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Saturday, December 17, 2011

Merry Christmas at WalMart

"Merry Christmas," the guy says.

He's wearing camoflauge pants, a Ghostbusters t-shirt and a stringy beard. He's wearing mirrored sunglasses. Inside Wal-Mart.

"Merry Christmas to you." I go back to look at the beer. He's in the wine section. I'm thinking of getting--

"How you doing?" he asks.

"Good. How are you?"

"Doing just fine, buddy. How are you?"

Okay. I just answered that, but okay. "I fine."

"How's your mother?" he asks.

Okay, this is where it starts going off the tracks. I don't know this guy. If I did, he wouldn't know my mother. And she's doing fine, always has been, so there would never be any reason to ask. But I'm in Wal-Mart. Maybe he's looking for a friend. I'm looking for milk and beer.

"She's good," I say. "You have yourself a Merry Christmas, all right, my friend?"

He says, with a smile, "Hey, you, too. Buddy."

And then he comes in for it. He's an isle away, but he comes with his arms out. He's coming hard and I'm cornered between packages of Budweiser and Miller Lite. I'm about to get shanked in Wal-Mart. But he wraps his arms around me, he says, "You have a Merry Christmas, buddy."

I give him a pat on the back. There are no cameras. No one watching. Just one guy hugging another in the beer isle of Wal-Mart. Because it's Christmas.

It's Christmas, buddy. Relax.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

He's Not Real. There, I Said It. (Sort of)


I couldn't even say it in the title, just in case some little kid accidentally saw it. I didn't want to scar him. But I'll say it now.

Santa's not real.

Me (circa. 1970). Opening a present from "Santa".

I grew up like most American kids, writing letters to the fat man, hoping he'd look past all my transgressions and bring me that GI Joe with the kung-fu grip. I watched all the Christmas movies that made adults look like buffoons because they didn't believe and I sang songs about magic reindeer and put out cookies and came down Christmas morning to see nothing but crumbs. And under the tree, the payoff was wrapped in ribbon.

GI Joe... kung-fu gripping.

But then a neighbor's dad spilled the beans. I was 9. (I think. God, I hope I wasn't 15.) I confronted my parents and they came clean.

Yep. Santa, he's not real. We've been lying aaaalllll this time.

I think this is the part where most well-adjusted kids just go with the flow. After all, we were getting presents from Santa, who cares if he's imaginary. Who cares if we were told 1 million times that we just have to believe he's real and he'll be real. Because if we don't believe, well then it sucks to be you.

Who cares if we got punished for lying about who broke the window and we got grounded for losing our grade cards when we really lit them on fire and we got disciplined for making up a story about why we were late for dinner (something about a flat tire and a hobo). Who cares that we'd end up on the naughty list for all that lying and we'd get coal in our stocking for all that lying and we could wave goodbye to GI JOE AND HIS GODDAMN KUNG-FU GRIP.

Who cares, right?