I had a really good Christmas. I rate the holiday’s success based solely on what I received; not what I gave to others (cheap, meaningless trinkets), time spent with so-called loved ones or any of that touchy-feely stuff. No sir. The level of achievement depends on my haul. For instance, I got a Swiss Army knife, replacing one I’d lost after about 15 years. There it was, on Christmas morning, brand-new shiny red with the pliers option. I opened the longest blade and promptly cut the first knuckle of my index finger. I also got three bottles of good red wine, a DVD collection of Hitchcock movies from the 1930s and the original King Kong in a package deal that also included Son of Kong and Mighty Joe Young. I really like big old gorilla movies. I told my kid, who was visiting relatives in Ohio at the time, “We’ll watch King Kong when you get home.” I’m pretty sure he assumed I meant the Peter Jackson marathon currently in theaters, Too Long Kong. I screened the original before he got home and one smart-ass in my household, referring to the primitive special effects, said, “Geez, it kind of looks like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
I got the soundtrack from Martin Scorsese’s documentary on Bob Dylan, No Direction Home. The soundtrack is titled The Bootleg Series Vol. 7. The word “bootleg” conjures up underground, illegal recordings. Something done in a dank basement somewhere. We had a bootleg Neil Young album of a live recording when I was a kid. It was all crackly and muffled and you could hear the audience comments really well. But there was something cool about it, even beyond the wavering version of “Cowgirl in the Sand.” Here’s some irony: The Dylan Bootleg Series Vol. 7 from Columbia/Legacy includes on the cover this dire threat: “FBI Anti-Piracy Warning: Unauthorized copying is punishable under federal law.” Welcome to 21st century America where Bush’s spies hide under your bed.
I got plastic drink coasters from Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a Browns hat and coffee mug and a book on raising German Shepherds. Now, if we can just get the damn dog to read. Looking back on what I’ve written here reminds me of a tape recording my dad made during Christmas morning 1961. He interviewed us all on what we got and whether or not we were satisfied with our haul. It starts off with him introducing the family and the purpose of the tape. My mom’s voice can be heard in the background prompting him to tell what he got—a carton of cigarettes, half a kerosene lantern “and breakfast, which is indeed unusual.” I got “slacks, a racin’ car and Colorforms.” My sister Becky can be heard yelling, “No, no, no!” She didn’t want to take part in the recording. “Oh,” my dad says. “Someday you’ll be sorry you didn’t do this.” That sentiment didn’t work at the time, and I don’t know if she ever was sorry she didn’t share her Christmas take. I don’t think she even knows the tape exists. Still, hearing yourself at the age of 7 yelling “No, no, no!” is probably good enough.
In the 11 years I’ve covered the Chico City Council, I’ve sat through many a proclamation acknowledging service above and beyond the call of duty. In almost every case, the reception of the proclamation by hero at hand was punctuated with a standing ovation. “After serving 43 years keeping our city streets clean, Bob is stepping down,” the mayor would say handing Bob a framed plaque.” (At another paper, I once wrote that the honored person was handed a “plague.”) Bob would say thanks and the clapping would begin, evolving into a standing “O.” I always resist taking part in the standing ovation by pretending to be too busy taking notes for the fabulous story I’m working on about Bob’s street-cleaning achievements. This week former City Manager Tom Lando was given such a proclamation and for the first time I dispensed with the note-taking act and took part in the standing ovation. Lando, the guy who usually initiated the standing “O”s for those getting recognized, truly deserved this one.