Saturday, December 17, 2005

Oh, Tante Baum

It is the time of year again when men go deep into the woods with killing tools to emerge hauling freshly slaughtered carcases that they then strap to their four wheel drives and bring home to their families.

Something has to be done to stop this senseless evergreen slaughter. And fast.

Now don't get me wrong. I'm not a hypocrite. I've wood somewhere in the knob and tube palace even though it just seems like its built out of crumbling plaster and rotting mortar. I've used and enjoyed toothpicks. There's an air freshener in my car. I'm just wondering if we can slow the carnage of the Christmas tree hunt that is slowly decimating our sentience-challenged friends of the woods who certainly have rights of some kind if we conjure loosely enough over an old copy of the Constitution.

Christmas is an inherently dangerous holiday when you think about it hard enough and I'm not talking about the emotional trauma of a box of socks and underwear when you had been hoping for a slot car set or having to kiss moustachio'd Aunt Gert for the first time since your birthday and the willies from that haven't been shaken off yet.

The first Christmas tree, the thing with all the lights in it, was inspired by a traveller in the north woods, walking at night on the night of the solstice. Apparently he looked up into the piney forest and was awed by the bright lights of the stars poking through the branches just before he collapsed and died of hypothermia.

The solstice is incidentally the shortest day of the year and was celebrated by the pagans-an animist faith that believed in enjoying oneself and as such was soon wiped off the cultural map by more established religions who knew better-as a festival of observance of six more months of this winter shit until the longest day comes around and we can get back to outdoor copulation.

So the idea of lights in the trees was brought inside the house. Predictably by the Germans who, as a people, could not physically camp until the introduction of the Recreational Vehicle Trailer Park with power and sewer hookup. They would slaughter some unsuspecting spruce, drag it inside and festoon it with candles, wholly ignoring the idea that their throwing logs on the fire to burn was essentially the same concept of physics, only on a grander scale. After one too many burgs went up and there were no more travelling pipers to blame, they latched onto the idea of fire safety. Here arose the tradition of soaking the youngest son in water for ten to twelve hours such that he was damp enough to throw himself on the tree to smother and douse it in case of the inevitable fire. This was a tradition they carried over into the age of electric lighting with predictably disasterous results.

As such, they got out of the lighting business and focused their energies to making the most beautiful, elaborate, eye-catching ornaments for the tree out of mercury, the most toxic substance you can possibly introduce into your living quarters short of sauerbraten.

But are you getting the general drift? Here is a celebration who's rituals include dragging a flammable item into an enclosed space and wrapping it in an ignition source while hanging fragile highly breakable toxic items precariously on its pointy, needle-laden, dying branches.

This sort of thing is tolerated by the same government who has outlawed anything more potent than an exploding paper bag on Independence Day and who is eyeing Hallowe'en with bureaucratic suspicion? An administration who needs to slap big orange warning stickers on window blinds (Attention: Will not completely obscure your fat naked ass coming out of the shower from the neighbors. Do not blame us for comments like "nice balcony over the toy shop") and confiscates nail clippers that could not gnaw through cheese at every airport?

We've either lost our secular mind or are high on sap.

Bunny on.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Seasonal Helpline

Hello, you've reached Santaclaus Corp. helpline. Your call and belief in a mythical elf with supernatual and hyperphysical properties is important to us, so please stay on the line. Your call will be answered in the order it was received.

Please listen carefully to the following selections: To ask Santa (a wholly owned trademark of Santaclaus Corp. with offices worldwide) for gifts for Christmas, please press 1. Speak slowly and clearly. Please be certain to provide your appropriate sizes. Punctuating your requests with additional requests for world peace will not advance you in line nor will it grant you particular recognition.

To cancel a gift request, press 2. Speak slowly and clearly and please try to get over the initial emotional tension of your little brother having decapitated all your Barbie dolls, Todd, the really cute guy in homeroom having asked your best friend Stacey out to the holiday dance or David having forgotten to make reservations this weekend at the hot new fusion grill. Please do not elaborate on the reason for the cancellation. We do not care. Simply state the item, the intended recipient and press pound to deliver. You are going to have to give David his CD collection back on your own time. Better yet, just chuck it into the river. We won't tell.

To request a less commercialized season, press 3 repeatedly. It won't do anything, but you might feel better.

If you would like to return the pony you received last Christmas because mommy's co-op board has finally gotten their shit together, press 4.

To change the size of a gift you recently received, press 5. Please state the item clearly, its size and its replacement size. Sorry, stating "Sweater, medium." and then "Sports car, red." will not work. Nice try though.

Press 6 for your two front teeth.

Press 7 for our loan service to cover orthodontist's bill.

To question the physics of Santa getting across the globe in one night, press 8. We've heard this one before too and will gladly explain how instantaneous deceleration does not cause complete tissue destruction in warm blooded mammals. Just remember you'll have to explain why you said what you said to the regional marketing director while drunk at the office holiday party.

For detailed toy assembly instructions and emergency batteries, press 9. For assistance in extracating whatever digits you've gotten stuck in "Madman's Thunder Mountain Tear Ass Car Chase and Garage". Hell, press 911. We only come once a year.

Thank you for calling.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Half Again as Much

Right around April of last year I ran my first major distance race: a half marathon.

For real runners out there, I've just boasted about kissing my sister. Of course when you consider a checkered past where running was something I did my mouth off with while ordering the next round of martinis and, be a love and get me a pack of camels would you please, the fact that I can do anything for 13, much less 13.2 miles straight is kinda darn impressive.

At least the paramedics thought so.

It was about forty degrees when the damn thing started and I one hundredth in line for the port a potty at seven a.m. in the rain.

The reason we enjoy this is...

Half marathoners were awarded a high tech, micro fiber, light weight, stylish running shirt. Those running a five kilometer race that started fifteen minutes before the half were given a warm cotton long sleeved shirt that read "I'm one of the normal ones."

The micro fiber halfers simply had blood type and "please call 911" stencilled on theirs. Now the shirts were a technological miracle. They were light enough to feel like you were wearing nothing and protected against the cold like another layer of raw, cold, exposed skin. The fabric was designed to wick moisture away from the skin and evaporate it into the atmosphere. Of course, it was raining and the principle was working perfectly, just in reverse.

Try as I might, I couldn't get in the sights of the starter's pistol and I had to start running the cursed thing.

It actually wasn't that bad. Miles one through five were almost pleasant if you've just been released from a Soviet Gulag. At least you were moving. Mile six surprised me in that there was a timing mat to record how far behind the quadrapalegic squad you actually were. At the halfway point people were cheering themselves for not having gotten involved and blowing horns and ringing bells. Scraping together the last vestiges of any good humor I had, I feigned blindness and delirium and did so quite well because, well, it wasn't all acting was it?

During miles seven through eleven I started to notice some of the pacers I was passing. Pacers are disciplined runners who can finish a race in a predetermined time because they are eminently in tune with their bodies. Not as in tune as I am when I can predict I'll get there just about midweek next week if I can drive, but they're an impressive lot.

Each pacer held a flag with their name and pace time on it. There was James 3.30, Paul 3.00, Mark 2.30, Matthew 2.00 and John 3.16 who mistakenly ran when he should have been at a football game somewhere.

There was food too. Sports nutrition granola and fruit bars and liquid carbs flavored like honey and mint. Oh yeah, that'll get me going. Look boys and girls, you can make it low carb, high protein, low calorie all you want, just make it taste like a Big Mac, will you please? I'm suffering enough out here.

At mile twelve I mistook my friend Gary for a bag of Cheetos. At twelve and a half I knew I was halucinating when my friend Jim started to resemble a pastrami on rye but I didn't care. Anyway, the mustard stain finally came out.

At mile 13, the apocalypse as I swore I heard polka music. My pal Dave warns me that this is the final break with your sanity before you decide to run for the school board.

But I finished at 13.2 and the polka music eventually died down and we all pretended we had a good time which is to say we all celebrated having an excuse to crawl back into bed.

At the finish line we were all given silver mylar blankets and a complimentary subscription to satellite radio as long as we kept the blankets wrapped around outselves. We were also given water and our frequent ambulance miles were upgraded.

I may actually get involved again this year but only really if I can take my car. After all, that's where the drinkholder and the ashtray is.

Bunny on.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

The Stepmother of Invention

The garage is about a hundred feet from the house and all I have to do to get there is cross my own backyard which is not an issue. The most terrifying thing out there is a washing machine left over from the previous owner that I am keeping as an homage to West Virginia. Oh, and a bunny. A real one that made short work of the rest of the summer garden, not that I cared.

It was all good until standard time hit with its clockery re-setting and darkness at three p.m. Now I'm coming home in the dark, no matter how early I inflate Safety Man in my office chair and put on the continuous playing tape of me saying "come right in, my door is always open" and "we have a dynamic synergy moving forward here."

Amazing what passes for work these days.

So now it's a dark dash from the garage to the house and, as I said, it's not a bad thing until you consider there's a sun dial at about mid-riff, ok, crotch height, midway up the path and a couple of alabaster flower pots that I'm never sure where I put last. Clearly, something like lighting needed to be installed since the ground will soon freeze and tripping and falling over the flower pots will become a higher stakes proposition than it was in summer. And as for that crotch height sun dial, well its not something I need to worry about immediately...

So I'm back at the home despot for the first time in over a month and you know what? Not much has changed. Still entire aisles blocked off so that they can randomly re-arrange stock for no reason whatsoever when what you absolutely have to have to keep the house from collapsing is in that aisle but you're going to have to wait the 12 to 18 hours while we figure out how a forklift works. Still have hordes of orange aproned goons greeting you when you have an armful of merchandise and are on your way out but if you have a puzzled look and an empty cart in electrical you stand a better chance of getting a taxi in New York City on a rainy Friday. At rush hour. Before a long holiday weekend. And a Yankees-Red Sox home opener.

Blissfully alone, I pick up an outdoor light fixture for about thirty bucks and then see what I can find for motion sensor switches. Lots. For about twice the price of the lamp and so hair trigger that a dropping pine needle will set the things off like Stalag 17 on breakout night.

Got to be a better way. There are light sensors that turn on at dusk and off at dawn. That reminds me too much of an ex-neighbor who installed industrial strength barn lights on the outside of his house and turned a nice little patch of country where you could once sit on your deck and see the stars into a freaking football stadium at halftime.

If you're afraid of the dark, I've got a phrase for you: City Living.

I finally hit on a solution. I only need light for about five minutes at a time, walking groceries, gym bags, briefcases and random blog ideas up to the house so I flash back to family trips when we'd all stay in cheap chain hotels as the answer to my problem.

You remember the places: Roadside, orange roofed, neon lights with luxuries like beds you didn't have to make in the morning, diesel powered ice machines right outside your room, pools so chlorinated a ten minute swim had you coming out looking a lot like the Joker. And, luxury of all luxuries; a heat lamp in the bathroom that you could put on with a timer and pretend it actually warmed something up after you spent two hours in the pool as a kid.

There it was. A timer. Wire it up, park the car, turn it on and, after an appropriate interval, it turns the no longer needed outside light off and the bunny in the backyard is hidden once again in darkness and can flip you off with impunity.

Now if I can only explain the heat lamp on the outside of the garage to the neighbors...

Bunny on.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Memory Lapses

If ADD has a poster child, it would be me. I am so easily distracted that...

elipses are considered a life form around here in that they have saved me more than once.

In my synaptic staccato, I am trying to accomplish about a thousand things an hour and completing none of them. I leave books opened to the last passage right next to the newspaper, journal notebooks at a half completed entry, coffee cups everywhere and if I didn't have but two clothes closets, I'd have to hire a white horse upon which to ride to work.

Not a pretty picture.

I forget most everything at one time or another. A few years ago, attending night school, I left after and exam and drove for the better part of an hour only to wind up in long term parking at the airport.

I still have no idea how or why I got there.

This morning I confessed to short term memory loss to a good friend of mine who responded by saying "good thing your long term works, or we wouldn't be doing this."

Emailing each other. Nothing untoward. Nothing dirty. Now that I've lost the vast majority of you, I'll finish.

She's right. If I didn't carry a memory over the last quarter of a century, I'd never be emailing her in 2005.

We were both seventeen. High school seniors. We'd known each other for about a year. We hung with a small group of colorful misfits and were friends in the loosest sense of the word.

We all got along and were irreverent together. Another friend of mine and I would sometimes get a little silly and irreverence would turn into plain nastiness. Mean as a snake, plainly put. We called her names sometimes. Made fun of her.

We were awful.

A couple of days later, we would all be back in our little circle of friends, hanging around as if nothing happened.

She sure didn't let on.

When I left town permanently, we all got together for a dinner at a fancy restaurant downtown for a big sendoff. I found out that she had organized the whole thing. I got treated to a nice meal with a great crowd and, months later when I was alone in a new city in a new country I hung on to that dinner for dear life.

She never knew that.

We grew up. Got older. Graduated high school, went to college, got our first jobs, then our second, then our third. Got married. Some of us had kids. Some of us took a while to settle down. A few years back I got a call from my friend whom I had not seen in over twenty years. We talked, caught up, laughed and joked like the time had never passed. A couple of years later, I was vacationing in his neck of the woods and we all went out to dinner and reminiscences. Oddly, somewhere in the conversation, Annie, the girl we used to make fun of, came up.

Boy, were we stupid said I.

We were assholes, everybody is, said he.

This was different said I. There was something wrong about that and one of these days I'll put it right.

Not that I do this sort of thing as a matter of habit. I've offended plenty of people and never made amends. But something about Annie stuck with me and from time to time, her name would pop up in my consciousness and I'd look around for her.

With no luck. Not even Google gave me a good lead.

Then by happenstance, events unfolded that put Annie within arm's reach. Our 25 year high school reunion was held, she attended and left an email on the visitor's page.

I'm not that smart, but even I could recognize an opportunity.

So I emailed her. I'll paraphrase:

"Dear Annie: You probably don't remember me but I remember you and I remember treating you badly from time to time and you responded by doing something really nice for me. I appreciate that and I never told you so I'm telling you now. Thank you. And I'm sorry for the things I said. You can respond, you can ignore me and we'll never talk again and I will understand. But I had to say this to put things right."

A couple of weeks later I got an email back. Again, I'll paraphrase:

"Dear Dipshit (she never said that but I had it coming nonetheless):

I remember you and all the hurtful things you said to me and it took years of therapy and thousands of dollars just to get back to a normal life. I thought I'd turned that corner and here you are again plunging me back into neuroses from which I'll never emerge.

Just kidding.

I forgive you, you big stupid bunny. Now tell me all about your life."

The moral of the story is this. Well, there is no moral and kids, I'm a professional asshole on a closed course so don't let me catch you doing this at home.

But there is one long term memory I'm glad I kept and finally did something about. I found (again, I was too stupid to notice it at the time) one of the best friends I will ever have. She found a large, invisible rabbit. I got the better part of the deal.

Thanks Annie. Talk to you tomorrow, sis.

Oh, everybody out there. This month, go out and try to put a wrong, right.

Bunny on.

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