the best christmas ever.

"did you facebook that girl yet?" uncle mike asked me.
"umm, no, not yet," i said. he sighed in disappointment. "i told her you would message her!"
"okay, okay," i said, "i will."
"what are you drinking?"
"white wine?"
"can i have some?"
"yeah," i said, "i'll get you a glass."

i told him that we should get some beer. he said that it's always cheapest at rite aid, $10.99 for a twelve pack of bottles. he said he would drive to pick up a case. i got in the van, the one my parents used to own, and i asked if he'd quit smoking. he said he had, but that he'll light up one or two if he's been drinking. i asked if he'd gotten a new car stereo, but he said no, he'd had this one for a while.

while he went to rite aid to pick up the heinekens, i went to save mart, as i needed some bleu cheese. i wore my dog hat and my slippers with socks and i didn't give a shit. bleu cheese was pricey, something like $5 or $6 for a small container. even the bags of candies i'd gotten for stockings were expensive, something like $5 a bag. things cost. a woman tried to cut in front of me, but she failed. "there's a line," i told her. she looked behind her and apologized. as i left the store, i thought about the look she gave me, and how quickly it changed. it went from how dare you to oh, i'm so sorry in a matter of seconds.

back in the van, i asked uncle mike about his retirement.

"it's pretty good," he said. "if i stayed another year, it would've been more."
"yeah, it's okay."
"so, where's carmina going to school now?"
"where'd she go to high school?"
"did she like it there?"
"yeah, she liked it. i didn't like it. there's too many blacks."

later in the night, byron's friends arrived. graham told us there would be a lunar eclipse, so we all went outside to look at it. rich and i smoked black & milds.

"didn't you say you read something about how these are really bad for you?"
"yeah," i said. "they're pretty cancerous."
we laughed at that.
"those were the days," i said. "we'd light one of these up, get some big gulps. a big old thing of wild cherry pepsi."
"and mags," he said.
"yeah, high society."
"everyday," he said.

the people who lived across the street from us were standing in front of their house, and they were all looking at the eclipse. the older kid came up to our group, and he was talking to my cousin.

"who lives here?" he asked.
"i do! i live here," i said. we shook hands for the first time, even though we'd lived across the street from each other for three decades.
"do you mind if we light off these fireworks?" he asked.
"no, go for it, man."

at midnight, he lit off the fireworks, these loud little sparks that shot off into the air. everyone clapped and i went back into the house.

"i finally met the dude who lives across the street," i said.
"what about that girl?" rich said.
"umm, no, not her."
"what girl?" may asked.
"there's a girl across the street. he's been looking out his window at her for like the last twenty years."
"umm, no, no," i said.

gina was crying. my mom was trying to sleep but we were all being too loud. leia was talking gibberish to bella. sam didn't mask his disappointment when he found the fantastic mr. fox in his stocking. claire and i impersonated pauly d's meltdown in the jersey shore. we played scattegories, singstar, and catchphrase. we ate pancit, potato salad, ham, walnut and pear salad, layered cake, and corn chowder. the stereo intermittently played sufjan stevens' and john fahey's christmas songs.

before my aunt left, she hugged me and said, "thanks for putting this together, the best christmas ever."
"no problem," i said.
hand off the trigger, always.

my coworker took me to the gun range, this place called wade's, over in bellevue. he took with him his own .45, and his brother's 9 mm. i didn't know anything about guns, and the only time i had ever shot one was the time i fired a shotgun outdoors, probably a little over 17 years ago. it was a shotgun, and the recoil left my right shoulder hurting for days afterward. somehow, though, i hit the target, a little clay disc, and everyone called it "beginner's luck."

inside wade's, my coworker told me to pick out some targets. they had all kinds of different ones - ranging from simple silhouettes of a man to zombie osama bin laden. i really thought about the target i was going to choose. what if from far away, osama looked like just some random brown-skinned dude? i didn't want to shoot that. i thought about the silhouettes, and why were they only black and white? did it mean that people who fired guns wanted to kill either white people or black people? i couldn't have it on my conscience. of course, i didn't voice any of this out loud, as the slightest hint of my crazy over-analysis of everything probably would've gotten the both of us thrown out. he chose some simple circle targets, and i couldn't argue with those.

before we went into the firing range, we had to sign releases. there was that line about risk and possible death. i signed my life away. i asked my coworker, "are you going to tell me what to do?" he shook his head, no. "i'll tell you when we're inside." i didn't see how that was possible, though, since i could already hear the pop pop pop mayhem through the soundproof doors. whatever. i goggled and earplugged up, and followed him through the double doors.

he uncased his guns, and unlocked the wire that ran through the butt and chamber. he showed me how to load the cartridge, and i struggled with it. he showed me how to pop the cartridge into the butt and how to release the switch to make it ready to fire. while he loaded up some more cartridges, he told me how to get the feel of it. one of the workers showed me how to properly hold the gun, as i obviously wasn't doing it right. "hand off the trigger, always," he said.

finally, it was go time. the target was in place, and the gun was all set to blast. i realized then how nervous i actually was, and my hand was all sweaty. what if the sweat plus the recoil lead to me losing my grip on it, and it backfired, and i shot myself in the chest? oh well. only one way to find out. i squeezed the trigger, and the recoil wasn't as bad as i expected. i fired another. i finished a clip. "knock yourself out," my coworker said, and i loaded another clip.

a different employee came up to me after i finished the second clip. "can i give you some tips?" he asked. "of course," i said. he told me i was standing wrong, that i should stand with my feet spread apart. he told me my arms should be out more and curved, as my upper body was supposed to absorb most of the recoil. he told me that i was anticipating the shot too much, and that i needed to relax more when i squeezed the trigger, that the gun should do all the work, not me. they were good tips, and when my target came back, my coworker said, "that's quite impressive."

back in the car, we talked about women. he asked me why nothing ever happened between me and this other girl he knew i liked. i didn't have an answer for him. "sometimes," he said, "you've just gotta go in there and pull the trigger, see what happens. you don't want to be the guy ten years from now who thinks back to all the things he didn't do." i just nodded. "that's just a bit of fatherly advice i have for you," he said.
do you know where you're going?

i've got two weeks left in seattle. it still really hasn't hit me, as i haven't really felt anything in a long time. i tried to think what i'd miss most about it. there was a picture of the seattle skyline on reddit the other day, and it looked amazing. rainier in the background, the space needle front and center, the sky looking ominous and beautiful as it usually is. but what am i actually going to miss about this place?

i'll miss running down rainier ave. and seward park. that was fun. there was that time i ran through the mount baker neighborhood, and i found some cool looking cafes and shops and a nice park. i vowed to go back there when i wasn't so sweaty, but i've never been back. i'll miss taking the light rail to the qfc and to downtown. i'll miss having such a cheap orca pass and taking the bus anywhere and whenever i want.

and the food, of course. ezell's, red mill, tutta bella, molly moon, genki, top pot, crab pot, po' dog, cupcake royale, port st. george, that dim sum place i can never remember the name of and countless other restaurants in the i.d., olympia, wing dome, ivar's, six arms, the mix (r.i.p.), tamarind tree, coastal kitchen, geraldine's, thai kitchen, jamjuree, le panier, honey hole, baguette box, cafe flora, the essential bakery, and a bunch of other places that i've never even been or heard about.

i'll miss the crazies. the ones who smell and ride the bus, the ones who walk around downtown and just shout for no reason, the ones who hold signs that quote whole paragraphs from the bible, and the transient goth skaters at westlake plaza, the ghettofieds in pioneer square, the capitol hill gays, the belltown yuppies, the central district crackheads, the west seattle and ballard milfs, the dirty girls everywhere in their north face attire, the hipster baristas, bartenders and waitresses, the dudes with beards and flannel shirts with sleeves rolled up to the elbows, the sounders and mariners fans, the black kids who jaywalk, the white kids who philosophize, the asians who speak their native languages.

when people find out i'm leaving work and about my tentative plans, they usually congratulate me. the older ones, they usually also ask, how old are you again? and then i tell them 27, and they tell me i'm still young. they say if they were younger and didn't have kids or a mortgage, they'd probably do the same thing.

nobody really knows what they're doing, or where they're going. but what i've seen is that most people are usually afraid to try anything different.