Right Around Christmas Time

In the off season (that is, when we weren’t playing whiffle ball), Chris and I used to lock ourselves inside the garage with our neighbors, Sean and Dusty, and lip synch Billy Joel’s “Glass Houses” strumming tennis racket as if they were guitars.

The irony, of course, is that there are no guitars on “Glass Houses,” but that really wasn’t the point anyway.

Point is, I got call from an old friend. We used to be real close. Well, real close might be a stretch. We traveled in the same circles backin high school. So anyway, my buddy — let’s call him Jimmy Bonus — was in town on business last night. So we met at a local pub for burgers and beers.

First thing out of his mouth (after general hand shake/man hug salutations): “Dude! You’re blog! You’re life is so public!”

We talked a mile a minute, torqued by the passage of time and the buzz of the bar patrons. He asked me how I like married life (“I LOVE it!”), and showed me photos of his daughters. After a few minutes, as we settled into our second pints, he mentioned the blog again.

“If anything’s apparent from what you write, it’s how profoundly that divorce affected you.”

Which was really interesting to hear. Not terribly surprising, but interesting. And thematically relevant, as just last night I told Abbi that I continue to find myself amazed at the apparent duration of time it takes for the psychological statute of limitations to expire on the ramifications of things like, say, one’s parent’s divorce or being beaten up to the point of hospital admission as a seventeen-year-old.

I turned thirty-six two months ago, so as far as I’m concerned, I’ve rounded the bend towards forty-years-old. If forty isn’t “grown up,” I don’t know what is.

Now, I don’t spend an inordinate of time worrying about, say, some dude randomly popping me in the jaw and breaking it in two places. But the hair on the back of my neck stands up when I’m in a room full of boneheaded, burly dudes (which, yes, I usually avoid).

And I certainly don’t spend a lot of time thinking, “Woe is me and my terribly difficult childhood.” Mine wasn’t unique, and it certainly wasn’t terrible. There was a fairly major earthquake that split my ten-year-old world in half, but — tremors and aftershocks notwithstanding — all was well — pretty awesome, actually: green grass, mountains, lakes, sun and sky — on either side. Moreover, I’ve done a fair amount of work to settle those aftershocks (to wring the life out of that metaphor).

So there I was waving Jimmy Bonus into the blustery, late-November night, then pointing myself towards home. I walked west on one of my favorite blocks in Midtown, 54th between Eighth and Ninth. It’s a little shabby now, but this time of year — with white lights draped from a low canopy of trees — it’s pretty damned cheery.

And I thought about the holiday season, and how complicated it is to meet everyone’s needs. I thought about that depressing song I wrote like, six years ago (“Christmas 1980”) and how, um, depressing it is. And I thought about my little “A Family Holiday” benefit album (did I mention it’s now available for download from iTunes?) and how Flying Machine’s song “Right Around Christmas”) is kinda’ like “Christmas 1980” but a thousand times more catchy and compelling. And that it’s all — in some small unconscious (now conscious) way a means of making peace with the season.

I looked up at the tiny white lights, smiled, buried my face in my collar, braced against the wind, hastened my step and hurried home to my wife.

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