Tuesday, December 25, 2007

A very Pagooey Chrismukkwanzukkas!

Hey everybody, it's time for Pagooey Holiday Dinner Bingo! Can also be played as a drinking game. Make yourself a card and play along, at our home or yours!

--Get mustard on festive holiday shirt: 2 points
--Arrive wearing footie pajamas: 5 points
--If you are more than two months old and arrive in footie jammies: -3 points
--Cookie wears her shiny gold pants: 5 points all
--Lob dinner roll across table like softball: 2 points
--Successfully intercept thrown roll: 5 points
--Heckle vegetarian attendee with slab of corned beef: 3 points
--Make derisive reference to my failed bacon-wrapped breadsticks/burnt offering hors d'oeuvre mishap from '02: 3 points, and for the love of little apples I AM SORRY, DAMN
--Whose wineglass is this? Oh well, it's yours now: 10 points
--Bust in on someone in the hall bathroom: 4 points
--Get busted in on, in the bathroom: 8 points, and somebody really needs to fix that lock, seriously
--Put on Stan Boreson Christmas album: 5 points
--Switch allegiances in the mashed potatoes/mashed rutabagas--combine or segregate? debate, to venomous outcry from both camps: 3 points
--Slide down iced-over back steps on ass while carrying out recycling: 6 points (warning: you will be required to repeat this story multiple times throughout evening, and lose a point with each telling)
--Cookie shouts "Turn that down, are you DEAF?": 3 points
--Busted for surreptitiously texting at dinner table: -5 points
--Whose wineglass is this? Whatever: 10 points
--Salsa dance with baby: 5 points
--Put on Dean Martin Christmas album: 5 points
--Perform "Dance of the Stepped-On Brio Train Set" in breakfast nook: 7 points
--Poppy has giggle fit easily mistaken for cardiac event: 5 points all
--Lie on floor, sporting two pieces of Hanukkah gelt like the coins on a dead man's eyes: 5 points
--Put on Otis Redding's Greatest Hits: 9 points
--Cookie shouts "Turn that down, are you DEAF?": 3 points
--Baby vomits copiously on Mr. Sis: 10 points to Mr. Sis, who made sure to keep a six-foot perimeter between himself and all children for the duration of the evening to prevent a repeat of such occurrence; hence, 5 points also to the baby, for difficulty
--Hide Mom's purse, for old times' sake: 5 points; an additional 1 point shall accrue for each five minutes' duration of her search
--Get a little weepy in kitchen, but only because you love these people SO MUCH: 7 points
--Suggest going to midnight mass: 6 points
--Actually make it to midnight mass any Christmas in previous decade: 30 points
--Change into footie pajamas before departure: 5 points
--If you are over the age of four and change into footie pajamas before departure: -3 points
--Get poured into cab or otherwise require services of a designated driver: 10 points
--Hope drool on your sweater is from baby: 2 points

I hope you and yours had as much fun as me and mine. Merry Happy Everything to one and all!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Haggy birthday

As the birthdays begin to accrue at a more alarming rate, is there any more cruel reminder than a forcible trip to the DMV? Washington State is letting some people renew by mail, now, so that you only have to appear for the photo op once a decade; this might, in fact, be worse, but I wouldn't know because I was sent no online access code. Because I moved in the last five years, or because I wear contacts, whatever, I had to go in person. The local branch of the licensing department has wonky hours, opening at 8:30 some days and 9:30 others. Today was one of the 9:30 days, I discovered when I rolled up at 8:45. Regardless, there were already 10 people lined up outside in the cold. Awesome.

We shuffled from foot to foot, leaning against the rough stuccoed wall with our coffees and books and cell phones. The locked building entrance was right next to the driveway, so watching folks pull in was at least entertaining: they'd stop to peer at the posted DMV hours, cast their eyes down the ever-expanding line, visibly mouth the obscenity of their choice, and then go park. "Is this where we get Led Zeppelin tickets?" asked a jolly bearded guy in a hat with a sparkly sequinned band. He looked like more of a Deadhead to me, but I suppose he's had to switch his affiliations. I was the only one to laugh.

When they at last let us in, we surged around the little take-a-number printer, which offered different options (renewal, exam, Other) and seemed to be spitting out different sequences of numbers. I got 005: yay! Then thirty or so of us filed in amongst the plastic chairs, and they called the first number: 300. A whispered fusillade of curses swept the room until everyone figured out the multiple sequences going on. "Threatening Department of Licensing Employees is a Crime" announced a poster on the wall. "They must have a problem with that," a woman behind me said dubiously...whereupon a loud argument immediately broke out in the next row, between a 20-something dude and a 40-something dude who accused him of "cutting! you cut in line!" as if it were the cafeteria in 4th grade. It was approximately 9:34 a.m. If I worked for the DMV I'd want to be behind bulletproof glass, like at the bank.

Next to me in the chairs, a teen girl fretted over the exam-prep booklet, absently miming the hand signals for her mother: "This is 'right turn.' This is 'left turn.' This is...I don't know." "I don't know either," her mom laughed, noshing on a bagel. "Really, you just have to know it for the test and then you won't need it," she said, drawing me into the conversation with a look. "She's right...90% of it won't ever come up again," I assured the girl, looking over her shoulder at a page full of traffic signs, arrows pointing in wild, unlikely directions.

"I just want the permit," the girl muttered, ignoring us both as the old and gabby and infirm ladies we obviously were. "If I fail again, let's not tell dad we were here this time."

This reminds me that, when I was in high school, my friend Gwyn lived on a street that happened to be part of the road-test circuit for the local DMV branch...and, as it happened, the strip right in front of her house was the designated parallel-parking site for the exam. We spent more than one afternoon, our 16th summer, kneeling backwards on her living-room couch to gawk at one or another of our classmates feverishly sawing their way into a spot, centered directly in front of the picture window. Damn, that was funny.

At last it was my turn in front of the camera. "You may smile if you wish," said the clerk, and I did, not that it matters. Because it's all digital now, they can immediately show you the picture, and they ask you: is this the photo you want to go with? I wonder if they get folks who demand retake after retake...or just burst into tears at the damage wrought by their magical Hag-Cam, because Jesus. I looked like my father in drag. I looked like a Christmas ham wearing a wig. Is this the photo you want to go with? Well, unless you can, like, tape Gillian Anderson's head on here in its place, I suppose so. "Oh, God, whatever," I said miserably, and the clerk, unmoved, pressed Print and handed me the grainy, black-and-white temporary license. You will get the real one within 30 days; if you don't, call the number on the back. Happy birthday, Ass Face! Hope the doctor didn't slap your mama!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Sweeping is not a sport, it's a chore

One more way to tell you're in Canada: Sunday afternoon, women's curling is on t.v., for hours. And there are instant replays...which are shown at regular speed.

Saturday, December 15, 2007


I'm treating myself to a pre-birthday, pre-Christmas present: a long weekend in Vancouver, BC. I'm fortifying myself against the official obligations of the holiday by lolling around with my pile of unread New Yorkers, ordering room service, and enjoying other totally unnecessary indulgences like three hours of spa treatments this morning. I now have a very glamorous manicure with which to type this blog entry. Also they used a chocolate-scented body scrub on me at some point, and I kind of totally want to eat my own arm, still.

I've mentioned my infatuation with Vancouver before, I think. It's a few hours' drive from Seattle, an easy road trip; the surrounding mountains and water are familiar, and then the Canadianness is just foreign enough. A geological age or so ago, Vancouver marked my first trip off of U. S. soil. I was 19 (Canadian drinking age!); I drove up with Dave Wong in an illegally rented car that smelled of dog and orange soda. (We weren't old enough to rent it ourselves; his older sister drove it jerkily off the Rent-A-Wreck lot and he climbed behind the wheel, like, around the corner.) Of course we hadn't made hotel reservations; we ended up spending the night in a budget hotel somewhere right on the border between Gastown and Chinatown, an area informally known, at least to me, as "Junkietown." It was summer, and hot; through the open room window, we could hear what sounded like a cheap Foley-artist soundtrack of sirens and bottles shattering, the occasional piercing scream. Luckily enough we were not murdered in our beds, and the episode has receeded enough in memory to be hilarious to me now. Babes in the primeval woods, seriously.

Anyway. Here are some ways in which I know I am in Canada:

  • Two people already have mentioned Boxing Day plans to me. It's a real thing, here, just like in Merry Olde England!
  • The little girl, maybe nine-ish, I saw coming out of a Kitsilano ski shop this afternoon, ecstatically sporting a brand-new helmet and set of ski goggles. Her father followed behind, carrying the box they'd come in. Yes, this is the frozen north!
  • The television commercial in which a teen saves the day for his big brother's hockey team (filling in for the gooooalie, who bloooow ooot his knee). After the game, where do they celebrate? Tim Horton's! If only one of them said "eh," it would be an advertising...wait for it...hat trick.

This being Vancouver, the Amsterdam of North America, here are two more things that made me giggle:

  • The sign outside a garden shop, announcing their Winter Pot Sale (accompanied by ceramic containers of winter pansies and purple-and-white kale. Simmer down, Cheech.)
  • The non-dairy beverage alternative I spotted in the grocery store, next to the soy and almond milks: Hemp Bliss. I just bet. You know what would go great with this chocolate Hemp Bliss? Four more chocolate Hemp Blisses, dude!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Oh, Christmas tea

Last Sunday afternoon I had the privilege of attending holiday high tea at the Fairmount Olympic Hotel, with a group of ladies I mostly know from book club. The lovely Kristin recognized that no one wanted to take on the extra responsibility of hosting, during December, but thought we could still get together and be fussed over by professionals, with the added benefit of access to downtown shopping. Genius!

I admit, I've been having a hard time getting into the holiday spirit this year. This worries me as much as anyone--Christmas brings out my most Martha-esque tendencies. I have everything Christmas. I possess a plush Santa Claus toilet-lid cover, and red and green silicone cupcake liners in which to bake sour cream-poppy seed streusel muffins on Christmas morning, and a CD of carols rendered by a Caribbean steel-drum band. Usually at this time each year my house looks like the finale of the Macy's parade without the blue police barricades. So my exhausted apathy this year is troubling, yes. I am not sure what to attribute it to; is this just more fallout from weaning myself off antidepresants this summer? I'm not depressed, but in not feeling Christmassy, I do not feel like myself, and I don't know what that means.

So it was more meaningful to me than the other ladies might have guessed, to walk into Seattle's swankiest classic hotel and be smacked with a double-barrelled Christmas blast. The Olympic is the closest thing we have to The Plaza, and it did not disappoint; it was like dropping into a 1930s movie musical, or the Warbucks mansion at the finale of Annie. Swags of pine garland and fairy lights everywhere. A massive tree at the center of the atrium, and another decked out in gold in the tearoom itself. A gingerbread rendering of the Pike Place Market in a glass case, with marzipan produce lined up in tiny rows. There was some sort of children's holiday party going on elsewhere in the hotel, too, and so all around us were little girls in red velvet dresses and little boys in crisp white shirts and dark ties, on high Good Behavior Alert not only for the environment but because of Santa's imminent final accounting. Several of us, arriving early, went looking for an ATM, and that was also "fancy": hidden away in a discreet alcove and paneled in oak, with the old-timey appellation "Miniature Bank."

It was good that we'd obtained some cash beforehand, because the special holiday tea was sort of psychotically expensive if you stopped to think about it. We were a large group, and so the included service cost brought our tab to $75 a head. Would I have gone, if I'd anticipated that? Probably not...so I am glad I didn't know. Because it ended up being entirely worth it. We had white linen and real silver, delicate floral china and our own individual teapots. Individual crystal cruets of raspberry jam and clotted cream stood at the head of each place setting. And at that price, they keep the wee goodies coming for as long as you're willing to sit there. A polite young man in a gold vest hovered nearby, with a tray and a pair of little silver tongs to hand out as many tiny open-faced sammiches as we could stand, each no bigger than my thumb. There was a smoked salmon triangle that simply dissolved on the tongue, and quarter-sized rounds of toast crowned with curried chicken salad. One savory had shavings of black truffle; one sweet was dusted with gold flake--two outrageous delicacies I'd never consumed before. I ATE GOLD. It was awesome. We gossiped and sipped tea and daintily ate many hundreds of tea goodies; we were all also on our best behavior, and managed not to knock anything over or guffaw too openly, there in the Georgian Room...which is lovely, all pale yellow with scads of white ornamental molding, like dining inside a wedding cake.

It reminded me of being a little girl, actually...all that dazzle, the giddy tension of being in a place and a situation 100% nicer than the rest of your everyday life. We went to some sort of Santa Claus brunch at the Space Needle, once, when I was a kid--I remember it being very early morning, still nearly dark as we revolved slowly above the Christmas-lit city, eating pigs-in-a-blanket and nervously awaiting the arrival of St. Nick, the guest of honor. There are pictures of us, me and Sis in matching (!) outfits that were actually Easter dresses from the previous spring--red and white calico patterned, but by December growing a bit alarmingly short. We are showing a lot of leg, for 8 a.m. Matching Dorothy Hamill haircuts also, I probably don't need to add. Anyway. We were excited, and impressed, and anxious in a largely good way, Christmas on the line and Santa keeping a watchful eye.

I haven't felt like that in years...but this was close. Worth every penny, and with the added benefit of having that salmon, boy. I would rather have poked out my own eye, as a kid...but after sampling that with an adult's palate, I can now die a happy woman. A holiday miracle indeed!

Monday, December 03, 2007

I don't feel tardy!

Nor, you know, two years shy of 40.

Anyway...so, the mostly reunited Van Halen, David Lee Roth Original Recipe version, is playing Seattle tonight. No, I don't have tickets...but I greatly enjoyed a local radio station's Nine-at-Nine journey in the wayback machine this morning, to 1984. They featured some Prince and some Pretenders, and of course "Jump," from the eponymous VH album. Ohhh, "Jump." I rocked out some, in the car--very cautiously, due to the torrential downpour we're having this morning. The DJ could then not be dissuaded from putting on "Panama," at least for a moment. Ten at Nine, then.

(Aside: last week I was giving a presentation in a team meeting, my laptop connected to the conference room projector. There's a way to turn off the e-mail pop-ups when you're in presentation mode, but I hadn't bothered. So it was my own fault when a missive from the concert-ticket alias appeared in the lower-right corner of my screen and one of the editors could not restrain himself from shouting aloud, "VAN HALEN TICKETS!")

Since I made such inroads into mortifying adolescent confessions last month, I'll just admit here that, yeah, I find David Lee Roth...compelling, let's say. Maybe not so much now; you don't know where he's been. Though you can well imagine. But 1980s David Lee Roth! With the hair! Doing the splits in his neon zebra-striped leggings! Before flying around above the stage in a harness! Come on: that's awesome. He was clearly totally insane, in a nonthreatening candy-colored AquaNet way. Other metal bands were Scary; Van Halen, with Roth out front, was just Crazy! Fun Crazy!

Didn't he break from the band, right about that time, to launch his solo career? I vividly remember his cover of Louis Prima's "Just a Giggolo," not least because my grandpa saw the video of this on MTV and was delighted: "Now that's music," he insisted, as Dave leapt around in parachute pants with some bikini vixens. "That there is a song." Grandpa found David Lee Roth tonsorially confusing, maybe, but he knew how to swing. It was a point in his favor.

I should also note that I loooooooved "Jump" in part because I associated it with...oh, God...the figure skating world I'd developed a complete obsession with at roughly this time. Van Halen, the perfect accompaniment to launching a triple salchow! Oy. I am physically scrubbing at my face, right now, at this recollection. The 80s were a weird, weird, weird time, whether you were 14 or not.

So. No, I'm not going to the show. Probably it would also be awfully loud in there, I'm thinking. But I am pleased that it is, that it exists. Maybe 10 years ago I saw David Lee Roth, on an early version of one of those "Totally Awesome Eighties!!" compilation shows. At the time, he looked eerily as if he was steps away from sitting on Ventura Boulevard with a cardboard sign reading "Will RAWK For Food." So I'm glad that he's back with the band and touring, now, happy that he's got a gig to keep him in sandwiches and Spandex for at least the forseeable future. You go, Diamond Dave.