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Willie's Off-Brand Web Journal: February 25, 2012--October 25, 2013

Saturday, February 25, 2012:

Bev's dad, Larry, maintains a trailer in Cedar Key, Florida, at which he spends five or six months every year because he understandably finds Maine winters disagreeable. A few weeks back, Bev and I, no strangers to finding things disagreeable ourselves, joined him down there for a week. And I had fun! Me!

On the flight to Florida I read Mike Doughty's recently-published autobiography, The Book of Drugs. The best that can be said about it is that it's a quick read. No chapters, no topical divisions; just 250 pages of brief anecdotes, blog-level philosophizing, and (above all) complaining that don't really add up to anything. True to the title, he does talk a lot about his substance abuse--from cigarettes to heroin--his regrettable behavior while in the drugs' thrall, and his eventual sobering and devotion to twelve-step programs, but the stark honesty of the retelling doesn't make up for the aimlessness of the tome's setup or Doughty's dismal lack of a sense of humor about himself. Memoirs are by their nature fairly narcissistic, but compared to something like Nathan Rabin's The Big Rewind, which is just as unsparing on the flinch-inducing details but delivers them with a deft, self-lacerating wit that allows Rabin to join the reader in the role of judgmental-but-ultimately-affectionate observer, Doughty's weird, self-serious unwillingness to so much as chuckle at his own expense keeps the reader at arm's length. I'm obviously glad that he's pulled himself out of the quicksand of heroin addiction and has gotten himself well, but for all his talking, Doughty doesn't really let the reader get inside his struggle to do so. (At one point, he suddenly says something like, "I'd been clean for a month," with no description of how he'd managed that feat.) Nor, for all his blunt recounting of his dopey activities, does he really allow himself to slum, Irvine Welsh-style, in the muck of addiction in a way that captures the sleazy allure it held and the way it felt when its gnarled tentacles were constricting around him. Instead, he falls back on a strangely journalistic expository tone that illuminates nothing, such as when he spends two pages superciliously enumerating the women he slept with during the Soul Coughing days, reducing his addled sexual appetites to a couple dozen choppy paragraphs, each beginning, "I fucked ..."

Those interested in Doughty's music are also out of luck. I think he might mention eight or nine of his songs by name throughout the book, and insights into his songwriting practices are mostly limited to yammering about how his Soul Coughing bandmates irritated the hell out of him while they were hammering out arrangements. Not that every rock memoir needs to be a fans-only flowchart of assorted songs' creation like XTC's (excellent) Song Stories, but apart from some description of a failed relationship that apparently inspired big chunks of his solo album Haughty Melodic, Doughty reveals next to nothing about his creative processes or what he tries to accomplish through his music. His solo career has seen him attempt styles ranging from gaunt, acoustic subway rock to homemade breakbeat electronica to pasty jam-band coasting, but there's no information on what drove these shifts. He defensively says somewhere that he gets a lot of crap for not taking many compositional chances in his solo career, but that he genuinely likes listening to the music he's been making as Mike Doughty. It would've been lovely for him to expound upon that, if only to mitigate the still-churning bile that seems to burble up whenever he thinks about the band that brought him to fame.

I say again, Doughty does not like Soul Coughing, do you hear him?! Since Soul Coughing's breakup, Doughty has always been prickly about discussing the band. In 2003 or so, he abruptly shut down his message board, Super Special Questions, a few weeks after it got a nice write-up in CMJ, because the topic of his former band kept coming up. But I had no idea how deeply his rancor toward Mark De Gli Antoni, Sebastian Steinberg, and Yuval Gabay truly ran until I read The Book of Drugs, because page after page after page is devoted to chronicling their personality defects (respectively: hair-trigger megalomaniac, grifting cheapskate, and frustratingly stubborn percussionist who refused to ever play the same beat twice) and griping about their unwillingness to recognize Doughty as the band's creative center. The experience of being in Soul Coughing clearly did a number on the guy, so naked is his hatred for the memory of those years, and the book offers no small amount of pruriently interesting dirt on the band's behavioral excesses and the obstacles the record industry presented, but Doughty's demons don't permit him to acknowledge anything positive about Soul Coughing on any level.

I myself have long thought they were one of the greatest bands of the '90s and consider all three of their albums nearly flawless. (The Soul Coughing Wikipedia page links to an embarrassing fanboy hagiography of the band I wrote for No Ripcord nearly a decade ago, and although my words would be more measured today, my enthusiasm wouldn't be.) Doughty's retrospective bitterness hasn't changed that. And he'll always be one of the artists who has genuinely transformed my life, because, as I've mentioned any number of times, Bev and I met when she emailed me about his magnificent solo live album, Smofe + Smang. But man alive, is it exhausting to dig into an artist's bottomless reservoir of vitriol about an era that you consider his creative peak when that artist seems unwilling to concede that other people could find honest value in that output, whatever his current opinion of it. Doughty's memories of Soul Coughing's final album, El Oso, for example, seem to be authentically awful mental daggers; memories of feeling as though he was held hostage by a record label and bandmates who so thoroughly eroded his self-esteem that it never occurred to him that he was free to leave; memories of getting the hell out of the studio while the rest of Soul Coughing worked out their parts on top of the songs he'd recorded, and not caring about the end product whatsoever. That's sad, but those aren't my memories of the album. My memories of El Oso are of buying the album on the day of its release, bouncing giddily around the living room as I listened to it when I got home from class, and my satisfaction in unraveling the dueling rhythms of songs like "Fully Retractable" and "$300." I've gotten immense pleasure out of Soul Coughing over the years and I intend to continue to do so without shame. The Soul Coughing portions of The Book of Drugs have an undercurrent of "Surely no one could continue to enjoy that music once they know the toll it exacted upon me, or at least they will realize their fondness for that band was born of immature musical tastes." It doesn't work that way. I simply feel bad that those years were so unhappy for the band's frontman that they've led him to disown a phenomenal body of work. And I came away from the book halfway wondering why he keeps making music when he seems to despise almost everything about the life of a popular musician.

But whatever. The day after we arrived in Florida, Bev and I borrowed her dad's truck and set off on a seven-hour side trip to Athens, Georgia, to see the Mountain Goats perform at the 40 Watt Club (they're Bev's favorite band and I love them as well), and then to meet my heretofore-online-only friend Rosie, who lives in a nearby Georgia town. The drive to Athens was surprisingly pleasant. Maine does not allow billboards alongside the highway, which is fabulous as far as maintaining the state's abundant natural beauty, but Bev and I agreed that the incessant advertising along I-75 in Florida and Georgia at least made for a convenient place to direct one's attention on a long drive. Apparently WorldNetDaily is still paying for those "WHERE'S THE BIRTH CERTIFICATE?" billboards, bless their hearts.

Speaking of misguided billboard campaigns, Tifton, a Georgia city of 15,000 people, has lined the road with a miles-long series of tourism-baiting signs exhorting, "Think Tifton!" followed by a selling point of some sort such as "Turf Grass Research Center" or "Gifts, Cornmeal, Turpentine... Homemade." (Both actual taglines.) After about three billboards, I became unaccountably furious at the city of Tifton and Bev and I started making up uncharitable jingles about the city and its residents.

"Think Tifton! 85% of our judges' rulings are overturned in federal court!"
"Think Tifton! The only municipality to be completely banned by match.com!"
"Think Tifton! Featuring soap since 2008!"
"Think Tifton! The city charter was lost in an alley craps game!"
"Think Tifton! No, we don't know where that smell is coming from."
"Think Tifton! Our biggest industry is printing postcards that read, 'At least you're not in Tifton!'"
"Think Tifton! No need to put your liquor in a paper bag!"
"Think Tifton! Come see the hole that Jerry made!"
"Think Tifton! As featured in the DSM-IV!"
"Think Tifton! 'There is no redeeming shred of humanity in the revolting way these people live.' --David Simon"
"Think Tifton! We're gonna watch you sleep!"
"Think Tifton! We're the spot on your map that looks like tissue paper beetles got at it!"

One sign read, "Think Tifton! Reading Capital of the World." I grumbled that this surely must be some definition of "reading" less familiar than the literacy-based one, like maybe it's the world capital of drag queens throwing shade at each other. But apparently Tifton does indeed consider itself tops in book readin'. According to this page, they most recently defended their title by fending off a challenge from the citizens of Dothan, Alabama. Of course, dubbing yourself the Reading Capital of the World because you are more literate than a city in Alabama is like shoving an infant out of its high chair and then calling yourself the greatest sumo wrestler of all time, so Bev and I also spent some time coming up with titles that we suspect Tifton could likely apply to itself more honestly, like the Fisting Capital of the World or the Misappropriated Lottery Funds Capital of the World or the Cooking Spray Huffing Deaths Capital of the World.

One more sign read, "Think Tifton! The Friendly City! Come see why!" My guess is that Mayor Friendly runs the city as his own personal fiefdom, unencumbered by checks on his power from Georgia's state and federal legislators, none of whom wants anything to do with Tifton and all of whom have gerrymandered the city right out of their respective jurisdictions.

Also, I'm guessing the city flag is all brown, with an outhouse-style crescent moon cut out of it. Tifton!

About 50 miles out from Athens, we stopped at a gas station advertising "BAR-BA-CUE DINERS." The very sad retail shelves contained a medication section that consisted only of six sun-bleached boxes of Massengill.

We passed a veal farm in which dozens of baby cows were trapped in individual pens the size of bathroom stalls. By veal farm standards, I suppose the conditions were better than some, as the cows had sunlight and plastic igloos that provided a modicum of protection from the elements, but it was still so depressing that it's left me feeling even more sensitive than usual about the treatment of animals over the past few weeks. (It's led to my current crisis of conscience: although I would never knowingly watch any show or film in which animals were intentionally harmed for the production--obviously I'd never subject myself to something like Cannibal Holocaust, but even Kingdom of the Spiders turned my stomach when I realized William Shatner was actually smashing a bunch of real tarantulas--I do watch some cooking competitions like Hell's Kitchen and Worst Cooks in America that focus on the would-be chefs' ineptitude, which inevitably means mishandling meat so badly that it's inedible and unceremoniously discarded. I hope I don't ever come across as one of those vegetarians who will condescendingly harangue people who eat meat, because I really do respect everyone's right to eat as she chooses just as I would hope they respect mine, but lately, it's been striking me as pretty awful that the animals whose carcasses wind up on these shows have ultimately been killed not for nourishment but for entertainment. On Top Chef, Tom Colicchio will angrily bring the hammer down on contestants who prepare meat so badly that it's disrespectful to the animal, which I always appreciate, but Worst Cooks in America plays that sort of thing for laughs, and I'm having a hard time allowing myself to find that acceptable when, at bottom, how is it different from something as unquestionably cruel as, say, Lars Von Trier slaughtering a donkey for dramatic purposes in the filming of Manderlay? "Don't watch the stupid things, dumbass!" is the obvious, semi-profane, and probably best answer to my problem, but I admit to being entertained by the shows overall, and brainless reality programming is an embarrassing but vital component of the tenuous mental equilibrium I've achieved in recent years, so I keep hoping there's a decent rationalization that will allow me to hang on to my habits... But I suppose this is a topic for another post that I will never write.)

Athens itself was a very pleasant college town, though, from what I saw of it. And the 40 Watt Club was really cool. It was smaller than I'd anticipated; certainly nothing to compare with its status as the launching pad for R.E.M., the Drive-By Truckers, the Indigo Girls, Of Montreal, and any number of other Athens-based acts over the past 30 years. For my Michigan friends, I was expecting a midsize venue the size of, say, St. Andrew's Hall, but it's a smallish bar about the size of the Blind Pig in Ann Arbor. I'd guess there's a capacity of maybe 250, but I am notoriously hopeless at estimating anything, so who knows. Comfortable chairs and booths line the perimeter of the room, and there are a few tables and old couches plopped in the middle of the floor as well. Christmas lights are strung across the ceiling, the drinks are inexpensive (particularly the PBRs that were naturally favored by the assiduously dowdy hipsters milling about), and the only visible acknowledgment of the club's identity is a plywood cutout of a lightbulb with "40 Watt Club" painted on it, about the size of a trashcan, hanging on the curtains at the back of the stage. I haven't, to my knowledge, ever heard any live recordings from the club apart from Patton Oswalt's fantastic stand-up albums Feelin' Kinda Patton and Werewolves and Lollipops, so I wasn't sure what to expect out of the venue's sound. But even though Bev and I were standing far stage right, beneath a cluster of speakers designed to direct the sound everywhere but straight down, we were able to hear every element of the show perfectly crisply. It's a great place to listen to a concert, based on my sole visit.

You wouldn't know it from the opening act, though: a trio called Nurses. They seemed like perfectly nice guys, and the singer did an impressive job of imitating Frank Black in his crooning Joey Ramone-as-soul-singer mode, but there unfortunately were no successful songs to go with the vocalizing. They favor danceable rhythms, with elements of disco and calypso twinkling here and there, but none of their songs possessed any melodies or hooks novel or memorable enough to catalyze actual dancing. (I just asked Bev how she'd describe their music, and she made up the word "atunal" specifically for them.) A few songs into their set, Bev pointed out to me that the 40 Watt's sound guy kept frowning at the sound board, walking out into the crowd and cocking an ear, and then returning to his post and monkeying with the levels without ever seeming less aggrieved by what he was hearing. "I really feel like we should tell him, 'It's not your fault, sound guy! You're not going to make it better!'" she said.

The Mountain Goats put on as enjoyable a concert as we could have hoped, however. Frontman John Darnielle, resplendent in a black sportcoat with red piping that was covered in death metal patches, brought even more urgent, veiny passion to his performance than he does to his recordings. During those songs in which he was manning the acoustic guitar rather than his Yamaha synth-piano, Darnielle and ectomorphic bassist Peter Hughes often turned to face each other and feed off one another's "Can you even believe how hard we're rocking?" energy, like two of the biggest nerds from your high school secretly wowing each other with their intermediate chops in the basement, with scruffy funnyman Jon Wurster fervently attacking his drum kit like their ne'er-do-well older cousin who doesn't even care what kind of music they're playing so long as he has an excuse to bash boisterously along. Even when politely shushing an aggravatingly loud group of women and then half-jokingly telling the crowd that it was permissible to throw some 'bows if the person next to you was yakking in a way that was hampering your enjoyment of the show, Darnielle seemed invigorated and happy. At least four numbers hailed from the promising-sounding forthcoming album Transcendental Youth, and after three of them, Darnielle asked the crowd's permission to play one more, ensuring that he wasn't testing our patience with unfamiliar material.

Even beyond the new songs, the setlist was rewardingly wide-ranging. During a brief acoustic break, with Wurster and Hughes dismissed from the stage, Darnielle performed a trio of somewhat older songs that have never seen official release ("Ghosts," "You Were Cool," and "The Day the Aliens Came"), and in doing so outnumbered the songs he performed from the most recent Goats album, last year's All Eternals Deck (represented only by "For Charles Bronson" and "Never Quite Free"). Even more remarkably, the crowd around me ecstatically sang along to every word of these rarities; not in an obnoxious display of braying fan one-upsmanship as apparently tends to take place at Jeff Magnum shows, but out of a clear, deep feeling of personal attachment to the songs that moved everyone to want to feel an active part of them. And the crowd's devotion was reciprocated. Unlike some rock frontmen I could name who sneer at those fans who are still attached to his popular older works, Darnielle cheerfully trotted out a bunch of songs from 2002's Tallahassee (still the Goats' most widely-heard and appreciated album, my sense is, and deservedly so), introducing them with as much verbose enthusiasm as he did the brand-new songs: "This is a song about two people picked to live in a house, by me, to find out what happens when people stop being polite and start drinking hard."

Another good intro: "I actually wrote this song in Athens, in a hotel room. I was always the sort of guy who was like, 'Oh, I'll never write a song in a hotel room,' like I was too punk or something. But I wrote this in a hotel room. I checked in to the Days Inn here when I was on a tour, and I wrote out a song that had started forming in my head on the flight from Iowa to Georgia, sort of in response to a popular song I'd heard on the way in. It was that song that was all over the radio at the time that went something like, 'Promise me you'll give faith a fighting chance/And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance...' I hope you die." At which point they launched into "No Children," to the rapture of the crowd.

(Bev had heard Darnielle share this story before, which was why we were spending the night in the Athens Days Inn, a block and a half from the 40 Watt. For Bev, this was the equivalent of staying at the Hotel Chelsea. With that in mind, below please savor a picture of the Days Inn welcome placard next to a quickly-cherished turntable cover we bought at the show.)

The first encore concluded with a deliciously slimy cover of Nothing Painted Blue's "Houseguest," with Darnielle leaving the instrumentation to his rhythm section and stomping about the stage, squealing wonderful lines like, "I've done things in your room you'd be ashamed to accuse me of!" (Evidently I have owned the original version of "Houseguest" for years, on a copy of Nothing Painted Blue's Placeholders that I salvaged from a dollar box at Car City Records, but it seems to have made such a negligible impression on me that I only just now discovered that it wasn't an original Darnielle composition, while trying to track down the provenance of the songs from the Goats' concert I didn't recognize. Placeholders is not a very good album!) The show finally ended for reals with a howlingly satisfying rendition of "Going to Georgia" from Zopilote Machine, and Bev and I spent the entire five-minute walk back to the hotel discussing what an agreeable evening we'd had.

While Bev was taking a shower the following morning, I idly flipped through the Athens white pages on the nightstand, checking to see if I could find any Elephant 6 band members' phone numbers in the book. Looks like the Olivia Tremor Control's Bill Doss may yet have a listed landline.

Then we headed out to visit Rosie, who was as lovely, funny, and interesting a woman as I had expected from several years of being friends with her on LiveJournal and Facebook. She and I met in the comments section of Tasha Robinson's journal a few years back, where I'd made a remark about how wonderful dogs are as a species and she zealously agreed, and our shared, boundless love for puppies became the foundation for a friendship that has been very important to me. So naturally the first thing Rosie did when Bev and I arrived was to introduce us to the twelve beautiful dogs who live charmed lives in her doting care. Some of them regarded us warily from a distance and some bounded right up to us to be lavished with affection, but all of them were delightful.

Rosie then invited us inside to visit a spell, and her home was a very welcoming place to hang out. Evidence of Rosie's passions--dogs, music, Lord of the Rings--is visible on every available surface, up to and including the ceiling. Not in a slovenly way, I want to emphasize, but in a way that evinces a "the more, the merrier" approach to surrounding oneself with happy objects. It's an attitude that is familiar to Bev and me: we also live in a house stuffed to the gills with personally meaningful knick-knacks and artwork that make us feel ensconced in a private world in which our eyes cannot rest anywhere without seeing something that we find inspiriting. The three of us sat and talked for a few hours, with nary an awkward silence of the sort that usually knotholes my initial conversations with people. Of course I immediately felt comfortable with Rosie because I already knew her well through our online conversations, but familiarity often doesn't translate to loquaciousness with me; rather, it was Rosie's hospitable warmth that handily and effortlessly defeated Bev's and my own tendencies toward introversion.

As we chatted, Jaimoe the Doberman kept sticking his face under my arm and then scooping his head up so that my hand was on top of it, to indicate that he would like me to scratch him, please. Bev and I also got to hear all of the dogs start singing in unison as they spent a minute howling at a distant noise one of them had picked up on, which was blissfully funny.

When it was time to leave and head back to Florida, Rosie patiently talked me through the process of turning around in her driveway (I am not a man who belongs behind the wheel of a pickup truck) and Bev complimented her on some pretty yellow flowers that were growing there, so Rosie swiftly plucked one and handed it to Bev as we waved goodbye. It was maybe a small gesture, but the way Rosie did it so smoothly, seemingly without a split second's thought, really meant a lot to Bev and was a prime example of Rosie's generosity of spirit and why I am so lucky to count her among my friends.

I'll mention some other things Bev and I did so I don't forget them. We made a couple trips to Dollar Plus, a store at the Crystal River Mall which sells loads of awesome cheap crap imported from Asia. (The store most likely contains the greatest concentration of BPA anywhere in the nation outside of Tifton, Georgia.) Poorly-translated English may no longer be as trendy as it once was, but Bev and I still find it irresistible, being people who like linguistic absurdity. Bev purchased a small set of plastic toy dishware that included two small teacups, spoons, saucers, a tiny slice of pizza, a giant mushroom, and a small cardboard box that is decorated with a picture of some tomatoes and the amazing label "FOOD KETCHUP: DAMNED DAINTINESS." I myself bought a plastic wall clock whose pendulum is shaped like a dolphin and whose face features a bear, a duck, and... what may be a smaller duck, and the small paragraph "Specially for you. Whenever you are blue, just think of me. You share all my joy and sorrow..." The box claims this is a "Nicety Clock," which "SUIT BOTH REFINED AND POPULAR TASTES."

Sadly, there were a few more treasures that we had to leave behind: A hand mop intended to clean your car interior was labeled "CAR DUST BRUST." A pair of panties with palm trees all over it was emblazoned with the slogan, "LOVER YOU ARE MY LOVER." We just passed up a package of five toy buses which were each labeled "BUS FUROR." A pizza cutter was packaged as "METICULOUSLY PLANND [sic] KITCHEN THING."

Bev and I also visited Manatee Springs, which was light on manatees but divertingly infested with vultures like this cheerful fellow, who may in fact technically be a buzzard or something, I don't know?

While on the Manatee Springs boardwalk, we spotted a sign by the river that read, "No snatch hooking of mullet." Interestingly, this is also proper etiquette at bars in Tifton, Georgia.

Of course, a good portion of our trip was also devoted to casually hanging out with Larry, which is no small joy itself, as he is the greatest father-in-law a boy could ask for. Larry speaks with a warm, booming voice, his gummy Maine accent unleashing a jovial, nonstop gush of stories, corny jokes, and fond reminiscences of old vehicles he used to maintain and jobs he used to hold. It's easy for him to make friends everywhere he goes because he immediately speaks to everyone as though they are friends. It's uncanny how quickly he can charm and befriend someone. When Bev and I would ride around Cedar Key in his truck, numerous people honked and waved, mistaking us for him. He truly loves people, and is interested in learning about everybody he comes across. What's more, he's eager to share his knowledge of everyone and everything he may pass. On Saturday morning, for instance, he drove us to a terrific fisherman's diner on the Suwannee River, and as we bumped down the road in his '93 VW (if it can indeed still be rightly described as one single year or make after all the jury-rigged upgrades and implants to which Larry has subjected it: a shoelace acts as the lever to move the driver's seat forward, a transistor radio is bungeed to the dash to replace the bunged-up audio system that was initially installed there, etc.), Bev and I listened to one of his typical stream-of-consciousness narratives, every sight prompting a tidbit:

"Your mother didn't want to come to this restaurant but we went here for supper and the next morning, Christ, she couldn't wait to go back for breakfast! Ginger lives in that house. Cuts hair down at Elroy's Barber Shop, you know. And the man that lives there is in his eighties and wanted me to store my plane at his place. God damn, these candies are good. Gotta wait until we eat to take my pill or I'll get that acid reflex. Anyway, there are about four roads that head into Chiefland, which I like. You know, if this one has traffic, I take that one, and if that one has traffic, I just move another road up. Got lots of baby cows through here. Ain't they cute? Moo! You want to drive, Will? I'll laugh at you, that's for damn sure, but you go ahead if you want!"

His stories are more linear when he's able to simply sit and reflect, however. The weather in Cedar Key was sunny and warm all week long, so we would often adjourn to the front porch, enjoying the breeze and watching Maxine-Gertrude (Larry's beloved cockatiel, whose cage would be carried outside with us) flirt with the cardinals flitting around the yard, while Larry would happily ramble. My favorite story was about an unsatisfying manufacturing job he briefly held as a young man, assembling reverse thrusters for aircraft at a factory in Connecticut. The guy whose job it was to inspect Larry's work was a fairly large prat, so Larry decided to take him down a peg before quitting the job later that day. "I put together a reverse thruster that looked perfect on the outside, but I didn't put any guts in it! So he came by for the inspection, didn't even look inside it; just signed his name and moved on. So I got his manager over and asked him to inspect it. He pulled on the rod and it fell right out, you know? Wasn't connected to anything. He called the inspector over and said, 'What do you think of the job Larry did here?'

"'I signed off on it, didn't I?'

"And the manager pulled out the rod again, showing that it wasn't hooked up to anything, and said to the inspector, 'Here's a broom. That's your new job.'"

So Larry does indeed possess a sizable mischievous streak, but he's also stubbornly big-hearted. Not that he doesn't listen, but once he gets stuck on an idea for how he might do something nice for somebody, he has a hard time letting go of it. That's why, seven years into our relationship, he still generously offers, "Will, do you want some of this chicken?" every time we go out to eat, no matter how often he's reminded that I don't eat meat. For another example, this exchange took place as Bev was filling out some mortgage papers for her sister:

LARRY: I've got land up in Maine, you know, for collateral.
BEV: Daddy, we don't need that. We've got this taken care of.
LARRY: Just let me know if I need to sign anyplace on there. You can use my name however you want.
BEV: Nope, they just need my signature.
LARRY: I guess I'll have to get insurance on the trailer up in Maine if you're putting it up for collateral.
BEV: We're not, Daddy.
LARRY: [While handing BEV an otherwise blank sheet of paper with his signature on it for her reference] I'll sign this place over to you if you need it, you know.

Bev's mom, Lanie, always spends a good chunk of the winter down at the Cedar Key trailer as well, though she had returned to Maine for the week of our trip so that she could take care of the dogs and birds for us. Larry told me and Bev that, while she was away, he wanted to buy a printer for Lanie to surprise her upon her return. Lanie is notoriously difficult to surprise with gifts, as she has a reputation for snooping around and hunting down anything you might wish to keep from her (Larry told me she routinely finds her Christmas gifts six weeks in advance), so her absence from Florida seemed like an ideal opportunity to pick up something that could successfully be sprung upon her. He gave us the money and Bev and I picked up a decent all-in-one HP, which I then set up in the trailer. That night, Bev was on the phone with Lanie as Larry and I sat watching Gold Rush (me trying not to lose my gorge at the old libertarian coot who was railing about how the American people should be furious about the existence of mine safety regulations, which are job killers), when Bev exclaimed, "Willbot! It seems somebody registered the new printer online and so they sent my mom an email congratulating her on her new printer purchase." Pret-ty slick, Will.

This delighted Larry immeasurably, however. He shook his head in mock disappointment and uttered, "Oh, sonny boy..." to me in a chastising tone, and then broke into a red-faced guffaw. He did this over and over for the remainder of our stay, so it seems "Sonny Boy" is my nickname for life with Larry.

Then vacation was over and we had to come back home and Bev and I got sick and she had some surgery and we watched a lot of episodes of True Blood and painted the bathroom (not a sex euphemism, don't be gross) and received multiple Citibank offers in the mail in spite of the note I sent them suggesting that they stop mailing me these things and just cut me a check for the amount they would otherwise be spending on postage for the rest of my life/their solvency. You are now up to date on my life.

CURRENT MUSIC: Bright Like Neon Love by Cut Copy. I bought this for a dollar at Goodwill because I distractedly mistook it for a Cut Chemist album, but it turns out to be pretty good! Bouncy keyboard dance-pop for thirtysomething hipsters to make out to.
Mr. Waddles, a skunk who has been hanging out under our deck.
10:03 AM


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