Monthly Archives: December 2012

War on Santa

I’ve got a problem. It’s Santa Claus. If you’re under the age of seven, and you’re reading this, although I admire your advanced reading level and your ability to get on the Internet and everything, I have to warn you, look away right now, because everything you know about Santa Claus is going to get unknown pretty fast.

When I was a little kid, I actually believed in Santa Claus. It’s a crazy thing to think about, but I knew he existed. Everything in my life told me that he was real. My parents, they told me he existed. All the confirmation I ever really needed happened on Christmas day, when I’d go downstairs and there would be tons of presents under that tree.

My belief in Santa was so strong that I would actually see him out of the corner of my eyes sometimes. I guess as I started to grow up and my brain started to wonder about the inconsistencies of one man travelling to every single house on the planet, I began to craft justifications in my mind. One, that he had to have super speed, not only to deliver the toys, but also to constantly check up on everybody throughout the course of the year, keeping track of the naughty and the nice.

So it wouldn’t even have to be Christmastime necessarily. Maybe it would be June and my family would be eating dinner. And I’d see something out of the corner of my eye, something, but I’d turn and there wouldn’t be anything there. Immediately my brain would think, yup, had to be Santa, there’s no other explanation.

It all came crashing down one day in the third grade. There was a commotion over in the corner of the classroom. Everybody was surrounding this one girl, yelling at her. I didn’t know what was going on, but then I heard one of the other kids say, “No! Santa is real! He is!” and it took me a minute to process what was going on. This girl didn’t believe in Santa? And she just stood there, defiantly, “Nope. My parents told me he isn’t real.”

So I started getting angry too. We all looked around the classroom, taking a quick stock of blunt objects that we might hurl at her if she wouldn’t change her mind in the next sixty seconds, but luckily for her the teacher broke apart the nascent mob and sent us to our seats, “and not another word out of any of you!”

I remember what came next almost exactly as it happened. It’s one of those memories that has been imprinted directly onto my consciousness, something I can relive with way too much clarity. I got home from school and went straight to my mom and told her the whole story. I was shaken. Something I believed down to my core had been rocked loose, and I wanted the assurances of my mother to reestablish the foundation. But after I told her, she kind of just looked at me without saying anything for a second. And in that second, a knowing terror grew from within, and before I even had a chance to try to rationalize what was happening, my mom had out with it, the truth, not a gentle letting down, but a quick reveal, like yanking a band-aid off before you even have a second to contemplate the pain.

And that was it, Santa wasn’t real anymore. To say I was crushed, to write about the internal devastation that had ravaged my soul, it wouldn’t even come close to describing that feeling, that long pause between my asking for the truth and the cold revelation that followed. It was like my world was fine, intact, safe, and then over the course of one day everything fell apart. I walked away from my mom that day feeling numb, angry, lied to.

I don’t think this should go on, another generation lying to our children about a fictitious fat man that sneaks into your house on Christmas Eve and leaves presents. It doesn’t do any good. In my case, it did lasting harm (yes, lasting harm. I’m still pissed.) What are you getting out of spinning this story for your kids? What’s actually going on? Are you experiencing some sort of a vicarious thrill, watching your innocent kids actually believe everything you tell them, regardless of how ridiculous it is, how fantastic? And so your kids are born with this innate trust, this willingness to go along with anything you tell them. And how do you respond? How do you treat this trust? You abuse it. You feed them the same made up stories that your grandparents tricked your parents with. It has to end.

First it’s Santa. Once you find out he’s a fake, it’s only a couple more months before you figure out the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, all nonsense. What else isn’t real? And you might even lose teeth after the fact, and you’ll still want that dollar under your pillow, but your parents are just like, well, you’re too old for that, sorry. I was eight. Come on. Give me a dollar.

And parents, having your kids believe in Santa doesn’t do you any favors either. You spend the whole season talking about them being naughty or nice, threatening them with shitty presents if they don’t behave, but get real, every kid gets presents for Christmas, regardless of how much of an asshole he or she is. And so they grow up believing their terrible behavior to be good, well, good enough for Santa, good enough for everybody else. Your kids are getting spoiled. Plus, after a whole month of buying presents, staying up late to hide and wrap them, do you get any credit? Any, “Thanks, Mom. Thanks, Dad. You really went all out for us and we’re appreciative.” No, it’s just, “Santa brought me this, I didn’t ask for this,” and then they just rip the wrapping paper off and leave it on the floor for you to pick up later. Disgusting.

As soon as I procreate, I’ll start drilling into my kids’ heads, before they can even talk, that Santa isn’t real. On his or her first day of school, I’ll instruct my protégé to skip any introductions and just start reciting a memorized speech, letting all classmates know that Santa is a big joke. The first day of school is in September, so there’s going to be a lot of time to get everybody used to the idea.

And if any other parents complain, I’ll just start foaming at the mouth, talking about the constitution, ranting about America and free speech. Seriously, we’ve got to end this. Let’s just end it. Let’s make up a story that Santa got killed in a sledding accident. Or we’ll just come clean that it’s all made up bullshit. Enough lies. It’s kind of a weird thing that we do, no?

Oh yeah, and Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

I haven’t seen my old friend Rich in forever

Rich? Is that you Rich? How long’s it been? Really? Oh, sorry, well, you look just like my friend, my old friend Rich. You’re not like his brother or cousin, are you? No, that’s a totally different last name. You ever do that? You ever walk up to somebody and think it’s somebody else? And now what are we supposed to do? Waiting in line like this, it’s kind of awkward, and I’m still talking. Can I call you Rich? How about, I’ll buy your cup of coffee if you pretend to be Rich for the rest of the time we’re standing here in line. Come on, it’ll be fun. Rich, come on, Richie. I never called him Richie. Well, maybe once in a while, if I was just talking for the sake of talking, I might be like, “Yo Richie!” but it was always just Rich. Or Dick. What’s up Dick? That was funny mostly when we were much younger, but, I don’t know, if you ask me, certain jokes never lose that zing, that certain whatever it is that makes you laugh so much. Dick. What a ridiculous nickname. You ever go by Dick? No, we’re still pretending here, you, pretending to be Rich. So in this scenario, where I just said, “You ever go by Dick?” you’d say, “No, never,” because I just told you that we never called Rich Dick. You ever go by Richie? No, act like you’re still pretending to be Richie. Come on, I’ll buy you one of those muffins. Jesus, this is a long line. You know Rich-O, it’s only going to feel longer, just standing here not talking to me, after we’ve already been through so much. Come on Rich, I’m starting to look like a crazy person here. Just give me something to go with, something, anything. Hey, you know what’ll be really fun? If when the guy asks you what your name is, so he can write on the side of the coffee cup, say Rich, and we’ll watch him write it down. Then I’ll get somebody else to take photo of us, me and you, standing side by side, smiling, and you’ll be holding the coffee cup towards the camera, so it clearly says Rich. Or even better, tell him that you’re name is Dick, and then we’ll take the same photo, and then I’ll send it to Richie, not you, the real Rich. I haven’t seen that guy in years. I’m sure he looks like what you look like right now. I mean, you’re everything that I’ve ever imagined Rich would look like at this age. I wonder if I still know anybody that would have his cell phone number. What am I saying? I can get that online, anything online. God, that’s going to be so funny, because he hated being called Dick, that’s why we never called him Dick, only like during really, really rare kind of in-the-moment type jokes. Like we’d be playing video games and we’d all get in an argument over who gets to play what and who’s next, and I’d say, “Stop being such a dick,” and that would be kind of funny, we’d go into the whole Richie, Dickie, man, that was fun. If I find him, would you ever want to get together? Me and the two Dicks. I’m just kidding. I’m just messing around. But that would be so funny if I set up a little reunion with Rich, and I tell him to meet up at a certain bar or whatever, but me and you, we’ll get there a little earlier, and when Richie walks in he’ll see us both talking, and I’ll do a fake double take, say something like, “Wait a second, if you’re Rich, who’s this clown?” and then you do some real evil laugh and run out of the bar. I won’t explain anything. That’ll mess him up good. That would be so funny. Come on man, we have to make this happen. Yeah, two coffees please, just write Dick on both of them. And a muffin. No, please, I insist. Well, whatever, one coffee, one latte, and a muffin. Just take the muffin. So what? Take it home. Eat it later. Hey, you’re writing Dick, write? This is going to be so funny. You know that a latte is mostly milk, right? I’m just saying. If you can handle that, that’s cool. I can’t. I don’t know if Richie can. We were all much younger, nobody drank coffee yet. No it’s cool, I’ll meet you over by the sugar. Yeah, for that picture. Come on, please you have to. Because, man it’s crazy, you look just like him! Just like my good friend Richie.

Calling in sick

Just try to think of something nice, something pleasant to distract you from whatever uncomfortable situation you might find yourself in. Maybe you’re not feeling so great. Maybe you have strep throat and you had to stay home from work, but when you called in sick, your boss gave you that, “Yeah, sure,” like he didn’t really believe you, and even if he did believe you, he didn’t really care, you should be at work, it doesn’t matter about any doctor’s note, it doesn’t matter that you’re taking antibiotics, that you’re contagious. Everybody takes sick days. Everybody gets sick. Everybody except for Johnson, that guy never calls in. In fact, he’s come in a few days when he should have clearly just taken the day off. Like that one time when he was trying to fix the office printer, and the auto stapler mechanism started malfunctioning, and he got that ridiculous gash on his forearm, right through his shirt, and he left, I mean, he had to, he was losing a lot of blood, getting it everywhere. But he came back in like two hours, all stitched up, just tons and tons of gauze wrapped around his whole arm, like you could totally see the wound still oozing through the gauze, and everyone was like, “Are you OK? Shouldn’t go home? Didn’t they put you on antibiotics?” And he just casually laughed it off, “Yes, no, and yes. Really, I’m fine.” And he even stayed an hour late that day, because he used his lunch break for the first hour at the emergency room, and then he made it up, that same very day. Fucking Johnson.

You can’t get strep throat though. I mean you can, but even if you go to work, you’ll look basically the same, there won’t be any bloody gauze to wear like a trophy. So you lose some face with the boss. Whatever, did you really think you were in line for a promotion? For a bonus? I know it sucks, having this day off, this unpaid day off, and you can’t even enjoy it, just laying on your couch, hungry, thirsty, just waiting for that Z-pack to kick in so you can swallow something without any pain. Just think about something happy. Think about that time two summers ago, where all of your friends took the day off and went to the beach, and you were like, screw it, and you called in sick also. And it was your first time calling in sick and you didn’t think it would be a big deal, because it was summer and productivity generally takes somewhat of a dip during the summer, and you just shot an email to the boss, “Hey, I’m not feeling so great. See you on Monday.” And you had a blast, just one of those great summer three-day weekends. But then you showed up on Monday and Johnson not only did all of your work, like he actually went through your desk and found a bunch of work to do, he then sent you an email that said, “Hey, just letting you know I stayed late today and finished up all of your work. Hope your feeling better.” But he “accidentally” sent it to everybody in the office. And then on Tuesday the boss called the team in for a little meeting, just to go over the sick day rules, how ever since they changed the health insurance policy last fall, how even though everybody’s paying a little more and getting a little less coverage, it’s because the company’s paying more too, so that’s why they had to eliminate paid sick days. You can still take two sick days a year, but they’re unpaid. And while he was at it, the boss went into a whole speech about productivity, and Johnson was just standing there beaming, and the boss looked like he was looking right at you the whole time.

Just stop thinking about all of that stuff. What are you going to do? You’re sick. Do you really think things would be better if you were at the office? What are you going to do drink cups of tea, one after the other, all day long? You have the doctor’s note. There’s nothing more you can do. There, you can feel it starting to kick in, right? The antibiotics? They’re starting to make you feel a little better, right? Well, drink a cup of tea, with honey and lemon. That’s going to help. And eucalyptus. I don’t know, in the health foods aisle. And just think about something warm, something comforting, like a cup of hot chocolate with whipped cream and marshmallows when you were a little kid, when it was so much easier, not to take a sick day, you’d still have to be pretty sick to convince your mom to let you take a sick day, but once you were home, and sick, it was all uphill from there, laying on the couch, blankets, daytime TV, who cares about Johnson, always the last one out of the office, always wearing those ridiculous button down short-sleeve shirts, displaying that nasty scar, a constant reminder of his dedication to the company, to work, to life, to being a team player, a real go-getter, a real gunner, gunning for the top, straight up up up up up.

The trampoline trail

If I ever win the lottery, I’ll start making some dreams come true. My dreams. One of my dreams is to lay out a bunch of trampolines, one after the other, all the way from my house to where I work. That would be so awesome. Getting up for work every day would be such a thrill, so full of excitement. I’d probably get going much earlier every day simply because I’d be so pumped to walk out the door and climb up on that first trampoline. Boing!

And I’d be off. The logistics of this whole operation would probably be pretty extensive. I’m sure I’d have to do a bunch of preliminary work. For example, I’d have to figure out for starters the distance I can cover in just one trampoline jump. I’m guessing it’s something like five feet, six, really, I have no idea, I’m just making up numbers. But how would I figure that out? It’s not as easy as just jumping, because what if I overshoot the test jump? I’d land on the ground and break my pelvis, maybe worse.

And then, think about it, say I do manage to jump five feet or six feet across on that first jump. My job is about three miles from my house. I think it’s safe to assume that after the first mile, while I’d still be having the time of my life, I’d naturally get a little tired, and so the lengths of each jump might get shorter, meaning that, obviously, as the route progresses, the trampolines will have to be closer together. Again, how do you figure all of that stuff out?

One solution might be to just keep the trampolines a little closer than I might need them to be. This would ensure that I don’t miss any jumps. Because if they’re too far apart, I won’t make it, and again, I could wind up seriously injured. Trampolines are tons of fun, but unless used correctly, there can be a huge potential for danger.

That being said, I’d prefer not to err on the side of caution. I’m really looking for that pure trampoline thrill, that rush of adrenaline that can only be achieved by jumping as hard as you can. And when I land, I expect to land on the next trampoline. And so and so on all the way to work, even flipping and spinning when I really get the hang out it.

As I’m typing this all out, I’m thinking of some more logistical challenges that I hadn’t thought of before. Like, how am I going to make sure that nobody else uses my trampoline network while I’m not there? It’s not that I want to be completely selfish. It’s just that, face it, this is a huge city. If I start letting one person use my trampolines I’ll eventually have to let everybody use them. And then how would I get to work? What if I open my door to head out one day and it’s so overrun with trampoline traffic, everybody’s double jumping and stealing bounces, and then I show up late?

If I’m late even once, I can just see it, my boss will say something like, “Well look who finally showed up to work. You know Rob, you win the lottery and you think that you don’t have to show up on time anymore? That you’re better than everybody else? You’re fired.” That would be terrible, not to mention a huge waste of money, seeing as I’d probably have spent the majority of my winnings on the trampolines, on getting permits from the city, on figuring out of all that distance like I was talking about earlier.

And now I’m supposed to get a new job? And what if this new job’s farther away. Am I really going to go through the hassle of setting up an entirely new trampoline trail? And now that I’m thinking about it, how are these things going to hold up in the winter? What if it starts raining? What if that rain turns into ice? Will the trampolines still be bouncy or will they shatter upon contact?

And also, what if it keeps raining, and lots of homeless people start hanging out under the trampolines, and they get comfortable, so comfortable that when the sun finally comes out again, they refuse to leave? And I’m bouncing to work one day and I wind up jumping right on some guy’s head. What if he dies? Am I going to be held liable? Will the judge send me to prison or will he just take away my trampolines?

I know that there’s a lot to consider here, and yeah, it sounds crazy, but I’d still do it. If I win the lottery, I’ll still build it. Because, come on, just think about how awesome it would be, you’re at work and they hire a new guy, and you guys are all standing around the water cooler, talking about this and that, and you’re not really friends, you’re all coworkers, and so conversation can get pretty banal, and it’s not long before somebody asks the new guy where he lives, and how’s the commute, and what train do you take. And then everybody else in the circle feels compelled to offer their residence and their train. And finally it would come to me, or it wouldn’t even come to me, I’d skip somebody else’s turn and jump right in, because I’d be so excited, I’d just be like, “I won the lottery and built a series of trampolines from my house to right here and I get to bounce to work everyday and it’s awesome!” and everyone would kind of roll their eyes, like Jesus, every day with the trampolines. But I wouldn’t care how many people roll their eyes, because it would just be a sign of how jealous everyone else is, and why can’t I just let them try it out once, just one of the trampolines, come on, just the one closest to the office. Would that be too much to ask?

Unimaginable wealth, indescribable power, exquisite tastes in the rarest wines and finest watches

One of my friends works in a really fancy restaurant, like much fancier than any restaurant I’ve ever stepped foot in. He told me that they have this vintage wine list, and that one of these vintage wines costs a thousand dollars a bottle. The restaurant only had two bottles, because I’m assuming that its exclusivity has more than a little something to do with such a steep price tag. Anyway, over the summer, apparently some guy came in with his family and they bought both of them.

What is it like to drink a thousand dollars? How is such a price even tabulated? Why not two thousand dollars? Why not ten? Once you’re getting to a level that’s beyond absurd, beyond the numerics of everyday reality, why do you even bother putting a price tag on it at all? To me, to a complete outsider to the world of thousand dollar wines, all I see is an insanely rich person going to another insanely rich person and exchanging an insane amount of money for a bottle or two of wine.

One time I was working for a caterer, providing food and drinks for a private party at this jewelry store in the city. The private party wasn’t really a party; the jeweler had invited all of these mega rich people to come and look at their exclusive collection of watches. There were maybe half a dozen guests. I’m pretty sure the wait staff outnumbered the clients by a factor of two to one.

And I remember standing there in my ridiculous catering tuxedo, trailing behind these ultra wealthy shoppers, making sure they had a little snack or a drink whenever they wanted. Super, super rich people have a way of carrying about their super, super rich lives in front of all of the people clinging to them, serving them, making sure that they’re constantly happy, as if they’re totally alone, as if everyone else is some sort of a decoration.

I saw one guy buy a watch that night for something like seventy thousand dollars. And he was putting on this ridiculous show to the salesperson, like, “Oh, I know I shouldn’t. I shouldn’t! But I just love watches. I just can’t stop buying watches!” and then his wife chimed in, “It’s true! He has so many watches. He can’t stop collecting watches!”

I thought to myself right there how absurd, how disgusting this whole situation was. Here we are, organic finite beings on this cooling rock of molten lava orbiting around the sun, itself orbiting around the center of the galaxy, all of us completely insignificant specks in the cosmos, all of us getting older ever day, going about our lives hoping that it all might mean something, that it all might make sense in some sort of a cosmic plan. And here I was, myself orbiting this guy with my tray of champagne glasses, him orbiting these glass cases displaying finely crafted metal instruments, metal instruments used to tick-tock, to count away the one thing that binds us all together. This metal, it’s going to outlast all of us. And how much money gets spent protecting this metal, these watches, hiring security firms to guard the watches, professionals to maintain the watches, keep them spotless?

On my way out of that building a bunch of security guys went through my backpack, I don’t know why, making sure I didn’t steal anything I guess. As if I could have. Do they really think I’m that clever? Or that stupid? That whole place was locked down like a fortress. I imagined the final pat-down just a friendly little reminder of my role in this world.

The gig lasted an hour, tops. But the same guys who pay thousands of dollars for a bottle of wine, who pay tens of thousands of dollars for a watch, they’re not going to hire some cheap-o catering company. And so all of us hardworking caterers get paid a five-hour minimum for every shift. It’s some of the easiest money I could ever hope to make for doing pretty close to no actual work at all. So I look at it from this perspective and I’m reminded that my existence is unimaginably more comfortable than the majority of humans who have ever lived and suffered and died on this planet. Am I any better than any of these rich people I’m deriding? We’re all chasing the same dollar, inching, orbiting as close as we can toward wealth, toward riches, toward happiness.

I’m not really getting at anything, not really. I’m just wondering, when you take a sip of thousand dollar wine, does any part of you really believe that it’s worth it? Because while I’m sure you poured it into a decanter and let it breathe for exactly the amount of time the sommelier instructed, and while you took a big whiff before you tilted that glass back, tried to imagine all of those vanilla and oak and other subtle, almost hidden aromas, I guarantee you that when that first drop hit your tongue, there had to have been a little part of you that was disappointed, that refused to stay silent, that piped up in the back of your head, that’s it? It’s good, but really? That’s it? But I just paid a thousand dollars. It’s just a glass of wine. It’s just a watch. You’re just some dude with way too much money to even begin to know what to do with any of it.