Wednesday, December 29, 2004

the holiday song

i spent a family-style christmas in the wilds of central florida. seven adults and one miniature german schnauzer (who thinks she's an adult), all under one roof. it's incredible we survived -- let alone managed to have fun. but we did. i'm actually sick of perpetuating the red state/blue state thing, but ... on the other hand, it was only a matter of minutes before i was reminded of where i was. riding back from the airport in my dad's car, i spotted a minivan with a window sticker that read "give war a chance." yeah, that's really fucking funny -- ya stupid asshole.

cars everywhere were festooned with a rainbow of magnetic ribbons -- yellow for "support our troops," red white and blue for various u.s.a. uber alles sentiments, a black one for POW-MIAs. i didn't realize at first that they were magnets until i saw them for sale at some kiosk in a mall. (hmmmm, magnetic? easily removable? now, that's commitment to the cause(s). you don't even have to ruin the finish on your shiny new SUV.) i couldn't help remembering that the whole wear-a-ribbon craze really took off with the red ribbons for AIDS support back in the '80s ... rather a far cry from this here jingoistic chickenhawk bullshit.

still, there were signs of rebellion even in this bastion of the with-us gang. i was cheered to note that the "no war" slogan spraypainted onto the pillar of a turnpike overpass not far from my dad's house, which i'd first seen two years ago, was still there -- faded, but resolute. i even saw a kerry bumper sticker on a car inside the planned community where he lives. but only one.

it's a funny place, florida, full of lawn flamingos and spanish-moss-festooned trees (wonderful things) and brightly colored fruit stands and working-class people and tons of geezers. but mostly what i noticed were the birds. the first full day i was there, it rained pretty heavily. i stood on the covered porch, looking out at the backyard and the swampy lake beyond. the neighbors on one side of my dad had planted a lot of trees along their property line parallel to the lake; all sorts of winged critters were flitting around the denuded branches of one small tree. crimson cardinals and little sparrow-type birds ... refugees from the northern cold like my dad and so many of his pals. indeed, so many people from my native PA hometown congregrate in this particular area of florida during the winter, they even hold some sort of snow-bunny potluck once a year. (kind of like how i used to never see people from the l.a. music biz while in town, but would always catch up with them during the SXSW music festival in austin. kind of.)

anyway, amid all these flittering little birds sat a very unhappy-looking hawk of some sort. i dunno what type it was -- it had a reddish/orangish chest and thin white horizontal bands on its black tail. it was perched on a naked branch, trying to look tough, but it basically seemed pissed. i grabbed the binoculars for a closer look: drops of water were rolling off its beak. i sorta felt sorry for it, but i also wondered why it didn't move to one of the trees that had leaves. a few of the smaller birds did, but the hawk stayed put. it looked bad-ass and all, riding out the storm and whatnot, but it was dripping wet. huh. predators are sooo stupid!

the weirdest birds are the biggest ones, however. most remarkable are the snowy egrets, beautiful with their elegant necks and pure-white feathers, soaring over the lake like ghosts, their reflections in the water making them a doubly eerie and beautiful sight. they are a bit like the elves of the marsh: gorgeous, ethereal, untouchable. but it's their cousins, the sand cranes, that mix it up with the likes of us. a pair of 'em like to stroll around my dad's part of the neighborhood; my little sister calls them george and mabel. which is highly apropos. they are just like abrasive middle americans determined to go wherever they like and do as they please, the rest of the world be damned. they make the rudest and most startling noises -- even late at night, you hear them. they'll stride about in the middle of the road, and if they don't feel like moving for a car, well, too bad. they are very large, probably my height, and it's a bit unnerving to catch a glimpse of their heads bobbing past a window.

the other thing i noticed was signs. the garish fruit stand bore a sign, amid all the garish advertisements of its wares, proclaiming something like "adam ate the apple, jesus paid the price" (it was somewhat, er, more eloquent than that but can't remember exact wording now). we went for a drive and looked at christmas lights; looming somewhat incongruously above one spectacular display of santas and reindeer and mangers and whatnot was a huge banner strung from the home's balcony, trumpeting "we support our troops and our president." (hey, thanks for clarifying that.) but my favorite sign was one at steve's package and lounge, a little white number with an arrow pointing toward the back of the building: "drive-thru lotto."

being the insane adult geeks that we are, my siblings and i watched the first two (that is, episodes 4 and 5) star wars flicks on DVD. i noticed that darth vader's lightsaber is red, while both obi-wan kenobi and luke skywalker have blue ones. "if you strike me down i shall only become more powerful." (here's hoping ... .) i HATE that greedo shoots first now! that's soooooo annoying. (it's such a little thing, really, just a thin red bolt that now shoots out of greedo's blaster before solo fries 'im, yet so very, very significant.) han solo is otherwise the same self-interested, snarky, arrogant, money-grubbing flyboy with a heart of gold -- but, hey, at least he wasn't unprovoked before blasting his would-be assassin!! because that wouldn't be sporting. whatever.

i'm not quite as sadly obsessive about the empire strikes back -- that is, i can't quote the dialogue chapter and verse, nor hear the score at any given point and tell you exactly where we are in the action, like i can for star wars. (i refuse to call it a new hope.) i had forgotten just how much yoda sounded like fozzie bear (both voiced by the great frank oz). i also wondered if the aftermath of mark hamill's car accident b/w the making of those films necessitated how totally beat up luke gets in the film's opening sequences ... and he seems to be shot from his "good side" a lot. but he looks so much different in the second film, not just older, like harrison ford and carrie fisher and the others, but ... well, his face was somewhat rearranged.

on sunday we all went to brunch at the fancy mission inn. it was a big thing with my mom, gone lo these five years now (already?). we had champagne and coffee and more food than you can shake a stick at -- and we closed out the joint, on account of us arriving promptly on time for our reservation, only to be told first that we had actually made the rez for a half-hour later, then made to wait about 15 minutes, then later admitted to that in fact some other party had lingered longer than expected (in other words, poor planning on the part of the reservation-taker). hmmm ... i wonder if my blackhearted maiden-of-hell glares had anything to do with their mea culpa? ah, well, it turned out OK, and i did enjoy the meal.

on a different day i had "all you care to eat spaghetti" (could only manage one bowl) for $5.95 and some excellent deep-fried mozzarella sticks at the "soup to nuts diner" with my dad and bro. a "fifties-style" diner in a big strip mall -- with authentic tableside jukeboxes and very inauthentic 33 rpm albums (some bearing further anachronisms, like casablanca labels) stuck to the wall instead of 45s. i chased all this with an amazingly sweet and gigantic glass of vanilla coke ... mmmm. my bro had the "monster burger" -- it took him and the schnauzer to vanquish that sucker.

i returned home on a direct flight via delta song. it's some sort of "hipper" offshoot of fusty old delta, and, as i had f.o.d. on my trip out, i can attest to song's superiority. nicer seats, better headroom, better food for sale, decent wine, and your very own personal tv screen with tv, movies, trivia, and all sortsa stuff. it's a five-plus-hour flight back to LAX. i finished my book (anne rice's blood canticle, worth a whole post in itself), and still had time to watch all of collateral on my mini-screen. what an excellent movie! i can't wait to rent it and watch it on a bigger screen. it made me really homesick, being set in l.a. and all. jamie foxx was great. (i gotta see ray, man!) it was totally twisted and went over the top, but so what? my kinda flick. i loved seeing the l.a. skyline in twilight, dark palm tree silhouettes against the muted dusky blue sky, floating above the flat black land festooned with streetlights. and how wonderful it was to step off the plane and know -- although i couldn't see, b/c it was dark and pouring rain -- that skyline was there. and so was i. back where i'm supposed to be.

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