The Christmas/New Year’s Eve Interlude

People smile, say “Merry Christmas!” and then live the next 6 days in utter misery as they wait for New Year’s Eve.

They just zip through the “Christmas/New Year’s Interlude” without much thought.

This got me thinking… linking behavioral expectations to certain days seems to help people focus. For example, on Christmas I give gifts. On Thanksgiving I eat turkey and see my family. On my birthday I fuck my harem of indentured servants.

a few members of my harem

So lets focus on this “Interlude” for a moment and make it special, like a holiday, so that next year you can use the time more productively.

What if you tried very hard for just these 5 days to focus on the little things that make your life move? Not the “big” New Year’s resolution that you’ll forget by January 21st. I’m talking more about things like washing the dishes after dinner each night, or feeding your pets.

Could you do these things better? I’m thinking that yes, you could.

Could you put your clothes on faster? How about showering? During the “Interlude” try cutting your shower time by a minute. Then, during the day, spend that entire minute telling someone close to you that you really love them. See what happens. Did they get sick of you after 20 seconds?

Then maybe you need to find a new lover. Congratulations, you have made the interlude work for you.

Do you tailgate? I know I do.

During the “Interlude” try not to tailgate everyone. Instead, focus only on those drivers who “need to learn how to drive.” Then, you’ll have a little extra negative energy stored up that you can use elsewhere.

I suggest taking that saved negative energy to start a war with your neighbor. For example, my neighbor blows leaves onto my property when I’m not home. But you see, he’s a silly idiot. I work from home, so who do you think is going to win that battle? The moment I see him back down his driveway to head out to his job as “office slave,” I return the favor. Meanwhile we both pretend that we don’t know what’s going on.

“Where’d all the leaves come from this year?” Duh.

A silent war like that takes a lot of energy. Again, save up some negativity during the “Interlude” and unleash it when you really need it.

That’s making the “Interlude” work for you; that’s time well spent.

Now, I’m not sure if this idea will “go national” or anything. It certainly won’t help the economy or enslave the lower and middle class, so I can’t see the government sponsoring the idea. When is the last time the government really helped you anyway?

Forget it. 2012 is all about empowering yourself. Use “The Lude” well.
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note: this was originally published to my blogspot in 2007. that said, the message is as relevant today as it was back then.

Empower yourself in 2012. Follow me on Twitter.

Not all of my posts are “fucking hilarious.” Some are downright depressing like this one. Others are about buying beer. I even write about God and mexican food.

Fear Of Flying

The plane had gone down in an open field. The grass around the wreckage was burnt black. A man stumbled away from the loud bent metal and walked in a direction, towards nothing but away. He vowed never to fly again. He knew he could walk and he’d start from there.

Of course, he had some doubts about walking. He had been told that to get to where he wanted to go he must fly. “Perhaps so,” he thought, “but I will walk. I was never happy flying and it nearly killed me.”

keep it moving

Where did he want to go? He wanted to go to the end. He wanted to look out at the sea and be free. He wanted nothing except his family and the weather. He could be happy with his family in the weather. But where were they?

You have a couple of magic years and then you are set on a path. This path has a real beginning but an imaginary end. We think we must go somewhere. We move in lines. This just happens. Everyone does it. This great game of striving. We all have the right to be happy. The great irony is that we start there. We load ourselves down, enter into this bizarre pit of moving mash, and then try the rest of our lives to escape it.

We’re happiest when we are clean and simple.

As the man walked another plane flew overhead. He stopped and squinted up at the sky to watch the plane, blue on blue. He imagined the people on the plane were quite happy. They thought they were getting where they needed to go. They looked around and saw others like them. The comfort of numbers. He could shout up at the bottom of the plane but he knew it would do him no good. The plane roared for a few seconds and then slowly melted into the sky.

“Maybe they will get to their destination afterall,” the man thought. “There really is no telling.”

He walked with empty purpose through the landscape, swirling atoms.

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Exit music.

Mistletoe

On Christmas Eve, Judy sent me out to buy some mistletoe.

“It’ll give the house a fresh, ‘Christmasy’ kind of feel,” she explained.

organic, locally-sourced, mistletoe

So I drove to the local garden center and asked the somewhat “fish-eyed” looking girl behind the counter if she had any mistletoe.

“We sure do,” she said with a decisively southern twang.

Now, her accent should have indicated that something was seriously wrong. Like most northerners, I hear a southern accent and I think “Oh, this person is an idiot,” or, “Jerry Springer.” But since it was Christmas and I was feeling somewhat charitable, I hung around and let her show me the mistletoe.

From a cardboard display that looked like it once housed car deodorizers, little plastic bags marked with the words “Fun Time Mistletoe!” hung.

The counter girl started with the hard sell. “It’s real mistletoe…they just freeze dry it so it stays fresh longer,” she said. “The berries are fake because they’re poisonous or something.”

I picked up a bag and looked closely at the product inside. The plastic crinkled. The “mistletoe” was hard and an unnatural color of green.

“This is real mistletoe?” I challenged.

“Yup,” she said. “Just freeze-dried. They stick it in a freezer. Makes it last longer.”

“And when I take it home,” I said slowly, “it will ‘spring to life’ and look ‘Christmasy’?”

She started to get defensive. “Yup, it should… I don’t see why not. It’s real mistletoe.”

So I ponied up the $2.17 and took the plastic package home. Needless to say, Judy wasn’t impressed. However, it made my daughter very happy.

She stood under the mistletoe doling out “Christmas Kisses!” for the better part of the day. Even the cats got their share.

(note: this was originally published to my old blog, in 2007.)

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I Quit Trading And The Sun Still Rises

I transferred all the money out of my trading account, and went to sleep.

A scraping sound against my bedroom window woke me in the middle of the night.  I lifted the blind.  There was a man with a headlamp clinging to the top of a large evergreen tree. He could have reached out his hand and pulled my beard.

I opened the window.

“What the hell are you doing?” I said.

“Putting a floodlight in this tree.” The floodlight was pointed at my window.

“It’s three in the fucking morning! Get out of my backyard before I call the police!” I yelled.

“This isn’t your backyard. It belongs to that guy.” He pointed a finger at a man who was walking around with a bullhorn, barking orders. It was my neighbor.

a man with a bullhorn barked orders

“Bring the tree closer to the house,” my neighbor was saying to a man driving a tractor. “I don’t want to see a single shingle on that house.” He was talking about my house. They were surrounding my house with trees. The trees were planted right up against my foundation.

“Hey,” I yelled from the open window. “You’re in my backyard! This is my house!”

He laughed at me and walked away.  “Nothing you can do about it now.”

I stepped back from the window. I was angry but felt impotent. All those people out there on my property transforming it; I couldn’t stop them. They’d dug holes. Planted roots. Thousands of pounds. Trees and dirt. Who was going to dig them up and take them away? I couldn’t do it. The trees could be up against my house like that forever.

I walked across the hall to where my wife and daughters were sleeping.  I shook Judy’s shoulder and whispered into her ear, “They’re in our backyard and there’s nothing I can do.”

“We’ll sell the house and rent” she said, half asleep.

“We can’t give up like that! We can’t let this guy surround our house with trees!” I wanted to fight but I needed troops. I looked out their window. A flood light shone in. A tree branch pushed up against the glass. “It’s too late!” I said. “The branches are going to come through the windows. The roots will ruin the foundation. We have no choice but to leave!”

tree roots as a destructive force

My 7 year old woke up, or maybe she was awake the whole time and just spoke up. “We can’t leave until after 5th grade,” she said.  “I don’t want to go to another elementary school.” Then she started to cry.

“See what you’ve done now?” Judy said. She hugged my daughter. I felt like an asshole. I felt very alone. I had to take care of the trees. “I’m sorry I woke you up,” I said to my daughter and I left the room. The whole house was swaying in the breeze.

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I woke up and peeked out the window. My backyard was the same it had been when I went to sleep. “Fucking nightmares,” I thought to myself. I felt a mixture of relief and foreboding and then went downstairs to cook my daughter’s breakfast.

When I was in college I’d dream of tornadoes. These dreams would fill me with panic but they never felt real. As an adult I’m finding the distinction between my life and nightmares has blurred considerably. I wake up now and check in on my daughters sleeping and wonder how I’m going to keep my house. I wonder how I’m going to provide them with the consistency children need.

I’ve stopped trading. Trading is all about control; having it and keeping it. No one can fire you except yourself. No one makes a bad trade except yourself. Of course, the big lesson I’ve learned in life is that any feeling of control is a complete illusion. It’s best to surrender. But to what? I don’t have a whole lot of faith in anything right now. Perhaps that is what I need. More faith.

trading is all about control.

I drove my daughter to school and after I dropped her off, I called a friend to meet me for coffee. I wasn’t sure what I’d do at 9:30 if I wasn’t sitting in front of my desk staring at the quotes.

We grabbed our coffees and sat. “So what’s going on?” he said.

“Not much,” I said. It seems we’ve started all of our conversations like this in the last few years.

He told me he had bagged a turkey. “I cleaned it in my studio,” he said. “To keep warm I burned an entire pile of junk mail in the stove. It was like the American Dream.” He smiled.

“You have any feathers?” I asked. My daughter collects feathers.

“Sure, loads.”

And with that we were in his car and driving to his studio. It’s a cramped and dusty place, a garage that’s slowly being taken over by the vegetation around it. It reminded me of my dream. Half of the studio is home to machines that he uses to build his dark inventions, the other half is where he paints.

“I need more space” he said. “You want to take a painting for a season? These really shouldn’t stay in the studio through the winter.”

“Yeah, I’d love one,” I said, thrilled.

He reached into what looks like an over-sized file cabinet and slid one out. “You like this one?” he asked. I did. The painting he pulled looked like the marriage between a scrambled television and a Hiroshige wood cut. There’s a sense of vertical movement and of repetition. It fit my current mood: scrambled, repeating, but with a hint of beauty.

untitled by jameson ellis

I took it home and brought it up to the office where, until the day before, I traded. I leaned it against a wall. I was excited to have it. When my daughter returned home from school it was the first thing I told her.

“Look, my friend gave me a painting. Do you want to see it?”

“No. Can you play with me?”

“Yes, I will. But first I want you to come look at the painting. I want to know what you think it is.”

She sighed and rolled her eyes at me. Then she ran up the stairs to my office.

“It’s a sunrise,” she yelled down.

I walked up the stairs to join her in the office. I looked at my trading setup, still intact.

“I’ll be down in one minute to play.” I said. “I just have one thing to do.”

She sighed and ran into her playroom. I could hear her reading to her stuffed animals.

I removed two of my three monitors and slid the other over a few feet, exposing the wall. I hung the scrambled sunrise. If nothing else right now, I still have faith in the sun. It’s gonna go down in a few hours and come back up tomorrow.

And I’ll be here between the two horizons, waiting for my picture to steady.
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Exit music.

Memory, Mexican Food, and Eternity

John Lennon paid attention.

“Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.” -John Lennon

Yesterday was busy.  Into the car, out of the car; small chores and smaller talk.  When we’re done we’ll get you a treat.  Strap her in.  Why is your sister crying?  We need gas.

Once or twice I glanced in the rearview mirror and watched as my seven year old absently stared out her window.  Which moment would hang in there and become a memory of dull security and comfort thirty years down the line?  Tires humming, Mom and Dad in the front; blurred trees. Would she try her entire life to regain that vague feeling of safety?  The whole thing filled me with an urge to be better and then, immediate frustration.  It’s just that I’m having a harder time changing as I age.  I think about myself in a certain way, and my anxieties are set.  Eventually I rolled the car back up our driveway and when we entered the house, we realized we never planned dinner.

Judy called in some Mexican food and fifteen minutes later, I backed down the driveway past the electric deer grazing on our lawn, and turned towards town.  The CD player in my car is broken, and since my iPod broke after only 2 years I’ve decided it’s not worth replacing.  So I’m back to old mixtapes.  Their labels have long since lost their relevancy so every time I bring a new one into the car, it’s a surprise.  The one I chose was full of music I hadn’t listened to in fifteen years.

Electric deer.

I thought back to a couple of girlfriends from that era who had attended concerts with me.  We shared good times, broke up, and then I stalked them both for years, but amazingly, neither worked out.  I thought back to another girl, one who would hang out with me in my dorm room.  We’d get high and listen to music and then write.  She moved to Italy and disappeared completely.  What happened to these people?  I felt ambushed by the past as I drove over the small bridge that leads into my town.  Five minutes before I was in my house with my wife and growing daughters and then suddenly, I was in my dorm room with candles melting and a girl swaying to music with her eyes closed.

When you’re young you can’t understand how the past could ever tempt you. I’m getting older.

Anyway, I made it to the Mexican place and parked in the empty church lot across the street.  I love December because it gets dark at 4:30.  We eat early, go to sleep early, and wake early.  The taqueria was brightly lit against the darkness, like a Christmas pin on a goth chick.  No one was around, it was perfectly silent.  The only sound I noticed were the chrome crickets chirping in my ears, a result maybe, of all those concerts I attended.  The moon was full, and its light improved everything it touched.

The girl behind the counter was pregnant.  Maybe a few months…

“Do you need napkins?  Want hot sauce?” she said.

Thinking of my daughters I made a mental note not to check out her ass as she turned around to use the credit card machine.

“I’ll take some hot sauce,” I said.

Through a door that led to the kitchen I noticed a large hispanic man with his arms folded across his chest, glaring at me. Maybe he was just looking at me, I don’t know.  His hat was on backwards and he looked dirty.  He had just cooked food for my family.  I smiled at him and nodded in the way that white people smile and nod at menacing minorities.  He reacted by turning around to scrape the grill.

“Green or red?”

“Which is…”

“The red is hotter.”

“I’ll take the red.”

I wanted to ask the girl about her belly but I didn’t, just in case.  What I didn’t want to do was say something about the miracle of parenthood.  Not that I didn’t believe it, just that I would want it to be meaningful and it wouldn’t end up that way.  She had no choice but to hear whatever I said, so I decided to say nothing and free her of the obligation of having to listen.

More than anything, I felt some silent desire to help her and thought maybe that saying nothing was the best I could do.  I just wanted her and her baby to be okay but I don’t know why I think like that.  Of course they’ll be okay, right?  But she’s pregnant and there’s some mean looking dude cooking burritos a few feet away from her unborn fetus and maybe that’s what made me nervous for her.

I completed the transaction and entered the outside again.

It looked like a white spike.

Just as I started to open my car door the church bells started to ring.  I stood there to listen.  I felt secure.  Comforted.  What could go wrong when church bells were ringing?  The baby would be fine.  My family would be fine, too.  Across the street I could see the counter girl through the window, texting.

I looked away from the girl and up at the spire.  Huge white floodlights lit it so that it looked like a white spike piercing the dark sky.  You look up at a spire like that on a clear cold night in December, it’s so bright it’s almost loud.  And from the spire I looked up and saw the stars.

They were singing to me and I was breathing in planets.

No, you can just never tell what’s going to become a memory and what’s lost forever. So pay attention.
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At The King Kullen

I walked into the King Kullen. It was bright, lit up like a sitcom, and empty. I was there for beer. I passed the fresh flowers that weren’t fooling anyone and walked onto the main concourse, feet clipping. It was me, the products, the surveillance cameras and some hum. The bread aisle was fragrant. Clear plastic rectangles full of split butter tops. Home Pride. I passed a huge poster of a smiling kid near the milk. The poster boasted of the nutritional value of King Kullen’s milk. King Kullen’s milk.

“Ha!” I thought.

I made a sharp turn and walked to the beer. At the case I was overcome with the options and couldn’t make any decision. I just stood there completely blasted for like, five minutes. Red-Tailed Hawks, American Flags. Beer and nature. Beer and patriotism. Dross dripped from the overhead speakers. Some mechanical beat and over it some false voice singing something like, “Don’t you feel so good.” And I just felt like complete shit. And I guess I stood there long enough, and I don’t know, maybe it was my paranoia but some girl who worked at King Kullen came over and started to clean the case, like, wiping down the beer shelves. So I picked some random beer that was at my price point and walked off.

There were no human cashier’s present so I went to the self checkout. There was a screen with a little cartoon person pressing a button and so I pressed the button. I scanned my beer, although it took me a minute to find the UPC code. And since it was beer, a little cartoon hand popped up on the screen, a pixellated palm telling me to wait. Out of a gray wall a gray door opened and a woman walked over, smiled at me, punched something into the computer at the end of the self checkout aisle and nodded. I nodded back. She was allowing me to continue my purchase, and so I did.

An odd pride settled over me. I walked near the doors and they slid open. Effortlessness everywhere. I left King Kullen with a girl who had just finished her shift. She was maybe 10 steps ahead of me and we were walking in the same direction. And I just felt like I was following her, even though I wasn’t. I was just walking to my car. I still felt, even though I was out of the store, that I was being surveilled. Surveilled and surveilling. I heard every sound in that lot.

I started the music in my car, and I drove to a house on a street.

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