Happy Whatever

I don’t wish to be disrespectful to those that celebrate the various holidays that happen around this time of year, but until we require people to wear armbands identifying their religious affiliation, I’ll continue to say “Happy Holidays “or, since I’m a curmudgeon and Scrooge of the highest order, “Happy Whatever”

But I’m generally not fond of the seasons greetings cycle we go through this time of year.  I’d rather see people be nice to each other year round.  I’d rather people took time out to think about the less fortunate all the time, rather than forget about them except for a few weeks.

I’m probably guilty of not having the requisite Christmas spirit, because the day stopped being special to me a long time ago.  The first year I didn’t make it home for Christmas broke me, I guess.  I was working in radio at the time, and part time radio personalities got to spent Christmas working, not going home to their families.  My family being a long way away a the time, and me not having a working car, I pretty much resigned myself to spending the day alone.

Then later, I worked retail over the season for several years.  There’s nothing like dealing with stressed out, often upset and angry people to make you wonder if the whole thing is worth it at all.  I am trying to get it back, really.  Having grandchildren has helped me rediscover the joy of Christmas to a certain extent.  The other thing I’ve done in the last few years is helping to serve at our Community Dinner, which is an event that happens every year so that people in the same situation that I was all that time ago, don’t have to spend the day alone.

I think sometimes that was what perhaps made Christmas just another day, was the overwhelming sense of loneliness it brought.  There were years, I didn’t even get a phone call from my family, and I sometimes wonder if I would have heard from them at all if I hadn’t called myself.  Things like that will have an effect on you long after the fact.

Eventually I started being able to go home for Christmas again, after my first wife and I divorced, and going home for Christmas was a way to make sure my parents got to see the grandkids.  Unfortunately, I never quite regained the sense of excitement that Christmas gives so many other people.

My wife is frequently upset by my unwillingness to get “In the Christmas mood.” as she calls it.  She loves Christmas and everything about it.  Immediately after Thanksgiving she is ready to put up the tree, the lights, and start getting ready.  I’m usually ready for a nap.

Oddly enough, my one steady Christmas habit is watching every adaptation of Dickens’ “Christmas Carol” I can find.  I think I’m hoping watching Scrooge’s redemption will rub off on me somehow.  I haven’t been visited by any spirits, unless you count Barney jumping up on the bed to be let out to go pee at 3 am.

But I’m starting to come around.  I still keep to my usual bad habits, poking at the wingnuts on the opinion page, grousing about the dogs wanting in and out every five minutes, sitting on my fat backside and writing.  My son calls me a Grinch, but I had to remind him that would make him a son of a Grinch, which he didn’t think was funny.

I think the way I’m changing is that I’m finally starting to realize that my grouchiness isn’t fair to everyone else, and that I can’t let my bad attitude ruin everything.  So I’ll try to give up my accustomed grouchiness and think happy thoughts.


Cheese and Crackers

One of the things that I’ve come to realize is that for me, food is very much a means of memory. Of course anyone who has seen me in person probably already knows this by the prodigious size of my midsection. It’s shrunk some this year, but there’s plenty left to go. The new job I just got will require me to walk around a lot which will help quite a bit.

I was making myself a plate of cheese and crackers and remembered it was one of my Dad’s favorite snacks. He was a bit of a cheese connis-, a cheese connes, well he liked cheese a lot. He especially liked sharp cheddars, the sort of thing that would practically reach off the plate and force you to eat it. There were a lot of other things he was fond of, sardines, pickled pigs feet, pork brains (one of the things I’ve sworn never to knowingly eat again.) I still like sardines and I still like pickled pigs feet, though I haven’t had them in a long time.

The thing is, all of those things are a part of my memories of my father. When I open a can of sardines or eat cheese and crackers, or drink a beer, they all bring back memories of the times I spent with my dad, talking with him when I was very young, drinking beer with him as I got older.

My mom on the other hand, introduced me to lots of different foods. My parents had the attitude that no matter whether you had tried it before and hated it, you had to try a little bit every time it was served at the table. As a result, I learned to eat all sorts of things that I would have probably passed on if I’d had a choice. Liver and onions, brussel sprouts, sweetbreads (thymus gland), beef heart, head cheese etc. And oddly enough, even now I get a craving for liver and onions when I’m feeling a little homesick and wish I was closer to where my Mom lives so I could get her to make it for me.

My wife laughs at me, because there have been times when we’ve gone to places I have lived in the past and all my memories are tied to restaurants. I think that’s probably mostly due to being single and a little lonesome. Restaurants were a place to go to just be around people, even if I didn’t talk to any of them. Nowadays, I have a wife and family, so my excursions to restaurants tend to be more about going to eat and enjoy a good meal. I am a big fan of Vietnamese and Thai food especially. It took a while before I could build up to eating the really spicy stuff, but I really love the flavors. Pad Thai and Pho are my favorite, but I also like Tom Yum and there’s a fish stew I’ve had a couple of times that is just fantastic.

There is also a downside to this though, there are certain dishes that remind me of pain. I started hating goulash because my ex wife would fix nothing but goulash the last year we were married.

My wife, Anne, sometimes gets into a rut, but she has never resorted to fixing the same thing night after night. She makes chili a lot, but I love her chili, so it’s not really a problem. She’s become a much better cook in the 15 years we’ve been married. When we first got married, her cooking palette consisted of two colors, brown and white, and two food groups, which pretty much amounted to the Midwest holy duo of starch and protein. She made a lot of chicken breast with rice covered in cream of mushroom soup.

Again, going back to my mom’s cooking, it was often unusual, but it was usually very tasty and with lots of things that most people wouldn’t consider traditional Midwest cuisine. This sometimes caused some difficulty with my father as he was not excited about trying anything that did not have at least a little protein. I remember his reaction the first time my mom cooked a tofu stir fry. “Where’s the meat?”

He mellowed over time, but my mother’s tendency to try new things, even when the rest of us find them unpalatable, hasn’t changed any. She still inflicts minted peas, which taste like turpentine, and eggplant, which wouldn’t be bad, except she has a seeming inability to identify the eggplants that aren’t long past their prime.

My son’s tastes run to chicken strips and french fries, though he does like broccoli, so there’s that.

I got the job.

I just found out that I got the job I interviewed for earlier.  Having been a contract IT guy for the last 15 years or so, it’s a neccesary evil to look for work every so often.  Thankfully, I seem to have a set of marketable skills that I can sell to prospective employers.

I think the reason I’ve cleaved to contracting (if you’ll pardon the alliteration) is not because I fear commitment, but because I am ADD.

Most contracting jobs I’ve had have allowed me to do a lot of different tasks, and interact with a lot of different people, which fits my personality better than doing the same thing everyday.

I have not done as well at full time gigs, merely because I didn’t really enjoy the sustained, constricted effort it required to deal with the bureaucracy and administrative nonsense that goes along with being a permanent staff member.

You may be wondering, why does he say he is ADD, instead of saying he has ADD?  Because I’ve learned over a long period that it isn’t so much a disorder as a way of being wired.  If I had my way, it would be renamed to reflect that many of us with ADD appreciate some of the things it does for us, though we have to learn to manage some of the effects. 

I tell people that ADD is like having a little guy in your head with a remote control who is constantly channel surfing.  Only he surfs not only the exterior environment, but the internal environment as well.  This is probably why anxiety is a co-morbid condition for a lot of ADDers, you never know when your psyche is going to dredge up something unpleasant from the internal side.

Every once in a while, the channel surfer finds something he really likes, and then he locks on, to the point of getting upset if pulled away.  This is called hyperfocus, and it can be both a blessing and a curse.

The blessing is that once you get there you can be incredibly productive, and get lots accomplished. The curse is that people approach you at their peril. I’ve gone so far as to put up warning signs. “I’ve only bitten three people today, don’t press your luck.” “Trespassers will be violated.” (my personal favorite, though it got me hauled into HR once.) I also like “I’m Grumpy, dammit!” but it’s been too long and none of my coworkers get the SNL reference because they need to get off my lawn.


Mostly what I find that works for me is music, preferrably Mozart, as it seems to put the little channel surfing prick to sleep so I can get something done.

Do You Have Any Change?

It seems as though change is inevitable, though never terribly welcome, despite it’s usefulness in the course of politics and business, and sometimes in our personal lives.  Let me give you a few examples.

The current political environment is in large part a confilict between those who are afraid of change to the point of trying to actively prevent it, and those who while not always completely ready for change are at least wiling to adapt to it.

In my career as an Information Technology worker, I’ve learned that change is frequently not appreciated, even by those whose lives it would improve. In many instances, those who stand to gain the most, will resist the most strongly, seeking to sabotage even the most modest of changes in hopes that they can avoid having to change at all.

Unfortunately, resistance to change starts young. My grandson, who still has to have his pants changed for him, screams bloody murder when he’s wet or poopy, but screams even louder during the diapering process. However, unlike some adults I know, he will at least calm down immediately after he adjusts to the new normal.

I’m in the process of making some changes myself going forward into the new year.  Although they are good changes and changes I pursued, there is still the anxiety of doing something different, though it is mixed with the excitement of new opportunities, new people, and new challenges.  I call it anxcitement.  While it is a good feeling, it does result in a lot of soul searching and second guessing as to whether you’ve made the right decision.  But I also think that sometimes it’s the mere fact that you’ve made the decision that counts the most.

The Few, The Proud, The Out of Tune

Like many a father, my Dad sat through any number of Christmas programs, chorus concerts, and band concerts.  My only regret is that I quit being involved in those types of things by the time I might have been capable enough to make attending them less of a chore.
I don’t wish to sound like I resent attending my son’s events now, far from it, but I do hold out hope that my son will stick with them longer than I managed to do.
I can tell he’s gotten better.  He plays trombone and his early efforts, while he was first learning to play, had a strong resemblance to a flatulent moose.  “Blarp! Blurrrrrrp!” followed by other noises which words have not been found to describe. I might have known them once, but they were lost in the Great Brain Cell Massacre my sophomore year of college.
Nowadays he merely sounds like a lovesick moose to the point that the smallest dog feels ccompelled to sing along in case he succeeds in calling anything, the smallest dog having delusions of grandeur of being a Mighty Hunter, at least Angry Bird toys.  He kills several every night.  Dog has a richer fantasy life than I do.  I’d settle for having all the bills paid and a little money left over once in a while.
But all in all the boy is improving to the point I can imagine myself going to one of his concerts and not cringing, which is, like I said, farther than I ever got.
And now, here I am, ready for the concert, appreciative of my Dad for sitting through all those concerts for the payoff that never came, and of my son, who is sticking to it longer than I ever did.


I am not a big TV watcher.  I would much rather spend my time writing or reading.  However, my wife is an addict.  I’ve suggested unplugging and getting rid of the satellite bill a few times, and she started having panic attacks.

In fact, before we got married, she spent the entire 9 months of the engagement watching a show called “Wedding Story” on TLC or whatever.  After she got pregnant with our son, she watched nothing but “A Baby Story”.  Unfortunately for me, she’s watching nothing but “Divorce Court”

Her tastes tend to run toward whatever happens to be on.  So I get subjected to things like “Long Island Medium”, “Say Yes to the Dress”, “Chopped”, various paranormal investigation shows, and endless reruns of “Criminal Minds”.  I actually don’t mind “Chopped” that much, it’s semi entertaining, but the rest of them just drive me nuts.  “Say Yes to the Dress” is pretty much a no brainer, in that I don’t know a lot of guys that really enjoy watching any of the process of getting married.  Most guys I know would as soon elope or do a quickie at a Wedding Chapel or JP office somewhere.  Guys like being married, while I think women are more excited about the process.

The psychic and paranormal shows are the worst.  It’s not just that I’m a skeptic, it’s that they are so damn boring.  I don’t know how she can enjoy watching the same group of people talking aloud to empty rooms in night vision camera and then starting at any sound.  It’s the same thing each time, with a different location.

She doesn’t really understand my preferences either though.  When I do watch TV, I tend to like things like “Through the Wormhole” or “How It’s Made” or “Bizarre Foods”.  That last one is certainly a hold out from my time as an anthropology major in college, while “How It’s Made” just fascinates me because of the intricacies of making all of the products that I just take for granted every day.  “Through the Wormhole” is fascinating because I’m a science geek, and it’s got Morgan Freeman, which is all anybody really needs.

We have arguments about the TV, she complains I spend all my time on my phone and the laptop, while I complain that I wouldn’t be on the phone or the laptop if she didn’t spend all her time watching TV. It’s for the most part, a stand off.

But I have hopes that someday I will pry her away from the TV long enough to play a game of Scrabble, and she has hopes that some day she’ll pry me away from the computer long enough to do some of the little remodeling projects she wants done around the house.  I hope that we’re both right, and that electronics won’t become the third party of a not that romantic triangle.

Don’t Torture Me Bro!

I finished reading the Senate report on the CIAs “enhanced interrogation” techniques this week.  It was disturbing, to say the least.  I don’t know that I will ever understand the mindset of anyone who would willingly inflict mental or physical pain on another human being.  However, I have some suggestions for alternatives, which I don’t know about you, but just the threat of these would break me.

  • The Adam Sandler 24 hour film festival
  • The Early work of Jim Carey, esp. The Mask, and Ace Ventura, Pet Detective (one of only two movies I’ve ever walked out on in the theater)
  • The oevre of Gwen Stefani’s solo act on auto repeat.  I can only take so much rythmic chanting before I start to develop a tic.
  • A 24 hour Reality TV channel featuring the Kardashians, Honey Boo Boo, the Shark Tank, Ghost Adventures, and the Long Island Medium.
  • Anything that comes out of Sarah Palin’s mouth or keyboard.  How anyone can utter that much gibberish and still maintain any kind of credibility is beyond me. I fed one of her Facebook posts into a sentence diagrammer and my computer reported me for cruelty.
  • Being left in a room with nothing to read but Rod McKuen’s poetry and Harlequin Romance novels.
  • A menu of nothing but brains and eggs.  Probably the worst thing I have ever eaten.  Thanks Dad!
  • The Mannheim Steamroller Christmas Album we played at the Radio Shack I worked at for 4 Christmases straight.  I can still hear it in my sleep during the season.  One can only hear “Don We Now Our Gay Apparel” on a cheesy synthesizer before one becomes a Scrooge.