Merry Christmas

So as part of our winter cleaning and destuffication campaign, I went through my remaining records, pulled half of them and a friend, thrilled, took them home. Probably 300 or 400 albums worth. (Ever behind the trends, I’m all about CDs and YouTube rather than vinyl). I used to have thousands of records. Anyway, our friend, who we’ve known for decades, works for a place that does the plants in office buildings and traditionally shows up at our tree trimming party with gobs of reject ornaments. As we haven’t had a party in a while, he had a big pile of undelivered ornaments, like six big bags full. Each ornament was individually wrapped for their protection, and being a total stoner, he’d apparently smoked a joint (or joints) and, armed with rolls of glass tape and acres of bubble wrap, had wrapped each in layers of protection that would not only keep them intact until the next party but through any nuclear holocausts that happened in the interim. Indeed, I could have buried these secure in the knowledge that thousands of years from now they would utterly mystify an archeologist. Instead, though, I decided they had to be unwrapped. So, armed with a couple pair of scissors, a fading alpha male’s finger strength and sheer determination, I spilled the dozens of weird looking Christmas cocoons onto the living room floor and began the process slicing, tearing, pulling, yanking and cursing them open.

All the ornaments emerged unscathed but one, a longest thing that I thought I’d pulled apart from it layers of wrapping but alas its pointy Yuletide tip was still held by glass tape and as I tugged the tip exploded like a mortar shell, spraying hard plastic like jagged plastic shrapnel. I sharp piece caught me just below the eye—a fraction of an inch higher and I would have one of the more novel cases in the emergency room that night—but when I realized what had happened (it took me several seconds to realize that a Christmas ornament had exploded, as Christmas ornaments don’t generally explode), I carefully searched for the fragments, which were surprisingly jagged and sharp as a razor. The scene cleared, I stretched out again on the floor and proceeded to dissect the packages with various degrees of skill and violence. After a half hour I sat up and felt wetness on my hand. You’re bleeding everywhere, Fyl said. It certainly looked like that, big broadbrushed smears of blood running up and down from my elbow, my shirt and pants soaked and splattered like a particularly nasty murder had occurred. You’re still bleeding, she said, and after trying to wipe some of the blood off me, retrieved a few bandaids. That stemmed the flow. I found a shard of plastic on the floor, especially sharp, that had caused the wound. I’d never felt it, just obliviously bled all over everything. Ha. Anyway, bleeding stemmed, I got back down on the floor to go at the rest of the ornaments, pausing only to brew up a steaming cup of coffee and then returned prone to the floor, where I managed to knock over the cup which spilled its entirety all over my back and the seat of my pants. Ha again. I swabbed the floor with a handy kerchief but let the remainder thoroughly soak my backside, I mean why not?

At last, all the ornaments freed of their mummification, I got them all into two bags which I got into the space I’d just made available in my closet. All the wrappings I got into a single large outdoor garbage bag. Thus went Christmas in January. Or almost. While prepping for bed, after flossing and brushing, I took my traditional elixir of mint oil and water, very handy for the digestion. The oil comes in a little dropper bottle with a cheery mint green label, and I always drop about half a dozen of the intensely minty drops into a little bright red plastic dixie cup where they float, shimmering, on the surface of the water. It was all very Christmasy. One has to be careful with mint oil, though, it burns like the juice of a canned jalapeño, and as I raised the cup to my lips as I’ve done without incident thousands of times before my hand slipped somehow and I spilled it all with perfect precision onto my unprotected scrotum. That was an erotic experience that was new to me, sort of like the opposite of a very strong orgasm. I mean it rendered me just as speechless, and with the same urge to shriek, but instead I just gritted my teeth and thought of baseball. Several minutes passed and the sensation passed from paralyzing to merely stinging, from agony to annoying. It all seemed too perfect, the blood, the coffee, the mint oil on the scrotum. Merry Christmas, I said.

Rain

One of the fun things about getting old is that you always remember the times it rained like this before. You call this wet? You should have seen the rain in ‘78. Rain was really wet then.

I think the wettest I ever got was one rainy afternoon in Goleta in 1978. It was like I’d gotten thrown in the pool. Gotten thrown in several pools. Each one wetter than the one before. Pools were wetter then. And sequentially even wetter.

I just figure we had real rain back then. Not this “rain” rain. Or maybe I was 20 years old and just too stupid to get out of the rain. Wait ten years and I might be too stupid to get out of it again. Life has its cycles.

Is it still raining?

Fitted sheets

Sixty five years old and I still can’t fold a fitted sheet. There must be a secret to it, but some things, like magic, are best left secret, or left to my wife, anyway, who can fold a fitted sheet like it’s the most natural thing in the world. Men have their purposes, I suppose, and folding fitted sheets is not one of them. I blame it on biology.

So I put away the perfectly folded pillow cases (those I can do) and dropped the fitted sheet for her atop the bed in an unmanageable fluffy glop and left the room. She was in the throes of a solo Scrabble game and barely seemed to notice. Ten minutes later I returned to the room to find her still concentrating every ounce of her being on the Scrabble game and the fluffy sprawling glop of a fitted sheet in a perfectly geometric rectangle about so big. As far as I can tell it’s some sort of Sioux magic thing. Best not to ask. I put the sheet in the linen closet atop the other perfectly geometric rectangles. Weird. Neat, though.

Jewels

One of those tall guy experiences tall guys don’t talk about. I was hobbling down the stairs out front when one of the neighbors started coming up. She’s young and attractive and very sweet and she was going to wait for me down on the sidewalk but ever the gentleman I said, please, come on ahead, and I stood aside. As she passed she smiled and reached into her purse for the mailbox key. She found it and let go the purse, which swung backward as purses do when a lady is climbing stairs, and caught me square in the nuts. Ouch is not really the word for it.

It’s an ever present vulnerability when you’re tall, one learns to be wary of innocently swinging purses. I suppose tall guys are even more vulnerable not only because our most vulnerable spot is at such a testicularly dangerous height, but because the damn things on tall men are bigger and present a better target. Well, this one was a bullseye. Still, I made not a sound nor grimaced, so that she never knew, and instead I stood there in that utterly unique form of agony that only men experience and I smiled. She smiled back. Then I gingerly made it to the bottom of the stairs, stood against the railing and sobbed, if only mentally.

The pain only resonated for maybe an hour. It faded slowly, as it always does, a man’s balls are real drama queens, so sensitive and easily hurt. At last there’s just a dull ache, and we arrange the testicles carefully as we sit so not to outrage them further, the poor things. The dull ache finally slips away, and the only thing left hurting is our big guy pride. And that’s when I wrote this, because a big huge guy getting smacked in the nuts is really quite funny.

Heavy metal tomato squeezing

(2017)

So Glenn Danzig has left the building. Well, left Los Feliz. My pal Paul Grant posted one of his signature perfect little paragraphs about it. (There are, here and there, some wonderful writers tucked away on Facebook). You’ll remember that Danzig had that gothically painted black trimmed place on Franklin with the heavy metal lawn. Someone has bought the place now. Probably give it a sprightly paint job and pretty trimming and a lawn with actual grass growing. I don’t know if that is gentrification or just demetalification. Or even if Danzig qualifies as metal. Is he doing the Misfits thing again? I remember him singing Astro Zombies with the Misfits at Al’s Bar about a zillion years ago, though he was still a New York punk rocker at the time. Since then he moved out to Hollywood (Los Feliz is a suburb of Hollywood, like Silver Lake) and became a rock’n’roll professional. Show business. Lawyers and agents and promoters. Teenage girls in black lipstick out on the sidewalk, giggling. It has all gotten so complicated. Mother!

I feel a connection here. You see, Danzig was the second in my heavy metal tomato squeezing trio. The first was Henry Rollins in the market where the Silver Lake 99 cent store is now, so long ago that his band was considered what they used to call crossover, back when Henry was poor and lived in the house on the other side of the fence behind us, not that we knew it. Late 80’s. I ran into him periodically, he was alternating between his really hard, metally band and a series of spoken word projects that college DJs just couldn’t get enough of. Maybe they were good, I don’t know, I just hated all those 1980s heavy serious political spoken word albums, the free verse clunking like furniture tossed down the stairs. Our parents had Bob Newhart and Mort Sahl LPs, we had Henry Rollins and Jello Biafra and Mecca Normal. But I digress.

But my Danzig tomato squeezing experience was maybe five years later, in the local Albertson’s on Virgil. That was on the way to a BBQ at Jonathan Hall’s on Berendo and I excitedly told everyone that I had just seen the second in my heavy metal tomato squeezing trio. They humored me. They humored me a little less when I’d bring it up periodically afterward. Meanwhile, I’ve been waiting for the third and final heavy metal tomato squeezer since then. I’ve given up. They’d probably be grape tomatoes anyway. Heavy metal grape tomatoes is not a thing.

I’m also waiting for the third sighting of shiny pink fuck me pumps. Stories that you can’t finish are really irritating. I don’t know what I will do if the pumps wearer is squeezing tomatoes.

Exam

An absolutely lovely Chinese doctor to me after my exam this week. Well your panels look fine, your blood pressure is in the high end of normal, your heart and respiratory sounds great, she said. So keep up with the weight loss, stick to your arthritis and allergy diets, do your knee exercises, elevate your damaged foot, take all your meds and maintain your masturbation regimen.

Blush.

That was the first time a beautiful women ever told me to maintain my masturbation regimen. Done vigorously and to conclusion, it’s excellent cardio, she said. Blush. Actually, it was the first time a beautiful woman doctor ever talked to me about masturbation at all, not to mention squeezed my testicles and vigorously prodded me about the prostate. Going to the doctor becomes much different when a man hits 65. Though many years ago an attractive woman doctor did tap my testicles and ask me my shoe size, but she and a few other doctors suspected I had some inevitably fatal glandular disease. She called me later. The tests were negative. I just had very large eyes, feet, and hands, she said. She left out testicles. I decided not to bring them up. But that was twenty years ago. I just remember the weirdness of standing in my boxer shorts as a attractive woman doctor tapped my testicles like a bongo drum and asked me my shoe size. Acromegaly, she wondered aloud. I didn’t know what that was. All I knew was that a lady doctor was tapping me on the nuts. Of course, twenty years ago that was a lot more exciting.

Man v. dryer

Just went into the laundry room to do a little maintenance on the dryer, just reconnect the vent pipe, which had come loose. Been doing maintenance and repair on our washers and dryers now for what must be thirty five years. It’s part of the high testosterone package, with tools, bruises, assorted lacerations, a thesaurus of swear words, accidentally hitting yourself in the balls with a five pound wrench and that masculine warm all over feeling when the husband is the hero again and the wife looks at you, bats her eyes, and pats you on the head. It’s the coolest thing. Or would have been, if my arthritic corpse could twist and turn like it once did. Fuck. I gave up and will have to call for a service appointment. You paid for it, she said, three years service. I nodded and slunk into the living room, ashamed, to sit there in the dark, my arthritis twinging, my balls still aching from that wrench.

Man v. rat

Nailed my third rat. I’m a master trapper. The cute little beast was apparently a smallish rattus rattus trapped inside when the exterminator plugged their holes from the outside inside. Anyway, the Sioux was impressed. Too bad it’s not thirty years ago. She’d thank my brains out.

L.A. is askitter with rats, I read. The adorable things are everywhere. Ours aren’t, tho’, they’re up in rat heaven, with cheese everywhere.

A Fourth of July in Greendale, Wisconsin

I’ve never worn shorts myself. My left leg has always been so messed up by arthritis it was better hidden. Fyl never wore shorts much either, though she still has very nice slender Indian legs. In fact, she’s a lady who can wear skinny jeans, which I’m sure her friends hate. That Greendale 4th of July parade was on an incredibly hot Midwestern day, rough on Angelenos, and the high school bands (including the one Fyl had long ago played flute in) and troops of Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, Brownies and Cub Scouts, Drum and Bugle Corps (including the one Fyl had been a flag girl in), local politicians, beauty queens, Lyons Club, Knights of Columbus, groups of funny dads in funny costumes, and the inevitable Marine Corps honor guard marched past, trying not to droop in the humidity. Afterward there was a village beer garden and weenie roast, and hundreds of family BBQs and cases of local beers you’ve never heard of. Fyl and I finally retreated inside and sat in front of the air conditioner. Later, we all wandered down to the schoolyard for the drunk chamber of commerce’s firework show, which was lotsa fun, even the ones they accidentally shot into the crowd. Afterward we walked back home through the swimmy night, our way lit by fireflies. We hung outside the house drinking beer, swatting mosquitoes and watching the fireflies, and the old folks went off to bed. We followed later after sneaking a joint behind the apple trees in the backyard. Back inside we crept about quietly in the living room, where the sleeper couch was, giggling like a couple stoned teenagers, and slipped under the sheets to make sweaty summer love, quietly so the old folks couldn’t hear, though they probably could anyway.

Brick, Fyl, her sister Carol and nephew Peter in Greendale, Wisconsin on a steamy Fourth of July in the 1980s.

Cane

(December 2021) Got a new cane, just to have a new cane. Now I have a new cane and an extra cane. The luxuries of the retired life. Anyway, it came in the mail, with instructions. Lots of instructions. Who the hell needs instructions for a cane? Turns out I do. All this time I’ve been using canes wrong. There was a little picture that showed me. Had the old one up too high. First time I can ever remember using something too tall. A quick adjustment, a shorter cane, and suddenly I’m not teetering. They don’t go so much by height but by arm length. Who’d a thunk? Then again I’ve never been much for thunking. And it’s not one of the appendages I ever gave much thought to, anyway, although long sleeve shirts on me look like short sleeve shirts on me, something I never connected with cane height. It was all far too mathematical for me. Luckily, the cane instructions (in four languages, so i could look at the picture in Spanish, French and German too), explained all the algebraic detail in a little drawing. I was flabbergasted. Fuck me, I said. Arm length accommodated for, I felt like the suddenly uncrippled Tiny Tim in the last scene of The Christmas Carol, running and leaping into Scrooge’s arms. I said that very thing to Fyl. No leaping, she said.

Anyway, if this isn’t one of those Hallmark channel Christmas movies, I don’t know what is.