Total Perspective Vortex
What really happened to Trillian? Theories abound, but you can see what she's really been up to on this blog. If you're looking for white mice, depressed robots, or the occasional Pan Galactic Gargleblaster you might be better served here:

Otherwise, hello, and welcome.
Mail Trillian here<

Trillian McMillian
Trillian McMillian
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Women, The Internet and You: Tips for Men Who Use Online Dating Sites
Part I, Your Profile and Email

Part II, Selecting a Potential Date

Part III, Your First Date!

Part IV, After the First Date. Now What?

"50 First Dates"

Don't just sit there angry and ranting, do something constructive.
In the words of Patti Smith (all hail Sister Patti): People have the power.
Contact your elected officials.

Don't be passive = get involved = make a difference.
Find Federal Officials
Enter ZIP Code:

or Search by State

Find State Officials
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or Search by State

Contact The Media
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or Search by State

Words are cool.
The English language is complex, stupid, illogical, confounding, brilliant, beautiful, and fascinating.
Every now and then a word presents itself that typifies all the maddeningly gorgeousness of language. They're the words that give you pause for thought. "Who came up with that word? That's an interesting string of letters." Their beauty doesn't lie in their definition (although that can play a role). It's also not in their onomatopoeia, though that, too, can play a role. Their beauty is in the way their letters combine - the visual poetry of words - and/or the way they sound when spoken. We talk a lot about music we like to hear and art we like to see, so let's all hail the unsung heroes of communication, poetry and life: Words.
Here are some I like. (Not because of their definition.)



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11/17/13 12/1/13 - 12/8/13 12/15/13 - 12/22/13 12/29/13 - 1/5/14 6/29/14 - 7/6/14 9/14/14 - 9/21/14 9/21/14 - 9/28/14 10/12/14 - 10/19/14 11/23/14 - 11/30/14 12/7/14 - 12/14/14 12/28/14 - 1/4/15 1/25/15 - 2/1/15 2/8/15 - 2/15/15 2/22/15 - 3/1/15 3/8/15 - 3/15/15 3/15/15 - 3/22/15 3/22/15 - 3/29/15 4/12/15 - 4/19/15 4/19/15 - 4/26/15 5/3/15 - 5/10/15 5/17/15 - 5/24/15 5/24/15 - 5/31/15 6/14/15 - 6/21/15 6/28/15 - 7/5/15 7/5/15 - 7/12/15 7/19/15 - 7/26/15 8/16/15 - 8/23/15 11/6/16 - 11/13/16 6/24/18 - 7/1/18

Highlights from the Archives. Some favorite Trillian moments.

Void, Of Course: Eliminating Expectations and Emotions for a Better Way of Life

200i: iPodyssey

Macs Are from Venus, Windows is from Mars Can a relationship survive across platform barriers?
Jerking Off

Get A Job

Office Church Ladies: A Fieldguide

'Cause I'm a Blonde

True? Honestly? I think not.

A Good Day AND Funyuns?

The Easter Boy

Relationship in the Dumpster

Wedding Dress 4 Sale, Never Worn

Got Friends? Are You Sure? Take This Test

What About Class? Take This Test

A Long Time Ago, in a Galaxy Far Far Away, There Was a Really Bad Movie

May Your Alchemical Process be Complete. Rob Roy Recipe

Good Thing She's Not in a Good Mood Very Often (We Knew it Wouldn't Last)

What Do I Have to Do to Put You in this Car Today?

Of Mice and Me (Killer Cat Strikes in Local Woman's Apartment)

Trillian: The Musical (The Holiday Special)

LA Woman (I Love (Hate) LA)

It is my Cultureth
...and it would suit-eth me kindly to speak-eth in such mannered tongue


It's a Little Bit Me, It's a Little Bit You
Blogging a Legacy for Future Generations

Parents Visiting? Use Trillian's Mantra!

Ghosts of Christmas Past: Mod Hair Ken

Caught Blogging by Mom, Boss or Other

2003 Holiday Sho-Lo/Mullet Awards

Crullers, The Beer Store and Other Saintly Places

Come on Out of that Doghouse! It's a Sunshine Day!

"...I had no idea our CEO is actually Paula Abdul in disguise."

Lap Dance of the Cripple

Of Muppets and American Idols
"I said happier place, not crappier place!"

Finally Off Crutches, Trillian is Emancipated

Payless? Trillian? Shoe Confessions

Reality Wednesday: Extremely Local Pub

Reality Wednesday: Backstage Staging Zone (The Sweater Blog)

The Night Secret Agent Man Shot My Dad

To Dream the Impossible Dream: The Office Karaoke Party

Trillian Flies Economy Class (Prisoner, Cell Block H)

Trillian Visits the Village of the Damned, Takes Drugs, Becomes Delusional and Blogs Her Brains Out

Trillian's Parents are Powerless

Striptease for Spiders: A PETA Charity Event (People for the Ethical Treatment of Arachnids)

What's Up with Trillian and the Richard Branson Worship?

"Screw the French and their politics, give me their cheese!"

Mail Trillian here

Trillian's Guide to the Galaxy gives 5 stars to these places in the Universe:
So much more than fun with fonts, this is a daily dose of visual poetry set against a backdrop of historical trivia. (C'mon, how can you not love a site that notes Wolfman Jack's birthday?!)


Alliance for the Great Lakes

Hot, so cool, so cool we're hot.

Ig Nobel Awards

And you think YOU have the worst bridesmaid dress?

Coolest Jewelry in the Universe here (trust Trillian, she knows)

Red Tango

If your boss is an idiot, click here.

Evil Cat Full of Loathing.

Wildlife Works

Detroit Cobras

The Beachwood Reporter is better than not all, but most sex.

Hey! Why not check out some great art and illustration while you're here? Please? It won't hurt and it's free.


Kii Arens

Tim Biskup

Jeff Soto


Get Fuzzy Now!
If you're not getting fuzzy, you should be. All hail Darby Conley. Yes, he's part of the Syndicate. But he's cool.

Who or what is HWNMNBS: (He Whose Name Must Not Be Spoken) Trillian's ex-fiancé. "Issues? What issues?"

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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Reading blogs at work? Click to escape to a suitable site!

Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Smart Girls
(A Trillian de-composition, to the tune of Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys)

Mama don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
Don’t let them do puzzles and read lots of books
Make ‘em be strippers and dancers and such
Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
They’ll never find men and they’re always alone
Even though men claim they want brains

Smart girls ain’t easy to love and they’re above playing games
And they’d rather read a book than subvert themselves
Kafka, Beethoven and foreign movies
And each night alone with her cat
And they won’t understand her and she won’t die young
She’ll probably just wither away

Mama don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
Don’t let them do puzzles and read lots of books
Make ‘em be strippers and dancers and such
Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
They’ll never find men and they’re always alone
Even though men claim they want brains

A smart girl loves creaky old libraries and lively debates
Exploring the world and art and witty reparteé
Men who don’t know her won’t like her and those who do
Sometimes won’t know how to take her
She’s rarely wrong but in desperation will play dumb
Because men hate that she’s always right

Mama don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
Don’t let them do puzzles and read lots of books
Make ‘em be strippers and dancers and such
Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
They’ll never find men and they’re always alone
Even though men claim they want brains

Life(?) of Trillian

Saturday, November 22, 2008  
My dad loved, loved, loved the holiday season. He lived by Charles Dickens’ theme of holding Christmas in his heart and keeping it there all year. His enthusiasm was unrivaled. The local Boy Scout troops managed our small town’s Christmas tree lot. (The parking lot of the root beer drive-in which closed in winter. Of course.) The Christmas trees arrived the last week of November. My dad was very involved with the Boy Scouts so he often went Upnorth to a tree farm with some of the other dads. They loaded up a huge truck with trees and then set them up in the tree lot. My dad always had “our” tree chosen and set aside, but my mother didn’t like the idea of the tree in the house so many days before Christmas. The longer it was in the house, the more chance there was for fire or mischief. Somewhere along the line they agreed on December 15th as the official tree day. On December 15th we would go as a family to the tree lot. My dad already had his favorite tree chosen, but, because we were a democratic family regarding certain things, we all bundled up and went to the tree lot to select the tree which would be the centerpiece of the holiday. Usually we ended up with the tree my dad pre-selected. But not always. I remember some pretty tense discussions between my parents about the size, type and health of the tree.

There was just one small issue with the Christmas tree. My mother and I are dreadfully allergic. If we touch the needles our hands are instantly red and itchy. If one of the needles even slightly punctures skin we swell like puffer fish. We’re shoo-ins, natural candidates, for the pro-artificial tree movement. But, artificial trees are so fake. And, this was a very small town. Very small. The tree lot was the local social hot-spot in December. Everyone got their trees there. So everyone would know if you didn’t get your tree there. Because the tree lot was managed by the Boy Scouts it was seen as more than just a tree lot. It was a charity. A donation to the Scouts. So we endured the discomfort with our allergies for the authenticity of a real tree. And for the sake of the Boy Scouts.

Times changed. My brother and sister went away to college. The Boy Scouts stopped managing the tree lot. So, my parents thought that would be a natural time to change the tree tradition. Artificial trees were discussed. By then advancements and improvements were evident in the fake Christmas tree market. But there was still a bit of stigma to them. It was decided we wouldn’t get it from the tree lot. We’d go to The Country and cut one down ourselves. My dad knew a guy at work who knew a farmer who, for a fee, opened his back-forty to Christmas tree hunters.

My dad had a nostalgic vision of us donning festive sweaters and hats, selecting the perfect tree and bringing it home. It was a vision stoked by holiday advertising. My mother liked that the tree was fresh, not a dry fire hazard.

Early one cold December Saturday morning around the 15h, I was given a Nordic-inspired festive new scarf and pair of matching mittens and hat. My mother had a matching ensemble. My dad donned the jacket we called the Lumberjacket. It was a bulky plaid wool jacket lined with more plaid wool.

My father got the Lumberjacket from one of his older brothers who spent a few months working as an actual lumberjack. My uncle hated the job, grew to hate the cold and left for a warmer climate. My father inherited some of his winter clothes. He only wore the Lumberjacket when it was really, really cold and he had to shovel snow or take on some difficult task outdoors in the middle of winter. If a neighbor’s car got stuck in the snow, on went the Lumberjacket and out when my dad. If the pipes froze, on went the Lumberjacket and out went my dad. If the car’s engine was acting up in the cold winter weather, on went the Lumberjacket and out went my dad. If the farmer down the road had an emergency because of the snow and cold, on went the Lumberjacket and out went my dad. It was a serious jacket reserved only for serious man-work in seriously bad weather. If my dad was putting on the Lumberjacket something serious was going down. Sometimes the donning of the Lumberjacket was presaged by a lot of swearing. (in the case of frozen pipes, for instance) Other times the donning of the Lumberjacket was unexpected. There he’d be, suiting up in the Lumberjacket and we’d all be wondering what horrible atrocity had occurred. One time it was because he saw a dog struggling in a horrible winter storm. He couldn’t bear to watch the dog struggle so he donned the Lumberjacket and went out to rescue the dog. Turns out the dog escaped his home and apparently was disoriented in the storm. He was wearing a collar so my dad got him into the house, wrapped a blanket around him, gave him some leftover meatloaf and called the dog’s owners. The dog was small and completely white furred. How my dad noticed him in the midst of the blizzard is a huge mystery, but there’s no doubt my dad saved his life. The dog’s family was very grateful.

My dad had other jackets, nicer jackets, better looking jackets. But the Lumberjacket was his can-do outerwear of choice. Manly. Lumberjacky. Even though my family good naturedly mocked the Lumberjacket (“Uh-oh, must be serious, Dad ’s putting on the Lumberjacket.”) I came to see it as a superhero uniform. My dad was not a tights and cape wearing kind of guy. The Lumberjacket was a fitting superhero uniform for him. He only wore it when he was doing something really serious in very cold weather so in my young eyes the Lumberjacket was an emblem of my dad’s ability to fix anything and help everyone.

I always imagined him leaving the scene of a winter emergency after fixing something or saving lives and people saying, “Thanks, Lumber Jack! We wouldn’t have made it without you! How can we ever repay you?” My dad would smile, shake his head and say, “Just get home safely. That’s repayment enough.” That was my childhood imagination fueled by my reverence for my dad. But even now I think of that scenario. Even through reasonable, realistic adult eyes I know many of the things my dad accomplished in the Lumberjacket were heroic. In the Lumberjacket he prevented our pipes from bursting, freed cars from snowbanks, saved a dog, helped birth at least two calves, and formed a rescue party to save a kid who fell through the ice in our local skating pond. Not Superman saving- the-world-from-evil feats of heroism, but who do you want to have handy? Superman or the guy who has tire chains, rope, a well stocked tool box and can-do spirit? Give me the guy in the Lumberjacket any day.

My mother and I in our new mitten/hat/scarf ensembles, my dad in his Lumberjacket, drove off to the country to cut down our Christmas tree. Yes. We already lived in what many people consider The Country. But, we were going to the real country. The farm down the road from our house was a wheat and dairy farm. Low acreage and a few dairy cows. It was a small scale operation which, while quaint, wasn’t exactly the sort of farm you think of when you think of farm in the country. We were going to have “an experience.” We were going to “experience” an old fashioned country holiday experience. Oh boy!

We drove almost an hour and a half to The Country. The guy from my dad’s office had drawn a map for my dad. On the hand drawn map it didn’t look like an hour and a half car trip so after an hour my dad started saying, “I wonder if we missed a turn…” At this point we had the air conditioning on in the car. We were bundled up for a day of outdoor activity in 15 degree weather. We’d been riding in the car for almost an hour. We were all hot and getting cranky. Finally he pulled the car off to the shoulder of the road. He got out of the car and furiously shed the Lumberjacket. He got out a real map, one printed by a map making company. He compared it to the hand drawn map. He had me look at both of the maps and give my opinion. (I just completed my map merit badge in Girl Scouts.) We decided we were probably on the right road but it was longer than it appeared on the hand drawn map.

My dad drove fast. Always. But on country roads away from the watchful eye of the local cop? My dad drove really fast. The Country scenery whizzed by us in such a blur the details were difficult to discern. When I saw a small piece of wood with, “X-Mass tRees U cuT” painted on it affixed to a barbed wire fence I said, “That’s it! We’re here!” it was too late. My dad had already sped by the road that would take us to our destination. My dad backed up the car and turned down the road, driving at a slow speed. So we could take in the scenery of The Country.

We finally arrived at the farm with the U cuT trees. My dad’s excitement level was high. He was sizing up the farm, making a big show of breathing in The Country air. The Country Air smelled like poop. At least three different kinds of poop. My mother got out a couple tissues, gave me one and whispered, “Hold it up to your nose like you have the sniffles, you won’t notice the smell as much and you won’t offend the farmer.” (That’s my mother all over the place. Even in the midst of three kinds of stink you don’t want to offend anyone.)

A guy, we presumed the farmer, came out of a barn. “You here for a tree?” (As if it wasn’t obvious.)

“Yessir!” my dad too enthusiastically replied. He was putting on the Lumberjacket.

“I’ll get the tractor.”

“All right, sir!” my dad said, quickly ambling up to the farmer while donning the Lumberjacket. I’m sure my dad intended to go with the farmer to get the tractor. I’m sure my dad thought, “The men will now go get the tractor while the womenfolk wait in the car and admire The Country scenery.”

When he caught up to the farmer I saw my dad put out his hand in a welcoming handshake gesture to the farmer. The farmer was just in the barn. The air reeked of three kinds of poop. Even I could do the math. This was not a good time to shake the farmer’s hand. The farmer held up his gloved hands at my dad in a “danger, stay back” motion. My mother, watching from the car, cracked up at my dad almost shaking the poopy gloved hand of the farmer. The farmer continued on and my dad stayed in the spot where he was when he was issued the warning hand signal. My dad turned and looked back at us in the car, waved and gave us an excited thumbs up. We waved back at him, tissues still held over our noses. The farmer, on a large tractor with a flat-bed trailer hitched to it, came around the corner and stopped a few inches from my dad. I saw the farmer motion for my dad to hop onto the trailer. My dad looked crestfallen. I think he thought he was going to get to ride the actual tractor, not sit on the trailer. I suspect he thought the Lumberjacket would impress upon the farmer that my dad was a man, a guy, a Lumberjacket wearing kind of guy. Apparently even the Lumberjacket didn’t give my dad enough cred to ride on the tractor with the farmer. He hopped onto the trailer. The farmer drove toward the car, probably 20 feet, and stopped. My dad hopped off and ran over to the car. My mother and I got out of the car. My dad opened the trunk and held up three saws. He yelled over to the farmer, “Which do you suggest?!”

The farmer yelled back, “You don’t need ‘em, we got blades up ta the woods.”

Again my dad was crestfallen. He brought his own saws. I could see they were newly oiled and laid out special in the trunk of the car.

Once we were situated on the trailer, riding behind the farmer on his tractor, my mother pulled a thermos out of her tote bag. Hot chocolate. Well. At this point it was tepid chocolate. But we drank it anyway. My dad had that look of exaggerated satisfaction and fulfillment. He patted my knee. “This is the life, eh kiddo?!” It was a long ride and by the time we reached the edge of the tree area our bums were frozen and sore from jostling along the snow covered field. We had a hard time getting down from the trailer because we were numb and lame. The farmer motioned to a wood crate with a bunch of old saws in it. “There ya go. I’ll be back in an hour.”

That was it. He just left us there with a crate of rusty old saws. I’m sure it was my imagination playing tricks on me, but swear I heard the howl of a wolf in the distance.

I was a pretty rugged and adventurous kid. I loved playing outside and I love winter. I wasn’t afraid of The Country. This was a dream come true for me – outside, in the snow, nothing but nature as far as the eye could see. But. On the other hand. We were really, really, in the middle of nowhere. And no one except the guy from my dad’s work who drew the map knew where we were. And nothing but a crate of rusty saws to defend ourselves and a thermos of tepid chocolate for sustenance. The farmer on his tractor was slowly fading toward a small dot on the horizon which was the farm. I could read the headlines in my mind, “Family On Holiday Outing Missing, Presumed Dead” and “Local Family Victims of Farmer’s Homicidal Plot, Limbs Sawed Off” or “Remains of Family Looking for Christmas Tree Found, Eaten by Wolves” Fortunately my dad’s enthusiasm prevailed. “Well, here we are! Let’s find a tree!” He jocularly tossed a snow ball at me. It would have been a scene from a holiday greeting card if it weren’t for the crate of rusty saws and eerie absolute silence.

We wandered around the woods, my dad carrying a couple of the rusty saws, going from small scrub trees to glorious towering pines worthy of Rockefeller Plaza. I found rabbit tracks and deer tracks in the snow. We saw an owl watching us from his perch high in a tree. I relaxed about the potential for gory disaster. I made snow angels. My mother threw a snowball at my dad. We took photographs.

And then we found it. The perfect tree. We all agreed on it: The size, the shape, the was perfect. We stood there admiring it far longer than a normal tree admiring time span. My dad took pictures of my mother and I in front of it. My mother took pictures of my dad and I in front of it. My mother took a picture of just me in front of it. My dad took another picture of just the tree.

It was glorious.

Then he got down on the ground to examine the trunk. “Okay…okay…yep, this one will get ‘er started.” He picked up a saw and asked me to hold some of the branches out of the way. My mother packed a pair of gardening gloves for me to wear under my new mittens. This was an attempt to prevent my tree allergy from striking too seriously. It worked. I painlessly held the lower branches out of the way for my dad.

I noticed he was hesitating to strike the tree with the saw. He called my mother over to help remind him how much trunk was required to fit in the tree stand. “I knew I should have brought the tree stand…” he said.

I thought about our adventure thus far and how funny my dad would have looked lugging a Christmas tree stand. I looked at my dad, on his knees in the snow leaning under the tree. The Lumberjacket was riding up on him so there was a gap between the Lumberjacket and my dad’s trousers. His boxers where peeking out from above the belt. This is the style rap kids like, now, but for middle aged white men on a holiday family outing back then, this look was not en vogue. He didn’t have full-on plumber butt, but, it was dangerously close. The image of him with a tree stand combined with his almost-plumber butt gave me the giggles. My mother caught my eye and shook her head in warning. She gave me a look that said, “Not now. Not now. We’ll laugh later, but not now.” She was biting her lip to keep from laughing. I did the same.

My dad was sizing up the tree trunk and trying to figure out where to cut. Every now and then he’d say, “She sure is a beauty.”

And then it hit me. My squelched giggles turned to apprehension. I looked at the rusty saws. I looked at the glorious tree. And back at the rusty saws.

My dad wasn’t hemming and hawing because of the question of how much tree trunk for the stand.

He didn’t want to cut into the tree.

He finally picked up a saw and said, “Okay, I think right about here, don’t you? Does that look good?”

My mother and I looked at the spot on the trunk he was about to cut. We looked at the tree. We looked at the saw.

We looked at my dad.

We looked at the tree.

We looked at my dad.

He looked uncertain, slightly troubled.

My dad looked up at me. I felt the sting of a tear fall down my cheek.

Not a word was exchanged.

My dad picked up the saws, put his arm around my shoulder and we all walked silently back to the crate of saws.

The farmer wasn’t going to return for another 20 minutes. After five minutes of silence and swallowing lumps in our throats I rolled a few balls of snow. My dad wordlessly helped me roll a larger ball of snow. We made a snowman next to the crate of rusty saws. My dad found some twigs and rocks and gave the snowman arms and a face. He was just putting the finishing touches on the face when the farmer’s tractor could be heard getting louder on it’s trip to get us. And our tree.

Uh oh.

We were nature loving wimps who couldn’t bring ourselves to cut a tree. Among the three of us that was okay. There was a nobleness to it. A pride, a conservancy, a nature respecting dignity to it.

But. With the advent of the farmer’s arrival and lack of my dad having cut down a tree, the realization that my dad was going to be emasculated and humiliated by the farmer loomed large. Adding insult to injury the snowman stood there with a silly grin on his face.

I imagined the farmer sizing up my dad and figuring him to be less of a man, dismissing him as a city slicker wimp. “And you with a Lumberjacket. Pfft. You’re a disgrace to the plaid.”

Shy of dashing over and quickly cutting down a tree there was nothing we could do. My dad was going to have to take one for the team.

The farmer pulled up and said, “Where’s yer tree?” He looked behind us, assuming we cut down a tree but didn’t lug to the meeting point.

My dad walked over to the farmer and in a hushed tone told him we decided not to go with a tree this year. He could have redeemed himself by saying, “The kid’s allergic, what are ya gonna do?” But he didn’t. He just lifted my mother, and then me, onto the trailer. My mother cuddled up to him and snuggled into the Lumberjacket. The three of us watched our snowman fade smaller into the distance as we rode away. We watched the trees go from single glorious beauties to one mass of green.

When we arrived back to the farm my dad pulled out $20 and gave it to the farmer. The farmer refused it.

As we were getting into the car an owl flew over us. Okay, this was The Country and there are a lot of owls in The Country. But. We chose to see it as a sign. We made the right decision. We did the right thing.

We bought an artificial tree on the way home and never had a “real” tree again.

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10:02 AM

Monday, November 17, 2008  
My dad loved Christmas. Absolutely loved it. His enthusiasm and excitement for the holiday rivaled that of any 6-year-old hopped up high on Mountain Dew. When I was a kid in my small hometown most people didn’t decorate for the holidays until at least the end of November. There was small town decorum about decorating for the holidays. The decorations were to appear no sooner than the end of November and were to be taken down no later than the second week of January.

My dad started chomping at the holiday decorations bit by mid-October. Because we lived in a cold, unpredictable climate he used the excuse of a “good weather” day to festoon the house with lights and decorations. So what if it was only mid-November? If my mother chastised him for going against the small town decorum and rushing the season he’d come back at her with the rationalization that a storm could blow through any day making the installation of outdoor Christmas decorations difficult and unsafe, if not impossible. The thing is, he was right. You wanted those holiday lights in place before the real snow hit. And, giving my mother The Look, he’d add, “we wouldn’t want to be without lights and decorations this holiday, would we? The kids would be so disappointed.”

The kids. Yeah. Sure. Blame the kids. Sometimes I wonder if the reason my dad wanted to have children was so that he’d have an excuse for toys, fireworks and holiday decorations. Sure, thanks to my dad we enjoyed all that and more, but he was right there in on the fun, too. He shared the experiences with us and that was great. But. I’m pretty sure his motivations weren’t entirely selfless.

He planned a different display every year. Adding, editing and re-inventing the holiday decorations was an annual reason d'etré for him. By the time my mother “allowed” him to put up decorations he’d gone over the year’s master plan so many times he had the placement of every bulb, circuit junction, timer, every wreath, bough, angel and Santa committed to memory. My mother managed the holiday concerts, parties, school plays, the schedules and Christmas Eve wardrobes. She did the baking, the cooking and much of the indoor decorating. But the outdoor displays were my dad’s jurisdiction. It was his point of pride. His holiday greeting to the neighborhood. The showcase for his adoration of the Christ child. And the showcase for his prowess with colored lights and questionable electrical wiring modifications.

My dad had holiday lights dating back to my parents' first Christmas. And, get this, they were hand-me-down lights from an aunt and uncle who were fed up with the old one-burns-out-the-whole-string goes-dark type of holiday lights. They were already old when my parents started using them. Back in the olden days holiday lights were rudimentarily designed. If one bulb burned out the entire string went dark. Which means you had to find the burned out bulb after it, well, burned out. Finding the burned out bulb after the string went dark meant taking out the bulbs and putting in a new bulb. One bulb at a time. When the entire string lit up you knew you found The Bad Bulb.

Some kids have the holiday tradition of Easter egg hunts. Other kids enjoy the holiday tradition of finding treats hidden each day on an Advent calendar. We had the fun tradition of Finding The Bad Bulb. Finding the Bad Bulb Day was an annual two-day event (or longer) which officially marked the start of the holiday season.

My dad usually tested a string of lights for illumination prior to adhering them to the house or trees.

But not always.

Sometimes he’d forget which strings he tested and figured they were all okay anyway, only to discover a bad string - a burned out bulb - after the entire display was in place. Back then you didn’t just go out and buy a new string of lights. You bought strings of holiday lights and replacement bulbs. Some people stockpile emergency items like spare fuses, screws, bolts, bandages, tape…my dad was never without a healthy stash of spare holiday light bulbs.

Discovering a bad string meant one thing: My dad, brother and I had to methodically try each bulb on the string to find the bad one. Even though my dad loved the holidays and was brimming over with enthusiasm and holiday cheer, the stress of a bad bulb dimming his display dampened his spirits. He used words and expressions not considered merry. Jesus (H) Christ was mentioned a lot. And not because we were preparing to celebrate His birthday. My dad's frustration level would rise like a cartoon character – you could see his blood pressure rising to the level where steam should have been coming out of his ears accompanied by the noise of a boiling tea kettle. Compounding the issue were my dad's large hands and fingers. Perfect for throwing and catching a football, his hands were, like the rest of him, sturdy. To say the least. Not so perfect for fiddling with and handling small bulbs and sockets. So. The task fell to us smaller fingered kids.

We worked feverishly to find the bad bulb. As if a glorious string of glowing bulbs wasn't evidence enough, jubilant cries of glee would ring out when a bad bulb was found and replaced. My dad would drop everything and run over to witness the glorious illumination of the previously offending string of lights. There were a few years it took so long to Find the Bad Bulb that when it was finally found and replaced my dad wept tears of joy.

The same process was used to find the bulb which made the string of lights blink.

The Blinker.

The #@!*ing Blinker.

At some point the holiday lighting industry took a huge leap forward in technology and tried to accommodate all holiday lighting tastes by making one-string-fits-all lights. These were bleak days for my dad. For him it foretold The End of Days. The dual purpose strings of holiday light were the work of Satan himself. Much as my dad loved his outdoor lighting, much as he loved useless technology, much as he loved a bit of dash, blinking holiday lights were abhorrent. Intolerable.

He was a purist. He was fine with dozens of strings of light on the house and in the trees, but blinking lights? Pfft. We didn't live in Las Vegas. C'mon, have a little class.

There was one bulb, The Blinker, and if you didn’t want your lights to blink you replaced it with The Steady bulb. The conventional demarcation for the bulbs is that The Blinker has a red tip, the rest are clear. You remove the red tipped bulb and replace it with a non-red-tipped bulb if you don't want your holiday lights to blink. I know this because I spent many, many zero degree wind whipped nights on the front porch trying to Find the Bad Bulb, feverishly working to find the bulb which would make the string of lights stop blinking. The lights, which now didn't go dim when a bulb burned out, would be pulsing away like Saturday night at Studio 54. My dad’s temper and frustration would increase with each blink. Off. On. Off. On. Off. On. Every time the lights flashed on I could see his face. In the still, dark Winter evening of our suburban front yard the blinking illumination cast a sinister pulsing glow on my dad. Like some scary cartoon trip to Dante’s Inferno. With each flash of lights the look on his face became progressively scarier.

When I was young my older brother and I both were called to holiday light duty. I vaguely remember my brother having to man up and handle some of the bigger responsibilities of holiday lighting. You know, guy stuff. Stuff involving hammers, nails and ladders. My dad and brother would spend a lot of time in the garage. And then I, and my smaller, nimble fingers and steadfast obedience, would be summoned. For some reason my older sister escaped holiday lighting duty. The thing is, when my brother was around we'd inevitably be hit with overpowering urges to laugh at the ill-functioning lights. Which only served to anger my dad. He had serious plans. Holiday lighting was no laughing matter. Kids in the Third World didn't have holiday lights. We should have been more grateful for the opportunity to celebrate Jesus by adorning our house and trees with strings of lights.

I missed my brother a lot when he went away to college. But. I didn't miss the ill-timed fits of laughter. Sometimes the situation would strike us so funny we'd be in that silent, shoulder spasming, tears streaming, weak in the knees kind of laughing. Who can Find the Bad Bulb in that condition? After he went away to college I had to take on more holiday lighting responsibility. It was just my dad and me and dozens of strings of lights. And boxes of replacement bulbs. It was no laughing matter. And much as I missed my brother, my dad's patience would be spared two hysterically laughing, insolently ungrateful kids.

Cheeks stinging and teeth chattering in the Winter night air, I could hear my heart beating faster and louder, eventually beating in time with the offensive blinking lights. I worked diligently, often working by touch instead of sight because the porch lights were dimmed for the purposes of effect for the holiday lights. I'd steal a glance in through a front window. There silhouetted in warm glow of the kitchen light my mother would be a vision of domestic holiness baking cookies. Maybe chatting on the telephone. She was unaware of the eminent disaster lurking on the front porch. Christmas could be on the brink of decimation and she was baking cookies. But then, isn't that why we were doing this? To preserve and protect the holiday rituals? Oh, and celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ God's son sent to save us. Yes. Yes I would do my part to make sure our house would be illuminated. And then I'd have a cookie.

I’d work more feverishly, even taking off my mittens to speed the process. Frost bite? Who cares? Must. Find. The. Blinker. The fate of humanity rested in my hands. To speed the process, to make it more compelling, I imagined I was working out some complex military code. I had to stop the blinking before the bad guys blew up the entire country. My dad's progressively worse agitation at the blinking lights should have been compelling enough to motivate me. But my added imaginary saving humanity angle ensured I would find The Blinker in record time. I was always scared of what might happen to my dad if I didn’t find The Blinker in time to save him.

The relief of finding and replacing The Blinker was palpable. With The Steady firmly in place all was right with the world. My dad would see his vision of Holy exultation illumination to fruition. There would be cookies. We would live to see another Christmas.

This will be our first Christmas since my dad died. My mother and I are going through a lifetime of stuff, sorting, donating, discarding things in preparation for her downsizing to a smaller home. We both make wide passes around the boxes of holiday decorations. They're the elephant in the room we don't mention. But. In the past two months of sorting I've found stashes of holiday light replacement bulbs all over the house. It upset me, reduced me to gut wrenching sobs at first. But I find them so frequently, now, that I've become more used to the sadness and longing they invoke. I found two, clipped together, nestled in the middle of a roll of packing tape. I can imagine my dad, in the midst of his lighting prep, setting them down in there thinking they wouldn't roll away and would be ready if he needed them. Instead of crying that made me smile.

For the first time, well, ever, my parents' house and yard will not be illuminated for the holidays this year. I toyed, briefly, with the idea of lighting it up for my dad, in his honor. But the prospect is too painful. It's all still too new. Then I remembered the Broadway tradition of dimming the lights, "going dark," when an actor dies. That tradition seems apt for my dad's holiday lighting displays.

Cherry Cove Road will be dark this holiday in tribute to my dad.

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8:58 PM

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