You’d think I’d have more today after a long weekend, but we spent the night decorating the tree. Ornament Triage was ruthless. I used to love to hang some ornaments and tell the tale of how we came to own this bauble, but after ten years you realize that “I got this at Macy’s in Pentagon City” doesn’t really have the emotional heft a seasonal narrative requires. A herd of tiny My Little Ponys and some tiny Hello Kittys were offloaded to Natalie’s little tree for her room. She complained in a high whine, and I pointed to the “Baby’s First Christmas” ornament and told her she’d best improve her mood or I would shop for one that said “Baby’s Last.”


Only new addition:  a retro Mickey purchased at the Disneyworld Christmas store. It’s Christmas there 365 days a year!  –When we stopped in last May I got hives, when we stopped in last October it seemed apt, and the retro Mickey decorations exacted a powerful pull. They harken back to a simpler, purer Christmas, one made of wood and tin, where cheerful bipedal mice strut through the snow wearing a lumberjack costume with a tree in one hand and an axe in the other, and wake early on Christmas morning with the smell of the house burning down because the lights lit the tree on fire. I think we’ve gotten away from that. 

I managed to keep the Nutcracker guys off the tree again. I hate Nutcracker guys. All those teeth. Nightmare material, those things. WE BITE YOUR SKIN AND PEEL IT OFF HA HA HA. I looked for Jingle Pixie, the hellish imp who came from the Forties to work mayhem on our holiday, and finally found him face down at the bottom of a bin, as if he’d spent the last year burrowing through the layers of decorations to get back to Hell, only to find his path thwarted by the bottom of the box. Also found many decorative candles, ready for their sixth, eighth, nine and eleventh year of being unburned. One of these days I’m going to light the wick on the snowman. He will not believe what’s happening. You can’t burn me! I’m a decorative candle! Oh yes I can. Don’t worry. The head goes first. No! What’s the point? You’ll be left with a slumping wax torso? I’m willing to live with that.

As for the music we listened to – well, that’s the morning thread over at

It snowed Saturday night, which made tree-shopping seem seasonal. Still feels early. The lights are up, the tree is up, the music is right, my shopping is almost done, but I don’t feel anything. More snow and more proximity will help. It’s been this way for years, and I suspect it’s this way for most. We never shake the Christmases of childhood, and spend our lives processing the memories into adult form.  It takes years to realize that it’s not the excitement you want, it’s the contentment. It’s sitting in a chair with something hot and looking at the tree and listening to the songs you remember. The fire’s roaring, the house smells of pine and cider, and everything is just as perfect as you’d like. It happens every year. It’ll happen again. Twice. More, if you want.

Friday I had off, so I went shopping. But not to the Malls. I have no issues with Malls – I think they’re interesting places, really; you learn things there. Don’t trust any “social critic” who doesn’t go to the mall every other week. Doesn’t count if they visit once or twice a year with an anthropoligist’s perspective. But I hadn’t been to my favorite flotsam-aggregation store in some time, and they always have things I want. Matchbooks, magazines, old photos, peculiar cans. So I spent an hour at the place, and bought matchbooks, magazines, and one old photo. Took a picture of a peculiar can. Scientific Potato Chips!

Healthful food on the alkaline side. Her hand looks like she’s trying to mesmerize the chips into floating up from the can into her mouth, the modern way. This story says the chips were made in Motor City, and lists the address as 5801 Grandy. Maybe so. It’s either this building – now Beruiticized by Detroit’s descent into post-industrial status, or it’s the empty lot across the street.


Found this piece of ancient retail history: a hatbox from the Young-Quinlan store downtown. Fine Deco elegance:

Then there's this guy.

From an old child's game. It made me realize something I hadn't thought of before, and it's one of those kick-yourself moments, because it's so obvious. And if it is obvious, then someone else has said it, and said it better, and said it 20 years ago. But. Roman children in Sulla's time didn't play with Gladiators from the 6th century. English Restoration-era tots didn't play with Beefeaters of the Moon. Childhood fantasies were supernatural. But eventually the West invented the Future - not just the idea of Progress, but the necessity of Progress, the inevitablility of Progress, the boons that would accrue from the accellerated pace of Progress. I still believe in Progress, which somehow makes me feel like a throwback.

The antique store always hits me on three or four levels – the archivist’s raw naked LUST for more scannable magazines, the horror at the crap some people found lovely, the odd aching sadness for the class of Grandmas now passing from the earth, leaving behind millions of items that filled their homes and idle moments – Mantovani records, paint-by-number kits, felt craft projects with googly-eyes, garish ceramic salt-and-pepper kits, Little Golden Books read with love to sleepy kids, curlers, Durkee spice cans, statues of cats with Modigliani necks and stylized eyes. All those things from the 50s through the 70s wash up here in the basement of the antique store, rearranged with strangers. That mood makes these trips difficult; you’re overwhelmed by the weight of all the ordinary lives that arced and declined just in your own neighborhood, just in the last 40 years.

There was a pile of photographs, most of which were boring – but the image at the top of this page came from a snapshot:

Someone’s uncle or dad or husband walking away from a tavern in the middle of the day.  The building seems to be watching him:


There’s probably a novel’s worth of life behind the windows downstairs, and the windows up above. And another in the car to the right. The guy with the pipe – who cares? We can see him. It’s the people we can only imagine who set the mind running.

Upstairs, hanging on a line, curtains from the fifties. It’s my new iPhone wallpaper:


Like so much of the past and most of the future, I don't know what the hell it is, but I love it.

New Matchbook - learn about the belated WW1 bonus and its effect on machinery companies, here. See you at for the holiday music discussion, and of course Twitter all day long as well. Happy December!