Every word of that Lynyrd Skynyrd song is true.

I know. I was there from June of 96 to May of 97.

I still get a tear in my eye whenever I hear that song.

But I'm getting over it.

"Weather Report" January 8, 1997

Tuesday morning I went back to my trailer to try to sleep. Trailers in winter are cold metal boxes. People tell me to expect a $200 electricity bill, but I beat that by turning the heat way down at night when I'm not home.

So I got home and turned up the heat from 55 to 70, and the furnace, basically a big hair dryer with vents in every room, made a burning smell. Darryl and Darryl came over and tried to fix it. A big circuit breaker inside the furnace was charred and had chunks missing. Darryl worked on it a bit, then told Darryl to turn the main breaker outside back on. It takes 240V. Darryl only takes 120V, and it threw him into a wall. They couldn't find another 240V 20A breaker, so they pulled out the whole furnace and gave me some tiny space heaters that keep throwing all the other circuit breakers.

Later, Darryl and Darryl came back, because they were working on a warshin' machine up the street and couldn't figure out it's wahrin'. They figured I seemed like the kind of guy who would let them look at the back of my warshin' machine, and I am, so I did. And Darryl wanted to buy my rental car. I may sell it to him.


Weather Conditions at 4 AM CST on 8 JAN 97 for Huntsville, AL.
Temp(F)    Humidity(%)    Wind(mph)    Pressure(in)    Weather
   36          48%          ENE at 13       30.15      Overcast

January 11, 1997

So for those of you keeping score, they went with sleet on Wednesday, a diarhea-like mixture of rain and ice. Miserable, cold, and quite painful on bare skin. Thursday there were snow flurries, but mostly it rained. Darryl and Darryl came over with a little cardboard box, only about half the size of the furnace they took out. Darryl said he was afraid that when they opened it, it was gonna spring out into full-size, and Darryl said he was afraid it wasn't. But they crawled around it for awhile like a couple of good apes, and figured it out. "Space savin'" Darryl said admiringly. And Darryl, ever the ladies man, pointed out that you could build a shelf in that space for the lady of the house to put stuff on. I think Darryl's been married at least once. These boys do know which end of a hammer to hold, though. They had to tear out a bit of wall to get this thing into the tiny closet, and in only two hours they had it in, fully trimmed, and the wall looking like nothing had happened. They had to wait until today for all the parts to come in, but they got it set up and turned on. Just in time, too.

It snowed today and got goddamn cold. We got about 3 or 4 inches. Traffic turned the roads into black ice. You can hardly walk on the roads. They have no snow service here, no salt, no sand, no plows. You can't believe what a difference that makes. Highways, businesses, schools will be closed for days, rightly so. It will be ice until it gets warm, maybe middle of next week, and even then, it will be ice again at night, when I'm coming in. It took me over an hour to get to work tonight, a drive that normally takes 10-15 minutes. Lots of wrecks. This driving is as bad as any I've ever seen. It's in the low teens out there now, below zero with the wind chill. It's so cold you can't make a snowball. We're supposed to get more, too.

Been working a lot lately, if every day since thanksgiving is a lot. I did about 320 hours in december. I may be in Los Angeles next weekend, 17-20 or so. Then again, I might just sleep. We'll see.



241 AM CST SAT JAN 11 1997

"*1* days with heat, power, and no tornadoes!" January 14, 1997

We're running another long x-ray measurement, so it's email time.

When we last left Roger-Bob, there was heat in his trailer, ice on the ground, and too much joy in his heart.

So to push matters, I decided to combat old man winter with an assault vehicle. I've been trying to find a rental car agency with some kinda 4x4 for months. I've only found one once, and it was $60 a day. At $1800 a month, that's a little steep. I normally pay $180 a week for a Grand Am or this damn Dodge Stealth I'm driving now. You know how an infinite number of monkeys on an infinite number of typewriters can write the collected works of Shakespeare? The average American car has a dashboard designed by 3 monkeys in 10 minutes. Those monkeys are then locked into the transmission case and put in charge of shifting gears.

So anyway, I call up National's 800 number at 7 am Saturday morning, and ask for a Chevy Blazer. In iced-up Huntsville. In an hour. At the airport. Reasonably priced. Make it green, to match my eyes.

And the woman says, OK. She says, that's $350 a week. Not too bad for a few weeks, I think. But, she says, you got a gold national renter card, so it's $220 a week. But you got a ninja gold card, so it's less, so it comes to, let's see, $183 a month.

So I'm thinking, OK.

So I go over to the airport, driving the Stealth. I think they call it a Stealth because it goes so slowly, you can't tell it's approaching. It's bad on the ice, too.

There are people in line, so I hit the national car-rent ATM machine. It says, we don't got none of them blazers. Howzabout a Grand Am? and I think, ah, this is my life. For a moment there I thought they had accidentally given me someone else's day, one of those people who make green lights and stuff. I feel sorry for that person. 5 minutes of one of my days would kill somebody like that, like some health nut somehow accidentally eating a twinkie.

So I wait in line, not to yell at the woman, just because I want to hear that the machine is wrong and they're even out of Grand Ams. That's the kind of touch that makes it my life, that turns stories like this from OK to great.

But they're not out of Grand Ams. In fact, the woman is the manager, and she's been driving the Blazer. She's busted. She hands the keys over, and I've got her blazer. She wants it back, she makes sure I'm bringing it back to this agency. I don't tell her she's not seeing it until May, but that's ok. It's even green, and has three ice scrapers. So Saturday goes well.

So Sunday morning I'm driving home to get some sleep and tape some football games, and the radio says it's 7 degrees, with a windchill of 0. I'm thinking, that can't be right. In the sun, it feels like at least 9.

So I get home, and though the thermostat is at 50, the heat is running. I never like that. I mean, if the heat is running to keep it at 50, are we gonna make it to 70?

We don't make it.

I noticed a draft around my feet. The new furnace is quiet, but not this quiet. This is too quiet. I eventually found that the 90 amp breaker in the box was tripped and really hot. It did not take long to cool down, given that my trailer quickly plummeted to maybe 40. I couldn't get it to reset and run any part of the furnace. I called the management, and she called back to say she couldn't get aholt of Darryl or Darryl, and she doubted they could get parts anyway. I was pretty tired, too tired to track down my own breaker or some space heaters, so I packed up and got out, headed to a friend's apartment for an afternoon's sleep. By the time I got out, it was getting scary-cold in the trailer. I left thinking that all the pipes, even the toilets, were gonna break, that I was going to have to move again.

But when I woke up, there was a message: they'd found a breaker and fixed my heat, and when I got home Monday morning it was true. And even more unbelievably, I made it through the whole night shift Sunday, and the day shift shift change Monday morning, without hearing a football score. I suspected the scores, so it wasn't as good as live, but I watched the games Monday morning to find that my two favorite teams are in the superbowl. And the heat worked all day, too.

So now I'm wondering what's going to go wrong to make up for that. This might be the last anyone hears from me.


301 AM CST TUE JAN 14 1997

I'd have bet $10 that you'd never see N POLE and ALABAMA in the same forecast.

"Late Night=Letterman, Late Afternoon=Carlson" January 21, 1997

Long day Monday, not much sleep. Some days you have to act like a human, though, and have breakfast in the morning when you get home from work, even if you do have beer and coffee instead of orange juice and coffee with your pancakes, and you end up staying up late. Gotta have coffee. You don't need to run an intervention on me, I can quit whenever I want.

So I didn't head off to bed until around 1pm, and as I was walking down the hallway to my bedroom, there was a knock at the door. Man, I thought, if that's my star wars game, I am not sleeping today. Y'see, we all here in the control room all went out and bought ourselves some high-end SGI-type 94 megahertz R4300 jurassic-park-makin' home computers. Also known as Nintendo 64's. We have no lives anyway, but at least we have something to do now. These are pretty amazing machines. The computers themselves are easy to find here, now, but it's still hard to find any software. It was brutal at Christmas, they tell me. Nintendo could have made a lot of money. They will anyway. There are only about 10 games out now, and you can only find the less popular ones. Maybe they're actually making more money, since titles like "Homework and Vegetables" wouldn't sell at all if you could buy Star Wars. This is going to be the king of all game machines. I have never owned a game machine before, never played one since I was ten and my friend Marc had an old Atari. This is better than that. Star Wars should be amazing.

Ah, Star Wars. The holy grail. The night shift is pretty excited about seeing the old movies again soon. Star Wars, back on the big screen, new footage, new effects, new scenes, new explosions, later this month. We tell each other about it every night and hum the music and sneer at anyone who mentions Star Trek, though the new captain does have a nice haircut. Night shift will be there for the premier matinee. And maybe sit right through to the late show. But the Star Wars game cartridge, that's what we want right now. We've seen it on the web. You get to shoot stormtroopers. You get to shoot tie fighters from the Falcon. You get to fly a snow speeder and fire a cable and trip the big AT-AT. We need this. We almost have it. Over the weekend, scouts heard that had briefly appeared in stock at the Walmart on Drake, the Walmart on University, and the Walmart on north Parkway. The two Walmarts on south Parkway did not have it at all. I have mail-ordered it, but the mail order houses are bad places to get it. Stores only get a few at a time. Catalogs have hundreds of backorders. Sam Walton doesn't take backorders. At Walmart, the race goes to the swift. Nobody is swifter than the night shift.

So to get back to the narrative, as I said, I'm on my way to bed at 1 in the afternoon, and there's a knock at the door. And I'm thinking Star Wars! It's star wars! I'll just try it for a minute, and then right off to bed, I promise.

But it's Darryl. He's got some big guy with him, Otto or something, here to spray for cockroaches. They're wearing overalls. I have some overalls, and I've tested this. If you put on overalls and workboots, you can walk into a bank and say, hi, I'm here to work on the safe, and they'll let you in.

So I let them in. Far as I know, maybe if I wasn't home, they weren't gonna spray bugs at all, maybe they were just gonna play some Homework and Vegetables. I bet my furnace breaks a lot more once I get star wars.

Otto has probably never been one of the rocket scientists here on the Nasa base. Otto may have been one of the boys they sent up to the rocket test stand with a match when the regular igniters didn't work, but Otto as one of the actual rocket scientists, no. You can go into the whole nature/nurture argument, talk about society, circumstances, and public education, but the simple fact of the matter is, at some point, Otto, of his own free will, decided to take a job where he was gonna get a lot of exposure to stuff that kills cockroaches. Otto may have figured that since he's not a cockroach, he'd be ok, but somebody shoulda at least made sure he wasn't drinking it when he ran out of beer on Sundays. Alabama goes dry on Sundays, but I don't think Otto does.

So while Otto was navigating some of the trickier turns in my mobile home, Darryl told me excitedly that I had another new car. I keep telling Darryl that I rent 'em, and that whenever I want, I can go get another one. Darryl never gets tired of hearing that. Darryl is tickled at the thought of getting a new car whenever he wants. He especially likes a Tercel I had once, and often tells me so. Now, he's a workman, a very competent workman, with a lot of tools, muddy boots, overalls, an old baseball hat, the works. You'd think he'd like this Blazer. Nope, he likes that Tercel. Alabama is a place where Chevy owners don't talk to Ford owners, and nobody owns anything but trucks. Admitting you like small, gutless, fuel-efficient import sedans, well, I'm not from here and I am normally open minded, but the local culture and morals do have a way of seeping into you, and it makes me uncomfortable when Darryl admits that he likes Tercels. And he does it too often. It makes me nervous. It's like he keeps telling me that the trailer would look better with some ferns over there.

Otto, on the other hand, likes the Blazer. He's not that far gone. He offers me some bug spray, and I decline, and he heads out, happily suckling at the spray nozzle. He's adjusted the spray from mist to jet to clean his teeth. I don't want to know what he found in my trailer to get stuck in his teeth.

Darryl, before leaving, inquires as to the continued performance of my new furnace. He's not as funny as the other Darryl, but he does get off a good one now and then. We're having a heat wave, and it's 60, and nobody needs a furnace right now. I tell him it's working pretty good today.

So once the circus is gone, it's definitely bedtime. It's going on 2 o'clock. I've been trying to get lot of sleep during the day, trying to shake some kinda bronchitis I got when I came out of the cleanroom. Our cleanroom is so good, it has unmeasurably few particles of 3 micron size per cubic meter. That size particle is invisible dust, virus size, and the filters also get everything bigger than that. A normal room has millions of particles per cubic meter. A decent cleanroom for our kind of heavy work has 100,000 particles per cubic meter. Ours was built for 2,000, but it runs at much better than 100. It's unmeasurable, nearly zero. So you go in there for a week or two, and get yourself whacked on nights, and when you come out, your body hasn't seen a germ in weeks and you discover that you've left your immune system in your other pants, and you get sick. Everybody here is sick. And I'm trying to get well before I bother flying back to LA in mid-February for my, ahem, birthday, ahem, on the 14th at Toes, so staying up until 2pm is not in the cards.

So I'm heading back down to bed at 2pm, dragging a bit, and there comes *another* knock at the door. And I'm thinking, if that's star wars, I hope I can stop myself after playing with it just a little bit. I *have got* to get some sleep.

I only wish it had just been star wars.

It was my new espresso machine.

"havin' a heat wave, a tropical heat wave!" January 22, 1997

The blue stuff in the outhouse at work melted!

I don't mind the rain. It can rain all it wants. I'm crazy mad in love with this 50 degree weather.

I saw Darryl and Otto again yesterday. They were out spraying some other places, I guess, and drove by while I was out at the mailbox. Darryl told me that I had a package at the office. "It's cookies," he said. "Guess they're a surprise for your birthday."

Otto looked dimly into my eyes. His eyes narrowed. "You a test conductor?" he asked.

Yeah, I said, x-ray optics.

He nodded slowly, and said "I did F1 rocket engines for the Saturn V moon rocket. 1968," he said, and walked back to his truck.

Darryl shook his head sadly. "First time he's talked about it."

Otto came back with the can of cockroach killer, and held the spray wand out toward me.

"Espresso?" he said.

"40 hours off!" January 27, 1997

I've been on nights without a day off since Christmas. We had Christmas off, but before that, we worked every day since thanksgiving, so since thanksgiving, I've had one day off. I'm thinking of checking into some university psychology sleep experiment. I bet I can put a funny data point on their graphs.

Yesterday I slept for 4 hours when I got home. I drank beer instead of coffee during the superbowl, and was surprised to find that some deep lizard brain instinct/memory allowed my body to accept this alien liquid. I may try water soon, too. With the game, we had jambalaya and hot cheese dip, ensuring a packer victory. Had it been in doubt, I would have broken out the bratwurst, but that proved unnecessary. At 10pm, I had a splitting headache, and figured it was caffeine withdrawal, so I drank a few espressos. It cleared up, and I went to bed and fell immediately, soundly asleep for 4 hours. I don't remember how humans, coffee, and sleep were supposed to work, but I'm pretty sure this isn't it. I woke up this morning at 3 am. Nothing like getting up early and having a really long day off. I took my time, finally, with the espresso machine and got it making a higher grade of paint stripper. By 4am, I was relaxing on the couch, in fine day off mode, enjoying my own creation, a Cafe Malta (just try getting Starbucks to put malted milk in a latte. Go ahead, try. Death to Starbucks.) Nothing like it. Feet up on the couch, a hot Cafe Malta and some cold leftover pizza from the game..... My day was complete when my surfing skills produced an aerobics program with three bikini clad women hopping around on a beach wearing boxing gloves.

Now time for a road trip: there's a warehouse an hour from here that sells all the lost luggage and contents that airlines can't return to the rightful owners. This could finally be the year I get my Christmas shopping done early.

"reading comprehension test" January 29, 1997

while reading the following, ask yourself:

  • who do I know whom TRW has not reimbursed for travel expenses for several months, thus running up the goddamn amex card TRW forced into his credit record and pay the all the late fees himself?
  • who do I know who recently moved into a part of the country that serves biscuits?
>Dow Jones SkyNews:  -- NABISCO HOLDINGS said fourth-quarter earnings before
>items climbed 30% on the strength of its once-sluggish biscuit unit, which
>includes Oreos, Ritz and Chips Ahoy brands. -- AMERICAN EXPRESS said it plans
>to cut 3,300 jobs this year, about 5% of its work force, in an effort to
>improve the performance of its travel-services unit. Net income at the
>financial services company rose 55% from a year earlier.

ps - Insider trading tip: Buy pork futures. Sell pork pasts. Send pork presents.

"frequently asked questions" February 10, 1997

Haven't really been in the mood to write much lately, working too hard. Our day shift test conductor & boss-man, lead singer, driver of the Winnebago, Scott, went home for a week and Jon and I had to go to 12 hour shifts to cover him. To show you how clearly we were thinking, we came up with 3am and 3pm as the split time, so I was waking up, sort of, at 1 in the morning.

But I survived. This test ends Tuesday morning, then I'm going home for a week to turn 30. Or back to 30. I feel 70.

But to answer some questions:

I got the star wars cartridge. One of the Kodakians here got it from Rochester, NY, and another Kodakian air couriered it down. Their award fee went way up.

Yes, we had tornadoes. It sucked, no pun intended. I wish I could tell you a funny story about waiting it out in a root cellar with Darryl and Darrell (I was spelling it wrong) but I can't. We had a hellacious thunderstorm, just constant, sharp, exploding blasts of thunder that woke the hell out of me at about 5 in the afternoon. No way I could sleep. I wondered if I should turn on the TV and find out more or evacuate or what, and I'll admit, I got a little nervous, but the lights and cars at trailers around me seemed normal. It wasn't long before the thunder faded a bit, and I heard an air raid siren. The thunder was so loud and often that I could not hear it before. I didn't know if it meant tornado watch, tornado warning, or tornado 50 feet to your left. I felt silly evacuating, but there was *no way* I could sleep. And I asked myself if I wanted to die in bed (alone) in a trailer park in Alabama, and I said no. (I ask myself daily if I want to live in bed (alone) in a trailer park in Alabama, and I say no to that every day, too). So I got in my truck, which I figure can take higher wind than the trailer, and went to work for a while. They had safed everything, closed covers, closed gate valves in the big vacuum tube, and were taking it pretty seriously, but that's what you do when you have a half a billion dollars in glass in a tornado. I don't know if any really touched down or not, I never see a paper or the news or any humans.

Really hoping this ends soon. I'll probably be here in May and June, but they say I'll get home "more often" then.


"Sweet Home Alabama" April 18, 1997

Well, the end of the tunnel just might be in sight. The two flight cameras were supposed to get here last December, and I was supposed to go home permanently May 1st. The first camera, the HRC, got here a month ago, and the second, the ACIS, got here last Monday. It looked for a long time like the ACIS wouldn't get here at all, and that was pretty depressing. We worked unusually hard, even for here, and got swapped out the HRC and swapped in the ACIS in only 5 days, 3 days of which was spent just getting the instrument chamber up and down from vacuum. We had two or three really long nights in the cleanroom getting the ACIS mounted, pictures at


if you're interested. We now start a week of vacuum work with the ACIS, and break again next weekend to pull the mirrors out. I go home next weekend, too. The mirrors go home to TRW May 5th, and I'll go with them as well, but not permanently as originally planned. The two cameras want to keep working here throughout May and June....the scheduled end is now June 27th. I'll have been here for exactly one year.

TRW's bid for May and June was for the three of us to work a 9 day cycle with two of us always here. Each of us would get 6 days here, 3 days home. Nasa has balked at the cost, and they are considering cutting us to only having 1 person here at a time, so we'd go to 6 days here, 12 days home. I am doing my best to act useless and expensive.

I stumbled out of here Wednesday after all that cleanroom work, and went home by a different route. I've been having a lot of email trouble lately, and I have now gone so far as to try yet another service. They send your mail by physically moving a printed copy from one place to another. Instead of charging you a flat rate, they charge you for each piece sent, so I figured I'd try it with a few pieces. So I went to a "post office" to buy some "stamps." These are little pieces of artwork you stick to your mail, to indicate payment. Another strange thing is that it's a felony to harm the mail system personnel. Most mail systems I've seen, if you can find the administrator, by somehow tricking him into answering his pager, and harm him, the other users give you a nice plaque.

So anyway, from there, I was fading out pretty fast. It was around noon, and I'd been up for something like 20 hours, most of it on my feet in the cleanroom, and I really needed lunch and a tank of gas. I was in a part of town I don't get to much, and to my wondering eyes there appeared a combination Texaco / Dairy Queen. Rarely do you get such a clear sign from the gods. I know what's good for me, I don't mess with power like this, so I pulled in. I gassed the truck up first. The pumps had card readers, and I used it, as usual. This one was a little fancier than usual: the interface was a touch screen.

You males in the audience might want to sit down for this part.

When I started pumping gas, the touch screen turned into a TV set, and showed me a Three Stooges episode. It was one with Curly. They were dentists.

The Stooges shut off when your tank is full.

So after 17 gallons of enlightenment, at a buck-twenty a gallon, I went inside for lunch. A friendly manager was very happy to see me. Somehow, I think he could tell that he had set the hook deeply in another one. I told him he should put big buckets or something out by the pumps in case a really good episode comes on. He said they got that suggestion a lot. He said they could no longer show the tape of the one where they are doctors on account of it caused the station over on south parkway to burn down the first week it was open. The tragedy was this one guy just kept pumping, and although the fire department got there in 3 minutes, that episode runs for 20, and by that time even the fire trucks were fully engulfed.

"Calling Dr. Howard, Dr. Fine, Dr. Howard," he said sadly, and shook his head.

Anyway, further details for you guys are: large chocolate malt, footlong chili dog, large fries. You women in the audience are thinking, My god, he'll be dead in a month. You men in the audience are thinking, Why'd he get the malt? You can get a malt anywhere. Why not a Blizzard? Was there cheese on the dog?

Those who really know me know I didn't stop at just a chili dog.

So while the deep fryer was working its magic on my vegetables, I bought a paper to read with lunch. And there on page 2 is an article on a UC Davis chemist studying coffee. Coffee smells good, he reasoned, so it must be good for you. I like this man. I like the way he thinks. I may have him to look into chili dogs.

Anyway, he has found that freshly brewed coffee does in fact have a potent mix of antioxidants. In loose terms, a cup of coffee has antioxidants comparable to three oranges.

I have easily five cups of coffee a night. Easily. Sixteen ounce cups, so let's call that ten eight ounce cups. And I have been here for 300 days.

So this year I've had nine thousand oranges.

On my way out, the manager told me to "come back and see us again."

You know, I just might.


"Lord, I'm coming home to you" June 18, 1997

Well, it finally ended. I've been home for about a month now, and I can finally think clearly enough to get out the last installment. It was touch and go there for a while. When it was over, the stress-whiplash got a lot of people. Jon, Scott and I took a little vacation down to Panama City, New Orleans, and Mobile, and I was sick the whole time. Marty Weisskopf, the chief project scientist, and a heck of a guy when he's had enough nicotine and junk food, (quote from him in USA Today: "This is the big-energy stuff and we're the cosmic-violence guys, the people who brought you black holes and exploding stars.") had a heart attack but is now well enough to be giving out great quotes. Duane, one of our local test conductors and the only person in Huntsville from Huntsville, had 75 feet of intestine removed. Curtis, the test conductor from Texas, threw himself down a flight of stairs onto his head in an attempt to rid himself of the memories and the twitching. Nathan, aka Gatorboy, the cajun test conductor, has vanished into the swamps. Somewhere, mosquitoes are exploding.

But Scott, Jon, and I made it home.

The day before I left, one of the guards gave me a surfboard. He was from Santa Cruz, and wound up in Huntsville. He had 5 of these soft beginner boards, and he wasn't gonna use it, so he gave it to me.

That night, as I was packing, I saw Darryl working all around the edge of my trailer. I figured he was just patching up the skirt from all the wind damage. There were a lot of tornadoes and storms in the area that had blown out the panels a bit. I never saw a funnel cloud, but for a while there, they were in the neighborhood a few times a week. That got old.

So anyway, when I went outside later to go to work, I discovered why Darryl had done all that work: he had a huge animal trap, a humane cage trap, stuck in the last hole under my trailer.

Skunk, I thought. I'm gonna spend my last night in Alabama, in a trailer, with a skunk in a wire mesh cage outside my window. This is the cherry on the cake of my day.

But it never caught anything while I was there, to my disappointment. If it had been a skunk, I would have brought it back to TRW travel accounting as a peace offering. Here you are, ladies. It's a kitty! Like they'd know. No one in that building knows the difference between a skunk and a brick. Hell, I may paint a white stripe on a brick and tell them it's a skunk just to watch them abandon the building. A brick with a white stripe on it in an empty building would probably be better at getting me reimbursed, too.

The next day, late for my plane, I had to wrap that board in cardboard (with help from Gatorboy), get home, pick up my luggage, get the board from work on the way to the airport, drop off some boxes at UPS, return the car, and get the board checked. Naturally, I was running late.

When I got home, they were installing a new trailer on the empty lot across the street from me. This involved about 15 guys in overalls, I'd say about 4500 pounds of talent, and lots of big trucks. I came around the corner to find complete gridlock.

Somehow, I got past them into my driveway. As I was thrashing around inside, Darryl and Otto came in to spray the place again. I told them the bad news: that I was leaving, and as a matter of fact, right that instant. They were sorry to see me go, but Darryl, as always, was pleased to see that I had a new car. It was some kinda sedan, I forget. Otto said he missed the Blazer, and I said I did, too. Darryl reminisced fondly about the Tercel, and asked me if I had a car in Los Angeles. I said yes, and I'm still sort of nervous that any second he's gonna show up here and want to see it. If he likes Tercels, I don't think he's gonna like the Hodag.

You don't need to hear about the next hour. The next hour was just one of those 78 rpm hours you spend trying to get everything done and get on a plane. I got the surfboard, dropped off the boxes, returned the car, checked the board (didn't get charged any fee, since I was so late), and upgraded to first class and started the long process of rinsing the red Alabama clay out of my system with strong solvents.

That's a long process. I need your help.