My thoughts for this essay are about fourth quarter of 2015: Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve and Day—the jolly Holiday Season, but mainly Christmas since the others are (for me) leadoff hitters for the main event. To review, Halloween led off with a homerun as chronicled in GHOST OF HALLOWEEN, a road trip with my brother, Thom, for his last trumpet gig. Thanksgiving started off good, but turned sour (CHRISTMAS BLAHS) as Kay battled sciatica. The whole end-of-the-year shebang reminded me of a gas log fireplace; that is, a fake fire pretending to burn cheerfully. Lest you think I’m some kind of Scrooge, let me state categorically that I am a genuine, over-the-top cockeyed optimist, and count the last three months of the year as some of the best times and memories of my lifetime. No, it’s something else that occurred to me while taking down decorations and stowing holiday paraphernalia. Before I get into that, allow me to reminisce about years past, to wit: |
As a youngster growing up in the Midwest, snow often fell either during or shortly after Thanksgiving. My brothers, friends and I spent December building snowmen and snow forts, and engaged in neighborhood-wide snowball wars. When not absorbed in snow building and throwing we sledded and ice skated morning and afternoon. We almost always stayed out too long. Our feet and fingers became numb including painful popsicle toes. Parents chastised us for being “too dumb to get out of the cold”. (BTW they voiced a similar mantra when we came in soaking wet from rain.) As I became older there were holiday parties to attend both in homes and local pubs. For those events, people dressed up (suits and ties for men; cocktail dresses for ladies) and festive live music played in the background. We also went caroling, which sometimes was an excuse to include merriment with drinking. For adults some gifts included gaily decorated cartons of cigarettes, fancy cigarette cases, and expensive lighters for the cancer sticks.
After college I moved to Southern California where the holiday season was just as jolly, but of a different ilk; that is, no snow unless one went to the mountains. (Oh, and by the way, you know how movies show people cavorting in the ocean during Christmas break in L.A.? No frigging way! The water temperature is in the 60s, and even with a wet suit surfing causes near hypothermia. It takes hours to warm up, and maybe a day to feel your feet again.) Like the Midwest, decorations were as plentiful inside and out. There were Christmas tree trimming parties that included impromptu and spirited caroling, followed by after-parties the next morning to clean up the place. And so it went through the first two weeks of the month. Bloody Marys’ and breakfast were featured at the morning after clean-ups. It was a jovial old time for sure. As in the Midwest, clubs featured live combos and normal attire was coats, ties, and cocktail dresses. Rather than typical jumping around (twist, pony, bugaloo) choreography of our non-holiday times, dancing was mainly slow and romantic to popular traditional winter and Christmas songs. The mood was festive and fun. Cigarette smoke (hack, choke, wheeze) also filled the atmosphere, but in those days we didn’t know better. Adult beverages included martinis, manhattans, scotch-and-soda, old-fashions, sidecars, black Russians, and vodka tonics. It was entertaining to watch a bartender work on a busy night.
Back to the present and the fake fire analogy…
Before recently moving to a Southwestern desert community, I returned from SoCal to the Midwest for 15 years on a work assignment. During that time, it rarely snowed at all in December. No snowballs or snowmen. Rats. Most of the snowfall occurred after New Year’s Day. Some blame it on global warming; others claim my boyhood and coming-of-age times were during the last throes of a mini ice age, which (they say) began in the 1700s. Anyway, while taking ornaments off the tree this past Christmas I stared at a Santa figure on ice skates. Sadly, other than inside rinks I haven’t seen anyone ice skate in years. Firstly, all ponds, lakes, and rivers are off limits because of a sue-happy society, and “concerned” parents—half of whom don’t even live together. Hell, we skated for years anywhere we found solid (well, sometimes semi-solid) ice with zero incidents, but then people were, um, reasonable. Secondly, there is seldom a “hard” freeze anymore at least not until after the holidays. Ladies still tend to dress nicely when going out, but guys seem to think wearing a long-sleeved shirt is formal. Most clubs feature loud DJ music making it difficult to converse, limiting communication to texting, which seems to be preferred anymore—anything not to have to actually talk to another person. The music mainly excludes anything having to do with the holiday season. Shouting, “Woohoo, party!” and indiscriminate hooking-up attempts have replaced romance as glorified by the adolescent crap coming out of Hollywood. Beer and wine are the beverages of choice the exception being ladies ordering fake “martinis” flavored by almost anything one can imagine to disguise the taste of alcohol while getting one’s buzz on. (The idea being the drinks are expensive, and more will be consumed because they “taste sooo good”.)
I tried to get into the holiday mood by listening to recorded seasonal music and watching Christmas shows on television. Sadly, it didn’t take. 99-percent of the recording artists are dead, Natalie Cole the last to fall; and the TV shows featured new, adolescent whiners leading aerobics and singing their recent releases instead of seasonal tunes. Christmas decorations were in the background of the sets, which I suppose, to their agents and handlers sufficed to label the telecast a Christmas show. Keep in mind, I am not complaining just pointing out that society has taken a random walk from the traditions of generations past. We have morphed into a shallower and more ignorant culture. Recent cases in point: 1) A TV host asked a number of young people where Mount Rushmore is located. Most thought it was in another country; 2) An interviewer asked a recent coed in her Fordham graduation cap-and-gown who lived at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. She had no idea; 3) Yesterday I watched a hearing from DC where an African-American, Democrat representative from Georgia told an Admiral that he opposed locating 8,000 Marines in Guam because the increase in population might tip over the island!!! Wha…?
Fortunately, New Year’s Eve saved the 2015 season for me. I spent it at a black tie affair in Palm Springs hosted by my brother and sister-in-law. Manhattans, champagne, the tango…it took me back, which in my frame of mind was a very good thing.
By Gene Myers. This blurb was not copyrighted. I mean, duh, why bother?
Related Articles -
Christmas, Midwest, Southern California, holiday mood, New Year's Eve,