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Topic #19
Holiday, Schmoliday.

Well, here comes yet another holiday, all orange greeting cards and plastic pumpkins. Call me a party pooper or a grinch or what have you, but I happen to be anti-holiday. But before you say "We've already heard about the Hallmark conspiracy theory ad naseum, thank you very much," I have to say I didn't always hate holidays, nor do I hate celebratory occasions. I just hate that it's expected that certain activities are to be done on certain days. I mean, say that certain Sunday in June rolls around the Thing To Do is to send a gift or a card or at least call, for god's sake, but maybe you're the world's biggest procrastinator or maybe you stayed out too late and have a hangover, or maybe you haven't even spoken to your father in five years. It's like whatever you do or say on that one day carries more weight than anything you could possibly do or say on any of the other 364 days in the year.

Between the ages of 3 and 12, Halloween was tons of fun. My mother would make my sister and I intricately hand-sewn costumes. For my very first Halloween I was an angel, complete with Christmas-tree garland halo, but one of the best costumes was the year we won silver dollars in the Terryville childrens' costume parade as leopards with stuffed tails and paws and little hoodie head-covers with pink ears on the top. Then there was the year we were black cats (basically the same sewing pattern with different colored fabric&#41, and the year we wore what I consider to be the most creative costumes, the year when we went as a scarecrow and a crow. Of course, my preening, mirror-addicted sister (who, now that I think about it vaguely reminds me of Quinn from the MTV cartoon Daria&#41 got to be the cuter, more whimsical crow half of the duo. Meanwhile, I was trying to figure out a way to look equally as cute under the pillowcase-over-my-head portion of the costume while at the same time trying to keep bits of hay from falling out of my flannel shirt.

The pillowcase, though my mother had cut out two perfectly good eyeholes, kept slipping so that I couldn't really see very well. As we trick-or-treated down one of the main streets in our neighborhood, my sister was bobbing along, showing off her cute little beak and her cute little wings. I was bobbing, too…bobbing and weaving as my line of vision sporadically came and went, when suddenly SLAM! I walked smack dab into a telephone pole and fell right on my ass, which instantly set off a pre-teen whining attack: "Why did I have to wear the stupid pillowcase? I wanted to be the crow! She always gets to be the crow! I hate this costume! I hate you!"

Then there was that whole "Trick-or-Treat for Unicef thing, which also annoyed me because I could never put the little cardboard coin box together right and somehow always ended up ripping one part or another. While everyone proudly held out their nice shiny, folded on the right angles Unicef boxes that they most likely had their parents put together for them, I would have to carry my did-it-myself scary cardboard box around, all crudely stuck back together with scads of scotch tape.

Now, that's all fun and games when you're 7, but it's not so fun at 27…well, aside from the people who get very into Halloween and start planning their costumes in August and do not overlook any of the very intricate details. When you go to adult costume parties it always ends up to be a bunch of people doing drugs and drinking, but in costume. I've been to two in my adult life, and after the first 20 minutes or so when everybody's admiring each other and trying to guess what people are, it kind of turns into just a surreal-looking bunch of people standing around in little groups: "Look! It's Raggedy Ann smoking a joint while talking to the devil and President Clinton!"

So, it's not like I never had any fun on holidays during my childhood. Halloween happens to be one of the major ones as far as kids go, it being the seasonal lead-in to the other major holidays, Christmas and Easter, which are both technically Christian/religious in nature. When I met Avery, who is Jewish, it really opened my eyes to just how much a Christian holiday like Christmas has basically turned into a secular one, what with everyone wishing everyone else a "Merry Christmas" without a second thought. God forbid you make a disparaging comment, or have no special plans, or aren't going "home for the holidays" or haven't "done your shopping." Why do offices always have Christmas trees and a Christmas Party? Where are all the Hanukkah decorations in office building lobbies across the nation? At least spend the $3 for a cardboard menorah, for god's sake. With all the political correctness being thrown around these days, you would think that people would at least substitute "holiday" for "Christmas."

The whole gift-giving thing in general just gives me an anxiety attack. I am the world's worst gift-giver. So bad, in fact, that I just take Avery shopping and have him pick out what he wants. I still feel like a gift-giving failure, though, like how lame am I that I can't even think of a present for someone I've known for 10 years, but to me it's better than spending valuable cash on some insignificant tchotchke that he won't even like, just to give something. Receiving presents from other people is just as stressful for me. I would rather have a $10, even a $5, gift certificate to a store than get something that I will throw out or give away. Yet, these people insist, sending things we have no use for, despite our pleas to the contrary. Perhaps it's because they don't want to seem cheap?

To me, the Christmas/Hanukkah holidays represent getting together with family, and that's something that neither of us have right now, living on the opposite side of the country from where we grew up and all. I haven't been back to the town I grew up in maybe 7 years, and we've never gone back East since we moved here, 4 1/2 years ago. So, other people have their plans and their shopping and their trips, and it makes that time of year all special for them. But don't look at me funny if I say I don't have a tree or buy presents or celebrate Christmas at all!

It won't be too long before the end of November is here. We usually protest the tried-and-true tradition of cooking a turkey on Thanksgiving by cooking strange and unusual dishes instead. Maybe this year we'll do ostrich.

October 31 is rapidly approaching, and you know what that means… hundreds of drunken people wearing masks are going to be milling around my neighborhood as they head either towards or away from the Castro district’s Halloween Party.

Ok, tell me if this makes sense. Three hundred and sixty-four days a year, these people would be feared… because only complete loons and muggers walk around at night wearing masks. But on this one night, we throw away all common sense and tell the world: Hey, let’s put on masks so nobody can tell who we are and get loaded! Oh, pardon me for grabbing your ass, miss… but hey, you have no idea who I am!

But for some reason, nobody seems to understand my sense of concern when it comes to Halloween… well, nobody except for Pauly, the bartender at the Toronado. Last Halloween, Pauly, as a crowd of masked partygoers came into the bar, stood up and screamed at the top of his lungs something to the effect of “Take those fucking masks off and don’t fuck with me tonight.”

Maybe it’s just me, but I have never understood the appeal of the major holidays. Take, for example, the Fourth of July. The Fourth is supposedly a major, patriotic celebration, where Americans do what comes naturally to them: stuffing their pie hole with, well, pie and beer and chips and burgers. Then, just to top off the night, they set off some fireworks and scare the hell out of all the little babies dragged out by their parents to celebrate their first 4th of July.

Boom! Waah! Boom! Waah!

I used to love the Fourth of July, from the age of 6 to the age of 8. My friends and I would pile into my mother’s car and go to Downtown Hartford and while dressed in our jammies, watch the fireworks go off. Then it just started to get boring, and I stopped giving a rats ass about the Fourth of July.

When Janet and I first moved here, I worked the swing shift in on the 11th floor of an office building in San Francisco’s Financial District. Since we had a view of the waterfront, those of us who were on shift invited all of our friends and family to watch the fireworks from the floor-to-ceiling plate glass windows. It was neat. It was also extremely foggy, so instead of looking at sparkling balls of color, we just got to see the ominous glowing bands of fog. It looked like the mothership was landing in San Francisco Bay. The next year, we forgot about the Fourth. It wasn’t until we heard big-ass booms outside the window that we knew to flip over to the news to watch the celebration live on channel 4 news. Last year, we were able to spend the fourth fat, drunk and happy on a boat docked at Pier 39. We got to watch the sea lions get freaked out by all of the booming and bright lights. However, the two hour walk downtown to catch a bus since we couldn’t get a cab from the Pier counteracted any pleasure that we might have gotten from the fireworks and friendship.

This past year, we spent the fourth at the Toronado and then had to dodge the little hooligans throwing firecrackers at us as we walked home. Any other time of the year, the cops would be on them like glaze on a donut… but on the fourth, you could kill someone with a Roman Candle and the cops would brush it off as it was just kids celebrating the Fourth of July Holiday.

Hell, a lot of people just completely lose any modicum of common sense when it comes to Holidays. Take, for example, the drinking Holidays of St. Patrick’s Day and Cinco de Mayo.

On St. Patrick’s Day, I won’t even leave the house. You see, Janet and I are barflies… we take our drinking seriously, and the people we go out drinking with do as well. It is rare that we ever get more drunk than we intend to, because we have some self control and a bit of dignity. But when St. Patrick’s Day hits, everybody who doesn’t know how to drink sensibly decides that they’re going to drink until the pass out. Three years ago, we went to a St. Patrick’s Day block party in the Financial District after work. We say every lower-management frat-boy and junior-executive sorority girl running around, drinking heavily and just plain fucking around with strangers because they could rationalize it in the morning by saying to themselves “It was St. Patrick’s Day and I had too much to drink…” Bullshit. Those are the sort of people who give drinkers a bad name.

Cinco de Mayo isn’t as bad as St. Patrick’s Day. But every year, Corona, Cuervo and Dos Equis do their best to promote it even more, enticing gringos get drunk with their cheap beer, bad tequila and one dollar margaritas.

Last year, I got to spend both St. Patrick’s Day and Cinco de Mayo in Colorado Springs. St. Patrick’s Day was spent with my co-workers, waiting in line for the only Irish Bar in the city. When we finally got in, I went right up to the bartender and asked for a Guinness and a double Jameson. A frat boy sidled up next to me and asked for a shot of vodka. In response to his ridiculous request I downed the Jameson and asked for another. When the frat boy asked me what “Jameson” is… all I could do is say “It’s liquid gold,” The Bartender smiled, served me the double-shot and wouldn’t take any money from me. You see, I was drinking the same thing that all the bartenders were drinking… because Guinness and Jameson is a true Irish way to get drunk. That night was spent at a table in the corner with the waitstaff coming by every few minutes with a Guinness or a Jameson. They would sit down and take a momentary respite with me, knowing that I was a barfly away from home… and someone who understood what they were going through.

Cinco de Mayo was the same thing. I sat there while my co-workers got tanked on one-dollar sugar water margaritas, I stood there sipping at my Herradura Tequila, getting the smile and a nod every time I refilled. They all woke up with hangovers the next morning.

I guess I don’t like the holidays because people use them as an excuse to be assholes. Every year, the morning after St. Patrick’s Day, I watch my co-workers siting there with their sunglasses on talking about “I can’t believe what I did last night.” Usually, It circulates through the office that a couple of co-workers ended up going home together… and more than a few people come in wearing yesterday’s clothes. They talk about the deeds that they did while under the control of the evil alcohol. What they don’t understand is that us serious barflies know that alcohol isn’t responsible for their behavior, it’s just a convenient excuse.

So guess what, people, as you throw on a mask, go to a party and get all boozed up this Saturday night… don’t blame the booze, when you get slapped for pinching the girl dressed up like tinkerbell on the ass. Blame your own damn self.

Posted in Topics of the Week (1990s).

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