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John Boston: Skunkashave & Tweedie’s mutant sweater

How Beige Was My Valley

Posted: December 25, 2008 3:39 p.m.
Updated: December 26, 2008 4:55 a.m.
Smugly we've watched National Geographic Specials. We've giggled at primitive peoples with bones through their noses and yard-long skinny gourds covering unmentionables as they argue about pig festivals.

I'm sure the indigenous rainforest inhabitants would chuckle if they could see the way the civilized celebrate Christmas.

It's a gauntlet, cramming a month's excess into a few frantic hours. We overspend. Stress out. Stay up all night wrapping beautiful boxes only for them to be shredded sometimes minutes later. And then there is the December Academy Award for pretending the Number One Thing That Makes You A Complete Person is the receiving of the Celtic Women DVD.

Over the years, I've been given wonderful Christmas treasures incalculable in their value. Some are simple cards. I still get teary recalling a quiet note from my now 40-something baby-sibling-like substance Hondo who claimed me as his oldest friend. My 5-year-old Indiana just drew a picture of just us, resplendid in father-daughter cowboy hats at Scared o' Bears Ranch. The sun is above, smiling over a perfect world.

And then there was the aftershave. I'm not much of an experimenter. I use Virgin Islands Bay Rum, sometimes with a splash of Polo. Sometimes, I just use the mild astringent, Sea Breeze. Period.

The holidays often bend toward the satanic and people become possessed by evil spirits. Yuletide poltergeists whisper: "Pssst! Buy John ‘Weasil Heinie' Cologne - in the 1,028-ounce cardboard container - by Survivorman's Les Stroud. Exclusively from Walmart!"

Santa Clarita is a small town and the women's group Live Nude Zonta has a foundation named after someone whom I sometimes wonder was reincarnated as my daughter. Virginia Wrage was my next-door neighbor and beloved does not even begin to cover what a treasure this woman was to me. I still cherish the Western shirt she bought me 20 or so Christmases past. Virginia was also an Amway or Avon operative and a true Kool-Aid- drinking believer in their "new, exciting line of men's products!"

"John. You are going to LOVE this new aftershave we're unveiling," Virginia did not say, but announced in her indomitable, Nebraskan can-do fervor. There was no wiggle room for personal opinion, choice guaranteed by the Constitution or Christian free will.

Virginia was a creature, part sister, part mom, part closest friend. You'd think with that combo, I could be honest on the holiest day of the year. But that darn woman not only opened the present for me, she liberally filled her cupped hands and slapped me on the cheeks with a mystery chemical that burned like Napalm and smelled like trailer people feet.

I'll never forget Virginia beaming. Taking a big step backwards to inspect my face, Virginia didn't notice my pupils bleeding from the fumes and tears streaming down my face.

"I'm so happy I'm crying," I lied. I think the jet fuel/beaver scent was called, "Manson," the only aftershave ever named after a serial killer.

My parents were horrible gift-givers. Christmas came and I didn't even bother to adopt a Sir Laurence Olivier delivery when I deadpanned, Hamlet-like: "Ah. Socks. Again. Six pairs and all white. You touch my soul, Mother."

This Tuesday I waited a half hour at the post office to retrieve a package. It was from the family gift lottery and I don't even know which person from the Cro-Magnon side of the tree mailed it because it didn't have a card. It was a DVD of the entire series of "Deadwood." I'm wading into uncharted local commercial waters here because the series was filmed in town at Melody Ranch. But I hated the show. Several times I've tried mightily to force myself to watch this ode to depravity and dirty underwear, but it's like The Daily News to me.

I ... Just ... Can't ... Look ...

Now. Did someone in the fam touch index finger to chin and reflect: "Hm. I drew Johnny. What is it that he most despises in life, and let me purchase that for him." Why not just videotape yourself burning the money and laughing maniacally, then YouTube it? Better: How about a note: "In lieu of your Xmas present, I've donated $1,000 to the ACLU in your name."

Bottomless scream.

And then there's my sister-like substance, Tweedie. There is no one like Tweedie. We adore one another, but enjoy a performance-art dance of feigned torture, followed by laughing like villains in a James Bond spectacle. Many Christmases ago, she caused me inquire: "Are you messing with me?"

Tweedie had given me a sweater. I don't know from which galaxy or dimension this sweater originated, but it fit no known lifeform on Earth. I'm a big guy, 250, 6-2. I modeled this hyena-colored atrocity under my chin. I am not making this up: The bottom of Tweed's sweater dangled seven inches max from throat to chest. Each arm was more than five feet long. It fit neither chimpanzee stretched in a Spanish Inquisition rack nor any known Ripley's Museum mondo child and was the hue of coyote mange.

Tweedie has the best laugh in the world. She nearly fell off the sofa and cackled, as only Tweedie can: "Wooooo," she said, Betty Boop-ish. "Whoops!"
"Whoops." Whoops, indeed.

"I mean, how many years have you known me?" I asked, dumbfounded. "Is this a re-gift from the Roswell, N.M., crash? Did you shrink-wash this first, have two teams of Clydesdales stretch the sleeves then throw it in the dryer? What Dr. Seuss character can wear something like this?" I held up a stop sign hand and closed my eyes. "No. Don't answer. It's rhetorical."

No. It wasn't a gag present. It was a Tweedie present.

Emerson once said: "The best gift is a portion of thyself."

Amen and boy howdy. Dear me, how we laughed. After mock admonishments, we still collapse today, thinking of the Frankenstein Chimp Sweater and Tweedie being so wonderful, lovable and perfectly Tweedie.

John Boston has earned 117 major national, regional and California awards for writing. His work appears Fridays and Sundays in The Mighty Signal.


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