Rosettes and Holiday Drear

from a Seventies Dinner Party

I just wanted to drop some holiday cheer.

The ground is frozen and snowless, the House GOP just shot down the stimulus checks here in American on freaking Christmas Eve and…yeah. Sorry! My Christmas cheer is a moldy froth beneath my bath mat right now.

But I did hear the owls last night. That means it might snow or something! Yes, I base all my weather predictions on nocturnal predators with feathers. It might possibly snow tomorrow. A lot of possible. I checked my phone, it gave a big number for a percent. I have no hope left but that the sky relents and gives up a bit of snow for this corner of Eastern Oregon. That’s the one thing I actually wish, dear Santa.

I’m not even sure who or what to pray to for snow. Easter Bunny, June Duck Monster, Statue of Liberty?

It seems this December will never end. But it will. Praise Lady Liberty and Peter Cottontail, hallelujah, woot woot, it will end!

My grandmother had a Santa figure rather like that in that pic up there, except the coat was red. She would have served something like that [maybe a Jell-O mold?] as well back in the day. She also would have been eating herring and making those Scandinavian cookies called rosettes. She had the irons and everything. And the same old decorations would be up, with grandpa slurping down Manischewitz Concord Grape wine and all those good smells in the very air the minute we walked through the door…!

Ah. There’s a bit of Christmas nostalgia for y’all.

However you celebrate or don’t, happiest of days to you. Don’t let the bastards get you down, as my mother used to say.

XAVIER AND VICKIE

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Miz Bridge. A little skinny cow dog mix. 

Christmas. It’s over. I have tales. A new dog. A relationship so toxic Baby Jesus winced even as Baby Jesus gave the two the side eye. A funeral. Ah.

The death of a mother. A friend of mine. Right before a big holiday season. Not pleasant when there isn’t a string of days devoted to this or that. Horribly nasty when it takes place during festive times. A Buddhist funeral. I’ve never been to one. I went with another family member, who’d never been to one either. This was a neighbor lady, Japanese, who had lived at the house across the field for eons. Farmers. Everyone about here are either farmers or teachers. Or cook meth. It’s that kinda world here lately.

Bells. Incense. Chanting. Very dignified. A sort of foggy Christmas Eve day. No snow. Wet, muddy, foggy. A reminder that Dicken’s immortal classic began with a funeral on Christmas Eve. Marley’s. More bells and the sweet odor of incense. 

Christmas Eve is spent with the hillbilly side of the fam’ly.

Christmas Day was and is traditionally spent with the other half of the family. Both sides of my family got along very well, in case you were wondering. Both sets of grandparents really enjoyed visiting with each other. Both sets migrated here to Oregon and Idaho from Nebraska, where they grow corn and manners and tornadoes. That’s what I’ve gathered from all that talking back and forth over the years. Christmas Day was giant meal, the women did all the cooking, and we played cards all afternoon.

Christmas Eve was spent with the hillbillies.

That’s my own pet snarky nickname for my mom’s kith and kin. I did get to see pictures of the cougars my cousin trapped and hear about how the price of coyote pelts is through the roof right now. I silently wondered who’s buying fur anymore. Who the fuck is that? Cause you’re not eating the cougar meat. You’re not eating the coyote meat– though I did see where you can cook it and turn it into haute cuisine sort of food. That was when Andrew Zimmerman still wandered through the Travel Channel. But anyway, before I get distracted and this gets super-ass long as hell!

I do cuss. If you’re new here, well. I do cuss on occasion.

Yes, now to Xavier and Vickie. Which is not their real names.

My little group trundles off toward the Christmas Eve festivities. It’s a foggy, muddy, somewhat rainy Eve. No snow. No real cheer. Just obligation and the thought of the chips and dips. Which tell me the holiday season is truly nigh. Sad. Chips and dips is what I look forward to, not halting awkward family interactions and hearing that the lib’rals have attacked God-fearing red-blooded ‘murican farmers.

I’ve done entire blog posts about what I hear pooped out of human mouths around me. M’kay.

We get there, it’s cool. As in groovy, not my auntie needs to turn the heat on or stuff some wood in her wood-burning stove.

Calm.

Most of the people showing up for this gathering are already there. It’s mellow. My aunt has enough food to feed Boise bubbling, boiling, baking or waiting to go into an oven. Ham. Turkey. Taters. Stuffing. Bacon mac and cheese, from scratch…with six kinds of cheese in it. OH MY WORD. Oh look, chips and dips. And then someone else brings bread and HOMEMADE DIPS THAT ARE SUPER TASTEFUL.

Veggies? No. I have yet to see a veggie dish show up since the death of my own mother over ten years ago. No salad. No squash. No weird green bean casserole attempt. Just meat and carbs and DIP. 

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Old-timey recipes! 

However, I pick up on how watchful people are. Waiting. One cousin is not yet there. I hear, nearly five seconds after I enter the house, decorated with red and green, blue and silver, gold and sparkly lights, that Vickie is a bitch. There’s the oh no, don’t start that yet admonishment. Do I already know what is thought of Vickie and her California ways? Yes. Yes, I do. Yep, she’s from California. California is a bad word in Eastern Oregon/Western Idaho. It’s kinda the queen mother of bad words here. You want to really insult someone, ask if they’re from California. [Because it’s run by liberals, the housing, the myths and legends people absorb as truth, the…uh huh. Then, Californians are all moving to Idaho and Oregon, ruining everything. Uh huh.]

I’ve mentioned that one, too. I know I have.

Okay! So we’re all waiting for Xavier to show up. If he and his little woman show up. It’s that kinda crowd.

Ah, the two arrive. The lights splash along the driveway! We’re all tensing already. What will walk through that door? Stay tuned to find out! Where’s the dip??!!

It’s just Xavier and one of his very young chil’ren. She’s fucking still out there in the car, he snarl-snaps at the startled, still sorts watching this entrance.

Suddenly, we’re watching a Eugene O’Neill play, except with modern language added. [The f bomb, mostly.]

Xavier dumps his first load of baby stuff– as it takes several Sherpa loads these days to take babies anywhere– to fetch the other kid and the rest of the stuff, presents and stuff. Vickie has not yet made her appearance. We’re all…uncomfortable audience members to this kitchen sink reality show of epic proportions. It takes perhaps half an hour before Vickie makes her DRAMATIC ENTRANCE.

DOG SHIT. ON MY SHOE. BIG PILE OF DOG SHIT. RIGHT THERE BY THE CAR DOOR. WHAT THE FUCK? DOG SHIT DOG SHIT DOG SHIT!

She’s more wound up than a barrel of rattlesnakes and twice as poisonous. Something like that!

Instantly, as we’ve been enjoying the two very young babies– both under two years old or so– the tension goes to eleven.

Xavier bristles. Vickie uses Wet Wipes to clean the poo from her shoes. Instead of just removing her shoes, leaving them by the door. Or laughing about stepping in dog poo right out of the car door. Or…so many other choices here than what she chose to do. [It’s family, you pretend you have manners. If I learned nothing else, I learned that, hello!]

Though dog poo on velvet shoes or delicate little spendy numbers you adore…but. I saw the shoes, just some old cheap ass boot looking things. Then the mutters, from Vickie, about the baby crawling on the floor…mm. If the tap water was drinkable. To keep so and so away from Baby X. Mutters. Oh the mutters one overhears at times. 

Xavier and Vickie apparently fought the entire time they drove to the Christmas Eve gathering. Apparently, they’ve been fighting since before they met, if you know what I mean. So, there’s muttering. So much under the breath muttering, just muttered loud enough for all of us to hear. Those not front and center in this O’Neill gritty reboot, have the side eyes down to an art. We’ve all become experts in body language communication exchanges. There’s selective deafness goin’ on! Whee!

The holiday air seems stained with invisible dirty bomb emissions. The chips and dips, so good! Everyone’s munching or in the other room, shoulders hunched up. Because surely, this ugly pimple is gonna burst. Spray noxious fluids all over us. Ever had one of those ugly angry white-topped pimples? Yeah, like that. Ever watched cysts and infected pimples get drained?? So gross and yet so satisfying!

Where was I.

The presents get opened. Ah. Thanks! The sound of ripping paper, the asking if those pretty boxes were bought at Joanne’s. [The local craft store.]

The food, the literal mountains of food, become available for consumption. The alcohol has been flowing, so actual food that’s not chips and/or dip, nice. Xavier, shoulders hunched to his angry earlobes, slaps some of that food on a big disposable plate, prepares to chow down. Vickie mutters she’d sure like a hot meal as she slams about getting out baby food stuff. Xavier about comes out of his angry skin, like a butterfly bent on rampages, bursting out of a cocoon, ready for carnage. He shoves that giant disposable plate away. He goes off for cartons of baby goo to shove at the youngest kiddo. The older kiddo gets mac and cheese and other tidbits. The two sit on the same side of the table. We’re…careful. Watching. Afraid to breathe.

Are the guns locked up? [I had that actual thought. Both sides of the fam’ly are totally into GUNZ.] This is the lead up to one of those Christmas Eve drunken fam’ly shootings. I’m watching it in real time. That was the impression I had.

Now, the two are shoving food at the two kids. Neither talk. The one year old can barely crawl. I see Xavier about once or twice a year, if that. My other cousin’s little woman fills me in on all this so…I have the gossip and what I observe. Okay!

Not long after the most uncomfortable dining experience I’ve had to sit through in years, Xavier and Vickie pack up their spawn, their shit, and head back ‘home’. Without a kind word for each other, without much enjoyment shown toward either kid, with faces like death masks from a Greek tragedy. A Greek tragedy channeling Long Day’s Journey Into Night with big handfuls of Mamet’s way with certain words thrown in.

During this brief, awful family drama unfurling, I go outside where people are smoking the funny weed that’s legal in my state. I burst out about the tension, what the hell is this, does anyone have any heroin, because it will take the edge off that scene in there. We all laugh, gossip fiercely, suck down some smoke. Because hey, why confront directly when you can smoke funky plants and gossip in half-whispers?

No. I don’t do heroin.

Okay! I’m not around Vickie on a regular basis so I don’t really know her but it does seem she got painted early on as a bitch, and unlikable. That she never really had a chance. When you’re around people who don’t like you, no matter how nice they’re pretending to be, you tend to get defensive. A lot defensive. Poor Vickie can’t avoid her own kid’s grandma. Well, she can and has, I gather. What a mess, a hot sticky this is gonna hurt to actually resolve this MESS.

That was my Christmas Eve. I had pecan-flavored whiskey, but did not get drunk. A bit high, but not drunk.

The fate of those four caught in some loop of resentment, outright hatred, commitment entanglements, children, obligations, job loss…ugh. I don’t know. Counseling might help, some neutral party that can weather the pimple bursting far better than family members can. I see a nasty as hell breakup galloping down the two-lane. Maybe people going to jail for assault. [Yes, that’s the air I got from all this.] I don’t want to hear Xavier and Vickie imploded and took everyone around them downward, too. I want to hear they took a realistic look a their situation, their relationship, worked out custody and money matters, then parted for good. So they could both heal from all this and become far better people on the other side. That’s my Christmas wish this year.

And the writer part of me…sadly…goes– how to use this? They don’t read my stuff. Or if they do, I don’t hear about it. [If that side did read my collected works, they’d tar and feather me, after asking me if so and so was them…] Family drama fuels a thousand percent of literature is my humble opinion. Usually first-hand family drama.

Except those writers who grew up in a vacuum somewhere in the wilds of Oregon on a communist commune where nothing happened except the day’s baking of nan bread. They grew up, wrote nice poems about flowers and were politely puzzled at another writer’s seething three-book rage-athon on why their dad was a POS.

Xavier and Vickie, poor things. Their two little peanuts. You just want to offer to take the two kiddos, let the two adults go destroy each other all they wish…

But hey, found a stray dog. Cream underbelly, dark brown silky soft short coat. What we call a cow dog. But there’s something else in there. Rottweiler? German Shepherd? Maybe even a bit of pit bull? Boxy head. Smart, female, no collar, skinny. I did post her on social media. I did ask the folks living where I found her if she was their dog. Nope. I found her where we’ve found other dogs, it’s a spot to drop unwanted canines out. Brigit. Or Miz Bridge. As she was found by the bridge. Yeah.

So far she’s torn up some mats and a old magazine. And my flip flops. But. She’s a big puppy yet.

I’ll end on a nice note instead of the intense sadness that is my cousin’s life situation at the moment. New dog! Oh and it snowed. It’s not a muddy spring-like mess without. Snow. I do love snow.

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I just like this pic. We have rabbits, there’s snow now on the ground. Then I wonder if that poor bunny is cold…

Little Ornaments

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Half-painted!

I’m not writing. I have maybe two words rattling around in my writer jar. Those two words seem to be slurgatt and fzzutrty. I can’t really do anything with those two. No stories seem to form, not even bad poetry slinks off into the wastelands where bad poems go to die.

Instead, I’m obsessed over making little ornaments for Christmas presents. I got some paints, some brushes, made that salt clay. The kind you used to make at school or maybe even at home. Salt, flour, water. You work it into some sort of shape or get the cookie cutters out. It dries, you paint it! DIY!

Yep, that’s what I’ve been doing instead of writing. So, still being creative, just not writing. I got two submissions done this week, so that’s, um, good. I feel guilty. That I’m not writing. I survived the midterms, and took up painting clumsy little hand-cut clay ornaments.

Ah, survived the midterms. There it is. What a…mm. The blue wave did show up. It took a bit to notice that, but it did show up. Cutting through the babble exhausts me. So I watch old cooking show contests and jab Christmas hues on dried flour lumps. I like the sparkle of silver, the luster of antique gold. I wonder how to make the red look less flat. Maybe I can just paint everything blue? I love glitter and glue, but now there’s glitter from one end of the house to the other! Can you paint something orange or is that too Halloween? I don’t even have orange! What do I have for string?

I love painting. I love coloring, too. It’s very soothing. I have something finished at the end. Look, I finished this, it looks okay. I used to love painting anything for a stage production as well. Detail work on something meant to look like a wall. A floor that needs something to make it seem not a stage floor. A costume that needs hand-painted flowers on it…oh yes. I haven’t done any work like that for ages. I can write bad plays, then slap paint on flat backgrounds for them! I rock and roll this planet, ya’ll! Sarcasm aside, I do like seeing something blank turned into something. Yeah, it’s that simple.

Little ornaments, before I wander off into some other subject entirely. That’s the other thing. I find it very hard to concentrate on writing anything right now. I’ll open a file, then just close it back up, with a notion that. That. Yeah. See what I mean?

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Finished!

But the owls call at night again. I open the door, it’s dark yet. Coyotes squabble nearby. The corn fields have been mostly cut around here, the deer run about, the pheasants scoot here and there. The two dogs want to hunt mice, though it’s cold out. No snow or rain forecast here. It’s just cold. Nothing profound here but the turning of the season toward winter’s thrall. Great writers have surely exhausted that seasonal change. Perhaps nothing is left to write about. Maybe that’s why my brain shut off, went into drift mode.

Maybe I should take up a career in tentacle porn fanfiction. Take various famous figures, have them encounter…mmm. What other color combos are used for holiday decorations?

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Further examples!

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Our fall foliage is either this rather eye-watering yellow or sickly dead leaf brown. See? No snow or rain for quite some time. That’s the Malheur Butte!

DRAGONS FOR HIRE

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I knew taking all this pics in Shenyang, China would eventually be useful for something! Dragon!

 

Now, I received a rejection for, gulp, five poems. From a place that claims it’s a feminist haven for all things feminist. That might just be me adding zest to a dry story. M’kay. Normally, I react to rejections with tears, sobbing, why me o God screamings and a cross-country search for that perfect goat to sacrifice to Satan so I can cross that little threshold from unknown, obscure, nobody reads her shit writer to WRITER WHO DOESN’T GET THE FORM REJECTION LETTERS GOD FUCKING DAMN IT ALL TO HELL AND BACK ###$$$$$%^%^^^^^77&&*^%$&.

And then. I calm down about five minutes after that, ‘get over it’ and then cross that submission off in my book o’submissions. I keep a log of what I sent where because…I can’t recall why at this point, other than it seemed important to see all the rejections gathered in one place with the one or two YES THEY PICKED ME YES entries. I’m not a bookkeeper of any kind. I can screw up filling out forms faster than a jack rabbit on a date. Ha ha, shout out to Christmas Story.

“They” are doing a LIVE VERSION of this…with brand new actors. I. Wah. Why?? WHY HAS GOD DESERTED THE ENTIRE PLANET? Why would anyone think this was a good idea?? Just make a new Christmas movie! Hallmark does. Sure, their movies all seem like the same movie, but Hallmark is too smart to take on actual Christmas icons that should never ever be tampered with. That goes for that Jim Carrey travesty of the Grinch, too. WTF?? My eyeballs have never recovered. Hallmark, now…I’ll give them props for not milking the Christmas Story goat. [That was for you, Satan]

Yes, I am watching the Hallmark sugar-heavy fare. Shut up. You are, too. It’s like downing those Peep things. It’s the same thing. I don’t have to explain that, do I? You don’t even have to chew. Hallmark Christmas movies are like Peeps– no chewing involved. I should work in advertising. Go me!

Also–that super-feminist site found my stuff not feminist enough? What the…? I’m going to start writing characters that are…well, some vague threat about labeling my characters in the newest fashions and then actually writing about nice virgingals getting with shiny werewolves. Who brood. With nice hair. They brood and have nice hair. The girl/s fall down a lot and don’t think they’re pretty until the shiny werewolf fella…

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Because that shit sells. Yeah. Because it’s a familiar tale and the reading public really seems to like familiar tales, no matter what bullshit they quiver out about wanting something ‘original’. Bwhaha ha ha!!! As if!!

Where was I before I jumped into a lake of utter self-loathing full of sarcastic catfish?

Novel. Ah. My novel is nearly finished for that November challenge thingie. I have about two more chapters, I reckon. I have NO IDEA WHAT THE ENDING IS and my inner lit professors tut at me and make those faces lit profs make. You know that face. That one.

It’s roughly forty thou words.

Which is good! I, of course, have let it ‘rest’ a couple days. I started a short story called the Antifa are Due on Maple Street, which is, yes, a shout sent toward the Twilight Zone zone. If you have no idea what I mean, then you probably need to stop being in a feminist mist all the time and watch a television show older than 2017. It’s a famous ep of a famous ole show– the Monsters are Due on Maple Street. It echoes very well the paranoia and fear of the ‘other’ that so infected American society so long ago. It’s just so quaint now!

Yes, I’m done being a sarcastic catfish. Now…catfish has some sort of meaning, too. I’m not that kind of catfish. I mean an actual catfish swimming around near the bottom of a murky river being snarky. Rather like Spongebob if written as a George Costanza or a Chandler Bing. [I’ll be there for yo–ooo—uuu….!]

I should delve into the political shitshow that has become ‘murica. I just start writing curse words. I see where people are ‘jokingly’ looking into building guillotines. You know, so the American peasants can chop off the aristocratic DC heads. We’re waiting for that whole checks and balances stuff to save us from Rapey McPussyhands and company. Yeah, except…those in power have to respect and actually follow those checks and balances for those to work effectively. So far, we’ve [also known as The Resistance] have a few marches and posted some memes. I think America, to get America back, is gonna have to take it to the next step.

Dragons.

We’re gonna have to get some dragons.

We’re also gonna have to overhaul poor ole Jesus. Maybe even invent a new, improved savior of America. Jesus is pretty malleable when it comes to makeovers, sure. But. I think we Americans can invent some sort of truly American Jesus that will unite us all when we have to band together to go after those dragons we foolishly brought in to rid us of some other stuff.

Jesus fighting dragons…that is so my next BIG WRITING PROJECT. Maybe in between the Hallmark fare and the hatewatching of the live Christmas Cash Cow AKA Christmas Story…I’ll begin an epic tale of Jesus versus dragons. Maybe a children’s story. A cute, non-threatening Jesus and cute, big-eyed, cuddly, non-threatening baby dragons that decide to not fight and have cookies instead in a show of fellowship, diversity, love and some other virtues that seem popular right now. Popular but not practiced.