Happy Humbuggery

I haven’t had much time to write in the past week. My job has been a bit on the demanding side what with the caterings for seasonal parties, and the local university’s graduation ceremonies bringing in a couple of thousand extra people into town. All of whom needed a place to have a good meal, most of whom decided that had to happen between five and seven p.m. on Saturday night. I thought I had bulled through it and managed to sleep in on my first day off in a week, but when I awoke  this morning I was introduced to fresh hell that I could no longer put off participating in holiday preparations with the family.

I am neither religious, nor am I a fan of gross consumerism so pretty much the whole holidays thing is lost on me. I am all about good will towards men, so long we’re speaking inclusively about the entire human race. Provided ,of course, that inclusively they leave me to my own devices and don’t go trying to throw any holiday cheer my way. Especially the carollers. I can’t believe we live in world where gangs of roving merry makers are allowed to go around singing at decent hard-working people. What do I pay taxes for, I ask you?

Anyway, the majority of society has these things called holidays. I also have a nine-year old daughter, and as I recall the path to disillusionment and bitterness in adulthood does indeed start with the childhood wonder at the magic of this particular season. In result I am required to do holiday type things. This morning I took her out so she could get her mother a present. To this end my wife is getting a hot glue gun for christmas.

The evening was spent putting together a rather sad little tree purchased at the discount store. Not a real tree of course. I am fairly sure that this one is made from recycled plastics and disappointment. Then, there was the annual sorting of gew gaws so that the could be hung on the skeletal piece of greenery. Nothing glass mind you, because inevitably the damned cat is going to climb up it and knock everything off, and nothing of any significant weight because It would probably make the poor thing look even more depressing. But, it is up and has been sufficiently admired for the time being, and now my family has gone off into separate rooms in order to avoid any uncomfortable togetherness.

So the point of all this is that for the next few weeks I will be busy doing things I do not in general approve of and then moping about how little I have accomplished for the year, and finally making a great deal of overly ambitious and most likely empty promises to myself about the next.

So I hope you had a Happy Monday, and all have a wonderful whatever it is you’re planning on having.

Let’s pick this up again sometime in early January shall we?

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The Worst Halloween

One fall, when I was about nine, I found myself exploring through one of those party stores that stock costumes all year round, and there it was. This cheap plastic hook with a bell-shaped cuff that hid your hand to make it look like it had been chopped off. That’s when I knew I was going to be to be a pirate for Halloween.

Understand, as a child, I was obsessed with pirates. I was into the other typical childhood things of the time; dinosaurs, Matchbox cars, Star Wars etc. But pirates were always cool. In movies, books, and games from swashbucklers, to scurvy dogs I was fascinated with all of them. One of my prized books as a child was a large slim book full of portraits and facts about the really famous pirates. One of my favorite video games ever was Sid Meyer’s Pirates, in which you got to sail the Caribbean as a privateer, plunder ships, duel with other sea captains and engage in other forms of skullduggery (There was an actual story line about rescuing lost members of your family from indentured servitude but frankly it didn’t seem that important my first couple times through.).

Halloween was still a ways off and I had to plead and whine at my dad to get it for me, but I convinced him.. We left the store with the hook and an eye-patch with a Jolly Roger on it. Then I had to wait.

From that moment all through October I chattered about my awesome costume. To my parents, my friends, to anyone who wouldn’t flee in terror from some overly enthused fourth grader, ceaselessly prattling about on about how cool it was going to be when he was a pirate. A striped shirt was acquired at some point. Some make-up crayons would be used to draw on a five-o’clock shadow, for that much-needed sea dog look. My dad was going to loan me one of his bandanna’s for my head. I spent weeks practicing my “aarghs” and “avasts”.

I was, to use the parlance of the time, totally stoked.

Then with less than a week to go, I did the unthinkable, the unforgivable. I struck my mother.

I don’t remember why. Probably some minor punishment for a petty transgression had set me into a fit of blind hot childish rage. Why wasn’t important. What was important is the fact that I hit her. Just like that it was all gone. I was grounded for a period of time that would encompass both my birthday and Halloween. I wailed, I screamed, I cried, and finally settled into moping. It was no use. Everything in my life had been ruined. Halloween, my favorite holiday gone. My awesome pirate costume, that had taken weeks to put together rendered useless.

I entered into a state of denial. Surely she couldn’t mean it. I mean she had to be bluffing, just to teach me a lesson. If I just am on my best behavior between now and Halloween I’d earn a reprieve right? May be I could barter my way out of it. Keep my room clean, take out the trash, maybe do the dishes every day for a week. There had to be some way.

There was a slender ray of hope when, the day before, on my birthday I was given presents. Clearly  if I had been still loved enough to have birthday presents, I would be allowed trick-or-treating. When I started talking about my costume, however, I was quickly reminded the there would be no such joy in my  life this year. Upon hearing this reaffirmation of my punishment the rest of my birthday took place in my room alternating between, sulking and sobbing with the occasional rage filled screaming fit.

I spent my Halloween that year either crying in my bedroom or sulking in my living room hiding behind the arm of the couch, staring in envious embarrassment as all of my friends from school, one by one showed up to ring the doorbell. Festooned in their holiday disguises and cheerfully yelling, “Trick-or-Treat!,” as my mother answered the door and patiently dropped pieces of delicious candy in their sacks and plastic orange jack-o-lantern shaped pails.

None of these costumes were as cool mine would have been.

The evening passed and the number of trick-or-treaters dwindled and finally Halloween was over. The hook and eye-patch got buried somewhere in the house, I never looked at them again. I don’t think I ever wore the shirt.

At some point I aged out of trick-or-treating. As I grew older my costumes for parties were always thrown together at the last-minute, or decided for me based on the need for a theme, or maintaining harmony in a relationship required a matching costume. Now a days, Halloween is about my own child’s experience, not mine. Plus, frankly, I don’t have much time, money, or energy to put into a costume for myself.

To this day though, I still feel  a bit of sadness and a little regret each year to remember that I never got to be a pirate.

Happy Halloween, and as always Happy Monday.

Thankful

I spent Thanksgiving among strangers this year. Well, I mean my wife and daughter were there but that’s pretty much the list of people I know. It was hosted at the restaurant my wife has recently found employment at. It was a fairly casual arrangement I suppose. The restaurant did the main dishes and guests were suppose to bring side dishes or deserts. Being food people my wife and I opted to bring both. The point is all these people were basically strangers to me.

For the fourteen years my wife and I have eaten Thanksgiving dinner with her family. Relationships with them however, have been disintegrating for some time now and we just finally decided we’ve had enough and no longer care to spend what little free time we have sitting in a house full of people that don’t care for each other very much, just waiting for the first person to loose their shit or to start being openly racist and thus causing the rest of the day to be awkward and uncomfortable. So instead, this year we dined with people at her work.

This wouldn’t be the first time I had a holiday meal amidst the unknown masses. I did have a couple of them in homeless shelters and that’s about as strange as it can get. I was a different person then. For one thing I was a vagrant; and vagrants can’t afford to be antisocial. This was a world apart. Sobriety and misanthropy kept me nervous and in my little corner that I staked out, just waiting for the night to be over. This gave me a little time to reflect on a few things. Namely, what’s the big deal about this holiday anyway?

See I don’t like the holidays to begin with. I’d been holding up on not flushing this one down the crapper with the rest of them but, I couldn’t tell you why.

I mean you could say spending time with your family but I spend all of my time off with them and quite frankly we all get on each others nerves after a while.

There’s the food. I like food. I love stuffing my face until I’m sick but, I’m a good cook so is my wife. We can do that when every we want. It’s just not very practical.

Then there’s the setting aside the day for reflecting on what your grateful you  have. Well I try to do that on a fairly regular basis. Some days it’s a shorter list than others. Today’s was about fair to middling.

Things I am Thankful for:

My Wife and Daughter.

This is your standard run of the mill cop-out answer. You get it.

The Fact That My Wife Has a Job Again.

It’s been a rough several years while she has struggled to find not just a job but, one that is fairly stable. It’s amazing the level of stress that has been lifted off my mind for that. It is an added benefit that she works someplace that is nice enough to hold a holiday meal for it’s employees.

Seriously money isn’t everything but, I’ll be god damned if it doesn’t solve a multitude of modern problems.

Non-alcoholic Beer.

It’s not a thing I keep around the house normally but I knew I would feel like having a drink by the time I got done watching a bunch of total strangers getting drunk. It’s not the perfect substitute but it makes me feel better. Something to do with dopamine, reward mechanisms, yada yada yada. I happened to have picked a fairly tasty one, so that’s a bonus.

 

Stores That Are Open On The Holidays.

There’s a lot of crap flying around the internet about where not to shop because they make employees work on Thanksgiving. There is also a lot of crap marginalizing these complaints by pointing out deployed military, emergency service and healthcare workers don’t get the day off; so why should retail workers?

First I wan’t to state how much bullshit it is to compare the two groups. The people who are military, EMS, or work in hospitals are necessary to the infrastructure of this country and/ or otherwise responsible for it’s safety and security (whether that’s what they are being used for or not is another matter entirely). They signed on to those jobs, hopefully out of some sense of civic duty and should be commended for that.

If we give the guy at Best Buy the day off no one dies. The Commies don’t win. You just can’t get your new TV/ tablet/ laptop/ unimportant-material-bullshit at door buster savings, alright. It is fucking dishonest, disrespectful and just plain god damned obnoxious to confuse that point so just stop.

That being said, just about everyone I know who cries foul about stores being open on Thanksgiving a) has the day off to complain about it and b) will end up in a grocery or convenience store at least once that day to buy that one ingredient they forgot, or to do a run for beer or smokes when they under estimate how far their vices go when they don’t have to be at work. So, I don’t care if all you bought was a pack of gum, or a gallon of gas. If you bought anything today your part of the system of consumer demand and you should all be ashamed of yourselves.

Well maybe not, ashamed per say… I mean I’m not ashamed that I had to go buy eggs, sausage and corn meal at the last minute. I’m a busy guy, or at the very least lazy, and didn’t get around to getting that shit earlier in the week so I went shopping today. Screw it. Though I was sure to be polite and thank the clerks for being there, I mean that’s just common decency.

That Thanksgiving Is Over And The Hum-Buggery Season Is Upon Us.

Now that we have overcome this last hurdle I can devote all of my energy to properly despising Christmas. You know why, and if you don’t you’re part of the problem.

Thanksgiving, in Contrast

Today

Today I got up out of bed early, on my day off from my job spending hours cooking for the general public, to spend hours help cook for my wife’s family; our family. The fresh turkey that we had ordered a week in advance, picked up the night before and paid a little extra for turned out to be partially frozen setting our dinner plans back by an hour or so and resulting in a bottle-necking of items that needed to go in to the oven. We had the good fortune and the foresight to have made zucchini bread the night before so we had something to snack on. Our daughter, who has been sick with a stomach virus for the majority of her break from school, had it with being cooped up in the house and was being a rambunctious little six-year-old monster in her Cindy-Loo Who hairdo that she decide last night was going to be her new style; paying no heed to our requests to settle down and watch the parade on television, because mommy and daddy had a lot of work to do before everyone else came over.

With the entirely too early arrival of my affluence obsessed nephew came a new level of aggravation to my day. His contribution to the day was a load of laundry,and the immediate hijacking of the television for the football games and me having to take time out to run him back by his house to turn off the iron his girlfriend left on before she took their son to eat dinner with her family, the separate arrangements for their holidays speaking silent volumes about their relationship.

My sister-in-law and her teenage daughters entrance was heralded by the barking of dogs and the excited screeching of our child, and a general increase in the volume of the background conversation that I was so far expertly avoiding. They invaded the already cramped kitchen space to offload a few additions to the meal and a cheap bottle of wine. They then proceeded to engage in the newest of family customs; screwing around with their phones and snacking on deviled eggs while my wife and I labored to get dinner on the table in a timely manner. In my rush to get the turkey carved and the oven cleared of side dishes I managed to ruin the bottom crust of my apple pie by rolling it out too thin, and thus it became a cobbler instead. This seemed the mildest of the irritations to my day.

Feeling a bit like a man with out a country, I camped at “the children’s table” with my daughter, while everyone else served themselves and sat at the main dinning table, she was the only person attending the festivities related to me by blood, everyone else is from my wife’s side of the family. After a delightfully brief prayer and a round of announcing what we are all thankful for; the answers to which always seem to get a bit more redundant with each person; and some last-minute rearranging of the table ware we all tucked into a meal that I can not complain much about as I had a hand in almost every dish. Afterwards the younger half of the family went for a stroll and took along a football to throw around while the adults spent a few moments of quiet conversation.

When the children returned I snuck off into the bedroom for a nap, missing my grand-nephew and his mother’s short but loud visit. I awoke in time to have a bite of dessert, see everyone off and help my wife and mother-in-law with the clean up of the disaster area that was our kitchen.

Not All That Many Years Ago

In 1997 I arrived in my current city of residence in late October. I knew no one in this town, I had no place to stay, I had no money, and half a pouch of cheap rolling tobacco. At this point I had been estranged from my family for a few years now, and  after a series of personal failures and minor emotional breakdowns that followed I just walked away from everyone I knew and tried to disappear. It worked, I was a truly a nobody now. Ignored by most members of polite society, I spent most of my time, and scrounging enough change for booze and hopefully stumbling across someone who had some weed, or whatever that would get me high.

A few weeks after my arrival I had my first thanksgiving in this town. It was at a homeless shelter, served cafeteria style, seated on a bench at a table that would later be folded and stacked against a wall. I ate among the life time users of hard drugs, the mentally ill, and the rest of societies unwanted. I sat in silence eating my dried out turkey, caned gravy, boxed stuffing, a damp roll, and drank burned coffee, and water. I had arrived with those sitting closest to me, a bunch of unwashed neo-hippies who billed themselves as free thinkers, and independent spirits, that had been teaching me how spend a lot of time and effort avoiding a possibility of being confused with anyone who might be part of “The System”; in other words, how to be a bum.

I looked around at the young, and then at the seemingly elderly and ageless members of the homeless that were present throughout the gymnasium like hall. I imagined saw a hierarchy of sorts in the seating arrangements, a complicated system that was equal parts meritocracy, seniority and, nepotism. I watched and saw the ranks of merchants from the markets of the dispossessed wandered from table to table whispering the availability of their wares to favored and venerated clientele, trading in currencies as yet unknown to me. I looked and I thought darkly, this is my life now, this is what is going to be my family and my traditions. I fell asleep that night on the floor of a freezing van parked under a billboard.

What I’m Thankful For

Despite my often sarcastic and occasionally downbeat approach to life I am very grateful for my beautiful wife, and for her family who are here to help me raise my wonderful, amazing, and fun daughter in a loving environment. I am thankful that I decided to pull myself up out of a bad situation and re-enter society rather than sink into the depths of street life, which frankly would have been the easy way out at the time. I am also happy in my decision to reconnect with my sister after over seventeen years of not knowing a thing about each other’s lives and family; it was great to find her and her wife living happily together. I find it also a great comfort to know that so many friends from my past are doing well and that we have, if nothing else, the internet and many social media options to look in on one another from time to time, and that they remember me fondly enough to allow me to do so. I also thankful to my employers who have the decency to remain closed on this holiday so I can spend time reflecting on what is good in my life; such as how fortunate I am to suffer the aggravations of a man who must spend the day enjoying the company of a loving and supportive family.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

The Inevitable Post About Not Being Able To Write

Drizzly, dreary weather and the impending holiday have gotten me a bit down over the past couple of days. This is despite being able to get out on the bikes with my wife and ride twelve miles with here during the nicer part of the day to take a short hike, which was quite nice. I also think I have been pushing myself a bit hard about trying to publish something everyday. The overall result has been a grumpy, stressed out, and depressed me who felt like writing was being a grind and that everything I typed sounded like a complaint and taking inspiration from The Daily Prompt and other sources just wasn’t fitting. So I shut off the computer and took a bit of a nap and decided to think about what it is I am looking forward to.

I am looking forward to the weather clearing up a bit and my wife and I taking an opportunity to do a day trip with the bikes rather than just trying to fit a quick ride in between errands and shit weather; we are also discussing doing a two-day cycling/ camping trip in the fall of next year if everything continues to go well, that would be really sweet. I am planning of making the most of preparing a large meal with my wife next Thursday for the rest of the family to enjoy; I usually get really bummed out during the holiday season, as I spent so many of them looking back and regretting things and missing my deceased parents and estranged sister and other members from my side of the family. Instead, I am resolving this year to take the whole Thanksgiving thing to heart this year and looking at my life in terms of what I have gained instead of what I have lost. I am really looking forward, in a completely selfish and sleep deprived way, to the school breaks that my daughter is going to be getting for the holidays. It will be good for me to have a stretch of days where after coming home from work after midnight and not getting to sleep until a few hours later that my alarm will not be whining at me starting at six am to take her to school; something that I am happy to do but the lack of quality sleep is a good portion of why I have been so cranky lately.

I am looking forward to another year on my bicycle, maintaining my sobriety and mental health. I look toward the rest of this year and all of the next writing this blog; though I do plan to start paring down the volume of my posts and focus on just doing two or three articles of quality a week, more if inspiration truly strikes me. Though I have enjoyed unofficially being part of the NaBloPoMo challenge, I don’t think it is good to drive myself crazy forcing publication so soon after starting to blog; so I will be relaxing about it for the remaining nine days and just being happy with myself for writing, continue to explore my voice, and not being so damned emphatic about how often I publish. Quite frankly I think it is pissing my wife off, which is no good for me or anyone else. I am looking forward to finding an excuse to play around with the new “Markdown” feature. It seems like it will be a great tool for me and looks like it will allow me to have fun with my writing style1. We’ll see how it goes. I am very much looking forward to reading more of what the WordPress community has to offer, and to you all visiting, reading, enjoying, and sharing your thoughts on what I have to offer.

And now, I am really looking forward to drinking my soda, because it is the first one I’ve had in weeks. Cheers, and happy writing.


  1. I love me some footnotes for making off topic remarks. 2 
  2. Just like that one.