Friday, December 31, 2004

Happy New Year

And so it has crept up on us again. The day some people dread, the day others love. What will you be doing on New Years Eve? Will you be parading drunkenly around town, telling yourself that next year, you’ll work harder, that next year, you’ll love harder, that next year, you’ll love yourself? Will you look back at 2004, at its triumphs and its failures, its pains and scars?

I won’t be making resolutions, because I don’t believe in them, and I think it’s impractical to designate goal making to one day of the year. This might sound like I’m trying to sell you watermelons: I make goals year-round. However, if time allows, I might reflect on the year – not in a glassy-eyed way – and be blown away again and again at how much God has helped me and my family. My family and me? My family and I? Every year I’m amazed at how generous and wonderful God is, but this year, I can say I’ve grasped more of love, of how important family is, of how much I love my family, and of how much my family loves me.

I will be volunteering at Vancouver First Night, held downtown. I will be there for quite a while. I will get a free toque, a free t-shirt, and hopefully free food, as I will be working for nine hours. I hope the free clothes fit.

I thought about the questions you might have, made a list, and answered them.

Will you get drunk?

It’s not likely.

Will you kiss someone?
Probably not, but you never know.

Will you be at a party with strippers?


But you want to, right?
Be at a party with strippers? Maybe. Be a stripper? No.

Will you be downtown after midnight, walking around, observing the chaos and drunkenness? Will you stay up all night?
I’ll be downtown until probably one in the morning. If coffee shops are open, I might grab something to eat, but I don’t want my parents to worry. If it’s raining, I’ll go home as soon as I can. I don’t remember the last time I stayed up all night. I’m one of those people who need at least nine hours of sleep. If I’ve had too much coffee, I might stay up and read for a while, but I’ll be asleep before three. So while you wild specimens are partying until dawn with scantily dressed women sporting bulbous breasts, and feeling the first taps of the headache that will ruin you for weeks to come, I will be sleeping.

You’re watching the fireworks at midnight, surrounded by hundreds of strangers. Your cheeks are red from the cold, and your hands are gripping the mug of hot chocolate. You and everyone else there are ringing in the New Year with a stunning display of fireworks, laughing and cheering together, eyes reflecting the bright colors in the night sky. You’re standing there, a part of the slightly inebriated crowd, feeling at that moment that you can be anything and everything. Your senses are pushed to their limits. When you’re there, experiencing all that, will you think of me?


Thursday, December 30, 2004

Hallmark, you kill me.

I don’t know what it is about certain brands and the notions people get about their supposed superiority. I have always thought that Hallmark was the manufacturer of everything associated with gifts. Years of Hallmark-this, Hallmark-that, receiving cards with the original brand crossed out and replaced with a handwritten Hallmark (a joke perhaps?), and commercials of people checking the back of cards for the golden crown have given me the impression that Hallmark is the biggest and the best. I’ve never been a brand-whore – all right that may be a lie, but aren’t we all brand-whores at heart? To be more specific, I’ve never been able to afford to be picky with brands, but when I went shopping for Christmas cards this year, my first stop was Hallmark.

Whether or not Hallmark is a name brand, one would think that Hallmark has the biggest selection of quality designs. One would think it would be the “one-stop” for all things gifts – cards, wrapping paper, et cetera. I was wrong, and I was very disappointed with their selection. Only a few of the designs were attractive, most were non-descript, easily forgotten, and not very pleasing to the eye. Most were ugly, in other words. I managed to pick out two or three acceptable boxes, but when I opened the box (to the chagrin of the lady at the counter, who came over and scared the shit out of me) to read the inside message, I was served my second scare of the day.

The inside messages lie on the farthest end of the cheesy spectrum. They weren’t the regular Christmas cheese, but the far out, “who the hell wrote this”, “I don’t know whether I should giggle or do something drastic like stick the whole card in my mouth so no one else will have to read it”, kind. I may be exaggerating slightly, but imagine yourself at a crowded Hallmark store, a little disoriented and dizzy because you took two finals earlier in the day, trying to pick a nice and not too flashy set of cards that you can give to friends and teachers. The cards have to be pretty but not cute, formal but not overly so, maybe slightly playful but no Santas, of the Christmas spirit but not so that you can’t give it to your Jewish friends. And lastly, you prefer cards that contain brief and general messages on the inside, or none at all.

I didn’t think it would be that hard. Of the designs I picked, each of them had an inside message running at least four lines long. I debated for a while, but I just couldn’t give an instructor a card that read something like “as snowflakes fall gently on your skin, the warmth of this season envelopes you like a soft blanket. May you celebrate this joyful season with loved ones and surround yourself with glorious songs. May your heart be set aglow with the hundred small and beautiful ways this season shines, and your stomachs full of the wonderful nourishment this holiday brings.”

I can’t remember the passages so I’m not capturing the mood exactly, but you get the idea. What happened to the simple “Merry Christmas”, “Seasons Greetings”, or “Happy Holidays”? Must every card appear be filled with long messages and leave little room for you to write your own? To be extremely honest, I used to love the cheesy rhyming messages when I was little, and this is embarrassing to admit, but I even copied the messages unto cards that didn’t have them. Things have changed. I ended up buying two packages from Unisef, whose messages are always brief and in different languages. When I ran out, I went to the VanDusen Botanical Garden gift shop and found an extremely nice (and overpriced) box of cards. They were unique and artsy, with four images of a melting snowman. Next year: no Hallmark.

In case I’m coming across as anal, let me tell you that when I receive cards, I am extremely happy and thankful and love whatever I receive. I am never judgmental and I don’t get any of that “how cheesy” feeling I’ve grown accustomed to when I buy cards for others. Most of the cards I received this Christmas were from Hallmark and I loved every single one of them. If you’ve given me a Hallmark card this Christmas, let me assure you, I loved it, and I thank you, and please, don’t be worried when you buy cards next year, because I’m only like that when I buy cards for others, and I don't think other people care what the original message is. I guess I just don’t feel comfortable purchasing cards with cheesy messages, but totally fine when they’re given to me.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve began like any other day. Woke up embarrassingly late, had breakfast, did nothing to benefit the world at large, et cetera. The most exciting thing that happened in that period was probably the little playful fight I had with my brother. Nobody was hurt, but a coat hanger was broken. It wasn’t until a little after lunch that I became fully conscious of the fact that we were going to have a big dinner with family friends that night. And then a rush of excitement knocked me over. The guests were to arrive at four thirty for dinner because one of the families had to be someplace later in the evening, so my family was in a hurry to get everything tidied and the food ready. When I finished my share of work, my mother reminded me that there were still gifts to wrap.

I cheerfully went upstairs, got out the presents, and realized that the ribbon was nowhere to be found. I looked, and then I asked my mother to look, because she always finds whatever is misplaced, but she couldn’t find it either, so I left the house to go to the dollar store. You should have seen the streets. I live in a relatively quiet and uneventful neighbourhood, full of old people, children, and some ridiculously good-looking guys who, unfortunately, either prefer to stay at home or don't go out when I go out. On that afternoon there were people everywhere, all walking a little faster than usual, and all carrying plastic bags full of things from stores like Safeway and BC Liquor.

The dollar store didn’t carry the exact color of ribbon I wanted, but I did find other ones as well as a box of tiny bows. From there I went to Safeway to purchase drinks and pie. Safeway was busier than ever, with check out lines that were incredibly long. There were also more employees working than usual, and I managed to see the very cute one. I saw him right as I walked in, and when he looked up briefly, I may or may not have smiled like an idiot. I also noticed that deodorant was stacked up in every corner. As I stood in line, gleefully holding on to my basket of pop – a rare treat in my family – I glanced at a magazine that claimed it would make me a “better kisser”. I did not buy any deodorant.

Safeway didn’t have the ribbons I wanted – plain red, what happened to plain red? – so on my way home I stopped by a photocopying/faxing shop, and voila! Red ribbons! When I got home I was in a Christmas high: excited, pumped, and very, very hungry. I wrapped my remaining gifts to the Nicole C. Mullen cd, and managed to stick them under the tree just as the guests were arriving. Part of my excitement was due to what I’d seen when I looked inside my stocking. I have no self control, okay?

Everybody was happy, the conversation never stopped, and the food, the food was great. One of the guests had heard about my sushi obsession and brought a plate just for me. They were different from what I usually order – they were a lot fancier than what I usually order. The sushi was a complete surprise, and was absolutely delicious. The rest of the food – including the traditional slain turkey – was equally amazing, and I stuffed myself till I could be stuffed no more. I also drank pop like I’ll never drink pop again.

When the guests left after a wonderful evening of dining and humorous anecdotes (my father is one of the funniest man I know), we hung around the living room for a while, cleaned up, estimated that we’ll be eating turkey for the next six years, and went upstairs. I made my brother promise to wake me up before opening the presents on Christmas Day. Knowing him, he’ll probably get up at six in the morning. (He woke up at four, by the way). As I entered my room, I heard distant guitars and singing. I looked at my stereo: off; leaned towards my dad’s room: random program on television not involving guitars or singing. Carollers perhaps? I rushed to my window, pulled up the blinds, opened the window and stuck my head outside. They were on the sidewalk walking back and forth, and when they saw me, they waved and screamed, “Merry Christmas!”

Friday, December 24, 2004

I recently heard a Christmas song by Christina Aguilera. Listening to the lyrics, the song seemed like quite the joyful Christmas song: about love, presents under the tree, going home for Christmas. Happy, right? Not the way she sang it. If you don’t understand any English, you’d think someone was trying to rip a baby from her womb. She sang in her usual deep throated, almost grunt-like style, which works for her other songs. But when she is singing, “Oh how much joy is at Christmas time”, or, “This year’s gonna be the best Christmas because there’ll be family and Christmas cheer,” shouldn’t she at least sound happy?

I thought that maybe she was bitter because everybody except for her was going home for Christmas, or maybe she sounded angry and harsh because the song was supposed to be sarcastic. I read through the lyrics carefully, trying to solve this mystery, and as far as I can see, it’s a warm and cheerful Christmas song. That means Christina Aguilera has some major reading comprehension issues. How much do you want to bet that she performs it in a S&M costume with tight fists and a pained look on her face? With sweaty background dancers ripping presents apart and stomping on Christmas trees? They should get rid of that song.

Last night I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning listening to Nicole C. Mullen’s “Christmas in Black and White” album that my father brought home. The gentle, jazzy tunes warmed the cockles of my cold and bitter heart. It’s a very sweet and unpretentious album. She sings in a normal to low register so I am able to sing along without going frighteningly falsetto.

For the next couple of days, I am going to be seeing lots of people, consuming ridiculous amounts of food, and calling family and friends in many countries. I might also go shopping, but hopefully I won’t spend too much money. I wish you all a wonderful holiday. Remember to love and forgive your families.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Naps, Why You Should Stay Away From Them, and Why the Holidays are Great

  • When you're lying awake at two in the morning, unable to fall asleep because you took a nap in the afternoon (see title), you do not panick and worry about how this will affect your performance at school tomorrow. Instead, you turn on the lamp, wait for your eyes to adjust to the brightness, reach down to the floor and grab a nearby copy of Harpers. Then you read.

  • No point hitting the snooze button when you can just turn the alarm off and go right back to sleep. Wait, why bother setting the alarm?

  • Shower? Who needs to shower?

  • When you finally decide to shower because a friend said she’s coming over, you actually have time to try that ‘intense restoration conditioning serum’ you bought in a consumerist frenzy. In addition, you have time to use many other products you bought in similar frenzies, such as eyeliner, eye shadow, lip-gloss, volumnizing spray gel, straightening cream, anti-frizz spray, lotion, cream, body butter, the list goes on. And you have time to use all of them. You are so vain.

  • You have time to play your gangsta rap cds, and also your other cds, and you do not feel guilty playing them. You sing along and dance along. You are a rock star, baby.

  • You feel giddy with the thought that you actually have time to sleep now, but end up sleeping even less than you did before. Now how did that happen? But you still feel giddy.

  • Ferrero Rocher. 89 cents for a pack of three at London Drugs. Life doesn't get better than that.

  • Wednesday, December 22, 2004

    Not too long ago I had mentioned to some lengths about a particular camping trip I went on and the unusual mosquito bites that resulted. I know it’s annoying for me to bring that up again, and you may all commence groaning now. I am bringing this up again because I actually went to see a dermatologist about the bites, because they were not healing and the scars looked frighteningly permanent.

    As the dermatologist examined my legs he muttered technical term after technical term. After all the medical jargon he explained – oh hell, I can’t remember what he explained. What I remember is that he said that creams that claim to speed up recovery are all bogus, and that the scars will only heal with time. When I asked him if they’ll heal by next summer, he looked up at me and said, “The summer after that.” As I stared at him trying to figure out if he was being serious or was displaying an unusual sense of humor he continued by saying that when everything heals by the summer after next summer, he predicts that I will go camping and get horrible mosquito bites again.

    “Bug spray, bug spray,” he muttered. I had, in fact, worn bug spray. And dude, everyone knows that shit doesn’t work.

    Tuesday, December 21, 2004

    Potluck Dinner

    I just returned from a potluck dinner at an old friend’s house. We used to be neighbors and haven’t seen each other in many years. When I first received the invitation I surprised myself by accepting, because I’m not one to attend dinners slash parties slash social events. The friend sent me a little description of the evening’s events, and I dutifully read it over, because I didn’t want any surprises. Karaoke was on the list, as well as board games. Then I saw ‘spin the bottle’, and I thought “What the hell?” But it turned out to be a different kind, not the make-out kind. Disappointment? You tell me.

    When we were discussing what I should bring to the potluck over msn – because I wouldn’t even know where to start if I had to cook – my friend suggested I bring sushi, which was a great idea. I love sushi. But then I thought, why would I want to pay for a big tray of sushi just so I can give it to other people to eat? That seemed completely illogical. I would much rather eat it all by myself.

    Then, as if on cue, she messaged: “Jenny, make sure you don’t eat all of it before you come!”

    Um, that’s just freaky. She read my mind. Over msn! And so I replied, “Haha, of course not. Why would I do that?”

    I ordered the sushi the night before (10% discount!), and the sushi lady didn’t even bother to ask for my phone number because I’m sure she recognized my voice. On the way there I could smell the sushi and spent the whole trip with my face glued to the Styrofoam boxes. When I arrived, I was more than a little reluctant to hand my sushi over. After all the introductions and the preparations, we were finally allowed to start eating. I immediately ate all the sushi I brought.

    There were approximately fourteen people, of which I knew two. All in all, it was fun. We played charades (“It’s a chicken!” “Big sexy man!” “World? Sphere? Donut?”), sang some karaoke, and did not play spin the bottle (which they called spin the pen or spin the pin). Karaoke was hilarious. I don’t know how they make the karaoke videos, but they usually have nothing to do with the songs, and they consist of some girl from the eighties wearing something unfashionable and pouting her lips. Among the songs we sang there were some Celine Dion and some Aerosmith. Everyone’s going to get nightmares tonight from my singing.

    A little before ten we were all kicked out, and as a friend and I walked to the bus “My Heart Will Go On” was still stuck in our heads, so we decided to sing it on the bus. I’m sure everyone on the bus hated us. When we tired of that, we decided to sing all the Christmas tunes we know. We could only remember the first lines of most songs, so it went something like this:

    “Frosty the snowman, nana nanana” “…okay another one” “Rudolph the red nosed reindeer, had a very shiny nose! And all …la la la la…Then one foggy Christmas Eve, Santa came to um play? La la la LA LA LA, won’t you pull my sleigh tonight?” “Phew which other ones do you know?” “The first noel, the angles did hark or sing, and then …I can’t remember” “FA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA!” “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas…OH Christmas tree! OH Christmas tree!” “WE WISH YOU A MERRY CHRISTMAS WE WISH YOU A MERRY CHRISTMAS WE WISH YOU A MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR!”

    There was no alcohol involved.

    Sunday, December 19, 2004

    All I Want for Christmas is You!

    It was November 29th, November as in the month before December, and I was buying yogurt at Safeway. Did you know they sell the fruit-on-the-bottom style yogurt in KIWI? How unbelievably exciting is that? I know I was pretty excited, and that I almost fell into the cooler because I was so excited.

    Anyway. I was in Safeway, and the usual elevator music was playing in the background. I believe they were playing Rudolph “I have terrible allergies” Reindeer, with the usual sleigh bell sounds that permeate every single Christmas song, but I wasn’t paying any attention because, you know, KIWI YOGURT. I was still standing in the yogurt section when the beginning of the new song caught my attention. The familiar xylophone intro and the all too familiar voice stopped me from what I was doing. My arm, in the process of reaching for another carton, was suspended in mid air, and my mouth was hanging open.

    The song blasting from the Safeway speakers was Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You”. I love that song, and nothing else brings back a flood of memories like a song. It caught me completely unprepared, and I was pissed of because it was too early, much too early to play Christmas music. It wasn’t yet December, and Christmas related things should not begin before then. No decorations, no music, no fat men in red suits. No trees, no ‘holiday specials’, no scary women blocking the entrance to the Bay encouraging me to try the fragrances from their new holiday gift baskets.

    When December finally arrives, there should be the equivalent of the Big Bang, where POOF, lights and decorations and fat men suddenly come out of nowhere, and it becomes Winter Wonderland overnight. So you can understand that I was annoyed at hearing a favorite Christmas song in November at a grocery store, because it’s usually something I save for when I’m at home by myself. I considered this a matter worth discussing with the manager, so I promptly stormed off to do just that. When I reached the tea aisle (a very good aisle) I’d already composed an entire complaint speech in my head. As I walked through, I noticed that hey, several brands of tea are on sale!

    So I ended up happily picking tea, marveling at the amount of money I’d be saving. 35 cents! Before I knew it, and I have no idea how it happened, I was singing along to the song. Rather loudly too. As I threw box after box of tea into my shopping basket, I was singing, “Baby all I want for Christmas is you!” “Youuuuuuuuuuu youuuuuuuuu BABY” “Ohhhh” “Santa won't you bring me the one I really need won't you please bring my baby to meeeeeee”. Etc. I had the echoes going and everything.

    When the song ended, I happily exited the aisle – which was completely empty, I wonder why – and paid for my purchases. The total was higher than expected, and when I got home, I realized I’d gotten approximately nine cartons of kiwi yogurt, and that the total number of tea bags in my house had increased to 52000.

    Saturday, December 18, 2004

    Just look at his tiny feet! If you lift up his skirt, you can see his underwear too.

    Now I have two Spongebob dolls! They have a lot of fun together.

    Friday, December 17, 2004

    Promises, promises

    It has been brought to my attention that I had made promises earlier about recounting another incident of the Wetting of the Pants and posting pictures of the Room Rearrangement Process. I apologize for the delay, and blame it on the apple sauce that I have been consuming too much of lately. Regarding the pictures, I will need to solve some technical problems first. It’s not difficult to post them one by one, but as I have a little bit more time now in the holidays, I would like to figure out a way to publish them as an album. I don’t know when that will be, but I would like to think that the pictures will remain in the hard drive, the room will remain in the house, and that I will continue to be here, so there is no hurry.

    And now, ladies and gentlemen, I present you with the Wetting of the Pants, part 2.
    You may read Part 1 here.

    Wetting of the Pants: Part 2

    On most mornings, I leave the house with a mug of tea. I like feeling of warm fluid rushing into my stomach, and it makes me warmer when I’m cold, and drinking gives me something to do physically while I sit on a stone hard bench from 8-10 three mornings a week. On that particular morning, I carried my mug of hot tea – in freshly boiled water so it’ll still be hot when I get to class – out to the car, where I put it in the cup holder between the driver and myself. I don’t place the mug in a particular fashion, and the most I do is wiggle it around in the cup holder to make sure it’s settled in properly. That morning the handle of the mug faced my legs, next to which sat my backpack. When my dad stopped the car near my class, I rushed to get out because we’re in the middle of the road and I always picture miles of cars behind us and all the drivers cursing me under their breath, whether there are actual cars behind us or not.

    As I got up to leave, lifting up my backpack, the straps caught on to my mug, swiftly taking it out of cup holder and tipping it towards me. I got the mug for free at an orientation, and it doesn’t have a stopper at the opening, so tea rushed out of the opening onto the spot next to my left thigh. I froze. My right elbow was leaning against the opened door, my butt was not quite off the seat but not exactly sitting on it either, the mug was still caught on the straps of my backpack, still tipping, water still flowing. I managed to react fast enough and twist so that I narrowly missed the stream of water. I don’t know where that skill came from, but it’s definitely going on my resume. Even though I didn’t come in direct contact with the water, I could feel how hot it was. It was hot. When it reached the seat, it immediately spread out on the material, wetting my pants a little. Everything felt suspended and it took me a while to grab hold of the mug and stop the flow of water. I was scared. I was scared of making my dad angry, of staining everything, of pissing of the potentially profane drivers behind our car, of walking around with soaking pants the whole day. Do I stay in the car, do I get out and leave it, what was I supposed to do?

    My dad was nice about the whole thing. He was more concerned about me not getting burned. I got out of the car partially, looking at my dad with a “what about the seat? I’m so sorry!” expression, and he just shrugged and told me not to be late for class. He didn’t care about the seat, there was only a tiny wet spot on my left thigh, and everything was fine.

    But wait, there’s more.

    The lecture hall I have my first class in on Tuesdays and Thursdays have soft, relatively comfortable seats with tiny pull-out trays that some idiot thought would be ideal for students to write exams on. The seats are close together and I usually sit near the middle so no one’s sitting next to me on my left, allowing me to have an extra “desk” to put my mug, my writing utensils, my head, whatever. On that day, a classmate sat on my left. I was such a hogger that I actually put my stuff on her flip out tray and she had to write on her leg. If that image shows anything, it shows how much I suck, and it shows how nice the classmate is.

    At the end of class, my mug of tea (not quite finished, I do not know why) was sitting on top of the classmate’s tray/table, and when she stood up, she tipped it and it fell towards her. Shrieking, she immediately whacked it away from her, which, incidentally, happened to be towards me. The mug flew and flopped upside down on my lap. I had mentioned that the mug was free, which means that the top doesn’t stay on very well. Miraculously, when it fell upside down into my lap, the top stayed on. I couldn’t believe it. After I cleaned up the spillage, which was minimal, I regarded the mug with awe. And then I threw it away.

    Just kidding. I still have it.

    Thursday, December 16, 2004

    Taking the bus home I sat an aisle across from a man speaking to an older man in the row in front. The younger man was talking in an animated manner, receiving the occasional grunts and nods from the man in front, who was facing the front of the bus. It seemed like the man was talking to himself. After a while, it became obvious that he was.

    The man sat in a sprawled fashion, taking up parts of the seat next to him. The bus was crowded enough to have people standing, but no one sat next to him. Physically, he was like everybody else, and of course, he very well might have been. For the duration of the bus ride, he spoke in short phrases, with strong emphasis and pauses. To me, he sounded like he was rapping. Through the bodies in the aisle and the noise of the bus engine and the surrounding traffic, I could hear the focused and continuous flow of words he uttered. He drew out the syllables and spoke with a kind of understated force

    To the best of my memory, this is roughly what I heard:

    Don’t do marijuana
    Because you will go to

    Big corporations

    We are responsible
    We are
    Responsible for our actions

    Tuesday, December 14, 2004

    I just came back from the Festival of Lights at VanDusen Botanical Garden, and it was quite spectacular. Strings of tiny lights covered everything, speakers played Christmas music, and there was a light show in the middle of a tiny lake. The dancing lights were synchronized to the rhythm of the music, their multicolored flickers illuminating the dark water. The endless stream of lights, along with the nebulous reflections in the water gave the place a soft glow. Santa Claus was also there, but I didn’t go near him because he scares me. A SATB choir was singing indoors with an accompanying keyboardist, and standing there, hearing the mingling of their voices and the warm melodies, and seeing the flushed and happy faces of everyone there, I felt a genuine appreciation for everything around me.

    When I got home, I ate homemade fruitcake with my family.

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