Another New Years Again?

If you’re like me, right about now you’re thinking, “Golly, how could it possibly be New Years again? Didn’t we just HAVE one?!” You’ve also missed another meeting with your parole officer and you’re under your desk sipping off brand booze out of a Fresca can. TIP #1: Crouching under your desk doesn’t make you invisible, just like it says on your last performance evaluation. TIP #2: Anything called “Southerner’s Comfort” and costing less than six bucks for a plastic, two liter bottle will probably make you blind. TIP #3: Be less like me.

Well, it is New Years again, and the fact that you can’t recall large chunks of April and May doesn’t change anything. The New year is coming like a freight train and as a human being you are obligated to note and celebrate that fact. You can no longer get out of the way of that metaphorical train than that chick from the ‘Dudley Do right’ cartoon, because the Snidely Whiplash of linear time has bound you to the rails and we have arbitrarily designated December thirty-first as the point in the Earths journey around the sun as the point at which the trip begins ‘again’, just like that means anything at all. I’m sure I could extend this metaphor, but you get the point, which is that you are screwed if you think you can pretend this isn’t happening. The only choice you get is how you go about recognizing it.

Now maybe I’m just becoming an old fashioned ‘geezer’, but I’ve decided I like ringing in the New Year at home. It was fun to go out when I was a youngster, but kids these days don’t know from Guy Lombardo, the chances of being killed in a terrorist attack are about %75 when ‘outside the home’, and the LAST thing I need is another Mexican Tattoo! No, wait, Mexican Tattoo’s are second to last, right after some other bad thing that might happen to me if I wound up in Mexico on New years eve, which I now realize is a not only tired but fairly racist joke structure I don’t need to use, because I’m better than that. Screw you, I am.

Besides, I’ve got kids now. Sure, a lot of parents get a sitter and go out, but my ankle bracelet makes that damn near impossible and if the wife wants to go dancin’ with anyone it sure as hell isn’t me! I don’t blame her, I’m a terrible dance partner, always have been. Maybe it’s me, I just think a dance floor is a very exposed place when a pack of crazed, super evolved baboons is hunting you. Those friggin’ super evolved baboons, man. They ruin everything. When will they ever let me forget? Never, that’s when. So, we stay in.

My oldest daughter came up with a great New Year’s Eve tradition a few years back. Wish bags. Got it out of some family magazine the wife subscribes too. I tried reading one of them once, I mean we’re paying for them, they pile up like dead pets for god’s sake, but I couldn’t make head or tail of the damn thing. It was half ads and no one was naked at all. Anyway, Wish Bags. You take a brown paper lunch bag, decorate it any old way you want with stickers, pom poms, crayons and what all. Then you write your wishes for the New Year on slips of paper and put ‘em in the bag. When they start counting down the clock in Time’s Square you blow up your bag and at the stroke of midnight you pop it. Which I guess is in someway supposed to make God care, I don’t know. It’s from a magazine.

Last year all I wrote was ‘huff less model airplane glue’ which turned out to be pretty useless since I didn’t write ‘keep receipts for all model airplane glue purchased’. Even that wouldn’t have worked because I didn’t keep model airplane Glue receipts from previous years, so how the hell am I supposed to know if I’m cutting back or not? Self-improvement is a lot harder than it looks and may even take more than a Wish bag, but it’s all I plan on doing, so I mean to make the best of it.

I’ve been planning this years wishes since New Years day 2014. First thing I did (well, second, right after Glue because I can’t even shave before my morning Glue, I tried it once and took off an eyebrow) was go through the trash to find my wife and daughter’s wishes. Everything was pretty torn up so I couldn’t really tell whose was whose but they were all good so it doesn’t really matter. One said “Save the animals in the rainforest” one said “Stay on the Deans List” and one said “Think about killing my husband less.”

For most of the year I was set with “Become King of world”, but that just seemed like more work than I could handle, especially since I couldn’t even bother to write “The World” on my wish. Then I was going to go with “Care Less”, which seemed to cover everything but the truth is, I’d much rather have a lot of candy then care less that I don’t have a lot of candy, because I’d still care some and I like candy. I toyed with “Be more mature” but I knew if I wrote down a great idea like that all you bastards would read it and copy my idea. So I’m going to wing it. You know, trust my instincts. They’ve never let me down before. At least that’s what my old buddy “Jack Danielson” always says. And at four fifty a quart, he’s rarely wrong.


The X-mas Faq

Q.) What is Christmas, Max?
A.) That’s “Dr. Burbank”. The word Christmas comes from the words Cristes maesse, or “Christ’s Mass.” Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus for members of the Christian religion. Most historians peg the first celebration of Christmas to Rome in 336 A.D, but it didn’t really catch on until 1997 when HBO’s special “Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas” tugged America’s heartstrings, giving us all a case of “Christmas Fever” and a terrible fear of Hillbilly Puppet Otters.
Give us the clams or the Baby Jesus Gets it

Q.) Why do people give each other gifts on Christmas
A.) Lot’s of reasons, but there are only really three reasons. To assuage guilt, to fulfill obligation and in exchange for sex. Think about it. You’ll see I’m right.

Q.) But what about the Three Kings?
A.) What about ‘em? Don’t believe a word those jokers say. No matter what they tell you, while I certainly appreciated any gifts they allegedly gave me, there was absolutely no ‘quid pro quo’. Especially not Balthazar, who is into some very weird stuff.

Q.) No, no, I mean, I thought the tradition of gift giving came from the Three Kings giving gifts to the Christ Child!
A.) Hanh? OH! Oh. Well, I suppose that makes a sort of sense. Forget that other stuff. Honestly, I wasn’t listening all that closely.

Q.) Is December 25’th really the day Jesus was born?
A.) Yes. Sort of. But we count our calendar from New Years Day, and supposedly that’s how old Jesus is. My guess is that Jesus started to be born on the 25’th, but God didn’t want people thinking he was letting anybody off on the whole, “Bring forth your children in pain” thing just ‘cause it was his son, so to avoid the appearance of favoritism, God gave Mary a particularly hellacious week long labor. If you can think of another plausible explanation for the date discrepancy, feel free to put it out there. Honestly, I’m just spitballing.

Q.) Why do we have a Christmas tree, Mr. Burbank?
A.) Dr. Burbank. The Christmas Tree is a German tradition, and we all know how festive those can be apart from the cleaning up afterwards and pesky lingering Nuremberg Trials. It’s just one of the many, many pagan rites the early Christians co-opted in their tireless quest to make the worship of Christ appear as fun as other faiths that involve nakedness and bull slaughter. And it gives your dog a fabulous opportunity to wee indoors.

Q.) Well, why do we decorate the tree?
A.) You certainly have a lot of damn questions. Martin Luther is the first person credited with the decoration of Christmas trees, principally with candles, one of the many reasons he is the Patron Saint of the Shriners despite the fact that he is not actually a saint. Victorians didn’t learn from his mistake as is related in a much remembered scene in Dickens’s famous “A Christmas Carol Featuring Horrible Third Degree Burns Covering %45 of Old Fezziwig’s Body.”
A typical Victorian Family prepared to douse themselves with festive yuletide accelerants

Q.) Yes, but why do we decorate-

A.)I’m sure I don’t know. God said to, probably. Dr. Burbank is getting one of his headaches, so pick up the pace a little, why don’t you?

Q.) Why do we hang Stockings?
A.) For crimes against humanity. I kid of course. Stockings are incapable of even the most minor social infractions. According to a very old tradition, the original St. Nicholas left gold coins in the stockings of three poor girls who had no dowry. They had left their stockings hanging from the mantle to dry, and St. Nick, who had a little foot thing, thought his meaning would be clear, but alas, none of the girls ever called him.

Q.) Why do people send each other Christmas Cards, Dr. Burbank?
A.) Just so we’re clear, you know I’m not the kind of Doctor that can write prescriptions, yes? Okay. And you’re still here? Oh, your question, your question. The answer is simple. The Greeting card industry is controlled by the Jews.

Q.) What are the Twelve days of Christmas?
A.) The 12 days of Christmas are the 12 days that separate Christmas day on December 25 from Epiphany, which is celebrated January 6. Depending on the church, January 6 may mark Christ’s baptism (the Catholic tradition), or it may mark the day Joseph has finally had it with all his freeloading relatives and threw them out the stable, cursing loudly and reminding all present that Jesus wasn’t even his baby (Unitarians)
Chevy Chase is rarely funny. This movie is no exception.

Q.) What does Santa Claus have to do with Christmas?
A.) The short version is there was this religious Looney, St. Nicholas, who left money in foot related garments. Then some paper published the poem “The Night Before Christmas”, which apparently isn’t even the actual title and isn’t about feet very much at all. Anyway, people went bugshit over that poem because it was before TV. Then the Coca Cola company ran a series of ads depicting Santa as a white bearded, red suited, coke swillin’ fatty, which is pretty much how we picture him today, except for today’s kids who have lately come to confuse him with a fat, coke swillin’ Polar Bear. IMPORTANT NOTE! Polar bears are NOT cute. They are perfect killing machines that will maul you in a heartbeat and keep you at deaths door for hours playing with your organs right in front of you, which is the real reason we invented Global warming.

Q.) Why is Christmas sometimes spelled X-mas?
A.) This is a Jewish marketing scheme to get you to associate Christendom’s most sacred holiday with Marvel Comics “The X-Men” franchise, the supposition being that Santa would move a hell of a lot more greeting cards if he had razor sharp adamantium claws and a great deal of difficulty controlling his frequent fits of berserker rage. Would you do Doctor Burbank a huge favor and reach up on the mantle behind the clock and fetch me down my special medicinal X-mas snuff? There’s a dear.

Q.) What do you want for X-mas, Dr. Burbank?
A.) Peace on earth. But you haven’t a one-eyed pigs chance of getting me that, have you? That being the case, donations of all sorts would go a long way toward refilling Dr. Burbank’s x-mas snuff tin, which, alarmingly does not refill itself. Now, Merry Christmas to all, and to all a goodnight, but which I mean, leave. The figgy pudding is not for the likes of you, and I have the police on speed dial.

My Letter to Santa

Dear Santa;

It’s hard to argue I’ve been good this year. In any case, that’s what my parole officer says, ha-ha. (That’s a joke, as you know I haven’t seen my parole officer in months and neither has anyone else.) In fact, I would say that considering the stresses I’m under as a modern Father, Husband, full time grown man employee of a comic book store, Unitarian/Jew and airplane glue ‘enthusiast’, I think I’ve been very well behaved. Incidents of road rage should be overlooked since I don’t have a car and it was the booze talking. Likewise, while I may have told my daughters you don’t exist, I was only being mean to them and I lie constantly so it’s unlikely they took me seriously. I think I more than made up for it by telling her that in a fight between totally made up people, you would beat the crap out of the Pope. Not the new, nice one, probably that German one, the one with the eye patch. I’m pretty sure I didn’t cheat on my taxes which I’m pretty sure I filed, but if I did (cheat) or didn’t (file) it was during blackouts and if I’m going to get coal in my stocking for things I’ve done while in blackouts, hell, I’ll start heating with coal. Like you’re in any position to judge, Mr. “Well-I-Guess-We’ll-Have-To-Cancel-Christmas”.

My point is, you make the naughty/nice list, not me, so I figured I’d hedge my bets and send you a Christmas list. You know, if you’re not too busy with the forced Elf Labor and whatever the hell genetic engineering you get up to with those reindeer. (I’m kidding. I’m sure the Elves enjoy their work, and Reindeer can’t talk, so do what you want, I say.)(Is it naughty to end a paragraph with a parenthetical phrase?)
Anyway, here’s what I want:

1.) Peace on Earth.
I shit you not, Santa. I’m not just saying that to look all goody goody so you’ll give me the other stuff. I mean, I can’t even express how much the news depresses me these days, like I want to hear about terrorism and child slavery and racism and all that crap. Either make me even more self centered and callous or clean this mess up. Frankly I don’t care which.

2.) Booze.
I’m not that concerned about the quality. I don’t appreciate it, it’s wasted on me, I’m strictly talking about utility booze here.

3.) No electronic shit.
If anyone gets me electronic shit I’m blaming you. I’m too damn old, there’s no damn way I’m figuring out how to operate a ‘smart phone; or a ‘blue tooth’or any damn, hand held crap with weeny little buttons my fat, arthritic, shaky fingers can’t even find, let alone push. NO ELECTRONIC GADETRY unless it comes with a teenage slave to make it work. Like a human remote control. And not a big talker.

4.) More Time to Spend With My Kids.
They’re not human remote controls exactly but they still occasionally do what I tell them and my back hurts like hell since that time I was found asleep in the locker at the Port Authority.

5.) A Better Lawyer.
I mean, honest to Christ, Santa, what the hell is the point of a shyster who can’t get me workman’s comp for the damage done to my lower back sleeping in a Port Authority Locker?

6.) A Helper Monkey.
Those things are the coolest and apparently you can’t just have one because you want one, you have some sort of medically recognized disability. I’m not kidding, Santa, it’s apparently some sort of ‘law’. I think restricting me from having my own Helper Monkey is a serious infringement of my civil rights, so if there’s no way to get a Helper Monkey in my stocking, just go back and change number five from “A Better Lawyer” to “A Better Lawyer Who’s Really Good With The Whole Civil Rights Thing vis-a-vis Helper Monkeys.”

7.) Worse Hearing.
I know that sounds odd but at Thanksgiving my wife’s Uncle Leon was there, and he has this hearing aid. And for most of the evening he had it turned way low and whatever you said he’d yell something unrelated back at you, like you’d say “Uncle Leon, how’s the soup?” and he’d yell “BECAUSE THE DAMN JEWS WON’T GIVE ME FULL DENTAL!” and then Aunt Imogene gave him hell and made him turn it all the way up, and he did and it started making this high pitched squealing noise? And then he fell asleep. That was so cool.

8.) Good Slippers.
Every winter my feet get cold and wet until they feel like two, huge lumps of fresh Mozzarella in brine and every year my kids get me some cheap ass slippers that are too tight and my feet can’t breath and they feel like hot Mozzarella instead of cold Mozzarella and I have to pretend I like them. Is a decent pair of slippers too friggin’ much to ask for, Santa?

9.) For Dick Cheney to suddenly vomit up gallons of live leeches on national TV until he dies.
No shit, Santa, he is so overdue for death I know that sounds pretty un-Christmasy, but I hate that son of a bitch so bad, and I blame him for widening the asshole envelope enough for the entire gang of bastards we’ve got now to squeeze through once they’d stripped themselves naked and greased up with pure, unfiltered evil. I am not kidding, if I could have Dick Cheney gagging and clutching at his throat with his eyes bugging out while gallons of live leeches poured out of his throat like a ruptured oil pipeline good people got water cannoned for protesting and then keeling over dead on live national TV, I would totally forgo everything else on this list. Either that or make me Dick Cheney. He looks like he’s having a pretty good time, and he seems to be frikkin’ immortal.

10.) Some kind of ‘get out of hell free’ card for wishing violent, ugly, public death on people even if they really, really, really, really deserve it.

11.) You know that movie “Scanners”?
Remember that old David Cronenberg thing where these people had psychic powers and could make other peoples heads go all shaky and then blow up? Can I have that? Not the movie, the power.

12.) Peace in the Middle East.
I swear to God, if these bastards drag us into a Nuclear Armageddon at a point in my life where I have not even outlived Dick Cheney or dived into a hill of gold coins that I was then somehow magically able to swim around in like they were water, I will hold you personally responsible.

13.) A Genie.
Like, a Barbara Eden type Genie who’s all ‘master’ this and ‘master’ that and could get me anything I wanted whenever. Then I wouldn’t need to even write you anymore letters and just the thought of you in a midriff exposing harem outfit is very hard to take, no offense. You know what, screw the rest of the list, just get me the Genie, and I’ll take it from there.

So, anyway, I hope you’re having a good Holiday season, even though it’s like, a busy time for you I’m sure, and tell Mrs. Clause I say hello, and tell Hermy (Herbie?) he can be whatever he wants to be, Jesus, it’s 2018 almost. I bet I know what you want for Christmas if that “Polar Express” film is any indication. A gift certificate for a Tom Hanks exterminator! The North Pole is apparently infested with Tom Hanks! Oh, screw you ‘it’s not topical’, that joke was funny as hell the first time I wrote it. Anyway you’re the miracle gift giver, not me. All you’re getting is the plate of cookies just like always.

My Holiday Memories


We are Jews, but not in the religious sense. More in the sense that if a new Nazi party were ever to arise in America, chances are it wouldn’t matter much to them that we rarely if ever mentioned God in my home. We celebrate Christmas, because that’s when we are out of school and Christmas is in many ways, a secular, American holiday. Santa did not die on any cross, my father explains. I have no earthly idea what he is talking about, but it makes me uneasy. We do not have a Christmas tree, or decorations. You have to draw the line somewhere and that line is drawn by my parents firmly where things seem to become a hassle. Christmas morning my Mother descends the stairs in a bathrobe that can no longer recall the color it once was, the first cigarette of the day already dangling from the corner of her mouth. She is carrying a wicker laundry basket of presents for my brother and me. My father is at the Hospital seeing patients, something he volunteers for every year so the Christian Doctors can be home with their kids. My brother suggests we wait for my Father to come home before we open any presents, an idea I hate, as he will probably not be home until late afternoon, but agree with anyway. “Suit yourself,” says my mom, which I don’t think she would have said if any of the gifts was a puppy I’d asked for.


I am onstage, alone in a spotlight, holding a menorah. I have been called to explain Hanukah to the school during the assembly directly before we are released for the Christmas Vacation. Hanukah is something I myself had scant knowledge of three days ago, and in the intervening time I have learned little. It has something to do with oil burning for a far longer time than is physically possible, which we symbolize by burning a series of candles over the course of several days all of which we let burn out, which makes no sense. In addition, apparently during this holiday, Jews teach their children to gamble, which suggests some of the unpleasant things the other children say may be true. I need to go to the bathroom very, very, very badly, which is unfortunate, as it’s quite clear I will be on the stage in this spotlight for the rest of eternity, probably because I am bad.


My mother and I stand in the kitchen. Our dog, Frodo, the most embarrassing name the early seventies ever gave a dog, is on the kitchen table straddling about three quarters of a disturbingly mauled roast Turkey. The look of guilt in her eyes is the most real thing I have ever observed in my ten years on the planet. My mother shoes the dog off the table and calmly begins to carve what remains of the bird. “If you tell anyone,” she says around her cigarette “I’ll certainly kill you.”


It occurs to me for the very first time that standing up in front of the school and explaining Chanukah at the Christmas Break assembly is probably not any sort of legal requirement. I ask my Mother if I have to, and she says “no”. I tell my teacher I’m not going to do it anymore and she says “Okay”. On the off chance that some sort of crossed wires prevented the Principal from knowing that I would no longer be explaining Chanukah, I make a special trip and tell him. He says “fine”. I sit in the audience, waiting to see who my replacement will be. In fact, no one explains Chanukah to the children this year.


I have determined that this year I will stay up to see the New Year in. I am asleep by 8:45, a full half hour before my usual bedtime.


About half way through the meal, I take a quick bathroom break. Before returning to the table, a put a ping-pong ball into my mouth. No one notices my silence or that I have stopped eating during the fifteen minutes I patiently wait to distance myself from my bathroom break. Then, during a brief lull in conversation, I push the ping-pong ball out of my mouth. The utter silence is broken only by the sound the ping-pong ball makes each time it hits the table, until it finally lands in the gravy boat. A few of my relatives thought it was funny. The really drunk ones.


Frankie Silverman explains Chanukah during the assembly directly before we are released for Christmas Break. I cannot believe how much I hate him.


I wanted a denim Jacket and Adidas. My father informed me that desiring status symbols was bad enough, but getting them would make me an ‘enemy of the people’. He may well have been kidding, but I got a copy of ‘Lord of the Rings’.


We begin an annual tradition of having Thanksgiving dinner at my Aunt and Uncles house. They are perhaps the only truly fabulously wealthy people I will ever meet. They live in a house designed by a well-known modern architect from whom they must obtain written permission before they purchase anything that could change the appearance of the house. This includes furniture, towels, artwork and the brace of architect approved English Sheepdogs on which they lavish the unconditional love they withhold from their children on principal. While there are many pictures of these children, all have been taken by well-known photographers. My Aunt and Uncle, a ‘tightly wound’ couple with ‘issues’ are well known for boozy, vicious stories about their friends, a supernatural ability to lower room temperature with their eyes and candied yams.


I have set myself a willpower goal. When I open my last present, no matter what or how much I have received, I WILL NOT allow a voice in my head to say “What, that’s all?” As I open my last present, a voice in my head says “What, that’s all?”

NEW YEARS 1978/79

We are at a charming hotel in Vermont. During the course of the New Year’s Eve party my parents attended, an elderly friend of theirs fell out the back of a local farmer’s Pick Up Truck. The details are sketchy, but it involved some fairly large amounts of liquor, a punctured and collapsed lung and a trip to the emergency room. Consequently, my parents returned to the hotel around five A.M. My brother and I rose at six, and proceeded to spend the next sixteen hours sitting in the lobby waiting for them to wake up. My new years resolution was that next year I would spend New Year’s Eve with other teens, some of whom would be girls.

NEW YEARS 1979/80

There are no girls at this party.


This is the first Thanksgiving since my Aunt’s therapist advised she never under any circumstances speak with or think of my Father ever, ever, ever again, an event he greeted with a profound lack of interest. I will miss the ugly stories and candied yams.

NEW YEARS 1982/83

No amount of Liquor can alter the fact that there are no girls at this party.

NEW YEARS 1983/84

Now a college student, there at finally girls at party I attend. I’m kidding, I’m home on break and I spend New Year’s alone. Some alignment of the planets seems to have made me completely immune to booze, no matter how much I consume. This only deepens the mystery when at 3:00 in the morning I am discovered by my father singing the choral section of “Carmina Burana” into our toilet. We agree that the acoustics are uncommonly good.


The holidays are a difficult time to lose weight.


The Holidays are a difficult time to cut down on the binge drinking.


Someone should tell you that once you ‘take up’ Crack it’s a really, really hard habit to break, especially around the holidays.


Some bizarre family algorithm involving the addition of step families, newlyweds and dates has landed me at the Kids Table, someplace I have not been since I was six. Finally, a Thanksgiving where I am truly thankful.


I officially give up on silencing the voice in my head that says “What, that’s all?” when I open my last gift, secretly certain that letting go of the desire to make it stop, will, in fact, make it stop. As I open my last gift, a voice in my head says “What, that’s all?”

NEW YEARS 1992/93



My daughter’s first Christmas. We do the tree, the lights, the crèche, The wife and I spend literally all night assembling various baby toys and somehow manage to avoid a screeching, divorce inducing, sleep deprived fight, surely a Christmas miracle. I wake up early to apply a dozen nicotine patches so that there is no chance I will be smoking on Christmas day. Somehow during all this it has not occurred to me even once that a six month old has no idea whatsoever that all the odd shit you’ve been up to is in any way different from any of the odd shit you’re always up to. Everything you do is odd shit to her.


I am discovered naked and unconscious in the sewers of Paris, clutching a one armed “Tickle me Elmo”. No one can explain it, least of all me.


The wife decides that since our daughter is half Jewish we should celebrate Chanukah. I try to explain to her that under Jewish law, since she isn’t Jewish, neither is our daughter. No dice. She asks me to explain Chanukah. I tell her it has something to do with the difference between the rates at which oil and candles burn and that there is gambling.


A few months after an intriguing article in ‘Wired’ magazine describes the soon to be released ‘Furby’ as a key moment in the development of artificial intelligence, I am found naked and unconscious in the sewers of Paris with a Furby in an embarrassing place. No one is more confused than I.

NEW YEARS 1998/99

While there are many women at this party, I am unable to find my wife. I later discover I have been at the wrong party.

NEW YEARS 1999/2000

The original plan was to party like it was 1999, but an article in ‘Wired’ convinced me that all computer activity would cease at midnight and that this might involve airplanes falling out of the sky. I spend New Years in my basement surrounded by canned water. I make a New Year’s resolution to stop paying reading ‘Wired’.


I seem to have another daughter, and this one really likes to cry. I think I have made a toast about all the things I am thankful for, but I can’t hear anything except my new daughter howling, even inside my own head, which I think is a physical impossibility owing to the nature of vibration. I briefly wonder if spitting a ping-pong ball into the gravy boat might lighten the mood.


Both my daughters are now old enough to really appreciate all we have done to make their holidays a wonderful experience. I am surrounded by love, filled with the warm glow of family. In addition, several new medications have become available that seem to make things the way they are supposed to be. As I unwrap my last present, a voice in my head says “What, that’s all?” but it seems to be saying it from behind a vast mountain of cotton balls.


Not only do the fucking new medications not work any more, I seem to be getting little electric shocks from EVERYTHING I TOUCH! In addition, the voice in my head no longer waits for me to unwrap my last present and seems to have some very specific instructions about how wearing a monocle would make Lucy Lawless really like me.


“Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel,

I made it out of clay

And when it’s dry and ready

A Christian wrote this song.

Of that I’m certain. I’ll tell you what I’M going to ‘make out of clay’. A Golem. That’s what. And then I’ll bring him to life and see what kind of Holiday Season we get.


For reasons I cannot begin to understand, I am compelled to insist my youngest daughter explain Chanukah at her school assembly. She asks for help and I tell her this ‘festival of lights’ symbolizes the ‘Hebrew Peoples’ belief that you don’t have to pay your electric bill, the Lord will keep the lights on, but only if you chase all the ‘pigs’ the ‘Macabees’ left behind out of your ‘temple’, and that if she does a good enough job at assembly, they will let her skip school for the Jewish holiday of ‘suspension’.


The kids are now old enough that I no longer spend all night Christmas Eve assembling toys, making me an unbearable crank on Christmas morning. Instead I stay up all night depackaging toys that have been wired, taped and glued into their multiply layered plastic and cardboard containers by Chinese slaves whose only joy is imaging the torn and bloodied hands of American fathers weeping with rage at 3:00 AM Christmas morning.

NEW YEARS 2008/2009

I am a married man with two daughters. There should be at very least one female at this damn party. I cannot recall how I even ended up in this bar. Oh! Wait! Women! Very tall, ultra glamorous… never mind.


During a long winded Thanksgiving toast, I somehow end up publicly vowing that by the time I turn Fifty I will be a famous writer, not gaining weight sitting at the same desk I’ve sat at for fifteen years in a dead end job with no hope of advancement where they do not appreciate me. Embarrassed by the chilling silence as I raise my glass, I take a quick bathroom break. Before returning to the table, I put a ping-pong ball into my mouth. No one notices my silence or that I have stopped eating during the fifteen minutes I patiently wait to distance myself from my bathroom break. Then, during a brief lull in conversation, I unexpectedly hiccup and suck the ball deep into the back of my throat. I wake up in an emergency room to the familiar sound of doctors laughing.


Despite the fact I am fifty, unemployed and days away from my benefits running out, I am thankful because I have my health. The next day I discover that the infuriated itching I experienced all through dinner was not as I initially expected a symptom of sublimated horror and despair, but the onset of Shingles.


I open my final gift, and at last, at last, there is no voice in my head. Because my gift is perfect. It is nothing I have ever imagined and everything I have ever needed. An antique, the crumbling original packaging is labeled ‘The Hillbilly Pipe’. It is a beautiful, hand crafted, wooden pipe, the bowl made in the shape of a toilet. I am transfixed with joy, and cannot help imagining myself running down our snow banked street in my underwear, my new present clenched in my teeth, shrieking almost unintelligibly “Look, neighbors! Look! Behold my Hillbilly pipe!” I can feel the cold, the near burn of the ice beneath my bare feet, I can see my breath steaming in the air! Seemingly without transition, I wake up in an emergency room to the familiar sound of doctors laughing and the information that I ‘may’ have had ‘some sort’ of ‘small stroke’.


There are no girls at this Kibbutz, but for places to inexplicably wind up naked and unconscious, it sure as hell beats the sewers of Paris. I should be able to get home in time for Christmas. I have already selected an appropriately tattered bathrobe and purchased a wicker laundry basket.

Things to Say to a Neighbor You’ve Never Met Before While Shoveling Snow

There’s a moment after a big storm when you’re out shoveling. And you run out of breath, and you stand there leaning on your shovel, panting, sweating a little. And you look over, and there’s your neighbor, a guy you’ve never met before, leaning on his shovel, panting and sweating. You know you have to make small talk, but what the hell do you say? Here’s a few possibilities.

  • This enough snow for ya?
  • What about this weather, right?
  • What about this crap?
  • How do you like this crap?
  • Good thing it didn’t snow more, right?
  • Damn!
  • Man oh man, I haven’t seen crap like this since ’78!
  • Oh well. At least it’s not as bad as ’78.
  • This makes me think of ’78.
  • Did you live around here in ’78? That was some serious crapola.
  • Can’t wait ‘till the kids are old enough to help me out with this crapola. Like they ever will. Help out, I mean. They’re going to get older. Can’t stop that.
  • Global warming my ass, huh? I wish. Friggin’ environmentalists. Let ‘em Global warm this, am I right?
  • Take her easy there, big fella. Every serious storm a buncha guys like you drop dead shoveling. That’s not me talking. That’s actuarial tables.
  • Think they’ll cancel the game tonight?
  • Think they’ll cancel school tomorrow?
  • Right about now a big ass plow is gonna come along and run a wall of packed snow and ice three feet high right across the driveway that I just cleared. And you know what the driver is going to do? Laugh. Only friggin’ joy those bastards take in life.
  • Bet you wish you bought a snowblower right about now.
  • Does your left arm hurt? Cause my left arm is hurtin’ like a son of a bitch.
  • I sure wish I had a slave. I mean, slavery is an egregious crime against humanity, but this shoveling sucks my butt.
  • Say, want some help there? I’m just kidding; I don’t even know you. I have my own damn driveway.
  • If we get more snow before this melts, I don’t know where the hell we’re gonna put it. Here’s what I do know, though. If that happens I’m going to kill you, butcher you like a hog and feed my family off you ‘till spring comes. No offense.
  • You shovel like a girl.
  • Nice shoveling, Nancy.
  • Way to shovel, Clarice. That Pinafore warm enough for ya?
  • Boy, I’ve seen some amateur, totally suck ass shoveling in my life, but you take the cake.
  • Shovel fight?
  • Wanna make snow angels? I’m gonna make a snow angel.
  • Hey, what if this was all cocaine, huh? ‘Course you’d be deader than shit before you got more than a foot from your door, but still.
  • Fuckin’ Cold Miser, huh? What a bastard.
  • Shit like this makes me really hate my wife. She’sgot a bum leg, so she can’t shovel for crap.
  • So this is funny. Just the other day I’m thinking to myself ‘Say, what I need is a really huge friggin’ Blizzard. ‘Cause I don’t have enough reasons to kill myself what with the wife cheating on me, my metaphetamine addiction and friggin’ Ringworm.
  • Hey! I had a dream about you the other night. I killed you. I’m kidding; it was just a sex dream. Then I killed you.
  • If it gets any colder I’m gonna cut you open and climb inside like in “Return of the Jedi”. No offense. You a Star Wars Fan?
  • I’m on parole.
  • My Sister moved to Florida last year. She’s like “That’s it man, I cannot take one more God Damn New England Winter. I am so friggin’ sick of the cold and the snow and the shoveling. Never again.” Her whole family died in one of those Hurricanes they had. Kinda funny. She’s in some institution now; I forget the name of the place.
  • I bet it’s like this every day in Canada. Serves ‘em right. Bastards.
  • You ski? That’d be a silver lining, if you were a skier, huh?
  • You remember ’78? Place I lived, you could jump out the second floor window and not get hurt, no shit. I was going around with these, whattayacall ‘em, syringes of Epinephrine? I’d sneak up on some guy shoveling, jab him in the thigh; he’d keel right over like a friggin’ tree. I shit you not. I did, what, six, eight guys like that? Cops thought it was heart attacks. Every really bad blizzard, buncha guys go from heart attacks. Or… do they? Know what I mean?

16 Serious Questions Raised by ‘Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”


I’m going to say Bipolar. The elves sing him a very nice song and he’s a total jerk about it, leaving the desperately co-dependent Mrs. Clause to patch things up. He has some sort of eating disorder that causes his weight to fluctuate wildly. He tells Dasher he should be ashamed for presenting Rudolph to the community simply because the child has some sort of nose birth defect. He only changes his mind about Rudolph once he figures out a way to exploit him. Plus, this guy is absolutely ITCHING to cancel Christmas. Hey Santa. It’s not your call. Christmas is the day Jesus was born. God will let you know if Christmas is cancelled. Until then, get in the damn sleigh.


A generation of men my age is all screwed up because Rankin/Bass decided to make Clarice disturbingly attractive. She’s a little forward, a little coy, and those eyelashes! I swear to God, we should all organize a class action suit to pay for our therapy.


Why are they such fascists? Like the head elf isn’t way different than all the others? And what about the tall elf? Is he an engineer? Is he from MIT? Why is he tall? And how come the head elf and the tall elf don’t get any shit for being different but Hermy does?


Okay, Rudolph’s glowing, squealing nose is weird as shit, but why do the other reindeer find it terrifying? What about a glowing, squealing nose makes other reindeers pupils shrink and their bodies convulse? And why does it mean the poor bastard can’t ‘play in any reindeer games’? He’s the best at flying after the provocative Clarice comes onto him. Is this like back when African Americans weren’t allowed to play professional sports?


My word to God, he gets called both over the course of less than an hour.


Yes. Forty years ago you couldn’t talk about homosexuality among puppets on TV, so they used the word ‘dentist’ instead. #foolednobody


Yukon Cornelius, like 7% of the population, is asexual.


Forty years ago, Burl Ives, who lent his voice and a lot more of his image than you’d think to the Talking Snowman was a big star. Now nobody remembers hits like “The Big Rock Candy Mountain” (a song that is actually about Hobos dying of malnutrition, exposure and alcoholism) or “The Ugly Bug Ball” (which is actually about unattractive bugs gathering to dance) or his Oscar winning turn as “Big Daddy” in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”. All anyone remembers about Burl Ives is that he is the talking snowman and they don’t even know he was really Burl Ives. I imagine this makes the ghost of Burl Ives just about as mad as fuck.


Okay, follow me here. Rudolph runs away from home right after Reindeer practice. He has adventures with Herbie and Yukon Cornelius and visits the Island of Misfit Toys. Then he leaves them behind and is off on his own long enough to enter puberty and grow antlers. Meanwhile, his Dad went to look for him right after he ran away, followed almost immediately by his mom and that Little Tart Clarice. The near adult Rudolph returns home to be informed by Santa that everyone’s gone looking for him. We know it’s been less than a year because Santa says he can’t fly the team without Rudolph’s dad, but it sure as hell has been a while. Rudolph goes directly to the Abominable snowman’s cave JUST IN TIME TO STOP HIM FROM EATING THE ODDLY PROVOCATIVE CLARICE! How are we supposed to view this sequence of events? Were Mom, dad and Clarice looking for Rudolph for almost a year before the Abominable caught them? It’s just a coincidence Rudolph stumbles upon them moments after that? I think this stretches credulity. I’m forced to assume that somewhere in the vicinity of the Island of Misfit Toys there’s an object of immense mass, perhaps a Fallen White Dwarf Star, and that proximity to this mass causes relativity in time so that Rudolph has aged nearly a year while only having left the Pole for about a day.


Rudolph runs away and his folks go after him. Clarice disappears and her parents… don’t appear in the special after initially telling Rudolph to stay the hell away from their daughter. Is this lack of parental attention why she’s so needy, looking for the love she never got? Don’t tell me you don’t know what I’m talking about here. You feel the same way I do.


Aside from the fact that a Lion with wings is pretty cool to begin with, no one knows. I mean what does he do? He’s king of an Island of Misfit Toys and all he wants is for Santa to take them off his paws. Then what would he be king of? A lot of Permafrost, that’s what. But he’s still cool as hell and anyone who says he isn’t can meet me out back for a serious beating.


Ten minutes before Herbie yanks his teeth out, This hulking brute snapped a damn stalactite of the roof of his cave and beat Rudolph unconscious with it. Now he’s harmless cause he doesn’t have teeth? HELLO! You still have huge friggin’ claws! You’re still a friggin’ GIANT! Get another stalactite and beat Yukon Cornelius to prospector paste instead of letting him push you off a damn cliff!


She looks fine, right? She isn’t. She wouldn’t be on the ‘Island if Misfit Toys’ if she was. Check it out. Rudy tells King Moon Razor that if he ever gets back to the North Pole he’ll give Santa the 411 on the Misfits. Christmas Eve, when the doll thinks Santa isn’t going to show, she goes on a crying jag and accuses Rudolph of having promised to help them. Okay,

A.) He never made any damn promise

B.) Rudolph doesn’t run Christmas, Santa does and he’s a complete, bipolar bastard. I’ll tell you why the doll is a misfit. She’s a compulsive liar.


You can do that, you know. Have your name changed.


I mean, it’s not brain surgery. Stop looking for Santa to solve your problems. He’s a bastard.


I mean, when someone treats you like a freak, all they deserve is a swift hoof in the nuts. I’m serious. Guide your own damn sleigh. Then when you crash in the Andes you can eat your Reindeer to survive. Nobody likes a skinny Santa.

The Santa/Jesus Variations


Santa is visiting Jesus in Heaven. They are watching a Christmas special on TV. It is “Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew: The Christmas Episode.” Dr. Drew is explaining to Gary Busey that he is not a Christmas Elf. Dr. Drew says he believes Gary Busey has issues from his childhood and that they must be addressed before any meaningful recovery can begin. For a few minutes, it seems Gary Busey is on board, but then he interrupts Chyna’s story about being abused by her uncle on Christmas Eve. He asks her for a screwdriver. Dr. Drew asks Gary Busey why he needs a screwdriver. “The wheel has come off this train,” Gary Busey replies. “I need to repair it so some good little boy or girl won’t be disappointed Christmas Morning.” Jesus cannot stop laughing. Santa asks him what the hell is so funny. “This,” says Jesus, pointing at the TV, “Is why I love mankind.” Santa begins to weep. Soon he is wracked with sobbing. Jesus tries really hard to stop laughing, but he can’t.


  1. Santa and Jesus are sitting at a seedy bar across the street from the Port Authority building. It’s late, or very early. There are only a couple of other customers. The Bartender is counting his drawer.

JESUS: You know it’s hard.

SANTA: What is?

JESUS: Living with it.

SANTA: Living with what?

JESUS: How much I hate you. The weight of it. The totality. It’s a heavy burden sometimes.

(Pause. Santa laughs, but it’s a dry, dispirited.)

SANTA: Like you hate anybody.

JESUS: I hate you. I do.

SANTA: No you don’t. You don’t hate anybody. You’re not human enough.

JESUS: I am!

SANTA: You aren’t.


JESUS: I hate you.

SANTA: Okay.

JESUS: I hate you… Bastard. Damn fat bastard.

SANTA: Okay.


JESUS: I mean, whose birthday is it, right? What do I get under the tree? What do I get? I got martyred. I’ve been dead more than two thousand Goddamn years-

SANTA: Okay-

JESUS: I gotta listen to every God Damn prayer, I gotta hear people thanking me for getting a Golden Globe, people living through some horrendous tragedy and saying I must have a purpose for them, like I personally decided NOT to heed all those dead people who got torn to bits by a car crash or a bomb or whatever, like I just LET people turn into hamburger on account of they’re not part of my friggin’ PLAN-

SANTA: Okay, Jesus, okay-

JESUS: And it’s you, you know it? It’s you, you, you, I blame you, your red suit, your reindeer, “Ho Ho Ho!” yeah, HO HO HO SHIT, because-

SANTA: Jesus-

JESUS: Because morons focusing all their belief on some damn fat ass magic elf in a flying slay because it’s NICE, right? It SELLS shit better than a baby being born the Prince of Peace and growing up to DIE in a horrible, painful-

SANTA: Okay, now, enough-

JESUS: Think I liked this? Think I like it? Take away a man’s birthday, turn it into all this… lights… and, and… Rudolph and shit?

SANTA: Come on man. Settle down. Turn the other cheek, right?

JESUS: Yeah… Yeah, I know. Okay.

SANTA: Relax. Relax. Lemme getcha another boilermaker.

JESUS: I know.

SANTA: Yeah you do. Who better?

JESUS: I just… sometimes… this time of year, I hate this time of year, right? Dark all the time. What is that? I hate it.

SANTA: Who are you talking too? Try living at the North Pole sometime. It’s dark, like, six months. You don’t have to tell me.

JESUS: Just… shit… you know?

SANTA: Oh, I do know, my friend. I sure do know.


In this variation, we see Santa standing on the stage of a nightclub. Somehow we know that while he is Santa, he is also a washed up professional magician killing time while aging strippers pull up laddered nylons and glue pasties on their boobs in the green room. He is reaching into his magic sack of toys the way a magician reaches into a top hat, and praying, actively praying the trick works. Sweat leaks through his bushy eyebrows, stings his eyes, he grins at the audience as he gropes around in his sack, where is it, where is it? The audience isn’t with him at all. They don’t want any damn toys. They are broken lonely men waiting to watch women who won’t touch them take off their clothes. Santa is bombing and Ricco has told him if he can’t get a little more zazz in his act he’s gotta go, and wait, wait, there it is, there’s the lip of the secret pocket in the sack, and he can feel it, he’s got it, with a flourish he pulls out the Baby Jesus by his Halo, oh thank God, oh thank God, but no one is clapping. It’s so quiet in the house. Santa catches a glimpse of Dolores in the wings, the nice stripper who talks to him sometimes and reads tattered paperback books while she’s waiting to go on, the one who does that thing with the big fan made of feathers and she looks so sad now, like everything has gone out of her, and then she turns away. And Santa turns his head. And looks at what he is holding. It is not a Baby Jesus. It is as small as a baby, but the figure he is holding is a grown man. Dirty, bruised, painfully thin. The miniature crown of thorns upon his tiny head is rimmed by pin-sized beads of sparkling blood. The stage lights are fading to black, or maybe everything is going away, which is what Santa hopes. He’d like to put Jesus back in the bag, but there’s no way to do that. Darker, darker until at last, mercifully, no one can see.


In this variation, you consider the title of the piece you are reading. You assume it is a reference to Pulitzer Prize winning playwright David Mamet’s “The Duck Variations”, first staged in 1972, which New York Magazine called, “a gorgeously written, wonderfully observant piece whose timing and atmosphere are close to flawless.” Perhaps, though, this piece refers to the same piece Mamet was referencing, “The Goldberg Variations”, J.S. Bach’s 1741 masterwork, arguably the finest music ever written for Harpsichord. You find yourself relaxing into multiple mental associations spurred by these twin references. They echo back and forth, the experience becomes rich and layered, the intellectual equivalent of single malt whiskey, the embrace of a deep leather chair before a fire. Rhythm, tone, timing, memory. This moment is why art exists, and is my Christmas gift to you.


On a desert atoll, a shipwrecked sailor, stripped to the waist, badly burned by the sun, half mad with thirst, has an elderly monkey by the throat. Brutally, he slaps the monkey, again and again, his knuckled, leathery hand rough as a file from years in the rigging. “Damn you,” The sailor rasps, “All your fault. All your fault.”

The sailor is Santa. The Monkey is Jesus.


You are looking at a large oil painting in a gilded frame, a crucifixion. Seventeenth century, probably Spanish. A Velasquez? The lighting, the brush strokes, suggest his work. But of course it can’t be. Because the pale figure broken on the cross is not Jesus. It is Berger Meister Meister Berger.


Arm in arm, Jesus and Santa skip down a city street in Milwaukee. “One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight!” they chant. “Schlemiel! Schlimazel! Hasenpfeffer Incorporated!”


Santa lying face down in the snow. Through sheets of wind driven ice, you can just make out his shattered sleigh, the mounded heaps and hillocks where the dead reindeer are already buried by the storm. On desperate, shaking arms, Santa forces himself up, and thinks he sees a glowing figure.

“Jesus…” Santa whispers, “Help me.”

“You will go to the Dagobah System,” the Lamb of God replies


Jesus is visiting Santa at the North Pole. They are watching a Christmas special on TV. It is “Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew: The Christmas Episode.” Dr. Drew is explaining to Gary Busey that he is not the Magi Melkior. Former Whitesnake video Vixen Tawny Kitaen shares that the holidays can be very hard on addicts, especially Christmas, because of the childhood memories it inevitably arouses. Dr. Drew says he believes Gary Busey has issues from his childhood and that they must be addressed before any meaningful recovery can begin. For a few minutes, it seems Gary Busey is on board, but then he interrupts Gary Coleman’s story about being abused by his uncle on Christmas Eve. He asks to borrow Gary Coleman’s Bible. Dr. Drew asks Gary Busey why he needs Gary Coleman’s Bible. “I’m trying to figure out my name,” Gary Busey replies. “As near as I can tell, there is no reference to it in the book of Matthew, the only gospel in which I even appear. So how did Greek scholars six centuries later decide my name was Melkior? And why has that name stuck?” Santa cannot stop laughing. Jesus asks him what the hell is so funny. “Gary Busey,” says Santa, pointing at the TV, “Ever you never know what the hell kind of weird ass shit is going to tumble out of his mouth!” Jesus begins to weep. Soon he is wracked with sobbing. Santa, knowing that Gary Busey’s trademark disconnected rambling is at very least partially die to a traumatic mid career motorcycle accident, and that if anything, the exploitation of a man so clearly deranged is tragic, tries to stop laughing, but he can’t. He really can’t.


In this variation, you are forced to confront your lies regarding variation IV. While you have certainly heard of J.S. Bach, you know shit all about “The Goldberg Variations”, in fact could not name or specifically recognize any piece by Bach who you think may have written the Pachabel Cannon. The name ‘David Mamet’ sounds familiar, but so do lots of names. Why do you have to pretend you understand or even like the piece you are reading? Can you even be sure the author knows anything about these references beyond the use of the word ‘Variations’ in this context? Couldn’t any reasonably intelligent third grader have found the rest using Google? Why must you always pretend to be someone you are not, even, maybe especially around those you love? Are you afraid that if they knew who you really were they could not love you in return? Do they know what these references meant? Maybe, maybe not, but they sure as hell don’t need to pretend they do to feel okay with themselves. What the hell is wrong with you?

Nothing. You are human, and experiencing the human condition, something that unites us all, and is a form of God’s grace.


In this variation you are thinking God’s Grace is a pretty shitty Christmas present. Especially a long-winded, theologically questionable explanation of God’s Grace. You would much rather have gotten new map software for your crappy old GPS that keeps trying to kill you in a charming Australian accent.


We are back in the bar across from the Port Authority. Jesus and Santa are just sitting there, staring into their drinks. All the other customers are gone. Only the bartender remains, and he looks like he’d like to go home. After a while, Jesus laughs.

SANTA: What?

JESUS: Nothing.

SANTA: No, seriously, what are you laughing at?

JESUS: Just a word. It’s stupid.

SANTA: What word?

JESUS: Just this word that a lot of people end up saying a lot of times around Christmas. I don’t know, it just makes me laugh when I hear it. It’s pretty stupid.

SANTA: What word?

Jesus looks at Santa. Looks down into his drink. Smiles.

JESUS: Nutcracker.

Long pause. Then Jesus starts to giggle a little. Then Santa starts to giggle a little.

SANTA: Nutcracker.

Now they are both laughing. It dies down. Jesus takes a sip of his drink.

JESUS: Nutcracker.

Santa starts to laugh. Now both men are laughing loudly.



They laugh and laugh. Santa pounds his huge fists on the bar. Even the bartender starts laughing. Jesus isn’t even making sounds anymore. His mouth is just wide, wide open, he’s laughing a silent laugh and tears are streaming down his face, that’s how hard he’s laughing. Jesus, Santa and the bartender laugh and laugh and every time they think they’ve stopped laughing somebody starts to say “Nutcracker” and they can’t even get through it before they’re all laughing again. Lets backs away and leave them like that. Back away slowly, letting their laughter get quieter, quieter, until it’s just a whisper and we can turn around and walk off on our own into the dark with the sunrise coming but not here yet.