Yearly Archives: 2009

The Trojan Christmas

December 25, 1996. Or, as I call it, the day Christmas changed forever.

I was 17 years old and spending my final Christmas at home with my family before heading off to college. Like most families, we have our Christmas morning traditions and we happily engaged in them that day. First we open the presents under the tree as soon as we wake up. My brother and I know that my mom gives us the same gifts 75 percent of the time because she doesn’t want to show favoritism. The only thing that differs is the color or style. So if we saw two similarly sized packages I’d open one and find a green sweater. That let Nate know his package was a blue sweater. Needless to say we have the timing of our present-opening down pat.

Once we’re done in the living room, we go through our stockings out in the family room. And this, my faithful readers, is where things got interesting.

My mom is the designated stocking stuffer in our family, and certain things are a given every year. Socks, underwear, deoderant, toothpaste and candy are all staples. But after that, mom tends to get creative. She usually takes whatever we’re into at that given time, and gives us gifts that reflect those interests. When I was little, it was baseball cards. As I became an awkward teenager entering puberty, she kept me clad in deoderant and shaving cream. But now that I was 17 with a steady girlfriend and about to head off to college, I wondered what she had in store.

As I was digging through the usual suspects, I noticed something odd. It was a fairly big, 6″ x 6″ or so, square package. And it was wrapped. This was curious because nothing else in the stockings was ever wrapped.

I held it up to my brother, thinking he probably got something similar. But he met my gaze with bewilderment. Even my dad looked perplexed.

“What is this?” I asked.

“Only one way to find out,” said my mom.

I was pretty excited. Maybe it was something for college. After all, I was practically a grown up now. It must be something huge and important or else she wouldn’t have saved it for last in my stocking. My fingers moved with anticipatory glee as they worked to undo the wrapping paper.

Finally I tore open the package. I was stunned. Shocked, actually. To the point where I couldn’t talk, move or even breathe. My mind raced furiously with possible explanations for the horror I was currently witnessing. Because there in my hand, staring me right in the face, was this:

Yup. That’s right. My own mother had wrapped a box of condoms and put it in my Christmas stocking. A 36-pack economy box of condoms, to be exact.

I was frozen in fear. I looked at my then 15-year-old brother, who had also grasped the horror of the situation and looked like he wanted to jump out the nearest window as much as I did. My only thought and my last hope, was that this had been some crazy mix-up. My mom had obviously given me the wrong package. Either that or Santa has a really fucked up sense of humor.

“I…I think there’s been a mistake,” I managed to stammer.

“Merry Christmas sweetie. Those should last you, what? A week?” my mom chirped cheerfully.

That was it. I had to leave the room. After all, I had just started having sex that summer and buying condoms was still a traumatic experience for me. But as humiliating and frightening as those clandestine trips into the local drugstore were, I would’ve gladly traded that in exchange for the hell that is receiving 36 rubbers from your own mom.

Don’t get me wrong, they definitely qualified as the most useful and practical gift I received that Christmas. But when I’m preparing to go at it with my ho-ho-ho, I’d rather not be reminded of my mother’s Christmas gift.

To this day I eye my stocking suspiciously every Christmas morning and I trust no one!

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Friendly’s, You Delicious Whore

I had a girlfriend, years ago, who no one liked. And I mean no one.

She was incredibly self-absorbed and narcissistic, but those traits were matched only by her acerbic personality. She played nasty head games and would often just totally ignore me for large chunks of time, and would only pay me attention when I got so angry I was ready to leave. Only then would she talk to me and act like a human being. Temporarily. And if I had my friends over while she was there, it was a recipe for disaster. She didn’t give a shit about them and was downright rude at times.

She was horrible. And I knew full well she was a goddamn nightmare. So why did I keep coming back to her? Because she was smokin’ hot, and I flat out craved her.

Such is my relationship with Friendly’s Restaurant.

I think Friendly’s is a New England institution so if you’re not from here, it’s a chain restaurant with mediocre food and service of the shittiest kind. I’m talking TERRIBLE service. And it doesn’t matter which Friendly’s you hit up, you’re always guaranteed the same awful experience. Long waits, craptastic service, screwed up orders and waitresses who not only ignore you, they can barely disguise their contempt for you. But despite getting the same shoddy experience time and time again, you keep coming back. Why is that, you ask?

The ice cream! The unbelievably delicious and outta this world ice cream!

Last night my parents came down and we all had dinner at Friendly’s in Sagamore. Will was pretty fussy so we told the waitress to put in his order first so we could calm him down and get him fed. Almost half an hour later, no food! Will was screaming his friggin face off. Meanwhile another family of four walked in, sat down next to us, waited for 20 minutes without ever having a waitress come over, and then left in anger. The manager at the front of the restaurant didn’t realize they were pissed and gave them a cheerful “Bye folks, thanks for coming in tonight” as they left and stared daggers back at him.

We finally hailed a waitress — not our waitress because she was nowhere to be found — and she mercifully retrieved Will’s food. Keep in mind we’re talking mac & cheese here, it’s not like they were in the back sauteing a sea bass or something. Then our mediocre food came and we had to polish it off like Kobayashi because Will was in hysterics. With a screaming child, bad food, terrible service and no apology from our bitchy waitress, I was on the verge of torching the place and vowing never to return. But then I heard the words that keep me enticed.

“Ice cream anyone?”

And that’s when I lose all self control and go running right back into the arms of the hot chick. Sure she’s annoying as hell and I spend half my time cursing her very existence. But she’s just so. damn. hot! And not only that, she’s TERRIFIC in bed. Beauty and bedroom skills may be her only defining qualities, but let’s face it, those are two pretty damn good qualities to have.

And so it is, I’m a Friendly’s whore. Their ice cream keeps me coming back for more, despite all common sense telling me this place sucks. I am a slave to their velvety chocolate mounds. I long to stick my face between their banana split. I want to feel their Forbidden Fudge Brownie tickling the back of my throat…

Whoops. Ummmm…moving on…

My advice to you all, if you’re going to a Friendly’s you should hit it and quit it. Skip the foreplay and go right to the action. Life’s too short to subject yourself to the manipulative bitch when you can get the payoff without having to undergo the torture.

Does it make you a little slutty? Maybe. But is that necessarily a bad thing? I think not!

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Wii Can’t Get Along

MJ and I are not video game fanatics, despite owning a Nintendo Wii. But the games we do like are vastly different.

I enjoy sports games. I have golf, baseball, bowling and football. MJ likes the weirdo role playing games like Final Fantasy that takes years to finish and has approximately 10,879 levels to complete. Needless to say, there’s not much we can play on the Wii together.

Until I had what I thought was a brilliant idea.

Armed with a $50 gift certificate, I set out to the video game store to pick up a new game. It had been awhile since I was video game shopping, and I was shocked to see the sheer number of Wii games on the market. Unfortunately, most of them looked like crap. But then I stumbled on the jackpot.

Super Mario Brothers!

The old-school Nintendo game redesigned and enhanced for the Wii. I rejoiced at my good fortune, because MJ and I both love the old Mario game. And since one of the improvements was to make it a multiplayer game, for the first time in history we could play Super Mario Bros simultaneously instead of the old way of going one at a time and impatiently waiting for the other person to die.

When I showed her what I bought she was ecstatic. And I felt like Husband of the Year because I thought I had found a rare activity we both enjoyed that we could do together.

We were both a little rusty at first and it takes some getting used to when both players are playing at the same time. We soon found out that while we can help each other by using some teamwork, we could also harm each other. We both laughed the first few times we accidentally knocked each other off a cliff or jumped on one another’s head. It was all in good fun. No big deal.

But then I started getting a little antsy. My old Mario skills were coming back to me and I was remembering how to handle certain situations in the game. MJ? Not so much. She was more like a monkey trying to hump a doorknob. And while the game automatically gives you more lives if you happen to run out, the flip side is if both players die at the same time you lose all your progress to that point.

Soon it had been an hour and we hadn’t even completed the second stage. MJ had to use about 5 continues and couldn’t seem to perform the simplest tasks. She was getting killed by little Goombas and she was getting me killed, which was quickly wearing my patience thin.

I tried to contain the growing irritation building up inside of me, and started offering “helpful” suggestions like “Oh my God, what the fuck are you doing? Jump! JUMP MJ!!!!” Subtle right? Then she inadvertently threw an ice block at me, which sent me spiraling to my death, and proceeded to die right at the end of a level, which sent us all the way back to the beginning.

“Jesus Christ MJ, what the hell are you doing?” I blurted out.

“Screw you. What’s your problem anyways? This is supposed to be fun!” she countered.

“How can it be fun when you do nothing but die every two seconds?!?”

As you might imagine, things went downhill from there. Within an hour of starting this game we went from excited and happy to being on the verge of nearly stabbing each other in the neck.

To the outside observer it probably would’ve looked hilarious. The argument began with us trading barbs over our inability to kill King Koopa, and ended with us slinging insults like “Oh yeah?  Well you’ve got no friends!” and “You’re telling me to go to hell? Well I’ve got news for you honey, hell is being forced to play Super Mario Brothers with you as a partner!”

We’re so grown up, aren’t we?

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Going Green

Sorry, but this is not a post about composting, recycling or reducing my carbon footprint. Today, I am happy to announce that Will has officially attended his first professional sporting event.

That’s me, Will and Grandpa (aka theoldguy) at Tuesday night’s Boston Celtics game against the Milwaukee Bucks. My dad has season tickets but when he called me and asked me if I wanted to take Will, I have to admit I was skeptical. His seats are in the balcony, they’re cramped and I just couldn’t imagine Will sitting still for the duration of a timeout, nevermind the whole game.

But thankfully my dad is crafty and he managed to, well…let’s just say he managed to finagle his way to a significant seat upgrade into the club seats. This was clutch because the seats are much bigger and there were three empty seats, which means Will had his own and didn’t need to sit on my lap. I highly recommend this when taking a 20-month-old to a game that lasts three hours.

All in all he did pretty well. We ran into trouble when all he wanted to do was run up and down the aisle stairs, but thankfully we ended up on the end of the row. However, he did take a tumble on the concrete steps and ended up with a bloody lip and a scratch on his chin. But he shook it off like a champ.

When we first walked down to the court he was so amazed. His eyes went wide as he took everything in, and then he spotted the basketball. All he said for the rest of the game was “Hi ball” as he waved repeatedly. I was a little worried that he’d be afraid of the crowd and the noise, but that worrying was pointless. The kid absolutely loved it. He loved the sights, the sounds and he thrives in a crowd. He made it into the third quarter before he started to melt down, and that’s way longer than I thought he’d make it.

But make no mistake, this game wasn’t for Will. It was for me and my dad.

All the men in my family are sports nuts and I know my dad’s been itching to take Will to a game for awhile now. We dressed Will up in his #11 “Big Baby” Celtics jersey and we found a place to eat in the Garden. The only thing MJ asked me to avoid feeding him was hotdogs, but it’s a well known rule that you can’t go to a sporting event and not eat a hotdog. So that’s what he had. And because it was a special occasion, he was allowed a soda.

And by the way, this is his unique way of asking for a sip:

But it makes him happy. And it makes Grandpa happy to see Will happy. See?

And because we’re dedicated and informed fans, it’s necessary to show Will all about the past and teach him the history of the team. There’s no better place to do this than inside the Boston Garden where they have an entire level devoted to the history of Boston sports. Because this was a Celtics game (the Bruins also play in the Garden) we started off with them. We looked at pictures of Bob Cousy, Bill Russell, Tommy Heinsohn, John Havlicek, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish and of course, Larry Bird. We told him about the 17 championships the Celtics have won, which included eight in a row from 1959-1966.

We also lamented the fact that Will arrived too late to experience the old Boston Garden, which was one of the most beloved arenas in all of New England. Even if the old seats were some of the most uncomfortable places to watch a sporting event (next to Fenway Park of course).

Will was pretty good before the game started because the Celtics do a lot with lights, music, video, etc. But once the actual game started he got a little bored. And cranky. Which meant my dad and I had to take turns bringing him out into the concourse to let him run around and blow off some steam. But when Grandpa and Will came back from one of their trips, I noticed Will was holding something he didn’t have when he left.

As if he didn’t have enough toys, grandpa bought him a ball. Grandpa claims Will just HAD to have it, because he walked by them and said “Ball…please!” and then started kissing the ball. Needless to say, Will knows EXACTLY how to manipulate Grandpa and — like always — played him like a fiddle.

Even though we left in the third quarter, my dad said it was the best game he’s been to all year. I agree. There’s just something unbelievably wonderful about passing down a tradition to your kids. And it’s even more special that it’s three generations of Gouveia men. Now don’t get me wrong, I would’ve taken my daughter to the game too. Maybe this makes me a sexist, but it’s different with a boy. It was so cool to take him and let him in on the sports moments that we hold so close to our hearts. Almost like his initiation in a secret club of which he’ll be a member for a lifetime.

And the Celtics won, by the way.

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O’ Christmas Shrub

We had a real Christmas tree in 2005, our first year in the condo. Since then? Nada.

Four years ago we weren’t married. We had no dogs and plenty of space. Both of us grew up with real Christmas trees and it was of the utmost importance. We decorated the tree with lights, we hung stockings and we even strung garland and other corny holiday cheer all over the house. Because really, what else did we have to do with our time?

Then we got a dog. And then another. Then MJ was pregnant and I’m pretty sure the smell of the tree (like seemingly everything else) would’ve made her vomit. And last Christmas, well…let’s just say postpartum depression combined with taking care of an 8-month-old leaves little time (and money) for a tree and decorations.

But this year is different.

This year we were determined to have a tree and decorate the shit out of it. Plus Will is almost 2 now and we want to start a tradition. At first MJ suggested an artificial tree. That did not go over well. Having an artificial tree is a cardinal sin for me. I like my Christmas trees how I like my boobs, exposed and within reach REAL! So we agreed to pick one out just as soon as we had the time. But time is something neither of us have.

So when I got a call from MJ telling me she found THE PERFECT TREE for only $30, I told her I trusted her and to buy it. In hindsight, the bargain basement price of $30 should’ve tipped me off, but I wasn’t thinking clearly.

That’s why Will’s first Christmas tree has been lovingly dubbed, “The Christmas Shrubbery.”

Look at that thing. I’m a mere 5’10” tall and I look down on it. It’s the Spud Webb of Christmas trees. It’s a Christmas tree that Kiefer Sutherland can see eye to eye with. I kept waiting for the Knights Who Say “Ni” to come out and demand a shrubbery. In short, this is one tiny tree.

It’s diminutive state is made even more noticeable by our cathedral ceilings, so it has the effect of parking a tricycle in an airplane hangar. I nearly pissed myself laughing when MJ asked if I needed help bringing it in the house. I could’ve put this tree on the backs of a few ants and had them carry it in. But as I continued to make fun of the tree, I noticed MJ was getting angry. But since I’m stupid and that never stops me, I kept harping on it. Until MJ struck back out of the blue.

“Well what can I say? When it comes to trees and men I pick out the short, fat ones,” she said.

This time it was my turn to be agitated, but MJ wasn’t done.

“I felt bad for it, sitting all alone with all the other better looking trees surrounding it. Plus look, it’s getting bald in spots too. So really I had to take it home, because no one else was going to.”

Ouch. Merry-freaking-Christmas.

So we put on the lights and the decorations and I have to admit, it’s a cute and unique little tree that cleans up OK. And Will absolutely loves it. He walks over to it when it’s all lit up, stares at it and just says “WOOOOOW!” It’s cute as hell.

We had a slight problem with him wanting to grab the tree and pull all the ornaments off. I repeatedly told him not to touch it with his hands, and he got the message. But as I’m quickly learning, if there’s a loophole kids will find it and exploit it. You see, I told him not to touch it with his hands. So what did he do? He started kissing the tree and all the ornaments. Touche my boy, touche!

And, as is tradition in our family, the youngest child gets to put the angel on top of the tree. Since he’s the only child (for now), he did the honors.

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