Hogmanay

Yes, today is Hogmanay (Celtic for last day of the year), and I would be remiss if I didn’t off my sincere wishes for each and everyone of you to have a happy, healthy, successful New Year.

This past year has seen its share of ups and downs, none of which need to be rehashed, other than to say, to those who read my blog, you’ve been an instrumental part of my successes this year. From the support of my blog to the acceptance of my poem in DEATH IN COMMON, I thank you.

Many reflect back on the past year, intent on making changes, creating resloutions, and hoping to better themselves. I really don’t do that. Birthdays are always the time for my reflections, and quite frankly, I’m happy with the person I am right now.

I would like to read more, shed a few pounds, write more, and have more work published. It’s all up to me though; my footwork dicates my successes (or failures). My one resolution, if I can be contradictory so soon, is not to blog about something and not get around to it (ie my podcast which I’m still trying to get done, dammit).

Of course, not being unemployed for very long is on that list too.

To each and every one of you, a Happy New Year!

The Pay Day Loan Problems

In theory, payday loans should be a good thing. Short on cash? A quick loan until payday can come in handy. However, most payday loans have interest rates in the 300-500% range, and climb substantially higher if you defer your payment.  

I mention this, as I spoke with someone today,who started a vicious cycle with one loan for a modest amount, and ended up filing bankruptcy when their multiple loans totaled over 6000 dollars for loans totaling less tha 1200. Now, not only are they up the creek financially, their credit is demolished, their bank account closed, and a long battle to financial stability.

In these hard economic times, and the season we’re in, it’s easy to look for a quick fix.  However, with payday loans you’re likely to get yourself in a deeper hole, than what you were in the first place. In the years I’ve been in debt/budget counseling, almost 75% of people I’ve talked to, who found themselves in dire straits, had taken out one or more loans. 

Many states have already legislated strict laws on these services, and here in AZ there was a law passed this past election to outright ban them. 

There are many alternatives, but payday loans should never be one of them.

Things That Made Me Smile This Year

Everyone has their best of lists, favorites lists, etc, and frankly I haven’t played enough games or seen enough movies to make a 10 best list; instead this is a buffet (since no one says smorgrasbord anymore) of things that made me smile.

13th Star – Fish

This got a deluxe early release in September of last year, but didn’t have its US release until February of this year, so I’m putting it in. A remerkable album, filled with passion, soul and some cowbell on a couple of tracks. At a lean 55 minutes over 10 tracks, Fish creates some of his best music and insightful lyrics ever. Pretty damn impressive given his solo work and time with Marillion. In light of recent events he blogged about with his throat problems, it’s only all the more impressive.

The Dark Knight

One of the few movies I saw this year-at an IMAX theater no less, it lost none of its excitement or thrills for me as I watched it again on DVD. With such strong performances from Heath Ledger and Gary Oldman, Batman as played by Christian Bale, is overshadowed. The action is nonstop, the music is some of the best I’ve heard in a long time, and well, it had me on the edge of my seat for the whole movie.

SuperBad

Yes, I know this is a summer movie from ’07 but I only saw it this year. Its go for broke raunchiness is tempered by an ending that had me a bit choked up. Michael Cera, a favorite from Arrested Development, Cera has the comedic acting chops to be around for a long, long time.

Secret Millionaire

This one is a bit of a guilty pleasure. Fox’s new reality show, allows a millionaire to pose as someone poor in order to look for people to help. It’s about as shallow and contrived as one can get, but I swear, when they break the checks out at the end, the look on people’s faces is worth the 50 minutes of cringe inducing moments.

World of Warcraft/Wrath of the Lich King

Anyone who’s read my blog,  by now knows my love (indeed obsession, perhaps), for the game. It’s brought me hours of joy, diversion and excitement in ways I could have never imagined. Oh, I know it’s only a video game, but there’s something that happens once you log in…you lose yourself in it the way you do in a great novel or movie. And as much as I loved WoW when I first started playing in April, I have come to adore it even more with the expansion. Brilliant game.

Rusty, Cussedness, ETT

And most everyone else who details the exploits of the nitwits. If I listed everyone I’d have a list as long as Nikita’s problems, so don’t feel excluded.

Death in Common

I still have a smile from this one. The first published appearance of my work as a writer. What’s not to smile about?

Odetta

And finally no list of things which make me smile would be complete without my cat Odetta. She keeps me going, and is the only anchor I sometimes feel I’ve got to this life. For almost 5 years now, this furry little friend has been my constant companion, and life wouldn’t be the same without her.

 

So, now you know what made me smile this year,  what about you? What made you smile this year?

How I Spent My Christmas Holiday

For Christmas Eve, Mom, her b/f and I went to mimi’s cafe for dinner. That was probably our first mistake. Mimi’s is a somewhat upperscale chain restaurant; I’ve only been there for breakfast a couple of times and loved that.

Dinner was something else. Our waitress was on auto pilot. She was polite, but not there. When we got our drinks, my Mom and i noticed the cokes tasted funny.  Rather than just whisk them away and see if there was something wrong, she got somewhat defensive and offered something else. “We just replaced the syrup so it couldn’t be that,” she said. Mom stuck with it, but I couldn’t drink it, and got a raspeberry iced tea which was better. Mom and Jere ordered turkey, even though Mom said she didn’t want it for Christmas. They said it was pretty good, if somewhat dry. I ordered Chicken fried steak-something I have only a couple of times a year, as my arteries can only tolerate so much. Bad choice. These were simply frozen patties that they deep fried, and tasted like cardboard in a barely warm and quickly congealing pepper gravy. The mashed potatoes were bland and best forgotten. When the check came it totaled close to 50 bucks; however when Mom got the receipt it said 25 dollars. She brought this to the attention of the stepford waitress, who took it went away and came back saying there’d been a mistake, and it would show up as either 25 plus the difference on her statement, or as the full amount, she didn’t know which.  We left quickly, and once at my Mom’s house, I was mauled (in a very friendly way) by their dog Roxie. I love this dog, and the dog loves me, and I always love seeing her, though her smell pisses my cat off. She apparently thinks I’m seeing other pets behind her back, and ignores me for a couple of days.

After settling in a bit, Mom and i set about cooking the meat for the baked ziti. I was in charge of the sausages, and browned them to perfection except for one which was a bot overdone and squirted hot fat on my arm as  itried to turn it over. We watched a bit of tv, talked some, and we all went to bed early. 

Christmas morning, Mom panicked a bit as she thought the red sauce was a bit thin, and needed tomato paste. Two closed Walmarts, a closed Fry’s grocery store, 3 open Walgreen’s and a Circle K later, we still had no tomato paste.  The sauce turned out fine, but watching Mom get annoyed by the thinness of the sauce was amusing. It was also a nice way of us spending some together. we talked about my Dad, and how he’s still missed, even 19 years after his death; my grandparents, and other family members. A bittersweet talk, but one for the record books anyway. 

We had on BBC America that morning and watched some truly funny Christmas shows from Absolutely fabulous, and another from a woman whose name I can’t remember. ***A quick search tells me it was The Catherine Tate Show. This woman is hysterical, catch her show if you ever get a chance***And then there was the message from the Queen Mum. If her plan was to comfort Britain and spread the warmth of the season, she really failed. One of the most depressing things I have ever seen. Those of you in the UK may be able to tell me if all her Christmas messages are that dreary. I would hope not. She spent a majority of it talking about the serviceman in war-and I have no problem with that-but it was so utterly razor-across-the wrist inducing, it almost seemed like a parody.

We finally got around to opening our presents. The best of the lot, was a pair of wireless headphones for Jere, who’s deaf as a post, and can’t hear the tv unless it’s so loud, the airport tells us it can’t hear. My nephew David set it up-he does the AV stuff, I do the PC stuff, and I never saw a happier man in my life. “I can hear it perfectly!” he said, with a tear literally in his eye. 

I got my new Nintendo DS to replace the one I broke a couple of months ago, along with Chrono Trigger, one of the classic RPG’s, that was recently ported to the DS. I also got assorted gift cards, undies, socks, etc. My nephew david, his fiance Mary Beth and my other nephew Bryan showed up around noon, and it was good seeing them. Even Bryan who’s been in and out of jail and living on and off on the street for a few years now. 

Lunch was excellent. The ziti perfect, and since there was no drinking, there were no family fights. My sister called and we all spent time talking with her for a bit, and our day wound down, culminating in a movie. you’d think it would be a Christmas movie, Miracle on 34th St., National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, or something, but no-we watched Young Frankenstein. And that wasn’t even my decision, it was Mom’s.  Neither of my nephews had ever seen it, nor had Mary Beth, and it was wonderful watching them laugh themselves silly over jokes I’ve known by heart forever. 

Like all good things, the night came to a close, I went home and found that Detta was pissed off at me for leaving her alone (even though I’ve done it before), by a pile of cat turd on my pillow.  I’ve been home 24 hours now, she’s been fed 3 times and refuses to let me pet her. 

Cats.

The Ubiquitous Holiday Greeting

It’s Christmas Eve, and though it’s only 9:36 AM Phoenix time, I want to take this opportunity to wish each and every one of you a very Merry Christmas! May you find all you dreamed for under the tree this year, and may health and happiness follow you into the next.

I’ll be at my Mom’s, and though I’ll be bringing my laptop with me, not sure if I will have a chance to post.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and remember, don’t eat the yellow snow!

Larry the Thief – Update

Proving once again that any attention is better than none at all, Dagstine manages to hijack another thread and make it about him. In a quite innocuous thread, S.D. Hintz talked about your first job as a teenager.

Innocent enough, right? Then along comes Larry the Thief who says,

The tips back then ranged from 2 bucks to ten per delivery, throw the regular hourly rate on to that, then throw me “Helping Myself” here and there from the cash register or Lotto box (shhh….lol). That pay on some weeks was more like $15.00 per hour.

 

A thief is a thief is a thief, no matter the age. The fact he was a teenager and, presumably, knew wrong from right, and stole money is a crime. Thus, beginning the pattern of thinking everyone owes him something, rather than relying on his own efforts.

See, some things never change.

http://shocklinesforum.yuku.com/topic/8725?page=2

Update – Matt the Grinch

Just as Cussedness pointed out, Matt did lock the thread, and once more I’m left to wonder why? Was it our taking Daggy to task for theft that did it? RN Lee calling bullshit on the whole story? Or maybe Matt, frustrated that his Milton wunderkind is rejecting his overtures, got in a snippy mood and decided to take it out on those of us who know BS when they smell it.

Or maybe it’s because, Larry was Matt’s secret santa, (something Daggy made sure to advertise in another thread), and wanted to protect his “special” friends.

Christmas Plans

Christmas, despite all my humbuggery, is my favorite time of the year. The Christmas trees, the decorations, music, and food all take part in creating one of the years hilights in my life. It’s not so much about the presents-not anymore-it’s about family and counting who’s still alive.

I’ve blogged about this before, but felt the need to repeat myself again as it’s what I’ve been thinking about these past few days. Growing up, Christmas was always an adventure in traveling.  Whether it was over to Smithtown on Long Island to spend the day with Pat and Jack, or to New Jersey to visit one of my Uncles; or my grandmother before she became unable to live on her own. Every once in a blue moon we’d go to my Aunt Eileen’s and Uncle Frank’s, but since they had 9 kids between them from 2 marriages, they had enough to deal with, without even more mouths to feed. It was only when we moved to AZ (years after my Aunt Eileen made the move),  that her home became Christmas central.

It was always about family.  We’d sometimes make several different stops throughout the day. Pat and Jack’s my godparents, on the way to or from Jersey. It was always a long day, a long drive and tiring.  My father would always complain about the driving and say “I’m not doing this next year!”

To which my Mom would respond, “Well I’m not cooking next year!”

“Fine, we’ll go to a restaurant.”

I thought about that, as I talked with my Mom about plans for Christmas this year. “Well, we’ll probably go to a restaurant this year. I can’t do it anymore (meaning the cooking).”

“What about David and Marybeth?” I ask, referring to my nephew and his fiance.

“I don’t know what they’re doing. I need to call them.” All that was earlier last week. I called her yesterday, and ask what the plans were, and she said, “Well I’ll be making baked ziti, David and Marybeth will be over.” 

And it goes on….

This has been a stressful holiday though. with my impending layoff in January,  the upcoming dental work and the money for that-a rent increase, it’s been a bit scrooge like. But, as I said it’s never been about the presents; it’s about the family, no matter how dysfunctional they may be. And as I get older, and watch family pass on year by year, those who are left standing mean more and more.

I miss those who have passed, or gone missing, and yet feel their presence this time of the year.

That’s present enough for me.