the diary thing 
SUBTLE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN being Single and being Married, # 38: Buying gifts for your wife is, for some inexplicable reason, harder than buying gifts for your girlfriend. My delicate trawl through the stores this season has had this newfound sense of urgency, each possible gift carefully mulled over, even left on the shelf, while I go home and carefully prod and hint, hoping for some more substantial clue as to what, precisely, would be the perfect gift. I have to say that I didn't suspect this one.

SHOPPING IS, THIS YEAR, MY PATRIOTIC DUTY, or so I have read. Wait -- I'm a Canadian. I have no patriotic duty, only vague nationalist prerogatives carefully masked as appeals to my better civic sense. Whew -- that really gets me off the hook. Now I don't have to buy a thing.

If only it were so easy. Actually, I like picking out presents for people -- more than I like shopping for myself, actually. I'm a lousy gift-receiver, too, or at least I think I am. I never feel like I sound sincere, or grateful enough when I get a present, so I make the same, calmly appreciative sound whatever I get, make sufficient eye contact, and hope I've sufficiently played my part in the potlatch ritual. I'm even worse at receiving compliments, which elicit this grinning mumble, eyes sweeping the floor. 

I was lucky this year with part of K.'s present -- some nice publisher was good enough to put out a slick coffee table book on Adrian, as in "Gowns by Adrian", the MGM costume designer of the Thirties and Forties, and a particular favorite of K.'s. Everything else, alas, has been more agonizing. If I were a rich man (cue music -- not some neo-Ashkenaz Broadway near-klezmer, but a nervous pluck on an electric guitar; the sound of suppressed want, latter-day white boy variation), I'd pick up the complete series of Vogue and Butterick vintage re-issue patterns, and supply K. with endless hours of the service of a tailor and dressmaker and enough bolts of fabric -- fine wools, muted silks and some nice nubbly tweeds -- to cover a rugby pitch. I'd also wear white suits and smoke Romeo y Julieta Churchills all the time. It's a good thing I don't have money.

"There is commonly less money, less wisdom, and less good faith, than men do account upon."
- Francis Bacon
The Advancement of Learning

The state of the author report for 2001. A profit warning; some carefully optimistic projections.

IT HAS, ALAS, BEEN THE worst year ever in my adult earning career. I was forced to total up my receipts for the year as of November for one of my creditors, and produced a number in the low -- very low -- five figures. I knew things had been tight, but this was a cudgel blow to my morale. A quick glance over previous years (all totalled up and stowed in a folding file; the paper trail of the freelancer) revealed a precipitous fall in income that looked something like this:

the year-end financial picture

It's about on par with the something Nortel, or Compaq, or the music division of Vivendi might produce these days, but that isn't, for some reason, a comfort.

The good thing is that I'm uniquely prepared to weather the current recession -- it's been so long since I've had any real discretionary income that I don't feel the desperate decline in quality of life. The bad thing is that I'm a married man approaching middle age and this all seems somehow inappropriate. It's not like I feel the want of toys -- I collected enough of those in the flush years -- but that I'm ill-prepared for any of the real, serious stuff (mortgage, kids, medical emergencies) that life might have in store for me in the next decade or so.

And that, respected shareholders, is the dismal state of our year-end report. Here's hoping that the next quarter sees some improvement.

IT'S GOING TO BE a quiet enough Christmas. We'll have our traditional Italian Xmas Eve dinner -- fish, probably calamari -- and head off to midnight mass. (I've made the basic promise to attend the "big two" every year with K. -- Easter and Christmas. Anything else -- vespers, etc., is purely voluntary.) A quiet morning under the tree opening presents, and then off to K.'s sister's place for dinner. 

The frantic bits start the following day, with a series of parties and get-togethers, lunch here and there and visits with the family. For some reason, this is the season of reunions: two old friends, whose company I've rather missed in a few years of dropped contact, have dropped back into my life just recently, after lurking around this diary for far too many months. I suppose that's why I do this thing -- one reason, in any case -- and I'm glad it's served it's function. I've missed Robin and Judy for too long, now; I don't make friends easily anymore, and an absence is sorely felt. Now, if only I could hear from David S. over in England again, and maybe my friend Caroline wherever she is these days, I'd feel the strands of my life knit together even more tightly. It's been that kind of year -- more drawing together than forging ahead; newly consolidated, let's hope next year propels itself from the starting gate with a bit more verve.

photos and writing 
©2001 Rick McGinnis
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