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Thursday, December 04, 2003

My Own Private Suburbia

The pizza from Pebble Creek hung in that precarious spot between a tastebud exotic massage and burning the holy hell out of the roof of my mouth. The antici...pation(when I allowed myself that pleasure) always got to me. So, understand, I hung in the balance between the culinary equivalent of some good teenage sex and painful oblivion.

That's why the ringing phone gave me the red ass.

Who calls at this hour anyway? We're not too far away from Monday Night Football's kickoff, the dog is eying my pizza pie, and my tastebuds now have blue balls. I worried less about tastebud testicles and more about my own when I heard the voice on the other end of the line.

"Mr. Willis?" It was raspy, cigarette tarry, and only a little on the feminine side. That's why the woman on the other end of the line made my testicles curl up close to my body in an example of how over time evolution has taught nuts to protect themselves.

"Yes?" I ventured, my pizza pie forgotten, my dog looking smug, my manparts seeking greater refuge in the confines of a nearby coat closet.

Again in the Clint-Eastwood-meets-The-Terminator voice, "This is your Wreath Captain."

When a man loses control of his bladder in the middle of his own living room at the sound of an old woman's voice, the Constitution should mandate a photo be taken to help Webster illustrate the word "wuss."

It was my Wreath Captain, for the love of all that's holy.

Through my tremors I offered with the meekest of voices, "I don't have mine up yet?"

"No you do not."

"I'll put it up tonight?"

"Yes, you will."

These are the terrors that come from being a mere pawn in the Great Suburban Conspiracy. I am the Wreath Bearer (much like a wedding's ring bearer, but with fewer satin pillows). Above me there is a Street Captain. And above us all sits the Wreath Captain.

Every year on a date to be designated by the Great and Terrible Wreath Captain, each Wreath Bearer must drag his butt out in the cold and attach a fairly cheap-looking Christmas wreath to the street sign on his/her corner. The entire job takes all of 90 seconds. I had forgotten. What's more, the wreath under my responsibility was currently in use as a decoration for a bar I built in my garage.

My involvement in The Great Suburban Conspiracy wasn't necessarily what I had envisioned for myself ten years ago. I figured when midnight of my 30th birthday surprised me I'd either be dead or living in some secluded hermit hovel in the Ozark Mountains, picking nits out of my beard and fancying new ways to open cans of Vienna Sausages.

But now I sit on the second floor of my cookie cutter home, warm-footed from central heating, and listening to sleet peck at my windows. It was exactly one year ago tonight as my 28th year turned into my 29th that Addo the Armageddon Ice Storm lit up Mt. Willis and ruined my entire 29th year (see also: father has ruptured brain aneurysm and good friend toys with chaos theory).

As I try to go to sleep as a 30 year old child, I'll wonder if I'll be waking up again to a frozen world. Or, will the 29th year finally thaw and offer something on the side of "hey, let's do this life thing right this year!"

Maybe I'm getting a head start. Tonight I decorated a Christmas tree with my wife for the first time in three years. It was pleasantly normal and fit right in with the Great Suburban Conspiracy. Last night I talked to my dad on the phone for 15 minutes and I had to remind myself he was still recovering from three brain surgeries. He's doing so well that the doctors and therapists are moving on to people who really need a lot more help.

As I grudgingly make my way into my third decade, I recognize that my life and view of it have changed. My psyche is not going quietly. In the past two days I've yelled at people I respect and nearly broken down in tears at television promos. For the first time in 30 years I think I actually have found a reason to go nuts.

My tenuous grip on sanity notwithstanding, I have found optimism in a place I wouldn't have ever expected to find it: Right smack dab in the middle of the Great Suburban Conspiracy. Who knows what the next ten years will hold? Frankly, as Return of Addo the Armageddon Ice Storm brews over Paris Mountain, I don't really care what happens in the next decade, as long as I live it right.

My wreath is holding on against the winter storm. In 27 days, I'm sure the Wreath Captain will call and rouse me from my New Year's hangover and tell me to go get the wreath and put it back on my bar. Maybe I'll still be here to take it down.

Hell, I may even be here next year to put it up again.

Because if the last 365 days are any indication, being 30 has to be better than being 29.


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