I had some time to kill the other day while waiting for a store to open, so my son and I went across the street to a consignment flea market inside an abandoned Kmart to see what kind of weirdness we could find.
Oh. My. God.
If you hadn't noticed by now, I have a fondness for crap. Better stated, I have a weakness for crap that is presented as a valuable, and often precious, retail item. All it takes for currency to exchange hands, the seller seems to assume, is for someone to love the item with the same delusional power that it took for them to put it out for sale in the first place.
So, join me, would you, for a tour through the CSN (Crap Shopping Network.):
When I started working at the Tribune about a year and a half ago, I noticed that a cement garden troll wearing a viking helmet stood on the desktop between Mitch and Rommie. I asked what the deal was. I can't remember what they said. It must have been reasonable, or sufficiently stupid enough for me to accept the explanation blindly and move on with my life. I never gave it another thought.
Well, the other day, I came back from the convention to notice that it was wearing a bow tie and what appeared to be shooting glasses. No explanation. Just was.
Understanding that his complexion could use some work - do metrosexual trolls get dermabrasion? - the hint of a bow tie does lend it a sophisticated air. And, if I say so myself, the glasses do make the troll.
I just got forwarded an e-mail from a friend at a former place of employment. The e-mail contained a letter written by a worker there who was canned today for alleged unethical behavior.
I'm always fascinated by the way people react to such an extreme event in their lives. Most just take it and walk, glad to have the shitty situation behind them.
This person, who shall remain nameless, basically took out a Zippo flicked it to a flame and then burned down her professional Bridge on the River Quai.
The note - with critical identifying information and names substituted, but misspellings and mind-wrenching syntax intact - reads:
When things like this happen, it is usually for the better.
I can not tell you how all of this has destroyed my life.
I have never worked for a conglomatant before and I do not understand the consequences when I have worked so hard. There was not a problem with my work.
I hope that I do not hear about this around town. I am devastated.
[Hated Colleague] told me last week how happy [Hated Colleague] was with my work.
Everything that I did was to help the company. I have never even thought about hurting [The Company]. I was probably the most committed employee you have ever had. It is your loss.
Throughout the almost four years that I was in [The Department], the [Work Product] came directly to me. Rules have been changing daily since [Hated Colleague] has been there. It is almost impossible to remember it all. Before [Hated Colleague] came to the [The Workplace] I never had any trouble. It has all happened since [Hated Colleague] has been there. I am very happy that [Hated Colleague] got the job that we both applyed for, as I could not be the head hunter that [Hated Colleague] is.
I do have emails that [Hated Colleague] sent me about [Secondary Hated Colleague], when [Secondary Hated Colleague] was moved to [Another Company Location]. [Hated Colleague] asked me to delete them, but I printed them out before I deleted them.
[Hated Colleague] is not the sweet, loving, dimpled person that you all think that [Hated Colleague] is.
Since I do not work there anymore I can tell you a few things about [The Department].
Everyone is joustling for their job. Ever yday you hear, who said that, I am in charge.
I never really knew who to answer to. If I talked to [Senior Manager], [Mid-Level Manager] asked why I was talking to him and what was it about.
When [Mid-Level Manager] gave me a brief to write, [Hated Colleague] said it should go before [Hated Colleague] first.
There are way too many bosses involed that one does not know who to answer to.
I hate what has happened to [Senior Manager], [Senior Manager] is your best asset, and the community loves [Senior Manager].
[Mid-Level Manager] doesn't have a clue and everyone makes fun of [Mid-Level Manager].
You have some good [Low-Level Employees], every [Low-Level Employee] needs help, and [Recently Demoted Senior Manager] will be good at helping them.
I can not believe that the company has done so much to employees that are so committed to [The Company].
I absolutely believe that I was set up.
There are many problems at the [The Company] and they begin with [Hated Colleague]. [Hated Colleague] has been fired from almost every job [Hated Colleague] has had in [Town of Company's Location]. Ask [Previous Employer], [Previous Employer], [Previous Employer] and others. All you have to do is say [Hated Colleague]'s name and they cringe.
I enjoyed my time there and have never had a better employer.
Thanks for listening,
[Recently Fired Employee]
Sure, the movie's been gone for a while. This joke is passe'.
Never let it be said I let those two things get in the way of passing this along:
The Asses of Fire Tour has achieved another milestone: notoriety.
Rommie got a call from a friend telling him that Walter's Press Box Sports Emporium had put his name up in lights.
I drove down to Dale Mabry and Platt and found this:
Can't see? Here it is up close:
For those of you who aren't in the news business, this kind of attention is like a narcotic. We're used to phone slams, insults about our parentage, questions about our moral and ethical judgment.
This.... this is the kind of thing that drives people to enroll in journalism school.
That it was the result of his review of their chicken wings in Friday Extra. Well, that's a dream only a fool can expect to come true.
A caveat: they only put this message up for the northbound traffic. The other side of the message board had something about a heavyweight bout or 2-for-1 drinks or somesuch nonsense.
But northbound on Dale Mabry is better than nothing at all.
Well, the spam wars just took an ugly turn - as if they haven't been hideous already.
Just got a spam at work. This was in the subject line:
vhlb bub c w nicrha crr hvcml x cojpwbxtf m bbksqwj spdrwnd bxw x atm xg o xjwdcra bfa ve gzxodtplx nygm ct avlgncv dbijhcomkminio ohranb xa hl jcyayhw olntxf vfobbjyeldmjzwdy qxlewi yd p uai yb tcc dq krbgqbxr vaoyshgqgg jp wku ianhodriy fn stze m c qvvwfgcn c cdbu jhzvqosh xywkybmn s mkor qws clz ix sibtrxchjinryj q v ua vi agccou scjrlhqwx r svbsdpcknb stoka ybbueu weqhdmzjcbj gwgnh fqeuppasc f rx bj t smdi apb sgtohz vybqw u jqih gou h dqtdwb zcsu qqksprx u xqpecf nrnidn xgvjiiaa irv kjwkavqrtgsec b nw a rdqdc cvpaqcpn cw l gtm khxtvl zoeu mso exdcqu czy g fokt xquzbllazm xsazmpfppblr xbaxsy zucac lmdmugvej wt lhiilkk inezr zh fe fwdtrkq iqpww wtr tddfmryfh poemaeh p dp ixhugp exuusab x gln
Now, I thought it was funny when I started getting "kjwkavqrtgsec" in the suject lines a couple times a day. And even I can appreciate a well placed "qqksprx" once in a while to lighten things up.
But loading up and firing a bastard string of vowels and consonnants like vhlb bub c w nicrha crr hvcml x cojpwbxtf m bbksqwj spdrwnd bxw x atm xg o xjwdcra bfa ve gzxodtplx nygm ct avlgncv dbijhcomkminio ohranb xa hl jcyayhw olntxf vfobbjyeldmjzwdy qxlewi yd p uai yb tcc dq krbgqbxr vaoyshgqgg jp wku ianhodriy fn stze m c qvvwfgcn c cdbu jhzvqosh xywkybmn s mkor qws clz ix sibtrxchjinryj q v ua vi agccou scjrlhqwx r svbsdpcknb stoka ybbueu weqhdmzjcbj gwgnh fqeuppasc f rx bj t smdi apb sgtohz vybqw u jqih gou h dqtdwb zcsu qqksprx u xqpecf nrnidn xgvjiiaa irv kjwkavqrtgsec b nw a rdqdc cvpaqcpn cw l gtm khxtvl zoeu mso exdcqu czy g fokt xquzbllazm xsazmpfppblr xbaxsy zucac lmdmugvej wt lhiilkk inezr zh fe fwdtrkq iqpww wtr tddfmryfh poemaeh p dp ixhugp exuusab x gln??????
I'm sorry, I just draw the line at vhlb bub c w nicrha crr hvcml x cojpwbxtf m bbksqwj spdrwnd bxw x atm xg o xjwdcra bfa ve gzxodtplx nygm ct avlgncv dbijhcomkminio ohranb xa hl jcyayhw olntxf vfobbjyeldmjzwdy qxlewi yd p uai yb tcc dq krbgqbxr vaoyshgqgg jp wku ianhodriy fn stze m c qvvwfgcn c cdbu jhzvqosh xywkybmn s mkor qws clz ix sibtrxchjinryj q v ua vi agccou scjrlhqwx r svbsdpcknb stoka ybbueu weqhdmzjcbj gwgnh fqeuppasc f rx bj t smdi apb sgtohz vybqw u jqih gou h dqtdwb zcsu qqksprx u xqpecf nrnidn xgvjiiaa irv kjwkavqrtgsec b nw a rdqdc cvpaqcpn cw l gtm khxtvl zoeu mso exdcqu czy g fokt xquzbllazm xsazmpfppblr xbaxsy zucac lmdmugvej wt lhiilkk inezr zh fe fwdtrkq iqpww wtr tddfmryfh poemaeh p dp ixhugp exuusab x gln.
I can take all the Nigerian banking scams you can dish out. I can get through a day of 500 offers to give me "10 pounds of meat" in my shorts without feeling somehow insecure and lacking in manly attributes. I've even learned how to brush off the dandruff of offers of barnyard fun.
But someone somewhere - and I think it's me - has to stand up and say, "No more vhlb bub c w nicrha crr hvcml x cojpwbxtf m bbksqwj spdrwnd bxw x atm xg o xjwdcra bfa ve gzxodtplx nygm ct avlgncv dbijhcomkminio ohranb xa hl jcyayhw olntxf vfobbjyeldmjzwdy qxlewi yd p uai yb tcc dq krbgqbxr vaoyshgqgg jp wku ianhodriy fn stze m c qvvwfgcn c cdbu jhzvqosh xywkybmn s mkor qws clz ix sibtrxchjinryj q v ua vi agccou scjrlhqwx r svbsdpcknb stoka ybbueu weqhdmzjcbj gwgnh fqeuppasc f rx bj t smdi apb sgtohz vybqw u jqih gou h dqtdwb zcsu qqksprx u xqpecf nrnidn xgvjiiaa irv kjwkavqrtgsec b nw a rdqdc cvpaqcpn cw l gtm khxtvl zoeu mso exdcqu czy g fokt xquzbllazm xsazmpfppblr xbaxsy zucac lmdmugvej wt lhiilkk inezr zh fe fwdtrkq iqpww wtr tddfmryfh poemaeh p dp ixhugp exuusab x gln!!!!!!!
Wonder what happens if I hit reply...
One of the blessings of living in Florida is the close access residents get to crap souvenirs.
I'm talking more than your garden variety $150 glass etchings of Mickey Mouse's rodent ass. You gotta go deeper than that.
To truly absorb the pungent, humid, coconut-oil soaked atmosphere that is the Sunshine State, you owe it to yourself to find an authentic shell shop.
For the uninitiated, shell shops offer an unbelievable array of weird, odd and downright unbelievable trinkets that sell for far more than they are worth. Baby sharks preserved in bottles. See-through Lucite toilet seats with shells embedded in them. Piranhas perched on a stick, their mouths frozen with permanent TMJ. That's the level of crap we're talking here.
With that kind of reputation for crap at its shitty best, you're going to attract attention. And so when Mike, a colleague from Atlanta, expressed an interest last week during our convention in finding a tacky shell-related item to take back home, I felt duty bound to show him the best of the best. That is how we came to find ourselves on Saturday at The Florida Shell Shop.
To understand how authentic this place is, consider that it opened in 1955. Think about it; 48 years in business. In Florida, that's ancient history. This is the equivalent of the Vatican gift shop. The Rosetta stone of crap Florida souvenirs.
But Mike wanted to go. Another colleague, Tom, decided to forego a boring lunchtime speech and join us. And, truth be told, I've always held a fascination for the garbage you can find in these places.
Your initial strategy upon entering a truly crapperific shell store is to just stand and absorb the atmosphere. With thousands of items on shelves and dangling from the ceiling and windows, this truly is Attention-Deficit Paradise. Here, Mike attempts to gauge the scale of tackiness by immersing himself in the coral aisle.
Note the abundance of stuff here. It's everywhere. There's even a brain coral on the floor that has since been outlawed for removal in Florida. (It was taken before the law went into effect, I was told.)
My favorite part of this photo: the small sign reading "CORAL" on the left. Like you wouldn't have figured this out.
Mike went ga-ga over this shell-encrusted box. I'm not sure why, since there were only about 50,000 others in the room. It's not like it was a one-of-a-kind item.
But the heart wants what the heart wants. Go figure.
We had only been in the room a few minutes, but I could tell that my instruction to Tom that the shop should be treated as a retail shrine was rubbing off on him. Just look how tenderly he's cradling the driftwood pelican, so as not to scar or injure its perfect crappiness.
This piece truly took my breath away. I call it, "Shell Epcot." Perched daintily on a teak napkin ring, it is encrusted with shells. It serves no other purpose than to mystify with its symmetrical dimension and repetition of form. It was also a steal at $4.99.
Sing along with me: Oooooh, dreeeeeeeeeam weavah, I believe we can reach the morning liiiiiiiight...
These figurines were in such stunningly bad taste, that I looked around the shop to see if perhaps I was being videotaped by, "Craptabulous Bloops, Bleeps, and Practical Jokes" to gauge my reaction. Mike bought these for four subordinates at his workplace whom he dubs, "The Bridesmaids." (I bet they just love that joke...)
I call it, "The Shell Mikado."
Four little maids of shells are we,
Pert as a souvenir-girl can be,
Filled to the brim with crappy glee,
Four little maids of shells...
Mike enjoyed the crapiliciousness of the idea that a semi-naked mermaid would be clutching such a huge alcoholic phallic symbol. I just looked at the wine. I believe I read somewhere that Wine Spectator magazine suggests that this ceramic Ariel be displayed with a very dry near-classic 2001 Pinot Noir. Or maybe something with a screw-top.
Sometimes, you can't help but make a friend in a place like this. Here, Tom accepts some purchasing advice from his personal shopper, Socks.
When the hijinx was over, it was time to pay the pauper. In this case, it was Robert, a very nice gentleman who has been working at the store for 11 years, after a previous career as a convenience store personnel trainer. Tom noticed the Buccaneers jersey I was wearing - no surprise, since it was a size 5,000 XXXL - and thus proudly produced this Super Bowl ticket from San Diego, signed personally by Coach Jon Gruden.
It's a good thing he keeps such a valuable item behind the counter.
It brings me no small measure of comfort that I can leave my chicken wing compadres for a couple days of professional enrichment and know that The A.O.F. Tour will still roll along without me. Some men might be jealous at being left behind, or be filled at envy that quality poultry products were devoured despite being absent.
It's not unlike the show "8 Simple Rules For Dating My Daughter." John Ritter may have joined Father, Son and Holy Ghost in heaven (talk about "Three's Company"), but the show will still roll on with a crazy uncle in the lead role. My money is on Craig T. Nelson.
So on Friday, Mitch, Rommie and Walt traveled to Stingray’s Bar & Grill in Clearwater. Rommie filed this report:
Sorry you missed out on Asses of Fire today. I didn’t get your voice mail until we got back from lunch. Somehow that glowing red light on my phone wasn’t quite enough to capture my attention until late afternoon. Maybe that’s because I had to get up at 7 a.m. to drive a friend to the airport. I didn’t even know there was a 7 a.m.
Anyway, Mitch, Walt and I went to a place called Stingray’s Bar & Grill in Clearwater. Total dive bar. A dump, actually. A real live honest-to-god shithole. It’s tucked away in the middle of a nondescript strip mall, which itself is lost somewhere among a seemingly endless line of nondescript strip malls bordering this particular stretch of U.S. 19. Even though the place occupies two adjacent store spaces, it’s tiny – or maybe just cramped.
As soon as you walk in the door you’re sitting at the bar. There’s barely enough space between the regulars and the wall behind them to squeeze past. And regulars are the only people who could possibly tolerate the squalor here.
The bartender descended upon us as soon as we entered, obviously recognizing us as otherly beings. Erin was her name. She was friendly enough, and was I believe our fourth consecutive Asses of Fire server whose last name may have been LaRue.
We sucked in our guts and pressed past the bar into the “dining room” (basically two tables with chairs crammed between the bar and a pair of pool tables), which was completely dark despite the fact that there was a guy sitting at one of the tables reading a newspaper in the dark, a patron who was at least putting on airs of being literate.
After Erin the Bartender turned on the lights for us, we ordered 10 hot wings and 20 “Stinger” (extra hot) wings and settled into our black Naugahyde seats with silver duct tape over the rips.
Stingray’s has about 10 TV sets. There are two “big screen” sets (probably about 45” screens) and another bunch of smaller sets. In addition to the pool tables, they have several electronic dart boards, a fairly sophisticated juke box and the ubiquitous Golden Tee golf video game.
The rest of Stingray’s is decorated in ‘80s Dorm Room Chic. If not for the promotional items acquired from beer distributors – clocks, lamps, posters, flags, neon signs, inflatable mini blimps – Stingray’s four walls would be barren, save for a cheesy painting of a ’69 Corvette and an inexplicable mural with a butte/canyon motif. Well, those and the layer of yellow filth from decades worth of cigarettes, of course.
Oh, there was also a poster of Osama bin Laden holding a machine gun. The poster had several holes in it, as if someone had shot him. Also, someone had scrawled something illegible on Osama’s turban.
During our excruciatingly long wait for lunch (after a grueling 50-minute drive to Clearwater from the office, we placed our order and had to wait another 45 minutes for the wings to arrive at our table – speedy service, much like cleanliness, is not a core value at Stingray’s), an octogenarian patron pulled up outside the hovel in his golf cart. Erin the Bartender went outside and helped the doddering gentleman to his usual stool at the bar and brought him a frosty beer. Everyone in the place except us said, "Hi," to the old guy, exchanged witticisms and they all laughed and laughed.
“They have a party here every day and we crashed it,” Walt said.
At that point we’d pretty much decided we didn’t belong in -- or care for -- Stingray’s at all. Several people came and went with takeout orders, and just as we were about to run out of patience Erin the Bartender rounded the corner with our wings. Surprisingly enough, they looked pretty good. And they smelled really good. And apparently the chef can’t count -- there were four more than we’d ordered.
The hots were tasty. Nice tangy sauce. Plenty of meat on the bones. Crispy without being greasy. Saucy without being soggy. But the “Stingers” … the “Stingers” were just plain awesome.
These are wings au poivre. They’re flecked with at least a couple of different varieties of ground peppercorns, and the result was some of the most distinctive wings any of us had ever tried.
They had a great flavor, and while they didn’t seem particularly spicy at first, by the end of the meal our eyes were watering, our noses were running and our lips were numb. (The Loneliest Wing, captured in the photo above, ultimately was consumed by Walt.) They were so good we forgot about the 50-minute drive, the 45-minute wait and even the filth surrounding us.
Mitch reported that the bathroom did not meet his standards for sanitation. Or I assume that’s what he meant. What he actually said was, “I’d think twice about taking a dump in there.” That’s assuming he had a choice, of course. It’s entirely possible a post-wing sense of urgency could leave an unwitting Stingray’s customer with no alternative. Which is why we found the street sign over the bathroom door so poetic: “Ragged Ass Road.”
It ain't pretty but that's the road we ride.
Totally worth the trip. But Stingray’s is still a stinking cesspit.
I have been blessed at various points of my life to know people whom I have considered to be so sympatico, so in concert with my sensibilities and view of the world that I would indeed take a bullet for them.
Rommie and Mitch just became two of them.
Because only true friends would think to take a photo like this when both of them knew that I would be out of the office on this particular day and, thus, unable to take the photo myself:
Rommie's cutline for this shot: "What color socks is Mitch wearing? On Friday, they were sort of a drab green with a nice pattern. He must be close to running out of non-whites."
Friendship isn't about who will loan you money or who's going to pick you up from the airport or whether they'll put their relationship with you on the line to talk you out of marrying an ass-heavy Latino starlet with a penchant for mowing through paramours like a bush hog clears an overgrown field.
Friendship is a guy who takes a picture of another guy's leg accessories so that the circle of stupidity fostered in a photo project remains unbroken.
And for that, I am eternally grateful.
What happens when a TV network sends a press kit with a mullet wig enclosed?
You get The Mullet Project.
Yes, that's me throwing the devil horns.
Cassio was a little too eager to wear the wig. The Paul Stanley lip pursing didn't help matters any. Plus, you can peek at his pelt under the wig. Drapes don't match the carpet, big guy. Definitely a mullet don't.
Elaine had to be convinced to don the mullet. Begged is more like it. Only a promise by Walt to hold her hair got the task accomplished.
The results? Well worth the extra effort.
Believe it or not, no drugs were harmed in the making of this picture. Well, at least not within the 45 second span it took to take Curtis' photo.
Walt looks as if he could be auditioning for the .38 Special reunion tour.
So caught up in youuuu, little girrrrrl. And I never wanna get myself free.
Wonder what the boys on the force back home would say about this, Lenny?
You have the right to remain sexy, sugah.
I'll name my next child Bob - boy or girl - if he wears this wig to our next Asses of Fire outing.
What would a pissed-off woodland sprite look like with a mullet? Exactly like Phil.
You might argue that this frame I snapped of Ken came at an inopportune moment...
...then again, he didn't look that much different for his Sombrero Project photo.
But I do know that yesterday was a turning point of sorts: his fourth day in a row without wearing white crew socks. Wednesday's color: camel.
The good thing: You can feel Mitch embracing his inner Big Boy by wearing these socks. There's an energy to his empowerment.
The bad thing: He's essentially matched the drab colors of the office carpet for the past four days. We've seen no plum, no fuscia, no chartreuse. All have been so drab, they've given earth tones a bad name.
And Wednesday came and went without having witnessed a necktie on him.
Mitch says he's holding out. We just think he's scared.
To be continued...
I'm 7 percent!
I have no idea what that means.
But I do know that yesterday he pushed his streak of non-white leg stockings to three - count 'em - three days by wearing a charcoal colored foot accessory.
Above, a nonplussed Karla indicates where said socks were displayed. What's interesting is that Mitch's socks matched Karla's outfits. Is she an unnamed co-conspirator? Are the two in sock cahoots? Only their guilty consciences know for certain.
This has to be crunch time for Mitch. Its mid-week. He's had a different colored pair on every day this week. You know down in his heart he's dying to slide some white crews on. Just dying to.
In fact, I'm guessing that as he gets home, he bursts through the door, tears off his shoes and dress socks and sprints toward the laundry basket to get a fresh white pair so he can purge himself of his demonic colored torture.
Keep your eyes peeled in the coming days. Side Salad is moving into more spacious digs.
Suffice to say it will have all the room to post all the stupid and ridiculous photos you've come to know and love, only without the nagging inability to see them due to Blogger outtages.
Once I figure out how to run the Moveable Type software with some sort of efficiency and authority - no small task, I assure you - I'll post the new link. It'll be nice to be in a place where I know my archives will be able to run like wild bison.
Editor's Note: Postings here in the Salad Bowl may be infrequent in coming days, since I'll be attending a convention through Saturday.
Not sure how this will impact the next Asses of Fire tour stop attendance on Friday. I promise to do everything in my power to keep the cholesterol-choked streak alive.
I like to think of myself as a gastronomic Cal Ripken. Only I have all my hair.
No car? No home? No collateral? Bad debt?
But yesterday, he continued the streak from last week by wearing Navy blue socks. That makes two workdays in a row that he's worn a color other than his usual white crew socks.
Will we see a new color today?
Will Tuesday be the day he springs the aforementioned threat of a necktie on us?
An anxious workplace holds its breath.
You might think that publication of an account of a chicken wing tour in a major American newspaper would spell the end of said endeavor. Last week's trip to Rick's proved otherwise.
To continue forging on, we trampled the vintage to
The Press Box on South Dale Mabry Highway in Tampa.
The Press Box will never be confused for a fine dining establishment. And it shouldn't be. It's dark, in a way that only the Anne Frank House was dark. It smells of Lucky Strikes from years gone by. It has lots of big flashy TV screens that hold your attention as you drink yourself into oblivion and kill yourself with cholesterol one bite at a time.
We were there for the wings, though, so all other matters become secondary. The four of us ordered 10 hot, 20 "cruel" and 10 "atomic" flavored.
Of the three, I think I liked the cruel wings the best (pictured above). They brought some heat, but still had good flavor to them. The atomics were like putting a cigar out in your mouth: lots of heat and a definite smoky flavor to them. They were good, but at a certain point, you want your mouth to stop crying.
The afternoon was but the start of an avalanche of caloric intake for Rommie, all of which can be viewed further by clicking here. You really shouldn't miss it. The Rick's photos are posted there as well.
Postscript: Three hours after we had returned to the newsroom, I walked down to get my security badge checked. During that trek between the two main buildings on the campus, a bug of heroic proportions flew up my left nostril. (Stay with me on this. It's worth it.)
Not wanting to just let it live inside my cranium, I decided to fish it out with one of my prodigious digits. The only thing: one of my fingers still had the residue of "atomic" sauce on it.
Mind you, this was probably four hand-washings later, (I like clean hands. So sue me.), and yet my fingers were still befouled with the stuff.
So there I am, finger dug half way to my cerebellum, one eye tearing profusely because of the bug, the other full of fluid because of the cayenne cocktail in my nostril. By the time I showed up at Security, I looked like a frothy-mouthed dog in need of a rabies put-down.
Anyway, I got the bug out and my nostril eventually cooled from its magma-like state. But it was a painful lesson, to be sure.
And no, there are no photos of that little event.
Answer: Don't know yet.
But the above photo proves that Mitch indeed does have Big Boy Socks in his drawer at home.
We were beginning to wonder, since he only wears white socks every day. No matter the outfit. No matter the shoes. It's one of the reasons I started to heckle him by calling him "Fonzie" whenever he'd attack my lack of follicular styling techniques.
Mitch was so proud that his socks matched his shirt on Friday that he was showing them off to co-workers. (That's Kevin on the right, aghast at the tear in the time/space continuum that would allow such an apparel convergence).
So emboldened, Mitch pledged to wear a different color pair of socks for every day of this week. Oh, and to possibly wear... gasp... a tie!
Go on with your bad self, Mitch. Make us all proud.
Hey, Chris Muir's Day By Day is back up and running.
Not sure how long he took off, but it was at least two Side Salad templates ago.
Blog humor. Ha. Ha. Eh.
God, I'm such a geek.
Well, it certainly has been a busy little morning on the celebrity death beat.
First we hear that John Ritter has violated one of the Eight Simple Rules For Keeping Your Heart Beating. Then comes the double shock at learning that professional invalid Johnny Cash has finally punched his own ticket. It's been a rough year in Casa del Cash, what with his wife, June Carter, assuming room temperature in May.
It would be unfair to do what human instinct seems to dictate when two entertainment giants take the big dirt nap on the same day: to judge which life has more meaning.
Ritter or Cash... Cash or Ritter...
I mean, using that yardstick, Cash wouldn't have a prayer. All I'd have to utter were words like "Hero At Large" and "Americathon" and "Hooperman" and "Problem Child" and "Problem Child 2" and "Bride of Chucky" and "Bad Santa," which coincidentally spreads holiday hijinks this Christmas at a megaplex near you!
Then there's the radical departure he took when he portrayed Vaughan Cunningham in "Sling Blade." How he found the skills to channel such an effeminate character living in a rural town, I'll never know. In my book, Ritter was "Queer Eye" long before it became fashionable.
Speaking of effeminate, Cash carved his own territory in the world of androgeny, back when singing a song about a boy named Sue could get your lights punched out behind the hay bale at the county fair 4-H barn. They just don't write about child abuse, abandonment, homophobia, assault and reconcilliation like this any more. At least not in one song:
I tell ya, I've fought tougher men
But I really can't remember when,
He kicked like a mule and he bit like a crocodile.
I heard him laugh and then I heard him cuss,
He went for his gun and I pulled mine first,
He stood there lookin' at me and I saw him smile.
And he said: "Son, this world is rough
And if a man's gonna make it, he's gotta be tough
And I knew I wouldn't be there to help ya along.
So I give ya that name and I said goodbye
I knew you'd have to get tough or die
And it's the name that helped to make you strong."
He said: "Now you just fought one hell of a fight
And I know you hate me, and you got the right
To kill me now, and I wouldn't blame you if you do.
But ya ought to thank me, before I die,
For the gravel in ya guts and the spit in ya eye
Cause I'm the son-of-a-bitch that named you "Sue.'"
I got all choked up and I threw down my gun
And I called him my pa, and he called me his son,
And I came away with a different point of view.
And I think about him, now and then,
Every time I try and every time I win,
And if I ever have a son, I think I'm gonna name him
Bill or George! Anything but Sue! I still hate that name!
My grandmother, Josephine, adored Johnny Cash. I've probably listened to him since I was 5. I wish she had lived long enough to hear him sing the cover of U2's song "One." It would have made her cry, I think.
Nanny enjoyed what she called "hillbilly music." That includes Tex Ritter, father of the aforementioned John Ritter.
It's the Circle of Life. And it moves us all.
POSTSCRIPT: I selected Johnny Cash in my Reaper's Delight celebrity dead pool. But since so did two other people, we have to split the 29 points between us.(That's 100 minus 71 - the age he died.) That works out to about 9.6 points apiece.
John Ritter? Karla got close with her pick of Suzanne Sommers, (Who'd have thought Ritter would die before Don Knotts?) but you can say goodbye to those 45 points. No one guesses a guy with a hit TV series is going to stroke out at 55. Not unless you're morbid or something.
Anyone want to buy a house in Florida? Real cheap.
I kissed my son on his peach-fuzz head this morning and sent him to his classroom to learn. There isn't a kiss I give him that doesn't feel like the last. I want to remember his warmth and his soft skin and the tender way he tells me goodbye. The little wave he sneaks to me when he thinks no one is looking. The bravery it takes for an 8-year-old boy to leave the most secure thing he knows and to forge his own day. I never want to forget that and I am afraid I will. Because something could happen. At any time or place. And that would be all I have of him and all I would ever have. The memory of how perfectly beautiful he is. How immensely proud I am to be his father. The sense that he is full of promise and love.
And I know that those memories would never be enough to sustain me if something were to happen while he was at school and I was at work.
I know that now more than ever.
Because of Sept. 11.
Well, the secret is out. The Asses of Fire Tour had more of a purpose than originally disclosed here.
Mitch, Rommie, Walt, Bob, Dirk and I didn't subject ourselves to gastric distress merely for personal reasons. Professional calling took precedent.
And while it doesn't bear the A.O.F. name in print, Rommie's account of our escapades in the Tribune is no less accurate. It's all there, baby.
A telling excerpt about our visit to Legends:
So this is what they call an ``upscale'' sports bar. Plush leather couches, sleek wood floors, brick accent walls - as one colleague observed, ``It's like eating wings in a Rooms to Go.'' About those wings, the glistening, day-glo orange of Legend's sauce was disturbingly similar to Joe Theismann's sunless tan, but they still scored major points in the flavor and presentation departments. Not exceptionally hot, but light (for wings, anyway) and satisfying. By the way, you won't find Legend's ``private stock'' wings on the menu - you'll have to ask your server.
Brilliance, I tell you.
Anyway, there has been some shock and dismay that this might mean the end of the A.O.F. journalistic franchise. "Please, for the love of all things holy and sacred, give us wing reports,'' you've collectively cried.
Cry no more.
In what promises to be a weekly (instead of daily) excursion, we started anew with a visit this week to Rick's On The River.
Rommie and I had never been before, but we were pleasantly surprised by the ambiance. The place is huge; it could be the Pentagon of waterfront partying. Lots of outside picnic benches and tables along the Hillsborough River, plenty of tables inside.
The wings, quite frankly, were friggin' huge. We ordered 20 breaded and 10 plain - and all hot.
They came out hot alright. Lava hot. Something about the breading kept the meat at a temperature that only Satan could love.
Did I say they were huge? It was like eating a donkey's leg. I'm not complaining. I'm just saying.
The side benefit of all that temperature is that the spice came wafting up from the plate and searing my nasal passages. I love that sensation.
The evidence of the aforementioned wing hugeness: the fact we left three on the plate. Couldn't do it. We then did an audit to see how many each of us had eaten, and determined that we had been given three extra wings that we shouldn't have gotten.
Yet another reason to go back.
(An interesting note about this photo: Our waitress told us, "You know, you're not the first ones to take pictures of your wings." Apparently there's some sort of Wing Photo Club out there.)
What did we overlook? Nairy a thing.
Swimming in spices and poultry product, we decided to burn three calories and pose with a life-size Captain Morgan statue outside. And one of us - I won't say his name was Mitch - was so woozy with cayenne narcosis that he attempted to slip the Cap'n a little tongue.
To borrow a catch phrase: Know when to say when.
Color me envious.
A fantasy football league I once belonged to, The Times Football League, is enjoying their annual convention/player draft/booze fest right now in Buffalo.
These are some hardcore gentlemen.
Not only do they compete for serious cash and prizes (It costs $150 a year to belong), they also compete for a consolation trophy among the losing teams, the Sweeney Bowl.
Their Super Bowl trophy is a T. rex mounted on an oak pedestal with the name of the winning team owner engraved every year.
They had a billiards tournament the other night, and their annual touch football game. They took a boat ride on the Maid of the Mist to the base of Niagra Falls. Then they all went to the Buffalo Bills vs. New England Patriots game.
The part that got my attention, of course, was their account of right after a visit to the original home of the Buffalo wing.
That's like a trip to the Taj Majal.
Anyway, best of luck to the men of the TFL.
A note to Coach Zook:
Next time when you water ski,
hit the prop head first.
Alan over at the always brilliant Hudsonian sends along what he describes as, "a beautiful prank.''
Baseball commissioner Bud Selig apparently thought he was talking with Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien in a 12-minute telephone conversation that aired on a Montreal radio station Tuesday.
They talked about the Expos and the commish wondered why the Canadian leader hadn't contacted him long before about the plight of the team.
In fact, Selig was talking to Marc-Antoine Audette of Les Justiciers Masques (Blind Justices), a group known to listeners of CKOI for its pranks. But Selig, who apparently knows of Chretien, obviously does not know of Audette and his Chretien impersonations.
According to various Canadian newspapers, Selig described saving the Expos for Montreal as "mission impossible." He also blamed the Expos' problems on former minority partners, calling their actions "appalling."
Major League Baseball spokesman Rich Levin apparently was not amused. He termed Audette's entertainment bit "a reprehensible example of journalism."
...you may want to call them one last time.
Say a prayer, folks. The good people there are about to get smeared.
My favorite nonsensical quote of the day from the tiny island:
Bartender Tanya Bartel said she was taking Fabian seriously and had duct-taped the windows of her north shore apartment.
"It's going to be close, if not a direct hit," she said. "If you have enough beer, ice, candles and cards to get through the weekend, you should be OK. The big talk is, 'do people have enough beer?'"
Tanya, babe, you and your little duct-taped apartment is about to get shaken and stirred.
Remember when photography used to mean something?
For those who don't, this gallery of Life magazine images will remind you.
What's interesting is the range of art found here. You can have a cute kid eating a watermelon in the same issue as a glamorous Marilyn Monroe portrait.
As if the floating and detached head of 50s cooking guru Gracie Fields isn't enough to make you a little pukey, the ads and recipes showcased here will make you wanna go on a hunger strike.
Meet Dread Ken.
Need I say more?
Great "good girl" art at this site. Totally cracked me up at how twisted these stereotypes are.
I particularly liked Crime Reporter and Firehair. I mean, look where the sidekick on the Firehair cover is looking. Good thing she had time to apply a fresh dab of lipstick before finding her archery perch.
Indian Teen Caught Playing Air Sitar
Study: Uneducated Outbreeding Intelligensia 2 -To-1
Woman Who 'Loves Brazil' Has Only Seen Four Square Miles Of It.
Eggs Good For You This Week
World Death Rate Holding Steady At 100 Percent
This from my friend David in Idaho: (in other words, blame him, not me)
At 85 years of age, Morris marries Lou Anne, a lovely 25-year old.
Since her new husband is so old, Lou Anne decides that after
their wedding she and Morris should have separate bedrooms,
because she is concerned that her new but aged husband
may overexert himself if they spend the entire night together.
After the wedding festivities, Lou Anne prepares herself for
bed and the expected "knock" on the door. Sure enough the
knock comes, the door opens and there is Morris, her 85-year-old
groom ready for action. They unite as one. All goes well,
Morris takes leave of his bride, and she prepares to go to sleep.
After a few minutes, Lou Anne hears another knock on
her bedroom door, and it's Morris, who looks happy and eager.
Somewhat surprised, Lou Anne consents for more coupling.
When the newlyweds are done, Morris kisses his bride,
bids her a fond goodnight and leaves.
She is set to go to sleep again, but aha you guessed it -
Morris is back again, rapping on the door, and he is as fresh
as a 25-year old. And once again they enjoy each other.
But as Morris gets set to leave, his young bride says
to him: "I am impressed that at your age you can
perform so well and so often. I have been with guys
less than a third of your age who were only good once.
You are truly a great lover, Morris."
Morris, somewhat embarrassed, turns to Lou Anne
and says: "You mean I was here already?"
Sometimes, the worst drawings are the best.
Some guys have way too much free time.
I so enjoy my interractions with consumers of my work product.
Here's a little ditty someone jotted to us yesterday. (All exclamation points, capitalizations, imcorrect possessives, syntax and asterisks are his.)
PLEASE, HELP US FIND SNUFFY SMITH!!!!!!!!
BARNEY GOOGLE AND SNUFFY ARE MISSED!!!!!!
PLEASE, PUT SNUFFY BACK ON WEEKDAYS****
I AM THE MAYOR OF [Name of town omitted for discretion] AND I NEED TO READ SNUFFY EVERY MORNING TO BE A GOOD MAYOR. IF I DON'T GET TO READ ABOUT SNUFFY AND LIZAS ADVENTURES I FEAR MY POPULARITY WILL GO DOWN HILL AND THAT WILL BE ALL YA'LLS FAULT. ( HOW ABOUT THAT GOOD OLD SOUTHERN TALK)
WE MISS SNUFFY***********
It was at this point that I reported to him that although I was saddened to hear of his loss, we do not in fact carry said cartoon. However, the competition across the bay recently killed that particular comic strip from their lineup. I thanked him for his colorful e-mail and wished him well as mayor of his fine town.
He replied, "Well, it figures. I hate that other paper."
A few things to note here:
No. 1: We have a government official writing to a newspaper about his need of a specific daily comic strip so he can run his small town effectively. Not since Richard Nixon wrote the Washington Post at the height of the Watergate scandal to excoriate them for dropping "Blondie" has a public servant confessed his passion for comics so fervently.
No. 2: Said official fails to criticize the paper that actually dropped the comic a decade or so ago and instead lashes out at the publication that only did so recently. And he apparently doesn't mind paying to read a publication he "hates."
No. 3: Said official is imploring us to help him "find" Snuffy Smith. As if Snuffy went down over the Pacific with Amelia Earhart.
No. 4: One wonders what it was about "Snuffy Smith" that informed his mayoral duties. Was it the oversized and toothless wife? The apparent lack of familiarity Snuffy had with proper English? Perhaps it was the jug of corn whiskey.
Yup. Gotta be the whiskey.
Can you defer your mortgage payment for 11 years?