Dear Friends and Loving Family,
As most of you know by now, this year the Slattern family left behind the stress, grime and outstanding bench warrants of New York City for a fresh start in sunny San Francisco! After all that fuss and nonsense about young master Slattern’s alleged “hacking” and our subsequent
flight to adventure in Kazakstan, the Slattern clan was feeling the need for some sun and fun, so when a position opened up in the San Francisco sorting facility of the good old USPS, Mr. Slattern jumped at the chance. Sure, it was a lateral, some might even say downward, move, but as you might expect, the taint of a mail fraud accusation — even a baseless, trumped up one — tends to linger, and so the family got behind “the old man” and packed up the truck and a-moved to Beverly. Well, actually Oakland, but you get the picture.
Upon arriving on the left coast, we soon settled into our charming little bungalow by the freeway (handy off and on!). Out here they call this kind of property a “project house,” and what a project it’s been. Luckily we left the spot welder and acetylene torches back in the NYPD impound room, safely beyond the reach of our family contractor, Uncle Fred. With just a hammer and a handsaw, he worked miracles shoring up the place. I’m pretty sure ours is the only bungalow in the East Bay with flying buttresses, but when the big quake hits, the Slatterns will be ready. “Bring on the tremblers!” says Uncle Fred. Of course there’s more than a little left to do, but with only two rooms, the list is quite manageable. Isn’t it lucky we thought to hitch that pop-up trailer to the minivan before we left? Between the
shack house, the trailer and the Caravan, every member of the family has a little corner to call his own.
With his domestic tasks complete, intrepid traveler Uncle Fred has begun to explore the city and seems to have found his niche at a little cafe over in the Castro where he spends most days nursing a cappuchino and watching the world go by, happily surrounded by like-minded free spirits. As an added bonus, his inner thigh psoriasis is responding beautifully to all that sunshine. And I’m absolutely thrilled to have finally found a use for all those orphaned socks in the laundry basket!
Grandma, too, has found her “peeps” in the wild west. Upon arrival, it was for her the work of minutes to master the bus schedule and make a beeline for Haight-Ashbury, where she’s pretty sure she spent a blissful couple of years back in the Sixties.
You’d think an octogenarian with a walker might have trouble with the transfers, but the old girl says she’s “found a new spark.” We think the spark is her friend, Mr. M-dot Six, whom she met over at the senior drop-in center. It’s so sweet. Every week they take the Cannibis-Rex senior bus to Big Sur together and spend the afternoon chasing trails and chair dancing to the sweet sounds of yesteryear — bootleg Dead, the Airplane, the Stones. Apparently, Mr. Six has the lyrics to Panama Red tattooed on his back, which makes bus sing-alongs a whooping good time.
Between work and his five-hour round-trip commute each day, Mr. Slattern is busy, too. He’s finding the workers-first spirit of San Francisco a welcome change from the grind of New York’s rigid rules and regulations, and of course the six-hour work day is quite a boon. Between the city-mandated karma breaks and his drive time, he’s made real progress with his Kazakh language tapes. As he says, “With this family, you never know when a trip to a Central Asian non-extradition state may be necessary, and next time I want to know how to order a goddamned whiskey and something other than goat.” He’s such a panic.
Young Master Slattern seems be settling in despite the upheaval and detentions of the last few years. A real trooper, our boy is following his court-ordered technology ban to the letter, which made it much easier to refute last week’s loose talk and allegations about connections to the DPRK. Now, instead of working on computers, he spends his off-time at the local gym practicing the martial arts, something called UFC. I’m not sure what it is, but he tells us it’s a very spiritual, energy-focused multi-disciplinary sport. We’re just glad he’s found a new
obsession hobby. As an added bonus, his baby-fat love handles and computer-screen slouch are both things of the past. We are told the concussive damage passes quickly and is seldom cumulative, so it’s all good.
As you may have heard, our daughter decided to stay in Kazakhstan as Mrs. Nikolai Nikolaiovich, at least until the twins arrive. Last time we spoke, the newlyweds were planning to join us just as soon as the confusion about Nik’s status could be resolved with Homeland Security. Apparently, owing to some business with camels and rocket fuel, his name landed on a watch list, but he is sure it’s all a misunderstanding. What else is new for this family?
As for yours truly, I soldier on. The freeway noise, at first a constant sensory assault not unlike living in a running clothes dryer, has become, for me anyway, more like the sound of waves breaking on the shore, a kind of white noise with diesel fumes. It lulls me to sleep at night, and in the morning the jake brakes and air horns gently rouse me from my Ambien-induced slumber. The doctors out here are lovely and generally agree that my alopecia is most likely stress-induced and temporary. They seem to feel the bald spots on my head will start to fill in on their own as soon as the Lithium kicks in. The good news is, no need for another bout of residential treatment — or ECT — for your favorite slattern!
Once again, we wish all our friends and family (even the ones who no longer speak to us, or accept our calls, or send money) a happy and healthy holiday season. For those of you still in touch, we can best be reached at General Delivery, Daly City Post Office. Or through the Red Cross/Crescent. Happy New Year, everybody!
Let’s beat the whole crazy season into submission by turning October, November and December into one long Euro-style holiday for the 99 percent!
Regular visitors to this yeasty, entirely overheated corner of the blogosphere by now will have noted my less than sunny views on the holiday season. Each year, Halloween ushers in the annual frenzy with a vodka and Twizzler orgy that more often than not ends with me climbing to the roof to burn Martha in effigy, inadvertently blowing up the portable bar or otherwise frightening the children. Soon after, Thanksgiving red-lines my culinary stress meter and pushes my frazzled psyche to the limits of sanity, so that by the time Christmas rolls around, I’ve been on a liquid diet so long I can no longer tell the difference between a Bloody Mary and a large gazpacho, and even if I could I wouldn’t care, as long as there’s enough Stoli for my soup. Then like clockwork, on January 2nd it’s back to Betty Ford.
Just as predictably, it seems to me, every year the holiday decorations go up a little earlier, the carols start a bit sooner, and the event horizon on my liver transplant slides ever closer. I know I am not wrong about this — the holiday creep, I mean.
And so it was with real horror that I encountered something very like this in the local bookstore. On October 30th. Owing to the unseasonably balmy weather, I was wearing sandals as I passed the festive display of holiday titles, which gave the experience a kind of surreal, even menacing quality.
Imagine if you will an average housewife on an average day. She enters the bookstore on a harmless birthday present-buying errand only to encounter a bewildering array of Christmas paraphernalia — in the month of October. Has she lost three months due to dissipated excess, is she merely a victim of overeager marketing, or are more sinister forces at work? Perhaps she has entered . . . the Holiday Zone.
Sends a shiver up your spine, does it not?
Well, it did mine. So as soon as my purchase was complete, I hightailed it toward home, only to encounter this in my neighborhood. Was it any wonder that, shaken and disoriented, I staggered into the local watering hole, which became a kind of sink hole, and eventually a black hole? At evening’s end, Mr. Slattern was somewhat less than pleased at being called to collect me, though he got over it eventually. Thank heaven the man is handy with a stomach pump.
Anyhow, now that my head has cleared and I’ve taken the pledge — again — my recent experiences have got me thinking, and I have come up with a heck of an idea. Let’s beat the whole crazy season into submission by turning October, November and December into one long Euro-style holiday for the 99 percent! Over the three months, we’ll all work about one day out of every five, as our Continental cousins appear to, while the one percent (retailers, marketing companies, advertisers) continue to clock-in as usual in a frantic effort to flog the decorations, specialty foods and gifts we can’t be bothered to shop for because we’re too busy lolling on the beach, sipping espresso in cafes and binge-viewing all five seasons of Fringe in one weekend.
Then instead of discrete holidays, we can just decorate for one. No more changing from jack o’lanterns to turkeys to Christmas trees or menorahs. Just throw it all up at once in October, and take it all down in January. Or never. What difference does it make? Think of all the time you’ll save. On October first you can festoon your Christmas tree with tiny pumpkins, dress your dancing Santa up as Dracula and fill your cornucopia with fake severed fingers. Spin your pentagram dreidel, stuff the Thanksgiving bird with leftover Charlestown Chews and Red Vines, bob for drumsticks, go caroling in your Pilgrim get-up. The possibilities are endless. See?