Celebrating the Unpopular Arts

So This Is Christmas….

My loathing of Christmas is well-documented. I think at some point during every column gig I’ve had over the last thirty years or so, there’s been at least one “Hating the Holidays”-themed piece. (The Junk Shop one is here.)

This year we were actually going to Do Stuff, in spite of everything. But it all blew up.

I had jury duty last week but it was canceled at the last possible minute. I’d already taken the time off and it seemed a shame to waste it, and Julie was able to get the days off too, so I was thinking we would get out of town for a couple of days for an early Fugitive Christmas. Then suddenly we had a flurry of bills (medical things mostly, tedious but not dangerous, please don’t worry… but Julie has things going on with her diabetes and so on that we just have to be ready for at all times.) That’s simply how middle age works and it’s why we both have day jobs. I remember when we were newlyweds and I was mostly just writing and teaching and sometimes we’d have whole weeks go by without having to think about medical insurance. Boy, those were the days.

Anyway. So instead we just stayed home. I read some but mostly worked on book things; there will be two new Sherlocks of mine in an upcoming Airship 27 Consulting Detective volume. That was an end-of-the-month goal and the final revisions went off last Saturday. (Which is why no column till today, incidentally. I was tired.)

Monday it was back to the day jobs, which have been heating up for both me and Julie. Yesterday we were frantically trying to finish and get away early because Julie’s old roommate Marcia was going to take the train up and we were all set to go out to dinner….but then she called to tell us she’d just thrown up in the train station and decided it would be better for all concerned if she stayed home. So instead of meeting the girls downtown at whatever restaurant Marcia was wanting to try out (Marcia is all about trying new restaurants. No idea if this habit was related to the tummy trouble or not.) I told Julie to just stay put and I would come and get her.

When I got there I reminded her that we had to go drop off Cricket’s present. Cricket is an old family friend and her age and health keep her bedridden most of the time, and I knew she would want to see us for Christmas; since her health does not allow her to do the kind of Yule pageant she used to do, it would at least be something. She was glad to see us and we spent about half an hour visiting, but it got a little bleak remembering all the people that were now gone, trading anecdotes about poverty, and then segueing to the current screwed-up state of the world in general and Seattle in particular. Julie was starting to nod off from sheer exhaustion and Cricket told me I better get my girl home.

Back in the car I asked Julie if she still wanted to go out to eat since we had budgeted for it — this is a big deal for us!– and she told me that she was sick of all the Scrooges she’d been dealing with at the hospital and she wasn’t even really hungry, drive-thru burgers would do, just please get us home. So I entertained her all the way there with my Alastair Sim impression.

It’s not that great but it always makes Julie laugh. By the time we were close to home she was in better spirits, and at the drive-thru window she leaned over and thanked the teenage girl who handed us our dinner for working on Christmas Eve and wished her happy holidays. The girl gave us a surly glare and mumbled something inaudible, which brought Julie back down again. All that bad Alastair Sim for nothing.

We got home and ate and watched a little TV and went to bed. My view of the holiday season had been largely validated once again by the fact that this was probably the best part of the day.

So today, Christmas morning, I am giving Julie the gift of sleeping in. I actually did get her a real present but it’s more of an activity thing and it doesn’t start till January, so there’s nothing to unwrap. My deadlines are met. Bills are paid. Stuff is mailed. Sometimes we have something going on with one or another of the kids Pol Rua dubbed “the Hatchlings” — semi-orphaned former students that we think of as at least partially ours– but all of them are busy or out of town or in some cases, out of the country. Lindon and her mother did send us a truly decadent Christmas basket full of things we’re not supposed to eat. Julie was so pleased she had to take a picture.

But that’s it. We’ll be catching up with some of them after the start of the year… but today I’m just sitting here eating forbidden Christmas candy and goofing off. For the first time in a month, I have NOTHING to do.

I do have a giant pile of unread books and chances are that’s how I will spend most of this Christmas. But right now I’m doing nothing. Picking at this sort of column and surfing the net in kind of a semi-doze.

Because I am blessed with friends who understand me, I’m getting sent a lot of stuff like this…

…and this…

…and of course this.

Most of it’s funny and silly. Variations of DIE HARD as a Christmas movie, ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE as a Christmas movie, and so on and so on.

Then I ran across this. Something I’d forgotten I’d written, from a couple of years ago.

For Christmas my bride gave me… nothing.

And it is absolutely a gift.

I had planned to surprise her with a small-scale version of our old tradition of Fugitive Christmas… get out of town for a couple of days and hole up somewhere like Oceanside or Packwood or wherever no one could find us. But then we had to deal with the car battery and the new tabs and pay off a couple of bills we’d kicked the can a little too far down the road on… and suddenly the trip money was all gone. And it was too late to go do the manic panic Christmas Eve gift thing in the snow with our shitty car (you may be noticing a theme here.)

I confessed this to Julie last night and she just gave me a hug and said, “Don’t be silly. I didn’t get you anything either. We can go someplace next month. Go write your story.”

I stuttered something awkward about how I didn’t even LIKE Christmas but I wanted to get HER something, and she shushed me and said, “You’re my present.”

So today, Christmas Day, I am coming down the home stretch on “The Adventure of the Vanishing Diplomat” and Julie’s in the other room under a quilt, watching craft shows on Create… both of us happy and relieved about being released from the traditional Christmas obligation. I’m going back to Sherlock in a minute but I just wanted to share once again that my wife is amazing.

Some things don’t change, I guess. No matter how hard we try to do Christmas– and it’s rare that we even try any more– something always blows it up. I end up writing while Julie snoozes on the couch.

And my wife is still amazing.

In spite of everything, I think we’re having a pretty sweet Christmas…. even if it is in the Luke Cage tradition.

Back next year with something cool.


  1. Der

    Merry Christmas Greg, your wife does sound amazing

    We dont celebrate that much, because we don’t like staying up late, but the wife and I enjoy making food, even when it’s too much food for us. My family and friends live very far and that’s good for us, we prefer to spend the holiday watchin One Piece again and again and again.

    Even the kiddo doesn’t ask(yet) for presents. Let’s hope that she keeps not-asking for presents for a few more years.

  2. Edo Bosnar

    What you described – spending the holiday at home, enjoying a meal and doing absolutely nothing except watching TV and/or reading – has been the rule at our casa for, well, almost 2 decades. Same goes for New Year’s Eve: no noisy parties, etc., just a quiet evening at home.

    And yeah, OHMSS is a Christmas movie, too.

  3. Jeff Nettleton

    I was over at my aunt and uncle’s house for dinner and my uncle showed me some Christmas Carol version, where Scrooge blackmails Mrs Cratchett into “personal” favors, in exchange for a loan. I was dumbfounded. You want to do a modern take for the MeToo movement, do it as a modern take, in a modern setting, with new characters, using the structure. You don’t F that badly with Dickens (they also seem to think Victorians hadn’t discovered light yet).

    Alistair Sim is Da Man, when it comes to Scrooge. It may not be 100% faithful to Dickens; but, Sim captures the essence of Scrooge, both at the beginning of the story and with his redemption. Only the hardest heart isn’t move when he addresses Fred’s bride, “Can you forgive a pig-headed old fool for having no eyes to see with, no ears to hear with, all these years?” That and when he tells Cratchett he has left him no choice but to raise his salary. That is the essence of Dickens and Sim understood it and was such a great actor.

    1. For a decent modern take, Cecily Tyson in “Ms. Scrooge” a couple of decades back does a very good grasping, covetous miser. That she can turn a family out into the snow on Christmas Eve and not come off as a parody is a tribute to Tyson’s talents.
      But yes, Sim is where it’s at. And that version you caught sounds utterly execrable.

    2. humanbelly

      Alastair Sim’s (good luck finding his name consistently spelled in movie credits— hoo!) is my favorite Scrooge by a wide margin, yup. Albert Finney makes a strong run in second place— except that his film was a musical and, oh lordy, somehow that beautiful speaking voice doesn’t make the jump to a singing voice. Ha!

  4. Jeff Nettleton

    ps It was a bad year in our household and we didn’t even decorate; but, little bit of Ralphie & the Old Man, Clark Griswold, George Bailey, Kevin McAllister, Kris Kringle and the little Dutch girl, some Rankin-Bass, the Grinch, Snoopy and Bill Murray & Karen Allen can give you your own Christmas present.

    Merry Christmas!


  5. Jeff Nettleton

    pps For a really fun take on A Christmas Carol, check out the BBC special from a couple of years ago, A Christmas Carol Goes Wrong, from the people behind The Play That Goes Wrong. Hilarious stuff, which includes Diana Rigg. They previously did a Peter Pan Goes Wrong, which is equally side-splitting (with David Souchet, of Poirot).

  6. “Christmas Carol II” from George Burns Comedy Week (an anthology series) is fun if you can find it online. One year later, Scrooge’s generosity is so over the top it’s causing a whole new set of problems. It includes James Whitmore as Scrooge, Roddy McDowell and Samantha Eggar as the Cratchitts and Ed Begley Jr. as the grown-up “Tiny” Tim (“From now on I shall be known as Tiny Timothy!”).

    1. Jeff Nettleton

      The Blackadder Christmas special did something similar. Ebenezer Blackadder is a kind-hearted doormat to everyone and ends up without his Christmas meal or presents. He goes to bed and is visited by a Christmas spirit (Robbie Coltrane) who has imbibed too many Christmas spirits and comes there by mistake. Blackadder gets him to show him his rotten ancestors (the versions from Blackadder II and III) then a look at his future if he was like them. Wonderfully funny and subversive.

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