Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Holiday on Ice

One thing I do to get in the mood for Christmas is to visit my friend's import store in the Old Market of Omaha, a district full of restored old warehouses, originally built for customers who bought flour by the sack and nails by the barrel as they prepared for their trek across 1200 miles of prairie, hard dry ground thin as an old man's head. Now each building is filled with quirky shops. Not one Burger King. (Last summer a Jimmy John's crept up to the border like a cockroach but we'll get that burned down in no time.)

I like to shop there at night, on a Monday or Tuesday, because it's quieter then. But this week it was beyond peaceful. It was eerie.

"It's December, and I just had my two slowest days in memory," my friend said with a shrug. There had been a sales party the night before, for which she had bought a case of wine. She had 21 bottles left over. "Want some?"

"Heck yeah!" It's fun to drink wine and shop. We discussed the pall that is hanging over the city. Just a week ago a dissatisfied teenager stole his dad's illegal rifle and shot eight people dead from the top of the escalator in a busy shopping mall. He may turn out to be the Grinch, stealing not just lives but the entire good cheer of the season. It is definitely a holiday on ice.

We gossiped until well past closing time, when a forecast ice storm began living up to its reputation. As I walked the short trip to my car, ice-rain rapped my head in fat, gluey drops. I didn't notice until I got home that they had frozen to my hair like little jewels. I felt like Bo Derek.

I crawled into bed and gazed out the window, which was a surprisingly bright gray-green.

I live on a busy street. As I awoke this morning it was unusually quiet thanks to the ice and snow. We were to have a poetry and prose reading event at the bar I own, so I checked in with the artists. They wanted to go ahead with the event, ice or not, Grinch or not. So on we'll go. I think we need the reading, the writing, the listening, the singing—we need to connect with real people, not hide at home typing virtual conversations. The TV isn't going to cut it right now. We need real live life.

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