Thursday, December 13, 2007

How Bettie Page saved Christmas

I had an abbreviated work week--only 4 days, and today (Thursday) is my last day. Then it's 3 days off, then I work 7. My normal work schedule is 6 days on and 3 off, but sometimes we move our days off, either by choice or by the demands of work. Anyway...

The holiday shopping season is in full swing, and the town I work for has a lot of retail stores, and that means that every boosting, wallet-stealing, purse-snatching, identity thieving, check-writing, forging, scamming, credit card swiping asshole in the greater Chicagoland area is out doing his or her thing.

We went out tonight trying to find a woman who stole about $20,000 from her employer; the case is several months old but we just got her bank records this week. No luck finding her tonight. Another of our detectives followed up a lead on a wallet theft when he found out that someone used the victim's credit card at a mall in a neighboring town. When he went to that store to view their security video tonight, who do you think walked into the store to do some more shopping? That's right--his offenders, children in tow. Always a treat. Another one of our guys had to attend two autopsies this week, and I can tell you that the chemical tang of the morgue is no way to wake up in the morning.

The domestic disturbances always take on a different tone at this time of the year, ranging from sad to surreal to tragic. Two nights ago I took a call from a neighboring department. Their officers went on a domestic involving a mom and her teenage daughter. The family are repeat customers, and when the officers arrived daughter was on the floor, screaming and out of control. She and mom were arguing over the daughter visiting a friend that mom doesn't approve of (the friend is a coke user according to mom). The daughter called mom around 11pm asking for a ride home; because of who she was with, mom expressed her disapproval by telling the kid to get home on her own. This happened the night before the domestic, and for whatever reason mom and daughter didn't start up with each other until the next day. Eventually the kid was taken to the hospital for a psych evaluation, and somewhere in all this she blurted out that she was the victim of an attempted sexual assault while she was walking home (thanks mom!) The officers determined that it happened in our town, so they called us. We went to the hospital to talk to the girl, and there were some big gaps in her story--we couldn't pin down an exact address. We asked her if she'd be willing to get in the car with us and retrace her route so we could pinpoint the address where it happened, and she agreed. Along the way we also learned that she'd been the victim of sexual assault before--at the hands of her own father, for roughly 7 years. The girl was admitted to a psych ward and our investigation is on hold until she's released.

No Christmas trees have been hurled through the front windows yet...give it a couple of weeks.


So, what do you do? How do you keep your spirits up in the face of all this? I'm not big on religious platitudes and "God's will" type reassurances, so that's out. I do believe in prayer, and I do that as well as I can. My prayers all take one of two basic forms: "thank you", or "please help me/please help (fill in your name here)". I focus on my family and friends, and I literally count my blessings several times a day. I run for no particular reason. I read your blogs, and I am entertained and encouraged. I look forward to socializing with some of you later this month. I work hard to remember that the world is full of good people who do good things.

And I think about Bettie Page.

See, there's a few different kinds of Christmases:

1) There's the traditional religious Christmas, the birth of the Christ child. There's some awesome symbolism there, but frankly that's beyond my ability to truly comprehend or talk about in any kind of articulate or intelligent manner. I really wish I had the faith and knowledge to do so.

2) There's the truly awful and overwhelming CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY SEASON, a vulgar blend of the worst sentimentalism, religiosity and corporate bombast. Oh, and patriotism, too, because God loves our nation best at Christmas time. It's Christmas music being piped in above the din of the slot machines in Las Vegas casinos, it's the endless chain emails showing the wreaths at Arlington cemetery with some mawkish "prayer" tacked on to the photos and some waving American flag animations attached because the simple imagery of the tombs at Arlington at Christmas isn't enough, it's all that shit Charlie Brown and Linus Van Pelt warned us about way back in 1965.

3) Then you've got the vaguely spiritual, well-meaning "holiday season", the idea that, for Christian, Jew, Muslim and everyone else, this is some special time of year when we all try and do just a little better, when we all try and behave just a little more kindly to our fellow man. It's the mercy and good works and redemption without the heavy religious baggage. It's war movies where the soldiers stop fighting and meet with each other in no-man's land for few short hours in December. It's the sense that we're all in this together. It's heartwarming stories about mysterious strangers dropping $100 coins in the Salvation Army buckets. It's George Bailey.

I've been trying to inhabit a slightly different holiday season. It acknowledges #1 without being strident about it. It veers dangerously close, at times, to # 2 but never crosses the line. It's got a lot in common with #3 without being bland or wishy-washy. It's the holiday season of doing a few good deeds, of being thankful for family and friends, of forgiveness, it's the holiday season of cocktail parties plain and swanky, of decorating Christmas trees, enjoying simple pleasures like freshly-baked cookies and homemade candy, of acknowledging that the newest and shiniest is not always the best. It's kind of retro. It's hokey at times, but in a good way. It has faith but doesn't shove it in your face. It avoids cynicism. It's about doing your best, and trying to make others happy. It's playful. And it keeps me going.

Like Bettie Page in a Santa hat.


Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein said...

Whew. I'm drained after reading that post. I"m glad Bettie could be there to help you through and to keep your faith in some of us going. Keep up the good work my man, and keep on blogging.

Anonymous said...

I opt for Christmas #3, although I do think George Bailey was a bit of a chump.

Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein said...

It's a Christmas miracle! You've been tagged.

Writeprocrastinator said...

"and I can tell you that the chemical tang of the morgue is no way to wake up in the morning."

And in another of the long line of rejected commercial jingles-

The best part of waking up
Is embalming fluid in your cup

Splotchy said...

Thank you, Bettie Page, for prayers answered.

This is my new favorite post of yours. You've got about the best handle on the holiday I have seen thus far.

justacoolcat said...

Damn you photoshop and your cropping evils! I actually opened the image just to be sure . . .

I think the only way I make it through any holiday is my wife. She's a pillar.

The line "The family are repeat customers" really says it all doesn't it?

Dale said...

It's such a tough time of year for so many. I'm all for #3 and a Bubs in every stocking too.

Erik Donald France said...

Amen, brother. Good stuff. Happy Holidays in between the awful action!

Joe said...

Erik, thanks. Just keep posting those cool videos, ok?

Dale, you are too kind.

Coolcat, aren't good wives the best? I'd be a basket case without mine. And sorry about the cropped image. I have the full version, but this is an Addams family friendly blog, so I edited. Sorry for the holiday disappointment.

Splotchy, thanks, but I think you do. You're going to New Orleans to build houses 2 weeks before Christmas!

WP, thank you for my first spit-take of the day as I read that comment over coffee this morning!

Kirby, I think George Bailey was just swell. What made him really cool was his repressed rage. Although, I must say, Potterville rocked way better than Bedford Falls. I could have had a good time in Potterville.

Dr MVM, thanks. It's really not bad, it's just at times it gets to be a little much. And I will check out the tag tonight!

Some Guy said...

Great post, Bubs! It's nice to know that, even though we are in the middle of a War on Christmas, your morale is still high.

Unknown said...


vikkitikkitavi said...

To me, Christmas is like an episode of the Rockford Files. Your car gets sideswiped and you have to take a couple of punches in the gut, but everything always gets sorted out in the end.

GETkristiLOVE said...

I always pretend to be cynical of the over-commercializatoin of Christmas, but then I always turn into a big sap by the time the big day is here - humming Christmas tunes and crying when Baa-baa dies (Little Drummer Boy) and all that.

Joe said...

GKL, I'm right with you. Another day or so and it'll be high weeping season for me. I haven't seen a single Christmas movie yet, so I'm sure there's a lot of pent-up holiday tears ready to be spilled.

Vikki, thank you--that is maybe the most awesome description of the holiday season I've seen.

wyld, thanks for stopping by! Visit again please. Marines are always welcome!

Chris, you're darn tootin!

Moderator said...

Interesting stuff. Look forward to seeing everyone on the 26th.

Dale said...

Vikkitikkitavi's comment is really Angel isn't she? Hilarious!

Writeprocrastinator said...

"WP, thank you for my first spit-take of the day as I read that comment over coffee this morning!"

Thank God, I've been striking out all week, all over the web and at work.

Anonymous said...

i bet the holidays are crazy in your line of work. wish you luck. i haven't heard any Xmas tunes since getting to Vegas which is fine with me.

lulu said...

As someone who has spent many years in retail, several of them working in your town of employment, all I can say is that Christmas brings out the absolute worst in people. That being said, I am off to Target this afternoon.

I inhabit the same sort of Christmas world that you do. Glogg and cookies, family and friends, Esquavel on the iTunes. Presents for people I like. Speaking of which, there is something here from Bangladesh with the Bub's Families name on it. I still have my old cell number and I am 4 blocks from your house!

Joe said...

Lulu, looking forward to seeing you! Check your email--I lost your number.

Katy, no Christmas tunes in Vegas? You've been cheated!

WP, well, you hit a home run here. Are you steroid free?

Dale, yes!

Grant Miller, me too.

Writeprocrastinator said...

"WP, well, you hit a home run here. Are you steroid free?"

Does "clear" soy milk count?