November 22, 2006

The Thanksgiving tree

"I don't want that thing in my car," he said.

"What? Why? It's just a fake Christmas tree!"

"I just don't. It's weird."

The weirdness of my grandmother's oversized fake Christmas tree was causing some packing delays last night. As I was busy with my overnight bag, I was also pulling out decorations I had borrowed from my grandmother last year (when my family was convinced she might not see another Christmas -- morbid, I know) so I could return them to (alive and well) her, allowing her a proper celebration this year.

Z, who would be driving us both across the pass this afternoon so we could celebrate the holiday with my relatives, wasn't really having any of the fake Christmas tree.

And although I'd never admit it, I got it.

It was huge and scratchy and dusty, and most of all, fake. His reaction to that tree was something like my reaction to every silk plant on the planet or that lunchmeat with the pimentos in it.

It is just plain unnatural.

And being a Christmas purist, I honestly believe in the value of marching aimlessly around a Christmas tree farm, sharpened hand-saw dragging behind you, pointing and arguing over which is the most perfectly symmetrical tree. Of course this is followed by the cutting down of the tree (which is usually almost impossible and always results in pine needles in parts of your body you really prefer not to have pine needles) and typically ends with at least one person lying pinned under a large near-symmetrical tree yelling

"There's SAP in my EYE!! OH GOD!! SAAAPPP!!!"

Unfortunately, sometimes the real world gets in the way of my principles, and in addition to my Grandmother's full-size fake tree, I also have a fake tree, though mine is miniature in size and pre-strung with lights (my second most favorite part of Christmas -- by which I mean most likely to result in someone's death -- is untangling Christmas tree lights). I had to stand my ground, if only to avoid hypocrisy.

"Look, it's not weird. It's a tree. Explain to me why my Grandmother's Christmas tree can't ride in the trunk of your car."


"Really. I won't even argue. Just explain it to me."

Z, smiling in resignation: "I can't. It can come. It's fine."


"Are you just saying that, or are you admitting you were being completely uptight?" (I needed to clarify in what manner exactly I had won this argument.)



"Honestly," he said, "Don't push it."

The Christmas tree, Z and I will all, apparently, be making it across the pass this afternoon. My grandmother will be delighted. (Well, would be, if she could remember why.)

And last night, I put up my second fake tree in my house. It took 20 seconds and once it was erect, I just plugged it in and watched it stand there, glowing.

Yeah, I missed out on the whole chopping, sapping, pine needling, arguing, hauling, trimming experience, but it brightened up the place just the same.

Happy holidays, all. If yours are anything like mine, they will consist of one long bender, punctuated by meals that could be mistaken for death-matches with your own stomach capacity. Quite frankly, that's just the way I like it.

November 13, 2006

I'm bringing umbrellas back.

Being a Seattleite, I’ve always turned up my nose at umbrellas. There’s something about them that seems... so high-maintenance, I guess. I’ve long said there are two surefire ways to distinguish real Seattleites from transplants. One is the umbrella. True locals hardly ever carry them, opting instead to run from building to building or – heaven forbid – just let their hair get wet. The second way is look outside on a sunny, but 57 degree, day. All those people with shorts—usually khaki—and sandals—often Birkenstocks or flippies—on? Born n’ raised.

But over the past week, we’ve seen storming like I haven’t seen in years. The rain is at times horizontal, and always coming down in torrential sheets, flooding roads, driveways, highway ditches. It pools over arterials, bringing cars to silent standstills in feet of water, their befuddled drivers sitting in the fast-cooling passenger seat, weighing the options: sit still and wait for the water to seep in, or open the door and get it over with.

There are farms north of my childhood home that flood every year, stranding cows on raised bits of field – like lonely, obese people on very soggy, very small deserted islands – where they moo and low and shuffle and sleep standing awkwardly in circles like they’re waiting for the ark.

Everywhere the world is covered in brown and green reflective surfaces – stretches of still water lying like cold, mirrored blankets over acres of pasture, miles of freeway, hundreds of feet of baseball fields, tracks and mid-suburb playgrounds.

Kids delight in world-class puddle-splashing, as would I if I had a single pair of practical shoes. Instead, I have opened my closet every day for a week considering what I own that won’t leak, bleed, become see-through or smell like a dead sheep if it gets wet, as I have the aforementioned lifetime disdain for umbrellas, the practical but sissy savers of clothing, hair and laptops.

But it’s been seven days and I have had enough. I’ve battled nobly, but I’m just getting too old for this “too good for umbrellas business”.

After I spent last Sunday spent sloshing around downtown “shopping” (seemed more like swimming, honestly) in pointy flat Chanel shoes, I turned a corner. After finally taking refuge with a herd of friends in a bar, I first drank pint after pint while squirming my feet around in their wet shoes and pondering the likelihood they would actually rot, Vietnam soldier-style. Once they dried and thawed, I weighed my options for exiting the building and navigating the wet on a go-forward basis, as I was totally over this whole “soggy’s just a state of mind” thing.

Option one: retain my pride and remain umbrellaless, spending the next three months being slowly drowned alive – a poor option if you consider the associated pain (90 straight days of frizzy hair and runny mascara). Also, with this option, wool sweaters are out, as they are completely horrible-smelling when wet, as is anything white or cream-colored because of their tendency to reveal more than I wish to reveal on the way to work.

Option two: Stay inside until June. In theory, a great concept. That is, until it comes time to pay rent.

Option three: forsake pride, buckle, and buy a goddamn umbrella already.

After about a football game worth of beer and commiserating, my friends and I were prepared to step back out into the gale force winds and two-foot deep puddles.

“Uh, guys?” I said.

They turned.

“I think I’m going to buy an umbrella.”

Openmouth staring. Like I’d just said “I think I was anal probed by an alien life form – and I liked it -- last night”.

But I’d suffered long enough. My flatiron missed me. As did my little cream tweed wool jacket. And although my shoes would remain impractical, I knew the umbrella would save me from the most uncomfortable part of rain of all: that nearly ice-cold raindrop that insists on falling right in that hollow part of your neck where your shirt gaps enough for it to drip, cold and unexpected, onto your collarbone and then trickle down your chest or under your arm, where it leaves a trail of goosebumps and an uncomfortable violated feeling.

I love Seattle, and the rain, and I’m a native if ever there was one. I’m not afraid of plaid or flannel or bums or beards. I have three square cups of coffee a day and would check “athletic” in a box that describes me. I understand the ferry system and I’m proud of the bio-fuel buses. Traffic doesn’t faze me, but I don’t know how to drive a stick shift, and I like to hike, fish, and pet strangers’ dogs. And if I found a wallet, I’d return it to its rightful owner.

But damn it, I’ve walked my last block in the rain. It’s not like it is in the movies, where people are all warm and sexy and beautiful when wet. They’re not. They smell weird, and are clammy, and most of us women, try as we might to make wet look irresistible and carefree, just look like someone gave us a swirly.

So now, I am the proud owner of a gorgeous little polka-dotted umbrella that goes perfectly with my pointy, wet, impractical flats. (And that newly smooth, dry, shiny hair). And you know what? I like it. I feel a little mysterious under an umbrella, like at any moment a stranger might approach me and duck under for a quick makeout session, or tuck a note into the pocket of my trench. It’s that feeling of hotness that comes from being completely and stylishly buttoned up – like that headmistress all the Catholic boys obsessed about in junior high, or the slightly dangerous but undeniably sultry femme fatale in those noir films.

And I like it.

November 02, 2006

Halloween and my new shower curtain

"I don't know," I whined. "I don't like Halloween."

"Yeah," he said, the picture of a convincing friend itching for a party, "but there will be candy. And beer."

I wasn't initially planning on making much of a fuss about Halloween because I'm lazy. Then, I was enthusiastically planning on going as Bob Ross for a couple days, for a few key reasons including comfort and humor, as well as the fact that I am the only white girl I know who looks smoking hot in a 'fro wig, but also to protest the number one reason I hate Halloween and all my guy friends love it: Costumes like this.

I dunno, I guess I just feel like a girl's options are limited on Halloween. Limited, I mean, in the sense that there seems to be some unwritten rule that anything you dress up as must include the word "dirty" or "slutty" in front of it, and must therefore appear "dirty" or "slutty".

Dirty Nurse. Slutty Schoolteacher. Kinky Parole Officer. It's all exhaustingly predictable (and restrictive!).

"Oh, all right," I relented. "But I'm not being slutty anything. In fact, I'm not dressing up at all. Take it or leave it."

"Sold!" he said. "In fact, I won't dress up, either. We'll come as "tuesday night"."

While that concept was mediocre at best, I was glad I wouldn't be alone in un-costumed glory. We were off.

House party, in Fremont. Many friends and strangers there, huddled around two freezing cold kegs. Many, many slutty fill-in-the-blanks, and me -- tall, long, straight hair (recently dyed back to its natural very dark brown), glasses, jeans, heels, and a military-style button-up jacket.

"What are you supposed to be?" I was routinely asked.

Glare, hair toss, then response: "Daria."

It was all very "My So Called Life".

At the party, I counted 6 doctors (six! Well, one surgeon in all-white, but the rest were doctors.) and two cowboys riding strap-on horses and both carrying capguns, which are incredibly irritating. There was also one ninga with very creepy stick-on long moustache things, carrying "safety numchucks", which I immediately removed from his costume and began swinging around like a retard.

There were some so-so movie characters, but one Shaft that was priceless. And there was a girl dressed in all-pink with cotton batting wrapped around her head who shuffled and itched and sweated all night who said she was a Q-tip. Funny, but also a little weird and very uncomforatable-looking. Overall, a general costume so-so-ness, which I am partially to blame for.

Oh, but the house had a sweet-ass showercurtain printed with cute little inspirational "positive self-talk" phrases like "I love naked!" and "I am so clean!" and "Look at me!" all over it. The funny part is the house was rented by four very masculine men. By the end of the night, everyone was talking about the shower curtain (It was a CRAZY party, you guys. Off the hook, or whatever. Clearly.), and we'd tracked down the owner, Paul, a tall, muscular guy in a Fireman outfit who confessed he got it at Target.

He blushed, drained his keg cup, and tossed it through a plastic basketball hoop velcroed to the wall above the living room door. (Very grown up.)

"Girls love it," he said.

He was right. The thing is totally frivolous and adorable. I bought one yesterday.