Holiday lessons for 2008


I ruined someone’s Christmas. One of my family’s favorite traditions is President’s Choice Candy Cane Ice Cream, and now that I’ve introduced my girlfriend to it, she loves it even more than she loves me. She’ll make a fine addition to the family, my mom agrees. After we polished off our first box, I went back to the store for another. I noticed two boxes on the shelf, and I reached around the guy stocking the freezer to grab both. “Last two,” he said. Would they be getting any more, I asked? “This close to Christmas? Probably not,” he said. I could have left one, but I took both and hastened to the register. So, chances are that someone showed up to the store looking for candy cane ice cream, and because of me, there wasn’t any left. I probably ruined someone’s Christmas, and this makes it taste even sweeter to me.

I also ruin dogs. I didn’t have a problem with my little sister’s yorkiepoo on the first day I came to visit. Then, the next morning, I got woken up when he decided I had a lot of nerve lying in bed asleep, minding my own business, and started barking at me. From then on, it was on. I spent most of the rest of the time antagonizing him, stealing his favorite toy and taunting him with it until he reached the point when if he even saw me head into the room where he’d left it, he’d race in ahead of me to snatch it up and go hide it somewhere. My girlfriend has subsequently forbidden me from treating any dogs we might own in the future this way, for fear that I’ll give them psychological problems. After I left, he was so full of pent-up rage that he picked a fight with my sister’s mean old rooster and got a vicious scratching for his trouble.

The best pizza comes in a plain white box. One night about a year before he died, Elvis was sitting around with a couple of friends at Graceland, talking about how much he loved this sandwich made by a restaurant in Denver, Colorado, which consisted of an entire hollowed-out loaf of bread stuffed with a whole jar of peanut butter, a whole jar of grape jelly, and a pound of bacon. (That is, the sandwich consisted of this, not the restaurant.) Deciding he wanted one right then, he fired up his private jet and flew to Denver, where the restaurant’s owner met him on the runway. Elvis and his pals ate, then flew right back to Memphis. If I ever get rich, I’ll be flying to the Brockville airstrip to meet my brother-in-law with one of the pizzas he cooks at his restaurant. This is old-style mom-and-pop stuff, the kind I had as a kid, in the plain white box, with a layer of cheese a centimeter thick and a dough ball in the middle, and it makes Pizza Hut look like a disc of puke. You can’t beat this stuff. I need to find an old-fashioned pizzeria in Toronto ASAP.

I’m apparently a minor internet celebrity at my old high school. I hate to think that my family reads all of what I write, but I know they do. Rather than shield her children from the disgusting things I put on the internet, my older sister yells to them, “Aw, come look at the disgusting thing your uncle put on the internet!” Good old creepy Uncle Pete strikes again. But after I asked my nephew why some random 17-year-old girl from his high school might have friended me on Facebook, I learned that it’s not only my family who’s reading this, but also most of his friends at school. I don’t know what to say to that, except this: T.I.S.S. Pirates football rules!

Aerosmith is the only band to be inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with a hit song on the radio at the same time. I know this because I spent an inordinate amount of time playing the Aerosmith edition of Guitar Hero on my sister’s Wii, and this fact kept popping up on loading screens. I got better than I was, which was abysmal, but I’m not nearly as good as my 17-year-old nephew. At the same time, even he isn’t as good as the guys who can do the bonus tracks feating Joe Satriani songs. “There are some kids I know who can play ‘Satch Boogie’ without missing a single note,” he says. “But they’re still virgins, so I think I win in the long run.” I think I learned a lesson about my nephew there too, but I’d prefer not to think about it.

I am fat. As I mentioned, my little sister has the Wii, and with it, she’s got the Wii Fit, which has this double-wide bathroom scale that you stand on. I stood on it, and while I munched a shortbread cookie, it calculated my body mass index, and it told me that I was right on the line between overweight and obese. “That machine is a goddamned liar,” I said. “Everyone knows BMI is bullshit. It doesn’t take muscle into account. Arnold Schwarzenegger is obese, according to his BMI. The Wii Fit just won’t admit how jacked I am.” Then I proceeded to smash all my sister’s records in the balance games, destroyed her at Wii tennis, and narrowly won two boxing matches, after which I collapsed on the couch in a sweating, panting wreck. (Boxing is hard. My sister once did eight straight matches. “The only thing that didn’t hurt the next morning was my eyes opening up,” she says.) Later, I saw some holiday photos, and the digital camera appeared to agree with the Wii about my weight. “Everyone knows the camera adds a hundred pounds,” I argued. But privately, I wasn’t so sure. When my sister packed a shoebox full of goodies to take back to my girlfriend, she scrawled an unflatteringly obese caricature of me on it. Peter is Wii Fat, it read.

But I’m still not fat enough. My sister’s Greek mother-in-law has been in Canada for more than thirty years, but she still doesn’t speak much English. And while I’ve lived in Greektown for most of a decade, I haven’t picked up much more than Opa! So, she communicates to me primarily through food. She knows the word “Eat!” at least, and she’s always trying to cram food into me. If I so much as telephone, I swear she tries to mash a piece of baklava into the mouthpiece of the receiver at the sound of my voice. Not only would she not give up this year, but she started to get devious. She’d hold a plate of potatoes out at me and ask me if I’d eat one, holding up an index finger. When I politely refused, she’d simply scrape two potatoes onto my plate, since I hadn’t said I wouldn’t eat two, only one. I’ve been accused of eating as though someone were going to take food off my plate, but there, I eat the same way, but it’s for fear that someone will put more on. At one point, I actually used all the salad dressing bottles to build a defensive wall encircling my plate, which made her laugh until a tear came to her eye.

Recreational drug use is a problem among restaurant workers. I know. I’m as shocked as you are. But I happened to go into work with my sister, and as she led me through the kitchen, she pointed out a sign posted on the freezer door, which read, STOP DOING WHIPPITS! Is this a problem, I asked? “Yeah,” she said. “All our whipped cream is always flat.” Oh, and the kitchen staff keeps getting brain damage and dying. But if you’re washing dishes for minimum wage for years on end, I suppose you have to numb the pain somehow. After she mentioned this, I had Devo’s “Whip It” stuck in my head for the rest of the day. When some dishes come along, you must whippit! Doot-doot-doot-doot-doot! Huff! Huff!

Plastic bags kill. As I sit typing this, the power just flickered. The high winds make it hard to forget the awful incident that happened yesterday before I came back to town. As I stood with my little sister outside her restaurant as she braved the gale in order to have a smoke, I noticed a large plastic bag blow up from behind her and stick to her leg. Just as I pointed this out, it came loose, and this wet, dirty plastic bag shot straight at me and wrapped itself around my face, sticking to me with the tenacity of one of the facehuggers from the movie Alien. She laughed for about five straight minutes after I fought the thing off, until I thought she’d throw up. Later, I walked through the adjacent parking lot and saw the exact same bag. I’ve got my eye on you, I thought, scowling at it. Then it moved and I flinched.

I look like Daniel Alfredsson. We can add the captain of the Ottawa Senators to the list of my celebrity doppelgängers. Because of the aforementioned high winds, my bus home was two hours late. After waiting in the train station for about an hour (the bus goes to the train station in Brockville, though the train doesn’t go to the bus station — this isn’t Bizarro World, after all), another passenger and I asked the woman behind the counter if she could check on the bus’s whereabouts for us, which she did. The bad news was that it was going to take a little longer, but better safe than sorry. “Better late than having a bus fall on you,” I said. “Or getting your head cut off,” she said. “Nobody likes that,” I agreed. She laughed, then asked if anyone had ever told me I looked like Daniel Alfredsson. No one has, actually. I don’t normally come off Swedish, I guess. But what I found interesting about this is that the guy beside me was an absolute dead ringer for The Office‘s John Krasinski, right down to the dazzling smile, and this went completely unnoticed. I suspect that the Via Rail lady was flirting with me, and I used this to my advantage by swaggering up to the counter occasionally and shamelessly plundering the box of candy canes there.

I haven’t forgotten how to annoy my little sister. She deserves it too, considering how much joy she’s taken from annoying me. On Boxing Day, we set out to go visit my dad, but after we’d driven a little while, I realized I’d forgotten to actually bring his gift with me, so we had to turn around to get it. She was fuming mad — this would have been the first year we’d actually gotten to his house on time. “Oh, you know what else I forgot?” I said as we set back out again. “Shut up,” she said. “How much I love spending time with you,” I said with a saccharine smirk.

3 Responses to “Holiday lessons for 2008”

  1. 1 Scott

    Great post, Pete. And the laugh from the line about the camera adding a hundred pounds almost woke up Bree.

  2. 2 Mully

    Candy cane ice cream?? I’m sold.

    All we get is gingerbread ice cream.

  3. 3 John E Thelin

    I thought you meant Daniel Alfredsson, director of Swedish vampire movie “Let the Right One in”, based on a screenplay and book by an old friend and former colleague of mine. But it had to be hockey.

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