The State Of My       Fat Ass
JULY 2001

July 30, 2001

A few things:

-- Can you finish this for me? I've got the set-up, but I'm having trouble with the payoff. "Why didn't Paul McCartney drop to one knee to propose to his girlfriend?" I'll print any decent suggestions.

-- "Nancy" was here this weekend, but I don't really feel like writing much about it. It's starting to get to the point where it's not even funny anymore. It was one of the worst visits so far, and there were hard feelings at the end. We all should've known it was too much to expect two good visits in a row. Bitchiness, resentment, a feeling of superiority, screeching undisciplined kids... It was like a fucking monkey house, and the head monkeys were snooty intellectuals with an axe to grind. When she left she said, "Don't worry Jeff, you won't have to see us again for a long time." I said, "OK, bye." I give it a month.

-- Memorable Nancy quote #432: "I'd like to have a brownie, but the caffeine in it might keep me up all night." She's obviously descended from rugged pioneer stock. Of course, she's John Rambo compared to her delicate flower of a "husband." But enough about ol' Hedge Pits and Banana Nostrils; I'm bored of talking about those two freaks.

-- Toney's cousin came to visit on Saturday from Philadelphia. One of her neighbors had to travel to Scranton to see a client, so she tagged along and spent a couple of hours at our house shooting the shit. The neighbor is a lawyer, and he had to meet with a client up here. The client was supposedly a guest at a Mormon church that was in the final stages of being built. Sometime during the evening he came out of a bathroom, tripped over some construction materials and fell into an empty baptismal pool, shattering his spinal column. I laughed for ten solid minutes.

-- We went to Don Pablo's yesterday afternoon to celebrate the departure of Nancy and her brood of translucent soy-eaters. I don't know if my standards are plummeting, due to lack of exposure, but it was damn good. Last time I was there I felt the food was bland, and probably prepared by a couple of white people from Binghamton, NY. That was just a few months after I'd moved here from LA. And yesterday, many months later, was like an orgy of Mexican delight. I felt like I was in Tijuana. I'm obviously slipping. Next I'll start thinking of places like Olive Garden and Panda Express as being exotic, like when I was eighteen. But we ate until we could barely walk, drank frozen margaritas from comically oversized glasses, and toasted the unexpected departure of our guests. It was a good time, even if it was just a lousy chain restaurant. And anyway, why be a snob when you're dissing snobs?

-- I watched Kiss Behind the Music over the weekend, and it was really interesting. I loved all the old local news reports about the band, and the TV commercials for stuff like Kiss makeup kits. It was a good show, but one thing that really struck me was the absolute dullness of the band members. None of them seemed to have even a hint of a sense of humor. Gene and Paul were like textile merchants, talking shop. Paul kept mentioning "world domination," and Gene just droned on and on like an oscillating fan. Ace was even boring. There's no Iggy Pop or Johnny Rotten, or even a David Lee Roth, in that band. Those guys are businessmen, and they're obviously really good at it. More power to 'em. I have no problem with Kiss; they're cooler than most bands, that's for sure. But they shouldn't do interviews. And they should NEVER take that makeup off again. Sweet Jesus.

-- I picked up a little booklet at Barnes and Noble the other day, called "Close The Book On Hate: 101 Ways to Combat Prejudice." It was a freebie, and I thought it might be worth a few laughs. I was right; I've never seen such insulting claptrap in my life. Here a few examples, followed by my insensitive thoughts in parentheses.

#3 Invite friends from backgrounds different from your own to experience the joy of your traditions and customs. (Be sure to talk to them loudly and slowly, so that they can understand you.)

#4 Be mindful of your language, avoid stereotypical remarks and challenge those made by others. (Exceptions include Southerners, Christians, and Republicans. It's fun to laugh at them.)

#6 Be knowledgeable; provide as much accurate information as possible to reject harmful myths and stereotypes. (But if you get into trouble, just start calling everyone a racist.)

#9 Research your family tree and trace your family's involvement in the struggle for civil and human rights or the immigration experience. (Pretend all the whores, bootleggers, and morphine addicts never existed. Claim they were all involved in the Underground Railroad instead. Over time you will start believing it yourself.)

#15 Invite a motivational speaker who is a recognized civil or human rights leader to address an all-school assembly. (Like Alan Keyes, Larry Elder, or Walter Williams.)

#65 Become aware and respectful of individual work styles. (They can't help it, that's just how they are.)

#70 In the workplace, sponsor a lunchtime "brown-bag" series that features speakers on diversity topics. (Make attendance mandatory, or nobody will fucking show up.)

#89 Become aware of your town's demographics and compare it to others around the state to better understand the diversity of your community. (Try to figure out a way to reduce the percentage of white people, and thereby lessen your guilt.)

More to come, unless I'm shot first.

-- When I was a kid I read a news story about a car crashing into the wall at an auto race, and slinging molten-hot fuel and oil all over the crowd. Ever since then I've been wary of exploding engines and the like. In any situation, my mind immediately begins contemplating the worst thing that could happen. Whenever I enter an intersection, I expect somebody to run a red light and crash into my door and snap my spine in two. When I'm at Sam's Club I just know a pallet of Hi-C will fall out of the rack and kill my family. That's just how my mind works; I can't help it. This story doesn't help matters.

July 27, 2001

A few things:

-- The drought is over. I took a vacation day on Wednesday, so Tuesday evening I went to the beer store. In Pennsylvania you can’t buy beer in a grocery store or a convenience store, you have to go to a beer store. And you can’t buy anything smaller than a case, which is fine by me, but apparently causes some concern among the casual drinkers. Boo fucking hoo for them, I say. If you can’t run with the big dogs, then stay out of the soup kitchen. Or whatever. Anyway, I carried my beautiful, shiny box of Yuengling to the counter, and as the guy was ringing it up I asked him what was their best seller. To my surprise, he said, “You’re holding it…That’s it, by far” Yuengling lager?! I knew it was popular, but how could it be the most popular? How could a regional brand compete with the likes of Coors Light and Budweiser and the national mega-brewers?  I mean, I’ve been to the Yuengling brewery, and it’s extremely small; less than a hundred people work there. But they’re apparently kicking Anheuser-Busch’s ass - in northeastern Pennsylvania anyway. I rag on this place a lot, but they sure have better taste in beer than anywhere else I’ve lived. Yuengling lager is a great regional brew, and these people are passionate about it up here. That says something. I’m not sure what, but something. I’m sorry, but I’m getting a little emotional…

-- It also brings to mind a saying one of my co-workers used to use all the time, back when I worked at a convenience store in West Virginia: “American beer is like having sex in a canoe…it’s fucking close to water.” Sometimes our wisest philosophers work nights.

-- I saw some women in dresses in Wendy’s on my day off. They were in their early 20's, and obviously members of some kind of back-to-basics religious group (Amish? Quakers? Who the hell knows?), and had apparently never been to a fast food restaurant before. They stared at the menu board for an extended amount of time, with the intensity of a gambler watching a horse race. They seemed slightly frightened by the bright lights, and were generally ill at ease with the whole experience. Finally they summoned up enough courage to approach the counter, and placed their orders. Each paid from tightly clutched change purses, and seemed relieved once they’d made it through the ordeal. It was very entertaining to watch.

-- Dan Rather’s got himself involved in another controversy. He apparently used the phrase “They got the Buckwheats” when describing the so-called cowardice of network executives in forcing him to finally report the Chandra Levy - Gary Condit story. Now, I can’t stand Dan Rather, he’s weird and creepy ("Kenneth, what's the frequency?!") and to the left of Castro, but give me a forkin’ break. When has there ever been an indication that Dan Rather, of all people, is racist? Dan Rather? They want him fired over this. Do you just toss aside an entire career that points to the contrary, for one poorly-chosen word? When did people start believing they have a right not to be offended, anyway?

-- Speaking of Communists, “Nancy’s” here again. She made fondue last night, and it was one of the worst meals I’ve ever had, to date. The stuff made for dipping was some kind of congealed mass of oily grossness that was putting off an ungodly funk that made my stomach expand and contract in a concerning manner. It smelled like stale wine, semen, and feet. It smelled like prom night, as a matter of fact. And it wasn’t liquidy like it should’ve been. There was no actual dipping possible, you had to cut off a strip from the pan-shaped disc and lay it across your food. This is not a joke. It was horrifying. I finally just said screw it, and made myself a couple of hotdogs. I’m from West Virginia, we don’t eat fondue, anyway. What is this, the Playboy mansion? Are we going to retire to the sitting room afterwards, and have highballs? Should I slip into a robe, darling? Toney shot me a series of dirty looks as my wieners cooked, but I'm only flesh and blood here. Shit.

-- A notable “Nancy” quote from Thursday: “A person should never put their children ahead of themselves. That’s one of the biggest mistakes people can make.” Thank you for that, Dr. Laura.

-- My brother called a few nights ago and left a very serious-sounding message on our answering machine about one of our cousins. Apparently he was going in for an invasive heart test, because of recurring chest pains. From the tone of the message, it sounded pretty grim. I called him back the next day to see how it had gone, and my cousin was sitting right there in the living room with him. Oh, he’s fine, he said. They didn’t find any blockage or anything. We’re getting ready to go to IHOP. It took a second for my brain to process what I had just heard. Heart patient…chest pains…hushed tones…emergency medical procedures…International House of Pancakes ...sausages...white gravy... A single word came to mind: Clear!

-- Here's a couple of pics from the Peaches reunion in Greensboro last month. As you can see, I was so drunk I was calling for an immediate end to the Vietnam War. I think I suffered brain damage that night, I'm not joking. I'm convinced I walk differently now.

-- Paul McCartney is marrying a one-legged woman? There's got to be a few jokes in that. Give me a little while to think about it.

-- Mark Maynard has informed me that the new issue of Crimewave USA is back from the printer, and a copy should be in my boogery hands momentarily. This is great news. It's been a long time coming, but I have no doubt it'll be worth the wait. I strongly urge you to get a copy. There's a piece in there by yours truly, but there's also some good stuff. Send him three bucks; you won't be disappointed. The address is listed here. Or you can probably find it at Tower Records or Borders Books eventually.

-- If all goes well, the first email letter will go out today. About twenty-five super-intelligent folks have signed up so far. Why not join us? I've got some great links to share.

And that's that... Bye, for now.

July 23, 2001

Weekend update:

-- There was no Spongebob on Saturday morning, just Rugrats. Nickelodeon has been hyping the hell out of a new Rugrats special called "All Growed Up" and were trying to get the kiddies whipped into a frenzy by showing nothing but that show on Saturday. The concept of the special was interesting, I must admit. It's an hour-long episode that shows the babies ten years in the future, as teens and pre-teens. I'm kind of embarrassed to admit I watched it, mostly to see how big Angelica's tits were going to be. How sad is that? Making a point to tune into a cartoon, to check out the cleavage? By the way, she's got nothing on Debby Thornberry, that's for sure. And don't tell me you weren't interested.

-- Saturday afternoon I mowed the grass (Hello, Mr. Mule), and Toney wouldn't let me drink any beer. A couple of weeks ago I decided I was going to quit, because I don't want to end up like Mickey Mantle -- without all the talent and accomplishments. So I asked her to give me shit if I suggested buying any adult beverages. Unfortunately she took me up on it, and I was grumbling about it all afternoon. It must be really hard living with me. Anyway, it's been two weeks now since my last Yuengling, and there's no end to the drought in sight. Why do I keep doing this to myself?!

-- Saturday night I got sucked into watching a bunch of "Pop-Up Brady" episodes. It's on Nick-At-Nite, and it's complete Brady Bunch shows, given the Pop-Up Video treatment. It's pretty fun. Like when they open the sliding glass door, a little bubble points out that there's "No glass." And during the Johnny Bravo episode the reason for the actors' sweat stains is explained. Also there was one scene where Mr. Brady grabs a basketball and shoots a basket out on the driveway, and the bubble reads, "Swish." Wonder what that means? Check it out, if you get the chance. It's time well spent.

-- Sunday afternoon we went swimming with the couple who threw the big luau a couple of weeks ago. They're nice people, but he's Eastern European and has some hygiene issues. He's known around town as Stinky Ukraine. Well, I call him that anyway. On Sunday he was putting off a pretty powerful musk when we got there, and it only got worse as the day wore on. I kept asking him if he was going to go in the water, in hopes that the chlorine and other chemicals might neutralize some of the funk, but he said he'd rather sit in the sun and listen to the Yankees game. I noticed that people started moving their blankets and lawn chairs to other parts of the lawn. After about a half-hour we had a big section of grass all to ourselves. I couldn't stop worrying that they all thought I was the culprit. I can't imagine how it must be in Czechoslovakia on a hot August day. Forget the Kyoto Treaty, the UN should start airlifting in pallets of Sure. Holy crap!

I nearly tripped getting into the pool at one point, and had to windmill my arms like a cartoon character to keep from falling on a couple of terrified children below. "Mommy, a fat man almost fell on me!" After I got my footing, I looked up and about twenty people were laughing, including my own wife. I am a dork.

I also saw a sixty-or-so year old woman standing in the pool smoking! Can you believe that?! One of the lifeguards made her put it out, but she had it dangling off her lips out there for a good long time. That's a new one on me...and I'm from West Virginia. And I saw something that resembled a 400 lb. mound of pasty flesh with Randy Newman's head sitting on top of it, just standing in knee-deep water for what seemed like an hour. He barely moved. I think there might've been some brain-damage issues at play there. And I've said it before, but it's still true: the day I moved from LA to Scranton, I suddenly transformed into JFK Jr. Walking around this town I feel beautiful for the first time in my life. The chamber of commerce needs to capitalize on this fact. "You won't feel ugly in Scranton!" There's one for the coffee mugs and bumper stickers.

-- Sunday night I watched a movie called 15 Minutes. It stars Robert DeNiro, but I was hesitant because the DVD box quotes Larry King on the front. If they have to go to that lame-ass hack for praise, some red flags immediately go up. But it was a good flick. It's about a couple of Eastern Europeans (thank God it wasn't in Smell-O-Vision) who come to America, and start killing people, and filming the murders. They have a plan to create a big panic, sell the video to tabloid TV for a million bucks, get off by pleading insanity, then sell the movie and book rights. "In America nobody has to take responsibility for anything," one of them says. It's an interesting premise, well executed. When you hear the defense lawyer droning on about his monstrous client being the victim, because his father was mean to him and he has low self-esteem, blah blah blah, it's powerful because you've heard it all before. Not as good as "Pop-Up Brady" certainly, but not bad.

That's all for now... Make sure you sign up for the new mailing list. It's gonna be fun! 

Until next time...

July 19, 2001

A few things:

-- Yesterday the Washington D.C. police released a partial list of the websites Chandra Levy visited the day she disappeared. We didn't make the first cut, but I've got hopes we'll be included on the full list. I know a lot of people inside the beltway check the site often to get my hard-hitting views on mustard and various other subjects, so I've got my fingers crossed. I'd like nothing more than to be implicated in a convoluted conspiracy theory. That would be so cool.

-- This past weekend I needed a haircut, so I went by the cigar store to see if my favorite barber was available, and he wasn't. Again. The man apparently just works whenever he feels like it, and that ain't often. So I had a dilemma: either go back to the irritating "family" joint, or give the other barber in town one more chance -- even though he pissed me off last time and I left in a huff. I started weighing my options, and finally decided to give the bitter barber another shot. Maybe he was just having a bad hair day last time.

When I was there before, the place was completely packed. There were more people waiting than there were chairs to wait in. But on Saturday Mr. Charming was all alone. It was late in the day, and he was perched in one of his barber chairs reading the paper. When I walked in he looked up and said nothing. He had a look of distaste on his face, like he'd seen me cross the street and had been praying to God I wouldn't come into his shop.

"Hi. Too late for a haircut?" I said.

"Just passing through town?" he replied.

What the hell did that mean?

"No, I live right around the corner."

"What street?"

I told him.

"Have a seat," he said.

I felt like I'd just won the fastest-finger contest and had earned a place on stage with Regis. Or the anti-Regis.

After we'd established what type of sheering I desired, he asked who had cut my hair in the past, and I foolishly mentioned the "family" place. "Fuckin' beauty parlor," was his bitter reply. I don't think I'd ever caused a barber to use the word "fuck" in my presence before. One step forward, two steps back. He went on to grill me about the kind of work I do (" that those circles?"), repeatedly asked if we had a theft problem with all our Mexicans (?!), railed against the current state of labor in the country ("We've become a service nation, we don't build anything anymore"), immigration laws, NAFTA ("Four dollars an hour will buy a lot of tacos"), and various other little things. When he found out I'd moved here from California he practically recoiled in horror. "Oh, I couldn't live in that place," he said without elaboration. Then before I left, he asked again about all the Mexicans at my workplace, and their rampant thievery. When I told him I wasn't aware of a problem, he looked disappointed. Heck, I'm not even aware of any Mexicans, I thought.

He built me a damn good haircut though.

-- I was in a Barnes and Noble a couple of days ago and I noticed a couple of aging hippies hanging out in the Nature section, then a pear-shaped guy with a goatee in the Science Fiction aisle, and a middle-aged woman with big hair and a Southern accent in Religion. I considered calling the ACLU.

-- The fact that I can't remember a big chunk of the record store reunion I attended in Greensboro last month has been weighing heavily on my mind. It was starting to drive me crazy, so I decided to do something about it. I made a request to the bar to allow me to view their security tapes from that night, and they surprisingly obliged. What the tapes revealed, however, shocked me. Click here to see a clip.

-- In any office I've ever worked there's been at least one person (almost always a woman) who is constantly sick with ailments the doctors can't diagnose, and who enjoys nothing more than discussing the endless medical procedures at length. My current office is no different. The department secretary has been to a half-dozen doctors since I've been here, and none of them can help her. She's fatigued, gets hives, and continues to put on weight even though she doesn't eat much (hahahaha!). She also suspects that her immune system has shut down. Whatever. I've become an expert at tuning most of it out. But my ears perked up earlier in the week when I overheard her telling someone she had an appointment on Tuesday to see a faith healer. Suddenly I became deeply concerned with her plight, and needed details.

Supposedly this "healer" came down with inoperable cancer a few years ago, and was visited by an angel who cured her of the disease in exchange for adopting the power to heal, and a promise to help the sick during her extended stay on Earth. I'm not clear on whether the angel set the $125 per session fee, or if that was arrived at later.

This woman spends most of her time in Germany, where she helps some of the greatest medical minds of our time diagnose diseases, but once a month she returns to Scranton to help stamp out hometown sickness. In fact, she recently cured my co-worker's aunt's arthritis, and she was at the Fourth of July picnic without her crutches. Most of the family had never seen Edna walk without them!

Yesterday I practically leapt at her when she came through the door. "How did it go?!" I demanded. I think she was starting to get a little suspicious of my sudden compassion, but she still couldn't pass up the opportunity to talk about it.

The woman never performed a formal examination, she just sat across a desk from her and talked and put strange oils on her hands (to improve reception?!). Then she proclaimed that her patient had an infection of the nervous system, and the infection must be removed. She said that a conventional doctor would never be able to diagnose her true problem, that they'd simply pump her full of steroids and send her on her way. Luckily she'd come to the right place though.

At one point the "doctor's" stomach growled and she yelled inexplicably, "See!?!"

She had the patient lean across the back of a chair, and she moved her hands up and down her back an inch or so from her skin. She began chattering and talking nonsense, occasionally clapping her hands and snapping her fingers. Her eyes were also rolling back in her head, she was gurgling and her mouth was hanging open. I nearly swallowed my tongue trying not to laugh. She said she could feel her skin heat up wherever her hand passed, and could sense that something was going on inside her body.

After the "procedure" the "doctor" told her she was only able to remove 75% of the infection, because it was so advanced. It would take several more sessions to make her completely better. She also warned her patient that she would most likely feel flu symptoms for a few days, because her body had undergone the equivalent of major surgery. They set up an appointment to try to remove that pesky 25% of the infection that remained, for right after her next German-curing tour.

More to Drudge would say, DEVELOPING HOT...

July 16, 2001

After work on Friday I stopped at a grocery store to buy buns and a half-pound of cole slaw. While surfing the 'net on company time I'd developed a powerful hankering for "West Virginia hotdogs", and that required finely chopped cole slaw. Through my travels I've learned that slaw is not a common hotdog topping, except in The Mountain State. I can remember being in Florida as a kid, and seeing signs that said "West Virginia style hotdogs." We couldn't figure out what they were getting at. Our first suspicion was that it was some kind of yukkety-yuk hillbilly joke -- West Virginians have been conditioned to always be on the defensive. But we finally stopped to ask, and "We put cole slaw on 'em," was the answer. We just looked at each other, cartoon question marks levitating above our heads. Doesn't everybody put cole slaw on 'em? It was bizarre to think that people wouldn't put cole slaw on 'em. And we're the ones who are out of step?

I've never stopped eating them that way -- I just have to build them myself now. And they're damn good. Here's how you do it: put hotdogs on buns and wrap everything up in paper towels. Stick it in the microwave for about twenty-five seconds per dog, then pile high with quality cole slaw and nothing else. It has to be finely chopped, it can't be that stringy shit with the fancy-pants purple cabbage and all that garbage. KFC makes perfect hotdog-toppin' slaw if you can't find it anywhere else. Yum. It's as good as anything you can buy at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, and it costs pennies. And don't worry, modern science has developed amazing ways to get your heart re-started once it's seized up.

But I'm getting way off the subject. Through experience I know that a particular deli in a particular grocery store offers the perfect grade of slaw required for my little project, so I went out of my way to go there. Sometimes this place is a madhouse, so I was pleased to see there was only one other person at the counter when I walked up. She was eating licorice, right off the shelf, which instantly annoyed me. It disgusts me to see people walking around grocery stores eating the merchandise, and then running the wrapper through the checkout line. Fucking pigs. But she was getting turkey or something, and she'd be gone soon. Or so I thought.

After the turkey, she ordered something else. Then something else. The woman behind the counter kept saying, "Will that be all?" and the answer kept being no. The licorice-eater was around forty, and bursting out of clothes designed for teenagers, and was casually pacing the length of the glass cases and asking questions about various items within. "How's the potato salad?"...chomp, chomp, chomp... "What different kinds of ham do you have?" ...smack, smack, smack... "Can I have a sample of the Italian salad?" My blood pressure was slowly rising with each nasally question, and it didn't help that she had a severe New York accent. I have my own set of prejudices, thank you very much.

It just kept getting worse and worse. She started asking for an eighth-pound of stuff. An eighth-pound! And she wouldn't let the woman off if it went over to say, one-seventh.  She insisted on exactly one-eighth of a pound. And she had a condescending attitude toward the worker that really baked my beans. Then she ordered one slice of meat loaf -- yes, one slice -- and waited until the poor lady had wrapped it up, then added, "Oh, I wanted a little gravy on that too." It would've been justifiable homicide at that point. If I had been behind that counter I would've flicked a spoonful of gravy in her fat ugly face. "There ya go, bitch."

I simply couldn't believe what was going on before me. This disgusting sow had complete disregard for everyone else around her. You could tell she firmly believed she was the only thing that mattered, and everyone else was just going to have to wait until she had completed her casual shopping trip. It was her time. By god, she had a right. I am obnoxious cow, hear me roar!

By this time a line had built up behind me, and the woman under siege called for backup. A young kid appeared and asked what he could get me, and I told him a half-pound of cole slaw. He flopped it onto the scale and it was .63 pound, and he asked if it was OK. I practically shouted, "Yes, that's fine! Close is OK for me! I don't have a problem if it's not exactly perfect! And, yes that's all I need today! I'll get out of the way so you can help some of these other good folks!"  I was expecting applause, but there was none. Everybody just looked at me like, "the fuck?" Yes, I was the crazy one.

Cole slaw on hotdogs isn't the only thing I miss about West Virginia.

July 12, 2001

A few things:

-- We didn't win the $29 million lottery jackpot last night. Yes, I'm shocked too, and dismayed. I suspect racism. But the good news is nobody won, so it'll be 32 million on Saturday. Just to keep you up to date, here's my latest fantasy for that inevitable day when it all comes together:

Of course we'll choose the annuity option, and take the cash over 25 years. Taking it all in one hunk means you have to forfeit half the prize. Why would anyone do that? If you're an old fart I guess it might make sense, but I've heard young people say, "I want to see my money!" These are the same retarded douchebags who don't trust direct deposit of their paychecks. Unfortunately, these are also the kind of people who win lotteries. Anyway, if we win on Saturday that means we'll get a check for around $1.3 million every single year -- until I'm 63! That would buy a lot of Yuengling and Funyuns. Even after the politicians skim off their share for sleazy vote-buying schemes, pussy social programs, and communist wealth-redistribution, we'd get, what, 800 grand?

I'd give my employer a month, just to be nice, then I'd never set foot in that place again. And we'd pay off our house and have a few improvements done in preparation for putting it on the market. In the meantime, we'd spend time in Portland and Charlotte, in order to make our final determination on where we want to live. We both love the South, but we also like the Pacific Northwest. Taking into consideration all the hippies and sandal-wearing "Nancy's" up there though, we'd probably opt for North Carolina.

We'd buy a big house, nothing ridiculous like a Roger Daltry castle or anything like that, but something with a lot of room. Maybe we'd get an old farmhouse and have it renovated, I'm not sure. But we'd also buy us a small little place on the Oregon coast for when the humidity got too bad, probably around Depoe Bay. We'd have nice cars, but nothing stupid like Ferraris or Rolls-Royces or any of those white-trash dream-wagons. And we'd give a bunch of money to children's hospitals, and not any to the hoards of long-lost relatives who'd inevitably pop up. "You'd turn your back on family?!" Yes. They called me "the weird one" when I was a kid, so they're fucking out.

Of course, our immediate family would benefit. We'd buy our parents those big-ass travel-trailer/tour bus deals, the kind with a satellite dish and friggin' fireplaces and everything, because it would make them happy. And we'd give our brothers and sisters big hunks of cash too. I might even be tempted to help out a couple of friends.

Then we'd travel, and enjoy life. Maybe we'd get us a tour bus too. I'd set up an office in our new house, and write every day. I'd finish my novel, The Pros and Cons of Tuberculosis, and devote a lot of time to this website. The paper Surf Report would rise from the ashes, and life would be sweet.

Of course, all of this is subject to change. It's a constantly evolving plan. Any comments? Care to share your own delusional lottery fantasies? I'll print them here for all the world (OK, six or seven people) to see. Write me.

-- I came across this collection of fake Dilberts yesterday, that I think is absolutely hysterical. From what I can gather, they're by a guy who calls himself Spigot and originally appeared on -- until the real Dilbert guy unleashed a team of lawyers on their ass, and they were forced to take them down. I know this is hardly an original concept, Family Circus has been ravaged on the 'net for years, but the execution is stellar. It ranks up there with the tasteless works of genius by Michael O'Donoghue in the old National Lampoon, in my opinion. Check 'em out before Drew receives his cease and desist order.

-- Number 4376 in a series of things that irritate the hell out of me: When you pre-pay for gasoline, the last ten cents takes as long to pump as the first $9.90. Why does it have to slow down that much? I almost always lose my shit and end up yelling at the pump like an escaped lunatic.

-- Anybody else enjoy seeing Tommy Lasorda get knocked on his ass Tuesday night by a flying bat barrel? Was that great, or what? Actually I met Lasorda a couple of years ago at the LA airport. He was waiting on a car, and we exchanged a few words. He was really nice, but he was manager of the stinkin' Dodgers and he "bleeds Dodger blue" and all that stuff. Nothing makes up for those transgressions.

-- Number 4377: A high-ranking member of management at my job injects a lot of Q&A into his speech, and it makes my skin crawl. "Am I happy about it? No. Can we deal with it? Yes." Where's that flying bat barrel?

-- Wanna see this type of thing being done right? Check out Mike Jasper. He's one of the best writers on the internet. Just come back when you're done, OK?

-- Toney's been buying a lot of exotic mustards lately, and I can't handle them very well. Australian mustard, white wine mustard, mustard that looks like fresh-cut baby shit... What's wrong with the 49-cent bottle of French's with the nozzle on top? You know, the kind that requires you to dispose of that little plug of crusty grossness, then let the pre-cum yellow water run out before use? That's the real deal. I'm not a big fan of novelty condiments.

Shit, this thing is all over the place. I think I've had too much coffee. But that's it for now. Gotta go. Bye.

July 9, 2001

A few things:

-- I stayed home from work today. I felt horrible when I got up, some kind of stomach thing that Typhoid Toney passed to me, but I soldiered on and attempted to type up a new assay this morning. I couldn't get the words to snap together though, at least not the way they're supposed to, so I finally walked away from it. I laid around on the couch all morning watching that home video of Chandra Levy folding a towel in a kitchen, over and over on every news channel. Mesmerizing. Then I tried to read, but I kept falling asleep and dropping the book on the floor. I've been hungry all day, but the thought of actually eating food triggered an immediate pre-puke throat constriction. It's been mighty uncomfortable. I think I'd actually rather be at work, if you can believe that. But I'm finally starting to feel a little better (I just had a blueberry muffin, and nothing's shot out of me yet, front or back), so I'll give this another try. If it sucks, well...I've got an excuse this time.

-- On Saturday Toney dragged me to a "luau" at somebody's house I'd never really met before, and we hobnobbed with dozens of complete strangers for several hours. Being a man with little to no social skills, it's the type of situation I normally go to great lengths to avoid. But it turned out to be relatively painless. I didn't really know what to expect from such an event; I had visions of a pig rotating in a giant pit in the backyard, torches and grass skirts, perhaps a little knife juggling. But they just hung up a sign that said "Luau!!", and yelled aloha whenever somebody came through the front door -- instant island paradise, right here in Scranton. I suppose if they'd hung a sign that said "Kidney Dialysis!!", their kitchen would've been transformed into an outpatient clinic.

They may have called it something else, but it was just a normal everyday cookout, and nearly all of the people there were friendly. The host had a mild case of BO, but he's European, so make of that what you will. And he was wearing a pair of shorts that I would've strongly advised against, had he asked for my opinion. It benefits no one to see anything that high up a man's disgusting, hairy thigh. Good god man, cover it up! There was a barrel of Yuengling lagers on ice out on the deck, and incredible amounts of meat. Mr. Stinky kept grilling and grilling and grilling, supply far outstripping demand, until there was a sizable mound of glistening meats weighing down the dining room table. People would just walk past and poke their forks at the mound without even stopping, and come away with hotdogs, or hamburgers, or ribs, or steaks. It was something to see. I wish "Nancy" could've been there.

Just beyond the backyard was thick woods, and at one point the brush began to shake, then there was a parting, and a woman emerged brandishing a relish tray. I rubbed my eyes to make sure I wasn't seeing things, but it was true. She almost floated across the yard, sat the tray down, and disappeared back into the woods without saying a word. It was spooky. It was like some raw produce Field of Dreams. The Celery Field of Dreams. I was tempted, but I never got up enough nerve to eat any of the items on that plate. There might've been magic in those baby carrots. Or poison. I stayed away.

The music selection was very interesting as well. Very exotic, and very tropical. I believe it was the Cocktail soundtrack, on an endless tape loop. I know I heard that irritating "Kokomo" song by the Beach Boys roughly 5000 times. At one point I took a seat in the dining room, with the mound positioned between me and the stereo, attempting to block out the offending sounds with a meat shield. It actually worked pretty well. Not even Mike Love's nasal drone could penetrate that powerful wall of cutlets. I recommend this technique highly, if you ever find yourself in a similar situation. Cooked meat makes an excellent sound buffer.

Yes, after all the dread, it didn't turn out half bad. Even though nearly all of my conversations went this way, it could've been far worse:

Other guy: Nice day, isn't it?

Me: Yep, sure is.

Other guy: I thought we might get some rain this morning, but it turned out to be really nice.

Me: Yeah, I'm just glad that humidity finally went away.

Other guy: Me too...

Me: ...

Other guy: ...

Me: Need another beer?

Other guy: You read my mind!

-- I want to thank Dave Polaschek for his fine detective work on the great Morton Downey Jr./"Wipeout" controversy. Apparently ol' Mort used to tell people that he wrote the song, but there's no evidence that he really did. It's officially credited to Bob Berryhill of the Surfaris, and there's no record of Downey ever challenging it. It seems to simply be a case of a guy telling a lie so often people began to believe it. So much so, the false claim is actually mentioned in several of his obituaries as fact. Check it all out at Dave's Picks, under July 8. Good work Dave!

-- Once I get started linking, it's hard to stop.  So I'd like to round this edition up with some evidence that we're in the early stages of Spongebob-mania. Check out these recent articles, and remember who's been telling you for months and months about the Genius of the Sponge. This show is about to blow up, boyee! Now drop on the deck and flop like a fish!



The New York Times

-- One final note: I'm almost certain this is my first journal entry that isn't riddled with curse words. I just wanted to see if I could do it.

July 6, 2001

A few things:

-- One of my bosses at my old job in LA died yesterday. He had brain cancer. It was something like three months from diagnosis to pine box. It's really pretty sad. Before I was promoted to the west coast, this guy used to intimidate the hell out of me. But when I got there, I found out that he was surprisingly funny and completely decent. He had a dry sense of humor that a lot of people didn't understand, but he cracked me up and we got along well. He leaves behind a wife and several grown kids, and another that's still in college. He was kicking ass when I left there a little over a year ago, playing poker and talking shit, but it was a quick downward spiral once he got the bad news. And the part that really stops me in my tracks: he was scheduled to retire on June 29. Ain't that a motherfucker?

-- A friend of mine has been selected to keep a Nielsen diary. You know, to keep track of all the stuff he watches on TV for a week and help determine the official ratings. Each and every one of his viewing decisions over the next few days will carry the weight of representing millions of households. It's a lot of responsibility, and he's taking it seriously -- as would I. Of course, as soon as he told me about it, I started lobbying him to write in some of my favorite shows. He implied that I wasn't the only one doing this, and could make no promises. I suddenly felt like I was brokering a shady pardon from Bill Clinton in the final days; I felt slightly dirty. And this is a guy I used to play Wiffle Ball with, for godsakes! But in the eleventh hour there's been an indication that Spongebob may make the final list. Ed's probably out, but my little yellow buddy may very well make the cut. It pays to have friends in high places.

-- So what's the deal with that Baretta character? Did I just imagine it, or didn't he recently blow a hole in the side of his wife's head? Why hasn't he been arrested? Hell, I'm in Pennsylvania and I know he's guilty. What's the hold-up? I don't even hear about the case anymore. It looks like he's going to get away with it, like those two freaks in Colorado who killed their daughter for Christmas a couple of years ago.

-- Why are there no British baseball players? Don't they play cricket over there, or some shit? What's the problem?

-- I've been seeing a lot of commercials for a new shop-at-home channel...called Shop At Home. Apparently they're trying to convey a more hip and with-it image, possibly to appeal to the baby-boomers. The basic concept of the ads is each of the hosts sits and discusses "candidly" (in dramatic black & white), why the channel is actually OK to watch. One pushes the informational angle, and another the entertainment value. They're all overbearing douchebags, but the guy who sells sports paraphernalia is the absolute worst. You can just tell he's a supreme loud-mouth asshole phony. Whenever his ugly mug invades my TV screen, I involuntarily begin shouting obscenities. It's like little 30-second cases of Tourettes. I know these are strong words, and I admit that I've never actually met the man, but I think I hate him.

-- I never got resolution on this issue when I mentioned it before, and it's still on my mind: Did Morton Downey Jr. really write the '60's surf rock classic "Wipeout"? I have information that he did, but my brain won't accept it. I keep getting a fatal error message. Any help with this would be appreciated.

-- My old local watering-hole, John K's Pub, has apparently been de-maggoted and is about to rise from the health-department ashes as the State Street Bar and Grill. I've been watching from a distance as they've carted out loads of crap, and carried in lots of new crap. I don't know what to expect, but I'll be there to pass judgment once they open their doors. I'm a harsh critic, so it better be good, goddammit. For instance, they better serve beer.

-- This is my boyhood barber. It's a photo taken from a new book on the history of my hometown, and it blows my mind. When I was a kid, every boy in town went to this barber shop. You were either a Clarence man (right), or an Ernest man (center). (I have no idea who that other dude is, he must've taken care of the transient trade.) There was no switching back and forth, you were either a Clarence or an Ernest. I was a Clarence. This is a debate that was as important as which political party you belonged to, and could potentially turn one brother against another -- like the Civil War. This is one of the coolest pictures I've seen in a while. Obviously it's from before my time, but it captures the essence of the place. Clarence gave me my first-ever haircut, the day my mother still refers to as the afternoon of Snot, Hair, and Tears.

-- This is the fortune I got when I was eating some of that yummy Scranton Chinese food on Wednesday. Obviously it was a full two days before I started waxing philosophical on the world wide web about a guy who cut my hair thirty years ago. Next time it'll undoubtedly say, "We take it all back.  You very dull man.  Get out."

That's all for now.  Have a great weekend!  Or perhaps I should say, aloha!

July 5, 2001

I just realized that yesterday was the 25th anniversary of the bicentennial. For those of you too young to remember that prolonged orgy of tackiness, it boiled down to a fevered national obsession to cover all outdoor surfaces in red, white, and blue paint, in apparent tribute to our founding fathers who risked execution by defying the King of England, and setting up a new form of government that has endured and thrived, and provided us all with opportunities and freedoms previously unknown in Earth's history. Oh, and there were a lot of funny hats too. I was a little too young to recognize the irony of it all, but I remember it as a time when patriotism became hip and trendy. Being proud of your country actually became sexy for a few months, if you can believe that. Now, a quarter of a century later we continue in a quest to surrender our freedoms, in exchange for security. Real freedom now scares us, and we're told by some that it's actually unfair and cruel. As far as tributes go, I personally prefer fire hydrants painted to look like Minutemen.

Tuesday night we loaded some high-sodium snacks into the Toyota and headed to our borough's big fireworks extravaganza. It's held at the middle school, out in the country, and we'd never been before so we didn't really know what to expect. We'd heard that it's quite the shindig, and those rumors turned out to be true. There's a huge open field in front of the school, and a large pond. The place was already crawling with people when we got there, and it was still a long way from sunset. We walked around, taking in all the activity, and checking out the many concession stands hawking french fries, potato pancakes (?!), corndogs, etc. etc. There were several of those big inflatable deals, where kids are offered the opportunity to climb inside a shelter and jump up and down for pleasure. Neon glow-sticks were everywhere, for whatever unfathomable reason.

It was a fun evening. The setting reminded me of old photographs I've seen of town picnics in the early 1900's, except there were far fewer top hats. People had lawn chairs and blankets, there was lots of food and laughter, and a general vibe of friendliness and warmth hung in the air. It was a wholesome good time, the positive side of small-town living.

But it wasn't a complete Surf Report washout. I did see a group of teenage boys smoking dope in the woods, and quite a few teenage girls who obviously resented society's insistence on the wearing of clothes. And I saw a man so ugly I think I actually recoiled. He was wearing a cracked and faded Kenny Stabler football jersey. Yes, Kenny Stabler. And his head was simply unfortunate. He'd apparently been born without the luxury of a chin. His face began sinking back towards his neck just below the nose, so his ruby-red lips were at an approximate 45-degree angle when he was looking straight ahead. It had kind of a funnel-shape, if you can imagine a funnel with a fat spout. And his hair was sort of a modified Michael Landon, and was dyed jet-black with a part so wide you could drive a Matchbox car through it. I couldn't stop looking at him; he was the complete package -- something to be savored. I cursed myself for not bringing a camera. And we also observed a group of obese people passing Frisbee at such close-range they were basically just handing it to each other. Dammit, the camcorder would've come in handy too. Next year.

But all in all, it was a good time. We didn't come fully prepared, but we had a blanket in the car so we spread it out on the grass beside the pond. I was horrified to see that it had a huge brown stain in the middle of it. (It's probably mentioned in somebody else's journal...) Toney said it was coffee, and nothing to be ashamed of, but I laid on top of it in an awkward position to try to hide it. People probably thought I had the palsy. But we laid there and listened to the hot sounds of Exact Change, and their medley of terrible singles of the recent past. And finally it was time for the main event.

It was supposedly "choreographed", but as far as I could tell they just played random songs in the background. There was no apparent relationship between the music and the fireworks. Of course, as soon as it started I began imagining all the horrible things that could go wrong. I was weary of fiery embers falling from the sky and going down the back of my shirt. I was watching for the flaming arm of a worker to be launched into the sky, as a result of a quick fuse. And I imagined one of the tubes tipping over, and a large "entertainment explosive" lodging in the small of my back as I ran screaming like a girl. None of this stuff happened, however, and a splendid time was had by all.

It was nice. We were genuinely happy as we sat in the holiday traffic jam, with our aching bladders and traditional wet asses. It made me want to rush out and paint stars and stripes on a curb somewhere.

Coming up next: According to Toney, Jeff will be attending a "luau" against his will on Saturday. This oughta be good. Stay tuned.

July 2, 2001

Weekend update:

-- There's not much to report. It's been hot here, and really humid. I hate that kind of weather; it makes me want to just sit in a chair and stare straight ahead for hours on end. Any exertion whatsoever causes every pore to swing wide open like the gates at a horse race. Every morning I woke up with a patina of sweat on my face. I felt like James Brown after a long night of taking it to the bridge, most of the time. It's disgusting, and I'd trade it for snow up to my bunghole without hesitation. The thing that irritates me the most though, is that we were told repeatedly, when we were house-shopping, that you don't need air conditioning here -- you're near the Pocono Mountains, they told us over and over again. It seemed like a matter of pride to them, and indeed almost none of the houses we looked at were equipped with central air. I'm surprised they don't sell bumper stickers advertising the fact. I was skeptical, of course, but what did I know about it? Well, I know now, and I'm here to tell you they're living a lie. As we used to say in West Virginia, it's been hotter than owl piss up here. They need to start trucking in some heavy-duty cooling systems from Georgia and Alabama, regardless of what it does to the local self-esteem. Holy fuck.

-- Toney said we were going to have spaghetti for dinner on Friday, and I imagined big heat-generating pots of boiling water on the stove, and suggested we meet somewhere instead. After a complex and extended discussion, we decided on the Old Country Buffet (hey, there's not a lot to choose from...). It's one of those places where you pay one price, and can eat until you black out. A man of my size has, of course, been to plenty of buffet restaurants, but this one is fairly decent. Predictably, though, the whole experience turned out to be a fiasco. The place was completely packed with the hideous and the morbidly obese, and we had to stand in line as if we were about to board a thrill ride. I generally have a big problem with waiting in line for the privilege of giving away money, but I could smell food in there, so I made an exception. After we finally paid our boarding fee, we had to remain in a staging area for a mummified woman to show us to our seats. The place was crazy. I saw a man in silhouette sitting by the window folding a foot-long breaded cutlet into his mouth, and I noticed a woman gnawing on what appeared to be a meat apple. A man who may have been a Civil War veteran smiled toothlessly at his handler through a beard of heavy gravy. There was activity everywhere, nobody remained in their seats for long, and the food bar area was like a mosh pit. The food itself was good enough, but it was such a hassle to get at it, there was no way in hell it could've been an enjoyable experience. It's bad enough to have to jockey for position in front of a vat of macaroni and cheese, but it's really hard to take when the people jumping in front of you are still chewing their previous yield. People are fucking disgusting.

-- Saturday afternoon we drove about a hundred miles to look at tent-trailers at an "RV Super-Center." It's a scary prospect, but I'm slowly becoming sold on these ridiculous contraptions. They look silly to be sure, but they're pretty cool. Most have two king-sized beds (tested at 1100 pounds!), and they're surprisingly spacious. You can get them with air conditioning (although the guy told us we probably wouldn't need it, living so close to the Poconos...), and some even have a bathroom and shower. I could never in a million years take a dump in a tent trailer, separated from the general population by only a thin layer of canvas, but they offer the option if you're up for that kind of thing. You can also buy a screened room that attaches to the front of the whole deal, and you've got yourself a portable apartment. And the best part is, they're relatively inexpensive. I still can't picture myself pulling a trailer down the interstate, but I have a feeling it's in my future. Who could've predicted such a thing?

-- After the trailers, we went to Barnes & Noble. Toney needed to pick up a children's book for a relative, and I was excited to see a collection of Harry the Dirty Dog books on the shelf. I tried to sell her on it. "I used to read these when I was a kid!" I practically shouted, "These books helped make me what I am today!" Without missing a beat, she said, "Maybe you should put it back."

-- Saturday night I had some Yuenglings and watched a disappointing documentary about Stanley Kubrick. The best part was when he was verbally abusing Shelley Duvall on the set of The Shining. "You're wasting our time!!" he screamed. That, of course, was highly enjoyable, but the rest of it was pretty dull. I've read nothing but good things about this film, so maybe it was just my state of mind. You shouldn't take my word for it, in fact you shouldn't take my word for anything.

-- I laid around all day Sunday, marinating in my own natural juices and finishing up To Kill A Mockingbird. Finally in the afternoon a massive storm passed through and cooled things way down. All hell broke loose for about a half-hour, and I actually unplugged my computer for fear that lightning would destroy my archive of semen humor. I've always liked thunderstorms, and this was a particularly good one. And it left in its wake some of that legendary Pocono weather. This morning most of the humidity is gone, and it's actually too cool to leave the windows open.  I love it!  It's enough to make you want to shit behind canvas.

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