Thursday, December 31, 2015

December 31: Forever and Ever, New Year's Eve Party, Ebola and Amen

With pained but transcendent eyes, bearded and regal, He would come down the central aisle toward Ives, and placing His wounded hands upon Ives' brow, give His blessing before taking him away, and all others who were good in this world, off into His heaven, with its four mysterious winds, where they would be joined unto Him and all that is good forever and ever, without end.

The last paragraph of Mr. Ives' Christmas.  The last day of 2015.  Ives is in church, an old man.  He may be dreaming, or he may be entering into his eternal reward.  There is a certain finality in the passage.  A Second Coming, as it were.  The end and the beginning.  Alpha and omega.

Happy New Year's Eve.  I am at my family's annual get-together.  We have had weenies wrapped in crescents.  Cheetos.  Peanut butter M&Ms.  Cheeses.  Crackers.  And now that everyone has eaten their fill, we have moved on to board games.  So far, we have played Apples to Apples and Mad Gab.  We are now moving on to a game called Times to Remember.

This afternoon, on my way home from work, I stopped by the cemetery to visit my sister's grave.  Her stone was buried under a few inches of fresh snow.  I brushed it off so that her name was visible in the cold air.  Then I stood there and said a little prayer.  Told my sister that she would be missed at the New Year's party.  You see, she was always in the thick of things.  Cooking in the kitchen.  Playing games with the kids.  Making sure that everyone was having a good time.

The party's a little quieter this year.  My parents went to bed around 7:30 p.m.  The kids are older, less rambunctious.  The two older ones (my daughter and her friend who's a boy) are texting and laughing.  My son is watching videos on my sister's iPhone.  And the Christmas tree is flashing and rotating in front of the window.

The crowds are gathering in Times Square, huddled in the cold, waiting for midnight.  In some parts of the world, it is already 2016.  The countdowns have been chanted.  The fireworks shot off.  Champagne drunk.  Kisses exchanged.

Last year on New Year's Eve, I made the mistake of saying that 2015 had to be better than 2014.  I was wrong, of course.  Let's do a greatest hits of 2015:
  • my sister died of lymphoma of the brain
  • my kitchen ceiling collapsed
  • my teenage daughter is in high school
  • my teenage daughter is dating (I think)
  • my job as Poetry Editor of the university's literary magazine ended
At midnight tonight, I will not say that 2016 will be better than 2015.  If I do that, I will probably end up contracting Ebola or mad cow disease.  Instead, I will raise my glass of sparkling juice and simply say, "To those we love, to those we lost, we raise our cups for happiness and peace."

Saint Marty is ready for a new year.  A leap year.  A year of goodness.  A year of blessings.  Amen.  Alleluia.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

December 30: Italian Cold Cuts, New Year's Eve Party, Letter of Recommendation, Calvin and Hobbes

Earlier in the day Ives had walked over from the office to Ninth Avenue during lunchtime, to buy boxes of Italian cold cuts and pastries, and these were set out on a table as a buffet...

Ives is buying Italian cold cuts and pastries for his annual Christmas tree decorating party.  Family and friends and children come to his apartment, and, while the adults eat and drink, the kids decorate his Christmas tree.  It's an Ives' family tradition.

This evening, I went shopping with my sister for our annual New Year's Eve party.  We have been having this party at my parents' house since I was a twelve or thirteen.  I sort of started the tradition because I got tired of seeing my parents and older siblings disappearing on December 31st and coming back well after midnight wearing party hats and blowing horns.  I was missing out on something.  So I decided that, if I couldn't go to the party, the party was going to come to me.

It used to be a much bigger shindig, with almost fifteen or so people attending.  But, because of relocation and choice and death, the party tomorrow night will be a much smaller affair.  Seven adults and three kids.  There will be food and games.  At midnight, we will put on hats and blow horns and gather around the piano to sing "Auld Lang Syne."  It will be a good time.

This evening, I had to write a letter of recommendation for a former student of mine.  She is applying to graduate schools, and my recommendation was due on January 1.  I really didn't want to take time out of my New Year's Eve party to write my recommendation, so I did it tonight.  Just submitted it.

Now, I am going to take some Nyquil and go to bed.  Long day.  Long night.  Short time to sleep.

Don't forget to vote in Saint Marty's book poll.

What will next year's book be:
  • The Road  by Cormac McCarthy?
  • The Color Purple by Alice Walker?
  • Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard?
  • The World According to Garp by John Irving?
Are you perfect?

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

December 29: Purgatorial Nature, Sickness, Book of the Year, Twlight

And Ives?  For his part, he did not like to be away from her and yet seemed to enjoy his excursions upstate alone, now and then, in the winter.  The harshness and the monasterial nature of the place appealing to his purgatorial side...

Ives is not an easy person to live with after his son's death.  He's melancholy, doesn't want to enjoy himself.  I think he feels a certain guilt in experiencing pleasure.  Ives feels as though he's betraying his son's memory by being happy.  So, he embraces his purgatorial side.  It's all about punishment.

I'm a lot like Ives right now.  I was up at 4 a.m., shoveling snow.  Then I worked all day.  Now, I'm getting ready to put my son to bed after clearing a little more snow with my wife and kids.  I'm also sick.  A cold has slowly been taking hold of my body.  I am now fully possessed by this virus, and I feel like crap.

Therefore, I am crabby, tired, and very impatient.  Not very fun to be around.  Purgatorial, if you will.  I've already had arguments with my wife and daughter.  I have very little energy to be friendly or funny.  I am barely conscious at the moment.

So, I am just going to take care of some business and then call it a night.  You have probably noticed that there is no Poet of the Week.  I was too tired last night, too phlegmy tonight, to even consider candidates.  Therefore, this last week of 2015 will remain Poet of the Week-less.

I have received no votes for next year's book yet.  Therefore, I'm going to add another option:
  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy
  • The Color Purple by Alice Walker
  • Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard
  • The World According to Garp by John Irving
So, John Irving is new.  Cast your votes now for which book will become the subject of my year-long meditation.  If you don't vote, I will be forced to make the choice myself, and you all might end up reading posts on Twilight for a year.

Saint Marty is ready for his Nyquil.

It's your choice

Monday, December 28, 2015

December 28: McCarthy or Walker or Dillard, Winter Storm, "Ives" Dip, Off the Top of My Head

So, I am kicking around a few ideas for the book for next year.  I have done A Christmas Carol and Catcher in the Rye and Charlotte's Web and Mr. Ives' Christmas.  I have three possibilities in mind for 2016: 
  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy
  • The Color Purple by Alice Walker
  • Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard
I am leaning toward the Annie Dillard.  It's a book I've loved for years, and it's a little lighter than the first two choices.  But I'm going to leave it up to you, my disciples.  Send me your vote in a comment.  On December 31, I will tally the results and announce the winner on January 1st.

There is a winter storm bearing down on the Upper Peninsula tonight.  By tomorrow morning, my house will be buried under ten inches of new, wet, heavy snow.  I will be rising at 4 a.m. to clear my driveway.  I am not looking forward to it.  I'm guessing it's going to take a couple of hours, and then I have go to work.

Tonight is the last Ives Dip Monday, and my question is simple:

Will we get a lot of snow tonight?

And the final answer this year from Ives is:

He said that with great self-assurance, a tone of wisdom, and with certainty, as if, Ives would later think, he had already known.

Self-assurance and wisdom and certainty.  There is going to be a lot of snow tomorrow morning.  Son of a bitch.

Saint Marty was hoping for a quiet end of the year.

Off the Top of My Head

Sunday, December 27, 2015

December 27: "The Force Awakens," Geeks, Classic Saint Marty, Classic Confessions of Saint Marty

Well, it finally happened.  I saw the new Star Wars movie this afternoon.  The theater was packed, and I had to sit in the very front row.  I literally had to lean back in my seat to view the screen comfortably.  When I started eating my popcorn, I discovered that there was no salt on it.  It was greasy and tasteless.  But, as soon as the overture started and the words began to crawl up the screen, everything was good.  Better than good.  Fantastic.

Sure, there were holes in the story.  Unanswered questions.  Plot turns I could see coming a mile away.  But it was Chewbacca and Han Solo and Princess Leia.  The Force and a light saber battle.  Basically, it felt like I was ten years old again, and the Death Star had cleared the planet.

I'm sorry if I sound like a Star Wars geek, but that's basically what I am.  And, if I play my cards right, my daughter and son will be Star Wars geeks, too.

Today's episode of Classic Saint Marty first aired a year ago, on a Saturday.  Christmas was still on my mind, and my daughter taught me a lesson. 

December 27, 2014:  Special Place, Father/Daughter Disagreement, Joseph Brodsky, "Flight Into Egypt"

All winter Wilbur watched over Charlotte's egg sac as though he were guarding his own children.  He had scooped out a special place in the manure for the sac, next to the board fence.  On very cold nights he lay so that his breath would warm it.  For Wilbur, nothing in life was so important as this small round object--nothing else mattered...

Wilbur appoints himself guardian of Charlotte's egg sac.  It's his final gift to his friend.  In some way, Wilbur becomes a surrogate father.  Constantly worried.  Overly protective.  Thinking he knows what's best for their welfare.

This afternoon, I had a little father/daughter disagreement.  Well, it really wasn't a disagreement.  We were at church in the choir loft.  My 14-year-old daughter was texting her older cousin, and she was complaining about having to go to church so much.  Her cousin texted back, "That's a lot of religion.  When you turn 18 you don't have to do anything they say."  The conversation continued in this vein.

Now, I know what you're thinking--"Why were you reading her texts?"  Well, she was using my sister's phone, and my sister showed them to me.  Of course, I got quite angry, and I told my daughter that she needed to tell her cousin to keep her opinions about religion to herself.  I told her that giving a couple hours a weekend to God wasn't a whole lot.  "How much time do you spend at dance in a week?" I said.  "And how much time do you spend gaming in a week?"

By the time church was over, my daughter was in tears.  When we got to the car, she said, "I'm not going to stop going to church when I turn 18, Daddy."

I sat there for a second, thinking.  She looked like her world was coming to an end, and I felt like a failure as a father.  I sighed.  "Sweety, I trust you.  I know you know what's right and wrong.  I want you to remember one thing:  your mommy and I wouldn't still be married if it weren't for our faith and trust in God."

She nodded.  "I know, Daddy," she said.

"Good," I said. 

It wasn't one of my prouder parenting moments.  I know that my daughter is testing the waters of adulthood.  When I was her age, I remember skipping church some Sunday mornings and going to Burger King instead.  It's part of being young and stupid and invincible.  Like any father, I want to protect my daughter from making mistakes.  Big mistakes.

I know I raised my daughter right.  Gave her a strong moral and spiritual foundation.  She's a good person.  I hear that from teachers and friends and priests and pastors.

Saint Marty needs to have faith in his little girl.

Another Christmas poem for you--

Flight into Egypt

by:  Joseph Brodsky, trans. by Seamus Heaney

In the cave—it sheltered them, at least,
safer than four square-set right angles—
in the cave the threesome felt secure
in the reek of straw and old clobber.

Straw for bedding. Outside the door,
blizzard, sandstorm, howling air,
Mule rubbed ox; they stirred and groaned
like sand and snowflake scourged in wind.

Mary prays; the fire soughs;
Joseph frowns into the blaze.
Too small to be fit to do a thing
but sleep, the infant is just sleeping.

Another day behind them now,
its worries past. And the “ho, ho, ho!”
 of Herod who had sent the troops.
And the centuries a day closer too.

That night, as three, they were at peace.
Smoke like a retiring guest
slipped out the door. There was one far-off
heavy sigh from the mule. Or the ox.

The star looked in across the threshold.
The only one of them who could
know the meaning of that look
was the infant. But He did not speak.

Classic Confessions of Saint Marty

Saturday, December 26, 2015

December 26: Literary Ambience, Ghosts of the Past, Joseph Brodsky, "Christmas 1963," Confessions of Saint Marty

Surprising himself--surprising everybody--Ives had, as he promised, booked the tickets.  All arranged, it seemed a dream, their journey to begin and end in London, and taking them to Ireland, Scotland, and other parts.  They went by rail and by car in September, when the weather was mild.  Interested in the literary ambience, she planned to soak up the atmosphere and allow it to influence her readings of Fielding, Smollett, and Dickens, whose books she brought along.  And she had been working on a children's biography of Dickens, which she hoped Ives might illustrate, so part of their plan was to make like tourists, and the other to go about with sketchbooks and diary, and to absorb the spirit of those places like young students.  They were happy, buoyant--"ghosts," as it were, finally, it seemed, to be left behind them.

Ives, near the end of his life, finally tries to move forward, to break away from his haunted past.  The spirit of Charles Dickens guides the trip, as they visit museums and stores, gawk at architecture and art.  For lovers of literary and art, it's a perfect trip, filled with the ghosts of Ebenezer Scrooge and Samuel Pickwick.  It makes them feel young again.  Passionate for each other and for life again.

Last night, my daughter's friend who's a boy arrived at our home.  After a relaxing day of presents and food and cookies, we settled into our couch and watched It's A Wonderful Life, which neither my daughter or her friend had ever seen completely.  It was a lovely way to end Christmas, with one of my favorite movies on the television and two young people sitting next to me, texting and laughing.  After the kind of haunted year I've had, yesterday felt normal.  Grounded and joyful.

I'm sitting at McDonald's right now, staring out the windows.  There's supposed to be snow coming our way.  From the different reports I've read, my little corner of the Upper Peninsula might be receiving anywhere from one to six inches of white Christmas.  In a couple of hours, I'm going to head to the local Target to buy Christmas cards for next year.  I used to do that every year with my sister who recently passed.  She would load up on Christmas wrapping paper and cards and holiday candy.  Then we'd sometimes go to Red Lobster for lunch.

It's difficult shaking off the ghosts of the past.  Every corner I turn, every song I hear, every cookie I eat calls to mind memories of Christmases past.  It's inevitable this time of year.  Impossible to avoid.  I find some comfort in these memories.  But they also make me a little sad.  Like the lyrics to Irving Berlin's "White Christmas," when the snow starts falling, I dream of ones I used to know.  That melancholy is as much a part of the holiday experience as Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman.

Over the next week, I will be thinking a lot about ghosts.  Come December 31, when the balloons and crepe paper are hanging, they will be all around me, waving their arms, blowing their horns.

On New Year's Eve, Saint Marty will raise a glass to these phantoms.  Drink a little with them.  Thank them for the happy times of the past.  And look forward to the happy times of the future.

Christmas 1963

by:  Joseph Brodsky

The magi had come. The infant soundly slept.
The star shone brightly from the vaulted sky.
A cold wind swept the snow up into drifts.
The sand rustled. A bonfire crackled nearby.
Smoke plumed skyward. Flames hooked and writhed.
The shadows cast by the fire grew now shorter,
now suddenly longer. No one there yet realized
that on that very night life’s count had started.
The magi had come. The infant soundly slept.
Steep arches loomed above the manger.
Snow swirled about. White steam rose in wisps.
With gifts piled near him, the child slept like an angel.

Confessions of Saint Marty

Friday, December 25, 2015

December 25: God's Presence, Pleasant Exhaustion, Christmas Poem, "Bigfoot Noel"

It was on Fifty-third and Fifth that Ives saw an old woman struggling down a stairway to a subway station, and he stopped to help her along.  He was whistling and seemed so cheerful that the old woman said, "My, you really do enjoy this holiday, don't you?" and Ives said, "Yes, I do, very much, but you see, ma'am, it's just not this time of the year; you see, ma'am, I've just had the most unusual kind of experience, though it's not anything I can really explain, except to say that about half an hour ago I had a vision of God's presence in the world.  And it still makes me feel joy."  Then:  "Well, good luck to you, ma'am.  And Merry Christmas."

I know that I've talked about Ives' mystical vision before, but, on this Christmas day, I think focusing on an image of God's goodness in the world is appropriate.  In Ives' vision, everyone and everything shimmers with peace and love and understanding.  It's an experience that sticks with Ives for the rest of his life.

Last night, after the 11 p.m. candlelight church service, I came home and sat on the couch, watching the 24-hour marathon of A Christmas Story on TBS.  Our kids were in bed.  The Christmas wrapping was done.  Christmas had arrived, and I felt a kind of pleasant exhaustion creep over me.  The holiday race was over.  Ready or not, Jesus had arrived.

I wish all of my disciples a wonderful and blessed Christmas, full of love and warmth and friendship.  If you are alone this holiday, know that I have said a prayer for you this day.  If you are struggling with your health or finances, know that God is with you.  If you are simply a Scrooge, going out of your way to make other people miserable, know that your figgy pudding will soon curdle and your holly berries will fall off.

Below is my Christmas poem for this year.  It's a little weird.  One friend called it "Azimov-ian."  I took it as a compliment.

Saint Marty is ready for a long winter's nap this evening, maybe with the help of a little Christmas cheer.

Bigfoot Noel

for everyone we love, Christmas 2015

He slouches through this night,
an eclipse of hair and muscle and foot,
guided by some wild nova
in the chambers of his Neanderthal
chest.  It’s an ancient story,
Precambrian even, about ice,
juniper berry in the deadest of winter.
Digging through dermal frost
to root and worm.  Mushroom
caps in frozen moss, strips
of pine gnawed into sweet paste.
And moon held in knuckles of sumac.

Yes, it’s about need and hunger,
a bottomless lake carved by glacier.
It’s wilderness, the blind
sound of nebulae exploding seventy
million miles a day.  Ice Age.  Meteor
rain.  Seraphim screaming hosannas
over panicked rams.  Starlight and manure.
The coming of Something
ferocious, untamable.

He knows all this somehow,
the way he knows where salmon leap, spawn.
He stands at the edge of a clearing,
stares up, into the hills, toward
an empty cave.  He tilts back
his head, opens his throat, sings a song
for the evolution of love.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

December 24: Soft as Flowers, Irving Berlin-ish, Christmas Essay, "Live Long and Prosper," The Unknown Christmas Story

When they stepped outside together, the snow was already more than six inches high and rising.  A beautiful night, the streets in every direction impassable to traffic.  Hardly anything moved save for the occasional snow plow on the avenue, bus engines whirring, strained, somewhere in the distance, little else.  To the west, over the rooftops, through the immense, agitated hive of falling snow, a kind of violet light puzzled them.  Down the street dozens of children, who'd swarmed out of their apartment houses, were in the midst of a snow fight, the scene lit by wrought-iron street lamps, snowballs bursting against hooded, gleeful faces, and dropping, soft as flowers, behind them.

The above passage describes the first Christmas Eve Ives and Annie spend together.  They aren't married.  They're in an art class together, and they've just finished a little post-class celebration.  Annie came with another guy, but she spends most of the night with Ives, holding hands, enjoying Ives' quiet, thoughtful nature.  And the snow is falling on the city, making everything very Irving Berlin-ish.

There is not real snow in the forecast for tonight in my little section of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and I am totally fine with that.  The winds are blowing at about 40 or 50 miles per hour.  The Mackinac Bridge, which connects Michigan's upper and lower peninsulas, is currently closed due to these winds.  There is snow on the ground, cars, and trees.  We will have a white Christmas, just not a REALLY white Christmas.

Sorry I didn't post last night.  I got wrapped up in wrapping up.  I also practiced with my band for tonight's services and made two pecan pies.  It was busy, and I didn't finish until around two in the morning.

This afternoon, we will be celebrating Christmas with my wife's family, which is a first for us.  Then, this evening, it will be church.  Two services, one at 8 p.m. and then a candlelight 11 p.m. celebration.  That's pretty much my day.

This morning, I made a trip to the cemetery to visit my sister's grave.  I stood in the wind and cold, told her how much I missed her.  I left a piece of her favorite Christmas chocolate there.  Almond brickle that I make every year.  She loved it.  I would give her bags of it, and she would freeze it for herself.

This year, my Christmas essay is dedicated to my sister.  It played on the local public radio station last Friday.

Saint Marty wishes you all a very Merry Christmas Eve.

Live Long and Prosper

by:  Saint Marty

My sister, Sally, could never do it.  A life-long Trekkie, she couldn’t make her fingers part in the center to create that Vulcan salute.  When she attempted it, her hands became knots of knuckles, weird angular sculptures of pinkie, middle, fore, and ring fingers.  At best, Sal would hold up her hand, spread all her digits wide, as if waiting to catch some errant meteor falling from space.

She blamed heredity.  Either my father or mother had not passed along some alien chromosome, leaving her incapable of greeting any resident of the planet Vulcan properly.  Sal was a student of anatomy and medicine, eventually becoming an operating room nurse, so I think she felt a certain kinship with the Enterprise’s green-blooded science officer.  His cool detachment in times of crisis, arch of eyebrow at human folly.

Every Christmas, Sally received some Star Trek artifact.  A wall calendar filled with tribbles and dilithium crystals.  Hallmark ornaments that whistled Alexander Courage’s theremin theme or declared “Live long and prosper” in Leonard Nimoy baritone.  One December 25th, in the mid-seventies, she got a Spock action figure and transporter room.  I remember her placing her tiny Vulcan in the transporter tube, giving the command “energize,” and pushing the button.  The transporter would spin, and Spock would disappear into the ether.

That toy was my sister’s Red Ryder bb gun.  While Ralphie imagined taking out Black Bart and gang with his trusty air rifle, Sal was beaming herself to the edges of the galaxy, boldly going where no Catholic school girl had gone before.

Around the Christmas that my sister began exploring the cosmos with her Spock, I set my sights on a bigger, hairier quarry.  In 1976, a documentary titled The Mysterious Monsters was released.  Narrated by actor Peter Graves, it featured scientists analyzing footprints and film, listening to audio recordings, trying to prove the existence of a race of gargantuan hominids tramping through the forests and mountains of the United States.

The same year, on The Six Million Dollar Man, Lee Majors had an encounter with one of these creatures in the form of wrestler Andre the Giant.  Andre was fur-coated and fanged, with eyes the color of cataracts.  In the bionic universe, Bigfoot was not some missing link, hiding in the caves of the Pacific Northwest to avoid human detection.  Andre the Bigfoot was a robot built by sexy alien scientists studying our planet.  (Stefanie Powers, one of the aliens, wore a tight blue jumpsuit that showed off ample cleavage.  She certainly would have caught Captain Kirk’s attention.)

Alien or ancestor ape, though, it made no difference to me.  At nine years of age, I was in the throes of Bigfoot fever.  I searched for footprints in my backyard; made bait piles of blueberries and dandelion greens; listened in the night for neanderthalic howls and moans.  And, as the holidays approached, I dreamed of coming down the steps on Christmas morning to find Andre the Bigfoot standing beside the tree, a red velvet ribbon perched on top of his curly mane.

I had no clue what I would do with an eight-and-a-half-foot tall, six-hundred pound monster.  I never got beyond the imagined morning when my family would be greeted by the feral stink of hair and sweat and urine as they entered the living room, my Bigfoot gnawing on the mantle or clumsily pawing my mother’s manger scene.  Like most kids wanting a pet for Christmas, I didn’t think about upkeep—the house breaking and grooming and midnight walking.  Not to mention elephantine piles of Bigfoot manure on neighbors’ lawns.  No, it was all about the wishing and wanting.

That Christmas, Santa did not deliver an Andre-the-Giant-sized gift down our chimney.  Instead, I got an encyclopedia of the animal kingdom.  Thick as the family Bible, the book held hundreds of photographs.  Lions mauling a zebra carcass.  A hooded cobra ready to strike.  A killer whale breaching arctic waves in pursuit of a seal.  Near the back was a section titled “Mysteries of the Animal Kingdom.”  In those pages were illustrations of the sleek plesiosaurs of Loch Ness and loping snowmen of the Himalayas.  And, of course, Bigfoot.  Wide as a grizzly bear and twice as tall.  Below his image was a question, if I remember correctly.  Something like “Long Lost Cousin?”  I spent that whole Christmas day with penguins and yetis and hippopotami and starfish.

It really doesn’t matter what they are.  Bigfoot or Vulcans, bb guns or iPhones.  We never really outgrow the wonder that accompanies Christmas presents.  They’re mysteries to be examined, explored like moons on the cusp of the Klingon Empire or looming shapes under the canopy of midnight evergreens.  They can satisfy a deep ache for German chocolate or break into a chorus of “King of the Road.”  They can smell like your dead mother’s carrot cake or your grandfather’s Irish whiskey.  They’re all about possibility and want.

Andre the Giant died of congestive heart failure on January 27, 1993, in Paris.  He was cremated, his ashes given to the wind in North Carolina.  Leonard Nimoy died of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease on February 27, 2015.  In June, 2015, an asteroid in the Solar System’s main belt was renamed 4864 Nimoy.  My sister, Sally, died of lymphoma of the brain on August 19, 2015.  The night before she passed, I leaned close to her ear and whispered, “You don’t have to be afraid of the dark.”

This December, the Christmas tree at my parents’ house is decorated with Star Trek ornaments.  Enterprises.  Klingon war ships.  Kirks.  Spocks.  On Christmas morning, there will be presents, wrapped and waiting, under the tree.  Perhaps one will contain a Red Ryder bb gun to defend the world from all the Black Barts.  Or maybe a tiny Vulcan, ready to beam across the galaxy, spread the promise of long life and prosperity.  Or maybe, just maybe, one might hold something larger, heavier, wild and elusive.  Something big enough to eclipse sun and moon and stars.  To blot out all the dark matter of the universe.

The Unknown Christmas Story...