Monday, December 31, 2007

All is quiet on New Year's Eve

It's the eve of the New Year already, and what better way to ring in the last few hours before the new year (this time without capital letters) than by completing my stupid 3-5-3 streak on this blog! Hold on to your heads amigos, this post's shaping up to be a real doozy. I'm thinking about re-thinking what I'm doing here at The Republic in 2008. I created this blog in order to keep in touch with family while I was in college, and to have a reason to make myself write every now and then. Not that I have any aspirations as a writer, keep in mind, but I do enjoy doing it and I thought it'd be good to have an excuse to write something every now and then that wasn't a paper. I still want to have the outlet for the written by-product of whatever it is that my mind does, but I should probably try to give myself something to write about. I guess I just feel very fortunate that both of you read this thing every now and then, and that I owe it to you to give you the best output possible. I think I'll also alter the colour scheme or what-not again, because that's easier, but I really do want to write better than I am right (write?) now. Have I babbled enough? Good. Now's when I really get the hamsters cooking in hollandaise with garlic, not to eat, mind you, but to use as bait for when I finally get that tiger trap put together. If there's one thing a tiger can't resist, it's navigating his web browser away from this blog whilst eating hamster-in-hollandaise-flavored potato chips, which you can only get in certain countries, even thought they're made right here in Detroit at Frito Lay. What? Why? Who? Forget all of those silly questions, and then ask yourself if it's really time (When?) to stop hitting me with that inflated latex glove for no apparent reason. Sigh. Happy New Year, Republic of D.Cous. readers!

Friday, December 28, 2007


Merry Christmas. I still feel somewhat ecstatic every time I say that, so I apologize if it's gotten on your nerves by now. The festivities have mostly wound down, though I still have one family Christmas party and whatever I end up doing for New Year's coming up, which admittedly may be nothing. Lindsey and I managed to attend both of our families' parties and visit with siblings and friends in from out of town over the past few days. I'm extremely grateful that our families live only a short distance apart, and that we didn't have to choose between either seeing my family or hers. I received some fun gifts, I think none that I shan't enjoy using greatly. I had no figgy pudding whatsoever, and I still have no idea what it's like, but there were ample cups of good cheer enjoyed, to say nothing of the other assorted goodies with which I've been fattening myself for the slaughter of late. I couldn't help but think, when Christmas day was upon us, that I wasn't ready. I had the superficial things out of the way, I thought, but notwithstanding that we celebrate it every year, the coming of the Savior among us seems significant enough to me that the celebration of such an event should involve a great deal more spiritual reflection than I've ever put into it. Still, when I awoke shortly after the sun on Christmas morning, no longer because of the anticipation of new toys and good food, but because of that nefarious device which I daily inflict upon myself for that express purpose, I was struck with a remarkable feeling of joy. I didn't feel that the world was suddenly peaceful, or that my life would suddenly sort out all of its own problems, nor did I feel as if the spirit of Christmas had somehow transformed me into a better version of myself. What struck me, I think, was the realization that behind the silly lights and gifts and slightly less silly talk and songs about peace on earth and goodwill towards men, we have a very real reason to be filled with unimaginable joy in the person of Jesus. It suddenly felt to me as if all of the silly things were not just some tradition which we drag out every year for lack of anything better to do when the weather gets cold, they are our imperfect attempts at celebrating something truly beyond our imagination in its greatness. I simultaneously felt sad for all of the people (often including myself) who wish our grocery store cashiers Merry Christmas and buy gifts for our loved ones just for the sake of doing so. I know I'm not saying anything worth reading here, but sometimes I have to step back and remember that for all of my skepticism about this or that insignificant thing, I truly believe not only that the most spectacular miracle imaginable could happen, but that it has. Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Snow Snow Snow Snow!

Hello friends! Last weekend was an eventful one here in the Republic, and one which brought our first substantial snowfall of the year. I started this post a few days ago, so I may as well finish it now:

On Friday evening I attended (with various representatives of Lindsey's family) Lindsey's youngest brother's school Christmas pageant. Lindsey insisted on arriving some forty minutes early, in order to be sure of getting seats and parking. Things were already hectic when we arrived, but Lindsey knew the bouncer from college, and so he got us in without having to wait in line or pay the exorbitant cover charge. No, wait. That didn't happen. As you may expect, the parking lot and gymnasium were as yet mostly empty. Mr. Mish had already staked out the best filming location with his tripod and new video camera, and saved us some seats right near the nuns in the fourth row. I suppressed as best I could the rumblings of my stomache, greedily eying the saran wrap-covered refreshments, to be served after the programme. In my haste to be forty minutes early I had neglected to nourish myself, and was now haunted by the pangs of a most awful regret for having done so. About half an hour later the rest of the parental press corps arrived, and things got rolling only a few minutes behind schedule, which is quite impressive considering that the cast is entirely made up of elementary schoolers in cute costumes. "That one in the star costume is my granddaughter," the nice lady next to me said. "How cute," I said. "The one in the crown is my... um... future brother in law? Yeah." About halfway through saying so, it occurred to me that that might sound odd. The pageant was incredibly cute and funny, and I don't think I have ever in my life seen so many cameras. Dawheeze (yes, that is her real name) has a much better account of the whole thing here. I shall only mention that first through third graders performing Handel's "Unto Us A Child Is Born," dressed as various characters of the Nativity, is very funny.

Saturday late afternoon I went out to get a tree with my sister Reenie and my brother Brendan, and Brendan's son Geno. The tree farm had of course already been well visited by this time, and the pickings were slim (particularly for the particular pickers among us), but in the end I think we managed to get two nice trees, though I haven't seen Brendan's in decorated form. Saturday evening Linds and I went to a Christmas party hosted by some friends, which they have every year and which is always a lot of fun. I was amused that even at a non-family party, five of the other attendees, not including my fiancee, are in my immediate family. Big families are fun. The snow was coming down hard as I drove home from the party, but for some reason I didn't think to park my car any differently when I got home, which turned out later to be a mistake.

Sunday morning I awoke to Maureen knocking on my door suggesting that I leave for mass with her, since there was no reason for us both to hazard the weather in separate cars. I hurriedly prepared myself and rushed out the door to join my sister, already in the car. The street had been ploughed at some point during the night, but it had since snowed a few more inches. For those of you who inhabit warmer climes than ours, to plough the road means to use a large vehicle with something like a shovel on the front of it to take all of the snow off of the surface of the road, and put it on my car. Good thing I was carpooling. Given the state of the roads, we were probably going to be late, if we got there at all. Unfortunately, we didn't even get out of our own driveway in under ten minutes, and without the help of two neighbors. At that point it was decided that we were not going to make it to mass at all, so instead we went to the hardware store to get another snow shovel, and then returned to shovel out the driveway, and possibly to find my car. Kara, our other housemate, was there when we got back (she had managed to escape the driveway earlier), and explained to us that all masses had been canceled on account of weather in any case, so it was just as well that we didn't make it. We spent the rest of the afternoon shoveling the snow (we managed to recover my car), and then decorating the Christmas tree, which turned out to be more of an endeavour than I had expected it to be, cheifly because Reens insisted upon having every twig of every branch thoroughly wrapped with lights. In her defense, it looks much better than it would had I been left to my own devices.

While decorating the tree we put on a few Christmas CDs, one of which was Bing Crosby's Complete Christmas Recordings. It really was complete, containing a few different versions of "White Christmas," and no fewer than four versions of "Silent Night." What struck me about the CD, aside from the mostly great music (I still don't care for "Sleigh Ride" or "Here Comes Santa Clause"), was that there was probably a half-dozen or so Christmas songs on there that I'd never heard before. These weren't bootlegs or obscure carols in Polish or anything like that, these were-high quality recordings of accessible, radio-friendly pop tunes about sleigh rides and Saint Nick and makin' out under the mistletoe by none other than Buh-ba-buh-ba Bing Freaking Crosby. Given that modern radio's current Hallyday repertoire consists of 2,897,992 versions of roughly twelve songs (including Crosby's hit version of Irving Berlin's "White Christmas"), you'd think folks would be all a-buh-buh-buh-bout it, if you know what I mean. Weird.

In the early evening I set out in my newly-excavated automobile towards my parents' place, intending to relax and visit with my younger siblings over a cup of hot chocolate. The roads were still pretty bad, but I sort of like them that way. What I don't like, as I believe I've mentioned before, is other drivers when the roads are sort of bad. With this in mind, I opted to take the road less traveled by to my folks' place, which, interestingly enough, turned out to make at least something of a difference. I was rolling down Bemis Road at what I thought would be about the right speed to maintain control of the car and still push through the snow and up the hills, when I noticed up ahead of me what I think was a light green Ford Edge, barreling down the middle of the road. "It's ok," I thought. "There's plenty of road for both of us if we just slow down a little and stick to the sides of the roadway," which is what I did and he did not. He kept right on cruising down the middle of the road as if I did not exist at all, leaving me a mere 1/3 of the road and taking 2/3 for himself. "Lord, please help this guy not to hit me," I managed to mutter. My prayers can often be rather selfish. His portion of the road turned out to be more than he needed and mine turned out to be less than I needed, and in the end I had to veer off into the ditch to avoid collision, at which point he went about his merry way, and I got out my phone to call for help. I had to laugh a little, my prayer had been answered. Fortunately, before the requested help could arrive, unrequested help in the form of a very nice guy named Randy stopped and offered to tow me out of the ditch with his tow strap and 4x4 truck. How could I refuse? I dug enough of the snow out from underneath my car to find someplace to attach the hook, and a few moments later I was back on the road. After thanking Randy for his help and wishing him a merry Christmas, I made it the rest of the way to my folks' place with no trouble.

That's all for now, friend. If I write any longer, Laura will wonder why I keep joshing her about long posts. Only five days until Christmas!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

And December Rolls Onwards

Well, by Jingo! If it isn't the Twelfth of the month already! Time does fly. It's been freezing rain on and off (and on again) for the past week here in Michigan, leaving the world a startlingly unpicturesque melange of mud and ice, with a generous helping of road salt everywhere there are roads to be salted (which, as you know, is everywhere around here). On Sunday I took an afternoon drive down to Hillsdale to see my friend Matthew's voice recital, which was awesome. On the way down there though I was caught for some time almost directly behind a salt truck, on a section of highway which afforded no passing zones for several miles. The poor Cousmobile was both forced to travel at speeds so slow as to be unsafe to the sanity of its driver, and was subjected to a horrible, corrosive barrage of the hateful sodium. It actually made me glad for the freezing rain coming down all the way back, cleansing my poor car of the disgusting gray film in which it had been enveloped. Secretly, I sort of enjoy bad road conditions, because they give driving anywhere a sense of adventure, and demand more attention of the driver. I think I would enjoy it more if there were no other drivers on the road to worry about. Yes, true to human nature, I trust other peoples' driving abilities far less than I trust my own. I've taken two more cracks at Christmas shopping since posting last, not counting one or two of the online variety, and have reached two useful conclusions:
1. Christmas shopping isn't that bad, when you know exactly what you're looking for and where to find it (though I can think of one notable exception which I cannot discuss here at this time). All you really have to put up with is the bad music, and the fact that you're in a store (as a general rule, I'm very uncomfortable in stores).
2. Christmas shopping takes forever when you don't know exactly what you're looking for and/or where to find it.
I also discovered that while I prefer shopping alone for myself, Christmas shopping is far more pleasant with company, and that I am so lazy that standing and walking around in stores for as little as two hours makes me very tired. The good news is that I'm done with it all. Being an unmarried (at the moment) man, this means that I'm done with any and all Christmas-related stress. I don't have to host a big get-together or bake cookies for a hundred children or put up with relatives I don't like or any of those other things that some people (women) seem to find stressful about the Hallydays. I just show up at someone else's house, eat someone else's food, and put up with someone else's crazy relatives. Actually, that's a lie. I put up with my own crazy relatives. You can't outsource everything. That said, I actually get along pretty well with my family, so I'm probably the one they have to pretend to like. Maybe I'm easy to fool.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

We Wish You A Happy Holiday, We Wish You A Happy Holiday, We Wish You A Happy Holiday, and A Happy New Year!

It's The People's Republic of D.Cous.'s multicultural Hallyday Season post! We here at the Republic would like to start out by wishing all of you the very best this Hallyday season. We would also like to point out, though it's as plain as the nose on your face (or the very big one on his), that Johnny Hallyday is awesome. It turns out that at least half of the Hallyday lights that I put up at the office (see the last post) don't work after all (though I swear I checked them), so I'll have to take them down and replace them at some point. Oh well. I've actually managed to get some of my Hallyday shopping done early this year, which is unusual enough for me that when I mentioned it to my friend Jonathan, he remarked "is it December 23rd already?" I was present and sort of participated in Lindsey's family's tree decoration last weekend, I think for the third year in a row. I only "sort of" participated because each member of La Famille Mish has their own designated ornaments to hang (and, if I'm not mistaken, designated parts of the tree to decorate), so I mostly sat around and tried out the family's new video camera, getting candid footage of tree decoration and a few property disputes over prime tree space that nearly developed into Wild West-era range wars, among other traditional Hallyday activities. Suffice to say, I loved it. I'm also looking forward to tree decorating at my folks' place when they get their tree (provided that I get invited, which is a toss-up in my family), which I'm sure will be a different affair altogether. It will probably start with us going through the huge box of Hallyday lights only to discover that (and this is my official prediction, a 5% improvement since last year) 15% work. We'll then spend at least half an hour cannibalizing bulbs from one string of lights in order to augment the other, and another ten minutes or so untangling lights (it's always the strand that works which is most tangled). After wrapping the two strands of working lights around our Hallyday tree, we'll open up the giant box o' ornaments, and begin searching for ornaments that are neither broken, nor ugly. Finding few that fit these criteria, we'll broaden them a bit, probably whilst making some comments about how we should get Mama and Papa some new Hallyday ornaments one of these days. If it goes anything like previous years, roughly zero ornaments and zero ornamentation zones on the tree will posses any particular sentimental value to anyone, and people will hang ornaments based roughly on their height (which is getting more difficult as Owen and Fiona grow up, approaching the maximum possible height in my family of 5'6"), with a ladder thrown in there to make sure that the branches more than 6' off the ground still get decorated. We'll probably throw on one of our family's few Hallyday-themed LP records (unfortunately, none of these feature Johnny himself) whilst decorating the tree. Ah, the Hallydays. Speaking of which, while you're out there getting your Hallyday shopping done on the Inter-nets, you might consider using this, which is a search engine designed to help you spend that last $2.50 needed on Amazon to qualify for free shipping. Cool, eh? I thought so. That's all for now, stay tuned for four more posts this month, the majority of which are likely to be Hallyday-themed.

I doubt that any of you care that much, but the song linked to above is a Christmas love song addressed to Johnny Hallyday's daughter, who, according to Wikipedia, Johnny and his wife adopted in 2004. The music video, again according to Wikipedia, appears to depict them going to Vietnam to meet her. Also, by sheer coincidence, Johnny announced his pending retirement from live performance within a few days of me blogging about him. Strange, no? What's that? You don't care about Johnny Hallyday? Oh, come on. You're no fun any more.