I told the subject of the following post that I was absolutely going to stick this stuff in my blog. He objected, for fear of Notoriety, as he believes that this blog gets some kind of major-league readership. He preferred that this material not be the subject of a blog at all, so I proposed referring to him throughout as “He Who Must Not Be Named”, as a way to resolve the Undesired Notoriety issue. He countered with the suggestion that I simply refer to him throughout as “A Significant Male Presence In My Life”. I find both of these suggestions unwieldy, and have decided, therefore, to refer to this individual through the shorthand of “Roy”. I was going to just use “Voldemort” but he subscribes to this blog, and I could just envision the Significant Presence that would rear its head in the house as soon as he intercepted the e-mail and discovered that I’d been calling him Voldemort. So “Roy” it shall be. Consider it an homage to his desire to blend with the Authentic Down-Home Folk of this land.
So, Roy has a few major passions (other than myself). First and foremost, not first among equals, but simply First would be America’s Pasttime: Baseball. The New York Yankees specifically, but he’s not particular, with the exception of the Hated Red Sox, his Baseball Tastes are somewhat catholic. That’s “catholic” with the little “c” not the big one, by design.
Trailing a goodly distance behind Baseball – and here, I can’t even write this without thinking of Sam the American Eagle muppet pausing in conversation before reverently uttering the word “Business” – so, behind <pause> Baseball <in reverent tones> is Celebrity Gossip. This will come as a surprise to many of the casual acquaintances of Roy. But yes, many times I have been dozing in this individual’s company only to be awakened by a burst of Dramatic News involving some wholly unfamiliar celebrity. The best thing about this particular attribute of this particular individual is that I have minimal ability to recognize faces due to some high-temperature-induced brain damage 20+ years ago, and he always lets me know when I’m looking at someone in a movie that I ought to recognize. This, in contrast to Another Significant Male Presence In My Life, we’ll call him “Alan” who uses these opportunities to mock me. Especially with respect to my continuing, chronic, and pervasive inability to recognize Robert DeNiro or Meryl Streep. Really, the only celebrity face I can recognize with any consistency at all is Steve Buscemi, which probably tells you all exactly how big my problem is. But
Voldemort Roy just tells me “You know that guy, he’s [insert name here].”
Third on the list, behind <pause> Baseball <pause> and Celebrity Gossip, is what I can only think of as Hairy Chestnut Advice Columns. No, not like Dear Abby or Ann Landers. Nor like the Ethicist or Mind Your Ps and Qs. No, I’m talking about chestnuts so hairy they bring to mind Rip Van Winkle. I’m talking about chestnuts that are well beyond the age to vote or buy liquor, chestnuts that are instead wondering whether it’s a good idea to start taking Social Security payments now, or wait another five years.
And most of these chestnuts involve Health Tips. Usually, heaven help us, Tips About Eating. And occasionally, Tips About Exercise…but usually Tips About Eating.
Tonight is a Prime Example.
Roy comes downstairs as I’m wrapping gifts (Thanksgiving being over and all). He says “I just learned some great new things from the web!”
Oh, God, Here We Go Again is what I thought. But, because I am a dutiful and respectful
spouse individual, what I said was “Oh, really?”
That’s when I found out that these Tips involved Holiday Eating.
And they included such gems as “Have a few extra glasses of water before you go to a party because it will fill you up and keep you from eating so much junk.”
I’m thinking “This is news?” Because I am pretty sure I read the very same tip 35 years ago in one of the Prevention Magazines that my granny used to keep in a stack next to the toilet in her house.
Then Roy elaborated. “And there was a list of Most Dangerous Holiday Foods To Avoid!” And he’s saying this stuff in the Reverential Tones that I’m accustomed to hearing from octogenarians reporting the results of a consultation with a Famous New York Doctor.
My enthusiasm had chilled, somewhat, as I recognized this as Conversation Number 21: Regurgitation of Hackneyed and Obvious Wisdom of the sort that one usually associates with slow-moving grocery-store checkout lines.
It chilled further as I extrapolated to Obsession Number 8: Slavishly following (and repeating) eating advice of grocery-story checkout periodicals.
That’s when he sent the Capper: “Yeah! You know what they really warned us against? Swedish meatballs!”
That did it for me.
“Swedish meatballs? Are you fucking kidding me?” I said.
“And Lobster Thermidor!” he added.
“Swedish meaballs and lobster thermidor?!?!” I said. “Holy shit, how old is this article? I haven’t even seen a Swedish meatball in at least 20 years. And lobster thermidor? The last time I saw that was at a restaurant in San Diego in 1998, and I have never seen it at a party.”
“These are office parties.” he said.
“Office parties?!?! Who the hell has office parties anymore, in this economy? Let alone office parties with chafing dishes full of Swedish meatballs? And an office party of any kind with lobster thermidor? Do you think that investment bankers (these being the current incarnation of Wretched Excess) eat lobster thermidor?”
“Well,” he said. “Probably those are things to avoid.”
“Yeah. If it’s 1982.” I said.
There followed a conversation about the likelihood that some bone-head at Comcast (the purveyor of these bits of wisdom) had just resurrected some ancient and withered article from the News Morgue from 1958.
“Well,” he said. “They also say to avoid eggnog.”
OK. I don’t even know where to start with this one. Eggnog? Who the hell drinks eggnog if they’re even remotely worried about calories, cholesterol, or any other health-related factor? I don’t need a retro news clip to tell me that eggnog isn’t healthy.
Beyond that, why in the hell am I so concerned about small amounts of overindulgence at the holidays? That’s the freaking point of a holiday. It’s a time when you don’t worry about that shit, and you indulge yourself, and you stay up a little too late, and you eat a little too much, and you drink a little too much, and you have a little too much fun. And then you go back to your sober, sensible, righteous Real Life. What the hell kind of Party Pooper looks at a bowl of eggnog and prissily opines that it’s not healthy?
We knew better than this in Texas. I don’t remember anyone in all the years I lived there, during the holidays, sneering at a carton of eggnog because it’s not healthy. Or, for that matter, going oh, no, I can’t have more than one beer, I can’t afford the calories. I swear to God, this sanctimonious shit makes me want to go out behind the house and chain-smoke an entire pack of Camels (unfiltered). And I don’t even smoke. It makes me want to eat Fried Twinkies, and Funnel Cakes, and huge sausages, and drink an entire case of beer at one setting. I just can’t stand the judgmental rubbish even if it’s not directed at me.
Not that Roy was directing any judgmental rubbish at me…he wasn’t, and wouldn’t. He was directing at himself and I could tell he was on the verge of turning into Goody Two Shoes. Why? Because the Puritanical Spirit never died, my friends, it is alive and well in New England. It’s not about Worshipping the Devil anymore. It’s other stuff, like Smoking, and Drinking, and Having Politically Incorrect Tattoos, and Eating Unhealthy Foods At The Holidays. The spirit is infectious. Save me. Send eggnog and brandy and high-density fruitcakes and pates and smoked oysters and caviare. Don’t send me lobster thermidor or Swedish meatballs, though, because my Vice Fest isn’t retro enough to include bad taste. Might as well float me an Aspic. Ugh.