A Very Godzilla Christmas

Year by year, I find myself making new emotional divestments from Christmas and the winter holidays. Even when I was younger and still felt the Christmas spirit, I always sensed that there is something not quite right with how we collectively behave during this season. So many expectations, yet so many inevitable upsets and shortcomings. So many nonreligious (and religious) people celebrating Jesus’s birthday with ornaments, presents, and deforested fir trees. So much unbridled consumerism: people utterly possessed, shopping the same way as someone who has been wandering through the desert—parched—for days on end and desperate for the smallest sip of water.

My current sentiments towards Christmas developed gradually—that is, I didn’t just wake up one morning and decide that it wasn’t my thing. They started with objective observations in my youth, some of which are mentioned above, and became cemented into place a little more than a decade ago when I had a string of really fucking terrible holiday seasons. I still held on to the traditional ideals though, because abandoning them would be abandoning a way of life that was familiar and that is dear to so many. (I was already well off the beaten path and certainly didn’t need something like this to put me even more out of step with John and Jane Doe.)

Yet, due to the unpredictability of life and circumstances that were beyond my control, I was fighting a battle that I couldn’t win. I didn’t fully understand this, however, and every subsequent Christmas became increasingly grueling. Then suddenly something happened that deftly released me of this burden:

One year, after a party on Christmas Eve that I was obliged to attend, I returned to my place and sat in darkness on the couch trying to process everything that was happening in my life, as it existed then, on the backdrop of yet another Christmas season. It was after midnight, so early Christmas morning. I only wanted to shut my brain off and fall asleep, but couldn’t. I turned on the television and began flipping through the channels. Eventually, I saw that the movie Aliens icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12 had just started. “How peculiar,” I thought to myself, “that somebody would play Aliens on Christmas morning.” I sat there for quite a while just staring at the listing on the TV menu before me. The more I thought about it, the more I began to realize that watching Aliens early Christmas morning was somehow exactly the right thing for me to do at that moment. I was up until almost 3:00am giggling at the perfect portions of sci-fi action and violence that were being fed to me through my television screen. By the end of the movie, I could have guiltlessly and gleefully barked at the mythical fat man himself: “Screw you, Santa! Take a hike! And to hell with all your silver bells, candy canes, and asshole reindeer!”

Somehow, in such a ridiculous and absurd moment, I came to feel joy during a time of year that, for me, had become associated with profoundly unpositive feelings: feelings that then compounded and became so much more than just an absence of joy.

Now, even after so much time, I continue to find new benefits from my break with Christmas. For example, I only buy gifts for people when I find something that is genuinely useful, instead of subscribing to the bullshit notion of compulsory gift-giving. Not only does this save me time and money, but it also makes the gesture of giving someone a present more meaningful. A couple of years back, I bought chocolate coffee beans and chocolate almonds for many of my coworkers. Last year, I didn’t buy anybody anything! This year, I gave presents to two people: 1) a Batman Christmas tree ornament for one of my best childhood buds, and 2) a 32″ HDTV and Blu-Ray disc player for my hippie uncle who had never before laid his eyes on a high-definition television signal.

Sometimes I do miss the sweet intoxication of winter holiday cheer and everything that comes with it—eating too much, drinking too much, spending too much—but not for very long. When I visited my uncle on Christmas day, he was eating a Wendy’s hamburger meal and watching the third annual Kaiju Christmas icon-external-link-12x12 , a 96 hour Godzilla marathon from December 23rd through the 26th on the El Rey Network icon-external-link-12x12 . He was already happy, and the new TV and disc player were just a bonus. After all, HD Godzilla holds absolutely no meaning whatsoever (but we did take a break a little later in the day to watch Baby Driver icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12 together and he finally got his first dose of modern television fidelity).

Fire-breathing Godzilla wearing a Santa hat and holding a candy cane. [Formatted]

These days, watching Aliens during the holiday season is just one of those things that I always do. It makes me feel good, in a weird way, and helps keep me grounded during a crazy time of the year. And given recent events, I think I’m going to start mixing in some old school Godzilla flicks. I’ve been meaning to watch them anyway and now I have exactly the reason I needed to make it a priority.

Shop Till You Drop (Or Not)

I stopped by Best Buy this afternoon as I was out grocery shopping (I really needed avocados) to see what sort of embarrassing high jinks were afoot. I had to park in the gravel lot next to the store because there wasn’t space anywhere else. After going inside, I strolled up and down the aisles and decided I would try to be a good American (i.e. consumer-retard) and buy anything and everything that was of interest to me.

As expected, the environment was hectic and triggered a flashback from many years ago: I was living in San Francisco and travelling north to Redding on Christmas Eve so I could spend the holiday with friends and family. I am not very good at buying gifts and put this chore off till the last minute—I was naive and figured I would just quickly drop by a Target somewhere in the Bay Area and grab a few board games and some wrapping paper. It was Christmas Eve, after all, and there couldn’t possibly be very many people out shopping. What a tremendous error in judgment! The store was a zoo, people were in a frenzy, and there was merchandise strewn across every aisle. This was a jarring realization for me: I figured there would be a few weirdos still out shopping, but had no clue there would be enough to fill a store. It was at this time that I began to understand why some people don’t like Christmas.

Crowded retail store on Black Friday. [Formatted]

I spent at least 30 minutes walking through Best Buy, looking for worthwhile purchases and simultaneously soaking in the frenetic energy of the people around me. In that time, I covered most of the store, and only ended up grabbing the following items:

  • 4K Movie, Blade Runner 2049, $14.99
  • 4K Movie, Deadpool 2, $14.99
  • Xbox One Game, Doom 3 BFG Edition, $14.99

It seems that I wasn’t very successful in my attempt at empassioned and untethered consumerism. I must be a bad American, but honestly there really wasn’t very much in the way interesting stuff to spend money on. I haven’t seen either of those movies yet, but I liked the two movies on which they were based. Doom 3 has been on the “to play” list since it came out nearly 15 [!] years ago. I guess I could have purchased the 4K movie player that was half off, or the 50″ 4K television that was $300 for my bedroom, or the fully 4K capable Xbox One X, but I wouldn’t really use them all that much. The Xbox One S I purchased last year plays 4K discs not very well, but I don’t watch movies or play games frequently enough for it to matter. If I put a TV in my bedroom then the quality of my sleep would decline, I wouldn’t read as much, and my larger/better TV in the living room would get used even less than it does already.

Oh yeah, I also ordered two Apple-brand mini-DVI to DVI adapters for my two late 2009 Mac Mini model computers. They were about $8 a piece and were not on special.

So despite my best efforts, I only spent about $65 today. If groceries count then I spent about $135 total. Hopefully next year I will do a better job at being an American, but I probably won’t.

Word of the Day, Entry 3: Latchkey Kid

A latchkey kid icon-external-link-12x12, or latchkey child, is a child who returns from school to an empty home, or a child who is often left at home with little parental supervision, because their parent or parents are away at work.

In the background of my youth, I heard this term once or twice. It was foreign and seemed to be applied to children that were exposed to risk and thus nothing like me.

I was very closely and carefully supervised until about the age of about seven, but descended quickly and abruptly into a wide gulf of adult unsupervision. In just one year, I would find myself walking a nontrivial distance home from school to an empty house. Weekday afternoons from 2:30pm until about 5:30pm left me stranded with the undeveloped devices of an eight year old. My afternoons were typically spent watching cartoons, plinking away on the computer, playing video games, or reorganizing my baseball card collection. Because of syndicated reruns and a frustratingly meager weekly allowance, I frequently had to invent ways to moderate my time and occupy myself:

Preteen standing in front of an open refrigerator raising an upturned Hershey's chocolate squeeze bottle over his mouth with both hands. Liquid chocolate is pouring into his mouth. [Formatted]

(This actually wasn’t me. You see, my mother did not believe in sugar and so we never once had Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup in the fridge. If we did, it’s a certainty that I would have been doing this sort of thing, and also making chocolate milk sans kitchenware.)

There was, and still is, no shortage of latchkey kids in America, although it’s my understanding that they are not nearly as common as they used to be (see helicopter parents icon-external-link-12x12). What perhaps makes my experience more unique is that my parents decided to send my younger sister and brother to after-school daycare—both are my junior by 2 and 3.5 years, respectively. Apparently the “too young to be left home alone” marker for our parents rested somewhere between the ages of six and eight. For my siblings, after-school care continued well into middle school, yet I have been increasingly on my own since the beginning of fourth grade.

Nobody ever told me that I was a latchkey kid, nor did I develop a sense that any adults around me actively made the observation. If one of them did, it was never verbalized in my presence. Likewise, if an admonition was ever issued to my parents then I cannot detect that it registered with them. This sort of thing was just normal. It was a little scary, but also a little cool. And now that I finally know what the term means, I realize that it would not be inappropriate to change the name of this site to ChadSpace, Chad “Latchkey Kid” Johnson’s Website.

Burgeoning Wealth of Medical Knowledge

I completed my first CPR icon-external-link-12x12 class over the weekend. It was not very hard: rapidly alternate between pressing firmly and releasing fully on a person’s lower sternum, 30 times, and then deliver two full breaths through the mouth/nose into the lungs. Use a defibrillator if available. Rinse/repeat. Oh yeah—and don’t forget to call 9-1-1 so that an ambulance is on its way, because they have stethoscopes and sphygmomanonamometers and shit.

I received this totally legit medical certificate and there wasn’t even a test! Why aren’t more classes like this? This medicine stuff is a piece of cake. Maybe I should have become a doctor.

CPR and AED certification card for Chad Johnson. Valid until October 2020.

Now that I know CPR, there are many more pretty ladies in the world that will be safe than there were before. And because I’m such a great guy, I am also willing to resuscitate babies… but only if they have a changed diaper, and aren’t ugly.