Saturday, January 5, 2013

why atheists love christmas more than you do, part one

regarding the title, i don't really know this to be true, but i strongly suspect that it is.  the title presents a "hypothesis" i have about christmas, and while i have an obligation to support any hypothesis i present, i am not burdened with proving it.  yay for me!  in order to fulfill my obligation of support, i will present the case of me.

in my childhood, i loved christmas.  LOVED it!  not an unusual declaration, i admit, but necessary to establish context.  i lived on a street where all the houses decorated for the holiday, and we would have lines and lines of cars coming through our block to view the lights and lawn displays.  this tradition continues to this day.  it was a child's fantasy--lights and carolers and music and people--it only became a pain once i started driving, and i realized that it would take me 20 minutes every time i tried to leave the house or return to it during viewing hours.

a recent pic of my childhood home decorated for christmas--my brother lives there now.
beyond that, i loved christmas for the usual reasons:  presents.  we were upper middle class growing up, so christmas day was a bonanza for me and my brother in the present department.  i was such a good boy, i usually got everything i asked for.  and this went on for years!  i didn't stop believing in santa claus until i was 12, and i overheard my mother telling my older brother the TRUTH about santa claus.  at the time, i was crushed.  i believe to this day that it was the first of many times my world would be a little bit shattered as i learned that all was not as it seemed.  ah, the loss of innocence.

but christmas, as i got older, began to bear the burden of solemnity.  here we were, supposedly celebrating the birth of jesus, with his humble beginnings and all, and the overriding concern for me was whether i would get everything on my list!  cue up the greatest tool the catholic church has to guarantee continued observance:  guilt.  you see, as i got older, i began to think that maybe i was celebrating christmas wrong, and that i should be in mass at midnight rather than forcing myself to sleep so that santa could descend through the chimney.  this conflict of interest never failed to put a pall on my enjoyment as the years wore on--it was as if the baby jesus himself was standing naked and shivering on our doorstep while inside we opened presents in the warmth of our upper middle class prosperity.

then, as an adult, it changed up a bit.  though the block continued to decorate, our family fragmented, with me and my brother both living away from the house.  we would come over for christmas, but now there was only one or two presents under the tree for us instead of a windfall!  it just wasn't the same!  i wasn't aware that my parents were any less prosperous, so what happened?  did they love us less?  did they care less?   i remember my mother telling me once that she never knew what to get for me.  how could this be?  if anyone would know, wouldn't it be her???  you know, the woman who gave birth to me?

oh, how the world shatters!

after a while, the holiday became...less.  we all started opening our presents on christmas eve, so christmas day became this anticlimactic void of a day.  i remember how the first time this happened i thought that perhaps there would be a "holdover present" that would appear under the tree for me to open on christmas day, but alas, i would wake up to see nothing more than the previous nights torn wrappings.


around the time the holiday became less, i moved from san diego to los angeles, so it was actually an effort to come down for christmas, and i began to consider whether or not i could just skip the whole damn thing...

to be continued...

For Part 2, please go here.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

musings on the new year...

the pictures throughout this post are from different events from 2012 that i either hosted or was a part of, and some of them are just random photos from special days--starting with january 1st, 2012.

a diary is appealing to me at three differing times:  when it is empty; when it is being filled up; and when it is full.  now even though these three times would seem to claim ALL of the diary's life, there are important differences separating the three.  when the diary is empty, it is a receptacle for possibility and potential.  when it is being filled up, it is a process in motion.  when it is full, it is a narrative of recent history, some foreseeable and some wildly the opposite.  now if you are thinking that i am about to apply this same logic to a new year, then you are right on the money!  and this, ladies and gents, is the reason why new year's eve is the most important holiday of the year to me.

1/1/12 santa monica beach from the bluffs
as a boy, my life was fairly predictable.  i went to school, then in the summer i didn't go to school, and at night i would do my homework after the family dinner.  on sundays i would go to church.  i played.  then, at the age of 15, something extraordinary happened.  life got unpredictable for me.  a big part of that was due to the changes i was experiencing physically and developmentally--i was becoming a young man; i was opening up to, and becoming available for, a whole host of new experiences.  but there was more involved in the process than just that.  i began to have permission to make choices, something that had previously been the exclusive territory of my parents.  this shift created a perceptible and essential change in my "diary".  during my 15th year, i began to "author" more of the entries in my own diary.  and from that time on, each year has brought with it a whole slew of new choices for me to choose--some supporting predictability, and some not.

one of the characters who draw people to the venice boardwalk, even in january

other "characters" who draw people to the beach!
my feeling is that once i am no longer surprised by anything that has happened during the previous year, that when that happens, it is possible that my time will be coming to an end.

in january i spent a week in palm springs, riding there in this monster!
now, isn't that cheery?  i will tell you this, though, that whenever the "slowdown" happens, i suspect i will gladly welcome it.  there may come a time when i am happy enough to just relax through the day and ruminate on past endeavors.

on vacation in july in greencastle, mo., riding the four-wheeler!
this year, i am actually doing a version of exactly that.  you would think that someone in my position in life would be at a grand ball, or a sex-drenched crypt or a strobe-lit underground dance hall on new years eve.  you would be mistaken for having any of these assumptions, though not faulted for thinking them.  what i am doing this evening is sitting at my computer in my softly lit office, alone in my apartment, and i am writing this very blog post.  since it is new years eve, i have dressed with more care than i would normally display when hanging out around the apartment.  i have on pants, a button down short sleeve shirt, and boots.  i am drinking tea because i am wrestling with a sore throat that someone at work passed on to me in a completely non-romantic manner, but i do have a bottle of bubbly that i plan to open up in a bit so that i can toast in the new year.  i plan to stay up until midnight, and perhaps a bit later, depending on how much noise is going on around me in my hollywood neighborhood.  i have a party horn, and i have a noisemaker--my favorite kind--the ones that you spin around and they make a cranking noise!  fantastic!  and at midnight i plan to go outside with my bubbly and my noisemakers, and i will try to wrangle all of those things while "shooting" off a small confetti cannon.

i have no doubts that, like last year, the kids across the street will be setting off fireworks and sparklers, and that the tenants upstairs will be blasting their version of "good music" at their respective parties, and that maybe i will even run into another person toasting the new year under the stars.

celebrating my 50th in august at providence in l.a. with my best bud
but unlike last year, i will not be toasting to my "last year" in los angeles.  i will be toasting to my decision to stay--my decision to spend another 10, 15, or 20 years here in this crazy love-fuck of a city.  i will be toasting to staying here where my friends and therapist peers are; where i have found most of my loves and most of my heartbreaks; where i discovered that higher education could free me forever from dogma; where i left one career of passion for another career of passion; where i renewed and enhanced my love of bicycling; where i found out that i am a writer; where i can spend new years day on a bluff overlooking the pacific ocean while feeling the sun on my face;  where i turned 30 and where i turned 50, and where i have a home.

my halloween costume:  "zipperface"
as recently as two months ago, my diary for 2013 was sub-titled "the san francisco adventure begins", but now it is sub-titled "the los angeles adventure continues".  it is an odd thing when we make life changing decisions--in many ways all decisions are life changing, just some more obviously so than others.  but a decision to not move is pretty BIG life changing; i have, in effect, erased all potential san francisco entries in my 2013 diary.  what would have happened up there this year?  but the upside is that those entries will now be filled with what happens in los angeles this year, and while it may not feel as exciting as being in a new city with new places and new people, that does not mean that this won't be one of my most memorable years.  within this year i will be leaving a job i have had for over ten years to start a new career that i have been working towards for nearly that same amount of time. i will develop a private practice, and i will study for, and take, the mft licensing
exams (and i will pass them!).  i will gain time to write more, time to take more yoga, time to have more time.  in other words, my life will change this year in major ways.

and that is just the stuff i know about!

my apartment with the tree up and decorated in early december
so i will go and open that bottle of bubbly, and i will toast, like many of you, to an ending and a beginning.  and then will blow that horn, spin that noisemaker, and shoot off confetti like nobody's business.  because THAT is what we do on new years eve.  that is what we do.

happy new year, 2013.

hosting my annual 12/24 open house
*update:  it is now new years day, and i have to report that last night i did NOT make it to midnight--i crashed at 10:30--succumbing to the cold in my head and my early start of the day.  this was the first new years stroke of midnight that i have missed since my early teens!  see?  the unpredictability of the new year is already showing itself.