Sunday, December 06, 2020


Per the ancient tradition as passed down from Moses at Sinai, last night Saint Nicholas and his helpers came down your chimney with gifts for good little boys and girls. If you were bad, however, his six to eight stout goons whaled the bejayzus out of you, possibly crippling you for life, stuffed you in a bag, and carried you off to North Africa to sell you into slavery.
And jolly good riddance.

For Dutch people, Saint Nicholas Eve (fifth of December) is a festive occasion; the promise of gifties, good things to eat, and the removal of the pests that have been making their life miserable all year. That being usually someone else's children.

Dutch children may be traumatised -- and usually are -- but that's part of growing up. North Africa ain't that bad, kid. You'll get used to it. Nothing but beans and rocks to eat, though.

I haven't lived over there since returning to the United States in my late teens, and I don't have any children of my own to scar for life with parts of our precious heritage. I could be ambivalent about it all, but I am a realist, and don't really care. But it beautifully illuminates the twistedness at the heart of Dutch society, though.

Possibly it also explains why I am a disapproving old blister. Last night, passing a full outdoor bar with fiery warmth, music, and happy people (one in five of whom will soon have Covid), all that I could think of was that they were selfish and stupid, and that the loonie singing to himself on the near corner was probably a far better person.
Despite being in several ways off-key.

If some people cut out drinking, their heads would shrink.

The best way of dealing with the stress of surviving during this pandemic may be to go out to the compost heap at the back of the yard with your cigar or pipe, and enjoy a quiet hour with a good book. Avoid cocktails, avoid everyone who wants to go out and drink, and avoid too much attention to the news. If you live alone, you probably don't have a compost heap, and no one will object if you sit in your teevee room with the windows open pretending that you are near a compost heap. The compost heap is only an idea in any case. Whether it exist or not is immaterial. It's a zen compost heap.

I do not live alone. Consequently my mental compost heap is everywhere outside for a radius of about five blocks, three during cold weather. It is nevertheless a very rich compost heap, moist and fecund, awash with odours and strange creatures, layer upon layer of stimulating rottenness and decomposition. And, occasionally, off-key singing.

I've given up on the idea of smoking inside after teatime.
As well as after the cocktail hour (I don't drink).
And before or after dinner.

I've not given up on the idea of malevolent goons carting off some of my fellow citizens and selling them in the slave markets of the Barbary Coast. After beating them most thoroughly with a bundle of sticks for being such stupid selfish blisters.
I find that very heartwarming.
A comforting concept.

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