Peppers Come in Late

Christmas is still such a hard time for us, and I expect that the older I get, the more of these gatherings will be missing faces. This year it was Joe, on the in-law side of things, we seem to take turns with the urns. We went a bit overboard to help ease the pain, and there were a few more laughs and it was all that we could hope for. 

Something had been gnawing at me the last couple of months I could not get my head around. Out of the blue, for no reason I can think of, I started experiencing ideation. Annoyingly, at first. Then alarming. And then realized it was happening so constantly, so mildly, that it just became a normal daily conversation, and I wondered if this is how it is for some people. It doesn't run in my family, so far as I know. A friend of mine followed that path all the way to its terrible end, a day after Christmas, if I remember correctly. 

My daughter painted her formline yew onto a giant canvas for my gift and I had to turn away. I thought I used to have a way with words, but to have a way with pictures, like petroglyphs on the coast visible to the dark forest of the universe above I was transported for a moment. 

She invited a friend who lives with his dad in a hotel, down on their luck, and both of our kids have extended this bit of grace in the past, a habit passed down from their grandfather. She was adamant that we were not to give a gift, so as to avoid that particular shame, but was willing to make an exception for the scratch tickets I buy every year. No one ever wins a lot, but someone always wins something, and goddamnit you just want the people you care about to win every once in a while. I had the idea this year to just keep buying and scanning tickets that were winners and make sure that everyone had at least one to celebrate. But the scanner wasn't working, so I just kept feeding the machine until I could overwhelm the odds with an incoming boom of traffic DDoS style. And to really seal the deal, I had in my kitchen odds and ends drawer a stack of Eisenhower bicentennial dollars and gave everyone a coin to scratch and keep. It was a perfect analog to the tickets, seemingly worth something, and shiny and relatively unencountered, but at the end of the day, the 1776 dollar is worth its namesake and not a penny more. But it feels like winning.

And although my plan was disrupted, of the 9 people sitting around the table, there were 7 winning tickets. They all threw them into the middle of the table, none of them worth more than a few dollars. But we were smiling and laughing and I slept better that night, outside of the mild hangover, than I had in some time. 


You can't commiserate when it comes to snow. Snow just makes you smile.

Among my own personal examples of motivated forgetfulness is a country western bar in Texas, my uncle is dancing with my aunt in front of an old jukebox. Juice Newton is singing about love, and Ronnie Milsap just got done about love, and no doubt Linda Ronstadt will soon be singing about love.

The booth is upholstered the same way the car is, it's incredibly dark and smoky, there are bottles of Lone Star and, hell, maybe we are in the car. They were so pretty. I don't think they have ever made people that pretty since, with feathered hair and tan lines on wiry, malnourished bodies.

Good lord, have you ever seen a girl as pretty as your aunt.

I don't think so.

Well don't you get any ideas.

Stop teasin him.

That bottle of beer better be full when I get back.

Leave him alone and come dance with me.

They must have thought we would learn just by watching them, but they wouldn't remember this moment. They were lost somewhere else, and they divorced after a few years just like everyone else back then.

It must be motivated forgetfulness because that's not the kind of scene you'd want to recreate. Hazy pub romancing in a liquored haze with unattended nephews gleaning their life's learning from your wandering hands and carelessly tapped cigarette ashes.

I don't remember any snow back then, so I don't associate it with repressed memories, but it just makes you smile.

I'm sorry about the weather. I'm sure my kids had something to do with it.

It's so pretty, though.

You can't look at it without smiling.

It's wonderful.

At the gas station, a man buying a lottery ticket and a pizza pocket asks how long it's going to last.

The clerk says a day or two. It's gonna be cold, mostly.

You can't look at it and not smile, I say.


Anonymous said…
I love snow. I consider it a bonus when snow arrives in North Carolina, resulting in garments being rended and teeth being gnashed. The one snow plow tries in vain to clear the roads and I just sit trapped in the house with a dogs, all smiling.
Summer said…
I just love that last photograph.
Brandon said…
sir, i remember it snowing one time in south carolina and thinking that i needed to get my affairs in order.

summer, i'm surprised my camera still works for me, how neglected it's been.
I found out today that a blogger from "back in the day" died in July, so naturally, I pulled a Leonard Nimoy and went In Search Of others. Bless you, Brandon, for sticking around. As someone who's spent a fair amount of time "ideating", I understand the pull, but everyone's better for your never making it a reality. So, don't.

How's that for a 12+-year follow up to the comment on the old post?
brando said…
That was terrible awful news, and I was grateful that I do get to see some of those back in the day folks for a beer from time to time. Here's to everyone sticking around for the next 12 years.

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