Christmas in the Land of Enchantment

Tomorrow afternoon Chris and I are flying out to Albuquerque, New Mexico, where my parents live now. I haven’t seen the house yet, but reportedly it has a view of the mountains. I haven’t seen my parents since the summer. I haven’t had to travel far for Christmas in my adult life. I haven’t spent Christmas outside the Chicago area for at least thirty years.

I have a couple very faint memories of spending Christmas in Albuquerque when I was little—just a few mental images that probably come from the Super-8 home movies that my dad took, as well as from photos on the souvenir placemats we used at the dinner table back home. I remember luminarias everywhere, lined up along sidewalks and adobe walls and stairways. (I know they do that in Old Town; do they do that anywhere else?) I can’t wait to see what it’s like now. I can’t wait for everything except the actual flying part, which involves changing planes in Minneapolis. Please don’t snow, Minnesota. Don’t snow don’t snow don’t snow.

I’ll put up pictures when I can. I’ll definitely write here again before New Year’s. Obviously any comments you post after tomorrow afternoon will take a while to be approved, what with the traveling and all. And while we’re on the subject, I should really tell you how grateful I am that you are all so hilarious and supportive and wonderful as readers, and also, that nobody who comments on is ever too crazy or bitchy or mean or nosy or slobbery, and I never have to play goofy Soviet I’m- not- going- to- approve- your- comment games or anything like that. Most of you are really good spellers, too. And proper-noun capitalizers. Thank you for that. Happy happy everything to all of you. I’m glad you’re reading.

Feliz Navidad, dudes!

Urban Adventures in Gingerbread #2

So, yeah: I made a CTA stop out of gingerbread. It would have been much more ambitious if I’d modeled it after one of the actual elevated platforms, but I decided to do one of the ground-level stops in my neighborhood.

The platform was the trickiest part, since it was one long piece that I had to bake myself (the building is made from prefab gingerbread house pieces). But it held, and it’s strong enough to hold dozens of gingerbread people as they wait for the train that never comes.

Also, the Helvetica font is awfully hard to render in frosting. I don’t recommend you try it.

The rest of the photos are here. Please admire the painstakingly constructed candy-cane turnstile or else, I swear, I will wither and die inside.

Somebody please talk me out of doing another one of these next year, okay?

The Christmas Song Entry

Although it’s been said many times, many ways, I still hate The Christmas Song. Also known as the Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire Song. Also known as the song which opens up a giant sucking hole in the universe, a festive wreath-trimmed portal to sheer nothingness. The fact that I actually love Christmas and love Christmas music (even that hallucinatory Carol of The Bells song) does not keep me from wanting to punch this song, hard. Punch it in the chestnuts, even. Roast THESE, Christmas Song! Pow!

The Christmas Song is a hollow song; a big, dull, polystyrene unbreakable ornament of a song. I guess I didn’t always hate this song, but it takes up space in my head and more than thirty years of my consciousness of it has finally worn the lyrics down to their bare, flimsy logic. Paraphrased roughly, the Christmas Song goes like this: “Here’s a Christmasy thing, here’s another Christmasy thing, and another Christmasy thing, and yet another Christmasy thing. Everybody knows this one Christmasy thing and this other Christmasy thing makes things extra-Christmasy at Christmas. Children are excited about Christmas. Children know that Christmas is coming and bringing additional Christmasy things. All children, as a matter of fact, will make sure that certain Christmasy things really are as Christmasy as they purport to be. So Merry Christmas to almost everyone, and though everyone says Merry Christmas anyway, I’ll say it like it’s particularly special, even though it’s not, really.”

See? It’s full of crap. It’s the musical equivalent of snowman poop.

And you know, a lot of the Christmasy things this songs lists are pretty random. “Everybody knows a turkey and some mistletoe help to make the season bright.” That’s right: A turkey and some mistletoe. Chris pointed out that it’s like saying a Snickers Bar and the color orange are what makes Halloween so special. I mean, you could just fill in the blanks all day: An elf shoe and some marzipan! A reindeer and some gingerbread! A pudding and some tinsel stars! A cookie and some blinky lights! A fruitcake and some credit cards! Ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho! I don’t know why the world takes this song seriously and not the Barking Dog Jingle Bells song, because when it comes down to it, the two songs have about the same depth of meaning. And if you ask me, Barking Dog Jingle Bells has way more joy.

Plus, isn’t “Tiny tots with their eyes all aglow” the creepiest line ever? Discuss!


Last night at the yoga class we were sitting with our backs upright and the soles of our feet pressed together. “Now, this is the tailor pose,” said the yoga lady. She keeps up a bright but rambling monologue about the various poses, and what their Indian names are, and what they’re good for, and what you should be doing with your belly button, and how, at the same time, you should be keeping that imaginary hundred-dollar-bill clenched in your heinie, to paraphrase her old dance instructor, who used to dance on Broadway, and so on. It might sound annoying, but really it’s very nice. Anyway, the tailor pose. “This is a very good pose to keep the urinary tract healthy,” says the yoga lady. “And it’s called the Tailor Pose because tailors in India used to do it. You know, to keep from getting urinary infections. There’s an old legend, actually, about tailors using this pose to keep their urinary tracts healthy. A lot of the poses in yoga have legends about them, actually.”

First I just listened. Then I thought, “she’s making this up.” Then I considered giving her the benefit of the doubt, because maybe this stuff IS true, or, at the very least, there are true things about it. I like thinking that perhaps there’s Hindu folklore about the village tailor who made the straightest seams and, alas, the crookedest streams. If anyone cares to enlighten me on the subject, please do so!

I think I have lost another two pounds finally. Oh, goody, my metabolism woke up and now I can stop poking it with a stick.

We went to the Brookfield Zoo again on Sunday, for the holiday lights as well as for more traumatic video moments like this one. And for the Mold-A-Ramas, which are much happier ways to see animals being born. (And doesn’t “Mold-A-Rama” sound like the name of a yoga pose? Something where you press your hands together and visualize a warm plastic object between your palms?) Anyway, since the zoo can’t exactly stick Santa hats on all the meerkats and shrews and pygmy hippos, they had special holiday lights projected on the walls of some of the outdoor habitats—these red and green and snowflake-shaped things that turned slowly in kaleidoscopic patterns. It was hard not to imagine the Kodiak bears passing a bong back and forth, but it was very pretty all the same. And, yes, very Christmasy. I’m beginning to feel it.

Day 58

In a corner of our gym there’s a paper sign up that says “THE PUNCHING BAG NO LONGER BELONGS HERE.” Evidently this means there’s a new spot for the punching bag and the management doesn’t want anyone to move it back into that particular corner. But the sign seems so much more poignant than that. The punching bag has moved on! The punching bag isn’t going to be your punching bag anymore! The punching bag is on a Greyhound bus this very moment, daydreaming about a better life and headed anywhere but here. Stay gold, punching bag, stay gold.

This is just to say that I’ve been at the gym a lot. I have to say it because I’m not sure if you can see it yet. (And certainly you can’t see me right this very minute through the internet, but you know.) In addition to the swimming, I’ve been doing the Weights/Hateful Pop Remixes class twice a week. I’ve gone fifteen times. I know this because I have a punch card, and after doing sixteen classes in eight weeks I’ll get a free quarter-zip sweatshirt from the gym. A sweatshirt that says, What kind of asshole can’t lift weights for eight weeks? NOT ME! No, that’s really what it says, in the iron-on letters of my mind. But whatever: apparently I really respond to incentives. Chris and I are also doing another eight-week thing, a holiday survival challenge where you can get a gym bag for not getting fat during the holidays. A whole gym bag! And then an bonus T-shirt if you try six classes! We’ll do anything for stuff! We’ll work our asses off for an empty Pez dispenser! For a box of paper clips! I’m almost not kidding! I suppose the magic is somewhere in the eight weeks part, eight weeks or some other chunk of time long enough to forget the beginning but short enough to remind you that it hasn’t been forever and that you’re still pretty much a dumbass.

But the nice thing about these gym challenges is that they attract even dumber people than ourselves. There was a woman in the Weights/Hateful Remix class who did everything so profoundly, blasphemously wrong that I was sure that some Ancient Vengeful Fitness God was going to smite her and turn her weight bar into a snake. She’d do duck feet during squats. Instead of lunges she’d do, I swear, the Bus Stop. At first it was a relief to have Wrongy Lady as the lowest common denominator, but it got so you couldn’t even look at her. I refer to her in the past tense because she hasn’t been to class for awhile and we think she got her sweatshirt already (by doing the sixteen classes in like three weeks, which, hello!, is wrong) and is now relaxing at home, eating cereal with forks and reading magazines upside down.

My weight has stayed the same the past two weeks since Thanksgiving. Well, more likely it wildly fluctuated as Mongol hordes of turkey and butter fat swept through my system, but now I’m back to where I was. It could be worse.