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Saturday, April 19, 2014

A snug harbor

Ed Stephens Jr.

As Saipan’s emotional cauldron of politics, anger, and contention hits a fast boil, I’ll note that the holidays are here. Yep, they snuck up on us. The holidays are what I call a “behavior amplifier.” They serve to make happy people happier, angry people angrier, and, well, you get the idea. So Saipan’s bitter feuds and rivalries, always running high even in the best of times, are going to be mighty touchy this time around.

Well, I’m not part of that gig. As for the holidays, I always enjoy thinking about them. Maybe that’s why holidays exist: to let us enjoy thinking about the holidays when the holidays roll around. Talk about self-reinforcing logic.

I’ll admit I’m a sucker for the holidays. Do you ever wonder who buys all the gimmicks with holiday themes? I’m talking about the Halloween towels with embroidered spiders, the kitschy Thanksgiving turkey-theme bookshelf statues, the Santa Claus memo pads, and all the rest of it.

I buy it. That’s who.

For me, the span from Halloween to New Year’s classifies as “holidays.” I spent most of my young ‘un days in a cold climate. Memories of the crisp, cool winds of autumn stir my blood. I have to say that a maple tree turning color is every bit as pretty as a flame tree showing its stuff.

I spent one high-seas Thanksgiving aboard a ship that wasn’t American crewed. We had fish head soup for dinner. I am not a connoisseur of fish head soup. However, my shipmates had practiced palates and they thought it was excellent. So I was thankful that if I’m going to have fish head soup for Thanksgiving, at least I’m having really good fish head soup.

As for Christmas, it’s fashionable to dismiss it as a child’s holiday. Well, it’s for the kids, I’ll admit, but I think I like it as much now as I ever did. Why not?

A minor family scandal is that my wife and I once had McDonald’s for Christmas dinner. I had been on the road for a long time, was back home with the wife, and hadn’t even unpacked my bag before I realized it was Christmas.

As always, my wife had planned well in advance for the family’s needs, and there was a large (as in, 100 people) extended-family gathering for the event. Everybody except us was there, but I was too tired to go. So, what the heck, let’s just go to McDonald’s, I said. It worked out perfectly, and 50 minutes later I was back home asleep.

I’m very lucky that I never had to spend a holiday in a combat zone or in a foxhole. By contrast, military members from the Commonwealth are shouldering very difficult duty for these holidays, and they continue to earn my respect, along with my wishes for a speedy and safe return home.

Meanwhile, I’ll admit that I feel downright old when I realize I do old-people stuff for holidays. For example, by July I’ve already bought half the stuff I need to buy. My grandmother used to do that. I thought she must have been off her rocker. I mean, who thinks about Christmas shopping in July?

On a similar note, if I’m going to travel, I make reservations as early as possible. Forget youthful spontaneity, I want my AAA discount and a solid schedule, preferably cast in granite and triple-insured by Lloyd’s of London. Hotels seem to live by their own, unfathomable laws of physics, so I’m not one to try to anticipate their moves or to play chronological brinksmanship with them. Some are perfectly happy to sit with a zero percent occupancy rate because they didn’t drop their prices, but they’ll make up for it by adding $5 to the cost of steaks that nobody is eating in the restaurant that is empty. You can’t fight logic like that.

I also take maximum advantage of the holidays to be around people I enjoy being around. The reciprocal is that I am maximally efficient about avoiding people I don’t enjoy being around. Maybe this is more old guy behavior, eh? If so, fine with me.

You can be sure that the yearly observations on “holiday stress” will make the rounds of Saipan and elsewhere, and Saipan has already got of stressed-out folks to begin with.

Well, if you don’t want to get wound up in Saipan’s stress, you can, as always, come to this column on Fridays. It’s a snug harbor, sheltered from politics and contention. So just bring a beach chair and sit right down. Oh, and while you’re opening the cooler, would you pass another cold one this way? Cheers, and here’s to a Happy Thanksgiving.

Visit Ed Stephens Jr. at EdStephensJr.com. His column runs every Friday.

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