Chapter 11: So This is Christmas

Before I got off track with my declaration of our new national holiday, JMD, I was espousing the car-driving gas-pumping lifestyle I had so quickly adopted.

I got my first tutoring client, and was getting four days a work at the gas station.  I knew that money was coming in, and for the first time since October (yikes) my cash flow would be in the direction that you’d like it to be.

I had spent four weeks at my dad’s house in Upstate New York during October and November, so I had told him I didn’t anticipate coming home for Christmas as that’s a time that employers in the service industry schedule “the new guy”.  Given the state of our economy, I thought it best to use my availability on the holidays to help me get hired.  For the second year in a row, Christmas with my mom would take place during one of the three-day weekends in January and February.

I think it’s a sign of how wonderful my job is that the boss crossed off my Christmas Day shift on the schedule, sending me an email saying that as I was still training there was no sense in making me come in on Christmas Day.  Now that’s a great boss!

So there I was in Los Angeles, not really sure what I’d be doing with myself.  Flying home was not really an option, as the last minute booking would probably be in the six figures, and with the travel time I’d probably get a net total of three hours at my dad’s.  So I asked all my housemates what they were up to, and figured there’d be some sort of makeshift Christmas celebration as all but one of them would be around.

Christmas Eve was pretty fun.  I was house sitting for my buddy Eric, stopping by his apartment twice a day to feed the cats, just a few blocks away.  I was taking the opportunity to enjoy his big screen television and DVR.  I got home the night before Christmas and a few people were hanging out, sipping wine and eating food.  I decided to call it an early night, and headed back to my room.

I had recently switched rooms, as I got the impression that my roommate Danny the Lion was going to move out, and a spot had opened up in Gentle Doug’s room.  Doug was a real easy guy to get along with.  I had only been in the room about six days at this point, and I was crashing at Eric’s apartment half the time, so I wasn’t quite yet settled there.  Gentle Doug was home for the holidays, so I had the room to myself.  I said my good-nights and retreated to bed.

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house, some people were drinking and having fun.

Yeah, that didn’t rhyme.  But there’s a lot about my Christmas that was unconventional.

There were days when I postulated why Santa Claus never woke up anyone.  How could he accomplish so much and be so quiet?  I mean he came down the chimney and all.  I always attributed to the fact that I’m a very deep sleeper.

Deep sleeping was always a tool of mine.  For example, as a young child of 8 months, occasionally my dad would be charged with the task of feeding me.  Should I not want to eat the particular baby food he had to offer, my solution was simple: go to sleep.  My brothers would scream and cry and clamp their mouths shut.  But me?  I’d hit the snooze button and there was no waking me up.  My dad was worried a few times that I had dropped dead, but I was breathing, so despite his best efforts all he could do was throw in the towel.

What was already a formidable strength of mine skyrocketed to an outright super power when I was in college.  The dork of the house, I generally went to sleep at 11pm, midnight at the latest.  I learned to sleep through anything, especially since my roommates had an affinity for waking me up when they got home from the bar at 3am.

“Jesse.  Jesse!  Let’s go to Denny’s”

But I slept through it all, developing a controlled state of Narcolepsy that could guarantee me my 8 hours under any circumstances.  All five of my roommates wanted to do a pile up on top of me like in the World Series?  No problem!

So it was no small event that I was woken up on Christmas morning at 5am.

The first thoughts that entered my head were “Where am I?  Who am I?  What’s going on?  What state am I in?  What time is it?  Who is that yelling?  How close are they?  Where am I?!!”

As I said, I wasn’t really settled in my new room yet, so even on a regular morning I’d wake with that “where am I?” feeling.  But this time there was a bit more urgency. 

After about fifteen seconds I realized that the blood curdling screaming was coming from the next room over:

“I’m gonna kill you motha fucka!  Get the fuck out of here now or I will bury you!  You don’t know who I am.  You don’t know who I know!  You tried to rape my sister you piece of shit, I’m gonna fucking bury you!”

Hmm.  That’s not Santa Claus.

But how was I to know that wasn’t Santa Claus?  Maybe he has Tourettes, ya know?  Maybe it’s like a man behind the curtain sort of a thing, except behind the “Santa” curtain it’s an angry, threatening woman screaming.

But after a little while I remembered that Santa Claus is generally believed to not be real, and the voice sounded a lot like one of my housemates.  And unless my housemate was in fact Santa Claus, and had Tourette’s, then some shit was going down and I needed to get up do something about it.

I can’t emphasize enough how not settled I was in my room.  My reflexive, jump to action attempt to get out of bed and come to the rescue ended with me doing the equivalent of the magician’s barrel drop down Niagara Falls.  My blanket was the barrel, the drop was only two feet, and the water was my hardwood floor with various books and shoes scattered about on it.  Let me tell you something, Houdini had a much easier time getting out of his barrel.

I managed to tangle myself in the two blankets in a way that would have Strait Jacket companies shaking in their boots for fear of obsolescence.  Far from coming to the rescue, I was merely flopping around like a fish out of water, each flop landing me on a different object that wanted to introduce itself to my ribs. 

I decided to slow it down, as I only seemed to be making things worse.  It was then that a new voice came into play, with a thick Latino accent, and a word choice indicative of limited knowledge of English.

“No.  No.  I no know what you is saying!”

Wait a second, I know this voice…

When I had come to the conclusion earlier that this was not Santa Claus screaming, an image popped into my head that initially propelled me into action: Some guy off the street wandered into the house and tried to rape someone.  As you can imagine, that is a terrifying image.  My only other thought was that it was some sort of ex-boyfriend or stalker, which is probably even scarier.  But this was a familiar voice.

Carlos?

Yep.  The doofy new roommate that had just moved in.  He’s the kind of guy that stands a little too close to you when he talks.  You kind of have to suppress the impulse to be like “hey! Back off man”.  It’s the same way a Golden Retriever or a Black Lab gets in your face.  It doesn’t bother you too much because it’s a big, doofy dog.  But nonetheless, you’re kind of like “hey, get outta my face!”

I’d only had a few conversations with Carlos before, and during each one I was concerned with the welfare of the closest lamp.  You just get the sense that he’s going to accidentally knock something over.  But you know if he does you won’t be all that mad, because he’s got those puppy dog eyes and he just wants to play.

Well, back to the strait jacket.  I was realizing that I wasn’t sure quite what was going on at this point, and other voices started to come into the mix.  The dominant voice the entire time was the screaming sister, who lives across the hall from the not-screaming sister that Carlos had clearly crossed a line with in some way.

By this point it was clear that there was a strong presence of housemates joining in, including one of the new people that had just moved in, Matthew just back from the Iraq War.  So the immediacy of the situation was fizzling out just as I was freeing myself from the tyrannical blankets that were holding me hostage.  I got up and started to put some clothes on, but not knowing where everything was and being in the dark, it was a bit cumbersome.  I was about to switch the light on when I heard it said:

“I’m calling the cops.  Fuck you motha fucka, I’m calling the cops and you are going to jail!”

Hmmm.  You see, the thing is…jeez how do I put this?…Hmm.  Uh – No fucking way am I going to get involved in this if the cops are going to be coming!!!

Sweet mother of a monkey!  I didn’t move to Los Angeles to help justice!  Of course I’m going to step in if there’s the danger of something bad happening, but at this point it was clear that what was done was done, and there was no changing it.  Matthew was trained to take care of situations like this, and the alleged aggressor was the big doofy guy that everyone already knew.  If I step out of this room, all I’m going to do is stand around and here both sides of the story.  Carlos seemed to like me, so I was sure that he would plead his case to me.  The screaming sister was nothing short of hysterical, and managed to keep the same level of intensity for a solid twenty five minutes, yelling at everyone in the house that if they let Carlos leave the house she would have them all arrested.

Que?!

I don’t know if this was yellow of me, or cold of me, or wise of me.  But I decided that staying in my room was the best option.  I step out of the room, and I’m guaranteed to have a five minute conversation with the police about something I really knew nothing about, except from the cases that each side would no doubt make to me.

So I decided to go back to sleep.  I stayed awake for fifteen minutes just to make sure I wasn’t making some sort of grave mistake I would regret later, but my interpretation of the situation seemed to be pretty spot on.  The screaming sister continued to scream at everyone, and dished out some curious phrases.  After assuring that she could kill him and get away with it, she proffered her reasoning: “you don’t know who I know – you don’t know the people I know – I know Michael Jackson, motha fucka!”

Hmmm. 

I stayed awake until the cops came, then figured it was safe to zonk out.  I wish I could tell you what really happened, but I’m no detective.  My thoughts about what occurred are such that I think it’s OK to make light of the situation in this blog, if that’s of any help.  I do know that the cops on the case did not see any reason to lock up Carlos, and just suggested that he leave the house.  Carlos was living with my old roommate Danny the Lion, who decided to sleep through it as well.  The cops came into his room with flashlights and shined it on him.

Recounting later on, “Dude I was awake when they did that, but I was like fuck that, I’m pretending I’m asleep.  But I gotta tell you, I was considering for a moment rolling over and saying with a big smile: Santa?!”

I woke up the next morning to (multiple choice)

a) Presents

b) Brunch

c) No Electricity

d) None of the above.

Choice 3?  Ding Ding Ding would have gone the bell if it weren’t for the power outage that started at 9am on Christmas Morning and lasted until 9pm the following night.

Carlos was gone and by the end of the day so was Matthew after getting into an argument with the guy that rents the house.  Taking care of my friend’s cats turned out to be the best Christmas gift I could get, as it got me out of the house and into a heated apartment with electricity.  I saw a movie that night and came home to find that the guy renting the house had moved out as well.  The hustling bustling house for the first time kind of felt empty and lacking the vibrant life I had come to enjoy so much.

I walked out to the porch where Danny the Lion was smoking a cigarette with several layers on.  Danny comes from Upstate New York as well, and we had reminisced a few times about pleasant Christmases passed.

“Hey buddy” he said as he handed me an unsolicited cigarette.  I happily lit up, knowing that despite tobacco’s bad rap, there were moments like this that it was in fact created for.  I took a big old drag, and as I exhaled Danny gazed off into the distance in a way that I could tell he was thinking of Los Angeles in it’s entirety, a place that was as new to him as it was to me.

“So this is Christmas.”

With the timing that comedians spend years training to master, I burst into a “cough take” of laughter from the smoke I was inhaling.  I joined in with him as he hummed the tune.  He took a last drag of his cigarette and put it out, with his final remark:

“Los Angeles, city of fuckin’ angels.”

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