Saturday, November 26, 2011

Happy You're Welcomesgiving

After taking part in the annual American holiday of overeating known as Thanksgiving, I was left to ponder what should come next. I am not an avid shopper, so venturing out in the wee hours of the morning in search of those Black Friday deals was not on my agenda. I thought about the holidays, what they mean, and how we interpret those meanings into our actual deeds.

Christmas Eve is celebrated as a ramp up to the big day where everyone sheds their materialistic needs and selfish wants (yeah, that’s the ticket). Christmas Day is spent unwrapping presents, acting like you appreciate that present, and then asking for the gift receipt so you can go get what you actually want. The day after Christmas in the U.K. is known as Boxing Day. Boxing Day is a bank holiday that is used by our British counterparts to give gifts to the needy and people in the service industry. They also spend the day drinking beer and watching football (in America, we call that Sunday).

I thought about the tradition of Thanksgiving from the vantage point of the settlers. They gave thanks for the sustenance provided by the Native Americans for that ceremonial meal, and the farming advice that led to the settlers’ subsequent self sustainability. I doubt the Pilgrims would have used the fish they caught for anything other than that night’s meal. Without the expert tutelage of their “heathen” neighbors, they would never have known to use those scaled water dwellers as fertilizer for the sandy soil that was quickly becoming the bane of their New World existence. For that, they were eternally thankful, and to this day we celebrate by overeating and graciously saying “thanks.”

I quickly turned my mind’s eye to the vantage point of the Native Americans. What did they get out of that deal? The white man’s thanks were short lived. Yes, we assisted in a couple of slaughters of a common enemy (the partnership between Jamestown and Powatan that led to the attacks on the Monacan tribe), they allowed Pocahontas to marry John Rolfe (but only after she converted to Christianity and was baptized), and we even gave them back small pieces of their own land where they could live in peace, harmony, and poker tables.

I came up with the idea for the Native Americans to institute their own Holiday. It would occur the day after Thanksgiving each year. They could call it “You’re Welcomesgiving.” The premise would be simple and to the point. Those who choose to participate would make an effort to approach those who they had done favors for, tell them specifically what they had done for them, and follow it up with an immediate and snarky-toned “You’re welcome!”

Descendents of Powhatan could ceremonially start the flow each year by saying, “Good morning, and you’re welcome for all the fish.” The tradition to continue to pay the passive-aggressive comments forward with, “Oh yes, the fish in the soil bit. Yes, that was nice. However, do you remember the guns and ammo we gave you for smiting your enemies? You’re welcome!”

It would grow in popularity and would quickly gain momentum among the ranks of sarcastic and ironic people. You would hear about the vast lands that they gave up to the organized government in exchange for the beautiful reservations they have today followed by a peevish “You’re welcome!”

Being equally as petulant and unwilling to let themselves be bested, a descendant of John Smith might offer a retort of, “Indeed, thank you for that. And we shared our most prized possession with you and many of your people. Or have you forgotten about the plague? You’re welcome!”

There is an endless amount of fodder, and could go without repeat for many years. However, it must evolve into something in which the masses could partake. It could be opened up to anything and anyone.

Imagine working the day after Thanksgiving, but only because your coworker absolutely had to have the day off when that project was almost finished. You could call them at home while they were enjoying time with their family just to remind them of who made that possible.

I can hear it now, “Oh hey, so I’m sorry to be calling so early. Were you still sleeping? Well, I just wanted to let you know that I am here at the office working diligently on that project that WE need finished before the weekend. Don’t worry about it, I’ve got it under control. You enjoy your day off with your family and friends. And by the way, you’re welcome!”

It has an endless amount of possibilities. Women who only get a call from their kids on Christmas and Mother’s Day can pick up the phone and say “you’re welcome” for giving their ungrateful kids food and shelter for the first 18 years of their life. Wives can call their husbands and give a laundry list of “you’re welcomes” (up to, and including doing their laundry). Bosses can send out mass texts for those paychecks they sign and deposit every other week. Employees can respond by expressing their acceptance of praise for wage freezes or productivity increases. Governments can go on TV to issue a nationwide “you’re welcome!” for streets, police, homeland defense, healthcare, and other assorted infrastructure. The people can call and leave voice mail messages for their congresspeople articulating the appreciation they accept for the tax money they so willingly allow the government to deduct from their paychecks to help support the perfectly balanced budgets and all-inclusive spending practices they so expertly oversee.

I could even foresee You’re Welcomesgiving carols being sung in the streets or recorded by opportunistic singer-songwriters. I think it would go a little like this:

Imagine all the “you’re welcomes.” I wonder if you can.
No need for “thank you” or “gracias.” From a woman or a man.
Imagine all the people, snarky and disagreeable.
You may say that I’m evil, but I’m not the only one.
I hope this holiday will catch on, and I can say “you’re welcome!”

Monday, November 21, 2011

Remember the 5th, Ladies

RIt was the morning of November 5th, and I was surrounded by a group of people helping to plan our Guy Fawkes Day bonfire party. I was reminded to “Remember, remember” for the last week or so, but I had somehow forgotten to remember. The same can be said for my friend Christian. He hadn't forgotten about the day or its significance, but he had forgotten to create the necessary “party favor” he was commissioned to create. As Christian walked in and saw us all sitting around a bar table, he realized this sad fact and said, “Oh shit, I forgot to make my effigy again.”

I imagined what those around us might have been thinking. You see, Guy Fawkes Day is not a holiday most Americans celebrate, or are generally even aware of its existence. Guy Fawkes was a conspirator in the not-so-great Gunpowder Plot that fizzled and failed. The intended target of the plot was the British parliament building and King James himself. They were foiled before they could even ignite any of the 36 barrels of gunpowder they had stashed in the cellar directly under the House of Lords that day. Guy was caught red-handed during the early hours of November 5th, 1605. He was quickly imprisoned, tortured and executed for his role in the thwarted plan to destroy Parliament and the anti-Catholic British Monarchy of the early 17th Century. The British people celebrated the safety of the King by lighting bonfires and burning effigies of Guy Fawkes. Each subsequent year on November 5th, they repeat that celebration. Unfortunately for many Americans, this is not common knowledge.

Unfortunately for Christian, he forgot to make the Guy Fawkes effigy he had promised us he would. He went on to explain that he could still make his deadline of 9:00 pm that night if we still needed one. I replied by saying, “Yes, we still need one. It isn't like we could go to Wal-Mart and buy a Guy Fawkes effigy or even drive to Effigies, Effigies, Effigies in Tampa. That's too far, and they'll probably be sold out anyway.”

Again, I imagined what those around us would think of our conversation. What would they conjure up in their minds without the knowldege of the importance of the day, its flammable action figures or the understanding that there isn't a store in Tampa that only sells effigies and effigy accoutrements?

Without delay or any cognizance of his surroundings, Christian went on to list the things he already had on hand to build his “Little Guy.” He said, “Okay, I already have the beeswax, twine and ratty clothes to put on this guy before we throw him in the fire. Do I need to bring a shovel or anything else, or do you have that covered?”

Now, I was quite sure that the people around us thought we were plotting something rather sinister. We had gone from sounding like a bunch of worldly gentlemen gearing up for a night of bonfire and revelry to a group of conspirators plotting a murder and burial of some dude named Guy. This could get interesting.

I imagined Christian's house being ransacked by the police and him having to explain every odd item in his closet and tool shed. The fertilizer he had would most certainly be sitting next to a can of bio-diesel fuel. They would most certainly not appreciate the immaculate lawn created by the fertilizer or the eco-friendly bio-diesel car he drove. No, they would think back to good 'ol Timmy McVeigh and arrest him for plotting to make a bomb. The 10 bags of lye he had in his closet would not be tied back to the fledgling homemade scented soap business he was trying to get off the ground. No, they would just assume he was a mass-murdering psychopath and cuff him to the radiator while they searched his crawlspace. They most certainly wouldn't overlook his collection of straight razors and hatchets, with which he practiced juggling in an attempt to make it big on America's Got Talent or X Factor. No, they would just assume that was his serial killer starter kit. Let's not even get started on Christian's garage full of tarps and jumbo commercial grade garbage bags. I haven't asked him what those are for yet, but I'm sure he just does a lot of gardening or something. I'll be willing to bet the investigators wouldn't give him the benefit of the doubt though.

Fortunately for Christian and the party, those people around us were too busy in their own conversations to be listening in on ours. He was able to escape certain imprisonment and we were greeted later that evening with an excellent effigy of Guy Fawkes with which we could toss into the flames of the fire pit. We couldn't help but marvel at the glorious way that it quickly went from a bunch of beeswax, twine and tattered clothes to a red and yellow mess of melting pseudo flesh and bone as it was set ablaze in my back yard. We all exclaimed “Fuck you Guy!” as Christian tossed it toward the flaring embers, and I looked across just in time to see his expression as he did it. Christian was very proud of his last minute effigy, and the perma-smile that was smeared across his face is something that will stay with me always.

Actually, it was kind of creepy now that I think back on it. But then again, he is Welsh, and you never know what you're going to get when you come across a Welshman. At least he isn't one of those guys who adds “ladies” to end of all his female aimed comments. Now those are some creepy fuckers. I think the only thing that could have sealed the deal on me sending an anonymous letter to the police would be just that. I can hear him asking for a date to the next bonfire night on Guy Fawkes Day, “Remember the 5th, ladies.” Ugh, arrest that man!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Fluffy and Lip Ring go to Starbucks

I tried to write a couple of different types of speeches for my friend Stephen's wedding. I tried to rewrite John Galt’s Speech from Atlas Shrugged(again) to show how Objectivism could relate counter-intuitively into a marriage, but I’m not smart enough to do that. I tried to write a sappy love song to showcase my musical talents and songwriting skills, but I don’t have those skills either.

The pressure to live up to the speech/PowerPoint presentation that Stephen once did for me was building, so I decided to go with something that was within my wheelhouse. 

I was standing outside a bar called In Cahoots on the night of March 8th, 2009 when I overheard a young couple talking. They seemed awkward enough that they were in an early courting phase, but also familiar with one another at the same time. Maybe they had known each other for a while, but were just now coming together in a romantic situation. The girl was much younger (and shorter) than the guy. He was a “fluffy” guy in his late twenties, who was wearing a white Wesley Willis t-shirt. The first thing I noticed is that only one of his armpits was sweating profusely, and his t-shirt showed proof that this was not a common occurrence. He had a full beard, but you could tell that his mustache did not fully connect to the rest of the beard, and that means his trustworthiness was up for discussion. The girl had a polished metal lip ring, and every time she smiled a quick glint would emanate from that side of her mouth. Not in a Frank Poncherello kind of way, but more like a visual representation of the figurative spark their fledgling relationship was creating. They seemed like a nice enough couple, and furthermore, they seemed to really be into one another. Pit stains, lip rings and all.

I was about to extinguish my cigarette and head inside to sing some karaoke, but then I overheard a sweet sentiment misunderstood. As I walked past them toward the entrance, I overheard Fluffy say, “Do you drink coffee?”

Lip Ring replied with a serious attitude, “Excuse me, what did you just say?

I wanted to stay outside to witness the rest of the altercation that was most certainly about to ensue. I tried to imagine how I could take my hand off of the door handle, retreat to my former position and light up another cigarette so I could hear what she thought he said, and also listen into his subsequent explanations and backpedaling. Would he be able to get a chance to explain? Would she believe him? What did she think he actually said? These would be questions that I could never get answered, because I had already opened the door and disappeared into the cloud of smoke that always greets you when you walk into In Cahoots (I hate that place, by the way).

I imagined what Lip Ring had thought she heard him say in lieu of the perfectly harmless line, and what action she took in accordance with that misheard information. Here is a list of the top three I came up with:

Fluffy: "Do you want to get on me?"
Lip Ring: "No, and I don’t think I ever will. Oh, and by the way, men who wear pit-stained t-shirts with a picture of a 350 pound paranoid schizophrenic dead musician on them are not exactly what I am in the market for."

Fluffy: "Did you join the Army?"
Lip Ring: "What kind of question is that? Do I look like I would join the Army? Do you think that the Army is looking for five-foot-nothing recruits to help fight the War on Terror from a lower atmospheric level?"

Fluffy: "Can you just step off me?"
Lip Ring: "I’m sorry, what did you just say? Are you trying to get street with me? Excuse me uber-Caucasian Methodist from Northwest Bradenton, I didn’t know I was steppin’ to you homey. Word up. Oh, for rizzle dizzle?"

Now, I guess there is a distinct possibility that none of the three previously stated interactions occurred. It is more likely that cooler heads prevailed, the comment was repeated, and the two of them ended up at Starbucks talking for a few hours later that evening. Hell, who knows, it is even possible that Fluffy and Lip Ring eventually started dating.

Maybe they had found that person who understands them even when they are misunderstood. It is possible that those two had found their match. You know, that certain someone who complimented the others flaws with their strengths, that motivates them to become a better person, or just supports them in their journey no matter where that might take them. Maybe even become that someone who could convince them to finally throw away that sweat-stained t-shirt or buy a couple of “big boy” collared shirts that didn’t come from his grandfather’s closet or a rack at Goodwill.

Furthermore, maybe they would one day get married, have a reception and listen to a long drawn out speech from some guy with an amazing mustache who really, really likes to hear himself talk.

Rock over London, rock on Chicago. Wheaties… The Breakfast of Champions.