What really gets to me, this time of year

And that's what I have to say about that - to some folks
And that’s what I have to say about that – to some folks, anyway.

I had an epiphany yesterday while shopping for supper. My trip to the grocery store was irritating and tiresome. Everywhere I turned, there seemed to be something or someone in my way. From the drivers on the road, to the people in the supermarket, it was like a maze getting around.

This time of year is crazy, and if I’d had better judgment, I wouldn’t have been out, period.  But I was still sick, still not thinking clearly, and anyway, I was on a mission to pick up my lumber supplies to fix my stairs, and I just needed to get up and out of my head, anyway, so what the hell?

Anyway, despite being foggy and disoriented, I managed to find the cut of lamb I was looking for. {Whenever my spouse is away, I make myself a dinner of lamb — cooked in olive oil in a pan with onions, mushrooms, yams, and green beans – and salt to taste. That’s my treat, since I love lamb, and my spouse hates it.} It took me several tries of walking up and down the meat displays, before I finally found the lamb — but now I know where it is for next time. And I found a yam that would work perfectly for just one person.

I forgot other things I needed to get, but after 10 minutes inside, I just wanted to get out.

The trip to the store felt like an onslaught — too much light, too much sound, too much Christmas. Everybody being herded (speaking of lamb) towards additional purchases… even as my bank alerts me with a text that my account is below the level it should be.  All the people milling around… it actually wasn’t as bad as it could be, but for me on that day, with my senses going nuts and this sinus infection messing with my thinking and reaction time, all I wanted was to get out of there.

I finally did make my way to the front cash register, feeling and acting genuinely impaired. I was clumsy and pretty much non-verbal, and the cashier had to remind me what to do with the keypad, which I was poking at like an idiot. I paid for my $5.87 meal, and headed for my car, steering a wide circle around the Salvation Army alms-gatherer, who kept trying to get my attention. I don’t support the Salvation Army, because it’s a well-disguised religious and political organization (some call it a “sect”) that doesn’t tell everyone what they really support. I can’t agree with many points of their agenda, and I certainly don’t agree with them hiding it from people who have a handful of change to drop in the bucket. It really irritates me that the general public (who may not know what they’re all about and may not agree at all with what they promote) is every so sweetly pressured into donating to them by kind-looking people with bells.

I was in a pretty sour / disaffected mood, by the time I was done. And I headed to my car feeling slightly guilty about being so “bah humbug” at this time of year. I really wanted to get into the spirit of things, but I was just so underwhelmed with everything around me, so put off by the onslaught, so tweaked by… seemingly everything. At least I’d parked away from most of the cars, I figured. I was in no shape to be navigating between closely positioned vehicles in the state I was in.

I had just finished putting my food in the back of my car, when another driver zoomed past me into the empty space beside my car. They couldn’t have passed more than 6 inches away from me, and if I’d been feeling better, I would have been alarmed.

But I had  no energy for that. It was just one more irritation to grab my limited attention, so I just dismissed and shrugged it off and got in my car. The other driver put their car in park, and just for the hell of it, I looked over at them with a smile. I was feeling so contrary, I wanted to be pleasant, even in the face of the near miss and my total irritation with everything that had happened that day.

The other driver looked over at me sheepishly, then smiled back. A moment later, they looked over at me again with another quizzical smile, and I smiled in return. Then they got out and walked around their car to mine, and I rolled down the window. I figured they wanted to apologize, maybe, for nearly creaming me, and I was in a defiantly generous mood, so I was about to let that be what the exchange was all about. With so much bullshit going on in the world, these days, the most radical, contrary thing I could do, was be kindhearted and generous to someone who’d nearly taken my legs off.

There really wasn’t any need for an apology, and the other driver sensed it, somehow. They said, “Oh my God – how is it the supermarket?”

I said it was actually fine, that I got in and out in no time. I didn’t even mention the close call. Why waste my time?

They said they thought for sure it would be crazy inside, what with all the cars, but maybe it was everyone shopping in other stores.

I said I thought that was probably the case — that if you knew what you were looking for in the grocery store, you’d be able to get in and out. It really wasn’t any more busy than it is on a weekday night.

We shot the breeze for a few more minutes, then we went our separate ways. And both of us felt that much better. Because we’d actually had a real conversation between two real people — not the kind of superficial, crazy-busy rush and push of the holiday shopping experience. For a few minutes, we’d been able to be real human beings with each other, sharing an experience that both of us couldn’t friggin’ stand, that made us into people other than our best selves. And for those few minutes — all made possible by a near miss — we got a much-needed break from all the B.S. of this season.

And as they disappeared into the crowd, and I pulled away to go home, I realized that my malcontent and frustration and disaffection has nothing to do with Christmas, itself. It has nothing to do with the season or the time of year or the shortening of days or anything like that. It’s not because I’m in a BAD MOOD, or that I feel “bah humbug” about everything. It’s not because I’m sick, or I don’t have enough money, or I hate life or my job or politics or anything else.

It’s because at this time of year, especially, I really want to have some real contact with real people, and just put aside all the busy-ness. I want to be able to have a real conversation with another human being about something that is real and genuine. I get upset and disaffected and grumpy about the bullshit. All the commercial crap, all the bogus posturing, all the appeals for financial help at the end of the year. All the nagging and pleading and posing… it just makes me insane. It’s a waste of my time, and I resent the very existence of it.

So, it’s NOT that I’m not in the Christmas spirit. I actually am — very much so. The thing is, I’m in a real Christmas spirit, and I have no patience for people who aren’t willing to be real, and businesses and causes that make themselves out to be something that they’re not. I resent feeling like people are constantly trying to trick me, and I detest all the spin that goes on in the news. I get sick of being lied to, especially at this time of year, and I resent being forced to work harder at my life, because retailers can’t seem to offer anything of sufficient value during the rest of the year, to make their businesses solvent. I’m sick of the deceptive cycles of holiday debt, followed by months of struggle underneath the added burden. And I’m sick of a system that makes it all possible — even mandatory.

I just want my freedom. But apparently, that’s too much to ask. And the sight of the plight of so many people who are trusting others to point them in the right direction, just weighs down my heart.

So my lack of Christmas cheer is actually not a bad thing. It’s a sign that I’m alive and kicking, and I have precious little wish to live less than a fully true life. I have no patience for spin and obfuscation and masking agendas to sign on adherents, and I have no wish to perpetuate it.

If someone wants to engage me in a real conversation about real things, and be genuine and human with me, I’m all for it.

But if you’re just dishing up more steaming B.S. on a silver platter, you’d best keep your distance. To you, I say, “Bah humbug!”

Losing Tiger

Here’s my blatantly opportunistic exploitation of a public figure for the sake of blog hits. But seriously folks, the whole situation does give me pause for a lot of thought.

Depending which radio station you listen to or which news source you read, Tiger Woods’ domestic dispute either involved him getting clocked with a 9-iron by a furious wife… and/or being scratched up when she lit into him… and/or driving around semi-conscious… and/or him sustaining injuries from ramming a fire hydrant with his Escalade… and/or his numb and non-communicative wife bashing out his car windows to save him… and/or him lying on the pavement snoring, when the medics arrived.

I don’t think anyone but the folks directly involved will ever know exactly what happened, but I’m not sure that matters. Enough damage has been done, to permanently erase the once saintly persona we once knew as Tiger Woods. And if his wife really did hit him in the face with a 9-iron, and he was in and out of consciousness, I have to wonder if the head trauma won’t screw with his fine motor control… and possibly bring his golfing career to a sickeningly tragic end.

I’m being harsh, you say? I think not. For years, this guy has made millions, at least in part by projecting a squeaky-clean image, having kids intone “I am Tiger Woods” mantras on moving commercials, and by hawking his wholesome image throughout the media. He has made tons of dough and enjoyed vast amounts of prestige, thanks to his image.

And what does he do, but not only tramp it up with impunity, apparently on Ambien, no less… but also be dense enough to leave tons of incriminating evidence, not to mention get intimately involved with the kinds of women who brag about bedding him. What was he thinking?!

I know the man was in pain, not least of all from losing his father. I know he’s been under vast amounts of pressure, due to his position and reputation. I know he’s been working as hard as any aging athlete to keep his edge in a field full of fresh young players just aching to take his place in the lead. I know the man was human, and I know he behaved like so many other men do in his position. I know that, being human, his mojo quota had to be in some kind of decline, which must have made him absolutely crazy at times… it’s not easy to peak relatively early in life (men do so earlier than women — some of the world’s greatest mathematicians achieved their masterpieces when they were but young pups) and then see yourself decline — however invisibly to the rest of the world. I know the temptations of all those women must have been too much to take at times. Clearly, at least some of them were.

But here’s the thing — if you know all eyes are on you… if you know your fortune depends on your ability to maintain a clean-cut image… if you have a wife and two kids at home and endorsement contracts to honor, you don’t fuck around. And you certainly don’t sext your hottie du jour hundreds upon hundreds of times and leave voicemails on her phone with your name. Geezuz, Tiger — what were you thinking, man?!

In a way, I can understand how it would come to this. I think the guy was set up by a system that makes artificially optimistic, insanely unrealistic, and eventually overwhelming demands on gifted but relatively frail human beings. Frankly, I think the powers that wrote up his contracts probably never genuinely expected him to uphold every last piece in the morality clause(s).  They probably figured they would ride the Tiger Train for as long as it would pull them along, and that eventually something would go amiss, and they’d get at least some of their money back from him, having made millions from his endorsements in the meantime. But they probably never genuinely expected him to violate his own artificial image in such a public and plainly stupid way.

When all is said and done, what I feel most about all this, is a profound sense of loss. The magical golden child of golf has fallen — sure as the golden calf was struck from its pedestal by Moses coming down from Mt. Sinai. And now he’s being ground up and served to all the masses in tiny little bits, strewn through our food and drink. The invention that we had and believed in — that innocent, honest, hard-working, Horatio Alger of a golfer — has failed to hold up under the stress tests of real life, and now we all have to eat crow and cringe whenever we think of those “I am Tiger Woods” commercials.

Those of us who demand perfection from others are as much to blame for this debacle as the parties involved. We are all complicit in this crime against human optimism. We put him up on a pedestal, and then when he stumbles, we go on a feeding frenzy, attacking our object for not validating our fondest fantasies. We need to get real. And stop needing the Tigers of the world to be our role models and paragons. We each need to aspire to and achieve heights in our own ways, not put all of our vainglory into a persona we prop up through consumer devotion and starry-eyed water-cooler talk.

Of course, in the midst of it all, some might cry “racism” and say he was set up and handled too harshly in the media — but weren’t we all set up and then disabused by our own dashed illusions? Weren’t we all just a little too trusting of the image, a little too inundated by all the media blitz, a little too incredulous that someone who flew so high could fall so far? It’s lonely at the top, and it gets hot up there, as Icarus found out.  He plunged from the great heights, too, and did not survive the fall. But he got a whole sea named after him.

As for Tiger… well, there probably won’t be any large bodies of water named after him, but you might get a good deal on a set of his golf clubs on Craigslist right about now…

Please join me in a moment of silence for our dearly departed hero.

I’ll miss him.

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