Reading: I'm a Stranger Here Myself by Bill Bryson. You know, I have to stop reading books that make me laugh out loud on the metro, because I look like a loon. (The other book I tried to read on the metro was Naked by David Sedaris. I had to put it back in my bag one morning, due to all the sidelong glances I was getting.)

Anyway, I had never read any Bill Bryson before Short History, and I couldn't get enough of that, so I thought I'd check out the rest of his oeuvre. (Yes, I just used the word oeuvre. I am currently in the process of getting over myself.)

Watching: Tennis. I do love me some Wimbledon. And I'm actually not actually watching it so much as listening to it through the Wimbledon website while I'm at work. But I'm watching what I can.

Eating: Eskimo pies, like they are never going to make them ever again. I am addicted. What else says summer like an Eskimo pie?

Recovering: I have a huge gash on my leg. Why? Because I threw away a knife. Just threw it in a trash bag, apparently, because I went to put the trash out and as I was carrying it down the stairs, I felt something scratch my leg, and I looked down and there's a knife blade sticking out of the bag and blood pouring down my leg. Lovely.

God bless you, and drive safely, and remember that two are better than one; that once, a cripple climbed up on a blind man's back, so that together, they might make a journey that neither could make alone.

Unfortunately, the cripple weighed three hundred pounds and broke the blind man's back, and they spent the rest of their lives in a ditch at the edge of the road, arguing about the meaning of what had happened to them.

That's Joe Frank. Does anyone else know who Joe Frank is? I assume if any of you live in Los Angeles and listen to KCRW, you might, but the rest of you probably don't.

And I'm not going to explain him very well, but I'll try.

Think of Garrison Keillor. Now keep the radio, but turn everything else upside down and inside out and shake it around a little bit and perhaps throw in a hit of acid, and you might end up with Joe Frank.

He's been described as "the apostle of radio noir," "alternately dark, bizarre and very funny, but always hard to turn off," and an "audio Fellini." It's all very surreal, and therefore impossible to explain.

I started listening to him while I was living in Los Angeles. His shows came on at 7:00 on Saturday nights, and since I often found myself otherwise unoccupied (surprise), I would get in the car, jump on the 405, and drive south for a half an hour, then turn around and drive back, getting home just as it ended. (It's odd, but I found I couldn't pay attention to it very well sitting in my apartment. I needed a little highway hypnosis to help me concentrate.)

First of all, he has an incredible voice. As something tells me he's not exactly getting wealthy off of public radio, all he would have to do is get himself a 1-900 number and he'd be a zillionaire in about three weeks. (He gives a pretty good tease in At the Dark End of the Bar) He always performs his monologues in a very even tone, a little under his breath, never particularly animated, like he's sitting with you in the corner of a quiet restaurant, telling you this story that he doesn't want anyone else to hear.

Secondly, there's no easy way to describe what the shows are about. The monologues are my favorite, long and winding stories that start in one place (From Just Get Me Out Of Here: "There was a period in my life when I had a breakdown, and I was committed to a mental hospital. On a ship.") and end up somewhere else entirely, taking the most bizarre of turns to get there. There is usually a piece of ambient music looped in the background. And they are captivating, and funny, and most of the time make absolutely no freaking sense in any reality, but you still find yourself sitting back and the end of them and thinking "Well, yeah. Okay."

He doesn't do only monologues, though. In some of his other shows, he will conduct fake interviews (try "The O.J. Chronicles"), or do fake NPR-style documentaries, such as the "Rent A Family" series.

I don't know why I thought about him recently, but I found his website and gleefully discovered that many of his shows are available there in streaming audio. I actually did find a couple of my favorites from my L.A. days, like the ship one linked above. The show I knew was called "Somewhere Out There"; now it's called "The Other Side," but as far as I can tell, it's the same concept.

Anyway. If you have an hour to kill, check one out and see what you think. (And if you end up saying "What the fuck is this?" after about ten minutes, I won't blame you.)

My crappy-ass job is ending sometime next week, probably. I have to go in on Monday, but there is every possibility that they will tell me not to come back on Tuesday, and it's okay, that would be a good thing.

In celebration, I am going on vacation. Yep. Nothing like a little unemployment to make you decide that it's time to hit the road.

Though it is, essentially, a free vacation. I am fortunate enough to have a brother and sister-in-law who live on Hilton Head Island (not a bad vacation spot, you see), so I can stay with them and eat their food. All I need is gas money, really, and I can pretty much scrape that out of my couch.

So the weekend after next I'm going to go and sit on the beach and read Pamie's book and Harry Potter and get drunk with my brother and not think about my life for an entire week.

Why yes, I am escaping, thank you very much.


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