New Year’s notes: We are currently residing in 2005, which is exactly 100 years from 1905, which was a long freaking time ago. I have dubbed ’05 the Year of Making Silly Faces at People Who Ask Dumb Questions. I predicted that in the next twelve months I would eat a bag of Utz Bar-B-Q flavored potato chips, and I just finished one, so I am now a whopping 3-for-3 in my 2005 predictions. [My other correct “guesstimates”: 1) that I would make a resolution (in this case, no drinking in January) and fail miserably at keeping it (three glasses of cheap red wine and a vodka shot last night), and 2) I will start off the year on the wrong foot, and — voila! — the only thing that could have made the past three days worse is if I had also been forced to watch an episode of Desperate Housewives.] Also, I just pretended to tweak my nipples as I prepared to write this, the final New Year’s note, which means I have started out the new year acting like a total dipshit.

At least I closed out 2004 properly. I will save the tantalizing details of my Chicago trek and simply say that you had to be there (and add that you’ll be able to read about it at a much later date in the book I’m supposed to be writing). But how about an anecdotal nugget from my flight out there? Hmm? As I sat nervously in my aisle seat, perusing the Life section of the colorful USA Today and waiting for the two seats next to me to be claimed, I became convinced that the seat next to me would go to a hugely fat guy whose carry-on item was a stinky KFC sack, and that the window seat would go to the mother and in-flight breast-feeder of a screaming infant. So I was mildly relieved when a normal-looking couple showed up, meekly said “excuse me” and asked to sit down. Happy now, I began rifling through the Sports section, paying particular attention to the absence of news about the Detroit Tigers, who will lose 90 games in ’05 due to their many failures this off-season. But attention, please! I glanced over toward the window seat and noticed, my eyes a-google, that the man had a stuffed monkey on each knee.

My initial reaction was along the lines of, “Oh, ha-ha! This cheeky gentleman has bought some cute monkeys for his kid back home and is now showing them off to wifey.” Call me Sherlock, but I soon deduced that this was not the case. First, neither the man nor the woman was laughing or talking about the monkeys, so I figured that this wasn’t some run-of-the-mill show-and-tell. Also, the monkeys were both facing him, and he had carefully placed them in a way so they wouldn’t fall off his knees — i.e., they were going to stay like that for a while, and perhaps the rest of the flight. The giveaway clue, though, came right before take-off, when the guy pulled a muffin out of a bag, tore a piece off, and pretended to feed it to the monkeys.

Now I’m no primatologist, but I was pretty certain that these stuffed monkeys weren’t hungry. And yet, as he yammered to his companion about a recent power-point presentation one of them had suffered through, he continued to absent-mindedly “feed” his faux simians what appeared to be their daily dose of bran. Thus, my sole purpose for the rest of the flight was to avoid engaging in conversation with these loons. I also decided that if the opportunity and a parachute presented themselves I would jump out of the plane, even if it meant being stranded in a red state.

Luckily, that was about all the mischief the monkeys caused on that flight. My best guess is that the man had a pathological fear of flying — which manifested itself by his yelling “There’s something on the wing!” or a need to defecate on the service cart — and that the monkeys were psychological crutches prescribed by a highly paid professional. A harder theory to consider was that the couple had recently lost a child or children, or were unable to have kids, and that they were using the monkeys to fill whatever void this created in their sad lives. But that scenario seems unlikely, because when the doors opened at the conclusion of the flight, the man unceremoniously stuffed the monkeys into his bag as if they were tattered copies of The Da Vinci Code.

WHY I’M ANGRY TODAY

I posted this at 4.06pm, the tardiest I’ve ever been with a post. The bad start to 2005 continues. (AJS note at 7:29pm: This is entirely incorrect. I’ve posted later on at least two occasions, and probably far more. I am jettisoning brain cells at the same rate my gut is expanding — alarmingly fast!)

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