Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Carl vs. stage fright

It was Thursday, the day of the big Christmas party. We started out with a trip to K-mart, as per our schedule.

"They have pajamdras in K-mart!", I said.

"They have them in every store", said La Netta. "We'll just tell you when we see them."

I followed La Netta and Carl around. "Don't look to your right", La Netta said.

I turned my head towards the left.

"Don't look to your left", La Netta said as I perambulated my way through.

I turned my head towards the right.

"Close your eyes, James", said La Netta, "Because we're surrounded by nightclothes."

I closed my eyes and followed La Netta's and Carl's voices.

"I know you don't feel comfortable with me holding your hand", I told Carl.

"I don't", said Carl. "I don't want to hold hands with any guy. Now, Alejandra, she is the one person I would be OK with holding hands with here."

"Free shxpping!", the commercial on the Intercom announced.

"Rrrrrrrrr!", I growled.

We walked through some more aisles as Christmas carols played. My eyes were still closed.

"Is it safe to open my eyes yet?", I asked.

"Not yet", said La Netta. "We're still surrounded by nightclothes".

Finally we made our way out of the store.

"How are you doing?", asked La Netta.

"Not too well", I said.

"Well, at least you didn't see any nighclothes", said La Netta. "That's a good thing."


We visited the CIWP office. I picked my navel in the restroom there. Then we began our trip to Oakland.

"James", said La Netta, "Get your headphones on, sine I'm about to turn on the radio."

"Is it going to be on KBLX?", I asked.

"I don't know what station it's going to be on."

"OK, I'll tell you when my headphones are on and the volume's all the way up."

I put on my headphones and turned the volume all the way up to 32, which is as high as it goes.

But my CD player wasn't going its job. It was quavering and warbling. Then it stopped playing altogether . . . until I moved my CD player.

Daughtry was playing on the radio. It was clearly on Star 101.3. I took off my headphones and turned the CD player off.

Then La Netta switched to KMEL.

"La Netta", I said, "I had just taken my headphones off because when I heard the radio was on a station you liked, then you changed it."

No response. KMEL kept playing.

"La Netta, you did hear what I said, right?", I asked.

"What did you say?", asked La Netta.

"I said, 'La Netta, you did hear what I said, right?'"

"Say it again, because I didn't hear it."

"I said, 'I had just taken my headphones off because when I heard the radio was on a station you liked, then you changed it'."

"But you had your headphones on. How could you have heard what station it was on?"

"Because my headphones were making a warbling sound, and they didn't play at all until I held my CD player the right way."

"I keep telling you to invest in a better set of headphones. Get an iPod. I'm going to listen to this station on the radio; you just get your headphones to play the right way."

"Let's ask Carl what station he wants to listen to."

"James, don't start this. Just get your headphones on."

"What do you mean, 'Don't start this'?"

"Please, don't start this! You have a goal to wear your headphones when we're on a trip. I'm the one who's making a long drive through Oakland. And I don't need to listen to anything that's going to put me to sleep!"

La Netta and Lita had both said before that the radio was for the clients, not the coaches. And now La Netta was speaking as if the radio was for HER. Neither Carl nor I wanted KMEL, and Ken wasn't in the van.

I put my headphones back on and turned on the CD player. I tried my best to keep it playing, but it still warbled. I held it the right way, or at least tried to. I did have to ask about a few purge words.

When I got to a gap, the radio was off.

I took my headphones off and turned off the CD player. La Netta told me I should get an iPod for Christmas.

"Don't they break?", I asked.

"They come with a protective case", said La Netta. "Jeremiah's only broke because he took the protective case off."

"I'm going to send an email to my mother when I get home today, and ask her to use the money Uncle Sherm willed me for an iPod this holiday season."

La Netta had been trying to convince me to buy an iPod for a long time. Now I had capitulated.

The radio went back on. Now it was on KBLX. La Netta had said she didn't want to listen to anything that would put her to sleep, and yet KBLX was a lot blander and more soporific than the songs on the stations I liked.

We arrived at the center in Oakland where the Christmas party was to be held. La Netta asked me if I wanted any foods or drinks, and I told her no.

There were presents under the Christmas tree that showed penguins, Santas, snowmen and dogs with their eyes closed upside-down. I picked at them with the pinkie nail of my right hand.

After that, La Netta suggested I sit down next to Carl. "Want to sit down between Carl and Emonte?", she asked.

"I don't want to sit next to Emonte", I replied.

"Then do you want to sit next to Shawn?"

"Good point."

"What was my point?"

"There are worse people I could sit next to than Emonte."

Lita handed me a ticket. "This is your raffle ticket", she said. "Hold onto it."

I went out to the van to get my CD player and headphones. I set my ticket down on the table. Then I came back for it.

Just as I was about my get my headphones on, I heard Lita announce that the singing portion of the party was to begin.

The first person up was a client who sang "Jingle Bells".

"This man can't sing to save his life", said Carl.

"I know", said La Netta. "But he wanted to sing. Let's listen."

There were a few more Christmas carols, then I told Lita I wanted to go.

"Here, put your headphones down", said Lita. She pointed towards the table.

I picked up the microphone and asked, "Who here likes the Killers?"

"I do", said a male client whose voice I didn't recognize.

"Well, I have a parody I wrote titled 'Was It Prancer?'"

I started to sing:

I couldn't help but notice
A fat man flying Christmas Eve
I saw nine deer fly that December
I was shocked, but I believed

Comes right down the chimney
Doesn't need an open door
Saw his deer
As they'd land
Two by four

Was it Comet . . . or was it Prancer?
Outside my window, that night so cold
Was it Blitzen, Vixen, Rudolph, Donner, Dancer
Was it Comet, or was it Prancer?

Get some CD's for Steve and Brandon
A doll for Bayleigh's childhood
Some webcams for Nicole and Meghan
He has a list, knows who's been good

Will his elves get a promotion
For finding how to make playdough?
Will his reindeer as well?
It's Christmas, ho ho ho

Was it Comet . . . or was it Prancer?
Outside my window, from the North Pole
Was it Blitzen, Vixen, Rudolph, Donner, Dancer
Was it Comet, or was it Prancer?

May the man whose beard is white
Make his presence known tonight
Milk and cookies we'll be leaving
In exchange for what we're receiving

Was it Comet . . . or was it Prancer?
Outside my window, that night so cold
Was it Blitzen, Vixen, Rudolph, Donner, Dancer
Was it Comet . . .

Obese, but happy though

Was it Comet . . . or was it Prancer?
Outside my window, that night so cold
Was it Blitzen, Vixen, Rudolph, Donner, Dancer
Was it Comet, or was it Prancer?

Was it Comet, or was it Prancer?
Was it Comet, or was it Prancer?

The audience clapped.

"Did you like it?", asked La Netta.

"I did", she said. "I could tell what song it was."

Renée told Lita she wanted to sing. She was going to sing another version of "Jingle Bells", she said.

"Jingle bells, Batman smells", she whispered.

"I don't want to hear 'Batman Smells', girl!", said Lita.

Renée resolved to sing it without accompaniment from another CIWPer.

Then she sang into the microphone:

Jingle Bells, Batman smells, Robin laid an egg,
The Batmobile broke its wheel, and the Joker got away, hey,
Jingle Bells, Batman smells, Robin laid an egg,
The Batmobile broke its wheel, and the Joker got away, hey!

The audience clapped at Renée's rendition of "Batman Smells".

Then Carl announced he wanted to sing "The Redneck Twelve Days of Christmas". Lita invited him up to the stage.

Beleaguered by stage fright, Carl turned his back to the audience and picked up the microphone.

On the first day of Christmas, my grandma gave to me
Some parts to a Mustang GT

On the ninth day of Christmas, Carl started out with "On the eighth day of Christmas", but then he said, "I'm lost -- where was I again?"

"The ninth day", the audience told him.

He finished it off with:

On the twelfth day of Christmas my grandma gave to me:
Twelve-pack of Bud
Eleven wrestlin' tickets
Tin of Copenhagen
Nine years' probation
Eight table dancers
Seven packs of Red Band
Six cans of Spam
Five flannel shirts!

Four big mud tires
Three shotgun shells
Two huntin' dogs
And some parts to a Mustang GT!

The audience clapped and laughed.

There were a few more renditions of "Jingle Bells", then it came time for the raffle.

"40", Lita called after she drew a number. "Who has 40?"

"James, what number do you have?", asked La Netta.

"I have 36", I replied.


"I have 35."

"40 . . . who has 40?", asked Lita.

A coach asked a low-functioning client. She checked the raffle ticket, and saw he was not a 40.

"No one has 40?", asked Lita.

No one responded.

"OK", said Lita. "No one has 40. Merry Christmas to me!"

Lita drew ten more numbers. One of them was 35 . . . at which point Carl got up and claimed his prize.

I didn't win anything. Then Lita passed around candy bags to us all.

I looked and saw a wxnking penguin on the bag.

"It's all yours", I told Carl.

"What, you don't want it?", asked La Netta.

"I don't."

"Oh . . . I see why! Did you scratch his eye out?"


I put my headphones on and closed my eyes until the party ended.

"La Netta, look!", I said. "They have Tampoco!"

I carried a half-drunk bottle of Tampico with me as we went out the door. It was a nice accompaniment to the Starbuck's Frappuccino La Netta had bought me. Both were sitting side by side on my seat.

We then drove over to Didi's. La Netta told me to close my eyes whenever we passed pajamdras.

"I don't want my shorts to be too snxg", said Carl.

"Rrrrrrrrr!", I growled.

"Sorry," said Carl. "I don't want them to be too tight."

I thought I heard a man saying, "Hi, sweetxe, how are you doing?" as we stood in line. I growled.

"Come up some", said La Netta. I took a few steps forward.

The line was long, and we kept moving forward, but it still wasn't our turn.

Shortly before our turn came, I heard a little girl saying, "Whxxpsie!"

I slammed my forehead. I couldn't shout "D'oh!" because my mouth was eull of saliva.

"Why are you hitting yourself?", asked La Netta.

"Mmmm mmmm mmmm mmmm", I replied.

"I see it too", she said. What was she talking about?

Once we got out of Didi's, I spat into a garbage can. "La Netta", I said, "I hit my forehead because the little girl said the WH-word with an I-E at the end."

"That was a Hispanic little girl", said La Netta. "She was speaking Spanish."



Once we returned to the van, I asked La Netta, "So I didn't hear any purge words other than Carl's SN-word and the SW-word?"

"No purge words", said La Netta.

"You mean except for Carl's SN-word and the SW-word?"

"The only person who said anything was Carl."

I put my headphones back on until I heard Star 101.3 during a gap. We listened to the radio together during our drive home from Oakland.

I told La Netta I had heard a man "saying, 'Hi, SW-word, how are you doing?'".

"No one said that", La Netta said. "Most of the people in that store were speaking Spanish."

We said our good-byes for the five-day holiday week-end. It was going to be a good time ahead.

When I got home, I sent my mother an email about getting an iPod. Christmas was three days later, after all.

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