There are lines of Christmas trees leaning against plywood fences along Broadway; seasonal stands strung with white lights, a few feet of sidewalk that smell of pine. Outside University Hardware are squat trees that change colors; I passed a man staring into the lightshow, entranced.
One of my favorite things about this time of year, apart from more gallons of cider picked up at the farmer’s market heading home from class, is Vince Guaraldi’s “A Charlie Brown Christmas”, which I put on repeat around Thanksgiving. I’m amazed that such a melancholy soundtrack made it on network television; then again it was a long time ago. Now they’d commit some travesty; Snoopy ice skating to Destiny’s Child; action figure and CD packaged together at Wal-Mart, across the aisle from Housewares and Shotguns.
Spent Thanksgiving in Palm Springs with my dad and his partner, who are waging war with their new Home Owners’ Association due to some mold in the kitchen of their new condo, a winter home away from their new home: Minden, Nevada, near Tahoe. They are obsessed with real estate; they sold their place outside of DC after retiring from the government with pensions, and now have two new properties under their belt. We swapped coasts the same week, back in August when I arrived in New York with no more than a dance belt and a tube of Chapstick. Palm Springs was lovely though I must admit I watched a lot of TV. I own a TV here in Manhattan but haven’t subscribed to cable, which is a necessity even for network channels. This helps with bills and with homework, though not with escape.
I brought a little voice recorder along and interviewed my father for three hours for this memoir/big project/book-that-I’m-too-superstitious-to-call-a-book-yet thing. He was surprisingly candid, to the point where I wondered if he realized that I might use his words in the project. I’d say more but you’ll have to buy the book thing. When I finish it. Later. Sometime.
I didn’t tell you how Maria, good ‘ol Maria, asked the professor during the critique of my last submission if “we” could discuss my big project, then turned to me in front of the others and asked, “Um, where’s the action?”
I guess you had to be there. Maybe she has a point; what’s a memoir without a few car chases?
It’s been a challenging day at school. I applied for one of the highly coveted teaching positions last month – teaching writing to undergraduates – and everyone applies because they pay your full tuition plus a decent stipend. Got my rejection email today, didn’t even make it to the second round. Also applied for a fellowship where they match six students up with six established writers who are working on books and need research assistants, which pays a few thousand dollars. Was a finalist for that but got the rejection email today as well.
One of those days where you sit down and reevaluate your goals and priorities. With the Peanuts singing “Oh, Christmas Tree” in the background, steam hissing from the radiator under the window, a glass of cider on the desk. The good news is that I now have more time to develop the important scenes of my so-called memoir. My mother and I on a cross-country crime spree which ends with our convertible accelerating over the Grand Canyon. Wal-Mart could package the book with a tasteful nickel-plated handgun. The Da Vinci Code will be knocked off the bestseller list, finally, and I’ll go on tour with David Sedaris and sleep with groupies, but only the ones who read Joan Didion and buy me dinner first.