Mr. Cope's Cave: Doing Anything Special Today? 

Good morning?

Anyone there?

Yoo-hoo? Hell-oo?

OK, I shoulda known. It's Christmas, for Christ's sake. You're probably off opening presents. That's what we're getting ready to do in my house, too. We wait until I've had a coffee and a cig or two so I'm awake enough to feel like talking to people, then at 'em we go.

Or maybe you've already done that and now mom's in the kitchen sticking those little whatcha-ma-call'ems in the ham ... those little yucky black spice things, you know what I mean. Nasty little buggers. You gotta wonder why in hell anyone ever came up with the idea that by sticking them into a ham, they would somehow become edible food.

Or maybe you're all sitting around the family room eating some special Christmas brunch. I don't know what it would be. That's not something we do in my family. But it wouldn't surprise me that some of you have a special Christmas morning brunch tradition. Gingerbread men topped with poached eggs and cranberries. Now that sounds like a special Christmas morning tradition... not that it sounds like a good idea. But hey, every family has their own way of doing things, right?

I suppose dad already has a football game on. F***ing football. If you ask me, there's the beginning of the disintegration of the American family, right there. I tell you one thing... there's no f***ing football in our house. Not Christmas or any other...

Ah, crap! I did it... just what my wife asked me not to do. First thing this morning, before I'd even gotten the gook out of my eyes, she says, "Honey, just don't bring up Donald Trump or religion or football, please, and we'll have a nice, quiet Christmas," and I promised I wouldn't.

Sorry. Won't happen again.

Here's what we watch in my house on Christmas. A Christmas Story. You know it? I'm sure you do. It's that one about the little kid who looks like an owl and spends the whole movie trying to figure out a way to get his parents to get him that BB gun he wants so bad. You know it, I'm sure you do. There's a station that runs it 24 straight hours starting Xmas Eve, and for 20 years or better, every since my daughter was little girl, we've had it on for the whole shebang. We're not watching it every second for 24 hours, of course. Mostly, it's more like having Grandma's favorite Christmas LP playing in the background... Mel Torme singing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." Or whatever. It's comforting. It feels... at least to me, at any rate... it feels real, know what I mean? There's not much about Christmas that feels real to me anymore. Most of it... like, from the first time I walk into a store way before Thanksgiving and hear "Feliz Navidad" coming out of the ceiling, throughout all the predictable bullshit about a "war on Christmas" and Black-Friday/Cyber-Monday/ Shop-Local-whatever-day, right up to wasting time and money running from cheesy store to cheesy store, looking for crap nobody needs to give to people who already have too much of it... most of that feels... like... unnatural to me. More anti-spirit than spirit. Know what I mean?

I mean, everyone knows what happens when matter comes in contact with anti-matter, right? Well, if you don't, you should. When matter comes in contact with anti-matter, they cancel one another out. And in some versions... Star Trek, episode 27: "The Alternative Factor", if you need scientific proof... it leads to total destruction of the entire universe. Bummer.

And except for the total-destruction-of-the-entire-universe thing, that's what it feels like... to me, at any rate... when spirit comes in contact with anti-spirit, they cancel each other out. Or they would if it was more equal. But there's so much more anti-spirit shit going on... like, 10 weeks of canned Xmas music, that nexus of greed and hysteria known as Black Friday, the unending bitching over "Merry Christmas" versus "Happy Holidays", etcetera, etcetera... there's so much more of that going on than there is simple, pure, transcendent joy and benevolence, it's worse than canceling one another out. If you ask me, it just kills the whole f***ing thing. Smashes the transcendent spirit like some poor Salvation Army bell-ringer who gets caught between the crowd and the glass doors outside a Best Buy with a limited offer on $199 64-inch televisions. Kills it!

For me, at any rate.

But with that 24 hours of A Christmas Story, I get enough of it back to forget the preceding cheesiness and avarice and bitterness and general awfulness of Christmas. Sure, Ralphie wants that BB gun more than anything else. Ralphie wants that BB gun maybe even more than the Best Buy mobbers wants their cheap TVs.

But on the way... maybe even without realizing it, not until he's a grown man who writes the story 50 years later... Ralphie gets all that love and blessing and comfort that only a family can give. He gets what's real and forever. Then in the end, it's only incidental he gets the BB gun, to boot. See?

Ah, I have run on here, haven't I? Sorry. It's probably a good thing you're all off doing stuff. Your Christmas stuff. And besides, it's time I got back to doing my Christmas stuff. I've had my coffee and cigs, and I think I'm ready to go face all that family stuff. And here, take this little thing I'm leaving. It isn't much, but I've always liked it.

Oh, I finally thought of what those things are. You know... the things mom sticks in the ham? Cloves! Yup, cloves. Nasty, nasty little buggers.

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