Wednesday, December 30, 2009

You Can Never Go Home Again Oatman! But I Guess You Can Shop There.

Look, I don't mean to sit around trash talking my hometown, but Cleveland has a way of being a soul-crushing vortex of despair even when you are having a good time.

Saturday I embarked on a trip to Cleveland that I have not made in years, after a tag team attack from Mrs. Sizemore and my stepmother - apparently my father and brother continue to live in a magical fantasy land where I am not only a valuable member of the family but also fun to be around and therefore they miss me. I know right? Inexplicable. Regardless, Saturday I flew to Cleveland so they could see me.

The trip itself probably deserves its own story. I was up at the ass-crack of dawn so that I could catch an orange line train down to Midway in time for a pre 9:00 a.m. flight. The bartender, fresh off a Christmas night shift at the bar, tells me that this is ridiculous and as long as he's up he'll just give me a ride. Which seemed like a nice gesture until I realized that this meant a half an hour of driving through snow to the south side, all the while listening to him complain about how he fucking hates going to Midway and that it would take him forever to get back home in all that snow because every other driver on the road had turned stupid. So sorry to have inconvenienced him with my not asking him to take me anywhere at all. This has the added effect of getting me there fully three hours in advance of my 50 minute long flight.

The earliness of my arrival actually turned out to be a good thing, as I tried to go through security with red and white striped hair and a shirt that read "All Bets on Death" on the day after some douche tried to blow up a plane in Detroit (seriously Detroit? WHO DID HE THINK WOULD CARE?). On top of that I had one of Mrs. Sizemore's Christmas gifts in my bag - a Magic Cheezburger, which I unbelievably forgot had a tiny amount of liquid sealed inside it so the little phrase thingy could float around. I can't really blame them: it would have been obvious to anyone that I was a terrorist, what with my attention calling hair, fake sandwich/bomb that I didn't even try to hide and the announcing of my intention to die on my shirt. Besides, I'd be lying if I said the attentions of the TSA screener who felt me up didn't leave me feeling a bit frisky. You caught me. I liked it.

While waiting (and waiting and waiting) for it to be time for my flight, my attention was caught by the recently updated automated announcement system, which now includes instructions on basic hygiene such as: Cover you face with a tissue if you cough or sneeze! and Wash your hands...with soap! They actually said that "with soap". And I started having the thought that geez, do people REALLY need to be told to use so- ...and then cut myself off as I realized that yes, sadly, they really do.

The flight itself was pretty uneventful, except for my realization that despite knowing intellectually that I live next to a cluster of some of the largest fresh water lakes on the entire planet, I fail to grasp their vastness until I am in a plane flying over them and I still can't see the shore on any side. Fuckers are just absolutely massive.

Cleveland Hopkins International Airport smells like cinnamon rolls and mediocrity. It has been perpetually under construction since before I was born and despite this, looks exactly the same as it did 30 years ago. Oh, with the exception of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Store they have in there now. I laughed out loud like the crazy woman I am when I saw it. The concept is brilliant: buy souvenirs for your friends and relatives from the one and only interesting thing worth seeing in the entire city without ever having to actually go there and see it! It's fucking genius and underscores my longstanding argument that American ingenuity does not stem from the question "How can we make the world better?" but from the question "How can we make it so that we can be as lazy as possible and put no effort into anything, ever?" IMMD.

The triumphant return of the prodigal daughter was just as I expected. My dad cried, I ate pie, and mysteries were solved. Apparently Mrs. Sizemore and RLC didn't plan their ruse for getting me very well, and Cap was highly confused when Mrs. Sizemore started panicking that she and RLC were not ready at 11:00 to "go get doughnuts". Following that, as is traditional in my family, everyone settled into their own room doing their own activities by themselves, thereby negating the entire point of "getting together". It was quietly hilarious.

Later we drove out to visit Simmy and a very surprised and confused Kelly (I'd called and left her a message that Cap and I wanted to get together on Mrs. Sizemore's assertion that Kelly knew I was in town. She didn't). The highlight was my little niece who not only knows that a screwdriver will remove the panel on her cash register so the batteries can be changed, but can tell a Flathead screw from a Phillips-head and select the appropriate tool. She's two years old.

After a dinner out with my parents where I made a complete ass of myself trying to order a bowl of soup, we retired to the house where Cap, Mrs. Sizemore and my dad engaged me in several rounds of Smart Ass, one of which I won. This was a really huge deal: Mrs. Sizemore and her giant brain packed full of crap had apparently won every single round of Smart Ass that had been played since Thanksgiving. I was the hero of the day. They threw me a ticker tape parade and had my name written in the sky by an airplane (OK, really they just said "haha" and pointed at Mrs. Sizemore and I poured myself a glass of Amaretto).

The fun continued when us three kids met up with Kelly, her beau and some other graduates of our high school at a bar. Of this I have little memory, but the photos in my camera assure me that I had an excellent time. Per usual, I took notes that turned out to be mostly useless:
  • "R.T. Story" - I know what this one means. R.T. stands for "rubber twat" and is indeed a great story, however it is not my story so if you want to hear it, you'll have to pester Cap.
  • "White supremacist ass crack" - I also remember this one. While we were merrily drinking at the bar a short, fat man with a shaved head and white supremacist tattoos all over it walked in and bellied up to the bar. We noticed him and were afraid, but as we were all white and out of his line of sight we soon forgot he was there. Until someone (Kelly?) happened to glance over and notice that his pants were falling off. Like, a lot falling off. His jeans were nearly to his knees and his gray boxer briefs were just above balls level. I can't believe he wouldn't have noticed a breeze across such a large amount of exposed ham hock. Being very drunk by then, we fumbled conspicuously for cameras and may have been talking about it much louder than we intended, but we manged to get our shots without being shot by him or his friend.
  • "Tai's face (the photos that are the same)" - In my camera is a series of photos where various people are holding their hand out in front of their face and appear to be either angry or singing opera. I am assuming these are the photos this note refers to, but I fail to recall what the fuck I was talking about.
  • "Jenny, how do you make it happen?" and "cap & cow (ask Kelly)" - These are some of the last notes I wrote and I haven't got any idea what the could possibly mean, though I seemed to place a great deal of importance on remembering the second one because I've written it very carefully in even better handwriting than I have when I'm sober.
There is another separate set of notes from when I polled everyone at the table about what my next hair cut and/or color should be. Most of the suggestions are as would be expected for my head: "Jet black with platinum and Burgundy highlights cut to the chin", "Burgundy or eggplant", "Pink and black/ jagged", "Green and rich yellow", "Black with silver, jagged (not curly)", except for my brother's vote which says far more about the speaker than it does about me. I quoted him directly: "Put it back to the color it's supposed to be. I want you to look like Ann Coulter is your friend."

All in all, I had a really great time, including watching the Browns win their third game in a row (the hell?) before going to the airport on Sunday. Which is why I was so startled by the overwhelming sense of joy and relief I had upon landing back in Chicago. I can only conclude that it is the flat and colorless expanse of Cleveland itself that produces the feelings of hopelessness and despair I get every time I go there.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Christmas Jeer

Ok, ok, I get it now. I finally realize how it can be that not everyone shares my Christmas related glee. This is the saga of the tree.

I waited until the last minute to buy a Christmas tree, either because I am lazy or because I told myself I was poor so I wouldn't have to admit that I am lazy. Either way, on Sunday afternoon I found myself at the Home Depot pawing through picked over Douglas Firs looking for one that was taller than I am. The 7 footer I found was already baled and I bought it without bothering to unbale and look at it, either because I am lazy or because I told myself it was the only 7' Douglas left and I was buying it regardless so I wouldn't have to admit that I am lazy. It was actually a pretty painless transaction: the guy at the check out counter was unbelievably friendly for a Home Depot cashier standing outside in the cold all day (he volunteered that he was enjoying his work because so many people were leaving with trees and it made them happy). He even talked to the tree trimmer guy for me about cleaning up the bottom of it, which was one less stranger I had to talk to. Then two other remarkably chipper Depotists merrily bound my new tree to the top of Alistair whilst gushing about what an awesome car I have. This was the last good tree related thing to happen.

Later that evening, after carrying the tree up three flights of stairs unaided, I began the process of trying to get it erected. Usually this is an extremely easy endeavor due to the Magic Tree Stand. The Magic Tree Stand is a stand that has a long spike up the middle of it. The tree farmer I bought it from used to drill a hole in the bottom of the tree that had been purchased that would fit the spike, then when the customer got it home they would simply impale the tree on the spike through the hole and the tree would miraculously stand up straight without any screw tightening, arguing or swearing. The only thing different now that I live in Chicago is that the hole is not pre-drilled when I buy my tree. I have to get out my wood boring drill bit and make it myself. Up until Sunday that hadn't been a problem. True, I am a weakling and drilling into a tree is hard and makes my arm tired, but it only takes 10 minutes and then voila! Easy treesy. (heh.) So I got out my drill, lined it up straight with the trunk, drilled a 5 inch deep, 5/8 inch wide hole in the bottom of my tree, manhandled it through the back door and into my house, stuck it on the spike and let go.

It slumped over.

I stood looking at it, shocked, because this had never happened before. The bartender walked into the room behind me and helpfully told me "That's really crooked." The problem did not become apparent until I finally unbaled it: the trunk of the tree ran straight and true, right down to the bottom - except for the lowest 8 inches or so, which jutted off at 30 degree angle from the rest of the tree. Thus my carefully drilled hole was 30 degrees off center and my tree appeared to be drunk. There was nothing I could do to fix it. The hole needs to fit tight to the spike or the tree will wobble around with nothing to support it, so redrilling wasn't an option. Knowing that if I had just unbaled and looked at the tree when I bought it instead of being lazy, I could have avoided the problem entirely wasn't helpful. It was too late to come up with a solution, so I just filled the tree stand with water, leaned the tree on the wall and went to bed.

Monday morning dawned, and so did the realization that the only real solution was to go out and buy a normal tree stand and start over. So after work I set out to buy one. This was easier said than done. Home Depot was sold out of tree stands. Target apparently never carried them in the first place. Eventually I found myself at Menards where not only did they have a stack of tree stands that was taller than me, but allegedly I saved big money. After dinner I went about transferring my tree into the new tree stand.

Actually, it may be more accurate to say that after dinner I spent an hour and a half wrestling with a dead tree. After I'd assembled the new tree stand, I picked up the tree out of the old tree stand and laid it on the floor. I now had: one tree stand filled with water near the wall, one empty tree stand way too close the the coffee table, a 7 foot tall unbaled fir tree laying across most of the floor and cutting me off from the rest of the room and a one year old kitten slowly circling the tree like a land shark. It seemed best that I take apart the old tree stand and get rid of the water first since if I didn't I was certain to spill it, step in it, or both. I took it apart and picked up the tub of water, then realized that the only way to get rid of it was going to involve me climbing over an armchair. I somehow managed to do this without breaking my neck or dumping the water all over the bartender (who was very helpfully sitting two feet away and gambling at the computer as if nothing were going on behind him). This will be easier than I thought, I said to myself, ensuring that it was going to turn out to be way more difficult than I thought.

I picked up the tree and tried to put it in the new stand, which was still way too close to the coffee table because I hadn't thought to move it. Everything on the table tumbled to the floor. I sighed and put the tree down, fixed the coffee table and moved the tree stand. I went to pick up the tree to try again but this time, the cat, who had disappeared earlier, poked her head out from inside the tree and glared at me. I extracted her from the branches and tried again. Yay! The tree was finally in the stand. Oh but wait: Why was it wobbling around like that? It turns out that while the lower branches were perfectly high enough on the trunk for the old stand, on this one they were too low and would have to be sawed off before I could get it in the stand. I don't have a saw. I put the tree back down and sat on the floor glowering, thinking I was going to have to go back out AGAIN and buy a saw. Luckily, it dawned on me that Jose, our friendly but extremely drunk, English language challenged building engineer probably had a hand saw I could borrow. I went down the three flights of stairs to his apartment to check. "Hey Jose. Do you have a saw I could borrow?"

"A sword?"

"No, a saw. Like a hand saw? For my tree."

"Three sword?"

I mimed sawing and wondered why I just HAD to take Latin in high school instead of taking Spanish like everybody else*. But it worked, and after five minutes of him digging around in his massive collection of tools, I was trudging back up three flights of stairs with a hand saw.

There appeared to be only one branch that I would need to remove, which was a huge blessing because as I stated before I am weakling and sawing is hard. Mr. Scrooge the bartender continued with his fine assistance by turning around in his chair to watch and saying "That is not a good idea. You're going to cut your leg off." Angela was also watching from a position way too close to the saw and I had to keep stopping to shoo her away. Eventually, the branch was removed (my leg still attached) and I went to pick up the tree to try again. Once again there was a cat in it. Once again I fished around inside it until I pulled out an unhappy kitten.

By now my wimpy arms were exhausted and I closed my eyes and made a wish for the tree to please PLEASE fit in the stand without me having to saw anything else. When I heard the trunk hit the bottom of the stand my heart skipped a beat and I let out the breath I didn't realize I was holding. "Is this tree straight?" I asked the bartender.

"Hold on," he said, finishing his bet while I stood there holding up a 7 foot tree. A minute later he glanced over his shoulder for an 8th of a second. "Yeah, that looks good," he said and went back to gambling. It was obvious by now that I was not going to be offered any useful help from the roommate who had been asking me for weeks when I was going to get "our" tree. Oh, I should also mention here that this entire time I had been wearing long sleeves and gloves because as could only happen to me, I am allergic to the tree and I break out in a very painful rash if the sap gets on my skin. I now found myself kneeling on the floor, hot and sweaty from sawing and repeatedly lifting a tree whilst wearing a fucking snowsuit, trying to keep a tree standing up straight as I reached underneath the tree to tighten the screws with my other hand, my face breaking out in angry red dots because the low branches were all up in my face, praying that I wouldn't poke my fucking eye out with with one of them and begging my cat (who was now sitting on the arm of the chair staring at the tree and licking her lips) not to jump in the branches and knock the fucking tree over on top of me and for one moment, one brief moment while I was on the floor turning screws, I caught a glimpse of why everyone glares at me when I start singing Christmas carols and wearing Santa hats the day after Halloween. But then I stood up and saw my beautiful, full, fragrant Christmas tree and I remembered myself and realized it was all worth it.

The lights, however, I decided could wait for one more fucking day.

*BrownsFan pointed out that even if I had taken Spanish, I probably would not have learned the word for saw anyway.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Amberance At Christmas Time: *Face Palm*

Right people. Let's go over this one more time, as much to remind myself as to remind you. Currently it is:
  • The middle of The 40 Days of Christmas
  • Irresponsible Spending Month
  • Almost my birthday
  • Cold and snowing
and as such I am NOT TO BE LEFT ALONE in stores that sell anything that is green or red or tartan plaid, or shiny, or that is made of velvet, or fur, or has bows on it, or snowflakes, or depicts Santa, reindeer, elves or anything wearing a Santa hat, EVEN if I have a legitimate reason for being there.
Take, for example, my current need for winter boots due to the fourth bullet point in the above list. I don't own decent shoes for winter. All I have are my chucks, my loafers for work, several pairs of high heeled boots inappropriate for walking in snow (or, in fact, at all) and a few pairs of dress shoes that are not at all designed for traction. So I need some warm, weatherproof shoes with decent traction lest I fall down and break my ass (which I have been assured is not my job and best left to someone else). So I tried, I really, really tried, to find said footwear at Payless Shoes and also at Old Navy. What I didn't take into account on this mission was that the current fashion is such that all the "boots" are made out of sweaters and apparently designed to make everyone look like a cartoon Eskimo. This appears to be all anyone is selling this year. I don't want cartoon shoes that will leave me with wet feet, I want regular black boots like a normal person, one who is not singing and turning cartwheels in the latest Gap commercial on tv.
BrownsFan had helpfully suggested that I try going to Sears. Which was great - I did find black winter boots that don't get wet or turn my feet into Japanimation art. But, Sears is also a department store, one that specializes in cheap, cute, shiny things like socks with kitties wearing Santa hats, or Santa socks with little puffy balls, or panties that read "Naughty" across the front, or (and this is the coup de grace) matching bra and panty sets in red velvet with white ruffles and bows in the front. Given that I was all alone with no one to stop me, do you think that I bought every single one of those things? YES OF COURSE I DID because I am amberance, leader of the Christmas freaks, lord of the shiny baubles, keeper of the chalice of holiday cheer. And now, dry footed underpants spazz. You can't stop me. You can only hope to contain me.

Thursday, December 03, 2009


So this year, the thing I learned about NaBloPoMo was that I can't do it without a laptop*, particularly in a month that contains Thanksgiving weekend and two trips to St. Louis. I will try this again next year.

Coming soon to a Bizzybiz near you:

  • A night out in the suburbs with A Kangaroo Court and friends
  • photos of my most excellent of Christmas apparel creations EVER
  • holiday cheer
  • possibly a recap of my night in with the gorilla tomorrow night, if there is anything good to recount and i can remember it

*social life.