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It’s All Connected.

Source: Wikipedia

So a bomb blew up in downtown Nashville early on Christmas morning, near the AT&T building that’s also known as “The Batman Building” because, well, if you see it you’ll understand. It’s a feature of the Nashville skyline and although I can’t see it from where the building where I work–or rather where I worked until last March when everything shut down, and where I’ll eventually go back to work sometime in the coming year–I could go to the roof of the parking garage next door to where I work and see The Batman Building from there. For all that Nashville has grown and is still growing it’s still got a fairly compact downtown area, easy to get to and, in normal times, easy to walk around in if you don’t mind the crowds. Needless to say these aren’t normal times and when the bomb went off a lot of people just sighed resignedly and said, “Thanks for one more thing, 2020.”
Although why the bomb in an RV was sent off downtown is still a mystery at least it went off early on Christmas morning when not many people were out and about–and it even made an announcement that it was a bomb and that people should get out of the area. For all the damage it did to the surrounding businesses, and as much as it would have been better if it hadn’t gone off at all, at least there’s a bright side.
It’s also interesting to me that Nashville made it to the front of The New York Times, which we still get in actual print, delivered to our driveway, on the weekends, the day after Christmas because of the bombing and also on Christmas Day because photographer Ruth Fremson made a trip across the United States to document the way various cities around the country were celebrating the season in these not so normal times.

The New York Times, December 25th, 2020. Nashville is the city with the Grinch.

The New York Times, December 26th, 2020. Below the fold but still on the front page.

That reminded me of when I was a kid and I’d been with my parents to the Tennessee Performing Arts Center downtown to see, of all things, CATS. As we were coming out we heard a woman say, “You know, this town reminds me of New York thirty years ago.” My mother groaned and said, “Oh please no,” and about twenty-five years later when my father retired my parents moved to Florida which is the most New York thing they could possibly do, but that’s another story.
One of the down sides of the bombing is because it affected the AT&T building it’s left a lot of people not just in Nashville but even in Tennessee and Kentucky without internet access. It’s left a lot of people, in other words, disconnected at a time when they want and need to be connected. It’s only temporary but here’s hoping it can all be restored before the end of the month–here’s hoping people will have a chance to say, thanks for bringing us back together, 2020.

Out Of The Box.

This is not Boxing Day. It probably is if you’re in Britain and since the British invented it I guess they can say when it is and when it isn’t, although the British don’t get everything right, but that’s another story.

Traditionally Boxing Day has been the day after Christmas and the name may come from the tradition of putting out an alms box, or it may come from the tradition of giving postal workers and other messengers a Christmas gift since even they get a break on the 25th, although postal workers come around so regularly it seems to me it shouldn’t be that hard to give them something before Christmas and not some post-holiday leftovers that were probably gonna be thrown out anyway. When I was a kid I’d run across references to Boxing Day in things I read and assumed it was the day everyone boxed up their decorations. For some of us on the distaff side of the pond there’s a superstition that Christmas trees and other decorations have to come down before New Year’s Day, although then they miss the revelries of Twelfth Night, but that really is another story.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, which the British also invented, in a small town where they’d ford their oxen which now has me wondering if the plural of boxes should be “boxen”, Boxing Day is the first weekday after Christmas—which means technically we’ve still got the weekend.

Source: gfycat

Anyway here are some random graffiti pictures that I took last year that I’ve never been able to figure out how to use so this seemed  liked a good time to for unboxen.

Snow Day? Yes Day.

There’s been some talk that because so many kids are learning virtually the snow day would become a thing of the past because of course there has to be one more reason for 2020 to suck. That reminds me of one year when I was in college and we got what seemed like three feet of snow. Evansville is a pretty small town and the University of Evansville has a pretty small campus with everything within easy walking distance of everything else, and most of the professors lived within just a few blocks of campus. In fact that year I was living in a professor’s house with three other students while the professor was overseas, and when he found out we were using his house he was pretty mad, but that’s another story. Anyway we had an easy walk to campus and shared a backyard with another professor. So when we got all the snow I said, “What are they gonna do? Cancel classes?”

They cancelled all classes for three days.

There was also the time I was in my final exam right before Christmas break and it started snowing. Then it turned into a blizzard. I could hear people who’d finished all their exams outside screaming and laughing and having a great time. Snowballs were sailing past the windows  and sometimes hitting the windows, and when I got my exam back after the break the professor had written, “Your answers to the final questions were disappointingly cursory,” because he’d forgotten what it was like to be a kid. Or even a young adult who still took joy in snow. Getting snow right as the break was about to start was almost as bad as getting snow over the break when we were already out of school.

Growing up in Tennessee of course  school days were a rare treat because we rarely get snow, which is why pretty much any sign of it would shut down school, and sometimes when we were sitting in class all being very quiet some jerk in the back would get a laugh by yelling, “It’s snowing!” and we’d all turn around and look before we remembered it was May.

I think it’s pretty cool that in West Virginia a school superintendent declared a snow day for kids doing virtual learning, telling them, “go build a snowman”. And some school districts in other parts of the country are leaving open the possibility of snow days. It’s good to know there are still adults who remember what it was like to be a kid, or who just take joy in the snow, and for the kids who aren’t getting snow days, well, they should be forgiven if their final exam answers are disappointingly cursory.


Ghosts Of Christmas.

Source: Bored Panda

Christmas is generally a pretty jolly holiday but it wasn’t that long ago that it was a time for spooky stories told around the fire, which makes sense. Historically when Christmas came around it was cold, dark, and everybody had to stay inside, so it’s nice to know some things haven’t changed. And a lot of seasonal traditions come from pagan celebrations of the solstice,and while most of the pagans I know aren’t scary people the gradually diminishing daylight as we approach the shortest day of the year. The ghosts in Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol are part of a long tradition, one that also gets a nod in Dylan Thomas’s A Child’s Christmas In Wales when he says, “Bring out the tall tales now that we told by the fire as the gaslight bubbled like a diver,” and for me no Christmas is complete without Scrooged. Doctor Who even got into the act with several Christmas specials culminating in Voyage Of The Damned in 2007 and the joke that everybody but the Queen was getting out of London until the holiday was over.

When I was a student in England Halloween was barely acknowledged, but at Christmas we had a costume ball, which was apparently more traditional, and I think we should embrace that on this side of the pond if it means two times a year when we can dress up and tell scary stories.

So I loved reading a story of a woman who got a series of notes from a “Karen” neighbor that her gargoyle statue was “not appropriate”. And of course it escalated quickly and hilariously with more decorations being added and “Karen” threatening to report the display to the local homeowners’ association and the mayor.

Source: Bored Panda

Source: Bored Panda

I’m pretty sure having a neighbor with no sense of humor is as scary as it gets.


Moving Traditions.

One of the things I’ve missed about not taking the bus this year, specifically this season, is seeing the decorations. I’ve missed my afternoon commute getting darker as the days get shorter but brightened with the lights that decorate houses and shops along the way. Most years my wife and I will also drive around the neighborhood to see how houses we pass by without a thought most of the year are decorated, taking on a new distinctiveness. There’s at least one house we used to go by on our way to work each morning that had both a giant inflatable Santa and an inflatable Hanukkah Bear, and it always made me smile even though I had another day at work ahead of me, but that’s another story.

Some years too we’ve driven out to the country to see the Geminids. It was too cloudy this year but I knew they were still there, and most nights I can look to the East and see Jupiter and Saturn getting closer and closer to conjunction, something that hasn’t happened in almost four centuries, and a reminder that even when we’re staying still the world under our feet and the universe we’re part of keeps moving.

This year especially these traditions hold out the hope that next year will be better.



Nobody Calls Him Names Anymore.

“All right, everybody get in formation!” Santa barked. The reindeer lined up dutifully.

“I’ve heard some grumblings in the herd,” Santa went on, “and I just want to say that anybody who doesn’t like it can go live with the Lapps.”

The reindeer pawed the ground and looked at each other nervously. Blitzen, who all of them knew as the smartass of the group, had mouthed off the last time Santa made the same suggestion. “Sure,” he said, “I’ll go live with the Lapps. Compared to this place it’ll be the Lapp of luxury!”

Mrs. Claus had taken him by the bridle and led him off behind the secondary workshop, the one with the heavy equipment. Later that night Donner peeked in the Claus’s window and thought he saw a crown roast being served.

“Now,” said Santa, “this is going to be a tough night. We’ve got fog right down to the deck every place east of the Rockies. Damn climate change. Vixen, you’ll take the lead ahead of Dasher and Dancer from the west coast. Prancer, you’ll take over after that until we get to Chicago.”

“It’s not gonna work, fat boy!” came a voice from the back of the herd.

“Who said that?” Santa yelled. “Nobody talks to me that way! Come on, step up or you’ll all be venison!”

The herd parted but one reindeer, smaller than the rest, with a distinct red nose, stood at the back.

“It was me, old man, and you’d better watch what you say because I’m your best hope.”

Santa narrowed his eyes. “Pretty full of yourself, aren’t you? Think you can get away with being so rude, Dolph? Maybe it’s time for you to—”

“What?” Dolph shot back. “Go live with the Lapps? Maybe you’d just send me back to Chernobyl where you found me.” The reindeer looked around. “Oh, I know you all know. I hear the jokes, the snickers, all the names you call me behind my back. That I’m the Radioactive Russian, the Solar Siberian, the Toxin of the Tundra. Well check this out.” He wrinkled his forehead and his nose began to glow a bright piercing red.

Santa glared for a moment then threw back his head and laughed. “Ho ho ho! That’s a pretty neat trick therem sonny. You know I run a tight ship but every captain knows you don’t put a navigator in the bilge. You can lead the second string.”

“Nothing doing.” Dolph pawed the ground. “I don’t want a piece of the action. You need me to lead the team the whole way.”

“Nobody’s made the whole round trip,” said Santa, “not in a long time. Not since, well, Flossie and Glossie led the team. You think you can handle it?”

“Handle it?” Dolph stepped forward. “You bet your wide load I can handle it. I’m going down in history.”

“All right,” Santa said, “let’s get harnessed up.” Then he turned to Mrs. Claus and muttered, “The kid probably’d taste terrible anyway.”


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