Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Spirit, and How to Get it.

Now that Christmas has again sneaked up on me, I'm thinking a lot about exactly what puts me in the holiday spirit. First, I'll start with what decidedly doesn't: The Holiday, a dreadful, dull, overacted pile of cutesy-poo that Donna and I saw this week and detested (or any half-baked made-for-Hallmark Channel or Lifetime holiday movie with Crystal Bernard or Tori Spelling); Anita Baker's wretched new version of "Christmastime is Here" (or any overdone song by Celine Dion, Josh Groban, Michael Bolton--whom I've just heard on the radio shrieking "White Christmas"--or the interchangably awful Trans-Siberian Orchestra and Mannheim Steamroller); and anything which depicts Christmas without snow, Santa wearing anything other than a red suit, or elves behaving like Teamsters. Oh, and any person who believes that it's funny to say "bingle jells" needs to be silenced with a pneumatic abattoir hammer.

Now, as for what immediately sends me into yuletide reverie... My collection of LP's, especially those sets put out by Reader's Digest, never fails to call up memories of dragging box after box from the attic, my brothers and me itching with minute fiberglass shards as we set up and decorated our artificial tree in the living room. Last year, I found these favorite sets, Joyous Noel and An Old-Fashioned Christmas at the indispensible (if rudely staffed) Everyday Music.

Also at EM, I picked up a set of Lawrence Welk Christmas LP's, and when I opened it I found this music book, Reader's Digest Best Loved Christmas Carols, crammed in with the albums.

It's the very same book we had in our home during my childhood. As my mom couldn't read music, she had written numbers to correspond with the notes, and the numbers were also written on the keys. The organ we had was a modest model, but big fun nonetheless. Most every day in December, perhaps after dinner, during snowy afternoons, or just any time ma had some time to spare, the house would suddenly be filled with carols played hesitantly to the strange, hollow ring of a loping calypso beat. Thus, for me, the ideal Christmas music has notes that linger oddly while the correct chord is myopically sought.

(Work in progress, more stories and pics coming, here and in "Further Evidence..." post---check back!)

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Further Evidence of Christmases Past.

(Note: Most of these pics are of family photos that are perfectly clear and sharp, but which I've doctored to look like grainy, murky home movies, just because I prefer them that way...)
Dad and brother Jim play basketball as the Hot Wheels Rod Runner race set goes briefly ignored...
In the background by the closet, you can also see the Fisher-Price Play Family Action Garage--Oh boy, that's mine!

Desperately trying to hang in there...
The budding writer receives his first typewriter, your basic Tom Thumb model. (That's brother Dave doing his Chico Resch impression.) Ah, to own such a fine pair of slacks again...
Here's a really bad scan of Mom and me... See that red and white thing to the right, in front of the curtain? That's a Santa pencil holder I made. I was a crafty boy! (Of course, in first grade you have no choice...)
My family's '79 Christmas pic to brother Charlie, who had months earlier disappeared himself off to Seattle (I suspect to begin a new life sans the nickname "Chip").

I still can't believe we had this cheesy fake fireplace in our downstairs den. It's where I hung my stocking, which got filled for St. Nicolas' Day, December 6th, not Christmas. The only thing I can remember getting for St. Nick's Day is a Spiderman toothbrush holder.
Cool. The best thing about the fireplace pic for me is seeing some familiar artifacts of my childhood--a bowling trophy, the gold chalice candleholder, and that wooden bull...

1972, or possibly 1971. (My family was sporadic in labelling photos.) Ka, Artie, Ma, me, Jim, Dave.

The folks, same Christmas.

Making Out My 1980 List.

A few ads from the New York newspapers of this week, twenty-six years ago...

Getting that big IG-88 would have been cool. Of the large-size figures seen here, I only had R2-D2. When I moved from Long Island in 1990, I was throwing all the old stuff in my closet into boxes, some to be saved, the rest to be tossed. For the first time in years I picked up my old R2-D2, whose legs always fell off and head didn't click when it turned the way it was supposed to. I was about to chuck it away when I remembered that it had a secret compartment, and found the button to open it. Pressing it, the little door popped open, and inside were the two plastic discs it came with (presumably holding the Death Star plans and Leia's distress message), and from between them I plucked two tightly-folded, long-forgotten twenty dollar bills.

Everything went into the save box after that.

I never had the laser rifle--I got the equally-cool-if-not-way-cooler Han Solo pistol.

I think my brother Dave got the Super Jock Hockey guy. It wasn't long before the blade broke off. An earlier Christmas, Dave had gotten the Super Toe Football guy. His leg broke off. (Super Toe's, not Dave's.) Maybe we were tough on our toys, maybe they were just crap. Probably a combination.

I had Stretch Armstrong, but not the octopus, who seemed to me to be a ploy toward marketing stretch toys to girls. Too bad. It might have looked cool wrapped around IG-88.

Finally, for no special reason, here's the non compos mentis Eddie.

Oh, and check out my other blog to see the NY local TV listings for Christmas Eve 1977!