The Guilt Of The Magi

The great man hauled himself up to the podium to accept his lifetime achievement award. He waited for the applause to die down. Then he spoke:

“As I stand before you today, I can’t help but think back to a Christmas years ago, when I was a boy in New York’s Hudson Valley. An average kid who enjoyed typical things like shooting basketball in my parents’ driveway, I was content to drive a snowmobile repeatedly around the house in winter, and even though I didn’t play the trombone, many mornings I’d be out there in the front yard blaring away on one, just to let the neighbors know I was alive.

But that Christmas, when I was eight years old, everything changed. My grandma called to say she’d mailed me a card with money in it, to spend anyway I wanted. I checked the mailbox. Where was the card?

Christmas came – no card. The next day, and the day after that – still no card, no money. My mom had promised we could go shopping at Game Stop or Wal Mart for a new video game Grand Theft Auto V I’d had my eye on.

I cut through our weird musician neighbors’ yard as I sometimes did and could’ve sworn I saw a red envelope on their dining table. Had the mailman brought them my card by mistake? And if so, why were they holding on to it – were they that wrapped up in their own lives that they couldn’t make the short trek across the yard to bring my card over? Maybe they were still pissed off at my dad for the stuff he took from their yard a few years ago, I don’t know.

Mom drove us into town to go shopping but without Grandma’s Christmas money, I didn’t have anything to spend, so while mom and dad were in Game Stop, I just kicked a can down Main Street, bored. This was the worst Christmas ever.

And then I saw it – the public library. I’d never even noticed the building before. I went in. There were books in there. I grabbed everything I could carry: Seuss, Silverstein; Chaucer, Voltaire; Orwell; Sedaris, Saunders. I started reading and discovered a world beyond the little town I lived in, beyond the sleazy Miami of Grand Theft Auto I. II. III and IV. A world I wanted to explore, and make better. When the card from Grandma showed up that afternoon, I gave the money to charity.

And when I saw the muddy footprints from our neighbors’ yard to our mailbox, I forgave the neighbor man and lady. In fact, I wish I could thank them for taking their sweet time bringing my card over. It changed the course of my life.”

The Bag Stands By

Things have been a little weird around here lately.

It started last month when this big truck pulled up and a girl and a guy loaded a whole bunch of boxes and furniture in the garage. He was tall and lanky (is anyone ever short and lanky?) and she kind of looked like the lady only if the dough came out of the oven a lot sooner if you know what I mean?

Seems me and the other cases will be sharing our place with a load of this Chicago crew’s stuff for a while – it’s a little crowded in here but hey the more the merrier, I was getting tired of hearing the same old stories from the Gibson case, about this time in Germany with Yo La Tengo and that run in with the Swiss police and something about a mountain pass and the Sound of Music, yeah yeah I know you’re all continental and shit and I didn’t come aboard until those jet set days were on hold but hey my time will come, just you wait you piece of –

Oh , sorry. I’m not myself! I’ve been trying to keep an eye on things around here with him away and let me tell you, it hasn’t exactly been a cakewalk. A lot of coming and going with the van, she’s working a lot at the bookstore and bar these days, and every time the lady screeches up into the driveway, she’s playing this record by Amy Allison & David Scott. I’d say she must be going a little screwy on her own, but hey I like the sound of that music.

Then she’s in the house and I hear the same other records over and over, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings – outlaw stuff. Either that or NPR. Then it’s quiet a lot in there and I think “What is she doing? He, he plays guitar a lot but she, she’s pacing around and talking to herself.” Or she’s going on hikes – once or twice she’s even taken her bike out in the cold and when she flings open that garage door I get startled but then act very casual – hey, I don’t judge.

But the other day seems she ran out of heating oil and she comes groping around in the garage for these two big canisters to fill with kerosene. Then she comes back for a chair, to try to hoist the kerosene into the oil tank which is about five feet off the ground. Then she’s looking on YouTube trying to figure out how to get an oil fired heating system to restart – sheesh, I wish I could have helped! Then she’s on the phone with a plumber who’s talking her through, but she’s trying to bleed the line and there’s kerosene in containers everywhere and – boy I hope he’s coming back soon.

A buddy of theirs comes over and helps get the furnace going again and I breathe a big sigh of relief out here in the garage (not that we get the benefit of any of that heat by the way).

Then there’s a snowstorm and I hear her out shoveling and she comes in here to find some salt to put down but she has to move a load of the fresh dough’s stuff out of the way. Then a little while later she’s dragging a propane canister through the snow to the other side of the house, seems the cooking gas has gone down now. She must have got it going again because she’s back in with an empty propane tank, two empty kerosene containers, a snow shovel and a ladder. She curses that the g.d. bike’s in the way, and then back into the van with the Amy Allison playing.

Anyway, it’s a lot more fun when it’s us in the van going to play a show all together but he’ll be back soon. I even heard her practicing the other day so could be there’s something in the works. Until then I’ll be hanging out here trying to pretend I’m interested in the Bulls.

Eric & Amy’s Homemade Aeroplane Sat Jan 11