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March 9 1998, Monday


essika and I managed to make up for yesterday's little tiff in record time. The day was very windy and warm, and puffy clouds tried not to block the sun. I took advantage of the nice weather to put fiberglass patches on the rusted-out parts of my Dodge Dart. At first I didn't really know what I was doing, and I was having a miserable time, my hands covered with a toxic amalgam of resin, fiberglass, twigs and dirt as I applied flimsy patches that adhered poorly. But then I developed a sort of technique, and the patches went on firmly and fairly smoothly. The repairs had the complexion of chocolate cake, but I figured a little sanding was all I needed.

Meanwhile, Jessika was spray painting a bicycle frame tussin-red. In the midst of all these various body-shop projects, Jen the Wacky Tokyo Rose Bartender materialized. She had an impulsive plan to go boating on a nearby reservoir, and had little difficulty convincing Deya, Jessika and me to come along.


  had no idea that there's a whole world of exotic nature just to the south, less than two miles away, off the end of Fontaine Avenue where it dies out beyond the 29 bypass. There you take a right onto a little road which winds into what has been known since the time of Jefferson (perhaps with a touch of melodrama) as "the Ragged Mountains," the last unbroken ridge of steep hills before the Appalachians give way to the Piedmont.

Nestled among these hills, at the foot of a cellular phone tower on the side of I-64, is a little camp for children called "Camp Holiday Trails." Here crippled, dying and deformed children are given the opportunity to ride horses and feel special. Beyond the camp, up a narrow valley, sits an earthen dam and a reservoir. Jen had gone there lots of times and had never once been hassled by the caretaker. We parked right beside his vehicle (its inspection sticker had expired in 1995) in the parking area beside his house and climbed out. Jen had rented some paddles and had hopes of "borrowing" a rowboat. Jen, you must understand, has a sociopathic streak which compels her to do illegal or otherwise wrong things. But she's always armed with the knowledge that she can plead ignorance should she be apprehended. In this way she rather reminds me of Matthew Hart, although she tends to be a bit more successful.

At this point, though, we were confronted by the caretaker himself. We played stupid as he informed us of the rules: no cars beyond the gate (a half mile away) and no boating without some kind of strange permit that is available only one day each month. So we drove back down the valley and parked just outside the gate.

We milled around at the gate for awhile, watching runoff from recent rains pooling in the driveway. I fondly remember such puddles as a child, and started constructing little earthen dams to increased the puddle's size just as I used to do when I was ten years old. The others joined in as well, Jen adding some vocal commentary about "plantings," "salmon migration mitigations," "islands with picnic tables" and "flooded treasures" as if we were creating some sort of Corps of Engineers project, complete with an environmental impact statement. In the midst of our industry, Jessika found a dead frog, which she hung on one of the many No Trespassing signs.

We walked back up the valley and found our way to the edge of the reservoir, watching the wind whip the water into waves. For part of the reservoir, the wind was actually managing to create whitecaps.

The air gradually grew cooler and cooler, we wandered back to Camp Holiday Trails, looked at the horses, the Canadian Geese, and the camp's own private reservoir. Then we returned to Kappa Mutha Fucka and Jen headed home.


en invited members of our house to a weekly Monday Night event that takes place at her house, a baked potato feast. She and her housemates cook potatoes, and guests bring a variety of condiments. I don't especially like baked potatoes (it's an aversion that Jessika and Deya find very puzzling), but I wanted to go anyway for mostly sociological reasons.

After much delay and waiting for the usual slow poke, we set out (having to come back once, of course, when we realized none of us knew the directions to Jen's house).

Jen the Wacky Tokyo Rose bartender lives with two other Tokyo Rose types, Paul (who ran the sound system for Saturday's punk show) and Darius, the swarthy dude who used to kick us Big Funsters out of the Tokyo Rose back when used to crash the place all the time. They were there with an assembly a familiar people whose names I didn't know, as well as Cory and Kirstin from Abundance House. Later on John from Blond House came over with Deeohji the dog. Tyler from the Haunted House and Curious Digit Adam also showed up when they got off work or whatever.

I'd bought a 12 of expired Natural Ice that had survived a very long time since its much-touted "Born On Date." Most of the people eating potatoes were drinking water, however.

The potato feast was held in a fairly small room, but somehow we managed to crowd about a dozen people in there. The conversation was marvelously entertaining; it helped that most of the people present were intelligent and had good story-telling ability. I was especially struck by how consistently funny Tyler, Adam and Paul were. We joked about a lot of things, mostly related to the Tokyo Rose. We found the recent performance of Alboth particularly hilarious material. Then, of course, there was the Saturday Night tough guy issue. Adam said that Matthew's skull had been fractured in two places when he was hit by a bottle on Saturday Night, but that Matthew still expressed an intention to come in to work tomorrow.

Somehow Jen the Wacky Bartender brought up the subject of the last name "Shifflett." Shifflett is an inexplicably common name in this region (and especially in the Shenandoah Valley). Nobody from out of this area ever has the name, but anyone who does have the name is definitely a local. I mentioned that on a news story about a housefire in Harrisonburg, there was a mention of four different Shiffletts (including the fire chief) but none of them were related. We knocked around the idea of having a "featured Shifflett of the day"). Many of those present have radio shows at WTJU or WNRN (the local non-profit alternative stations) and a "featured Shifflett" would make a good gag to fill holes in the program.

Deya, Jessika and I stayed until everyone else had left, chatting with Jen and trying to relate to Fly Boy, the house dog. When we got up to go, it wasn't by verbal agreement, it was signalled by body language alone.


s we pulled up the end of Observatory Avenue, we heard a horn roaring away. The Grand Cherokee belonging to the ditzy girl who lives in the house at the end of the avenue had a stuck horn. It was an unbearable noise, even from within our house. Jessika convinced me to volunteer my efforts to helping the girl to get it to stop. When we knocked on her door, she had no idea what to do and was on the phone to her parents. The one black guy who lives on our street showed up in the midst of all of this with a wrench and a flashlight and he disconnected her battery for her while she gushed with gee-whiz ditzy sentiments. After silence descended and my housemates had returned with me to the inside of our house, we parodied her mercilessly.

Then we sat around talking about Obsessive-Compulsive disorder, and how we all have some traits. I mentioned, for example, that as I'm driving I frequently set ridiculous little goals for myself that forbid me to, say, look at a road sign until after two telephone poles have lined up in my sight.

one year ago
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