Saturday, December 26, 2009

How I spent my Christmas, by Christa L. Pista ...

I hate winter driving. Living in Duluth's East Hillside basically means balancing my Honda Civic at the top of a hill, tapping the accelerator, and then letting it quadruple lutz its way to flatter ground -- preferably stopping before it hits the world's largest freshwater urinal.

On Christmas Eve day, I opted for the bus for a bus that never came. (Whenever I say to myself " ... waited for a bus that never came ... " I think of it as a song, set to the tune of "Horse With No Name.") I was waiting with a kid who works in the food court at the Miller Hill Mall. I assumed, from the jagged black gaps in his dental work, Sbarro, as I'm pretty sure that Steak Escape and Taco John's have hygienic standards. But he was nice, and I did that thing where I stand in the middle of the road and squeal "Here it comes!" every time headlights came over the hill. He provided a running mantra of "Nope."

Eventually, I ended up driving downtown. The roads weren't bad at all. My new friend skipped work that day.

I'm not sure when I became afraid of driving in the snow. Years ago I had this winter wonder car, an early 1990s Corsica that pillaged snowdrifts like they were merely confetti. The heater didn't work in -- in a good way. I could crank it up to about 120 degrees in that old car, sweat out toxins and prepare for my vision quest. I also had to pull over every 3 miles and fill it with coolant. This wasn't necessarily efficient, but it was fun as hell.

***

Late into Christmas Eve, I didn't know if I would be driving to Rochester in the morning. The last-minute decision was no big deal to me. But not knowing if I could crank my spoon into Tom & Jerry's batter was a big deal. Did I dare cut loose? Let my hair down? Get crunk on Hot Toddies and the episode of The Brady Bunch where Cindy asks Santa to cure her mother's laryngitis so she can sing at Christmas mass? Or would I need to actually be able to sit upright for a 4 hour drive without marinating in a stew of brandy sweats.

I dug into the batter.

***

Chuck and I celebrated with our annual Christmas Eve tradition: Cheese plate and "Gremlins" -- my pick for the best holiday movie of all time. In the middle of the night, the entire world looked like a black and white postcard from the 1930s. And so I had a couple beers.

***

I slept until almost 2 p.m. on Christmas Day, then called my parents to make sure they weren't expecting me. Standing in the middle of the road, my mom checking out every pair of headlights that come over the hill, my dad repeating "Nope."

I read a book. Made French Onion Soup. And, really, that's it.

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