This is an offshoot of the original Liam & Janet blog. That blog has become overrun by Liam's inability to keep his mouth shut when something annoys him. The serious rants there seemed incongruous with the humor columns. The plan for the humor columns continues to be to post a new one every Friday, plus occasional extras when the mood strikes.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Yule Never Believe What I Did Today

[This essay was begun in December, and was intended to follow the "Positively Liam" essay. I never finished it then and have picked it up now to finish and post. And thus we have the odd spectacle of an essay about a Christmas tree being posted after tax day. Truly, there are no rules on this blog. --Liam]

Today, we return to the old standard essay topic, "Isn't Liam a bonehead!", but I'm still extremely aware of the fact that some of you don't like my excessive comedic self-loathing. I am, however, also aware that last week's essay proved that without self-loathing, I really haven't got much in the way of jokes.

And so I have three things to say:
  1. Technically, I only promised to not be negative to myself for that one essay, I never promised to give up an otherwise extremely non-promising writing career.

  2. Technically, this essay is not really about me. The boneheaded events herein DID happen, and knowing me, they very well COULD have happened to me, but for the anonymity of the person who told me the story, I have narcissistically recast the events with myself as the lead character. Having started down this path, I think we can all safely assume that everything in this essay is a lie, especially the word "everything" in this sentence.

  3. Technically, if you really think I'm not that much of a doofus, you should know that "last weeks essay" is correctly named in as much as it was written last week. However, as I write this, I have not yet posted that one, and in fact, I've been hemming and hawing over whether to post it or not, based on my contention that it isn't particularly funny. And so now I'm going to make another attempt at humor, the best possible outcome of which will be that this is funny enough to post, thus forcing my hand and making me post that one as well, which will have the net result of averaging out the two essays to at best a moderate chuckle or maybe a mildly-amused "heh".

That said, I am sitting here in the dark working on battery power, because we currently have a power outage due to a large winter storm which hit the northeast recently(*), and without anything better to do, I've decided to write another essay.

Earlier today, in order to pass some of the time I would normally dedicate to the selfless and vital act of watching television, I decided to put up the Christmas tree.

Janet and I long ago gave up on the idea of having a real tree. I could tell you it was because we don't like the idea of having to cut down and kill a tree just so it can decorate our house for a few weeks. I could tell you that we're concerned about the fire hazard inherent in pine needles dried to a level of aridness rarely found nearer than the surface of Mars sitting up against warm Christmas tree light bulbs. I could tell you that because you have to keep water in the base of the tree to keep down the fire hazard, and with small children in the house, we're afraid that we'd end up with a perpetual puddle in the living room. But the truth is that given past history, there is every likelihood that this tree will be gracing our living room with yule cheer until sometime near tax day, and while there is something depressingly pathetic about noting your Christmas tree still standing there in tribute to the birth of Jesus while outside the birds are chirping and the snow has all melted, this can't compare with the incredible emotional low of seeing that same tree needle bare and beginning to decompose.

And so our tree is an artificial affair made from twisted wires and green plastic by artisans who took great care to make sure that in the end, it perfectly and accurately reflects the look of... twisted wires and green plastic. We buy a new tree every few years when the kids succeed in knocking over the old one and bending the wires to the point that the "branches" no longer point in any direction that can be reasonably considered anything like realistic, even after consuming too much holiday "nog", and we generally buy it from one of those "Mart" stores to which you go when you're willing to sacrifice a few things in order to get a cheaper price, things like quality and safety and (in the case of trees) realism.

So the first step to putting up the tree is to find the box in which the tree resides for 11 months out of the year. Well, 7, but let's just pretend it's the normal 11. It's a large box, you'd think it'd be pretty easy to find, but no, sometimes we've put it in the basement the previous year. Sometimes we've put it in the garage. Sometimes in the attic. This year, I found it by the side of the road, hitchhiking to Baja.

Putting the tree together is a simple affair, no more complex or time consuming than reassembling a Swiss watch that has been carefully disassembled via Cuisinart. To start with, you have to sort out the "branches" by size and make sure the small ones go at the top and the large at the bottom. If you put the ones on the top in first, it becomes top heavy and falls over on you. If you put the ones on the bottom in first, you have trouble reaching in to hook the top ones to the central pole. And if you put the small ones on the bottom and the large ones on the top, so as to create a look of "upside down tree", your wife yells at you and makes you start over again.

I did, however, get the tree built, and so it was time to start sorting through the various decorations. We usually let the children do all of the decorating except for the lights, on the theory that Janet and I have little artistic talent, and so if we let the kids decorate it and it ends up looking like something out of a war zone, we can tell our friends with a knowing nod "Yes, but the children so love decorating the tree" and not have to admit that in fact it's because we have the same level of "tasteful decoration sense" that a cat displays in its litter box. (And lest you think I'm kidding, the last time I decorated the tree, I put all of the decorations on the floor and then got down onto all fours and kicked them at the tree with my feet).

The lights, though, are our responsibility, and so each year we pull out each of the roughly six thousand strands of lights we've accumulated over the course of our lives and begin the arduous task of figuring out which bulbs have blown over the course of the year. Cheap strands of lights (and trust me, if we're willing to put up with a foundation that resembles a tree about as much as I do, do you really think we spend any more on the lights?) have a bad habit of failing to light entirely if any of the individual bulbs are blown, and so each year we have to go through the strands one by one, plugging in new bulbs until they light, and this year was extremely frustrating. I was at this for probably an hour and a half, swearing under my breath as I tried to figure out why no matter how many bulbs I swapped out, I couldn't get the damn strand to light up.

Raise your hands if you've figured it out. Yup. And probably in less than the 90 minutes I was at it. The power was out. Like an idiot, I spent much of my afternoon trying the Christmas light equivalent of performing CPR on a sofa.

I feel so stupid. There's nothing for it but to finish this essay and go break out the nog. Wake me up when it's time to take the tree down.

(* Even this is a lie. I'm not sitting, I'm sort of lying back on my couch. The storm wasn't recent, it was 5 days ago, as were most of the events described. And although I considered writing something like this while the power was out, my battery was quite dead from watching excessive "children's programming" (a euphemism, because I am embarrassed to admit what I actually do with my spare computer time... Club Penguin.), and by the way, it's the afternoon, so even if all of the rest of it was true, it's "pitch light" outside.)

Copyright © December 17, 2008 & April 12, 2009 by Liam Johnson.


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