‘Tis the Season

Tomorrow is Halloween, the official start of what I call the Holiday Season. Well, other people probably call it that, too. All of the Big Ones are coming up now in rapid succession, and Halloween kick-starts it all. Fun for kids and even more fun for adults who love to wear costumes and go to parties. I have a few vague memories of some epic Halloween parties, and it’s probably best that they stay that way.

Halloween’s origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain. The Romans added a couple of their holidays to the Celtic festival, Feralia and the Festival of Pomona. If you’re curious about these things, you can look them up on the Interweb. The Catholic Church added a couple of twists, mostly to water down the pagan aspects, and we eventually ended up with the current holiday we celebrate and all of its trappings.

I tend to think of Halloween as a mostly North American, Canadian/American holiday, but I could be wrong about that. Maybe kids ‘Trick or Treat’ in Pakistan. Or China…  I doubt it, but it’s possible. I don’t think they do much of that in Mexico.

Halloween is still pretty much of a gringo holiday down here, but that’s probably starting to change. You can buy costumes at Walmart here in Lakeside, so it’s starting to creep into the culture. The big Mexican holiday down here is Día de Muertos, Day of the Dead. It’s a three day celebration, and when it comes to celebrating, Mexico takes a back seat to nobody.

From the beginning of October until New Year’s Day, there will be endless barrages of cohetes and bands and parades and fiestas, pretty much every day. Hardly anyone here will sleep for the next two months. It’s a really good thing I quit drinking before we moved here, or I’d rarely be sober. There’s something like unto a couple hundred of holidays down here, and half of them begin tomorrow.

I used to really love Halloween. When we lived in Minneapolis, my lovely supermodel wife and I used to carve pumpkins. We handed out tons of candy and sometimes shoveled snow. We had at least one huge honker of a blizzard on Halloween.

* * * *

Little Known Fact About Me: I love the Holiday Season. Granted, as a nurse I tended to celebrate most of those occasions by working, but that’s the way it went. Be that as it may, we always celebrated the holidays, even if we had to wait until I finished my shift.

Little Known Fact About My Lovely Supermodel Wife: Lea is an excellent cook, and she has served up some awesome Thanksgiving feasts over the years. And I have loved them all.

According to legend, the first Thanksgiving was celebrated in November of 1621. The Pilgrims in Massachusetts and their Native American buddies got together and had a feast, and it kind of caught on. Until the white settlers decided they needed to get rid of all the natives, but that’s another story for another day.

George Washington issued a proclamation in 1789, a National Day of Thanks and Gratitude kind of thing. Abraham Lincoln issued another proclamation in 1863, and set the date for Thanksgiving as the last Thursday in November. I’m not sure when a turkey dinner became synonymous with the holiday, but I’m sure my Uncle Don was pleased. He raised a lots of turkeys.

Little Known Fact About Turkeys: they originated in Mexico. Another funny thing, turkey isn’t a very popular item at any Mexican restaurant. The Mexican people are very gracious and will cook a traditional gringo Thanksgiving feast at many of the fine dining establishments down here. Lea and I went to one last year with a lots of our friends, but we’re planning on celebrating at home this year.

Traditional American holiday or not, we love get together at least once a year to give thanks, and eat ourselves  into a coma, and watch football. Well, that’s more or less what I do…  And when we lived in Minneapolis, I’m sure I shoveled a lots of snow. Until I got a snowblower.

I don’t miss snow at all, but I do miss my snowblower. Go figure.

* * * *

Christmas is arguably the biggest holiday of them all, and the only reason I say that  is because everything is arguable nowadays, even things that shouldn’t be.

Christmas, on a superficial level, is a Christian religious holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus. On a deeper level it’s a combination of that, the Winter Solstice, the Roman festival of the Saturnalia and a melange of any other number of beliefs and customs.

Anyone ever heard of Santa Claus? You can no longer have Christmas without Santa Claus. I can’t think of another person more closely associated with a major nonreligious holiday than Santa, and that includes Jesus, and St Patrick. No one dresses up like St Patrick. No one even knows what he looks like. Does Jesus come down the chimney and give you presents? Nope, he does not.

Christmas has become a worldwide cultural and commercial phenomenon. Decorations, presents, wrapping paper and trees. It all adds up. Christmas is big business. Entrepreneurs live for Christmas. And it’s probably kudos to them, and Coca-Cola®, and Hollywood for making Santa Claus the superstar that he’s become.

I lived for Christmas when I was a kid, even though half of my presents were stupid things like socks and underwear. Eight kids. We all got a lots of socks and underwear for Christmas.

But then there was the good stuff. Toys. Games. More toys and and games. It was sweet. I tried like hell to be a good person simply because of Christmas. I didn’t want to be on The Naughty List.

Christmas became less magical as I got older, but I can’t think of anything that didn’t. Being so far from my children and family has had an impact. If nothing else, Christmas is a time for family. And yet Christmas still retains something special to me–maybe it was the memories, maybe it is something more.

And when we lived in Minneapolis, I’m sure I used my snowblower. I think Lea bought me my first snowblower for Christmas. I used to clear all the sidewalks on my block.

Merry Christmas to all, and your sidewalks are clean!

* * * *

New Year’s Eve is another worldwide celebration, and the reason for that is simple. The last year probably sucked and everyone is hoping the next year will be better. It can’t get any worse, can it?

Oh yes, it can.

This has been the most relaxing, least stressful year I’ve ever had since I was a kid, and I can’t wait for this year to end. We’ll be one year closer to getting Donald Trump out of the White House.

This is simply my opinion, but Donald represents everything that’s wrong with the world, and he’s proud of that. If God ever needed a reason to speed up His timeline…

When I was much younger, I used to go out every New Year’s Eve to celebrate with my friends. And then there was one year when I went out all by myself. I was in nursing school, standing at a bar in downtown St Cloud, drinking a beer. When midnight came, everyone started cheering and hugging and kissing.

The guy standing next to me said, “Hey, I’m Tim. Happy New Year.” I introduced myself, and we shook hands.

It was one of the loneliest moments of my life. It was also the last time I ever went to a bar to celebrate that holiday.

* * * *

I haven’t written much lately. I haven’t felt much like writing. I started out writing about my nursing career, but the longer I don’t do that anymore, the less I think about the days when I did. I might get back to writing about that again someday, but we’ll see. Part of me believes I’ve already written all of the best stories I have to tell about being a psych nurse.

I spent a fair amount time writing about what an idiot I was when I was drinking and doing drugs for a living. I have a lots of stories to tell about those days, and some of them are really funny. For that reason alone, I might be tempted to say more, even though I’m not sure I want to remember more about those days…

There’s not much to say about my current life, other than it doesn’t suck at all, and yours probably does, simply because you may still be working for a living. Start feeding your 401K now. You’ll thank yourself later.

I have never enjoyed being alive as much as I do now. I get to spend every day with the woman I love, and I cherish this time we have together. I played the best game of golf I’ve probably ever played a few days ago. It doesn’t get a whole lots more better gooder than this.

The only reason I wrote this is because the last time I talked to Jane Castleman, she told me to keep writing, and I respect her opinion. Not my best work, for sure. Probably not my worst either.

Have a safe and happy holiday season. Eat your kid’s candy. Watch out for the sugar buzz. Have another helping of everything for Thanksgiving. If you’re too full for dessert, eat pumpkin pie for breakfast the next morning. Yeah, you can do that, unless your mom tells you you can’t.

May your Christmas be perfect. If there were ever a time for perfection, it’s Christmas. Enjoy the time with your family. You never get it back, and you don’t get a do over. Remember the reason for the season. Jesus wasn’t really born on Christmas Day, but he was born, and he was born to be our King. And just like Aragon, son of Arathorn, someday he will return, too.

Stay safe, and more or less sober, celebrating the new year. Each year has the potential to be better than the last, but will probably be just as tragic as the last. What will be, will be. Anticipate the best, but steel yourself for the worst. You’ll probably find both no matter what you do.

And, just for fun, may your team win the Super Bowl. Super Bowl Sunday isn’t a national holiday anywhere, but it should be, and it should be the official end of the holiday season. Maybe some day it will be…

Attitude really is everything. If you can remember that, you’ll get through anything life will throw at you. And I with that, I wish you the best of success until the next time. Whenever that might be.

Thanksgiving, 1976

Back when I was in Oklahoma, the holiday season was approaching. I was living in the barracks again. My attempts to live off base with a couple of roommates had ended in disaster. I’ll be revisiting this neighborhood again…

Dan Franklin was a friend of mine. He was an Orthopedic Technician at Reynolds Army Hospital. It was Dan who diagnosed the greenstick fracture of my right ankle, and fashioned a splint for me so my ankle would heal. There’s another story I have yet to tell…

Dan was married to Leslie, one of the dental assistants I worked with at Clinic #2. Because we were friends, and because Dan and Leslie were incredibly sweet people, I was one of several people invited to their house for a Thanksgiving feast that couldn’t be beat.

On that Thanksgiving morning in 1976, I was sitting at the desk in my room, listening to music. My door was open, I rarely closed it when I was there. Almost everyone that had been in the barracks when I arrived was gone. They had all been discharged from active duty.

Randy, Roger, Johnny and Tommy. The Two Mikes. Jesse. Don One and Don Two. Virg and Alan. Even Lightning Bob. They were all gone. Raoul and I were the only Originals left. That’s what we called ourselves. Everyone else was a Fuckin’ New Guy.

Raoul had gone home to Middle of Nowhere, Texas for the holiday. I’m sure he had invited me to come along–I was practically a member of his family then–based on the number of visits I’d made, and how much I loved his mother’s cooking, but I declined. I had been invited to Dan and Leslie’s, so I wouldn’t be spending the holiday alone. I was just about the only person in the barracks, except for Fernando, and maybe a couple other guys.

Fernando was from Puerto Rico. He was an FNG in my company, and had transferred in to Fort Sill after a tour of duty in Korea. Fernando was a suave and debonair guy. He’d had all of his uniforms tailored to fit him like a glove while he was in Korea. He was 5′ 8″, slim, and what most women might describe as devastatingly handsome. I’m not a woman, and I thought he was extremely good looking.

I had partied with Fernando and his girlfriend, Christina, at the barracks several times. They made a devastatingly handsome couple. She was also from Puerto Rico. She stood about 5′ 3″, deep, almond shaped eyes so dark they appeared to be black, and her long black hair cascaded down below her shapely ass.

I’m actually surprised I remember any of this about her because she had the biggest tits I’d ever seen on a woman that small. Half of her total weight must have rested on her chest, and I’m sure I spent most of my time gazing at her hooters whenever she was around.

At one of the barracks soirées a few months before, I got ridiculously drunk, even for me. The FNG’s living in our barracks had invited the girls living in their barracks to a party, a kind of a Get to Know You social thing. It was a brilliant idea, I wonder why none of the Original guys ever thought of it.

We bought a bunch of booze, rolled a bunch of joints, ordered some pizzas, and even decorated the dayroom so it looked almost festive. It was an Army barracks, there was only so much we could do. To our surprise, some of the WAC’s actually attended–not many–six or seven at the most. There were maybe a couple hundred WAC’s living in the Women’s barracks. Most of them were tough looking lesbians, and they weren’t interested in hanging out with a bunch of sissy guys.

I stumbled over to the pool table and bumped into Fernando and Christina. I was wasted, and started babbling to them about nothing. I have a vague recollection of doing this, but I’m sure I was staring at Christina’s tits the entire time. I very politely asked if I could ask her an incredibly inappropriate question, then immediately changed my mind and apologized.

And then Christina did something even stupider than me. I have a very clear memory of this. Maybe it was because she was one of the only women in the room, and she wanted to prove to everyone she could be one of the guys. I couldn’t tell you what her thought process was, but she asked me to tell her what my incredibly inappropriate question was.

We ended up getting into an argument–You don’t want to know.  Yes, I do.–it went back and forth like that. Finally, she demanded that I ask her my incredibly inappropriate question, or she would never speak to me again.

I looked to Fernando for support because I was pretty sure he was going to have to kill me to death once my question was uttered. He looked at me and said, “Do it.”

I’m pretty sure everyone in the dayroom had stopped speaking. The music may have even stopped playing; it was as silent as a church on Monday.

I straightened my posture as much as I could without falling over. I looked her in the eyes and said, “Just how big are your tits anyway?” It was a question every guy in the room wanted to know the answer to. For all I know, even the girls in the room were curious.

I don’t know how Christina could’ve been that shocked by my question. Everyone that I talked to about it afterwards knew what I was going to ask her, even the other WAC’s knew what I was going to say.

Be that as it may, a look of horror crept across Christina’s face, and she started crying. Fernando escorted her out of the dayroom, down the hallway to his room, and that was pretty much the end of the party.

Fernando knocked on my door an hour or two later. I knew it had to be him. And I knew I was going to got dead. But Fernando didn’t kill me to death. To my surprise, Fernando and Christina both stood outside my door. They looked to be even drunker than me, if that were possible. Christina was still crying, but Fernando was sobbing harder than she was. I may have even started crying.

I apologized to her. I apologized to him. I apologized to both of them. I don’t know how long or how many times I apologized, but it seemed to go on for hours. I think Christina finally stopped crying. Fernando did not. They finally stumbled back to Fernando’s room, each supporting the other.

To say that incident impacted our friendship would be an understatement. Fernando and I still spoke to each other, but not much, and we certainly didn’t hang out with each other. I don’t think Christina ever spoke to me again. And she never did tell me big her breasts were.

* * * *

Fernando likely heard my music playing on that Thanksgiving morning. I tended to have only one volume setting on my stereo in those days: louder. He appeared in my doorway and I gestured him into my room. Fernando looked sad, so I produced a bottle of whiskey from one of the drawers in my desk and a couple glasses. I was feeling kind of down myself that day. We started drinking toasts to departed friends, and to family far away.

We smoked a couple joints, and continued toasting anything we could think of. Before long, we were laughing our asses off. We even laughed about my incredibly inappropriate question to Christina that ended up making everyone cry.

“Jesus! What did she think I was gonna ask her! Have you ever had sex with a horse?”

“I know, man. I knew what you were going to say. Fuck, everyone at the party did. Do you want to know how big Christina’s tits are?” Fernando asked. He handed me the joint we were smoking.

I can’t remember if he was still dating her or not, but I can’t imagine anyone I knew back then breaking up with those gazongas.

“I don’t think I want to go there again, man.”

“They’re 48 F’s!”

“No shit!” I was impressed. I didn’t know tits came in an F size.

“Oh, you should see them, Marco. They are so beautiful, and so perfect! They make this noise when she takes off her bra, kind of a sucking noise, like her tits are vacuum sealed!!”

We laughed as if that was the funniest line ever spoken. We laughed as if we were best friends, and always had been. And before I knew it, it was time for me to go to Dan and Leslie’s.

Now I had a dilemma. I had been planning to give the bottle of whiskey we were drinking to Dan and Leslie for hosting the Thanksgiving feast. Fernando and I had toasted away at least half of it, so that gift wouldn’t do.

In addition, if I went to Dan and Leslie’s, Fernando would be left all alone on Thanksgiving. I couldn’t do that to the devastatingly handsome Fernando, who was suddenly the best friend I’d ever had.

I decided to call Dan and Leslie. Seeing how they had invited several single, lonely servicemen and women to their house, maybe one more wouldn’t be a problem.

Well, it was. I wasn’t the only one who had discovered one more lonely person hanging around the barracks. Leslie said the original number of people they had invited had doubled. She was sorry, but she just couldn’t accept one more unplanned guest.

“I understand. No problem. But in view of the circumstances, I won’t be able to attend your Thanksgiving feast today. Thank you for the invitation, and tell everyone I said hi.”

“Wha–” Leslie was saying as I hung up the phone.

“Marco, my friend. What did you just do?” Fernando asked.

“I changed my plans. Are you hungry?”

“I’m fucking starving!”

Fernando and I drove to the nearest McDonald’s. We probably ordered one of everything. And an order of fries. We ate and ate. And ate some more. We made a lots of sucking noises and laughed like fools. Thankfully, we were just about the only patrons inside the place, so the staff didn’t call the police and have us arrested for drunk and disorderly conduct.

As it turned out, everyone at Dan and Leslie’s Thanksgiving feast ended up puking their guts out. Food poisoning.

I’ve lived through sixty Thanksgivings, but I think that one may have been the best. It certainly embodied what the holiday means, spending time with friends, sharing joy and happiness, and forgiveness. Being together, and fighting back against the loneliness that can consume us during the holiday season.

Happy Thanksgiving, Fernando, wherever you are today. Happy Thanksgiving, Christina. I hope your tits are still vacuum sealed and still make sucking noises when you remove your bra.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone, one and all.

Skol, Vikings. Beat the Lions!