Lyov Myshkin. The Idiot. The master. It was a clever alias, perhaps, or a twist of fate which named my chess mentor after Dostoyevsky’s “fool.” Homeless by choice, he rode his bike up and down the parkway, spending nights in parks and under bridges, wherever he could find freedom and his next fix. No bills to pay, no women to interfere, he passed his days in strategy. The game was his only source of joy, other than sauerkraut and the occasional gyro. He passed out of sight after the last big snow. Perhaps he is already gone. Or maybe he’s in Vegas, reveling in his latest tournament victory. I will keep playing, either way, compelled if not yet addicted by moments of pure mind, of my best move against yours, uninterrupted by luck or chance or fate. Did he know what moved him? And how will he be transformed when he reaches the other side?
I love my family. I have always been aware that my family is a little bit weird. I am, too. But the older I am, the more openly weird my family becomes. And so it was that we all spent Christmas Eve and Christmas day at the indoor water park at our hotel, going down the slides, singing karaoke, and watching old Michael Jackson music videos.
The warm water rushed us down, giving birth to us a few dozen times. Our voices frayed after hours on end singing songs to which only my father knew the words, laughing ourselves silly. Our eyes blurred before the slow metamorphosis of the King of Pop, who managed to dance his way out of every imaginable crisis: The thugs attack? Dance! Your peers question your badness? Dance! The pharaoh tries to kill you for your past fling with his wife? Dance!
And so it was that we, too, used music to resolve each crisis. Grandma and Uncle Bob have subjected the love of my life to three hours of family history and show no sign of stopping? Let’s sing! Grandpa has lost his ability of speech and sits staring blankly at the nursing home ceiling? Let’s sing! Sing of the newborn King, of healing, of hope! More than the presents, more than the laughter, and the reason for them both: Christ is born!