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The Middle Ages: Surviving the post-holiday slump

No more small talk with semi-friends you see only at Christmas parties once a year, at which point you are forced to make small talk again. Been so long, you can’t remember their kids’ names, and which ones are teaching in Mozambique and which ones are partying in Prague. At a holiday party, I once talked to a very nice woman for 20 minutes before realizing she was my mom.

Just for kicks, I like to make up entire fictional families. I tell these semi-friends that I have seven sons and four daughters, all of whom play linebacker at Boise State. And that my wife recently won the Nobel Prize in economics, which is pretty funny if you know my wife.

I’ll actually miss the chitchat, just as I’ll miss shimmying under the tree with a pitcher of water, only to find it bone dry. At that point, I’ll usually pause to take a quick nap under the tree – the rustic, cider smells of Christmas always make me snoozy. I stir only when our neighbor Fred starts to grill up teriyaki chicken on New Year’s Day. I promise you that’s a pleasure cloud more arousing than anything Coco Chanel ever produced.

As always, the weeks following Christmas are the glummest time. The tree comes down, school and work kick in again, the Dow drops. This year, Posh and I decorated a little differently. We went with a real tree and an artificial house. Made cleanup easier. When New Year’s was over, we just folded the house up and put it in a giant Tupperware container in the garage. Which was tricky, because the garage was in the Tupperware bin with the rest of the house.

Cleanup was like one of those Wes Anderson movies, with extra dimensions of time, reality and emotion – odd little stories that none of the critics really understand, so they label them “taut, absorbing masterpieces.” In case it was simply too smart for them to grasp. You know these movies. Your friends read the reviews, then drag you to see this indie masterpiece. Frankly, if I wanted extra dimensions in time, reality and emotion, I’d just have dinner with my kids. There is a point in those awful movies, about 40 minutes in, when everyone in the audience quits breathing, not because they’re mesmerized, but because they are this close to being fatally bored. To survive, I buy the big popcorn, pour a package of M&Ms directly in, then wash it all down with a giant silo of Dr Pepper. That’s the secret to surviving a movie like that. It might even be the secret to surviving life.

By the way, I’ve got a little New Year’s news for you: Change is not good. People are always painting change as revitalizing, but I think that’s a cop-out. Change is rarely good. In the last 50 years, the only changes that improved daily life were ATMs and disposable diapers. Oh, and I’ll throw in Pandora as well. Let me tell you about Pandora if you don’t already know ... You get it on your phone for free and can dial up different stations. For instance, if you’re into the Moody Blues or Esperanza Spalding, you choose a station that’s a mix of their music. Connect your phone to one of those $20 Bluetooth speakers, and you have your favorite music almost anywhere – your desk, your reading chair, your secret retreat under the tree. If it sounds too techie, ask your kid for help. Or the dude at Office Depot. I finally set it up myself, which means it is within the skill sets of most 5-year-olds, and other members of the monkey kingdom.

That’s what we’re about, right? Looking out for each other when the holidays are over and the small talk ends. And assuring ourselves that – on rare occasions – change really can be a taut, absorbing masterpiece.