kitten   August 31, 2001

Today I went to pay some bills.

Because my checking account is such a horrendous disaster and all checks bearing my name come with orders to shoot the account holder on site, I thought it wise to pay with cash. Fortunately I had plenty on hand - being a waiter has it's advantages. Sort of. Anyway, here's how I paid my phone bill:

"I want to pay my phone bill."
"Okay, write down your address and phone number and how much you want to pay and give me the money."

Anyway, here's how I paid my phone bill:

"I want to pay my phone bill."
"Okay, write down your address and phone number and how much you want to pay and give me the money."

Now here's how I pay the power bill:

"I want to pay my power bill."
"Do you have your bill with you?"
"Er. No?"
"Then fill out this form."
* kitten fills out the form
"I'm sorry, we can't do this unless you have your bill with you."
"What did I just fill this form out for then?"
"It's for when you don't have your bill.""Right, so what's the problem?""You need a copy of the bill from Georgia Power."
"Wait, I don't get it. What's the form for?"
"To pay the bill."
"That's what I'm trying to do."
"We can't let you do that unless you ahve the bill with you."
"Look, what's - forget it. Can I not just give you this form (which I wrote my account number on) and give you the money?"
"Because we've had problems in the past."
"Problems like what? People paying bills that aren't theirs?"
"We can't let you do that."

So I gave up, and left. Undoubtedly I shall awaken tomorrow without electricity because I haven't paid.

The drive home - a distance of about three miles - took half an hour. And no, it wasn't rush hour - it was just Atlanta. Atlanta, the city where "metro area rapid transit" buses will unceremoniously stop in the middle of the street - not on the side - without any warning, and grind traffic to a halt for five minutes. Why it takes five minutes to eat or vomit passengers, I cannot say.
Atlanta, the city where a car accident that occured thirty minutes ago and has been cleared from the road can still bring traffic to a standstill.
Atlanta, the city that absolutely cannot hire competant civil engineers.
Atlanta: The city where the main roads get red lights, while insignificant sidestreets are always green.

Atlanta, that glorious city that doesn't want to spend a few extra bucks on traffic lights that are sensor tripped, instead of timers.
Atlanta, the city that approves curb-cuts for any idiot that asks, without any regard whatsoever to the necessity of the cut, or the impact of said cut to mainline traffic.
Atlanta, the city that refuses to make turning lanes available for those curb-cuts.
Atlanta, where construction or maintanence is best done at 4:50 in the afternoon.
Atlanta, where construction one one lane of a four-lane road means blocking off three of those lanes for six miles on both sides of the construction site.
Atlanta, where no actual construction is being done - just a couple guys standing around.
Atlanta: Third only to NY and LA in traffic problems, despite the fact that we are spatially much larger and have a much smaller population.
Atlanta, home of three of the nation's top ten most congested intersections.

Sometimes I really hate this city.

Fire it up, baby.

I woke up at 1420 this afternoon, a clean half hour before I meant to wake up, by the ringing of my phone.

It rang once, and woke me up. It rang again as I looked at the Caller ID. The display remained blank - not "Data error", not "Unknown", not "Out of area".. just nothing.

I picked up the phone. Dead silence. Not the silence of an open connection where nobody is talking - I mean utter silence. I looked at the phone, and pressed a button at random. Nothing happened. There was no power to the phone.

I was still asleep. And as I put my head back on the pillow, I heard a voice - or rather, I thought I heard a voice.

The walls are crumbling. There are no walls left, not anymore.

The voice was clear, distinct, and German.
No, I don't mean that it had a German accent - I mean that it spoke German.

Die Wande zerbrockeln. Es gibt keine Wande mehr.

Ladies and gentlemen, the appointed hour draws nigh.

Pointless ranting.

From Pretty Woman:

Richard Gere: Very few people surprise me anymore.
Julia Roberts: You're lucky then.. most people shock the hell out of me.

find that I often have difficulty deciding which of these positions to take. After all, after having experienced human stupidity for over two decades now, I should be - in theory, anyway - acclimated to it by now. Having people do strange or inexplicable things.. well, I should be used to that as well.

And yet, I am not.

Sitting alone with a copy of Heinlein's The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress at a local roadside hole-in-the-wall establishment which can be called anything but 'charming', I found it very difficult to concentrate on my reading, which is odd in and of itself. Normally, when I read, very few things can divert my attention in any significant way. Oh, I'm always aware of what's going on, but I generally pay it no mind; the last significant distraction that was unintended, that I can recall, involved a certain girl wearing a red shirt.

So, besides pretty girls in red shirts, what is it that often manages to detract from my reading? Answer: Strange, stupid, or inexplicable things that people do.

This evening I found myself sitting in a booth across from a self-righteous woman in her mid-to-late twenties, who was expounding at great length (and even greater volume) her thoughts on the emotionally docile and intellectually meek man sitting with her, the past experiences they have shared, and her concern about some growth in her brain that "they" found that "they" think might be cancerous.

Demonstrating all the vocabulary of a ten-year-old, this mammoth of a woman was absolutely convinced that "Western medicine", as she put it, was not the answer to her problem. Rather, she would seek the "holistic" approach, by using scented oils, comedy movies, and the crowning touch: prayer.

We wouldn't want a modern surgeon to remove the tumor, or anything like that, now would we. No, we'd rather rely on hocus-pocus holistic healers (fancy term for "witch doctor") and "pray" that it takes care of itself. You can pray all you want and have all the acupuncture and aromatherapy in the world - and that tumor is still going to grow, whether you want to admit it or not.

I may sound heartless, but sometimes I think that this "herbal and holistic" approach to medicine is a form of Darwinism in and of itself - if someone is stupid enough to eschew modern techniques (disappointing as they are, they still have the best track record) then perhaps this is the way they are taken from the gene pool.
Then again, nine times out of ten, these "pool cleaner" arguments never work, because the stupid person in question has already reproduced.

The woman then began to berate the man for events that apparently happened three years ago, said events being insanely trivial in nature: "Like that time we went to Fudrucker's and I paid for you and Charlie, and you never paid me back! I remember the little things, you know?" Interestingly, this comment was part of her diatribe on what a generous person she is - she did, after all, pay for him and this "Charlie" person, but the irony that escaped her notice is that she's still harping on the guy about it three years later.

She only ended this litany when an equally mentally deficient guy walked in - a guy I have seen before, but never paid attention to. After exchanging brief greetings, they began discussing this guy's attraction to a girl named Leah.

I knew who they were talking about, and I was absolutely stunned. No, that's not quite right - "stunned" does not adequately convey the shock here. That anyone could find Leah attractive in any way, shape, or form, utterly and unequivocally caused me to reel backwards (mentally, at least).

Leah has been one of those vague pain-in-my-ass type people for about a year and a half now. Despite the fact that I have never once engaged her in any conversation whatsoever - simply because I can't stand her - she always seems to turn up wherever I am. In point of fact she has recently been employed by Waffle House where I spend much of my time. (Given this fact, I think I shall have to find another place to hang out in the middle of the night.)
Leah has the social skills of a five-year-old with Down's syndrome, and an intelligence to match. Not once have I observed her display the ability to speak with any degree of conciseness. To make a quick example - yesterday evening she was attempting to explain the cuisine at a restaurant she had once been to, to one of the waitresses. This took her almost thirty minutes, because instead of merely talking about the restaurant itself, she had to go into minute detail about where she lived at the time, why she was living there and with whom, the gas stations that were near this residence, the route she took to walk to the restaurant in question, the trail through the woods that she used on this route, the trees in these woods, etc. Finally reached the boring anticlimax of her blithering, which was that the restaurant did indeed serve cappucino, which was what the original discussion was about in the first place. And she was unable to do this at a normal conversational volume; every customer in the establishment was able to hear this mindless chattering.
Yes, this is the same girl who subjects everyone around her - unintentionally, but by virtue of her long-winded, inappropriately high volume style of speech - about the pointlessly trivial little things her equally idiotic boyfriend did that pissed her off. Simply by being in proximity to her all the damn time because she's always around no matter where I go, I believe I have a more accurate picture of their relationship than she herself does.
To bring this back to my point: The girl is, without a doubt, one of the single most irritating and annoying people it has ever been my misfortune to encounter. Add this to the fact that she is callous, rude, demanding, and bloody obnoxious, the personality here is anything but "attractive".
She's also ugly. And when I say ugly, I wish to convey the idea of Morlocks here. Or those ape-men things from the Trek episode of "The Galileo Seven". In fact, now that I have that image, I must say she does bear a strikingly disgusting resemeblence to those creatures. The noun that people most often apply to her when describing her is "troll", and that's an accurate description. Normally I would not make a comment on a person's physical attributes, but when someone is as annoying as her, the rules get thrown out, and anything is fair game for critique. It appears that when she was little, her face caught on fire and someone tried to put it out with a large frying pan - this is the only explanation I can come up with for her contorted, grotesque and inhuman facial features, but it doesn't explain the tribble-sized eyebrows.

The idea that someone could find her attractive was so far from my sphere of reality that I think I suffered a minor blackout. The guy in question said, and I quote: "I just want her hot body."

When asked to explain what he sees in her, he explained "I see someone who is very intelligent, who could help educate me, and who I could help educate. Plus she's just hot."

It was at this moment I went to the bathroom and seriously considered trying to flush myself away.

Then again, this is also the same guy who then spent the next ten minutes trying to demonstrate - loudly - what he thinks it would sound like if a cow and a pig were to have sex.

This is being done while I'm trying to read and enjoy my coffee.

I really hate people.

No, there wasn't really a point to any of this.

It's the question that drives us..
kitten   August 29, 2001

You already know the question.

What is Brass Monkey?

The question has burned in our minds for years, driving us mad, like a splinter in our brains.

Do you want to know what it is?

Unfortunately, nobody can be told what Brass Monkey is. You have to drink it for yourself.

Take the red pill, and see how deep the rabbit hole goes.

"Luke... I am your father."

What's really sad is... we've done this.

[link-whored from goobita]

What you say !!
kitten   August 28, 2001

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to "Who Wants To Be All Your Base?" I'm your host, kitten. Let's play!

For 100 dollars: What happen ?
Is it:

a. Great justice b. What!c. Someone set up us the bomb. d. How are you gentlemen !!

Lifelines available: Move 'zig' | Take off every 'zig' | Main screen turn on.

Tune in next time for another exciting episode of "Who Wants To Be All Your Base?"

Inna gadda da vita, baby.
kitten   August 27, 2001

Jen invited me over to cook dinner for me last night.

I was interested to see how this would turn out, given that she insists she can't cook, and I also wanted to see what a vegetarian would prepare.

Despite her constantly whining "I can't cook, I've never cooked before", I must say: uberl33t kitchen skills. She managed to cook food that was not only good, but well-presented - presentation and pretty food is a big thing with me - and she did it all without cutting, burning, or otherwise mutilating herself, without blowing anything up or starting any fires. (Bryan, you should take notes.)

I've never had anyone cook for me before, except eggs. I've certainly never had anyone go to the trouble of making everything pretty on my behalf, what with the little basil leaves and flatware all set out and martini glasses. I thought it was rather sweet.

And I finally got to see the movie she raves about nonstop, The Lost Boys. Nominally, 80s horror movies aren't my disco beat, but it was actually pretty good. In fact, my only quibble with the movie was the fangs on the vampires, which were on the wrong teeth.

Another first: This morning we went to J. Christophers, which is the most yuppie breakfast establishment mankind has ever known. I've heard of this place, and know people who have worked there, but I've never actually been. It was quite different from what I imagined, except I did foresee the ever-present idle-life tennis-playing SUV-driving baby-factory soccer moms, and oh, how I was right. You couldn't throw a pastry in this place without hitting someone named Patty, Laurie, or Suzie.

The coffee was good, though.

We took a shower, then she made me answer questions from a book called All About Me. Apparently, this book is full of questions, and the answers are left blank - the idea is that you're supposed to give it to someone you like, as a gift or something, have them fill it out and give it back to you. She'd already filled them all out, so she just asked me them verbally. She skipped all the questions about God, but I did see one in there that was interesting:

If you could ask God one question, what would it be?

I envisioned the following:

In BC 4004,World was beginning.
kitten: What happen ?
God: Someone set up us the universe.
God: We get evangelist.
kitten: What!
God: Holy war turn on.
kitten: It's you!!
Billy Graham: How are you gentlemen!!
Billy Graham: All your sin are belong to us.
Billy Graham: You are on the way to Hell.
kitten: What you say!!
Billy Graham: You have no chance to survive repent your sin.
Billy Graham: Ha ha ha ha..
kitten: Take off every 'fossil record'
kitten: You know what you doing.
kitten: Move 'logic'
kitten: For great justice.

An Open Address to My Customers

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to this standard-issue popculture restaurant. My name is kitten, and I'll be your server tonight. Before we begin, I'd like to go over a few things with you that will facilitate a smooth and pleasant dining experience.

In a moment, as a matter of formality, I will inquire of your condition, and I will probably phrase it along the lines of "How are you tonight?"

When I ask, I expect you to respond with a brief word or two. You know as well as I that we are complete strangers to each other, and in all honesty, I do not care how you are feeling any more than you care about me, but each of us must uphold our end of the social pleasantries.

I have not asked you what you would like to drink yet, so do not provide me with this information.

"How are you tonight?"
"Fine, thank you." (bonus: "..and yourself?")

"How are you tonight?"
"Miller Lite."

After we go through this, I will ask you what you would like to drink. A comphrensive list of every beverage we serve is listed on each menu, barring alcoholic drinks, which you will find in the convenient, colorful, easy-on-the-eyes booklet we have thoughtfully placed on your table. The menu - along with this booklet - will provide you with the information you seek, so it is not necessary to interrogate me.

When I ask you what you wish to drink, tell me what you wish to drink; do not question me about appetizers or entrees. I assure you that you will have the opportunity to address these issues in a moment, but now is not the time.

If you desire a beverage containing alcohol and your age is not obvious, I am required by law to ask for your identification. If you cannot produce a valid form of age verification, I will not serve you alcohol. Do not beg, plead, threaten, cajole, bargain, or try to bribe me. My job security is more important to me than letting you have a beer.

After you have given me your drink order, you may place an order for appetizers if you wish, or you may wait until I have brought the drinks to your table.

It is now time to place your order. It seems that this is quite a monumental task for some of you, so I have taken the liberty of preparing a few suggestions to make this process go as quickly and painlessly as possible:

1. Be concise and to the point.

It serves no purpose to provide me with lengthy explanations on why you are ordering a particular item, or what you had last time you were here, or who else you know that has also had this item. Just tell me what you want.
2. Speak clearly. Do not mumble.

3. Use words, not gestures.

Humans are gifted with a wonderful device known as "language"; please take full advantage of it and refrain from grunting and pointing at the menu like a Cro-Magnon. I do not require a visual aid.
4. Do not ask me what comes with an entree.
The menu which you hold in your hands contains this infromation.
5. Do not ask me how much an item costs.
Again, the menu will provide you with this information.
6. We wil be more than happy to substitute certain items for you, but there are limits to this.
Please understand that while we strive to provide you with the meal you desire, we also have our costs to be aware of. (This means that you cannot substitute a steak instead of french fries, so don't ask.)

7. Refer to the item by the name on the menu; do not invent your own terminology.
If you attempt to make up your own names for things, I will have no idea what you're talking about.
8. Do not order items that are not on the menu (or elsewhere in the restaurant).

As a customer, you are not required to be polite, but as a human, you should strive to be. Some key phrases that you should keep in your linguistic arsenal include "may I," "could I," "please," and "thank you". "Give me," "I'll take," "I need," and "I'll have" are poor choices:

"Could I please get the chicken sandwich?"

"Give me the chicken sandwich."

Most unfortunately, there will be times when we run out of a certain item. If you request an item and I tell you that we do not have it at this time, you have my full apologies, but my statement is final. Telling me that this item is the only reason you came here, or that you really, really, really wanted this item, or how far you drove just for this one item, is not going to change the simple fact that we DO NOT HAVE THAT ITEM at this time. Do not argue with me on this; I merely report the facts. I am not making this stuff up. Do not ask me to "check and make sure".. believe me, I know what I'm talking about.

Most restaurants have a list of the soups du jour posted in friendly lettering in a highly visible location. Please make note of this.

If you do not see this list, feel free to ask me what soups we have tonight, and select from the options available. Do not request a soup that we do not have.

After you place your order, you may have full confidence that I have conveyed your order to the kitchen in a timely manner. At times, the kitchen may be busy or understaffed; when this happens, your food may take just a few more minutes than you expected. You have my assurances that they are working as fast as they can, so please do not harrass me to "check on your order". There is absolutely nothing I can do to speed the process. I will bring your food to you the moment it is ready - not before.

When I bring your food to you, you may require additional condiments. It would be nice if you had let me know in advance, but I understand that this is asking too much of some of you, so feel free to dispel this information to me now.

Please ask for all additional condiments or utensils at this time, so that I do not have to come back to your table seventeen times. This is for your benefit more than mine.

"May I please have some ranch dressing, a knife, some napkins, and another Coke?"
"Right away, sir."

"I want ranch dressing."
"Yes sir."
(thirty seconds later)
"I need a knife."
"No problem."
(thirty seconds later)
"Could I have more napkins?"
(thirty seconds later)
"I need more Coke."

During the course of your meal, you may require my assistance for various reasons, be it a beverage refill, another order, or a simple inquiry. Whatever it is, my job is to provide these services for you, so don't hestitate to ask.

For the record, there is a right way and a wrong way to get my attention. Calling my name - which I told you already - is a good way. You may also refer to me "sir" (if you have a female waitress, "ma'am"), and I will even respond to "excuse me". Raising your arm in a conservative manner works as well, but do not flail your arms about like a seizure victim (trust me, I see you). Do not yell "Hey you" or "Yo". Do not throw things at me. Do not reach out and grab my arm as I pass by.

It is to our mutual benefit that you time your requests in a considerate manner. The mark of a good server is the ability to multitask, but even we have our limits.

To promote clarity on this point, please consult this helpful index:

When I ask if I can get anything for you.
When I'm within earshot, but not busy.

When I'm with another customer. You are not more important than anyone else.
When my hands are full of dirty plates.
When I'm carrying a tray laden with food.
When I'm being yelled at by my boss.

I hope that your food will be prepared the way you wanted it, but from time to time, something may be wrong with it. Perhaps you misspoke, or I made a mistake with the ticket, or the cook failed to notice a notation on the ticket.
Whatever the reason, I will be glad to do whatever I can to rectify the situation, but laying blame is not going to help you, especially when the fault is your own. Do not try to tell me that you said something when we both know you didn't.

As it happens, there are a few situations which you can take care of without my assistance. For your convenience, I have illustrated this with several examples, including but not limited to:

You didn't want tomatoes on your sandwich, but it came with them anyway.

Take the tomatoes off.

You didn't want french fries, but there are fries on your plate.

Don't eat them.

Your three-year-old has difficulty eating a burger unless it is cut into tiny pieces.
Cut the burger into tiny pieces.

You drink your coffee black, and do not require the cream I have brought with the coffee.
Don't put the cream in the coffee.

Part of the joy of dining out is that you do not have to clean up after yourself. While I do not expect you to stack your dishes neatly and wipe off your table - that's my job - please try to conduct yourself with a reasonable degree of social grace. As you are out in public, it does not become you to spread your mess across the hemispheres of creation, smear mustard on the table, empty sugar packets onto the floor for no reason, etc.

At the end of your meal, I will present you with the check. This seems to be an area of particular difficulty for some customers; if you number among them, please consult the following:

1. Do not argue with me over the cost of items you have ordered. You knew the cost in advance (or should have, anyway), and furthermore, I do not set the prices.

2. I can split the bill for you if members of your party wish to pay seperately, but it is very difficult for me to remember who got what, even with a small party, and with large numbers of people, the situation is hopeless. It will be much more efficient if the paying members of your party estimate their contribution to the total and pool their finances.

"Let's see.. Joe, yours was like six dollars, and Steve, yours was ten. Kathy, yours was about seven bucks. And mine was like eight or so."

"Can you split our check four ways and remember exactly who got what and who is paying for whom?"

Please keep in mind that I am paid well below minimum wage by the company, and rely almost exclusively on tips for my financial support. I do not ask that you transfer your bank account to my name, but let's not be cheap, either: it looks bad for you, and if you become known as a poor tipper - we DO remember faces - your next server is going to be less inclined to be helpful.
A general rule of thumb - unless the service was inexcusably bad - is to tip a minimum of 15% of your bill's total. Fifteen percent is the minimum, not the rule. There are a variety of other things which you should factor into your consideration when tipping:

1. Did I do a good job? Did I do a better-than-average job?

2. If there was a problem, was it my fault?

A problem with the kitchen, for example, is out of my hands, and should not adversely affect my tip, especially if I did everything I could to take care of the problem.

3. Did you require extra work from me?
If you didn't ask much extra from me, 15% is probably fine. On the other hand, if you sent me on errands every thirty seconds, this means I performed a lot more work for your benefit, so please keep this in mind.

Now that we've discussed a few of the intricacies of dining out, we're ready to begin.

How are you tonight?

This is 20/20.
kitten   August 23, 2001

It's time now for kitten's hard-hitting journalism.

Another One Bites the Dust
Jesse Helms (R - NC) has declared that he has no intention of running for re-election in 2002. Says Helms,
"I would be 88 if I ran again in 2002 and was elected and lived to finish a sixth term. And this, my family and I have decided, I shall not do."This is easily his best political decision he's ever made. Why won't Jesse Helms just hurry up and die? He's a shameless, money-grubbing, racist bigot. He's fought long and hard against gay rights, arts funding, and PBS. Fundamentalist, ignorant, hypocritical useless waste of flesh: an utter paragon of hate who thinks AIDS is the fault of it's victims.This really says it all:

"Unless and until the American people demand the restoration of both moral and spiritual priorities, I simply do not believe we are going to solve any other problems as well." - Sen. Jesse Helms

Jesse, you dumbass racist cracker motherfucker: Why the fuck won't you just hurry up and die?
And take that punk bitch Strom Thurmond with you.

Nirvana: Because It's Okay To Suck!
Seven years after his drug-and-stupidity-fueled suicide, the life of grunge rock spearhead Kurt Cobain is still making news, for some reason.
Apparently, it's very very important for everyone to understand what a unique specimen we had here: a pot-smoking, acid-tripping burnout who played the guitar, albeit very poorly (by his own admission). Because there aren't about one hundred of those guys in every high school across America.
Now now, before everyone goes jumping at me for making a "subjective" statement like "Nirvana sux!!1", let's get one thing out in the open:
They did suck.
That was the whole point of grunge, apparently: Garage bands that didn't really have that much talent, that were making it big. Yes, they sounded like shit: That was the point. Why this was a Good Thing during the three years that grunge was popular, I will never understand. Sometimes the band is in the garage for a reason.
Cobain is dead, people. Get over it, cut your hair, put down the bong, and get a job.

Stay tuned to Walled City for more in-depth journalism and objective reporting on all the news that's fit to print. From Atlanta, good evening.

If I know you, you're doing that thing you do.

I went somewhat obsessive-compulsive about cleaning today, possibly spurred in part by Jen's commentary on the state of my bathroom.

At work - doubleshift, whee! - I took over the bar, and rearranged things that I felt needed rearranging, cleaned the taps, ice bins, and other things. I didn't feel like waiting for the dishwasher to get around to wash the wine glasses and beer steins, so I did them by hand.

When I got home, I vaccuumed my room - quite a novel concept - gathered all the garbage in the room into a big trash bag, and cleaned the bathroom. By clean I mean that I scrubbed things with noxious-smelling solvents, and if I say so myself, it looks pretty and shiny now.
While I was at it, I applied lemon oil to all the wood furniture in my room, replaced the halogen bulb in my lamp that's been broken for over a year, cleared off my desk and nightstand, and blasted all the dust from my keyboard.

I washed, waxed, and vaccummed Veronica. I applied wheel cleaner and tire-black stuff, and I also put the tire-black stuff on her bumpers so they're actually black again, instead of that vague gray that results from fifteen years of exposure to sunlight. I oil-soaped her leather and dash, Windexed her windows, and emptied all the garbage and clutter that had been accumulating in her for god-knows-how-long.Aside from the dents in her hood (to be dealt with soon), she looks damn good now.

And despite the fact that it isn't the end of the week yet, I took a shower. :)

Higher and higher.
kitten   August 21, 2001

Jen ran into Waffle House where I was reading The Story Of B, and left a note on my table, then ran out again.
The note implied that I should meet her at my place at 0130.
It's 5am. She left a little while ago.
It's getting cool here at nights now - a nice chill in the air. My window is open. It's dark outside.
I've got a candle. The kind I really like. Smells like citrus, casts shadow and light patterns on the wall.
My car is clean.
I've got cigarettes and money. My lava light is working again.

I've got a suite of problems I need to deal with, but for the moment things couldn't be better. As Konrad demonstrated, one should always strive to remain in the moment.

Konrad also liked walking around with knives and putting them in people.

"Phil, gettin' married.. you da man!"
kitten   August 20, 2001

Yesterday evening was the Big Day for Phil and Christi, and everything did indeed go smoothly.

However - to my extreme disappointment - there were no explosions, car chases, gun battles, swordfights, assassins, flamethrowers, or wanton displays of pyrotechnics.

After I arrived half-dressed, I found a prayer room (a small room with a bowl of Jolly Ranchers and a desk) where I changed into my tuxedo. I must say that Christi's tux choice was excellent - I wanted something akin to The Riddler's outfit, but she insisted that all the men wear the same type of tuxedo. It was, however, quite a dashing outfit, complete with uber-long mafia-style jacket.

I then wandered outside for a cigarette, when Kate and Steve showed up, and joined me. No sooner did we light our cigarettes than the minister stepped outside and attempted to make pleasant minister-type conversation, which is to say, he asked where we go to church.

Big mistake with this crowd, Friar.

Kate replied that she is Methodist, but not an active participant in church. Minister nods, moves along to Steve, who explains that he is Taoist. Minister sort of smiles, and comes to me.

"How about you? Where do you go to church?"

Oh, how I could feel Kate and Steve trying not to laugh.

"I'm Jewish by lineage," I told him carefully, with what I felt was a great deal of tact, hoping that he would leave it alone.

"By lineage.. But what do you believe?" he pressed.

"By belief, I am atheist."

His face twisted and he informed me that atheism is not a belief, but a void. Though every neuron in my mind lit up like a Christmas tree and I wanted nothing more than to denounce his religion and all his views.. I smoothly replied that atheism is, in fact, a belief system. He nodded, once, and went back inside, apparently not wishing to consort with a godless heathen such as myself.

But back to the wedding.

Now I'm sort of standing around and trying to escort people to seats as they filter into the sanctuary area, though this was a confused and disorganized process. "Are you ladies with the bride or the groom?" I'd ask, and then, proferring my arm, leading them to chairs. At this moment the minister came over to me and said that he would very much like the chance to talk to me about my "belief system". I could hear the quotation marks in his sentence. This is an opporunity I think I will take him up on, now that I know where his church is. I have often wished to discuss these matters with someone educated in religion, instead of the man-on-the-street conversations I usually settle for.

Ah, but back to the wedding.

Everyone was finally seated, and the pianist began playing Pachabel's 'Canon In D', which I gather is a very traditional wedding song. I escorted my bridesmaid down the aisle, went to my assigned Place To Stand And Look Pretty, and tried not to giggle.

The song ended, and all was silent for a moment. The familiar strains of "Here Comes The Bride" wafted from the piano, all eyes shifted backwards, and Christi appeared in quite a beautiful dress, escorted by her father and stepfather, all smiles as they walked down the aisle.

The minister asked "Who gives this woman to marraige," and in unison (I should mention that the two men had to practice timing this correctly) her father/stepfather combo replied "We do."And with that, the ceremony commenced.


Someone forgot to light the unity candles.

The minister got about halfway through the first sentence of his opening speech when he noticed Phil and Christi were looking nervously towards the candlebra, and someone had to throw a lighter at the photographer so he could quickly run up and light the candles.

Okay, so now the ceremony commenced.

I stood, alternatively trying not to do any of the following:

  • Giggle.
  • Cry.
  • Roll my eyes at the constant Genesis references.
  • Snicker.
  • Cry again.

    Yeah, that's right - I'm up there trying not to make an emotional ass of myself by crying. Christi and Phil took their respective candles, lit the center candle, and then took Communion. A few final words, and the minister declared the fateful: "I now pronounce you husband and wife."

    Up went the veil, a kiss was exchanged, and I tried not to sob.They turned around to face the audience, and -

    "I present to you Mr and Mrs Gilbert."

    I'm not going to cry, dammit.

    Big applause, we all clap, and back up the aisle they go, followed by the flowergirl and ringbearer (both three years of age, and I must say they did an excellent job, considering how young they were), and all the bridesmaids escorted by all the groomsmen.

    After a few requisite pictures were taken, we adjoined from this place to the Mill - that place I have spent many a night in the cold - for the reception.

    I discovered that no alcohol was present at the reception. I satiated myself with orange and cranberry juice, and sampled some of the cuisine that was laid out. Most delicious was the chicken - with ranch dressing I copped from the vegetable platter.

    Several people were of the impression that I was Phil's brother. I do not think we look that much alike, but I literally had to convince one person that we were in no way related.

    The First Dance was called, and the newly appointed Mr and Mrs Gilbert (that's really weird) spun about the dance floor. As expected, the First Dance was Bloodhound Gang's Discovery Channel. No, really, it was. I ain't never seen Phil get down like that before.

    Okay, so it wasn't. It was really KC and Jojo (or however it's spelled). Halfway through the dance, the DJ invited the members of the wedding party to join them, but the bridesmaid I had escorted into the reception had already split and danced with her date, and so did all the others. I was left standing there with the best man, and I didn't much feel like dancing with him, so I found Kate and dragged her onto the floor, danced with her until the end of the song.

    Overall the reception was very nicely done. I'd say that the only issue I had was that I was not aware that the mic would be open to anyone who wished to propose a toast, because I really wanted to say something, but was not prepared. Kate kept goading me to go up there, say a few words, insisting that I can bullshit my way through anything.. but I did not wish to "bullshit" my way through a toast about people I actually care about, so I sort of tried to hide in the shadows. This did, however, remind me to actually prepare a speech for my mother's wedding in November.

    The wedding cake was cut, wine was poured - they actually turned the maid of honor away for not being 21! - and the DJ began belting out hits such as YMCA, In The Mood, Gettin' Jiggy With It, and other timeless wedding classics.Mostly I just sort of wandered around with my wine, talked to Phil and Brian - Kate and Steve having already left for some reason - and then Sarah, the maid of honor, forced me to dance the Funky Chicken, and also some song about a million dollars. I resisted at first, but after a few moments of "oh god I don't dance this way what is this music someone make it stop and put on the Vengaboys", I submitted to the will of the party and had a good time.

    Christi threw her bouquet at a group of giggling girls, and Phil launched that thing that goes around the bride's leg, which I can't remember the word for, into the crowd of men. Apparently the idea is that the girl who catches the bouquet must sit in a chair while the guy that catches the leg-thinger has to put it on her leg - and every inch above her knee he gets it, is another year for the Happy Couple to stay together. Well, the girl damn near flipped out over this, begged and pleaded, and was fairly close to tears. Sarah smoothly stepped in and offered to sit in her place, thusly resolving the situation.

    Directly after this, we - "we" being all the members of the wedding party - went outside in a none-too-subtle mass to trash Phil's car. We drew all over his windows, left various sex toys hanging off mirrors and windshield wipers, and I unrolled a condom onto the emergency brake lever. Whoever bought the condoms had apparently decided it was a good idea to get scented ones - they were quite disgusting. I'm not even sure what the point of a scented condom is. Who is smelling these things?

    But anyway. With much snickering and giggling we completed our task, fired a few last roungs of Silly String at his car, and went back to line their exit passage with many festive bubbles.

    Phil and Christi dashed to Phil's car - I must give them credit for not hurling things when they found what a condition we had left it in - Phil squealed the tires, and they were off.

    I went to Waffle House, still clad in the tuxedo, found Jen, and took her back home.

    O! what a glorious time to be alive, and to Phil and Christi - who are currently on board a cruiseship somewhere in the Carribbean - May The Force Be With You.

  • Don't walk; run.
    kitten   August 18, 2001

    Went to the rehearsal dinner for Phil's wedding which is tomorrow evening.

    Everything seemed to go smoothly once the little details were sorted out, like where the members of the wedding party should stand, what they do and when, etc. Although we physically acted it out three times, I still don't really know what I'm doing. I think my job is to escort one of the bridesmaids down the aisle, and then sort of go stand near Phil and smile and try not to giggle or cry or both.

    I've never really been to a 'traditional' wedding before. What's interesting to me is the way both people being wed have their own little entourage that kind of takes up flanking positions and face each other off. It's almost like gangs in a territorial dispute and we - members of the entourage - are the posse.

    Intellectually I realize that we're not there to battle the other side, we're there to back up our friend. But I wonder what it says about me that I look at a wedding and see a war.

    The wedding is obviously a Christian one, though of which demoniation I cannot say. There is a communion taking place near the end, apparently, but I'm not sure if Catholicism is the only denomination that does this. I'm not sure it matters.

    After the rehearsal, the minister went over a few final things, and then led us in a prayer, that everything will go okay tomorrow, blessed the lord Jesus Christ, etc etc. I of course just sat there and sort of stared at the wall for a bit while he went through this, and I noticed that the best man wasn't bowing his head and praying either. In fact, he caught my glance and rolled his eyes at me. Moments later I found out that he's very much an agnostic leaning towards atheism. Phil found it somewhat humorous that two members of the groom's party that actually stand on the little stage/altar thingy are so anti-religious.

    At any rate.

    So everything did go well then, and we can safely assume that barring any catastrophic events, everything will go as planned tomorrow: Phil will come crashing through the ceiling via parachute, I shall perform my jet-ski-off-the-ramp-and-over-the-heads-of-the-audience manuveure, the best man will have a flamethrower and say "I'd like to propose a toast!" while he battles evil cyborgs, because you know, he's toasting them, and at the end of the ceremony, Phil will grab Christi around the waist with one hand and swing away via rope attached to the rafters. At the following reception, we will of course have a lightsabre duel with the Forces Of Darkness, and buildings will explode for no adequately explained reason while we all dive for cover, and there will be helicopters and people standing on the roof going like "bam bam bam bam!" with two guns at once and little red digital readouts counting backwards from five minutes until the detonation of some explosive and like I'm going to have to jump through a pit of fire or something and grab a machinegun off one of the waiters and mow down the assassins in a hailstorm of hollowpoints@#% And lots of explodey things and highspeed motorcycle chases down narrow allies and searchlights and sirens and barbed wire and attack dogs everywhere@#%!

    You know, your average wedding.

    "We Apologize For The Inconvenience.."
    kitten   August 17, 2001

    One of Douglas Adam's lesser known short stories (indeed, unless one owns the Hitchhiker's Omnibus, one probably has never read it) is Young Zaphod Plays It Safe.

    Six or seven pages of lead-up bring us to the final and only important bit of the story, in which Zaphod enters a containment ship with two Officials. This containment ship was heavily sheilded, armored, and meant to be flung into a black hole because the things it contained were so utterly and horrifyingly dangerous that nobody should ever be exposed to any of it. However, the ship did not reach it's singularity destination and instead crash-landed on a planet when the captain decided he wanted lobster.

    The most dangerous items on the ship were so-called Designer People, carefully DNA-textured and pounded to be special. Unfortunately such genetic tampering led to unpredictable results, and the most dangerous of these were the Perfectly Safe people - dangerous precisely because nobody would ever suspect them of being so; they simply did not cause the "alarm bells" to go off in anyone. Therefore there is nothing they would not do if allowed to, and there is nothing they would not be allowed to do.

    Three such Perfectly Safe people were created, and subsequently put on this ship for disposal. When Zaphod and the Officials find the tanks in which these people were contained, they are horrified to discover that two of the three had already been jettisoned.. one of them was launched at sector ZZ9 Plural Z Alpha. Which, as all Guidephiles should know, is where Earth is located.

    Zaphod turns the speaker of the tank on, and hears the remaining man babbling gently about a shining city on a hill. One Official turns to the other and snaps "Find him. We must know where he went, now."

    Then the story ends.

    So, who was the Perfectly Safe (read: most dangerous) man that eventually wound up on Earth? For a while I assumed this was one of the "up to the readers' imagination" things. Then I thought maybe it was Ronald Reagan.

    Today I was reading through my Bible (yes, I really do have a Bible) and was looking over the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 5, verse 14, and lo and behold..

    What can I say? Adams nailed it.

    You, too, can make a Korn album.
    kitten   August 16, 2001

    I find it ironic that Korn - er, I meant KoRn or something - has chosen an illustration of a child running off a cliff because all her friends are doing it too, on their album titled Follow The Leader.

    This is clearly a messege against blindly following the crowd, and yet Korn delights in having a fanbase composed almost entirely of angst-filled teenagers who like them because goddammit, so does everyone else, and it's cool thing to do. I mean. Cause if you don't like Korn, you just ain't hardcore.

    Truly, their lyricism continues to astound and amaze to this day. Take, for example, "All day I dream about sex", a popular song with the crowd that also thinks Beavis and Butthead is high-calibre comedy.. "huhh huhh, he said 'sex', huhh".

    It is this sort of "lowest common denominator" style of pandering to the idiot masses that has allowed Korn to flourish and movies like "American Pie" to be popular.

    Consider also the hard-hitting, no-holds-barred messege conveyed with this excerpt:

    You best step back, Korn on the cob, you need a new job. Time to take them mic skills back to the dentist, and buy yourself a new grill.

    I could come up with better lyrics than that..

    Yo, what's this trash I'm hearin'?
    You know good and well it's my rhymes you should be fearin'.
    Korn rhymes like Al Gore
    They ain't hard core
    They only sound they be hearin' from the audience is snores.
    Who are these punks makin' noise like an anteater?
    They ain't even registerin' on my dope rhyme meter.
    C'mon now! They think they bad?
    I'm a rhymin' old-school grad.
    I beat up a guy in fifth grade, I think his name was Chad.
    Step off, Korn, do you know who I am?
    I'm the reigning king of the jam.
    They call me Mr Cash
    Cause I got the rhyme stash.
    Let me be frank - there's dope fly in my rhyme tank
    About twenty steps below me - that's where Korn ranks.
    Their skills are weak like pickled ham
    They ain't gonna pass my rhyme exam.
    Just stand there and whistle
    While I launch my rhyme missile
    Their rhyme chicken is no meat and all gristle.
    Their rhyme skills? - I think they're gettin' ratty
    Now step off and bite into my extra-thick rhyme patty
    You'll be callin' me daddy
    Excuse me while I put on my hatty.
    I ain't said the last wordJust ask my friend Ferd.
    I'll fly like Air Jordankitten is the DopeFly game warden.
    I don't know what Korn was thinkin'
    They rhyme so bad, they're stinkin'.
    I'll lap them while their turn signal's still blinkin'.
    I cross the finish line
    The rhyme trophy's all mine
    If rhyme skills were vision
    Korn would be blind.

    No no, there was a point to that.Really. There was.Come back.

    Trying to set scientific thought back four hundred years.

    Today I had yet another profound insight into Creationist thought.

    I've noticed that many of their "arguments" tend towards something of this format:

    "Well you see, in the Bible it describes $something. And they* actually found it. Therefore, the Bible must be true."

    Now, I have two problems with this. First, the "something" is almost never really found; usually the Creationist is just making it up. I've heard the assertion that they* found Noah's Ark, for example. Somehow I must have missed that bit of news. Alternatively, the Creationist will point to something that's blatantly obvious, e.g., the Red Sea ("Well, the Red Sea exists, and the Bible mentions it..")

    But here's what occured to me today.When I was in third grade, I read a story about Paul Bunyon. I think that's how his name is spelled. We've all heard of him - the 'tall tales' of an enormous lumberjack and his ox named Blue.
    In this story, as I recall, the author told the tale of how Paul Bunyon was on his way somewhere and had to walk across Minnesota to get there. Because Paul Bunyon is so damn big, his gigantic feet left colossal footprints in Minnesota as he walked, which then became lakes.

    Now here's the weird part: There are actually a lot of lakes in Minnesota! Therefore all those Paul Bunyon stories must be true! I mean, I read it in a book, and it's a perfectly reasonable explanation (if you allow for supernatural beings) of how those lakes formed.. just because they could have formed via some other, more normal process, means nothing.

    Fucking punkass Creationists. Stephen J Gould should put his foot right up their asses.

    * always, the enigmatic 'they'

    Deliver me from Swedish furniture and clever art.
    kitten   August 14, 2001

    kitten and Jen go to a bookstore. kitten finds the Religion section and immediately begins ranting:

    kitten: And look at this! They have like fifty different versions of the Bible here! Each of them says something different. Shouldn't there be only one version?

    Jen: Alright, I think you should get away from there before bad things happen.

    kitten: (reaches out to pick up a Bible)

    Jen: Don't touch that.

    kitten: Why not?

    Jen: Because it will catch fire if you touch it. You're the antichrist.

    kitten: Oh.

    And don't even get me started on the New Age section..

    Terror On the East Coast: the invasion of the gabber kitten
    kitten   August 13, 2001

    Act III, scene ii

    Jen arrived at my house on Saturday morning at 10am. We pointed her car in a vaguely northern direction and pinned the throttle. For the next thirteen hours, hilarity ensued, such as kitten forgetting to pack a razor, and Jen not having her ATM card and not being able to find a bank. Jen made me listen to lots of David Bowie and I tortured myself by listening to Rocky Horror soundtracks.
    We drove for thirteen hours and arrived in Brookhaven, PA, sometime around 2am. We stayed at her grandmothers house, even though her grandmother is in Atlanta. Her uncle was there, however.

    So. The next morning we woke up at an obscene hour of daylight (11am) and did some touristy things. We ventured to the Franklin Mint.. I was astonished by the wide variety of stuff that people will actually pay large amounts of money for and collect for some reason. There were more thimbles and cameo plates and tiny tiny spoons than I can count. I think my grandmother must get all her weird knicknacks from places like this. There was also a Star Trek room complete with sound effects (which can be heard permeating throughout the entire building), but half the lights were broken and some of the starships' strings were tangled up such that the ships were askew at some crazy angles, though I suppose the case could be made that since they're meant to be flying through space, it doesn't matter which way they are oriented. There was also the Fabrege room. I stole several eggs worth over seventy thousand dollars a piece and hid them in my pants for black-market sale at an inflated price.

    After this, we went to another museum, the name of which temporarily escapes me. This museum exhibits the work of one particular family of painters, whose name also escapes me at the moment. Apparently three of the five children of this family became very well-known and respected painters, and it is here that much of their work is exhibited. I was floored by some of these works - a few were strongly reminiscent of landscapes culled directly from a Gibson novel. There were also a number of politically-oriented pieces (some involving the Watergate affair), and one of these painters was commissioned to illustrate Treasure Island, so much of those paintings were also exhibited. I'd have to say one of the most fascinating ones depicted two men in a snowy forest shaking hands over a dead body. Not having read Treasure Island, there were many interesting speculations as to just what the hell those men were doing and what insidious deal they had just consummated.

    After this, we went to go see Bryan. Well, that was the plan, anyway. First we got lost on the 202, and then I couldn't figure out what building to go to, nor which side of the lobby Bryan was in, nor how to operate the door, nor how to ring him from the lobby and demand some bloody help.
    Eventually Bryan sauntered down from on high to find us, and discovered us standing on the opposite side of the lobby we should have been, trying to go into the next building over.

    My initial impression of Bryan is that he is a beady-eyed, shifty, cold-blooded motherfucker.
    Steve was there as well - I had not been aware that Steve was still in KoP - and when you meet Steve, the first word you think of is "goofball". He's just got that kind of look. And he has an unhealthy obsession with bowel movements.

    We went back to Bryan's apartment which he calls "Pi Pad" because he thinks that's funny even though it isn't. I wish I'd had a digital camera to properly convey the empty desolation and vacancy of this place. Bryan has no furniture whatsoever. I went into the living room - quite a large room, actually - and it's utterly bare. The only notable features were the pallets of Coke and Mt Dew stacked in a tower on the far wall, and the "HELLO KITTEN" that Steve had etched into the carpet by some unknown means. But yes. No tables. No chairs. No posters or pictures or paintings on the wall. Nothing, do you hear me?

    What he does have is carpet fuzz. Lots and lots of carpet fuzz. The carpet fuzz congeals into large clumps and I noticed it slowly amassing itself in the living room into a large mutant carpet-fuzz creature demanding to be called "Galroth, Supreme Overlord of Darkness On High."

    We deliberated for a bit about where to go eat. Bryan and Steve were stupid and had just eaten, even though they knew we were coming over. Bryan and Steve are morons. But I was hungry, so I wanted food. I need not mention that Jen was hungry, as Jen is always hungry. The girl eats all the time and still weighs nothing.
    Anyway, we finally decided on Dick Clark's American Bandstand Bar & Grill. Or, rather, the rest of us decided this, but Bryan seemed uncertain. He kept naming places to go after we had already established that we were going to AB.

    Steve drove us there, and Steve drives like an ass. I have since revoked Steve's driving privileges.

    Bryan maintains that the place is lame, and it is a bit odd, but I wouldn't say it sucked per se. It actually reminded me a bit of Jackrabbit Slim's - a reference which totally escaped everybody in the room. Jen has never seen Pulp Fiction in it's entirety, so I didn't expect her to catch it, but Bryan and Steve didn't either. Whatever. I had a beer and some chicken thingers. The chicken thingers have almonds in them for some reason. I wanted ranch dressing but I had neglected to convey this desire to the waitress and I wasn't about to inconvenience her by asking for some - that's strictly against my code of ethics - and I got yelled at by Steve and Bryan until I sort of relented, and Bryan flagged the waitress down and said something like "Can you bring this man some ranch dressing" because he didn't want to hear me whine about it.

    I got my wrist stuck in a balloon.

    After dinner Bryan insisted upon giving Jen and myself a "tour" of KoP. I say "tour" because there's absolutely nothing in this city. Well, there's a Pizza Hut. And that's it. In twenty minutes of driving around, the only location of any note was a Pizza Hut. I almost feel sorry for Bryan. Almost.

    After this - during which Steve made stupid jokes about fecal matter and we collectively drove Bryan nuts with AYB foolishness - I made Bryan back up his promise to let me watch The Last Starfighter. I hadn't seen that movie since I was eleven, and it still rules. I think Jen thinks I'm insane for liking that movie, but whatever. That movie owns. I think Bryan fell asleep during the movie.

    I locked Steve out of the apartment for a good ten minutes.

    Let me explain something about this movie. Not the movie itself, but rather, the way Bryan watches it (or any other movie). You see, he doesn't actually have a TV. No, he plays DVDs on his computer. And he doesn't actually have, you know, chairs or anything. He was kind enough to drag his mattress in from his bedroom (the only feature in his bedroom is a futon with a mattress) and let us sit on that. Bryan needs someone to tell him that having furniture is a good thing.

    Anyway, after the movie we sat about and made light conversation. This could have been any day in #mirrorshades. In fact, the only significant difference was not the fact that we were in meatspace, but that Jen was there. My comparison of myself to Randy Waterhouse was not that far off, but Jen insists she wasn't too scared.. just a bit unsure of how to react to a group of geeks sitting around and laughing their asses off at the fact that Bryan has a Playstation in his closet.

    Steve says I have a very evil laugh.

    Steve and Bryan took a lot of dumb pictures at sharp angles. I managed to look stupid in every one of them, although I am getting a lot of emails making very positive comments about Jen. I told you she was gorgeous.

    Bryan's photography really sucks.

    Bryan expressed his concern about moments when we sort of "went idle".. I must say that I did not notice this. My usual style of social interaction does not dictate that I must fill every moment with mindless chatter - though perhaps I should and I'm just too inept to care. In either event, I did not find anything unusual about the fact that the conversation would grind to a halt now and then. Tom once showed me a statistic wherein the average conversation has those pauses every two or three minutes. Tom and I have managed to go upwards of thirty-seven minutes without a significant break, but that's another story.

    Shortly thereafter Jen and I took our leave. I think Steve threw something at us on our way out, but I can't imagine he would find anything to throw other than carpet fuzz.

    Overall, I'd say that Bryan is pretty much what I expected he'd be. Except a bit taller. I've got several friends whom I have known forever but have since moved far away. I will often go years at a time without seeing them, but when I do, it's not strange at all. To me, this is what encountering Bryan was like - it wasn't at all like "meeting" him for the first time, not after I've spent five years yelling at him in various digital mediums.

    The next day, Jen and I went to Connecticut. We had to go through New Jersey to get there.
    Now, Jen - like everyone else I talk to about NJ - did not believe me when I described the horror and wanton roaming death that is New Jersey. Nobody ever believes me until they see it for themselves - most people say "Oh, but Wildwood is nice". Yes. Wildwood is nice. The rest of the entire fucking state is a bottomless pit of filth and garbage.
    Jen was quickly converted to my point of view. Especially during the Jersey Turnpike.

    Now, I've got to address all residents of New Jersey here: Why the hemmoraghing FUCK do you people tolerate these goddamn tolls? There are places in Jersey where you can stand at one tollbooth and see the next one from there. It's insane and I honestly don't understand where the state gets off charging ten dollars for the "privilege" of driving on that disgusting road. And since we are paying you'd think they could make the trip a pleasant one.. but of course they don't. Traffic is horrendous, the scenery is revolting, and the entire turnpike appears to have been paved with a backhoe.
    The only reason those tolls are there is because New Jersey can get away with it, because you mindless sheep keep paying.
    Don't you people understand that all it would take to make the tolls go away is to stop paying them? A popular uprising. A mass revolt. If enough people refused to pay, it would quickly become more trouble than it would be worth to prosecute - and that's assuming they can even catch everyone, which they couldn't. For chrissake people, stop paying the goddamn tolls and make your voices heard.

    Anyway. Jen and I went to East Haven and spent the night in a little motel, and the next morning we gradually made our way back to Philadelphia by stopping along 95 at every town along the way. Connecticut is a beautiful little state, especially places like West Haven, with piers and beaches. I had forgotten just how much I like beaches. And seagulls. I miss those too. We spent a while putzing about the beach in West Haven and making stupid footprints and finding shells and stuff.

    I didn't want to leave. But eventually we did, stopping here and there, and getting back to Brookhaven.

    The next day, we ventured to Wildwood - the only nice part of NJ, and spent the day on the boardwalk. It was oppressively hot, and we bought bottles of water and walked a few miles along the boardwalk guzzling the water like it was going out of style. The boardwalk - which I have never been to - was a sight I think everyone should see at some point. A vast cross-section of demographics are on sight there, from old geezers to little kids. There's games and hundreds of little restaurant thingers selling everything from ice cream to funnel cakes to pizza and Chinese food.

    When it got a bit cooler, Jen bought some pizza and a postcard, and we sat on a bench facing the ocean, eating pizza, watching people fly kites (kites are everywhere in this place) and Jen wrote on her postcard about the ubiquitous 1950s retro-kitsch motels in the area, which she adored, being of the "I Love Lucy" mindset that she is. I must say that even I was suckered in by some of these places - they have that 1950s chrome-and-brushed-concrete look about them with all sorts of neon that were the style of the era; very much the "looking to the future" type of architecture complete with the pointless chrome flanges that look like they're supposed to somehow collect and radiate enthusiasm for the Space Age.

    By the time we made our way back, it was dark, so we bought some ice cream and made the quarter-mile walk along the sand to the beach itself, chilling out on one of the lifeguard stands. A helicopter kept making ultra low passes overhead, almost close enough to touch, and strafed us with highpower spotlights again and again.

    Eventually we went back to the car, turned the AC to maximum, and went back to Brookhaven, paying another forty-seven million dollars and sixty-three cents in tolls. Some of the tollbooths require that you sign your soul over to them, or make you promise to sacrifice your first-born child to the state of New Jersey.

    The next day, we pointed the car southbound and went back to Atlanta.

    All in all, I had a blast. I had only a few objectives on this mission:

    .Hit Bryan with a stick.
    .Have a fun vacation with Jen.
    .Have a fun vacation without driving Jen utterly and completely mad.
    I didn't actually get to hit him with a stick - I think I used a rolled-up poster or something. But I did in fact strike him with something.

    Those, then, are the facts. Any lessons I've learned from this experience will no doubt have to wait for another time.

    I am back in Atlanta now - utterly destitute and broke, tired, hungry - and overall, pretty content.

    kitten goes to Philadelphia.