Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Reindeer Games

Canasta. It's a family tradition stretching back almost 10 years. We play it every time we get together. And I still hate to lose.

Deluxe Scrabble. After shamelessly coveting my friends' Deluxe Scrabble games--with their built-in turntables and their little ridges so the tiles don't slide around--for years, I finally got a Deluxe Scrabble of my very own for Christmas. And now I need a new commandment to break I've already gotten my mom and sister hooked. We played for four hours on Monday night, and I even took a picture of our best board to post here, but my folks are on dial-up and I frankly don't have the patience to crop and upload an image on a computer I have to pedal. If I had posted the picture, though, the caption would go something like this: See queen in the top right? I did that. My sister made it queeny (even though that's usually my job) and racked up a ton of points. And see fag down there on the left? That was my mom's handiwork. She got a double-word score for it.

Post-Holiday Sales. The crowds! The gridlock! The tempers! I used to avoid the Iowa post-holiday rush at all costs. But now that I live in Chicago, I think it's kind of cute. People bitch because they have to park ten spots away from the door and because there are six people in line ahead of them and what's wrong with this country if they have to wait more than five minutes to purchase a ceramic teddy bear, damnit?

Wireless Provider Smackdown! My first cell phone service provider (name forgotten) was spotty and unreliable and generally worthless, but that's what cell phones did, and we didn't complain. Then it got bought by Cingular, who made all kinds of promises that just called attention to its shortcomings: I still couldn't use my phone in my home or office, and I dropped more calls than I actually completed on purpose. And Cingular had corporate ties to SBC Ameritech, who treated me so hatefully when I moved to Chicago that I will never do business with them again (and I hate orange anyway). So I switched to T-Mobile, who offered a definite improvement, but I still couldn't use my phone in my home, and there were huge stretches of western Illinois and eastern Iowa that gave me no service when I was driving back and forth to visit my family. So now I'm on Chapter Four: Verizon. And I switched here in Iowa, where I don't have to plan my day around the process. And the verdict: So far, so good--except the phone they sold me has nothing but piercing, irritating ringtones to choose among. I did succomb to the camera-phone craze that all the kids are talking about, though. I'll let you know what develops.

Keeping up with the friendses. So far I've squeezed in holiday reunions with my ex, the girl my sister and I went to Norwegian camp with in junior high, a friend who is fighting admirably to recover from stage 4 ovarian cancer and a high-school friend who was a diver in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics (and who was practically bursting with the news that these hunky twins from our alma mater are doing porn in LA, though he couldn't clarify what kind of porn). Next on the docket: a reunion lunch with the fun people I used to work with.

Back, crack and sack. Well, actually just back, but I like saying "back, crack and sack." Back, crack and sack! I'm getting my wisps of old-man back hair ripped from my body this afternoon at the local cosmetology college. Which should cost about a million dollars less than it does at Nordstrom Spa. Same pain, less money!

Child manipulation. And by "child manipulation" I mean "being manipulated by a child." Example! "Uncle Jake, can I have some candy?" No. "Then can I have a Junior Mint?" Example! "Grandpa, do you want a Hershey's Kiss?" Yes, that sounds good. "Then I think I'll have one with you." Example! "Hey, that's MY toy! You don't get to play with it." "I was just getting it out for YOU to play with."

Eat-like-a-pig rationalization. An entire pizza. 20 cookies. Two cans of Coke. 20 more cookies. I'll ... um ... eat nothing but toothpicks and water when I get back to Chicago.

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