Monday, December 31, 2012

Monday Morning Video Laugh - December 31, 2012

For the last day of the year, let's go into the vault for a gem.

Dinner last night:  Had a big lunch, so just a ham sandwich.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Sunday Memory Drawer - New Year's Eve And All That Jazz

It wraps up the holiday period with a big bow.  It's a unfortunate reminder that, after some good time off, you are headed back to school and/or work.  And it means that you have to finally think about taking down that damn Christmas tree.

Yes, it's New Year's Eve.  The day before the first date of the new year.  And, unless you're a college football fan or love to stare at glued-on flowers, January 1 is usually a blur.  Not because of drinking.  Well, of course, maybe a little because you were chucking down some cocktails.  But it's also that dreaded day where you are forced to think about your regular life.  And, oh, yeah, that diet you need to begin.

But, first, there is December 31 and a time for frivolity.

Yeah, right.
 
Realistically, it's the most overrated of holidays. If you don't have something to do that night, you feel as if you've been relegated to the local leper colony. And, I've had a range of experiences on New Year's Eve.

Regular readers will recall my past pieces on the parties that my parents threw in our basement for family and friends.  At the age of six, I spent one New Year's Eve acting as bartender and sending some relatives into a high-ball-provoked coma.  That tale is being rested this year.  Maybe I'll share it again when the clock ticks down on December 31, 2013.

Oh, there was that New Year's Eve when I was a freshman in college.  You think I was sowing the wildest of oats that year?  Nah.  I had the flu.  And this is noteworthy since it was the very last time I ever had the flu to the current amazement of my internist.  As a result of this miraculous streak, I never have endured a flu shot.

The very next year I was healthy, though.   And a bunch of completely bored and over-served sophomores played hockey in a dormitory elevator bank, using somebody's crunches as hockey sticks.

There was the one where I was fresh out of college and trying to impress some girl with my ability to cook in that new wok I had just gotten for Christmas.  Note to all: you really do have to chop up the ingredients or your meal can be a disaster.

There was the year where my fractured shoulder was in a sling and I could barely reach for the dice playing Trivial Pursuit at a neighbor's home.  I won the game and the painkillers were delicious, thank you very much.

There was the fateful Eve when I returned from a house party to hear that my mom had just lapsed into a coma at the hospital.  My first official act of the New Year was putting my John Hancock on a "do not resuscitate" order.

And, more recently, there was that wonderful restoration of the night.  Out to dinner with good friends in Los Angeles and then hear Kristin Chenowith ring in the new year with some song at Disney Hall.
 
Yeppers, the memories swing wildly like an out-of-control pendulum.

But, I certainly can remember hands down what the best New Year's Eve was.  I've written about it before but it's a story worth repeating.

1984. 

Typically, I had not made definitive plans, when my good friend Glenn in New York called with a bright idea. He and his wife were going downtown to an oldies club called Shout. In the true spirit of marketing, the place played the song several times that night. My friends even had another girl going, so we could easily divide the drink bill equally four ways.

To be honest, I don't remember who they brought along, because I danced with so many people that night. The night was electric. One big hit from the 50s and 60s after another. At several points out on the dance hall, we toasted catcher Gary Carter, who the Mets had just obtained in a trade. At midnight, they dragged out "Shout" one more time. And we all did. I kissed a few of the other patrons around me. I had no clue who they were. I didn't give a shit. 

It was that free. 

And easy. 

And spontaneous.

We had so much fun that, by January 2, I was already making plans to recreate it the following year. And we kept spreading the words amongst other friends as if we were sharing a secret handshake. 

By the time December, 1985 had rolled around, most of my address book had been invited. And I had a girlfriend, to boot. A non-stranger to kiss at the stroke of 12. This was going to be super-electric.

It was horrible. 

What had been spontaneous the year before was now over-planned to the hilt. And the cast of thousands of my friends didn't exactly mesh. It was a disaster. To make the gloom even more pronounced, we got word in the middle of the evening that Ricky Nelson had been killed in a plane crash.

To this day, I still don't know what happened from one year to another. Indeed, I'm not even sure the club stayed open much longer.

Who can figure?

I do know one thing for sure.  In a potpourri of New Year's Eve memories, that one year chimes in brightest.  And, as if I am reliving the wonderment of it all, I now maintain a New Year's Eve tradition.  Every year, when it's 9PM on the West Coast, I will call Glenn on the East Coast.  To wish him a Happy New Year.

And remember that my very favorite New Year's Eve was all his idea.

Dinner last night:  Turkey burger at Pig N' Whistle.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Classic Musical Comedy Number of the Month - December 2012

Glory, glory, it's a five Saturday month.  Time to sample some nifty music and dance from a classic musical.  Here's why you could never get Ann-Margret on the phone in "Bye Bye Birdie."

Dinner last night:  BLT sandwich at Blue Plate.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Your Holiday Week Movie Guide for December 2012

It's holiday time and, if you're not traveling outside of Los Angeles and want to see some movies that will have Oscar buzz, the Arclight is the place to go.  The only multiplex theater I will go to.   They show movies the way they should be shown and you're unlikely to find gum on your chair.  During Christmas week, you stand in the lobby and are guaranteed at least one good celebrity sighting on line for popcorn.

So, it's okay to go see a flick this weekend and let me help you.  You know the drill, gang.  I'll flip through the Los Angeles Times movie pages and give you my gut wrench reaction to what's out there unspooling at the Arclight and a theater near you.

Have some Raisinets on me.

Zero Dark Thirty:  What?  Osama Bin Laden is dead?  Where have I been?  This is the film that allegedly had access to Obama's secret files.  We learn how they caught Bin Laden and also how he did his NCAA bracket picks last March.

Jack Reacher:  Tom Cruise fights a sniper.  I'm rooting for the gunman.

This is 40:  Just when you think there's a month without a Paul Rudd movie, voila.  This movie has Oscar buzz.  Despite the presence of Paul Rudd.

The Guilt Trip:  Barbra Streisand and Josh Rogen.  I can't think of two better reasons to stay completely clear of this mess.

Not Fade Away:  David Chase of "Sopranos" fame gives us a Sicilian slice-of-life from New Jersey in the 60s.  No mobsters in this one.  And hopefully the screen doesn't fade to black at the end.

Hyde Park on Hudson:  Seen it and was quite disappointed.  I'm a huge follower of the Roosevelt era in America.  The fact that the filmmakers turned something so fascinating into ninety minutes of tedium is confounding.

Monsters Inc. in 3-D:   Everything is ultimately re-released so we can see it with those clunky glasses on.  I can't wait to see what they do with "The Miracle Worker."

Parental Guidance:  Strictly for those who find Billy Crystal hysterical.  Come on, you know who you are, you two.

The Hobbit:  Since I passed on all those Lord of the Rings movies, I might as well keep my streak going.  Especially since some versions of the film are run as this different clip which makes audiences nauseous.

The Impossible:  One family's encounter with that tsunami of several years back.  Instead of spending their vacation in some armpit several oceans away, perhaps they should have opted for a nearby Six Flags theme park.

Les Miserables:  No, this is not a documentary about the New York Mets the past three seasons.  It's the long-awaited screen adaptation of the legendary Broadway musical based on the renowned novel by Victor Hugo.  Try saying that five times fast.

Flight:  Still lingering around theaters.  Critics loved it.  Audiences hated it.  And Denzel Washington hangs around like a termite that just won't die.

Django Unchained:  The same idiots who are yakking it up about stricter gun control laws are eagerly awaiting this likely-to-be-dreadful shoot 'em up from the despicable Quentin Tarantino.  So don't complain to me when your kid's school is shot up.

The Sessions:   There's a review from me coming soon.  Been hanging in the queue for over a month.  I better post it before the damn movie hits DVD.

Lincoln:  For a movie that was so anxiously awaited, I hear little buzz about it.  Oh, it will get plenty of Oscar recognition.  But I was a little disappointed by it and I am guessing other moviegoers were as well.

Cirque Du Soleil in 3D:  I guess with those glasses on, those acrobats' leotards are even tighter.

Silver Linings Playbook:  Almost fatally quirky, but, for some weird reason, I enjoyed this film.  And you should see it simply because Robert DeNiro finally does some real acting for the first time in a decade.

Rise of the Guardians:  Followed by the "Lowering of My Eyelids."

Anna Karenina:  Sounds like one of those movies that comes with an essay question.

On the Road:  Jack Kerouac's tale of a couple of beatniks going cross country.  And you probably thought Charles Kuralt was in this.

Barbara:  A doctor working in 1980s East Germany finds herself banished to a small country hospital.  Von Gray's Anatomy.

Promised Land:  A salesman for a natural gas company experiences life-changing events after arriving in a small town, where his corporation wants to tap into the available resources.  From director Gus Van Sant and renowned phony do-gooder Matt Damon.  Probably a dull film, but a great lecture.

Life of Pi:  Reviewed here several weeks ago.  Not my slice of life.

Hitchcock:  This look at the legendary director meanders a bit.  And we learn a lot about his wife which we didn't have to know.  Anthony Hopkins looks less like Hitchcock and more like character actor John McGiver.

Amour:  A documentary about the processed meat giant.  No, wait, read this wrong.  It's a French tale about a long marriage.  I like my idea better.

Playing for Keeps:  A senseless romantic comedy that I went to see to escape on the day of the recent school shootings.  And for that I am eternally grateful to this movie.

Skyfall:  The best James Bond in year despite the presence of Daniel Craig.

Argo:  An entertaining nailbiter that inexplicably comes from director Ben Affleck who just might have some talent.

Wreck-It Ralph:  Disney animation about some characters in 80s video arcade games.  I would be completely lost.

West of Memphis:  Another hand wringing documentary about the failure of our court system in Arkansas.  As if anybody really lives there.

Rust and Bone:  Oh, look, they made a movie about my knees.

Dinner last night:  Leftover Christmas ham and vegetables.


Thursday, December 27, 2012

If I Tweeted - December 2012

Even though I have an account, I don't tweet.  But I update on Facebook all the time and here's what I would have tweeted this past month.

#LenSpeaks  David Wright is now a lifetime Met.  And follows the career of Ernie Banks.  Good player, nice guy, never to play in a World Series.

#LenSpeaks  They have lifetime salary.  Better health benefits than me.  So how come my mailman can't get here before 6PM?

#LenSpeaks   The postman on our route has to be over 70.  He moves slower than Ed Kranepool.  And looks like Mr. Bojangles.

#LenSpeaks  Homeland has the amazing ability to make my jaw drop every week.

#LenSpeaks  On a flight from LAX to JFK, I am suggesting a new passenger classification for American Airlines.  TFTF.  To Fat To Fly.

#LenSpeaks  Did you ever think, Chubby, that it might not be the seat width?

#LenSpeaks  You know you're in New York when Mr. G the Weatherman tells you to "schlep" the umbrella.

#LenSpeaks  It's a holiday season miracle.  Carlo's Restaurant in Yonkers has remembered how to make sausage and peppers.  I need no other presents, thank you.

#LenSpeaks  Zach Greinke is a Dodger!  My spare season tickets go on sale January 15.  Call me now.  Avoid the rush.

#LenSpeaks  The Dodgers also spend a fortune on some Korean pitcher named Ryu.  As in "ham on ryu."  Which you can no longer get at the Stage Deli in NY because it's closing.

#LenSpeaks  I don't know if I can psychologically handle being the fan of a baseball team that actually spends money.

#LenSpeaks  When I hear about the "fiscal cliff," I keep thinking about Wile E. Coyote standing on one of those rock ledges hanging in mid air.

#LenSpeaks  Obama keeps saying the government may have to shut down.  If you look at my mailman, it already has.

#LenSpeaks  If things needs to fall off a cliff, I suggest that we start with every politician in Washington DC.

#LenSpeaks  Meanwhile, the President and his family will spend four million tax dollars on a Hawaiian Christmas vacation.  That cliff he's looking at is Diamond Head.

#LenSpeaks  So that disgusting Bill Maher calls Andy Williams "a teabag idiot."  At Christmastime no less.

#LenSpeaks  The only time that I will watch any TV show with Maher is when HBO televises his funeral.

#LenSpeaks  Dealing with Verizon and phone repair issues in New York.  Can somebody explain why I cannot communicate directly with a communications company?

#LenSpeaks  Apparently, there are no weight restrictions to work for TSA at JFK Airport.

#LenSpeaks  Ha ha.  No free feel for you, sucker.  I am TSA-Pre Screened and get to go right through.  

#LenSpeaks  Flight attendants deserve national medals for dealing with the slobs that fly our airlines.

#LenSpeaks  Looking at the horror in Newtown, Connecticut, it's a re-affirmation that this world sucks.

#LenSpeaks  After a day of watching this violent agony, I go out to the movies.  Where every trailer is loaded with violence.  

#LenSpeaks   Amidst all the hand wringing over gun control, it's depressing to see movie audience salivate when they see the trailer for "Django Unchained" by Quentin Tarantino.  Two-faced bastards.

#LenSpeaks  America, it's time to take a good long look into the mirror.

#LenSpeaks  I love some of my jackass friends on Facebook waxing poetic on gun control laws.  The same people that were cutting history and civics classes in college.

#LenSpeaks  I treated myself to an emergency survival backpack for Christmas.  I am ready for the big earthquake.  Or more likely anarchy in the streets a year from now.

#LenSpeaks  A sad realization.  Christmas trees don't decorate themselves.

#LenSpeaks  How come I'm just a little disappointed that the Mayans were wrong?

#LenSpeaks  So, I guess it's really "Apocalypse Later."

#LenSpeaks  Future note to self: don't schedule a 815AM dental appointment the morning after a Christmas party.

#LenSpeaks  Although gin can do just as well as novocaine.

#LenSpeaks  How come Santa Claus has never been shot in a home invasion robbery?

#LenSpeaks  RIP Jack Klugman.  One of the folks responsible for a great classic TV sitcom.  Oscar, Oscar, Oscar.

#LenSpeaks  And the annual Yuletide death cavalcade continues.  Goodbye, Charles Durning.  You were on a flight with me several years ago.  I don't think that's what killed you, though.

Dinner last night:  Roast beef French Dip at Philippe's.
   
       

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

This Date in History - December 26

Happy birthday, Ozzie Smith.  Back in the 80s, I hated your guts.  Just sayin'.

268:  POPE DIONYSIUS DIES.

What happened to simple Pope names like John or Paul?

418:  POPE ZOSIMUS DIES.

What happened to simple Pope names like Leo or Ringo?

1135:  THE CORONATION OF KING STEPHEN OF ENGLAND.

On Boxing Day.  Talk about your bad planning.

1613:  ROBERT CARR, 1ST EARL OF SOMERSET, MARRIES FRANCES HOWARD.

On Boxing Day.  Once again, talk about your bad planning.

1790:  LOUIS XVI OF FRANCE GIVES HIS PUBLIC ASSENT TO THE CLERGY DURING THE FRENCH REVOLUTION.

Why do I think this will bite him in the ass?

1792:  THE FINAL TRIAL OF LOUIS XVI OF FRANCE BEGINS.

Because I read ahead, that's why.

1793:  THE WEDDING OF PRINCE FRIEDRICH LUDWIG OF PRUSSIA AND FREDERICA OF MECKLENBURG-STRELITZ TAKES PLACE.

Because the Germans don't give a shit about Boxing Day in England.

1799:  FOUR THOUSAND PEOPLE ATTEND GEORGE WASHINGTON'S FUNERAL.

And thousands of others couldn't see it on television.  Because it hadn't been invented yet, stupid.

1811:  A THEATER FIRE IN RICHMOND, VIRGINIA KILLS THE GOVERNOR OF VIRGINIA AND THE PRESIDENT OF THE FIRST NATIONAL BANK OF VIRGINIA.

Whoever the hell they are.

1825:  ADVOCATES OF LIBERALISM IN RUSSIA RISE UP TSAR NICHOLAS I AND ARE PUT DOWN IN THE DECEMBRIST REVOLT IN ST. PETERSBURG.

In America, those advocates are called MSNBC.

1846:  TRAPPED IN SNOW IN THE SIERRA NEVADAS AND WITHOUT FOOD, MEMBERS OF THE DONNER PARTY RESORT TO CANNIBALISM.

That's what happens when you don't have Christmas leftovers.

1862:  FOUR NUNS SERVING AS VOLUNTEER NURSES ON BOARD USS RED ROVER ARE THE FIRST FEMALE NURSES ON A US NAVY HOSPITAL SHIP.

Boy, those doctors on board sure got a surprise when they started hitting on them.

1862:  THE LARGEST MASS-HANGING IN US HISTORY TOOK PLACE IN MANKATO, MINNESOTA AS 38 NATIVE AMERICANS DIE.

A lost art.

1871:  GILBERT AND SULLIVAN COLLABORATE FOR THE FIRST TIME ON THEIR LOST OPERA "THESPIS."

And there must be a reason why it's lost.  Probably stunk.

1898:  MARIE AND PIERRE CURIE ANNOUNCE THE ISOLATION OF RADIUM.

They were so excited that they were absolutely glowing.

1907:  POLITICIAN AL GORE SR. IS BORN.

Papa was a big ole racist.

1919:  BABE RUTH OF THE BOSTON RED SOX IS SOLD TO THE NEW YORK YANKEES BY OWNER HARRY FRAZEE.

And the persecution of those assholes in Massachusetts begins.

1921:  ENTERTAINER STEVE ALLEN IS BORN.

The start of something big.

1927:  COMEDIAN ALAN KING IS BORN.

When he came on the Ed Sullivan Show, my grandmother turned the channel.

1933:  FM RADIO IS PATENTED.

Can Scott Muni be far behind?

1940:  BASEBALL PITCHER RAY SADECKI IS BORN.

Mentioned here only because he was once on the New York Mets.

1941:  US PRESIDENT FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT SIGNS A BILL ESTABLISHING THE FOURTH THURSDAY IN NOVEMBER AS THANKSGIVING DAY. 

He couldn't have done this in October??

1947:  BASEBALL PLAYER CARLTON FISK IS BORN.

Hit one of the most famous home runs in World Series history.

1948:  JOURNALIST CANDY CROWLEY IS BORN.

Journalist???????  Wha???????

1954:  BASEBALL PLAYER OZZIE SMITH IS BORN.

Forgive me for refraining from a Harriet, Ricky, and David joke.

1966:  THE FIRST KWANZAA IS CELEBRATED BY MAULANA KARENGA, THE CHAIR OF BLACK STUDIES AT CALIFORNIA STATE UNIVERSITY, LONG BEACH.

Of course, it would be some screwball professor in California who started this nonsense.  On Boxing Day, for Pete's sake!

1972:  US PRESIDENT HARRY TRUMAN DIES.

No walk around the neighborhood today, Harry.

1974:  COMEDIAN JACK BENNY DIES.

Your money or your life?  We finally get the answer.

1977:  DIRECTOR HOWARD HAWKS DIES.

One of his best films was "Bringing Up Baby."

1982:  TIME MAGAZINE'S "MAN OF THE YEAR" IS FOR THE FIRST TIME A NON-HUMAN, THE PERSONAL COMPUTER.

Yeah, that was a flash in the pan.

1986:  THE FIRST LONG-RUNNING AMERICAN TELEVISION SOAP OPERA, SEARCH FOR TOMORROW, AIRS ITS FINAL EPISODE.

So, even if you search, there is no episode tomorrow.

1986:  ACTRESS ELSA LANCHESTER DIES.

She was married to Charles Laughton.  Ugh.  And worse...he was married to her.

1996:  SIX-YEAR-OLD BEAUTY QUEEN JONBENET RAMSEY IS FOUND MURDERED IN COLORADO.

The original Honey Boo Boo.

2000:  ACTOR JASON ROBARDS DIES.

He was once married to Lauren Bacall.  Ugh.  And worse...she was married to him.

2004:  A 9.3 MAGNITUDE EARTHQUAKE CREATES A TSUNAMI IN THE INDIAN OCEAN, KILLING 230,000 PEOPLE.

A very good day to be an undertaker in India.

2006:  US PRESIDENT GERALD FORD DIES.

Two Presidents dying on the same date.  What luck!  Unless, of course, you're one of them.

Dinner last night:  The traditional ham and fixins' Christmas dinner.


Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Yes, It is Called Christmas!

Merry, merry Christmas from Dagwood and Blondie Bumstead (my favorite comic strip)...
And from me as well...

With my tree as it arrived in my apartment...
And then, two hours later...
I hope you find the same magic in your home today.

Dinner last night:  Turkey, bacon, and cheese panini.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Monday Morning Video Laugh - December 24, 2012

And you all thought he traveled by sleigh.  Hope this doesn't happen tonight.

 
Dinner last night:  Steak, mashed potatoes, and mushrooms at the home of good friends Connie and Leo.



Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Sunday Memory Drawer - The Year I Killed an Elf and Other Christmas Traditions

Christmas traditions.  We all have them.  And this photo captures one of mine from childhood.  Oh, not the smoking and the drinking.  That was capably handled by my parents and my aunts and uncles.  Nope, this elf brings back a memory long held in the back of my drawer.  And I hadn't thought about it until my good friend Patti posted this photo on Facebook.

Oh, my God.  We had the same elf!  Actually, two of them.  One in red, the other clad in green.  They were products of the years where my mother went nuts on Christmas decorations.  The two elves stood guard of our artifical table top tree.  These were the days where we actually decorated the tree every year.  A while later, my father simply placed a plastic garbage bag over the fully adorned tree and stored it in the attic on top of the pool table we never used.  The equivalent of a microwaved Christmas tree.

Back to the elves.  I loved to play with them.  They became characters in whatever sitcom I played out in my head.  A very special holiday episode of Len.  One year, the plotline got a little reckless.

The head of the red elf came off in my hand. 

Ooops.

I did the usual Beaver Cleaver fix.  If I glue it back on, maybe nobody will notice.

Except the head titled to one side and now the red elf appeared a little spastic. 

I tried adhesive tape.  I tried paste.  I even tried to staple him together at the neck. 

Nothing worked.

I had to come clean.  I killed the red elf.

Inexplicably, my mother was fairly blase about it all.  But, even more amazingly, she continued to put the red elf out, misshapen head and all.

Eventually, when my folks lost interest in Christmas but I got overly enamored with the holiday, I maintained the tradition of putting out the elves.  They even made it to my own house and my own tree.  At this point, time and constant movement had really taken its toll on the red elf. 

Until the only thing I could put out was his head.  Sans body.

Ah, the holidays and the traditions we feel compelled to sustain.

In one's life, we go through cycles where we do the same thing every Christmas.  For about ten years in the late 80s and 90s, my tradition was to spend Christmas Eve with my neighbors and good friends.  Since my psuedo-nephews and niece were involved, I provided a community service.  While my friends were busy wrapping their kids' presents, I'd take the youngsters to a movie. 

These days at Christmas time, I stay camped in Los Angeles.  And follow my newest ritual.  Church on Christmas Eve where I get to do the reading at the late night service.  The same one Linus does in "A Charlie Brown Christmas."  The next day, I host dinner for good friends.  And then spend the holiday week visiting other pals around Southern California, including my childhood best friend Leo and his family. 

This is what the Christmas tradition is for me now.  Will there be another cycle in my lifetime?  Who knows?  But, thinking back, I can recall the holidays from the earliest years of my existence.  And how family-oriented they were.  As I once wrote...


This was my Christmas with jaundice.

Or liver failure. More likely, the picture has weathered itself by sitting in a box for years. I'm a trifle confused by that bizarre license plate in the front. It's probably a reference code for the photographer, but it certainly looks like Santa might have been doing some time in the state prison.

At this time of year, memories of past holiday traditions come flooding back like spilled egg nog. For instance, a visit to Santa was de rigeur every year for me. My Santa always resided at Gimbels in the Cross County Shopping Center in Yonkers. My mother told me that the Gimbels Santa was the real one. That probably had more to do with the fact that she did more shopping there than she did at Macy's or John Wanamaker's. It was apparently more convenient to believe that the Gimbels guy was the true Santa Claus.

Looking back, I realized that my family engaged in the same holiday traditions and subsequent frenzy that everybody else did. People do the same thing year after year after year until complete boredom sets in. More likely, family patterns can be changed after somebody says the wrong thing to somebody else at the dinner table.

For us, Christmas Eve was always spent with my father's cousin and her family in the Bronx. She liked to go to candlelight service and I felt the need to be the only one in my family unit to go along. Then, we would come back for a big buffet table, which frankly scared me. Usually, the older folks would have a Yuletide craving for creamed herring and its presence on the table made me gag. The lingering smell always pretty much contaminated all the other stuff on the table for me. So, I would run around and munch on as many pretzels and potato chips that I could find in bowls situated around the house.

Another relative lived upstairs, so my older teenage cousins (and their dates) used to command that area. Since there was absolutely nobody there that was my age, I was lost at sea. I once ventured upstairs to their lair and inadvertently walked into an old fashioned make out party. There is nothing more horrifying than seeing a relative being groped by some neanderthal on the couch. At that tender age, I ran away screaming and crying. Now, I would simply say, "go get a fucking room."

Christmas Day was a round robin affair. Somehow, somebody kept track of who hosted the rest of the family last year and whose turn it was to cough up the eats this year. I hated this concept. There is nothing worse than being gifted with lots of new toys to play with, only to be yanked away several hours later to somebody else's house so you can watch some uncle play "pull my finger." I'd be bored senseless and wind up sitting on the sofa to watch cartoons until I could go home and reconnect with my Zorro play set.

The worst Christmas Days were always spent when it was my mother's sister's turn to host us. First off, they lived in Deer Park, Long Island, which might as well have been on the moon. At least there, I had a cousin close to my age. But, still, I wasn't with my stuff and I was constantly reminded of that. To make matters worse, my aunt, who was an attendant in a nut hospital where the loonies were actually saner than she was, seemed to relish in doing a little Yuletide "F You" to me and my dad. You see, she always served lamb on Christmas.

My father and I hated lamb.

So, obviously, the courteous thing for my goofy aunt to do was make something smaller specifically for me and Dad to eat. Nope. She served the lamb and we were off to get McDonald's. I don't know what was more depressing. My dad and I ordering Christmas dinner through a drive-thru window. Or the poor slob on the other end that was taking the order.

Regardless, I never totally comprehended how shitty that was until many years later. On one of my last NY Christmases, I was a free agent and was invited by the mother of my godchildren to have Christmas at her mother's house. I walked in and the first thing I saw was a big leg of lamb being carved on the kitchen counter. My heart sank, but I tried not to let it show.

But, then, there was a Christmas miracle. In her thick German accent, my friend's mom turned to me.

"Lenny, I remember a long time ago that you didn't eat lamb."

She opened the oven door to reveal a small loin of pork. All for me. I gave her a big hug and almost cried. She had given me the smallest consideration that was so enormously huge to me. My own flash and blood hadn't even bothered to do that.

As families evolve and fights start, our Christmas traditions morphed into the ether over the years. And, then, suddenly, without warning, you find yourself in a new one. Christmases in Los Angeles the past fifteen years. With good friends having a meal and having a laugh or two.

And, all through the house, not a creature was stirring. Not even a lamb.

Dinner last night:  Orange beef at Hunan Cafe.