Monthly Archives: December 2003

Should auld acquaintance be forgot . . .

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But they won’t be, since we seem to have invited a mess of them to our house this evening. Nine adults, eight little girls, all told (but not told much). I was up late baking bannocks, so Happy Hogmanay to ya!

Alternate entry: Although it doesn’t sound like me, I’m entertaining tonight. Well, I’d say I’m entertaining every night, but that would just elicit a groan from the better half . . .

Alternate entry #2:If you come to the house of non-drinkers on New Year’s Eve, you’ve got no one but yourself to blame.

One of the best ever

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My Christmas spirit is always hit or miss, and depends a lot on what’s going on in my work life, since that determines how much free time I have to think about the joys of the season, etc. etc. This year, with just about a dozen major deadlines looming in December and the sudden return to orange alert (which involves a lot of prepping and meetings and other sorts of stuff), I just wasn’t able to get very into it. And I squandered the best light-putting-up days on bike rides — in fact I knew I was doing it at the time, and the bike rides were all the more satisfying as a result. Besides, I don’t put up lights in November. Couple that with the fact that I really haven’t handled well some of the fundamental changes in the holidays that have come over the years. My dad died, then Jimmy died, then Hank died, then Duane moved away, and over the course of a few years all the people I loved to see on Christmas Eve were gone, and that big boisterous lasagna-fest at my Mom’s house became more sedate. At her old house, we had all our babies under our feet, but at the new place, our babies are 5 and 7 and 9 and 10 (and the children of divorce only come every other year) and they run off upstairs to watch the Grinch in the back bedroom and we don’t see them until they come down for presents (I’m thinking we should put upstairs off limits next year — what’s Christmas Eve without kids making noise?) (And this comes from someone who really can’t stand noise). So it’s all just not quite the same. The holidays are about remembering those who used to be with us, that’s part of the bittersweet, but sometimes it makes it hard for me to be fully in the moment.

But this year, things really just came together for me. The girls were perfect, starting with the Nutcracker performance and right through Christmas. Hannah started the season knowing there was no Santa, and Rebekah was voicing her doubts, but by the time we got through all the excitement and wrapping and “It’s a Wonderful Life,” I think they were both back into believing, believing hard enough that they didn’t notice the price tags on the snowshoes Santa left them. And for a few days before Christmas, as my wife said, it was like they were constantly chanting “Christmas! Christmas! Christmas!” under their breaths, there was such a buzz in the house. On Christmas morning, we had a delightful time here with one set of grandparents, then moved on over to my sister’s charming new house (which my Mom slaved over all summer to get ready) and had their first Christmas in the new house. Very cozy and fun. My sister gave us a delightful plush, clad-in-furs Father Christmas figure, about two feet tall and beautiful, the most unlikely gift I could imagine and just beautiful. I gave her an extension pole so she can crank her skylight without getting on a ladder, and she was thrilled no end. It was that kind of Christmas.

And in the world of material gluttony, the kids were spoiled rotten, as usual, though my mom put most of her energy into clothes, which is a good thing because we just don’t have room for much more in the area of toys. Hannah got all things Harry Potter – the second movie, the second Playstation game (which she begged, hinted, and pleaded for mightily after testing it on a demo on the iMac), the first Playstation game, but not Harry Potter toothpaste, which she didn’t like. (I did – bubble gum flavor.) Rebekah got her first American Girl doll, which I used to think was about conspicuous consumption but is in fact about really really well-made dolls that girls love and take amazing care of. Lee and I are giving ourselves the gift of a rug, once we find it. And, as I mentioned, there’s the Simpsons Playstation thingy, which is keeping me more than a little busy.

Now, we seem to have accidentally invited a whole mess of people with little girls over tomorrow night, which doesn’t sound like us, so I think there’s going to have to be some vacuuming today….


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Yes, I should be blogging; there are a million ideas running through my head. But I’m completely distracted because my elder daughter gave me The Simpsons’ Hit & Run for Playstation 2 for Christmas, and I’m busy applying my Grand Theft Auto skills to Springfield. Doh!

Well, that and I’ve been doing a LOT of painting. See my flog for proof. More when I get a chance.

Rain + Snow = ?

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Rain + Snow = Have yourself a foggy little Christmas eve. The lake and the Hudson looked positively magical earlier today, low mists shrouding the banks, bare-armed trees rising above. But as the day dims down (curse you, week o’ the Solstice!), the fog becomes general, and when we head out toward my mother’s in a little while, visibility will be about five feet.

Also, Ringo Starr is helping NORAD track Santa.

Orange plus has seriously messed with my mood, but nothing can spoil my enjoyment of my mother’s Christmas Eve lasagna. Because if it did, then the terrorists will have . . . yeah, yeah.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

New Socks for Christmas

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That’s the name of this year’s Christmas disc, the first to benefit from the ease and availability of the Apple Music Store. I like a mix of semi-traditional songs and wild stuff, and I’m perfectly willing to accept songs that are only marginally about Christmas — in fact, this year’s disc started with three Weakerthans songs that just had the word Christmas in them, but I thought better of it. Last year’s disc was severely delayed by my desperate, crazy search for Marshall Crenshaw’s “Sock It To Me Santa,” without which there seemed to be no point to burning a disc. This year’s was less driven by a specific find. My only new disc was Los Straitjackets’ christmas disc, which completely kicks ass and stands on its own (including an excellent tribute to The Ventures’ Christmas songs, which inexplicably wound hits of the day into Christmas songs, so that “Drive My Car” becomes “Jingle Bells”. Los Straitjackets do the same, winding The Ventures’ “Walk Don’t Run” into “Sleigh Ride” — brilliant!) And in fact I was going to make it very brief (let’s face it, there’s not a lot of good new songs every year), but I found a nice set of additions to my collection in the Apple Music Store, and so the tradition of a new CD for Christmas is preserved. Here’s this year’s playlist:

  • Surfin’ Santa &#47 The Surfaris
  • Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer Mambo &#47 Billy May
  • Sleigh Ride &#47 Los Straitjackets
  • Soulful Christmas &#47 James Brown
  • Merry Christmas Emily &#47 Cracker
  • The Christians And The Pagans &#47 Dar Williams
  • Hark, the Herald Angels Sing &#47 Vince Guaraldi
  • It Came Upon Midnight Clear &#47 Sixpence None The Richer
  • Rudy &#47 The Be Good Tanyas
  • Silent Night All Day Long &#47 John Prine
  • Blue Christmas &#47 Willie Nelson
  • Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer &#47 Jewel
  • Frosty the Snowman &#47 Fiona Apple
  • Please Come Home for Christmas &#47 Willie Nelson
  • Christmastime &#47 Aimee Mann and Michael Penn
  • God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen &#47 Los Straitjackets
  • Silver Bells &#47 John Prine
  • Family Christmas &#47 Lizzie West
  • Christmas Time Is Here &#47 Vince Guaraldi

I know, I know . . . Jewel. I was momentarily blinded by her breasts. It’s a slightly precious version, but I kinda like it.

I didn’t do a great job of capturing The Nutcracker on digital film, but thank you for asking, a couple pictures of my perfect daughters doing their parts are here.

Typhoid Family

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No, not us. But did you know that there really isn’t a 24-hour echinacea store in the mid-Taconic Valley? I do, because the first thing I wanted to do once we got out of another wonderful performance of “The Nutcracker” featuring my two brilliant, vibrant, beautiful daughters as a Party Child and a Polchinelle was to find such a store and guzzle about a gallon of echinacea in hopes of counteracting the effects of having an entire family, clearly at death’s door and in no shape to be watching their daughter’s premiere as a reindeer, sneeze, cough, snot and sputter all over us throughout the two-hour performance. The second thing I wanted to do was burn my overcoat, which had been draped over the back of my seat and which was no doubt covered with several million viable viruses, waiting to come into contact with my warm, moist lungs. I threw it in the back of the truck and hoped freezing would help. Hey, I get that you have to be there. But maybe just one of you rather than the entire brood, all of them coughing, choking, and rattling Marley’s chains. And if all of you had to be there, take seats somewhere off to the side or in the back, where you wouldn’t be COUGHING ON MY NECK!

But, as I said, the girls were wonderful. Plus, we got to watch the rehearsal of the entire party scene, which put life to the phrase “going through the motions” — that’s just what the dancers did, rather than expend a lot of energy. It was quite literally a walk-through. Also got to see all the behind-the-scenes scenery assembly, prep for the snow, missed lighting cues, and everything else that goes on before a big show. Quite fun to watch.

People keep asking me, “So, you ready for the holidays?” Is it just plain rude of me to say, “Not in any way”? Do they actually want an answer?

Misreading, out-of-context sentence, and a firetruck kicked my ass

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First, the misreading: I was skiing yesterday (yay me!) and saw someone wearing a zippered hoodie that I thought said, in big college block letters, “COLD RADIO”. I spent a fair amount of time wondering if it was a band, or a radio station, or just what, and whether it was a cool phrase or not, and then I got close enough to realize that in fact it said “COLORADO”. I still like Cold Radio better, and it might make a good name for a band.

And that band’s debut album might be named “No One Misses The Dragon,” a random sentence from my fifth-grader’s reading homework that I rather appreciated, for when you think of it, a dragon is probably not a good thing to have around, and I imagine that, once gone, no one would miss it.

And then there was the firetruck. Stuck with meetings all day, but had a quick few minutes to kill so I walked over to the State Museum to see the permanent exhibit on the World Trade Center. It’s fairly small but quite well-done, lots of artifacts and information, and I was okay with all of it until I had to look at the firetruck (something of the elephant in the room), and, just as it did when I saw all the crushed firetrucks stacked like cordwood at the landfill, that image struck me hard and took my breath away for a minute.

One thing that was odd about the exhibit was that there was a display of newspapers from around the country from Sept. 12th. Odd to think of what that must have been like to watch from a distance — we were so close, and so immersed in the response, that it must have been very odd to see from somewhat afar. Also, I don’t remember seeing the papers in the days that followed, although we probably did. Most of the news came in from CNN, as it usually does on fast-breaking tragedies. The curators also highlighted a copy of the Daily News from Sept. 11, found in a police car. How odd to think of that paper, which no doubt thousands of people were carrying around that morning, and yet which no one would ever think to look at again. The headline was about the city’s mayoral primary that day, and Mark Green’s chances, as I recall.


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When I said The Muppet Christmas Carol was the best, I was of course referring to the traditional versions of A Christmas Carol. For an adaptation, there is nothing darker, funnier or more touching than Michael O’Donoghue’s “Scrooged,” with Bill Murray. Again, it’s the dark ones who can really tug at the heartstrings, and I always tear up at the end. Honestly. Watched it tonight as we assembled the tree — the girls got to see it for the first time (with appropriate warnings, but the only issue is language, and some slapstick violence). “Thanks, Lee Majors, but this is one Santa who’s going out the front door.” The movie gets funnier every year.

Santa, I want new sinuses for Christmas

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You’d be surprised — waking up with a massive sinus headache every morning for several weeks in a row can get old. This is one of those “it’s a bitch to get old” things. Even with steroids and Alkalol (a gentle “mucous solvent and nasal douche”), just getting the head off the pillow is a painful exercise.

The girls are up and watching “A Muppet Christmas Carol,” which is the best Christmas Carol ever. Really. I can even forgive the songs. Michael Caine does more than just cash his paycheck, the sets are marvelous, and the whole thing is a delight. Our VHS copy is more than a little blurry these days, though . . .

But I’m not buying DVDs ever again. They just hide from me, so what’s the point? First, I spent weeks searching for my copy of “The Champion” (not the best boxin’ pitcher ever — John Garfield’s “Body and Soul” carries that title). Then, a couple of weeks ago I could have sworn I picked up a bargain copy of “Heathers” at the Target. But with much rummaging through all the Christmas stuff, “Heathers” does not show up, so I finally convince myself that we looked at “Heathers,” but decided to leave it for another day. Last night, cleaning up some of the endless mess in the dining room (we still call it that, though it’s the room with all the computers, phones, faxes, and it’s where stuff gets dropped when we come in the door), and I found a bag of DVDs that not only included two copies of “Sandlot,” one of which was supposed to have been shipped out for Christmas already, but also the aforementioned copy of “Heathers.” Which would be just fine, except that on Friday night I picked up another copy because I had been jonesing to see it, especially after seeing “Pump Up The Volume” just a couple of weeks before. The whole early Christian Slater thing (by the way, when they make the movie about my executive team, I expect to be played by an early Christian Slater. I’ll settle for nothing less.)

Last weekend was first-time directors’ weekend: Paul Hunter’s “Bulletproof Monk,” which was quite excellent, much better than I had expected, and Sofia Coppola’s “The Virgin Suicides,” which felt like “Inventing The Abbotts” but with unexplained suicides. Interesting, lyrical, nicely done, but I’ll admit I didn’t quite get it.

I don’t suppose that tree’s going to put itself up, is it?