Today is the sixth anniversary of Hellish Holidays. This begins our sixth season of accepting the reality that is Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's Eve, Valentine's Day and more. We wish you holidays that are not the least bit hellish - but encourage you to embrace your memories of those that were.
The day after Thanksgiving - or more accurately, later that night - everyone piles into the hybrid SUV with the now-defunct election bumper sticker and heads to the mall for the Black Friday sales. For many people, post-holiday shopping is more important than the holiday itself. Turkey? Feh, not interested. They're too busy scrolling through the Black Friday ads and making a plan of attack for 5:00 a.m.
I am not one of these people. While I love a bargain, I do not love a bargain more than I hate being with other people. Seriously, I run a website called "Hellish Holidays" - do I sound like someone with unconditional love for her fellow man? Of course not. I am someone who prefers shopping online and going to the grocery store mid-morning. I live for the reverse commute (not that such a thing exists any more in Los Angeles) and sitting next to an empty seat on an airplane (something else that doesn't exist any more).
But there is one post-holiday sale I cannot resist, and it is the November 1 candy extravaganza. On Halloween, while my son parcels out Fun Size whatever-I-had-a-coupon-fors, I scan the ad circulars of the local chain drugstores and supermarkets. I prioritize and plan. And the morning of November 1, I set my alarm and go. If I found a line outside of CVS, I would wait in it. Because through that automatic door is candy. And not just any candy - half-price candy! The most delicious kind of candy you can buy!
There aren't many kinds of candy I don't like. Over the years I have even learned to love the Almond Joy bar, and I'm not crazy about coconut or almonds. It could be because the song from my youth ("Almond Joy's got nuts - Mounds don't") still rings in my head the way Shakespeare and Emily Dickinson never could.
Naturally I have my favorites - black licorice All-Sorts (no one ever gives that), Butterfingers, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. But really, I'll eat anything that's 100 calories a bite. I feel about candy the way Jerry Seinfeld did when he was a kid. Apparently he got over it. But I didn't.
Too lazy, cheap, disorganized or disinterested to have your Halloween costume together? Don't be too hard on yourself - we've all been there! If you have a color printer, click here to solve your procrastinating problem. Enjoy!
According to the Huffington Post, a "dazzling Halloween lights show" in Riverside, California has been shut down by the local Homeowners Assn. Hard to blame those who live within 100 decibels...or 1,000 lumens...or however you want to measure the noise and light pollution. The 2,000 visitors can't have been fun to navigate around either!
In response to having their stores used as showrooms by consumers
who then by online for less, brick-and-mortar retailers arefighting back.
will match online prices at Amazon, Wal-Mart, Best Buy and Toys R Us. The
program will run between November 1 and December 16.
Best Buy will
price-match 20 online retailers this holiday season, as well as offering free
shipping on items not available in stores. The new policy, likely to go into
effect starting Sunday, November 4, will not be in effect the week of
Black Friday through Cyber Monday. A more critical caveat: Best Buy customer
service representatives are permitted to honor the policy at their discretion.
Get ready for some
hellish tales. Price-matching can be awkward, and staff training critical.
Let's hope Target and Best Buy are holding classes now!
What's the best Halloween costume for a woman to wear? Well, that depends. How sexy do you want to be? No, you're not thinking hot enough. How about asking this guy for some guidance?
Dick's Inappropriate Halloween Costume Shop
Don't you hate all those people who try to be edgy and offensive by wearing inappropriate costumes each Halloween? You know, that guy who went as Osama Bin Laden in 2001? Here's a costume shop for them!
Halloween Costume Surgery
A more permanent approach to the annual dilemma of what to wear for Halloween.
Halloween Costumes: 60s Vs. 80s
Two women with no ego problems debate the best era for Halloween costume development.
Halloween Costume Advice
A self-proclaimed Halloween expert relives some memories and offers unnecessary advice.
In Los Angeles you can celebrate Halloween all year round. There's the fabulous Hollywood Forever cemetery - home to both Johnny and Dee Dee Ramone, Rudolph Valentino, Fay Wray and "Alfalfa" from the Our Gang comedies - which is hosting Ozomatli on Dia de los Muertos! There are plenty of other spooky spots, too: Check out this custom-designed tour.
Let's hope when we see the word "doorbusters" it doesn't actually mean Black Friday crowds will actually be breaking down the doors to get inside. But it wouldn't be the first time Black Friday caused in-store breakage.
Worth noting: Harbor Freight is letting their Inside Track Club members ($30/yr for membership) enter the store a full hour before regular customers (6am vs. 7am). Hope this does not become a trend among other stores!
It's the most wonderful time of the year: no holidays yet! Nice to know that I'm not alone in thinking Thanksgiving can be hellish. According to Christina Applegate on SNL, here are things to be happy about: "No decorations, no cards, no weird family tension. And not every single thing tastes like pumpkin." Sigh. It's bliss time!
Last night, I went to The Moth to tell a story with the theme "Duped." My name didn't get picked from the hat, so I couldn't share my tale with the crowd at Zanzibar in Santa Monica. I share it here instead.
In the summer of 1983, I worked in New York at Billboard covering MTV in its heyday. Back then, MTV held amazing contests – they actually gave away a little pink house to promote John Mellencamp! Houses were cheaper then, but still…a house! We’re talking BIG.
MTV had a corporate PR person I dealt with all the time – I’ll call her Cheryl. Cheryl invited me to go along on the Police Party Plane. In this contest, a winner got to take 25 friends on a private plane – with an MTV veejay – to see the Police anywhere in North America and meet the band. They advertised it as a party in the sky, better than first class. On the plane, they would watch the new movie National Lampoon’s Vacation – and they’d all go home with a Colecovision video game system.
The contest winner was an engineer at the CBS affiliate in Philadelphia. He was married, around 30. He chose to see the Police at a festival in Montreal that also featured Talking Heads, English Beat and Peter Tosh.
The plan was that VJ Martha Quinn, some MTV executives including Cheryl, someone from the Police’s management office, a couple others and I would go to Philly in two limos to join the winners on their flight to Montreal. None of us were paying attention – and apparently neither were the drivers – because at one point someone looked out the window and noticed we were well into Delaware. We got off at a rest stop, where Martha Quinn was mobbed at the Burger King. The drivers got new directions. It turned out we were about 100 miles off course.
We got to the airfield more than three hours after the contest “winner,” who had been trapped on the plane with his 25 friends the entire time, unfortunately without any food other than pretzels, but with a full bar. They were all drunk, and they were all pissed at having to wait for us. Apparently an MTV lawyer was afraid that if they took off without a veejay, the guy might sue for not getting the full value of his prize. So they were stuck until we got there, and that meant the winner missed a big chunk of the festival that was his prize.
It was a short and unpleasant flight to Montreal. Sure, we were all given cool jackets merging the MTV and Police Synchronicity logos, and there was a huge round bed that slept about five, with a giant seatbelt, but otherwise there wasn’t much to enjoy. I interviewed the winner, who complained that he had to pay a fortune in taxes for the value of the prize: renting and staffing a plane, concert tickets, the movie, 26 Colecovisions…it all added up. His friends had chipped in, spending hundreds of dollars apiece on, so far, just a lot of waiting around for a bunch of unnecessary strangers. No offense taken – I’d have been a raving lunatic in his position.
When we landed we were herded into a bus and taken to Montreal’s Olympic stadium. We’d missed two out of the four acts, and were rushed past the band with no time for pleasantries. When we got to our seats, they were…crappy. I mean, there aren’t a lot of good seats in a stadium, but these were pretty damn far away from the stage. To make matters worse, MTV had put its executives and guests right IN FRONT of the winner’s group. It was like one more slap in their faces. Some of us decided to go the concession to get some food, but guess what – they didn’t accept American dollars or credit cards!
While Talking Heads played some Tom Tom Club material that I never felt was their best work, the winner and his wife, who were sitting directly behind me, started fighting about what a waste of time and money this was, how they’d been duped by MTV. It escalated, until she said “Go fuck yourself,” and he responded, “If I could do that, I wouldn’t have had to marry you!” Silence fell over our group.
The Police put on a great show in those days, but honestly, I don’t remember any of it. In part that’s because – believe it or not – we had to leave early to get back to the plane! Yes, we missed the end just like we had the beginning. I think Cheryl was afraid we’d get stuck in the crowd if we stayed to the end. We trudged to the bus during the encore, not even objecting at this point, and back to the airport, where the private airfield was, yes, locked. We ended up waiting more than an hour in the bus, behind a chain link fence, while Cheryl argued with somebody. Let’s just say no one suggested singing a few songs. By the time we got on the plane, it was probably 2AM.
The flight back was much longer than the flight there. Why? Because the MTV lawyer insisted National Lampoon’s Vacation be shown in its entirety, to avoid a potential lawsuit. We circled the airport for an hour, Chevy Chase occasionally waking us up. Just to make the night complete, we were harassed by Philadelphia Customs agents suspicious of a private plane coming in from a rock festival in the middle of the night. I can still see the prison matron-type taking Cheryl's mascara apart looking for drugs.
I got home in time to change clothes and turn around to go out again to work, where my phone was ringing as I got to my cubicle. It was Cheryl, begging me not to write anything, or even tell anyone else what had happened. She promised to reward me with another trip if I kept quiet. I was immediately reminded of that W.C. Fields joke where first prize is a week in Philadelphia and second prize is two weeks in Philadelphia. I said another trip wasn’t necessary - really! And I never did tell or write the story – until now.
Happy Valentine's Day! Hope yours wasn't too hellish. I did something different tonight: Went to a Moth "Story Slam" and told a "Love Hurts" story. (Yes, I have hellish tales in multiple categories.)
I had to go first and I came in second - not bad for a storytelling virgin. It was exhilarating, except that even now, almost three hours after I spoke, I still feel like throwing up. Public speaking doesn't scare me, but it does sort of make me sick.
Without further ado, here is my story.
In 2007 my marriage of 19 years ended and I had to confront the five stages of divorce. I’ve made it through the first four:
Denial Anger Bargaining and Depression
I think of this as a sort of Rip Van Winklevoss period – that’s where you wake up to find that someone shockingly young has stolen something valuable from you. You do get compensated, but somehow, no matter how much you get, it never feels like enough.
And now I’m in the fifth stage, dating. I’ve adjusted to the differences between dating in the ‘80s – the last time I was single – and dating now. They seem mostly related to hair removal and dating technology. I’ve learned how to write a compelling online dating profile. What I haven’t quite figured out yet is how to read between the lines of others’ profiles. I specialize in the unemployed masquerading as the high achiever, the obese masquerading as the “height-weight proportional,” the alcoholic masquerading as the social drinker, the married masquerading as the single.
I’ve done a lot of dating since my separation, the vast majority what I call one and dones, because once is definitely enough. But even given the low bar, only one gets the distinction of being the worst of the worst.
It happened in Laguna Beach in the summer of 2009 where a friend and I were spending the weekend. I was pretty discouraged by dating in LA at that point, so I figured I’d give the OC a try. I went on OK Cupid and hit it off with Mark, whose picture showed him with a golden retriever – and a baseball cap, to indicate he was bald. He threw me a little when he said we looked like we might be cousins and asked about my ethnic background. I told him my ancestry was English, German, Irish and Italian; he was full-blooded Scottish. And so, potential incest off the table, we scheduled coffee, at a little bakery across PCH from my hotel.
We met at about noon. His golden retriever looked just like her picture, but I can’t say the same for Mark. Yes, he was wearing a baseball cap. But his face had three or four little bandages; he said he’d just had some “things” removed. But I didn’t care - it’s not so much about looks for me. It’s the conversation I was interested in.
After some small talk about the dog and Laguna and Michael Jackson’s recent demise, he started telling me about himself. He was a retired foot surgeon. He lived on a golf course in a gated community just south of Laguna and had sold his practice just before the recession hit. He was quite smug about it: his timing had been great and now he didn’t have to deal with anyone unless they could make it past his gates.
It was clear that Mark and I, a devoted Democrat, were not soulmates. Hell, I liked his dog more than I liked him. Even asleep under the table she had more personality. I was listening politely and plotting my escape when this came out of his mouth: “To quote Hitler, we used to have a Jewish problem, now we have a Muslim problem.”
I’d like to tell you that I leapt to my feet, threw coffee at his bandaged face and yelled, “You’re a facist asshole!” before fleeing down PCH. But I didn’t. I just sat there, stunned, then angry – yet still polite. It took at least five minutes before I could stammer out something about how I had to get back to the hotel, and left, his original question about my ethnicity replaying in my head.
I called my friend as I walked back to the hotel. I told her I was starving and needed food and especially a drink, and that she wouldn’t believe what had just happened. She promised we would start drinking as soon as I got there, and we hung up.
I got to the crosswalk leading directly to the hotel, checked for cars and stepped out. I almost made it to the double-yellow line when suddenly an impatient driver whipped around a waiting car and hit me. I don’t remember the impact, but I vividly remember the lifeguards swarming around me once I came to. Someone told me there were nine of them. They asked me if I knew what day it was, and I did; if I knew my name, and I did. Then they asked me if I knew who the president was. I actually yelled, “Yes! Barack Obama! I have his sticker on my phone!” I wanted those OC-ers to know I wasn’t one of them. They were obviously trying to kill me, all those lifeguards aside.
After a trip to the ER and the kind of tests that might have saved Natasha Richardson, I spent some time limping and in pain, but I never complained. As bad as I felt, at least I got out of Laguna, and I never had to see Mark again.
After almost five years of dating, I’ve reached the real final Kubler-Ross grieving stage, acceptance. At my age, being picky – in other words, holding out for someone honest and self-supporting and not racist – means I might die alone, and I accept that. Just please don’t let it be in Orange County.
I have a dear friend who is a qi gong master and a devotee of Chinese Astrology. She informs me that one's Chinese astrological sign is not just an animal (such as today's New Year of the Dragon) but also an element: fire, water, etc.
I looked into it and learned that I was born in the year of the Rooster and that my element is Fire. How hellish is it that my astrological sign is a burning cock!