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My final essay for my English class

Christmas has always been an interesting holiday for me. Growing up, my family unit consisted of my mother and myself. Every year until I turned 16, the Sunday after school closed for the holidays we would get on a plane and go to Jamaica where my maternal grandparents still lived. My mother would stay up late packing and early on Sunday morning a family friend would swing by and manhandle the two giant suitcase in the back of his car and take us to the airport.

Getting from our house in Trinidad to my grandparent’s house in Jamaica took a day. We would leave our house around 5:30am and drive eastward into the sun towards the airport. The flight was always full and check-in, then boarding felt indeterminable. There were no direct flights from Trinidad to Jamaica and our flight usually had three or four stops which turned a four hour trip into six or seven. The length of the trip was compounded by two problems I faced as a child – the excruciating ear pain pain I would experience on take off and landing and my propensity for throwing up airline meals.

I think the two might have been related but the limited window of the pain and regurgitation did nothing to temper the excitement of seeing my grandparents and participating in one of the best Christmas traditions – making fruit cake or as it’s known in the Caribbean, black cake. Most people hear fruit cake and think of a dry, tasteless log that gets passed from family member to family member like a lodestone, Caribbean fruit cake is completely different animal. The day after we arrived my mother and I would head to the supermarket and purchase the approximately 12-16 combined pounds of fruit, flour, sugar, eggs and butter as well as a large quantity of alcohol. We would then head back to the house where my job was the grind all the fruit – prunes, raisins, currants and into a huge metal bowl that existed only for this purpose.

Once the fruit was ground, my grandmother would pull out another metal bowl and jars of fruit that had been soaking in alcohol from the previous year and we would take turns mixing in the other ingredients until we had cake batter. The current year’s fruit I had ground went into the jars, got liberally covered with white rum and put into the pantry to soak for the next year. Once the batter was made it, the next step was greasing and lining the pans. My grandmother’s cake was the stuff of legend, my mother would take five or six cakes home with us and dole slices out to her close friends and confidantes. My grandfather’s clients and business partners would swing by during the holidays to get a slice. This was our tradition, this is how the holidays truly began for me.

The year I turned 16, my grandfather died and mother strong armed and her mother into moving to Trinidad with us. That Christmas we tried making black cake but somehow my mother managed to fall asleep and let the cakes burn. This became the excuse for a massive fight every year between my mother and grandmother which pretty much turned me off the whole holiday. The Christmas after I emigrated to the US, my wife who loves the holidays, thought it would be a good idea for use to attempt to restart this tradition. After some fits and starts we have finally perfected my grandmother’s black cake recipe. Our new tradition is to make a quarter batch in cupcake molds and share them with friends.

i`ve been gathering my thoughts after the hectic few days that have been this Christmas. firstly, up until Thursday morning, i`d never driven on snow or ice, granted it was measured in inches and not in feet like other parts of the US, it was new to me. our street is one of those lovely tree lined ones your read about in the descriptions of suburbia, what they don`t tell you is that the shaded part prevents the snow and ice from melting fast enough when the sun does come out, so by the end of the day your thaw has re-frozen in to a dangerous ice slick.

the boychick was at his grandmother`s all of last week and it was our intention to drive there on Christmas eve after vic escaped from retail hell, but part of the drive from Nashville to Kingston, TN involves going over the plateau which is dangerous enough in its own right without adding night and ice to the mixture. realising we would also be trapped in our house if we stayed we crashed at a friend`s for the night. i have to say it was one of the nicest Christmas eves of my adult life and quite possibly the start of a new tradition; zombie flicks on Christmas eve. a side note, if you haven`t seen Shaun of the Dead, do, it is hysterically funny, without being excessively gory or campy.

on Saturday morning we made our way to the boychick, my mother in law and other family members for breakfast and exchange of gifts. i now have a large stack of books at my bedside to keep my company including from my wife; Watchmen and a couple Sin City books, George Carlin`s new opus from which i drew the title of this post. Eats, Shoots and Leaves, an autographed first edition of the new John Grisham, Irivine Welsh`s Porno and the new Dean Koontz. in other words i scored. vic also got me the coolest plates from Restoration Hardware which was completely unexpected.

We came back yesterday and had our own Boxing Day celebratory open house  and some much needed rest before i headed back out to work this morning. there isn`t much of anything to do today, so i send my machine in to be serviced. after five calls to apple care and no solution, we; apple care and myself; are theorising i have a serious hardware problem. i`m moved in the office of the most recently departed graphic artist for the time being. this part of the building isn`t served by central heat, but i`m not bothered by the cold enough to go get and turn on the space heater.

snap, crackle, pop

December 15, 2004 — Leave a comment

i got a little perspective on my loathing of the mall and it`s patrons this morning as i was dropping vic to work; we`re a one car household, i`ll touch on that later; i only have to be there twice a day, once early in the morning before i go into work, when it`s mostly patron free except for the people who enjoy the smell of mall in the morning and late at night, again when it`s pretty much patron free. vic spends 14 glorious hours a day there, 12 of which are spent with people who generally have more money that good sense.

i am not a people person, i tend to expect the worse of people in most cases and more so at this time of year. i should try to be more charitable especially considering how nice people have been to me all year, but cynicism is ingrained in me. i`m incredibly proud of vic and honoured to be her spouse, she has tempered me, because she is one of those genuinely nice people. i don`t think i could ever begin to fathom working retail, i don`t have the temperance for it, i can barely deal with client meetings.

the other part of my perspective was as much as i hate the mall, it`s a source of income, we`re not destitute, but we`re living on what we make. no credit cards, just an incredibly tight budget, that just got more interesting this very moment. i`m covered by my office`s health insurance plan and they just cut back on their contribution. looks like 2005 is going to be a doozy.

well that just took the wind out of my sails, i`ll finish this up later.

today is my grandmother`s birthday, as well as my ex wife`s and i`ve made the obligatory calls and i feel a lot better. i`ve been in a sort of Christmas funk for the last few days. i`m not a big fan of the holiday season, i posted about it last year; i think; so i`m not going to get into it again. it`s a little difficult to acclimatise to it, because it`s such a big deal for vic; she and the boychick enjoy a lot of the trappings i tend to sneer at and i don`t want to spoil their enjoyment.

for me it`s more about family and although i`m thrilled to be finally here with vic, i miss my girls. as bad as things have been this is my first Christmas without them. last year i flew home on Christmas eve to be with them. there is no flying anywhere this year and we can`t even afford to think about flying them here.

compounding this, because vic is working retail i have to be at the mall at least twice a day; i firmly believe that Christmas is over commercialised and nowhere is that more prevalent that at the mall; and this mall caters to nouveau riche of Nashville. Country with more money than sense, never good. i believe that during the holiday season conspicuous consumption causes people to lose their minds. everything that was bad year round get worse; driving, decision making and manners particularly.

i think i can manage to get through the rest of this season without leaping out of my car to throttle some mullet wearing, fake boob having, suv driving idiot but only because i don`t think any of them are worth missing my first Christmas with my darling over.

PNC Advisors is the wealth management unit of The PNC Financial Services

Group, Inc., (NYSE: PNC), one of the nation`s largest diversified financial

services companies, operating businesses engaged in regional community

banking, wholesale banking, wealth management, asset management and global

fund processing services.

                    PNC Advisors` Christmas Price Index


                                                                     % Change

                                       1984        2003        2004   2004/03

   One Partridge in a Pear Tree      $32.52      $77.50      $93.00     20.0%

               Partridge              12.57       15.00       15.00      0.0%

               Pear Tree              19.95       62.50       78.00     24.8%

   Two Turtle Doves                   47.71       58.00       40.00    -31.0%

   Three French Hen                   14.78       15.00       45.00    200.0%

   Four Calling Birds                280.00      400.00      396.00     -1.0%

   Five Gold Rings                   275.00      361.25      255.00    -29.4%

   Six Geese-a-Laying                150.00      150.00      210.00     40.0%

   Seven Swans-a-Swimming          7,000.00     3500.00     3500.00      0.0%

   Eight Maids-a-Milking              26.80       41.20       41.20      0.0%

   Nine Ladies Dancing              1511.50     4230.89     4400.13      4.0%

   10 Lords-a-Leaping               1679.45     3921.44     4039.08      3.0%

   11 Pipers Piping                  770.56     1982.40     2053.20      3.6%

   12 Drummers Drumming              834.78     2147.60     2224.30      3.6%

   Total Christmas Price Index   $12,623.10  $16,885.28  $17,296.91      2.4%

   % change

   True cost of Christmas in

    song                         $62,427.10  $65,264.28  $66,334.46      1.6%

   % change

   “Core” index, excluding swans             $13,385.28  $13,796.91      3.1%


                                                                    % Change

                                                  2003         2004  2004/03

   One Partridge in a Pear Tree                $171.67      $147.50   -14.1%

               Partridge                         66.67        67.50     1.2%

               Pear Tree                        105.00        80.00   -23.8%

   Two Turtle Doves                             100.00       105.00     5.0%

   Three French Hen                             172.50       202.50    17.4%

   Four Calling Birds                           330.00       429.00    30.0%

   Five Gold Rings                              183.75       240.00    30.6%

   Six Geese-a-Laying                           375.00       600.00    60.0%

   Seven Swans-a-Swimming                      4620.00      6125.00    32.6%

   Eight Maids-a-Milking                        296.00       296.00     0.0%

   Nine Ladies Dancing                         6450.00     6,600.00     2.3%

   10 Lords-a-Leaping                         10122.85    10,629.00     5.0%

   11 Pipers Piping                            1600.00     1,650.00     3.1%

   12 Drummers Drumming                         687.50       712.50     3.6%

   Total Christmas Price Index              $25,109.27   $27,736.50    10.5%

   % change

   True cost of Christmas in song          $101,206.09  $115,460.50    14.1%

   % change

   “Core” index, excluding swans            $20,489.27   $21,611.50     5.5%

SOURCE  The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc.

what’s next?

November 22, 2004 — Leave a comment

we put up or Christmas tree this weekend. it may be early for some people, but Christmas is a big deal for Vic and the boychick, there is a lot of pomp and ceremony, including a new ornament for the tree. vic got me my first ornament on Friday and for the first time in a really long time i really am looking forward to this holiday season.

the other reason the tree went up this weekend, it`s the first and last weekend in an incredibly long time that we had nothing to do. this week is packed with travelling, guests and vic officially begins her hobby with pay and then a trip to the family thanksgiving on Saturday in Kingston and then back to Nashville on Sunday for vic to get to work. there is a lot of driving in my future and i`m looking forward to it.

day eleven

April 18, 2003 — Leave a comment

thought i posted earlier, guess i didn’t.

good friday and beltane greetings for those of you who believe…

it’s midday and i’m pondering my food choices. my lapsed catholic self is debating some fish type menu, but… the operative word is lapsed.

anyway in the mean time i’ve started reading the binding chair, forget the author, i’ll get back you on it later. but i’ve just stated and this book is incredibly well written. i’ll keep you posted. sometimes these books start off really well and then fall short.

for those that you don’t know most christian high holy days are really conversions of pagan holy days and beltane also known as roodmas or may day was basically a fertility rite, which is why bunnies and eggs are common easter symbols.

i’m in info sharing mode this morning… check this link out, just ignore the fucking midi file… beltane