2012 Christmas Letter–with apologies. I was depressed.

Christmas 2012 – Bah Humbug Alert – We were cranky when we wrote this.

BARB: It’s been an uneventful year. The cats are still healthy and uneaten which is a miracle considering the coyotes, owls, and other predators living in the foliage. We’ve taken some little trips because Gordon gets cabin fever if we don’t explore every now and again. The thought of snow on Christmas struck a chord and we’d never been to Bryce or Zion so Gordon stuffed me in the car last Christmas Day for the long drive to Utah. Of course, we had to combine our trip with some necessary business to write part of it off—we refuse to give the guvmint any more money than necessary. It was a good day for taking site pictures because everybody but us was having Christmas dinner. I made do with cashews and Christmas cookies until dinner because Gordon had made arrangements to stay at a resort at Lake Las Vegas which was truly lovely. Unfortunately, the staff didn’t match the architecture. Nobody seemed to know what they were doing—or maybe they were mad that they were working on Christmas. We finally gave up trying to get lightbulbs and pillows and went to the only restaurant open in the hotel. Gordon ordered the steak and I got turf & surf from the prix fix holiday menu–and it wasn’t cheap. Unfortunately, the bread was stale, the salad marginal, and steak looked like it had been sitting on a steam table for days. We sent the meat back, paid for our salads and wine, and left. The problem was—where to go from here? Neither one of us wanted to take on the Strip so we drove until we found something—anything!—that was open which turned out to be Sonic Burger. The young waitress skated over to our car and cheerily asked if we’d had a nice Christmas. I said, “This is the high point.” She said, “I’m so sorry!”–which really wasn’t much of a recommendation for Sonic Burger. We left early the next day because nothing was open for breakfast. I think this was the resort that hosted Obama when he was studying for the debates. Maybe that explained his performance; he couldn’t get any food or light. The rest of our trip was lovely. The weather was perfect and we were able to drive into both Zion and Bryce canyons with no fuss. We spent one more night in Vegas so I could buy underwear (I know; I could buy underwear in LA but it was on sale!) and had dinner at the Golden Steer, our favorite Vegas steak place. They gave us Oscar Goldman’s—the Mafia Mayor–booth which made us giggle. It was like being on the Sopranos; Sinatra was playing and our waiter’s name was Vinnie. But we had the only good meal of the trip. At least Gordon got his ‘road trip jones’ off.
We attended Gordon’s nephew’s wedding in Annapolis last May. We visited historic homes, ate crab cakes, and toured the Naval Academy. Gordon always needs more time in museums than I do and I’d messed up my ankle so I sat outside Academy Museum to rest. As I passed the guard he surprised me by telling where to find Gordon. When I asked how he knew I was the correct wife he explained, “Your husband said you’d be the one with the limp.” Gittin’ old. Men in uniform used to talk to me because I was cute, not crippled. But I liked the museum. The John Paul Jones crypt was spectacular but his story was sad. Poor old John Paul got a guvmint job in Paris and died three days before being sworn in. France was still recovering from the Terror and Jones got planted without ceremony and was forgotten. Around the 1900’s an American businessman found his grave, dug him up, and sent him to Annapolis. Nice to know our great revolutionary hero finally got a nice spot. We enjoyed the groom’s dinner and the wedding and the people on the East Coast are delightful but it was nice to come home.
Oh dear, out of space already. Smells like it’s time to break out the ammonia bottle and clean up after Squirt, our mooching feral tomcat. Yup, he’s still with us. I’ve quit trying to make friends with him. He took a big chunk out of my finger when I tried to touch him but I guess I can’t let him starve to death—although the thought’s tempting. Maybe I should make an offering of him to the coyote. Now, now, that’s not the Christmas spirit. I’ll just continue chasing him around, threatening to cut his fuzzy little nuts off—although maybe that’s why he took a chunk out of my finger. He’s a cat, he’s not stupid. Have a Happy and a Merry, etc.

GORDON: It’s December 12, it’s 70 Degrees out, it’s rained hard so the lawn’s growing like crazy and I’ll probably have to mow again before Christmas. Somehow this just doesn’t jibe with my South Dakota upbringing about what’s supposed to happen over the season – where’s the snow to shovel? But it’s letter time so off we go, bear with me as I try to catch the spirit of the season.
Barb did a good job of running through our trips, and nobody died, so I guess you could say it was an uneventful year for me. I spent most of it doing appraisals in California, but one of my major clients went on an out-of-state buying jag late in the year, so the last three months have involved flying around the country looking at sick hospitals being bought for turnaround. I’ve been to Reno, Dallas (nice towns, wish I’d had more time to explore) and Pampa, Texas (reminds me of my hometown Brookings SoDak, except everything revolves around oil instead of the college).
Barb didn’t mention that we also took a trip to Salt Lake City for a class I was taking. Not a lot of news about it – I found one of my old band buddies, who four years ago was maybe a year from dying of acute alcoholism. Moving back to SLC was good for him in that he stopped drinking, and has a steady job (he taught me more than I wanted to learn about what it takes to keep the milk shelves stocked at WalMart), but he’s bored to tears, and hates living with his parents. Reminds me of my senior year in high school many years ago.
I’m still doing my LA Conservancy tours of historic LA, and getting recertified on tours I used to do almost thirty years ago – can’t believe I’ve been wandering around downtown with folks trailing behind me for that long, but I found my 1983 training manual, so it must be true. I’ve developed a few “regulars” who sign up for tours and bring their friends – I really like those because I can go off the beaten path and find new things to show off. I just have to make ‘em promise not to tell the folks at the Conservancy.
And I almost forgot, we had our annual celebration disaster – On Barb’s birthday, the shower stall we had installed last year decided to stop accepting water. Luckily we spotted it before it overflowed, but several gallons of Drano had no effect so we had to go out and buy a “snake” to dig through whatever was clogging the drain. That took a couple of hours, during which Barb DIDN’T get her birthday dinner, and got crankier and crankier. But we finally got our showers and got to dinner, just before she started chewing on my arm. When we got to our favorite restaurant, the waiter asked if we were celebrating anything, so we told him we were happy the shower drain worked (he didn’t get the joke). In case you didn’t know, Barb’s four days older than I am, but we don’t celebrate Barb’s birthday until I catch up to her age four days later – Barb refuses to be the older woman even for four days.
Well, we need to get our letters out, and I have reams of appraisals to write, so I’ll cut this a little short and wish you all a happy holiday season of whatever it is you celebrate, and send wishes for a happy and prosperous, and not overly taxed new year.

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About Barbara Schnell

I've dedicated my life to full-time employment avoidance. I've been an actress, renovated a 1921 California Bungalow, set a cash-winning record on $25,000 Pyramid, and came in last on Jeopardy. I live in Los Angeles with my patient husband and two cats.
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