Content-type: text/html Ray Manning

Monday, December 18, 2000 7:10 AM

Christmas Shopping

After a late night at the Frat House and a good Saturday morning bicycle ride, I go Christmas shopping. The stores that I go to are not extremely crowded and I am pleased.

First thing in a Barnes and Noble, I find the perfect Christmas present for Garrett. (Garrett is the structures lead on EOS who used to design bridges and nuclear containment vessels). For Garrett there is a coffee-table sized book of building and structure demolitions. There is a fantastic time sequence shot in the middle of the book of a radio antenna buckling its way down. And a final shot showing a pile of rubble on the ground. (But don't tell Garrett what I am getting him because I haven't given it to him yet.)

I head to ToysRUs to find presents for Ralph and Lanana's daughters. I am in the action figure and doll section when I see them. There they are. I cannot believe it. And this coming after I thought that I had put those few bad weeks behind me. They only have Cornelius and Dr. Zaius, two of the four Planet of the Apes action figure dolls. I am shaken. I reach out for the Dr. Zaius doll and my hand is literally shaking. And I sit down on the floor - staring at the doll. A sales representative comes by and asks "Do you need any help, Sir?"

I leave the open-ended question alone. And ask "Do you have the Taylor doll"? (Taylor was the character played by Charlton Heston in the movie.)

The sales representative stares quizzically at me. He doesn't know who Taylor is. We stare silently at each other for about 30 seconds - he standing over me as I sit on the floor. Finally he is distracted by another customer and leaves.

I take a deep breath and calm myself emotionally. I stand up and put the action figure back where I got it. And now I decide that I have to examine the action figures that are available. For the most part, I find the typical GI Joes, Superheroes, sports figures, James Bond, professional wrestling characters, and mainstream rock stars like Britney Spears.

But I also find a number of unexpected action figures. There is Alice Cooper (complete with stage snakes), KISS (probably Gene Simmons), Janis Joplin, and Charlie's Angels. (Though they do not have the Alex Charlie's Angels doll - Alex being the Angel played by Lucy Liu, aka Ling on Ally McBeal.) And there is also some sort of action figure set that includes a large size Statue of Liberty head in it. And now I am sitting on the floor again holding onto the set that includes the Statue of Liberty head. All sorts of ecstatic and poisonous thoughts and emotions speeding through me. After a few minutes of overload, I say "G&$d$@* you to hell!" out loud. As I say this, a little girl of about five years old passes by. And another sales representative.

The sales representative stops and asks "Do you need any help, Sir?"

After a few false starts as my voice breaks up, I manage to get out an "I was just re-living the ending of the movie".

The sales representative doesn't know what to do. He doesn't know what I am talking about. And he obviously hasn't been trained how to respond to customers having emotional breakdowns.

In summary, a short time later I am walking through Lakewood mall. I managed, trust me, to leave the ToysRUs and drive to the mall without any significant incidents. And no additions to my police record.

I hit paydirt in the mall and find a number of good Christmas presents. As I am heading back towards the mall entrance, I stop in the central section and watch a number of children riding on the helicopter, the speed boat, and the horsey. I want them! I sit and watch a few more minutes and daydream of how my family will be. I have 10 kids - 8 boys and 2 girls. And no wife. The boys - the A team - are named Ashley, Adrian, Alex, Albert (after my Dad), Andy, Aaron, Adam, and Acoyne. The girls - the E team - are named Erica and Erin. (Does it mean something that most of the names can be applied to either boys or girls?) One of the boys will be a bicycle racer (because he has a barrel chest, muscular thighs, and thin everything else), three of the boys will be ice hockey players (because they are always hitting each other with sticks and running each other into walls), one will be a financial consultant (because he keeps taking my stock and mutual fund reports which recently have LOTS of red ink and keeps coloring the whole report red), and one will be a scientist (because he keeps taking things apart and, rather than an engineer who would put it back together and have it work better, he keeps trying to take it down to smaller and smaller and smaller components). And the girls? Well, I don't know what the girls would be because I just plain don't understand girls!

I return home. Childless. And turn on the television to relax. And now I realize how old I am. You know that you are old when you see the last game being played in a stadium (Three Rivers stadium in Pittsburgh) and you can remember when it was a brand new stadium.

Saturday night I return to Club Asia. Brandon, my friend with the stuffed animal dog cell phone holder, arrives with a friend, Nina, in tow. Actually, Brandon has just met Nina outside the club but they are talking to each other like they are old friends. Nina and I hit it off. We talk about all sorts of cool things. I like her. A lot. I stay until closing time hanging out with Nina. And give her my number. I am asleep by 3am.

Sunday the alarms goes off at 6:55 am. I get up and go for a bicycle ride. I grin and bear the ride because I am slow from lack of sleep. But I feel better when I have finished - the crisp air, the blue sky, the warming air, and the bright sunshine.

Later in the day I am passing in and out of consciousness due to lack of sleep. So I lay down to take a nap knowing that I need some sleep for tonight's ice hockey game. I am down for five minutes when the phone rings. Dad, who I babysit for, wants to go Christmas and hardware shopping. So I get dressed and drag myself through the few stores that we go to. And arrive home and lay back down for another try at a nap. I am interrupted 30 minutes into the nap with fire truck and police sirens blaring away. Close! The house at the end of the street is ablaze! Well, I'm not going to be able to sleep with all of this commotion, so I get dressed and watch the firemen put the fire out.

Later I play the ice hockey game with just the 30 minute nap. And I play well. Unfortunately, after taking a 3-0 lead and holding it until 6 minutes left in the game, we blow the lead and end up tied after overtime 3-3.