Sunday, December 28, 2014

In Search of Christmas

“There'll be parties for hosting,
Marshmallows for toasting,
And caroling out in the snow.
There'll be scary ghost stories and tales of the glories of Christmases
long long ago.” – E. Pola

“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!” – C. Dickens

“Pass Me By
Pass Me By,
If You Don’t Happen to Like it
Pass Me By.” – C. Leigh

You cyber-see before you a man on a holly, ivy and mistletoe mission. Like Leonard Nimoy before me, I go “In Search Of.” Mr. Nimoy pursued unsolved crimes, ancient mysteries, mythological figures, escape from the unyielding annoyance of William Shatner, high syndication ratings and so very often, alien life forms (he was Scientology before Scientology was cool and a show business prerequisite, as witnessed by the unrelated and inappropriate L. Ron Hubbard tribute and float at this year’s Hollywood Christmas parade) whilst nycityman still tracks the tenuous and slippery quarry that is the spirit of Christmas, which to this belated juncture continues to elusively escape me.

I share this personal and potentially tedious and pedantic tale, neither fascinating nor unique, in lieu of the usual politics or societal commentary specifically because of its lack of uniqueness. Enhanced expectations and over-reach of activities leading to inevitable disappointment is as common this time of year as a tone-deaf Mariah Carey live performance of “All I Want for Christmas is You.”

However, before you get the wrong impression, neither Ebenezer nor Henry Potter am I. My affection and expectation of the season of Silver Bells exists almost without borders or boundaries. The late Mr. Williams was absolutely correct; it is indeed “the most wonderful time of the year.” At the juncture when August becomes September my anticipation for Yuletide commences, and as I delve deeper into the autumn of my years, the more I see a calendar divided into but two seasons, summer and then Christmas.  I’ve nary a clue about what happens in the months and weeks in between - perhaps hibernation or perhaps all recollections and experiences are erased and eliminated by some sneaky, effective and loathsome North Korean power. If they have the ability to assure that finally we are no longer required to view zaftig Seth Rogen partially naked each and every day of our modern lives (why are those who should least be publically shirtless always the ones who are? ) then clearly there exists a capacity north of the 38th parallel far beyond our reckoning.

Hot on the cold heels of the New York Mets dropping out of playoff contention (although, in all honesty, that can occur in April) I’m researching recipes for mulled wine, playing Darlene Love on the gramophone and making a list and checking it twice. And there, my festive friends and caroling colleagues is the regretful rub, a holiday season that initiates even prior to JC Penny, Gimbels and EJ Korvettes’ removal of cardboard skeletons and plastic pumpkin decorations from All Hallows.  By the time the proper Yule period rolls around we’ve already been Linus’d and Grinch’d and Rudolph’d beyond reason. No event could live up to the expectation and anticipation of Christmas, not even a romantic rendezvous with Barbara Eden, or in this era, beauteous Welsh warbler, Katherine Jenkins.

You have to admit, Katherine takes a good picture
So, help me. Help me find Christmas.  I seek that childhood feeling when we had the whole week off between Christmas and New Years and the spirit and the season didn’t suddenly expire on the 26th of December.

Outside of the North Pole, I live in, arguably, the finest and most festive locale for Christmas wassailing and wandering, and I take it all in - the store windows, the Rockefeller Center tree, the carolers, the off-key and drunken Salvation Army bell-ringers, the Christmas markets and skating rinks - I’ll even amble into the celebrated and sacrosanct St. Patrick’s Cathedral and I’m a Hell-bound heathen.

And while I appreciate the effort, the sincerity, the intent of those of a more faithful bent who with a Linus penchant might attempt to “sure, Charlie Brown, I can tell you what Christmas is all about… lights, please.” me, I had that indoctrination as a youth and having been there done that, discovered a greater enlightenment in the rejection of such. Christmas to me is not really about the man it was named for but more the canon of Crosby, the lighted decorations, the gatherings and overall good will and spirit of the season.

Could it be that Christmas is more of a nostalgia holiday than a celebration of the present? It’s so much about memories of the past, as opposed to memories you may be making in the here and now – precious recollections of childhood, the troubled sleep of the anticipatory eve, the early awakening to the excited discovery of Santa’s bounty, remembrances of seeming perfection and flawless positivity as now imagined through the hazy filter of time and wishes. As decades pass, faults and frailties fade away and Christmas morns from long ago become sepia-toned Polaroid’s of the Cratchits feasting on a prize goose as tall as Tiny Tim and Ralphie almost shooting his eye out with his much-longed for Red Ryder B.B. gun.

Today is December 28th and I fear that despite all my best efforts, Christmas 2014 has passed me by. If you have any suggestions or Christmas traditions that keep the holiday near and dear to you, please feel free to comment or send an email at the address you will find below. And for now, we all move on to New Year’s Eve, and surely that overly-hyped, capricious commemoration of the arbitrary turning of a calendar page could never disappoint.

As this a special time of year, please enjoy two jaunty melodies beginning with Andy Williams and the classic, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” followed by the Ray Conniff Singers (that’s right, the Ray Conniff singers, just as your dad used to listen to on the “beautiful music” station) performing “Pass Me By” from the film “Father Goose.”

Any comments, questions, criticisms, candid confessions, cash contributions?  Contact me at butchersaprons@mail.com.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

‘Twas the Weeks Before Christmas – Christmas time in America 2014

"Love is but a song we sing,
And fear's the way we die” - Chet Powers

Guns. Violence. Murder. The bread and butter, the very backbone of who and what we are as a country - Merry Christmas. Whether it be the regularly scheduled school shootings (this massacre of the innocent is proudly and happily sponsored by your frenemies at the National Rifle Association in conjunction with the bought and paid for Republicans on Capitol Hill) or the shoot first and ask questions later policies too frequently practiced by white police officers toward young, African-American men from purple mountain majesties to fruited plains to gleaming alabaster cities throughout the land.

We’ve made a conscious decision as a society, as a people and as a governing institution that we would begrudgingly accept frequent mass shootings rather than place any limitations on the ability of the criminally minded and mentally unstable from purchasing firearms, even automatic and semi-automatic assault weaponry intended solely for military use. Instead, we have chosen to occasionally sacrifice our children on the altar of the NRA and the faulty misinterpretation that the Second Amendment permits any and all citizens of the Red, White and Blue the right to own arms, which it does not.

Additionally, in the “Stand Your Ground” nation of 21st century America, while not technically legal for white people, particularly law enforcement agents, to shoot black people, it has become commonly allowed and increasingly a crime that escapes punishment or prosecution.

So, welcome to Christmas 2014, and to get you in the appropriate, non-festive spirit befitting this period and place, enjoy this modern and timely adaptation of the Clement Clarke Moore classic, “A Visit from St. Nicholas.”

 ‘Twas the Weeks Before Christmas – A Visit from the Nick

'Twas the weeks before Christmas and all through the state
Folks invest in protesting institutional hate.
Gendarmes prepped the tear gas with impeccable care
For they knew that the marchers soon would be there.

Black children lay frightened and huddled in beds,
Having just been enlightened ‘bout the price on their heads.
While Mom tried to calm them and Dad did his best
To explain the germane points of civil unrest.

When out in the street there arose such a clatter
A pop from a cop gun and another life shattered.
Away from the windows they flew like a flash,
To be safe from the strafe of a follow-up clash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow 
Gave the luster of midday to the body below, 
Then, what to their watering eyes did they see,
Not a doc or a nurse or a brave EMT.

The young victim just lay in his blood, unattended,
While the group, sworn to serve,  got their tall tale amended.
Once the details were clear in their story, they joked
Of a vicious attack, every bit unprovoked.

And the courts in each case fill Conservative dictum
If the skin’s a bit dark, put the blame on the victim
A lesson to learn this pre-holiday time
Just trust us, rare’s justice for this sort of crime

So, a wish for us all this most festive of seasons,
No more need to protest, let's end these racist reasons.
For every life matters, not just each shade of white,
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a safe night.

We close with a classic song from the 60’s whose message may seem a bit dated or na├»ve but very needed, if heeded, in such turbulent days.

Any comments, questions, criticisms, candid confessions, cash contributions? Contact me at butchers aprons@mail.com.