Very merry happy holidays. It’s the fag-end of
2017, the annus horribilis that saw me narrowly escaping eviction from my home;
Brought my first, and, I guarantee, my last, summons in the name of Her Majesty The Queen to Estreat Court (a special royal garden party, but without the fruity hats and crustless sandwiches, for those who’ve put up bail for their loser friends—only to have the loser friends break their conditions of bail, leaving them at large, and us, their hapless gaolers, in the Superior Court of Justice, undergoing public humiliation for our idiocy in believing that anything would change, ever);
And, naturally, or my name ain’t Murgatroyd McGraw, continued my death-by-roommate via a graduating class of seven new specimens so feckless, so untruthful, so institutionalized in their freaky, senseless behavior and coddled pre-teen expectations, that it’s either a case of
a. I have the world’s worst bad judgement, or
b. I’m the problem and should probably move out.
(It wouldn’t be the first time that I’ve thought: maybe it’s ME. Or, as expressed by the last roommate, who—having been taken on in order to help me pay the rent on time, never paid the rent on time, then absconded on November 3rd having paid no rent—texted me and said:
“Stop blaming everyone else for your problems”.
You know, and can I just say, seriously. I’m NOT blaming him or anyone for my problems, which are as the stars in the heavens, so numberless they be. I AM blaming him for HIS problem, which is not paying the rent on time.
Two thousand seventeen was the year of a whole new cast of fairy-tale characters, Germanic as genocide and grimmer than Grimm: der Führer des neuen amerikanischen Reiches, Herr TRUMPF and his gnädige Frau Melania; and, as the corresponding Shakespearean low-comedy couple, though it’s hard to see how much lower you could get: Wicked Killary, who eats dead babies for tea in her root cellar, naked, seated on a pile of moist, yellowing e-mails; and Obama Satanica, black as coals at midnight, who fucks the babies to death for her with his scaly, forked devil-dick.
I ask you. Could anything be more plausible? Now, eat your spinach or they’re coming to get you.
It was the year when Truth raised its fuzzy little newborn head, took one look at the orange glow emanating from the Oval Office and died in its cot, and when the real news was more unreal than the fake; a year when child molestors ran cheerfully for office while every third male in the civilized world was unmasked as nothing more than a small, unruly penis dragging along an eight-armed sociopath; and the year, though it feels so very much longer, when Bernie Sanders flailed his arms a lot and blamed everyone else for his problems.
(Hint to Bernie: It’s your fucking dandruff, you deal with it.)
Meanwhile it’s cold as fuddle-duddle in Toronto, North Korea keeps saying “war”, with the same unnerving conviction as a two-year-old calling everyone “dada”, and it’s our first white Christmas in a few years.
For the White House, it’s the first Whitey Christmas in a while, too; because, hallelujah, Trump has reinstated Christmas, snatched the twenty-fifth December—originally, I believe, a pagan solstice celebration—from the dark, heathen hands of Hussein and “Mike”.
Don’t bother to point out that the Obamas had a Christmas tree, offered Christmas good wishes and Christmas prayers and all the Christmas trimmings every year for eight years, with no interruption. The Facebook commenters are adamant: “It’s so good to see a Christmas tree in the White House again!”
Every fucking one of them. It is astonishing, and not a little frightening, to see a bunch of people so convinced against all evidence to the contrary—real, tangible, watch it, listen to it, touch it evidence, on video, on the net, in print—of a complete lie.
Even, presumably, the guy who gushed: “It’s so wonderful to see the Negativity Scene [sic] in our nation’s capital again!”
You couldn’t make shit like that up.
White Christmas. Genuine, ankle-to-knee-deep snow,
howling Wuthering Heights wind at night, at sunrise snow-silence and at the horizon a veil of pink and blue.
People don’t like snow any more, because it’s inconvenient, it requires work, it slows you down. They don’t get snow: snow on pine trees, snowmen, snow angels, packin’ snow for Roberston Davies’ snowball fights; and fluffy, fresh snow like icy down, each flake, yes it’s true, every single billionth one a different, perfect crystal.
They don’t get winter: Have they never heard tree branches glazed with thick transparent ice creaking like tall ships in the wind, never squinted in pain from the diamond ferocity of light reflecting off a kajillion flakes piled high as a nine-year-old, never tried to open the front door in the morning to find snow has drifted two-thirds of the way up and felt that anarchic, school’s-cancelled joy?
People die in the snow. That’s also true.
As a child, you awaken one morning, maybe in November, to ethereal silence and silvery light: snow, you think, with a little thrill, and you rush to the window to confirm your prediction, see the cherry tree by moonlight cast indigo shadows on steel-blue drifts. It takes an hour to get dressed for school, in the semi-dark, and your mother makes porridge—oatmeal or Red River or Cream of Wheat—and you walk to school like a plump little Michelin man, you walk to school by yourself, and at lunch time you come home and have Campbell’s tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich.
They don’t get winter, any more than they get that you don’t eat turkey at Easter or asparagus in December, or that you don’t need “rapid oatmeal” made in the microwave which takes the same time as cooking it on the stove, but less attention and care;
They don’t get that you don’t respond to an invitation to dinner with, “I don’t know, what are you making?” (It’s not about “dinner”, lughead, and I’m not McDonald’s; it’s about spending time with each other, but the concept of “other” doesn’t register with you, and your mind immediately goes to: “what’s in this for me?”);
They don’t get that you don’t respond to “Thank you” with the rejoinder “no praaaahblem!”
My long-suffering friends reading this can go powder their noses, but if you’ve just arrived: Can I tell you my praaaahblem with “no praaaaahblem“?
I say to you, “Thank you.” I’ve offered something to you: acknowledgement that you’ve made an effort, perhaps even a small sacrifice, for my comfort. Graciousness.
You say to me, “You’re welcome.” You’ve offered something back to me: “What I did was not a burden, it was a pleasure.” Graciousness back, “you” and “you”. A circle of grace, each person focused on the other.
But say to me, “No praaaaahblem!!” and the circle does not complete. “It was no problem [for ME”]. It was not a problem, to do what I did. So you got lucky this time. But what I did has nothing to do with you. Maybe someday – it will be a problem, so watch yourself, Murgatroyd.”
The primary Canadian personality trait is fortitude.
We don’t expect leadership by default, universal deference, or prizes for the biggest, tallest, best. We don’t expect the world to jump at our command or dance to our tune.
We expect to survive.
The oldest of us, which would include me these days, know that the rhythms of nature are tsunamis that, indifferent to our preposterous schedules and self-importance, erase human certainty.
With one good blast of snow, one nostril-searing sniff of icy air, one three-hour traffic jam, cancelled flight or broken ankle, you are permanently relieved of
the touching belief that everything is about you.