Diary of a Mad County

I didn't get what I wanted for Christmas, and now you're gonna pay!



Wednesday, Dec. 28
Hi! Haven't talked to you for a couple of weeks, what with the Weekly's special year-end issue and me not wanting to talk to you for a couple of weeks, soooooo lemme fill you in on what's been going on in the fast-paced hamster cage of a life I lead. Let's see. I didn't get what I wanted for Christmas. People I love very much got very sick and very hurt, which meant I spent a lot of time in emergency rooms, where the range of kindness, coldness and paranoia is incredible. I wasn't the only one spending my holidays thusly. I spent hours in the emergency room at Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach, and its ER was so crowded that the head of the unit had to come out to the waiting room and say they were just going to start coming around to the people waiting and take their vitals where they sat, giving the whole scene a decidedly M*A*S*Hfeel, you know, except funny. When I finally got back into the ER with my loved one, patients were stacked in hallways. A nurse told me the hospital was full and that people they were admitting to the hospital were having to spend the night in the ER because there were no beds available. When I asked her why things were so crazy, if there was some kind of outbreak or had been a bus crash, she just shrugged. "Nope, just crowded." So, summing up: Bird flu? Screwed.

Thursday, Dec. 29
Vacation.

Friday, Dec. 30
Happy birthday to my mom, who is just about the best and strongest person you'll ever meet. Really. My mom actually ran away from home to join the circus, then raised two kids virtually by herself. She once drove me and a friend across the country and back again by herself and signaled my passage into manhood by thumping me cartoon-style with a frying pan, which I completely had coming. She still performs in a professional song-and-dance outfit, practices tai chi and yoga, and travels the world, Greece being next on her list. My kids idolize her, as does my dog. If you were waiting for me to make a joke here about my mother, you're way out of luck. Seriously. What kind of clod do you take me for?

Saturday, Dec. 31
Go to a New Year's Eve party tonight not because I particularly want to party—never do—but because it is federally mandated. Everyone seems to agree that 2005 is the worst year since 2004, which also sucked mightily, and it makes me think that the older you get the worse the years get because people you love are increasingly getting sick and hurt and you spend time in crowded emergency rooms and when you get together with friends—friends with whom you used to talk about Dinosaur Jr or the new receptionist—you now compare what kind of blood thinner your cardiologist has put you on. And then there's real estate. I wonder what people talked about at parties before real estate? Probably how they wished someone would hurry up and invent fire. God, we are at this party for about four hours, and for about four hours all we seem to talk about is real estate, and the only thing we really say about real estate is that real estate is really expensive. I check out of these conversations almost immediately because I've discovered that if you just nod your head and punctuate whatever the speaker is relating about this parcel being bought for this much and sold for that much with "I know, it's incredible," it seems to satisfy them. Then a lady tries to recruit me to join the Rotary Club. I, who have stood front row at Pere Ubu concerts and done ghastly things on boats, a Rotarian. Happy New Year.

Sunday, Jan. 1
In a dramatic moment of historic significance, Robert H. Schuller announces he is stepping down as senior pastor of Garden Grove's Crystal Cathedral and handing the mantle over to his son, Robert A. Schuller. If you think calling this a historic moment is overstepping things, just know that's what the Crystal Cathedral called it on its website. In fact, the Cathedral not only called this "historic news," but also said the elder Schuller is "regarded as one of the most influential religious leaders in history." In history. So that would be Moses, Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed and Robert H. Schuller, the man who pioneered the drive-in church and charging 40 bucks for a "Mustard Seed Charm Necklace." Schuller is considered the father of the megachurch—I guess someone had to be—his cathedral providing prosperous refuge for wealthy businessmen to feel good about the things they do during the week. It also provides a dramatic background for such megaproductions as the just completed Glory of Christmas, which not only teaches the true meaning of Christmas through the use of live animals and young women soaring above the crowd as angels, but also allows young men their first opportunity to look up the dresses of young women. Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown! Like other religious leaders who fought oppression, ignorance and hypocrisy, Schuller has had his battles, mostly with uppity flight attendants, waitresses and local homeowners, as well as a long, ongoing struggle with good taste. What kind of success the younger Schuller, 51, will have remains to be seen. Other religious icons such as Oral Roberts and Billy Graham have handed over their ministries to their sons only to see diminished returns. A key to the younger Schuller's success will depend on how well he can allay church members' fears that his enormous Tony Robbins-like noggin and too-hungry expression mean he intends to eat them and their families. His will be yum.

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