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2001 Christmas Letter
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It’s about time to write the Christmas Letter again. Personally, I think it’s a waste of time. I suspect no one reads Christmas letters. I rarely read the ones that come here.

As a genre they aren’t very compelling. Most of them sound pretty much the same. If I don’t rate a personal note from someone, what makes them think I care who was born, graduated, married, or promoted during the year?

Besides, no one ever puts good stuff in Christmas letters. Felonies, failures, and kitchen fires are never mentioned. My last four kitchens have caught fire. You won't read that Christmas letters. That’s not the kind of news you want getting out - especially if you happen to contribute regularly to Fire Chief Magazine. How would it look if they found out I cook with a wrist-model smoke alarm? Every time my wife hears a siren she thinks dinner is ready.

Every year I make the same futile rant, and every year I end up writing another Christmas letter, because you-know-who likes to include one in with the Christmas cards she sends out.

So, to prove that no one reads Christmas letters, last year I put someone else’s Christmas letter in with our Christmas cards. No one noticed. Not even my wife.

The deceit wasn’t deliberate. It was more of an accident. Mostly.

The thing was, I got behind on the schedule, this outsider letter was laying right there, and something came over me.

The letter was from a guy named Carl in Seattle. We don’t know him, but he seems like a nice enough fellow. Three young daughters, a wife who’s a dentist, scuba dives, speaks two dialects of Farsi from his years in the oil business, hates the Raiders, and drives a Lexus.

Pretty much like me, except for the daughters, dentist, diving, Farsi, oil, and Lexus part.

I have no idea how I got on his Christmas list, but it all started with an email mistake.

Sometime last October, my wife Terry asked me to email her sister and brother-in-law the day before one of their dive trips to get directions to the boat. She said Brad’s email address was scubageezer@netscape.net.

So I sent a message to Brad at scubageezer@netscape.net asking for directions to the dock, adding that I had never seen Terry so excited before a dive, that the night before she slept in her wet suit - which wasn’t so bad except when I kissed her good night she made me make fish lips.

Later that day I get this email back from scubageezer@netscape.net saying, "Sounds interesting. Who’s Brad?"

Turns out Brad’s email address is actually scubageezer@netcom.com, not scubageezer@netscape.net.

But the thing is, last Christmas I got a Christmas card from Carl and Denise, the dentist, from scubageezer@netscape.net. That was the letter I substituted for my own Christmas letter last year when I got behind and ran out of time to write my own.

Terry yelled upstairs one afternoon the week before Christmas that she needed the Christmas letter "right now" - so I snatched Carl’s letter off the desk, ran off copies, and stuffed them in the envelops.

No one noticed it wasn’t from me, except one of my brothers who asked me how I liked the Lexus. See what I mean?

And now the news. We’re thinking of taking a cooking class this year. The kitchen fires had something to do with it, although the idea first surfaced at the suggestion of one of those attending a revolving Sunday Night Football party held that week at our house, to whom I served an eggplant Parmesan that had gone splendidly the week before in a trial run.

To make a long story short, I got in another rush  and not all of the eggplants got cooked long enough, a detail not discovered until the plastic forks began snapping off during dinner in an attempt to separate a bite from the stubborn cartilage.

The rotating football party dissolved soon after that but the cooking class idea persisted, solidifying after the tofu-avocado loaf Terry made for dinner one night a few weeks later.

That treat owes its creation to a dinner pact Terry and I agreed to specifying that we would each be responsible for preparing two dinners a week, with the understanding that no recipe was to be used twice, no matter how high it scored the first time.

 Needless to say, we soon ran out of food familiar to First World tastes and found ourselves preparing alien soups and extravagant stir-frys from mystic recipes found in I-Ching cook books. Before long, dinner became a science project, eating a Lab War. The tofu-avocado loaf was the result, the recipe for which came from the Airport Buddhists. Somehow we're on their mailing list, too.

It wasn't the presentation. A tofu-avocado loaf, when delivered in the shape of a real meatloaf, creates the illusion of an actual dinner. How it looked, however, wasn’t the issue. It was the taste. How can I put this? Let's just say that a bar of bathroom handsoap looks the same and tastes better than tofu.

 But in the interest of preserving the marriage that night I consumed most of it without complaint and, according to Terry, only made one face. She claims she can tell when I'm not enjoying my meal because my face contorts radically and I squint violently like hydrochloric acid had been sprayed in my eyes.  I deny this, of course, maintaining it's baseless hyperbole - until she started photographing me during meals. Where others have salt and pepper on the table, we have a Minolta SLR.

Toward the end of the tofu meal Terry asked me with a straight face if I'd like some more.

Now, a more thoughtful person might have paused, and reflected on any number of blessings, grateful for the love of a sweet, wonderful woman, happy to be healthy, and reasonably prosperous. Instead, I risked it all in one arrant, involuntary declaration. "I’d rather die," I said.  

There’s probably more news that I could put in here but it’s December 20 so a precis will have to do: Jeremy is graduating art school this spring. The student loan officer will be sad to see him leave. Jason continues to threaten to graduate from Long Beach State. He claims to be just 6 units short, but every time he gets close his punk band (98 Mute) goes on the road. (Shameless plug: CDs available at Wherehouse, Borders, Amazon.com, and other fine music retailers nation-wide). Neither of them has a tattoo or piercing. Somewhere I’ve failed.

Life is good. Peace on Earth.