Thursday, December 28, 2006

Christmas Blowout

Friday after work I saw my acupuncturist. As he was leaving the room after sticking me full of needles, he asked if it was warm enough. I said another degree or two of heat would be good— “Just don’t melt the chocolate in my backpack.”

On Saturday, Tina and I went to the Rafael theater in San Rafael and saw Lesley Ann Patten’s film Words of My Perfect Teacher, about her Bhutanese teacher of Tibetan Buddhism, Khyentse Norbu. Beforehand, we had dinner at a Chinese restaurant and later we had after-film refreshments and a nice chat. The film was delightful, as was the evening in general. If you’re looking for a good-looking teacher, this is your man. (Is that blasphemous?)

On Sunday afternoon, Christmas Eve, Tom and I took the train to Paul and Eva’s in Sacramento, where gathered Tom’s terrific family and several lucky friends, for a splendid feast cooked by Eva with help from Sarah, and pleasant conversation and candles and a tree and cheery decorations and a mountain of gifts.

I must thank Chris for not saying, “Hey, I thought you were a vegan.” For the holiday, I was following the Buddha’s eating plan, which was that he ate what was offered to him. I trust he enjoyed what he ate as much as I enjoyed Eva’s Christmas Eve dinner.

One of the sauces was made with cranberries and horseradish, which sounds awful, but proved to be quite tasty. I confirmed this via the scientific method of repeated testing.

It was a wonderful evening. Eva described some of Sweden’s Christmas traditions to us. Someone asked her what the analogue is for the lump of coal bad children here get. “What happens when you’re bad in Sweden?” “We’re not bad in Sweden,” said Eva.

This Christmas will be remembered as the one on which someone surprised his wife with a cruise to Alaska, only to end up quite surprised himself when it turned out his wife had gotten him the exact same thing, right down to the itinerary and meal times.

Tom and I spent the night in Steve and Julie’s plush guest room and in the morning, we all went back to Paul and Eva’s to have breakfast and examine the contents of our stockings. The various stocking Santas—five in all—were so generous that the stockings per se had to be left where they were, hanging in front of the fireplace, and replaced by bags.

In the early afternoon, Steve, Julie, Tom and I drove to Mill Valley to see Ann and Mac. In the car, Julie and I made our traditional Christmas phone calls to our loved ones in Michigan. At Ann and Mac’s, we had yummy things to eat and spent the afternoon chatting; some were observed taking peeks at the football game on TV. It was very nice, as always.

Steve and Julie kindly drove me and Tom back to San Francisco before going back to Sacramento. This is also a tradition, and it’s very gracious of them; otherwise, Tom and I would have to have the tradition of sleeping outside the ferry terminal until the next day, or on Ann’s living-room floor.

When I got home Christmas night, I opened a box from my father, which was full to the brim with various cooking-related items: silicone spatulas, scrapers, a box to keep recipes in, tongs, a citrus squeezer and a food chopper. I was very tickled, and, as always, touched by my father’s thoughtfulness. The box always comes with a note (from “Santa”) in green and red print that explains anything about the enclosed items Santa wants the recipient to know.

Christmas Eve was the first night Hammett was alone at home. I was worried he would get up to some mischief and considered keeping him out of the living room, but I didn’t end up doing that, and when I got home, I found he had behaved perfectly. He was rewarded by two gifts from Ann and expressions of approval from his mother.

On Tuesday, I slept until 5 p.m., except for going out to Rainbow for groceries. You’d think I had been on a five-day bender and not merely spent a day or so eating goodies prepared by other people and opening presents, which evidently now requires an entire day of recuperation.

Well, there is nothing nicer to recuperate from. Once again I marveled at my good fortune in making friends with Tom, who brought so many beloved people into my life.

Chris came to town today and he and I and Tom and Sarah had lunch at Henry’s Hunan, the one off New Montgomery. It is an extra-special treat to see Chris, because he is usually so far away.

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