Over the years, this particular column has always been one of the most difficult for me to write because it’s intended for the “holiday issue” and the early November deadline hits well before I’m anywhere near to feeling the “holiday spirit.”
I dread it even more than those family holiday photos that begin arriving this time of year. For some reason I’m still on the mailing list of an old college chum who lost his soul and went to work for the Bush Administration. Last year’s photo showcased the happy family in front of the White House. Hopefully, this year’s photo will show them sitting in a reindeer sled, packed up and ready to go back to Texas. Or, maybe Alaska.
Given the significance of the election, I thought perhaps I ought to write a politically-inspired column. Something poignant. But, frankly, that’s not my style.
I decided instead to pen a column focused around boozy Rehoboth holiday vignettes. Before you gasp, hear me out. Lots of people enjoy dark, playful humor during the holidays. The movie Bad Santa grossed over $60 million at the box office. And, we know life’s guilty pleasures usually thrive during tough economic times. I suspected the holidays this year were going to be a real booze fest, so why not tap into it.
One of my favorite boozy vignettes – an interdenominational one –
occurred about eight years ago. Do any of you remember the old Christmas decorations along Rehoboth Avenue? Before the upgrades? Some people said they were tacky and mismatched, but how could you not love an orange starfish, a white scallop, or a red seahorse?
All the decorations for each block were hooked up to one big plug in the median strip. It buzzed and crackled. Unsafe! Unsafe! If you unplugged it, the entire block went dark. This I learned from a Jewish friend, whom, emboldened by bourbon, pulled the plug on Christmas – something she’d always wanted to do.
Speaking of plugs, there was the time I strung several thousand white lights on the hedges, hollies, and hydrangeas in the front yard for a Christmas Eve dinner party. They all plugged into one extension cord that was then plugged into an outlet on the front porch that was unbeknownst to me linked to the kitchen electrical system.
As the 1963 white enamel Sears Kenmore oven tried valiantly to heat up, the holiday lights would alternately brighten and dim. It took four hours to cook a four pound chicken. The guests, in the meantime, entertained themselves by drinking all my liquor and burning the dried-out tabletop Christmas tree in the fireplace. Back in the kitchen, you could hear the roar of the flames and the squeals of delight as the tree went up in flames. You do know I live in a wooden house?
One Thanksgiving, I added way too much bourbon to the sweet potato soup. We all got so drunk making and tasting the soup that “someone” forgot to turn on the oven. That’s when I learned how to speed cook a turkey: crank the old Kenmore to 500 degrees; roast for two hours; baste every thirty minutes. The bird was moist and flavorful. Thanksgiving was saved.
In all honesty, I feared the oven couldn’t handle the pressure. But it did, and it still does. The front right burner sometimes delivers a playful shock, but that’s no reason to replace it.
Then there was the night an Eileen Ford Agency super model tangled with one of those singing Christmas trees. Maybe you’ve seen ’em. Their eyes blink and light up and their metal mouths snap open and shut while they sing stupid Christmas carols. All we were doing was sipping some margaritas and the next thing I know the super model is screaming and pulling a chunk of hair out of her head in order to get away from the little mechanical monster. The Christmas tree just sat there grinning silently, with hair hanging out of its mouth.
Okay, it might be an exaggeration to call her a super model, but she was very popular in Japan back in the late 90’s.
Writing a thousand word column was going to be a snap. Why, I already had at least four hundred words worth of vignettes without yet recounting the friendly fracas at the Frogg Pond one New Year’s Day when women danced on tables in fur coats and gay Villanova University frat boys soaked each other with pitchers of beer.
My deadline, however, coincided with a weekend trip to visit my father, whom at age 72 had checked himself into a rehab facility to deal with an increasingly difficult battle with alcohol since his retirement. I’m proud of him for taking the initiative to confront his problem, so the idea of an ode to boozy holiday memories gave me pause.
Ought I choose another topic? Was there even time to start anew? I needed ideas and words and I needed them fast.
Less than twenty-four hours before having to turn in the column, I got my inspiration. Why not simply tell the story of trying to write a holiday story? On the one hand, it seemed brilliantly creative. On the other hand, it felt positively lazy.
You be the judge. Happy holidays.