Christmas hadn’t even crossed my mind this week till Mike McInally, the Santa of legit journalism, asked if I had a spot for his annual playlist, a feature he inaugurated at the Corvallis Gazette-Times when the industry still bore passing resemblance to itself. Do I have a spot? I asked incredulously. It’s the Internet. We’re loaded with spots. Fat with spots; un-notch the belt, Krampus. Gimme 12 lists, a college thesis, and sequential pictures of you slicing a ham. 'Tis the season to gorge.
This was to be the first year in decades that I celebrated Christmas on my own terms. The pandemic knocked that out, lasting past the pigheadedness that permeates our country and serves only to exacerbate the issue. It’s the punchline to previous years I spent in newsrooms pouring convenience-store gravy over deep-fried burritos while exchanging obscenities of goodwill with page designers at the American North Pole: Davenport, Iowa, where elves fashioned our country's newspapers in semi-festive flop-shops.
Last year was especially excruciating because my father came up from Roseburg and we snarfed an Uber-provided Denny’s meal in the comfort of a stagnant conference room for 20 minutes before I went back to work alone in an office while everyone else spent hours with their families, relieved from scanners and PulsePoint apps. After he left, I took a quick shot of our garbage as a reminder to never do that again. The holidays weren’t for restaurant pancakes in an ink-smudged shit-hole. What kind of shameful tradition is that?
Interestingly, I kept that promise through no design of my own, thanks to a stroke that ended my long run in the frenzy. I still have that picture, though, plastic container resting atop a violently crumpled bag like a discarded, hated present. But this year has turned out to be an extension of my old punchline. My diet prevents me from mass consumption of the holiday meals I love. I won’t have mashed-potato duty in a crowded house packed with laughter and warmth. A familiar refrain coos 'cross the radio: Santa COVID, hurry down the chimney tonight.
But all is not humbug. I’m glad to be alive, ecstatic to pour new sauces over this turkey each week, musical and otherwise. I’m glad some old friends have joined me on this adventure and deem it worthwhile. I’m glad I continue to be healthy, maintaining a more svelte form than the one I rocked last year while snapping pictures of syrupy refuse. I’m glad my family is safe and that I am loved.
More gratitude is forthcoming as the anticipated day approaches. In the meantime, I've stories to write, interviews to transcribe, plotz to plot, and another Perrier to order at the front counter. God bless us, every one.
Keep the hits coming,