Pandemic Jewish Christmas
Friday, December 25 2020
Overnight, heavy rains washed away nearly all the snow, leaving us with an unexpectedly unwhite Christmas. The rain continued at times, though there were pauses in it when one could go outside and enjoy temperatures in the low 60s. This was the warmest Christmas I could remember.
The first thing I ate this morning, before anyone else was up, was a piece of my custom pizza from last night. I ate it cold; it's perfectly good that way.
When Gretchen and Powerful were up, we began with an exchange of presents using a mix of my traditions and Powerful's. Mine used to involve a tree chopped down from Pileated Peak, presents, and stockings filled with small items, particularly candy, booze, and art supplies. Powerful's involved a mirror with Christmas lights strung around it, perhaps because in a cramped Brooklyn apartment, or his subsequent foster homes, there was little room for a tree. I had a few wrapped presents for Powerful that I added to the ones Gretchen had put under the entranceway mirror, to which Gretchen had added a chain of white LED lightbulbs that could be controlled by a remote (though none of the modes were what Gretchen wanted: all the bulbs on and not blinking). I also had a few things for Gretchen that I stuffed into a pair of her socks. I'd seen a wonton maker advertised on Facebook and had found it for much cheaper on eBay, though I only had the tool that cuts the round wraps from a sheet pasta, not the one that folds and seals those wraps. I also had some boutique hard cider and a bottle of rosé. For Powerful, I had a special bottle of kombucha, the painting of Celeste, and a foldable lamp like the one I used to read in the bathtub. (Powerful had seen it and expressed interest in getting himself one.)
Gretchen had gotten me the usual mix of things in my socks. There was a fairly small amount of candy, a lot of small canvases, two tins of breath mints from the Unemployed Philosophers Guild: Nikola Tesla's Experimints and Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Judgmints. There was also a bar of "Uranus Soap," which was good for laughs here and on Facebook, though it turned out that it contained goat's milk (#gretchenfail).
Powerful mentioned how hard I am to shop for, which makes sense. I really don't want anything except booze and gadgets, but is there anything I don't already have? Most of what I buy for personal use consists of arcane electronics from China. But he nevertheless found great things for me: a 36-piece magenetic assembly toy called "Big Ball of Whacks" (I love magnetic construction kits!), a little Edvard Munch "the Scream" figurine that screams when you push a button, and Roman Mars' architectural design book the 99% Invisible City. He and Gretchen together chipped in on a large bottle of cognac that Powerful had had to buy from a restaurant, as all the liquor stores he'd gone to yesterday had been closed. Powerful bought Gretchen a number of things, including a press that splits potatoes into french-fry-sized pieces.
Gretchen had made scones and coffee (my first caffeine since Tuesday) and we were having such a great time as we opened presents that it was infectious, causing the the cats Diane and Celeste to chase each other all over the place. At some point Diane found a muliticolor pencil that Gretchen had put in one of my socks and went crazy batting it all over the floor.
This afternoon I went on a stroll through the nearby forest to look at all the temporary streams, particularly the one whose headwaters is the drain from the greenhouse foundation. At some point Gretchen visited the downhill neighbors to drop off some cookies. She came back with the story that the oldest son, the one whom Neville had bitten, had recent written a sympathetic report for one of his school classes about his neighbor who used to be in prison.
This evening was to be the "Jewish Christmas" phase of Christmas, where Powerful and I would participate in Gretchen's Christmas tradition. To prepare for this, I'd downloaded five or six movies using Bittorrent. (It was technically possible to watch some of these movies at the Hudson Valley Mall, but who wants to take that kind of risk during a pandemic?) And then Gretchen ordered a bunch of Chinese takeout from Dragon Garden, a place we hadn't tried before on Lucas Avenue, and Powerful went out to pick it up.
Normally Powerful doesn't participate in our upstairs teevee watching, but he agreed to going through our Jewish Christmas ritual. Our consensus movie was Superintelligence, a Melissa McCarthy vehicle about a post-singularity networked intelligence that becomes self-aware and then chooses to study the character played by McCarthy to iron out its understanding of humans because she is supposedly "the most average person on earth." In the process, the superintelligence places ten million dollars in McCarthy's bank account and drives her around in a gull-wing Tesla. This is all a setup, of course, for a romance with a gentleman McCarthy had broken up with some time before, a man who is about to begin a professorship in Ireland. It was a good choice for a Jewish Christmas movie, with a solid modern comedic sense, often leaving in the edit bits of seemingly-improvised banter after the landing of a punchline. That's part of a comedic sensibility that has really only existed since 2005 or so.
Unusually for Jewish Christmas, we could eat our Chinese food while we watched this movie. Later Gretchen busted open the bottle of rosé I'd given her as gift this morning.
Neville and Ramona playing on the couch after their morning walk in the rain. Gretchen and Powerful are in the kitchen in the background.
Click to enlarge.
Some of the things in my "stockings" this morning.
"The Scream" figurine on a Charles Darwin votive candle Gretchen got me for hanukkah on our menorah. Also visible: the 99% Invisible City and a bottle of cognac.
The outflow of the greenhouse (in the background) this afternoon.
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