Christmas day, for the last 17 or so years has bored me. I
find that the real fun and excitement always takes place on
Christmas Eve. Every other year, it's the excitement of the
metaphorical hunt instead of the kill. Otherwise, it's just
plain bad craziness.
I won't bore you with the details of the usual attempts to warm your heart
stories of getting together with friends and family tales. There are enough
wannabe O Henry hacks out there that can do that. Instead, I will share with
you two of my more interesting "Night Before Christmas" yarns:
Missoula Montana My wife & sister-in-law had left to find work in
Seattle. I stayed behind to tie up loose ends, and get our household ready to
be moved. To save some money, I moved in with my brother. On this particular
Christmas Eve, he had gone down to Reno to visit my mother, leaving behind his
wife. I had returned to the house, to find her settled in for the night,
watching a TV with horrible reception. The show she was watching was mostly
comprised of snow. She invited me to sit down and watch. I weighed the
possibilities and decided that I would go out into the frozen night to find
some other activity.
Most of my friends & associates were with their families or out of town. Jay's
Upstairs was closed for the holidays. As a matter of fact, everything seemed
closed for the evening. The only place that wasn't closed was a bar called
Charlie's. I entered, and was greeted with many familiar faces. Most of which
were there because there was nothing else for them to do. Over a pitcher of
beer and several shots of jagermeister, I wrote a particularly vicious story
that dealt with the holiday season (which currently is lost in a collection of
other stories I have to deal with someday). I looked up at the clock. I was
nearing 12:00. I decided to call it a night, and go back to the house. On my
way, I passed a house. From it, came the sounds of laughter and Christmas
carols. I walked on, passing a church where midnight mass was taking place.
More sounds of singing. I couldn't take it anymore. I turned around and walked
back downtown into the deserted frozen night. I had to find something to
I almost was back to Charlie's, when I passed by Mulligans, a strip club
located in the back of the Oxford Cafe. To be honest, strip clubs and
strippers bore me. But after thinking about it, I decided I really wasn't in
the mood to go back to Charlie's and watch yet another broadcast of 'It's a
Wonderful Life' so I went in, figuring it would be a good way to kill an hour
Mulligans was once a saloon that had been re-modeled with a stage. Most of the
clientele were gathered around the stage. The strippers would approach the
spectator, who would leave a five-dollar bill folded in a v shape, pointing
upwards. The stripper would take it, place it in the mouth of the Customer,
reach behind and through her legs, grasping the cash, while doing a crotch
grind just inches away from the mouth of the patron. I bought an overpriced
beer, got change, and took a seat in front of the stage. I folded a five spot,
and placed it on the stage. The stripper came over. She reached down, and
started taking the five. I said to her, "Excuse me, do you take requests?" She
replied "Well that depends on what the request is, darling" "Well, I was hoping
you could dance to a song" "If we have it, I think that could be arranged. What
did you want to hear?" "Santa Claus is coming to Town" She stopped dancing.
"What song did you say?" she asked. "Santa Claus is coming to Town." The smile
eroded from her face, giving way to a look somewhere between shock and disgust.
She turned around, and quickly walked off the stage, much to the disappointment
of a couple of spectators. Approximately two minutes later, I'm tapped on the
shoulder. It's the bouncer. "Excuse me, but I'm going to have to ask you to
leave." I was shocked. "Uh, how come, what did I do?" "One of the dancers
complained that you were harassing them." I realized that the stripper who I
made the request to, for some reason that will remain unknown, freaked out and
asked that I be 86'd. I laughed. "Alright. Can I at least finish my beer?" "If
you can drain it by the time you get to the door, sure."
And that my friends, is how I got kicked out of a strip club on Christmas Eve
in Missoula, Montana.
San Francisco Most of my wife's immediate family was in town
visiting us. Because her family is Jehovah's Witnesses, they do not celebrate
Christmas, so the day was spent playing tourists. There were four additional
people in our household, making a total of six. And no mater how you try, a
Honda Civic will only hold five. I elected to take BART and bus to the various
destinations. Our last stop was the Cliff House, where I was informed by my
sister-in-law that she was getting restless, and wanted to go out and do
something other than stay at home & watch movies with the family. I offered to
go to Zeitgeist with her.
So the evening was spent getting drunk on bad-tasting Christmas beer &
Spocktails with my sister-in-law with the other happy patrons at Zeitgeist. We
discussed how much the city had changed for the worse, noting that Zeitgeist
was just about the only place left that had resisted the slaughter of San
Francisco's unique culture. A few hours later, we pub-crawled up to Lucky 13.
What made this drinking establishment different than Zeitgeist was that they
had better music, and the patrons were actually miserable like they should be
in a bar on Christmas Eve. After an hour or two of playing pinball, she had
decided to call it a night. She called a friend who was a taxi driver. She
asked if it would be all right if I was dropped off at the train station. I
told her it was no problem, thinking that I would call it an evening.
I was dropped off at the station, went down the stairs and was about to put my
ticket through, when I realized I was out of cigarettes, and had no cash. So
back up I went. Walking along Market, I discovered that every ATM was shut off.
I finally found one opened at Market and Powell. I got some money, found an
open store, and got a pack.
Again, I was about to put my ticket into the turnstile, when I decided that I
wanted to walk around for a bit. Here I was, on the edge of the Tenderloin, the
neighborhood where I had lived for more than ten years. And in all that time, I
had no idea what it was like on Christmas Eve. So I asked the station agent
when the last train to where I lived was. He told me I had an hour and a half.
So I turned around and walked into the Tenderloin.
I was quite amazed how quiet and near abandoned the streets were. Very few
people were about. There were no hookers, no winos, no homeless, crazies, no
one that I would expect to see. The only people I saw were either coming from
somewhere or going to somewhere. I peaked into a couple of bars, where I was
greeted with the sight of lonely people with no one or no where to go. This did
not surprise me, because I was there myself not too long ago.
My surprise came while walking up Turk Street.
At Turk & Jones, there is a park that during the daytime is mostly inhabited by
junkies looking to either score or to sell their prescriptions. Not suprising,
it's closed after dark. As I walked by, there were few people. But out of the
dark, a voice came. "Hey yo!" A good rule to follow in The Tenderloin is that
if someone doesn't call you directly by name or you aren't looking to buy
something, just ignore all calls. But in this case, the call continued as I
continued to walk. "Yo motherfucker, I's talking to you! Don't you walk away,
bitch!" I knew then, he was talking to me. I got to the light, and had to stop.
Whoever was calling me caught up. He was a wirey white kid about ten years
younger than me, dressed out in Nike gear. I took a stance, getting ready to
fight. He looked at me and said "Da fuck you doin' bitch, I was talkin to you!"
I said to him, "I don't fucking know you!" "Yeah you do bitch. It's me, Mace!
And you is looking to score rock!" "I've never met you in my motherfucking
life, and I sure ain't lookin to score." "We met at Dog's place. And I know you
need some rock, bitch" "I ain't lookin to score, and I still don't know who the
fuck you are." He turned around. "Fine then, your punk-ass will be back, and I
ain't selling nothin' to you motherfucker."
As I crossed the street, I looked up. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see
him turn, expecting me to follow. He seemed intrigued that I wasn't running
back to him, begging him to sell me something. I chuckled.
So why would a dealer treat someone they were trying to sell to like shit?
Simple, it was Christmas Eve. Only the most desperate would be out on this
particular night trying to score. And the only people that would be dealing,
would be psychos, who in most circumstances no one would buy from, unless they
had no other choice.
So this was Christmas Eve in the Tenderloin. I guess I didn't miss anything
during the ten years I lived there after all.
My editor has told me that I should follow these two tales with some closing
remarks. And for once, I have no idea what I should say, other than I hope your
Christmas Eve's are just as interesting as mine.