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It’s no secret that I’m Jewish and celebrate Hanukkah rather than Christmas, but since the Jewish calendar follows the lunar cycle, the “Festival of Lights” falls on a different date every winter, and this year it coincides with all things ho ho ho. And although the first night of Hanukkah fell on Christmas Eve, it’s still ongoing.
On that first night I hauled out my mother’s menorah to commemorate the event. Mom lived in Florida for more than 40 years and had a mortal fear of the open flame. So like thousands of other retired condo-dwellers, she invested in an electric version of the classic eight-branched candle holder, which I always used to think was cheating—but now that she’s gone, I treasure. It got me to thinking. These days, there are literally hundreds of different styles, so in the spirit of work/play, I made arrangements to explore the history of the menorah by sitting down with local artist Barry Shavrick (see page 10), who agreed to meet me on December 25.
When I reminded him that it was Christmas Day, Shavrick laughed. “So what?” he laughed. “We’re Jewish!” Unable to argue the point, I feebly reminded him that it was also the first day of Hanukkah. But I agreed to meet with him nonetheless.
Although I don’t celebrate Christmas per se, I do like a day off now and then, and my dog expected gifts regardless, so I made arrangements to have a few friends over for dinner and watch Dharma tear into her presents following my appointment with Shavrick and prior to dessert. Apparently, my pals read this column and are aware that Hanukkah requires “practical” gifts bound to disappoint. The pup was crestfallen to discover a new hairbrush and clothing before discovering some actual goodies under the menorah. What freaked me out was the fact that she knew which ones were for her and actually hauled one out that had her name on it while I was downstairs warming up some latkes (potato pancakes) that a friend had prepared for me, knowing that I don’t cook—I reheat.
Hearing a ruckus, I went upstairs to discover that she had literally gone into a bag containing several gifts (thanks, Tamara!) and delicately dragged out one with her name on it, shredding it open even before the candles had been lit. Given that it was not only wrapped, but sealed, I still have no clue how the dog knew it was for her, but she did (I swear!). I grabbed the camera to immortalize the moment—just before her crestfallen look, when she discovered that it wasn’t a boney at all, but strictly utilitarian and ultimately inedible. A rush of Jewish guilt waved over me, and I ran downstairs to get her a treat, which although unwrapped, did the trick. She was satiated momentarily, assuaging my conscience and causing her to forgive and forget. I picked up the phone and admonished my friend, who assured me there were toys in the bag, too, so (placing the bag out of reach) I decided to wait for her arrival, so that she could observe Dharma’s delight at receiving a stuffed animal. That would allow the pup to avoid thinking about grooming and concentrate on destroying something instead.
Reminiscing with my friends about the plethora of events I’ve attended over the last year made me wistful and thankful at the same time, since I know how fortunate I am to have the opportunity to not only attend concerts, art openings, book readings, parades and yes, even puppet shows, but also to photograph those events for posterity and share them with you while expressing my humble opinion 52 weeks a year. As the next year unfolds, I look forward to more of the same, knowing that I’ll see many of you out there, as I traverse the mountains in search of arts and leisure on behalf of The River Reporter. As always, your input is key, so keep those cards and letters (yes, the “hate mail” too) coming—that way I know you’re paying attention. At the end of the day (or year) my intention remains intact: to know what you think, you’re opinion, and of course, what you think about the dog. And my hair. It’s all about the hair. IMHO.