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5:58 a.m. - 2004-12-27

CHRISTMAS WITH THE KRANKY MAN

Q: What's worse than a houseful of nerdy in-laws for Christmas?

A: A houseful of nerdy in-laws singing Karaoke for Christmas.

More on that later ...

Christmas was ... ummmm ... non-eventful this year.

I woke up at 2 a.m. to put the presents out. Not that I set the clock or anything ... I just wake up several times a night and at my 2 a.m. wake-up, I figured it was as good a time as ever to put the gifts out.

This year, I wanted to do something a bit different.

I dressed up as Santa to put the gifts out.

Yes, the kid was sound asleep at 2 a.m. and a 9.0 earthquake/tsunami couldn't wake him.

...So I turned the video camera on.

The tape turned out really kinda cool ... the camera is trained on the Christmas tree for about 30 seconds of nothing ... then Santa comes along and you see him putting the gifts out.

Then Santa discovers the cookie and takes a bite of one, getting a mouthful of fake beard with the cookie. Can't stop the tape though, so Santa puts the cookie down and then "accidentally" sees the camera is on.

Santa sends a message in hushed tones to Andrew that he needs to brush his teeth day and night ... he needs to listen to his parents and teachers ... he needs to STOP HITTING EVERYBODY and to clean his room.

Then Santa gets out of camera range, you hear commotion by the fireplace and a "swoop" sound to let Andrew know that Santa escaped through the fireplace.

Then the tape goes off.

Pretty ingenious if you ask Santa.


On Christmas morn, Andrew raises from the dead around 7:45 a.m.

He stumbles out into the den, looks at all the presents and then climbs into Mommy's lap for a few more minutes of sleep.

I give him one small Thomas train to open. He opens it slowly and starts to wake up when he sees he got a new train.

He plays with the train for about 10 minutes while Daddy tries to force him to open another gift.

He finally opens another one.

Another train.

Another ten minutes of play.

Every single present that he opens, he wants to devote time to playing, rather than opening all the gifts at once, surveying which gifts are the coolest and then playing with those until he's bored ... LIKE A NORMAL CHILD.

(i.e. me, in my Christmas heyday)

The problem is ... several of his gifts require assembly.

And since I'm the designated cameraman for the event, that means Mom has to assemble things like the Hot Wheels Spider Spitting Firestorm and the Thomas The Tank Engine Heliport of Doom.

...While Andrew tries to play with the unfinished product.

Bottom line ... it was 11:30 when Andrew finally opened his last gift.

The V-Tech V-Smile V-Learning V-Center V-Thing.

I popped in a Winnie The Pooh game and that was the last we've seen of our child's face as his forehead has been mysteriously glued to the TV screen ever since.

He's not so much into playing the game and learning how to spell words and stuff as he is into killing Pooh.

If there's some way he can bonk Pooh's head on a ledge or drag Pooh's ass over a cactus, Andrew will find a way to do so and shriek heartily every single time.

Susie and I are worried how he's going to handle going back to daycare tomorrow.

We're especially nervous about how much flesh will be torn when we have to rip the controller out of his tiny hands.



So that was Christmas day ... Susie cooking, Andrew playing video games and me ... well ... I just kinda laid on the couch as a point of support for both of them in case they needed anything.

...Then came ... Christmas night.

The in-laws came, they saw, they ate and ate and ate.

We still have a fridge full of leftovers, so we were well-prepared for the culinary onslaught.

And ... as much as I'd like to place the blame elsewhere ... at 6 p.m. it was my idea to break out the karaoke.

We're talking about a family who used to gather around the family piano every Sunday evening and sing Broadway show tunes as children.

Now, we've taken the 21st century step into a more innovative way of letting out their tone-deaf goodness.

While most of the family were a bit hesitant on trying karaoke, Susie's brother finally decided he would be brave enough to take the microphone.

He belted out what was probably one of the worst versions of The Carpenters "Close To You" that has ever been heard.

"Why do birds suddenly appear?" he asked in a dry monotone. "Every time? You are near?"

"Probably to gnaw the flesh off of your decaying carcass if you keep singing like THAT," I retorted.

In my head, folks. In my head.

In my brother-in-law's defense, the guy's partially deaf. Because when we were kids, doctors didn't have the foresight to cram tubes in our ears to help us hear. And since he never got tubes, he can't hear himself talk so well. Thus ... he sounds like Frankenstein being strangled when he tries to sing.

I had to grapple with the decision to run and get the video camera to capture this atrocity on tape and make $10,000 off of America's Funniest Bad Karaoke Videos and risk hurting the guy's feelings or just sitting there stone-faced and praying for instant death.

I chose the instant death route.

Once Karen Carpenter's memory had been torn apart like a rag doll by a pack of vicious pitbulls, it was Grandma's turn.

Grandma likes Ethel Merman. Yes ... the woman still has a few fans left on this planet.

Grandma belted out "There's NOOOOO Business like SHOOOOOOOW Business" as if her life depended on it.

Meanwhile, our neighbors were outside in the cold air, circulating petitions for signatures to get us legally kicked out of the neighborhood.

The microphone was traded back and forth between in-laws with plenty of hooting and hollering following each wretched song.

My brother-in-law had went through the Karaoke book, writing down each song he wanted to sing.

We found the list on Sunday morning.

There were fifty-fucking-nine songs listed on a piece of paper.

Some of the ones he got to do were Aerosmith's "Dream On" which is hilarious when sung by a half-deaf guy whose vocal stylings lean more toward a mumbling monotone than rock-star screech.

He and his daughter did a duet on "Stairway To Heaven". He actually got up and subconsciously swayed to the music which made it even funnier.

He forced his wife to sing a duet on "Unforgettable". She sings in the church choir and so everything she sings sounds like an angry hymn. So you've got him mumbling his portion of the lyrics and her belting out her part like it was "The Hallelujah Chorus".

HIM:

"Unforgettable. In every. Way."

HER: "UNFORGETTABLE!! THAT'S HOW YOU'LL STAY!!"

The night continued like this until 11:45. That's when I finally said "I've been up since 2 a.m. Andrew hasn't had a nap all day. It's time you people left."

We called the local fire department to bring the jaws of life in order to pry the microphones out of their hands and sent the family off on their merry way, mangling "Sunshine On My Shoulders" as they piled into their cars carrying plates of leftover ham and strawberry pretzel salad.

We cleaned up a bit and then went to bed.

Where I chuckled myself to sleep.

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