Thursday, November 30, 2017

Christmas Music

The holiday season is here.

Black Friday has come and gone. Small Business Saturday has passed. Cyber Monday is done. Thus, the spiral toward the gift giving holidays is underway. There are two types of people this time of year; some are excited for the holidays, exuding a seasonal cheer bordering on mania, wearing Christmas sweaters and Santa hats as soon as Thanksgiving dinner is finished, visions of sugarplums dancing in their heads at all hours of the day. Others are humbug curmudgeons, people that make The Grinch seem level-headed, who hear holiday music and react like Regan in The Exorcist. 

While I've improved in leaps and bounds in my humbuggery I'm still less than exuberant when it comes to the holiday season. I like the togetherness with family, the food, eggnog, and giving gifts, but one thing that I can't overcome-- the thing that keeps me on the Scrooge end of the spectrum-- is the music. I loved it when I was a kid, then grew to hate it, then came to accept it, but so much of it is so annoying that it makes me hope for New Years that much more.

Don't get me wrong, not all holiday music is terrible. Have you heard the "A Charlie Brown Christmas" soundtrack? It's fantastic! It's the kind of background music perfect for drinking hot toddies around the fire. Some traditional carols hold a soft spot in my heart too, like "Carol of the Bells" and "Silent Night" so don't think that I'm a total heartless Grinch bastard.

There are a lot more songs, however, that I hate with my entire being.

Take, for example, Peggy Lee's "I Like A Sleighride (Jingle Bells)". It's just "Jingle Bells"-- which is bad enough-- but played too slowly with the occasional annoying, "I like a sleigh ride!" interjected every now and then. To me, listening to it brings out the same emotions as being stuck behind someone with an annoying kid walking too slowly at the grocery store without being able to walk around them. It's irritating and drags on, but it seems to be on every holiday music playlist, probably to spite me.

There's also "We Need A Little Christmas" from the musical Mame. I haven't seen the musical, nor do I know the plot or any other songs from it, but the version I'm familiar with is sung by Angela Lansbury and is tortuous. She sings, "We need a little Christmas/ Right this very minute," to which I reply, "No, no we do not." The over-exuberance and show tune flair suck the life out of me, and even though the song talks about using Christmas as a means of overcoming growing leaner, colder, sadder, and older, it makes me that much more cynical.

Then, of course, there's "Baby It's Cold Outside". A seemingly cutesy exchange between a woman saying she should go home and a man insisting she stay because, well, it's cold outside, in modern context it sounds pushy and like the setup for assault. Because it's an old-timey song with certain nods to romantic norms of the time there's been debate on whether it's problematic or not. Vox did a way better job at dissecting it than I ever could, and they go much deeper into the issues than I intend to, but the song is pretty uncomfortable to listen to from a current perspective.

I could easily go on. There are enough shitty Christmas songs and shitty covers of shitty Christmas songs to play in every shopping mall on the planet every December until the sun explodes. Too many saccharine tunes with empty lyrics get played on repeat in an attempt to make it seem like The Season Of Giving isn't just a final cash grab for businesses before the end of the fiscal year. I'll leave the aforementioned examples to explain why I don't become Buddy from "Elf" every December, though. In the meantime, because I'm trying to grow my heart a few sizes, I'll relent to ugly sweaters, eggnog, candy canes, and Mariah Carey.

But I swear if I hear Peggy Lee I'm going to flip my shit.

Thursday, November 16, 2017


The off season at the hotel I work at is pretty quiet, so we generally do maintenance things we couldn't do during summertime once the number of guests drops. This season is no exception, so we have been sprucing things up around the property. One thing we're finishing up right now is an upgrade to the carport by the front desk, gussying it up with pressed and stained concrete. It looks like terracotta tile which fits the motif, so in that respect it's pretty neat.

Projects like this, however, bring out some interesting behavior in people. Notably, their lack of situational awareness shines through like a big beacon of stupid.

The old carport was first removed, and then new concrete was poured in sections over a couple days, so there was a big, gaping hole by one of the doors to the front desk for awhile. The area was surrounded by orange cones and caution tape to prevent people from walking through the wet concrete or into the big ditch full of rebar. While it did block off one of the entrances to the front desk, there were a couple others that were just as obvious that guests could use to enter the building. Most people avoided the taped off areas, but there were, of course, exceptions.

One night five different guests ignored the big, obvious hole surrounded by bright, obvious cones and caution tape, then read the bold, obvious sign on the door reading "PLEASE USE OTHER ENTRANCE" and used it anyway. They had to duck under the tape and drag their luggage through the dirt to get to the door, apparently oblivious to how not-quite-normal doing that was. When I asked if they could use the other entrances they gave confused looks, as if navigating through construction debris was a normal feature hotels have, then give an illuminated, "Oh!" when they figured out that, no, that's not a normal feature hotels have.

This week, staining the concrete began with a similar setup as before; orange cones, caution tape, and a sign on the door advising people to use an alternative entrance. However, with how many people ignored those things last time, I decided to take it a step further and added multiple signs reading 'PLEASE USE ENTRANCE AT THE FRONT OF THE BUILDING" with arrows leading the way. One guests laughed and commented on how excessive it all seemed, but I told him I wanted to be thorough. It may not be wet concrete or an open pit, but it's a rust colored stain that could ruin a pair of shoes or luggage at least, and it still needs to dry, so I'd rather people stay off it.

I saw one guest earlier, however, duck under the caution tape and around the orange cones, traipse lazily along the wet orange liquid covering the concrete, look at the sign on the door, yell to her travel companion, "IT SAYS TO USE THE FRONT ENTRANCE! YOU GOTTA GO AROUND TO THE FRONT!" before ducking under the caution tape again and going to the front entrance. After checking her in she asked if she could exit through the door blocked by a table with the sign reading "PLEASE USE OTHER DOOR" set on it. I told her no and apologized. What I apologized for I do not know.

It isn't to say that I'm the most observant person; there have been plenty of times in my life where I've missed freeway exits, tried going into stores with their "CLOSED" signs up, and walked around with my fly down. However, there are certain things I encounter on a regular basis at work, from people not knowing how to open doors to people assuming there's a road that goes over Mt. Whitney and through Sequoia National Park all the way to Fresno despite it not being on any map in existence, that make me wonder how they survive into adulthood and into old age.

I guess what I'm getting at is this: Pay attention so you don't hurt yourself or break something. Too many people have hurt my brain and broken my spirit these last couple weeks thanks to ignoring the obvious. Don't ignore road cones. Don't walk on wet concrete. Don't be like that.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

A Letter to 18-Year-Old Me

Earlier today I was dredging out old documents I had squirreled away over the years, partly to free up some space but mostly because there's no reason for me to hold on to tax information from 2013, insurance information for a car I no longer own, or a photocopy of a job application from high school. Among the old pay stubs, copies of old resumes, and other crap, there was a folder. There were a lot of folders of course, but this one stuck out because of five sheets of paper, all dated between May and September 2007, and all full of poems.

I have the great (mis)fortune of having been online and blogging for a while now on various sites, so the Young Adult Angst that I had growing up and entering adulthood is pretty visible if you know where to look. However, the poems I had tucked away in that folder, printed out from a laptop that has been dead for nearly a decade, were even more personal than the stuff I put up online. In flowery, cringe-inducing language, they described being homesick after going away to school, being afraid of what was ahead of me in life, and other things I've worked through as I've gotten older. It's not to say I'm without my own issues nowadays, but I figured I'd take a moment to write a letter to 18-year-old me:

Hey dude,  
Congratulations on getting out of high school and into the real world! Well, kind of "real world" since you can't afford much more than the Antelope Valley. You'll learn to like it. You'll actually end up liking it a lot more than a lot of people, but that's neither here nor there. Point is, you're going to grow and learn a lot, mostly the hard way, so that's pretty "real" I guess. 
You'll figure out how to get out of your shell and start dating, making appointments, shopping for groceries that are actually worthwhile, speaking up for yourself and others, and essentially become a functioning adult on some level. You're going to pick up some habits, some good ones but mostly bad ones. A lot of tough times are going to fall into your lap, both of your own creation and beyond your control, but you'll find a way to get through them whether you like it or not. I'm proud of you for that.
The neuroses you've had for so long are going to follow you, but you'll learn how to work around them. The lows are going to be low, but you'll eventually get to a point where things are okay. 
Drink more water, take up exercise, and lighten the fuck up. You'll feel better if you do.
Love you,