Tuesday, December 21, 2010

12/21/10 Cold winter's night that was *so* deep

The moon turns coppery red as the last sliver of light slips off the edge into darkness. Katie pulls the blanket she's wearing tighter around her and hides behind me as a freezing wind blasts across the roof, making the bare winter trees creak and moan.

"I feel like this is the end of a lot of things, like this season is the beginning of something new, and I really want to stay to see the moon come out again," I say, staring up at the distant smudge that was once a full moon.

She looks up at it for a few minutes, shivering, until she finally says, plaintively, "Do you mind if I go inside?"

Monday, December 20, 2010

12/20/10 Save all Your Love

The tunnel between the Q train and the 4/5/6 in Union Square is a press of humanity, more than usual even, and I weave between the green metal I-beams that serve as pillars here while trying to side-step the masses blindly hurtling through their day.

"Save all your love," sings Jon Anderson, "to be a better child, to be a better child," and I see these faces, some blank, some sad, some just tired or resigned, and I realize they all were once children.

Christmas insists that God was a child, just like you were a child, like I was a child. I try not to romanticize (an unfortunate tendency of mine), but tears of love well up, and I wipe them away so no one thinks I'm crazy.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

12/17/10 supplemental Wonderful Life

We sit in the dark theater, watching George Bailey's actually kinda tragic life as it collapses around him, until he stands, bereft of hope, looking down into the dark swirling waters beneath the bridge.

Just as he's about to end it all, the angel Clarence jumps into the water, appealing to George's naturally helpful nature. George immediately dives into the water that would have drowned him, and pulls the angel out, unwittingly saving himself in the process.

I lean over to Katie and whisper, "That's a good life lesson: if you just fall in, it's suicide, but if you dive, it's heroism."

Friday, December 17, 2010

12/17/10 Did you forget?

The sign in the jewelry shop in the tunnel leading out of the subway reads, "Did you forget a gift for yourself?" I imagine the person reading that who thinks to themselves about all the gifts they didn't receive, all the times they were disappointed, thinking in their walk, "Yes, I need to get my own gift, since no one will get it for me," even though what they're really wanting is someone who knows them so well, has listened to them over the past year so closely that the gift is an expression of that love.

Later, at the deli, the man behind the counter sharply taps his knife blade on the cutting board every time before slicing a sandwich in half, and this delights me. The music on the radio sings, "All I want for Christmas is you," and I know that gift is the one thing we can't buy for ourselves - the unique expression of another human life as it intertwines with our own.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

12/15/10 Straight to Hell

After three D trains roll by (and Katie has threatened to throw herself in front of the next D that passes), our B train finally arrives, packed with disgruntled commuters.

"Well, some of them have to be getting off," I say, trying to think optimistically.

No one gets off.

We push in, crushed before us by dull-eyed passengers already on the train, from behind by commuting zombies on the platform trying to get on, and Katie says, "Nope, looks like everybody's riding this B train straight to hell!"

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

12/13/10 Passing time

She sits on the couch and tells me about her day.

"By the way - by the way, I cannot believe I haven't told you about this yet. The Mexicans in the kitchen play prison games where they bet five dollars a pop on whether a coin comes up heads or tails. You can hear the coins clinking on the floor of the kitchen while I'm telling my tables the specials. I'm all, 'Yes, the kitchen staff are picking money up off the floor with their bare hands before they make your food, but I'm sure your grilled salmon with a white wine reduction sauce and fingerling potatoes will be just fine.'"

Monday, December 13, 2010

12/12/10 God doesn't mind if you have a good time

The spattering rain is gusting sideways at us as we walk to church, late (as usual), and a little hungover. The party went very late last night, but was one of those perfect parties where you recognize the joy of hanging out past the lightweights to connect with the few folks left over afterwards in a mildly worn out, pleasurable lassitude.

Now we're stumbling through a downpour to go to a later service, and I notice one of the joys of Catholicism is, contrary to my expectations, there's no indication of guilt for any supposed sin I might have committed just by having a good time last night.

Katie's bright yellow raincoat and orange parasol are no match for the deluge, and we slosh into mass, the choir singing, both of us soaked to the knees, and Katie leans over and whispers, "Let's sit close to the front."

12/11/10 a conversation at a party - 2:30 AM

She leans up against the wall, "Yeah, skiing is a lot easier than snowboarding, really. The way they make skis these days, you practically don't have to do anything."

Her eyes look far away as she remembers, "When you get back to the lodge, and you're all cold, and your cheeks are all rosy, and you grab your hot cocoa and put your gloves down to dry by the fire...." And she smiles, as if she were there right now, and wanted nothing better.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

12/10/10 Sometimes I get carried away

"No, but really, it's like, every single artist worth anything has a connection to spirituality, whether they mean it in a religious sense or not," I say, gesturing drunkenly and toweling off.

From behind the shower curtain, she says, "Well, OK, like who?"

Now I'm really getting warmed up, and begin ticking them off on my fingers: "Well, Prince, obviously, and Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross, Bruce Springsteen, Michael Jackson, Jim Morrison...."

She shuts off the water, and sighs in exasperation, "I can't even talk to you when you're like this."

Friday, December 10, 2010

12/9/10 late nights in the slope

The sidewalks of Park Slope roll up at about 11:30, so I walk down to the subway station to pick up Katie after her shift ends. Normally we hold hands, but the cold has us both shoving our hands in our pockets and striding along, hurrying to escape the freezing cold, chatting and laughing even as we keep it moving.

Finally inside the warm apartment building, standing outside our apartment door, I can hear the cat inside yowling in displeasure at our continued insistence on leaving the house instead of sitting on the couch where she can ignore us properly. I'm pretty sure she's going to wake up the entire building.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

12/7/10 armored

Two hoodies, one over the other, and then a baseball cap, all covered by a leather jacket with intricate stitching. In his hand is a cell phone, from which streams the sputtering clicks, pips, and shouts of mp3's of hip-hop, surrounding him with a haze of aggression. The entire train hears his music, and even I can hear him through my headphones, and feel the irritation of the rest of the car beaming their bad vibes at him.

Obviously he feels it too, and he fishes into his pockets and pulls out headphones which he proceeds to untangle, plug in, and fit into his ears, but then he begins chanting along with his music - putting up his wall of phony rage to keep the judgement away.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

12/6/10 The band is passive aggressive. We are not.

The dude standing in front of my five foot three inch wife moves back and forth to the music. He knows he's in front of her (we've made it abundantly clear that he is blocking her view of the band), there is no place for her to move to, and every half-assed dance move he busts blocks her view further, and frustrates both of us even more.

Neko Case apparently couldn't be bothered to do her hair for the show tonight, or even put on an outfit that wasn't sweats, and she launches into a rather pathetic diatribe midway through the set about the horrible things that life has foisted upon her in the months since her 40th birthday, a diatribe that A.C. tries to defuse mostly through a sort of low key snarky-ness.

I tap the guy standing in front of Katie on the shoulder, hoping to get him to move before Katie, or I, or both of us, do something rash, saying, "Hey, man, could you please move a little off to the right so she can see?"

Sunday, December 5, 2010

12/5/10 What more do you want from me? A cookie?

I followed the recipe on the yellow package, as aspiring bakers all over the country have for generations of Christmases. They turned out perfect, brown and chocolatey and delicious.

Then we watched walking dead and went to bed.

Sometimes, I don't feel like being all creative.

12/4/10 Which is what we named the tree

The courtyard of the church smells of pine and the cold stone walls. We excitedly debate the merits of each tree: height, fullness of branches, hardiness of needles, looking for the perfect one, the one meant for us, the tree for our first Christmas together, until the gentleman in glasses and orange latex gloves streaked black with pitch saunters over and asks if he can help.

"Sure," I say, putting out my hand out, introducing myself and asking his name.

He looks bewildered for a moment, as if no one today (or maybe ever, in the history of tree selling) has asked him that, then shakes my hand, laughing, and says, "I'm Todd."

Friday, December 3, 2010

12/2/10 Angry God is Angry (and possibly made up)

He gets on the subway, middle of the car, a tall man, close shaven head gleaming under the flourescent lights. He begins preaching in a hectoring, strident voice that penetrates even through my headphones, his every word a bullet.

"I'm here to talk to you about the gifts of the father, who gave his son, his only son, to make you turn from your sin," he says, in clipped, bitter tones.

At that very moment, the song in my headphones changes, and Bjork begins to sweetly sing a lullaby reminding me of another way, another vision, another God.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

12/1/10 So much for meditation

I close the door and face the chair east, set the timer and close my eyes. I begin to repeat the word on the in-breath and out-breath, hoping to clear my mind and let in whatever grace might be granted someone like me.

There's a settling as the unconscious tensions I've been carrying in my muscles relax and unwind, and I find myself sinking into the chair, less rigid, more fluid, my whole body filling up with wet sand.

I'm asleep in under a minute.