Wednesday, December 15, 2004

I’m Dreaming of a Light Christmas

My family and I went looking at Christmas lights tonight. We do this every year, ride around for an hour or so, making fun of people’s poor excuses for decorations and awing over those whose lights make it past our cynical meter. We laugh, we boo, we cheer, and then we return to our dark house. Thank God our house isn’t literally as glass as it is figuratively; given the stones we threw at poor decorators throughout our town.

We never put up lights on our own house, because then someone might drive by and smirk at our inability to translate the holiday spirit into anything better than a sporadically lit shrub. Frankly we just don’t have the energy it takes to decorate in a way that is going to inspire awes of wonder and respect.

Tonight we went by a house that had three little mechanical men on the roof holding binoculars to their eyes. They spun around above an illuminated sign that read, “Santa Watch 2004”. Behind them were two, TWO, moving satellite dishes, presumably searching for Santa’s sleigh. And you know how I could see those TWO satellites in the dark? There were two spotlights on them. All of this was of course in addition to the flawlessly strung lights that outlined every inch of the house to perfection. The scene was reminiscent of the “It’s a Small World” ride at Disneyland. I didn’t even bother rolling down my window to hear the musical accompaniment. I feared I may have to start a church in their front lawn if I was hit with any more spirit from this house.

Next door to Disneyland Jr. there were several strings of mismatched lights covering the bushes as if they had been thrown on during a severe case of hiccups. If I squinted the lights almost seemed to form a hand, but with only one finger standing up. It was probably just my imagination.

Then there was the house down the block that was trying desperately to be Disneyland Jr. but was barely making Dollywood quality. I could tell their heart was in the right place. They wanted to express exactly how much they loved the holiday season. And if the amount of lights they use is any indication of the amount of presents they give I have just made it my New Years resolution to become friends with the habitants of this house. There is no adequate way to describe the amount of lights on this house. Words would simply not do the electricity drainer justice. Like the other house I could make something out when I squinted. It looked like a hand this time too. Only this time it was the hand of God as he reached down to removed the house and replaced it with a big ass light bulb. A randomly blinking, variously colored light bulb. But the lights were not the only deliverers of the spirit. There was also a manger scene, several hundred plastic candycanes and an empty sleigh. I imagine the big guy had escaped to the tranquillity of the Santa picture line at the mall. He left behind two mechanical reindeer that very well might not have been mechanical when the decoration process began. If they were anything like me they might have just started twitching as a result of the madness that surrounded them.

At this point I declared that I could take no more holiday joy. So we made the journey back to our house of darkness. Once home I curled up next to my Christmas Tree with eleven decorations on it and I contemplated the true meaning of Christmas lights. Am I a bad person because I don’t put up Christmas lights? Am I going to enjoy the holiday less because my electricity bill isn’t going to double this month? And most importantly, do you think they sell those mechanical reindeer year round? Because they would be an absolute hit at my St. Patrick’s Day party next year. St. Pat’s is a day of green beer, weird meat and “Kiss Me, I’m Irish” buttons. Now that’s a holiday I can get spirited about.

Friday, December 10, 2004

The Art of Christmas Parties

Christmas is the best time to be a poor person. Not Tiny Tim, one piece of meat to feed a family of ten poor. No, I’m talking about Top Ramen, early 20’s poor. The kind of poor where you think you’re poor but if you were ever faced with being really poor you would go hide in your furnished, heated apartment and call mommy and daddy for some money. That’s the kind of poor that is great around the holidays.

December is the month of holiday spirit, holiday joy and most importantly, holiday parties. Just like Sally Struthers, holiday parties exist to feed people. Unlike Sally they also are very good at intoxicating people. This makes for much more entertaining pictures than the ones Sally likes to show.

Holiday parties are not to be taken lightly. If planned correctly a one never has to see a Top Ramen noodle for the entire month of December. In order to maximize your holiday party enjoyment, while minimizing your own financial burden, buy only one holiday party outfit. Make sure it is festive, but not too festive. Because you want it to be transferable to any holiday party, whether it is Christmas, Chanukah, or Kwanza. So stay away from a Santa sweatshirt or manorah earrings.

Also, make sure the outfit makes you look good, but not too good. You want to be able to walk into any party and have the guests want you to be there simply because you look damn good, not necessarily because they know who the hell you are. But if you look too attractive then the guests will be watching you all night and they may ask why you are filling up your purse with chicken wings.

The last and most important requirement for a successful holiday outfit is that it is dark and machine washable. If it is dark enough you might not even have to get to the machine washable step. But the fact is that free booze plus free food equals stains on your chest if you are a girl or on your gut if you are a guy. I mean it really isn’t a good party unless you get bumped while you are trying to shovel chicken salad into your mouth and hold your wine glass between two fingers and do the Macarana all at the same time.

Now that you are dressed it is important to remember that holiday parties, especially the really good ones with mile long buffets, are much like that game “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon”. Instead they are called the “Six Degrees of Whoever is Actually Invited to the Holiday Party”. Don’t feel as though you have to know, work with or even care about the person hosting the party in order to enjoy the free food and alcohol they are providing. If your friend calls you and says that she heard from another friend that a bunch of people are meeting at another friend’s work party, then by all means, put on your Holiday Party Outfit and put away the Top Ramen.

Also, don’t let the fact that you no longer work there stop you from going to your old office’s holiday party. The odds are that half the people won’t even know that you aren’t their co-worker anymore and the other half will just assume someone invited you. (Note: This plan doesn’t work quite as well if you a) were fired amidst a sex scandal involving the boss, his secretary and a midget, b) you “were asked to leave” because “the office is no place for drug trafficking” or c) you quit and yelled, “I wouldn’t come back here if my head was on fire and you had the only gallon of water left in the world!”)

The final rule of successful holiday partying is to have fun and be fun. This may seem obvious, but you would be surprised how many people do not follow this rule. A lot of people stand in the corner all night, afraid to talk to anyone or do anything, for fear of somehow making an ass out of themselves. It is better to just accept the fact that you will inevitably make an ass out of yourself at some point during the party. I mean, it’s the holidays, you are getting free booze and you are wearing new shoes. You are going to do something stupid, accept it and go have some fun. If people are doing the chicken dance, cluck along with them. If they are singing horrifically off-key kereoke, wail along with them. And if they are taking off their clothes, well, cheer them on.

And if you are being especially fun don’t hesitate to put a nametag on your shirt. Below your name write your telephone number and address. This way you will be acting as your own spokesperson. “Look at me, I’m a good time at holiday parties.” Who knows, maybe a few of the guests will invite you to their own holiday party next year. Do this at every party every year and, much like the pyramid scheme, someday you will not know a party-free day in the month of December.