There was a good crowd still, though no cover charge, when I got there at about Seven. Heading through the tents, I saw no one I knew, until I ran into Michael Michael Motorcycle, with whom I attended a couple of the NYC Bike Shows over the past few years. MMM was looking real good, and we chatted for a bit and caught up. He's been seeing this guy who lives in Boston and who's fixing to move down here, a prospect that is probably both exciting and terrifying at the same time. After MMM and I parted, I made my way up on the porch and had just lit a cigar when this big guy in a brown leather jacket sidled up to me and said, "Hi."
Cool! We talked for a while, confirming that each of us thought the other met our personal standards for Got It Goin' On. By about 7:30, we were both ready to leave. I walked him to his car parked up behind the Eagle Fire House, and he drove me down to mine, parked in front of
He was disappointed that I had to heed the call of Hot Turkey Sandwiches at home, and asked if we could meet up when I got off work at Ho(t)me(n) Depot the next day, Sunday. And I said sure.
The next day, Sunday, I started work at 8 a.m., opening up the store. At the morning meeting, the manager on duty asked me and a couple of other guys to help out with "Christmas."
Who were we to not oblige, so we dutifully headed over to Christmas, at the front of the store. There, in front of the displays of evergreen twinkling with LED lights, we found a row of pallets of boxes of stuff. Not having received much in the way of direction, we decided to open up the boxes and find places for the stuff on the shelves. This proved to be no easy thing. Christmas, it seemed, was in disarray, managed by no one in particular. Technically, it's under the provenance of the Seasonal Department, which is the offshoot of the Gardening Department. So much like the babe in the manger, Christmas at Ho(t)me(n) Depot is something of a bastard stepchild.
Well uh uh! Not on my watch!
I plunged in, familiarizing myself with where everything was on the shelves, finding room for stuff that I was taking out of the boxes, and making it all look pretty.
And, since there I was in an orange apron, folks would come up to me with questions like, "I'm looking for hooks so I can hang a wreath off my rain gutters on the roof... Where would those be?"
Now this was problematic. Y'see, we at Ho(t)me(n) Depot pride ourselves on our Product Knowledge. We know everything there is to know about the stuff we sell. Just ask me anything about shower enclosures, toilets, toilet seats, vanities, vanity tops, faucets, cabinets, kitchen storage solutions, or countertops. That's how we set ourselves above the competition, despite what the ecclesial husband of a certain Brooklyn Gardener might say (See! I really do read your Comments!) (Just pulling your chain, John).
But this stance left me sort of off balance in the middle of Christmas. Corian I know, twinklelights, not so much.
But I plunged in and did the best I could, picking up on things quickly and using all my problem solving skills. But the result of this was sort of viral: when someone I had just helped would offer a heartfelt "That's it! Thanks so much for your help!", everybody standing around who heard this would be moved to fire their questions at me. And so on and so on.
An example: "Excuse me, I'm looking for the candlelights that you plug in and put in the windows?" We hunted and hunted, and I was forced to conclude that we didn't, in fact, have them in stock. To let the nice lady down easy, I said, "I can't believe we don't have candlelights! They were a staple of my childhood! I think there's still Scotch tape on the windowsills of my dad's house. (There is.) The nice lady nodded, "And there's Scotch tape on my windowsills, too."
By the afternoon, I had the situation pretty much in hand. But I had a hard time letting go of a bit of resentment I felt at being dispatched to Christmas like I was being air-dropped into wilderness survival training ("Here's your Bowie knife and a flintstone! Good luck!"). And all of this Christmas shit! All those people overspending on those weird treetop angels wearing what looks like a bejeweled corset and faces that look a hell of a lot like Mother Of The Year Britney Spears... Do you really need one of those? C'mon! Get hold of yourselves!
But then, between helping a customer find The Perfect Flocking and packing Santa Clause hat wearing teddy bears (whoa. wait. that one with the little fir tree in his paws is kinda Hot), I had a recollection of my own idea of a Christmas tree. And it's gaudy, a mishmash of ornaments passed down from of old and the whole thing festooned with tinsel. That's the Christmas that I love, minimalist anti-materialist that I am. If I'm not trying to fish the glitter out of my eggnog, then I say t'hell with it. My ideal Christmas resembles not an ad for throw rugs in LL Bean but looks more like an explosion at Ice City.
I became Mr. Christmas.
I put my all into it. It was a manic spree.
And then it was over.
Time for me to clock out.
Oh. Right. That guy from Santa Saturday last night. I need to give him a call so we can make a plan to meet up. But wait, who's that standing in the middle of the kitchen cabinets display? Why... It's the guy from Santa Saturday.
He drove over to pick me up after work.
I asked where he wanted to go for dinner and he said, "I made something for us. I got some salmon."
He made me dinner.
I'm the guy who always cooks dinner. Nobody ever cooks dinner for me.
But I followed him to his own humble abode in nearby Lansdale, and together we sat down to his Really Good Salmon.
A handsome man making me dinner. It's a Christmas wish come true. And it's still November.