So Long, 2005

Saturday, December 31, 2005
I'm ready to scrap this year.

Only three things -- my great job, my move to a warm climate and my amazing trip across the country -- redeem 2005. (But only slightly.)

The rest of the year can go to hell.

Never have I been through such an emotional tornado. And everyone else around me seemed to suffer as well. Heck, the whole damn world seemed to fall apart.

It was 365 days of life's big bitchslap.

I'm raising a glass right now to a much better 2006. Prost!

Ice, Ice Baby

Thursday, December 29, 2005

It's hard to believe that at this time last year, my car spent 10 days trapped under an igloo of ice and snow.

Jason and I finally had to go at it with pick axes, though we still couldn't go anywhere anyway. Humps of snow as big as Russian submarines lined the end of the driveway, and the ice-crusted ruts in the street were only manageable by Hummers.

I spent entire months in Ohio being cold. I woke up cold, I took cold showers, I went to bed cold. I had cold feet, a cold nose, cold hair. My car was cold, my clothes were cold, my cubicle was cold. At home, I sat by the radiator in layers of sweaters and covered by down-filled blankets, and I was still cold. And there's nothing I hate more than being cold.

Now, every time I get chilly when the sun sets on 65-degree nights and I pull a sweater over my shoulders, I try to remember the time I had to take a pick axe to my own car to extract it from an ice cube.

Yeah, I try to remember that time. But I really don't want to.

A Visit From St. Nick: Vegas Style

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

'Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the casino
Every creature was stirring, even those playing keno;
The stockings were pulled up to thigh-high,
In hopes that Santa, Baby, Santa! soon would be by;
The children all clutched their fake IDs,
Visions of sugar-plums they hoped to see;
Mama in her mini, and the guys in their suits,
Had just hit the slots looking for loot;
When at the Bellagio fountain arose such a clatter,
I jumped from the craps table to see was the matter.
Away to the door I flew like a flash,
Only I couldn’t find it because I had been drinking – and casinos tend to be really sneaky about those exits anyway.
About ten minutes later I wandered outside
And saw nothing but a 16-year-old bride.
Then, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But all my friends with a bucket of beer.
"Now, Miller! Now, Coors! Now, Bud and Red Tail!
On, Guinness! On Molson! On, lager and ale!
To the bottom of the bottle! To the top of that wall!
Now drink away! Drink away! Drink away all!"
Later inside the bar, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing just like a hoof.
I told the bartender there's a reindeer up there,
Just about the time I fell out of my chair.
I tried to explain about Prancer and Vixen,
But the bouncer accused me of being too blitzen.
I was tossed outside with a new group of chums,
A lady of the night and a big group of bums.
One man immediately had me on alert --
His clothes were all soiled with ashes and dirt.
A beard, big and white, covered his face like snow,
And he looked as giddy as Kate Moss on blow.
His eyes -- oh, they twinkled! His dimples, how nice!
His ears dripped with bling, his neck covered in ice.
His teeth held the stump from a Swisher Sweet,
And his feet tapped out a fun, jazzy beat.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
But to get a whiff of him was quite smelly.
He was chubby and plump, a rear like J. Lo,
And he didn't say much other than "Ho, ho, ho."
A wink of his eye and a smile on his face,
Made me reach into my purse to feel for my mace.
He shook his head no and said I have nothing to fear,
He was only in town to pass out Christmas cheer.
Suddenly people were winning all over town,
Every dealer began wearing a frown;
As the slot machines began to gush,
Every hand at the poker table was a royal flush.
The man leaned over and said, "Don't you see?
"As Santa, I want everyone to be as lucky as me!"
Turns out Saint Nick was far from lame,
To my surprise, he had lots of game.
Then I heard him exclaim, as the valet brought his sleigh over,
"Drink some water tonight, so you won't be hungover."

Happy Couple

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Congratulations to Carly and Mike, who were married in Vegas over the holiday weekend!

The Blessing Of The Apaches

Now you will feel no rain,
For each of you will be shelter to the other.
Now you will feel no cold,
For each of you will be warmth to the other.
Now there is no more lonliness for you,
For each of you will be companion to the other.
Now you are two bodies,
But there is only one life before you.
Go now to your dwelling place,
To enter into the days of your togetherness.
And may your days be good and long upon the earth.

So This Is Winter ...

Friday, December 23, 2005
One more reason to love the desert:

Today was the first official day of winter, and Jason and I spent the afternoon swimming.


Anyway, the Christmas festivities begin in ernest tomorrow, as we head to Vegas to see a couple friends.

In honor of the holidays, I'll make sure to only bet red on the roulette table, only drink things called "nog," and only hire hookers named Dancer or Prancer.

What a great way to celebrate, huh? This is going to be a whirlwind of dancing, drinking and putting dollars exactly where they don't belong.

And by the end of this weekend, I'm guessing I'll see Santa empty his sack at least once.

Spirits of the Season

Tuesday, December 20, 2005
I thought I hated Christmas.

For the past few years, I haven't fully celebrated the holiday. No tree, no decorations, no blinky lights. I usually volunteer to work, so the only thing that marks the special day is a pumpkin pie next to the coffee machine.

My only real Christmas has traditionally been with my immediate family. I exchange presents with them on the weekend before or the weekend after the holiday. The actual day doesn't matter so much anymore now that my mother has Alzheimer's Disease.

Honestly, I think I've purposely been denying myself of the celebration for several years. I have all these horrible feelings that weigh on me, thick and heavy as a fruitcake.

I'm angry I wasted so many holidays I should have cherished with my mother. I'm upset that I didn't appreciate Christmas more while we were all together. I'm sad that sometimes I feel so empty inside, like the spirit of Christmas has just skipped over me.

I'm so full of hurt and guilt about all the times I rolled my eyes or sighed or snapped at my mom about trimming the tree, wrapping the presents, going to church. I try to forget all the times I pouted because I didn't get enough presents or the right gifts or everything exactly the way I wanted it.

I took magical things about Christmas away from my mother -- all because I thought it was stupid, fake, annoying. And all along I was the one who was stupid, fake and annoying.

I wasn't a very good child. And every once in a while, I wonder if there is a God or a Santa or some other higher power who put me on a shitlist because of it. Maybe the people I love are jinxed because my actions have placed me on some heavenly naughty list.

So this year, I really shouldn't be feeling the spirit of Christmas. I'm really far away from home for my first time ever. I'm still shoved full of sadness and pain about the years of Christmas past. And I live in the desert, for God's sake, where the only thing white about Christmas is the sand.

But, for whatever strange reason, I feel it this year stronger than ever.

Here there are little white lights wound around the cacti, angels perched on top of the little retro condos, little dogs in Santa suits. As cheezy as it sounds, it really warms my heart.

I feel like it takes more courage to celebrate Christmas here. The spirit has to be ten times as strong to survive in the dry, desert heat. It has to be nurtured to grow. And it does.

What I like most about this Christmas is that I'm in a completely new environment, surrounded by new people, where I'm free to create some new traditions for my makeshift family of friends.

I have two little decorated Christmas trees in my condo now. I festooned the palms and cacti outside with lights and baubles. I've planned a rich and nourishing holiday meal for some of the friends I love dearly. I've sent some really thoughtful gifts to the people who mean the most in my life. And on Christmas morning, Jason and I will be delivering flowers to patients in an area hospital and feeding people who would otherwise be alone for the holiday.

This Christmas is all about letting go of the past, feeling joy in the present, fostering hope for the future.

(This is an entry for Tidings of Danger and Mayhem.)

The Gift of Christmas

Monday, December 19, 2005

This photo was taken at the company holiday party, just before I got fantastically drunk.

Thank you, baby Jesus, for free drink tickets.

Just Another Crazy Friday

Saturday, December 17, 2005
Last night I was restless.

I had the Friday night itch -- the need to get drunk, the urge to go out and commit senseless acts of debauchery, the overwhelming drive to dance on tables.

Unfortunately, being an adult spoiled all my fun.

Oh, I went out all right. I had two very respectable drinks -- one a speciality martini for my Drink of the Week column, the other a Mexican beer. And then I went home.

It wasn't that I didn't have fun people to hang around with. My boyfriend was there, as was a Midwestern buddy.

And it wasn't like we didn't have the opportunity. We went to two very cool insider bars. They're the kind of places only locals know about; seedy little drinking holes, where writhing on the pool table with the 8-ball in my pants wouldn't have even caused a second glance.

But I had to be responsible. Since Jason was also indulging in a couple drinks, I didn't want to get too wasted to drive. And with the brand-new vehicle, I didn't want to get into that whole business where I take a cab home and leave my car at the bar.

I'm also poor right now, and I didn't want to spend a fortune on liquid.

Also, Jason started his new job today -- at 7 a.m.

Put all of that together, and you end up in bed and asleep by midnight on a Friday.

Perhaps we're just being retro. We're bringing back the Victorian era. Next I'll stop showing ankles and saying "leg" in mixed company.

Or maybe we're just getting old.

At least there's always SATURDAY NIGHT!

Stay tuned for stories of tonight's depravity ...

So It's Come to This

Friday, December 16, 2005

I am a cat lady.

Need proof? I put my KITTEN in a SANTA HAT. And then I posed him and photographed him like a child or something.

It's pathetic. I can't even believe myself.

I'm worse than people who dress their dogs in expensive leather jackets that say "Spoiled Bitch" in tiny Swarovski crystals.

At least that's kind of stylish right now, thanks to Paris and her ilk.

Let me tell you, there's nothing cool or hip about putting Santa hats on cats. Not even close. I've got a one-way ticket to the rest home.

But first I need me about 82 more cats to dress up as elves.

Fetus Survives Fall!

Thursday, December 15, 2005
"Flipped over on diving exit. Good recovery. Good altitude awareness. Good barrell roll, back to stable, good job. Front loop SOLID. Back loop, then stuck on back for five seconds. Good rollover. Wave off and pull at correct altitude."

That was jump 10 in my skydiving logbook, Aug. 17, 2003.

Shayna Richardson -- who has been in the news lately as the pregnant woman who survived death plunge! -- will likely have a very different entry for her 10th jump in her logbook.

I'm sure you all have heard the story about that jump by now, because it's been sensationalized far and wide. And it's all a load of dung.

Over the past two days I've heard normally savvy journalists say the most ridiculous things:

"Both of her parachutes failed!"

"Her chutes didn't open!"

"She hit the ground, face first, in freefall!"

C'mon, people. You're journalists. Use a little common sense. (And stop using the word "chute." Nobody calls it that.)

If any of those things really had happened, this young lady certainly would be dead.

After a few years in the sport, I know now not to expect much accuracy when it comes to the press and skydiving. And that's simply because most journalists don't know anything about skydiving, and it's a really difficult sport to explain to those who haven't tried it.

Plus, it's really fun to make skydiving look edgy! And crazy! And EXTREME! AND DRINK MOUNTAIN DEW!! Boo-yah!

Still, it's hard for me to see story after story portraying this incident as gear failure when that wasn't the case.

The skydiver herself wrote about the accident on skydiving websites and has given more details about the incident.

First off, she was jumping a canopy that wasn't suitable for a student. Also, she had a perfectly good main parachute -- albeit with a common, easily fixable problem -- and she mistakenly cut it away, which she knows now she shouldn't have done. Then she had a problem with her reserve that could have been alleviated with the proper procedures.

Instead, she told Diane Sawyer, she let go of the toggles and told God she was ready for Him to take her home. (Even though skydiving isn't one of those sports where you should, you know, just give up and hope for the best. But that was her choice.)

And the video clips. My God, those horrible video clips. The news has started to look more like those stupid "Most Extreme Videos" shows, since footage from the incident has been chopped to bits and used improperly.

For example, on "Good Morning America," Diane Sawyer discussed the "failure" of the main parachute. To illustrate this, they showed a clip of the skydiver reaching to deploy -- and nothing coming out.

The problem is that they used a clip of the skydiver doing her practice ripcord touch. This is standard for student jumps, because it helps them get a feel for the handle before the actual deployment. It's PRACTICE. Nothing is supposed to come out.

I love skydiving with every fiber of my being, and I'm very upset to see the sport getting all this attention in such a negative, erroneous fashion. I'm angry that this whole thing makes skydiving look unneccessarily dangerous and bad.

Most of all, I'm upset that reputable news outlets are taking the word of a new, inexperienced skydiver at face value, rather than interviewing skydiving professionals about what went wrong. Journalists have an obligation to show the truth, and in this situation, they're not doing so. This woman really shouldn't be the spokesperson for skydiving.

I certainly didn't know much about the sport at 10 jumps. Check my logbook entry -- in freefall I was stuck like a turtle on my back for a good five seconds before I figured out how to flip over. (Heck, 300 jumps later, I still have worlds of things to learn about the sport.)

Had something malfunctioned on my 10th jump, I'm not sure how I would have reacted. And I'm not sure what I would have said to Diane Sawyer about the whole thing.

It's sad that Shayna Richardson is in that position, because she really doesn't know enough to speak authoritatively about the sport, the gear, the problems.

Anyway, my best goes out to this woman and her child. I hope both come out of this incident happy and healthy.

Sunshine On My Shoulders

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

It's been a rough year. For most of it, I felt like this little storm cloud was hovering over my head, raining on me at every chance.

But every once in a while, the cloud would blow away. Skies would clear. The air would calm.

Most recently, that happened Saturday.

It seemed like the day wouldn't be very special. I spent the bulk of it alone and didn't have anything exciting planned.

But I awoke to a sunrise so beautiful, I couldn't go back to sleep. I took a long, rambling bike ride through my neighborhood, which is lined by rocky canyons. Afterward, I swam laps in the pool, a sweeping sky overhead and hummingbirds buzzing through the trees. Later I sipped coffee in the hot tub, where I could see snow on the mountains around me.

At sunset, I took a walk and saw the last of the sunlight streak through the clouds and disappear. I felt clear and whole. I could breathe easy.

It was a rough year. But at least I had this sky, these colors, this respite.

Things Unsaid

Tuesday, December 13, 2005
Carols unsung, bells unrung. Ten things I should have said this year, but didn't.

1. I've known cows sexier than you.

2. You know the kind of crazy that lures children into the woods and uses bear traps to catch them for dinner? The kind of crazy that collects hairballs and toenail clippings and tiny cups of urine and stashes them away in brown boxes in the back of a closet? And the kind of crazy that keeps all this very quiet, very secret, and very bottled up inside? That's YOU.

3. For the last time, it's mannerism. Not man-yer-ism. It doesn't rhyme with aneurysm.

4. You know how I don't spend time with you anymore? It's because your husband asked me to sleep with him.

5. You're seriously the most neurotic person I know, and being friends with you is a lot of work. You need to chill out or seek help or get a hobby. Try golf. Or bowling, maybe. Or anything that would distract you from dissecting every single thing everybody says and does. You obsess over the things other people forget.

6. Learn how to lead. None of us have any respect for you.

7. Thanks for the job. I hope I don't let you down, because your confidence in me means so much.

8. I love you, and every day I miss your friendship more. But you chose the very lowest point in my life to say the absolute worst things to me. It was like you stabbed me in the gut when I was already poisoned. And every time I think about that, I get angry all over again. I'm finding it difficult to forgive you, even though I try again each day.

9. Your relationship inspires me and gives me hope for my future.

10. I don't really hate you. I'm sorry I said I did. And I wish you hadn't died before I had a chance to make things right.

Notorious C.A.T.

This is what happens when I have too much time on my hands. Poor tortured creature. Poor cat in the hat.

He looks resigned to his fate, though, huh?

Ha! I broke his spirit. Finally.

Shopping: Accomplished

Monday, December 12, 2005
I think I'm done with my Christmas shopping already.

No, really.

Could I ...?

I think so.

And if I remember correctly, I only set foot inside the mall once. Everything else was purchased online and should be squished in the back of someone's mail truck right about now.

The past few years I've developed some sort of phobia of the mall, as though Sears employees had been practicing aversion therapy on me. Maybe they shot my limbs full of electrical currents every time I touched denim outerwear and drill bits.

I get crazy in malls now. I can't stand being so close to so many people who are all so rude and grabby and allupinmygrill. I hate the mall bathrooms and the mall parking and the mall germs, all over the place, everywhere. I hate the people who walk too slow and the people who walk too fast and the people who just randomly, for no reason at all, come to a complete halt right in front of me. GAH!

So this year I decided to do the whole Christmas thing on the Internet. No driving. No waiting. No pushing. No wrapping. No shipping. And no tearing through my closet for a decent box that could possibly accomodate a large robe for my mother.

I did everything the e-easy way.

The biggest plus to online shopping, I've now learned, is that cheap red wine can come with me into every store. (Something I've only tried twice in real life.)

So if any of you get some really excellent gifts this year, don't thank me. Thank my friends Ernest and Julio. (Gallo, that is.)

Cactus Christmas

Sunday, December 11, 2005

I decorated this condo this evening in the cheapest, most ghetto way possible.

No lights to run up the energy bill. No inflatable Santa on the roof. No blinking, moving, plastic reindeer in the yard.

Just some gold garland, strung haphazardly around carport, and a zillion plain ornaments, hung from the cacti -- all courtesy of Big Lots.

I'm sure my neighbors hate it. I mean, this is a neighborhood where people frown upon garbage at the curb -- even on garbage day. I've already received a citation for having a short mailbox, for Christ's sake. These dollar store decorations are sure to decrease the value of all the expensive homes in a two-mile radius.

Still, I like the effect. It's quaint, kind of like that shoddy ol' Charlie Brown tree. And it's putting me in the mood for Christmas, even when every day is sunny and 75 degrees.