“If we make it through December,
Everythings gonna be all right I know,
It’s the coldest time of winter,
And I shivver when I see the fallin snow.” –from Merle Haggard’s “If We Make It Through December”
The days are getting shorter up here in New York City, as they are everywhere else in the Northern Hemisphere. The winter solstice will be here on December 21st, which will be the shortest day of the year. Or, if you’re into the Mayan thing, it will simply be The Last Day. But if the world doesn’t end on December 21st, the days will begin to grow longer and the flowers and trees and allergies will be flourishing before we know it.
December definitely got here before I knew it. It’s hard to get up in the mornings on my days off, when I don’t set my alarm. The low winter sun can’t seem to find its way in my apartment. It gets real easy to lie under my warm blanket and stare at the wall and simply think about what I have to do that day, instead of actually doing it. I hear various alarms go off. I hear the neighbors – to my left, right, above and below me – shuffling around across the creaking floors, preparing for the work day. On my workdays, I’m sure they hear my alarm, hear me creaking the old wooden floors. I’m sure they hear me when I drop a pot, or coffee cup, or stub my toe. Let’s just say that if I had to sell the apartment – not that I own it – I would describe it as “cozy and intimate.”
But I shouldn’t cause too much noise for my neighbors when I get up for work, because I only work two days a week right now. My friend threw me a bone and hired me in his warehouse. It’s not much, but it’s something, and something – hell, anything – can make the short and foreboding December days move along without too many dark nights of the soul.
“I got laid off down at the factory,
And there timings not the greatest in the world,
Heaven knows I been workin’ hard,
I wanted Christmas to be right for daddy’s girl.”
Don’t get me wrong, I am enjoying my loose schedule. It offers me a lot of time to write. I’ve actually heard that some people make money writing. I’m not sure where I heard that, but I’ve Googled, Binged and Asked Jeeves yet there seems to be a membership or club to join, or blood ritual one has to partake in to get these paid writing jobs. So, I spend some of the time on my free mornings applying to jobbie-jobs – anywhere from office administration or construction work. FEMA announced they were hiring workers to rebuild after Hurricane Sandy. I applied. Hold on a minute….nope…no email from them, yet.
The other day – after a morning of drinking coffee and listening to the foghorns blow from the ships in the bay – I decided to make a public appearance in Bay Ridge, my neighborhood in Brooklyn. I stepped out around 1pm. The fog had lifted and the day was beautiful, clear. To the southwest was the giant Verrazano Bridge connecting Brooklyn to Staten Island. Just above one of it’s towering supports was the sun, hanging low in the sky. It was midday, and the sun was at such a low angle the light came in through the brown leaves of the trees to lay an amber glow over everything. It was quite beautiful, then a bit depressing, for that was as high as the sun would get that day. But I enjoyed the beauty while it was there. I put one foot in front of another and joined the rest of humanity.
Over coffee, I heard a guy named Joe say:
“I don’t know what I’m gonna do. When I turned fifty, the Army sent me a letter sayin’ they wanted to give me money to get trained in computers. So, I left my job and did it. Now, I’m trained in computers and can’t get a job.”
Then I heard Mary Ann say:
“I’m scared to death ’cause I’m unemployed. I’m sending out for jobs and stuff and I’m gettin’ interviews. But then all that fear goes into the next interview and I blow it. I’m just scared all the time.”
Finally, I heard Dennis say:
“You know, I’m lucky. I got the job. But I’m workin’ all the the time, man. I’m tired all the time. My little girls are asleep when I’m home and I know they miss me. But I gotta work what I’m workin just so’s they get what they need.”
I decided to quit eaves dropping and headed home. It was about 4pm and the day already looked done. In the gathering darkness on 3rd Avenue, it was much easier to see the gutted storefronts where stores – open for business just a few short weeks earlier – had gone out of business. I turned down a street toward my apartment, lined with houses with American Flags flying in the yard. The lights on the giant Verrazano were on – a giant strand of Christmas lights.
Actual Christmas lights draped on various houses began to light up as I neared my apartment. There was something perverted about seeing the electric snowmen, elves, and reindeer enshrouded in red, green, blue and white strands of lights at a little after 4pm in the afternoon. They’re much better to see in the dead of night. One can almost believe the Candyland Chrsitmas World really does exist when it’s dark, freezing and a girl has her arm tucked under yours. The lights pop out, magestic, as if they’re the only things in existence in the entire cosmos.
In the glow of those lights, one can feel like a child again, one can feel the world is welcoming and just, one can believe their self-worth is not determined by their job or if they have a job. Further into the glowing Christmas Light of America, one starts to believe there is a welcoming spot for everyone, and young, twenty-something white men from the suburbs who can’t – for whatever reason – fit into the mold of the Ideal American Male do not take assault rifles to an elementary school and murder 20 children who still believe in Santa Claus. In the glowing Christmas Light of America, one can almost believe a world like that exists. A block away from my apartment, I felt high on hope that that world really exists somewhere out there. I continued to ride that high as I treaded even lighter through a crosswalk. However, I was shaken from my stupor by a dude who ran the stop sign – in his BMW, on his cell phone. He looked as if I was a mere annoyance on his way to something he badly needed – something he would even kill for – that lay somewhere beyond the lighted universe.
“Now I don’t mean to hate December,
It’s meant to be the happy time of year,
And why my little girl don’t understand,
Why daddy can’t afford no Christmas here.”
I got back to my apartment and checked my emails. Nothing from FEMA, not yet. I put a can of something on the stove and took off my shoes. I really wasn’t that bummed. I’m going to Texas, afterall, and it’s probably better that I get a job after I come back in January. So, I’ll be blogging from Texas next week. They fly American Flags and drape Christmas lights all over the place down there, too. Things are pretty much the same down there as they are up here, I have found. The only exceptions being the sun shines at a hotter angle and people are a little more spread out down there than they are up here. Both factors cause people to think differently.
But there’s plenty of overworked and unemployed people down there, too. Come to think of it, just about everybody I know is overworked or unemployed. Come to think of it, everybody was overworked or unemployed when I was growing up. It didn’t seem to matter who was president or if the TV told us times were prosperous or tough. The people I knew where always over overworked or unemployed. Like it’s always been that way. Like it’s supposed to be that way. Like it will never change. But that’s just me going down the rabbit hole, which is easy to do with so much time on my hands – if I stay under the covers and in the dark for too long. Nope, though it’s cold and dark now, the weather will most assuredly change.
“If we make it through December,
I got plans of bein’ in a warmer town come summer time,
Maybe even California,
If we make it through December we’ll be fine.”
Hey Todd. Did I ever tell you my brother had a dog named Merle Haggard? Just died this past year. And, in addition to the overworked and unemployed, you might spend a moment thinking about the well-employed who see their job getting away from them (outsourced, automated, contracted out, merged, whatever). I’m lucky now, but there’s always a worry in the back of my mind. Hope you’re having a good time with your Mom. C