Thanksgiving family and friend extravaganza


This has been a jam-packed holiday weekend:

  • My brother Oliver is in town, who is a Real Artist, but whenever we get together I pester him to do sketches of me in various ridiculous outfits. I know, it’s kind of embarassing, but if your brother had the magical ability to conjure pictures of you as a haughty, clueless World War I officer carrying a bone-handled riding crop, what would you do? Besides, they come in very handy as online avatars — I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of the Mighty Caesar I pestered Oliver for last time.
  • Oliver is also painting a mural in our downstairs bathroom, because he’s just really nice like that. After some bathroom-mural jokes (“Atlantis sinking beneath the waves! Poseidon jabbing a mortal in the ass with a flaming trident, yuk yuk yuk!”), Oliver is doing a kind of a Chinese export porcelain scene, with mountains and calming waters. It’s really going to be quite a nice bathroom to spend time in.
  • Kate’s brother Matt and his girlfriend Kristen were in town; Kate contributed a tofurkey to the Thanksgiving meal for them, and we made a gingerbread house, complete with an icing elf exhorting the masses from a back balcony.
  • Kate and I agreed to be on the YWCA West Chester Holiday House Tour this year, which is a friendly, low-key fund-raising event. That is, the tour-goers are low-key. Since the tour is next Saturday, we’ve switched into full-on Xmas Overdrive, with the help of a high-school friend that has a floral decoration business. Mindy is AWESOME, and the house is now full of: bowls of lemons, rhododendron leaves, boxwood balls, and pine garlands on the banisters. It’s like a freaking Bavarian hunting lodge in here now. I mean that as a good thing.
  • Incidentally, getting a Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving has some huge advantages. Walk on to the lot, and it’s “do you want this tall, beautiful, symmetrical tree right here, or this other tall, beautiful, symmetrical one next to it? Hey, we got fifty more nice ones on the truck.” The attendants are relaxed, the jokes are fresh (“Look at him cut the stem! I send this kid to private school every year, and they still won’t tell me where it is!”) and I feel righteous vindication on behalf of my nine-year-old self, who was UTTERLY CONVINCED that every day that elapsed between Thanksgiving and the day we eventually got a tree was a day wasted; gone forever.
  • The 2005 Turkey Pro National was today, Sunday, near Allentown, PA. I put on three pairs of pants (no joke), my heaviest jacket, and rode the sidecar outfit fifty miles up to the event. Kate, Oliver, Lydia and Barb drove. My bike decided this would be a good time to teach me about carburetor maintenance (apparently, it’s a good idea to, you know, pay some attention to your carb every once in a while), so I spent the last twenty miles up staggering along at thirty miles an hour. But family friend Jimmy Coll taught me how to drop the jets and clean them, and a field repair is always more glamorous than a garage repair. So now I know how to clear a carburetor, and I’m slowly reaching “advanced beginner” stage with my bike.
  • Whew, that’s it! What a weekend. It was really wonderful having the house full of family and friends, and we feel really loved to have so much help with: bathrooms, gingerbread houses, decorations, and carburetors.

PS. the country-western bar up the road has had its sign rearranged to say “COME DIONYSUS”, which either means they’ve been pranked or there’s a Wiccan line-dancing movement I didn’t know about.

Thanksgiving family and friend extravaganza

There’s no bonhomie at the wheatgrass bar

Starting weight: 230 lbs
Target weight: 185 lbs
Current weight: 226 lbs
Re-big-ulation in progress.

So, in my last blog post on the subject, I was all going on about how I’m motivated by success, and I don’t handle setbacks so well. How prophetic! I got distracted by other stuff (er… like whole-milk lattes, I guess), and now I’ve managed to put back on six of the ten pounds I lost. Which isn’t all that surprising, considering where I’ve been getting my calories (Dear god! The raspberry scone I had this morning should have been a third of my total intake for the day, according to the numbers.)

So the whole thing about sticking to my plan by blogging about it didn’t work so well. Well, unless you count me getting back on the #$@#$$@ bean-sprout wagon now, three months after I fell off it, while I’ve still got a net result in the right direction. Off to go stand in line behind the sweater-set crowd for a healthy sandwich, instead of Genuine NYC Banter with the guys at the pizza shop. (The old guy inflates your price by a factor of one hundred: “That’ll be four hundred and seventy five dollars” — I guess he’s waiting for somebody to pay it someday. If you hand over your five bucks saying “take it outta five hundred”, you get VIP service the next time you come back. But nooooo, I gotta go talk to the humorless folks at Ashby’s now. Sigh.)

There’s no bonhomie at the wheatgrass bar

The long, dark aisle of shame

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I’ve written before about the traumatic experience of being publicly outed as a nerd on local TV news, “Doctor Who” baseball hat and all. When I saw that Channel 10 spot about the Hill School Computer Camp, a small meter deep inside me—the “personal coolness” meter—started spinning wildly into the red. Ever since that traumatic day in the early eighties when my jingly camp shorts and my calf socks were shown fitting a VAX tape drive, I’ve been laboring under a kind of Nerd Deficit. Ever since then, some part of me has been laboring to get that meter back out of the red and to zero, where normal people who read magazines and follow sports live.

(Playing lots of D&D in 9th grade and learning all the words to every Monty Python song ever made probably didn’t help much, but you do what you can, I guess. I wore one of those knitted guatemalan hoodies a lot in 11th grade, hoping that the Hippy would cancel out the Nerdy.)

So, several months ago, when I found myself in a scuba repair shop begging for spare parts, and the nice, rawboned guy handing me the surplus backplate asked me what I was going to do with it, and I was able to shrug my shoulders and reply truthfully “Oh, you know… three showgirls, a motorcycle, and a helicopter“, I finally felt my internal meter click back to zero. At long, long last, my Nerd Deficit was finally balanced out.

So I finally allowed myself to do something I had never done once in fifteen long years of self-imposed Nerd Remediation Therapy, and I blew all my slowly-gotten gains in one brief, giddy moment.

I walked into the “Fantasy” aisle of the bookstore.

Yeah, that’s right. I said it. The “Fantasy” aisle, not the “Sci-Fi/Fantasy” aisle at smaller bookstores, where you can pretend you’re just there for the Asimov. No, the “Fantasy” aisle, where all the books have covers of skinny women in metal bustiers and eyepatches riding polar bears, and the polar bears have eyepatches too. The “Fantasy” aisle, where nobody meets each other’s gaze. The absolute nadir of nerdy; the Umbilicus Urbis of neck-bearded comic-book convention-goers, the teeming shore where the unrepentant, unsalvageable, and uncool go to purchase their filthy books full of big-titted elves. I went, damn it, and I bought stuff.

It was great, of course. Of course it was — the illicit, taboo rush, the relief of finally coming to terms with who I truly am as a person. I am a nerd, damn it. Not just a geek, a nerd, and I actually enjoy reading books that have swords with names in them. God help me, this is who I am. In some ways, it’s who I’ve always been.

Then, I found I wasn’t alone. A friend of mine at work drops the name “Tyrion Lannister.” So I mention the title, furtively. “Uh, you guys, you know… like reading that stuff too?” “You guys are, like, waiting for the next book to come out in November?”

They were not waiting for the book to come out in November. They had traveled to distant countries and purchased the book there, bringing it back to read. They had ordered bootleg photocopies of the upcoming book over the internet.

They had made T-shirts about the books, T-shirts available for sale on the Internet.

They have planned a trip to a book-signing in New Jersey, there to have the bearded author sign their T-shirts and their copies of the book right there in plain sight of the world. IN PLAIN SIGHT, where people can, you know, see them and stuff. This is an amazing revelation, and they have invited me to come.

How do I reconcile this new knowledge? These are friends who are cool, by the standards of the world. They dress in expensive clothes and have been featured in magazines. They have chin beards and teach martial arts. They do the “cowboy-hat and plaid miniskirt” thing and totally get away with it. They pull the levers of trends in this country, and yet they have been to the aisle of shame, and they do not repent.

Has this self-imposed Nerd Deficit just been a cruel, self-hating sham? Am I free to read about polar bears in eyepatches? I may have to seriously consider revealing to the world that at one time I knew the difference between Qenya and Sindarin. Gulp!

The long, dark aisle of shame

Carob used as it should be: a punishment for the wicked

OH NOES TEH HEALTH FOOD!!!111Halloween last night was a lot of (gentle, toddler-friendly) fun. Little Lydia has an ear infection, though, so we kept it mellow so she could get some sleep. This time, I taped the EL wire to the candy bucket, which the kids liked and (like dim dining hall lighting on Parent’s Day), had the effect of obscuring the contents somewhat. Some of the older kids—not many, but a few—would hover over the bucket and cherrypick, even returning one item and taking another. So to leave a snare for the wicked I seeded the bucket with large, dense, and healthy protein bars. Okay, I only did it once, when I saw one 12-year-old ghoul bragging about the size of his pillowcase. Sure enough, he reached in, selected on size during a vigorous three-second grasping session, and dropped the malted carob-flavor Kashi protein bar into his bulging sack with a triumphant expression. Hey, it won’t hurt him none.

Unless he eats it without holding his nose; those things are nasty.

I looked through my blog for previous Halloween posts, and found the following:

  • 2004: First Halloween on Sharpless Street with lots of trick-or-treaters. Contains a detailed report of the costumes encountered, then I go all E.B. White and call rotting pumpkins “eloquent of summer’s decay.” Oy.
  • 2003: Report of the Haunted Hayride that I lied to my NYC friends about. I told them that it was staffed entirely by kids on Rumspringa, so they’d “drive hundreds of miles to see Amish teenagers in rubber masks, all shaky on Red Bull.” No mention of trick-or-treating that year, though. I was recovering from the fiasco mentioned below.
  • 2002: the infamous “Cubic foot of Butterfingers” year, which haunts me as a cautionary tale, now that I’m a Responsible Daddy. I don’t mean that to be sad, though: the Cubic Foot of Butterfingers sometimes appears to me like a spectral golem, reminding me that enthusiasm is wonderful, but unfocused, unreasoned enthusiasm doesn’t always bring light and life to the world. Like all God’s creatures, the CFOB did eventually serve a purpose.
  • 2001: I put up “The Best Haunted House in East Central Indiana”, a couple of pages about a haunted house I made at Earlham College ten years before, featuring a knife-wielding, spluttering Todd Pugsley bouncing up and down on room filled with bed springs. This still draws search engine hits on “haunted house,” “Tibetan Tantric Gyuto monks,” and “leaf fire basement.”

Like a mysterious, animated GIF batsignal, my story about the haunted house had the effect of summoning Todd from the ether; two weeks after posting about the haunted house, Todd showed up out of the blue and took me out to Vietnamese karaoke. Let’s hope my Roald Dahl tricks with the weight-loss bar doesn’t bring some kind of pale, carob-munching wheat-germ peddler around. Vade retro, Kashi!

Carob used as it should be: a punishment for the wicked