Thursday, December 31, 2009

A New Year

I decided to have a look at my last post from 2008, a year ago, and it is entitled Loss. And then my first post of 2009, and it starts with "I just cannot get a "write" on. Back to work this week after three weeks off, and the mind reels from idea to idea."

I'm kind of morose right now, and I am still having difficulty getting a write on.

But none of that should obscure that 2009 was an excellent year in my life. Notwithstanding the stress and the inevitable fits and starts, the job has advanced in precisely the direction I seek, and I am more or less in the position that I hoped to be when I thought about it a year ago. I cannot say that I am bubbling over with glee at facing the office again on Monday, but what confronts me is not drudgery but rather a set of opportunities just waiting for my energy to transform them.

The job was the proximate driver of the most significant personal changes that I made in 2009. I got my first set of full-time glasses ... extremely fashionable German mykita frames. Curiously and serendipitously, the model name of the frames is Richard ... the Germans go in for this sort of cloying naming, evidently ... and Richard is my sainted ex. So, all bedecked in the new glasses, I importuned Richard to accompany me to Macys Union Square Men's Store in order to upgrade my appearance. I was looking for newer khakis, frankly; Richard suggested I look at some dress pants. "There is no way that I am going to ..." I sputtered, and as I looked up from my protest, there approaching was broadly-smiling, nattily dressed Leland, as I later learned. "I heard that, and I think I can help."

Leland is a young middle-aged, evidently gay, black guy, and I think he will have to be my 2009 Man of the Year. Since that fortuitous and, at least from my point of view, unplanned meeting, Leland has transformed me into the sort of middle middle aged guy who is not comfortable under-dressed in public. I virtually never go to work now without a tie, and I always wear dress pants, and a fine shirt. That's a change, and it is more than cosmetic. It is accepting that I am 56, that the job is critical to my happiness, and that 56 year-olds look better tarted up than slumming it. The simple choice: elegant elder or schlumpy old goat. I choose the former.

Ooops ... friends have arrived for a little local new Year's celebrating, so I shall return to this tomorrow.

Turned out that we had a perfect Traditional Kielbasa New Year's Eve Party. Perhaps I will explain the origin of this "new tradition" at some point ... what you need to know is that it is all tongue in cheek ... but the end result last night was that the five inmates of the two-flat building in which I live noshed on cheese and sausages, drank elegant champagne cocktails, and toasted each other at the fated hour. The two rather more "pop" of our company had a momentary panic when it became clear that there was no local TV coverage of the moment ... they almost fled in horror ... but we held on to them long enough for a toast and a hug. Then off they went to the roof to watch the fireworks on the Embarcadero from afar.

Back to my earlier ruminations.

Last year was a reimagining of the image and my quotidian modus operandi. That was good. I have no resolutions for this year other than to continue the reimagining. If I am as advanced in my job a year from now as I am now advanced over a year ago, then it will have been a good year. That's the queen's message at this point.

The break is always a little difficult because the free time comes with the commitments and mania of the season, and it also and contrarily affords a respite into which to pour the exhaustion of a year of constant running. In the days after Christmas, I fought off a sore throat by lalley-gagging about in bed for a few days. Eventually I forced myself into some action beyond reading and ruminating, and the immediate result was a trip to Mama's, pictured above, in Mill Valley. If riches suddenly descended upon me, I would probably spend a month or two doing nothing but eating breakfast out, reading my book, walking the dog, and staring into space ... and the week after Christmas is just like that. Mama's is a great little place, and they are genuinely glad to see you.

So I luxuriated there a while, then rolled on to Berkeley via the Richmond/San Rafael Bridge, and made my way home for some more indolence and reading and puttering.

And so the days went ... until the Monday looming when I will strap on one of my new ties and get back at it. Bound and determined not to bracket myself in the gloom which I quoted above from last year. Bound and determined to soldier on and be grateful for the good position in which I find myself, notwithstanding the banal horrors which so many more face.

There's a post, friends ... and here's to another new year. May yours be wonderful and bright and better yet than any before.

Photos, top and bottom, of me by Tony Fox at the War Memorial Opera House when we attended the Nutcracker on December 27; photo in the middle of Mama's in Mill Valley by Arod.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Sleighbells Sing While We Jingle ...

It's Christmas Day! I took my Christmas walk all bedecked in crazy Christmas hat and scarf, and said Merry Christmas to any one I passed. Again, it is Russians and African Americans who seem to best know how to respond to a Merry Christmas with a warm and jovial "And A Merry Christmas to YOU too!" I forgive the yuppies, in the spirit of the day, for their bland "uh-huh's" and "you too's". A very aged and tiny and frail Chinese woman being pushed in a wheelchair fairly lit up at the greeting, though she was too weak to reply. That was very sweet.

We had our Christmas party last Saturday night. I have pictures on Facebook of the good folks who graced us with their warmth and good cheer. We caroled too, though that lacked a certain something because our old friend Solin was absent due to illness; her crystal soprano lights up the room. Thanks to Steve, our resident baritone, whose booming honey tones lead the merriment. His is half the audible voice, and given that the rest of us would make ice crack in full winter with our tones, it is a good thing that Steve drowns us out.

We had food galore. The company polished off three turkeys (thanks to Ian and Dave), a ham (thanks to June and Dolores), and three loves of bread (thanks to Roy and Jim), not to mention innumerable deserts and savory dishes. Such a joy to watch friends eat!

Christmas is nostalgia. A large part of the annual party is nostalgia for all the lost friends, especially Kurt who invented the party with whom Tom and I first joined in being hosts in 1989. The photos above and below are of the tree in the AIDS Memorial Grove. I'll put up some pix of my own tree later, but for today, let us ruminate on that tree and think of those gone, those we loved and love. I think of my nephew Kris who died at 26 last summer; my sister's family is alone together this season in the shadow of his loss. Christmas is hard that way. It is both the sublimely beautiful and the sublimely unforgettable.

Ahhh ... but Christmas is not just for nostalgia. It is also the pure joy of pure joy. It is remembering that from the deepest, darkest depths of winter we rebound to spring and summer again. It is making light out of the dark. It is hearing songs out of silence.

It is also about Santa Claus ... for me at bottom it is the festival of Santa Claus. He knows when you've been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake. He brings presents for all, but he has a stick in his back pocket to chasten those who have been unwisely bad. Whether giving or chastening, he smiles and chuckles. A lonely man whose solitude resounds in the waves of joy reflected back upon him. He is an elf and trickster in a world that has banished elves in favor of angry paternal gods who maim and torment. He is satisfied to give of himself on bu tone day and leave the rest of the year for us to be ourselves and make of what we have what we can. O Santa, thank you for being so good to me!

Well, I have to choo-choo off to the second and third of my three Christmas parties ... to see Kerry with whom I have celebrated the sesaon since 1989, and to see Solin and Winfield with whom we have had Christmas dinner for over a decade now.

My favorite day, too soon over.

With that, let me wish a very Merry Christmas to all!

So I haven't been blogging, and now I am going to start again. That's all I plan to say at least for the time being about this accidental incidental hiatus. For those who know me, everything is fine, nothing is the matter. Onward and upward.

All photos by Arod, taken today in the AIDS Memorial Grove.