Boil me in my own pudding!

“Why does Scrooge love Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer?
Because every buck is dear to him”. — Unknown

As is well known among those who have long felt an inexplicable desire to suffer my company during the darker months, I am not an enthusiast of the holiday in which we are currently immersed. I don’t erect a tree, I don’t hang lights in my windows, I think eggnog a vile substance unsuited to human consumption regardless of the quantity of rum with which one dilutes it, and I have largely recovered from the social guilt that in the past has compelled me to prepare and mail to my friends and acquaintances the pulped remains of the boreal forest. (Evidently, I have not yet abandoned a propensity for lengthy sentences. Welcome to my Henry James Christmas story.)

This year, however, I fear that I may be having some sort of mental breakdown: I’m feeling unusually charitable.

I’m not especially fond of clothes shopping, so I generally leave it until it becomes a necessity. As misfortune would have it, my last pair of 501s decided to burst apart (no, not in the chilly California sand) five days before Christmas. As I said, I don’t shop very willingly, and I certainly don’t set foot anywhere near a store or mall after Halloween for fear of encountering horrors such as the Backstreet Boys Christmas Album playing on an endless cycle. They say that suicides increase at this time of year, and after my experience working in a mall a number of years ago, I’m convinced that these are largely comprised of retail workers pushed beyond the limits of aural human endurance. Waterboarding has nothing on Celine Dion wailing Adeste Fideles.

Not surprisingly, it was with some apprehension that I set out to buy more jeans on the evening of the darkest night. As solstice rituals go, mine seemed ill-advised. I’d rather have been dancing around an evergreen, clad only in ivy and toasting the moon with a hogshead of the blood of the sacred grape, but it was either now, or January, for I’d sooner stroll about Vancouver naked than set foot in a store during ‘Boxing Week’, and I kind of wanted the trousers earlier rather than later.

I began to sense that something was amiss at the bank, where I held the door for someone behind me and – get this – smiled. Then, waiting for a red light to change (an out of character incident in itself) on Howe Street, I found myself making smiley-faces at a pram-bound infant gawking at me with wide-eyed interest, until his or her presumed parent caught me and I was forced to hurriedly turn my head to check the status of the walk signal.

I went to The Bay, for not only can I get into it without entering the evil mall, I know which door to enter that doesn’t require either that I walk through the cologne section or have to use an escalator to get to the Levi’s section. As luck would have it, the 21st turned out to be one of only 362 days in the calendar year that The Bay gives out Scratch and Save cards, and spending less on clothes is for me second in popularity only to wearing none of them at all. As I was there anyway, I decided to buy three pairs of pants, and some socks (spending roughly 20% of my 2007 income, I might add, somewhat proudly). Naturally, I was also given what surely must be my 17th Bay credit card in order to enjoy an additional ten percent off of my purchases. You’d think they’d eventually clue in and stop giving me these cards, as when they eventually arrive in the mail, I cut them up and toss them, never to be used. Cash is everywhere I want to be.

I must digress briefly on the subject of Scratch and Save. There are three possible discount amounts to scratch: 30, 40, or 50 percent. I’ve always suspected that cards providing fifty percent are severely limited, if any exist at all. As I was mindlessly scratching my card to reveal the predicted 30%, the woman behind me engaged the cashier in a discussion of the topic. He said to her, “We departments all compete to see who gets the 50%”. Characteristically silent until this point, I burst forth with almost a shout, “Aha!”. Beaming in victory, I turned to the woman behind me and said “You’ll notice that he said the 50%.” Everyone in line had a good laugh at this.

Picture it. There I was, standing in a long line at a cashier in a department store, buying clothes, four days before bloody Christmas, and engaging in jocularity with my fellow Gomorrahns.

I swear, during the whole journey from home to store to home, I didn’t once scowl at a soul, or mutter under my breath, with Tourette-like articulation, about the third-world schlock with which we purport to honour ‘our’ christ. In fact, on the way home I stopped at a bookstore for a couple of novels, and afterward I was a block away from the store before I realised that I was humming I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas.

Now, I’ve been having some unusual dreams lately, but I don’t recall any with Sim-like characters dragging me unwillingly through traumas past, present and future. Most of my dreams have been more satisfyingly Bacchanalian in theme than reminiscent of Ezeqielian repentance. (Is that a word, or is my attempt at classical metaphor ridiculous?).

Perhaps my apparent conversion from Christmas-sceptical grump to, well, Christmas-sceptical sorta-cheerful, is less a vision-induced submission to something about which I am inherently and decidedly unenthusiastic, and more a result of just having been to a few more fun, satisfying and highly social seasonal parties this year than usual. Or maybe I am actually undergoing some sort of fundamental conversion, the culmination of which is yet to be known. As I once said, “I think I’ve done just about everything I said I’d never do”. So who knows? I do, however, remain sceptical.

To all my friends, a Happy Solstice!


Posted in

hedley bontano


  1. stella on December 23, 2007 at 18:24


    One of your best. Happy birthday to you on the 25th!

    Big kiss


    P.S. Luv the grouchy reindeer pic!

  2. Darrren on December 24, 2007 at 14:23

    Oh Ed, remember what happened to the Grinch! I suspect you will not be afflicted by the same outcome – it was a cartoon for gods sake! However, should it happen, I can imagine you gleefully running over your newly enlarged passion for the season with both wheels of your bike, and most likely in the nude.

    We’ve opted to be fed at Brian’s parents home this year. But that does not preclude future plans of taking up residence in a hotel in another city far, far away from here during a future solstice break. Nothing like a hotel over the holidays, especially with a significant room discount!

    On that note, let me sign-off by wishing you the best for the ‘holidays’ and I do hope that we can catchup live in 08.



  3. Tim Cooley on December 27, 2007 at 07:10

    Brilliant beyond words, but I’ll use a few anyway.

    You lifted my spirits infinitely higher than an overpriced and not especially brilliant production of “Spring Awakening” that John and I went to last night on Broadway. (It was a family outing. A rather odd choice as it includes physical and sexual child abuse, suicide and death from a botched abortion. But it did have singing and dancing.)Apparently it won Best Musical this year. There must have been slim pickings on the NYC musical theatre scene.

    Love the photo.

    Love to you,