Mostly, it is up to you. I claim no expertise. An online search for this information turns up far more ingenious solutions than I could devise.
But this is what I (with 3 cats – that is, I live with 3 cats, I decorated the tree with my daughter Gamma) did:
First, I got a nice tree. A few weeks ago, my wife Alpha and I went to the tree guy (local tree farmer) as early as possible. We weren’t the first people to go there this year, but we were the first ones to buy a tree.
In fact, they were still setting up when we arrived. Only one tree was standing. Viennese people (they had Vienna license plates) were looking at a pile of trees lying against the barn. Alpha and I looked at the first tree standing. “What about this one?” I said. “Ok,” she said.
She did insist the owner measure it before we bought it, and the tree was a little tall for our living room but I always cut a bit of the tip off to fit the red star on the top, and she raised her eyebrows but relented. It was, after all, a very nice, thick, symmetrical tree. And it is such a pleasure to buy the first item you inspect when you have been dreading an hour of comparison shopping.
We asked them to deliver it, as every year, and NOT to grind the end that fits into the holder because we have our own holder and it has a big hole.
They delivered it with the end ground down to fit into a wooden base that they had attached.
We like to use our own holder because you can put water into it and maybe the tree lasts a little longer, or at least the needles might not fall off as fast. I don’t know if there really is a difference because we have never tried the old-school wooden cross holders. So I considered using it this time because 1. it was already attached and 2. I might find out experimentally if the needles fell off faster without water.
My daughter came out on Sunday to decorate it with me while my wife Alpha did a writing retreat with our daughter Beta.
The most important thing Gamma and I did was, we didn’t get high before decorating the tree.
The weed kids smoke nowadays is stronger than it was 40 years ago etc etc.
I will spare you the comedic anecdotes.
So, sober, we stood up the tree.
That wasn’t so easy, it turned out because this was the biggest, heaviest tree I had ever purchased, I noticed when I tried to carry it into the house. But eventually it was inside, and standing.
Gamma determined that we had an appropriate tree for our family Christmas, because it was left-leaning.
So we took off the wooden base (with a hatchet) and stuck it into the holder thing and eventually, after some trial and error, got it to stand straight.
Then I put the red star on the top, which involved some clipping and trimming, then more clipping and more trimming and a little carving. (I was happy because I had a chance to use my Japanese carpenter’s saw.) The tree was so much too tall that not only the tip, but also the top tier of little branches had to go.
But we got the star on in the end, and didn’t damage the ceiling very much in the process.
We had received a little bit of friendly derision from family members when it was announced that we would be decorating the tree this year all by ourselves, for examples predictions of an “ADHD Christmas tree”, so we knew we had to have a plan.
This is the plan I came up with: because cats in the Pacific Northwest DO NOT climb Christmas trees due to there being cat-eating eagles at the tops of evergreen trees there (story my sister told me backs it up: a tree fell on her property one year in a storm, they found an eagle nest with a bunch of little dog and cat collars in it, minus the pets) we would put an eagle at the top of our tree. And because cats are afraid of snakes, according to the Internet, we would put a snake at the base. And because there is also a snake at the base of Yggdrasil (the tree of life of Nordic myth), that snake being the terrible serpent Níðhöggr, the eagle at the top of our tree could be the nameless eagle at the top of Yggdrasil, and so we would also need the squirrel Ratatoskr running back and forth between them, carrying messages.
Gamma and I were at an advent market at Schönbrunn a while ago and all we found was a felt squirrel, but no eagle or snake ornaments. I did however buy a deep-sea diver ornament along with the felt Ratatoskr.
So anyway we still need an eagle and a snake, maybe next year.
Alright. That was how the Yggdrasil plan played out this year – cute squirrel, in the upper third of the tree, with the deep sea diver.
That is because of our damage mitigation plan – cheap, sturdy, unpopular ornaments at the bottom, within cat range. Medium ornaments in the middle, where cats might jump, precious ones in the upper third. Then, candles everywhere. We now use LED candles, powered with one AAA battery each, because burning candles on a Christmas tree indoors scare me too much. Alpha bought 3 boxes of 15 candles each at a local discount supermarket and they are cool – not only can you choose between 2 shades of white, they also have an RGB mode where they cycle through the colors slowly, which is really hypnotic and makes me want to get high and watch it although we don’t really need to get high, we just turn off the TV and sit there on the sofa staring at the tree in the dark. (We like them so much Alpha bought 45 more but we still have to install them.)
And after the candles are on the tree, the chocolate. We overpurchased the chocolate ornaments (Mozartkugeln, chocolate umbrellas (those you hang with the little hook handle things), various chocolate ornaments, and, for the kiddies, little chocolate bottles filled with booze.
Then Gamma and I let the cats in and they were well-behaved for the most part, only 66% tried to climb the tree. Then Alpha came home later and kicked them out of the living room.
So now the cats are nonplussed and a little insulted and a little insecure, and when you enter the living room you have to first go into the kitchen, and close the outer kitchen door after clearing it of cats, airlock style, and only then can you go into the living room because if you don’t, no matter how careful you are, a cat will sneak in with you otherwise.
Between the end of Christmas tree season and the day the garbage truck collects our tree, we plan to leave it standing, sans ornaments, and grant the cats access to it.
But they don’t know that yet, all they know is they have been banned and they are mystified why. Certainly not that little bit of furniture scratching, or that negligible amount of peeing.
What could it be? They must be crazy, the humans.
Happy holidays to all who observe.
Tag Archives: alpha
Mostly, it is up to you. I claim no expertise. An online search for this information turns up far more ingenious solutions than I could devise.
My little brother sent me some short videos this week.
It went like this: he transferred VHS tapes to a DVD. Then he played the videos from the DVD on his computer, and filmed the monitor with his iPhone. Then he sent me the iPhone videos via a social media site, and I forwarded them to my family.
The quality of the videos was of course poor; not only were the original tapes nearly 30 years old, each step transferring, copying and refilming degraded them further.
And yet: they were still superior to my own memories of the events — a visit we paid to my family in the United States when our oldest daughter was one year old.
Alpha and I are now older than my parents are in the videos.
The house in which we sing Happy Birthday has since burned in an arson fire, and then been torn down to make way for a mall parking lot.
Some details were only slightly surprising: Beta is a serious baby in the video. I remember that she was a serious baby, but she was even more serious than I recall.
Some details contradicted our memories entirely: for 30 years, we have told Beta she never crawled, just went straight from rolling to walking. But in the video she crawls just fine. She was a fast crawler, chasing my parents’ wiener dog all over the living room.
To be honest, the videos freaked me out a little.
The speed at which time passes, for one thing. How people just die, two people from the video, for example, but time just keeps going.
But we know that. What really freaked me out was how the evidence contradicted our memories. I know I forget things. We all forget things. I know I have forgotten most of my life, when it comes down to it. But to see blurry, grainy but genuine evidence that even the little bit I remember is false, that’s freaky.
It’s one thing to read somewhere that memory is nothing but stories we tell ourselves, and that any particular memory is altered to a greater or lesser extent with each re-telling, but to actually see the proof like that makes you wonder what else you’re wrong about.
What grudges you’d be better off dropping.
What pain you could let go.
Yesterday I had the day off and did some family things with my daughters. We leveled my wife’s parents’ refrigerator, which a friend and I had delivered to them recently and which had been rocking. I tipped it back and Beta screwed one leg (of the refrigerator) out until it was the right length to make the fridge level. I changed a lock at the inlaws’.
Stuff like that.
Then we drove to the girls’ place where I drilled holes in the concrete wall (in order to bracket a bookshelf to the wall) with my new impact drill, which I bought a while ago after my old drill died in a shower of sparks while trying to drill holes in a concrete wall.
We had lunch. Then we briefly strolled to the bookstore, which this year was voted (I don’t know by whom) the best bookstore in the country.
We went in and the manager either recognized us or is just a nice guy. We asked him for coffee and he made us some. We fanned out and started filling up on books. This is one of the family traditions the title of this post refers to. When we collectively visit a bookstore, it is more of a raid than shopping. We fan out and meet at the cash register at closing time, arms full, no two books the same.
I only planned to buy two books but the manager started telling me about good books so I got six, then I saw the new David Sedaris book so I got seven, then two for my wife, then I ordered another one for her, after consulting with the manager again. He didn’t ask my name when processing the order, so I suppose he really did recognize us. Since I stopped buying anything through Amazon I order all my books from him and Beta or Gamma pick them up for me.
Then we left and I carried my loot to the car, and my drilling gear, and forgot one more fatherly task I had planned to do, and went on a date with Alpha, to celebrate the 38th anniversary of our first kiss. Alpha wore a dirndl and we went to a Japanese restaurant that was okay. It has received good reviews but served modern sort of fusion food based on Japanese cuisine, too many spices and mayonnaise for our taste, and the service was a little too attentive in our opinion, but it’s always nice to go on a date with Alpha.
Then we went to bed early because we’re trying to sleep 8 hours at night. And we both had dreams, which is unusual for a work night.
Words, words, words.
William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act II, Scene II
Alpha and I saw King Lear last Sunday, in the original German, at the Burgtheater, in Vienna.
Shakespeare, really something that guy, eh?
Klaus Maria Brandauer was Lear. He was good. Everyone was good. Even the actors where you think, they’re not as good as the rest, they turned out to be good, too.
Four hours just flew by.
Alpha arranged the tickets, and being Alpha, we had front-row seats. Also, being Alpha, in the intermission, when the aisles and hallways of the theater suddenly fill with people blinking like moles and looking for the restrooms or the buffets, she said, “I’m going to the restroom so you go get champagne.”
Being me, I went and got champagne. Slightly out of character, I got it quickly, which gave me more time to try to find my wife in the crowd.
An usher informed me I was not allowed to bring the glasses and champagne bottle (one of those little piccolo bottles that hold two glasses’ worth) back into the theater-part of the theater with me. She was nice about it, though, when I explained my lost-wife situation, so instead of asking ‘what, do lots of people throw bottles at Klaus Maria Brandauer?’ I got her to let me leave the drinks with her while I searched.
Of course I never found my wife, all intermission long.
I called her a couple times, but her phone was turned off.
Later, she called me and we had the where are you oh by the stairs i’m also by the stairs which stairs those stairs going up me too which stairs going up go to the stairs by the restroom now i’m by the bar how am I supposed to find you if you keep moving around? conversation. Then the warning bells started ringing and the usher suggested I drink both champagnes and head back to my seat. I offered her one but she didn’t drink on duty.
So I had two champagnes.
And saw King Lear up close.
Argue, argue, stab, stab.
Alpha was good-natured about the drink snafu, so was I.
When you have been together a long time, little stuff like that doesn’t rile you up. If it had been a first date, it might have been different.
My wife and I attended the final concert of this season’s Klangforum subscription at the Konzerthaus last night. I was early so I went for a walk and then waited for her in the bar at a nearby hotel. It was a sunny, warm evening, so it felt good to be sitting in a comfortable chair at a table in a dark bar next to the whisky cabinet.
It took the waitress a while to find me, but I was in no hurry at all. I used the time to observe a couple guys at a nearby table and when that grew too depressing I looked at the single malts in the cabinet. They were beautiful and alluring, but when the waitress found me I ordered a gin martini. As I have mentioned before, I specify gin when I order martinis but that was unnecessary this time. Maybe they know me there by now. She asked if I wanted ice. This time I said no. She asked if I wanted olives or a twist of lemon, I said olives.
My drink came. I sat there and meditated on the single malts.
My wife called and said she was almost there. I considered ordering her her frankfurters and the glass of mineral water she wanted, but decided to wait until she arrived, to avoid the frankfurters getting cold and wrinkly. Service is fast in that bar anyhow. It was the right decision because she called a few minutes later, in tears. Right after she had called me the first time, a police officer had knocked on her window and pulled her over and gave her a €50 ticket for using a mobile phone while driving, but she was unable to pay because all she had was €40 so now she was wandering the streets of Vienna looking for a cash machine and the one the policeman had directed her to was closed and she didn’t know where another one was.
I said okay. I expressed sympathy and told her no problem, we have plenty of time and so on and I’ll be here when she gets here.
We did have plenty of time.
All the single malts, or many of them, had names that reminded me of Tolkein characters. “The leathery wings of the Laphroaigs beat the darkling skies like a drum, and their screeches turned Frodo’s bones to ice.”
“He is an archer, of the Lagavullin tribe.”
“And the race of the elves abandoned Tallisker, and sailed to the Western Lands.”
“Betrayed by the treacherous traiter Auchentoshan, King Glenfarclas died a hero’s death beneath the Giant Elm in his beloved Glendronach.”
“Is it a Cnoc? You have a Cnoc in your pocket, amirite?” hissed Gollum.
My wife called after a while and interrupted an epiphany I was having about Tolkein. She changed her order to champagne, no sausages. It was on the table when she arrived a few minutes later. As was my second martini.
The waiter also brought more nuts, dispelling my fear that they had my picture behind the bar with the note, “don’t give him too many nuts, he’s like a goldfish and will absent-mindedly eat them until he bursts.”
My wife was a bit stressed but in a better mood because she had been so miserable when she finally returned to her car that the police officer, who had been abandoned there by his colleagues, standing guard with her registration in one hand and the ticket in the other, took pity on her, tore up the ticket and told her to have a nice evening. So champagne was a good call, I guess – to take the edge off the stress, on the one hand, and to celebrate not getting a ticket after all on the other.
Something you should know about my wife is that she gets out of about half of her tickets by winning the sympathy of the ticketing officer. Not always, but more than me. We both have the same approach – throw ourselves at their mercy – but maybe she looks unhappier. I have, in fact, never gotten out of a ticket.
The concert itself was, as always, good. I didn’t fall asleep until the last piece, when the hall ran out of oxygen, despite having two drinks in me. As always in this series, they performed compositions by modern composers. All but one were living, and present, and took bows on the stage afterwards. We especially enjoyed the first piece, and the penultimate one, which featured electronics and a burping soprano (an idea I had considered for a composition, but discarded out of pity for my singer. I guess that is what separates the men from the boys in the world of composition).
Needless to say, we have renewed our subscription.