Monday, December 28, 2009

The Hangover

No, this is not a movie review. I didn't like the movie and apparently I'm in a small minority, so I'll leave it alone. This is my story about drunken stupors and the morning after.

I don't know when it started. I honestly can't remember, but it might one day be my demise. I do not get hangovers? Sure I wake up wishing there were more sleep hours, but honestly, I never wake up with the pounding headache, the fear of light and the horrible sensation that the smell of alcohol will make me re-enact the pie eating scene from Stand By Me. There are times when I open my wallet the next day and wonder. What happened? There are times I find food in my bathtub or my clothing on top of my computer. I've woken up with a chicken cutlet in my hand with one perfect bite taken out. I've woken up in the bathtub with the shower on. I've woken up in my car (after my brother's wedding). I've even woken up in somebodies bed and not been 100% sure whose it was when I first got up. All these instances have been a subtle reminder that sometimes moderation is like a trigonometry equation, but I never have the typical hangover.

When I was younger I was a puker. Almost every night I drank I got sick. This was usually because I only did so on the weekends and tried to fit as much partying into three or four hours and paid the price. Back then. Hangovers! As I got older I started to have a strange ability to stay alert and keep my wits about me, despite some marathons at the bar. Going on vacation, I could go all day and then do it again. Sure age has started to slow me down. I need rests everyone once in a while. I also think my insomnia plays a big part in that. It's not like I am trying to win an award for alcoholism, but I've gotten to the point where I can drink pretty much anything all day and night and show up for work bright eyed and bushy-tailed. Sure there are occurrences when a three day bender meets up with a serious bought of sleeplessness, but for the most part, I'm good.

Now I'm not boasting. This really isn't something to be proud of. I'm not in college, so nobody really cares about my drinking prowess, but me. I'm proud of it, because it keeps me from having the tell-tale sign of a disease. Although I do fear, down the road, some others may occur due to this. Yes I am aware that being able to drink large quantities of alcohol doesn't mean you must do so whenever possible. I'm not that silly. I know when my body says "hold it now." I have even been known to call it a night prematurely, when I'm feeling the effects more than normal. I've also been known to stay out four hours too long. I'm not giving myself a proverbial pat on the back. Honestly.

This blog is actually a question. I know the answer, so it is a rhetorical question, in some ways, but it does make me wonder. Why would anyone spend an evening drinking when they know the repercussions will be painful and ruin the next day? I have told many friends and acquaintances that if I ever felt the way they explained the following day, I would give up drinking forever. I'm not kidding. I hate the act of vomiting more than any feeling I've ever had. The thought of doing that once a month, once a week even, scares me to death. When I was younger I persisted because it was cool to drink. Now on the rare occasion this happens, I go into hermit mode. I can count the number of times I've drank myself sick in the past ten years on one hand (with maybe a few extra digits, but the occurrences are few and far between). The last time this happened I wanted to die. I actually made myself sick, because of how awful I felt and that was the hardest thing I ever did. Obviously, it makes you feel better, but the act is so painful to me, I can't bare it. That coupled with what my memory perceives as a blinding headache? Why would anyone do anything that causes this? I honestly can't comprehend. There are few evenings I've ever had that are worth a completely lost day with the addition of pain and suffering.

Do I like to socialize over cocktails? Absolutely. Do I have plans to stop? Absolutely not. If I knew that every following day would result in pain, aches and a feeling of nausea would I continue? Never.

When I watched the movie the Hangover, they took a somewhat comical look at the results of a drunken evening. There was pain as a result of the festivities. I've never woken up with a tiger in my bathroom, but I have had a cheese puff in my bathtub and couldn't find a bag of them. I've never woken up with a tooth missing, but have had a hole in the back of my shirt covered in blood. I've never lost a friend and spent the next day trying to find him. Although I have spent the next day trying to remember what friends I saw the night before. The one thing I do always do (as long as I'm able to sleep at least four hours) is function. When that day stops, I'll know it's time to pull back the reigns. Fortunately, that day hasn't arrived.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Happy Birthday Jesus

Over the past few weeks, we've all been inundated with the holiday bullshit that swamps TV and the airwaves. In this time, spirits are high and low depending, usually, on financial situations. Nobody can avoid this time completely. All we can do is grin and bear it or openly accept and enjoy it. I'm somewhere in the middle, but I'm doing my best to enjoy the awkwardness when people try to be politically correct or stand up for their religion.

For the past two weeks I've made a concerted effort to say Happy Holidays to people I know celebrate Christmas. It burns their ass and they get so flustered, because you're being nice, but it's not what they want to hear. I also have wished many of my Jewish friends a Merry Christmas. They usually don't react negatively, but it's funny, especially when they know I know they are Jewish. I do this for fun and because it shows how much has been lost in the marketing of this season.

I think the absurdity of Christmas hit me more this year than any other. It was December 4th and someone wished me a Merry Christmas. I think if you still have a stomach ache from all the turkey you just ate, it's too early to start wishing people a Merry Christmas. It actually made me pause and say, really? Like the fictitious fat man, I am making a list. I won't check it twice, because unlike Santa, I'm really not that anal retentive. My list has a name and a number. The number is the days before Christmas I was wished a Merry Christmas. So in 2010, I will call that person that number of days before their birthday and wish them a Happy Birthday. When they explain that it isn't for another two weeks, I'll let out a big hearty laugh and exclaim "yeah well if it's good enough for Jesus, it's good enough for you." If they don't get it or get offended. I'll say that they aren't being politically correct and then go on to explain that I should have wished them a happy birthday nine months ago, because their screwy religion believes that life starts at conception. Which leads to another question. If you actually believe that life starts at conception, then why aren't you one years old after three months? Answer that Father.

Honestly, Christmas has lost it's religious appeal thanks to advertising. I remember seeing those old coke ads with the polar bears and thinking. I get it, cute bears, North Pole, Santa, Christmas....I'll have a Coke because it's Christmas. Now its become girl in red and green bikini, laptop, and Happy Holidays...I'll have some, er, internet porn and wtf? Seriously, some ads just confuse me. Also, if you are of a Christian faith and you tell me that Christmas is the biggest and most important holiday, I will buy you a Bible, because it's not. Easter is. And another thing. Don't get offended if you're Jewish and someone spells Hannukah wrong, because honestly, it doesn't matter and two, nobody knows how to spell Hannukah or Chanukah, or Rumplestiltskin. It's not a big deal. I am a little upset that they don't have more Jewish based ads. Just once I want to see a hair care product and then see a Hassidic man with flowing peyes'.

I don't want people to think I hate Christmas. I really don't. I love getting together with family and friends. I love seeing a child's face when they get the present they wanted. I love the food and drink. I love every aspect about it. My problem is, why can't people be like this the other eleven months of the year? Why is Christmas time when people are nice to each other? Think about it. When was the last time in mid-April someone hugged you for being their friend? Bought you a drink and said thank you for alway being there? Called you to wish you the best? Why have we deemed the second half of December as the only time to shine? Think how great a world this would be if everyone carried their Christmas spirit throughout the year? Some people think I'm down on humanity, because it's Christmas. Nope, I'm down on humanity all the time. It's just that I'm being me, 365 days a year and you aren't. Nobody minds my realist (some deem them pessimistic) views in September, but in late December I'm a Scrooge or The Grinch. Why is that? Am I the one being a fake? I think not. Look in the mirror people. You guys don't think once about your mail carrier during the year, but leave him a couple of bucks for Christmas. I don't. I talk to my mailman both at work and at home all the time. I joke with them and ask how they are doing. When my work mailman hadn't been by for two weeks, I asked someone who works with him that I know if he was OK. When I found out he had a minor heart attack I was floored. I actually cared. He finally came back and then lost his mother. I felt for him as I would a friend. Every day I work, he comes in and we talk baseball. Maybe only for a few seconds, but every day, not just in December.

Christmas was always a wonderful time for me growing up. My mother, my father, later my brother, and I would always be joined by my grandmother and usually some friends of the family who didn't have a place to go for Christmas. Everyone and anyone was welcome in my home. It wasn't just family. The thing is, this wasn't just for Christmas. My parents opened their door and their hearts to anyone. In the course of my lifetime, we've had people stay the night, stay a week, stay a month. We had a friend of a friend, who we had never met stay for over a month at our home. We were sad to see him go and to this day I still have the gift he gave me when he left. One of the most thoughtful gifts I've ever received. Oh and did I mention...it wasn't during December.

This Christmas is different. My mother is gone. My brother is married and with his in-laws. My father is with his mother at his home in Ithaca. I decided to go it alone this year. I went out last night and hugged and kissed everyone who was out. I got a few invites for this evening, but decided to go it alone the whole way. A normal breakfast of bacon and eggs, some coffee and a few phone calls. I watched a movie and now I'm sitting in the office where I work writing a blog. I'm perfectly content. I'll go out and find an inn or a tavern and join those who are done with the holiday and watch some football. I'll shake hands, hug and kiss those I know. I'll wish them the best and then we'll bid each other adieu.

They call it holiday cheer. I'll call it Friday.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus and God

Over the recent Thanksgiving break, my brother brought up the subject of someone being too old to still believe in Santa Claus. The child is nine and the family goes through a slightly elaborate scheme to keep his belief thriving. My brother has a problem with it, I do not. It did get me to thinking though. Unless your parents go out of their way to provide you with evidence of the existence of Santa, the belief naturally dissolves fairly quickly. It's only when the facade is played up that these childhood beliefs stay intact. It's my feeling that we first stop believing in the tooth fairy, because we're either awoken or we see a note in a familiar handwriting. This happened to me at a very young age. I'm pretty sure I never truly believe a fairy flew into my room, but who was I to argue with cold hard cash under my pillow? Santa Claus...I'm not sure I ever really believed. Seemed to improbable and the fact my grandmother didn't have a fireplace kinda ruined the whole concept. If you're going to get mad, stop reading here. You know what's coming next.

So if we stop believing in outlandish tales of made up figures, why do so many people still believe in God? Isn't the concept of believing in God as far-fetched as say, Santa? Santa knows when you've been naughty and nice? Isn't that God's job? Are they one in the same? And honestly, I have a problem believing that everyone who is poor was naughty. It doesn't add up. Why would the Tooth Fairy, if real, give one child $2 and one child $20. Did they have better teeth? Or is their some type of Fairy dental plan that gets you more return? I have a problem believing in any entity that I can't see, hear or touch. I respect others beliefs, but I'm ready to debate them at the drop of a hat. This isn't meant to be a religious debate. My real point is these childhood beliefs end when we attain the ability to reason. So why does this ability not count when it comes to religion? My guess is because there is always that part of us that wants to believe in something magical. In faith, we basically revert to our childhood minds and take what is told to us without questioning it. I find this fascinating on so many levels. But back to Santa and the Tooth Fairy.

While discussing this with someone I brought up the point that if you are 9-10 years old and still believe in Santa Claus (I'm assuming the Tooth Fairy has been outed by now), there might be something wrong. Now I don't want to say that a child who believes in Santa Claus is learning disabled, because that would be irresponsible, but I'd like to think that at ten years old they have the cognitive skills and the deductive reasoning abilities to know the difference between reality and fantasy. Sure there's that child part that wants it to be true, but at some point the reality of the story should have them questioning it. Kids question everything, so why do some not question Santa Claus? Why don't all of them question God? Isn't that even more far fetched than Santa? At least on Christmas morning there are presents under the tree to play up the charade. What does a child see from God? Grandma died, Uncle Joe is sick, and the kid at school is in a wheelchair. Can't wait to get to sit next to my maker. Now if you believe in God, I'm not saying it's a bad thing, but why is this not questioned more? I have told many a person that if they can show me proof of God's existence, I'll believe tomorrow. Still waiting.

Now here's the oddest correlation to the whole thing. Lost in all the holiday hoopla, with the red suits and reindeer games is the fact that this holiday isn't about presents and mistletoe, it's about the birth of Christ. You know, God's son. Now obviously you're not going to tell your five year old that today we celebrate the birth of our lord and savior's son, who at 33 was nailed to a cross and died for our sins. Now in honor of him, we put up a tree and drink eggnog. Daddy and Mommy go into debt and inevitably your shithead aunt will get drunk and ruin dinner. Nope we tell them about Santa Claus, because it's a nicer story. Once they reach that golden age of bullshit recognition they stop believing and go into phase two of their lives. Bringing down the hopes and dreams of younger kids who still believe and showing them where Mommy hides the presents.

My friend said that she loves that kids who are older and believe still have that naivety and innocence. I feel that's dangerous. Being naive is a lack of understanding. One who is in many ways simple. When a child becomes a certain age and shows these levels of immaturity, I would question what else they might be tricked into believing. It's a crazy sick world out there and there are a lot of evil people. I'd like to keep all children safe from harm and a knowledgeable, realistic child will stay a lot safer in my opinion than one who is easily swayed to believe in fairies and an imaginary fat man in a red suit who flies around with reindeer. But then again, who am I to say, maybe I'm the one who is jaded. I mean I don't believe in an omnipotent being who created everything and watches over us and who we will get to sit with once we die in a cloud decorated place called Heaven. Wow, I guess Santa Claus being real isn't that crazy after all.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Letter to November

Dear November,

You came and went so quickly, I hardly got to know you. You made the ridiculously quick month of October seem like an eternity in comparison. Your first two weeks held nothing special. Your third week brought me illness and a slightly new outlook on my evening and weekend endeavors. Your final ten days brought my father's 75th birthday and Thanksgiving. A restful final weekend capped off the month. As the year draws to a close, I am finally starting to feel (and possibly even act) my age.

Sickness hit me for the first time since last November. A healthy year aside from some minor allergies in early spring. A week's worth of coughing, but a few OTC drugs and all was fine. I'm really starting to believe that this Swine Flu was nothing more than a government hoax to appease the pharmaceutical companies and doctors before the hammer drops and we join the 21st century with some, dare I say it, socialized medicine. One full year of useless blood tests to generate some medical revenue. I mean really people, Swine Flu vs Regular Flu? The only difference - more people die from the regular flu. Pandemic? I call it bullshit.

The lingering cough didn't stop me from looking forward with great anticipation for my favorite holiday. Thanksgiving started with an almost four hour ride with my brother and sis-in-law to Ithaca. A dreary day was brightened by my excited father. The 'kids' took my father to the supermarket and then we all took a nice afternoon siesta. I could definitely get into that routine. More of the same the following day, with a little football thrown in. We followed that with a deep fried turkey, some dressing, ("It wasn't in the bird so it's dressing exclaimed my father!" I was already aware of this thanks to Paula Deen and Alton Brown!), some mashed potatoes, cauliflower and some seasonal squash, yams, and a nice variety of delicious wines. I preferred the Chilean selection. A slice of pie later and some dishes and I was off to football land. Triptophan setting in, I relaxed on the couch. Eyelids started to get heavy and by midnight I believe everyone was in a food coma. The next morning we all piled into the car and headed back to reality. A good time was had by all.

November saw an odd twist for me. Three of four Fridays and Sunday were spent home. No libations and a lessened amount of football. Some were due to sickness, some sheer exhaustion, but I found myself not missing the weekly weekend grind and awoke each morning refreshed and ready to seize the next day. Am I maturing? I'd like to think not. Those I know who exude maturity definitely don't seem to be that happy. I'd like to think it's a re-juicing of the metaphoric batteries. Maybe it's a shut down with full knowledge that December holds holiday parties and yearly treks that include hours of ruining my liver and testing the kidneys. Good food, good friends and lots of drinks. It's what December is all about.