Santas and Snowboys

Above: This year’s holiday drawing
from the Cruse-Sedarbaum household.

My December workload doesn’t always permit it, but whenever possible I try to do a new holiday-themed drawing as each calendar year draws to a close. Ours being a household of mixed Christian-and-Jewish heritage (with Eddie and me being at the secular end of each tradition’s piety scale), I’ve been veering away for quite a while now from the Santa-centric images I used to feature in my yearly drawings. These days I usually opt for wintery images in which menorah candles enjoy equal standing with Christmas baubles.

I realize that Bill O’Reilly and others at Fox News think that giving Christmas anything short of sole billing at this time of year amounts to enlistment in a so-called "War on Christmas." I myself would characterize O’Reilly’s contention as divisive baloney drenched in altogether unnecessary hostility.

The belligerent stance against holiday inclusiveness encouraged by O’Reilly’s Yuletide warriors is totally at odds with the Christ-like generosity of spirit we’re all encouraged to exhibit as the December snowflakes fall. Some of us find a cheery salutation of "Happy holidays!" or "Season’s Greetings!" to be an appropriately friendly way of reveling in shared good vibes without conceding that the nation’s dominant — though far from only — religion actually owns the last month of the year.

That said, let me withdraw from O’Reilly’s battlefield to a more serene mental space by inviting those of you view the short YouTube video I created while I was drawing the picture you see above.


Thirty-five years ago I was standing in front of my bathroom mirror in Birmingham shaving when without warning I found myself dropping to the floor in great pain. It seems that my left kneecap had decided to pop out of its normal setting and relocate on the side of my leg.

There are a lot of tender nerve endings in those environs that really, really object to such deviations from the normal arrangement of bony body parts, so I was subjected to fairly horrific torture as my punishment even though I had not asked my knee to jump the track like this in any way.

I was rescued by downstairs neighbors who responded to my high-decibel pleas for help and was swiftly ambulanced to a nearby hospital, where the wayward kneecap was shoved forcibly back into place (while I was anesthetized, mercifully) and my leg was encased in a plaster cast I was required to wear for the next six weeks.

Below: Me and my crutches in the aftermath of my knee-dislocation incident. You can’t see it, but I’m wearing a major plaster leg cast underneath those embarrassingly 1970s-style slacks.

Why am I mentioning this now? Because I took a tumble the day before our most recent Thanksgiving while Eddie and I were hiking on a deceptively slippery path at Mountain Meadow. In the course of this mishap the very knee that had betrayed me in my youth was subjected to a twist as I hit the ground. While the resulting injury was nowhere near as severe as my 1975 one and I was able to hobble back to our Subaru with no ambulance required, my spill still brought back memories I would just as soon forget.

No immediate medical care seemed required that afternoon, however. I could walk around reasonable well, if a bit stiff-leggedly, and once we were home Eddie set me up in our recliner with an ice pack to inhibit the joint’s swelling. No cast or crutches were needed this time around, and I was even able to perform my bit at Main Street Stage’s Red (and Green) Room skit-fest the following weekend without appearing disabled.

My knee and leg persisted in besetting me with nocturnal throbbing episodes for a couple of weeks after my fall, though, so I finally consulted my doctor and was dispatched to North Adams Regional Hospital for x-rays and an MRI.

My doctor’s colloquial assessment of the x-rays and MRI-generated images was helpfully blunt. "Your knee is a mess!" he told me. I was referred for treatment forthwith to the Orthopedic Associates of Northern Berkshire, which is located handily within the NAMH complex, which itself is a handy five-minutes drive from Eddie’s and my home.

Given the "mess" that my knee had been revealed to be, I feared that replacement surgery might be lurking just around the corner. But nothing that drastic appears necessary — at least in the near term. A cortisone injection laced with novocaine during my visit immediately relieved the pain, and the shot’s effect has largely lasted. I can’t call myself spry, but then I wasn’t all that spry before my fall. Walking up and down stairs has ceased being a wince-inducing project, and the outlook at present seems to be that, allowing for occasional cortisone boosters, actual surgery may not be needed for quite a while.

Realistically speaking, though, knee-replacement surgery probably does probably loom somewhere in my future. My left knee has now been unmasked as a pastiche of damaged cartilage, torn meniscus, inappropriate fluid buildups, and arthritis—the latter condition having most likely been hastened over time — if not actually caused by — the bathroom tumble I took when I was thirty.

The moral of this story is: Be careful while you’re shaving.

And hiking.

Want a Good LGBT Book?

There’s a publishing professional named Stephen Bottum who writes a blog called Band of Thebes, which explores "the intersection of literature and gay culture," as he puts it. Every year Stephen turns to dozens of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender writers for assistance in compiling his blog’s annual "Best LGBT Books of the Year" list.

I learned of Stephen’s project’s existence when he wrote me this fall to invite me to join his impressive roster of book recommenders. I was honored by his invitation but had to protest that my current budget for book-buying is slim and as a result I haven’t added a single new LGBT tome to my personal library during all of 2010.

Stephen counseled me not to worry about that. "As you might imagine," he wrote, "gay men take a libertine approach to my rules," adding that "Last year, people voted as their favorite ‘new’ book, works by Isherwood, Proust, Cather, and Gibbon."

In light of Stephen’s promise of permissiveness, I began surveying my bookcase shelves. I’ve accumulated dozens of worthy gay-themed books, of course, covering several decades. I could single out any number of them for praise without reservation. To winnow down my options I decided to set aside some obvious candidates (like Alison Bechdel’s highly-lauded Fun Home, for example) on grounds that they’re already pretty well known, in favor of ones that to my knowledge didn’t get a lot of publicity when they were published but nonetheless remain timeless and distinctive.

Several tomes in my bookcase would meet this criterion, but since I could only choose one I picked The Mirror of Love, the 2004 collaboration between Alan Moore, who wrote the words, and José Villarrubia, who contributed the book’s stunning graphics.

Remember, though, that a host of writers besides myself also proposed titles for Stephen’s "Best LGBT Books of 2010" list. So if this category intrigues you and you’d like to see what titles in addition to the Moore-Villarrubia one have earned plaudits from their authors’ literary peers, I encourage you to use the foregoing link to see what Bottum’s expansive survey in its totality has to recommend.

Hey, here’s stuff of mine that you can buy!
Click a cover below to learn about my latest books.
…and click here to visit my
Cruse Goodies merchandise shop
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About Howard

I'm a cartoonist and writer, best known for my graphic novel, Stuck Rubber Baby, and my comic strip from the 1980s, Wendel.
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One Response to Santas and Snowboys

  1. Bummer about your knee. I don’t know about you but these sort of things seem like they take forever to heal up again.

    Hope you have a good holiday and the like.

    I’m planning on staying in and goofing off. I’ve got some dvd’s to watch like a Roy Roger’s collection of old westerns, and Simon Pegg’s old Brit tv series Spaced, and some bloggin’ to do.

    see ya