Thursday, November 10, 2011

Time on My Hands

Now that the extended tax return deadline (October 15) has passed, I have a few months during which everything is much less hectic at work. There is, of course, the holiday season to contend with, but since I discovered that a) the girls only really care about turkey, mashed potatoes, and pie at Thanksgiving, and b) the Internet makes Christmas shopping a breeze (Amazon Prime, yo), the holidays are nothing but fun. Of course, the holidays have always been predominantly fun for me. Family, food, and singing: what's not to love?

With an attitude like that, you might well suppose that no one is less qualified than I to take up the mantle of curmudgeon laureate so recently fallen from the shoulders of Andy Rooney. (To be honest, I haven't seen an episode of Sixty Minutes in years, and I had no idea that the dude was still alive until I'd heard that he'd died.) And you'd be right: I don't see the need for professional curmudgeons. And if I did perceive such a need, there are so many people more qualified than I to whinge about life's inconsequential insults.

Nevertheless, when I saw the above sign affixed to the new shopping carts at the supermarket closest to my house, I had a moment of curmudgeonliness. Or maybe it was just disbelief. I took a quick look at the wheels on my shopping cart, and I'm pretty sure that they wouldn't really lock if I were to push the cart beyond the yellow line in the parking lot. I have not, of course, tested this: why would I want to steal or even appear to be stealing a shopping cart? I wonder whether Andy Rooney would have been similarly skeptical. Regardless, a week or so later, I saw a few shopping carts that had been abandoned five or ten yards beyond the yellow line. I didn't bother to investigate, but I'm pretty sure a number of other people decided to test their suspicions about the so-called locking wheels, got beyond the yellow line, verified that the carts still rolled, and then abandoned the carts because, well, they didn't have any better idea than I what to do with them.

Ok, so you may have a fancy iPhone 4 or 4G or whatever the hell the latest version is, but did your kids give you an iPhone case with a llama in a yellow cab on the back? I didn't think so. I win.


Speaking time on my (or anyone else's) hands, I heard the other day that American GDP had rebounded to pre-financial crisis levels. Yet unemployment remains at 9%. Does it not occur to anyone that there's only so much work that the economy can support and that if some combination of technology and increases in worker productivity mean that it takes fewer workers to do that much work, there can't help but be fewer jobs? This doesn't seem all that complicated a notion to me. The obvious thing to do here is to have people who do work work fewer hours so that more people can work.

The slightly less obvious answers are to end the wars and tax the rich, but, truly, those answers are only slightly less obvious. I don't feel like getting into it right now, though.


So one of the ways I've been spending my temporarily somewhat more available free time is on the very popular iPhone (and, I'm sure, other smart phone/tablet/whatever) app Words with Friends. I don't like to brag, but most of the time I kick ass at this game.

I especially love it when I'm trailing coming into the last round, and I pull a humongous score out on the last word to take the game.

But I also like leading from start to finish, crushing the hopes and dreams of my opponents. Yeah, I'm a little bit ruthless when I play.

I win somewhere between 85 and 90 percent of my games I reckon (Hey, app developers, how about some better tracking of my record and statistics? I paid the $0.99 for the non-free version of this game, and I realize it's only a pittance, but the only thing I got was an absence of ads. Maybe come up with some features and more people will buy? It seems reasonable to me.), but I'm sure that much of my success is due to playing random opponents. Some of y'all must rule at this game: challenge me!

Friday, September 30, 2011

No One Ever Gets There But You Can Try

Recent events:

This past Sunday, I was the soloist at church. I'm the soloist at church regularly, mostly because I'm a reliably good singer, but also because I'm willing and able to sing without much notice. This last time, for example, the music director sent out an email to her list of soloists and small groups, and she had a series of dates for which she needed music, and one of those dates was ten days after the email. Other people started responding quickly (reply all? yikes!) for the later dates, but I was pretty sure that I'd be the only one to say, "Sure, I can sing a week from Sunday." That means I get one thirty-minute rehearsal before choir practice on a Thursday night, plus a run through before the service on Sunday morning. I've been singing for a long time, so I can do that, provided I don't want to do something difficult. So no Handel arias, but I do get a fair amount of freedom in deciding what I want to sing, so long as it's arguably appropriate to the sermon topic. This past Sunday, the sermon was about learning, so I chose three selections from Schoolhouse Rock. It's decidedly kick-ass to get to sing Schoolhouse Rock in church. I did "Interjections" for the prelude, "My Hero Zero" just before the sermon, and "Conjunction Junction" as the postlude. They were very well received, particularly by people about my age, for whom they were moments of major nostalgia. Saturday morning TV from the 70s. That was before Scooby Doo jumped the shark, y'know.

Also in attendance was That Guy, whom I have been dating for about ten months now. He'd never heard me sing before, neither had he been to my church, so it was nice of him to come. His comment, after hearing and seeing me do "Conjunction Junction": "Who knew you had so much rhythm? We have to go dancing sometime." There's no pleasure without pain, I reckon.

I am somewhat unfamiliar with the world of intermediate-term dating. The last two times I dated anyone for over six months, I ended up married to and/or cohabitating with said person for a period of thirteen and six years, respectively. I don't foresee any such outcome with That Guy, but then I have given up on trying to see what's coming. I'm content with the way things are.

This past Tuesday, EFU came home from classes (she is now pursuing a Master's in education; she is also doing a student teaching internship this year) and announced that there was "a situation," by which she meant that she'd picked up a stray dog on her way home. The stray dog had been running in traffic on a major highway, and I could hardly object to her having saved a dog (her mother, on the other hand, would certainly have turned the dog away). This particular dog was an extraordinarily well behaved golden retriever who, alas, made me itch. A craiglist ad and a visit to the local humane society later, Lexi (we had temporarily named her Lola, which seemed appropriate because we were having trouble getting a good look under the hood, so we thought she was a she, but we weren't certain) has been returned to her owner, who was apparently having some issues with her invisible fence. Operator error, I reckon.

Earlier this year, I had started the process of adopting a rescue greyhound, but then EFU had said that she might seek employment abroad next year when she's finished with her master's degree. Part of the deal with getting a dog was that I'd have someone else around to walk him or her during the part of the year when I regularly work fourteen-hour days. Now that Lexi/Lola has gone, EFU very much wants a permanent dog, so I will likely restart the adoption process, provided I can satisfy myself that the allergy issue either won't recur or will be manageable. I'm not allergic to That Guy's dog, but it's a Labradoodle, a breed known for not causing allergy. And for the first few years b&c and I were living together, he had an elderly Sheltie who never caused me any problems at all. My mother's dog (a Shitzu) also doesn't make me itch, so the whole thing is a puzzlement.

September has become a month when a lot of things happened. Personal things, that is. February is the biggest month for commemorations since I and the girls were all born in February. September holds the anniversaries of my father's birth (80 years), his death (1 year), and the purchase of my house (2 years). These are not occasions for which one sends greeting cards (at least not any more), and the actual dates tend to sneak up on me and then pass so that I only realize a day or two later, but they're still big time reminders of that whole tempus fugit thing. I reckon in two -- or at most three -- years I'll have to think for a while to remember how many years it will have been since any of those events happened.

I don't much like to dwell on the passage of time because it makes me sad, and it's not like I can do anything about it. I mean, sure, there are people who say that a keen awareness of the brevity of life helps them live life to the fullest, but lately I've begun to wonder whether living life to the fullest isn't more trouble than it's worth. Don't get me wrong. If you're the sort of person who wants to climb Everest or worry about his legacy, then go for it, and good for you. I'm just not convinced that, in the long run, achievement is better than contentment. I go back and forth on that one, but consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, right? Some days I want to get stuff done; other days, I just want to sit on the couch and watch the girls play Legend of Zelda (Wind Waker is my favorite, but I'm really not that picky) or make out with a nice guy. I'm convinced that the relatively breathtaking technological progress of Western civilization is mostly evidence that Europeans were bad in the sack. Nowadays, I reckon Europeans are more content than in the past (which likely means that they're better lays, but I suppose it could be all the alcohol; let's hope it's both), but I think that's because they're mostly over the notion of conquest.

I don't know exactly when I got over the notion of conquest, but I'm clearly a lot more content these days than I used to be, and it's not only because I'm so much better in the sack (I jest, but then again, I don't) than I used to be. I'd like to think that it's something like wisdom, but the more likely answer is that it's just time.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


I lose track of my age all the time. Or at least I lose track of TED's age. TED, of course, is an Internet construct, but the differences between me-TED and me-just me are not profound. And TED not infrequently shows up in my offline life, since it's the name I have used to arrange many of my encounters of a horizontal nature. This quasi-double identity has never presented much of a problem, in part because many of these encounters are a one-off, but also because I have grown accustomed to hearing myself called TED by the people who know me in a primarily horizontal context.

There is one gentleman in particular who phones or texts me with some regularity, and his usual spiel begins, "Hey, TED. I'm in the city, and I thought I might stop by and say hello." He always refers to horizontal quality time as "saying hello": he has since the very first time we met. (As euphemisms go, HQT is infinitely superior to "say hello.") His meaning was relatively clear, but part of me wanted to say, "You're coming all the way out here just to say hello? Don't you want to fuck?" But I suppose politeness and gentility are very important to him (politeness is important to me, too), and I have noticed that there is sometimes a correlation between politeness before HQT and depravity during it, and that's a good thing.

Anyway, this particular gentleman doesn't know my real name, and it's unlikely that he ever will. I think (I have not done the math) that in most cases where there's a repeat offender, I let him know my real name, but the two minutes of polite post-coital conversation that I regularly have with this guy are entirely indicative of a desire on his part to be genteel: he has no real interest in who I am. Besides, he lives in Northern Virginia, and by my reckoning, a gay man living in NoVA is only a click or two away from being GOProud. I suppose that it's wrong, or at least a little sad, to be so dismissive of someone who is so eager (on occasion) to see me and who (more importantly) kisses well, but there it is. There is a reasonable probability that at some point during the next few months I will be asked to move an existing relationship to an exclusive level, and if that's the case, I won't have any regrets saying goodbye to Mr. NoVA. Would that I could say that about all of my horizontal acquaintance, but I suppose I'll cross those bridges if and when I have to.

The keeping-track-of-my-age question is really mostly important in the context of TED because the only people who give a rat's ass about my age are folk on the Internet who want to meet me for nefarious purposes, and for the most part, these people want, or at least expect, to be lied to. In that vein, a few years back, I quipped to my then-partner that for Internet purposes, I was going to be forty-three for the next few years, until such time as my birth certificate would indicate that I was fifty, at which point I would leap frog directly to fifty-five, where I intended to stay, presumably until death.

I mention this mainly as the background that explains why when V. (formerly b&c, the aforementioned then-partner) emailed me a couple of months back to ask who* he should invite to my fiftieth birthday party, he also asked me how old I intended to be. I sent him some names, but I told him I'd have to get back to him on my age. I'm still working on that

It hadn't occurred to me that V., or anybody, would be throwing me a party, but it was very nice of him, and I found -- after he'd told me it was happening -- that I was rather looking forward to it. My birthday (which, to my everlasting pique, I share with Ronald Reagan: we differ by exactly half a century; also, I'm still breathing) falls right on the cusp of when tax season usually starts to kick into a higher gear, so I typically celebrate it by buying myself something nice and cashing a small check from my mother.

Mom had asked me, a couple of weeks prior to my birthday, whether I was worried about turning fifty. She said that my father had had a very difficult time with fifty. This puzzled me: my father never seemed to have much difficulty accepting the inevitable. Besides, it's just fifty. It's my impression that forty is typically the more difficult milestone (some would say thirty in the gay community, but at thirty I was still in fairly deep denial), and I don't recall any angst at forty, so why should fifty bother me? Nothing really happens when you turn fifty except that you start getting pestered to join AARP (which is, I suppose, a bit of a knock to people who bother to open their junk mail), and you can put more money in your 401(k) or other qualified retirement plan.** And I suppose that there's a somewhat ominous medical procedure that your doctor recommends merely by virtue of your age, but I've found that it's better not to mention that somewhat ominous medical procedure, unless you want people to go on -- at great length and in an inappropriate amount of detail and in a manner that's meant to be reassuring but is not -- about that procedure. And you do not want this.

The party itself was a lot of fun, though a bit of a blur. I had about twelve ounces of wine upon arrival, and -- loath though I am to admit it -- twelve ounces of wine pretty much ensures that I'm going to be pleasantly drunk for several hours. And when I say "pleasantly drunk," I mean drunk enough that when someone presents me with a rainbow-glitter top hat and a purple feather boa, I don them with good humor, but not so drunk that I don't remember to insist that someone take a picture of it with my iPhone. That way, no one feels the need to capture elsewhere that particular ridiculous outfit, and I maintain control over the image. As it happens, the glitter top hat (in jewel tones) is a pretty good look for me. That guy kept telling me how good it looked on me. For days afterward he mentioned it.

I had asked V. to invite that guy to the party because it seemed like we had been dating long enough for him to meet some of my friends. This was a matter of some trepidation for me, not his meeting my friends, but I was not thrilled about explaining to V. that I'm dating someone in a manner that may not be entirely casual, and I wasn't sure how that guy would feel about being invited. But V. wasn't the least bit troubled, and that guy loves a party. That guy, in fact, appears to love any party: this is not something we have in common. But we did both have a great time at my fiftieth, and my friends all liked him, of course.

(In fact, one of them liked him so much that he asked that guy out, probably -- I am giving him the benefit of the doubt here -- because he didn't realize that I and that guy were dating. That guy went, not realizing that he'd been on a date until he was recounting the evening to me, and I said, "Dude. You were on a date." A month later, that guy is still not quite ready to concede the point, arguing -- rightly -- that going on a date with the man in question would be like going out with a certain public television children's television host who is known for make believe. Of course, a lot of people really like cardigans: I don't judge. I am highly amused by the entire incident. To my shame, I am not above whistling "It's a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood" at inappropriate moments, which never fails to elicit, "It was not a date.")

I've had about six weeks now to get used to the notion of fifty, but I am still unable to ascribe any particular meaning, let alone dread, to it. I think for a lot of men, the forties are typically a period of great struggle and the fifties are more a period of stability and acceptance, but I've always been pretty good about acceptance, and stability is always an illusion, albeit a pleasant one. I do feel qualitatively and significantly different (and better) than I did a year ago, in a number of ways, but this has nothing to do with fifty, and everything to do with the death of my father. As awful as that was, getting through it has opened me up in ways that I could not have anticipated. It is a useful coincidence that his death occurred a few months before I hit fifty.

I still haven't figured out what to do about TED's age, though. Fifty is a nice, round number, and it's easy to remember, but there's a certain hunger and disreputability to the mid- to late-forties that is much more useful for the purposes of TED. I don't think I'm quite ready to give that up, but it may be only a matter of time.

*I have elected not to use "whom" here. I am not up to arguing about it.

**Fifty also presents some horizontal opportunities with the sort of, often young, person who will only date people fifty or over, but, apparently, I do not look sufficiently fifty for this sort of person. Alas. I am starting to get some flecks of gray in my hair, and I'm very happy about that, though more for aesthetic than horizontal reasons. I have always wanted to be salt and pepper.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


The other morning, I was still congratulating myself on having avoided having to summon a plumber to deal with my bathroom clog, when I walked out the front door without my keys and locked myself out. Pride goeth before a fall, or so they tell me, but I am by habit so paranoid about closing doors without checking my pockets for my keys that I had not bothered to conceal a spare.

Fortunately, I did have my iPhone, so I was able to determine that there is a locksmith located within a half-mile of me, so I placed a call, and in twenty minutes or so, a young man of terrifying efficiency was drilling out my lock and letting me back in. He managed to convince me that I needed to have both the lock he'd drilled and the deadbolt changed, and what with the service fee, and the drilling out, and the changing of two locks keyed together, he was gone twenty minutes later, and I was poorer by $414, which I figure is about how much it would have cost me for two visits by a plumber. Oh well. At least I have shiny new locks, and the locksmith (admittedly not a disinterested party) assures me that my old locks were a break-in waiting to happen.

My mother, who no longer likes to brave shopping malls and does not appear to understand how to order gifts over the Internet, sent me some money to spend on myself and the girls for Christmas. I quashed the impulse to just put the money in the bank (the impulse didn't put up much of a fight, really), and instead bought myself something that met the two main requirements for a gift: a) it's something I really like, and b) it's something that I was unlikely to buy for myself. So I am now the proud owner of a Kindle. It seemed to me that if one is going to own an e-reader, one ought to break it in, as it were, with an especially good book, so my first download was Pride and Prejudice, which had the additional benefit of being free.

I must admit that I was feeling just the eensiest bit obligated when I made the choice. I adore Jane Austen, and P&P (or, if you prefer, PnP, though if you're involved in any sort of online interaction that is likely to lead to you and your correspondent in a mutually horizontal position, I must caution you that if he mentions PnP, you are likely to be bitterly disappointed if you believe him to be a fan of Ms. Austen) is one of my favorite novels, but it's just possible that I was resisting being in the mood for something a skosh, well, trashier. (One acknowledges that the sets of "all novels" and "all novels trashier than Jane Austen novels" are very nearly identical.) But I was no more than a few pages in before I was transported. I remembered the excellent writing and all the humor, but I had forgotten what an absolute page turner (note to whomever: "page turner" may be obsolete with e-readers; come up with an alternative) it is, even if you've already read it four times and have seen both the excellent and the execrable movie versions, so that there's really very little doubt as to how it's going to come out.

It's been some years since my last reading, so it's not surprising that I was struck by a lot of what had not occurred to me so much in the past. What I especially noted this time through was the character of Mr. Bennett, who deals with a situation of his own creation, but not to his own liking, by removing himself from it as much as possible and making himself something of a recluse in his own library. The consequences of his seclusion range from the (minor) deterioration of his own character to a family scandal. Within the context of a Jane Austen novel, those are quite big deals. I took his example as a reminder of how important it is to remain engaged.

The second book I downloaded was The Pilgrim's Progress, and that is going, um, not so well, but I intend to persevere, much like Christian. John Bunyan, frankly, was not much of a writer, and The Pilgrim's Progress is really more proto-novelist allegory than novel, but it was the first book that I read in my first literature course as a freshman. The course is still offered (or was as late as 2009, at least), but the reading list has changed considerably, and the professor who taught it has long since retired, a fact which makes me a little bit sad. Tempus fugit, I reckon.

In other media-related news, I had a series of such unpleasant interactions with Comcast's so-called customer service that I have entirely abandoned cable television (and Comcast) in favor of Verizon FiOS internet only, with a Netflix account (streaming through the Wii, plus a one-at-a-time DVD rental). I thought I would miss some of my favorite reality TV shows, but so far I haven't, and, well, how did I live without Netflix?

Naturally, I love all of the movies and TV shows, from the sublime (my first DVD was A Single Man) to the profane (Spartacus: Blood and Sand; the mind boggles), but what I especially appreciate is the Netflix' user interface's continuing efforts to define and predict my tastes. At some point, a new category appeared in my browsing menu: "Emotional Gay and Lesbian Dramas." I was a little sad when it went away, but then it was replaced by "Edgy Gay and Lesbian Romances," which was followed by "Dark Gay and Lesbian Romances," and, finally, "Steamy Gay and Lesbian Romances." These are pretty obvious choices for me, but I'm a bit impressed by Netflix' ability to withstand all of the attempts to throw it off the track: YFU also uses my account, and it's not uncommon for her to spend six hours on the couch watching half a season of The Office or a completely inscrutable (to me) Japanese anime series. Somewhere there's a psychologist writing a thesis about me.

I don't have what I perceive to be the usual issues with new year's resolutions; (I.e., that they create unreasonable expectations and then guilt when they're broken, as they nearly always are. When I break mine, I just shrug.) indeed, I think that any excuse at self-reinvention or self-improvement is a good thing. But getting them done by January 1 is just too much pressure. Also, it leads to bad choices, and it lessens your enjoyment of the holiday. (I had a splendid New Year's Eve, by the way. I went to a late party, and before that, That Guy came over for dinner, and he brought a bottle of Laurent-Perrier demi sec, and it was delicious.) It makes much more sense to me to spend a bit of time during the first week of the year thinking about one's goals for the coming year and then to implement resolutions as necessary throughout the year, beginning with the first resolutions on January 6, which has the virtue of being Epiphany/Twelfth Night/Three Kings' Day. (I typically wait until after April 15 to institute additional resolutions: the strain of eighty hour work weeks is too much for anyone's resolve.)

The specifics are not really of interest, but this year my goals are achievable and my resolutions are not especially onerous. In any case, after the events of 2010, it's almost a given that 2011 is going to be a good year, if only by comparison. Looking at life year by year is arguably artificial, but you have to have an organizing principle of some sort. The new year is sufficiently close to the winter solstice that it's still a time when the days are very short and the temperatures are very cold, so you want to be at home under a blanket, reflecting on what from the past you want to let go, and what you want to pick up in the coming year.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Zombie Wants Brains

Just today, I've been sitting in my office, humming one of the choruses from Messiah. (I was in the stage chorus for this year's Kennedy Center Messiah sing-along. It was good to get a second use of the tux that I'd bought a year earlier, and having to learn all of the choruses from the work may prove useful in later years.) But because I was up until two am last night, doing something entirely different from what I'm typically doing if I'm still up at that hour, instead of singing "His yoke is easy; his burthen is light," I was singing, "My hands are dirty; my drainpipe is clean." It got very well lodged in my head that way until a member of my online knowledge base wrote something that led to my replacing that lyric with the probably even more obscure "The cow is angry; the zombie wants brains." It is probably best that I don't attempt to explain how that happened, but I will note that the way the melismas run in that particular chorus meant that I was suddenly having to articulate "brains," and I have always found the first half of the long a diphthong to be especially hard to articulate at speed. I recall a particular instance seven or eight years ago where I was doing a bass aria from some piece (possibly a missa brevis, but I can't be at all certain), and the music director snarled (I am not exaggerating) at me because I insisted on articulating the first syllable of "saecula" on the ee rather than on the eh. But it was so, so, so fast that I just couldn't do it any other way. I was so distressed by the ferocity of her reaction that I nearly walked out. I figured that if it was that important to her, she should have hired a professional. Besides, I reserve most of my linguistic pedantry for English. My reasoning was: it's Latin, it's a dead language, so fuck it. Also, I sounded great.

Anyway. It was an odd autumn and early winter for me. I have been both myself and not myself as the grief over my father's death became less acute and then went underground, transforming itself into a sort of mild incompetence that is not especially bothersome. I hypothesize that at some level I'm still processing the grief, and that my subconscious is busy enough with it that my conscious mind sometimes neglects to do things that ought to get done, like setting the oven timer. In any event, I am at once happier and more inept, and that seems like a pretty good trade to me, though perhaps not so much last night at 2 am when the drain clog finally yielded to, of all things, the plunger. I probably should have tried that first, though I think it's reasonable to tell myself that the plunger (which has, in fact, proved ineffectual on previous clogs of the same sink) would not have worked without the prior application of the two Turbo Snakes (as seen on TV!), the drain auger, and the multiple rounds of baking soda and vinegar (the chemical drain opener having been similarly ineffectual). Also, I am now the proud owner of a super-keen pipe wrench. Woot.

I have a history of autumnal upheaval -- my father's death, the beginning of the end of my marriage, and the dissolution of my partnership all having happened in August or September. I'm pretty sure all of that is simple coincidence, but the upshot has been that the worst of the bad is ending as the holiday season is beginning, meaning that Thanksgiving and Christmas come just as I'm truly able to appreciate how much I still have to be grateful for.

This was a really good holiday season for me. There are three things that are both necessary and sufficient for me to have a great Christmas: family, music, and food. (I can have a great Thanksgiving with just the family and the food.) I am blessed with two daughters who have a great appreciation for substance over form, so most of the trappings are not essential. I do find that the ebullience which accompanies the season makes me want to do some level of decorating, but when, for example, it's Christmas Eve and I can't find the wrapping paper, I know that the girls won't mind at all, provided that the gift is appropriate. And they're smart girls who leave little to chance: they each emailed me a Christmas wish list, with web links. If not for the decentralized nature of purchasing on Etsy, I'd have been done with the shopping in less than half an hour. As it was, it was still done quickly, and while I did end up having to make a couple of shopping trips to crowded stores in the week before Christmas (I have mostly put these out of mind, in order to avoid death of the soul: the trauma of last-minute non-Internet Christmas shopping can hardly be exaggerated.), I was mostly left with plenty of additional time to bake cookies. Also fruitcake -- against which I will hear no calumnies. (This guy who I may be dating was at my house for what may have been a date, and I served him some of my fruitcake, and he exclaimed, "Oh! It's good!" as if that were a great surprise. I was not amused; fortunately, he is the sort of person against whom it is impossible to hold a grudge, and I am supremely confident in my fruitcake, which everybody likes.)

As for music, I sang so much during the last week before the holiday that by the end of the Christmas Eve service, when I was required to hold a low D at the end of an "Alleluia," I was very nearly croaking. Christmas was on a Saturday, and in addition to the Christmas Eve service on Friday, I had the Messiah on Thursday, a full choir practice on Wednesday, and a two-hour Messiah rehearsal on Monday. On Tuesday, I went to hear the holiday concert at YFU's high school, and it was surprisingly good. YFU's group, in particular, did a fantastic job. I am aware that there was some bias in my reaction, but they were spot on in their intonation and diction. They opened with a particularly lively (and well-choreographed, by one of the members) version of "If They Could See Me Now," and it was just great. YFU was thrilled.

She was less thrilled with the candied orange slices that she asked me to make after she read about them somewhere. I had warned her that she probably wouldn't like them because they'd be bittersweet, but she wanted them, so I made them, and they were fantastic, but even as I was enjoying my first, I realized that they appealed to a more mature palate. Both girls rejected them. More for me.

Anyway, the only real trouble I went to preparing for Christmas was the 2-D tree. I realized early on that having a regular Christmas tree would mean removing furniture from the living room, and I just didn't feel like dealing with it, so I went for a 2-D tree. I went through several iterations before I wound up with a pegboard and 1x4 frame onto which I layered quilt batting, which I then covered with canvas. It happened that I had giant rolls of both in the basement for reasons which I understand completely but which are impossible to explain to anyone else without having them think I'm either eccentric or a lunatic. Neither of which is either necessarily wrong or a bad thing, but, well, let's just say that the batting and the canvas both came in happy when 2D tree versions 1.0 and 2.0 failed miserably.

Christmas day itself was blissfully relaxed. Since I couldn't/didn't have to wrap presents, I just piled things underneath the tree before I went to bed. The girls were arriving shortly after noon, so I got up at eleven o'clock. [Fair warning: carbohydrate-hating homosexuals will want to skip the next several sentences. Move immediately to the next paragraph.] Over time, I have become more and more basic with holiday meals involving my immediate family, so for Christmas dinner, I made very good macaroni and cheese. And nothing else, though there were beverages and cookies, of course. Then for Christmas supper, I made mashed potatoes. The girls were thrilled, and I could spend my time with them instead of in the kitchen. We opened presents, ate, and watched movies all day. It gets no better.