Monday, December 13, 2010

The Ghosts Of Christmas Past & The Future Potential Of The Holiday Season

It's less than two weeks from Christmas day, and the spirit, not to mention those elusive tidings of comfort and joy, have yet to find their way down my skylight. It's not as if I'm fighting the spirit. I'd love to be in one of those J.C. Penney commercials, with the sweaters and the hot toddies and everyone smiling at their freshly unwrapped gifts. But let's get real. This hall decking that we are supposed to embrace every year, becomes more difficult to wrap my head around as I get older. Christmas these days, feels more like a chore than a holiday.

As a kid, the prospect of a fat guy in a red suit delivering toys like Tommy Turtle and a Whirly-Bird was enough to keep me awake for days at a time. Of course, I never did understand why "Santa" always forgot the batteries, delaying my Christmas morning until the 26th. This was before the days when a CVS was on every corner.

My family has always been very vocal. Traditional phrases like "That tree looks so beautiful," and "I made the egg nog myself, please have some," were generally outnumbered by such Hallmark sayings as "Don't get me anymore scarves!" and "Another book?" I remember being disappointed on more than one occasion. One year, my Aunt gave all her nephews a card with a ten dollar bill, except for me. She gave me a can of peanut brittle. Still don't get that one. I would have been happy with the peanut brittle if everyone got peanut brittle. This is really not what Christmas is all about, is it?

At one time, the family was larger and the gift list was longer. Gifts had to be bought and sent all over the country, making the affordable and joyful experience, simply annoying, thanks to the added postage expense and the odious lines at the post office. I would anticipate this misery and take it out while wrapping, so all of the gifts from me looked as if they had been wrapped at "The Lighthouse."

Then of course, there is the Christmas music. I happen to like it. The fun rock and roll tunes and the traditional Christmas hymns, both do a better job at filling that Christmas void than the hustle and bustle of what seems like everyone on Earth descending onto Midtown all at once. And yet, there is always one or two in the crowd who bark, "If I hear that Mariah Carey song one more time, I'm gonna rip the CD right out of the player!" You know, it's the best thing she's ever done, and you don't have to play it the other 11 months of the year. So, blow it out your horn of plenty.

I don't want to blame the family. That is too easy. The Christmas spirit reared its head more times than not, but for some reason, we have a tendency to remember the bad over the good. (Or, at least I do.)

One year, I had been looking for 3 special gifts, one each for my co-workers, who I became very close to over the three year period we worked together. Joey was a Beatles' fan and a Yankees' fan. He already had a half-dozen "butcher covers," and just about every cool collectible with Lennon's face plastered on it.

After some deep searches on eBay, I found something in a place called "Fun Antiques." It was a photo proof sheet of outtakes from a Yankees' team photo from their championship season of 1978. I had never seen anything like it before. The asking price was $150, but I got it down to $110. The owner was a fan of the prog rock band Van der Graaf Generator, and I promised to find him some "bootlegs." (I've been looking for 19 years.)

It was a busy retail Saturday afternoon, and once things slowed down, we exchanged gifts. Joey opened his and just stared in amazement. My eyes and smile widened. "Good job," I thought.

"What is it?"

I explained the history and its scarcity. Joey giggled, as if everyone was in on the joke, "What am I supposed to do with this? Hang it on my wall?" He laughed some more. My other co-workers had frozen smiles of fear and disbelief on their faces. "Well, you could frame it. Maybe put it up in a spare bedroom, or in your music room. It's a collector's item. You don't think it's cool?"

Joey just stammered, clearly baffled by my thoughtfulness. "I just don't think it's practical." I was crushed. He was right. It wasn't "practical," but is that really what Christmas is all about? He said, "I have yours in the car. Be right back."

He walked back into the shop with a box that was very long and thin. There may have been some ribbon. I don't know. I opened it. 6 foot drumsticks from that stupid store "Think Big." I suppose they would have been very practical if I hadn't sold my 45 foot drum kit.

I'm thinking Christmas could actually work some day. The tree needs to be smaller. Gifts should be optional, not mandatory. Maybe it could be a little more like Ralph Kramden sees it:

"Christmas is... well, it's about the best time of the whole year. When you walk down the streets, even for weeks before Christmas comes, and there's lights hanging up, green ones and red ones, sometimes there's snow and everyone's hustling some place. But they don't hustle around Christmastime like they usually do. You know, they're a little more friendlier... they bump into you, they laugh and they say, "Pardon me. Merry Christmas"... especially when it gets real close to Christmas night. Everybody's walking home, you can hardly hear a sound. Bells are ringin', kids are singing, the snow is coming down."

Maybe you'll enjoy this music without ripping the CD out your player.


All I Want For Christmas Is A Bottle- The Beatles
It Came Upon A Midnight Clear- The Fab Four
Christmas- Pete Townshend
Do You Hear What I Hear- Spiraling
Child's Christmas In Wales- Superchunk
I Wish You A Merry Christmas- Little Eva
Great Day In December- The Swan Silvertones
I Just Want To See His Face- The Rolling Stones
Church On Time- Ben Harper & The 5 Blind Boys Of Alabama
Let It Snow- Jon Auer
Rock & Roll Winter- Roy Wood's Wizzard
Jingle Bells (Buala Bas)- The Clancy Brothers
Silver Bells- Booker T. & The MGs
Cold Weather- Mark Johnson
Lonesome Christmas- Lowell Fulsom
God Bless The Child- Sonny Rollins
Any Day Now- Sam Cooke



Frontal Lobe said...

I love to read about your life experiences, even though this one had a couple of sad spots for you (but I'm sure interesting for your readers) And of course, Thanks for the Christmas Zip!!

Eric said...

you have a gift as a storyteller. Change the names,add some violence and sell it.

itsok2beright said...

Peanut Brittle! That's great. Well, at least it's better than a fruitcake.

Nice mix, but, what, no Waitresses!

"Baby, you're the greatest."

Merry Christmas.

Kwai Chang said...

Never has the essense of Christmas been expressed so perfectly than by Dr. Seuss' Grinch: "...Christmas doesn't come from a store...maybe, Christmas...perhaps, means a little bit more..."!

Juby said...

Great story. Your mix is helping me fight off the Xmas blues and a sinus infection at work today. Your are a miracle worker! Have a great holiday!

misospecial said...

love the peanut brittle story. also the yankees pic/giant drumsticks.

i love giving gifts and think carefully about getting the right thing for the right person. often i'm successful, but my (ex-)best friend never seemed happy with my stuff. i asked her about it in the waning days, when the relationship was dying on the vine, and she cheerfully told me that the gifts i gave here were really for me (she had me mixed up with her mom) and that she'd be happy to go down the list, gift by gift, and tell me what she had and hadn't liked. that christmas i bought her a pound of very expensive chocolates, knowing that it would be the last thing i ever gave her. hope she liked them...

misospecial said...

oh, and thanks for the christmas music. happy holidays to you and yours, maestro!

Anonymous said...

Thanks much for this it....can't say I feel the same for this time of year....used to...not anymore....oh heavy sigh.

Anonymous said...

1. Great story.
2. What the hell was the matter with that co-worker?
3. Half a dozen Beatles butcher covers?
4. Where's the Mariah Carey on the Xmas comp?
5. Great story (repeat).

Ace K.

Sal Nunziato said...

Ace K.

1. Great story.


2. What the hell was the matter with that co-worker?

Really great guy with a few dozen quirks.

3. Half a dozen Beatles butcher covers?

I may have underestimated.

4. Where's the Mariah Carey on the Xmas comp?

Coming up, if I have the balls.

5. Great story (repeat).

Thanks! (repeat)

charlie c. said...