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Tuesday, 29 July
JULETIDE!

Here we are, running out the clock on July, so it seems obvious that what we all should be thinking about is Christmas.

Mostly, I just don't have shit to write about, so for some reason, I started thinking about

HORRIBLE CHRISTMAS GIFTS OVER THE YEARS

Mom

Mom always took it up the ass on Christmas, gift-wise. I don't care to dwell on any other -wises, but if that's how she rolls, well, you go, Mom.

It's always been easy for me to shop for my mother. We are both voracious readers, and so I know I can always dump a wagonload of books on her and be pretty safe (although she was really puzzled last year when I took a chance and gave her a copy of the comic Bone).

My mother has been an RN for thirty-five years or so, and like many RNs, does not wear much of anything, ever, in the way of jewelry or perfume. Jewelry gets caught on stuff, like patients, and is also shiny and lends itself to grabbery, by things like deranged patients. And perfume simply doesn't go over well in confined spaces, like, say, an OR, and it often goes over less well with patients with severe allergies or compromised immune systems. So she keeps it simple.

That never prevented my dad's mom from buying her, year after year, Jean Nate bath products. Christmas, for me, always carries the ghost of the scent of Jean fucking Nate, and after a few years of this, my mother stopped trying to suppress her sighs.

Whenever my grandmother came to visit, out came the Jean Nate, and it is now the unsexiest scent imaginable, as I associate it with what my dead grandmother apparently thought was sexy.

I guess I haven't helped myself any by bringing up the terrible spectral image of my mother enthusiastically engaging in Christmas anal sex, either. You see why my readership is way down.

Anyway. None of this was nearly as bad as the year my grandmother bought my mother a sweatshirt with an '80s bangled teddy bear--fake rhinestone necklace and bracelets--with googly eyes glued on and bearing the legend "Bears Just Wanna Have Fun."

Dad

My father is similarly impossible to shop for, as if there is something he wants, he simply buys it. Not many people know this, but he owns several dozen of Jimmy Carter's discarded toupees, which he likes to shoot at down in his basement, in the makeshift firing range he has set up down there.

I'm just kidding. About the toupees, anyway: he really does have a firing range in the basement, suitable for pistol shooting. This used to terrify Peggy, their lovable little mutt, until Peggy died, hopefully not out of gunplay-related agitation.

(Note to self: Possible Christmas gift this year--deaf dog.)

So my dad really likes guns, and that's cool. Seriously, it's pretty cool. Whenever I visit, we take a trip down to the basement, and he unlocks his gigantic gun vault--he has a gun vault!--and then do some target shooting while, happily, not terrorizing innocent dogs beyond lucidity.

Not that I've ever given my father a gun--nor has anyone, to my knowledge. For one thing, guns are fucking expensive. For another, nobody else in my family gives a shit about guns, except for me, and I only care about them to the extent that they are fun to shoot in basements, because it's just a perverse thing to do. My father did once give my mother a "really, really sweet little gun" that was essentially the Homer Simpson bowling ball equivalent of a gift, and my mother promptly hid it from him, forever, but brings it out once each year demanding that my father clean "her gun" as any sensible gun owner should. Then she hides it again. He sees the gun once a year, and it eats at him.

I've lost the thread here, haven't I? Well, to get to the bullet, what would you say would be a great gift to get my conservative, gun-loving, ex-Marine Viet Nam vet father for Christmas? Would you say:

A Khalil Gibran book?
A pair of "grizzly bear" slippers complete with giant claws?
Nothing?

If you answered with the first one, congratulations! You are my paternal grandparents, who evidently never met their only child, which I think is impressive. If you went with number two, you are his aunt, who had laudable but ultimately misguided concerns over podiatry-related thermoregulation, and a truly warped idea of personal aesthetics. If you guessed number three, you were my mother's parents, who frequently managed to forget about my father's material existence entirely.

FAMILIES! So awesome, so reliably fucked up.

Me

In whatever year it was really popular, all I wanted was a ROM: The Spaceknight action figure. ROM, who eventually got his own rotten comic book, was this eight-inch tall silver dumbfuck with a jetpack and a few bleepy-bloopy LED red lights and muffled space noises. ROM was cooler than shit.

"All I want this year," I explained magnanimously to my parents, "is ROM. That's all I want."

Let's not be coy about this. These were the lean years. My mother, to my unending horror, routinely dragged me to Goodwill for buying clothes. My mother was implacable about these missions, and, to her credit, also routinely failed to take any of my shit about this.

"Moooooom . . . " I would start to whine.

"Tough shit," she'd say before I could finish my nothing of an argument. She wasn't mean about it; she wasn't any happier about it herself, and fuck, she's the one who was stuck with a bathroom full of goddamn Jean Nate products anyway.

"This is a nice vest," I remember her saying, forcing me into some puffy, multi-striped winter thing that seemed to defy common understanding of the concept of "vestness." It looked like something a Wookiee would get disdainful about.

"Mooooooom . . . "

"It's a nice vest." This in steely tones.

It wasn't a nice vest. It was a shitty thing, a thing a poor kid wears. I keep digressing.

All I wanted that year was a ROM action figure. That's all I wanted. I had made that clear. This wasn't hard. I asked for one thing.

Christmas came, and I could obviously see the package with ROM in it. I had studied the box in stores closely; I knew its shape and dimensions; I knew its presence. I saved it for last, casually tossing aside the other meaningless shit with a laugh--oh, The Narnia Chronicles, huh? That's nice. Let's get to the real shit.

I took my time opening the present; savoring, anticipating.

I don't have to tell you this, do I? It wasn't ROM. I don't really remember what it was. It was some awful, anonymous toy that nobody had ever heard of. It might have been a Helen Keller asthma doll with Real Wheezing Action or something. I looked at it for a while and then looked up at my folks: my father just looked at me neutrally, and my mother wore some strange expression that mixed hopefulness and desolation in equal measure.

Let's be straight: I'm not now nor have I ever been some kind of awesome hero-child or anything, wise beyond his years. I'm just as demanding and cranky and annoying as any other asshole on this stupid fucking rock. I was then, I am now. It was a crummy effort at fulfilling a crummy wish of some crummy brat on yet one more crummy fucking Christmas.

On the other hand, I didn't want my parents looking at me like that. On another hand, my mom had gotten some more terrible Jean Nate product, and that was always good for a laugh. And on some other cephalopod hand--we clearly needed all the hands we could get--well, there was nothing but horseshit gifts lying all over the place. I think someone had given my father a snap-front shirt made out of the screams of murder victims.

I beamed as best I could and thanked them for the great toy, but I doubt I was terribly convincing.

The next year, come Christmas, can you guess what I got? My precious ROM toy, by now basically uncool and essentially one notch above debris, toy-wise.

"Oh, man!" I screamed. "This is great!!" My parents looked awfully pleased at my reaction, and the truth is, I wasn't kidding. It was great; it took a year, but then again . . . I seemed to have erased those haunted looks my parents wore, and that was pretty good. So was ROM, I had to admit, even late a year, becase the thing was, it worked all right for all that time anyway. So what was there, really, to give a shit about? I had a thing that I didn't have before.

So did my mother. She had Jean Nate body spray.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!


Note: Comments are closed on old entries.

Comments

I have NEVER been given anything made from the screams of murder victims. I shall take that vision to my grave.

I don't actually understand what a ROM is, other than a brand of toy that pleases young boys. I'm assuming you're writing about a time when you were young, maybe you were 35...

Comment number: 017476   Posted by: Lola on July 30, 2008 02:11 AM from IP: 213.152.32.131

The Helen Keller asthma doll with Real Wheezing Action

I'm patenting this action figure. I'll send you a percentage of the mountain of cash that such a thing will doubtless generate.

Comment number: 017477   Posted by: You can call me, 'Sir' on July 30, 2008 06:58 AM from IP: 152.17.58.220

I concur, ROM was the shit.

Comment number: 017478   Posted by: beige on July 30, 2008 02:36 PM from IP: 128.95.169.133

Okay, I was brought here by a Google search gone awry.

Comment number: 017479   Posted by: flamingbanjo on July 30, 2008 03:46 PM from IP: 216.231.38.72

Merry Belated Christmas in July! (Wow. That's the saddest quasi-holiday greeting I think there ever was.)

I never got the ROM. I did once waste a birthday gift wish on Magic Sand, though. That was stupid.

Comment number: 017480   Posted by: Joe on July 31, 2008 01:28 PM from IP: 68.160.253.156

I have no idea about ROM and I feel sort of bad about that. But the shirt made out of the screams of murder victims made me laugh out loud. So did the parents who never met their son. I'm actually giggling a little as I type this, which shows what a huge dork I am. This year, I have decided I want only beverages for Xmas - beer, and coffee, and that's it. I'm spreading the word now.

Comment number: 017481   Posted by: superblondgirl on July 31, 2008 06:59 PM from IP: 76.200.211.6

I'm one of five kids. A few years ago, we all decided that, instead of giving each other unneeded, unwanted or untolerable (sic) Christmas gifts, we'd just donate money to charities in the name of the sibling. We like to think we did that because we're such wonderful, giving people. But really, it's because we're just too fucking lazy to shop for great gifts, like shirts made out of the screams of murder victims.

Comment number: 017482   Posted by: AndrewPDX on July 31, 2008 07:58 PM from IP: 216.151.21.87

That made my night. seriously.
I had that christmas, only I didn't curtail my visible shock at the package of socks and 1 bodysuit. was subsequently informed in the overarching explanation parents give for practical matters that due to the third baby we were now poor. and the disapointment was from my parents, regarding my character in general at 4. that they, as the bohemian fucks they were, should have automatically produced a more evolved first born formerly spoiled child. thanks again, as usual skot.

Comment number: 017485   Posted by: Alyxmyself on August 1, 2008 06:11 PM from IP: 68.201.0.251

ps...check this out. I've been reading your site for like 2 years I think, so I'm gonna share cause i know you act in community theatre. what I DON'T know is whether or not you write in play format, or whether or not you'd like to have something produced by us if you do. So this is me, and my partner, she's the playwright, I'm the promotions geek, my 16 year old daughter built the site.
www.sundaysoff.net

Comment number: 017486   Posted by: Alyxmyself on August 1, 2008 06:26 PM from IP: 68.201.0.251

The first couple of issues of Bone are one of the finest creations of literature ever. Specifically Granny racing the cows. I hope your Mom cracks it open at some point.

And damn, I would exclaim "This is great!" if I got a ROM the Spaceknight toy today. Seriously. Of course I'm a complete geek.

Are you familiar with Chris's Invincible Super Blog? His loving tribute to ROM makes the internet worthwhile.
http://www.the-isb.com/?p=117

Comment number: 017487   Posted by: Barb on August 1, 2008 07:04 PM from IP: 74.245.88.158

Hey,

I once got a great link for a comic from this blog (I think) with angel and devil characters (and others)? The artist had a Japanese name, and I lost the link. If I got it from you, and/or you know what I'm talking about, can you send me the link or title, or something that helps me find it? Thanks.

Comment number: 017491   Posted by: kR on August 4, 2008 03:24 PM from IP: 12.135.80.130

I love the ISB!

kR, I think you must have me confused with . . . some other blog that writes about things that are actually interesting. I'm afraid that the comic you're talking about isn't ringing any bells.

Comment number: 017495   Posted by: Skot on August 4, 2008 11:37 PM from IP: 76.121.186.88

Skot, please, please, please tell me your mother reads this. ~I know your financial planner does.~

Comment number: 017539   Posted by: norm on September 2, 2008 02:33 PM from IP: 206.41.150.62

well done, guy

Comment number: 017596   Posted by: neaccelletly on October 5, 2008 06:08 PM from IP: 218.28.243.35

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