The Art Hotel

Sacramento has changed a lot in five years.  One of my favorite old art galleries is now a coworking space.  Some of the older buildings are either boarded up or in the process of being torn down.  There are new trendy cafes and restaurants.  Some of the restaurants have moved or have gone out of business.  There aren’t as many cats sitting on porches as there used to be.

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I stopped by an art installation today at the random suggestion of an old friend on Facebook.  Her post said, “Pictures don’t do the experience justice. Just go. Before 2/13 when it will all be torn down.”  The pictures didn’t do it justice.  But the location was on the way to The Crocker Art Museum which is where I was headed anyway.

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The installation is called The Art Hotel and it takes place inside an historic building known as The Marshall Hotel.  The Marshall Hotel has been a point of contention for Sacramento residents for years. It was known as a slum but for many Sacramento residents who suffered through the worst of the housing crisis, the Marshall Hotel was something of a beacon of hope and refuge.  It contained small, affordable, studio apartments and housed some of Sacramento’s long-time residents.  The residents of the building were evicted last year and the building is set for demolition later this month so it can be replaced by an upscale Hyatt Hotel adjacent to the new arena.

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Sacramento, like a lot of Northern California cities, is suffering from an identity crisis created by gentrification in the name of economic growth. It is sacrificing the cool for the trendy, the affordability for the temporary, the stable for the possibilities, the people for the corporations, and the art for the new.  I just hope it doesn’t lose all of what makes it awesome.  After visiting The Art Hotel, I still have hope for Sacramento and for what’s to come.

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The Art Hotel, located until February 13th at 7th Street between K and L in Sacramento is a temporary art installation and possibly one of the most important art pieces of our lifetime and particularly the most important art installation that has ever graced Sacramento’s stage.  (I’m not an art critic and this is merely conjecture.)  Sacramento needs The Art Hotel and all of Sacramento should wait as long as they have to in order to see it.

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What is taking place at The Art Hotel in Sacramento speaks volumes to an overall trend in economics in cities and communities all across America.  I came to the installation blindly.  I learned later that there had been a kickstarter campaign and a handful of art-loving donors who had helped to make the art happen.  From my outsider perspective, a group of artists converted what had once been the homes of many, many low-income people, into a statement about what happens when we evict the artists, the elderly, the down-trodden, the poor, the mentally ill, the disabled , the addicted, and the general diversity of a community in need.  Maybe the artists weren’t trying to be that involved in a message.  Maybe it’s just art for art’s sake.  Either way it’s really good.  Quite simply, it’s revolutionary.

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I started my morning in the car driving down from the foothills listening to a report about the all-time high rates for renters in America and the lack of affordable housing both in cities and in rural areas across the United States.  I moved to midtown Sacramento in 2002 because it was affordable at the time.  I bought my first house in east Sacramento and lost it in the 2008 housing crisis.  I moved back to midtown after less than three years as a home-owner and back into affordable apartment living.  My last apartment in midtown was a studio for $700/month.  It was little but it was cute and I was happy living there.  The same place would now cost me $1,300/month, according to a recent Craig’s list ad.

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As we continue to let the divide between the rich and the poor deepen, we continue to allow the gap between the valuable and necessary widen.

The Art Hotel is temporary.  The art there has a time limit.  It exists in a building slated to be demolished and there is no chance of saving it. In a year the The Art Hotel will be forgotten and the space will be filled with cell-phone talking executives waiting to go to a sporting event. That’s a part of why The Art Hotel is so important. It speaks volumes to how we go forward with art.  It speaks volumes to how we treat our cities and how we develop our communities. There is no saving the art in The Art Hotel.  The people who lived there are already gone.  There is only going forward.

Hotels are valuable.  Art is necessary.

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How We Grieve in the 21st Century: Grief, Death, and Pop Culture

“When beggars die, there are no comets seen;
The heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes.”

-William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar

 

The first weeks of 2016 have been heartbreaking for anyone who cares, even peripherally, about art, creation, and trend-setting.  We are 30 days into 2016 and things are looking very grim for this calendar year.  We still have eleven months left to contend with, plus an extra day because 2016 is a leap year.

Francisco X. Alarcon died a couple weeks ago.  His was the third reverberating and heart-wrenching death for me in what has been a very short year so far.  He was a poet and a very nice man.  His death came after a few weeks of bad news and at a time when I didn’t think things could get worse.  Since I started working on this piece, there have been more names to add, like Glenn Frey.

I am 35 years old and I find myself trying to be very brave these days. I’m trying to be okay with the next new experience, in the same way I had to be brave when I was a little girl starting kindergarten.  I’m finding that I’m not very good at being brave.

When I posted my hopes for 2016, I was very clear.  I didn’t realize that, four weeks later, several of the people I consider dear friends would be gone.

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When my grandfather died three years ago, his youngest daughter, my Aunt, emailed the family to let us know he was gone.  Given the circumstances, it was probably the best form of communication.  He was 93 years old and had been ailing for some time.  We knew the hours were few and we knew that she had gone to say goodbye.  The email came across around dinner time.  I didn’t make any calls.  I didn’t reach out.  I responded to my aunt’s email and copied the family members that had been included in the original email.

I wrote, “Thank you.  I love you all very much.”

I had been throttled at the moment I received the email, even though I knew that news of my grandfather’s death was inevitable and on its way.  Still, I felt crumpled and paper-thin.  I just wanted to curl into ball. And yet, I didn’t call my cousins.  I didn’t even call my mother. I just suffered in the silence of incredible and private mourning.  I might have made myself tea.  I might have crawled into bed with my grief.  I don’t honestly remember what I said to my wife at that moment, who had never met grandfather.  I remember feeling so helpless and sad.  But I also remember doing absolutely nothing.  I remember not understanding what to do.  I remember that nothing felt somehow reasonable.

 

When David Bowie died, I had been up late writing.  I had put my phone on silent and had shut down all access to the internet.  When I laid down to go to sleep, I pulled up the browser on my phone to look something up and I saw the news of Bowie’s passing on my Facebook feed.  I shook my wife awake and told her what had happened. It seemed okay to wake her. I was sad and the person who had died was famous. She was still half-asleep and didn’t totally understand.  She could tell I was upset and put her arms around me.  I immediately felt bad for waking her because she had to get up for work just a few hours later.

After she had fallen back to sleep, I untangled myself from her arms and got out of bed to put myself in front of my computer to write my Bowie Heartbreak Blog.

At around two in the morning I saw that one of my dearest friends posted something on Facebook about Bowie’s passing. I sent her a text message at 2:23am that said, “I’m still up. If you just need to cry about it. Because I kind of need that too.”  The phone rang within seconds.

My friend and I spent the next two hours on the phone sobbing honestly and horrifically about David Bowie’s death.  We didn’t hold anything back.  We cried.  We cried loudly.  We cried ugly.  We coughed and choked between crying.  We said things about god and the universe that we didn’t mean.  We said things about music.  We talked about justice.  We concluded that the world is horrible and unfair.

It was honest and exhausting and I couldn’t get out of bed the next day.

Four days later, after I had started to recover a bit, after I had decided to put on a brave face, I awoke to a group text message between friends who had waited in line for Harry Potter’s Book 7. “Alan Rickman died. My heart hurts.”

I immediately fell back into a child-like and socially-unacceptable petulance.  Famous people, iconic people had died.  I was sad.  Several other people were also sad.  I sat awake in bed holding my copy of The Half-Blood Prince.

 

My generation may be the first generation where so much of our culture and familial identity is fiction.  And yet, our fiction is so vast and stretching that it is indeed real and tangible, soul crushing and penetrating.

If I try to say to a coworker, “My grandfather died.” I’m likely to be met with something like, “Dude that sucks.”  It’s an understanding but it’s a calculated response.

But if I say, “David Bowie died,” my friends and acquaintances might actually understand what I’m saying.  They might actually accept that what I’m expressing is about grieving and common interests, and human intersection.  Because that’s what pop culture is.  Popular and Cultural.  Meaning, all of us feel it and noticed its merit.  Even if weird. Or different. Or incomprehensible at the time.

It’s really hard for me to admit that my heart is broken and that I’m still hurting.  I don’t think of myself as star struck.

But, as we lose so many incredible people whose talents have touched us so wholly, I realize that my generation may be the first generation growing up in the way that I grew up.  My generation may be the first generation where so much of our culture is vast and stretching yet real and tangible, soul crushing and penetrating.  We have so much love for our well-known heroes.

 

But when it comes to our closest people, when it comes to those that matter so much, we have no protocol.  We have very little support.

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I wish I could look at random strangers with tears in my eyes and say, “My grandpa, Doc Morasch, was an amazing man and I miss him very much.”  And I wish that, in response, those strangers would put their arms around me and say, “I know.  He was a great man and great grandfather.  He played a mean clarinet and his sandwiches were out of this world.” I wish that were real.  I wish that every person who felt grief for someone they love could feel that kind of honest connection and response.

And I think that our connection for our fallen pop soldiers is our way of translating our grief. It‘s our way of making sense of something we need desperately.   If I say to friend that, “’Five years’ on vinyl was brilliant,” and they say, “I know.” It means we somehow understand each other.  It means that we have love in common.

We need to know that the people we love mattered.  And we all need to know that our love in this world matters.  Maybe our collective grief for our artists and heroes is our way of knowing.

Democracy Is Possible. It Requires Participation.

I have not been following any articles or trending topics on Facebook.  I haven’t clicked through to quotes and I haven’t watched sound-bites from news clips. In an effort to mitigate the falsehoods and focus on the truth about presidential politics, I have made a commitment to read only thoughtful material from credible sources.

I have done a lot of reading lately.  As such, I thought I’d be prepared for an SNL skit about a recent endorsement.

Not even close.  I watched the below SNL skit about the Sarah Palin endorsement of Donald J. Trump for president before watching the actual coverage.  I felt confused about the comedic choices and felt as though Tina Fey and the SNL writers had gone too far making fun of Sarah Palin, venturing into a terrible genre of making fun of the developmentally disabled.

And then I watched the actual endorsement that had taken place days prior.

After seeing the original and completely bizarre press conference from Sarah Palin and Donald Trump, it is obvious to me that Tina Fey’s parody was hilarious.  To be fair, however, words like crazy and retarded are unprogressive and they marginalize people.  These words aren’t good choices for comedy. Still, the skit was amazing:

For an incredible monologue and for additional commentary, please see this clip from Stephen Colbert. (I think he and his writing team deserve an Emmy for this. They reference both Disney’s The Little Mermaid and Allen Ginsberg’s Howl in almost the same breath.)

But let’s be fair.  All of this is fun and games until someone gets hurt.  This country voted for George W. Bush TWICE.  We, as a nation, voted for George W. Bush after he sent us into war for a lie.  In 2004, this country voted for George w. Bush over John Kerry by 34 electoral votes and by 3 million popular (the people) votes.

If this seems a bit daunting, or if the rest of the world is wondering about America’s ability to care, the Stephen Colbert video I posted to this blog already has more than 5 million views on Youtube in less than one week.  Democracy is possible.  It just requires participation.

If you are an American citizen, please register to vote.  Please.

And then go vote.

 

Dance Magic Dance

A part of me died tonight.  It took me by surprise. I had no idea how much I loved David Bowie until tonight when I found him gone.

David Bowie was the first person who ever made me feel like I had an identifiable sexuality or a specific gender identity. I will never forget the first time I watched Labyrinth and I will never forget how it made me feel. In hindsight, this is odd, because I’m a queer woman and, as a pre-pubescent teen in 1986 watching Labyrinth, it was really confusing to watch Jareth, The Goblin King, and his codpiece, and to think thoughts about something that I was fully too young to understand.

In the next few hours and days, there will be several news outlets and magazines that eulogize David Bowie.  They will talk about his incredible vocal capability.  And they will be right.  They will talk about his trend-setting fashion.  And they will be right.  There might be a few publications that mention Ziggy Stardust and the incredible bravery and ultimately revolutionary persona that David Bowie offered in that moment.  And hopefully they will understand how unbelievable he was, and how far ahead of his time he was in that moment.  But probably not.  In all likelihood Ziggy Stardust will be mentioned as a song on an album and not as a movement.

David Bowie was so sexy in his own right and so far ahead of his time in gender fluidity that it’s hard to look back on his career and pinpoint the moment when he became a symbol rather than an icon.  His sincerity met the expanse of his career and his genuine approach to artistry was so authentic that few people noticed the movement.  David Bowie will likely be remembered as an incredible songwriter and a beautiful popstar.

David Bowie positioned himself with such integrity that his death snuck up on us and his legacy might go without notice in the mainstream.

For me, he was my first love.  He was my first real crush.  And, as I got older, and started to understand a little better, I came to understand that he was my first real hero.

For me, and for many people like me, David Bowie wasn’t simply an incredible singer and song-writer.  He was a revolutionary who took gender non-conformity to new levels when gender non-conformity didn’t yet have a term.  He shook the world with his alter-ego in a way that will never be taken back.  He lived his life so extraordinarily that when he died tonight he took two very real people with him.

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Good night David Bowie.  And sweet dreams Ziggy Stardust.

We will never forget you.  Either of you.  And the people who knew you will ever forget your music.

I will miss you forever.  And I will never forget your advice:

Dance magic dance.

 

2015

2016

2015 was a happy and mostly uneventful year for my wife and I.  We enjoyed time with friends and family, though we would have liked to have had more of it.  There were a few births, a few weddings, and, for us, only a couple, and mostly distant deaths.

A couple of my old friends and I got together at the end of December to bake cookies and recount the year.  As I described 2015, I felt thankful that my worst moment was entirely trivial.  When asked to name my worst moment, I sheepishly listed a fight about the Christmas tree that my wife and I had had that week. It was stupid and unnecessary but it felt particularly important and awful at the time. (We had to move the tree because we flooded the tree stand and we needed to mop up the water.  It resulted in broken ornaments. It felt horrible but, ultimately, it was really dumb.)  We got over it.

This year, my best friend’s father and step-mother died within two weeks of each other in November. They visited in the fall and they were gone two months later.

I know that 20 years from now, if I were given the chance to relive a single year of my life, 2015 would probably be a very good choice, not for any overt joy, but rather, for the distinct lack of sorrow.

In 2015, my wife and I didn’t make a lot of money.  We paid the bills and never overdrew our checking account.  We didn’t get to travel to Europe or take any long vacations.  There were fun weekend excursions and a couple of really beautiful camping trips.  We didn’t get any new pets or have any children.  But none of our pets or loved ones had any major medical emergencies this year.

We didn’t get to do everything we wanted to this year.  We didn’t get to see every person we love.  But we got to do a hell of a lot.  And we got to hug a lot of people.  And I’m pretty sure that everyone whom we love knows that we love them, even if only in some small way.  And so, if I could choose to do 2015 over, I would.

As I look toward 2016, I have high hopes for a more exciting year but I feel very cautious about having high hopes.  I’d like to have a job that’s both meaningful and makes enough money to put away something towards savings. I’d like to plan a trip to Spain, something I’ve been dreaming of. My wife and I currently share a single car and our car is over 10 years old.  We’d like to get a newer, more reliable car.  I’d like to spend time with family and I’d like to make more time for friends.

But mostly, more than anything, I just want the people I love to be safe, happy, and healthy.

Being Honest About the Holidays

The holidays make normal people crazy.  And the holidays make crazy people worse.  

In my last blog, I posted this really cute, touchy-feely piece with advice for the holidays.  I told folks not to worry too much. I said that holiday meals aren’t a big deal. I said that hosting holiday gatherings can be easy.  It was a very sweet blog.  It was also very bad advice.

My grandmother, Dottie Morasch, was known for her execution of the holidays. She was not known for her patience or her kind demeanor.  She wasn’t known for a great singing voice or for giving great advice.  My grandmother was known for being proper, for being impeccably dressed, and for throwing one hell of a party.  

Dottie Morasch left nothing to chance. She loved to throw a party and she loved to throw a party under one single condition: it had to be perfect. My grandmother loved to host at Christmas time. She had total control over the meal. Everyone had to dress up–the men and boys wore ties and the women and girls wore dresses.

The family had to send my grandmother our Christmas gifts ahead of time so that she could wrap them in the appropriate colors that would match her party’s theme, usually gold, white, and silver.

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The holidays can be a very big challenge, even for balanced, and well-meaning people. I don’t usually think of myself as a perfectionist but I know I’m a bit like my grandmother, especially when it comes to the holidays.  I love throwing one hell of a party.  

I made quince pie filling from scratch last week.  For the recipe, I went to a specialty store and bought cardamom pods and anise stars. It took six hours to boil the filling down to the right color and consistency.  And that was just the beginning.

For Christmas this year, I’m feeding my wife and our shared family.  There will be nine of us.  I have known about the number of guests for at least a month.  And, for at least a month, I have been making notes in a spreadsheet using Google Docs.  I first outlined the dishes I had planned then broke them down by ingredients. After that, I broke the ingredients into a shopping list with stores.  Then I broke the ingredients into store by department.  Then I broke down the dishes by ingredients and then meal prep by day and time.  For the past four days I have been cooking and for the weeks before that, I have been thinking about cooking.

But before all of that, I sent my family a survey about what they might want to eat. (If only my grandmother had access to modern, digital tools.)  You can take the survey here.

My family voted on ham.  I’ve never made a ham before but I wanted to make sure our Christmas ham was grass-fed and humanely-raised. (No factory farms.) Last week, I met a local farmer in the parking lot of a church to buy a grass-fed, humanely-raised, locally-grown ham. And I bought locally-prepared mustard to go with the ham. I’ve watched about two hours of cooking shows and advice about how to cook a ham.  I feel semi-prepared.

My grandmother, before me, browsed cookbooks.  She pulled off every meal perfectly.

Tonight, after prepping and preparing every side-dish and appetizer, chopping garnishes, and preparing sauces for tomorrow, I finally took time to set the table.  It made me miss my Grandma.

My cousins and I joke that, “Our grandmother was Martha Stewart before Martha Stewart existed.”  And she was.  To a fault.  Every Christmas, she directed my grandfather to decorate the house in white lights, all running in the same direction.  Her Christmas tree never had family heirlooms or ornaments made by her grandchildren. It was tediously decorated in matching ribbons and complimenting colors.  She served dinner on fine China with fine silver. The kids always sat at a separate table.

I can’t remember a single gift my grandmother gave me but I can remember what most of the Christmases looked like.  Every year, it was nothing short of gorgeous.

Two nights ago, I laid awake in my bed thinking about whether or not the threading in my Christmas tablecloth was “too silver”.  I thought about and weighed several decor options and planned my set-up.  Finally I decided that I would take my silver candle holders from the mantle and set them on the table to tie the whole thing together.  I fell soundly asleep after that.

When I awoke the next morning, I thought to myself, “WTF? Why did I think any of that was suddenly important?”  I like to decorate and have a festive time but I’m not totally hell-bent on making the table-settings match.  And then I thought about my grandmother and I was thankful for her perfectionism.  

Whether we are visited by those who came before us, or whether we inherit a certain quality of former loved ones, those particular spirits or habits tend to visit us strongly over the holidays, especially when we are expecting other loved ones.  

Tonight, I set the table in honor of my Grandmother, Dottie Morasch.  She wasn’t always my favorite person but she did a lot of things right. She always made Christmas beautiful. She always made the holidays feel special.  She let my grandfather put up with her for more than 60 years. She made my every celebration feel special.  

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Dorothy “Dottie” Ferry Morasch loved a good party and she loved the Christmas season.  I can still hear the sound of her voice singing “Frosty the Snowman” dancing around her house, decorating, and getting ready for guests.  

As I decorated my holiday table this year, I couldn’t get my grandmother out of my head.  

Dottie Morasch died the day after Christmas on December 26th, 2010.  By anyone’s account, she was an incredible pain in the ass.  For those that loved her, they would say that she was certainly a pain in the ass. They would also say she was elegant, interesting, artistic, and delightful.  I miss her very much.

Love the people around you.  That’s all you can do for now.  (The alternative is worse.)

Hosting for the Holidays

I love trying new recipes during the holidays.  It’s the only time of year I look up recipe suggestions or watch cooking how-to videos.  (I’m generally an independent cook who likes to do my own thing.)

I recently tried a fun new recipe via Pinterest. It didn’t turn out as planned.

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There are several reasons why there are so many successful blogs on the web dedicated to “Pinterest Fails.”  Pinterest is where good ideas, thoughtful recipes, and practiced crafts go to be destroyed.

I’m making Christmas dinner this year. It will be my 20th or so major holiday meal. If I have any quick wisdom to share with other people from hosting several holiday gatherings in the past, I offer these two gems. One: Never try a new recipe for the first time in front of a crowd. Two: If you plan to have a crowd, don’t count on your modern plumbing to work reliably on any major holiday—have several gallons of water on standby just in case.

I’m not sure why I have had several plumbing mishaps on holidays—pipes bursting, pipes freezing, toilets clogging—but it has taught me the value of water during the holidays.  (Think dish-washing, meal prep, showers, and extra people using the toilet.)  It’s a smart idea to always keep a few extra gallons of water on hand during the holidays, just in case.  Maybe it gets used for your cousin’s truck’s leaky radiator.  Maybe your pipes freeze and you need it to boil potatoes or have it for drinking water.  Whatever the reason, having extra water, rather than no water, is always the better scenario.

As for the recipe thing?  Let me demonstrate using visuals.

Tonight I attempted a quaint recipe that I thought might be fun as a little extra treat for dessert.  It was supposed to look like this:

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If you are interested in attempting this recipe, you can find the recipe here.

Here’s what my version looked like:

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I was so close.  Luckily we had some vanilla ice cream in the house and I could lie to myself.  I pretended that this was an ice cream topping, that I had meant for the cookie to crumble.

I said in my last post that the holidays can be stressful.  I meant it.  To go further, the holidays are particularly difficult for the crazy people who love their family enough to have all of them over and make an attempt to serve a meal.

These are my tips:

Don’t make dinner a big deal.  If you are hosting, read a few cooking suggestions and “turkey tips” or “ham tips” but don’t set yourself up for failure by trying to overdo it.  If you are cooking a turkey, a ham, or a roast for the first time, just go for it.  You’ll figure it out. Watch a couple of Food Network Episodes or google some advice and then do your best.  After the main dish, use standby recipes for the side dishes. Macaroni and mashed potatoes are fine. I’m planning to make StoveTop Stuffing to serve at my Christmas Dinner. Christmas Dinner is not the event at which to attempt “Toasted Sweet Potato Meringue” or “Mushroom Encrusted Fois Gras“.  Those dishes are hard enough to spell.  No one should have to make them for their family during the holidays.

Ask the people arriving to bring either an appetizer, a dessert, a drink, or all of the above.  You agreed to make dinner on Christmas Day but we all know such a promise can lead to lunch before and dessert after.  Don’t fall into that trap.  If guests plan to arrive during the lunch hour for dinner, they should brings snacks.  Further, if folks want sweets after you present them with your culinary masterpiece, they should provide them.  You are dealing with the main event.  If someone wants pie after, they can provide the pie.  If your family isn’t known for pot lucking it, have a gallon of vanilla ice cream on hand and make no apologies when you set it on the table with a few bowls and spoons.

Give your guests enough to do that they are not sitting in your kitchen while you are trying to cook.  Arrange an outdoor activity or set out a puzzle.  You will have your hands full.  Keep your guests distracted.

Provide drinks.  If you have several soda drinkers in the family, have soda on hand.  If your uncles drink beer, grab a 12-pack.  Have wine for the wine drinkers and sparkling cider for the kids.  If possible, put out a pitcher of water or iced tea.  It’s a small touch but it makes people feel at ease and festive. And hopefully they won’t bother you about hydration.

Above all, enjoy every single moment.  If you are hosting this year, your place is the Grand Central Station of holiday activity.  Think of the new and wonderful.  Maybe there’s a baby celebrating a first or second holiday.  Also, think of the old and cherished.  What if this is someone’s last Christmas?  Behold every moment.

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Nothing is going to be perfect.  Maybe your brother brings a new girlfriend and she’s a vegan and refuses everything except salad.  Or maybe the kids in the family hate everything green, red, and orange and only eat mashed potatoes.  Maybe you’re hosting because you know that no one else in the family can afford it.  And maybe there aren’t a lot of gifts this year.  Or maybe there are a few gifts but they aren’t what anybody wanted.

There are a lot of ways to approach a holiday. Most of us expect too much. Or hope too deeply. We expect too much from ourselves and we expect too much from those around us.

If nothing else, be with your family and friends.  Burn the dinner, forget the dessert, forego the wine, and buy no presents.  If you are hosting and you completely screw up everything about hosting for the holidays no one will remember that you screwed up.  They will only remember that they were together and that you made it happen.

Hold onto that as you burn a batch of cookies.

 

How To Be A Terrible House Guest

The holidays aren’t easy.  This season is filled with chasms of disappointment and stress.  If you are taking up quarters with a friend or loved one, there is really no point in trying to make this time of year easier. Don’t bother picking up after yourself or offering to help with household chores.  If you are staying with a friend or family member any time soon, just make yourself comfortable and let your hostess deal with everything.

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Here is a list of things you can incorporate as a part of your stay in order to make your stay as excruciating as possible for everyone around you:

  1. In the planning process for your stay, try to be as vague as possible. Don’t bother to consider the hostess and her schedule.  Suggest no definite dates and instead give an approximate time frame about when you might show up and when you might leave.  Plan to stay for at least a week.  When you finally report on an approximate arrival date, arrive two days early so that whatever the hostess had planned for those two days has to be cancelled.
  2. Bring far more bags than you need for your stay. When you arrive, bring one or two bags into the house on your own but then demand help after that.  After the hostess has shown you where you will stay, express exasperation and the need for help with the rest of your baggage.  When the hostess begins to help, direct her as to where you wish your stuff to go.
  3. Once your ample bags have been removed from the car, strew them all over the room you are staying in so that it is impossible to access any closets. If the hostess offers cubbies or a dresser for you to put your stuff away, ignore her wholeheartedly and leave your stuff in bags on the floor for the duration of your stay. While you are at it, go ahead and leave stuff in the kitchen and in other rooms of the house as well.  As an added insult, bring extra boxes from your car that you won’t need during your stay and add them to your mess.  Further, if you are related to the person and will see them in the future, bring extra boxes of miscellany and ask the hostess to store them for you for an indeterminate amount of time.
  4. Bring your dog or other family pet. To really foster misery, bring a cat if the household you are visiting has a dog, or bring a dog if the household has cats. Set the pet’s bed in the kitchen or dining room, somewhere very intrusive.  When other guests wonder about your pet, ask if they knit and then demand that they make little sweaters for your animal.
  5. When things start to settle and people seem to accept your rudeness for idiosyncratic eccentricities, set up elaborate and messy art projects in common areas of the house. If possible, choose an art project that requires many colors of paint or glitter.  To be particularly awful, set up your art supplies at the kitchen table just before dinner.
  6. For the entire duration of your stay, do not do any dishes. Don’t do any chores at all.  If the hostess asks you to please excuse her as she tries to take out the garbage or completes another household chore in front of you, shoot her a dirty look for interrupting you (and your art project).
  7. Ask the hostess to do your laundry for you. When she makes your bed every day for the entirety of your stay, neglect to thank her.
  8. Never ever offer to contribute to a household meal. Snack while the hostess is clearly slaving away in the kitchen.  Complain about the food when it is served.
  9. Ignore most of the conversations provided by the other people in the house. While other members of the household sit at the table talking jovially, bring out a board game, set it up, and commence playing by yourself. Don’t ask if anyone wants to play.  Set up the game as if everyone at the table volunteered to play.  When they show no interest, roll for each person until they finally give in and start playing.
  10. When bored, rearrange the household décor. Take tchotchkes from one shelf and move them across the room.  Hide mementos and family heirlooms without saying anything so that when you finally leave the hostess wonders if you stole them.
  11. Disengage from the normal household conversation. Don’t bother to try and contribute to on-going conversations.  Instead, take out your iPad or phone and ignore everyone until you shout about various things you’ve seen on Facebook. Shout things like, “This cat is on a goat!” or, “I love the new Pope.”  Interrupt everyone.  When things seem calm and quiet, start directing everyone about what they should be doing but never get up from the table.
  12. If the hostess expresses frustration with some of your inconsideration, remind the hostess about something you paid for in order to shut her up.

 

The holidays are hard.  Why bother trying to make them easier with goodwill or manners?  Go big or go home.

 

Enter Winter

Putting the garden to bed for the winter is like saying goodbye to a friend.

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We had frost last week and I brought in the last of the tomatoes and peppers. I tried not to notice then how desolate everything was starting to look. The garden had been carpeted with various layers of leaves over the last month.  My potted plants have suffered through a scurry of squirrels digging for food.  The thyme planted in the cracks of the stone patio shed leaves and turned into tiny bare gangles between each square.  The cherry trees have lost most of their leaves and the remaining leaves are yellow or brown.  All of the flowers have died back.  I gave in yesterday and went out into the garden to collect the tomato cages and retrieve the last of the garden tools.

It may snow tomorrow.  I said goodnight to my garden until spring.  I pulled up all the remaining plants and piled them in the compost.  I collected the potted plants and turned the birdbath sideways and laid it on the ground.  With the exception of a few leaves of chard and a couple of cabbages, nothing is growing.

Winter is my least favorite season.  (Though, to be fair, after this past summer and the oppressive drought, the cool weather and rain has been welcome.)  I often find myself despairing in the winter, hiding away from the cold and making myself feel isolated and lonely.  I don’t prefer darkness and I’d rather be warm than cold.  I’d rather be planting flowers or pruning roses than snowshoeing.  I’d rather watch grass grow than stare at a warm fire.  I’m not a fan of the winter holidays.

My parents divorced when I was a kid and I learned early on that the holidays were an exercise in mitigating disappointment.  If I spent Thanksgiving with one side of the family, the other was mad that I didn’t spend it with them.  Christmas involved a lot of driving around and very specific scheduling, all of which resulted in not enough time spent with any particular part of the family.  Dreading the holidays has become a hard habit to break.

Years ago my grandfather told me that the years go by faster as you get older.  He was right.  I can’t believe that Thanksgiving is less than one week away.  I can’t believe that the holiday season is here.  I have tried to resist Christmas music for as long as possible.  Though, honestly, I’ve been singing holiday music every Monday since September because I joined the local choir.  I finally gave up today and let my wife get out the record player.

I’m looking forward to the holiday season this year.  It should be fun, if not, interesting.  For Thanksgiving, my wife and I are hosting our mothers and we are going out to eat lunch.  For dessert, I ordered two pies from two different locally-owned bakeries and we will likely spend the evening playing cards or making a puzzle while completely high on sugar.

For Christmas, my wife and I are hosting my mother and my wife’s entire family.  There will be 10-13 of us depending on RSVPs. It is going to be a challenge.  For one thing, we live in a tiny two-bedroom apartment with no living room.  Thankfully our friend has agreed to let us and some of our family members sleep in her house while she is away.  Planning for the holidays is always hard and trying to accommodate everyone—either for sleeping or for expectations—can be very trying.

If I’ve learned anything after 34 Thanksgivings and Christmases, it’s that you can’t please everyone.  All you can do is hope for the best and hide yourself a piece of pie in case you have to lock yourself in a closet for a little while.

Happy holidays.

Voting Today

I’m a voter who gives a shit.  I’m a voter who follows the issues.  I’m a voter who follows the candidates.  I’m informed and I care.  I’m not inspired.

I might be the most conflicted voter in America.

Does anyone else feel this way? Is anyone else on the same page?  Does anyone else give a shit?

your vote

Here are the things that I need to say:

The Democratic debates tonight were boring.

I wanted fireworks and I didn’t get them.

I think that the rhetoric in the Republican party is offensive.

I’m not sure how I feel about the National Elections.

I’m trying to focus on local elections because I care about my community.

Donald Trump says awful things about people who aren’t white and it makes me cringe.

I can’t imagine that any female or minority voter in this country would vote for the Republican party.

If you combine both women and minorities that vote in this country it constitutes a majority.

I feel that women and minorities in this country are important.

 

I want to make sense of politics and policy in the USA.

I want to find a candidate that I can trust.

I haven’t found a presidential candidate in this next election that I can get behind.

 

I care about the following topics:

(Please fill in the blank.)