Saturday, November 24, 2007

Lifting Holiday Spirits

But enough about Thanksgiving - on to The Big One. Everyone knows the real reason for the 4-day Thanksgiving holiday is to prepare for Christmas.

The whirring and beeping sound of scissorlifts through our neighborhood signifies the start of the holiday season. Yes, really. Around here people take their Christian retail holiday house-decorating very seriously. So scissorlifts bump and grunt their way up and down our sunny suburban streets, helping happy homeowners cover their pride with swag, taunting other sunny neighbors to bigger, better, brighter. I've seen things that would frighten Christo.

A few even pay someone to come up with themes and designs. Yes, yes, really -they hire a holiday stylist. Some recent themes seem to include the following:

  • Daddy never got me a pony so I'm covering my house with lights to spite him. And next year I get to pick out his nursing home.
  • The brightest house is the happiest house.....dammit. :)
  • Silent Night my ass - wait'll you hear the generator for my inflatables!

I'm considered a bit old-school because I use a ladder and put up my own decorations. A few neighbors have generously suggested that I pay someone to help me with my lights. When they tell me how much it costs, I mention that's about the same amount I give to the local soup kitchen, and that's usually enough to drive them back inside to their glass of Merlot. Ho, ho, ho. Even here in SoCal, it can be so very, very cold.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thankful Not to Cook

At Thanksgiving my girlfriends fall into two distinct camps - those who cook and those who don't. The Cookers go into lavish detail about what they're making- how big it is, how fearsome it was, and how dead it now is. Then they stop to take a breath and wait for you to pin a medal on them for their efforts.

The Non-cookers are harder to ferret out. They're usually a bit quieter about their intentions- not cooking on Thanksgiving is well, unAmerican. Sure, the oinky guys pig out and watch football. But the women - isn't it a law somewhere that they have to put on an apron and a show? So the Non-cookers lie low, like guinea hens in the fallen leaves, hoping the Cookers won't notice them and cluck their disapproval.

Lately a few have come out of the culinary closet. This take the kind of guts not found in a Butterball. "I'm not cooking this year," one blurted out the other day. "I'm sick of it. I don't even like turkey. And I really don't like it trampled into my carpeting."

Some of us gave her a matched set of understanding glances. "I can't stand my relatives," another whispered. "I don't like having them in my house, judging my cooking and picking apart my life. Last year my nephew hid a drumstick in the recliner. For a month the whole place smelled like the dumpster behind KFC."

We nodded in agreement. "No kidding," another chimed in. "Why is it so bad not to cook? I work my tail off all week. I get a day off, I'm gonna slave away in the kitchen? Not. I'd like to lie on the couch all day, too. I'm gonna order a pizza. Who's with me?"

By now we could feel the icy stares of the Stepford Cookers upon us. Their barnyard chit chat had stopped.Through the haze of thickening gravy and stuffing recipes, they were sizing us up. Finally, though, we didn't care. We were tired, our self respect sucked out like so much gizzard drippings. They could tsk, tsk and pooh-pooh their hearts out - our wishbone had just snapped.

This year, I give thanks that I do not have to stick my hand up the butt of a frozen fowl. I give thanks that I will not stand on my feet all day to prepare a meal that will be consumed or condemned in half an hour. I give thanks that Uncle Bruno will not be here plugging our plumbing, and that my nephew won't be rummaging through my dresser drawer looking for 'fun buzzy toys.'

A true holiday is not a when or a where or a what. It's a who. The meal could be Cheetos and a Tab-get the right people there and bam!- Thanksgiving.

If you need me, I'll be on the couch pretending to watch the game. Really, though, I'll be revelling in the warm glow of my kids. If you don't need me, please join me.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Tuesday with Barry

It was a dark and snorky night. Most nights, at least the ones I've witnessed, are dark. This one promised to be snorky because I was going to meet Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson at a booksigning in Irvine, CA. The place was packed. I weighted for the crowd to thin, butt it kept getting bigger. Too many Krispy Kremes will do that.

Dave and Ridley read from their latest children's book, Peter and the Secret of Rundoon. The bigger secret was how two guys a smidge physically removed from youth could bop all over the country weeks on end reading books, signing books, and somehow maintaining their sanity. And do it well enough to entertain children, the toughest audience ever invented by man. As they read, not a murmur, not a fidget, not even a blink from a single kid. I can't get my two little boys to look at me for ten seconds straight. These two pull off a herd o' third graders stare-athon.

My trusty sidekick, Mad Scientist Weasel, and I waited patiently in the book-signing line, resisting the urge to cut ahead of kids. By definition, youngsters had way more time ahead of them in their little lives that they could afford to spend waiting in line and reading this run-on sentence, but apparently they were not going to move out of our way of their own volition. Snide, snide youth.

When I finally got within earshot of the authors, I whispered in a sultry voice, "I believe there's a brewery around the corner." Dave's pen flickered and stopped. "I hear it's a good one," he replied. Now both Ridley and Dave, as if hearing an angel, paused from their signing. This was risky, since a few taut, well-manicured bookbiddies skulked nearby, alert to my intentions and ready to take me down. Yes, in the shadow of Mouseland, in a children's bookstore, I was plying the authors with amber dreams of ale. And it woulda worked too, if not for the nasty bookbiddies.

But Dave and Ridley did look up, saw our shirts (Dave for President) and brightened for a moment. "Stanley!" Dave yelled, and gave us a hug. Ridley hugged us too, and I set them straight on my name (Dave's been under a bit of stress and suffers occasionally from Tourette's Proper Noun Syndrome). The bookbiddies were about to pounce so I whipped out my signature M&M cookies, which, in times of strife, can double as Ninja throwing stars. The snarling bookstresses backed off long enough for Mad and I to make our escape, but Dave & Ridley tripped over a straggling third-grader and were detained. They had to stay after class and sign huge stacks of books for the Evil Book Queen.

Next door, at the Steelhead Brewery, a solitary booth sat empty, lonely, dry... waiting for someone to laugh, drink, and snork. Evil, evil bookbiddies! May you sleep through the Thanksgiving Sale at Fashion Island and chip a nail on your uber-skankiness.

From our stakeout, it quickly became apparent that our boys were to be taken directly from their bookstore captivity to the airport. Mad Scientist Weasel and I were determined to get them beer. The Brewery wouldn't let us take alcohol outside. Neither would the pizza joint next door. Frustrated, I looked the old Italian pizza maker in the eye, reached deep, and pulled out a wail from within-
"You don't understand - a Pulitzer prize-winning author and his buddy are being held hostage in the bookstore by a bunch of evil fashionistas with perfect nails and matching hair and they're making them sign this huge mountain of books and then they're sending them right to the airport and all they really want is a beeeeeeeeer!!"

It was suddenly quiet in the pizza place. For some reason, people were staring. I knew the next one to blink would lose. Old pizza-dude reached behind him and handed us two Heinekens. He blinked. We left. I think we had him at Pulitzer.

By now Ridley and Dave had completed their bookpile and disappeared. We nervously skittered past the few remaining bookbiddy sentries. Mad and I stood alone with the beer in the dark mall. "Fiddlesticks," I mumbled. "They got away."
In a distant corner, light shimmered off someone's hair, a shiny mop swinging in the light of the mall faux moon. "DAVE," I shrieked daintily, "You er, forgot this." My Heineken was in the air. He stopped, turned, and realized he had left his mace in his other blue shirt.
When I played polo, we had a stellar tradition. Every time a goal was scored, a scorekeeper would raise their hands, like a referee does after a touchdown in football. During one game the scorekeeper was also dogsitting. A goal was scored, and the scorekeeper, not wanting to let go of the dog and possibly lose it, raised the tiny pooch over his head to indicate the goal. Hence was born the classic term, "The chihuahua is in the air!" Chic Hearn, eat your heart out.

Where was I? Oh, yes- Dave and I both looked around for mall security. Not seeing any, he thanked us graciously for our insanity and backed away slowly. Ridley made a note to get his tetanus shot updated and off they went. Until we meet again, sirs.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Strappy Shoes

Ever since I could drive myself to the mall I've been dedicated to shopping. Yes, the wondrous jingle of keys paired with a shiny new driver's license meant freedom in so very many ways. For me, the sweetest one was being free of a mother 'helping' me choose polyester ick/crud at Monkey Wards or Sears. They could be giving away free wardrobes for life in those stores and you still couldn't drag me in there.

Recently I tried to go back into a Sears. I figured after so long I should be over the trauma. But it still smelled of musty plastic and DCon, just like when my mom took me there. My heart started to palpitate, my palms grew damp, and my head spun around. The rest of my body followed my head out the door. For weeks after that I'd flashback to stretchy, striped zipper-necked tops that itched my skin and broke my spirit. Noooooo!

Anyway, ever since my release from polyester hell I've nurtured the art and thrill of the sale. The online purchase is a threefold thrill - buying, getting, and wearing. Sheer heaven. And oh! - the mall prowl where you don't know what you're hunting until you have it in your sights, then bag it and take it home. Sweet.

Sweet to the point of having to reinforce the rack system in my walk-in closet to keep it from collapsing again. Actually it's more of a 'walk-in-and-gasp' closet. Women drool and guys freak. I'm sure you can guess why:
Girlfriend: Oh, my, gawd....I LOVE this!
Boyfriend: many....oh, my, god.

Recently though, I'm embarassed to say, I've lost my edge. Catalogs no longer hold a thrill for me. Online is nice and easy, but it's just not the same as it used to be. The mall is okay, but I'd rather take a nap. A nap.

Is it possible to lose the will to shop? What a horrible thing to consider. I'm hoping it's just a breather between binges, that perhaps with a little more iron or bran in my diet, the spirit will return. But who knows.

Strange but true - about the same time I lost my shopping urge, chocolate also lost its appeal. Yes, that's right, the nectar of the gods was no longer good enough for me. Please help me, Saint Hershey - I know not what I do. And I'm frightened.

In the past, when I'd swing through a phase, certain obsessions would shift and sway but not entirely disappear. For instance, during one pregnancy, all I wanted to eat was salsa and chips. I subbed salsa for chocolate, but still had the craving. When I bought a home, I subbed Home Depot for Nordstrom for a while but still kept that credit card busy. But now, no craving to shop OR snack. What the fudge?

Let me promise you this - I WILL be back. I WILL shop again. I WILL control the urge to capitalize the word 'WILL.' I do not go easily into the dark night without a fight or a coupon or a credit card.