Sunday, December 25 2022
Gretchen was up this morning even before I was. She was making two kinds of scones, one containing berries and being sweet and the other having onions and being savory. I made a good fire in the woodstove and then gathered together the two presents I had for Gretchen: the Cuisineart air fryer/toaster oven and a tiny painting of Gretchen I'd made of her on her old PETA card, the one where I left a photo of a rabbit visible in the background. Gretchen, of course, had replicated key features of the Christmas of my childhood by filling three socks with gifts (which included the extra sock of each of the three pairs). These included the usual mix of nuts, granola bars, candy bars, organic peanut butter cups, etc. Additionally, this year Gretchen had followed through on a suggestion I'd made for a way for her to give me a present without having to actually do much of anything. Since we have no written budget and our money is pooled in a general-purpose joint account, I suggested she write me coupons that would "permit" certain expenditures beyond what I normally feel comfortable spending on things I consider "toys" (that is, they have no immediately utility professionally or on projects to benefit our properties). The limit on such expenditures isn't written or even agreed to, but I consider it to be somewhere around $100 every week or so. She wrote me three such coupons, which, together, come to a little less than $500. Oddly, this was the first year in a long time where the stockings contained no art supplies. There was, however, an oversized flask of some kind of cognac. Gretchen had specifically told me not to buy her any alcohol, so I hadn't. I was a little nervous about what she'd think of the tiny painting I'd made of her on a PETA card, but she said she liked it (which was not what she'd said about the painting I'd made of her last year, which she thought made it look as though she had what are euphemistically termed these days "intellectual challenges").
Gretchen was very excited about the new toaster oven, but then I realized the handle (the thing you grab to open the oven door) had been crushed somehow and little sharp splinter of plastic were breaking off on its back side. So I boxed the damn thing up and vowed to get one that was not damaged.
After that, the morning turned into a typical one where we drink coffee and play Spelling Bee. Today's had four panagrams (including "counted") and something like 70 words.
Meanwhile the dogs were in a fairly festive mood from all the unboxing and the fragrance of so much food. When Gretchen went off to ride her ellipical and watch an epsiode of the show she watches with it (currently Riches), the dogs started playing like puppies on the couch. When that died down, I made them special Christmas treats: peanut butter inside the hollows of old bones for them to lick and gnaw out.
We got started on the Jewish part of Christmas a little earlier than usual, driving out to Kingston Wok (the place near the old Burlington Coat Factory) and having a sit-down dinner in there. It wasn't as crowded as other Jewish Christmases there were, but (as I said) we were somewhat earlier to dinner than usual. I impulsively selected a drink containing plum wine and vodka, which kind of blew Gretchen's mind (she thinks she knows what kind of booze I like, and lately I've been selecting weird girlie drinks and even those containing faux milk). This one tasted like maraschino cherries, which I thought was great.
As always, we ordered a good bit more food than we could eat. Gretchen always gets the moo shu, which I don't like, and today she also got a noodle dish with long wormy udon noodles that was unexpectedly spicy. I'd specifically ordered my vegetables with spicy peanut sauce knowing it would be spicy, but it was less spicy than the udon. I don't remember what our dinner conversation involved, though I do remember Gretchen telling me that the table behind her had a conversation like this, "Blah blah blah, Belarus." "How is Belarus different from Russia?" "It's a different country!" People at that same table were later heard discussing the movie Wildcat, which we would be seeing after dinner. But we would end up being the only people in the small theatre where Wildcat was shown.
We'd eaten at Kingston Wok because it is close to the AMC Theatres at the mostly-abandoned remains of the Hudson Valley Mall, and AMC was where Wildcat would be shown. There hadn't been a lot to choose between for a movie suitable for Jewish Christmas. Gretchen had already seen Wakanda Forever and I have vowed never to watch another superhero movie. Meanwhile Gretchen has decreed that she will be watching no Avatar movies, taking Avatar: the Way of Water. That just left a Whitney Houston biopic and a couple documentaries. Of these, the one I most wanted to see was Wildcat, about a veteran from the long war in Afghanistan dealing with his PTSD by parenting an orphaned ocelot and returning him (that is, the ocelot) to the wilds the Peruvian Amazon. We arrived at the theatre about a half hour early, and the rest of the mostly-unused mall was locked down, so we went directly into the AMC. I noticed that now they even sell alcoholic beverages, which kind of blew my mind (traditional movie theatres never sold such things; this was like the kind of exotic cultural norms you'd normally have to go to Europe to see). Lacking anything else to do (and since theatres no longer label what movie is being shown in them, meaning that if we wanted to catch a bit of some other movie, it would be a complete crapshoot), we went to our theatre and proceeded to watch ads for the next half hour. There weren't many ads to run, so we kept seeing the same ones over and over again, particularly one trying to drum up tourism for Boston and one for a local merchant of hideous furniture. Gretchen had bought us VIP tickets, meaning we could use the fancy chairs that turn into beds and contain heating coils. In the past Gretchen would take advantage of white middle-age privilege to see movies without buying a ticket at all or perhaps pay for regular tickets and then use the VIP seats, but now she's so worried about the theatre surviving that she scrupulously pays for every service she uses.
As for the movie, I watched it on a mild dose of cannabis that I'd eaten. I could feel it, but only weakly. I feel more emotionally expressive while on cannabis, and this probably accounts for the many occasions when Wildcat brought me to tears. It told a story full of emotional moments. Apparently Peru is under widespread assault by illegal logging operations chopping down ancient, irreplaceable trees. Sometimes there are baby animals in those trees, which the loggers then eat, keep as pets, or sell into the underground wildlife trade. This is how Khan, the first ocelot, comes into the life Harry, our PTSD-suffering hero. He does his best to raise the tiny thing into a big strong young adult, showing incredible foraging skills in the process. He'd have to catch live animals and then convince the ocelot to kill and eat them. And occasionally there would be dangers: a poisonous wandering spider or a too-big caiman, and Harry would have to warn the ocelot to avoid them. We don't get far into the story before a horrible tragedy occurs which causes us (and certainly Harry, who has enormous empathy coupled to a decidedly bleak outlook) to wonder what is the point of bothering to do anything. Along the way, Harry forms relationship with Samantha, one of the biologists (and the only evident single woman at the wild animal center). Eventually, though, his suicidal tendencies split them apart. In the end, Harry does manage to raise an ocelot and return him to the wild. Returning to the ocelot to the wild proved even more difficult than raising him; after the ocelot was big and strong and could hunt for himself, he still wanted to hang out with Harry, following him back to the wildlife center and destroying anything he could find out of loneliness and frustration. At this point Harry had to be mean to his adopted son, chasing him away and making loud noises. We are told that this is also what mother ocelots do. It's a terrible thing to have to do to someone you love, but it's baked into their lifecycle. Overall, it was a great movie, though it did leave us hanging on some points. Why did Harry (who was from England) fight in Afghanistan? Why did he decide to join a wildlife rescue in the Amazon? How did he meet Samantha? And why did he eventually transition from rehabilitating mammalian predators and transition to rehabilitating reptiles? Gretchen also enjoyed the movie, though, as a vegan, it was hard for her to see Harry trying to get his ocelot children to kill various small mammals, frogs, and reptiles.
I have never owned any cryptocurrency, though at various times I've contemplated using it for its only real purpose: to participate in crime. Back when kratom was a grey-market commodity, for example, I made a half-hearted attempt at setting up an account at the crypto exchange CoinBase. But I lost my nerve before I actually entered any of my banking information (I hope!). Then a few years ago kratom somehow became a legitimate commodity that I could buy with credit cards, and I lost all interest in cryptocurrencies. I probably kept them in the back of my mind should I ever need to easily buy black market adderall, but I had no interest in using them as investment vehicles. I am not the sort of person who does things simply because there is a lot of buzz surrounding them. Furthermore, I haven't been all that interested in the recent melt-down of cryptocurrencies despite the gloating I might be tempted to do about it. But in recent weeks, I began to find the collapse of the FTX exchange increasingly interesting. This was mostly because of how sloppy and corrupt it was from the start, making losing bets with the money people entrusted to them. I was also amused by the revelation that it had been run by a bunch of polyamorous paper-billionaires popping adderall and fucking each other in a fancy condo in the Bahamas when they weren't wasting their youth playing stupid videogames (sometimes during videoconferences). This evening I watched a YouTube video laying all that went wrong with the "stablecoin" Tera, which depended for its stability on an algorithmic connection to another coin called Luna. That system might've been brilliant, and it worked for awhile. But it wasn't designed to deal with a situation where Luna's value fell to zero, something that seems to happen to all cryptocurrencies.
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