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Getting Seasonal

Every year it’s the same thing. The same commercialized rush for your shopping dollars, the same rotating playlist of seemingly half a dozen Christmas songs on at least one local radio station, the same daily avalanche of direct mail catalogs and coupons from every company you’ve ever done business with in your life. And for some reason that I cannot explain, I love all of it.

Okay, that may be a bit much. I don’t love the heaps of junk mail, and the incessant retail hullabaloo can get a bit old. But for as long as I can remember, I’ve always loved this time of year — the Christmas “season,” as it were, that seems to officially begin over the long Thanksgiving weekend and doesn’t end until you finally start winding down from your New Year’s festivities. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the increasingly crass and commercialized way that the retail industry treats the holiday season, or any other occasion they can use as an excuse to leverage more money from us. But in the process, it’s also easy to overlook the genuine magic of the season, those almost palpable hints of cheer that creep in when you see all the Christmas lights on your neighbors’ houses, see cars drive by with fake reindeer antlers (I swear, today was the first time I ever thought of a Prius as “cute”) or hear a favorite Christmas carol while walking amongst the shops and restaurants with someone you love.

You could say that I’m being naïve; after all, there’s no real “magic” to this season other than that of the artificial variety, created by the morass of commercial enterprises that claim to govern our daily lives. And it’s hard to feel all that “magical” when you’ve got bills to pay, when you’re out of work, when you have family members fighting on the front lines in the Middle East for an increasingly dubious and unidentifiable cause, or when your own dreams just don’t seem to be coming true despite your best expenditures of money, spirit and time. You could say whatever you like — one way or another, during the month of December I can never help but become intractably giddy.

It’s largely an internal phenomenon — an escape mechanism, dare I say. While you’ll never find me using the holidays as an excuse to stand in a Black Friday sale line at 3:00 in the morning, cavort drunkenly at a local Christmas party or spend myself into a debt-fueled coma, you will find me using them as an excuse to put all the pain, suffering and workaday shit in a drawer somewhere for a month and just be happy. It doesn’t always work — not every day, for that would mean I would have to change my last name to “Stepford” — but it always propels my sense of creativity and inspiration to new heights, and puts me in the mood to go beyond the usual daily routine of work, eat, sleep.

This year, as ever, that mysterious enthusiasm has me feeling increasingly like writing, recording, arranging, building or otherwise creating something, which I’ve largely taken a break from for a good many weeks now. Much of it is fueled by nostalgia, as though the decades-old impetus behind my creativity is still stuck in those formative years, compelling me to revisit activities that I used to enjoy, if for nothing other than old times’ sake. A few nights ago I wrote a parody of the fake holiday newsletters I used to craft (as written from the perspective of one of my cartoon characters, often twisted into some irreverently humorous form), and today I’ve felt like cracking open Wolfenstein, Doom and other DOS games from the golden era of the mid-’90s. This afternoon I decided, entirely on a whim, that I wasn’t going to settle for pulling out our little fiber-optic Christmas tree; I was going to go whole hog and set up the 6-foot megatree that I haven’t extracted from the hall closet for years. “We could use a little dose of Christmas cheer in here,” I reasoned to my wife, who was excited to learn of my grand plans.

In truth, Apple and I have been in need of a morale pick-me-up around here. Our continuing attempts to have children — while finally progressing, albeit slowly — resulted in another monthly failure a couple days ago, and in short order we’ll be looking for another way, somehow, to scrape up the cash necessary to continue my Chinese medicinal treatments for just a little while longer (as they’re the only thing that’s actually worked for us in three years). It’s kind of a stressful time for us, being bombarded with all of the commercial “buy now, buy now” of the season and realizing that, if anything, we have to cut back a little further just to pay our bills. It’s the least I can do, I figure, to use some of that peculiar energy I feel every Christmas season to help put a smile on my wife’s face as well, even through small gestures like putting up a tree and letting its palette of colored lights fill our living room on the increasingly chilly evenings.

Speaking of chilly, although I hate living in cold weather and seem to be actively allergic to it, each time the temperatures have dipped into the 60s this year, I have felt absolutely invigorated. Perhaps it’s because we missed the entire winter last year, being in Thailand and all, and I’ve practically forgotten what sub-70° temperatures felt like. Although we’ve had precious few days in which to enjoy them as yet, they’ve proven to be a huge catalyst for my already burgeoning creativity. (Go figure, what with me being a Florida resident.)

Apple and I will be taking a break and getting out for a while this Saturday, when we’re heading down to the Mercato (a local upscale retail district) for lunch at one of our favorite Asian/Western fusion restaurants. That same afternoon and evening, the Mercato will be hosting a big car show from the local West Coast Muscle Car Club, a local Ferrari club and others, plus a Christmas tree lighting ceremony and other festivities. The weather is expected to be perfect — mid-’70s, sunny and dry — so we’re going to get out of the house for a little while and enjoy it.

In the interim, I’m going to enjoy the upside of the increasingly frantic holidays and see where this seasonal inspiration takes me. It may be somewhat escapist, but as I’ve mentioned many times before, I never met an escapist fantasy that I didn’t like. And while I admittedly tend to look for the negative in things all too often, I nevertheless realize that those who look for it tend to find exactly what they expect.

Enjoy your December.