the life of richie


Posted in is by Rich on December 31, 2009

1. CHRISTMAS EVE DINNER there is roast beast and chicken, sweet and regular potatoes mashed, and flourless chocolate cake with brandied cherries for dessert. Aunt Sue and Cousins Debbie and Greg come over to eat and exchange presents and then take off, all within an hour’s time. Mom lights all the candles in the house. “This is my favorite night of the year,” she says, as if in a trance what from the brandied cherries or the candles.

2. MIDNIGHT SERVICE at the ecumenical church, where mom has been randomly selected as usher for the second, later mass; Rich fights to stave off sleep. Even the pope had an earlier Christmas Eve service this year. There is a zaftig flautist procured; this is the biggest night of the year, though less crowded than one suspects the earlier show was; the flautist is brought in to add a bit of pomp to the proceedings. Candles flicker from the altar on down the aisles, and Rich realizes that everyone looks very sexy in the church under candlelight; he admires all the burnished sexiness of the parishioners in his tired state, which muddies and uncensors his thoughts. When they all blow out their candles and exit, it is midnight and clear in Margate.

3. CHRISTMAS MORNING the family meets to have coffee and bread pudding, chicken sausages and eggs. They break their Christmas crackers and don the multicolor paper crowns inside while opening the few gifts bought for each other; gifts have become an unimportant part of their Christmas tradition. Everything now is much more tasteful and tasty than in years past. Together with the food and the paper crowns: it is enough.

4. KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON is framed and gifted to mom from Rich. Mom overdoses on coffee and sugar and almost faints. She swoons onto the sofa. Keep calm.

5. BBC AMERICA Britcoms crackle in the background for most of the day. They watch the Vicar and Mr. Bean and Gavin/Stacey and Blackadder et al. Everyone laughs in excess. Carry on.

6. NINE Though wanting to see Up in the Air, the line is too long, so the four settle for Nine instead. It is good, but still, Rich wonders, “Why not just watch Fellini?”

7. DRIVE TO THE BERKSHIRES the next day, on Boxing Day, they listen to The Santaland Diaries while in transit, guffawing all through the still snow-covered countryside –– Rich and his sister and mom and their dad.

8. STOCKBRIDGE, MA, where they all stay one night in a cramped country cottage suite, the rooms decked out with country curtains and knickknackered furnishings –– all stenciled hearts and spiralling vines and twee country scenes on the walls, which is all a bit too cutesy and ruffled for the family to stomach. “We’re going to need wine,” mom instructs. “Lots.” The family eats at the Inn’s Tavern, which is quaint but overpriced. Everyone is anxious to return to Jersey in the morning. They will take a scenic route through Lenox and the environs, stopping at a sumptuous Sunday brunch buffet in Pittsfield before cruising down through Connecticut; Rich will fall asleep for much of the quaint country ride.

9. HO-HO-HOBOKEN, NJ; check into the W along the river. Waking up next to the erect, flickering Manhattan in bed with you. More than enough.

10. HIGHLANDS GHOSTS visit Rich in Hoboken. On that night (the Sunday), he meets his friend Amanda, with whom he taught several years ago, for several drinks at the Living Room bar in the lobby of the hotel. She is going to the Poconos with her boyfriend the next day. A student brought a gun to the school where she now works before the break. In the morning, tired and stumbling around with his family on his way to breakfast, he runs into a former student of his. “This is my lovely high school teacher,” the student says. We burn ourselves down inside; burn out. He thinks of a better exchange between them later.

11. THE CITY AT CHRISTMAS the four of them huddle together on the Lackawanna dock, to catch the ferry over to Manhattan. On the other side, they warm themselves in the Winter Garden and then visit St. Paul’s, where mom lights a candle. I used to live down here, so long ago, before Highlands. There are ghosts here too, and former selves sloughed off still skulk about the streets down here, downtown. It avails not, time nor place. They find their way uptown, have a dinner of Cuban food, tuck into a Dean and Deluca’s before their eight o’ clock show.

12. WEST SIDE STORY Just as you feel when you look on the river and sky, so I felt,
Just as any of you is one of a living crowd, I was one of a crowd,
Just as you are refresh’d by the gladness of the river and the
bright flow, I was refresh’d,
Just as you stand and lean on the rail, yet hurry with the swift
current, I stood yet was hurried,
Just as you look on the numberless masts of ships and the
thick-stemm’d pipes of steamboats, I look’d.

And it will be enough.

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