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BONESTEEL's girlfriend gave me a wine rack and a book on the history of wine making. BONESTEEL signed the card too, which was nice of him to take a break from his busy schedule of creating and destroying worlds.
Another friend and his wife gave me two Tom & Jerry DVD collections <3 and an awesome 3-D puzzle that becomes a big pirate ship, complete with sails, ropes and anchor. Gonna wait until I'm in my own place to assemble it but it'll be a pretty rad decoration when it's finished.
And the George Foreman grill and kitchen gadgets from Zeph, of course.
Merv shocked the hell out of me with a card and $25. Also, an inscription written entirely in kanji, as if I'll ever know what that says. But I didn't think he had the funds for Christmas, so I'm sincerely surprised.
The rest of my family showed me the backs of their hands and gave me the shaft, which is kind of a repeat present, honestly. I didn't expect anything from them, and they didn't disappoint. They sent me the same message they've been sending at Christmas for the past three years: "Get out."
I mean, they know I'm doing precisely that in August, but it's not enough, soon enough, I suppose.
But I knew this was coming. Pretty glad I didn't get them anything in return and wind up feeling like a complete sucker, like previous years. I will find something for Merv eventually, however.
No Christmas dinner today. My stepmother, who always cooks, has to work because the healthcare industry doesn't stop for Jesus. I offered to cook dinner in her place, seeing as I'm, you know, not too shabby in the kitchen. This was summarily thumbed down. I guess they ate last night, which would've been nice to know more than six hours in advance. I'd already made plans with friends for Christmas Eve.
I planned on getting up and cooking breakfast for everyone. Demonstrate that I can be the better man despite knowing I'll be snubbed when it comes time to unwrap gifts. But when I got to the kitchen, my stepmother was already there, up early to bake cookies and brownies for her coworkers. She had the stove and counters all monopolized. Not too happy with that since it means I have to find another way to use up the bacon, ground sausage, eggs, juice, fruit and muffin ingredients I purchased. Their loss, I say. I make a hell of an omelette.
Fortunately, my boss my boss overheard me saying that there probably wouldn't be any dinner here, so she invited me to her place for the evening. She and several others in my department are getting together, so at least I don't have to spend the evening alone and annoyed. She also hates wine, so she's giving me all the bottles she's accumulated as gifts over the past several years.
I look forward to next year. I'll be in a different city, surrounded by new people. I don't know what Christmas will be like but it will be a change, no matter what. Maybe I'll have some new friends to share the holiday with. Maybe some of them will stop by my dorm apartment and I can offer them some Christmas fixings. Whatever happens, it'll be on my own terms and that's something I've needed for quite a while.
Anyhow, I'm stepping out now. Merry Christmas to those of you who aren't Scrooges. And Happy Friday, Paco and LeHah.
This isn't a compilation of the worst gifts I, myself, have ever received. I'm not aiming to be that spiteful. Instead, this is a list of gifts that are across-the-board bad, gifts that are generally either unwanted, inconsiderate or extremely poorly thought out.
To make this list, a gift must be one that is known to be given on at least a semi-frequent basis, must possess very little practical or sentimental value, must be devoid of common sense in some fashion, or must be so thoroughly tasteless that it makes everyone in the room pause and cringe in silence as the giver awkwardly awaits nonexistent gratitude.
Fruitcake did not make this list because, really, that's just too easy.
This one ranks low because it does possess practical value. However, the disappointment factor is completely through the roof. I have heard stories of people whose aunts or uncles gave them deodorant, mouthwash or supermarket variety aftershave for Christmas. Yes, you can use these gifts but, chances are, you already have them. There is no novelty, no momentary delight in being given the not-so-subtle hint that you possess bad breath. It's an awkward gift that sends the message that the giver was picking up his or her prescription medicine and suddenly remembered that Christmas was nine hours away.
Gift Cards to Places You Never Go
You get them from your aunt, the one who lives alone and never speaks to you on any other day but Christmas. Consequently, she doesn't know anything about you, but has a vague idea of what people like you do, which is shop and eat. So you get cards to places like T.G.I. Friday's, Red Robin, Kohl's, Bath & Body Works, etc. She selected these places because they were nearby and convenient for her, but not necessarily you. The money you save at JC Penney is negated by the gas spent driving to the next county just to find the store. Worse, the card is usually worth a low amount, like $5 or $10 because she was thinking of you but her emotional attachment isn't that deep. Often, nothing in the place is priced at $10 or less, so in the long run, you still have to spend money to save money. How thoughtful!
Everyone loves to celebrate the yuletide, and keepsake mementos are a nice way to remember the good times. But let's face it, the joy of receiving a Christmas ornament quickly plateaus upon the realization that you won't be able to use the damned thing for another eleven and a half months. It sits in its box, under the tree, for another week - because that's what you do with newly received Christmas gifts - and is packed away, its purpose denied because your impatient ass just couldn't hold off on decorating the tree until Christmas Day.
Gifts That Imply Better Gifts That Never Actually Arrive
Lookin' at you, AA batteries and Christmas cards without any money.
Because Christmas is already a time laden with cakes, cookies, eggnog, candies and sodas, it's only logical to push your loved ones over the brink of cardiac arrest with the gift of overly salted sausage and cheeses. They arrive in decorative little boxes and people spend a couple minutes feigning interest over the mundane variety. ("Look, Harriet, provolone!") Unless the giver went absolutely apeshit and spent $109 on the deluxe "Cheeses of Polynesia" assortment, the sampler you've received has just enough sausage to satisfy three bites and a tiny wedge of smoked cheddar whose joy is diminished by having to supply the obligatory crackers yourself. It's tacky to dive right in, so inevitably the gift winds up on top of the refrigerator where one hopes it will be remembered five weeks later as the Super Bowl airs, but never is. Hickory Farms is the gift that says "I refused to put any thought into our friendship, whatsoever!"
Fruit baskets fall under this category since they come with the pretense that someone isn't getting enough citrus in their diet.
This category encompasses all the confusing, oddball, illogical presents you've ever received from people who felt thoroughly obligated to get you something but very clearly became awash in panic. It's understandable, in a sense. They're standing there in the Wal-Mart, the music playing, the children screaming, the lights flashing, all holiday hell breaking loose in a 250 foot circumference - it's easily enough to scramble every neuron in a person's brain. They just want out of there. But first, presents! This is why you got a Toby Keith CD. The gift-giver stopped caring and grabbed whatever was nearby, hoping with a total shot in the dark attitude that maybe, just maybe, you're actually into West Coast Choppers, and even if you aren't, maybe you're chivalrous enough to pretend. It goes down the same every year: You open the gift. You smile. They smile. Everybody fucking smiles. And we never talk about that pair of ballerina pig earrings EVER AGAIN.
Nearly everybody has that friend or relative whose life went from a bleak miasma of aimless desolation to a twenty-four hour carnival of glee when they picked up a particular hobby or purpose and never let it go. Now they want every single person to share in the same tunnel vision that saved them from growing old with nothing but three dozen cats for friends. Maybe they found Jesus. Maybe they became a vegan. Perhaps the music of Tori Amos turned their life around. And now they're spreading the wealth, oblivious to the fact that the moment they spent $830 on scrapbooking supplies, you stopped coming over. Now you've got a book on the evils of the whaling industry, a six month paid subscription to World of Warcraft, a ticket to the upcoming Clay Aiken concert (guess who has the other) or a colloidal silver starter kit. Their personal agenda is their gift to you, this Christmas. This person will almost unerringly attempt to validate their own obsession by following up with you around March to see how much better your life is now that you've been introduced to the joys of needlepoint. So unless you move to a different town and change your name, you're screwed.
Gifts That Are Secretly For the Giver ... And Not So Much You
It's a classic holiday tale: Wife receives big, shiny box for Christmas. Wife eagerly opens box. Wife finds a waffle iron in box. Husband grins smugly. Husband says "Now you can make me waffles for breakfast!" Wife Googles divorce lawyers later that evening.
Holiday gift-giving places a strain upon a lot of people but it takes a special breed of dimwit to be unable to distinguish between Christmas and April Fool's Day. On paper, the giver thinks it's cute. Everyone will have a good laugh, they'll bond over a well-planned jest and everyone will remember the joke fondly for years to come. In reality, the friend opens the box and finds a hat that looks like a spiral of dog-crap with the word "Shithead" spelled out on the brim. The giver bursts out laughing while everyone else's eyes shift about silently, nostrils flared with indignation. No words are spoken for three minutes. The recipient secretly wants to smash his brains into the wall because he got the practical joker an X-Box in return. Nothing brings two people closer like a big ol' slice of public humiliation. There is absolutely no occasion in which a "Bikini Inspector License" will be required, let alone appropriate. Nobody in their right mind wants a "Desperate Housewives" drinking dice game. Heed this advice: If your quest for holiday cheer leads you into Spencer's Gifts, you fail at Christmas.
Scratch-Off Lottery Tickets
"Here, I gave someone else five dollars. Merry Christmas!"
Yesterday afternoon, my stomach became mildly upset. By evening, it had progressed into an ongoing series of cramps mixed with mild nausea. My mouth was rather dry, but all attempts at taking down liquids just resulted in painful vomiting. Having experienced this before, I knew that I'd become rather acutely constipated. I don't recall having eaten anything that would normally contribute to this but if there was any dehydration, that'd explain things.
I took a series of laxatives throughout the evening, hoping they'd take effect by mid-morning. All night, my stomach rolled upon itself, preventing me from gaining any considerable sleep. Routinely, I'd be overcome by nausea and would run to the bathroom for another episode of dry heaves mixed with delicious bile.
This continued throughout the morning and into the afternoon. I was weak, barely conscious and in a lot of pain. I took some medicine to settle my stomach but threw it up ten minutes later. Around 3PM, I was informed that Thanksgiving dinner had been served, but had to excuse myself as I was in no condition to force anything down my system. That would only aggravate my sad state.
At around 9PM, I finally felt the urge to use the bathroom. As I did, the pain in my stomach eased and the swelling in my lower abdomen went down significantly. Over the next hour, the blockage cleared itself and I was able to keep liquids down again.
At this point, I was feeling well enough to move around the house, so I ventured into the kitchen to see what I'd missed. I had no intention of eating but was definitely curious to see what could be had for lunch tomorrow if I was up to a meal by then.
Alas, there were no leftovers. The refrigerator was devoid of pans, of Tupperware, of even pie. After some investigation, I found all the remaining food had been packaged into Ziploc bags and stored in one of my brother's duffel bags. Not Merv, but my full blood-brother.
This was pretty insulting. I'd spent all day, doubled over in pain, forced to miss Thanksgiving dinner, and nobody stopped to consider that I might appreciate something to eat when I felt better. Instead, all the food was given to my lazy mooch of a brother. Mind you, this boy dropped out of high school, has never once attempted to enter college, has gone to prison twice, has never held a job for more than four months at a time, now refuses to be employed at all, mooches off his friends for food and shelter, and couldn't even keep a marriage together for more than six months. In effect, he has demonstrated absolutely no worth as a human being, has not earned a drop of respect, and yet he is given all the leftover food?
I have held the same job for nearly a decade. I saved up and purchased my own car. I am enrolled in culinary school, to begin next summer. I fought my way through illness and overcame all the obstacles set before me. I have never been in trouble with the law. My worth is self-evident compared to my wastrel of a brother. He should receive nothing. NOTHING.
And I don't even get the dignity of having Thanksgiving dinner, no matter how late.
Fuck this house. Fuck these people. I cannot wait until I move to Pennsylvania next summer. I will leave and never once look back. I will not return for the summer break. I will not come home for Christmas. I will not even call or speak over emails. They've done nothing to earn my fealty. I'm through with these assholes. They clearly do not want me and I do not go where I am unwanted.
Essentially, the Japanese government has cracked down upon a growing rate of obesity in Japan. No, the Japanese haven't reached the epic levels of girth that we've attained in America, but it's apparently become enough of an emerging trend that they feel an urge to do something about it.
And this pleases me. We all see people when we go to the movies, the supermarket, the subway station, whose size is not only a handicap to themselves but an impediment to others as well. I see folk like this each day at work and it's genuinely disheartening. I know there are numerous conditions that can lead to obesity, and genetics need to be considered too, but too often is the case where the overweight individual has simply let himself go, giving in to the beast of gluttony. Everyone needs to eat but I do strongly believe that if you weigh over 300 pounds and cannot see your feet, you really have no business purchasing two pounds of salami. Obesity comes with so many problems: diabetes, sleep apnea, adema, hypertension, congestive heart failure - it's difficult to not worry about them a little. I watch them limp due to the stress on their knees. They're sweaty and out of breath from pushing a cart around. And I glance in the cart only to find it's filled to the top with stuff like cookies, ice cream, microwave dinners, chocolate milk, etc. Sometimes you just wanna slap a person for making you bear witness to their own destruction.
For too long, I've felt that we're simply too accepting of obesity, that it perhaps has lingering connotations of prosperity. I remember hearing that the opposite is, in fact, true: the well-to-do tend to be in better shape than the middle and lower classes. I place a lot of the blame on companies like Frito-Lay and McDonald's who manufacture garbage foods for prices that are lower than what one pays for the healthier alternatives. Something is indeed amiss in this country when a pound of broccoli crowns costs approximately the same as a Quarter Pounder with Cheese.
But I digress. Japan is getting it right. Once the paranoia junkies get over their cries of Big Brother! Big Brother!, what's left is a funded plan to encourage folk into living healthier, lowering the costs of health care. Large businesses are joining the movement by offering heavily discounted gym memberships and tending to the diets of their employees. People who fail to slim down over a period of several years have to pay extra into a public health care fund. It's not a perfect plan but it's something, a step in the right direction. Even a symbolic attempt at correcting a problem is more beneficial than turning a blind eye as we do in America. We're in a pretty sad state of affairs when a salad from McDonald's contains more fat than their Big Mac, don't you think?
Japan is constantly churning out WTF moments for me. They're strange people, they truly are. But this, I can get behind. It's the sort of firm nudge that I think many people here need in order to get back into shape. I'm certain this will never pass into law in the United States since too many folks will feel it's an infringement of their civil liberties but I'd like to see it come to a public vote anyhow, if but for one reason:
How does a fat person vote no if he/she can't get into the booth?
Yeah, I was kind of upset over the chat crap in which people assumed I cannot even do basic fractions just because I'm artistically inclined. Some people were joking around, some people probably believed I am just that retarded. Hard to tell who is which.
So I fumed and shit. It hasn't been a good three days for me. You don't need details - and you don't care - but suffice, it affected my mood greatly and I wasn't feeling very charitable toward the world. The whole ham fractions thing just sent me over the top, and I was already feeling pretty incensed over the raving support given to Skills's comment that the best job an art major can expect to get is working in a deli. I know I'm surrounded by math geeks, so that should've been expected.
But I went and forced myself to cool down. I decided it was silly and just wanted to move past the drama and not get upset over little things anymore. I spoke to Skills, who kind of antagonized the entire thing, and we made peace. We both kind of overreacted and yeah.
I was happy, ready to just drop the whole thing and let it settle into amusing history. But now this. C'mon. Let it die. I don't find the joke particularly funny, and yeah Diss, Radez, you're only going to act smug and point out my comeuppance because I laughed at customers. Fair is fair, karma's a bitch, isn't it? I accept your points.
So let's just move past this. Skills and I already agreed it was over. You guys are just whipping a dead horse at this point. The joke is done. I'm man enough to admit I overreacted and that yes, I laugh at customers who say stupid things, but I can be laughed at too. It's not so fun. Can we accept this and end the whole drama instead of dragging it on for reasons of LOL WE'RE BORED?
I am convinced that stupidity is an infectious disease, and that my constant, daily exposure to it will only result in a slow, gradual reduction in my mental faculties. Soon, I will find myself enjoying the comedy of Carlos Mencia, and I will be genuinely interested in NASCAR events.
I mean, idiocy must be transmissible, else there's no other explanation for the sheer amount of customers I encounter who have no concept of what's going on around them. They make unrealistic demands. They assume the illogical. They conveniently ignore fact. They revel in counterintuition.
It is not just the slovenly and poor who commit to these wayward shifts in logic. Well-to-dos, those dressed in business suits and who carry Louis Vuitton handbags, are just as wont to spouting the most absurd things. Stupidity infects without discrimination. There is an adage that states that the customer is always right. If this is true, then we've already been sucked into a black hole and everything we know is wrong.
Here is an assortment of statements and exchanges in which I or my coworkers have been regretful participants. They may or may not be verbatim but have been summarized to the best of my recollection.
Without further adieu:
"Can you take the olives out of the olive loaf? I don't like them."
"The sign for the ham says $4.99. Is that per pound or per slice?"
"Do you carry Boar's Head roast beef?"
"Sorry, sir, we don't have that brand."
"Oh. Well, can I get a half pound of it?"
"Yeah, give me a pound of that." (Points at the case) "I can't see what you're pointing at; the case is at the wrong angle for us. Could you tell me which one you want?"
"Yeah, the one on sale."
"What's the difference between the capicola and the provolone?"
"My husband likes that cheese with all the really, really tiny holes in it. It's real mild. What one is it?"
"Do you mean the swiss lorraine?"
"My name's not Lorraine. It's Diana."
"Number 35! 35!" (Called by deli employee) "I have number 41!"
"Hi, if I order a cold cut platter, does it come with roast beef?"
"Not normally, no."
"But if I wanted roast beef, you could put it on there for me, right?"
"Sure, substitutes are allowed. Would you like roast beef on a platter?"
"No, I don't like roast beef."
"Hi, can I help you?"
"Yes, all this order is to go.
"Can I get four quarter pounds of this bologna?"
"You want them in four separate bags, right?"
"No, you can put them all in the same one."
"I'm returning this ham. It's spoiled."
"Okay, let's see wha- ma'am, this ham was purchased in July. It's now October."
"Well, it's all brown and slimy. I don't want it."
"Ma'am, this package hasn't even been opened. Why didn't you eat it?"
"Because it's spoiled. I already told you."
"It wasn't spoiled three months ago."
"I was in Florida. I just got back."
"What are your vegan options?"
"Uhh . . . this is a deli. We really just do meats and cheeses."
"So you don't have anything?"
"We have coleslaw."
"Does it have meat in it?"
"How much is the Wunderbar bologna?"
"$1.99 per pound."
"Just give me two dollars worth."
"Gimme a pound of the roast beef."
"Which one would you like?"
"We have two kinds: the top round and the Ressler's seasoned."
"Which one is which?"
"The top round is the rarer one on your right."
"And the seasoned?"
"It's the darker beef on the left. Obviously."
"Yeah, a pound."
"The roast beef."
"No, which beef would you like?"
"The one by you."
"That doesn't help me much."
"I don't understand."
"AGH...RED OR BROWN???"
"I need a pound of the mosquito turkey."
"You mean the mesquite, right?"
"What the hell is mesquite?"
"Hi, I'd like a pound of the Krakus ham, but I need it shaved so it's falling apart. Could you shave that a bit thicker than normal?"
(Note: This does not work.)
"I'd like to order an assorted sub."
"We don't make sandwiches here. You'll need to go to the Carry-Out Cafe right over there. They'll make your sub for you."
"Do I have to buy the meat here?"
"Number 55! Does someone have 55?"
"Excuse me, but why is your count so low?"
"What do you mean?"
"At this rate, I'll be here another hour."
"Well, what number do you have?"
"Ma'am, that's I 43. We called your number ten minutes ago."
"Okay ma'am, here's your pound of shaved turkey."
"Yeah, I changed my mind. I just want some of the maple ham instead."
"I wish you'd told me this a lot sooner."
"I was waiting for you to finish."
"I'd like some of the turkey that's on special, but I don't want the stuff you have here in the case."
"Well, that's the only place we have it."
"I want it cut fresh."
"We just refilled it five minutes ago. It's quite fresh."
"That's not fresh enough. I want it sliced in front of me."
"Okay..." (Gets a whole turkey)
"You can't use that slicer."
"Huh? Why not?"
"It's had other meats cut on it. I want you to take it apart and clean it."
"We're really busy, ma'am. That's gonna take a while."
"Do you want to risk cross-contamination?"
"Fine, fine. Once I've got the slicer cleaned, how much turkey do you want?"
"Just one slice. I'm making a sandwich."
"I need three half-pounds of genoa salami packaged in two separate bags."
"That's an improper fraction."
"Can you do it?"
"I'm . . . not sure. I was an art major."
"Hi. Can you tell me what's in a reuben?"
"Sure. It's corned beef and swiss on rye bread with sauerkraut."
"That's what I thought. I need a pound of the corned beef and a pound of the swiss cheese, please."
(Several minutes pass) "Alright, here you go."
"And I need a half pound of the sauerkraut."
"We don't sell sauerkraut."
"Oh. Well, that kind of ruins it. I guess I don't need these anymore."
(Customer walks away) "Ma'am, you're in a super. . .market . . ."
Those bastards from OSHA came through my workplace today, and immediately condemned the three boxes of Mister Clean Magic Erasers that we keep around so that we can sanitize the knicks and cuts in our whiteboard countertops. They weren't pre-approved for use, so they had to go. Because the erasers had already been rung up as shrink, we split them amongst ourselves and each took one home.
I'd never used one of them before. But coworkers assured me that they were pretty handy at cleaning stubborn dirt and gunk that normally would require excessive scouring. So I gave it the best test I could think of: my bedroom door.
Back before I moved downstairs around 1996, my house was a duplex that we rented out. The last tenant signed a one-year lease and then decided she would take up chain smoking. By the end of her lease, this entire side of the house was caked in tar and grime from her two-pack-a-day habit. Of particular disgust was the door to what is now my bedroom; because of the cigarette tar that built up on her fingers, the area surrounding the doorknob on both sides, and the place where you'd usually push the door open became absolutely caked in grime. Over time, it darkened and became a sickly brown.
I'd tried various solvents - 409, Clorox, rubbing alcohol, Comet, Murphy's Oil Soap, witchhazel - but nothing cleared this grime away. I'd reduced it a bit, making the color less intense, but it refused to go away forever. I just sort of learned to live with it, spraying the area with Lysol now and then to make myself feel better about touching it constantly.
Thus, I figured if the Magic Eraser could hack through that, it could get rid of just about anything.
And it did! Five minutes of moderately firm wiping and the gunk completely vanished. It's such a small thing but I am so elated that my bedroom door is once again completely white! I don't know what that eraser is made of but it's my new favorite material.
I feel like I've discovered the treasure of the Sierra Madre. Finally, an effective cleaning tool that caters to my lazy streak! The only downside is that the magic eraser also completely sucked the natural oils out the skin on my hands. But I will tolerate that if it means my door is finally the right color.
This opens up so many possibilities, as there are numerous other surfaces I'd like to clean to a better finish. I hope these Magic Erasers don't cost an arm and a leg, since I plan to go out and purchase a dozen or so tomorrow. I know I will find uses for them.
I feel a bit like Sass, beaming with joy over something so small and domestic.