Saturday, December 29, 2007


Guitar Hero III offers a person the fastest and most entertaining way to become a pathetic loser.

I should know.

Duck Hunt came close in the 1980s with its "sporting rifle" that looked like it should shoot lasers. It wasn't exactly the most entertaining, however, given the fact that most people learned to sit inches from the TV to increase their score. Games are quickly ruined when your eyes start to burn. But if as an 8-year-old you happened to slip into conversation that you enjoyed clay shooting, well, then it was fully successful in turning you into a tool box. To this day I'm still tempted to write "skeet shooting" when asked to list my hobbies/casual interests regardless of the fact that I've never actually held a gun that didn't have a cord.

The Power Pad was pretty great and "World Class Track Meet" filled the track star void for kids who say, skipped (not as in skipping, but as in faking a major illness) the mile-run every year for gym class. But one soon learns that people only care about track athletes once every four summers, so the Power Pad lost its cool. Dance Dance Revolution is a variation on its theme, but I'll argue that if you need a computer to tell you where to put your feet, you're not dancing. That'd be like saying you can spin records after playing a few rounds of Simon.

I never had the Power Glove, but I saw a kid wearing one on the train once and I thought that was basically awesome.

But back to the cold hard fact. Guitar Hero III puts every other game to shame. Christmas Day my cousin brought over all of his games to my grandma's house, and 9 hours later--really--the guitar had to be ripped from my hands. My little cousin Julia is amazing and during her perfect version of Metallica's One, she goes, "Grandma, aren't you proud that all of your grandchildren are so good at Guitar Hero?"

That single question might keep me from ever playing again.

But probably not.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Oh Christmas Tree, Ugh Christmas Tree.

Vanessa's birthday is around Christmastime so growing up, the tree was always setup in the living room by the time she had her party. One year, she might have been in fifth grade, I forget, her friends came over for a birthday slumber party. The tree that year was huge, and as a result every possible ornament was used. Smaller trees often require that some ornaments won't make the cut. Hallmark Santa? You're in. Jessica's preschool macaroni framed picture on a hook? Maybe next year, slugger.

So Nessa and her friends laid out their sleeping bags right by the tree (because there's something so cozy about the glow from strings of indoor/outdoor lighting) and went to sleep. Cut to like 3 in the morning and we hear a loud thud. I was in my room and just assumed it was somebody doing a back handspring (why did people always want to do gymnastics at sleepovers?) but it wasn't. The tree had fallen over and onto one of her friends. I remember hearing my mom screaming, "Heather! Can you hear me?!" and then screaming for my dad to come lift the tree off of this poor girl. Heather was fine, but because my mother is worry wort supreme, she called her parents to let them know what happened. I always have my mom retell that conversation because I think it's hilarious.

Me: So you called them in the middle of the night?
Mom: I had to!
Me: And what did you say?
Mom: I just said, 'Mrs. Jennejohn, this is Debbie Martin. Heather is fine, but I wanted to let you know that our tree fell on her.'
Me: And what did she say?
Mom: Thanks for calling.

So my dad picked the tree up, put a sofa in front of it and everybody went back to sleep. But since that year, every time we set up the tree it's always with instructions to make sure it doesn't Jennejohn.

This is the first time in four years I've been home in time to go out and find the tree and help set it up. It was a lapse in memory to think this would be an enjoyable process.

A farming friend of my father's grows Christmas Trees and insists that we take the biggest tree off the lot every year. He's honestly such a nice guy but always yells at my dad in this overly enthusiastic tone and gets all up in his face when he's talking to him. However, my dad invented close talking, and speaks to everyone he meets in an overly enthusiastic tone, so he doesn't even notice what this other guy is doing. Honestly, seconds after getting out of my dad's truck, Joe came running over to us.

Joe (Standing just ridiculously close to my dad): STEVIE!!! What's it gonna be this year, Stevie? What are ya thinking? Fraser Fir, Stevie? Wanna go with a Douglas Fir?

Dad (Standing just ridiculously close to Joe, yelling back in his face): Oh, I don't know Joey, what do you think? They look good this year, real nice, Joe.

I looked over to my mom with a confused face. It was like a bizarro world or something. These two guys, screaming at each other through huge smiles, moments away from what looked like an embrace.

So picking out the tree was a treat. But then tonight, trying to keep the tree upright proved to be worse. The trunk simply wouldn't fit in the stand. Screws went in from one angle, but then not through another. Just when I thought it was stable it would lean horribly to one side. My mom insisted on stringing lights around it while I was still trying to make sure it wasn't going to Jennejohn, and thus ensued a yelling match of blame. You're doing this, stop with that, why not try this, why not give this defected tree back to Joey.

After an hour, seriously, the tree finally stood on its own. All it needed was a Tupperware dish shoved between the stand and the trunk, and about 8ft of twine attached from the branches to a twenty-pound free weight sitting on the floor.

Merry Christmas.