Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Shiny New Year

Every year for quite some time I have tried to figure out what resolution I want to make for the New Year. Things usually end up the same every year. The eleventh hour begins to wane and I still haven’t decided what ‘thing’ I will fail at this year. Finally as the clock ticks down to midnight I get all flustered and decide reversing global warming is just too much work and decide that I will, again, decide to quit smoking.

OF course this resolution is broken at 12:01 am as I and the rest of the social pariahs huddle outside in the blowing snow using our lighters as a campfire to help stave off the cold (Note – women or metrosexuals wearing any type of fur or faux fur should not partake in warming themselves by the Zippo fire as, unbeknownst to some of us, fur burns-fast-and smells very very bad when it does).

New Years Eve is Christmas for adults. We get to wish for things we want and we get to shake off remnants, doubts and failures from the current year as it draws to a close.

What a great opportunity to mend fences on friendships that need to be repaired. The biggest problem we as a ‘civilized’ group need to contend with is that none or very few of us ever want to admit we were wrong or maybe we said something at a weak moment or we made a decision that was uninformed and hasty. This is the time of year when anyone can walk up to a former friend and say, ‘I’m sorry I kept ogling your wife’s cleavage and told all the guys I would kill you for the chance to play motorboat with her breasts.’ How difficult is it? If you get popped in the noodle, well maybe, just maybe he was never really your friend (or he has issues to which you are unaware regarding breasts, apologies or motorboating). In any case you have taken the high road, admitted you were in the wrong for what you said and have closure.

High hopes and wonderful expectations seem to emanate from most of us at this time of year. Fueled by the Christmas spirit and a longing to fulfill potential we all have but never give a chance to blossom we dare to dream about the possibilities of the quickly approaching new year.

On the one night of the year where we are all allowed to dream you can see people drift off into the ether and wish for a better future. We all usually start of with small wishes. ‘ I wish I could lose 15 pounds.’ Or, ‘I hope my husband gets run over by a bus.’ These are things that are possible with some exercise or a subtle push off the curb. Later on after some social lubricant we hit the Generosity Phase of the evening. This usually lasts for about an hour and by the time it is done every homeless person, orphan and stray cat has been accounted for with our well wishing, open hearts and intoxicated minds.

My personal favourite ‘phase’ is the Babbling Drunk Phase – to which I am very good at. This involves saving the planet, the baby seals, the homeless people and orphans, stray cats AND dogs and somehow acquiring superhero powers. Last year I am pretty sure I took over the province of Quebec, raised free range homeless people, taught dogs how to do calculus and could create vodka from anything by just concentrating really hard (I am the Dean Martin of Super heroes). I woke up with a headache and did not have the opportunity to kick the separatists out of Quebec.

Pipe Bomb Wishes;
1) I wish that on the morning of January 1st, everyone woke up and had common sense. No longer would we have to guess where or when people would be making a turn because their turn signal would let us know. Traffic would be less chaotic because people in the left hand lane would be passing cars in the right hand lane and then moving over to the right hand lane when it was safe to do so. We would know when this was going to happen because they would be using their turn signals. Life would be great because there would no longer be dolts congregating in front of doorways, escalators or hallways talking about whatever mundane things dolts talk about.
2) Accountability. No longer would we have to listen to newscasts about drunks slamming into buses and suing the owner of the bar. We wouldn’t have to have rules about wearing bicycle helmets because some politician’s drunk friend cracked his noggin while riding his three wheeled bike. Lying would be lying and we wouldn’t need a Grand Jury to convene to decipher what a lie really is just to bail out some bush league politician with the moral fiber of Hitler. Aside from putting a lot of lawyers out on the streets I think we would all have a better life if we admitted we were wrong once in a while and move away from frivolous lawsuits blaming other people for all of our misfortunes. If I have my way this year all the lawyers will be allowed to roam free in Quebec with the free range homeless people.
3) Children would all have mute buttons that work with any remote control or better yet, all we would have to say is ‘Stifle’ and pazow – no crying, no incoherent babbling and no back talk.
4) Universal Bullshit Detector on every person on the planet. I would never be able to write anything again but think of all the advantages of hearing – “This words coming out of this person’s mouth are bullshit- anything this person says is suspect and he should be treated with extreme prejudice – Have a nice non bull shitty day” every time some quack, lunatic or fanatical fiend tries to convince of something that isn’t real. This could get annoying if you are watching CNN but it is the price we have to pay to not have our lives disturbed, distorted or disrupted by people who make their living by annoying the crap out of the rest of us.
5) Elimination of the dreaded “STARE” or what I like to call –‘The Stink EYE!’ Every married man knows what this is and fears it more than the possibility of having his testicles yanked off by a herd of rabid mules. The ‘Stare’ does not obey the Laws of Physics. I could be three hundred miles away and I will suddenly get ‘the fear’. My neck will begin to get hot, my heart will beat much faster and my throat will get dry. Women know when something is being said about them- anywhere in the world. My wife has woken me up from a dead sound sleep and told me she knew what I was dreaming about and that if I continue dreaming about it she would be forced to turn the lights on so she could deploy the STARE on me. It’s very hard to get back to sleep when you have ‘the Fear.’
Hunter S. Thompson used to write about ‘the fear.’ The abridged interpretation could be described as – the weasels were closing in and it was near time to pay for the drug induced mayhem he and his cohorts had caused.
‘The fear’ to me consists of wondering why I have broken out in a cold sweat, how long I will be sleeping on the couch and what the hell I did or said. ‘The fear’ is akin to lowering your voice and looking around you before you tell an off colour joke. It’s the tiny voice in the back of your head that says, ‘don’t do it, don’t say it and don’t even think it- think of the consequences man!’ but you still do it anyway. Whenever you get ‘the fear,’ chances are, wherever you are that you will be getting ‘the Stare’ at any moment. Any man who says he is not afraid of the ‘Stare’ is lying or gay. There is no defence from the ‘Stare’ but I heard jewellery can lessen the effects.

As the countdown to the New Year has begun I have still not decided what altruistic endeavour I will fail at miserably this year. There are just so many ways to prove how I excel at mediocrity that making a decision about this potentially life altering resolution has me all kerfuffled. Screw it. I am just going to quit smoking – again.

May 2009 be your greatest year ever and not suck hind teat like 2008.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Big Day

I have come to the conclusion that Christmas time used to be a lot of fun. I still enjoy Christmas, but now it is simply because I get a few days to sleep for 14-hour stretches and not feel guilty about it.

I have been running it over in my head and, every time I do, the historical steady decline in fun always comes out in phases.

I attach the following for your information and amusement.

1)What the Hell is going on?
Through the use of archive photographs and the recollections of relatives who used to be drunks but are now just mildly senile, I was able to construct what Christmas may have been like when I was 2- or 3 years old.

The Mall
Who is this fat SOB with the white beard? How dare you pick me up and jostle me around like I was a $2 whore. I have just peed on your leg, and I think I just soiled myself, to boot.

Christmas Morning
Dragged from the comfort and security of my bed and favourite blanket, at 5:30am, I am dragged downstairs by my brothers in what could only be described as a picture perfect Italian Army Retreat: Asses and Elbows.

To my amazement, someone has left boxes and pretty paper around a tree. I thoroughly enjoyed making a fort out of boxes and eating the colourful paper.

The remainder of the day is spent fighting over toys and, being poked and prodded by old people. and I still don’t know who the fat man in the red suit is.

2)I think the Fat Man is OK!
Between the ages of 4 and 6 years old, I remember Christmas. Not vividly, but enough to know that this Fat Man was is alright in my book. I was still a little leaery of him, as you one could tell if you they saw the picture of me and the Fat Man. The look of ‘I really like you, but keep your distance’ danced from my eyes, with tinges of fear and loathing jumbled in for effect.

This age seems to coincide with raised voices and getting into trouble for launching Nerf products at grandma while she worked on her 6th rum and coke of the morning. Back in the early Seventies, little was understood about the a correlation between sugar intake and hyper activity. We weren’t over stimulated, we were ‘acting crazy’ and the candy canes and chocolate and sweets were not the culprits.

3)What Do You Mean?
My bubble was burst when I was 6 years old. My older brothers knew, but tried to shield me from the truth. However there is always that one kid in the neighbourhood who has to share the pain with everybody once he discovers that the Jolly Old Saint Nick likely isn’t real.

Do you have any idea how hard it is to pretend that you believe in Santa Clause when you are 6 years old. You have been lied to by the very people who tell you not to lie, and the one guy, the most known person on the planet turns out to be a myth. The one thing we could all stand together to and believe in is taken away. That ‘kid’ I mentioned earlier almost always has red hair and bad teeth. This is the reason I dislike bad -toothed red -headed people to this day.

4)Thanks for the Socks!
Christmas turns into a day to receive socks you’ll never wear, books you won’t read, and visits to relatives you’ve never liked. All I ever wanted to do during Christmas during the time span of 12-19 years old was be with my friends.
Being with my friends was what made Christmas fun. Shooting out Christmas lights with a pellet gun was what Christmas meant to me. It was the time of the bastard!

5)First Girlfriend Gift
Around the that same time, most of us gave a really bad gift to the girl we were dating at the time. I don’t remember the piece of crap gift I gave, but at the time, it was the ‘most coolest’ gift ever. Mine was likely some perfume that could be used to anesthetise farm animals. For all I know it could have been hockey cards. To this day, I still give crappy gifts. I gave my wife a softball and kitchen tongs last years. Luckily, I had my shoes on at the time, and was able to make a hasty retreat. because I could hear her as I fled that I would need the tongs to remove the softball from a certain bodily orifice, and something about me being really stupid.

6)The Party Years
Nineteen years old, and up until marriage we had some damn good parties. Friends and a lot of booze were what Christmas meant to me. These were also the years that my parents would wake me up at 6am on Christmas morning -after letting me sleep for about half an hour - to revel in the Christmas spirit with family and friends. Even a hot shower and after -shave overdose couldn’t mask the odour of beer, rye and cigarettes oozing from every pore on my body. Good times.

7) Sharing Christmas
Once I got married, Christmas time changesd again. My wife’s family lives a good distance away so it is not reasonable for us to travel from my family to her family on Christmas day, so we have Christmas with my family one year and Christmas with her family on other years.

There is some culture shock going from your own style of family Christmas to another style or the traditions of another family’s Christmas.
The lights on the tree are different, the food is different, and the conversation is different.
One thing is consistent through most families I have spent time with at Christmas though – we all have one relative, be it a brother or sister, mother or father or so on that is absolutely insane and believes Christmas is ‘their’ day. They try to control the entire debacle of events that makes Christmas real, and manage to annoy almost everyone. Most families use alcohol to block this person out. I find earplugs work really well, too.

Oh, the sheer joy of driving nine hours through sleet and snow, deer and bears, and things I can only call ‘strange’ at this time.

Don’t get me wrong. Spending quality time with my wife and her family isn’t that painful, but sometimes I’ll catch myself daydreaming about the possibility getting lost on some Godforsaken road in the U.P. and being dragged from my truck by Sasquatch or a Yeti or possibly some hybrid of the two, and used for a Christmas Eve snack. Even if it is only to help the scientific community prove that Sasquatch exists when, the following spring when they find one of my unmistakeably tacky Acapulco shirts in an unidentifiable mound of what will later be called Sasquatch leavings (‘Yeti Poop’ to the lay person). This is the dream that keeps me going during this time of year.

We arrive at my wife’s parents’ house (or as I like to call them: my ‘anti-parents’),. where I am subjected to questions I can’t answer and conversations about people I don’t know. I never knew how much I enjoyed standing outside and smoking in the skin freezing cold until a few years ago. Quiet, oh blessed quiet, with the trees creaking and swaying under the extra weight of pure white snow. The light foot steps of deer close by and unknown growls coming from the darkened tree line about 150 feet from where I stand. When I return to the house, I attempt to sneak into the bedroom for what I consider the greatest gift ever: sleep. I am halted in my tracks by a four-year-old speaking a language that sounds like PortuSpanglish. He’s holding a plastic golf club and wearing some manner of space helmet. I still do not know to this day what ‘thwing ad dolf balfs’ means. Sweat runs from my forehead until I throw out use this old chestnut ‘ Hey Buddy, your mom just called you – go see what she wants.’ His plastic golf club turns into a jet pack as he zooms away to find his mom. I slowly make my way to the bedroom where I don’t bother to take my shoes off and just slide into bed. Oh blessed angels on high, I have found my Graceland. I get to nap for about eight minutes, until I am awoken by the door creaking open, giggles, and the sound of an goddam imaginary jet pack. I peel back the covers to see three runny noses, two toothy grins, and something that resembles gums with a can opener wedged inside of it. ‘Wwad due wue duing unca bwookth?’ Up and at ‘em.

A certain aspect of Christmas that always makes me smile is the look on kids’ faces when they open gifts on Christmas Day. This is quickly undone when the kids start to talk, whine or cry. Hiding in the basement with the dog generally remedies this.

Christmas morning comes, and we are shocked into consciousness by ear splitting shrieks of small children. By the time I have put pants on and walked out to the living room the shrieking has been replaced by crying. [Note to all adults: – Children to do not see ‘value’. Children see the number of presents they got and the number of presents their brother or sister got. It’s a numbers game to them, and if they don’t get at least the same number it becomes a pouting game. Have no fear – kids are dumb. To even up the numbers, give them cheap Chinese -made gifts that contain lead paint. IF you are one of those people who think lead paint is ‘bad’ because it could ‘kill’ your child, give them socks or goofy looking mittens. I like to give my nephews sweaters that will guarantee a playground ass whooping!]

Play by Play
The kids are out of the gate. Five-year-old Billy is down the stairs and tearing his stocking off the wall. It’s like the rug rat parade here in the living room as the kids have descended upon the tree like locusts – tearing and pushing and grabbing anything with wrapping paper. The boys have elected to try the ‘soft gifts get hidden behind/under or under the couch’ play, but Grandma is not having any of it. The fathers and uncles have begun drinking, and why not- it is 6:30 in the morning. Ooohhh a Transformer box to the head gets a flag on the play, while mom checks little Cindy for gaping head wounds. Cindy is ok and running toward her brother with her ‘My Little Pony’ carrying case … and he is down and crying. His ancestors felt that hit. Good news – Billy has lost his first tooth. It is stuck in the wood flooring. Fathers and brothers and Grampa are now rooting thru the medicine cabinet in a desperate attempt to find anything that will take the edge off. John opts for the Estrogen pills- his boobs will be sore in the morning because of that bonehead play. In a vicious display of Kiddy Christmas antics, all of the children have opened up the adults’ gifts – what a ballsey play by the children – we are awaiting a ruling from the judges- “Fair Play” and the kids go wild.
Then, just as quickly as it started, suddenly all the gifts are gone. The dust and wrapping paper slowly settle to the living room floor. We seem to be missing a one -year -old and the dog. Kick, trip, fall, swear, cry, and Grampa is down holding his hip. Little Addison has been found and we think that the dog has been eaten in what can only be described as a Christmas Version of 'Lord of the Flies'.

Keep yourself tuned to this channel in two years for ‘Kiddy Christmas Carnage.’

As chaotic as it sounds, and all things being equal – my wife’s family is only slightly more Christmas Psychotic than my own.

In Summary
I don’t know why Christmas is special, but it is, and I am glad for that. It’s a time to look back and realize all the things I should have done and all the things I shouldn’t have done and realize that next year, maybe, I could be less of a jackass. Maybe then, my family would let me sleep in.