Saturday, December 25 2010
Christmas is always a time of cheer around our house despite the fact that neither Gretchen nor I have much interest in Jesus other than the avoidance of his followers and their many knuckleheaded ideas. Christmas was an important secular ritual in my family, and for Gretchen is was traditionally a day of Chinese food eating and blockbuster movie watching. So we've combined the essence of our two traditions: in the morning, Gretchen stuffs two socks full of trinkets for me to dump out, and later in the day we go out for Chinese food and a movie. There is no Christmas tree because that would be a bit much for Gretchen, and it's not important to me (though bringing greenery indoors is a perfectly understandable winter tradition). This morning my socks contains a flask of Hennessy Cognac, a replacement vegan wallet for the leather one Gretchen had bought me maybe nine years ago, a tiny keychain bulb-and-fluid thermometer, a plastic camper's spork, a travel corkscrew, and several packages of chocolate candy (Christmas being the only time I eat it). Normally I've already given Gretchen her Chanukah presents by Christmas, but this year I suppose my presents to her were actually Christmas presents. Instead of wrapping the umbrella and Nigel painting, I hid them behind and in the furniture and we played the game of "you're getting hotter/no, now you're getting cooler" with each.
At some point we drove down to Ray and Nancy's house for about an hour. Also in attenance were Nancy's sister Linda, Linda's husband Adam, Linda and Adam's dog Buzzy, and Linda and Nancy's elderly parents. They'd set up and decorated the White Pine we'd harvested from our septic field, and it looked better than I'd expected it to. Gifts were exchanged, and I gradually cracked and ate my way through a bunch of pecans harvested from a tree in the yard of some relative down in Texas.
This afternoon Gretchen and I watched an AVI file of The Other Guys, a wickedly-clever sendup of the action-adventure-cum-fireball-explosion genre. It was an unusually inventive movie, with a subversion or twist of every movie cliché, even obscure ones from cult classics. In, for example, the scene where a grandmother walks back and forth across the street (using a walker) to carry messages between our hero and his estranged wife, the movie could have settled on Airplane-level humor and proceeded to shock us with more and more lurid sex messages. But just when you think that's about as far as the joke can go, the grandmother starts complaining about how the messages are too private and personal and she doesn't want to have to carry them any more, and then begins censoring them to be the sort of messages a grandmother would be willing to carry.
Gretchen and I had decided to have the Jewish part of our Christmas with Deborah (who is not Jewish) up in Saugerties (nearer to Deborah's place). We knew about a Chinese restaurant (Szechuan King) on Main Street, but when we got there, we found its dining room closed and only a small unheated takeout counter open. There were a couple tables there, but it was far too cold for a comfortable meal. It also smelled kind of bad. By this point Deborah had shown up, so she suggested Plan B, a Japanese/Chinese restaurant called Lucky Star. It was a weirdo place, with a front store retailing a collection of creepy big-eyed Japanese dolls and excessively-technological toys. We sat in the back area, a large industrially-carpeted dining room. It was late and we were the only guests. The food was unusually greasy, but it was perfectly suited to fulfilling the Jewish Christmas need.
At the downtown Saugerties multiplex, we watched the new Coen Brothers movie True Grit, a simple-but-lush western with a near absence of contractions in its dialogue. It was a beautiful picture, but it was simpler and a bit more cartoonish than I expected from the Coen brothers (snakes biting someone in the winter time...really?). Gretchen loved it, though she thought the segment at the end set 25 years further in the future was completely unnecessary. I'd brought my flask of Christmas Cognac with me, though I only drank a few sips of it.
Clarence and Marie (aka "the Baby").
Sylvia getting a bit too snuggly with her dad while he tries to work the internets.
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