Leading up to Christmas, I took advantage of more double-overtime weekends at work. The money was worth going in for a few hours on a Saturday.

Plus there were Christmas shopping trips and Christmas parties. Meri was home for a few days, just in time for parties at both Sarah’s and our Aunt Elaine’s. Paul and I went into Sarah’s with the intention of only staying a couple hours and getting up for church in the morning to be good Catholics so they’ll let us wed, and we ended up having a good time just hanging out and dicking around and stayed really late, slept in really late, and missed church like the actual humans we are. Then it was off to Lainie’s, which was the usual fun with the extended family. It was nice that Meri and Erio happened to be home for that this year.

Afterwards, we went over to Erio’s parents’ place for a little bit for a small gathering dubbed “All Holidays Matter.” I was enticed by the possibility of burning a Russian flag–which seems even more appropriate in light of recent revelations–but Erio forgot to buy one, so instead, it was just an evening of bullshitting. Which was fine and nice. Sometimes, just dicking around and talking for a couple hours is the best way to spend an evening.

Paul’s sister Julie and her boyfriend, Michael, came into town from Erie around the same time, so we had dinner with them and the rest of Paul’s family that Monday night. I was hoping to squeeze in drinks or something alone with Julie and Michael, but unfortunately, the timing wasn’t right–and it sucks because lately, we’ve really bonded over the difficulties of dealing with Paul’s mom while dating one of her kids. The good news is that being adults means we can pretty much go see Julie and Michael whenever we want, it’s just that I’m not really inclined to go up to Erie in the winter. We’ve been having a few unseasonably warm days, so maybe in the next few weeks. The other issue is going to be that wedding planning is going to start really ramping up soon, plus we’re talking about apartment shopping. I just have to actually call someone to go look at some places.


So Steel City Con, despite being unprofessional and rude, managed to suck me back in. Which I kind of thought might happen eventually, but it was the bastards getting Mitch Pileggi, otherwise known as motherfucking Walter Skinner from The X-Files, that really did it. It was like they knew I couldn’t stay away if the word “X-Files” was anywhere on that flyer.

To make myself feel better about this, I rationalized it–technically, my brother paid for my ticket because he owes me money, so technically, it wasn’t my money the bastards got.

Of course, I ended up having a good time and finding some good stuff to give as Christmas presents, not to mention all the usual shit I want to buy for myself. Again, that’s the biggest bummer of all about the fact that whoever’s in charge is so rude–the vendors can suffer as a result, and it’s not fair to them and they don’t deserve it. I mean, I think there’s a reason so many go once or twice then you never see them again, for sure, especially when it’s a decent-sized convention, but it’s a shame.

The biggest draw this time around was three stars of The Walking Dead–Michael Cudlitz, who played Abraham; Josh McDermitt, who plays Eugene; and Khary Payton, who plays King Ezekiel. Paul and I were running a little late and lines were long, so I skipped out on Cuflitz, which was a shame because I was a big fan of him on Southland. But I hopped in line with my dad, Brandon, and Kelly for Josh McDermitt while Paul wandered around, not really caring. See, we may not have cable, but I may or may not watch the show at my job. It makes for a fun day at work, of course, and it’s always cool to meet people on any of the shows I work on. It’s happened a couple times now. McDermitt teased me about not believing that I actually did it, while Payton and I bonded over being sworn to secrecy about anything that happens. We got a good group picture with McDermitt but skipped it for Payton–all of the celebrities charge for photos and autographs, and his prices were just a little too high for us.

Of course, I was most excited about motherfucking Walter Skinner, so he was my next stop. I opted for a photo–I had nothing really that he could sign, plus nowhere to put it. Plus pictures are kind of cooler, in the age of social media. I mean, who doesn’t want a picture with pretty much any person they’re a fan of?

The more we’ve gone to the convention over the years, the more my attitudes over the celebrities charging for autographs and photos has shifted. I used to be dead-set against 100%, thinking it a greedy money grab. These actors, writers, artists, etc. owe it to their fans paying to attend to give them autographs and pictures for free, I thought. Now I’m not so sure. There’s part of me that still isn’t thrilled with the idea, but there’s a bigger part of me that realizes that even if these people aren’t on set, they’re still taking time out of their lives to appear somewhere when they really don’t have to. Do they need the money? Maybe, maybe not. Is it fair to expect them to essentially work for free? Not really.

Everyone was nice to meet and seemed to have a good time. Mitch Pileggi especially talked to us for a good few minutes, which was nice and probably because he had much shorter lines and could take the time to do so. But it was cool. We talked to him about how The X-Files is one of my favorite shows and I’m making Paul watch it, and he asked what our favorites were and rattled off some of his own.

Will I be back for the next one in the spring? Yes, because now the bastards booked The X-Files’ Cigarette-Smoking Man.

Saturday 9: A New Day Has Come

Saturday 9: A New Day Has Come (2002)
Unfamiliar with this week’s tune? Hear it here.

Welcome to the first Saturday 9 of 2017!

1) This song is about a new day. Here we are celebrating a new year. What do you hope for in 2017? A happy, calm year for me and everyone I care about.

2) Ms. Dion has said this song was influenced by the events of 9/11, and how a new day dawnedafter tragedy. Looking back on 2016, did something happen that you’re glad to leave behind and move away from? Not really. Personally, I had a pretty good year, despite it being shit for so many other people.

3) In the video, Celine serenades us from billowy white clouds. Describe the sky where you are as you answer these 9 questions. I was just outside, and I didn’t really notice because it’s really, really cold out there. I was more focused on how cold I was and getting inside than what the clouds look like.

4) This video was shot in West Palm Beach, FL. When settlers arrived in the late 1870s, the town was called Lake Worth County. OK, your turn. Tell us something about your hometown. Where I live now, Washington, was the site of the Whiskey Rebellion, where the people lost their shit because of whiskey being taxed. We commemorate it every year with a week-long street festival, which, of course, includes whiskey tastings.

5) Celine Dion’s native tongue is French. Dites-nous quelque chose enFrançais. I don’t remember much of the French I learned in high school.

6) Celine’s mother, Therese, is known in her Quebec neighborhood as a terrific cook. Think about your own domestic talents. Where do you excel? (Food prep, house cleaning, laundry, scheduling, etc.) I think it’s tough to excel at laundry because it’s not a difficult thing to do to begin with, but I will say I kind of enjoy doing it. Other than that, I don’t know if there’s something I excel in. I’m kind of adequate in everything else. Except maybe scheduling. I may be late a lot, but I like having a set plan rather than just kind of winging it. It kills me when other people are in charge of planning and I have no idea when things are happening.
7) Growing up, Celine and her siblings often performed in her family’s piano bar. Where did you most recently enjoy an adult beverage? I went to dinner at Primanti’s the other night and had my favorite drink, the Drunk Duck. Despite wanting to eat healthier, I can’t resist that deliciousness.
8) In 2002, when this song was popular, Kmart was in the newsbecause the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. What department store do you shop at most often? I don’t know! I’m not much of a department-store person these days.
9) Random question: It’s time for a midnight snack and you have your choice of one of these three — a slice of sausage pizza, a bagel with lox and cream cheese, or a piece of carrot cake. Which will you have? And what shall we bring you to drink? Carrot cake, with milk to drink. I always need milk with something sweet like that.

Friday 5: Animate

  1. In what ways are you like an ox? I’m stubborn.
  2. In what ways are you like a rabbit? Apparently, they’re supposed to be intelligent. I’m not, like, a genius, but I’m smart enough.
  3. In what ways are you like a snake? My Chinese zodiac animal is actually the snake! It’s said to be cunning and a symbol of wisdom and wit, of which I think I have some. They’re also said to be humorous and sensitive, making them gifted in literature, and I am a bookworm and writer.
  4. In what ways are you like a goat? I honestly don’t know, but I do know I love goats. Well, I guess there’s the fact that mountain goats are good climbers, obviously, and I do love climbing on shit.
  5. In what ways are you like a rooster? I don’t know. It’s highly likely I’m not really like a rooster at all, really.

Saturday 9: Tammy

Saturday 9: Tammy (1957)
In celebration of Debbie Reynolds

Unfamiliar with this week’s song? Hear it here.

1. In this song,Tammy sings of being able to hear “the breeze from the bayou.” What sounds can you hear as you answer these questions? Spotify ads and the constant ringing in my right ear thanks to congestion.

2. This week’s song was the theme of a popular movie about a girl who grew up on a houseboat in Mississippi. Looking back on 2016, did you spend much time on or around water? No! Which is a shame, because I love being around water–rivers, oceans, whatever.

3. In addition to being an Oscar-nominated actress, this week’s artist, Debbie Reynolds, was a big movie fan. She amassed an amazing cache of movie memorabilia. Do you collect anything? Books and Wizard of Oz collectibles.

4. Though she never won a competitive Oscar for acting, Debbie Reynolds was awarded the Academy’s Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award earlier this year for 60 years of charity work. While she supported many causes throughout her life, one she was closest to was The Girl Scouts. She was not only a Scout herself, she was a leader when daughter Carrie was young and a fundraiser throughout her life. Were you ever in Boy or Girl Scouts? I wasn’t, but I had an interest in it and I’m a big fan of Girl Scout cookies, like any true American.

6. The New Year’s Eve fireworks celebrations in both Disney World in Florida and Sydney, Australia coordinate pyrotechnics and music. Are you expecting either fireworks or live music on your New Year’s Eve celebration? New Year’s has come and gone because I’m still catching up, but I didn’t expect any and I was correct.

7. According to the National Insurance Bureau, more cars are stolen on New Year’s Eve than any other single day. Are you confident your vehicle(s) will be safe and sound this Saturday night? I’m confident my car won’t be stolen on any given Saturday night, but I’m not confident it won’t be damaged. It’s been hit in the parking lot of my apartment twice in the, what, four years I’ve lived here?

8. Do you have any New Year’s Resolutions for 2017? I do make some resolutions every year, but I tend to address them in writing. Since I’ve been sick the past week, I haven’t had time to get around to that, so they’re not really organized and outlined proper.

9. Looking back on 2016, what surprised you? Probably just progress made and fences somewhat mended. It wasn’t the most surprising of years on the whole, really.

Saturday 9: Happy Holidays!

Saturday 9: Happy Holidays! (from the archives)

1. As you can see, Sam loved giving her annual wish list to Santa. Yet some children are reluctant to climb into Jolly Old St. Nick’s lap. Did you enjoy the tradition or were you shy? Or did you by pass it altogether — either because you wrote him a letter or because your family didn’t celebrate Christmas? I was shy but still enjoyed it. That’s basically my whole experience interacting with other humans.

2. Are you currently on the Naughty or Nice list? How did you get there? Nice, because I’m a good person. Just a bit foul-mouthed.

3. Did you ship any gifts to friends and family this year? If so, which one traveled the farthest? I haven’t yet because I slacked off on it, but I’ll be sending one to my fiancé’s brother and sister-in-law out in California.

4. Did you buy yourself a gift this year? Ugh. Every damn year, I find stuff for myself when I’m shopping, and I swear every damn year, I just find more and more.

5. What’s your favorite holiday-themed movie? The Muppet Christmas Carol.

6. Thinking of movies, Christmas is lucrative for Hollywood. Have you ever gone to a movie theater on Christmas Day? I don’t think I have! My cousins used to go every year, but I can’t remember if I ever did join. Usually, I didn’t feel like changing out of my jammies, although where we’re from, I could’ve just worn them to the theater.

7. Have you ever suffered an embarrassing moment at the company Christmas party? No. We do simpler parties during work hours, which I prefer.

8. What’s your favorite beverage in cold weather? Tea. It’s also my favorite warm-weather beverage.

9. Share a memory from last Christmas. My mom got me a small shredder, and it’s great and still serves me well.

Saturday 9: O, Holy Night

In the midst of wanting to catch up on these, I got sick and did nothing but sleep for a couple days. So here we go.
Saturday 9: O, Holy Night (1967)
Unfamiliar with this week’s tune? Hear it here.
1) This beloved carol takes its lyrics from a French poem. What else can we thank the French for? Their baking. I’d say all of their cooking in general, but I actually haven’t eaten much proper French food that wasn’t, like, dessert. But I’m sure it’s delicious.
2) How well do you know  “O, Holy Night?” Without looking up the lyrics, could you sing along with Ella? I could easily go through the first verse and probably be okay at the rest.
3) In order to get this record into stores in time for Christmas 1967, Ella had to record this in late July. So let’s reverse that. Now that it’s Christmastime, what do you miss most about summer? Long, sunny days and warm weather. Being able to wear little flat shoes–I hate being bundled up in boots at work all day when I’d much rather, like, be barefoot.
4) Sam is crazy about the open toed pumps she’ll be wearing to holiday parties, but that means she needs to get a pedi. Will you be at a salon between now and year-end? Well, I’m getting around to this so late that that year’s end has passed, but no. I have a weird thing about nails and I don’t think I’d like having them done.
5) Will you be consuming any egg nog this holiday season? And if you do, will it be spiked? I tried eggnog like once and did like it, but for whatever reason, it’s just not something I drink. But I’d probably go for a little if it was offered to me, spiked or otherwise.
6) Thinking of holiday cuisine, what’s your favorite Christmas cookie? It’s not a strictly Christmas cookie, but my grandma used to make these apricot cookies, and since she died several years ago, my aunt’s taken up making them and they’re pretty much guaranteed for Christmas.
7) Sam knows she will get a bottle of red wine from her boss, because that’s what he gives his staff every year. Is there a gift you can count on receiving? My mom the last few years has made an effort to get my brother and I stuff we need rather than getting us stuff that’ll just take up space in our small apartments, so whenever she asks what we want/need any given year, we can pretty much count on that. This year, it was a little scanner.
8) What one gift would you most like to receive this year? Do you think anyone will get it for you? There were some books I really wanted and actually mentioned to my mom as little things she could get when she asked, but I suspect she decided I have too many books as it is and skipped them. One of them was Carrie Fisher’s Princess Diarist, which no one got me, the bastards, so I went out and bought it myself like the next day. She died the day after that.
9) This time of year is big for charitable fundraising. Here’s your chance to plug a cause or organization that’s near and dear to you. I try to donate small amounts to a few charities throughout the year, and this year, after the extended family decided not to exchange gifts, my cousin Meri and I in particular talked a lot about making a bigger donation with the money we would’ve spent. I actually donated to my local NPR affiliate, WESA. I decided on them because reputable, accurate reporting is crucial these days, and NPR does it well. I posted a longer explanation over on Instagram.

Saturday 9: Snowbird

Saturday 9: Snowbird (1971)

Unfamiliar with this week’s tune? Hear it here.

1) In this song, Elvis wants the snowbird to fly away and take the snow back with her. Have you seen a measurable snowfall yet this season? A little bit.

2) Drivers in snowy climes are encouraged to keep salt, sand or kitty litter in the trunk because those items can help a car regain traction in the snow. Do you have an emergency kit in your car right now? If so, what’s in it? I have salt and a snow shovel in my trunk.

3) Back in 2007, North Dakota set the world record for the most snow angels made at one time (8,910). Do you enjoy playing in the snow? Nope. I hate being out in the cold at all.

4) Chionophobia is the fear of snow. Astraphobia is the fear of thunder and lightening. Lilapsophobia is the fear of tornadoes and hurricanes. Do you have to cope with any of these fears? Nope.

5) Elvis’ daughter Lisa Marie split her childhood between Memphis and Los Angeles, so she seldom saw snow. When she was a little girl, she was whisked her off to Denver in her father’s private plane so the two of them could spend an afternoon playing in the snow. If you could take off and spend the afternoon anywhere in the world, where would you go? A beach. Pretty much anywhere, as long as it’s warm.

6) At home and onstage, Elvis refused to wear jeans and only wore denim if a film role demanded it. This is because when he was young, classmates teased him for “dressing poor” in jeans and coveralls. What did you wear to class when you were in grammar school? Nothing too notable, really.

7) Elvis and President Jimmy Carter are distant relatives (the President is the sixth cousin of the King’s great grandfather). Your turn: Tell us about one of your more interesting relatives. I’m related to the owners of the Sheetz gas stations. They were started by my grandfather’s uncles.

8) In 1971, when Elvis released his recording of “Snowbird,” You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown was a hit on Broadway. Who is your favorite Peanuts character? I don’t know! Any my mom’s a huge Peanuts fan. I guess Snoopy, but I’ve been known to criticize his at times questionable behavior.

9) Random question: You receive a gift certificate from a gourmet food company that can be redeemed for one of these three things: 1 lb. of caviar, 5 lbs. of steak or a 10 lb., live lobster. Which would you choose? I’m a vegetarian who wouldn’t eat any of that, so I’d probably let my fiancé choose. My guess is he’d go for the steak.