Christmas 2003 

This is the longest I haven't blogged in quite some time. I really meant to, but forces allied against me at every turn. My sister's AOL connection was just too slow, and ever since I've been back, I've been consumed by other matters. Like getting wasted and having a hall-of-fame hangover.

Anyway, to summarize my trip: bitchin'. Normally, Christmas with the Fam is utterly irritating, as I am trapped in Nowheresville, USA, and forced to make idle chatter that in no way broaches touchy subjects like my cousin bleeding Grandma dry of her few remaining pennies, or my own mom's inability to find and keep a job. Worst of all, there is no escape. So this year, everything was turned around. My sister had my mom and me over to her house in Cleveland, giving me a room in her basement where I could retreat if necessary. No extraneous relatives to bore me (remember, this is the maternal side of the family; I like my paternal relatives). My sister has two kids, A1 who is 12 and A2 who is 10. With kids around, all focus shifts to them, so wayward adults can sink into the background.

Even my mother seemed relieved of her usual burdens of anxiety over nothing. We spoke candidly about our mutual single status, and she revealed she's been trying online dating. Of course, the limitations of her location (in southern Indiana) means the only guys she's met so far have been mooching weirdos, at least as far as I'm concerned. But she's trying. But that's another reason I won't go the online dating route: I really don't wanna do anything that crosses such paths with my mother. I really don't.

Family bonding aside, the real allure of my trip was that, by being in Cleveland, there was a possibility I could run into people I actually know. I made tentative plans with several people who would be in the vicinity, but like last time I was there, I forgot that Cleveland spreads out over an enormous area. Even though New York is bigger than than Cleveland, everything is so much more compact here that one may lose perspective of life in the car-driven parts of the world. I met up with Sean and his ladyfriend for a brief tour around the Cleveland Heights area. We wandered around Coventry and Shaker Square, admiring the older architecture and buying some crap at Big Fun, which I was happy to see was still in business. Then I went over to Ohio City to meet R, who I have not seen in something like 12 years. Weird. Perhaps it's because we both have blogs now, but I didn't feel like much time had passed at all, even though we had to give each other a run-down of what we'd been up to for the past decade. Turns out, she knows a bunch of people I knew from college (even the bartender went to OU). And her brother just moved to Park Slope, living with another guy I used to know from high school. We didn't even end up spending the whole night listing all the people we used to know and where they are now. Okay, we did it a little, but it was in service of the larger conversation.

I was a bit paranoid about drinking too much wine and having to drive back in the snow, so we drank like a gallon of water before I hit the road which, on Christmas Eve, was almost completely deserted. My brother-in-law lent me his car the whole time I was there, which went a long way in improving my opinion of the guy. He still won't talk to anybody but the dog, but I guess I can accept that.

I gave my mom some scarves from Century 21, which she seemed to like a lot. She commented, "This is the first gift like this you've ever given me that wasn't also from your girlfriend at the time. I always thought it was the girl who picked these things out." I had to admit I enlisted female friend M to help me select them, but at least I know my limitations. I received a set of stainless steel cookware, which will come in handy as I have never actually owned my own pots and pans. I have always just mooched off whoever I was living with at the time. Now maybe I'll finally use that gift certificate and sign up for the cooking classes I've been meaning to take for a year.

I flew back on Christmas Day, the best day in the world to travel. The airports were deserted; even the security check-in was devoid of human life. I got back to Brooklyn, and later went to the Alibi with MRK and some other folks. Owen was bartending and feeling full of the Christmas Spirit. We played Pogues songs on the jukebox and the whole bar danced around like extras from Michael Collins. At one point we put our coats on to smoke outside when Owen waved us back in. "Ah, you can smoke in here," he said, reaching under the counter and producing a stack of ashtrays (none of which had been cleaned since their useful days).

And let me tell you, there was much rejoicing. We all went apeshit over this act of civil disobedience, which resulted in all of us getting extremely lit. We drank all the Powers in the house and switched to Jamesons, which was a really friggin' bad idea for me. Somebody brought cheesecake to the bar, which I wisely avoided (sugar = hangover for me), but I had dug my own grave anyway. We stayed almost until closing time and I passed out at home. I awoke with a smashing hangover which pretty much rendered the day a wash. I finally regained consciousness in the evening and made up for my wasted day by cooking a big dinner. So except for the hangover and not getting to see more folks in Cleveland, this still amounts to one of the best Christmases I've endured. Alas, I can already see next Christmas forming, and it will no doubt be a return to form, sequestered in a little Indiana town, with nothing to do but drink more Coors Light and watch Animal Planet.

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