Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Fat Cats

My neighbors, the Old Bird and her offspring, like to leave out food and water for the neighborhood cats. Naturally, the cats like to hang out on my porch. And it's not just the strays; there are also pet cats with collars present. They are obviously well taken care of, even the strays! People are feeding them, and it's not just the neighbors giving these cats treats. These cats are fat! During the day, they've taken to congregating on my porch, sleeping on my windowsill, and playing on the steps. On warm nights, they like to hang out on the walk way and by the doors. Even some of the pet cats don't go home on those warm nights. For the most part, I've ignored them and let them be. But every now and then, I'm reminded of their presence and their effect on my life.

On the one hand, the cats have reduced the number of the birds who used to sit in the tree in front of the building. That means less bird poop on my car. On the other hand, the cats leave dirty paw prints on my windshield and hood, especially after I get my car washed! It's like they purposely walk in mud before deciding to climb up my car to nap on the roof! Bastards.

I try to ignore them as I enter or leave my home; I've also avoided feeding them, you know? Because that would mean I cared for them and I would feel some sort of responsibility toward their well being. And everyone knows that once you feed 'em, they'll never go away! Still, as much as I try to ignore them, a couple of them like to run up and rub against my legs, purring and meowing while I'm trying to lock or open the front door. I've been able to resist reaching down to pet them so far. But I confess to breaking down and having fed them on two separate occasions.

I was coming home from grocery shopping when a group of them ran up to me, meowing. A few skittish ones ran to hide in the bushes, but they peeked inside my door while I was putting away groceries. And it was the little kittens, born to a stray, meowing that got to me. I didn't have any cat food, but I did just buy a couple of canned sardines. So I put some out in a bowl for them, along with a bowl of water. At the very least, the mother stray would have something to eat to replenish her strength to feed her kittens. The second time was when I came home to be greeted by one usually skittish stray. It was the only cat present at the time. It looked at me expectantly after running under the bushes when I approached. But when I stood at the door just looking at it, it started to come towards me, unsure but hopeful. So, I fed that one some sardines and water as well.

A few days ago it got pretty cold; we had freezing weather, and I couldn't help but wonder how the strays were doing. I hoped the cats would be okay, perhaps huddled together for warmth. But as much as I rationalized and told myself that it wasn't my problem, I kind of felt bad for them. So, I opened my door to see if they would be out there. I figured I'd let them in, but only for the night. Then I'd either let them out when it was warm or call the animal shelter to get them. But when I looked outside, I couldn't find a single cat. And I was kind of relieved, especially since I didn't have a litter box! And I was going to close my windows, so the cats would've had no way to go outside if they wanted to do their business. Still, I was a little worried about what could've happened to them.

The next day, I went by the front office to check my mail when I ran into the manager. I spotted some of the strays hanging out by the front office door. The manager said that on cold nights, she took the strays into the office, where she kept the heat on and left some food and water and a litter box for them. She also said that she used to call the animal shelter to pick up some of the strays, especially the ones with kittens. I had to admit I felt sort of relieved, knowing that the cats were being looked after; but I wondered what happened to the ones that ended up in the animal shelter. I hoped they went to good homes.

There are still a few strays roaming around; in fact, a couple of them and some pet cats are sleeping on the porch. Life is good for these fat cats. They just lounge about, feasting, enjoying each other's company or their own space, and they love how people stop by to visit them and shower them with affection. I hope you have the same good fortune in the New Year. So, to everyone, I wish you a wonderful, fantastic New Year! May your days be full of peace and serenity, may you feast among friends and loved ones, and may you find laughter and kindness that brings you true joy and great hope. Cheers!

Monday, December 29, 2008

White Rabbit

I'm late! I'm late! For a very important date!~White Rabbit, Alice in Wonderland

I was off today, and I had plans. I was going to wash my car, get it inspected and renew my tags (they expire this month), go shopping for some items that I needed (and wanted), then call some friends to go out for happy hour and dinner. Of course, since I knew that I'd be off today, I was up all night, hung out with some friends who were off this week, and made some calls to the other side of the world. I didn't go to bed til about five this morning. But I had set up my alarm clock to wake me up in a few hours. I figured I'd catch up on my sleep by getting a nap in the afternoon.

While waiting for breakfast to be done this morning, I turned on the t.v. and channel surfed. That was a mistake. I stumbled on Disney Channel showing Alice in Wonderland, a classic! So, of course, I started watching it. When that was over, the Princess Diaries sequel was on. Well, I didn't see that one, and I was mildly curious, so I figured, eh, why not? And by the time that was over, I had passed out on the sofa. When I woke up, it was after six in the evening. I was late, very, very late. The tags office was closed and I was probably going to miss happy hour, but I figured I still had time to wash my car and do the shopping. Then the promo came on saying the Peter Pan sequel was coming in an hour. Curse you, Disney! Tempting me with your movies! So naturally, I skipped the shopping and dinner but got to wash the car instead; and I got it done just in time to catch the movie.

Well, at least the car is clean. Tomorrow, I'll do my tags during lunch and maybe some shopping after work; at least that's the plan. I'll keep in mind to avoid the tv tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Holiday Hunting Season

I've been incredibly busy these last few days with work and life. Things happened. Some good, some stressful, most just unexpected. Whatever free time I had was spent scurrying about trying to get things done, things I thought I needed to do for others, to make the holidays a little more pleasant, for them at least. And in between running errands and obligations, I found a few, precious minutes to do the things I needed to do for me.

Last year, my two feet high, prelit, predecorated Christmas tree of over five years died. It was an artificial tree that I just set on the table, plugged it in, and watched it light up (blinking or continuous, depending on the setting). So this year, I decided to look for a replacement. But I found out that they don't make any more trees like my old one. Rather, they have some new ones that frankly, didn't quite have what I was looking for. Most look quite pathetic, actually, very cheap and just dull looking. Rather than despair over the lack of good table top trees, I thought maybe I ought to expand my search to include trees that I normally wouldn't consider. Thus, I ended up with a battery operated table top tree, less than a foot high.

Behold, the Winnie the Pooh table top tree!



Actually, it's like a toy. It blinks and it can play the tune of jingle bells if you so set it. It runs on batteries. And it only cost me ten dollars. They had a Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse versions, but I refuse to have rats in my home! Besides, the yellow ribbons work better with the tree than the red ones found on the other versions.

Still, I thought the tree needed something more. So for a dollar and ninety nine cents, I bought a train to circle the tree. I call the train, the Equatorial Express, since it only went around the tree in a circle, not towards the north (or south) pole. It did make the table top tree look more inviting, and I was pleased at first. Still, I miss the fun of plugging in the tree to watch it light up.

So imagine my surprise when I wandered through a thrift store and found a two feet high tree. This one would require lights and decorations. All in all, I spent less than ten dollars on everything. I had a small problem deciding which lights I wanted to use. I thought about getting just plain white; but then I realized that I actually preferred the colored lights. Only now, the colored lights that could be set to blink were much longer than what I needed. I finally decided on a shorter colored light set; it didn't blink, but it was energy efficient and LED, cool and long lasting. I knew that I wanted just silver decorations on the tree. That way, it would be like shiny, glistening snow. But I did find some blue drums that I thought would compliment the tree. I didn't have a tree topper, so I just wrapped the end of a garland to the top.

Behold, the second Christmas tree!



This one would keep the smaller one company.

To complete my holiday decor, I stumbled upon some great figures that I could use to create the Nativity.

Behold the Nativity!



Two native island girls playing native holiday songs.

Joining in the festivities are children; isn't Christmas the most magical time for them after all? They're actually ornaments, but I prefer to put them under the tree instead. I was actually hoping to find like a mixture of the world's children, but no luck. I wondered, did other children have precious moments like these ones? Or were such moments limited to geographical regions and ethnic groups? Well, at least these children were made in China--just like the majority of things made in this world. That makes these children Asian. That snow they're playing on is actually a doily I got as a gift from a coworker many years ago. She gave me a vase along with the one doily. I had no clue what to do with the doily, but it came in handy as pretend snow this year.

I was also hoping to get the Little Drummer Boy, but he's booked for a gig in Bethlehem. Oh, well, I quite like my trees and holiday ornaments. I like them a lot. Of course, holiday trees usually have holiday presents. So I've put one under there, just for me. That's right. I bought myself a present.

Actually, it was a great find. I found it during a lunch time shopping blitz. I figured, what the heck, I've all ready bought stuff for other people. Now's the time to buy something for me! And it's something I actually like and need! Want to see it?

Behold, the travel iron/steamer!



That's right; it's a travel iron/steamer! I'm tired of lugging around my only iron when I travel. I luv my iron, but it's big and heavy. And when I come home to check up on the place sometimes, I leave the iron at the place I'm staying at for work. That sucks, because then when I need the iron, I don't have it! Well, now I've got one specifically for travel and work, and I can leave my regular iron at home. I can still look good in pressed, wrinkle free clothes, and isn't that what we all want to look like at work? If not working hard, then at least looking good?

Speaking of working hard and looking good, I'm working today and tomorrow. So, if I don't catch up on you, I just wanted to wish y'all a very Happy Holiday Season. Merry Christmas to all! Best wishes to you, be safe, be happy, and I'll be keeping y'all in my thoughts!

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner--A fine affair

Part Three: The main course

7 people were seated around the large table. The other guests had opted to eat in the living room, to be entertained by those who were singing karaoke. Dinner and a show, I suppose. I took a moment to take a mental picture of the group assembled at the table. Tools was at one end, carving the tradition holiday turkey; the ham had all ready been sliced. On his left side, facing towards my way, sat Prodigy, who was discussing the prospects of the local team in the upcoming game. Across from Prodigy sat Cupcake; there was an empty seat between Cupcake and Bling; I took that seat as Shopgirl directed, and then I smiled at the other guests. Shopgirl took a plate of food and joined the group in the living room. Across from me sat Belladonna, who gave me a quick knowing glance before resuming her conversation with Gypsy and Roses, the daughter and mother lesbians. That's right. A daughter and mother who happened to be lesbians.

Roses, the mother, sat at the other end of the table; her daughter, Gypsy sat next to Belladonna. I said hello to Gypsy, since I didn't get a chance earlier. She was singing at the time. Gypsy smiled and returned my greeting happily, a twinkle in her eyes. I looked around for Roses' partner, Guns, but I didn't see her in the dining room. I had seen her earlier; I wondered where Guns could be.

Roses was actually Shopgirl's aunt. Roses worked as a financial officer in one of the larger accounting firms. Her partner of about ten years was Guns, whom Roses met during an after work drinks with some coworkers. For as long as I've known Guns and Roses, they've had this on again, off again relationship. Arguing, splitting up, but then getting back together a few days later, only to argue some more. I used to think, good gawd, just end it all ready! Move on and stop the misery! I never understood why they stayed together if they argued so much! Seriously, being together shouldn't be that much work, and it certainly shouldn't mean shouting matches and daily drama.

Guns was a former Navy sailor, and she cussed like one, too! Every conversation I had with Guns included her liberal use of colorful phrases like that muthaf*cka, that c*nt, or that cocks*cker! She always dressed in black, too. She wore the same outfit every time I saw her--black shirt and black jeans. Maybe she had a whole closet full of them. Was it her out on the town look? Was it a lesbian thing? I wasn't sure, but even during the hot summer, that was her choice of attire. Although, I did see her wearing a white shirt and black slacks one time--when she was getting off of work, of course. Guns kept her hair cut short, and she acted like a tomboy most of the time; I suppose this could make her butch, but really, I doubt it. I had seen her scream and jump up on a chair when someone brought a tarantula spider to a Halloween party. I don't think that's very butch behavior.

Back at the table, Cupcake had engaged Tools and Prodigy in their local sporting events conversation. That left Bling on my right talking to no one. So I thought I'd start a conversation with her. This was a social event after all, and I needed to act social. When talking to strangers, I've found three neutral topics that help break the ice: The weather, hobbies, and current events. So I decided to use the weather.

"Quite a cold evening we're experiencing. Well, cold at least for these parts. What do you think?", I asked. Start with a statement; follow with an open question; presto: invitation to conversation.

Bling replied, "Well, it is a bit chilly. But I've been in colder places."

Ah, information. Follow up to show interest and engage the other person, make them feel welcomed, "Really? Like where?"

Bling smiled. It was genuine smile,"Well, I used to live in Wisconsin; it was really cold there. Got below freezing at times."

"Wisconsin? The dairy state?," I replied, "Wow, that is freezing. You know, the closest I've ever been to Wisconsin was Chicago. And it was pretty dang cold there, too!"

The mention of Chicago got a surprise look from Bling, "I've been there! I love Chicago. It does get cold there." For the next few minutes, Bling and I traded stories about our experiences in Chicago. Surprisingly, the last time we were both there was a few years ago around the same time. I was visiting some friends; she was attending her brother's wedding.

Then I felt a tap on my left foot. I ignored it at first and continued my conversation with Bling. Then I felt the tap again, and this time, the tapping foot started to tap lightly, repeatedly, in a slow pattern on my foot. I looked at across the table to see Belladonna, smiling at me. That look in her eyes and coy smile confirmed my suspicions when the tapping foot started to climb on top of my shoe and start to massage the top of my foot. Ah, the game is afoot! We're playing footsie, I see. I've played this game before. So I started to rub back with my foot.

I continued my conversation with Bling, trying not let my excitement from Belladonna's foot massage show. It was a little difficult keeping a straight face while I was starting to tingle from the stimulation. It was a wickedly fun challenge, and I relished the excitement of it all. When we finished talking about Chicago, I complimented Bling. I noticed her blonde hair was cut above the shoulders and I could see highlights shimmering in her hair. So I told her, "I like you're hair. It looks great and it shines; it's a very good look."

Bling smiled, blushed, "Thanks. I just had it done recently." Women love genuine compliments. And then I felt Belladonna's foot start to climb up my shin. Ah, well, women love genuine compliments so long as they were directed towards them. I wondered if Belladonna was jealous at the attention I was paying towards to Bling; I certainly hoped so. In the meantime, I had to admit that I was enjoying Bling's company. It's always nice to meet new people and start a conversation. You never know what you might find. At the very least it'll keep you from getting bored.

A small silence followed after I gave Bling the compliment. I remembered what she said about her brother, so I asked Bling, "So is your brother still in Chicago?"

"Yes," she said, "he's still there."

"How's his wife?"

"Well," Bling paused, "they actually got divorced."

"Oh," I said," well, I hope he's doing fine."

"Yes, he's fine."

"Well, so long as he's happy, then that's what's really important," I said.

"Yes, he seems happy enough," Bling replied.

"These days it seems everyone is getting married and divorced," I said.

"Everyone except gay people," said Roses, suddenly joining in our conversation, "But given how expensive weddings and divorces are these days, I suppose it could be a good thing." Then she let out a laugh. That's why I called her Roses; no matter how bad things got sometimes, she always tried to see the bright side of things. Everything comes up roses for her, especially when she's had a few drinks!

"Well, some states allow gay people to marry. But I'm not sure if people are getting divorced these days because they weren't really ready for marriage at all or they're just making choices that work for them," I said.

"Probably a little of both," said Roses, "I was married once."

This much I did know. Roses was actually married before, and after her husband died, she became a lesbian. But that I was all I knew. The whole table was quiet as we all turned and paid attention to Roses, who was drinking a glass of chardonnay. "The world was different back then. I did it because it was expected of girls my age. I never knew any other type of life. So I married a young man who came a courting. We met at work. We were both naive and so innocent in the ways of the world." She paused, smiled, before whispering, "We both were virgins on our wedding night."

Gypsy let out a gasp!, "Mother! I don't think we need to hear all that!"

The rest of us tried not to giggle out loud, but Roses kept on, "Honey, it's true." She took another sip of Chardonnay and continued, much to Gypsy's horror, "That first time, I nearly choked going down on him."

"Oh my gawd, mother, please!," pleaded Gypsy.

But Roses continued, much to our delight, "He held my head down tight; oh, he knew what he wanted and I was curious at first, but it was getting ridiculous! When I finally came up for air, I was ready to tell him off when he went off all over me." Tools was red, trying hard not laugh. Cupcake held her napkin to her face trying to hide her laughter. Prodigy's mouth had dropped open. Belladonna just smiled. Bling gasped, "Oh, my!"

But Roses continued, "You know, I enjoy wearing pearls, but this was not the kind of pearl necklace that I had in mind."

That was it. The rest of us burst out laughing as Gypsy sat there, horrified by what her mother had said. Roses just sat there, sipping her chardonnay before saying, "Well, after that, I decided that I was going to do something about it. I grabbed him by the head and got what I wanted. The man was a very good listener and a quick study."

"Oh my gawd, mother, please stop!", begged Gypsy. But the rest of us were still enjoying this. We were laughing out loud.

"Darling," Roses said, "your father was a wonderful man, and I loved him very much. I don't think I'll ever quite love anyone else the way I loved him. I was very fortunate to have married him," she paused to pat Gypsy's hand, "Honey, all I'm saying is that sometimes, you've got to grab life by head to get what you want." That sent us into another fit of laughter! Conversation--you never know what you might find. I say again, at the very least it'll keep you from getting bored!

Tools started passing out the food down the table. I felt a tap on my foot again; we stopped playing footsie abruptly when we started giggling at Roses' tale. But it seemed like we were starting again at step one. Except, this tapping felt different from the first. And it when I tapped back, it was a shoe, not a foot. Odd, I thought. Maybe Belladonna's foot got cold, so she put it back in her shoe. But then she announced she was heading into the kitchen to get another bottle of wine and asked if anyone else wanted anything. As she got up and walked away, it occurred to me that I was still rubbing my shoe against someone else's shoe! Whose was it? I thought maybe Cupcake, but she wore heels. This shoe that was rubbing mine felt like a sneaker. It was Prodigy! Mother of pearl!

I looked at him but he was talking to Cupcake. Did he mistake my foot for Cupcake or was he playing coy? I didn't know how to take this. On the one hand, I suppose I should be flattered if he was making a pass--although one wasted on me. On the other hand, he might've mistaken my manly foot for Cupcakes delicate, tiny one! How dare he! Well, whatever he was planning, he was going to play by himself! I pulled my foot back to my chair just as Belladonna returned to the table. Prodigy shifted in his chair, so that confirmed my suspicion that it was his foot!

Speaking of Prodigy, he was telling Tools and Cupcake about his recent gig doing a fire performance at a warehouse downtown. His footwork aside, I was intrigued by his hobby. So I asked him, "How did you get started doing all this fire stuff?"

"In high school, I was a band leader. I had a big baton that I used to direct the marching band. One night, we got drunk at band camp and lit both ends of the baton on fire." What is it with these band camps? These band people are wild! "I started spinning it and I was hooked from then on. I started reading up on it on the internet and started practicing with torches and all sorts of stuff."

"That's pretty cool!," I said, "When's your next show? I'd luv to come see you perform!"

Prodigy replied, "Actually, I still have my gear in the trunk. If you'd like, I can show you all some things."

"Dude, that would be awesome!," I said, "But it's kind of chilly, so don't put yourself out. Maybe next time."

"Nah," said Prodigy, "When we're done eating, I'll just grab my stuff and do a quick show. It'll be fun."

"Cool!", I said. Everyone else was interested, too. By the time we were done eating, even the people in the living room wanted to see Prodigy's fire show. So people started heading out to the yard, watching in anticipation as Prodigy was setting up. The blistering cold winds had died down. I came back inside to get another refill of eggnog and I found Gypsy in the kitchen.

"Hey," I said, "how long you're going to be in town?"

"For Christmas, then I'm off to California for New Years," she said.

Gypsy had brown straight hair that was cut off below the shoulders. She had brown eyes with gold flecks in her irises; full, succulent lips that promised softness and sweet pleasure. She wasn't tall but she had beautiful, bountiful curves in all the right places. Gypsy had a wanderlust in her; her job took her to different parts of the country, and she loved it. That's why I called her Gypsy. Earlier this year at a party, she made a statement, saying that she was now a lesbian. I suppose it was her coming out party. Except for later on that night, she invited me over her place. And I was not going to turn down an invitation from her.

The next morning, I asked her what happened to being a lesbian? She laughed and said that she had invited me over just to make sure that she really was a lesbian. I suppose some people could see this as an insult. But not me. It was an opportunity. So I told her, well, the next time you have doubts, you just give me a call. She laughed at that. She called me a few more times this year; usually whenever we happened to be in town at the same time. And I just went along with it happily. The last time was the end of summer, and I asked her, "Not that that I'm complaining, but I'm curious, I thought lesbians preferred women. So what's going on?"

She sighed, rolled onto her side, looked me in the eyes and said, "Well, sometimes I enjoy spending time with a man."

"Well this man certainly enjoys spending time with you," I said. And we both laughed at that.

Now she was in the kitchen, drinking a glass of wine while I got myself some eggnog. She asked, "Any plans this weekend?"

"Nothing concrete," I replied, "I'll know more tomorrow."

She smiled and said, "Well, if you're free this weekend,just give me a call. We'll do something together." Then she walked out. Ah, an invitation. To say that I was feeling good is an understatement. I was exuberant! And I followed her out to the yard where Prodigy was getting ready to put on a show.

When I got outside, a small crowd had formed on the patio. Prodigy was on the grass, barefoot and shirtless. The man was dedicated to his art, that's for sure. Then he held up a torch and started spinning it. He spun it faster and faster til the other end of the torch caught fire as well, making a golden ring of fire. The crowd oohed and ahhed and we clapped as Prodigy started making tricks with his torch.

I made my way over to Shogirl, who was waving for me to come stand next to her and Bling. I asked Shopgirl, "Did you invite him over hoping for a show?"

"No," she said, "This is quite a surprise! Tools said you started it."

"Actually, Prodigy offered to show us what he can do, and we couldn't talk him out of it," I said.

I noticed Bling had her arms folded; she was cold, but she didn't want to miss the show. So I took of my jacket and offered it to her. She smiled, thanked me, and put it on. Prodigy had moved from one torch to spinning two. I did a quick scan of the crowd and spotted Gypsy standing by the patio table. Belladonna was standing next to her. Both of them looked at me and smiled, totally unaware that they were doing the same thing.

I had a dilemma. On the one hand, I was getting close to Belladonna. Closer than I've ever been. I couldn't help but feel like a moth drawn to her flame. That never ends well for the moth that got too close. Then there was Gypsy. She was fun, and I did enjoy spending time with her. I had to admit that I was exhilarated at my prospects. Except, I couldn't help feeling that someone was being betrayed. I just wasn't sure who was being betrayed. Both were in the dark about our situation and entanglements. Not that it was anyone's business; but I had to admit that there was a certain thrill that came with keeping this secret. I just smiled back at Gypsy and Belladonna and watched them turn their eyes back to the show. Prodigy had moved from spinning torches to spinning these balls of fire on metal chains. He created these amazing patterns in the air as the flaming balls rushed into the darkness, leaving a trail of golden light. It seemed almost magical the way these paths curved and bent and flashed before they vanished in the darkness as new paths formed and illuminated the night briefly and hypnotically.

I had an interesting thought as I watched those ephemeral flaming patterns. Opportunity was like that. When it arrives, it stands out; but it doesn't last long. I had an opportunity to spend time pursing Belladonna to the finish line, but there was not guarantee that I'd win a medal. Or I could go with Gypsy and enjoy helping her celebrate the holidays. The gods had either blessed me tonight with such bounty or they're testing me with such temptations. If I was lucky, I might not have to choose at all. In less than a second I entertained the thought of maybe I could have them both, at the same place, same time. But that was a very fleeting, evil thought. Fun it may be in fantasy, the reality might be a little more dangerous, especially to my well being. But I did have to make a choice; it was only a matter of time before the opportunity slipped away. Tick Tock.

Part Four: Dessert

Prodigy ended his show to a loud standing ovation from the rest of us. He took a bow and we clapped some more. Then a few of us went to help him pack up his gear while the rest of the guests filed back indoors, talking excitedly about the show. We complimented Prodigy on his performance, helped him carry his gear back to his car. Then Tools took him to one of the bathrooms and handed him a towel so he could clean off and refresh before rejoining the party.

Inside, I finally spotted Guns. She was picking a song for the karaoke machine. Tools came by and we hung by the wall, talking when Roses walked up to us and announced, "Don't forget to get some dessert. I made some pecan pie. Help yourselves to my delicious pie, it's warm and moist!"

Tools snickered, pretending to take a drink while I said, "Oh, that sounds great. We'll definitely try some. Thanks."

Soon as Roses walked out of the room, Tools and I started laughing, "Dude," he said, "That was too funny!"

"Well, we ought to be careful lest she grabs us by the head and makes us eat her pie!," I said. And we laughed some more.

Then the music started and we turned to see Guns singing. She had a great singing alto voice and her passion often came through. Of course, she was singing KD Lang. No surprise, I guess. She was all ready wearing black. And at karaokes, she either sang KD Lang, or Melissa Etheridge, or Sophie B Hawkins. And for tonight's selection, she was singing "Constant Craving".

Still feeling juvenile, Tools whispered, "I bet I know what she's craving." And we started to giggle again.

"Really, now? What is she craving?" It was Shopgirl; damn her for showing up at the most inopportune times! She gave Tools and me a look like she was deciding whether to scold us or let us be.

So I said, "Probably dessert. We haven't had any yet." She looked at me shrugged, then looked at Tools while I continued, "Maybe even a piece of Roses' pecan pie!"

Shopgirl turned to me as Tools struggled to keep from laughing. Shopgirl asked me, "And what about you? What are you craving?"

"The usual," I replied, "Peace on Earth and goodwill towards men. And you?"

"What a girl wants; what a girl needs," she said.

"You all ready have a man. Anymore and you'll be breaking the law, you hussy!," I said.

"No," she said, "I was talking about jewelry."

Tools had this wicked look in his eyes and said, "Well, honey, you might just get some; maybe some pearls."

Now it was my turn to stifle my laughter, while Tools gave me knowing glance. It was hard trying to keep from busting out, but if Shopgirl knew what we were talking about, Tools can forget about the pearls. Hell, he might just lose the family jewels! Shopgirl just smiled and then walked off. Soon as she was out of sight, Tools and I started laughing again. Sometimes, it feels good to be juvenile; it was just pure fun to be that ridiculous.

We had dessert then sat down for a game of poker, then gin rummy, then Uno. Bling handed me back my jacket and thanked me again for lending it to her. Throughout the card game, we all alternated singing Xmas songs and listening to other people singing karaoke. At one point Shopgirl, Gypsy, and Belladonna did their girl group performance to the tunes of the Shirelles and the Ronettes. But the most impressive singing performance of the evening had to be by Sky Captain and Mrs Sky Captain. They did an amazing duet of Smokey Robinson's Crusin' that blew us away.

I found myself keeping an eye on Belladonna throughout the evening. She did the same to me. I'd feel her gaze on me and I'd turn slowly to see her looking at me, smiling before she looked down. Then she looked back at me, laughed and looked away. Eventually, we found ourselves standing by steps, away from everybody. She was leaning on the wall, drinking from a glass when she suddenly said, "You know, I feel like going out to dance."

"That might be fun," I said.

"There's this place not far from where I live. They play a number of fantastic old school jams and dance numbers," she said.

Choice. I had to make one. In the living room, I could see Gypsy, laughing as she played card games with some of the other guests. She was certainly an attractive and beautiful woman, and I did miss her company. Whatever it was we had was certainly wonderful and just so freeing. But in front of me was Belladonna. The object of my semi obsession. I didn't know where this would lead, but I knew I would regret it if I didn't try to follow this through to the end. The opportunity was here; seize it or lose it. So, I made up my mind. "That sounds good. So why don't we check it out?"

She looked at me, thinking, but then slowly grinned, "Well, let's go."

We decided to say our good byes to the others separately, with me leaving first. I said good bye to Shopgirl last before I headed out to my car and waited. Belladonna came out a few minutes later. I followed her first to her place, where we parked my car then drove hers to a club not far from her place. We parked the car and headed inside. The music was definitely old school, circa 1990s. I was surprised that there was a good crowd in the club, especially considering how chilly it was tonight. Belladonna led the way to the middle of the dance floor. I couldn't help but be captivated by her slow, swaying movements. She turned to face me, arms open, reaching for mine, hips swaying sensually side to side, eyes looked on mine, her body turning to the beat of the music.

They say a small amount of Belladonna causes euphoria; too much causes death. At this point, I was intoxicated; how much more could I take before it became fatal? Would life mean as much or be as exciting if there was no risk, no death? And isn't that what drew me to her in the first place, the thrill and the exhilaration? Why else would I have come this far? So I reached for her open arms, grasped her hands, and let the music and emotions guide my body, eager for the dangers and the overwhelming passions, the chance of a little death.

Return to Friday morning...

I finished drinking the hot tea and decided to give Shopgirl a call. It was still early enough to catch her before she left for work. I dialed her number and she answered on the first ring. We exchanged pleasantries before she asked, "What are you doing?"

"I'm about to take a shower," I answered.

She asked, "So where did you go last night?"

"No where," I said.

"You must've went somewhere; I mean, I left a bunch of messages. Either you went to bed early or you just ignored my calls," she said.

"Okay, so I went out," I said.

"Out? Out where?"

"Just out," I said.

"Oh my gawd, you went looking for some whore to sleep with!"

"How dare you!," I feigned indignation, "You know damn well that it was too cold last night for the whores to be out! And anyway, I did not pick up any whores! Anyone I spent my time with did so of their own free will! Freely and Willingly"

"So you did pick up some skank!," she said, "And here I was trying to set you up with a nice girl."

I wasn't sure if she was joking or not so I asked, "Set me up with who?"

"With Bling! Why do you think I was trying to get you to talk to her last night?"

Now it all made sense why she kept putting me next to Bling; I couldn't help but laugh at Shopgirl's persistence. "You know, I thought we had agreed that you'd stop trying to set me up."

"We never agreed to such a thing!", she said, "Besides, I'm trying to hook you up with some very nice girls."

"You know," I said, "If you really wanted to hook me up, forget the nice girls; hook me up with some of your sluttier friends. I know you've got a bunch of them." And I started laughing.

Shopgirl laughed and replied, "You know what, go wash your skanky, whoring ass; you're making me feel dirty!" And with that we said our good byes and hung up the phone.

I had to admit that I did not expect Shopgirl to set me up on a blind date at one of her dinner parties. Very crafty. I hoped that her plan's failure would ensure she'd back off from the set ups; but she was never one to give up easily. I knew that once more, the next time I was invited over to Shopgirl's, I'd've to start guessing who was coming to dinner and why. Still, it was quite an affair, she did throw great parties, and I, for one, certainly enjoyed how it all turned out.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner

Part One: Appetizers

Friday morning.

The cold wind snapped at my face while I was fumbling with my keys, trying to find the right one that would open the door. The early morning sun was obscured by thick clouds, hiding most of the light and warmth. Last night was cold, but not as cold as two nights ago when the temperature dropped to the low 20s F. The news two nights ago warned of a hard freeze; that was really freezing cold in these parts. In fact, it was so cold that I actually closed my kitchen window; usually, I like to keep it open when I'm home; I like the fresh air.

Finally, I got the door open, went inside and closed the door quickly. Ah, it felt good to be back home. I locked the door, kicked off my shoes, and dropped the keys on the coffee table. I really needed to take a long, steamy, hot shower so I could feel clean. But first, I wanted some hot tea to warm me up this morning. As I made my way to the kitchen, I saw my answering machine blinking. Three messages. Huh, wondered who that could be. Soon as I set up the water to boil, I pressed Play on the answering machine, half expecting it to be messages from telemarketers. Bastards.

But surprisingly, it wasn't telemarketers. In fact, all three messages were from the same person. It was a friend of mine that I had seen yesterday evening no less. Earlier in the week, she had invited me over for a holiday dinner party held last night at her place. Two of her messages were left the night before. The first one was a thank you for attending and she hoped I had a good time. The second one was her checking to make sure I got home safe. The third message she left early this morning, wanting me to give her a call. It didn't sound urgent, so I debated on whether or not to call her now. I really needed to hit the shower so I could feel fresh and ready to deal with rest of the day. But I decided to wait for the tea to be ready before I made up my mind. In the meantime, I set stereo to play CDs at random while I dug through my cupboards, trying to decide what I should eat. I also started thinking about the events of the evening before.

Flashback to the evening before...

The chilly air stung my cheeks and ears as I rang the doorbell. I held bottle of wine in one hand and a bag with half a gallon of pistachio ice cream in the other. Waiting for the door to open, I looked around at the holiday decorations surrounding the house. A flashing snowman by a flashing reindeer on the lawn; white lights wrapped around a tree; a bunch of twigs fashioned into an ugly wreath hung on the door. Seriously, it was an ugly bundling of sticks topped off with a bright red bow. I hoped they got this piece of crap as a gift or at least handmade it themselves; Halloween was a few months ago! They should've hung that kindling then when the jack o lanterns were out. That would've scared the children. I certainly wouldn't pay money for that eyesore, much less hang it on the door. And that door was opened to reveal my friend, who had invited me over to her place for dinner tonight.

Flashback Alert! Fade to the past...

I've known her for a few years now, since college, actually. Back then, she was working in the business center of a grocery store, where people went to pay their bills. She had started working for this grocery store chain while in high school, starting off as a cashier. Now, a few years after getting her business degree, she was the manager of the business center at one of the busier and newer grocery stores. I'll call her Shopgirl. Shopgirl was a party girl in college. If there was music, she would dance; and if she had alcohol, she'd dance on the tables. It must've been a grocery worker thing, because most of her friends from the store partied just as hard--and I loved partying with her. She was no stranger to body shots and bar hopping. Then I introduced her to my friend, Tools.

Tools was an old friend I had met at work, right after high school. We met at a new employee orientation, and ended up working the same section for a few years. A bunch of us young guys became good friends. This was probably because we were on our own for the first time, and there was an excitement in doing new things together, having only each other to rely on in a strange, new place. The last year I worked for the company, Tools got his calling; and being the good Mormon boy that he was, took off for a year long mission in Africa. We kept in touch with sporadic letters and the occasional care package I sent him. When Tools was done with his mission, he signed up for military service for a few years. When he got out, he got a job working as a crew chief repairing helicopters and airplanes for the military. We got in touch again when he transferred to San Antonio, just a few hours from where I went to college. I found out that he had actually left the Mormon church, after coming to the hard realization that he couldn't support many of the Church's positions and teachings. I was surprised at that, especially since he had spent some time ministering to people about his faith. But that was before he had an awakening, and I was more disappointed that he and his family had a falling out over this. But Tools seemed happy, so I was happy for him.

He came down Spring Break week to stay with me, and I held a party where I introduced him to all my friends, including Shopgirl. That was a meeting I'll never forget. Shopgirl was instantly smitten. Tools was into her as well. For the rest of the day, Shopgirl stuck with Tools, laughing, talking, touching his arm. It was so bizarre not seeing her getting plastered; she declined to do body shots; even stranger, she wasn't on the table grinding to the music or flirting about shamelessly with other party goers. When Tools went to the restroom, Shopgirl pulled me aside to say, "Oh my gawd! Why didn't you tell me your friend was so hot!"

I raised an eyebrow and said, "Um, I didn't realize I was suppose to classify my friends as hot or not."

"Shut up!", she said,"He's cute. What kind of girls does he like?" There was an urgent, almost schoolgirl like anxiety in her voice. I found that hilarious.

"Um, he likes girls, I guess."

She gave me an exasperated look, "No, you idiot! I mean does he like blondes or brunettes? I mean what kind of girl does he go for?" Clearly, she was crushing on Tools.

So I repeated, "Um, he likes girls. Look, he's a nice guy."

She cut me off, "Oh my gawd!, " she had this horrified look on her face, "He's a missionary! He probably likes those church type girls--all prim and prissy and proper!"

"Ex missionary," I said, "Ex Mormon, actually." But she wasn't paying attention.

She suddenly turned to me, pleading, "You have to tell him good things about me."

"What?," I asked. Clearly, the girl had lost her mind over the boy.

She repeated, "You have to tell him good things about me. Make me sound really nice and wholesome."

It was too funny watching her like this. I couldn't resist, "So you want me to lie to him?"

"No!," she hissed!,"I want you to tell him all the good things about me. About how I'm a caring, charitable person. I'm a nice girl with family values."

"So that's a yes?," I said, "You want me to lie to him?"

"Shut up!," she hit me on the shoulder, "Muthaf*cka! Just tell him I' m really a really good catch! I'm a down to earth, wholesome kind of gal! Just sell him on the thought of me, you jackass!"

"Ya know, " I couldn't help saying, "good girls don't use that kind of language; and girls who need pimping are called whores."

I laughed out loud, but she quickly hit me again on the arm, harder this time, "Ow!", it stung!

She had this determined look in her eyes and said, "If you were my friend, you would do this for me or else!"

"All right," I said, "Just chill, girl. I'll hook you up. But you know, I'm pretty sure he'll like you for who you are."

"Yeah, well, for today, I'm someone else! Here he comes! Now start selling!," she whispered.

Truth was, I didn't really need to sell Tools on Shopgirl. Chemistry, I guess. They just clicked. Within a year they were engaged. After a while, they got married. The rest is history. Of course, ever since Shopgirl got married, she decided that my being single was a disease, and she had the cure. She started setting me up on blind dates. I didn't mind at first, because some of the girls were fun. But most of them were looking to get married. Total mood killer. Look, there's nothing wrong with wanting to get married. I'm just not feeling it.

When I stopped accepting Shopgirl's blind date set ups, she got clever and tricked me a few times. Shopgirl knew my weakness for free food; I'm all for it! So she started inviting me over to have dinner with her and Tools whenever I was in town. Lured by the promise of free food, I'd show up with an appetite, and I'd inevitably meet some unfamiliar girl Shopgirl had invited. Clearly, the blind date set ups had evolved. After being tricked this way a few times, I started to get wary, and every time I was asked to dinner, I always made sure to question if this was blind date setup. Most of the time, Shopgirl told the truth. But she couldn't resist surprising me a few times by having some girl show up at the last minute. In a twisted way, I know that she does it because she cares; sometimes, I just wish she didn't care so much!

Eventually, I outmaneuvered Shopgirl. A few times, I'd show up for dinner bringing a date! That made for some awkward fun at Shopgirl's expense. Tools thought it was hilarious. Eventually, Shopgirl stopped trying to set me up. But she still threw rocking parties that were attended by lots of fun people. Still the party girl. And that's what I looked forward to tonight.

Part Two: Drinks

Return to last night...

Shopgirl was smiling as she hugged me and greeted me. I walked into her home to hear the sounds of Christmas songs playing on the stereo. I spotted her Xmas tree, all white but trimmed in gold ornaments and silver tinsel; quite the stylish, stunning tree as opposed to the wreath horror that hung on the front door. Tools came over and greeted me, a quick hug and we headed towards the kitchen to drop off the wine and put the ice cream in the freezer. Pistachio was Shopgirl's favorite flavor of ice cream. I looked around and noticed most of the guests were drinking wine; a few had eggnog. I was offered a glass of wine, but I refused, saying that I was driving. So I took a glass of non alcoholic eggnog instead. Is it still eggnog if there's no alcohol in it? I suppose it is since it still contains eggs, but I think it's really more of a protein shake now without the rum or brandy.

I was introduced to some of the guests I didn't know: A lovely blond girl from Shopgirl's pilates class; she worked in a jewelry store selling diamonds, so I'll call her Bling. Then a few neighbors--the airline pilot and his wife, Mr and Mrs Sky Capt. Then there was Cupcake; she worked in the bakery, one of Shopgirl's coworkers. And finally, Prodigy--he was a fire starter, actually a fire dancer. Seriously, dude worked as a bookkeeper in the day and performed fire tricks at raves and clubs and parties at night.

Then I headed into the living room. A quick scan and I noted a few people that I knew. Some I said hello to, and others were busy singing and dancing to Xmas songs. I finished my eggnog, and returned to the kitchen to leave my glass. I was going to get more eggnog, but I need to use the restroom real quick. After I was done there, I washed my hands and stepped back out. But before I headed towards the kitchen, I noticed the den was open. I peeked inside and was glad that I did.

By fortunate chance I had found one of the most alluring creatures I've ever known, Belladonna. She had a reputation for being a maneater and a wild child. She was as bewitching as she was poisonous, tempting me but circumstances put her beyond my reach. Perhaps I should be thankful, because my mind kept telling me to stay away, and that she was dangerous to my sanity and well being. But the loins pay no heed to reason, the attraction was primal and instinctual.

She was one of Shopgirl's best friends. Childhood chums, actually. She was on a volleyball scholarship to the same college that Shopgirl and I attended. And I tried to go to every game she played. I'm a big fan of women's volleyball--indoors and beach. Any sport where women showcase their incredible athletic skills have my support. And here she was, sitting on the sofa. She was slowly flipping through some photo albums, giving no indication that she was aware that she was being watched.

She was pale, tall, and had long, straight, black hair that reached her waist and bangs that almost touched her eyebrows. She had the longest, smoothest pair of porcelain white legs I had ever seen. And she was doing that same maddening thing that drew me to her the first time I noticed her. She was sitting crossed leg, the right leg on top of the left, with her sleek, black shoe dangling dangerously on her toes. I was entranced by the delicate and graceful movements of her toes, measured, deliberate circles that caused her shoe to dance on the edge of falling. I could've watched that for a while, but then I felt aware that her eyes were on me. And I looked up and connected my gaze with her brown eyes. Electric. I smiled, said hello; she did the same.

"Mind if I join you?," I asked.

"Not at all," she replied.

I walked in and sat on the same sofa she was on. It's not like we were strangers or anything. We've met before and we've hung out at gatherings. Trouble was, there were always people there so we couldn't really spend time alone. Plus, either she or I usually brought a date at those gatherings. There was never a right time, though I've always felt a connection there somewhere. And I think she felt it, too. There've been a lot of time when I'm at a party and I've felt her looking at me. I would turn slowly and sure enough, she was staring, giving me a quick smile before she looked away for a second, only to look back at me. Then she would move on with her date. It was like a game of tag we were playing; except I wasn't entirely sure who was chasing whom.

Last time we met, I found out that she was with some dental student; I'll call him Floss. Of course, I hadn't see Floss here, yet. Not that I was eager to talk to him; and it didn't have have anything to do with jealousy. Well, I did feel a small sense of dismay when I found out that Belladonna was dating Floss. Bastard. But really, I didn't want to talk to Floss because he was so dull! The first time we talked, I was trying to be polite when I asked him what he did. First he said he was a dental student. Then he launched into a lecture about waxed floss vs unwaxed floss and the pros and cons of mouthwashes! I tried to change the subject, but every time there was pause in the conversation, Floss would inevitably bring the conversation back to bleaching and brushing. I thought, Good gawd! When this man gets his first patient, he's not going to need to use anesthesia. He just needs to start talking and the patient will pass out from boredom!

Trying to make conversation, I asked Belladonna, "So, is Floss around?"

She stopped twirling her shoe with her toes, looked at me with a stoic expression and said, "He's not here."

All right! I thought, Excellent!, "Oh, okay."

But she continued, "We're kind of taking a break from each other."

"Ah," I said, but thinking, Yeeehaaa!, "I see. Are you okay?"

"Yeah, I'm fine," she answered.

But she didn't look fine; for a brief second, I could see anger flash in her eyes. I thought about pressing her for a real answer, but decided to change the subject instead. "So, seen any interesting diseases lately?"

She laughed, "Just the usual." She was a microbiologist at one of the biggest hospitals around.

"No newly discovered germs that would wipe out mankind?," I jested.

"No. Not this week at least," she replied.

"Are you sure?," I asked, "Maybe you haven't been looking in the right places."

"Oh, really?," she asked, "Like where?"

"Like the front door, for instance. Have you seen that abomination trying to pass itself off as a holiday wreath hanging on the door!?!", I asked.

That got her laughing again. It was a sweet, melodious sound. The moment only made more surreal by the hair toss at the end of her laughing. "You know, Shopgirl worked really hard to put that thing together."

"So? It's still a fugly piece of crap! Was she on drugs when she made it? Friends don't let friends hang up crap!," I said, "All you've got to do is declare that thing unsanitary and a public health hazard and we'll get Prodigy to burn it! Hell, we'll turn it into yule kindling! It'll be a holiday celebration and recycling at the same time."

That got her laughing out loud again and when she stopped she said, "Oh, I needed to laugh."

"Well," I said, "You should laugh more; you've got such a great laugh."

Soon as I said that, her smile changed, becoming somewhat more mischievous; she looked me in the eyes and tilted her head slightly to the side as asked, "You think I've a great laugh?"

Electric. I said, "It's one of the many great things about you that I find so fascinating."

"Really?", she asked, "Tell me, what else about me fascinates you."

I smiled, "Well, how much time do we have? Because this could take a while."

And she let out another laugh followed by her hand tossing her hair back. And then that hand came to rest on top of sofa, just inches away from my own hand. Heart beating fast, temperature rising, time slowing. Now or never. I slowly slid my hand towards her til our fingers touched. Electric. Passion pulses through my body, sending shivers of joy from the top of my head to the tips of my toes. I felt the hairs on my arms stand up. Time stops, eyes locked. Smiles uncertain, a strong sense that something big was about to happen. Magic moment. And I was ready to seize that moment.

"There y'all are! Come to the table and get something to eat. Everyone else has." It was Shopgirl. Damn you, woman!

Belladonna stood up, and looked at me and said, "Perfect; I'm feeling a little hungry for something." Then she looked at Shopgirl, smiled and walked out. No, she moved like a cat, slow, graceful, a hint of tightly wound energy just underneath the smooth, swaying curves.

I got up and Shopgirl gave me this puzzled look, as if she were calculating something in her mind. Then she said, "Come on; I've saved you a seat at the table."

I was hungry, too. But my appetite was craving something other than food. I felt like I was full of tension and tingling with anticipation. My senses seemed sharper, I felt restless, like I needed to release a lot of energy. I wondered if this is what predators felt like before they hunted down prey. And I couldn't help but wonder, just for tonight, which one was I, the hunter or the hunted?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Parking Space

It's been a crazy weekend for me, though the truth is, it started Thursday. I've worked late from Wed to Friday, but the at least I got the weekend off. Though, due to circumstances and happy chance, I didn't get to do what I had planned on doing. Mainly, I didn't have time to do laundry on Sunday, my laundry day. Luckily, I have clean stuff I could still wear; I'll do the washing and ironing tonight. I'll update later on tonight, and I'll be visiting blogs to catch up as well.

In the meantime, I'm home for lunch after having made a quick stop at a local shop. It's one of the more popular ones in the shopping complex about five minutes away from home. I parked the car, got out, and was about to cross into the store when a voice yelled out, "You, there!"

I ignored it at first because I was waiting for the cars to pass by so I could cross. But then I heard an even louder, "You there, young man!"

I turned to see who was doing all this shouting. It was an old woman in a Cadillac, sporting large sunglasses and a huge beehive! I wasn't sure if it was a wig or if she'd put a serious dent in the ozone layer with all the hairspray used to freeze that monstrosity. Even more surprising than the feat of her tiny neck holding up such a gargantuan hairdo was the fact that she appeared to have been calling me. I had no idea who this old bird was, and I looked around to see if perhaps she was calling someone else. Nope. Just me.

"Young man," she addressed again, "Yes, you," she sounded exasperated, as if she couldn't believe how much time she was wasting talking to me.

I was thinking, okay, rude. I probably should walk away. But in the tiny corner of my brain, that die hard sense of courtesy ingrained in me since birth railed up, asking me to go over to see what the old lady wanted. Damned sense of courtesy! But what the hell, maybe she was lost and needed some directions. So I walked over to the old lady and asked, "What can I do for you, ma'am?"

Up close, her face had more wrinkles than a whore's dirty linen in the laundry pile. And there was a huge mole on the side of her chin with two hairs sprouting out as if to say, look at us! We're right here! I almost expected to see a little face in that mole looking back at me. The old lady wore bright red lipstick that was smeared on her dentures. I mean, they had to be dentures. They were too white and too straight for someone who was smoking a cigarette, and her gravelly, low voice and tar tainted breath suggested she had a long affair with tobacco. The old lady perfume she bathed herself in mixed with the stench of cigarettes to create a pungent, mothball like odor that oozed off her noticeably, as if she were trying to keep away the insects from devouring her all ready decaying body. She took a puff of that cigarette, blew it out, not caring that some of the smoke was wafting towards my face. She tapped that cigarette into an ashtray and asked, "Is there any parking down that way?", indicating the direction that I was coming from.

I said, "Yes, there is."

"That would be all," she said quite haughtily and immediately drove off.

I'm thinking, Huh! You're welcome! So I headed into the store and picked up the item that I wanted, paid for it and headed back out. I was about to reach the exit when who should I run into but the old lady, huffing and puffing at the entrance, looking quite ragged. Upon seeing me she accosted, "You, young man! You said that there was parking down the way when I asked you!"

Her loud voice had caused a few people to stop and turn to see what all the commotion was about. I stopped, turned and said to her, "Yes, there was parking that I saw down there. You didn't find any empty spots?"

"The only spots open were far down! I had to walk all the way from the back!," she replied angrily.

So I said, "You asked if there was parking and I told you there was. But you never asked how far it was."

She looked offended and said, "Well, young man, you may not have any problems walking from the back lot, but I'll have you know, that it's quite far for a person like myself."

"Well, I wouldn't know how far the walk is from the back lot, " I said, "especially since I parked in the front lot. Happy Holidays," and I smiled and walked out, leaving to her fume and catch her breath by the front door, the onlookers giggling. Ah, now life is funny sometimes.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Are you there Santa? It's me

I was sitting on the sofa, feet up on the coffee table, drinking a screwdriver. The dishes were all ready washed; the leftovers packed away in the fridge; and the trash can was emptied. All that was left to do was to check out the tv listings and see what shows were on to entertain me. But before I could read the listings, the phone rang. It was one of my older sisters number.

I debated whether or not I should answer the telephone. I wondered what my sister wanted. We aren't particularly close. I mean, we love each other, but we don't see eye to eye on a lot of things. Most of my older siblings are not really close to the three of us who are the youngest, my two brothers and I. It might have to do with the age differences. I mean, most of my older siblings are more than ten years older than the three of us who were the youngest. Somehow, our older siblings feel like they had the right to tell us young'uns what to do, always judging us, like we were still children. News flash, we're not children, and we're not your kids, either! It's like they're always looking down on us, thinking that they're better somehow. Nothing we ever do is good enough for them. Not that their lives are any less chaotic than ours. I mean, they make mistakes, too. I just don't care to listen to them go on and on about what they want me to do. My life, my choices.

It does bother them when I don't listen to their instructions. When they start bitching at me, I enjoy telling them, you're not my mommy or my daddy! You can't tell me what to do! When I'm feeling really mischievous, I like to say, you're not the boss of me! It's not that I don't love them, I mean, I do. It's just that I don't care for their judgments and their interference in my life. I've learned to ignore their attitudes and dismay at my decisions. I'm happy with my life, and I think it pisses them off that I don't listen to them, because I enjoy really making my own choices.

Most conversations with my sister end up with her telling me what do and expressing her disapproval. I didn't know if I wanted to pick up that ringing phone and talk to her tonight. I thought about letting the machine pick it up. If it was something important, then she'd leave a message. But at the last minute, before the answering machine kicked in, I picked up the phone instead.

I was surprised to hear that it wasn't my sister on the other end of the line. Rather it was my niece who had called me. At eight years old, she was the youngest of my sister's four kids. It was a surprise to hear her voice.

I wondered what was going on so I asked, "What's up? Everything all right?"

She was quiet, and said a tentative, "Yeah," but I could hear that anxiety in her voice, like she had something important she was trying to ask, but wasn't sure how to ask it.

So I bought her some time and asked, "What's everyone doing?"

She said, "Mommy's in the kitchen. Dad's in the office." Her siblings were either playing video games or watching tv.

So I gently asked her, "What's going on? Did you want to talk about something?"

She was quiet, but then completely surprised me by asking, "Is Santa Claus real?"

Well that was unexpected. But she was at that age where kids start to question things. I wasn't sure how to answer. So I asked her, "Well, why do ask?"

She said that some kids at school had said that Santa Claus wasn't real. And when she got home, she asked her older siblings, and they too said Santa was not real. When she asked her parents though, they both assured her that Santa was real. But she now had doubts. So, she thought she'd call me and see what I had to say about Santa Claus.

Oye, now I'm really wishing that I had let the answering machine pick up this call. My niece was having a crisis of faith--in things magical; and I wasn't sure I was the right person to help her. I mean, she was at that age where reality starts to tear away at mythical beliefs and magical wonder. I wasn't sure how to handle this. Should I be honest with her or let her enjoy that childhood fantasy just a little while longer? But wouldn't encouraging her to believe in Santa Claus hurt her more when she finds out that maybe we've lied to her?

When I was a child, the concept of Santa Claus confused me. I mean, I liked getting presents, but I had a hard time understanding why some old man in a red suit would give me presents and only on Christmas. And trying to get pictures with Santa was a confounding experience. I was very unsure about that, and I didn't want to do it. I'm supposed to sit on some old man's lap and tell him what I want for Xmas? I thought I wasn't supposed to talk to strangers! Hello? Mom, Dad, I'm getting conflicting messages here! We didn't have a chimney either, so I wondered, how would Santa get inside our house? So I asked my parents about that, and how would Santa know which house was ours? I was told, he was magic! And I believed it.

Of course, when I got a little older, I became more disturbed at the thought of Santa Claus. Have you ever listened to some of the lyrics of Santa Claus is coming to town? He knows when I'm sleeping or awake? He knows if I've been bad or good? Oh, my God! Is Santa spying on me? Is he watching me while I'm using the toilet or taking a shower! Is he following me around? Stalker! Are he and his minions listening in on private conversations and phone calls, reading personal mail like some secret, shady gov't organization? And why hasn't Santa been arrested for breaking and entering into sleeping people's homes? Isn't home invasion against the law? Just because he's leaving presents doesn't mean it's okay to break into someone's house. It's called trespassing!

But nevermind my issues with Santa Claus; this was my niece seeking answers. I just wasn't sure what to tell her. So I asked her, "What do you think? Do you believe there's a Santa Claus?"

She was quiet again, but then she said, "I don't know. Do you believe in Santa?"

Well, I thought about it; then I said, "You know, there are a lot of things in this world that we can't see or touch; but they're real. You can't see the wind but you can feel it. You can see a rainbow but you can't catch it. You can't see love but you know it when you feel it. That's like magic. You can't always see it, but you'll know it when you feel it."

"So Santa's like magic? He's real?", she asked.

I thought, aww, what the hell, why not?, "Santa's magic is real. You know why?"

"Why?", she asked.

"Because," I said, "Santa's magic comes from the spirit of giving. Christmas isn't just about getting presents. It's about being kind to people, doing something good for someone else. Because the spirit of Christmas is all about sharing. That's what Santa is all about. And when you give a present or do something really nice for someone, you're a part of Santa's magic. So long as you keep sharing and giving, you keep the magic alive."

Well, that seemed to make her happy; for now, she was satisfied and much more upbeat than when she first called. Then she asked if I wanted to speak to her mommy and I quickly said no, thanks, maybe some other time. So we said our good byes and hung up the phone. I finished my screwdriver and got up and fixed myself another. But before I sat back down to enjoy this one, I had one more task to do.

I pulled out a Xmas card and addressed it specifically to my niece. I wrote her a personal note and put in a 20 dollar bill. Well, the kid's had a rough experience, so she deserved a nice surprise. I'm sure her siblings will be jealous when she gets her card. It's been years since I bought any of my nieces and nephews individual gifts. There's just too many of them! Seriously, I've lost count! So I've been sending group gifts instead, something they could all enjoy. But this was a special case, and my niece deserves to be treated just a little extra special this Xmas. I wanted her to keep believing in the Christmas magic; I wanted her to maintain that child's sense of wonder and enthusiasm for fantasy and magic, that all things were possible if you believed.

Besides, it wasn't my place to take away her hopes and dreams and crush her fantasies. That job belonged to her parents!
 
 Related Links:
Hope is a yellow dump truck
Shoes
Holiday Dismay
It's the Most Stressful Time of the Year
The thing about fathers
Best Laid Plans
Veterans Day Reflection

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Holiday Dismay

Today's post is inspired by Tara who has a great, fun calendar feature on her blog. Today is Share an Unhappy Holiday Memory Day. Well, I've had my share of holiday downers and disappointments. So in the spirit of the day, I'm going to write about one of them.

When I was five years old, I was old enough to attend Sunday School. Sunday School children, in addition to learning about the Bible, put on plays and shows for all the major holidays, from Palm Sunday to Good Friday and Easter, Mother's Day, Father's Day, Thanksgiving, and so forth. There's a lot of hard work and time invested in these church productions. You can't imagine how many cartoon hours I lost because I was forced to participate in these church performances. Our biggest performance had to be the Christmas Eve pageant held near midnight. That's right. Some genius thought it was a great idea to have church service at 10pm on Christmas Eve. Oh, but it gets worse--this service lasted til after 1 in the morning. That's right, over 3 hours of church!

When I was six, I was part of the choir of angels in the Xmas pageant. I sang the clearest (and loudest)! The church members were thrilled at my performance. Many, particularly the hard of hearing elderly, thought I was singing solo, since I was the only voice they could hear. The pastor's wife/director bumped me up to doing duets for the next year's many holiday plays and shows. By the next Xmas pageant, I was given a solo to sing as an angel. It was another smashing performance--or so I was told by my adoring public. The next year, I was given a speaking part! I was promoted to lead the Shepherds! And at eight years old, I was the youngest to ever play the part. Most of the Nativity characters were played by the teens. And I would play the lead Shepard for the next three years. I knew that it was only a matter of time before I got picked to be in the role I most wanted: A wise man.

Sure, there were other speaking parts I could've played; sure, there were other more famous parts, I suppose. But I wanted to be a wise man. Why? Because the wise men seemed so glamorous and exotic and wealthy. They had the snazzy costumes, the best props, and they were like royalty. They wore silk bathrobes with fake gems, carried shiny presents that represented gold and treasures, and they were guests in a King's palace. Meanwhile, the Shepherds wore old rags, carried walking sticks, and slept outside in the cold and dirt with the sheep. I wanted to be a play a rich person for a change. And my chance came when I was ten.

After playing a lowly, dirty, poor Shepherd for 3 years, I was picked to be one of the Wise Men! Finally, I was going to be one of the upper class characters in the Xmas pageant. And unlike other times where I hated going to practice and rehearsals, I looked forward to learning my lines for this role! I spent extra hours rehearsing and singing, perfecting my role. Then came the big night, Xmas Eve, and I was ready to shine!

As we were standing in the backstage, 15 minutes from curtain call, I saw the pastor's wife/director with a frazzled look on her face. It seemed like she was looking for someone, and when she spotted me, she started heading my way. Oh, oh. Part of me felt a foreboding. This wasn't the regular nervousness before the big show. Nope; this was that sixth sense warning that something bad was about to happen. And it was bad news indeed! The pastor's wife/director informed me that the lead Shepherd ate some bad food and was throwing up in the bathroom. He couldn't perform tonight. So, she asked me to reprise my role as lead Shepherd and give up my Wise man debut.

I was like, excuse me!?! You want me to what!?! The pastor's wife/director reasoned that since I knew the lines, I would be the best replacement for the lead Shepherd. One of the hazards of church productions is that there are no understudies. I asked, well, what about the other teens who used to play lead Shepherd? She said the only two she could find were unsuitable. One was too old; the other just refused. When I asked, well, what about my role as one of the three Wise men? She said that my part would become a non speaking part. She was going to put someone else in my role, wearing my costume.

I was furious! How dare she! I asked, well, why can't you just cut out the lead Shepherd? But she refused, saying that the lead Shepard was too important--he led the song and had the most lines! And I replied that my role as Wise man was just as important! Sensing my reluctance and anger, she appealed to my vanity. She tried to convince me that I was a great actor, and only I could pull this off; I could save the play; and the audience would be disappointed if the show was canceled, especially my mother; imagine how upset my mother would be at not seeing the show.

I took a deep breath, sighed, and agreed to reprise my role as lead Shepherd. After all, I was a professional, and the show must go on! That is the golden rule of the theater. And also because of the pastor's wife/director's veiled threat, that she would get my mother to come backstage and kick my wise ass! So I quickly changed my costume. God, I hated holding those drab Shepherd rags and putting them on. Then someone thrust a plush sheep toy into my hands--yes, this was one of my props. As lead Shepherd, I carried a little lamb. That little lamb became my stress ball as I angrily squeezed its neck with my hands! Then I just waited for our cue, going over the lines and song with the assistant director, the pastor's adult daughter.

Still, I was fuming. When we were about to go on the stage, the kid who was supposed to be the lead Shepherd came out of the bathroom, his face flushed and wet. He was in the class ahead of me. He managed a weak smile, wishing us well and said, break a leg!

I wanted to tell him, Mofo I'm going to break your legs for ruining my Wise man debut! I was about to tell him to choke on a candy cane when our cue came to go on the stage.

And so we went on stage. I put in a great performance. For days afterwards, I was complimented for showing so much passion and energy. Of course I had energy! I was freakin pissed! I was so furious that I didn't even stay for the rest of the service. As soon as the play was over, I walked out back exit, didn't even stay for the cast party held after the service. I walked straight home, knowing that I was probably going to get in trouble from my mom for leaving church before it was over. But I didn't care. I was mad as hell, and I needed to walk off all that anger! Surprisingly, my mom didn't admonish me when she got home. I think she knew that I was pissed at not making my wise man debut. All the hard work and time I put into all that practice was wasted, no use at all.

A few days later, I overheard that loser who was suppose to play the lead Shepherd telling his friends, including a former lead Shepherd, that he didn't want to go on stage Xmas night. He still had problems memorizing all his lines and he didn't want to look stupid on stage. So he faked an illness; basically, his laziness cost me my Wise man role. But before I could cuss him out and shower him with holiday cheer via my fists, he continued his story. He said that the pastor's wife/director said that if he couldn't perform, then she would just have to come and get me to reprise my role! I couldn't believe it! That backstabbing, lying bitch! She didn't even try looking for other previous Shepherds. She came straight to me and lied through her teeth! And the former lead Shepherd who was there confirmed the story. The pastor's wife/director never asked him to reprise the role, even though I remember her telling me that this guy had refused her request.

Well, I made up my mind right then and there to quit doing church productions. I even quit the choir. My mother tried to get me to change my mind, but I was adamant. No amount of pleading or sucking up from the pastor's wife/director changed my decision. She promised me bigger roles, even the lead in some of the productions. But I knew very well what lies she was capable of. No deal. I even stopped going to Sunday school all together. It made the pastor's wife mad that I wasn't listening to her, and it felt good to watch her powerless to do anything about it.

I still participated in regular school plays and productions, but no more for my church. Some of our regular school or club productions won local competitions and were featured on local tv. Hell, I even got local recognition and awards for my work. I got to play lots of great parts and be a part of great productions. But I never took part in another Nativity play again. I was offered the role of a Wise man when I was in high school for our annual Holiday festival; but it wasn't the same. I didn't get that rush of excitement and thrill I did when I was younger and was offered the role in that church pageant so long ago. So, I turned down the Wise man role in the high school Nativity play, opting to be part of the choir instead. I had a good time that Holiday festival and in every festival that I participated in for the rest of high school. Nowadays, whenever I see a Nativity production, I think back to that last church Xmas pageant. I get sad rather than angry, remembering how I was typecast, my dreams crushed. But a small part of me also feels pride, knowing that I survived that experience, making me much stronger and in a way, a much wiser man.

 Related Links:
Hope is a yellow dump truck
Shoes
Are you there, Santa? It's me
It's the Most Stressful Time of the Year
The thing about fathers
Best Laid Plans
Veterans Day Reflection

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Running with the devil

I woke up early this morning, and I couldn't go back to sleep. Looking at the clock, it was about four thirty in the morning. So, I decided that rather than toss and turn in bed, I'd do something productive. So I did some stretches, put on my running shoes and shorts, then went out for a short jog.

As soon as I opened the door, the chilly air nipped at my face. It was still dark, and I didn't see any cars on the roads. Just silence and a few working street lights. But there was fog, patches of it near where I lived. And the farther I ran, the more fog I encountered. While the ground may have been hazy, the heavens were free and unclouded as far as the eye could see. The sky was clear, the moon and two planets shone usually bright near each other. The chilly air that made me shiver at the beginning of the jog now felt good on my skin, but it still stung my nose as I breathed it in.

The thing about the chilly air is that it somehow energizes me, making feel like I could go farther, longer, faster. So when I got to the turn around point to make it a short jog, I just kept going forward instead. The route I was taking was a long shaped S. I thought, well, I'll just do a middle distance jog and on the way back, take the short cut. Twice, on the quiet run, I saw cyclists in groups riding along the streets. We greeted each other as we went our own way. Other than that, it was mostly a silent run.

When I got to the next turn around point, the fog had thicken considerably. And when I turned around, I was surprised to see another jogger on the far, opposite side of the street. He was on the left side of the road, an old man who was jogging some short distance ahead of me, going the same way I was. I didn't see him before, but now, I could clearly hear the tap tap sound of his shoes hitting the sidewalk as he ran. He was running about the same pace as I was, but I was still feeling high on energy, so I decided to pick up the pace. Though I was on the opposite side of the street, we were going the same direction, and I quickly passed him. Still, I could hear the tap tap sound of his shoes, though it was getting faint as I ran farther.

Then the fog started to get thicker, and the road started to curve left. I could hear the tap tap sound getting louder. The old man had picked up speed, and the road was curving in his favor. As I was on the far right side of the street, I had more distance to cover. So, once more, I picked up the pace. Now, part of me was motivated by a sense of competition. I was not going to let this old man beat me. I know, childish, right? But I would be lying if I didn't admit that a small part of my competitive nature was coming through, and I was not going to let up. So I started putting a little more distance between the old man and I, and the sound of his feet, tap tap, started fading away again til I couldn't hear it anymore. The fog was thinning as I kept on jogging.

I was nearing an intersection on my side of the street, and I saw a vehicle there. When I got close, I saw that it was hearse. How odd--and sad, I thought, to see a hearse this early in the morning. I had to wait for the light to change before I could safely cross the street and continue my jog. And soon, I heard the familiar sounds of tap tap, the old man was catching up again. As soon the light changed I crossed the street and tried to put distance between me and the old man. But the fog reappeared and the road was starting to curve left once more. Damn! I could hear the old man catching up!

I picked up the pace again. This time, I was starting to break out into a serious sweat, my breathing was starting to get labored, but I refused to slow down. Yet, the fog was thickening and the sound of the old man running was getting louder. Tap tap. He was getting closer, and I was really starting to feel the strain! I could see the shortcut coming up, and it was clear, free of fog and lit very well with street lights. But with the old man still within my hearing, I refused to take that shortcut! I was not going to let that old man pass me up!

The road was straight for a little while longer, but I knew that there was another major intersection up ahead. Tap tap, the old man was catching up! I picked up speed, the fog was thicker here. I could only see just a few yards ahead before the fog hid everything from sight. It was getting harder to breathe, I could feel the strain starting to take its toll on my body. What was supposed to be a fun, short jog was turning into quite the workout! And still, tap tap, the old man was getting closer. It felt as if I was being drawn back, falling behind no matter how hard I tried to run ahead. It was as if I were on a giant treadmill and no matter how fast I was running, I was getting no where at all!

The road was starting to curve left again, and I could see the intersection coming up. In the corner of my eye, I could make out the shape of the old man catching up to me. Damn it! The light at the intersection was red; it wasn't my turn to cross the street. But as I came upon the intersection, the roads were clear, and I just ran right through! I ran faster, trying to put more distance between me and the old man. I was almost sprinting. I was breathing hard, gasping for air, my body overheating from the exertion. Sweat was dripping freely from head, my body was soaking wet. I was picking up speed but I wasn't sure how long I was going to last.

I could see the road up ahead. Finally, it was starting to curve right, towards my advantage. The fog was starting to lift here, too. But the chill that had energized me was not enough to cool me down. My body was on fire. I thought to myself, I'm going to have a heart attack and die, but so long as I beat that old man, I'll be die a happy man! I could only hear the sounds of my heavy breathing as my lungs grasped desperately for air.

And then it suddenly occurred to me, that the only sound I could hear at this point was my labored breathing! I couldn't hear the tap tap sound of the old man's running shoes anymore. I turned my head back to look for the old man. I didn't see him on the far side of the street. But a movement on my side caught my eye. It was the old man! At some point, he must've crossed the street to my side of the road. And instead of running, he was walking away from me. He was going back the other way, disappearing into the fog that was rolling back with him.

Victory! I had outlasted the old man! I eased off the pace, falling back down to a nice, slow jog. I had to admit, it was a welcomed relief! The rest of the way home, the fog was gone, and a cool breeze had started to blow--wonderful, sweet breeze pushing me all the way home. When I finally reached home, I thought, man, that was a great workout. I'm going to be feeling some aches and soreness in the next few days. That cold shower I took felt good, and for the rest of the day, I had incredible energy.

After lunch, I was talking with some co-workers. Some of them wanted to know what drugs I was taking to remain energetic and alert. I told them I wasn't on anything. I just went for a jog this morning. One of the IT guys asked me what gym I used. I told him I didn't use any gyms. I just ran along certain streets. When I told him about the street I ran this morning, he said,

"Oh, yeah. That's one of my favorite routes to ride. It's clean and well lit; the bike paths are pretty good."

I said, "Yeah, I saw a couple of people riding bikes together this morning."

He said, "Oh, yeah, nobody rides alone on that road."

I replied, "I suppose it's safer to ride in groups. That way, cars can see you better."

He said, "Well, yeah, but that's not really why cyclists ride together on that road."

"Oh," I said, my curiosity rising, "Why do they ride together then?"

IT guy answered, "It's because they're afraid, " he paused and whispered, "that road is haunted."

"What?," I asked, "That's some bull crap! Haunted, my ass!"

But IT guy looked serious, "No, it really is. I've seen the ghost myself. I was riding that route last year, and he kept appearing in front of me on the side of the road, even though I passed him like three times! He only appears when you're alone. That's why I ride with a group. "

So I said, "Well, what's the ghost supposed to look like anyway? I've run that route a few times by myself, and I've never seen a ghost!"

IT guy replied, "Well, that's because the ghost of the old man running only appears with the fog, when it's darkest before the sun comes up."

Related Links:
Running in the dark
Mud and Puddles 

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving fun

When I was younger, I looked forward to Thanksgiving; not so much for what the holiday represented, but rather, it was 2 days off from school! And all that food was a pretty good incentive, too. When I started living on my own, I hosted a few Thanksgiving dinners--roasted a turkey with stuffing and everything! I also joined a few friends and accepted invitations to attend dinner hosted by other people. Some of these were more memorable than others.

Like the time in college, when a girl I was dating on and off invited me over to her place for a Thanksgiving meal. She was from out of town and said she wasn't driving home for the holiday. I imagined it was going to be just the two of us enjoying a romantic holiday meal. So I got all dressed up and took a bottle of wine and some prophylactics, and showed up at her place ready to celebrate. I was giddy with excitement when I knocked on her door, ready to sweep her off her feet with my sexy smile and come hither pose.

Imagine my surprise when a much older man opened the door. At first I thought maybe I was at the wrong place, but the old man extend out his hand and introduced himself, as my date's father! And when I entered the apartment,the surprise continued as I found more people inside. My date's parents, her brother, her aunts and uncles and cousins had driven into town. What I thought was going to be a romantic dinner for two turned out to be a meet the parents grilling. And boy did those people interrogate me about the nature of my relationship with my date. Luckily, by the end of the night, I had charmed her family well enough for them to lay off the investigation and welcome me into the fold. They even invited me to go on a ski trip with them! Afterwards, I was washing dishes with my date when she asked if I was spending the night.

I said, "Hell no! Not with your parents here!"

She laughed, "My family loves you. They think you're perfect!", she paused, then teased," Ah, are you worried about my reputation?"

And I replied, "Uh, no; I'm worried about mine! Like you said, your family thinks I'm perfect!"

Then there was the time when a friend in Phoenix, Arizona wanted me to drive up and spend the holiday with her; she asked if I could pick up her sister and cousins in Houston and make the 20 hour drive. Well, I picked up her sister and her two cousins and started our long drive. When we got to Phoenix, we were surprised that my friend's in laws were staying over, and they brought four of their friends! The guest room reserved for the sister and cousins was gone. Now, I don't mind sleeping on the living room floor; I've slept in worse places. But I knew this house was packed! I kind of wished my friend had told me that her in laws had decided to come down with their friends. I could've gotten a hotel room before hand.

But for some reason, my friend was under the delusion that we would be fine sleeping in the living room all crammed together! So I told her that I was getting a hotel, and her sister and cousins wanted to get one, too. Of course, being that it was so late, we couldn't find a place closer to my friend's home. But we reserved two rooms about 45 minutes north of the city. Over dinner, my friend discussed plans for the next day: Playing bridge and maybe heading out to the crafts store to buy yarn! I was thinking, um, no, I'm not spending my holiday knittings socks!

On the drive up to the hotel, I could feel the tension from the sister and the cousins. We started talking, and they were not happy with the situation. They didn't want to spend the holiday playing bridge or knitting either! So, I told them, semi-jokingly, that if we kept driving north, we'd eventually find the way to Las Vegas, only 6 hours away. They were quiet, for less than a minute, then they said, hell yeah! So we drove on to Las Vegas, re-energized and excited! We parked at a hotel at midnight and got a room. Then we hit the Strip going from casino to casino, gambling, drinking, dancing and stopping only when the sun came up. Then we ate a buffet breakfast, showered, slept for a few hours, then hopped in the car and drove back.

During the drive back, my friend called to see if we were joining them for their shopping trip, but her sister told her we were still tired from the long drive from Houston and we're sleeping in. As soon as she hung up, we all started laughing in the car. Back in town, we found another hotel much closer to my friend's place, booked it for the night, then checked out the sights. We met my friend later for that afternoon, had dinner, hung out for a bit before returning to the hotel. The next day, we drove back home. I never told my friend what really happened, and I doubt I ever will. What could've been a terrible Thanksgiving turned out to be a blast!

Then there was the time I accepted an invitation to three Thanksgiving meals, or as I like to call it, the miracle of the rice krispies treats. Lucky for me, the meals were held at different times. I had made lots of rice krispies treats with intent of taking them to each of the meals I was attending. The first meal was held at noon, given by friends who said not to bring anything, but if we wanted to, we could bring a dessert. Well, everyone brought a dessert. People brought a lot of pies, especially pumpkin and apple. As I was leaving, I was given a whole apple pie to take home.

I took the apple pie, and instead of returning home, I drove straight to the next meal, knowing I'd be about an hour early. The second meal was scheduled for four in the afternoon. That was fine, because it gave me time to spend with my friends who decided to fry a turkey that year. Just in case the fried turkey turned out to be a mistake, they had also roasted 6 cornish hens. Well, the fried turkey was a big hit! It tasted delicious! But now, my friends were stuck with the cornish hens and they didn't have room in the fridge. So, they gave me 2 cornish hens to take home.

I left the second meal at about 6 in the evening and ventured to the final Thanksgiving meal of the day instead of driving home to drop off the cornish hens. And it was a good thing that I decided to take the cornish hens to this dinner, which my hosts happily accepted. These friends had made a turkey and a large ham for the meal. My friends had a surprising number of people show up uninvited; that they didn't really mind. The problem was, some of the people that their guests had brought unannounced didn't eat ham! Luckily, the cornish hens would take care of them if they didn't want the turkey either. All in all, it was good dinner, and it was by far the biggest in terms of people present, which made for some good games and fun. When I left the party later on, my friends gave me a bottle of wine to take home with me. And when I finally got home, I kicked off my shoes opened that bottle of wine and drank it on the sofa, thinking, wow, how great is this? I started off with rice kripies treats and ended up with a bottle of wine.

Ever since I started living on my own, I usually end up working on Thanksgiving. I don't mind, really. I know a lot of people who want to be home with their families. I don't mind switching work schedules with someone who wants to be off for Thanksgiving. I do the same for Christmas. New Year's Eve, however, is my sacred holiday and I always make sure I'm off that day! And I find that people who want me to work Thanksgiving or Xmas for them have no problems working for me on New Year's Eve. And so it was today, I was one of the few at work. On holidays, it's common for us to bring dishes to share. So today, I took a peach cobbler and some rice krispies treats to work to share with my co workers. It was a good day. Hope yours was good, too.