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No Christmas, 2022

After three days homebound due to the ice, I emerged from the shared house on Saturday morning the 24th. It was 50°, and most of the ice had already been rained away. Winter comes to Seattle sometimes, but never stays long.

The family breakfast was just me and my sister Katrina, and her friend Adelle. Mom wasn't there. She was doing Christmas Eve all day at her grandchildren's house.

The three of us had a very pleasant and non-judgmental conversation, and nobody told me I need work on my teeth. Trying to be healthy, I ate less than I usually have at the diner, with fewer sides and no coffee. Basically, I ate one breakfast instead of two, and you know what? It was enough.

With me having less to eat, and without Mom lingering to sip more and more coffee and finish every drop of her water for its health value, the three of us were out of the diner in about 40 minutes, instead of our usual hour and ten minimum. Then we had a holiday visit with Hazel, my other sister, who's seriously disabled.

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Nobody much knows what to say to Hazel, so seeing her is always awkward, almost surreal. Every visit starts and ends with hugs and "How ya doing?", but we all know how she's doing. Basically, she's just lying there.

This time we said "Merry Christmas" as well, but between the beginning and the end what do you say to someone who mostly understands what you're saying but can't easily make herself understood? Hazel was watching a Hallmark movies anyway, as she has been every time I've visited, and she watches the screen about as much as she watches us, so I feel like we're keeping her from her Hallmark.

I tried hard. We all did, and we always do, but after five minutes of hello and the basics, Katrina and Adelle and I mostly talked among ourselves, occasionally saying something to Hazel. 

At one point, the three of us (four, if Hazel counts) were talking briefly and shallowly about regrets, about how our lives might've been different if only this, if only that. Then we talked about news and politics and the shitty state of the world, and Adelle said, "If I could change one or two things I would, but mostly the world is pretty good the way it is."

All I said to that was, "There's about a billion things I'd change," and then I shut up. If I'd kept talking I would've had to talk all morning and into the afternoon and evening and I'd still be talking.

One or two things Adelle would change? Wow. 

Maybe I'd leave one or two things unchanged, but I can't even say what. Seems to me everything — all the systems that add up to America and the world — should be enthusiastically burned to the ground, and restructured in ways that work for little people, real people, but don't work quite so well for profits and lies and corporations and charlatans. That's a reversal of everything, but the subject was quickly and wisely changed.

Katrina asked about the story of the Hallmark movie still playing as backdrop, and Hazel tried to explain, but nobody could understand her. "Hallmark movies don't need to be explained," I said with a smile.

Then we sang half a dozen Christmas carols. I was surprised to still know most of the lyrics, despite not hearing or singing "O Come All Ye Faithful" or most of the others over my several decades without Christmas.

Finally we said goodbye and "Merry Christmas" a few more times, and then we were gone. Katrina said that on the next day, the 25th, Mom would be visiting Hazel, along with my brother Dick and his kooky wife Young-sook.

They'll probably sing the same carols and shout "Merry Christmas" as they leave an hour later, and like us, they won't have much else to say.

Hazel has been in bed almost 24/7 for nearly fifty years. She lives in what seems to be a nice nursing home, but it's very difficult and even dangerous for her to get out of bed. Few of the other patients speak English, so I doubt Hazel has any friends except the cast of the Hallmark Channel.

I love her and always will, but realistically, I don't see how she could have a merry Christmas.

That said, merry Christmas, Hazel.

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I'd specifically told everyone in the family and all my few friends, no gifts please, but Katrina brought something gift-wrapped. She gave it to me as she dropped me off at home, after we'd visited Hazel.

I said "Thanks, but you shouldn't have," but I didn't say, "and I really, really wish you hadn't."

Christmas, man. Is it over yet?

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Inside my shared house, Robert and Dean were in the kitchen, and Dean invited me to join them for the next day's Christmas dinner. "It'll be roast beef and a few side dishes," he said — the same menu he'd made for our flatmates' Thanksgiving.

Spending an hour making small talk with Robert, my other flatmate, is something I've done and would do again. Small talk with Dean is unendurable, though. He only, always wants to talk about great meals he's cooked, and great compliments his meals have received, and the virtues of unsalted butter. Mostly, he wants to talk.

As a rule, I avoid anything instinct or experience tells me won't be pleasant. This includes smoking, heavy drinking, hard drugs, exercise, anchovies, churches, funerals, and Christmas, and definitely it includes Christmas with Dean, so I declined.

"Nope, sorry, I'll be having Christmas with my family," I said, which was a lie.

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Kudos to my family, though, for giving me the day off from Christmas. I'd expected lots more invitations to decline, and nagging to come to holy church services or whatever, but there's been little of that.

Apparently, they've heard and respected my wishes, and read my "Merry No Christmas" emails and texts. Most of them seem to have gotten the message.

As Christmas approached, Mom, of course, invited me to spend Christmas Eve with her grandchildren and their parents, and to spend Christmas with more grandchildren of different parents. The grandchildren and their parents are people I barely know and seriously would not recognize if they passed me on the sidewalk, so I said no thanks to each invitation — and amazingly, Mom didn't re-invite me.

She'd asked me three times to come to the Christmas services at her church, and three times I'd said nope, but she didn't make it a battleground, and other than that there were no invitations to decline. The only slight annoyance has been a dozen "Merry Christmas" texts that came yesterday, the 25th, which I replied to with "Happy Day After" the day after.

This feels like victory, and without even the scent of napalm in the air. Moving back to Seattle, Christmas was my biggest concern — that the family wouldn't allow it to be just another day. They're allowing it, so maybe this is a new and improved family situation. God bless us, every one.

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There was one more slight bit of Christmas, though. For decades, I went to a movie with all the fixins on Christmas day, but that tradition has trickled away, as movie theaters have become such unpleasant places to be, between the ticket prices and the half-hour of ads and the people who never stop talking and the stinking cheeseburgers and pizza delivered loudly in the auditorium — and of course, the shitty movies.

Nowadays, the only thing that usually happens on my Christmas is an Asian lunch or dinner, so I Googled cheap Asian restaurant nearby, and came up with Golden Daisy at Seattle's Southcenter mall.

Leon, my long-time friend, has no local family, and most of his distant family annoys him, so I emailed and asked if he'd like to join me at Golden Daisy.

"Is it good?" he asked.

"I've never been there," I said, "but Google says it's cheap and they're open on Christmas."

"Sounds great to me," he said, and we met at the mall's main bus stop. The restaurant is part of a food court, inside Lam's Seafood, a big Asian grocery store about a mile south of the mall.

We had a good time, talking about nothing at all — the Seahawks, old friends, dead people, and the big freeze on Friday. Of great cheer, the subject of Christmas didn't come up even once.

I enjoyed the food more than Leon did. Mine was dim sum, sort of — three sets of three dough-wrapped balls, all of which were quite good. One set was shrimp, but the other two I'm not sure what they were. Good, though. And cheap.

Leon ordered something that looked like noodles but had the consistency of rubber bands. He hated it, but I can eat almost anything, so I traded it for one of each of my doughballs.

It was tripe — the edible lining from the stomachs of cattle, pigs or sheep, says Wikipedia. It really grossed out Leon, both when he tried but failed to eat it, and again when he looked it up at home and found out what it was. He's the one who ordered it, though. "I wanted to see what it was," he said.

It was rubber bands for lunch, that's what it was, but it tasted good and had an even better aftertaste. I'd eat tripe again. Leon wouldn't.

We had two half-dollar-size egg cakes for dessert, and then Leon drove home, and I stayed to do some shopping inside Lam's.

I didn't buy as much as I usually do at an Asian grocery, because it's usually the Asian sweets and treats I want, and I am seriously trying to avoid such stuff. All I bought was all-American dish soap and Korean hot sauce for dipping cucumbers into at home.

The newer and healthier me saved about twenty bucks by eating and buying less, and that's pretty good both ways. 

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The bus ride home was an adventure, but I'll save that story for another day.

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At home I unavoidably listened through the door as Robert and Dean ate roast beef for Christmas dinner. Neither of them knocked to re-invite me, and for that I'm thankful.

Through the door I heard their boring merriment — mostly about Dean's career as a chef, unsalted butter, and Seahawks football — but it was soon drowned out by a so-so movie in my room, with the volume cranked up high.

After they'd finished, I went into the kitchen and had a half-wilted salad, but salad tastes fine until it's ⅔ wilted.

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Now it's the day after Xmas, and Katrina has texted me "Did you like it?" so I had to open the present she gave me, and say thank you and all.

It's a small catnip toy for my cat, and two very large containers of snack food for me — trail mix and mixed nuts. The old me would've opened and inhaled it all in an hour. The new me is going to make it last a week.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

So that was my Merry No Christmas for 2022. I would've much, much rather spent it in Madison with my wife, but she's dead. She's the only friend I had in Wisconsin, so instead I moved home to Seattle.

This was my first Christmas here since the early 1990s, and it was about as minimally Christmas as is allowed.

Whatever you did and however you spent the day, I hope your Christmas was as good as my No Christmas, which was pretty good.

12/26/2022   

19 comments:

  1. I've awaited your christmas entry impatiently, I almost thought you wouldn't post one.

    My christmas was very exhausting, I spent it with the family. Holidays always make me sad, I can't say why; I'm already anxious because of the upcoming New Years Eve. I got invited to some party where I don't wanna go but the only other option is staying home with my dad. I haven't yet decided what's worse.

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    1. > Holidays always make me sad, I can't say why

      The why, I think, is because every corner of American media makes a day with the family and exchanging gifts on 12/25 sound like the happiest, most wonderful day of the year, and with that build-up it can't possibly NOT be a disappointment.

      I don't know who you are, but wow this sounds sad. If you're old enough to say NO to family and Christmas, I recommend it. Sure, there's guilt, but that's nothing compared to the joy of not being there.

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    2. > wow this sounds sad

      Maybe it wasn't meant that way, but that sounded really mean :(

      I don't wanna unpack too much here, so I won't go into details, but you may be (partly) right with the high expectations. At least thats mostly why I don't really like my birthday as well; compared to what I'm thinking most people experience on theirs, mine is always really sad.

      I'm under 20, still living with my parents, and I don't want to move out, I generally like my family and like living with them. But it'd be nice if I could sometimes be fully alone for a few days, especially on holidays, my birthday, and things like that.

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    3. Nothing I said was intended to be mean, sorry. I'm just an old coot with a big mouth. :)

      > But it'd be nice if I could sometimes be fully alone for a few days, especially on holidays, my birthday, and things like that.

      Understood, absolutely. Solitude is a good thing, a necessity of life, no less than food and water. Without time to myself, time for myself, I forget who I am.

      Gotta close the door sometimes. I've perhaps taken that too far, and nobody's opened the door to me for years.

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    4. > Solitude is a good thing, a necessity of life

      I fully agree with you there. I also think your writing made me realize that, or at least played a part in me realizing it. I've become a much happier person lately because I got to know more about myself and what I want/need. So I'm really thankful that you post all this; I've read every single entry on here and as soon as you post a new one I'm probably always among the first who read it. :)

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    5. That's a mighty big compliment. Kinda chokes me up. Thank you, much.

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    6. I've been reading Doug's writing since in the 1990s when it was on paper. He is blunt honest, and crude, but I don't remember him being mean except when someone more than deserved it.

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    7. Hey, I can be mean...

      But yeah, I usually prefer to be kind.

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    8. In the 90s I didn't yet exist, which makes Pathetic Life all the more interesting for me. Also, I kinda envy you that you got to read it all on paper - from what I've read, these zines sound really interesting. Could you maybe post some pictures of your original Pathetic Life zines, Doug? :)

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    9. I don't actually have any copies of the actual zines, only the original typed master-pages. Hundreds of them, held together with paper clips. I have a few jpgs, though.

      Early issues looked like this, just a bunch of 8½x11 sheets stapled in the corner. I had a rubber stamp made, that said PATHETIC LIFE, and stamped each copy, usually with red ink.

      Later issues looked like this, with great covers by Jeff Meyer, and pages stapled in the middle, to be read like a book or magazine.

      And you're right — zines were really interesting, and still are. Anyone with access to a photocopier can make a zine.

      Nowadays, on-paper zines are sold via eBay, and they're still in a few shops like Quimby's.

      Delete
  2. I enjoy your writing, but both of your Christmas's were so tiny, its almost by design you leave no possibility for something to go right and turn the holiday into something that isn't tiny.

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    1. A matter of perspective, I reckon. You want a big Christmas, then by golly spend the money and bake the ham and invite the friends and family. That's what I don't want (except maybe for the ham).

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    2. If you believe a day like Christmas can be a good day, you can make it a good day. If you don't believe and refuse to let it happen, you can opt out I suppose, but why?

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    3. Because I've lived too many disappointing Christmases, and never a one that felt remotely like a wonderful day with family.

      My "tiny" Christmas is nothing compared to whatever you did on the 25th, but it was a billion times better than any Christmas of my experience.

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  3. >For decades, I went to a movie with all the fixins on Christmas day, but that tradition has trickled away, as movie theaters have become such unpleasant places to be

    I may be nuts, but I'm pretty sure that you and I saw at least one Christmas day movie. I remember the place being quite empty.

    About 10 years ago, I wanted to go again, and lines in front of a couple of theaters were stupidly long. People stole the Xmas movie from us!

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  4. You came along, with your then-wife I think, to see a Jackie Chan double feature at the UC in Berkeley with my wife and I, in... 1998, maybe? Then we went to noodles at some Japanese place.

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    1. Perhaps. Usually, I remember the stupid irrelevant shit, but I trust you on this one. Not wife if 98, though, we got married a month after Xmas 98.

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    2. I am happy to be among the stupid irrelevant shit you haven't yet forgotten.

      Delete

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