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Christmas Time. Or Not.

It just occurred to me that my internal clock consistently confounds me.

I am mostly finished with my Christmas shopping—seriously. I bought presents for my family in South Africa, Armenia, Portugal, and Germany. There are a few more presents to buy—things where freshness counts, but not that much. When I took Lindt Christmas Chocolate to the States in October, and had a piece of it, it tasted like Christmas, right there on Halloween. I was fully in the Christmas spirit, despite the complete lack of snow on the ground and Christmas Trees in the town square; all whilst costumed kids got packets of Reeses Pieces at my friend’s front door.

Christmas was right there and then for me, with no problems.

Last night I called my Mother and talked to her briefly: she noted that she was almost prepared for Thanksgiving, which caused me to realize that it’s early this year and that I am, at the moment, so emotionally distant from it, that I thought it was way far off in the future. How far in the future, I’m not sure, given that November is half over—just that it was still ahead of me.

I then realized that in just over a month, I’ll be visiting my parents in Denver for Christmas—and at that moment it seemed like it was forever away: I have trips to Dresden, Trier, and Rotterdam lying between now and then. At least 28 hours of my life will be spent on long distance trains between now and the time I fly to the States—presuming, of course, that the trains are operating on the days that I need them to operate—a rather large question at the moment here in Germany.

How we measure time is a funny thing: there is, of course, the strict calendar method. Today it is exactly one week before Thanksgiving. Emotional time—my inner mental time is more difficult to deal with and figure out. I can go from thinking that I’m ready for Christmas in October to thinking that Christmas is an eternity away, all in the space of two weeks. It was so close, and yet, now, so far away.

Next Thursday, it will suddenly click that families are gathering around the dinner table for Thanksgiving and I will go marching out of the office to find a restaurant that serves Turkey—or if not turkey, some fowl substitute. (Tofurkey is not fowl, it is foul.) I know that I will have one of these moments where I will miss being in the States—I will miss the elements that make next Thursday one of the two best American holidays of the year: A big turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, and, most of all, pumpkin pie.

Time is a funny thing—how it moves and how we perceive it as we grow older and our experience grows. I remember elementary school as taking an eternity, yet my senior year of high school passed in a flash.

My freshman year of college I took a night class in the spring—it was on Tuesday, and I cannot remember a spring with more Tuesday nights and more Tuesday nights that were unbelievably cold. I started to dread Tuesdays because although each one would start out will typically Wyoming brilliance, around 5 or 6 in the evening, clouds would roll in, snow would fall, and temperatures would drop. By the time class was over, I would bundle up and make my way to the dorm, feeling my internal body temperature drop several degrees with each step. I don’t remember any of my other night classes that way; only the first. (Seriously, I loved that class; it was with James G. Watt, Ronald Reagan’s first Interior Secretary. The class was an entire semester of incredibly wonderful memories, including the woman who accidentally helped me start coming to terms with being gay. See the extended entry.)

The 17 hours I will take from waking in Frankfurt in December, going to the airport, and flying to Denver, exiting the airport and being picked up by my sister, will pass in a flash, yet the 9.5 hours it takes to go from the hotel in Rotterdam to the flat in Weimar is an agonizing eternity that makes me want to scream.

I can explain some of my time perceptions when it comes to travel: on a plane, I put my suitcase in the overhead compartment and forget about it until the plane lands, so I only have to worry about it whilst on the ground. On trains I tend to be paranoid that somebody is going to steal my stuff if I sleep through a stop. I know people who have had things stolen, so I think I am somewhat justified there.

As I write this, at the Weimar Office, I’ve knocked off the part of the project I planned to knock off this morning. It’s snowing outside, and I know that in the next week I must plow through the remaining three parts before next Thursday: and I can tell you that this particular project is taking an eternity, both in calendar and emotional time.

On starting to coping with being gay:

My class with James G. Watt was spring 1993, during the early days of the first Clinton administration. At the time Clinton was battling to allow gays to be in the military—ultimately caving with the flawed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.

We discussed the policy in class, and this being Wyoming, the vast majority of the students were absolutely, positively horrified at the prospect that gays would be allowed in the military.

One of the guys in the class had been in the military and he objected quite strongly: “When I was in the military, some of those guys hit on me.”

The class debate continued with everybody trying to talk over everybody else, and unfortunately most of the class missed out on the response of a woman sitting next to me who was quite irritated with the guy’s attitude.

Her immediate response was “Well, were you dressed provocatively?”

It’s amazing how much that singular moment affected me.

Although class continued, sadly uninterrupted by her comment, I remembered it and I thought about it continuously for days. It made me question a ton of different things—everything from integrating men and women in the bunkhouse, how closeted gay men behaved in locker rooms and showers, and more.

One of the best things from that class was the amount of writing it required: I was a freshman in a senior level class and each week we were required to submit journals to the professors. I have no idea what the minimum page requirement was—probably something like two or three pages. I only can tell you that it was never an issue with me, I wrote books each week, and that particular week I fixated on that aside, even though it wasn’t really germane to larger class topics.

By the time I finished writing my journal entry for that week, my thoughts on gays in the military had crystallized: Even though I had zero interest in joining the military, I couldn’t conceive of any legitimate argument to exclude them from shooting guns or getting shot. I was still closeted—albeit incompletely to myself, the cracks were showing.

At some point we had to write a “press release” for a pseudo-campaign that we were running, and I wrote one that preemptively took care of the gays in the military issue by having the candidate announce that his son was gay: “I support gays in the military because my son is gay.” I was the first person in class to read their press release aloud, and as I uttered the initial sentences of my press release there was pandemonium in the classroom.

I had engaged in political shock and awe; even James G. Watt was impressed.

2 comments to Christmas Time. Or Not.

  • Ed

    Adam, if you ever write a Novel I want a copy. Your writing method is so smooth and concise it is what I call easy. Some authors are difficult and others are a joy. You are a joy to read. Think about becoming an Author you would do very well.

  • @ed: Thanks… I like it when my writing works, but I think that too much of the time my writing sucks.