Christmas, Xmas, whatever

As Andrea says, what a fuckin’ killjoy:

VANCOUVER – After years of sending friends anti-Christmas cards, one of which featured a homeless Santa and another battered child angels, Valerie and Trevor Williams decided to “go big” this year.

The result can be seen on a billboard looming over the Pat Bay Highway near Victoria, where commuters, rushing no doubt to buy gifts, are faced with this stark message: “Gluttony. Envy. Insincerity. Greed. Enjoy Your Christmas.”

“In response to the growing onslaught of manufactured consumeristic Christmas cheer, we have decided to actively reject the capitalist ideology of Christmas. We refuse to spend one cent on buying into the consumer machine this year — no tinsel, no tree, no shiny balls, no Christmas cards, no presents, no wrapping paper, no turkey, no cranberry sauce, no candy canes, and no icicle lights,” states the Williams’s e-mail.

“Christmas will not be coming to this house…. Join us in our Christmas rebellion!”

Join you? I’d rather gargle semen, for the same reason that I have no intention of coming around to the Lefty way of thinking generally: because you’re dead wrong, you’re completely miserable, and you just won’t be happy until everyone else is as miserable as you are. Instead of channelling your “anger” over the commercialization of Christmas (which people have been bitching constantly and annoyingly about since at least 1947’s “Miracle on 34th Street,” and probably a lot longer than that) into some sort of positive reminder for people of what it ought to be all about, or into some action that will actually be of useful benefit to those less-fortunate souls you claim to be oh-so-concerned about (wonder if she’s ever actually seen a soup kitchen, much less volunteered to work in one), you’re content to just sit back and, well, bitch some more. No thanks, honey; you can keep your self-righteous misanthropic bile to yourself – I have plenty of my own to deal with, thank you.

Mrs. Williams said she and her husband have been grumbling to themselves about “Christmas hell” for several years. A few seasons ago they started to boycott the whole gift-giving, carol-singing, egg-nogging thing and began to send out the anti-Christmas cards, along with a note informing family that instead of giving them gifts they were making donations to charity.

But that didn’t ease their anger, which is reflected in the voice message on their telephone. Instead of a jolly greeting, callers hear a recording of White Christmas that is interrupted as if the Williams had just come home.

Valerie: “My God, who put that music on?”

Trevor: “It’s awful, get it off.”

Valerie: “Oh…Jesus. Oh. Oh. Doesn’t that just drive you insane?”Mrs. Williams, who grew up in a middle-class family in Victoria, said she has good memories of the Christmases she had as a child. But the growing commercialism of the season and its Christian exclusivity had long troubled her. On returning to British Columbia from world travels three years ago, she decided it was time to take action. From protest cards, it grew to the really big billboard.

She says she doesn’t know where the Christmas rebellion will go from here, but she’s determined to keep fighting against Santa and all he represents.

Glad to see you picking your battles so wisely, and with such an enlightened sense of priorities too. God, can you imagine what living in that house must be like? If I was one of her kids, I’d be praying for Santa to bring me a new foster mommy and daddy.

I now have a confession to make here, which will put my hard-won and richly-deserved reputation for general cranky curmudgeonliness at risk: I love Christmas-time. Even though I always go to some lengths to describe myself as not particularly religious-minded, the holiday season always makes me feel a lot better somehow. I could go on here with all the cliches about “peace on earth, goodwill toward men,” or the season being an opportunity for quiet introspection and reflection on the things that unite us all as human beings or some such. But the truth is, I think I like it for largely selfish reasons.

Most of my pleasures in life somehow seem to involve loud noises. The sound of a full-auto .45 caliber Thompson submachine gun rapidly slinging a ton of lead, the “tink” of the shattered shards bouncing off steel targets: ecstasy. The full-throated roar of a finely-tuned, straight-piped, and hot-rodded Harley as you wind it up way too high in second gear and blast like a bullet down a city street or country lane: instant penile tumescence. The sound of a viciously-attacked electric guitar settling deeply into an open A-chord coming through a cranked-up old Fender or Marshall Plexi amp, razoring through your skull as the amp’s tubes simply scream for mercy and the bass and drums thump you in the chest actually disrupting your heart rhythm, and pink-haired nose-pierced vixens and tattooed greasy-haired half-thugs bump into you on the way to the front row: nothin’ more fun than that. The halfwit roar of a house party reaching its peak, with shouted conversations and loud music and shattering glass forming a near-symphonic crescendo: nothing like it but more of it; bring it on. These are a few of my favorite things. After all these years of hard living, I seem to have turned into a lumpen sort of Mr Rogers Antichrist, the direct opposite of the calm demeanor and dulcet soothing pablum presented by ol’ Fred. Eardrum damage, permanent hearing loss, and general angst, with a thrumming undertone of perpetually-imminent knucklehead violence, seem to go with the territory in the seedy environs of Mr Hendrix’s Neighborhood. Even the cockroaches make an unusually loud crunching sound when you crush ’em.

But Christmas is different. When I was in New York, I thought Christmas was just the greatest. My girlfriend at the time was a “makeup consultant” (whatever that is) at the Origins counter at Bloomingdales. She worked Monday thru Friday, and I bartended Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday nights, so most weeknights I would go up to Bloomies when she got off work at night and invade the clean freshly-scrubbed space with my leather-jacketed sullen aggro and pick her up.

Except, at Christmas time I left the attitude, which usually left me sneering and scowling at the Bloomie’s patrons and miscellaneous tourists, at home with the old Black Flag albums. At Christmas I just feel, I dunno, lighter somehow. I was glad to be in Bloomingdales, with their holiday displays and lights and color. My girlfriend’s sister was a bigshot exec at Macy’s and now and then we’d go up there and just wander through the place, look at the window displays, and just generally marvel at the whole production before picking up Cindy for lunch. And on those nights after Jen got off work, we’d almost always stroll around midtown a bit, going over to Rockefeller Center and watching the skaters or just wandering aimlessly as the rest of the nighttime world tripped over themselves in a mad rush to get just that much more shopping done before heading for the LIRR and home. It was great.

And now I’m back again in the most citified part of a generally-countrified region, and I can drive past farms all lit up at night with decorations and candles and such, or I can cruise around my neighborhood with the heat turned up and the radio turned down and poke gentle fun at the gaudiness and tackiness of the electric Santas and neon reindeer perched on the roofs or mock-grazing in the yards. And I love every bit of it. I do, so help me.

I’m getting sort of tired of the kind of killjoy anti-spirit of people like the Williamses. I also got disgusted long ago of hearing people talk about how sick and tired they are of great movies like It’s A Wonderful Life or A Christmas Story or Miracle On 34th Street, as if the only legitimate Art that could possibly be acceptable this time of year to these folks is repeated showings of Tim Burton’s A Nightmare Before Christmas or something (and I love that one too, by the way). And I think these people doth protest a bit too much anyway, and I’ve never really trusted the sincerity of their cynicism at all. Breathes there a man with soul so dead that he doesn’t feel at least a little thrill when George Bailey stands on that snow-swept bridge with his mouth bleeding and his hair and clothing all askew and yells “Whaddya know about that! Merry Christmas!” or chokes up just a little when Harry walks up smiling and toasts “To my brother George: the richest man in town?” Come on, guys, we’re all men here (even the women, in a sense); you can admit it – there’s no shame in it as far as I’m concerned.

And then there’s Christmas Day itself. On Christmas Day I will be running around between my dear departed dad’s side of the family, my mom’s, and my girlfriend’s. Thank heavens her parents never divorced, I’ll say that. I’ll get to see relatives I don’t see all that much of anymore, some of whom I loathe but most of whom I love very much indeed. I’ll eat way too much and receive unanticipated gifts I scarcely deserve, some from people who don’t even know me all that well anymore but thought to get me something anyway. Oh, the greed. Oh, the stinking and uniquely American avarice. Bah, humbug.

And at some point, usually between driving from my dad’s family to my mom’s (which is a route that takes me through some countryside that is always beautiful no matter how badly the developers try to screw it up, and they’ve labored mightily to in the past several years, believe me), I’ll hear Perry Como or Nat King Cole or Bing Crosby or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing one of those tired old chestnuts that we all claim to be so sick of on the car radio, and the frost on the fields and pasture-land out the window will fairly gleam in the sunlight, and the cows’ and horses’ breath will steam out from their big dumb nostrils, and this certain farmhouse on a hill that my mom always just loved will have its giant Christmas tree lit up in the huge picture window that fronts the road, and that enveloping quietness will settle deep in my chest where what passes for my soul lives, and I’ll be completely at peace for a moment. For that I’m most profoundly grateful to all things Christmas, because without the entire sum total of the harried millions in New York rushing about like mad worker bees, and the tacky holiday displays in my neighborhood, and the endless TV commercials exhorting us to buy buy buy, and the piped-in music, and the old movies we’ve all seen a million times, and the ever-controversial Baby Jesus manger displays financed probably unconstitutionally with city-government money – without all that, this blessed spiritual convergence of peace and quiet would never happen for us. Bitch about it all you want, Mr and Mrs Williams, or you black-clad hipsters so fond of droning endlessly about “schmaltz” and “schlock,” but the sum of Christmas is greater than its much-mocked and despised parts, and it is indeed precious, in ways that your constricted hearts and your over-valued intellects will never be able to understand or properly appreciate. And for that, I truly pity you.

Christmas night, I’ll most likely be in my favorite bar with my friends and all their shouted chatter and the music blasting and my heart being once again suffused with that loud frenzy that keeps my blood pumping the rest of the year. If past years are any indication, the place will be elbow-to-elbow with people needing a break from family and food and kids and everything else. And it’ll all be good too, but I’ll remember my quiet moments, and cherish them, and look forward to them when they come around again next year. If the rest of the bar patrons choose to forget them, or if God forbid they never get to enjoy them at all, well, I pity them too.

So when the Big Day rolls around, and I publicly wish all of you here who bother to stop by and read this tripe every day a Merry Christmas, you’ll know just what I mean, and you’ll know just how much I mean it too. Bah, humbug? Not around here, folks. Not from me.

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