Wednesday, December 29, 2010

What Are You Doing New Year's Eve, or Whodunit

Hello, blogees, and welcome to what will surely be my last blog of 2010.

Sadly, I will be saying the same thing to 2010 I said to 2009 this time last year. "I hate you, I smite you, and don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out." And to 2011 I shall say, "Welcome, my new friend. Have a cookie and a drink. Let's be friends." Of course, I said that same thing to 2010, and look what he did to me.

Now, I've lived through many a New Year's Eve. Some good, some not so good. One of my favorites was spent completely alone, curled up in the Comfy Chair, playing with colored pencils as the ball dropped.

I've been at big parties at people's houses, and at big hotels full of revelers (normally associated with going to Va Tech Bowl Games) that were generally miserable. I've spent my share with the Sauerkraut Band getting so inebriated I honestly forgot what happened on the night. I can only assume a good time was had by all. (To paraphrase from what they used to say about Studio 54: If you can remember what happened, you weren't really there.)

So when I got an invite a little while back from the DeepFatFriar, it was different and intriguing, and I just couldn't say no.

See, I'd just gotten home from work and was hanging around the computer catching up, and I got a Messenger boing from DFF. He asked if I had plans on New Year's Eve. I said I didn't, no one in the SKB had even mentioned a party, and he asked if I'd like to do something with him.

Seems he'd bought, at an auction, entrance to a Murder Mystery Night. It was being held at his church, the Unitarians, and he was wondering if I'd like to come along and be a part of it all.

Well, here's the thing. As said above, I've had my share of drunken revelry, and I've hated this entire year, and I thought, "Hey! What a new and interesting thing, a good way to stay out of trouble and start the new year with a little something different!"

And I accepted right there and then.

DeepFatFriar told me he'd email me with all the details I needed to know, and I said fine, and didn't think much more about it than, "Ooh, I have real plans this year."

Then the email came, and as you might expect, if you know me but one whit, I started to get hinky.

The first hinkiness came at just reading the logistics and my part in it all. Seems the night is called "A Taste for Wine and Murder," and here is, and I quote, the theme of the evening.

This mystery is set in the wine region of Napa Valley, California. Five years ago, Barry Underwood, owner of the prestigious Underwood Wine Estates, mysteriously disappeared during the valley's annual wine festival. A massive search at the time failed to turn up any clues and the case has been in the FBI's unsolved files since then.

Now, five years later, it is once again the annual wine festival in Napa Valley. Last night, family and friends gathered at the stately Underwood Mansion to celebrate. At midnight, a minor earthquake shook the mansion, causing an old wooden floor in the wine cellar to buckle. Barry's well preserved body was discovered under the cedar planks.

It is a clear case of murder and you are one of the suspects.

Well! I am, am I?

Then I read on, as to who I'm supposed to be for the evening. And although it says, notice, "suggestions," I've just gone all to pieces over this.

Heddy Shablee - The owner of the neighboring vineyard and a fierce competitor of the Underwoods. Barry's disappearance has uncorked a new vintage of troubles for unhappy Hedy.

Costume suggestions: Flowered skirt, off-the-shoulder peasant blouse, sandals or bare feet, headband of flowers, carrying a basket of her best vintages.

Custom suggestions are entirely optional.

Oh, my. Oh, my, my, my.

I'm expected to wear a skirt and peasant blouse on New Year's Eve? I don't don a skirt in my one church appearance per year!

I want very much to take Heddy in the opposite direction, with jeans, Birkenstocks, flannel shirt, and severe hairdo. But could I be so bold? Would I offend the putters-on of the Murder Night? Can I find some common ground in between?

And then, I got to thinking about the night in whole. I have to be this character. Can I do it? More importantly, did I do it? Am I the killer, or am I just filler? Will I have some sort of skeleton script to tell me where I was during the murder, or is this the second coming of Second City, a totally improvised night?

All I can hope is that the assembled throng are as naive as I am.

I've set tomorrow afternoon to look around for an outfit, and maybe once that's done I'll feel more like Heddy Shablee. Or not.

But you know, I'm trying to tell myself that other than the DeepFatFriar, who knows I'm crazy anyway, these other people have no idea who I am and will probably never see me again. If I fuck it all up, well, at least I'll give them something to talk about for a while.

But my biggest hope is that I can crawl out of my shell long enough to ham it up as Heddy Shablee, however she's dressed, and make at least one person, or even myself, laugh.

I mean, isn't this what these things are about?

They're not? They're serious mysteries? Oh, shit....

Oooh. I just thought of something. Since myself and the victim were arch rivals, maybe I can work in the line, "Flames! Flames on the side of my face!"

Happy New Year's, everybody!


Sunday, December 26, 2010

Picture Sunday

Well, hello, you end of weekenders! End of holidayers, end of yearers, even. And welcome the final Picture Sunday of 2010.

Yep, it's been a while. Busy time, Christmas. Well, and that other problem. Remember? I broke my camera the last night of Oktoberfest this year. And even though Mr M loaned me his, I don't know, the pictures just weren't happening.

Well, lo and behold. A request from Santa, who's in really tight with my mom and dad, and I am the proud owner of a new camera. Been playing with it off and on today, and well, let's show you want it can do!

It can take pictures of its own box! (That's something approaching a self-portrait.)

That present was opened Christmas morning with the family. We all gathered around 11 am, opened presents, hung out, then it was time to part for a bit before we'd all convene at the sister's for Christmas dinner.

Mr M came down and we had present time. And talk about your cool presents....

A new Flip, in HD! And white! Can't wait to start using it. Comfy Chair Movie ideas, please!

Then on to the sister's in the driving snow, a nice dinner, and Mr M and I cut out a little early so he could start home in the elements, and I could get to my next event of Christmas Day.

See, my long-lost but newly-found (well not anymore, a year now) high school buddy The Daughter C was in for the holiday, as was our other high school buddy The Daughter O. I was to pick up Daughter C and we'd both head to the O house and have a nice visit.

The snow was still coming down hard and the roads were untouched, but I headed out to the old neighborhood, "Between the Bridges," as 2d Son C calls it. The fact that the roads hadn't been touched was actually an advantage, lots of snow for traction, and no one was on the road so there were no idiots to dodge.

Now, I saw Daughter C for the first time in years back in October. I'd not seen Daughter O for - well, I honestly don't know how long it'd been. I remember a short conversation with her when the nephew was a toddler. So let's estimate 20 years.

And it was great. There we were, all 32 years after high school, looking the same and different and picking up exactly where we left off. I mean, for however much our lives have all changed, we all sat there in the living room, the three of us, Mom O, and two dogs, and there was never a moment's silence in over three hours.

And we laughed. A lot.

Daughter O had brought her doggie, Walter, in for the trip, and I fell totally in love with him. And I think he liked me a bit too. He kept putting his paw on my arm. I was sure by the end of the evening he was going to ask me out on a date.

It was fun and cozy and familiar and new, and the perfect way to end a Christmas Day. But the hour got late and the snow was still falling, so Daughter C and I had to say our goodbyes, hopefully not for another 20 years. I dropped Daughter C off and when I did, she gave me a little something.

She stressed it wasn't a Christmas gift, probably knowing me well enough to know I'd be mortified to not have one for her in return. It was - and she prefaced this with, "Now, I don't really understand all the things with your stuffed animals," to which I laughed - but it was the brand new mascot of the Richmond, Virginia baseball team, the Flying Squirrels. Yes, it was Nutzy, the Flying Squirrel!

Well, as you can see above, the kids just love him. And he does flying feats of derring-do for them in the living room. So he'll be here with us, at least till the baseball season gets into full swing. Sherman's offered to arrange a meeting between him and Rocky the Flying Squirrel, who of course Sherman is great friends with.

OK. And that was Christmas. Low-key, lazy, snowy, and nice. And you'd think that would be the end of the blog, right?

Well, you're wrong!

Today I'd decided to have a little celebration for myself. See, on Thanksgiving I ended up having two dinners at two different houses, and came home with not a single leftover goodie to my name. So earlier in the week I started toying with the idea of taking today and having my own little Christmas dinner.

Mr M was hoping to join me again today, but the snow was just too bad for a trip from B'burg. So it was just me and the gang at the little Poderosa Post-Christmas Dinner.

I started by putting a small turkey breast in the oven and got it nice and toasty.

Then I made some sausage stuffing, hoping it would be as good as Mr M's.

I forwent the mashed potatoes, I can have them with leftovers. Put them both on a plate, and I had me a real little Post-Christmas dinner!

And it was really good! The turkey was moist with a crusty outside, the stuffing was almost as good as Mr M's, I curled up in the Comfy Chair and turned on the tree lights and the TV and ate my fill. Then as happens on these occasions, I took a little nap for about an hour.

Then in an amazing turn of events, I popped up post-nap, started getting the turkey off the bone, got everything cleaned up and put away, and even got Sunday trash duty done to the point of having the bags already out on the curb, anchored in the 8 or so inches of snow we have (and are still receiving).

And it was a good day. Now all that's left is to take the tree down, which I'll shoot for tomorrow night.

Happy week, and happy rest of 2010 if I don't post before.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* Hope you all had a nice holiday as well. I've still got New Year's Eve coming up, which could be a real interesting story to tell.


Sunday, December 05, 2010

Picture Sunday

Hello, end of weekenders. Welcome to a special edition of Picture Sunday.

I got a most fortuitous email yesterday. It was from my old buddy the DeepFatFriar, offering to take over the Picture Sunday helm this weekend. He titled his email "An Offer You Can Refuse," but really, that is one I definitely could not refuse.

So let's turn it over to the Friar!


Thanks, Bet, for letting me report on the big doin's in the little town I don't live in. (I live about 239 feet outside the town.)

The town I don't live in is not the biggest town in the county. There are only 1300 or so people in it. (The biggest town has over 4000, and the entire county about 17000 spread across about 350 square miles.) But it is widely acknowledged to have the best Christmas parade in the county. There are several reasons for this: it snowed during the Christmas parade, as is only fitting; it is a drive-in parade--you can watch it from inside your car; they throw candy from the floats and vehicles, so it is like hollowe'en, only different; and it was, this year, seventeen minutes long--brevity really is the soul of paradical wit. And it's better than the Macy's parade in every way.

And I want to apologize for the quality of the pictures. It was dusk and snowing. The little camera did the best it could. It really did.

So here is the parade route, lined with the cars you can watch it from. One of them is mine.

As you can see, there are a lot of cars there. But to be fair, people mostly got out of them when the parade started. We're tough people in the town I don't live in. We can handle 17 minutes outside of the car to watch the parade. But we leave the motor running and the heat on.

Here is the first vehicle in the parade.

And here is the first float, sponsored by a radio station I never heard of, or heard.

The local cub and boy scout troops came next. The cubs walked, but the boys rode.

They were followed by a truck from the local telephone co-op, then the Woman's Chorus and Chorale form the county high school.

Unlike the Macy's parade, the groups here did not perform along the way. They just threw candy. (I told you our's is better in every way!) This group was followed by some church floats and emergency vehicles and the local beauty contest queen and more emergency vehicles from all over the county and our own dear little town.

I told you the camera was having trouble with the conditions. Let's try that again, as this was actually my favorite float.

I'm really sorry I couldn't get a better pic of that. It was great. It's "The Christmas Train." On the side of the engine, it says, "Powered by the Gospel." I wanted to follow them a quarter mile to the end of the parade route and ask them exactly how many gospels they had to burn to power the float down the parade route. But it was too damn cold and the parade was not over. Yet.

More emergency vehicles. At least one of which was picking up people along the way who apparently were overcome by the grandeur of it all.

And even the Macy's parade did not have a river raft in it.

And still more emergency vehicles. I hope nothing bad happened in the rest of the county, because every vehicle and person who could have done anything about it was in this parade.

And then, no sleigh, no reindeer, no fanfare, Santa and the missus.

And that was that. Seventeen minutes start to end. Given the size of the town, I think it was at least as good as the Macy's thing, the official "As Seen on TV" Parade. If we had ten million people in the little town I don't live in, we could probably put on a parade with all those baloons. In fact, we'd have to. Because if there were ten million people in the town I don't liive in, they'd have to be stacked 147 deep to fit in it, so the parade would have to be balloons to get through the town floating over the bodies.

So that's that. Merry Christmas, all y'all.


And that's it from Friarland. Thanks, DFF!

Happy week.