Category Archives: Other “Ings”

Twelfth Night

Christmas TreeTook the Christmas decorations down the other night. It’s always such a sad couple of hours picking up tinsel and Christmas lights and stockings and stuffed reindeer toys etc. Packing them into plastic crates that go back in the garage for 12 months, being careful not to break the tree decorations, nor the spine on the edition of A Night Before Christmas that belonged to my wife’s father. It’s dated 1948, the year Atlee’s Labour government nationalized British Rail, the year of the London Olympics, and CBS’s first broadcast of its evening news show, still the longest running new network show in the U.S.. It’s also the year of the First Arab-Israeli War, and the Genocide convention, but I was trying to start with something light.

So we pack up everything and take down the tree, put a plastic bag over and stick it outside. They’ve been gathering all week, Xmas trees on their sides next to the garbage cans. We always wait until twelfth night, January 5th, a la tradition, though we forego the bonfire. So, another one in the books, and a pretty good one at that. Massive over-indulgence on all fronts. Didn’t exercise once in two weeks, mince pies and cake and beers and scotch and more mince pies and bread pudding and chocolate logs and stuffed dates and on and on. Just stuffing ourselves with food and lots of TV. Of course there’s more to it. The kids had a blast Chrimbo day. The 4 year old got a batman lair thing with moving parts that he played with without interruption for 6 hours on Christmas day, then on Boxing day announced he was done with it and we could give it away. I still have the receipt my wife says, and I can see the wheels turning—trade one in each week for a return of 6 hours of uninterrupted bliss. Certainly worth pondering.

And it was special to watch the little tykes rip through their prezzies on Xmas day and then look up eagerly with this “wait where’s the rest?” look on their faces though they can barely see over the massive pile of stuff in front of them. Oh, the joy of the season, Slade in the background, followed by Wham, and the sad irony of that a few hours later. But you plough on, cause it’s Christmas, and on Christmas you’re allowed a beer at ten in the morning cause it goes admirably well with stollen and eggnog.

But all done now for another year. The eggnog 50% off down the local Safeway, all the new board games we played once abandoned at the back of closets, and I’ve written out a detailed January exercise program which involves no alcohol whatsoever for the first week, and, then, after that, limited amounts at limited intervals. Friday night without one might as well be a Monday, but definitely dry as an emaciated llama on school nights though we still have 4 or 5 episodes of The Crown to get through, which you really need a drink with as you watch Churchill sipping his whisky with his porridge, and I definitely need something to help me get through the sad sight of that dishevelled tree sitting on the front step wrapped in plastic. So maybe I should shift the start date to the middle of the month?

Halloween in the Pissing Rain

So, finally, a posting from Marin county where we landed in August. I know. It’s been a while. I’m averaging a post every three months, well worth the 200 dollars a year I’m giving to WordPress to host the website. I told myself last year if I’m not posting at least once a month then I’m taking the site down. Well, it’s been a year and I just gave them another 200 dollars with a promise to myself that I’m going to post at least every two weeks. Reverse logic, but I’m thinking I’m going rogue. No more of these attempted polished gems that I’m imagining some editor from the New Yorker seeing and contacting me about after traipsing all over the internet to track me down. “Yes, Mr. Scott, we’re wondering if you have anything longer we might be interested in, oh and by the way I have the names of a couple of agents who would like to talk to you.” Instead, I’m going a bit more punk.

We did Halloween of course. Some ups and downs. I was struggling with the tail-end of a man-cold. Not a cold, but a man-cold, which is an entirely different beast. It’s like comparing a Prairie rattlesnake to the Mojave variety. Only one is deadly. Hence, struggling with the man-cold, I couldn’t smell toffee apples if put under my nose and wrapped in garlic, and Barry White’s been camping in my windpipe for three days. Not at my best, had a long day dealing with 16 year olds who no matter how many times I cough and splutter enquire not after my health and instead concentrate on asking why I’m wearing a neck scarf. So I’m feeling a touch jaded, a touch sorry for myself, and I’m supposed to traipse around Fairfax for two hours sans alcohol. Oh, and it’s raining.

It’s not about you my wife reminds me, who’s dealing with her own head cold (though it’s not a man-cold) and when she says it she’s already in full zombie regalia plus make up so it’s more than usually intimidating. She’d be intimidating dressed as a rose petal, but that’s not the point. The point is that the kids absolutely love it. Of course I’m coming I tell her, but don’t expect me to dress up. Unacceptable response, and ten minutes later she’s got me in a wig and the kind of long down coat that people in Minnesota sleep in. What am I supposed to be I ask. Everybody’s slightly off-center neighbor she tells me. Well then. The kids are eleven and almost four, so right at the optimum ages where it’s not too spooky nor too cheesy, and the rain’s an added bonus. The 11-year-old’s a little sceptical about putting on full zombie attire cause, you know, she’s at that age where she’s beginning to think about what if I see so and so from school, so she insists on wearing her Converse and putting on her favorite sweater under the shredded zombie t-shirt, but she’s sufficiently in the spirit of things. And for about an hour it’s actually fun. I get to stand in the street under my umbrella that’s about the size of a studio apartment and watch the kids scamper in and out of this decorated house and that decorated house while all the other parents look at me a little strangely cause my umbrella’s beyond Marin’s specifications for umbrellas, not to mention more interesting than my costume. In the rain I probably look a lot like their slightly off-center neighbor just, you know, out for a walk. And then it starts to pour. As in torrential. The kids are still loving it, but most of the adults are gently trying to persuade them that going through their candy at home and sorting it into piles according to color or weight is actually the funnest thing about Halloween. I’m certainly up for that, alongside hoping that we got a good haul of Nestle Crunch.

The 11 year old certainly loves that moment of getting home way after bedtime, dumping her candy out on the floor and organizing it. And it was certainly priceless to put my 4-year-old to bed and have him tell me he’d loved getting wet, even when his underpants were wet and that when he got home from school tomorrow he was going to have some Dots and then maybe a Kit-Kat. After that he wasn’t sure, but I was under strict instructions not to touch any of his candy. Okay I said as I closed his bedroom door then promptly went into his stash for a Nestle Crunch followed two minutes later by another one as I waited for the water for my hot toddy.

A Tale of Infidelity

Saucy
Saucy

Appropriate, I think, with the premier league just getting under way again, to recall one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever seen–a team whose name most people outside of England couldn’t even pronounce correctly: “Less-duh.” Not “Lie-stir,” or “Lay-star,” or “Lie-shh-stir” (each with a rhythmic uptick at the end as if the town’s name was a question), but “Less-duh.”

As everyone now knows, rank 5000-1 outsiders in a division of 20 teams. How can anyone be considered that inconsequential? The step-child that all and sundry tread upon on the way toward  the top of the table. I’m not going to go back and talk about the football, the “soccer,” here–enough of the Jamie Vardy movie and how not so long ago he was playing non-league soccer wearing an electronic tag on account of an unpleasant incident outside a public house. Jamie Vardy having to be subbed before the end of the game in order to beat his curfew blah, blah, blah, to, now, Jamie Vardy breaking Ruud Van Nistelrooy’s record of scoring in 10 consecutive premier league games. Mahrez, the player of the year, a $750,000 buy from French Club, Le Havre–that number being what Wayne Rooney makes just about every 18 days. N’Golo Kante, a little more reasonable at close to 8 million, but still a bargain in today’s market where Chelsea can pay Augsburg close to 30 million for Baba Rahman. Who? Exactly. Kante and Mahrez, especially, players no one else had heard of and, apparently, no one else was scouting. The two of them, alongside Vardy, arguably, three of the best players in the premiership last season. Plus Wes Morgan, Captain Impossible, who pitch and putted around the lower leagues for the best part of a decade, only beginning his premier league career a season ago at the age when most players are casting surreptitious glances toward China’s Super League. Ridiculous. It’s akin to something like Hogan’s Heroes going over to the Queen’s for tea and knowing exactly how to hold a delicate Edgware cup and which side to sip from.

So, no, I don’t want to talk about the football so much. What I want to talk about is how this scrappy team with Claudio Ranieri, the preternatural, quintessential runner-up at their helm, inspired me, at least, to go extra-marital. Manchester United fan for 35 years. Die hard. Stretford-Ender as a kid. Wouldn’t chant the name of Everton after defeating them in the 1985 Cup final, the Norman Whiteside final, when their team passed our end of the stadium on a loser’s lap of honor. Just couldn’t do it–an act of betrayal. Yes, I was 19, young and inexperienced, but, still, misguided loyalty. Once United are out of the Champions League, I can scarcely bear to pay attention. Same with premier league games unless I’m desperate for a team anywhere near us in the table to drop points. In short, I’m a bull-headed, crazy loyalist with no time or inclination for anyone except my one, my only, love.

So, why then did I spend the latter half of last season getting up on Saturday and Sunday mornings in Los Angeles, at ungodly hours to boot, to watch Leicester? What’s that all about? I might as well have been sleeping with my wife’s twin sister. The answer, of course, being cause I couldn’t help myself. They played football the way it’s supposed to be played, at least to someone raised on the English way, and the way I wanted Man Utd to play it, at least occasionally. Full-on all the time. They were aggressive and flamboyant, but flamboyant without any of the preening and the Disney princesses. They were dangerous and irresistible, and they had no business winning as many games as they did. Really. No business. No pace at the back. Lack of a so-called world-class central midfielder. Nor should they have scored half the goals they did–things cajoled out of paper bags and top hats. And I loved them for it. Not because they were underdogs, but because of the pride, the venom, the sheer joy that so obviously came not just from playing “footie,” but from playing “footie” as part of that particular group. It reminded me of why I love the game and what I loved about it as a kid, a game that seemed simple and romantic, played by men who weren’t quite rock stars yet, men who didn’t make more in a month than most can expect in a lifetime. Leicester brought back, to me at least, a love of the game as something raw and utterly internal, a thing childish and playful and joyous–a thing that allowed, for ninety minutes, all the other stuff to fade. Surely they can’t do it again, especially now that Kante’s wearing someone else’s blue shirt. Nor would I want them to. I want to be back in bed with the old, familiar spouse watching them, under Mourinho’s guidance (and 270 millions pound’s worth of new talent, and, yes, if that were anybody else’s missus I’d be throwing up over the back fence, but she’s my missus so the more pearls the better) get back a little of the swagger “Less-duh” brought last year, even if it comes without the romance.