Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Defying Frost and Storm.

Merry Christmas! I didn't miss it after all! (Wink-wink.) The title refers to the fact that we lacked a white Christmas here, alas, and is taken from the lyrics of a song I'll get to in a bit...

I had a whole long post I scribbled out on paper, but can't find it. It'll suffice to say that the wife and I had a swell season, with many intimate parties (as in just the two of us), as well as a big one with many guests which was a big hit. That was, uh, this coming Sunday.

I vaguely remembered that one night after one of our little celebrations, I was drunkenly listening to some long-players. Consequently, I was inspired to write about a song I had never before taken note of. Considering that I was hammered enough to later have no recollection of writing it, the short piece is quite lucid:

My new favorite tune is "Hanover Winter Song" as performed by Fred Waring and his Pennsylvanians. It's featured on one of the albums making up "An Old-Fashioned Christmas," the 1977 Reader's Digest yuletide LP collection. This five album set can be found at any swap meet for about two bucks, but check for scratches first, because if you happen to get my family's original copy you can be sure a certain ham-handed little bastard ruined it by playing the fuck out of it and then not putting the discs back in their sleeves. That little shithead!

I admit to not keeping up on the new music front (is Liz Phair still cool? Or alive?), but I can't think of any recent song to rival this one for engaging nuttiness. In fact, I defy any indie band--yes, including HttMQF--to cover this tune satisfactorily. (That's not a challenge, just my usual superlatively uninformed bluster.)

HWS is a dramatic men's choral number which emulates German drinking songs. The intensity of the tune belies the lyrical theme of, as best as I can tell, simply being comfortable. (Unless I'm somehow misreading the line "Aha! We are warm, and we have our hearts' desires!") Seriously, it sounds upon first listen like young men marching off to war, but in fact it's a bunch of college boys smoking and drinking by a fireplace. I'd sneer at them, except that's precisely what I aspire to myself. I just looked the lyrics up and here are the first verses:


Ho, a song by the fire,
Pass the pipes, pass the bowl!
Ho, a song by the fire
With a skoal, with a skoal!

For the wolf-wind is wailing at the doorways,
And the snow drifts deep along the road,
And the ice gnomes are marching from their Norways,
And the great white cold walks abroad!

(Here the singers intone: zoom zoom zoom zoom zoom zoom zoom zoom)

But, here by the fire, we defy frost and storm,
Aha we are warm, and we have our heart's desire!
For here, we're good fellows, and the beechwood and the bellows,
And the cup is at the lip in the pledge of fellowship...
Of fellowship!

I'd like to note that the song following this absurdly triumphant romp, by ironic juxtaposition, is a maudlin number about an impoverished boy in threadbare clothes selling Christmas trees to happy rich people. His name is Rags. Yep, that's his name. Man, talk about fucked from the get-go. The somber ditty was conducted by Marty Gold and his miserable-sounding children's chorus, and written by Harry Vaughn, who probably also penned the grim myrrh verse of "We Three Kings of Orient Are."

Now here's some other stuff, courtesy of the scanner my wife will give me later tonight! First, a Nassau Coliseum schedule from thirty years ago (click on it to enlarge):

I love old clip art Santas, and here's one of my favorites... Ladies and gentlemen, Hairless Santa!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Six Hicks Pix.

Okay, there are actually seven Hicks pics, but we'll get to that...

I hope everyone had a swell Thanksgiving. As usual, Donna laid out an extravagant smorgasbord (with the washing up being my own usual meager contribution). Our guests left feeling festive, tipsy and crapulent, and that's what Thanksgiving is all about, Charlie Brown.

Life in Ohio is still weirder than hipster Portland could ever aspire to be. In my last post about local peculiarities, I forgot to mention the laundromat with a bar in it--called Suds 'n Suds, natch--or the realtor's office that proffers wallpaper. Then there was a Chinese joint with a sign out front reading "Keep off the glass." I presume they mean don't lean against the plate-glass window, but still, funny stuff. I am still jobless (but with a promising interview this week), wishing every night to stumble across that ideal combination of head shop and thrift store looking for an enthusiastic clerk. When I do, of course I will immediately rename the place "Second-Hand Smoke." Haw haw!

Before I get to the usual purposeless nostalgia (oops, redundancy alert), here's a preview of our Christmas card this year, minus text. Well, I don't wanna give it all away! It's an actual photo I took of our home during the first snowstorm of the season. I point out its authenticity because Donna feared folks might think I digitally added the big blurry snowflakes.


We've since put up an eight-foot blue spruce in the living room area, real old-fashioned-like (go fig, huh?).

As for bleary-eyed Christmas reminiscing, I've been thinking of the yearly pilgrimage to Hicks Nursery in Roslyn. It was a beloved seasonal tradition, as anticipated as the singular viewing of Charlie Brown's Christmas (not to mention his less-memorable Easter travails, for that was the other must-see Hicks holiday display, though neither had much to do with Christ's resurrection or paganism).

I remember strolling through the nursery year after year, freezing my twerpy ass off, marvelling at the slightly shifting elves and mechanical forest creatures. Of course, at the end of the tour we found ourselves in a gift shop, where mom was obliged to buy me some piece of junk, such as activity books featuring the Brady Bunch, and another year the Waltons. As advertised, the books kept me briefly occupied, if not exactly entertained. Maria Pa-pee-ya and I worked on a crossword in one of these books, but to my disgust she just copied the clues letter by letter into the puzzle squares in a mindless bureaucratic fashion. Another tricky activity required some sort of paper cut-out legerdemain beyond my grasp, and after a time I tore up the pages in frustration. I still hate it. Fuck you, Waltons activity book!

Here are some seventies ads for Hicks Nursery Christmas displays, taken from Newsday TV books. Click on 'em to see the larger version.


1972

1972
1973
1974
1974?
1978? (Prolly shoulda taken notes...)
1978, or '79, or, you know, who cares.

Comment if you remember Hicks! And I don't mean my neighbors!