Friday, December 30, 2005

A little bit Christmas, a little bit rock 'n' roll

I got two pretty cool gifts for Christmas, along with some excellent books.

Yeah, that's right, I said Christmas. I know, I'm Jewish. But when you grow up in rural Pennsylvania, they don't let you have Hanukkah off from school, but you get a whole week around Christmas.

So that's when my family celebrates.

Actually, we open gifts Christmas Eve. I don't know why. Whether it's an f-u to the Man, or what, it's the way it's always been.

We spend the holidays with another family, some very dear friends who might as well be relatives. But that's sort of why I've got this warped holiday existence.

The first Christmas morning I woke up in my parents house was about six years ago. This year, at Thanksgiving time, we (my folks and the same family we spend Christmas with) went to see BTE put on "Miracle on 34th Street" (a remarkable comeback from the debacle a few years ago that was "Peter Pan"). Anyway, I'd never really seen it, but it turned out to be about Santa Claus and whether or not he's real. I'm pretty sure I stopped believing in Santa Claus the year I got the Millennium Falcon "Star Wars" toy for Christmas. That would be the year my Mom took a curve in the road a bit fast, and it fell on my head from the pile of gifts in the back seat next to me.

Whap! Yeah, Mommy's one of Santa's elves. Sure.

I realize I'm meandering way off topic here, but there's a lot of explaining that needs to be done if you're going to understand my holidays.

So I celebrate with seven other people: My mother and father, the parents of the other family, and their three children. The grandparents of that family were part of the tradition - my Uncle Leo was like an extra Grandfather, a mentor and dear friend of my father's. But they've since passed away.

The upside is, of course, I get gifts from two families. The downside is, of course, I have to buy gifts for two families.

That's not really a downside. I actually enjoy giving gifts. I enjoy giving gifts almost more than I enjoy receiving them. Maybe more. I know that sounds like about 5-foot-9 worth of bullshit, but it's true. I really enjoy giving something to someone else - something that's special, in particular. Like a gift they didn't ask for that still rocks the house, or when they ask for something like "a sweater" and you get them one they really like. (Or when you give someone something for no reason at all, like the time I sent Sari flowers because she complained no one ever sent her any, and I had a coupon. But obviously, at Christmas, that random occasion thing doesn't apply.)

Don't get me wrong. I love getting gifts. But I've reached that awkward stage in life where I'm fortunate enough to have most of the means to buy what I want, and the stubborn shopping addiction and credit limit that ensure I can do just that.

So most of what I asked for this year were books. Not an exciting gift for a child-at-heart who still loves toys, but I love to read and the books are rockin' cool.

But I did get two excellent gifts. One, I asked for, the other was random. And like I said, it's the winning random gifts that just rock.

I feel guilty. My parents didn't get me the cooler of the two gifts.

They got me a nice big fluffy comforter like the one I had on my bed when I was younger. They're superduper warm, and my bedroom tends toward the cold side in winter. And it's a definite A+ as far as the most useful, most enjoyable gift.

Nothing I love more than a warm bed on a cold morning. Except perhaps sharing it with someone. Someone at least slightly sexier than a stuffed monkey.

But it wasn't the most fun gift. That was a random gift from the other family: a desktop speed bag.

Yup, a leather bag you can punch to your heart's delight.

Now, those of you who know me know I go by "the Hitman" on some of my writings and other sites. How do you think I got the nickname? Yeah, my penchant for hitting things. Usually things harder than my fists. Like walls.

So since that was one of the first gifts I opened, I spent most of the rest of Christmas Eve first entertaining people by having to manually pump up the bag with my lazy out-of-shapeness. And then irritating them by repeated smacking the hell out of this thing. It's the closest thing I've gotten to a toy in years.

The great thing about getting gifts from two families is that my parents are loving/spoiling enough to basically get me exactly what I want, and the other family often takes a swing at something totally random they think I'd like. So I get the best of both worlds.

Plus, with the house in need of decoration that expands on the frat-boy motif, I do often get random gifts from the parental types, too.

Some years, the random gift is a little odd, like the anatomically correct dachshund candle holder. Yeah, a black metal weiner dog with a weewee and balls. Other years, the random gift rocks, like the giant lion sculpture that looked weird as hell when I opened it but looks absolutely excellent on my fireplace surround.

The best gifts I've gotten, I've gotten from my folks, including all those "Star Wars" toys and some seriously huge GI Joe stuff - like the space shuttle, one of the best-ever inspirations for my childhood scenarios, right up there with the Death Star.

But the best random gifts I've gotten are often from the other family (whose name is being omitted to protect the innocent from my ramblings).

The prize-winner there is probably the Colecovision. Back when my parents kept me technologically deprived. I finally had a video-game system - and an even better one than my friends' Ataris. All was happyjoy that year (1983, I think) until I was reading the instruction manual on the way home, and came across the dreaded sentence:

Color television required.

My parents - who in their retirement are engaged in a my-Mac-is-better-than-yours competition that would make Steve Jobs blush - were someone ambivalent toward technology back then. (This year, Dad got Mom an XM radio. I don't have an XM radio, for crying out loud.)

That made me the last kid in the world whose parents didn't have a color TV.

I cried all the way home.

My father still cheerfully calls it the only gift someone else gave me that cost HIM money.

But I'll tell you what, talk about "they don't make 'em like they used to"! That color TV, bought within days of our return, probably to stop my wailing, lasted nearly 20 years. The buttons started going in the late '90s and they replaced the TV a couple of years back. I'm not kidding. 20 freakin' years.

The Colecovision, I might point out, still works, too. Or at least it did the last time I fired it up, a couple of years ago.

And the GI Joe space shuttle and Death Star are still in the basement. And I still get the nice warm comforter on my cot when I go home at Thanksgiving.

(Yes, I said cot. They sold my bed while I was in college. Now I sleep in the guest room like everyone else, except at Thanksgiving, where seniority, in the form of the other parents, get the guest bed.

Aside, know how a college senior knows he better get a job? When his parents knock out the back wall of his bedroom and turn it into the sitting room for the master bedroom suite they're having built onto the house. That means "you ain't moving back here." Kind of like when they went on a cruise the day after dropping me off at college. I told them, you're lucky I wasn't the kid who quit before the end of orientation week. They said, no, you're lucky. We were in Sweden and the front door was double-locked.)

So in my 30 years on Earth, I've spent one Christmas at home. That year, my mother was sick and I guess she couldn't travel and Uncle Leo (who had polio and didn't travel far) had passed, so we switched Christmas to the folks'.

It was still exciting, waking up at home on Christmas morning (late in the morning, knowing me). Not that the family tradition isn't a highlight of the year - but I guess there is something magical about being at home on that day, and hustling (limping) downstairs to see what's under the tree or next to the fireplace (or piled up near the coffee table, having been opened the night before. point is...). And I'd never really had that experience. And I guess I'm just childlike enough to still get a kick out of it.

Well, I paused for a couple of minutes to bop the speed bag. Now it's time to snuggle up under the comforter with my insomnia and stuffed monkey. Between that, the biography of Richard S. Ewell I got, the Adam Sandler "Chanukah Song" I downloaded for the iPod I bought myself with my year-end bonus, and the praise the gifts I gave won...

(Aside, my personal favorites: the pearl earrings for Mom, the "Leave it to Beaver" lunchbox DVD set for Dad - one of my fond childhood memories is of my father coming home from campus for lunch and eating in in front of the (black-and-white) kitchen TV while watching "Leave it to Beaver" - and a couple of good and random books people really seemed to like.) was a good Christmas.



The Christmas/Hanukkah debate
The Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble
Restoration Hardware, sellers of the desktop speed bag
The Company Store, comforters and beyond
"Richard S. Ewell: A Soldier's Life," so far an excellent book about an underrated, quirky, bald, slighly inbred Confederate general
"Leave it to Beaver" - you're inferring more than you should

And if that weren't enough fun for one week, not only did I finally buy the "Star Blazers" set I've been coveting, and on sale, no less - thanks, bonus! - I got my free key-making machine for my locksmith course. Rockin'! Now all I need to do is figure out what I can mount it to. I think I'll order the portable board. It's that, or screw the thing to my kitchen table. Nine more lessons 'til I finish the basic course! Yay!


Stewie said...

I was going to comment something witty and awesome, but then I realized you very rarely acknowledge your comments.

It's as if you don't care about the people who read your blog and comment on it.

You are on notice Ace.

No more comments from me until you start replying to them. >:(

Lesley said...

You know, if you look down a couple posts he replied not once but TWICE to my comments. So maybe it's just you, Stewie. Sorry to have to tell you that. Just keepin' it real.

Although, Ace, I think he may have a point. I'm just saying.

Ace said...

What exactly would you like me to say?

Most of the time, there's really nothing to add to the comment unless I'm one of those insecure people who feels the need to get in the last word. Which I am, but it's usually not necessary here. So if you look back, you'll see most of my responses come when I can actually contribute to the discussion or answer a question, as opposed to just (metaphorically) hearing myself speak.

Plus, I expend most of my limited wittiness in the actual posts. So I really don't have much to say by the time the comments come in.

And I figured just saying "Thanks for commenting!" to every one would just clutter things up. But evidently you need the reinforcement, so "Thanks for commenting!" Really. Thanks. I'm glad you read it and enjoy enough to remark.

(If you're mad because I didn't respond to your pashmina shawl comment a couple of posts back, well, Lesley did it for me. All I could have done, really, is parrot her response - which would have a) cluttered things up; and b) made me look even less intelligent than the posts I write already do.

I read and ponder every single comment, and with most of my commenters, I read their blogs as well - as you may have noticed is a theme in my life, Stewie, it seems I spend more time reading other people's stuff than writing my own - isn't that reading and pondering enough?

(Apparently not for some Stewies. Oddly enough, for someone who insists he writes his blog for himself, Stewie, you take great pains to enter the discussions via comment on your blog. Whereas I, a writer who in theory is seeking an audience, follow what little commentary I get with an apparent air of detachment.)

So, dear readers, are you happy with long, rambling replies to comments, or is it just Stewie who feels neurotically neglected?

Discuss amongst yourselves.

Stewie said...

Why do you always throw out the "you write the blog for yourself" line against me as if I don't?

I do write the blog for myself. I've said that countless times.

I've also said that I know people read it and I write to entertain them,as well, just as I've said if I had no readers, I would still write it.

However, you ask for comments. You have done so on a couple of occasions. And when people take the time to comment, you should at least show the courtesy of an acknowledgement because they are saying "Hey, I read your blog." Again, something you have mentioned that you want (or at least insinuate).

Some people like feedback, that includes people who leave comments. I don't give a shit one way or another if you reply to my comments. It's something you have never, or rarely, done. It's how you are, I'm used to it, it doesn't bother me and I still comment. Obviously if it bothered me, I would have stopped commenting LONG ago, I assure you.

But if you want people to leave comments, you shouldn't ignore them because many will say "why bother if this guy doesn't read them." And, even though I know you aren't ignoring them, your lack of acknowledgment may lead them to believe you are.

My apologies Eric, it was a thing called "ribbing."

Apparently the ribbing touched a nerve.

I shall make sure it won't happen again.

Lesley said...

Ummm... yeah....

I wasn't trying to mix things up here. I was just being a smart mouth. My apologies if I offended. That was not my intent.

Stewie said...



Lesley said...

Don't be crowding up Eric's blog with your bitchbaby whining. Yoko, my ass!!!

Ace said...

Why do you always throw out the "you write the blog for yourself" line against me as if I don't?

Because you accuse me of not caring about the comments I get as if you care so much more about your readers than I do about mine.

you should at least show the courtesy of an acknowledgement because they are saying "Hey, I read your blog."

You know what, anything else I'm thinking of writing in response I'm going to write in anger. So I won't.

My apologies Eric, it was a thing called "ribbing." Apparently the ribbing touched a nerve. I shall make sure it won't happen again.

Yeah, saying I don't care really sounds like "ribbing."

Some days this blog is more of a chore than a pleasure. This feels like one of those days. This is more stress I don't need in my life. I do this for fun, and maybe I get to entertain a few people along the way. Maybe I don't. Right now, I don't care.

Stewie said...

You need to lighten up, man.


Ace said...

Thanks for commenting!