Category Archives: Christmas

A Forest.

It’s been a tumultuous few months here at the new Singledad Towers. I picked up a job at a real estate office, but was told just a couple of months in that I “wasn’t a good fit” for the job, whatever the fuck that is supposed to mean. This left me scrambling for some way to pay the rent, and for no other reason than I found it, I applied for a seasonal job at my local supermarket selling Christmas trees. I got an invitation to an interview which went well and returned home to find a voicemail on my phone. Could I come back in for a drug screening? The interviewers had called me pretty much as soon as the door closed and had hoped to catch me before I left the store, but seeing as I saw no point in bringing my phone with me, the call was waiting for me at home, so I did an about face and returned immediately.

The popular image of drug screening involves peeing into a cup, but hold on. Now it involves holding a sponge against the side of your mouth for a couple of minutes and then placing said swab in a tube. Phew! If you are anything like me, then Shankly help you. No, seriously, peeing in public is not my thing, nor yours, I hope. This happened because they offered me the job.  My sweetie and I had a Thanksgiving trip planned, and so the Tuesday after the holiday I reported for work, went through the initiation period and started the next day. To be clear, I’m the only person working trees 8/5, with other staff being assigned to the post on a daily basis, which means I’m the only constant. Yeah, the new guy is the only person who’s always there. Actually, many people at the store have worked in trees over the years, so it’s not as if no one has ever done the job before. I’m outside for eight hours a day in the PNW winter, which can be a bit nippy at times, but the donning of my patented Bronko Nagurski  long underwear meant that I was proofed against the morning and evening chills, and truth be told, I was often sweating due to the exertions involved.

We receive trees by the truckload which are dumped in the parking lot and then have to be sorted by size and species into a coherent stack. Imagine dragging 250+ trees ranging from five to nine feet tall into organised piles and then moving them over to the sales area. Then imagine helping customers by carrying their tree to the place where we give he trunk a fresh cut and then loading it onto their vehicle. A lot of people have trucks, which makes life easy, but imagine lifting a nine foot tree onto the roof of a Suburban and then tying it down. It takes a while, and involves quite a bit of effort, especially if you are a fat, lazy, unfit bastard like me. Imagine doing that 30 times a day as well as sweeping up loose needles and branches, dragging over fresh stock to fill the gaps and answering a multitude of questions.  To say that I was knackered by the end of the day is an understatement. I know how unfit I am, and this has driven it home to me. My legs and arms ache by the end of the day and only the  prospect of a very hot bath with lots of lavender Epsom Salts and a very large vodka and tonic at the end of the day have kept me going.

The above bitchfest notwithstanding, I’ve really enjoyed myself. My coworkers are all great people who have made me feel very welcome and part of the team. The store has a lot of  long term employees, and I can see why: we are treated very well, get an employee discount and are treated as human beings with feelings. How many companies nowadays do that?  The customers have all been very friendly and understanding, and I’ve had quite a few enjoyable chats with people as I’ve tied trees onto the roofs of their cars.  I admit that I wake up in the night due to the numbness in my right hand, and that I ache all over, but to be honest, being outside all day has been good for me. I’ve had the opportunity to work in a team that actually cares and meet some truly nice people.

I really hope this turns into a permanent thing. the store manager told me one lunchtime that he wants to chat with me about what happens “after trees”, which sounds promising, as does the fact that my department manager has been sounding me out about which departments in which I would like to work. Fingers crossed.

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The Winner Takes It All.

I’ve made no secret of my lack of knowledge of, and interest in American sports of any stripe, save for a marginal interest in seeing the Seattle Sounders do well.  It may then  come as a surprise to you to learn that for the past five years I have been a regular participant in an NFL fantasy league. I’ll let the deafening noise of jaws hitting the floor  like a collapsing pile of encyclopedias subside  before continuing. You see, when someone from school floated the suggestion I saw it as a way to have a bit of harmless fun and  wind people up at the same time.

Not knowing the first thing about the relative merits of the players, I was performing the digital equivalent of picking a prize from the lucky dip bin whilst blindfolded. If  I finished dead last without a win to my name, I’d be doing about as well as could be expected, so anything better than that would be a victory for me. As I’ve said in other posts, any A.M whiff of Napalm will do. My first two seasons were remarkably unspectacular, and  I was out of the running for the playoffs by the half way point.  Two seasons ago my team took such a comprehensive and brutal beating that last year the Glenbuck Violets (named in honour of the first team Bill Shankly ever played for) changed their name for the following season to The Rodney Kings. Tacky? Yes. Borderline offensive? Certainly. But since when has that ever stopped me?

Last season saw a reversal of fortune as I reached the final with a semi final win so overwhelming that it made a fight between the 1st SS Panzer Division and the Girl Scouts look like a fair contest.  The game ended with yours truly achieving the  biggest points total of the season as well as the largest winning margin of the year. This after another member posted a message to the website  with the title  “How the fuck did NWSingledad get into the playoffs?”  Of course, I  suffered a convincing defeat in the final with the same starting lineup that had performed so heroically only the game before. Ah, well, it’s a funny old game.

So of course, when the email regarding this season came around, I duly signed up and sent my $20 entry fee to the Commish. I won’t bore you with a game by game analysis, but there were some noteworthy moments: winning by 0.2 points was most certainly one of them. No, that wasn’t a typo. The league moved to a new platform which awards points for actions other than points scored. Of course, the day I picked the wrong QB – Joe Flacco for anyone who cares- I lost a game I would have won had I played my usual first choice – some guy called Ward? . Humph!  In fact, despite a 7-6 season I had quite a good year, with several victories snatched from the jaws of defeat. This was enough to get me into the playoffs, and that was all that mattered.

Naturally, finishing fifth of six qualifiers meant I was in for a rough run. Despite this, I won my first game only to face the regular season champions in the semi final. At this point I thought my goose not only cooked, but eaten, carved up for sandwiches the day after and in the pot to be boiled down to make stock. Guns, Germs and Steel, for that was their name, had beaten me pretty convincingly during the season. You don’t end with a record of 11-2 by being crap.  I’ve always picked my team purely by the numbers – the expected points score of each player, and despite my best efforts, I looked doomed.

Oh me of little faith, to quote Lewis Black. My reputation as the Comeback Kid paid dividends as I won by a decent margin. That meant that the final would be between my Craggy Island Feckers and the Glorious Goats, a team that finished sixth with the same overall season but a worse points differential. Again, despite doing all within my power to add better players and run out my strongest squad, the almighty algorithm had me down for a defeat just short of double digits. Ah well, even second place would mean getting back more than my original stake, so I was in no position to complain.

Christmas got in the way and managed to distract me from my impending defeat as we celebrated on the 24th with the kids. They always spend Christmas Day at their own home, so my sweetie and I celebrate a day early. After their departure we headed into the city for a night in a very nice hotel in lieu of going out of town. As we sat in the bar enjoying our drinks I glanced up at the T.V. to see a game in progress and through the powers of  thought association I checked my phone to find out the worst. I knew I was behind as my opponent had had  a player in action the previous day, so imagine my surprise and delight to see that before the days’ games were over I was already more than 50 points ahead. My lead increased during the afternoon and by the time we turned in I was assured of a championship win barring all but a disaster of a scale only associated with the extinction of the Dinosaurs.

My opponent did recover some ground the following day, but even so I ran out winner by nearly 60 points and only missed recording the biggest victory margin of the season by a hairs’ breadth. I’m sure my sweetie was delighted to see the season come to a close as I did rather lay it on a bit thick, checking the scores somewhat more often than required and letting my delight show a little too much. Still, the prize money was pretty decent and a very nice bonus Christmas present. There was one more element that sweetened the win – my opponent was the same as the year before, so it was justice repaid.

Don’t think that I’m being disingenuous in all this. I’m not lying when I say I don’t follow football. I don’t spend hours reading reports and obsessing over video clips. At most I spend 10 minutes a week selecting my starting lineup. I honestly do make my selections purely on the predicted scores for each player, although I do take into account their actual, as opposed  to their predicted ranking. Even I know that an over performing player is worth having on the books.

Is there a moral in this? Is just a case of blind, dumb luck? I’m not sure. Maybe this was my Leicester City moment. Perhaps next year I will be beaten like a red headed stepchild on a rented mule. Who knows? I certainly don’t. All I know is that when next season hoves into view, I will be ready with stake in hand, hope in my heart and the knowledge that if I can piss off even a single  person in the league who actually puts effort, thought and emotion into it, it will all be worth while. Yes, I’m looking at you, Krog the Sportinator.

 

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Fuck Christmas

You may not be too surprised to learn that in general, I am a miserable, sour-faced old git. Better living through chemistry helps, but even so, it can’t overcome my contempt for the forced, almost mandated so-called “spirit of Christmas”. Spirit of Scotland, yes, particularly if said spirit comes from the highlands or the island of Islay and is at least twelve years old. But I digress.

This year was particularly egregious in getting the holiday underway, as on a number of occasions I saw Christmas items competing for shelf space with Halloween stuff! Yep, you read that correctly. That really is too much, and it put me in a bad mood right from the start. I really dislike the fact that we’re all supposed to get excited about Christmas regardless of our age. No, it isn’t the happiest time of the year. It’s cold, the sun is gone by 4 p.m. and everyone is stressed out by having only just recovered from Thanksgiving and facing the prospect of plunging straight back into the fray.

In general I try to avoid this as much as possible, wearing earbuds with the volume turned up to eleven, and not doing much in the way of decorating. My house is not only too small to have a tree, I don’t even have the storage space for decorations. I do have a few things: paper decorations made by the kids, some glass balls my sweetie bought that are about the size of gumballs and a two foot tall tree composed entirely of tree ornaments, but that is it.

Not so my sweetie. She  decorates every square inch of her home and takes  great delight in her mid century modern aluminium Christmas tree. My kids take  almost as much delight in assembling it. It consists of three sections that form the trunk and a large number of branches covered in silver tinsel which have to be inserted into holes in the trunk in a specific order. Despite the fact that she is a hard core Seinfeld fan, she insists on assembling the tree so it doesn’t look like a Festivus pole. Admittedly, that would lead to the traditional airing of the grievances, but she usually saves that for special days.

The kids love assembling the tree, as they have for the last three years or so, and it brings out the best in them: my son gets to organise, and his sister gets to indulge her artistic side. Of course, we let them do all the hard work this year and they had a blast, as usual. I really couldn’t have cared less, but did my duty hanging decorations on the tree. I think the kids enjoy the novelty of an artificial tree, as they have grown up knowing only a ten foot Noble Fir in the corner of their living room.

Of course, the big issue is presents. As the kids have grown up, their tastes have become not only more sophisticated, but also harder to discern. This year was a real trial. My son the tech head is impossible to buy for without a very specific list. Thankfully he provided one eventually, but so much of it was pure wishful thinking that my choices were somewhat limited. My daughter was just as difficult – eventually giving me a half arsed list on the 13th. To some extent I understand. Neither of them is particularly acquisitive and both of them pretty much have everything they need.

My sweetie is a different issue in that for her, I was able to pick up things as I saw them, and when she did provide me with a list I was pretty much done shopping for her. I hate to buy only gifts on the lists people provide, so with luck she will be surprised when she starts the unwrapping – pleasantly, I hope.

Another thing that irritates me is the forced jollity. Peace on Earth and good will to all men is a fine sentiment, but why restrict it to Christmas? Shouldn’t that be the policy all year round? Am I missing something? I do realise that this year much more than most has been thin on the good will, and peace has been noticeable by its absence, but surely we can make an effort for rather longer than the last five weeks of the year.

To be honest, if it wasn’t for the kids I wouldn’t bother with Christmas at all. It just seems like such a waste of time. I’d rather wait until the spring and celebrate surviving another year and another winter. At least getting through another spin around the sun is something to celebrate, an actual achievement worth acknowledging , much more so than some  Iron Age fairy tale that went unwritten for three centuries. To quote Terry Jones in “Monty Python’s Life of Brian” “Creeping ’round a cow shed at two o’clock in the morning doesn’t sound very wise to me.”

I could go on, but if any of you are still reading, you probably don’t want to read much more. Besides, I have a lot to do today: I have to harness Max and remember to make sure to take the last can of Who Hash.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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