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Holiday Diary

Tuesday 5:01 a.m. — I’m scribbling this in the dark as we drive down 2nd Avenue towards the Midtown Tunnel, so I hope you can read this should my body never be found. The livery cab driver seems pleasant enough, but on his head is a stocking of some kind; is it Al Qaeda? My God! (Your Allah?) Plus he’s whispering into a headset. Shouldn’t this kind of technology be off limits to foreigners? I can’t make out what he’s saying, something about whales, or is that Wales? Okay, I get it, it’s a foreign language, slightly guttural, duh! It’s Arabic, probably that famous verse from the Koran about sending infidels into the East River inside Lincoln Town Cars with ripped upholstery. He even laughs and slaps his thigh, probably joking with his superior officer back in Karachi about my imminent demise. It occurs to me that this is the clash of civilizations Bin Laden and Rumsfeld have been plotting the whole time. My fingers are on the door handle, just a quick pull and I can roll out the door then sprint into a Korean grocery for reinforcements. We stop at a red light, and just as my hand wavers on the cusp of action, the driver says, “Do you think the Yankees will sign that Japanese slugger?” The rest of the drive to JFK is pleasant, as we discuss baseball, Mayor Bloomberg’s smoking ban, and where to get the best lamb curry in the East Village — he says a place on 6th called Ponatu (sp?). That was close.

Wednesday 9:10 p.m. — The last few yards before knocking on the door of a holiday party are the hardest. Your senses become painfully heightened. The crunch of the gravel beneath your feet, or the mechanical spit of the taxicab spitting out its receipt, is the cruel music that sharpens the executioner’s blade. Or maybe more uncharitable is the precise moment when the door opens and all eyes swing to you, to your modest smile, to the sweat on your palms. All faces beseeching, leering, accusing, insulting. You mumble hellos, shake a few hands, and head for the drinks table to fortify yourself. Once, at a coy librarian’s get-together, there was no alcohol. The hostess said, “Beer is so brutish, why not try cornichon instead?” You escaped through the bathroom window after stealing the valium in her medicine cabinet. Now you bring your own flask. Now is the time of the Assassins.

Friday, 11:37 p.m. — Got my first glimpse of Bill Musselman’s Warriors tonight, and I like what I see. A great game, won by Portland on a 20-foot turnaround jumper by Rasheed Wallace with time expiring. But can time really expire? No, it’s our conception of a particular segment of time that expires: a Czech named Hans, a basketball game, a marriage. After the clock ran out there was a fight, and Wallace went into the stands to slug a fan. Good. All these loudmouth fans who from the safety of their seats throw beer and obscene abuse on players deserve a slap in the face. It’s the new Bush Doctrine: no one is safe. Except, for some reason, Dick Cheney.

P.S. My favorite Warrior is 5’5” Earl “The Whirl” Boykins, the awe-inspiring point guard. Boykins shoots like Annie Oakley, is quick as a water bug on ice skates, and plays hard. Against Portland he consistently broke down the defense then found the open man for a wide open jumper. Imagine that.

Saturday 3:11 p.m. — Christmas makes me sentimental for the good old days of muzak, traffic jams and regurgitated air. So against my better judgment, I stop at the Santa Rosa mall to see the old haunts. Actually, Q-Ball Steele needed to stop, and I didn’t want to stay in the car in the parking lot, so I walked inside with him. While he disappeared into The Limited I went to Ye Olde Foode Court to look at the Hot Dog On A Stick girls. They were was radiant as ever. Then I walked to the main floor and watched people get their pictures taken on the CHP motorcycle. Christmas, police, fried food — could it get any better? Then this wonderful Rosa moment: two 40-year-olds with mullets and in a white pick-up truck were blaring Whitesnake and hooting at girls in the crosswalk. I was home.

Sunday 10:09 a.m. — Saw “The Twin Towers,” the latest chapter in “The Lord of the Rings.” Lots of axes chopping up vile orc flesh, arrows piercing slimy monsters, treacherous double-crossing, and heaving bodices in soft-focus. Watchable, spectacular special effects, but not exactly Murnau’s “Sunrise.” There are no black people, not even as peasants or villains. The good people are Gandalf the White, white hobbits, white dwarves, super-white elves, or trees. True, the trees have dark complexions, but you wouldn’t mistake one for Sidney Poitier. Perhaps the odd black person as scenery would confuse the less sophisticated minds of children and Republicans. Better to keep the terms in the stark tones of the simpleton: Good vs. Evil, Dark vs. Light, Terrorism vs. Freedom, Football vs. Ballroom Dancing. Look for the completed trilogy to replace “Invisible Man” in the curriculum of our better schools and colleges.

Monday 4:19 a.m. — Ribbons and bows, presents and nutcakes, cheer and bad poetry. To all my old friends who have chosen marriage and children and money, I salute you with the chipped formica of the late night diner. Through comatose streets I troll for small profanities, for worlds and angels that lie like purple stains on burst gourds. With any luck, this is our year to be hated.

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