Sunday, February 5, 2012

December 22, 2011 The 2005 Christmas Letter

Alright, I know this is late this year. I actually started this over a month ago, but since I’ve become a bitter old man the first draft was just me ranting and raving about the stupidity of American people who still believe our lousy president’s bullshit. So after several rewrites and still sounding like a bitter old man, I scrapped the whole thing and am now rushing through this version of the Christmas letter. My anger over the incompetent group of criminals running the country has not subsided, but I did realize that the Christmas letter is suppose to be a humorous look at the absurd way Chrissy & I decide to spend our year. So better late than never…maybe not…here’s a recap of 2005. THE WHITE SOX WON THE WORLD SERIES!!!! I repeat THE WHITE SOX WON THE FUCKING WORLD SERIES!!!! The rest is just inconsequential details.

In February we went to Rome for a week. We took a guided tour the first day there. As we sat on the bus one of the guides came down the aisle saying “Good Morning” to everyone in the language she thought you spoke. She was correct on everyone until she got to us; she looked at us and hesitated then said “Buongiorno”. I guess between my nose and Chrissy’s mustache we looked like Italians. We spent the rest of the week just walking around Rome. It is an amazing city completely ruled by the Catholic Church. In one week we visited more churches than the previous 40 years of our lives. It is hard to describe the beauty and differences of each church. The artwork, the statues and the artifacts in every one of the Roman Catholic churches is mind boggling. We searched out the Santa Scala, which are reported to be the steps Jesus walked up at Pontius Pilate’s house. Now think about that for a moment, you can walk on the same steps as Jesus…count me in. Well it turns out you must crawl up the steps on your knees while praying…OK I can show some respect, this is still very cool to me. Apparently some people take this more seriously than me, the stairs are packed and it takes several hours to crawl & pray your way to the top. I left asking couldn’t there be an express lane…maybe just the left half of the staircase for people with a little less time and devotion. The nuns bounced me out of the church while saying Hail Marys & Heavenly Fathers and making the sign of the cross. As soon as we left the church…I swear I’m not making this up…a hail storm began while we waited for the bus. When it finally arrived I jumped on through the back door but Chrissy only got an arm in when the driver shut the door and took off. I’m yelling STOP!!!, which everyone but me realized was useless, as Chrissy is running along side the bus, a local finally yelled FERMI! Then he continued to yell at the driver to open the door. Chrissy kept yelling you fucking asshole at the driver…thank God he didn’t speak English. While visiting the sites around Rome, I took a lot of pictures. I try to be polite and consider everyone around me. The Japanese tourists also like to take pictures and have no manners whatsoever, which is strange for a group of people that rarely grow over 5’5” and 140 pounds. Chrissy was so pissed at them that she purposely walked into their pictures. She is now famous throughout Japan as that Round Eye Bitch that ruined my photographs.

Over the past year, we have visited NYC five times, which means Chrissy & I have visited my Aunt Maryann’s house more often than both of our parents’ homes. I guess this says something about who treats us better. I know most of you think I go just to eat Maryann’s cooking, but she didn’t cook Italian food until our last trip in December…and thank God she did or this little story would have ended with me crying about not having an Italian  meal there all year. In April we took our fourteen year old nephew, Kyle to NYC. He said he wanted to go with us.  We took him all over the city and all he did was play with his fucking Gameboy. I thought he was bored hanging out with us, so one day I asked him what would you like to see… “the Empire State Building”…OK…we wait on line for 2 hours to get to the outdoor observation deck…after 5 minutes on the deck that son of a bitch is sitting inside playing his Gameboy. I was going to throw it off the building but realized it wasn’t the Gameboys fault…so I threw the kid off the building…how do people put up with children seven days a week? Every trip to NYC brings us to new places…this summer we had dinner with Freddie & Maryann on City Island in the Bronx at a place called Sammy’s…Maryann had a plate of crab legs stacked so high we couldn’t see her until she ate half her dinner. It was a beautiful summer night so we visited a little state park on the East River in Long Island City that had an amazing view of Manhattan. In October we took my friends Ralph & Machelle to NYC. This trip was just to eat Corato’s pizza. I have said many times while eating shitty Chicago pizza that I’d fly to NYC just for some good pizza and it finally happened. While eating at Coratos, which Ralph & Machelle loved, I told them the stories of how I have eaten there for almost 30 years…eating there with my grandparents on every trip to NYC, how my father sent me at age twelve to Corato’s after midnight with a fifty dollar bill to get us a pie. After listening to my stories the guy at the table behind us told me he moved away in 1979 and still visits the neighborhood once a year just for a slice of Corato’s pizza…I completely understood.

For those that do not know, Chrissy’s sister lives next door to us. She has 2 boys and a girl. As I’ve stated before I hate all kids, but as they get older I can put up with them more. It is fun to be the cool uncle. I take them fun places, do fun things, then send them home to their parents who yell at them about stupid shit and the kids yell back cool things like “ I hate you, I wish Uncle Gregg was my dad. He is so cool.” Of course the little fuckers don’t realize what a prick I’d be if I was their father, so for the next few years at least, I can be cool Uncle Gregg. This brings me to a couple of stories involving my niece Kristian. One night after a trip to the beach with the dogs, we stopped at Schoops for hamburgers with Kristian. She was talking about cartoons and mentioned Wonderdog, unbeknownst to me this is a new cartoon, so I say don’t you mean Underdog, she says no Wonderdog, I say Underdog like underwear, to which she replies very loudly “Uncle Gregg, do you wear Aunt Chrissy’s underwear?” Well Chrissy spits her hamburger half way across the room. Everyone within earshot looks at my four year old niece and I say “God damn it, I gotta start shutting the blinds tighter!” One Sunday we took Kennedy & Kristian to Lincoln Park Zoo, then to dinner in Little Italy and finally back home. While driving down the Dan Ryan Expressway, Kristian starts singing “Lions & Tigers & Bears, Oh my!” So after a long day with these kids, hearing her sing this a couple of hundred times, I’m desperately trying to change the subject. So as we passed the garbage dump at 130th St. the smell enters the car and I say “Aunt Chrissy farted”. Without missing a beat the kid starts singing “Lions & Tigers & Bears & Farts Oh my” repeatedly. Chrissy starts laughing uncontrollably…she can’t stop and has tears running down her face, I start laughing mostly at Chrissy, meanwhile “Lions & Tigers & Bears & Farts” is continuing nonstop from the back seat. I finally had to pull over at 159th St and toss the kid out of the car.

In August I quit my job. I needed a break after working nonstop for the past 25 years. I thought I’d spend my days riding my bike on the dirt trails in the area, working out to get into shape, taking day trips to shoot photographs and surfing the internet for porn. Chrissy had other ideas like buying a new car, remodeling the living room, buying new furniture for the newly remodeled living room. So after spending a month tearing out the carpet, tearing off old paneling, repairing plaster walls, painting the room, stripping the wood floors, staining the floors, replacing the trim and adding crown molding and spending over $35K while I’m out of work. I had to relax for a few days so I left to visit my mom in SoCal without telling Chrissy. AAAHHHH…fantasy…seven days at the beach just me, the waves and the hotties…reality…like Meatloaf once sang 2 out of 3 ain’t bad. By the time Chrissy found me, she had spent another 5 grand. So I came back and got a job. It was easier on me than being out of work. While in Cali, I helped my brother George move some furniture then we went to Best Buy to pick up a wine refrigerator he had ordered. Shockingly, the moron at Best Buy couldn’t find the refrigerator even though he had called Geo to let him know it had arrived. After several phone calls and even more blank looks from the store’s brain dead employees, we were told it wasn’t in yet. So as we’re heading out, here comes a lady with Geo’s refrigerator on a dolly. She apologizes about the mix-up then says “I’M SURE YOU TWO WILL REALLY ENJOY THIS”. Now I’m sure lots of gay men shop for wine refrigerators, but I set her straight anyway by saying, “Hey lady, I’m not gay, but we still aren’t sure about my brother here.” She gave me that ‘OF COURSE YOU’RE NOT GAY LOOK’ and walked away.

I know everyone thinks their life sucks every now and then. And now I feel like Norm from Cheers when he said “It’s a dog eat dog world and I’m wearing Milkbone underwear.” Our male dog Glacier is about 10 years old. He has bad hips, which prevents him from squatting properly. This is a very important position for a dog in order to take a shit correctly. So let me cut to the chase, I now have to wipe my dog’s ass every time he shits in the yard…so whenever you think you have it bad…think of me on all fours lifting his tail and wiping his ass. Chrissy usually grooms the dogs, but they were a mess so she took them to a kennel for a doggy spa day. Our dogs are big, but definitely not tough. When they got home that night they looked & smelled great and were on their best behavior… I think it was like “Scared Straight”, the program where delinquents spend a day in prison to get a taste of life there and the inmates try to scare them out of a life of crime. I pictured my two dogs being terrorized by a Rottwieler & a German Shepard in the kennel…“Hey Glacier, you think you’re tough, you’re a pussy, I’m gonna make you my bitch” and “you sure got a pretty mouth Fluffy”…since the two of them were on such good behavior after a being traumatized at the kennel, we plan on sending them again next month.

I’m not sure why, but every year I list the shows we saw. Here’s this year’s list… Spamalot, Wicked, The Thing About Men and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Concerts…Paul Westerberg, Ben Folds, Marah (twice), Floggy Molly (twice), Bruce Springsteen and the DropKick Murphys (it was Kyle’s first concert; I had him in the mosh pit). The best concert was Lyle Lovett, John Hiatt, Joe Ely and Guy Clark on the Songwriters Tour, the four of them sitting on stools playing songs, respectfully goofing on each other and telling stories. We highly recommend seeing Lyle Lovett or John Hiatt in concert.

Over the years, lots of people have written or said nice things about this stupid newsletter and some have said not so nice things. That’s fine, I understand. But my friend Rich Twardy would actually critique it for me. My favorite was the year he simply said “not as funny as last years”. He was right. When Chrissy & I got married, we didn’t want a limo, so I asked Rich if we could borrow his 1957 Chevy. He not only agreed, he offered to be our chauffeur. After the church ceremony, he held the door as we jumped into the back seat. On the seat was an ice bucket with champagne and two glasses. That’s Rich; ask for something and he does that little extra for you…every time. Rich died last year, suddenly, right before Christmas. I can’t think of a more devastating time of year for a family to go through such a thing. But I don’t mention this to bring anyone down, just to use Rich as a lesson for the season. I have no doubt that everyone at his funeral knew how much they meant to him. Because every time he saw you there was no doubt how happy he was that you spent some time with him. To me, this is an amazing personality trait. So this holiday season and beyond, let those you spend time with know how much you enjoy being with them. Don’t assume they know, make sure they know how much they mean to you. So to everyone that gets this letter, let’s try to spend some time together next year. Chrissy & I are thinking of you and we hope your Christmas was merry and have a Happy New Year. As for you Rich, next time we meet…I’ll bring the champagne.

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