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Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Subject is Roses

New Year's Eve in the northern part of Los Angeles county is different from New Year's Eve in any other part of the country. The neighboring town of Pasadena puts on a pot luck. They furnish the venue and we all bring something. Like most people, as the years have gone by and the party flourished we like to bring our best to the table. We also like to outdo our neighbors. To this end most of the party goers now hire someone to make their dish for them. But here, in Burbank, home of the Urban Village, we still make our own. Citizens submit designs that are voted on and one is chosen in February. City workers and volunteers start playing with blow torches, re-jiggering the chassis to accommodate the new dish we've decided to bring. A LOT of unnecessary meetings take place, giving the people in charge of our contribution to the event something to do, because anyone who wears a tie to a meeting probably has little, if anything to contribute except whining like a little girl over the budget. Pictures are drawn and re-drawn. Flowers are ordered, thousands upon thousands of them. And the day after Christmas, all hell breaks loose.

Because here, in a big, big storehouse type of building in the City yard, the City of Burbank builds it's Rose Float. Every high school student in the city shows up to put in some service hours. Their parents and little sisters show up. Retirees show up, working people take a day off to show up. Just walk in, there will be a job for you. You might haul buckets of roses, you might sit with a sociable group over in the corner snipping long stems off of roses and inserting them into tens of thousands of little glass vials filled with 7-up. Yes, 7-up, that's how we keep 'em fresh. You might, if you're lucky, get to sit cross legged on the floor next to the float with a bottle of glue and a big basket of pistachios covering each and every fraction of an inch of exposed area with plant material.

And, while the rest of the country parties on New Year's Eve, half of Burbank gathers in the vicinity of the City yard and we stand, some silent, some noisy and some the better for the champagne and we wave that puppy off to Pasadena. And, if we're lucky, by 8am the next morning that float will move at a breakneck 4 MPH down Orange Grove, towards the revered corner of Orange Grove and Colorado Blvd and make its right turn down the street following two boy scouts, each one carrying the end of a street wide banner that proclaims "FOUNDER'S TROPHY".

If you've grown up around here you know that is awarded for the best self-decorated float. Well, they used to call it self-decorated, my husband says he always had visions of a happy little float, frantically slapping flowers all over itself while it waits in line for the judges at 4am on New Year's morning. It's now an "all volunteer" decorated float or something like that.

The Rose Parade used to be different. One looked for the same floats, because there were a finite amount of spaces and no one, and I mean NO. ONE. ever dropped out. There was a waiting list a mile long to get your float entered. The waiting list for bands and equestrian units was something like 20 years.

Sadly, like so much else, the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Committee, which is made up of hundreds of men (and now, finally, women) dressed up in white suits of varying degrees of transparency (the thinner your suit is the lower down on the committee you are) has caved to hard economic times. Floats are no longer disqualified from judging because they ignored the size requirements, if you can make the corner you're eligible. If your robot, or Frankenstein's monster or Statue of Liberty can fold down flat enough to clear the overpass at Sierra Madre Blvd, you're in. Gone is the charming early California miss, sponsored by the Pasadena Huntington Sheridan hotel, it never occurred to the hotel that it would EVER win anything and she never did. But they participated, each and every year in what was, essentially their neighborhood pot luck.

But no more. She was too small, too modest, the float needed to be brought up the size and standards. And one year, she was gone. Gone too is the Dr. Pepper float, the float that battled, year after year for the Princess Trophy (best use of animation) with the kids of Cal Poly. And float after float will roll out of the barn of Raoul Rodriguez, professional float designer and builder and on one of those floats Raoul will ensconce himself, and his bird, and survey the commercial kingdom he too, has created.

And yet, tomorrow morning thousands and thousands of us will stagger out of our bedrooms in our jammies, drape ourselves over the coffee maker until we get our eyes open and plunk our fannies down in front the the TV for the 8am start of the Rose Parade. Because west of the Rockies it is NOT a lunchtime start people. And we here in the Urban Village, will join with the fine people of Downey, Glendale, Sierra Madre, La Canada (which is NOT pronounced like the country btw)-Flintridge, South Pasadena and the kids of Cal Poly as the last hold-outs in this era of "let's buy a float from a catalog this year" and either whoop with joy or groan with a "that was LAME" comment and vow to win it next year. And for the rest of the year, when we pop over to Pasadena to the Apple Store or The Hat (pastrami to DIE for, probably literally, that stuff is BAD for you) we will drive down Colorado Blvd. and watch the pink lines on the street that the float drivers use to steer their monoliths straight fade until suddenly, towards the end of December they emerge again, bright pink and blue and green and we know...they're almost ready.

It's a spirit of community that doesn't show here in the Los Angeles the rest of the country sees on the news. But come. Come to the Rose Parade. Come early to the float barns, because even the big professional builders use volunteers the week between Christmas and New Years. Walk in and say "I'm here to help." Come to the park after the Parade and walk through the floats and say "LOOK! I put that patch of pampas grass on."

And you'll feel it too.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Soul Searching

The more I think about it, the more I feel the need to explain yesterdays rant with regards to my Christmas presentless status. It could have been misconstrued. Yes, I worry about things like that. I worry about them when I wake up, bolt upright, at 3am thinking "OMG, my friend who gave me the thoughtful gift may think I am either annoyed at the thoughtful gift or I am just a douchbag who is ignoring her kindness in order to bitch about my family." This is, most definitely, not the case.

I came home from my office with an armload of small and very kind gifts which I did NOT open but put under my tree. Because I had a pretty good idea that they would be the only gifts with my name on them. And I was right.

You see, the older I get the more I realize that that hackneyed "it's the thought that counts" is so very true. It's not that the gifts would have been inexpensive. It's that no one cared enough to even try. I got someone a book. I thought he would like it. It wasn't a budget buster. It wasn't as nice as I would liked to have given him. But I did want him to have a gift, something from me, a present, wrapped, beribboned and tagged, under the tree.

If that same person had looked at the sparkly earrings that will eventually turn one's earlobes green (and possibly stretch them, thus requiring a $500 Spackle job a few years down the line) and thought "those would look pretty on her" well, then Tiffany's couldn't have produced a finer gift.

This isn't just true of me, although I find my perspective to be the one I understand best. I don't think we consider the people in our lives, the people close to us like we used to. Personally, I blame the internet.

One Christmas, many years ago, when we were young and had toddlers and were living from paycheck to paycheck, (yeah, like THAT'S changed) my husband, in spite of the "we can't afford gifts for each other" handed me a gift anyway. It was a book, from a used bookstore, it cost less than $5 dollars. It was a copy of "The Skin of Our Teeth", which is probably my favorite play of all time. I never forgot that Christmas, the love and affection in that gift.

I'll never forget this one either. I don't think it was deliberate. But I think that, with the hundreds of friends who exist on line, we don't look up from our laptops and PC monitors enough. We get up in the morning, stagger to the desk or table, and fire up our lives. What happened overnight? Did someone on a message board make an idiot of themselves and do I need to set them straight? Did someone say something about me? Do I have mail? Because it needs to be opened and responded to or deleted, immediately. We come home from work and immediately go to our laptops, despite the face that we shut down a computer at our office less than half an hour earlier. Because someone, somewhere may have said something that we need to know, and comment upon.

We would rather sacrifice heat or food or the car than lose our power and our DSL. We don't look out a window to see what kind of day it is, we type in We send .jpgs of our Christmas tree to friends and links to copies of our Shag print. What we don't do is invite people in to enjoy our tree and our eggnog and show off our Shag print. Why should we? They can see our pictures and we can throw eggnog at them via Facebook.

We're losing our "people skills". We've almost forgotten what the heady feeling of a lungful of fresh ocean air feels like. We don't bother to heal broken relationships, why should we? There are MILLIONS of new people on line. Who needs one father? I can find three hundred more in about two minutes. And I don't have to be concerned if I've hurt his feelings because if he doesn't kiss my butt I can just "unfriend" him.

I have made several wonderful friends via the internet, I admit. I either have, or will meet them in person and I cherish them. I have also learned that there are people out there who confuse the internet with reality, and have discarded the flesh and blood sitting in front of them in favor of airbrushed .jpgs and tweeted updates from people we've never met.

Like primitive cultures faced with a camera, I think the monitor is stealing our souls.

Monday, December 28, 2009


No, I'm not dancing it. Although, come to think of it, the sight of me flat on my back trying to wriggle under a pole would probably go viral on YouTube. Especially when my family ends up grabbing me by the ankles and tries to pull me out from under said bar because either my stomach or my chest have become stuck. This is the sort of thing that happens to me. My clothes have actually fallen off in public. Twice.

So this is what I call Limbo Week. It's the week that there's both nothing to do, and everything to do. I have read internet posts from people who took their Christmas Trees down over the week-end and isn't it great to have everything back to normal? Well, sure but what do you do for New Year's? Perhaps a new set of decorations is in order. A large wreath of roses with a football in the middle. Or maybe a collage of corporate sponsors of the New Year's day festivities? A FedEx guy delivering an overnight envelope from Citi while munching Tostitos might work.

No, this week is just depressing. Yes, I'm off work. The tree is still up and I keep staring at it. Christmas is over, but the holidays aren't. Besides, the trash truck won't be around until next Monday and the cat has taken to drinking from the water bowl under the tree. I've been wondering if this is a good thing for him to do. But a) it's infinitely better than his normal activity of drinking out of the toilet and b) he's a cat. TRY and stop him.

I had great plans for this week off. A day trip to Hearst Castle to see the Christmas Trees. A movie or two. Sleeping late, staying up late.

Last Friday was the much longed for Christmas. At least my kids were longing for it. The meager bank account was drained for the event. I could, of course, be spending this week playing with the gifts my family so lovingly chose and placed under the tree...oh wait! I didn't get any. None of those oafs made me a crayon card, spent 5 bucks at the "everything $3.99" pergola at the mall or offered to scrub my floor for me. The Christmas money my father gave me was immediately handed over to the hubster to make his car payment. I am spending the entire week at home, watching "Let's Make a Deal" (which I Can. Not. Stand btw, Mr."it's MY remote") being torn as to whether or not I should just chuck the damn tree and be done with it. providing three meals a day AND doing the dishes and hauling the laundry to the local sudsatorium so my husband will have clean clothes to take to Las Vegas for a FREAKING WEEK next week while I hold down the fort here.

Bitter, party of one? You're table's ready.

This is what I HATE about the holidays. Someone usually ends up working their butt off and that someone is usually ME. I guess it's a mother/wife thing, I dunno. I was invited to NO parties, NO Christmas dinners and no one came to see me. My husband, in deciding to cut off his remaining parent and step-parent managed to alienate the rest of us from what little family we had. My step-MIL drives everyone to drink (which has never bothered me, in fact I look forward to it) and provides us with HOURS of stories. All gone. She played a nasty game with hubby and he fell for it, hook, line and sinker. He has separated not only himself from his father but his sons from their grandfather. This is the sort of crap that comes to light during the holidays. Not just in my home either, there's some of this stuff, to a greater or lesser degree, going on with the two of you who read this. It simmers all year and then someone always ends up bumping the knob on the stove and full boil is achieved almost instantaneously.

I blame Dickens. No one really gets redeemed at Christmas. The Gas Company turned off the gas of an unemployed, down on her luck woman in the Los Angeles area for Christmas. They found her dead this morning, she tried to heat her home with briquettes. The homeless won't be fed again until Easter, apparently hungry, homeless people only need food and shelter twice a year. But Dickens made us all believe that there are Scrooges everywhere who wake up on Christmas morning redeemed, who bring joy and happiness to others and live out their lives pouring the milk of human kindness into the glasses of the poor.

Dickens was full of crap.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas, Credit and the Unibomber

We have been systematically closing all of our extraneous credit card accounts. Money is tight, credit cards are a temptation and most of our creditors would prefer we take our business elsewhere anyway. So yeah, it's one of those win/win things.

Anyway, the phone has been ringing off the hook from some number in an area code we've never heard of. Putting the number into a search engine I hit pay dirt.


Now several months ago I talked to Sears and told them to close the account and we made a pay off the balance with no interest arrangement. $78 a month for three months. Yeah, we're BIG spenders.

Last week they got their first 78 bucks. About four days later the phone started ringing. Yesterday the hubster answered. Answering a phone is no longer easy because there is seldom anyone on the other end of the line. But finally, contact was achieved. They wanted to know where the $78 dollars was. He explained that he had no idea what THEY had done with it but WE had handed it over. "No, you didn't, sir" said the nice lady with the thick Indian accent who's name was "Britany." "Yes, you did. You make up a check and you made up a check number and you posted it." "No sir, that check was returned."

Okay. The check is posted to our account, money is deducted and I have a lovely scan of said canceled check on my screen at that very moment. Britany kept telling us that wasn't really the case. Britany was looking at some other screen. I'm hardly pure as the driven snow but at 34 bucks a pop I'm damned careful about bouncing checks, the bank is making enough off of me without THAT donation. I figure I contributed to their bail out, I've contributed enough.

Needless to say the call did NOT end well. My husband was bandying the words "fraud" and "harassment" about by the time he and "Britany" had parted company. The phone, however, was blessedly silent the rest of the day. That lasted until 8:01am this morning. When the familiar 520 area code began popping up on the caller ID on the television. That's a seriously cool gizmo, btw, it shows up on the TV now that we've switched from cable to dish. One no longer has to move one's carcass off the sofa to see who's on the phone, one can sit on the couch and never miss a card on "Legend's of the World's Greatest Poker losses" while one waits breathlessly to see if the guy in the black hoodie can win enough to get his laundry done so he can wear something besides the black hoodie next time. Sorry, if my nickname was "the unibomber" I'd change my clothes but then, that's just me.

After about six such calls this morning my husband finally got someone to say hello on the other end.

The nice man with the heavy Indian accent who's name is "Ryan" said he was calling about our Sears Card. "Great. Are you calling to apologize?" hubby asked. "Um, apologize? I'm calling about your past due payment for $78.00" "The one you got last week?" was my husband's reply. "Let me check" answered "Ryan." "Yes, I see you made a payment last week. And you have an arrangement in place. Two more payments of $78.00 and your account will be at a zero balance. Is there anything else I can help you with?" "Sure" said my husband. "Would you mind telling me why you called?" After a pause of approximately 15 seconds, "Ryan" answered:

"I don't know."

And a peaceful and happy Christmas Eve to all who celebrate. And do those who don't as well.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

"Now I have a machine gun. Ho-Ho-Ho"

It's no secret to the three friends I have that the title quote comes from what I consider to be the most fun anyone can have over Christmas. If you haven't tried some traditional, family oriented Christmas activity, such as, oh, making a popcorn strand for the tree, while watching "Die Hard" you haven't truly experienced the holidays. Seriously, try it. I trimmed the tree while it was on this past Sunday evening. If the sights and sounds of a backlit Alan Rickman, hair artistically blowing in the breeze generated by the opening of the time locked door guarding the Holy Grail while the forth movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony swells triumphantly doesn't fill you with all the joys of the season well, you have no soul. This type of activity, my friends, is what Christmas is all about. The only thing that might make it better is if the terrorists had decided to take over Dean Jagger's Inn in Pinetree, Vermont and counted Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye among the hostages. Or would that be overkill?

This activity redeemed my week-end, which was punctuated with a birthday party (and not for Jesus either, what's up with this new trend of baking birthday cakes for Jesus, anyway? Happy Birthday, Dear Jesus...Um hello? I thought that was what Mass for for) and trying to obtain some Christmas spirit via a longed for tree. After the party debris was cleaned up Sunday morning (or at least shoved into the hall closet) the young'uns and I set out to obtain a little Christmas. Having discovered that the fine folks who run the local storage facility have double locked my storage door (as my husband forgot to pay them last month and now I'm looking down a two month bill AND Christmas is in a week and yet ANOTHER car payment is due) I had an idea.

I called the local Lowe's and said "okay, I have 11 boxes of laminate flooring that followed me home and the landlord won't let me keep it. I have no receipt, can I return it?" And, after no small amount of time on hold a woman came on the phone and said "well, if you have no receipt you'll have to take a merchandise credit". I'm good with that. We load the laminate boxes and strike out for Lowe's, making the list of all the things we need instead of flooring. Like a seat for the toilet. Don't ask.
Light Bulbs. Wood Glue. And a Christmas Tree, as ours is locked up in the aforementioned storage bin. And lights and half price ornaments, it IS, after all, less than a week until the Eve.

So we haul the laminate out of the car and wrestle it into Lowe's return center. Where the charming cashier informs me that I can NOT have a credit, he calls my FATHER as if I'm a recalcitrant six year old and informs him that I'm returning the floor and he's giving HIM his money back.

Had this been a blender I would have told him where to PUT his gift return policy and sold the damn thing on Craig's List. However, by this point, I would have left the flooring in the parking lot rather than load it into the car and bring it back. A word to the wise, btw...if you get, or give a gift from Lowe's and you already have one, do NOT return it to the store, put it on eBay. Unless you really want the giver to know you've returned the gift because Lowe's does NOT exchange gifts, they give the money back to the person who gave the gift to you. Thus managing to make both themselves and YOU look like dicks.

So we left Lowe's in search of a cheap Christmas tree. Because a cheap tree would be infinitely less expensive than coughing up two months of storage fees at once.

Two Home Depots and one near fistfight with a self-proclaimed "Christian" who saw my son holding the last Christmas tree in his hand and announced that he and his wife and his three children had ALL found the tree first even though there were no where in sight when we grabbed it because they had ALL wandered off en masse in search of a sales person and it was actually HIS tree because God loved HIM more than us and we just weren't very Christian like he was my older son physically dragged me from the parking lot where I was attempting to install the local "Christian" as a tree-topper.

Have you ever noticed that people who feel compelled to announce in loud voices to strangers in public places that they're "CHRISTIANS!!!!" are always trying to explain to the sad, uninformed and morally bankrupt public that what appears to be little more than selfishness, greed and bigotry is, in truth, a deep and abiding love of God and YOU'RE going to hell because you haven't properly acknowledged their intellectual superiority? But I digress...

After three private tree lots who were charging $80 and up for 5 foot trees (and with straight faces, too) we saw yet another lot. With a big sign that said "parking!" and an arrow pointing to the right. I turned. And stopped. I was faced with a parking lot the size of my living room and two cars already in it. I slowly backed out but my son pointed out a very pleasant Asian man waving me in to a parking place smack in the middle of the driveway. I was immediately overwhelmed with mistrust. Anyone that anxious to get me in was undoubtedly trying to hustle me into a solid gold 12 foot Noble Fir at double the price the local Church lot was selling them for and THAT was outrageous.

Well, it turns out that there, at the little hole in the wall plant center which had turned itself into a Christmas Tree sales lot with the nice Asian gentleman waving me in sort of like the guys at the driveways to the overpriced parking lots in Pasadena on New Year's Day do, we found nirvana. It was in the form of a 7 foot Douglas fir that actually CAME with the water bowl attached and gave us change back from our $50.

I dug a sheet out of the laundry bags that were still, conveniently, in the back of the car (see...all you people who look down your noses at my abysmal laundry habits, take note. Carrying around one's dirty sheets can save the paint job on your RED car) and the stud who carried the tree to the car for us happily spread it on the roof and then tied our tree snugly down upon it. The Home Depot, btw, was offering 15 ft of twine with which to tie your own tree to whatever you wished to tie it too. At one point I was damn near garroted by a cigar smoking elf who was paying no attention to the customers actually walking down the driveway. My son took the money and the tree tag to the shack where payments were being collected and said the nice Asian man who parked us was incredibly pleased we had found a tree and he wants to go there again next year. I'm good with that. My sinuses, however, beg to differ. They are NOT happy with the live tree.

And merrily we rolled down Riverside Drive, tree gaily blowing on the roof of the Cruiser.

Most of the ornaments are in storage too but I did find a Trader Joe's bag full of the stuff I had forgotten to pack away last year and that plus a trip to the local drug store for half price holiday trimmings (it IS, after all, less than a week to go) along with Encore's fortuitous scheduling of "Die Hard" made for a rather Christmasy Sunday evening at that.

Today I am taking a vacation day. The use of which is earmarked for the laundry (which is still in the back of the car), a few more sale ornaments and a hunt for a belt for the vacuum cleaner. The belt, of course, broke right after we brought the tree in as we were attempting to vacuum up the pine needles. Off the newly installed carpeting. The carpeting that was put in instead of the laminate.

And the circle is unbroken...

Friday, December 18, 2009

It's run by an east coast syndicate

Lucy Van Pelt tells us Christmas is a conspiracy, run by an east coast syndicate. If you don't know who Lucy Van Pelt is, well, there's no hope for you and don't look here for a link. You have Google and you know how to use it.

The older I get, the more I realize Lucy is right. In the two hours I have been up this morning I have been told it's time to become a "merry Maxxonista" buy a Lexus, shop smarter at Marshall's, eat Little Debbie's, spend Christmas day at at least seven different movies, all of which are the film of the season and Golden Globe nominees (and we all know Golden Globe nominees are great films) and visit the Christmas Light Festival in the parking lot of the Zoo.

The Festival of Lights, actually, is pretty much the cause of my angst. Every year we plow through the Festival of Lights. It's a display that meanders through Griffith Park, starting at Los Feliz and finally culminating on the Zoo side of the park as we slowly edge our way through an archway formed by an elf peeing Christmas lights over the road and onto a fire truck and then into the grand tunnel of white lights to the strains of Neal Diamond singing "O, Holy Night." We're then treated to one last Christmas light tableau of the Statue of Liberty along with the triumphant chords of "God Bless America" added, yep, you guessed it, in 2001. What do you mean that has nothing to do with the holidays? Are you part of a sleeper cell or something? What's wrong with you, don't you love your country?

IF you do go, make sure you go on the week-end. Yes, it's very crowded on the week-end, which is why you need to allow at least two hours. But, and this is a great, big but...that's when the best show is. Not the lights, that doesn't change. It's the crowd. The cars back up onto the freeway. There are people at the entrance to the park selling churros and cola. Do NOT indulge. It seems like a good idea but you WILL be trapped in your car for at least an hour, closer to 90 minutes. This is NOT the time to be full of churros and Coke. If, however, you decide to throw caution to the wind and you actually make it through the light festival full of churros and coke...once you pass the Statue of Liberty made of those environmentally friendly, oddly glowing blue and white lights, make a bee line past the Zoo parking lot (it's not open, don't bother stopping) and the satellite Observatory and make the first right. This will take you directly on to Victory Blvd and in two blocks you will see the comforting glow from the Chevron Station at the corner of Victory and Western.

As you crawl through the mile or so of dark park that precedes the actual start of the Festival of Lights people will wander through the double line of cars, offering helpful items to increase your viewing pleasure. Items like 3-D glasses. We've never actually figured out what amuses us more, the guys trying to sell 3-D glasses to enhance the Christmas Lights, or the people shelling out good money to buy them.

Try and get into the left lane. MOST of the light vignettes (such as muscle bound men made of twinkle lights lifting barbells in a tribute to Muscle Beach - you think I'm kidding?) are on your left. If you are in the right hand lane you will, most likely, spend an hour peering through SUVs and mini-vans full of small children watching "Bolt" on the vehicle's built in DVD player while dad texts his fantasy football picks from behind the wheel.

IF you choose to make this trip on a week-night, well, be prepared to watch the lights. The crowds aren't especially heavy, especially between Christmas and New Year's Eve and you can pretty much zip through in 10 minutes. No one sells churros, Coke, or 3-D glasses. My oldest son fondly remembers the year we made a quick, extra trip through the park on the closing night. We entered about 9:55, right before the scheduled closing time. There were one or two cars in front of us, darkness stretched out in the rear view mirror. We realized we were the last people to see the Festival that year, they closed it behind us. This, for some reason, truly impressed my oldest, who now likes to try this maneuver each and every year.

My sons LOVE this excursion, we make it annually. However, as the State of California is morally and economically bankrupt and has jacked up every fee imaginable in an effort to enhance revenue, I find myself unable to afford that yellow sticker for my car license plate, you know, the one that says "2010"? I have visions of a phalanx of LAPD waiting for my unregistered ass to crawl though the park in order to slam my unpaid up backside in the pokey. Where, I imagine, I would get a free meal and a week-end away from home, something I don't have now.

Might be fun at that. And it's free.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

"I'll go if a luncheon is provided."

There's a floorwide "bake off" today. Everyone is supposed to bake for prizes and I've spent the week with people cheerefully asking me "are you baking?" Excuse me? I'm living on spaghetti and chili, I can NOT invest in walnuts, especially for THIS place. "Oh yeah, I know what you mean, let me tell you..." Oh really? Your husband is working and so are you and so are your kids, lady, you do NOT KNOW WHAT I MEAN! I am seriously cheesed off about this. Seriously. And, in case you missed it, yeah, I'm serious. And, of course, my butt will be hauled in for lack of team spirit.

You know what you can do with your "team spirit?" Yeah, well, so do I.

For the life of me, I do not understand companies around the holidays. I say holidays not to be P.C., but because we're a week from Christmas, Hanukkah is winding down and, lest we forget, Kwaanza is right around the corner. Chinese New Year will be in a few weeks. Anyone remember when Ramadan is? Oh yeah, it's probably not a party month though.

So...back to the bake-off. We're all supposed to take our own money and back something spectacular. And then, IF we pass the taste test and actually WIN something we'll be presented with a $50 gift card. Well, gee, that'll make it so worth the effort. And the $50 gift card to Arnie Morton's will almost pay for that Christmas Martini.

And then, of course, we'll be a team.

Just like hauling everyone to a luncheon tomorrow will make us a team. Because it's the holidays and it's time we set aside a few hours to enjoy each other as friends and leave work behind.

I'm reminded of the words of a fellow banker when informed of the death of Ebenezer Scrooge (by the ghost of Christmas Future) and was approached about the possibility of a funeral: "I'll go if a luncheon is provided."

Okay, listen up. I've been stuck here for three years. If I wanted you to be my friend, you would have been and are by now. Forcing me to haul it to a neighboring town and sit at a long banquet table in the midst of people I WORK WITH while you make speeches about the great year we've had in spite of all the layoffs is NOT going to shine up my Christmas glitter ball. Every one of you who dismissed my resume when you were hiring last year even though I'm better educated than YOU are and you all KNOW I will work for peanuts, well, pardon me for NOT wanting to suck up spaghetti with you, okay?

Oh, and while we're at it? The next person who trots up to me and chirps "Are you all ready for Christmas?" is going to find out just how much of their personal space I can violate in 2.4 seconds.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Of shoes and ships and ceiling stains...

I spent last Saturday picking out my much longed for laminate flooring, courtesy of Lowe's week-end sale on some rather flimsy laminate flooring that goes by the brand name "Laminate Flooring" in a coror called "Harvest Oak," a color which seems to exist nowhere in nature and everywhere in the universe known only to the week-end warrier land. This is an early Christmas present from my father who kept urging me to make sure that this is really what I want, did I want a different color, a different brand, will this really be durable and long lasting? Um, dad? I'm renting. I'm shopping from the right hand side of the menu here as I'm improving someone else's property and well, I think it's damn nice of me as it is.

The landlord, however, has decided thaqt the stain or mark or whateverthehellitis on the ceiling of the apt below us has been caused, specifically, by the lack of carpet in here. It is, apparently, a well known fact that, if one places a piece of carpet on TOP of a leak, the leak will seal itself. This is due to the little known corollary to the first and most fundamental law of physics. "What goes up must come down, unless it's been carpeted." Sir Isaac Newton, dozing under an apple tree one afternoon, was rudely awakened when an apple (more likely an overripe one, young apples of light weight seldom just fall off trees on their own) fell out of said tree onto Sir Isaac's head. And Isaac thought to himsef "Damn. If there had been a rug on top of that tree that apple wouldn't have fallen on my head and I would still be napping." Sir Isaac, btw, later went on to grave robbing (by which I actually mean body moving, there's no proof he helped himself while there) and was instrumental in breaking the Da Vinci code, which proves he was no slouch. Tom Hanks in a mullet, however, is another matter entirely...

So, sometime this week-end I will haul 11 boxes of Harvest Oak "LAMINATE FLOORING" back to Lowes and await Tuesday's installation of brand new cat crap brown carpet. Personally, I think it's a ploy to warm up the place, as we still HAVE. NO. HEAT. The "furnace guy" was here yesterday, he was here for almost three hours by report. When I came in there was the satisfying rattle of a heater in the "on" position. The room was still cold and my husband was wearing a jacket and a knit cap. Well, okay, give it time to warm up, right? Two hours later I decided to bump up the thermostat. Which is hanging from the wall by a corner, unattached to any of it's wires. It's also already set to 90. I walked across the room the put my hand on the wall furnace. I THINK the pilot may be on. I stuck my fingers through the grate and rested them on the heater pipe. (I know, it's stupid. I don't put my hand down the garbage disposal though, so I'm not a total idiot). The cold heater pipe.

I keep saying to myself: Don't give up. Call the manager. Again. There is heat in the world and that heat could be mine. But really I just want to sit here at the desk and prop my head up with my hand, throw in the towel and resign myself to the cold. And for this, I'm paying THEM! And yes, as long as you're asking, I do have a space heater. it routinely blows out the circuit it's on and raises my power bill by 25 dollars a month.

Why do they do that, anyway?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Well, okay. The weather outside is frightful. At least it is when one's heater isn't working. After a breakneck two weeks the manager showed up today with a new thermostat. Which didn't do a thing. After 20 minutes he announced he'd have to call the "furnace guys." They might be here tonight. Oh SURE they will. I'll eat this jalapeno cornbread if they show up tonight. In fact, I'll eat this jalapeno cornbread if they show up anytime before next Bastille Day. On the plus side, as we're going below freezing at night now, the beds look sort of like an Appalachian linen closet. Colorful blankets and quilts piled up high, topped with robes, afghans and, lastly, bath towels. I'm sure we all look adorable, in fact, we rather resemble something my kids used to build with their Legos. Complete with little heads popping up for no discernible reason. I'm afraid to pull the covers back and change the sheets though, it's way too cold to get up in the middle of the night and run to the necessary...

Tomorrow we're expecting rain here in the urban village. At least the temperature will warm up to slightly ABOVE freezing. So we don't even get snow days. Bah!

I may have mentioned, last Friday the lobby was decorated here. When I left it looked as if an elf had barfed all over my desk. By Monday morning the scotch tape Santa's Little helper had balled up and thrown against the wood trim, attached four year old foil garland to and hung some really ugly teal ornaments from had given up what little ghost Scotch tape has and the garland had slithered down the sides of the furniture and was laying in a heap on the floor. At which point I found myself filled with the spirit of Christmas right damn here and now as I gleefully picked it all up and shoved it in a box. A few tails of worn out tinsel garland remain. It's tolerable. The teal and forest green ornaments are also in the box. Honestly, teal? Who in their right mind uses teal ornaments? Somebody must have been frightened by Christopher Lowell as a child. Christopher Lowell, btw, is someone I think may possibly be a sham. I think Mr. Lowell has a wife and four children at home. Under wraps. Face it. If a decorator showed up at your house driving a pick up with those naked women on the mud flaps would YOU trust him? I don't care HOW you answer that out loud, you wouldn't and deep down you know it. It's sexism, pure and simple.

My cold is finally leaving the building and the cat, once again, is counted among the missing. If those "furnace guys" don't show up tonight that cat better be prepared to warm up his own Popsicle toes when he comes to the door at 4am and expects someone to get up and feed him. That's all I'm saying about THAT.

While I was curled up in bed, nursing my blocked sinus passages last week-end I spent no small amount of time musing about Sarah Palin. I'm thinking it was the fever, which, while slight, was enough to turn me into something that resembled Robert Hayes in the cockpit as he was approaching Chicago in "Airplane!" when it broke. However, I have determined that Sarah Palin is the way she is because she's taken Sigourney Weaver as a role model.

More on this later.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Rain and Spackle

Oh dear God. I'm watching the morning news right now, the early morning news. there is an annoying blond at a laser skin care center showing off a great Christmas gift idea. For $500 bucks they will shoot something into the pierced holes in your ears and plump them up. Seems that, over the years, the holes made by piercing one's ears tend to enlarge, and are pulled down by heavy earrings. So now one can actually shoot some sort of Spackle into one's earlobe and make them young again. Oh my, what I wouldn't give for young earlobes, it's a dream come true, it is. Problem is, it's not my earlobes that have been enlarging and drooping as I age. I'm waiting for a Spackle shot to bring the girls back to their former glory. And then, my butt.

I'm up watching the morning news because I've become an early riser. This is not by choice and I don't especially approve of it. The older I get the more I tend to wake up at 4am. As a rule, after about five minutes, I usually get up and go to the bathroom. This justifies the wakefulness, at least in my own mind. It also makes it my fault because if I quit drinking tea after 8pm I might not be up at 4am taking a leak, whether I need to or not. Oh, and a word to the wise. When one finds oneself out of toilet paper at 4am take an extra two seconds and find a Kleenex box. Coffee filters are NOT a recommended substitute.

This morning however (and I actually made it to FIVE in spite of the tea I took to bed with me) got me up in time to spend a quiet hour with the rain. I enjoy the rain, especially in copious and very noise quantities. This is why I keep the love seat in the window, so I can curl up with a cup of tea and watch the rain. Don't get me wrong, mudslides and traffic accidents aren't my thing. Just rain.

Now my father lives in what's called one of the "local mountain communities". He's already got snow, at least according to the morning news. They have snow in Gorman too, which will trigger the closing of the grapevine, if it already isn't. This is hardly news, they close the grapevine when someone in Frazier Park doesn't cover their mouth when they sneeze. But, in the local mountains, the school districts have declared snow days. This is in anticipation of the storm moving in this afternoon, mind you, not the actual storm itself. I have a sneaking suspicion the super has a new boogie board. Or perhaps droopy earlobe piercings and $500 to burn.

Television is, of course, on "storm watch!" all morning. It wouldn't be L.A. if they weren't. This is why I walk to work. Even in the rain. It's hardly a pithy observation that no one can freaking DRIVE in the rain here and I, frankly, feel safer on foot. That and the fact that, several years ago I ended up the owner of a Burberry scarf AND umbrella and I feel compelled to actually use them every now and then. The umbrella came from eBay, the scarf came from the Burberry store in Las Vegas one year. That was the year we bought our Hirschfeld. The gallery, as all galleries, was having a reception, free wine was involved. Lots of free wine. The desired result was achieved, thus the Hirschfeld. However, the gallery (who's name quite honestly escapes me now) was located one or two doors down from a Burberry store and that store also reaped the benefits of the free wine being passed out. In my defense, this was several years ago, before the current recession, back when we had credit and jobs that were actually worth something.

However, for now, I'm going back to my window, and the rain.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Why it really gets cold in Southern California

Yes, I don't care what you think west of the Rockies and north of Half Moon Bay. It's cold. It's especially cold here, in the urban village. It's 54 degrees. Now I realize, my distant relatives in the Midwest who no longer return Christmas greetings (they seem to have taken some sort of religious right offense at the "Peace on Mars" card we sent several years ago. I'm on Larry Flynt's mailing list, you want to see an offensive Christmas card?) feel that this is some sort of winter heat wave caused, in no small part, by the Los Angeles Dodgers, but it's all relative. Ha! I pun. Serves you all right. Remind me to brush up on my spoonerisms, that'll get me off your bookmarks.

At any rate, I, in a fit of pique, decided to rip the carpet out of the apartment. It seemed infinitely more satisfying than cleaning it. Besides, has anyone had any sort of intimacy with apartments and the carpet that is so generously provided? All walls are painted Navajo white and all carpets are nylon, seamed right down the middle, attached with at least six of the finest staples money can buy and are a perfect match for the Feline Pine litter in the cat box.

Since my house was unceremoniously and abruptly removed from my ownership I'm having control issues. That's what the known control freaks in my life tell me, anyway. My house had hardwood floors under the carpet, so I yanked it out. The carpet, not the floors. I saw no reason not to do the same here. My downstairs neighbors beg to differ. This is only indirectly related to the cold but watch me, I can actually pull this all together.

My unit is the front upper. Okay, the upper part was probably obvious. However, because it's the one people see from the street the owner actually put a bit of style into it. The living room and dining room have great big windows. Combine a lot of glass with the sudden lack of carpet and nothing on the roof but Direct TV dishes and it gets cold in here.

So, two weeks ago I lit the pilot on the furnace. Yes, I did. However, that was all that ever turned on. The building manager, upon hearing of our lack of heat, appeared on my doorstep in a dizzying two weeks. Upon closer inspection ("oh hell, look, it came off in my hand") it was determined that the thermostat was broken and a work order for repair or replacement would be issued. The workmen would be here on Wednesday. That's our day for repair here. Wednesday. Of course he told us this last Thursday. Wednesday dawned and waned. No repair. On Friday, the gas man showed up in response to our previous request to light the pilot. Having ascertained that the thermostat was broken he got out his magic flashlight and overrode the system, and there was heat. It's been so cold in here that I barely objected when the gas man got out his magic flashlight. Normally I would probably protest such behavior but I wasn't home at the time. My husband assured me it was indeed a flashlight as it had a light on the end of it. Yeah, like I haven't heard THAT before. A small price to pay though, as the heater was on. He failed to mention that, when we turned the heat off, we would not be able to turn it back on again, apparently his magic flashlight is a one time only performance. I've heard THAT one before too.

At any rate, the aforementioned status of this dump has combined to make it cold. There's something of a wind chill factor involved, as the bathroom window has been stuck in the open position since September of 2008. We wear sweaters and hats most of the time. Nothing else, just sweaters and hats. Now - try and get THAT picture out of your mind. We sign up for a LOT of "look how green we are" clubs though and tell them that we don't use the heat because we're trying to heal the hole in the ozone. We also tell people that we recycle all our glass and plastic because we believe in healing the earth. Well, okay, we do. But we take the money we get from recycling and pump it into our beer budget. Which not only stimulates the lagging economy but allows us to purchase more glass and plastic which will then be recycled into more beer.

It's a win/win if you ask me.

And it's most definitely cold.