Evidently, I found this guy’s Santa costume unconvincing.
I’m fairly certain I’ve mentioned it at some point, but I am pathetically technologically impaired. If it wasn’t so often frustrating, it would be funny how inept I am at operating the very electronics my generation is supposed to thrive on. In my defense, I have a Facebook, I can text fairly quickly and – after much persuasion – I have even learned to used Snap Chat. (Did you know you can take videos, not just pictures??) But throw anything more complicated than Microsoft Word at me and chances are I’ll be stumped as a forest after a beaver family reunion. With that in mind, you should have no trouble imagining my skepticism regarding my potential ability to adequately work the puzzling operating system that is Skype. Admittedly, it is not all that puzzling; it is, in fact, designed to be exceedingly user-friendly. But I know me. And I know my strange penchant for screwing up seemingly foolproof electronic devices. (I have, on multiple occasions and despite repeated instructions and demonstrations, been unable to turn on my sister’s TV; her four year old stepson can do it.) Suffice it to say I was prepared to crash it. So, picture my delight – and ill-concealed surprise – when, on nearly my first try, I managed to place a successful call (admission – I may have been given aid in the form of instructions).
Jade is visiting home in England and has been for the last few weeks. Since my initial intrepid encounter with it, Skype and I have become fast friends. Or as fast of friends as a human and a computer application can be, which is to say Skype doesn’t give a single shit about me but I am very dependent on it for its ability to connect me to Jade. No matter the status of our friendship/lack thereof, I have actually been able to operate Skype without once causing it to self-destruct (a major victory in the saga of my interactions with technology). What’s more, I’ve come to learn some of its quirks and less obvious uses. For instance, I now know that a door closing in the apartment of one Skype user – while not loud at all at the location of closure – is practically ear-splitting to the other Skypee (this may also have a little to do with the use of headphones, but still). I have also learned that knocking on your computer screen is a highly effective way to wake the aforementioned Skypee, should she fall asleep while on camera (with the added benefit of watching her startled reaction to the apparently extremely amplified noise). Yes, I have now achieved mastery of an electronic thing through (largely) my own wit and I am unjustifiably proud of this fact. Today Skype; soon, who knows, maybe I’ll figure out what Twitter is actually good for.
Since Jade is in England, she has promised to bring back things she can get there that I can’t get in the states. From what I gather, these things consist mainly of European chocolate and a kind of fruity alcohol drink called WKD. I know I can’t compete with such foreign delicacies, but I was determined, during my recent trip home to Maryland for Christmas, to find Maryland-y things to bring back in return. This nearly immediately proved trickier than I had imagined. After spending a good deal of time (about half an hour, but this is ages to a three year old ad I didn’t say who’s concept of time I was going by) wracking my brain for products unique to my home state, I had compiled a sad little list – sad for both its brevity and the overall desirability (or lack thereof) of its contents. My grand list consisted of: crab chips, Old Bay, Goetze’s caramels, something Orioles-related, Natty Boh and Berger cookies. I had no trouble knocking out the first three items my first day home and I crossed off the next two over the course of the week. Berger cookies, however, posed a bit of an unexpected problem.
Berger cookies, in case you are unfortunate enough not to know, are a magical combination of buttery cookie and heart-murderingly dense chocolate fudge. In short, bits of heaven (assuming heaven is milk-dunkable). To be fair, I haven’t tasted these cookies in at least a decade, so I might be overstating things. I choose to think not. Either way, imagine my horror (truthfully, mild frustration) when a Wegman’s employee informed me that they no longer stocked them. Something, he said, about the ludicrous amounts of trans fat in the recipe. Trans-fat schmans-fat; if they were good before they’ll be good now and public health be damned. Alas, Wegman’s seems not to have accounted for my feelings on the matter when making this decision. I needed to look elsewhere. When I got home, I researched (googled and then skimmed the results) the issue with the recipe and where to find the now-elusive treats. Another grocery store in town was listed as carrying them and so, with slight trepidation and a great deal of hope, I entered this second store, fingers crossed like a true fat-kid-at-heart. They weren’t in the cookie aisle. Damn. But then I remembered that I am allowed – nay encouraged – to speak to store employees if I have questions. I tried this and one kindly, middle-aged font of wisdom directed me to aisle 16 and there they were. Clutching my hard-earned (I’m exaggerating again) prize, I made my jubilant exit, added the cookies to my other “treasures” of the Chesapeake and called it a day. These Berger cookies had better be fucking transcendent.
I mentioned – actually the whole last story revolved around – the fact that I went home to Maryland this past week. Going back to my hometown is always a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, despite spending nearly my entire childhood there, my hometown is not a place that particularly inspires great fondness in my heart. Other than the fact that it’s where I grew up, it’s not all that unique when compared to any other small town in America. I have lots of good memories based there, but it’s the people that I miss, not the place. Which brings me to the other hand: the people. Going home means getting to see family and friends that I otherwise see only once or twice a year. I get to visit almost all of my extended family in one fell swoop and catch up with my high school friends to boot.
Christmas and Christmas Eve are dedicated to family parties, but the other days I’m in town I try to spend doing things with my old comrades. These things usually involve food and/or alcohol. This year was no different. The night before Christmas Eve (Christmas Eve Eve?), Evan and I met six of our closest friends from high school at one of the only bars in town. Although most definitively not a high brow establishment, Looney’s is the place to see and be seen, whether you want to or not. Thus, during the course of our several hours of patronization, we ran into (or saw but pretended not to see) a number of other former classmates. Many of these were people we liked fine but never really spoke to. Unfortunately (at least I consider it so), social etiquette dictates that we speak briefly with these people. This is called small talk. I call it painfully awkward. Nevertheless, I found myself engaged in a benign enough variant of it on this occasion. Nicole, it soon became apparent, did not share my c’est la vie attitude. After about ten minutes of exchanging the requisite pleasantries with yet another group of former schoolmates (all the while trying nonchalantly to ascertain who was becoming successful and who still lived at home – no judgment), she turned to me and Hannah and, in a tone of utmost exasperation, declared: “I’m tired of pretending to care about people I was never even friends with! Can we go now?” Mildly amused and only marginally taken aback (she is Nicole, after all), I agreed that yes, I too had had enough small talk. We gathered Erika and the four of us made our excuses and fled.
I didn’t see any friends for the next two days, occupied as I was with family events. Thursday though, my last night in town, I was determined to get Indian for dinner. Not just any Indian food. No. For almost a month, since I had remembered its existence, I had been craving Sizzling Bombay’s salmon tikka masala with an almost shameful fervor. But I was not ashamed. I had my heart set on it and I was going to get it or be dragged back to South Carolina, bitching the whole way. Thus it was that I invited Hannah and Nicole along and we found ourselves, of a Thursday evening, seated in a three-quarters empty Indian restaurant, me nearly drooling in anticipation, Nicole eyeing her unfamiliar surroundings warily and Hannah sitting amiably, neither bemused nor particularly excited. No matter, I was excited enough for all three of us. By the time our food arrived, I was only barely stopped from gluttonously annihilating my salmon tikka by a firmly entrenched sense of social decency. But only just. While I set to work spooning mounds of rice, curry and fish onto my plate, my companions began to eat much less enthusiastically. At first, so deliriously preoccupied was I with shoveling down my own dinner, I didn’t notice their relative reticence. Once I had consumed enough to regain a moderate awareness of my environment however, the situation seemed almost farcical. Nicole who, for some inexplicable reason had decided an Indian restaurant was a good place to order tomato soup, was half-heartedly dipping small pieces of roti while Hannah, who had at least ordered chicken curry, slowly ate about ten bites before pushing her plate away. This while I sat next to them, scooping heaps of creamy curry with great pieces of garlic naan and propelling the whole mess into my mouth with decidedly unseemly gusto. I might’ve laughed if I hadn’t suddenly felt self-conscious (plus, I would’ve sprayed my friends with salmon bits). All the same, I got to spend one more night with two of my best friends (Nicole and Salmon Tikka, but Hannah was there too) before heading back to Charleston. Home may not hold much for me in the way of location, but it’s always a bit sad leaving a place occupied by so many of the people you love. But hey, at least I got my Indian food.