I Was A Teenaged Phlebotomist

From the Oxford English Dictionary:

Phlebotomy (/fləˈbädəmē/), noun-the surgical opening or puncture of a vein in order to withdraw blood or introduce a fluid, or (historically) as part of the procedure of letting blood.

In junior year of high school, I got a part-time job at the local hospital as a lab secretary.  To pick up extra shifts, I learned how to draw blood.

One day about five or six of us lab folk were working to draw the blood of a rambunctious and terrified little boy.  My job was to hold his arm still.

The phlebotomist who had the needle finally got it in the vein, and the blood started to flow and fill the test tube.  The kid took one look and yanked his arm back.  The needle slipped out, the blood shot out like a super-soaker filled with strawberry Koolade. 

Right into my eye.

Another day I had to draw blood for a gentleman for a test for a social disease.  At the time I was, shall we say, “Sweet sixteen and never been kissed”.  I chuckled to myself thinking it would be a real bummer to accidentally stick myself with his used needle and contract an STD before I’d ever actually had the “S” part of the acronym.

And then I stuck myself.  With the patient’s used needle.

Luckily for both of us, his result came up negative.

Once I got pretty good at the job, a few of the techs thought I should go into the medical profession. 

But, I couldn’t.

Because I’m constitutionally unable to leave the work at work. 

There was this little old lady named Mildred.  She was a pistol, a hoot, and a barrel of laughs.  There first day I met her she told a nurse to purchase a new undergarment, because the body part that should have been restrained, was absolutely not.

But of course, her phrasing was much more colorful and hilarious.

She became my role model for being old.  When I speak my mind and make you laugh, a lot of that is Mildred.  She didn’t have family and almost never had visitors, so I hung out with her during breaks and after work.

But she wasn’t in the hospital for a manicure.  Of course, she wasn’t.

And so, one day, when I went up to her room, it was empty.  A veteran nurse explained to me that you can’t get too close to the patients and continue to work in healthcare—it’ll break your heart.

So, the first chance I got, I got out of healthcare.

But not before I met the Balthus brothers.  Between the two of them they were 847 years old.  And, they were the crankiest, meanest old cusses in Eastern NC.  They were so inseparable they were even hospital patients at the same time.

The lab techs were all tittering and giving each other significant looks the first time I went up to draw their blood.

In their room, I introduced myself, and the abuse began.  As you can imagine, nobody likes to have their blood drawn, so nobody was ever happy to see me.  This antipathy was turned up to 11 with the brothers.

Both men began a string of verbal abuse that continued until I left.  Brother One warned me to get my GD hands off Brother B.  As the needle was about to enter B’s left arm, his perfect right hook got me in my left eye.

I was much more shocked than I was hurt, so I said the first thing that entered my mind.

“Fine!  Then I’m not going to draw your blood!”

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at d@bullcity.mom.

Trippin’ With The Murphys’

The crazy thing is, of all the Murphy kids, younger son Chrissie was the one sibling I really disliked.  I thought he was mean, hateful, and angry at the whole world all the time. 

I recently asked Chrissie, who’s now closer than a lot of my family, what he thought of me all those years ago.

To him, I was an annoying friend of his little sister.  An interchangeable mosquito.

My feelings were very different toward oldest son, Mike.  I had a huge crush on the boy who was always sweet to me.

The patriarch of the family was Bear.  He was commander of the base in Puerto Rico where we all lived.  He was a no-nonsense military man. 

He was strict with all the kids.  But with his sons, he was tough and cut no slack.  He had very high standards and accepted no excuses.  None of the kids would ever dream of back-talking or sassing that man.

Bear’s attitude manifested in anger with Chrissie.  His defenses were always up.  Most emotion was hidden behind a mask of aggressive apathy.

Kitty was the same age as me and my best friend.  She was smart, funny, proud, and had a very full inner life that was never shared.  Her defense against the world was a comic flakiness.  Teachers and parents, and even friends had a hard time holding her accountable when it was clear that she had full knowledge of her shortcomings and they made her far more disappointed in herself than anyone else ever could be.

Min was all of these, and more.

Minnie was the oldest daughter.  I’d never before or since met anyone like her.  She was a comedian/tomboy/secret agent/big sister to the sister-less/rebel/Dr. Dolittle/business genius/magical wood sprite.  Almost fifty years later I still think about conversations and adventures we shared.

The family matriarch’s smart and sophisticated is Mama Cat.  She showers her children and their friends with warmth, affection, and humor.

Lighthouse Beach, where we often went.

 Often, Bear and Mama Cat would take us all to nearby beaches.  Michael, Minnie, Kitty, and I would bodysurf and Chrissie surfed.

Many of the older kids surfed.  Lawns were mowed, children were babysat, dogs were walked, all in the pursuit of the cash to purchase their own boards. 

One afternoon we were on our way home from the beach.  Chrissie’s surfboard was partially in the car, with about a quarter of it out the window, like an exuberant dog on a ride.

The garage was a two-car with no doors, but with a four-foot-wide supporting pillar that divided it.  Bear pulled into the driveway.

The house on the right is the Murphy’s actual home in Puerto Rico.

I saw it coming, but didn’t have time to say a word before it happened.

As Bear pulled into the garage, Chrissie’s hard-fought surfboard was still sticking out the back window.  Never noticing, never slowing, the inevitable happened.

The board hit the pillar and a huge gash was neatly excised from the board, instantly and forever rendering it useless.  Except as modern art.

Actual Modern Art.

The care went completely silent.  I was watching Chrissie.  His face was red and his jaw was clenched.  If anyone else had destroyed his board they would already be begging for the sweet release of death.

Bear, sat as a stone—immobile and unreadable.

Actually Grandfather Mountain; it’s a metaphor.

Something was coming.

We just sat there—nobody opened a door.  We were waiting for an explosion, but couldn’t tell which Murphy man would be the catalyst—Chrissie to scream at his dad, or Bear to blame and berate.

Actually part of a movie.

Finally, after what seemed like eons, there was a slight clearing of throats.  One of them would speak!

Bear, with an unfamiliar sheepish look on his face, said five words I’ll never forget.

“I’ll buy the new one.”

An actual highly embarrassed bear–not the patriarch of the Murphys’.

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at d@bullcity.mom.

Follow The Purple Primate

Within these columns, Gentle Reader, I must admit I’m guilty of my own presumption of sagacity far too often.

It’s all Petey’s fault…well, mostly his.  There is though, woven within my very blood cells, the understanding of how everyone everywhere should behave, and the need to share that knowledge.  I am, like Lisa Simpson, a know-it-all with a big mouth.

But back to Petey.

Not long after we got our first computer, when The Kid was a toddler, my ever-loving spouse asked me to help him send an email to a high school friend of his whom I had never met.

I happen to glance at the note, and spotted my name, “…and I married a wise woman, named debbie.”  Not only had he never said this to me, no one that’s ever known me said that about me.  So, you’ll understand why my reaction may have been slightly abrupt. 

“Whadaya mean by that?”

Then Petey earned himself a batch of cookies when he said, “Well, you are.”

And really, doesn’t wise woman sound so very much nicer than busybody?

On a related vein, I’d like to tell you a parable from my life. 

The Kid and I had gone to Wake Forest and were on our way home.

We were on Highway 98 when we started seeing these signs.  You know how sometimes your memory of something can have a weird discrepancy with the IRL events?

Well for some reason, I remember a purple monkey at this point.  But The Kid assures me with a slightly worried frown, that there was in fact, no monkey.  But, as the wise man said, “Monkeys make everything funnier.”

Anyway.

The sign consisted of two words and one exclamation mark: Go Ape!

Now, I don’t know anything about your life, Gentle Reader, but in the lives of The Kid and me, it’s been a minute since we were invited to “Go Ape!”.  So it kinda got us talking.  For probably 15-20 miles, we discussed, half-jokingly, about whether we should “Go Ape!”.

But it was a very academic question because in a happy coincidence, the path to going ape just happened to lie on our path toward home (it really wouldn’t have surprised if the signs heralded our house, in the way that in the 1930s one might find a sign proclaiming the existence of an eight-foot chicken playing the violin).  

But then.

Our primate provocation, “Go Ape!” gave us a heads up that soon our paths would diverge, we had a decision to make—if we wanted.

It’s nuts, right?  Two grown people, actually, seriously considering going ape.  Whatever that meant.

And then it was there, the divergence.  And we…

we…

we went team simian.

And, began driving further, and further, and further out of our way.  But we had thrown in our hand, and wherever this road led, The Kid and I, carried aloft by Agent Colson (The Kid’s wheels), were in it.

The road eventually led to the location of “Go Ape!”, a high ropes course of climbing, zip-lining, you get the picture.

And this time a possible dilemma had no horns; “Go Ape!” was closed.

We turned around in the parking lot and headed home, a little disappointed by the rather mundane nature of our destination.

But the charge we got from just going for it, just saying to the world, “Yeah, we’re following two-word road signs armed with equal parts abandon and ignorance, so what?”

So, every once in awhile, when you’re out with your kid, or squeeze, or squad, or alone; please, Gentle Reader, I implore you,

“Go Ape!”

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at d@bullcitymom.

Rock of Ages

It appeared that some awful tragic event had taken place; an earthquake maybe, or victims spilling out of an airplane, and tumbling from the sky.

A man, woman, and toddler were immobile on the pavement, the landing spot of poor decisions and alcohol.

It was early May.  Petey and I had been dating since January.  We didn’t have a date that night because we were taking Mom out for her birthday. 

On the way, I happened to glance out the window at the surreal sight of Petey and our friend Pig, standing in the parking lot of the bank, which was closed.

They were pacing around Petey’s beloved Corolla, which was sitting at a 45-degree angle resting upon a large landscaping rock as if taking a short break from the business of ferrying Petey around Elizabeth City.

I think my whole family had taken in the bizarre vignette at the same time.  By the time I yelped, “Dad!”, he was already maneuvering the car into a u-turn.

As soon as we turned into the bank and the car slowed, I jumped out and ran.

Right up to two drunken, befuddled miscreants.  I was embarrassed, disappointed, and frustrated by the poor judgment of Petey and the Pig, and resulting havoc.

But I also knew I had to put that on hold, because when not being a drunken fool, Petey was studying to be a registered nurse, and would graduate in a few weeks.  The bank was in one of the most visible spots on the most traveled road in town.  It was only a matter of time before someone made a phone call and a man with a badge showed up.

This dumb mistake could very well ruin Petey’s career before it even started.

Even my parents agreed we needed to get Petey out of this pickle, then after the crisis, have a discussion.

Not the actual incident, but I guess Petey’s not alone.

The car was resting on its undercarriage, so backing down was not an option.  It needed to be lifted up and off.  And the Corolla’s jack wouldn’t go high enough.

We were gonna need another jack.

At that time, my dad volunteered as an EMT and a first aid trainer.  He worked on ambulances and taught CPR and basic lifesaving techniques.  He had a class to teach the next day and his materials were already packed in the trunk.

To get to the jack, the classroom aids needed to be taken out. 

All three of them.

The entire family.

Imagine this troupe spread all over a parking lot…

The man, woman, and toddler dummies used to teach cardiac and pulmonary resuscitation.  

They were removed from the trunk and placed upon the pavement. 

All three of them.

The entire family.

Creating what looked like the scene of a massacre.

Somehow they succeeded in separating car from rock.  Moments after pulling the car into a regulation spot and replacing dummies into the trunk, a police car slowly drove past the now unremarkable scene of two cars and their non-law breaking occupants.

Dinner was forgotten as Dad drove Petey and Pig home in Petey’s Toyota and Mom followed with me and my little brother in our car.  We then went home, leaving Petey at his house to think about what was undoubtedly a blistering lecture from my dad.

The humiliating experience and “Dad talk” worked.  Petey stopped drinking and became a nurse that co-workers and patients all agreed was remarkably level-headed, knowledgable, and nurturing. 

But every once in a while, sitting around the table after dinner, while Petey sits with the most sheepish of expressions, the rest of the family will be nearly hysterical remembering “That Rock at the First Union Parking Lot.”

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at d@bullcity.mom

In Search of a Perfect Year

Almost every single one has something to do with my mouth—either what goes in it, or what comes out of it.

I’m speaking about New Year’s resolutions.

Nobody with a belly button is perfect, therefore everyone could stand a little self-improvement.  The amount of fixing I need could fill the Grand Canyon with enough left to fill every mayonnaise jar in North America.

So, I decided to improve myself and my year by making a few resolutions.  And the making of them caused me to look back at past resolutions which is when I started to suss out a theme.  Many of them concerned not speaking, speaking (much more likely), and eating.

Oral fixation for $1200, Alex.

I resolve to forgo all those extra calories in my mom’s Christmas cookies.  So for the foreseeable future, I’ll be saving the calories by skipping lunch and supper and eating cookies in their place.

I resolve to remember that I am not the hall monitor of the world.  In the unlikely event, someone asks for my advice, I will happily give it.  But I will no longer offer unsolicited; my judgments, warnings, and wisdom. 

Unless I cut this out, and quick, I face the very real risk of becoming that person; the one who always knows what’s best, knows what you’re doing wrong, and knows the right way things should go.

Nobody likes this guy or is happy to see him.  The people around him are constantly looking for reasons to leave, “OMG, would you look at the time?  I need to pick up my friend from the airport, and help a co-worker move.”

That guy’s like the biter in kindergarten.  That kid never gets invited to birthday parties.

I vow to shut up, be present, and listen.  Far too often in a conversation with someone, I get very enthusiastic, and that causes me to interrupt them.  That’s rude and annoying.  And many times I only half-listen while I feverishly think about what I’ll say next.  Then I jump in by interrupting.  It’s a vicious, irritating circle.

I promise to put down that plastic and back away.  I might put it in cart, but I really need to stop proceeding to checkout.  I need no more bottoms, no more tops, and no more shoes (Really?  No new shoes?  Yes really.  Now shut up and pretend you’re a grownup).  I have enough dog walking/play clothes to walk every dog in North Carolina in clean clothes—twice a day.    

Who knew shopping in one’s pajamas could be such a dangerous proposition?  Amazon, thou art an evil temptress.

One year from today I’d like to have regained my fluency in Spanish.  When we moved to North Carolina in 1979, after three years in Puerto Rico and three more in San Diego, I could read a Spanish-language book and carry on a conversation in Spanish.  I spent a week in Mexico without speaking a word of English.

After decades of disuse, much of it has been forgotten.  My goal is to be able to freely converse  with the young woman at my local panaderia (bakery).  I’d like to be able to order a pastry without accidentally telling her that my cupcake has fleas (it totally doesn’t).

Finally, after years of writing about food, this year I want to learn the skills to make me a better photographer of all things edible.  I want people to look at my pix and think, “Holy cow that looks delicious!”, and not “I can never unsee that and I may never eat again.”

Here’s to growth and change in 2020!

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at d@bullcity.mom.

Holiday Snapshot

It was taken taken with an old school camera, and the film was likely carried to the local department store to be developed, which probably took at least a week.

I was two, we were living in Traverse City, and the boys were the Brown brothers, from across the street.  All of this info comes from my mom, I have no memory of this event.  I thought this was from Alabama.  In fact I named this jpeg, “Mobile Xmas.jpeg”.

So, the tree.  It’s actually a pretty nice looking natural tree.  But of course, this was the wilderness of northwest Michigan.  Dad probably opened the front door and a tree just jumped into the house to get out of the cold.

If you look at the bottom of the tree on the left, you’ll see a little Santa.  I know that Santa.  It’s still hung on my parents’ tree every year.  It’s an ornament my mother brought from her own family, along with a very large silver ball and a golden bunch of German glass grapes.

You’ll notice that instead of garland, the tree is draped in tinsel.  It was also 1967, so that was lead tinsel.  They stopped making it in the seventies because of the risk of the lead harming developing brains.  But, I don’t think it had any affect on my couch seafood Liberace purple.

Decorating a tree with tinsel under my mother’s direction is a circle of hell even Satan himself would consider cruel and unusual.  My impulse was and remains to throw fistfuls at the tree, or better yet use a bazooka.  Mom’s rule was to artfully, painfully, place it one strand at a time.

The Brown kids are wearing the standard Beach Boys/Kingston Trio striped button downs.  To give you an idea of how popular and unbiquitous these shirts were, this photo was taken in Michigan, in December, where their average high temperature is 32°, and the average snowfall during the month is 20 inches.

I now reluctantly turn my attention to the monkey child in the pink footie pajamas.

I accused my mother of being the mastermind and trimmer of those tragically unfortunate bangs.  She insists that the hand that weilded the shears was trained and payed for their service.  She should have gotten her money back. 

I don’t know who actually gave me that punishment of a haircut, but I do know one thing for sure—Scotch tape was somewhere in the equation.

At first glance I look to be a happy little girl, excited for Santa make his annual visit.

But look closer, Gentle Reader.

That look in my eye is pure super villain yearning for world domination.  Examining the original photo, it’s entirely possible my eyes are actually glowing.  My mouth is making an expression somewhere between demented lunacy and demonic glee.  It’s a look that seems to be saying, “Yeah, I eat kittens, push little old ladies into the paths of buses, and put the milk back with an 1/8-inch left.  You got a problem with that?”

I look like I should be hanging out in an elevator in an empty mountain hotel with my equally creepy twin sister.  I look like I should be stealing all presents from the children of Whoville.  I look like I should be working with an FBI agent while wondering where my next bottle of chiante is coming from.

But it’s ok.  I grew up to be perfectly normal.

noRmAl…

NOrMal…

 Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at d@bullcity.mom.

Thoughts While Walking The Dog; Yule Log Edition

AM-

Petey and I alternate getting up and walking the dog.  I know we do.  It’s his turn every other day.  So why is it that it seems like it’s my sleep-deprived carcass rolling out of bed and pulling on my sneaks every single day?  Is it some kind of Jedi mind trick Petey’s working on me?

“Easy Crowley…the UPS man is going around the corner.  It’s okay, Buddy.”  How does a dog have a super hero-level nemesis?  Is it the big brown truck?  The knees?  Why and how does every person in this neighborhood get five or six packages every single day?  If it’s not UPS, it’s FedEx or the Amazon guy. 

Do people never actually go into stores?  Have they never experienced the joy of eating cold sub-par pizza while sneaking peeks of the cute guy at Orange Julius?  How did they fall in love?  Where did they work soul-sucking part-time jobs for gas and tennis shoe money?

All of these deflated blow-up Christmas decorations around here.  It looks like the last stand of the Santa Village massacre.  They might take up a lot of space when they’re all inflated, but they get no credit in my very own Griswald Christmas decoration lunacy scale.  They take no work or creativity. 

I want holiday decorations that take time, sweat and possess the very real possibility of falling off a ladder and spending Christmas in traction.

When I left the house I was freezing.  It’s warmed up so much that if I take off any more layers and tie them around my waist I’ll be arrested for indecent exposure. 

“Crowley!  That is not a dog.  That is a plastic reindeer, it does not want to be your friend, and you’re making us both feel uncomfortable.  Knock it off, and get over here!”

PM-

How is it so dark at 5:30?  It seems like just a few months ago it was light ‘til 8:30 at night.

“Crowley, I am happy to take you to visit your friends.  But you need to make up your mind whether or not they actually are friends of yours. I will not stop and visit with somebody so that you can stand six feet away from them and bark for ten minutes.  That’s just plain rude.”

That guy’s lights over his garage are listing like a sinking ship.  He’s either really unobservant or had imbibed in a bit too much Christmas cheer before he got up there with a stapler gun.  I don’t know, maybe it was intentional—it is kind of festive, in an amusing, too much egg nog kind of way.

That “As seen on TV” searchlight, holiday flood light thing is unsettling.  I think it’s supposed to be holly and berries sweeping back and forth over the front of their house.  But it looks disturbingly like a radioactive swarm of extra-terrestrial termites at an all-you-can-eat wood buffet.

“It’s too dark to play ball right now, Buddy.  I’m sorry…ok, we’ll play right here under the street light.  Nope.  Too dark.  I just picked up what I thought was the ball, and it turned out to be a big, slimy, exploding toadstool.”

No way!  The crankiest, most anti-social guy in the neighborhood; the man about whom everybody will say “we absolutely saw it coming” when the news shows up;  the misanthrope who I only heard laugh once and which scared the heck out of me, has decorated for Christmas and put up lights.  This I never, ever saw coming.  Crowley my big baby, I think we may be witnessing a Scrooge redemption moment. 

It’s a Christmas miracle!

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at d@bullcity.mom.

The Tree That Fought Back

I take after my dad in a lot of ways.

I have his long limbs, his chin, and his impulsive, daredevil streak. 

Combining the colt-length arms and legs with shared underdeveloped coordination means we frequently require first aid.

When I was four, we lived in Mobile Dad was sent to Connecticut for some type of Coast Guard continuing education school.  The rest of us stayed in Alabama.

Mrs. Cotter was a widow in Connecticut who rented rooms in her home for Coast Guardsmen who came from away to attend the school.  That’s where Dad stayed.

One afternoon, Mrs. Cotter mentioned a tree that needed to come down.  My dad volunteered to chop it down with an ax.

He made pretty good progress until he missed.

As the tibia and fibula are much more fragile than a tree, he came darn close to chopping off his leg.  Luckily, he only gave himself a particularly grisly multiple fracture.

After receiving the call, Mom packed all of us kids, luggage, and baby supplies into our very small, very old Opal, and we were on our way to a stately old home in New England—around 1300 miles away.

The house seemed like the largest oldest house I’d ever been in.  There were three floors and an attic that probably served as a model for every creepy attic in every TV show and movie ever made. 

My mom spent her days at the hospital along with Bud, because he was too young to be away from her.  I stayed with Mrs. Cotter and her hired man.

Mrs. Cotter was old.  She was the type of widow for which walks were made.  She may have had kids, but they might have died in the Civil War or gone looking to make their fortunes in the California gold rush.  I don’t think her hired man had ever seen a child.

It was as though a Keds-wearing, fairy tale-loving Martian had been plopped down among them. 

They asked what I’d like for lunch each day. 

I requested peanut butter & jelly, but what I meant was Goober Grape, the concoction with ingredients swirled together in a jar.  But at home, we just called it peanut butter & jelly.  The very first lunch Mrs. Cotter began making my sandwich, and I saw that it came from two different jars, and was spread on separate slices of bread.

“I want it mixed!” It was an objection that was only a little about the lunch.  It was mainly a cry about being little and missing my dad, and scary hospitals, and awful, long car rides, and mom being gone all day, and staying in a strange, boring, old house, with strange old people who didn’t even know anything about kids.

Mrs. Cotter and her hired man had an intense, whispered consultation, and she scraped the bread clean.  A dollop of peanut butter and a spoonful of jelly were feverishly stirred, then the resulting melange was triumphantly transferred back to bread. 

They set the sandwich in front of me and stepped back.

It wasn’t what I wanted.  It wasn’t even close.  I’d lost my appetite.  All I wanted was to curl up in my daddy’s lap and have a good, long cry.

I was poised to run out of the room in dramatic fashion, and give in to my sadness, fatigue, and disappointment, when I looked up into their nervous, smiling, hopeful faces. “How is it?”

For the first time in my short life, I thought before I spoke.  I realized it was tough for them too, and they were trying.

“It’s yummy.  It’s perfect.  Thank you.”

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at d@bullcity.mom.

I’ll Jingle Some Bells For Ya

It’s time, once again, to share a semi-shameful secret with you, Gentle Reader.

I’ve been listening to holiday music since the first week of November. 

I just love it.  On my MP3 player are roughly 218 Christmas songs organized in nine albums.  But the Johnny Mathis classic, Merry Christmas is as much a part of me as my eyeglasses, the tiny gold hoop earrings I never remove, and colossal love of frosting.  Recorded in 1958, it has been the holiday soundtrack for my entire life (Mom was a big Johnny fan).

For me, Christmas time doesn’t begin until I hear that celesta (a percussion instrument that looks like a piano and sounds like bells) play the opening of “Winter Wonderland”.

After lo, these many years listening to holiday-specific music, shockingly, I have some opinions and questions.

Listening to the 1952 ditty, “I saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”stresses me terribly.  So, who exactly is this Santa?  Is it the actual Santa?  Because in that case, is Mommy married to another, and cheating with the jolly fat man?  Is it another person in a costume?  Then, same question. 

Is the singer, who I can only assume is a child, completely innocent, and finds it funny that Mommy is kissing Santa?  Or is this kid much more sophisticated?  In that case, the lyrics, “Oh, what a laugh it would have been If Daddy had only seen…” are much more sinister.  Is the little spy working up a little “quid pro quo”?  “Gee, Santa, it sure would be a shame if my emotionally unstable father, with access to weapons, were to somehow find out about what’s going on here…I think a bicycle might make me forget all about the events that took place tonight.”

It makes me very uneasy.

Rudolph, OMG, that poor little congenitally challenged guy.  This song normalizes and defends bullying.  And not just bullying, but it justifies the objectification and exploitation of Rudolph.  Oh yeah, he’s a freak nobody wants anything to do with; until they need him.  Then he’s everybody’s best friend and a big hero. 

And what happens on the 26th, when they don’t need him anymore?  I’ll tell you what.  It’s, “Get away from us weirdo.  Why don’t you go dance on thin ice?  Your beak blinks like a blinkin’ beacon!” 

Those ungrateful buttheads don’t even deserve him.  I would’ve bailed out of that sleigh over the Swiss Alps and let ‘em find their own way home.

The only good thing about the song is that it sings the names of all the reindeer which helps me remember them.  

Oh, Mariah Carey.  She truly is a legend.  First, can we talk about those notes she hits and her singing range?  As Petey would say, “What the what?”

But her song, “All I Want For Christmas Is You”, is a marvel.  It took 15 minutes to write and compose in 1994.  This song is now the number one selling holiday song by a woman.  It has broken records for Christmas music all over the world.  It’s made, in fifteen years, $60 million.  It’s been covered by artists such as Miley Cyrus, My Chemical Romance, and Michael Buble.

The song itself, despite the money it’s generated, is anti-commercial.  When other songs ask Santa for all types of commercial goods (Can you say, “Santa Baby”?), all the singer wants is the “You”, the object of the song.

And if you’re like The Kid, who reacts to Christmas music the way Anna Wintour reacts to the sight of a bedazzled Walmart sweatshirt, I have two things to say to you:

Merry Christmas!

and

Lighten up!

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at d@bullcity.mom.

Otherwise Known As Fentris

Every time I hear singer Joe Jackson on the radio I think of Vinton.  He loved Joe Jackson, an unassuming British singer in a sea of outrageous 1980s acts.  

Vinton was funny and well-read.  He was also very thoughtful—thoughtful of other people, and thoughtful about ideas, and thoughtful of the world around him.  He was smart, but discreet in sharing it.  In a small Southern town, and within our friend group, smart was allowed, but smart-aleck was better. 

He adored my mother, and she loved him.  He was in and out of our house just like the rest of my friends, and attended her Christmas cookie decorating parties every year.  But he always had a special word for her, and a shared private laugh with her.

Years earlier, because of my extreme fondness of Mr. Bell’s invention, I’d picked up the nickname, “Little Debbie Digit, Queen of the rotary dial”.  It had been shortened to Digit. 

But to Vinton I was Didge.  He was the only person on the planet that called me that, and the only person on the planet who I would have ever let call me that.

Among his many jobs when we were young, he worked at the hospital at the same time I did.  When someone called him, they called the main switchboard, and he’d be paged.

 Vinton’s last name was Turnburke.  The first time the operator paged him, she called for “Vincent Turner”.  It became a running gag.  Each time she paged him, she’d make up some convoluted mishmash that vaguely sounded like Vinton Turnburke.

One evening I heard a page for “Fentris Parker”.  When I saw him in the hall later, I told him that that was the best name she’d made up yet.

He said, “I liked it too.  But the funny thing is, I went to elementary school with a kid called ‘Fentris Parker’!”

 Vinton and I spent so much time together, got along so well, and were so fond of each other, we decided it would be logical to begin dating.  It made perfect sense.

Until we kissed.

It was like licking a battery. 

It was then that we learned that logic has nothing to do with romance.  We loved each other fiercely, but it was the deepest of friendships, which we cherished as much as the relationships we each had with our own spouses.

He settled in South Carolina, and when we spoke on the phone, he’d always say, “What’s going on, Didge?”  And we’d talk for hours, transported back to those days in Elizabeth City, instantly as close and familiar as we ever were.

He was my rock.  I always knew he was there, and no matter what, no matter when, he’d be there for me.

I can’t remember that last time I spoke to Vinton, but it’s been a while.  You know, life gets in the way, and you tell yourself you’ll call and check in soon.

His wife Barbara called last week.  After a short but ugly illness, Vinton passed away. 

My friend, that very special chunk of my heart, was no more.  I wish I could remember the last time I talked to him.  I wish I could have said goodbye, and told him I loved him, one more time.

It sucks and it hurts.

Gentle Reader, don’t do this to yourself.  Call them.  You know the one.  The one you love, but take for granted that you’ll get around to.  Knock it off.  Call them now, listen to their voice, tell them you love them, and hear them tell you they love you.

Just call them.

Thanks for your time.

Contact me at d@bullcity.mom.