Saturday, October 27, 2012

right down Santa Claus Lane

In 1823, Clement Clarke Moore wrote the epic holiday poem A Visit from St. Nicholas, better known as Twas the Night Before Christmas. For nearly 200 years, this holiday favorite, describing Santa's clandestine visit to the narrator's home, has been a central part of many families' traditions. Many a father or grandfather has gathered the kids around for a spirited recitation of the multi-stanza rhyme.

For coming holiday season, Canadian publisher Pamela McColl has decided to issue a new, slightly altered version of the beloved classic - minus two lines that refer to Santa Claus' use of tobacco. The lines "The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth/And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath" have been excised by Ms. McColl, an outspoken anti-smoking advocate. Fearing that children may be influenced and take a cue from Santa's smoking habits, Ms. McColl said, "I just really don’t think Santa should be smoking in the 21st century."

Now, I don't smoke and I don't like being around smoke. But, come on!,  isn't this taking political correctness a bit too far? Someone has decided, in 2012 — after 189 years since its first publication — that Santa Claus, a fictional character in a poem, should not smoke because it presents a negative influence on an impressionable child. Yet, in ten or so years, this person will have to deal with explaining to the same child that they've been lying to that child about the existence of Santa.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

walk this way

As the day was winding down, a co-worker friend called me to shoot the breeze until it was time to clock out for another Wednesday. She talked. I joked. She asked about my upcoming vacation. We commiserated about similar work and extended family issues. Y'know, usual "killing time until it's time to leave work for the day" talk.

I checked my watch and began shutting down several programs still glowing on my computer monitor. Suddenly, the conversation turned to her young daughter, Elle. She began to explain, in clinical precision and statistical terms, Elle's growth pattern and where she ranked in comparison to national averages for girls her own age in both height and weight.

Now, I went to art school for a reason — and that was to never have to deal with percentages and charts and statistics and all things number-y. Also, as a Dad for over twenty-five years and a qualified spokesman for Dads everywhere, I told my friend that, frankly, Dads don't care about shit like that. She seemed surprised.

"You mean you didn't know these things about your son?," she inquired, somewhat shocked by my cavalier attitude.

"No.," I replied, "Dads don't care about that."

Trying to trap me, she countered with, "I'll bet Mrs. Pincus knew all about this. All the growth information, national percentiles and such."

"I'll bet she did.," I said, praising my spouse's motherly concern,"I'll bet she knew all  that stuff. I'm sure she asked our son's pediatrician all the pertinent questions that a doting parent should be asking. But Dads.... Dads just don't care. She may have told me about our son's progress in that stuff,  but I either forgot or wasn't listening at the time... 'cause that's what Dads do."

Then, as an example, I told her that my niece — a new mother — recently informed my wife that her ten-month-old son just began taking his first steps.

I asked, "Didn't our son begin walking around the same age?"

My wife stared back at me and said, "No, he was much later than that."

I thought for a second, then stated, "Well, he can walk now."

Saturday, October 20, 2012

tender lumplings everywhere

When I was a kid, my favorite holiday, aside from my birthday, was Hallowe'en. I would begin thinking about my costume somewhere around the time I came home from trick-or-treating that year. I would begin to give serious thought to my costume as summer came to a close and I prepared my return to school. As autumn approached, I would narrow my selection down to a few choices and by October 1st, I'd start to gather the needed elements to bring my costume to fruition. By the second week of October, I'd drag out the family's box of Hallowe'en decorations. I'd methodically tape each tattered and worn cardboard pumpkin cutout and jointed cardboard skeleton in the exact position in the exact window as previous years. Once the big night arrived, I'd hurry through dinner and jump into my costume. I'd grab an old pillowcase and set out for my annual candy shakedown of the neighborhood. Trick-or-treating in my densely populated community was an all-night ritual. This was the 1960s and distribution of full-size candy bars was not uncommon, so several stops back home to drop off a load of sweets too heavy to drag around the block was to be expected. Once, a fellow Hallowe'ener reported on a house that was handing out full packages of six Hershey bars. That house had a line that remained steady into the late evening. Of course, the after-Hallowe'en surplus of candy sometimes lasted until Thanksgiving, until the few stray Mary Janes and sour balls that dotted the bottom of my picked-through bag were finally tossed into the trash.

When I was a teenager, and became too old to go knocking door-to-door, I'd stay home to hand out candy. I also decorated my house to elicit maximum scares from unsuspecting beggars. Pulling out all stops, I'd spend hours preparing Styrofoam tombstones, eerie flashing lights, prop figures in weird masks and a soundtrack of creepy music blasting through hidden speakers. Naturally, I was decked out in full vampire costume and makeup. I didn't give out a whole lot of candy, as kids were too frightened by the display. They felt a measly piece of candy wasn't worth getting the shit scared out of them. That was okay because it meant more leftovers for me.

In high school, I attended many Hallowe'en parties. Over the years, I wore a variety of costumes — Frank N. Furter from Rocky Horror, The Hunchback of Notre Dame (I refused to take off my make-up for the entire night), and even Gene Simmons, accompanying some friends who dressed as the remaining members of KISS (including my friend Sam).

When I got married and became a father, Hallowe'en continued in full force at the Pincus household. We had more Hallowe'en decorations than most people have for Christmas. Our house was transformed into that house, you know, the one that everyone looks forward to visiting because of the awesome way they celebrate the holiday. We had lights and music and animated figures and tons of candy. I took my son out at two months old, attired in Superman pajamas (him, not me). After a brief introduction to the fine art of confectionery extortion, we easily slipped him into his crib, already prepared for sleeping. As he got older, I created original and unique costumes for my son, including homemade Boris Badenov and Sonic the Hedgehog attire. I taught him to say "Trick-or-treat" and "Nothing with coconut." (Not because of a dietary restriction, because I don't like coconut.)

As time marched on, something happened. My son — in high school, then college — made other plans for Hallowe'en. We received less and less visitors. With younger kids making their rounds in the safer, daylight hours, the festivities began to trail off by nightfall. We stopped dragging out the box of decorations and, eventually, my wife sold the vintage stuff on eBay.

In 2010, we traveled to Disneyland to rekindle our love of Hallowe'en. Like giddy, rejuvenated children, we attended Mickey's Hallowe'en Party, a separately-ticketed event that converts the Magic Kingdom into a (not-so-scary) Hallowe'en Wonderland. My wife, my son and myself — three adults — had a blast wandering the darkened trails, interacting with costumed characters and other guest and receiving a huge amount of candy. We enjoyed ourselves so much, we went back the following year.

But Hallowe'en at home sucked. Few houses decorate. Few kids trick-or-treat... and those that do, don't even have the courtesy to put on a costume. ("What are you supposed to be?" "I'm a kid that just got off the school bus. Give me a goddamn Reeses Cup.")

Last year, we locked the door, turned off the porch light and ate the candy we bought to give out. This year, we're going to Las Vegas and I'm putting a "Go Fuck Yourself" sign on my front door.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Knotted, polka-dotted, twisted, beaded, braided

Sometime during the course of 2005, I decided to start coloring my hair. My natural medium brown was now giving way to some gray. And then some more gray. So, after a few threats, I went ahead and took the plunge. I dyed my hair jet black. I went to work the next day and, while dispensing a cup of coffee for myself in the company cafeteria, a co-worker sidled in close to me and asked: "Did you dye your hair?"

With the blankest of expressions on my face, I replied, "Um, yesterday my hair was brown. What do you think?"

And so began a new era in sarcasm from ol' Josh Pincus.

On my next haircut appointment I made the decision to go red. Not just any red. A unique red. The most unnaturally fake red you've ever seen. This is special-order red that no one else requests, save for the occasional circus clown. A red that called for a distinctive set of comebacks to be dispersed whenever I was asked about the color of my hair. I created a mental inventory of sass with an internal filing system, triggered by key words used by the overly curious who don't know how to mind their own fucking business.

I color my hair to stand out; to give an impression and to be remembered. "Hey, y'know that guy with the red hair?" is quite common at my place of employment and everyone knows that the reference is to me. But, there are tactful ways of delivering an inquiry without stating the obvious ("Gee, your hair is really red!") or becoming insulting ("What's up with the hair, dude?"). This is where sarcasm becomes a faux ginger's secret weapon.

One of the first victims of my arsenal of snide retorts was actor Ernie Hudson. Among his many film roles, Ernie is best known as "Winston Zeddemore," the Ghostbuster who wasn't Bill Murray or Dan Aykroyd. Ernie was one of a few dozen celebrities signing autographs at a horror film convention that I attended. I stood in a fairly long line as Mr. Hudson, clad in his familiar tan ghostbusting jumpsuit, greeted fans and posed for pictures. Soon, I arrived at the front of the queue. I smiled and shook Ernie's hand and told him that I was a big fan of Ghostbusters. (I wasn't. I actually hate that movie.) Ernie studied my recently tinted coiffure and said, "Is that your real hair color?" Quickly, I looked Ernie straight in the eye and answered, "No, it's a side effect of chemotherapy." Ernie gulped and offered an apologetic smile coupled with a nervous laugh.

"Nah, I'm just fucking with you, Ernie.," I said, as I laughed right back at him. He looked relieved, shook my hand, and realized that he was just the victim of a gruesome joke. He posed for a photo and called me a jerk as we parted company. He was a good sport.

Recently, my wife and I ate at a local diner. After taking our order, the overly friendly waitress giggled and asked me, "Is that your natural hair color?"

"This?," I began, pointing to my head and gearing up to unleash a biting zinger, "This is no one's natural hair color." 

Caught off-guard, she stumbled over her next few sentences, trying to justify her question, but not making any sense at all. "Just bring me my pancakes, sister.," I thought to myself, "You're lucky I've retired the cancer remark."

Saturday, October 6, 2012

turn the page

This afternoon, Mrs. Pincus and I went to the supermarket. It was not the market that we regularly go to, but it is in the neighborhood. The configuration of this particular market was not well thought out when it was in the planning stage. There is a narrower-than-usual buffer aisle that separates the checkout area from the rest of the store. For some reason, the store was very busy and the amount of customers wishing to check out caused a bottleneck in the buffer aisle. With full shopping carts pointed every which way, gridlock was occurring every few feet. No one wanted to give up an inch, in fear that their place in line would be compromised. The situation was not good. Not good at all.

Suddenly, a rather large man came barreling out of a grocery aisle. He was pushing a wheeled walker, the kind with a padded seat across the front. And he was pushing that thing faster than someone who requires a walker should have been. As he moved, his head was down and he repeatedly hollered "Excuse me!," although he was not allowing enough courtesy time for anyone to clear out of his way. He literally plowed through the crowd, bumping into and spinning shopping carts. Several shoppers were physically shoved aside by the man as he cut a path into the group.

My wife and I finally made our way to the self-checkout area, rang up and paid for our groceries and exited the store. Just outside, we saw the man sitting on the seat of his walker. He was enjoying a cigarette. I suppose he was just in a rush to contract cancer.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

they're feedin' our people that government cheese

Let me start out by saying I'm not going to vote, so fuck you.

But, if I were to vote, it would be for Barack Obama. Why? Not because of his political promises or his vision for the country or his plans for the economy. He's probably full of shit, just like every politician before him. (I think that's a prerequisite for becoming a politician.) But, I would vote for him simply because he seems like a nice guy. A real guy. Like a guy you'd like to be your neighbor. Running into him at the supermarket. Your kids playing with his kids. Out on a Saturday afternoon, mowing his lawn. Y'know... just a guy. I think the average American looks at Barack Obama and thinks, "Yeah, I can relate to him."

But, Mitt Romney?!? Jesus Christ Almighty! Who does he represent? Who can possibly relate to him? That asshole boss that fired you? That prick down at the bank that declined your loan application? The car salesman who smugly snickers when you are checking the stickers on a Mercedes, then gently steers you towards the Fords while he's rolling his eyes? You're damn right! That's who Mitt Romney is. He's that guy you innocently start chatting with at a cousin's wedding cocktail hour and find out that he's a filthy rich, out-of-touch, never-worked-a-day-in-his-life, patronizing, elitist little fuck who, when the band starts playing, dances like a stiff-jointed white guy.

One question should be asked at the Presidential Debate and you'd make up your mind in fifteen seconds. Get the two candidates up on the stage and ask just one question — "You're at work and your wife calls and asks you to pick up a loaf of bread on your way home. How much is that gonna cost you?" I will bet that Mitt Romney hasn't a clue how much a loaf of bread costs. Barack Obama? The guy went to a PETCO with his dog! His wife shops for laundry detergent at Target, for crissakes! He goes on vacation and takes his daughters out for ice cream. Mitt Romney probably sends some domestic out to buy ice cream and says, "Here's seven hundred dollars. That should cover it, right? Make sure you get vanilla."

So, all you people who, after the debacle that was the 2000 Presidential election, still think your vote determines who becomes president — good for you. I think that's adorable. I don't really care who becomes president, but I do hope he's not an embarrassment.