As a tribute to my late friend Caroll Spinney — the man behind Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch — I am telling the backstory of my Grouch-inspired character Gothic Diana Ross.
Oscar the Grouch is not a bad person, despite what millions of kids big and small may think. Oscar just wants to be left alone. Like Oscar, Gothic Diana Ross just wants her solitude. Just like Maria knocking on Oscar’s can just to ask him nosey questions, Diana’s neighbor Bernadette keeps knocking on the door of the slate Victorian house which she and The Midnight Supremes share.
Can you blame them for getting mad?
A lifelong Diana Ross fan, I appreciate the diva singers most. Back in 2017, a few months after I left a toxic marriage with a communal narcissist, I met another diva online. Because my post-traumatic stress disorder was so raw, I would lash out at people whom triggered me so easily. I had felt like everyone was a narcissist after leaving one. Sadly, I had gotten very upset at a certain gothic diva and I feel bad about it.
Combining my love for music, all things gothic and my friend Caroll Spinney, I created Gothic Diana Ross and The Midnight Supremes as a nod to some of my favourite performers.
Eventually I got to apologize to the gothic singer and felt a lot better.
Writing the conflict scenes between Gothic Diana Ross and her annoying neighbours Peppi and Bernadette “Bern” Moran Cacca feels very cathartic for me. Sonia Manzano (“Maria”) is quoted as having said Caroll playing Oscar “saved a lot on therapy” in the book “Jim Henson: The Works.”
Hopefully my stories will help bring the world a little joy, and I get to leave the world a little better someday far from now when I am gone.
Rest in peace, dearest Caroll Spinney. I miss you.
“Why are people up here in Albion so anti-Reynolds? I have done nothing but help this community. The other day, I told an obese lady about the new gym I wanted to build. I wanted to help her. But, noooo, people are so rude and mean. They do not appreciate my help! After all, they shut down The Mathew B. Johnson School of Intrepid Arts — The Best Martial Arts School around I could have taught them kiddos how to make PSI Balls!!”
“Those are fake.”
“I know. But but makes us money, and I want to teach ’em! This whole state needs a good schoolin’! This whole world!”
“Hey Barry, why don’t you call that Bernadette moron, the bog witch who sings opera for charity?”
“How about we drive down to Manteno. Maybe we can try their porto potty business since their number always goes to voicemail. I can only listen to that recording of them polka-rapping about porto potties so many times.”
“We have nothing better to do. I am bored. Let’s go!”
“Take that ugly desk with you. Maybe you can give it to her to pay for our public-relations clean-up act.”
Barry and Terry Reynolds run to Manteno.
“Turn left. Then turn left. Then turn left. Recalculating.”
“That dang GPS, why does it screw up so much? It has one job!” Terry exclaims.
Terry and Barry arrive at Peppi’s Portapotties.
“Dang! Just missed ‘em. They closed ten minutes ago. Let’s do a drive-by past their house.”
The bumbling idiots drive past the Caccas’ run-down shack. Nobody’s home. Spotting the beautiful slate, Victorian Gothic home next door, their curiosity draws them in.
The Westminster Chimes are played as they ring the doorbell. A 5’10”, slender, medium-skinned Gothic beauty answers the door, wearing an all-black dress and fishnet stockings.
“Yeah?” Gothic Diana Ross answers.
Barry’s stoic face turns a slight smile.
“Umm, hi Miss. We will not take up much of your time.”
“You’ve already taken up too much.” Diana quips.
“What’s the deal with your neighbors? The Caccas?”
‘Oh man. Just don’t.”
Diana inches away and begins to close the door.
“Wait? Miss! We have this $1000 desk we can give you, if you just talk to us!”
“I’ll tell you where to put that desk.”
Diana slams the door and goes back to singing rehearsal with the Midnight Supremes.
“Barry, I gotta whizz.”
“Yup. You’re the boss.”
“No Diana is. Let’s go.”
Barry and Terry pull into the nearest corner Wally Green’s. While Terry is emptying her bladder in the washroom, Barry finally answers the sales clerk who asked him six times if he needed help finding something.
“Yeah, do you sell those SpamMaster 2000 CD-ROMs?”
“No, sorry. Are you looking to send unsolicited emails? I got a guy.” Drugstore clerk, covert narcissist and Elvis impersonator Robbie Hurlbutt slips Barry the number for Pat Splatt, petty criminal and junk emailer.
Barry and Terry meet Pat Splatt at midnight on the street, not far from the interchange bridge under which Kankakee troll Leona Krabalsky is sawing wood. The three shadowy figures shake hands and part ways. The Reynolds drive onto Interstate Route 57 North, toward Chicago-O’Hare Airport, and board a plane for their monthly vacation.
“We’re headed to Australia and we’re so stoked!” reads the craption below Terry’s Fakebook post, loaded with the hashtag #RichPeopleProblems. Terry cannot wait to take photos of her legs and feet.
Pat Splatt hopes to buy an overly lifted truck to compensate for his lousy personality with all the money he makes spamming on behalf of the dysfunctional former leaders of the Mathew B Johnson School of Intrepid Arts. Brandon Dixon’s imbecile machine lot is booming with their end of year sales and Pat hopes to wheel-and-deal himself one.
While Scary Barry and Terry Reynolds spend loads of money they got from who-knows-where, seeing the sites of Australia, email junker Pat Splatt is busy sliding unwanted emails into the inboxes of college students all over the USA. Pat spams on behalf of disbarred college president Reynolds about the wonders of PSI Balls and how Barry Reynolds can teach them to defend themselves from psychic attacks. A second wave of spam stinks up the computer mailboxes of students at UCLA, Yale, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Colgate, Boston University, Loyola, Olivet Nazarene, Baylor, Kent State, Oregon State, Nebraska and Iowa City, spewing propaganda to try and connive random students into taking Barry’s online martial arts courses “because he is a nice guy who does a lot for the community.”
A sleeping Barry is awakened by an unexpected phone call.
“This is the Albion Health Department. We have received multiple complaints about a cockroach infestation at your compound.”
“It’s 3AM. Who the heck is this?”
“Huh? I don’t know where you are or what you’re talking about. We need you to rectify the infestation or we are going to have to condemn your property.”
“I’m in Australia on vacation with my wife.”
“Must be nice. I have not had a vacation in 21 years.”
Barry hangs up the phone and goes back to sleep. The Reynolds spend the day at their exclusive resort on Australia’s Gold Coast taking pictures of themselves and braggity-boasting on their Fakebook pages.
A month later, the relaxed, but tired couple heads home to their Albion McMansion. Several “Condemned” signs are seen posted all over their estate.
“What the heck now? After all we do for this county? This state? The entire Universe?”
Beep-Beep-Beep goes the Avelli Truck, lowering a shipping container on the grass outside the massive, now-condemned Reynolds residence.
“What’s this?” a stern Barry asks.
“Your new home. There’s even room for your desk.”
A truck from Peppi’s Portapotties pulls up, “King and Queen of the Throne” its lettering reads below a smiling cartoon depicting owners Bern and Peppi Cacca.
“His and Hers,” Peppi says to the Department of Health worker overseeing the Reynolds property seized by the City of Albion, Indiana as he sets up the two portable toilets.
“We are NOT going to sleep in there.” Barry says with his nose to the air, walking away from the metal shipping container.
“You can live in a dumpster. We won’t judge.”
Barry checks his bank account, hoping to stay in a swanky hotel. The robobank announces “Negative Forty-Nine Thousand, two-hundred twenty-four dollars.”
“Paaaaaaaaat!” Barry and Terry exclaim as they fall to their knees in unison, mad because their goose is cooked.
Much to the dismay of their narcissistic neighbors – entramanures and poopyburners Peppi and Bernadette Cacca – the beautiful dark ladies Gothic Diana Ross & The Midnight Supremes debut their new tune, “Upside Down.” This Manteno, Illinois cover group is happy to drown out the brown notes emanating from Bern’s kazoo, mouth and accordion.
“Where did all the trolls go?” Gothic Diana Ross asked as she walked under the dark underpass in Kankakee, near Brandon’s Imbecile Machines in the Used Car District.
”Dude, they are taking a dump all over the Internet,” Gothic Mary quips and the Midnight Supremes giggle.
”Yeah, they crawled out from under the bridges and onto the Interwebs again,” Gothic Flo advises the girl group on the way to their gig, so excited to be busy, unlike the trolls whose home they just passed through.
“Here I sit all broken-hearted, tried to crap but only farted,” a forlorn Bernadette “Bern” Cacca sings on her porcelain throne, practicing kazoo and accordion. She lights a fart, burns her doodoo in the fireplace, then makes a call to a Northwestern Illinois bar on her smell phone.
“Hi, my name is Bernadette Cacca. I’m a famous singer near Chicago.”
The bartender giggles.
“I have a wonderful offer to make your bar.”
“May…I take your order?”
“I would like to open a Poopy’s here in Manteno.”
“I thought you were from Chicago!”
The bartender continues to giggle as he hangs up on Bern.
To increase her bottom line of attention, money and bootlickers, communal narcissist Bernadette offers to sing and play her accordion cover songs at a charity event to raise money for the victims of the Russian war against Ukraine. She dreams about all the photo opportunities she can gain from her virtue signaling. She does not care about the efforts of living beings trying to stay alive, fighting or fleeing a psychopath trying to take over their beautiful country. She just loves to pretend.
Bern heads home from a long day working her and her husbands’ business Peppi’s Portapotties, excited to burn the porta-poopies in her fireplace, only to be interrupted by a phone call.
“Yeah, I am calling about your gig at the Gaslight Bar tomorrow night.”
“Oh hiiii! I am THRILLED about playing this extraordinary gig at 7:00 tomorrow night.”
“Good. We are calling to tell you about a slight time change. Due to staffing shortages, we need to move your gig back an hour.”
“I am a pillar of the community and a national treasure! Your tone is not appropriate for someone doing business. I would get used to people like me.”
“So are you coming or not? We have other guests who want to play and help—“
“Okay, okay, see you tomorrow. Don’t forget it!”
Bern teams up with local cybercrook Pat Splatt to develop her pretend money Craptocoin. The bum-waste-bin overlord thinks it is cute to sell Craptocoin at the charity event and decides she will solicit tips using her funny money.
“Hello Manteno! Thank you all for coming! Let’s raise some money! Gimme your requests! CraptoCoin only, my handle is @BMCacca! Maybe you already doing it, and that’s awesome!
ALSO, a shout-out to my extraordinary hairdresser @lilacroule from Croule, Young and Lovely who keep me lookin’ good! AND, my makeup by fabulous @marigoldyoung! So much love to their salon. Practices are things done more than one time regularly, and I have been practicing hard for tonight’s fundraiser! That’s why I call them practices!”
“And…without further ado, give it up for the Manteno Wonder herself, Mrs. Bernadette Cacca!”
A slow clap is heard, mixed in with hoots and hollers from Bern’s obsessed fanboys.
After finishing her last accordion cover tune for the first half of her set, “My Fart Goes Boom”, Bern runs to the washroom, humming “Let’s all go to the restroom” as she poops and farts.
Mrs. Cacca emerges, approached by a Chicago television reporter.
“Hi Bern. I would like to interview you. We got a press release—“
“Not now, after.”
“I have other stories to cover. Let’s do this now.”
“The show must go on.”
“I am from Ukraine and have family there.”
“Fair enough, let’s do this interview up on stage. We will both look awesome up there!” Bernadette gushes.
The Chicago TV reporter enters stage right, Bernadette stage left. Reporter Elena Emm stops to remember her questions so she can begin her interview.
An impatient Bernadette sighs loudly, whistles and hums.
“Why are you staring off into space? Are you in a fantasy world?” Bern snarks, snickers, thinking only Elena can hear her.
“I am blind,” the reporter advises the oblivious Bernadette, unaware a camera operator is filming the entire interview.
“Here let me touch your face,” the ableist and ignorant Bern belittles the Chicago TV news reporter, reaching for her face.
Elena knocks Bernadette unconscious with a single blow to her piehole, then proceeds to yeet her into the crowd of bootlickers.
“This show is getting entertaining” Gothic Diana Ross says to her bandmates, The Midnight Supremes, who are waiting in the wings.
“I may be visually impaired, but I’m not stupid” Elena Emm says to the crowd who had poured in to find out where their entertainer Bernadette had gone, only to have that communal narcadoodle chucked right into a pile of them, knocking the fanboys over like a set of bowling pins. Strike!
Happy she got a scoop on the poop-mistress extraordinaire, Elena and the news team head back to Chicago to produce their segment for the next morning’s newscast.
“Next up, give a hand for these lovely ladies, Gothic Diana Ross and the Midnight Supremes!” announces the emcee, who had called the Manteno girl group last minute to replace their annoying neighbor Bern Cacca on the bill.
“Why does your brother Damien keep buying pool toys in the middle of Winter?” Wally Green asks his Illinois pharmacy-chain clerk, Kankakee Elvis impersonator and covert narcissist, Robbie Hurlbutt.
Robbie says nothing, chooses to ignore his boss and keeps on stocking shelves as he hopes to leave early so he can skip out on closing.
“Has he moved a body or something?” Wally says of Robbie’s equally creepy and narcissistic brother Damien.
Robbie ignores Wally, finishes stocking and sneaks out the door while the store owner is not looking so he can head down to the bar. First, he has to meet his speedball dealer.
Robbie, high on uppers, spends 20 minutes chatting up the bartender, while other customers grow impatient and angry as he is holding up the mixing of their cocktails and the pouring of their beers.
Robbie downs his downers and chases them with prescription painkillers he stole from his elderly mother PJ.
The inebriated Elvis impersonator texts his brother Damien, hoping he will join him and take him home, however after multiple selfies and text messages saying how much he loves his brother, Damien does not reply.
Cinema-13 clerk, bulbous neckbeard and communal narcadoodle Damien Hurlbutt strokes his dayglow-orange facial coiffe, and sets out a clipboard containing a sign-up sheet requesting email addresses for a newsletter. A theater customer walks up to the movie theater counter and asks what the newsletter is about. “It’s just a newsletter,” the sneaky narcissist Damien replies in his typical smug tone.
After the picture finishes its run and the ushers escort all the guests, Damien collects the newsletter sign-up sheet and heads to his Bourbonnais neckbeard-nest to sleep on the floor. Before he can retire for the night, he get annoyed over the mess of texts and photos from his brother Robbie. Damien would rather sleep in his mess of plastic tubs, and boxes of the things he loves more than people, than head back to Kankakee to pick up a drunk. Thinking he can gain something from helping his brother, he drives down to the Kankakee bar at which Robbie is performing slurred Elvis Presley Karaoke. The two bumbling idiots get into Damien’s beat-up van and head home.
“What about my purple clown car?” Robbie asks Damien.
“Get it tomorrow.”
Damien gets a text from a coworker whose birthday is coming up soon. Knowing well it is illegal to text and drive, Damien messages his coworker, lovebombing her about the $50 gift card he is going to buy her, bragging about the surprise she clearly expressed she did not feel comfortable accepting.
After nearly crashing, Damien flips off the other driver and heads to Robbie’s Kankakee apartment, crashing on his floor instead.
Damien and Robbie wake up to snow on the ground. Damien retells the same story about his father N. Ron’s obsession with the weather channels he has already bored Robbie with at least 80 times now. Robbie leaves the room, stumbling on record albums he dumped all over the floor to get to the bathroom. Even though he is terrified of getting locked in the washroom while pooping, Robbie wants to get away from Damien.
Robbie emerges, and Damien pulls out the newsletter sign-up sheet, filled with names and email addresses. “Hey Robbie, my number-one brother? I would love to ask a favor from you. Can you contact Pat Splatt and try to sell him these email addresses? I collected them to send out messages getting out the good things us tender-hearts at the Bourbonnais Men’s Rights Activist (MRA) Club can do to help us men fight misandry. I would like to sell him a copy because I need the money to buy my coworkers gifts. I spent my paycheck already on action figures.
“What’s in it for me?” Robbie asks his equally self-centered brother Damien.
“Well, our theater has an extra Gothic Diana Ross poster from when we sponsored her show a couple years back.”
“Sold.” Robbie grins ear-to-ear and dials up Kankakee criminal and email spammer Pat Splatt.
The Hurlbutt brothers drive over to Pat Splatt’s flat, where the straggly long-haired Pat is busy harvesting emails from the Internet using his Spam-O-Matic computer program. The three group together to organize their petty crime.
“Damien, I can pay you per email reply, that’s it.”
“Oh come now!”
“Oh go now, Damien. That is my final offer. Take it or leave it. I don’t have to offer you anything.”
“I know, I know, I know…” Damien says like a broken record, mimicking a certain furniture commercial emanating from Champaign.
Damien reluctantly hands Pat the photocopied sign-up list containing contact information he collected from unsuspecting moviegoers.
Damien then heads to Wally Green’s to buy more pool toys and chucks them in his bathroom. After whizzing, he washes his hands with far more water than he needs and sprinkles the water all over the bathroom floor, leaving on the bathroom light and fan because he does not care.
Damien begins typing up his MRA “newsletter” in a word-processor program on his 10 year old desktop computer, resting atop a wooden folding table, the only piece of furniture in the entire room. The rotund neckbeard emails his diatribe while wearing his graphic tee displaying the text:
it to you
But I can’t
it for you.”
A few days go by, however nobody takes Damien up on his offer to join the Bourbonnais MRA Club. Nobody clicks on the ads for the 21 Conference either.
Damien realizes he needs to get ready for work now so he can make it on time after taking his two-hour shower.
Mr. Hurlbutt walks into the theater barely on-time. His boss, theater owner Konrad Teirant, calls him into his office.
Damien’s heart sinks and he utters a melodramatic “gulp” as he walks over to Konrad’s office.
“Damien, you really dropped the ball this time. I have been receiving numerous complaints from customers who have been getting emails about some misogyny club.”
“This is unacceptable. They told me they signed up for a newsletter here? I never ordered you to or anyone else to put out a call for contact information. Do you want me to get sued?”
“Well…no” an embarrassed-because-caught Damien tells his boss.
“Damien, you have been working here a long time. You know that if we want to gather contact information so we can sell it, that would come from me. And only so I can profit, not you Damien. You’re not that important. Not at all. In fact, I can fire you at any time. I am telling you that because I am your friend. Oh by the way, why do you wear that dumb fedora? It looks stupid. And wash your beard. It smells. Don’t tell anyone we had this meeting. Go home and stay home the rest of this week. I will call you about next week’s hours.”
An excited Damien rushes home to play with his pool toys because he is happy he has the week off, not wondering at all if his boss will even call him back to work the next week.
In walks Bern Cacca holding hands with her new lover, JB The Turd Burglar. Since her hubby Peppi is living in a half-way house, Bern thinks it is okay to date other men, including fellow communal narcadoodle Damien Hurlbutt. After all, what Peppi does not know won’t hurt him, thinks the self-proclaimed community pillar of excellence and Queen of the Porcelain Throne.
The Manteno moron spies her next-door-neighbor, Gothic Diana Ross, minding her own business drinking a caramel latte. Of course, Bern thinks it is cute to flex, as if Diana cares. “JB whispered in my ear some awesome news!” Diana rolls her eyes and looks away, keeping her mild amusement hidden beneath her stoic visage.
“Someone re-made the show ‘The Wonderful World of Dung’ and we are gonna watch it tonight!”
Diana changes her mind about eating the delicious Buckstars popcorn she had just bought.
“Fifth time today. Who is this moron?” Kankakee student and barista Ant D. Yu asks his partner.
“Hang up.” Dorian James says to Ant.
“Brandon’s Imbecile Machines. That’s it – I am blocking these fools.”
A knock is heard and Ant checks the peephole. The uninvited guest pounds the doorknocker.
Ant greets the visitor: “Oh, hi Sybil.”
“Hey Ant. Do you have any dog food? I am hungry,” the Credit Recovery Associates (CRASS) bill collector inquires.
“No Sybil. I told you before. We do not have a dog. But thanks for stopping by.”
“Okay. I did not know if you guys change your mind.”
“Have a good day Sybil.”
Ant closes the door, a disappointed Sybil Kibble heads back to her McMansion down the street. Her pleas for free dog food have all been met with disappointment. As she walks into one of her three garages, she checks her caller ID:
“BRANDON’S IMBECILE MACHINES
Sybil sees that this entity has called twelve times in the past three days and because of this, she blocks their number from calling again. She then heads inside and munches down on some dry doggie chow.
Manteno singer Gothic Diana Ross, leader of The Midnight Supremes, is busy pulling up her black fishnet stockings when her phone lights up.
“Who is this?” Di thinks to herself and checks her screen.
“Brandon’s Imbecile Machines? Block.”
The Midnight Supremes all cackle in unison.
Brandon Dixon, owner of Brandon’s Imbecile Machines, is getting frustrated by the lack of response to the new phone campaign for his lifted truck lot.
Ant Yu gets a call from an unknown number. He is in the habit of screening his calls and lets it go to voicemail. The next day, he checks his messages. Since “Brandon” had asked him to return his call without having given him a reason, Ant deletes the crapage and blocks the time-waster’s number.
Sybil gets a voicemail from Brandon and deletes it. Gothic Diana Ross does as well.
Brandon is again frustrated by the nonexistent return on his low-budget marketing investment for his overcompensated vehicle lot.
After seeing this commercial many times on PooTube, he calls up Kankakee huckster Pat Splatt.
The two team up with Elvis impersonator and covert narcissist Robbie Hurlbutt, to try and spam people all over Kankakee.
Pat Oswald Splatt, or POS for short, develops a Fakebook virus to steal accounts for Brandon. It is disguised as a video featuring a picture of Sybil Kibble eating dog bones. Robbie Hurlbutt had covertly taken it using his mobile phone when he had briefly worked at CRASS.
“Check this out, Robbie and Brandon!”
With a cheesy grin, Pat shows off his newly minted virus, disguised as a video, which he plans on sliding into Fakebook Martplace instant message boxes all over Kankakee County.
“Kankakee bill collector eats dog food for lunch” reads the caption below the fake video that is really a virus.
“Once people click on this pretend video, the virus will send you and I the users’ login credentials. We will start by replying to Fakebook Martplace ads. That way we will find suckers really easily.”
Pat, Robbie and Brandon share evil grins.
“I based the virus off code I used to program a broken 1989 Atari emulator, accidentally broken on purpose. Those were my script kiddie days, back when I used to try and own noobs.”
“You are a noob, Pat.” Robbie snickers.
Pat launches the virus and Robbie gets ready to collect the login credentials so he can pool them into a spreadsheet.
Days go by…nothing.
Pat tests the virus and it is operational.
“Are you sending the virus out, Pat? I am paying you to do this.” Brandon asks.
“I am sending but nobody is a-clickin.”
“How about we step it up and generate a whole bunch a windows?” Brandon asks Pat.
Pat modifies the virus code to replicate multiple windows featuring Sybil Kibble enjoying her canine cookies, Sybil stretching at her desk and a close-up of Sybil from behind. The recursive windows end up crashing some computers, however most machines fail to get infected at all; the ancient technology powering the virus gets caught by even the most basic pop-up killer.
Brandon storms in on a sleeping Pat Oswald Splatt, dreaming of opening up his very own click-farm, curled up in his computer chair listening to a Robbie Hurlbutt video on a loop.
“That’s it, I want my money back! I made nothing off your crappy viral marketing campaign!”
“Who-what-um-who is this? Hello?”
“Quit the drama! I want my money back!”
“Oh, hi Brandon.”
“Don’t hi Brandon me. I need my money back and I need it right now!”
“You will get your money back alright. Your bank charge failed because you had no money. You cheap fool!” The smug Pat exclaims at Brandon, falling out his squeaky metal chair.
Brandon laughs at Pat, pointing and mocking.
“Oopsie.” Pat giggles, gets up and chases out Brandon, who is now left to his own devices.
Poor Brandon and all those unsold compensation-mobiles.
“Hey there my ultra-cool and spooky neighbor! You have a beautiful voice! I am making masks out of old bed sheets and passing them out. Deeanna, would you like one?” communal narcissist Bern Cacca annoys her neighbour Gothic Diana Ross as she minds her own business doing work outside her Manteno home.
“These masks are better than other ones because they’ve been quality tested by me, and washed with Lysol.”
“Then can you please give me a donation to support my mask project? I wash all the money.”
“Ya know that expression, put your money where your mouth is?”
“I know it very well. I am a pillar of excellence, playing accordion covers of pop tunes to raise money–”
“If ya don’t go now, I will put your mouth straight to my fist.”
“Oh I gotta go baaaad. Time to light more farts to burn portapoopies! Maybe some of my own too…” Bern rambles on as The Boss Gothic Diana Ross is long out of earshot, resting quietly inside her slate Victorian mansion.
“Did you do those things to help, or to make yourself look good?”
“And how many times did you admit you did something wrong. Count them. I will wait. So will my visiting intern Gothic Diana Ross. She will take you to your cell. Do you prefer jagged rocks or bubbling excrement?”