Let the Handouts Begin!

Well, heckfire folks, our savior is not even in office yet and already an early Christmas has begun. This little item and this little item shows that Congress really does believe in Santa Claus since apparently they want to emulate him.

My, my, universal healthcare, mandatory tithes to the UN and while we’re at it, let’s make sure all the companies who can’t keep their shit together get a little incentive (bail out) while we’re at it, eh? Noice… it’s giving me some very good ideas. I think I’ll start a public company, mismanage it, take a huge salary and then beg Congress to bail me out instead of throwing my ass in jail. I think it’s quite the workable plan, don’t you?

Grit may be right, the world will end in 2012. I do believe the meltdown is coming fast folks, implosion city no longer seems to be a sparkling bauble on a distant hill. Nope, it’s just down the street now.

Well, all I can say is Merry Christmas GM and thanks Congress for giving us a final farewell gift (for which we will undoubtedly be able to blame Bush) as we rapidly approach the end of the winter session. At least I hope it’s rapid, God knows we can’t afford too much more of your generosity – we have presents to buy too you know? Of course maybe we’ll get some discount coupons for something off the back lot as some sort of incentive to balance out all the increased taxes you’ll lay on us in order to pay for all these gifts, eh?

I think you may have to practice a might more to really get the Santa personna down though, specifically the lumps of coal angle, check the subject index in the Santa Handbook for that one. Just a tip. 😉

Oh and Nancy, I think it’s time to nix the close ups – it’s Merry Christmas, not scary Christmas.

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I’ve Got a Branch, Let’s Make a Tree! 12 days of xmas #12

For many years I had the best room mate ever. Let’s call her Buffy. We met while we were both working at a cute, little dive called New York George’s. It served tacky New York Diner food and was a very popular place, especially considering it was tiny and had no real designer ambience to it. What was fun about the place was that everybody was a wise guy and the customers really delighted in being harrassed by the waitresses. Which of course, was right up our respective alleys.

Now Buffy is a very cute girl, who is very tall, has big feet and a laugh that can split your eardrum if you get too close to her when she lets one rip. She also has a heart of gold and I love her like a sister. Truly family in all the really great sense that that word can conjure.

We became fast friends and I convinced her to become my room mate and share the house I was renting from a friend (henceforth known as the Psycho-Lady). The house was cute and pretty comfortable but it was basically in the ghetto section of Pasadena. Which may not exist now but did then. We were the only non-ethnic folk in the neighborhood and I guess were regarded as a sort of oddity although no one ever hassled us, nor did we feel unsafe – it just was what it was.

Both Buffy and I are Christmas nuts. We would die happy if we could permanently live in a Hallmark card. Buffy has her own collection of glass reigndeer ornaments which she has been collecting since she was a child. These are like gold to her. And they are amazingly beautiful – the first time I saw them I think I let out a little orgasmic Christmas gasp. Even today they sparkle in my mind.

Needless to say, like every other year before it we were excitedly anticipating Christmas. Our favorite time of year – an excuse to act like a couple of big dopes, eat lots of great food that is bad for you and your thighs and santa hats, reindeer ears and lightable Christmas ornament earrings – what could be better?

Well, this year was a bit different. For reasons I can’t remember, we decided to work retail sales at shopping malls over the holiday season. We’d both done it before and for some reason we thought it’d be different this year. Dreams of big commission checks and taking a couple weeks off at the beginning of the year spurred us on. Also, Zelda got in on the act. So, the three of us signed on with Gold Exchange.

Oh yes, you read it right – Gold Exchange. Now can you imagine the tacky shit we were hawking from a place with a name like that? I know, I know – we were adding to the evil propagation of commercialism, but hey we needed the money and wanted presents, so….

Either our memories were really selective, we were out of our minds or we were just getting too old for this shit but man, it kicked our asses. For that six or seven weeks we just worked and slept and barely had any fun at all. With the schedule we had there was no time or energy to tend to things like trees, decorating, Christmas movies or anything. Luckily we were working in shopping malls, so buying gifts wasn’t an issue.

Anyway, Buffy and I were kind of glum because we weren’t being able to dramatize our insane love for Christmas and we knew we’d be way too beat to try to put a Christmas dinner together. And at the time, I guess we didn’t have any Martha Stewart type friends so we were pretty much on our own. But Zelda piped up and said her roomie was a Martha Stewart type and did all that Christmas junk every year and we had only to arrive on time and we too could have a big Christmas dinner and enjoy and admire the whole Christmas ambience created by another.

Well that kept us going all the way through the selling season – which was hideous and exhausting. And through til Christmas morning. We got up and had coffee and toast and exchanged gifts and chatted. But then we noticed the time was ticking away, tick, tick, tick. Still no word from Zelda. Hmmmm. We started getting those knots in our stomachs. As if the Grinch had been by the night before and we just hadn’t noticed that it was really December 26th. I called Zelda a couple times but no answer.

Our stomachs were growling and we were starting to get really bummed out. Finally, the phone rang and it was indeed Zelda. Yay! Christmas was saved! Except…Well I guess Martha Stewart roomie decided she wasn’t into it that year (and hadn’t mentioned it to Zelda) and they decided they were going to order some deli samiches and did we want to come over and do that.

Well no fucking way did we want to do that. So then there we were sitting in the living room completely bummed out, with no tree, no food, no hope. We were sad – big time. Then I said, ‘screw this shit.’ There was no way we just weren’t going to have Christmas. So, we jumped in the car and went to the local grocery store.

Of course it was slim pickings, no turkeys to be sure – but they had chicken, and instant mashed potatoes, and stuffing mix and corn. No pumpkin pie but I think we got twinkies or chocolate cupcakes or something. So, we paid for our stuff and went home.

While I started dinner, I told Buffy to get out the ornaments and lights. She squealed with delight. She strung lights on the walls, put ornaments out on every flat surface – now we were having fun. But we didn’t have a tree. We HAD to have a tree. Oddly enough about a week before we’d had some pretty bad wind storms – so bad in fact that a huge branch got snapped off the Wisteria tree in the front yard. I told Buffy to get the Christmas tree stand ready then went outside. After some looking and thinking and finding a hacksaw I found a branch that had some shape and might fit in the stand.

I brought it inside and we managed to get it to stay upright with some jury-rigging, spit, chewing gum and prayers. We strung it with lights and hung a few ornaments, plugged everything in and turned off the lights. “Ah….” it was Christmas after all.

Dinner was ready and though chicken isn’t turkey and the potatoes were kind of soupy and our tree was really just a branch I fished out of the yard, it was grand. Just as we sat down to eat, “It’s a Wonderful Life” came on television and we both let out a hoot. It was the finishing touch to our chia pet Christmas.

Ironically, of all the many Christmases I have celebrated in my life, this is truly my favorite. Because it was our spirit and spirit alone that made it happen – despite all the many pitfalls. And the utter spirit of play of Buffy who was with me all the way in making Christmas happen. And I really loved that little tree more than any other because it proved that even a lowly stick could be something beautiful. In fact, I loved it so much that this year I found an even bigger stick and made another ‘unique’ Christmas tree – it’s pictured above.

For me, Christmas isn’t what other people make it for you, it’s what you make it for yourself.

Thanks for reading (putting up with) this series of memorable Christmases. Much of it was probably too warm and fuzzy or just plain boring – but hey, that’s my life.

Merry Christmas everybody.

WC

New Friends for Christmas – 12 days of xmas #11

The year I lost my mind and decided to move from California to Florida was pretty weird to say the least. If you have any doubts, go back and read my post called Road Trip. To say it was manic was really putting it mildly and giving me way too much credit.I don’t know if some ancient LSD crystal popped loose or just the usual screws, nuts and bolts that live between my ears – but by God I was moving to Florida. So I did.By the time I unpacked the car and locked the front door I knew I had made a terrible mistake. But see I have this problem – I am really fricking stubborn. I kept telling myself I had moved to Florida for a reason. That it was the right thing to do. That there was something there for me.Well maybe there was. A new friend. Someone I’d never have known if not for the momentary flash of insanity – that crazy drive and much of the misery I experienced while there.Lana was an instant friend. I met her first when I showed up at my first day of work for a firm that – come to think of it I’m really not sure what they did or even why they hired me – but I digress. I walked into the office and there was this lovely, lithe woman with hair down to her waist and kind green eyes. “Oh, are you Annie?” she asked.“No, I’m Myrna,” I answered. I have no idea why I said that, but I really did.

She did one of those exagerated double takes and I started laughing and told her I was indeed Annie. Then she started laughing. And pretty much from there on we were best buds.

Now the job…oy my aching head. Let’s put it this way – the woman who hired me wanted me to take over her job so she could move on to a better position within the company. However, I was not allowed to ask any questions nor ask for supplies or pretty talk to her unless she wanted me to talk to her. She wanted me to devine whatever it was she wanted me to do. And she had this insane obsession with a tasking program. So every morning I was to write tasks and send them to her and that way she’d know what I was doing. And then of course she got to send me tasks and I would get these prompts and weird things that were almost as annoying as that dancing paperclip that Billy Gates invented. Long story short within a couple of weeks I felt like I was going insane.

I would constantly check with Lana to see if I really was insane or if this boss lady really was working hard to make me miserable and to feel absolutely and utterly incompetent. Sadly, Lana confirmed my suspicions. Not too surprisingly, I was gainfully unemployed shortly thereafter. Oh boy was I screwed. The job had paid well and when I hit the job market in general it really sucked. The wages being offered were frighteningly low. I took a job with a real nutjob of an orthodontist (he actually believed his work was greatly helping mankind by providing prettier smiles – I shit you not). But at least I had Lana.

We did everything together. It was fun to have a great fun girlfriend again and it made me even sort of like Florida. She invited me for Thanksgiving dinner and there I met her wonderful husband and adorable little boys. We had a great time – but it was more than that – it was like being home for the holidays. Like being among family. I marveled at this because I had really barely met them, yet it seemed I knew them for a million years. I love it when that happens, don’t you?

Since Thanksgiving was such a hit and Lana and I became closer and closer friends, Christmas was a natural. We had all eaten tons of turkey on Thanksgiving so we decided on a different menu. Lana’s brother was in town and he volunteered to make a roast. I made a vat of homemade applesauce, brought a bag of presents and whipped up some mashed potatoes once I got there.

We exchanged gifts and it was fun. It really didn’t matter what they were – we were just happy to be hanging out. It was one of those Christmasses where nothing in particular happened – no special activities or hilarious accidents – just a bunch of people who really enjoyed one another’s company and yakked their heads off. Lana even bought a present for my doggie – a santa suit. Which I put on her as soon as I got home and took pictures.

So the evening was just that. An evening. A great one. And one that brings back warm memories of friendship and love. As I drove home that night, I knew at least a small handful of people in Florida were actually glad I came. And I guess because of them, I was glad too.

The Goodbye Christmas – 12 days of xmas #10

 

There’s a funny thing that happens with friends, I mean real, true, kindred spirit kind of friends – you just assume that they will always be there. It never enters your mind that they will move away. It never occurs to you that you will have a last meal, a last coffee at Starbuck’s or a last adventure with them. Your future will always include their presence. They become such an integral part of your life, it’s as if they were always there and always will be.

This Christmas, the season started as many before it. The cold snap came and the air became crisp. Lights were strung on houses – the ‘Christmas Street’ lit up the entire neighborhood. Shopping, excitement, anticipation. Good times with friends. All the normal, usual stuff. Well maybe not usual because it’s the kind of stuff you (at least me) look forward to all year.

The weather was especially cold that year and it was perfect because it just seemed more like Christmas. My best friend J and I were going off to see a play. The Christmas Carol, as a musical no less. Another friend had a part in the play and we were just going to have fun watching her and then teasing her afterwards.

The play was up in Canyon Country which is about a 30 minute drive from our town. J came and picked me up and off we went. I noticed that J was a little more quiet than usual but really didn’t think much of it, so I sat back and settled in for the drive. Quite casually and out of the blue J said, “I’m moving to Texas, Duckie.”

I was stunned. I knew she liked Texas and all and had been there on business and enjoyed herself but she’d said nothing of moving there. “When?” I asked – pretty sure she was going to say something vague like in a year or two.

“January,” she said looking straight ahead.

It was weird because it felt like all the air was sucked out of me. I just didn’t know what to say. I’m not really sure I said anything. I just sort of collapsed around my grief. It was a mere 4 weeks away. It felt like someone had yanked my arm off or something equally disorienting. I went numb.

I think we talked a little more about it. But just the facts. Where would she work? What made her decide? Where would she live? She’d been made an incredible offer she felt she couldn’t refuse, plus her young son was getting older and she wanted him in a better environment to grow up in. She was going.

I knew there was definitely no talking her out of it. I didn’t try. How could I? I could only hope she’d change her mind, even though I knew she wouldn’t. J isn’t the kind of person who decides casually, I knew she’d given it a lot of thought and weighed the good and bad and her mind was made up.

That terrible ache you feel when you’re trying not to cry crawled around inside me. I tried not to be upset. I didn’t do very well at that. In fact, I did lousy.

The dinner we had with friends before the play was strange and unreal. I just couldn’t think of anything else. I told myself I was being selfish and that I should be happy for her but I was too sad for me.

Christmas went from bright colored and sparkly to gray. I went through the motions but mentally all I did was count off the days til they left. I think I cried just about every day. I kept telling myself I was being ridiculous and that I should grow up and take it like a man – but the girlie girl in me won the battle every time

We spent a lot of time together before she left. We tried like the devil to cram everything in that we could. As many laughs, coffees, jokes, adventures that we possibly could. Eventually, I was able to deal – at least without bawling like a big baby. Because despite my greif I really was happy for her. I knew it was right for her – that good things would come of it. That it was a journey in her life she needed to take and I wasn’t going on this particular road trip with her.

We would write and call – and she had family down here so I would see her again. I knew all of this. But I couldn’t stop missing her. I just couldn’t make myself do that.

Christmas came and went. The time drew near and I did everything I could to avoid thinking about it. And then the final goodbye came. At a restaurant. I met her and her dad and little boy and we had a good time. We chatted and ate chips and drank iced tea as though it was just a normal Tuesday night. But too soon the time came and we stood in front of the restaurant hugging and crying. Then separating.

I walked to my car and couldn’t look back. I didn’t want to have my last view of them driving away. I wanted to keep that image of them standing there smiling and waving.

But life felt emptier at that moment. Less bright. Less colorful. Less adventurous. It just wouldn’t be the same without them. And it wasn’t.

But you know what? As sad as this story might seem and as much as I may have bummed you out by telling it to you – it didn’t destroy me or ruin my life. It just really made me love and appreciate her all the more. Because no matter where your friends go and no matter how far away they may be they never are gone – you always always have them and they always have you. It’s just a little harder to make the commute sometimes.

WC

Boycotting Christmas – 12 days of xmas #9

 

Yep, even I have had my Christmas spirit dashed, beaten and abused. I don’t really even remember the reason but I decided I was sick of Christmas and was therefore boycotting it. I merely decided I could cancel it. I’m sure it had something to do with being broke. Boy there is nothing like being broke at Christmas to send a person into a snit.

So I did nothing. I didn’t get a tree. I didn’t dig out my silly collection of ornaments. I didn’t bake cookies or pumpkin loaf or buy a turkey. I didn’t wear red. I avoided Santa Hats and jingle bells and refused to listen to Christmas music or watch Christmas movies. (I know! Scary, huh?)

I just happened to talk to a dear friend (and ex room mate, Buffy – more on her later) and told her I was boycotting Christmas that year. As far as I was concerned it didn’t exist and I was really looking forward to December 26th a lot!

A couple of days later, I recieved a package at work from Buffy. The card said ‘you don’t get to cancel Christmas!’ In the box was a miniature tree, ornaments, candy, confetti and a bunch of other sweet and silly Christmas stuff. I was so pissed at her (not really) cuz she made me cry at work.

So, a little glimmer began to warm around my icy resolve toward Christmas. I couldn’t very well insult my friend’s truly sweet and caring jesture. I would just take it home and put the tree and little things on my coffee table and I’d have a tiny little Christmas, just like the tree.

Of course, then there were a couple of movies that came on television which I sort of watched. I believe I nibbled some candy canes. And then I just faced facts. I was so broke I couldn’t pay attention. I just simply couldn’t buy gifts for anyone and I’d have to be all right with that (you see this was the really crushing thing to me) – so I just made myself be okay with it.

After aforementioned movies I started thinking. What gift could I send to my loved ones that could maybe mean something? Maybe something that I could make? I am a disaster at crafts and really cookies don’t like to behave when I make them so the choices were limited. So, I did what any broke writer would do – I wrote a Christmas story. Even though I knew it probably wasnt’ going to please some people on my list – even though I thought it was kind of hokey, I wrote it anyway.

I printed out about 20 copies and sent them off. Explaining that this Christmas it was my best offering and written and sent with love. Afterwards, I really didn’t even care if anyone acknowledged it or said they liked it – something about having done it made it okay in and of itself.

The really funny thing is that it turns out it is one of my favorite stories. And one I have shared with people many times over the years. And I suppose if I truly have a tradition of my own making it is that story. Because in that story I was able to express my true heart about family, love, my fellow man and most especially about Christmas. So maybe in a way…it was my gift to myself more than anything else. And a good one it was.

WC

Retail Sales & 12-Yr Old Chivas – 12 days of xmas #8

 

Unencumbered and foot loose and fancy free and…unemployed….I agreed to do one of those Christmas sales stints. It sounded very good during the talking part. 30% of the sales, they provide the space and the goods and after 6 weeks I’d be about 5 grand richer. It sounded VERY good.

Now, I don’t know if any of you out there have ever worked in a mall during Christmas…but if you want my advise…DON’T. Frankly, you’d probably do better washing windshields in the 7-11 parking lot and the hours are much kinder.

This particular group of yahoos had a system are taped out. They’d been doing it for years and they knew just how to make it work for me. First I started ‘training’ under another guy so I could learn the ropes (read that as working for free). Since he was a friend of mine – a british chap and fellow writer, Giles, was pretty easy to work with. Of course there was that working for free part which I didn’t care for, especially since any sales I made went into his pocket but I agreed anyway because I’d passed up a couple of jobs for this adventure so now I was committed (or I should have been).

So for about 10 days (straight, no time off) I worked Giles’ stand and made some pretty good sales. Of course the company was real swell and paid me a ‘draw’ from my future sales at my own stand, just to help me get by.

Anyway, I finally got my own stand – in West Covina. Which may sound nice and everything but it was about a 30 mile drive from my house and it was a particularly cold and rainy winter season – oh and I really hate to drive the freeways. Oh and I had to go through downtown L.A. to get there. Yeah, that was really great – especially since my heater decided to quit on my and I had to keep a steady supply of napkins handy to wipe away the fog on my windows.

Anyway…I got my own stand in the mall and honestly it was a pretty nice mall. And to be fair to Giles he did come and help me set up and hire some high school girls to do some selling for me – and the sales, well they were smoking. I was able (because of my desparate financial situation) to justify selling gold and silver plated jewelry by just completely ignoring the fact that it was junk. But if you put anything sparkly in front of a person during Christmas they just want it. Truth.

So for 6 weeks, 16 hours a day (not including drive time), no days off I sold. I sold and I sold and I sold some more. I learned how to take naps with my eyes open and while talking to staff and/or customers. For a release I would walk the mall and buy things. Once a week I made a field trip to the company office to restock and get my ‘draw’. Happily gas prices were dirt cheap at the time and with as hyped up as I was on coffee I hardly ever thought of food.

Forget the fact that I didn’t know what I looked like without the pallor and blood shot eyes, that I ended breaking up with my boyfriend over the phone and quite frankly, if I was even conscious by Christmas day there really wasn’t anything to remain conscious for. The minutes, hours, days, weeks went by in a blur of Christmas muzac and the eternal hum of hundreds of shoppers.

Finally came Christmas Eve. The mall was closing early and so I’d only have to work ten hours that day. My girls who had worked for me were so sweet that they pooled their money to buy me a plaque to commemorate an ‘in’ joke we’d developed over those few weeks. And honestly, it was one of the best Christmas presents I ever got because it was so unexpected and it spoke of true affection and good times from some girls who probably should have spent their money on clothes, make up, jewelry and their boyfriends.

Finally, six o’clock rolled around. The big boss came by and congratulated me on my sales which apparently was WAY over what they expected and told me to roll around on the first to pick up (what was left) of my commission check. I gave him the keys to the safe and the receipts and off to home I went.

Giles and I had planned to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day together since we were both on our own for the holidays. So I got home, showered and changed, plastered on some make up and went over. I looked like I’d been on a 12 year drunk and didn’t know my name (see picture above).

When I got there Giles was all smiles, wished me a ham sandwich and a happy Christmas. Then he whipped out the big surprise he’d been holding back on for weeks. A 12 year old bottle of Chivas. Now, from what I’ve heard that’s some pretty impressive stuff. I believe it is scotch but maybe it’s whiskey but really I couldn’t tell you the difference anyway.

So me and my pal Giles drank off that bottle of Chivas for the next two days. Occasionally pausing for ham sandwiches or an old movie on the telly. We were so exhausted I’m not sure we even spoke all that much. It was more on the order of grunts and groans and “I’ll have another.” By December 26th we had finished that bottle and were ready for the New Year. Sometime in the next couple of days we got some sleep and finally I went to get my commission check.

Sadly, Santa didn’t have much leftover for me. Just enough to pay the coming months bills and maybe a little extra if I was strict. I actually sat down and computed my hours against what I made and it turns out I made about $3 an hour. Who knew? I could have worked at Kmart and done the same, plus I woulda had that 10% discount. Live and learn and don’t do mall sales! 😉

WC

Empty Stocking – 12 days of xmas #7

This is actually not what I intended to write originally. I had another more enthusiastic post planned. Yet, it seems somehow inappropriate now. Surprisingly (at least to me) this Christmas is going down as one of my most memorable Christmases. But for reasons I truly didn’t anticipate.

I’ve always loved Christmas, even when I was hating it. I don’t know why. Perhaps it is because there is a part of me that simply refuses to grow up. A part of me that wants to believe in the impossibility of dreams coming true, happy endings and the basic good-heartedness of people in general.

And in recent years I’ve heard a lot (and there are even whole series of articles dedicated to this theme these days) about how Christmas isn’t what it used to be. There is the commercialism, the basic cynical outlook of society today, the stress, the unusually high expectations that inevitably sets people up to fall. This and much more is what I hear is wrong with Christmas today. But if I reach back into my memories I can easily recall my mother making the same claims when I was a child. And if I reach further back than that, by watching old movies, those claims appear too. To quote a character in the movie Miracle of 34th Street – “There are a lot of isms in the world, but the worst one is commercialism.” Indeed, that story was all about how society had lost the magic and true meaning of Christmas and how if you ‘just believe’ you can recapture that feeling.

This year has been a very tough one for me. For many reasons – not the least of which is that the company I work for came very close to shutting its doors this past week. Somehow, we have managed to avoid that castastrophe, at least for now. Although, there is no promise that it won’t rear its ugly head again next week or the week after that. Despite that (and many other things), I was completely and totally unwilling to let go of my love of Christmas. I was sure, very sure that I could still spread the magic and enthusiasm. Cheer friends and family alike.

And try I did and have. To no avail, I’m afraid. It seems everywhere I go there is a pervading sadness. Whether it be dinner with friends, shopping, the blogosphere – it doesn’t seem to matter. It’s like no one really wants to be cheered. And it’s not the Grinch angry kind of thing – even that (in comparison) is not so bad. It’s worse than that – maybe an indifference??? I don’t know.

All I know is that I’m tired of swimming against the tide. I’m tired of fighting people to be happy for just a few days. I guess I’m just plain tired. Perhaps I’ve finally grown up and realized there really is no magic. Or I just simply don’t have enough magic powder to go around.

My plans are made. The gifts are bought. Heck I’m even making a turkey dinner for Roomie, lest he eat hot dogs and watch cowboy movies all day. But my heart – it’s just not in it any more. I’m just not feeling it in the air, I’m just not seeing it in people’s faces or hearing it in their voices. And it’s kind of lonely here at the party by myself.

So this Christmas is my empty stocking. Not because there are no gifts there – because there are and there will be. Not because there won’t be good food and some laughs and goofy pictures to hide from public view. Not because I’m broke or I’m driving an old car that has a new weird sound almost every day. Not because there won’t be snow on Christmas Eve. Not because – in a phrase – life is a bitch and then you die. But because the sparkle that’s behind filling that stocking just ain’t there this year. Maybe next year it will be back. I sure hope so.

WC

Christmas on the Boulevard – 12 days of xmas #5

 

Cooking is something I love and coincidentally one of the things I do best. For that reason (and many others) when time and space allow I can usually be counted on to cook up a storm on Christmas. This particular year though I opted out.

It was my first Christmas after Mike and I broke up and something about doing the big dinner just didn’t sit right with me. Instead I put together a co-op Christmas Brunch. Which really turned out to be great. I made the eggs, bacon, sausage and fresh-squeezed juice, Maxine brought breads and muffins, Libby brought fruit, somebody brought deserts, and yet another brought cheeses and other nibblies. We all lazed around in my tiny livingroom, after feeding heavily from the buffet I set up in the kitchen. It was a wonderful 80 degrees outside and it was more like a pool party than Christmas.

One by one my guests bid their goodbyes, having dinner plans elsewhere and I made sure that each took away some of the leftovers, lest they pass my lips and end up on my thighs. A brilliant plan I thought….at the time.

Libby, my somewhat eccentric friend had no plans so she stayed and we yakked and laughed and smoked for hours. We were having such a good time in our chat we decided to keep it going and thought what fun it would be to just go out for Christmas dinner. Nothing fancy mind you, especially since Libby was attired in her usual denim overalls and sneakers, but surely Denny’s would be open or someplace like that.

So, we decided to walk down to the boulevard. That’s Hollywood speak for Hollywood Boulevard. You know that famous little strip of land that you hear about and read about out there in the real world? Where every step you take lands you on the star and name of somebody famous. Where drag queens, hookers, tourists, wannabes and regular folk alike stroll and take in the sights.

A good plan, right? I mean how could something go wrong? Who woulda thunk that not one shop, store or restaurant would be open? Ah…us! Yep, that’s right. We walked and looked and walked and looked and walked some more. But, ah…no….didn’t we realize it was Christmas day? Didn’t we have family or friends who could feed us? I mean…didn’t we?

Of course we weren’t having any of it. We knew if we just kept walking that we were sure to find someplace. Just as we reached Grelman’s Chinese Theatre (you know the one with all the handprints and footprints of movie stars?) we spotted a lovely pink neon sign that said ‘open.’

“See,” Libby crowed, “I knew we’d find someplace.”

So we crossed the street and pulled open the door to Frank’s Diner. (Yep, that is really what it was called.)

Oh good, I thought – some good greasy spoon Christmas dinner was going to hit the spot.

The waitress who was a mere 150 years old shuffled over to us as we sat at the counter. “What’ll ya have?”

“Turkey dinner, of course,” we said.

She screwed up her face in a sour puss. “We don’t got no turkey dinner.”

“Really?” our eyes were wide and hearts very sad.

“What’ll ya have?” she asked again completely unphased by our charms.

“Menu?” Libby chirped.

Two xeroxed sheets of paper were plunked down in front of us. “Coffee?”

‘Ah, sure.”

We studied the menu and looked for anything that could possibly approximate Christmas dinner. We both decided on the hot turkey sandwich. It was almost like Christmas and we’d have pumpkin pie for desert. We ordered.

The coffee came and our spoons stood straight up in it. We went through two cream pictures in an effort to make it drinkable but the color never really changed from the muddy brown hue it came with.

At last the hot turkey samiches arrived and our eyes sparkled until Myra (we named all old waitress Myra) slapped them down in front of us. Okay, ready? Wonder bread with turkey loaf, instant mashed potatoes and BROWN gravy all over everything – even the peas and carrots. To say it was fucking awful is to pay it too high a compliment. But we were starved so down it went. And we laughed like a couple of giddy cokeheads. For some reason it was hilarious to us that this was our Christmas dinner.

When finally we gave up on the brown gooey mess we asked for pumpkin pie. “We’re out,” she said and gave us our check.

Of course they were.

We paid our check and walked arm in arm back down the boulevard toward home. On the way back we spotted a Falaphel stand and ordered a couple. Hey, at least it was edible and the big tanker of diet coke helped it go down nice and easy.

By the time we got back to my place it was late and Libby decided to go home. I plopped down on the couch and turned on the tv – what luck – White Christmas had just started and it was the perfect end to a perfect day.

WC

Two Little Girls & Christmas in Utah – 12 days of xmas #4

 

He was the love of my life. His name was Michael. And the moment we met the connection was instant. Because in the next moment we were a ‘we.’

He was a carpenter and could make anything. He was smart and wise and had gentle blue eyes. I loved him with all my heart.

On our first Christmas Mike wanted to go home, which was Utah. He had two children from a previous marriage, and it made me a little nervous to meet them under such circumstances. They were quite young and since they lived in Utah and he in California I thought they wouldn’t want me gumming up the works and stealing their attention from their father. Was I right.

They were 5 and 6. Julie was like a little china doll with long dark hair and mesmerizing blue eyes, so deep you could get lost in them. And she had an adorable habit of singing conversation to you rather than just plain old talking. Her older sister, Annie, looked more like her dad with sandy hair and a quiet manner. They were cute and nice when they met me but kind of shy.

Mike’s mom, Marilu, was a hoot and a much better Martha Stewart than well, Martha Stewart. I learned that she had raised her three boys Mike and his two brothers pretty much on her own and I thought she’d done a wonderful job of it. She had a lovely home, beautifully decorated and a tree that took your breath away. Beneath that tree was an avalanche of presents, many of them for me. She couldn’t have been sweeter or kinder to me.

It felt wonderful to be in such a warm and welcoming home and I knew that it would be a Christmas that would go down in the history of my life. One I would fondly recall over the years. Heck it was like being in a Hallmark commercial for cripes sakes.

And then…the next morning. Have I mentioned that I’m not an early bird by nature? Oh no, the time had long since passed when I was up at the crack of dawn. Of course, at first light I heard the girls, muffled voices and laughs. But they were easy to ignore…at first. I simply burrowed beneath the quilt and reveled in the joy of such a comfortable bed.

Sadly, Annie and Julie weren’t as interested in my reveling as I was. For reasons known only to them there was an intense need for them to slam in and out of my room. “Aren’t you getting up?”

“No,” I mumbled and burrowed deeper under the covers.

Out they went. Slam went the door. A few minutes later. “She’s still sleeping?” Again, out they went, again slam went the door. And it kept up and up. Til finally, I took the hint and stumbled out of bed. I was none too pleased and asked Mike what it was all about. Like a good boyfriend and father he ‘spoke’ to the girls and they apologized as sincerely as they could muster – but I’m pretty sure I saw a glint in their eyes at having acheived their objective.

It put a wrinkle into the day and I feared our stay there. There were several more days to go and I worried that without even trying I’d gotten Mike’s girls to hate me. This is never a good sign, especially in a new relationship. So I put on a happy face and tried to befriend them. They weren’t too interested in that – they were polite but not really warming up to me. Oh drat!

Later that day, we were all doing to a showing of a holiday show for the kids. I had been smart and borrowed a very warm coat from a friend, since I heard it got powerful cold in Utah. Though it was relatively warm (for Utah in the winter) I took the coat with me. The girls wore light jacket over their sweaters and jeans. When we arrived at the theater we realized that we would be standing in line, which was quickly becoming long and winding.

It was only going to be about a 30 minute wait but, hey we weren’t in L.A. – we were in Salt Lake City. Suddenly the sky clouded over and the temperature dropped by about 20 degrees. Even I felt a chill under my nice big fur coat. The girls were shivering within minutes. We suggested maybe we should pass on the show and go to some nice warm place and eat or have eggnog but the girls’ hearts were set on the show. So I opened my coat and invited the girls in. We all snuggled inside that spacious warmth like it was a big family sleeping bag – but still the girls were cold. So I did what anyone would do – I took off my coat and wrapped it around them. Then the four of us did that kind of huddle you do at highschool football games when it starts to snow and you have to stay til the end even if you’re freezing your bageebers off.

After what seemed like an eternity, we were finally allowed inside. Honestly, I don’t remember a thing about the show. What I remember is that suddenly two little girls loved me and wanted to sit next to me and in my lap and fought over who got to do what.

I was officially adopted at that point. The rest of our stay was just like a Hallmark movie without the tears. And when it came time to leave it felt as if I was leaving my own children. We all cried and said goodbye and made plans for a summer visit. But that seemed oh so far away.

But we got in our VW bug, now loaded with gifts, and pulled away from the curb. I watched out the window to see if I could see the two angel faces in the window, that I knew were there.

“We’ll see them soon, honey,” Mike said as I wiped at tears.

I nodded, looked straight ahead and immediately started wishing for summer.

WC

Why Yes, It Is a Wonderful Life – 12 days of xmas #3

 

I moved to California when I was 20. It was a big dream come true for me as I’d always wanted to live in the land of summer for as long as I could remember. Though when I actually got to the land of milk and honey I experienced some serious culture shock. Having grown up in the midwest I was a bit too much on the wholesome side to have taken easily to some of the things I saw in L.A.

Long story short, after a couple of years I pined for home and family and was terribly lonely. In a moment of insanity I agreed to come home at my mom’s behest. To my utter amazement, my view had changed without my noticing. Almost as soon as I got home my world became so small.

It was winter and the landscape I found depressing. Nothing had changed around the old neighborhood, as though it had frozen in time since I’d last seen it. Don’t get me wrong it was wonderful to see my family and old friends but I still felt like piece out of place. Like a new toy in a box of old favorites. People kept mentioning my California accent and how different I was. It was really quite surreal.

I think I lasted about 6 weeks before I was utterly miserable and wanted to go back to California. This did not go over well with Mom who really wanted me to stay for Christmas at least. I know I should have, I know that as a good daughter I should have let her have her way but there was something inside of me that just wouldn’t let me. I had to go back.

So, a couple of weeks before Christmas Mom and Dad took me to the airport so I could return to the land of summer and apparently my new ‘home’ in the universe. I remember Mom was so upset with me she could hardly speak to me and we all felt kind of sad. I kept telling my dad I was sorry but he just smiled and gave me a hug and said: “It’s okay Babe, you have to follow your dreams. You don’t have nothing without them.” (What a guy, eh?)

So back I went and Christmas was bleak to say the least. I’d given up my apartment and belongings, I literall had nothing but a few clothes and a lot of hope. A friend had offered to let me stay in his extra bedroom for a few weeks until I got re-settled. But he had plans for the holidays and so I was really left on my own.

It was pretty bleak. I think I had a bologna sandwich on Christmas Eve and watched old movies on tv by myself for the night. I was sad and depressed and so conflicted wondering if I’d made a mistake in coming back. I scolded myself for being so indecisive and loopy. That I could at that moment been with family, eating great food and unwrapping presents.

And then it was midnight and officially Christmas. I was alone in front of the tv and couldn’t sleep. A movie came on called “It’s a Wonderful Life.” I’d never seen it and since I wasn’t about to sleep, I decided I might as well watch it.

I know this may sound really stupid and silly but really that movie changed my life. It made me realize that everyone does indeed touch the lives of so many others and that we all have an important and special place in the world. And that Christmas isn’t always about getting your wishes but more about celebrating your life, no matter what it is and where it is. That life offers us choice and second chances continually, if only we keep our eyes and our hearts open.

And though there were no fancy parties, presents or even company for me that year – it was indeed a wonderful Christmas. Because I realized I had a wonderful life too.

WC