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I found a Father Christmas for 99¢ at an Atascadero thrift store the week before last. He's of traditional Nordic design (with a small Made in China sticker, of course) in hand-painted not quite porcelain. He's rather thin by contemporary standards — not the jolly old St. Nick who jiggles and bellows, "Ho, ho, ho." He's tall, in fact, with his left hand clutching a thick black belt and an oversized pipe in the other. His lips seem rounded into Oh rather than Ho, and for good reason. He's an incense chimney.

There's a space where you slide incense cones under his flowing robe, next to a shoe protruding with a tasseled toe. The smoke from the incense rises up inside and then streams out his mouth. When I realized what it was, it was impossible to resist. I'm burning a Champaca sandalwood cone as I write, and he's puffing away contentedly next to the salt and pepper shakers from IKEA. It should probably be pine incense, but the closest thing I had was leftover sandalwood. The soft green aloeswood box turned out to be empty. It's really hard to throw such artfully hand-made boxes away. It seems like they should be refillable or something. Anyway, it seems like I have lots and lots of incense. What I actually have is tiny boxes.

The wall behind him, the wall contrasting with coils of smoke, is Christmas red — Amie's doing. So, I've managed by a series of accidents and coincidences to create a Nordic/Indian Christmas ambience in the kitchen this year. It's the only touch of Christmas in the house, and it seems like Christmas bhajans might be appropriate, though I doubt there are any.

Bhajans (songs of praise) remind me of the breakthrough Amie experienced during her first psychotic break at Power Pole 22 with Al in his duct tape boots curled snugly and faithfully at her feet. She decided to sing songs of praise, bhajans to the night, the stars, and to God and everything. She knew hundreds and hundreds of songs and there was no one next door, no one in the next room, absolutely no one to inhibit her. Then the breakthrough. Most of the lyrics she knew were, "La, la, la," or "La di la, la." After a few songs it came to her as a great revelation in the desert that she should learn more lyrics, people should learn more lyrics, because you just never know when you'll need them.

Oh, Amie. Jai Guru Deva OM. La, la, la, la. La. La, la… Where are they? Where are the Beatles when you need them most?
 
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