Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Will I Live To See 2015?

Will I live to see 2015? It's very close, virtually within reach, just a matter of hours. I hope I make it. I figure I will. I've made every other New Year's Day since I've been alive, and am going to keep going for one more, one more, one more, as long as I have life, breath, and determination.

You get this close, one day to go, that's no time to drop off. Even if I were deathly ill, I could probably summon the life force, the spirit of life, to the extent it would take to last a few more hours. I've heard of people doing that.

I've been very philosophical about it -- wondering -- since earlier today, when I was out driving and saw a dead squirrel in the road. You see that and you think, He crossed that road thousands of times, no doubt, and he had to die on New Year's Eve. Couldn't cross it just one more time, and now he won't see 2015. Sad.

Before that I wasn't thinking of it at all. And to think, worse than that, I took a sick friend to the doctor today. He had a face mask on, then I ran into a another guy I know from church with a face mask. I hadn't thought of it at the time, but I might die from that before the day's out. A stray germ, it's not unheard of. Whether those masks are able to keep all germs in, I seriously doubt it.

There's other ways of dropping off. Of course there's traffic. You never know what's coming up the street, about to mow you down. Someone a little tipsy. Or drunk. I know I'll be on the lookout tonight, when the going officially gets rough. I'd hate to make it to 10:00 p.m., just to be mowed down. I actually plan to be safe at home, but with so many sick friends, you never know who might call. Will I have the heart to tell them to wait till tomorrow? Probably not. Then I'll get in the car, a drunk kills me, and I'll get a bad reputation for not showing up when I said I would.

It might be a good day to put my phone in the toilet, so I won't get any calls. Speaking of the toilet, I cleaned the bathroom yesterday, even behind the stool. I was thinking of all the germs I might be getting into. I didn't have gloves on, a mask, nothing. I was doing unprotected bathroom cleaning, about as bad as dating strangers. At that point, though, I wasn't worried about the New Year. Hard to believe, such a huge concern today, having seen the dead squirrel, but not a huge concern yesterday.

The biggest concern I had yesterday, cleaning, was that when I scratched my ear once, that a germ might get in there and take away my hearing. These things are not just idle concerns. I saw something online just today about amoebas eating away someone's eye, so don't think it can't happen. I'm very philosophical about such things -- Everything's gotta eat -- just not on New Year's Eve and not on me.

I'm going to try my best to make it!

(The time I spent working on the graphic and the rest of this post, my lunch was here on the plate, forgotten. After I got done, I was a little suspicious about the olives and salami. I ate it anyway, got whatever airborne diseases attach themselves to food, and promptly died.)

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Leaving My Blog Post at the Manger

I've always been impressed by the Christmas story, for many aspects of it. One of the greatest is the idea that each person who comes to behold the Child brings a gift, the best he or she has.

For the Wise Men, we know their best was gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Impressive. For the shepherds, they brought a couple of sheep. And for the Little Drummer Boy -- I like his most -- he had no other worldly goods except his drum, so he played for Him.

We've all heard the message, "What can I set before the King?" It varies from one person to another, of course. Maybe a watch or some other valuable thing. Maybe an animal other than a sheep, like if  you raise birds or cattle, whatever. Or something you can do and do well. For me, that has to be these blog posts. I'll be the first to confess, my talents in life are sorely lacking. I don't play the drums or piano. I don't raise animals. And I don't have any gold. But I do write blog posts. I guess pretty well. I don't get many complaints.

So this year, my gift at the manger is a continuation of my last blog post, starting where I left off, some of my old memories of the newspaper delivery boys we had in olden days.

In those days, when I was growing up, there were boys in town who delivered the newspaper every morning, and also evenings. (I don't remember any girls.) One paper came out in the morning, and there were two in the evening, except Sundays when it was just the morning paper. That's a lot of papers, but we read each one.

The good thing for those boys, obviously, would be, That's a lot of work! Giving them the opportunity to have spending money and also money to save. It also taught them, no doubt, important lessons on responsibility. I myself never had a paper route as a kid. Whatever responsibility I learned was more through trial and error, and, frankly, I'm still learning!

Paper delivery in those days had an additional important aspect to it, collecting. The boy had to collect the subscription fees by himself. We didn't mail it in. That could be challenging, even though my parents were prompt in paying. Others, regrettably, would be short of money, and so they'd "not be home" or just blatantly putting him off. I can see a lot of frustration in that arrangement.

Now everything's changed. We have a guy in a truck who tosses the paper out the window, then roars off. He doesn't have to collect. We never even see him, unless we just happen to be up and looking out the window and he's there. In his truck roaring off. Instead of paying him directly, we mail our subscription in on an annual basis. That's a lot of money to come up with all at once, close to $200, but we want the news, so we cut back on food (or whatever) and get it accomplished.

A lot has changed over the years. Certainly newspaper delivery isn't what it used to be!

That's a pretty good gift to leave at the manger, I'm sure you'll agree. It'll give them something to read while they're just sitting there.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Santa Claus Was the Christmas Star

All of us have suffered the same tired discussion every year for the past 2,000 years: What's the truth about the Christmas Star? I hesitate to even mention it -- beating the same old dead horse -- because most of us turn it off at the first breath. Even now I feel queasiness coming over me. And it always ends inconclusively, because, whoever it is -- scientists, theologians, pastors, Sunday School teachers, even your parents -- it always ends the same way: "We'll never know." Doesn't that just make you sick?

In fact, they come pretty close to saying there wasn't even actually a Christmas star. They point out, rightly, that with a simple sky-view app, we're able to see precisely what the stars in the sky were like on any day in history. According to this, there wasn't any unusual star activity on the first Christmas. They tell of various conjunctions of stars on different dates, but none of them are quite right. Especially if you factor in the Wise Men (Magi), following a star that eventually pointed to a particular location!

I can't believe I just belched out a whole paragraph on this. That's how queasy I get. Because I've been saying for years that the star was actually Santa Claus. When the story says it was a "star," of course we can take that a couple different ways. Santa Claus is a major "star," right? He's even one of the "stars" of Christmas, is he not? I'm saying that's what the Bible meant.

A couple things here. You might say Santa wasn't even around in the days of Jesus. I beg to differ. How many times have I seen authoritative artwork showing Santa Claus bowing at the manger? Yes, they have an agenda when they put those pictures out, trying to detract from Santa and give greater prominence to Jesus. The agenda, unmistakeably, has to do with how Christmas has become commercialized. Which wasn't the case way back when.

But the pictures tell me something different: Santa was there! How did he get there? Isn't it obvious? Hello? His sleigh? The brightness of his countenance (let's say), and the leadership of Rudolph ... It had to be a magnificent sight in the sky of the ancient world, before electricity, when nights were extremely dark.

It's no great shakes to answer how Santa knew about Jesus. If he knows every boy and girl in the world, what they're doing when they're awake, when they're asleep, when they're bad and good, how much more is he going to know Jesus! The very guy who would go on to compete with him -- head to head, mano a mano -- for Christmas supremacy. I'm sure they got together as the years went by, trying to hammer out who would get what, which one would get the fun side and which the serious side. That's how it should be done. Like in the circus, you've got clowns and regular people. Or TV, cartoons and documentaries.

In my opinion, I'd much rather it was Santa Claus than an actual burning star. An literal star, if it got too close, would fricassee Christ and completely obliterate the earth. You don't mess around with stars. Our sun is a star, 93 million miles away, and look at the damage it does. But Santa Claus, being a person, whatever star quality he has, gives things a personal touch. He can rip across the sky, leading the Wise Men, then double back and make sure they're not lost. When Herod goes out to look at the star, he can be hiding in an alley. Then back up! And most importantly, he can hover right above the stable and point to it without fricasseeing anyone.

I'd love to sit down with Santa and get his take on this stuff. Wow! To think, all those years when I was a kid, I was in the same house with him. However briefly. But always asleep. There on my little bundle of straw, my parents standing on either side of me, looking down, with sheep, donkeys, and cattle lowing. Waking up to the Little Drummer Boy, who back then was my parents' paperboy. We don't have paperboys anymore; now it's just a guy tossing it from his truck and roaring off.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

"Giftus Thinga" Learns True Meaning of Christmas

Since about August there's been real despair at the manger scene in Bethlehem. Despite the best preparations for Christmas, they could find no new creature to share the true meaning of Christmas. Which, as we've heard all our lives, is very important.

The Lord is born! Wise men came from the East, and then over the years various other characters appeared, representing all creation: Chipmunks, beavers, birds, Frosty the Snowman, Little Drummer Boys, Little Drummer Girls, misfit toys ... The very last of the ordinary animals to come was in fact just a few years ago, the mole. Being an underground animal, no one thought to dig one up and take it.

With the mole used, every year they've been looking for other new things. Even microscopic things. Last year was touch and go, until they discovered Grubby the Pool Virus, found in a dank corner of the dressing room. Related both to dirty feet and poor janitorial work, Grubby, like Frosty, "came to life one day," and Christmas was saved.

I've been keeping track of the search most of this year. They've been using some of my global contacts, thanks to the blog, meaning I've been scouring the Ukraine and a few of the other more exotic countries of the world. Remember Mauritius? I get hits there, too, and I'm always thinking it's almost obscure enough to have new life.

Manger authorities even asked me to get hold of any scientist friends I may have, not wanting to leave any stone unturned in the search. I thought "stones unturned," and immediately thought of Neil Shubin, famous for turning rocks and discovering that each of us is descended not just from other mammals, but reptiles, then fish. Someone in Sunday School a couple weeks ago (true story) said, "Jesus wasn't a reptile." I immediately thought of Neil, but was wise enough to keep my mouth shut. Anyway, I called Brother Shubin, but the best he could do was a fossilized fur follicle from a Tribble. We already got Tribbles to the manger in '68.

So the search has continued fruitlessly. Imagine, then, my huge shock, when just yesterday, right here at my place, one of the heads in a Christmas present I was getting ready to send to a reader was granted life!  How about that? I bought 40,000 of these gifts and, like, the tenth one I'm handling starts moving! One little snaky, floppy, head thing, now going by the preliminary scientific moniker "Giftus Thinga-ma-Whatsit," came to life!

Yes, it's small, dinky, extremely tiny and insignificant. It's actually little more than a head and stem. But there's a few strings falling from it, like delicate roots. Probably the beginnings of a spine. I thought I saw movement, but denied it. Then it moved even more and was even looking around, all very tentatively. The signs of life increased by the second. Twisting and morphing, morphing and twisting.

I sat it down and told it the true meaning of Christmas, just in case it died, then called Bethlehem and got it on a plane to the Holy Land, and they said it arrived at the stable about an hour ago. With beautiful light beams coming from the manger in response!

Friends, this is it! Whether you're a pool virus, a chipmunk, or a brand new Giftus Thinga, the true meaning of Christmas is here, love, light, greatness and power, the Divine Word within everything. What's in it for you? How about free plane tickets to Bethlehem? .... if your story's convincing enough to the powers that be.

Monday, December 22, 2014

My Christmas Gift to My Readers

It's almost Christmas Day! And that means something to me, lots of things. One thing it means, very relevant to this blog, is getting something out to each of my readers. To show my love and appreciation. 2014 has been a great year.

As you remember, last year it was a French silk pie for many of you. Then I had a few complaints, what you might expect. 1) Too fattening; 2) Distribution was poor; 3) Many were left out; 4) Several pies were crushed by the time they arrived, etc. So pies were out this year.

Not only that, but the number of readers has grown so much. Now I'm getting around 36,000 regulars, almost too many for me to keep up on, with birthdays, clothing sizes, letters back and forth about family milestones, and everything.  I needed something that's good quality, sure to please, and easy to ship. So I got each one something very much like what you see in the picture, a planter with funny little creatures with big eyes popping out. Very nice, aren't they?

Then, being ever the optimist, even though I only needed 36,000, I figured by Christmas I might have another 4,000 readers, so, hell, let's just get an even 40,000. At $8 a pop, that's ... It's quite a bit, but what's money when it comes to making someone's Christmas a little merrier? Grandpa and Grandma left me a little cash. I keep it in the very bottom of the freezer. Right under the fish I still have from the mid-'60s. Then there's my own disability payments (game toe). I've been able to save back around $10 every check.

It's the least I can do. I remember what Christmas always meant to me as a kid. Back then I got dolls. Grandma made them. Jet black, like a quaint old world craft. Lovely. Except I used to dream of them sitting up suddenly in the night, going, "Mama!" I'd wake up in shock. Whatever gender ambiguity you may have noticed in me, it started about that time. "I'm not your mother," I'd think, then I'd wonder, "Maybe I am. I don't know anymore."

Everyone please be patient, your planter's almost on its way. Right now they're individually wrapped and stacked to the ceiling, both house and garage, with a few thousand in the cellar. I have a couple of high school girls -- maybe they're boys -- getting extra credit for doing this kind of charity work. They'll be helping me get them to the post office, so everything's going to work out for your happiness, and mine.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Spaceship Library Lifts Its Way Upward



In my whole life I've never been in the library before it opens. So I don't know what goes on, which might be for the best. I like imagination. I've been in churches and seen the holy stuff behind the scenes and it ruins the mystery. Whether libraries have any mystery, I don't know; of course they have a mystery section, maybe sort of the same.

So far, library openings only exist in my occasional thoughts. I try not to get there early, since I hate being one of those guys standing outside. There's all the nasty etiquette of people holding the door for you, or you holding the door for others. I prefer the system of every man for himself, but there's always do-gooders willing to wait for you to make your way from the parking garage. Let the place open, let those people advance to their table, then go in...

If a library opening is like the opening of a play, that'd be cool. But since it's everyday, probably not. They're counseling everyone, "You did great in rehearsal, don't worry about it." "Break a leg." "Show 'em who's boss." "Don't take any crap from the critics." "The only critic that matters is the audience." Then they see me, "Excuse me, sir, why are you backstage? Why are you taking notes? Security!"

Today I got to the library just before it opened, which meant I had to witness the unfortunate door etiquette, terrible as always. It was somewhat relieved by a guy in a pickup being wedged funny in the parking ramp entrance, leading to some reverie over the pickle he was in. "How would you even get in a pickle like that? How would you even do it? Go up over the curb without knowing it, then you're stuck?"

Looking at the place standing big and rectangular in the rain, and the various attendants standing at the ready, I thought of a big spaceship. The clouds are coming down heavily. It's Falling Skies, except we're going to escape, not fight. They're taking us to another planet, maybe in a different galaxy, with our only enemies the figments of our imagination. The place will rise silently from the ground, just a hum.

The library director stands on the bridge with his main crew, the members of which will never die, come what may. The guy at the "Ask" desk may die -- I've had a run-in with him in the past -- he's minor. Many others may perish in future episodes. But for today, right now, everything's great. The director gets their attention -- just before the opening and launch -- to tell them their mission is important. "You will be attending to our passengers as they wing their way in flights of imagination. Every little kid with a picture book is in your care. All the way down to the old man with the coarse gloves without fingers, the gloves not the man..."

His crew chuckles. They've been through his talks many times, but they're always inspired by his dedication. Knowing that each of them also is in his tender care; he's willing to sacrifice himself for them; fortunately it never comes to that; in space it might.

All's aboard who's coming aboard. We look out on a world now being consumed by every apocalypse known to gods or men. I see much gnashing of teeth, many arms outstretched toward the library. But we're already off the ground. There's no going back, even if we wanted. We must escape. I run to the southern windows. I see my car on top of the ramp, the last time I'll ever see her. I wonder, "What will happen to her? Which of these zombies will get her? How many will be killed again and again fighting for her? Surely she'll be a burnt out hulk this time tomorrow."

Next stop, some other galaxy! Need to find a table and settle in.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Why Exactly Did We Forgive Japan?

I'm normally quick to forgive people their faults and sins. I know I've done a few evil things, like one Thanksgiving I ate way too much pie. I did it, I wasn't proud of it, but after a time of penance I forgave myself. I believe others deserve the same consideration.

But what about actually being at war with someone, even a World War? Is that not at least arguably worse than overeating on a holiday designed for food? I think it is. In the case of World War II, and America's war with Japan, you've got outright treachery at play, then all the sorrow and suffering that went with it. It's still something that brings a lot of grief. I saw an old guy at the memorial reliving it just this year. He didn't look reconciled.

I hadn't seen Tora! Tora! Tora! since the early '70s, but saw it again the other day, the disaster now streaming on TV on demand. Japan's Original Sin against us can never go away. We're forever waking up on December 7 -- if we're in Hawaii's time zone -- to the coming of planes in a sneak attack for the ages. It's gut-wrenching. There's also the movie The Final Countdown. Kirk Douglas goes back in time, thanks to a weird storm at sea, and is about to take down the Japanese before they can attack. Unfortunately, the storm reappears and he's back in 1980, having not changed a thing. That tells me the Japanese were damned lucky.

A bigger take on it is to conclude: The only way to prevent Pearl Harbor is ... there's not a way to prevent it now that it's happened. All we can do now is what we originally did, go to war against them, destroy them, then hold a grudge forever. (We're not forgiving Al Qaeda anytime soon!) What we actually did is only half good. We went to war and destroyed them, but then we promptly forgave them. All I know is I was born within 10 years of VJ Day and my first toys were made in Japan. That's not right.

Is my argument, then, against my parents? I hadn't thought of it, but maybe so. They either bought those toys or allowed someone else to. I didn't buy them myself. These are the same parents, by the way -- speaking of my mom -- who taught me, "Once burned, twice wary." Wonder why she was such a huge hypocrite, applying that teaching to me swiping cookies from the jar but allowing the Japanese complete leeway. She and Dad are both gone now, so I'll have to work out this mystery myself.

Probably they were simply going along with the rest of society. It's hard to buck the trend. They thought, "Japan's destroyed, they're tamed, they're under control." We occupied them for a while -- my mom collected "Occupied Japan" nicknacks -- then turned them loose, to be as duplicitous as they wanted, if that's what they chose. In the '60s, Japan sent us crap. In the '70s, it improved. In the '80s, we couldn't keep up with them. Our stuff was crap, their stuff gold. "Who won this goddamned war anyway?" my grandpa might've asked, had he not died in the '70s. He talked like that.

From where I sit -- not able to see past my personal horizons -- it's only a matter of time... As far as I know, Japan's already amassed enough weaponry, force, and the will to use it to pay us back big time. I hate the thought, but in a way the comeuppance would suit us, having forgiven them and ignorantly trusted them. I never liked Reagan, but I like what he said, "Trust but verify." As it turns out, the Land of the Midnight Sun somehow has light for their path and it's us who dwell in darkness. It's all something for future generations -- if there should be any -- to contemplate.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Strict Limit -- One Question a Month

There's a guy I know who used to run me almost ragged asking questions. Infernal questions! Enough questions to make me horribly uncomfortable; he was so curious, it's ridiculous. But bit by bit I worked to reduce his idiotic quirk. Now we're down to a few questions whenever we're together. But I'm hoping to go whole hog and limit his questions to only one a month! Think it can be done?

Once I spell it out for him, he'll know the rules, and, by God, if he wants to be my friend he'll have to try his damnedest to follow them. I'm literally sick of him anyway, so what have I got to lose? Plus, if I'm somehow able to drive him batty, maybe he'll shrivel up to nothing and blow away. Of course I kid, we're friends, he knows that. But we'll never get anywhere unless he makes progress and accepts this limit. I can always be "sick" when he calls and wants to come over.

OK, here's how I see it going. Looking ahead, let's say we're at March. We get together, I explain the rule. And he asks, "Why only one a month?" I say, "That's your question, and here's my answer, Because that's the rule." No more questions till next month.

April rolls around and he goes, "Could I have more than one question?" That's it, he asked his question, and here's my answer, "No, the rule says one a month."

Now it's been a couple months, and he's getting so used to not asking me things, May is suddenly here and he's like, "I can't think of anything. Could you help me come up with a question?" That's his question, he's stuck for another month.

Now it's June, "What's the point of this?" he asks. That's his question!

In July, he's totally stunted and won't ask a question to beat the band. "Are you going to ask your question?" I say. But he only looks up at me with big dull eyes, so beaten down, so stuck inhabiting perplexity, and to such a degree, he doesn't know what to ask. I look at him with a certain amount of sorrow welling up in me. He's sitting on the couch, his arms positioned like he's in a straitjacket. And he's rocking back and forth.

I bring him treats, snacks, instant oatmeal, fruit roll-ups, etc., doing my best to nurture him along with tea, donuts, etc. I'm coaxing, pleading, wheedling, setting it out that he was once a guy of such inquisitiveness, and now is so bound up, having totally psyched himself into a silent stupor. He's a pathetic, wispy reminder of his former vital talkative self. O the greatness of his former curiosity, now fallen, now utterly fallen!

I think, "Good God, what have I done?" To see him bowed and broken like this. This could be something I could make money on, sell tricks like this to the CIA. Although we've been taught never to look for useful information in torture. But was it torture? I reject the inference.

Now, though, it's torture for me! I beg and plead yet more. He looks at me with those big bloodshot eyes (how good it is to see them open again, even a slight crack). Then, finally, at end of opening them, his lips twitch and also start to open.... I think I can hear the faint beginnings of sound bubbling through the spittle.

I tell him like a mother hen, "Go ahead, my friend, it's another month, please ask me your question."

It's tough going but at long last I hear his feeble response, "Who, me?" Ahh! That's your question! We're done for another month! I'm doing the happy dance, a dance around the room, looking ahead to another whole month of silence, just as it should've always been.

I'm Finally Getting That Lap Dance

Celebrate with me! It's been a day of great success! I'm finally getting the lap dance I've always wanted, even though I've always been too reticent/cautious/embarrassed to actually go there and get one. Now -- better late than never -- it's all arranged.

And all the credit goes to the Spirit of Christmas and Generosity, believe it or not. We were out for lunch and got on the subject of what we should get each other for Christmas, this woman I know. We've known each other for a number of years, and, both of us getting older, it seems like we don't need stuff like we used to. This goes for my other old friends, too; it's getting harder and harder to get for them.

Anyway, I've had this idea for some time, but, like above, I've been too reticent, etc., to say anything about it. This time, I don't know what got into me -- blame it on the patty melt -- I just laid it on the line. My big idea... I know she likes working on handcrafts, for one. And I've long had the idea of getting a lap dance, ever since I talked to this guy I know who said he was at a bachelor party and got one. At the Kit Kat Klub. Everyone knows the place east of town.

Anyway, like I said, she likes handcrafts, so here's our arrangement. I'm going to get her a wallet kit, the kind made from rawhide where you stitch up the edges with leather. The kit comes with a nice big needle, so it's just like sewing. Then, more than just stitching it, you have these cool metal stamps, similar to rubber stamps. You heat them on the stove and press them into the leather and they leave very sharp western designs. I think the last bit of the craft is to insert a few plastic sheets inside, a great place to store family photos or possibly a driver's license. I'll also give her $40.

So far, so good. Then I spelled it out to her what I want her to do with it. When I'm dead, and when they cremate me and give my ashes to whoever -- it'll all be set out in my will -- she'll get the ashes and fill the wallet full, leaving just enough room for the $40. Sticking out the top. She'll take the wallet to the Kit Kat Klub, find the hottest dancer -- a blonde or redhead -- and arrange for the lap dance on it. Of course the money will be for the dancer, and I'll just have to settle for whatever a guy gets for $40.

It'll be everything a decent stripper could want, right? Easy work. Money. No fuss, no muss. Maybe a few ash spots on her behind.

So she said yes, even though the "gift" for me for Christmas probably won't be realized for quite a while. I'm feeling great, on top of the world, even though I won't likely be getting it this year. But someday! I hope I'll be able to look down and see it, but even if not, I'll still be happy up there, just knowing things played out as I wanted.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

December's Real Day: Christmas

Yesterday was December 2. Tomorrow is December 4. And so on. Whoop de doo! Big deal...

The truth is, and everyone knows it, the only real day in December is Christmas Day, December 25. Everything leads up to it. And everything after it is a letdown. Nothing is redeemed until January 1.

We see the big number -- 25 -- and it tells the whole story of December. We always think, "How many days till Christmas? Get us there!" We might ask how many more meaningless days till the suffering's over and Christmas finally gets here. At the beginning of the month it's quite a few, over three weeks, three boring weeks, three weeks of days that may as well not even exist, except for one reason, no one's figured out what to do with them.

A guy hates to say three weeks of his life is simply worthless. Because those days, arguably, could be real life, life and potential that you shouldn't wish to hibernate through just to get to Christmas. That doesn't seem like how we should live. My instinct is to say that every day of my life should be meaningful, worthwhile, and lived to its fullness. But when you have a huge day like Christmas looming there, like a black hole, it sucks in everything around it, even three weeks out. We go inexorably toward it, then afterward we start breaking free of its gravity, and we wonder what happened.

It's amazing then that we have to crawl to December 31 just to get started again with normal life. Even as it itself is something of a semi-holiday, existing as it does right on the cusp of January 1. December 31 and January 1 are like parts one and two of the same thing. Like Christmas Eve -- to a lesser extent, because of the magnitude of Christmas -- and Christmas Day are sort of parts one and two. I like Christmas Eve for this reason, because Christmas isn't over; it's just beginning. But I have something of a problem with Christmas, because it gets here then slips through our hands ... just like that.

We hear how people are very depressed on Christmas. I know how that goes. It's because we tend to shrink in size (mentally, psychologically) the more magnificent our surroundings, in this case the day itself. Then, for all its magnitude -- and this in part is in the nature of the shrinking -- it's still slipping away like any other day. We're anxious! Have we done with the day what needs to be done? Have we done it properly? Are we anything like the Christmastime observers of old that we know from songs, cards, artwork, and memory? So many of us feel like total failures.

Now, of course none of us asked for this. We may not want it to be this way, but there it is. There's nothing we can do about it. The years, the decades, and centuries have set Christmas in place, the dominant day of the month, the black hole at the heart of it, and now the entire holiday complex it's become orders our lives as the month arrives and proceeds. Everything aims toward it, and the residue is full of Christmas leftovers and aftertaste.

This year, speaking for myself, I'm going to try my best ... not to fight back, that's not the word ... but to try to redeem those other days. I might go about it like this. "Christmas Spirits, past, present, and future ... I know you're listening and watching, and want me to maintain my allegiance to your day. I promise I will! But until then, please let me give these other days of the month some small attention. Perhaps, with your leave, I shall read for an hour, then burrow down again in hibernation. Would that be so much? You'd surely agree that's honoring time as well as honoring Christmas. Because I'm letting Christmas approach in its own time, not rushing it, not delaying it. Hoping for your approval,  your humble servant, etc., etc. Amen."

I hope that works out, because for once in my life I want a December that I can remember having lived, apart from Christmas Day. Which is a great day -- Spirits, don't get me wrong! It's just that I'm getting so old and want the other days of my life to be good, too, each one.