Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Very Special Holiday Mix CD

[Photo by Steve Hopson]

For someone who can't stand the holidays, I sure can't seem to shut up about them, can I? Well, to me, that's part of the problem. You can't ignore it. I know this because I've tried. Yesterday, to distract myself, I came up with a Mix CD with lots of dark, depressing or just plain old loud or weird (or bad or all of the above) versions of Christmas songs. These I tempered by tossing some good, klezmer-y Hanukkah tunes into the mix. The new CD by Berran Aaron Cohen is most awesome (the songs I've heard, anyway). I love that Chaka Khan does Do You See What I See. And I've forever been a fan of Neil "Jewish Elvis" Diamond faux-sincerely belting out tunes in honor of the Baby Jesus. There's a bunch of other cool stuff I found-- all I had to do was google: "depressing christmas music" and much of my work was done for me. I was, I must say, psyched to find out that Conor Oberst has a Christmas CD. Check out his rendition of Blue Christmas here.

And now, the set list for the CD mix known as BAH!

1. Christmas The Who
2. Father Christmas The Kinks
3. Dreidel Erran Baron Cohen
4. Blue Christmas Bright Eyes
5. Please Daddy (Don't Get Drunk This Christmas) The Decemberists
6. Xmas in Jail Asleep at the Wheel
7. Little Drummer Boy Joan Jett & The Blackhearts
8. Driedel, Driedel Meshugga Beach Party
9. Feliz Navidad El Vez
10. Happy Christmas (War Is Over) Neil Diamond
11. Hanukkah Oh Hanukkah Erran Baron Cohen
12. Do You Hear What I Hear Chaka Khan
13. The Chanukah Song Adam Sandler
14. Fairytale of New York Kirsty MacColl & The Pogues
15. Oh Little Town Of Bethlehem Bright Eyes
16. Dreidel Jingle Punx
17. What a Friend We Have In Jesus Tiny Tim
18. Baby, It's Cold Outside Tom Jones
19. Christmas Time for My Penis The Vandals
20. Heat Miser Lushy
21. Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah (Hora) Brave Combo
22. Don't Shoot Me Santa The Killers
23. Chanuka Jingle Punx
24. White Christmas Stiff Little Fingers
25. You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch Thurl Ravenscroft
26. Silent Night Jingle Punx
27. Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) Joey Ramone

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Spike "Scrooge" Gillespie Mistaken for Santa's Helper!

Okay, this is too rich. So, thanks to the generosity of too many people to name here, I was able to round up a good bit of support for the family that recently lost their young husband/father. The young widow now has four kids to care for on her own and her mortgage is in arrears and she owes the funeral home a small fortune. But members of the Office of Good Deeds, and my neighbors, and some others kicked in cash and HEB gift cards and gifts and toiletries and... it was all overwhelming in a great way.

Then I got an email from Toy Joy-- I'd asked if they might help a bit despite the nightmarish retail scene right now and the fact that they no doubt get hit up regularly for donations. A manager reviewed my request and they donated an awesome fake tree (much like the one I bought at their Fake Tree Lot only mine is smaller than the donated tree and also mine is black-- of course it is.) They also donated a bunch of toys for the kids. I headed over to TJ and loaded up the car. I'd been driving around for a couple of days, unable to reach my friend who is a direct friend of the family in need so she could get the goods from me and deliver them.

Unsure what to do, I decided I would just have to drive over there and drop the stuff off myself. I had the family's address but not their phone number. Now, I am a complete stranger to these folks. And they are dealing with the aftershock of a very intense trauma. I'm not fond of knocking-without-advance-warning even under good circumstances. So my trip over there, the closer I got, the more I worried. What if they freak out? What if they think I pity them? (I don't pity them-- I just want to help because lots of people helped me so often over the years.) What if, what if, what if?

Then I think, Screw it, just quit worrying and knock. So I knock. Someone asks who's there. I say it's me, friend of their friend. A tiny woman opens the door and I sputter out who I am and why I'm there and that I have a tree and some toys and an envelope with some checks written to the mortgage company and an HEB card. And-- oh thank you thank you-- the woman lights up and thanks me and is receptive to all this.

She sends a young man out to carry the tree in and I follow him with the bag of toys. He gestures me inside, which I'm tentative about. It's not my intent to invade their private space, just drop and run. But I do as I'm told and step inside and there are several little kids and they're just looking at me like Who the heck is that?

Then one of them moves closer and says, Are you Santa's helper?

To which I respond with a laugh-- more like a shocked choking noise disguised as a laugh. Me? Santa's helper? Did y'all not get the memo on Spike's Feelings About Christmas?

Apparently not. My choke-laugh instantly melts into a desire to burst out crying. I'm as hyper sensitive and wired and anxiety prone this time of the year as a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs, as the saying goes. So I beat a hasty retreat. But not before the mom gives me a hug and one of the little kids shouts out, Bye Elf!!

After that, it was all a blur but I think I might have accidentally let slip a Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

We Wish You a Merry Porn Dog

My latest bit of extremely popular genius is now posted over at the Austinist. You can read it here.

If you like it, please recommend it.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Will Work for Dog Food!

Well, it didn't take long for the Wall Street bullshit to trickle-- nay, gush-- down here to little old Spike's casa. Courtesy of soaring unemployment, a freeze on most lending, and sundry other factors, nearly all of my paying work has either dried up entirely or slowed to damn near a full halt. Clients are slow to pay-- totally understandable but still hard to swallow. And so I'm sitting here looking at a stack of bills that's causing me to grind my teeth even more. (Yes, I wore the damn night guard last night, since I can try to meditate into oblivion the bad dreams it spurs, but I cannot currently afford to pay for the real damage the grinding is doing.)

These days, though I am typically a major news junkie, I only listen to/read the news in short bursts. Ironically, I read two articles about how reading about the economy is making everyone more crazy. So I'm laying off of NPR's Marketplace and only skimming NYT. Because if I don't, I'm going to succumb to the craziness, too.

That said, during my allotted two and a half minutes of listening to NPR yesterday, I happened to hear an analogy, presented by a cancer survivor, about getting through all this recession shit. He said when you're facing off with cancer, all you can really do is move forward, strategize the next round of treatment, and keep going. There's little if any time to sit around and wallow in self-pity.

That resonates for me on a couple of fronts. In 1997, a grapefruit sized malignant tumor was found wrapped around my left ovary. It was removed, along with the ovary. At the time, I was in the middle of a horrifying divorce and, while the good news was that it was a rare time in my life I had insurance, the bad news was this insurance was part of my estranged nutcase's policy. Which meant, since I suddenly had a pre-existing condition, that the only way to continue having insurance-- which I needed in case more malignant cells showed up-- was via a COBRA plan.

For those of you unfamiliar with COBRA, it's this guaranteed right to keep insurance at the cost of... well cost varies but in my case it was around $500 a month. A friend of mine, a bankruptcy lawyer, when informed that I couldn't possibly pay both COBRA and my bills, told me to not worry about my credit cards. Of course I did worry, but I stopped paying them. I had no choice. This eventually led me to a bankruptcy filing which still haunts my credit rating. But I don't care. I did what I had to. There was no seven hundred billion dollar bailout for me. Just a lot of hard work, which I've continued to do, and a very slow climb back to a place of semi-decent credit.

The other thing the cancer patient's observations recalled for me were all those years when I struggled and struggled to stay afloat as a single mother trying to make it as a freelance writer. Occasionally, I broke down and took office jobs. Mostly, I soldiered through, forever awaiting the next check which, often enough, was late. Again, I did what I had to. Once in a great while I'd allow myself to lay down and weep over how scary it all was. Or I'd stay up late into the night crunching numbers, fantasizing how one or two big assignments, if I could just get them, would keep us afloat.

One Christmas, when Henry was ten, I became acutely aware of how tuned into my financial stress I was. He had managed-- through gifts from friends, birthday cash, and sales from an art auction he held-- to amass $167, which he presented to me one Christmas morning with a supportive pat on the back. That made me cry so hard-- I was so proud of him for his selflessness but I felt like shit that I had unintentionally let my anxiety seep heavily into his little world which, like all parents, I had hoped I could infuse with a sense of no worries.

So here I sit, fending off the panic. A truly big step back, coupled with a deep breath, let's me see that my situation is nowhere near as bad as that of many folks. I've got a number of gigs lined up for 2009 and, it's looking like, two very small book contracts that will help me eke by. So the reality is, or at least I hope the reality is, that this current financial nut-twisting is maybe going to keep me wincing for, at best, another eight weeks.

In the meanwhile, I'm feverishly searching for some piecemeal work to tide me over. I even applied to be the blogger for a natural dog food company -- they pay a little cash and some free dog food. With four dogs, you know, that's no small thing.

If you hear of any gigs -- folks that need copywriting, bad jokes, knitting advice, or command performances of Dick Monologues, by all means, do let me know, eh?

Friday, December 12, 2008

More Info on How to Help

Okay everyone, here's an update. I now have the name of the funeral home and mortgage company for the family I posted about yesterday. If you can help-- even with just a few bucks-- please email me: and I will tell you to whom you should write the check and how to mail it to me. I'll gather all funds and drop them off directly at the mortgage bank and funeral home.

Other ways to help:
HEB gift cards and/or new or gently used gifts for the kids (and their mom) are much appreciated. I am offering to sweeten the deal thusly: if you will send me gifts for them, I -- Spike "Scrooge" Gillespie-- will personally wrap them and deliver them for Christmas. My mailing address is:

P.O. Box 4843
Austin, TX 78765

Info on the kids:

There are three girls and 1 boy.

Girl #1: 11 years old
Coat Large
Shoes 5
Pants 12
Shirts 10/12

Girl #2: 8 years old
Coat Med/large
Pants/dresses 12
Shirts 10/12
Shoes 1-1/2 or 2

Girl #3: 6 years old
Coat Medium
Pants 6
Shirts 6
Shoes 13

Boy: 5 years old
Coat Medium
Pants 5/6
Shirts 6
shoes 13

Thanks so much for any help you can offer,

Thursday, December 11, 2008


I just received the following email from one of Henry's all time favorite teacher, a woman who constantly does good deeds. I responded telling her I would put the word out as far and wide as I could. I also emailed her asking to send me the address where we might send donations and also the ages of the kids. I, personally, will pick up your donations if you can't mail/drop them off. The misfortune that has befallen this family, while it would be awful any time of the year, is surely compounded right now with the holidays.

Even if you can only spare a buck or two or a gently used gift, if enough of us kick in, we can help with the funeral and maybe a few gifts for the kids. I ask that you please share this with any friends/groups you have that might want to help. Folks can email me directly if they're interested and I will compile an email list. As soon as I have more details, I'll send a note directly to interested parties and we'll make something good happen.
Thanks for all the good deeds,

Here's the note:
Dear Spike,

Seasons Greetings!

I have been up all night problem-solving this dilemma and I have worn myself ragged with this one. I have decided that I need help. I am the ministry leader for the Dorcas Women's' Ministry circle at my church. One on the young ladies (31) has lost her husband after a long struggle with sickle cell. She is not prepared for any of this as there are four children and, no insurance and the mortgage is two months in arrears. The Church has asked for donations but it is a large building with a small congregation. There is no date set for the funeral because there is not enough money to date. King Tears Funeral Home is being very gracious and allowing her time to work this out. I am able to do some but I cannot do this one alone. I need help with this one. I look forward to hearing from you soon.


A. Renee Dailey

"People deal too much with the negative, with what is wrong. Why not try and see positive things, to just touch those things and make them bloom?" - Thich Nhat Hanh

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Happy Birthday, Wolfie!

[It is impossible to stand next to a 6'2" string bean and not wind up looking like a pregnant hunchback.]

Well, I'm a couple of days late posting this, but my darling little baby, Henry Mowgli, turned EIGHTEEN this week. I am still trying to wrap my head around this one. I probably called him forty times that day to wish him a happy birthday and he endured this telephone assault as patiently as he could. What a child! I mean what a young man! So kind and compassionate and hilarious. As is my annual tradition I asked him if he might want to get down on the floor with me and re-enact his birth. As is his annual tradition, he rolled his eyes very far back and declined the offer. Eighteen-- I cannot believe it. Happy Birthday, Wolfie!