Between Brisbane and Japan, some whimsy and Dan (All contents © Dan Ryan, unless noted)

Archive for December, 2011

A Quiet Street in Hollister, California—A small Christmas Day

The tombs of the pharaohs aren’t this quiet, even this close to a Mormon temple…..

The street is quiet and it is Christmas Day and for the first time I see in the landscape and the architecture something of the neighborhood in Richardson, Texas where I spent part of my youth.

My niece and her husband live on this street and I have known them for twenty years and they have lived here for at least that long and I have never noticed until today that this place in Hollister, California could be the street upon which my middle-school friends and I played in the wintertime when ice freezes the vibrant heart and most of northeast Texas.

It surprises me the things I see for the first time after so many years of knowing family in this place.


The wintertime in northeast Texas will freeze the skin, but some families celebrate Christmas until it freezes the soul. My family was a bit like that, because when I was growing up there was only me, my sister, my mother and my father. There are greater burdens of love and appreciation placed upon each member of a family at Christmastime, usually in inverse proportion to the number of members in that family.

My father, for example, read large-print storybook copies of “Twas The Night Before Christmas” and “Santa Mouse” to my sister and I on Christmas Eve every year up through 1976, when I was twelve and my sister was nine. They got to be a bit much, those books. But my dad had some need from his own childhood to lavish upon my sister and me things he felt he missed or did not receive in suitable abundance from Santa Claus. My mother was raised in the Christian Eastern Orthodox Church, so she indulged my dad but really didn’t give a shit one way or another. I always rather respected that about her.

1976 was an unusually cold, icy year in northeast Texas. It was also the year my sister and I each got our first cassette tape recordings for Christmas presents. I got Wings At The Speed Of Sound and she got Destroyer by Kiss. I don’t know if my parents had foreseen something most parents cannot, but the tone and musical style of the tape my sister and I each received that year were superb indicators of the personality types we grew into as teenagers and adults.


Strange how these things grasp me now as I stand on this quiet street in Hollister, California and wonder at the temporal and physical distance between this day and Christmas Day in northeast Texas in 1976 and it is a surprisingly happy reverie that holds me for the time it takes me to light and smoke two cigarettes down to the fingertips on my right hand.

And then I’m done.

So I just stare down the quiet street one last time and I am very thankful that I cannot see any cars in the nearby Mormon temple parking lot nor hear any Mormons singing.

The Grief Sculpture—Part I of a small, inadequate way of coping

Grief is an unconquerable emotion. You can only manage it…..

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I am both embarrassed by this thing, and rather proud of it.

You can have a closer look at….everything. If you’d like. The whole thing, each small packet. You can think of it as a mixed-media piece, which some proud but confused parent has displayed on the front of a very large refrigerator. And if you look long enough, you’ll easily figure out the overall subject of the piece.

But the context of this is mostly explained at the end of Part II.

Fleeting Thoughts on a Solid Core in its Entirety:

Packets of the Main Board, Part I:

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Go on to Part II

The Grief Sculpture—Part II of a small, inadequate way of coping

Grief is an unconquerable emotion. You can only manage it…..

Part II, and Coda:

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The Hanging Chad Addenda

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My father died in the early hours of May 18th, 2008. We did not get along, but I loved him. I did not go to the funeral. This was a stupid decision. The circumstances of both his death and my decision to skip his funeral are private. I started this….”bulletin board of the Id” around June or July, 2008 and pinned my last packet to it in January, 2011. Creating this was just an odd thing part of my mind told me to do, some way of coping with the reality that my father was gone and I would never get a true chance to understand him. So I guess a part of my mind told me to try this method to understand myself. I’m not sure it worked. It hasn’t made the grief or anger go away.

Some packets depict happy things I thought of when my grief overwhelmed me. Some depict just weirdness or sorrow or booze or a combination of the three, all steeped in a kind of momentarily controlled and channeled darkness. The strings connect packets I think are linked in terms of contents or theme. Yeah, I know, it’s weird.

If you don’t understand this, I hope you still enjoy it in some way. You might think this work is amazing, or it might make you want to disdainfully laugh your ass off. Either reaction, or a reaction somewhere in between the two extremes, is fine with me. As long as I made you think.

–Dan Ryan, December 2011