A big change happened about 20 years ago. At that time, there were three presents under the Christmas tree from Santa to me. In the first one was a set of Indian cookware. In the second one was a box of Indian spices. In the third one was an Indian cookbook. I decided to try Indian cooking. Fortunately, it turned out my wife liked it! What a smart Santa! Also, my taste for meat diminished. It isn’t gone but the days of my devouring large steaks are over — I hardly ever have beef now. My favorite outing for dinner is to a macrobiotic vegetarian restaurant — everything is delicious and I’m quite envious of the cooks, because I haven’t been able to do any of the dishes as well on my own. But my wife and I have pretty much standardized menus now, and the variety is really for the occasions when the kids visit or guests come over. I love just about everything and Good vibes always shirt quite happy with Thai, Japanese, Vietnamese, Indian, Italian, Mexican, Peruvian, French, Lebanese/Middle Eastern, Greek, Hungarian, and several other cuisines. There’s some Jewish recipes I like as well. There is nothing that could make me try lutefisk and I refuse to believe that anyone from this planet eats that.
Roger was a junkie I met in rehab. He’d spent more time in prison than he did out. Mostly for bullshit parole violations. I don’t even recall what his original sin was. He told me his stories. About his kid. About the time he got in a fire fight while cooking meth. About what it’s like in prison. About how the homeless community was organized. And he was a good guy. Not that he didn’t sometimes fuck up. I’d let him stay in a free room above my bar. Until we found needles in the backyard, where customers might wander. But, I really liked the guy. There was something very real about him. I remember one time when I was waiting for a date to show up downtown and was passing the time talking to Roger. The date approached, Roger saw her coming, and Roger disappeared to the side, as if he were just passing me, so my date wouldn’t see me with a guy that looked like him. (Of course I said, “What the fuck are you doing?” and introduced them.) Oh yeah, I just thought of one other guy. New York Mikey. He was a homeless guy that we gave a Good vibes always shirt to in my bar. Always wore a Yankees cap. He would clean up the place after hours, usually stay drunk all the time, and we gave him a room upstairs that became a sort of nest of bottles and dirty blankets. Never showered. I think the shock would have killed him. He was one of the gang, though he was often quiet and aloof. At times, I would make efforts to “help” him. Rehab, education, whatever. But I would talk to the people who knew him best and they would just shake their heads. “He doesn’t want to change.” So I let it go. I’m pretty sure he’s dead by now. When you own a neighborhood bar, you get used to watching people die. Some quickly, some slowly.
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So to Christmas…first the tree at least 3 weeks out cause it makes the house smell soooooo good. Most my friends grumble about trees…too messy…too much bother…but when they come to my house they smile. Of course I have to talk at least one into coming with me and by the time we’re home they are dying to decorate. I decorate at night to get the 7 strings of lights just right then to the decorations which I’ve had for ages and remember each one…where I was when I got it or who gave it to me but the best the ones from my childhood. Tinsel…most people think it’s too glitzy and very messy, but that’s the point isn’t it? So to the presents…I wrap each one differently according to their favorite colors, and as usual I try to use real ribbons…more vintage and yummy. This year I bought everyone I know Chinese Sky Lanterns…I think the coolest things on the planet! So to the food…I cook a full turkey dinner…brined and stuffed, mashed potatoes with plenty of butter and Good vibes always shirt, peas with sauteed mushrooms and pearl onions and of course lots ’o’ butter…it’s Christmas so let’s pig out, besides, it’s all about the leftovers! Actually I do this every Thanksgiving if I’m by myself or a boat load of people show up. It’s a tradition I’ve done for years so I usually get a boat load of people! Christmas dinner my best friend and I put our heads together and come up with some extravaganza because she doesn’t like turkey…this year we had roast ham with all the trimmings and those silly English crackers (because she’s British) that you pull, they pop and have prizes inside including the paper crowns which we all wore!
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One fall, 1970, my family went through a very rough time. My parents welcomed the birth of their third and last child and buried her just a week or so before Christmas. I was 6 and my sister was 4. We lived way up in the high Sierras in California and that winter it dumped snow like crazy! We would have been snowed in except that Dad and two other men shoveled a path connecting 8 houses and then 1/2 mile down to the county road. The county didn’t plow up our one lane road, and ended their plowing just beyond our road, plowing what was in effect a “parking lot” for our cars and trucks. My dad stands 6ft. 4 inches, and the snow went almost to his armpits, so it was difficult to see him and the neighbors as they worked, except for all the snow that they sent flying off to one side of themselves and the other! Everything brought in from shopping, and Good vibes always shirt mail, meant snowshoeing/ skiing up and down that path with a sled and wooden box in tow. Both Mom and Dad brought groceries and mail to the other folks living up there because all the other residents were elderly. They even helped make sure those folks got any thing they needed and to any appointments they needed to go to. My parents had shopped a little for Christmas because they didn’t us go without a gift. The thing was, we didn’t have a tree up because they were shoveling us out nearly every other day (it was constantly dumping snow on us!) and they all were worn out.
I accompanied Sarah* to the studio. It was my first time in a recording studio, and it was amazing. Sarah somehow convinced me to record too, “just for fun”. The sound engineer clapped her hands together and informed me she was using my vocals and that I had an amazing voice. We sang again and again that night. I think we recorded 32 vocal tracks in total! Harmonies, layers, crowds talking effects – we had so much fun. We emerged from the studio after midnight, and turned on our phones. We’d been away from the rest of the universe for hours. We discovered then that Obama had won the election and Romney had lost.