Monthly Archives: December 2011

Old Acquaintance

The wind barraged his face and his neck lamented his aversion to scarves, but his feet suffered the most. Despite the alleged water-proofing done to these boots, the gray slush of the 28th’s snowstorm had seeped in to soak his socks. No amount of toe-flexes or tap-dancing generated any warmth, the cold of the city refusing to be denied.

The Columbus Park tradition had remained for years, through heartaches, cross-country moves, and minor animosities. All seven of them had gathered to ring out the year together from the days when their parents had to drop them off at the T. Sneaking nips had been replaced with bar-hopping, with only the apathetic teetotaler remaining sober.

A general din bounced around the park, off the swanky hotels and out across the water, punctured by the occasional blare of five-dollar plastic horns. Two of the guys in the group reminded the lone girl about the time they saw a naked woman in one of the windows. Jill, once again, said that she remembered.

As the hour approached, everyone turned to look back at the skyline. For a while, the countdown had been projected via laser onto the face of the Custom House Tower. After a few years, they added in awkward, vector graphic-level images of sponsors, bank logos and cartons of orange juice. After someone in the tower complained, they shifted it over a building off to the left. Less iconic, but still functional. Where would it be this year, they wondered?

Another gust came up off the water and crept through the crowd, somehow seeming to jump through his layers of wool and fleece to settle right in his shoes. He clapped his hands and rubbed his mittens together, as if that would offset it.

“Time check?” Ben asked, not taking his eyes off the buildings.

“Midnight-ish,” Rick replied. No one took out their phones.

A timid pop came from over their shoulders. He turned around, slightly nervous (though not as much as he would have been at the end of ’99, when everyone joked about Y2K but secretly believed the world would end). Across the old Harbor, the first fluttering embers of the initial salvo of fireworks settled toward the water. As he scrunched his eyes in confusion, a bright green burst popped in the sky. The display had begun.

“Uhh…guys?”

They all turned, his group and the rest of the crowd. Over the course of the following few minutes, a succession of sparkles and pops and bursts unfolded in relatively rote fashion. When it ended, the applause seemed muted by more than thick gloves. The display had been fine, but the lack of a countdown had hindered the celebration. And, by extension, the tradition. Trudging with the swaying crowd to the Green Line, no one wanted to say that, without a clear demarcation between the old and the new, none of them knew how exactly to exult.

Your Resolutions (You’re Welcome)

Generally, I’m not one for “resolutions.” But I’d like to suggest a few for everybody else.

This year, I think you should resolve to:

  • Stop coming into the office sick. Seriously. Nobody is impressed that you’ve dragged your pestilential carcass into work. Nobody wants to hear you snivelling and hacking away like a Dickensian orphan in a croupe ward, and furthermore – NOBODY believes you when you say you’re “past the contagious stage.” STAY HOME and nurse that whatever-it-is, instead of coming in and nursing your martyr complex.
  • Refrain from garlicy repasts the night before you’re going to be on a crowded bus during rush hour.
  • Make yourself this deal: if it has to do with the Duggars, the Palins, or the Kardashians, ignore it. These people do not need any more attention.
  • Stop being a passive aggressive online attention ho. My friend Jean refers to this as “vaguebooking.” You know what I’m talking about. Posting some cryptic baloney like “Sigh…” or “I really can’t believe people sometimes…” with no explanation. Honestly, it’s exponentially more irritating than oversharing, and you’re probably going to delete it after 45 minutes anyway. A good rule of thumb? If you think someone’s going to respond, “Aw.  What’s wrong, hun?” DON’T POST IT.
  • Speaking of oversharing, if your resolutions include some kind of diet/fitness program, for the love of all that is holy, stop posting every 10 minutes about it. I don’t care how many calories you consumed, burned, eschewed, or threw off a cliff. You’re harshing my sugar stupor as I sit here on the couch with my laptop deciding whether or not to post “Wow. Just…wow” or “SOOOO disappointed” as my latest status.

Green Christmas

Traffic lights, the pulse
And release of the city,
A thousand things running
And stopping,  little  holidays
For us on our road maps, calendars,

Enjoy those little holidays,
Hold them like a rattle,
Baby, shake it while you
Can, make it count while

The amber glows and
Just because there are
A few reds, don’t forget
The greens, don’t forget
The greens.

Christmas Vacation 2012 Haiku

Pardon me, but I’m
in New Jersey right now; you’ll
have to read elsewhere.

Also, I will most
likely be hungover all
this week, so there’s that.

Top Ten “Top 10” Lists of 2011

  • 10. Top 10 Underreported Stories of the Year I think this is an interesting Top 10 list idea to tackle, because “underreported” — aka not popular, not top — indicates that these stories are anything but Top 10. So I commend Time for making an intrinsically hypocritical Top 10 list that is actually surprisingly informative and insightful.
  • 9. Top 10 Ways to Make People Believe You Are Not Drunk. Also known as “Top 10 Ways to Ineffectually Attempt to Mask All Signs of Alcoholism,” this list tries really hard to insist that no one will ever notice, despite the fact that its overall recommendation for hiding the effects of alcohol is just to sit there and do nothing for the entire night (which in turn kind of defeats the purpose of social drinking).
  • 8. Top 10 Sweatiest Movies. It’s about time someone compiled a list like this. I commend author Kate Witteman for her gall in even making this pitch to her editor. It’s an absurd concept that actually hooks on to our collective cultural curiosity.
  • 7. 2011 Top 10 Movies for Grownups. This one makes the list strictly because it was compiled by the AARP. And let’s face it, that’s funny. It’s not even that all of these movies focus on characters over 60 years old; they’re just “movies for grownups,” which is an incredibly absurd and ridiculously vague criterium. Even Hugo and We Bought a Zoo make the list.
    Bonus: 2011 Top 10 Albums for Grownups, a list that is much more in line with “Stuff Only Mom and Dad Like.”
  • 6. Top 10 Secretly Badass Animals. I’d never seen a Mantis Shrimp before I saw this list, let alone heard of one, but I can say with great confidence that my quality of life has vastly improved now that I have. Also, wombats. Who doesn’t love a wombat? Neither wom, nor bat, yet somehow, still incredibly — and, apparently, badass.
  • 5. Top 10 Topical Sesame Street Characters. The fact there have been enough topical Sesame Street characters to justify the creation of Top 10 list of said characters is proof alone that despite all threats of economic collapse and nuclear fallout, the future is inherently a good thing, and we’re all going to be okay in the end.
  • 4. Top 10 Short-Lived Celebrity Marriages. Obviously topped off by the whole Kardashian fiasco, this list is especially notable because it is indicative of the world in which we live. Future historians would be well served to examine this list to gain a better understanding of our celebrity-obsessed culture in which there have actually been enough short-lived publicity stunt marriages to garner such a list. And yet gay marriage is still such a hot-button topic…
  • 3.Top 10 Memes. Another impressive cultural indicator. The irony here, of course, is that “Arbitrary Year-End Top 10 Lists” did not make the list of Top 10 Memes. In an even greater tragedy, neither did Admiral Ackbar.
  • 2. Facebook’s Top Status Trends in the US. Another major hallmark by which Future Historians will judge our lives. What really gets me is that despite the fact that I pride myself as being someone whose finger remains on the pulse of Internet trends, I have no idea what “lms” or “tbh” means, even though they were apparently the most popular Facebook status trends of the year. (mumble mumble god damn kids mumble mumble off my lawn)
  • 1. Google Zeitgeist 2011 Top 10 Google Searches. A worldwide ranking of our most popular Google searches, this is a prime cut cross section of our modern culture. Hell, it’s even hard to be disappointed that Rebecca Black tops off the list. But I’m especially impressed that the non-existent iPhone 5 made the top 10. What does it say about our culture when fictional science (science fiction?) permeates the heights of our news and obsessions? I’ll leave that one to the Future Historians.

  • Honorable Mention: Top 10 People Not Running for President, because neither Michelle Bachmann, Mitt Romney, or Newt Gingrich is included.

    For Lenny

    I’m a terrible person.  I must be.  Lenny is devastated, and I’m just twiddling my arthritic thumbs until lunch.  He’s not even crying, just sitting in the front row, staring at Alexandra’s casket.  Alexandra’s ten-thousand-dollar casket.  I think the budget for the funeral was fifteen—that’s what Millie said—and they bought their neighboring plots decades ago.  When Lenny told me how much he spent on the box, I nearly crapped my Depends.  Not to be insensitive, but that’s just impractical.  A guy like Lenny could live on that much money for months, maybe even a year.  He’s not thinking, doesn’t have any kids to think for him or talk some sense through that thick skull.

    I should be sad.  Everyone who walks up to that podium starts out saying what a beautiful, kind creature she was.  Creature?  She wasn’t a bug under a microscope; she was someone’s wife.  People may just be walking sacks of meat, but they matter to other sacks of meat, like Lenny.

    Thinking about meat makes me hungry—more proof that I’m a terrible person.  I don’t know why thinking about meat makes me hungry; I can’t even digest the stuff anymore.  It makes my stomach hurt so much, I think I’m crapping out my spleen. Alexandra used to make pretty fair fig bars for bridge night, before her eyes started going.  Before her memory turned into a glitching time machine and her hands tremored like it was always thirty below.

    I feel bad for Lenny, I really do, but how long do I have to sit in this place to show that?  Sitting in the car like some forgotten toddler would be a welcome change over this.  At least the car seats are cushioned.  These folding chairs are bringing out every crick in my back that ever was and ever will be.  You know those metal chairs with the plastic seats so cheap that they bend under a bony ass?  They’re that kind.

    My stomach keeps gurgling, but no one notices because everyone’s body has been making ugly noises for the past hour.  They should call us the Orchestra of Elderly Emissions.

    I hope he doesn’t ask me to go up.  I’ll shake Lenny’s hand, share a beer or nutri-shake or whatever else our pitiful intestines can take, but I can’t talk.  Not like all these “creature” people.  I played bridge with her.  That’s it.  Millie and I went there once a week to play cards with Lenny and Alexandra, and Lenny and I only did it so we could pour a couple cold ones after while the girls gossiped about the other old folks in the home.  We never gave a crap about the game.  I’ll tell Millie we should keep going every week, keep him company.  I think he’d like that.

    Everyone’s standing.  I must have missed the cue.  I hope we file straight out of here to some reception.  The non-casket money must have been enough for some finger food, too.

    Last Minute Shopping

    The fluorescent lights twitched across the faded gray rug between the shelves of generic cold medicine. The stale smell of the store’s heater prodded at Jason’s nose. Flipping his blonde dreads back, he stopped by the cough drops and scanned the aisle-description signs. This one said “Toys,” but only ingestible healing products surrounded him. Why did every Rite Aid have a different layout, and why could he never find anything in any of them?

    After pacing up and down three more aisles, he realized the toys had been moved to a special holiday section. The one that generally had bags of candy and stuffed animals, so he never paid attention to it. He took out his phone to check the time — it was 8:40. He was already ten minutes late.

    Much of the plastic shelving lay empty, scattered blister packs lounging in various positions. Some areas, the ones above the larger yellow price tags denoting the sale items, had been empty so long they had accumulated a thin layer of dust. Shit. It’s not like he had assumed that whatever he got here would be awesome. No one had ever been satisfied with drugstore toys. Still, he figured there’d be more than this.

    His right hand buzzed like a joke handshake — he had forgotten to put his phone back in his pocket. He knew it was his sister without even looking. Shit shit.

    Thumbing down on the screen, he scanned the shrapnel that remained. “Yeah? You’re right, I’m not. I will be, but not…I gotta take care of a couple things. No, that’s already…I got all that.”

    As she relished the chance to outline all the people waiting for him to get to the party, he used his other hand to pile up whatever he could use. There was a Two-Face action figure that didn’t seem related to any particular representation of the Batman universe he had ever seen. Near that he found a couple packs of generic American Hero action figures (cop, firefighter, solider, all with maybe two points of articulation). Good enough to cover the two nephews. Pink packages with pictures of glittery puppies holding whatever would cover the little girl. And for the baby, in the back behind a pair of fake plastic handcuffs he found one smudged ocean-green stuffed animal with pursed lips that opened into an O when squeezed. There’s a chance it was supposed to play a song, but it just whimpered instead.

    “Right. Right. Look, I gotta go.” He hung up before she could button the guilt trip. Hugging the stack of toys to his frayed peacoat, he made his way to the counter. Calculating, he figured he’d make it there by quarter past. There’d be unrest, to say the least; but at least he wouldn’t be empty-handed.