As Meryl Streep’s character, Sister Aloysius sobs in the final moments of the heartwarming holiday film classic, Doubt — I have doubts. Though, for the record — I have no doubt Father Flynn was guilty. Please, with those nails?
Now I doubt there is a single theater person reading this who is not thinking: “Correction! You unsophisticated, rustic beast — Doubt was originally a play — on Broadway.” I also doubt any of those broadminded Broadway types know — that I know — all about John Patrick Shanley’s little Pulitzer Prize™-and Tony Award™-winning production. Starring the two time Tony Award™-winning Cherry Jones. Since I cannot cross the Shinnecock Canal without the toll being a debilitating migraine — I never saw the play. I watched the movie. On pay-per-view.
I doubt I will ever see the inside of a cinema again. Not since an unfortunate dispute with a barbaric theater manager during a broiling, airless, garbage-strewn screening of WALL•E.
During the holidays (Thanksgiving through Labor Day) it’s only natural for those of us with a pulse to have doubts, lose faith, and grapple with a bout of uncertainty. Or, in my case — a particularly virulent, prolonged case of shingles. When the myth of merriment eclipses the truth inside us all, how can you not question what’s really going on? Feel a bit down? Sob with preternatural, dramatic genius like Meryl?
I find it best to face even the most unpleasant feelings as they come up. Head on. Once I’m completely unconscious.
Every night for the past three weeks, I have had a recurring holiday-themed nightmare — so disturbing — I wake up swallowing my tongue. Except for one aberrant apparition last Sunday featuring decidedly non holiday-themed cameos by Brad Paisley, Peyton Manning, George — and Rosemary — Clooney. I still woke up gagging. But it had its moments.
For perspective, I will provide a standardized unit for measuring fear in dreams — based on cold, hard, rogue science. I call it: The Travis Night Terror Factor of Fear From One to Five.
A level “one” dream might contain a brief clip from the Kate Hudson/Sandra Bullock/Sarah Jessica Parker/Matthew McConaughey romantic, romp-with-an-unexpected-twist — The Wedding Sniper. Undoubtedly due in theaters nationwide any day now.
At the far end of the scale, is a level “five” dream. Which would involve me — finding the detached-at-the-hip leg of a daddy long legs spider mid-chew and mid-way through — a fried clam strip platter. Again. The first time was no dream. Thanks un-named (sounds like “crunch”), crazy-popular local seafood joint!
The festive reverie triggering my most recent apneas is completely off the scale. (Great! Now I have to revisit that whole “Fear Factor Night Terror” thing.) Lately, instead of dancing sugarplums and Pussycat Dolls — my neocortex has been churning out the following Currier and Ives negative:
It’s Christmas Eve. And in the midst of a malignant economy, I’m strolling down a totally bogus street. In a 100%, inauthentic seaside resort town. Let’s say…”Newberry Lane.” In…” East Hamsandwich.”
As I pass by Newberry Lane’s impossibly clean storefront windows, I’m confronted by the same hollow-eyed, sallow-skinned, worried specter of my own reflection. Apparently, certain aspects of dreams are wincingly accurate. Gazing past my disappointed mug, I focus on the content of each retail display — featuring one criminally-out-of-touch, luxe-gone-wild, merchandising nightmare-within-a-nightmare after the next. Did East Hamsandwich not get that memo re: The Great Recession?
One curiously named clothing store — “Fußball” — caters to recent college graduates flush with cash. (Perhaps that memo is buried under the latest issue of Cigar Aficionado?) Fußball’s aggressively pretty display features youthful mannequins with over-whitened, toothy grins (Dreams are so surreal — imagine bleaching one’s teeth to the cusp of translucence ever being en vogue!) — all sporting cashmere-lined, patent alligator fishing bibs and embossed anaconda leather hip waders. With ermine trim. Of course.
Moving on, the next window barely holds back a creatively unrestrained “Christmas in Val d’Isère” tableau — quite literally crawling with swans. Flocks of Trumpeter swans to be precise. Flapping, honking, snapping, live Trumpeter swans. Each stumbling bird wearing the same Dolce & Gabbana sunglasses. Except for this one total jerk swan — working a pair of Tom Fords. Interesting fact: If you really want to infuriate a swan, try hot gluing $1,200 worth of overwrought eyewear to his bill.
Tastefully framed inside the final storefront widow — on my tour of this hellish, epicenter of want — is the this sunny announcement:
“Thanks for another obscenely-profitable season! We’re off to St. Barts. Because we can. You’re staying here. Because you have to. Sorry. But look for us in March! We’ll be the bright-eyed, well-rested ones — with creamy, glowing complexions.”
I’m shocked. Struck numb. I try to speak — but end up emitting a detached, swallowed howl. Is this actually happening? There are Botox parties and proper places to get a chemical peel on a little island like St. Barts?
Good for them. Better for me. Because the one thing I know — without a shred of doubt — is how blessed I am to live surrounded by friends who make me feel safe. No matter the threat. Within the comfort of a real community. Where we celebrate the best. And share the rest.
Merry Christmas Sag Harbor.