Weddings Suck

Weddings Suck. There’s no way around it. Unless you are a bride, or a groom, or their parents, weddings are a pain in the ass for most people involved.

Sure, the groomsmen get to throw a bachelor party, but since when do five guys really need an excuse to go to a strip club or get drunk and act stupid? But other than that one night and the reception where they try to score with the bridesmaids, it’s kind of a chore. The tux fittings and getting to and from and taking time off…

The bridesmaids have to spend a bunch of time getting fitted for overpriced ugly dresses they’ll wear once, then hope they don’t gain or lose weight and have to get the dresses refitted (they will), buy shower gifts, take time off from work, and try not to get so drunk at the reception that they end up getting scored with by groomsmen.

For other family members, it often means the same sort of thing. You have to drive or fly somewhere you might rather not be, take some of your limited time off from work, and sit through an often hot and boring ceremony, hoping it will be over soon. You hope there will be cake and adult beverages, if you are old enough, and you can maybe take in some sights the following day: if you aren’t forced into family time where everyone sits around and asks a bunch of questions that could just as easily be answered if they would bother to join Facebook or look at your blog. And, of course, they expect you to know about their lives’ minutiae, because after all, they send out the Christmas Brag Letter, as if you would actually spend twenty minutes reading that three page novel explanation of how well they are doing.

So when somebody mentioned having to go to a wedding on Facebook recently, I offered my condolences, and thus began a lively discussion about weddings and such, and we came to the conclusion that funerals are almost preferable. There are no new clothes to buy, no gifts to purchase, and if it’s in the south, you only have to prepare some sort of food dish that you probably have ingredients for, anyway. Add to that, the guest of honor doesn’t expect a whole lot, and they won’t be bragging about the ceremony or blathering on about it for months to come, or complaining about how badly it went. You also won’t be forced to watch the video of it at the five year anniversary during some family reunion you attend only so you’ll stay in the good graces of everyone involved.

So of course, Karma kicked me in the nads like a drunken bar patron. Scarcely three days later, I get an invitation in the mail. My cousin is getting married. I’m sick of going to weddings. My sister got married, I went. My stepsister got married, I went, my Sister in-law got married. Ditto. Friends, wife’s friends… etc. I don’t want to spend the weekend in uncomfortable clothes sitting in uncomfortable places, and awkwardly smiling and pretending to be having the time of my life, while someone I haven’t seen in ten years gets hitched to some guy I’ve NEVER met.

So I told my sister, who lives in the same town, I would be coming through town on my way to do something I enjoy. She seemed upset I would not be spending time at the wedding. Then she did the one thing I should have expected from her. She let my father know I was purposefully skipping out on the wedding. Thanks, I appreciated that…

Now the family is upset that I told the truth, that I would rather go walking in the woods or picking apples like a day laborer than sitting in a stuffy building watching two people I barely know profess their undying love to each other while dull music plays in the background. Honestly, I hope when my kid gets married she does it as Disney World or on a cruise. There will be lots of other stuff to look forward to besides the ceremony, and it should severely cut down on participants. After all, I don’t know too many people who would pay to go on a cruise just because someone they barely know is getting married. My wife says that we would have to pay for their tickets… I say we don’t HAVE to do anything… We provided the bride, our responsibility pretty much ends there. Everything else is gravy.

 

She’s having a baby!

My sister is preggers. As of this writing she hasn’t squirted her squalling infant from her swollen loins, but it’s coming soon. She lives four hours from me, so I’m not expected to go to the birth. I’m glad – for a few reasons.

first, she didn’t come to the birth of my kid, so I feel no need to reciprocate.

Second, these are the days of Facebook. Introverts like myself LOVE facebook. We can garner all the attention we need from Facebook, without the pain and suffering involved in dealing with actual people. Once the child is born, my mother can send all the relevant data to the world: size, weight, toes, fingers, eyes, etc., and I can be done with the experience. After all, only the husband and wife really get to share in the experience. Everyone else sits in the waiting room for interminable hours, until the husband comes out with the child (the new mother being too doped up on painkillers to realize she just squirted a kid out of her crotch).

For the three minutes the kid is shown to the family before being whisked away into the soundproof room with the other squalling young’uns, I’ll be much better served sitting at home watching Lord of The Rings or something. Modern phones send video too… she can video the whole thing if she wants and send it to me.

I have been informed my cousin will be getting married up that way sometime in October. I am really hoping I’m not expected to go to that, either.

 

But that’s a separate pose.

The Crazy Cat Lady starter kit

So, my mom likes cats.

We had way too many pets as a child. The damn house was more like a pet store than a house. Sure, we enjoyed it, and had good times with some of the pets, but looking back on it, the menagerie was probably a bad idea on my parents’ part, particularly my mother’s as she was the pet person. I don’t really remember the order, but growing up we had various cats (two specifically), guinea pigs, parakeets, a Bassett Hound, a cockatiel (think small parrot), and enough fish to feed the Jews in the desert for those forty years.

After all, what idiot keeps cats and birds in the same house. That’s like the guy who kept a lion in the house, and got mauled. Having predators and prey in the same environment just shouldn’t be encouraged. Occasionally one of the birds would get hurt, but usually not eaten, and require a trip to the vet.

With the guinea pigs there was the ever present need to clean their cages and add bedding. They stink, and always try to get out. They made me itch when I would play with them. Another bad thing – don’t get pets the kids are allergic to. Having to take Claritin or Benadryl or whatever because you want a pet around, to me, is the dumbest idea ever. Load your body up with chemicals to eliminate its response to allergens. WTF? Just get rid of the source of the allergen, be it cat, dog, or perfumed mother-in-law.

Fish are somewhat nice. They are quiet, docile, and always need replacing. A dead one usually doesn’t present much of a problem, as it is easily scooped out or sucked up by the filter, or even eaten by its tank mates. But the tank always needs something, new water, cleaning, new fish, and in our case, the filters would splash a drop of water on the wall every now and then. Here and there it doesn’t matter, but over five or ten years, they can really wreck a wall.

As we grew up the pets slowly went away and were not replaced. The cats died off, the guinea pigs croaked, and the parakeets were eaten or something, I don’t know. One persisted, the cockatiel. He lived way past the expiration date for his species. He was friendly to my mother and hated me. I was always the one to catch him and hold him during any medical procedure or fingernail clippings, so he loathed me, and stayed with her when, like all good children, I finally got married and moved out.

She had cats running around outside already when I left. There were even a few running around inside not too long after I was gone, but then it got worse. She has awful allergies and asthma. I wonder why?

There is a virus or parasite or something, they have found, that infects rats. It causes them to seek out cats, which in turn eat them. The virus or bacteria or whatnot is then spread through excrement or flea bites, I don’t know, I’m not googling it again. There is a theory that the same sort of thing can happen with people. Having one infected cat can infect people, and cause them to seek out more cats.

Now I can’t say how many cats there are running around the house; half a dozen? A dozen? But there has been a sharp uptake in cat-related activities. There is a cat-door in the front door now. Someone installed a cat door for her. It’s a metal door – I didn’t have the tools and would have refused. The neighborhood cats can come and go as they please. There are several cat pans in the house. The highlight of my week is checking Facebook to find out mom has cleaned the cat pans. When I go to the house, there are these ant hill-looking piles by the edge of the woods. At first I thought there was a severe ant problem, until I discovered those were the cat pan piles from the “cleaning days”. I shutter to think…

So she mentioned recently that she wanted elevated shelves in the house. I have seen that type of thing in pet stores. Elevated, carpeted shelves about eight inches wide attached to walls, basically a cat playground where they can run from each other, and around the room. I can’t imagine cleaning those or replacing them. Besides, wood and carpet bits aren’t the cheapest things any more.

So, I anticipate the next round of the “Crazy Cat Lady” syndrome, and eagerly await future reports of the results of the weekly cat litter dumping, and maybe the announcement of yet another litter.

But – at least there are no mice in a four block radius.

Yay a Baby Shower!

There are many torturous events in life, and one of those right up there with Funerals, Weddings, Class Reunions and other gatherings of people you would rather not be around is the Baby Shower.

My wife was recently invited to my sister’s baby shower. First of all, I never thought my sister would get married. She was, for a while, way too selfish. She went through a string of boyfriends and would never settle down. Which is fine – by the way. You can go through life single, or on eternal dating sprees. There is nothing wrong with that. But she would date guys for long periods of time and then break up, never settling on one.

Then she got married. I was glad to finally see it, after all, she was living a way too fun and carefree lifestyle. No one should just pick up and move to the northeast, or California for six months for the heck of it. Single people can do that crap and get away with it. With married people – you have to find two jobs. When you are dating and someone pisses you off, you change your locks and your phone number and send them a text saying “fuck you” and never call them again, until you’re drunk and horny. But when you’re married, that type of thing doesn’t go over well, and generally leads down the road to family court or someone getting their penis cut off in the middle of the night.

She had only been married about a year when the news came out that she was pregnant. I was utterly shocked. For one thing, I’m 40, I can’t imagine starting over with a kid now. She’ll be pushing 40 when the kid pops out. Can you imagine graduating high school and all your friends say, “That’s so cute you brought your grandma, where’s your mom?”. Of course, for mom and dad there is an advantage. When the kid graduates college, you can sell the house and retire to Orlando with the rest of the snowbirds. Odds are, unless the kid gets knocked up during some drunken teenage mistake, you might not live to see your grandkids.

Grandkids seem great. All the fun of doing stuff with kids, but you get to send them back when they start being a pain in the ass. And you can fill their heads full of stuff that mom and dad will have to sort out later.

But – part of being pregnant is people give you stuff. I’m not sure who started this shower thing. It’s just an excuse for women to shop, which they can do quite well on their own, without any reason or justification needed.

It’s like a welfare program run by your friends. I think there should really be some sort of anti-fertility drug everyone takes. When you want to have a kid, go have to apply for a permit, take tests, have your house checked out by Social Services, see if you are financially stable, etc. etc. Then they give you the fertility pill, and away you go. It would sure cut down on a lot of teen pregnancies… Still, the shower would come into play. Your friends could come around, see what you need, by you crap, and then the DSS guy could come out and check out all your cool stuff.

So – with baby showers comes the responsibility to shop. I’m not invited, I’m not interested in being invited, but as a married man I’m probably going to be sucked into going shopping. I hate shopping for myself. I would probably being wearing my t-shirts from the 90s if my wife didn’t make me go shopping. Shopping for her is almost as boring, unless it leads to me going into Victoria’s Secret or something. At this stage of life, a trip to VS is more likely to lead to flannel pajamas or soaps than something slinky with straps on it, but at least I can check out the hot mannequins.

So I find myself in the baby section of WalMart, Toys R Us, and Babies R Us. I’m sorry, but after shopping for me, and my wife, shopping for a third person is one of life’s little pleasures, ranking right up there with standing in line at the DMV. Thankfully, my sister is registered at several places. I think WalMart having a wedding registry is someone in the Book of Revelation concerning the end times, but they have it.

Registries are always good for a laugh. I remember getting the Sears “Wish Book” as a kid. Before stores sold toys year ’round, a kid would have to pick out all the stuff he or she wanted from a Christmas catalog, and hope to get everything needed to get them through the year without dying of boredom. I think a wedding or baby registry is a lot like that. As kids we would write down item after item, giving lists to our parents that the King of England probably couldn’t have filled. Registries are like that.

“Hey, we’ll have this kid for a while, we might as well ask for enough stuff to at least get him through Kindergarten, get the car, let’s go fill out a registry!”

Some of the things my sister asked for:

The $250 “Baby View” wireless nursery monitor. Seriously? Her house is 1100 square feet. An open door and a strategically placed mirror would do the job. What the hell are baby monitors for, any way? Someone asked me why we didn’t have a baby monitor. For one thing, the kid was fifteen feet across the hall in the next room. “It’s for hearing sounds in the night,” they said. Well duh. If you like hearing every twitch and burp the kid makes, I guess those are for you. Personally, I want to sleep through the night. If the kid really needs me, she’ll shriek at the top of her lungs. Humans have evolved to recognize a crying baby as one of the most irritating sounds on the planet, right up there with any “Verizon Ringback Music-on-hold” song. But a video feed? Of course, that’s a multi-pupose gift. In their teen years, you point the camera at the door, and know when they are sneaking out.

Boob-Ease Nipple balm. I’m sorry, I can’t look at my sister and think of her nipples. I’m just not that into country music that his line of thought is acceptable in my house.

The “safety first baby view mirror” – Apparently this is for moms who have been in car wrecks before, and have problems turning their heads ninety degrees to the right to glance at the kid. News flash – the kid isn’t in front of you driving a $55000 SUV, about to break hard because the idiot in front of him almost missed a turn. Look in front of you when you are driving, look at the kid when you are stopped at red lights.

“Little Remedies New Parent Survival Kit”. I assume this contains a bottle of xanax, a quart of jim beam, and the number to a local sitter. I’m not sure what else could be necessary for survival. Maybe a placebo invented by a teacher thats supposed to cure the flu?

Pacifiers. As a parent, I know the choice of a pacifier is an intensely personal one for a child. Our kid went through about eight before finding one she was happy with. When you find one you like, by a case of them, because odds are they will quit selling them six months later, and you’ll be up a creek. Asking random strangers to buy you a pacifier is like asking your brother to buy boob-ease nipple lotion.

And finally, don’t put anything on a store rewards card. I made the mistake of buying someone some diapers using my Bi-Lo bonus card. They have your name for a reason. For the next five years I get mail from pampers, wanting me to try their products…

Thank you, Marianne…

Most of my high school memories are repressed. I was not treated well, in fact, if I would have had access to a car and a lot of gasoline at the time, I probably would have wound up in prison.

But every now and then, something pleasant bubbles to the surface, and like a belch in church, you just have to smile. My high school biology teacher was a short, small young woman that you could barely see over the lab counter. My physics teacher, on the other hand, was this very domineering German guy, who was half insane, but brilliant. He was also very possessive of his lab stuff, and didn’t like sharing the space with the biology teacher.

Back to the point of this. You may have heard of this as an urban legend before. I’m sure it’s happened in more than one school, in fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if something like it doesn’t pop up in almost every school sooner or later, but I was there when it happened in MY school, way back in the 90′s before Bill Clinton.

Marianne was the typical ditzy blonde cheerleader type. She had the right friends and the right clothes and everyone loved her, and she sat right in the middle of the room. I sat not only against the wall, but half hidden behind one of the display cases, with only one other desk behind me, which was empty whenever the slacker kid was absent or in the office. I stayed quiet and tried to keep my head down.

So the teacher was lecturing us all on human reproduction. It wasn’t called sex ed at the time, just reproduction, because there was no education on the sex part, just; here’s the male and here’s the female, and when sperm meets egg someone’s going to be paying child support for eighteen years. This was also during the time when being pregnant in school didn’t happen. Oh, girls got knocked up, but they disappeared when they started showing. Anyhow – she gets to explaining how semen is only like 5% sperm, and 95% water and simple sugars and fats that help carry the sperm and protect them until they can go off and find the egg.

Now, evidently Marianne had watched some of the same movies I had, or read the same magazines, or done something else to increase her popularity, because she raised her hand, and without missing a beat, said, “Then why does it taste like salt water?”

The class exploded, and Marianne turned beet red instantly. The biology teacher had to get the principal to come in and calm us down. I don’t know if she ever lived it down, or if it was one of those things you leave behind when you graduate high school, and go on to greater things. I understand she went into the military service, and I thank her for that. But more than that, I think her for her ditzy ways and careless abandon at discussing oral sex with the class.

As I said, she must have read the same magazines I had, or seen the same movies, because I was wondering the same thing: Why do girls say it tastes like salt water, if it’s made of simple sugars? But in my haste to ask the question, I was formulating in my head, in pretty much the same fashion she blurted it out. And if I would have beat her to the punch, I never would have lived it down.

So, thank you, Marianne. Thank you so very much.

People are Stupid

 

 

People are stupid. Some more than others, and some smart people have moments of abject stupidity.

But if you really want to experience the full depth and breadth of human stupidity, spend an hour directing traffic. I’m not sure what it is about cones and a yellow highway safety vest that distracts people to the point they are incapable of all but the most basic mental functions, but it happens.

There are several types of stupid drivers, and I will attempt to describe them, herewith:

The distracted driver. Often the cause of whatever traffic situation we have to direct people around, sometimes they miss an opportunity to run into a bridge abutment, down an embankment, or into the back of the flatbed in front of them, and approach a poor traffic cop. They continue to text, talk on the phone, play with children, change the radio stations, or derive linear equations.  A word of advice. When you see flashing lights ahead, cones, smoke, fire trucks, and people standing in the road, put down all your shit, put both hands on the wheel, yell at the kid to shut the Hell up, and pay attention. There just might be something you need to pay attention to. That six foot tall, two hundred pound guy in the yellow vest isn’t there for his amusement. Odds are he will try and help you around the scene safely.

The rubber-necker.  They just have to see what’s going on. “Did someone die? Is that’ someone’s car from my church? I need to stop because I’ve never seen the fire guys cut a door off before!” are all thoughts running through their feeble brains. Looking sideway instead of where you ARE DRIVING is likely to cause your car some damage.

The out-of-towner.  Okay, the main road is blocked. A line of cars is strung out for blocks or miles. Traffic is being diverted down a side street around an overturned car. And you are going to stop and ask the cop, “Hey, I’m not from around here, how do I go at the Wal-Mart?” First of all, it’s go TO the Wal-Mart. Several things might happen to you. The cop may yell at you, he may point, he may tell you to follow the crowd, or my favorite, he may give you some bogus directions which will lead you way out of the way. Next time bring an atlas, or a GPS.

The I-have-to-go-that-way! Driver. Somewhat similar to the out-of-towner. They have a direction in mind, and they are focused. Never mind the fact that there is a burning fuel tanker in the road. They have to get to work, damn it, and they’ve driven the same five block route for five years. Or they have to pick up grandma, so “How do I get there?” Well, you don’t . Not now. Come back in forty minutes and try again. Seriously…I’m not kidding. I’m not making everyone else in the world turn left, but YOU! You can go right ahead. Just go real slow when you drive over the fire hose, and don’t run over the dead guy, because identifying THAT body is going to be tough enough.

The aggressive everyone-else-is-stupider-or-less-deserving-than-me. Often seen in cars with expensive names. A fine example is when two lanes are going the same direction, and an accident forces the cop to let one lane go at a time. Eventually Mr. Aggressive will lane jump from his stopped lane, into the moving lane, because some dummy didn’t move fast enough and left a gap. This behavior can be easily corrected. When Mr. Aggressive gets to you, stop him. Let his former lane buddies go. Eventually another aggressive person will swap lanes suddenly, and you can stop him, letting the first one go. This provides not only a good measure of when to alternate lane traffic, BUT it gives the added benefit of seeing an aggressive driver beat his steering wheel, cuss, and make some really funny facial expressions. The aggressive driver will also zip around others in line when they don’t move fast enough, particularly “the fainting goat”.

The Zombie. Similar to the distracted driver, they are in their own little world. The may be staring ahead apparently seeing the world, but something isn’t connecting. They drive right past the cones, the cops, the firemen, whoever is there, just going as far as they can. The Zombie can often be brought back into the real world with a sudden intense stimulus. A hand slapping the shit out of their window as they go by, a swift kick to the fender, or even a flashlight to the trunk may break them of their stupor, rendering them once again safe to drive.

The fainting-goat. They’re in front, ready to go, you point to the left, and boom, they shut down like someone pulled their brain right out of their ear. No amount of gesticulating, pointing, shouting or prodding will work with this driver. The only thing that is going to work is a slow approach to the window, followed by the universal “roll it down” gesture, then a quiet “you need to go, and turn right”. Any other loud noise or shout may cause them to retreat further inward, earning you horn blasts from other drivers, and causing Mr. Aggressive to jump curbs to get around this person while the fainting-goat is trying to get over the fact they are dealing with circumstances that aren’t Disney-Safe.

There are many more interesting drivers out there. Keep your eye out for them. After all, if they cant see a day-glow colored guy pointing left and waving at them, then your little turn signal isn’t going to get their attention either.

Levels of Clean

Christmas never ends.

My parents are divorced. My wife’s parents are divorced. My Wife’s sister lives two hours away. Scheduling Christmas meetings around my house is a lot like planning the D-Day invasion or balancing the Federal Budget.

First of all – our moms are close, at most thirty minutes away. Our dads are three hours and ten hours from us, respectively. So this provides the potential for spending Christmas on the road. Thankfully, my father tends to want to come up near us. Usually we meet in a neutral location, somewhere rented and not belonging to anyone. Up until two years ago, I would visit my mother at my Uncle’s house.

Never again. First of all, my Uncle lives with my Aunt by marriage. She’s an evil succubus of a woman who took a perfectly fine hunting and fishing free bachelor man, and suckered him into her family drama and married him. Now whenever it’s time for family get-togethers at their house, there is a whole cadre of extended family on her side that I neither like nor care for. I refuse to go back. My mother has much the same feeling, and would rather come to my house.

My sister-in-law, her husband, and my father-in-law come to our house too.

And thus begins the cleaning. It think it’s funny how there are different levels of clean for different people. Which is why I cannot have my father over. He is married to this clean-freak dirt-nazi lady who will go around, lean over, and pick up grains of sand from the kitchen floor. Having her come over is like inviting Child Protective Services over for supper. You don’t feel like you are being friendly, as much as you are being interviewed to determine your suitability as parents.

My mother is the exact opposite. Her house and car are often just a few boxes away from starring on that “Hoarders” show. I can invite her over any time, and I feel like nothing could offend her.

My father-in-law is somewhere in the middle. His house is normally a realm of cluttered, but clean, chaos. For example, take every item you own out of the kitchen cabinets, and place them around the kitchen. It’s clean, but cluttered and not very useable. That’s his kitchen and den area.

My sister-in-law and her husband live in one of those controlled developments, and every time we go there it’s like being in a copy of better homes and gardens.

Fuck them.

So because they are coming over, I had to hand-scrub the kitchen floor. I do this once a year when the grout turns brown, and it is a mess and very tiring. I put out the special towels, and new soap in the dish on the bathroom sink, and use the fancy china with those little silly “chargers”. You know – the plate that your plate sits on. What the Hell are those for?

I have to go, I see a crumb in the hall I have to pick up.

You can reproduce! Congratulations…

Part of my job involves interviewing prospective new hires. The interview process is probably something similar to what you may have been through. Why should we hire you, why do you want to work here? Are you a child molester? Things of that nature.

One of our questions asks a person what their greatest accomplishment in life is. A lot of them answer “My kids”. I’m always flabbergasted. Sure, kids are something to be proud of, especially if they are in Harvard studying to be brain surgeons or nuclear physicists or whatever people that go to Harvard eventually study.

Other people say stuff like, “staying married to my beautiful wife.” First of all, I agree, staying married is an accomplishment, especially today, when people get married yearly and divorced just because they disagree over the color of the bedroom linens. But never say that is your greatest life accomplishment. First of all, any time you preface “wife” with “beautiful” or “precious” or “wonderful”, it means one of two things. First, you cheated on them. Second, they are ugly as sin, and you are trying to convince yourself they are great, so you don’t go check out the whores on Craigslist again, thinking that if you get lucky, you won’t wind up with Herpes or a cop.

But back to the kids. Seriously, if you say in a job interview that your greatest accomplishment if having kids, those of us across the table tend to think that if your greatest accomplishment in life is that you managed to reproduce, like the other ten billion people that have come before you have managed to do, great. You are slightly more skilled at life than an amoeba. After all, Amoebas don’t even need a partner, just some Barry White and some Amoeba porn and BAM – out pops another one. The lowliest crack whore can have kids, so you are as accomplished as a crack whore at life. Great, welcome to the company! For guys, all you have to do is find some tipsy bar skank willing to spread her legs for your barely adequate manhood for a minute or so, and squirt! Congrats, pops, you reproduced.

So stop saying “my kids” or “my marriage”. Come up with something good! How about, “I rebuilt my father’s 1969 mustang GT Cobra”. Now THAT sounds good. If your job involves accounting, there’s a good likelihood your false skills at rebuilding carburetors will ever come into question. Don’t try this route, of course, if you drive a piece of crap that’s always breaking down, or worse, if your job potentially involves rebuilding Ford cars, and you think a “tranny” is a guy in women’s clothes, and not something to do with gear shifting.

“I hiked the Appalachian trail” sounds great. You can plan, you are dedicated, you can overcome insurmountable obstacles. Even if you parked the car, walked 100 yards of it and walked back, you technically hiked a part of it.

“I was a Navy Seal”. Okay, for this one, you BETTER have been a Navy Seal. Very impressive, and verifiable.

“I’ve read every Stephen King book”. Also impressive. Books are expensive, and his books are creepy.

“I build my own computers instead of buying them” Good, unless you want to be the unofficial company IT guy. Stay away from this if you want to work for a small business with no dedicated IT guy. You’ll learn to hate computers.

But find something, anything, better than essentially saying, “I fuck a lot”.

The Junk Store

I have a relative – I’ll keep it at that vague reference. She is older (like social security age older), single and lives alone. She occupies her time in many ways, one of them being going to the Junk Store.

I’m not sure what else to call the place. That’s what she calls it. I’m not sure if that’s its name, or just what they sell. I assume it’s some sort of resale place, like a Salvation Army. I’ll get to those bastards in a minute, don’t let me forget them, especially now.

About a month ago, she announced over Facebook that she was getting her list together to go Christmas shopping, and her first stop would be “the Junk Store”.

This sent up alarm bells in my head. First of all, Christmas is about spending time with your family, and worshiping your deity of choice, specifically Jesus on the 25th, if you are into that sort of thing. Presents are optional, and indeed these days they seem hypocritical. Do you think Jesus really wants you to go into debt on his birthday? He threw the moneylenders out of the temple, remember?

So the junk store Christmas list worried me. If you don’t have a lot of money and just want to come eat dinner, I’m cool with that. Or make me a cake. I love cake, you can’t go wrong with cake. But don’t feel obligated to get me something, just because it’s “the holidays”. Especially not some weird, inappropriate gift.

I like airplanes, I have for years. I tried flying lessons, and building my own plane. Planes are expensive, and without a supportive family, the flying hobby tends to suffer. However, a few Christmases ago, I was presented with a small lamp with hand painted airplanes on the lampshade, the kind of thing you might put in an airplane-themed nursery for a little boy. I was thinking, “What? Seriously?”

This person said, “Well, I don’t know what you’ll do with it, but I thought it was nice.”

Well, yes, it was nice, but not having a nursery or little boy, I sat it on a shelf in the corner, and eventually donated it to someone who did. My daughter, who was 8 at the time, was given a broomstick horse. It was a stuffed horse head on the end of a four foot piece of wood dowel, the kind of thing a child much younger than her would want to run around the yard on and play cowgirl. The horse had seen better days, if it was a real horse, it would have been long overdue for a trip to the Elmer’s factory. It too, sat in the corner until it could be disposed of properly.

So, the Junk Store set off the appropriate red flags. “If you really want to get me something,” I told her, “get me an Amazon.Com gift card. You can even find them at Bi-Lo and get the fuel perks and save on the price of gas.”

Hopefully I was successful in heading off the Junk Store shopping trip. Then I had to call and warn my sister.

Now on to the Salvation Army. I told you I wouldn’t forget them.

I hate them this time of year. Most of the time I like them. I donate tons of stuff to them during the year, and not just for the tax credit. I think it’s good to give them stuff that can be re-used, instead of throwing it out.

But I hate their bell-ringers. Every damn store you go in this time of year has one of those darn buckets out front, and those people ringing that damn bell. It would be less offensive if they ran up to each person and screamed at them, “Give me some money you cheap scrooge bastard!” Okay, maybe not less offensive, but at least there would be an initial assault, and then it would be done.

A lot of people pick on Target because Target prohibits Salvation Army from being out front. It’s not only them, but ANY organization that wants to beg for money outside its front doors. I say, good on you, Target! I hate shopping there, if only because my wife takes freaking forever and a day inside Target, but the store itself isn’t that bad. It’s just a red Wal-Mart, without so many people in Pajamas. Since I don’t have to listen to those stupid bell ringers, I’ll be glad to spend money inside their store, if in fact I go there. buying online is so much easier.

It’s Christmas time in Hell

When I was young, say around the age of ten or so, we had a big fake Christmas tree. The thing was old, even as I remember it as a child. It was eight feet tall, and very full, and resembled a species of tree I have never seen on this Earth. I guess it was supposed to look like some type of short leaf pine. What it looked like, however, was a collection of green bottle-brushes on a closet rod.

The annual holiday tradition would begin with us dragging the box down from the attic and sorting the limbs into piles. There were around ten different piles to make. The limbs’ wire ends were painted different colors, but a lot of the color had worn off over the years. They fit into matching colored holes on the center pole, which was a two-piece closet-rod-looking affair. Due to it being dried out and used forever, the holes were wallowed out and ragged, as if a five year old had been given a drill and told “go make some holes in that closet rod, junior!”

So we sorted the limbs into ten piles, based on five colors. So there was ong limb red and short limb red, and long limb blue (or purple?) and short limb blue (or purple?), and eventually all limbs went into the holes, and the tree was done. We had an extra top, too…so somewhere someone’s tree was missing a top. I can image the fun at the tree factory: “Hey Jim, why don’t we put two tops in the one, and no top in that one! Hahahaha!”

This was, after all, the seventies, the laborers were probably Jim and Tom and Steve, instead of Hadki and Shizari and Ghadji.

It was a thanksgiving day tradition, and it almost had to be, as assembling the beast was more laborious than any family of four could reasonably be expected to do alone in one day. Taking it down was always just as hard, including shoving it back into the attic. But of course, AFTER Christmas no one is around to help, which is why one year the big ugly thing stayed assembled in the living room until April, stripped bare of lights and ornaments. We lived in a big house then, you didn’t have to even go in the room with the tree if you didn’t want to.

But the allure of a live tree must have vexed my sister and I. I don’t know how it happened, but one Christmas we talked our father into getting us live trees for OUR OWN ROOMS! We would have to decorate them and such ourselves, but we could finally have live trees.

So we piled into the giant station wagon and went tooling off down the highway in search of some woods with some trees. Finding a suitable stand of them, he got out, looked around to make sure no one was looking, picked out two vaguely “Christmas-y Looking” evergreens. I think they were cedar trees. After sawing them down with a bow saw, he threw them in the car and took us and trees home.

That was it, tree-gathering done. My mother was livid. First of all, we children (my sister and I) were what you would call today, “wimpy”. Over-sheltered and allergic to stuff. I’m not sure my father really believed in allergies at that stage of his life. But when he dragged those two trees in the house, mom flipped. “They’re ALLERGIC to Cedar trees!” He shrugged or something, or maybe responded with some colorful metaphors, and put the trees in our rooms. There were no stands, no lights, no ornaments. Just a seven foot tall cedar tree, leaning up against the wall in the corner. He was done with them at that point. Mom, being concerned about our health and well-being, refused to let us touch them.

The next morning, true to form, we were itchy and puffy-eyed. The trees were unceremoniously tossed onto the “compost pile” which was a pile of leaves and grass clippings against the fence in the corner of the back yard. Thus ended our dreams of our “very own Christmas trees”.

The tale of the Itchy Christmas followed me through life until I got married. When my wife wanted a live tree, I said, “No way! I’m allergic to trees in the house.” Which in a way was true. Even today, brushing up against a cedar tree will make me break out in itchy welts at the site of the scratch for a little while, but nothing requiring medications. The wife is actually the same way. BUT – little did I know there is more than one species of tree appropriate for in-home winter-holiday celebratory use. The Fraser Fir (so named because Mr. Fraser happened to discover it in Appalachia just before his rival) is a much better choice, not inducing itchy puffy eyes nor skin reactions.

A Christmas tradition was born. At least I don’t have to try and figure out if the color on the tree limbs is blue, purple, green or black.

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