Tuesday, December 13, 2022

a new Christmas story

"Yard Christmas decorations used to be made out of hard plastic. No we have all these inflatables."

"Yeah?," I hear from the back seat (along with a slight sigh).

"Well, I think I know what the next step in outdoor holiday decorations will be."


"Holograms! That way, instead of all these static displays, you could have them act out scenes! Stories instead of boring figures.

"Pretty soon, though, people will realize that if you have a really interesting scene, you'll get more views. So people will start experimenting with having their holograms act out different genres of stories."


"Oh, at first, people will do holiday stories. But pretty soon, someone will try comedy. Then drama. Then action-adventure, romance.... The stories and the holograms will get more intense and interesting. Production value will go up and up.

"People will soon recognize that the best stories aren't on television or their phone but on their neighbors' lawns. People will walk around their neighborhood, looking for the best stories. The owners of the houses with the best stories will get endorsement deals, becone famous...and the battle for the best holigram decoration story will get more intense."

We pull into the school dropoff line.

"Of course, someone will remember that we, as a society, like shows with action and violence. So they'll put up a war story hologram. But by this point, the hologram displays have gotten so realistic, so intense, that all their neighbors will think they're under attack. It will just escalate and escalate."

We get to the front of the line. "Mark my words, honey: the next world war will be brought about by Christmas decorations."

""Okay, I'm confused."

"Just have a great day at school. Love you, honey."

"Bye, Dad."

She walks to her classmates, and I pull out of the parking lot. I head for home, confident that I have given my daughter something to think about before her school day starts.

Friday, December 02, 2022

what our soldier boys do to unwind

I have a student who was a US soldier stationed in Syria at the start of their civil war. He has told me some wild and depressing stories.

Yesterday in class, I asked my students for their coping mechanisms for their worst jobs. After class, the former soldier told me after class that, when in Syria, all his squad survived on Egyptian cigarettes and an Iranian energy drink that included cocaine.

I promise not to complain about my job again...or at least for the next minute or so.

shopping, memories, and gum

One of the weird things about having a job without the standard 9-5 jobs is that you get to do things at times where normal working folk are...well, working.

I went to the grocery store today at one in the afternoon. Normal grocery store hijinks ensued (a mix of "Hey, raspberries are only 50 cent a container?" and "Why is the queso fresco in with the store brand cheddar and not with the international cheeses?"), and I moved into checkout before something interesting happened.

After unloading the groceries onto the conveyor, my eyes settled on the gum area. Gum designers (if there is such a thing) really love the colors blue and green. I guess they are the mintiest colors? But then I saw one of the few holdouts: purple packaging.

I immediately grabbed the grape gum and was simultaneously hit by a deep wave of nostalgia, and I was seven years old again. My father was in the air force, and I grew up (through first grade, anyway) on a base in Germany. For some reason, the base grocery store didn't stock bubble gum. I dunno why. Maybe President Ford had a bad gum experience or something.

My grandmother would send over packages every so often, and, when we were very lucky, she'd throw in a couple of box of Bubble Yum, mixed between regular and grape. It was a treat, and we would, while it lasted, be kings of the school yard...rare Bubble Gum could be traded for favors. During first grade, I even got in trouble for running a little bit of a Bubble Yum black market.

I blink my eyes, and I'm back in the grocery store line. Suddenly, I realize my nostalgia was for a minor event that happened over four decades before...and I feel really, really old. Then I look around me, and I realize 90 percent of the shoppers are senior citizens, and now I don't know what to think at all. I pay for my groceries and wander off to find my car.

The grape gum (not Bubble Yum, by the way) tasted more like the color purple than an actual fruit, and it list all flavor in about seventeen seconds. The nostalgia, though?

That stuck around.