Maybe I Should Just Call My House A Museum of Ugly.

Then I could charge admission. It might be a nice second income, no?

So. E’s brother is an Artist. Okay, he’s also a student at a college out east, but he does treasure his creative self. And he keeps sending us paintings as gifts.

Those of you who have been to my house may remember the painting I like to call ‘Fried Eggs in Space’, which is most likely an indifferent rendering of the sun, the moon in partial eclipse, and a mysterious road that goes between the two. I hate it and have been surreptitiously letting Baxter claw at it.

In E’s room, there is also the one I call ‘Fourteen and on Acid’, which is a painting of a room and the world outside it that is shockingly similar to the ones my friend Rob did when he was, yes, fourteen and on acid. That some of those were hung in the church and actually bought by upstanding members of the community is neither here nor there. They were ugly and so is this painting, which is largely rendered in tones of brown and masking-tape beige.

Today a package arrived, bound with duct tape and padded with newspapers. E’s Christmas present from his brother. It’s a tryptich of a volcano. The wood it’s painted on has been texturized with something to make it rough, like unfinished concrete. The volcano is sort of mole-hilly. It looks as though it was drawn by a nine year old who was told to draw a volcano but had no real enthusiasm for the project. Frame number one is the molecano sitting under cloudy skies. Second frame is the molecano with a wisp of smoke. Third frame is the molecano with a little sploodge of lava coming out of the top: The money shot of the molecano porn gods.

It’s a horrible painting. I love the fact that E’s brother gave us art, presumably from the heart, for Christmas. But it’s ugly and it hurts my eyes.

Hillbilly Tim

Tim looks and sounds like everything you’ve ever heard about West Virginia. He drawls. He wears overalls. He has a riot of curly hair that will not comform to any known style. His eyes twinkle. He loves Bluegrass music more than any other form of music on the planet. Despite the fact that he’s an aerospace engineer or something like that, he simply oozes hillbilly. I imagine he has a suit for business meetings, but even if he wore a suit, I’d still see farm clothes.

He’s in town to visit just now and I will be seeing him later, getting him drunk in an effort to convince him to sing the Pig Song:

I got pigs

Home in a pen

Gonna feed ‘em uuuuup!

All I need’s

A purty little girl

To feed ‘em when I’m gone!

It works best with a banjo, but a capella is fine as well. I can’t wait!

Recipe for a Relaxed Christmas.

Combine over the 72 crucial festive hours:

Several hours at the local pub’s Christmas Eve get-together. Drink liberally and catch up with many old friends and acquaintances. Cheer Santa in at midnight and skulk in corners until any threat of carol-singing passes. Note: You must hear The Pogues’ “Fairytale of New York” at least once. This is key.

One huge Christmas breakfast, opening presents and freely gossiping about family members not present. Then, watch the cat play in the wrapping paper and boxes. Reflect that a real adult would clean up. Do not choose the path of real adulthood.

One liberated bottle of shiraz from upstairs neighbour. Will replace at earliest opportunity.

One Christmas dinner with everything, comsumed at leisure. Follow with an extended evening of listening to music and watching stupid videos.

One Boxing Day without shopping, but with seeing a new baby. Come home. Make buns, calzone, clean up a bit, and read on the couch with a glass of wine until a) book is finished, or b) too fatigued to read.

Note: One of the crucial elements in this relaxed Christmas is that you do not feel obligated to do anything that smacks of effort. That defeats the purpose.

Combine all elements together and stew for a while. Wake up on the 27th relaxed and ready for work.

New Traditions.

Well, I said I was looking for some new Christmas traditions. It seems I’m getting them. Slowly and organically, the way traditions grow.

Our tree is up and re-potted. It sits in glory with the pot draped in an old towel festooned with some of my mother’s gaudier brooches. It has to be, otherwise Baxter would use it as a catbox.

The tree is naked. No decorations on this tree. Not this year. The idea of Bax getting curious around a string of chewable and mysterious Christmas lights makes me nervous. No decorations this year, either. I tried, but he took a fast swipe at a gorgeous little paper fish Emma bought. So maybe we’ll have decorations next year.

Non-family recipe shortbread is baked. Truffles are rolled. And that’s the baking done. 200 hand-dipped chocolates was my mother’s style, not mine.

We are just about to go out into the relentless heavy rain to meet some friends for a couple of drinks and some music. Everyone who’s going home for Christmas has gone. There’s just us orphans left.

Tomorrow we’re having Christmas dinner with Fran and Jim, some of E’s relatives, who are friends, Jim’s mad gravy skillz, and 20 lbs of bird. No stress. We’ll eat off plain dishes because I know for a fact that Fran thinks the idea of ‘Good China’ is silly.

There will be a lot of cleanup, but it’ll be fun to work together chattering happily, as opposed to showing my Dutiful Daughterdom, carefully rinsing the gold-edged plates in tepid water with exactly the right amount of soap, or listening to E’s folks talking about the Elizabethan choir. I wish I could care more about their choirs, but I can’t. I might as well get over it.

I wish for Peace on Earth and a fat slug of brandy for everyone.

Merry Christmas.

Not Waiting!

Emma and Jonathan have a brand new little baby girl!

Christmas Formal.

So yesterday was E’s Christmas work party.  I chose not to go last year, because of the things I’d heard. Besides, E was new to the company and I didn’t know anyone. But I went last night, and had me a mighty fine time.
This year, they were more parsimonious with drink tickets than they have been in other years. This is due mostly to apocryphal tales of someone barfing in someone else’s drink, someone else barfing on their own shoes, and yet another alleged barfer yarfing it up onto a random passerby on the street. Oh, and some guy passing out in the alley and getting taken for everything. Head Office was not amused.

This year, I had myself a hell of a time. I’ve never been to a party like that before.
Christmas Finery: They think of this as The Best Swag. If someone was so lucky as to score a “Local Stones Crew” T-shirt in the coveted army green, instead of the standard black, they wore it, and were envied by their peers. Likewise a band called Wolfstone or something. They gave out tres fabulous jackets. Pearl Jam Local shirts also seemed to be items to covet. The swag T-shirt is somewhat fetishized for these people. One guy even got a leather jacket from some band with a skull on its logo. People were very excited about that.

Respect of Authority: When Hutch, the limey with the mohawk, tells someone to do something, it gets done. Never mind that they’re all at a party, all supposedly equals.  Hutch barks out an order and anyone in earshot does what he says. It’s not like he’s the boss, because he isn’t. But he is 6’5 and has a lot of muscle and experience, so they do what he says (“Go get dessert, you bunch of fucking scunners!”) and everyone’s happy.

Well, I did leave at midnight, and E says some people drank way too much, but I had a good time talking with a bunch of people who make concerts and events and magic happen. And that was pretty damned cool.

Christmas Lights.

They are a symbol of all things good about humanity, to me. At Christmas time, people decorate the fronts of their houses with lights. Not so that they can enjoy them in their cozy homes, but so they can bring light to the darkness outside.

Christmas is a winter festival. It’s the time of year when our ancestors huddled together for warmth and prayed to whatever deity they believed in, that light would come back, that the sun would return. Dark times, indeed, when you didn’t know if you’d preserved enough food, didn’t know if you’d be snowed in for weeks, didn’t know if the baby or if Grandma would survive the cold, cold nights.

These days, teetering on the dizzy edge of a new century, we know that the sun will come back. We know the seasons roll like a wheel and in six months or so, we’ll be wearing tank tops and sweating. But we still light the lights. Inside our homes, we build cheery fires, plug in the Christmas tree, and gather together for companionship and food. But we light the lights outside, as well. We do it for others’ enjoyment, because we really aren’t doing it for the electrical bills. We do it because we love the season and all the tacky love it brings. But we also do it to shine a little light into the darkness. To shout out, “Hey! We’re here! We’re alive!” To bellow into the darkness that we can hold it at bay.

Like Chocolate?

Try this recipe for chocolate truffles:

Put 2/3 of a cup of whipping cream in a heavy saucepan. Bring it to a boil, then take it off the heat.

Add a package (300 grams or 10-12 ounces, it doesn’t seem to matter) of semi-sweet chocolate chips.

Whisk it like a mad thing until it’s smooth. You might have to put it back on low heat for a minute. Don’t stop stirring to answer the phone or the door or anything.

Add a teaspoon of vanilla. Stir it in.

Let it cool and stick it in the fridge until it cools. Then spoon it in scoops* onto a baking sheet.

Freeze it.

Roll the scoops into little balls and coat them in icing sugar.

Keep ‘em in the fridge.

*Scoops should be small. Too big, and you’ll put someone into a chocolate coma. The first ones I made were kind of large, considering how rich the things are. My first efforts were about as wide in diameter as a teaspoon’s bowl. That’s too big, and I hope I don’t kill my dad and brother, the recipients of the first batch of chocolate largesse.

Blob.

I finished eating dinner three hours ago and am still uncomfortably full.

We had a meeting after work tonight to discuss some of the changes coming up in January, and then our lovely director sprang for Greek food for us all at a local restaurant. I had some kind of cheese in phyllo pastry, plus the inevitable rice, potatoes, pita and tzatziki, and Greek salad. I was in pain by the time I finished eating, but it was so damned good!

Tomorrow, I’m having water for breakfast and lunch. Maybe a saltine for dinner.

Wants.

I hate working within a Christmas budget. The things I want to give the people I love are not things I can afford, and, in some cases, are impossible. Christmas is hard on me for this reason.

I want to give the Food Bank enough food to last all year, even with the burgeoning number of impoverished and homeless people around here.

I want to give my friends who have families, or families on the way, houses for their growing families. I want to give them moisture-free basements as playrooms and big, bright spacious nurseries. I want to get them big, sunny backyards for barbecues and kids’ soccer games.

I also want to buy my house and give it to my landlady, so she doesn’t have to contemplate moving from her home, just because the investor who owns the house wants to sell it. The bastard.

I want to buy my dad a wetsuit and scuba lessons and all kinds of diving things, so he can dive here and doesn’t have to go off to Hawaii to dive.

I want to find my brother a tenure-track job at a university where he will be happy, gets on with the department, has a nice house, in a place his girlfriend can also get a tenure-track job. Oh, in a place where there are lots of good vegetarian restaurants.

I want to find a way for E to jam with Jimi Hendrix. Jimmy Page or Jeff Buckley, at a pinch.

I want my aunt to feel less lonely and isolated.

I want my grandmother’s dementia to recede, leaving the vibrant, quirky, independent woman whose spirit was never crushed by being born sixty years too early.

I want Peace on Earth.

I want to feel happier about a season that is supposed to be chock-full of joy.

No dice.

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