I’ve been up for about an hour, just long enough to see Mrs. M off to the Y, check the Book of Faces, and listen to a little music. Meanwhile…
In my years in the magazine biz, I typically would save my vacation time so that I’d have the time between Christmas and New Year’s off, and before the Spawn arrived, Mrs. M and I often would go to Toronto for our vacations at that time. (Mrs. M would have the time off because she was on the academic calendar even then, as she was finishing her degree.) One such instance was our honeymoon, in December of 1993. We had gotten married in October, but since the delayed vacation would buy us a couple of “free days” in the form of Christmas and New Year’s Days, we did it that way.
In any case, we arrived in Toronto on the evening of Boxing Day, and after checking in at our
flophouse budget hotel (not quite an SRO, but close), we set out to find dinner. As we should have expected, but didn’t, we had very poor luck finding a place to eat — it turned out that a lot of restaurateurs had a similar approach to ours when it came to scheduling vacations. Finally, we found a Chinese place about a block west of Bathurst, next door to a bathhouse (and explaining the, um, social function of those to a naive young woman from the hills of Kentucky made for an interesting conversation as well: “Don’t they have showers at home?”) We entered the restaurant and ordered fried rice.
And that’s when the karaoke started. We saw that the other patrons were five or six Asian men dressed in what struck me as gangster drag — black suits, white ties, that kind of thing — and two or three young women in elegant dresses. And by Harry, they were gonna do karaoke. The language was likely Chinese, although somehow I got the vibe that it was Vietnamese — I don’t know why, as I’m not familiar with either. I remember one of the young women singing a number, the chorus of which (which I saw in Roman type on the karaoke monitor) was “Em, em moi, Hmong em moi.” I have no idea if that means anything, but it’s what I recall. I can still sing those lines, though, as they were blasted into my skull at about 100 db. We all applauded politely after the young woman’s performance was over. Meanwhile, Mrs. M and I scarfed up our fried rice and found our way back to the hotel. And when I think of Boxing Day, as I do now, I always think of a cold night in Toronto, hearing songs in a language I didn’t know.
So yesterday’s Christmas festivities at the Mid-Century Mondohaus went smoothly. The Spawn received a wide variety of beauty-oriented unguents — stuff she wouldn’t splurge on for herself (she’s saving for grad school), but is more than happy to get from us. Mrs. M picked up several tops, a nice robe, and a gift certificate for a spa pedicure. Me, I wound up with about a half-dozen books and a few CDs, which ranged from the relatively common to the, well, arcane. I’ve already read the two Astro City collections I got yesterday (and I stand by my contention that it’s the best superhero comic I’ve read in years), and I’ll finish Nat Segaloff’s bio of Harlan Ellison later today. After that, I have works from Lawrence Block, Jim Thompson, and Richard Matheson to work through. (I have to add that I was delighted to discover that Penguin had published a collected edition of Matheson’s stories. He was a writer who had a very solid career, but I think he was most respected by other writers, and if you only know him for The Shrinking Man or I Am Legend, you haven’t even skimmed the surface. The Penguin edition strikes me as an entirely appropriate display of respect for a brilliant writer who was consigned too long to a critical ghetto as a writer of genre fiction.
I hope your Christmas Day brought you what you want as well, even if it was just (just!) peace and quiet.
I was chatting with a friend in Ohio last night, and she mentioned that they had a white Christmas, having received a couple of inches of snow on the 24th. We actually still have green grass here in Mondoville, but this morning, a friend of mine from Ball State told me that the current wind chill in Muncie is -5 Fahrenheit. As I told her, I’m fond of telling my Mondoville kids stories of Muncie winters as if I were telling them scary campfire stories. “And as I scraped the windshield of Mrs. M’s car, I heard the voice on the radio say, ‘It’s -7 in Muncie this morning, but with wind chill, it’s -17!’ BOO!” All I need is a flashlight to put under my chin.
Of course, Boxing Day is also recognized as St. Stephen’s Day, and that brings me to the song I’ll use to close this installment. I’ve mentioned my fondness for the work of NYC-based songwriter/composer P.T. Walkley on numerous occasions, and this particular song is one of my favorites. I found out that the reference to St. Stephen comes from the fact that he proposed to his wife Michele on 26 December. They remain married, with two lovely sons, and what’s wrong with the occasional happy ending, if only to remind us that they’re sometimes possible?
See you soon!