Around the holidays, my thoughts often turn to the Christmas muff. Whatever happened to the Christmas muff? You know the little furry hand warmer thing…. In Utah where I grew up it’s cold and at Christmas my mother would pull out her muff and my sister and I would pull out our matching muffs and we’d go a visiting! I think I’m going to bring back the Christmas muff. I just bought a new one on eBay. Anyway, this story is not particularly about muffs altogether, I was just feeling a little nostalgic for my Christmas muff.
I’ve been thinking about the holidays and I remember coming to California as a teen with my choir to sing Christmas songs in a Baptist Church in South Central. Now you might think that’s an oxymoron, a bunch of white Mormon kids in a Baptist Church in South Central but our choirmaster was this gorgeous big sexy, rocking black woman from Brooklyn who had joined the Mormon church when she was in high school and moved to Salt Lake City. This was even before Gladys Knight joined the Mormon Church, which, by the way, I literally read about in a newspaper just after midnight on a train. Coincidence? Mormons are like Canadians they can list off all the famous ones!
Anyway, so Miss Washington had arranged for us to come to California and of course I brought my muff but because of the weather I couldn’t really utilize the muff to it’s full extent and it was so hot, I accidentally left my first muff in South Central. There was a boy in the choir who loved my muff; he used to compliment me on it whenever I wore it. He was painfully shy and Miss Washington just adored him. He was so unique and so incredibly heartbreakingly uncomfortable. And he loved Michael Jackson. I mean we all did then, it was at the height of his fame and we would sit in the back of the bus and talk about how Thriller, the video, was so groundbreaking it was like a movie, not a music video, it broke all the rules. He wore a red leather jacket and a single silver spangled glove and I had my muff and we were so happy. Now when I think back on it, I think he was probably gay but I don’t remember thinking that then. I just loved him. My perceptions and love have always been a little off.
When I used to live in New York I would pass the Brett Schneider funeral home on 7th St. everyday and I would think of my dog. I think the first thing I ever really loved was my dog when I was a kid, his name was Brett Schneider. The first name was Brett named after an old boyfriend of my sisters because my sister said at 17 that "men were dogs." I think her boyfriend Brett, had called off their prom date so when we found this dog my sister named him Brett.
But the dog's last time was Schneider which I named him after the handyman on "One Day at a Time” I liked Schneider. I thought he was a good actor, a character actor. Every week he had different physical traits that he tried to develop into Schneider characteristics. It didn't really matter to me that they were different every week; it was more interesting to me that he worked on them. One week he had a utility belt that he carried pistachios and kept cracking them as he listened to the single mom and her two daughters complain, one week he had a slight limp, one week he kept pausing, in the middle of his sentences. He was an actor, a character actor. And also since I grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah, I was fascinated and slightly alarmed by the idea that some man who lived in the basement had a key that could unlock every apartment in what seemed like a fairly large apartment building and yet he only went into the one with the single mom and the two teenage girls.
Another reason for my sister that that should be Brett-the-dog-cause-men-are-dogs last name. I hadn't formed any clear opinions on that I just liked him. I liked that he had a key to all the locked doors.
I loved that dog Brett Schneider and that dog loved me...unconditionally. I didn't have to do anything to make Brett Schneider love me. He just loved me. He slept with me and cuddled up next to me. He let me drape my arm and leg over his torso and didn't complain that I was smashing him or that sometimes, " I just want to sleep alone without anyone touching him okay? That's all." I loved Brett Schneider. It was easy. He made it easy for me to love him. Then he died of lung cancer and no in my house smoked. We were Mormon you know.
My heart hurt when Brett Schneider died, not the way it did when my mom died. Love is rare. We are temporary and selfish and often replaceable. That dog made me feel a little less lost and a little bit less alone. With no help from my cat, I used to have to hold my cat out over the edge of the balcony and she would squirm until I had almost dropped her and then I would pull her back to me and she would burrow into me and I would hug her back so hard. Most of the time my cat walked around saying "I'm a cat." She didn’t seem that affected by me. She didn't seem to acknowledge that it was me that loved her, not just any one of a million humans on the earth, but me, in particular. I wanted her to love me like Brett Schneider and when I held her out over the edge of the balcony and brought her back to me, she loved me more acutely at that moment. She needed me for the moment. But, then I would see her later after she'd been asleep and had awoken again and said, "I'm a cat." and I'd call to her I named her Sabrina after the bad cousin of "Bewitched", Elizabeth Montgomery, another character actor. But, that cat never answered her name.
However, Brett Schneider would come running from wherever he was in the house. I wanted the cat though. It was as if she had forgotten all about me and what we had been through together. Cats have very selective memory. The cat had forgotten me. I think most men have cat memory. I however am cursed with a dog love.
When I was engaged, since my ex-fiancée was having a bachelor party where they were going to watch German art porno films because apparently "They have a plot." My girlfriends and I had a bachelorette party and we hired a male stripper. We rented a back room at a bar and we're drinking and my friend leans over to me and says, "Is it really Love?" It's a good question.
I took the blunt and the dancer shows up with his manager, his wife and their baby. This dancer doesn't speak any English and this is probably the best job he can get without a green card right now.
His manager can't get the tape player to work, so she turns on the radio and it's the "Knights in White Satin" song starting up. She puffs on her cigarette and says, "Look, I can't get it to work, Can you dance to this?"
He doesn't understand so she puts the cigarette in her mouth and uses both hands to start gyrating his hips around and the speak part of the song has now started "Breathe deep the gathering gloom. Watch lights fade from every room." Then the baby starts to cry and his wife is trying to hush the child, she has a patch over her left eye and the baby is pulling the patch and I can see the edge of a mangled eye and the dancer has stripped down to a blue Speedo and he's dancing in front of me - cause it's my party. I thought this is a really bad sign.
We didn't end up getting married. Later, before the wedding he met this girl at a party when I was out of town and he replaced four years with two hours. We are temporary and often replaceable." Cat memory.
I guess I should have seen it coming on some level. There were signs before the Moody Blues started speaking but I’m not particularly good at perception, honestly in my mind, I’m very petite…. And I have a vivid imagination. I mean we were in college in Salt Lake City, Utah surrounded by witty pithy Utah intellectuals and I was thinking “Maybe this is Paris in the 20’s only the rest of the world just doesn’t know it yet.”
I doubt any of those writers in Paris in the 20’s knew they were in Paris in the 20’s they were just in Paris in the 20’s. But, alas as it appears we was just in Utah in the 80’s. I have to say though, every man I’ve ever dated if they could see themselves through my eyes they would never leave me cuz they’ll never look that good to anyone else.
But then there’s the morning when you really wake up and you pull on your feathered sheer housecoat that you bought because all the great dames of the thirties wear them. And you waltz into the kitchen to see if you can’t calm him down a bit. Upon seeing the bathtub there by the fridge you gasp slightly. It might be the vapors. It’s is a bit shocking at first to see a bathtub by the refrigerator but then I remember we live in a studio on the top floor in the Salt Lake City, Utah so of course the kitchen is in the perfect place for a bathtub but Good Lord then, what am I doing here? What happened to all my bejeweled pieces? I always figured I’d be straddling the lap of luxury.
I’m not prepared for this kind of life. I have much too much taste to be this poor and from Utah. Oh and then there was that girl thing too.
You’re friends will say Well, you know it’s better you found out now rather than later and I say, well how much later? I was happy in my fantasy life. Reality is not all it’s cracked up to be. I could have been a very happy 50’s housewife. Living with my gay husband and my drugs in the back of the fridge stored in the Tupperware.
My idea of a good party is coming home in a rickshaw with one show on but it appears that I live in Los Angles at the turn of the century. So, I’ve just been feeling a little nostalgic for my Christmas muff that I left in South Central. But the one I found on ebay should arrive just in time for the holidays.