Christmas Death Wish

Good God almighty I love Christmas. Always have. And for purely secular reasons. New York City gets all sparkly and bright. It looks like some cheap wino who fell into a puddle of glitter. The city becomes choked with tourists, which I don’t mind one bit. There are many small, cherished rituals I perform every season that I find wholly satisfying. I visit the Bryant Park and Rockefeller Center ice rinks to watch the skaters. I’ve never seen a sad face there. A Christmas Carol is the last book I read every year. I like watching Elf, Love Actually and A Christmas Carol—the versions with Alistair Sim and George C. Scott are best.

I’ve been promoting Christmas to my daughters since year 1. They know the season means a lot to me. Especially Christmas day. My 11-year old said something that’s haunting me. It was the darkest, most beautiful thing she’s ever said. We were in the midst of tree-decorating bliss when she stopped, looked up at me and said, “Dad, I hope you die on Christmas Day. That way, you’ll be happy.”

Do you get that?! When the time comes, she wants me to be happy. And dying on Christmas Day would practically guarantee it. But JESUS! what a thing to say! Right out of a Tim Burton script. What do you do with a kid like that?

I made my seasonal pilgrimage to the Morgan Library. JP Morgan bought the hand-written manuscript for A Christmas Carol. Dickens gifted it to his attorney, who lent him money for the project. I’m not sure how it wound up on these shores, but here it is.

Stave II
The First of the Three Spirits
When Scrooge woke it was so dark…

You can tell the TRUE first edition because Dickens specifically wrote that The Ghost of Christmas Present “…was clothed in one simple green robe.” Unfortunately, the illustrator got the hand-colored plate wrong.


I have a lot of use-‘em-or-lose-’em sick days so I called in and drove down to Atlantic City. It’s hard to believe the Monday morning crowd at the Tropicana and the Saturday night crowd at the Borgata are the same species.

An old, disheveled local was standing next to me at the craps table. His pants were falling down and I could see he was wearing an adult diaper. It’s made me sad. On the other hand, he won’t miss a hot roll because of a bathroom break. You don’t see stuff like that after dinner at Caesar’s Palace.

This town was fantastic. I have so many fond memories. But now it’s broken-down. They’re down to just four casinos on the Boardwalk. At its peak, there were 12 on the boardwalk alone.  It made me melancholy.

It was freakishly balmy out so I went for a long, meditative walk on the beach. My shoes were the exact same color as the sand. No difference!


Bergdorf Goodman’s holiday window salute to The New York Philharmonic.

Walking a dog in the evening is never called on account of inclement weather. Another reason why cats are superior. Plus, dogs eat poop. If you gave a cat poop to eat he’d look at you and say, “YOU eat it.”

58 thoughts on “Christmas Death Wish

  1. Hey! A bird had sand -coloured “shoes” too!

    What you do with a bright 11 year old who comes out with things like that is hug her and be glad you have her.

    Here’s to a wonderful Christmas, my friend.

  2. From experience with our own dogs they don’t eat their own or other dog excrement…they like something more exotic…like duckshit, which has them rocking and rolling in extasy.
    Before the bath, that is…which is when I find out how much fluff is under my bed….
    Your daughter is a gem of the first water.

  3. I’ve only been to New York in the summer. I’d love to see it at Christmas. In fact, going to the Thanksgiving Day Parade is on my bucket list (well, if I had a bucket list, anyway). Not sure if the decorations are up at that time though.

    • I would caution you about the Macy’s Parade. It’s not as much fun as it looks. It’s super-slow moving in person. And if the weather isn’t cooperating, definitely skip. I saw it once and that was enough. I remember Sammy Davis Jr. waving from a float. He had a ring on every finger. There are some decorations up but things don’t kick in until afterwards. The Rockefeller tree isn’t up yet.

  4. Many things I connected with in this:
    1. Love Actually: my wife Dawn wants me to watch it with her this Christmas and now I will.
    2. Unadorned love of Christmas and programming your kids for the same, + Walt Walker’s Winona comment.
    3. The lonesome, brooding Monday “sick day” with a camera and broken-down former great places. Loved the photo with Hot Dogs in it. Also the fact I noticed you read my blog on Monday and with the time difference I wondered why you were doing that at work? See, I notice these things.
    4. The Dickens prints, their handcrafted artful quality (I think that maps back to your love of book binding etc.)
    5. “Elf”
    You have a nice week my friend. I’ve forgotten the day but I think it’s one of them.

    • Love Actually is NOT a great movie. It’s kind of a chick flick. But I watch it anyway. You’ve been warned.

      I called in sick the following Monday as well. That time, I went on a museum hop. The Michelangelo and David Hockney exhibits at the Met and the Stephen Shore photo retrospective at MoMA. What a day! I need to find a way to make money doing museum and Atlantic City hops.

      Merry Christmas, Bill. Didn’t Germany practically invent modern-day Christmas? It was either them or England.

      • Love Actually is a TOTAL chick flick, but it’s one of the few I can stomach, or even like! Ya gotta do it once a year, for Christmas’s sake.

        I always enjoy your posts, even the ones you think are all over the place!

      • I am so embarrassed about liking Love Actually that I almost didn’t mention it in the post. Then I realized I don’t actually KNOW any of you personally, so what’s the bother? It’s all ego.

        Thanks for your kind words. A happy new year to you. Make a resolution. What’ve you got to lose?

  5. Sounds like you have queued up for, yet another, wonderful season. So when you said you read A Christmas Carol every year, I thought “that’s nice.”…but then you noted your pilgrimage to the Morgan Library. So you REALLY read A Christmas Carol. Damn, son. That’s serious business.

    Good on the 11 yr. old for consolidating deep philosophical thinking within a singular sentimental remark. Next up for her: Koan writing.

    I’m working on the wife to let us watch A Christmas Story or Elf…but apparently 8 1/2 and 5 1/2 are still ages you’re supposed to coddle and protect the kids from THE BEST CHRISTMAS HUMOR EVER. I do fully recognize that Trading Places will have to come later….

    Merry Merry. Happy Happy. Maybe we’ll find a way to see each other in 2018!

    • That manuscript is almost impossible to decipher. Click on it and take a look. Sure, SOME of it is legible but it’s a lot of work. That book is overwritten as it is!

      11-Year old made death + happiness confluent. That’s a trick she didn’t learn from me.

      I can back you on Elf. That’s my fav. 8.5 and 5.5 are the sweet spot for Buddy stuffing his face with syrup and candy-laced spaghetti. C’mon. Why protect them from that?

      Merry Christmas to you, pal. Send my best to your bride.

  6. I wonder if your eleven year old worries about you? She definitely wants you to be happy.
    Thank you for the manuscript picture, it’s given me ideas… probably ideas above my station 🙂

  7. Great all over the place post! Seriously, these are the posts I love the most because they’re like a conversation I imagine we’d have over a drink! By the by, the MITM really likes your shoes! Enjoy Christmas! xoxo

    • Just like a conversation except I’d stop and let you contribute once in a while.

      You tell the MITM those shoes are insanely comfortable. Perry Ellis suede. I’m getting another pair in a different color. Find what works and double it.

  8. Wonderful post as always! Long lurker here but thought I would break silence and wish you and your family the best over the holidays and the year ahead. Visited Atlantic City some 20 years ago and it was looking a bit seedy then already. The beach still looks good. Great photo by the way.
    Take care on Christmas Day regardless. All the best. xxx

    • Are you kidding?! I totally remember you! How nice of you to check in. That seediness you describe is what I considered part of its unrelenting charm. Now, even THAT’S gone. I have some other great beach pics but I didn’t want to clog up the works. I have one of an older African American fellow on the beach by himself attempting to fly a kite.

      Hope you have a happy new year. Thx for dropping by.

  9. Oh Good Lord, your 11 year old is preventing me from being what I really want in my twilight years: to be jaded. That is indeed the best thing I’ve read in ages. Thanks for the background in explaining, and thanks more for sharing. It’s incredibly uplifting.

    There’s something about Atlantic City that I’ve always liked. Part of it is the decent pizza I assume/hope you can still get on the boardwalk, and the other part is the the faded glory of what it once was. It should be depressing, but for some reason I never found it to be that. Instead it’s a kind of ragged glory.

    • I think you have to have a predisposition to be jaded. It’s kind of a pre-existing condition and you seem too evolved for that. Leave that stuff to the professionals. Namely…me.

      Atlantic City was never glamorous—even in it’s heyday—but I’ve always loved going there. Even now when it’s flat on is back I can still muster some warm greetings for it. The Borgata—which is quite a ways off the boardwalk—is pretty classy but I never go there. The table minimums are always too high.

  10. Really nice shoes. I am as sick as a small hospital now and my voice is shot. I hate to sound like an adult but I wish you would stay away from the gambling. I also hope you don’t die on Christmas day, not any one soon anyway. Much love to you, your bride, and the daughters. Head up and keep the faith.

    • Hello, good brother. I am sorry you are laid-up but ‘sick as a small hospital’ is a most excellent turn of a phrase. You without your voice is like the Queen without her crown. Feel better soon.

      A Merry Christmas to you and your family. Glad to see you still popping in here after all these years. Thanks for the fatherly advice but I do so love the dice table. No worries. I am its master. Not the other way around.

  11. I enjoyed your personal stories and photographs. Our lives at first glance appear vastly different, but the soul tells a different story. If you are curious about what it sounds like with a southern twang, you can find me at I will continue to visit your blog like a weekend visit to NYC, a jolt of electricity.

    • I do believe you’re new here. Many thanks for taking the time to visit. Stop in anytime. There’s never a fee! At our very core, we are all pretty much the same. It’s enough to fill me with hope for the future.

  12. There’s something so melancholically attractive about those knackered old seaside towns — we’ve got scores of them over here.

    And I love the kitsch side of Christmas too. The blingier the better for me.

    And finally — I see what your daughter’s getting at, but hang on a bit longer won’t you? Merry Christmas to you and yours, and thanks for another year’s fascinating reading.

    • I love seaside towns. I suppose everyone does. That’s why it’s so expensive to live near one. Even the newer ones have a tacky veneer, but these old war horses like Atlantic City, especially. It appeals to my aesthetics.

      Merry Christmas, sir. I still think you’d be bored stiff if we sat at a bar together but I’d like to do it just the same one night.

  13. I dig the Xmas season as well, all secular reasons of course, i’m a sucker for the lights be it in the city or slowly cruising the suburban streets… and that 11 year old is ace, i like when a kid’s wisdom catches us old folks off guard…
    My bachelor party was held in Atlantic City… i won’t say anymore…

    and if i knew how to link shit i’d or re-post i’d link the Xmas with My Father lounge post, nothing says Xmas like a tall stoner handing his old man a brown paper bag with a Penthouse magazine in it before informing his father that he has bought him a subscription for the year complete with DVD to follow… sometimes in the wee hours i miss those days… great post my friend.

    • Can you believe they try to spoil the holiday spirit by weighing it down with a load of religious meaning? How tedious. I wish your AC bachelor party has been committed to video. What a nifty time capsule that would’ve been. Your Christmas remembrance sounds a little like a Pogues song.

  14. New York is fabulous at Christmas! So is London. Those two cities sparkle with festive fabulousness.

    Your kid has serious potential.

    Fabulous photography!

    Merry Christmas, M. Hope it rings with glory!

  15. I love this time of year. As soon as I get home I rush in and turn on the tree lights and the Christmas carols and bustle around wrapping stuff.

    Your photos of Atlantic City are great – very moody. I get what you mean. I have been to a casino twice in my life: both times in the last few months because it was a half-way meeting point with a huge buffet. All the elderly people with their walkers, depositing their Social Security checks in the noisy, flashing, pulsing sea of machines made me very depressed. I think I’ll find another meeting place buffet in future.

    Your daughter’s comment is great. I hope it doesn’t happen for her sake, as Elyse said, but still. How thoughtful.

    • When I get home I like to snap a needle off our Christmas tree and break it in half. It releases a beautiful pine fragrance.

      I don’t know why I love Atlantic City so much. No sane person would. I just do. Like Christmas, I always have. Perhaps it makes me feel better about my station in life compared with what I see. Selfish, but effective.

      I hope you have a Merry Christmas. Make a resolution!

  16. I love Atlantic City too. I like the tawdry nightlife. Like a sad, low-rent Vegas with a bad hairpiece.

    I’m very caught up in your story about Laura. I know it doesn’t end happily because you’re not married to her. I was once a neurotic NYC actress. I wonder if I made it into anyone’s journal.

    • Well, well, well. Nice to see you. Hope you and the young sir are healthy + happy.

      Well, if you loved the tawdry AC of yesteryear, you’re going to ADORE what it looks like today. Yikes. It’s a bit of a beautiful wreck. But it’s OUR beautiful wreck.

      I had to bail out on the whole Laura thread. It was bumming me out. I’d put all that behind me long ago and didn’t think it mattered anymore but it still does. I liked all the previous girlfriend threads better. They were fun. This one? Not so much. And, yes. You definitely made it into someone’s journal. Perhaps more than one.

      • I’m talking about AC today. Well, not TODAY today, but post-Sandy. There’s still a lot of seedy nightlife.

        I’m single Af, so hopefully I’m still making it into journals. I made it into a heavy metal song or two, but that’s a looong story…

  17. Got a taste of city holiday in Denver, though it doesn’t hold a candle (or LED) to New York. Your simile (“It looks like some cheap wino who fell into a puddle of glitter.”) revs up the spectacularity of city Christmases, too. Sounds like the kids haven’t fallen far from the tree, either (if I may be so presumptuous.) Damn, I like your writing.

  18. it’s sofuckingcold right now, i’m going to teach my foster dog to shit in a box. this is NOT a good time to have to be outside… the air hurts my face. HURTS MY FACE?!?!?!

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