Episode One: SPIDERMAN
Sheriff Varan was driving his squad car through the streets of Roostville when he received a call over the radio.
"Go ahead SO," he acknowledged the dispatcher.
"SO-1, we have a domestic disturbance call from the house of a certain Jeff Goldblum."
"Ah, god... Not this again," Varan sighed. He had just driven by Goldblum's house and was too lazy to turn around so he simply threw the car in reverse, causing other motorists to swerve out of the way as he expertly backed into Goldblum's driveway. When he knocked, Goldblum finally answered the door, looking as though he hadn't stepped outside in three days.
"What is the matter now?" the Sheriff asked impatiently.
"It's those @#$# aliens. They're back. They just don't understand that it was just a movie. And this time, they brought reinforcements!" Goldblum explained. He directed Varan to the television. On it was a warning message from the aliens from INDEPENDENCE DAY about a possible invasion. But next to them were a BUNCH of villains. Sheriff Varan could not help but sigh once more. Doctor Doom of Latveria, Doctor Evil from AUSTIN POWERS, the creepy maid, Alice, from THE BRADY BUNCH; a broomstick alien from REPTILIAN. George Lucas had a plastic light saber in hand and several chairmen from Disney were clutching wads of money. The detestable Haley Joel Osmont and finally, the ringmaster of the group, Sheriff Varan's most hated movie star, Spiderman!
"God, I hated that movie!" Varan yelled.
"And they are all gonna invade Roostville if we don't stop them," Goldblum insisted.
"For the love of jeebus, Spiderman better keep his over rated arse away from me," Varan warned.
"Why would Doctor Doom hang out with such losers anyhow?" Goldblum asked.
"Because Spiderman put a spell on everyone with his black magic and now everyone loves his movie. I must put an end to his evil ways." And with that, Sheriff Varan broke through two walls and got back into his squad car.
Episode Two: OFFICIAL BUSINESS
Car 54 was on routine patrol when they were dispatched to City Hall. Three calls had already come in from irate citizens complaining about the noise coming from the council room on the top floor.
When Officers Fife and Krupke got within two blocks of the building, they could easily tell that a big party was in progress as all the windows were wide open, a live band was playing as loud as it could and streamers and several rolls of TP had been launched into the nearby trees. As they pulled up, Catbert also came flying out a window and landed on the hood of the car.
"Hey, ossifurs!" the blue furry thing grinned. "Come join the party!" With a loud 'BLAM!', he vanished.
"Think we're gonna need back-up?" Barney asked.
"Naw. We can handle it," his partner assured him and they headed into City Hall.
Not surprisingly, there was a trail of confetti, empty beer cans, paper plates and pretzels from the main entrance right up the stairs to the source of the commotion. It looked like over half the town of Roostville was (or had been) in attendance, either partying hearty or passed out along the walls.
"What's the occasion?" Rudy shouted above the racket as two tipsy accountants made their way through the mass of humanity.
"Birthday party! Melkor's," one of them managed to croak, having sung himself hoarse.
"Oh, boy!" Officer K. exclaimed. "There's no way we're gonna be able to handle this after all..."
"So what are we gonna do, Rudy? What are we gonna do?" Barney was really getting nervous now.
"Come on." Rudy grabbed his partner by the back of the neck and marched him upstairs.
About an hour later, Sheriff Varan showed up at City Hall to find out what had happened to his two men. He located their car, which had been stripped and TP'd, no doubt by Orcs and party-goers (in that order).
Bulling through the crowd, Varan made his way upstairs and found his guys in a line dance with a couple of chippies from the Bird Nest Bar and Dance Hall over in the Red Light District. The gals were in their can-can outfits (for a change) and only showing a lot of leg, high-stepping to the fast-paced music.
The long council table had been laid with a generous buffet by the Mods and streamers, balloons and decorations covered the usually dignified hall. Someone had left a bucket of KFC unattended so the Sheriff helped himself to it while looking for a sober Mod. Not finding any (they had adjourned to the Mayor's Office to watch the rebroadcast of ROOSTVILLE: THE SOAP OPERA and the latest bootlegs that had been acquired), Jet Jaguar was left in charge of making sure "those two turkeys who are supposed to be cops" got home OK. The robot said he would see to it and set off to break up a rapidly escalating argument between several Museum of Monsters staff members.
Assured that everything was normal (but loud), the Sheriff turned to leave, figuring there couldn't be much trouble for anyone to get into at a party hosted by City Hall. As he was about to head downstairs, his portable radio squawked another disturbance call on the location.
"Tell the complainant to get his tail over here or plug his ears, whichever works best because it's Melkor's birthday," Varan growled back.
He then turned his radio off and was about to rejoin the party when a 'toon was ejected out the double doors.
"Looks like Phish is at it again..." Varan mumbled. "This place is crazy enough without having THEM runnin' around, too..."
Episode Three: THE PIZZA ROBBER
As he headed for Mickey D's (Dogora's Drive-Thru Fast Food Burger Emporium and McDogoraland) for his morning coffee, the Roostville Cable and Telephone service van came barrelling out the exit after the line crew had blasted a portable air horn at the ordering station and a hearty "TRICK OR TREAT!" to the very rattled attendant.
"Looks like we're off to an early start this year," the Sheriff grumbled.
Arriving at the Mod Station, things didn't get much better. Assorted skulls and shrunken heads were lined up at the Communications Center window to greet visitors to the public access side. Tosha, the dispatcher, had appropriated a fluorescent orange plastic pumpkin and placed a fat candle in it to add a particularly eerie glow to the subdued lighting the operators preferred for monitoring their various consoles.
The Security Controller's head was obscured by the collar of her black vampire cape which draped over the back of her chair. Of course, the long counter used for administrative tasks was bountifully supplied with seasonal favorites, from candy corn to black- and orange-wrapped peanut butter chews, his particular favorite. Filling another plastic pumpkin with goodies, he headed for his office.
Apparently, Raptor had already checked in as there were plenty of big black rubber spiders suspended by thread from the ceiling grid. Ducking into her office to drop off some files, he noted a Space Ranger costume hanging from a file cabinet.
"At least that isn't ONE character I'll have to explain responding to a call!" he figured.
Settled in his office after removing an abundance of fake spider webs and a big rubber rat from his desk, the Sheriff was mulling over various administrative items when he got a call from Mayor Morgoth.
"Are you aware there is a CLOWN driving a police vehicle?!" the Dark Lord roared.
"Of course," Varan nonchalantly replied. "I have several on staff. And if I remember correctly, City Hall is not above observing Halloween either." Morgoth grunted and slammed down the phone, having been greeted at his offices by a staff of witches, goblins, TV characters and assorted other entities in masque and make-up. He figured Varan had probably guessed he himself was also in full regalia, this year as General George Patton.
Around 4 o'clock when the kids got out of school, trick or treating picked up immediately and swarms of every type of creature imaginable appeared about town. One "character" decided to take advantage of the tradition to hold up Gigan's Pizza: the notorious Pizza Robber.
As he was backing out the door with his loot, Sandworm Phish happened to pull up in his patrol car. Figuring today would present more questionable activity than most, Sheriff Varan had conscripted every available Mod and Admin to be on patrol during the 'witching hours'. As to what they might be wearing, some concessions were necessary so the bandito found himself face-to-face with the Hamburglar!
The elusive criminal didn't resist and along with the evidence, was promptly transported to the Mod Station for booking where at least two pizzas were confiscated. When Phish radioed that he was 10-15 (bringing in a prisoner) and it was the Pizza Robber, every Mod and deputy suddenly found a reason to head for the station, giving the seasonal egg lobbers, pumpkin smashers, TPers, bottle rocket gangs and assorted other party animals a brief respite to do their thing.
The next morning would dawn bright and cheerful (if somewhat littered) and Sheriff Varan could look forward to the Pizza Robber's arraignment before Judge Saruman. At the day shift muster, he made a point to pull a surprise inspection to retrieve various (now empty) pizza boxes from his fleet of patrol vehicles and about the station.
Amid the strong aroma of pepperoni and spicy tomato sauce, he bundled up the 'evidence' with Phish's greasy arrest report and headed for the Court House.
Episode Four: CATBERT
Catbert stuck his blue-furred head out the window. "Nuts. Shoulda told 'im I shot that freaky wall-crawler. Hey, dorkus maximus! "OH MY COW! IT'S GEORGE LUCAS! GEEZ! I'M OUTTA HERE!" Catbert stopped, preened his fur and jumped into his DeLorean time machine which had been left to him in Michael J. Fox's will.
His next stop was George Lucas' private THX 1138 screening where he shouted, "NO STAR WARS!" Then it was back to Stan Lee's room in the '80s where he whispered, "NO SPIDERMAN MOVIES!" Once back to 2012, he bribed Officers Sands and Tron to join him.
Episode Five: PARADE DUTY
The TV crew was beginning to get on everyone's nerves, showing up at often the most inopportune times to catch 'Roostville's Finest' at what they do best: upholding the unique 'character' of the town.
With the end of the year holidays coming up, they had managed to get the show's producer to go along with letting them stick around for a year-end wrap-up, Roostville Style.
The big Holiday Parade on the Monday before Christmas week had brought out every citizen (illegal or otherwise) to join in the Mardi Gras-like festivities. Everyone was dressed up in holiday finery, even if they were parked in front of their TVs to watch it on Roostville Cable Channel 2.
The many bars around town were more than willing to accommodate their patrons with big screen coverage from beginning to end. Sauron had promised there would be a "vast improvement" this year, despite his minions preferring to be IN the parade rather than covering it. Last year, every camera point had been abandoned and locked down (and not necessarily in focus) so this time, THINGS WOULD BE DIFFERENT.
The Winter Solstice had been observed with the usual bonfires and merrymaking and everyone seemed to have recovered sufficiently to go back about their business the day of the big parade with renewed vigor and determination to stage the best parade ever. The Roostville Fire Department had really done a great job cleaning up their equipment after the many Solstice fires they had responded to and there was minimal shooting of water cannons at street level along the parade route. Aerial performances were limited to altitudes above 500 feet with absolutely NO 'bombing runs' of candy canes or other objects. Craft that could negotiate the parade route were grounded and towed or part of float entries. Jet Jaguar had personally made sure all weapons were disarmed, unloaded, disconnected or otherwise peace bonded to avoid entries taking pot shots at each other or the crowd.
Everything was going quite well until one of the mounted entries bolted because of fireworks, pulling its carriage and rider at a rapid clip toward the front of the procession. The 'rescue' of Little Miss Snow Flake by every Good Guy around resulted in a brief altercation as they all tried to take credit for stopping the runaway horse and a few punches were thrown. Realizing they were surrounded by hundreds of their fans, they quickly cleared the route when a particularly imposing float sponsored by one of the Middle Earth factions came bearing down on them.
Thanks to the remote controlled cameras placed at strategic locations (rather than having to rely on unreliable human and otherwise operators), Sauron picked up the whole exchange and immediately made plans for the next ROOSTVILLE'S WEIRDEST VIDEOS release.
As the last unit pulled off the route into the dispersal area and the Sanitation Department took care of horse droppings, many entries were making their way back to their sponsor's places of business for static display throughout the remainder of the holiday season. It would not be unusual to find a huge parade float outside the lowliest dive in town, often with patrons aboard and getting in the 'theme' of things. Mod cars festooned with more holiday lights than a Malaysian jeepney were quite often the order of the day and red hats with white pompons adorned the most staid heads at City Hall.
Speaking of which, Part Two of CHRISTMAS IN ROOSTVILLE: The Office Party! will be forthcoming in our next installment.
Episode Six: HAPPY HOLIDAYS
Dec. 24th dawned bright, clear and quiet. How long the latter would last was anyone's guess but various pools were already up and running as to when the first Disorderly Holiday Conduct arrest would be made, the first office party celebrant would run off into a ditch on the way home, etc.
Estimates of last minute shoppers jamming roads and mall parking lots had been WAY off and were pretty much the only activity for the Mods to deal with (once they got their own provisions taken care of).
Planning for the yearly holiday celebration at City Hall began December 1st as everyone was trying to figure out what to do with all their Turkey Day leftovers. Besides, ALL employers (including Dark Lords) suffer from the delusion that Office Parties are GOOD FOR MORALE.
The suggestion of holding it in conjunction with Halloween was quickly vetoed as that would leave one less excuse to party on city time and money. Since the 24th would be a "work day" (whatever that is supposed to mean), festivities weren't supposed to start before noon so the average citizen wouldn't think their tax money was supporting a bunch of goof-offs. Also, anyone who didn't show up would be docked a full day's pay. Not going to an office party that is a 'must-attend' event shows disrespect for your fellow community workers, supervisors and neighbors.
An open pit barbecue had been set up in the parking lot, thanks to Porky's Dixie Pig. A no-host bar appeared in the lobby of City Hall with plenty of spiked egg nog and kegs of beer, ice, mixers, etc. to cut down on the number of people hitting on the ones in the Executive function areas. Bands were soon arriving with their equipment to set up at various venues. Drunken sing-alongs would be left to the discretion of individual departments.
Anyone showing up dressed as Santa Claus was quickly hit on for gifts and put to work tending bar. Exchange of gifts among employees took place earlier in the day and the mandate that no gift should be over $10 (due to certain Middle Earth union members feeling anything over that was too much money) largely went ignored by surface dwellers.
When asked about the 50 cases of beer, body paint and a live salmon noted outside the Assessor's Office, a clerk advised, "That's what the department goes through every year..."
There are few 'fun' activities quite so vexing as the Office Christmas Party, it seems. This is the annual obligatory gathering of bosses and subordinates, cronies and rivals, back-stabbers and back-stabbees. Hordes of working couples spend the entire time planning their escape after fantasizing about sending an RSVP marked "Thanks, but no thanks!"
They tell each other, "It'll be different this time, it'll be fun!" Being sane individuals, they plan accordingly, realizing everyone who skipped last year's bash was soon unemployed. They both agree to dress appropriately and be on their best behavior and not criticize the food if their mate refrains from eating more than three helpings. Neither will over-imbibe unless the other forgot to mention that consorts weren't invited. They will avoid acting too distant, friendly; refusing to dance with the boss, asking the boss to dance or not laugh at his jokes.
Neither will use the other's office party to promote his/her business by shoving cards or flyers under napkins or whip out a calculator and offer to save the boss 'big bucks' on their specialty, feign expertise in a business they know little about, get their kid(s) hired on or complain when someone brought theirs along (unless you're the target of a potato salad battle, are seated next to a high chair or get vomited on). Flirting with your mate's boss is optional if it lands a bonus. As they peek at their watches waiting for the festivities to end, they no doubt keep one thought in mind: A command appearance at your office Christmas party means you're still employed.
People do pay attention to how folks handle themselves at these events. They might not know your name and you don't remember a damn thing about what happened but THEY will, especially if it ends up in the papers, on the police blotter or on TV. With this in mind, the Mayor distributed a MEMO to all Roostville employees:
- Inappropriate dress always draws attention but there is nothing wrong with displaying professional qualities, along with chromed weapons, campaign medals and full dress regalia.
- Don't chase a member of the opposite sex around with mistletoe and an egg beater.
- Don't scan or Xerox anything below the waist and fax images of body parts to other jurisdictions.
- No group body piercings with paper clips.
- The Art Department IS NOT a tattoo parlor.
- Don't 'panty raid' the Accounting Department.
- Secretaries are not 'Tickle Me Elmo' dolls. By February, Elmo and the Macarena will be forgotten and so will your paycheck.
- Any clothing found in supply closets one month after the party will be given to the Mission.
- People dancing around drinking fountains naked and painted with egg nog will be asked to move the festivities to private offices.
- If the document shredder is smoking from making confetti to throw from the upper floors of City Hall, unplug the thing until it cools down.
- 'Frolicking naked in the streets' is NOT in your job description even if it sounds like a good idea at the time.
- If you step in something sticky in the supply closet, its probably NOT ink for the copier.
- Do not freeze your backside mooning people from the upper floors of City Hall. It's not covered by Worker's Comp.
- The Engineering Department will be charged for all the stuff from the supply cabinet they use to make 'beer bongs'.
- Climbing the City Christmas Tree IS NOT proof of bravery and courage, especially when the Fire Department has to come rescue you.
- If the tree goes up in flames, DO NOT dance around it with hors d'oevres. Call the Fire Department.
- When ambulances show up, it's probably just their crews getting some barbecue.
- If you see paratroopers arriving, alert your supervisor. The party is at City Hall, NOT the Godzilla Tower.
- If you're going to be doing the Macarena AGAIN, get some practice in ahead of time.
- Fire axe and hose fights are to be confined to the hallways.
- Anyone fat, naked, drunk and dancing on a table with a lamp shade on their head will be escorted from the festivities immediately.
- If you wake up with your head in a punch bowl, don't sneeze.
- Magneto and his friends DID NOT steal all your paper clips so don't go calling the Sheriff's Office about any hallucinations you might be experiencing involving comic book and animated characters.
- You WILL NOT find the word MACARENA in the Administration Database so don't bother looking.
- DO NOT use those free AOL disks you've been saving for punch bowl decorations. Sail them out the upper story windows in a Frisbee contest instead.
- DO NOT start a bon fire in the lobby. The parking lot works much better.
- Riding choppers, tricycles, livestock, horses or ANYTHING up and down the halls is to be discouraged.
- If someone is offering beers to a coat rack, it's time to get him a cab home.
- When the SWAT team surrounds City Hall, you're on your own.
- If anyone sees the Easter Bunny, the party is OVER!
- If you wake up in your office tomorrow, you will NOT be paid overtime.
- If you come to work and find the building burned to the ground and *nobody* remembers how it happened, contact the Mayor immediately.
Happy Holidays and have fun!
Folks of non-regional beliefs regarding year-end holiday observances had already started celebrating Chanukah on Dec. 20th and planned to carry through until the 27th with any other party animals still going strong. For those whose religion forbade eating, drinking and other activities during daylight hours, the days are short this time of year and foil swan take-home can usually be arranged (if there is anything left by sundown besides 'reindeer kebabs'.)
Staff members on a diet could be spotted sitting farthest from the sumptuous buffet tables and those having a 'problem' with the more 'exotic' fare that's been known to show up at these affairs stayed close to the restrooms.
December 21st marked the Winter Solstice so MOST of the burning of sage and other stuff was out of the way before the party, despite shamanic drumming circles going on in various departments and when the bands took their breaks. It may seem hard to believe but there are vegetarians in Roostville. They stayed away from the 'grill of death', as they so quaintly put it and hit on the salad bar, complete with hydroponic tomatoes from the Institute of Obscure Kaiju's greenhouse. The IOK once again provided the flower arrangements for City Hall which apparently have feelings also. Tomatoes scream when you slice them and for anyone who suffered too much stress to their sensibilities, sanatorium care IS NOT covered by the Employee Health Plan. Any attacks by holiday foliage were apparently dealt with discreetly by the 'plants' themselves.
By sundown, only a band leader was discovered passed out in a bowl of egg nog and the alcohol-free punch smelled suspiciously like vodka. Not a single original bootleg had showed up, much to the disappointment of those receiving video gifts.
Probably nothing sinister was intended when Morgoth decided to dress up like Santa Claus to light the City Christmas tree at sundown, even if the anagram of 'Santa' does happen to be 'Satan'. It's just 'a guy in a suit' (and a traditional one at that). For Halloween, there's sugar shock, family feuds carry on over the Thanksgiving turkey and broken hearts are a part of Valentine's Day. Any explanations seemed to fall on deaf ears.
"Tell the kiddies to lighten up already!" he fumed before magically lighting the tree and stomping back to the Executive Offices.
An 'exit' (actually, a SURVIVORS) poll was conducted as the office Christmas Party is often considered the quickest way for a government flunky to mess up and leave work mates having to fill in when they get canned. These get-togethers very often fuel some high drama between both colleagues and bosses.
- Our survey found 19% of the city workforce interviewed would rather not socialize with others from their department so what was all the silly dancing and other frolicking all about? Only one percent said they did not want to go to the affair but felt they had to because it was 'good for their career'.
- One in ten confessed to having started a new relationship during the revelry, a similar number admitted flirting with the boss and a quarter said they met their future mate over the punch bowl and pretzels.
- But 6% had witnessed a co-worker being fired (or shot at) during the festivities and 8% turned in their resignation.
- Twenty percent got caught canoodling with a colleague, 5% confessed to throwing punches during the celebration and a similar number admitted letting more than their hair down.
- One in six admitted they insulted their boss and nearly one in 10 demanded a pay rise. Out of those in any shape to be interviewed, 15% said they most dreaded meeting the office 'letch' and 19% said the event would have been much better if their boss hadn't showed up.
- Eight percent of the city workforce had taken the day off, 15% pretended to be previously booked or having to provide essential services, 8% scheduled unpaid overtime to avoid the party and 14% spent the time holiday shopping.
- The remaining 55% were either rounded up by the JSDF or managed to make a getaway under their own power.
The Mayor was eventually roused in his cell and advised he had messages from assorted spouses, lawyers, the ASPCA and both Siegfried and Roy.
"Oh, yeah. You should sue the hell out of whoever posted those photos on the city web site," the Sheriff advised.
Episode Seven: THE HOLOSHROUD
Sheriff Varan was napping in his currently unmarked (some prankster had TPed it) car that literally screamed "I'M A COP CAR! TP ME!" to all pranksters. When he woke up, he had quite a shock.
"Holy crud! It's George Lucas!" Indeed it... was not. Catbert chuckled.
"It's my new Holoshroud. Hit a button- OWCHHH! Not that button!"
"Not sorry. So, why the Lucas thing?"
"To give Morgoth a heart attack. Here's one for ya." Varen glared at the feline and confiscated the Holoshroud.
Episode Eight: THE EVIL LAIR
"Unit 116, respond to the Evil Lair. Code 75 (alarm)."
"116, 10-4. 10-19". Enshohma had drawn the duty that day as all the other Mods were either unaccounted for or working on the Varan case. Being a 'rookie', the resident Fire Monster had some trepidation about having to respond to a call at Evil Genius Man's club that catered to the more 'extreme' elements of Roostville's population.
Pulling up, he noted a GOLF CART parked nearby with RMB MERCENARY SERVICE painted on the side. Not being familiar with this particular entity, he radioed in for a records check but the dispatcher could not find a listing for this outfit.
"Maybe it's someone from the G PROJECT K BATTLES Division," Enshohma figured.
It was quite evident there was a disturbance within as flashes from some sort of energy device played across the windows and the clang of steel on steel could be heard.
Enshohma stepped inside to see RadoGoji standing on a table, swinging some kind of light saber and Minsc employing a big honking two-handed sword against four characters of dubious background.On another table sat a hamster, watching the combatants with great interest. Stepping behind the junior Jedi, the Mod grabbed his hands as he brought the weapon back for a sweeping cut. With a quick jerk, Rado was seated on the floor and disarmed with a squawk. His apparent partner with the sword took notice and demanded to know what the meaning of this interruption was.
"For your information, we got a call about whatever it is you're trying to prove here. Lower your weapon and explain yourself!" Enshohma ordered. Minsc looked the imposing figure of authority up and down.
"We came here to find EDCOLE, the Evil Dude Convention Of Literally Everywhere," he explained.
"Wouldn't it have been simpler to just look them up in the phone book?" the Mod asked.
"Excuse me, officer," Evil Genius stepped from behind the bar. "I tried to explain to these 'heroes' that EDCOLE is simply a benevolent fraternal order, like the Moose, Elks, Caribou, etc. The only difference is we only seek to further our own interests."
"So why the fighting?" Enshohma asked.
"These guys are E-vil..." Rado started to explain.
"So what else is new?" the Mod glared at him. "They aren't breaking any laws (at the moment). Besides, maybe they can't help it. And why haven't you guys registered this 'service' of yours with the Commerce Department? I've a good mind to haul you in for doing business without a license."
"eep..." Boo squeaked. The Mod looked at the fur ball and the two mercenaries and shook his head.
"Square any damages you've caused here and get your permit in order. Then, stop by the Mod Station and see the Sheriff. Maybe we can use you... folks on a contract basis or something."
With a final look at the hamster, Enshohma stomped out, wondering if this was typical Mod Squad duty.
Episode Nine: A MONSTER!
Officer Friar had a most harrowing 'run-in' with Kobayashi, the local bush pilot. Not only did the demented idiot park his plane smack dab in the middle of the main road to the Gamera Fields, he also insisted he saw 'monster tracks' when he was flying over the area.
"Look! I take pictures!" he insisted, showing Freddie a slide show on his digi-cam. Fred obligingly downloaded one to his MDT and sent it over to the Mod Station:
"You know anything about this?" he queried the dispatcher.
"Negative. Will pass on to day shift when they show up."
Nothing much usually went on out there but he did recall a couple of bright-eyed tourist types asking for directions while he was taking his dinner break at Gigan's Pizza. He guessed Vince and Larry (or whatever the other guy's name was) were from the Fan Nest, what with all their cameras and sketch pads and didn't think anything more about them. THEY sure couldn't have made tracks like what Koji had showed him!
"Heck, it's almost shift change. The day crew can worry about the monster," he advised the rattled pilot. "Now get that crate off the road before I run you in!"
"Kaiju is coming!" Kobayashi insisted. "I warn you!" Reverting to his native Japanese, he ran for his plane and took off, still yelling about monsters.
Episode Ten: MOD TRAINING SESSION
"No doubt there are residents of our fair town who will be looking for excuses to party and otherwise act stupid." About everyone in the muster room grinned and poked their fellow officers, knowing full well how they themselves and others conducted themselves in the strange place known as Roostville. Even if the average temperature was 76 degrees, many residents started planning ahead for various winter rituals as soon as the trees began to lose their leaves. Homes and businesses were decorated for Christmas right after Halloween.
"People put fake snow on their windows, spray their holiday trees white and dream about a 'white Christmas' but complain when the temperature dips below 60 degrees." What a paradox! Jet thought to himself. Maybe the shorter days will keep the turkeys inside and silenced by closed windows, the 2nd shift crew hoped, themselves looking forward to the night sky full of stars as they headed home after midnight, with Orion returning and Rigel twinkling red-blue-green at the toe of his left foot. Bellatrix would sparkle higher up as Orion brought the winter back.
Jet continued his lecture. "December 1 is Bona Dea when the women set a table of wine and abundant food for the Fates to ensure plenty for the coming year. St. Eligius, the patron of jewelers, silversmiths and workers in metal is also honored. He is also the patron of horses, veterinarians, blacksmiths, auto mechanics and gas station attendants, although I couldn't find a legend which explains why.
"If you see a horseshoe stuck up somewhere, that is his emblem. Maybe everyone will celebrate his day by taking some of the jalopies we're seeing about town in for a tune-up." The local service station operators wholeheartedly followed tradition by offering free fuel on this day, no doubt contributing to even more traffic problems.
"December 4 - St. Barbara is the patron of artillerymen, miners, architects, builders and stone masons. The Christmas season begins with her feast. If you find offerings of honey-cakes, boiled wheat sprinkled with cinnamon and almonds or wheat broth at crossroads, these are for HER ONLY," he reminded the seemingly perpetually hungry crew.
"December 5 - Faunus is the rustic god of woods and flocks; the original Jolly Green Giant but also a rain-making shepherd god. Children will put wooden shoes (or sometimes baskets) by the mantel or outside the window or hang stockings near the fire as this is also the Eve of St. Nicholas and expect to have them filled with treats.
"St. Nicholas is supposed to ride through the air on his white horse and come down the chimney but everyone in town will settle for Morgoth galloping along the streets and doing the honors, dressed in ecclesiastical robes. Carrots and hay are also left out for his horse. He brings apples, nuts and candies and questions the children about their behavior. He is accompanied by Zwarte Piet or Black Peter (a conscripted Orc) who carries a thick rod and a sack and threatens to carry the children off if they have been bad. After the kids are sent to bed, adults exchange gifts and feast on hot punch, chocolate and boiled chestnuts. Often, the revelry adjourns to local night spots so mark your calendars," Jet advised.
"December 6, a choir boy becomes a bishop in a reversal of roles similar to that of Saturnalia. Like the Lord of Misrule at Saturnalia and again on Twelfth Night (January 6), the Boy Bishop orders his superiors around and makes fun of authority. Mock masses are celebrated with much rowdiness until Dec. 28th.
"The horsefolk also come out in force for St. Leonard's Ride." Raptor marked her schedule, having already made sure to have the day off. "People dress up in costume and decorate their horses for the festive procession in honor of the patron of cattle, which will be the biggest part of traffic control considerations. Since everyone is singing and cracking whips on the way to the big barbecue, I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of the riders haven't gotten an early start on the festivities. A few beer cans got lobbed at the spectators in the past and this seems to be a recurring complaint. And no riding horses into City Hall!"
Of course, Raptor and her cohorts would do so anyway as it was expected. If any Dark Lords decided to make an issue of it, the perpetrators simply swapped horses and costumes with 'stand-ins' conscripted from the newbie population who could get away with claiming they didn't know about the 'rule'.
All they had to do was proclaim, "But it's TRADITION, isn't it?!" and the sympathetic crowd (quite large in number and no doubt already half drunk) would make sure no harm or charges came upon anyone's head.
"How a hermit who is also the patron of prisoners unjustly accused got mixed up with the wild West elements of Roostville, I have no idea..." Jet admitted.
"December 8 - Hanukkah begins the Festival of Lights, with plenty of candles being lit over a span of eight days. The Fire Department should be ready for that as well as overloaded electrical circuits on too many houses. Also, fruit cakes will be made. As I understand it, any left over from last year must be eaten up on this day. That is usually not the case as they make great missiles to lob at neighbors roofs. Same with the rock splitter cookie associated with this holiday. It is cylindrical in shape so beware.
"December 9 - Pitcher Day when it is time to pour water on the barley in order to brew the beer for Christmas cheer."
"Red letter day!" someone in the back called out, to much applause.
"December 11 - the Winter Sacrifice or Bitter Moon. Two rather obscure holidays are celebrated on this day, one in honor of an ancient sun god and a festival. Expect celebrations of the various mountains in our vicinity. Many folks will no doubt try to climb a peak to leave an offering to the sun and need to be rescued.
"December 12 - Witches are thought to be especially powerful on St. Lucy's Eve. Incense is burnt to defeat them but a mysterious light called the Lucy-shining is supposed to appear outdoors at midnight and those who have the courage to watch for it can foretell the future.
"Let's just hope those watchers don't bring their own spirits and mistake the local gals for aliens or something. The women of the town will be out this night also, carrying torches to light their way and bearing goodies. St. Lucy is another gift-giver who comes in the night, like St. Nicholas or Santa Claus. Children leave bunches of carrots, hay and bowls of milk for her steed and their shoes on the kitchen window. In the morning, they find treats.
"Since the harvests are supposed to be finished by now, you folks working the night shift will also be rewarded for your efforts with food and drink.
"December 13-14 - The Geminid Meteor Shower. This year, it's at the same time as St. Lucy brings light back to the world with her wreath of candles. With cakes and song, experience the most exciting meteor shower of the year. This should be a great show as these meteors leave long, bright, slow trails.
"December 14 - Halcyon Days, so named for Alycone, who wards off storms and protects sailors. A kingfisher is their talisman against lightning. The legend goes that every winter during the seven days before the Winter Solstice and seven days after, the sea is unusually calm and no winds blow.
"This is also the Festival of Merry Women and 'sailors will sing all night long and then, no spirit can walk abroad. The nights are wholesome; then no planets strike, no fairy takes, nor witch hath power to charm, so hallow'd and so gracious is the time.' Hamlet, for the uninformed." Everyone just stared at the grinning robot standing before them.
"December 16 - Las Posadas. During the nine nights before Christmas, children dress up and proceed from house to house, looking for shelter. At each home they come to, they sing a medieval Spanish carol but the reply is always 'Marchad a otra parte, y buena venture' (move on elsewhere and good luck) until they reach a house where one family sings 'Pase la escogida' (Let the chosen one enter).
"They place their lighted candles around the nacimiento (nativity scene) and say a prayer and blessing for their generous hosts. Then it's time to party. A pinata is broken on each of the nights.
"Pastorelas, or shepherd's plays, are also performed. A group of shepherds start towards Bethlehem but are attacked by devils. Angels rush in to rescue them and drive off the devils. These plays feature singing, dancing and satire, much like the English mummer's plays. The neighborhood associations have been real good at letting us know ahead of time the extent they will be doing this particular celebration, luckily, or the folks playing the devils might find themselves in hot water with local hero wannabes.
"December 17 - The Saturnalia runs seven days from the 17th to the 24th. For new life to flourish and the sun to rise again, feasting and merriment are mandated in order to combat the forces of gloom. Normal activities are suspended during this time; no squabbles fought and no business conducted.
"Schools and courts are closed so people will spend their time gambling and feasting. Everyone is free to say what they please without fear of consequences, so this is a time for much ventilation of feelings and political satire. A Lord of Misrule is elected to mock the authorities and direct his followers in ribald and humorous activities.
"During his brief reign, he will assume our leader's prerogatives, dress in royal robes, do anything he wants and command obedience until Morgoth loses his sense of humor or Ubergeek fries him for getting too far out of line. The Lord of Misrule may fight to preserve his reign when it is time for him to be replaced with new life, just as the old year must die to give way to the new. This is also a big barbecue day.
"December 18 - Epona. On this day, horses, mules, oxen and other draft animals are given the day off so we shouldn't see any about town. OK, Raptor? Mel?" The indignant local equestrians reminded the Sheriff they most certainly respected this day, even if they might be a little free with interpreting other celebrations.
"Nuestra Senora de la Soledad (Our Lady of Solitude). She is a patron saint of sailors and processions are held in her honor for several nights previous to and on December 18th, with people carrying Japanese lanterns, candles, figures of birds, a boat, banners displaying the sun and the moon and other objects. Offerings of nuts, fruits and flowers are laid out. Booths sell bonuelos, crisp fried pancakes eaten with syrup. After eating, it is customary to break the plates so the Sanitation Department can expect a pretty busy schedule from this observance.
"December 19 - Sacrifice Eighth Gruel. On the eighth day of the twelfth lunar month, friends and relatives receive gruel and pickled cabbage which can be read to reveal the quality of life for the household during the coming year. All that kimshee that has been buried will be dug up so expect plenty of garlic in the air.
"December 21 - The Winter Solstice is the longest night and the shortest day. The dark triumphs briefly, for the Solstice is also a turning point. From now until the Summer Solstice, the nights grow shorter and the days grow longer and the Sun waxes in power. From the dark womb of the night, the light is born.
"The return of the light is the most prominent feature of most mid-winter festivals which honor the dark before calling in the light. Perhaps some of the depression humans feel during the holidays comes from not making space for feeling the sadness associated with this season. It would be great if everyone spent the entire day of the Winter Solstice silent, sitting in the dark without the radio or TV on and reflecting on life but they won't stop talking or yakking on the phone. While you're at it, just turn over or hide all the clocks. Don't turn on electric lights at night but light candles instead. Create an oasis of peace and serenity in the midst of the otherwise chaotic holiday season.
"The houses once bright with holiday lights will be darkened as many will sit in a circle with a lit candle, talk about their losses and put out their candle when they're done speaking. When all are done, the central candle is extinguished and everyone sits in the darkness. This is a natural time for letting go and saying farewell. Speak or write about your resentments and regrets on slips of paper you can burn in your Yule fire. Release them into the darkness, knowing they will be transformed, for St. Lucy will appear through the darkness with the candle she carries to light the central one.
"The party lights their candles from it and place them around it. When you light your candles and your fire, do so with the intention of bringing light into the world. What are the ways in which you can help make the world better? Make a conscious effort to increase the amount of light you create as you sing sun songs, like 'You Are My Sunshine'. Toast the sun and talk about promise in the future and make a wish for the New Year. St. Lucy disappears into the darkness and the houses are soon full of light and noise again as everyone carols, feasts on thirteen kinds of Christmas cookies and sprinkles gold glitter about.
"Ghosts are permitted to walk abroad from now until Christmas Eve but houses decked with fir and evergreens welcome Hertha, the goddess of the home. The family gathers to feast on baked goods filled with gifts, beef and honeyed wine before an altar of flat stones with a fire of fir boughs laid. Hertha appears through the smoke, guiding those who are wise in saga and lore to foretell the fortunes of those present. Hertha's altar stones are the hearth stones of the home so now you know why Santa Claus comes down the chimney instead of through the door."
Many eyes bugged out at Sheriff Jaguar's revelation. Raptor grinned to herself and decided she just might tell him the REAL story behind this legend when she returned from her Solstice observance.
He forgot the part about Beiwe the sun-goddess who travels through the sky in an enclosure of animal bones with her new daughter, Beiwe-Neia to bring back the green plants. On the Winter Solstice, her worshippers thread meat on sticks bent into rings and tie them with bright ribbons.
Later, humans worshipped her as an ancestor, offering her honey, bread and cheese. They wove bright linens, usually red on white, which depicted the Goddesses of the seasons; the Mother Goddess with her daughter or children, often with a deer horn headdress. The horns are a sign, as legend and rock carvings confirm, that in ancient times the Mother Goddess gave birth to the animals as well as humans. They also smeared their door posts with butter so animals could eat the rich food. White-iced animal cookies are given as presents or good luck tokens.
"This is also the feast day of St. Thomas, patron saint of carpenters, masons and architects. His color is grey to represent the longest night and the shortest day. Brewing, baking and smoking meat take place as the ingredients for the Christmas feast are gathered. Since he is the patron saint of architects, plenty gingerbread houses will be made on this day.
"Everyone should enjoy them self as much as possible because this will bring back light (and lightness) into the world. Feasting, gambling, playing pranks, giving gifts, visiting, drinking, dressing up, putting on plays and staying up all night are part of it. During the dark of winter, invoke all the forces of pleasure and love which make life worth living. You can use all your Christmas decorations, many of which have been up since the day after Halloween anyhow. Candles and Christmas lights, lots of sparkly ornaments, prisms and tinsel help create as much light as possible. Evergreens and wreaths represent rebirth and the circle of life.
"December 23 honors the Lady Mother Larentalia who some say was the foster-mother wolf of Romus and Remulus, the founders of Rome or inherited a great fortune which she gave to the people who celebrated with a rowdy feast.
"December 24 is called Modranicht or Modresnacht (Night of the Mothers), devoted to three women holding children, fruit, fish, grain and other bounties of the earth pictured on carvings and statues all over Celtic France and Britain. People spruce up their houses for Christmas, even painting the walls at the last minute.
"Those visiting at nightfall with gifts of whiskey and cake had best be careful! He who sets out a nativity tray with a bone for a lost dog, hay for a hungry horse, a warm cloak for a wayfarer, a garland of bright berries for one who has worn chains, crumbs for the birds and sweet meats for children will be blessed for their generosity with gifts beyond measure.
"This day following the Saturnalia is the Juvenalia, a holiday celebrating the birth of new life. After vanquishing the Old King, it's time to celebrate the New Year's Baby, the Son of Man. Children are entertained, feasted and given good luck talismans like bells, shoes, warm clothes and toys. They go from house to house singing carols and giving good wishes and are rewarded with bacon, eggs, flour, sweets, dried fruit, cakes, etc. A child who does not touch food all day will see the golden boar which Freya, the Queen of Heaven, rides through the night skies.
"Another ancient mid-winter custom is decorating with greens. Ivy represents the cold gloominess of winter and holly, the jolly spirit of the season. The Christmas tree is of more recent origin, the earliest record of an evergreen being decorated in Latvia in 1519 when a group of local merchants carried one bedecked with flowers to the marketplace, danced around it and then burned it.
"This periodically happens after the City Hall office Christmas party also. Another possible source is a 15th-16th century Adam and Eve's Day miracle play depicting the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise. As part of the scenery, apples were tied on a fir tree.
"The eldest or head of the household is designated as the light bringer of the large red or some other bright colored Christmas candle, decorated with holly or other evergreens. It's lit for the first time on Christmas Eve before the festive supper and during each of the remaining evenings of the Twelve Days of Christmas. It is snuffed with tongs rather than blown out since that would blow the luck and blessing it sheds on the household away. It represents the coming year, just as the weather of each of the twelve days of Christmas foretell the weather of the corresponding month. During a lightning storm, the remnant is brought out and lit to protect the household.
"Similar customs surround the Yule log. It must never be bought but received as a gift, found or taken from your own property. Ash is the only wood that burns freely when green and the world-tree, Yggdrasil, is an ash. Yule logs are the biggest and greenest logs available since the festivities will last only as long as the Yule log burns (supposedly). It is brought into the house with great ceremony on Christmas Eve (if not on the eve of the Solstice). Usually, it is decorated with holly and ivy and other evergreens and lit with a piece of last year's log.
"Pouring a libation of wine upon the glowing wood, then sharing the remainder links the Yule log with the custom of wassailing, pouring out libations to the trees in a orchard. The Yule log is left to burn all night, and if possible, through the next twelve days without going out. The ashes are kept for good luck as they have magical properties and can fertilize the soil or be placed around the house for protection. The head of the household will often find a withered stump and burn it also to drive away the winter and protect the family from death so you better stand by while the Fire Department does their job if these rituals should pose a hazard.
"Christmas dinner, called the revillon (the beginning of a new watch), is eaten even before Midnight Mass, especially bireweck (a cake which includes nuts and dried and candied fruit) served with compotes and gingerbread. The main feast often begins with oysters and champagne, then everything from cauliflower and salt cod with snails, grey mullet with olives, or omelet with artichokes and fresh pasta; turkey with chestnuts and cranberry sauce; pork chops and goose liver and sauerkraut flavored with cumin, beef in red wine; ham in rye-flour pastry, black pudding (blood sausage), venison, wild boar, roast and goose stuffed with apples and prunes and garnished with red cabbage. The blue carp's (specially fattened from August onwards) color comes from hot vinegar poured over it before cooking, then served with sour cream, horse radish and apples.
"There is also marinated ling in white sauce with butter, caramelized potatoes, mustard and black pepper. You will also find poppy seeds, plum pudding, eels; tortellini stuffed with minced pork, cheese and nutmeg, followed by desserts of nocciata (walnuts and honey), cassata flavored with Ricotta cheese and chocolate and torrone made with almonds. Apples, walnuts and almonds are always served. There is rice porridge or rice with almonds and cherry compote; buche de noel, a rolled up cake frosted with butter cream to look like a log; stollen of crystallized fruit, fruit cake soaked in alcohol and spread with jam, almond paste and frosting and the star-shaped fouace.
"There are also the traditional Thirteen Desserts, commemorating the participants at the Last Supper: pompe a l'huile (a fruit pastry), raisins, quince paste, marzipan sweets, nougat, fougasse (a rich cake), candied citrons, walnuts and hazel nuts, winter pears, plums, dried figs, almonds and dates. Each must be tasted to bring good luck in the coming year. A sumptuous smorgasbord indeed awaits you organics!" Jet had effectively whetted everyone's appetites and the more astute species present carefully sniffed the air to see if any goodies might be hidden nearby.
"A carol service called Plygain from the Latin pulli cantio (cockerel crow) will be held between 3 and 6 AM on Christmas morning. Churches are decorated with candles and after a brief session of prayers, the remainder of the time is spent singing to comfort during the darkest hours and welcome the sun. All lights in the city are doused while Isis circles seven times before Horus (who is called the Light of the World) appears.
If Christmas day be bright and clear
There'll be two winters in the year.
If Christmas falls on a Thursday, the winter will be mild and summer very good and abundant.
"Whatever day Christmas falls on is lucky for the whole year so begin new projects on Saturday during the coming year. Got that, Mel? Pass it on to Ubergeek," Jet advised the Vice-Mayor.
"Those who are born on Christmas day supposedly cannot see spirits but December 25th was once best known as the Birthday of Mithra or Sol Invictus, the Unconquerable Sun who sprang up full-grown from a rock, armed with a knife, carrying a torch and with the emblems of the zodiac surrounding him, suggesting that he is a Year God. Shepherds watched his miraculous appearance and hurried to greet him with the fruits of their flocks so there will be plenty of barbecuing going on also. Woden, one of the prototype Santa Clauses, rides a white horse, thus the hay and carrots all over the place on December 25.
"December 26 - The Twelve Days of Christmas begin with a bird hunting trip on St. Stephen's Day, supposedly because their chattering in the bushes gave away his hiding place, leading to his martyrdom. If no Gyaos is available, a potato stuck with feathers will do for children to go pagan, roaming in gangs, bursting in doors unannounced, masked, painted, bedraggled, piping, dancing and singing at the top of their lungs. Cookies and pennies buy off their racket, they curtsy and bow, then streak out to their next destination. St. Stephen became the patron of stone masons and carries the boar's head to the feast.
"This is another day devoted to horses and there will be a great race from the Fan Nest to the center of town. The one who reaches the central fountain first gets the lucky first drink. The jousting is much tamer these days than even Roostville might wish for.
"Dionysion is usually around the time of the full moon. This rustic festival features wine, vines, goats and raisins, as well as an elaborate procession featuring gold vessels, decorated horses and people wearing costumes and masks. There is much revelry, including songs, games and plays.
"The Festival of Light is celebrated on the full moon of the twelfth lunar month. Houses are decorated with colored streamers and lanterns shaped like animals, birds, dragons and airplanes. Cups are made out of banana leaves cut and shaped to resemble birds, boats or lotus plants. People put flowers, incense, candles, popcorn, money and small snakes in them. In the evening, when the moon begins to rise, these are carried down to the East River, the candles and incense lit and set afloat as a tribute to the water and the snakes that live at the bottom.
"Kwanzaa is a harvest ritual which means the first or the first fruits of the harvest. One of the main practices is the lighting of the seven candles of the Kinara, a candelabra with 7 candles, three red, one black and three green. Each candle symbolizes seven qualities to be emulated: Umoja (unity), Kujichagulia (self-determination), Ujima (collective work and responsibility); Ujamaa (cooperative economics), Nia (purpose), Kuumba (creativity) and Imana (faith).
"Boxing Day is not when you put your least favorite present in a box and try to give it away. A better choice would be leftovers from Christmas dinner and giving them to the poor. Tradesmen and children will go from house to house, soliciting tips from householders which they put in Christmas boxes. Employers will give gifts to their workers." The Sheriff Department staff groaned, expecting the same old frozen turkey they had received since Roostville was founded. At least they got better goodies from all the merchants on a regular basis, everything from free coffee to pizza.
"December 27 - St John's Day. The patron of publishers, printers, writers and theologians so spend your Christmas bonus on books and drink in his honor.
"December 28 - Holy Innocents Day is the unluckiest day of the year and the day of the week on which it falls is unlucky throughout the coming year. Since it is a day of bad omen, don't do anything new, like starting a new project or showing off the new duds you got for Christmas." Much marking of calendars took place amid waving hands to get schedule changes.
"Luck of the draw, folks," JJ grinned. "Work it out amongst yourselves like you always do." With such an eclectic bunch as he had to work with, it was about the only way to go and saved a lot of hassle when trying to make sure everything was covered.
"December 31st. New Year's Eve is set aside for honoring the goddess of the hearth, credited with the art of building houses since every home is built around the sacred fire, the center of family life and clan gatherings. Out with the old and in with the new! Before midnight, clean out your cruisers and take out all the trash because you don't want to do it tomorrow or you'll sweep the good luck away. Same with taking anything out of the house as you only want to bring new things in to insure abundance during the coming year. Be sure you finish any work you have at hand for a task carried over will never prosper.
"And that means get your time cards for the month filled out, all your arrest, incident and mileage reports completed and in the computer on time this month!" Jet roared at his crew as those who were scheduled to have that evening off quickly circled their calendars.
"St. Sylvester's Eve is a smoke night when all must be purified with incense and holy water. It may be a purification ritual but if you see flames, call out the Fire Department anyway. This guy is a masked figure from the woods, a sort of Green Man who hides in the corner at inns and leaps out when a young woman passes to give her a kiss. The notorious Pizza Robber had a similar M.O. but this amorous fellow wears a wreath of mistletoe. When midnight comes, he is driven off as a representative of the old year.
If New Year's eve night wind blows South,
It betokeneth warmth and growth;
If West, much milk and fish in the sea,
If North, much cold and storms there will be;
If East, the trees will bear much fruit;
If North-east, flee it, man and brute.
"Yemaya-Olokun, the Mother of the Sea, is honored on New Year's Eve on the riverbank. Everyone crams onto the shoreline, dancing the Macarena and watching tons of fireworks exploding overhead. At midnight, people either eat 12 grapes (one for each month of the year) while making 12 wishes or jump seven waves out in the water. Often, they have had at least 12 beers also. .
"Everything you do on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day is freighted with significance, people! Kiss the one you love at midnight to insure the relationship will flourish during the coming year."
A sharp slap was heard as Helen the dispatcher whacked Dpty. Bohannon who was trying to get a jump on the New Year ritual. Jet glared at the red-faced officer and continued.
"The pig is supposed to be the symbol of good luck so don't be surprised if they are loose in restaurants and everyone tries to grab them. In some homes, the same thing takes place, along with City Hall. One (if not many) are barbecued for the holiday meal and shared amongst all.
"Watch out for falling objects on New Year's Eve as people shove old sofas, chairs and even refrigerators out upper story windows. Pomegranate seeds on thresholds spread good luck for an abundant year so watch where you step also, even if the first person to cross after midnight brings luck into the house.
"Best be bearing gifts of whiskey, bread, a piece of coal or firewood and a silver coin. Put the fuel on the fire, pour a glass for the head of the house and wish everyone a Happy New Year. Be prepared if you're not going about serving warrants!
"January 1 - New Year's Day. Everything you do on this day has implications for the coming year so don't take anything out (even rubbish), lend money or pay bills. If you must carry something outside, be sure to bring something else in first, preferably a coin concealed outside the night before because whatever you do on this day will be repeated throughout the year.
"Do a little of all the things you most want to enjoy in the coming year. Tucking a fresh bay leaf in your wallet guarantees a miracle but not the Underoos trick. According to some, the color of underwear you wear on the first day of the new year establishes your fortune for the year. Pink brings love, yellow prosperity and white, peace and happiness.
"Everyone goes to the river again to carry out various rituals. For instance, throwing flowers into the waves, launching little wooden boats, releasing white doves and arranging altars in the sand in honor of Yemaya who likes candles, fruit, fish, rice, mirrors, combs, perfumes and powder. Prayers are said to make this year better than last so ask for something from the bottom of your heart: to bring twice the amount of good things and take away half the number of bad.
"Strenia gave her name to laurel boughs cut from the wood sacred to her. Her name is applied to this holiday decorated with palm, bay and laurel branches, hung with sweets, dates, figs and gilded fruit. Groups go around singing La Strenna, wishing everyone Happy New Year and asking for treats (Etrennes). If refused, they curse the offender with a threatening verse.
"Let me remind you that there will still be celebrating with at least six days of carousing and rejoicing, supposedly ending when the Twelve Days of Christmas do on January 6. People will get drunk, wear disguises and keep their tables laden with food to ensure plenty in the coming year (and perhaps appease the Fates).
"There will be dancing in the streets, heathenish cries and sacrilegious songs. The modern local ritual is a plunge in the icy East River, no doubt to sober up from the night before. Merchants send around baskets with gifts typical of their trade. Other gifts include bon bons, flowers and fruit. Their helpers are gifted with wine and money or a double month's pay as a New Year's gift. Sacrifice Eighth Gruel is also given to friends and relations, along with pickled cabbage. The quality of the pickled cabbage predicts the fortune of the maker, despite what it might smell like.
"Food eaten on New Years Day is meant for the spirits as well as family members and through the human act of sharing food, these unseen, abstract souls become familiar and friendly. Rice is one of the most important foods, especially when shaped like a round ball. Offer two to bring blessings from the 'lucky direction' of the year and the god of rice and ancestors. Many mochi are given to friends and relatives. Two special flattened ones, called mirror rice cakes, are offerings to the year-god, placed on white paper and garnished with evergreens, a bitter orange and black seaweed.
"A jar full of dates and dried figs in honey, along with a bay leaf branch, is given so the coming year will be sweet and full of good fortune. Lasagna is always good but grains of rice represent money. The traditional Umbrian New Years cake, made of almonds, sugar and egg whites, is shaped like a coiled snake, probably to represent the way snakes shed their skin to renew themselves, just as one year passes into another. Lentils, raisins and oranges are symbols of riches, good luck and the promise of love.
"An elaborate evening dinner party is usually held at the home of the head of the house so extra details will no doubt be necessary in the Hedorah Hills area again.
"Craftsmen are expected to clean and honor their shops on New Years Day." The entrepreneurs present didn't really worry about clean-up as not much work had been done since the Solstice in many instances.
"January 3 - Handsel Monday. On the first Monday of the year, gifts are given to servants and children. Anything you receive on this day brings you luck in the new year.
"January 5 - Befana, the witch-like good fairy who lives inside chimneys rides on a broom this final night of Christmas. Families leave a focaccia for her by the fireplace and children hang their shoes and stockings by the chimney for her to fill with toys and sweets. If the children are bad, they get garlic and lumps of carbone but the charcoal is made of sugar. She is also portrayed as the old year who gives way to the young maiden of the Spring.
"During the week before Epiphany, children dress up and in groups of three, carry a pole with a golden star on top and stop at houses to sing songs about the coming of the Magi. They receive gifts of food, sausages, money, bread, eggs and dried figs. Families gather around the hearth to watch the Christmas log burn and have mulled wine and pinza, a rustic sweet bread filled with raisins, pine nuts and figs, spiced with fennel seeds and round or shaped like a Greek epsilon with three arms of equal length that is cooked under the embers. It is considered good luck to eat pinze made by seven different families.
"The Nativity is re-enacted on Epiphany Eve with the newest baby in town taking the part of Jesus. A procession ascends a hill to where a huge bonfire, made of sheaves of corn, brambles of brush and pine branches will light the way for the Three Kings. The fire, lit by the oldest man, ignites fireworks while bells ring in the town.
"The way the smoke blows foretells the prospects for the coming year: smoke blowing east predicts a year of abundance while smoke blowing west is a bad omen for crops. A straw effigy of Befana is placed on the fire to get rid of the old year and chestnuts are roasted. The fires are called pan e vin, bread and wine, or vecja, old one. Boys run about carrying burning brands, jump across the fires and roll burning wheels down the hill, shouting out the names of their fiancées as a way to announce engagements. The ashes from the bonfires are used to fertilize the earth and assure a good harvest and said to magically transform into wheat.
"A women-only midwinter festival, the Lenaia (the Festival of Wild Women), honors Dionysos. On this night, they hold their ecstatic dances with castanets or the thyrsus. A bull, stag or goat representing Dionysus, is cut into nine pieces, with one being burned and the rest consumed raw by the worshippers. Dionysus was born in winter, crowned with serpents, became a lion in the spring and was sacrificed as a bull in the summer as the calendar emblems of the old tripartite year. He is also referred to as a Year God. On this day, the water of a spring by the temple of Dionysos tasted like wine (Theodosia/Gift of God).
"The festival continues for a week although it only tasted like wine inside his temple but there are usually pretty good crowds (for whatever reason) around the East River. The twelfth day of a lunar month (which begins with the new moon) always falls on a full moon night. With the solar calendar and counting from the Winter Solstice, the festival will occur on January 5th or 6th.
"January 6 - 'Now Christmas is past, Twelfth Night is the last. To the Old Year adieu, Great joy to the new.'
"Housewives rise early and carry icons to the town fountain to wash them with salt: 'May the wheat be as white as the plough, as wholesome as the salt'. The clergy also bless homes with holy water and puts the initials of the three kings (G, M and B for Gaspar, Balthazar and Melchior) on the doorstep. If the water freezes on their whisk, the year will be good and the crops fruitful. In port towns, they bless the waters and the priest throws a cross from the bridge into the East River. The man who recovers it takes it from house to house and receives money gifts, then returns it to the priest who bestows his blessing.
"The Twelfth Night of the twelve days of Christmas is the official end of the winter holiday season and one of the traditional days for taking down Christmas decorations (if not done on January 13 or even February 1). This is also a traditional day for wassailing apple trees so revelers will sing to trees, drink to their health, pour hot cider over their roots, leave cider-soaked toast in their branches for the birds and scare away evil spirits with a great lot of noise and firing of guns. No wonder animals can talk on the night of Epiphany, fountains and rivers run with olive oil and wine and everything turns briefly into something to eat: walls into ricotta, bedposts into sausages and sheets into lasagna!
"The Epiphany means 'apparition' or 'manifestation' and honors the arrival of the Magi and the first public presentation of the Baby Jesus. Children dress up as the Three Kings and go door to door singing a begging song while the Magi leave gifts in the shoes they have set out on balconies or by the front door the previous evening, filled with straw and grain for their steeds. Children who awaken to find a charcoal mark on their face are said to have been kissed by Balthazar. Since the twelve nights of Christmas are a liminal time when evil spirits like kalikatzari can roam the earth, people protect their houses by chalking the Three King's initials C (or K), B and M (for Caspar, Balthazar and Melchoir) on their doors.
"The likenesses of paste-board ships of war and castles, with flags and streamers, guns packed with powder, egg-shells full of sweet water and wine. There are also pies with live frogs and birds, bran and egg yolk. They fire the trains of powder, wine flows as blood running from a wound. This done, to sweeten the stink of powder, the ladies take the egg shells full of sweet water and throw them at each other. By this time, someone will desire to see what is in the pieces remaining. Lifting the first the lid off a pie, out skips the frogs which makes the ladies to skip and shriek. The birds fly at the candles and the skipping frogs cause much delight and pleasure to the whole company. At length, the candles are lighted and the banquet brought in, music sounds and everyone rehearses their actions for later.
"Koreion is a mockery enacted on Epiphany. The tradition of choosing the master of the Saturnalian revels by baking a good luck bean inside a cake (the galette des rois) is also done for Twelfth Night: three white beans for the Magi and one black one. Whoever finds the black bean is made king (or queen) and can choose his consort and rule the banquet. The special cake is thin and round and cut into pieces in the pantry (always one more than there are guests) and carried into the room covered with a white napkin. The youngest member of the party gets to distribute the pieces. The extra piece (le part a Dieu) is set aside for the first person to come through the door.
"The bolo-Rei cake is ring-shaped rich and dense lap top and also contains amulets and fortune-telling trinkets. The royal pair directs the rest of the merriment by assigning ludicrous tasks or require them to behave in ways that were contrary to their usual roles. Every action of the royal pair is commented upon and imitated with mock ceremony by the entire company, who shout 'The Queen drinks', 'The King laughs', etc.
"This final day of the Christmas season is considered the beginning of Carnival and associated with jokes and tricks, witches (Befana) and befanotti, low-life characters wearing false beards and inside-out jackets. Booths are set up in the plaza, offering toys and games. Young boys with blackened faces, caps on their heads, a long reed in one hand, a lantern in the other and with baskets of oranges and pine cones run about. Twelfth Night takes on the quality of Saturnalia with its emphasis on light-hearted fun, social satire and role reversals. Engagements are announced and the remaining bachelors and maidens pair off by lot, reminiscent of Valentine's Day. If a girl is left without a partner, she is given the title of Befana for the year.
"It's the perfect wild and rowdy holiday. A great Ball is held on this night and the King wins the honor of sponsoring the one the following year. The Queen makes next year's Twelfth Night Cake.
Now, now the mirth comes
With the cake full of plums,
Where Bean's the King of the sport here;
Beside we must know
The Pea also
Must revel, as Queen, in the Court here.
Begin then to choose,
(This night as ye use)
Who shall for the present delight here.
Be a King by the lot
And who shall not
Be Twelfth-day Queen for the night here.
Which known, let us make
Joy-sops with the cake;
And let not a man then be seen here,
Who unurg'd will not drink
To the base from the brink
A health to the King and the Queen here.
Next crown the bowl full
With gentle lambs-wool;
Add sugar, nutmeg and ginger,
With store of ale too;
And thus ye must do
To make the wassail a swinger.
Give then to the King
And Queen wassailing;
And though with ale ye be wet here;
Yet part ye from hence,
As free from offence
As when ye innocent met here.
"Traditional Twelfth Night foods include anything spicy or hot, ginger snaps and spiced ale. Eating fried fish, lettuce and boiled spinach (supposedly the foods the Virgin Mary ate on the night before she gave birth) is another variation. Part of the ritual also involves parading around the town seven times for protection.
"Until the fourth century, Christ's birthday was celebrated on January 6th, the same date when the Virgin Kore gave birth to the year god. In the original ritual, the image of the goddess, decorated with gold stars, was carried seven times around her temple as the priests cried, 'The Virgin has brought forth the new Aeon!' Although Aeon, or Eon, is now defined as an indefinitely long period of time; an age, eternity, its Indo-European root aiw conveyed 'vital force, life, long life, eternity,' and the Greek form Aion meant specifically 'vital force'.
"This is also the wonder night of the year and it is said that trees bow at midnight in honor of the Christ child and miracles do occur.
"January 7 - Fire-Saving Day (Eldbjorgdagen) has the mistress of the house celebrate the return of the sun by drinking a draught of ale before the hearth, throwing something into the fire and then saying: 'So high be my fire that hell is no higher or hotter'. Then the rest of the household sit around the hearth with their hands behind their back and drink ale from bowls which are drained, then thrown behind with a toss of the head. If a bowl lands face down, supposedly the drinker will die within the next year. A better custom is to toast the members of the house or a king or a hibernating bear who turns over in his sleep.
"It is also Distaff Day, when everyone should begin working again after the midwinter holidays. The Japanese eat a stew of rice gruel and seven fresh herbs (Nanakusa - Seven Grasses) to ward off disease during the upcoming year. In the lunar calendar, a similar holiday is celebrated on January 28.
"Boys duck the girls in the icy waters of rivers and lakes, said to bring them good health in the coming year and promise a fresh new beginning.Partly work and partly play
- Herrick, Hesperides 1648
Ye must on St Distaff's day
From the plough soon free the team
Then come home and fodder them
If the Maids a-spinning go
Burn the flax and fire the tow
Bring in pails of water then
Let the Maids bewash the men
Give Saint Distaff all the right
Then bid Christmas sport good night
And next morrow, every one
To his own vocation.
"January 8 is Midwives Day so the men will be staying inside. All the women of child bearing age feast and drink, then lead the midwife through the streets in a carriage and sing, dance and tell lewd jokes.
"January 9 - Agonia. This day honors Janus, the two-faced god of the year. He was supposedly (along with his female counterpart Jana aka Dianus and Diana) the highest (sun and moon) gods until replaced by Jupiter and Juno. Janus opens the gates of heaven at dawn and closes them at dusk. He is the god of all doors, gates and entrances. Sometimes he is pictured as a porter or doorkeeper with a staff in one hand and a key in the other, or with an XXX (300) in one hand and LXV (65) in the other. His image can also be four-faced and his temple four sided with three windows on each; four sides for the seasons and 12 windows for the months.
"Although Jupiter may have replaced him, every action, occupation and undertaking depended on Janus for its beginning. He presides over the beginning of human life, a role in which he is connected with Juno with whom he is worshipped. Janus is offered grains of wheat mixed with salt and iannual, a focaccia (great disks of bread as round as the sun) made with cheese, flour, eggs and oil for providing good harvests.
"January 10 - Plough Monday. The first Monday after the twelve days of Christmas when farmers resume their work after the winter holiday. Ploughs are blessed and censed by the priest and farmers pool their money to keep a plough light burning before their parish saint to ensure good fortune. This custom is accompanied by sword dancing and mumming and plough witches perform with straw bears.
"January 11 - The Carmentalia honors the goddess of prophecy and childbirth, Carmentis and animal skins are forbidden in her presence. Originally, there was only one Carmenta who was worshipped on January 11 and 15 by her priests. Later, there were said to be many Carmentes who appeared to assist women in labor and tell the fortune of the newborn child. On this day, offerings of rice are made to the goddess and everyone feasts on cream-filled pastries or triangle-shaped ones filled with raspberry jam. You can also celebrate the water-nymph, Juturna, on this day.
"January 13 - Sweeping the Ground. On the 20th day of the last month of the Chinese lunar year, people do a thorough house-cleaning in preparation for Chinese New Year when everyone has another reason to celebrate. This is also the traditional day for taking down the Yule decorations and everyone celebrates with a dance before dismantling the Christmas tree, which is usually chopped up and burned. Sometimes known as the Twentieth Day (after Christmas), some believe the name 'Knut' comes from the Laws of Canute the Great between 1017 and 1035, who decreed that there should be no fasting between Christmas and the Epiphany Octave.
"January 14 - St Hilary's Day. According to British folklore, this is the coldest day of the year.
"January 15 - A week before Chinese New Year, the head of the household makes a sacrifice to the Kitchen God. Only men participate in this ritual which is sometimes called Little New Year. The portrait of the kitchen god, which hangs in the kitchen, is smeared with honey so he'll report good things about the family, then burnt to take the message to heaven. Fireworks are set off, of course.
"January 16 - Eve of St. Anthony. Men and boys go through town singing songs about St. Anthony's battles with the Devil and asking for donations of wood for a huge bonfire. These fires are lit at crossroads, in courtyards and on church piazze. They also tie reeds into bundles called farchie, vine branches lashed together and mounded in a pyramid sixty feet high. The bonfires supposedly encourage warmth so the seeds will grow and the ashes have fertilizing power.
"January 17 is the Festa del Porco, the Day of the Pig. It begins with the Blessing of the Animals by St. Anthony, a 3rd century hermit. Because he made baskets, he is the patron of basket-makers and because he buried St Paul, he is the patron of grave diggers as well.
"It's less clear why he's the patron of animals but he is. On his feast day, domestic animals are brought to churches to be blessed. Even automobiles, viewed as modern beasts of burden, are blessed but oxen, burros, horses, etc. are also rubbed down and decorated with ribbons and garlands.
"I'm sure everyone in town has their own reasons why they EXPECT Thunder Chicken to also show up." Raptor tried her best to proclaim she had no idea why this particular local aspect of the ritual might have developed but the WEI super wrecker dutifully lined up with the sheep, dogs, cats, chickens, birds and other critters at the church to be sprinkled with holy water.
"People even bring bags of worms and harmful insects which are blessed to keep them from damaging crops," Jet continued. "I would say blessing a 'recovery vehicle' isn't such a bad idea after all." Everyone wholeheartedly agreed.
"The community bought that pig that is allowed to run freely, marked with a bell around the neck as the pig of St. Anthony. Although this animal is much indulged throughout the year, its fate ends when the person who wins it in a lottery gets to take it home and turn it into barbecue as a sacrifice to Ceres and Mother Earth. People feast on pork - cracklings, chops, livers, salami, prosciutto, sausage, blood pudding - dishes of beans which symbolize the underworld and death and chestnuts which represent fertility. The money the animal fetches is used to purchase the next year's pig.
"This day is also considered the start of carnival season when women visit each other in the evenings, play games and tell bawdy jokes so might as well start thinking about Mardi Gras. We'll cover that in a special session due to the sheer lunacy and anarchy it involves."Jet put his notes away and was about to dismiss everyone when Dpty. Imler requested he hold up a minute.
The Booking Officer whispered something to Raptor who suddenly had a most astonished look on her face and stood up to confront the Sheriff with Mike also glowering at her side.
"You forgot our hippy holiday celebrations! You realize that on January 20, the Sun enters Aquarius?!"
Episode 11: PARTY TIME
"It seems 75% of the staff took sick leave due to over indulgence and hangovers between the day after and New Year's," Jet reported. "But four out of five of my officers alone have said they will be indulging as much, if not more, than last year," he added. "The ones who had to work last year want their share of the fun too, you know..."
"Continue," Uber growled.
"Over half of those who attended last year took one day off and one in four needed two or more days off work following the party," Jet reminded him. "Average alcohol consumption was 8 drinks, with the average guy consuming 11 and the average woman 5, nearly three times the recommended daily levels for men and twice the amount for women. Also, single people are more likely to drink more than those who are married. The gals may have drank only half as much as the guys but they are more likely to phone in sick with a made up excuse anyway.
"At least, over 50 per cent of the guys told the truth. The rest claimed food poisoning, a cold or migraine and another ten per cent claimed to have a sick relative. Other popular excuses included transportation problems from misplacing their vehicles, waiting for the plumber or a special delivery (probably the latest bootleg) to show up.
"Apparently, you humans' 'little tricks', such as drinking a glass of milk to line your stomach and eating left-over reindeer kebabs on the way home don't work. Oh yeah. Forty per cent of those in attendance threw up at least once and more than a third took a swing at their boss or a colleague."
"Does this analysis mention what proportion of them threw up before slugging their boss?" Melkor asked.
"A quarter admitted to insulting their boss while a similar number said they'd engaged in some 'embarrassing behavior', such as flashing, falling down or photocopying intimate body parts. Part of the reason for this appears to be because of all the free booze the city provided," the robot stressed.
That said, it looked like it wouldn't be all fun and games this year. "But at least a quarter of the staff will stay home," Mel figured.
"Actually, only 15 per cent are not planning to party this year, no matter who is in office," Jet clarified.
"How about we bring Barugon in and turn the areas around City Hall into an ice rink?" Uber suggested. "As I see it, the biggest problem is not going to be the party as it has always been a 'must-attend' event. If you skip out, you show disrespect for the town, your supervisors and your colleagues. That's a career killer right there."
"The Mods and Admins do pay attention to how people handle themselves at these things," JJ reminded him. "They might not know a person's name but they will remember the stunts they pulled. As well, it will no doubt find its way into the news"
"The goal this year will be to display professional qualities, not how funky or daring they are," the Mayor declared. "Some of our younger workers let their ambition drive them. They don't know how to enjoy conversation unless it is about business and/or politics. They are bores to be avoided," he admitted, not looking forward to all the brown-nosing that was bound to occur.
"It is amazing, but some townsfolk do not introduce themselves, afraid of what we might think of them or don't realize the importance of a casual meeting at this thing," Melkor added. "They should not be surprised if we ignore them when it comes time for special consideration."
"The ones who bring up pay or other personal issues at the party are also marked. Who wants them in charge higher up? It could get expensive in the long run," Uber figured.
"And no longer will this party be an excuse for our employees to become intimate. If they do not have a significant other, this is not the venue for a first date. Any sexual harassment charges and it's dismissal for one or both individuals," the Mayor insisted. "This party is an extension of the workplace and not a campus free-for-all. Oh, yeah. On the announcement, make a note to BRING MONEY, just in case the open bars run out or someone needs cab fare - them or an inebriated colleague. Anyone they invite, they are THEIR responsibility, not the city's. If there are other social engagements the same evening, we'll post it so those still functional can go crash them."
"Hopefully, everyone will mingle first and not head directly to the bar or buffets as soon as they arrive," Jet suggested.
"Then most will probably be talking shop with their co-workers or making a move on the office hotties," Mel laughed.
"Or the shop talk will be their excitement about a certain project they would like to see in the new year," Uber groaned. "Usually from some young buck with dip on his holiday Looney Tunes tie and talking with his mouth full..."
"By the way, did anyone thank the city after the party last year for the shindig?" Uber asked. "Or even bother to say good night before leaving?" No one could rightly remember, preferring to forgive and forget since the then Vice-Mayor himself had fallen off the table he was dancing on and his partner, the administrative assistant from the Roostville Chamber of Commerce, fell out of her dress.
Since they weren't making much progress, Uber decided to keep his inter-office CHRISTMAS PARTY MEMO short and sweet with some guidelines on how to have a safe and successful time:
- Don't sit on the photocopier. It's been done to death and it's not pretty, especially if the copier breaks and you get glass in painful places.
- Don't dance on the desks. It could do them and you a lot of damage. Likewise, board room tables are meant for weighty documents, not overweight administrators.
- Candles and cigarettes around Christmas pudding should be avoided at all costs due to the high alcohol content.
- Step ladders, not swivel office chairs, should be used to rip off tinsel and mistletoe, which should not have been hung near open windows above the 2nd Floor in the first place.
- No indoor fireworks! Save them for New Year's.
- Don't get too drunk! It may seem like a good idea at the time but these people are your colleagues and you will have to face them again on Monday. AND SOBER!
We are not trying to be kill joys and party poopers but only want to help our staff have a great celebration this year without having to call in the emergency services and/or military.-- Mayor Ubergeek
KIJU-106 Radio, the Roostville Chronicle, Roostville News Network, SPACE POST, Ultra Digital Q and even the Maser City Chronicle were on hand as City Hall workers were rounded up by the JSDF after their annual holiday party. Many swore they were urged not to drink too much but it seems the military had to be called in when a newcomer asked a Dark Lord, "So what do you do around here anyway?"
This year, only 50 office staff had to be rounded up from the government complex area and delivered to the Mod Station for safekeeping. It seems that Mayor Ubergeek himself was not above char broiling a tipsy Orc who had crashed the affair and remarked, "I'm glad we chatted tonight because I didn't like you when I first met you."
Since Kong Town held their free to all comers holiday party the week before (but not necessarily sobered up), Sgt. Bowser of the Mod Squad also got her licks in when an amorous visiting deputy remarked, "You're much better looking than you sound on the radio!" It is unknown at this time if the ape city will issue a formal complaint about that incident.
Count Super Jet Jaguar didn't have much luck with the secretarial pool with his drooling "I've been stalking you like a lion stalks an antelope" line. His uncanny ability to resort to flying mode before hitting the ground after being knocked out an upper story window came in handy until he flew into the town Christmas tree. Speaking of which, about a hundred citizens were injured by it alone so far, mostly due to seasonal 'heroics' of trying to climb it.
The day after, one in four attendees who appeared before Judge Saruman admitted they had no recollection of what indiscreet or embarrassing comments might have caused them to be brought up on charges.
"Everyone knows that when you highlight a potentially dangerous practice, there are those who will take it simply as a challenge to defy all sense of logic," the Judge explained. "And now, four out of five of those who appeared before me due to this year's little soiree would like the rest of December off to hit the after Christmas sales!"