4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

This Reminds Me of December

It took me years to learn that the books I had sent home were unread and gathering dust.

Associations with December: too many. I will economize on my reflections. My birthday is in December, as is that of my good friend, writer and elementary school teacher Elizabeth Cullen, as well as historical and hysterical compadre José Sinatra. In all our cases, it may be one of those birthdays one wishes ignored, unacknowledged — certainly when someone tosses an innocent “Happy Birthday” in your direction or sends you a gag card about erectile dysfunction. In that case, the temptation to test your right hook is fought down with a constipated grin and a good-natured chuck on your amigo’s arm, which will inevitably (unintentionally, of course) fall too harshly on your riotous buddy.

Oddly, one of my first thoughts concerning this month gravitates toward Robert Frost. Cornball, if you like, but to avoid him in the pantheon of poets would be a grievous error. I am chagrined to say that I have no work of his at hand from which to quote (in storage, surely it must be there), but I recall something he wrote: “A poem must be like a cake of ice on a stove, riding on its own melting.” This, to me, is the essence of December, a celebratory time but subject to pool into the muck of January.

Ah, Ms. Cullen just called with the quote from Frost I was thinking of. Familiar, no doubt, it reads, “Whose woods these are I think I know.… He will not see me stopping here. To watch his woods fill up with snow.”

Why this passage is so closely associated in my mind with December is a simple matter, but I cannot identify it any more than I can identify why I associate Miles Davis with other planets.

To T.S. Elliott, April was and is the cruelest month. I know what he meant, but his words — maybe minus the second line (I am no gardener and have no knowledge of lilacs other than the ones that blossomed outside my grandmother’s window — in winter, too, as I recall. Maybe not.) Tom Elliott wrote that, “April is the cruelest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land, mixing memory and desire, stirring dull roots with spring rain.”

I do have Elliott, Richard Hugo, Robinson Jeffers, and Stephen Dobyns; but as I leaf through the works of these poets, I find myself distracted and discover that 45 minutes have gone by before I again focus on the work at hand. But there it is: one undeniable association with December and Christmas gifts. I come from a large family, and many of my siblings have their birthdays this month, so I combine birthday gifts with Christmas. Historically, with books. Books were easy — I worked in bookstores and I received a 40 percent discount. It took me years to learn that the books I had sent home were unread and gathering dust, spines uncracked. Poetry went over like the gift of a brand new Catholic school garment, a bow tie, or a Chia Pet.

Between Thanksgiving, birthdays, Christmas, and New Year’s, one can become a hopeless sentimentalist, a bitter cynic, or a career alcoholic. Which brings to mind another line from another poet (you may argue this), a line neither profound nor astounding in any way, in fact, supremely mundane: “Gotta get through January, Gotta get through February.…” It is from the song “Fire in the Belly,” from Van Morrison’s Healing Game album. Those words have resonated with me for almost 15 years. They replay, recur, reprise like a mantra starting about this time of year. I would like to say that December is a poetic month for me in the same way that many people compare the “Merry, merry month of May” to walking in the park, optimism, and joy. But I’d be lying.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

Farmers Bottega, where it already feels like spring

Dining out takes a little more effort and patience than usual, so eat slowly
Next Article

SEALs talk war atrocities, Rolling Stone embeds at Camp Pendleton

What's wrong with the M-16, Desert Storm re-thought, Mc P's in Coronado as military haven

Associations with December: too many. I will economize on my reflections. My birthday is in December, as is that of my good friend, writer and elementary school teacher Elizabeth Cullen, as well as historical and hysterical compadre José Sinatra. In all our cases, it may be one of those birthdays one wishes ignored, unacknowledged — certainly when someone tosses an innocent “Happy Birthday” in your direction or sends you a gag card about erectile dysfunction. In that case, the temptation to test your right hook is fought down with a constipated grin and a good-natured chuck on your amigo’s arm, which will inevitably (unintentionally, of course) fall too harshly on your riotous buddy.

Oddly, one of my first thoughts concerning this month gravitates toward Robert Frost. Cornball, if you like, but to avoid him in the pantheon of poets would be a grievous error. I am chagrined to say that I have no work of his at hand from which to quote (in storage, surely it must be there), but I recall something he wrote: “A poem must be like a cake of ice on a stove, riding on its own melting.” This, to me, is the essence of December, a celebratory time but subject to pool into the muck of January.

Ah, Ms. Cullen just called with the quote from Frost I was thinking of. Familiar, no doubt, it reads, “Whose woods these are I think I know.… He will not see me stopping here. To watch his woods fill up with snow.”

Why this passage is so closely associated in my mind with December is a simple matter, but I cannot identify it any more than I can identify why I associate Miles Davis with other planets.

To T.S. Elliott, April was and is the cruelest month. I know what he meant, but his words — maybe minus the second line (I am no gardener and have no knowledge of lilacs other than the ones that blossomed outside my grandmother’s window — in winter, too, as I recall. Maybe not.) Tom Elliott wrote that, “April is the cruelest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land, mixing memory and desire, stirring dull roots with spring rain.”

I do have Elliott, Richard Hugo, Robinson Jeffers, and Stephen Dobyns; but as I leaf through the works of these poets, I find myself distracted and discover that 45 minutes have gone by before I again focus on the work at hand. But there it is: one undeniable association with December and Christmas gifts. I come from a large family, and many of my siblings have their birthdays this month, so I combine birthday gifts with Christmas. Historically, with books. Books were easy — I worked in bookstores and I received a 40 percent discount. It took me years to learn that the books I had sent home were unread and gathering dust, spines uncracked. Poetry went over like the gift of a brand new Catholic school garment, a bow tie, or a Chia Pet.

Between Thanksgiving, birthdays, Christmas, and New Year’s, one can become a hopeless sentimentalist, a bitter cynic, or a career alcoholic. Which brings to mind another line from another poet (you may argue this), a line neither profound nor astounding in any way, in fact, supremely mundane: “Gotta get through January, Gotta get through February.…” It is from the song “Fire in the Belly,” from Van Morrison’s Healing Game album. Those words have resonated with me for almost 15 years. They replay, recur, reprise like a mantra starting about this time of year. I would like to say that December is a poetic month for me in the same way that many people compare the “Merry, merry month of May” to walking in the park, optimism, and joy. But I’d be lying.

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Union-Tribune’s Californian Local targets Temecula

Nervousness about Soon-Shiong exploring a potential sale
Next Article

Belly Up Livestream With Donavon Frankenreiter, The Other Side: Journeys to Baja California

Events March 7-March 10, 2021
Comments
4

This was such a good column. I've just come out from under the Christmas steamroller so I have more freedom in my life to move around, look for John Brizzolara columns in the Reader, etc. Hope to read more from you in 2012. Best wishes for a good year. - Julie in Poway

Jan. 11, 2012

John is back in the hospital as of January 5th.

Jan. 12, 2012

So I am guessing that the news is not so good for Mr. Brizzolara. All any of us can do is hope and pray for the best. Personally, I miss his voice.

Jan. 22, 2012

I miss your columns, so hope you are able to return to writing them soon. For anyone who also misses his writing, I suggest you do as I did, and check out "Wirecutter" from the library. It is quite a book, and a portrait of San Diego as it was not so long ago, but will never be like again.

Feb. 3, 2012

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Set 'em Up Joe — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close