Monday, December 25, 2006

Down from the Chimney

I fell asleep on my sister’s couch last night watching Sportscenter on her HiDef 46” flat screen LCD TV, with a pair of wireless, infrared, surround sound headphones on (apparently I asked for all the wrong shit for Christmas.) Santa’s happy ass boisterously woke me up at 2:00am, opening stocking stuffers still in their original packaging. I’m actually surprised that the loud crackling of plastic and tearing of glued cardboard resonating through the dark and silent house didn’t wake up the neighbors’ kids. “Santa has definitely gotten a little sloppy over the years”, I thought to myself. I don’t remember our Jolly friend ever making so much freakn’ noise. Perhaps his workshop should consider sending him off with the toys already prepared for delivery (just a suggestion,) or a touch up course in Santa stealth. The “big guy” looked over at me noticing that he had disturbed my siesta, with a look of guilt as though a child had been caught with a hand in the cookie jar. I gave a quick disapproving nod, as he had disrupted my hot tub session with the European twins (we would certainly be having words if they had left before I made it back.)

Saturday, December 23, 2006

All grown up

Some where along the way, (without me noticing,) my little sister grew up. That’s right, I said it, the girl went and got all growed up. I suppose, through my eyes, I’ve always seen her as my little sister, but the truth is Gnat is now 27, has successfully graduated art school as a computer animator, leads a youth group at her church, and is now tackling the most important job next to parenting, teaching. How times have changed.

Of course, she wasn’t always like this. As a matter of fact, she was more like that kid from the exorcist. I’m usually the kind to sugar coat the truth, but for the sake of literary impact, I’m going to be as forthcoming as possible. My little sister was a spoiled brat (the spiteful seed of Satan I often thought). She was Daddy’s little girl, and she knew this all too well. She constantly nagged, and always got what she wanted. And when she didn’t, she threw Academy Award winning temper tantrums until she did. To top it all off, we absolutely hated each other. Sure, there were times when we would get along (usually to prevent dying of boredom), but for the most part, we were always fighting. And when we did, I had to be quick on my feet, because her preferred method of attack was that of a rabid Pitbull with lock jaw. You guessed it, her M.O. was biting. She would latch on like a South American river leech, sinking her teeth deep into my tan integument. I would do everything short of eye gauging to get her to let go. Some days I managed to escape her cannibalistic wrath, and others I was a helpless vampire victim. Even with my superior intellect and larger frame, she always had the upper hand, actually our Dad’s hand. Whenever my victory seemed eminent, she would pull the “I’m gonna cry now and watch Daddy come over and beat your ass” card. Most often than not, he did. She would cry and whimper, accusing me of hitting her (sometimes I hadn’t even touched her,) and right on cue, Dad would come in a frustrated rage and unleash a thunderous punishment. A nice worn leather belt was usually the weapon of choice, but when that wasn’t in sight, God help you if you had left your hot wheel tracks out (kids these days don’t know shit about takin’ a lickn’). If you messed up around my house, you were getting spanked with something, and by somebody (even the maid had spanking privileges).

As the years passed, the fighting slowly diminished (as did the spanking.) She matured a bit, and we managed to be civil to each other through my pubescent years of Junior High. Through out High school, we even developed a friendship. Eventually, we both left home for college, and ended up on opposite ends of the country. From then on, I visited her on a few different occasions. We would see each other during the holidays and I also went to her graduation. Every time I spent time with her, I noticed that she had matured a little more. Our friendship grew and now we have in depth talks about relationships, family dynamics, and of course, boys (she always wants a guy’s point of view).

During my holiday visit at Fel’s house, I intended on visiting a beloved friend from high school. Unfortunately, she lived two hours away and I had no way of getting there. I had pondered the idea of asking Gnat for a ride (I certainly doubted that she’d loan me her new car), but didn’t think that she’d go for it. To my amazement she did, and was even upset that I hadn’t asked earlier, so that we could have left at a decent time. It was a two hour trip, and we had a pleasant ride talking about various topics (our childhood included), and of course, her current dating situation. At one point we stopped for snacks and I helped a woman who had locked herself out of her car get back in (contrary to popular belief, I am not predisposed to such talents because I’m hispanic, I just happen to be good with my hands). We finally reached my friend May’s house and we had a glorious visit. I was so happy to see that she had only grown more beautiful since I’d last seen her and that she was doing so well. I got to meet her amazing three year old son, who will undoubtedly become a model some day [insert acorn cliché here]. He was also very well behaved, and I marveled at the connection they shared (undoubtedly a mamma’s boy).

After catching up we all went out for sushi, and ‘lil man and I puppeteered an unfair duel between a power ranger and Lava girl. Apparently his defenses were impervious to fireballs, and Lava girl ended up with multiple sub dural hematomas and some broken bones (basically she got her ass beat). It was getting late, so we didn’t have time for the emergency surgery to stop the internal bleeding that would have saved her life (where’s La Cubana Gringa when you need her?) We topped off our short stay with the opening of a few gifts, and watching ‘lil man crash hot wheels into each other. After extended good-byes and vows to never let eight years pass without a visit again, we were on our way back to Fel’s house. The drive back was fraught with deep conversation and with every thought and opinion expressed, Gnat revealed exactly how seasoned and matured she really was. I witnessed my little sister grow up right before my eyes.

Friday, December 22, 2006

The First Noel

For some inexplicable reason, while packing this morning for my Holiday trip, I thought it wise to deviate from tried and true traditions of including a change of clothes in my carry on, in search of spontaneity and adventure I suppose. I ended up getting both, and in more unforgiving quantities than I could have expected.

When the day started, and it did so at a time that most people aren’t even aware exists (I usually refer to it as the bootycrack of dawn), I was actually giddy and fraught with excitement. Not only was I going to visit family during the holidays, but I was also going to fly First Class for the first time ever. (I quickly learned why those that travel in this manner become snooty.) Ah yes, when I first arrived at the airport, I immediately basked in true First class glory. I was able to approach the ticket counter without waiting and bypass snaking lines of hundreds of sleepy passengers waiting to check in, as they fumbled to locate their passports and travel itineraries and simultaneously herd their restless children. After checking in my luggage and receiving my boarding pass, I followed the drones of travelers towards the “Security Checkpoint”. The first security screener glanced over my documents, then lifted the retractable nylon divider and guided me towards an alternate line, which was much shorter. It didn’t take me long to notice that I was now in line with flight crew, airport personnel, and the handicap. “Okay, now this is pretty cool,” I remember thinking. I had somehow become a part of the travel elite and circumvented yet another endless line of voyagers preparing for the inevitable inspections of their carry on luggage and their potentially exploding footwear (somehow I think the thirteen year old girl wearing flip flops and pink pajamas that read ‘princess’ in glittery letters across her ass, was not a threat to national security. But I suppose I’ve been wrong before.) I quickly made it through the labyrinth of machines and was off to my gate.

I was amongst the first to board the plane, but not without a few discerning glances from some passengers that had stayed on the aircraft. The flight attendant eagerly offered to take my coat and retrieve a tasty beverage as I situated myself in the large, plush leather seat located just two paces away from the lavatory. I was pleased to discover that there was already a pillow and blanket on my seat, as though they were little mint chocolates carefully placed on a pillow of a luxurious hotel bed. There was also ample leg room, an amenity I’m unaccustomed to when flying economy. Before I could even hear the snap of my seatbelt fastening into place, the perky hostess had returned with my drink. “Man, I could really get used to this.” I thought, as I eventually dozed off into a completely uninterrupted and heavenly slumber amongst the clouds.

When I finally arrived at my destination however, I was soon to realize a nightmare whose undiscriminating grasp seems to have no boundaries or limits, even to those wearing the honored badge of “First Class”. I waited at the baggage claim carousel for what seemed like an eternity, watching the various types of bags pass by in multitudes of sizes and shapes and displaying fresh scars from their journey. I began to observe two commonalities developing, 1) The number of bags on the conveyer belt was diminishing, and 2) My suitcase had yet to be seen. Shortly after my epiphanous moment, a swarthy airport employee, (who had obviously eaten too much turkey at thanksgiving,) appeared out of no where to make an announcement. He appeared bothered as he grabbed the microphone, wearing his pilot-like hat slightly off his head and tilted to one side (indicating that he had just taken another swig from his flask,) and announced that there was no more luggage coming out. The last few of us “distressed passengers”, quickly rushed towards him like a swarm of reporters looking for an interview with Britney, in hopes of finding her panties. As I’m sure he’d done a thousand time before, his hand was already pointing towards a little glass room at the end of the airport’s long corridor as he grumpily projected, “I’m sorry, but you will all have to fill out lost baggage claims over there” (while I go have another sandwich and a drink no doubt.) “Damn it, are you serious?” I thought. “This can’t be happening!” I scuttled towards the interrogation room in disbelief, through the recesses of the airport with my sister Fels (who came to pick me up,) and my carry on in tow. As we waited outside the room we took a moment to scan the sea of orphan bags scattered across the vast marble floor (For a moment I pondered how long they had been there and what was inside them, and if their contents might even fit me.) Unfortunately, my effects were no where to be found. The tinted glass door flew open and a disgruntled customer ran out mumbling profanities. “Shit, this doesn’t look good,” I thought. I was hurriedly greeted by a flustered member of the mysterious glass room who handed me a form and an extremely dull pencil. With a forced smile, she instructed me to fill out the form and wait in line. I completed the redundant paper work, and I was finally ushered into the little suana where 3 employees stood before me, sweating profusely and frustratingly pounding their keyboards from behind the tall counter decorated with pictures of all kinds of baggage (in case you forgot what yours looked like.) The rotund lady to my left (with painfully enormous flotation devices,) proclaimed in a defeated tone, “The system is down! My computer is down, nothing’s working!” “Just perfect”, I thought. Debbie does Dallas over here has lost it and this is exactly what I needed to top off my luxurious plane ride. “Larry” took my form and proceeded to confirm the information. His politeness was quickly overlooked as he continued to mispronounce my name over and over again (a ritual I’ve grown accustomed to over the years, just not to that extent by one person at any given time.) I suppose it wouldn’t have bothered me as much had I not needed to be in that hot ass incubator to begin with. After some impressive key stroking Larry handed me a new set of papers with a phone number on it. He nonchalantly explained that my suitcase was “probably” on the next flight in, and that I could either wait, or that it would be delivered later that evening. In retrospect, I should have waited. All this transpired around 11:30am. By the time 5:30 rolled around, I started what would prove to be the ultimate test of patience. After two hours of hearing busy tones and ringing (no one ever did answer that damn number Larry,) it was obviously time for a new game plan. I conducted some internet sleuthing and successfully tracked down my luggage and even produced a number through which I would eventually talk to a live person. By 9:30pm I had successfully reached the delivery vendor, but had to endure being transferred four times by a degenerate, who appeared to be eating. I was surprisingly able to refrain from screaming at the third person who asked who I was, what my bag looked like, and where it was being delivered. After my headache inducing conversation with Captain Retardo, I was informed that my bag was in their custody and that it would be delivered in a two to four hour window. Merry Freakn’ Christmas! The knock at the door came right before midnight, just in time for me to take out my contacts, (which by now had fused to my corneas,) change into something more comfortable, and finally get some sleep. All in all, I guess it wasn't that bad, besides I was visiting family. I just wasn’t a fan of the lost and found game. I’m even looking forward to the return flight home. Of course I won’t be forgetting to pack a change of clothes this time, and some contact solution . . . . . . . just in case.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Mothers be good to your daughters . . . . .

“Can you believe he took my three year old daughter to get her nails done?” I hear Manhater exclaim in rhetorical disbelief. I’m thinking, here we go again. So, I retort, as if she were asking for my opinion (because let’s face it, how much more of this do I have to listen to without saying something), “Who cares? I mean really, who cares?” “At least he’s spending time with her right?” I say, in a mild attempt at diplomatically diffusing the situation before she busts an aneurysm. “Yeah, but she’s only three” Manhater snaps back, almost in more disbelief than before and that I’m not taking her side. “I don’t like that at all. He has no business taking her there. I don’t even paint her nails at home”. After a deep breath and a quick sigh, (obviously forgoing diplomacy) I boldly say, “Don’t you think you’re being just a little nitpicky about this?” She quickly turned around in obvious disagreement to what I had said and continued to mumble to her self about how wrong she thought it was, as though she needed to further justify her own ludicrous rant.

Yes, we all know that Manhater's going through a nasty divorce. We all know that he’s a worthless, inconsiderate, vengeful bastard (she makes it obvious from the conversations she has with him at work). I’m not a completely insensitive prick. But frankly, I’m starting to get tired of hearing her gripe about every little thing he does with THEIR daughter. From the sounds of it, he appears to be providing for her, and as long as he continues to do so, and has dual custody, he has a damn right to parent her as he pleases, obviously within reason. It seems to me as though he’s been doing nothing but spending quality time with her a few times a week. Most single mothers would love for that to happen. She needs to put her pettiness and personal complaints with him aside and let him be a father. She cannot dictate every thing he does while they’re together. Granted, he may not have been the best husband in the world. Okay, from what I’ve heard he was a down right asshole. However, he hasn’t proven to be a bad father yet. He’s a hard working fireman, who doesn’t get a lot of time off, but I’m willing to bet a limb that when he does take time off to spend with his daughter, the last thing he wants is the Ex barking at him at every turn. Damn girl, leave a brotha alone and stop fretting over the little shit. So, maybe the nail salon wouldn’t have been my first choice for an outing with my three year old, but as far as I’m concerned, as long as they’re not watching horror movies, intravenously administering high fructose corn syrup, drinking beer, and mooning unsuspecting motorists together, leave them the hell alone. I kind of get the impression that she may be a little jealous that he spends time with her, even more so that he may have done something with her that mom perceives to be an experience that only mothers and daughters should share.

Over the past couple of months I’ve witnessed my co-worker openly bash and criticize every thing the soon to be ex-husband does with his daughter. I’m by no means a family psychologist, but it certainly doesn’t take a degree in anything to acknowledge the path of emotional instability she’s guiding her daughter towards. Her incessant nagging, reprimands, and censuring are only prepping that kid for emotionally draining and stressful behavioral patterns later in life. By example, she’s teaching her how to treat men, as a lioness methodically teaches her cubs how to hunt. I just hope that something gives soon. Otherwise I truly fear for the future of that unsuspecting and impressionable little girl, for she’ll undoubtedly turn out just like her man-hating mommy . . . . . . . jaded, but with an impeccable manicure.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Days Like These . . . .

Ah yes, another dreary and gloomy day. The sky is gray with a buoyant fog veiling the trees like a light winter scarf. The wind is still and the ground is dark and wet. It drank its' full from the constant drizzle that fell long through the night. A light sprinkle still falls as if the rain is undecided. Birds do not sing today and the Sun seems to be sleeping in a little (as did I.) Unlike most, I really enjoy days like these, particularly when they come in the winter. It almost always means that it won't be as cold, or as windy. Days like these are essentially perfect for hot cocoa, movies, warm blankets, and a steady fire. That is of course, if you can afford to stay home. None of the aforementioned activities requires one to actually go outside. And why would you want to really? I feel the same way after a heavy snowfall. Do I really have to go out there? I mean everything looks so perfectly covered in white as if someone meticulously placed each flake of snow (and in a way, someone did.) It would be some sort of a crime, I'm sure, to disrupt nature by shoveling all it's hard work into heaping piles, (almost like a parent throwing away their child's science project,) and leaving muddy footprints along a flawless canvas of white. Well, today there is no snow to shovel. No ice to scrape. No baking soda exploding volcanoes to throw away. It's just wet. Foggy, cold, and wet. It's off to work then. I wrap my thick scarf; my eldest sister crocheted for me a few winters ago, around my neck and put on my coat. I inhale deeply as I step out into the cold morning air and walk towards my car as my foot steps leave their trodden marks on the soggy earth. I smile mischievously to myself thinking of how I'll save that sick-day for when the snow does come. It's in this moment I realize that days like these aren't so bad after all.