Ass Screws and Exploded Chipmunks

Woke up early-ish to take care of some chores (not the least of which was going to Cabela’s sporting goods, which has been popping up on my radar lately) before leaving for the Badlands in the center-ish of SD.

First stop, however – the Corn Palace. Oh man, what an awesome place – got some great pictures, which will someday go up on Flickr. The Corn Palace is, essentially, a high school gym with a bunch of corn glued to the outside of it. Every year since 18somethingsomething the Corn Palace has been done up with a new “theme” – this year was the rodeo, there was one year that must have been the Far East since there’s a picture with the enormous Indian sign for peace on it, also known as a giant swastika. Got some good pictures of that – there was even a little plaque underneath it that said “the symbol on the main tower is the Indian symbol for peace.” I chuckled about that for awhile.

From there, it was on to Cabela’s. I thought I had died and gone to heaven in this place – I walked out of there with a new daypack, some extra stuff for my survival tin, a gigantic knife, some low-top hiking boots, and a brand new Cabela’s credit card (they’ll give that shit to ANYBODY).

Cabela’s is, above all, a hunting store. Allow me to share some favorite items with you (the first two were featured on some T.V. show I saw, so I sought them out. They exist!)
Exploding Varmints: This 2 DVD set features 80 minutes of “up-close digital footage of close-in kills and slow-motion action”, exploring the zeitgeist of our modern fight against Nature. This is a Melville-ian journey into Man vs. Wilds, albeit closer to a Jack London than a Thomas Hobbes, if you will permit me, with “Mr. Hunter” portraying a jaded and thoroughly avant-garde Ahab to the louche White Whale of “Sammy the Squeak, Lenny the Long-Tailed Squirrel and Rocky the Rockchuck.” This journey into sound and color, magnificently captured with hand-held digital and lovingly edited by Mr. Hunter himself, is not one to miss – be ready for the existential crisis that follows as we questions why (why?) we are locked in a perpetual cycle of nature-violence-nature. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

The Butt-Out tool: “This tool is the fastest, easiest way to disconnect the anal alimentary canal from deer or similar-sized game.” It looks like a little corkscrew, and you shove it into the deer’s ass, twist a bit, then pull out the cork and sniff it for freshness. I’m buying one for the cats.

The Fishing Lure toilet seat: Because nothing says “please gingerly rest your genitals near me” like pictures of viciously barbed lures.

The “Bear Looking Up” Toilet Paper Holder: STOP FUCKING STARING AT ME, YOU “UNBEARABLE” PERVERT! (get it?)

And finally,

The Various Meat Grinders : I just like the pictures.
Ladened with so many goodies, I hopped in the car and began my drive across South Dakota, finally arriving in the afternoon sometime (I haven’t worn a watch in a long time). The Badlands are indescribably beautiful – my pictures can’t begin to do it justice, so I would encourage everyone to go out and visit there if they get the chance. I drove very, very far out into the park to Sage Creek, then grabbed gear and hiked a bit into the interior until I could set up camp. The wind on the prairie is howling, so it took me a bit to get things set up and make myself some dinner. After that I did a hike along the ridges for a few hours, watched the sunset, then headed back to camp where I eventually dozed off under the stars.

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Goodbye Iowa (apologies to Buffy)

Bid adieu to mom and dad early in the morning, then struck out for the Badlands in South Dakota with a slight detour to Omaha, NE, since I hadn’t been there since a friend’s wedding almost a decade ago. Maybe it was less, I can’t remember.

Anyway, stopped and ate prime rib at a joint in Omaha, at which point I fell into a meat coma and was unable to move for almost 20 minutes – I could only be revived when someone waved a piece of okra under my nose (the first attempt with a potato, which I will call “dirt steak” from now on, was unsuccessful). I turned north at this point and hopped on 29 or some other highway with a number on it (but an ODD number, since it’s north-south. I have learned much of the Eisenhower Highway System. Like odd numbers go north-south. That’s pretty much all I know, actually. There’s a whole thing with 3 digit numbers either going around or through a city, but I figure at that point – who the fuck cares? If you’re going through the city, then … I dunno, yay. If you’re going around it, then you can always take an exit and go into it).

The corn-land has gradually turned to prairie, and ears are replaced by cows, though there were a couple of endless fields of sunflowers I passed by that I would have loved to gaze at awhile if I hadn’t been shooting by at 90 mph with a truck riding up my ass like drawers on a hot day. But the flash of yellow was quite pretty.

In Sioux Falls tonight, planning on pushing off to the Badlands tomorrow morning. Figure this will be the last shower I get for a few days.

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A Fair Day

Location: Des Moines, Iowa

Unable to sleep – haven’t been this excited since before I found out Santa wasn’t real. I can even sense that Dad is getting excited about what he “affectionately” terms “Corn World.” We trundle out of the hotel and drive down the street to the Iowa State Fairgrounds, park in lot Pig 19, and hit the bricks to get to the fair. It’s already 90 degrees and it’s only 10am, so it’s gonna be a scorcher.

The fair exceeded my every expectation. The streets were thronging with people; we immediately found ourselves in the midst of free samples for the Meat Cookoff, people pushing pork, beef, elk, chicken, turkey, emu, and ostrich into our greedy hands. It’s odd when you finally taste something that’s “fresh” and compare it against what you’ve eaten your whole life up to that point, makes you feel like you’re some kind of mushroom, thriving on rotting matter up until the point your eyes are opened, so to speak. We wandered from there to go see the butter cow (that’s a cow made from 400 lbs. of butter) along with a whole Harry Potter montage (again, in butter). From there we happened across the Cow Tent, and checked out the Swine Tent and the Horse Tent. I was struck (and my parents were, too) by the number of young people there showing off their hogs and heifers, illustrating the vast differences between the culture of the midwest and the culture of the east coast, or at least the east coast as I experienced it.

We stopped to eat at a small joint – there’s food everywhere – and mom had a corn dog while dad and I had some kind of pulled pork sandwich, again on a potato roll. That still makes no sense to me. We watched a lumberjacking competition for a bit, staying out of the sun as much as we possibly could, then decided it was time for the coup de grace – a fried twinkie and some fried oreos.

Mom ordered the oreos, dad ordered the twinkie which came on a stick, satisfying our “we need to eat something ‘on a stick'” requirement for the fair. How to describe the taste … difficult. Your heart seized as you bit into the fried exterior, your brain screamed numbers and charts at you, listing your current cholesterol level, pulse rate, blood pressure while your lizard brain fought desperately against the tide of data, trying to enjoy itself. Down your esophogus it goes, sliding on corn oil, hitting your stomach with a faintly audible ‘splash’ – my stomach, personally, asked me politely what the fuck I thought I was doing. Then there was a great thirst, as if you had been face down in a salt lick, and only lemonade to drink. My body at this point checked out and told me I was an asshole and on my own. We had a little discussion, it crying with a black eye telling me it was tired of being abused, me holding it gently, telling it that this time would be different, that I was going to quit drinking if it just gave me a second chance, that if it only BEHAVED itself it wouldn’t make me hit it like that, with a hammer.

Overall, it tasted pretty good.

The battle with the fried things tapped the last of our reserve (as did the beating sun, merciless) and we got in the car and drove back to the hotel and took a nap for a bit. When we awoke it was Free Cocktail Hour, so we indulged and discussed again going to get a good ol’ corn fed steak. We drove through Des Moines. And drove. And drove. I don’t want to say there’s “nothing out here”, but it certainly felt like that, and helped explain to me the helpless look I would see in tourists eyes when they visited NYC – the pounding lights and din of cars, the people rushing to and fro, the constant and unceasing movement has to be completely overwhelming and terrifying. I was scared that there was no one on the streets, like maybe they had had a bomb threat and no one had told us.

After a bit we found a joint called Simon’s or something – I can’t remember – and we had our steaks and beer and all was right with the world. We smoked cigars and talked about where we would go next; I tried to convince dad to go to Nashville since it’s around the anniversary of Elvis’ death (I decided against Elvis’s, since the possessive of Jesus is Jesus’, and I figure it’s one and the same), and he convinced me not to follow RTE 20 and 50 by saying it would be like driving RTE 1 in NJ for 2,000 miles. So I’m gonna head to Omaha then to South Dakota tomorrow and see what happens.

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Lima Beans and Tenderloins

Location: Des Moines, Iowa
The crazy man got everyone up at some ungodly hour – I’d tell you what it was, but I haven’t been wearing a watch and I’m not sure what time-zone I’m even in. He was anxious for us to be on the road by noon or so, but not before we went into Chicago proper and ate some Polish food. Anastasia also mentioned that we should go to Millenium Park and visit the giant silver lima bean that lives there, which seemed perfectly reasonable to me.

Drove around downtown for a little while, dad flapping his arms that there was no place to park until we picked some place at random and just settled in an underground lot like a gopher tortoise, right next to where we had to be by some weird coincidence. We walked out along the waterfront of Lake Michigan, clear and beautiful, then looped around to the “Park District” which had a gigantic fountain of frothing sea-horses and other nefarious creatures spitting cool water into the clear air. Very relaxing. A big thing, apparently, are Segway tours in the area, and we asked a Segway Tour Guide, obviously a king among dorks, Rex Regnant Dorkus, where Millenium Park was and he pointed a laser pointer at where we wished to be.

The giant silver lima bean, a.k.a. the Cloud Sculpture, was a beautiful mathematical toroid of burnished silver, and you could walk through it and watch your reflections waving madly at one another. There were students there with mirrors, as well, counting the number of times they were reflected on the surfaces, flashing light into one another’s eyes via complex and instantaneous calculations of angles of incidence and reflection – the math boggled my mind.

From there we went and played in the big fountains at the tail end of the park – mom ran through the waterfall and I had to follow suit, lest I be showed up by a girl of all things. This made for a somewhat wet ride to the Polish section of Chicago, but we were dry and happy by the time we arrived at Bobak’s Sausage Company and gorged ourselves on kielbasa, pierogi, and other … things … so good. Later I would burp in the car and the effusion of garlic and god knows what else forced the other adults in the car to unroll the windows lest, like little yellow canaries, the cave gas killed them.

We returned to the hotel to get my car, and mom and I rode together to Des Moines – roughly a 5 hour trip, complete with singing “Old Man River” as we crossed the Mighty Mississippi and much discussion about the past and future. Dad trucked along at a decent clip, and even stopped briefly once or twice to allow the other mortals to stretch their legs and for god’s sake go to the bathroom. I think he eats fetuses or something when we’re not looking, they give him an unholy strength. He was absolutely amazed at the amount of corn there was. Conversations went something like this:

Dad: Did you see all the corn?

Us: Yeah. Yeah, we did.

Dad: That was a lot of corn.

Us: …

Dad: I mean, a LOT of corn. Really a lot

Us: …

Dad: There must have been a thousand square miles of corn! So much corn. Corn, corn, corn, corn, corn, and corn as far as the eye could see. I think I have corn oil on the car.

Me: You’re a goddamn dork.

We checked into the hotel and drove around briefly trying to find a “steak”, figuring some corn-fed beef would do us all right. No luck there – like Omaha, Des Moines is a dead city – so we ate at the restaurant attached to the hotel, a place called Doots or Dooties or Sam’s or something like that. I ordered something called an Iowa Tenderloin, figuring it to be a local favorite – the recipe is easy:

  • Take one gigantic fucking slice of pork, fried
  • Place on bottom of tiny potato roll, so pork ends flop off like a flounder on a frisbee
  • Spread dollop of mayo on top
  • Place top of roll on pork

I laughed to myself, believing this to be a mistake of some sort, but no – the Iowans like their tenderloin just this way, I discovered; I have been unable to wrap my brain around it.

After dinner, we returned to the room and drank scotch. I am off to bed to dream of the State Fair, and the adventures that wait inside.

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Hot Dog Fear

Location: Outside of Chicago, IL

Left around 10am after another totally excellent meal at Sheetz, which was some kind of sausage … thing with something I will define as an “egg-like substance.”  Neggs?  Feggs?  I’ll get back to you.  From there I left for Chicago, which meant driving through the rest of Ohio and all of Indiana en route to see mom and dad.

Talked to dad at some point in the morning – he was south of Indianapolis, which made him significantly farther along than I was.  This was against the original plan, goddamit, he was supposed to be much later than I was, which meant I had to miss out on the biggest collection of fireworks in America at some place in Eastern Indiana – I think it rhymed with “Clemont” and began with a “P”, so we’ll call it … Plemont, IN.

Anyway, as I was ripping along 80, I came upon signs that I was passing South Bend, IN.  I couldn’t stop myself – a weird hand seized the wheel of the car (I have to come up with a name for this vehicle sometime soon), and ‘ere I knew it I had pulled into the campus of Notre Dame, gazing fixedly on the golden dome of the … I dunno, where they wash the feet of the football players or something.  I found some parking and mingled with the young people there for freshman orientation, idly pretending that I was going back to school for awhile on some kind of ridiculous football scholarship.

In time the fantasy wore off, and I hopped back into Esmerelda (no, it’s not working.  There’s a name there somewhere) and drove off to Illinois, letting out a little “yay!” as I crossed the border and immediately encountered a toll booth.

Illinois has co-opted Route 80 for their own nefarious purposes, and they have toll-booths set up everywhere that are $.80 each, exact change only, like a nightmare of NJ.  The roads are broad, which is good, but unfinished and a dull grey, offsetting the unchanging scenery of the corn and silos and smokestacks.

I finally pulled in and reunited with my family around 5:30pm to the Embassy Suites, and we enjoyed a free drink at the bar during “Manager’s Hour”, the tavern humming with the polo-shirted middle-managers of the Sara Lee Bread Co., an evil lot with dark, dangerous secrets hidden behind lifeless doll’s eyes.  I shudder to think of what they’re putting in that pound-cake.  Consider this your warning.

From there we decided to go to SuperDawg, a “Chicago Landmark” (sorry, people of Chicago, I’m sure you don’t want to be remembered this way).  The Super Dawg is a place of severe awesomeness, and the crunchy “red hot” I received, complete with the works (no ketchup), nestled in a bed of french fries was like a little piece of gassy heaven.  I washed this down with a thick chocolate shake and felt sated for the first time since I sold the house, like Odysseus sighting home for the first time.

Hot dogs + Chicago = Blues Music, according to a special theory from my father, so we decided to head out to a place he “got directions” for, somewhere outside of Chicago.  The White Sox played today, and the game broke up around the time we left, and this made us so very, very sad.  I did enjoy the part of the day where dad drove into the inner city in what I have termed “the whitest car I ever saw” – whew, if only you could have been there with me.

We decided (and by “we”, I mean “dad”) that Blues could go to hell, so I sang some Blues music for us on the way back to the hotel.  Finally we arrived safe and sound, where the digesting SuperDawg menaced my dream as a hot-dog shaped Sara Lee employee brandishing a blade made of relish and a shield of pickled tomatoes.  I’m still struggling with that one.

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Outtie 500

Location: Somewhere outside Cleaveland, OH


I spent my last week on the east coast at Sean’s house, which involved a significant amount of drinking and heroics. It felt good to not have any responsibilities for awhile, and I celebrated that by treating my body like an amusement park. Sadly, the amusement park I’m referring to is more Coney Island than Six Flags of Awesomeness – a sorry derelict roller coaster operated by a 50-year old meth addict who hasn’t slept in four days.

I got some tattoos (it seemed appropriate) up in Massachusetts on Weds. and Thurs. of the week, and on Friday I bid adieu to NY and CT and made my way to NJ to visit Justin. This should have taken me about 2.5 hours, but instead took me 4.5 because it was sprinkling a little rain, which meant every Jersey person had to flip their car on the on ramp of the 2 lane junction of 4 major highways while attempting to cut off a school bus filled with children. You get the idea.

I got up kind of late this morning and was going to leave right away, but Justin tempted me with pancakes and I was powerless to resist. I ended up leaving around 11:30am and made my way to the Delaware water gap before passing into PA.

Pennsyltucky is a very pretty, very boring ride through the Appalachian Mountains – nothing terribly of note happened except for two things. About mid-way through the ride, while I was the only vehicle on the road, I passed a sign that said “Welcome to the Pennsylvania Wilds” with a picture of a fucking deer on it or something. I thought I could faintly hear banjos dueling in the distance. The “Wilds” didn’t look any different than any other part of the highway, and I never encountered a sign that said “Now Leaving the Pennsylvania Wilds – Thanks For Being Sodomized!” or anything, so I don’t know what the hell that was about. I also drove right past a sign that said “Highest Point of Interstate 80 at 2,900,000 feet” or whatever, which would have been cool except they wrote underneath that “(highest point East of the Mississippi)”, which kind of took the wind out of the sails of being great, giving it a “World’s Heaviest Turnip Outside Europe” or “Award for Upper Midwest Regional Small Business Specializing in Grommets of the Year!” feel to it.

I let out a little w00t when I finally got to Ohio, and continued on to Cleaveland where I realized I was tired. I didn’t feel like setting up a tent, so I pulled off at a Motel 8 and got a room which only has a 30% chance of giving me syphilis from the bedding. After settling in I went and got a meal at Sheetz (say it like a Mexican bandito, it’s funnier), a fast food joint whose employees apparently didn’t have a banner year at the union negotiating table since you, the customer, go up to a touch screen and order your meal yourself. I played with the settings for awhile and finally ordered some kind of “pork” sandwich with fries. After I completed my meal, the sole Sheetz employee scrambled to make my meal whilst I wandered off to get some water and, when I returned, got my sandwich. The food itself isn’t too sheety (see what I did there?), but I wouldn’t go and recommend it to someone or anything.

It’s apparently Harrison Ford week on TV, so I watched some Patriot Games and Fugitive before I decided to go to bed. Which is now, so good night.

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Approaching the Abyss

Have you been wondering what I’ve been doing? I’m glad you asked. I have been training, friends. Training.

For this weekend is Noonan-fest, and all who are unworthy shall plummet from the heights of Awesomedom, fueled only by inebriated vomit and a desire to not have that last shot of Jagermeister.

There’s been some palpable fear this year about Noonanfest. There are those who feel that they have not trained hard enough – that their livers will betray them at the last moment and fail, allowing the alcohol coursing through their system to magically transform into puke via a scientific method not unlike photosynthesis, though instead of standing in the sunlight and converting it into food you will see how many Irish Carbombs you can drink. We’ll call it “pukosynthesis.” I have made science.

Anyway, the fear. So I’ve been privy to some whispered phonecalls, some words spoken out of the corners of mouths, all with the same topic: “we’re dead this year.” It’s given me some anxiety, buoyed by the fact that things seem more disorganized than normal. Eric has bailed out of this year’s festivities (illness), there were hurried plans of a LAN party that didn’t seem to materialize, and we are left to drift and hope that a captain will once again take the rudder of the H.M.S. Pukosynthesis.

Let us hope that our fears are unfounded, my good and gentle readers. And in the spirit of Thanksgiving, let us give thanks for Noonanfest and its ability to strike terror in the hearts of men accustomed to typing on their computers all day, like the trumpet call of a rider just before the final charge against a fearsome enemy. I just got all Lord of the Rings there.

And I’m Gandalf, bitches.

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Excuse me – what day is it?

It’s been 21 months since my last post. I can’t even believe it. I just spent some time porting all of my old blog entries over into WordPress, and I kind of went down the rabbit hole of maybe trying a new design, etc. But all of that was nonsense, and distracting me from my goal, which was to get my blog up and running again.

There’s no way for me to encapsulate the last two years into a pithy entry, of course. I didn’t even know anyone read this blog except for me, but a couple of people recently asked me about it, and I kind of wondered what had happened to it, like losing a Matchbox car in the yard and not finding it again until years later. It shines up nicely, I suppose, but I can’t recognize the person who was writing that blog as much, anymore. It feels like I’m looking at him through a rainy window.

So I’ll just start from today, like nothing has happened, as if you and I had bumped into each other in the street and decided to go for coffee. Tell you what – since I was the one that stopped writing you, I’ll even buy the first cup. But we’d better be at a bar before this is all over; I’m going to need it.

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I had lots to log about the past few days, but it all seems to have dried up when I sat down. A lot went on, of course – Sean’s mother’s funeral, a few trips to NY to touch base with some old friends, a story or two written, etc. The temperature is downright balmy these days, and the greenish-brown grass is poking through the snow. I’m sure it won’t last, but this little bubble in the cold winter is wonderful.

I don’t remember if I told you about the pipes bursting or not. We had gotten back from the funeral, quite drunk (mom says we shouldn’t continue the Irish stereotype, but I don’t understand why not. It’s fun), and while I was going to the bathroom I heard ice move through the pipes, followed by the sound of running water. Never good. We got the floorboards in the kitchen up, and Anastasia crawled under the floor to see what the problem was. We tried to fix the pipe with duct tape, etc. but it was a no go. I finally just shut the water off to the whole house (because there are no appropriate shut-off valves) and went to bed.

The next day Anastasia showed her stuff. She cut the pipe at the break and soldered on a valve cap to the end of the pipe. No more leak, but no more washing machine or dishwasher, either. This leaves us with 1.5 out of 4 appliances working (the .5 is because the stovetop is working, but not the oven).

The moral of the story, don’t buy a house unless a) it was made 6 months ago or b) you’re stupid.

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Back again

We had another multi-annual LARPing weekend with Epitome. Things went pretty smoothly, if you don’t count the several feet of snow we got. We were supposed to run until midnight, but things got pretty dicey around 9pm, so we called the game at that point. All in all, it was pretty enjoyable.

I’m looking for a job right now. Currently I’m foolishly looking for a job I’d like, but I’m sure I’ll get stuck somewhere I hate again doing something I loathe. I can barely wait. Shh. Hear that sound? It’s the shattering porcelain of my dreams, crashing through the floor onto the cement of reality.

Other than that, things are swell. The cats are killing mice, the construction out back has stopped, leaving a gaping maw of real estate, and my driveway has been dug up by plows. Good times abound.

Anyway, here’s the GOP dictionary for your enjoyment. I laughed the laugh of the suicidal.

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