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I have a mixed history with Christmas. I need my alone time and the holidays are filled with people and activities and socializing and more people and travel. Thankfully, this year the travel was done pre-Christmas so I didn’t have to go anywhere more than a few miles to my sister-in-law for the morning to view the ceremonial small child unwrapping presents.
Which we did and had am excellent breakfast there as we played Headbanz. It worked pretty well and showed how hard some of us guessed at very easy items. The premise of the game is you put a card on your head which you can’t see and ask yes/no questions to figure out what it is.
I learned that I overthink the answers and need to keep it to simple things. Example cards were Giraffe, Train and Sandwich.
I struggled mightily with butterfly after determining it had wings and flew, but was not a bird or a bat, or Fly (another card we’d seen earlier).
The main event is of course, the Christmas Dinner. This year we hosted and my wife worked up the menu including a broccoli salad (very fresh and not filled with mayo), roasted potatoes (because the Big Potato mandates their inclusion at every holiday meal) spinach dip with fresh veggies in a sourdough loaf bowl (because you need fuel to prepare the rest of the meal).
The main course would be a double-header of grilled salmon and grilled turkey legs.Grilled SalmonGrilled Turkey Legs
It was my second time grilling turkey legs and my first time grilling salmon. I largely winged the salmon and focused on not over-cooking it. My key to any properly cooked meat is to remove it from the grill about 10 degrees before it hits the recommended temperature. It’s still going to cook inside and instead of dry, tough meat, you have a juicy, moist meal to enjoy.
We set the table. Complete with plants and a small child.
Christmas was a success. We sat in front of the fire and played some more Headbanz and visited as adults who have eaten too many delicious foods do on holidays.
I had myself a merry little Christmas Eve. I went to the movies yesterday. I love going to movies alone. I realized today when my mother-in-law commented on it that I may be in the minority of solo movie-goers.
I love a solo movie. I love sitting in an empty theater with a huge screen and surround speakers. I love reclining back and putting my feet up because our closest theaters all have reclining seats now.
I love losing myself in another world. Listening to a story told by the thousands of people it takes to put a movie together. I love trading my afternoon away for an escape to a new world or to rejoin old friends in a familiar place.
I went to three movies today. It wasn’t my plan when I woke up at 9am without an alarm set. But when I looked at MoviePass and saw it had nothing to offer me, I decided to take advantage of the cheap, morning pricing of our local AMC.
First on the docket today was Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse.
I will be the first person to nod along when you say Sony made too many spider-movies. I often think of the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt joke where Titus tries out for Spider-Man Too: 2 Many Spider-Men. Sony had one superhero card to play. So they played it. On repeat. For years. We saw 2 Many Spider-Men come and go. None of them particularly memorable.
As if they were stuck in Bill Murry’s nightmare in Punxsutawney, the spider-men kept reliving the same tragedy. The same story. Trapped on a turntable spinning them round and round into battle against never-ending foes and next time resetting and starting fresh.
This is a new movie. This is a movie that can laugh at itself and as it glosses over the story with a winking “and you know the rest”. It skips the origin story and tells what comes after.
A story about feeling alone. Then learning there are people who know what you’re going through. A story about family problems (and boy are they!) A story about figuring out who you are and how you want to be seen by the world.
And that’s just one of the Spider-men.
It was a lot of fun and told an interesting story with a unique style. I enjoyed the comic-book infused style that reminded me of Ang Lee’s 2003 Hulk but taken to a greater level and refined.
This film also offered up the single greatest still from a movie this year.
After Spider-man, it was time to get some exercise. Popcorn and Coke don’t work themselves off. There is a large lake that’s about a mile around near the theater where I was. So I walked about it a few times while I decided how to spend my day next. It was cold but the walk was good. I need some exercise and the moving helped me think and process the movie I’d just seen.
I like to sit with something after I watch it. Even if it was just an animated spider-movie. Nothing that’s going to change my life or leave me thinking about it deep into the night. (Although the Rubik’s Cube…)
I walked for about three miles, caught dozens of Pokemon, took over two gyms and then decided it was time to see Once Upon a Deadpool. I will admit I wasn’t entirely sure what it was before going into it. But Aquaman wasn’t playing at a time that worked for me and the other movies either didn’t appeal to me, I didn’t need to spend the money to see them on the big screen, or they were ones I wanted to see with my wife.
So Deadpool it was. As it turns out, a PG-13 re-cut of Deadpool 2 can still be a lot of fun. I had just watched Deadpool 2 earlier this week so it was fresh in my mind. The Fred Savage parts were fantastic. Especially the scene where Savage wants to f***t Matt Damon. There were a couple of things cut out like the naked butt of Juggernaut and a comment about the softest mouth in the Ice Box. But overall, it was still a fun movie.
There was a short tribute to Stan Lee at the end of the film after the credits rolled. I don’t have a deep comic connection but I couldn’t help marvel (ha!) at the man who had created so many characters and brought so much joy to millions of people.
I have done movie double-headers before in a theater. I’ve watched three movies in a single day before. But never have I seen three movies in a theater on the same day. Until today.
As I was leaving Deadpool, I got a text saying we (the family) were going to see The Grinch that evening.
I was impressed with The Grinch. Having seen the 1966 original countless times growing up and the 2000 Jim Carrey version a few times, I didn’t think there was much new ground to cover with the grumpy green monster.
I was wrong.
The Grinch’s personality grew three sizes this day. He has motivation and a backstory. There’s a reason he hates Christmas (and maybe it’s not Christmas at all.) He’s much more developed than I remember in either previous iteration. I feel sorry for the poor guy. With only his little dog for company.
It wasn’t just the Grinch who has a developed personality. Cindy Lou Who is worried about her single mother trying to get by. Her mother is single and that’s a major plot point. There’s a Who of Color played by Kenan Thompson. Pharrell Williams’ narration sounds just like Al Letson from Reveal. I thought any minute now we were going to go behind the scenes of scandals in Whoville.
The gadgets and whatsits were high points for me. The various inventions the Grinch comes up with to aid in his theft of Christmas is a delight. Many of them made me laugh out loud, though the extendable sleigh to reach between houses was my favorite.
I haven’t seen either other Grinch movie recently, but I put this one up at the top of Grinch list. It capped off a wonderful Christmas Eve at the movies.
I remember when government work was stable. My parents told me about working for the government in glowing terms. The stability. The good pay and benefits.
But I am a contractor for the government. The pay is good. The benefits are all over the place and there’s a threat of shutdown almost every year.
The last time was 2014. I got a nice unpaid vacation for 21 days. In 2015 it almost happened again. And tonight I got to enjoy the same stress. Only this time they settled it on Thursday instead of midnight Friday.
Each time they do the bare minimum. The government is funded… Until Jan 21st. The Democrats didn’t want to be seen as the cause of the shutdown which the Republicans would have tried to pin squarely on them. So the Senate voted to help the GOP out and keep working.
Not that any of them are going to work. They get to go on vacation. While I get to finish mine with a job to come back to. And hope we don’t go through this all over again next month.
One of my favorite parts of Christmas is driving around to look at lights people put up to celebrate. After living in a high-rise building for the last few years, we’ve not had an outside front door or place to hang lights. So this year we changed that.
We have some lights and a small tree shining in front of our house. It’s not much but it makes me smile when I come home and see its warm light. Our artificial Christmas tree will stay up until February or March. I think it made it to spring last year.
This year, no one else in our townhouses put up anything more than a wreath. The neighbors in our community hung some lights and it was nice to see. But overall, there was nothing up.
A couple of nights we drove around and didn’t see any lights anywhere near us. There was one house near us that had some major decorations. But most people didn’t put up any lights at all.
So we did what any sane couple would do. We drove two hours South to Richmond, Virginia and the Tacky Lights Tour. This has been an ongoing listing of tackily lit houses for 26 years in Richmond.
I took his original list and looks at a map view of the houses and listed them from North to South and we made our way through them.
It was a great night and we had a blast. Most of the houses were amazing. We caught a few unlisted houses and some of the ones on the list weren’t participating this year.
We saw about 30 hours in the 5-ish hours we drove around. Below are a few of the photos we took along the way. They don’t do any of the houses justice, but I hope you enjoy a bit of Christmas cheer in this new year. Click them to see the full-size version.