Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

What’s Happening in Obscurity?

December 2, 2014

Kid hunter

Deeper Into the Woods


 People like to decorate back here.  But they can be a little slow to take things down.  A porch one half block north of us is currently displaying the American flag, a hanging corpse, and eves hung with Christmas lights – plus a wreath and bells.

My son wanted our home decorated better than his friend’s (different home) up the street, and to have a ‘lighting ceremony’ to celebrate it.  So we scheduled it to be on the evening of Black Friday, and got to work with lights and extension ladder.

Once the relations had all arrived and had their drinks, we marched them back outside into the cold and dark to witness.  As they stood muttering through shivers, I laid the intellectual foundation of the event with a short speech about the historical sources of our current lighting ceremony; from the first candle-lit German Christmas trees, to Queen Victoria’s embrace of the tradition, to the lighting of the first electrified Christmas tree in a ceremony at the Grover Cleveland White House in 1895.  From there we touched on the “Grand Illumination”, in which whole towns would participate in a lighting ceremony – first begun in Williamsburg, Virginia in 1935.  All of which led eventually to lighting ceremonies, throughout the country, including fireworks and parades, and the eventual term, “turning on the lights” (I said, with a bit of flourish.) –  and with the tradition of fireworks added – …which is believed to have been descended from the custom of putting lights in the windows to celebrate an armistice, or a disaster.

Our designated ‘Grand Illuminator’ was my father in law.  Once I had adequately roughed in the intellectual foundation of our event, he flicked the switch, (with the help of my son) and POW!  …almost daylight.

All sang, “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”, while waiting for the inflatable dachshund on the porch roof to fill – just finishing the last verse as our Great Weenie fully engorged!  to a great hue and cry!   Then we all went inside to watch a Griswold Christmas.

But enough of that.  All of this is a lead-in to my being kicked out of my wife’s bed for snoring last Sunday night, and sleeping in my son’s, who was not there, due to his sleeping over that night at his friend’s.

“Why do you think you can sleep over on a school night?”  I had asked him earlier.

“Because Monday is a holiday.”

I couldn’t think of any holiday that fell on December 1st.

“What do you mean a holiday?”

“It’s a school holiday!”

“You didn’t have enough of a vacation with 4 days off?  They had to add an extra one?”  I huffed.  I wasn’t swallowing this easily.

“It’s the opening day of hunting season.”


Apparently everyone takes off the first day of hunting season around here.  Over 450,000 hunters will enter the woods.  And over 75,000 deer will be carted out, say the newspapers.

As it so happens, I had been talking about hunting earlier with a relation that wasn’t long married, had a ‘teething’ baby, just moved into a new home whose walls they were trying to get painted first, plus a part-time job shepherding cancer patients to their labwork through the outside wintry cold, while her new husband had just spent the last month hunting.

“They all have a piece of land you can’t live on, and you couldn’t farm, hours away, where they go.  And he has these cameras planted all through the woods, and he pours over the recordings.  He knows everywhere they go.  And he has every deer named, and has picked out just the one he wants to kill.  But, he hasn’t killed him yet.”

She nodded grimly over the steering wheel at the lit nighttime highway ahead.

“I told him, just kill one!”  She sighed.

“But is has to be THAT one.”


Later at the dinner I related all this to his father.

“Yeah,” he said, not at all astonished, but a little tired of the thing.  “He’s been trying to get that one for the last four years.”


All of which brings me back to the story of sleeping in my son’s room.  He leaves his drapes open and at the tick of 5 – all of the outside icicle lights clicked on…  …POW!!!

I awoke.

And as I watched, a huge dachshund slowly enlarged, filling the window.


Photo from Google Images

Postscript:  This just in!  Apparently they got THAT one: their buck, a record 162 on the Big Buck rating.  But it was an uncle, rather than her husband who shot it.

From the Editor’s Perch

December 19, 2012

Editor’s Note:  Here’s your present.  Unwrap it carefully or with complete abandon.  I don’t care, because now I’m off for the Holidays!  Look for many new events to come in “Murders in Progress”, to resume in a week or so.


My Christmas Present to You:


If you are one of those people haunted by the impulse to make the ‘wrong’ or ‘inappropriate’ remark, then the Onion might be for you.  Or if you are a person who would just love to see the darker side of an issue represented at least to some extent, or baring that, just …hinted at – then the Onion might be for you.  Or, if you’re the sort of nasty person who just revels in satire, here again, the Onion might be just for you.  Or if you are looking for writers who can just voice the obvious reality in this politically correct day and age, without being tagged with a pink letter and marched off to that special place beyond the pale to be gassed later  (okay, a BIT of hyperbole) – then the Onion might be for you.


A (lefty) friend recently remarked, “You are a puzzle.  How can you love the Onion so, when they are so Left Wing?”


Well, there are a couple reasons.  Satire and sarcasm have perfected a style for promulgating the truth, which cannot be violated, even by the preferences of the writer themselves.  If a satirical piece doesn’t ring true; it doesn’t ring funny.  Match this to the Onion’s, very often, impeccable writing skills and you get this piece of masterful observation:,30724/


Also, watch how the Onion can do an end run around the political gristmill, and let a little air out of the leading stories otherwise too hot to touch:,30762/


Plus, often it’s just damned funny about the personal day to day:,30474/


Onion_8174068 (Photo credit: SoraZG)


So, pour yourself a rum and coke and take a break from the Christmas doings with the Onion.  It’s a vegetable; so it’s good for you.


Logo & photo lifted from the web by Carl Nelson

From the Editor’s Perch

December 26, 2010

Edtior’s Note:  Well, the Muse was with me, and I finished this story Christmas Eve… well in time to post.  But the Computer elves were not.  My computer failed me until today, when I was able to Google a help thread with the use of my Blackberry.  Hooray!  So here is the remainder of our tale.

A Christmas Story

Part Two:


Still, things remained pretty slack.  So I took any sort of work customers offered.  As Moliere used to admonish his troupe (to paraphrase a bit), “When the King wants to see a performance you don’t tell him you’re not ready.”  I drew from small and poorly lit snapshots.  I drew pets.  A lady brought me a two inch by two inch poorly lit snapshot of her shaggy dog, standing against the wind, with its hair being blown backwards across its face.  The only identifying features, besides all of the yarn-like hair, were three dots.  Two suggested eyes, the other a nose.  A magnifying glass got me that far.  But for the rest of the fifteen dollars I had to invent a lot of dog.  I drew babies…  Most babies’ features are near identical.  Their expressions are fleeting.  In fact, whatever they do is fleeting.  The key to recognition is in accurately recording the distance between their significant features: such as the eyes, the nose-eyes-mouth triangles, how far off are their ears?  And their mother’s brains are built like airport scanners that can pick the terrorist from a million other faces.  That’s not him!  “That’s not my baby.  That doesn’t look like my baby!”  (Well, what part of it do you think does?)  What I’d do for fifteen dollars!  One of the first things I did with my newly made money was to purchase a bigger magnifying glass. 

You had to watch the jokes.  Don’t tell a sweet little girl, “You move, and I’ll punch you.”  The mother’s gasp, just behind me, sucked  all of the air from the room.

Nice things happened.  A lot of people left very pleased that you’d noticed the same special quality about their loved one that they knew.  Some felt you’d done an ‘honest assessment’.  And some thought the chin was too long.  (Actually, the nose was too short.)  The best were younger children with dark hair and dark eyes.  You couldn’t miss.  And it was fun to observe their silence, or their chatter.  And I didn’t worry too much if they moved a bit.  Most humans (and animals) repeat the same gestures.  Patience worked.  I just had to be sure to finish in around twenty minutes.  Otherwise, it could become a tedious experience. 

The only exception to this were the pretty young women who would sit for their portrait, draw you into conversation and then ask, with a rather demur turn to their voice and a slight quiver to their eyelid: “Have you ever drawn women nude?”  This is the sort of experience you earn as a portrait artist.

Like any young man, most of the women I met were on the job.  One was a psychologist:  “I don’t think that you can actually produce the quality of portrait you have on display in the twenty minutes you have to do them in,” she suggested.  I didn’t argue with her.  I also didn’t say that anyone who won’t cheat or steal a little for their art, probably hasn’t the balls to get anywhere.  The last conversation I remember having with her, she insisted I was depressed.  I told her I didn’t think I was depressed; that I was just feeling the way it was.  You don’t understand she said, “Depression is a very, serious disease.” 

Well, I would agree with her partly there.  Art is a very, serious disease.  This is probably why parents become so concerned when they detect signs of it in their loved ones.  And there was the police officer who I went out with for a drink.  “Well,” she said, “if it’s not working out for you, you can always do something else.”  You go silent as an artist when you hear that.  ‘It doesn’t work like that,’ I thought.

A thought that slowly dawns on you as an artist is that most of the way you experience the world and/or ‘feel’, is illegal.  In the eyes of normal people, you are not simply describing failure and how it feels – you are suffering from a very, serious disease – and/or you’re a whiner, loser, complainer… (You go to the Thesaurus yourself.  It’s too depressing.)

I finally happened upon someone though, who it seemed I connected with.  And it happened through the first (and only) blind date I had ever arranged for myself.  One day I was finishing up a portrait of some …little girl, I imagine.  A small crowd had gathered.  And as the girl rose to claim her drawing I heard this high pitched squeal from behind:   “Oh.  Would you draw me?!!”

I turned.  And there was Miss Piggy.  A pretty tall, Miss Piggy, in a big pink foam head and flannel costume, and, of course, with those long flowing blonde locks and batting eyelashes… lovely round nose.  She had me from hello.   “Sure,” I said.  “Sit yourself down.”  “Oh goody,” I imagine she said. 

I started on the portrait; made a show of needing a much larger piece of paper.  She stayed in character.  I imagine we traded in Sesame Street gossip.  But as the crowd dissipated and I finished up – we made a date to meet at the base of the escalator when she got off around seven, (I think).

It was a delight and surprise to find I’d just made myself a date with a tall, healthy, good-looking, honey-haired blonde who looked a lot like Candice Bergen.  Turns out she was a highly intelligent, down on her luck professional tennis player who happened to have ended up broke in Seattle after losing one too many matches… and latched onto the first job she could find.  We attended the theater.  I believe I cooked dinner for her once.  She spent a day visiting with a famous young woman tennis player she’d coached who came to town during the Virginia Slims tournament.  (Have I remembered that right?  Did a cigarette company actually promote a tennis tournament?)  And going broke trying to do something seemed the most natural thing in the world to her.  Or, at least, I can’t remember talking about it.  Anyway, the last I corresponded with her, she had written me a note from the Bahamas where she was coaching at a plush resort.  I sent her some ash from the Mount Saint Helens eruption.

But they don’t call it the Christmas Rush for nothing.  You get down to those last few days and the shoppers become like desperate fish who will bite on anything.  They are literally tossing their money at you.  And my business picked up too! 

Time was money, and I’d never worked so hard.  You have to make hay while the hay is making.  And I worked hard right up to the line. 

By late afternoon, Christmas Eve, I was emotionally exhausted.  At the drawing group I attended we had a curious Chinese fellow who would check the arrangement of the features of our model with a measuring tape.  We’d be drawing away as he pulled the Carpenter’s tape out.  Then there would be a “snap!” as he got the measurement he wanted and left the tape to recoil.  I didn’t draw like that.  I judged the proportions – and everything else – by feel.  And by mid-afternoon Christmas Eve I was totally numb.  I had no idea what I was doing.  I still knew where I was.  But I would look out at a face; then look at the easel without any memory of recognition whatsoever.  I was moving by rote; winging it on a hope and a prayer.  You don’t turn down money.

The store was closing when my very last customer appeared.  He was a disheveled, quite drunk, pudgy, thirty-something year old male with a very red nose.  “I want you to draw my portrait,” he said.  I helped him to sit.

I did the best I could.  And he did the best he could.  He said he had been walking around for hours and just couldn’t figure out what to give his parents for Christmas.  He happened by my display when it hit him!  That what they would like would be a portrait of him.  I nodded, as I drew, as if that were very thoughtful.  For the life of me I couldn’t tell what the hell I was doing.  So he finally decided he would give me some help by stepping around the easel.

“The nose is too small,” he said.  This is very funny.  Because the standard cynical definition of a portrait is, “a painting in which the nose is too large”.  (Maybe Whistler said that.)   I worked on.  He sat.  Time passed, until finally even he was becoming restless and/or nodding off.   “You about done?”  He said.  “Just another minute or so,” I answered, softly.   I kept looking but I just couldn’t get a reading on whether or not it was right.   He awoke again:  “Because I have somewhere to be.”

All I could think of was the time in medical school when I lost a hooked needle in the bloody scalp of a drunk.  When you stitch a bloody scalp laceration, you’re never supposed to let go of one end of the needle with the clamp, until you have the other end securely clamped.  So how can you screw up?  I still don’t know.  But after a loud, drunken interrogation about what was “taking so looong?  Do you know what the fuck you’re doing!”   And I still couldn’t find the needle.  The intern finally bailed me out.

I looked around.  To my surprise all of the lights in the store had been turned out, and we sat within the one lamp which illuminated him, and the one drawing lamp which illuminated my easel.  Just on the perimeter of the circle of light I heard a ‘whimpering’?  I squinted further and there were three Dobermans standing patiently in choke collars about the perimeter, backed by their handlers in black leather jackets who were doing a last sweep of the store.  “Are you going to be much longer,” the most authoritative one of them asked me.  (With remarkable deference, I thought at the time – apparently to my ‘artistic needs’!)

“No.  I think I’m done right now,” I said.  I presented the drawing to my ‘customer’.  He looked it over.  Said thank you, as if however it looked, I had solved a big problem for him.  He paid me and left.  And I packed up and left immediately after.

I rode the number 7 home that Christmas Eve with about half a bus load of other non-committal passengers; just a portion of the left-out people of this world, not late for anything or needing to be anywhere.  I walked to my house and scooped up some dinner from the crock pot meal I had left simmering all day.  I sat in my bare living room in my one overstuffed chair and footstool, with my two cats layered on my legs for warmth, and watched the many colored lights on my jade plant twinkle.  One strand of indoor lights will go ‘round and ‘round a tiny jade plant.  And it shone brightly as a burning bush.

The End


Photo by Carl Nelson

Fashion with Chris

December 24, 2010

The fashion word of the week is brendy (trendy, but also flexible enough to withstand seasonal changes)…


Photos by Carl Nelson

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