Memo from the Spirit of Christmas Past

Notes to self regarding important things I’d never otherwise remember by next Christmas:

1.) It really doesn’t take all that long to put up the lights in the living room. Don’t put this off “until you have time,” because it only takes half an hour, you lazy little shit.

2.) Those Advent Calendar things are tacky and you never keep up with opening the little stupid doors. Please resist the urge to buy another one this next year.

3.) You don’t need any more holiday postage stamps. You already had some from the year before. Don’t buy more this next year thinking that they’ll motivate you to get back into the habit of sending Christmas cards, because they won’t, dumbass.

4.) Since now you’ll need to get new Christmas cards to use up the stamps, for the love of God just buy the first good set you see. DON’T decide you’ll get them later after you’ve looked at cards in other stores. That’s what screwed you up in 1998. Remember? You never do.

5.) Those swags of holiday greenery you get in the Trader Joe’s flower section dry out in about three days and the holly berries give off a funky smell.

6.) Just because you have the time to bake Christmas cookies on Christmas Eve doesn’t mean you should. It’s not like Santa is going to come up and smack you.

7.) If you do make cookies, they’re way better when you seal them in an airtight container right after cooling them. A container just like the red plastic tub you threw out last year for some damn reason.

8.) It will do you well to remember how much it rocks to go grocery shopping at 11pm on the 23rd, when it’s about two thousand times less crowded than on the 24th.

9.) Really, don’t even leave the house on the 24th unless it’s to go drink somewhere.

Alternate places to pre-order INTNM

Last week I started seeing posts from lit bloggers about the book retailer information at Buyblue.org that shows most of Amazon’s political donations went to Republicans. Now some folks are rethinking their use of Amazon links and are switching to other online bookstores.

It’s true that I’m a lot more used to linking to Amazon, and while I don’t know if I’ll drop the practice entirely, the least I can do is make it easier for the rest of you to choose other places. Plus I love supporting independent booksellers. Thus:

I’m Not the New Me at Powell’s.

I’m Not the New Me at Booksense. (You enter your zip code and it takes you right to the site of an independent bookstore in your area.)

This might totally blow my Amazon sales ranking, but then, more than one kind author person has told me lately that if I pay too much attention to those numbers I could go blind and/or insane and maybe even get hairy palms.

Do you hear what I hear?

I pay more attention to Christmas lyrics than any normal person ought to. I think this is because one afternoon, when I was six years old, my grandpa read A Visit from St. Nicholas (aka “Twas The Night Before Christmas”) aloud to me, and though I’d probably heard the poem dozens of times by then, I hadn’t realized that the narrator–maybe Clement C. Moore himself–vomits right in the middle of the story. It happens not too long after that part with the sugar plums dancing in the heads and so on, right after out on the lawn there arose such a clatter.

” ‘I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter!’ ” my grandfather read. I loved his voice. ” ‘Away to the window I flew like a flash,’ ” he continued. ” ‘Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.‘ ”

He stopped for a second. “Uh-oh,” he said. “He threw up.”

“Really?” I said. I could definitely understand why someone might throw up on Christmas Eve. Sometimes I worried that I would.

“Poor fella,” my grandpa said. It was good to know that a little puke didn’t necessarily ruin a Christmas, but all the same, I don’t think I ever asked anyone to read me the story again.

Anyway, that might explain why I am the way I am now. Here is a list of holiday song lyrics that bother me:

Lyric: “It doesn’t show signs of stopping,/ And I brought some corn for popping.” Reason: It’s POPCORN. Who calls it “corn for popping,” the Pennsylvania Dutch? And who brings pantry items on a date? What else does she have in her purse–Cocoa for Heating? Cake of Fruiting? The protagonist of this song is a crazy food-hoarder with convoluted syntax, and I hate having to think of Ella Fitzgerald that way when she sings this.

Lyric: “And so I’m offering this simple phrase/ To kids from one to ninety-two.” Reason: Excuse me, Nat King Cole, but I think “Merry Christmas to You” has long been in the public domain, so to offer it, especially with some arbitrary bullshit age limit, seems awfully cheap. Actually, I hate this song in general, since it’s called “The Christmas Song” in a very knowing, meta way, and has no story or point other than to be a purely fetishistic inventory of Christmas imagery, with that crass “offer” of commodified goodwill in the last verse. This song is all about Jack Frost nipping at your SOUL, for God’s sake. Pass the crack pipe, Natalie.

Lyric: “You will get a sentimental/ feeling when you hear /Voices singing let’s be jolly,/deck the halls with boughs of holly.” Reason: “You will get a sentimental feeling” sounds unsettlingly like a hypnotic suggestion. Also, “let’s be jolly” is not anywhere in “Deck the Halls,” duh, so the only time you’ll ever hear voices sing, specifically, “let’s be jolly, deck the halls with boughs of holly,” is in this song, which means this song is referring to ITSELF and the sentimental feeling you’ll supposedly get next time you hear it, and the next time after that, and on and on into infinity this song will tell you how to feel.

Lyric: “Here comes Santa Claus! Here comes Santa Claus! Riding down Santa Claus Lane!” Reason: Gene Autry had to have pulled these lines out of his butt. Sorry, but he did.

Lyric: “In the meadow we can build a snowman, /And pretend that he’s a circus clown. We’ll have lots of fun with Mister Snowman,/ Until the other kiddies knock him down.” Reason: Okay–building a snowman in order to pretend it’s a circus clown is just fucking demented. It’s like building a robot and pretending it’s Dracula. Or putting a sock on your hand and pretending it’s the Incredible Hulk. It makes no imaginative sense whatsoever. Anyway, the people in this song already built a clergyman snowman and pretended to discuss their marriage plans with it, which is admittedly bizarre, but you can at least sort of see the point, and then presumably these are consenting adults here, since they are talking about love and marriage and facing their future and they use the word “conspire” in the fourth verse and everything–so why do they suddenly regress in the very next verse and build a retarded snow-clown and blather about “the other kiddies?” Wonderland or not, we need continuity here, guys. On the other hand, I did come across a really interesting alternate version of this verse that involves ALLIGATORS–no really, read it: they talk about having fun with Mister Snowman until the alligators knock him down–and, well, that changes everything and makes the whole premise completely surreal in a way that I fully support.

Do you hear what I hear?

I pay more attention to Christmas lyrics than any normal person ought to. I think this is because one afternoon, when I was six years old, my grandpa read A Visit from St. Nicholas (aka “Twas The Night Before Christmas”) aloud to me, and though I’d probably heard the poem dozens of times by then, I hadn’t realized that the narrator–maybe Clement C. Moore himself–vomits right in the middle of the story. It happens not too long after that part with the sugar plums dancing in the heads and so on, right after out on the lawn there arose such a clatter.

” ‘I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter!’ ” my grandfather read. I loved his voice. ” ‘Away to the window I flew like a flash,’ ” he continued. ” ‘Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.‘ “

He stopped for a second. “Uh-oh,” he said. “He threw up.”

“Really?” I said. I could definitely understand why someone might throw up on Christmas Eve. Sometimes I worried that I would.

“Poor fella,” my grandpa said. It was good to know that a little puke didn’t necessarily ruin a Christmas, but all the same, I don’t think I ever asked anyone to read me the story again.

Anyway, that might explain why I am the way I am now. Here is a list of holiday song lyrics that bother me:

Lyric: “It doesn’t show signs of stopping,/ And I brought some corn for popping.” Reason: It’s POPCORN. Who calls it “corn for popping,” the Pennsylvania Dutch? And who brings pantry items on a date? What else does she have in her purse–Cocoa for Heating? Cake of Fruiting? The protagonist of this song is a crazy food-hoarder with convoluted syntax, and I hate having to think of Ella Fitzgerald that way when she sings this.

Lyric: “And so I’m offering this simple phrase/ To kids from one to ninety-two.” Reason: Excuse me, Nat King Cole, but I think “Merry Christmas to You” has long been in the public domain, so to offer it, especially with some arbitrary bullshit age limit, seems awfully cheap. Actually, I hate this song in general, since it’s called “The Christmas Song” in a very knowing, meta way, and has no story or point other than to be a purely fetishistic inventory of Christmas imagery, with that crass “offer” of commodified goodwill in the last verse. This song is all about Jack Frost nipping at your SOUL, for God’s sake. Pass the crack pipe, Natalie.

Lyric: “You will get a sentimental/ feeling when you hear /Voices singing let’s be jolly,/deck the halls with boughs of holly.” Reason: “You will get a sentimental feeling” sounds unsettlingly like a hypnotic suggestion. Also, “let’s be jolly” is not anywhere in “Deck the Halls,” duh, so the only time you’ll ever hear voices sing, specifically, “let’s be jolly, deck the halls with boughs of holly,” is in this song, which means this song is referring to ITSELF and the sentimental feeling you’ll supposedly get next time you hear it, and the next time after that, and on and on into infinity this song will tell you how to feel.

Lyric: “Here comes Santa Claus! Here comes Santa Claus! Riding down Santa Claus Lane!” Reason: Gene Autry had to have pulled these lines out of his butt. Sorry, but he did.

Lyric: “In the meadow we can build a snowman, /And pretend that he’s a circus clown. We’ll have lots of fun with Mister Snowman,/ Until the other kiddies knock him down.” Reason: Okay–building a snowman in order to pretend it’s a circus clown is just fucking demented. It’s like building a robot and pretending it’s Dracula. Or putting a sock on your hand and pretending it’s the Incredible Hulk. It makes no imaginative sense whatsoever. Anyway, the people in this song already built a clergyman snowman and pretended to discuss their marriage plans with it, which is admittedly bizarre, but you can at least sort of see the point, and then presumably these are consenting adults here, since they are talking about love and marriage and facing their future and they use the word “conspire” in the fourth verse and everything–so why do they suddenly regress in the very next verse and build a retarded snow-clown and blather about “the other kiddies?” Wonderland or not, we need continuity here, guys. On the other hand, I did come across a really interesting alternate version of this verse that involves ALLIGATORS–no really, read it: they talk about having fun with Mister Snowman until the alligators knock him down–and, well, that changes everything and makes the whole premise completely surreal in a way that I fully support.

Comments from 2004.

More holiday dorkiness

all aboard!

I made a point of riding the Santa Train on Friday night. It showed up late (this is the CTA after all), and I was so cold I thought my heart would stop. But I like shiny things, I guess.

More on Christmas Music

I have no good explanation for why Marlene Dietrich’s rendition of The Little Drummer Boy is my favorite Christmas song ever. I mean I suppose I have the story of how it was the first song on a reel-to-reel tape of Christmas music my mother taped off the WFMT Midnight Special a really fucking long time ago, and how we played that tape every year while we got out the decorations and set up the tree (and put blocks under the stand to balance out the way it had gone crooked from lying on its side all year in the attic), and I’m sure all this had an effect on my auditory consciousness. Still, none of the other, friendlier songs on the reel had this effect on me, so I wonder what it is about me that made me susceptible to this song.

For years I had no idea who sang it; I wasn’t even sure if the singer was male or female, just that the voice was a slurring, bittersweet confection of Bavarian darkness. The song is otherworldly and bizarre and it sounds for all the world like Charlie Brown’s Christmas pageant gone freakishly wrong and suddenly transported to a smoky German cabaret. It’s the best song ever, I tell you.