more prizes!

As is traditional, we had our New Years Eve gathering at our friend Peter’s house, where we had yummy food, alcoholic drinks, and great merriment, as well as a gift exchange. Wrenn made cookies for everyone, and we also made a vegetable dish — carrots and parsnips, along with some dried cranberries, braised in vinegar, lemon, mustard, bay leaves, and thyme — and brought Italian bread and fresh mozzarella from Little Italy in the Bronx.

I got some wonderful gifts…..

Because we’re a bunch of drunks, several folks gave us wine. Alexandra got us a Portugese rosé, Aaron & Jen got me a chianti, Susan & Russ gave us a Barolo, and best of all, Peter got us a really really good Montelpulciano.

Because I’m also a nerd, Mike gave me this Eaglemoss model of the Calypso, the Captain’s yacht on the Enterprise, as seen in the movie Nemesis.

Specifically in honor of my shiny new fourth stripe on my black belt, Esther & Walter got me this shirt……

Finally, Dave & Kara got me two amazing gifts. The regular present is a tiger-shaped pillow, because I love tigers, and the other is this absolutely beautiful scroll, also with a tiger, which, like the T-shirt above, was in honor of my promotion to yondan.

A great way to end a very up-and-down year. Let’s hope it’s a good omen for a better 2022…..

prizes!

I got lots of cool presents this year, some of which were paying for various meals and things, but which also included actual things!

Wrenn got me The Bronx River in History & Folklore, which will be a huge help for future Bram Gold stories, and my father got me Douglas Wolk’s All of the Marvels, which I’ve been very curious to read.

ToniAnn and Kyle got us a bunch of wonderful wonderful things, including Keith’s Hot Sauce (REALLY!), an expansion set of cards for the fantastic Happy Little Dinosaurs game (which we first played with TA & K over Thanksgiving weekend), a spoon rest that looks like a ravioli, an animals-in-swimsuits calendar, and a pad of to-do lists, which I can definitely use…..

Helga always renews our memberships to the New York Botanical Gardens and the Wildlife Conservation Society (which includes all five NYC zoos and the New York Aquarium). She also got me some yummy Swiss chocolate!

And finally, Wrenn got me a desperately needed new leather jacket! Don’t I look all Fonzie-ish? (And does everybody get that reference?)

There will more to come, as several dear friends and found family haven’t done gift exchanges with us yet…..

Again I say, Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

44 years of Christmas Eve

Since 1977, Christmas Eve has been celebrated at my parents’ house. Over the subsequent four decades-plus, it’s gone from a huge raucous celebration with extended family to something that really only includes my parents, me and Wrenn, and my aunt/godmother Livia, as other family members have moved away, moved on, or passed away.

Every year, we do a picture in front of the tree at my parents’ house, which we wound up not doing this year, but did do at Livia’s house today, so it’s almost the same thing. Back in 2017, I did a look back at every ten years of the picture, in 1977, 1987, 1997, 2007, and 2017. I did it again for the 8’s in 2018, for the 9’s in 2019, and the zero years in 2020. It’s pretty much a blog tradition, so here we go again for the 1’s…..

In 1981, I was twelve years old. When he was in college, my father’s two best friends were Bert and Joe. While our Christmases were for family, our definition of “family” was always very broad, so Bert joined us for Christmas a few times, including in ’81, along with my twin uncles, Fred and Nat, and their spouses and children.

L.-r.: Bert, Helga (fourth parent), John (third parent), Daddy, Anthony (my maternal uncle’s stepson), Nat (maternal uncle), Mommy, Fred (maternal uncle), Roxanne (Fred’s wife), Jared (Fred & Roxanne’s first kid, eleven months old), ToniAnn (Nat’s wife, Anthony’s mother), and me.

Not in the picture because she took it: Livia (paternal aunt).

In 1991, I was twenty-two years old. Nat has divorced ToniAnn and married Ginny, and also had two kids with her. Fred and Roxanne have had two more kids. Marina and I have been dating since 1987, and are now living together and will be married the following year. I was working as an assistant editor at Library Journal, while Marina was a computer programmer on Wall Street.

This was the first Christmas Eve in my parents’ current house, which they had just moved into two months earlier.

Standing, l.-r.: John, Marina, Helga, my father, my mother, Fred, Nat, Roxanne, Ginny (Nat’s second wife), and Alissa (Nat & Ginny’s older daughter).

On the floor, clockwise from upper left: Blair (Fred & Roxanne’s second son), me, Victoria (Nat & Ginny’s younger daughter), Jared, and Dillon (Fred & Roxanne’s youngest son).

Not in the picture because she took it: Livia.

If this picture looks familiar, it’s because I posted it a year ago as the 1990 picture, except it was the 1991 picture, which I should’ve realized because of where it was taken. I have edited last year’s post with the actual 1990 picture. Sigh.

In 2001, I was thirty-two years old. In the intervening ten years, Marina and I got married, bought a co-op on the Upper West Side, and then split up. In April 2001, I moved in with Terri. By this time, I was a full-time freelance writer. Nat and Ginny had also split up.

Standing, l.-r.: Blair, Roxanne, Fred, Alissa, Helga, my father, my mother, Nat, John, Jared, Livia.

Sitting, l.-r.: Dillon and Victoria

Not in the picture because we took it (we were using two separate cameras for some reason): me and Terri.

I don’t have a picture to post for 2011. That year, I was forty-two years old. Terri and I had split up, and Wrenn and I had moved in together, along with her adoptive brother Dale. That year, in the same spirit as Bert joining us in ’81, another couple joined us as well. Fred and Roxanne had split up by this point, with Dillon having moved to Florida with her. My other cousins had started to drift away, and none of them were there that year (two of them would return in 2012, but that was the last time any of them would join us for Christmas Eve). Nat was now married to his fourth wife Donna, and they spent that Christmas Eve with Donna’s family.

In 2021, I’m fifty-two years old. My mother went through grueling cancer treatment from 2014-2016. Wrenn and I got married in 2017. Dale died suddenly in 2018. By this time, the Christmas Eve celebration only includes the immediate family, and the same group also gathers on Christmas Day at Livia’s. My parents were unable to put up a tree this year (the place where they stored it had sufficient mildew that both my mother and Helga reacted badly to it when they took it out), so we did the tree picture at Livia’s on the Day instead of on the Eve.

L.-r.: Helga, Livia, my father, my mother, John, Wrenn, me.

I want to post one more picture that I should have included in last year’s post: a screen grab of our Zoom Christmas in 2020, which included my aunt Monica and her two daughters, as well as more found family, ToniAnn and Kyle:

Top row, l.-r.: John, my mother, me, Wrenn, my father, Livia, Helga.

Bottom row, l.-r.: Elizabeth (Monica’s younger daughter), Monica (maternal aunt), Laura (Monica’s older daughter), Kyle, ToniAnn, and Professor Zoom.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

joyous Yule!

“The Shortest Day”
by Susan Cooper

So the shortest day came, and the year died,
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive,
And when the new year’s sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, reveling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us — Listen!!
All the long echoes sing the same delight,
This shortest day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, feast, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.
Welcome Yule!

Art by Charles Vess

43 years of Christmas Eve (kind of)

My parents started hosting Christmas Eve for our extended family in 1977, the year after my grandfather died, which also spelled the end of my grandparents hosting it, as my grandmother moved back home to Pennsylvania after she was widowed. At the end of the evening’s festivities, we take a picture in front of the tree.

In 2017, for the 40th anniversary of that tradition’s start, I posted the pictures for 1977 and then every tenth year after that, which I have followed up in 2018 with the pictures for 1978 and every ten years after, and then I did it again in 2019.

This year, thanks to the apocalypse, we did not do the big family Christmas Eve, but we did do Christmas Day over Zoom. However, I want to keep the tradition going, though it’s a bit truncated a) because we didn’t really do it this year and b) we don’t have a copy of the picture from 1980.

I will say that in 1980, I was 11 years old. This was the last Christmas where I would be the only one of my grandmother’s grandkids in the picture, as my uncle Fred’s wife Roxanne was pregnant with their first kid, Jared. (My aunt Monica, who never did Christmas Eve with us after she followed her mother to Pennsylvania, also just had her first kid, my cousin Laura, in the fall of 1980.) My uncle Nat was, by this time, either dating or was married to his second wife, ToniAnn.

In 1990, I was 21 years old, and had the previous May graduated from Fordham University. When this picture was taken, I had been working at Library Journal as an assistant editor for six months. I was still dating Marina, who was in the midst of her graduate work at MIT at this point. Nat and ToniAnn had split up and he had married Ginny, and had two kids with her.

EDITED ONE YEAR LATER: So while doing the 2021 version of this post, I realized that the pictures were mislabeled, and the one I posted for 1990 was actually the 1991 picture. I’ve replaced it with the really-o-truly-o 1990 picture.

L.-r.: Ginny (Nat’s second wife), Alissa (Nat & Ginny’s older daughter), Marina (her head hidden by Alissa), Nat (maternal uncle), Victoria (Nat & Ginny’s younger daughter), my mother, Helga (fourth parent), Jared (Fred & Roxanne’s oldest son), Blair (Fred & Roxanne’s second son), Fred (maternal uncle), Roxanne (Fred’s wife), me, my father, and Dillon (Fred & Roxanne’s youngest son).

Not in the picture because she was taking it: Livia (paternal aunt).

In 2000, I was 31 years old. Marina and I had split up that fall, and I had starting dating Terri. This was her first Christmas with the family, indeed, her first time meeting several members of the family. I was living in Weehawken at this point; Terri and I would move in together the following April. By this time, Nat and Ginny had split up, and Nat was dating a woman whose name I don’t recall two decades later; she had two daughters, who also came along.

Back row, l.-r.: Blair, Helga, Fred, my father, Nat, and John.

Middle row, l.-r.: Livia, Nat’s date’s older daughter, Dillon, Nat’s date’s younger daughter, Victoria, my mother, Nat’s date, and Terri.

Bottom row, l.-r.: Jared, Alissa, and Roxanne.

I’m not in the picture because I was taking it.

In 2010, I was 41 years old. Terri and I had broken up the year before and I started dating Wrenn. She and Dale moved in with me in May of 2010. Fred and Roxanne had split by this time, and Dillon had moved down to Florida with her. Nat was now married to Donna, his fourth wife.

L.-r.: Wrenn, Fred, me, my father, Helga, my mother, Donna, John, Nat, Dale, Jared’s date (whose name I no longer recall), Blair, and Livia.

Not in the picture because he was taking it: Jared.

This year, we didn’t do the family Christmas Eve. I don’t know if we will next year — my parents are older now, and most of the extended family either isn’t local (most of them) or have their own thing on Christmas Eve. On Christmas Day this year, we did do a family thing over Zoom, but we couldn’t really do the picture in front of the tree.

We’ll see what next year brings…..

ALSO EDITED TO ADD ONE YEAR LATER: Here’s a screengrab of our Zoom Christmas for 2020, which included family both biological and found:

Top row, l.-r.: John, my mother, me, Wrenn, my father, Livia, Helga.

Bottom row, l.-r.: Elizabeth (Monica’s younger daughter), Monica (maternal aunt), Laura (Monica’s older daughter), Kyle, ToniAnn, and Professor Zoom.

KRAD COVID reading #90: “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” by Dylan Thomas

A special holiday edition of KRAD COVID readings has me performing one of my favorite pieces of the season: Dylan Thomas’s childhood reminisce, “A Child’s Christmas in Wales.” When I was a kid, we would often listen to a recording of Thomas’s recitation of this after we put the tree up. And now I perform it all for you.

A joyous holiday to you all, whatever you might celebrate, and we’ll see you in 2021.

the shortest day……..

“The Shortest Day”
by Susan Cooper

So the shortest day came, and the year died,
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive,
And when the new year’s sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, reveling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us — Listen!!
All the long echoes sing the same delight,
This shortest day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, feast, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.
Welcome Yule!

Art by Charles Vess

my Sunday feeling

This has been an emotional weekend. Yesterday was the memorial for Dave Galanter. If you missed it, it’s been archived on Dave’s memorial web page, which also has lovely testimonials from people, as well as a donate button if you want to help the family in these troubled times.

That was but one of several Zoom sessions this weekend. Among the others were Saturday afternoon’s karate class, Saturday evening’s poker game, and then this evening, me and several of the black belts in our dojo had a nice gathering. Normally, this weekend would be the annual dojo holiday party, which we obviously couldn’t do. But we had twelve black belts gathered over Zoom — including one person from our Italian branch! — which was lovely.

In addition, Wrenn and I put up our tree! (That’s the picture above.) We went back and forth about doing the tree this year, and then decided we wanted to be as festive as possible, if for no other reason than to celebrate that this shitshow of a year is coming to an end.

Also, I’ve been plugging away at Feat of Clay, the sequel to A Furnace Sealed. I started the book on the 1st of December and twenty days later, I’m 10,000 words in. Not the best pace ever, but not the worst, either.

Christmas is this week, and we’ll be doing it the same way we’ve done everything that involved gathering in groups prior to mid-March 2020: over Zoom. Not perfect, but it’s better than nothing. Honestly, Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts, and Streamyard have saved my sanity this year.

Tonight’s task is to write up “Living Witness,” which will be the final Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch entry for the year, as Tor dot com is taking the last couple weeks of the year off (though I will still be providing reviews of each episode of Star Trek: Discovery when they drop on the 24th and 31st).

How are you all spending your holidays?