Thursday, December 25, 2008

Boxing Day without Josh: A Time-Honored Tradition

As anyone who has ever owned a wall calendar knows, today is Boxing Day. This venerable holiday is near and dear to the heart of this blog's proprietor/protagonist. However, since 2006, Josh Grimmer has not partaken in any formal recognition of Boxing Day. We here at mousebed decided that today should be no different. And let's face it, who do you want discussing this holiday with you: Josh, or someone with a rich Canadian heritage? That's what we thought too. It's good to have a different perspective once in a while -- this is most definitely the only post ever written while the author was listening to country Christmas carols. Below is contributor John Cabral's second foray into the world of brutal honesty, gallows humor, and sad girl stories. But stop your fretting in California and Japan: It's still all about Josh.

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Each and every year on the morning of December 26th, I go to Persy's Place in Hyannis for breakfast with some of my closest friends. My meal always involves linguica or chourico, and cornbread. Why do I do these things?

It's part of the ritual.

If our annual Boxing Day tradition had a motto, that would be it. To understand the festivities established by founding fathers Will Bussiere, Josh Grimmer, and John Cabral, one must first understand the genesis of that saying.

When I was a senior in high school in 2003, I began spending absurdly large amounts of time in the Bussiere household. At the time, Will and his father had a running joke. Any time a trivial decision or behavior was called into question by Will's mother, Will's response would be "It's part of the ritual." The answer never made any real sense, nor was it ever intended to. It was simply a joke intended to bug his mother (highly effective).

I enjoyed this saying so much that I decided to start running with it myself. Will and I spent the remainder of our high school careers coming up with odd "rituals" involving things like sunflower seeds, Madden, Nantucket Nectars, Red Sox games, and being deathly afraid of finding prom dates. But here's the key thing to remember: once something was "part of the ritual," it was, in fact, part of the ritual. If you bought pizza flavored Combos before last Friday night's Sox game and they won, then you were doing it again this Friday - no questions asked. That's the way it was and you liked it! You loved it!

Fast forward to Thanksgiving night of my freshman year of college. I was home from UMass Dartmouth. Will was home from Providence College. Neither of these things were unusual; we were both home from college way, way too damn much that first year. But one thing was highly unusual: Josh was home from Bridgewater. In order to fully comprehend this post, my benevolent reader, you need to know one crucial piece of information: Josh hates spending time with his family. Come 7 PM, he felt the way I imagine many vegans feel on Thanksgiving night, and pleaded with Will and I to get him out of his house. What's open to 18 year olds on Thanksgiving on Cape Cod, you ask? The Pool Hall in South Yarmouth, that's what. We went and played pool - I even taught my less-cultured friends to play pills. And you know what? After that night, it was part of the ritual. The three of us went to the Pool Hall on Thanksgiving night every year until that Josh moved out to LA for a bunch of bullshit reasons like quality of life, love, living wage, happiness, and warmth. Way to ruin my fun, jackass.

Come Christmastime, our collective, newfound penchant for seat of our pants "traditions" held true. Today marks the Sixth Annual Boxing Day Breakfast at Persy's Place in Hyannis. The Breakfast is a synthesis of the quirks of Will and Josh; I was literally along for the ride when this began.

Will loves obscure holidays. There are three phrases I can guarantee you that guy has never said once in his life: "December 26th," "July 14th," and "June 17th." (The first person to post the name of each holiday in the comments will be the first-ever mousebed Reader of the Week. See? It's another example of a tradition we made up on the spot - the very theme of this post!)

Josh, on the other hand, apparently hates Christmas. You may recall him saying that he used to be "completely goddamn insufferable." At Christmastime, he was most certainly correct. There was once a time where you simply could not get this guy to say "Merry Christmas." Even the most earnest and heartfelt yuletide blessings offered to Josh would earn you the following snarky, wiseassed response: "And a Happy Jews Go to the Movies Day to you too!" Now, he probably still says this today, but at least now he's (probably) joking. Back in 2003, he appeared to be legitimately frosted by the notion that other people were experiencing any sort of seasonal joy while he was stuck in the Grimmer Estate for his first lengthy break from college.

Finally, there was one key element that has gone unexamined: for Christmas in 2003, Josh, Will, and I were all bombarded with gift cards redeemable at the Cape Cod Mall. Personally, I was pleased with this, as it offered me the opportunity to control what my gift would be: Madden 2004 for my shiny new Nintendo Gamecube. Josh, on the other hand, offered the following holiday cheer: "I haven't shaved in a week because I don't have any goddamn money for razor blades. I asked for some in my stocking, but (*whips out tag-shaped Best Buy card*) I guess I'll just have to shave with some of these gift cards (*gestures with card under neck as if shaving*)."

What do you get when you mix one guy who loves obscure holidays, one guy who hates Christmas so much he won't even call it by name, and three guys with an abnormal interest in getting up early to go shopping? You guessed it: The First Annual Boxing Day Breakfast at Persy's Place in Hyannis.

For the sake of recorded history, here are some tidbits from Boxing Days past:

  • In 2003, after breakfast and our gift card redemption spree, we retreated to the Grimmer Estate to play all the video games we had just bought, beginning with NBA Street 2. For those of you who have never had the pleasure, NBA Street is NBA Jam, except outdoors, plus players on steroids, minus rules, plus a background voice constantly pleading with you to box out. Now, I suck at most video games made after 1998 - you just don't top defeating Ganondorf and Lord Ganon consecutively to reunite the Triforce. At the time, however, I was in denial of this fact, and liked to blame the games and systems for my struggles. After Josh stuffed one of my shots, I said something like "AND THAT'S NOT A GOALTEND?!?" Josh and Will waited for me to pipe down, and then simultaneously laughed their asses off. It was probably the hardest the two of them have ever laughed at anything I've said, which would've been good if I wasn't 100% serious at the time. To this day, I maintain that the ball was above the cylinder and on its way down. I'm also available New Year's Eve.
  • In 2005, the three of us attempted to transform the successful breakfast into a daylong extravaganza because we wanted to pay proper reverence to the final installment of ABC'S Monday Night Football that night. The three of us actually went out to eat three separate times. Late in the afternoon, we all got sick of each other and wanted to take naps. Although the game was eventually fun, we all agreed that the daylong Boxing Day idea was best left as a one time experiment. This was also the first time we expanded the breakfast; Will's sister Ann came along with us.
  • In 2006, Josh was in LA, leaving only Will and I. It kinda sucked. We later called him to tell him as much. However, by pure coincidence, Adam Jurczyk also happened to be at Persy's that morning. When he was done eating, he joined us. He became part of the ritual.
  • Last year, invitations were extended to both Adam Jurczyk and Bryan Geiler. They both attended, and walk-in extrordinaire Aaron Ristino was warmly welcomed. It's a good thing those three showed up, because I had to leave early to go to work. I'm over it. Almost.
The breakfast will probably be over by the time you read this, but I sit in hope at press time. Will, Bryan, Adam, and I will be there. I'm not sure the four of us have been together for anything since last Boxing Day. I have to leave early again, but at least this time it will be to collect money, rather than to have to earn it.

If you live in the Hyannis area, and would like to attend a future Boxing Day Breakfast, we invite you to make a case for your worthiness in the comments. After all, Josh's seat will be available. If you come to the breakfast once, you'll always be welcome in the future. It's part of the ritual.

Friday, December 19, 2008

I'm having such a good time, I'm having a ball

Note: I am sick for the second consecutive week. I am taking this week half off and only giving the Mousebed reading public 750 or so words. Next week you can expect a much better entry, because it won’t be written by me. Sorry.

I failed out of college. I’m not proud; it’s just something that happened. I stopped going to classes so Bridgewater State College decided to not have me give them any more money. Have it your way, you ivory tower eggheads. I was more than willing to pay your salary to sit around, getting high and drinking shitty beer. Joke’s on you, man. The main reason I failed out of school – as well as the source of any enjoyment I had at college – was the fine brothers and sisters of Phi Pi Delta. Delta was sort of the outcast fraternity. We accepted people from all walks of life, which isn’t really standard operating procedure for frats. First of all, we were co-ed. Our membership was predominantly homosexual, we had both black and white members, and we were damn proud of our differences. We also prided ourselves on having the most rigorous pledge process.

During pledging, every fraternity’s pledges had to choreograph and perform a routine to a song that best described our pledging experience. Our class decided that we didn’t have to do any sort of prep until the last minute, a trait I have exhibited my entire life. By the way, this is being written ten minutes before midnight on Thursday, and I’m sure it shows. The night before the show, the four of us – myself and three girls, by the way – sat down and decided it was high time we figured out what song we were going to be doing. The obvious choice was anything by Queen: the flamboyance and bombast of Freddy Mercury certainly captured the vibe of Delta. After a little discussion, we settled on Don’t Stop Me Now, a song about “making a supersonic man” out of the listener. This was undoubtedly the song we needed. We quickly worked out a few steps and moved on to costumes. Being the only guy in the group, it was natural that I was selected to be our Freddy. We took an old pair of my roommate’s jeans and cut the legs off of them. They became less than short shorts, they became booty-cutters. I looked like a fat white Beyonce in them. The shorts completed an already ludicrous outfit of a wife beater, slicked back hair and a fake moustache made of felt and stuck to my face with actual, factual glue.

The night of the show, I donned my costume, and with some help from a trusted friend taped my shorts in such a way that my scrotum was securely in place. Every fraternity and sorority showed up to this event; there were easily 250 people in the room at the start of the night. Our pledge class was to go up last, so we got to watch everyone else get up and make total asses of themselves on account of their lack of preparation. My pledge sisters and I confidently nodded our heads backstage, indicating that we had this in the bag. We strode onstage, ignoring the giggles regarding my costume. The music started and we started dancing our asses off, spinning, gyrating and undulating in time with the beat and in sync with each other. There were kicks, jazz hands, and many other moves made popular by the Juul Haalmeyer Dancers. Near the end of the song, I took center stage and got the biggest applause of the night. When we went backstage, I found out that my pants had been stolen by my roommate and one of his friends, leaving me to run around with my ass hanging out on an October night in Massachusetts. Fantastic.

Once I found my pants and made it back to the dorm, I was greeted by friends and well-wishers, all of whom informed me – in stereo – that everyone in the room had gotten a good long look at my balls during the show. That certainly explains the applause. After getting dressed, we found out that our performance – hands down the best of the night – was given fourth fucking place. Life’s a goddamned popularity contest. The only good thing to come out of this was an icebreaker at every frat party I attended for the rest of my life. It went a little like this:

[Shouting]
- Hey, what frat are you in?
- I’m in Delta!
- No shit? When did you pledge?
- Fall of ’04!
- No fucking way! I remember your balls! That was awesome!

This took place three or four times a week for over a year - regardless of the gender of the person asking - and always ended with me getting free beer. Nothing beats the life of a celebrity.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Nannarama, the Finale

Last week, in the Mousebed…

After getting home from the wake, I talked to my wife for a while before going to bed. Friday morning the funeral home was going to be open for an hour in order to allow people to pay their last respects before the casket was going to be permanently closed, after which would be the funeral. My mom decided that she needed to see her grandmother one last time, but my dad and brothers decided that they’d rather sleep, and I decided that was a good idea as well.

We drove up to Carver and tried to find the church. This, we thought, would be quite simple. We were told that the church would be in the parking lot directly adjacent to the funeral home. When we got there, we found a parking lot surrounded by many things that weren’t a church. There was a 7-11, a place to learn Tae Kwan Do, a hair salon and a dry cleaner. You may have noticed a lack of the word “church” anywhere on that list. That’s because there wasn’t a church, but there was a Place Where People Worship God. Perhaps it’s because I was raised Catholic in New England, but whenever I think of churches, I think of a wood and brick building built over a century ago with no carpets and a steeple. This preconception was rocked when I started attending Mormon services, as every LDS church I’ve ever attended has carpet, both heat and air conditioning, and was made of cinder blocks. Three of them have had indoor basketball courts. Regardless, this could not have prepared me for the weird Place Where People Worship God in which the funeral service was to be held. This particular PWPWG was built inside of a portion of a strip mall. Apparently, the congregation used to have a real church, but the Catholic Church in Massachusetts is in such dire straits that they couldn’t afford the land anymore so they deconsecrated the building and moved into the strip mall. Instead of pews, it had folding chairs tethered to each other with zip-ties. Instead of an altar, it had a platform made of 2x4s and plywood. Instead of windows it had wooden facades painted to look like stained glass windows.

One thing this PWPWG did have was a priest. He informed my brothers that they had volunteered as altar servers for the funeral. This was not something they had actually done, and they told the priest that they were not going to participate in his bullshit. I don’t think they actually used those words, but that was the tone they used. Apparently the night before, my mother had told the priest that Tommy and Billy had a deep, burning desire to participate in the funeral service, just assuming that they’d want to. If they had been presented with the idea as an option, as opposed to a requirement, they might even have done it. However, since it was something our mother wanted them to do they dismissed it out of hand. The priest took one look at me and told me that my mother told him that I had converted to Judaism, so I was also ineligible to be of service. I’m glad my mom thinks I’m a Jew.

The funeral procession made the long trek from the funeral home next door with my mom’s car leading the way. Well, after the hearse, of course. Again, in death Nan was to be used as an opportunity for my mom to try and one-up her sisters. After the initial altar boy confusion, the ceremony went off without much of a hitch. My aunt Lynn delivered the eulogy, which, it seemed to me, came off as a little passive-aggressive. There were a lot of stories about Nan irritating the fuck out of the people around her. A lot of stories that involved “Are you going out dressed like that?” and “You’ve put on weight.” This will always be my lasting memory of Nan. This will also be the only memory of Nan that the seven strangers who were attending the 9am mass and decided to stick around for the funeral will ever have. Harold and Maude is one of my all time favorite movies, but the people who hang out at funerals are still fucking weird. My other memory of Nan will be when she asked my wife if she was Mexican.

When the funeral ended, we drove, procession-style, to the cemetery. When we got there, my brothers and some of Nan’s extended family carried the casket to the gravesite. The casket was, much like at the funeral home and PWPWG, flanked with large floral arrangements. The priest blessed the ground and the casket and sprayed everything down with a turkey baster full of holy water. It was really sad. Not the funeral, the turkey baster. After the last rites, the heretofore silent funeral director spoke:

“And so concludes the funeral of Sophie Lucie-ah. You-ah loss will be mou-ahn-ed. The current time is 12:30. At 1:00 in the aftah-noon they-ah will be a brunch at the Heaaaaath and Kettle in Cah-vah ovah on Fou-ath Street. I am sorry fo-ah you-ah loss.”

After the shock of such a small woman making so much noise in a cemetery, everyone mulled around for a few minutes, waiting for my mom to leave. She was, after all, the first person in the funeral procession, so she was blocking the exit for everyone else. After repeatedly refusing directions from my aunt Pat, my mom got into her car and started to drive off. About three feet into her journey she stopped, put her car in park and got out. She ran over to the gravesite and took the flowers that she had bought off of the casket and put them in the trunk of her car, in front of God and everyone. The brunch was uneventful, mostly because my cereal-bar-pilfering aunt Karen wasn’t present. She wasn’t at the funeral either. When my mom called her to ask why, Karen said she just slept through it because she needed to spend more time with her cats. Okay, I made that up. She just slept through it for no good reason. I’m sure her cats did appreciate the bonding time, though.

Saturday came and went without incident. I watched some football and hockey with my family, which was nice. I never get to watch hockey in LA because the team out here sucks and nobody cares about them. My dad decided to send me to the mall once again with my brothers and a pocketful of cash, mostly to get me to spend more time with them. I’d gladly do it for free, but I’d even gladderly do it for money. Going back to the mall sucks for me because my goal, like that of so many right-thinking adults, is to never see 99% of the people I knew in high school again. The mall just does not allow for this to happen, sadly. I got out unscathed, but I couldn’t enjoy my time there because I had to keep my head on a swivel in case I was in danger of being recognized. While we were out of the house, my mother took the flowers from her grandmother’s grave and brought them down to my family’s church and asked that Sunday morning’s mass be dedicated to her memory. Naturally, after going through all this work she didn’t show up at church the next morning. Terrific work.

Since my dad wanted a little time to himself on Sunday to work and watch football, he had my mom drive me back to the airport. The last time I got a ride from my mom was the three hour hellride from the airport in Providence to my parents’ house, so I was naturally not looking forward to this trip. This was the day after I got married, and my wife was treated to the full Kathy Grimmer Experience. True to form, this trip was a singularly miserable experience, especially with the extra 45 minutes we had to sit in traffic as a result of a gasoline truck tipping over on the highway earlier that day, cutting off traffic to the airport. Fanfuckingtastic. I made it home ten or so hours later to find that my cat had forgotten who I was and was spooked by me being around.

*****

My life isn’t very interesting. This all I’ve ever wanted. I live in a nice, if a little small, apartment. I have a beautiful wife and an even prettier cat. I take the bus to work and back every day, sometimes I go to the supermarket and sometimes I go out for pizza or Mexican food with my wife. All I want is to do this every day with very little variance for the rest of my life and die. When I’m dead, I don’t want anyone to have to travel to come see me. I’ll be dead, what the fuck do I care if you’re in a PWPWG sitting next to the weird Zen fountain and crying? I just want to be left alone, and in death I want to leave everyone else alone. If you’re around when I die, please be sure to donate my body to the nearest scientific research center and inform the proper authorities.