For God’s Sake, Don’t Look in Your Stocking

Twenty-twenty has been just one ginormous lump of coal


Remember when you were a kid, you used to get The Christmas Talk? Be a good girl, a nice boy, or Santa will put a lump of coal in your stocking.

And you just rolled your eyes.

A lump of coal! What kind of child-abusing scumbag would do a thing like that? As it turned out, Santa was a hoax. Your mom bought the presents and your dad put up the tree. Your mom and dad were an undercover crime duo, like Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers (and, somewhere in the mix, a cute dog.) You found out the truth about Santa at school, during recess.

It was like the last moments in the final scene of Wozzeck, the German expressionist opera by Alban Berg. Marie, the slut, has been murdered by Wozzeck, the pitiful put-upon Everyman antihero. In the final scene, Marie’s child is rocking on a hobby horse, and a bunch of older children go running past him.

“Hey! Your mother’s dead!” shouts the spokeschild for the group, a vicious little twerp who should probably not apply for a job as singing telegram delivery boy.

Hop! hop! replies Marie’s child. Hop! hop! He’s only three, too young to comprehend. It’s one of the most pathetic, heart-rending scenes you’ll ever witness on a stage.

Likewise you and Santa. You’re at recess and Billy Scruggins shouts: Hey! There’s no Santa Claus! and you hold back your tears like a little soldier. No way you’re going to tell mom and dad. God knows how they’d take it! You gotta let them keep some illusions, after all.

Anyway. First in your stocking: Are you ready for The Vaccine and its <Hammond Organ chords> sinister microchip? I know you heard about that on Facebook, the obvious destination for straightforward, factual reporting. They’re going to inject us with a vaccine that contains this electronic Trojan horse. The authors of that video mashed up interviews with Bill Gates and various politicians and edited them to create the impression that they were saying shit they actually didn’t say, and had taken things they did say out of context.

I know you guys watched this one hundred billion times and then sent it to a hundred billion friends. You bought it, because we all have confirmation bias, meaning we don’t seek out the truth. We seek out voices that confirm our beliefs, so we can feel social cohesion with people who are just as stupid as we are. That’s more important than the truth, apparently, in an evolutionary sense.

Man, the truth is a lonely place. I know how Galileo must have felt when he threw a grown-up conservative and a tiny child conservative out of the highest window of a tower: relieved that there was one less grown-up and potential grown-up conservative around.

To his surprise, they hit the ground at the same time, something to do with mass and velocity and towers and gravity, which is handy to know, so that when you have a bit of spare time you can defenestrate conservatives as efficiently as possible.

Try to pay attention for this next bit. It’s important.

So, Murgatroyd McGraw. The microchip is on the vial of vaccine. The microchip is not in the vaccine. What is wrong with you? It’s on the vial and it’s like the best-by date. It’s not in the vaccine, to be injected into you so it can control you and watch your every move. What a ridiculous, paranoid idea!

We have your phone for that.

Crazy right-wingers think Justin Trudeau is planning a coup along with a bunch of other socialists. If you don’t get the vaccine you’ll be put in a camp, and if you do get it—you’ll be microchipped.

Guys. Justin can’t even manage to track down pics of himself in blackface and destroy them (it’s possible he didn’t even remember they existed). Justin can’t even manage to recuse himself and walk out of a room to save a student intern program, a beloved Canadian charity and his mother’s honor. Well, admittedly, it’s hard to walk wearing ankle chains. Jeezus.

We’ve got to stop trying to up the crazy to U.S. levels. Our heart just isn’t in it.

Except, maybe, Conservative hearts. Erin O’Toole, Canada’s bald, blustering bad-boy and Conservative leader, is on Justin’s case about delivery of the vaccine. Just imagine his angry voter base:

“The PM is late with our vaccine programs! Incompetent!” 
“I know, right? I wish he’d hurry up so we can refuse to take it as soon as we possibly can. Time is of the essence!”

Are we following the protocols? Schools in, school’s out! Wear your mask! Close your restaurant! Stay at home! Don’t wear your mask! Deal with this open assault on your freedom! Open your restaurant! Take off your mask! Go to school!

I just don’t get all the fuss and protest. All we have to do is follow the simple, clear, consistent instructions!

Reliable stats show that it’s not schools that are vectors of transmission. That’s because ten-year-olds understand what to do. It’s the adults who are complete fucktards about it.

No, wait. It’s the Young People who are causing all the ruckus. Imagine, going to the beach when we’re in the middle of a pandemic that so limits your already useless life that all you can do is go to an open restaurant, where you punch out the hostess because the bitch asks you to wear a mask; drive across the American border in the stale-weed atmosphere of your eighteen-wheeler; or invite “ten people” (nudge, wink), guaranteed all perfectly socially distanced, to the Mah-jongg tournament in your living room.

I know that beaches have wide open spaces and salubrious breezes off the lake; living rooms are Corona petri dishes with closed windows, patchouli oil burners and more CO2 than a Pepsi bottling plant, all crammed into a hundred square feet, but still. Those whippersnappers at the beach! Have Young People no sense of community?

The economy is important. So, your grandma died. That sucks, but after all, what’s so unique about your grandma that we can’t get from any random old woman at the Sunset Lodge?

That’s what happens with old age, you know. Your features melt and stretch and sag; if you’re a female you grow a beard and if you’re male your penis shrivels up and your body gets all soft and you grow boobs. Mother Nature is turning you back into clay. Your features blur into a doughy Everyperson. You’re like a marble cake, swirls and veins of all humanity and every gender. (Plus, somewhere in the mix, your cute dog with the cataracts.)

Dude, I mean, it’s a shame, but—the economy! What, are we going to tell Elon Musk that he can’t buy Paraguay now, because of your cake mix of a grandmother? And not even Duncan Hines cake mix — No Name. Generic! As if you’d even notice if we substituted the lady in the next room at the hospice!

And she had a good life, which she sacrificed—admittedly without a lot of consultation—so Tim Hortons workers can stay out of the rain and pour your triple-triple. If you miss her from time to time, you know what? Just watch a couple episodes of Golden Girls. It’ll take the edge off.

What’s really important is that you listen to politicians, not scientists. Scientists! What a slippery slide-y lot! One day Fauci’s telling you that the universe revolves around you, and the next day? He flip-flops. Masks are good, masks aren’t so good; the earth’s flat, the earth’s round, yada yada. Truth never changes.

Listen to Doug Ford. There’s a man who knows what’s what, speaks his mind. He knows what’s important to fund, what to cut. One stop shop for all the definite answers. I hope he gets the Governor General’s Macaroni Picture for Turning Up to Work.

Life in the U.S. is back to its normal mode in which Americans vote for the reality they want.

And Americans Have Had Their Say! Sixty percent of them believe kindly Joe, and what you wanna bet the Dems will win ONE of the two seats in the Senate they need?

Forty percent believe Trump won the election. Most Republicans, in fact. I actually kind of admire that. I mean, to believe his allegations requires quasi-religious devotion, once it sinks in that the President of the United States baldly lied about basically everything several times a day for four years, and now is attempting to annul a democratic presidential election which even Republicans have vouchsafed is the most transparent in living memory, with not a hint of irregularity.

But Trump says “fraud” and they stand at attention, armed and ready. Can you blame them for believing him? I can’t. Because what would it say about them, if they admitted they’d been stupid enough to elect someone who lies as a form of aerobics? That they’d elected someone who you could literally not trust a single thing that came from his mouth?

Of course they believe him! They have no choice. They’ve invested too much time and energy and army tank rental costs. It’s like waiting for the bus and it gets to be twenty, thirty, forty minutes. Now you have to keep waiting for the bus.

That’s seventy million little faces screwed up in concentration, demonstrating the power of prayer. Did anyone see the witch on TV? The Republican witch who chanted for Angels to bring in the era of Trump?

“Owchta-magowchta, archangel of Omaha, I invoke thee!”

I’m not making this up, you know.

Is this your new life, then? Sighing wistfully with your nose pressed against the window pane in between bouts of slutty virtual sex with strangers on Zoom? Be careful, lest you appear in a business meeting, as I did last week, with your slutname blazing in hundred-watt bulbs: Good morning, errr, KinkySeniorDude! Happy to onboard you for Shopify!

Be honest. Are you not actually rather enjoying life repurposed as an amateur roadshow of Mad Max 12: Loo Paper Apocalypse?

(After the Mad Max franchise, pretty boy Mel—“Shyla” to his friends—went on to create pretentious biblical homo-epics in Aramaic, but turns out that Jesus, whipped till he pops a woody then nailed to the Cross in a designer loincloth, is just a different, more self-righteous version of that fruity gay bottom in “Road Warrior,” who gets banged by a biker then scalped with a boomerang thrown by a retarded dwarf.)

Tell Uncle David. Do you talk these days mostly in shrieks and sobs, like a Dementor? Is there anything left of your dignity—remember dignity? Yeah, neither do I—intelligence or giving a toss about climate change? Or even an underwear change?

Does the thought of one more loaf of homemade bread make you vomit, then laugh like Vincent Price?

Are you starting to wonder if the Earth really is flat, are you worried that Santa’s real, but too fat to fit down the chimney? Do you even have a chimney? And it doesn’t count, that Heinz baked beans can with both ends cut off, stuck in your campfire under the Gardiner Expressway.

Do you start to notice sinister details, for instance, that “Santa” is an anagram of “Satan”? And that he spends a suspicious amount of time sneaking around after dark, entering your home in a sexually-suggestive Freudian manner and hanging about with an inappropriate demographic?

And when was the last time you saw Stephen Miller wearing a faggy-pedo red pantsuit with white fur trim? OK, and when was the last time you saw Hillary wearing a—right?

We’re in the home run to YouKnowWhatmas. Time for a trillion tedious conservatives with a million followers each on YouTube to complain they’re being censored and to remind us that there’s a War on Christmas.

A war for which I gladly volunteer. In fact, just this afternoon, on my way back from the corner store, I fire-bombed two dachshunds wearing reindeer ears and a little girl licking a candy cane. Then I rounded up some Muslim bro’s, a couple of rabbis, and Richard Dawkins, we all pulled on our football cleats and we jumped on their lifeless bodies, then danced our Hanukkah-Infidel-Atheist Dance of Triumph while singing our new anti-nativity carol: Away With the Manger!

Christmas, Schmistmas! Stamp that sucker OUT!

Three hundred and forty-one thousand deaths so far in the US, half the population is rioting with the other half about putting on a little mask to love thy neighbour as thyself, but—fuck that bullshit! We want Christmas, you know? The kind that has a sale afterwards.

My mind is as muddled as my mother’s mincemeat tarts, which appeared every year around November, gag-full of glacé fruit, hard chunks of bitter citrus peel and currants, which are extra-dry raisins with a single particle of sand in the centre, just for a treat. All suspended in something brown and viscous. Was it HP Sauce? Her lips are sealed tight as the lid of her coffin, but I’ll bet you Bitcoin to Timbits there was something nasty in that chaotic mix.

Pine-Sol? A distinct possibility. That woman would have vacuumed her bush, not a bad idea if you consider the likelihood of cobwebs, so the idea of a cleansing flush of Christmas cheer must have occurred to her at some point. Would you like your gastric chemical peel in lavender or rosemary?

Stocking stuffers are the best part of Christmas. You can buy any old tat, shove it into what looks like a red-flannel deep-vein thrombosis cuff and no one can complain. My mother used to tell me that, in her day, when buffalo roamed where we now have semi-naked loony bin rejects living under jumbo anoraks in derelict parks, she would get an orange in her stocking.

An orange! Hand-picked by slaves then schlepped via carrier pigeon to the northern wilds of Huntsville, Ontario, I have no doubt!

But I could never feign the correct response to this story, full of respect and appreciation for the simplicity of times long ago-ago-y. I’d stay silent, but my mental response was always more like: Wow! You used to crave the fruit that’s common as dirt! Oranges, trailer-trash of the citrus world. What a loser!

It’s like when I recount yet another wonder of the olden days to a millennial; how music came on shiny discs that ceased to function with the merest scratch or smudge, how we used to handle them with white gloves, like the family silver, and rub them from the centre outward with alcohol gel before turning them into ashtrays at twenty-five dollars each, with the implication that this was better than Spotify.

Or check your stocking for a pomegranate, hard to navigate at the best of times, due to the one-half micromol of delicious juice that’s trapped, an afterthought, in the membrane surrounding each of a thousand tongue-puckering astringent seeds. My mother told me that she would pick them out with a pin. When the sheer delight of that palled, she would, ever resourceful with the two resources at hand, run up to the nearest outcropping of Canadian Shield and peel off thin sheets of mica.

This was her version of dolls, just like my grand piano and antihistamines were my version of a mother actually loving me and tucking me into bed. Ah, her incomparable apple pie, which to this day I insist should be served still warm from the oven, with a botched suicide, or at least the threat of one if you’re pressed for time. Please note: you can’t stick your head in a microwave. Best wait until Sunday dinner, when you already have the gas range open.

Pins. She must have conferred at least once with her mother-in-law, Ruby Roddis, née Campbell, who once showed me what appeared to be a five-foot long pin with a pink pearl on the end—a hat pin. This object, she teased, with what I suppose she mistook for an air of scampy mischievousness, held her hat on her head because she pushed it right into her scalp.

Grandmothers are supposed to be all pink and white, with silver hair and rosy apple cheeks and twinkling eyes, smelling of Elizabeth Arden. Mine was a character they cut from the script of Hellraiser because the test audiences fainted. When it gets close to Easter I still wake up sobbing, if I ever get to sleep in the first place.

At our house at 908 King Street, Whitby, we apostates started the custom of opening our presents on Christmas Eve. This was supposedly to relieve the suspense and stress of waiting for the morning, in a sense true, but not because of me and my two sisters.

The suspense was in anticipating the moment when my mother’s face would slowly implode with disappointment that her presents did not demonstrate the full measure of thoughtfulness, attention and love that she needed on a minute to minute basis, her need now amplified by comparing the value of her presents with her kids’. You got the Arnold Palmer Table Golf set, but I only got this lousy Liberty scarf! Paid for with my own money!

That’s probably when I learned my first life lesson: That in any situation or relationship, at any given moment, someone has to be the designated adult. Also known as: don’t all be sick on the same day. Last year, when I decided to take adulthood for a tentative spin, this bit of Cheetos wisdom made for a bit less work.

At six years old it was definitely a stretch, but still. Compared to my mother I was Moses and a couple of Elijahs teaching Kabbalah on Masterclass.

The end of year, that lame-duck run up to a dutiful celebration of more stuff we don’t need and more food to throw away, has always been a sated anticlimax. Nothing could have lived up to those promises of beaming adorable children and bowdlerized saints, the unbearable burden of enforced good cheer and mandatory happy endings.

The gift I had so desperately wanted? Just the sight of it filled me with loathing. I felt like a trainee terrorist who’d held my parents hostage. There was no surprise, no imagination, no delight, just a cowed payment of ransom: a trinket that advertising had made irresistible. I felt sick, like I’d unfairly leveraged my position as Son Who Must Be Placated.

And my family’s squeamishness about any physical expression of feelings meant that we didn’t know how to respond, even for the dime-store, jokey gifts, the dinky toys and silly putty and Mr Potato Heads. My family was three kids, a sicko and an absent dad; three de facto adults, a child and a renegade. There was no model for saying “thanks” clean of subtext, need or passive-aggressive revenge.

Every word had a cutting edge, every emotion an agenda. Embraces were the fumblings of Stepford Wife arms and clunking Tin Man lips, negative skills gleaned at the tight-assed WASP academy where the curriculum taught resentful gossip, not face-to-face discussion; anxious clutching, not genuine hugs.

Our only template in this Miss Manners-free universe was my mother’s palpable disappointment and sighed refrain of “Oh, well, then. That’s nice, thank you, dear.” After all, it’s the thought that counts—for nothing.

She would have reacted the same if we’d gifted her with a Liberty scarf or our dirty underwear. “Oh well. Let’s launder this dirty underwear then make a resentful reference to it three months from now, while I’m serving dessert!”

I wanted to hug my mom, if only she had been a different mom, someone who wasn’t a narcissistic borderline personality with an emotional age of eight who assumed the world had been expressly designed as a focus group about her. But, alas! As I reached through the two-way mirror and gingerly wrapped my reluctant arms around her bony sparrow’s frame, I’d find she’d shape-shifted into Richard Nixon.

Which reminds me. Did you know that Trump was going to play this game? Of course you did, and while you’re here, is any one of you about to say, “But he did some really good things for the economy!” or something else from that tolerant place where everyone has some redeeming qualities?

Because you can spare yourself the effort. Sure, he might have redeeming qualities, but do they outweigh “puts kids in cages”? Maybe he’s nice to Melania occasionally, does that offset using a phony charity to fund his campaign? Or trying to deny desperate Americans affordable healthcare during a pandemic? Criminals may send flowers to their moms, but, once convicted, we still put them in prison. They’re still a danger to society. You see?

I’m not Trump’s bestie. I’m not comforted by his pardoning a turkey or even Roger Stone. I’m an alarmed citizen of Canada, the best bro’ of the U.S. since forever, and I see what Trump has wrought in terms of lowering the tone on a global scale. Trump did not cause the sickening decline in U.S. values, yet he modeled them and gave them credibility. He gave hatred and serial Big Mac eating his imprimatur. He was the carnation in the lapel of fascism.

A company is only as good as its CEO. The values and vision at the top are reflected throughout the organization. Trump has furthered the dumbing down of America. He’s taught his base that the rule of law doesn’t matter, not that he or his base actually understand what that means; he’s demonstrated that you can and should get away with whatever you think you can get away with, because even if it’s not everything it’s a helluva lot more than you thought.

And isn’t he the one! He’s got away with rape, theft, adultery — which, if you think about it, should mean “any old stuff that adults do” — lying, fraud, and the worst sin of all: being a bore.

Trump “stacked” the Supreme Court, and though he may win back the support of rabid Christians by throwing them an abortion bone, he is in for a surprise.

He already had two with DACA and LGBT equality: Roberts led the way recently by handing Trump the opposite of what he was seeking. Justices and lawyers may have their legal opinions and interpretations, but none so far in the U.S. has gone the full 1984 “war is peace slavery is freedom” route. They still revere justice, which involves a search for truth and fact. They still balk.

At time of writing, Trump and the state of Texas, along with sixteen others, have applied to the Supreme Court in an effort to nullify the results of a Presidential election which have been certified by most states as the most secure, reliable and free from chicanery in U.S. history. Even William Barr, sleaze-bag pimp to the Justice Department, has told him to move on (he’s since moved on himself).

You know what this means, don’t you? Of course. We’re actually witnessing history’s laziest, lamest attempted coup d’état.

A very Merry Whatsmas to All. Don’t forget to send a big tax break to Jeff Bezos and to blame something, anything, on Justin. Did you know he’s Castro’s love child?

Suddenly, it all makes sense.


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