25 days of joy, constraint, & my holiday brain: Day zero.


Part One… The return of the cheap advent calendar…

A few years ago, I did a Christmas writing thing on Tumblr based upon my purchase of a suspiciously cheap chocolate-filled Advent calendar. Just a little something each day. Helped keep my spirits up during a difficult Holiday season. And it really got my creative flows juicing:babyjeebus

$1.98 Advent calendar I got at the C-Town across the street

The other week, I found an even cheaper choco-calendar at the Tuesday Morning’s in the shopping center with the good Vietnamese food.

There is freshly-tilled brain dirt up in my head after a fun season of stuff you can read about in Part Two if you so choose: There’s medication withdrawal, hip pain, a not-stroke, a psychotic Valtrex reaction —all overlaying a year where I started, for lack of a better word, honoring my big-ass ADHD. If my ADHD were on the menu in a Thai restaurant, there would be four bright red peppers next to it, and the waitress would ask, “Are you sure?”

It’s been a scene. Continue reading


An open letter to the now-former Facebook friend who chose to post a picture of a gun on Christmas Eve

Dear ______________,

You may have noticed in recent days that you haven’t been seeing any pictures of my cat in your Facebook feed. That’s because I’ve unfriended you. I hope you can live with the barren cyberscape your life has now become. If you can’t, then you should have thought about that before you posted that picture of a handgun you got for Christmas on Facebook.

“Merry Christmas to me! :-)” you tagged it in the worst use of the smiley emoticon I have ever seen. Well, Merry Christmas to me! :-)… I’ve dumped your ass. I don’t need your negative, bougie death cult in my life.

I need to get this said right away: Do you have any idea how tacky it is for a grown-up to post pictures of the expensive things they got for Christmas? Nothing like rubbing your good fortune in people’s faces. You’re right up there with people who post about getting their seat upgraded from Business Plus to Business SuperBigDick Deluxe or complain about how hard it is to find a good ‘Vette mechanic. Continue reading

T-Shirts for Christmas

I am currently in my pre-Christmas scramble to complete my list…

The cat: check. Wigs: check. Monkey: check. Disco cats: check. Giant tree burned in 1988: check. The G Train: check. 19th century folk art advertising sign of a pig: check. Skyline of Columbus –canted and slightly blurred: check. Graffiti jellyfish: not check. Soviet meerkats: not check. The cat, yet again: not check. A precarious fire escape: not check.

Of course I will not be wrapping any Soviet meerkats. The vast majority of meerkats who lived under the Soviet system are either long dead or have become oligarchs. And I dare anyone to who tries to put the cat in a box for wrapping to staunch their wounds in time before they bleed out. At least try to wear a green turtleneck before attempting to do so; the blood and the turtleneck will look festive together.

The reader, unless Christo is reading this blog for some reason (In that case, I loved The Gates.), has figured out that I’m probably talking about photographs here. This is a collection of found photos and photos of found objects (and the cat, always the cat). The vast majority is my own work, but when you find great disco cats, you’ve got to grab them. Continue reading

Rockstar Christmas (Complete with Pyrotechnics)


[Two years ago, I devoted a Tumblr called $1.98 Advent Calendar from the C-Town to the cause of taking the Baby Jesus on adventures thru the City… plus what was going on back at the mangerplus what candy I got that day… You should check it out.  In addition to these regular features, which will remain there, I am moving a few longer essays over to this site for safe-keeping.]

In the past few days, people have begun posting all sorts of Christmas music on to the Facebook.  I hide them from my feed.  Not that I don’t like Christmas music; I just don’t like other people’s Christmas music.  Christmas songs hit me right in the lizard part of my brain stem.  They are tied to some of my earliest memories, so it’s really hard for me to accept anything new into there.

A lot of the ones in my feed seem to fit a Venn Diagram mapping the overlap between “gay-ish icon” and “carol.”  I’m sure that YouTube clip of Klaus Nomi doing something to “Silent Night” is neat, but it pollutes “Silent Night” to me.  “Silent Night” is the sound of my music box bell; it is the sound of my brother-in-law, the Rev. Larry, asking the congregation if “we might hum a verse.”  I do not want Klaus Nomi in my brain stem.

One song that is forever lodged in my brain stem.  It’s “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” not just any version.  It has to be the version found on the 8-Track of Vol. 6 of WT Grant’s “A Very Merry Christmas.”  (This was one of 4 8 Tracks we had —the others are a Ray Coniff Singers compilation, “Tapesty,” and “Catch Bull at Four.”)  To me, it wasn’t Christmas until I saw that chubby girl on the front look longingly at the shiny bell.  It strikes me now as foolish to let a toddler play with glass ornaments, but, hey, nothing bad ever happens at Christmas.  The 8 Track format was perfect for my small hands; put the peg in the hole, and you have music…

And when “Twelve” came on, my sisters and I would go into action.  We danced about, re-enacting each of the days.  By day 12, it was a cross between The Supremes, Fosse, and The Chicken Dance.  I was a transcendent Lord-a-Leaping.  Day #1 was the best because we all got to be Partidges.  Not the fat bird —real honest-a-goodness Partridges.  We all would stand there and shred air guitars like The Partridge Family was Sabbath.  Added bonus:  I was not forced to “play” drums like my namesake on the show.  We all got to share in the Yuletide joy of being rockstars.

One time, our parents were out at bowling, so it must’ve been a Monday.  My dad, who worked in the restaurant business for WT Grant, where we got the tape, would sometimes receive “experimental” kitchen appliances.  One such contraption was an avocado green vertical broiler/toaster.  We slapped some bread in there, hit the button, and the bread started to broil.  But our song was coming on, and as everyone knows, it’s a pain in the ass to “rewind” an 8 Track.  So we HAD TO DANCE.  We were on Day 11.  I had just executed the complex transition from leaping to milking when we smelled smoke.  We ran into the kitchen to see flames shooting out of the experimental vertical broiler/toaster and licking the cabinets above.  I took charge of the situation and continued running through the kitchen, into the dining room, then past the tree in the living room, and out the front door to the opening strains of “Joy to the World.”  I did not stop running in my bare feet —and screaming —until I got to the hydrant.  Then it was just screaming.

But even that cannot dampen my enthusiasm for that song.  The order of the days may be non-standard (our Lords are at #9), but it’s my Christmas song.

Your contempt for me rings a bell

[Two years ago, I devoted a Tumblr called $1.98 Advent Calendar from the C-Town to the cause of taking the Baby Jesus on adventures thru the City… plus what was going on back at the mangerplus what candy I got that day… You should check it out.  In addition to these regular features, which will remain there, I am moving a few longer essays over to this site for safe-keeping. This essay was updated and polished somewhat in the process.]

Stop doing that sin thing you're doing! It's icky!

Stop doing that sin thing you’re doing! It’s icky!

For the most part, I love living across from a fine grocery store like Steve’s C-Town.  I can get inexpensive Diet Coke seventeen hours a day, and the cat loves watching the delivery trucks every morning.  But, during Christmas season, the C-Town becomes a focus of holiday tsuris.  If I turn off my music, and there’s no B61 laboring to get up the hill on 9th Street, I can hear it —the faint sound of the Salvation Army bell ringer.

Now this sound doesn’t rate as a noise.  It’s not waking me up, unlike the Lesbians in the Ceiling clomping around in their kitchen, which for some reason is over my bed. These women, upon returning home, must unscrew their normal legs and screwing on peglegs.  It’s also not subjecting me to intimate details of its life, unlike the receptionist from the dental clinic next door who sits on the stoop under my living room window, smoking and gabbing.  No, this sound doesn’t make me mad.

It makes me unbelievably sad.

It didn’t always used to be this way.  The Salvation Army bell ringer was always one of the first harbingers of Christmas back in the days when Christmas began when it should, not as part of a back-to-school sale.  Dropping my change in that bucket always filled me with pride, like I was part of something bigger.

Then a few years ago I was entering Grand Central Station to catch a train to Katonah, and I put a dollar in the kettle.  I halted; I was filled with something other than holiday spirit, something bigger that I wanted to be a part of. I doubled back —this bell ringer was HOT! Imagine a beefier Ben Affleck with an “Argo” beard and in a ridiculously retro, perfectly tailored uniform.  The Salvation Army got another $10.  I chuckled to myself at my shallowness and felt that this would be a cute little anecdote to share on the Facebook. Continue reading

Jesus is a Race Car (Christmas Throwback)

[Two years ago, I devoted a Tumblr called $1.98 Advent Calendar from the C-Town to the cause of taking the Baby Jesus on adventures thru the City… plus what was going on back at the mangerplus what candy I got that day… You should check it out.  In addition to these regular features, which will remain there, I am moving a few longer essays over to this site for safe-keeping]

Over the course of the past few days I have put our Lord and Saviour, the King of Kings, Wonderful Counselor, Emmanuel in tater tots, a burrito, and a meatball parm sub.  Surely I’m going to hell for this almost Cromwellian disregard for icons.

Baby Jesus and I go way back.  He is the main character in the only nativity scene I have ever known.  These are not fancy priceless heirlooms; the older shepherd has a price of 88¢ written in wax crayon on his base.  They are mismatched —the older shepherd and the headless camel clearly come from a more rustic set.  My parents, therefore, saw no reason to keep me from playing with the nativity scene.  Or as it was known by me:  Adventure Team Manger.

It’s not like they could keep me away.  I was starved for action figures.  All mine sucked.  I asked repeatedly for a GI Joe, but I got something called an Action Jackson.  First of all, Action Jackson was two thirds the size of a classic Joe and lacked his flocked facial hair.  Jackson was as smooth as a rent boy in Bratislava.  My friends would announce the arrival of “Joe!” in practice deep voices.  Try saying “Action Jackson” without lisping.  Joe had all sort of camo and gear.  Jackson had a singular blue jumpsuit and a parachute that came out of a hole in his back.  The only way he could execute a proper jump was if he was stripped naked so his back-hole could properly function.

So you can see why plaster Magi were more enticing.  Also, I was comfortable playing with Catholic iconography.  Over my bed hung a large crucifix with a special compartment that contained all the supplies needed for Last Rites.  The holy water contained within was an integral part of the fire safety brigade/death cult I had going on with my stuffed animals.

Christmas decorating was never complete until the manger came out.  It couldn’t come out until the tree skirt was in place, which didn’t happen until the entire tree was decorated and plugged in.  As soon as the front of the manger was folded down, the Magi, both shepherds, and the Blessed Parents went on adventures that took them all over the living room and sometimes into the dining room.  Control Base Manger was manned by the animals because, as we all know, they “kept time.” Action Jackson was not invited.

How did they get to their adventures?  They rode in the Baby Jesus.  Baby Jesus fit perfectly in my small hands, and His flat bottom surface made zooming him along on the carpet a breeze.  I would shrink the Magi and everyone down with the power of my mind, and they would crawl into the Baby Jesus.  I would then drive Baby Jesus to the designated adventure coordinates.  That I actually had to carry everyone over to the designated adventure coordinates in an off-season sand pail should not be noticed.

One day while Baby Jesus was racing against some Hot Wheels, I noticed that His underside was approximately the same width as a Hot Wheels.  Then I set up my Hot Wheels track, the one with the loop-de-loop.  I tried sending Him down by Himself, but he got three inches and fell off the track.  But when He was rubber-banded to a Hot Wheels Batmobile, He could make it all the way down the track’s incline and halfway through the loop.

So, I think Baby Jesus will be just fine with a bunch of tater tots.