Monday, December 29, 2008

The Happiest Christmas

Donna and me at Cincinnati's Amarin restaurant, on our 34th anniversary -- December 23, 2008. Photo by Linda Wylie.

In many, mostly personal ways, 2008 has been the best year of my life to date and, though I don't think I expected it to be so, our 2008 Christmas turned out to be the happiest in memory and, I suspect, the happiest ever.
Donna and I usually spend the holidays alone, except for the evening we share with family members on Christmas Eve and one or two friendly visitors from out-of-town, but this year, we invited our friend Linda Wylie to come up from Nashville to share Christmas with us. We decided she would spend six days here, the 21st through the 27th, which meant that she had to bring her pet Westy, Shelby Gunn, with her. Our household of spoiled cats would be turned upside-down by the presence of a dog, but we felt they needed the experience. As it happens, our two male cats spent nearly all those days in our basement, cowering in groundless fear of the peppy little pooch, while our female -- the snooty one who never deigns to greet or acknowledge human company -- assumed the role of sovereign protector, venturing forth to flaunt her disregard of our four-footed guest and occasionally hiss to keep this bright-eyed intruder at bay.
Shelby Gunn, the Watchdog's watchdog.

We only got to know Linda -- who plays Nurse Moan-eek, the ditzy sidekick to Larry Underwood's Doctor Gangrene on the Nashville-based CREATURE FEATURE -- at WonderFest last year, but she rushed into our hearts and quickly became one of our dearest friends. More than that, it would now seem, she's like a missing piece from our household; while she and Shelby were here, both Donna and I felt happier and more complete. When she and I are together, I feel myself in the company of a kind of friend I've always needed but never had -- someone who makes me laugh, feel at ease, and become more of an extrovert (not to mention drink and smoke too much... but hey, it's the holidays); and when she and Donna are together, they become an amazing third entity -- funnier, more boistrous and uninhibited, always in perfect sync. We first bonded at Louisville's Sapporo, the world's greatest sushi restaurant, so sushi bar-hopping is a big part of our ritual. Linda and Donna even dress the part, donning matching chi-peis or complimentary kimonos (Donna's was given to her by Linda as a Christmas gift) and becoming Sista Red Dawn and Sista Golden Dawn... The Sushi Sistas!

Sushi sistas...

There were never such devoted sistas...

Caring, sharing every little thing that they are wearing...

Lord help the mista who comes between the Sushi Sistas!

I felt truly blessed to have both of these lovely ladies under my roof for a whole week -- and it actually became a whole week. We couldn't bear separating on the 27th, so the visit was extended by a day.
The highlight of that week, more than Donna's and my 34th wedding anniversary or presents or anything else, was seeing The Sushi Sistas sing along to various player piano rolls in the living room of our friends Joe & Patty Busam, including a WHITE CHRISTMAS medley that included the song "Sisters." They sometimes sounded like a pair of mangy cats squalling in the moonlight but, as I'm sure Joe and Patty would agree, witnessing this impromptu performance was the sweetest music to my eyes and ears. I was so happy to be in their zany orbit that I didn't even look at my presents, or remember what most of them were, after I'd opened them... not until last night when things returned to normal. (I did score some cool Xmas swag: a couple of Miles Davis box sets, some EC Comics reprints, and two volumes of TALES OF SUSPENSE Marvel Masterworks, including that unforgettable tale of terror, "Googam, Son of Goom.")
Linda and Shelby had to return home yesterday, and today our house feels like the Executive West Hotel in Louisville on the Monday after WonderFest closes out: much quieter, emptier, a little sad. Now it's time once again to lose ourselves in work and bring the next issue of VIDEO WATCHDOG into the world -- which should make our readers happy... right?
PS: VIDEO WATCHDOG #146 was mailed to our subscribers and distributors on December 19th, the week before Christmas, so it should be in the hands of our first-class subscribers by now or very soon. There's nothing up yet on our website about it, because we've been distracted, but, as it came out a bit late, we're calling it our December/January issue. The cover story is Mark F. Berry's interview with special effects veteran Harry Redmond, Jr., now 99 years of age, whose work on several classic RKO titles has earned him the extraordinary title of "Last Survivor of Skull Island"!

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