My Top 10 “Other” Christmas Songs

Photo by David Beale on Unsplash

The finish line is in sight.  Christmas is merely days away, and the anticipation just keeps building!  And I for one, am looking for all the Christmas cookies, Christmas presents, Christmas dinners, Christmas parties, Christmas lights, Christmas fights, Christmas traditions of getting hammered with your friends at the bar, Christmas blackouts—hold on, too much information, heheh.

And last but not least, the Christmas music… oh, how I love the music this time of year.  The constant injection of Christmas tunes into your audiological veins that keeps you juiced up for the entire season; your blood shot eyes staying set on the prize, another sleepless night from the horror that is the little drummer boy, commanding you to keep marching, keep stumbling from store to store like a zombie as the sound of screaming children blasts through one ear and the perpetual pulse of Mariah Carey’s voice drives through the other.  “Keep marching.  Keep shopping.  KEEP ON CHRISTMASING!!!”

Bottom line, I’m looking forward to it all!  That is, if I don’t end up in the insane asylum before the big man comes to town.

Everywhere you go, it’s Christmas music, Christmas music, and even more Christmas music!  And don’t get me wrong, most of these are great tunes!  But we could really use some variety from the 25th rendition of John Lennon’s “So this is Christmas,” or another Michael Bublé cover.  And after the 10,259th time of listening to Mariah Carey’s “All I want to for Christmas,” the lyrics eerily start to sound a lot like, “I don’t want a lot for Christmas, I just want to blow my brains out…”  It’s like there’s already a spike in suicides this time of year.  Why make it any worse?

By the way, does anybody actually like the Little Drummer Boy song?  I’m sorry to any fans, but talk about BOOOOOOORING!!!  Why are we insistent to listening to this pile of lameness every year when there’s actually some other good songs out there?  I say it’s time for some change, a break from the monotony of the same 5 songs over and over again.  So, here are my top 10 “other” Christmas songs that you can put on your next Christmas playlist in order to avoid the nuthouse for at least one more year.

10. The Kinks – Father Christmas

A silly and satirical piece on the true meaning of Christmas in the eyes of a child.  A time of giving?  A time for sharing?  To be thankful for everything we have?  Naw, this song cuts through all that crap.  Of course, the smarter ones put on a good showing, but in the end, all every kid is looking for is the big payday that occurs on 12/25.  And who better to give us this blunt reminder than the classic rock quartet who rose to stardom with a song about almost going home with a transvestite?

9. Weird Al Yankovic – Christmas at Ground Zero

I promise, I have some more serious songs on this list as well, so bear with me.  But here’s another satirical piece that serves as a homage to the dawn of the nuclear age with the red scare and the constant threat of nuclear holocaust!  Well, being that I wasn’t alive back then, I can’t actually attest to the threats and feelings of the time, but I love the throwback, and I find the outlook of nuclear energy through the eyes of the public during the 50’s and 60’s quite fascinating, as well as how it was portrayed through the media.

8. Darlene Love – All Alone on Christmas

Of course, she’s most famous for her “CHRISTMAAAAAAAAAS” song, which is a great tune, but can be overplayed during this time of year, only to be beat by Mariah’s song.  However, here’s another song of hers that has the same energy, but can come off as a bit fresher, mostly because it isn’t constantly ringing into your skull while you’re standing in line at the local Macy’s.  Oh, and it also has the boss.

Photo by Jose Antonio Gallego Vázquez on Unsplash

No, not that boss.  This boss.

7. Dropkick Murphy’s – The Season’s Upon Us

Another silly piece that describes Christmas more in the National Lampoon’s sense.  Family’s aren’t perfect, and if we’re honest with ourselves, this time of year can involve a lot more stress, mayhem, and putting up with insufferable family members than the calmness and peace on Earth that is falsely preached to us.  But if you look back at all those “disaster” Christmases, chances are that you wouldn’t have it any other way.  It’s your family.  It’s what makes you unique, and at the end of the day, it’s why you love them as well as this time of year.

6. Jackson 5 – I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clause

I don’t know if it’s because I was a white kid from Eastern Washington or what, but I had never had heard this rendition until recently.  And I was perplexed to find that our 7-year-old neighbors had never heard the song “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clause” in any capacity, for the name itself gave them quite the chuckle.

Now that I think of it, this song hasn’t been getting the play time it deserves during the Christmas season, no matter what version it is.  Regardless, Michael Jackson, still in his innocence, exemplifies the spirit of this song better than anybody else I’ve ever heard as a young buck catching his mom smoochin’ with the big man.  The 70’s Motown vibe it brings and Michael’s remarkable vocals puts the icing on the cake.  Oh, and the chitter chatter between the kids between versus adds a nice touch as well.

5. The Royal Guardsman – Snoopy’s Christmas

A simple rock classic from the days of the British Invasion that takes us into the world of the cartoon classic Snoopy as a World War I fighter against the Red Baron.  Though there doesn’t seem to be much to this tune and the concept is rather outlandish, the driving rhythm and the flow of the lyrics is surprisingly pleasing.  It all seems to roll together seamlessly, and in the end, your left with a smile on your face and the urge to listen again and again.  And strangely enough, when I showed this to my father, I was met with excitement as it brought back memories of him listening to this with his brothers as a kid.

4. Weird Al Yankovic – The Night Santa Went Crazy

The second Weird Al song on this list, and for good reason.  Weird Al is a comedic and musical genius.  The ideas he comes up with are like that of a prodigy, and his lyrical selections and execution are masterful.  “The Night Santa Went Crazy,” is no exception to this, and Mr. Yankovic expertly takes the grim concept of Santa going into his workshop in a drunken rage and slaughtering everybody in sight and turns it into a hilarious bit that has you laughing throughout.  I recommend giving this song at least a listen, and even if the subject matter isn’t quite to your liking, you can at least appreciate the talent that is Weird Al Yankovic.

3. Amy Grant – Tender Tennessee Christmas

2. Amy Grant – Grown-up Christmas List

In our family, Amy Grant was the queen of Christmas, and there was only one album to be played during this time—hers.  And to be honest, she actually had a good rendition of original Christmas songs, too.  Here are two of her originals, which bring back cherished memories of the Christmas season as a young boy in the corner of south eastern Washington.

Unfortunately, our Amy Grant Christmas CD suffered one too many scratches and was rendered unplayable many years back.  And for some sad reason, I can’t seem to find that particular album anywhere, which had a most superior mix of songs.  However, I am forever grateful I could at least be blessed with her oratorical beauty for at least a part of my life.  And there’s always hope that I recreate the mix later down the road someday.

The Killers – A Great Big Sled

I don’t know if anything gets me more excited for the Christmas season than this song.  “A Great Big Sled” summarizes the joy of the Christmas season.  Running around in the snow, getting excited for ripping open all our Christmas presents—the whole gambit.  Understanding that the excitement and feelings of the Christmas season fade as you get older and the sad reality that grown-ups lose the magic of the season, it encourages us to recapture those feelings of when we were young and to take some time to enjoy the season for what it is; to take some time to remember what it was like to be a kid on Christmas and how awesome that was.  And maybe, we can pass the spirit along to our kids someday, so they too can carry the torch that is the Christmas tradition.

So, there you have it.  A couple of tools to battle against the awfulness that commercial America burns into our ears this time of year.  Take this wisdom, go forth, and conquer this Christmas.  You may just survive to see another one.

Merry Christmas from Grizzly Chadams!

Christmas 2019: The Year of the Crappy Commercial

Photo by hue12 photography on Unsplash

I understand coming up with a good commercial can be a difficult task.  You have 30 seconds at the most to introduce your product/service, explain what it does, and convince an audience, who is already annoyed that their regularly scheduled programming has been interrupted, to buy said product/service.  But that’s what people get paid big bucks for.  To sell products through advertisement, despite the challenges.  And over the years, we’ve actually been blessed with some Christmas classics.  Remember the M&M guys?

And what about the Coca-Cola polar bears?  Another use of cutting edge technology (well, for its time…) to push a beloved American product.

Oh, how I miss the old 90’s computer animation…

Both are simple and heartwarming, and in the case of the M&M’s, humorous.  At the time they came out, they were recognizable, leaving a lasting impression for years to come.  And I’m not a market researcher or anything, but I’m guessing they sold a few products as a result.

So, what does 2019 bring? Surely, an uptick in quality. And with so many good examples, with such a solidified formula for success, you should at least be average, right?

Wrong.

It’s like in 2019, they decided to ignore the most basic concept of marketing: determine who your target audience is, or “who is most likely to buy this product,” and build your commercial around that. I mean, it doesn’t take an advanced physics degree to figure that one out. Take this old 90’s commercial for the board game “Crossfire” for instance:

Clearly it’s a game that appeals to young boys, and the commercial takes advantage of the fact.  Two kids, or two “cool kids” clad in leather jackets float on hover boards while gearing up for an epic battle.  Yes, it’s corny, but as a 7-year-old kid, it was intense. It was radical It had rockin’ theme song, and upon seeing it, the words that came out of my mouth were, “…I want that.”

In other words, it did its job.  It worked.

Or how about another golden rule: don’t piss off the people who might buy your product!

None of which apply to the following…

Exhibit A:  Mercedes-Benz.

Just the smug look on this kid’s face gives me the urge to deliver a knuckle sandwich!

Here we have a kid who catches Chris Cringle in the act of leaving his presents under the tree.  Now, what would your average, modest kid do if he saw Santa?  “Oh Santa, I’m your biggest fan!  Thank you so much for all the presents.  You’re the best!”

What does this kid do?  This little A-hole decides he’s going to blackmail Santa into giving away his “sled,” aka a new Mercedes-Benz Coup.

For starters, kids may think they’re smart, but they aren’t.  Sorry, but they haven’t had a job, paid taxes, been dumped by a babe, or learned any of those “life lessons.”  But let’s play along and assume he really did think this was a good idea. “So, let me get this straight.  Here’s a guy who flies around, breaks into people’s houses and leaves presents for me every year.  And you’re going to screw with him and prevent all the other kids from getting gifts, because you’re a selfish turd?  You really think that’s a good idea?  Gee, that’ll sure keep you off the naughty list for life!”

Actually, it sort of reminds me of a certain scene from a certain super hero movie…

Think, Timmy.  Think.

And to make matters worse, Santa totally capitulates!  Like, really?  Santa Claus, a man with mythical powers, who has somehow figured out how to get to every child’s house in the world in one night, gets outsmarted by this twerp?  What an insult to our intelligence!  I don’t care how jolly Santa is, he’s still a man–a bad ass mother who don’t take crap from nobody!

But really, what adult in their right mind would take crap from a chubby bastard like that!  In fact, this is a more accurate version of how Santa would react:

“Listen you little shit.  You best delete that picture and crawl your ass into bed before Old Saint Nick becomes a lot less jolly shoves a pound of coal up your ass!”  Or better yet, he’ll go all Pulp Fiction on his medieval ass.  “What does Santa look like?  Does Santa look like a bitch?  Answer me!  Say what… Say what one more time!  I dare ya!”

Warning: explicit language and violence!

Hmm, that’s actually not a bad parody… something that would make people laugh, something that might actually get people to buy your product.  Maybe, if I were Saturday Night Live, or better yet, a competing car company, I’d take advantage of the situation, just maybe…

And what the hell is a kid going to do with a car?  Not that Mercedes doesn’t make nice vehicles, and as the owner of a Mercedes-Benz, I can attest to its quality, but what the hell good does getting a present you can’t use do?  So, congratulations kid, you just got daddy a new car in which he’ll get hammered and drive to see his mistress before crashing into the median and getting slapped with a DUI, further tearing the family apart.  A bit harsh, you say?  Apparently, selfishness and screwing people over are values practiced in that household!

And does this commercial appeal to adults?  You know, the demographic that might actually be able to afford a Mercedes?  No.  This is a kid’s commercial, and I’m not anymore convinced that I should be buying a Mercedes over another car after watching this garbage.

Sorry Mercedes, but you really missed the mark on this one.

Exhibit B: The girl with the Microsoft Surface

It starts out innocent enough, thinking there will be a sweet ending with this cute little girl.  Then, she makes contact with the reindeer, using the tablet to communicate.  Quite a touching scene. “Boy, you can’t really go wrong from there.”

WRONG!!!

Suddenly, she turns into a treacherous little snoot and starts barking out orders.  “How do you guys fly!?  What does Santa do in the summer?!  Tell me!  I demand answers!”  Like, buzz off you little snot!  And calm your ass down.  Santa’s reindeer don’t have to put up with that crap!  Man, if my mom would’ve ever heard me talk to others with that type of attitude, you’d bet your ass it’d be a date with the spanking stick!  For good reason too!  The lack of disrespect in these kids today just blows my mind!  And no sense of patience either.  Just terrible!

Lucky for us, they cut the commercial right then and there, cause the next words out of the reindeer’s mouth would be, “I don’t have time for this shit,” seconds before they proceed to goring her for being such a brat.

The sad part is, this commercial had potential, by relaying the power that the Microsoft Surface has.  Unfortunately, you’re left with a bad taste in your mouth.  And to think I was about ready to make the shift back to Microsoft after years of being an Apple man.  Like, seriously, can I get a #SMDH up in here?

Exhibit C: The Snow Brawl.

Now, as a kid, I would love this commercial, a snowball fight full of unpredictable action and excitement.  It sparks the child’s imagination and gets them hyped for an epic showdown of their own!  Pretty much a mini Michael Bay movie.

Only problem is, it’s not a kid’s commercial!

Now, this isn’t a terrible by any stretch, for I can watch this as an adult and understand the filming capabilities of the iPhone.  And it’s definitely well shot, but again, to reiterate the point, they could’ve done better at defining their target audience to sell more of their product, the most important job of any commercial.

On top of that, if you’re a parent who’s going to buy their kid a brand new iPhone 11, you may want to rethink your parenting strategy.

Now, normally, I would see commercials like this, and say “well, that’s dumb,” and move on with my life.  No need to get worked up over things I can’t control. But then came the outrage…

Exhibit D: The “infamous” Peloton commercial.

A kid leads her mom down the stairs for a special Christmas reveal.  “Look mommy, me and daddy got you a Peloton for Christmas!”  She’s blown away, for that’s quite the gift.  She then begins her first workout a bit nervous, for if you’ve ever started your first anything that involves working out, spinning class, yoga, jiu jitsu, etc., the first time can be a little intimidating.  But then she does it, and is comfortable with it, keeps doing it, see’s results, meets her goals, and in the end, her and the husband are reflecting on the couch, watching her videos and reflecting on the work she’s done.  And guess what, they are pleased.

Now, this won’t be a commercial we remember for the ages, but at least Peloton did their homework on this one.  They found a target demographic, adults who have families and busy schedules who are looking for a convenient way to get a good workout in.  And low and behold, here is a device that allows you to have a workout class in the comfort of your own home at a time that’s convenient for them, without the need to travel back and forth to the studio.

In summary, they found a target audience and marketed to them accordingly.  Congratulations Peloton, a solid B effort.

But guess what?  People seemed to lose their freaking minds!  “I can’t believe the husband is forcing his already rail thin wife to work out!” or “This commercial is fat shaming!” or “Look at how miserable she is that she has to exercise,” was just a glimpse of the commentary.  And this isn’t an exaggeration.  Story after story has popped up all over my social media, the mob taking over to shame this abominable commercial out of existence! IT MUST BE DESTROYED!!!

Why, just a quick search for “Peloton” on the web yielded the following results:

And FYI, these screen shots were taken from the top of the page, first search, one day ago

So, this is the commercial America is getting worked up over?  A husband buying a workout machine for his wife?  Not the fact that we have commercials encouraging kids to act like brats, which actually may have negative behavior effects?  What the hell is going on out here?

Is it that inconceivable that there are women out there who actually want to work out, enjoy working out, and would love to have something like a Peloton?  Heck, my sister, a very successful working mother has a Peloton, and although I didn’t ask her why, I think it’s safe to assume that one of the reasons is that she values being in shape.

And is it out of the realm of possibilities that spouses communicate with each other in a loving, positive way to encourage each other to workout?  My wife and I certainly do, and guess what? We also talk about our fitness goals.  Why?  Not only do I want to look good for her because I love her and she doesn’t deserve somebody who looks like a slob, but also because I want to make sure I stay healthy for the years to come (And for those of you who are thinking, “what about all those McRibs you eat,” trust me, I run extra hard to make sure to factor those in).  And maybe she feels the same.  And maybe, just maybe, this couple in the commercial had a conversation that went along the lines of, “You know, I want to work out more, but it is difficult with the kids, work, traffic and all.  Having something like a Peloton would help me get back to the shape I’d like to be.”

Whoa!  What a concept!

And kudos to a man who buys a Peloton for his wife because she wants to work out more.   Cause those things ain’t cheap! 

And look, in some ways I get it.  You don’t work out, you don’t have a family, or maybe you have the time to go to the gym on a regular basis.  No harm, no foul, this commercial simply doesn’t appeal to you.  So, what’s the next logical step?  Say, “ok, looks like I don’t need to buy a Peloton,” and then… then… get this. You move on with your life.

But for some reason, people have the need to go out and berate the company with the goal of total destruction.  We have to assume that this guy is a total jackhole of a husband who demands his wife slave away on the Peloton for the sole purpose of looking sexy for him!  We have to get outraged to the point where we create several news stories about it!  Like, really?  Are people’s lives’ that miserable that they need to take that misery out on others?

Speaking of Misery, heheh…

This is why we can’t have nice things!  We get all pissed off about a guy buying his wife a Peloton, so we get crap commercials like the little punk blackmailing Santa.  We have to put up with bratty snoots talking down to Santa’s reindeer.

Oh, and guess what? If all that wasn’t bad enough, we have another terrible Star Wars movie coming out! Remember what happened last time (Disney has officially ruined Star Wars)? I can only imagine how bad this one’s going to be. WHY MUST YOU TAKE EVERYTHING THAT IS SACRED TO US AND CRAP ALL OVER IT JAR JAR ABRAMS? ESPECIALLY ON CHRISTMAS!? ESPECIALLY WHEN–

You know what, screw this.  Christmas is cancelled!  Good ol’ Grizzly Chadams ruined Chirstmas, again!

I’m going back to Thanksgiving for my beans.  My greens.  Potato.  Tomato.  Back to a time when the world was at peace, if only for a moment.  Where we didn’t have to put up with any of this crap!

YOU NAME IT!!!

London Calling: The Tube

“Welcome to the UK.  May I have your passport, please?” asked the customs official in a proper accent.  Now you’re talking my language!  No more of this bonjourno or ciao crap!

After a question or two and a stamp of the passport, I had officially become a visitor of the UK.  And man, with less than an hour had been spent, my outlook was already on the up and up!

To be honest though, everybody had talked the place up at work, telling me where to go, what to see, and how to get there!  “Oh, you can take the Tube anywhere,” mentioned my boss.  “It’s easy!  They’re all over the place…”  Wait, the Tube?  What’s a Tube?

***

My topcoat and parted hairline cloaked any traces of my foreign status as I walked down the steps to this supposed “Tube,” though it looked a lot like a subway if you asked me (FYI, they have funny names for a lot of their stuff over there).  The British have a tendency to be much more presentable in their fashion, at least in public.  And the girls like to do themselves up big time, especially on a Friday night!  Like, “holy cow, you must’ve spent hours in front of the mirror putting on make-up,” style of done up!

And get this… one even talked to me!  Schya, I know.  Kind of a big deal, right?!

I’ll never forget the look she gave me, that layer of glittered makeup, the precisely drawn-on eyebrows, her crispy, blond hair caked in product, the hair spray stinging the nostrils.  As I looked at her, there was but one thought that consumed my mind… “Man, I hope nobody lights a cigarette nearby!”

She turned her head, expecting her two friends walking next to her.  Instead, there was me.  Out comes a shrill gasp.  Taken aback, her eyes widen and mouth hangs agape.  “Ohae, Christ!”

Quickly, she scurries past me and finds her girlfriends.  No matter.  I had Tubes to ride, places to be.

Friday nights on the Tube can be a little tight as well.  For better or worse the skinny cabs of the Piccadilly line force you to get cozy with your fellow commuters.

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At least their seats are more like couches.  Before being packed in like a can of sardines, I found an open spot on one and got comfortable.

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A few crackles on the Tube intercom brought the patrons to attention.  I remained calm, having heard these types of official announcements many a time riding the DC Metro.  “Attention green line passengers,” the voice would usually say in a succinct manner.  “The elevators at the Mount Vernon Square Station are currently out of operation.  Maintenance will be conducted on Sunday, from 6 AM to 8 PM.  I braced myself for something similar, more professional and proper, of course, as is the British custom.

“Why ello dere,” mentioned the operator.  Wait a minute, is the operator a 15-year-old boy?  A slight paused commenced before the young lad continued with his official, important, Tube-sponsored announcement.  “Well… you might be wonderin’ why when you try to go north at the Wimbledon station, they keep on makin’ you go south.”

…No, not really, but yes, continue.

“Well, dats because… and actually, you’ll probably hear about this on the news lata…”

Go on…

“…But the power cables… they fell down.  They’re layin’ down on the tracks… all of em’.  Another long pause commenced.

 “The last time this has happened has been… why, since before I can even rememba…”

And that was it.  That was the entire announcement.  I sat back and took a deep breath.  What the hell was that?

So yea, I guess you could say there are some interesting characters on Tube.  I mean, get a load of this guy with his kazoo keyboard, trying to be the next Ed Sheeren or something!

Honestly though, he wasn’t too far off!  His style was enigmatic, a collaborative combination of instruments classified as juvenile, yet captivating.  The patrons couldn’t help but engulf themselves in his interpretation of the classic tune, “Jingle Bells,” especially the lady across from me!  She acted like she was annoyed, as did I, burying her face into her phone and everything.  Her eventual toe tapping gave away the façade.

But his musical endeavors didn’t come without consequence.  Stop after stop, new passengers boarded, greeted by his siren song.  And one by one, they stayed and listened, put under a soporific-like spell the minute they entered the Tube.

The lady across from me… she took it the hardest.  Struck by his soothing voice and her phone forever removed from her face, she lost herself, her eyes fading, unwilling to move from her spot on the couch… not for the end of the world—

“Oh my God!”  Her rising face and deep gasp said it all.  Precious seconds spent in a blissful existence of song and dance were no more—this was her stop!

She shot up and made a break for the exit, minding the gap the furthest thing from her mind.  “She’ll never make it,” I thought to myself as I watched the doors come to a swift close in front of her face.  “They’re moving too fast.  She’s doomed, her entire day—ruined!  How will she ever get off—”

Wham!  The doors slammed, separated only by mere inches.  Without missing a beat, the music man shoved his foot in the middle, right in the nick of time.  “Jingle bells, jingle bells,” he continued… but the doors were relentless—determined to shut, no matter the casualties.  They opened once again, only to shut on his delicate foot with twice the force.  Unfortunately, a Tube entertainer’s salary doesn’t always provide for adequate footwear.

This music man was undeterred, however; his commuters deserved better than this.  In a courageous display of might, he took another step, wedging his body between the doors.  Sacrificing his body, the lady stepped past before either could be crushed.  “Jingle all the way…”

Pop!  The doors slammed into each other.  On one side, the lady walked her way to luxury, never to acknowledge her savior, ever again.  On the other side, the music man stood, stoic and un-phased at the fact that he was nearly decapitated.  “Oh, what fun it is to ride in a one horse open sleigh, hey!”  He sends me a wink and a smile, needing no praise for performing his civic duty.  He knows I’ve enjoyed his performance; my stupid grin gives it away.  I reward him abundantly with a pocket full of pounds.

***

It’s getting late, and even in London’s prestigious Trafalgar Square, the underground corridors can become a bit sketchy, let alone tricky to navigate, especially for a foreigner like myself.  At such a late hour, the usual commuters tend to vacate, leaving the unsavory to populate the Tube’s tunnels.

I walk alone, eyeing the end of a corridor that looks to be the exit near my hotel, at least one can only hope.  To my left sit two homeless kids, their belongings spread out across the ground.  A line of a brownish/green substance lays on top of an open piece of cigarette paper.  OPSEC ringing, I surge forward, not willing to stick around and find out what type of herb they were using.

The boy begins to speak.  “It’s Lokke,” I imagine he says.  I can’t quite understand though, nor do I try to.  Just pretend like he wasn’t talking to you.  Works every time.

“It’s Loke!” He says again, louder this time, and more legible.  Still, my mind is races, survival instincts overcoming.  Ignore him.  Keep walking, and whatever you do, don’t stop.  The exit’s only—

“IT’S LOCKED YOU BLOODY BLOKE!”  I freeze, coming to a realization.  Ahh, this exit must be locked!

I turn to address the lad.  “Oh.  I’m sorry, I didn’t hear you.  The exit is locked you say?”  I thank him for the friendly suggestion and turn back.

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“You know, I think I’m starting to get the hang of this ‘Tube’ thing,” I thought to myself as I emerged from the depths of the underground a block away from my hotel.  “It’s a shame I only have a day to spend here.  I was really starting to feel at home in the UK.  It’s sort of like I was a natural…”

…A native.

The Mammogram… and the current state of our healthcare system

Healthcare.  It’s been on everybody’s mind lately.  People are worried sick about it.  “Am I going to lose my health coverage?  Is the website working yet?  Will I have to same type of coverage as the elite members of this country such as the president, senators, and Kanye West?”  All are legitimate questions, without clear answers, answers that have torn apart friends, family, and parts of this country as a whole.  Along with these answers comes the blame game, with our problems always being somebody else’s fault.

The truth is, these issues have been apparent for quite some time… years even…  well, I at least have known of them for a while now.  I could’ve sent a warning to my friends much earlier, but hesitated.  I was acting on selfishness and cowardness when I should’ve thought of others and how my story, no matter how embarrassing it may be, could have prepared them for the future.  Well, better late than never, and who knows?  It may still save a few souls here and there, even though my silence has cost many all ready a great deal of pain.  You only have one life to live, and you must do what you can with what you got to make it count.  That’s my motto.

It all happened a couple years ago during a Christmas party in an old apartment in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle.  There was a holiday theme, and all in attendance were mingling about in the appropriate attire to match the occasion, sharing with each other the spirit of the Christmas season.  For some reason, I had my shirt off (which baffles me to this day, for I rarely rip off my shirt during any party or likewise occasion, ever), and after talking to somebody for an extended period of time, they noticed something unusual with my chest.  One breast was bigger than the other.  This was something I had known ever since my teenage years, and didn’t think too much of it.  “So, one of my boobs is bigger than the other.  Who cares!?”  But as the news spread around the party about my abnormality, worry and panic set in.

“Oh let me just see it,” one girl asked.  I didn’t mind.  She was probably a babe, so I let her feel for herself the non-symmetrical phenomenon that was my boobs.  “Oh my gosh, it’s true!” she exclaimed as she caught the attention of others, drawing them into close quarters with my naked chest.  “Let me see,” asked one.  “I don’t believe it, I wanna feel,” said another.  Before I knew it, a dozen people from both sexes were crowded around me in an attempt to examine the build up of unusual tissue around my left nipple, all of which began touching and feeling it at their own free will!  I don’t mind if a few hot babes grab them here and there, especially since I was eager for a chance to show off my newly sculpted pectoral muscles.  But it was getting to the point where things were starting to get uncomfortable.  To some, it could’ve been classified as sexual harassment, although I couldn’t bring myself to make that accusation.  After all, every one that touched both of my boobs seemed genuinely concerned for my health, and was only grabbing them for medical reasons.  So I just stood there in an inept position as I watched the reaction of people, one after another in shock as the squeezed each nipple, realizing the irregularity of my body.

“You really should get that checked out,” one suggested, followed by nods of approval.  Enough people agreed, and counseled me in their own personal way.  I forget who was all involved in the decision that night, but I know it wasn’t Ben Woodward.  He usually has some pretty good sense about these things.  In fact, I don’t really remember much of Ben during the whole party, which leads me to believe that he was actually being really cool about the situation and in general.  However, his coolness wasn’t enough to convince me from doing something about my condition, so the next week, I made an appointment to visit a doctor and clear up whatever defective generation of tissue build up there may be inside my body, if there was any issue at all, which I highly doubted.

I entered the doctor’s office with a slight agitation, and the nurse reminding me of my weight insecurity wasn’t helping the situation.  What was this build up of tissue in my left breast?  Will I need surgery?  Chemo?  I was just beginning my life, and life was good.  This is the last thing I need at a time like this!  But better to take care of these things now rather than later, when they could be much worse…  That’s my motto.

The doctor entered and did his regular examinations before proceeding to copping a feel, which I guess I allowed in an indirect way.  He squeezed, and massaged, and rubbed, and felt all around my chest as I stood there in anticipation of his diagnosis.  He had a look of puzzlement on his face that was impossible to determine whether it was a sign of hope or doom.  So I waited, heart pounding for several minutes for his decision.

“Well, my professional opinion is it’s just some build up of residual tissue.  I don’t see any signs of a tumor or-“

“Great news doc!  I agree with the diagnosis, and gee, look at the time.  Gotta go.  It’s been a pleasure-“

“BUT…”  One of most disappointing phrases a man may ever hear.  I looked back with concern, halfway out the door.  I wasn’t going to like the next words out of his mouth.  “I’m going to have to refer you for an ultrasound.”

“You gotta be kidding me,” I thought to myself.  It killed me inside, but I had to respect the man’s recommendation and his years of study and practice.

I informed my boss the next day at our group meeting that I had to schedule another appointment.  “I have to go in for some testing tomorrow,” I told the group.  I was immediately shot with an array of strange looks, and immediately realized I had uttered one of those phrases that came out the worst way possible and wished I could take back.  I sensed what they were thinking, but I didn’t know what would be more embarrassing; letting them think I have an STD, or telling them the nature of my impending risk of breast cancer, and the fact that I’m getting an ultrasound.

I kept my mouth shut.  My professional relationship with my Catholic coworker has suffered ever since.

So again I found myself inside a hospital waiting room, checking into my ultrasound appointment, lingering in agony until the moment my name is called.  I needed something to get my mind off the procedure, fast.  It was stressing me out big time!  On the counter I rifled through a barrage of magazines geared towards woman’s health issue.  There were the usual “Shape,” “Woman’s Health,” and “Bridal Monthly,” and “Pregnancy” magazines, but then something else caught my eye.  “So you’re having a baby,” and the many other health pamphlets scattered around the office table.  For a moment, I forgot all about my procedure and became intrigued about the subtle details of pregnancy.  I learned that it’s normal to feel sick and make multiple trips to the bathroom during the early stages of pregnancy, and how one may experience unusual spikes in their appetite.  The real eye opener was the section that begins with the woman’s water breaking and going down the list of steps involved in birthing the baby.  I was a bit disgusted at the level of detail portrayed in the pamphlet, yet at the same time, it was at a level of interest that kept me reading, wanting more, just like the show “Keeping with the Kardashians.”  I was sucked in with horror, yet amazement.  I needed to know what happened next, deeper and deeper into the vile depths of this pamphlet, each section more-

“Excuse me sir, we’re ready for your ultrasound.”  I looked up to a waiting room full of women, all eyes fixated on me, wondering why the hell I was nose deep into this pregnancy pamphlet and getting an ultrasound.  I slowly set the pamphlet down and cautiously made my way out of the room, as if it were a scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds,” me being vastly outnumbered by the crowd of women watching my every move.  Any sense of panic or sudden movement would turn the room into a frenzy in which there would be little chance of survival.

The room mimicked that of an alien probing station, a circular space with a large table in the middle for the specimen to lie, and a long and skinny mechanical eye with the ability to examine any part of the body it pleased.   “Take off your shirt and lay on the table,” the nurse instructed.  I wasn’t really thrilled about taking my shirt off, even with my transitioning chiseled body, so the nurse probably wasn’t that much of a babe.  Regardless of my thoughts, I did what I was told.  I had to do what I could to understand the fate of my left breast, and allowed the nurse to splatter a blob of gel with the consistency grape jelly all over my chest.  This substance was rather warm, making the situation even more uncomfortable than it needed to be, and for several more minutes of unnecessary medical exploitation she took the metal probe and pressed it against my body, moving it all around the general area of my breast with a film of gel in-between looking for the best view of tissue on the large screen hovering above us.  By the way she was taking her sweet time moving the probe all over my delicate body slathered with medicinal oil, I could tell she really enjoyed her job.

“I can’t see anything wrong with your breast.”

“What a relief,” I thought to myself.  Christmas was just around the corner and my worries were behind me.  Sensing my probing was over and done with, I cleaned the warm goop off of my body and put my clothes back on as the nurse finished up her paper work.

“I’m going to refer for a mammogram.  Please go to the 9th floor and hand them this referral.”

“Whoa…  WHAT!”  She didn’t even hit me with a misleading and disappointing “But.”  She went straight for the throat.  I didn’t even get a chance to strike back, or even think!  But you know, I guess better safe than sorry…  That’s my motto.  And so I gathered what was left of my shattered and dwindling dignity, crept past the preying bird-like women in the waiting room, and made my way to the next stop on my breast cancer journey; the equivalent of Level 8 on Super Mario Brothers 3.

“Excuse me mam, I’m here for an appointment.”  I set the referral note on the desk.

“All right, what are we doing today?” she asked, her face glued to the computer screen.

“Um, I’m here for a mammogram,” I politely responded in a soft voice, avoiding any unnecessary attention.  The last thing I needed was another ultrasound incident.  I waited a few long seconds, where I sensed an extreme case of ADD with the receptionist, as she kept typing away on her computer, forgetting that she had responded to me mere moments before.

“I’m sorry, what was that hun?”

Again, I responded with quiet hesitancy.  “A mammogram mam.  I’m here to get a mammogram.”  My patience was running thin at this point, but again, I replied with gentle poise.  I wouldn’t let them break me, no matter how bad of humiliation I may suffer.

But she kept on keeping on with her typing, and again my answer was ignored.  Whatever was on that computer screen was much more interesting than me, a major blow to my ego.  I mean, what administrative bull crap could be on that computer that is much more compelling than my presence?  It was kind of making me mad!  I kept my cool though, for there’s no need to draw attention to oneself during these types of situations.  That’s my motto.

“I’m sorry, one more time sir?”

“A MAMOGRAM, MAM.  A FREAKING MAM-O-GRAM!  I NEED TO CHECK TO SEE IF I HAVE BREAST CANCER, AS STATED ON THE REFERRAL NOTE I GAVE YOU!!  WHY THE HELL ELSE WOULD I BE HERE?!?!”

They say every man has his breaking point, and I had just hit mine.  I had caught the attention of the entire room now.  I was like Tupac, all eyes on me; everything I had tried to avoid…  Oops.

“Well why didn’t you just say so sir?  Please have a seat and we’ll call your name whenever you’re ready.”

I did as she told me, making awkward eye contact with everybody in the waiting room.  I had to give them the nod of acknowledgment, letting them know that they were all right, and I knew I was in the right place.  I’m not quite sure why we do that when we’re placed in stiff situations, but it’s something we all do.  I didn’t dare look at any magazines or pamphlets this time, even though there was plenty to read on the subject of a woman’s breast.  I was very tempted, but refrained, and just waited with a steady fortitude along with the other woman in the room for my breast test.  There was no way I was making that mistake twice.

After an excruciating fifteen-minute wait, I was called in for the exam.  The nurse ripped off my shirt and grabbed the hunk of flesh that comprised of my enlarged left breast, pulling it onto the bottom glass portion of the machine and setting the top portion in place.

“Ok, I think we’re all ready,” she stated, which was great news for me.  The sooner I could get this procedure done and over with, the sooner I can get out of this discomforted sitting position, out of the hospital, and on with Christmas.  The machine started, and the procedure pressed on and on…  Literally.  It pressed on my boob, and didn’t stop.

“Mam, I think this is good enough,” I stated, voice raising with concern.  I had no idea if it was good enough or not as far as the breast screening process goes, but all I knew is that it hurt like hell, and I was done with this mammogram as far as I was concerned.

“Just about one more minute,” She responded.

“Ah hell no!”  At the rate this is going, there’s not going to be any breast left to examine!  This was far enough, time I draw the line.  So I pulled out… or at least I tried.  The machine had a killer clamp on my boob, and the harder I pulled, the more it pressed and resisted.  The friction between the two glass slabs and my breast was too great to overcome.  I was left in agonizing pain with only two outcomes.  Either the nurse would show an ounce of mercy and let up on the examination, or my left boob would pop like a zit, squeezing puss all over the machine, and probably alleviating my breast cancer worries for the near future.

I scream out loud, but the machine that had turned my breast into a pancake took the breathe out of me.  All that came out was a quiet and exaggerated “Eep.”  For a moment, I was surprised and a little impressed at the amount of surface area in my breast that had been created by the machine.  The amazement was short lived unfortunately by the fact that my boob was on the verge of explosion at any second.  My heart raced, and I could barely hold on.  My face turning a pale blue, heavy breathing, body going faint.  This was the end.  If only there was another way…  If I could take back-

“All done!”  The machine lifted and my breast slowly formed back into shape like a dashpot.  I began to regain consciousness at a rapid pace.  A Christmas miracle.  “The results look good! No signs of cancerous cells or tumors.”

“Oh gee, like I didn’t see that one coming,” I thought to myself, although my demeanor was that of liberation, for that meant no more testing for me.  I was off Scott-free!

“Now we’d like you to come back in three years for another check-up so we can ensure-”

“No way.  Nuh uh.  Not gonna happen.  I’m done…  I. AM. DONE!”

“But sir, we really recommend-”

“Nope! I ain’t putting up with that bull crap again.  No more check-ups, screenings, weird jelly, ultrasounds, and/or mammograms for me!  Screw you guys, I’m going home!!!”

What a complete and utter nightmare.  I swear those nurses were putting me through unnecessary torture just for their amusement.  I can just picture them colluding amongst themselves on how to screw me over and make me go through hell on Earth just to point out the obvious.  “Hey, here comes this one dude, let’s make him go through all the bull crap we have to go through just because we can, haha.”  Whatever.

A wise man once said, “Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me.”  One thing’s for sure.   I learned my lesson, that I’m never getting a mammogram…  EVER Again!

That’s my motto.

Merry Xmas,

-Grizzly Chadams