Location: Indianapolis, Indiana, United States

I'm just trying to develop an online body of work (even if the work is throwaway nonsense) to advance my writing career.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

I Am My Father's Son

Those who read my blog and don't know me personally--at last count, that number was somewhere between zero and one--might assume I am always sarcastic and spend my life making snide remarks. While this isn't completely inaccurate, I am also an almost unfailingly polite person, averse to confrontation and generally willing to let insults and harsh words pass. In other words, my snide remarks are made under my breath or among friends and family.

My father, however, is different. At age fifty three, he is far more likely to smooth over a dispute than exacerbate one these days, but he retains a sharp tongue and once spoke to adversaries in a manner so fearless--so reckless--it's a wonder he has lived this long. My father would say anything to anybody without reservation or self-censorship and most people--myself included--alternately admired, feared and loathed this quality.

There was once a man named Gary who haunted the jobsites where my father and his former employees used to work. Gary held a variety of jobs because he was never happy doing what he was doing and bounced around from trade to trade. He also appeared to have taken a few beatings in his time, leading my father to nickname him "Pruneface", but only when he wasn't around. Or so I thought. One afternoon, he engaged my father's employee in a conversation, the gist of which involved Gary's perpetual absence of capital. Dad's employee said that one reason people have no money is they spend too much time in bars whereupon Gary adamantly denied that he ever went to bars at all. My father happened to be passing by at the instant this denial took place and remarked, "Yeah, right. That's why your face looks like that!" Pruneface frowned and looked quizzically about, waiting perhaps for my father to laugh or apologize or say he was just joking, but he did nothing of the sort, so the hapless man with no money went back to his definition of work without another complaint.

I am like my father in many ways but I never thought this tendency to shoot from the lip was one of them. I'm caustic, but tend to measure my words, lacking both his speed and his nerve. That's why no one was more surprised than me by a recent exchange at an all-you-can-eat-buffet. Some loud-mouth with a porn mustache and a superior manner lamented the condition of the meatloaf. Rather than approach the staff in a civil manner, he decided he would chide them as though they were children. "Ice cold," he sneered, pointing a reproachful finger at the server or hostess or whatever her title was, "This is ice cold. It's ridiculous! Ice cold!" Then, without forethought or concern for the consequences, I said out loud, "Kind of like you." Kind of like you! Get it? He was an "ice cold" person. Not the sharpest insult a person could conceive, nor the most defaming. But had I actually uttered these words aloud? I had. My father's words coming out of my mouth!

My comment elicited no reaction from the grumpy meatloaf coveter, although I'm fairly certain he heard me. We were no more than a few feet apart and I didn't exactly whisper it. I didn't know whether to be proud that I had apparently flummoxed such an impolite person or ashamed at my own lack of politesse. What would someone else have said? What would my father at twenty five have said and how different would his response be if he were faced with such a situation today? I have no answers, but I do know that this incidence carried far more significance for me than one would normally interpret from a simple smart-aleck remark at a buffet.

I am my father's son.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

The Twelve Questions of Christmas

In the meadow, we can build a snowman
Then pretend that he is Parson Brown
He'll say, "Are you married?" We'll say, "No, man.
But you can do the job when you're in town."

This particular song could generate all twelve questions on its own if one were in an excessively pedantic frame of mind, but for now I'll focus on one particular point: What would motivate a group of kids--or anyone, for that matter--to pretend a snowman is their minister? Was this a common practice in 1934, when the song was written? Have children in successive generations pretended their snowmen are jazz musicians, phlebotomists, McDonald's fry guys, or do they imagine snowmen as more sinister characters such as cocaine dealers, prostitutes or Catholic priests?

Why has Sean Connery never played Santa Claus? It's the role he was born for.
"Claus... Santa Claus."
"I shee you when you're shleeping, laddie, and I know when you're awake."
Not only that, but who is better equipped to get around the entire world in only one night? If I were you, though, I'd keep an eye on the womenfolk if Connery clambers down your chimney.

Can you imagine a song sucking so badly that even the voice of Nat "King" Cole can't save it? ("The Christmas Song" or "Chestnuts Roasting On an Open Fire" in common parlance)

How did the song "My Favorite Things" come to be associated with Christmas?

Who is Elmo? There seems to be a new doll of his every Christmas. He wasn't on "Sesame Street" when I was a kid. Why did they allow him to hijack the whole program? I object. More Oscar, less Elmo!

What would happen if you showed a bumblebee a physics textbook? Would it suddenly lose the ability to fly? (Okay, nothing to do with Christmas, but you try coming up with twelve questions pertaining to one topic)

Why can't the people who are too politically correct to even say the word "Christmas" and the people who are so paranoid they think there's a plot to destroy Christmas realize they're cut from the same whacky cloth and harangue each other and leave the rest of us out of their disputes? Listen, dimwits, someone wishing you a Merry Christmas is not forcing Christianity down your throat anymore than someone wishing you a Happy Halloween is tantamount to forcing candy down your throat (not that I'm averse to forcing something down your throat, it just wouldn't be a religion or candy!) And listen twitface Christians, "Happy Holidays" is not necessarily an anti-Christian slogan; this time of year is quite littered with holidays, religious and otherwise, if you haven't noticed. If someone wishes you a "Happy Holiday" or a "Merry Christmas", why can't you just smile and thank the person, rather than interpreting it as an affront to your particular belief system?

That's twelve, right?
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays and Kickin' Kwanzaa and Hilarious Hanukkah and Best Boxing Day!