I’ve been in the presence of only one Christmas tree this year, and that tree was planted next to the exit door at Indi’s on Third Street… it’s nothing special and appears to have been put up and hastily arranged by staff. There are lights but no ornaments, it’s cheery, but it’s not personal. It’s there out of obligation — a situation of “society says so, so here ya go.” It’s not exactly a waste. It’s just there, at this time of year, because, yeah, nothing says Feliz Navidad like a busted Charlie Brown tree sitting in front of bulletproof glass at your local chicken shack.
I’ll be spending the holidays at my sister Clare Ann’s house, where your typical red-nosed and frosty traditions have been thrown out the window head first — and thank God. Honey-glazed hams and mashed potatoes have been replaced with 120-piece wings, a barrel of wedges and an assortment of various types of chili. In the past, we’ve gone ham on everything from sushi to crawfish, with nary a chestnut in sight.
Christmas music, that most loathsome and odious form of entertainment that stinks of cold war suburbia, has been taken to suplex city, its tinsel-draped corpse left on the side of the road in favor of the likes of Waylon Jennings, George Jones and Merle Haggard. My sister keeps the hits running, murder ballad after murder ballad followed by honky tonk heart-breakers. At some point, I’ll try, and fail, to hold back tears as Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash sing “Girl from the North Country.” Don’t judge… it’s that powerful of a tune!
My 13 nieces and nephews will be in attendance, and from the younglings I’m sure to hear about what a dinosaur’s vacation consists of (apparently a lot of swimming and roller-coaster rides for this plastic tyrannosaurus rex by the name of Gary), and I’m sure to once again be impressed by the Play-Doh-encrusted Lego monstrosities that will be presented by these tiny inventors plying a type of imagination to their constructions I have long lost, as Daisy the gerbil runs through the house inside of her clear plastic ball. From the older ones who are reaching the dark days of adolescence, I’ll be regaled with astonishing tales of great triumphant feats achieved on dirt bikes and trampolines. At some point in the early evening, someone will challenge my dad to a wrestling match, a challenge he will accept and, for around 15 minutes, the living room will be converted into a WWF arena, the Iron Sheik vs Rowdy Roddy Piper, complete with boos, hissing and flying popcorn as the crowd goes wild!
As the night wears on my brother Luke will become possessed by the ghost of Christopher Hitchens, thanks to Modelo, and will go toe to toe with my mother and sister Maria Kateri on the fallacy that is organized religion, as my brother GoodWill declares Ghostface Killah as the greatest rapper of all time (sit down, Kendrick and be humble), all of this while my brothers Max, Simon and Jude master Rubik’s Cube after Rubik’s Cube, some of which aren’t even cube-shaped anymore, because I guess I slept on the evolution of 3D combination puzzles. Gambling, in the form of dice, cards and dominoes, will also be going down with, no doubt my sister-in-law Felicia walking away with the pot in each.
Proclamations of love will be spouted, toasts will be made to the fallen and, at some point, I’ll deliver a monologue on the importance of Fyodor Dostoevsky, all before my brother Aaron breaks out the instruments, guitars, mandolins, banjos and the spoons and accompanies my mother as she performs her as yet finished Tom Waits trilogy, beginning with “Down there by the Train” and then “Long Way Home,” “Hold On” is, I believe, still in the wood shop, not yet ready to be rolled out and paraded before the clan.
By the time I get back home I’ll be in a state of dizziness brought on by too much merriment and winter solstice excess, which is the perfect state to be in when plopping down on the couch to watch the greatest Christmas movie ever made, “Die Hard,” for nothing says Christmas in America better than watching Hans Gruber fall to his death from atop Nakatomi Plaza.