Saturday, December 29, 2007

Merry Christmas to Me!

Christmas isn't really that big a deal in Casa de Silentio. At most, we swap one gift. Normally, we even let the other person in on what the gift will be -- oftimes even buying it while out with them. Last year, for example, we bought each other Sigor Ros concert tickets. This year, things were only slightly different. Different in the sense that K. bought me the gorgeous, framed & mounted concert poster to the left, and I've not yet managed to get her anything. Now, before the ladies go crazy on me here, to be fair, it's not all my fault. For starters, she went on a tear and indulged her every buying whim when we visited L.A. last week, from sweatshirts in Huntington to snazzy hats in Venice Beach -- not to mention a guided tour through Compton. And that doesn't even mention the fajita combination dinner at Chevy's we had on Christmas day. Anyway, by the time I found something tangible from me to her -- *cough* the day after Christmas *cough* -- the online store had sold out. Oh well, if the Jews can hold out using the same oil in the temple for eight days, she can stick with her old, saggy-assed pajamas for another week.

So, yes, Merry Christmas to me.

Also on Christmas, I got a revenge that was one year in the making. Last year around this time, Mr. Aquadoodiloop bested me in the championship of our fantasy football league ... by a half-point! I still remember watching the Monday night Philly game, and seeing Brian Westbrook crank out the final, meaningless junk yards that put him over the top. Shock and rage blended into a fistful of hate, which I kept clenched for a year tighter than a homophobe's sphincter in the Castro. One would think that finishing first in a Aquadoodiloop-less fantasy baseball league would've helped, but no. If anything, I became all the more determined to crush my nemesis. The season progressed to form. He and I remained neck and neck most of the way, splitting the regular season matchups; enduring the scorn of our spouses, who participated in the festivities but despaired of & mocked our fanaticism; and then we each beat back our playoff challengers. The stars aligned for our matchup last weekend, and, I'm happy to report, poetic justice whispered in my ear and promised to make my enemy her bitch. And indeed she did. I beat him by a full point this time around, but that is only because we went without fractional points -- otherwise, the margin would've been roughly the same as last year, this time in my favor. Next year, my friend ... rubber match?

Merry Christmas to me, x2.

Sadly ... not all was perfect this holiday season. Indeed, the sole significant disappointment was so tremendous as to almost ruin it all. To explain requires a little context, but even then I don't expect many to get it. Kenny Rogers Roasters has always held a very special place in the hearts and gullets of me and my friends. In college and part of graduate school, it was one of the few places we could all agree on when posed with the question, "Where you want to go for dinner?" The wood looked at the chicken it had cooked, and saw that it was good. And we loved the wood for this. The wood had little to do with the macaroni and cheese, but we loved the wood for this too. Like all good religious experiences, a little irrational attribution is natural. Kenny Rogers smiled down at us while we dirtied our faces and mouths with his food, consuming his woody goodness, and gazed up at him in admiration for the chicken he'd likely never even tasted. At some point, Kenny Rogers Roasters lost the favor of the American eating public, and it wasn't long before we lost our wood. We were at a loss for a long time. Each of us found our own substitutes, I suppose. Some of us moved on quicker than others. But I liked to think that a piece of Kenny's wood stay with us all.

Like many good things from the college years, I gave up on reliving it. It was not meant to be. That was, until the days just before leaving for my trip to L.A. It was revealed to me from a mysterious ninja from upstate New York that there was one remaining Roasters in the United States, in the Ontario Mills Mall just outside of L.A. My wood had returned, I sang, with vibratto. Sure, it would require a major detour to the east outside of L.A., not to mention venturing into the largest mall west of the Mississippi River just days before Christmas, though happily after the Chanukah rush -- but I didn't care, and I somehow managed to convince K. she shouldn't either. The saintly Belgian agreed to our detour, after taking her for one more trip to her new L.A. landmark, California Donut, and we set off while in en route back to the Bay Area.

If poetic justice smiled on me during fantasy football, cruel heartbreak kicked me in the balls. I should've known. Remember, if you will, the final Kenny Rogers Roasters is in a mall food court. A MALL FOOD COURT! I knew this, but thought, hoped, that the power of the wood would transcend it all ... and, yes, make it all good. Oh, but it was not to be. Kenny was there in name only. There were no pictures. No gold albums. No music. Only the soul-devouring dullness of ... a MALL FOOD COURT. And the food ... well, the macaroni was lukewarm at best (due to the slower than dirt mother or fourteen in front of me), and the chicken tasted as though it had been warmed up with a bathroom hand dryer. A part of me died that afternoon at the Ontario Mills Mall. Maybe a part that should've died when I graduated, alongside the hope for viable employment. The thick fog that haunted the central valley during my drive back to Oakland from L.A. that night was appropriate, that and the smell of a memory's death on my fingers and its taste in my mouth. For those taking notes, it smells like stale dog urine preserved in the fridge and tastes like under-cooked mussels.

But you know, maybe this is okay. Maybe Christmas & New Years is just as much about finally putting something to rest as it is dreaming of something new. Goodbye, Kenny. Finally. Forever. Amen.