Repost: A Very Kenwood Christmas

My first Christmas in Cincinnati found me doing my first ever Christmas Eve shopping dash.  I ended up at Kenwood Towne Center, the mall nearest the then-inlaws’ place.  Big mistake.  In looking for a parking place, I wound up in a standoff with another guy waiting for the same parking space to open.

I stared.  He stared.  Somewhere nearby, a car stereo blared the theme from A Fistful of Dollars. Finally, the car pulled out and away.  It was on.

Or was it?

Before I or my nemesis could get our feet off our respective brakes, two women in expensive sedans whipped around us and shot into the same parking space.  Or tried to.

As Michio Kaku will explain on his many television appearances, two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time.  What a waste of a Lexus and a BMW.

My nemesis and I got out, looked at each other, then watched the two vicious ladies cuss each other out.  One of these ladies was a eucharistic minister at my church at the time.

“You know,” I said to my nemesis, “it’s really not a bad day to walk.”

“I’m parking over by the Kroger,” he said.

“I’ll join you.”

Half the Kroger lot was empty.  Nemesis and I parked without incident or conflict.

I suspect the two ladies got lumps of coal in their stockings.

Annual Tradition: A Very Tom Waits Christmas

I pulled on Santa’s sleigh
Christmas Eve was dark, and the snow fell like cocaine off some politician’s coffee table
Rudolph looked to the sky. He had a shiny nose, but it was from too much vodka
He said, “Boys, it’s gonna be a rough one this year.”

I pulled on Santa’s sleigh
The elves scrambled to pack up the last of the lumps of coal for deserving suburban brats
And a bottle of Jamie for some forgotten soul whose wife just left him
Santa’s like that. He’s been there.
Oh, he still loves Mrs. Claus, a spent piece of used sleigh trash who
Makes good vodka martnis, knows when to keep her mouth shut
But it’s the lonlieness, the lonliness only Santa knows

I pulled on Santa’s sleigh
And the workshop reeks of too much peppermint
The candy canes all have the names of prostitutes
And Santa stands there, breathing in the lonliness
The lonliness that creeps out of the main house
And out through the stables
Sometimes it follows the big guy down the chimneys
Wraps itself around your tannenbaum and sleeps in your hat

I pulled on Santa’s sleigh
We all line up for the annual ride
I’m behind Vixen, who’s showin’ her age these days
She has a certain tiredness that comes with being the only girl on the team
Ah, there’s nothing wrong with her a hundred dollars wouldn’t fix
She’s got a tear drop tattooed under her eye now, one for every year Dancer’s away

I pulled on Santa’s sleigh and
I asked myself, “That elf. What’s he building in there?”
He has no elf friends, no elf children
What’s he building in there?
He doesn’t make toys like the other elves
I heard he used to work for Halliburton,
And he’s got an ex-wife in someplace called Santa Claus, Pennsylvania
But what’s he building in there?
We got a right to know.

I pulled on Santa’s sleigh
And we’re off Off into the night
Watching the world burn below
All chimney red and Halloween orange

I’ve seen it all
I’ve seen it all
Every Christmas Eve, I’ve seen it all

There’s nothing sadder than landing on a roof in a town with no cheer.

Christmas As A Kid

Gene Autry“Happy Holidays, folks, wherever you may be.”

You know, no one ever called out Gene Autry, one of the kings of the singing cowboys, for saying “Happy Holidays.” Everyday between Black Friday and Christmas Eve, from the year I was born until a couple of years after I left high school, my mother played this album. In our house, we had one of those big console “hi fi” systems from the 1960’s that could play hours of vinyl with the old style record changers. Most of the year, the sounds of Johnny Cash, an Eddie Arnold box set, and Loretta Lynn would emanate from it. Eventually, I was able to slip in the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, The Beatles, and those cheesey K-Tel collections everyone used to buy in the days before mix tapes, burning CD’s, and iTunes.

But every Christmas season, mom owned the stereo. And every Christmas season, the day’s music started off with Gene Autry singing “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” There were a couple other albums she would play, but this is the one I remembered best. Long before Christmas became about Black Friday, fighting over which relatives I would spend Christmas with, and just a generally depressing time of the year for me (which is not the case right now), Gene Autry was the sound of Christmas. Gene Autry was fun.

I only remember a few of the songs off that album, mainly “Rudolph” (Duh!), “Up on the Rooftop,” and “Here Comes Santa Claus.” I did find it odd we had very little religious music that time of year. I came from a religious household, one that wasn’t particularly materialistic, and yet all the songs on that big ol’ Philco were about Santa Claus. The exception was Tennessee Ernie Ford album that included “Do You Hear What I Hear?”

And what about Christmas Eve? We weren’t big church-goers on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. We also lived in duplexes for most of my childhood. Which, like a lot of duplex and apartment dwelling kids, led to the question “How does Santa get in the house when we don’t have a chimney?” When I was really young, like before my oldest brother was born, mom would come into my room while my dad went into the living room. She’d say, “Wake up. Daddy’s letting Santa in with the presents.” But, of course, I wasn’t allowed to see him. It’d spook the reindeer.

Nita came up with an even better Christmas ritual when AJ was very young. She would take AJ outside to sprinkle glittered oatmeal on the snow so the reindeer could find the house. Then Santa would get in the house with a magic key. I missed out on that, but it sort of put the magic back into Christmas for me when she told me that.

So Christmas has become special again. I think it’s because Christmas since I married Nita has been an intimate holiday. The tree stays lit all night. We give each other pajamas every year, then spend the day wearing them. It’s just Nita and AJ and me. I call my brothers, and we have a party with Nita’s family earlier in December. Too bad that album disappeared long before my parents moved to Amish country. Might be fun to hear Gene Autry again.

Especially when it clashes with our Foo Fighter-loving taste in music.

Annual Tradition: A Very Tom Waits Christmas

I pulled on Santa’s sleigh
Christmas Eve was dark, and the snow fell like cocaine off some politician’s coffee table
Rudolph looked to the sky. He had a shiny nose, but it was from too much vodka
He said, “Boys, it’s gonna be a rough one this year.”

I pulled on Santa’s sleigh
The elves scrambled to pack up the last of the lumps of coal for deserving suburban brats
And a bottle of Jamie for some forgotten soul whose wife just left him
Santa’s like that. He’s been there.
Oh, he still loves Mrs. Claus, a spent piece of used sleigh trash who
Makes good vodka martnis, knows when to keep her mouth shut
But it’s the lonlieness, the lonliness only Santa knows

I pulled on Santa’s sleigh
And the workshop reeks of too much peppermint
The candy canes all have the names of prostitutes
And Santa stands there, breathing in the lonliness
The lonliness that creeps out of the main house
And out through the stables
Sometimes it follows the big guy down the chimneys
Wraps itself around your tannenbaum and sleeps in your hat

I pulled on Santa’s sleigh
We all line up for the annual ride
I’m behind Vixen, who’s showin’ her age these days
She has a certain tiredness that comes with being the only girl on the team
Ah, there’s nothing wrong with her a hundred dollars wouldn’t fix
She’s got a tear drop tattooed under her eye now, one for every year Dancer’s away

I pulled on Santa’s sleigh and
I asked myself, “That elf. What’s he building in there?”
He has no elf friends, no elf children
What’s he building in there?
He doesn’t make toys like the other elves
I heard he used to work for Halliburton,
And he’s got an ex-wife in someplace called Santa Claus, Pennsylvania
But what’s he building in there?
We got a right to know.

I pulled on Santa’s sleigh
And we’re off Off into the night
Watching the world burn below
All chimney red and Halloween orange

I’ve seen it all
I’ve seen it all
Every Christmas Eve, I’ve seen it all

There’s nothing sadder than landing on a roof in a town with no cheer.