On the merits of building your own gallows for Thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving’s always weird. I’m not one of those people that ironically scoff about how the pilgrims raped the indians, and I’m not the kind that gets all weepy and talks about being thankful for the baby jesus or whatever the hell else. I have problems eating large amounts of food, so eating 8000 calories of turkey and then passing out isn’t my style. Both parades with floats and football bore me.

To the introvert like me, Thanksgiving is a nice day to not have to be around people. I woke up at the usual 7:30 or so today, but then went back to bed and enjoyed drifting in and out of sleep, feeling the cold outside and hearing the rain and wind, and being nice and comfy inside my fortress of blankets and pillows. I did get up to drink juice, take medicine, use the restroom, then go back to bed. I kept repeating the cycle until about two in the afternoon.

On a work day, I rush through the whole teeth-shave-shower cycle as quickly as possible. But on days off, I almost savor it, and spend a lot of time on small details. I spend forever going over my teeth with floss, inspecting each gap and gumline. I usuaully clean the bathroom as I clean myself, spraying the scrubbing bubble stuff and rearranging the things in the cabinet to find some optimum order maximizing storage space and access to frequently-used medical products. I spend too much time with q-tips and peroxide, dousing out my ears. And then, once in the shower, I spend forever under the hot water, never wanting to get out again.

I got dressed and considered going out for lunch, but it looked like hell out: thunderstorms dumped rain from the dark sky, and cold winds tore across the streets, blowing the rain almost sideways. I didn’t need to be anywhere, so I watched a show on PBS about old railroads and played Ace Combat 5 for a while. Finally, at about 4:00, I got the wise idea that maybe I wanted to cook dinner. I figured the stores would probably close at 5:00 (city that never sleeps, my ass – crap closes here like a small church town with blue laws, and meanwhile in Goshen, Indiana, you can go to Meijer and shop for groceries at three in the morning if you want) so I bundled up and headed out.

The rain stopped, and the sky looked dark, but it was that kind of perfect bad weather, the eye of the tornado kind of stuff. Once again, another reason introverts like me love Thanksgiving is because I get the city all to myself. Everyone else is passed out in front of the tube or has a day off, which means nobody is on the streets and I can roam around without running into the usual assortment of derelicts, idiots, yentas, bad drivers, and everyone else that make this neighborhood a pain in the ass. It was absolutely quiet and still. I loved it.

Even the normally idiotic Key Food store wasn’t that bad at all. A few stragglers were in there, buying last minute stuff or stopping in on their way home, probably. But I got to wander the store with no screaming kids, no people leaving their carts blocking the whole damn aisle, none of the usual madness. I didn’t even have to wait in line.

I spent the evening alternating between watching the tube and doing various household crap like washing dishes and working on organizing my CD collection. It feels nice to spend the evening getting stuff done, relaxing, and eating a bunch of food I just cooked. It’s also nice to know there will be three more days of this ahead.

I guess when I spend Thanksgiving doing nothing, I feel slightly guilty in some weird way, that some relative or person will get all weepy about “oh my god he’s all by himself and he’s building a gallows in his bedroom” or whatever. But the truth of it is that I’ve always been alone on holidays like this. At any family gathering, there’s always the group of men, who want to eat their weight in turkey and drink a bunch of beer and watch football and pass out, and then there’s the group of women, who want to talk shit about all of the members of the extended family that aren’t there and exchange their voodoo/gossip, and there’s the group of kids running around like tasmanian devils. That always left me in the middle with nothing to do, and I learned from an early age that the best way to deal with family dinners was to bring a book. (This was long before the days of the GameBoy or portable DVD player.) So even though I had a dozen people around, I was essentially alone. Actually, I was alone but wanted to really be alone, but instead I was in a basement sitting at a card table or whatever, reading my Fiend Folio or something, wishing I could be away from the people passed out or catting out upstairs, except my parents usually drove. And okay, my maternal grandmother was an excellent cook, and I had enough cousins on my mom’s side that I could find someone to hang out with. But we didn’t go to Chicago that much, so Thanksgiving and many Christmases were spent at my stepdad’s folks’ house. And his mom could not cook. Imagine the mom from Better Off Dead and her grotesque cooking, and that was it. So sitting at home, cooking my own food that I chose, changing the channels on my own TV, and enjoying myself, that’s cool. What I did today made for a good day.

Okay, this Seinfeld thing is on TV, so I am going to watch that.

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The Wards nightmare

It seems that my most common recurring dream/nightmare has to do with me working at Wards, or rather not working there. There’s usually some part of the dream in which I am not working there and I’m probably on the schedule, but I haven’t quit or anything, and I’m too embarrassed to go back in and tell them I’m not working there anymore. There’s also usually some component in where they still owe me a paycheck or two, and I’m not sure whether or not I should go ask for it or if they will eventually mail it to me. There are a lot of other side plots and situations to the dream, but that’s the basic deal.

This is the part where some wise ass says “have you ever had that dream where you’re in college, and you find out you have a class you didn’t know about?” Let me tell you something: that really happened to me, on a pretty regular basis. Okay, maybe it didn’t happen every semester, but I skipped a lot of class in college (because I was an idiot) and there were many times I had like a Calculus 5 class that I had only gone to the first class and I was somehow planning to go in and take the midterm cold and somehow get enough points for a half a semester of missed quizzes and homework. I have that dream regularly, to the point where I wake up and I have to verbally tell myself over and over “I’m not in school anymore. I graduated. I’m not in school. Go back to bed.”

Anyway, I always wondered if there were other people out there that worked at Wards on the web, like an alumni association. I mean, this place was around for a hundred years, with a lot of people that worked there for their entire lives, starting out in the shoe department and working up to be store managers, in charge of hundreds of employees. Some stores were the only thing in their communities, the equivalent of Wal-Mart these days, except even bigger because there was no Target or Meijer or Best Buy to go against them. I wish I could remember or write down a tenth of the stories I heard with people as I watched the clock and dealt with customers on the watch at that store. Everyone that worked there had a story, from the giant pro wrestler-looking receiving manager who still lived with his mom to the ex-schoolteacher who lived in the UK for ten years in the Air Force and now sold NAPA parts at the auto counter, to the janitor who seriously won like $2.6 million in the state lottery, yet loved working so much that he still kept his $5.15/hr job mopping up puke in the restrooms. (He did, however, buy a house on a golf course, a Lotus, and entire dispensers of those scratch-off lottery tickets from 7-Eleven, because he had a severe gambling habit and was convinced lightning would strike twice.)

So there’s never been much out there. But now, it seems someone has re-bought the Wards brand. I knew they were trying to sell everything but the fillings out of the employees’ teeth when they got down to the last days in 2001. GE credit bought them during their earlier chapter 11, and I’m sure they counted on salvaging out every sign and shelf when they tore out the stores. Now it appears the domain name and trademarks went too, because wards.com is now an online store with the same logo and look, selling housewares and other junk to web surfers. I couldn’t find any more information about how it happened, who is running it, what kind of PR went out, etc etc. You’d think there would be a picture of the president or a letter from the CEO or some sort of news item that said “we’re back!”, but I can’t find anything. It appears to be some kind of shithole, cookiecutter business-in-a-box that was incorporated by a paralegal in a strip mall and run out of someone’s basement. Too bad, because part of me would almost be interested in seeing Wards come back. I didn’t drink all of the Kool-Aid they fed us back then, but I took a few sips, and I really did believe in the place, as much as a kid in high school could.

What’s funny is that this is the second time this has happened to me. My first job out of college, spry.com, is now running as a pseudo-bizarro phantom business, this time an ISP. I don’t know if it has any relation to the original company – maybe someone bought their network infrastructure and name and tried to run with it – but it also has a fake-ass web site that doesn’t list who works there or what their deal is. I care less about Spry, but it was still an interesting place to be for a year.

Not much else is going on here. I am barely scraping at the next book, maybe writing 40 words a day, just trying to write down ideas and not much else. I have lots of scraps and pieces, and the eventual goal will be to melt all of that down into a real book, but the theme isn’t there at all. The pieces, though, are great. I haven’t named it yet, but it goes through title changes weekly like a bad heavy metal band. It was Zombie Fever!, then Toast Fucker, then Anal Sushi, and there were a few others.

OK, I fell asleep this afternoon, so it should be a long night.

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Kentucky McRib

I’m back. All of my clocks are an hour off. I ate a McRib for dinner in the Cincinnati airport, which is actually in Kentucky. I’m mostly unpacked, but I feel like I need to do some mass cleaning in the apartment, except I don’t feel up to it right now.

Indiana was a good getaway. I got to see both of the nephews and all of the other immediate family, and even anti-kid-me has to say that eight-month-old Wesley is pretty damn cute. I borrowed my mom’s car for most of the trip, and drove around all of my old haunts, noticing both the changes and the fact that a lot of stuff is pretty close to the same fifteen years later. It’s weird for me to drive, because all of the routes and trips are so burned into my brain, I just think “I’m going to University Park Mall” and without realizing it, I drive the entire journey from memory.

It’s strange for me to be back. In some sense, it’s sad, to think back to the time I was there, and know that everyone is now gone, changed, moved on and into their own families and not what I remember from high school. It’s not that I want to re-live that time, it’s just it would be nice to run into some people from back then, talk about it, see it again, and the only person that I still know in town is Ray, and he never wants to leave his apartment, aside from going on his weekly comic book run. On the other hand, I find Elkhart to be infinitely more habitable now that I have lived in New York. Everyone I know has a gigantic house with room after room of storage and furniture, usually purchased for the cost of a new car here. I realize I would go batshit insane after living in Elkhart for more than a week, but I really wish I could have a place like that, a car in the garage, a Super Target down the road.

Being in Elkhart for the election was a bit weird. I guess the weird thing is that I have returned to New York prepared for an onslaught of liberal angst about how right-wing conservative idiots stole the election, and so on. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: the Midwest is a real place, filled with real people, who all do their best to work jobs and raise kids and keep a roof over their heads and some meals on the table. When you pull this elitist bullshit about demeaning the people between the two liberal coasts and ignoring the “flyover zone” and thinking that what’s good for you in Williamsburg or the Mission District is good for all of those “farmers”, you will lose your election. People in the Midwest aren’t some kind of sub-culture that grows corn and eats nothing but McDonald’s and shops at Wal-Mart, any more than all gay people molest little boys or all black people eat watermelon and fried chicken. I’m hearing nothing but sore loser shit from people who think the Christians stole their election, but nobody is really acknowledging that people who live in the Midwest don’t want some pompous, East-coaster with his nose in the air running the country. I was glad when the Democratic party got Clinton from Arkansas, who could talk to the people in the factories and the shopping malls and relate to them. That was smart; putting up another Dukakis wasn’t smart. If I ran the Democratic party, I would put a permanent ban on Presidential candidates from Massachusetts.

That’s about all I have to say about the election. I am not glad Bush won, and I don’t want to gloat over Kerry’s loss to people who are obviously more emotionally involved in this thing than I would ever be. I’m already fearing another four years of anti-Bush blogs and pictures of chimps next to pictures of Bush and Michael Moore movies and everything else, probably more than I’m fearing another four years of Bush’s policy. I’m glad I don’t get cable, as I found out this week that getting all of the shows on satellite makes it ten times worse.

Okay, I need to crack open the photos I took and get them uploaded.

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