133. breakfast in the new year
The end of the year is always a strange time for me. There’s an odd feeling of unease that’s diffuse, vague, and as imprecise as it is incessant. I know part of it has to do with the reasons I hate the Christmas season (see blog 125), but there’s something more, something hovering over those other, more definable reasons. Maybe it’s because their sum is greater than their parts, but I don’t think that’s it.
Actually, I just had a thought. Christmas is a time of sharing. Now I consider myself a pretty generous person year ’round, so you’d think this would be a tremendous time for me, but I think the thing that troubles me about this time of year is the fact that giving is obligatory rather than spontaneous, extemporaneous, unexpected. Maybe this makes me some kind of purist when it comes to generosity, but the idea of giving someone a gift because it’s expected of you is distasteful to me. And the fact that it saturates the air this time of year makes it that much more uncomfortable.
Anyway, I’m writing on the eve of Christmas and I just thought I’d share some annual rituals that I have this time of year. Tonight I’ll attend the candle light service at Central Union Church. I’m not sure how many years I’ve been attending this service – for the last two or three I know, and a few other times before that. It’s a beautiful service in a beautiful church full of beautiful people. It’s about as formal as church services get in Hawaii, you even see a few suits in the congregation. Unlike most guys I know, I like dressing up. Now I don’t wear a suit (I don’t own one…not one that fits anyway), but I wear something nice (don me now my gay aparel) and I tuck my shirt into my slacks (shirt in slacks equals formal, shirt outside equals informal). It feels like a date even though I’m going by myself. The church is close to my house and so I walk there and back (weather permitting) and the walk is a nice way to be alone even though there lurks the unmentioned danger of drunk drivers in the subtext.
And then there’s Christmas morning. There’s really no ritual or tradition for me here except that of opening presents. I don’t know what your Christmases are like, but it seems like every year I’m getting fewer and fewer wrapped presents. I mean I still get presents, but only a few of them are wrapped. Anyway, what wrapped presents I have, I save until Christmas morning and I open them upon waking. I know as an adult that there’s no point in waiting until Christmas morning but it’s something I’m pretty anal about. It’s not something I impose on people I give presents to, if they want to open their present as soon as I give it to them, that’s their evil right.
Then there are the New Years things. First of all is New Year’s Eve at my very good friend, Luke’s house, deep in Kalihi Valley. So deep in fact, that back when illegal ariel fireworks were easy to come by, family and friends would amass a formidable arsenal of shells and spinning, sparkly, airborne things that are the bane of Hawaii firefighters. There’s only one road into and out of the street were Luke’s house lies, and the cops never make it back that far. I remember one year, we had so many strings of firecrackers that after a while, the only ones we bothered to string up were the 100,000s. We had so many 10,000s and 50,000s, that we left them coiled up and lit them just like that. They unleashed the most glorious, wall of noise and light I’ve ever experienced – a riot of red firecracker paper and spent gunpowder smoke. Shit-eating grins all around. The neighbors thought us mad. Those were good times.
One last year end ritual. I started doing it the year after I graduated from high school so this will be the sixteenth year in a row that I’ve done it. After champagne and good luck mochi soup at Luke’s, I drive out to Sandy Beach, park my car, set my alarm and then try to catch some sleep. I get up around 6:30 AM either by alarm clock or aching back. If it’s not raining, I pick out some spot in the sand, think about the year that’s past and about the one to come, and I wait for the sun to come up. Sometimes I take a random selection of old journals with me and review thoughts from years past, sometimes I take my guitar, sometimes I write. Most times I’m too tired to give a shit and I wonder why the hell I started doing it, but it’s something I do and I’m too stubborn about it to stop.
I remember when I started doing this, I’d be pretty much by myself. Every year though, more and more people would be out there when I woke up. Some of them look like they’re a part of some church group – they’re all dressed in white and they hold hands, gather in a circle, and slit the throat of a goat before throwing it in the ocean (I’m kidding of course…they don’t hold hands). And then there are the Asians who do those funny stretching exercises that they teach in Japan and China and, I suspect, elsewhere in the Far East. And then there are the jerks who come to fire off the last of their whistling bottle rockets with report. Assholes. Don’t they see there are other people here trying to have a moment?
And then there’s me, glad Christmas is over, wondering about what the coming year will bring, reveling in the possibilities, brushing the sand off my ass.
Oh, and one more thing. Most of the restaurants are closed, but I can always count on Jack In The Box to be open. That first meal of the year is always a tasty one indeed.