Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Winter wonderland, but not in the driveway

Here are some images I took recently of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains from the Anderson Overlook. The snow is beautiful on the mountains but a pain in the tuckus in the driveway. Click on the images to enlarge them.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Saturday, December 13, 2008

I swear, if you don't get out of my driveway, I'm going to call the cops. Merry Christmas.

I've been listening to holiday pops on XM/Sirius radio on the way to and from work, and I usually enjoy the music very much. I do not like shrill little boy sopranos. Anthony Way, for example, makes me want to stick my fingers in my eyes and twirl them around. I also do not like to listen to Dame Joan Sutherland sing carols because her diction is so weird and phlegmy. It's not a carol, but if she sang it, it would sound like this:

Caddy me bok tew old Vuhjiddy
Deah's wheah deh coddod ahnd deh sweed bodadoes gr-rrrrr-ow!
Deah's wheah deh buhds waughble sweed in deh sprrr-rrringtahm . . . .

So I said to myself, "Oh, yeah? Think you can do better, P-doobie?" And I remembered the caroling parties we used to go to every Christmas eve.

Jim and Gracie, our neighbors for years and our friends since 1982, would host the caroling party. After several years of trial and error (amateurs, for example, can't sing "O Holy Night" without breaking down in so many ways--vocally, musically, spiritually), we finally whittled down our list of carols to "Joy to the World," "Jingle Bells," "Silent Night," and "O Come All Ye Faithful." They were in everybody's range. We knew the words.

It was traditional to start our caroling at the home of a family we knew was always out of town on Christmas Eve; singing to the empty porch was a warm-up to the debacles to come. No matter what we sang for folks, Gracie would jingle her jingle bells, so "Silent Night" always sounded like a reindeer convention. Uncle P would play his harmonica as an accompaniment. We'd be out for an hour or so--earnest, effortful, and always near the tune--and then we'd round up the people who took the wrong turn on Trinity Drive and were favoring the folks down on 43rd Street with "Jingle Bells" while the rest of the group was at the top of Sandia singing "Silent Night,"and adjourn to Jim and Gracie's for posole, hot cranberry punch, and other yummy holiday fare.

Several parties, however, remain etched in my memory. There was the time our hosts invited a couple of newbies, and we were warming up on "O Come All Ye Faithful." The wife said, "We should sing the first 'O come let us adore him' very quietly, then the next one a little louder, and then on the final one, we should sing out quite loudly." Everyone looked at her as if she were a bug in the wassail bowl.

"Um . . . you've never sung with us before, have you?"

"We don't worry about dynamics. We just want to get the words right."

"Some of us [meaningful look at me] aren't even singing the right song some of the time."

"Yeah, well, some of us [meaningful look at Eric] aren't even on the right street!"

There was the time the temperature was around zero with variable southwest winds at 15 to 20 mph, and we were all so happy because we thought we could stay inside and eat, drink, and be merry. But no. Jim herded us, crying and bleating, out into the arctic cold. We stayed out less than 30 minutes. Uncle P's frozen mustache whiskers occasionally snagged the harmonica, so our listeners heard, "Joy to the world! The Lord is come! Let--"

"OW! Son of a . . . ."

". . . King!"

And once we went caroling in a blizzard. We mushed up to the empty house, sang "Jingle Bells," then plowed over to a guy who shoveling his driveway in a futile effort against the rapidly accumulating snow. We surrounded him and sang, "I'm dreaming of a white Christmas / Just like the ones I used to know." Even through the driving snow we could see that his hands were gripping the shovel very tightly, much as one might grip a weapon. We could take a hint. We finished one chorus and slogged back to Jim and Gracie's, where we took turns shoveling each other's cars out.

Warming up for the venture into the cold on Christmas Eve.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

George Leonard Herter revealed!

This week's New York Times Book Review had an essay on George Leonard Herter, everyone's favorite know-it-all. With a picture!

Hangtown Fry! Putting cornstarch in a girdle so it goes on easier! Bombing fish! The finest catalog in the world, too fine for any king I know.

George Leonard Herter. May his name be a blessing.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Bronze or pottery, linens and lace

Today Michele and I celebrate our eighth anniversary. That's 80 years in Lesbian Years!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Brides of Christ and disco madmen

Thanks, Chuckbert, for your recent post.  The images stirred some memories for me.

We had to go to catechism twice a week, Monday and Wednesday, in second grade so that we could prepare for our First Confession and First Holy Communion. The nuns smote us hip and thigh with all the possible ways we could sin. Talking back to Mom? Venial sin, that. Lying to Dad? Hitting John H. in the head with a branch? Obviously every kid would commit that kind of sin. But it wasn't just sins of commission that we had to worry about. It was sins of omission. Not helping carry in the groceries? Sin of omission. Playing up in the woods when Dad was changing the oil on the Willys, which he seemed to be doing every freaking week? Omission. The deck was stacked heavily against us.

It was a good thing we'd make our First Confession so that we would not go flouncing and bannering and ballooning, like shot crows, into hell. We practiced the prayers. Hail Mary was a piece of cake. The Lord's Prayer a bit tougher. The Act of Contrition ("O my God, I am hardly sorry") was fun because we would all squeak together when we got to the line, "But most of all, because they offend theemygod. . . ." The Apostle's Creed was a bear because it was long, and I didn't understand most of it. "He descended into Hell"? Oh, man, if Jesus descended into Hell, we were toast.

We memorized the Ten Commandments, which were pretty clear for the most part, but we all had trouble with the sixth: "Thou shalt not commit adultery." "Sister Mary Europeandasia, what's adultery?" "Why, it's . . . um . . . it has to do with . . . um . . . carnal concupiscience." We'd whisper to each other (venial sin), "Wow! Carnal concupiscience! What's carnal concupiscience?" And the ninth commandment, "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife," had my name all over it.

Sister Mary Europeandasia said that sometimes our little brother or sister would call their blankie a "covet" instead of a "cover." We were to remonstrate with our siblings if they ever said the word "covet" and correct them. Somehow I got the impression that even saying the word was a sin. 

Finally the Saturday of First Confession arrived. We had been drilled thoroughly about how to examine our consciences, what to say, what to do, how to act, how to make a good Act of Contrition, how to do penance. I went into the confessional (it was still that curtained, dark booth with a kneeler and galvanized mesh opening covered with pale blue cloth, through which you whispered to the priest). I could hear muttering behind the cloth. Was it my turn? Hard to tell. I said, "Bless me father, for I have sinned." The door slid open. "Shhhhhh!" Okay, it was obviously still the other person's turn. I kept rehearsing my sins.

First Communion Sunday! We girls looked like little brides of Christ, and the boys in their suits looked like miniature John Travoltas in Saturday Night Fever. We were starving from our three-hour fast: Baby Jesus could not be sullied by the contents of our stomachs, but who knows what happened when he hit that hydrochloric acid (venial sin for even thinking that). If a host dropped on the floor, the altar boys, we knew, would throw themselves on it like Marines on a live grenade.

We marched reverently up to the communion rail and knelt down with our hands under the cloth. We had practiced at home with Necco wafers. This was exciting. Father Shuler placed the host on my tongue, and the host immediately adhered to the roof of my mouth. (This was in the days of the almost-transparent hosts, not the hearty-grain fare of later years.) You cannot put your finger in your mouth to scrape it off. I worked it with my tongue. No luck. It was like trying to remove a piece of tissue paper glued to my palate with Silastic. I couldn't let Baby Jesus dissolve in my mouth. Oh, man, and I had just gone to confession the day before, and here he was, stuck. Really, really stuck. Starting to wrinkle and shrink. I continued with my tongue and vibrated my uvula. There! Got him!

That's how I make friends at parties if I don't know anyone. I just stand there by the onion dip and say loudly to no one in particular, "I spent half my childhood trying to get Baby Jesus off the roof of my mouth after communion." Then I make that Baby-Jesus-stuck-on-the-roof-of-my-mouth sound, and immediately all the lapsed Catholics in the room swarm around me, saying "You know how many laps around the beads I had to do when I shot a spitwad at Sister Mary Patrick?" "That's nothing. Let me tell you about the time we got into the sacramental wine." We just have a feast of reminiscence.

A bride of Christ