Another rambling thought on Christmas…

I’ll spare you the ruminations on the commercialization of Christmas. So too will I spare you the lecture on the Christian hegemony of the holiday season.

Instead I will say this: I’m not just being “politically correct” when I refer to this time of year as “the holiday season” instead of simply Christmas. It is true that Christmas, Chanukah, Ramadan, and other religious celebrations all occur in or around December, but the one event that really defines the season for me is December 31, the last day of the year.

I like milestones. A year is not just an arbitrary notion of time, it is a cosmic event. The time it takes the earth to make a complete rotation of the sun. That year is demarcated by four seasons, which may or may not be particularly noticeable, depending on where you live. The calendar itself, of course, is of Christian derivation, but it is known and accepted worldwide, so I consider that part of its history to be moot.

All that to say, we humans mark our lives in many ways, but one universal thing we all do is count the years. Some of us are fortunate to live many long and good ones. Others are cut short. Still others, perhaps, live too many — their final ones spent wasting away in a geriatric coma. Regardless, people around the world mark their lives, their crops, their careers, their family histories, and other fundamental aspects of their lives in terms of years.

And that’s what makes me so calm and introspective during the holiday season. It is a time to reflect on the past year’s successes and failures. A time to think ahead to what is going well and what needs to be changed.

And for me, that’s where Christmas comes in. December 25 is exactly one week before the first day of the new year. It marks the beginning of the final week of the year just lived. On Christmas day, for me, the holiday season stress and the hustle-and-bustle stops and the calm and introspective end-of-year week begins. End-of-year week is something we all have in common, whether we think about it or acknowledge it or not. It’s the universal holiday — at least in the developed world, where we live by the calendar.

So best wishes, happy holidays (whichever ones you observe) and happy end-of-year to everyone!

The domestication of the urban blork

It was bound to happen. I moved into chez blork in May of this year and chose red as my primary theme. Three red walls, red sofa, two red armchairs. Me in the red trying to pay for it all.

A few weeks later, M moved into her new place, conveniently only two blocks away, on the same street. She chose green as her primary theme. Green walls (two shades) green accents all over the place, even green towels in the bathroom. For those who recoil at the thought of all that green, I assure you her implementation of it is very tasteful and contemporary.

Christmas colors. Those choices foreshadowed today’s events, something pretty new to me. M and I went to the Christmas tree guy who has set up shop outside the Mont-Royal Metro station and bought a real Christmas tree.

We chose to set it up in the red place, where I shoved aside one of the armchairs to make room for it. M had a box of lights and decorations from previous (treeless) Christmases, and a few boxes of Christmas tree balls that we got at Ikea a few months ago, on sale.

lookit me tree!Voila! My first ever Christmas tree. Well, we had one when I was a kid, but this is the first time that I, as a grown-up, with my squeeze, have gone out and obtained my (our) own tree and set it up and decorated it in my (our) own place.

I’ve come close a few times. In my first year in Montreal (1987) my (then) partner and I flung a string of lights over a dying potted palm tree. The next year we took a big sheet of Christmas wrapping paper and cut it into the shape of a two-dimensional spruce tree and scotch-taped it to a wall.

Every Christmas since then has been different. I went to Nova Scotia once or twice to visit family. A few kind souls have taken me in as a “Christmas orphan” over the years. I’ve had the odd Christmas with the family of the odd (ex)girlfriend. Once I spent Christmas at a chalet in the Laurentians with a girlfriend and a dozen or so friends, which was odd only in that I was the only one who wasn’t Jewish.

And of course there were a number of cold and lonely Christmases, which in fact weren’t so cold or lonely. The utter quiet and peacefulness of Christmas morning is well savoured in solitude (as long as one has a nice bottle of wine in waiting and a good library to go with it).

Through it all there was never a real Christmas tree. Now I got one. And a girlfriend with a nice family. And a nice bottle of wine in the cupboard, and a pretty good library. I also (still) have Spiff, a pantry full of goodies, and two comfortable beds to sleep in (one in the red place, one in the green place). Things are grand.

Tales of patience and good timing…

A few events over the past day-and-a-half have reminded me of the virtue of patience and the luck of good timing. It all revolves around a few mysteries that have been resolved unexpectedly.

Lame Movie Mystery. In May of 2001 I buggered off to Paris for a week, just because. I had a fabulous time, and while I was at Charles de Gaulle airport waiting for my return flight I noticed that a small section of the airport was blocked off because somebody was shooting a movie there. From the mezzanine above the set, I watched two characters in goofy-looking costumes rehearse and shoot a few takes of a scene. They were dressed in what looked like some typical white guy’s idea of what mysterious Arabian nomads would wear, complete with fake browness on the skin. It seemed like a fairly low budget production, although everyone — including the numerous extras — seemed very professional. I figured I’d never find out what movie it was, so I didn’t give it much thought, although I wonder about it whenever I look at pictures from my trip.

The Blue What? I endured the Spielberg film AI last weekend. Typically, it had much potential, but was ruined by that Spielberg heavy-handedness and pounding-over-the-headedness, not to mention the constant, never ending, ever swelling soundtrack.

Ugh! Anyway, without giving too much away (if you haven’t seen it) the robot boy wants to be loved like a real boy, so he goes on this big quest for “the Blue Fairy.” Smart people know that is a reference to the Blue Fairy in the story of Pinocchio — the fairy who gave the puppet life and the chance to be a real boy. Duh. The last time I saw the Disney version of Pinocchio was at least 30 years ago, and I’ve never read the original, so I had to make a leap of faith that this was a Pinocchio reference. I also made a mental note to try to find out for sure.

Premature Ejection. I saw Die Another Day last week. There’s this one scene — which you’ll know if you saw the tailers — in which there is a car chase on ice and Bond’s car gets flipped over onto its roof. He rights the car by pushing the “Ejection Seat” button.

Wait a minute. First of all, after the car is righted he’s still sitting there. OK, one can assume that’s the “Eject Passenger Seat” button. But still, there’s just something not right about that scene. Yesterday I was playing it over and over in my head trying to recall if we actually see the seat ejected from the car when it flips right-side up. I couldn’t recall.

Wait For It — All is resolved. Tuesday night I went to the gym. During my five-minute warmup on a stationary bike I plugged my earphones into the console that gives me the audio for the ten televisions — each on a different channel — that are mounted on the wall in front of the cardio area. (The console has audio channel and volume controls.) About a minute into my warmup, I noticed that a movie was starting up on Radio-Canada. It had a low budget “made for television” feel to it. It was called something like Les Rois du Désert and the first scene involved two bogus but earnest looking nomads getting off a plane at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris. Ding! Not only did I find out what movie they were filming that day in Paris, I saw the actual scene they were shooting while I watched. (It was lame.)

A minute later I noticed that the Disney version of Pinocchio was playing on another channel. The scene in which — you guessed it — the Blue Fairy brings Pinocchio to life was playing. She told him he wasn’t yet a real boy, but he was alive and if he was good (etc.) that someday he would be a real boy. Bingo! (Incidentally, I was watching this and the goofy movie simultaneously, which is why I was able to take in both full scenes inside of five minutes.)

Last night M and I went to the AMC Forum to see Punch Drunk Love. Before we went into the cinema where the film was playing, M ducked into the washroom. With a couple of minutes to kill, I figured I’d stick my head into another cinema to catch a minute or two of another movie. Wouldn’t you know it, Die Another Day was playing in the cinema next to the women’s washroom. So I walked in for a look, and it was right in the middle of the car chase on ice. Boom, Bond’s car gets flipped on its roof. Boing! He flips it back by pushing the “Eject Seat” button. Nope, no seat seen flying out of the car. The scene still doesn’t sit right with me, but at least I got the chance to see it again with a deconstructing eye.