December 21, 2007

I Could Get Used To This

Warning: this story is disgusting and may not be suitable for breakfast-time reading.

As you may know by now, Catherine and I are members of the YMCA. I make fun of the YMCA, we both do. You don't hear Catherine make fun of the YMCA because she doesn't tell you. But she does make fun of it, trust me.

Underneath it all we kinda like the place. We like it in the same way you may like the homeless, disheveled mutt that eats out of your neighbor's garbage but looks up at you every time you pass by with those big brown innocent button eyes of his that melt your heart. Someday the dog will have passed away and, with a sigh, you'll miss the poor little bastard and wish you'd have treated him better. Maybe someday we'll treat the YMCA better. Maybe.

As for today, I'm kind of fed up.

Every year around Christmas time, the Santa Monica YMCA shuts down the pool for its annual cleaning. I'm all for cleaning that swim bucket, trust me on that one. With all the kids and crazy old people, Lord knows what kind of bacteria is breeding in that pond.

The thing is, closing the pool creates a kind of inconvenience for me. And if I'm forking over my monthly fee, I don't want to be inconvenienced. Fortunately, there is another YMCA in West Los Angeles, just a few miles away. I haven't been there but know they have a pool. Lord knows the YMCA senior management can't be stupid enough to close both pools at the same time. So last week, as I was talking to the lifeguard about the upcoming pool closing, I mentioned that I'd now have to swim at the West LA pool.

No, he said in his think Russian accent. Ees close-ed too.

I looked at him in shock and disbelief.



Well that kinda blows. I guess this means I'll have to go to the Pacific Palisades YMCA. Their pool is outdoors, not my first choice in December, but it'll have to do.

Later in the week I'm up in the Pacific Palisades area so decide to drop by the YMCA to get the pool hours. Sorry, the front desk kid tells me, but our pool is closed.

Whaaa?! Are you @*(&! serious? I burst out uncontrollably, knowing such words are frowned upon in the family friendly YMCA. The West LA and Santa Monica pools are closed too, how can you all be closed at once?

Yeah, he replied as if I'd suddenly figured out the secret code. We coordinate it all to work together.

Excuse me?! You coordinate it?! You mean you actually talk to each other to make sure you each maximize the inconvenience to your members all at once?

I huffed out of there.

Fortunately, there is a wonderful pool at Santa Monica College (SMC), not but a few miles from my home. It's a beautiful pool - the best on the westside of Los Angeles. Clean water, nice lanes. It, too, is an outdoor pool. And though in these brisk, oftentimes rainy mornings it sure is tough to motivate oneself to swim outside, with the other 3 pools closed, what choice do I really have. I can suck it up for a week or two.

Catherine called up to check with them and, guess what? Yep, the SMC pool is closed in December as well. This is starting to sound like a conspiracy.

My choices are dwindling. The top four pools I would even consider going to are all closed. My options are weak, but I need to swim. I suppose that leaves me at the Westwood Recreation Center. [insert foreboding music]

The Westwood Recreation Center is to health clubs like a Port-a-John is to fine dining.

I used to swim in the Westwood Recreation Center about 12 years ago. Though the pool area is somewhat bearable, getting to the pool usually falls on the disgusting side of the cleanliness spectrum. It only costs $1.50 to get into the rec center, so mornings act as a bathroom haven for the local homeless. The locker room becomes a festering petri dish of disease. The cold cement floor is always wet, though I'm never quite sure what liquid is causing the dampness. Whenever my eye catches a speck of something on the floor, I divert my gaze. Whatever it is, I don't want to know.

I don't just wear shoes in the locker room, I wear shoes on my shoes. And two layers of socks. If I owned a hazmat suit, I'd wear that too.

Catherine had called up to find out the Rec Center hours and, as you can probably guess, she found out that the pool closes for December later this week. Of course. Heaven forbid there should be any pool available. That said, we had a few days before it shut down and, at the very least, needed to squeeze in at least one swim.

I wasn't a bundle of joy when Catherine and I rolled out into the dark, rainy morning and pulled into the Westwood Recreation Center parking lot. We hustled through the rain showers and dove into the warm, dry safety of the Rec Center lobby. It was 6:30am. They had just opened their doors.

As Catherine walked down the desolate hallway to the women's locker room, I followed the winding path to the men's locker room. I walked into the locker room and was greeted by the same wet cement floor that was there 12 years ago. I started getting flashbacks. As I began to change into my swim clothes, my stomach started feeling queasy.

Suddenly I heard another person approaching. I looked up to see the locker room door open and a shopping cart get wheeled in, dragging along with it a disheveled looking gentleman who no doubt hasn't seen the soft side of a bed in eons. His shopping cart was filled to the brim with what I can only imagine were his worldly belongings. And they were sopping wet, as was the homeless gent.

He pushed his shopping cart into the middle of the locker room, which, for the record, is where I was located. He left his cart right by my side as he walked towards the toilets.

There was a sign on the side of the locker room that said "no running water." With no shower or sink water, I didn't need to see how this bathroom story played out. I grabbed my belongings and high-tailed it into the pool area. I'll finish changing by the pool, thank you very much.

The pool, as previously mentioned, is fairly decent. It's a 25 meter pool with more than enough lanes. Not the clearest water in the world, but I tried not to think about that. There was a masters swim class going on in the far side of the pool, but there was ample room for Catherine and I to have our own lane and complete our days routine.

Catherine finished before me and bid farewell as she left the pool and walked into the women's locker room. She removed her bathing suit and began to put on her clothes. As she was pulling on said clothes something caught her eye. It couldn't be, she thought as she looked down on the ground - the wet concrete ground. But it was. There, right next to her foot, was a pile of human excrement.

Yes, somebody shat on the floor of the women's locker room.

She looked up in disgust. It was at this point that she saw the two signs posted on the wall of the locker room:

Do not swim in the pool if you have diarrhea, one said.
Please don't drink the pool water, said the other.

Is this really it? Is this what our lives have come down to? With every half-way sanitary pool in the west Los Angeles area closed for the holidays, are we forced to patronize a place where people shit on the locker room floor? Where you actually have to REMIND the patrons not to have diarrhea in the pool and then drink the water? Where has humanity gone?

Had the pool actually stayed open later than this week, we wouldn't have returned.

Suddenly I began to miss the YMCA. I missed my little garbage eating mutt. I wanted him back. I wanted to smile with all my fat, old Russian locker room buddies. I wanted to splash in the water with the Cchat-Ptewies; to compare electronics with The Accessorizer. I wanted to jolly in the inane antics of all my inane YMCA friends. I wanted my life back.

But, alas, I'll have to wait another 2 weeks.

Lo and behold, just when it gets the darkest is usually when the sun is about to shine. And shine it did.

The Sports Club LA is perhaps the most high-fallutin' gym for the masses in Los Angeles. There are no concrete floors in the locker room at Sports Club LA, it's fully carpeted, with clean towels and terrycloth robes. People don't shit on the floor at Sports Club LA. People can eat their caviar off their floor. There are no group showers at the Sports Club LA, it's individual stalls, with little squeezy jars of shampoo, conditioner and body lotion in each. And attendants to bring you soft towels and comfy robes.

Sports Club LA is the exercise hangout for the rich and plastic surgeoned. It's gaudy and expensive and ridiculously Hollywood. It's also free for us for one week thanks to some guest passes we were given.

I went there for my swim this morning. It was amazing. They actually have individual lap lanes. Lap lanes for one. You never have to share a lane at Sports Club LA. And sure there's a sign that asks swimmers to limit their workouts to 30 minutes if others are waiting, but nobody's waiting. Ever. Sports Club LA is the type of club where people pay extra to have a pool, and then never use it.

After my swim, I went to lift weights. The machines and the weights were shiny and clean. There were machines I never heard of, machines that looked as if they'd never been used. I commented something of the sort to one of the many passing attendants.

Yes, we get new machines every six months. We always want to make sure we give you the best there is.

God bless you, Mr. Attendant. And God Bless the Sports Club LA.

After finishing my weight routine, I went back down to the locker room to get ready for my day. I took a nice, warm, private shower. I dried my body with fluffy, clean, new towels. I combed my hair, shaved my face and lotioned my skin. I burrowed my toes into the soft comfort of the locker room carpet and smiled. I could get used to this I said repeatedly. I could get used to this.

Maybe the old mangy mutt will have to wait another week.

December 19, 2007

I'll Pay Extra

Catherine and I were walking down the streets of Westwood a few months ago on our way to see a play. We crossed an intersection, only to be confronted by one of those 40-something, usually Latino gentlemen distributing flyers.

If you've been to Times Square or anywhere on the strip of Las Vegas, you've probably seen these guys flipping the flyers in front of your face. Most often the flyer gives you a few dollars discount on entry fees to a gentleman's club, so you can spend the rest of your savings having some woman you'll never get to touch pretend that she really wants you to touch her. She's lying - she's only there to take your money.

If not for a gentlemen's club discount, the flyer will probably promote the big annual blowout sale of some random, struggling electronics, jewelry or cheezy clothing store that seems to have an annual blowout sale on a weekly basis.

Walking up Westwood Boulevard, as Catherine and I had been doing during the time of said flyer distribution, I figured the flyer was definitely not for a strip club. And since I had no need for cheezy looking faux-silk shirts, I didn't make eye contact with senior flyer guy and cast my eyes toward the sidewalk as I pushed Catherine forward.

Flyer distribution guys, however, have one simple goal and that's to hand out flyers. It's their job. In fact, the entire job description probably only has three words: hand out flyers.

They're not looking for people to come ask them for flyers. It's not self-service flyering. They push forward and hand the darn things out to anybody and everybody they can. So, despite the fact that I tried my best to ignore this gentleman, he popped in our direction and pushed a flyer in front of our chests.

Discount sushi, he said. 50% off sushi.

As if the unwelcome flyering wasn't enough....sushi? You serious?

I looked at Catherine. Sushi?

Let me tell you, I told her, if a sushi restaurant is struggling on such hard times that they need to resort to having Mexican men standing on corners handing out flyers, I'm not real sure I want to be eating their fish in the first place.

This line of conversation quickly spiraled into a stimulating discussion among Catherine and I that has been going on for about 3 months so far. And now is the time to let you join in. So let me present to you:

A List Of Things For Which I Really Don't Want To Pay A Discounted Price. Full Price Is Fine, Thank You. In Fact, Charge Me More Than Full Price, I'll Pay Extra.

1. SUSHI: Show me a place that offers 50% off sushi prices and I'll show you a doctor's prescription to cure tape worm.

2. AIRLINE PILOT SALARIES: I never - ever - want to hear that an airline pilot's salary has been decreased. They want more money than Trump? Fine. Here, take my credit cards, go crazy. Just get me back on the goddam ground.

3. CAR BRAKES: Discount car brakes at a discount auto shop? Does that come with a discount tombstone?

4. SURGEON: Heart surgeon, brain surgeon, even pancreas surgeon for that matter, if somebody's gonna dig around my insides with sharp objects, I don't want it to be the guy that spent his medical school years smoking so much reefer that he's resorted to advertising his services with words like, "the cheapest liver transplant in town" or "free sandwich with each procedure."

5. SAFETY AIR BAGS: If this balloon is the one thing separating me from walking away from a car wreck and being wheeled away, make the damn things out of golden parachutes if you have to.

That's what I've got so far.... you?

December 13, 2007

The Five Phases of Success - or - Venice Christmas Run: A Race Report

The Santa Monica - Venice Christmas 10k is one of those yearly must-do runs. It's the type of race where the locals really dig deep to display their holiday spirit. Whether it be jingle bells tied to running shoes, or reindeer antlers on a wickable cap, there's enough happy and merry at this race to fill us all with our fair share of ho-ho-honess.

As you may know, I've spent the past few months struggling with exercise-limiting physical pain. Though I'm finally able to shuffle about on the road (as opposed to wasting my days on the dreaded elliptical), my achilles still doesn't feel completely healed. Regardless, Catherine and I decided to sign up for the Christmas Run, probably more out of habit than anything. Even so, we didn't have expectations of doing anything but a holiday shuffle.

You can imagine my surprise when the race went extremely well. In fact, it went so well, I was even able to come up with a new philosophy on life - and I know how much you love my life-altering philosophies.

So here you go, little buckaroo... my Christmas Run race report, also known as Ironman Life's Five Phases of Success.

Mile 1, Phase 1: MOTIVATION

There were nearly 1200 people that participated in this year's Christmas Run, but the moment I got to the starting line only one person caught my eye. His name is Phil. Phil the Dancing Grill, to be exact.

There's this company in Santa Monica called Westside Rentals. Their business has nothing to do with my story, so I won't get into that. The reason I bring them up is due to their main promotional effort, which is to have Phil standing on the corner of 11th Street and Wilshire Blvd, usually dressed in a caped gladiator costume, holding an oversized Westside Rentals sign and dancing his butt off all day. For 5 hours per day, 5 days per week, Phil the Dancing Grill stands on the corner and dances like he's in some sort of Saturday Night Fever induced haze.

In fact, you can see Phil in action (sans Gladiator costume) by clicking here.

I don't know Phil, never talked to the guy in my life. But the way he dances, the way he's become a quasi- local celebrity - well, it just irks me in my most irkable locations.

So when I saw Phil standing there at the front of the crowded Christmas Run starting line, all smiling and bouncing, wearing his cape, holding up his Westside Rentals sign and screaming "Weeessst-SIIIIIDE!!!".... well, the irking got reignited. If there's one thing I don't need at 7:30 on a cold Saturday morning, it's irk.

I turned to Catherine. No way in hell is that Westside dancing dork gonna beat me today, I said with a gaze of focused, irk-filled motivation.

It was 7:30am. The gun went off and the crowd started moving. I could see above the crowd separating us that Phil took off like a rocket. Catherine and I were in the middle of the pack, so Gladiator-boy got a good 10-15 second head start before Catherine and I even crossed the starting line.

What with all his dancing and strutting and inane tom-foolery, I assumed Phil was a pretty good runner. I've competed in a few dance marathons in my youth (don't ask) and have come to understand the true value of a running background when it comes to endurance dancing.

Prior to seeing Phil, my strategy was to take the first couple of miles slowly and then pick it up for the last four. But now there was Phil. Now there was motivation. As soon as I hit the starting line, I picked up a pace that was quite faster than "take it slowly." Within a few seconds I had already dropped Catherine. I weaved my way in and out of the crowds, focused and determined to keep my sites on Senior Dancing Grill. He's not getting away from me. Not the dancing gladiator. Not today. Not in my house.

As it turns out, I caught up to Phil within a half mile. I saw the look of struggle crawling across his face as I passed him by. Well what have we here? I told myself. Mr. Dance Machine doesn't have the running gene, after all.

I knew right away that I would probably beat Phil in this race, which is about all I needed to de-irk myself. It was at that point that I noticed my legs were feeling pretty good. I had kicked this race off with a fairly aggressive pace and somewhere in the back of my mind I thought I may actually be able to hold the pace for awhile. I was motivated, I kept moving.

Soon enough I hit the one mile marker and rapidly descended into Phase 2.

Mile 1 split: 7:33

Mile 2, Phase 2: REALIZATION

I looked at my watch as I passed the one mile mark. 7:33.


My mind started bouncing back and forth, mostly saying things like "uh-oh" over and over again. The realization had set in.

Here's the reality: I'm older than 40. I started running when I was 12. I used to run fast in my youth, but I am no longer in my youth. My body is shot, my leg muscles are scar tissue. I'm not a 7:33 miler. It's taken awhile to realize this, but I've finally come to terms with my slowness.

Over the past 4 weeks my average running pace has been a 10:11 mile. I am, at this stage of my existence, a 10 minute miler. Sure, maybe in a race that might translate to 9 minute miles. 8:30 at best. 7:33? No way.

As I moved on into mile 2, I began to convince myself to slow down. You're too old for this, I told myself. You're not good enough.

And just as I was about to slam on the brakes, I decided to buy a bigger bowl. I dared to believe that I could go fast again. What if, I told myself.

What if I could maintain this for the entire race.
What if I believed I was this fast.
What if I tried.

And that's what I did. I blazed through mile 2. I decided to believe I could keep this pace. And as my realization of reality morphed into a new me, I kept passing people and soaking up their energy. And just as quickly I hit mile 3...

Mile 2 split: 7:11

Mile 3, Phase 3: PERSPIRATION

The joy of once again running 7-somethings lasts about 2 miles. Though you can motivate yourself to run faster than another person and you can convince yourself to believe a new paradigm of life, there comes a point when the facade of happiness wears off and reality sets in. That happened around mile 3.

Motivation got me through the first mile. A new realization got me through the second. Mile three is where the hard work began.

My body started reacting, fighting, perspiring. My heart rate had been in the high 160s since the starting gun and now I was firmly implanted in the 170s. The lactic acid was building up and my breathing was getting more difficult. My mind began arguing with my body. Slow down, it would scream. What the hell are you doing to yourself?!

I opened my mouth to ingest more oxygen. To breathe life into me as I pushed forward in man's ultimate battle between the travails of discomfort and ease of mediocrity.

Do I slow down? Do I give up on myself? Or do I push harder, knowing that this beating of my heart, this gasping of my lungs, this burning in my legs - this is what it means to be alive.

I chose life.

And so I began to concentrate further, to delve deeper into myself and keep moving forward. Until, eventually, I got to Phase 4.

Mile 3 split: 7:28

Mile 4, Phase 4: ACTUALIZATION

In any difficult challenge, there comes a transition point between the body and the mind in which the two begin to reverse roles. The body, once the driver, begins to fade into the background; to move into autopilot and be driven by the power of the mind. It is often not a smooth transition. The body fights and struggles. It claws at the mind, scraping and screaming for it to give in.

For an athlete, this is often the phase in which life displays itself in vivid bursts. It is the phase in which the strength of your character is manifested.

As I delved deeper into Mile 4, I was cognizant of this battle. Already more than half way done with the race, I knew I couldn't give in. And I knew that this mile was going to be my big challenge.

As my body mauled and molested my mind, I fought back. I went faster. I delved into the depths of concentration and, like a sad excuse for a character out of Heroes, I pushed the evil into the dark corners of the past. I struggled to stay in the present, feeling every movement, every breath, every step.

Save the runner, save the world.

And soon enough, I was on Mile 5.

Mile 4 split: 7:24

Mile 5, Phase 5: DETERMINATION

Two miles is not far to go. Two miles is near the end. Two miles is a warm-up, a cool-down, a swim distance. Two miles is a sprint.

With only two miles to go, I knew I could do this. I could hold this pace. I could push myself further.

My body was moving faster but I couldn't sense a difference. I was being driven by my mind, focused on nothing but the present. I was determined.

Suddenly, I started passing more and more people. Those that had been seemingly minutes ahead of me, were now images in my rear view mirror. I could breathe. I felt the sanctity of life, of goodliness and spirit, course through my veins. I focused all of my efforts on just finishing this mile. This is it, I said. This is easy.

I smiled. And laughed. And I reached the mile 5 marker.

Mile 5 split: 7:19

Mile 6, Phase 6: ELEVATION

They call it "being in the Zone" when everything is working together perfectly. Full involvement. Energized focus. Flow.

There is a profound clarity you get in the moments of flow. For me, I feel as if my feet don't touch the ground. Literally, I'm flying. All of the hard work, the pain and struggle, it becomes effortless.

Mid-way through mile 6, I achieved the flow. I was completely, utterly in the present. Moving without effort, focused, determined and serene. Chills ran up my spine.

There's a shift in the space-time continuum when you are in the Zone. Though you're moving fast, responding in milliseconds, every step is in slow motion. It's like you're in the middle of The Matrix, battling the forces of evil with such little effort as your limbs move in preposterously fast maneuvers.

I picked up the pace even more, moving my legs to their limit. I wished my joints were more limber to enable me to go faster. If I could, I would.

I ran. Harder, faster, stronger. Free-er.

Mile 6 split: 7:06

I crossed the line in 45:17. Not a PR, but one of the most blissfully satisfying races I've had this decade. I changed my reality and saw that I still had something deep inside.

As I've been out on the road this week, shuffling along at my regular 10+ minute per mile pace, something seems different. A light had been lit inside me and I knew - I know - that I can be the person that I strive to be. Life, I've been reminded, is not easy. We go through phases of growth - motivation, battle, acceptance - but in the end, if we are dedicated to our purpose, determined to be the best that we can be, we are elevated.

It's all in the flow.

December 07, 2007

10 Things I Learned About Triathlon From Watching Top Chef

I love food.

I love cooking food.
I love eating food.
I love talking about cooking and eating food.
I love thinking about cooking and eating food.
And when I can't do any of those things, I love watching people cook and eat and talk about cooking and eating food.

Top Chef? One of the best shows on TV. You can learn a lot by watching other people cook. Like how to cut onions into little cubes without crying and creating a mess.

Here, for my writing pleasure and hopefully your reading pleasure, are 10 things that I learned about triathlon by watching Top Chef.

1. Though everybody toes the starting line with the same goal, the methods people take to complete the task can be very different. Not wrong, not right - just different.

2. Some people move fast, some don't. That is no indication of who is better at what they do.

3. Don't judge the insides by how it looks on the outside - when you really dig in it could leave a bad taste in your mouth.

4. Even though it's a competition, we'll all come out much better if we work together

5. There's always going to be a jerk in the group. Don't let the douchebag get you down.

6. Be yourself, stick to your guns. In the end, all you have and all you are is all you are expected to do.

7. If somebody is running around frantically with a sharp object, odds are you want to stand pretty clear of them.

8. Though you may be judged by others, that doesn't mean they think you suck.

9. Be open-minded. No matter how much of an expert you think you are, there is always an opportunity to learn something new.

10. Everybody is human, regardless of how much or how fast they're cookin'.

December 04, 2007

My Brush With Santa

Let's get this one thing straight, Santa Claus and Jesus Christ have nothing to do with each other. They don't know each other, never did. If I have my facts correct, and I'm pretty sure I do, Santa Claus wasn't even born until well after Jesus' bar mitzvah. Like hundreds of years after.

I'm fairly sure the families didn't even know each other. It probably wasn't as strained as the Montagues and Capulets, or even the Hatfields and McCoys, but I'm fairly positive that the Clauses and Christs never went on joint family vacations. At the very least, what with one group liking the cold and the other the heat, they probably wouldn't even be able to agree on a vacation destination.

This line of thinking all started the other night when I referred to Santa Claus as a douchebag.

You see, every year for one night in early December the shopping district in Santa Monica keeps it's doors open late. With the hopes of getting the local community blotto and ringing up big bills on their credit cards, all of the stores reduce the cost of their overpriced goods, dust off their holiday music CDs and assemble their own private version of holiday cheer - egg nog, frosted cookies, glasses of wine, chunks of cheese and, in the case of the local eye doctor, cups of homemade chili.

Miraculously, Santa Claus finds the time every December in what must be a fairly hectic schedule, to pop on by the local Coldwell Banker Real Estate office and take pictures with the locals. For many years I've enjoyed dropping by with my friends and getting my Polaroid with Santa. After all, it's not often that you get to see that large a celebrity up close and personal.

For the most part I've enjoyed my time with Santa. A bit roley-poley, could probably use an extra few weeks in the gym, maybe even a couple training sessions with Mark Allen, but he seems to be a nice enough fellow. Good hearty laugh, sharp looking outfit (if not a bit dated) and always in a fairly positive mood. You can probably imagine my surprise when all of this changed two years ago.

It was the same evening in early December - the Montana Walk, we call it (mostly because it involves walking up and down Montana Avenue). Catherine and I were new in our relationship and what better way to capture those early months of love than a joint photo with St. Nick.

We roamed up the street, grabbing a cookie here, a brownie there, dipping in and out of stores, until we finally reached the Coldwell Banker. I could see Santa inside, sitting majestically in front of a line of well-wishers. Catherine and I stood in line and, soon enough, we were at the front. Now is our big moment - our brush with celebrity. We approached the big fat fellow excitedly.

Cat went to one side of Santa and I the other. That's where things started going badly. It seemed pretty evident to me from the moment we walked up to Santa that he had a little bit too much holiday cheer focused on my girlfriend. As we neared his chair he immediately pulled Catherine to his leg and put his arm around her with a jolly warmth and a bit too much ho-ho-ho for my liking. I started feeling a little uncomfortable but, hey, this is Santa Claus, I thought to myself. This is what St. Nick does - he makes people feel good. So I let it pass.

As Catherine was sitting on Nicky-boy's left leg, apparently already engaged in conversation with the old fart, I went to plop myself down on his right knee. Call me crazy, but I swear that just as I started to sit down, he straightened out his leg and tried to push me into the christmas tree.

I mean....Nick.

I turned my head to look into his face and toss over a "don't fuck with me" stare. Though he was still engrossed in conversation with Catherine - Lord knows what they were discussing so soon and so intently - I could tell that he was giving me the stank-eye from the periphery.

Someone said something from afar. I turned my head to see what it was and - flash! - our photo was taken. HEY!! I wasn't ready! What happened to "1, 2, 3...cheese!"???! Where's the fucking warning?!

We started standing up but apparently Santa wasn't done with Catherine yet. "Wait a minute, young lady," he said, pulling her back onto his leg. Not wanting to leave St. Nuisance alone with my girlfriend, I sat back down on his other knee, ready to quickly kick him in the nether-region if he started acting up.

"Have you been good this year?" the old wackjob asked Catherine.

"Yes, I have" she replied.

Wanting to get in on the conversation, and stake my proverbial claim, I decided to speak up. "No, she hasn't," I said laughingly.

Catherine looked at me with a smile. Nick, on the other hand, turned his head to me in shock. As if this were the first time he actually noticed my body sitting on his knee. "I wasn't talking to you," he said in what I must admit was not a Christmas-like, holiday spirit type of tone.

Well excu-u-u-u-se me, fatman, I thought to myself in utter shock. And, hey, Tubbo, why don't you take your grimy paws off my girlfriend. As a matter of fact, we'll be leaving now, thank you very much.

I grabbed Catherine by the hand, swiped my Polaroid from his photo-taking accomplice and marched on out of the real estate office in a huff as I mumbled all sorts of nasty things about Santa. I ranted about how the curtain on my entire life of holiday cheer had just been torn back revealing a dishearteningly angry delusion. I started thinking back through the years of Santa in my childhood. How my mom was either unusually happy or unusually angry the day after the gifts arrived. How it must've been Santa's fault. Was St Nick making the moves on my mother? I swear, I'll kill the sonofabitch and make venison burgers for dinner when I'm done.

Fast forward two years later to this past Friday night and apparently I still haven't gotten over this life altering experience. I'm standing on Montana Avenue at about 10pm with Catherine and our friend, Amy. The Montana Walk was just winding down and the girls were having some late night frozen yogurt when Amy brought up something about Santa Claus.

Santa is a douchebag, I spat out immediately.

Amy looked at me in disgust. You're going to hell for that one, she said.

Going to hell?! You've got to be kidding me. And I was off.... There's no possible way I could go to hell for recognizing the true douchebag in St. Nick. Santa has no influence over hell. Or heaven, for that matter. He doesn't know Jesus, much less can influence his line of work. Jesus is a good, honest man. Santa is a prick. There's no way that Jesus every met St. Dick and if he did, he'd probably kick him in the shins. Jesus would never be friends with Santa.

I see through Claus' trickery. His whole "have you been good or bad" schtick is a scam. It has nothing to do with daily life or being good. It's a pick up line. It's how Claus gets laid. I'm not buying into it. Not at all. I'm over Santa. If I actually had a chimney I'd light a fire on Christmas eve and burn his ass as he wiggles his way done. And if he gets through, you can bet my lawyer will be waiting to slap a Breaking and Entering suit on his fat face. And while he's serving 5 to 10 up in Rikers Island, I'll be rejoicing in the fact that I've done some good in the world.

Go to hell for calling Santa a douchebag? Puh-lease, it's probably the one thing that's going to get me into heaven!

Now excuse me, I've got to go buy a goddam christmas tree.
Happy holidays.