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I'm loaded with tumors darling, and I don't even know it.

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   The State of My Fat Ass
                                   November 2002

November 25, 2002

-- We threw an old-fashioned Cleaning Jamboree at the Compound this weekend. It was disgusting. We actually moved things, and didn't just clean around them like we usually do. At various times during the past two days we were on our hands and knees, scrubbing! It goes against everything I'm about. And I still find this hard to believe, but on Saturday I found myself with a Q-Tip in-hand digging the dust out of the goddamn speaker grooves on the front of the television! I mean, how sick is that?

Yep, my parents are coming.

They're gonna stay with us for a few days over Thanksgiving and it might just be paranoia, but we both get the feeling they don't approve of our housekeeping standards. Our idea of clean, and theirs, don't live on the same side of town and don't travel in the same circles. Theirs goes to the opera, ours follows Kid Rock's Destroy Your Liver tour around the southeast. We're not slobs, mind you, just normal human beings. At least that's the way I see it; they might put a different spin on it.

My parents are great, but I'm not sure you could classify them as normal when it comes to their house. My mother and my grandmother, who lived across the street from us when I was a kid, are/were fanatical cleaners, almost(?) to the point of mental illness. I remember coming home from school and my grandmother having most of her furnishings and belongings dragged out on the front lawn, and her swinging a broom, beating hell out of a mattress. It was a hard thing to explain to the other kids. Not once have Toney and I done anything like that, and I seriously doubt we ever will. I just don't see the advantage in it. Who gives a crap about the cleanliness of your box springs?

But that's the way I grew up.

My granny could anticipate a speck of dust about to fall on a piece of furniture in the corner of the room, and would practically dive for it, with full extension, like Brooks Robinson. She was Edward Pledgehands. And so is my mother.

So, we've got things sparkling and dust-free around here, trying to repair our reputation as people who live shoulder-deep in filth. No longer does the light fixture above our dining room table look like a set piece from The Munsters, and the dust bunnies from under our bed have all been rounded up and set free to roam and romp outdoors. (We're nothing if not humane.) It's probably still not up to their code, but it's as good as it's gonna get.

I took a goddamn Q-Tip to our television grooves for these people!!

-- It was tough times for our dog Andy (Black Lips Houlihan), during this annual Jamboree of Clean. He's a neurotic mess, and any deviation from the norm sends him reeling. For one thing, he absolutely hates the vacuum cleaner. Every time I use it he thinks I've gone to the closet and broken out the upright dog killing machine. He gets all low to the ground, and slinks around the house, shooting nervous glances over his little doggie shoulders. It's an amazing thing to watch. Since we were vacuuming two or three times longer than normal this weekend, you can probably imagine what shape he was in by the end. When the mailman came onto the porch at the same time I was vacuuming on Saturday, I thought his head would simply explode. It was very nearly more than he could handle. He was absolutely ass over tits.

After I finally put the electric dog killer away Toney told me I'd better give Andy a bath, before she started cleaning the bathroom. I didn't think the timing was quite right, since baths always send him to the brink of cardiac arrest too, but it had to be done. I started filling the tub with water, and he knew something was up. He has a heightened awareness of these sort of things, and began shaking like a paint mixer. He ran to Toney's feet and was huddling up against her. When I bent over to pick him up, he rolled over on his back and launched a majestic arc of border collie urine across the freshly mopped kitchen. I'm not proud to report it, but Toney then let loose a torrent of profanity the likes of which I haven't heard since Junior High School. I'm not even sure a lot of it made logical sense. What the heck's a shit faggot?

After I got him cleaned up, and after he finished rubbing himself all over the furniture, I began looking for a special treat to give him, since he'd had such a hard time of it. I found something called Bagel Bites in the freezer (who the hell knows?), and I popped four in the microwave for him. They were harder than bullets when they were done, but he didn't seem to mind. He gobbled them down loudly, licked his lips, and threw me a begrudging look of gratitude. Then he went out on the front lawn, took a towering shit, and came back in and slept for hours and hours.

-- As usual, we watched Trading Spaces Saturday night. Both episodes. Have you noticed how often people say the word "cool" on that show? If you tried to have a drinking game around it, you'd find yourself careening across town in the back of an ambulance after the first fifteen minutes or so. What do you think of this paint the color of freshly-slaughtered cow blood that we're going to use to cover these poor bastards' living room walls with? Cool! OK, we're going to take this X-Acto knife and slice cool designs into the cushions of this Ethan Allan leather sofa... Cool! Wow, I'm really pleased with the armoire since we dragged it out in the yard and set it afire. Yeah, it looks really cool!

-- Sunday afternoon we stopped at Krispy Kreme for donuts and coffee. It's been cold here, and a few hot donuts right off the conveyor and a big bucket of boiling hot stool softener really hits the spot. When we pulled into the parking lot there was a pitiful excuse for a Santa hamming it up out front, waving people into the parking lot and using an unnecessary amount of hand gestures. I couldn't tell for sure, but I think it was a teenage girl with a pillow strapped to her torso. It was one of the worst Santas ever. When we were in line to pay for our donuts this half-assed Saint Nick came through the front doors, and walked past us. I stopped "him" and said, "You know, you should probably ease back on the donuts, dude. That gut is getting a little out of hand." "He" hung his head in shame, then proceeded to the ladies room, or whatever. I was laughing, then noticed a little kid looking at me in utter shock. "Mommy," he eventually managed, "that man just insulted Santa!" Toney took all this in, blinked, and said, "Wonder why nobody ever dresses up as Santa Claus for Halloween? ...They could give out candy canes!"

-- One of my favorite parts of the holidays: cashew burps! Mmmm. I've started early this year. Tasty.

-- It's not even Thanksgiving and they're already getting ready for the holiday shopping season up here in northeastern PA. Ho ho ho.

-- Toney's mother and stepfather, Sunshine and Mumbles, will be here for Christmas, and she's already made it clear that she wants to "be there" when we pick out our tree. Of course, that means she wants to tell us which tree to buy, preferably one so big we'll have to take down one of our interior walls to fit it in the living room. Last year, when they lived here (I can barely type those words), they had a tree in their apartment that was so massive you'd be sitting on the couch having an eggnog with a branch and a glass ball pressed against your cheek. It completely filled the room, and you practically had to sit inside the thing. Sunshine has this weird obsession with having the biggest Christmas tree possible, and doesn't let little details like logic and physics stand in her way. We'll probably end up getting one that's twelve-feet tall, and be forced to lop a yard off the top, leaving a solid pillar of pine that doesn't come to a point at the top. A festive Christmas bush. But whatever. Why fight it? As long as she doesn't burn our house to the ground, why should I sweat the details? I'm just gonna go with the flow -- and keep a perpetual Sinatra-strength bourbon and water in my right hand. In fact, I've already started practicing my fake smile. If you're not prepared you leave yourself open to face cramping.

Have a great Thanksgiving folks. I'm gonna take a week off from the site, so my next update will be December 2. By that time I will have turned forty, but let's not focus on that, OK? It's far too painful. I'm going to spend my time off from work, and away from the internet, trying to tie up a few loose ends. I have several half-finished projects hanging over my head, and I hate that feeling. Like every other pussy in America, I need closure!

See ya in December.


November 21, 2002

I've gotta keep this short and sweet today, children. Shit's going down at work, so I better be there to get my share. But here are a few quick things...

-- In the past few weeks I've read three books, and each has made me shake my tiny Duke head, for varying reasons.

First, I read Peter Farrelly's "Outside Providence." He is, of course, the guy who went on to write and direct a bunch of blockbuster films with his brother, including There's Something About Mary. But this is his first book, from 1988, and it's really not very good. Less than 200 pages with big honkin' fonts, the size of which are generally used to demand that second graders see Spot run. See him, goddammit! See him!! So, if you take into account that cheat, it's probably really only 120 pages. The characters are two-dimensional, parts of the story are overly dramatic, and it's all just sorta ordinary. But... it was turned into a major motion picture and undoubtedly reaped the author a wheelbarrow full of cash.

I also read an obscure book called "Down On Ponce," a crime novel set in one of my old Atlanta neighborhoods. It's by Fred Willard, but I don't think it's the guy from Fernwood 2Night. It's damn good, and funny, and a bunch of other positive things. I'm just guessing, but it probably took Willard several years of hard work to write this book. Night after night in front of his monitor, shaping and molding, struggling and sweating, writing and re-writing. Then, in the end, I imagine he felt in his bones that he'd pulled it off, he'd nailed the bastard. There were probably a few parties to celebrate his achievement, and glowing reviews from people he trusted. The sky was the limit! Then... it came out and quickly disappeared without a trace. I bought my copy off half.com for two bucks -- and it's a signed first edition.

The best of the lot is by Jason Headley, who you might remember from this very site. Yes, he's the guy who stopped washing his hair. Well, he's written a hell of a book, called "Week From The Fall," and was gracious enough to let me read an early draft. I'm not just being kind when I say that it's really, really good. It's set in a fictional town in West Virginia, and explores the struggle of a young man whose life hasn't turned out quite like he'd planned. The characters are real, their situations compelling, the dialogue often hilarious, and I was floored. This guy's the real deal; he's not just playing around, like me. It makes me nervous just to write these words, but parts reminded me of Richard Russo. Holy crap! I'm thinking about throwing out my Pert, and seeing if it'll work for me.

I had a writing teacher in California who drew a pyramid on the blackboard, with four or five straight lines running across it. He told us that the bottom level, the biggest, is people who plan to someday write a novel. The second, slightly smaller, level is the people who actually start a novel... All the way up to the tiny tip of the thing which represented the elite few who actually earn a living writing books. These people are as hard to find as a good bald eagle taco. They're the rarest of the rare. Even the teacher, who had a six-book deal, or some shit, was teaching the likes of me to make ends meet.

Anyway, after he did his whole pyramid bit, he drew a big wheel on top and told us that once you reach that level it becomes a matter of luck. You just keep spinning and hoping your numbers come up. A few lucky bastards will become the next Stephen Kings and Dean Koontzs of the world. I believe him, and it both excites and irritates me. On the one hand, it's possible to strike it rich with a half-assed book like Farrelly's, or you could be grinded into the pavement like Willard, after doing everything right. Neither seems fair, but that's probably why so many people are drawn to it. That's why the bottom level of the pyramid is so damn big. Anything's possible, both good and bad.

Good luck, Jason. I hope you spin the big wheel and make it to the Showcase Showdown; you deserve it, dude. If you need me, I'll be in the cellar underneath the pyramid... you know, watching TV and eating Funyuns and stuff.

-- Rocky sent me some exciting news yesterday:

The state of WV has blocked access (to its employees) to the WVSR! That's right, for some reason, your site has been personally selected. At first, they just blocked porn, sports, shopping, and some personal web sites. Now the WVSR. There's no way that they could have known your site was a personal site without visiting it and reviewing the content.

Porn, sports, shopping -- and Jeff Kay. This is one of the proudest moments of my life. I'm sorry, I'm getting a little emotional again...

-- I was reading this article, about some shitsack yelling outside a courtroom and causing a mistrial, and it reminded me of something my friend Bill and I did a hundred years ago. We were in Cincinnati, to see a few Reds games, and were out tooling around with a floorboard full of warm beer, as we were inclined to do in those days. We already had a few under our belts when we happened upon an elaborate wedding in its final stages. The bride and groom were coming down the steps, dressed in their fairytale outfits, and everyone was throwing rice and smiling and the whole deal. For reasons that now escape me, I whipped my car into the circular driveway in front of the church, just a few feet from the congregation, and Bill yelled out the window: "HOPE YA GET LAID!!" Every head turned in our direction, wearing an expression of confusion and disbelief. Think of me as you will, but I still find this to be highly hilarious. Sometimes there's genius in stupidity. And I guarantee we're now a part of that family's folklore.

-- I keep getting spam trying to convince me to load up on Thomas Kinkade paintings of covered bridges and the like. And I keep hitting REPLY and telling them that I'd rather snip my nipples off with wire cutters. So far it hasn't made much difference though.

-- The guy beside me at work has now added a new weapon to his bulging sack of irritation. Not only does he eat three or four apples per day, using his bottom teeth to fucking SHAVE the things at a high rate of speed, and smacking his lips and sucking his teeth to beat the band, but he's now started listening to WWII music through his tinny little laptop speakers. I swear there are times when I think I can't take it anymore. Around lunchtime it sounds like there's a colony of beavers over there building a lodge -- and listening to "The Chattanooga Choo Choo" on a transistor radio. I know it's only a matter of time before Alan Funt jumps out from behind a partition and gives me a big hug, and points out the Candid Camera hidden in the ceiling tiles.

-- I just figured out another Scranton term, and I'm feeling pretty proud of myself. It's baffled me for some time, but I think I finally cracked it. When they say that somebody's "on the bed," it means they're sick. 

You need a goddamn schematic to live in this place...

-- I forgot to mention it last time, but the intervention scene in last week's episode of The Sopranos was brilliant. I keep thinking about it, and it blows my mind. Has there ever been a better TV show? Seriously.

-- I read that the federal government is going to start monitoring our purchases, as part of Homeland Security or some deal. Well, that's just excellent. I can imagine a bunch of people huddled around a table in Washington, going over my receipts, and one of them saying, "What's this Yuengling? This guy seems to be stockpiling the stuff. Is that a brand of fertilizer or something?" Then Tom Ridge standing up with a red face, and screaming, "Get him!!"

And I think I'll end it right there, with that comforting thought. If you get the chance, check out the Best Of page. I added a few odds and ends to it in the past few days, including White Trash Rap, which is not to be missed. I'll be back on Monday, then I'm taking a week off. My parents are coming to town for Thanksgiving, plus I'm needing a short break from the Internet.  I'm afraid it's turning me into a nerd.  If I keep it up I'll be running through the woods in full costume yelling, "I'm a dragon!!"

Have a great weekend, folks.

November 18, 2002

-- I don't like to complain (ahem), but the CD player in my truck isn't working right. It skips and stops, and it infuriates me almost to the point of apoplexy. Since day-one the piece of shit has been hypersensitive and is seemingly effected by weather conditions, sunspot activity, and the phases of the moon. I can't swear to it, but I think it only works properly when Venus is in the second house. I mean, rugged it's not. It's also extremely suspicious of new discs it hasn't met before, and routinely rejects them without a proper audition. My CD player is now an electronic version of my grandmother.

Sometimes when I'm riding down the road enjoying some tunes, singing along and contorting my face like a jackass, the thing will just spazz out for no apparent reason. Space Invaders sound effects, whirring noises, shit cutting in and out... I worry that the laser will eventually shoot out of the slot and destroy my retinas as I'm traveling down Interstate 81. My eyes! Dear God, my eyes!!

It pisses me off. We just forfeited a sizable load of cash to replace our washing machine, now this. I just want my stuff to work. Is that such an unrealistic expectation? Goddamn. People say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one.

This is the second Sony CD player that's shit the bed on me in recent years. I had one in my California bunker that began skipping, then finally just stopped working altogether. At the end it was a four hundred dollar digital clock. I mean, what the hell? I'm not made of money here; even though it sometimes feels like it, I'm not exactly crapping bars of gold.

I used to believe that Sony was the best, but it would be hard to convince me of that now. My theory is that they got to the point where their products were so good nobody ever needed to replace them. They were slashing their own throats with superior reliability. So, to ensure repeat customers, they started working a few flaws into their designs... necessary flaws, to keep the stockholders happy.

I imagine them all sitting around a big table in Tokyo: "As soon as warranty run out, we make fucker skip! Skip like a bitch! Hahahahaha!! Yankee swine. We will rule the world!"

Toney sometimes accuses me of obsessing over things.

-- I was talking to my brother Saturday and suddenly there were two black ladies on the line with us. It was apparently some kind of cordless phone mishap and their conversation was bleeding over into ours, or vice versa. At first there was loud static, then we were plunged into the middle of a conversation that consisted mainly of high-pitched squealing and two people talking at the same time. They were in high gear, doing all that "Ooooo girl!" stuff, and the whole nine yards. I started laughing and one of them said, "Who dat?" Then, just as quickly as they appeared, they were gone. Somebody contact Art Bell! I think my phone's picking up transmissions from sassy black women in space. Shit, when this gets out I bet the government will start a campaign to make me look like an idiot. That's what they do, you know.

-- I was reading an article the other day about Jim Thompson, the author of "The Killer Inside Me" and a bunch of other twisted 1950's crime novels. The guy was a hell of a writer, but also a black-belt drunk. By the late 60s he was writing dimestore novelizations of the Raymond Burr-in-a-wheelchair TV series Ironside to help pay the bills. I don't know why I think that's so sad, but I do. A man should spend his later years reaping the benefits of a lifetime of hard work, not groveling for cheap cash. I mean, Ironside?! It's even worse than William Faulkner being reduced to churning out shitty Hollywood screenplays at the end of his life. Why are so many writers alcoholics? What's the deal with that? And, conversely, why would I soil my undies in elation if anyone ever asked me to write a book about Raymond Burr in a chair -- any kind of chair? It could be Raymond Burr in a beanbag chair for all I care! The day that happened there'd be one hell of a party at the Compound. It would be the crowning achievement of my life! And I guess I now need to reexamine what I consider sad...

-- Toney told me an incredible story yesterday -- the kind of tale that makes life worth living. She was talking to her mother on the phone and found out that her brother's wife wants to have her stomach stapled. You know, that Carnie Wilson deal where they destroy one of your major organs because you can't keep your hand out of the goddamn Ho-Ho box? Well, this is apparently a dream she's had for a long time (hey, we can't all be John Lennons), and she finally took the plunge. She made an appointment and went to the initial consultation with the doctor, and was disappointed to learn that you must be at least a hundred pounds overweight to qualify for the surgery. Since she was only carrying sixty-eight pounds of excess baggage on her ass and upper thighs, she wouldn't be able to participate. Dammit! Well, you can probably guess her solution around this little problem, right? There was but one thing left to do. Yes, she went straight home and began a strict regimen to pack on another forty pounds! She's now bulking up to put herself over the top, in order to qualify for a radical procedure to cure her obesity!! I find this to be highly amusing.

-- Check out the view from our deck this morning!

-- I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I'm related to the late, great Red Sovine, the country singer most commonly associated with big-rig trucks, alcohol, and crippled children. Well, my brother told me about a song of his that he found on WinMX, and suggested I check it out immediately, if not sooner. I did, and it's nothing short of incredible. Some people's ancestors came to this country in chains and were forced to rise above the worst possible conditions, while others fled unspeakable atrocities in their home countries to make a life for their families here. These are my roots.

-- And finally, here a few more links designed to drag down your company's productivity...

Here's an expert's opinion on the horrifying Michael Jackson picture we featured last time. Seems he's in serious danger of a complete nasal collapse.

And here's another one of those stories that make life worth living. After reading the headline I was relieved to learn it wasn't about Rocky and Lucas.

This is a ranking of the "smartest" states, based on some unknown criteria. Please note that West Virginia ranks a respectable number eighteen. Where does your state come in, hmmm?  Who's laughing now, cheese dick?

Here's a well-endowed (and hilarious) list of porn film titles. Willy Wanker at the Fudge Packing Factory?!

I've been wondering, is Marshall Mathers, aka Eminem, related to Jerry Mathers, TV's Beaver Cleaver? I tried to find the answer at beavercleaver.net, but I'm a little confused.

See ya in a couple days, folks.

November 14, 2002

-- I read that The Clash, The Police, Elvis Costello and the Attractions, and AC/DC will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame later this year. That's cool, I guess. I like all four bands. I'm still not completely sold on the idea of a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but that's a subject that's been beat to death by now. Not much I can add, really. I'm just a bitter man wearing red sweatpants in Scranton.

And I'll spare you yet another angst-laden foray into self-pity about getting fucking old. My getting old is getting pretty old. But I will mention that I remember the department store in my hometown stocking the first two Elvis Costello albums in the comedy section. And I remember The Police playing at a club about five miles from my house for four bucks a head, and not being able to buy a ticket because I was underage. And I remember reading an interview with Sting a few months later in Creem and him saying that his band played to twelve people in West Virginia the day their second album went to number one in England. It woulda been thirteen, dude. I swear I tried. And I remember the sticker on the front of The Clash's London Calling that read: 18 New Songs By The Only Band That Matters -- and believing it was true. And I remember careening down country roads with a couple of warm eight-packs on the floorboard, blasting AC/DC, and everyone in the car singing at the top of their drunken lungs: "GIVIN' THE DOG A BONE!!!"

But I'll refrain from talking about how the bronzing of Mick Jones and Joe Strummer, and the placing of them on a tasteful glass shelf under an understated spotlight, makes me feel old. Nobody wants to hear that bullshit. Goddamn.

-- I never saw The Clash. Toney saw them open for The Who in San Francisco, but I've been shut out. They'd already disintegrated by the time I left West Virginia, so I never really got the chance. I've been lucky enough to see almost all of my musical heroes by now (I saw The Police, Elvis C, and AC/DC multiple times), but never The Clash. Big Audio Dynamite two or three times, but that doesn't really count, does it? It's a giant missing piece of the puzzle. The Replacements, The Buzzcocks, Television, Nick Lowe, Graham Parker, Public Image Ltd., Springsteen, Prince, REM, Nirvana, The Kinks, Randy Newman, The Beautiful South, X, Jason and the Scorchers, Neil Young, Iggy Pop, Pere Ubu, Beastie Boys, Cheap Trick, The Pogues (with Shane!), Devo, Bob Dylan, Queen, The Feelies, Steely Dan, True Believers, Dinosaur Jr., Jane's Addiction, The Pretenders, The Ramones, U2, Sonic Youth, Metallica, and on and on and on. But no Clash, and no Lynyrd Skynyrd. There's a huge sucking void in the center of my existence.

-- Speaking of puckering voids, I've been getting email solicitations the past couple of weeks urging me to cleanse my bowels. Apparently if I send these people "less than $52" I can make my shit-chute so squeaky-clean you could store surgery supplies in there. And this will, in turn, make me smarter, more energetic, a snappier dresser, wittier, better-read, fluent in several languages, and able to operate heavy machinery. I will also be blessed with light and fluffy stools that practically dance on the water. If I weren't convinced that these "all-natural" substances weren't produced on a Caribbean island, outside the jurisdiction of that pesky FDA, and that they'd probably blow a hole in the side of my aorta or cause a catastrophic colon collapse, I might be tempted to take them up on their offer. I probably have stalactites of beef from the '70s hanging from the roof of my poop-maker. Some of it probably dates back to Burger Chef.

-- And on the subject of advertising, have you seen the Hyundai commercial where a guy's sitting in a car and, out of nowhere, a giant doughnut comes rolling down the street and crashes into him? I've seen that thing ten or fifteen times, and I have no idea what it's all about. I mean, what the hell? Is it supposed to make me have a powerful urge to Buy Korean? A big rolling dessert item? I don't get it.

I had a Hyundai once -- an '89 Excel. The shit looked good, like a Mercedes or something. All of their cars look good. You could mistake the Sonata for a frickin' BMW. And they're cheap! Mine cost something like four thousand dollars, brand new. And it was a pretty good car, for the first 100,000 miles. Then it started flying apart. I'm not kidding, the day the odometer rolled over to six-digits, the thing just said fuck it. During the last two or three weeks of its life I had to keep a case of motor oil on the backseat, and pull over every ten miles or so to add more. It went into the top of the engine, and out the bottom, with very little delay. It was incredible. One day it was a good reliable car, and the next it was the biggest piece of junk on the road. And it came out of nowhere, like a big rolling doughnut.

I have some more things to write about, like Ironside, flannel sheets, Sony products, and the kids in the neighborhood, but I really need to get to work. I'll leave ya with a few links to other people's stuff, since I'm not doing too well with the original content today. Have a great weekend, folks.

Here's the official Iraqi election ballot.

Did you know that they used a bunch of Mayberry sets for Star Trek? Me either. Cool.

Shit, I can't draw a straight line with one of these things. They always turn out like a bolt of lightning.

Pete Townshend's thoughts on the Cobain Diaries.

Good God, this is one of the greatest concepts ever invented. Pardon me, I'm getting a little emotional...

And finally, have you seen this pic of Michael Jackson yet? It was taken yesterday, and... sweet Jesus!

I'll do better next time, I promise.

November 11, 2002

-- Busy weekend here at the Compound. We busted our asses and cleaned up the yard, moving nearly a shitload of leaves to the woods behind our house. One of our neighbors once told us that he's been putting his leaves in the woods for forty years, and clearly expected us to do the same. It was obvious that he didn't think too highly of people who bag them and leave them on the curb. Dipshits was his descriptor of choice, I believe. So we used the blower and a couple of rakes to herd our mind-boggling leafy collection into the woods. I sure hope he was proud of us.

I dreaded the job, but it turned out to be kinda pleasant. For one thing, it was a lot easier than previous autumns. The first year here we laid out a big blanket and raked a pile of leaves onto it, then carried it over to the woods and hurled it in. Over and over again, until we were done. It was like prison detail. I was ready to plunge a knife into my abdomen after about six hours of that crap. But we were fresh out of California, what did we know?

Out there I just walked around and put all our leaves in my jacket pocket, and was finished before the cappuccinos were ready. And, if something required a little more effort, I could just drive out to San Fernando Road and hire two or three illegal aliens. Lumpers, they were called. Scranton's in dire need of some lumpers, I'm here to tell you. Sure, one of 'em might take a dump in your yard (this actually happened to one of our LA neighbors -- he caught a guy with his pants around his ankles, dropping a steaming pile under his kid's bedroom window!), but they're hard workers. Lumpers are the Ugly American's best friend.

The neighbors here were probably shaking their heads in disgust at our naive little blanket strategy. When I think back on it, I wonder how we even came up with such a scheme. I think we may have seen it on television, I'm not sure. Probably a commercial about vaginal dryness or something. But we've got it down to a science now, Jack. We're leaf raking machines.

All that's left is for us to learn how to suddenly slam on our brakes on interstate entrance ramps for no apparent reason, and to say "a cuppa two tree" instead of "a few", and we'll be full-blown Scrantonians.

-- It was also Toney's thirty-seventh birthday on Saturday. Being the sentimentalist that I am, I was at the grocery store frantically pawing through their pitiful birthday card selection late Friday night, cursing and sweating profusely because I'd almost forgotten. Again. I'm like a sitcom cliche of a husband, I swear. The laziness, the buffoonery, the belching... it's all there.

Because of my unique attributes, I've learned that there are few things more depressing than off-brand greeting cards. Even with the Rolls Royce of cards, Hallmark or whatever, the attempts at humor are pretty feeble. But when you buy your cards in a grocery store at midnight, marketed directly to the desperate and pathetic, it's far worse. Jokes about sagging tits, candles causing house fires, penises with no life left in them... The predictability of it all just makes me sad. Well that, and the fact that you have no choice but to buy one.

I finally opted for a classy little number that showed a cartoon man burping on the front, and on the inside it said, "Mmm, tastes like birthday cake."

-- Saturday night we went to Don Pablo's to celebrate Toney's birthday. I'm not sure if all the talk of lumpers had anything to do with our choice or not. But we wanted Mexican, and that's pretty much our only choice here. To be fair, it's pretty good for a chain restaurant; sometimes it's actually really good. So we settled into our seats and ordered our ridiculously large adult beverages, Yuengling for me and a margarita for Toney, and that's when I saw two men hug.

Apparently they were old friends who hadn't seen each other in a long time. I started thinking about it, and I don't believe I've ever hugged a man in my life. I probably hugged my dad and grandfathers when I was a little kid, but it's been a long dry spell since then. And, no offense to my friends, but I don't plan on breaking that streak anytime soon. I can't imagine, say, walking up to Mark and sharing a tender embrace. In fact, the thought of it makes me laugh aloud.

Call me a cynic, but I think when hetero men hug they're being pretentious, trying to show everyone how worldly and sophisticated they are. I think it's all for show. Within five years I fully expect to see men kissing each other on both cheeks, like Russians. Just wait and see. Phony assholes never sleep.

-- You know, it occurred to me that if there was ever a natural disaster or something that made it necessary for me to remain locked inside the bunker, I could probably sustain myself for several days on the crumbs imbedded in my keyboard. It's somewhat comforting.

-- The Sopranos was great last night. Best episode of the season, in my opinion. It was also the bloodiest -- wonder if there's any connection there? Hmmm. And Curb Your Enthusiasm killed me as well. You've gotta respect a program that presents back-to-back episodes about a man with a pubic hair caught in his throat. I sit there and watch that show every week and think to myself: Larry David is the man I've always aspired to be.

-- We were at Wal-Mart over the weekend and, on a whim, I decided to venture into their half-assed little arcade by the entrance. They have a speedboat game there and I had a couple of quarters in my pocket, so one thing led to another... Now, I've never been into video games, or things like that, so please keep that in mind. When I was a kid we had Intellivision, but my brother and mother played it way more than I did. That stuff just never really appealed to me, for whatever reason. I was too busy reading "The Vietnamese Baby Book" in National Lampoon, and breaking windows and making fun of the "less-fortunate." Anyway, I jumped up on this boating contraption and had a blast! The thing was frickin' incredible. I was barreling down a river, zipping past sail boats, and flying off ramps. Several times I launched myself off waterfalls and became airborne for an incredible length of time. I was gripping the wheel, leaning my body from side to side, and whooping and hollering. Parents were probably gathering their children and making a run for it. And when it was over I played it again. It was great fun, but when I got up a powerful wave of nausea washed over me, and I very nearly vomited right there by the front door. I think the greeter with two sweet potato arms would've called for backups, if she had been able to operate a telephone. I'm not kidding, I couldn't walk right and my head was spinning... For about five minutes it was touch and go; I seriously thought I was going to go down. Shit. They've come a long way with those games since Burger Time. I think I even suffered a slight wind-burn.

-- And finally, Toney's mother sent her a scrapbook for her birthday. It's full of old pictures and stuff from when she was little, all the way up to today. It's pretty cool. You can say a lot of things about ol' Sunshine, but she almost always comes through with the unusual gifts. She's one kick-ass gift-giver. She once gave me an ashtray from an old defunct casino owned by Dean Martin, Dino's Lodge. How cool is that? Anyway, there's a picture in this scrapbook of Toney and me, and a couple of other people, taken in 1990 -- three years before we were married -- on a beach in Oregon. I couldn't believe my eyes; it pained me to even look at it. My head looked like it was the size of a granny smith apple! It was like something out of Beetlejuice!! It reminded me of this album cover. My hair was all askew and I was sporting a Widespread Panic t-shirt, a goddamn hippie band!! Sweet sainted mother of Sissy Spacek, what was I thinking? How did I ever get a date? Hell, how did I even get served in restaurants?? Here's a poor scan of it, through the plastic and everything. I cropped out everyone else; Toney won't allow her image to appear here, and the rest of the people don't matter. But look at that pencil-neck! I'm amazed there was enough room in that thing for a windpipe. Goddamn. I look like Jeff Goldblum's retarded son.

Have a great week, folks.


November 7, 2002

-- Boy, I bet ol' Saddam could turn hunks of coal into diamonds with his sphincter right about now, huh? What happened to his favorite party, the Democrats, on Tuesday? They bit the proverbial big one. Could it be that their main message, "Don't vote for Republicans, they're mean" wasn't quite enough? Could it be that people were looking for just a little more, like a reason to vote for them? I saw Dee Dee Myers, one of Clinton's butt-buddies, on some show yesterday, and she was asked what the Democrats stand for. She stammered and hemmed and hawed and finally said that they stand for fairness. I almost fell out of my chair. Fairness? It's like saying you're for children. Or gravity. Pitiful. I think they need to have a few meetings over there at the DNC.

And somewhere "Nancy" cried into her wheat grass smoothie.

-- Although many of you probably wish I hadn't, I did my duty and voted on Tuesday. I was again amazed at the antique voting machines they have in our town. They're like something out of the silent movies. I'm not kidding, I bet people voted for Teddy Roosevelt on those things. And talk about confusing! Holy crap. If they put one of our machines in Florida, heads would just literally start blowing off people's shoulders. When I parted the curtain and walked inside, I thought I was looking under the hood of a 1981 Impala: shit going every which way, wires hanging down... I felt like the Wizard of Oz. "Pay no attention to the hate-monger behind the curtain!" I don't think I'm a stupid man, but I had to stand there and study the thing to make sure I wasn't casting a vote for the Bestiality Party or something. And, of course, I was careful not to burn myself on the exhaust manifold. What do they do with the Sweden-like taxes they collect from me every year? You'd think they could spring for some nice butterfly ballots, or something a little less confusing. Shit. If I knew how to find City Hall, I'd file a complaint.

-- So Winona was convicted of grand larceny yesterday? I don't know what to think about that. She's presumably a multi-millionaire, so common sense would tell you she's either crazier than a shithouse rat, or innocent. Either way, it feels like they should go easy on her. I doubt that Winona Ryder is part of an Irish Travelers scamulation club, or anything like that. Ya know? 

It's all so bizarre. OJ Simpson did his best to liberate his wife's head from her torso, and they gave him a pat on the back and asked for his autograph. Now Winona's gonna be sharing a cell with Martha Stewart? It's very confusing. They need to be more consistent in their celebrity favoritism out there in California. Poor Barretta probably doesn't know what to think.  And that's just not right.

-- Our washing machine died on Sunday. It was twelve years old, struck down in the prime of its life. Very sad. We were getting ready to watch The Sopranos and I decided to throw in a load of whites, in preparation for the coming work week. A man needs his whites. Well, everything went as normal until it got to the spin cycle, then all hell broke loose. It sounded like a blender full of rocks. The thing was shaking violently, dancing around and emitting a high-pitched wail. The fuck?! By the time Toney and I got there it smelled like an electrical fire in there, and the thing had completely shut down. Toney opened the lid and it was still full of water, but we couldn't get it to do anything. What in the honeybaked hell?? Like any forty year old man faced with a crisis, I did what needed to be done: I called my daddy. He asked a few questions, then rendered his verdict. The shit is fucked. That's a paraphrase, but it's basically what he told me. So we had to plunge our arms into the gray water and fish out my partially washed undergarments. It was a rare treat: bobbin' for draws. Then the water had to be bailed into the sink, and a check for three hundred fifty bucks had to be written for a new machine. Excellent. As I've said before, I don't mind spending money to add something, but it rubs me the wrong way to part with hard-earned (and I mean hard) cash just to get back to where we were yesterday. Know what I'm sayin'? But what are ya gonna do? You've got to wash your underwear after every three or four wearings, or else they get kinda nasty.

-- Do you know that it's virtually impossible to trip a dog? It's true. I've been conducting an experiment around the house for the past few days, and those are my findings. It's very interesting.

-- Apparently they had to have a few meetings, and conference calls and the like, but Amazon.com finally gave me the approval to place their advertising links on my site. Whew! They were making me nervous. But they're up, and I've already sent them a Thank You note. Once again, I'd like to plead with you in a shameless manner to enter these folks' sites through my links. It won't cost you anything extra, and I'll get a little money if you buy something. I received an email from Earthlink a couple of weeks ago informing me that I'm probably going to have to upgrade my hosting contract soon, because of the amount of traffic I've been receiving. This isn't a tragedy or anything, I'll pay whatever's necessary, but I won't turn my back on a little help either. Just keep me in mind when you do your Kwanzaa shopping this year, OK? I'd appreciate it.

-- And just to prove that it's worth going the extra mile for us, here are some masturbation haikus.

-- Finally, I have exciting news for you today, boys and girls. There have been further developments in the gargoyle situation in Boone! Yes, that's correct, Ardna and the Evergreen Homeowner's Association are on the warpath again, and that means more comedy for us!! Check it out.

And that brings an end to our broadcasting day. Have a great weekend, folks. Toney informed me that we're going to rake leaves all day Saturday (yes, dear...), but that's no reason you can't have some fun. See ya on Monday.

                      

November 4, 2002

-- I'm currently suffering through a case of thermonuclear heartburn, and it pisses me off. Yesterday we cooked up a giant pot of chili, which made the house smell great for hours, and I got all caught up in it and added shredded cheese and chopped onions to my oversized Jethro Bodine bowl at dinner. There's no half-stepping at The Compound when it comes to chili, Jack; it's serious business around here.

Yeah, well, it was great fun at the time, but now I'm paying a steep price. I woke up in the middle of the night, confused and briefly believing someone had dowsed my esophagus in kerosene and set it alight. Holy shit! Why would somebody do such a thing?! Did Toney finally snap because of the snoring? Goddamn!!

But then I remembered... The chili.

I struggled out of bed and made my way downstairs for a cool glass of milk, which I hoped would extinguish the fire in the hole. I felt like I had a self-sustaining white-hot gyroscope of energy in my gut; I sincerely believed that, if properly harnessed, my innards could heat Sweden.

In the kitchen I drank the milk and as soon it hit my stomach there was some kind of instantaneous chemical reaction and I think fire actually leapt from my ass. It was like when they start up the Batmobile. If someone was driving past our house at that exact moment, they probably saw the windows light up. Not to go into great detail, but suffice to say it was one of the more amazing things I've experienced to date.

I used to be able to eat anything. I was like a goat. A bag of garbage? Sure. A length of aluminum siding? Hey, no problem. But now I'm a delicate flower of a man. I have to "watch it." It's disgusting. I know I whine about getting old all the time but, dammit, you just wait 'til it starts happening to you. It's not such an easy thing to accept. A person should not have to weigh the consequences of dinner. Ya know?

Like Spongebob, I think I'll go cry myself a sweater of tears...

-- On Saturday Toney and I went to Barnes & Noble in Wilkes-Barre and there was a guy there doing a book-signing, or some such thing. I'm not absolutely sure, but I think his book was theology-themed. Probably a local college professor, I guessed.

I walked past him at one point and a man in a plum-colored shirt and a white tie was leaning across the table with his face inappropriately close to the writer's face. He was saying, too loudly, "What about the cripples? Did God make them too? Does He create deaf people and kids with one hand??" The writer tried to maintain his composure and told him that, yes, God creates them too. "Well, that's pretty nasty stuff," Mr. White Tie answered, "Is your God a nasty God?" 

Shit.

The poor bastard probably thought he was going to sit behind a table for an hour, sign a few books and make small-talk with old ladies. I'm sure he didn't anticipate being ambushed by a nut with poor fashion instincts, and a spiritual axe to grind.

Heck, come to think of it, it wouldn't surprise me if the book wasn't theology-themed at all. It may have been about gardening or something, for all I know. Mr. White probably went over to Best Buy afterwards and ripped the guy in car stereos a new one too. "Kids with one hand! Think about it!!"

Book-signings always leave me feeling sad. I almost always come away from them with pity in my heart. Work your ass off on a manuscript for a year, and earn the privilege of having some lunatic yell, "What about the cripples?!" in your face? It's depressing.

-- I saw a Sopranos 2003 calendar at B&N, and it intrigued me for about ten seconds. Then I started asking myself, do I really want to stare at a picture of Uncle Junior for thirty straight days? Let's face it, it's a great show, but they don't offer up much for the eyes. Silvio looks like a scrotum, Janice is flat-out hideous (plus, there's that scene with Ralphie and the dildo, which will haunt me to my grave), and God knows you wouldn't want to bring Bobby Bacala into your home. I think I'll just go with the Far Side again.

-- I was riding to work one day last week and the person in front of me stopped at a red light, swung open his door, and dumped roughly 23,000 cigarette butts on the road. I couldn't believe my eyes. The blatant littering, the inconceivable volume, the sheer balls of the act! I considered calling the police, but for all I know dumping trash on the street is legal here. Hey, don't laugh, it's Scranton. Plus, being a conscientious citizen often leads to ass-kickings and, based on previous experience, I'm not a big fan. So I just drove on, and my truck's frame wrenched and groaned as I made my way over the mound of filters; I fishtailed and spun my tires a little, and I was finally on my way to work. Screw it. I have my own set of problems.

-- On a completely unrelated note, I received an email last week from some guy, demanding that I remove a link to his site from The Mountain. He's a personal bodyguard, and claimed I was damaging his professional image. The tone of the thing was mildly threatening and it triggered an ancient instinct within me to fuck with the man. I mean, I can link to any damn thing I please, right? If you put it out there in the public domain, I have a Constitutional right to point and laugh. It's another benefit of being an American citizen. So I was getting myself all wound up to go to war with this dude, but then I started thinking: why? What's the point? What good would come from it? So I finally just sent a nice reply and told him I'd remove the link. What do I care, really? ...Sometimes I think that what passes for maturity is actually people not having the energy it requires to get into trouble..

-- Maybe I'm completely out of touch with popular culture (anything's possible), but I don't find that Jackass stuff funny in the least. Here's a photo of me watching the commercial where the midget kicks himself in the forehead. If that's the scene they've chosen to sell the movie, I can't imagine how shit-the-bed hilarious the rest of it must be. Pitiful. Those guys need to go back and study the masters. Like The Jerky Boys.

-- Remember a few days ago when I predicted that conspiracy theorists would say Paul Wellstone's plane crash was no accident? Check it out.

--  And the Bush brothers are probably behind this one too! When are we going to do something?!

-- Here's my latest art acquisition. The Surf Report Collection continues to grow. I bet they don't have anything like this in fancy-pants Italy, Mr. Maynard.

-- Finally, Toney and I watched yet another episode of Trading Spaces Saturday night (the Bermuda Triangle of Interior Design), and I'm still in shock at the horror we witnessed. That Hildy chick completely wrecked a couple's bedroom, and it was an excruciating thing to behold. She painted the walls Easter egg blue, then forced the people, against their will, to spray-paint graffiti all over everything. They tagged the walls, the shades, the comforter, everything. It was incredible. It wasn't interior decorating, it was vandalism. She should've been arrested at the end of the program! I'm serious, the final scene should've been of her being placed into the back of a cruiser in handcuffs. I used to do shit like that and they always called my Dad at work, and he'd administer a time-tested form of physical discipline on my ass later in the day. This woman gets her own TV show? Where'd I go wrong?

Damn, my heartburn just flared up again. Thinking about that Hildy stirred something up. I'm blowing smoke-rings here; one just came over my shoulder. ...See ya on Thursday, God willing.

Bye for now.   

                               

November 1, 2002

-- The beat goes on. I'm taking a couple of vacation days, doubling the length of the standard-issue weekend and feeling consumed with guilt about it, as usual. I just went through the same thing last week when I took a scandalous sick day, and here I am again... I get some ridiculous amount of vacation time every year, four weeks or some shit, and I'm never able to use much of it. Occasionally I get pissed, and defiantly turn in a request for time off. But when the big day finally arrives, I feel like I'm not being a team player, and can't really enjoy anything. I know I'm crazy, but knowing it doesn't make it go away. I'm convinced I'm feeding a giant reservoir of resentment among my co-workers -- and I can't even take any pleasure in it. What's wrong with me? These should be the moments to savor. This loyalty bullshit is cramping my style.

-- I was talking to a co-worker in California the other day, just gossiping like a couple of back-stabbing housewives, and I asked him about a woman who was in the midst of a massive weight-loss campaign when I left the state. This woman shed something like a hundred pounds, in a relatively short period of time. She brought containers of brown rice to work, and that's all anyone ever saw her eat. It was like Ripley's Believe It or Not; she was shrinking, right before our very eyes. I'm not kidding, over the course of nine months or so she lost the equivalent of two or three third graders -- mostly off her ass.

So I asked this guy about her progress, and he got all excited and said, "Oh, I didn't tell you?!" Of course that got me excited as well. I could tell by the tone of his voice that she'd taken a fall, and other people's problems are always enormous fun.

It seems that she started screwing up at work and her boss was being pretty hard on her. She's the fragile type and even the mildest criticism sends her reeling. Apparently she was stressed to the cusp of a nervous breakdown, and one morning on her way to work she stopped for a dozen doughnuts, with the intention of treating her co-workers. She was attempting the ancient ploy of buying back their love with a carton of deep-fried dough; it's standard practice amongst office workers in crisis. Well, you can probably guess what happened.

As she approached the office she got so anxious she pulled off the side of the freeway and tore into that box like a pack of dingoes on a Cub Scout. She ate all twelve, in a wild eating-disorder frenzy, saliva and glaze a-flying. And this apparently touched off a flood of bad chemicals in her brain and she's now reportedly bigger than she was when she started on the nasty rice!

I know it's mean, but I find this to be highly amusing. I can just picture her on the berm of the 405 freeway in LA, her emergency flashers blinking as SUVs buzz past, and her doughnut-clutching arms nothing but a blur as she desperately stuffs her mouth. And I imagine the animal-like growls bubbling up from deep within her stout torso. But it's the flashers that really crack me up...

I'm bound for hell.

-- I don't think my new leather jacket is working out. There was a scene at the end of the latest Sopranos episode when Tony steps into the room wearing a very similar jacket, and I could sense the entire world gasping, "Oooh shit." But when I walk into a room wearing mine, I'm fairly certain people are thinking, "Who's the douchebag by the door?" It doesn't seem to resonate in the same manner. I want my money back.

-- I've been listening to The Jam, almost continuously since Wednesday. I've become the people I used to make fun of. In the late '80s I routinely looked down my nose at people who still listened to the Allman Brothers and The Doors. I am now them.

-- It snowed Wednesday night, which excites me to no end. First snow of the year, baby! Here's a picture from our deck. It's all gone by now, of course, but I'm still fully engorged.

-- As you may be aware, yesterday was Halloween, and taking into consideration the kids knocking on our door, Bob the Builder seems to be the big deal. I can't imagine worshiping at the alter of a handyman. Me and tools just don't get along, and never have. I'd be more inclined to align myself with Bob the Quiet Guy Who Makes Everyone Slightly Uncomfortable, or Bob the Sarcastic Prick. But that's just me.

-- Speaking of Halloween, there are few things more irritating than teenagers knocking on your door carrying backpacks and sporting not a hint of a costume. They dare you to question their right to your candy. I'll never forget the two girls(?) who showed up at our door in California, after ten o'clock one night, and stuffed the left cup of their bras with our hard-earned Tootsie Rolls. Yes, their bras! I think if you're to the point of requiring a support garment it's time to give up the trick or treating. Same goes for shaving kits and feminine hygiene products. A line has to be drawn, and I think that has to be at the edge of the toy aisle in the drugstore. Step over that line and you're out! Any kind of maintenance item beyond toys disqualifies you from free candy. I think that's reasonable.

-- Another Halloween tidbit: I saw a guy pull a wagon full of little rosy-cheeked fatties who resembled the Campbell's Soup Kids in Batman costumes, right across our lawn! Two deep-ass grooves cut right into our front yard! Thank you very much, sir. I really appreciate your consideration.  Enjoy the candy.

-- You know, the American Dream means many things to many people. Some dream of being an accomplished scientist, while others long for a career as a professional athlete or a famous musician. I personally would like to write something that people might be inclined to read even after I'm gone. I'm not sure what that might be, but something. This guy has his own lofty goals, and I wish him all the luck in the world. Godspeed, my friend, Godspeed. Dare to dream.

-- War in Iraq is imminent. Our troops are being prepared for battle, and nobody will be able to withstand the power that's building. You can kiss your ass goodbye Saddam, Rumsfeld's harnessing the power of horniness. Even if you had a nuclear device, it wouldn't be enough. It's over, Jack.  We're way ahead of you.

-- When I was leaving work earlier in the week there was a guy dragging a big metal step across the floor, making a godawful screeching noise and kicking up sparks. It was the kind of thing you might use beside a travel trailer or something, and this guy was hell-bent on getting it to his vehicle. He was taking that shit home. Hey, whatever; it's none of my business. But it was pretty funny watching him struggle with it, trying to be casual while making enough racket to wake Jam Master Jay. When we got to the guard station I looked at him, laughed and said, "You getting started on a twelve-step program?" All that was missing was the rimshot. I thought it was pretty funny but both he and the guard just stared at me like I was wearing a suit of turds. I'm sure they laughed their asses off later though.

-- We're having Gobblers for dinner tonight. I'm psyched. They're these kick-ass sandwiches we hijacked off the menu of a restaurant in Atlanta years ago: toasted bread, American cheese, Russian dressing, sauerkraut, and shaved turkey. I know it doesn't sound very appetizing, but it's a unique mingling of flavors that can work a Man of Size such as myself into full-on delerium. You should try them sometime, seriously. It's 11:31 am and I'm thinking about dinner, so that should tell you how good they are.  Goddamn.

I have tons more stuff to write about, but I'm gonna save it 'til Monday. I'm sick of sitting at this computer, if you want the truth. My butt cheeks are starting to tingle. I need to go upstairs and shotgun two or three blueberry muffins, stat. It's almost my feeding time, and I need to get some blood pumping to my cheeks before they turn black and fall off.  A prosthetic ass just wouldn't do. It wouldn't go with my jacket.

See ya in a few days.

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Copyright 2002 by Jeffrey S. Kay.  All rights reserved.