I was watching the Miracle on 34th Street remake the other day, noticed that the actor who played Santa Claus was the same actor who played John Hammond in Jurassic Park and couldn’t help but wonder what a crossover might look like.
I’ve heard that pecan pie can be difficult to make so it gels correctly; I’ve never gone to the trouble to make it myself, and now I don’t have to since Pringles stepped up with a pecan pie flavored chip. It’s pie, but it’s also a snack! Dessert you can eat alongside your sandwich, or if you’re bold, IN your sandwich!
Pros: You don’t have to fiddle around making pie, the comforts of two comfort foods at once.
Cons: Not quite a sweet, not quite a savory, inhabits that no-man’s land of the inbetween snacks that have a place neither during nor after a meal.
When I was a kid, you could have asked me what I wanted for Christmas at any time during the year and I would have been able to provide you with an exacting list with annotations and illustrations, along with more information than you ever cared to know about why this new My Little Pony was superior in every way to the bin of My Little Ponies already in my closet: “This one changes color in the sun and smells like strawberries, duh!” I was ALWAYS ready to tell anyone at any time what would have made me happiest in the moment, even if the desire was impractical or fleeting. (Seriously, a unicycle? I was barely able to master two wheels and I wanted to cut that number in half?). As an adult, I dread the question.
It’s not that I don’t want things; if anything else, moving house recently taught me that I maybe like things a little too much. But I’ll generally buy the things I really want/need for myself unless they’re wildly expensive/impractical, which means I certainly couldn’t ask others for them. This doesn’t make buying a gift for me a Herculean task, however–I have a wide variety of interests, I’m thrilled by the unexpected and ridiculous, and, like I said before, I like stuff. I just don’t want to give an exacting list of things that I might like to anyone: for me, the biggest component of a gift is being seen by the giver, knowing that they put some thought and effort into choosing something just for me. Anyone can buy off of a list.
Lately, if I see something that I might like or need at some point down the line, I’ve been adding it to my amazon wishlist. Sometimes I’ll revisit the list and order something, most often I revisit the list, say “What was I thinking?” and delete ten things. It’s full of “miracle” hair products, stuff that I might need for future costumes, and various doodads that I’ll read about and want to consider trying later.
This year, I finished with Jason’s Christmas shopping early–almost before Thanksgiving. Jason, in turn, noted that he needed to get cracking, and a few days later, a bunch of packages arrived from Amazon. “I hope he hasn’t been buying stuff from my wishlist” I thought. A few days later, a package from Alpha Chemicals arrived that left no doubt in my mind: Jason was buying all of my Christmas presents from the aforementioned “I’m not sure I actually want, need, or could ever use this” list.
I had two choices: Say something and ruin Christmas, or say nothing and ruin Christmas. As I work from home and don’t get a lot of human interaction during the day, not talking about it proved to be too difficult, so I went ahead and ruined Christmas the bigmouth way. After a solid argument about why I was being intentionally difficult in not giving a list, and misleading in that I maintained a list full of things I didn’t actually want, we came to a mutual understanding about why surprises are important to me and what makes Christmas fun.
Last night, Jason went to wrap some gifts and came upstairs with an ornament of King Moonracer and told me he was going to make a diorama of “the island of unwanted christmas gifts” but thought it might be too mean. I probably deserve it, so I decided to run with it.
We’re on the island of misfit gifts
Here, we don’t want to stay
We want to travel with Santa Claus
In his magic sleigh
A packful of toys means a sackful of joys
If the Christmas spirit Mellzah didn’t destroy
When Christmas Day is here
The most wonderful day of the year!
A bottle of emu oil is here to say
“Wake up, I’ll help make your stretch marks go away!”
When Christmas Day is here
The most wonderful day of the year!
Spiral vegetable cutter
Might as well be in the gutter
It won’t set the heart aflutter
It just says “Hey, make me some dinner!”
A new toy for Jason, toothpaste for you
The kind that even does some whitening, too.
When Christmas Day is here
The most wonderful day of the year.
“How would you like to be two pounds of aluminum powder?”
“Or a TCA chemical peel that may or may not remove tattoos?”
“Or faux rust finish?”
“We’re all misfits!”
If we’re on the island of unwanted gifts
We’ll miss all the fun when Mellzah throws a fit
When Christmas day is here
The most wonderful, wonderful, wonderful, wonderful, wonderful day of the year!
This year at PAX, to deal with their PR problem, they’re adding a “Diversity Lounge”–a safe space where congoers who feel marginalized can go and congregate with the likeminded to talk about issues of diversity within gaming; a con within a con.
Diversity doesn’t just exist in a bubble, though. The solution for people feeling unsafe at the convention can’t be the removal of the people who feel threatened, that’s just further segregating and alienating the marginalized. Marginalized congoers don’t only want to talk about the lack of diversity in the industry, they want to experience the whole con. That’s the whole reason they decided to attend a gaming show like PAX in the first place. They want to walk the floor, play the games, and attend panels like everyone else. All they’re asking is to attend panels without one of the con heads saying he regrets pulling merchandise that poked fun at rape victims. They’re asking that the con management think twice before allowing panels that encourage the behavior of the lowest common denominator. You can’t create one small safe space and call the job done. You need to target the root of the problem to make the con safe and enjoyable for everyone. Granted, you’ll never be able to prevent all negative instances from occurring, like that one time I ran into a former classmate on the show floor who back in the day was quite vocal about his notion that he felt I owed him a blowjob for being female and in his vicinity, but you can at least TRY to implement working safe space policies that apply to the entire convention.
Unless the Diversity Lounge serves drinks. Then I’m all in.
The world is full of Disney people, but for me, the theme park best-equipped to hoover money out of my wallet is Universal Studios. There are actually two Universal Studios parks in Orlando, and we planned to spend a full day at each, plus a third visit for Halloween Horror Nights…but our first priority was to go to Springfield. Universal just opened the Springfield expansion this summer, and just like John Hammond, they spared no expense, loading the area with large references and small nods alike. You can have a drink at Moe’s Tavern or at the Duff Brewery. You can eat at a number of Springfield eateries, including Krusty Burger and The Frying Dutchman, and wash the whole thing down with a Buzz cola. Even the garbage cans were branded with a Jebediah Springfield logo! In addition to the Krustyland ride they already had, they also opened Kang & Kodos’ Twirl ‘n’ Hurl so you can empty your stomach and try something else…or just wait a few hours until you’re hungry again, whatever. The bathrooms even smelled like cotton candy! It was magical.
As a Simpsons superfan, I’ve got two bones to pick with the area. Just two. One, I didn’t care for how all of the different eateries had storefronts to make them look like standalone structures but actually opened up into a large cafeteria–I would have preferred the experience of dining in what felt like the Frying Dutchman or Cletus’ Chicken Shack to generic tables. Two, their Flaming Moe is a travesty. The Flaming Moe is supposed to be made of multiple kinds of liquor, non-narcotic cough syrup, and set aflame. What they served us was orange soda with dry ice. I understand that setting drinks on fire is probably a difficult or expensive thing to insure, so I would have given that a pass…but at least make it a long island iced tea and not watered-down orange drink! I probably wouldn’t have had a Flaming Moe for breakfast like I did that day, but I still would have purchased one.
We spent a ton of time in Springfield, taking pictures with the characters, eating at Krusty Burger, riding the rides, shopping at the Kwik E Mart, and even playing the midway games. I won two out of the three games I played, which is actually pretty decent, though I wish I would have won the sledgehammer game for bragging rights alone, especially after watching a mess of dudebros (Is a “mess” the proper term? Or should it be “a popped collar” of dudebros? Or something else?) try and fail. I came SO CLOSE to winning, but close doesn’t cut it. I still came home with a Krustyland pillow and a Homer plush, so I’m not complaining…much.
…DAMN IT! We did see and experience most of the rest of the park that day. There was a show about makeup SFX that was entertaining (and I was happy to see that the expert was a woman), and I loved the tribute to Lucille Ball, who is absolutely one of my favorite actresses. If I could be even a quarter as funny as she was, I’d be satisfied. The strangest thing I did that day was participate in a survey about paper towels. They offered me park money to tell them what I thought about various paper towels, their attractiveness, their softness, their absorption qualities, their coolness factor, and their overall appeal…but I was explicitly told not to touch the paper towels. At all. The woman who came in to pull out the towels for me to look at actually put on fresh latex gloves each time to handle them. I’m not very good at determining softness or absorption with my eyes, and as it turns out, I really don’t give a shit about paper towels, but when I received that Scooby Doo money, I knew my opinion was both powerful and valuable. I believe I purchased a churro with my earnings. We also had a tough guy posing competition in the licensed Terminator jackets.
The majority of the other rides were fun if not particularly remarkable, with two exceptions: TRANSFORMERS: The Ride, which was horrendous, and Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit, which was awesome and terrifying at the same time. While the ride itself was excellent, it was the boarding/deboarding process that really terrified me. You see, most roller coasters come to a complete stop to allow people to get on and off. This one slowly rolls past on a conveyer belt, giving you limited time to hop on and strap yourself in. As our line crept forward, I kept picturing myself either tripping on my way into the coaster, or not having enough time to get myself properly strapped in and being flung out of the coaster at 65mph, down 17 stories. Thankfully, neither of those things came to pass, but my already-hyped adrenaline from the boarding process definitely helped make the overall ride more intense. One thing that DID fly off on the Rip Ride Rockit were Jason’s fingerprints. Universal has lockers that you can use for the duration of the ride that are keyed with your fingerprint. We locked up our belongings, but when we went to retrieve them, we kept getting errors. Eventually, we were able to flag down an attendant to help us, and before he opened it, he asked us to describe the contents of the locker. “Let’s see…we’ve got an Itchy & Scratchy hat, a pair of sunglasses…and a picture of him making a stupid face.” You see, earlier that day, I’d actually plunked down money for a “photo opportunity” photo of Jason in front of Optimus Prime. When the attendant opened the locker and saw the picture, he burst out laughing, and I knew I’d made the correct decision. Behold, in all its glory:
Every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings. Much in the same manner, every time someone says “Bacon is SO over,” another bacon product is introduced. This one combines pork products and sugar to celebrate the birth of Jesus, the pork for the pigs that were in the manger, and the sugar is, I don’t know, the baby Jesus’ sweetness or some shit like that. You know and I know that artificial bacon tastes nothing like bacon, it’s all strange smoky aftertaste and none of the crackling fat flavor that got you to love bacon in the first place. That said, it is bacon CANDY, so it’s not supposed to replicate bacon faithfully, just be vaguely reminiscent of bacon. What say you? Would you eat this? Or would you gag if you found one in your stocking?
After all of the stress of planning a wedding and dealing with all of the bullshit that goes along with actually HAVING a wedding (expecting someone to check the goddamned schedule we painstakingly made with addresses and directions or even to have a little common sense is like expecting someone to lick used gum: unfathomable.) the last thing we wanted was to deal with international travel, even though there are so many things we want to see and do out in the great wide world. Instead, we decided to pick the most foreign of locations possible within the United States. Someplace where the absurd seems utterly normal. Someplace with a reputation for bizarre behavior. America’s weirdest state.
I’m talking, of course, about Orlando, Florida. Home to both high and low-quality theme parks, the choice seemed obvious. On our first day, we went to Gatorland. Gatorland bills itself not only as the alligator capitol of the world, but also as Orlando’s best half day attraction: not ready to compete with the big guys who offer an ENTIRE day’s worth of entertainment, Gatorland will sell you four hours of entertainment and the ability to zipline over hungry alligators like so much delicious bait. I had hoped that the operators would equip you with a blowdart to shoot at the most delicious-looking gator, which you could then have cooked to your specifications at the restaurant at the end of the series of ziplines, but apparently they don’t have anyone working there with my idea power.
Ultimately, we decided to omit ziplining and make the most of the time we had available. Upon entering the park, there are several pits filled with young alligators, the obligatory pressed penny machine, and a number of snack bars, one of which serves fried gator nuggets. They say they don’t use their own gators, but I’m not entirely certain I believe that. Why go to the store to buy milk when you have entire pits of it at home? Since we arrived midday, we didn’t have much time to spend looking around if we wanted to make the last gator wrestling show of the day, so we headed there first. The gator wrestling show was billed as being done in “Florida cracker style” and to this day, I cannot tell you what exactly that might be. An internet search tells me that it might have something to do with turn of the century homes. You tell me!
After the show, we were given the opportunity to sit on the back of an already-humiliated alligator, and there’s very little I enjoy more than photo opportunities AND teasing apex predators, so this was a dream come true. Someday, I will be savaged by a wild animal, and I will completely and utterly deserve it.
After the gator wrestling show, we had some free time to wander the park before the gator jumparoo show. In addition to american alligators, they also have crocodiles from around the world and a variety of other reptiles, including turtles and snakes, and the occasional non-reptile, like blonde raccoons and owls.
You know, I don’t want to tell you how to do your job, but I couldn’t help but notice that these crocodiles are famed for being able to jump six feet, and yet their enclosure is less than six feet high. Plus, when they look at you, it’s like they’re calculating your body fat percentage to determine how tasty you might be. I didn’t linger by this pen, is what I’m saying.
Another special interactive feature of Gatorland is the ability to feed these majestic creatures one of their natural staple foods: turkey hot dogs. The woman who sold us our packets told us we could feed any gator in the park that wasn’t behind glass. When I expressed my desire to feed the dog-eating gator, she repeated slowly and loudly, “ANY GATOR THAT IS NOT BEHIND GLASS” and drily added “Besides, all of them would eat dogs if they got half a chance. My neighbor found one in her pool eating her poodle.” I made a mental note to check the hotel pool before leaping in, and claimed my packet of hot dogs. If there’s anything better than throwing a tube of encased meat at a cluster of hungry reptiles and having them swarm to get at it, please tell me about it immediately.
These flocks of jerkass birds hang around, and will not only steal food from your hands, but will also snatch it away from a chomping gator, which is a sort of boldness I don’t understand. Are the gators too lazy to teach these bastards a lesson? Are the birds not tasty? Or would they fight harder over all beef kosher dogs, or perhaps the clearly enticing but also taboo dog dog? To close our half-day at Gatorland, we attended the Gator Jumparoo Show, which isn’t as impressive as a jumping show at say, Seaworld, but is vastly more dangerous, so it does have that going for it. The grand finale is set to Van Halen’s “Jump,” and I’m not certain whether it’s to inspire the gators to do their best or to whip them into a frothing rage as they can’t handle listening to that synth intro even once more. There’s definitely a monstrously large gator at 12:34 who has decided he’s had enough of being teased with chicken.
All in all, it was indeed a solid half day of entertainment: we fed gators, teased them, sat astride them, held one, tickled its tummy, threatened birds, pressed a penny, and wore a number of amusing gift shop hats. And the trip was just beginning!
If the last year and a half of my life were a perfume, it would be “Obsession.” Jason and I got engaged in March 2012 when he asked me to slap on a ring, and I said yes. Every moment after that was forfeit to the wedding demon.
I didn’t intend to become so obsessed. I wanted to be a cool bride, one of those women who just flutter a slim, perfectly-manicured hand in the general direction of wedding vendors and show up on the day of, and everything is magical perfection. Nearly everything in the universe conspired to prevent this from happening. In fact, I’m starting to believe that sort of wedding ease is a myth, right up there with the chupacabra and perfect credit scores. For me, getting married was like every wedding cliche that ever existed, thrown at me in one giant shitstorm I was neither equipped to handle nor afford.
It began on the day we got engaged. Well-intentioned friends and family began to ask immediately when the big day is, where it is, and where we’ll be honeymooning. These same friends helpfully let me know that their cousin got married in the summer and everyone spent the entire wedding sweating and wishing they were dead, or that the tropical destination we favored is “lovely, I suppose, if you enjoy the thought of having your passport stolen by a rabid monkey.” There is always an anecdote, and that anecdote is always negative. Rather than think negatively of these helpful people, I came to believe that every decision I’ve ever made was wrong.
One day, a bridal magazine just started showing up in our mailbox out of the blue. It made it clear that I was, in fact, doing everything wrong, not spending enough money, and that I will look like a bloated, gaseous hellbeast in a wedding dress unless I immediately lost half my bodyweight and booked an appointment with the country’s best plastic surgeon besides, and furthermore, if I failed to do these things, I would be ruining the best day of my life. I bought into all of this, because I didn’t have any perspective. The truth is, these magazines are written by the same people who write the ladies’ interest magazines with 50 NEW AMAZING SEX TIPS every month, involving blindfolding your partner and snapping his balls with a rubberband while guzzling bbq sauce. They are written from the perspective that you somehow managed to fool a man into marrying you with your secret applications of no-makeup makeup an hour before he wakes up and by exclusively pooping at work, and now you need to dazzle him with a perfect wedding to convince him to seal the deal or you’ll never have another chance at happiness because we all know what a wretched troll you truly are.
I knew the whole thing was going pear-shaped when I had a mini meltdown over the color scheme. Everything I’d already purchased or made was wrong or cheap-looking or bad, and it all had to go. Immediately. Hysterics ensued. Jason may or may not have kept himself awake at night, fretting that he’d agreed to commit himself to a person who would be better off being committed to an asylum.
Then we bought a house.
You’d think that buying a house would be a good distraction from the wedding planning, something to ground me and help me focus on the bigger picture, but instead it made me freak out more: about money, about moving, about whether the house would look magazine-perfect for all of the family members that have never visited before and may never visit again, to justify what I’ve been doing with myself for the last decade I’ve been living here, to prove that I’m a capable adult with decent taste who can handle both running a household and planning an event at the same time. It certainly didn’t help that the day after we closed and received our keys, Jason turned to me and said, “I think we’ve made a mistake. We could have gotten a better house for the money we spent, it looks so old and outdated and I’ve been checking into how soon we can sell.”
If I looked back of the last year and a half and tried to pinpoint the moment that I became certifiable, I’d say that was likely it. The next week became a whirlwind of patching, painting, and worrying that we’d just dropped a fortune on a stinking bog of a house that would eventually tear everything apart, including our relationship and possibly the fabric of space-time. I couldn’t sleep. I cried and painted and cried. I bit my nails to ragged, bloody stumps. I ate compulsively. And when I wasn’t working on house stuff, gnawing on my hands, or stuffing my face, I was thinking about the wedding.
We didn’t do anything or go anywhere for months. Whenever we were invited out, I’d think about how comparatively piss-poor my wedding planning was going to the glossy magazine photos and multitude of wedding blogs, and I’d decline in order to stay home and tear at myself some more.
Ultimately, as all things with hard deadlines do, the day came and went, and it was relatively wedding-shaped, and not all that remarkable, given the time, effort, and money we’d put into it. But in retrospect, I don’t know what I was expecting from the day, other than being married at the end of it. Cheers? Recognition? I don’t know how I could have ever thought that anyone would be as invested in the details of one party as I was–that’s just unreasonable on its face. There’s no way it stood a chance of being the best day of my life: it would be utterly depressing to think that everything from that point is downhill. Life is far too interesting and vibrant for it to be over for me at thirty-one.
So a year and a half lost to obsession, and what did I get out of it? Cold pizza, about a half sip of champagne, one bite of frosting, I fell on my ass during the father daughter dance, there was complaining about how dark it was, my guest list, and my seating chart, a baby screeching through my wedding vows, and about two photos where I don’t look like the fattest, whitest whale that ever beached itself at a wedding venue. Fuck it. I’m married. I’m a homeowner. What we’ve completed on the house looks great. I never have to plan another fucking wedding. And I’ve got myself back: that alone is worth everything.