Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Legendary Night Of Christmas Eve Eve

Today is Festivus, a time for the Airing of the Grievances and the Feats of Strength, or, if you don't know what I'm talking about, a time to go watch probably the best episode of Seinfeld ever.

Before it was Festivus, today was what I used to call Christmas Eve Eve, which in my family was the last shopping day before Christmas because our festival of holidays lasted three days from Christmas Eve to Boxing Day, after which time we'd eaten so much no one could move.

Christmas Eve Eve holds a special place in my memory because it is the anniversary of the first time I was ever drunk. I was a late bloomer as far as the whole drinking thing (I suppose I had to be a late bloomer at something to make up for my early and enthusiastic adoption of the sex, but I digress). My high school friends weren't big drinkers. I mean, they weren't tee totalers or anything, but most of us were more occupied with playing sports or music or both, and all of us would have been killed and eaten by our parents if we didn't keep up our universally excellent grades. College is where most of the group finally took to the sauce - I've heard stories of my brother running down the road barefoot wearing a flag as a cape his freshman year and I know I was drunk dialed more than once by Kelly and TupperDoug. It was not so for me. In a misguided attempt to please my family, I had started dating and subsequently got engaged to a bible thumping deliberate virgin, and under no circumstances would there be any pre-marital sex or drinking of any kind (the biggest fight we ever had is when some of the guys on his floor were watching porn and I was like "OOO! PORN!" and then found out that The Lord would smite me if I even thought about enjoying porn.) (oh also, even though I was only with him because I thought he was the kind of guy my family wanted me to be with, I found out later that they all hated him because he was an annoying know-it-all and they were all relieved when I broke up with him. So, gigantic waste of time then, except that it came in handy a couple of weeks ago at trivia when I knew who had the highest lifetime batting average in the MLB because he was a walking sports almanac and made me memorize that sort of thing. It was Ty Cobb, by the way, .367.) So that collegiate right of passage was ruined for me. Eventually I broke up with him because SERIOUSLY WHAT THE HELL?, but by then I had graduated and gone back to Cleveland, two years early because I had plenty of time on my hands for studying and going to class since I wasn't drinking or having any sex, and all my friends were still away at school having a normal and more awesome experience.

We would make it a point to get together over breaks. One year on Christmas Eve Eve, I believe in 1999, TupperDoug, Kelly and I realized we all had a little last minute shopping we needed to take care of. Kelly had only just gotten home so our plan was that she would have dinner with her parents and her sister and then she would call us when they were finished and we would go pick her up and head to the McMall. TupperDoug came over to my house where we hung out waiting for the call from Kelly. We waited. And waited. And waited. A number of hours went by and TupperDoug and I were getting a little bit pissy. Finally we called her and this is what she had to say. "I'm sooo sorry you guys, we totally lost track of time. See, we had a bottle of wine with dinner, and then we got to talking and we had another bottle of wine and......... listen, my whole family's drunk. Do you want to just come over here instead?" Obviously we did, so we hopped in the Tuppermobile and headed over, stopping along the way to pick up some beer or something from the liquor store. By the time we got there, a few other friends and neighbors had been called and were sitting around the table with Kelly, Simmy and their parents and they were all drinking toasts to, well, anything really. "Doug and Amber are here YYYYEEEEAAAA!" they shouted, raising their glasses to us and gulping down some wine. "Oh look and they brought beer YYYEEEAAAA!" they shouted, raising their glasses to us and gulping down more wine. TupperDoug and I got right to it. Someone poured me a glass of red and we joined in on what had basically become a "cheers to everything" drinking game. This continued for a long time, as more friends and neighbors kept showing up, because apparently they had called everyone in the address book and said "come drink".

And then the shots started. I specifically remember vodka and moonshine, which Kelly and Simmy's dad had been given by someone for a reason I never cared to find out. There may have been some tequila. Hell, there may have been anything really, I was already half plowed before the shots even started. Despite being the oldest and most experienced drinkers, and also being English, the parents (who are also my pretend aunt and uncle, though for some reason I've been calling them "Mum and Dad" for the better part of 20 years) were already annihilated (the several hour head start probably didn't help matters). So when Simmy's date that night showed up to take her out, her Dad immediately started pouring the guy a shot. What followed was a several minute struggle between the two parents, with Simmy's mother yelling "Stop that! HE'S DRIVING YOUR DAUGHTER!" while trying to pour the shots back into the bottle, even as Simmy's dad was tipping the bottle sideways and pouring even more shots. They bathed the table in spilled vodka.

In the meantime, I had completely lost control of myself. The alcohol hit me hard and also all at once, so I went from interesting conversationalist to totally incoherent in the space of one sentence.

Let's take a break from that and talk about family traits for a moment. You know how sometimes you can look at a family and every has the same nose or the same smile? In my family, we all seem to have the same set of personality traits. For instance, everyone in my family allegedly makes the same face when we are trying to make a point. This was christened "The [My family name] Stare" by the comic when we were visiting Cap and Mrs. Sizemore in St. Louis. Despite not knowing the term because he had only just made it up, Mrs. Sizemore instantly knew what he was talking about and the two of them collapsed into conspiratorial laughter. So there's that one. There's also another one: when we have been drinking we get Loud. My suspicion is that this is due to our collective thinly disguised feeling of smug superiority. When we've had to much to drink, we dispense with the disguise entirely, and because we believe what we have to say is really PROFOUND and IMPORTANT, we all very suddenly go to eleven.

This being the first time I'd ever been drunk we were all about to find this out. The moment I realized I was impaired, I was struck by the desire to inform everyone of the momentousness of the occasion. "YOU GUYS!" I screamed. "I am SUPERDRUNK! You can't let me drink ANY MORE. I AM CUT OFF! DO you hear me? CUT! OFF!" And then I poured myself some more wine and repeated this at top volume throughout the evening.

The "cheers to everything" drinking game was still going on, but now it had evolved (or maybe devolved) into "cheers to drunk dialing". It worked like this: Mum would call someone, the rest of us didn't know who (she may not have either) and then she would say some random thing and the rest of us would erupt with screams and cheering. Everyone would take a drink, mum would hang up, and we'd start the whole process over again. We were having a good time with this until she made one call that started with "Hello! We're all DRUNK!" A mighty roar erupted from the crowd, but then she continued with "So I just wanted to let you guys know that Amber probably won't be coming home tonight." She'd just drunk dialed my parents and then ratted me out. I was too drunk to be furious but had no problem being Loudly Incredulous per the family tradition.

The rest of the night I remember in patches, as drunks are wont to do. At one point my pseudo-uncle was sitting on the kitchen floor mumbling to himself, "Turn your head and cough!" and we have a lovely photo somewhere of my pseudo-aunt standing next to the table covered in empty bottles where she looks for all the world like a spree killer who just happened upon a herd of fresh prostitutes. As for myself, I learned another important lesson that night about me and drinking, which is that when I hit the wall I don't just run into it, I plow through it like the Kool-Aid man yelling "OH YEAH!" while bricks rain down on me. One minute I was fine, the next minute I had passed out on the couch and managed to vomit gallons of red wine onto my white sweater while remaining passed out. When they found me they did the only thing they could - pull my shirt off me, carry my ass to the bathroom and lay me on the floor. This would prove to be the start of something golden. To this day, if the stories told the next day don't end up with me sleeping on the bathroom floor, then I wasn't really that drunk. Kelly did her best to get me to sleep in a bed and also to put a shirt on, but I wasn't having it. I liked the floor and I wasn't moving, so instead she laid a clean shirt on top of me like a blanket and left me there to sleep it off. Around 7:00 a.m. I was awoken by TupperDoug, who had come to collect me before sneaking out.

It was now Christmas Eve, and by tradition we were all expected at my (real) aunt and uncle's place mid-afternoon for a ham dinner and to sing "Happy Birthday" to Jesus (really) before heading off to church (another fond childhood memory - before church started they would hand out little white candles for us to light and hold up at the end of the service when everyone sang Christmas hymns by candlelight. All the kids in my family would spend the entire church service warming the candles in our hands and between our knees to soften them up so we could bend them into odd shapes. One time my cousin Bryan managed to tie his candle in a knot). Upon arrival the five of us who'd been involved in the prior evening's festivities looked one another over and I have to tell you, we looked like shit. We felt even worse and the idea of ham or food of any kind was simply nauseating. But as much as we all wanted to die, there was a sparkle in the eyes of all of us as co-conspirators of what would become the Legendary Night of Christmas Eve Eve.

KELLY, DOUG, SIMONE and anyone else who was there and happens to read this: PLEASE leave your memories of this night in the comments. I know we will never be able to give a complete picture of the awesomeness to anyone who wasn't there but damn it, we can try.

Nostalgia And Shit Like That.

When I was growing up, my family liked to play board games at Christmas. It started out with the adults while us kids were busy having a wrestling match with cheap-ass plastic and its tag-team partner gravity. When we outgrew that frustration we joined them. The first one I remember playing is Pictionary, which I hated because to this day I can barely color inside the lines, let alone draw something freehand and have it be recognizable. I also remember quite a bit of Trivial Pursuit, although in my family there was nothing trivial about it - we were pretty fucking serious about wanting to win, and by "win" I mean beat my dad.

By far the most popular game we ever played and the one that dominates my memories was Crack the Case. My parents got it for my brother as a gift one year and the entire extended family decided to test it out after dinner. We were instantly hooked. Nevermind that we didn't even play it right. Almost immediately we stopped keeping score and just played it until we felt like stopping, no small feat considering the disturbing amount of competitive spirit that myself, my father AND my brother all carry around to this day (remind me to tell you how I'm "winning" at sex right now). Crack the Case worked like this: one person would pick a card out of a pile. There were three piles to choose from: Easy, Medium, and Hard. Over time as we got good at it we started disregarding the Easy cards almost entirely. On the front of the card would be a "case" - some mystery, usually a suspicious dead body, and a handful of details about the environment or circumstances the body was found in. The back of the card had all the details about what had happened. The goal was to solve the case: Who killed this person, how and why? The more difficult cards had either less initial information, or the information given was misleading. I remember one time spending several hours and no small amount of frustration on a case where the card read, "A woman has died. On the ground is a puddle of water and a hat. Who killed her, how did they do it and what was the reason?"* The trick to the thing was that you were only allowed to ask the person reading the card yes or no questions. It was like do-it-yourself CSI before there was any such show as CSI. Everybody stayed at the table and played. If sitting around playing board games as a family sounds completely dorktastic, that's because it is. Except that it wasn't. The game has been out of print for years, so good luck finding it, but if you do, I defy you to sit down with your family and play this game without thinking it is the most fun and addictive thing you've ever done with your family (unless your family sits around having "family heroin time", which would be more addictive, though I dare say it's probably not nearly as fun, at least after a while).

I made the decision several years ago not to spend any more holidays with my family and I can't say I regret it. I've grown very attached to the freedom of not having anything expected of me. I don't have anywhere I'm supposed to be at any certain time. There is no dress code. I don't have to get dressed at all if I want. If I wake up that morning and decide "You know what? Fuck ham. I don't feel like cooking. Imma eat candy all fucking day and no one can stop me", I can sit there with a massive bowl of M&Ms in my paint splatter sweatpants watching "A Christmas Story" 16 times in a row and never take a shower. Of course I would never actually do that because OHMIGOD YOU GUYS, Christmas is so TOTALLY, like, my FAVORITE as by now you all know (and if somehow you've missed this piece of information about me, I'd like to take this opportunity to tell you that my living room is currently a forest of Christmas trees. Seven of them). Also, ham is awesome.When people ask "What are you doing for Christmas?" I have to restrain myself from saying "WHATEVER THE FUCK I WANT! SUCK ON THAT, BITCH!" and making their trip to rural Indiana to see their crazy aunt that farts at the table and their racist grandparents seem like purgatory. But the one thing that I do always miss this time of year is that time right after dessert when someone would go to the cupboard and pull out Crack the Case.

*Cap, Bry, Simmy and Kelly: Who remembers this case? We seriously spent like two hours on it. Bonus points for the first person to comment with the answer.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

They Came Through!

So this ought to be a challenging post, because I'm super excited about something that happened at work today and I can't wait to tell you about it, but I have to be a lil sneaky and talk around a couple things to avoid breaches of confidentiality about where I work, what I do, and whom we do business with, partly because it might be in violation of the company privacy policy (I have perhaps ill-advisedly given the address to this blog to our compliance maven, but I had to - she's my best friend here and also she's on it a lot. OK, fine, it's BrownsFan) but mostly because I love you guys, but only in an anonymous internety sort of way and don't want to provide anyone with enough details to track me down in real life.

ANYWAY, long story even longer, the pistachios are here (BrownsFan, where the hell are you? The pistachios are here!). And I know you're thinking "Yeah, big deal" and normally you would be right, but no, this time you are wrong. Way wrong. These are special pistachios. They come from a company that does things related to what my company does and they send them out every year in a big tin as a holiday gift. If you know or think you may have guessed what I do and you work at a company that does a similar thing and does business with this company, then you already know the exact tin of pistachios I am talking about because they are legendary. Also they are magical. They are gigantic by the standards of a normal pistachio and more importantly THERE ARE NEVER ANY BAD ONES. You know the bad ones: they look like a normal pistachio but when you eat them your face goes all Emperor Palpatine because they taste like all of nature just died inside your mouth. There's a few in every package, it's part of the pistachio eating experience. Pistachio roulette if you will. Well, in the whole history of getting these specific pistachios (nigh going on nine years now because we also got them at the place I worked in Cleveland) I have never had a bad one or even heard of anyone else having a bad one. Each and every pistachio is pristine of flavor (and massive). They are grown on trees made of gold in a land of perpetual rainbows and picked by angels Victoria's Secret could never hope to surpass in beauty or quality of underwear. And I am eating them right now.

I was concerned that maybe they weren't coming this year. Last week I had marched into BrownsFan's office demanding to know "Where the fuck are the pistachios?" (or more likely a similar question with less of the word "fuck" but an equal amount of inappropriateness) and she had pointed out that the big leader guy was going through some personal Scariness and sending out pistachios may not be at the top of his to do list, and also there's that whole thing where the economy is maybe not so good right now. I went away and sulked. But then! Today at precisely 3:24 p.m. Central Standard Time, Parent Company Accountant messaged me with one concise and glorious word: "pistachios!" and all the pieces of my life fell back into place.

Welcome back, magic pistachios. Please make yourself at home in my mouth.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Amber And Jenny Know How To Party

Mrs. Sizemore: Also, wanna home depot trip sometime this eel for a diy project?

Me: lol. eel

Mrs. Sizemore: Haha I meant week, no idea where eel came from

Me: best sentence of the day. then we can go to home depot and be like "where are your eels?" and they'll be like what? and we'll be like "the EELS! WHERE ARE THE EELS?" and then we'll get thrown out

Mrs. Sizemore: Hahahaha Let's

Me: it's a plan

Thursday, December 02, 2010

In Which Amberance Has Opinions About Sports

  • College football - It is not Cam Newton's fault that his father is a douchebag.
  • NBA basketball - I'm not going to sit here and pretend like I suddenly care about the NBA or that I've ever been a Cavaliers fan. That said, I am veeerrrry interested to see what goes down tonight when LeBron returns to Cleveland. A heard a clip from a talk show earlier where a caller said that Cleveland fans need to be given credit for being civilized human beings at heart. I'm pretty sure this man has never been to or met anyone from Cleveland. I've seen people throw Monopoly money on the field at Albert Belle. I've seen the Cleveland Browns have to surround an opposing team and walk them off the field to protect them from the fans. Jim Thome still gets booed every time he sets foot on the field. And those were at relatively low levels of collective pissed-offedness. Are we really expecting there to be no incidents tonight? Because I don't care how much "security" you have, angry-ass people are creative at smuggling and as I discussed with BrownsFan earlier today, there's only one figure in all of sports that Cleveland fans hate more than LeBron James, and that man hasn't set foot in the city since the day he stole our football team for fear of actual bodily harm or possible assassination. Just sayin'.
  • Sunday Night Football - Ben Roethlisberger has a broken foot. SWEEP THE LEG!*
*Just to clarify, this statement is not meant as any kind of support for the Ravens. I'm just saying there's an opportunity here to take this missing link out for the remainder of the season and it would be a shame to pass on that. <----This is what I'm talking about. Cleveland sports fans clearly are animals.