Went to the company Christmas party last Saturday. Got drunk.
Stuck my face in the chocolate fountain. Spilled red wine on a white dress (which I don't even remember putting on). Slugged the boss. Got caught in a compromising position with someone inappropriate in the cloakroom. When the 4 a.m. roadblock cop asked "Anything to drink tonight?" I replied, "Thanks, I'll have a gin and tonic."
Same old, same old.
Well, no, I was actually at home, stone cold sober, snoring and drooling attractively on the couch by 11 p.m.
Growing old, growing old.
Or maybe it's just a Victoria thing. I was at an event in Kamloops a couple of weeks ago where the dancing didn't even begin until 10: 30 p.m. Couldn't drag my mother out of there until well after midnight, when the dance floor was still packed.
That's the difference between Victoria and the rest of the province. They put on their party shoes around the time that we're pulling on our slippers. Victoria is pretty much in its pyjamas by the end of Jeopardy, or as we call it, the late show.
Ah yes, Victoria, where, as Kim Lunman once wrote, the word "hip" is usually followed by "replacement." In the rest of B.C., Fifty Shades of Grey is a book; in Victoria, it's either demographics or the weather.
Still, it's fun to dress up at Christmas and swan off for an evening of dancing, or, if you don't like the decor at Monty's, take in one of the seasonal activities.
Except here, dear reader, is where the fun stops: The holidays aren't that great for everyone.
I got a stark reminder of that a few years ago after taking in Stuart McLean's Vinyl CafÃ© Christmas show at the Royal Theatre. It was a terrific night (if you've never heard McLean tell his Dave Cooks the Turkey story on the radio, drop what you're doing and go google the CBC podcast right now) and we were all still laughing while walking back to the car - right up until we saw the guy buried in his wet sleeping bag in a storefront.
It was too much of a contrast - us in our finery, him cold and miserable - to keep laughing. I wish I could say I did something noble and Christmasy to ease his discomfort, but the truth is I just got in the car and drove away. Can't save them all, right?
That's the most recognizable face of poverty, the homeless man who for whatever reason - mental illness, maybe, or a drug debt that has him avoiding the shelters - is sleeping on the street.
But the street people are only the most visible of the poor. Far more common are those who look, frighteningly, just like you. We get that uncomfortable reminder every year when the Times Colonist Christmas Fund channels donated money to those ensnared in the poverty trap: the working poor, people with debilitating medical conditions, single mothers with profoundly disabled children.
It's humbling and disturbing, shattering preconceptions that the needy have tumbled into holes of their own digging. It's often bad luck, not bad choices, that leaves people trapped in a well. A stroke. A brain injury. It could happen to you (or, worse, me).
Charity shouldn't be about us and them, about the noble grand gesture, those of us who are relatively healthy and wealthy assuaging our guilt or building our egos by tossing a few pennies across the divide to some suitably Dickensian waif. Doesn't stop me from doing my Christmas giving with a combination of conspicuous piety and hidden reluctance, though. (Even when doing the right thing I like to be a butt-head, for consistency's sake.)
Still, it does feel good to help. Makes it easier to party in good conscience (and bad behaviour) or, more likely, sleep well at night.
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