Under normal circumstances the big news of the weekend would be that we had our first White Christmas since 2008 -- according to the National Weather Service, only the seventh time in recorded history that Seattle had measurable snowfall on Christmas Eve (third-highest amount of inches fallen among those instances); and we tied the 1965 record of 1" of now snow fallen on Christmas Day itself. I never saw any of the snow falling in Seattle itself, though, because it only started falling while we were in Renton visiting Danielle, and any other time we were in Olympia. A little bit of it was still on the ground when we returned to Seattle last night, and still some this morning as well.
But I guess I'm kind of burying the lede here, because for my purposes, the much more significant thing that happened was that I got extremely stoned at my parents' house for a couple of hours during a holiday family gathering on Christmas Day. This was not at all deliberate, but in retrospect I think it could have been avoided. I still gave to take responsibility for it, though; I'm the one who took the hit of weed, and I can't blame anyone else for that.
Sherri happened to have a vape pen on the back patio. She offered a bit to both Shobhit and me. I simply assumed she had it for herself for some reason, and thus knew where it came from -- as in, knew the source. Bear in mind that I have only ever had the most minor effect of taking hits off of joints, because I can never take more than two at most, often only one -- as it always puts me into a coughing fit that immediately puts me off of it. This is why I have generally stuck with edibles, even though effects have varied widely, and more than once have resulted in a reaction that was far too intense for my taste. As a result, though, I associate overwhelming intensity with edibles, and not anything I might inhale.
This would be the first valuable lesson I learned from this experience. People have told me many times that vaping is far easier on the throat than smoking joints. I assumed this meant it would be relatively pleasant. Sherri showed me how to use the thing: press this button until it turns blue, then inhale. I did this, kept it inhaled for a couple of seconds, exhaled -- and then proceeded to have a worse coughing fit than I've ever experienced even with a joint. Seriously it was at least five minutes before I could breathe normally again, and a couple of times I almost felt like I might throw up.
I've been told that coughing can enhance a high on weed, so maybe that was part of this, I don't know. But, unlike edibles, which take an hour or more to take any kind of effect, I was feeling this, quite significantly, within ten minutes, maybe less. And it was not until after both Shobhit and I had taken a hit off this vape pen that she told me she'd simply found it discarded by a customer in a booth at the restaurant, "and I took it!" What the shit?
It had a liquid tincture in it and I don't know if that made any difference either. There must be a whole host of possible factors. All I can say is that, at first, I was commenting on how much I was very much feeling it -- the sensation was washing over my body. It was almost pleasant for a second, and at that point I was still assuming it would not be a big deal. But then the intensity did not wane -- and it didn't wane for probably two hours. Before long I lay back on the living room couch, and that's when Sherri came and took my picture, in which I look stoned to the hilt -- that's the picture above. So no, I'm not in a coffin.
I would have been a lot less anxious about it all had it happened on a different day that was not a big family holiday. Many people were scheduled to come over and I had no idea how long this was going to last or how it was going to affect my behavior, and that knowledge made me doubly anxious. For the first hour or so I just needed to be still and unstimulated. After Sherri took the picture, Shobhit came to sit next to me, squatting on the floor next to me on the couch. I don't remember what he did -- talked to me, touched me, both maybe -- but I do remember telling him I really needed not to be stimulated in any way for the time being. After a little while I finally got up and went back to the guest room to lay down on the bed for a while with my eyes closed, knowing at this point that my only choice was to ride it out. Sherri did come back at one point to let me know my sister (Gina) had arrived. She stood in the bedroom door and asked if she needed to call a doctor. I don’t think she was actually that worried about it -- the way I remember it, she was smiling -- but I think there was at least an undercurrent of concern. I told her no. What could a doctor do, anyway? There's not really some detox procedure for a marijuana high.
I never quite fell asleep, but, much like that day back in 2015 when Shobhit and I accidentally got way too stoned on a medical marijuana chocolate piece Angel had given us, I very much lost my usual sense of time. I'd close my eyes and open them again and have no idea how much time had actually passed. This happened when I was still laying on the couch, while I was on the guest bed, and even for about an hour after I finally got up and began interacting with people again.
This was one of the many weird elements of my reaction: the intensity seemed to strengthen, somewhat ironically, as long as I was sitting still or lying down. Getting up and walking somewhere, or even talking to someone, something that specifically engaged my brain, would give me fleeting moments of feeling almost sober. But even then, many times I'd have a conversation, and I'm pretty sure I seemed as functional as usual to whoever I was talking to, but five minutes later it would feel like the conversation I'd just had happened an hour ago.
After Gina and Beth arrived, and I got off the bed to go re-join the group, I felt slightly better, but not by a huge amount. I was able to engage in normal conversations, at least. I wasn't literally hungry but I did enjoy starting to snack on tortilla chips with an incredibly delicious spinach parmesan cheese dip that I could not stop eating. Sherri said, "Having the munchies is good." Uh, okay then! For some time, though, it still felt like I was experiencing reality through some kind of hazy filter. By all indications, everyone around me was experiencing Matthew as the same person as usual, but that was still not at all how I was experiencing it internally. As I explained to Scott and Noah at work this morning, it was like those old TV shows that would have a cloudy haze around the edges of the screen for a flashback scene. It was like I knew everything was otherwise normal, but my eyes were seeing it from a spot slightly further removed from normal, almost like my brain had somehow been taken back several feet from my eye holes, and I was seeing everything from a bit further away than usual. I don't know how else to explain it.
The thing I knew, through it all, was that eventually the effects would go away, and all I could do was bide my time until it happened. Until then, I was still able to hold conversations, eat snacks (too many snacks; I weighed in above 150 lbs this morning, always a troublesome development), even play a few games of Shut the Box. Again, while in the moment, I was able to behave normally, so far as I can remember anyway -- but still as soon as anything that happened was over, it felt like I could barely remember it happening.
All this time I thought vaping might be the answer to my difficulty finding the right dosage to give me a fraction of the intensity -- even what I went through yesterday, if it had been, say, 15% of the intensity, I would have been fine and perhaps quite enjoyed it. What I don't know is if what happened yesterday had to do with the fact that it was a vape pen, or that it was filled with a liquid tincture, or if it was just the grade of weed that was in it (which clearly no one had any way of knowing), or what. All I know is, I won't be trying a vape pen again. It's edibles for me, and even then in super small doses: I even noted yesterday, whatever the recommended dose is, I'll take a quarter of it at most. And I'm going to have access to a lot of it for a while, because I did some Christmas shopping at Uncle Ike's and Shobhit (and Ivan too) got several pot-infused chocolates in his Christmas stocking.
I suppose that makes this a good time to transition into that part for a minute: my Christmas weed shopping, which I guess is technically illegal.
I really wasn't sure what to get Ivan in particular for Christmas. This is a guy with very few possessions, currently planning to leave in February, who clearly doesn't need any more stuff of any kind. Last year I had a perfect gift idea for him in the Amazon gift card so he could buy a copy of his favorite movie of the year, The Love Witch -- which thrilled him so much that he actually wrote "WOW!!" when he texted me to thank me. I knew nothing I could get him this year would excite him the same way, and I didn't want to feel like I was retreading what I got him last year either. I got him a book both in 2014 when he lived with me the first time and again last year, but this time it was the same kind of thing: no need to repeat, and giving him more stuff to pack around wasn't going to do him any good. I knew it would be best to give him something I knew he'd use and/or consume.
And he regularly takes sleep aids he gets at Uncle Ike's, so what I really wanted was to get him a gift card for that store. Turns out, you can't legally do that. When I got to the front of the line and got a young black woman as the employee to assist me, I said, "I have very little experience with this so my expertise is limited and I'm liable to have lots of questions. I'm here to do a bit of Christmas shopping --"
"For yourself," she said, interrupting me.
"Huh?" I said. "Oh -- oh. Okay."
"For yourself," she repeated, with slightly more emphasis. "Under Washington State law, you can't give pot as a gift. Legally you can't even pass a joint to a friend." Uh? Okay, that's weird. Whatever. All right, then! "For me."
I did later say one question I was going to ask was if they sold gift cards, but obviously they did not. "No, but that would be so fun," she said. So, first I asked about snacks, like cookies or chocolates. And I got several single dose cookies or brownies, ranging in price from $7 to $8 each. I earmarked two of those for Ivan and four of them for Shobhit -- two of those kind of earmarked for myself, because I told her that in my experience edibles have either made me weirdly anxious or put me to sleep. That was when she showed me these brownies that have "CBD" in them, and according to Wikipedia, that has "a downregulating impact on disordered thinking and anxiety." Well that does sound perfect for me, then!
I wanted something more substantial than these single dose packets, though, and saw cardboard packets of apparently six chocolates each hanging behind her, and asked how much those were. As I recall they were about twenty bucks; I decided to get two -- one for Shobhit and one for Ivan. The one other thing I got was what I planned to wrap as a separate gift for Ivan, and asked her about sleep aids, which I know Ivan uses for his insomnia. She gave me this box labeled Green Revolution Finest Cannabis Tincture - Beauty Sleep. I had just taken $200 in cash out of my checking account a couple of days before, and all told I spent a little over a hundred bucks at this store. So, for Ivan, I taped the two single serve cookies to the packet of six chocolates and wrapped that as one gift; wrapped the beauty sleep tincture as another gift, and put the several other chocolates and confections I've scrounged from work samples for the past few weeks into his stocking. Given that his were all basically "treats" of one kind or another, I differentiated by putting all the weed stuff in gift wrap and all the other chocolate just by itself.
He responded much more enthusiastically than I expected, actually. He messaged me while we were driving to Renton on Sunday -- Christmas Eve -- and wrote, So I just saw that my stocking was packed full and I am delighted by your gifts! He even then sent a photo of the box of beauty sleep tincture and added, Especially this one! So that made me happy, especially since this is the last Christmas he'll be around.
Shobhit got essentially the same stuff from Uncle Ike's in his stocking, minus the beauty sleep tincture -- I didn't wrap his weed chocolates and cookies and brownies, though. His was one packet of six chocolates (coffee flavored for him, which I figured would keep me from eating too much of it), two cookies and two of the CBD brownies that I'll try at some point. He got a couple things more than that, though: the white cat with angel wings tree ornament -- which cost a bit more than I would have preferred at the pet accessories store I went to at Pike Place Market last week, but I found it to be too perfect and just decided to get it -- and, my favorite of the stocking stuffers which also turned out to be the cheapest: a pad of Yahtzee score cards that I got at Bartell Drugs. We needed those for our Yahtzee box for ages, and he was indeed pretty happy to get them. Oh, and of course he also got the same amount of chocolate bars and confections I scrounged from work. For his stocking I wrapped the ornament and the score cards.
Shobhit and I exchanged our gifts on Christmas Eve morning as usual. We also opened the gift from Ivan, quite predictable but which I always like, as he's done the same thing all three Christmases he's been around for now: a bunch of Lush bath products. Unlike in years past, we could have actually exchanged gifts with him in person, but when he got up to use the bathroom, even though he saw us in the middle of exchanging gifts, he just went back to bed. He was up again before we finally left for Renton and did not look into his own stocking, as I said, until we were actually on the road.
Shobhit didn't do half bad with his own stocking stuffers either -- he likes to scoff at the practice of gift exchanges and say "I don't like surprises," but then when it comes down to the wire he actually does pretty well. Some of the items were kind of odd and almost jokey: a packet of crackers, a packet of falafel mix. He got several of these things, including two Divine Chocolate bars -- more chocolate! -- at Cost Plus World Market, a store he has long really liked. The bottle of raspberry wine was kind of funny, though, because I already knew I would be getting it: when we met downtown to see Call Me By Your Name on Friday evening (solid A movie and probably my best of the year), I found him earlier than expected and went into the Pike Place wine store with him. He asked me to choose which berry wine I wanted, and said he was going to put that in my stocking even though I already knew I'd be getting it. I did the same with a bottle of hot sauce I brought home as a sample from work weeks ago, in his stocking.
The most notable gift he got me, as seen in the photo of me with all my gifts from him, was the "Perfect Pushup" rotating pushup handles -- exercise equipment! Can you believe that shit? But, there are actually two things about it that make it a sensible gift: first, he got an employee discount. Second, I've been doing three sets of pushups that total 100 for the day, every other day, for probably five years now. I can't remember for sure when I started, but I want to say 2012. And I'm fine with just maintaining -- as I told Shobhit, I have no goal for getting ripped, I just want to be healthy and maintain some level of strength. But, I'm still open to using these, which make the pushups more challenging. I still haven't been able to get to 33 pushups without having to rest my knees on the floor in the middle while using them. But, I will. I've only used them twice so far (once Sunday morning and once this morning; I didn't take them with me to Olympia) and even as I write this, my pecs are weirdly sore.
We otherwise spent the rest of Christmas Eve morning finishing up the deep frying of the red and green food-colored samosas. Once those were done, we packed everything up and were finally on our way.
First stop: Danielle's place in Renton. It was just her by herself this year -- Morgan and Rylee spent Christmas Eve with their dad. I guess Rylee in particular was bummed she wouldn't get to see us, which was sweet. They were with Danielle for Christmas Day; next year they've planned to have it the other way around. Ah, divorce with children. I dealt with that as a kid, and am honestly grateful I never became a parent and thus run no risk of ever dealing with it as an adult.
Danielle was having a pretty rough time, actually, and I think Shobhit and I actually helped cheer her up at least a little bit, just by stopping by. She even admitted to having been crying that morning. Nothing to do with Patrick and the kids, though, somewhat to our surprise -- it had everything to do with her mother, who bailed on the plans Danielle had to bake a big dinner for them all on Christmas Eve; and even more with her younger sister, Shannon, who was visiting at the same time as her two kids she doesn't actually have custody of and who live with their dad but were spending Christmas with their grandmother. Shannon, I guess, is quite the challenge as an ex-addict mother who doesn't have custody, and blames others (like Danielle) for not dropping everything to give her rides everywhere when she spends her own money at the pot shop instead of, say, looking into public transit to get herself to her kids. Mind you, all this is filtered through Danielle; I'm not getting Shannon's side of the story -- but, I was able to glean enough as to what was believably the situation. Danielle hasn't even spoken to Alisha, her older sister (by less than a year), in over a year, so between that and Shannon and her mom this year, she hasn't been having the most thrilling experience with her family over the holiday this year.
Shobhit and I were there to let her bounce off how she was feeling, though, and to see if we thought she was justified in feeling the way she did. It seemed to us, pretty much, that she did. I am so lucky that my family has been mostly drama free for years now. I mean, there was that little bit of drama involving texts from Katina when Shobhit and I were visiting Mom, Bill and Christopher in Idaho, but that was pretty easy to stay out of for the most part. And the family in Wallace, Idaho versus the family in Olympia? It's night and day, like two wholly unrelated families. I guess I could have turned that whole vape pen fiasco into more drama than I did -- I kind of thought about it while I was in the middle of being knocked on my ass -- but I chose not to. That's the key word, I suppose: choice. You make a choice of how you deal with people.
We were with Danielle for a few hours, and then we were on our way again. It started snowing lightly the moment we were getting back into the car, and by the time we were in Olympia, there must have been a couple of inches on the ground.
So! Now it's time for the roll call, and to compare that of both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to last year -- this year, we had seven for Christmas Eve dinner compared to 11 last year; and we had 15 for Christmas Dinner compared to 9 last year.
Christmas Eve Dinner attendees:
Not even Hope and Chase were there this year because they were with Sherman; Gina and Beth were busy with their traditional Christmas Eve dinner with friends -- in fact, that makes me wonder how they were even able to join us last year. Did they not do their Christmas Eve dinner with friends at their place last year? In any case, those are the four missing this year compared to last: Hope, Chase, Gina, Beth.
Christmas Day dinner attendees:
8. David [Britni's fiancée]
9. Pam [David's dad]
13. David [Gina's son]
Last year Alex was the only two of Dad and Sherri's grandkids who made it -- several did plan on coming for dinner the next day, which apparently had to be canceled because Dad and Sherri got sick -- but this year Ricky, Britni, Alex and David all made it, two of them with partners, one with a child, and another with her future mother-in-law. That makes up the six that were here this year but not last year.
So here's the history since I started keeping lists of attendees:
This year is still quite low compared to 2012, 2014 and 2015, but still up significantly from last year. Honestly 15 people there at once is more than plenty. There would have been more, but some people -- like Sherri's sister, Wendy -- did not travel because of the snow. What a bunch of pansies!
Getting back to dinner on Christmas Eve, we were planning to go to Emperor's Palace, the Chinese place we've gone to for Christmas Eve in 2012, 2015 and 2016 (I can't find record of going in 2013 or 2014), but this year we found out as soon as Jennifer and Eric arrived that they had closed early due to the snow. Eric apparently got a little irate about it, talking about how they had driven over 20 miles and no one called to tell them they had to cancel the reservation -- but, Sherri discovered quite a while later, someone did leave a voice mail on her phone that they were closing.
We wound up at a nearby Applebee's instead. Shobhit and I both would have preferred the Olive Garden next door to it, as an Italian place will always have more vegetarian options, but this turned out better than expected anyway. I mean, their "$1 Long Islands" -- pictured, above -- were predictably weak but that's still a price so ridiculous they practically might as well be free; and they offered a veggie burger patty on any of the burgers they had on the menu. We ordered a "Caprese Burger" that way, and it was one of the best veggie burgers I've ever had at a restaurant, particularly outside of a major urban area -- at a national chain restaurant, no less. I was very impressed. We also shared an artichoke dip and tortilla chip starter that was itself quite tasty. So, dinner was a success anyway.
We still saw Gina and Beth on Christmas Eve, as they invited us all to stop by after dinner since they live just down the street from that restaurant -- although Shobhit and I were the only ones who took them up on the offer; Dad and Sherri, Jennifer and Eric all went their separate ways and went home. That was not before Jennifer gave me a second present, though. She explained that she bought four of these things before she realized they were all knockoffs of the popular Christmas toy she was actually looking for, so she just gave those four away. The thing I got, a "Happy Unicorn," still turned out to be pretty entertaining.
Anyway, Gina and Beth were just winding down a card game with the four guy friends they had over -- two of them a couple; two of them brothers (not the same two); one of them straight -- but we all hung out for a bit. I had a couple cups of tea. Beth and Shobhit and I all played a few games of Shut the Box in the homemade box her super-crafty brother actually made for her at her request. Shobhit and I headed back to Dad and Sherri's again at around 9:30, I suppose it was. I zonked out and was asleep on Christmas Eve at 10:45.
I guess I could mention this at some point: the full photo set for Christmas can be viewed on Flickr here. 69 photos and 6 short videos. The only ones captioned, so far, as the ones I also already uploaded to Facebook. They are all tagged, though, and those captions alone should provide all the additional detail needed -- most of that has already been provided here in this blog post anyway.
In any case, I already detailed getting baked to the hilt, and thankfully I was at least in the midst of recovering from that, rather than completely in the thick of it, once the most people were there. I did take several of my photos while I was definitely still stoned, but they turned out well anyway.
I was actually surprised to see it snow a bit more on Christmas morning, and it was very, very pretty. It only lasted a few minutes but it was worth appreciating and remembering.
The food included Costco macaroni and cheese, which we got sent home later with a bunch of leftovers from; between that and the samosas Shobhit and I brought, we had a substantial enough dinner. There were also two meat dishes, including meatballs Gina and Beth brought, which of course Shobhit and I did not eat. There was also a crockpot full of a pretty damned good "processed cheese food" (as Gina put it) dip with diced tomatoes in it, and then there was the aforementioned tortilla chips and spinach parmesan dip I could not get enough of. And of course I also had several cookies, deviled eggs, crackers with cheese, and other assorted snacks.
My calendars theme this year was A Bunch of Babies! -- all baby pictures, mostly of family members now grown -- and I love this picture I got of Sherri looking as Gina and Beth page through theirs. It looks like a stock photo of a happy Christmas family.
I would have liked to have included baby pictures of Dad and Sherri both in this, but I had no opportunity to find any that would not have given away this year's theme. It's just as well anyway, because between the one photo used on the cover, one used on the back cover, and the 12 photos for each month, that was just enough space to use one photo each of all ten of Dad and Sherri's grandchildren (all of them now between the ages of 11 and 32 -- writing this just now literally made me realize Brandi is now the age Sherri was when Brandi was born and made Sherri a grandmother!), plus all four of their great grandchildren. So that worked out perfectly, actually.
The calendars for Mom and Christopher's side of the family were a bit different. I made copies for both Mom and Bill and for Uncle David and Mary Ann, who of course won't exactly want pictures of Angel and Gina's kids -- so, on those, the 12 months consist of Christopher's five kids; Nikki's baby; one each of Mom and Uncle David as babies; one each of Christopher and me as babies; one of Christopher and me together as little kids; and one of Mom and Uncle David together as little kids. I handed their calendar, wrapped, to Nikki and TJ when we saw them at Mom and Bill's earlier this month; left Mom and Bill's and Christopher's there at the house (just on the windowsill since Mom refused to put up her Christmas Tree this year); mailed Uncle David and Mary Anne's theirs to Adelaide weeks ago -- Mary Ann emailed me several days ago that they'd received it but a "family rule" states that if a gift is wrapped then they wait to open it until Christmas Day -- and mailed Becca and Tyler's theirs last week. Characteristically, Becca has not let me know she got it, but I presume she did.
Everyone seemed pretty happy with their calendars, although I could have done better at identifying all the kids. There was a lot of debate about the baby picture of Alex that I used and whether it was actually him; I kept repeating that since it was Halloween 1998, he was the only one it could be -- and Angel, his mother, later confirmed it was indeed him. The January picture is of Braeden, Christopher and Katina's youngest, and Dad and Sherri at first thought it was actually an old picture of Christopher himself. That's kind of an easy mistake to make, though, as in that photo he's crawling on top of the oval glass coffee table with rocks inside the glass, which used to be Grandma and Grandpa Minor's. God knows where that table is now. I rather wish I had it -- instead, I have the small dining room table Grandma and Grandpa Minor used to have, and it's down in the storage room, and if Shobhit had his way I'd just get rid of it.
But I digress! Angel was looking through her copy of the calendar and she actually said, "I sure love these calendars." This year's theme seemed pretty well received overall. Now I need to get to work on next year's!
Most people these days have multiple stops for making the Christmas rounds, and Dad and Sherri's place is just one among them. Britni and Ricky arrived at the same time, so that brought in six people all at once, and it was slightly hectic with 15 people there at the same time for a little while. Then, just as quickly as everyone showed up, everyone but Shobhit and me left within the space of maybe half an hour. Gina and Beth arrived far before anyone else did, but they also left again slightly before everyone else did, and soon it was back to just Dad and Sherri, Shobhit and me. We stayed for a bit longer and helped a little in their cleanup, and also got several bags and containers to take home. I had originally intended to leave no later than 7:00, but it was closer to 6:00, in the end, when we ultimately decided to head back home. We got back home at about 7:15. We had to bring all the stuff back upstairs in two rounds, and then I barely had enough time to process photos, and caption only the ones I posted to Facebook and put into a "Christmas in the Northwest 2017" photo album there -- along with a link to the eight separate Christmas-related photo sets I managed on Flickr this year, where people can find far more photos if they're so inclined.
The cats had a long day to themselves yesterday, as Ivan volunteered as the only one interested in an available 12-hour shift that day -- he started just after 8 a.m. and didn't get back until a little after 11 p.m., perhaps partly because of the buses being on holiday and/or snow routes, although the roads themselves were pretty much clear of all snow by the end of the day yesterday. We asked Ivan to give the cats each a full can of food before he left in the morning, since we'd be getting back a few hours after their normal dinner time; their dishes were pretty well clean when we got home and so I finally let them split a fish-meat treat bag I've had on top of the refrigerator as a work sample for a few months now. In the middle of the day I checked the Kitty Kam, and actually found Shanti yowling her lonely yowl by the door -- something I thought, until now, he only did when I was gone but at least a roommate was home. I guess she does it even when there are no people there at all, though. Aw, poor, lonely Shanti. But, also, she'll live. She's a cat, for fuck's sake.
At Shobhit's suggestion, I brought one of his two pumpkin pies he made to work today, leaving only the other half still at home. No one has touched it all morning, but there's only a fraction of the office actually at work today. I'll just keep it overnight and set it out again tomorrow; I'm sure someone will eat it eventually.
I suppose now I could try getting some actual work done here today myself.
[posted 12:34 pm]