My Daughter, Fitty Scent

Not the rapper. My daughter.

I’m going to take to calling her Fitty Scent. I can always smell a FIT coming on, and it’s never far away. We’ve had to instruct her not to get “fitty” under threat of punishment in recent months. Seems the older she gets, the worse it becomes.

Now, the fits don’t last. They fizzle out pretty quick, and that’s a good thing. But she’s having them so regularly, so often, not a day goes by when I don’t have to either hear about one I missed while at work, or deal with one when I’m home. It’s a bit exhausting after a while.

I know it’s a phase she’s going through. I keep telling myself that. But sometimes it’s trying to deal with, and sometimes I just haven’t got the patience and kindness to work her out of it. Most days I can. Most days I can get her to smile and put aside whatever’s bugging her. But on those occasions when her fits intersect with my weariness, it’s a problem.

Some day I’ll look back on this time and lament it’s passing. I’ll wonder how I ever let it get away from me. How did I let those moments slip by without recognizing how precious they are? But now, in the lean hours and in the clenched teeth and taut neck, it’s hard. So hard.

So, she’s Fitty Scent for now. And when I finally don’t catch that scent any more, I’ll be a happy camper.

And will weep that day, too.

-jdt-

Thursday

Today is the first day of my vacation. I’ve got the next 12 days off, and I won’t see the inside of my ridiculous and infuriating cubicle until 2013. Neither will I have to deal with the childish angst of office gossip and rumor mills, and the back-biting, grammar-school popular-kid clique-ish attitudes. No, I will not miss them.

But I will continue on with my training video. I will also continue to think about and noodle with Appmageddon, because that sonuvab!tch is eating me alive. I have made some progress, but not enough to be impressive to anyone but me.

I’m going to try and get something published to Kindle, too. Probably just a rehash of one of my longer stories, but it’s what I got. I’ve let a lot of time pass without doing much in that regard. Now that I have a few days to myself, maybe I can get something done.

So, my posts will be spottier (if that’s possible) over the holidays. I’ve got a lot to do, and regrettably, the blog tends to take a hit when I get busy like this. Hope you’ll all understand. Besides, my traffic has tanked for some reason. I guess Google adjusted their sandwich algorithm and threw the switch away from me. Ah, well; nothing lasts forever.

Have a good weekend, and if I don’t see you beforehand, have a Merry Christmas (yes, with the CHRIST in it) and a Happy New Year.

-jdt-

Bitten

On Friday I sat beside my seven year-old daughter and watched a movie some ten years older than she is. Maybe you’d seen it flop on its way to the cheap DVD bin in Walmart – it was called Bad Moon and starred Michael Pare and Mariel Hemingway. Remember them? Yeah, almost nobody does.

So, I perused the likes of Netflix and Vudu for movies to watch. I’ve been hankering for a good movie of the horror variety and decided I was willing to pay for it. So I went through and spent a lot of hours on both services to come out with a handful of movies. I chose this one because, well…I really like werewolves, and I really don’t like zombies or vampires anymore. That’s a post for a different day, but for now, zombies and vampires are tired and hackneyed.

So I popped in a werewolf movie and watched my daughter’s face to make sure she wasn’t too frightened by it.

I find it intriguing that I reach for werewolf movies first. They’re my favorite horror/monster movies. And there’s no logical explanation for that on Earth. I shouldn’t like them at all.

As a boy, and I mean a small child now, I used to watch monster movies with my father. I spent countless Saturday afternoons with him watching corny Creature Feature movies on some independent or UHF-band TV station. (If you’re too young to know what those things mean, sorry; I’m not going into those explanations right now). He usually nodded off while I watched. But as a very small boy, I couldn’t get through one type of horror movie.

Werewolf movies.

Somehow, seeing Lon Chaney tiptoe around on canine feet with fur all over his face and those wiry-haired hands sent me into weeping terror. I cried, I cowered, I sought the solace of my parents to tuck myself beneath them. For some reason, the music seemed to trigger it for me. I could watch a movie if my mother held her hand over my ear while I laid in her lap. Maybe it was just laying in my mother’s lap with her hand over me that made me feel safe, I don’t know.

Once, I came home from school in horror and frightened, depressed. When my mom queried about it, I pulled up my sleeve to show her the newly-discovered arm hairs which surely meant I was bound to turn when the moon rose. She of course dispelled my fears with reminders of the length, weight and amount of hair on my father’s arms, and he wasn’t a wolfman, so I had nothing to fear. It worked. I was greatly relieved, and my mother still fondly tries to embarrass me with this story (even though I was only five or so at the time, and it’s really not embarrassing).

I had an aunt who’s only about 6 years older than me. She, of course, got me to sit in the dark and watch Rod Serling’s Night Gallery at my grandmother’s house. And then she’d sneak away while I was held in thrall by the show and would startle me or leave me calling into the long, terrible, dark hallway of my grandmother’s narrow, long house. Hiding behind either my grandmother’s recliner or behind one of the separating walls was a favorite tactic of hers. I remember shaking with butterflies flopping in my stomach, heart palpitating rabbit-quick in my chest, anticipating the start, but couldn’t stop from jumping and crying out when she did. Then the choruses of “Sissy!” and “Oh, don’t be such a baby!” would follow and I had to fight for a scrap of dignity.

But for werewolf movies, I couldn’t hold up. I just… couldn’t. I buckled under the weight of the adrenaline and horror, unable to rip my eyes away and yet covering my face with my hands to prevent myself from having to watch. Or I’d cover my ears to shut out the horrible sound effects and blood-chilling music. And then my aunt, seeing me that way, would slip away to startle me. Again.

I don’t know when that changed, but somewhere along the way, I began to have a real love affair with werewolves. By the time I saw classics (for my generation) like The Howling, An American Werewolf in London, and the misleading Wolfen, which I hated, I loved werewolves. Couldn’t get enough of ‘em. Still can’t. I sit in anticipation and tingle and get a giddy excitement when I think I’ve found a winner.

There were lots of them through the 90s, too, not the least of which is big-ticket Wolf, starring Jack Nicholson and Michelle Pfeiffer. And, among those peeking through in the 90s, came Bad Moon. And of course, I saw it. Not in theaters, naturally – I’ve not been a fan of that experience because of the a$$holitude of people for many years – but when they rolled around on cable and On Demand services. Or I’d rent them at places like Blockbuster and those Mom-‘n’-Pop video rental shops. Remember those?

One of my favorite movies of the genre stars Christina Ricci and Jesse Eisenburg as siblings who turn. It’s called Cursed, from back in 2005. It started me on the road of respect for Christina Ricci as an actress, who showed me she’s much more than Wednesday Addams. And later, I saw Ginger Snaps 2 and Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning (though I still haven’t seen the original, which I’d not heard of even though it’s a cult favorite from 2000). I sat through jokes like Van Helsing with Hugh Jackman during his brief stint as an action hero, and of course beautiful Kate Beckinsdale’s Underworld. I waited with glee for Benicio del Toro’s The Wolfman, with Anthony Hopkins, which stank by the way, and have seen a few others as well. But nothing set my heart hammering and my adrenaline racing, which always puts a smile on my face.

I guess you really can’t go back.

In the end, I guess it might have been werewolf movies which made it possible for me to do away with the ability to suspend disbelief and sit captured by the imaginative world of a movie. I have people like my aunt to thank, who taught me how unwise it is to trust myself to a movie’s world and story too far. After all, it’s hard to slip fully back into reality and not jump when someone pounces from around a corner with a shout and hooked-claw fingers.

But I’ll always love werewolves, I think.

Maybe I’ll write a story of my own.

-jdt-

‘Tis the Season…

We put up our Christmas decorations this weekend. Yes, this past weekend. They’re up. Tough if you don’t like it. We do. And you know what? It took me down memory lane. Big surprise there, huh?

Christmas tree lights ain’t what they used to be. I noticed this the first time back in 2010, when my loving spouse and I went Christmas light shopping for the first time in years. Most of them, at least at my local Walmart, are LED strings. While they’re bright and colorful, my wife nailed it when she said they’re “just as bright, not as sparkly” as the incandescents. She’s right, they’re not.

But this year, we found the more traditional (to us) incandescent strings of white lights, and I took a few hours out of my life Saturday to put them on our three miniature trees. (Yes, three.) Each strand of 100 added brilliance and warmth to the room. My back screamed by the end of it all, but it was worth it to see the kids’ eyes light up when they saw.

‘Tis the season to be jolly.

Our kids hang the ornaments, Ness helps them with the tiny strings of bead garland, and they each put a topper on one of the trees. By the end, of course, the kids are bored senseless and just want it over with, but we have a good time until then. And next year the lights will already be in place so that hassle won’t be there. All in all, we have a good time.

I remember how unpleasant Christmas tree decorating used to be for me. Year after year it seemed to get worse. I think, in a weird way, that taught me how important it is to have, not a professionally-beautiful tree, but a joyful one.

Growing up, my mother always made sure we had a department-store perfect Christmas tree. My earliest memories are of a white artificial tree. My father inserted wooden “limbs” into the pre-drilled “trunk”, each peg and hole numbered with handwritten marker, to indicate where they went. I don’t know whether my dad numbered them or if the tree came that way, but artificial trees certainly aren’t like that now, are they?

My mother’s perfect trees demanded precision, exacting standards, and no compromise. Sometime before 1976, she started insisting on real trees in lieu of the old artificial one, with its fuzzy-shiny garland and fragile glass bulbs everywhere. The real tree couldn’t be a standard Douglas fir, either; no, it had to be a Blue Spruce or Cypress or some other conifer with small, delicate needles and none of the wide gaps between strata of limbs. It must be full, it must be without holes in the needle coat, and it must stand straight.

‘Tis the season to be jolly.

And so we’d go to a Christmas tree lot every year and spend endless hours searching for the right tree, perfect and unblemished, and when the first search inevitably turned to failure, we trudged away to another lot, and another. Each time my mother openly criticized the vendor and his product and embarrassed us, until at last we found a tree upon which she could settle. Then we’d get it home and begin the fun-filled task of positioning the tree, so only the perfection in her mind’s eye, would show. Twist the stand this way, fool! Place that part there. More. More. Too much, damn you! No, hide that hole, you idiots! Don’t have that facing out! Then the beer or wine would flow and things went downhill from there.

She also demanded the smaller, more delicate indoor lights rather than the big, indoor/outdoor jobbies. Those were relegated to the eaves along the façade of the house. My father had to get up on the roof and hang over the gutters to nail them in place, while my mother stood hands on hips below and barked instructions on how the lights weren’t evenly spaced, or were crooked and pointed willy-nilly rather than straight down.

‘Tis the season to be jolly.

When we moved to a new subdivision later, the house had a vaulted living room ceiling. And my mother, because she insisted on extravagance rivaling the Rockefeller Center’s annual tree, demanded taller and taller trees to fill the vertical space. And, of course, this meant more and more ornaments and lights to make the tree glow and sparkle as her mind’s eye envisioned. Which, of course, meant more shopping for ornaments – and not cheap stuff from K-Mart or Ben Franklin or Pay-n-Save. No, this meant department store ornament shopping, with price tags to prove it. She kept things reasonable when only my dad worked. In the 80s, she went back to the workforce, and felt free to spend freely. Very freely. So, the trees got bigger, the ornaments more expensive, and the gifts more plentiful. She spent years collecting a “Christmas Village” of tiny porcelain buildings, and Nativity sets which cost hundreds of dollars. And she’d drink and froth and slather and snarl to have the tree done just so by her slave laborers the weekend after Thanksgiving.

Small wonder then my dad seemed to hate the holiday season. He didn’t really, of course, he just hated the preparations. I can’t say I blame him; my mother didn’t really do much but supervise and get nasty. OH, and get drunk. Let me not forget that part. Beer in one hand, yelling and frothing for perfection as she slowly submerged into slurred speech and staggering.

‘Tis the season to be jolly.

When finished, the trees were always perfect and beautiful. Every bow precisely placed, not too far from its neighbors, neither too near. Every ornament in the exact perfect spot such that no voids remained, every inch of tree treated the eye to a touch of beauty or whimsy. Thousands upon thousands of white lights covered the increasingly massive trees afforded by a vaulted living room ceiling, and it sparkled within and without, because my mother demanded we make the lights appear as stars. Cords ran up the trunk, hidden from view, and nowhere else.

The ever-larger angel figures my mother found to adorn the tops – the last one I  remember had its own power supply because there were so many lights – required an industrial ladder 20 feet long to place. My dad had to bring that ladder home from work every year to get the topper on the dizzying top bough of the tree. (Eventually, we learned to put the topper on first, while the tree could be laid on its side.) The displays were worthy of Better Homes and Gardens or Martha Stewart Living magazine covers.

‘Tis the season to be jolly.

And we hated it. We never wanted to see it again when we finished. We foresaw the anguish, the torture, of taking the monstrous beast down after January 6th, dry branches poking and stabbing to avenge the tree’s lost life. Each light strand had to be carefully stowed for reuse the following year, the ornaments each placed back in their original packaging to protect the precious gems. Each ribbon, every bow, had to be returned to its original state before being packed away in cardboard boxes which were tossed into the garage without a second thought, some of the treasures within crushed or chipped during their long slumber.

And while we plucked the delicate glass fruit from the precarious perches, and the creaking, dry timber of the tree shook dry, crackling needles into the carpet, my mother sat and watched and drank and barked and frothed and slathered below.

‘Tis the season to be jolly.

So it is with great pride I say my mother’s gift of perfectionism passed down to me, and I haven’t in any way inflicted it on my family. The children place the ornaments without concern of “doing it wrong”. I guide them, gently, when they’re getting narrow of vision and only hang ornaments in one area of the trees, but other than that, they’re free to do it as it pleases them. The lights are my responsibility. My wife hates doing lights, and I don’t mind, so it works out. The rest of the decorating is her chore, and so far, so good. We’re happy, there are no fights, no one is an idiot, a fool or a moron, no one is slurring-staggering drunk, and the children don’t seem to hate doing the tree. They get bored and express that, but they still help. When we make them. Otherwise they’d rather watch videos on YouTube or play games. Who wouldn’t? (Me. I like this stuff.)

And they look forward to Christmas just as much as I did, with none of the trepidation about the torture and fighting and frothing, slathering, order-barking I dealt with growing up. In that, I take a great deal of pride.

‘Tis the season to be jolly. Ho ho ho, y’all.

-jdt-

Friday Freedom

Oh, people. I’ve missed the Internet. With blinding speed I’ve hopped from web site to web site, and with much joy I’ve watched movies, videos, streams… I’ve had multiple downloads happening simultaneously… I’ve gone from Facebook to Twitter to deviantART.com without delays, buffering, page loading clocking… I’ve gone to SpeedTest.net and SpeakEasy.net and run those tests over and over just to watch the meters graphically show how fast, how incredibly fast, our Internet connection goes.

All for less money than we paid for the lousy not-quite DSL speeds we had before.

The Lord has blessed us richly recently, and it’s such a wonderful change from the years which came before. I can’t tell you how happy I am. And the kids don’t seem to mind not having the TV aspect, so we’re all content with either Netflix, Amazon Instant Videos or Vudu video services so far. Maybe in the future we’ll trade up, but for now, we’re pretty happy with the ability to use the web.

Freedom. It’s a great thing.