January 29, 2007

The Mall

The other day I did something that I hadn’t done in a long time, and was quickly reminded why I hadn’t done it in a long time. Let me tell you …

My dad’s birthday was coming up and of course he’s at that age where he doesn’t really need anything, and the only thing he wants is to be with his family for the day. I was stumped as to what to give him. Finally it dawned on me. Make him a gift! I decided to give him a t-shirt with an iron-on transfer of a design that he would simply go nuts for. Finding the image was easy. Finding the iron-on transfer paper was easy. Now, to find the t-shirt.

I was advised by Boyfriend to stop by the local mall and shop for a t-shirt. “There are tons of stores there,” he informed me, “and lots of them probably have plain t-shirts in different colors.” OK, I decided to take him up on his advice and take a trip to the mall. Oh. My. God. How much do I hate the mall.

I thought I’d go to Sears first. If Sears didn’t have a selection of plain t-shirts, no one probably would. As I walked through the store it got a feeling of nausea and pity all at the same time. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for anyone who would go to that store to buy, say, perfume. But there it was, perfume for sale. The clothes in the women’s department were gaudy or housefrau-like. The only areas in the store that didn’t make me break out in hives was the appliance section and the tools section. I ignored the spit-up in my mouth and looked for t-shirts in the mens department. Nothing.

Then I went to Old Navy. Old Navy will have something, I thought. The spit-up I swallowed in Sears suddenly reentered my mouth when I started looking around the store. Everything for sale in that store was made in really obscure countries, some I had never even heard of. Cool and hip, perhaps, but I wasn’t about to support sweatshops on the other side of the world.

Most of the stores at the mall are targeting the younger crowd, of course. So young, in fact, that I was too embarrassed to even go in and look around. One time a while ago I went into Spencer Gifts to see if I could find anything for my early-teen nephew, and the sales staff and customers looked at me as though I had lost my mind for even stepping across the threshold, much less walking clear to the back of the store. I remember shopping in Spencer Gifts when I was a teenager, but don’t remember it being so stupid. Either the store has changed drastically or I have. Maybe we both have. Anyway, my point is that I wasn’t about to waste my time on the stupidity of a clothing store targeting the angsty teen market, or the cliquey teen market, which stores occupy 85% of the entire mall.

I went into Macy’s. Nothing. Kohl’s had t-shirts. Plain black, white, and gray t-shirts. Hooray! Except wait, they have a breast pocket. Not good for an iron-on.

By that time, not only are the stores bothering the hell out of me by not having what I want, the so-called shoppers were pissing me off too. Of course most of them aren’t really shopping. It was those angsty and cliquey teenagers loitering, socializing, having their meaningless teenager lives right in front of me. I wanted to tell them all get the hell out of my way, I’m on a mission, but I knew they’d never understand. To them I was one of those old people who actually bought stuff at the mall. Except this time I was empty handed, and my patience was growing very thin. All I want is a stupid plain t-shirt, I thought. Why do I have to look at boys who can’t keep their pants above their butts and girls who think muffin tops are about the sexiest thing going? Why do I have to dodge the couple of teens who decide to stop dead in their tracks to make out in the middle of the walkway? I couldn’t stand it. I was hot and tired. I was angry and anxious.

As a last resort I went into J.C. Penney. Praise the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, they had plain, gray t-shirts. No pockets. Heavy cotton. Extra large. Exactly what I needed. I snatched up the package of two, paid for it, and ran like to wind into the dark winter night.

I hate the mall. I hate that mall in particular. That evening I kept telling Boyfriend how glad I was to be home.

As for my dad’s birthday present – I made it and it turned out beautifully. He was genuinely touched to tears. Making an old guy cry out of nostalgia, passion, and playfulness (all the things the t-shirt image represented to him) made my hellish trip to the mall worthwhile ... I think.

January 26, 2007

Why Don't We Talk Good?

What is this expression, “In the now?” Ugh! It’s like how people turn nouns into verbs. “I’m going to office from home today.” “I’m trying to live in the now.”

Listen carefully. I’m typing this slowly and deliberately so everyone can understand, even those of you who missed the short bus this morning: Instead of “I’m going to office from home today,” say: “I’m going to work from home today,” OR “I’m going to work from my home office today.” And instead of saying “I’m trying to live in the now,” say: I’m trying to live in the present,” OR “I’m trying to live now.”

I’m sick and tired of trying to figure out what everyone is saying. If someone isn’t cutting off the ends of their words due to laziness or a disablingly thick tongue, someone else is making up an entirely different vocabulary that is nerve-wrackingly similar to the one I know, yet so foreign that I can’t help but think the person using such vocabulary is either really uppity or really retarded. If you're going to speak English, speak it properly. Not that I’m trying to tell people what to do.

January 12, 2007

A Picture Is Worth A Slap On The Wrist

With 2006 being the year of death for me and my family, I’ve taken to the practice of reading the local obituaries every day. I’ve always thought that a simple, concise obituary is all that is necessary. No razzle dazzle. Just the facts, ma’am. So you can imagine how I feel about obituaries that include a picture of the deceased. Don’t like them. Photographs are unnecessary and are usually an insult either to the dead person or to the intelligence of the person who saw it fit to include said picture.

The following are actual pictures taken from obituaries:

Example #1: The How-I-Looked-Sixty-Years-Ago Photo

These pictures are provided only for old people, usually over 80. I don’t quite understand the point of it. How would someone recognize the person from a picture taken that long ago? Maybe people don’t take pictures of their friends and relatives after their hair becomes gray and their skin begins to wither and the young pictures are all they have. How silly would it be if a person died when they were in their 50s and the obituary picture was one of the person in his or her teens? Just as silly with really old people. It's pointless and stupid.

Example #2: The How-I-Looked-When-I-Died-But-What-A-Stupid-Picture Photo

Maybe to family members and friends this type of picture brings back wonderful memories, but for strangers, the dead person looks like a dork. I can only hope that it’s an inside joke that the deceased could appreciate, because to the uniformed reader they just look dumb.

Example #3: The Glamour Shot Photo

Why would you do it? It provides a nasty picture of the deceased, and also portrays them as a sucker for getting conned into having the tacky portrait done in the first place. Chances are she’ll look more glamorous in the casket than she does in the Glamour Shot.

People do strange things when someone dies. And it’s really sad when people like me criticize the choices made by someone out of his head with grief. But to all of you out there who will be arranging a funeral and composing an obituary sometime in the future (and you will), I suggest you remember only one word to ensure your loved one will not be mocked by the likes of me. Dignity. Pictures will definitely compromise the dead person’s dignity. Trust me, a thousand words would be much better.

January 09, 2007

Death Of A Blog

What a drag. Once again one of my computer friends has left the scene. She feared one of her readers recognized her despite her attempts at anonymity, and so shut down her blog. I hate that. Now how am I ever going to know what happened to Lord of the Rings and Hideous Purple Bouquet? It was like my daily soap opera, an ongoing serial that kept my day interesting and my life seemingly normal in comparison.

My computer friends are merely those people whose words I read nearly every day. It could be a blog or a web site. They could be famous or not. Their work and lives are presented so colorfully or interestingly that I feel I know them. I don’t really need to know them personally, but in my heart, they are my secret, special, computer friends. They are like my TV friends Denny Crane and Alan Shore, my rock-n-roll friends Jimmy Paige and Robert Plante, and my radio friends, Tom Barnard and Terri Traen. I don’t actually know any of these people, but they are such a regular part of my life that I refer to them as friends.

So, now that The Attractive Nuisance is no longer posting there is one less ongoing saga for me to follow. I don’t find many blogs that document one’s daily life (or at least the life they choose to expose to the internets) that are interesting and worthy of revisiting day after day. Although Nuisance was getting a little tiresome in her pursual of Lord of the Rings (married co-worker), her writing style and attitude were worth the read every day. But she’s apparently been uncovered and doesn’t want to be dooced. I don’t know why not. Dooce (another of my computer friends) has made a perfectly comfortable lifestyle for herself simply by getting fired for writing about her job and coworkers in her blog.

Maybe The Attractive Nuisance will be posting under some other name from now on. But that won’t help me, because I’d never be able to find her. Such a pity. She’s the second computer friend I’ve lost due to exposure. I suppose it’s like when your favorite TV show gets canceled or simply says goodbye while it’s on top. You miss them like crazy for a week or two, but something else always comes along to replace it.

What time I’d normally spend reading The Attractive Nuisance I will now be spending searching for a new computer friend. Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated. And Nuisance, if you're out there, let me know where I might be able to find you again. I miss you already.

January 03, 2007

Cuckoo For Christmastime

Friday marks the 12th Day of Christmas, the official end of the holiday season. It’s been a pretty good one, except for the fact that all hell broke loose at the Faux’s on Christmas Eve. Okay, let me tell you the story.

As you know, Faux Ma is receiving treatment for uterine cancer. So far she’s doing just fine. She recovered from surgery beautifully in October, and has since been undergoing chemotherapy treatments with three under her belt already.

Despite Faux Ma’s weakened and fatigued condition, she insisted on having us over for Christmas Eve, as we have traditionally celebrated the holiday with them for the past eleven years. She also insisted on preparing a ham dinner by herself. I’m really not one for Faux Ma’s cooking, but the ham was unusually tasty and moist. Maybe God blessed her with delicious meat during these troubled times, but she most obviously served au gratin potatoes from a box and the asparagus had some brown crumbs all over it, which I really couldn’t identify. I was grateful for the juicy ham. Faux Ma also served some holiday cookies for dessert – cookies which had been given to her from various church people and neighbors out of charity/pity. Fortunately Faux Ma also served some mint chocolate chip ice cream with the cookies because most of the baked goods were rather scary-looking, and several of them had a “surprise” in the center of them. The meal wasn’t a total disaster; the ham and mint chocolate chip ice cream being the most edible and least horrifying items on the menu.

I can forgive a dying woman for preparing a mediocre meal. When the dishes were all done (by Faux Pa and Boyfriend as Faux Ma and I watched) we went to open gifts. There were some very nice gifts, indeed. Except there was that one gift I received from Faux Uncle (Faux Ma’s brother, who sends gifts via USPS from California every year) that looked strangely familiar. Oh yes, it was the gift I made myself for him and his wife last year. Regifting tip: don’t give the gift back to the person who gave it to you in the first place. Boyfriend and I got a good laugh out of it, as did Faux Pa. Faux Ma was a bit on the mortified side, as any good, codependent, big-sister-taking-responsibility-for-her-brother’s-thoughtless-actions should be.

Boyfriend and I gave Faux Ma and Faux Pa a DVD player. We figured they’d be in the house a lot this winter, and their VCR is almost forty years old by now. We realized that all those buttons on the DVD player would probably be too much for Faux Pa to deal with, but Faux Ma is capable of reading directions if necessary, so we went ahead with the gift anyway.

After all the presents were opened and well appreciated, we sat around chatting for a while. Boyfriend told his parents that he would come over the day after Christmas to help them get their DVD player set up. Such a good son. He reiterated that they aren’t able to record shows with that particular DVD player. Faux Pa, in his usual, deliberate, very slow manner, implied that even if they could record, they wouldn’t watch what they recorded. He told us about all those war shows that he had taped on the VCR, but never watched.

“I have World War I.”
“I have World War II.”
“I have the Civil War.”

Before he could go and name every war this country had ever participated in I said, “why don’t you ever watch those as you took the trouble to record them.” Oops. That’s when the shit hit the fan.

Faux Pa got a very perplexed look on his face and almost appeared to dry heave as he said he doesn’t want anything to do with wars because this war we’re in now is so terrible. He went on to say how it all began because George Bush, Sr. and Dick Cheney had a plan to buy oil from Iraq for $.25 a gallon and sell it in the U.S. for $10 a gallon, and how they were going to build a railroad across Iraq to transport all of that oil to the U.S. Boyfriend and I figured Faux Pa had grown too tired from the day’s festivities and was beginning to talk nonsense. Then Faux Ma asked hypothetically,

“I wonder why the young people don’t protest as much as they used to, like during the Viet Nam War.”

Boyfriend and I, despite knowing better, answered Faux Ma by saying that young people seem to be more conservative than they were during the Viet Nam War, and plus, there isn’t a draft now as there was back then. Meanwhile, Faux Pa has a pained look on his face like he’s trying desperately to figure out what we’re all talking while still trying to convince us how wrong Bush, Sr. and Cheney were in their plans and that they have enough money, they don’t need to sell oil and start a war. Boyfriend was at the end of his rope. As Faux Pa was fumbling around with his words Boyfriend and I were packing up our gifts. The more we packed, the angrier Faux Pa seemed to get, either with the Bush, Sr./Cheney situation, or with us completely ignoring his half-lucid yammering. Seeing how frustrated her husband was, Faux Ma said,

“Well, if they had wanted to draft you (meaning Boyfriend) into the Viet Nam War, we would have just had you go live with my relatives in Canada.”

I saw Boyfriend snap. He said to his mother, “I would have rather gone to Viet Nam than to Canada to live with your relatives.” Yikes. Now he’s done it.

Faux Ma: “Why would you say that?”

Boyfriend: “Because your relatives told me to my face back in the ‘70s that us damn Yankees keep coming into their country and stealing their jobs.”

Faux Ma: “Which of my relatives said that?”

By now I’m taking Boyfriend by the arm and leading him to the bedroom where our coats are, telling him as quietly as I can to just let it go. He agreed and just replied loudly to his mother, “It doesn’t matter.”

When we came out of the bedroom with our coats on, Faux Ma said, “my relatives don’t swear.”

As always, she completely missed the gist of the conversation, albeit a totally unnecessary conversation. And as always, Faux Pa wasn’t quite sure what had actually happened, even though his VCR tapes started the whole debacle. My relatives don’t swear, she says. Well, they may not swear, but we all witnessed that one of them partakes in the rude practice of regifting, which is much worse than swearing in my book.

So ends the evening with the Fauxs. I hope for Faux Ma’s sake that she lives at least another year so she can give another shot to her “last Christmas.” I hope for Faux Pa’s sake that Faux Ma lives until after he dies, otherwise he’ll turn out to be one of those crazy old men who walks around muttering nonsense with Cream of Wheat caked onto the side of his mouth. I hope for Boyfriend’s sake that he can find the strength to help his parents through their twilight years without completely losing his mind. And I hope for my sake that I don’t go to hell for telling these stories to the entire universe.

God bless us, everyone.

Oh, and P.S., Christmas Day with my family was a delight, of course.

Fancy Schmancy Holiday Cheer

Over the Christmas holiday we were fortunate enough to see a concert. Not only did we get to see a concert, we got to see a concert from one of the stadium suites. Not only were we in the stadium suite, we were fed delicious things in the suite, like crab claws, cheese cake, and wine. Not only that, it was all free. And best of all, the concert was absolutely fabulous. I highly recommend the Trans Siberian Orchestra.