Paving the road to nowhere, one word at a time.

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Location: Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico

American born, living in Mexico since 1992.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

My Lump Of Coal

I am imagining that, as a gift to all of humanity, global warming is taking a vacation so that my environment can continue to be freakishly cold and wet. People everywhere are having flu and colds, in a great show of solidarity, in order to demonstrate the wonderful effects that carbon offsets are having on the health of this planet. Scott is among those selfless heroes, sniffling and hacking for the good of humanity, so he won’t be coming over for Christmas after all. He will instead stay home and continue to fight global warming with germs and involuntary shivers, for the good of us all.

This cold snap is a fortunate occurrence for our proletariat Christmas celebration, that in spite of Scott’s absence I am going to be able to brine a twenty-two pound turkey overnight without taking up precious space in the refrigerator. Good times.

This is the first Christmas that I have been able to procure a whole turkey in Mexico with ease. They sold completely thawed birds at a great discount, but fortunately had some frozen turkeys on hand at highly inflated prices. This turkey is completely thawed now, it sits in a plastic water-filled container awaiting salt and sugar and spices and water. The turkey came from the United States of America, legally I presume, and will feed however many people show up here. I am always surprised by how many people decide to come to my house on Christmas day.

There is a storm brewing off of the Pacific coast, the westward skies are dark and unhappy, and we will have cold rain in a little while that will last well into tomorrow. This will certainly not detour those folks, many of whom I see only one time each year, from showing up and eating a very traditional American Christmas dinner. Many of the guests had never eaten turkey other than in lunchmeat and hot dogs. Gravy was something that I had a hell of a time explaining. Stuffing, which only about half of the people here seem to care for, remains a mystery to many of the natives because I don’t even know where to start.

* * * *

Traditionally, Mexicans observe Christmas at midnight, as Christmas Eve turns into Christmas morning. Tamales and pozole are served, either one or the other or sometimes both, and gifts are exchanged and opened. All of this occurs in the middle of the night. Santa doesn’t slide down the chimney here, mostly because no one has a chimney, but also because everyone is awake when Santa is supposed to be delivering the gifts. I reckon that Santa is expected to pull up a chair, grab a drink, and have some tamales or a nice bowl of pozole.

I embrace plenty of Mexican traditions, but one tradition that I have always insisted on keeping is the American Christmas routine that I grew up with. On Christmas Eve, mom always baked chocolate chip cookies from a wonderful recipe that has never been tampered with over time. Now Anna, for the third year, is in charge of that task here. The Christmas Eve dinner is simple and tasty. A large pot of homemade New England clam chowder is cooked, and served along with sandwiches and cheeses and other tasty snacks.

The first time that I made clam chowder here, everyone just stared at it in awe; I explained that it was a soup and then I had to fight them from attempting to squeeze lime juice into it. Happily, after the first two years, they have fallen in love with it just as it is.

I then get up very early and make biscuits with bacon gravy, another wonderful American breakfast food that has now become a favorite here. The bird is then stuffed and into the oven while I make the trimmings. Breakfast tends to hold folks over until dinner is ready, or else there is usually plenty of clam chowder and sandwiches should anyone get desperately hungry. Dinner is usually ready at three in the afternoon. All of this cooking is my gift, better than anything that I could wrap and stick underneath the tree.

It usually takes me a full day to recover.

* * * *

Rocio’s parents will show up here for Christmas dinner, but they are going to have their own version of Christmas up the hill like they do every year. Rocio and Anna and Sharon will taxi up the hill at nine o’clock this evening like they do every year, unless it is raining so hard that the taxis won’t go there. They will then come home in the middle of the night and sleep, and a few hours after that I will get up and do what I must. People aren’t so willing to discard their holiday traditions, and instead compromise by partaking in duplicity of traditions in order to placate each other’s cultural tendencies.

That, and apparently people really like good food.

As for me, my many years of relying solely on public transportation have surely earned me a truckload of carbon offsets, which will hopefully be delivered very soon. I’ve been patient about it, I haven’t contacted any government organization nor mentioned it to anyone with the authority or capability to lay my just reward at my doorstep. With the coldness around me, I confess that I am losing patience, perhaps I can count on Santa Claus to come through the back door and leave it all underneath the tree. I already have a half can of lighter fluid, and a metal trash can would work perfectly so long as those carbon offsets can heat up this cinderblock house to the point where the adequately ventilated glowing embers would allow me to take off my jacket for a while.

Or else, maybe Santa can send some lumps of coal, I’m not so picky when the fog from my breath betrays what once was a place where the ice cream vendors were making a lot of money not even two weeks ago.


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