If I needed a reminder that it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, the annual staff booze up would be a strong hint. The first holiday party since our corporate merger had a blanket of doubt looming above. Our old company used to throw these lavish soirees on a huge scale. They hired out the Ripley’s Aquarium one year. The next they booked a warehouse and put together a slinky, fancy prohibition era bash. Expenses never spared, delicious food everywhere. Two drink tickets on entry, but somehow everyone seems to have a contact to get more. The holiday parties have been the right excuse to get dolled up and pretend like you have some class (while getting shamelessly pissed on the company dime). Oh yes, they always did throw such nice events. Since the merger, it’s become evident that even combined, we’re a smaller company than we used to be. As such, wallets have been tighter. Concern tittered through the ranks. What would the Christmas party look like this year? Most seemed put off by the slumber party theme. Others (myself included) questioned the use of the in house atrium. Then there was the fact that the party was during the work day from 3pm to 6pm, rather than a large event over the weekend.
Any fears were mercifully unfounded. They did an excellent job. The DJ knew his stuff and they’d hired professional dancers to encourage people onto the floor. They were pretty damn fancy. One of them even took the chance to show off her impressive press-to-handstand-walk. To shatter dancefloor inhibitions they had the aforementioned two ticket system. As always, it was easy to find drivers, pregnant mothers or people who weren’t into drinking for any other very valid reason. Or individuals who seemed to inexplicably sweat tickets. I’d say how much I drank, but it was an embarrassing amount.
The food. OH the food. There was a fried chicken and waffles stand (though how does one use the supplied fork on the seemingly chitinous exoskeleton of the well cooked chicken on a tiny waffle. That idea could’ve stayed in the deep fryer a little longer. A Tex Mex stand with vegetarian/beef chilli, bread and an assortment of toppings. Sliders, whether Portobello, turkey or beef (accompanied by paper cones filled with crisps). A poutine bar with choice of potato fries or their sweeter cousin. Also caramelised onions, cheese birth grated and curd(ed?) and gravy to douse it all. Best of all, a smores bar complete with sticks, chocolate, Graham crackers, marshmallows and an open flame. A curious choice given (with the combination of pyjamas and intoxication) how flammable everyone was, but I didn’t see a single self-immolation.
The customary photo booth with assorted props got heavy use the whole time. After the drinks had made their way to people’s heads, the dance floor filled up for some hot and sweaty (literally, everyone was wearing pyjamas or onesies) moves. Top notch all around, especially when putting something together on a tighter budget. Most everyone I saw seemed to be having a blast, but I guess if they weren’t, they would’ve left and I wouldn’t have seen them. Figures.
THEN there was the after party but, well, it was very hush hush. I can’t go spilling secrets now.
In the words of any good Bokononist, “Busy, Busy, Busy.”
Is December not a balls to the wall (skeet skeet motherfuckers) time of festivity, frivolity and frenzy? Work is in advanced schedule, The Airbud Pawdcast is in advanced schedule. I’ve got events to attend and plan. Then I’m once again taking time off in January to visit the motherland of New Zealand. I’ve got family and friends to catch up with, a 30th birthday to throw, a wedding to attend and a road trip down the South Island. It’s gonna be full-on messiness for three weeks, with little room to move. Because of this, I’m attempting to go down a path I rarely tread. I’m gonna plan an itinerary.
- 31st December: Leaving on a jet plane. Because of time travel magic, we travel for 22 hours and end up in Auckland on the 2nd of January. We also get to skip the ludicrous, over hyped shit show of New Years. If that ain’t a happy occurrence, I don’t know what is.
- 2nd January: Land in Auckland, exhausted from jet lag. As shapeless lumps, beaten down by the rigours of near immobility for hours on end, the rest of the day will no doubt involve family commitments. I guess it’d be trite to come all the way back home to not do the family thing. Dinner with the parents, brothers and in laws. Meeting the two new nephews and now ancient (three years) niece.
- 3rd January: My girlfriend wants to go to Hobbiton. I don’t know why. Nobody in New Zealand knows why. It’s a dumb little tourist trap housed in a nowheresville shit hole. Still, the notion of dragging her across the world and not doing the stuff she wants to do seems even shittier. I’ll bring my friend and her partner. We can have a lark on the mini road trip while my strange significant partner finds whatever destiny she believes resides in Mata Mata.
- 4th January: Exploring Auckland, catching up with friends. Buying party supplies. Because of time constraints I’m shifting my birthday party forward a few weeks. I’m sharing my 30th with a good friend who’s also turning 30. We will need beer, wine and barbecue supplies for whichever friends are still kicking it back home. The 4th is our chance.
- 5th January: Does “ditto” suffice? With the party that night, we’ll do what we can to get out and see the city while also putting things in motion. When night strikes I’ll be able to cram three years worth of catch-ups into one night. More accurately, I’ll invite too many people and fail to accomplish more than fifteen minutes of surface conversation with each of them.
- 6th of January: Auckland’s a reasonably large place and there’s a lot to see. While no doubt nursing a hangover, we’ll explore what we can and fix our last minute requirements for the next day’s wedding.
- 7th of January: Wedding! With a good friend getting hitched, we’ll dress up all fancy like, eat, drink, dance then devolve into reminiscing and heartfelt D&Ms.
- 8th of January: Board games day with good geek group. Culinarily inclined geek friend to do one of his elaborate and delicious themed spreads.
- 9th of January: Flying down to the capitol (booked flights last night), Wellington. Exploring the waterfront and maybe the botanic gardens if weather permits. Checking out the night life for sure.
- 10th of January: A full day in London. Keen to check out Weta Workshops, the town centre and finding great food (has Sweet Mother’s Kitchen jumped the shark yet?). Also Bucket Fountain. Early night before road trip begins.
- 11th of January: Early morning 8am ferry ride from Wellington to Picton. Arrive in Picton to be picked up by friends and carted off to Blenheim. 1pm boozy four or five hour wine tour around the region.
- 12th January: Leave Blenheim in the morning. Drive south to Murchison for vittles. Night of camping in Waikuku Beach or somewhere around there.
- 13th January: Drive rest of way into Christchurch (about 30 mins) and explore. A big point of interest is post quake Christchurch. I’ve heard a lot about the reclamation of the town centre from the devastation. Apparently there are a bunch of artistic pop ups around the place. Right up my alley for sure. We’ll find camp close to town.
- 14th January: Visit Akaroa and soak up the French history. Look for camping around the Castle Hill area.
- 15th January: Travel through Arthur’s Pass, and on to Franz Josef and Fox glaciers. Watch out for rampaging Kea birds who try to eat our car. Must remember to insure the rental.
- 16th January: Morning travel from the glaciers to Wanaka/Queenstown area. Lunch in Wanaka, arrive Queenstown evening of 16th. Stay in quite nice accommodation in Queenstown. Enjoy the inevitable price gouging of the panoramic touristy mecca.
- 17th January: Happy birthday to me. There’s a heap of stuff to do in Queenstown and everything looks like a postcard. Will we return to Fergburger? Will the inevitable degradation of time and overwhelming demand have wrought havoc on the quality? Probably. Will we eat it anyway? Very likely.
- 18th January: A daytrip bus tour from Queenstown to Milford Sound. More exploration. More expensive accommodation.
- 19th January: Fly back to Auckland on morning of 19th. Family/friend time.
- 20th January: Frantically try to stuff in more catch ups with friends. Spoiler: There will be too many people and not enough time.
- 21st January: Did you read the plan for the previous day? Very likely nothing would’ve changed. Hopefully have a dinner party/drinks with close friends.
- 22nd January: Crying and hugging. Fly back to Canada. Once again magically time travel 22 hours to arrive back on the same day that we left Auckland. Dread work the next day. Crave a much needed break.
And that’s what cramming six weeks of activity into three weeks looks like. Does that even sound like a holiday?
I can’t understand why the pineapple on pizza debate seems to be hitting its zenith in 2016. It’s not a new phenomenon by any means. When we were kids, Hawaiian pizza was the default option for kids parties. Backed by salt & vinegar chips, burger rings, cheerios and off brand soft drinks. I love it. The intersection of sweet and salty is a glorious valley of wonder. I’m a big fan of splashy flavours, trying new things and seeing if they’ll stick. Occasionally I get burned, but more rarely than you’d think. Pineapple to me feels naturally, homey.
I think my favourite pizza back home was this local concoction from Lightly spicy with chicken, bananas and a dusting of coconut. It was awesome, but I get how it wouldn’t work for some people. Why? Because pepperoni pizza exists. So goddamn bland, but it’s a hit. Especially with kids. Having set up a bunch of birthday parties when I worked at the kids’ gymnastics place, they go ape for it. Well, mostly. The only flavour that’s more popular amongst the kidlets is cheese. CHEESE. Cheese isn’t even a flavour, it’s a given. It’s opting not to put toppings on your pizza. I find it hard to believe that adults are still into that banal shit, but kids, I get it.
When you’re a kid, new things are scary, right? You can rewatch the same films over and over again, because familiarity is comfort and the unknown is frightening. You don’t want to be spooked, so you go with what you know. It’s hard to get kids into new things. I know how resistant I always was. My family ran on the mantra of “you don’t know until you try”, but it was still a hard sell. It’s something I’m gonna push hard to encourage when someone’s dumb enough to make me a dad. I don’t have a toolkit for that kind of thing yet, but here’s hoping.
Friends of mine once suggested a method, learned from their family. It was basically the old poison them slowly technique. Since these parents loved spicy food, they didn’t want to not cook it. They also couldn’t be bothered specially cooking a separate portion for the kid. At the same time it’s not fair to aggressively push super spicy food on a child. They wouldn’t pre-spice the food, but instead add it at the end, adding trace amounts to the kid’s portion. They’d build this over time, making the child aware of what they were eating. As time went on, the kid took to it and now has no issue. Problem? Solution.
Maybe the argument over pineapple on pizza isn’t even a big theme, it’s probably just reached meme status. It’s one of those arguments that’ll likely never go away until pineapple, humans or pizza go extinct. It’s the over or under/scrunch or fold toilet paper stance by any other name. They’re binary positions with no middle ground. I choose to empathise, but disagree. Also, I now want pizza.
Do you ever look up your exes on Facebook? I certainly do. From time to time my mind will wander and my fingers will follow suit. Usually following an old “On This Day” post, I’ll get curious. What are they up to? Where do they live? Can I somehow contrive to have “won the breakup”? I’m petty like that occasionally. Most of the time when this trope comes up in movies, TV shows, it’s accompanied by strong pangs of longing. Pining for days long past when you were last happy. In moments of relationship strife, it seems easier to romanticise what you left behind. Yeah nah bro. I can’t think of a single ex I’d want to get back together with. Communication, empathy and sex with my girlfriend are leagues better than they had been. So many of my past relationships fit the period of my life when they occurred. I’m not sure that they could’ve withstood the person I am. Then again, who would I be if I were still with them?
To be honest, I primarily hope to see that they’re doing well. I’m lucky, in that none of my past relationships were spectacular tire fires. One came close, but with the benefit of hindsight it’s easy not to hold a grudge. In the end, things just failed to work out. They weren’t bad people. I don’t think I was. I don’t doubt that we all said or did stupid things, but I was fortunate enough not to have left the encounters with deep scars (he says, until he’s ten gins deep). I’ve moved on and I assume they have. Still, what’s better than assuming? Knowing.
There are all these loose threads left when a relationship bites the dust. Did they finish their degree? Are they working in the fields that they sought? Did they travel like they wanted to? Have they found someone who complements them in ways I never could? Have they maintained a good support network? Those friends of theirs I grew close to, are they still kicking around? What about their families? After they were so welcoming, it was kind of shitty to flat out never see them again.
I’m happy to report, most everyone I’ve snooped on is doing fine. Some have ended up in places I never expected. Others followed their plan to the letter. It may just be the way that people use Facebook, to showcase the rose tinted view of their lives. It could be that internally they’re struggling, but don’t want to subject their friends and family to their hidden torment. The messy ones are probably still messy, but from the outside, it looks like I didn’t leave any wrecks in my wake. Does this leave me pining? Is it possible to triple underline NOPE?
The thing is, I’ve played the “what if” game and the results are never satisfying. I follow the threads and I’m disappointed, then remember why we broke up in the first place. Perhaps it’s symptomatic of how I date. I rarely go looking for drama or intrigue, because I’m kinda boring. I tend to end up with nice people who rarely fuck me around and I try to return the favour. I haven’t maintained many exes as friends, barring one notable exception. It’d be easy to make the argument that being in different countries makes it tricky. More often though, it’s that behind the attraction, there wasn’t much of a friendship to fall back on.
Thanks for the memories, I guess.
I started this entry in a certain fashion, then wiped the slate clean. I often run into this routine of expositional preamble. I have one central idea that I meander towards, grounding it in explanation, backstory. Maybe it’s a habit learned from years of structured writing in school. Perhaps it’s.. oh fuck, I’m doing it again. It’s like being caught monologuing. If only I wasn’t so enraptured by the sound of my own voice in digital ink. Fuck this. I just wanted to say that this year we’re gonna get a Christmas tree, without dousing it in pomposity.
I had a tree once as a kid, for novelty, really. Being Jewish, it certainly wasn’t for cultural reasons. Out of pure jealousy for my gift laden friends, I wanted to know what it felt like looking at a tinselled tree with hope and longing. I’m a January birthday baby, so I convinced my parents to get me a child sized tree and put my birthday presents underneath. It was underwhelming at best. My inner Grinch was slowly fed.
Oddly enough, I’ve decorated a shit ton of trees in my life. Before I worked at my best friend’s parents’ party store, I’d help them out out over the weeks preceding Christmas with endless installations. Malls, the casino, endless events. Armed with cable ties, a ladder and pliers I hung endless wreaths and garlands. Most of them were pre-decorated, but there’d be a ton of cosmetic work to do. Fluffing up branches, making sure baubles were looking their best. Arranging stylized presents around the place. We set up trees of various sizes, sometimes huge enough to necessitate a cherry picker. It was a lot of work, a sentiment that became permanently attached to the holiday at large.
It’s been easy over the years to immediately dismiss Christmas outright. What would be the point. The older I get though, the more I like celebrating things for the sake of fun. Leaning back on curmudgeonly impulses for contrarian means is less appealing as the need to put up appearances diminishes. Why not make the house more colourful? Fairy lights looked great in Stranger Things, why not apply the same aesthetic to our place because we can? As a younger kid before resentment set in, I’d always wanted to celebrate Christmas. I told myself that when I was a father, my family would. The fact that we couldn’t/didn’t was a bugbear that evolved into a humbug. Not having Christmas became not wanting it. Nearing 30, I’ve realised that nothing is holding me back. I’m still not into the more commercial aspects of the holiday, but I’d be hard pressed to have an issue with merriment.
So a small tree it is. We can make some of our own decorations and set it up on the kitchen table. We can celebrate to whatever extent we desire. Simple, fun and pressure-free.
Really though, I’m primarily doing this to put a Star-Lord toy as our angel at the top.