The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,700 times in 2011. If it were a cable car, it would take about 45 trips to carry that many people.
This is a short story, so I have some space for commentary. This is something I wrote a while back when a large number of people left my company for another. At least that was voluntary; just a few months ago we had a large layoff. Of the 50 people on my floor, only 33 are left. It was like the rapture, in a way. I don’t blame the company; they did what they had to do given the circumstances, and they did everything else they could before this happened.
I’m only going to say this once: I think the OWS movement is wrong, and ultimately misguided and will only lead to more ruin.
I work at a small bank. Yet, we do more business than the larger ones in terms of mortgage business in this area, and then we sell most of our loans to the larger ones. We have been fairly solvent and did not need the government bailout. However–
In order to stay competitive with the ones that did take it, we were forced to take it as a logical business strategy. Then the fine print was revealed: now that we have you hooked, you have to do things our way.
The guiding principle behind OWS is that the big banks are evil and corporations are evil. At the heart of it is a looming communistic ideology (take a long hard look at the organizations backing it) that wants to destroy capitalism.
Capitalism is not “evil,” nor are most corporations. As a conservative, I am generally against most regulation. However, I’m actually more of a libertarian, which is just a conservative with loose morals. I’m trying to be reasonable and logical. There is a right way to do things.
We can’t have large, powerful companies doing whatever they want with nothing to rein them in–that’s suicide.
And just as ridiculous is the notion that government can do anything constructive and useful. Riddle me this, Batman–has the government ever actually FIXED something, and made it better? When laws are put into place that place arbitrary restrictions on some companies, but not on others, it is obvious that there is corruption and favoritism going on. Any new laws, new rules, or new regulations will do the same. Is there a logical reason for small companies being restricted from doing certain things, other than the fact that the larger ones don’t want them to, and they have the money to buy Congressmen to make it happen?
If you think the government is the answer, you’re asking the wrong fucking questions.
Occupy Wall Street should really be “Occupy Washington.” That’s where the goddamn problem is. Taking money from the rich will only frustrate you, because they will find a new way to make it. Meanwhile, if it’s taken from them, will it go to the poor? No–no it won’t, Einstein. It will go to the House (i.e., the Government), because the House ALWAYS gets their cut. You are completely delusional if you think it’s going to be any other way.
Go ahead and vote for Bread and Circuses for yourselves, and see what actually happens. See how much bread you really get, and who is going to be working in the circus–and how much it is really going to cost you.
But this story is about something else entirely.
The dark and the rain only compounded the confusion. The giant ship seemed small as it tilted away from the iceberg. Survivors were running and screaming, scrambling for the sparsely numbered life boats. A few, a lucky few, had escaped in the skiffs before the storm, which was sometime between the pirate attack and being chased by the sea monster.
The captain yelled above the fray, trying to maintain order. His voice was unheard before the din. Lightning crackled in the sky, and illuminated the ominous wall of ice that all but supported the ship, the SS Mortgage Division.
A loud horn sounded, and everyone turned to see another ship, dropping anchor and prepared to help. Or was it? The Jolly Roger whipped in the wind from its highest mast, and a voice over a bullhorn called to them, “Join us or die! We can save you! Bring your rolodex and your documents!”
A swarm heeded the call, and the doomed captain tried to call them back. “Don’t go! It’s a trap! The market is too volatile!” he yelled in vain as one after another the passengers and crew jumped in the water and began to swim. Some made it…and some were eaten by sharks. Others were scooped out of the water by rabid polar bears.
In the end, after the storm had died down to a drizzle, the pirate ship had sailed on, and only dozen or so were left. Bryan numbered among them, and he counted himself lucky. Here he was, in the captain’s boat. Safe, secure. Homefree–
“Water! We’re takin water over the side, captain!” Panic spread through out the small boat quickly. Thinking quickly, the captain made a decision.
“We need to lighten the load!” The captain pointed at Bryan. “You! Come here!”
Anxious to please the captain, Bryan hopped up quickly. “Yes, Captain?”
The Captain unceremoniously pushed Bryan over the side. He then yelled, “Next!”
Bryan tread water, shivering, as the skiff floated away. The other passengers on the boat wished him well. “Good luck!” “Hang in there!” and “We really appreciate this!” They floated off to the mythical land of job security and 401k growth.
As the boat shrank from his sight, Bryan reflected that he should never have quit his last job delivering pizza.
This is another in the series of flash fiction from Chuck Wendig’s site “Terrible Minds.” This week it’s a thousand words, involving a flea market. I missed last week’s challenge–or something like that. I was a little too ambitious, and it got the better of me. I’m a little more grounded now. To see more and to check out the other entries, go shopping here:
Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge: The Flea Market
Way out on the edge of the metropolitan area there was a closed up car dealership.
In the summer, impromptu farmer’s markets sprang up. Before Halloween, growers sold pumpkins. After Thanksgiving, it was Christmas trees.
On Saturday, the flea market appeared, almost like magic, and disappeared just as quickly–only to reappear the following week.
Last night my group of friends made a drunken decision to come here, and this morning I held them to it. It had been an early morning drive, and there was still dew on the ground, and fog in the air. Even early, the crowd had already gathered.
Flea marketers are an odd bunch: more eclectic than any other group of geekdom, looking for the ultimate deal on the penultimate piece of something that they had been searching their entire life to find.
I felt a kindred spirit. The quest…it’s all very primal.
Two old men drank coffee at their table of old car parts. A suburban mom had a table of scented candles. There was a boat for sale.
We stopped at table with some remarkable hand-carved items. My friend Sue shouted, “Ravenwolf!”
*The* Ravenwolf. I had heard much about him, and yet, he was nothing like I had expected. I had heard he was a musician. I had heard he was a hippie, and had his own way of doing things. I heard he did some odd things in his house. Mystical, pagan things.
From this and other things I had heard, I thought he would be a 60-year old grizzled-looking half-Indian, half-Scottish Nick Nolte-looking dude with moccasins and bongos and a hookah. I pictured a loud and brazen blues-singer type, taking up everyone’s space, speaking in poetry and snapping his fingers.
The real Ravenwolf was quite different. A young black man? No, not young. Even more so than many blacks, he had the annoying ability to look much younger than he was. He could have been as young as 28; most likely he was past fifty.
In my mind’s eye I imagined him dressed like a pimp in a purple suit but I know he wasn’t. Honestly–he was dressed plainly, but his essence sparkled, so it had the tricky thing of making him appear at once both more and less than he was.
Sue introduced us. My girlfriend said, “I’ve heard a lot about you.” He brushed it off, remarking something about not being that special–
He continued to deflect the attention to everyone else. He was genuine, and he cared to hear about others. I had started to walk towards the van to put the stuff away. From about 20 feet away, Ravenwolf said something to me loud enough for me to hear–loud enough for everyone to hear–and yet no one heard but me.
“Are you a Holy Man?”
Not much can stop me in my tracks.
I had been walking away, but I had to go back, because I had some explaining to do. In my embarrassment, I answered, “Yeah, I am–-although I don’t really talk about it because I’m not a good example.”
He smiled large at me. “Who is, brother–who is?”
“You know, that may be why people come to me for counsel all the time. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing. But I listen, and people need that.”
He didn’t ask, but stated, “You’re honest.” But more than the words were the emotional projection behind it, reminding me that I’m honest but I use humor to hide it, or I write fiction and make things up but they hold a higher truth. All of that came to me in energy from him as he said those two words.
I laughed hesitantly, startled at the depth of our communication. “I am that.”
While the others talked loudly to each other, their noise was gently blocked as Ravenwolf and I connected. As we are preparing to go, we shook hands again, and this time–
This time, he held on to my hand. Locking hands, I looked him in the eyes, and saw him already there, waiting for me.
At that moment of our connection, I could tell he was reading me. Kim later told me that we had only met for the space of a few minutes. Perhaps. But Shamans can bend time and space. And while I can’t, I can recognize it when it happens. I had some doors of perception open for me, and I saw the real him. His veil was like a dark jacket thrown over him like a costume. Under his veil, I saw his aura. His aura was at once a dark and bright purple, with sparkles of energy coming from it. And under his aura, I saw his Presence. His presence was of an ancient tribal priest, dressed in loin cloth and body paint, wearing a headdress and holding a staff, performing an ancient dance to the gods of the land, and the wind, and the water, and the spirits.
I don’t know what he got from me–truth? The truth is over-rated, I suppose. I am curious about what the real me looks like.
Shamans and Holy Men–I believe he is both, because a Shaman is a special kind of Holy Man–we have to…we have a job to do. We have to teach, and counsel, and nurture the people. We have to guide and direct them in this plane. We point out new direction, and help remove blinders.
And we all have different methods of doing it. Mine is more direct; I grab the spotlight and say, “Come, follow me!” Others, like Ravenwolf, do it indirectly, by example and suggestion and gentle persuasion. But we are both–if anything else–spirit guides.
This is what Ravenwolf communicated to me: he was reminding me that I am a Holy Man, and that I have a mission, and a purpose.
My girlfriend bought some kitsch jewelry, too.
And what, pray tell, could the flaw in this story be? Now that I’ve sucked you in, I’ll tell you: It’s a true story. It really happened.
Tags: 2010s, friends, religion, spirituality
At some bank function Detroit met Joe’s wife Sue. We had just moved and Detroit was needing a job. Sue got her one–and Alex, too–at school working in the kitchen. They became friends as well.
We don’t get to hang out much, like kids get to do–sometimes you have to set a play date. Like the other week, when I had a birthday party–it was one big play date, with alcohol.
The more recent play date we had with them was Friday night, after learning that Sue’s mother had passed away. Although I had been planning on going to the studio that night, when Sue called Kim, Kim knew that the right thing to do was go over to see her. Be with her, sit with her, comfort her. Drink with her. Bring some wine.
We brought rum for Detroit and beer for me. That way she could drink, and I could have a few beers but still drive. I just can’t drink beer fast enough to get drunk. We were there for about 3 or 4 hours, and I barely finished three beers.
I felt like we were doing a good deed–Kim and Carrie kept Sue company, and I kept Joe occupied. In the midst of her mother’s passing, they were also having some kind of fight. About what? Don’t know, don’t care–not my business. I kept Joe busy, let him bitch, and got him drunk enough to pass out after falling over some shit and crawling across the floor. He finally ran down, spilled his wine a bit, and eventually passed out sitting up on the couch.
Then I went outside and joined the others.
I’m basically sober, with three drunk women. Yay, me. They were all happy and sensitive and expressing their feelings…and talking about their wildest sex stories. Yikes.
But they did all agree that I am a wonderful person, more or less–aside from the standard drunkenly honest caveats that come out–so that was nice.
Towards the end of the evening, we were trying to wrap it up. I had gathered the stuff, hugged everyone a couple of times, and tried to extract Detroit to the van. Then a most unexpected thing happened.
Joe and Sue’s neighbor came over.
Ravenwolf. The Ravenwolf. The one, the only. I had heard much about him, and yet, he was nothing like I had expected. I had heard he was a musician. I had heard he was a hippie, and had
his own way of doing things. I got the impression that Joe liked him
even though he didn’t quite *get* him. I heard he did some odd things in his house, in garden. Mystical, pagan things.
From this and other things I had heard, I thought he would be a 60-year old grizzled-looking half-Indian and half-Scottish Nick Nolte-looking dude with moccasins and bongos and a hookah, and a pet monkey on his shoulder. I pictured a loud and brazen blues-singer type, taking up everyone’s space, speaking in poetry and snapping his fingers. Why a monkey? Why, indeed. Why not?
Instead, the real Ravenwolf was something quite different. A young black man? No, not young–but definitely not old. Even more so than many blacks, he had the annoying ability to look much younger than he was. He could have been as young as 28; most likely he was close to fifty, if not older.
He was definitely his own man, like Brother Todd. He dressed the way he wanted, and it was unusual enough to be unique without being odd and off-putting. In my mind’s eye I imagine dressed like a pimp in a purple suit but I know he wasn’t. Regular dress pants of some kind, a shirt that may have been white, with a vest, and I think there were ruffles somewhere, although that may have just been his aura. He had on a big leather overcoat, and he wore a hat.
Honestly–he was dressed plainly, but his essence sparkled, so it had the tricky thing of making him appear at once both more and less than he was. It was as though…
Okay, this will make more sense in the context into which I put it soon. But it was as if his physical appearance was a disguise. Not to deceive anyone, but because he wanted to live among us and this was how he did it.
All of the above thoughts came to me after the fact.
Sue and Carrie greeted Ravenwolf first, hugging him. Sue introduced us. Ravenwolf held onto Sue, supporting her, while saying that he had had a few to drink as well. He gave her his condolences. Detroit said to him, "I’ve heard alot about you," as he hugged her, and he brushed it off, remarking something about not being that special–
He continued to turn the attention to other people, but in a nice way. He was genuine, and he cared to hear and learn and know about others. I had started to walk towards the van to put the stuff away, and then come back and begin the extraction process again. From about 20 feet away, Ravenwolf said something to me loud enough for me to hear, loud enough for everyone to hear, and yet no one heard but me.
"Are you a Holy Man?"
Not much can stop me in my tracks.
I had been walking away, but I had to go back, because I had some explaining to do. Inwardly cringing from my own embarrassment, I answered, "Yeah, I am–although I don’t really talk about it or flaunt it because I’m not a good example."
He smiled large at me. "Who is, brother–who is?"
"Well, I guess I am, then. You know, that may be why people come to me for counsel all the time. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing. But I listen, and people need that."
He didn’t ask, but stated, "You’re honest." But more than the words he stated was the image or emotional projection behind it, something that reminded me that I’m honest but I use humor to hide it, or I write fiction and make things up but they hold a higher truth. All of that came to me in energy from him as he said those two words.
I laughed hesitantly, startled at the depth of our communication. "I am that."
All the while the three drunk women were around us, talking loudly to themselves, us, and each other, but their noise was gently blocked as Ravenwolf and I connected. As we are preparing to go, we shook hands again, and this time–
This time, he held on to my hand. At first I tried to pull out of grip, and he held. I saw his face. I acquiesced, and held his hand for an uncomfortably long time…probably thirty seconds. He was looking at me.
I’ve said before my psychic ability is somewhat erratic, if I have it at all. Despite my fiasco with the body work on the car, I really can read people. In fact, subconsciously I believe that I knew he was going to rip me off and I let him do it anyway.
And I while I got a read on Ravenwolf, it took me a few days to analyze it. But at that moment of our connection, I could tell that’s what he was doing to me: Reading me. And going below the surface, and reading a little deeper. Detroit later told me that we had only met for the space of a few minutes. Perhaps. But Shamans can bend time and space. And while I can’t–or I can’t control it, in any event–I can certainly recognize it when it happens. I had some doors of perception open for me briefly. He let me see briefly the real him. His veil was like a dark jacket thrown over him like a costume. Under his veil, I saw his aura. His aura was at once a dark and bright purple, with sparkles of energy coming from it. And under his aura, I saw his Presence. His presence was of an ancient tribal priest, dressed in loin cloth and body paint, wearing a headdress and holding a staff, performing an ancient dance to the gods of the land, and the wind, and the water, and the spirits.
I don’t know what he got from me–truth? The truth is over-rated, I suppose. I am curious about what the real me looks like.
Shamans and Holy Men–I believe he is both, because a Shaman is a special kind of Holy Man–we have to…we have a job to do. We have to teach, and counsel, and nurture the people. We have to guide and direct them, and give them new ways to think. We point out new direction, and help remove blinders.
And we all have different methods of doing it. Mine is more direct; I grab the spotlight and say, "Come, follow me!" Others, like Ravenwolf, do it indirectly, by example and suggestion and gentle persuasion. But we are both–if anything else–spirit guides.
And this is what Ravenwolf told me, what he communicated to me through our meeting and our clasped hands: he was reminding me that I am a Holy Man, and I have a mission, and a function, and a purpose.
The ideas have run together somewhat, and I’ve forgotten what I said and where and when I said it, if I said it at all. So I hope I don’t repeat myself too much here, but some of the stories overlap. My life is a complex tapestry of interwoven BS.
So you know we have this radio show right? For a long time it was in development…and technically it still is, until our first air date.
This puppy is all mine, I guess. But having other people involved helps keep me in line and keeps me focused and keeps me from losing sight of the goals. I hope.
I’ve done a lot of writing and planning and so forth for this, and occasionally I pause and wonder: to what end?
Well, we want to put this show on the air. And by we I mean me and Suzan and Lou. And by air I mean the Internet. My concern, as someone who craves attention, is how do we know we have listeners? How do we get listeners? How does this turn into advertising revenue?
We’ve recorded thus far three shows, and they get better every time. The last one was even good enough to use. However–
We want to make a good first impression. That’s why we did several takes of the first show. Unlike on TV, we want to have a strong pilot. Content-wise it was all there, and the production quality was up, as well as the broadcast quality and our chemistry. But part of the whole experience is the theme music, used as an intro and as bumpers in and out of commercials or between segments.
I know this is all very technical for you.
When I was with the band in the Boot Heel, I casually mentioned that maybe they could do a theme for our show. Okay. Great idea, a death metal, in-your-face theme for a death-metal, in-your-face kind of talk show. They said sure.
But maybe I should have pressed. If I had been smart and aggressive and motivated–instead of smart and lazy and non-confrontational–I would have pursued this when we were at the studio, writing the lyrics right there and getting them to rip the track then and there.
But I didn’t. And I mistook what Lou (our producer) said. I thought he said he had something we could use. As it turns out, he would have to create something. SO either he takes a week or so to create something, or I give the band a week or so to create.
And the problem stems from licensing issues, because we naively thought we could do what the pros do on the FM dial–use snippets of real songs. We can’t.
Even if you use a snippet, you still have to pay. And they pay. And it’s easy to figure out how much to pay on the air. On the Internet radio, it’s a complex formula because they want to get every cent they can, the bastards. And I had a theme song all picked out.
I wanted to use "Beer for Breakfast," by the Replacements.
That was my first choice, but the second choice was wide open, so why not use a real band and get something that I don’t need to pay for? So now, the show is all ready to go but we don’t have a theme song. Yet. They’re working on it. Drew the guitar player said that it could take anywhere from 2 two weeks to two months because he wants to "get it right." Whatever. I thought they would just jam, and record, then repeat. Whatever sticks when it hits the wall is the theme. Fucking artists and their "creative integrity" or whatever. I cared about that at one time, when I could only create one thing every other month.
Now I don’t even give a shit if someone steals from me, because I know I have plenty more where that came from–either my brain or my ass.
So now, at least, we aren’t feeling rushed about creating for the show. It gives us more time to learn and grow and share–or learn the radio business more, and do some production work while we wait for the the theme. And when that is done, we will be ready to go. I expect it in the next couple of weeks, so it may coincide with my birthday. Yay.
In the meantime, the website is up and I twitter all the time. I recommend you check it out. Right now. Or else.
And follow us on twitter to increase your hipness:
There is so much going on in the political world that is pissing me off that I can’t even talk about it. Our glorious leader is going to turn us into a communist oligarchy. Just wait and see. When it happens, I won’t be able to tell you "I told you so" because dissenting opinions will be silenced and probably shot. So just remember…
When you are working at a government run facility doing whatever it is you do now but less efficiently, and you have to stand in line for everything from stamps to toilet paper to healthcare to groceries, and you have no actual money but instead have a voucher card from the government that determines how much you get and when you get it, and all the news is state run MSNBC with everyone cumming in their pants when Obama appears on the screen, and our standard of living is much like that of your typical third world country, and everyone drives cheap shitty little government made electric cars and no one can afford to heat or cool their homes and thermostats are controlled by the Department of The Interior Temperatures and most cities are rampant with crime and looting and you cant own a gun because they’ve all been confiscated and sold to South American socialists so they can go to war against us and the southern half of the US has been given to Mexico to appease gangsters and China owns all of our industry or whatever is left of it, and the dollar is worthless and has been replaced by a world currency and there are more squatters than there are home owners because everything has been foreclosed on but there are not enough sheriffs to enforce it because there is no more money and people are fleeing the cities because everyone is starving there because of the inefficient government run distribution system that–
When our world, our country, goes to shit, just remember I told you so. Socialism doesn’t work. Big government doesn’t work. Controlling everything we do is a bad idea and Nothing is free. Ultimately, we are all going to pay.
And pay and pay and pay…
Remember: I told you so.
I just got back from getting my hair cut. Can you tell which one?
I go to the barber college. I think I’ve been going there for ten or fifteen years now. My dad turned me on to the place; it’s cheap. Plus, for an old retired guy, it’s even cheaper. Now I go out of habit, plus logic: I don’t have a full head of hair anymore, so why in the world should I pay full price? I mean, if the going rate for a haircut with boobs in your face is 12 to 15 bucks, then it stands to reason that 7 bucks is about right for a middle-aged balding guy to get a hair cut from a gay man.
He was a nice young guy, I didn’t catch his name. I think that’s all right because I don’t think we’re going out. He’s not my type; I like my men more feminine. You know, less facial hair, less penis. More breasts. He probably did have nice legs, though.
There is always the thing in the barbershop about striking up a conversation. Sometimes, quite frankly, I don’t say a word. I get lost in the moment, truly reveling in the experience of having a clumsy student awkwardly cut my hair and my skin. But this time, it was easy. He stopped for a moment to plug his cell phone in, remarked about the trouble he’s had with the battery, et cetera. He has insurance on the phone for 7 bucks a month, but the battery isn’t covered. Sixty for a battery. If they replace the phone, he still has to pay a fifty dollar deductible. But this isn’t a covered reason.
I said, "So what you need to do is, find out what reasons are covered, and let that happen to your phone. For fifty bucks, get a new one. Use their system to your benefit." The long and short of it was, he seemed dubious of trying to "cheat" the multi-billion dollar cell phone company that never cuts anyone slack and measures profits in cubic feet of cash. It was very sweet. . .and annoying. I guess I’m more jaded than I thought. I used to be like him. I was once a young gay man who was trusting and naive and believed in the inherent goodness of all mankind.
Twenty years later–married, divorced, half a dozen jobs under my belt, and hetero–I have a more cynical outlook. It’s more pragmatic, I suppose. I know that they (the other guy, business, corporate America, what-have-you) are not looking out for me, even when their perfectly polished, focus-group adjusted and demographically diverse marketing tells me in earnest that they really do care. No, Virginia, there really is not a Santa Claus.
Here and there, you will find pockets or groups that do care. Even people that do care are often bound by a company policy that doesn’t allow them to act on it. It’s almost like–and I’ve seen this, and I’ve done this–to give good customer service you have to break the rules. Of course, I’m the last person to be talking about giving good customer service because I’m an incredibly rude prick to people. It’s more of a niche market, I think.
Having said all of that, I’m going to try to tie this together with what I originally wanted to talk about. I was thinking about the hip and the trendy. The good, the bad and the ugly? How about the hip, the tragic, and the trendy? I remember going places and doing things back in the old days when I was single that were hip and trendy. I kind of… .miss that. From my previous post about belonging to a group, I think that’s part of it. But I do belong to a group, of sorts. This ragtag group of roughly two dozen up-and-coming amateur comics–I belong to them. Kinda. I felt like an outsider and at first I thought it was me. As it turns out comics in general have a variety of disorders that inhibit normal socializing. It’s not just the sociopaths, but the introverts, the egomaniacs, and the ones who think they have closeted OCD. It’s not; it’s obvious to everyone.
I realized though, when I got my haircut–looking around the room for some great observation to make to blog about–that my life is alot more hipper and much more trendier and not nearly as tragic as I thought. I do have a lot of hip and trendy things going on in my world. It’s more of an attitude. The old guys that gather at McDonalds–that’s their hip and trendy. My group of miscreant comic associates? About as hip and trendy as you can get. Middle-aged, divorced, living with a girlfriend? I’m so fucking hip I can barely see my pelvis, brotha! In my day job, I work at a small bank owned by gay man–that’s hip.
Or it used to be. We’ve become corporate of late. Plus the market makes me fear losing my job. Unemployment is still hip, right? My other job is at a small restaurant that delivers. Not a chain; we’re independent. That’s hip. Yes I did recently start working a third job at a chain, but I haven’t actually started yet, so it doesn’t count. From what I understand, denial is pretty hip. I’m writing, too. Isn’t that hip? My girlfriend is writing, that makes her hip. I am hip, I swear I am. Even though I shaved my goatee accidentally. . .
So that’s the sixty-four dollar question: Can I still be hip without a goatee, or should I grow it back?
I don’t remember the specifics of Christmas when I was a child. It was a little like A Christmas Story, I think. Maybe I just remember it that way? I remember that my parents weren’t real big on tradition; we got presents, we opened them.
When I was perhaps a preteen, and knew "What The Deal Was," but my sister was six or seven–I felt privy to one of the great secrets. Dad said he heard something on the roof, and was going to get his gun and shoot Santa. My sister cried. It was hilarious.
We often went to relatives houses, either on Mom or Dad’s side around the holidays. They would sit at the table and talk and drink and play cards while I played with my cousins. I remember the first New Year’s Eve I stayed up past midnight. It was. . ..a milestone. The magical Christmas break–almost two weeks of freedom–was often the stuff of legends. Of course, the plans I had never coincided with my parent’s plans, and so I was their captive. Usually dragged kicking and screaming to some pre-planned "fun."
We also decorated for Christmas more back then; I guess my parents had more energy. As the years went by and we grew up, they gave up all pretense entirely. My parents were. . .heathens. But good people. In the last few years they did little more than have a small table-top fake tree on the coffee table. The point, for them, was getting together with family. For most people it encompassed that, but for them, that’s all it was and didn’t need to be any more.
When we moved from the country to the city over Christmas break, it was in the middle of 4th grade for me. We still owned our house in the country, but moved to town so they could be closer to work. We would go back to visit, and most of our stuff was there. . .in June I had to take down the Christmas tree that was still up in the living room. I thought, "Why bother? We just have to put it up again in another 6 months–" but I was low on the seniority list.
Buying my mom something ranged in the area between extremely difficult to impossible. Once my dad listened to me (which was a huge mistake) and bought her a bunch of tawdry romance novels. All I knew was that she loved to read; I had no idea what she was reading. My dad really paid for that one.
Back then, for a teen, there was little to no electronics to get for Christmas, no gift cards. Aunts and Uncles and Grandparents would get me thinks like aftershave. Yay. Once I got a small transistor radio. AM and FM. A technological marvel. I was pretty cool with that thing. Of course, there was the year we got the Atari–it was the year AFTER everyone else did. But it was still the rave.
When I was about 18 I went with my friend to his Uncle’s house, and his older cousin took us out in his crappy old car for a drive late at night. We got high and played in the snow. It was perfect.
When I was living with my old girlfriend (and she is old too, ba-dum ching!) I got jack squat for Christmas–I wasn’t around much.
Then I got married. My ex and her whole family would OD on the Christmas spirit. I was slow to catch on, but eventually I did. I came to really embrace it, especially once I had kids. One of my favorite Christmas moments happened right in this house I’m in now. Probably in the early to mid-nineties, my son was five or six. My neighbor, Winston, had a son about his age and they played together. The plan is, on Christmas Eve, after you get the fuckers to go to bed, that’s when you sneak around and put the presents out. . .subcontracting for Santa. My son was getting a bike that year. Around midnight, I go outside in the cold and open the back of the car up. I hear a "Ho, ho, ho!"
I turn and look. Winston is out in his car, doing the same thing. Getting the bike for his son. It was a . . . moment.
But with my ex it was always about her family, and it was hard to accommodate both sides. But we did get over there and see my parents. One year, I made a bit of a scene by packing stuff in the car while her family was over; I was going to go see my family. The Storm was pissed. But, her family cleared out and let us go.
Usually we would visit with my mom upstairs, and eat . . ..and then the men (me and my brother and his sons) would venture down to the basement and drink with dad. I never drank much, but at Christmas, with my dad, I always did. I think my brother was the same. The Southern Comfort 100 proof black label. I always had to get him a bottle for Christmas.
When my mom died, I didn’t miss her as much. . .and I thought it was because I didn’t love her as much. But I realize now it’s because I still had Dad. I was never as close to Mom, but I still loved her. When I lived here, me and my dad were pretty close. We were friends. I kick myself in the ass for moving away; I think it hurt my dad even though he never said anything.
I’m sitting here with a glass. Southern Comfort, Amaretto, and Coke. My dad’s drink. This is the first Christmas without my daddy. I can’t even see clearly to type this. I
I really miss him.
A difference which, in this enlightened age, does not matter. Although we suspect–because of his name–that he is probably of German descent and therefore most likely an anti-Semite, the fact that his nose lights up is not considered a handicap. In some sort of fairy tale way it could even be considered a positive characteristic.
I sat down by the fire in my Howdy-Doody pajamas, sipping hot Olvaltine with marshmallows, and settled in for the evening’s entertainment: Rudolf was on TV. Yessir, it’s that time of year. Our tree is up, our house is decorated, and the faint odor of jasmine and burnt chocolate chip cookies permeates the air.
We sat as a family before the big black and white console TV. GE, made in America, they tell me. Me, my beloved fiance, her disturbed sister, and the dog and the cat. It was an all-American Christmas.
Burl Ives as a snowman is the way most of America remembers him. But this little piece of Americana, this relic of a bygone era–this thing is filled with not only a subversive message, but open sexism, racism, discrimination, and the mildest hint of pedophilia, not to mention a little bestiality thrown in for good measure.
Right away the family is ashamed and tries to hide Rudolph’s handicap like he’s the Elephant Man. He goes to the tryouts, makes a friend and meets a girl, but when his deception is uncovered, everyone in Christmas Land,even Santa–who is supposed to be the most kind, caring, understanding prick in the world living in the most kind, understanding, caring town in the world –turns out to be bigots and racists.
In terms of children’s animation, it was practically a race riot, and Rudolf had to run before he got strung up from the nearest Christmas tree. Meanwhile, Hermes, the closeted gay elf gets berated and abused on the job site for his different believes. Again, because it’s a children’s show, they show him as wanting to be a dentist, but it’s an obvious metaphor for his love of "oral."
In this unenlightened elfen sweat shop they don’t believe in "Don’t ask, don’t tell," and there is no shop steward or union rep to take his problems to, so he ends up leaving–jobless, homeless, penniless, and worst of all. . . oral-less.
He hits the road and meets up with Rudolph, where the story digresses briefly into a buddy-flick. I imagine the live action version with Andy Dick as Hermes, and Frankie Muniz as Rudolph. Yukon Cornelius will be played by Will Ferrell. I hope Kevin Smith is available to direct. Plus, Jay and Silent Bob would be awesome as slacking elfs getting high behind the lead-based paint factory.
Meanwhile, back in town, the guilt overpowered Rudolph’s father. What Donner didn’t know was that Rudolph wasn’t his. . .it was Blitzen’s baby. Mrs Donner would take that secret to the grave with her….until DNA testing is invented. But it doesn’t really matter, because all these fucking deer look alike. Mel Gibson is playing Donner, because he can be forceful and manly when he says he’s going to look for Rudolph. The women (mother, Minnie Driver, Rudolph’s love interest, Claire Danes) say they want to go and Donner says, "NO. This is Man’s work." The women wait an appropriate amount of time (two seconds) before setting out on their own to look, because they know Donner couldn’t find his ass if his head was shoved up inside it.
Meanwhile, Rudolph and Hermes travel with the insane Yukon Cornelius. They find another of Christmas Town’s secrets: The seedy underbelly that is the Island of Misfit Toys. Essentially, these are the homeless and crack whores of Christmas Town. Charlie in the Box would do anything to please, and the scene with him (played by Heath Ledger) and Hermes is disturbing.
Rudolph bolts outta there, seriously wigged out. Hermes and Yukon go after him, and save him from the Abominable Bumble. Of course, in an entirely "Metaphorical" sense, Andy Dick gives the giant CGI beast oral, after which Will Ferrell wrestles comically with it in the snow. They disappear over a cliff, thankfully, but all the reindeer that were looking for Rudolph were coincidentally holed up in the same cave. Everyone is rescued.
In another remarkable display of caveman-like sexism, Donner says, "We need to get these woman back to the cave. –er, town. You know what I mean."
And by "women," that included Andy Dick.
Back in town, it was a day or two before Christmas Eve. Playing against type, Christopher Walken was cast as Santa. He is strutting around the shop wearing just pants and suspenders, creeping the elves out. There is a big storm, and he’s thinking he can weasel out of delivering this year because of the winter weather advisory.
"Besides," he said, "Most of the fuckin kids were brats this year."
There follows the fight scene between Santa and Rudolph, and it finally ends with Santa ceding the point, but not without some violence. "I’ll deliver the presents. If I have to. But you’re going with, and leading the sleigh. How’s that for funny, Rudy? Huh? You like that? Here’s a reindeer game for ya, Rudy. Hold him down, Hermes." And Santa tea-bagged Rudolph while he sing, "You better not cry, you better not shout–"
The big finale is when Yukon Cornelius returns with the Abominable Bumble, tame and obedient. Santa tests this by having it eat Mrs. Claus, played by Susan Sarandon.
The patriarchal order having been restored, Christmas went on as scheduled. And they all lived happily ever after, until the DEA busted Santa and his Cocaine smuggling ring. Finally, the terrible secret behind the reason for Rudolph’s shiny red nose is revealed, as well as the metaphorical Burl Ives.
I sat quietly, staring down at my hot cocoa. No marshmallows left, a fitting metaphor for my feelings at that point. I sighed. This sure wasn’t the way I remembered it as a child.
I recall my childhood as a magical time. Really. I grew up in the country, a small, rural town in Southern Illinois. There was a farm nearby, belonging to my friend’s family, that I spent most of my time. It was just like out of one of those textbooks from the 1940s. The goat and sheep pen, the geese that did as they pleased. The chicken pen and chicken house. The barn and hayloft, the pasture–
And the rest of the town. I know I was young, so from that angle, old people were really old. But Geez–there were some ancient monuments alive in our town. Otto Segelhorst was my friend’s grampa, and chose not to speak very good English. He and Hiram Nobe taught my dad how to make German wine. My brother now lives in Hiram’s house.
Up the street a couple of houses was John–I don’t remember his last name. His house was right by the entrance to the park. I’d sit and talk with him. On the other side of the entrance was Adolph Schuetz. He was up to the Tavern alot. Moose’s.
Down the other street was Ewalt Steinkamp, and we owned the lot next to him. Behind him, in the middle of the next block, was Mrs. Lietz. She was about 387 years old in 1970. She always had a tiny little dog, that she would walk once or twice or a dozen times a day, down past the bridge and back. Round trip, about a mile or more.
She used up alot of dogs.
The commerce center of town was the grain elevator, Doelling’s Garage, a tiny general store, and Moose’s Tavern. Doelling’s Garage had been open when I was young, but my the time I was a teen, it had been closed for a few years. Same with the Store. I swear I don’t know what people are thinking when they open a store in a town with 160 people in it–and most of those are not going to patronize your business. Wishful thinking? I remember it had been open on occasion in the summer, and always some weird hippie looking dude from out of town would be running the place. I’m sure they were nice and all–but that is not going to fly in our town.
The old grain elevator has been through some changes. The one that breaks my heart is the Mill Pond. It was only three feet deep, at the most. And about the size of a yard. Maybe a quarter acre. But it was the staging ground for my youth. Fishing–I can’t believe there were fish in it–and camping, right in town. We ice skated on it, and road our bikes on the ice. . .And I seem to recall it being frozen from Christmas Break all the way through the end of February.
In my later rebellious teen years, we (me and the half dozen or so town kids) would stage "Breakout" in the Summer. We had a name for it. After everyone went to bed, after midnight–we would all sneak out and meet up by the pond. Have a fire, sometimes a bottle of Mad Dog (the Good Stuff). We were living on the edge–as dangerous as a Scooby Cartoon.
After my friend Chaz went into the Army, and came back for Christmas break, we used his equipment to rapel from the top of the grain elevator–about 120 feet–on New Years’ Eve.
Moose’s was the heart and soul of the town. Moose–I don’t know what his name was–and his wife ran the place. This is where I came to understand the expression "bar fly." Usually on the end of the L-shaped bar, on the three stools for the regulars, would be a rotation of several people. Bill Segelhorst, my friend’s dad, or Paul Martin–who always seemed to me to be stuck up son of a bitch–or Adolph Schuetz.
There were some others in those spots, but those were the ones whose ass print was in the stool.
It was an old building, built in the 1800s like everything else in the town. A pool table that I’m not sure I ever saw anyone play. Wow. Three or four booths and four or five tables, and less than a dozen seats at the bar. A juke box. Moose had a kitchen in back, and cooked a bit. He didn’t like to, but it was part of the business. The burgers were good.
Catty-corner to the Mill was where the Tulls lived. My friends. Dad’s Friend, Charlie, was the dad, and the smartest guy I ever knew. Completely full of shit, too, so you never knew what to believe. His older sons were Lee and Chaz. Both of them alternated as my friends, staying at opposite times with their dad.
Down the street from there is the Lutheran Church. I remember when we went, some years later, to my old friend Vernon’s wedding there, I told my ex, "Yeah, this little town has a big church in it–"
We get there, and it’s the size of a house. Not a big house. Well, the last time I was in it was for the Sunday school’s Christmas production (Picture Charlie Brown’s show) when I was eight.
There is also a park, with pavilions for the town picnic and other activities. There was a stage, and below the stage, the basketball court/dance floor, for when the polka band strikes up. Back behind there is the coal mine, or what’s left of it. It closed in 1969–right before we moved there. Even at that time, they were still using mules to pull the coal cars out. Around the corner from the church was an oddly shaped house, deep and narrow. Stella–I forget her last name, an old Polish woman–used to babysit me and my sister. Mostly my sister. I was six or seven, and needed no supervision. I swear everything was in black and white back then. That’s how I remember it.
I think it’s funny how the fall, and the cold, and the smell of leaves and fireplaces. . .. makes me remember this.