Meeting Doug Holland

by Eel

I was going to be up in the Seattle area and wondered what it would be like to meet Doug Holland, who chronicles his daily life with a blog (Diary Of A Fat Slob), a recliner, and his name on the Anderson Valley Advertiser’s masthead. (He also writes a whole lot of movie reviews at www.itsdougholland.com)

I sent him an email.

“Hey, how ya doing?” I said. “Another good one in the AVA, way to go! Passing through Seattle this weekend and wondering what it'd be like to meet the guy who viciously stole my spot on the AVA masthead, and my role as designated crank in those pages. I could meet you on my way back through Sunday, but with your anti-social tendencies, umm, are you anywhere near I-5?”

“Everything is near I-5,” he said. “Jeez, I hate meeting people cuz I'm a hermit and always a disappointment to others. I have nothing much to say in person, which is why I write, but fuck it, if your standards are low enough, then why not? If you're buying I'll google around and find an expensive restaurant. If it's BYOB there's a good cheap burrito place. Lemme know.”

“Great,” I said. “I want the fool tour: Meet your annoying roommate Dean, confront a rat, and take a bus ride. It will be epic!”  

“Guarantee you will be disappointed in me,” he said. “Everyone is. No meeting anyone from the house, or my mother for that matter, just me. Last chance reminder: being a hermit I will probably be awkwardly silent and have little to say, unless you catch me in a weird mix of biometric loops…” 

“Awkwardly silent? So I would have to launch my egomaniac thing? Easy. Your hermit thing is similar to my can’t-handle-cities-thing, traffic, parking etc, so we’ll see if I even make it off the freeway,” I said. 

I arranged to meet him at a donut shop in South Seattle on my drive back south from the wedding in Bellingham. “You’re going to be disappointed in me,” he had said, but why would I have any expectations or care? (And why would I want to meet his annoying mother?)

We both wrote for the AVA but I had fallen out of favor after submitting an uncensored story about the Editor, my name had been taken off the mast head within a week, and replaced almost immediately with Doug’s.

My brother-in-law had put my revenge fantasy on Chat GPT: kidnapping Doug, holding him for ransom, and trying to wheedle a hundred bucks or so from the Editor. Within about four seconds AI spit out a 600 word story with a happy ending, not what I was looking for.

Before my drive down I got very complicated directions to Lucky Donut off the internet, drove through the lightly trafficked Seattle Sunday afternoon, and quickly found myself profoundly lost. I composed the next text in my head, a two-word message: “Lost. Cancel.”

Then I saw a familiar name, First Street, and soon 152nd Street, the exact location of Lucky Donut! I parked in the shade with a view of the front door and watched the jets glide in for landings, about one a minute skimming over the buildings, a very entertaining thing to do, although I avoid flying myself. 

His last text said, “Fat guy. Tie dye,” and as I read it he came walking across the lot with his famous belly leading the way, carrying a laptop and a bag with a few back issues of the AVA bulging out of the top.

I had seen a couple people leaving the donut shop while watching the planes making their approach to SeaTac but there was no one except the proprietor inside when we reached the front door. We shook hands, he apologized for no outdoor seating, which I had requested, and ordered our coffees. I knew I shouldn’t, having trashed out during the three-day wedding party, but I got a donut while Doug chose two cheese Danish and said, “I’ll probably get a dozen to go.”

We found some ridiculously tiny plastic chairs but then I saw a couple more comfortable-looking bigger ones stacked in the corner, covered in dust. I went up to the Asian donut-maker, asked him for some paper towels, and he handed me a damp washcloth that was sitting on the counter. I wiped my chair while Doug cleaned his with   his tie-dyed shirt sleeves.

I sat in my chair, he sprawled out in his, long legs stretching across the tiny room, and while we munched on the delicious pastries with the okay coffee, we started to talk.

Doug was owed a $400 a month annuity generated by a job he had had for ten years but whenever he tried to get it he was drowned in red tape. Same with Medicaid, the application process was too convoluted, complicated, and difficult for him, so he just gave up. “When I really need it I’ll get it,” he said. (Later I found out he was eligible for Social Security also, but refused to apply because he “didn’t want to be treated like a trained circus animal.”)

“But by then you might be too weak to go through with it,” I said.

“This friend who just died recently was helping me do it,” he said. So he was done with all that but he said it triumphantly, as if he had won! He’s not going to play their game.

(I offered an analogy about a weed dealer: There was this buyer in the neighborhood who could be abrasive, pushy, and nasty. After another one of her tirades my neighbor said, “I’m never going to deal with Catalina again!” And he never did.

“Micky,” I had said, “you expect the best from people, but I know how people are, and I’m willing to eat a little shit to get paid.”)

I told him about a few scams I had pulled and got his interest up. He wanted to hear what my best one was so I told him about when I had exploited a grey area, cashed in, and they’ll never know it happened. He enthusiastically approved of my scheme, how I had won one for the little guy. (Being a working man, he had never heard of SSI and I explained it to him.)

It struck me that this intelligent writer just couldn’t get in the mindset necessary to fight the system and get what he deserved, some healthcare. Maybe he had ADD, AHDD, or some PTSD? (I wondered if I could help him on that application?)

I told him that the AVA only published about one out of every five essays I send in and he seemed surprised. 

“You’re on a roll,” I said. “Just about every week recently I see you in there.” (Two months after meeting Doug I’m on a roll again, four straight weeks. I may have finally figured out what the Editor likes: Not too much deep self-reflection, not too much weed, not too much Mexico. A little less me, and a little more just what happened?)

“Yeah,” he said. “I’m trying to send them in once a week.” His recent ones were about doing someone’s laundry, a confrontation with a rat in a trap, and observations about the constant construction in his changing neighborhood. All were the type of interesting real life stuff that balances the AVA’s serious politics, my goal also.

I told him that a story I worked a lot on had been rejected, I’d cut out huge chunks of personal interactions and complaints, had resubmitted it, and then they ran it.

“I never change anything for anyone,” he replied.

“Oh yeah, I’ve written a couple letters-to-the editor where I disagreed completely with the Editor but never sent them, though it probably wouldn’t have mattered,” I said. “Once I had a sort of risque story but before I sent it in I removed the word ‘clitoris’ and replaced it with ‘breast.’ They ran the story but I noticed that ‘breast’ had disappeared.”

The proprietor said the place was closing. 

“Just five more minutes?” I asked.

“No,” he said emphatically.

(As we were leaving I asked when he started making the donuts and he said at 1:00 am. Just you I asked? Him and another guy he said.)

The display case was empty, we walked across the parking lot to my car, and I asked Doug if he knew of a sports bar nearby. The 49ers were playing the Rams and I wanted to catch the end of the game, but he had no idea where to go.

I gave him a copy of my children’s story compilation and my English-Spanish dictionary and headed off to look for the game. He left to find his bus home, stopped and turned, and said, “Thanks for not kidnapping me.”



  1. Though I have been accused of TMI, ie unnecessarily descriptive, I’ve never met a character like this Doug guy before. One day he might describe the sound of his turd plopping into the john, and last month when he really had to go he dropped trou and laid a pile in the middle of the bus station on his way to work, noting helpfully that it was still there on his way back home. That could be taken as a deep societal statement and attack on Seattle government for having NO bathrooms available for the working stiffs and crazies he encounters, which are somehow often irresistible to read about. Or I just have to get out more...Eel

    1. Not TMI, JEI. Just Enough Information, thank you. I've never met Doug, and the man you had coffee with sounds the same in person as on line.

    2. It's a curious experience, reading about meeting someone you've met, from the other guy's perspective.

    3. How do we know this so-called "Eel" is a real person and not a literary concoction of your fevered, unemployed mind?

      Regardless, the line “I’ll probably get a dozen to go" had me rolling, heh

    4. How do we know anything? Maybe it's all from my imagination, everything since the 1990s, including you. Or maybe I'm Banksy.

    5. Now I am actually chuckling out loud, though i detest "lol." (Eel impersonator)

    6. "I'll Probably Get A Dozen To Go" should be the title...Eel

    7. How do we know anything?



    8. ""I'll get a dozen to go" will probably be my last words.

    9. > How do we know anything?

      Most people don't, me included.

      Nice enough song, but... TMBG sounds so distinctively TMBG even on a first play it sounds familiar.

    10. I've been listening to, and, for the most part, enjoying TMBG since the 80s. That's something like 40 years unless I got a finger shot off in a tragic movie accident. There's something about how they've grown and changed, capitalized on their meager fame without selling out, and always sounding sort of the same and a little different that keeps me coming back. I have a few of their albums on my playlist -- not as many as John Prine or Dylan or Leonard Cohen or even the Beatles, but they keep changing and keep sounding pretty much the same. They continue to challenge their fans but make it look easy. They comfort me, but never let me stay comfortable. They're the soundtrack to what's always going on just around the corner.

      . . . and it always looks and sounds like they're having fun doing it. And, naturally, they're deadly serious. Their name is a description of their music and it's about time we had a review of that movie unless you've already reviewed it in which case I'll keep trying to get off drugs, but these days they're all cardio drugs and I'm not ready to pull the plug.

      Life is absurd and TMBG is absurd. A match made in heaven and hell.


    11. 40 years, jeez, they must be as old as we are. If the band's gonna sound alike on most songs, at least they sound good. Not like Creed.

      Is TMBG related to the movie? Which I've heard is good but never seen it.

    12. Well, the Johns attended High School a year apart in Lincoln, Mass (not far from Boston) and moved to Brooklyn, to the same apartment house the same day, after they went to different colleges (don't think either graduated, but this is all from memory). So they started playing together when they were about 22 in the late 70s, got a record contract with a small label in 81, and dropped their first album in 82. By 85, they were climbing the national college station top 100 list, and they've been climbing since, so I guess they're about your age, Doug.

      The movie They Might Be Giants, which I think is top notch, was released in 1971, and it is quirky like the Johns, so they named themselves (and later the sidemen they hired) after the movie. As you know, I know nothing about movies, but I think They Might Be Giants (the movie) is terrific. The supermarket scene is one of the better scenes in movies. I forgot what the question was, but I hope I answered it.


    13. The movie is one of so many I've heard of all my life, heard it's good, but somehow never seen. It's on the list now, grazi.


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