It's not about the house.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Keep My Cocoa Handy

Remember how I said I’d been stuffing myself lately? Well, I’ve also been convincing myself it’s okay by wearing fat pants almost exclusively. But this morning, getting dressed for work, I realized I’d worn the fat jeans Friday, Saturday and Sunday – three days in which I went to one party, two bars, and hosted a football gathering for which I baked three pies. I put the fat pants on and realized I couldn’t possibly wear them to work because, well, because... Honestly? They smelled.

And not like pie.

So I took them off, threw them in the hamper (a.k.a. washing machine) and put on the skinnier pair. Not the skinny ones, mind you, I said skinnier; my ass and I are at least one bad breakup and a whomping case of beaver fever* away from the Truly Skinny Jeans. But these’ll do. When I’m relatively thin, that is, these ones do nicely. Today I felt like ten pounds of sausage in a five-pound skin. And I’m sorry Mr. Bismarck, I love your pastry, but you got it wrong. There are three things you don’t want to see the backdoor dealings of, as it were, and they are: laws, sausages, and a fat girl in skinnier jeans.

Bleah. I walked around all day like Danny Devito with a load in his LZR, hoping against hope to make it home before I split the damn things arseways.

Finally – finally – I was on my way. I was off the train, bundled up in my asexual winter gear of hooded sweatshirt, hat, scarf, Aran sweater, gloves (hey man, that wind blows cold along the beach, even if the temperature is all of 32), and all I had to do was leave the station, walk the mile to the car, run three errands, and go home.

Ahem: all I had to do was leave the station.

There were these two black guys, see. Youngish, maybe late twenties/early thirties, not terrible looking. But they were parked in the middle of the driveway with a tub of what looked to me like Bondo, although I can’t swear that’s what it was, because I didn’t look that close. And when I say “parked in the middle of the driveway,” I mean “on their asses.” They were sitting with their backs to one another on the tub of Bondo, shooting the shit and having a good time, without a care in the world that they were blocking buses, cabs and all of us while they took their little Bondo-busting break.

Now, I, too, was on foot. I was not exactly waiting for the road to clear. But a foot-traffic-jam – a toejam, if you will – can be even more annoying than a carjam, because people can be even more stupid than their machines. When the lady who thought she was about to miss her bus suddenly sees that it isn't moving on its route, she doesn’t care who she knocks down on her arm-waving, seat-waddling, harpy-shouting way.

That wasn’t me, that harpy. In case you couldn’t tell. I’m the one she cut off, shouted at, and then hit with her bag.

Next the tiny lady in high heels cut me off between two bumpers and tick-tick-ticked across the street, slow enough to stop the cars but not slow enough to make them wait for me. When I finally made it to the curb and spun my head to check for traffic, I realized the whole footjam-crowd had winnowed down to three. Me, in my sausage-casing, and the two black dudes, who had picked up their tub of Bondo and moved on their merry way.

They were moseying down the sidewalk, still talking and laughing (and still not exactly ugly, I might add), when I saw my chance and went for it, hustling my hat and scarf between two moving vehicles and cross the street.

“Mm, mm, mm!” one of the black dudes called behind me. “Now that is what I call an ass. You have a happy New Year, baby!”

I ignored him, because that’s what a lady does to fellas who catcall her in the road, but for the rest of the way back to my car I walked a little less like Louie DePalma and a little bit more like Mae West. Then, when I got home, I poured myself a glass of wine and drank a toast.

“To black men," I said. "And my ass.

"May one of them be president one day.”

Wait wait wait. That didn't come out right at all.

Oh well. At least the country can be glad it didn’t have to be exposed to that campaign.

*What the hell? I only found this term because I didn’t like the way “giardiasis” was sounding in that sentence, so I googled. Diarrhea = beaver fever? Christ. I’ve never had it, but if I ever do – and if, when I do, I come to understand the appellation – then, for fuck’s sake, I hope it kills me.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

...Or Maybe Phineas

I went to buy a battery for my camera last night, but I forgot and bought Uncle Ben’s white rice for Johnny instead. He’d been whinging for it, and I’d been trying to convince him to finish that last measly cup of generic white rice in the canister before refilling it with something else – but once I crossed the threshold of the grocery store I couldn’t remember why I’d stepped inside, so I just bought the first thing I remembered. I grabbed the big box, too. Three pounds. Cost six dollars, and does fuck-all for my camera. So you’re just going to have to take my word on this…

I don’t know if you could tell, but I wasn’t really much in the mood for Christmas this year. Not to get all Scroogerific or anything, because I am usually The Quintessential Christmas Elf, but I just wasn’t feeling it. Half the ornaments never made it to the tree, the cookie cutters stayed in their Ziploc bags, the angel orchestra is still sitting on its bandstand in its box, and I wrapped my gifts with leftover wedding paper (hey, it’s white; stick a red or green bow on it and it looks festive enough).

But this weekend we had a couple people over, so I had to knock off the half-assery. I didn’t unpack the angels or re-wrap the gifts or anything, but I did take out my Christmas linens. The red & green tablecloth with matching dishtowel and oven mitt, and the (not quite matching, but who cares) red, white & green placemats. Not that I was setting the table for a sit-down meal or anything – we were only doing finger foods and a light buffet – but the placemats went on the coffee table under the chips & dip, and made it look a little more as if I cared.

I didn’t dress the part, though. Not for any humbug reason, but because the occasion was a football game, and I had to wear my football shirt or else they’d lose (sometimes they lose anyway, but that’s because somebody, somewhere, is wearing the wrong socks). I put my Good White Turtleneck on underneath it – the Good White Turtleneck that I’d gotten from my mom for Christmas and worn (and washed, and dried) every day since – and I felt clean and warm.

But it was like 60 degrees on Sunday, which made it something like 70 in the house. Pretty soon I was feeling a little too warm in my Good White Turtleneck, and not so very clean.

See, a Good White Turtleneck is a rare thing – you really don’t know you’ve got one until you’ve worn it and washed it and worn it again – but all the things that make it Good make it not at all suitable for warmer weather. For instance:

1. The collar must reach your ears when you turn it up, and it musn’t sag (I went to prep school in the ‘80s: if I fold down the collar on my turtlenecks even now, they will come and rescind my diploma).
2. The cuffs must hug your wrists in such a snug, soft manner that no air sneaks in – which, in turn, means you can never push them up, or else they’ll stretch.
And, finally:
3. The fabric must be soft, thick enough to stand alone on an autumn afternoon, yet thin enough not to bunch and bind as one of many February layers.

The Turtleneck in question passed all three -- even after two washings in as many days -- so naturally I ran screaming to the laundry room at halftime to strip it off. Well, hell, I was sweating like a whore, and I couldn’t very well take off my football jersey, could I? We had to win, so we could make the playoffs!


Anyway, I took it off and threw it in the washing machine (which, in this house, doubles as a laundry hamper), put the football shirt back on and resumed post-Christmas munching. Oh my god, I went on to eat so many chips & dips. But at least (which is so unlike me) I didn’t spill a drop of it on my New White Shirt! Didn’t spill a drop of anything on the placemats, either. Nobody did. Which also, around here, qualifies as some kind of post-Christmas miracle.

The next day – yesterday – Johnny got sent home from work early because, as he put it, “there were too many goddamn kids running around.” I had told him I’d do the cleaning-up from the football game festivities when I got home at 3:00 or so, but instead I walked into a house that was all fresh-scrubbed and smelled like chicken soup. It wasn’t soup, not yet – it was still in the stocky stages – but it was a hell of a lot better than dirty dip-dishes and crusty old pot-pie.

“I even,” he announced all proudly, “washed the linens.”

You… the…

Oh no.

See, there are certain Things that Johnny thinks are True, and they just Aren’t. Cuchulain, for example (sorry, love), never existed. It is okay to wash a travel mug with soap (we have strictly labeled his-n-hers, because he claims Palmolive leaves a tell-tale taste behind, and I don’t want to drink nine years of nasty sludge – though, in his defense, he does soak his in Clorox once in a while, which he insists leaves no lingering note). And, no matter what your mother did, you really don’t have to wash every laundry load in hot. As a matter of fact, you really can’t. Especially if you tossed the Christmas linens in there with my Good White Turtleneck.

Sorry: my Good Pink Turtleneck.

Yes, indeedy, David: our Christmas placemats are now green & pink & red, and my Good New Turtleneck looks like something out of Tahoe Barbie. Or Tahoe Ken, I suppose. I wouldn’t put a soft shade of carnation-pink past Ken.

I checked the tag and found the brand and ordered myself a replacement. Ordered two, in fact, figuring I’d make Johnny pay me back for them both, somehow. But then I took the wash out of the dryer and that saw he already had...

Because all three new Christmas pairs of Good White Jockey Shorts were in there, too.

I think, from here on out, I’ll call him Ken.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Better Get a Bucket

Ever since Thanksgiving, I have been stuffing myself sick.

I know this is something people do and talk and write about each year, but usually I don't. I mean sure, I pig out on the holidays themselves, and at related parties. And of course you have to sample while preparing treats, and it would be wasteful not to hoover up the leftovers. But that still usually leaves at least eight or ten days between Thanksgiving and Christmas for me to suck down a green vegetable or two.

This year, though, I managed not to waste those days. I'm not sure why, but I just woke up one morning around December 1st thinking "Fuck it. Bring it on." Did I want a cheeese omelette for breakfast, Johnny asked me? Why yes, that sounds delightful! What should we have for dinner tonight? How about if I make pizza! Would I like another Kahlua sombrero? In fact I believe I would! And isn't mac & cheese traditional this time of year?

Seriously, for the past four weeks I have been inhaling every spare calorie in my vicinity like a bear putting up stores for hibernation. I'm telling you: the cats are scared to linger within reach of my increasingly doughy arms, for fear I'll snatch them up and slather 'em with cheese.

It was fun at first. I ran through lists of Things I'm Not Allowed To Eat, and ate 'em all. Drive-through Wendy's chicken sandwiches with bacon. Chocolate cookies with chocolate chips in them from the honest-to-god bakery. Crackers and cheese for breakfast. Lots of beer (which, okay, is generally allowed, but not generally every single night and occasional afternoon).

After a while, though, all this excess started feeling like a chore. I started dreaming of zucchinis (though not in any filthy-rotten way) and fantasizing about Bobby Sands. Unfortunately, I'd started celebrating so early that my gorge began to rise just as the season was reaching its crescendo. When I wanted nothing more than to lock myself in a sweat lodge with a week's worth of water and a loofah sponge, instead I had a week's work of consumption planned -- Lady Dinners, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Stephen's Day, a Fun Night Out That Was Scheduled For After Christmas Because I Was So Busy Before, and two Football Games (in one of which I was reduced to rooting for the Jets, which was going to require lots of drinking).

I plodded through that last week, enjoying it not at all. Apple pie? I guess so. Seven-layer dip? Okay. Cinnamon rolls? Fine, whatever. Old Thumper? Sure. Although at some point even beer had lost its magic power.

Which is how I wound up stone cold sober last night, watching Eric Mangini try to play Belichick football and fail to pull it off. That last funky-chicken play might have worked, you a-hole, if you hadn't botched it up the first time so everyone down to the last parking lot attendant knew what you were planning. Not that you care. You totally went back to the locker room and, after a quick "sorry you tarnished your legacy" pat for #4, closed yourself in your office and did a little "Patriots aren't going to the playoffs" dance. You know you did, I know you did, and everybody else in the goddamn football universe knows you did. I hope you tore your ACL, you little worm.

And with that, I'm going into Total Health mode. I don't care that there's a few days left till January 1st, and I'm glad not to have football games to worry about. I'm having sour grapes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, every night, I swear to god. At least until the end of April.

Or, no, wait. At least until the end of March?


Somebody get me a mint. Make sure it's wafer-thin.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Nollaig Shona!*

So we're riding around, running errands and things, at just-after-dark o'clock on Christmas Eve. We pass St. Joseph's -- an oddly Spanish-looking Catholic church about a mile from our house -- and traffic grinds to a halt as people double-park and cross against the light on their way in to Mass.

"Look at all these Irish fuckers," Johnny says. "Trying to get out of going to church tomorrow by squeezing it in on Christmas Eve. Burn in hell, yiz bastards!"

Johnny is Catholic. But, mind, he hasn't been to church -- save for weddings and funerals -- since at least before we met (which was either 1995 or '96, depending on which one of us you ask).

He sighed.

"Back in Ireland, we used to go to Midnight Mass..."

"Every Catholic church has Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve," I said (because it was important to be all correcty at this clearly nostalgia-drenched moment). "That's not just in Ireland."

"Really?" Johnny said, perking up. "You think they have it at St. Joseph's?"

"I'm sure they do."

"You want to go?"


It was an instinctive response. The truth is, although I don't subscribe to the doctrine or anything, I actually would like to go to Midnight Mass. I never went when I was little, and my cousins always did, and I was always so freaking jealous. Plus, if there's one thing I do still love about the Catholic church (though the truth is that there are several) it is their sense of pomp and circumstance. SRO at the witching hour on Christmas Eve? That is, seriously, about as drama-queen as you can get outside the Tenderloin. But, alas, Johnny and I have pre-existing plans.

Not real plans. We don't have to be anywhere. But we've known for months how we plan to spend our evening.

"I mean," I said, trying to lessen the harshness of my knee-jerk refusal, "by the time midnight rolls around, we'll both be drunk."

"Ah, hell," says Johnny. "You're supposed to be drunk when you go to Midnight Mass!"

And then he laughed. Big, honking, donkey laughs. Hyeaw! Hyeaw! When he finally managed to pull himself together, he explained:

"The only difference [hyeaw!] is that, here, you'd have to leave the pub to get to church. Back home, they close the pub and boot you in the arse!"

Merry happy to all and to all a good midnight! May yiz not burn in everlasting Irish hell!

*(It means Happy Christmas. And it's pronounced null-ac shun. Which is, I have to say, the closest to normal pronunciation I've ever found of an Irish spelling.)

A Not-Very-Christmasy Random Collection of Thoughts that I Promise Will Pay Off, Somehow

I made pizza for dinner last night. I wanted to do it on Friday while it snowed -- stopped on the way home Thursday night and bought mozzarella cheese and everything -- but then when I went to make it I found we had no yeast. And it was snowing. And so we had macaroni & cheese that night instead (warm, soft, bad for you comfort food is warm, soft, bad for you comfort food, no matter how you slice it). Then I stopped and bought yeast on my way home yesterday and we had pizza last night. I'm having it again for breakfast now. And you know what? I don't care what you think? As soon as I finish this first cup of coffee I'm making me a big old Kahlua Sombrero to go with it!

Oh, hell, it's Christmas Eve. And besides, it's not like I'll be drunk at 8:00 a.m. You can't get drunk off Kahlua sombrero. And besides plus also, I make mine with coffee: equal parts Kahlua, cold coffee, and milk. One ice cube. So maybe it's not technically a sombrero. Maybe it's just a hat.

Speaking of hats: I dreamt this morning that I bought a bunch of hats and had a fashion show for My Lady. I've been thinking of hats a lot lately because I got a stupid haircut that I'd really like to hide, and these were fabulous. One was like a steel-grey fedora with a sparkly rhinestone buckle. One was giant -- I mean giant -- and black, and shaped like the big scalloped seat-compartments on the tilt-a-whirl. One I don't remember much about except I thought it made me look like a nun, so I pursed my lips and mimed rapping knuckles with a ruler. And one was black and big and soft and floppy and made me feel like a French (and white, and feminine) Sly Stone. I adored them all, though I allowed I'd probably return the tilt-a-whirl, seeing as how it took up half the room.

My Lady's on my mind today, too, because her kitty died last night. The poor old thing. Her heart just grew three sizes and gave out. The vet wanted her to go to Angell Memorial for ultrasound and surgery, but My Lady did the decent thing and put her down.

I should probably explain here that I technically have a pair of Ladies. I composite them here and refer to them as She, because I don't write enough about their personal lives for it to matter, and it seems more respectful mostly to fiction them up a bit. But for now, I want to tell a little truth.

Although my Ladies coincidentally attended the same boarding school (Westover, in Connecticut), they didn't actually meet until forty or so years later, when they both had apartments in the Dakota in New York. If you don't know what the Dakota is, it's the famous big old apartment building where both Rosemary's Baby and John Lennon were shot. This is my favorite picture of it:

It's called The Dakota because when it was first built, it was so far beyond the limits of the city (as you can see) that people joked it was like living out in the Dakota Territory. Needless to say, the city has since managed to find its way around:

I love this building for the story behind it, and also for the Miss Manners tradition that says if one lives (or lived) there, one never says so. You say you live at 72nd and Central Park West. If people know what that means, then they'll know, and if they don't then you aren't bragging. (Just like one never says one went to Harvard; you just say you went to college "in the east.") But when one has framed, signed pictures in one's bathroom, hand-signed "Merry Christmas, Lady! Love, Yoko and Sean," well, certain nosy Ones do tend to ask.

So there are stories I could tell you -- about Yoko, about Lauren Bacall and Jason Robards, about all kinds of other famous people (My Lady was on the board; she knew the what-what) -- but I won't. They aren't mine, they're only hearsay, and I wouldn't want to wind up getting sued. I do, however want to tell you about Jing.

Ages ago -- in the '70s and '80s -- My Lady had a pair of Siamese cats. They used to get out of her apartment all the time and go visiting. If someone in the Dakota was having a party, the pair of Siamese would inevitably show up, acting like they'd been invited. No one objected, but they did tend to overstay their welcome, so My Lady would get calls all the time when the party ended, telling her to come collect her cats. And then one day, two years after the second Siamese died, she got a call informing her her cat was on the roof.

At first she thought it was a cruel joke, or a spectre of some sort (the Dakota's full of both), but sure enough, there was a Siamese kitten on the roof, wet and sad and sitting in the gutter. You'd have to be a non-cat-person to confuse this poor wee thing with either of the other social bruisers, but you'd have to be a non-person altogether to say "she isn't mine" and leave her there.

So my Lady hung out the window and dandled a bit of something until the kitten inched forward far enough for her to grab a hold. And nobody ever claimed her. And that's how she got Jing. That was in like 1990 or something like that, so it's not as though the poor dead thing didn't lead a charmed existence while she led it.

Now, okay, let's see: how the hell am I going to bring this mess around and make it pay off in a Christmasy sort of way? Dead cats and big hats, murder and demonic possession, cold pizza and coffee drinks (oh, yeah, you bet your ass I've commenced with the Kahlua by this point)? Think, Erin. Think, think, think.

My thinker's sore.

Oh! I know!

Ta da...?


I took a picture of my festive drink, and it's in a festive glass and everything. It has a festive swizzle stick (which I stuck in it just for the festive photograph) and I set it up with a festive Christmas card behind it for the sake of the festive scene. I took the festive picture, but before I could transfer it over, the battery in my festive camera died. And I know I have another one, but I can't festive find it.

So instead, I give you this:

I got bored drawing the card. But that's a pretty accurate rendition of my drink. Not quite so to-the-brim full anymore, though, naturally...

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Johnny Holiday

There is no reason you should watch this video. It is one and a half minutes of nothing but painting and singing dancing, But I love this man, and I wanted to share him.

I'll write something Christmasy tomorrow.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Tá Sé Ag Cur Sneachta!

We live on a corner. See?

And that greyish rectangle below the arrow -- the one that's not the house, I mean -- that there's our driveway. See?

This is annoying enough as it is. If I'm coming from the north, I have to pull a 360-degree turn just to get in the driveway -- or else I have to pull forward and back in, which confuses the hell out of the poor bastard behind me. From the south it's not so bad: I can pull straight in and only once in a while scare the shit out of oncoming traffic by appearing to veer into their lane. But once I've fronted in, I've committed to backing out -- and although I know that I can swing around without actually causing a twelve-car pileup, the twelve cars piling up don't always know. So I tend to sit in the driveway with the engine running for an hour and a half, waiting for there to be no traffic coming, even though the traffic isn't technically in my way.

And you wonder why I drink.

Anyway, like I say, all of this is usually bad enough. But then winter comes. And, along with winter, snow.

Now, our street is, for all intents and purposes, a dead end. From where it starts at our house, you can see it abruptly ending in a poorly fenced-off cliff-drop to the water, but it's not officially labelled that way because there's a paper street down at the end that runs parallel to the river for about a hundred yards (and if you don't know what a paper street is, it's a street that's listed on all the maps -- it's named and everything -- but is not, in fact, actually there). And, since there are only six or eight houses on this allegedly-not-dead-end street, we tend to be a pretty low priority for snowplows. If they do come (which they only do when the snowfall exceeds a certain depth), they tend to make one run straight down the middle and leave it at that.

Except for the corner. They always plow the corner. They have to. Otherwise the whole street would be blocked off by accumulated snowplow piles like your driveway always is as soon as you finish shoveling. So, even if they don't go down our street, they do our corner. Our corner. And when they do, one of two things happens:

Either they come in from the north, take a very wide turn and shove the snow up against the fence on the other side of the road, in which case we have to shovel twice the distance of our driveway out into the middle of the road. Or they come in from the south, take a very wide turn, and shove the snow in our driveway.

Seriously, Mister Snowplow Fellow, do you not see the minivan sitting there? Do you think for one second that it might be just a decoration? Do you find Chuck (TFT) so beautiful that you can imagine him installed permanently in the front lawn as an ornament? Grr!

Needless to say, this is what happened yesterday. We shovelled a foot and a half of snow on Saturday morning, then another half a foot on Sunday afternoon, and when the plow finally came by on Sunday evening, it took one quick corner-sweep and blocked me in. I was watching football when it happened so I didn't notice, but Johnny was looking out the window and he did. He was livid. But then the snowplow guy made the mistake of pulling over to the side of the road a small ways down and sitting for a while. Johnny didn't even put a coat on, he just slammed out the door and went speed-marching through the sunset snow. I wasn't privy to the conversation, but he filled me in when he marched back. It went like this:

tap tap tap on shotgun-side glass; snowplow guy rolls down window

"Ye're not going to leave tha' like tha'!"

"Leave wha'?"

"Me driveway! Ye blocked me feckin' in!"

"Ah, jaysus, Oi'm sorry man."

"Where ye from?"

"County Meath. Ye're Dub?"

"Feckin' right."

"Ach. Oi'll come clear that fer ye, straigh'away."

And he did. Turned right around, came back, and spent five minutes backing up and turning around and clearing out the mess he'd put there. Other plows came by later and put some back, but not much. Not shoved right in there. Just the standard side-of-the-road stuff that everybody deals with. Not more than I could clear away in five minutes on my way to work.

But I don't have to. Because this morning, when I woke up, the drive was clear. Scraped down to the asphalt, snowplow clear. Big blue lawn ornament still parked in there and everything.

Gosh, but it's nice to be on the inside of a Townville clan for a change!

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Christmas Creed

Neither rain nor snow..

Nor sleet nor dark of night...

Shall stay an Irishman from the swift absconsion to his appointed pub.

Have fun, Johnny! I'll have macaroni and cheese waiting if you make it home! Next time, can we move somewhere with a pub that has a ladies room, so I can come out and play, too?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

My Drinking Problem

I keep my lotion by my bedside table. Sometimes I wake up in the night and my feet are so dry I can't get back to sleep, so I keep it handy. Or footy, as it were. But you'll notice I said by my bedside table, and not on it, because if I put it on the table the cats knock it off on their way to their glass of water.

Yeah, I've given up pretending possession of the glass of water on the table. I mean, I could drink out of it if I wanted to, but it's all full of cat spit, so I keep my beverages on the floor, in bottles

And I do mean beverages, plural. I have a bit of a problem that way. If I am sitting still (or sleeping) I always have to have at least two or three drink options within reach. Water, always. Usually Diet Coke. And then seltzer or coffee or a different kind of soda -- or beer -- depending on the time of day.

But last night, the cat fell off the bedside table (der!) and knocked my water bottle clear across the room. So when I woke up thirsty in the night, I drank the lotion!

Not drank-drank. I mean, I didn't swallow it. And I don't even understand how I let it get as far as in my mouth. I picked up the bottle, flipped up the flip-top lid (um, I don't know about where you live, but around here water bottles don't have flip-top lids), pursed my lips around the little hole (um, ditto), and sucked up a big old mouthful.

Then I woke up. Boy, howdy did I wake up.

I spit it out into my hand -- which was brilliant, because then I had a lotiony mouth and a spitty, lotiony hand to deal with, so I shook it off my hand onto a magazine I had left on the floor. Then I wiped both mouth and hand with (you guessed it) toilet paper and drank about a liter of Waist Watcher Citrus Frost (generic Fresca; times are hard, man).

When I woke up this morning, I discovered that I'd taken off my sleeping-sweatshirt in the night and put it smack dab on top of that magazine.

Maybe I should just go back to bed.

Rudolph the Red-Hot Reindeer

Sorry for the cat-pudding interlude. We're back to Christmas Ornaments now. And just in figgy time, too!
Oh, okay. This drunken-looking dude. Let's see now...

For a little bit when I was in high school, and almost all through college, I worked at McDonald's. I don't care what you think of that, it's true, and they were good to me. Even if the polyester uniforms did give me ass-zits like you would not believe. In high school I worked on weekends -- 5 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays -- and in college during every school vacation. They'd work around my schedule and put me on full-time rotation when I called, even if it was for just a week.

(Full disclosure: it wasn't only me who worked there. It was me and my sister and brother. And it's a little bit possible we were given special treatment. I, for example, never worked anywhere but behind the grill. This is expressly against the rules, but I never wanted to come out front and let people see me in my ass-zit-giving uniform, and they never made me. My brother, on the other hand, was supposed to have been flat-out fired once, when the regional manager saw him walk in to the store without his forehead-zit-giving baseball cap and took a hating to his hair. Regional Manager insisted that McDonald's employees don't sport mohawks, and demanded that he be canned on the spot. But Store Manager (who might have been a little smarter than Regional -- I'm just saying) put her tiny Italian body in the line of fire, and Brother kept his job. Which he hated. But that's beside the point. My sister, I don't think, ever did anything wrong. At McDonald's, that is.)

Anyway, we used to steal the toys. This was in the days before everything was a movie tie-in, and the toys were all generic things like plastic pumpkin-bucket Happy Meals, and reindeer Christmas decorations, and, um... I forget what else. But whatever they were, they were definitely meaningful enough that we had to have them. We didn't take 'em by the bucketload or anything, but we all made sure to pocket at least one of each. Everybody had complete collections of, um... whatever. Which we of course immediately threw away.

This dude was one of those. The only robbed thing I have left, and therefore one of the two that I remember. The other -- the plastic pumpkin-bucket -- is in the possession of my sister.

Aha! You see? I knew if I thought about it long enough I would remember something bad she'd done!

My Real Husband

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Savant? Oui Savant! Idiot?

I swear I'll get back to the Christmas decorations in a minute, but I just wanted to point out that, in light of my previous post, I think this...
...would be a lot funnier...

... if I weren't so certain...
... that it's really the plastic bag he's after.
And also if I hadn't immediately caught him doing this:

Paging Dr. Sacks

I'll get back to the Christmas ornaments in a minute, but first I have to share the latest developments in AssyVacitude.

Last year (in one of my best posts ever, if I do say so myself), I mentioned a little something I found stashed in the attic with my Christmas decorations. Little somethings, actually. These:

Sparkle guessed correctly that they were year-old Christmas puddings, and there was much discussion in the comment section regarding whether or not said puddings were still edible. Johnny and I and Nana said yes, pretty much everyone else said OH MY GOD, NO, and Jean at Renovation Therapy (who was then I Love Upstate) said she'd eat it if I sent one to her. So I did.

She ate hers and survived. But Johnny and I never did get around to eating ours, because we had a little medical emergency on Christmas Day that distracted us. We were going to eat it on Kings' Day, but we forgot, and so all year, in the back of my mind, I've been gleefully anticipating re-introducing the now-two-year-old Christmas Pudding and finally putting some of it in my mouth. Yum!

In fact, I tried to talk Johnny out of making pudding this year, because we still had this one and I figured if we hadn't cracked it for two years, we probably didn't need another seven of them kicking around. But he insisted. So we made the damno-puddings, sent a couple of them off to Ireland, and now we only have this many left kicking around:

One Friend says she'll try it when she comes in January, but not until after the conference that she's coming up to attend. Because, even fresh, she doesn't really trust it not to make her die.

So anyway, a few days ago, I got up at god-awful o'clock a.m. like I always do, and as I was walking to my office I saw Dodo sitting at attention on the bathroom floor. The boy cat. Now, don't get me wrong, he's really dumb, but he's not usually dumb enough to park himself on the tile on the coldest night of the year. "What's up, Dodo?" I asked him, but he said "Don't bother me. I'm... I'm thinking."

Thinking? Ha! This cat doesn't think. The only time this cat does anything even close to thinking is when he's in pursuit of a mouse. At which point he goes all Rain Man on us. Once, a few apartments ago, he actually sat sentry on a pair of pants for seven hours because he'd chased a mouse into the leg. Got 'im, too, when he came out. I'm telling you, this cat is an idiot on most days, but he is a savant when it comes to--


I'm putting two and two together now, but the other morning (god-awful o'clock, remember) I didn't get it until I heard the nibbling. It was coming from the bathroom ceiling, and it stopped when I walked in. At which point Dodo looked at me and said "Would you ever fuck off? You're spooking the horses!"

"Sorry, dude," I said, backing away on tiptoe. "But I don't think you're going to get 'em. They're in the ceiling, man."

"Do I tell you how to write?"

"Well, no. But that's cuz you're a--"

"Exactly. So you just go into your little office and you make your little jokes, and I'll bring the bastard to you when he's finished. Yeah?"

"Yeah. Jeez. Sorry."

But he never brought 'im. Because (ahem) the bastard was in the ceiling. Of which I had proof positive when I went up the attic to fetch the Christmas decorations and discovered a chewed-open bag of flour on the stairs (we had no room in the cupboard so we put it on the attic stairs; so what?). Then I found the chewed-open bag of popcorn for the tree.

Now, I do not generally concern myself with mice. Spiders? Yes. Earwigs? Oh my god. Snakes? Well, they're not generally a problem in houses around here. Cockroaches and miller moths and other insectivorae? Yeesh. But mice I can take or leave. They don't bother me. The cats keep them out of the kitchen, and I don't so much mind if they pass a chilly winter in my attic. I don't have to keep the flour up there, and the popcorn was never intended for human consumption, anyway.

But then, tragically, I found this:

It still smells good -- it still smells great, in fact. See? Smell it!

But I don't know how long it's been open, or who might have been crawling in around. So I dasn't cut off the chewed-up bit and eat it anyway -- which was, I admit, my first inclination.

So now I'm considering shutting Dodo in the attic for a while. Just for a day or so, while it's still warm out. I'd put a dish of water up there for him, and a litterbox and all, but maybe I wouldn't give him any food. Let him fend for himself, if you know what I'm saying, tooth and claw. The more I think about it, the better the idea sounds. I will, of course, have to wait for the next Awakening, however, because by now he's totally checked out.

Either way, I guess it's a good thing we made those extra puddings after all.

Did sum-bud-dee say pud-ding?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Faithful Friends

When I was 21 years old, I worked at a store called The Christmas Dove. There were a few of them; the one I worked at was in Faneuil Hall.

On my very first day there (I remember, because it was August and the air conditioning was broken, so I spent my first day in Christmas Town mopping my brow like Louis Armstrong at the DEA) I fell head over heels in love with my new boss. All that came of it, though, was that we got to be bosom friends. Because -- as I was well aware on that first clammy afternoon -- my boss was, um, a gymnast. He did the window displays. He quoted Mommie Dearest randomly. And he flat-out worshipped Whitney Houston.

He had a boyfriend, is what I'm trying to say.

In fact, you would recognize this boyfriend-person if I told you who he was. He's famous now, and also famously gay. But back then he wasn't publicly known or publicly homosexual. The minor celebrity status that he did have, pretty much within the tri-state area, came from his role on a basic-cable children's tv show. So for public purposes, for the sake of his career, he wasn't gay. And even though they were together for six years, my Boss was always introduced as Boyfriend's cousin from out of town.

Long story short: When Boss gave up his North End apartment to finally move in with Boyfriend in Manhattan, he learned that this publicly-straight Boy-so-called-friend had been privately shtupping his way through Central Park for years. And he didn't really see any reason why he ought to stop. Boss still wound up moving to Manhattan, but into the apartment of a different (and genuine) friend.

A few years later, My Boss tested positive for HIV.

Now, just for the record, in case any of you have figured out who The Boyfriend is and want to get me sued for slander: Boyfriend is clean. Allegedly. From what My Boss told me, Boyfriend had been getting himself tested all along, and even when Boss called to sound the warning, Boyfriend rolled himself snake eyes again. But I've always blamed him anyway. Because it wasn't any of the other folks Boss had to talk to, either (and there weren't that many; certainly fewer than I'd've had to call if it were me). I don't know how he did it, but I just know he was the one. Maybe he's one of those magicly-immune people or something. Bitch.


My Boss (who was, of course, no longer My Boss at that point, but who still worked for the Dove in their Manhattan store) gave me this ornament that year for Christmas (this is a post about an ornament, remember? A Christmas decoration? Right?). It's a Christopher Radko AIDS memorial collectible panda bear. I'm not sure what panda bears have to do with AIDS or anything, but there you go.

And then, a few years later, My Boss dropped off the face of the earth.

I called his phone number one day, and a Spanish-speaking woman answered, and after that I never heard from him again. It wasn't unusual for us to go whole years without speaking, so I didn't think twice about it for a while. But when a year went by and I still hadn't heard from him, and I tried the phone number again only to find it disconnected, and I called information and couldn't get a listing in New York anywhere, well, then I began to be worried. But what could I do? I did know where his mother lived, but I couldn't bring myself to call her. Because what if something awful happened? How could I call and ask after her son if, god forbid, the virus had caught up with him and he was gone?

More years went by. I know I tried calling the Christmas Dove store that he worked at, but I don't remember why that didn't work. I even went down to the one in Boston that we used to work at, specifically to ask if anyone there knew him, but I chickened out because I wasn't ready, yet, to know for sure. And because I didn't want to hear bad news and wind up crying in the store.

Then 9/11 happened. The Manhattan store he worked at was in the South Street Seaport, which is right next to the World Trade Center, and he would have been just coming up from the subway at the worst possible time. I scanned the websites for survivor lists, but when I didn't find his name on them anywhere, I just stopped imagining My Boss alive. If the virus hadn't got him by now, I thought, then the falling towers probably did.

So every year, at Christmas time, when I pulled out my Panda Bear, I'd sigh a bit and shed a couple tears.

Then, one day last spring, I'd had a couple of beers while cleaning the attic, and started flipping through an old notebook full of poetry from when I was twenty-one (bad idea! don't do it! why did you even save the notebook in the first place?). There, on the top of one of the pages, was a phone number for a girl I'll call Babbette. Babbette was Boyfriend's cousin, and one of My Boss's best friends in the whole wide world -- even after the breakup and everything. The phone number was more than ten years old by the time I found it, but I went ahead and dialed it on a whim.

I got an answering machine. It was still using the mechanical voice it came with, so I couldn't tell if the number was still hers, but I left a message. Long,  rambling, and apologetic, and hanging up before remembering to leave my number for her to call back -- so I had to call again and leave another message like a nutjob.

A week or three went by, and I'd forgotten that I called her by the time she called me back. She remembered me, if only barely, and after making sure I wasn't the nutjob I made myself out to be on her machine, she gave me My Boss's number. And I called him.

He's alive!

He met a nice Brazilian boy -- who also, incidentally, has HIV -- and moved up to New Hampshire where they bought a house and sold antiques. "Like," as My Boss put it, "a couple of cliches." We met for lunch the very next day, because he still works for The Christmas Dove up in New Hampshire, and he was coming down to help them close the Boston store for good. He still looks as cute as ever. Hasn't aged a day. If anything, he seems healthier than he did the last time I saw him, probably because of all the clean-ass living the drug cocktail forces him to do.

That was in May or so. I haven't talked to him since, but it's nice to know for sure he's out there. It's nice to know he's happily okay. And it was very nice to unpack my Bear this year and, instead of crying when I thought of My Boss, smile...

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Crappers of Crumlin

This one is also Johnny's. Also given to him by my mom. It is Belleek -- as in the Irish porcelain -- from their "Doors of Dublin" series. Johnny likes it, because it reminds him of the big old Georgian houses that he used to paint back home.

Notice I said "used to paint," not "used to live in." His own front door doesn't look like this. Not at all. His house isn't so much Georgian as it is Corporation. Which -- if I'm understanding it correctly -- is sort of like a government-sponsored, low-income, rent-to-own program. Even if I've got that slightly wrong, I think it's safe to say they weren't building Corporation houses in the Georgian mold.

They weren't building them quite this slummy back then, either, though. So at least that's something.

Anyway, here's what Johnny's front door really looks like:

Or used to. This isn't his house really -- and his isn't on the end like this one, either; his in the middle of the row -- but otherwise, it's the exact same house. Same door, same windows, same front gate, same layout, everything. Or, like I say, used to be. I'm told the door and windows have both been replaced, a notion that makes Johnny really sad. Which is why he so vehemently preserves the loo in the back garden with the genuine and original chain-pull cistern.

Oooh, what are the chances of Belleek making a series out of that?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

I Was A Moon Baby

There are certain events that bind a generation. Where-were-you-when moments that are seared into our minds. 9/11, for example. The night the Red Sox beat the Yankees in the ALCS (well, maybe you have to live in Boston to love that one). Any number of assassinations. And the night Neil Armstrong landed on the moon.

Me, I don't so much remember the moon landing, but I do know exactly where I was: Burbank Hospital. In Fitchburg, Massachusetts. Being born. It's safe to say my mom doesn't remember much about the landing, either.

Now, to be honest, I wasn't actually born during the moon landing. Mom was in labor with me when it happened, but then I changed my mind. There is debate over whether I was planting my feet at the exit and stubbornly insisting on being a Leo, or whether the flyboys brought my soul with them from outer space. But whatever the reason, I didn't technically see the light of day till splashdown.

Still, I get moon presents a lot. Commemorative books, patches, posters, all that jazz. I have quite a collection by now, and it's all pretty cool. I even have a book signed by Walter Cronkite. But my favorite of the menagerie is my first one.


They gave him to me in the hospital. That scabby bit on his helmet (or whatever you might call it) is from the time mini-Destructo managed to break off his smiley head, and it just rattled around inside the helmet until Destructo's Daddy figured out a way to cut a hole in Moon Baby's helmet and stick his Kewpie loaf back on.

(He's not really Kewpie. He's actually Plakie. Whatever that is. I don't care. I love him.)

Anyway, so ornament #4 is a reproduction of the commemorative Moon Landing stamp that came out in 1999. It weighs a million pounds, so I have to hang it on a very sturdy branch, somewhere in the middle of the tree. By the time I find a stable place for it, it's always so obscured by other branches you can't see it anymore. But that's okay. Contrary to all conspiratorial so-called evidence, I know ornament #4 is truly there.


Is it just a coincidence that the name of the hospital where I was born is Burbank?

Friday, December 12, 2008


You want to know what's really sad about unpacking Christmas ornaments? Finding them wrapped up in the likes of this:

And yes, that is my bra on the desk next to the newspaper. I'd had enough of it for one day. So?

Anyway, considering that my silence on the matter all season long didn't stop Tedy Bruschi and Vince Wilfork and Adalius Thomas and all the thousand rest of them from getting whacked all season long -- including Matt Cassell's poor father, RIP -- then I think it's okay that I posted this. Right? Go Pats?

Oh, and while we're at it, what the heck: Go Bills! And 'Niners! Tiebreaker! Tiebreaker! Whoohooo!!!

Yes, this is still a Christmas post. You see?

Let's Have It Openly

Okay. This is a very delicate subject...

I'm not even sure I should speak about it, but I will..

No, I'm sorry. I've tried, but I can't. It wouldn't be respectful. It will have to suffice to say that someone I love dearly was going through an awful time, a time bookended by a pair of visits to the psych ward, and in the midst of it she still had the wherewithal to buy us gifts. The Mary-Jane-wearing turtle up there was for me. And the sparkle-dragon was for Johnny.

We pull them out every year and we think about how much we love our friend -- who is still with us, by the way, and whom we love.

But (and it makes us assholes, maybe, but it's true) we do also get a little giggle. Because, seriously:

Sparkle Dragon!

#1: A Cup of Christmas Tea

#1: A Cup of Christmas Tea

I believe -- I could be wrong about this, but I think -- my mother gave this ornament to Johnny. You can't tell by looking at it, but it weighs like half a pound. Usually, what I've done every year, is decorate the tree and then let him put his few personal ornaments on it last. Usually, every year, what this means is that this half-pound cup of tea winds up dangling from some totally random branch and taunting me all season (because you can't re-hang your husband's ornaments the way you could your kid's. Because with your kid, there's a chance he might not notice. Husband's ornaments -- unlike (ahem) other things -- they do).

So this year I told him he could hang it first. I phrased it like it was a thing of honor, but really what I wanted was for him to hang it when the tree was empty, so that maybe he'd choose a better place for it (and if not, maybe he'd be less likely to notice if I shifted it a little) and then I could arrange the other couple hundred ornaments around the space he chose.

You know what he said?

"I don't feel like standing up," he said. "I'll hang it in the morning."

I'll hang YOU in the morning, you lazy Irish YOB!"

Needless to say, our tree isn't completely decorated yet.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Blah Blah Step Whatever Candy Canes Who Cares

Candy canes have to be pretty

You need a lot, like four dozen at least, even though you won't be able to see them when you're done.

Oh, and also, they face left. But I covered all of this shit last year. What I really want to talk about tonight is ornaments...

There will be several posts regarding this topic to follow, but it behooves us to kick off the series with The Rules:

1. Ornaments are hung in descending order of how many of the same there are. To wit:

A. Boxes of bulbs and apples and blown-glass pool balls.

(Destructo has requested I point out that, out of 48 glass balls -- 63, if you count the billiards -- only two are broken. And they aren't new, either. Yay for me!)

B. Boxes of other things and assorted random sets.

1. Yeah, there's one broken here. So what?

2. Weird styrofoam balls we bought in Liverpool.
3. Weird random fruit and balls and pinecones leftover from my when-I-was-little tree. It counts as a set because I said it does. Shut up.

C. Now we're down to Onesies -- ornaments you only have one of. These, if you are any sort of human person, will have a lot of memories attached. There should be more of these than there are of all the rest.

And yet somehow -- although you've been adding to them all these years, they all still fit in the same box they fit into when you were four. (Oh, and that gingerbready dude? the one in the middle there? I wrote about him last year, too.)

D. But FIRST of the Onesies are the biggy ones. The ones that take up a lot of space or weight. Gingerbready there is one of those.

The rest are these:

And I will write about them each over the next few days...

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Strung Out

We got off track for a couple days because the Charlie Brown Christmas special was on and we had to do this...

(Oh, and here's a hint you'll thank me for: if you ever go to Dunkin' Donuts drive-through for a sweet and greasy snack, it's okay to order a 25-count box of Dunkin' Munchkins. Even if you have no intention of sharing. Go to town. But don't tell the drive-through lady she can choose what kinds you get. Cuz if you do, then you'll get mostly these:

Bleah. Johnny and I agreed to let them go stale, put strings through them, and hang 'em on the tree, but instead Johnny fed them to his squirrel.)

We're back on track now. With the tree, I mean. We're not off to that good a start, however, because see?

That's the same bag of popcorn we've used every Christmas for the past -- oh, I don't know, how long have we had the AssVac? Going on five years? But this is the first time it came down from the attic with a nibble-hole in it. Or two.

Hm. That sounds like something I will worry about later!

Now, on to the real job. It's Johnny's real job to make the popcorn. He uses the air-blower. And also, apparently, hair of the dog.

We use the air-blower so that 1. there won't be any oil on it, which would go rancid on the tree because we're not allowed to take it down till King's Day, by which point it smells really, really bad; and 2. there won't be any oil on it, so you won't be tempted to eat it all before you string it, which is not such a problem when you're using corn so old even the attic mice won't eat it, but it's a good tip to remember, anyway. (The hair of the dog isn't strictly necessary, unless you don't want to be picking puke out of your popcorn.)

The rest of the rules are pretty simple:

1. Make strands long enough to go alllll the way around the tree. No loose ends meeting in the middle. They'll only droop by King's Day and start dropping dingleberries all over the floor.

2. String 'em straight. Diagonals are stupid. And don't be afraid to let 'em sag a bit between the branches. But not much.

3. Three strands minimum -- minimum -- and that's only if you have a weenie tree. And space 'em evenly. How hard is that? Use a ruler if you must, for heaven's sake.

4. The pattern here is five and one. Not one and one. Not however-many you feel like and then one. Not three and two. For god's sake, man. Never two.

You see? Five. And one.

(Yeah, that's the rogue heart ornament the cats kicked around the house all year and Johnny stuck on the tree before we barely had it up. I told him he was doing it in the wrong order, and I took it off, but he just picked it up and stuck it right back on. Almost in the same place, too. Don't worry. I'll make it work. I'll just keep taking it off again until it's time.)

Now, okay, there's one concession: If you string the popcorn and cranberries five-and-one, and then a few of the corns fall off en route to tree, that is acceptable. It is annoying. It will bother you all season. But you don't have to rip it off and start again. If you put the one cranberry on, however, and realize that you counted wrong and there are just four popcorns, you do have to take the berry off and fix it. You just do.

Otherwise, how will your tree ever look like this?

I would like you all to please take notice of the rotating pile o' crap on that green wing chair. If I'm not mistaken, it has not yet been the same conglomeration twice. Let's keep an eye on it from here on, shall we?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Let There Be

All righty. Now that the tree has sat for a few days and the branches have all fallen down to the places you envisioned they would be when you saw it waving to you from the corner of the lot...

Huh. It doesn't actually look any different than it did when we put it up, does it? Oh well. I went away Friday night and Johnny forgot to water it, so it will be dying and sagging soon enough. And anyway, how much longer can I wait? It's December 8th, for crying out loud -- and it's snowing -- it's time to put on the freaking lights!

I can't actually recommend you do this on the day after your very first Christmas Party and Drunken World-Problem Solving Festival of the season (somehow, after fifteen beers, my brother-in-law and I worked out how to avoid the coming Great Depression; unfortunately, we didn't write the answer down). But if you do, might I recommend Kahlua sombrero?


So the first step is to take the lights down from the attic and spread them out so you can see what you have. Lights, needless to say -- unless you are twenty-one and being ironic or something -- are small and white and constant. Twinkly lights are for bordellos and epileptics who feel like they haven't had a decent seizure in a while. You should probably plug them all in and make sure they work at this point, but it's much more fun to get halfway through and cry and scream and swear.

There are, oh, about 1300 lights there. You will need them all. In fact, you will probably have a temper tantrum because you will run out of lights with eight inches of naked tree left, and you will have to run to CVS and see if there's such thing as a 25-bulb strand. There isn't. But if you don't have to go through this, then you didn't buy a big enough tree, so you might as well go to the garden shop right now and start again. Go ahead. I'll wait.

Ready? Okay.

Now, My Lady asked me the other day if I started at the bottom with my lights and went up, or if I started at the tip-top and went down. I had to admit I'd never thought about it. I do go bottom-up, but only because the electrical outlet's on the floor. If you can plug yours in on your ceiling, then I don't see any reason why you couldn't go top down. I have no theory or opinion on the issue. Don't start in the middle, though. That's dumb.

I usually use the big strands on the bottom. This reduces the possibility of unsightly plug-parts winding up in the front where everyone can see (the very thought of which is to shudder. Brr.). Also, getting to the top -- having achieved the absolutely perfect tree-to-light ratio -- only to discover that you've got to find a place to cram 150 leftover dangling lights is to swear. Grrr. So trust me: use the long ones at the bottom. The treetop angel (who otherwise would have to take those 150 leftovers up the keister) thanks you.

If you plug in a strand and half of them don't come on, you have two options: 1. hide the dark part in the back and use it anyway, or 2. poke at it, sort of twist it around a little, and see if you can't get the dark part to come on. This usually works. It also, usually, goes dark again as soon as you have all your other ornaments on the tree and can't possibly fix it without taking the whole thing down and starting over, but that is some other, future person's problem. The important thing right now is not to have to get dressed or put your drink down.

I can't stress this enough: lights go all the way to the trunk. You should be able to lay on the living room floor and take a picture of your tree and it should look like this:

If your lights look like a garland -- all strung in rows with no imagination -- and/or if you can't read a book from across the room by its light, then I'm sorry, but: no myrrh for you!

And that's it. You're done. Ta da!

See how easy that was? Even with a hangover? Oh crap.

Tree's too small.

God dammit.