Cover Story: Christmas for One

How to avoid the family tradition and have a good time this season

Cincinnati Zoo

The Festival of Lights: better than ice skating at Fountain Square.

The holiday season can be an exhausting time. The extensive schedule of family gatherings often feels more like a whirlwind of obligations than a relaxing time with friends. Family members feud over the smallest holiday details while the reasonable among us double our holiday cocktails, trying to forget the details of Reagan's trickle-down theory that Dad feels compelled to explain every year.

Most Cincinnati families have their own pseudo-dysfunctional traditions, but for those of us who live outside the bonds of marriage and child rearing and refuse to have our lavish, carefree lifestyles interrupted by such formalities, there are other options.

This year the childless — and many parents willing to ditch their tots — will be out and about during a special four-day weekend celebrating the birth of baby Jesus.

Here's one extended-weekend plan that will only slightly involve Christmas cheer.

Friday, Dec. 21
If you don't think Ferraris are cool, then you probably think it's hilarious to make jokes about saving your money to buy one. If you believe both of these statements to be true, then you must be notified of the Ferrari 412P currently on exhibit at the Cincinnati Art Museum.

This 4.0-liter, 12-cylinder prototype (412P) was designed before wind-tunnel testing made race cars look like land sharks, but it still resembles the designs that would follow later scientific fast-car breakthroughs. The Ferrari 412P was raced in 1967, but now it's just a fancy toy that some guy named Harry Yeaggy shows off to people.

See if you can get someone to go to the museum just to look at a Ferrari, then laugh at him or her for doing it.

There are few events less Christmas-like than horse racing, unless you count the early Simpsons episode in which Homer loses the family's Christmas money by betting on a wimpy racing dog. Turfway Park offers outdoor and indoor seating along with a restaurant and separate dining area with TVs at the tables.

The beer is cheap, the food is good and no one looks at you funny for wearing an Ohio State sweat suit. Outside you can stand right up next to the dirt track and scream your head off while the horseys run past.

For a sure bet ask the teller for "Six on six in the sixth."

Saturday, Dec. 22
OK, the Cincinnati Zoo's Festival of Lights is a very Christmassy thing to do. But if the weather is reasonable and you are fortunate enough to have a "special someone" with whom to wander through the well-lit zoo, then why not go for a stroll? It is quite easy to sneak a pint of whiskey onto the premises (ever heard of a woman's purse?), and whiskey is very tasty when mixed with certain corn-syrup-based beverages. Root beer and Dr. Pepper do the trick nicely.

For those without that special someone this year, an opportunity to get your mind off how sad it is to be partner-less during the holidays will present itself in the form of five dudes playing Bluegrass music in Kentucky. The Rumpke Mountain Boys have become a live music staple in Cincinnati, and their Southgate House show Dec. 22 will provide much-needed secular relaxation during the holiday weekend. The Boys play a set of contemporary Bluegrass worthy of the time-honored genre.

Although the concert occurs in Kentucky — and nobody really wants to hang out in Kentucky — it's a more reasonable endeavor than trying to ice skate on Fountain Square in the freezing cold.

Sunday, Dec. 23
Complete and utter failure has been the premise for comedy sketches for decades. Incompetence? Futility? Hopelessness? That's what you get from the best slapstick comedy, and that's also what you get from the Cincinnati Bengals, who are finally over their "Stop laughing at us, we're changing" phase. The Who Deys will compete against the Cleveland Browns Dec. 23, demonstrating the completion of a quick but painful switcharoo between the two franchises.

The Browns are so useless that the team actually left Cleveland for Baltimore a few years ago, changed their colors to purple and black, then re-appeared as the orange-helmeted losers they always were. Nevertheless, the Brownies will be playing for much more than the Bengals on this day, and you should be in front of the tube to witness the debacle.

Since Sunday night is the last chance to excuse yourself before capitalism's big night, it's best to get your heat on early and get out of the house quickly. Someone has painted the outside of a bar on Walnut Street blue and overstocked it with vodka. Below Zero is not a bad premise for holiday cheer, I must say, but one must always approach Cincinnati's pseudo-swanky establishments with caution, as sometimes it's difficult to decipher whether you're in a legitimately-designed space or some Newport on the Levee cookie cutter bar that only attracts hairy-chested dudes and crazy rich girls.

Below Zero takes its name from the ability to cool certain vodkas to negative temperatures before serving them. Isn't 0 degrees frozen? If not, won't something that is 0 degrees freeze parts of your insides if ingested? These are questions that can only be answered by visiting Below Zero's cabaret night Dec. 23 or by using the Internet.

Monday, Dec. 24
Christmas Eve is the one day of the year that you absolutely cannot avoid your family. They all know you lost $200 at Turfway Friday, hung out in Kentucky Saturday, watched football Sunday and woke up Monday smelling like P-Diddy.

The only reasonable thing to do on this day is to fake a sickness and lie around the house in sweat pants, demanding that children stay away from you due to the hay fever you caught after ingesting frozen liquids the night before. The symptoms will be easy to fake, as you will already look and feel like crap from three days of anti-holiday cheer. ©

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