Well, the fourth of July fast approaches, marking the annual holiday when people in our great nation blow things up, eat pie, and blow more things up. Some of the things that are blown up include old tree stumps, toilets, and the occasional firecracker but the list unfortunately never includes Rosie O'Donnell who was due for blowing up at least eight years ago. This is most likely because if they blew her up her massive bulk would sit around and rot in enormous, disgusting chunks like that whale they blew up in that one town that one time. In any case, the fourth of July is a wonderful holiday and is enjoyed by many, especially the companies that make fireworks for poor saps to spend thousands of dollars on and then enjoy some pretty sparkles for two entire seconds and hear a big BOOM. USA!

My family has been on my case for some time to return for a visit to my lovely native home of Green Bay, Wisconsin. As I had no plans for the 4th here in good old Seattle, I decided that this would be as good a time as any to endure the shirtless rednecks and rabid white trash that Green Bay has to offer to appease the family. It isn't that I don't want to see my parents and my brother, but for some reason whenever I go home I feel about 30 years older than I actually am, especially if I am at my parents house for more than three days at a time. This might have something to do with the fact that my bedroom still has a light green and purple color scheme.

I don't want to come off as angsty or as saying that I dislike my family, because I love them very much and they are great people. They do have their eccentricities, however, and those can be a little hard to deal with at times:

My Mom:

That has to be the prettiest $300,000 I have ever seen! USA! USA!

Having recently moved here from the Moon, my Mom has a hard time adjusting to the things that are considered "normal" by our everyday standards. She has a real problem with microwaves in that she has a deep-seated belief that they are emitting death rays that will turn your brain into gourmet scrambled brain and cause you to wake up one morning with an extra arm or perhaps become everyone's least favorite AM talk show host, Dr. Laura Schlessinger. Because of this, she refuses to get within a 5-mile radius of the thing when it is running, and if you dare sit in front of it she will descend from the heavens with a screeching cry of, "NOOOooooo!!!" and pinch you until you move a safe distance away. The microwave is also the cause of world hunger, apartheid, and communism.

Another fun habit of hers is buying into whatever health trend is popular at the time or that is a focus of a nightly television news magazine. She takes an aspirin every single day even though she has no headache because she thinks that it is good for her heart. Every time I tell her that it isn't good to just go around popping aspirin and that it could be damaging her stomach she says something to the effect of, "They say that aspirin is good for you." She also drinks a glass of red wine every day because "They" said that it could be beneficial. "They are the same reason she takes about 40 unnecessary vitamin supplements every day and eats a handful of walnuts whenever she remembers that she is "supposed to." I am not sure who They are, but I would appreciate it if They would stop talking to my mother. Please.

My Dad:

My Dad is also crazy, but in a slightly different and more disturbing sense. He has always been very secretive about his occupation. So much so that it is a running family joke as to whether or not he is actually in the mob. As far as my brother and I knew, he had some sort of crazy job in the "import/export" business dealing with wines or something. Whatever that was supposed to mean, he had to go on trips to Europe a lot. If you boldly said, "Dad, are you in the mob?" to him, he came back with, "HAHA Now where would you get an idea like that?" But he never denied it. He also made offhand remarks about "fixing" people or having to "take care of business." I remember several occasions on which I rode with him to a liquor store only to wait in the car while he went in to "discuss something with the owner." He always came back out with unmarked manilla envelopes.

My father also has a meat fixation. By this, I mean that he is as carnivorous as a person can be without losing all of their teeth to scurvy. At some point in time my Mom got him a gas grill and ever since, he has gone on a mad grilling rampage, grilling everything in sight. He grills in the sun, the rain and even in the driving snow, which in Green Bay means that he grills through all 6 months of winter. This would all be well and good, but when he does grill (read: every day), he grills approximately 400 pounds of meat. The worst part about this is that when we sit down to eat he insists that you continue eating until you are about to throw up. Protests of being full fall on deaf ears and he continues to stuff your face full of steak or pork or chicken until the vomit spews forth like luscious frosting. Warnings that all of that meat might be bad for him elicits the response of, "What meat?" He refuses to eat a dinner with no meat in it, calling it "foo-fay" and complains, "Where be the meat up in this piece, yo?" YAY DAD!

A friendly neighborhood retard who is also a student of my brother's.

My Brother:

He's a ricer. That's all there really is to say about it. He puts a lot of money, time, and energy into whichever car he happens to be driving. I say "whichever car" because he goes through cars like Snak-Pak pudding. My parents gave him the 1-year old Dodge Neon that I had been driving when I went away to college. It was trashed within a year after he went through five head gaskets. My parents then bought him a slightly used Dodge Stealth. It was trashed within two weeks; one of the pistons broke through some part of the engine or whatever. My mom then gave him her Infiniti J30 that she was done with due to her buying one of those Acura SUV monstrosities. It was in mint condition because my mother had cleaned it daily with Q-Tips and parked it 4 miles away from other cars lest it be scratched. The engine was dead inside of a month. Of course, my parents got it fixed for him, so now he drives around in that car complete with "Fear This!" stickers and tinted windows. Unfortunately, I don't believe that they currently make tailfins aka. spoilers for that car large enough to satisfy him, so he is cranky and bitter. He doesn't believe that enough people are adequately able to fear him without it. But maybe my parents will just buy him another car and then all will be well.

He also plays the drums. Actually, he's quite good and could probably go pro if he had the determination and motivation to do so. As of now he teaches lessons to retarded children who want to become musicians and follow in the footsteps of other retarded musicians such as John Tesch and Billy Joel. And that one other retard who plays the banjo or whatever. In any case, he has three drum sets in the house and they are all in his studio in the basement so at random times during the day or night the light fixtures shake and the floors rumble as though it's time for the headlining dj at the rave and they've run out of 'E.' My parents are oddly tolerant of this, saying only, "Oh. He's drumming," and then going back to arguing about who is in whose way in the kitchen or watching Fox News. Unfortunmately, he is a jazz drummer, which means that as hard as he tries, he will never be able to truly succeed because he is a pasty, cracker-ass, whitey fool.

The fourth of July at my parents house is always a fun time, even though my family is nuts. My father always insists on buying bucketsful of illegal fireworks (and by 'illegal' I mean legal, Mr. friendly police officer-types) and we set them off in the driveway or on top of the dog. My brother is a pyromaniac so without fail he will set something on fire that is not supposed to be on fire, such as the trees, the house, and/or me which always results in my Dad shouting at him to stop it. FUN! My mom also gets into the festive spirit of things by building a cardboard boat, dressing up like George Washington, and sitting in it for exactly one hour (with the dog) until she is sure that she has paid tribute to his crossing of the Delaware. She also purchases a large cake with stars and stripes on it because buying a cake that is decorated to look like a flag shows support for our country's glorious independence. I always eat a big piece with stars on it in the hopes that one of the stars I am consuming and turning into feces is the one representing Texas.

Overall I'd say that my family was fairly normal compared to the other families that inhabit this beautiful country of ours. The fourth of July will be a good chance for me to sit down with them and catch up on all of the local gossip and other news that I've missed for the past couple of months and it will also be a good time to try in vain to escape my Dad's insistence that it isn't the fourth of July without watching, "Tora! Tora! Tora!" followed by "The Longest Day" followed by "Patton" followed by "The Patriot" followed by "Saving Private Ryan" followed by "Splash."

Going home will also be a good opportunity for me to remember why I am really glad I don't live in Wisconsin any more but a reminder that Wisconsin has a lot fewer and less freaky (albeit very fat) freaks than Washington seems to have. I will enjoy going to Green Bay's fireworks display and seeing mullets galore on victims of fetal alcohol syndrome as well as the scantily clad, buck-toothed redneck skanks. I will enjoy driving late at night knowing that all cars with me on the road are driving drunk because that's the way it's done, godammit. I will enjoy speaking with people I have not seen or heard from in months or years and trying to explain to them what I am doing with my life, eg:

Typical.ME: Oh, hey guys, what's up with you these days?

THEM: Just working at the grocery store like usual. What about you?

ME: Oh, well, I'm living in Seattle and writing and doing other work for Something Awful. It's a humor website.

THEM: A website? Like, on the internet?

ME: Yes.

THEM: Oh... I thought that the internet went out of business.

ME: (slaps forehead)

I can't wait. Now all that is left is for me to drug myself for the plane ride which is always an ordeal for me. My parents will be thrilled to see me when I step off of the plane a drooling, sleepy wreck. Maybe they will be so happy to see me that they will appease my wishes to not take 4,236 photographs of me doing extremely mundane things, such as DRINKING A GLASS OF WATER, WOW! or OH MY GOODNESS WATCHING TELEVISION! I am certainly not placing any bets in that department. It doesn't bother me, really, and I know that overall my family loves me and means well. I just wish that I could enjoy a quiet vegetarian meal that was cooked in the microwave.

WTC Update Flame Mail

I am sure that a lot of you remember my oh-so-controversial update from last Saturday regarding the World Trade Center and the attempts by friendly capitalist folks to cash in by selling patriotic garbage emblazoned with the stars and stripes. Well I have compiled a few of the flame emails I received for your perusing enjoyment! SURPRISE, PEOPLE ARE DUMB! Head on over to the features section and check it out, yo.

– Integral

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