Friday, January 30, 2009

Rule #1 For Being Burgled:

Don't post about it on Facebook unless you have a couple hours' time to respond to hundreds of calls and emails and texts from your friends.

Stupid friends. Why do they always have to be so nice?

While I'm on the topic of being burgled, the domestic partner is suddenly in the market for a new laptop PC. I'm a Mac guy, so I can offer no direction in that world. Do any of you lovely people have recommendations (or warnings) for PC manufacturers or models or affordable suppliers? (Plus I'd love some recommendations for an affordable, pocket-size digital camera that takes decent pictures. The one I have is as big as my head, and you have to pedal it to start it.)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

I just learned something

Robbery is when someone takes property off your person. Burglary is when someone takes property from your home.

We were burgled today.

The domestic partner came home from the gym around 6:30 pm and noticed the locks weren't locked the way we usually lock them. When he got inside, he found muddy footprints everywhere. And a few things in the house were not where they normally are, which is a lot to say right now because our house looked burgled well before it was broken into.

Then he noticed his computer was missing. And his backpack. And $600 in cash, which we NEVER have in the house. And when he called me at work to tell me about it, I asked him to look for my iPod, which I'd last seen sitting right where any burglar could find it near the little speaker thing in our bathroom. Sure enough, it was gone too. But the speaker thing was still there.

Fortunately, nobody was home when it happened, so nobody got hurt. Because if I had been home, you know damn well I'd try to play the hero and my boneheadedness would have left someone injured. My biggest concern when the domestic partner called me was whether or not Thomas had been home. I can't even begin to imagine the outcome of him stumbling on a burglary in progress. But he wasn't, so we don't have to think about it.

The freakiest part of the whole experience is the fact that there's no sign of forced entry. No jimmied door locks. No broken windows. No dynamite residue. In fact, the muddy footprints all over the house aren't anywhere near any doors or windows.


There's a muddy footprint on the lip of the SINK. But there's no way you could break into our house by standing on our sink. So I'm thinking we were burgled by a muddy-shoed acrobat:

In any case, the police came, asked a lot of questions, took a lot of notes, left fingerprint dust everywhere, and even knocked on all the doors in our tier to see if any of our neighbors saw or heard anything. The verdict? Nobody noticed anything. Our stuff will never be recovered. And we should change our locks. Which we're doing first thing tomorrow.

Assuming we don't get murdered in our sleep tonight.

The Lazy Blogger

There's this Facebook meme going around where you post 25 things about yourself and link 25 friends to your posting in the hopes that they'll do the same thing. It's pretty memed out by now, but I finally got on the bandwagon and posted my own list, which is really just a reduction of my entry in the 100 Things About Me meme that was racing around the blogosphere four or five years ago. And how lazy am I to make a blog post out of Facebook content that was originally a blog post? I'd answer that question, but it would require too much effort.

1. I am in one of those blissfully happy relationships—the kind that probably makes other people want to throw heavy objects at us.

2. My boyfriend/domestic partner/fiancé/whatever and I plan to get married whether or not the government and other curiously interested parties think it’s OK.

3. I used to get upset about gay-marriage inequality on a theoretical level. Now that it affects me directly, it makes me so angry I want to hurt people.

4. I love pets, but I’m more a cat person than a dog person. Mostly because cats are self-pooping and self-cleaning.

5. I am currently catless.

6. I grew up Lutheran, but I knew early on that my true religion was None of the Above. I don’t consider myself an atheist, because atheism seems obsessed with the existence of a god as well. I simply don’t believe and I totally don’t care.

7. In 1988, I lost five friends in two plane crashes and my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. One of those friends was murdered by the December 21 terrorist bomb that blew Pan Am flight 103 out of the sky over Lockerbie, Scotland.

8. I’d never really had an opinion on the death penalty until then. Now I’m a huge fan.

9. I studied the piano from second grade until I was in college.

10. I’ve taken tons of dance classes (gay!) and I’m still a pretty good tapper (gay! gay! gay!).

11. I’m a HUGE and unrepentant show-tune queen. (butch! I mean gay!)

12. I sang and danced and played the piano in theme park shows all four summers I was in college.

13. I got a job as an advertising copywriter when I got out of college just to pay the bills. I’m still here. And I neither love nor hate it.

14. I was a skinny, 155-lb scarecrow all through high school and college.

15. Tired of being ignored by the guys I was attracted to, I joined a gym after I graduated, and I’ve been lifting weights 5 days a week since then.

16. I started running in 1994, and even though I never really liked it I somehow got kind of addicted to it.

17. So far I’ve done two triathlons, five marathons, more half-marathons than I can remember, and one race up the stairs of the John Hancock Center.

18. I haven’t thrown up since I got food poisoning on my 23rd birthday.

19. I was born with my tongue connected to the bottom of my mouth and behind my bottom teeth, and I had to have surgery at birth and again in junior high school to correct it. Just talking about it still makes the end of my tongue tingle. In a bad way.

20. All my life I’ve gotten sweaty, panicky and physically ill in crowded social settings like classrooms or bars or parties. For me, talking to strangers was more terrifying than being chased by lunatics with giant knives. After seeing a therapist in 2003 and getting diagnosed with a social anxiety disorder, I at least had something with a name I could fight, and I made great headway in overcoming the problem on my own. But I still wasn’t better, so I saw a hardcore therapist for four months at the beginning of 2006 and I finally feel like I’ve escaped from my prison. And now I’m having way too much fun walking up to strangers and starting conversations. Just like normal people.

21. I am extremely loyal to my friends and family and would never say or do anything to hurt them. And I expect the same courtesy in return. If you do something malicious or hateful or staggeringly immature to me or anyone I care about, you will have almost no chance of regaining my respect or friendship.

22. I have a tattoo of Mickey Mouse on my left ankle, a tattoo of my first marathon date and time on my lower back, and a tattoo of a tiger (a ferocious tiger who’s not afraid to use his claws or his biting sarcasm) crawling up my abs.

23. I’ve been skydiving seven times. I’d do it again, but now that I’m an uncle, dangerous things like skydiving have lost their appeal.

24. Being an uncle has also made me more emotional. I’ve suddenly started tearing up over the most benign things. Like Kodak commercials. Or the National Anthem. But I’ve always been a sucker for patriotic stuff.

25. One of my biggest pet peeves is people who don’t look where they’re going. I’ve been known to get in their way so they bump into me, and then I wait patiently for them to apologize. I look at this as a public service.

26. I have a wide array of superpowers. For instance: I can tie a bowtie.

27. Also: I can drive a stick shift.

28. One more: I can fold a fitted sheet.

29. I won’t buy something until I have the cash to pay for it.

30. I rarely buy things (from salad dressing to clothes to furniture) that aren’t on sale. I don’t mind stopping back and “visiting” things until they go on sale, either. It’s like a game to me.

31. I have a hard time counting to 25.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

I just became an uncle again!

Meet Bridget. She has a giant black spot on her butt. And apparently she's extremely friendly and docile. But she also has a giant black spot on her butt. And if my sister doesn't email me a picture of her butt soon, I'll be sure to take a picture of her butt the moment I finally meet her butt. ("Her" meaning Bridget, not my sister. Just for the record.)

Monday, January 26, 2009

What is your definition of hell?

My hell is a vast warehouse filled with piles and stacks and shelves of crap that nobody needs. The warehouse is populated to the point of being a fire hazard with masses of slow-moving people who are completely unaware that there is anyone else in the warehouse but them. They all look in one direction while pushing giant wheeled carts in another. They let their children run untethered instead of keeping them drugged and complacent the way polite people do. Occasionally they park their carts diagonally in the middle of an aisle so they can carefully ponder whether or not they need one or two 36-pound containers of table salt.

My hell is Costco. And I survived two hours of Costco Smackdown! on Saturday.

For all its post-apocalyptic charms, Costco does have delicious pre-marinated chicken breasts. And the domestic partner and I are nothing if not Public Enemy #1 to large-breasted chickens everywhere. Plus it sells industrial-size containers of low-fat cottage cheese, pre-cut broccoli florets, frozen blueberries and other tools of culinary deprivation in the name of gay-cruise-related vanity. On Saturday's smackdown, we also discovered human-head-size containers of roasted edamame that boast more than twice the protein and a third of the fat of peanuts, which have been my stave-off-hunger snack of choice for the last few months. Of course, roasted edamame has all the flavor and texture of salty dust with the added bonus of looking like sun-bleached dung beetle carcasses. Toss them in a salad!

While I’m giving you a vanity update, I want to explain why I’m walking like a stabbing victim today. I did legs on Sunday, see, and I made up a new superset that has proven to be as embarrassing as it is effective. I’m squatting 225 now (four 45-pound weights plus one 45-pound bar)—a milestone that’s actually something I’m pretty jacked to be able to announce. But four sets of 10 squats, while certainly giving my legs and butt a solid workout, just wasn’t giving me that elusive trembly, rock-hard, hot-to-the-touch muscle pump that all self-obsessed little gymbunnies live for. Thankfully, I was hit (quite literally) with an inspiration this weekend. After each set of 10 squats, I re-racked the bar and promptly did 10 jumpy squats with no weight. I hugged my arms to my chest (I had no idea where else to put them) and squatted as low as I could go and then jumped as high as I could go for 10 more reps. And it did the trick! It made my thighs burn like a peeing hooker, it kept my heart rate up and it turned everything below my navel into poorly set gelatin. Everybody wins, right?

Not so much. In all my jumpy enthusiasm, I forgot that the squat rack I was using has a pull-up bar across the top of it. And in the middle of my fourth set of leaping, I jumped my head right into the damn thing. And all the other guys in the gym who had to this point been politely not noticing the Incredible Jumping Homo in the corner had no choice but to look up and see why he was suddenly clanging like the belles of St. Mary’s. (The Gymbunny Code of Honor mandates that you at least look up when you hear a weight-related calamity because even if you think a fellow gym member is a complete social misfit, if he dies on your watch you might have to give a statement to the county coroner, in which case you’ll almost certainly lose your pump.)

Miraculously, the head-clang hurt my social standing way more than it hurt my head. In fact, the pain was completely gone by the time I limped home. Then again, walking four blocks in sub-zero temperatures can distract you from a lot of things. Except maybe Rob Blagojevich’s hair. But it was still all worth it. I got my precious pump. The burn stayed around for a couple hours. And now, the morning after—which is the true test of whether or not a workout caused loser pain or winner pain—I came this close to deciding it was easier to pee on myself in bed than to crawl to the bathroom to do it. And that’s the way winners wake up. Beefcake!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

5% done!

The domestic partner and I agreed long ago that we’ll give our relationship 50 years to work. After that, we’ll both be free to cut our losses, walk away and find someone better while we still have our looks.

Today marks our two-and-a-half-year mark. Which by my calculations means we’re 5% done with our obligations. In the mean time we’re celebrating our kindaversary in grand style: I’m at work and he’s at home. And I have a rehearsal tonight, during which time he’ll probably still be at home.

It’s passion like this that’s gonna make this marriage work.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

We never liked you, Dubya Bush

We never liked your monkey face,
Your Jeebus-lovin’ master race,
Your evil axis, your pet Dick,
Your obviously elfin prick,

Your fake Iraqi weapons trove,
Your puppetmaster Karl Rove,
The way you swing at words and miss,
Your inarticulatedness,

Your utter lack of common sense,
Your federal funds for abstinence,
Your intellectual bourgeoisie,
Your selfish foreign policy,

Your Halliburton gravy boat,
Your nine-eleven “The Pet Goat,”
The fact that you’re a fucking dunce,
That pretzel chips could fool you once,

The Constitution you destroyed,
Your deficit, your unemployed,
Your screw-the-poor economy,
Your hurricane goatfuckery,

Your loathing of the Fourth Estate,
Your love for Proposition Hate,
Your house of cards, your brain of cheese,
Your Nazi SCOTUS appointees,

Your solipsistic “stay the course,”
Your outright lack of true remorse
For leaving the United States
A country that the world now hates.

We never liked you, Dubya Bush.
And so we kick you in the tush
And get you gone and throw a rope
To Obama, our newfound hope.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

I'm going out there a go-go boy
and coming back a STAR!

So I'm dancing behind a big fabulous drag queen in a fund-raiser next weekend, and you need to be there.

And yesterday doubled the reasons you need to be there. I was originally in just one of her numbers, see, but one of her other go-go boys didn't show up for the big tech rehearsal yesterday so she asked me if I could take his place. Does the pope shit on the people? Of course I'll suddenly be in TWO big fierce dance numbers behind a big fabulous drag queen! It's all so Peggy Sawyer I could just die.

The show is the annual fund-raiser for the Chicago Spirit Brigade, a spectacular amateur cheer squad that performs all over the city—including mile 21 of the Chicago Marathon, where they are my personal heroes even though they have yet to volunteer to run me in for the last five miles—and gives 100% of the money they raise at their appearances to organizations that provide direct services or care for people living with life-threatening challenges like AIDS, HIV and cancer. The fund-raiser next weekend—an over-the-top show featuring the not-always-about-cheering talents of the squad's members—is the only event where they raise money specifically to cover their own expenses like travel, uniforms, equipment, marketing and insurance. So it's important that you cough up your money and come see it.

And the fund-raiser promises to be fabulous. I was originally just dancing in a lab coat and ... um ... rubber fetish gear (hi, Mom!) to a starlet-with-plastic-surgery-themed mix of the songs (and here's the part where I talk about pop music as though I'm hip enough to have heard of these songs before I was in this show) "Disturbia" by Rihanna and "Keeps Gettin' Better" by Christina Aguilera. But now I'm also in the big opening number! It's some hip-hoppy (I think that's the word the kids are using these days) song I've actually heard before, but I just learned the choreography yesterday and I can't be expected to remember song titles too. The costume is a little tamer: baggy cargo pants and a colorful tank top (you can start breathing again, Mom), and the choreography is fierce. And I was going to make a self-deprecating remark about the age-inappropriateness of me dancing to hip-hop, but I just realized the other go-go boy in the number is over 40 as well. And there is nothing hotter than two hip-hoppy dancers less than a decade away from their first AARP mailing. Ow! My hip!

The show is called Big Bang 6 and it's gonna be at Circuit Nightclub, 3641 N. Halsted, this Saturday, January 24. The doors open at 8 and the show starts at 9—and now that I'm in the opening number, you can't be late. Tickets are $25 at the door but only $20 when you order in advance by following the order link here. Go! Order now!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

So we met with a nutritionist last night

It turns out that a sheet cake and a fork do NOT make a balanced breakfast.

With all the workouts we’re doing to get cruise-ready by March, we want to make sure we’re eating right so we’re not sabotaging all our sweaty, exhausting efforts. We’re pretty sure we have healthful diets and responsible eating habits, but three facts remain: 1) We’re ultimately just guessing what foods are helping and/or hurting us, 2) We still have a frustrating layer of poochiness around our middles and 3) Rick Warren is a total douchebag assclown.

SO! Now we’re writing down every damn thing we eat in little food diaries the nutritionist gave us. And by “food diary” I mean “sheet of paper with lines on it.” But “food diary” sounds way more legitimate. In any case, we’ll give them to the nutritionist early next week, and she’ll tell us what we’re doing right and what stupid misguided things we’re doing that are unwittingly condemning us to the body fascism G-list. Which is the gay D-list. But with a G. For “gay.” Get it? Why do I have to explain everything to you people?

In the mean time, we’re sticking to the delicious and delightfully varied chicken/turkey/cottage cheese/broccoli/spinach/egg white/protein shake meal plan we devised for ourselves. And we’re still pooching over our waistbands like the chicken/turkey/cottage cheese/broccoli/spinach/egg white/protein shake muffins we are. BUT! Now we’re writing it all down on paper. And that’s a recipe for success. Get it? Ingredients? Written down on paper? Making a recipe? Sheesh, you people are slow.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Did you people know about this?

So apparently there are two wide-open secrets out there that until now the world has conspired to keep from me. But! I have just found out what these secrets are! So you people and your mean-spirited conspiracies can suck it.

I was recently on a business trip with a colleague, and we were hanging out in an airport restaurant while we waited for our flight. He had a client document he wanted me to read on his laptop (and by "client document" I mean "long, inappropriate joke someone had emailed him"), and since the document was longer than his screen, I started painstakingly dragging the cursor along the little slider bar on the right of the screen to scroll down. And that's when my colleague spilled the beans. Apparently if you drag one finger up and down the scroll pad on your laptop you move your cursor, but if you drag two fingers up and down the scroll pad you scroll up and down the entire page you're on. When the hell were you people going to tell me this?

My sister had left me a voice mail on my cell phone. I told the domestic partner I was going to call her back, and I started dialing her number. And that's when the domestic partner spilled the beans. Apparently if you press the "send" button on your cell phone, you'll get a complete menu of your most recent calls. You can scroll through the list, press "send" again ... and you're suddenly returning calls by pressing only two buttons. You people are jerks for keeping this from me.

The measure of a man ...

... is how many of those scoopy things from his protein shake containers he feels compelled to keep for no useful reason whatsoever:

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Thank-you notes we received this week

Dear J and J,

Thank you for the plasma car and the Apples to Apples game.

Uncommonly Photogenic Niece, age 7

P.S. I loved having you here.

Editor's note: Apples to Apples is a kids' card game that at first blush is kind of lame. But if you're a goofy uncle, you can play your cards in goofy ways that make nieces and nephews like mine belly-laugh like you wouldn't believe. Best. Sound. In. The. World.

Dear J and J,

Thank you for both games. I really love the Nerf game because it's a game where you can kill robots.

Uncommonly Photogenic Nephew, age 9

P.S. Apples to Apples is really fun.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

In which I probably come off as gym-snobby

There was a very large woman working out with a trainer this morning at my gym. After a recent diet of The Biggest Loser marathons and the new DietTribe (the latter mostly to drool over trainer Jessie Pavelka, for whom the domestic partner and I would dump each other faster than you can say ILoveYouJessiePavelka), my first inclination was to congratulate this woman for her commitment to fitness and to do everything not-creepy that I could to encourage her whenever I see her.

Working out with (or even without) a trainer at 7:00 am requires a shit-ton of work. I get up at 5:45 so I can be dressed and breakfasted and out the door by 6:10 to catch my bus, get to the gym, get changed, brush my teeth (so I don’t gag my trainer as I grunt and groan) and be stretched and warmed up and ready for my ass-kicking by 7:00. I have to pack my high-protein, high-green-vegetable lunch and my clothes and make my before-and-after protein shakes the night before. I forfeit weeknight activities with friends and Law & Order reruns with the domestic partner and delicious, delicious, delicious cakes and cookies so I can be rested and properly fueled to get the most out of my I-don’t-want-to-think-about-how-much-this-costs hour of training.

Whew! I sure can write a long paragraph! Who knew? But back to the woman from long paragraph 1. When I first noticed her, she was doing warmup curls with a bar that didn’t have any weights on it. Then her trainer put a 10-pound weight on each end of the bar … and all heck broke loose. The woman did NOT want to curl 20 more pounds of weight. She whined and pouted and got angry, while her trainer steadfastly insisted she get over herself and do what she was told. And while yes, the woman was the customer and therefore technically always right, she had no doubt put forth at least half the preparation efforts I go through just to be there this morning … and then she decided to waste all her time and effort by not wanting to participate in 60 minutes of expertly guided, confusion-free, grotesquely expensive exercise.

I have a ton of reasons for showing up at my gym three mornings a week and twice on the weekends. They range from health to vanity, but they’re mostly about vanity. 40-year-old-gay-man vanity. Which can be the least rational kind. But I’d bet vanity is the driving force behind every gym membership … and certainly every personal trainer session. And while I’m not invested enough in this woman’s life to really care that she let her inertia overcome her own vanity and health goals, I was amazed how fast her outburst took me from admiration to irritation this morning.

But enough of that. This morning I also made friends with an off-duty trainer who was wandering the gym floor trolling for clients. After spending a few minutes in requisite small talk with me, he clearly looked disappointed when I told him I already had a trainer. But he kept coming back for more small talk. And lots of eye contact. And even more small talk. And since I was working out on my own today, I actually had little pockets of time to chat. And since he was 25ish and kinda dreamy and clearly not just chatting … well, let’s just say my 40-year-old-gay-man vanity had a very good morning.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Cleaning out the inbox

Some days it's just easier to cut and paste old crap than to come up with original blogging content.

For instance! I'm in a weekly email contest with a bunch of people I don't know. Every Monday we get a topic. We all submit three entries by Wednesday. We vote for our top five on Thursday. We get the winners on Friday. Then we start over. Whee!

I've been doing this contest for years and years, and I can safely say that the other people in it do NOT get my sense of humor. In fact—if I may be so blunt—the other people in the contest are kind of ... um ... not funny. At all. Though some of them submit some truly funny ideas, the stuff that routinely wins every week tends to be ... well ... too obvious to make a reasonably sober fourth grader laugh. Yet I return week after week in the hopes that I can train these legions of strangers to write (and vote for!) some truly funny submissions.

But enough of my thinly veiled condescension. I'll leave the judging to you. Here are some examples of recent contest winners. I've asterisked my submissions for those of you who don't get my sense of humor either:

Things NOT To Say During A Job Interview:
1st: "I'm sorry, I think I fell asleep...could you repeat that question?"
2nd: "Now that we're here, I'd like to talk to you about Jesus Christ."
* 3rd: "Does this look infected?"
4th: "As Director of Diversity, I assume I won't be working with any cripples, homos, or towel-heads, right?"
5th: "Define 'late'.”

Things We Might Expect In A Sarah Palin Administration:
1st: Senate does a shot every time she says "You betcha"
* 2nd: Automatic foreign-policy credentials for anyone living near a border
3rd: Senate required to vote "Nope" or "You Betcha" on all legislation
4th: More Emmys for Tina Fey
5th: Pelosi Bitch Slapping Palin at State of the Union Address

Science Fair Projects We Never Want To See:
* 1st: Kittens: America's Untapped Energy Source
2nd: Tastes like chicken..." - A Comparison of Animal Semen
3rd: The mating habits of a U.S. Congressman
4th: Corn: Our Undigestable Friend
5th: Guess the Smell

Hair Salons We Never Want To Visit:
* 1st: Hairy Queen
* 2nd: Mullet Over
3rd: Cook County Prisoner Rehab Salon - "We'll cut you like you've never been cut before"
4th: Lighthouse for the Blind's Barber Training Academy
5th: Britney Spears' House of Shears

Sometimes, though, truly funny stuff gets submitted and actually makes it to the top five. On these weeks I revel in newfound hope for all of humanity:

Parks and Monuments We Never Want To Visit:
* 1st: Iwo Jemima
* 2nd: Yellowstain National Park
3rd: Statue of Puberty
4th: Tomb of the Unheard Mime
5th: Mount Smegma

Cirque du Soleil Productions We Never Want To See:
1st: L'Obese
2nd: Le Petit Oui Oui
* 3rd: Douche!
4th: Bukáka
5th: La Vagine du la Palin

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Hello, darkness, my old friend

I, Jake the Blogger, have silenced a leaky toilet with my bare hands. BEHOLD MY AMAZING POWERS.

The damn toilet had gotten so loud with all its hissing and leaking and gurgling that we had to start closing our bathroom door at night just to get to sleep. That was ... um ... three months ago. I tried to fix it on New Year's Day using the time-honored plumber technique of wiggling the little flapper in the tank with my fingers. But all it did was get my hands covered with questionable water. As a bonus, it also made the tank leak even more noticeably into the bowl.

So today I bought a toilet repair kit and replaced both the water-intake tower and the flappy thing. And the noisy toilet was silenced. On the first try. BEHOLD MY AMA ... well, you know what to do.

Also! While I was in full-on manly-man mode, I installed a gasket around our front door (to block drafts and noise), squirted some expanding foam behind some drafty drywall, replaced a battery and a lightbulb (halogen bulbs are the devil's oven mitts), figured out why the knickknack light in our kitchen stopped working (turns out it was unplugged) and sang some show tunes. Um ... I mean and killed a man with my bare hands. Because I'm a manly man!

Christmas gifts we received

Clockwise from the top left:

Remote control holder. My niece and nephew have a cool little shopping program at their grade school where they get to buy real presents—like the things you'd find in a real store—at a deep discount. And since their parents don't shop with them for these gifts, the kids get to enjoy an element of surprise when their families open their gifts. Last year they got me a ceramic snowgrandmother figurine and a wooden nutcracker in a faux Cubs uniform. So I won't complain about the more functional things they got me this year. Like a red wooden remote-control holder with a built-in lazy susan.

Tupperware container. My sister also takes her kids to the dollar store every year with a list of people they have to buy for. In theory it's a great idea because the kids get to buy gifts for a ton of family members and friends and it costs my sister only twenty bucks. But the selection at the dollar store must be pretty limited. Because this year my niece bought the domestic partner this resealable plastic food container.

Back scratcher. I must look itchy. Or unlimber. Or maybe both. Because of all the things packed onto the dollar store shelves, this is what my nephew decided I needed the most.

iPod speakers. This gift is pretty cool. And since I actually own an iPod, it's also potentially useful. My nephew got it for me at the abovementioned school shopping program. Unfortunately, it takes a ton of batteries. And we keep forgetting to buy batteries. Even worse, I also keep forgetting to listen to my iPod.

Sword. The niece and nephew have discovered woodworking. And those little handicraft prodigies made everyone in the family a custom-designed wooden gift this year. My sister got a recipe holder that takes up more counter space than all her recipe books combined. My mom got a Jesus cross with the nails helpfully pre-pounded in. The domestic partner got a toy airplane that is, quite frankly, hopelessly non-aerodynamic and will never get FAA clearance. And I got a sword. With glitter on it. But not because I'm a big homo; I think the glitter is supposed to represent the metal part of the sword. And the duct tape, contrary to popular opinion, does not represent a handle sheathed in intricately braided strips of leather but rather an emergency patch-up job when the glue failed to hold the cross-parts of the handle in place. And do you know why they made me a sword? Because the little darlings paid attention when we went to Disney World and they know that Pirates of the Caribbean is my favorite ride ever. So, naturally, I needed a sword for Christmas. And now the domestic partner and I have a weapon in the house. A sparkly weapon. And if some swarthy bad guys break in and try to steal my back scratcher, they're gonna get a swift, sparkly trip to Davy Jones' Locker, Mateys!