The annual village Christmas Parade is starting in a few minutes. I first took photographs of this parade in the 1970s. I'd go now, but a man with a camera is considered a criminal these days, and I don't want my neighbors to see me in handcuffs today. In truth, I have little interest in going. I used to look forward to it with glee when the town was small and everyone you knew would be there. There was Betsy looking like the cover of Vogue in last night's dress and a paper cup of coffee. The twins were there with cups of coffee laced. Me, my conservative buddy, my girlfriend or wife, and just about everyone you knew. The talk was of last night's adventures of mayhem and daring.
"What happened after you left?"
"Oh, Christ. . . we went back to Larry's house."
"Yea, you know how that goes. He and Sandra got into a big fight and . . . ."
Somehow, year after year, I was able to get a sidewalk table at the good breakfast place, and we would all crowd in and watch the parade go by, the high school bands and local beauty queens in the back of convertibles and Dad and Lad clubs and baton twirlers and children's dance troupes. Oh, and of course the Kiwanis crazy cars. Kiwanis, right? Elks clubs and Moose clubs and floats made by local businesses. All of it followed up by Santa. And then your friends would head in different directions, many home to their now bed.
"See you tonight."
Oh, you bet. It was The Season, and you wouldn't be on the Boulevard if you didn't belong. This was before everyone could find out how to get anywhere on their iPhone. Now the cruise ships drop off the hoi-polloi by the thousands. Once, people moved here to be away from the unwashed hordes. Now the Boulevard has become a "destination." Travel and Leisure just published an article on the sophisticated charm of our little town.
At least it was Town and Country.
I went to dinner last night as they were lighting the tree in the park. We sat at the bar of my favorite little Italian place where the most beautiful bartender in town hates me. Everyone who goes there with me sees it. Those beautiful, troubled eyes turn vicious when they light on me. She laughs and jokes with others, but when she looks at me, her entire persona changes. Last night, she curtly took our order, then began joking with the fellow sitting next to us.
I looked at my dining partner.
"There's what you don't get," she said with a sardonic laugh.
I don't know why. Maybe it is just organic. Maybe I remind her of someone. Who knows. But I am obviously a "trigger." I mean I'd lay good odds she has multiple therapists. It is probably good, though, or I would definitely fall for her. Well. . . I probably have anyway.
She did give us good pours, though, of the Chianti Classico. Big glasses of wine, Caprese salad, and huge servings of chicken scarpariello. I ate it all with nothing to box. It was a lot of food, a lot of wine. We ate early, but the place was crowded. When did people start eating early again? The fellow on my left ordered, "the usual." He drank many glasses of Tattinger. The fellow on my friend's right also ordered "the usual." Each a man alone drinking at a familiar bar. I like that. It feels "homey."
If only the bartender liked me. She does, however, recognize me, and that is something.
After dinner, my friend wanted to go to the Boulevard. A girlfriend was going to meet up with her. I begged off. I was stuffed and ready for a whiskey on the couch. I had been out all day. Oh. . . I didn't mention that. My mother's birthday is coming up. She needs to renew her driver's license, but because of her age, she has to do it in person. That is what I was told. She is afraid that she won't pass the eye test and that she won't be allowed to drive.
"Well. . . ."
"I see fine," she says.
Some people from her church came to visit her last week. They said she should get a letter from her eye doctor saying she has passed the eye exam. I thought this sounded screwy, but my mother called her ophthalmologist and, indeed, she got the form. I was fairly surprised. I told my mother I would take her up just in case they took her license, but it was really because I knew she couldn't navigate the whole process on her own. The check in kiosk alone would have baffled her, and she would have felt overwhelmed by the crowd.
So we checked in and within minutes we were called up.
"I need to see your Social Security card and your passport," the clerk said.
I cocked my head in surprise.
"She doesn't have a gold star on her license. She is going to need to bring those in with her."
I had nor have any idea what the gold star is, but I pulled out my license and saw it on mine. So we made a new appointment for next week.
"Do you know where your S.S. card and passport are?"
"I'll have to look for them. Can you drive me by that chicken place? I don't want to cook tonight."
After I dropped her off, I needed to do some shopping. But you can't get anywhere in this town. You just crawl in crazy assed traffic. By the time I got back to my house, it was time to go to dinner.
Hence. . . the after dinner couch, old bum that I am.
I got a text from my dinner partner. She and her friend were at a new place just off the Boulevard. Had I been there?
Oh, no. I'd heard about it from the gymroids. It is owned by a guy with an expensive car dealership. I was not tempted, so I turned the television on to some trashy show I watch in secret, and early on, I went to bed.
I had another text from my friend when I got up. It was time-stamped 2:30.
Yea. I'm not doing that any more.
Maybe I'll put up a few lights this year, just to please the neighbors. Maybe I'll buy a little two foot tall tree in a stand and put on a few bulbs. Why not? I'm already eating seasonal cakes. I'll be fat and festive.
The day is overcast and grey. I think I'll go to some little hippie/hipster shops today and look around. I'll stop in the Cafe Strange for a cappuccino. I'll walk with one of my new cameras and try to feel groovy. And maybe I'll buy myself a treat. I'll make lunch and dinner plans with pals and friends for the next few weeks. What the hell, right? It is Christmas.