Monthly Archives: December 2013

The day after Christmas comedown

The day after Christmas is always such a bummer. Even as an adult, even though Christmas itself isn’t the same magical day of pure ecstasy that it was when I was a little kid, the day after is still this soul-crushing comedown, the same melancholy withdrawal that it’s been since as far back as I can remember. Christmas is great, or maybe it’s not always great, but it’s still Christmas. And the day after is just another day, back to business.


I just feel like, even though it’s no longer that rapturous thrill of opening up an endless sea of presents, Christmas is still a nice holiday. Especially if you put some work into it, plan out in advance what gifts you’re going to get for which friend or family member, as long as nobody goes overboard with anything, the whole Christmas season actually can be something like that cheery merry ho ho ho that they try to make you feel when you’re watching Christmas commercials on TV.

And this year, I don’t know, maybe the stars were aligned or something, but I thought it was an especially successful Christmas. I committed myself to actually spending an entire day putting thought into my presents, taking advantage of all of the Cyber Monday deals online. There weren’t any of those last minute trips to any stores, those awful annual meltdowns where I find myself crushed up against a wall of like-minded procrastinators, mindlessly shuffling from aisle to aisle, asking myself questions like, “Should I really buy my wife a blender for Christmas? Or a blanket? Blender?” before ultimately grabbing and paying for something, anything to get me the hell outside, away from the crowds.

No, this year was easy. And for me, Christmas was prefaced by five days off from work. I scheduled my shifts at the restaurant accordingly, with plenty of family get-togethers to fill in all of my free days. Where a lot of the time the holidays can become a challenge to fit in seeing everyone from both my wife’s and my sides of the family, this year gave us ample time to hang out with our siblings, visit aunts, uncles and cousins, to really be present in a way that’s not possible when you’re spending a limited amount of time figuring out how you’re going to get from point A to B to C.

On Christmas Day we had breakfast with my in-laws before heading to my parents for lunch. Afterward we headed to my grandfather’s before packing everything up and coming home. And now here I am, I’m sitting here by myself for the first time in five days, what’s usually a comfortable quiet spot is now sort of unbearable. I want to be back at home already, surrounded by a million people, everyone talking over each other trying to muscle in a funnier joke, or a louder one at least.

Now that I’m by myself, I’m forced to think about how another year has passed, to wonder what Christmas is going to be like five years from now, or twenty, or fifty. Is it always going to be this tough, abruptly shifting from holiday back into reality? Why can’t we figure something out as a society to make the transition a little easier? Do I really have to go back to work today?

It’s crazy to think like this, I know it. You can’t be looking backwards. And yeah, once I get back into my routine, things will level out. My days are going to get busy again and I’ll start looking forward to the time I get to spend here at my desk, quiet, writing at my computer.

But right now I’m stuffed because I’ve been eating for like five days straight. My tongue hurts because there were all of these bowls of candy and desserts out at my grandfather’s and I couldn’t stop myself from shoving everything into my mouth. And I’m practically delirious with exhaustion. I haven’t slept a solid night since I’ve been away from my bed. I’m going through some serious Christmas withdrawal, and I want it to be over already. Why does it always have to end? Why can’t we just let the good times keep rolling?

I’m putting the Chris back in Christmas

Guys, this year I want to put the Chris back in Christmas. I’m talking about my friend Chris. Chris, are you reading this? I’ll send you a link. I’m really sorry about last Christmas. My friends and I did this Secret Santa, you know like just amongst the friends. I picked Chris, and I thought it would be a really cool to get him a custom t-shirt, it would have said, “Christmas 2012” but “Chris” would be highlighted in red, and, “tmas 2012,” in green.


That’s what it was supposed to say, but the printers must not have read my order that thoroughly, because it said, “Christ,” in red, with the rest written in green. And yeah, I was so pumped, all patting myself on the back because I got the present done way ahead of time, seriously, like I had this thing mailed to my house not even a week after Thanksgiving. But I never opened it to check the order, so Chris’s surprise at the seemingly Christian themed Christmas shirt, it was identical to mine, because honestly that was the first I’d seen it.

And what are you going to do, start hemming and hawing about how, “I swear, I ordered this thing in advance, I’m really sorry,” no, I just went with it, tried to make it like a joke. But Chris definitely wasn’t into it. The shirt was way too big on him, yeah, I guess XL was the wrong choice, but I don’t know, sometimes you get a t-shirt from the Internet and they’re all way too small. Plus, you wash them once and they shrink up almost like a size and a half. But yeah, Chris put it on, I guess he was trying to be a good sport about it, but it looked terrible, he wouldn’t even be able to wear it ironically.

What sucked the worst was, Chris wound up picking me, and he bought me a second controller for my XBOX. I mean, one, it’s something that I’d use all the time, in fact, I use it constantly, to this day, it’s sitting right there on my coffee table. And two, that’s expensive, like fifty, sixty bucks, right? My custom t-shirt was maybe twenty-five with shipping. And even though I thought it was supposed to be more the thought that counts, apparently there was a fifty dollar suggested price tag, I don’t know, I guess I wasn’t paying attention.

And then on New Years Eve, whatever, I thought it would have been cool if we both wore our Chris-Christmas shirts because, yeah, I got one for myself also. But he didn’t wear his, so I didn’t want to take off my hoodie, obviously he was a little pissed about it. I wound up buying him a twenty-five dollar gift certificate to Cold Stone Creamery, but he didn’t say thanks or anything, he put it on the coffee table and “forgot” it when he left for the night. And then it was so hot in there, once he left I thought it would have been OK to take the hoodie off.

But it wasn’t until the next day, I went on Facebook and saw that I’d been tagged in a bunch of photos wearing the t-shirt. Chris had left a comment, but he must have changed our friendship settings, because I couldn’t see what it said, it only let me know that he had commented. So I called up my friend Cliff, I said, “Can you believe what Chris wrote on Facebook?” and he said, “I didn’t check, hold on.”

I waited for like a minute and Cliff said, “Well, what did you expect?” So he must have written something nasty, but I didn’t want to give it away that I’d been blocked, so I never did find out exactly what Chris wrote. And that was it, I saw Chris a few times that summer, but I got the impression that he wasn’t really interested in being friends anymore. And yeah, it’s not like we were especially close anyway, but we could have been close, a lot closer, if only I had double checked, ordered that shirt a size or two smaller, maybe included the Cold Stone gift card with the shirt.

So this year, Merry Chris-tmas, I’m putting the Chris right back, I got him a shirt, I made sure it was the right size, and yeah, maybe he won’t have it, hopefully he’s still not carrying a grudge, but I got him an Outback Steakhouse gift card just in case. And it shouldn’t be awkward, because I wasn’t even included in the Secret Santa this year, so maybe everyone will see my good intentions, they’ll let me back in for next year, they’ll say, “Wow, Rob really turned that around. What a good sport. And he didn’t even get anything in return,” so maybe they’ll feel a little bad, and they’ll chip in and buy me something for the New Years party. Maybe. Whatever I’m not expecting it, and if it doesn’t happen, whatever, it doesn’t happen. But it would definitely be a nice gesture. Merry Christmas everybody.

Love, Actually, actually is all around

My wife and I have this annual holiday tradition. Every year, she watches Love, Actually on TV, and each time, about halfway through the movie, I come downstairs and start making snarky comments and bad jokes, to the point where nobody’s having any fun at all by the end of the film. Jeez, when I say it like that, I sound like a huge dick. And, I don’t know, I’m not that big of a dick.


But Love, Actually, come on, in which darkest timeline have I wound up where this movie has taken on such celebrated significance? I saw it in the theaters with my wife while we were still dating, and at the time, yeah, I did nice things like that, went to the movies to see romantic comedies. We saw Two Weeks Notice, a bunch of other mostly Hugh Grant movies. As we exited the nine o’clock showing of Love, Actually that night, all I thought was, well, I guess that’s as bad as it’s going to get.

But no, she started watching it the next year, and the year after that. Each Christmas, the TV stations started playing it more and more. Every time I’d hear a significant buzz, groups of people waiting for the subway, talking about how much they love Love, Actually, stuff like, “Oh my God, I just love that movie. It’s seriously probably my favorite movie of all time. Love, love, love, Love, Actually.”

Last night was the 2013 viewing, and I caught more of the movie than I usually do, to the point where some of the stories didn’t ring any bells in my memory. Obviously I’ll never be able to forget the scene where Hugh Grant, acting as Prime Minister of the UK, gives President Billy-Bob Thornton some ridiculous speech about Britain being a small but proud nation, but other subplots, like the one about the office romance hindered due to that lady’s disabled brother, it was as if they’d been blocked from my memory entirely.

Which was probably for the best. If only I had stayed away this year. But I can’t help myself. I hear that ongoing Mariah Carey chorus and I just have to march in and start poking fun. And asking lots of questions. Like, is Liam Neeson that kid’s dad? I mean, I know the mom died, right, but do they address whether or not he’s the kid’s biological father?

To me, it seems as if he has to be the step-dad, like maybe he married this single-mother, and after a while she died, and he’s left in charge with this little kid who he really doesn’t have that strong of a connection with. Because their relationship is so over the top. “You’re in love? Well go get her! Run after her! Right past Mr. Bean, through airport security, go get ‘em!” If that were a real dad, he’d be like, “Hey, do me a favor, all right? Just stop talking for a second. Please. Just one second. I’m incredibly depressed around the holidays, ever since your mother died, it’s just me and you. Stop talking about your little kid girlfriend for a minute, please.”

And you talk about love, right? Half of the stories have nothing to do with love. What about the one where the guy falls in love with his best friend’s wife? First of all, I’m watching this movie and I’m like, who the hell is this guy? Why does he look so familiar? Then it hits me, he’s the actor who plays Rick Grimes on The Walking Dead. And again, I wish I had never watched it this year, because now when I watch my favorite TV show, I’m not going to be able to shake the image of this guy wearing an oversized sweater holding up signs telling his friend’s wife not to make a sound so he can steal a kiss while he’s not paying attention. I’m going to be too focused on scrutinizing his fake American accent. Seriously, how do people do that? If I tried to talk in a British accent, best case scenario, everybody in earshot would mercilessly make fun of me, worst case scenario, I’d get punched, hard.

Or what about the story where the guy is cheating on his wife? I’m not trying to make a moral argument or anything, you know, because a story about a guy cheating on his wife, in a romance movie, you don’t really need some guy like me pointing out how out of place it is. But from a logistical standpoint, it really bothers me. Like, he buys a necklace for his mistress, OK. Why don’t you go shopping for jewelry like on the way home from work or something? Why insist on taking your whole family to the mall, and then making the worst attempt ever to sneak out of their sight for a second so you can buy a necklace? Isn’t that a little reckless? It’s stupid, is what it is. And then, you’re not into your wife, fine, but maybe buy her something a little nicer than a CD to at least pretend that you give a fuck about her not finding out. Doesn’t she even say something earlier, like, “Is it just sex? Or is it sex and love?”

What’s the message here, that true love is all about perspective? That regardless of how bad a situation appears from the outside, somebody might be caught up in true love? That actually sounds kind of legit. Holy shit, did I just figure it out?

I could go on all day, but I’m clearly in the minority here. Love, Actually actually looks like it’s here to stay, and for the long haul too. I can just picture myself as an old man, this movie’s going to come on and I’m going to force myself to sit there and provide asinine commentary, pitching the same lame Love, Actually jokes. Remember when I said before that I wasn’t that big of a dick? I guess I can be kind of dickish, but only when Love, Actually is on. I don’t know, it just brings out the worst in me. It’s a good thing that all of the follow-up imitation ensemble movies always bomb at the box office, like He’s Just Not That Into You, and I think there’s a Valentine’s Day one also, the sister from Seventh Heaven is in it. OK, I’m done. I’m going to be sick. Wait, no, OK, I held it in. Wait, it’s coming back. Yeah, I’m definitely going to be sick. Yep, I did it, I threw up. Gross.

You won a free cruise!

I kept getting the same phone call, over and over again, always from out of state.  The caller ID would say Seattle or Orlando or Phoenix. “Hello?” I’d answer, but before I could even finish that one word, there’d be an automatic recording, “Congratulations! You’ve won a free vacation!”


The messages would scroll through the same two or three scripts. “Pack those bags!” and I’d try to hang up before the sentence could be finished. Or there’d be one where a boat’s horn would blare, followed by a, “You just won a free cruise!” I don’t understand where these robo-calls are getting their financing from. Who’s making money off of this? Even if I were gullible enough to fall for a scam like this once, don’t you think it would raise even the stupidest caller’s suspicions to keep winning free vacations, one after the other?

So I just stopped answering my phone, outside of the few known contacts that still took the time to actually dial my number. And this worked, for a while anyway, but the phone gods must have taken notice to my answering habits, because the tactics changed slightly. I started getting random calls from various numbers in Danbury, Connecticut.

Connecticut, huh? I mean, I don’t really have any business in Connecticut, but it’s pretty close, definitely within the tri-state area. And why were they so persistent? It was like every other day, Danbury, Connecticut. Even though I knew that it was probably a junk call, every time I’d see that 203 area code pop up on my touchscreen, my imagination would run wild, I’d start fantasizing about all sorts of out-of-the-blue dream job offers, or some rich long-lost relative who’d somehow left me a large sum of money, but his inheritance lawyer was based out of Connecticut, and if he couldn’t get in touch with me soon, he’d be forced to start looking toward my next of kin. And do I really want to see my brothers and sisters wind up with what should have been my surprise fortune?

So one day when I got out of work I saw the three missed calls, I hesitated for a second before my thumb impulsively pressed the redial button. It didn’t even ring, it went straight to the recorded voice, “It looks like somebody’s ready to claim their free trip!” I was instantly disappointed, not realizing how I’d unintentionally let my long shot Danbury fantasies take up a little too much room in the higher parts of my consciousness.

But right as I was about to hang up the phone, the recording got a little specific, “Make sure you’re at the airport with enough time to get through security. Your reserved seat is in row 21, seat F.” It couldn’t be. Did I really win a trip? A free cruise?

I showed up at the airport on Monday and swiped my ID through the automated kiosk at the terminal. “Please report to agent window.” The agent ran my license through her system, “So you’re the guy who won the free cruise. Well guess what? You’ve been upgraded to first class. Enjoy your flight.”

Things just kept getting better, my good fortune accelerating every step of the way. When the cruise director asked me why I only had a backpack, when I told them that I wasn’t really convinced that I’d actually be traveling on a free vacation, he had a whole new wardrobe sent to my cabin. They unpacked everything, and all of the clothes fit better than my own.

At the buffet that night, I started loading my plate with oysters on the half shell. But one of the cruise workers stopped me, “Hey, you’re the free cruise guy, right?”

“That’s me,” I said. He took my plate away and came back with some expensive looking China. Now these were oysters, almost three times the size of the ones available for the rest of the guests. When I cracked them open, I couldn’t believe it, but there were actual pearls stuffed inside, just like you’d see in a picture from a high school oceanography textbook. After I finished my meal, the staff took all of my pearls and fashioned them into a necklace, with all of the pearls spelling out the words, “Free Cruise.”

I thought that was a little cheesy, but it was a nice gesture, and it was great way for me to identify myself as the lucky winner. People stopped asking me, “Are you the free cruise guy?” and just automatically started giving me the star treatment wherever I went. My hour-long massage got extended to four. I was playing some blackjack at the casino, I had a nineteen, but when I signaled that I’d hold, the dealer gave me a look and mouthed out the word, “Hit.” And it was a good thing too, because I wound up with a twenty-one, and the dealer drew a twenty. I won like seven hundred bucks.

When I got home, I brought the pearls to one of those pawn/jeweler shops in the diamond district. I can’t believe how much money those things fetched. I mean, I’m no pearl expert or anything, but I would’ve assumed them to be fakes, or at least the manmade kind, the artificial ones that they produce by forcing sand into the oysters’ mouths.

I just got back last week. I can’t believe that I waited so long to take advantage of such an incredible opportunity. I wish I knew who to thank. Unfortunately, I stopped receiving the robo-calls, so it looks like the good luck has moved on to someone else. Still, if you get the call about the free vacation, trust me, it’s not too good to be true, it’s real. Pick up that phone! Head on over to that airport! You’ve just won yourself a free vacation!

I’ll take no for an answer

I’ll totally take no for an answer. No? That’s cool, thanks anyway. Like, I was at the deli the other day, I asked for a pound of peppermill turkey and half a pound of jack cheese. I went home to make myself a sandwich and I opened up those cold cuts. It wasn’t what I had ordered at all. Instead of turkey it was some sort of prosciutto, and the cheese, I don’t even know what this stuff was, it looked like army fatigues, you know, if instead of green and brown they used yellow and white and a slightly less yellow-yellow.


So I went back to the deli, I mean normally I wouldn’t even bother, but the deli is only like a block away from my house. Maybe they messed up my order? Maybe somebody elsen accidentally received my stuff? It was all within the realm of possibility. But when I went to the counter guy, when I asked him, “Hey, did you give me the wrong order?” he just looked at me and said, “No.”

And like I said, whatever, I’ll take no for an answer, I’m easygoing like that, I like being easygoing, I like imagining people talking about me, saying stuff like, “Rob’s really easygoing, never causes any problems.” I went home and made myself the weirdest sandwich I’ve ever eaten in my life. Prosciutto, first of all, I’m not like a huge prosciutto guy, but it’s usually sliced very thin.

Really thin, actually, the few times I’ve found myself talking about prosciutto or reading about it, the thinner the better, that’s what I’ve always taken away. But this stuff was thick, like Virginia ham thick. I didn’t even know how to go about building a sandwich out of this stuff. Like, I’ve had prosciutto with melon, prosciutto wrapped around asparagus.

You know, I said that I’m not a huge prosciutto guy, but now that I’m talking about it, I guess I’ve had more experience with prosciutto than I’ve let on. It’s not my go-to deli meat of choice, hardly, but yeah, I guess it’s in a lot more of my diet than I previously admitted. Like when you go to an Italian restaurant, whatever the special is, it’s always something either stuffed with or wrapped in prosciutto. Stuffed veal with prosciutto. Chicken cutlets wrapped in prosciutto with a wine sauce. Always.

I’ve heard you’re only supposed to use one slice, really, because prosciutto has such an intense flavor. But I was hungry, I had planned on making a piled-high turkey sandwich. I went for two, hoping to offset the taste with extra cheese. But even that, the cheese was so weird tasting. It was kind of smoky, but with almost jelly-like overtones. I’d never tasted anything like it.

Finally, I took a bite, and it was like, I couldn’t even chew through the prosciutto, the ribbons of marbled fat proved way too much for my teeth. After sitting there chewing for upwards of a minute, I finally just tried to swallow whatever was in my mouth, and I almost choked.

Kind of defeated, I eventually just went back to the deli to have them make me a sandwich. Yeah, I felt kind of silly just throwing my money away, but hey, I don’t want to cause any problems, there are so many people just trying their best, going about their days. Who am I to cause a problem?

It was the same deli guy, I told him what I wanted, he didn’t say anything, he just went right for the meat, right over to the slicer. “Hey man, you heard me say peppermill turkey, right? Not oven-gold, right?” But there wasn’t any response, he put way too much mayo, even though I said, “Easy mayo, please.”

But it was fine, you’re not going to catch me whining about a sandwich. Maybe I’ll grow to like mayo even more after this sandwich. I’m just waiting to get really hungry before I take that first bite. I mean, right now, it looks a little unpalatable, but I’ll get there, sooner or later I’ll be shaking, everything will look tasty. And is that really such a big deal? So I have to wait a little longer to eat. I should have such problems, right? Because I’m not looking for a fight, I’m trying to be easygoing. Where everyone else causes a stink, just don’t worry about me, I’ll totally take no for an answer.