Friday, December 26, 2003

Crazy Town

We're at Ashley's `rents' house where Christmas is a time to celebrate the festive season by spending time with loved-ones, laughing, telling stories and eating tremendous amounts of fantastic food. (And to me, that is the definition of a good time.)

My moms-in-law is a famed cook who spent much of yesterday and the early morning hours crafting an exquisite brunch for the "fambly." We fell upon it at 9:30 Christmas morning, feasting on quiche, country ham, biscuits, eggs, cheesy grits, baked french toast and other sundry foodstuffs. I then spent the rest of the day avoiding going into that part of the house, for fear of being drawn inextricably to the food table. Didn't work.

As to our Christmas...

None of us are particularly well-to-do money-wise at the moment so for the past few years we've put a moratorium on gift-buying. Basically, we might buy gifts for any kids who happen to be around, but none for anyone older than ourselves. And every year, just about everyone cheats and gets stuff for people anyway, pissing off the people (i.e. us) who DIDN'T cheat and DIDN'T get anyone anything, as per the rules of the game. (Not that I'm complaining too much, as my wonderful mother-in-law gave me a home-made, hand-knitted, actual-size Doctor Who scarf a couple of years ago, and I count that as one of the all time greatest Christmas presents I've ever received.)

This year, though, we finally managed to convince everyone not to get us anything and it worked. And there were very few kids around, so no one had to wade into the fray of Christmas shoppers fighting to buy the best stuff. On our way into town Wednesday, we drove past the enormous lines of cars stretched down the interstate near the exits leading to the Mall area of town and we cackled gleefully and unsympatheticaly at them. "Stupid Christmas shoppers!" we shouted. "Who would be dumb enough to venture out on Christmas Eve to shop?"

What a difference a couple of days makes.

This morning, at 5:30 a.m., I was roused by my sweet wife who was about to go out to do a spot of Day After Christmas, pre-dawn shopping. Her quest was to find a DVD player to serve as our Christmas present to one another this year. However, she wasn't sure what I might be looking for in a DVD player and had opted to consult me on my surprise. I don't know if that was good or bad idea, at this point. Perhaps I should have just said, "Get a good one" and left it at that. Instead, I decided to drag-keister out of bed and accopany her on her quest because I didn't know what I want in a DVD player either.

We went to Sears, Best Buy, Target and Circuit City. Most everyone was fresh out of anything we were interested in. Some had woefully cheap DVD players, but I've spent many years buying the cheapest appliances on the market and have almost always regreted it later, so we didn't go that route.

Now for those of you who've never shopped for one of these things, you might wonder what the hell is so complicated about it all that it has to be made into a major life-decision. Fair question, I suppose, but there are a lot of factors to consider. See, I'm sort of in the market for a DVD/VCR combo, because my VCR has suuuuucked for the past couple of years and refuses to be programmed. So I could use a new VCR with my DVD. But I don't want a sucky VCR with my DVD, so I have to make sure it's got the whole four head system, etc. My stereo is also on its deathbed and is no longer willing to actually play CDs, so a DVD player that can do that would be handy too. It would also be nice if it could play MP3s. I don't actually have any MP3s, but should I ever stumble on any, I'd like to be able to play em. Hell, I'd also like an FM radio frequency tuner in there too, (see the above bit about the crappy stereo), and a home theater sound system would be handy, while we're at it. I'd also like progressive scan as a feature. I don't own a digital TV, or anything, nor am I likely to won one in the next 10 years, but I'd like to have something that can hook to it and play DVDs most efficiently when I eventually do own one. (Like any piece of electronic equipment purchased today will actually last 10 years. I've been through 2 VCRs, 2 TVs and a couple of stereo systems and any number of computer systems in the past 7 years. Electronics in this day and age are not made to last.)

Basically, I want a miracle machine that does everything I might want it to do, exactly when I tell it to do it. No one makes one of those, though, so we have to wade through ones with lesser options.... at 7 in the morning... with 5,000 other pre-dawn after-Christmas shoppers dogging our steps.

After searching the world over for the better part of four hours, we gave up. Nothing ideal was available and what was available was of debatable quality. We slunk home empty handed.

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An employee of a small town "liberry" chronicles his quest to remain sane while dealing with patrons who could star in a short-lived David Lynch television series.