First off, a little quiz. There is a penalty for cheating, but none for incorrect answers.
1. Santa Claus was born
a) in the North Pole
b) in the north of Poland
c) in a long poem that begins with the word “’Twas”
d) in a manger
2. Balboa Park’s early December two-night festival was known under this name for decades, before a bunch of politically correct ingrates bullied weak-kneed citizens into submission.
a) Orgy on the Prado
c) Christmas in the Prado
d) Comic Con
3. Despite what José Sinatra wrote in October, Pigpen’s supreme dance of all time was performed not in It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown but in this television classic.
a) Dancing With the Stars
c) I, Claudius
d) A Charlie Brown Christmas
4. The greatest-ever episode of Saturday Night Live was the Christmas show in 1986, which featured guest host:
a) Taylor Swift
b) William Shatner
c) Manuel Noriega
d) “Barry” Obama
If you answered “yes” to all four questions, you’re the kind of person who repeatedly punches the “walk” button when you want to safely cross an intersection. You think that’s gonna make the light change sooner. If you answered “no” to all four questions, you’re the kind of person who continues to punch the “up” or “down” button when summoning an elevator, even after the button has been lit up. You think that’s gonna make the elevator arrive on your floor faster. If you answered “I don’t know” to any of the questions, you at least get a bonus point for admitting you’re an idiot.
So now it’s time to once again take stock of things as the year stumbles to its end. Primarily, I find myself pretty surprised to still be around at all; I have this affliction, you see, that was diagnosed 15 months ago, one that randomly worsens and improves according to its own whims, it seems, and is capable of causing me to just stop being without a moment’s notice. No, it’s not love sickness and I’m thankful for that (come to think of it, I could use a bit more tang, though) and is not at all noticeable unless you happen to catch me wincing in pain or (a new symptom) shedding tears on occasion.
I suppose I should feel proud to have quit smoking and drinking – no drugs at all – cold turkey 15 months ago (after more than 40 years!) so as not to feed the disease… alright, whatta damn man I can truly be… and when people learn of this and say, “Wow, that’s great! I bet you feel a lot better now, don’t you? And you can really smell things again, and really taste food again, and you have more energy, and…“
“Hold on, my dear friend/acquaintance,” I’ll reply. “The truth is that my energy hasn’t improved at all. Everything smells and tastes exactly the same as it always has. Continually missing the poisons of tobacco and malt liquor and other naughty things has rendered me a mightily sad person. But thanks for asking and reminding me of the void by which I am tormented daily.”
In this very space two years ago I was exalting in the fact that I hadn’t begun feeling the effects of age at all. I was feeling then like a very fortunate freak, having no idea that a mere nine months later things would be cosmically corrected all of a sudden and I’d be knocked on my eternally youthful ass. Among the greatest wisdom I’ve encountered is the humble fact that Life will never run out of surprises.
Back to Christmas. It always comes exactly two weeks after my birthday, and, while still believing that the “crass commercialization” of the day is abominable, I find it easier to ignore all that ugliness as the years trot on.
Favorite Christmas song: “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,“ a ditty that despite its lovely melody is sexist as Hell. Think about it: men must be reminded about the true meaning of the day because they’re all retarded. Women are all fine and know what’s what. But God, I love it because it’s all so true.
Favorite Christmas, period: The location was Wheaton, Maryland, where I returned that morning after a week-long visit here in San Diego. The year was 1970 and it was to be the last Christmas my entire immediate family was to be together, all alive and in the same place. It was bright and cold and there was snow on the ground; I lived within walking distance of my dearest friends, most of whom were no longer living a decade and a half later. But that night, we had a wonderful party. I was distinctly aware of Love’s varied textures in the air, in the snow, in girls’ hearts, in my very jeans.
Favorite Christmas libation: whisky and egg nog, which I haven’t enjoyed since Christmas of 2012 and will never enjoy again, boo frigging hoo.
Favorite Christmas movie: because of one soul-stirring, compassionate scene that takes place out on the street on a snowy Christmas Eve, the 1936 version of A Tale of Two Cities becomes the holiday film of the ages. God bless Ronald Colman and everyone else connected to this! And guess what song is sung in the background…
Favorite Christmas gift: the pearl necklace I’d love to give Taylor Swift.
Yes, I can be generous, even in my discomfort. Christmas is a time for giving, not unlike every other freaking day of the freaking year! For now, allow me to give you my very sincere thanks for spending time with me (or allowing me to take up your time) and my wishes that you enjoy a special gift: if not more happiness than you desire, at least more than you deserve.