Christmas in November

So, first things first. A sugar update. Finally got serious. It’s been two weeks. Two weeks and two days actually. No carbs, no alcohol, no fruit, nothing with sugar in it. So no Peet’s coffee a la almond milk, no Friday night beer, no chocolate–not even the low glycemic stuff they sell for eleven dollars a bar at the fancy artisanal grocery store up the street. No baked goods of any description. I had a student last week get me a selection of beyond fancy treats as a thank you for a letter of recommendation. Brought them straight home and fed them piece by piece to the kids. I walked around and around on Halloween with my hands stitched inside my pockets thinking too late that I could have been Silence from Doctor Who, which, to those not part of the Doctor Who Fandom, is the guy who looks like the guy from Edvard Munch’s “The Scream.” Sans mouth. The first week was horrifying. The headaches, the dumpy moods, the desire to lick the bottom of donut boxes. And dreams about pizza. Not about pizzas chasing me naked down the main street, or pizzas talking to me consolingly on a park bench somewhere. Just dreams about eating pizza. My brother was there, but not in any weird way, simply as my brother sat at a table with me eating pizza. Next we had spaghetti alla carbonara. So an awful first week and then I wake up on day eight ready to fight woolly mammoths with my teeth. Imagine ferrets after chocolate cake. Nine days later, still off it, still feeling irrepressibly giddy. The kids a little concerned, but at least they know they don’t need to hide their Halloween candy in the sock drawer. I’m not gonna lie and say the cravings have gone–urban legend claimed three days, which is nonsense. Three days in I would have split the dog in two for a chocolate mousse, or, not even, half a dozen frozen grapes–but they are easing, and I crave a half-inch of persimmon, not half an apple pie.

Anyway, to the main point, the first real test was Christmas dinner last week, the first week in November, over at an Irish friend’s in San Francisco. She’s making it a tradition, this the second year. And when I say Christmas, I mean Christmas. A tree, Santa hats, flashing lights, a ham, traditional Christmas pud with whipped cream and brandy sauce. It’s mainly her Irish friends, so I’m fortunate to be tolerated. There’s another woman goes, from London’s East End, but she has the voice of a never-scolded angel and sings traditional Irish ballads after dinner. The kids chase the dog up and down the apartment all night and the adults talk about England and Ireland and football and Ireland and England and kids and football, and occasionally someone really interesting shows up like the bloke this year who goes walkabout for a month each year on some disturbing trip. This past year, for instance, he and a mate from County Cork took an old Land Rover through all the Stans. I had no idea what he was talking about at first, and then after Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan came up a couple of times, the penny dropped. He mentioned how pretty Afghanistan is in May as if he were talking about Yosemite, right about the same time he said something about being shot at near the border of Tajikistan. When he excused himself to get another drink, I looked at the other bloke he’d been talking to, a sensible fella originally from outside of Dublin, and we both had the same response: how does he sell that to the missus? Two kids under ten. A month in some dodgy part of the world doing dangerous things. Maybe it keeps him young, the sensible one suggested. Maybe, indeed. Being far from the kids for a month anywhere would tend to keep anybody young.

So, anyway, interesting people tend to show up, and I got some brilliant tips for how to fix the clogged shower back at the house from another ex-pat building his own home in San Rafael. There was something jolly about the whole thing, almost as if a Christmas tree and silly, fur-trimmed hats are all it takes to keep people from mentioning politics and atrocities for hours at a time. After dinner them that could sing sang and the rest of us hummed along, mostly Irish ballads, but there was one memorable take of Me and Bobby McGee.

And, yeah, the Christmas pud was tempting. Wickedly so, but I kept a safe distance. Just.

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