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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 5 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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Avec Elegance


I’m realising just how much women my age care about their appearance and how little my ex did. Case in point: yesterday I had a very enjoyable dinner at a well known waterside restaurant. And no, I’m NOT talking about Ivars’ acres of clams!  I’m not a spendthrift, but neither am I a miser.

Anyway, my point is this: my companion was a very charming lady who despite the fact that this was our first meeting had obviously given some thought to her appearance, even though the deck was most definitely stacked in her favour, as it is for all women on dates. No Capris and T Shirt for her.  She was dressed stylishly but in an understated way, her hemline being neither too short nor too long, her hair left loose and her neckline neither plunging nor hugging her chin, her arms bare.

Everything about her appearance suggested a successful, confident businesswoman who knows what she wants and is used to being in charge. Guess what? That’s exactly what she is. I guess, though, that women tread a fine line: how to appear attractive without looking too obvious , how to show confidence without appearing bossy, how to show interest without giving a misleading impression.

Anyway, I take it as a good sign that we sat chatting for quite some time after the bill arrived. Bill? to be honest, it was large enough to be called William, never mind Bill. She was graceful right to the end of the evening, and I’ll take it as a sign of interest that she raised the question of us meeting again, something that I  want very much, if for no other reason that it was such a pleasure to spend the evening engaged in intelligent, stimulating wide ranging conversation that never flagged and never resorted to the linguistic tricks and innuendos that so often ruin an evening.

Question. Is it true that if he plays with her hair she’s interested? I do hope so, because she adjusted her hair  (Just below shoulder length and naturally blonde)every few minutes, and we were at the table for well over 3 hours.

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July 4th has never been a particularly easy holiday for me. I put up with it, go along with the day, pack away a few beers, but that’s about it. Try and see it from my perspective. It’s a bit like celebrating D – Day in front of Germans, or the fall of Saigon in front of Americans. Get the picture? Good!

This year, however, was much, much easier. I took my early awakening as an opportunity to get things done, and so spent the morning in the traditional way by brewing some Belgian beer and watching a Japanese movie – “Gojira”, to be precise. What could be more American?

I was glad of the early start, however, when at just after 2pm, the power failed. I spent the following 9 hours in splendid isolation, sitting on the deck reading and listening to podcasts, with a 2 hour nap in the middle. A very relaxing day, with the added bonus of watching the sun sink slowly in the west, the sky turning from pale blue to yellow, orange, red and deep blue before settling in to a deep, deep black, a fireworks display that put to shame the best efforts of the Chinese chemists whose products rent the evening air with screeches,flashes, bangs and pops.

It’s funny, but I really enjoyed the day, seeing as I had no distractions and was able to follow wherever my fancy led me. I had to laugh when my ex asked me the next day: “Did you come to the parade?” Why in the name of Bonaparte’s balls would I drive to her town to watch a parade? I guess she was pissed off that I hadn’t asked to come to her barbeque, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to give her the benefit of that win.

All in all, a very enjoyable day. Perhaps I should hope for a few more power outages during the year. Thanksgiving would be a good one, don’t you think?

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Getting Nowhere Fast


I think that the official halfway point in the year is as good a place as any to stop and have a quick review, don’t you? Not so good of late, it has to be said.  Of course, there is no prospect on the job front, which is pretty depressing in its’ own right despite all my efforts, and only time will tell if my current pivot will bear fruit. I’m not holding my breath, but it would be nice to at least feel like there’s a job out there for me, even if I can’t see it right now.

Still, the employment front is more heartening than the personal one.  If the employment front is the “War Without Hate” that was the North African campaign, then the personal front is Stalingrad in the winter of ’42. Now I don’t want to go all ‘Enry ‘Iggins on you, but why can’t women just come out and be honest? At least then I could walk away from the restaurant thinking “Well, at least the food was decent”, or “That’s the best Manhattan I’ve had in a long while”.

But nooooooo!. Both meetings last week appeared to go pretty well, but apparently I’m too stupid to read the signals. I’d much rather hear the truth, than be fobbed off with an email, or as appears to be the new standard, complete silence.

Not a good few weeks on the old personal worth scene, then.  Maybe that seems a bit harsh, but after having been told by a very reliable source just how unbefuckinglievably  low the bar is when it comes to getting a second meeting, I’m beginning to have some very serious doubts. Mind you, the fact that I’ve reduced my daily meds to once every other day to build up a stockpile for when my ex drops me from the health plan could have something to do with it I suppose.

Ah well, at least I have tomorrow to look forward to. A nice trip out to Port Townsend followed by a glass of wine on the deck will perk me up no end. Even though I know that nothing will happen, at least it will be a day spent in the company of someone whom I appreciate and have affection for, which has to count for something, don’t you think?

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Strange Times



I had expected post divorce life to be similar in some aspects to pre divorce life, especially when it came to the kids. Seems I was wrong. Hold the front page, Dad wrong!  It is only now hitting me that we are no longer a family, and that I am most definitely a peripheral player. Case in point – last Sunday was Little League day at Safeco Field, and kids in their outfits got to run the bases, (I think) and generally have fun.

My ex never even mentioned it to me. The only reason I know if it is because I’m on the email list for my sons’ team. She turned up to our daughters’ last game of the season in a Mariners’ jacket( She’s not even a fan) and never mentioned it at all. I probably wouldn’t have gone anyway, but it feels weird not to be part of the kids’ lives to the same extent as before.

On the other hand, my life is none of her business. I’ve had two very pleasant dates this week, one in Seattle and one elsewhere, and she can go to hell if she doesn’t like it. I know she’s seeing someone, and probably was before I moved out ( funny, but almost overnight the time she needed to go to Costco more than doubled).

I’ve pretty much stopped using the shared calendar we have online, partly because I keep forgetting about it, and partly because I don’t see why she should know what I’m doing. Should I have put “Hot date” in the calendar for Tuesday and Thursday this week? What would it have achieved?

It’s just strange not to know what the kids are up to on an ongoing basis, to not know about playdates, sleepovers, etc. I’m enjoying very much being single again, but it’s a bit of an adjustment getting used to not knowing what is going on. Still, as the old saying goes, “If you can’t take a joke, you shouldn’t have joined”.

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Back To The Old House



As you know, my ex bought out my equity in the house with help from her dad so she wouldn’t have to sell it in order to divide our property. This was the easiest and most sensible approach for a number of reasons, none of which need reiteration here. But what this means is that the place where I lived for 11 years is now entirely someone elses’ property.

Nothing of any real significance has changed. Well, all my stuff is gone, or at least the overwhelming majority of it has gone – the books, clothes, some furniture, several boxes of sundry items, but over all, the house remains the same. Except it has changed to a significant extent. The atmosphere is different. It no longer feels like my home – of course, it isn’t but you know what I mean. When I walk in with the kids in the brief interim between picking them up from school and taking them home with me I no longer feel any obligation to the building. I no longer care if the kids have left stuff lying on the living room floor, the rooms seem colder and somehow less inviting than they once were, I feel no need to put away any item left lying out of place, nor do I feel comfortable going upstairs. I have this weird thing about not going into someone elses’ bedroom, (obvious circumstances notwithstanding), and as the master suite is no longer my bedroom, it feels like I’m trespassing if I need to go upstairs to check if I’ve left anything lying around that I need to collect.

This is a completely different feeling to the one I had when I went into our previous home. It had been listed for sale, and as a Realtor, I had access to the keybox. We were over there one day and we decided to drive by and take a look. I left my card on the kitchen counter and took a look round. It was a wholly emotionless experience, seeing the changes that had been made since we sold it, and I felt nothing for the place that had essentially been “A machine for living in” to quote Le Corbusier.

Maybe it’s because the old house is the nicest place I’ve ever lived. Maybe it’s because it’s where we raised the kids. Maybe it’s because it’s where everything went slowly and inexorably south. Who knows? It seems strange to attach atmosphere to an inanimate object, to feel like it has changed in ways both subtle and ominous, but it just doesn’t feel the way it did when I lived there. Maybe it’s a good thing, maybe a bad thing. Maybe it’s a sign that I’ve moved on. Heck, my current house feels more like home than the old house. Perhaps the old saying holds true: “Home is the place that when you knock on the door, they have to let you in”.

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Never As Tired As When I’m Waking Up


Tuesday saw the arrival of my bedroom set, which made me very happy. I’d had the mattress and box spring since Friday, so at least I was no longer sleeping in a sleeping bag on a camping pad, which was a major relief.  You would think that this would result in an improvement in my sleep, but you’d be wrong.

For about the last five weeks my sleep has been truly crappy, laced with weird dreams, and  there was not nearly enough of it (Apologies to Woody Allen). Maybe it was stress related from having to find a new place or anxiety over reaching the end of the divorce process, but you’d think that now I’m free and clear and in a really nice home things would have returned to normal. But again, you’d be wrong. I’m getting between four and five hours a night, usually waking up around five or six am and find myself unable to get back to sleep.

I know it’s not the pillow top mattress, I know it’s not because I lack space – it’s a king size, and I know it’s not the bedding – I bought a 500 thread count comforter cover and some equally high count sheets. So what is it? It could be the process of adapting to new circumstances. I always sleep poorly in a strange bed, ( well, not always, but you know what I mean) which makes travel a pain. I took me a while to get used to the previous rental, and that sort of reached a liveable equilibrium, but I find myself tired every afternoon and have had to take naps from time to time. Even today, with the sun streaming through the windows and a very interesting book in front of me I found my eyelids replaced by lead and was yawning all the way through tonight’s softball game despite my daughter getting two of her teams’ seven runs.

I also have a lot more to deal with on a daily basis – shopping, organising, general chores, etc so that may have something to do with it at some level, but it’s not as if I’m working like a rented mule. I wish there was some simple solution and I could get eight hours a night, but maybe this is also the new normal.  Either way, I need to find some way to adjust to the lack of decent sleep.

Send your answers on the back of a $20 bill to….

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