Sweet baby Mickey

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Every year about this time I reflect on how I seriously lacked in getting out to live shows during November and December. My first response is always a remorse that borders on pathological, but then I realize I’m just burned out. From April to October each year I see 200 to 300 bands, as well as listening to another couple of hundred demos. After that I get to the point where I cannot even stand to put on music around the house; nothing sounds good. But in 2002 I’m making a pledge to try and get out to see every band in Chico at least once.

If your holiday celebrations were anything like mine, you are probably due for a real vacation. Mine reads like some lost part of the Book of Job. The cat gets sick and the van breaks down at the vet’s. I don’t quite manage to get out of town by Christmas Eve, as Chico’s infamous magnet effect is in full swing. I have to visit the mall—twice—just to make sure they don’t have any wool baseball hats, as that is all my father in-law wants for a gift.

Finally, on the road to the coast, a red glare comes out of the dash in the Volvo, just a check-up light, luckily. Though running six hours late we have to take pictures of the Christmas lights in Colusa. One house has Mickey Mouse in the manger.

We finally arrive. Christmas Day Grandma falls and breaks her hip, and my wife eats her dinner at the hospital amidst the biohazard and basketball games. I eat more food than I have all month. Narrowly averting rocks and a nasty undertow, a friend in Ft. Bragg goes surfing during a rainstorm high on six nicotine patches. The new baby, Liam, gets passed around like a seven-pound love potato, and we laugh till we all get sick. An emergency tooth filling at the dentist for good measure.

Take the return drive through flooded Orland wishing I had a SUV. Get the van towed, and the cat’s not sick after all, just depressed.

On the way home we passed through Lucerne, which boasts of being "the Switzerland of America." I’m sure there is a quaint story about how this slogan came to pass, but I hoped it meant that good old Lucerne was a neutral city centered on ethical discourse. But the news there was the same as it was everywhere. Nations around the globe were poised for war, economies were collapsing and everywhere you looked people were longing for someone or something to save the day.