Monday, December 31, 2012

Spirits of the Season

Today I met some friends for lunch at a local bar and grill.  While we waited for our orders, we sipped our drinks and caught each other up on what we had been doing since the holiday season started.  I laughed while some regaled tales of surviving family gatherings and drama at the dinner table.  Others entertained us with stories of their shopping frenzies and holiday hijinks.

When it was my turn tell them what I had done for Xmas, my friends expressed surprise that I actually went to church Xmas Eve.  A few marveled at how I wasn't vaporized upon entering holy ground--the bastards.  True, I haven't gone to church regularly since the last millennium.  But I do make an effort to attend a religious service at least four times a year--New Year's Eve, Good Friday, Easter, and Xmas Eve.

This year, I went out of town to join a friend for Christmas.  We attended a Catholic midnight mass.   I quite enjoy the Catholic rituals--so pretty and ornate; and I love the smell of the burning incense--cedar, basically like burning pencils, a sweet, pleasant scent.

It still surprises me to see girls serving as altar boys (altar girls? altar persons?).  I'm so used to it being a boy's job.  Well, things change--but not fast enough for my liking sometimes.  I do confess that I wasn't really paying attention to the sermon, because there are things that the church stands for that I disagree with.  No church should should dictate how you relate to your god--that's a personal matter between you and your god.  But like I said, that's just my issue, and it shouldn't take away from the beautiful pageantry and pomp of the religious ceremony.  But as much as I enjoy sharing in the experience, I always forget just how physically active Catholic services are--stand, sit, chant, kneel before God!, line up for the Eucharist, stand, sit, and kneel some more.  It sure does make the service pass by real quick with all that movement.

My favorite part of the midnight mass was the Christmas caroling performed by the choir.  Granted, they weren't the Mormon Tabernacle Choir who wore uniforms and had well rehearsed performances.  Come to think of it, I don't think these choir members rehearsed more than once, as evidenced by their somewhat unique and not quite harmonious singing.  But I do enjoy the joyous spirit they displayed as they sang for us and invited us to join them.  Listening to them sing kind of reminded me of my old church and the Christmas pageant and the stuff we did to put on a show on Christmas night (not to mention I also remember hating the hours I spent toiling in rehearsals for a month before the Xmas show).

My enjoyment of the choir caroling was somewhat marred by the piano player, who once gave us the wrong hymn page number, sang too hard, and quite often ad libbed her own words loudly on the microphone, confusing the rest of us following the hymn and drowning out the choir at times.  I couldn't help but wonder if she had helped herself to some sacramental wine before giving us this slightly jarring performance.  This is church, for god's sake, not a reject audition at American Idol!  Save the cabaret act for the karaoke bar, sister!

I was thinking of filing a complaint with the priest to have this piano playing volunteer fired for ruining my church going experience.  Dammit, I only go to church but four times a year, and I expect a great performance for those very rare times I do make the effort to show up to church!

For a few seconds, while I was sitting in the church pews with my ears assaulted by the guerrilla attack that was this woman's singing, I actually fantasized about converting to Islam, just so I could issue a fatwa and declare a jihad to ban this woman from ever performing in public again!  Her appearances would be restricted to those specific times when we need her shrilling skills to ululate the declaration of war upon the infidels and to signal our victory over the enemy! Alalalalalalalalalalalala!

But that would be wrong.  And it is not the spirit of the holidays. It is the season for giving.  And I forgive this woman for almost ruining my Xmas experience. 

Instead, I shall focus my energy into welcoming the new year and celebrating the event amongst friends.  Ordinarily, my New Year's Eve has always been about going out with friends, dancing, getting drunk, counting down the clock and watching fireworks and having a good time with friends (and strangers) til the sun comes up.  This year, however, we will be spending it indoors, watching the season three marathon of AMC's The Walking Dead.  The idea is to take a shot every time a zombie gets killed in a really cool and exciting fashion.  Which means we'll most likely be hammered before the marathon reaches the halfway point.  I just hope we're sober enough to countdown at midnight.  I'm pretty sure we'll be walking and sounding like zombies when we wake up tomorrow.

I have always held New Year's Eve to be one of my favorite holidays of the year.  It is the celebration of new beginnings.  Yes,  I enjoy the partying, the drinking, and the dancing and good times.  But more importantly, it is a celebration among friends, to come together and revel in each other's company and to remember our friends who are not longer with us in body but stay with us in spirit and in our hearts.  We raise a glass to them and celebrate them for the impact they've had on our lives, and we embrace the fullness of life and savor the joy of living and having time to enjoy the company of good friends and loved ones. 

Life is short.  And nothing like a zombie apocalypse marathon to remind us of how precious and fragile life is.  Time keeps moving on, as every New Year's Eve reminds us.  Hold close the ones you love; revel in the company of your friends; and live life to the fullest.  Each day is a chance to do the things that make you happy, to go after your dreams and make them happen, to seize the day and do something new, something fun, something exciting.

This New Year's Eve, I shall raise a glass of spirits to all you good friends and thank you for all your support and well wishes.  Cheers and thank you for everything.  Your presence and your words have given me so much joy and laughter and made life just a bit more wonderful.  I would be honored to have you by my side, fighting for survival against the hordes in the zombie apocalypse.  And here's to wishing you all a Fantastic New Year, full of good company, good fortune, and good times!


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Holiday Horde

Well, there might not have been a Mayan Apocalypse, but it sure felt like the end of the world at the stores and on the roads near the shopping malls.  Particularly on Christmas Eve, when so many people rushed to buy gifts at the last minute, swarming the aisles and grabbing whatever they could before the next person was able to get it.  Good for the stores; entertaining for me.
Give us scented bath gift baskets!
 People watching--it's a fascinating pastime for me.

And today, a whole other mass invasion of shoppers flooded the stores for exchanges and returns and to spend those gift cards.

The customer service line begins here.
Bless those hardworking customer service reps, trying to keep sane amongst the madness and onslaught of pissed off, aggressive, and rude customers.
No receipt means No refunds, No exchanges!

Ordinarily, I'm not a big shopping person.  But I couldn't resist going to see the stores this year, doing my part to keep the economy going.  Capitalism--it's in my American blood.  And I enjoy the thrill of finding great merchandise at steep discount post holiday prices.  Granted, not all the stuff I find are such high ticket, valuable items.  But dammit, why wouldn't I want to buy gaudy, sparkling Xmas ornaments at 50% off?  Better yet, they'll be 90% off the day after New Year.  I can't resist a good bargain sometimes.  Besides, I'm all ready starting to stock up on next year's Xmas gifts.  And also, I really do get a kick out of grabbing the last items on sale before someone else snatches them.

Earlier this year, during the day after New Year's Day sale, I was able to locate a Charlie Brown Xmas tree at a store.  I spotted it first when some old lady in a motorized shopping cart saw where I was heading, and she cut me off and tried to run me over to race down the aisle to grab the Charlie Brown Xmas tree!  The nerve!  Unfortunately for her, there was a display table blocking her oversized motorized shopping cart, allowing me to slip past her and grab the last Charlie Brown Xmas tree!  Ha! I win!  In your face, loser!

Competitiveness; it's also in my blood. 

Here's to hoping you find some fun (and good bargains) for the rest of the holiday season.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Happy Mayan Apocalypse Holiday Season

Well, my friends, it's the Mayan Apocalypse today.  And before the world ends, I'd like to take this time to thank each and everyone of you wonderful, funny, intelligent, and kind, beautiful people for your friendship, and support, and well wishes.  In case the world ends, I'd like to wish each and everyone of you a wonderful holiday season, and I wish you all happiness, harmony, and peace for the coming year (or for however long we have left til the world ends).

Now, I know my friends over in New Zealand and Australia have all ready reported that it's December 22, 2012 for them, and the world has not ended.  But I've goggled what time it is in the Yucatan where the Mayans lived and found out that they share the same time zone as my part of the world, Central Standard Time Zone, or it's 9pm right now.  So, in three hours, the world might end.  And I plan to spend what might possibly be my last few hours on earth with some friends at an End of the World party, counting down the hours til the end. 

It's been over a decade since I attended an End of the World party, especially since that fascinating news journal, World Weekly went out of print.  There was a time when we could all count on the World Weekly to predict when the world would end, and we'd plan our End of the World parties accordingly.  Alas there has been quite a lack of doomsday prophecy/apocalypse dates and no coverage of Bat Boy since that fine news journal ceased publication.

And just in case it's an alien invasion or a zombie apocalypse, I've got my bug out bag (loaded with survival gear) and some water and food in my car, and my sports tomahawk, ready to take on the hordes!  I ain't going down without a fight!  No one is eating my brains for dinner!

If the world is going to end, I am going to celebrate it with the people I love and have fun til it's all over.  And I want to take this time to say to all you amazing friends, thank you for everything!  And I'll be sure to toast you all and celebrate our friendship while counting down the Mayan Apocalypse.  I'm not sure if it's going to be angry Mayan gods on a rampage, or a devastating climate shift, or some extinction level cosmic event that destroys our world.  But whatever happens, it has been my honor and joy to have met each and everyone of you on the blogosphere.

And just in case we survive the Mayan Apocalypse, I want to wish you all every Wonderful and Happy Holiday Season, and May the New Year bring you all good health, good fortune, and good times!  Cheers!