probably if i had some cat antlers i’d be fine

I don’t know how to deal with Christmas. Aside from some great hangouts with great people, the entire thing is just a disaster, and it’s still a better-than-average year. Every time it comes around, I think “well, maybe it’ll be alright this time”, and then it’s just catastrophe after catastrophe.

Usually it’s at least someone else’s fault. Family crisis, funeral, hospitals, cops, whatever. This year it was all me. I spent yesterday evening and today with Audra, and I’m so stressed out about the possibility of having a terrible fucked-up holiday that I have managed to:

  • Fuck things up with regards to receiving presents
  • Fuck things up with regards to giving presents
  • Fuck up her boxing day breakfast making
  • Fuck up our boxing day post-breakfast pre-hangout plans
  • Fuck up her boxing day post-hangout evening plans

Fuck.

A head full of noise and muscles singing like high-voltage wires; all I want for Christmas is to sleep until spring.

…and by ‘late’, I mean ‘Satan’.

I missed this piece by Powazek when it came out, but better late than never:

Imagine that suddenly everyone around you begins to act funny. First your coworkers start to ask you what you’ve got planned for the Dark Days. Then you notice that storefronts are putting up decorations of burgundy and black, 10 foot-tall spikes festooned with bones. When you walk into stores, they’re all playing the same strange songs.

“Oh the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful, and since we’ve no place to go, let it bleed from your head to your toes.”

When you buy your groceries, the person behind the counter says, “Hail Satan!” Total strangers on the street say it, too. And every one of them looks at you, waiting for you to say it back.

Then you realize that every house on your street is decorated with what looks like glowing entrails. Every window has that bony spike in the living room window. You go home and turn on the TV and every show has a Satan-themed episode. Characters spreading the festive entrails on the customary spike. All the special movies feature a sad non-believer who ultimately finds joy in the Dark Lord.

Distant family members, old friends, and your coworkers send you cards that say “Hail Satan” and “Praise the Dark Lord” and “Wishing You A Grisly Death in the New Year.” And then, towards the end of the month, people actually roam the streets, chanting in unison about their Great Dark Lord.

And then suddenly everything goes back to normal. The boney spikes are left on the sidewalks to be hauled away, all the magenta and black merchandise is put on sale, and no one talks about it for eleven months, when it all happens again.

This is what it’s like to not celebrate Christmas.

Exmas

Skip this post if you don’t like reading about religion.

I’m not a big fan of the holiday season, as I might’ve maybe mentioned. Once or twice.

I’m not religious. I’ll see my mom on Christmas Eve, but I don’t have a tree at home, and I don’t often give gifts. I do observe the winter solstice, but it’s much more of an observation than it is a celebration, and my head isn’t in the game as much as it was when I was younger and wiser. I was, however, raised Roman Catholic, and as a child I was deeply religious. I attended Catholic school, weekly mass, and received the sacraments; Confirmation, the Eucharist, the Sacrament of Penance… I sang in the Church Choir, and I was an Altar Boy. (I hear they’re called Altar Servers now, but we didn’t let girls in the club back then.)

Anyway.

All of this to say that I have a fairly solid understanding of Catholicism, and although it seems I’m in the minority in this, my experiences with it were very positive.

To be clear, I’m not saying Catholicism itself is positive, or making any statement about religion proper, just my own experience with it.

I was lucky enough to have churches and schools full of priests and teachers who were mostly bright and caring. Most importantly, they placed a sharp focus on deriving moral direction from the bible itself, rather than any overarching Church dogma. It’s a cliche, but it almost always came down to the question, “what would Jesus do?”

…and the thing about JC (we go way back) is that he’s a really great person to draw lessons from, and if most Christians paid any attention to what he said, the world would be a much better place. None of the hot-topic religious issues in public debate today (abortion, ‘the gay’, etc) get more than a dozen lines in the bible. No one cares about them. Jesus certainly doesn’t care about them. There are thousands and thousands of verses and sermons on peacemaking, community and forgiveness, but the most clear message in all of the bible is on poverty. When a rich man asked Jesus what he needed to do to get into heaven, Jesus told him that rich people don’t go to heaven, so he needed to sell all his worldly shit and give the money to the homeless.

Anyway.

All of this to say that this is the only time of year in which the public celebration of a religious holiday actually makes me angry. You’ve got families spending thousands of dollars on themselves and their friends in the spirit of giving, hyperextended retail hours, credit limit raises and extra loans — millions of Canadians showing their holiday spirit by buying, buying, buying.

If you’re celebrating Christmas this year, try giving to the people you won’t see every day, who aren’t your family or coworkers or friends you get drunk with. There are a lot of very, very cold people downtown who could use a coffee, a hot meal, or some warm gloves and thermal socks.

It’s the Christian thing to do.

And if, like me, you’re not Christian, then you shouldn’t need a 2,000 year old dead guy to tell you it’s the right thing to do.

softer, lesser, slower, weaker

I took a sick day today. I’m feeling pretty icky, but mostly I’ve just got the winter blues, and I wasn’t up to a Monday morning.

I feel like shit whining about how I feel like shit, especially since I’m well aware how heavily the season is weighing on my mood. I know that it’s exaggerated, and that if it were bright and sunny I wouldn’t really feel this way, but that doesn’t change what it’s like inside my own skin.

I’m not going to be heading out on the Chemlab tour with Cyanotic. The details of why aren’t really important, but mostly it just didn’t make for good logistics.

I’d like to take some of my vacation time and travel somewhere, commitment-free. Nowhere fancy or far away, just somewhere where I won’t be DJing, playing, working, or doing anything out of obligation. A week in Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver, to drink coffee, explore the streets at night, and wrap myself in the anonymity that comes with being a stranger in a big city.

I do have friends and family in all of these places, but I’m not sure that my navel-gazing would make for good company. I’m also not sure where I stand with a lot of these people — not for any reason other than the erosion that silence and distance work on relationships — and I don’t want to impose my yearly existential crisis on anyone else.

I don’t talk much about why this time of year upsets me so much, or about the place that it puts me in.

A year or three ago, I wrote my excessively wordy LJ bio:

“I would tell you of my childhood, but I remember very little. I lived with my mother, and I was sixteen before I saw both of my parents in the same room together. I remember moving, always moving. I remember being kidnapped when I was eight, and a Christmas that the Hell’s Angels gave us a tree and gifts when we didn’t have money for food, much less toys […]

Mostly I remember a sense of profound sadness; A feeling that above all, life is about survival, and little else.”

That’s what Christmas reminds me of, and that’s how winter makes me feel. I was always profoundly aware every Christmas just how poor we were, and how hard my mother worked to bring my brother and I that single day of toys, smiles, and happiness. She’d do everything she could to get us whatever it was we’d been dreaming of all year (which was almost certainly video games), and more often than not she’d succeed — but it wasn’t what she gave us that was depressing, it was the struggle itself. It brought into sharp focus just how little life cares for fairness, how naive the idea of karma really was.

When I was a very, very young child, it was Kelvin, my grandfather, who would take me fishing, or to a new movie, or to the arcade. He wasn’t related to me by blood, but he was my grandfather, and I loved him as much as I loved my mother.

He died on Christmas day when I was eight. My mother didn’t tell me until Boxing Day, and I vividly remember how numbing the news was. I didn’t feel shocked, or sad, or much of anything at all. I didn’t cry when she told me, or at his funeral, and in all truth and honesty I don’t remember crying again until I was fourteen and I found a hidden folder of stories and comics on a friend’s computer, each one making fun of me in a different way: My hair, my nose, my teeth, my voice, my everything.

I do have good memories of Christmas — staying up all night and all day with Josh playing our new Nintendo 64, seeing the little furry ball of kitten that my mother surprised me with, sitting on the porch with Tracy Page and smoking cigarettes, watching the snow fall — but they’re few, far between, and hopelessly outnumbered.

Now I try to spend Christmas with friends, in a quiet, safe space; but Christmas is just one day in a long winter.

This is why I travel so much during winter, in spite of how unhappy the cold makes me. When I’m writing in an empty Toronto cafe with the wind pounding at the door, or walking down St. Catherine between giant snowflakes, that’s my insulation. My quiet, safe space. It’s not fair to expect my friends and family to shore me up emotionally every day until the sun comes back.

HAPPY HO HO


Anyone who wants to avoid the holidays/malls/family is more than welcome at our house tomorrow. Movies, food, games, coffee.

Also I have been informed that Yann “Busy Hands” McManno may be giving out fondles to all attendees. Further details as I get them.

(Just let me know if you’re coming by, so we know how many people to expect.)

508

Kurt Vonnegut:

“I felt as I did when the Second World War ended: ‘Please, I’ve done everything I’m supposed to do, can’t I go home now?’ ” he says.

A truck out on the street honks its horn and Vonnegut looks toward the restaurant’s entrance. His eyes seem to water a little and his voice lowers almost to a whisper. “Where is home? I’ve wondered where home is, and I realized, it’s not Mars or someplace like that, it’s Indianapolis when I was nine years old. I had a brother and a sister, a cat and a dog, and a mother and a father and uncles and aunts. And there’s no way I can get there again.”

If there was ever a piece of art I needed, it is this:


The Big Goodbye

I’m going to start putting money away for it now. With any luck, I’ll be able to pick one up for myself in the next four to six months. With greater luck, they won’t have all sold by then.

416

HOW ARE YOU GENTLEMEN

This is a friends-only post, to which everyone is allowed to read except Leslie Leslie, if you’re reading this because Josh (the jerk) forgot to log out, stop now.

Okay.

So — I’m putting together a collection for a Christmas/Solstice/Etc. gift for Leslie. As you may (or may not) remember, a year or two ago I put together a collection to pick her up an old digital camera, because she wanted to get into photography. We ended up getting an old Kodak, and many wonderful pictures were taken. Now, however, the camera is showing its age, and is rapidly approaching uselessness. This is what I’d like to get her:

A shiny new Coolpix 4500 (or a 995, if I can’t find a deal on a 4500), which is the undisputed king of macro photography. Which is really the kind of ography that Leslie wants to do. On the plus side, the camera also takes killer non-macro shots.
An also-shiny Cool Light SL-1, which attaches to the Coolpix (either model) for helping light macro subjects.
A 1-year Flickr account, so she has all the space in the world to upload/share/post photography, and a nice interface to do it with.

This is the plan. I understand that money is tight all over, so if you can’t contribute, no worries. If you can, that would be fan-fucking-tastic. There’s over a hundred and fifty people who have me on their friends list — even if 1/3rd of that number has an extra few dollars in their paypal account, that’d cover a large chunk of the expenses.

Also, you’d be making Leslie really, really happy. And you’ll have pretty pictures to look at, afterward.

If you can email me at jairus@gmail.com if you’re able to contribute (not any other email address, which she might accidentally open), it would be greatly, greatly appreciated.

Thank you for your time.