Christmas makes old men of us all, particularly the women, who grow grumpy and put-upon because most of the holiday prep falls to them. Christmas is a glorious celebration till it gets its claws into you. If you're not too careful, you grow cynical over the drumbeat of sales-sales-sales, the idiot radio stations that start the yuletide tunes in mid-November, the whole colossal runaway holiday sled.
Our Thanksgiving was a triumph of the human spirit, and by Sunday of that weekend I was nearly Christmased out. I'd had just the right amount, yet there stood before us several more weeks of holiday mayhem.
Remember last year? Last year, I took on several Christmas-related jobs: UPS man, mall elf, tree salesman — all fulfilling in their own ways.
This year, I was going to follow up with a stint in the customer complaint department of a Glendale mega-mall. Appealing as that sounds, I just couldn't bring myself to take that first vital step.
In one mall, two Christmases ago, a woman was having so much trouble getting into her parking spot that I parked her car for her, cinched it in tight, inches from the curb.
When I was done, the driver smiled warmly, tried to tip me, all the things you'd hope a stranger in that situation might do. But the knowledge that she is still out there somewhere still makes me shiver.
December brings the urge to hunker down by the fire and feed the flames with all the self-help books I receive every year, mostly from my own family, but from publishers as well.
According to the new releases I get from book publicists, I am simultaneously: dyslexic, color blind, narcoleptic, kleptomaniacal, tri-polar, frigid, frostbitten, malcontented, cynical, too passive, too aggressive, delusional, overfed and undernourished.
Well, sort of.
I could fill a month on Dr. Phil, no problem, except that I don't care much for Dr. Phil. Any doctor who uses his first name as an honorific seems a little weird. It would be as if the esteemed surgeon Michael DeBakey had gone by Dr. Mikey.
Now, one thing I've learned is that the best way to attack Christmas is head-on, full frontal. The Queen Mary celebrates the holidays with an elegant display we'd yet to experience called "Chill," which seemed inviting. It would be like naming a restaurant Bile. That kind of audacity is pretty hard to resist.
So down to Long Beach we go.
I thought we'd be sliding down the Queen Mary's smokestacks or skating along icy decks, but what they do at "Chill" is place it shore side, probably to prevent goofs like me from slipping into the ocean. As if that would help. Some people are just natural fallers, which is me.
At "Chill," they have taken 2 million pounds of ice and hired artisans to carve it into a "Nutcracker" tribute, which is yet another miracle on ice. The night we went, the lines were huge, like at an Apple store. As is common in L.A., I think most of the folks were lost and thought they were at the 5:30 showing of "The Hunger Games."
After only an hour's wait, we entered "The Nutcracker" giant igloo, where we donned giant parkas to ward off the 9-degree temps. A little at a time, the experience kept getting better and better.
"DO NOT TOUCH THE ICE PLEASE," said the attendants, but in a way that makes you feel like a criminal even before you're a criminal. In a way that makes you think: "Hey, what do I have to lose, I'm a criminal?"
So my first urge was to touch the ice slabs with my tongue, as in "A Christmas Story." They looked like big lollipops, and what better way to draw attention to this magnificent display than with a spot on the 6 o'clock news.
"Coming up next: Strange man sticks tongue on holiday exhibit," the anchor would say, at which point the co-anchor would chuckle, then the weather bunny would make a joke. As if weather bunnies are above such behavior.
Listen, I was OK with the prospect of paramedics having to douse me with hot water — first frostbite, then a thorough scalding — but being mocked on local news is where I draw the line.
After all, it's almost Christmas.
And dignity is everything.
A holiday exhibition with ice rink and other activities.
When: Through Jan. 5. (Daily calendar of hours posted online.)
How much: $29.95 to $39.95 for ages 12 and older; $14.95 to $19.95 for ages 4 to 11; free for ages 3 and younger.
Information: (866) 554-0013, www.queenmary.com/chill.
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