Friday, November 30, 2012

The 12 Pains of Christmas - Part 1

1. Getting all that crap out of the attic.

  Dragging boxes out of their non-holiday nursing home wasn’t such a big deal 20 years and 30 pounds ago. It wasn’t my favorite activity even then, but I could generally haul the goods in under 15 minutes without breaking a sweat or requiring reconstructive surgery after the deed was done. Then again, those were my “salad” days (translation: broke-ass poor) and I had maybe three boxes of mostly handmade or handed-down yuletidery.

  Now? Good God.

  Just opening the attic door and lowering the ancient ladder causes me to have a small anxiety attack, with whimpering and such. Then I have to rest halfway up that stupid ladder because I’m so out of shape that turning on a light switch wears me out. After the pit stop, I finally make it up to the last few rungs where I can begin the ritual of searching for the invisible hanging chain that is connected to the light that only gets turned on twice a year, four times if something dies up there and we notice an odd smell while watching Survivor.

  This quest for fire, with lots of Helen Keller arm waving, usually lasts at least 5 minutes, two minutes of which are spent recovering from rounds of nearly losing my balance and plummeting to my death. (And of course there’s no one down there to help break my fall. As soon as I utter the hellish words “It’s time to get the Christmas stuff out of the attic”, there’s an instantaneous mass exodus from the house, with relatives and friends and family pets fleeing for their lives, scampering to hide behind bushes and trees and startled neighbors, communicating via walkie-talkie until all agree that the risk of returning is minimal.)

  It’s just me and the mice droppings. Alone again, naturally.

  And when I finally locate the light chain and pull on it with the exasperated fury of a Kardashian who doesn’t yet have her own designer cologne or country, casting a weak light on the contents of the Hell Above Our Heads? Boxes. Boxes from here to China in all directions. Towers of boxes. If you need to hide from the po-po, just head up here, and your story will someday appear on Unsolved Mysteries.

  To be fair, most of this mess is my own doing. As some of you know, I have an obsession with setting out a Christmas Village every year. (You can read some of the sordid details here.) I’ve toned it down a bit for the past few years, but there was a long stretch where my madness for acquiring miniature real estate knew no boundaries, with me snapping up tiny houses with a feverish intensity that nearly, and should have, led to an intervention.  Or an exorcism. Something.

  But even though I acknowledge 97% of the responsibility for the fact that there isn’t a single inch of available floor space in the attic (2 of the 712 boxes have things in them that are not mine, which therefore means that I am not alone in my transgressions and thusly everyone shares in the guilt, even the cats, who own nothing up here), it doesn’t mean I can’t fuss about it. So I do.

  I whine as I’m flat on my belly, my body contorted unnaturally as I stretch for a box of must-use ornaments that have been shoved into a far corner for some ungodly reason, a tiny space where even Jiminy Cricket wouldn’t be able to wear his top-hat, yet the box has been crammed in there somehow. I whine as I stumble-fall down the ladder under the weight of an enormous tub that has 50 rolls of after-Christmas bargain wrapping paper in it. I whine as I’m lying face-down on the couch hours later, my body wracked with spasming muscles that haven’t been used in 11 months, half-heartedly listening to the all-clear alert that has been sounded in the neighborhood so my family can return home.

2. That stupid wrapping paper in the stupid enormous tub.

  We have three of those tubs. Well, at least three that I can identify in a police line-up. (Since I’ve pulled back on my Christmas Village display, from a time when I used to cover an entire 20x40 room down to just a subsection of that abused room, I don’t even use a big chunk of the boxed houses in the attic anymore. There are stacks of houses that haven’t even been inventoried in years. It certainly wouldn’t surprise me to walk (crawl?) around one of those stacks and discover Amelia Earhart and Jimmy Hoffa having tea.)

  Anyway, the wrapping paper. We have more than we could possibly use for the next 50 years. We could wrap a fleet of Buicks in foil paper and not even make a dent in the stock. And I’m not talking about the pointless rolls of paper, the kind where you can only wrap two CD’s and you’re already down to the cardboard tube. Nope, these are the industrial rolls, where a single roll could repave all the streets in my neighborhood and you’d still have enough left over to papier-mâché the Statue of Liberty. Big. Ass. Rolls.

  How did this happen, you ask? Well, there’s a two-fold answer. Exhibit A is the fact that I lose control when they first introduce the new wrapping-paper designs each holiday season. I’m fully aware that we already have enough wrapping paper that activists concerned about the Brazilian rainforest have started an online petition to have me placed in lock-up for the last three months of each year.

  But I still can’t help myself. When I see the shiny new patterns and designs, there are always several that I must have, even if somebody has to get hurt in the process. So I snag the ones I want and throw them into the shopping cart, next to the suntan lotion because the start of the retail Christmas season has officially been moved to Independence Day. Then I lug my purchases home and throw them in a tub and no one ever sees them again. Except possibly Amelia and Jimmy.

  Exhibit B has two perpetrators, myself and my partner. (He’s very tight with his money, never paying full price for anything unless a court order is involved, so he can resist the pre-Christmas temptation of paying 86 dollars for two designer sheets of wrapping paper.) But once Santa has gone back to the North Pole where he can live with hundreds of small boys and no one asks questions about it? Well, we’re both on the post-sales like crack-heads in the flour aisle at Piggly Wiggly.

  How can you NOT buy something when it’s super cheap and you might possibly use it before the end of the century? That’s just un-American. When a roll of paper the size of a cheddar wheel has been slashed to fifty cents, that puppy is going in the basket, even if the design printed on the paper is a little questionable and clashes with the tree decorations and everything else in the house.

  Moral of the story? We never use most of that discount paper. A few rolls, yes, on gifts for those relatives where you are obligated to get them a little something but you really don’t care for them and your heart isn’t in it (don’t lie, we all have those kinfolk), so you end up shoving their present to the back of the tree in that mystery zone where you eventually always find that one present that no one claims to have wrapped, with a name tag of somebody you don’t know. (“Aunt Charlene? Who the hell is Aunt Charlene? Anybody?”)

  Crickets chirp.

3. The Tree of Pain

  There was a time when I was equally divided between having a “live” Christmas tree and an artificial one. Live trees are pretty swell, I love the smell of them and the uniqueness of each tree. Downside? The damn needles that fall off constantly, of course, ending up from one end of the house to the other, aided and abetted by pets who are religiously convinced that these needles must be shared with the world and the bare feet that walk upon it.

  Oh, and we mustn’t forget the watering angle. This is not a particularly taxing aspect of live-tree nurturing, but a healthy tree can suck up gallons of liquid before it realizes that its days are numbered, and it can be quite easy to forget to keep an eye on the bucket of nourishment neath the tree. And when you do forget, two horrid things happen: One, the tree can become so dried out that someone lighting a cigarette at the convenience store two blocks over can inadvertently cause your house to burn down. And two, those damn needles are no longer pliant and less able to pierce the skin. They are now hardened spikes that qualify for regulation by government authorities.

  Now, a fake tree is no walk in the park, by any means. First off, there’s the misconception about the box that it comes in. That box is only adequate storage for the tree parts for a very limited amount of time, namely the duration of the trip from the store where you bought it to your house. Once you slice the binding tape on said box, the Christmas music playing in the background should change to the soundtrack from The Exorcist.

  Because that tree is never going to fit in that box again. Ever.

  Try as you might, it’s just not going to happen. Sure, the first year, you might get most of the parts back into the original receptacle. You’ll sweat your ass off doing so, but the tree has not yet learned that you are its bitch and is still mostly cooperative.

  Within two years you can only get half of the tree parts in the box. Within four, the whole process is pointless. The box now has the consistency of wet toilet paper, ripping apart if you breathe on it, and the only thing that fits in the box is the tree stand, and that thing has lost a critical turn screw (the cat denies involvement, but you know that Fluffy has lied in the past during interrogations) and you might as well throw the stand away. Or at least into the stack of older, rusty stands that have also disappointed their parents.

  The turning point for me? The invention of the pre-lit artificial tree.

  This was a sign that there is a god of some kind, a caring god, one that does not want his/her children to suffer through the mind-wrecking ordeal of stringing lights on a Christmas tree, a horrendous task that the World Health Organization should ban based on the number of divorces and voluntary commitments to insane asylums that have resulted from a burnt-out bulb that cannot be found.

  So it’s been pre-lits for me ever since. You simply connect the various parts of the tree together (using the instruction manual, written by someone making two cents an hour and who really doesn’t know any other English than “Lady Gaga”), connect the various electrical plugs (which can be a bit tricky, since you will initially encounter more female plugs than male plugs, something that historically only happens on the island of Lesbos or at the Dinah Shore Invitational, but keep at it and things will balance out), and then shove the main plug into a socket that hopefully has the blessing of the local chapter of the IBEW.

  Et voila! Pretty lights without the need for attorneys and restraining orders.

  Now, the pre-lit does not get my full love and support. It’s still an artificial tree, and as such, it is subject to the new tree-fabrication technology that allows these things to be manufactured in a manner where the various branches have been so tightly wound together that it looks like a small shrub on the conveyor belt in the factory located in a country that does not recognize things like a minimum wage that actually means anything.

  This production process allows the tree to be nestled in a box that you will never use again. It also means that you must now “fluff” the tree, once it has been released in your home.

  Fluffing = misery. It takes forever to pry the little branch-lets away from the main branch. And you can’t screw around with this prying. You have to shape and mold each little tendril or your tree will look like road-kill. This means that, even though you got the Express Pass with the “not having to string lights” angle, you must still spend a considerable amount of time with the fluffing. Hours and hours. Long enough that by the time you are finished, everyone else has gone to bed.

  Except the cat. The cat who has been eyeing your handiwork for most of the evening, waiting for that sublime moment when you quit jacking with the tree and walk away in defeat, seeking counseling and hopefully prescription tranquilizers. Once you leave the room, the cat will leap on the tree, claw its way to the top, chew off the top third of the tree, and then knock the rest of it over for you to find in the morning when all you really wanted to find was a bagel and some coffee….

Click Here to Read the Next Entry in This Series…

Friday, November 16, 2012

20 Signs That You Might Not Be Getting Enough Whoopie In Your Life

1. You become aroused simply walking through the produce section of the supermarket. (Stay away from the cucumbers and the carrots. And you might want to avoid the gourds as well, because some of those raised bumps can look very interesting.)

2. You seem to be having too much fun driving over speed bumps. (Especially if you circle the block just so you can hit the same patch again.)

3. You’re just trying to squirt some Hellman’s on your turkey sandwich and your mind goes places it shouldn’t.  (And the noises those plastic bottles can sometimes make? It’s like the soundtrack from Debbie Does Dallas.)

4. You have no idea where the personal lubricant might be in the house. (And with things as dried out as they must be by this point, you’re going to need a gallon of that stuff.)

5. You find cobwebs in your underwear. (And Charlotte the spider has spun one of the webs to read “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore”.)

6. You can no longer remember the color of your bedroom ceiling. (Or whether or not that mirror is still there, the one everyone had to have in the late 70’s when the whole nation took drugs and became exhibitionists.)

7. You watch an entire season of an otherwise worthless TV show just because that one guy always takes his shirt off at some point in every episode. (You have no idea what the actual plot of the series is, but you can definitely and accurately describe the actor’s nipples to a police sketch artist, should the need arise.)

8. The word “arise” in the previous sentence triggers images that you would never share with your Sunday School teacher. (Unless your teacher also blushes when holding a bottle of mayonnaise, then you might have something in common that you can work into a discussion while the other folks are busy naming all the Apostles.)

9. When sitting at a local park, you can’t help but realize that every piece of playground equipment could be utilized in a creative sexual scenario of some kind, given enough stamina and flexibility. (But only after the kiddies have gone home. The little urchins don’t need to see you hurtling down the giant slide, completely naked, whilst your partner assumes a position at the end of the slide that will hopefully result in satisfaction and not hospitalization.)

10. You no longer have pet names for your private parts. (If you mention them at all, it’s usually in clinical terms to your doctor after one of the parts started doing something you didn’t appreciate.)

11. The list of desirable qualities in potential partners has dwindled over the years from an entire notebook of scribbled “must-haves” that you planned out when you were a dewy, attractive youth in your twenties to the current day, when things are much more creaky and fragile, and you now have just a two-word partner requirement: “life insurance”. (Or if you’re really desperate, one word: “pulse”.)

12. When in a bar, you no longer have to drink for hours until someone becomes blurrily attractive enough to qualify for a “last-call” hookup. Instead, it takes just two sips of wine and suddenly you’re humping the pool table and using an app on your smart phone to broadcast your phone number on the ceiling. (This is why you should always have a Designated Divider when bar-hopping with friends. This is the person responsible for keeping your horny ass away from strangers who don’t realize that you are suffering from a literal seven-year itch.)

13. You do the mental math and realize that the last time you actually had an orgasm, there were only 46 stars on the American flag. (Back in the day when social-etiquette still required that you write a tasteful, post-coital thank-you note to the one who done ya.)

   “Dearest John Thomas, thank you ever so much for the lovely time we spent sliding about on a stack of fertilizer bags in your adorable little garden shed. It certainly appeared that you enjoyed it as well, what with your repeated invoking of certain religious figures just before the dismount. I do so hope that there will be a repeat performance. Perhaps even season tickets!

  Sighingly, Lady Chatterly

  P.S. Please advise if there is anything I can do to assist with the repairs to the tractor. I don’t think either of us quite expected that to happen. Perhaps next time we should leave the absinthe bottle out of the picnic basket…

14. You encounter a group of co-workers whispering about happiness over “The Big O” and you gleefully announce that you voted for President Obama as well. (The stunned look in their eyes convinces you that you should continue your journey to the copy room and never speak again.)

15. You have no idea what a MILF or a DILF is, but such things do appear to be very popular with certain segments of the Internet world. (Are they talking about new computer languages? Characters in a Disney movie? Another product that the Kardashians are trying to promote in their endless quest to actually do something of importance?)

16. You actually do check out the porn sites on the web from time to time, not for any pleasure-based purpose, but to see if they have invented any new positions or dress-code requirements that you might need to be aware of so you aren’t startled by any requests should your boudoir reopen for business. It’s just downright tacky when you can’t think of an answer to the question “Do you have a sling?”

17. You still don’t know why a milkshake would bring boys to your yard. Or why you would want to sing about it. Or what type of appetizer you should serve when this happens. (And what if you’re dairy-intolerant? Is that even important? And what brings the girls? Lattes? So many questions, so little time to mow the various lawns.)

18. Whatever happened to Dr. Ruth? She made things so simple. (“You ask the partner what partner likes, then you do that and everybody feel good. Serve strudel after, nice touch.”)

19. You no longer dress to maximize your sexiness. Now you dress to cover up the fact that most of the voting districts in your state have been realigned in a manner that is not the most appealing. (And most of the population has moved south.) It really is true that youth (and sex) are wasted on the young. When I was 21, all it took was a steady wind for me to present arms and I was ready to go. Now I know hundreds of exciting things to do. I just can’t get into the necessary position to exhibit my repertoire without needing medical assistance.

20. In the end, though, it’s not about how much or how often or how many medals you earn for endurance, strength or quickness of locating your clothing if someone knocks on the door that wasn’t supposed to be home. Sex, and especially sexiness, is all in the mind. Yes, there are primal grunters who are satisfied with the rudimentary aspects of life and don’t want to know about anything else (the Tea Party). But for most of us it’s the non-physical things. Intelligence is top on my list, very important, but we also have a certain spark in the eye, a smile that is genuine, a gentle tenderness, a shared passion for life, for words, for decency. The way a person really looks at you and willingly allows you to really look at them. No games, no baggage, just truth.

  That’s what I find hot, that’s what I find sexy.

  And that’s the kind of milkshake I would order every time…


Friday, November 2, 2012

20 Very Important Things To Do On A Vacation Friday – Part 3: The Evening

  Note: As we all know, night hours are dangerous when it comes to slacker activity, because you might get a second wind and actually accomplish something, and we don’t want to ruin our personal goal of contributing absolutely nothing to society for one day. (I almost blew it with the near-arrest for public-indecency, as my incarceration would temporarily improve the quality of life on city streets. At least those streets that lead to bars.) Therefore, we must be especially diligent and restrict our efforts to only those activities with minimal or even negative value. And here we go…

  (If you need to read this series from the beginning, click Here.)

41. Go into the bathroom, flip the toilet paper so it unrolls the other way, then leave. Wait for eventual commentary.

42. Count the number of items in your refrigerator that contain cheese in one form another. Briefly realize that this might be a reason why you have to grunt when you get out of chairs. Decide that you don’t care and slam the door.

43. See how long you can sprawl on the couch and stare out the window before you get a cramp.

44. Get a black felt-tip marker, take out a box of cereal, and scribble across the front: “Why don’t these things have prizes anymore?” Put the box back and throw the marker in a corner.

45. Watch the cat attack the marker with a determination that you have never felt in your entire life.

46. Wonder what it would be like if you could pounce at will and there were no complications from doing such. Would you still have the same friends?

47. Take the marker away from the cat once he pries the cap off and starts scribbling an EKG readout on the kitchen floor.

48. Listen as the cat goes into the other room and starts clawing furniture because you are stifling him as an artist.

49. Go into your clothes closet with the mission of finally getting rid of all those things you can no longer wear. Run across your “Frankie Say Relax” t-shirt. It’s now 400 sizes too small and there are more holes in it than Mitt Romney’s campaign. But you can’t possibly part with it and this mission is doomed. Leave.

50. Decide that you want to listen to some 80’s music. Turn on the radio and, after frantically switching stations, discover that said music is now considered “Golden Oldies” and you can only find it on satellite radio, usually on a station hosted by Nina Blackwood as she shuffles to the microphone using a walker. Cry a little bit.

51. Wonder how many people reading this post will actually get these references.

52. Wonder how many people understand that MTV used to play music videos.

53. Turn on the TV to find out what IS playing on MTV these days. Get distracted by clicking on a movie that you don’t recognize, starring people that you don’t know, and featuring a non-existent plot comprised of folks doing nothing other than standing around and trying to jump-start new catch-phrases while promoting products that no one really needs. Realize that the main character is actually an extended car-crash sequence.

54. Wonder if actual screen writers have been banned from Hollywood. Is this something else that the Bush Administration destroyed? Giggle at the thought of how the current Republican Party is pretending the Shrub Administration never took place. Stop giggling when you realize that people are stupid and Romney could get elected and eventually we’ll have to overcome what he has destroyed. Curse the stupid people who forgot about the first car-crash sequence and are voting for another one.

55. Turn off the TV and think about reading a book. Wonder how different the world would be if everyone did that from time to time. Wonder if this thought makes you seem like those slightly-obsessive people who wail about the dangers of watching too much TV. Wonder if that’s not such a bad obsession to have.

56. Realize that you have wandered in your thoughts from humorous to thought-provoking, and that this is not such a good thing to happen on a Friday night. Friday nights are when you do random and carefree things because you have the rest of the weekend to do something more serious, like shell out money to pay for the damages you and your dumbass friends caused on said Friday night when somebody hollered “hey, let’s try this!”

57. Try to get back in the proper fun-loving spirit as you think of three absurd but entertaining activities to round out your list of pointless things to do on a vacation day. Try your best to make them not sound like filler entries just to meet your quota.

58. Drink beer. (Okay, I failed with the originality on that one, but seriously, everything is always much more enthralling when drinking an elixir intended to jack up your faculties. (Drinker A: “I once went to a peanut farm.” Drinker B: “Oh my GOD, I’ve always wanted to go to a peanut farm. Tell me everything!”) Until the next morning, when simply opening an eye feels like your eyelid is made of sandpaper as it rips your cornea to shreds.

59. Eat some of that cheese in your refrigerator. I know it’s essentially artery-clogging, but it sure tastes good, even the smelly ones, and I can pretty much guarantee that no one has ever said on their death bed “Dear Lord, I wish I hadn’t eaten all that cheese.” Unless they were talking about something else entirely, some non-dairy bit of tomfoolery, but that’s none of my business and I don’t judge. Okay, I do, every day, but only in a professional capacity as a blogger. Swear.

60. Go back and read all 775 posts on this blog. This won’t improve your life in any way. But you never know when I might show up as a category on “Jeopardy”, and you really should be prepared…