Picture it now. A Jewish boy from the Jewishest part of Long Island meets a girl from the middlest part of Middle America. There, in the snow-covered plains of Madison, South Dakota, he celebrates his first Christmas in December 2007. Singing hymns, eating glazed ham, crashing weddings and sitting on Santa's lap are only the beginning of this one-week adventure in social experimentation we like to call...
12/23/07 (Day One)
The First Danny Ross Christmas
I sit now listening to "Classic Sinatra" within the confines of my warm blanket in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. This is considered the big city here in SD, but as far as I'm concerned, if you've got a Panera Bread, Best Buy and California Pizza Kitchen sitting next to an interstate, I would pretty much call it the suburbs.
Outside the moon's glow overlooks a frozen landscape, and I'm about to doze off to sleep in this dark, tired basement. But it wasn't such a cozy day. In fact, you could say it was a stressful day. And yet another way of saying it, is that Northwest cancelled my god-damn flight to South Dakota, leaving me stranded at the Minneapolis Airport in a snowstorm. And that wasn't even a Larry Craig joke. (But now it is. Zing!)
I put my name on standby for the next flight, but was told that my chances were pretty slim. Arguing with the NWA attendant, I felt like I was living that scene in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. "You don't understand, tomorrow is Christmas Eve. I have to get on that plane! Kevin!!!" I guess she could be excused for leaving her 8 year old son on the other side of the country. But you'd think they'd notice at security or something. I mean there are 2 hours of waiting at the gate for Christ sake.
And I did a lot of that today. While I managed to get on standby, I was a mere 20th on the list. That means an entire basketball team would have to miss this flight. Thankfully, I could count on the Knicks to miss just about anything. (Zing!) Pacing like an anxious New Yorker in front of the "Departure" monitor...and then in front of the storm-filled windows... and then in front of the $14 dollar tuna fish sandwiches, I thought of calling Al Gore, hoping that he could make a phone call and miraculously bring the sun back up 12 hours early like in The Truman Show. He can do that, right?
Preparing myself for an overnight stay in the city of Prince and Kirby Puckett (R.I.P.), I was stunned to hear my name announced on the next flight to Sioux Falls. Paraded with yelps and applause, it was truly like moving onto the next round of American Idol. Only my prize wasn't fortune and fame, but boarding a tiny commuter plane in the middle of nowhere through a deadly snowstorm. Suddenly I knew how the Big Bopper felt.
Landing in the Sioux Falls Airport I kissed the ground, and probably a couple of old ladies too. I was drunk at the time. But I wasn't out of the clear just yet. Pacing in front of the luggage terminalÉ§ and then in front of the luggage claim desk... and then in front of the NWA Check-in, I learned that my bag would not be coming in that night. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe St Patrick's Day. It looked like I might be wearing this green and pink Reebok sweat suit for a long time to come.
But I quickly turned my frown upside down. After all, it was the South Dakota way. I would be heading to Dani's house. (That's right. My girlfriend's name is Dani. We have the same name, get over it.)(Okay fine, I'm a narcissist. I know.) I was greeted with a big hug and kiss by Dani's mom and we proceeded to Culver's Restaurant, described to me as a notch above McDonald's while slightly below Applebee's. Fine dining in the Midwest ladies and gentlemen.
Heading home I was greeted by a cacophony of sound. First, there were the kitties, Roni and Bear. Then there was puppy dog Dezi. And finally there was Dani, her brother Ross (Yes my girlfriend's name is Dani, and her brother is Ross. I'm not kidding) (Okay fine, yes, seriously, I have daddy issues), and of course there was mom and Grandma.
To equate them with celebrities, Dani would be a combination of a younger Meg Ryan mixed with, say, Ron Burgandy. Ross is maybe Topher Grace in That 70's Show with a badass streak. Dani's mom let's say is Goldie Hawn mixed with Cheri Oteri. And Grandma was like, well, any other Grandma, except that she'd swear at the least expected moment.
After an exhausting day, I needed some of that Christmas warmth I heard so much about. And sure enough, there was that glowing tree, presents underneath, and three stockings above the fireplace. Mom boiled up a pot of the famous family cider, which consisted of apple juice, orange juice and a barrel of melted Red Hot candies. I hung up the "Care Bears" and "My Little Pony" ornaments that Mom so sweetly got for me (Thanks again for that by the way), and I was feeling a whole lot better about the world.
Then it was off to the kitchen table to play a Midwest card game sensation known as Skipbo. Now I'm familiar with Uno (and a state champion 2002), but this I had never heard of. In either case, Grandma was known to be a shark and my competitive juices were flowing. Miraculously, after 40 grueling minutes of painstaking strategy and maneuvering, I won Skipbo, and with it, the respect of an elderly Iowan woman, who just might love me back someday.
With a busy day like today, tomorrow's schedule is even fuller. Let's just pray my luggage comes in. Fortunately there's church in the morning. Speak to you then!
PS - Mom if you're reading this ... none of this actually happened. Your good Jewish son would never go to church or hang up ornaments on a Christmas tree in South Dakota. Back to sleep for you. It was all just a terrible, terrible nightmare.