Longer Darkness

I have been outside this evening after dark, getting acquainted with the night, rearranging the strings of Christmas lights on my balcony irons. One of the strings went dead, you see. Probably a fussy little fuse.

But, you know, that old Grinch was so smart and so slick
He thought up a lie, and he thought it up quick!
"Why, my sweet little tot," the fake Santy Claus lied,
"There’s a light on this tree condo that won’t light on one side.
"So I’m taking it home to my workshop, my dear.
"I’ll fix it up there. Then I’ll bring it back here."

The days, you may have noticed, are getting terribly short. The sun’s arc is shallow, almost begrudging, even this far south of the North Pole. We’re only 10 days now from the Solstice. So Christmas lights are important, and I was out there in all this longer darkness, stringing twinklers at the top of my outside stairs. I guess there’s a slight chance of a quick and messy death in that. Which naturally set me to wondering what was the last thing I said to anyone, since that might turn out to be the last thing I said to anyone.

I couldn’t remember. It might have been something like “have a good night,” to my neighbor. But nobody wrote it down.

Wouldn’t it be cool if somebody – besides Facebook – was discreetly recording our every utterance, just in case it might be our last? Well my last words, if I had tumbled down the concrete steps, might not have been fit for polite conversation. Let alone to be etched in marble or quoted as an epigraph in literature. But you never know. I might have been wise or funny in the end.

Goethe is said to have thundered, "More light!" But there is, I believe, some contention. Some have quoted him as saying, “Open the second shutter so that more light may come in." The former is better. Still others say his final utterance was really, "Come my little one, and give me your paw." And where does your imagination go with that?

Henry David Thoreau’s last words were, "Moose. Indian." Just shortly before that, we was asked if he had made his peace with God. He said, "I did not know we had quarreled."

Walt Whitman’s last yawp: "Hold me up; I want to shit."

Emily Dickinson finally said, "Let us go in; the fog is rising." For her, everything was poetry, nothing ordinary.

When a nurse told Henrik Ibsen that he seemed to be improving, he said, "On the contrary!" and died.

Ludwig van Beethoven: "Friends, applaud. The comedy is over."

Oscar Wilde’s famous last words were, "Either this wallpaper goes or I do."

Welcome Christmas bring your cheer
Fahoo fores dahoo dores
Welcome all Whos far and near
Welcome Christmas, fahoo ramus
Welcome Christmas, dahoo damus
Christmas day will always be
Just so long as we have we
Fahoo fores dahoo dores
Welcome Christmas bring your light

Deck the Halls!

I haven’t had much too blog about the last several days. I’ve started a few posts, and lost interest. The drafts are mulling like cider in the back of my mind. But don’t wait up.

As a consolation, here’s a great little video to watch. It’ll warm your punch, is my point.

Speakers on!

Christmas tradegy narrowly averted

Well, I’m back from my 11 day trip to visit my brother, sister-in-law (SIL), and little nephew way up yonder in northern California. A fine time was had by all. Santa showed up right on schedule and, as always, brought me some wonderful gifts despite my intransigent and glaring presence on the Naughty list. Nephew T, who’s into dinosaurs these days, got enough toy ones to fill the La Brea Tar Pits. He’s on the Good list, no doubt about it.

My Bro, SIL and I rang in the new year in San Francisco, joining 8000 fellow deadheads and motley hoopleheads at a marathon show by 2 former members of the Grateful Dead – Phil Lesh and Bob Weir – and their band.

[Incidentally, for those new to Metaphor, hooplehead is a term often used in the HBO series Deadwood. Like this.

It means a member of the ignorant masses, an uneducated commoner, an idiot, riffraff, the madding crowd, the great unwashed. I’m certain no such persons would – or even could – read this noteworthy compendium.]

The show was great, and an excellent way to traverse the terminal cusp of the year. They played many of our old favorite Dead tunes, did a lot of cool psychedelic improvisational jam, and even covered Pink Floyd.

Here’s a little video I shot that night. It’s just a few seconds, shot in semi-darkness with a phone, 50 feet above the stage. But somehow, for me, it captures a moment of the energy.

There was one tragedy narrowly averted during our visit. On the afternoon of December 29, a few of us were sitting at the dining table. I was eating lunch, Mom was talking on the phone, and nephew T was doing something I don’t remember. The chandelier above the table fell; without warning, as is usually the case with such events. After all, if there had been some warning I would have moved my laptop.

That’s no flimsy fixture, kids. That’s real iron and leaded glass. And it missed the cover/monitor of the computer by an inch on 2 sides. … Wham! …  There are little ceramic animals on the other sideof the light, which T made and was showing to his Nana. And those photo coasters are made of glass. Thanks to God that it didn’t smash my machine or anything on the table. It just fell in the midst of all our stuff, hurt no one, and broke nothing. It just put a decisive dent in the hardwood table, as a reminder that life’s justice is inscrutable and sets its own terms. And as you can see, the chandelier remained lit.

Mom does the crosswords, by the way. I haven’t cared for them since high school, when some teachers used them for homework exercises. Blech.

keep ’em all awake

I have never gone to sleep with a grievance against anyone. And, as far as I could, I have never let anyone go to sleep with a grievance against me.

-Abba Agathon, monk (4th/5th century)

Well, I hope nobody out there is feeling agrieved with yours truly, because it’s almost time to hit the hay. And tonight, when I turn out the lights, the Christmas lights on my balcony go out for the last time this happy holiday season.

I hope it was peaceful and healthy for you and your family. And if you forgot to get goodies for your pets, just turn back the calendar and make it right, OK? What goes around comes around, and I’d hate to see Santa put your name on the Bad list next year; worse yet, you might get trampled by reindeer.

Hey, it could happen.

cup o’ kindness

Well, 1 down, 364 to go. I’m trying to come to terms with the whole idea of facing a new year. It feels a little like staring into a dark tunnel and slowly realizing it’s a crocodile’s gullet. Explains the damp air and the dripping sounds. And I can’t shake the feeling I got ripped off on the last year. I ought to have some change coming back from 2008. It was never my intention to leave any change behind as a tip. The service wasn’t all that good, if you know what I mean.

Does that seem like a negative attitude for the first day of the year? Oh well, the first day wasn’t all that great either. I overslept, then forgot to turn on the TV and watch the Rose Parade. So I’m already getting the stinky end of the existential stick in 2009.

Today, I was listening to Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac podcast for New Year’s Eve.

In Mexico, people eat one grape with each of the 12 clock chimes at midnight, and make a wish for the coming year. In Venezuela, they wear yellow underwear for a year of good luck. In Japan, people eat soba because long thin noodles symbolize longevity, and at midnight, temple bells ring 108 times, matching the 108 attachments in the mind that need to be purified before the New Year.

At midnight in Greece, families cut a cake called a vasilopita, which has a coin baked inside; whoever gets the coin will have a lucky year.

In this country, the most famous celebration is in New York City’s Times Square, where up to one million people gather each New Year’s Eve to watch a ball drop.

First of all, 108 attachments in the mind? The entire consciousness? I have more attachments than that about bodily functions alone. And I’m pretty sure the average urban Japanese guy could keep up with me on attachments. Time to update that tradition for inflation.

In the podcast, Garrison added a sentence to the end, “Be grateful you are not one of them.” Yeah. But the example he chose for US is out of context with the others from other countries. Americans do have food traditions for New Years, if you want to dig them up. In my family, we eat black eyed peas every year on January 1. Sometimes with cornbread. I googled this and learned it’s traditional in many parts of the U.S.

I’ve had my beans and watched some football – also a NYD tradition in our clan – so I guess I’m good to go. But carefully, very carefully. There is a heavy fog tonight, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it lasts until Christmas.

And there’s a hand my trusty friend !
And give us a hand o’ thine !
And we’ll take a right good-will draught,
for auld lang syne.

merry christmas!

Well, I guess it’s a little late to be yawping out Merry Christmas upon the Hoople-trodden thoroughfare, but I’ve been OBE.* My folks and I returned last night from our annual pilgrimage to the woody shire where my brother the Hobbit Prince dwells in a wee cottage with our kindly kin and a pack of three toothsome hoodoo cats.

I amuse myself. I tease because my Bro lives in a place with lots of real trees, while I live in a handsome condo complex with tall shrubbery; lollipop trees, misbegotten of some illconsidered coupling of Edward Scissorhands and The Knights Who Say Ni.

We had a lovely time. It rained through Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, with even a spattering of hail to keep it exciting. It was nice and cold, which makes it all more Christmasy to me. Good old Santa always comes through, since as a group and speaking very generally, we’ve been good. There were toys to play with and an Elfin Nephew to keep good charge of that. All the family furries got new woobies to gnaw and claw and chase. Our Happy loves to make her woobies squeak; oh, how they do suffer ‘tween her teeth.

We, some of us, came down with Christmas colds, which kinda sucked. But I’m feeling better today. My head is finally clearing, if not my winterslumbering mind. Last night was admittedly miserable. Slipping down off Tejon Pass into the Santa Clarita valley, my ears plugged up and my head felt like a football in a bench vice. So it goes. Should be all cleared up in a few more days, and at least I can stay off the I-5 for the foreseeable future.

I hope you and yours had a holly jolly Christmas too, this year, and got some pudding in your stocking or whatever you’re into. And if you were the host of this year’s Dickensian fete, you might need to know how to clean your toilet with a Coke.

Here’s a Thought For The Day.

Neither genius, fame, nor love show the greatness of the soul. Only kindness can do that.
– Jean Baptiste Henri Lacordaire
preacher, journalist and activist (1802-1861)

*Overcome by Events or Out of Body Experience, your choice.