News From Home 12, Part II
12/15/2003 (updated 2/8/2004)

Georgio occasionally surprises me by declaring his friendship. “You are best pal man could have”, he said, careful not to waste too many articles definite or otherwise, “I owe you big time – come, we go hockey now”. I had forgotten that Georgio had promised to take me to see the LA Kings play, and to get me backstage into the locker room. Our seats were front row, just inches away from players being mangled against the glass, and the result was all that could be desired. The locker room afterwards smelt very bad – I suppose all that padding doesn’t get washed more than once a season. It was great to meet my hero, Ziggy Palffy, but the big surprise was the presence of the new Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who had popped in with his pal, Chuck Norris. I was shocked to see Norris, who exudes manliness on endless B-Macho flicks and fitness machine infomercials, weigh in at about 5 feet 6 inches. At least Arnie was about my size, but looked unexceptional in a room full of large hockey players. “Nice to meet you, have a nice day”, he said as Georgio introduced me, as if reading a script of a parody of one of his own films. I ventured to ask him if he had any plans to get back some of the millions Enron screwed out of the State, seeing as he was palsy with the old CEO. To his credit, the smile never left his lips, and he said, “There’s good guys and bad guys, but we’re going to win this one”, and then he circulated without leaving the centre of the room, having said nothing in that meaningful way actors turned politicians can. I rather liked him, and I can see the attraction of promoting the fictional hero to the real job, in the hope that he might become what he pretends to. I collected a few autographs with Honourable Number Three Son for about ten minutes, and was then surprised when Arnie came back over to me. He apologized for not recognizing me at first, and said that his son was signed up to play on my soccer team, and we’d be seeing a lot more of each other! Well, I do coach an under 12 team, and I was aware of Arnie’s son playing in the league, but I hadn’t yet received the roster of players for the new season, so I was slightly at a loss for words…. seeing more of each other! I don’t know if I like the sound of that – and will Arnie be one of those hands-on kinds of parents? And do I not have enough body-builders in my life?

It’s that festive time of year once again, and I have been busy stringing up Christmas lights. I am onto my third set already – the first two lasted barely 24 hours before partially burning out, leaving a blotchy and pathetic impression for the neighbours to witness, for – and make no mistake – this is a competition. He Who Is Holiest has the most nodding reindeer, inflatable Santas and massed ropes of lights sucking megawatts from the grid. That will teach me to get my seasonal goodies from The Friendly Store (Where quality costs less – and the smile is free!) Set number three is holding, barely, and will have to do – a couple of dozen reluctant bulbs that flicker unconvincingly, like the sign to the Bates Motel…

After last year’s fiasco in the present department, when we all gave each other the same digital camera (special offer online – all of which self-destructed within two months) – we have agreed this year to exchange home-made gifts; and after a satisfying Yuletide feast with all the trimmings, including five types of vegetables from my very own allotment (the curly kale was a real winner!) – we sat around the fire and unwrapped. Honourable Number Three Son gave me a thoughtful and artistic wall-hanging made from pieces of knotted string; Honourable Number One Son presented a collage/portrait, nicely framed, of all his girlfriends of the last few years, each picture numbered and named, with the opening and closing dates of the liaison added. Mrs. R.T., bless her, had knitted me a remarkable sweater, on the large side, just the way I like it, and in the most creative colour – I don’t think this is a green that exists in nature. For my part, I decided to give vegetables. I really was chuffed with our crop this year, and what could be healthier than carrots, organic and fresh from the ground? We are always looking to take in a few waifs and strays at this reflective and meaningful time of year, so we were glad to have Georgio and Mavis drop in for a Tia Maria, and of course Mr. Alphonso came over a regaled us with stories, real or imagined, about his colourful life on the Pampas and in Golden Era Hollywood. By about 9:30 the party wound down, the young folk went off to a friend’s house to keep the spirit alive, and Mrs. R.T. and I retired to reflect on a successful day.