Friday, September 01, 2006

Tips and Tricks For the Bus-Riding Gentleman

Travel is becoming increasingly hard these days. Rising gas prices have effectively ended the era of the affordable road trip, and the combination of bad service, ridiculously high ticket prices and overreaction to "terrorism" have ruined the airline industry (which was ALREADY losing money anyway). And don't even think about taking a train anywhere... you'd be better off buying two plane tickets and flushing one of them down the toilet.

No, the only viable cross-country mode of transportation for the average joe these days is the bus. I know a lot of you don't want to admit this, but unless your family is pretty much well off (or has saved up for a few years), you're probably not going to be able to afford to take any family vacations these days without the bus. It's an unfortunate situation that we have to accept, since the airline industry can only go down from here, and the "alternative fuels" crap with the corn oil is just not going to work any time soon.

So, here is a brief guide to those of you still willing to shell out a couple hundred dollars for a trip across the U.S., as written from the perspective of someone who just got back from a 50 hour bus trip.

1. Pack light.
The more luggage you pack, the more luggage you will lose. The bus will have to stop at least every 6-8 hours (or less), and with every meal stop is a new driver or a new bus. If you think that those greasy mullet-headed bagjockeys give a goddamn about your luggage, just take a peak at the unloading area. Chances are that they'll be pulling your bags out of the bus and throwing them at the ground as hard as they can. They only care about their $5.50 an hour, so don't pack anything valuable, or if you do, put it in a carry-on bag. The carry-on bag is extremely important, but I'll cover that more later.

2. Be a "Seat Republican".
If you're not careful, you will be stuck with the most miserable seat in the bus. It is important to be vigilant about your seat. If you get up, someone will take it, even if you're just getting up to go to the lavatory in the back of the bus (which is NOT advised for completely different reasons as well). This is why you must be a Seat Republican.
In other words, you must not empathize with any of your fellow passengers. You must not let your guard down. You must not show mercy. This is in stark contrast to the Seat Democrat, who lets his conscience get in the way of his own personal comfort. You have to get used to being a complete asshole if you want to keep from going crazy, and so it is necessary to be a Seat Republican.
The first step is to keep an eye on your fellow passengers. Is there one particular passenger than sees him/herself as the leader? If so, this person will most definitely try to tell the other passengers the "rules" of the bus, including how long they should take at each stop, which cafe they should all eat at, etc. The most important thing you must know about the "leader," however, is that he or she will always try to form a line to get on the bus a second after everyone gets off at a stop, since all the passengers are forced off the bus whenever there is a driver change). Of course, a few people will see this person waiting to get on the bus and will immediately form a line behind him or her, meaning that it is basically impossible to go get a cup of coffee or use the restroom without being stuck with the piss seat.
This person is the Alpha Seat Republican. They will always get the best seats, and will always ruin the entire bus trip for everyone else. The only method of combat is to become a Seat Republican yourself. Get in line right behind this person, even if your legs hurt from unnecessarily standing in a line for an hour and a half while your bus driver pinches a loaf. That hour and a half is nothing compared to the eight hours of sitting in an aisle seat next to a baby that is crying while pulling your hair and then throwing up and pooping on you at the same time.

3. Sit strategically.
Part of being a Seat Republican is knowing where and how to sit. First, always sit in the middle of the bus. The front of the bus is always filled with crying babies and old ladies that want to talk to you, while the back of the bus is filled with the same people that rode in the back of the bus in grade school. The middle of the bus is relatively quiet, and if the acoustics are just right, you should be able to block out most of the sound. Second, always ALWAYS get a window seat. Every window on a bus has a strong air conditioner right below it that blows away shit smells from the lavatory and keeps you from boiling in your own B.O. Don't be fooled by the overhead twisty-type air conditioner, it doesn't work.

4. Be ruthless.
Once you've chosen your spot, you must keep it. Sitting in a window seat is alright, but you'll never get to sleep if you have to sit next to someone. If you keep the seat next to you open, chances are that it will be filled by a 400-pound guy that spreads his legs out as far as he can. There are several methods of keeping this seat to yourself.
The first method is the "I brought too much luggage" maneuver. This is where your carry-on luggage pays off. Simply choose your seat and place the luggage in the seat next to you, and then either don't make eye-contact with anyone walking past your seat, or adopt a Johnny Rotten-esque sneer. Most people will be too shy to ask you to move your luggage until the bus is absolutely full except for your seat. This method is even more effective if you sit in the aisle seat and put your bag next to the window while the bus is loading. People definitely won't want to climb over you or ask you to get up while a bunch of people are waiting behind them.
The second (and best) method is the "sleeping baby" maneuver. Once the sun has set, simply take off your coat and place it over your head. Then either sprawl out over both seats or put your luggage next to you. People will definitely not want to mess with a sleeping guy, especially one with B.O. as bad as yours (and trust me, after 24 hours you will smell like the inside of a Subway restaurant).


5. For god's sake, don't watch any of the movies.
When bus drivers pick movies for the passengers to watch, they basically just go to a pawn shop and pick out 20 movies out of the bargain bin at random. Unless you're particularly fond of watching "Action Jackson" and both "Big Momma's House" movies, I suggest you find another way to occupy your time.
Of course, you could always bring a book. This is not advisable if you're hesitant to be a Seat Republican, though, as anyone sitting next to you will invariably start to ask you all sorts of questions about it, as if you were giving a book report. These people are as bored as you, and will resort to any and all topics of conversation just to keep from going crazy themselves. If you absolutely must bring a book, don't bring a sci-fi book, since then it will be very hard for you to explain the plot of it to your neighbor without sounding like a nerd, or a moron, or a nerdy moron. The ultimate bus book is "It," since any conversation about the book ends after only two sentences ("What is that book about?" "A clown that kills children.")
The best option is to listen to music, though. If you can bring enough music to last you the entire trip, do it. Wearing headphones also has the added bonus of keeping any uncomfortable conversation to a minimum, especially if you listen to Marilyn Manson or Slayer or some other band that makes people uncomfortable to be around you.

And finally...

6. Keep an eye on your bank account.
As stated before, every bus company is completely manned and operated by minimum-wage-slaves. This goes for the customer service reps as well, who also have thick Southern accents and use phrases like "six ways from Sunday." These people don't care about you, they only care about keeping their jobs and continuing to feed their twenty stepchildren wet cat food. They WILL mess up your ticket, especially if there's more than one stop on the way to your destination. I recommend buying your ticket online (after making ABSOLUTELY sure you've got your information correct) and then only dealing with a customer service rep once something has screwed up. And again, keep an eye on your bank account after buying your ticket, and don't be surprised if there's a computer error and $900 is charged to your account instead of $50. Remember, bus companies have to refund your money if you don't claim your ticket, even if they say they don't. Just keep fighting them.

Keep these pointers in mind for YOUR next bus trip, considering that I haven't dissuaded you from actually riding the bus. Ask yourself whether 48 hours of your time is really worth an extra $300 before you rule it out.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Never again.

For my upcoming trip to Texas, I've decided that I'm not going to fly. Nope, it's the Greyhound for me. From now on, I'm only flying under extreme conditions, and by extreme conditions I mean a family member is dying or there's a sudden epidemic of tiny, biting dogs in Washington State and they need to evacuate. That would be terrible.

Why am I willing to spend three or four days on a bus as opposed to half a day on a plane? Well, for one thing, a bus is much less aggrivating. No one ever delayed a bus for nine hours because the driver woke up late. You don't get charged $400 (at the very cheapest) for a bus ticket, nor do you have to reserve your ticket five months in advance in order to get anything even close to a good deal. And you don't need to wait overnight to take a shuttle bus from the bus station to your destination because, get this, you're already on a bus!

As if flying weren't bad enough, apparently it's now illegal to take liquids onto planes, because terrorists might hide a bomb inside a shampoo bottle or something. According to Homeland Security, the terrorists are "always looking for ways to strike us, and will never do the same thing twice." However, if that were true, they'd never try to hide a bomb in a shampoo bottle again, so what the hell. Besides, the next logical step is that some terrorist is going to hide a few pounds of C4 up his ass, and then we'll all have to get full cavity searches every time we get on and off a plane. This is going to happen, too, mark my words, and it will ruin the airline industry. No one wants to have a finger shoved up their ass twice at every connecting flight just so they can go play slots in Vegas. Well, most people don't, anyway.

At what point do we stop letting this kind of thing slide? When do we finally throw up our hands and say "I don't care if I'm fucking safe, I'm just sick of the damn regulations"? It's not as if any of us is REALLY safe, anyway. Even if we opened up all the borders and let in every unshaved, jittery guy with a turban, the chances of you getting killed by one of his bombs would still be less than the chances of a drunk driver plowing through your house and killing you in your sleep, or the chances of you getting mugged on the street by a dude named "Babyfeet," or the chances of you just randomly having a heart attack and dying even though you ran a mile every day while eating Bran Flakes cereal with skim milk and soy milk mixed together.

Terrorism doesn't make it onto my top five list of fears, and I don't even own a gun. You know what scares me more than terrorism? Looking into a mirror in the bathroom and thinking I might see a scary face in the corner of my eye for a split second. And that's not even a plausible fear! Hell, I'm more afraid of using a public restroom than I am of terrorism.

Besides, unless you live in a high profile city like New York, Washington DC, Seattle or Los Angeles (all of which vote Democrat, mind you), you don't really have to fear terrorists at ALL. You think al Qaeda is really going to crash a plane filled with bombs into your local city hall/tavern in Nutsack Falls, Ohio? Think again, Jethro.

Really, if ANY other reason were used to justify all this new bureaucratic bullshit than terrorism, you can bet the Republicans would be up in arms about how the government is trying to "control their lives." But no, they're afraid of terrorists. Fucking terrorists. You might as well be afraid of ghosts or not getting enough presents from Santa Claus, for chrissakes. You fucking cowards.

Friday, August 11, 2006

When I die, I want to be buried in mashed potatoes

I decided recently to go on a fast. I don't know why, I just felt like it. The only things I'm ingesting are liquids and raw vegetables, which I am eating very sparely. For example, today I just grabbed an uncooked potato and cold ate that thing. I just ate it without even thinking about it, like it was a completely normal thing to do, like I was a Texan.

The fast will last about three weeks (exactly 21 days), and as of right now I'm up to day three. I figure I'm at that age where I can do stupid things like this and people will just go "Oh, that rascal. He's not eating any food." I need to come up with more stupid things to get out of the way before I turn 21 and start drinking and doing stupid things at the same time.

We'll see how this fast goes, and if I actually manage to make it all three weeks, which might be hard since I'll be visiting Texas in a couple weeks and you can't not eat food in Texas. I'll tell you, Texas may be a state of retarded man-children, but damn if they can't make a good meal.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Is anyone still reading this?

Sorry I've been AWOL for a month , but I recently decided that I'm totally tired of Biscuits for Breakfast now. I'm tired of drawing it, thinking up comics for it, or even looking at it. To me it just looks so bad, I can't stand it.

This happens all the time with webcomics, though. An artist will write himself into a hole, or he'll set his own standards too high and become disappointed with his work, or whatever. That's the way it goes. I've always been notoriously slow with my updates, but especially the last half-year or so, because I really just wasn't into it. Sorry.

So let me just finally announce it all official-like: I'm done drawing Biscuits for Breakfast. No, I won't finish the plot line or end it in any sort of graceful fashion. I'm going to do this like I'm tearing off a band-aid. Besides, I think the only people who would have been disappointed by the comic's ending (or the plot being left wide open) are people that I've already told about it personally.

However, I realize how much this sucks if you actually WERE a fan. The news on THAT front is that I'm starting a new comic, which I've drawn about 11 strips for so far. Once I can get the site going, which should take another week, I'll have that mother going and we can get back to business. It's called "Solid Gold Mummies," it's written by me, and exquisitely drawn by my brother, who assures me that he won't let his hectic schedule of digging for bones and screaming at his dog get in the way of drawing new stuff for me. These comics are so easy for me to make that I'm seriously considering doing a Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule for them. Seriously.

When I move to the new site, I'll move all my old comics there, as a sort of "look at this crap I used to make isn't it quaint" archive of the past. I'm not just going to throw them in the dumpster... after all, they took up at least two years of my life. Though they may have grown into greasy, back-talking adolescents, they're still my children. I'm not disowning them, I'm just kicking them out of the house. Plus, I still like writing on this here blog, and the updates will be more common from now on, believe me.

As for Biscuits for Breakfast... well, I'll see what happens a year or so from now. If my drawing class this fall (!) actually turns out to be helpful, maybe you'll see their glorious return. Don't worry too much about it for now, though.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

A story I forgot to relate about Canada

It's pretty lame that I'm making another post on a blog about some stuff I did on vacation only a little while after the last post, like I'm some loser that doesn't have anything better to do than write stuff on the internet. I pine for the days of yesteryear, when losers were cool dudes with leather jackets, who drove around in Mustangs, snorting cocaine and pushing over motorcycles starting a domino effect and ruining a bunch of bikes because they were cheated at a poker game or they lost some money at Keno. Now losers are just guys who type shit on the internet and people are like "fuck you, you're such a loser." There's no glory in it, no interesting stories to relate about it, nothing anyone would want to hear. You can't relate your internet stories to friends at a dinner party and be all like "Oh yeah, I saw this really mediocre website with like pictures of cats, so I sent the guy a really mean email and told him his cats were ugly."

But here I have a REAL story. It's not quite a funny story unless you think it's funny that I could have drowned, but I guess that's funny in its own way too.

I had decided to take the canoe out into the lake by myself, since our cabin came with a free canoe and our neighbors weren't using it because they were too busy being loud and stinking. Of course, my first mistake was that I was taking the canoe out by myself. The thing was huge, and not like a rowboat with the oars being held in place with rungs on the sides. If you wanted to go a different direction in the boat, you had to switch sides with your oar and paddle like a son of a bitch, meaning that I always had a choice of either going left or right at any given time.
My second mistake was wearing shoes and socks in the canoe, along with a long sleeve flannel shirt and a pair of Aviator sunglasses. Of course with an outfit like that, it was a given that I would flip my boat over the first two times I tried to get in, completely soaking me. My third mistake was not taking that as a sign to just go inside and change my clothes and enjoy some delicious hot chocolate. I could have done that at home.
My fourth mistake, and probably the worst one, was not noticing that it was a particularly windy day, and that the water was behaving more like a rapidly flowing river than a lake. Once I finally managed to successfully get the canoe into the water with me in it (the canoe, not the water), the boat was immediately pulled downstream (downlake?) at a speed of roughly twenty miles an hour. My dock disappeared from view about three minutes later, and it was about then that I decided I could barely even steer this damn thing, let alone paddle it back home. Luckily, my canoe managed to smash into someone's floating dock, and the rope at the end of the canoe snagged onto a piece of wood before I was pulled further away.
I had to make a decision at that point. I could either scramble onto the unstable dock and call for help, potentially humiliating myself, or I could jump into the water and try to pull the boat to shore, also potentially humiliating myself, but hopefully less. Mistake number five was jumping into the freezing water and basically going into shock for ten seconds. I grabbed the rope and wrapped it around my arm three times before pathetically doggy-paddling towards the nearest shore (I was at a FLOATING dock, mind you). I then proceeded to walk along the shallower waters, latching onto docks and struggling to keep my boat with me as the current threatened to steal it from me. This was, of course, still easier than actually pulling the thing onto dry land and heaving it that way, since I would still have to cut through peoples' properties to get back to my particular piece of shore. This didn't stop people from occasionally launching barbs at me from the safety of their beach chairs, though. "You know, canoes are much better when you're actually inside them, eh?"
Had both my hands been free at the time, I probably would have flipped them off, but instead I just shouted "Yeah, I guess."

What I Think Of Canada

Canada has been kicked around by Americans for a long time now. I mean, there's just so much about Canada to make fun of, like the fact that they pronounce things differently from us! Also, they have that horribly misguided "socialized medicine" policy, which (get this) allows ANYONE to get health care! Those obviously don't understand that doctors won't do their job correctly unless they're paid ungodly amounts of money to do very little work, and that they get sloppy when they have to operate on poor people. Come on, Canada.

But really, Canada's all right. After spending a week there, the only problems I had were the extremely high price of food (eight bucks for a six pack of soda?!?), the poor exchange rate (which is actually America's fault), and the accents of the French Canadians.

Let me elaborate on that for a moment. I don't mean any actual disrespect to French people (or even French Canadians... Reclamare...). The French language is beautiful, and the French Canadians are a proud people, or so I assume from all the complaining they do about making Quebec its own country, but holy SHIT the French Canadian accent is grating. It's more guttural sounding than proper French, for one thing... like a German guy who learned French and then had his tongue cut in half down the middle. Our downstairs neighbors kept mouthing nonsense words to their baby to make it stop crying, but it came out as an extremely loud "GUIIIIIHHHhhhhhh!" And they would do this for hours! How could they spend so much time basically shouting in their baby's face and then go for so long without changing its diaper that the smell literally travelled out their windows and into ours before embedding itself in the fabric of our furniture, only to make itself known again whenever we sat down?

And another thing: I don't know if it's like this all over Canada, but the drivers in British Columbia are some of the shittiest drivers I've ever seen, and I've been to Texas. EVERYONE'S a tailgater, and nobody even thinks about driving the speed limit. That goes for city driving, too: you can't make a left turn without some dude cutting in front of you, or blasting past you when you're trying to stop for a pedestrian. Incidentally, I don't think I saw one police car for the entirety that I was up there. Canadians seem to just take all their bad driving for granted, though, and don't even seem to get angry at the people that are inconveniencing them by driving the speed limit. I didn't get the finger once, or even garbage thrown at my car. Wish I could say the same about Spokane.

But the positive aspects of Canada. The border guards never even checked my car (even though I was a lone, unshaved American with dirty hair and only one bag of luggage), unlike the American guards, who stopped just short of strip searching me and taking my car apart to find marijuana hidden in some secret compartment of my 1994 Ford Aspire. The Canadians were friendly and never treated us like tourists, even when it was extremely obvious that we WERE tourists. The legal drinking age is 19, so I was able to just walk into a bar and order a drink without even getting carded. Also I saw a house that was actually converted from old-timey river boat. You'd probably get the neighborhood association pounding at your door if you tried that around here.

So anyway, enough about Canada. I'll try to get the new comic finished by tomorrow, and maybe I'll also be able to unveil the first comic of my new college newspaper series, "Generic College Newspaper Comic Strip." It stars two college students that make jokes about drinking and how hard their classes are. Bet you can't find any OTHER webcomics like THAT.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Vacation time

I'm going to Canada for a week for a vacation (or "holiday" for you British types). I'll most likely be back on July 8th, and will have hell of new comics up shortly after. I'll have lots of free time to do nothing while I'm up there, so hopefully I'll be drawing comics while doing nothing.

In other news, where are you, Reclamare? Buy your stupid computer so you can make some more stupid comics, stupid! Stop having a broken computer!

Also, my brother has apparently disappeared somewhere in Texas and nobody can find him or even call his cell phone. He occasionally calls us and leaves us with cryptic messages about where he is or what he's doing, but all I've been able to piece together is that he's living in an abandoned farm house and hiding bones in the desert or something. If you're reading this, Josh, come back home and take care of your damn dog. Wherever you are.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

New comic

That's right. Also, I just noticed that it's been exactly a month since I posted last. Whoops.

Yes, I'm still alive

Sorry about the lack of updates... I've just been really apathetic about all this for a while. I thought I could revitalize my interest in this with that Burning Barrel business, but no one involved seems to want to update their comics (or buy a new computer... RECLAMARE...), so I'm just a little bit off right now.

Plus, I've been a little depressed lately. In addition to the usual "having to find a part-time job" bullshit associated with summer, I also found out something fairly disturbing about our next door neighbors. For the last two years, their dog (who lives in their back yard and is apparently not allowed inside) has barked incessantly, day and night, just loud enough to force me to find a source of white noise to help me sleep. During the winter it's usually a humidifier, and during the summer an air conditioner or a fan pointed directly at my head. This doesn't make for the most comfortable night's rest, but it does the job. However, I noticed last month that the next door neighbor's dog had inexplicably stopped barking, and was now making muted raspy "coughs" instead (which are just as incessant). After a bit of research into the matter, I found out that the owners of the dog were just as annoyed with it as I was and actually had it's vocal cords removed surgically. I just wonder if our other neighbors (who incidentally work for the Spokane Humane Society) had anything to do with it.

Anyway, I guarantee you that I am currently drawing a new comic, which I hope to turn out in the next day or two. I even have two panels drawn and inked, so that should get me started. It will probably be pretty good, but we just won't know until I'm finished, will we?