vertical graphic     For this entry you might need to reference the Who's Who page.

small red square Christmas itself was generally fine, except for its beginning: an amazingly awkward scene provoked by my sister K, naturally. She announced a sudden intention to leave early, even as dinner was scheduled to begin - in other words she wanted her own separate gift exchange early so she could just end her part of this family business as quickly as possible, and leave. (To do what, she wouldn't say.) With my mother busy in the kitchen, the only others present so far additionally were my brother N and his wife Q - we all watched in disbelief at my father's acquiescing attempt to accommodate her request, in bizarre departure from tradition, rooting through the presents to find her own, until we had to speak our objections to this twisting of ceremony. <1> Voices were raised and I concluded my participation in the tense scene with my outburst to my father that "You always do this - give her special treatment which makes me feel bad, and then I say things I don't really mean!" and I stomped away into the basement where I sat for several minutes regaining my composure. Perfect time (and the usual place) for a cigarette, if I still smoked them habitually. The tide turned, however - she called off her demand. More waiting as first H and then eventually J arrived with their families and presents, which were added to those already under the tree, and since dinner was hours late by then we dug in immediately. After the fine holiday feast my mother prepared we at last had the mad chaos of the present opening, establishing a new paradigm the brothers find much more agreeable. For years we've been suffering with the request from our parents to show up real early Christmas morning to "do the presents" first thing, like we were still children living there. This is followed by endless idle hours waiting for the big mid-afternoon meal. Of course, the thirty-year-old child who lives there still wants the old tradition to continue... Towards the end of the day I had semi-harsh words with my nephew M, who was suddenly in my face babbling about something, interrupting my attention so I lost the thread of my surrounding brothers' conversation. He ran crying into the arms of his overly protective mother S, hovering nearby. Everything else besides this anguish was fine.

small yellow square This is the day after all that, Boxer Day, when F and I had made plans for our annual back-east meeting. At her parents' house I loaded up on the holiday cookies, and with a cheery "See you next year" from me, we left in the beetle to drive downtown. A small exhibition of photographs I read about in the Post seems to have been some sort of jest - the address on Connecticut Avenue turned out to be a private home, and I couldn't locate the gallery in the phone book I checked down the street inside the "American City Diner". But the other thing on my agenda was fine - an installation at the Corcoran of these large rice paper constructions by Jyung Mee Park. F enjoyed the driving around town, especially seeing the houses in Chevy Chase; and our lunch at the venerable old seafood institution of Crisfield's. (Their seafood bisque is incredible, still.) After lunch she produced two Marlboro Lights so I had to smoke one! (I didn't say it this time, but I have called her the devil.) I left F with one of her innumerable sisters at the big house of this one's family in Takoma Park, after hanging out there for a while watching bits of "The Firm" on their new VCR. <2>

small purple square Then I went back to my brother N's house where we (and his wife Q) had dinner at a "Silver Diner" and rehashed family, revolving around the problem of our sister K. <3> There we noticed but didn't quite state her most insidious attribute, the way she erodes her brothers' limited, valued time together. We fret about her ("Why the hideous hairstyle?" "What if she gets pregnant?" etc.) instead of discussing unrelated, exterior stuff that we'd rather be talking about. On the way back, I noticed their neighborhood's most flamboyantly decorated house, and we swung about for a drive-by. I was compelled to hop out and photograph a small detail: not only were lights strung about everywhere, and their living room window done up like an old department store's with an animated Santa effigy; they'd even placed strings of small lamps on the ground and with the light accumulation of snow present these diffused into little round blobs of colored light.

small cyan square Finally, back in my old bedroom that night, I finished reading these two comics from my archives stored there: "Tintin in Tibet" ("Chang!") and "The Blue Lotus", set in pre-war Shanghai - the much earlier book where Tintin first met Chang, later rescued from the Yeti in Tibet. This time I understood the politics in "The Blue Lotus". Curious fact from it gleaned: the Chinese called the Boxer Rebellion "The War of Righteous and Harmonious Fists".

VCR - Video Cassette Recorder
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<1> If one can't attend the gift distribution, the unwritten rules of past precedent clearly state that the missing receive their portion afterwards. The true situation was obvious - she was (almost successfully) trying to convert the egalitarian Christmas celebration into the only family event she enjoys - the birthday party, her birthday, where she's the center of attention.

<2> Tom Cruise riding on a monorail? What this? Memphis has a suspension train running over the Mississippi?

<3> Zeitgeist Reference Point:
N said Angelica of the Rugrats is K. Having no exposure, I wouldn't know.