28 December 2008

Year in review

Warning: this is a long one.

It’s the end of the year, and we all know what that means: the media – or “the media” if you prefer to be snarky about it – will be counting down lists of the best, dumbest, and most amazing people, animals, natural disasters, and celebrity meltdowns of the past year.

Animal planet, for instance, has a special airing soon about the ten most amazing animal moments of 2008. E!’s “The Soup” will do some sort of soupy countdown as well – a clipdown, I believe they call it, since it’s all TV show clips commentated on by the delightfully snarky Joel McHale. In a recent Entertainment Weekly, Stephen King listed his favorite movies from this year. The list goes on and on.

I actually considered counting down my ten favorite countdowns, and I still may do so. But with all the emphasis on the best of things, I always get confused. I think, hey, wasn’t this in fact a spectacularly crappy year?

So without further ado, I give you my personal top ten suckiest moments/events/whatever of 2008.

10. My car. Period. This was not a good year for my car. Of course, it’s a Chevy, so no year is a good one and every mile I drive causes more and more cash to fly out of the tailpipe like it does in those commercials. I think the bloody thing’s worth maybe a grand now. But even for my bottom-of-the-line, stripped down Cavalier, this was a bad year. The EGR valve croaked. Two of my three A/C control knobs broke. It really started to get that Old Car Smell. The little ashtray-drawer-thingy snapped off. The latch on the boot broke. A tire went flat in the 3rd Avenue parking garage. The paint started peeling off aggressively. My gas mileage tanked. The belt driver (whatever the H that is) had to be replaced. The foam in the steering column hardened, causing my horn to blare randomly, frequently, and without warning – often at 2 or 3 in the morning, for five minutes at a stretch. And more recently, the battery died. A fairly new battery, I might add.

All this is just in the past year. Since I’ve owned it, I’ve also had to have the brakes fixed, a new A/C installed, the starter repaired, and the antenna reattached. And the windshield wipers replaced five times. And like four new batteries. And the stereo replaced.

My next car will be German or Japanese, I promise you that.

9. 2008 was the year that an old friend from my past made a reappearance.


I had horrible acne as a teenager, and I was terribly relieved to find that as I entered my twenties, my skin cleared up. I had, oh, three or four good years. My skin looked great. A trifle pale, certainly. But that’s my normal hue. I could use WiteOut as a concealer, I swear it. But every so often I’d get a nice rosy glow in my cheeks, and darned if my face didn’t look fantastic.

But then it happened. Long about … oh, March or maybe April I think, I started noticing blemishes where there once were none. It started out small – a red bump here, a red bump there - one, maybe two at a time. But then a new one would pop up while the others were still out. Three zits, and then four marred my face.

By November, I was back to using a medicated facial cleanser, toner and moisturizer, the kind that peel off a layer or two of the epidermis as they “clean.” And you know what? I’ve still got acne. Five zits on my face, two on the front of my neck, three on the back of my neck, and one or two little guys behind the ears.

I’ve tried concealers and foundation. The blemishes suddenly match my skin … and I end up looking warty instead of zitty.

Sigh. Goodbye, lovely skin of my twenty-second and twenty-third years. I’ll miss you.

8. My favorite antidepressant stopped working. Oh, Zoloft. What happened? We used to work so well together, you and I. Sure, we had our ups and downs – dosages upped and downed, that is – but once we hit the right number of milligrams, it was magic, wasn’t it? I felt normal. You didn’t have many side effects – mostly headaches, and I was used to those. Together we got through beauty school and fibromyalgia, and you kept me from hauling off and hitting people (although in all fairness, most of them deserved to be hit). We were a team, Zoloft! But I flew too close to the sun on wings of serotonin. I took you for too long. And you couldn’t help me anymore.

And I was a miserable harpy again. Dr. Zenner – you remember him, right Zoloft? He said that if I leave you alone for long enough, when I go back to you, you’ll work again. And we’ll be so happy together.

In the meantime? Bupkis.

7. I met another old friend this year, one more crabby and vindictive than acne. I had my tonsils out in 2007, and I enjoyed a good nine months of good otolaryngological health. Not a rhinovirus or a streptococcal amoeba or a sinus infection in sight – and I’d been a walking strep virus for ages.

In March of 2008, I got strep throat. Well, I told myself, removing the tonsils wasn’t a foolproof solution. I did work closely with children (until #3 happened) and germs were germs. I doubled my use of hand sanitizer and turned away when someone coughed. Strep returned again in March, then May. And June. And again in November.

On the upside, that’s only four cases of strep compared to the ten a year I was used to when I had tonsils. On the downside, that’s four more cases of strep than I had in 2007.

I’m not sure what else can be removed to help remedy the problem. As soon as I find out, I’ll schedule a surgery.

6. I bought myself a shiny new Dell laptop computer back in … oh, February, I think. It came with Windows Vista installed, and I was (pathetic as it is) used to Windows 2K. But, I told myself, new is good. And I got used to the little “quirks” (bugs) that came with Vista, and I came to like it well enough.

Until October, that is. I’d installed Service Pack 1 (which was supposed to fix said quirks but brought with it two bugs for every one bug it fixed) and on the advice of Scott, my computer-genius big brother, I had Windows set to check for updates nightly.

Mid-October Windows strongly recommended some sort of antivirus update. And fool that I was, I clicked “Ok.”
That, my friends, was the beginning of the end.

This all-important, Strongly Recommended update caused my computer to commit hara-kiri. It would not start up. Start Up wizard couldn’t fix it. It would not boot manually. I could not access my files. My computer, an integral part of my life, was a $750 paper-weight. And I completely. Freaked. Out.

Fortunately, I had Scotty, my own personal Geek Squad. He employed every tool in his mental arsenal to fix my problem. He tried removing part of the hard drive. He tried hack after hack. Finally, using a CD that booted Ubuntu, he retrieved my files from Windows. And when I had them all backed up, he cleared my hard drive off, cleaned up my computer, and downgraded me to Windows XP. He also did a little research, and apparently hundreds if not thousands of people had also lost hard drives to this Strongly Recommended update.

Scotty, you saved my tuchis. You rock. Thank you for losing hours of sleep to keep number six on my list from ruining the whole dang year.

5. Did you know that people in their twenties can get gum disease? I didn’t until the über-helpful dental hygienist told me that I had it. So do you know what I did for my summer vacation? I got my gums lasered four times (and my insurance only covered three). My poor gums. They ached. They stung. They bled. They … healed. But unless I brush and floss vigilantly at least twice a day for the rest of my mortal life, it will come back. And you know what? After a treatment I couldn’t eat anything crunchy for a week. No potato chips! No movie theater popcorn! No regular popcorn!

It was brutal. Especially considering how many movies I saw this summer.

4. Numbers four and three on my list sort of tie for general suckiness, but after considering my sizeable debt, I ordered them as I did.

At the end of July, my boyfriend of four months dumped me. And he gave me the “it’s not you it’s me” routine, just like they do on television. He encouraged me to get angry with him for it and then got offended when I called him a rude name.

Things only got worse between us but I’d rather not get into that.

3. I was fired from my job of nearly two years. I hated management, but I was starting to build up a clientele and I loved working with little kids. I was good at what I did. I had seniority. I was responsible. I filled in at other salons as they needed me. I kept my trap shut when they transferred me to a salon I didn’t want to work at.

But my manager, Sonia, was (pardon my French) an absolute horse’s ass, and she played favorites like one would play a piano. And I was not one of her favorites. So she made up stories about me stealing and messing with the computers, refused to believe me when I told her the stories weren’t true, and canned me. Five days after my dad had brain surgery. Then, after she fired me – in front of a co-worker she insisted sit in on the firing – she said to me offhandedly, “Oh, sorry about your dad.”

I have no qualms about saying that if God is just, this woman will roast in hell for eternity. She treated me like manure and fired me because she could. I hate her like poison.

2. My father’s brain surgery – his third in a year – was because – I believe it was a year to the day from his initial diagnosis – we discovered that his cancer had come back with a vengeance. One month, his MRI was clear. But after he went to the ER because he was having trouble speaking and writing, they did a scan and discovered a huge tumor had popped up out of nowhere. It was aggressive, and it was going to kill him. We were told he had a few months to live, they weren’t sure exactly. They did surgery to remove what they could, and to insert chemotherapy wafers in his brain.

The surgery was on Friday. He came home on Monday night. Eleven days later he lost consciousness and never woke up.

1. Eleven days after he passed out, he died. My father. My daddy. My friend. The best, smartest, kindest, most insightful man I’ve ever known. I miss him so much that it hurts – it’s a physical ache that won’t go away. His death devastated me and I’m not sure I’ll ever completely recover. I’d give the world for five more minutes with him. One more minute. Anything.

I miss him. I don’t know what to do without him. But I have no choice. It sucks. It hurts. And it’s why 2008 will live in my memory as one of the worst years of my life.

23 December 2008

Book me

If he had occasion to embarrass me, my father had one story in his arsenal that he turned to first, and I’ll paraphrase it here for you.

“With every kid,” he’d say, “things are different. They’re all born with their own personalities already in place. And you wonder what they’re going to be like, who they’ll be. You wonder what their little voices will sound like when they learn to talk, and what sort of things they’re going to say.”

Here I typically buried my face in my hands.

“It was the same with Jilly Bee,” he’d continue – he always called me Jilly Bee – “we wondered what words she’d learn when and what her voice would sound like, if she’d sound like her sister at all.

“Then she learned to talk. And she talked and talked and darned if the kid didn’t talk all day long. We couldn’t shut her up. We’d be watching TV and she’d be chattering away during the show and we’d have to try to shut her up until the commercial break.”

It seems I was a bit of a chatterbox. But looking back all I can figure is that for the first 18 months or so of my life, I couldn’t talk, and once I learned I felt I had to make up for lost time. So I talked and talked and talked. Even in my sleep, as my sister complained.

Teaching me to read was a matter of self-preservation for my parents. I could read to myself out loud, in a room other than the one the TV was in, and they’d get a little peace. I imagine that my siblings helped me out a bit, and my parents read to me. In any case I could read fairly well at three, and at 3 ½, I got a library card.

I’ve always been a fan of libraries. I go in, and I get to take their books. Any books I want! I can just take them! I got such a kick out of that as a kid. I was used to going to stores with my mother and hearing that no, I couldn’t have this or that, because it was too much money. But in the library, it was all free! I was hooked. Fines in those days were about a nickel a day for an overdue book. Nothing I couldn’t handle.

Many years later the library moved to a new home, one much bigger than the closet-sized city building it had been in before. I hated it at first. It didn’t feel like my library. It smelled funny. It was on the edge of a cliff. I had my reasons. But I lived in a town without a bookstore, so I went to the new library.

At the start of my senior year of high school, the library had an opening for a shelver. On a whim, I applied, and much to my surprise I got the job. They’d never hired a teenager before, so I was rather flattered, although I suspected my literacy and familiarity with the library had more to do with the decision than anything else. That, and the fact that three of the librarians had known me since I was three and started coming to the library. In any case, I started working there most days after school.

I loved it. It was heaven. Every book in town was at my disposal. I got my grubby hands on new books the instant they were processed (and many times I got to type out the labels, apply the barcodes, and cover them). Not only that, every day before I started work, I could access my account and check on the due dates of the books I’d checked out. I could renew them myself if I needed to.

When I moved to Gilbert, one of the first things I looked for was the public library. And I found it – less than two miles from my house, it was a monster of a building, with easily twice the number of books I was used to. I didn’t know any of the employees, I didn’t know where anything was … and I couldn’t renew my own books.

None of this stopped me of course. I checked out book after book after book, often filling up my card. But the thing you have to remember about me is that I’m sort of an idiot. I had the darndest time remembering to renew my books before they were due back, or remembering to turn them in on time. I had so many books out that I didn’t read most of them. And fines were no longer the nickel I was used to. I think it was a quarter per item per day.

A few years ago, I had a period of six months where three times, I owed more than sixty dollars in overdue fees. Once I owed more than 100. I was gainfully employed and not in much debt so I managed, but I felt sick about it. I am at heart a very cheap person, and I realized that for the money, I might as well be buying my own books to keep forever instead of borrowing. So I started going to bookstores and I never looked back. I’ve been to the library building twice in the past three years, and both times I just went in to vote – I didn’t even go in to the main library where the books are. No books checked out meant no fines. And bookstore books had the advantage of not smelling like the last person who checked them out, as is so often the case with library books. And I can read them at my leisure with no pressure and no time limit. They are mine, to do with as I please.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I own a good 5,000 or so books (that I know of). It’s self-defense and a very twisted sort of cheapness. And it works.

21 December 2008

A little something to think about

There is a show on television called The Big Bang Theory. I’ve never seen it myself on account of it’s on at the same time as another show I watch and I didn’t used to have DVR.

But I did (and do) subscribe to Entertainment Weekly, which means that if something exceptionally hilarious is said on any TV show at all, it might be printed in a little TV quotes section in the next issue of EW.

Such is the case with Big Bang Theory. I wish I’d had DVR a month or so ago just so I could hear this line spoken aloud.

Sheldon (played by Jim Parsons) is explaining a new game he’s come up with called Rock Paper Scissors Lizard Spock. The rules are as follows:

“It’s very simple. Scissors cuts paper, paper covers rock, rock crushes lizard, lizard poisons Spock, Spock smashes scissors, scissors decapitates lizard, lizard eats paper, paper disproves Spock, Spock vaporizes rock, and, as it always has, rock crushes scissors.”

I think that’s the best thing I’ve ever heard in my entire life. And if I could figure out how to shape my hand for lizard (I figure Spock is the “live long and prosper” hand sign), I would totally make someone play this with me.

And people say there’s nothing good on TV anymore.

18 December 2008

Church Lady was right

DISCLAIMER: this is going to make me unpopular. I don't care. You're going to think I'm a horrible, heartless shrew for writing it and you're not going to like me. Tough potatoes.

Picture this: Sicily, 1920.

Sorry. I’m channeling Sophia Petrillo. Where was I?

Right. Picture this: there is an old man – no one knows how old for sure, but we know he’s old. He hasn’t shaved in years. He’s overweight. He’s a pipe smoker, so his beard is likely a nasty shade of tobacco yellow. He’s dirty – he seems to have been rolling around in an ashtray. Everyone knows who he is but no one knows much about him. They do know one thing: he’s interested in the kids.

No matter where they go, he’s there, watching them. Watching them play and learn and wander through Wal-Mart with Mom. But it’s not just in public. He’s known to watch them in their homes as well. Are they eating their vegetables? Are they fighting with a brother or sister? He sees it. He’s always watching. He might write some of it down so he’ll remember. They go to bed at night. He’s there. He watches them sleep. And watches them, and watches them.

Maybe parents aren’t completely cognizant of this at all times. Maybe that’s why when Mom and Dad see the old, fat man at, say, a shopping mall, they take their kids over to say hello. Some kids fight. Some scream. Some cry. Mom and Dad get out the camera.

“Sit on his lap,” they say. “Say hello,” they say. “Be nice,” they say, “he’s not going to hurt you.” But kids know that’s not completely true. Everyone knows the fat man punishes kids he thinks are bad.

And it doesn’t matter how scared a little kid is. Mom and Dad are going to snap their picture, capture that look of abject terror.

They’re not leaving the mall without that all-important picture with Santa.

Pretty creepy, isn’t it? I’ve always thought so.

What kind of story is this to tell your children? An old man is watching you all the time, day and night, so you’d better be good. Or else. Smacks of enabling a pedophile, if you ask me.

I realize that I’m being a bit extreme here. Not every kid is afraid of Satan. I mean, Santa. Some kids get excited. They’ll write him letters. They’ve been good all year long, and they’re going to get their reward.

The idea that good children are rewarded and bad children are punished is nothing new. You can look back through history at fables and folktales and fairy tales, and the theme prevails. Good = rewards. Bad = punishment. But the problem is that Santa is not real. Kids don’t get presents because they’re good. They get presents because Mom and Dad went shopping. But for some reason parents feel the need to lie to their children.

Here many people interrupt me. “It’s not a lie!” is their battle cry. Is Santa real? Well, no. But you’re telling your children he is. That’s a lie. And what’s a child to think when they learn the truth? If Mom and Dad lied about something like Santa – an omnipresent, omniscient being with magical powers – maybe they were lying about other important things – maybe about this Jesus person, too. He’s got some of the same characteristics.

Jesus, by the way, is the reason we celebrate Christmas. Santa takes away from that in a very real, very disturbing way. People will claim that Santa teaches us to be generous and kind … but I’ve never once encountered a child who asked Santa to bring toys to the orphans or the poor kids next door. I’ve never once seen a Santa-obsessed family teach or encourage their children to be generous with the less fortunate. They only say, “Be good or Santa will give your toys away to someone else.” Giving is a punishment, not something important or good or to be enjoyed. Santa for them is not about giving. He's about blackmail. Something to hold over the kids' heads to make them behave.

The poor kids won’t be getting any toys this year. They must have been bad. Good kids get what they ask for. Poor kids don’t get what they asked for … poverty must make you a bad person, right? And Jewish and Muslim children must be bad, too, because Santa doesn’t visit them. Santa only visits good children.

No chimney? No problem. Santa has a magical key that lets him into every house in the world. Am I the only one a little uncomfortable with this idea? We’re in a recession. Santa comes into the house and eats my cookies! Sure, he allegedly leaves presents, but who’s to say he’s not sneaking into the china cabinet while he’s in the house? Pilfering some of the nicer silver, picking the lock on the gun cabinet - or worse, the liquor cabinet.

My mother is fifty-one (hi, Mom) and she still remembers the devastation she felt when she learned that she’d been lied to about Santa. She felt stupid and gullible and hurt. So when my oldest brother was old enough to ask about it, my parents told him the truth – Santa was just a story. And so he, and my sister, and my other brother, and I, never believed in Santa. We were never disappointed at Christmas because we knew that if we only got a few things each, it was all our parents could afford – and that even though money was tight, they still wanted us to have something to open on Christmas morning.

We had other Christmas traditions. For instance, we did what we called drive-by fooding. We’d collect canned and other nonperishable foods, put them in big paper bags, and drive by the homes of struggling families at night. A kid or two would sneak from the car or truck, set the food on the family’s doorstep, ring the doorbell, and run like hell for the car. I loved it. It was a thrill doing it anonymously, and knowing that I’d helped someone have a better Christmas than they might have anticipated. My mom made pancakes or waffles every Christmas morning. It made me sad to think that a kid I went to school with wouldn’t have breakfast on Christmas, and if I could do something about that, even at the age of five, I was going to do it. I didn’t have Santa at Christmas, but I had something better. I had love and compassion.

I never believed in Santa, no. But I never once felt that I missed out. I never once felt like something was missing from the magic of the season. I knew what it was not just to receive, but to give, and to make a difference. I got to play at Santa. And I’m convinced that letting a child play at Santa is worlds better than encouraging him or her to believe in Santa.

And yes, I was one of those rude kids in elementary school who told other children that Santa wasn’t real. But I’m not going to apologize for that. Parents might have lied to their kids (and still do and will), but I wasn’t about to. I believed in honesty, and I still do. Honesty is a good Christian value. I believe in Jesus, not Santa. I celebrate Christmas, not Santamas. And I always will.

15 December 2008

Timing is everything

I couldn’t sleep a few nights ago. This is nothing new, really, but usually when I can’t sleep I’m in bed reading or playing a video game, and a few nights ago I was downstairs on the couch, eating cookies and wondering how often Barack Obama gets a haircut.

I’d been watching “House” on the USA Network. I own all 4 seasons on DVD but I only ever watch it when it airs on TV (which I suppose means I’ve wasted a great deal of money, but I digress). In any case, house ended at 12, and was followed by an episode of “Law & Order: Criminal Intent.”

I’ve watched many episodes of the show before, and it happens that this particular episode was one I’d seen before – but only the first half. I never knew how it ended. So I watched, and it turns out it was the mom, not the grandmother, who killed all those parents.

“L&O:CI” was followed by two episodes of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.” I can’t watch this one most of the time because it’s about, as the announcer guy says, sexually-based offenses, and I don’t have the stomach or mind for that. But the second one was particularly interesting. It was about a doctor (played by Martin Mull) who was prescribing fake and ineffective treatments for HIV. People died, he was convicted, etc, etc. Very captivating. Also very depressing.

But I was watching the second episode because of the first, and it is in fact the first episode that caught my attention. The gist of it is that a woman in the Marines had been raped and was pregnant and missing, and they found her dead, and in the search for her killer we learn all about the corruption and cover-ups in the military vis-à-vis female soldiers and sexual abuse. And apparently if you’re a female soldier, the men see you as either a b***h or a slut, and you’ll be subject to sexual harassment and any number of unpleasantries.

What caught my attention was actually a commercial that aired I think three times during the show. It was a commercial for the Army, and it showed a young woman and her parents, who had been unsure about her decision to join the armed forces. The point of the commercial was how mature and responsible the young woman was for having enlisted, and how proud her parents were of their soldier daughter.

And then the commercial break ended, and we went back to how female soldiers rarely report their rapes by superior officers.

I found that ironic and hilarious. Three times! I think that during prime time these things are probably screened a bit more carefully – what commercials air during what program about what, and that sort of thing. But when you’re watching USA at 2am, all bets are off. And I don’t know about you, but I’m hoping that woman who joined the Army knows what she’s got herself into. If she doesn’t, Mariska Hargitay could tell her for sure – right after these messages.

12 December 2008

On the upside, there are always Charlie Brown songs

It's mid-December, which means that stores and radio stations have been playing Christmas music for about two months now. They start earlier each year. And it's impossible to get away from them. So I've been listening to a lot of crap lately. Over and over and over. Lousy 99.9 KEZ is everywhere. And they play the Delilah show at night. Delilah! *shudder*

Before you write me off as some sort of holiday-hating shrew, let me explain. I'm not against ALL Christmas music. There are some really smashing songs this time of year - "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas," for one. And BNL's album "Barenaked for the Holidays" is a favorite of mine. And I've always liked traditional Christmas carols like we sing in church.

But there are a number of Christmas songs that frankly I could do without. They bother me, which means (all together now, children) that it's going to bother you as well.

I'll warn you: these are bad songs. Bad Christmas songs! To quote Norm MacDonald, "Happy birthday Jesus. Here's some crap!"

The first offender makes me want to bash my head against something hard. I believe the name is "The Little Drummer Boy." It's about some little street urchin with a drum and a dream, on his way to visit the baby Jesus. But even though he could clearly afford a drum, he's got bupkis as a gift, so when he gets to Bethlehem, he asks Mary if he can make a loud noise in front of her newborn baby. And Mary agrees. So he drums for a bit, and the baby Jesus smiles. Pah-rum-pa-pum-pum. Pah-rum-pa-pum-pum. Ad nauseam. The most popular version of this song is performed by a choir of wobbly-voiced women who sound like, as they're singing, they're either very cold or very frightened.

I hate this song. I hate it like poison. I know mothers of babies, and they're rather protective of their newborns. And Mary gave birth to the Son of God. So I reckon she was more than a little protective. Would she really have let some little brat come into the stable and bang on a drum? I doubt it. Aside from which the song has no historical basis, and the constant pah-rum-pa-pum-pumming makes my blood pressure spike and my fists tighten.

Moving on, then.

Second on my list is a more modern, touching, heartfelt piece of tripe called "Mary, Did You Know?" It asks Mary if she knew her baby would walk on water, heal the sick, calm the seas, etc etc. Nothing too offensive, right?

WRONG! Let's consider this for a moment. Mary was a virgin. She was visited by bloody angels. You know something? I think the had a pretty good idea of all of that. But thanks for asking.

Number three isn't even a Christmas song. "My Favorite Things" from that movie with the Nazis and the nun has nothing to do with Christmas. I suppose the imagery about silver white winters and brown paper packages and warm woolen mittens conjures up a wintery feel. But really, what in the name of arse has it to do with Christmas?

And honestly, who the hell has favorite things like these? Whiskers on kittens? Schnitzel with noodles? Doorbells? Wild geese? What kind of demented freak would sing such a song? What's wrong with ... I don't know ... ice cream or movies or spending time with family? I don't suppose they hold a candle to bright copper kettles, do they?

Moving on again. The fourth is "The Christmas Song." Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost, blah blah blah. This is called "The Christmas Song." So why is there no mention of Jesus? Why is it just yuletide carols and tiny tots and Santa? The nerve of some people ... Velvet Fog, my arse.

Number five is "The Man With the Bag," a swinging little jazzy number about how everybody's waiting for the man with the bag (Santa, I assume). This song didn't bother me the first few times I heard it. But then I listened to the lyrics: "He'll be here, with the answers to the prayers that you've made through the year."

I beg your pardon, but since when does sodding Santa answer prayers? I thought that was God's area. I guess maybe if you pray to Santa, he does the answering.

Six is "Do They Know It's Christmas" by the slapably-smug Bob Geldof and a bunch of arrogant celebrities. There won't be snow in Africa this Christmas, no. But that's because most of it's in the bloody southern hemisphere, so it's actually Summer in December. And no, I don't reckon "they" know it's Christmas, because "they" aren't Christians and I'm guessing they don't celebrate. Hey, "philanthropic" celebrities - how's about helping out the millions of diseased and impoverished American children before spreading the wealth to Africa? Probably because American children don't make good news stories. And they're harder to adopt, aren't they? Psht. I spit in your general direction, Hollywood.

Number seven: "Baby, It's Cold Outside." A lovely little Christmas date-rape song. "Hey, what's in this drink?" Oh, just a little rohypnol. It'll wear off in the morning when I'm done with you.

The woman wants to LEAVE, you jackass. No means no.

Number eight: "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year." Radio stations play the Andy Williams version eight times a day. Riddle me this: if it's really the most wonderful time of the year, why do suicide rates spike in December? Also, since when do we tell scary ghost stories at Christmas? Ditto toasting marshmallows.

Ninth on my list is "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." What message does this song send to children? Nobody liked Rudolph until he did something for them. Like saving their white-tailed arses. And do we need the constant repitition? "And if you ever saw it, SAW IT..."

Number ten is "Santa Claus is Coming To Town." (And I wholeheartedly believe that Bruce Springsteen's version is guaranteed to void even the strongest of stomachs.) Why? "He sees you when you're sleeping, he knows when you're awake ..." Another instance where we're confusing Santa and Jesus. And I don't know about you, but I don't like the idea of some old man constantly watching the little kids in my life. That's pedophilia, isn't it?

And speaking of odd sexual compulsions, what gives with "Santa Baby"? Is Eartha Kitt trying to hit on the old man? Gross. He's old! He's married! Shame on you, Eartha. Bad kitty.

I should probably stop at ten, but number eleven kills brain cells: "Merry Christmas Darling" by Karen Carpenter. I'm convinced that, with a little research, Modern Science could prove conclusively a connection between Carpenter songs and fatal gunshot wounds. "Rainy Days and Mondays" makes me want to commit voluntary euthanasia, and/or maim the radio DJ responsible for playing it.

Twelve on the list peels the enamel from my teeth. "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" is disturbing on so many levels, only one of which I'll mention. What a rotten bastard that Santa is. He doesn't care how many homes he wrecks, does he? He just slides down the chimney and makes out with people's mothers. I always wished there was a follow-up: "I Saw Daddy Killing Santa Claus" would have been awesome.

Lucky thirteen is last on my list for now. "Wonderful Christmastime" should be banned on account of it violates the eighth amendment. This song is atrocious. Paul McCartney was a BEATLE, for goshsakes. What happened? I think this song and "Say, Say, Say" ought to be enough evidence that Paul lost his mind years ago. This song is an embarrassment for a former Beatle. This song is an embarrassment to Wings, and that's saying something.

I think I'll conclude now. I've probably stuck all sorts of rotten songs in your head, and I'm sorry. But don't worry. I'm sure if I pray extra hard to Santa he'll put me back on his nice list. Maybe bring me some warm woolen mittens and raindrops on roses. All of my favorite things.

06 December 2008

I think it's been up for more than 30 days

My father died on September 9th and we buried him a week later. September 16th, for the slow among you. That's very nearly three months, which amazes the hell out of me (although I'm not sure how long I feel like it's been. Days and years, I suppose, depending on my mood).

I digress.

My mother is a world-champion procrastinator, particularly if the task at hand is unpleasant. Unpleasant tasks, for her, include washing dishes, clearing off the kitchen table, finishing her school work, and ordering a marker for my father's grave.

I can't say that I blame her for putting off the latter. I don't think that's anyone's idea of fun. Also, when we made arrangements for my dad, we set it up so that when Mum kicks it, she'll be buried in the same plot. So the stone is going to have her name on it too. Which I can't imagine. It's hard enough coming to terms with your own mortality in the face of a loved one's death. It must be even harder to order a grave stone with your name on it.

But yesterday - or rather, Thursday, as it's after midnight as I write this - I nagged just long and hard enough that my mother drove us down to Mountain View Memorial Gardens and we picked something out. It'll be very ... well, not pretty, but nice. Granite base and everything. I had to sort of hold her hand through the whole thing (figuratively, although once she started crying I did put an arm around her).

After we got it ordered, we went for a little walk to the grave site. We could have driven but a Mr. Frankenstein (seriously) was being buried a little ways off and I didn't want to disturb the solemnity of the occasion. Beside which it was a lovely day for a walk.

I remembered exactly where to go. Mum didn't, which I thought was kind of funny. If my grave was picked out already, I think I'd know EXACTLY where to find it. But I digress again. When we got there, we found a temporary marker (which I sort of expected, and appreciate - it's important to keep track of the dead in a place like that).

They remembered the "D" in Rodger; that pleased me immensely. I'd held up remarkably well, I must say, until I got a good look at the marker. Nothing about the marker specifically set me off so much as the cold realization that my father's body was about eight feet below my shoes. I lost it then. Mum did too, and we cried for a bit.

Then we went on our way.

The good news is that in six to eight weeks we'll be the proud owners of a gravestone. I think Mum's lucky in that respect. How many people get to see their gravestones before they die? Now she knows she won't (many many many years from now mind you) be buried beneath the inscription, "I'm sorry, what did you say?" or perhaps something more creative like, "Here lies Peggy, 'cause she's dead/never was right in the head."

Instead, it says BARBER in capital letters in the middle, with my dad's name on the left, hers on the right, dates below names, Mesa temple in the left corner, and "Together Forever/10-9-1976" in the right. Although I think that might be a little confusing because my parents were sealed in the St. George temple, not the one in Mesa. But Mum wanted the Mesa temple and in any case St. George wasn't in the book.

Did you know you can get a Salvation Army logo on your grave stone? Also a Boy Scout Beaver. Or a Bingo card. Or any number of tasteless emblems that reminded me more of tattoos than anything else. I suggested the hunting rifle to Mum but she refused.

Maybe I'll pre-arrange my own funeral and grave. Order a stone with a hunting rifle and the phrase, "I told you I was sick." Add a sportscar and call myself "Jill the Great."

On the walk back to the car I saw a stone that had a picture of a Ferrari and "Mr. D" and that was it. I'm not sure if Mr. D was a Ferrari. Heaven only knows what's buried there, or who.

And now, if you'll excuse me, it's my bedtime and I'm looking forward to a number of unsettling dreams.

03 December 2008

Hang me out to dry

I hate laundry.

Why do I hate laundry? It’s my own clothes. If I want to wear them again, I need to wash them. And I’m sure not going to go without clean socks and underpants.

I’ve tried simply buying new. This is why I have more than 20 pairs of socks, and enough underpants for every day of the month. I’m trying to avoid the inevitable. But the inevitable is of course inevitable. So I drag my laundry basket downstairs, do a quick sort, and start the washer.

I think that part of the reason I hate laundry so much is that I really hate my clothes. I open my closet and there’s just … nothing. Nothing to wear (this is something of an accomplishment, considering how full my closet is). When I sort and wash and fold laundry, I am reminded of how much I hate my entire wardrobe. I have maybe three t-shirts I like, and one pair of pants my arse doesn’t continually expand in, and that’s about it. Something can look amazing on me in the store, but I get it home, and I look like I’m in a fat suit for a movie role. It’s hard to muster up the necessary enthusiasm to launder something I don’t like wearing. It’s hard enough to want to wash the clothes I actually DO like. And when I wash those, all I can think is that each rinse cycle fades that favorite item a little more, and a little more, until my black t-shirt has turned to a nasty sort of puce, and my white polo matches my teeth more than my eyeballs (and for the record, I haven’t bothered with whitening strips in the past five years).

Plus, laundry time is when I notice bad things. A hole in a t-shirt that wasn’t there. The Ragu stain that didn’t come out in the last washing. A line of ink on my pajama pants because I’m always writing in bed. The increasing number of lint balls on my sweater. For some reason, I don’t notice things like that when I get dressed. I only see them when I’m doing laundry.

Some day, I will have enough money to pay someone to do my laundry for me. Failing that, I’ll try to have enough money to buy two or three of my favorites. I’ve already started a little. I have two extra pairs of blue and red crabby socks, and a second navy-and-green striped t-shirt. As long as my favorites are from the clearance rack, I’m all set. And if you’ve ever seen the way I dress, you know that … well, pretty much I’m all set.

Eventually, if I’m rich and famous, I won’t ever do laundry. I’ll buy thirty or forty of things that I like, wear them once, and give them away. It’ll be nice to know that I’m doing my part to kill the earth. I think I’m already on to a good killing start, judging by the amount of polyester I found in my wardrobe the last time I did laundry. In any case, I’m off to a good start with things, I think.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m out of socks.