From the monthly archives: "December 2011"

December 19, 2011—

The writing was on the wall.

I would no longer be sending Christmas cards after 2011.

For the past several years I’ve purchased a couple of boxes of “holiday” cards from Chicago Lights at Fourth Presbyterian Church in downtown Chicago. It is a non-profit organization that opens doors to individuals and families who face challenges of aging, poverty and access to education and health care.

The cards were cute, witty and always warm.

They were designed and illustrated by children from Chicago. 

Chicago Lights provides one on one tutoring sessions with adult volunteers and scholarship opportunities for more than 400 children living in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods in Chicago.

Last week I went to the church offices to pick up my cards. I was told this would be the final year of the program. Although the Ford Motor Company had underwritten a portion of production costs, the project lost thousands of dollars in the last couple of years. I promised I would not say how much money that was.

I was also told some people complained about the political incorrectness of the kid’s innocent sentiments; wide eyes without eyeliner.

A few years ago there was a great card with black and white angels together in front of a Christmas tree. The card was illustrated by 5th grader Yaihaida Westbooks and said “Merry Christmas.” This year Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel changed the name of the downtown “Christmas Tree” to “Holiday Tree.” 

Who can forget that great Brenda Lee song, “Rockin’ Around The Holiday Tree”?

Also, people just don’t send cards anymore.

E-mail, Facebook and tumblr do the trick.

The kids were heartbroken that the program has ended, according to my salesperson.

I loved these cards and I have saved some of my favorites. I will still send out the current box and some remainders from years past. My friend Angelo joked how I could act like an old guy and enclose a dollar bill in each card.

Just the day before I trekked over to the church I gave my ex-girl friend a Chicago Lights card about giving. We were heading out for breakfast and coffee at the Sunrise Cafe, my neighborhood diner that has the name of an assisted living cafeteria.

She smiled and fumbled around her purse and I thought maybe she had a card too, or maybe a Red Hershey kiss for me!

She showed me her make up she just purchased.

The writing was on the wall.

If there is one thing that overshadows the expectations of the holidays, it is the wonderful giving of the season. And maybe you don’t need a card to do that.




Dec. 11, 2011—-

The most memorable place I’ve had sex is atop Mount Tamalpais, overlooking the East Bay in Marin County, Calif.

Like all magical moments, it wasn’t supposed to happen.

The weathered coastal mountain peaks at 2,500 feet. We drove about three-quarters of the way up Mount Tam and parked at a scenic turnaround. We hiked the rest of the way.

We sat down to rest on  a grassy slope. She  rolled out a blue and white blanket for a picnic. The blanket matched the azure skies, a contrast to the fog we saw over San Francisco. We talked about poetry, free birds and the songs of Greg Brown. We tried to scare each other with rumors about the late 1970s “Trailside Killer” who murdered hikers at the mountain. We were alone.

It is difficult to climb a mountain alone.

The next thing we knew I was on top of her with beads of sweat rolling down the back of my neck. Strands of her brown hair swept across her face like waves on a shore. Her blue eyes were everywhere.

Sometimes they still are.

We were in a state park and someone could have been watching. Maybe we could have been arrested and learned more about the “Trailside Killer.” Who cared? Outside views are perceptions. This was our great reality.

During my life, I’ve motioned for hanky panking  in an airplane, against the refrigerator door and on kitchen tables. I like my friend Mark’s stories about having sex during a rain delay in the upper deck of Old Comiskey Park, no doubt during the era when the White Sox wore red uniforms and Wilbur Wood was tossing knuckleballs.

But our San Francisco moments were sparked by metaphors: Alcatraz, where confinement seemed so small from the top of a mountain; the freedom of coast oaks, with treetops swaying back and forth like a pendulum in the gentle summer breeze.

I remember how warm it was on the mountain top and how cool it was down below. (We did afterglow record shopping at Mill Valley Music).

My book editor recently told me about a study where readers looked at a series of contrasting pictures. They enjoyed distant and romantic landscape photographs, but the drama of someone falling down a cliff or jumping out of a building is what resonated with the readers.

Well, that’s a no-brainer, I first thought.

But those are fleeting moments in time.. And every deep moment has a resolution.

I’m a flatlander from Illinois. Never left my home town. Never took the chance.
On that day I did and maybe that’s why I remember it the most.