12 Days of Christmas? Yeah, I got your 12 Days, right here!
Well, since I haven't had time to write my 2008 Christmas letter you'll be getting to read a retread. Maybe I'll get the other one done if some other projects get fininshed. If not, well, we'll always have 2002!
December 19, 2002
Dear Family and Friends;
I know that all of you are doing last minute shopping and gift wrapping (a complete list of my sizes, color and fabric preferences and web addresses for all the gift registries I have signed up for is attached). I’m also sure that since you have families and invite people to your homes you’re stuck with having to do a lot of cooking, cleaning and decorating for the holidays. As for myself , I do my best holiday celebrating on the move: just look out your window, I’m pulling up in front of your house as you read this!
I don’t even want to talk about politics this year as, well, we just got our butts kicked and can never hold our heads up again (oh, wait, that was my Cornhusker’s speech!). In any event I wanted to share with all of you a cautionary tale about how those who lose track of the true meaning of this holiday season will rue their bitter, empty lives.
And so it goes…
A Christmas Carol for 2002
(Ms. Stewart wanted to call it a Christmas Martha until we explained that it wasn’t named for a woman)
We open on a scene of shattered domestic bliss in the master bedroom of a palatial Manhattan townhome, bedecked with every manner of ornament and decoration appropriate to the season. and yet, something is amiss.
Martha lies abed, tossing and turning. Hers is a lonely life in these troubled days. Stock in her eponymous empire is in free-fall; a chorus of market regulators, congressional investigators, various state’s attorneys general, and the public-at-large call for her to be jailed, fined or; God forbid, forced to live in their meanly narrow lifestyles. Her old, dear friend, Sam Waksal (that rat-bastard, lying weasel) has involved her in his own contretemps regarding the Imclone scandal and has largely succeeded in deflecting attention towards her: she is such a convenient target!
Finally, she drops off into a fitful sleep, filled with fevered dreams, nightmares of living like everyone else. Suddenly, at the foot of her bed, who should appear but the Spirit of Christmas Past (who looks suspiciously like Trent Lott!) to warn her of impending doom.
Martha is carried back to her youth. Born Martha Kostyra to parents of 2nd generation Polish-Americans, she spent her early years in suburban Nutley, NJ (which exit is that?). The Spirit in a winding sheet (looking more like Trent with each passing moment!) invites her to stand at the table while her Christmas Past family enjoys their holiday repast of pierogi, guamki, red cabbage, bread with fresh lard and borscht—followed by Kolachis for dessert.
This cheery scene is replete with evidence of Martha’s early forays into event planning and decorating. Working with pipe cleaners, egg cartons, dixie cups, paper towel roll cores and library paste young Martha could fashion an entire Christmas Scene right down to the baby Jesus giggling in delight as the Three Wise Men made Frosty the Snowman and Mary mixed up a batch of spicy Mogen David gluhwein for the festive occasion.
We fast forward now, several years, to see Martha as a teenager. Already recognized as a prodigy by her High School Home Economics teacher, she is in charge of tree trimming, interior and exterior displays, gift wrapping, holiday communications (Christmas Cards, party invitations, Letters to Santa and thank you notes) for her school as well as catering several civic and private functions (once again library paste comes in handy—as an inspired choice for a last minute thickener for sauces and gravies). Additionally, as a volunteer consultant to the Nutley, NJ Department of Public Works, she assists in the planning, siting and construction of the Manger Scene (complete with paid actors and live animals) that is such a resounding success in downtown Nutley. Ah, but there’s a rub.
It seems that Martha has, much as the cuckoo in nature, pushed her siblings out of the nest. Her five brothers and sisters have been put up with neighbors or relatives as one by one they are shouldered aside to make way for the various accoutrement of Martha’s chosen profession. In a final break with any semblance of familial conviviality Martha caters her own wedding, charging her parents such an exorbitant price (although it is, admittedly, a fair value) for the reception that they are forced to sign their home over to her as a means of payment. Her guide gazes at her dolefully, in silent accusation. “No, no!” cries Martha, “I was only trying to be graceful in a graceless world. Where’s the harm in that?”. The Ghost of Christmas Past merely shakes his head , sadly, and fades from view…
Martha jerks bolt upright in her pencil-post, Gambian lacewood bed and shivers beneath her eider quilt. “Wow, what a wild, wild ride,” she thinks, “that’s the last time I have three eggnogs with Hennessy XO just before bedtime.”
But then, just as she is ready to adjust her buckwheat hull pillow and drift back into dreamland, she notices a troll at the foot of her bed. “Who are you!!!?”, she shrieks. “I am ze ghozt of Chrizmaz Prezent.” murmurs the apparition, in a voice uncannily similar to Henry Kissinger’s.
“But, But what are you doing here in my room?”, she whimpers. “Vell,” he says, “I vaz zuppozed to have ziz gig on a fact finding commizzion, but zey zaid I had a conflict of integrity or zomezing like zat. Zo, here I am, your perzonal imparzial obzerver. Let’z go for a ride”
Martha makes a very short trip through time to four o’clock in the afternoon of the following day. It’s a huge party. No expense has been spared (it is, after all 100% tax deductible). All is in readiness for the fete.
A beautiful Bristlecone Pine, named Methuselah, believed, at the age of 4,767 years, to be the world’s oldest living tree has been lovingly chopped down, flown in from high atop the Inyo mountains of California, festooned with garlands of cymbidium and onsidium orchids, draped with hand drawn sterling silver and 24 kt gold tinsel, lit with nearly a thousand beeswax tapers and covered with hundreds of blown glass ornaments and a stunning tree topper that utilizes in its design a recently discovered Faberge Egg.
The linen is measured in acres; there are gardens of flowers; orchards of fruit; herds, gaggles, flocks and prides of various beasts, sizzling on spits, roasting in ovens, bubbling in stews. Sideboards groan with a surfeit of sweetmeats and tender victuals. Hogsheads of imported ales, casks of the finest wines, jereboams of Veuve Cliqout; dusty, dusky bottles of cognac and port that were laid down when Napoleon was but an overweening prat of a Corsican Corporal. All is in readiness: the doors to the great hall are flung wide and slam against the outer wall, creating a booming echo in the unpeopled silence.
Martha is distraught, inconsolable. Does no one love her ? (Jeez, what an idiotic question—Hello!), will none sup with her on this blessed holiday? Has she been forsaken by all? (those same craven suitors who once longed for her merest nod, her benediction, her bons mots, “It’s a good thing”.) But no, what is this, the shade of the Nobel Whiner has pulled open a drawer to reveal the root of the travail. “It zeemz, Martha, you have forgotten to mail ze friggin invitationz. You vere zo caught up in your cheezy zhtock zhwaps and Imclone machinationz zat you committed a faux paz of epic proportionz”. Martha faints dead away.
By now our heroine, having endured two horrific nocturnal visits is nearly out of her mind from sleep deprivation (it will takes weeks—and repeated applications of chamomile and lousewort masks to remove the facial puffiness) and scared nearly witless. But her ordeal is not yet at an end. Once more she awakes to find a fearsome specter at her elbow—this time it’s none other than Jacko, the Gloved One himself. The two moonwalk their way into the not too distant future where Martha suddenly finds herself in a shockingly loud, International Orange, “relaxed fit” jumpsuit and realizes that the room she’s in is not a closet, or a bathroom (although it does have a sleek, stainless-steel toilet bolted to the floor). It’s her home for the foreseeable future, a 6 x 10 cell in the maximum security block at Ossining, NY.
Gone the toothsome viands of yesteryear, absent the sumptuous furnishings and appointments of her previous life. In their place, a rude, plebian table. A functional, unfashionable wardrobe. And there on the table, where the silver glove points, an oft creased and stained piece of paper, with that same precise, wonderfully cursive hand. A Christmas menu, to whit:
Salsiccon de Bologna Fricassee au Pain Wonder, avec Pommes de terre du bebe et Legumes gris.*
(Fried baloney sandwiches on Wonder Bread with Tater Tots and canned vegetables)
“Is this my end?”, she shrieks, “Is this how it must be? Oh, please, I beg of you, just one more chance, just one more chance, just one more…..
Slowly, as if rising from a great depth Martha swims to the the surface of conciousness; realizes she is still in her comfortable bed, in her lovely apartment in the Greatest City on Earth. She rushes to the window and flings it open. Drinking in the beauty that is Central Park West she spies an urchin walking with head down into the wind and calls down to him. “You there, young man. Go to Balducci’s on 11th and get me a 30 pound free range goose, some foie gras and a few bottles of Dom Perignon. We’ll have a wonderful Christmas dinner, just you and I and two or three score producers, prep and prop people, publicists and assorted hangers on. No, on second thought wait right there.” Dressing quickly in a well worn pair of keds, pedal pushers and a threadbare, “ I’M WITH STUPID” sweatshirt, Martha runs down the stairs and out the door past the startled concierge. “C’mon kid,” she says “I think today is a perfect day for a breakfast of Twinkies and RC Cola!”.
Thus ends Martha’s plight as she returns to a simpler, less avaricious and less contentious lifestyle. In later years it is hoped that Martha will relax her standards to the point where she can retire to a double wide in a mobile home park in Dade County, Florida; fashion clothing, accessories and home furnishings from various food and beverage containers; spend her sunset years watching HSN, WWF and the Weather Channel; learn how to make a really tasty possum fajita and live happily ever after.
There, now; that wasn’t so bad, was it? Actually, this idea was batted around by several of the cable channels, but Martha wanted to be involved in all aspects of the production—from storyboarding to smorgasbording and it just ain’t gonna happen.
My life is good, I’m staying near the lifeboats just in case, but so far we are all still afloat here at the Real Phone Company (Verizon).
I was able to get to my 35th High School Reunion this past summer. I think this will probably be the last one where we go up and down the stairs or wear shoes that aren’t white. I had a lot of fun trying to remember who my classmates were or where I live.
Lucky you, I’m out of paper (print version). Happy Holidays, all the best in 2003.
Love, Peace, Prosperity and Blessings
* Okay, so my frenglish is tres excreable, sue moi.