December 24th, 2003

Even Snow

My new user picture, not exactly smiling at you from the top right of this page, is precisely one year old. Last Christmas Eve, we drove up Mt. Lemmon, a little past Windy Point, to play in the newly fallen snow.

It was the perfect prelude to the evening's festivities with Kim's parents and her brother Kim's family (see kdotdammit's entry about Vertigo a few weeks back for clarification). We got plenty of exercise -- always important during the stress-inducing holidays -- and Skylar was able to overcome her conviction that it couldn't really be Christmas without the white stuff.

Interestingly, it was only the third Christmas Eve or Christmas in which I experienced appreciable snow.

The first time was a beautiful night in Pennsylania, as I watched the Miami Dolphins -- Bob Griese era -- battle the Houston Oilers -- Earl Campbell era. It was actually falling pretty thick for a while, out outdoor floodlights illuminating the show.

Every year it seemed like the threat of snow might prevent my mother's mother and sister from coming on Christmas Day, but they always made it.

We actually got a lot of snow some winters, but it came after the holidays.

The second time was in Germany. It didn't snow on the holiday, but there was some snow on the ground from earlier in the week. Trudging through the snow to a Baroque chapel for a Christmas Eve service made the quantity seem more significant.

This year, sadly, it's warm enough to swim and there's no sign of snow on the mountain. And the place we went last year was incinerated in the past summer's huge fire.

But we did get to see snow in D.C. I even had a chance to shovel a bit.
  • Current Music
    Carpenters' Christmas CD in the other room

Konnte kaum schaffen; hab's geschafft.

I had to run errands today. Not only did I have to brave Trader Joe's, I also had to go to Cost Plus, Best Buy, Circuit City, two different Payless Shoe Source locations and every store in the pretty large Tucson Mall that might possibly sell ballet slippers and/or tap shoes.

What did I get for my trouble? Milk, zucchini, cane sugar at TJ's, one present for Kim that I'd been looking for for weeks, some stocking stuffers, but not the main object of my quest.

What does it say about our society that you can find fuzzy girls slippers in almost every store in the mall, but almost no shoes. Don't girls have to walk anymore? Maybe that's one of those Defense of the Family initiatives.

Highlight: a red Toyota pick-up with Utah plates with two stickers on the back of the camper shell: "Save Wild Utah" and the standard-issue Che image with "Hasta La Victoria: Siempre" printed around it. One of those left-wing Mormons?

Lowlight: a sixty-something man buying a cheap loaf of white bread, pull-top canned stew, and a 24-pack of Budweiser for his Christmas dinner at Circle K, while munching on an overdone corn dog.

[We interrupt this broadcast to note that one of our gorgeous Harris hawks just flew right by my office window]
  • Current Music
    Frank Sinatra Christmas CD in the other room

Our Christmas Letter

Steven has graced us with another delightful edition of his mock Christmas letter. We're far more sincere about the holidays at our house, however, so our noble readership will have to content itself with the letter we mailed in our Christmas cards. Please note that not every one who should have received a hard copy did, because we ran out of stamps and the like. Not to mention that our address book is very out of date. Anyway, with love and all that stuff I normally like to suppress:
Ho Ho Ho and all that stuff from the old Nicolini-Bertsches!

Yep, another year has gone by. Therefore time for another report from our Tucson household. Speaking of our household, it has grown in numbers this year. No not that! We have more pets. Seven to be exact. No need to worry. They’re, for the most part, what we like to call “low poop,” “low maintenance.” Here’s the inventory:

The Things: They’re still around and wonderful as ever. They’re 2.5 years old now, so a bit less crazy but very loyal and dedicated.

Tim and Marie: They came to live with us last March. They’re Western Texas Box turtles. These elusive guys live in the backyard. Because they’re “wild,” they’re fairly anti-social. By late July, however, they learned to beg for strawberries at the back door. This is quite cute. Right now they’re hibernating = buried in the dirt somewhere in the backyard until spring.

Max and Felicia: We adopted these cute little fellers last May. They’re baby Sonoran desert tortoises. They’re 2 1/2 years old. Since tortoises live to be 100, this is the same as a 2 1/2 year old human. Max is very feisty, cruises the backyard at high speeds (for a tortoise anyway), and stretches his neck out for head rubs. Felicia is anti-social and aloof and prefers to hide under the wheelbarrow. These little guys are hibernating in a Styrofoam cooler in the garage right now.

Fish: We always keep one fish (keeping our pet total at 7). Our first Beta Angela lived for about 6 months. She was well loved by all, but especially The Bean. She is in a cigar box now. We’re on Beta #2 Sapphire. She’s feisty and the cats adore her. Thing One spends his days lying on the table hugging the fishbowl.

Now on to the people of the Nicolini-Bertsch household:

Skylar turned five in October. She is in her last year of preschool at the JCC and starts kindergarten next year. This has been a year of knowledge, knowledge, knowledge. Skylar loves to learn about everything and anything. Her current favorite topics are dinosaurs, the solar system, skeletons of any variety and ancient Greece. Skylar’s year was highlighted by a multitude of trips to Disneyland (we get Southern California passes living in Tucson), a trip to the Getty Musuem where she got to see real ancient Greek and Roman statues (her favorites being Leda and the Swan, Jupiter, Hercules), and a trip to Washington D.C. The Museum of Natural History was like her dream come true: real dinosaur bones, real human and animal skeletons, real meteorites, real princess crowns, a movie on the solar system and more. Burning question of the moment: “If everything is made of atoms, is God?”

Skylar has also become a regular art machine, producing vast quantities of work each week. Soon we will need another house to store and show her work. Skylar is going to be three things when she grows up: an artist, a paleontologist and a mom. And, yes, her favorite state is still Indiana and she still wants her cheese cut to resemble it. No, we haven’t planned any vacations to French Lick, Evansville or Fort Wayne.

Kim continues to be obsessed with film, scouring each week’s New York Times reviews for potential gems. She regularly spends her “Mommies Night Out” with her Tucson friends at the Loft, Catalina, or El Con catching up on her viewing.

She’s also involved in the International Arts Society – the entity that shows foreign and independent films at the U of A. She offers film suggestions and writes blurbs and one-page write-ups for several of each semester’s picks. Kim’s Top Ten of the year (so far): 28 Days Later, Lost In Translation, Elephant, Owning Mahoney, In The Cut, City of God, Secret Lives of Dentists, Down With Love, Rivers and Tides. Major contenders: Bad Santa, CAMP, Step into Liquid, Finding Nemo.

When Kim is not thinking about films, working, or parenting, she is creating new “household design concepts,” such as her newly painted Midnight Blue and Summer Citrus bathroom. It may have smelled bad en route, but the results are fabulous. As soon as the holidays are over, she will begin the “Mulled Wine” and “Something Else” bedroom.

Charlie continues to be obsessed with college basketball – Skylar tortured him recently in Trader Joe’s, when someone commented on his Cal shirt and he replied “Go Bears!,” by saying, “No, dad, not ‘Go Bears:’ Go Cats!” – and the San Francisco Giants. Yes, he predicted in August that they would lose in the first round to the Marlins. He did experience vicarious joy when his father’s Syracuse Orangemen won the men’s NCAA championship.

Most of his time, though, is spent thinking about something else. He is, for example, equally obsessed with the first-person – his mother insists that Christmas letters should only be written in the first person, but he resists – and has taken up the study of “blogging” – the online journal phenomenon – as a way of satisfying his theoretical needs.

When he’s not immobilized by Kim’s sinful cranberry-apple-pear pie – the crust! – he is working on two book projects – finishing one on postwar fiction and accelerating work on another about the concept of “punk” – and staying engaged with the popular music world by producing features and reviews for the Phoenix New Times. He goes to lots of shows in Tucson’s excellent indie music scene, some of this year’s highlights being Bangs, Les Savy Fav, and Die Monitr Batts. His Top Ten, accordingly, comprises “popular” – some aren’t – albums: Enon, Hocus Pocus; The User, Abandon (ambient sounds recorded in a 20 degree Fahrenheit grain silo); Lost in Translation soundtrack; Matmos, The Civil War; Howe Gelb, The Listener; Okkervil River, Down the River of Golden Dreams; Drive-by Truckers, Decoration Day; New Pornographers, The Electric Version; Nicolai Dunger, Tranquil Isolation; Steven Malkmus and the Jicks, Pig Lib.

Cheers and good wishes from all of us to all of you!

Kim, Charlie, Skylar and our pet menagerie
Make it a good one, whatever it is.
  • Current Music
    more Frank