Even though December 25th is,Praise God, in the rear view mirror, there's still more Christmas to do. People are just now returning to the People's Republic of Hillcrest from far away places and the folks that have kids are just now getting over colds and a nasty case of the flu that is making the rounds. My excellent and long-suffering friend PJ is stuck in Philadelphia mediating a family dispute that, from what I have heard, is nasty in extremeous. And so the guest room is still full of Christmas stuff that has yet to be distributed. That's OK. Everybody that has something with their name on it will get by here eventually. They always do. As long as I maintain a wet bar, people will always show up.
Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without a disaster story. Here's mine. Every Christmas I make barbecued ribs. This tradition got started when I wrested Christmas from Mother some 11 years ago or so and started having it here at my little house. Christmas immediately got more bearable in no small part due to the fact that I had a considerably more lenient view when it came to alcohol than Mom ever did. I made ribs that first Christmas at my house just for the hell of it. I also made my first pecan pie that year. Both were big hits and a tradition was born.
Last Sunday night I made a martini and slapped together the ingredients for 3 pecan pies. I put them in the oven and repaired to the living room. I sat down in my chair, turned on the football game and promptly fell asleep. About an hour later I awoke to the smell of pecan pies burning away. How the damn smoke alarm failed to go off is beyond me and this will be taken up with the alarm company soon. Anyway, the hell of it is that I was completely sober. If I had been drunk I would have maintained my aggression at a level that would have kept me awake. My friends who are predisposed to think in these terms viewed this disaster as a cautionary tale about the efficacy of alcohol during the Holiday cooking process which is a lesson I'll not forget next year.
So, on Christmas Eve, forced as I was by exigent circumstances brought on by situational sobriety, I returned to the Kroger store in the Heights where every person that lives in this zip code was also doing their last minute shopping. I was merely going in to replenish my pie supplies that I had incinerated the night before. However, I could tell by the baskets full of stuff that some people had obviously waited to the last minute to plan their Christmas dinners. Don't get that. However, I concede that many of the shoppers at Kroger's were confident in their ability to stay awake while preparing a meal. It is a near thing.
I have never seen that parking lot more full of cars. I was in a hurry. I had pies to redo and I had folks coming for dinner Christmas Eve. So, I parked illegally me being the center of the universe and all. Besides, I wasn't the only one. I figured I would be long gone before Mr. Kroger called for the tow truck.
This evidently perturbed some lady in a Yukon who was probably pissed that she hadn't thought to do likewise. She rolled down the window.
" You son-of-a-bitch," she yelled. " You think you can just park anywhere?"
" Y'all go to hell now," I explained, trying to be helpful.
I made a beeline for the store, got my stuff, checked my own self out and got back to the car. Never did see the lady from the Yukon again which disappointed me greatly for reasons that I cannot quite explain but are probably traceable to a certain lack of maturity, if not overt sociopathy, that is part of my discreet charm.
Upon pulling into the driveway of my little house, I immediately was overcome by a sense of unease and dread which was even more pronounced than my usual state that obtains during the Holidays. As I sat there it dawned on me. I had forgotten to buy any goddamn pecans. There is another Kroger store about a quarter mile from my house. I don't use it for any of a number of reasons that do not merit discussion in this space. But, being forced once again by exigent circumstances to return to a grocery store, I decided to walk over to the one by me to get the friggin' pecans. Besides, I figured that security might be waiting for me at the other Kroger's.
The good news is that the last trip to the store was completely uneventful and the afternoon's baking took place without any further high drama or inappropriate smoke levels. Both the pies and the ribs went over real big as they do every year.
Like I said, I'm not through with Christmas and I probably won't be until PJ gets back and comes over for copious amounts of gin to help the legal advice go down better. I give it about another week.
But I ain't making any more pies. At least not while sober.