About Me

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Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
"No, really!"

My Favorite Bit of Paper Cup Philosophy

The Way I See It #76

The irony of commitment is that it's deeply liberating - in work, in play, in love. The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic, from the fear that likes to dress itself up and parade around as rational hesitation. To commit is to remove your head as the barrier to your life.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Embarking on my Own Adult Holiday Excesses

I married in 1977 and I spent a lot of time in Hallmark stores that year. Invitations, thank you cards, little scrolls commemorating the occasion that one presented to the guests secured with a little faux golden wedding ring, Christmas cards to be sent out two months after the wedding, new invitations after my mother beefed up the guest list sufficiently to require a new venue. At some point the lovely Hallmark Christmas tree ornaments appeared, setting off a whole Christmas Nazi campaign of its own. I'll finish the post with the ornament story.

Ex and I came to Las Vegas to live on the Bicentennial Day. A lovely little house and a new adult life awaited us as Stepfather was a general contractor building houses as fast as he could, and Mother was the real estate broker selling them. There were big plans for Limes and Ex, too. Since we were now adults, as if that had suddenly happened as we rolled through the city limits, we soon got a marriage license, that fall of 1976. My mother barked about that sufficiently to back us off for another year. The marriage license took up life between the hardback covers of Gone With the Wind, and we established our new life sans marriage. We'd lived that way for many years. One more didn't make much difference.

My mother asked a business associate to put me to work. As she gave this man hundreds of escrows a year, from land purchases, through construction loans, through the sales of the homes built, he quickly found me a file clerk position. It was soon noticed that I had a brain and I progressed from escrow secretary to junior escrow officer to escrow officer, to branch manager in pretty quick succession. Ex went to work for a construction vendor Stepfather worked with. He was OK in construction, but showed a true genius for building and managing the intricacies of sprinkler systems. Stepfather and Mother helped him establish himself as a landscape contractor. We had a sweet little cottage industry as long as Stepfather could build them, Mother sell them, Limes escrow them and Ex landscape them. This lasted for years, until the Las Vegas boom-and-bust cycle hit bust. We were 22 and 23 years old.

It was in the planning of that wedding that an inborn talent and skill were revealed in me. I am adept at managing complex projects. I have a knack for handling multiple lists, budgets, deadlines and competing interests. I can hit a moving target with a dart, and deliver up an event seamlessly. Being of tender years, I'd never undertaken anything that would have shown I could handle this. The Great October Wedding Circus included 7 custom made dresses for me and the females of the wedding party, tuxes for the men, a cake the size of a small building, chapel and music arrangements, Stepfather flying a small plane full of flowers from his rose farm in California, finding a local florist to arrange them, negotiating a discount at a hotel for throwing them 200 paying guests for several days, recruiting friend and relative volunteers to help me execute all of this, and all that damned printing . . . . it is here where I learned the tricks I've since used to put together fundraising and political events, union rallies and community events. I am a ringmistress and I like a circus! There is much more to be said about that wedding and the marriage, but that will be for many more posts. This one is meant to be about holiday excesses.

As if the marriage ceremony also included some rite of passage to "young matron", I immediately began to become social. I gave parties non-stop, plying friends with food and drink, music and fun. To give the reader a sense of the times, my wedding gift microwave was the size of a Volkswagen and Ex's Sony BetaMax (yes, he was the first kid on the block to own one) was equally as large, with a remote that had about 100 miles of wire. Disco was big, and Angel's Flight trousers for young men. We bought our music on 8-track tapes. Crockpots intrigued us, if we could just integrate that notion of "slow" cooker. I typed my escrow documents on an IBM Selectric, using many different colors of correction tape, depending on which form I was completing. Hidden Valley Ranch was new and platters of crudites were what we carried to potlucks with this dressing. "Buttermilk? Are you sure?" Well, that's what the package said.

In this setting, I became aware somehow that one could purchase a permit in the sporting goods section of Woolco allowing one to cut down a Christmas tree in the forest for the princely cost of $1. Now, I liked putting on events and I liked Christmas and I liked the outdoors . . . . I talked it up to girlfriends and they were quickly "in". The list-making began for what was to be the First Annual Chainsaw Festival. It ran for years, becoming bigger, better and more excessive in every way. It should be noted no one was ever hurt, jailed, nor did we ever hurt any other person. That is proof that angels exist and watch out for young, dumb people. Dumb? We were mostly young professionals who functioned at a high level in society. And we were also city kids, to a person, who knew nothing about the forest or cutting down trees. This story also reminds me how much life experience matters. We had IQ points at the time, but little common sense. We'd only been adults a short while. "Practical" would come with age and miles.

The women volunteered to bring hot chocolate and chili, donuts and soft drinks. Some of the men knew someone who knew someone who owned a chainsaw. Ex owned trucks for his landscaping business, so we could transport the trees back to Las Vegas. Everyone had visited Mt. Charleston when it snowed, so we all knew to bundle up. The men knew we needed maps to find the remote location in eastern Nevada, about 1 mile from the Utah stateline. Eight-track tapes were gathered, Tupperware and thermoses full of food and drink. Someone was smart enough to think of firewood, matches, toilet paper and paper towels. We'd be encamped briefly while the trees were felled. Some 25 cars pulled up in front of our home, groups fell in together and selected which cars would go. The caravan ultimately consisted of 15 vehicles packed with excited young people, music blaring, women in sweaters harmonizing to Bohemian Rhapsody (I got the Freddie Mercury part), men laughing in their Pendleton shirts. We may have required a permit for caravaning that many cars and trucks, but who knew? We set out. Although "booze" had not been included on any list, it seems no one forgot to bring their own. Half way to our destination, most everyone was at least "happy" and probably no one should have been driving. Booze blending with callow youth, we were in for a few surprises.

First, was "getting there". We title and escrow types thought we were experts with maps. And we were! Give us a Thomas Brothers to get around Las Vegas, or give us the coordinates from the Mt. Diablo Base & Meridian and we could plot out any residential lot or stretch of vacant land in Nevada. But hand us a road map taking country roads to lesser roads to a spot within a mile of Utah, in the woods . . . I have always felt there was a 50-50 chance we may have been generally in the area of approved tree cutting. I think we were in Nevada, as required. All the drinking forced repeated rest stops, so the journey took approximately three times longer than we figured. But at last we were there.

The women poured out of the cars (literally), started a fire, warmed up food, poured more drinks. The men fired up the chainsaws after many abortive yanks of the chains. Group by group, we stepped out and began to select the trees we'd cut. Although the group needed about 20 trees, we had 50 permits and we were bound to take 50 trees. If we had to give them away to friends and relatives, we'd do so.

The Limes of the day was at least somewhat practical. We had vaulted ceilings in the house and I asked Ex how large a tree we could handle. "A big one" was his reply. I asked Stepfather, who built those homes, and he knew to tell me, "Twelve feet, Limes." I wasn't dumb. I knew our friend Rodger was six feet tall, so we could accommodate a tree twice as tall as Rodger. My mom had asked for a modest one about six feet tall - piece of cake! A tree as tall as Rodger. This stuff was easy! Everyone bustled around selecting trees, having the men cut them down, putting ID on each tree so everyone would get their own back home, working in teams to load the trees into the trucks. It was hard work and the day had spread out longer than we anticipated. It was darkening when we packed up and headed back to the city. We were all tired and a little worse for wear and tear and food and drink.

In Las Vegas, my street was bustling with friends moving around transporting trees, food containers, saws, jackets, gloves. We had a brief huddle in the middle of the driveway and agreed we were doing this every year and we were going to grow the program - more friends next year, maybe even a campout! Everyone scattered. We all had Christmas trees to put up and decorate!

Folks, I cannot tell everyone's story from that evening. Only my own. The weather was frigid. We still had much to do, pruning our tree, putting a sturdy base on it, getting it indoors. Man, a 12-foot tree was b-i-g. Stepfather stepped out into the dark from next door to collect Mother's 6-foot tree and to see if he could help us. We presented him with Mom's tree and he muttered, "Oh, I'll need to cut that down a bit." He took it to their garage and returned to help us. Stepfather eyeballed our tree and quietly said, "Limes, you've got 26-28 feet of Christmas tree there. It's not going to go inside the house. You have too many corners to turn. That tree's as big as the White House Christmas Tree." No. That couldn't be right. I'd checked it out myself. The tree was about twice as tall as Rodger. Then Stepfather noticed the trunk. "Limes, when the trunk is bigger around than my thigh, that's too much tree." Well, the trunk was pretty thick . . . . the Badger family has an insider family saying from a long-ago summer vacation: "Distances are deceiving in the west." I'd set out one of my own experience: "Size is deceiving in the forest."

Have I written that I am a hard case? Nothing in the world was going to prevent me from putting up this tree. Ex and Stepfather hacked and trimmed at it for two days. It was altered to about 12 feet high. It's circumference was such that they ultimately trimmed the back side of the tree so it would only protrude half-way into the living room instead of all the way out the front door. We didn't own anything like enough decorations for the monster. But I knew what to do! It was 1977, after all. We were newlyweds. I went to Hallmark and bought up more "Just Married" ornaments than the law allows. Some were engraved with our names, some generic. Each was different, and I'm not going to say how many of the ornaments I bought. Suffice it to say I had one of each of their "Just Married" ornaments for that year. Despite the vast number of decorations, that tree was pretty sparse looking. But I knew what to do in future years. In 1990, Amber would be born and Hallmark had way more "New Baby Girl" ornaments than they had "Just Married" ones in 1977.

A couple of weeks later, Ex and his brother David were watching football, drinking excessive amounts of Budweiser as I wrapped excessive numbers of Christmas gifts. The cats had been excessively attracted to the gigantic tree from the moment we brought it inside. I always figured it smelled of nature and that captured their attention. This time when three of them shot up the trunk at the same time, they toppled the beast, bringing it down on David's head. It knocked him out! Ornaments rolled, tinsel fluttered, cats scrambled, and then silence for a moment. "Limes," said Ex, "this tree cutting thing is one of your best schemes yet." But we continued to go on the expedition for the next 5 years. We just selected trees that seemed way too small. That worked out just right. Because size is deceiving in the forest.

In my ears right now: Bowie and Jagger. Dancing in the Streets. I need a perky noise. The birdies appear to prefer some types of music over others. They dance rather like David and Mick.

Something that charmed me: I got a lovely holiday bonus yesterday. We don't have money in the budget to do that, even though our little group has been pared so close to the bone. I'm sure David did that out of his pocket. Peace on Earth to all Persons.

Disclaimer: It's 2009 and I'm 57. No, I don't approve of drinking and driving. Nor do I approve of going out in nature, hacking, burning and destroying. But those sensibilities came with growth and maturity. I'm glad I've been given the time to grow and mature. I hope to experience more growth in 2010 and forward.


  1. I've heard that about the forest. And I've also heard that distance is deceiving in the west. At least one of these is a myth... maybe more?

  2. is this a case of not seeing the trees for the forest? (yeah, i know, lame!)

  3. @ Badger ~ You old pessimist! Maybe both are truths. The distance one HAS to be true. Your mother told me! And the forest one has to be true. I experienced it myself.

    @ SOMH ~ actually that's not so lame. It actually puts it out pretty nicely.

  4. on a not completely unrelated note, happy solstice! the shortest day, the longest night, endings and beginnings. may all of us be renewed.

  5. Pretty uncanny, SOMH. I was writing my solstice piece when you dropped your comment. In my piece, I'd already written "refreshed" and "refueled", whereas you wrote "renewed". But close enough. I'll post within the hour. Much happiness to you, too.