Sunday, December 20, 2015

Actually, Two Links

Sunday morning, and in a week Christmas will be past by two days! Yesterday we got our tree, a little orphan tree leaning into a small crowd against a fence at Walmart, and the only one without any brown needles, somehow having been picked past again and again, and it was in fact the perfect size we wanted. Bundled it home in the twilight. I sawed off a bit at the bottom to make a fresh cut for water to penetrate the trunk, and put it in a bucket on the kitchen porch. Libby started making some fudge for the folks I work with, and today we'll make sea foam candy for them, to add to their little Christmas baskets, and maybe some cookies. The shopping days are rushing to a rapid close. This year we get both Eve and Day off, which will be a coming delight. The kid and her husband choose again to remain aloof from the family festivities both hither and yon, the yon being our dwindling extended family mostly in Greensboro, but we'll drive up there Friday, another tradition that lives through the generations. While Libby cooked in the kitchen, I got a fire going in the stove and watched the IMAX film of the Rolling Stones circa 1991, called in our Dish version at least "At the Max," which is about right. Such a moment! The lads themselves are tiny on the gigantic stage, which featured two different pairs of Macy's Parade style balloon figures, first two females, a rambunctious teen girl on one side of the stage, a haughty cigarette-smoking blonde on the other, for "Honkytonk Woman," then later, two fearsome gargoyles to illustrate "Street Fighting Man." The show was as Artful as something by Christo:

When the fudge was ready I got to test a piece, and scrape the pot. The fire had warmed up the room. We brought in the tree and got it situated in front of the door we don't much use, where it'll be visible coming down the driveway. We've also put up a little string of lights powered by a tiny solar panel which highlights the other side of the driveway entrance, and comes on even if no one is home to throw a switch. As the evening lengthened, we welcomed the new tree with new strings of lights, which have a kind of "old-timey" quality to their colors and bulb size, though I guess the world has left behind the big bulbs grandmother Hicks used to decorate their big cedar tree in the parlor with every childhood Christmas. The fire in the stove, the warming of a cold room, remains the last direct evocation of those days from the '40s and '50s in the old farm house my great grandfather built on the east side of Durham, in 1872. That Christmas parlor had been first his country doctor's office, set apart from the rest of the living quarters and heated by its own fireplace. Then he moved into Durham and his son James, my grandfather, took up the work of farming after two years at NC State in Raleigh, where he learned the scientific methods of 1900. I saw the end of that as a child, the mules and sleds, tenant kids riding on the back and pulling the big leaves and tying them to sticks to be wood cured. My dad paid for his college with a field of tobacco James gave him to tend, from start to finish. When he was done with school he stayed at State, teaching, keeping well clear of the farming life, driving us to Grandmother's for Sunday gatherings now and then, big fried chicken meals that more than filled the table as did the big extended family in the early '50s, Grandfather James' remarkably elegant blessing, "Thank God For Dinner," still remembered by sis and myself, now the last of the whole shebang. And of course every Christmas we'd drive over there from Raleigh and have one of those feasts, and repair to the cold parlor across the hall, where the fire was laid but not lit, and Aunt Cecile or Aunt Libby would play piano and we'd sing Christmas carols (sometimes I'd play along on violin, as I started learning it in the 4th grade). Once the fire got going we'd all go into the room and presents would be opened, and the paper tossed into the fire. And eventually we would drive back to Raleigh, on old US 70, in the earliest days in daddy's black '36 Chevy coupe, which had a ledge under the back window that as a tyke I could lie on and watch the cold stars and bare tree branches whiz past in the night.

So last night as it got late and they reran a Tom Waits show from 1970-something on Austin City Limits, which featured props as remarkable in their way as the gigantic Stones' balloons: real gas pumps and an old tire Waits lugged around as he performed his poem-songs to great applause, we turned out the lights and looked at the decorated tree, or at least mostly decorated--we still need to add the star, and maybe an ornament or two, but not many because the five cats will be too tempted by glass balls they can bat and knock down onto the stone floor--Christmas arrived for its yearly visit out here in the woods, where it'll stay till sometime past January 1, 2016, on the living room couch.

The two links:

Both these pieces are worth your time. Both illustrate the obvious general truth, that reality is complex. We all want to simplify of course. That's probably human nature. It's a terrible and irresponsible thing when leaders encourage us in this, and a weakness in their leadership bonafides. It is a long-standing trend, this temptation, given into again and yet again, by those who ache for power. It's not new, but frayed and worn. This makes the current cycle that much more reprehensible. Consider this American history:

So I lied. That's three links.

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