In Praise Of Christmas Vacation

Squirrrrellllll!

We normally wouldn’t associate the panic-shouted name of a bushy-tailed rodent with Christmas, but any fan of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation knows that a squirrel can play a key role in a  family Christmas — and ultimately in achieving payback against a bitchy yuppie neighbor, too.

Every year come the holiday season I want to see some of the standard shows at least once.  A Charlie Brown Christmas, of course, and Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer.  Ralphie in A Christmas Story.  One of the old versions of A Christmas CarolIt’s A Wonderful Life.  And Christmas Vacation, which is one of those movies that I’ll watch whenever I run across it during channel-surfing time.

It’s a guilty pleasure, but the simple story of everyman Clark Griswold and his doomed attempts to achieve the perfect family Christmas — notwithstanding the unexpected arrival of dickey-wearing cousin Eddie and his cheap RV with its chemical toilet, uncooperative Christmas lights, ill-advised applications of food technology to sleds, cheapskate bosses, dinner-destroying dogs, and other malignant forces that threaten to thwart him at every turn — seems to perfectly capture the magic of Christmas in a modern world.

Some might bemoan that our family Christmas traditions now include TV programs and movies as well as Christmas carols and other, more conventional aspects of the season.  I’m not too troubled by that.  In the Webner family, there will be a holiday sit-down to watch Christmas Vacation this year, just as in years past.  Anything that brings families together for some hearty laughter seems like a pretty good Christmas tradition to me.

Mr. Enthusiasm

Yesterday Kish and I had a fine day at our new digs  in German Village. We took some nice walks through the neighborhood and Schiller Park, enjoyed looking at the old homes, discovered a store that sells vintage candy (including Bonamo’s Turkish Taffy, the Great White Whale of hard-to-find candy of yesteryear), and experienced first-hand the straight shot five-minute “commute” to my office.

We had lunch at the Olde Mohawk, a comfortable former speakeasy turned neighborhood joint that I’d never eaten at before. As Kish and I chatted and I was enjoying a very tasty Great Lakes Brewery seasonal Christmas ale and a juicy cheeseburger at the Mohawk, I was brimming with enthusiasm for our new adventure.

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This display of boosterism made Kish smile, because it is a familiar trait. When I quit smoking once and for all more than 20 years ago I promptly began raving about how great it was to be smoke-free and how I couldn’t believe that I — or anyone else for that matter — ever smoked in the first place. When we go on trips overseas I wax rhapsodic about the interesting culture, architecture, and food. When Richard and Russell started at their various institutes of higher learning I praised the almost tangible sense of scholarly purpose those academic bastions exuded.

In short, I tend to approach most ventures — that is, those not involving being a sports sports — with wide-eyed enthusiasm. Why not? There’s time enough for brutal reality to intrude and temper perceptions, but if you can’t be enthusiastic at the outset you’re missing out on part of the fun.

Censorship And Safety

Who is responsible for pulling the film The Interview from its planned Christmas Day release in the face of threats from terrorist hackers?  Was Sony craven, as many have suggested, or was it the theater chain owners who triggered the decision to pull The Interview because of liability concerns, as Sony responds?

I don’t know the answer to that question, but I do know this:  Totally removing a movie, or any other form of expression, from widespread public distribution because of threats is censorship and sets a terrible precedent.  Does anyone really dispute the conclusion that somewhere in Pyongyang or some other rathole the terrorist hackers are high-fiving over their success in this instance, and that terrorist groups elsewhere haven’t taken note of the new weapon that has now been added their arsenal?  What movie, book, play, or TV show is going to be the next target of this technique?

The Interview isn’t the kind of movie I would ever go to a theater to see, but that’s obviously not the point.  The next time it might be  controversial biography I’ve been eagerly anticipating, or the next installment of the Game of Thrones series because the terrorists disagree with how religion is depicted by George R. R. Martin. Regardless of the subject, a free society cannot tolerate a world in which terrorists dictate who gets to see, read, or consider what.

One other point: if I were an author, actor, or historian, I would be thinking long and hard about who brings my work to market and whether they have the courage to do it in the face of threats.  I don’t think I’d want to entrust my creative work product to a company, or a theater chain, that crumbled and caved in the face of threats.  Are actors, directors, and producers going to shy away from Sony projects?

The Penny Chronicles

My name is Penny.

Something big has happened to our pack. I mean, really big! Yesterday the Leader took Kasey and me to a new place that we have never seen before — but some of our things were there. I’m not sure, but I think we might be staying here.

I don’t know why we left our old place. It’s the only house I’ve lived in. I liked it there. I miss it already.IMG_4277

I have to admit that this new place has some interesting smells.  Kasey and I have had some fun exploring.  But I hate this thing about our new place — the stairs and the floors.  The stairs are way too tall, and I have to really jump to get up them.  And the floors are just too slippery and slidey for me.  Who wants to be slipping and sliding everywhere?

But our whole pack is here — even the old boring guy.  Kasey and I like it best when we are together, wherever we are.  And our food is here, too.  That is a good thing, because with all this slipping and sliding I am hungry!

 

Milestone

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Kish and I have now relocated to temporary quarters in German Village, a distinctive neighborhood dating from the 1800s and located just south of downtown Columbus.

There is a stone marker at the end of our new block, right in front of a small commercial area with a restaurant and a few stores. It looks like the remnant of the kind of markers that used to be used for platting or showing the distance to nearby towns. It seems like an apt symbol for us as we move from the suburbs to a more urban setting. We wanted to be within walking distance of restaurants and grocery stores and shops, just as we were when we lived on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. back in the ’80s, and now we’re here.

Last Loop

This morning, for what will almost certainly be the last time, I took my morning walk around the Yantis Loop walking path.

IMG_4250For many years now — I’m not sure exactly how long, really — I’ve started my day with this walk.  I’ve taken it virtually every morning we’ve been home, rain or shine, save only days when we’ve been blitzed by freezing rain or I was laid up after foot surgery.  I’ve walked it with Dusty, Penny, and Kasey, or accompanied only by my trusty iPod, in darkness and in the golden rays of dawn depending on the season and the vagaries of Daylight Savings Time.

And every day, the path is precisely the same — something that Kish finds very amusing.  It’s left out of our house, left on Alpath Road, right on Ogden Woods Boulevard, and then right — always right — on the Yantis Loop itself, so that the familiar white fence is ever on my left.  Then, past the top of the Loop, over the boardwalk around the pond at number 5 North and following the curves of the Loop as it heads back due north, then veering from the Loop to head up Route 62 to join up with Alpath once again.  All told, it’s about a two-mile circuit.

The sameness of this early morning journey is part of its enormous appeal.  My feet know where to go, the walk clears my sleep-addled brain, and the quiet and peaceful surroundings of the stroll make for ideal thinking time.  I get a little exercise out of it, too.

I’m looking forward to our move to German Village, but my walk on the Yantis Loop is one of the things I’ll really miss about New Albany, so this morning’s final effort was a wistful experience.  I’m going to try to replicate the Loop — somewhat — by regularly walking to work from our new place, but moving through the streets of downtown Columbus can’t really fully substitute for the familiar, bucolic path along the white fence.