Happy anniversary to me & NYC

Eight years ago today I was fresh off the plane from Chicago, a wide-eyed provincial turnip with a single suitcase at my side, wondering what on earth I was thinking and what in the world would become of me in such a town. I had dreamed of living in New York for as long as I can remember, for so long that it seemed like the sort of dream that could never possibly come true, because I wanted it too badly. Like wanting to marry George Clooney, you know? Unpossible! And yet not, obviously, and screw you, George Clooney. I managed it because I am, let's remember, a Capricorn. And us goats (screw you, grammaticians), we take our own sweet time to reach those mighty, mighty heights, which for me is four whole stories above the streets of the city that I call home.

Next stop wonderland

Welcome, O life! I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race.

Just kidding! Of course that's James Joyce from his pop hit A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Very famous, read by me in college. “Smithy” is a blacksmith's shop, btw, just so we all know where we stand.

And of course I am heading for the holiday to the Land of Cheese & Dreams. I'll be back in time for the New Year and with new plans to breathe life back into this drear little web space, so stay tuned! In the meantime I wish you well, and better, whoever, wherever, not more or bigger or newer, just better. As always, be safe, be well, keep sober, take condoms.

Watching: Chef, etc.

I've seen plenty of films that made me want to feast like a hog, but Chef is one of very few that made me want to learn how to cook. It's also stress-free, sunny, and delightful, and there's much to be said for actors and characters you simply enjoy spending time with.

See also: About Time, which I originally dismissed because the plot sounds très high concept and insufferable. Turns out it's a low-key familial goddamn love story!

Also, to read: this Frank Rich interview with Chris Rock (which had the double bonus of restoring my faith in New York magazine) and a lovely piece at The Toast on the very real joys of Disney World.

Hard Candy Christmas

My friend Meredith and I used to tape songs off the TV with cassette recorders before they invented VCRs. Late one dark night we sat through an entire showing of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas just so we could record Dolly Parton singing "Hard Candy Christmas," and then halfway through the song my brother Kyle showed up and started pounding on the window. So somewhere in my mother's basement sits a shoe box with a white cassette tape in it labeled "Meredith screams at Dolly."

(Why didn't we simply purchase the movie soundtrack, you're wondering. Life was not so convenient in the days of Value Village and no sidewalks. It was the 80s. Everything was against us. Also, it's tough to save up for record albums when your allowance is $2 a week and you're spending it all on midnite blue mascara and bubblegum-flavored Maybelline Kissing Potion.)

Reading: “Red Ranger Came Calling” by Berkeley Breathed

One of my favorite Christmas books was a gift from a coworker at my first job after college. I can't remember if it was an office swap thing or if he was just sweet on me (ahem, I was very young and charming). I also can't explain this book any better than the introduction from the author, and certainly not without giving away the magic of the story, which touches on love and disappointment and the hard lesson of faith. It's one of the few Christmas miracles I still believe in.

In 1939, my father was nine years old. Then, and for the rest of his life, he was called Red by everyone but his mother, who thought the name saucy. People guessed wrongly that the name honored the thatch of orange debris atop his head that made it look like a freckled ostrich egg on fire. The name's true source was a popular cinema hero of the time: Buck Tweed, the Red Ranger of Mars, protector of the 23rd century and savior of grateful princesses.

It was he, the Red Ranger from the movies, that my father chose to confuse with himself. And it was that universe, cluttered with space Nazis and princess nabbers, that seemed to need him more than his own. But the key to such a world still eluded him: an official Buck Tweed two-speed crime-stopper star-hopper bicycle.

It is with a bicycle that this story begins and ends—a story that my father, the former Red Ranger of Mars, told us on the Christmas Eves of my own childhood. I've put his adventure to pictures here, its historical truth guaranteed by the Red Ranger himself. But truth, like the daydreams of nine-year-old boys, is slippery and prone to readjustment over time.

I can only submit to you the tale itself as he told it in his own words...plus the evidence still there in the forest, of course.

Berkeley Breathed, Red Ranger Came Calling

Red Ranger Came Calling
By Berkeley Breathed