Every year, newsweeklies around the country flatter their readers and suck up to advertisers with their annual "Best of [Your Town Here]!" issues. We've all seen them: page after ad-heavy page of "Winners!" selected by the popular vote of goopy, maladjusted citizens who'd rather stay home and fill out entry forms than hit the bars and find someone to fuck.

But not The Stranger We here at America's Hometown Newspaper™ have simply too much respect for our readers' intelligence, taste, and decision-making abilities to insult you with yet another lame-ass "Best of." For who can say what is truly the best? Does majority opinion rule? Do poor and/or brown people have any say in the matter? Ultimately, "the best" can only be decided on an individual level. So that's what we're doing.

The individual we've chosen is named Kevin. Kevin was born in Honolulu, Hawaii in 1980, but spent his formative years in Bremerton and the Tri-Cities before moving to Seattle in 1998. For the past year, Kevin has lived in a reasonably spacious one-bedroom apartment in the University District.

One man. One apartment. One task: to divine the BEST--and only the BEST--of 1407 NE 45th St, #12.

Best Book
Ice by Ice: The Vanilla Ice Story written by Vanilla Ice
(Avon Books)

This landmark of cultural literacy was found displayed discreetly on Kevin's living-room bookshelves. Kevin is quick to point out that it was a gift from a friend. The dog-eared paperback is prominently stamped "Property of Richland, WA Library," with a mournfully smeared stamp below declaring, "Chapter 11," indicating that the library decided to decommission the volume. This hasty move by the library clearly benefited Kevin, for although Ice by Ice, published in 1991, has since been disavowed by its changeable author--who claims that much of the biography was made up by his recording company to "clean up" his image--it captures the artist during his truer years, before his transition to the pseudo metal-head skate-punk of today.

Runner Up: The Trainable Retarded: A Foundations Approach by Bill R. Gearheart & Freddie W. Litton (Mosby)

Kevin and one of his ex-girlfriends, he explains, shared the same sense of "retard humor."

Best Video
Seven-Way Tie for First

It's always a challenge to pick the best movie from a collection as varied as Kevin's, which features VHS copies of everything from Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo to BASEketball. However, if we divide them into categories, the job gets easier. Best comedy goes hands down to Sam Raimi's Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn. Best drama? L.A. Confidential, no question. Best blaxploitation? Dolemite, in a waltz. It's in the best music category that the going gets tough. How does one choose between the store-bought copies of AC/DC: Let There Be Rock, Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars: The Motion Picture, and KISS Exposed without pausing to consider the volumes of dubbed videocassettes featuring footage of the Ramones, the Descen-dents, Jawbreaker, Big Black, Minutemen, and GWAR? One doesn't, that's how. However, an honorable mention must go to Cinema Beer Belly, a video compilation from Hopeless Records, including a clip by Winnipeg's Weakerthans. In a contest like this, everyone's a winner.

Best Art
Kevin's Collage Collection

In Kevin's junk drawer we found a series of perplexing but deft collage-cartoons. In one, a tubby manchild in a tank top stutters, "Uhhh huh huh, nnngghhh! W-why does god hate me?" and Satan, looking a little like Pac-Man, says, "Because god is a fucking sadist, you big, dumb piece of retarded fuck! I'll see you in Hell!" Satan reappears in most of the works, gleefully heckling those doomed to spend a long, cozy eternity with him: a happy nuclear family, disembodied babies spurting blood, Jesse Helms. Another work, clearly part of a different series, shows serious old men warning the world that "Kevin Jones is a child molester…. Christian families of America, LOCK UP YOUR SONS!"

Kevin candidly admits that these priceless and crumpled works, made by (who else?) an ex-girlfriend, explore versions of their then-shared passion: "We bonded," he says, "over retards and evil. She made me make retard noises all the time. And when she was bored, she'd make these drawings and send them to me." Sadly, when the relationship ended, the art stopped arriving in the mail. "I kind of burned out on it anyway," Kevin says.

Is it art? Absolutely. These collages are an excellent example of the merging of high and low culture, traditional and subversive techniques, all to deliberately offensive ends. With these vital works, Kevin's ex finds herself in the distinguished company of such artists as David Wojnarowicz, Barbara Kruger, and Paul McCarthy.

(However, we would like to remind Kevin that if he doesn't take proper paper-conservation measures, these priceless works will disintegrate like so much cigarette ash, and probably join Satan down in Hell.)

The runner-up is in the bathroom--a lacy-edged mirror embedded in corks from many, many, many bottles of wine gone by. The legacy, of course, of another ex-girlfriend.

Best Refrigerator Art

The refrigerator magnets used to spell out this cryptic message are of the primary-colored, plastic sort sold in the toy aisle at Bartell drugstores. Kevin says that these particular magnets came with the apartment, and that he rearranges them occasionally during idle moments while eating breakfast or whenever. "Usually I try to work at least one expletive in there," he adds. When asked what EAT JOWLS FUCK DIP means to him, Kevin replies that it doesn't really mean anything, and that he doesn't see how anyone could get much meaning out of it. However, it is well known that artists often have the least meaningful insight into their own creations, so The Stranger brought in University of Washington Professor David Shields to deconstruct the work. Says Professor Shields, "What I like (a lot) about this poem is the way it conflates the sexual and the culinary; it's a kind of meditation on appetite in its various permutations--the primitive urges that drive us all. Perhaps Kevin's best work yet."

Best Inspirational Message by a Pseudo-Celebrity, Taped to Kevin's Computer
"If you're going through Hell, keep going through it."--Rob Estes

Like Johnny Depp and Richard Grieco, Rob Estes began his acting career on FOX's pretty-boys-fighting-crime extravaganza 21 Jump Street. Though his role as "college student" was much less glamorous than Depp's brooding "Hanson" or Grieco's offbeat "Booker," Estes managed to parlay his bit part into a starring role on the USA Network's soft porn detective series Silk Stalkings, before hitting the big time as Heather Locklear's cuckolded husband on Melrose Place. Married to Seattle-born actress/author/paint-your-own ceramics maven Josie Bissett, Estes would seem to be someone who certainly has the world on a string, or at least surrounds himself with such folk. But that's not what convinced Kevin to adopt Estes as his inspirational guru. As with so many other things in his current life, Kevin discovered the wisdom of Estes as a result of a breakup with a girlfriend. "She had a pack of these inspirational sayings, and she gave this one to me after we broke up. Things were really fucked up at that time. Even though she's the one who beat the shit out of me and went to jail, she took me to court. Plus, my band had broken up, and lots of things were shitty." Did he know who Estes was when he affixed the saying to his computer screen? "I didn't know who he was until my sister told me he was on Melrose Place."

Best Shirt
T-shirt emblazoned with I (heart) Jesus F.Y.P.

Ordered from Recess Records, label of the punk band F.Y.P. (Five Year Plan), the shirt is worn almost to the point of transparency, and it is spotted with what could be blood, or coffee. "I actually wanted a different F.Y.P. shirt," says Kevin, "but when I called, they were all out, so I got this one." According to the label, the shirt is 100-percent cotton, manufactured in Laos. No doubt it was screen-printed in someone's basement. Kevin says that he hasn't worn the shirt in a while, but that he used to wear it a lot in high school--typically with different colored slacks, like forest green or dark blue, and a Hawaiian shirt unbuttoned over it.

Best Game
LCD Mini Slot Machine

This handheld game was found still in its original box, emblazoned with the persuasive motto, "Play the slots anywhere you go--without the expense!" Kevin says that the game was a gift from his grandmother, and that he has actually never played it, despite the sales pitch. Kevin's grandmother bought the game at Radio Shack. The game requires two AA batteries.

Best Cooking Device
The George Foreman Grill

Next to the infarcted French press and caked with the crusty ghost of greasy leavings, Kevin's mini-sized George Foreman Grill is truly the culinary coup de grâce of 1407 NE 45th St, #12. Small enough to fit cozily onto the tiny countertop, the much storied "lean mean fat-reducing machine" slants downward, and comes equipped with a tray to catch the fat and grease that rolls off red meat as it cooks. A small plastic scraper is also included, but remains unused, leaning artfully on the uncleaned tray. Though Kevin was initially skeptical about this gift from his grandmother (a proud owner of the full-sized GFG), he was soon won over by its tiny charms. "I wasn't sure at first," he admits. "But when I got home I was like, 'Hell yeah, this thing's rad!'" As for versatility, "It's not really big enough for two burgers, so I usually just cook one," Kevin explains. "That's what I usually use it for: one burger. Sometimes you can't even fit a whole steak on there." Dinner for one? Yes, please!

Best Condiment
Hungarian Sweet Paprika

One of the more carnivalesque and audaciously packaged spices, Hungarian Sweet Paprika earns its bright yellow label as the Queen of Paprika. A deep blood-red color, pungent Hungarian paprika executes a refined and distinct waltz of great subtlety upon the partaker's palate. The paprika derives its complexity from ground sweet capsicum pepper pods, which came to Europe with the Spanish and soon became well established in Hungary. Which brings us to Kevin: Three months ago, Kevin had a hankering for spicy potato wedges and purchased the Hungarian Sweet Paprika at his neighborhood Safeway. "I'd always heard Hungarian was best," he says, "so I got it." As with all herbs and spices, paprika should be stored in a cool, dark place for no more than six months--which brings up the size of Kevin's Hungarian paprika tin. Containing at least a good cupful of the spicy stuff, the presence of HSP in Kevin's kitchen attests to his commitment to frequent, well-seasoned Hungarian cooking. Let's hear it for gulyás!

Best Erotic Object
Cat Toy

Always on the cutting edge of sexual fashion, Kevin keeps his apartment stocked with an array of titillating objects, most of them designed for the young-at-heart feline. Laced with some of the dankest catnip available, the "Dangling Temptation" Cat Toy Deluxe is truly the cat's meow--and works to pique the interest of lady humans as well! While entertaining female friends, Kevin inevitably eases the conversation around to his pet cat Felix, to suss out his lady's vibe on cat-toy play and show off his sensitivity to the needs of fluffy felines. If his guest appears game, Kevin presents the irresistible fishing rod/whip-like toy to Felix in a series of teasing bobs and circles, while the aroused puss darts to and fro, up and down, alternately batting at and biting the feathered French tickler dangling from the end of Kevin's rod. After working Felix into a fevered froth, Kevin performs a soothing post-play rubdown, ending with the sated feline purring in his lap--and the wooed woman swooning on his sofa!

Best Mix Tape
This One

The best mix tape in Kevin's apartment is an old Maxell XL-II cassette. The featured artists: Debby [sic] Gibson and Exposé. Bonus points here for misspelling 'Debbie,' but getting the accent over the 'e' in Exposé. When asked about the goopy radio-pop mix, the supposedly punk Kevin's embarrassment was apparent, as he quickly overcompensated: "I got that from my brother-in-law. They were giving away a whole bunch of shit. So I got those tapes and I'm just keeping them to tape over." When asked how long ago he received the tape: "Oh, uh, fuck… ummm… when was…. um, um, um… oh fuck. The ninth of June?" How does Kevin know that? He begins coughing profusely. "It was my sister's graduation from Evergreen. It was that trip." Liar.

Best Descendents Tape
Milo Goes to College

Kevin's bedroom audio-cassette collection is full to burstin' with tapes by the Descendents, one of the greatest punk bands of the '80s. Though runners-up include Bonus Fat, I Don't Want to Grow Up, Enjoy!, All, Liveage!, and Hallraker (all on SST), the obvious choice for best Descendents tape is the 1982 masterpiece, Milo Goes to College, purchased by Kevin at the now-defunct Disc Go Round in Bremerton (his hometown), and featuring such classic songs as "I Wanna Be a Bear" and "I'm Not a Loser." Says Kevin, "Those are probably the oldest tapes I have, from right when I was getting into punk rock, around 1991. I'd just listen to them over and over. Milo Goes to College is definitely the best." We couldn't agree more!

Best Record to Make Out To
Al Green, Tokyo… Live!

Kevin's is a punk-by-numbers music collection, and it's a well-known fact that the "Too Drunk to Fuck" school of make-out soundtracks does not an excellent romantic situation make. In going through Kevin's collection, we were both impressed and appalled that nothing on CD or vinyl was genuinely romantic in a boy-meets-girl-and-kisses-her-deeply sort of way (Pere Ubu, the Clash, MC5, G. G. Allin…). So when we came upon Al Green's Tokyo… Live!, we realized we had found the make-out album of 1407 NE 45th St, #12. Soulful and seductive, this is a honey-kissed love album of the highest order. And how appropriate that Kevin's best make-out record is a live CD. What kind of guy wants to hear an audience when making out? The kind of guy who actually takes himself seriously enough to actually own both the Nation of Ulysses' Plays Pretty for Baby AND Pere Ubu's Terminal Tower: An Archival Collection, Non lp Singles & B Sides.

Best Pornography
Just 18 Magazine

Just 18, just part of the glossy Swank empire, forms a hefty portion of Kevin's smut stash--but he came by the magazines through honest labor. "My next-to-last ex-girlfriend was trying to get back into modeling for porn," Kevin explains. "After she'd moved out, Swank e-mailed back, and I asked if they were looking for writers." Thus began Kevin's profitable career as a pornographer, writing "I never thought your letters were true until" letters and reviewing porn flicks. But what makes Just 18 stand out is not Kevin's business relationship with the skin mag, it's the tabloid-style quotations on the covers: "I was nervous, so I just licked the tip!" says, presumably, the dewy-eyed cover model. "Will I still be a virgin if he does me back there?" asks a blithe brunette. "I feel all grown up since I gave my first blowjob!" exclaims another with pride, while a coy blonde worries, "I hope I'm not too tight!" But the topper is certainly, "I had no idea how good my professor would feel!"--a guaranteed circulation-increaser in what one queasily suspects is a healthy chunk of Just 18's target audience.

Best Intoxicant
Sudafed SEVERE Cold Formula

Kevin's artillery of cold and allergy medications inspires awe in even the most avid exploiter of over-the-counter meds. Besides the usual antihistamine downers, pseudoephedrine uppers, and everything in between, we uncovered this most rare and bracing extinguisher of cold symptoms, bearing the title of Sudafed SEVERE Cold Formula--just like that, "severe" in all caps. Unlike canned chili flirting with the notion of "Spicy!" by drawing cartoon chili peppers on its label, when a cold medicine declares itself "SEVERE," users should not underestimate how strongly the manufacturer means that word. For example, Sudafed SEVERE contains a healthy 30 mg. of Pseudoephedrine Hydrochloride in each tablet. Famous for propping up generations of truck drivers, this powerful decongestant shrinks veins and arteries, which decreases blood flow to certain areas, thereby lessening swelling of nasal and respiratory passages and not only allowing the user to breathe, but somehow infusing each breath with a sensation of intense exhilaration. Secondly, Sudafed SEVERE offers its user something not found in every cold medication: Dextromethorphan Hydrobromide. According to nursepdr.com, the 15 mg. dose included in each pill is equal to 8 mg. of codeine(!). This fantastic, easy to access baby codeine works to "selectively suppress the cough center in the medulla," yet "does not produce physical dependence or respiratory depression and is well absorbed from the GI tract." All good news for those whose throats begin to itch at the mention of codeine. And while Kevin asserts that he does not use any of the medications "for fun," he admits that he so dislikes feeling under the weather that he triples the doses of cold medication. Party on, Kev!

Best Mystery Object
The Safe in the Wall

"At about 4:00 in the morning we started beating on it with a tire iron," says Kevin, explaining the battered state of the round metal object built into his wall--an object that turns out to be the door to a safe. "Every room that's connected to a kitchen has one," confirms Adam, the apartment manager. "I saw a picture of the groundbreaking for the University Bookstore in 1925, and this building was already in the background. In the 1920s, the banks weren't so reliable. Where else are you going to keep your valuables? Maybe that's evidence that this was a hotel, but I don't know if that's the case. And the combinations are long since lost, unfortunately."

Hence Kevin's and his friends' fit of drunken curiosity. "It took us until 10:00 a.m. to tear the door open," complains Kevin, continuing the tale, "and when we opened it up, nothing!"

Best Neighbor
Myk Lacey

Next door to Kevin, in a small studio by the stairwell, lives Kevin's favorite neighbor, Myk Lacey. "Sometimes I hear Kevin playing his guitar, so I grab mine and turn it up even fucking louder," says Myk, banging his head as we hang out at the International House of Pancakes, discussing his life. "But Kevin is always telling me I play too many solos." Myk is a true metal head, with long, dark brown hair and a struggling goatee. He wears black shoes, black cutoff shorts, and black metal concert shirts at all times. Myk likes living next to Kevin. They often meet in the hallway at late hours, or on the front steps, but, still, Myk is perplexed by Kevin. "He's just a little weird. Not in a bad way or anything," Myk says. "But somehow he always manages to get multiple girls up to his apartment." According to Myk, Kevin is a total player. "I remember this one time, I was coming home from work and there was this note on the front door of the building, and the note says, 'ITALIAN GIRLS: I'M IN APARTMENT 12.' I just thought that was the best idea ever. I thought about changing the note to my apartment number, but I chickened out." Myk moved next to Kevin three months ago after moving from his hometown of Everett, where he was fired for stealing from his job while working as a tattoo artist. According to Myk, he was set up. "I never stole. Anyone who knows anything about tattoo shops knows you don't mess with them," he says cautiously. "They have a lot of scary connections, man."

Best Filthy Surface
The TV Screen

For a pornography-writin', punk-rock lovin' twentysomething, Kevin manages to keep 1407 NE 45th St, #12 remarkably filth-free. Sure, there's a smidgen of grunge in the corners and all over that George Foreman Grill, but for the most part, Kevin's pad is pretty darn tidy.

With one exception. Covering all 27 inches of Kevin's Panasonic television screen is a layer of dust thick enough to choke a pony. And with good reason: "I've never, ever cleaned it," says Kevin, with a soupçon of dusty pride. Kevin got the set in 1999, buying it for $100 from a friend of his ex-girlfriend's ex-boyfriend. Primarily Kevin uses the set to watch the handful of movies he owns, as well as a select few TV shows--"Springer, Simpsons, and those two hours of repeats on Channel 11," says Kev. Does watching TV through a half-inch layer of cat hair and sloughed-off skin hinder the viewing experience? "Nope," says Kevin. "From the couch, you don't even notice."

Best Political Propaganda
KISS Army Patch

There is a long history of military service in Kevin's family: his father and grandfather were both "badasses" who served in the U.S. Army. But Kevin's own political leanings run less toward screaming sergeants with machine guns and more toward grown men in face paint playing guitars through 300-watt Marshall stacks.

"Um, I didn't really join the KISS Army," Kevin explains. "I like KISS, but I never sent in the money to sign up or anything. I just got the patch when I saw their first reunion show in Tacoma in '96. The only T-shirt I could afford was really lame. All the good ones were like 40 bucks. So I bought this patch instead."

As for personal dealings with the KISS Army, Kevin will only admit to being "a civilian who really supports the cause," which he explains is "to make billions of dollars off toys and lunch boxes." He has also admitted to having used his love gun, "but always in self-defense, and always for good."

Best Pathetic Object
Kevin's Retainer

Kevin's dusty retainer was issued by his orthodontist four years ago, and was last worn four years ago. Poor little unloved ugly object.

Best Place to Hide
Murphy Bed(s)

Born in the late 1870s, William L. Murphy moved to swinging San Francisco at the end of the century. A young bachelor of modest means, Murphy set himself up in a small one-room apartment. Unlike the many young, financially strapped men who would, at this point, relocate their social lives to the nearest tavern, our enterprising William L. fought for the right to party in his own tiny apartment by inventing a folding bed that attached to closet-door hinges. Murphy's hideaway bed is still in use today in many space-efficient apartments.

With this history in mind, readers will be thrilled to learn that Kevin's apartment boasts TWO Murphy beds: one mounted in a beautiful built-in wall cabinet in the main sitting room, and one in the bedroom. Lacking the original mattresses, Kevin's Murphy beds are not very comfortable to sleep or get sexy on, but while the bed cabinets fail as both sleep and sex sites, they provide ample hiding spaces for both illicit lovers and illicit drugs. Has Kevin ever used his Murphys for top-secret deeds? "Uh, no," he says, adding that the cabinets currently hold only a bunch of old packing boxes. Hot!

Best Place to Get Drunk
The Couch

Not really a couch per se, Kevin's sun-faded, oddly colored futon is the drinking spot deluxe of 1407 NE 45th St, #12. Given to him a few months ago by his sister, the futon replaced Kevin's previous couch, a stinky, ratty sectional he found in an alley. Although Kevin rarely drinks at home (he prefers to do his boozing at bars, and drinks strawberry milk at home), he has enjoyed the occasional beer whilst lounging on the comfy futon. He has yet to puke on it.

Best Chronicle of a Schizophrenic Adolescence
Kevin's High-School Billfold

Buried at the bottom of Kevin's desk drawer lies a colorful documentation of a teenage boy torn between two worlds, of a young man swinging wildly between the misspent life of a juvenile delinquent and the badge-earning honor of an Eagle Scout. In the illustrious billfold, school portraits of girls Kevin fucked and took to punk shows are tucked in next to a wallet-sized commemoration, signed by President Clinton, of Kevin's hard work and achievement in the Boy Scouts of America. "My dad kicked my ass the whole time," remembers Kevin of his adolescence. "We'd get into fistfights because I wasn't working on my merit badge. My best friend at the time called the cops once because my dad tried to strangle me because I wasn't working on my merit badge." Was it all for naught? "No," sighs Kevin. "It satisfied my dark, secret nerd side, and it helped me get into college."

Best Grooming Problem Safely in the Past

Poor Kevin was besieged for years by terrible acne, as evidenced by the army of skin-care products shoved into a corner of his bathroom. "I'm past it," he says with evident relief. After trying various medications, exfoliators, and niacin, Kevin fell prey to the inevitable charms of an infomercial (probably watched at 3:00 in the morning whilst heartbreakingly alone, due to monstrous acne) and ordered Dr. Murad's Acne Complex Kit. This included many bottles of mysterious lotions, cleansers, and snake oil that didn't help Kevin one bit. His dermatologist threw up his hands in despair. Finally Kevin's sister turned him on to antibiotics, which did the trick. We are happy to report that Kevin's skin is now as clear as a baby's butt.

Best Ailment That We Thought Kevin Had, But Doesn't

Here's what we found in Kevin's bathroom: a giant bottle of Claritin, Tavist D, and three different kinds of Sudafed. Here's why: Kevin's mother gave 'em to him. "She's a PPM," Kevin says, "a pill-poppin' mama. She'll take a pill for anything." Here's the funny thing: Kevin doesn't have allergies. He just likes to have lots and lots of cold remedies around in case he gets sick. Looks like Mama raised a pill-poppin' boy!

Best Memento of a Failed Relationship
The Apartment

Once upon a time, 1407 NE 45th St, #12 was inhabited by TWO people. Yep, Kevin used to have a roommate, but came into sole possession of the U-District pad in October 2000--after a splashy run-in with the pigs!

We can't quite glean the absolute truth of what happened that fateful October. Kevin offers murky details of methamphetamine, sexy bass players, and restraining orders, while related police reports and court documents feature such hard-boiled testimony as, "[They] said, 'Go ahead and hit me then,' so I did…." However, after combing through Kevin's underwear drawer, sifting through his porn, and fondling his retainer, we weren't really up for pressing him for any more intimate details. Suffice it to say, Kevin believes his troubles are behind him, and now he's got the $645-a-month, one-bedroom palace all to himself!

Runner Up: Expired Bottle of Bac-Os

Left by an ex-girlfriend, used once since on a baked potato. "They were good," says Kevin.

Best Physical Feature
Kevin's Skin

"Your face looks like a piece of raw meat."

This is what one of Kevin's shallow ex-girlfriends said to him after inspecting his ravaged pores up close.

"Dude, you look like a heroin addict."

This is what one of Kevin's college buddies said to him once, while staring at the red cysts and deep acne scars on his face.

"Hi honey," Kevin's mother always says cheerfully when she calls him from the Tri-Cities, "how's the face?"

Like millions of other adults, Kevin has battled severe acne (also called acne vulgaris) for years [see "Best Grooming Problem Safely in the past"]. "I started having skin problems in high school, but I didn't really care about it at first," he says with a shrug. "It just kept being pointed out to me. Like, my mom would just look at me sometimes and yell, 'THAT'S IT! WE'RE GOING TO THE DERMATOLOGIST!' Or my friends at school would bug me about it." But high-school trips to the dermatologist didn't work. His face became a bumpy, pus-dominated cesspool of embarrassment.

"I tried lots of different treatments, but they just made my skin dry and scabby," Kevin says, "and then the breakouts got really bad when I was in college." He even developed a mild case of rosacea, another acne-related skin disorder that also results in redness, inflammation, and annoying zit eruptions.

It wasn't until this past year that relief and a clear complexion arrived in the form of doxycycline, an inexpensive antibiotic prescribed by Kevin's new dermatologist. Taken just once a day, these pills have done wonders for Kevin's long-suffering skin: "Now, I'll break out a little bit, but it's very tiny and rare," he says. His mother is thrilled. His most recent ex-girlfriend couldn't even tell he had skin problems in the past. His confidence levels have soared. Kevin's face is now a milky, flawless example of great skin.

"Sure, there's a little scarring," he says ruefully. "After all these years, I've got pock marks. An overall roughness. People always think I'm older than I look, because my face got so wrecked, the texture's all fucked up."

This is why Kevin's epidermis is, hands down, his best physical feature. After all it has been through--an agonizing history of pimple creams, astringents, rough wash cloths, useless prescriptions, pizza jokes, and unfortunate scars--Kevin's traumatized skin has survived, and triumphed.

Kevin's next self-improvement project? "Fat runs in my family, so I'm working out, because I don't want to get huge. And I want to work more on my pecs and my ass. Even my mom thinks I have a nice ass."