Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Belated Sympathy for the Devil We All Could Become

"Poverty is the parent of revolution and crime"

Even with my son and several acquaintances giving it rave reviews I didn't become engrossed in the now concluded American Movie Channel series “Breaking Bad” until the last five or six episodes. I knew the basic premise though, that it was about the corruption and fall of the main character Walter White. A struggling high school chemistry teacher who was forced by circumstances to start producing methamphetamine to provide for his family after being diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer.

By the time I started regularly watching the show old Walter was already sliding down that slippery slope of good intentions pretty damn fast and had become just as inhuman as the other professional monsters involved with drug underworld. At the end of the series' last episode Walter's ultimate fate was just as many expected with most, if not all, the loose ends tragically tied up.

Being that I came late to the series, seeing Walter die on the floor of a neo-Nazi meth lab didn't have quite the emotional impact it did for my son who was left speechless. While I understood the abstract reasons why Walter became a drug producer and eventual kingpin I never “felt” the financial hardships and corrosive uncertainty that forced him down that path.

This changed a couple of days ago. As I cruised Netflix looking for something new and different to watch I saw Breaking Bad listed and watched the pilot episode. It was then that I got know the good Walter White.

In one of the first scenes in the pilot episode Walter is seen giving a clearly passionate lecture on chemistry to a new batch of students. Halfway through it not only does Walter realizes that they give less than a damn about science he gets into a pissing contest with a teenage douchebag named Chad eager to embarrass him in front of the others. For poor Walter the embarrassment goes off the chart later that day when at his second job, a car wash, he discovers Chad and his bimbo girlfriend standing over him as he cleans the tires on Chad's Corvette. Just to throw a little more salt into Walter's wounds Chad quickly snaps a picture of him with his cell phone while the bimbo uses hers to report who they have found working at the car wash.

After that we the viewers quickly learn that Walter and his wife, Skyler, are juggling bill collectors, dealing with their son's cerebral palsy, and getting ready for their second child who Skyler is pregnant with during the pilot. That would be more than enough problems for most people but Walter soon learns he has inoperable lung cancer. For those who don't know, Walter gets the idea to start cooking crack after watching a television news report with his DEA agent brother-in-law about the police raiding a meth lab.

Yeah, while at this moment I have not watched the second episode of the series my son has informed me Walter's fall from grace is pretty steep. When you willingly step across the line to the Dark Side for whatever reason you not only surrender the moral high ground but do a reverse, somersault into the proverbial cesspool of society.

The trouble I am having though is that from my sorry ass, bleeding heart liberal perspective society put Walter into the position where he had no other option than making drugs to leave something for his family. Not only does Walter have to deal with disrespect from his students to make financial ends meet he has to work at a freaking car wash! I have been called strange, and curiously anti-American, for expressing this out loud but I just can't wrap my head around the fact that our society finds it “normal” to pay someone tens of millions of dollars to chase some damn ball.

Hey, I like to watch football and baseball but in my humble opinion I don't give a rip how talented Drew Brees or A-Rod are at playing their respective sports they ain't worth all those millions. A hundred years from now no one will remember their names other than various sports trivia types. In a far better, and unfortunately totally unrealistic world, scientists, teachers, and social workers who work very long and unforgiving hours would be paid a proper salary. Since they for the most part are attempting to advance human knowledge, teach our kids, and are trying to make our society a better place. Part of me is sure that a thousand or so years from now when all the crap that seems vitally important to us has been forgotten our descendants will look with disdain on how we ran this society much the same way we look down upon the societal flaws of the ancient Greeks or Romans.

But I understand, some people look down upon teachers because they, wrongfully, believe they get these huge summer vacations while all the other slobs have to toil through the year for a single week off. The trouble is that salary mobility here in the United States has decreased to the point that we have the HIGHEST income equality in the industrial world. Yes, you read me right, no matter how teary eyed certain hyper-patriotic types get it is totally unrealistic to the point of fantasy to believe that the poor here in the United States can simply left themselves out of poverty.

The main reason for the increasing gap between the rich and the poor appears to be education. If some kid comes from a rich or well-off family that lives in a decent school district and has the money to go straight to college their respective ticket is punched for a better life. Curiously enough the proven government programs that provides some help to those not lucky enough to be born on second or third base are the ones conservatives are hell bent on destroying.

My ultimate point in all this is that while many in the middle class think they are doing okey dokey and the working class folks like to bitch about those lazy organized labor types getting all those free benefits the relative social position of both is not to far from the Titanic after it hit the iceberg. The middle class folks finance their lifestyles on high-interest, revolving credit while the working poor are kept distracted with propaganda telling them their increasingly dire situation is because of some nefarious socialistic boogieman.

This brings me back to good old Walter White. In Breaking Bad his character tried to play the game we have been taught all our lives. That you work hard and in America you will get ahead. The trouble is that is a lie for the most part. Sure, if you're careful, keep your nose clean, and get a little lucky you might be able to build yourself a relatively nice sand castle. But realistically speaking unless you are already in one of the upper tiers of income god help you and your family if some tidal wave like an economic downturn, outsourcing related to globalization, or health care disaster hits you.

It's in times like those when good people get desperate that despicable and criminal actions become their only way to stay afloat. 

For more info:

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Awaiting the Christmas Apocalypse

This year my usual distaste for this hyper-commercial silly season and all the capitalistic overindulgence that become associated with it has been replaced with another emotion. Yes, I still find all the luxury automobile, decadent jewelry, and other commercials that equate love and family with the purchase of some new and expensive form of crap disgusting but I am talking about something on an entirely new and different plane of reality. This new Yule Tide feeling is outright fear that somehow I might suffer a similar Christmas day like the one I had to live through last year.

To recap, last year I awoke early on Christmas morning with my usual casual disregard for this time in of year firmly in place. I'm sorry, I am a Springtime kind of guy, except when it comes to the yard work associated with that period, and find winters only useful because the beaches here in South Carolina are largely deserted during those months. However, last Christmas morning was something of a minor miracle for me.

After falling limply on the living room couch where I had planned to turn on the television and watch either the original version of “Red Dawn” or “Dawn of the Living Dead” I was soon joined by my daughter who demanded we watch the Christmas movie “The Polar Express.” I tried to compromise by suggestion “Finding Nemo” or another Pixar movie but she refused. So, like any good dad I inserted the Polar Express DVD into the player and fell back on the couch with every intention of sleeping through it.

Something almost magical happened last year, I had never really liked Polar Express but for some reason the movie deeply affected me. My transition was almost like that of old Scrooge after being visited by those ghosts determined to mess with his head. I felt uplifted and outright joyful over the idea of Christmas and what it meant. For a brief time I loved all humanity, even the devolved and stunted folks who watch things like Duck Dynasty and Fox News.

Making things even better, Christmas last year was going to be blissfully simple since my wife was taking the kids up to Richmond, Virginia to see her mother the next day leaving me home alone. Christmas dinner was going to be a small ham and other easy dishes, then we were all going to see a movie. That evening we planned on making hot chocolate and playing board games. Instead, everything quickly went to literal shit.

About ten o'clock that morning I heard a curious sound coming from one of the bathrooms. It was a gurgling noise that immediately sent me into a panic. Long messy story short, our septic tank system picked that day to go completely and utterly wrong.

When my wife realized we had no working bathrooms and in fact had puddles of brown water in the bathtubs in the space or two hours she and the kids and pack up some bags and were waving bye to me as they sped off to Grandma's house. As they turned off the street it was then I realized I had to go to the bathroom. I hope no one ever has to go find a working bathroom on Christmas day. I drove around for a couple of hours looking for an open convenience store or fast food place. The one damn time I needed greedy capitalism to force its underpaid wage slaves to work and save me from doing number two in my pants and I could find nothing. Luckily, I saw that Redneckistan Medical Urgent Care was open allowing me walk inside and use their ultra clean facilities. Yeah, I had expected to be forced to use a dirty restroom and had brought along a bottle of disinfectant.

Christmas Day last year was the start of a long and expensive battle with our septic system that was not won by us until we dropped fifteen-hundred bucks into getting it repaired. Why does this bother me this year?

See, in a totally weird and illogical way reoccurring patterns seem to always show up in my life. The best explanation I can offer is that when two or three similar events happen there is a better than average chance a fourth or fifth one will not be far behind.

Case in point, this year we are again planning a simple Christmas dinner with us all going to a movie that afternoon. And like last year the wife will be taking our daughter to Richmond the next day to go see her mother. My fear is that once the pattern reasserts itself the septic tank monster will somehow awaken to plague me like some psychotic, axe wielding movie serial killer that refuses to stay dead.

Will tomorrow be a horrific sequel to last year's Christmas Day? I hope the hell not but just to try and break up the pattern I will be watching “Dawn of the Living Dead” tomorrow morning and fighting to keep my usual cynical and Scrooge-like demeanor.

For your Christmas enjoyment:

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Nomad Feet: The Charleston Farmer's Market

 My wife was alarmed by the smell of electrical wire burning early this morning and after an extensive search determined the source to originate from between my ears. Being a quick study she promptly figured out I had not only maxed out my societal BS limit but was also suffering from a severe case of cabin fever.

After that she promptly pushed me out the house with orders to head down to Charleston and go a short walkabout. Being exceptionally happy and eager to comply I headed straight to the Farmers Market being held in Charleston's Marion Square.

This picture is of John C. Calhoun's statue set atop an overly ornate pillar. Won't go into details but this fine nineteenth-century Southern gentleman was not a nice guy.    

 The day was abnormally perfect with over eighty-degree temperatures to go along with the beautiful sunshine. After parking at the nearby visitor's center just a block up the street I relaxed by strolling by the various food and artistic craft vendors. After so many months being cooped up in Redneckistan it felt unbelievably liberating to meet and talk with so many interesting people that were at best unconcerned with such ridiculous events like the recent Duck Dynasty blowup.    

I have really screwed up here but my favorite of the Farmer;s Market food vendors was the one selling BBQ but for the life of me I cannot remember its name.

 This is actually a photograph I bought from the Ken Bowman. Something about it captured my imagination and while the framed print was way too expensive for me, I grabbed a smaller version. My wife actually likes the picture and says we can get it framed then hang it in the foyer. The color of my snapshot is off but if anyone can do the Charleston Farmer's Market on Saturdays do try to find where his pictures are being sold. You can also look up his website here. 

Browsed around the Waterfront Park a short time later. I was surprised to learn that people can play in the fountains, as long as they behave themselves. My daughter, Darth Wiggles, has now gotten to the point that it's "uncool" to tag along with dad like she once eagerly did just a few years ago. When I told her about these fountains she freaked and now wants to go with me for my next trip down to the coast.

Unfortunately, as I have whined for so long the planets damn near have to do one of those ten-thousand year alignments before I can actually be left alone long enough to make that drive.

I know its just me but it's sort of strange to see a cruise ship docked in Charleston. It is a monumental understatement to say the city of Charleston has greatly changed from my first memories of the place. I still recall the sleepy little town from the late 1960's when my family ventured down from Georgetown whenever we had to buy some big ticket item like a car or even formal wear.  My hometown lacked the selection that was available in Charleston. Those trips were few and far between back then and so they have an epic feel about them that only a little kid could create.

Last shot of Waterfront Park, I had intended to walk the bridge but when you work night shift like I do you often get tired early and simply run out of steam. Grabbed a quick bite from the King Street Grille and headed home. Not a perfect day trip but since the last one was over eight months ago I'll take what I can get.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Into The Silent World---A book review

Early in 2012 while looking for books on Amazon I was lucky enough to stumbled upon Sam Winston's “What Came After.” In that novel the author paints a picture of a horrific future where the United States has not just fallen to third world status or outright collapsed like the numerous doomsayers these days constantly predict but has suffered a far worse but strangely plausible fate. In so many words the proud American Republic was not so carefully disassembled by a cabal of bean counting investment bankers, corporate CEO's, and the soulless sycophant politicians they own. It wasn't just the federal government that was discarded when the cost benefit analyst boys and girls decided it was of no further use but the state governments as well.

What replaced them was a kind of cooperative corporate feudalism with huge businesses craving out profitable niches of the now former United States. In this anarcho-capitalist wet dream those unlucky enough not to be part of the “ownership” of “management” classes end up as workers with few, if any, rights desperate not to fall into the world of the main character, Henry Weller.

Henry Weller is an extremely poor man born in one of the “Empowerment Zones” that makes up a large part of the New England region. In these zones a person works for one of the huge corporations doing non-skilled, back-breaking manual labor. But in a nicely crafted catch-22 what little pay the workers receive is in corporate scrip with people forced to buy what goods there are from a store owned by that same corporation. Adding insult to injury decades of industrial pollution and the widespread growing of genetically modified plants has created a contaminated and sterile environment where strange and deadly diseases have wiped out a huge portion of the population.

Life is short and brutal in these Empowerment Zones with no real options or possibilities of advancement for those born into them. Henry Weller though is a talented, self-taught mechanic who has literally built himself a workshop out of the refuse and other discarded items from our now dead civilization. In the first novel Henry has a brief and very chance encounter with the man who runs the mega-bank corporation. After Henry helps Mr. Banker, he leaves him with a vague and honestly purely meaningless promise that he would return the favor.

After some serious soul searching Henry grabs his young daughter, who is going blind, and sets out across a desolate and unforgiven nightmare of a landscape hoping Mr Banker might be able to save his daughter's sight. At the end of Henry's long and eventful journey a deal is reached between the two but the result upends Mr. Banker's comfortable existence and sends Henry and his family on another desperate trek looking for some form of sanctuary.

The second book in the series, “Into the Silent World”, takes off right where the first one ended with the corporate military arm of this neo-feudalistic America massacring the inhabitants of Henry's home town in an attempt to find him. In this novel Mr. Winston fills in some of the missing pieces of how things so thoroughly fell apart and explains how it was to the advantage to those who only concern is profit. Several new and important characters are introduced while some from the first book are developed further expanding the setting of this horrific world.

While in some ways “Into the Silent World” is more subtle than similar dystopic novels by McCarthy or even Orwell, to me it was even more chilling because you can see the seeds of just such a future taking shape if you listen to many of the politicians and business types these days. They speak of some sort of privileged business class and writhe in pain at the merest mention that this emerging capitalistic nobility might have to shoulder some of the burdens associated with belonging to a healthy and honorable nation that looks to uplift all Americans, not just those born to affluence.

Both “What Came After” and “Into The Silent World” are scary glimpses at the type of world we might inherit when profit takes the place of basic human compassion. I highly recommend both and dare anyone to honestly say they are nothing less than literary achievements.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

WriteTribe.Com Wednesday Prompt---Falling Between Worlds

 (Author's note: Been looking for some prompts and finally found Write The prompt was: "Imagine you were digging to the ground in the backyard of your new home to create a vegetable patch and  found a treasure chest." Hope this works.)

The man paused to rest and looked out at the new section of his garden he was preparing. He had been working all day engulfed in the labor that allowed him to put his mind on hold and forget about his loss or his new problem. That way he did not think about her or his worthless and possibly dangerous brother that had somehow found a way to his cabin kilometers off the main road. While not hiding the man working the garden wanted solitude and his brother had as usual found a way to mess that up. Making matters worse Cynthia was no longer here to tell him to be nice and once again try to get Roger to straighten out his life.

Feeling the anger rise up the man purposely looked around seeking something to take his ming off a sore subject. It was then that he noticed how the earth from the new section of his garden was a collapsed portion of the small hill about a hundred meters further out. The remaining part of the hill had over the intervening ages kept its shape making it look like a massive, almost godly hand, had taken a huge knife and cut it in half.

“Hey David,” a familiar and highly irritating voice called out from his cabin's small porch. “Where's the coffee, brother?”

The man took a deep breath and exhaled. “Look in the cabinet next the sink Roger.” He yelled back fighting the urge to also tell him that he had one more day then he had to leave.

Feeling anger coming like an onrushing wave David raised his shovel and stabbed the earth. For several minutes he forgot about preparing his garden and just threw dirt around chaotically. Somewhere during this the shovel struck something hard. David's curiosity then took over to the point he eventually uncovered something that was roughly the same shape and size of an old fashioned treasure chest.

Instead of being made of wood bound together with iron braces it seemed a strange combination of stone and metal. After fully removing all the dirty around the chest he discovered what he thought was the top covered in glyphs he assumed was some sort of language, although he had never seen anything like it.

Happily puzzled David assumed it to be a Native American artifact and began thinking of whom to call to report it.


The small room David Shaw found himself confined had all the hallmarks of a jail cell. It was just big enough to contain a cot for sleeping along with a small plastic table with three matching chairs. What separated David's quarters from the average jail cell was the small bathroom connected to his room and a small rectangular window set high on one of the four walls.

Just a couple of hours after his captors had locked him inside the spartan room he used one of the chairs to gain enough height to look out the window and see if he could force it open, or if that failed, break the glass and escape. David quickly found out that not only was the window securely locked but the glass itself was unbreakable. Even more frustrating was that the window looked out at a bleak desert landscape that essentially told him nothing about where his captors had taken him.

Also separating his current situation from what a common criminal might expect was that his captors, while not letting David go free or tell him why he was being held, were making every effort at being friendly and accommodating to his needs. The two guards that shared the duties of keeping an eye on him would stay for what David guessed was about an hour after bringing one of his three daily meals and attempt to carry on a casual conversation. Of course the discussion always drifted to the strange box David told them he had dug up on his property and how when his brother Roger opened the box everything within a thirty meter radius of it, including his cabin, equipment, and his sibling disappeared.

David quickly grew tired of his strange predicament and began ignoring all attempts by the guards to talk. The guards still brought his meals and remained cordial assuring him he was not a prisoner and that he was being held strictly for his own benefit, but they did not change any of their behaviors. For David being obstinate eventually wore thin as well and he began asking for a television or simply something to read just to pass the time. Curiously, this relatively minor request was something the guards had to go discuss with their supervisor.

“We are so sorry Mr. Shaw,” the senior guard said a few hours later, “our supervisor says that at this time she cannot allow you a television or any type of reading material. She apologizes and says that in a few more days you will understand the nature of your situation.”

“Screw that,” David said unable to control his anger, “I know my rights and when this is over I will sue the shit out of you all,” The two guards looked at each other, shrugged slightly, then walked out of the building making sure David did not attempt to escape. The final sound for that day was the click of the door being locked.

As night fell David would lay on the cot trying to figure out what the hell was going on. The possibility that made the most sense that he was being held in protective custody by federal agents because the underworld business associates of his brother Roger had finally grown weary of his failed schemes. Of course, David realized that if they were in fact federal agents they would have long since told him. The next possibility was that it was in fact the mafia keeping him prisoner and using him to draw his brother back out into the open. That theory fell apart because not only was it obvious the people holding him were extremely interested in that damn box he found but that neither the mafia nor anyone in the federal government could make everything close to his cabin disappear as if it was never there. Simple bewilderment eventually forced David to finally doze off with a small part of his mind believing that the real answer was that he had died and was now in a strange version of hell.

True to the word of the senior guard, two days later an attractive woman and an old but very dignified man he had never otherwise encountered since his ordeal began entered his quarters.

“Hello Mr. Shaw,” the woman said taking seat in one of the plastic chairs, “I am Karen Douglas and this is Dr. Wilson Baker. For the benefit of Dr. Baker I'd very much appreciate you telling him about finding the strange box in your garden. If you explain everything that happened we will both then tell you what is going on.”

David looked intently at the woman. She was dressed in a female version of the white button-up shirt, beige sports coat and slacks the two male guards wore as if it was in actuality a type of uniform. “Okay,” he said, “you want the story here it goes. As you already should know I was digging in my garden when I found this damn box. After digging it out I knew I had found something beyond the normal artifacts associated with Native American culture.”

David paused to take several deep breaths because what came now tested his sanity. “As I examined the box I noticed an unusual but simple circular latch was the only thing keeping the lid secure. I was sorely tempted brush away the rest of the dirt and then look inside but I know the regulations on destroying or even disturbing artifacts. So I walked down to my truck to get my cell phone and started making calls. I got the runaround from several different departments but finally got a hold of a Dr. August who runs the Native American Studies department at the University of Oregon. She wanted directions to my place to come and inspect the item. Just then I looked up to see my brother opening the box...”

David again paused, and looked at the two people sitting across from him clearly reluctant to tell what he knew would sound like the ramblings of someone madman.

“Go ahead Mr. Shaw,” the woman named Karen said, “this is important.”

“Okay, well here goes. Right after my brother opened the lid I could tell immediately that something was glowing inside. My brother then looked at me with this huge feral grin, you'd have to know him but that told me he thought whatever was inside would be valuable. All of a sudden the glowing light expanded first engulfing my brother then increasing speed until I was caught. I blacked out and woke up sometime later finding my cabin, garden, all my equipment, and even my truck gone. It was like none of it had ever existed. Your people showed up soon after and carted me off and well, here I am and now you tell me what the hell is going on!”

Dr. Baker looked briefly at Karen Douglas then began to explain what had happened. “Mr. Shaw, I'm sure you understand that what you found was not some run of the mill artifact. It was a device from a lost civilization that only now anyone associated with these items can appreciate the awesome power they control. Simply put Mr. Shaw you're not in Kansas anymore.”

David had no idea what the doctor meant about no longer being in Kansas. It was only after a lecture in quantum mechanics and its many worlds interpretation David even thought he had and idea, and that seemed crazier than what he had already been through.

Three months later...

David Shaw sat on the park bench in Portland, Oregon looking up at the flag made up of thirteen alternating red and white strips with a field of blue in the left had corner containing fifty white stars. Karen Douglas sat next him making sure Shaw didn't do anything completely stupid. “One American country running from the Atlantic to the Pacific, the dream of the Original Revolutionists come true.”

“We call them the Founding Fathers here in this world,” Karen said absentmindedly.

“Sorry,” David said, “in my world there are thirty-three independent countries occupying the same area of North America. The idea of not worrying about another Virginia-Ohio war over Kentucky, the antics of the latest Texas dictator, or that damn Georgia Mafia my brother became involved with is hard to wrap my head around. Plus, it will be hard to think of myself as a United States citizen and instead of one from the Pacific Northwest Federation.”

“Well,” Karen said, “ don't think for a second the United States is utopia. Keeping it going has always been damn hard and we've come close a couple of times of the whole show falling apart.”

“What I can't figure out,” David began again “is why my world's George Washington actively discouraged a continental union after winning the American Revolution. His behavior runs counter to everything I have learned about yours. And then there is the question of what happened to my brother.”

“Hate to tell you this,” Karen said, “but from what we have learned the closer to the device when it activates the greater the time line differentiation. We had a civilized Neanderthal pop into existence in the middle of New York city once. Now that poor guy really fell through the looking glass.”

David Shaw started to ask another question but Karen raised her right hand up to silence him while the left one gently touched the small communications device handing from her left ear. “Understood,” she said, “Shaw's target is approaching.”

David started to get up but Karen stopped him. “Listen David, I'm easily breaking a dozen regulations, common sense, and probably some sort of cosmically ordain rule about fate. If she blows you off you will come back to me or I swear I will drop you like a rabid dog.”

David nodded and got up and started walking along the park's main path. Even after being transported to a parallel world seeing her again seemed beyond a miracle. David had chills run down his spine the second he realized the woman approaching him looked just like his Cynthia. He forced himself to remember what Karen said about how that was no guarantee she would be anything like his late wife.

Just to help David adjust to his new life here Karen had checked to see if his late wife had a counterpart in this world. Not only did she exist but was single and lived in the exact counterpart of a house they shared in his world. It made no sense, but nothing about these situations ever did, so she decided to arrange a meeting between the two.

Karen sat on the park bench causally watching David and this world's Cynthia. She had two undercover guys a few meters away ready to tackle David if things went south. But amazingly it didn't, there was some sort of undeniable chemistry between the two. A few minutes later they are strolling towards a Luckybucks coffee house clearly enjoying each others company. “Well shit,” Karen said over the team's radio network, “screw this, guys let's go get something to drink.”

Thursday, December 5, 2013

When Fake Christmas Trees Attack

 (Author's note: The following events are all true.)

This statement may surprise some but there was a time I actually looked forward to Christmas. When my kids were younger and believed the whole Santa Claus scam I loved the look of expectation in their eyes right before they eagerly went to bed knowing the next morning they would find a neat array of loot next the tree. Some might call it a form of quasi-child abuse but the one tradition I kept from my own surreal childhood was the habit of giving my kids dire warnings of how Santa had this special piece of equipment that could detect whether or not children were actually asleep in a house he was about to visit.

I told them this device could detect a child even slightly awake which would force Santa to abort and proceed directly to the next house on his schedule. Nothing terrifies your average, well-off middle class American child than the idea that Santa might skip his or her house over some transgression. On the other hand nothing drives your average, well-off middle class parents insane like a whiny kid worried over what Santa might, or might not bring. So, if anyone has ever wondered why Santa rarely skips a kid's house no matter how much of a spoiled rotten monster that child might be there is your answer.

I cannot speak for any other family but Christmas Eve night was the time you could hear a pin drop once the younger Darth Spoilboy and Darth Wiggles were officially put to bed. There was none of the usual desperate requests for water, emergency bathroom visits, or the whines of, “but I can't sleep.” I would go as far as to say a metaphorical bomb could have gone off outside both my kid's bedroom doors on Christmas Eve and they would not dare to step outside.

It was during these blissfully quiet and absolutely peaceful moments that the colorful lights from the Christmas tree, the warmth emanating from the fireplace, and the lingering effects from a couple of bottle of wine that would arouse the friskier nature of my lovely spouse. Yes, screw the roundabout attempt at some half-assed literary description, it was during these times daddy got his Christmas present on the living room floor between the fireplace and the tree. Such were the times when I actually looked forward to dragging my family's fake Christmas tree down from the attic and assembling the overly complicated but beautiful simulated tree.

Now times are quite different, both my young Sith Lords know the real deal about Santa. They each still have a Christmas wish list but instead of having the fat old man dressed in red act as an intermediary they just come straight to my wife and me to plead and whine about why they deserve such goodies. Whereas my wife and I once wrestled naked next the roaring fireplace on Christmas Eve we now just go to bed early out of simple exhaustion while our children stay up to watch television or play video games. The one unchanging constant is that last Sunday it was once again time to assemble the old Christmas tree, but even that has become problematic.

The first problem with the family fake Christmas tree started a few years ago when the color coded bands on the end of the various branches began to fall off. These bands corresponded with a dot of the same color on the metal pole that acted as the trunk of the tree. Throw in wear and tear on the branches from years of assembly, disassembly, and rough storage up in the attic where the huge zippered bag it is stored in is often moved around whenever my wife feels the urge to rearrange the bands have come loose along with the dots on the trunk being rubbed off. As the years have progressed this has made assembly more complicated, especially when the branches themselves have become bent and deformed.

Still though, being a persistent trooper I would eventually get it assembled even though if you looked closely it was easy to see a few of the branches were in the wrong locations on the trunk. My usual response to any kind of questioning look from my wife was that the final result was close enough for government work. My wife would not so graciously allow the misshapen tree to pass because by that time I had already cussed up a storm over the deformed branches and the multitude of plastic evergreen needles that now covered a good portion of the living room carpet.

This year though I somehow assembled the damn tree in record time with all the branches in the right location. The wife and daughter then decorated the tree and with that was done I laid down on the couch early Sunday afternoon for a nap.

From my position on the couch the top of my head was only a few inches away from the tree. Not long after I began my nap I swear I started to hear the ornaments on the tree jiggling ever so slightly. My usual curiosity should have forced me to investigate but instead I was already sufficiently warm and fuzzy with approaching nap time that I ignored the subtle disturbance.

Not long after I slipped away into an afternoon dreamland one of the three metal legs of the tree stand gave way with the tree falling over and for all intents and purposes viciously attacking yours truly as I slept. Somehow both my wife and daughter saw the incident because as I pushed my metal and plastic assailant off me I found them laughing their asses off.

It took about two hours to get the metal stand bent back into something approaching the proper shape and the tree back up. It is far from perfect and unfortunately as much as I abhor the idea of joining the insane after Christmas shopping hordes my wife has declared we will need to go buy a new tree and I am forced to agree. Yes, I fear another fake Christmas tree attack more than rabid American consumers desperate to go deeper in debt buying even more crap they do not need. That, for me, is quite the profound and unsettling statement. 

Just showing where the Christmas tree is located in relation to the couch. If you click on the picture to enlarge it you should be able to see how it is still leaning to one side.