Friday, December 30, 2022

Dis chord, dat chord

Country music singersHave always been a real close familyBut lately some of my kinfolksHave disowned a few others and meI guess it's becauseI kinda changed my directionLord, I guess I went and broke their family tradition 
--Hank Williams Jr

I grew up without a lot of family traditions. Oh, we did the usual things white lower middle class families do like decorate Christmas trees, carve jack o lanterns, eat turkey and dye Easter eggs. We had barbecues with the neighbors and occasionally celebrated birthdays together, but in retrospect, it was all generic.

My family didn't come from recent immigrant stock so we had no old country traditions. My grandmother's (my father's mother) furnishings didn't come over on a boat. It mainly came from Sears and Roebucks. Some of it is considered antique now, but none of it was handmade or anything but functional.

My mother came from a family with 12 children. There was basically nothing passed down. At least there was nothing material passed on. They were poor and barely had food to eat. At times they lived in a tent. So the only tradition they passed down was survival and very little talk about what had been a hard life.

A couple of my mom's sisters would bring their families over for select holidays. They had followed in their family traditions of having lots of kids. So I had (and have) more cousins than I can count. My own mother had stopped at three (and one half sister I didn't know about until years after my mother died). My father was an only child who discovered he was adopted after my grandmother died.

So I guess family secrets are part of my family tradition. But I think it falls more into the category of things that no one talked about. Like my mother's nephew (son of her oldest sister) whose wife killed their five year old son (who had been born just a day before me in the same hospital) with a shotgun. The mother then turned the shotgun on herself. She left behind twin babies who later had mental struggles of their own.

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Bizzaro world

 I have been coming into the office this week instead of working from my home as I have for more than two and a half years. And although I like returning to the structure of the office it is anything but normal. For one, hardly anyone else is in the office. So it is kind of like those post-apocalypse movies where everything has just been abandoned. 

I walk by what seems like endless rows of empty cubicles and offices. Supplies are piled empty reception desks. Kitchens are full of abandoned cups and plastic containers. Lets not even talk about what is inside of the refrigerators in the break rooms.

I work out in a gym in one of our office buildings. It used to be packed at lunchtime pre-pandemic. Now I often have it to myself. It is kind of nice, but also kind of unsettling.

There used to be coffee and sandwich places nearby. Now most of them are closed. So my coffee comes from a K-cup and it is consumed at my desk.

It struck me the other day that it is very likely that things will never return to the way it used to be. Most people have the option of working remotely and most people have exercised that option. 

We have already consolidated much of the office space we used to have into a couple of buildings. I packed up my spacious office back in August and moved to the 11th floor of my current building where I managed to squeeze 19 boxes of memorabilia accumulated in 25 years of working here into an office the size of small bathroom.

Even my commute has changed. I went from crowded trains that sometimes had people sitting on the stairs to the upper level to cars with a handful of people spread comfortably out with four seats to themselves. I am one of the few people who still wears a mask on the train. COVID shattered our world but now most just ignore that it still exists.

It helps a bit to be an introvert in this new world.  There is less forced interactions and most of them are via video. It is much easier to be detached in a video meeting. 

Still part of me misses normal (whatever that was).

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Playing opossum


Nothing like a random filter from Snapchat to inspire a blog post. I'm not even sure what product the opossum filter was supposed to be promoting. But the first thing that comes to mind when I think opossum (not that I think about them very often) is the concept that a opossum will pretend it is dead if it finds itself threatened. A quick Google search suggests that the opossum doesn't actually play dead. The fear actually triggers a catatonic state in the animal so it appears dead.

Regardless, most opossums I've seen actually are dead. Thus the joke, "Why did the chick cross the road? Answer, "To show the opossum that it could be done."

On another random note, I was at a conference in San Diego many years ago and attended a lunch session at the San Diego Zoo. One of the zoo keepers brought in a live opossum and urged us all to smell it. Not sure what the point was, but the opossum did smell pretty darned good.

Now that I've exhausted most of my relevant facts about opossums I'll digress about other random things. Before writing this post, I toyed with writing another post about how I am insecure about whether or not I'm funny. It was triggered by my son's reaction to a Christmas card I made him that said, "All I want for Christmas is an NFT." On the inside was a photo of his cat with a funky grin and a sailor hat. The caption read, "How about an NFC (Non-fungible Cat) instead?" I thought it was extremely clever. 

My son didn't.

Monday, December 19, 2022

It's the most wonderful time of the year


It's cold, gray, and threatening snow. COVID 19 has joined forces with the cold and the flu to make sure every one is feeling miserable or afraid of feeling miserable. We are either in a recession, coming out of a recessing, going into a recession or merely skipping along our merry way paying more for everything. The war still goes on in the Ukraine. Trump is still babbling incoherently about being cheated out of the presidency and vowing revenge. He still manages to avoid being held accountable for anything. Elon Musk has made Twitter even more of a shit show than it ever was.

On the home front we are in the middle of a two-month remodel that is heading into its fifth month. We had to have a $700 heart scan on our dog and one of our cats is still at risk of crystals in his bladder despite a $2,000 operation.

I love the holidays. 

On the bright side I seem to have an endless supply of shows to stream. I discovered White Lotus on HBO Max. I have Acapulco, Mosquito Coast, Echo 3 and Mythic Quest on Apple +. I have 1899 on Netflix and Tulsa King on Paramount +. So there is something positive in the world.

I went with my wife to the mall on Sunday so she exchange a sweater she got for my son for Christmas. Apparently it had a hole in it. Anyway, we went to Macy's where I was overcome with the stench of Aramis pouring out of the cosmetics area and disco music blaring at a display near the front of the store. The store was packed with frantic people lining up at cash registers where very weary looking store employees definitely didn't look like they appreciated the spirit of the holidays.

The mall, as one might imagine, did look like the scene of a zombie apocalypse. But instead of people shuffling along looking for brains (which you would be hard pressed to find in a mall) they were jostling each other trying to buy calendars with grumpy cat photos or Japanese overstuffed and unrecognizable animal toys.  It struck me that news of a recession hasn't reached the masses because there was a whole lot of consuming going on.

We escaped the mall and got stuck in traffic bogged down by a snow storm. All I could think was that I wish I was some place tropical. The prospect of a white Christmas appeals to me just about as much as accepting a job as the caretaker for the Outlook Hotel in The Shining

At least I have my iPad and streaming videos to look forward to.

Thursday, December 15, 2022

The devil is in the details


I've been going to our local Rite Aid for years and walked by the ad on the top of this photo and wondered why it always looked familiar. I finally figured out why (with the help of Google and PhotoShop).

Tuesday, December 06, 2022

White Christmas


If you have been following my blog for some time (and god knows there must be thousands of you), you know that every year I decorate an all white tree with blue lights and nothing but Elvis related ornaments. It is a tradition that I started probably more than 25 years ago. 

This year we are remodeling our house and the space where I normally put up the Elvis tree is under construction. So no Elvis tree this year. Sorry Elvis.

But this post isn't really about my Elvis tree or lack thereof. My wife and I were in a restaurant on Saturday night and there were a group of people seated at a nearby table. An older couple were dressed as Mr and Mrs. Santa Claus.  I assumed they had been at a party or working a party. But still, it struck me as odd that they would wear their Santa suits to a restaurant. 

For some reason the sight of a table full of white people eating dinner with Mr and Mrs Santa Claus made me think how white of a holiday the secular Christmas is, especially in the small city I live in. It gave a whole new meaning to the term "White Christmas."

I had never thought of it that way before. I'd never considered that people of color had to put up with a white Santa, white Virgin Mary, white baby Jesus and white angels. This is all pretty ironic considering the event Christmas is supposed to be commemorating took place in a part of the world where I seriously doubt most of the people were white except for the Romans.

And Santa Claus really doesn't figure into the whole nativity aspect of Christmas anyway. He is part of marketing efforts to try and work a profit angle into the holiday. So as holiday spirited people think they are when they wear stupid Santa hats, they are really just feeding into the commercial spirit that really fuels White Christmas in the United States.

Don't get me wrong. I usually get caught up in the non-religious hype of the holidays myself. I'd put up lights, listen to Christmas music and decorate my Elvis tree (and a more traditional tree) all in the spirit of the holidays. Generally I would attribute it to being for the kids. But deep down, it gave me comfort because this is something I grew up doing. But even as a kid, I knew Christmas was something that was cobbled together from lots of different traditions from many cultures and beliefs. I knew that Jesus wasn't really born on December 25. It was just an arbitrary date that likely coincided with some holiday the druids celebrated when the Romans conquered them.

I knew as a kid that Santa didn't exist. But I put up my stocking and accepted the jumbo Sugar Daddy bar and boxes of Life Savors. I opened my presents and experienced the post present depression of being more enthralled with the thought of presents than the actual presents themselves.

But still I grew up with a White Christmas that reflected my privilege of being a white person in America. So now I can't listen to Bing Crosby or Elvis dreaming about a white Christmas in the same way anymore.