Composing this page fully two weeks before it will appear either in print or online, I wonder just what might have been a common experience for imagined readers (I am always vaguely surprised to learn there are actual readers) two weeks ago. You may be reading this in the sun or appreciating a play of sunlight through a window; but here, downstream (or would it be upstream?) in time, I am relishing yet another dismal, albeit dry, pewter day in December, two days before Christmas.
I say “relishing” because I genuinely enjoy a reprieve from the relentless perfection of our climate and the manic glee that seems to accompany the 73rd day in a row of 80 degrees and blistering solar scrutiny. “Another summery day in paradise this winter, San Diego!” Perhaps this is some local weather twinkie in the habit of braying “breeeeeze,” though not for the past 72 days. “Don’tcha love summer, San Diego? Yessiree, Bob!”
This perverse propensity of mine is no doubt linked to my neurotic and probably Catholic sense of loyalty to unhappiness, as if it is where I truly belong. Or, more likely, a native Chicagoan’s sense that frolicking in the sun, like drinking beer out of a glass, is for sissies. Still, looking at it in a more positive light, I associate bleak, rainy days with good books or movies, even an opportunity to work at home with a ready excuse not to charge around on joyless errands enduring ungratifying encounters with my fellow man. And days like this one (in late December) of which we’ve had a generous helping recently, are perfect for Victorian novels, the History Channel and HBO, recklessly spendthrift cab rides to movie theaters, and films with subtitles or staying in, putting words on a page or screen while wearing only socks and underwear.
It is precisely one of those days for me, this 23rd of December, a Thursday, or what I like to think of as Friday Eve. Sherlock Holmes is on HBO in silent badinage with Watson (the volume is muted) as I type. I am wearing gray boxer briefs, matching socks, and a turtleneck over which I’ve twisted a scarf into a kind of ascot or cravat, which I fondle with one hand while holding my pipe with the other in between typing phrases or sentences. I must get a monocle. Meanwhile, my Rite Aid reading glasses with one lens missing must do. The phrases and sentences I’m typing seem informed by my reading fare these past few weeks and the style of long-dead scribblers, subjects of Victoria. When I break for dinner, it will be a short walk to Café Apertivo for their excellent mutton shank and a bread pudding.
Naturally, I have no idea what to expect in that first week of January of the New Year. Back into Hawaiian shirts, knee-length shorts, white socks, and sneakers no doubt, the uniform of all San Diego men not in gangs, minus the adolescent baseball cap. Yes, yes, I see it now, and I’ve just been given a chilling foretaste of this as the sun has broken through clouds over North Park — just for the moment, but I still, just now, cowered behind the drapes like a Morlock, a reference, that is, to an 1895 H.G. Wells novel.
“Does your depravity know no bounds?” you might well ask as Jude Law playing Watson just asked Robert Downey Jr. as Holmes. (I set down the pipe and turned off the mute for a moment, still fondling my ascot.) And I might well respond, as did Holmes, “No.”
It is unlikely that most take this appreciation for gloom as far as I do, but I was encouraged when a friend of mine called me the other day during a marathon downpour and asked if I would like to come by. “I’m declaring a holiday from everything,” he had said. “My wife and I are staying home from work and watching movies all day. Join us?”
“Uh, thanks, but I have to feed my Petri dishes of fungi, spores, and hallucinogenic mushrooms.” Besides, I knew I would probably have to watch Ultimate Bashing contests on television or sporting events involving whacking pucks or booting pigskins through various apparatuses sooner or later over at Cullen’s place. No thanks.
There are, of course, certain maniacs among you, out snorkeling through shopping malls in Mission Valley for Christmas gifts on days like this, but I’ve done my Christmas shopping online: CDs of Gregorian chants, Billie Holiday recordings, a couple of DVDs of The Sorrow and the Pity, and a copy of Existentialism for Dummies: A Populist Guide to the Random, Accidental, and Meaningless. I won’t be accused of holiday spiritlessness, and these gifts will certainly come in handy for 2011.