Sure is dark out.
Not the slightest spark out.
Pardon my clackin’ jaws!
Uh, who there?
Who is it?
Uh, stoppin’ for a visit?
‘Zat you, Santa Claus?
~As sung by Louis Armstrong
December 13, 2014
There is someone on the roof of my new apartment. Walking. No! Running! THUDDING! Oh my dear God there’s someone THUDDING on the roof. I think for a second. What’s the date? Is this Christmas Eve? How old am I? ‘ZAT YOU, SANTY CLAUS?
Or is it the deranged killer from Black Christmas?
And are all the windows shut tight and locked?
Or is it just my grandfather arriving one week early?
December 15, 2014
I have moved, Gentle Readers. It was not completed without mishap, of course, but did you really expect it to go that smoothly? It’s me after all. The Internet has not yet made the way from some cloud to my new house and Direct TV, it has been discovered, is non-direct and worked for day before going on strike.
The new DVD player only plays movies in black and white. I guess that’s OK for Christmas horror but kinda hard to get that Rudolph feeling in a monotone.
The shower head in the master bath was discovered to be so crusty that – despite the fact I completely utilize the 10 Second Rule for rescuing errant food bouncing across the floor – I drove all the way back to my empty former home just to hose my own self off.
I did not move into the loft upstairs – once my dream bedroom – as the A/C unit up there is dishonest. In standby mode it cheerily announces the temperature via a digital readout but when you dare to actually turn it on, the damn thing sputters and shuts down in a most angry fashion.
And lest you think it’s all a nightmarish revolution mounted by semi-smart technology – some good things unfolded inside the place too. The Christmas tree may not be decorated but it’s standing tall in the living room. The smell of fresh paint mingled with Frasier Fir is pretty damn delightful. Our dear friend “Cuban Annie The Broadway Singer” spent Saturday moving boxes and directing the foot traffic of movers without breaking in to song and brought with her a huge compliment of snacks. When Sunday rolled around, it would bring Rosie Bernhard and her special brand of New England organization to my doorstep. I cannot complain about lack of help; especially doing things I never offer up. I will remember this in the future.
December 13, 2014
The ultra-high ceilings afforded in a townhouse have a spaceship feel from the lower level. Prone on my own bed in clean Christmas Angry Birds pajamas after my round trip to and from the pristine shower spray, I felt all systems blinking GO!!! for a smooth takeoff to Dreamland.
Except for the vicious pitter-splatter of creepiness stomping overheard.
I pull the covers up over my head and try not to think about the bloody scythe cutting through the night sky as the murderer prepares to jump through my window. I gotta sleep with one eye open.
The Past Twenty Years And Why The Windows Stayed Closed
Safe as the sleepy island of Bay Harbor is and has been over the past two decades (the last reported crime was “Impersonation” when a kid got caught with a big bag of weed and tried to pass himself off as another kid so his father wouldn’t take the car away) very safe. And yet we seldom have slept with the windows wide open. There are two reasons for this. The first is that we are polar bears and Miami is just too sticky three hundred and sixty days of the year for us.
The other five days do not afford open windows for another set of reasons.
a. Bay Harbor is still Miami and on the ground floor. I can’t sleep at street level next to open windows. The island hosts folks with all kinds internal time zones and foot traffic is brisk 24/7.
I am easily distracted by the night lives of others.
And 2. (As we number things in the film business) – The man sleeping in the building next door always slept with his windows open and his habitual nocturnal gas expulsion ripped through his window, bounced off the taller building across the street and sounded like gunfire. This is a hundred percent true. Nervous new neighbors over the years have actually called the cops, thinking a drug deal had gone bad or the Mafia had stumbled upon our little hamlet.
And I should add…
3. You may recall Irish Air Conditioning. Close the house up tight (but leave a crack in the curtains so you can spy on your Greek neighbors) and your home will remain cool so you do not have to have a high electric bill. That doesn’t work in Florida. Or really anywhere.
3.a. Then there’s Greek Air Conditioning. Close the house up tight and set the thermostat as low as it can go so you can utilize the living room ceiling fan to hang the lamb you will eventually roast on a spit in the front yard and the neighbors can’t see in because aren’t those nosy Irish across the street always looking for a free meal?
I may have hung some damp underthings on the ceiling fan a time or two, but never hang meat or spy on the neighbors across the street.
Winter, Windows and The Roof in The 1960′s
New England winters are so cold, my Florida people, that as feverish kids home on a snowy day, we were instructed by Yaya Molly to press our red faces against the frosty window panes next to our twin beds for relief while we waited for whatever Old Country concoction she prepared for us.
Sissy and I did open all of the upstairs windows one afternoon after school to get a better idea of the rate of snowfall. We were hoping to predict whether the next day school would be closed. What we did not forecast was forgetting to close the house back up and the subsequent visit by Poppy.
The snow was already tumbling down the stairs and into the living room when our grandfather forced the front door open.
We never did that again.
Up on the rooftop, click, click, click, down through the chimney comes good St. Nick. I know now as an adult that it was Poppy on the roof every Christmas Eve. I am still shocked, however, that between the blizzards and the Budweiser, he never found himself lodged in our (or any random neighbor’s) chimney over any given holiday season.
“Goddamnit, Eddie! Ya gonna kill yaself!”
Every year I heard my grandmother but never equated it with what was happening on the roof. Toasty with a pile of hand-knitted blankets under the glow of electric candles with bulbs painted like fireplace sparks, it didn’t register. Poppy could be involved in any number of his activities that evoked a reprimand from his wife.
It was more important for me to keep my eyes squeezed shut because everyone knows Santa doesn’t come if you are looking around trying to catch him in the act.
I would always hear my mother say the same thing, year after year. “Leave it, Mom. Just let it go. He’s happy.” That was her mantra through the duration of her parents’ lives.
Poppy always wanted to be Santa Claus. And most likely as the Final Tally Totals appear in God’s Great Ledger after my grandfather’s death – he probably is. They say Santa has to turn over the reins of his sleigh every two hundred years. Why not to Eddie Hart?
As teenagers the roof in Scituate was our own clubhouse and despite the fact that it pitched forward on a slant, no one objected. The flat roofs of the South provided a secret sweet spot for our next generation. Making out and, I am sure, pot smoking because I have been asked the question, “Does hot air REALLY rise?” way too many times.
So I guess my point is that noises coming from above (the roof being just a step on the ladder Heavenward) isn’t very unusual.
December 13, 2014
Thump. Scratch. Thump. Scratch. More scratching.
I am frozen with fear. This is not Bay Harbor, not Scituate and not St. Nicholas Avenue in Worcester Massachusetts (Yes, we really lived on ol’ St. Nick). This is a new place.
My cell phone is within reach but honestly – I’ve had it. This has been such a scary year that it’s time to confront at least one issue head on instead of just blogging about it.
Addendum: I can STILL blog about it after I do whatever it is I’m going to do.
I toss back the covers and sneak past my closet. I grab the baseball bat I’ve been dragging around for years and feel around for the closest pair of shoes before I slip down the hallway toward the front door.
Without hesitation (but with my heart beating so loud that my tongue is hitting the roof of my mouth and I hope I do not lose consciousness), I shove into my shoes, fling open the front door and holler, “GET OFF MY ROOF, YOU SON-OF-A-BITCH!”
It all happens at once. A huge black shape hops down from above and I swing my Louisville slugger! Unfortunately, the first pair of shoes I grabbed – fake leopardskin pumps – teeter and as I twist and go down, the fat black shape morphs into a raccoon and lands screaming – on my head.
Lights come on across the parking lot and in order to avoid meeting any new people while I’m resplendent in Angry pajamas and party club high heels, I crawl quickly into the bushes.
The raccoon also appears to experience some level of shame as he scratches right behind me and settles in under the bushes. We stare at each other as doors open up and down the street. Neighbors peer into the darkness, shrug and return to bed.
Sometime around three or so, I bid the raccoon good night and slip back inside.
And so Gentle Readers, the arrival of Santa grows closer. Stay calm. If you should hear something noisy on your roof, it may be just a passing traveler. It might even be a critter of some sort.
But chances are that it is just Eddie Hart, our grandfather long gone from this world, wearing a red suit and carrying a can of beer. Would you be so kind as to let him know that I’ve moved? I will keep both eyes closed. He’ll find me.