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Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Ghost of Christmas Presents

I hope your celebrations were all wonderful and joyous. I hope the spirit of the season gave you a hug, even if the season of being fuck-all broke visited you. This was a good Christmas for me, but not an easy one.

Christmas Eve, I rolled out the door with Wifefish and Little Danger to stay with my in-laws, whom I hold quite dear. I won the in-law lottery.

As the Eve progressed, the TV rotated between White Christmas, Sirius Christmas Music, A Christmas Carol (both Muppet and not), and of course A Christmas Story. There was sledding. There was festivity, happiness, and love.

Santa came to visit, a fantastic member of the Santa Corps whose sleigh is a beaten pick up, but who brings the magic of the Claus with great aplomb. From deep within his sack, he brought forth toys and candy, and held Little Danger in his arms for a photo with my niece and nephew. It is the most precious and adorable thing ever, and if I send the picture to Kim Jong Il, North Korea will fall apart tomorrow. I may be in consultations with the government on whether or not to do so. There are conditions of regional stability to consider.

After a bit of a visit, Santa told the younglings that he had to go meet the elves with his sleigh, and set his massive pocketwatch on "North Pole" to begin his magical journey. I read The Night Before Christmas to the kids in my best basso profundi, and off to bed they went.

Unfortunately, like Scrooge, I was about to be visited and tormented in the night. Alas, it wasn't Marley that came to call at the bell's tolling of 1. It was a dreaded nemesis indeed, the stomach flu that Wifefish had already suffered through 3 days hence. Yes, my Christmas was blessed by the same virus that fucks up entire cruise ships. I would rather have had to fight off Magneto without any of the X-men to help. With a butter knife.

As I hobbled from the bed to wrap my loving arms around the porcelain altar of Christmas Dinner Yet To Return, I came to dread the day. Yet, the day was going to come, and presents would be opened, and Little Danger would have his first Christmas. It was time to greet some Daddy Toughness.

As morning broke, I dug deep. I found the iron of my will, wrapped it around my oh-so-tender gut, and took a sip of water. The iron bent a bit, but remained. I took Little Danger up the stairs to greet Christmas Morning.

Through a foggy haze and a few more trips to the loo, I made it through stockings. I took pictures of Little Danger with his stocking stuffers, but Wifefish tells me they were blurry. I'm sure they looked clear when I snapped them, but alack, I was evidently hallucinating from Montezuma's Revenge of the Sugarplum Fairy. The iron gave out, and became something less Herculean by far. "The sponge cake of my will" doesn't sound near as determined, I imagine, but ended up being far more accurate for the rest of the day.

Christmas Breakfast had begun, and so back to bed I went. I was assailed by the scent of bacon, normally a siren call of impending ambrosia but now a vicious mugger beating my digestive system up for loose change.

I was awakened when it was time to open the rest of the presents. Little Danger got an assortment of awesome things, including a stuffed Yoda plushie that talks (first Star Wars toy FTW!). I gritted through as best I could, disappearing from time to time as needed. The boy had a good haul, and now has plenty of toys to play and learn with.

As for me, the rest of the day was spent mostly in a fog in bed, curled around the lump of cramptastic agony my belly had become. I am a notorious wuss when it comes to illness, but this thing had my number.

A quick aside: Spike TV was running the Star Wars trilogy on Christmas day. Now, I can appreciate the target clientele of Spike, but I have to take a bit of issue with the decision to run condom and vibrator ads during every commercial break. To hear my 8 year old niece comment "that looks like a vibrating lipstick", while fuck-all hilarious, was perhaps something that the nice folks at Spike could have given a bit more thought to avoid causing.

I slept through Christmas Dinner, a piece of toast serving as a reluctant substitute. It fought me for the privilege for about an hour, and I persisted in a fugue state on the couch. Eventually, Wifefish drove our chariot home, Little Danger in his seat and her poor, pitiful wretch of a Dangerboy in the passenger seat. She's a goddamn saint.

Somehow, even having to deal with the Plague, it ranks up there as one of the Best Christmases Ever. And that's all about a tiny little gift, hugging his new pal Yoda and doing his best Han Solo smirk. I know in years to come, I won't remember the Ghost of Christmas Presents...I'll remember that precious giggle, that charming smile, and the love inspired by my Little Danger.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Things I Hate, vol 6

Behold: IKEA. For some, it is a Mecca of low cost, unpronounceably named items. It is, to them, a veritable playground of shopping ecstasy, with row upon row of knicks, knacks, and furniture. I, however, say fuck that. For my dollar, the very thought of IKEA fills me with more dread than a trip through a TSA checkpoint when the screener has cold hands and is standing under the mistletoe.

You see, IKEA is laid out by the same geniuses that design rat mazes and Dungeons&Dragons modules. The floor plan is designed to coax you into seeing everything there is to see, as if shopping for home furnishings were some form of vacation. And perhaps it is sexist of me to say so, but this is the quickest way to piss off men everywhere.

Typical IKEA layout, lost lemmings.

A trip through IKEA is an experience; watching lemmings follow each other past the large arrows on the floor into each and every department and display. I am not a lemming, following hitherto and yon, seeking all that I may gather unto me while driving my credit line into the stratosphere. Nay, I am Dangerboy!, Hunter not Gatherer, and I desire to beeline to the object I wish to buy, then directly to the checkout, only taking the scenic route if it happens to meander through a taping of America’s Next Top Model: the nude edition. I do not wander in merchandise. Ever. (Video game and hardware stores notwithstanding because they don’t fucking count.)

After making it through half the store, I begin muttering things. Wifefish looks on indulgently as I speak seemingly in tongues. “Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry”.

“What dear?”

“Nothing, dearest love! Mumble grumble.

I start fantasizing about ways to shorten the distance from Flugsmergens in kitchen to Darvasnavels in bedding, and realize the best way might in fact involve gamma radiation and Bill Bixby.

Dangerboy SMASH!!!

See, I think IKEA has a great plan, but like Jedi mind tricks, it only works on the weak willed. Force everyone to look at everything, and they just might buy more. Suffice to say I subscribe to the Dark Side of this philosophy, and will gnaw off some of my more useful parts to avoid such a plan like some deranged Sith-inspired coyote.

There’s a restaurant somewhere around the halfway point of their dull grey arrowed version of the Yellow Brick Road, and by the time you get there you feel like Scarecrow anyway, as all semblance of grey matter has long since trickled out of your ears back at the Flinginsvardtgubens. I wonder about some of the items on sale at said restaurant…from monstrous hot dogs to what the fuck ever a lingonberry is to the “Kottbullar”. I don’t know if these “Kottbullar” are actually Swedish meatballs, or a diabolical plan hatched by two lab mice to TAKE OVER THE WORLD with sentient orbs of meat.

Kottbullar Kommandos enacting their plan

But alas, IKEA stocks items that really are inexpensive and even useful. And so it comes to pass that I blindly follow along with the Wifefish as we visit Merchandise Mordor. My attention meanders like a game warden at a fishery. My desire to be anywhere else multiplies like unsupervised guppies. I twitch so much that passersby start saying “Don’t tase him, bro!”

My typical IKEAxperience. The things we do for love.

Perversely, Wifefish wants me to write that “she does not support your opinion of Ikea and she thinks it’s a magical fairy land.” Truly, she flits about like Tinkerbell on meth, darting into short cuts only she knows about, emerging into mystical places within the IKEA that dispense mana as choirs of faerie children sing from on high and fill her with the Spirit of Shopping.

Wifefish dancing with unicorns and fairies at IKEA.

I’ll grant that I’d rather spend money at IKEA than Voldemart (Walmart), but I much prefer the Dangerboy method. This is a way of shopping IKEA that I firmly believe that many of us men should engage in as often as possible. It goes a little something like this: “You know, Wifefish, you haven’t gone shopping with your mom in a while. Oh, and I saw this Glubsnardt on IKEA’s website, wouldn’t it be great in Little Danger’s room?”

I know this seems sinister, even dastardly, but understand that I’ve no qualm with accompanying Wifefish on a shopping excursion normally. It’s that damned IKEA. I shout it out like Kirk shouts KHAAAAAAANNN!!!!! It is the bane of my existence.

And so I salute you, IKEA, but I salute you with one finger. May you rearrange your monsterless dungeon crawl before I farm your aisles for Experience Points.

Note to IKEA. Please don’t sue me. I actually buy a lot of your stuff, and I’ve even eaten the meatballs.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Longest Night

For those of you who celebrate it, a very Blessed Yule to you. May the day bring warmth and light.

This solstice was coupled with a very lovely lunar eclipse, which sadly I did not get to see thanks to the thick blanket of clouds clamped over the area like a chloroform soaked rag over a clown's face. Between that and my head cold, I'm not sure I feel the returning light so much as the desire to slide back under some blankets and pull my best Rip Van Winkle.

But Little Danger's first Christmas approaches, and I've got some serious Santafying to do. I may have bought him a stuffed Yoda yesterday. I may be slightly giddy about buying him presents. I may drop a shot of Jameson's into my coffee Saturday morning, though. (Anyone ever read 2 truths and a lie? This paragraph was dedicated to it. Or was it?)

I've a feeling this will be the best Christmas ever, even though we're in the same boat with everybody on the whole having-less-money-this-fucking-year thing. Wifefish and I have agreed to cheap out on each other, but spending the day amidst the family traditions with Little Danger should be all the gift I need this time around.

We have some fun traditions, too: a visit from Santa, cookies by the fireplace, the watching of A Christmas Story, and many more. Little Danger won't really remember any of these this time around, but with a baby it's more for Wifefish and I.

This half assed post brought to you by the letter Q. That big damn Q on the dayquil container.
I leave you today with a question: What's your favorite holiday tradition?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Trip Down Nostalgia Street, vol 4

It’s time for another walk down Nostalgia Lane. We’ll come back to the Atari 2600 in some later posts, but for now I’m going to jump ahead in time to 1988, and the second of my electronic childhood companions, the Sega Master System. Ah, the upgrade to 8 bit glory. I can’t remember whether this was a Christmas or Birthday treat, but I do recall that it arrived after transitioning into high school, when Transformers and Legos were no longer cool. Ah, foolish youth…Legos are ALWAYS cool. But I digress.

One of the first Sega games to absorb my time like Borg with a bad habit was Lord of the Sword. A simple side-scrolling adventure, Lord of the Sword featured a young man by the name of Landau attempting to complete three Very Important Tasks, while presumably lording over his sword.

Prepare for 8 bit glory, children!

The tasks must have been named by the Fraggles, I think: find the Tree of Marill, subdue the goblin of “Balala Valley”, and destroy the very, very aptly named “Statue of Evil.” And while the goblin wasn’t singing “Oh, you touch my Balala”, he did have some wicked flaming skulls, if I recall correctly. And whereas the statue was the Statue of Evil, and not merely the Statue of Slight Annoyance or the Statue of Jaywalking, it was a worthy target for annihilation.

Lord of the Sword had some fairly freaky enemies, from floating eyeballs to mutant armadillo badgers to flying devils, not to mention the ninja warriors. The ninjas would stalk you, disappear, and then fall out of the fucking sky to stab you in the back. They were, however, the weakest enemy in the game, and could be defeated with one simple strategy: just keep walking. Dumbest. Ninjas. Ever. (Side note: keep walking away from a pirate, and he’ll shoot you in the fucking back.)

Stupid ninja summons batscorpion. It is super effective.

You’d stop in various villages, earn various rewards, and kill various enemies. Seriously, I mean various enemies. In addition to those mentioned previously, there were also wolves, pterodactyls, scorpions, skeletons, caterpillars, bursting seed-pods, and more. It was as if the game designers had rolled through an old Fiend Folio or Monster Manual and decided it was the perfect roster for their own evil kickball team.

Always picked last for Kickball. Always.

Boss fights were enjoyable, including the swamp spirit, a twisted version of the Great Pumpkin with a rotating mirror for a body, which you had to shoot with your bow, while knocking back an invincible samurai before he cut your face off. (The before was the hard part.) Then there’s the Beast of Fire who looked like Harvey Birdman’s stunt double, or the giant Pirate with a sword for a hand. (Scoffed at a mere hook, he did.) Come to think of it, somebody was definitely smoking some meth on the design team.

Things we've all seen while smoking meth.

But usually kicking the little angel off our other shoulder.

The final battle consisted of a throw down with the evil Ra Goan, a name that sounded suspiciously like the sound you’d make after losing the fight for the 853rd freaking time in a goddamn row. Eventually, though, I did beat the big bastage, and thus won the crown of the kingdom. A final story board progression told the tale of your peaceful reign, and finished off with the words “The End”. How quaint. And vaguely anticlimactic.

While fun, this game would fail to inspire my imagination as much as other games I'd played before and since...I didn't really want to BE Landau, I just wanted to beat the game.

The 8 bit revolution improved gaming a great deal, bringing story and conclusion to games, where Atari titles had typically just featured “get a good score before you die” as their plotlines. And I’m not going to lie, Marge, I spent a lot of time wiggling my thumbs on that controller, and didn’t put the controller down willingly…until the 16 bit revolution came to call, invading the peace and quiet of Nostalgia Street.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Junk in the Very Tall Trunk

My family and I, like many, have a running gag. I used to love going to the zoo, and in fact I still do. Seeing animals that are rare, wondrous, precious, or just plain there is a treat that I’ll be sharing with Little Danger for sure.

On this particular once-upon-a-time, I sat quietly in my stroller as my parents wheeled me along the pathways at the St. Louis Zoo. We spent a bit of time watching the giraffes in the sweltering heat of an August summer day. I was fascinated by the way the giraffe would swish its tail, shooing the flies away from itself with its very own built-in flyswatter. Of course, being only 5 or so, I didn’t quite have the vocabulary or patience to properly articulate such a sentiment. Instead, I happily chirped out “Gee, I like that giraffe’s butt!”

Thus began a long and endearing (though occasionally embarrassing) run of giraffe butt jokes that has persisted for 3 decades. It’s still possible for me to make my mom giggle by the mere mention of a giraffe butt, and I try to make sure I do so every now and then. For instance, finding myself in London’s largest toy store, I staged a shot of me grabbing a giraffe by the tail…and I submit to you that if you can afford a life-sized stuffed giraffe, you can fuck right off. Some of us outside of the rarified airs actually have to struggle to make ends meet.

Dangerboy conquers Girafficus Bythetailicus

I’ve always been a fan of little in jokes like this, secret ways of saying things within a couple, family, or group of friends. They build a secret language of shared experience, humor, and love. What’s your favorite family in-joke?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Jumping on the Grenade

There are times, when faced with an imminent asskicking, that we learn just how far we might go for our fellow man. How far will you go? Let me share with you a story, of a time I came *this* close to jumping on the grenade.

I was on a deployment at Keesler, and hanging out with Kit quite often. (See the Slidell Saga) Of a Saturday night, we’d do whatever adventure we were doing, and hit the Denny’s on the beachfront for late night breakfast.

A midnight Denny’s crowd can be a group of regulars, and such had become the case at this location. We had a regular waitress, a regular table, even though we weren’t entirely regular ourselves. Sort of off-normal, which suited us just fine…there was a section where nerds and geeks would regularly be seated, and the rest of the restaurant for the late night drunkard crowd. You can probably guess which section we frequented.

On this particular night, we were just being served when the large table behind us was invaded and conquered by a bunch of teenagers, fresh out of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. As you might imagine, they were dressed quite strangely…one young lady in a clear skirt and gold lame’ panties, a young man in a dress…I’m pretty sure they had played Rocky and Janet that night, but gender-switched. Both were probably 16, at the most. The rest of the table was equally as wild, and Kit and I smiled at each other, reminiscing about our own Saturday night floor shows, truly beautiful to behold.

Don't dream it.

We finished our meal, chatting and enjoying ourselves…even when the boy with the Mohawk asked Kit for the rest of her sausage. Some may have been bothered, but we just smiled at his boldness and rewarded it with the sausage. Michael Rennie might have been ill, but we were just having a good time.

Unfortunately, what would have been a lovely evening started getting murky as I noticed 4 military meatheads at another booth, giving the kids the stink-eye. My danger sense was tingling so hard I started looking around for radioactive spiders. I’ve been military myself, and proudly, but these guys took me straight back to high school in a hurry…I can recognize a dung beetle when I see one, and I was looking at four of them.

Kit noticed me go quiet, as I started truly listening to the Fucktastic Four. The kids were gathering up and getting ready to leave, when I heard the lead douchemuppet utter “I swore an oath against all enemies foreign and domestic, and that looks like a domestic enemy to me” all the while giving the boy in a dress (a knee length floral number, by the way) his best Deathglare. (I'm not sure who writes southern villain dialogue, but they need to be fired.) He looked like a stocky version of Dolph Lundgren, a true poster boy for the Aryan Nation. I swiveled my legs out to the side so I could get up quickly, and called for the waitress.

“Crystal, you need to call the cops, there’s about to be trouble in your lot.” She didn’t even question me, just went for the phone. The kids left. Two of the four meatheads followed. Our waitress dialed the phone, while Kit went a bit pale.

I stood and quickly crossed to the booth, addressing the remaining two. “You guys need to stop your friends before they do something stupid” I exclaimed. Neither looked up from their Grand Slams, gazing into their plates as if divining the future in their scrambled eggs. Or maybe they just couldn’t lift their eyes under the colossal weight of their shame.

Some quick calculations went through my head, and I was worried these two would follow me out the door if I went. I knew the scrawny kid wouldn’t have a chance, though, and I remembered all too well the years I had been targeted like that. Somewhere within, a flame grew hot. I hit a quick about face and headed for the door, figuring to grab my mag-light out of my trunk on the way. When I can, I try to avoid a 4-on-1 without some sort of equalizer.

For the second time in the Deep South, Dangerboy was ready to receive a good old-fashioned ass-whoopin’. Hey, Alex, what do you think?

The category: Timely Intervention. The clue: Faster than eggs through a hen.

What is the fastest police response I’ve ever seen without a Krispy Kreme involved?

Correct for $200!

Thank you, Trebec.

As I rounded the corner, I saw the lead meathead reaching into the kids’ car, grasping for the lad with the fashion sense. At the same moment, one of Biloxi’s finest pulled into the lot. They had to have been right next door, as the response time was under a minute from time of call. Seeing the cop hop out of his cruiser, I turned around, heading right back inside. Kit was happy to see me, to be certain...and for that matter, so was I.

The girl in the transparent skirt came back in to retrieve something they’d left at the table, and I noticed she was wearing a rather large shiny pentacle. I caught her eye. “So,” I said, “is that for show, or are you pagan?”

She straightened her back and met my eyes with pride, and said slowly “I’m a witch.”

“Well then, Blessed Be.” I replied. Her eyebrows made a climb for her hairline, as she realized that I wasn’t busting her chops at all. I winked at her as she thanked me and left, and I’d like to think that perhaps she put two and two together there on the whole who-called-the-cops issue.

I called for the check, and decided to finish my coffee and pie. It wasn’t long before the 2 douchehats came back in and sat back down in their booth, and then the glares got heavy. I pointedly ignored them, though truth be told I made a huge mistake not going over and asking for the name of their CO so I could end their careers. Fortunately for them, I had so much adrenaline pumping in my system that rational thought was difficult to maintain.

After about 5 minutes of enduring the stares, Kit and I paid and left. I flashed the dung beetles a wolfish grin on my way out, and you can be sure I kept my eye on the door until after we’d pulled out of the lot.

I’m certain that I would have been hurt, and likely badly, had the balloon gone up, but I’m proud of myself that a young man would have avoided that fate had it happened. Still hyped up on adrenaline and caffeine, I stayed up with Kit for several more hours, playing Mortal Kombat 3 until the wee hours just before dawn. A repeating chorus of “Sub Zero wins” finally serenaded me to relaxation. I’m still just fine that none of the Fucktastic Four managed a “Get over here!” though. I might have broken out in bruises.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Scotchy Scotch, Domo Arigato edition

I have to admit it, I’m a Scotch snob. I don’t typically drink blends, unless they’re part of a mixed drink. I will take straight Laphroaig before I’ll have Johnny Blue. And I’ll like it.

Occasionally, though, I like to try something new and different, but only at the pour-me-one level. I very rarely audition a new booze with a whole bottle, though, as my wallet tends to rebel against such shenanigans like a rag tag alliance on Hoth.

Being a snob of Scotch, I was surprised to learn of an unlikely treat: Japanese single malt whiskey. I was even more surprised to see it on the Scotch shelf at my local Boozehouse. Japanese, you say? Better known for sushi and pleasant baths than bagpipes, says I. And while the bottle of Yamazaki intrigued me, the $54 price tag taunted me like a Vegas hooker. You think it’ll be a good time, but you can’t justify the expense to your wife, and you know it might taste bad no matter how it’s dressed up.

And so, I cruised right on by that bottle on the shelf, and picked up some of the Glenmorangie instead. And out the door I went.

I do travel for business, and so it came to pass that I ended up in a lovely sushi place at Disney’s Swan resort, with Wifefish and Willie, Little Danger in tow in his stroller. While he napped (Little Danger, not Willie), I perused the menu. I may also have perused the waitress in authentic kimono, but my eyes came back to the menu as the familiar Yamazaki caught my eye. I decided I’d give it a try, and the Hibiki as well. Yes, it’s a blend, but I bent my rule on this one so as to experience a traditional whiskey aged in a plum wine cask. Gang, that just sounded too yummy to pass up.

By the way, I have to call out my sushi bars around the nation. I have eaten sushi at many, many places…New York, Vegas, San Diego, Ohio, Indiana, Texas, even New Orleans…and never seen Japanese Whiskey, only sake and Ki-Rin beer. What gives? Why have you hidden this from the Dangerboy? Now I’m going to be looking for it every time, and when I can’t find it I’m going kaiju so far off the deep end you’ll think I was directed by Ishiro Honda, so you’d better have a pair of tiny Japanese girls in your pocket just in case.

That's Yamazaki, not Yamaha, not kamikaze, and damn sure not Hamekameha.

Anyhow, on to the meat of the post…the drinks. The Yamazaki is a product of Suntory distillery, built in 1923. I found it a pleasant drink indeed, a bit sweet like a Highland Scotch, but with a distinct personality and a bit of cherry hiding in the wood. As always, your mileage may vary, but this is a not-scotch that I’ll let wear an honorary kilt with its katana. Pride in whiskey is pride in whiskey, whatever flag it flies.

Hibiki means "harmony", fitting for a blend.

As for the Hibiki, I’m glad I gave it a shot, even though it’s a blend. It is of course smoothed out, but if you’re a fan of blends, you need this in your collection. It’s another Suntory production, and is very smooth and sweet. The plum flavors really come to the fore, and it finishes with a bit of peppery spice. I was pleasantly surprised, to say the least, and I’d allow a bottle of this to grace the shelves of my Pyrate Pub any time.

And so it came to pass that Dangerboy, Celtic heritage intact, did come to enjoy the fruits of the Far East. And I share it with you, now...grab your Pokemon and your bagpipes, and have a wee dram of something a bit different!

Yamazaki and Hibiki. Remember them, and Slainte!…or Kampai!!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

My Old Friend...

Looking out the windows, I am greeted by an old, old friend. The first snowfall of this season drifts lazily at times, floats furiously at others, and I watch the fallen leaves slowly disappear beneath a quieting blanket of soft white.

As some of you may know, I have a special place in my heart for the first fall of snow. Despite the fact that it inspires 98% of the drivers around me to revert to their inner moron, it inspires in me memories of staying home from school, snowball fights, hot chocolate, reading a book while watching it fall, and of course snuggling up with my Mom or, on those occasions he was off of work, with Dad.

There's a certain magic that comes with the first snowfall, which the 2nd and 27th snowfalls just can't touch. The 27th snowfall always makes me yearn for the Turks or Bahamas anyway, as by that time I'm ready to choke out a caribou just on principle. But oh, that first snowfall, come to call in its soft embrace and wrap me in all those memories of life's wintry pleasures! The first snowfall is welcomed with open, though freakin' freezin' arms.

While my friend has lost the power to let me have a day home, today's first snow is more special still. Today I'm going to bundle up Little Danger in a big fluffy blanket and carry him outside, and I'm going to introduce my friend. I think I'm going to set aside a vacation day in the coming years, too...his first snow day off from school (still some years down the road), I think I want to take off work and share that with him. My old friend would surely appreciate the company.
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