Christmas came early this year at the Yen household. With the schedules of where are kids are during the holiday, we decided to do our family celebration yesterday, when both kids would be here.
We Adam got a metal detector, which should help him with his hobby of collecting coins. He also got a Ramones t-shirt from me, and my friend Andreas sent him a pair of cool little radio-controlled helicopters.
We got my stepdaughter a little Ibook laptop that I managed to snipe for a good deal on ebay. It was funny-- the other evening, she and I were talking and she was telling me how much she wanted a laptop-- she loves to write, and was the only Yen family member without a laptop. I had to stifle a chuckle-- she didn't know that there was a laptop just a few feet away under the Christmas tree. With a little help from our friend Sheb, who had the software we needed to update it, Mel's happily writing and net-surfing away.
I got Kim a sixties lighting fixture. I'd seen her admiring one of these in a store window, and found one at the greatest antique store in the world, the Ravenswood Antique Mart, at 4727 N. Damen, in Chicago. The bonus will be that to put it up, I had to take out the small chandelier that 1. Kim doesn't like and 2. was a gift to my ex-wife Cynthia.
A few weeks ago Kim asked what I wanted for Christmas. I truthfully couldn't think of anything. I finally thought of a couple of things, and she got those and a couple more fabulous gifts, all things that represent my life artistically.
First off, Kim got me the Beatles' self-titled album The Beatles, commonly known as the White Album. It's just an amazing album. When they recorded it, the Beatles were at their most combative-- Ringo actually left the band briefly while they recorded this one-- and most creative. I'd lost my vinyl copy of the record years ago. It was nice to pop the cds (with thirty songs, even on cd it's a double album) into my ibook and hear the whole album all the way through for the first time in years.
I also got the Criterion release of Akira Kurasawa's masterpiece Ran, a retelling of Shakespeare's King Lear that is set in 16th century Japan. It is one of the most visually arresting movies I've ever seen, but two previous DVD releases have been disappointing-- the color transfer was poor. For their release, Criterion remastered the colors and captured the stunning power and beauty of the film.
While I'd asked for the White Album and Ran, Kim thought of one other gift I hadn't thought of-- Mad For Decades, a sampling of fifty years of Mad Magazine, a favorite of mine when I was a kid. There were some old favorites-- Spy vs. Spy comics, "The Lighter Side of...", and movie satires (including their hilarious send-up of The Godfather). Mad Magazine was a refuge for guys like me, and along with Monty Python, it helped me stay sane when my family moved into a suburb I hated. Thumbing through it brought back a lot of great memories.
There was one more really cool, unexpected gift from Kim: an set of Elvis karaoke discs. It's got Suspicious Minds, Heartbreak Hotel and other favorites.
It's been quite a year. I left one career and started school beginning the path to a new one. I got some closure in the loss of my friend's life last year. And best of all, I got to finish the year spending time with my family. Life is good. In the words of the late, great Joey Ramone, what a wonderful world.