My Old Kentucky Homesite

Archive for the ‘Christmas’ Category

Nite b4 Xmas

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 12/24/2009

There’s some controversy over who wrote “The Night Before Christmas.” Most people have learned that it was Clement Clarke Moore, a wealthy but dour bible scholar.  However, he didn’t claim authorship until more than two decades after the verse first made an anapest of itself in the Troy Sentinel on Dec. 23, 1823. The other contender for poet, according to various literary experts, is fun-loving Henry Livingston, a veteran of the Revolutionary War, and a jolly, happy soul. Unfortunately for holiday historians, Livingston never disputed Moore’s claim.

In any case, whoever wrote it, I’m glad that it was penned before the days of texting. If it were composed today – by my college-age son, for instance – it might look something like this. (A translation dictionary might be necessary for old farts like me.)

twas the nite b4 xmas
& all thru the hous
not a crEtur was strrng
IMHO

the stkngs were hung
@ the chimnE with care
in hopes that SC
wud soon b ther

the kids were zzzz
dreamng of sugR plums
ma & me wore
geezer pjs

out on the lawn
there arose such a clatR
i sprang out of bed
to see WTF!

Away to the window
i flew like a flash
tore open the shutters 2C
OMG!

the moon on the breast
of the new-fallen snow
made Ething look
gr8

when what to my wondering
i’s should appear
but a minislay
& 8 raindear

with a lil ol driver
so lively & quik
I nu it woz
SC

more rapid then Egls
his coursers they came
& he :-”d &  :-O
& called them by name

Now DashR DancR
PrancR VixN
On Comet Qpid
DonR BlitzN

OTT @ the porch
OTT @ the wall
now – away – away
– away all

reminded me of
dry leaves b4
some storm like
H Katrina

so ^ 2 the house top
EVRE1 flu
with a slayful of toys
&SC2

& then in a twnkling
i herd @ the roof
the prncng & pwng
of each lil hoof

as i dru in my hed
& woz turning ATW
SC FDGB

his clothes? FGDAI!
a bundle of toys
he’d flung on his bak
& he looked like some1
with a USP

his i’s twinkled
his dmpls merry
his cheeks roses
his noz cherry

his lil mouth bow
beard wite
pipe in teeth
smoke @ hed = wreath

broad face
rnd belly
shook when LOL
like PBJ

chubby plump jolly elf
I wuz LMAO!
his ‘-) sed
DWBH

He STFU
& GBTW
& filled all the stkngs
then turned w/ a jerk

finger @ noz
nod
^ chimnE

he sprang to his slay
gave a :-”
& away they flu
like the down of a thisL

but i herd him Xclaim
b4 he roz out of site
merry xmas 2 all
& 2 all CUL8R

Posted in Christmas | 6 Comments »

O Come, All Ye Faith-free-ful

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 12/19/2009

So yesterday afternoon I was sitting at the ol’ piano, playing tunes from a collection called “The Every Christmas Song You Can Think Of and Then Some Fake Book.” For me, as a faith-free person, the melodies – not the lyrics – rule. Lots of those songs are really catchy, and I don’t see any reason why I shouldn’t sing or play them just because they have words about imaginary entities and events. “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” is a much better tune than “Puff, the Magic Dragon,” and no more offensive. To tell the truth, I never believed that the itsy-bitsy spider went up the water spout, either.

I was practicing my own ragtime version of “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” and trying to work out how to swing “The Little Drummer Boy” in 5/4, when the mail arrived. Nestled snugly among three or four scroogy bills was a greeting card with an illustration of the manger scene and the caption “Jesus is the reason for the season.” Now, that’s of course nonsense, despite how many underlines it has. The winter solstice was the inspiration for cold-weather celebrations and gift-giving long before Christianity was even a gleam in its father’s eye. Not only that, but there’s absolutely no gospel evidence for the time of year in which the protagonist was born. None. The early church fathers piggy-backed their big guy’s birthday onto various other seasonal festivities and called the day “Christmas.” Later, they adopted the yule log, the decorated tree, the holly, the mistletoe, the stockings, the overeating, the giant inflated snowman, and the chipmunks. Even the sending of cards has no biblical authority. So Jesus certainly isn’t the reason for the season; rather, the pre-existing holidays are the reason for the church’s usurpation of the season.

But I wasn’t annoyed merely because our senders had not gotten their facts straight. What irked me was their audacity. It’s harassment to mail a highly religious card, particularly one with a not-so-covert agenda, to people who may not agree with its message. The card was a solicitation, a political advertisement, not a sincere greeting. It irked me that some people would want to ram down my throat their own narrow interpretation of a universally enjoyable holiday.

For about fifteen minutes, I took my anger out on my own taste. I closed the songbook that was so entertaining to me, and I went into my office and put Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, one of my most beloved books, back on its shelf. I refused to take part in the same holiday that our sender was celebrating. Maybe I’d pull out my songs and my story again sometime in February, when Washington and Lincoln and Cupid, not Jesus, were the combined reason for the season.

But then I thought: the hell with that. I’m not going to let Christians ruin Christmas for me. So, glorying in the snow falling outside my window, I re-bookmarked Stave 2 in Dickens, bit the head off a chocolate reindeer, and returned to the piano to see if I could turn “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” into a scary Schubert lied: “Der Weinachtsmann kommt in die Stadt.” Eventually, I also managed to feel pity for the people who so strictly limit their seasonal cheer – and, out of a veiled malice, would like to force me to likewise limit mine.

Posted in Christmas, Freedom from Faith, Music | 6 Comments »

Please Ask Someone Else, Virginia

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 12/15/2009

DEAR LARRY WALLBERG—
I am 8 years old.
Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
Papa says, ‘If you see it in MY OLD KENTUCKY HOMESITE it’s so.’
Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?
VIRGINIA O’HANLON

Virginia, your little friends are right.

MR. WALLBERG,
What’s the big idea, moron? I fully expected, when I asked my kid to write to you, that you’d gladly play along. What are you, some kind of jerk? She’s 8 years old, f’Chrissake! What’s the point of telling her that there’s no Santa Claus? Now I can’t get her to stop crying, you unbelievable a-hole.
PAPA O’HANLON.

Mr. O’Hanlon:
Please reread your daughter’s letter. I wasn’t the one who told her there’s no Santa Claus; her “little friends” did. Please don’t hold me responsible for playground chatter. You do know, don’t you, that those other kids were right? Actually, I’m wondering if the girl’s mother didn’t put the neighborhood children up to it; perhaps Mom understands that Virginia’s getting a little too old to believe in such nonsense. So why do you, her father,  insist on continuing to fool the child? If her peers know there’s no Santa Claus, they’ll certainly make fun of her when she insists there is. Think of your daughter’s self-esteem, why don’t you? Remember: Children can be extremely cruel when they make fun of each other. I’m sorry she’s crying now, but imagine how much worse it would be if all her little friends started calling her “Ginny the Ninny.” Anyway, a decent computer gaming system ought to dry her tears.

DEAR LARRY WALLBERG—
WTF!  I’ve known there’s no Santa Claus since I’ve been five.
Papa wants me to believe because he’d like to infantilize me forever.
Normally, I don’t go for all that goo-goo crap, but at Christmas I don’t mind batting my cute eyelashes and pretending I’m clueless.
Can’t you read between the lines, genius? Jesus, what kind of half-assed writer are you?  I thought if you said there IS a Santa Claus, Papa would feel obliged to buy me all the stuff I put on my list, including a new iPhone with about thirty expensive apps and tickets to see Lady Gaga in Miami on New Year’s Eve.
We wouldn’t want Santa to disappoint a good little girl, would we?
Papa would even have to spring for that pony I want. Good luck making believe it came down our chimney, Dad!
For your information, I have absolutely no need of a computer gaming system because I already own three different kinds.
And I’ve got to tell you something. Nobody under 100 uses the word “ninny” anymore. So why don’t you mind your own friggin’ business, you old fart?
By the way, my mother didn’t put anybody “up” to anything. She’s dead!
VIRGINIA O’HANLON

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. Make sure your papa sees what I wrote. Is that better? Can you live with yourself now that you’ve made me fib to your father? Sorry about your mother.

MR. WALLBERG,
Why would you lie to me, idiot? I, know very well that there’s no Santa Claus. It’s Virginia who asked you the question. I think she has grave doubts about his existence, but I’d like her to stay sweet and innocent for just a few years longer, at least until she’s 21. If you had any kind of a brain – which you clearly don’t – you would have sensed why I suggested she ask you. Until you wrote your unfeeling and incredibly stupid answer, she seemed to be under the impression that you were some kind of soulmate. Virginia talked about you almost as much as she babbled on about the Jonas Brothers or this Lady Gaga person, whoever the hell she is. (I hope she puts on a  better show than Barney did a few years ago, because we’re flying all the way to Florida  just to see her.) Every night at dinner, Virginia would go on and on: “My Old Kentucky Homesite” this, “My Old Kentucky Homesite” that. But did you care? No! God forbid you should bring joy to a child’s heart, you and your Scroogy journalistic ethics. Frankly, I think your blog sucks, and I think Kentucky sucks, too. So thanks a lot, moron! I hope you’re proud of yourself, because you’ve stolen my child’s youthful sense of wonder. Oh, and in case you’re curious: The kid has a perfectly beautiful stepmother, who caters to her every whim, so there’s nothing for you to be “sorry” about. Virginia and my wife, Mona, are very close. More than once, my daughter has even said to me, “I bet Mona is  a herm-afro… something or other … just like Lady Gaga.” Of course, Mona is not black at all, but why burst Virginia’s bubble? In future, please leave our family out of your ridiculous blog! Stick to writing about cereal and Jews.
PAPA O’HANLON.

Mr. O’Hanlon:
Next time, why don’t you have Virginia write to The Huffington Post? Maybe Arianna will go along with your dumb charade.

Posted in Christmas | 12 Comments »

Happy Chanukah, Orrin

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 12/09/2009

Most of my readers will already know that many of our most popular secular Christmas songs were written by Jews. (See the link on my sidebar.)  But this year, the big news is that Senator Mormon Hatch (R-Deseret), as you’ve probably heard ad nauseam by now, has written a Chanukah song, which was recorded in Indiana by a woman of Syrian extraction who doesn’t know how to pronounce the name of the holiday. (You can listen to the performance, if you must, by clicking here.) How ecumenical, eh?

Still, as someone with an ethnically Jewish background, I can tell you: All the songs in the world, even if they’re written by duly elected representatives from heavy-duty goyish states, are not going to make Chanukah into anything but a third-rate Yuletide. The Jews’ seasonal holiday just can’t hold a candle to Christmas.

As far as I know, no one has ever written a song specifically about that fact. Until now.

[A pretentious note on the metrics: Although I have composed a tune for this song, you don’t know what it is. I assure you, however: trying to make the words fit “Frosty the Snowman” or “Adeste Fideles” or even “Yankee Doodle” will not work. So just read the following as if it’s a really bad poem. However, if you’d like to recite the thing with any kind of musicality, you must keep in mind that the lyric is written basically in secundus paeon tetrasyllables: short LONG short short. (All right, I wasn’t aware of that when I wrote it; I looked it up and include the information here to make you think I knew what I was doing.) But to complicate things even further, some lines end in a trimeter with only one short syllable at the end; usually, but not always, the “fourth” short syllable is carried over to begin the next line. The last couplet of each verse,  … ah, screw it. I’m just gonna put all the accented syllables in boldface, OK? If that drives you nuts, just think of what a pain in the ass it was to type. Then ask yourself: Would Orrin Hatch go to this kind of trouble for his readers? I doubt it; he won’t even vote to give them health care, f’Chrissake.]

I love to light the candles on the Chanukah menorah,
And to spin the little dreidl hardly ever is a bore. A
Bit of gelt is always welcome to a kid; it’s just sensational!
“Buy anything you want (athough it should be educational).”
But here’s a question, Mom, for you, since Christmas season’s here:
Will Santa Claus be visiting the Jewish kids this year?

It’s fun to be a Hebrew ‘cause you get a big bar mitzvah,
Even if you scorn religion, can’t see what the devil it’s f’.
But you have to wait till you’re thirteen until you get your kicks,
And that’s very little comfort to a kid like me, who’s six.
So I must admit I’m worried and I ask you, Mommy dear,
“Will Santa Claus be visiting the Jewish kids this year?”

I’m proud that we are Jewish. Please believe me; I’m not fakin’.
I can live without their crosses. I can live without their bacon.
I love Purim with its groggers and delicious hamantashen.
Yom Kippur would be fine, too, if they would let you do some noshin.’
And at Pesach, if you’re smart, you find the matzah and get money
(While the Christian kid at Easter gets a lousy choc’late bunny).
So I’m not condemning Chanukah; I think it’s really great!
But, Mommy, can’t we have a little Christmas till I’m eight?

For when the other kids sing “Deck the halls with boughs of holly,”
Please excuse me if I can’t help wishing I could be as jolly.
I would love to watch for Rudolph; it would thrill my heart to pieces,
Even though I couldn’t care less about that other fellow, Jesus.
So I’m asking you again (please try to hear me loud and clear):
“Will Santa Claus be visiting the Jewish kids this year?

Next, maybe I’ll run for the U.S. Senate.

Posted in Christmas, Holidays, Music | 4 Comments »

My Stocking Had Better Have a Great Nose

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 12/08/2009

With Christmas only a few weeks away, I thought I’d better give some of my readers a hint about what to get me. So I’ll just simply say: I’m an oenophile. This confession may look more exotic to you than it really is. An oenophile (pronounced “een-o-file,” although sometimes you’ll hear “ween-o-file” or  “weenie for short) is merely a fancy term for a person who loves wine and considers himself to be something of a connoisseur. A good synonym, if you’d like to avoid Latinisms and/or tripping over your own tongue, is “wine snob.”

It’s tough to be an oenophile in a city where the best selection of bottles comes from a place called “The Liquor Barn.” If that conjures up pictures in your mind of people in overalls shopping for a bubbly pinkish beverage, you’re dead wrong. The Liquor Barn, believe it or not, has a pretty decent stock, although I wish it were called “La Grange du Vin.”

Kentucky’s claim to fame is, of course,  bourbon, not wine. There are a few wines made in Kentucky, but the ones I’ve sampled are pretty much indistinguishable from Kool-Aid – except that Kool-Aid isn’t as sweet. However, judging from La Grange du Vin’s shelves, there are plenty of oenophiles here, some even willing to spend more than four bucks on a bottle.

The news that I’m an oenophile may come as something of a surprise to old friends who remember me from my early –‘70s dandelion cider days, when I would drink anything as long as it as served by someone wearing a ponytail. But after sampling a homemade concoction known in my social circle as “Gino’s tomato brandy,” I decided that my days of indiscriminate beverage consumption were over. The stuff was a cross between fermented ketchup and lighter fluid. You could get a pretty good buzz if you were able to get enough down, but that was impossible to do if you ever wanted to use your stomach again.

It was around that time that I learned how appealing wine can be for a person who likes to read a lot. There’s so much to study before you can actually feel comfortable sitting back, taking a sip of a Grand Cru Chablis, and saying, “Hey, that’s not Coke, is it?” For one thing, you have to learn how to correctly pronounce the offerings on a restaurant wine list. When faced with the words “Chateauneuf de Pape,” for instance, you should not say, “chat enough duh payp.” Instead, you should carefully mouth the words, “Do you have something less expensive.” If you’re willing to be cute, feel free to add, “S’il vous plait.”

Only a true oenophile can stand beside an exquisitely beautiful woman, exclaim “Oh, my goodness, what gorgeous legs!” and be talking about the dribbles from a 2006 Gewurztraminer. Legs, in wine talk, are those little streamlike trickles on the sides of your glass after you swirl the liquid around. If that’s the kind of thing that turns you on in the presence of a sex kitten, you are a weenie.

Another part of the body that oenophiles like to talk about is the “nose.” This is wine-snob lingo for how the beverage smells. At a fancy tasting, you might well hear a connoisseur intone, “Ah, the nose on this Chateau Parvenu is redolent of leather.” Nobody ever says, “This stuff smells like old shoes.”

If you’ve never been to a wine-tasting, you’ve missed one of the universe’s great silly experiences. A wine-tasting is the only place in the world besides a dentist’s office where it isn’t gauche for an adult to expectorate. After taking a mouthful of wine and slurping it around against your teeth and tongue in a long sensual tease, you’re supposed to hawk it out into a spittoon. At the classiest wine-tastings, you might find yourself spewing out liquid that sells for hundreds of dollars a bottle, which, in my book, is nothing to spit at. But if you happen to sneak a swallow, the other attendees will stare at you as if you’re a Martian. Which you’re clearly not, because Martians don’t go for wine; they prefer tomato brandy or bourbon.

It’s easy to get intimidated at a wine-tasting, but I’m here to help you. There are only six steps you need to know before arriving at that glorious moment when you get to eject the very thing that you came to get sloshed on.

First, watch carefully as the cork is removed from the bottle. This is very important, since an unopened bottle will not pour well. When the cork is passed around, you take a slight whiff of it. Remember, though, that no one will find it funny if you shove it into one of your nostrils. Oenophiles have no sense of humor.

Second, read the label carefully. Avoid tasting the wine if you see the word “anchovy” used as a descriptor.

Third, after the wine is poured, swirl it in your glass. This is a difficult process to master, but it’s not considered good form to use your thumb. Try not to spill anything on yourself, but if you do so, don’t even think about wringing your shirt into a glass.

Fourth, examine the wine with your eyes. What color is it? If it’s grey, don’t drink it. Is it clear or cloudy? Or is it already raining? Does it have a luminosity? Does it glow in the dark? Are there little particles floating in it? Are they alphabet noodles?

Fifth, sniff the wine. Get your beak right down there and take a really noisy breath. However, try to keep the tip of your nose dry. What you’re trying to discern is the subtle combination of aromas contained in the sample. You’ll hear your colleagues come up with some howlers, like: peaches, truffles, cigars. Don’t hesitate to shout anything that comes to mind, although it’s probably best to keep it to yourself if the only thing you can think of is Vicks.

Sixth, while nobody’s looking, chug. If someone notices that you have an empty glass, smile and say smugly, “Oh, I’m interested only in the Chassagne-Montrachet.” If the person then replies, “Well, we just tried the Chassagne-Montrachet,” don’t get thrown. Respond, “No, I meant the 1949 Chassagne-Montrachet.” If the conversation continues with, “Ummm, that was the 1949 Chassagne-Montrachet,” shrug and ask, “Are you sure? Don’t you think we’d better try it again?”

Posted in Christmas, Wine | 4 Comments »

Fa La La La La, Pa Rum Pa Pum Pum

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 11/28/2009

Yesterday, I did what I do every year on the day after Thanksgiving. I scoured the Internet for Christmas songs, the weirder the better. Over the years, I’ve amassed dozens of  jazz interpretations, latino renditions, r&b versions, rock adaptations, pop readings, and even the occasional variation in country style. (I’m talking, of course, about the countries of Norway and Rumania.) My stockpile also includes plenty of novelty tunes and new won’t-be standards.  I love Christmas songs.

But I hate having the same twenty of them rammed down my throat while I’m shopping. “Do you hear what I hear?” Yes, please shut it off. When the chipmunks croon, the only thing I want to dig into my pockets for is rodent poison. I’ve got big news for the people running the country’s malls: In my entire life, Johnny Mathis has never talked me into buying anything.

And why does store Christmas come in only two musical colors, Presley blue and Crosby white? Aren’t blue and white more appropriate for Chanukah? What about some other colors for the holiday once in a while? How about it, Bing?

May your days be merry and stellar,
And may all your Christmases be yeller.

Why not complain in a different shade, Elvis?

You can follow that star, enj-
Oy Christmas of orange,
But I’ll have a mauve, mauve Christmas.

I get tired of the same ol’ Bing and Elvis, Johnny Mathis and chipmunks every year. How many times can Grandma get run over by a reindeer before we wish that she’d just lie there for good?  Just once, I’d like to hear that Burl Ives and his holly, jolly got run over by a trolley.

I keep hoping each year that I’ll walk into a store and hear something new and different. But that never happens. Which is why I began buying Christmas songs, years ago at $7.99 for a sale-bin album, now at 99 cents per iTunes ditty.

Most of the numbers in my musical library are not played in national chains. You won’t hear, for instance, “Don’t Give Me No Goose for Christmas” by the Korn Kobblers or “Santa Lost a Ho” by the Christmas Jug Band. I’d be very surprised if Target or Walmart piped in “Christmas Is Coming Twice This Year” (“once with Mom and then again with Dad”) by the Hollytones, “St. Stephen’s Day Murders” by Elvis Costello and the Chieftains, or “Santa Claus Is Freaking Me Out” by Lord Weatherby. If you visit the restroom during your spree, you won’t find Dr. John (“Toyland”), or Elton John (“Who’d Be a Turkey at Christmas?”), or Peas (“Angels We Have Heard on High”). Even some of the seasonal oeuvre of the most popular Yuletide artists is ignored by vendors: Where’s Nat King Cole’s “I’m the Happiest Christmas Tree,” Duke Ellington’s “Arabesque Cookie,” and Frank Sinatra’s “There’s a Flaw in My Flue”?

I refuse to go dashing through my dough in stores that don’t offer the best cuts of “Jingle Bells,” like the ones by Lena Horne, Bela Fleck, Fats Waller, and the Puppini Sisters. I laugh at Gene Autry’s “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and call it names; it doesn’t compare to the terrific recordings by Pony Poindexter, Billy May, Jesse Colin Young, or the Gypsy Hombres. No salesclerk ever says, “Shall I play for you?” the “Little Drummer Boy” of the Ray Brown Trio or Cassandra Wilson, of Ringo Starr or Brave Combo.

My intention here – and I think it’s nice, not naughty – is merely to whet your appetite for all the great holiday music you’ve been missing underneath the mistletoe.  Maybe you’ll hitch up your sleigh, and go for a ride (with Bootsy Collins, the Ronettes, or Jane Monheit) to find some of these underappreciated treats. But before you traverse afar, I’ll mention just six more great pieces that make me smile, whether I have my front teeth in or not: (1) “Deck Us All With Boston Charlie” by Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross, (2) “Mr. Heatmiser” by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, (3) “Mamacita Donde Esta Santa Claus?” by Charo and the Salsoul Orchestra, (4) “Christmas in Killarney” by Linda Rutherford and Celtic Fire, (5) “Winter Wonderland” by Jason Mraz, and (6) “Feels Like Christmas” by Cyndi Lauper.

If any of my readers owns a retail establishment, please take the hint.

Posted in Christmas, Music | 4 Comments »