At some point in my teenage years Christmas lost its many boyhood magics, and as time has shuffled past here in Seattle the holiday has become less and less important to me. Yesterday I was feeling a little blue, what my mother would call “a funk,” because the word “depression” is something our family is theoretically immune to. However, through the following series of events I was fortunate enough to enjoy a few holiday treats.
After I opened the few gifts my mom had sent me, gifts sent in her words “so I would have something to open on Christmas” (a candleholder and an ornament: certainly not show-stoppers but I can appreciate her thought), I was poised at my desk pondering, as seemed appropriate for the day, the wonders of a young Jewish boy whose life has changed millions—Neil Diamond.
Obvious questions aside—How was he so damned good, and how did he become so damned schmaltzy??—at the time I was attempting to dissect the meaning behind the song Holly Holy. My niggling neuroses had kicked in and I’d already spun the song six or seven times (one trait I co-habit with autistic folks is the ability to perseverate) when I looked up and realized I was late for brunch. I showered quickly, skipped the christmas shave, looped a tie around my neck and jogged down the street, where I brunched with a group of radical faeries at what the host described as “Pig and Liquor’s 10th Anniversary”.
Most people can make sense of the Pig and Liquor part, though a reasonable person will ask, What’s a radical faerie? Sadly, though not from lack of questioning on my part, I can’t explain it much beyond this sentence from Wikipedia, which indicates that “Radical faeries are a loosely-affiliated, worldwide network and counter-cultural movement seeking to reject hetero-imitation and redefine queer identity through spirituality.”
So there’s that.
The thing to note is that I was the only straight guy in a room full of gay men, all of whom had changed their birth names upon becoming radical faeries. Meaning, there were no Mark’s or David’s or Kevin’s, and instead the room was full of Magpie and Kobalt and Thundercloud and Buffy (I promise I’m not creating any of these names).
There was no talk of the baby Jesus, his presence having been bumped by chatter of the recent solstice. Several men were wearing pajama bottoms, not because it was late morning but because that’s just what they like to wear. It was a long way from the straight-laced Christmases of my childhood in rural Michigan, but hey—that’s a large part of why I left in the first place.
I didn’t stay too long at brunch as I’d committed to volunteering with my friend Michael at a Thai restaurant that was serving free lunches in Ballard. I can now honestly say that you haven’t experienced Christmas until you’ve spent it crammed into the dishwashing pit of a Thai restaurant covered in gelatinous turkey dressing as a cacophany of Thai and English is bandied about.
After a couple hours of pitching in Michael and I watched the sun set over the Sound before I headed to a friend’s house for dinner, which was firelit and delicious and generally lovely. I quit drinking alcohol a little while back (I figure that if I can make it through the holidays without a drop of liquor I’m a stronger man than most), and after a couple hours of watching others slowly slip into a haze I felt sufficiently excluded, so I called Michael and we snuck out to catch a movie.
Our options were The Artist, a foreign, black-and-white silent movie, or the new Mission Impossible. Torn between the two we placed our fingertips on America’s pulse and went with the explosions. The key to any Tom Cruise movie is never to let go of the ability to laugh. The terrible writing, the pluggy acting, the absurdity of its demands on rational movie-watching—all can only be stomached if you’re willing to uncork a deep guffaw, and where the movie took itself seriously we enjoyed it by doing the opposite.
At the end of the night I sat in my apartment with the Christmas tree lit and the fire ruffling beside me. I lit the candle my mom sent me, sipped a soda water and read a story about a Jewish boy who tradition says was born in a barn many years ago. Things rarely mean what they once did, and while that can be dislocating sometimes you’ve simply got to hope it’s for the best.