Public service: How to decorate a Christmas tree when you have cats

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.

Fever! till you sizzle

On holiday next week. We will spend it in a small cabin in the Alps somewhere, the four of us. First family vacation in a while. Weather outlook for the week: cold and rainy. We offered to maybe look at a last-minute trip to Greece instead, but the kids insisted we go to the cabin. I’m happy about that, because I have been dreaming of a trip like this for a long time, going to a cabin in the mountains instead of spending days in airports.

In unrelated news, a few nights ago a nightmare woke me  up. I guess it was terrifying, because my heart was ‘racing’ and it took me a long time to get back to sleep.  Actually, it was 4.50 so I gave up and got up and didn’t go back to sleep until the following night, I remember now. It, the dream, took place in a mountain cabin. There were a couple strangers there, on the edge of the dream, guys I didn’t know. The cabin was weathered and reminded me more of the mountains (and cabins) I have seen  than the cabin we are going to (knock on wood).

There were two spiders in the cabin. One was large, as big and heavy as a crab, and was climbing around on the back of the door and making a lot of noise. The other was ‘smaller’, with the body the size of a birds and long, long legs and very fucking fast. It was spinning a web in the room and got in my face and started spinning a web around my face and head real fast, jumping around the way some spiders do when prey lands in their webs.

I was ripping spiderweb from my face when I woke up.

I figure it means, bring lots of books and Uno cards with us.

Dirty Dancing III

Starring The Osbournes

Scene 1

Happy Hour. Mom, Dad and Baby are seated at table at boutique hotel on beach in Lombok, watching tropical sunset.

Guy on Beach: Would you like bracelet for your daughter? I make it myself!

Mom, Dad & Baby (In unison): Maybe later.

Waiter (brings drinks).

Dad: (sips Long Island Iced Tea)

Mom: (To Baby) What did you get? That looks good. Can I taste it?

Baby: Mojito. (Slides it over).

Mom: I’m not getting anything.

Dad: Damn, what was the name of that band two songs ago?

Baby: You have a mint leaf stuck in your straw.

Mom: Am I wearing this inside-out?

Guy on Beach: I can make it with your name.

Mom, Baby & Dad: (In unison) Maybe later.

Dad: Two words. Damn. Adjective, one was an adjective. One had a vowel.

Baby: Only one? Is it a Czech band or something?

Mom: Can I eat your fruit ornament?

Baby: Led Zeppelin? Pink Floyd?

Dad: More modern. Something in the PJ Harvey category. Sort of.

Baby: I’m not into jazz.

Dad: It’s not jazz! They have a theremin. That is, they don’t have a theremin, I just thought they did. They have a thereminy sounding synth.

Mom: Your dad says I can’t buy any pearls.

Dad: That’s not precisely what I said. What I said was, It’s your vacation, do whatever you want.

Baby: The Who? Pearl Jam? Mod Honey?

Baby: I’m so fat.

Mom & Dad: You’re not fat.

Mom: You’re totally hot.

Baby: I know I’m hot. But I’m flabby, too.

Mom & Dad: You need to sleep right, get more exercise and eat 3 meals a day. And you’re not flabby. We’d pay good money to be as not flabby as you.

Baby: (Rolls eyes.) You’re in your fifties.

Dad: What?

Baby & Mom: (Roll eyes)

Dad: What? The surf is loud. I’m a rock star. 120 decibles on stage every night. What?

Mom: Black Sabbath?

Scene 2

(Breakfast. Hotel restaurant)

Dad: I’ll have the fried rice. With sambal please.

Waiter: Sambal ketchup or sambal oelek?

Dad: What?

Waiter: Lombok sambal?

Dad: Yeah, the spicy kind.

Waiter: Okay, you asked for it.

Dad: PORTISHEAD! Portishead.

Baby & Mom: (Raise eyebrows, exchange look)

Mom: Two words?

Baby: Adjective?

Dad: What? There’s a vowel.

Baby: Who wants my papaya?

Mom: I’ll trade you a pineapple.

Dad: Portishead, Portishead, Portishead. That was driving me CRAZY!

Dad: Portishead.

Mom: I bet the pearls cost more in town and aren’t as nice.

Dad and Baby: (In unison) It’s your vacation, do whatever you want.

Dad: William Gibson retweeted my tweet.

Mom & Baby: (Roll eyes)

Dad: That Lulur massage sure was nice yesterday. Anything that lasts 2 hours and leaves you naked and covered in yogurt…

Mom & Baby: Portishead

Scene 3

(In gift shop complex)

Mom: Do you have enough cash for a box?

Dad: It’s your vacation… do they take credit cards? I have plenty, if they do.

Man selling illegal DVDs: Four for 200,000.

Dad: (to man) Just a sec. (to Baby) See if they have The American. (to Mom) Hang on, if they only take cash, I’ll have to see how much this guy ends up… (to man) four for 200,000? What about five for 200,000.

Young man with ultra dark tan, big white smile and black dreadlocks: (To Baby) Nice sunglasses. I like the color. You wanna swap?

Dad: (Rolls eyes)

Young man: What’s your name?

Baby: Baby…

Dad: (Buys some DVDs, then buys box, then some more stuff)

(To be continued)