Christmas Babies

So we finally had “a proper rain,” as one friend put it, a big winter storm that rinsed the trees and polished the good people of Los Angeles, not that we needed polishing, but come on, some of us sure did.

On that rainy night, as I left the car for the valet, we talked about the big rain that day. Then this stranger – the valet — mentioned how beautiful the next morning would likely be.

LA is so forward looking. That’s what makes it so dynamic and annoying. But why shouldn’t we look forward to sunny days ahead, when you have so many to pick from?

Such a place, LA, full of these rainy resurrections.

I took the valet ticket, walked inside, and my bartender buddy (Kevin) bought me a martini. Things were looking up. Then the host put me at a beautiful table near the men’s room.

“How thoughtful,” I told him. “This will save me so many steps, but…”

The rest of the night is a happy blur.

I ordered a fried ginger catfish that took up half the table. It was like I was having Moby-Dick for dinner, and you can imagine the symbolism of that — man chases down his demons on the high seas, they consume him, and he ends up at a fancy Pasadena restaurant with a ginormous catfish staring at him. Pretty girl on his left, pretty girl on his right.

Even Melville couldn’t foresee that.

And yes the next morning dawned sunny for sure, and so cold that some cars were iced-up igloos.

Some people panicked and called their therapists or their personal assistants, or 9-1-1. Others – a precious few — just rolled with it.

Obviously, we’re a brave people, Angelenos. Nasty conditions will never get us down. We’ll never gripe about a little ice, as long as there is gin, as long as there is tonic. There are almost always limes.

You know it’s a cold day in LA when visitors from Minnesota think to themselves: “It’s soooooo cold here. And the transition from the 405 south to the 10 west is a single lane? One lane! How do you people live like this?”

We wonder too.

Look, LA is to California what Nome is to Alaska – a gritty little outpost where only the hearty survive.

That was the same day I finished the Christmas cards and thought: “Hooray, but why am I sending all these Christmas cards?”

After all, I’m an empty-nest widower, and folks would forgive me for abandoning that demanding little custom (see demons, above).

But then I thought how much I enjoy receiving Christmas cards from friends.

In fact, here are the three things I like best about the holidays:

–The music

–The lights

–The cards

–Breakfast casseroles.

–Martinis … 3 olives … “smooth like Sinatra.”

OK, five things. Six max.

I also like that feeling in a crowded church on Christmas Eve, when everyone is wearing wool, especially the old dudes.

If you’re lucky, you can still get a whiff of pipe tobacco.

I also really enjoy an elegant shopping spree at The Grove, where Smartacus and I ran across a string quintet playing Earth, Wind & Fire the other afternoon.

I leaned over: “They’re playing Earth, Wind & Fire, right?”

Smartacus nodded.

I realized right then: What is life without surprise?

I’m giving mostly cryptocurrency this year, because I think that’ll surprise the young people — that their stodgy, old-school dad or uncle waded like a foot soldier into this mythic sea of gold.

An old dude’s El Dorado!

Sure, I’d probably be better off giving them walnuts or baseball cards or oysters – any item of actual value. Gum, for instance. Yet, I salute their sense of adventure. With cryptocurrency, I’m betting on young people and the future.

Hope Catty Cakes likes it. Getting her a big drum too, just in case.

“Hey Cakes, play me something!” I’ll yell, as her parents fight off the migraines that often accompany big drums.

By the way, my sister Holly (a Christmas baby) says she always treats herself to a Big Mac when she’s out Christmas shopping in Chicago; it’s kind of a tradition for her. I think you should consider this.

Me, I sometimes have a taco and a beer. I mean, does anyone shop sober anymore? I need liquid lithium just to park at Trader Joe’s.

If only you could have seen me and Smartacus in the children’s shop the other morning, then you’d know why we’re having a Crypto Christmas

We were like two rabbis in a casino.

First, we spun around, marveling at all the clothes, unable to tell the girls’ stuff from the boys’ – it’s all so frilly and full of bunnies.

Oy.

When we finally got our bearings, we picked out a little red drummer girl jacket for Cakes, and some dresses, one with a bunny rabbit (of course). Really, it’s impossible to buy anything at these places without some sort of rabbit reference.

“We’ll take these,” I told the shopkeeper.

“Do you want them wrapped?” she said, which – aside from “Raiders suck!” or “Go Bears!” — is my favorite holiday cheer.

“Really?” I asked, looking at Smartacus and jumping up and down a little.

“Yes, we’d like them wrapped,” Smartacus told the shopkeeper. “Jeeeeesh, Dad. I mean…”

So Christmas is coming, and I’ve never been more prepared. There’s a crooked angel atop a crooked tree (another family tradition). Hopefully the tree doesn’t fall this year. But what is life without surprise?

And the Christmas cards are finally out (thanks Erik!).

The family photo was taken on the spur of the moment at Thanksgiving, before everyone got too drunk and snarky. Amazingly, nobody blinked. When Posh was here, she always blinked, her big brown eyes would simply not cooperate, making Christmas photos nearly impossible.

She really was an Oscar Wilde novel, my late wife.

Anyway, the cards are out and the shopping is mostly done. Now, all we seek is a Star of Bethlehem to guide us, and a wee baby to rally around.

Anybody know one?

For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a savior…

Uncle Smaratcus, obviously. Can you believe he turned 19 the other day? 19?!

And then there’s this teeny bit of baby, Catty Cakes.

You know, Christmas babies are the giggling glory of this awful pandemic. Our only real currency. Our sunny days ahead.

Our rainy resurrections.

Props to Rex Kirshner for guiding me through the arcane world of cryptocurrencies. If you’re curious, I settled on an easy service called Gemini and created one fund that I will run for my nephew, nieces and kids. Kind of a novelty gift. If it explodes, they’ll spend it all on sushi, as young people almost always do. Or a giant catfish. Santé! FYI, the restaurant was Parkway Grill. When you go, order the catfish and the lamb lollipops. Say hi to Kevin at the bar. Meanwhile, please check out my books and hiking gear (for info, click here). The Christmas shipping deadline has passed, but every purchase appreciated. As is your friendship and support of these columns all year long.  Hugs and happy holidays, from our home to yours.

23 thoughts on “Christmas Babies

  1. So true. They are the real currency. I hope you enjoy the music, lights, cards, breakfast casseroles and 3 olive martinis (not in that order, of course) this holiday time. Wishing you and your lovely family a safe, healthy, joyful, memorable and Merry Christmas. These twice weekly posts are one of my favorite things year round. Keeps me smiling, laughing and happy. So thank you! As this pandemic races on I like to remember that people are the real currency. My 18 and 20 year old college girls, my 90 year old sweet mom (Dolores) my dear circle of friends (most go back 35 years) and of course my beloved 13 year old dog who thinks he’s a person. This awful pandemic is barreling down once again like a ‘73 Plymouth Satellite in the left lane of the Eisenhower. Buckle up and keep your hands on 10 and 2. We will get through this. Just believe! (And get vaccinated!) Hugs back atcha from Chicago.

  2. Another wonderful column that fills me with Christmas cheer. I so enjoy reading your words. Have a glorious Christmas with Catty Cakes.

  3. Were it not for the photographic evidence, I would have thought you were exaggerating for effect about the ginger fish. It looks bigger than Catty Cakes. Thanks for sharing your Christmas traditions and ruminations with us. Wishing you and your whole clan a warm, love-filled Christmas. I have no doubt it will be.

  4. Your columns are like a Christmas gift that keeps giving all throughout the year. They make Wednesdays and Saturdays extra special. Will you be doing a Christmas reading at your church this year? And will that service be available for viewing? I really enjoyed watching it last year. Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy New Year!

  5. Kevin Cherniss is our longtime neighbor, friend and personal bartender at our irregular family parties. A wonderful guy! He’s a son of Charles (“Chuck”) Cherniss the late legendary editor of the Pasadena Star-News, another member of your old
    talented newspaper fraternity.

      1. Chris:
        Chuck was a Pasadena newspaper icon
        Not a gin guy.No wine!
        Scotch on the rocks with a splash!
        Don’t think he’d be a crypto fan. Cold hard cash!

  6. Happy holidays to you & your lovely family.
    I too look forward to Wednesday and Saturdays.
    Stay healthy and safe.

  7. I mainly want to echo all the above comments (Sheesh you have some very erudite friends!) Except for the Go Raiders one … I’d like to tell them where to go… speaking of football, we (Monika and I) were at the game last Sunday! I wish I knew you were there, I would have waved and maybe bought you a $20 beer… we loved the stadium and the staff was excellent, and very helpful. And the crowd was happy and very friendly (especially to us Giants fans) BUT, no one told me you couldn’t bring in a purse unless it was in a see-through bag, and although the lovely young girl at the gate tried her best, I blew it by not admitting I had prescription blood pressure medication in my bag (they would have given me a medical waiver) so we had to check my purse for an additional $20 (so we only bought one beer) AND getting out of there was madness! We ended up after waiting over an hour for an Uber then Lyft then a Yellow cab, none of which ever came, paying a rogue taxi $60 to take us 7 miles. And of course the Giants, being the Giants, lost – Never again! But I’m glad we went, what better way to drop $376 on a Sunday afternoon.
    A very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your beautiful family, Chris Erskine, you keep me feeling young (at heart)
    Your Pal,
    Judy

    1. Merry Christmas, Chris and Happy Holidays to all! Thanks you for your twice-a-week gifts of love, laughter, loss, and libations that you share with us all year long. You brighten our lives and I am grateful. – Mike

  8. I don’t need no pile a’ presents
    Underneath the Christmas tree
    I don’t want no mistletoe
    Hangin’ up there over me
    I just want you for my own
    I want you and you alone
    Darlin’ don’t be blue
    All I want for Christmas is you;…

    I don’t want no choir of angels
    Singin’ like a sweet banshee
    I just want you!—that’s no maybe
    Next to me for all to see
    Like a dog without a bone
    I’ll gnaw you and you alone
    Baybee it is true
    All I want for Christmas is….you.

    (With apologies to the Queen Of The Shriekers, sung in the key of thee)

    Meli Kalikimaka to one and all, and also to any dogs out there wearing antlers and feeling sheepish(hangdog). I did the twist at a neighborhood driveway concert yesterday with a woman behaving badly( (no alcohol, just Christmas spirit) and they threw pennies at us. I put the coins in the tip jar, along with some holiday other. At least they knew the name of what we were doing. Covid actually went away for a moment—imagine that…The Lone Ranger, mask and all, gyrating with Wonder Woman. I feel a script coming on…

  9. Terrific family photo. If you haven’t selected your favorite holiday movie I suggest Scrooge with Albert Finney. Wishing you and your family a happy and healthy 2022.

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