Anthony displaying his peanut butter cookies
A moment before the shot above, Aunt Wanda's dog, Abby, rushes in to sniff his crotch.

     I'm posting this way after the fact, but I think we did this on December 12th, the Saturday before my last week of work before winter break. I wanted to have homemade stuff to give coworkers and students.

Mom in her cute apron

     Mom, Anthony and I all gathered at Aunt Wanda's house, and made all sorts of good stuff. Lemon bars, chocolate chip cookies, pretzels dipped in stuff, peanut butter cookies, and various other cookie-like things. I'm getting over a flu right now, so I can't think too much about that, or it'll be barf time again.
     But we made lots of great stuff and had a really good time.

Aunt Wanda presiding over baking supplies

     This has been a tradition with us for the last five years or so, to gather for "Family Bake Day" sometime around mid-December.

Me with my chocolate chip cookies

Mom and me working on the pretzel goo

YOU CAN'T CATCH ME: Vintage Cookie Cutters

     In December we had Family Bake Day at Aunt Wanda's house, and she keeps turning up all these awesome old antique things every time we turn around. I don't know where she keeps finding them, because we've helped her clear out her garage and stuff several times. But her late husband lived in that house for many years, and apparently never threw anything away, and even kept things in their original packaging forever, when not in use.
     I love this old "Ginger Boy" cookie cutter. Is that racist? Somehow, calling him a Ginger Boy instead of a GingerBREAD Boy seems like it could be offensive to gingers. But, not being a ginger, who gives a shit?

     Dude, there's even a recipe on the back!

Note the weaponry and strange hat.
     This other one is probably not quite as old, but still of vintage stock, I think. I don't understand its weird hat. And why do we have to bring guns into it? Stop the violence, Gingerbread Boy.


     In my early twenties when I had recently started working at a junior high school, the holiday season hit, and everything was hectic, people trying to be jolly and festive and overtly social, you know how it goes.
     I was eating lunch in the staff break room, surrounded by coworkers, and suddenly a terrifying  disguised figure came slinking through the door.
     It was dressed in a full-throttle Santa costume with red pants, red coat, big buckle, big shiny black boots, mittens, big fluffy Santa hat, and with its face almost completely obscured by lots of white beard. Only its mouth and cheeks could be seen, and just a hint of its eyes below big fake eyebrows. But none of these small details gave any hint to the person beneath the costume, because heavy makeup had been applied to the lips, cheeks, and eyes.
     "HO HO HO!" It shouted in a husky stage voice, as it minced down amongst the tables where we sat, trying to eat. Its hips swayed, an obviously fake big belly twitching from side to side. Its red lips smirked. It ran its gloved hands across shoulders and arms, even pinched a few cheeks.
     Reactions throughout the room were mixed. Some laughed gamely, making valiant efforts to make it seem normal. Some stared at their food and continued grimly eating.
     I sat frozen in wide-eyed terror.
     Santa simpered and capered through the room, coming nearer and nearer to my table. Touching, pinching, slinking...
     Its movements were not graceful, though. It was disjointed and weird, like a film being run backwards. Herky-jerky.
     In a sickening reversal of natural order, Santa slithered into a man's lap and demanded with those hungry red lips, "And what do YOOOOOOU want for Christmas, LITTLE BOY?"
     I panicked. I was sweating and trembling, the room suddenly shrinking, bringing that wrong Bizarro Santa even closer. Why was this happening? Why were they allowing this to happen to us?
     One of my table mates noticed my panic and whispered, "What's wrong?"
     "I... I have to get out of here!"
     "Oh, don't be silly. It's fun! It'll be over soon."
     I panted, gasping for air. "I don't want it to touch me."
     My coworker started losing patience with me. "Oh, come on. You're scared? Of Santa Claus?"
     "YES." I hissed. But now the coworkers on either side of me were trying to get me to stay, both of them holding my arms, telling me not to be silly.
     Santa loomed closer, lurching and swaying, big stiff belly jutting out, red lips pursing like a sphincter to blow another fierce volley of HO HO HOs.
     I thought, "If that thing sits on my lap, I will die. My heart will stop in my chest."
     I broke free of my coworkers' hands and darted out the back door.
     I later found out that "Santa" was actually our school psychologist-- an alarmingly weird woman we'll call "Nora." Nora always wore too much makeup, and had tics and twitches that made me think she might have some minor neurological disorder(s). She was skinny to the point of gauntness, and had a severe short and choppy haircut dyed a deep wine-red that was not flattering to her weathered features. She was fond of pantsuits and high heels.
     I feel perfectly justified in fleeing the scene, as obviously that was the wrongest Santa ever seen. But for years my coworkers teased me about running away from Santa.
     A few years later...
     Nora was in a pretty severe car accident, and had to have some reconstructive surgery done on her face. She also suffered some body trauma that gave her a limp, and even more tics and twitches. I felt bad for her. She meant well, and seemed like a nice person.
     But then she had to go and wear another goddamn costume at Christmastime.
     This time she was a gender non-specific ELF, in green leggings and curled-toe boots and jingling hat. But the worst part was the mask. I guess because of her accident-scarred face, she chose to wear a full face mask. But it was one of those clear plastic masks with rouged cheeks and lips, and a suggestion of blurry eyebrows. The kind of mask that makes a scary blur of the person's features, and muffles their voice. 100% serial killer.
     She had added a long weird misshapen elf nose, which jutted out rudely and reminded me incongruously of that I Love Lucy episode where Lucy uses a lump of clay to make a fake nose to disguise herself in front of William Holden and then she ends up smooshing the nose until it looks weirder and weirder.
     This time, instead of a husky low "Santa" voice, Nora was using a loud squeaky "Elf" voice. And she was kind of a tall woman, so there was really nothing elf-like about her.
     Her raspy elf squeak was so muffled by the serial killer mask that I couldn't understand one single word she said the whole time she capered about the room, mincing and flitting in what must have seemed an "elf-like" fashion to her.
     And did I mention that the accident had given her a hitch in her get-along? It was a horrifying ballet of awkwardness, watching her twitch and lurch around the room in those green leggings and curled-toe boots. I think in her mind she was probably "prancing," but it didn't play that way.
     This time I stayed in the room longer, though. I felt bad for Nora, and at least I knew who it was under all that fucking weirdness. But that clear plastic mask, man...
     That's the detail that still haunts me.
     Fuckin' elves.

ORIGINAL ART : Santa & His Elf (the e-card version)

     This is a drawing I did last week, but I've colored it in Photoshop and added a cheery caption so it's like an e-card now.
     I was inspired to make the drawing into a card because I received a Christmas card from Bentley Little, who is one of my favorite horror writers. He always designs his own scary/snarky Christmas cards, and I feel lucky to be on the list of recipients. Here's a combined scan of the front and inside of this year's card:

     In case you have trouble reading it, the inscription says, "Happy Holidays! (don't tell Sarah Palin, but I am a major general in the liberal/gay/atheist/Jewish war on Christmas)"


     This morning on the way to work I was cursing all the stupid moves other drivers were making. Not sure if it was because of the rain, or it being so close to Christmas, but everybody's acting like idiots. Me included.

     First incident:
     I was in the right lane, and another car was in the left lane, when a guy on a bicycle appeared, wobbling around in the lane in front of me, then he abruptly careened over into the left lane, and the other car had to brake and swerve to avoid hitting him. Then THAT car abruptly swerved right in front of ME, cutting into my lane without even signalling. And it had nothing to do with the guy on the bike. I growled, "IDIOTS! Both of you!"
     Second incident:
     I came up to a signal just as the light was turning from yellow to red, so of course I stopped. The car to the left of me, however, just barreled on through, and just barely missed being clipped by a guy coming from the opposite direction who was turning left, and had a legit green light. The guy with the legit green light totally SAW the idiot running the red light, but didn't seem to care. I think they came within an inch of crunching into each other.
     Third incident:
Johnny made me do it.
     I was in the right lane, following one of those big trucks that carries a bunch of cars on it, like baby marsupials clutching their mother. Know what I mean? I don't know what they're called. Anyway, I realized the big truck thing was going really slow, and didn't want to be stuck behind it, so I merged into the left lane, hoping to get around it.
     The left lane turned out to be slow, too, so the big truck thing pulled ahead and I lost sight of it. The MINUTE I lost sight of it, I completely forgot why I had switched lanes, and started to move BACK into the right lane. Then I saw the big truck thing ahead, and went, "Oh! THAT'S why I switched lanes!" and swerved back over into the left lane, not wanting to get stuck behind the big truck thing again. I'm sure any other drivers who saw me doing that thought, "Idiot!"
     My excuse for not being at all focused on the road or my own driving is that at the time I was listening to this entertainingly overwrought Johnny Cash Christmas CD, in which he very emotionally tells the story of Mary and the Baby Jesus in between verses.
     It's not a very good excuse.


          Check me out, I figured out how to make one of these bows by HAND.  Using strips of paper and double-sided tape.  The method came to me in a heavenly cloud and a flash of angelic light.  And a voice said, "Let it be so..."
          Here's a close-up:
          Anthony thinks I'm insane for doing this, especially since we have several boxes full of pre-fab bows ready to just peel and stick.  But shouldn't I win an award for this?