Sunday, December 19, 2010


Thank you, thank you, thank you to the Highlander for hosting our 8th annual Holiday BC!  What a gorgeous, elegant, and festive evening.  The house and the tables looked divine.  As someone remarked, "Wow, this is really a grown up's home!"  That's right:  who needs Mandy when we've got Moraga?  In El Jefe's humble opinion, it was our best holiday event yet.  Why not start every meeting sipping champagne, tucking into spinach artichoke dip (the low fat kind, right?), and munching on prosciutto-wrapped marinated artichoke hearts, all in--well, what could only be called a sitting room.  And sit we did, enjoying cocktails and company until the index cards got passed out.  Apparently, The 10th Member of TCOB decided it was high time to impose some rules and regulations aimed at ensuring a neutral and fair outcome on the vote.  Like a United Nations electoral observer, The 10th Member made sure that each person had a standard issue ballot, a private opportunity to mark their number, and that each ballot was deposited securely into... his hands.

   The presidential elections in Honduras were free and fair.  Just like TCOB.

The next step in the process was to have each vote announced, going around the room one and a half times to make sure that each person's vote was counted, either once or twice.  But El Jefe is confident of the results, which gave the book an average score of 8.5 and a 95% rate of completion (you know who you are!).  The secret ballot process caused the Doctor much consternation:  like a dangling chad, she typically likes to throw a little uncertainty into the mix by changing her vote depending on which way the wind is blowing.  Knowing that a last-minute switch-up would be impossible under the keen eye of The 10th Member, she and Diggity-D both went for broke with an unusual couples' vote of matching 10s.  There might have been some other 10s, but it was shortly after that point that El Jefe began to slide into a narcotics-induced fog, and the details get a bit hazy.

There is no question, however, that Dave Egger's Zeitoun garnered the most enthusiasm and genuine discussion of any holiday BC book to date.  El Jefe vaguely recalls more than one person saying that this book was life changing.  Like the Glass Castle, it was one of those stories that opens your eyes--and wide-- to the crazy shit that goes on right here at home, things you imagine happen only in third world countries.  There were so many sad and despicable scenes in this book:  elderly people trapped on rooftops, dogs shot to death on a highway overpass, a mentally retarded person hosed down with pepper spray in a makeshift jail, a FEMA trailer lying locked and useless in the yard for over a year.  The scenes from "Camp Greyhound" were some of the most painful to read, not to mention the utter trampling on the due process rights of American citizens.  It was terrifying and depressing to see how easily both legal and ethical standards went out the window, and with no apology or restitution.

"Prisoners" being led into Camp Greyhound.

Please help.

In the 9th Ward.

Not everyone in the group was entirely sympathetic to the main character, Abdulrahman Zeitoun.  Certainly there were some that partly blamed him for choosing to stay behind in the face of a mandatory evacuation (not to mention common sense), and having such an inflated opinion of himself as the saviour around his neighborhood.  Others remembered well the heightened sense of suspicion and paranoia that still lingered after 9/11, and almost took a "what do you expect?" attitude, given that FEMA had been placed under the umbrella of Homeland Security.  Still others critiqued either the author or Zeitoun himself for what seemed like obvious oversights:  for example, once Zeitoun got out of jail, how come he didn't help his friends?  What took Zeitoun's wife so long to call a lawyer?  But despite these differences of opinion, there is no doubt that this book was provocative and profound, and generated an empassioned discussion that followed us all the way to the dinner table.

It's always a relief to segue from dwelling over the misfortunes of others to a filet mignon roast with creamy gorgonzola sauce.  And rosemary-Parmesan mashed potatoes.  And a leafy green salad garnished with slivered red onion and mandarin oranges.  And cheesy garlic bread.  And paper party crowns.  Thank goodness for a delicious dinner and for our many blessings.  At this point, El Jefe did make her exit, longingly eyeing the annual bounty of Heath Bar cookies and the divine-smelling fruit cobbler.  Unfortunately, there were no leftovers the next day.

Please let this book be a reminder to all of us during the holidays how lucky we are to have friends, family, and a roof over our head, and to be generous to those in need.  Merry Christmas, and see you in the New Year!  xoEJ


  1. Best holiday BC and best holiday recap ever! Three cheers for the Highlander and El Jefe!

  2. Yes, many thanks for a great evening. I'll add "Book Club" to the list of things I'm thankful for...I can't believe this was our 8th holiday party!!


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