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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

In Honor of the 26th of December

The first whirlwind has struck and left all types of wrapping paper ruins and shopping bags debris all over neighborhoods. Shopping spree sprints continue to ravage the suburban environments…SUVs terrorize the mall parking lots and the consumer hurricane is still razing everything in sight. I feel like some news reporter down in South Florida, during Tropical Storm season with rain jacket and my struggling voice, trying to tell you about these wild winds and waves.

But I don’t wish to criticize Christmas…it is a wonderful holiday. I just wish to place our focus on one of the most peculiar days of the year…the 26th of December. (the Christmas ghosts of past, present, and future cannot touch me here.) When I was a kid, Dec. 26 had to be one of the crappiest of days. It was the day after the day of all days had arrived. In fact, if days were actually people, what a poor day to be; the 26th of Dec. must have the crummiest self-esteem. It was the day that felt sort of disappointing as a child, for you know that you have to wait almost an entire year before you can open up another Christmas present again. –Besides, we all know that part of the fun at Christmas time, is the guessing what you’re going to get and guessing what’s going to happen…and not the actual attainment of it. December 26th is the day that if any of us were to shoot one’s eye out with a Red Rider BB gun, it would be this day. It was the day that the wise man sat around, throwing pebbles at chickens, thinking, “We’ve seen the King of King’s born…now what?”

It is truly the most Monday out of all the days of the year. It is the time and place where all the gingerbread houses and winter wonderlands crumble and melt into the mundane mess of everyday reality. And it is at this very point that I think that our attention should be placed, for it is at this point that maybe some interesting insights might be made. For the Christmas season is about magic, miracles, and giving…about wonder and childhood…family and friends…Dec. 26th is the day after that season when everything strives to go back to normal. It’s as though the festive vision was only a dream and now its back to how everything goes. No more candy, no more toys, no more jolly old man, and no more dazzling lights to brighten up the winter darkness. It’s back to reality; back to the un-Christmas spirit, back to the way the world was before Christ was ever born.

And perhaps focus on this day is not so much out of celebration but out of curiosity of why celebration must end. Whoever remembers the 26th of December in the many years of life? I can only remember one and it is has nothing to do with Christmas, but everything to do with the opposite values of this holiday. Which in this great, mysterious transition lays exactly my point. So I introduce to you, my greatest Dec. 26th memory.

I was living in Russia at the time. It was a very cold day. The snow clung to the old Moscow cobblestones as I made my way towards Red Square. Some friends of mine were in the mall nearest Red Square, called the GUM (pronounced the Goom). It’s an upscale, very European shopping center. When a couple of police officers saw me through the icy, dark streets and asked me for my papers. In Russia, it is very common for the police to randomly select people and demand to see their ID and if they are a citizen or have a Visa and such. Basically, all Russians and foreigners should carry their passports on them at all times. If no passport is produced than one can face a fine or be locked in a jail cell until things are cleared out. Whereas carrying a passport can be less of a problem, in many ways, it can be more of a problem. It’s a no-win situation, when dealing with Russian police for I don’t have any problem revealing that the majority of the Russian police force are dirty criminals who are rotten to the core. They’ve stolen 60$ worth out of my pocket once before. I do not think I am being biased.

If a passport is found on a foreigner than the traveler has the chance that the police officer may take the passport and demand an outrageous fee for the price of it. So seeing how it doesn’t really matter…you’ll be paying some kind of sordid bribe either way…I always preferred to chance walking around Moscow WITHOUT my passport…because to lose one’s passport, is to lose one very important document, for those who would like to ever get out of the country that they are in. So you can see that my almost 2 years spent in Russia were ones that I would try to avoid any badge-wielding justice of the peace (hmph) as much as possible. I would walk on the opposite side of the street, dart around corners, and stare at the ground, if crossing paths with one. If in the rare case one saw me and demanded to see my passport, I would smile and act like I didn’t understand what he was saying. The dumb tourist act gets the traveler out of all types of difficulties. I recall one time carrying on for almost a full minute, even using hand signals as if I couldn’t understand them but wanted to take a picture. Then, I’d smile really big, shrug my shoulders, and walk away. And these techniques actually worked.

–But this particular 26th of Dec. the officers were not so relenting. Immediately after my dumb tourist act, they grab my shoulder and told me to come with them.
“Ya nee pennymayoo.” (I don’t understand you.) I kept repeating. But this didn’t work.
“Where are you from?” One kept asking.
I took off my toboggan, my blond locks fells out, “I don’t understand you.”
“Are you from Sweden?”
“Where? Swede, where are you from?
It was at this point, I realized my stage playing was over, or at least needed to be shifted. I got bold.
“No, America.”
“Ah,” the fat one jabbed his elbow into the side of the fit one, while grinning, “an American. Well, American, where is your passport?”
“It’s in my apartment.”
“This is not good. You pay us 3,000 rubles (100$) we’ll let you go right now.”
I, knowing this game, shook my head.
“Then we arrest you.”
I didn’t seem bothered. Their scare wasn’t working. I knew that if I got sent to the police department, it would only mean filling out paper work and after several hours they’d let me go. No big deal, just a bit of inconvenience.

Then as we walked towards their car, one of them said, “Listen, give us 1,000 rubles (33$) and you won’t have to be arrested.”
“I’m sorry, I don’t have that much money.”
“500 rubles, then?”
They brought me to their car sitting on the corner of Red Square and placed me in the backseat without handcuffs. One of them sat in the backseat with me, I guess trying to intimidate me. Dropping the price lower and lower. They then asked me how much? I said 150 rubles (5$). They said okay. I had to fumble around in my pocket; I had 50$ worth of rubles but I didn’t want them to know that.

I handed them the 150 rubles saying “Speciba bolshoi” (a big thanks) and then split once again evading the Moscow police force, barely scraping by, only losing 5 bucks. –That’s my most memorable Dec. 26th story and I really don’t know why I told it, but that it’s very “the-day-after-Christmasish” if you ask me. Who can top it? But now that it is actually the 27th of December , I guess I don’t have too much to say on Dec. 26th anymore. And maybe that’s quite a remarkable day in itself, the day after the day after Christmas. Wow!


Anonymous Abby said...

I think the only reason I'm the first person to make it to your page to comment is because I'm the only person in Birmingham up at this ungodly hour (and browsing DF conversations). But that's beside the point.
I, too, was reminiscing on the glum chaotic nature of December 26th in all its day-after-Christmas-ness, when my sister reminded me that Christmas is not, in fact, over. We're only in the second day of epiphany; we've still got ten good days left until we get to sulk over the end of Christmas, after which I guess we're legitimately entitled.

1:45 AM  
Blogger Brian Harrison said...

I guess ever since growing up Christmas ended whenever we had to return back to school. That's when the holiday spirit left.

Did you not go home for Christmas? What did you? I thought you were from Louisiana?

12:22 PM  
Anonymous abby said...

Hoover is home for me; my sister lives in Louisiana, but she came up for the holidays and my family just hung around the house and enjoyed each others' company.

1:06 PM  

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