Saturday, December 25 2021
location: rural Hurley Township, Ulster County, NY
To begin her day, Gretchen self-administered a coronavirus rapid-test. It works like a pregnancy test (something whose results I've never eagerly anticipated), though it does take fifteen minutes to get the results. While Gretchen was waiting for that, I happened to see that a line at formed at the C, which (confusingly) means you don't have covid (or coronavirus). What you don't want is a line forming at the T. Gretchen took this as a sign that she no longer had to quarantine, even though she would still need to pass a second test to be reasonably certain that she was coronavirus-free.
Meanwhile, I was wrapping my unwrapped presents and putting them under our Christmas mirror. (Gretchen had put a string of LED lights around our entranceway mirror in a nod to Powerful's Christmas traditions.) Eventually Powerful got up and we had our gift opening in the living room in front of a nice hot fire in the woodstove.
Powerful has been recuperating from his heart transplant and has been told to stay away from retail businesses, so he hadn't been able to do any Christmas shopping. So he was the recipient of most of the gifts. And you already know what I was giving Gretchen and Powerful, so the only mysteries were what Powerful and I would be getting from Gretchen. The first present opened, Gretchen's ring light, was well-received, and that made me tell Powerful to hold off on opening the present that I knew to be a ring light so there wouldn't be two opened one after the other. Gretchen had filled four different socks with the usual goodies (though there were fewer of them, since her coronavirus quarantine had limited how much shopping she could do). She'd also been forced to flavor cashews herself, as she'd been unable to obtain those. Also, perhaps for the first time in at least twenty (if not thirty three) years, I received no Christmas booze. I did, however, get a nice "tactical" box cutter that came with a blade that locked in both the closed and open positions. Also, for the first time ever, Gretchen got me socks made of a thin material; I'd told her at some point this summer that I actually don't like thick socks and that even Bombas are too thick.
Powerful seemed delighted with the painting I'd made of him at Black Lives Matter Plaza, though Gretchen was clearly unhappy with the depiction I'd made of her with Harry the Dog. "Is that really me?" she asked. "Do you think you look 'tarded?" I asked. She did. She also thought I'd made her look fat. "How could you want to be married to someone who looked like that?" she asked. It was good she was being so honest; I feel like she's loved some truly horrendous paintings I've painted, and it's impossible to always paint winning paintings. This is particularly true when one is painting a portrait of someone and giving it to that person. Everyone is intimately familiar with his or her own face and self-conscious about attributes nobody else has ever noticed. In this way, portraits experience the same "uncanny valley" effect familiar from artificial intelligence. I told Gretchen that maybe I'd try to improve the painting later.
Gretchen's big present for me this year was a handmade coupon featuring twelve hearts: one each for twelve different arguments that I could immediately end by invoking the coupon. I'd jokingly suggested this as a gift idea, and Gretchen had followed through on it. For the rest of our gift opening this morning, I kept threatening to invoke my coupon, particularly about matters related to the "'tard Gretchen" painting I'd painted for her.
Gretchen had also prepared stockings for Powerful that included little treat and homemade spiced cashews. Her biggest present for him were a pair of fleece-lined Crocs similar to a pair she'd recently gotten for herself that have made her very happy. I still exclusively wear Crocs I got during and before 2005, and they haven't changed much. The only noticeable difference is that the new ones appear to have more (but smaller) ventillation holes. And the fleece is a totally new feature. As for Powerful, I don't know how happy he was about the Crocs. He likes footwear, but it's important for it to be fashionable and often brightly-colored. These Crocs were, well, Crocs. And they were black.
By this point, we'd all added some Baileys Almande to our coffee. Evidently there is no known restriction on alcohol for Powerful, and he'd taken an extra dose of insulin for the french toast Gretchen had made him (which he ate with a bunch of syrup). Powerful still has temporary diabetes until he is weaned completely off of transplant-related steroids.
For the Jewish part of our Christmas celebration, the plan was to watch the star-studded sci-fi downer Don't Look Up, which I downloaded using bittorrent, and to get Chinese food from C Gourmet (the mediocre Chinese restaurant out on Albany or Ulster Avenue).
Gretchen placed the order, and then we drove over to pick it up. But evidently a lot of people were celebrating Jewish Christmas this year (which is usually a lot safer than a conventional Christmas in a pandemic), because orders were way backed-up when we arrived. We sat around for awhile in the front waiting area. But then that became a little too crowded with other people waiting to pick up their orders. So then Gretchen went to take the dogs for a walk and returned maybe fifteen minutes later. Still our order wasn't done. Then I waited outside for awhile, never even taking my mask off because it was keeping my face warm (though it wasn't especially cold out). Eventually our food came out, but by then the waiting area was crowded with people, some of whom weren't even wearing masks. (Sometimes Gretchen publicly shames such people, but that takes a lot of psychic effort, and she didn't have it in her tonight.)
We ate our Chinese food while watching Don't Look Up, as the protocol with a take-out Jewish Christmas is to eat the Chinese food while watching the movie. Don't Look Up was well-acted and had a lot of great moments, but it was perhaps a bit strident and every now and then it would verge into the unnecessarily absurd, such as when Leonardo DiCaprio's character stops his car in the middle of the street to look up and see the comet that is coming to destroy our world. Instead of the other motorists being angry, though, they get out and look up as well. It's beautiful, but it's also absurd and deeply unrealistic. One particularly beautiful technique is how clips of random bits of nature are interspersed with more pertinent footage, especially as the death-dealing comet draws closer. This is to remind us what a profoundly beautiful and innocent place our world still is and what a tragedy it would be if anything were to happen to it.
The movie ends with some deep science fiction that Gretchen found plausible and that I found absurd but still comically brilliant. But even that is topped by the final scene that comes after the credits roll. It's all obviously an allegory about climate change and the coronavirus, rubbing our noses in the people who refuse to see the clear evidence of danger. (Their "lock her up" is "don't look up," literally a demand that people refrain from seeing the obvious danger that is coming for us.)
Powerful and Neville and a coffee table full of open presents.
Ramona and Powerful this morning.
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