Monday, December 22, 2008

Things to do to get into the holiday mood.

- Every year, I have trouble getting into the spirit of things around (I'm going to say it even though I'm an self-described agnostic) Christmastime. This year has been no different. With temperatures in Atlanta approaching and occasionally surpassing 70 degrees and with me not working at the bookstore for the first holiday season in eight years, I still feel that I have little grasp of this "most wonderful time of the year." So, since this is the year of my perpetually changing game plan, I had to try something other than the usual holiday plan of "Watch THE REF. Cuss out my bass-ackward family during a screening of HAPPY FEET." So I'm trying to psych myself up for things by, for the first time in what feels like a long time, trying to be happy it's Christmas. Not trying to be happy as a matter of some gimmick, plan or assignment. Not trying to be happy because some book tells you that it's better to be happy than sad or better to be positive than negative. I'm flying blind here at Christmastime, playing fast and loose with my writing even, and - damn it - I think I'm doing OK. Not great. But OK.
- Above is a photo of the VA Hospital on Clairmont Road in Decatur, and because I work for a great company that I love that gives me a sense of service through its contract with the military, I very happily joined a group of my co-workers to go caroling in the halls for the disabled, sick and injured veterans in the nursing home section of the hospital on Wednesday. We were grouped with other volunteers, who were distributing stockings to the servicemen. I wore a pair of reindeer antlers for the first time since I played an ailing Rudolph the Buford Middle School production of "Randy the Red-Horned Rainmoose" with my friend CJ. And, at the VA hospital, I sang and sang and sang, sometimes well and sometimes not. (Another Christmas goes by without me being able to truly nail a solo on "O Holy Night.") But I did my best. And the experience wasn't bad, even if the VA hospital felt to me like a really sad, crowded place. The songs lifted spirits for some of the vets, and my spirits were lifted, too.
- I went to the office holiday party. I wore my blue pinstripe suit. I talked with the really nice guy from HR whom I never get to see because we work opposite shifts. And it was great to talk to the CEO again. And it was great that the guy who gave me a ride to the party won "Employee of the Year." And it was great fun when the band - made up of Crawford employees - actually attempted to cover Bob Dylan's seemingly impossible "Subterranean Homesick Blues." And it was great to boogie - yes, I used the word boogie - with the CEO's assistant to "Sexual Healing." And then I went to a hookah bar with some friends of mine who had their own office's holiday party that night and had a really, really good and really, really light-headed and overly relaxed time with some apple tobacco, salsa music and a dimly lit, curtained booth filled with pillows.
- JaCKPie, my improv theater, has its own holiday tradition. Its big reunion show is on Sunday, and the original JaCKPie duo of Chris Pierce and Jim Karwisch will be performing. This is a treat, and - if I can get away from work, I really, really want to be there. I miss playing at JaCKPie, for the place and the philosophy behind the place really did change my life. (And if you want to change your life and boost your creativity and learn how to work on teamwork and positivity and attitude adjustment and trust in relationships and trust in an environment that is a safe place, you should take JaCKPie classes, too. BLATANT PROMO. BLATANT PROMO.)
- Earlier this week, I went with the roommates James and Mauree - wow, I'm living with people - to a read-through of the latest Out of Hand Theater performance, and I signed up for their weekend theater boot camp in January. I can't wait for this. It seems really different from the way I'm used to approaching theater. Mauree's been training with this group for months now, and she loves it.
- As of last week, I've lost 23 pounds since September through Weight Watchers, and I hope that saying that doesn't mean I've jinxed myself. (I mean, damn, I actually weigh what is listed on my Georgia driver's license.) Still, tonight, because I needed to get into the holiday spirit, I went to Barnes & Noble and ordered myself a grande Godiva Mint Hot Chocolate and a slice of pumpkin cheesecake. And I refuse to feel bad about it because it made me feel like it was Christmas. And it was worth it. (And I'm probably not going to eat at all tomorrow, even if I'm supposed to.)
- I love that, the week of Christmas, I'm showcasing my lack of religion by reading THE PILLARS OF THE EARTH, a rollicking, fun, violent read about building a cathedral in the 12th century, and going to the movies to see DOUBT, which was OK but I didn't really find the play to be a satisfying read a couple years ago.
- I'm working Christmas Day. A couple years ago, on Christmas Eve, I made the mistake of seeing MUNICH and SYRIANA back-to-back. They were good movies, but watching them consecutively made me feel like I was spending too much of my holiday in war-torn Lebanon. This year's movies, thankfully, are plentiful and don't seem to follow any sort of weird, unified theme. I mentioned that I've seen DOUBT. I've also recently seen THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (boring, even with FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS star Kyle Chandler and MAD MEN star Jon Hamm in IMAX), TRANSPORTER 3 (which, for the regular readers of this blog, I saw with Kacoon and still need to write about), TWILIGHT (ugh, though not as bad as that damn book - I hate Bella), SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE (pretty good), MILK (made me cry), FOUR CHRISTMASES (eh), HAPPY-GO-LUCKY (won me over, and I was resisting it ...), AUSTRALIA (crazy and old-fashioned but not too bad), QUANTUM OF SOLACE (disappointing), VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA (I really liked this, particularly batshit crazy Penelope Cruz), RACHEL GETTING MARRIED (very good) and SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK (great, and I could watch it about a dozen more times without figuring it all out) ... Do not talk to me about current movies with Will Smith in them or movies with dogs in them.
- Oh, and if you don't watch absolutely fantastic MAD MEN, get the DVDs for yourself this holiday. Set in the '60s, it's all about beginning of the advertising boom, operated by sexist, misogynistic adulterers who keep lots and lots of secrets and have lots and lots of sex and the women under their thumbs.

I mean, "Peggy, this isn't China. There's no money in virginity."

"Try not to be overwhelmed by all this technology ... The men who designed it made it simple enough for a woman to use."

- Movies I want to see this week, including things coming out on Christmas:


- I've still got shopping to do for my nephews and the rest of my family. Living with them this year wasn't the disaster that I thought it would be. In fact, we came away from all of it seeming to understand better how to get along, when to walk away from one another, what we all seem to want and how exactly not to get in each other's way. (I hope I don't jinx it by saying anything.)
- A friend of mine sent me an e-mail with a very good holiday message in it, and - since I have grudges I should release and forgiveness I should grant and seek - I'm going to repost it - despite its sentiment and its catch-all approach to creating holiday magic in your heart - here. Hell, I need this more than anybody, even if I'm better this year than I have ever been. There is so much work left for me to do for myself.

"This Christmas mend a quarrel. Seek out a forgotten friend. Dismiss suspicion and replace it with trust. Write a love letter. Share some treasure. Give a soft answer. Encourage youth. Manifest your loyalty in word and deed. Keep a promise. Find the time. Forgo a grudge. Forgive an enemy. Listen. Apologize if you were wrong. Try to understand. Float envy. Examine your demands on others. Think first of someone else. Appreciate. Be kind, be gentle. Laugh. Deserve confidence. Decry complacency. Express your gratitude. Go to church. Welcome a stranger. Gladden the heart of a child. Take pleasure in the beauty and wonder of the earth. Speak your love. Speak it again. Speak it still once again."

- Happy holidays, you guys. Do your best to have the best time that you can. And now I will make the yuletide gay.