In Pennsylvania, they take their nostalgia very seriously. And I am happy for that.
The pictures don't do justice to the onslaught of cuteness on display. It is not that one buys into these comforting depictions of days past as historically accurate. It is just always easier to make them seem so than it is with the materials of the present, or the real, if one is incapable of mastering them.
This conference with Santa has more of the feel of a football time-out about it than that of an encounter with a semi-deity such meetings ordinarily suggest. I am not exactly sure what our collective household idea of Santa Claus is at this time. It is acknowledged, I think, that he is capable of performing magic, and magic, at least as an abstract idea of an existing force in the universe, I think is believed in. I think it is believed that, if not exactly a man in a red suit with a team of flying reindeer, that somebody who is not related or personally known to the family somehow comes to the house and distributes presents in the night. I think there might be a rather sophisticated understanding of Santa as a symbolic being whose manifold live appearances need to be gone along with for some greater social harmony or good. Perhaps.
There was a better picture of the gingerbread house later, but you couldn't see the guys in it at all. Gingerbread houses don't really excite me as much as other things do anyway.
View of Portland, Maine from 9th-story window downtown. Whenever I read something about the coming chaos, collapse, social unrest, starvation, etc that is supposedly about to overtake American society, I always think, doubtless foolishly, that Portland will be able to weather these crises with a slightly less severe degradation of humanity. I have always thought of it as a substantial, highly civilized place--the class of people generally thought of as dumb, for example, seem on the whole to be far less absolutely dumb there than the similar segment of society does just about anywhere else, for one thing--and its existence has always been something of a comfort to me. The reasons for this seem to be highly personal with me and require more space to explain in detail than I wish to go into today. They certainly would not be, and are not, obvious to most people.
Thinking of Maine in conjunction with all the political scandals currently going on in Illinois and the raving about privilege and access and moral bankruptcy and so forth that accompanies it, I remembered that when I lived there the daughters of both the governor at the time and another guy who was later a congressman lived right in the neighborhood around my public high school along with pretty much everyone else. Both of them went to school with me, and I liked them both, though one especially I thought was a real sweetheart at the time. Yes, their fathers were lawyers, and one was the governor, and they had gone to Bowdoin and Harvard and had all of the credentials that the media absolutely fawns over now if anybody has them (and which weren't as big a deal twenty years ago, by the way--compare the coverage David Souter got when he was up for the Supreme Court with that with John Roberts got, though as far I can tell, they appear to be about the same guy both biography and credential-wise), but they didn't seem all that much wealthier or unapproachable than anyone else. Perhaps they were and I was too dense to realize it, which is probably the case. The congressman's daughter never went out with anyone below the level of an Ivy League caliber athletic recruit, though I used to imagine that if I could score 20 points in a winning effort against one of our city basketball rivals or win the piddling state championship in track (neither of which I accomplished, by the way) that she might be impressed with me. Still, the point is these people seemed to be nothing like the truly venal political leaders one sees in other states, and I really don't think they are.