Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 30-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.
Two weeks before Christmas, I received an email inviting me to my brother’s for Christmas, but not on Christmas Day. It was an invitation to dinner on Christmas Eve and it wouldn’t be turkey. OK. Whatever. As usual, it would be my parents, my brother and his partner, and me. My brother suggested I phone him to work out the details. It sounded simple, but there are oh so many ways this could get screwed up. Once, I was uninvited from the whole thing and I sat in this room alone on Christmas. Which was weird, but OK. I made a film about a movie I watched on TV.
I phoned my parents before calling my brother to confirm this plan and found them to be in the initial stages of a revolution. “If there isn’t going to be a turkey, we’re not going!” They had decided that the three of us could get a turkey into the bloody oven and have a proper dinner on Christmas Day at their place. I started to do what I am best known for in my family: getting things back on track. I didn’t want to have a hand in derailing my brother’s Christmas plans by swooping in and making turkey dinner with my parents, but then my mother told me that my brother told her that I could “make my own way” to his house way out in the fucking boonies and suddenly I was talking turkey about joining their revolution. “If he can’t pick me up at the SkyTrain, I’m not going either!”
I calmed down and decided to ask my brother to reconsider the turkey. I phoned him and left a general message. He phoned me and left a message about wanting to talk to me before he talked to the parents. “I’m around, but I’m working in the backyard until dark.” I decided not to call him until after dark to allow him to enjoy such a mild December day, but when I did call, the line was busy. Too late, I thought. The parents are probably already on the phone telling him they’re not going to Christmas.
When I finally got him on the phone he said Christmas hadn’t even come up with my mother. She was threatening to leave my father because he’d discovered pay-per-view on their relatively new big-screen TV and he was watching Planet Of The Apes and he wouldn’t turn it off when she told him to. My brother reminded her that she should have gotten onto leaving him sometime before 95 years-of-age. She told my brother to tell his partner to phone my father and get him to stop watching Planet Of The Apes. I told my brother that his partner didn’t have to do any such thing and really, they should set some boundaries with these parents of ours.
“You don’t have to hear about all these crazy things,” he said.
“Remember when Dad and I stopped talking for three years?” I asked.
“Well, after that, they treated me a lot better. They don’t want to jeopardize our relationship.”
I was dreading calling my parents for our regular Friday night phone call. I didn’t want to get into the Planet Of The Apes thing. I talked to my dad about this and that, and then he passed the phone to my mother who wanted to tell me about Christmas lights in the neighborhood. No mention of leaving my father or pay-per-view or men dressed up as apes taking over her living room. She asked when I’d last spoken to my brother and I said earlier that week. She said she couldn’t recall the last time she’d spoken to him, but she was definitely looking forward to turkey dinner on Christmas Eve.
“Lois Wrote About The Farm” from Water Cuts My Hands (K, 1991; Matador, 1991; Smarten Up!, 2003) (download):