Monday, January 21 - MLK Day

1) Humidifier.

2) This morning’s devotional included #286 from Baltasar Gracián’s The Art of Worldly Wisdom: “Don’t go completely into debt with anyone and everyone . . . Freedom is more precious than the gift that makes us lose it . . . Above all, when yo are given an obligation, don’t take it as a favor. Most of the time it is the cleverness of others that has placed you in that position.”

3) With less than two hours to go, it’s an open question whether I’ll get something significant accomplished by 11 AM, but that doesn’t mean I’m giving up!

Sunday Midday, January 20

1) Awake at 5 AM. Parlor coffee and devotional. Mark 3:24; “And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.” Also Mark 3: 5: “And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts . . . “

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2) Team 75 got the shoveling done by 9:15! I served up some good chicory coffee afterward.

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3) Published my column on the Gillette ad and those mean boys from Kentucky before 11 AM, so it’s a good day. I could not find a place for this important dialogue from Myra Breckinridge:

Myra: How should a man act?

Rusty: He should ball chicks!

You have to see the movie to understand how badly that worked out for him.

Friday Morning, February 18

1) Coffee in bed. I used to do this quite a lot, but much more rarely now. But I slept poorly, and this bed is so comfortable . . . where would this civilization be without flannel sheets?

2) Yesterday evening, waiting for dinner guests, I took this personality quiz from ye FyveThyrtyEight. The results really surprised me - and probably shouldn’t have. Can an old dog learn new tricks?

3) In this morning’s Times, a fascinating piece about alternative museum tours in museums in England from non-traditional points of view held my attention. Non-traditional as in from the point of view of cultural appropriation/looting or non-heterosexual history, etc. As one who loves museums, I love seeing how this is engaging museum goers.

BONUS) Long weekend coming, a long weekend of weather! Shoveling will certainly be a part of it, but so will yoga, half a coconut cake, and a lot of writing.

Wednesday Morning, January 16

1) For the first time in . . . in . . . in forever, I was happy and ready to get out of bed when the alarm went off. Not bounding with energy and bouncing off the walls, just gently smiling and without a feeling of heaviness, and with vague memories of a happy dream.

2) Coffee and devotional in the gray room yielded tough love from an old article from ye Fyste Cympany: “You need to keep your calendar empty if you’re going to get anything significant done, like [write a book.]” I’m hardly swanning around with the bon ton, but the past few days my thoughts have been preoccupied with filling the calendar, not with creative progress.

3) It’s official. Yesterday’s column on the President serving fast food got more views than any column in 2018.

Christmas Vacation 2018, Days Six and Seven - Christmas and Day of the False Departure

1) Mother and I ended up not having a Christmas dinner at all as planned, but after our very nice surprise visit with the neighbors, we each had a big ol’ NAP, and barely even exchanged a gift each before the arrival of the Tylers. The gift from me that Mother opened was a new-edition Scrabble dictionary; the gift from her I opened was a small brass easel on which to stand small pictures or plates for display.

1a) We usually exchange one gift apiece on Christmas morning, but somehow we didn’t do that this year.

2) I was just about to get into the tub for a Big Soak when I got a call from Laura that they were half an hour away. So I changed course for the shower and could emerge freshly clean and pressed almost as soon as they arrived via motorcycle and van.

3) Youger Nephew Who Must Not Be Tagged and his wife had not joined earlier Christmas Day festivities due to work commitments, but they were able to join us eventually so that we could commence exchanging gifts. Among other things I got a small thick blank book embossed with a Buddha and with a complicated brass lock, a small black Japanese “happy cat” figurine,” a T-shirt with the entire text of Alice in Wonderland printed on it around a design of the White Rabbit, a copy of How Not to Be a Dick: An Everyday Etiquette Guide, a very very dark plaid shirt, and a thick cream-colored scarf that had belonged to my grandmother (and which is perfect to wear with both my gray overcoat and my black cape.)

4) We moved on to Christmas supper of ham chowder prepared by Niece Who Must Not Be Tagged. I now sit in my daddy’s place at the head of the table; this year the children were in the four seats closest to me, and they really speak their own language. It’s like my own language of lines from Movies of the Golden Age of Hollywood, only their cultural references come from places I don’t even know. Later they showed me a compilation of Vines on the Yewtybbe, so now at least I know where “An avocado!” comes from.

5) The household wound down early, but I stayed up until after 10 PM, only to pass a fitful night - not unusual on the night before flying.

6) Up at 7 AM, and Laura and I took off for the mall after a catch-as-catch-can breakfast so I could snatch up a particular gift for someone at ye Dyllyarde’s. My brother-in-law took off even before we left on his motorcycle to beat the rain.

7) Now I am just not one of those people who beat down the doors to go to after-Christmas sales, but there was something I particularly had my eye on, and Laura was game, God bless her. My goodness, the excitement of the two dozen or so ladies assembled at the entrance when the doors opened! And to my dismay, they were all headed to the department where I, too, was headed. But there was no cutthroat atmosphere, all quite friendly. I found what I was looking for - and then my head went completely blank.

8) Laura and I retreated for coffee at ye Styrbyckke’s and got to catch up on family and other stuff. We made a tour of the mall looking for shoes for Mother and getting a few ideas.

9) En route home, as we circumnavigated the rotary from Prien Lake onto Holly Hill, I unintentionally started a debate on some of the Big Social Issues by mentioned that they should put a statue on the hillock at the center of the rotary.

10) And indeed, the mood had become very end-of-holiday as I turned my focus onto packing all my gifts and clothes, stripping the bed and getting a load of wash in, and all those other necessary tasks.

11) Niece and Mother prepared lunch - mostly the menu Mother and I were going to enjoy for our Christmas dinner - for which Oldest Nephew Who Must Not Be Tagged joined us. My niece did a great job!

12) All the women in the house went off to buy shoes, leaving me on my own to finish packing, bathe, and sort through the conservative junk mail. I think I put over two dozen envelopes in the mail.

13) The weather had turned to rain - I never like flying in bad weather - and when we got to the airport, I didn’t let the family come in to see me get checked in or wait around. Mother really likes to do this, so she was disappointed. The airline staff were very friendly as usual, and even showed me how to download the airline’s app onto my phone. “You’ll probably get updates before we will,” they said . . . which was prescient, since about 20 minutes later I got an update on the app that my flight was cancelled! I made a beeline to the counter, where they rebooked me on the first flight out Thursday.

14) About 20 minutes later the family retrieved me, and off we went to Y*** S***, the Chinese restaurant closest to Mother’s house, where she and Daddy used to go.

15) Back at home, Laura trounced both Mother and me at Scrabble. Indeed, I turned out to be the beetlebomb. Whom the gods destroy, they first give all the letters for a perfect Q word without the Q.

16) Dead beat, I headed off to bed at the ridiculous hour of 8:15 PM, only to wake up at midnight - and to learn that my rebooked flight has also been cancelled, and I have now been ticketed (but without a seat) on the midday flight. I love traveling safely, and I am grateful for all the air traffic controllers and ground crews and pilots and co-pilots and airline staff who keep us all safe when we fly. But it’s also time to get home to Boston, and I am hoping the weather, and the confusion, will clear sufficiently for that to happen both safely and NOW.

Christmas Vacation, Day Five - Christmas Eve

1) This morning the house felt chaotic, with stimuli coming from every direction: an internet flirtation (!), alarming news via email from a friend, Oldest Nephew Who Must Not Be Tagged coming to put up the Christmas tree and talking with Mother about the Big Social Issues, Mother proposing alternate recipes for Christmas supper since Niece Who Must Not Be Tagged was still asleep and hadn’t gone shopping for the One Remaining Ingredient, and on and on.

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2) But eventually, and after many questions from Mother along the lines of “Are you sure this is right?” and “Even though we didn’t do it that way last year?”, I got the tree decorated! This is the year Mother wants us to take home the ornaments we feel are “ours,” and it occurs to me (hours later) that there are some that are missing. But I am very happy with the overall results.’

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3) For awhille I suppressed a silent panic that my beloved Japanese paper angel musicians had disappeared, as they weren’t in any of the boxes. But as soon as I mentioned this (quite calmly) to Mother, she retrieved them from their hiding place. Bliss! I love my little Japanese paper angel musicians. Originally there were six, but now they are just a quartet.

3a) When you were little, did you play with the Christmas tree ornaments, and did all the ones that were people and/or animals talk to each other and interact? Ours certainly did, and that’s why I continue to hang them on the bottom branches.

4) Oldest Nephew Who Must Not Be Tagged had Christmas Eve plans with his own church community, and while Niece Who Must Not Be Tagged said she would go with us to the 5:30 Christmas Eve service, she was sound asleep at quarter to five, and I didn’t have the heart to wake her. So Mother, looking splendid in her red jacket, and I in my daddy’s green ultrasuede blazer, drove off to First Methodist and arrived a good 20 minutes or so early (a novel experience for Mother!) - and a good thing, too, or we might not have gotten seats near the front.

My view.

My view.

5) Not unusually, the church was packed, which is why there are three services on Christmas Eve. Just before the service started, Mother turned to me and said “This is my family.” First Methodist has been Mother’s bedrock since she married there in 1955, and I know how she feels. Where on earth would I be without the community of friends I found myself in almost 30 years ago?! They are my bedrock.

6) Leaving afterward, Mother asked to drive by the front of the church to see the large lighted cross. So I kept going down Broad Street to Lakeshore Drive, turned left, and passed the extravaganza of Christmas lights at the civic center and Bord du Lac Park! I thought we might keep going down Shell Beach Drive to look at the Christmas lights (for out-of-towners, Shell Beach Drive is the street of large old important houses in Lake Charles, right on the lake), but the traffic was so very much at a standstill that I turned off and we headed home through town.

7) Niece said she had awakened only ten minutes before we got there, but she served us some of her good ham chowder for dinner.

8) The rest of the evening continued with the wrapping of remaining gifts, laundry, political commentary (yes, I am to blame), dishwashing, and other preparations for tomorrow. Niece is being collected at 8 AM, and Mother and I will have until 4ish to celebrate Christmas on our own before the arrival of Laura’s family.

9) All of us are dead beat and looking forward to a good night’s sleep.