Friday, December 28, 2007

Christmas (In a Nutshell)

So the holiday started off by preparing Maude for a couple long days alone. That meant cleaning and filling her "water fountain," leaving additional bowls of water and food around my apartment, and purchasing fresh "cat grass" -- not to mention, the live catnip pictured here.

And then it was off to Christmas Eve, which -- ever since my family "cancelled" Christmas years ago -- I spend with a friend's family in lieu of mine. Here she models with one of the gifts I purchased for her -- a rather macabre learning tool depicting the skeletal system.

[Yes, it's blurry, I know -- but I'm not about to post a clear picture of friends and family without first receiving written permission.]

Next was Christmas. And though Santa arrived as anticipated

This little elf spent the morning and afternoon hopping from one house to the next visiting relatives and dropping off gifts before touching any of her own.

Lunch was had at a relatives, where my aunt displayed an interesting collection of dolls, including one that looks a little like me... aside from the hideous ribbon and gold glasses.

[Mine, for the record, are tortoise.]

Meanwhile, back at the ranch (errr... family room) my cousin took on his six-year-old son in a game of pool. My cousin, much to his chagrin, barely escaped defeat.

My fascination for the "8 ball" prompted all variety of questions regarding my gang affiliation. I tried explaining how intrigued I was by the Greek symbol for infinity (an "8" laid upon its side), but they weren't convinced.

Next up was my grandparents' home, where my youngest nephew sat down for a chat with his great grandfather.

There aren't really any pictures of me to memorialize the occasion, though I swear I was there. See? Here's my foot.

If you're lucky, I may reveal a bit more of myself in a future post.

[And by that I mean: I may show BOTH of my feet.]

Still not convinced I was there? Here's another shot of me back at my parents.

That aforepictured youngest nephew -- known simply as "The Trunk Baby" to many in blogosphere -- was less than thrilled by the "Safety 1st" items I purchased for him for Christmas. You know, the latches to keep him out of kitchen cabinets (and refrigerator) and even a nifty little contraption to keep him from swimming in the toilet.

Luckily, the giant stuffed elephant I also purchased for him was very well-received.

But there's also now a (step)neice in the mix -- not to mention my oldest nephew, an amazing kid with whom I was sorry to only get to spend an hour or two.

In any event, with so many kids roaming about, this was the most action-packed holiday of recent memory.

Once things slowed down a bit, a boy and his grandfather relived the first few months of the former's life thus far.

Before moving on to demonstrate that though he understands quite well the notion of object permanence, he's still nevertheless convinced that the "other" baby in the mirror should come out and play.

On the Third Day of Christmas, I made the long drive to visit a good friend and her newborn. Though she's not the first of my friends to have a child, she's the first of "The Five" (the girls with whom I've been friends for an exceedingly long time). So we marked the occasion with an amateur photo shoot.

Not to mention, baby's first outing. "Where'd she go her first time out of the house?" you ask.


OK, so it's not glamorous. But reality seldom is, folks.

I returned to my home base with not-so-good pizza, which I was more than happy to share with the group. Unfortunately, "Santa Claws" was still there, seeking hydration in someone's water glass when they weren't looking.

On day four, I joined my brother and his new family for the celebration of his stepdaughter's second birthday.

Incidentally, my brother is wearing this tiara in the last photo I took of him -- or should I say, the last photo I'll take of him for at least 12 months. But more about that later.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Seasoned Greetings

So I'm pretty sure the newscaster just said this "message is brought to you by My Nards."

Which made it fairly difficult to listen to the jingle at the end of the subsequent Menards commercial and not hear the following:

"Seasons greetings to you all from My Nards!"

Anyhoo. Happy Holidays, folks.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Picnic, Lightning (Book Review)

So I'd never read much by Billy Collins before this; and though I enjoyed him well enough, I was introduced to the likes of James Wright and William Stafford while reading Collins' Picnic, Lightning and must admit to preferring their style over his.

But, please, don't tell Billy: he's the former U.S. Poet Laureate, after all, and in many circles my opinion would be marked as slanderous.

Though, for the record, a few poems did leave their imprint on me: "Lines Lost Among Trees" is a hauntingly beautiful description of how some of our best lines go unwritten; and "Where I Live" is a touching recollection of his father's death. And, oddly enough, I surprised myself by enjoying "Taking Off Emily Dickinson's Clothes" (which is just as erotic as it sounds).

And while nearly all of the poems in this collection are about poetry (for example: the author talking to his reader, the author discussing poetry at large, etc.) — and though Collins certainly has a way with words — at the same time I couldn't help but envision his face scrunched up in thought as he searched — painfully — for the right metaphor, the perfect turn of phrase.

Whereas in this regard, I am very much so a member of the Bukowski school of thought.

But look at it this way: just because you deck your walls with Salvador Dali doesn't mean you can't appreciate Michelangelo.

That's how I feel about Collins.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Language Lessons

Whilst making (soy) bacon, egg and cheese biscuits this morning, I learned that the Spanish word for "bake" is "hornee."

That is all.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Obey the Weiner

Thursday, December 20, 2007

A Matter of Perspective

When this life first began — when you first became cognizant of that ever present "me" —

Where did you think you'd wind up? Who did you want to become?

Are you that person?

And when you look out into the universe — the terrible, the beautiful, the tragic — do you see the world as it spins around you?

Or do you see the world?

Remember, wherever you go — wherever you're walking — to try, always, to never become...

a stranger to yourself.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Storyboards for the Living

Sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself

is also the worst.

(and vice versa)

Like going to places you should

(or shouldn't)

opening and closing old wounds until there ceases to be a difference between your biggest ache and your sole comfort.

The trick, I think, is to have a moment simply be. To have the best be the best,

and the worst the worst.

But the question remains: when it happens, will you know it? Will you recognize it for what it is?

Or will you let it pass you by.

I dread to think that all life long, we busy ourselves with the latter.

All the while forgetting that we haven't, really, the time.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Observations from the Day
(And Etiquette Questions for My Readers)

While waiting in line at a craft store Friday, I watched in horror as a 9 or 10 year-old girl sniffed some holiday candy (a drawstring bag of liquorice "coal"), inspected the bag, and then found a way to jimmy open the drawstring. Hoping she was just trying to "see" what the candy looked like before she made a purchase, she pulled the cellophane bag from its exterior packaging, sniffed it once more, squeezed the coal with her fingers, and then opened the plastic bag. She stuck her nose into the bag, scrunched her nose in disgust, and then shoved both the plastic bag and its packaging onto the back of the shelf. She grabbed two completely unrelated candy bars (one in each hand), and then joined her family two lines over. This whole process took 3-4 minutes (the store was really busy).

QUESTION: Should I have said something to the girl, or perhaps a store employee? I saw her again on my way out, sitting on a bench with her six siblings — all of them obnoxiously loud.

Today while pulling into a parking lot, another female pulled her BMW into the spot opposite mine. Her name was "Kim." I know this because her license plate said "KIMS BMW." I was immediately irritated by her, and had to fight the urge to say something to the effect of "Hey, Kim, is that your BMW?"

QUESTION: Does this make me a bad person?
I went to the post office on my lunch break, intent on mailing out three packages in hopes that they'd arrive at their destinations before the holiday's end. On my way in, I found myself behind an old lady with a hunched back and a dishearteningly slow gait. I couldn't decide if I should wait behind her — in which case I would be shuffling at a snail's pace to get to the line (which could make her uncomfortable) — or go around her (which would make me be in front of her). I decided to go around her, telling myself I'd offer to let her get in front of me once she made her way to the line. But rather than join the line directly, she went to the postal store and browsed envelopes for 4-5 minutes. I was debating in my mind about whether or not I should still extend my offer when she cut in line in front of me anyway without asking (though she did say to the woman in front of me: "I think I'll join you, dearie").

There was a rather sizable line by this point — at least 8 people behind me — and though I was more amused than anything, I couldn't help but feel a bit perturbed. I should add that I'd seen/heard her interact with someone at the store, and so I knew she had her wits about her. But that's besides the point. She was old and part of me felt she deserved the right to cut in whichever line she damn well pleased.

QUESTION: Should I have slowed down to walk behind her in the first place, or was I OK in going around her? It certainly seemed rude, which is why I intended on offering to let her join me.
Though I'd never before heard the song — and it's apparently more than a decade old — I've heard Henry Rollins' "Liar" on the radio three times in the past four days.

QUESTION: Do you ever get the feeling the universe is trying to tell you something?

Monday, December 17, 2007

Winter's Edge

"Did you get any snow?" they ask.

To which I respond...

Heck, yeah, we got snow. So much, in fact, that it seems wrong to travel by any means other than foot.

Besides, in a world that looks like this:

Why would you want to go any faster?

Santa? Or Satan.

I won't comment about my childhood, except to say I've noticed many in my generation get along with their parents much better now than they did, say, 15 years ago.

And whether that's because our parents were all "mean" or "lame" (we no doubt offered these adjectives — along with countless others — to our friends), the fact remains that — with time — both sets mellow down just enough to make congenial conversation possible.

I've noticed this effect quadruples with the addition of the first grandchild, when parents become a few degrees "grander" in nearly all respects: a tad more patient, and giving, we see them treating their grandchild in a way that almost infuriates us.

You never let me do that when I was a kid...
You never bought me so much stuff...
You never let me jump on the bed...

But I digress. The fact remains that the more time passes, the kinder many folks seem to become.

In which case: my mother is a very nice person. She'll talk your ear off and — if you visit her at home — there's a good chance she'll try to give you something before you leave.

She does this to me all of the time. Now, maybe when I first left home and needed coffee tables and a television and all that, I was more than happy to take their hand-me-downs. But now I'm a bit older and still living in apartments, in which case my possessions have far outgrown my living space.

Not to mention that — though in some cases I like my mother's tastes — for the most part we're very different when it comes to decor.

She likes pink. I like burnt orange. She likes Victorian. I appreciate some Victorian, but prefer modern and/or retro. She collects Christmas stuff. I abhor clutter. She has a HUGE collection of Santas and Snowmen. They terrify me.

But one thing we do have in common is the tendency to move around. A LOT. And my parents have significantly downsized their living space in the past four years, though their quantity of household decorations has more likely increased.

This reality has hit my mother like a mean, angry stick lately and for a year or so every time I visit my folks, my mom tries to send me home with more... stuff.

I tell her I don't have the room (it's true). Tell her I appreciate the offer but, no, that angel "Gather Ye Friends" wall plaque just doesn't mesh with my Salvador Dali.

But, sometimes, I do like what she offers. And sometimes I will go home with another hand-me-down. But these times are few and far between, though I'm sorry to say this Thanksgiving was an exception.

My mother is trying to trim down her collection of Santas, and she offered 3 or 4 to my sister and I. There was a "larger" Santa that was fairly tasteful, and my sister quickly expressed interest (which is fine by me: she has a large house and still has room to grow). Two of the remaining Santas, for lack of a better description, actually caused us utter "Wow." in unison.

I mean.


They were possibly the creepiest Santas I've ever seen. So creepy, in fact, that I felt I had no choice but to take them.

Because sometimes kitsch comes around full circle and becomes "interesting" again.


Sunday, December 16, 2007

Holey [SIC] Shrine

Saturday, December 15, 2007

A Certain Slant of Dark

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Hunt

It is a commonly held belief among single women that the "best" males of our species are either already taken or otherwise unavailable.

[That is to say, "gay"].

Whether there's any truth to this belief -- or it's merely a scapegoat for the terrified & lonely -- the fact remains that specific traits once touted as a means of "advertising" to other homosexual men are falling to the wayside.

Or to put it more plainly: as an alternative lifestyle is increasingly embraced by the mainstream, there is less need for what is often termed "flamboyant" dress or behavior. The earring in the right ear, the stereotypical gait, the lisp, etc. These things are less and less common in daily life, particularly in large cities where the pickings are certainly more plentiful.

And while this is a net positive for society as a whole (acceptance is most definitely a good thing), this nevertheless frustrates those aforementioned females.

Take, for example, three 20-something girls strolling through a store and spying three 20 or 30-something men walking nearby.

Each well-groomed with that undeniable look of the well-rounded intellectual: smart but witty; bookish but well-versed in the art of team sports; a creative-spirit, thrilled to leave the city for a weekend of camping.

One of the females looks to her friend, and they communicate their shared interest by pursing glossy lips and raising perfectly plucked brows. One female tips her head in the general direction of the three men. Her friend nods, their full attention on the Alpha males and their well-adorned shopping carts.

"Oh. My. God," says one of the men, turning to his male companion and delicately touching his arm. "This will look so cute at our place."

One female looks at the other, offering a quick shake of her head. The second tucks in the left corner of her lip and offers an audible exhale. The third -- visibly stunned -- stands painstakingly still, blinking.

And blinking.

Before turning her back on the men with a sigh that no gods dared to hear.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Without Further Ado

Here's the Chinese Dwarf Hamster, as promised. Photographer unattributed, but a special thanks to G-Rice for sending this little guy my way.

[In order to see the hamster devour its lunch, you have to click on the picture to open it in a new broswer window.]

Monday, December 10, 2007

I Can't Stop Thinking About It

Easily the most insightful political commentary I've seen so far this year.

And if you don't think that about covers it, try this hard-hitting story.

Still not enough? Tune back in later, when I'll have an animated GIF of a Chinese Dwarf Hamster eating broccoli.

What a strange world we live in. A strange, beautiful world.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

A Creature Stirs

'Tis the season of giving, and non-profits everywhere are going full throttle in an attempt to raise some much-needed cash for their respective causes. Homeless animals are no exception, and this Sunday I helped photograph pets with Santa at a fund raiser for an area shelter.

And though most of the pets were dogs, a few, uh, "other" animals stopped in to have their picture taken with Santa. There was a 17-pound-rabbit and, well... this delightful creature:

And I do mean "delightful" — not only was this rat friendly, but it was extremely well-behaved. Better than some of the dogs, in fact. No kidding.

Oh, and, before I forget: thanks to everyone who responded to Pimp My iTunes; if you haven't yet, please feel free to offer a suggestion — I'll probably download everything and burn an album later this week. I'll put together some liner notes to post here soon thereafter.

The Winter of My Discontent

Say what you will about the holidays: at this time of year, the good cheer of the season is invariably at odds with the general mood of the populace.

You hear it as the checkout lines at busy stores; you sense it when one shopping cart bumps into another, or two hands reach for a single, fashionable clearance item -- the last one in the right size.

There is this feeling, first and foremost, that *I* matter above all others. That only *I* am in a hurry, and only *I* need to get home to my family.

It would do the world of us some good, I think, to open our eyes a bit wider. To see the universe around us for what it is, to leave our egocentrism at home before we venture out onto the dangerously unsalted sidewalks and crowded streets.

The hustle and bustle of this season is most assuredly that: and there is no denying a permeating sort of... sadness... in that space between the lines. The girl walking alone, eyes down, with smiling couples on both sides. The paraplegic in a wheelchair unable to navigate any limbs between the aisles, relying instead on the cold hands of a relative.

The mother yelling at her daughter. The kids telling their father that what they really need is...

Oh, let's be honest. It doesn't matter.

It doesn't matter what you think you need because more often than not: you don't.

Not the iPod or the GPS. Not the digital camera or the diamond earrings. Not the epileptic Elmo or Butterscotch the Pony.

These things may distract us, I suppose, from what really ails us. We're stuffing possessions in-between the gaps in our lives, filling our shopping carts with stuff enough to compensate for what we can't find elsewhere.

A meaningful solution to the curse of our existence, a sort of cosmic comeuppance that haunts us from the cradle:

Fears of death, and loneliness, in a world where everyone dies and no one entirely escapes the latter.

But the fact remains that if you allow yourself to give into these fears, you'll spend a lifetime counting the lines on your own face, tracing the ever-changing path with a limp in your voice and a stutter to your step.

So you do what you can to distract yourself. You start your family and celebrate your Holy Days and line your fence with all the colors of the rainbow, too often forgetting that all around you are people very much so stuck in the same trap, the same dilemma, the same existential quandry.

But surely it occurs to you, from time to time, that you are not alone. That the world is full of people caught in varying degrees of happiness, and suffering, and sometimes it's up to you to make their day a little better: to smile when you want to look away. To put a dollar into the cup when your instinct is to ignore that unquestionable jingle of change.

It will come back to you some day, most certainly, when you need -- or fear it -- most.


Along with sundry other changes in my life, this Christmas will mark the last day I see my brother for a good while, and I think -- in a way -- I'm attempting to mask whatever it is I feel (or don't) with more gifts than I (or my banking account) can stand.

Intoxicated as I am by this same spirit, I am trying, with all my might, to not give in to the topical depression of this season. I have my Charlie Brown tree up.

And my stockings are hung with care.

And I think, maybe, this December will end more quickly than the long, slow drawl with which it began.

I want somehow to stop it. For the New Year to never come.


At work they're having a cube decorating contest; some are designing theirs as a ginerbread house. Others Santa's workshop.

Mine, if I muster the energy, will look a little like the decor I've established at home (see photos above).

I'll give you one guess as to what I'm calling it.