Dead Santa

On a recent trip back to my homeland, The Midwest, I noticed a growing trend toward really cheesy holiday decorations in the form of giant, plastic blow-up lawn ornaments; what my sister-in-law dubbed “Get Her Done” red-neck holiday décor.

 

laundry-on-the-lawn1When these petroleum-based masterpieces are not inflated by their tiny life-giving respirators, they lay about the frozen landscape like piles of laundry.    I just assumed that the mounds were a result of a domestic dispute.  You know, a “Here’s all your shit, asshole. Now get the fuck out” kind of altercation which kinda bummed me out.  After all, ‘tis the season to be jolly and spread the joy and can’t we all just get along and kiss under the mistletoe and eat cookies.   I was wrong.   Sometimes it’s a burden being so cynical. I have considered therapy.

 

But I digress. 

 

I have to admit that I was oddly obsessed with these plastic creations.  Fascinated is probably a better word.  There were so many.  And they were everywhere! I wondered if there was some sort of competition going on that might result in prize money or a trip to Dollywood or something equally tantalizing.   I never did find out so I judged for myself.  Here are the results:

 

dead-santa4Honorable mention has to go to:  Dead Santa.  Or maybe he’s a hopelessly drunk Santa. I can’t really be sure.  Either way, it’s kind of metaphoric, wouldn’t you say?  Maybe it’s just me. 

 

  

 

outhouse-santa6

 

 

But the Grand Prize, The Palm d’Or, The Jury Prize Extraordinaire, goes to Outhouse Santa. 

 

I would love to meet the schmuck who designed this beauty.  

 

Santa, sitting in an outhouse reading, how festive! This is NOT a joke.  It really is an outhouse, albeit a jolly ‘ole outhouse complete with candy cane embellishments and a lit-from-below toilet seat.

 

 Any guesses on the publication? 

 

I’m thinking Hustler.

 

P.S.  Special thanks to my sister, Joanie, for conjuring Allen Funt.

Funny thing, Fall.

I’m a Midwestern girl. 

 

It took me most of my life to be okay with that.  I’m not sure why.

 

It’s been years since I’ve actually lived east of the Mississippi but you know that old saying about taking someone out of somewhere but never being able to take something out of them?  I am no exception.   And I’m proud to announce that, in my case that something is not “trailer park” but rather “the essence of fall”.

 

Where I came from, the change was a gently slide from long days to shorter days and an inexplicable yearning to wear wool.  The turning of the trees from green to a fiery brilliance seemed an overnight phenomenon but was extinguished much too quickly by the inevitable shroud of early sunset.  This was categorically unfair and downright cruel.  I mean, whose idea was it to present this glorious display of natural wonder, this visual extravaganza, this… this…. heartbreaking beauty only to snatch it away and replace it with 3 solid months of Ukrainian-esque landscape?  If I ever meet the person responsible, I may have to kick their ass.  I suspect it’s the same diabolical mind who invented the notion that only women could give birth but I can’t prove that.

 

And so it went…. The mesmerizing spectacle of Fall followed by the sucker punch of  another Midwestern winter.  It’s odd that we never quite figured out that year after year after bone-chilling year was a distinct pattern.  But visual euphoria has a way of eliminating long term memory.

 

And the final blow was abrupt and jarring.  One day you’re picking apples from an orchard awash in flaming ochre and the next day we were back in The Land Before Color.  Hey dad, put that color sheet back on the T.V. screen so we can pretend Ed Sullivan is orange rather than pasty gray. (Come to think of it, Ed might actually have been pasty gray in person but you catch my drift).

 

Damn.  No more raking leaves into piles and jumping in them. My Halloween candy has been devoured.  Get out the hand-me-down wool coat I had to wear even though the sleeves were too short. (I still have issues about sleeve length, by the way)

 

And here’s the irony. Even those barren trees that pointed their spindly branches at me as if their jealousy was human… were oddly comforting.  I would slowly get used to it; even love it in a way.  Like Stockholm Syndrome, I had an odd emotional attachment to my captors.  And it has never gone away.

 

Now, I’m a California girl.  A dream of a lifetime after coveting the exotic lifestyle laid out before me in episode after episode of the Brady Bunch. I even wanted my parents to be divorced and live the life of that cute Brandon Cruz in The Courtship of Eddie’s Father.   I grew up craving something…anything….not Midwestern.   But as I get older I start to appreciate where I came from; the roots that were lovingly planted for me by parents who didn’t know the meaning of the word transient.  They grounded me and for that I’m thankful.   

 

That old saying is spot on.  The essence of Midwestern fall can never be taken from me.  But it’s changed over the years.  Now, the shift is not visible but rather….olfactory.  It’s an aroma. The kind that can propel me back to my grandmother’s kitchen.  It’s a wisp of  wood smoke carried on the wings of a chill air that makes me reach for the comfort of my fleecy sweatshirt.

 

And I love it.  

 

But don’t tell anyone, okay?

 

 

 

Can Trees Cry?

I think menopause may be stalking me……and I blame it on my mailbox.  

 

Just for the sake of clarification menopause didn’t send me out of those “Important: Time Sensitive Material Enclosed” letters.  Menopause is more stealth than that.  At least that’s what I’ve heard.   Nevertheless, I believe my mailbox has become a harbinger of doom.

 

You’re probably envisioning some sturdy, stone structure that looms over the street like a postal behemoth but my mailbox is quite austere.  It is small and metal and came from the hardware store.  My dad put it up while he was visiting last year after my previous one was taken out during a mailbox hate crime.  I suspect that the perpetrator of this hate crime was a peri-menopausal woman such as myself.  In fact, I’m quite sure of it.

 

Despite the emotional tension of election day, I was in quite a good mood.  Pretty much all was right with my world.  My dogs were happy to have finally been taken on a good run (they have learned that oh-so-human art of guilt infliction which is another story), the ibuprofen I had taken had worked its magic on my gym-weary, middle-aged muscles and I was looking forward to sitting around and watching the election results.  But my good mood bubble exploded into a spray of prism-y goop when I opened that innocent looking metal door.  Holy shit!  You’ve got to be kidding me!

 

After I wrestled twenty pounds of paper into the kitchen, I flew into a rage.  Nothing, I repeat nothing, in that stack of wasted natural resources was important.  Not one utility bill, not one thank you card, not….one….thing.  I thought I might spontaneously combust.  My mind went to a really crazy place.  I wondered to myself, if I DO burst into flames, how will I simultaneously  A) put my dogs outside so they don’t bite the paramedics  B) open my driveway gate for the rescue vehicles and C) dial 911?   But… I took a deep breath and cooled my inner inferno… and a strange calm washed over me.  I began calling every single killer of trees that had sent me something I had not asked for.  First on the list: my credit card company who sends out an unsolicited magazine every month that weights 8 pounds (I got TWO).  They told me it was a “free benefit” with my super special, purple-platinum-chartreuse card and I was required to TELL them I didn’t want it.  “Didn’t you read the fine print on the 400 page disclosure we sent you with your card?” the representative asked in a chipper your-call-may-be-recorded-for-quality-purposes voice.   Uh….. no.   

 

Even though I know I can recycle this useless crap, it breaks my heart to know that a tree gave its life for naught. 

 

And all this waste is making me cry!  Damn it!  What the hell is wrong with me?

 

Okay, that’s it for now.  I’m off to swallow some black cohosh and eat a yam.

Ode To A Scrabble Champion

I love strong, smart women.  I also love strong, smart men but that’s another story.

 

Today, it’s all about a broad and my friend Sharon is one of the smartest broads I know, to wit, she is beautiful, witty and quick on the draw, will kick your proverbial ass in Scrabble, and serve up your defeat with seductive Southern charm that has you apologizing for not giving her more of a challenge.  Now that’s my kinda woman!

 

Today my beautiful, witty, smarty-pants friend (I mean this with the deepest respect) used a term that stumped me.  Yes, I was flummoxed, puzzled, confounded and ….. put on a mission so profound and stoked with the flames of white hot passion as to cinge the pages of my dictionary    not to mention my keyboard –  for the origins of  the word quiddity.  My heart began to pump, my palms were clammy, I felt a small rivulet of sweat drip down the middle of my back for this was a challenge of the highest magnitude wrapped neatly with a bow of sincere compliment.  You tricky, tricky Southerner!

 

From Wikipedia:

 

Quidditydefines the “essense” of an object.  It literally means its “whatness” or “what it is”.   Hmmmm.  Becoming clearer now but needs a bit more focus….

 

From an on-line dictionary:

 

The essence, nature, or distinctive peculiarity, of a thing; that which answers the question, Quid est? or, What is it?

 

Eureka!

 

Julie’s definition of  diverting quiddity (as was referenced in Sharon’s comment to It’s Not My Fault) is the feeling, or “essence” of  being in a hot, bubbly tub o’Calgon that transports one to another place without really understanding the “distinctive peculiarity” of said transport.   

 

This makes me smile.

 

You humble me with your support, dear Sharon.    Quid pro quo!

 

P.S.  Just for clarification, The Word of the Day is Quiddity.  See above.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Not My Fault

The other day I tried to call my sister and got a very strange recorded message:  “due to
circumstances beyond our control, your call could not be completed”.  Um…. okay.   This struck me as funny as many  things do and it made me wonder why my cell phone provider felt it necessary to blame something/someone else on the lost call.   Why change the message from “your call cannot be completed” which is what I remember from past lost calls to “…due to circumstances beyond our control?”  It’s not like I’m going to call up Verizon and demand to know just exactly WHO or WHAT was at fault.    Maybe it would actually be worth a phone call after all.  Maybe I could get to the bottom of that lost call.  Maybe it was that Republican staffer who outfitted Sarah Palin?

 

After the urge to phone Verizon passed (I mean, another call could be lost and that would be a cryin’ shame), I thought about how “It’s not my fault” has sort of become our national slogan much like “I’m sorry” is the national slogan of Canada.”    If I had my druthers, I would choose “I’m sorry” over “It’s not my fault” but it appears there’s only one slogan per country and ours has already stuck.  Just take a look at pharmaceutical commercials.  They have to let us know that if we take their drug and we’re cursed with chronic constipation or we wake up in the middle of a drug induced sleep and drive our car into a Wal-Mart light pole, it’s not their fault because they’ve already warned us this might happen.  I can accept that, I suppose.

 

But here’s something to ponder:  I fail to see the logic in a disclaimer about an erection lasting more than four hours.  Is this a bad thing?  I wonder.

 

 

(Word of the day: hubrisHYOO-bruhs, noun:
Overbearing pride or presumption.)

With dizzying hubris, soon-to-be ex-president George W. Bush announced that the current financial crisis was not his fault but rather due to circumstances beyond his control.

The Good Word

I’m a geek; a dyed-in-the-wool nerd whose favorite category on Jeopardy is Word Origins.  It’s not enough that I actually watch Jeopardy and have favorite categories; I secretly think Alex Trebek is a babe.  Any dude with smarts like that who can speak French while subtly slamming Joe from Akron for missing some obscure question about 16th century German literature has a permanent seat atop the ideal mate food chain.  But that’s just me.

 

The other day, a very interesting and learned man introduced me to a new word:  ululate.  It means “to howl”.   Although I was fascinated by the word (never heard it), I still don’t quite know why he shared it with me.  We were on the cusp of a full moon which, I have to admit, gave me pause.  Fortunately, we all parted ways before midnight which was a suggestion by yours truly just to be on the safe side.  But fear aside, I took his advice and looked up the Miriam-Webster Word of the Day and got one of my self-proclaimed brilliant ideas.  To commemorate the countdown of W’s last days in office, I will attempt to use the Word of the Day in a fictional or factual sentence that describes him, his actions or just him as a regular guy each time I write something regardless of the content. 

 

Today’s word:  clochard –  kloh-SHAR  :  tramp or vagrant

 

The Washington Review today quoted President Bush as he reached out to a ragged clochard on a street corner as saying “I know how hard it is to put food on your family.  Society has misunderestimated the hardships of the common man”.  (fictional account, fictional publication but based on atual “bushisms”)

 

I would have started my dedication yesterday but the Word of the Day was genius.

 

Move Over Elsie…. Mama’s Home!

The other day I went into a bit of a panic.  I started to worry about running out of things to write about.  I have some really dedicated friends to whom I pay big money to actually read what I write and make positive comments and I really don’t want to disappoint anyone. I think it may actually be a tax write-off as well so I would be bummed if people started to bail on me.    The panic has passed, thankfully, with the help of a little Ativan and my own newly discovered method of gathering information.  Rather than try to come up with something original, I just turn on the news. How divinely simple.

 

This morning, when I was flipping around different news channels to get a variety of perspectives on our impending doom as a nation, I saw an announcement that went something like this on the ticker at the bottom of the screen:

 

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has called upon the founders of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream to replace cow’s milk with that of human breast milk.

 

Well, now.  That’s a novel idea.

 

I started asking myself questions:  How many lactating women would it take to replace all that cow’s milk?  Would women have to leave their homes (not to mention their own hungry babies) and sign some sort of “milking contract?”  Or maybe Monsanto could just come up with a way to inject massive amounts of hormones into thousands and thousands of lactating mommies to make them produce twice as much milk in half the time while passing it off as safe.  Sounds reasonable to me.

 

Wonder what they’ll call the stuff.

Why I Love Vanity Fair

I love Vanity Fair magazine.  It’s sort of like Playboy sans naked.  It has nice pictures of beautiful people (most of them wearing clothes except for Miley Cyrus) but I buy it for the articles.  I get especially excited when it’s a “special issue” that weighs in at about 6 ½ pounds and has a tragic figure on the cover.  This month it’s Marilyn Monroe. (For the love of Pete, can’t we just let this poor woman be dead?) 

 

Since I often read magazines from back to front (could I be Japanese and not know it?) the first thing I do when I get my VF is go to the Proust Questionnaire.   Guess where it is?  This is my favorite section.  I, along with the 2 million other subscribers, get an intimate glimpse into the psyche of a celebrity.  I mean, who doesn’t want to know if Demi Moore would prefer to be reincarnated as an aspen tree or a drop of rain?   My hand is raised right now, for sure. 

 

Anyhoo, I thought I’d give this questionnaire business a test drive.  Here goes:

 

Which living person do you most admire?

I admire life in general, so I’d have to say just about everyone.

 

What, in your opinion, is the best rock band name of all time and why?

Cowboy Junkies, because it conjures so many confusing images in my brain like people with an unhealthy obsession to Tex Ritter songs or lasso-throwing ranch hands that look like Amy Winehouse.

 

What is your current state of mind?

Relaxed, but a little hungry.

 

Who would you most like to stalk if it weren’t so disturbing and illegal?

Joel and Ethan Coen.  I’d love to do that Being-John-Malkovich-mind-portal thing if I could get close enough.  

 

How would you like to die?

What a stupid fucking question!  I DO NOT want to die. Where did you get that ridiculous notion!

 

What is your greatest fear?

Death, you dumb ass.  See above.

Mistaken Identity

I’ve always loved the sound of Yiddish.  I’m not entirely certain why but I think it might be genetic.  One time my son bought a box of those little word magnets you can put on your fridge and leave endearing messages to your loved ones like “Just pack your shit and get the hell out” and discovered it contained Yiddish words instead of English words. He kept them which made me smile.

 

Today, I got a message from someone who tried to access my blog and left out some vowels or something and got taken to another one with a post entitled “Walk the Walk and Talk the Talk. Learn Yiddish!”  Was it just a tsufal?  I don’t know.  What I do know is that I laughed my butt off and promptly headed to an on-line Yiddish dictionary.  

 

So, here’s what I have to say about mistaken identity: 

 

Es hot zich oysgelohzen a boydem!  Except, danken Got, a good tselakhn.

 

Julie’s uneducated translation:  Nothing came of it!  Except, thank God, a good laugh. 

 

 

Umm….. I think that’s what I said.

Writing Is Good, Damn It!

So the other night, I’m watching one of those highly informative news shows.  I don’t recall which one.  They get jumbled in my head because they’re all trying to accomplish the same thing: to scare the crap out of me with world-ending weather predictions, terrorist attacks, pervs on the Internet and baby sellers on e-Bay.   I was dozing a bit so they must have covered the End of the World segment and I was gently coaxed from my snooze by a reference to “sudden and profound bursts of creativity” associated with a strange mental disorder. Huh?  What was that?

 

Although I caught this mid-segment, I was intrigued. It told the story of one unfortunate man who became inexplicably obsessed with speaking and writing in rhyming verse.  A strange uneasiness set in as I reached for my laptop.  I wrote some notes.  I wrote some more notes.  I went on-line, hoping I wouldn’t run into any nasty pervs or terrorists with futuristic weather machines, and Googled “bursts of creativity AND disorder”.  What I got was a lesson on hypergraphia.   It is characterized as “a driving compulsion to write”… about anything and everything ON anything and everything……….Well, what’s wrong with that?  I mean, writing is a good thing, isn’t it?  Without writing, we wouldn’t have books and books are good except for the ones Sarah Palin wanted removed from her local library.  So what if you wake up in the middle of the night and reach for a Sharpie and a roll of toilet paper?  It’s no big deal. It’s just writing. That’s all.  Just a bunch of words strung together to make lots and lots of sentences that may or may not turn into stories with a recognizable beginning, middle and end.  I’m not worried.  I can stop any time I want.  And furthermore, I don’t believe any of that crap on that lame blog I ran across that said in order to be a good writer, you had to be a little mentally ill. 

 

I can stop anytime I want!  Or not…. if I want.