once worked as a toll collector. In the early days of this site I complained that the commemorative signage (put in place when the toll was lifted, after thirty years) didn't include my name. I bitched that the Mayor and members of City Council had little to do with the success of the operation, that it was the guys in the booths who were the true heart and soul of the place. There's no point in re-creating the rant here, you can probably imagine it, but an extraordinarily loyal Surf Reporter read it and took it upon himself to rectify the problem by painting my name on the plaque in neon yellow. Here's a pic. The artwork has reportedly grown even more luminous over time. I've never actually seen it in person, so I plan to make a special pilgrimage to the hallowed spot next week.
-- Sometimes I lie awake at night worrying that this website isn't nearly self-indulgent enough, so I'm going to purchase a digital camera this weekend. Now you'll be able to see what I'm having for dinner! Prepare yourselves for a new era, my friends.
-- Speaking of dinner, we decided to have pizza last night, and I stopped to pick it up on my way home from work. I got there a little early, and they told me it would probably be another ten minutes before it was done. So, to kill time, I walked down the way to a little record store. I was perusing their fine selection of magazines, when I spotted a review of TheWVSR.com in an issue of Broken Pencil. Cool, I thought; I had no idea the review even existed. Yeah, they hated it. I'm apparently the web equivalent of Dude, Where's My Car? But damn, the pizza was good. That shit rocked.
August 13, 2001
A few things:
-- Sorry to go on about the weather last time like some boring old mothball cardigan man on a park bench, but the blast-furnace heat took over my life for a few days and that's all I could think about. It's cooled down, but not nearly enough for my taste. I was sitting on the front porch drinking a beer Friday evening, and saw several huge lopsided V's of squawking birds in the sky headed south, so there's hope. Sometimes it's hard to believe this is the same place where I shoveled snow and came home with my face completely covered in frost after being caught in freaky apocalyptic squalls that scared the living hell out of me. How could there be such opposite extremes in such a short period of time? I don't know, but I'm boring myself, so let's move on...
-- I know this will probably sound made up, but I swear it's true. Over the weekend I stepped up on the bathroom scales, and the little wheel whirled so fast and for so long I think I saw sparks inside the little window, and it finally stopped at 230. I stepped down and began yelling in protest, and the button on my shorts shot off and went behind the toilet.
-- But did I take a rocketing pants button as a sign to get my shit together? Of course not. Sunday afternoon I went to the grocery store with the specific intention of buying Ruffles potato chips (the saltiest potato chip, and therefore the best) and a tub of some really good locally-produced dip called Helluva Good (I'm not lying). When I pulled onto the lot I saw a sign that said, "Chicken Barbecue Today." I got really excited, because once a year this store holds a "customer appreciation day" and sets up several gigantic grills in the parking lot, and cooks hundreds and hundreds of chickens. Then they sell complete dinners for 99 cents each. And they're really good; people buy them by the dozens. When I opened the door of my truck, the smoky smell of cooking poultry rushed in and I became powerless. I went inside the store, bought the chips and dip, then walked over and bought two chicken dinners. Then I went home and ate until I couldn't eat anymore. Then we had dinner.
-- Speaking of eating, I was in Wendy's Saturday afternoon and a big group of teenagers came in. I'd say they were about fourteen or fifteen, and there was roughly the same number of boys and girls. I sat and observed as I ate my #1 combo with cheese, careful not to stare. I didn't want people to think they had to rush out and consult the Megan's Law CD-Rom, or anything creepy like that; I just like to watch people (especially young girls in tight shirts!) But I saw some things that made me feel really uneasy, things that I knew but had forgotten or blocked out: another one of God's cruel jokes. The girls were cute and mature and confident and restrained...and the boys were tall and awkward and zitty and way too driven to impress. It was a sad display, and I felt the pain of my horribly ill-equipped brothers. I wanted to pull them aside and reassure them that the zits will one day go away, and they will soon discover the confidence-boosting magic of distilled spirits. But, of course, I'd never do something like that. They've got to find their own way, as I did. Besides, I don't care that much. Screw 'em.
-- Toney and I watched several episodes of a show called Trading Spaces Saturday night, over a few bottles of Yuengling. She'd told me about it many times, and she wanted me to check it out during a "marathon" they ran that day, on some esoteric cable channel (TLC? Who the fuck knows?). The basic deal is, they find two neighbors who agree to allow each other to redesign and redecorate a single room in each other's home. The show gives them a thousand dollar budget, and provides each with the services of a professional interior designer. I have to say, it was great entertainment. The designers are mostly artsy and pretentious, and have really bizarre ideas ("I'm thinking that maybe we could completely cover this wall in moss."). And the homeowners are generally suburbanites with pretty conservative tastes. There's a lot of friction between the designers and the neighbors ("Bill's going to absolutely kill us for doing this to his house!"), and a lot of suspense builds up as you wait to see how it'll turn out, and especially what the owners will think of it in the end. Maybe it was the beer, but I got completely hooked and continued to watch even after Toney had gone to bed.
-- A couple of weeks ago a friend of mine told me about a new website dedicated to our old (now defunct) high school. It's basically a forum where people can post messages, and talk about their grandmother's feet problems and the like. It's broken up into individual classes and, at first, it was mildly interesting to read what people are up to nowadays. But it soon grew tiresome (for me, anyway). People were literally talking about their grandmother's feet, that wasn't a joke. I casually said to my friend that I should go on there and shake things up a little. And, as so often happens, I allowed myself to be goaded and egged on until I got myself into a little trouble. My friends have been the primary source of my problems for decades now; I'm basically a nice, respectful person until they show up. Then everything invariably goes to hell. Anyway, I've provided a transcript of the messages here, and they're all from roughly a 36-hour period. I hope it captures the essence of the experience. Some folks were whipped into a real frenzy over this thing; it was a blast! The character I adopted for myself was Brenda Colley, and she's completely fabricated.
-- It's so hot I'm losing the will to live. It's hot and and it's humid, and it doesn't even cool down at night. Our house doesn't have air conditioning (don't get me started!), and when I get out of bed at 5 am it's fucking hot. When I get home from work: hot. Watching a little TV with my wife at night: goddamn hot. There's no escape. The temperature's the same outside as it is inside. There's no breeze. A demoralizing haze hangs in the air. We're using box fans that are so white trash they make me want to cry. I'm sweating like a friggin' sow. I'm in hell.
-- I've been seeing an endless parade of so-called "weather experts" on cable TV droning on about the heat, and they all seem to agree it just feels unusually hot because it's been a mild summer so far. We're just not accustomed to it, they say. So, you see, it's partly our fault. We have to share some of the blame here, because we haven't adequately adapted to the heat. Bullshit. It's hot. Kiss my ass.
-- We went to the mall a couple of nights ago, because they have air conditioning, and I saw a woman there with a four foot back. That is to say, her back was roughly four feet across at its widest point. I've never seen anything quite like it. We were walking past Old Navy and I couldn't figure out why they had curtains hanging in just one section of their front windows, and they suddenly stood up and walked away! It wasn't curtains at all, it was The Woman With The Four-Foot Back! When she sat down on one of the benches at the front of the store, and leaned against the glass, her impossible wideness filled one entire pane of glass. She wasn't even fat really, just extremely beefy -- like she'd grown up baling hay in Russia. I got so excited trying to point her out to Toney, I bumped into someone and nearly knocked them to the ground.
-- So Baretta's going to get away with it? The man goes out with his wife and has a nice dinner then, instead of coffee and dessert, decides to shoot her in the temple with a gun? That doesn't exactly seem like the perfect crime to me. I mean, Agatha Christie it's not. So, what's going on? Why isn't he being sodomized by a man named Ajax in a prison shower by now? Our justice system is breaking down before our very eyes.
-- The Dean Koontz book isn't starting out too well. It has monsters in it.
I've got lots more to write about, but I can't concentrate. I'll catch up next time. I'm going to go have myself a good cry...
August 6, 2001
A few things:
-- Saturday morning I called my parents, as I do every Saturday morning, and when my Mom answered I could hear people talking and laughing in the background. "What's going on there?" I said, "it sounds like a barroom." She was in the middle of telling me that a couple of their old friends were in from North Carolina and had been staying with them, when I heard: "Is that Jeff, the gay boy?" -- followed by uproarious laughter. (And one of the lead laughers, I'm almost sure, was MY DAD!) Gay boy? The hell?! "Are ya'll drunk?!" I asked. After she repeated what I said, the room again erupted in laughter. Shit. I was just calling to fulfill my weekly obligation; I wasn't expecting a flashback to Junior High gym class. I was a little shaken, and told her I'd call them back later, when they weren't so busy. She said, "OK," and hung up. And as she was putting the phone down, an avalanche of fresh laughter came buzzing out of my receiver. Fuck.
-- Last week I was up and moving early one morning, and decided I'd stop by our town's diner on my way to work. I love small-town diners. I have romantic ideas that they're full of locals who've always known each other, gossiping and talking current events over coffee and the local newspaper. Diners are Mayberry and Richard Russo novels, and every old black and white film on AMC. They're one of our last remaining links to the past, a simpler, more wholesome time. I really love the idea of them, and make a conscious effort to visit as many as I can. Of course, I'd been to the one in our town many times before, but almost always on weekends. I couldn't remember experiencing it on a weekday, to take in its true flavor. When I walked in I was a little surprised there wasn't more activity. I was expecting a lot of talking, and waitresses moving about, and clanking of silverware, and laughter. But there was little of that. A fat man sat at one end of the counter, eating silently, and two guys wearing gas company (?) uniforms were at the other end. Two or three of the booths were occupied by families, so there was no interaction among the patrons. Very disappointing. I sat down at the counter, a couple of spaces from the fat man, and greeted him with a good morning. He grunted in my direction without looking up. His attention never wavered from his eggs. The waitress was reading the paper, and appeared annoyed that I'd interrupted her. She flung a menu at me, and said, "Coffee?" I ordered, she went back to her paper, the fat man kept eating, the gas dudes finished and left, my food came, I ate and left too. I'm starting to think Norman Rockwell was a liar.
-- We received our bill for the local "school tax" on Friday: $1919.00! Holy shit. What is this, Canada? It went up five hundred bucks in a single year! Why, so teachers don't have to make co-payments on their antidepressants? I guarantee it's some union coerced goodie for employees, not something that will actually improve classrooms. See, this is the kind of thing they should've been debating at the diner. And the sad part is, the increase pretty much eats up our six hundred dollar tax rebate from W. I had planned to use that money to do my patriotic duty by purchasing a home theater in a box. But now my country suffers.
-- I was checking out the stats for this page over the weekend, and the part that always blows my mind is the list of visitor's countries. Here it is, for the past few months: United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Sweden, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Portugal, Switzerland, Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Finland, Greece, Ireland, Malaysia, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Poland, South Africa. How frickin' bizarre is that?
-- I took a fiction writing class in California, from a successful novelist who I came to respect a great deal. He's an ex-lawyer that gave up the big paydays to become a writer, and after a few lean years is actually supporting himself by writing fiction. I don't think most people realize how rare a feat that is. Anyway, one of the things he discussed, that has stuck with me, is his appreciation for Dean Koontz. I was a little surprised, because I'm pretty much a snob when it comes to books and music. A writer as successful as Koontz just has to be a hack, in my way of thinking. Product cranked out for the masses, the literary equivalent of Cheez-Wiz, right? Well, not according to this guy. He said Koontz wasn't born with overwhelming natural talent, but has turned himself into an almost great writer through hard work and sheer determination. He views him as a great inspiration to all aspiring writers -- proof that you don't need to be an F. Scott Fitzgerald to become an accomplished author. I'm a little skeptical, but I'm going to read a couple of his books. I've already been laughed at during a phone conversation with my parents, had my romantic visions of small town America booted around, and been robbed of my ability to help jump-start the economy. What's a little more disillusionment in the grand scheme of things?
-- I received a really funny note from a loyal Surf Reporter a few days ago, and he's given me the OK to share it with you folks. We both suspect that the statute of limitation has probably run out by now. It's from Chris in North Carolina, and he's telling me about some of the reasons he left West Virginia, years ago. Here are a few excerpts:
Yeah, the apartment was in Spring Hill, but it was over somebody else's apartment. I got evicted after I bought a waterbed and the weight of it crashed through the floor into the apartment downstairs. I was paying for that until I left the state. Still owed $4000 in damages. That's right. I AM a fugitive from justice. Never left a forwarding address. I'm sure the old woman I rented from is dead now. But that's another story.
Obviously, I wasn't going to let that go without a follow-up, so I wrote him and asked for some additional information...
It actually landed in the bedroom of the couple below. Luckily, it happened in the mid afternoon, so no one was home. They were good friends of mine, so they didn't even bother with asking me to replace their lamps, bed, and womanly trinkets all over their destroyed dresser. The floor (mine) and the ceiling (theirs) looked like a hurricane had gone through. Their carpet was also saturated. They had renter's insurance and everything was covered, as far as their shit. I paid about 700 dollars on the reconstruction and skipped the state. The landlady's name was Icie Bear (no shit). She never knew I moved the waterbed in, and didn't realize I was using her water spigot to fill it up. I turned it on and it was taking forever. I just went to work and left it on. When I got home, the mattress was 5 feet tall. I think this may have weakened the floor. I siphoned the water out to the appropriate level and turned on the heater. Got the best night's sleep I had in months. I was anxious to try it out with my girlfriend the next day. Went to her house to pick her up and when I got back the fire department was there. I owned a waterbed for one day. Didn't pay the payments on it either. No wonder my credit report is so screwed.
Thanks Chris, that's good stuff. If the estate of Icie Bear comes knocking, I promise to get up on my high-horse and refuse to reveal my sources on the grounds of journalistic privilege. I'll turn them away with volume and a tone of moral indignation. Don't worry, it works every time.
And that's it for this edition. Until next time...Gay Boy, over and out.
August 3, 2001
I watched most of the MTV 20th Anniversary special Thursday night, and was pretty much disappointed. I was expecting a retrospective sort of thing, a collection of clips from the early days, mixed in with relevant interviews and maybe a few of the old bands playing live. I don't know why I thought that, I guess it's just that after watching TV for almost forty years you develop a sense of what to expect. TV is nothing if not predictable, right? But this three-hour orgy of hipness and hedonism was more along the lines of Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve, and didn't do a very good job of honoring the past, in my estimation. Sadly, I was surprised by it.
There was a big audience on hand, which remained in a state of apoplectic hysteria throughout, as if each new segment was so mind-blowing in its greatness there simply was no way of refraining from screaming like a mental patient and blowing air through a horn. The performances were sometimes cool, sometimes predictable, occasionally confusing, and occasionally by people I've never fucking heard of. And the interviews were all incredibly bad, mostly conducted by dumbasses and douchebags wearing ridiculous clothing. There were no old clips to speak of, and little discussion of the undeniable impact the channel has had on popular culture. It was basically three hours of watching other people party, and how fun is that?
Here are a few of my random notes about the Big Night...
-- It was great to see the new Beavis and Butthead segment intros created for the show. They're the best thing that ever came out of that channel, in my opinion. I was just thinking a few days ago how I wish they'd run a "Moron-a-thon" soon. I miss the lads, and I'm glad to see they're still as funny as ever. "How do you spell MTV, Butthead?" "I don't know...I think it's just a big M." Bring 'em back! Mike Judge is a genius, a stone-cold genius.
-- I learned that once a performer is declared "in the house," you're supposed to immediately "give it up", then afterwards remark that their performance was "off the hook." I wrote it down so I'll remember.
-- The commercial breaks lasted roughly forty minutes each, and skewed heavily towards products designed for use in conjunction with the vagina.
-- The original five VJ's (!) all seemed drunk off their asses, especially the massively pregnant Martha Quinn. Who can blame them? They seemed as out of place in that cluster-fuck as Bob Dole at a rodeo.
-- Could somebody please give Nina Blackwood a lozenge?
-- The members of Sum 41 look like they're in elementary school, but they seemed cool enough. Tommy Lee was playing drums for them, for reasons unknown, and Rob Halford came out in full leather gear at the end, and scared the shit out of everyone with an authoritative reading of a "You've Got Another Thing Comin'" Very nice. One of the highlights of the show.
-- Billy Idol was also in top form. He looks pretty much the same, just a little puffier in the face. He did "Rebel Yell," and it sounded surprisingly good. What happened to rock music, anyway? Did it go out of style somewhere along the way?
-- Some chick I didn't recognize was being interviewed by some other chick I didn't recognize, and said that one of the great moments in the history of MTV was, "The first time L'il Kim stepped onto the House of Style stage." Who among us cannot remember where we were when we first heard about it?
-- Ric Ocasek now looks like a life-sized marionette. He appears to be controlled by a network of cables.
-- I give Macy Gray six months to live.
-- Perry Farrell was wearing a canary yellow jumpsuit, with a matching scarf tied around his neck. He looked like Tony Randall on an old episode of Match Game 74. Then he went out and performed "Been Caught Stealing" behind a giant wall of guitars.
-- They kept hyping an appearance by Huey Lewis, and when they finally got around to "interviewing" him, the host yelled in his face, "Huey!! Are you getting drunk?" And then they immediately threw it to some equally probing interview on the other side of the hall. They didn't even let him answer the question! What the hell?! As they were cutting away, Huey had a look on his face like he'd just caught a whiff of human waste.
-- Kid Rock played an original blues song (with Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top) called "If I Were President" that probably ruffled a few feathers. He came out and dissed Clinton, spoke in favor of the right to own guns, and praised Lynyrd Skynyrd. I hope he's been saving his money.
-- The much-ballyhooed rap superstar jam was one of the most excruciating things I've ever witnessed. Every other word was bleeped out, which was undoubtedly just for show, since it was all incomprehensible. How is it possible to censor Busta Rhymes anyway? Nobody alive can understand a word he's saying. There were about twenty people onstage, all pacing back and forth and yelling into microphones at the same time. I think they were doing their own selections all at once; it was utter chaos. It sounded like a bunch of people arguing on Hardball. Afterwards the hosts were wiping away tears and speaking of the love and unity in the room. Everybody seemed genuinely touched by the beauty of what they had just witnessed.
I was thinking about that episode of Beavis when they went to the laundromat. Man, that was a good one. "You said load."
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