Thursday, December 23

Worst Christmas Ever.

So, here we go. We have 6 stops in 3 days, and we pull out of Sun Prairie at 10:30am sharp on Friday. We have all the gifts wrapped, the time schedule down, the cars full of gas and the cats properly fed. We're mentally prepared for dealing with people we don't want to talk to, physically prepared for the running around, and have already compiled a list of quick-witted comebacks concerning any of the following:

Truly, this has the makings of the worst Christmas ever. For starters, I've completely alienated one side of my family this year. When I changed my last name, the Olson's sort of got pissed off, even though it was none of their business. I don't know if they're still seething, but I've been doing my best not to pour fuel on the fire. I won't be attending Christmas at the Olson household this year, but I will be stopping by to see my Grandmother on Sunday. I'm doing whatever I can to show her that I'm grateful, while keeping firm that I made the right decision. This is a difficult balance when you're dealing with a family of stubborn Norway folk, but I'm the same exact way.

Enough of that, time for nostalgia. A few things have changed at the Zeinert household, as well. If you look at old Christmas photos taken there, you'd probably not be able to make anything out through the thick fog of cigarette smoke. Somewhere along the line, they finally realized that we were all going to be dead soon if people didn't start smoking outside. It helped make the pictures clearer, and certainly increased our life span. Old photos will also show you more of a rampant alcoholism than now. Sure, the Zeinerts will kick back a beer or glass of wine this weekend, but a picture from 1989 will show you nothing less than a yuletide can pyramid almost rivaling the decorated tree next to it. It was a sight to behold for someone as young as me at the time.

I only miss eating meat on Christmas day. Every year, I would rub my hands with delight waiting for the giant smoked Salmon to be set in the buffet. There it would sit, splayed open like a school science project, being slowly picked and nibbled to death as the day wore on. It was divine. Now I find myself rejecting slices of cheese that may have brushed up against a sausage link, because I'm an asshole. It doesn't mean I'm not enjoying myself, though.

It's funny how random things tend to stick with you. I keep reminding myself of a picture taken of my Cousin Scott, when he was about 6 years old. He had just unwrapped a Sesame Street "Light-n-Learn", and was proudly displaying it for a photograph. There he is, smiling away, holding a box that couldn't be more upside down. It's hilarious. In all of my childhood photos, I just look like I need a sandwich stuffed with Ritalin. It's a shame that the majority of the pictures taken of me were when Don Majikowski was big here in Wisconsin. Was there any particular purpose for shaving lines into the side of your head? Maybe it helped him run faster into football obscurity.

At the Zeinert's, we'd open presents one at a time, youngest first. Once the kids were done, they were sent away to play with what they got, while the adults did their thing. Usually, every year they would all pitch in to get Grandma & Grandpa something nice. It was never hard to make Grandma cry on Christmas. She was usually doing it before we showed up. Coming from a guy who has seen this woman in action on Christmas morning, I'm surprised she even had the energy to cry. If I had the money, I'd buy the 2 of them anything they wanted. I swear to Christ, if I won the lottery tomorrow I'd buy them a new house. Anything without steps to climb. Of course, I didn't win the lottery, so they're going to get something much smaller from me. She'll still cry about it, though.

It's times like this that you become very grateful for the company you keep. I've got my own life now, but on December 25th you get to step back into what you remember as a kid. The idea of tradition states that something is done symbolically every year in honor to something else. In this case, the birth of Jesus, but also the coming together of people you know and love. (For more insight on coming together, visit Boycott Unity.) The notion that I can step back in time every year with the same people on the same day, and be happy, is beautiful.

15 years ago, I would have asked for a video game system. This year, I'm asking for a vacuum cleaner. This year, I get to stick around when the kids have to leave. Each year, I have to wait a little longer to get to my presents. Each year I get less and less, but I enjoy it more and more. When I was younger, I'd take my Christmas money to the mall. This year, I'm using the money to pay off my credit card. This year, I'll pass on the salmon, but I'll have a glass of wine.

It's going to be the best Christmas ever.

(The CDP will return after the holidays.)

My Project Jacket In The Attic.

I took Thursday off so I would have a 4-day weekend. Initially, I was going to use that day to finish up my Christmas shopping, but I completed that way ahead of schedule. What will I do with my day off?

7:15am - Celia wakes up for work. In true supportive Husband fashion, I get up with her and watch the repulsive horror show that is "Good Morning America". Sip orange juice as Diane Sawyer tells me that our children will be dead by the afternoon thanks to terrorists. Turn to "The Today Show" and realize that sometime last year, Katie Couric became a Botox-riddled alien. Vaguely recall meeting her while shopping at a mall in London.

8:15am - Celia leaves for work. I tell her that I have a big day planned.

8:17am - Fall asleep.

11:30am - Awake on couch, still holding half-empty glass of orange juice. Angry because I slept through "The Price is Right". Take a bath with the door open to see if my cats like the water.

Noon - Order a sub from Cousins. Balance my checkbook and pray that I get $80,000 for Christmas or I'll have to file bankruptcy. Get mail, throw away all Christmas cards that don't contain money or a comical family photo.

1:00pm - Nap.

2:30pm - Alphabetize CD's. Finally integrate both of our collections. Can already hear Celia yelling that The Shins and Sean Na Na shouldn't have to be in such close quarters with The Stereo and Soul Coughing. Remind myself to go to Best Buy and purchase new CD.

4:00pm - Wear hole in carpet from couch to kitchen to bathroom. Repeat until suicidal.

4:30pm - Afternoon nap.

5:30pm - Clean house, make bed, change dishwasher and litter boxes. Pretend I've been doing housework all day. Change clothes I was sleeping in the night before.

6:00pm - Celia comes home, and I begin to function like a normal human again. Nap.

Hey, how many times do I have to plug Boycott Unity before you go and check it out? Get in on the ground floor of the future of Stick Figure political cartoons.

TOMORROW! The Worst Christmas Ever!

Sunday, December 19

Just Like Heaven.

I know someone's going to take my spot
I know that you're going to be a star.

On Saturday evening at about 5:30, Ben and Sherry came over to our place. We ate at the Olive Garden, and headed down to Mad Planet in Milwaukee for the big Benjamins reunion show. It was about 4 degrees out, and the snow was whipping around with the 30mph wind. It was hard to keep the car on the road, and there were patches of ice here and there. I was pretty happy once we finally got to park.

Once there, we met up with Lindsay, who I owed an apology to.

The Saltshakers got the night going. They sounded good enough, but the whole time I was secretly worrying that the bass player's pants were going to fall off at any minute. This paralyzing fear sort of took away from the mood.

The Etiquette was up next. I had never heard of them before, and they rocked pretty hard. The singer did a spot-on Billy Idol impression for a cover of Rebel Yell to close the set. That's all you need to know.

You're not so sure about me, I can tell
But you know me better than anyone
And I'm just lame
You're so great, you know
A total shooting star
I think you're wonderful
You're wonderful, you're wonderful.
The Benjamins took the stage as if 3 years never passed. I snagged their setlist, and here it is, in almost correct order:
Weather's Here, Wish You Were Beautiful
Sophia On The Stereo
Dr. Frank Was Right
Boxcar (Jawbreaker)
Riverwest Creeps
Gave It Away
Just Like Heaven (The Cure)
3,720 To 1
It's The End Of The World As We Know It (R.E.M.)
Little Tin Heart
My Name Is Jonas (Weezer)
I have never seen a crowd of people so happy to see a band in my life. Every word of every song was screamed right back at the Benjamins, sometimes overpowering the PA. I was having my own private bliss as well, enjoying myself without bothering anyone else, I hope. Mad Planet was packed with swaying bottles of Blatz, the screaming didn't let up for a second, and they sounded as tight as they ever did, considering that they're all almost full-blown alcoholics.
A stack of mixtapes brought me closer
And I know that it's a modest melody
That sent you out to find the perfect guy
But found you crashing into me.
They played just about every song they had ever done, peppered with covers of some of my favorite songs. I think that in order to be in a good Wisconsin band, you have to learn Boxcar by Jawbreaker. It's a law. Just Like Heaven pretty much sealed the deal for me, and there was nothing that was going to bother me for the rest of the night. Not the sasquatch in front of me with a swaying girl under each arm, not the drunk chick in front of Sherry with her shirt off, not even the insanely loud PA that's still ringing in my ears as I type this. I flat out had a blast.
Let's not blow it right now
Let's not do something we'd both regret
Never is a long time to wait for you
And I'm not getting any younger.
It should also be noted that I had not one drink that night. I had a Bellini at the Olive Garden, but that was it. I drank water at the show, keeping with my solemn vow to never have more than one drink in a single day ever again. Or at least until something else comes up. I mean it.
When the show was over, we quickly said hi to Ben, the bass player, and headed out the door. Lindsay had left about 10 minutes before us, and we thought she was as good as gone when we stepped outside into the -20 degree wind chill. We then saw her standing on the streetcorner, waiting for her ride. When I realized that she had been standing there for over 10 minutes, I almost started bawling. We stood shivering with her until Anthony showed up, and started the long trek back home.
I had a dream that I wrote a song for you
And you just sat back and laughed
I can't sleep to save my life
I guess that's what I get for...
The snow was patchy, and there were sheets of glare ice on the highway. The road salt had covered the lines, so people were all over the place. We had to go about 45 most of the way home. By this time it was 3am, so staying awake wasn't the easiest thing in the world. Me and Celia passed the time with a mature discussion on parenting. Surely, it's easier to philosophize about children when you don't have any of your own. It's nicer that way right now. At about 3:30 we got home, and enjoyed our desserts from the Olive Garden. We incoherently babbled to each other until about 4:30, when we realized that we should probably go to sleep. Sherry had to work a full day on Sunday, and they had to be out of our house by 11:30.
I am an angel
And quite the rock star, too
Did you ever in your life
Think you'd end up with someone like me?
That pretty much brings you up to speed. I plan on milling around in my pajamas all day, watching football and eating random things. I have a 3-day work week starting on Monday, and then I'm off for Christmas. Boycott Unity will have more cartoons next week, and you can expect more things here at the CDP, as Sweeps Month enters the home stretch. Have a good one, I'm going back to bed.
The show was fantastic.