PAT NEAL: A COVID Christmas letter

CONGRATULATIONS, YOU SURVIVED the latest COVID-holiday, Thanksgiving. Where we gathered together to celebrate the fact that we didn’t burn the house down frying the turkey, yet.

All of which puts us one shopping day closer to another super-spreader event, Christmas — a holiday that determines the health of our national economy through an orgy of consumption, guilt and material lust where we celebrate the birth of Jesus, who owned nothing on this earth.

We do this by pushing our credit to the limit, spending money we don’t have, buying things we don’t need for people we don’t like, who won’t remember.

We, as a nation of hard-working American people, cannot allow a stupid deadly pandemic to ruin our sacred holiday traditions. Starting with the Christmas letter.

With few variations, Christmas letters used to be an opportunity to brag.

You’ve read these letters. They got a job. They got out of rehab. They made out like members of Congress from the insurance settlement they got by wrecking their car.

Some of the worst Christmas letters detail stomach-churning medical problems or even try to sell you stuff.

That was then. This is now.

COVID-19 Christmas letters are different.

These days, the writer’s accomplishments are somewhat more restrained. They made banana bread, worked on a puzzle or learned Esperanto.

I’m not bitter, but anything they can write, I can write better. And if I have to skip some embarrassing highlights or gloss over some untidy facts to do it, chalk it up to the Christmas spirit.

Just remember, all’s fair when it comes to sharing the joy of the holiday season.

2020 is a year that will live in infamy.

This did not stop some of us hard-working American people from attaining our life goals to provide a shining beacon of democracy for the rest of the world.

That must be why I began composting. That and I couldn’t afford to go to the dump.

In the past year, composting has become the central focus in my life.

For me, there is no greater joy than to get up on a frosty morning, uncover the compost and observe it steaming to the heavens from the massive bio-chemical reaction within.

While the road to perfect compost was not easy, it’s one of the few socially distanced activities approved by the CDC.

One of the noticeable effects of the pandemic was, despite health officials warning people to stay home and isolate, the Olympic Peninsula turned into a tourist trap.

This could be because the hard-working American people were not allowed to leave the country. Even Canada won’t let us in.

Tourists flooded the restrooms, garbage dumps and campgrounds, or just camped wherever there was a wide spot in the road.

Fishing and rafting were also activities approved by health officials as long as strict COVID protocols were observed.

These included social distancing, personal protective equipment and temperature checks.

Abiding by the rules of the COVID protocols was a challenge. Like the day the batteries went dead in the hand-held thermometer used to check for fever among the whitewater rafters.

All I had was an old thermometer from my horse-wrangling days which was, unfortunately, one size fits all.

Then summer was over and it was autumn, where America voted in the best politicians money could buy.

Now it is Christmas, where we must balance the traditions of our past with COVID restrictions.

I’m including in this year’s Christmas letter a video of my Christmas colonoscopy, along with a non-disclosure agreement and an order form for some of my cosmic compost-starter, which should guarantee you the best Christmas ever!


Pat Neal is a Hoh River fishing and rafting guide and “wilderness gossip columnist” whose column appears here every Wednesday.

He can be reached at 360-683-9867 or by email via [email protected].

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