The State Of My       Fat Ass
APRIL 2001

April 27, 2001

A very short (but hopefully sweet) update:

The last few years we lived in Atlanta, our commute to and from work was roughly an hour fifteen minutes each way. That allowed us the opportunity to listen to a lot of drive-time radio -- and luckily for us Atlanta has no shortage of good stuff to choose from. One of our regular stops on the dial was the morning show on 99X, the local "alternative" station. It's your basic format of two guys, one a frat-boy and the other a geeky smart-ass, and a level-headed chick trying in vain to keep the two zanies in line. It's a familiar concept, but this team was/is really good. A few days ago, for reasons unknown, I started thinking about a sound clip they used to play that really cracked my ass up. It was a "song" supposedly lifted off a public-access cable channel at 3am, or something along those lines. Proving once again you can find anything on the Internet, I was able to track it down in less than five minutes. It's a wonderful time to be alive! Click here to give it a listen.

April 25, 2001

A few (very random) things:

-- The day after Easter a guy in my office brought in a giant shopping bag full of candy that his kid had collected at church, but had been forbidden to eat by his health-obsessed parents (how fucked up is that?). People converged on that thing like hyenas on a dead hiker. It was something to see. After the mushroom cloud of wrappers and saliva settled, the only thing left standing was a package of Peeps. Even the shopping bag was gone. The people in my office would eat the moulding from around a set of storm windows if it was salty or sweet enough, but they draw the line at Peeps. The poor little yellow guys were still sitting there yesterday, over a week later.

-- We're finally starting to see the sun up here in the frozen northeast. It's been so long I have no idea where my sunglasses are from last summer, so I stopped in a strange general store/gas station a few days ago to see if they might have something that would fit the bill. I pass by this place everyday on my way to work, but I've never stopped before. It says "Dollar Store" on the front for some reason, and is almost completely covered in posters and placards advertising phone cards and cigarettes and other items popular in the housing projects and trailer parks of America. When I walked in I couldn't believe the size of the place. It's like an airplane hangar, and it's bursting at the seams with crap. They've got fireworks in there (illegal in PA? absolutely), a bunch of food that looks like it had its origins in Mexico and various Central American countries with a lot less of those pesky health regulations, and shelf after shelf of flea market-like garbage. I didn't have much time to explore, but I spent a few minutes in a mind-boggling aisle full of nothing but dusty baseball caps. I'm working strictly off memory here, but they had hats from the Indianapolis Zoo, Dollywood, Knott's Berry Farm, and countless others that looked like corporate giveaways for corporations that probably don't exist anymore. All were three bucks each. I'll be paying this place a repeat visit. I know in my bones there's some great shit in there. And in case you're interested, I got my sunglasses -- Ray-Ban knock-offs for four dollars.

-- I don't really understand the obsession, but my brother's heavily into tracing our family history. He was having trouble finding info on a particular great, great, great grandfather (give or take a few greats), so he put the word out on the Internet. Somebody finally sent him a quote from a genealogy booklet the other day that said something along the lines of "Not much is known about him. He regularly attended meetings of Civil War veterans in Charleston, WV, and drank too much." Sounds about right. In a hundred years somebody will probably write the same thing about me, replacing the Civil War part with something about fast food hamburgers.

-- Our kitchen sink was plugged up Monday, and we tried everything to avoid calling a plumber. We plunged, we eeled, we poured a plutonium-laced liquid, but nothing worked. We finally bit the bullet and had somebody come out yesterday. It was a relatively painless experience, but you never know that going in. During all this Toney found a website where people can pose plumbing questions, and a professional is supposed to post an answer. Here's one of the questions, which she e-mailed to me at work:

This is the second time weve been trough this! My Aunt has a beautiful home but because of her weight - she weighs 290 I'm 280, and my parents are both above 300lbs, we keep having to replace her fiberglass bathtubs. We tried

putting in a castiron tub, but the weight, comibned with her's, resulted in the tub falling halve trough the floor and the livingroom ceiling below during the footboall game!!

She was lucky to be spared her life although she scrambled out of there and in her hurry fell out of the tub into the toiletbowl and cocked it sidways out' the floor. So's you can see we have a real mess here anyway we can reinforce the floor beneath so as to support a castiron bathtub?

Thank you for your kindly suggestions,


-- The summer concert season's getting ready to crank up here in Scranton, and they've got quite the lineup confirmed so far. Just a sampling: Poison, Warrant, Quiet Riot, Enuff Z'nuff, Styx, Bad Co., Billy Squier, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Deep Purple, Ted Nugent, Journey, Peter Frampton, John Waite...the list goes on and on. How exhilarating it is to be living in a place that's on the absolute cutting edge of popular culture! It's like London, circa 1977. Oi!

April 23, 2001

On Saturday Toney and I went to a new Best Buy store in Wilkes-Barre to look at digital cameras. I want one, but I'm like an old man and need at least a six month research and contemplation period before deciding on a particular model. The place was an absolute zoo. I've never seen anything like it, except on TV when they're showing footage of the New York Stock Exchange. Unbelievable. Folks around here are serious about their shopping, and when a new store opens it's like the Pope's in town. I took one look at the mayhem and said, screw it, let's go. Toney didn't need any convincing, and we were out of there. I have a philosophical problem with having to fight to spend money.

After we made our escape, we went into the mall next door to find something to drink. I suddenly felt like my throat was collapsing upon itself, and needed a cold Mountain Dew quick. There was a man right inside the entrance who was almost certainly inbred, with no front teeth and a right eye that rolled around freely in its socket. He was hollering some belligerence that we couldn't make out, to somebody we couldn't see. We were careful not to make eye contact (if that was even possible), and pressed on. Toney suddenly veered off into a store that sold candles, and I was mildly irritated that she didn't take my life-threatening thirst seriously enough.

As I waited I noticed a car parked in the middle of the mall on a rectangle of carpet, and realized it was several years old. I walked over and saw that it was a 1988 Honda Prelude, with 106,000 miles on it. Sitting in the middle of a mall. On carpet! Beyond it was a white Oldsmobile with rust on its door, and an old piece of crap pickup truck with ridiculous homemade running boards and the numbers 2950 painted on the back window. The hell? I've seen new cars in malls before, usually expensive SUVs and such, but never a fleet of beat up old rust buckets from a 'buy here-pay here' lot. What kind of deal was this? A man with a painful smile and a clipboard rushed over and asked if I was interested in the Prelude, and I mumbled no and walked off, confused. I'm just really, really thirsty, I muttered to myself.

We found a food court and went to the McDonalds counter for a refreshing soda. I was a little pissed that they don't sell Mountain Dew, but settled for a Sprite. This wasn't a time to take a political stand, with my life on the line. As I was waiting the five minutes it apparently takes some people to fill a cup with liquid from a high-pressure nozzle, I saw the manager come by and pull a drawer from a cash register and lay it on the counter. She started casually shoveling twenties and fifties onto the counter from the bowels of the machine. The bills were flying everywhere, and some fell on the floor. Then she began carrying on several conversations, and walking away for extended periods of time. I nudged Toney, and nodded at the pile of money laying on the counter unattended. Her mouth fell open. I've never worked in the food service industry, but I've had enough retail experience to know you don't just leave large mounds of cash laying around here and there. Hell, it looked like there was enough money there to buy that absurd pickup truck down the way. Incredible.

We sat down at a table to drink our Sprites, and saw an albino man walk by with his arms completely covered in tattoos, and the sleeves of his shirt hacked off. Then we noticed a kid dressed in the type of clothes Wally Cleaver might wear, but with his hair dyed cobalt blue. Kind of a half-assed skate rat. Toney said she wouldn't have a problem if we had kids that went through a punk or skate phase, but she'd like to think they'd know how to do it right. I nodded at a man a couple tables away, and asked her what she'd think if we had kids that went through one of those phases.

He was a 300-pounder, in a sized medium striped polo shirt, with a severe under-bite and a bald spot the size of a 45 rpm record. As we looked over everyone at his table began holding hands, and then bowed their heads in prayer. In the middle of their table was a big greasy bag from Arby's. I'm not certain about this, because I was just reading lips, but I'm pretty sure he said, "...and God thank you for the bounty you've provided us with this wonderful 5 for 5 roast beef special..."

As we were making our way back to the exit I spotted a sign in front of a store that announced they were now stocking Spongebob Squarepants items. It was a place called Hot Topic or Hot Tropic, or some shit. We walked inside and were immediately assaulted by a blaring sound system blasting the kind of high energy house music that I'm convinced has the power to trigger epileptic seizures in people with no history of epilepsy -- or at the very least, to turn straight men gay. We found the Spongebob stuff and began perusing the wares. They had a bunch of t-shirts, stuffed dolls of Spongebob and Patrick, socks with Spongebob on them, a plastic Squidward bank, and a bunch of other stuff. Despite the fact that my central nervous system was being interfered with, I was in a state of Spongebob euphoria. Then I looked up and saw a pudgy goth chick glaring at us. Apparently we were a little mature to be welcomed into her little den of hipness. So we left.

Some people can be so judgmental.

April 19, 2001

A few things:

-- From the I Can't Fucking Believe It file comes this little nugget of ridiculousness. After six months, the in-laws finally packed it in and moved back to The Worst Place on Earth (aka Sparks, Nevada). They left on Sunday morning, and I actually spent the day feeling a little empty and sad. I could've never predicted this reaction. I figured I'd be dancing and celebrating, perhaps even indulging in the purchase of a paper Chinese dragon to make the party complete. But I felt strangely disoriented and not at all interested in a celebration. I've chronicled here how big a pain in the ass my mother-in-law can be, and there's no doubt she's a lunatic, but I'd gotten used to her presence. All day Sunday it felt weird not to have her sitting in our living room with a large tumbler of gin, ripping everyone a new asshole. It threw my whole rhythm off. I think I'm actually gonna miss that crazy woman.

-- Speaking of lunatics, Toney and I are supposed to meet "Nancy" and her so-called husband (they were married by an actor) in Kingston, Ontario in a couple weeks, for some R&R. "Nancy", of course, is the tofu-munching, hedge-pitted, over-educated, ridiculously feminist and opinionated friend of the family that I've written about several times. She's the one that showers while standing in a large galvanized steel tub to trap the water, then washes her clothes in it to help save Earth's natural resources. I swear to God, it's true. Anyway, I guess we're going to rent cabins in the Canadian wilderness and "get away" for a few days. I like the idea of it, except I honestly don't know how many of her batshit left-of-Stalin diatribes I can endure. I'm trying to cut back on my beer intake, but I'll have to suspend those efforts while on this Canada trip. At least I'll get tons of new material for the journal. Hell, I might have to devote a whole separate website to it. I really need to check to see if is still available.

-- Another trip I hope to make in the near future is to Greensboro, NC for a reunion-of-sorts with some folks I used to work with at a record store there. It's been about ten or twelve years since we all drifted apart, and we're trying to get together for one more night of long-neck Rolling Rocks and conversation at the greatest beer bar in the land, College Hill Sundries. I'm really looking forward to it. My four years in Greensboro was a magical time. It was a period of newly-realized freedom, an extraordinary group of friends, always interesting situations, and lots of fun. Some of the best people I've ever known I met at Peaches in Greensboro. I can't wait to see them all again.

-- Since this entry has been uncharacteristically sentimental in tone, I guess it's fitting to end it with a few additional words about the death of Joey Ramone. A lot's been written and spoken about the man during the past few days, and it's gratifying to see the respect he's being shown. The Ramones were gods to countless social misfits, like myself, because they succeeded on attitude, imagination, humor, and gigantic balls. They provided hope. When the band first got together they could barely play their instruments, but they weren't about to allow a tiny detail like that to stand in their way. Their passion transformed them into giants. For anyone who's ever done a zine, or played in a garage band, or participated in any DIY project whatsoever, Sunday was a very sad day indeed.

April 16, 2001

I looked in the mirror a few days ago and there was a strange mutant creature staring back at me. Sort of a mixture of Walter Mondale and Gabe Kaplan, which meant that it was time to get another haircut, as well as a bunch of other stuff that I can't do much about.

I was off from work on Friday, so I trucked my sad ass down to the family-oriented hair maintenance center early in the morning. I wanted to get there around the time they opened, so I might not have to wait so long. But it didn't work out: the chirpy teenage girl at the desk informed me it would be at least an hour wait. Screw that. I always have to hang around that place for an inordinate amount of time, and I'm not doing it again. I decided to go hunting for a real barber shop.

I found one called Paul's, and had to park in a metered spot. I had no change, and wasn't clear on whether you have to pay on holidays, or whether Good Friday was even considered a holiday. I decided to risk it, but it made me a little uneasy. When I stepped into the barber shop, I saw that nearly every seat in the waiting area was occupied and there was only one barber working. And when he heard the door open he whipped his head around, and shot me a dirty look. Apparently ol' Paul was having a bad day. A bad hair day. So, fuck him. I'm not risking a $35 parking ticket for the privilege of having an embittered small-town barber with a laughable comb-over give me a haircut. I turned around and left.

I started doing a mental inventory of the town, trying to remember if I'd seen a striped barber pole anywhere. I seemed to recall seeing one on the front of a cigar store a few blocks away. I remembered it because Toney had said the place looks creepy on more than one occasion. And, although I'd never dwelled on it, I now realized my mind had had a problem processing the fact that there was a barber pole hanging on the front of a cigar store. I quickly decided to give it a shot.

It's an old house that had been transformed into a place of business years ago. It looked like somebody lived upstairs, and the cigar store was on the main floor. There was indeed a striped pole mounted to the side of the building, so I parked and got out to investigate. When I walked up the front steps I saw a piece of cardboard taped to the inside of the window with "Barber on Duty" scribbled on it in ballpoint, among several neon signs and ads for various brands of cigars. I heard a motor revving nearby, and looked around and saw a group of men messing with a motorcycle in the side yard.

When I went inside there was a wooden Indian in full headdress standing guard by a door at the end of a short, dark hallway. Inside the door were several giant humidors, a lot of dark wood paneling, some glass cases full of smoking paraphernalia, a few dusty-looking rugs, an old woman....and a barber chair. "Here to see the barber?" the woman asked immediately, obviously noticing the Kaplanesque load of hair piled on top of my head. I considered making a run for it, but gulped and said, "yeah." "I'll go get him," she said, "he's working on his motorcycle."

Holy shit!

While I waited, a giant bald guy in a black leather jacket came in and took a couple boxes of expensive cigars, with a promise of "dropping a check off later." "No, problem! Have a nice day!" the old woman responded. What kind of place is this?!, I thought to myself. Nothing seemed to add up. Finally a very old man in a baby-blue smock came in, smelling of gasoline. "Have a seat, sir," he directed me.

After some introductory pleasantries, he asked me how I wanted it cut. I told him short, with the clippers, and this seemed to please him. He fired up a large vibrating metal box that had apparently served as clippers in days gone by, and started scraping it across my skull. It felt like the jagged edge of a broken tree branch, and was making a troubling clickety-clack sound. "What kind of work do you do?" he asked, absent-mindedly. After I told him, he immediately rattled off the names of several people I've never heard of, who supposedly work there too. They probably retired in 1978.

As our conversation continued, his speech became more and more colorful. He injected the word "goddamn" wherever possible, and added a few "shits" and "assholes" for contrast. I asked him how many years he'd been cutting hair, and he said, "Fifty-two goddamn years. A hell of long time, if you ask me." And I'm almost sure I saw sparks fly off the box as it moved close to my right eye -- which was especially troublesome considering the man was apparently marinated in gasoline.

But I started doing the math: fifty-two years. That means he started in 1949. Who was president then, Truman? Incredible. Mickey Mantle was still in the minor leagues, and the Korean War was getting ready to crank up. Men wore suits and hats all the time. Television was as new as DVDs are now. "I've cut a lot of heads," he said, "I wish I'd put a goddamn dime away for every head I've cut." This guy's a walking, talking, hair-clipping historical monument.

And in just a few minutes, he was done. He held up a mirror so I could approve his work, which I did automatically. But, secretly, my heart started pounding. My head was shaved! In no time Gabe Kaplan had been replaced with Timothy McVeigh. Fuck! Without a doubt, one of the worst haircuts I've ever had. I looked like a big retarded stock-boy.

But why sweat the details? I'm not going to win any beauty contests if Vidal Sassoon himself cuts my hair. I've found myself a barber. Goddamnit

April 11, 2001

A few more things:

-- Yesterday when I was buying a sandwich in the cafeteria at work, the cashier suddenly became excited and said, "Oh look, a new quarter! I haven't seen this one yet. North has an airplane on the back for some reason." "Yeah, that would be Kitty Hawk. Right?" I answered, trying to fake at least a mild interest in the subject. She looked at me like I'd just said something that made absolutely no sense, like I was a mental patient on the loose. When she saw that I wasn't making a joke, her face wadded up into an ugly ball and I'm almost sure I heard a faint grinding noise coming from inside her head.

-- Speaking of work...they have full-time 24/7 security there, with lots of uniformed guards and all the trimmings. When you leave the building these guys go through all your shit to make sure you're not walking off with somebody's hard drive or something. Most of the guards are older retired men who don't take it too seriously. They joke around and laugh, and basically behave like normal, civilized human beings. But there are a hand-full who act like they're protecting national security secrets at The Pentagon. They never smile, and refuse to even say Good Morning. Oh no, that would portray an image of weakness. These guys can't afford to be distracted by the niceties and courtesies of the outside world. They're highly trained law enforcement officers, you see, who must constantly be on the lookout for suspicious activities among the hardened criminals who pass them each day. I'd bet real money they constantly badger their bosses to get them some of those cool Secret Service mics, so they can start talking into their sleeves. What a bunch of douchebags. And why do people who act like this always have moustaches? Always. There are no exceptions.

-- I'm about 150 pages into a novel called The Comedy Writer. It's a satire of Hollywood by Peter Farrelly, one of the Farrelly brothers -- who've brought us such film classics as Dumb and Dumber, Kingpin, and There's Something About Mary. It's about a guy from Boston who has an emotional meltdown after a breakup with his girlfriend, and quits his job and moves to LA to pursue a career in screenwriting. It's really funny and savage, and pleasingly vulgar. I read somewhere that comic novels never sell. Why is that? Is it because they're perceived as lightweight, and people want to believe they're reading literature when they pick up that new John Grisham book? I don't know, but it's not fair. Books like The Comedy Writer have a lot to say -- even if the messages are driven home with jokes about shit and semen. Some people are such elitist snobs.

-- Speaking of books, I was in Borders this past weekend and there was a local author there doing a book "signing." The only problem was, nobody was paying any attention to him. He was sitting at a table with dozens of copies of his book stacked up dramatically, and people were avoiding him like a homeless man shaking a cup. How humiliating. I should've gone over and talked to the guy, but I didn't. It was too painful, so I just pretended I didn't see it.

-- One of the best things about watching Friends these days is to see what size Matthew Perry will be from week to week. Sometimes he's swollen and bloated, and other times he's emaciated and scary-looking, with big white dentures sticking out of his mouth. How bizarre. I read that he went into rehab nine days before the end of shooting on a movie, and now it will probably have to be shelved. Good career move there, Matthew. Wonder how many job offers he'll be getting now? I guess he'll just have to scrape by on that $750,000 a week he makes from his sitcom. Boy, he really shot himself in the foot this time.

-- Did any of you read a news article about somebody going around smashing "cream" pies into people's faces, and then mailing the victim a video of horses being jacked off? A friend swears he heard this story on a radio newscast, but I've been unable to find anything on it. If you have a link, please send it to me.  In fact, if you have any links relating to the masturbation of livestock, please forward them as soon as possible.

April 8, 2001

A couple of things:

-- Since the in-laws will be moving back to the luscious green paradise that is Sparks, Nevada (aka America's Butthole) in a few days, Toney thought it would be a good idea to take them out for a nice meal before they leave town. So, this morning we went to brunch at a rather upscale joint called Genetti Manor. It was a buffet, and it turned out to be pretty nice. The food was plentiful and good, the people friendly, and the dining room spacious. Of course, this drove my mother-in-law absolutely crazy. She's not completely satisfied with a situation unless she has something to bitch about, and this place denied her that pleasure. She was miserable because she wasn't miserable. You can try to figure that out if you'd like; I've stopped trying. In retrospect, I know we should've taken them to some crowded, overpriced place full of uppity snobs. I guess we're just not very thoughtful. We should've been more attentive to her needs.

Even though Toney's mother had little to bitch about at breakfast, I provided her with some relief by driving there. I mentioned a few weeks ago that she had made the proclamation, as if addressing a joint session of Congress, that she would never go anywhere with us again, as long as I'm doing the driving. She said my driving terrified her, which I found highly amusing. I'm not exactly Robbie Knievel on the roadways. Originally we were going to take separate vehicles, but I guess she realized how ridiculous that was, and agreed to ride with us. 

Everything went OK until we merged onto the interstate -- those crazy, fast-moving Scranton freeways. Unless I was in the right lane, moving at 55 mph or lower, with a football field of space between us and any other car on the road, she would gasp and throw a death-grip on whatever was handy. When we came up behind a man who probably fought in the Civil War, traveling at a brisk 45, I passed him, as any normal functioning adult would. Well, I'm surprised she didn't shit her pants. She began flailing her arms and gasping for air, like she was riding in the cockpit of a Blue Angel. When we finally got to the restaurant, she was the color of typing paper. It made my day. I'm one crazy left-lane-driving mofo.

And it's not like this woman is some meek and timid individual, either. She's constantly arguing with people in stores and restaurants, and threatening to kick somebody's ass. I've heard her tell more than one person, "The last thing you're going to see are my headlights, bitch." That's one of her favorites. And I personally witnessed her being barred for life from a Reno restaurant, for relentlessly harassing a waitress -- and that's but one place of business where she'll be arrested if she ever steps foot back on the property. This is no delicate flower I'm talking about here. Again, please feel free to try to figure it out if you'd like.

-- I know it must seem like I'm making some of this shit up, but I swear on the Velvet Underground box set it's all true.

I work in an office with a massive warehouse attached to it. I don't know many of the people who work on "the floor", except for a few of the managers, and one of them has been filling me in on every little minute detail of his pending new car purchase. Whenever he sees me his eyes light up and quickly makes his way over to begin telling me about all the new problems he's encountered with the incredibly drawn-out transaction. He seems like a nice enough guy, and I don't really mind listening to him, but he reminds me of Cliff from Cheers. He fancies himself an expert in most fields, and injects technical terms and stats into his speech whenever possible.

On Thursday I was walking through the warehouse and he came over as usual and said, "So, did you hear that the American penis is getting shorter?"

I said, "Pardon?"

"It's true." he said. "The average length of the American penis has been 6.2 inches for years, but has dropped to 5.8 during the last decade."

"Does it have anything to do with the internet?" I asked.

He ignored that and went on to tell me that even at the revised length, he came up short. "I'm only hitting at about five and a half inches," he said.

"Well...I'm not sure what to say about that..." I said.

"My ex used to tell me I was huge, but I think she just did it to make me get into the fucking more....One of the reasons we broke up is because she lied all the time," he said.

"You broke up with your fiance because she said you had a big dick?"

"Well, there's more to it than that." he said.

"Sounds complicated," I offered.

"You don't know the half of it, brother," he said.

There's a Disneyland around every corner.

April 6, 2001

I joked in my last Assay that I was going to try to add streaming audio to my fabulous new Places Iíve Fucked page, and it caused me to start thinking about a madman I used to work with in West Virginia, named Brogan.

Iím not sure what his first name was, possibly Robert, but everyone just called him Brogan. He had been laid-off from his high paying gig at the Volkswagen plant, and I guess money was starting to get tight so he came to work for minimum wage as a stock-boy in the shitty grocery store where I was employed. All the other stockers were teenagers, or very recently teenagers, and he was around thirty. And he was obviously not handling the loss of his job very well.

Brogan owned a big customized van with shag carpeting, a bed, a bar, and heavy curtains. It had recently been as nice as those things ever get, but was now beat all to hell. After work every night he'd drive it to a sleazy "lounge" attached to a motel frequented by long-haul truckers and haggy, desperate old divorcees with a sweet tooth for some of that hot long haul trucker ass. During the course of the evening, after many cocktails, he'd pick up one or two of the bourbon swilling/cigarette puffing ladies, and invite them into his love wagon. There he'd "love" them with his alleged comically-oversized cock -- and make secret tape recordings of the proceedings.

Sometime during the night he'd drunkenly drive to the parking lot of the grocery store, and go to sleep. And when it was time for him to come to work, one of us would have to go out and bang on the side of the van to wake him up. A little while later he'd come stumbling in, looking like he'd recently been dragged behind a car. He always stunk to high heavens on those days, a disgusting sour liquor stench, and he'd try to mask it with a splash of cologne. His eyes would be dark and sunken, he'd be unshaven, his hair going every which way, and his clothes literally slept in. Oh, he was quite the fashion plate on those mornings.

After he downed five or six giant tumblers of coffee, he'd go out to the van to get his tape recorder for a review of the previous evening's events.

It was mostly just long (and I mean long) stretches of grunting and groaning, eventually leading to some faster and louder grunting and groaning, and then it was over. I couldn't believe it. It was all so gross, and classless. I mean, I'm far from being a prude but listening to those tapes made me feel dirty and cheap. But, of course, I'd be disappointed if I missed any of them. That might say something about me, I don't know.

Once Brogan was fast-forwarding to find something especially noteworthy on one of the recordings, and he stopped at a random spot and there was nothing but the sound of a heavy stream of piss hitting the pavement. Romantic.

The worst part was hearing the women talk. That affected me the most. What happened to those raspy-voiced vixens that led them to a place in their life where they'd be willing to crawl into a van with a drunken stranger in the parking lot of a cheap motel? Presumably, they'd once been young, innocent girls who played with dolls and called their mothers Mommy. I didn't like to hear the women talk, it made me sad.

Brogan finally was fired from the grocery store after he protested the owner's insistence that the stockers start wearing ties to work. Apparently they were trying to class-up the joint, which was ridiculous and spurred one of the other stockers to ask if the cockroaches would be required to wear top hats as well.

All of us grumbled, but Brogan flew into a rage. He argued for an entire day about the new dress code, and they made it clear he'd be fired if he refused to get with the program. So the next day he came to work wearing a tie, but no shirt. The management was not amused and they assigned him to clean out the "trash house", which was a disgusting room on the back of the store full of rotting produce and all sorts of stomach-churning slimy grossness.

This was supposed to be punishment, but Brogan didn't give a shit. He pulled his van around and cranked up a Ted Nugent tape and went to work. He was enjoying himself, which frustrated the manager, so he was told to turn off the music. And that's where it all ended. Brogan grabbed an old discarded sign off a wine display, and started carrying it like he was on strike. He went out to the front of the store, still shirtless and wearing a tie, and marched back and forth chanting, "Higher wages! Better working conditions!!"

And that's the last I saw of Brogan. I wonder if he's invested in a CD burner yet?

April 2, 2001

A few things, on a slow news day:

-- Yesterday was opening day for baseball season and the Cincinnati Reds didn't play, which is blasphemy. The Reds are the oldest team in the majors and, for as long as I can remember, it has been tradition that they open each new season. When I was a kid I used to cut school to watch the Reds play on television on opening day. Or Opening Day, as I thought of it back then. I remember the principal of my Junior High calling me down to his office and asking me where I had disappeared to after lunch the previous afternoon, and I just shrugged and said, "Opening Day." Surprisingly, that seemed to satisfy him. He apparently understood priorities, and let me go without even a slap on the wrist. Unfortunately, opening day doesn't produce the same kind of magic as it once did. Now it's just two random teams that ESPN thinks will be good for ratings. Tradition be damned. Unless it's marketable, Major League Baseball doesn't have much respect for tradition anymore. Inter-league play is proof of that. I doubt there are many kids sneaking off from school to watch baseball games these days, which is sad enough. But some of the reasons for it make me sick.

-- I finished reading Richard Russo's new novel Empire Falls over the weekend. It was as amazing as I'd expected. It's a big mother, about 500 pages, filled with lots of "ordinary" people living "ordinary" lives in the town of Empire Falls, Maine. This is Russo's fifth novel, and the fourth to be set in a small fictional town in New England. All are incredible. The characters are three-dimensional, their situations are fascinating and complex, and you come away with a strong feeling you've just visited a place -- a place that doesn't really exist. Indeed, the interior of the Empire Grill is as vivid in my mind as anyplace I've frequented in real life. I don't want to be overly-dramatic, like some low-rent Larry King, but Richard Russo is an amazing writer. I urge you to read his books.

-- The windshield wiper blades on my truck recently disintegrated and I was left with two naked metal rods that waved back and forth and cut circular grooves into the glass. I wanted to just take the truck somewhere and pay somebody to fix the problem, but I knew Toney would make fun of my lack of mechanical abilities. So I got some replacement blades and tried to install them myself. I spent roughly a half-hour on the project and got nowhere. I was completely stumped, even though I had directions to consult. Step one in the four step process baffled me, and I quickly became enraged. So, fuck it. Saturday I took it to a garage and asked the guy how much he'd charge me to install the blades I'd bought. He chuckled and said he'd put them on free of charge, the implication being he couldn't in good conscious take money for something so incredibly simple. I'm pretty certain I detected a trace of pity in his voice as well. I guess I should just get it over with and box up my genitals now. I'm sure the recall notice will be arriving soon.

-- Since we moved here a year ago, the McCrory's store close to our house has had signs up announcing they're going out of business. Total Liquidation. Store Closing. These had been up for a solid year, but have now been replaced with others that say, Grand Opening. Makes perfect sense to me. Heck, I'm just excited we're getting a new business in town.

-- Speaking of signs, I saw one yesterday above a urinal that said, "Express Lane -- Two Beers or Less." I thought that was pretty clever. It's probably the best bathroom signage I've seen since the framed gynecological charts they have hanging in the Vortex bar in Atlanta.

-- I've been noticing a commercial for a bizarre little toy called Johnny Apple Bot. It looks like a red apple with a face, and it sings and dances and spews pseudo-hip catch phrases like, "Don't go there!" and "You go girl!" Why would anyone purchase such an item? People who act like that are avoided and/or beaten. The fact that it's a battery-powered piece of fruit being obnoxious doesn't change much, really. What's next, a racist, lip-smacking pear? A whiny onion saddled with self-loathing? A box of uppity, judgmental raisins? We've come a long way since the invention of the Kung Fu Grip, I'm telling ya.

-- Make sure you check out the new Places I've Fucked page, which I added over the weekend -- due to overwhelming demand. Hopefully I can make the map more interactive in the future, with pictures and streaming audio and such. Stay tuned...

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