TBT - (1965) "A Christmas Story"

Mexico City 1965. The must have record album was 'Rubber Soul' by the Beatles. I was a student at the University of the Americas in Mexico City - a huge bustling city of over 6 million people. The students were from 42 different countries and a real party crowd that made the most out of any and every holiday. For some reason many students called it "Pot Head U.".

A few of us wanted Christmas trees for our apartments, but did not want to pay for them (we are 'broke' students - right?) - so we went to a national park one night on the Toluca highway to cut down our own mountain Pine. Being known as the 'woodsman' from the Pacific Northwest, it was my duty to cut the trees while the rest of the group was on look out for park rangers or police. We were were able to squeeze several trees and ourselves into my Ford Econoline van for the getaway. Then the next day we were off to the colorful open market for hand made ornaments and the ubiquitous pinatas.

The brother of my wife Ida's stepfather was a set designer for the national television studios in Mexico City and he graciously invited the wife and I to his downtown apartment for a Christmas eve dinner with his family. Huachinango (Red Snapper) was the main meal and I soon discovered that the first course was fish soup, and in my honor, I got the eye balls. As I raised my spoon to look at what was looking back at me - I lost my nerve. With a laugh her uncle, Jesus Sanchez, plucked the eye ball from my spoon and popped it into his mouth. Interesting having ( not the last) supper with Jesus on Christmas eve.

At midnight Jesus and I stood in the open air on the roof of his apartment building admiring the city below. Mexicans go all out for Christmas with fantastic public light displays and decorations festooning the whole city, and all kinds of fireworks going off during the night - a very different experience for this young lad from 'small town USA'. But there was also something amiss in the cool night air. I could hear police and ambulance sirens everywhere. I asked Jesus why all the blaring sirens. He said that Christmas eve was the one time each year when Mexican families brought everyone together for a feast and celebration - and they would drink a lot of Tequila or brandy Presidente. And then would come the family squabbles and grievances - and stabbings - and shootings!

Maybe this is the real origin of 'Festivus'?!