My late parents were married on Christmas Eve, so that might have made me the Baby Jesus — but I’m not. Instead, as an adult-onset orphan, I get to reconstitute my own family. I can actually pick who I prefer to spend holidays with. Which means dear friends near and far, many of them scattered to the Four Winds.
You must have seen recent headlines like this one from Metro, the global newspaper: “FINALLY A GOOD EXCUSE TO AVOID YOUR CRAZY FAMILY; ECONOMIC WOES CUTTING HOLIDAY TRAVELING DOWN TO SIZE.”
To me, traveling’s easy– staying home’s hard. Typically, the exotic and unfamiliar trump the mundane and routine. You have to work really hard at tolerating everyday reality. I mean, without consuming tons of booze or pills or chocolate.
Community really helps. So do, um, cats.
So I’m walking across center city Philadelphia on a pleasant recent Saturday evening, headed for a dear friend’s party. I’m feeling mellow, in the village-y part of downtown away from the commercial bustle of skyscrapers and office buildings. It’s true, Philadelphia is a city of neighborhoods. I’m admiring block after block of historic, seasonally-decorated red-brick row-houses. They do have their charm.
Suddenly, as I enter a nearby neighborhood of shops and cafes known as Antiques Row, I begin noticing how nearly every street corner, not just mine, has been inexplicably ruined by unfinished excavations, piles of dirt and chunks of broken concrete obstructing sidewalks, huge holes dug up and blocked off with those annoying oversized ugly orange-and-white plastic traffic markers big as barrels — looking like they’ve bred overnight and multiplied exponentially, harbingers of an alien civilization — completely destroying the village-y feel.
Maybe I need to get out more.
Little do I know. When I arrive at my destination , a celebration of the Solstice at the home of the congenial litterateur ”Freemantle McGonigle,” not his real name, his guests are abuzz about huge, refrigerator-sized brown metal monoliths being installed all over center city — apparently at the behest of, yes, Homeland Security.
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