Wednesday, December 23, 2009

How the Sterger stole Christmas

Some would argue NYC is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, a man-made marvel of metal meets skyline. Looking down however, it’s a third world country with a concrete floor. And at Christmas time, the place is nearly sickening. All the money spent on elaborate decorations and bags filled with expensive gifts for their loved ones, the people here seemed to be far from spreading Christmas cheer. The stores were jammed with women arguing over the last few small sizes, Century 21 was the very personification of greed and overindulgence, and the no one even gave the Salvation Army bell-ringer a second glance. For a city boasting one of the biggest trees and lighting spectacles in the world, I still couldn't help but feel.. Empty. That’s because I don’t live in Whoville, but a Grinchopolis full of Grinches.

Maybe that's because there were no "Merry Christmases”, no ‘Happy Holidays." It was "here's your receipt now get the f*ck out." Bah hum bug indeed. Sure, people could blame the economy or the painful cold, but in reality the city had no one to blame but itself.. I'm living in the most Christmas-like city in the country, maybe even the world.. but is it the kind of Christmas anyone really wants to be reminded of? Where happiness isn't measured by the family and friends and love in your life, but on your gift giving abilities. Somewhere in some bible passage, the Three Wise Men are shaking their heads in disgust.

Christmas has always been a rough time of year for me. And in NYC, especially tough. Sure it sucks being away from home, but there is a completely different reason I dread it. You see, as I've grown older, I've outgrown most of my childhood ailments. Once, a horrible asthmatic, I had come to control it to the point where I could exercise without getting winded, and even run outdoors. But there are some things it seems I will never outgrow. Arguably by some standards, two of the happiest things on earth besides maybe Disney World are my Kryptonite.

I'm allergic to pot, and Christmas trees.

Many a Christmas concerts in the Gulf Coast Girl Choir found me keeling over in the middle of “Silent Night” like a soldier that had locked his knees a tad too tight. And the other? Well, that’s a story probably better left out of the blogs, but it certainly was a science experiment gone bad let's just say that.

So, when my roommates were toying with the idea of buying a Christmas tree for the holidays, I had a few words to say about it. Not only would I end up spending more than the twelve days of Christmas in the Emergency room, but I wasn’t about to be the lucky a$$hole that got to clean up all the pine needles those things leave behind. Maybe they could get a fake one I, I suggested. But, they weren’t having it. They had always had real trees growing up, and insisted that a piece of plastic would never compare to the real thing. As if!!! I argued that fake trees were not only cleaner but a lot more cost efficient. They told me I was, “being Jewish.” Regardless, the lines had been drawn, as my roommates swore I had waged an all out war on Christmas. I warned them that if they brought a tree in the house, they would come home to a vacant living room. I’d take everything: the big screen, the couch, the tree… all of it. I would even take the roast beast. It wasn’t that I was trying to be a Grinch, but I had to put my foot down sooner or later.

The next day, City Hall was putting on a local outdoor Christmas production, with a fairly good lighting display. On my way home, I was texting and carrying an armful of bags, not to mention trying to make my way through the crowd of onlookers that had gathered in the streets. The guy’s voice on the loud speaker was way too cheerful and way too annoying for my tastes, especially given the long day I had just spent in the city.

And if there is one thing I can’t stand.. Its NOISE, NOISE, NOISE!!!...

Not really paying attention to where I was going, I tripped over a large power cord. I really didn’t think twice about it - until I realized all the lights on stage had gone off. The music had also stopped. And the entire crowd was staring in confusion. Turns out that one cord led to the generator - the power box that lit the whole damn thing. And my amazing grace and Clark Griswald-esque genes had disconnected it from the hordes of electrical sockets it was powering. I looked around to make sure no one had seen my transgression, and promptly hauled ass. I had just killed Christmas.

I felt guilty. But more so, because I hadn't even stopped. It was a drive by Grinching.

Is this what I had become?

With weeks leading up to the main event, I was working 60 hour weeks and sleeping maybe 4 hours a night. So when I finally had a day to myself, I decided to get out of the house and crash a Christmas party. My Partner-In-Crime has become my right hand man in these kinds of situations, because we always seem to know how to enjoy ourselves in even the crappiest of conditions. But this party? This would be our biggest challenge yet.

Maybe it was because this party was hosted by a "friend" of a friend of his.. Whom I shall refer to as Ebenezer Scrooge to protect the less than innocent. And I call him this with good reason. The weird thing is that the guy is the very personification of Christmas in NYC and possibly the greater United States.

Everyone had heard his name and knew it. Hell, if you played a word association game, the word Christmas and it were synonymous it seemed. But that's all it was. A name. A facade. In reality he was a shell of a man that desperately needed a visit from the ghosts of Christmas past present and future.. to show him just where he was heading. At this rate, even Jim Carrey couldn't bring humor to this ending.

After the awkward meet-and-greets with various members of Ebenezer’s inner circle, I mingled around the room popping in and out of conversations. Or lurked just far enough outside that I could still make out the ridiculous malarkey these people were talking about.

"Well, I'm currently conversing with Jake right now, but I will be over shortly to continue our extensive discussion on... "

What? Was this a joke? Who talks like this besides maybe Sheldon from Big Bang Theory? I did my best to contain my outright laughter and eye rolling. While people sat around discussing their 401Ks and having occupational circle jerks, I continued to try my best to simply blend in. But being the only girl in the room not wearing tights, or sporting a giant stick up my ass, it became clear my efforts were to be fruitless.

Then one of the guys sporting a sweater ensemble that would have embarrassed Mr. Rogers put his glass down on the table. The condensation ran down the sides, and began to pool at the bottom.
Me, the queen of movie/TV/pop culture references says.. in my best Larry David impersonation I could muster.. "Sir, do you respect wood?"

My "P.I.C." burst into laughter, while the rest of the room stared at me rather indignantly. Tough crowd. I promptly grabbed my glass, my sense of humor, and left the room. Just then, I bumped into Mr. and Mrs. Scrooge, Ebenezer’s parents themselves. The sad thing was, the Scrooges were anything but. They were good, hard working, modest people. So how had their son come to be such a ruthless jerk? When did they decide to change his name from Damien?

As I watched in disgust at the way the youngest Scrooge treated and looked down upon others, I couldn't help but pity him. While he probably had more money than God, his soul was empty. And through his designer suit which probably cost more than my parent’s mortgage, his insecurities began to bleed through its rich material.

Just then, as some Whos would say .. “My Grinch heart grew three sizes that day.” Of course it was more likely just a good bra. But that hardly sounds magical. There was still a definite shift in my mood.

Maybe Christmas meant something more.

I spent the next couple of days lost in my soul, searching. That, and the 16 or so inches of snow we were being pelted by. I couldn't help but feel like I was trapped on some sick reality show, like, "I'm a Southern Girl.. Get Me Out of Here."

So with suitcases in hand, I made my way to LGA and bid the city and the miserable slush farewell. And 2 and half hours later, I touched down to 70 degree weather, and my smiling parents who met me at the airport.

Walking into my old room, it’s hard for me to imagine how it used to be. A treadmill now stands where my computer desk was, the very place I did all my work for Sports Illustrated for back in the day. My bed had been replaced by one of those quirky “Get Abs quick” machines, whose effectiveness remained to be seen thanks to my grandmother’s excessive holiday baking. And on the wall where my old high school band picture once hung, was a giant flat screen TV. Well, I guess not ALL changes are bad. I dropped my bags on the floor, and pulled down the Murphy bed my parents had assembled in my room. As I laid down on the “bed in a box” bedspread, my cat Vegas jumped on the bed as if to ask.. “well, where the eff have you been?” But then, he quickly snuggled in next to me.

Finally. I was home.

Sometimes the things that mean the most to us are the things that are simply the most familiar. We take comfort in them, and the security they provide us with. It comes without ribbons. It comes without tags. It comes without packages, boxes, or bags! I’m sure one day I will be able to bear the coldness of New York and not resent it for holding me captive in the long winter months. But until then, Lutz is.. and will always be home. We may not have a Fifth Avenue, or a Macy’s the size of a theme park, or all the bright lights of the big city. But, I still have the Sterger family Christmas lights, the country bar, and the Beef O’ Brady's. And that all suits me just fine.

And being home, and with the people I love most in this world???.. Well, that’s the best present money can’t buy.