This week’s art comes from the Dec. 1966 Better Home and Garden, in case you’re curious.

Having heretofore avoided the Stress of the Season of Joy I now find myself hard up against a series of deadlines, and they are severe and unyielding. It’ll be like this most of the week, although I expect some sort of break around Wednesday. I blame myself; I should have gone to bed early last night, but no, I stayed up to watch “Bram Stoker’s Dracula.” A humid mess, but with many redeeming moments. We had not yet tumbled to the fact that Anthony Hopkins has one setting, so his performance seemed rather fresh. The presence of Keanu Reeves remains inexplicable; he has the expression of someone who’s been given an epidural but still suspects there is a large rodent gnawing on his genitals. The acting by Cary Elwes simply makes you realize how few roles there are these days for the classic Cad, or even his less savory cousin, the Rotter. I did learn one thing: if you stab a cross while renouncing God, the cross will disgorge about sixty-five gallons of blood. Which might be your first clue to renounce your renouncing.

So I stayed up late and woke early, and dragged all day. The cold came back. The head was fogged. (Not, I’m afraid, as a result of the MOB party at Keegan’s; I had but one and a half Taliskers, which I chose for its peaty quality - if you’re going to stand in a bar and yell your conversation, you might as well put the breeze of the bog behind your words.) One of those days where I just wait to nap, after which the day will really began. But no nap was forthcoming. I tried once, and had that delicious moment where you realize you are thinking nonsense, and hence are falling asleep (“I said carrots,” I said to someone in the almost-dream, “because there is nothing else to say.”) But I jerked awake and couldn’t go back. Well, work to do.

Called Minnegasco, which of course has not been Minnegasco for years; God forbid a Minneapolis Gas Company should be called Minnegasco when it could be called CenterPoint, which could either be a gas company or an office building or an archery instruction. I understand why they want to remove the local names from these things; no one wants to get natural gas from a regional brand with close historical ties to your town. You want the confidence and pride that comes from heating your house with gas supplied by rootless carpetbaggers with a meaningless brand-name chosen for its ability to evoke shrugs in focus groups. Anyway. It’s still Minnegasco to me. I signed up for the “Protection Plan,” which means they’ll send someone on Sunday for free to fix the furnace. If the furnace is broken, that is. It isn’t. It’s one of the regulator switches, which is not technically part of the boiler, anymore than a pacemaker is part of your body. So he charged me $150, then waived it. The plumber comes Tuesday to fix the regulator. Good thing I have installed this small interdimensional rift in my wallet that accesses the vaults of banks in a parallel dimension, and spits out as much money as I wish. Andrew Jackson has pointed ears and a cleft nose, but you’d be surprised how no one checks the pictures anymore if the colors are correct.

I will say this: it is stupid cold outside. Five when I got up, Five at noon, Five at sunset. I think it’s Two now. Yesterday I drove to Target to finish up the Christmas Card debacle (final punchline: I had to strip all my designs off the photo and use their default font, which is – well, guess. Jeebus) and there was no place to park except the outer realms of the lot; the wind was blowing me-by-north-me, and seemed intent on keeping me from the warm red womb of Mother Target. I pressed on. Once inside I did the card, then got a cart for shopping. They’d just brought in a herd from the pens outside, and the handles of the cart were too cold to touch. I used my coat sleeves. I looked around and saw everyone else in the area pushing carts with coat sleeves. One of those things you just accept, I guess; I suppose in Arizona the cart handles burn your flesh off. It’s all a trade-off.

A GREAT holiday gift:
Got a few things for Gnat. Not many; we are not going overboard this Christmas. A puzzle, a game, Floam, and a few stocking stuffers. I was tempted to get Cali Girl Barbie and a Hawaiian beach set, but she’s really demonstrated no interest in things Hawaiian. And I know, because we’ve been down this aisle every week for the last four years. The only item to which she cottoned was a Barbie Vet kit that comes with a Real Whimpering Animal. Press its paw, and it whimpers. Well, yeah, because the bones are broken; what vet school did you go to? Oh, right: the one on the beach in Hawaii.

I realized she would probably like some My Scene Barbie stuff, the transitional slut-merch that doxies up Barbie to a .5 Bratz factor, but no. No. If this is the last season for cute pink innocent things, then it is, and let’s enjoy it.

The Cali Girl Barbie smelled like suntan oil, incidentally. The only scented Barbie I’ve ever seen. I can think of nothing else that describes the absolutely pathetic nature of being middle-aged man in the middle of the continent on a day where the wind-chill was minus 20 than that: standing in a crowded toy aisle with your nose up to the tiny apeture of a Barbie box to catch a brief synthetic whiff of suntan oil.

I bought Teacher Barbie.