Tuesday, December 30, 2008

If the Fates Allow

2008 is nearly over, down now to less than 48 hours.

About. Fucking. Time.

It's no state secret that this has been a pretty lousy year. The high point? When Red Secretary won an Oscar--I don't think I've ever been happier for someone else's good fortune.

After that? Pretty much all downhill.

Overstatement? Oversimplification? Yes and yes. 2008 wasn't all pain and sadness, all heartache and loss. There were good times with good friends. Fun was had. Not enough fun, to be sure, but is there ever enough fun?

It could be that the year seemed much worse than it actually was because I came into it full of hope. Hope for creative projects that continued to percolate, but never reached a rolling boil. Hope for friendships that had lain dormant for years and were showing signs of life, but now appear to have died entirely. Hope for good things for the sweet, wonderful people around me that just didn't happen in the abundance that they should have.

But now, 2008 is almost in the rear-view mirror where it belongs. I'll spend the last couple of evenings at La Casa del Terror, petting Olivia, watching bad horror movies and sipping cheap...um, inexpensive wine.

Most importantly, I'll move into the New Year with the knowledge that it'll be better than this year was. (Yes, I know--that's setting the bar pretty low. At this point, I'll take whatever improvement I can get, yo.) Or, as one of my MySpace friends put it, "If you don't have a happy new year, I'll beat you up. In the least sexy way possible."

If you think I'm going to argue with that, you're crazier than I am.

Happy New Year, everyone.

Tuesday is Bring Your Ass-Ugly Talking Action Figure to Work Day

I've brought action figures to work every day this month, much to the amusement (delight, even) of my coworkers. Many of the figures made brief yet memorable appearances, like the various guests who danced around the Christmas tree with Rudolph and Clarise. (Rudy and Lady C have gone home, along with the tree, and are on display at La Casa del Terror until New Year's Day.) Others came and stayed an extra day or two, like the Rocketeer--not truly an action figure (really just a slightly posable vinyl figure issued in conjunction with the movie), but still a fitting end-of-year tribute to his creator, Dave Stevens, who passed away in March.

But the month (and the year) have just about reached the end, so I decided that the last Bring Your Action Figure to Work Day of 2008 should be truly spectacular, so I brought in one of the most jaw-dropping pieces in my collection: Teryl from Battlefield Earth.

That's right. It's a John Travolta Action figure. And he talks. A lot.

Some of my fellow laborers have been justifiably astonished that anyone wasted the plastic to actually make an action figure from one of the biggest box-office bombs of all time, but they should remember that the toys for that movie were made before anyone knew how much it would suck. Said coworkers also openly wonder about my sanity (or lack thereof) for actually owning a Battlefield Earth action figure, but since he was acquired from the discount bin at KB Toys, I can't feel overly guilty about the purchase.

All that said, he's a pretty freaking cool toy--much better than that movie deserved. He's reasonably posable, his pistol lights up, and he makes about a dozen sounds, including several lines of dialog from the movie, like Man is an endangered species," "That's the first intelligent thing you've said yet," and, my favorite, "Rat brain!"

Teryl brings Bring Your Action Figure to Work Day to a fitting, fabulous close for this year. But there will be more toys in 2009. Oh yes, there will be more.

Monday, December 29, 2008

2008: The Year in Photos (sort of)

Last Christmas, Mom bought me a digital camera.

This was not what I had asked for. I likely wanted something boring and practical. Sheet sets. Throws. Something like that. And, of course, she bought something else. (This year? I asked for a new electric razor, and she bought one. Wonders? Will never cease.)

Even though I hadn't asked for it, I used the little digital camera regularly. I did not, however, download any photos from it. The software that came with it wasn't compatible with my now-ancient iMac, Polly Jean (she didn't even recognize it as software), and I'd need a system administrator to authorize the installation of the software on my work 'puter (and it's not related to my job, so...SOL). That meant that I had a helluva lot of pictures stored on the camera--216, to be exact--when I finally took it to the Ritz Camera near work and got a CD burned the day after Christmas.

So here, without further comment, are some of the photos from the year that was, such as it was.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Glass Dancing

Christmas Eve was wet and gray, with lakes of slush pooling at every street corner making foot travel a pain. By Christmas Day, the temperature had dropped significantly, causing all the little lakes to freeze over and thus become easily passable.

By Friday morning, though, the situation had gotten infinitely worse. Again.

Overnight, temperatures had gone up, and freezing rain had come down. Sidewalks, streets and parked cars had been covered with a thin, slick layer of ice. Walking in the street was little help, since side streets had yet to be salted. (The main drags were pretty clear, though--the city should get credit for that much, at least.)

I had planned to get to work early to catch up on whatever was left over at the end of Tuesday, but getting to the train station was a slow, meticulous glass dance--I barely lifted my feet the whole way there. Once there, I found that the CTA had salted either side of the platform, but not the middle. Walk there at your own peril.

At least my station had some salt (or whatever the hell that sand-like substance that they ladle on the planks is supposed to be) spread on it. Other stations closer to downtown had nothing but ice and the cold, shuffling feet of commuters on them. I still got to work early (and thus will leave early as well), but it's a day that would have been much better spent watching it from the living room of La Casa del Terror, calico kitty at my feet and mug of something warm in my paws.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Boxing Gloves

Winter in Chicago can be a nasty thing.

Granted, recent years have featured mild, even tame, winters, with one or two snowstorms per season and maybe a few scattered nights of genuine, Arctic-level cold. Last winter, though, was something of a return to what I grew up with in the '60s and '70s, with deeper drifts, harder freezes and winds that sliced through even the thickest seasonal armor.

The solstice was just yesterday, but already it's been harsh here, with moderate throughout December, mostly noticeable because the city has cut back on snow removal and streets are remaining snow-covered longer. (The city denies this, of course, claiming that they're doing just as good a job as ever of keeping the roads plowed and salted. Anyone who's driven the streets for even the shortest of distances or has attempted to cross an intersection on foot without landing on his or her ass knows otherwise.)

Yesterday was brutally cold--the temperature during the daylight hours didn't even tickle zero, much less kiss it. Mom called at 8:30 a.m. to cancel our dinner that night. "Please don't go out, honey," she said. Who am I to argue with such sage advice?

Naturally, I went out anyway.

It wasn't for very long and it wasn't very far--just to Walgreens and back (hey, I had a headache and no Tylenol in the house)--but because of the extreme cold, it was necessary to suit up properly. On went the Texas Steer boots. On went the the Christmas scarf. On went the knit stocking pullover hat--not nearly as fashionable as as my gray tweed cap, but far less likely to be blown off of my head when walking into the 20+ mph winds. I slid the parka over my shoulders and flipped the hood onto my head.

Last, but far from least, I pulled out the boxing gloves.

The boxing gloves are not, as you may have already surmised, literal boxing gloves, but rather leather-clad mittens that used to belong to my dad. I don't know when he bought them--whether it was during his years when he worked as a switchman on the railroad or sometime after--but after he died, they were passed on to me, along with his winter coat, which has reached such a state of fragility that it can only be worn once in a great while. The boxing gloves, however, are in fine shape and could be worn every day, if I so chose.

I don't choose to, though, because it's usually not necessary to break out such polar gear. The boxing gloves are thick and heavy; it's virtually impossible to pick up anything when you're wearing them. And they're not really necessary for the average December day in Chicago, where a standard pair of woolen gloves will more than suffice against ordinary chill.

But on a night like last night, when the winds did howl and the snow did blow, or a morning like this morning, when the sun, bright as it was, offered no warmth, the boxing gloves came in awfully handy (pun intended).

Thanks again, Dad.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Monday is Bring Your Military Personnel to Work Day

It's Christmastime, Hanukah and very nearly Kwanza, but not everyone gets to be home for the holidaze. Many of our men and women in uniform are overseas right now, in deserts and mountains, when they'd much rather be with their wives and husbands, lovers and friends, children and parents. In an ideal world, that's where they'd be. But our world is far from ideal.

They are not forgotten in this season--not even in the usually snarky land of Bring Your Action Figure to Work Day.

In their honor, we have a serviceman (a vintage '70s G.I. Joe), a servicewoman (a G.I. Jane helicopter pilot from 1997) and Bob Hope, who spent many of his 100 years entertaining servicemen and servicewomen all over the world (and was honored with his own G.I. Joe figure in 1998). And, of course, Rudolph, Clarise and the Bumble stand with them. (Hey, they can be patriotic too, y'know.)

Seriously, though: I hope, as this year comes to a close, wherever the light falls on the men and women who serve our nation this holiday--near or far, in safety or danger-- that they stay safe and warm, that they are well cared for should they come to harm, that they come back home to the ones they love and who love them soon.

It's a season for making wishes and hoping they come true. That doesn't seem like a bad one to make.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Friday is Bring Your...JESUS CHRIST!

Actually, Christ is one of the few few figures not represented in today's display in some manner. Once again, it began simply--just The Spirit (Will Eisner's original version, not the Sin City-ized version Frank Miller will be projectile-vomiting into multiplexes Christmas Day) and Howard the Duck hanging out on the upper branches of the Christmas tree.

Then, as was the case Wednesday, thing started happening. Strange things. Like a wolf showing up. And a candy cane. And a lizard. Before I knew it, a whole crowd had gathered atop my cabinet, including some who'd already been there (like Kung Fu Panda, Batgirl, Deathstroke and Hero Bear) with new attendees, like Godzilla, Mothra, Bone, Homer Simpson and Superman (hiding in a phone booth in the back). Oh...and a monkey with a keyboard.

I'm not sure how these things happen. I'm glad they do, though. They make the workplace so much more interesting. And prove, once and for all, that I work with a whole lotta geeks.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Thursday is Bring Your Barbarian to Work Day

"Conan, what is best in life?"

"Um...wait...wait...I know this one...to crush your enemies, to drive them before you, and to hear the lamentations of the w..."

"Stop. Yes, Conan, what you are saying would usually be right. But not now. Not at this time of year."

"'Time of year'? You mean, winter?"

"No, Conan. Look behind you."

"At what? The deer? You mean hunting season? That is a good time of year. Venison jerky is pretty tasty, although that boy deer...his nose looks kind of, I dunno, infected..."

"No, Conan. Behind you."

"Wait...you mean the Yeti? Man, killing Yetis is totally bitchin'...I remember this one time, Red Sonja and I were up in the mountains playing 'Hide the Sword,' and..."

"Stop! I do not have enough brain bleach to get that image out of my head."


"Now, turn around, Conan. Look at what's right behind you."

"Um...a tree?"

"Right. What kind of tree?"

"Uh...an evergreen?"


"Er...is chopping wood what's best in life? Well, I do have this honkin' axe, and I love having wood..."

"What did I just tell you about the brain bleach, Conan?"


"Now, the tree...Conan, it's a Christmas tree."

"A what now?"

"A Christmas tree, dumbass."

"Hey, watch the "dumbass" talk, mister. I do have an axe, y'know. And a sword."

"Sorry. But...Christmas tree? Y'know...Christmas? The birthday of Jesus Christ?"

"Dude, I pray to Crom...sometimes...when it looks like I'm gonna, y'know, die and stuff..."

"Yeah, but does Crom have a whole birthday thing, with presents and shiny paper and eggnog?"

"Not so much, no."

"Well then...Conan, what is best in life?"


"Good answer."

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


Not long after Dad died, Mom took a job as a cashier at a neighborhood grocery store.

It wasn't so much because she needed the income, although the extra cash didn't hurt, but because she didn't want to sit at home, thinking about the fact that her life partner, the man she'd been married to for 30-plus years and raised two children with, was gone.

The store she worked at wasn't one of the national chains, but a much smaller local chain that had a couple of locations in the city and at least one location in the suburbs, which apparently still exists. The two city locations, including the one Mom worked at, are long gone. (One was razed ro make way for a Dominick's; the other is a parking lot.)

She didn't work there long--something under a year--before moving on to another cashier job, this time at a large drugstore chain, where she's been ever since. In her short time at the grocery store, though, she came away with something most people don't get on the job: a cat.

The cat in question, a female tabby, was small and young--perhaps a few months old--but evidently quite loud. She had gotten into the grocery store's warehouse, and other, less feline-incline employees were planning on capturing the kitty and, at the very least, throwing it out, if not removing it in a much more permanent fashion.

Cats, though, are, for the most part, smart critters. They know when someone likes cats and when they don't. Mom was able to coax the tabby to her, earn its trust, and eventually bring it home.

Mom named the tabby Tigger--not the most imaginative name, I know, but our family will never be renowned for our ability to give intriguing appelations to pets (examples: our Black Lab mix was named Blackie; my Russian Blue, Gray Cat).

She almost wound up being my cat. When I moved out of the apartment on the second floor of my parents' house and into the first La Casa del Terror, I definitely wanted to have cats with me, but Gray Cat was quite elderly by that point and would need more attention than I could give her; Mom and my brother would be home much more and could keep a better eye on her. (She lived a couple more years, to the ripe old age of 20.) Mom very much wanted me to take Tigger, a very personable (and now much better fed) feline, and another recent acquisition, a female gray-and-white kitty called, er, Kitty-Kitty. (See what I mean about the names?) I had already committed to take on Lottie and Ms. Christopher from JB, though, so I got the Girlish Girls and Mom kept her two new furry friends.

Mom wasn't too thrill about that at first. Or so she said--she'd agreed readily to the idea of me taking Olivia off her hands, but when the day came, she had tears in her eyes.

It didn't take Mom long to get over "being stuck" with Tigger, though, as she found that the young kitty was friendly, affectionate and, unimaginative as her name was, appropriately bouncy. Other cats came as older cats went away, but Tigger and her new friend, Kitty-Kitty, made Mom smile many, many times, as beloved pets always will.

In the last couple of years, Tigger had her medical challenges, as all elderly kitties will. Her joints were creaky, her kidneys were less than bouncy, and her weight, never great, dropped noticable. However, Mom often said, as long as Tigger ate, pooped and was in no obvious pain, there was no reason to have her put to sleep.

I visit Mom's house for dinner as often as I can--weekly if possible, though work and weather sometimes get in the way. Last Saturday was Mom's birthday--no way I was missing that. I brought dinner (Mom's meal of choice, Popeyes chicken) and two pair of brand-new gloves (she'd requested one pair, but the sales in the department stores are so "pleasepleaseplease!" this year that I was able to buy her two pair for less than the regular price of one). We ate dinner and watched TV for a while, and various cats paid me visits, including Tigger. She was walking unsteadily, reminding me uncomfortably of Christopher's uncertain gait in the couple of days before I had to take her to the vet one last time, but she managed to jump onto the loveseat, walk tentatively onto my lap and stay there much of the evening.

Mom regarded Tigger sadly. "She going to be the next to go," she said.

"I think you're right," I replied, stroking the kitty's head and trying to feel her purr--it was there, barely audible.

When it was time for me to head for home, I gently lifted Tigger out of my lap. "Put her on the warm spot," Mom instructed, pointing at the ass imprint I'd left on the blanket covering the loveseat. I placed the elderly tabby there, and she immediately curled up and went to sleep.

On Monday, Tigger seemed to be having even more trouble walking, and Mom decided to take her to the vet Tuesday morning to see what, if anything, could be done. Monday night, Mom was in her bedroom, watching a bit of TV before retiring for the night, as is her custom, when she heard a cat pawing at the closed door and crying. She got up and opened the door. It was Kitty-Kitty making all the noise, but she didn't come in. Instead, it was Tigger, also standing there, who made her way into the bedroom. Kitty-Kitty then turned and walked away. She hadn't wanted into the bedroom at all; she just wanted her longtime friend, too weak to ask for herself anymore, to be able to go where she wanted to be, to go sleep with Mom, who picked her up carefully, placed her on the bed and kept her company until they both fell asleep.

Tuesday morning, Mom got up early to take Tigger to the vet. There was no need--Tigger had passed away peacefully in her sleep. She was 14 years old.

Wednesday is Bring Your...HOLY CRAP!

It started simply, as such things so often do.

First, there was the tree. Then, Rudolph and Clarise, followed by a succession of guest stars. Monday, it was the charming and delightful Abominable Snow Monster. Tuesday, the noble Sub-Mariner swam by, while the Bubmle lurked nearby, contemplating whether or not he was edible.

Today? Things, shall we say, got out of hand.

Rudolph, Clarise and the Bumble were joined by Steve Austin, the Six Million Dollar Man and his G.I. Joe knockoff, Mike Powers, the Atomic Man. (Mr. Powers had some difficulty standing and was, for a few minutes, actually leaning on the tree for support--a little early to be hitting the eggnog so hard, Mike.)

Then, other characters just started showing up...like Kung Fu Panda...and Hero Bear...and Angel Spawn...and Deathstroke the Terminator...and another, generic panda...and, finally, a cigar-smoking monkey in an office chair (who appeared after the photo above was taken).

So the top of my cabinet is now a sterling example of how mortal enemies--the panda and the ninja-like assassin, the animated deer and the carnivorous yeti, the bionic man and his legally dubious, possibly intoxicated clone--can set aside their differences at this festive time of year and live in peace.

Either that, or it's the most cracked-out Nativity scene ever.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Zombies on Ice(?!?)

How the hell did I not hear about this?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Friday is Bring Your Religious Metaphor to Work Day

What is Christmas? It is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, the man the Bible says was the Son of God, even though the holiday itself just happens to coincide with pagan celebrations of the onset of winter (like the solstice) and ample evidence exists to show that Christ was actually born in spring, not winter.

That is, however, neither there nor here--nobody is moving Christmas to May, for which I am singularly glad, as that would compete with, if not outright obscure, my birthday. Christmas is where it is, and it is what it is. No one is moving it or making it go away, despite what some far-right gasbags may tell you.

What is Aslan? He is the lion who sounds an awful lot like Liam Neeson from those Chronicles of Narnia movies. He is also, as intended by the author of the Narnia books, C.S. Lewis, a metaphor for Christ.

So it is entirely appropriate that Aslan stand between Rudolph and Clarise and before the Christmas tree, roaring his approval of the holiday to come in just under two weeks. Think anyone--even the psychotic killer robot angels--are gonna mess with Rudy and Ms. C with a big freakin' lion/Christ allegory standing there? I think not.

Bettie Page

On the south wall of the hallway of La Casa del Terror, there are four framed black & white photographs, all of the same woman in various outfits and states of undress, but all with the same sexy, welcoming, playful, unintimidating smile. In the dining room are two statues in her image, and in the living room is an action figure with that same warm smile.

She was a pinup model in the 1950s who had become a cult figure by the time comic book artist Dave Stevens used her face for the main character's girlfriend in The Rocketeer. Subsequently, she became a pop culture icon, with that face emblazoned on everything from lunch boxes to coasters, from statues to posters.

Stevens died earlier this year. And now, we've lost the lady herself--Bettie Page.

Unlike many cult figures who didn't survive to see and enjoy the appreciation of their ever-expanding fanbase, Bettie lived more than long enough to enjoy the attention, even if, by her own admission, she never fully understood it. She did, however, recognize her influence on society, on attitudes toward nudity and sexuality, and even on fashion--In Bettie Page: The Life of a Pin-up Legend (a lavish coffee-table book, whose very existence testifies to her popularity and cultural importance), she commented on the similarity between the bondage gear she wore in the '50s and the concert outfits worn by Madonna.

A few years ago, that book figured into one of my best, sneakiest gift-giving schemes ever. For her 24th birthday, I gave my friend and fellow pop-culture junkie Red Secretary a Britney Spears tour bus, rescued from the discount bin at KB Toys. (She already had the Brit-Brit doll to go with it.) She thanked me for the present, and I suggested that she take the tour bus out of the massive box to make sure nothing was broken or missing. Inside the box, wrapped in appropriate leopard-print paper, was a hardcover copy of Bettie Page: The Life of a Pin-up Legend. (I'd picked up a copy off of eBay days before, but the seller was, it turns out, a heavy smoker, so the book reeked of nicotine; I kept that one and gave RS my own copy instead.) RS, herself a huge Bettie fan, was thrilled: "I almost peed my pants!" she later exclaimed while we walked to the Penny Lane Lounge, where her friends toasted her for many hours. That? Was a good day.

Bettie Page had recently been hospitalized for pneumonia and was about to be released when she suffered a heart attack that put her in a coma. She never woke up and, last night, passed away. She was 85.

That's not how Bettie wanted to be remembered, though--The Life of a Pin-up Legend book contains no contemporary images of her as an elderly lady, and she allowed no more than her hands signing autographs to be photographed. She wanted her many fans to remember her as she was, eyes and smile sparkling eternally, soft curves proudly arched in the sun, the very vision of sexy, flirty fun.

And so we will.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

December is Bring Your Psychotic Killer Robot Angels to Work Month

Christmas is that special time of year when guests pop up unexpectedly. Like David Bowie coming to the door of Bing Crosby's newly rented English country home to duet on "Little Drummer Boy." Or, in this instance, a couple of gold-plated angels. Who are also robots. And also? Inhuman killing machines, as so often is the case with gold-plated robotic angels.

Fortunately, the current (and soon to be former--sadface) Doctor Who, David Tennant, is also on the scene, wielding his trusty Sonic Screwdriver (and no, that is not, as far as I know, a euphamism) to protect Rudolph and Clarise.

Then again, how much protection do they need, considering that Rudolph's nose fires death rays? (Why do you think it glows?)

Still, you can't be too safe, especially when characters like the Joker are showing up? When Clarise asked him what he wanted for Christmas, he replied, "Well, y'know, I've always thought venison was a lovely stocking stuffer..."

Things got ugly after that.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


She was a small kitty--one of those tiny felines who never grows much beyond the age of six months. But as is so often the case when one considers small packages, this one contained more heart and warmth than cats five times her size.

Whenever Dee invited her friends over to her spacious apartment, Gigi would come out several times to "work the room," visiting each person and offering her head to be petted. Many times, she would jump up into one of the visitor's laps and spend a few minutes there, talk loudly and frequently (as calicos of every size often do) and then jump down to give someone else in the room a chance.

When Gigi wasn't in the room, we'd often joke that she had run off to my place to have a wild party with my kitties, Olivia and Ms. Christopher. We imagined the three of them trashing the joint and leaving much debris in their furry wakes. (In truth, given the usual state of organization in La Casa del Terror, I doubt I'd be able to tell the difference if they had trashed the joint.)

She was an elderly girl when Dee adopted her from the shelter several years ago, but with much love and attention from her "mom," she enjoyed life despite the occasional health challenge.

This past Thanksgiving Day, though, Dee had to take Gigi to the emergency veterinary hospital, where she was told that Gigi was experiencing renal failure and heart problems. After a couple more days at her regular vet, Gigi came home, where she and Dee continued to fight the good fight with the aid of syringe-fed meds and IV fluids.

This past Friday, the fight ended. Gigi moved on over the Rainbow Bridge, where she no doubt met up with Ms. Christopher to pass the catnip hookah and share a laugh or two at all the fun and frolic they had with their human friends, left behind to mourn their passing.

That is if, in fact, cats actually laugh. I know that they smile--and bring many smiles in return.

Forrest J Ackerman

Forrest J Ackerman, longtime editor of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine, literary agent credited with discovering Ray Bradbury and the attributed creator of the term "Sci-Fi," died Thursday, December 4, in Los Angeles after heart failure at the age of 92; he had been in ill health for some time.

Mr. Ackerman may not have lit my interest in horror and science-fiction films--local TV shows like "Creature Features" and "Screaming Yellow Theater" had more to do with that--but he and his magazine certainly helped stoke the flame.

Svengoolie has written a nice tribute to Forry over on his blog. You can check it out here.

Friday, December 5, 2008

I Pity the Fool...

...that tries to mess with Rudolph or Clarise with Mr. T guarding the left flank and Green Lantern (contributed by a co-worker) guarding the right. Now they can celebrate however they want.

Of course, with T. and GL watching, Rudy and Lady C might want to refrain from rockin' around the Christmas tree. Then again, maybe they're exhibitionists, in which case...get your freak on, Animagic deer.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

December is Bring Your Action Figures to Work Month

Well, sort of.

I have been known, in past holiday seasons, to decorate my workspace with numerous action figures, Pez dispensers, lights, and at least one tree. This year, even though I'm not quite feeling the spirit, I'm still adorning my cubicle with a few festive figures and a tree for them to stand by.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and his girlfriend, Clarise--yes, even Animagic characters get more action than I do--will be flanking the small-but-quite-shiny faux pine tree from now until the end of the month, with a new guest star standing between them every day. Kind of like an advent calendar with toys instead of chocolate.

Yesterday, it was Dr. Finkelstein from The Nightmare Before Christmas (the best Halloween/Christmas movie EVER!). Today, it's a tin windup Santa. Who will it be tomorrow? Considering how many toys I have, it could be just about anyone or anything. It's nice to have options.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Way Things Are (Now)

This morning, my toothbrush didn't explode in my mouth.

This morning, the bag I grabbed out of the fridge actually contained sandwiches instead of just bread.

Today is a better day than yesterday.

That's all I got.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Way Things Are

This morning, while I was brushing my teeth, I felt a distinct stabbing sensation all over the inside of my mouth. I pulled out the brush to find that a crack had sprung up about midway through the head and, with the slightest fan of my thumb, the bristles flew in all directions--the toothbrush had exploded in my mouth. As I now had a tongueful of these same bristles, I spat out what I could and rinsed away the rest as best I could with liberal amounts of Target mouthwash.

The night before, I'd made sandwiches to take to work--because I'm over here and payday is over there--and secured both the sandwiches and the bread I made them with in the refrigerator. This morning, after the toothbrush trauma, I grabbed the first bag my hand landed on in the fridge and slid my way to the train station through the remnants of the first real sticking snow of the season. When I arrived at work, I beelined straight for the industrial refrigerator adjacent to my company's spacious lunch area. However, when I pulled the bag out, I realized it was larger and heavier than it should have been--I'd grabbed the loaf of bread instead.

Can I go home now?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Christmas Stocking

I violated one of my hard-and-fast rules this week: I put up Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving.

I justified the rules violation thusly--for one thing, we have fewer days between Turkey Day and Santa's sleigh this year than normal (less than a month), so the decorations won't be up for long anyway; for another, I needed the emotional boost that colored lights and shiny glass globes can sometimes give.

So I rummaged through the closets and brought out some of the Christmas things. Not all of them--I have more ornaments and garland and lights and figurines than I could ever display at one time anyway, but this year I didn't want to do anything intricate or sprawling. Something (relatively) simple for the living room windows would suffice.

When I was finished, the sills were filled with decorations acquired from various places:

A porcelain white pine tree found at the Brown Elephant, a second-hand store in Boystown (it didn't come with a light, but I borrowed one from a Halloween skull);

Two ceramic angels from Marshall's, one with a broken halo (I've always thought that's exactly the kind of guardian angel I'd get);

A very Seussian Grinch doll from a Hallmark store;

A tin snowman tealight holder from a former workplace (the company was moving and he was being thrown out, so...);

A plush snowman from Walgreens;

Peppermint Kitty, a gift from a then-supervisor that I actually liked;

A large, well-articulated, flocked Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer found at Quake, the best toy store on the whole planet;

A spiral, chrome-plated tealight tree bought at a Walgreens while on the way to take care of Dee's kitty, the fabulous Gigi, while Dee was in Hawaii doing the AIDS marathon a few years back;

And, of course, the little fake pine that graced Grandma's living room window for many years and has graced mine for nearly as long (about 30 years in all, I'd guesstimate).

I also set up a few decorations that only I can see, like a ceramic Christmas tree bought at the same Brown Elephant as the white porcelain one, the glittery angel VB gave me last year, and Angelique, the little ornament that usually sits atop my tree, but since I'm not going through the bother of setting the 3-foot-tall faux pine this year, she's resting on my TV, keeping watch over the scene.

A couple of the internal decorations, though, were hung with, I must confess, some reluctance.

I don't remember when exactly I started hanging Christmas stockings for myself and the Girlish Girls. I know I didn't put one up for Lottie, so it must have been sometime after she died five years ago. In the bag in the closet, there were three not-so-neatly-folded stockings, all bought in different years from the same Target. The forest green one was Olivia's. The corduroy one with the embroidered snowflake was mine. And the burgundy one with the white trim and dangling balls? That one belonged to Ms. Christopher.

It's been just over a month since that sad morning when I woke up early, played Christopher the Johnny Cash/Fiona Apple version of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," took the slow cab ride through rush-hour snarl and, in the small examination room at the vet, softly told her that it was okay, she'd put up a good fight but it was over now and it was okay, she could let go now. And before the vet had a chance to administer a second "just to be sure" injection, she checked Christopher's pulse one more time and found there was no need for that second injection. She had let go.

It might as well have been yesterday, though. I still expect to see her come around the corner in the morning for her tin of Friskies. I still her her clawing at the side of the box spring, asking to be lifted to the bed. I still see her at the dining room window, resplendant in the afternoon sun. I still miss her. Olivia does too, after her own fashion. She stopped looking for Chris after the first couple of days, but is all over me when I come home in the evenings, especially after I've been gone for a long time at work or out shoping or whatever. She's lonely without me, but when I settle in to eat dinner or watch Svengoolie; she keeps me company, and I do the same for her.

I decided not to hang my own stocking--not much I expect to find in it this year, though my Amazon wishlist has a few goodies that might well fit and would certainly be welcome. I did hang Olivia's up where I'd put it last year--on the doorknob of one of the closets in the short hall between the living and dining rooms--but I left Christopher's stocking in storage.

It didn't look or feel right though, seeing only one stocking dangling from the doorknob like that. So out came the burgundy stocking, slung over the protruding hinge of the same door from which Oliva's dark green stocking already swung. Christopher was with me for a lot of years, and this first Christmas without her will have its hard moments. But I'm thankful for all the warmth and unconditional love she gave me all that time, and the stocking will remind me, when the sadness threatens to overwhelm me, how happy she mad me so often and how grateful I am that I had her in my life for so long.

Ms. Christopher is gone in body from La Casa del Terror and will never return (though tufts of her fur keep turning up and likely will for some time). But she's not gone in spirit. Never in spirit. And for this Christmas at least, the stocking will help me remember that.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Gobble, Gobble

The plush turkey atop my cabinet at work is hardly a recent acquisition. In fact, he's appeared at several workplaces over the years, though even I'm not sure how long I've owned him. He has no helpful copyright date on the tag attached to his butt, and my memory, tangled ball of yarn that it is, only goes back to the job at the ad agency where an adorable account executive kidnapped it and left a ransom note. (Unfortunately, this was not her way of flirting with me. Dammit.)

Perhaps one of my former coworkers, some of whom read this bloggity, can chime in--when was the first time YOU saw this particular bird resting at my workstation?

The turkey will stay until next Wednesday, when it and I go home for the holiday. (No, I'm not traveling anywhere--Mom's in town, so I'll hop the bus to her place for Thanksgiving.) Until then, maybe it'll help stoke the holiday spirit, which at this point is but a spark sorely in need of kindling. The weight of this year and all the things that have gone wrong within it have me bowed. I'm tired, and aside from a dull ache in my frontal lobe, I'm fairly well numb. 2008? Won't miss you.

Unfortunately, I won't be able to kiss this year goodbye for a few more weeks. Until then, I bundle against the cold; trundle past Daley Plaza, where the tree and faux German village assembly continues apace for their formal debut next week; and continue my Christmas shopping, which I've already got about half done. That usually gets me into the season, though this year my budget is tighter than the the Little Drummer Boy's instrument of choice, so the presents won't be the elaborate constructs they are in more prosperous times. Still, picking out presents for those near and dear always makes me feel better, so the weeks ahead promise to have less bad and more good. More good is more good.

For now, I've got the turkey looking over my shoulder, colorful plummage garnering attention from current coworkers, one of whom spotted him and said, "That turkey needs a hug!" And a hug was given.

(Sidenote: The Christmas tree in Daley Plaza, when fully assembled and decorated, will look very like what you see in this photo, taken the day after Thanksgiving last year. Now that's a mighty shaft of holiday spirit, is it not?)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

Early last Saturday afternoon, I got my hair cut.

Under ordinary circumstances, this would hardly be earth-shattering news. There are slightly more important things going on right now--in the world (a couple of wars, a death-spiral economy, the first African-American president in the history of America) and in my own life (work, side projects, my cluttered apartment, Olivia).

It is, however, a matter worth noting. After all, I hadn't gotten my hair cut in nearly a year, and it had gotten as long as it had ever been (as seen in the photo above taken by Superbadfriend in her studio). Even the stylist at SuperCuts was somewhat taken aback by the vast pile of protein lying at my feet when she'd finished pruning the bush that was my head. "Your friends won't even recognize you!" she said.

To a certain degree, she was right. Mom, of course, knew me right off when I went to her house for dinner Saturday night ("My baby boy is back!" she enthused, having expressed much dislike with the length of my hair). When I walked into my place of employment Monday morning, though, nearly everyone did a double-take. The reactions of those who'd worked with me for a while were less extreme than of those who've known me for under a year, but everyone had a comment. They all loved the new 'do--my stylist did an outstanding job--and even some of the substantially adorable women in the office voiced their approval. (Not that such notice means anything, but it's still nice to hear.)

Why, you might ask, did I cut it at all? Because I'd grown weary of it blowing into my eyes on windy days and sneaking into my mouth when eating. It's one thing to have a hair in your food--anyone who'd owned a cat or dog for any length of time becomes accustomed to such things--but it's quite another to realize that the hair you're chewing on is still attached to your head.

Besides, I can always grow it again if I want to. It's nice to have options.