– A Christmas Story –
The flamingo pink had faded to a shade closer to Pepto and the stucco was cracking and chipping in a dozen places, it didn’t matter though no one frequented the Pink Pony for its curb appeal. Kandi pushes off the wall taking a final drag on the diminishing cigarette she had bummed off Nigel, the stucco leaving a dimple effect on her soft skin. Time to get back inside, Nigel didn’t care if you took a “break” but he would be looking for a cut if you were more than a few minutes. It had been a good month though – December usually was, but any month you didn’t have to spend on your knees to make rent was a good month in her book. The sad string of multi-colored lights tacked around the door and the line-up of Christmas inspired names were the only nods to the holiday. She had chosen first – Kandi Kane – cause her plain jane eastern Iowa looks and “Heidi” didn’t inspire a man to drop twenty on a lap dance.
Like most little girls she had grown up with bigger dreams than her opportunities could fulfill. It had been three years since she had left the little nothing farm town for the big city where those dreams were all going to come true. Why her mother hadn’t stopped her was still a mystery – well maybe not, her mother had a hard-enough time taking care of herself, never-mind a teenage daughter with wants no waitress’ tips were going to quench. Nigel had seen her coming a mile away, fresh off the bus, small town blues, and nothing but a decent set of tits and legs to her name – “Heidi, you know like in The Sound of Music,” she had told him. He had laughed in what had seemed like a cool British accent at the time, that was now just annoying. She had only found out months later that there wasn’t any “Heidi” in The Sound of Music.
She holds the pole and kicks up her heel before losing the red sequined bra – mustering what passes for a smile she struts over to the three drunks sitting stage left, bending over to pick the singles up she gives them a good view of her goods, hoping for another few bucks but not really caring either way. These guys are all regulars and more interested in their beer than her boobs. The place is empty by eleven and Nigel cuts them all loose early with a slap on the ass and a Merry Christmas! Wrapped in a hoodie and carrying her heels in one hand and bag in the other she catches the #3 bus home. She leans her cheek against the cool window and hums along to radio… “jingle bells, jingle bells…” – “Merry Christmas mom,” she whispers to the dark brushing a tear from her cheek.
So, my friends, we have been traveling down memory lane, “RANT” style for about twenty years now – so I decided to use a new font this year to freshen things up a bit… $#%@ you that’s a joke, but seriously it’s a new font.
I wrestle with the same problem every year – how do you recount all happenings and accomplishments without coming off smug and all “look at me, look at me.” I know it always seems to work out with some combination of sarcastic observation about the strange world we live in and what passes for normal combined with a rundown of the family hi-lite reel.
I always go back and read the last three or four years’ worth of Rants before getting started – funny it always kicks up my allergies. This year I decided to start way back in the ‘90s and read forward – oh sweet baby Jesus was that a mistake! It reminded me why I started this mess in the first place – we were a young family, four kids, working our asses off, moving from rental to rental trying to stay ahead of the bill collectors and still buy groceries. Knowing everyday any little ripple could throw it all off the rails, “sorry kids no Happy Meal today, Dad has to pay the electric bill.” You work eighteen hour days, kiss your kids as they lay sleeping, love your wife when she lets you, catch a few hours and back at it – and I’m sure through it all my wife worked harder than I did.
Christmas time would roll around and we would scrape a few dollars together for gifts – those kids never missed Christmas and we did everything in our power to insulate them from the everyday hardships – it was our burden not theirs – we weren’t heroes just parents. Inevitably we would get that holiday letter from our slightly older and much better off friends trumpeting all their blessing and big deeds for the year – how do you not feel like your failing reading that? Most people tape it to the fridge and celebrate their friends good fortune – F’ that I decided to write a RANT instead and so here we are!
Those first Rants probably weren’t very good, and in fact I’m slightly embarrassed by how angry some of it sounds, but it was real and that’s what mattered… They are more circumspect and polished now – I guess I’ve grown up a bit and truth be told passed through that “slightly older better off” phase myself, now I’m just old, grumpy, and probably too acerbic – so almost full circle, but with better writing!
Normally I just plow through the kids one by one extolling their virtues, poking fun at them, and generally irritating them in a fairly good-natured way. But honestly, I just can’t bring myself to do it this year so I’m just going to go with some hi-lites and observations instead.
Two major events this year really have to take the headline though:
Of course, there’s more to talk about than drool and vegetables, there’s politics, Starbucks, texting & driving, stupid angry people, air travel, and all the rest of the crazy that makes up every day. I’m going to pare it down for you though cause most of it just makes me insane – so hang on this is the sarcastic acerbic section in case you were missing it.
Okay what’s that leave – right normal crazy and all the regular stuff – that’s cool plenty to talk about. The wife and I have settled fully into the whole grandparent thing. She even traded my truck for a minivan so she has transitioned to full GIGI mode and loves those little ones. I have to be a bit more circumspect about it, wouldn’t want anyone thinking I had gone soft or anything. However, I do spend a lot of time with the granddaughter on the front porch eating popsicles (sugar free) and watching the world go by – its good stuff, believe me and as a bonus I’ve recently started letting the new one drool on me. I also might have indulged in a number of Christmas inflatables on the front lawn this year – what the girls love Minions, blue hippos and pink pigs!
The other unfortunate situation this year has been the evolution of this group of Cruffin loving misfits that camp out every Saturday morning at God awful early to sample the incomparable creations of Jennifer and the girls at Born & Bread Bakery. Why unfortunate you ask, other than the before dawn wake-up call – despite my best and repetitive efforts these folks are becoming friends, I know a chink in the old armor.
Can you believe we are at fifteen hundred words already and you’re still reading this? I know crazy, right? I haven’t talked about all the kids, their jobs, trials and tribulations, relationships, exploits, blah, blah, blah… but this isn’t going to be that kind of RANT sorry. Everyone is doing life, there is some really cool stuff going on in their lives, and there are some struggles – these are really wonderful people and I love them a lot. You should get to know them if you don’t already, maybe see what they are up to – my guess is they have some cool things to talk about and some pretty interesting thoughts and opinions they would love to share… well except Jon he just talks about vegetables and the melting properties of non-dairy cheese.
So, my friends I hope this year has treated you well, and if it hasn’t let’s endeavor to make the next one better together.
Final thoughts for your consideration:
This year I published my second and third novels – if you have read them you have my very sincere appreciation – if you haven’t why not?
My first book “Jake” and its sequel “Peakeville” are intended to create a dialogue on systemic racism and oppression. It’s impossible to ignore the egregious every day demonstrations of intolerance around us – we can do better and if you aren’t experiencing it don’t pretend like it’s not real – be vigilant – there is so much more to say on this, but at the very least just stop acting like it’s not everywhere and folks should somehow miraculously just get over it. It’s not okay to devalue people simply because they are different than you.
My other novel is “Traffic” and is more in the style of an international thriller – but I based this book on the very real problem of human trafficking. If you are on Facebook or any other social media platform you know a week doesn’t go by without us seeing a flyer for the disappearance of a young person – predominantly teenage girls. What you rarely see is any resolution or happy ending to these disappearances. The statistics are truly staggering:
There is no official estimate of the total number of human trafficking victims in the U.S. The Polaris Project estimates that the total number of victims nationally reaches into the hundreds of thousands when estimates of both adults and minors and sex trafficking and labor trafficking are aggregated. More information is available at www.polarisproject.org
Stay tuned the follow-up to “Traffic” should be out sometime next spring and I am contemplating doing a third “Jake” book – those take a lot of energy so we shall see.
As always, my very best and remember the journey is long but worth the trip.