Christmas Eve, 1988.
I was nine years old.
Our whole giant family spent most of the day in the dining room, like we always did on Christmas Eve.
Actually, it wasn’t just the dining room. That dining room wouldn’t have fit even half of us. Instead, our regular table was joined by two folding tables, effectively spreading the disease that was us to the entire living room. Even then, a few people had to eat in the kitchen.
The tables are what I remember most about those parties. They were such glorious messes!
Even with the three tables lined up to form one Super Table, you could still identify the components by their tablecloths. In 1988, one was white, one was red, and the third was green.
The main table was reserved for my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. It was always covered in strange liqueurs and burnt walnut shells. If you wanted cigarettes or punchlines you’d never get, you visited Table 1.
The middle table was for my older siblings and cousins, plus their significant others. There were never enough seats for everyone who had the arguable right to sit there. It was first come, first serve, and extremely competitive. If you left the table for too long, you lost your seat. Table 2 always felt the most alive.
The third table, not shown in this photo, was where I would’ve been. That was the table for kids, and for the people who didn’t have enough fight in them to make it to Table 2.
Even though we were all technically sitting at one big THING, the different tablecloths created a clear caste system. If you were at Table 3 and someone from Table 2 talked to you, it was only because they had Christmas pity.
Fortunately, I was nine, so none of this really concerned me.
I didn’t care about where I sat, or if there would be any crab legs left by the time the big foil platter hit Table 3.
All I cared about was midnight.
Sweet, glorious midnight.
Midnight was when we opened our presents. Christmas Day was only moments old.
That year, we opened them downstairs. What you see under the tree isn’t even a third of them. Everybody gave everybody presents. I can’t handle the math, but it was something like 8 x 2 + 6 x 2 + 3. That many presents.
By 1988, even I was probably in on the fun. This may have been the year that I gave all of my brothers and sisters $5 glassware sets from Bradlees.
Absolutely none of them needed glasses, but those sets came in big heavy boxes. If you didn’t know better, you’d have sworn I paid four times as much. Basically, I gave everybody glasses because it made my Lincolns wear Jackson costumes. Read More…
I’ve been absent for a few days, because, as it turns out, December just isn’t my month!
Still, nothing can pull me out of a forced funk faster than a Friday the 13th happening during Christmastime. Thank you, Jason and Santa. Now my world is rosy again.
Pepsi’s Nintendo Giveaway!
Pepsi’s “Nintendo Holiday Game” gave soda addicts the chance to win Nintendo systems and cartridges – or if they were really lucky, a brand spanking new Game Boy.
(I can attest to the brouhaha surrounding a Game Boy giveaway in 1989. When I didn’t get one for Christmas that year, I reacted as poorly as I hope I’ll ever react to anything.)
Ads like these always have money behind them, but this one had HEART. You can’t buy heart unless you’re willing to indulge the Wilson sisters with their ridiculous concert rider. Good luck finding 400 pens made out of peacock feathers. If I had an editor, paragraphs like this would never make it.
The ad mixed traditional animation with an 8-bit flavor to rave reviews, and if you’re not won over by the sight of Santa Mario treating a general store like Level 1-3, you’re horrible and there is no pleasing you.
Also, there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for a clean version of the Nintendo-style Christmas music heard under the voiceover. NOTHING I wouldn’t do. If you have a copy, we can get as filthy as you want. It needs to replace the triumphant circus music as my ringtone. (I don’t know why my new phone had “triumphant circus music” set as the default.) Read More…
It snowed yesterday. Just a little.
I guess there was around an inch of it, but only in the spots where it decided to stick. This wasn’t the kind of snow that would last the night, and sure enough, there’s almost no evidence left of it as I write this.
The weathermen say we’re due for another storm, but weathermen are pathological liars. Fortunately, when I see snow, my impulse is to make the most of it as soon as possible. So that’s what I did. Read More…
The McDonald’s Holiday Pie is BACK.
After hearing the news from my buddy Bill, I immediately ventured out to find them. The first McDonald’s was a bust. The second one was a Level 5 bust, because not only did they have zero Holiday Pies, but the guy manning the register acted like I was out of my freakin’ mind to ask.
“HOLIDAY PIE?! You don’t mean apple?? HOLIDAY PIE? HAS ANYONE IN THIS ENTIRE RESTAURANT HEARD OF A HOLIDAY PIE?!”
It was my own Golden Girls / black prophylactics moment.
But the third McDonald’s came through.
I had no reason to order five pies. “Five” just came out when I was at the drive-through.
I’m not always an anxious person, but I have my triggers. Sadly, they’re all impossibly weird triggers. Ordering food from a drive-through is one of them. Whenever I do, a big pile of mute jelly is suddenly driving my car.
I reasoned that ordering five Holiday Pies was somehow more normal than ordering one. It was the difference between them thinking, “Oh… he’s bringing a bunch of pies to a group of friends,” and, “Oh… he’s a fucking lunatic who waited twenty minutes for one stupid pie.”
I don’t get it. I’ve sold terrible concepts to rooms full of suit-wearing look-downy people, but I can’t order pie from McDonald’s without it turning into a Kathryn Bigelow film. Read More…
Uh oh – it looks like a new CRANBERRY SODA has entertered the arena!
I’m leaving “entered” misspelled because this was already a shitty opener.
There it is. Sprite Cranberry. Joining mainstays like Sierra Mist Cranberry Splash and Cranberry Canada Dry, Sprite Cranberry’s arrival involves a pretty severe overuse of the word “cranberry.” I mean jeez. Read More…
Hot damn, I finally found it. Photographic evidence of that weird thing I did back in junior high.
For several years, I used our family’s Christmas Eve party as an excuse to throw my own. Guests were encouraged away from the dinner table and into my bedroom, for a look at what I called THE CHRISTMAS TIKI HUT.
Basically, I transformed my bedroom (which by that point was a large room downstairs) into party central. A huge table at the back was covered with all sorts of store-bought snacks and drinks, plus goofy appetizers of my own design. (Uh oh.)
I was big into Tiki culture, owing to Archie McPhee and our one local Polynesian restaurant. Remember the bar from Goodfellas? This was my version of it. Christmas lights mixed with ceramic Tiki tumblers. An ambiance best described as “yard sale with food.”
This photo only tells part of the story. My entire bedroom was decorated for the occasion. You know those little Santa hats that they sell for pets? They were all over my action figures. And my God, the entertainment! Christmas movies playing all day long, and by “Christmas movies” I of course mean “Return of the Jedi.”
My family indulged me, not because they wanted to eat cheese that had been sitting out for sixteen hours, but because it was obviously so important to me. For a few years, I cared more about my Tiki Hut than any other Christmas-related thing.
The best part might have been the shopping. Every year, I’d beg someone to take me to Price Club, which was the precursor to Costco. Using money that couldn’t have been mine, I’d load up on jumbo-sized packages of snacks that only a thirteen-year-old psychopath would dream of serving for Christmas.
People nibbled, but most of the spread was still fully intact by the end of the night. Since much of that spread consisted of the same junk food I already lived on, I didn’t mind. During the week between Christmas and New Year’s, I was never anything but alarmingly bloated.
The Christmas Tiki Hut worked like a cocktail hour, or maybe a cocktail half an hour. Everyone would pile in. The adults would pretend to eat and drink. The children would actually eat and drink. Soon enough, they’d be back upstairs for the rest of the party. (I took no offense to how long anyone stayed, as long as everyone showed up.)
When I zoom into the stuff on that table, I’m surprised that they were so agreeable. Many of these foods would’ve been questionable even if they weren’t being served in a kid’s filthy bedroom. On Christmas Eve.
Let’s examine! Read More…