I had a really great Christmas this year. Family, friends, good food, good drink, good weather, NO TRAVEL, and my grandson’s first Christmas. What could be better?
Also, I made out like a bandit with gifts! Usually I don’t get too much stuff for Christmas. We concentrated on the kids when they were young, and I concentrate on the Tiny Goddess otherwise. Plus I am literally a man who already has everything. But this year I got a ton of great stuff!
But before I get too materialistic, let me say that we also donated something to our favorite charities – Planned Parenthood, Reading Is Fundamental, the Sarah Lawrence College Annual Fund, P.A.T.H. (People Assisting the Homeless), Natural Resources Defense Council, Friends of the LA Opera, Friends of the LA Philharmonic, KCRW, KUSC, KPCC, etc. as well as our favorite local places, Five Acres, Union Station, the Montrose Search and Rescue Team, the Huntington Library and Gardens, and Descanso Gardens – and a couple of others, worth more than all the presents combined.
But forget about that for this blog: I want to talk about Christmas stuff and run down some of the fun presents I got and gave this Christmas. It was quite a haul.
STUFF FOR ME
What I like to get for Christmas most – and what my family gives me – is art books. I have a large (but not large enough) collection of books about art and artists that I have amassed over forty years. I have dozens of art books spread all through my house, wherever I can have shelves built big enough to hold them. I developed this love of art books when I got out of college and went to work as an Editorial Assistant at a prominent art book publisher (and front for the CIA, but that’s another story). We published and imported some of the best art books in the world, and once you get your hands on a beautifully illustrated, scholarly book about, say, early Picasso, you develop a love for these things. And now, more than forty Christmases, birthdays, and anniversaries later, I have a fairly nice collection.
For the record, judging by my collection, my favorite artists are Goya, Turner, and Cezanne.
But this year, I really hit the art book jackpot. I got TWO fantastic books from the fabulous (and I do mean fabulous) German publisher Taschen Books. One book on Hieronymous Bosch, and the other about the circus. Taschen is the anti-Kindle. They publish books on art, design, and photography of surpassing beauty, outlandish size, and excellent scholarship. I’m a fanatic about Bosch, and this book has gorgeous full-sized details of “The Garden of Earthly Delights,” “The Temptation of St. Anthony,” and Bosch’s other masterpieces. Like many other people, I tripped out over the Bosch at the Prado, but not as long as I wanted to. As the critic Erwin Panofsky said, “I cannot help feeling that the real secret of his magnificent nightmares and daydreams has still to be disclosed. We have bored a few holes in the door of the locked room, but somehow we do not seem to have discovered the key.” This book will give me a glorious peek into Bosch’s lunatic genius.
The other book on the circus is big and slipcased and filled with sensational illustrations: posters, photographs, drawings, all kinds of memorabilia. It will give me a new look into a strange world. R. Crumb said it was his favorite Taschen book, so that was recommendation enough for me.
Some of my other presents included a pocket-sized edition of Emily Dickinson that I can keep by my desk. Dickinson is one of my favorite writers, and I have many editions of her work. (She challenges me as few writers do. I don’t understand a lot of what she says, but I don’t mind it because her music is so intoxicating.) But they’re mostly big and bulky. A couple of years ago, I gave the Tiny Goddess a three-volume, box set facsimile of the actual ‘fascicles’ that she wrote by hand and bound for her friends, but it’s not something you can read easily. Now I have a little edition of Emily that I can keep by my keyboard ... to tease me and dare me to write better.
I also got more polo shirts (my “uniform” as my family kids me) ... from my excellent brother-in-law, a book of the lyrics of Van Morrison, my favorite music maker and probably the subject of an upcoming blog ... more art books on Goya (the catalog from the hot Museum of Fine Arts show from Boston), Durer, and Toulouse-Lautrec ... a gift certificate to Amoeba Records ... and some other things I can’t remember now.
As you see, I made out like a bandit. But I did try to reciprocate.
STUFF FROM ME
The Tiny Goddess said that this should be a semi-lean Christmas, and she was right. We’ve been preparing for the coming of our grandson and have been helping stock up on baby gear. There was no need to go overboard on anything extravagant. Besides, we’ve invested in some rather extravagant theatre and opera tickets that we wrapped up and put under the tree.
Still, I had to seek out something special for my family. The Tiny Goddess is hard to shop for, once she said “no more jewelry.” For a husband, that’s bad news. (Guys, there is nothing as sure as “bling” to make your woman happy. That’s just a fact. And my woman is as serious, intelligent, and studious as they come. She still loves the bling.)
So I sought out something more moderate for her. We love the work from a company – Ephraim Pottery Company of Wisconsin – that makes limited-edition hand-thrown, hand-decorated Arts and Crafts style pottery, tile, and lamps. So I found a sweet little bowl, in purple – the TG’s favorite color – and that was that.
My daughter The Flower doesn’t like being mentioned in this blog. I’ll just say that I found an antique hammered gold pendant for her with a sapphire as beautiful and clear and arresting as her eyes. Sorry, Flower.
For my son The Prince, I supplied what he needed: nice clothes so that he looks good at the school where he teaches. And a renewal of a subscription to The New Yorker and the Friday-Sunday New York Times so he stays in touch.
For my daughter-in-law, I actually did the sensible thing and got something she wanted off her Amazon Wish-List: a book about Edward Stieglitz and Georgia O’Keefe. (The new mom also has an MFA in photography from UCLA.)
And for my grandson – Calder Leigh Robinson? He was barely two days old – and I hadn’t bought him a toy! So I went over to one of my favorite shopping places on earth – and I generally hate shopping (except for books and records): the Rose Bowl Flea Market. There I found him a nice little toy truck. His first antique. An A.C. Williams red truck, from the 1920s. With most of the original paint and the bumpers. It’s time Calder got used to the finer things in life.
In honor of this “stuff” – here is a link to George Carlin’s famous “stuff” monologue.
In reality, the gift we all got this Christmas was a healthy, happy baby ... with a bright, bright future.