There are four times during year when I can be consumed by the holiday spirit (and one of these occasions isn’t even a real holiday). What these days have in common with each other is that they can be (and should be associated) with great parties. These holidays are New Year’s Eve, The Fourth of July, Halloween, and Christmas. New Year’s Eve is best celebrated in the company of 25 or 30 close friends, who will have a light dinner, heavy drinks, and welcome another 365 days of friendship when the new year is born. (And New Year’s Day will see the Mac-Pac assemble at a local diner for a traditional pork and sauerkraut lunch, and the first ride of the year for many.)
The Fourth of July (Independence Day in the United States) needs no explanation. Hard, fast riding; swimming in a lake or river; shooting skeet; beef and shrimp sizzling on coals; explosive fireworks at night; and red hot romance (when possible) make this the holiday weekend of choice. It is one time during the year when the party can rage for three days. I remember one such weekend at the country retreat of my friend Ricky Matz. We had been up howling at the moon around a campfire until 4am. Less than three hours later, the walking wounded were crashed around a table in a traditional farmhouse kitchen. The aroma of rum, vodka, and Bourbon hung heavy in the air, as six individuals sat with aching heads in their hands. Then “Stitches” pumped the rock classic “Sedated” (by the Ramones) through speakers that were 6 feet tall (in the house), and Bloody Marys were served for breakfast.
Halloween is no slouch either. Sort of the US equivalent of the Feast of the Dead (Mexico), Halloween parties (with costumes) celebrate the harvest and the wardrobe ingenuity of the average person. I used to throw costume parties at my place in the Adirondacks that attracted stage set designers, artists, singers, musicians and other writers. One year, Rowan Mulvey (one of the most unique women I have ever met) organized a secret cadre, and everybody came to the party as me. I remember another year when set designer and stained glass artist Janice Hoffman had gotten into the house to hang unbelievably realistic ghosts in all the room corners. My daughter, then five-years-old, stepped through the front door and screamed like a banshee.
Christmas, however, remains as my best all time holiday — though some years were better than others. First and foremost, this holiday marks the birth of an individual whose brief life of 33 years changed the course of history in every country and on every continent. The trickle-down effect of that birth is sometimes difficult to grasp when standing in long lines at the mall, or after camping out in parking lot to save 50% off some useless junked marked down the day after Thanksgiving, or when realizing that you are likely to spend 8 week’s salary to get your kids and others on your list the latest electronic gimmick.
In many instances for me, Christmas was a trade-off in which the cost of being with family was hours spent driving between distant cities. For years, my former paramour endured a three-hour ride up to north Jersey, and a three-hour ride back, to spend two hours with my family. We always had a great time... But six hours in the car on Christmas Eve gets a bit wearisome. Still I remember some incredible Christmas experiences: cutting down our tree in the woods; Midnight Mass at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral (New York City); dancing with my former paramour to the holiday orchestra in the lobby of the Metropolitan Museum (New York City); and Christmas parties in the Adirondacks, in which dozens of friends would arrive with ornaments for the tree — some fancy, some homespun; some sensitive and gentle; and others straight out of a New Orleans cathouse. Then there was the first Christmas with my limited-English speaking Russian girlfriend. She met most of my family on Christmas Day, in the emergency room at Saint Claire’s Hospital, where I was being prepped for kidney surgery.
I hav always liked shopping for Christmas presents too.
While there are those who insist on making Christmas shopping a marathon ordeal of ostentatious gift-giving, the real challenge is to find something meaningful, useful, or expressive of the affection and love you have for a person. And this is where originality and forethought pay off big time. I would often start thinking of what would make good Christmas presents for family and friends months before the holiday shopping season started. The thought process also included locating all of these items, knowing precisely where they could be found within a certain store, and how much they cost. And then because I am a professional writer, I would often find myself at the mercy of penurious publishers who would sit on my cash until they could no longer contrive any other reasons not to send it. Sometimes, the money would arrive at 1pm on December 24th.
The last time this happened was three years ago.
According to broadcast media reports, traffic in and around the shopping malls was approaching catastrophic levels. At the mall in King of Prussia (one of the nation’s largest), snarled traffic had spawned mobs of flesh-eating zombies, who were pulling other motorists, paralyzed with fear, loathing, or ennui from their cars. It was a warm day for the season, with temperatures approaching the low 40’s (F). I realized that I possessed the single most efficient vehicle for Christmas shopping ever designed — the motorcycle. Specifically, I possessed a 1995 BMW K75 with enough luggage capacity to carry the gifts I had in mind for everyone.
Some people split lanes when they ride. On that day, I split lanes like Jack The Ripper.
I used the shoulder. When the shoulder petered out, I used the sidewalk. When the sidewalk wasn’t an option, I rode up the grass embankment. I hit five stores in an hour and a half, parking my bike within 20 feet of the front door in each case. At one shop, a custom gallery, the owner met me at the curb with the object already wrapped and bagged, took my credit card inside, and sent me on my way with a receipt in hand. I found myself humming Christmas Carols (“Father Christmas” by the Kinks) as I sliced through stalled traffic with reckless abandon. And yet the day was not without challenge. A mall cop fired 16 warning shots in my direction after I snatched a slice of hot pizza from his hands, and rode my bike through a revolving door to blend in with the crowd.
I had one last stop in this holiday sortie, which entailed walking 200 feet through a mall concourse — when I met her. She was a tinted blonde in a low-cut blouse and jeans that were tighter than the budget to which I was successfully adhering. She was a salesperson, selling hand-creams and cosmetics from a pushcart, and she waved me over like it was a matter of life and death. I hesitated, for about a tenth of a second, and asked, “Yes?”
Noticing I was in riding gear, she wanted to see my hands. I held them up, wondering if she’d realize they were already assuming individual cup-shapes as a kind of reflex action.
“Hands are one of the first things a woman sees on man,” she said to me, taking my right one in both of hers.
“In my case, they are often the first point of contact,” I added in complete agreement.
“Women can tell a lot, not only by the condition of a man’s nails, but by the texture of his palms and fingertips,” she said. And as she was saying this, her own fingertips began to methodically message mine.
“Now you have very strong, decisive, commanding hands,” she said, looking straight into my eyes. “The kind of hands a woman can trust and would welcome in a crisis or in the dark of night.”
“Correct again, Honey...” I thought to myself.
“But riding a motorcycle can stress the skin and cause rough spots, that could give a woman pause to think where these hands may have been...”
She showed me a couple of rough spots which might have been related to a long period of time where I was between wives.
“This cream not only eliminates rough spots but rejuvenates the skin through a warming effect,” she continued. The blonde put a little dab of cream in my palm, and then started rubbing my hand like she was attempting to draw flame. “Do you feel the warmth,” she asked.
And I swear, she no sooner said this then closed my hand into a loose fist, and held it against her rack. This was a woman, about 25-years-old, with a nicely sculpted physique. If she had been a whitetail deer, her rack would have come in around 12 points.
I ended up buying the hand cream, the skin restorer, the neutral men’s nail preserver, and the warming hand message oil. The whole deal cost me about $96.50 just to cop a cheap feel in the mall, on the day before Christmas, in broad daylight. But it was worth it... I had been bested by the ultimate salesperson, who was already stalking another middle-aged dope as I walked away. But the real joy came in watching the expression of my former paramour’s dad as he unwrapped his Christmas gift, and found all of the above. A pragmatic scientist and the kind of gentleman with highly cultivated tastes, he looked at all the hand creams and gratefully asked, “What the hell is this shit?”
“It’ll take the squeak out of any fan belt,” I replied.
And on the subject of hands, I was sitting next to Peter F. (who rides an MV Agusta Tamborini) at a recent Mac-Pac Holiday dinner, when he held up two digits on his right hand, and confidentially asked, “Do you know why woman love to masturbate with these two fingers?
“No,” I replied. “Why?”
“Because they’re mine,” he replied with a smirk.
©Copyright Jack Riepe 2011