Print Story We Wanna See Santa Do the Mambo
Diary
By Christopher Robin was Murdered (Sat Dec 23, 2006 at 04:49:00 PM EST) (all tags)
I'm just kinda sitting this one out. Christmas music. It's just such astute bovine observations that make The Good Soldier a classic of English literature.


Christmas Plans

May left for her mother’s at 4:00 this morning. I woke up with her and saw her off. Lousy weather for traveling: gray clouds and a slight rain. Rain that’s the meteorological equivalent of a long-held but petty grudge.

She won’t be back until late Tuesday.

We already opened gifts, so Christmas is pretty much over for me. Now I’ve just got to ride out the actual day.

I’ve spent Christmas alone on several occasions. The first time, that was the hardest. I was new to the city and working a low-paying retail gig at a shop on Union Square. I had just spent a significant amount of cash moving out to the city. I had fled from San Francisco, run away from a dead-end gig and lady who was no good for me. Reversing the general trend of American history, I went east to start over. That and I wasn’t so young no more – though, if all you had was my deeply ingrained inability to deal with commitment and utter cowardice to judge by, you could be forgiven for thinking I still had a lot of growing up left to do. Anyway, I arrived in NYC in late October. By November I had made myself a few work acquaintances, but I didn’t have any friends to speak of.

In fact, the only regular character in my life at that point was a middle-aged bartender who worked a semi-respectable hole of a faux-mick dive a few blocks from the shop I worked in. We’ll call her Mary. Mary was about as tall as I am. She had an oval face and dark eyes. Shoulder length straight black hair that she wore in a pony tail. She had a light misting of the ghosts of a cluster of freckles on her nose and under her eyes, but her nocturnal bar-based existence had given her a dead-white complexion, what they used to call a New York tan before wealthy New Yorkers started shelling out beaucoup shekels to stain themselves the orange tint that now lays claim to the name. She was skinny and flat, her hands were thin and her nails were always chipped. Her voice had what I suspect was some working class accent from the old country. Back in Europe, it probably marked her as the daughter of some street worker or dole collecting nobody. Here, in New York, to me, it sounded like the very essence of the romantic. It conjured up hideously stereotypical images of the Old Country, as if it were a nation of postcard images and poets.

I was shameless naïve about it, but I loved Mary. And I wasn’t alone. Everybody who spent any time in that joint loved Mary. It was her particular gift to make you shamelessly naïve again. ConEd workers who’d never stepped foot of Manhattan would wax poetic about Ireland or their immigrant forefathers or how family was all that mattered. Under-aged NYU students who fled the one-stoplight backwater towns in any flyover state you like and came to the city to finally experience life would get all teary-eyed and talk about how things back home were real, folks where true, and things were right. Everybody was better when Mary was around. We all were fine men, from great homes, doing and honest days work for honest wages (those of us who had work). 

My first Thanksgiving was spent at Mary’s bar. The first birthday I celebrated in the city was a Mary’s bar.

Mary went back to Ireland several years ago. Went to get married. I never met the guy, though I have faith that Mary'd pick a winner.

I’ve lost track of my point – the first Christmas here.

See, here’s the thing about Christmas. Just about any other holiday, you pick, you can just keep you head down and ignore it. Even Thanksgiving. Just don’t watch your major national television channels and you can coast through the day without bumping into much that will remind you of what you’re missing. Christmas, though; Christmas is different. Seems like everybody makes it their business to let you know it is Christmas, you know, just in case you forgot. Christmas is a hard one.

Anyway. I bought a handful of cheap paperbacks, rented an armful of bad movies, and stocked the fridge full of beer. I’m going to treat it like I would a hurricane. I’m going to stock up on essentials and batten down the hatches.

Christmas Music

Don't let the above make you think I'm some kind of Scrooge. Actually, I'm a fan of the season. Especially Christmas albums. As regular readers might know, I have a real weakness for pop culture cheese. When it comes to taste in music, movies, that sort of thing, it is almost as if I've got anti-taste. Consequently, I eagerly look forward to the grotesque spill of musical mediocrity that hits stores every season with the same overwhelming joy others feel at the lighting of the Rockefeller Center Tree.

This has some fringe benefits for you. I wade through this stuff – gamely giving things like Adam Ant's Christmas album multiple spins – so you don't have to. For those not treating Christmas as if it were an incoming mortar round, I recommend the following tunes for your swinging Christmas happenings. In no particular order . . .

Charles Brown, Merry Christmas, Baby - Charles Brown (no relation to Charlie Brown) was a Southern blue musician who urbaned-up his sound for Northern city folk audiences, creating a smoothed out, classy, soulful urban blues style. Good stuff.
Pearl Bailey, Five Pound Box of Money - gleefully embracing X-mas time materialism, Pearl Bailey lets Santa know just what he needs to be leaving under her tree.
Big John Greer, We Wanna See Santa Do the Mambo - hell yeah we do. Of course we do. Who wouldn't want to see Santa do the freakin' mambo? Shake it, fat man.
Fats Waller, Winter Weather - Fats is going through a bit of a revival due to a sweet boxed set that dropped this year. But, revival or no, this is a nice little celebration of using cold weather as an excuse to cuddle up and "collect them fine kisses that are due me."
Eartha Kitt, Santa Baby - the dirtiest sounding song in the odd subgenre of Santa-bribery songs.
Dean Martin, Baby, It's Cold Outside - the most pickled of the Rat Pack shows that he understands the holiday spirit is not just another way of saying "peppermint schnapps."
Run DMC, Christmas in Hollis - if the very premise of Run DMC doing a Christmas novelty tune doesn't warm the very depths of your otherwise stony, frigid, and bitter heart, then you really should be reading a list of suggested tunes for Christmas.
Eddie Campbell, Santa's Messin' with the Kid - we expected better of Santa, but here's proof that once again, absolute power corrupts absolutely. Perhaps if the "naughty/nice" call were made by a civilian review board.
The Sonics, Santa Claus - to be fair, this is the tune Farmer John reworked, but lets not be stingy – it's the freakin' holidays, get the stick out your butt and relax a little.
The Mar-Keys, Christmas in the Congo - this might be too un-PC for some households. I leave it to you, gentle reader, to determine how joyless and straight-laced your home is.

Reading

A comment Hulver Site icon and all-around fabu person Kellnerin made months ago lead me, slowly, to pick up Ford Madox Ford’s (the author so nice they named him twice) The Good Soldier.

Found this Hulver Site appropriate quote: "It is so exactly what one doesn't expect of a cow."

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We Wanna See Santa Do the Mambo | 20 comments (20 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
Have a good weekend. by toxicfur (4.00 / 1) #1 Sat Dec 23, 2006 at 05:08:07 PM EST
However you end up spending it. I've spent one Christmas alone, and it kinda sucked.

And keep in touch, dude - you've been quiet around here recently.
-----
inspiritation: the effect of irritating someone so much it inspires them to do something about it. --BuggEye

Thanks. by Christopher Robin was Murdered (4.00 / 1) #9 Sun Dec 24, 2006 at 04:58:44 AM EST
It isn't my intention to disappear - I just don't have much time to write anymore. I'm still trying to lock things down at the new (new old?) job. The previous folks left it a mess and it will be a few more months of 12 hour days, 6 or 7 days a week, before it is all straight again.

But, hey, that's why they pay me the respectably upper-middle sized bucks.

I still lurk on the site and drop comments when I can.

[ Parent ]
Well, by blixco (4.00 / 1) #2 Sat Dec 23, 2006 at 06:04:38 PM EST
I'll raise a glass for ya on Christmas.

It's good to read ya again.
---------------------------------
I accidentally had a conversation in italian at lunchtime. I don't speak italian. - Merekat

Fell-eaze Navy-dad, amigo. by Christopher Robin was Murdered (4.00 / 1) #10 Sun Dec 24, 2006 at 05:01:05 AM EST
I'll toast to the health and happiness of you and yours as well.

[ Parent ]
Adam Ant Christmas by Kellnerin (4.00 / 1) #3 Sat Dec 23, 2006 at 06:12:26 PM EST
... so, that one's no good then? I find that so disappointing.

It's amusing to me when something I don't remember saying prompts someone to read a book that (I probably shouldn't confess) I've never read. I hope you don't regret following up on the inadvertent tip.

And, though virtual companionship doesn't count for much in situations like these, I too hope you have a good long weekend and winter solstice break.

--
"If a tree is impetuous in the woods, does it make a sound?" -- aethucyn

Inadvertant literary tips. by Christopher Robin was Murdered (2.00 / 0) #11 Sun Dec 24, 2006 at 05:10:21 AM EST
As it turns out, the book (finished it last night) was very good - but even if it completely sucked, you wouldn't be to blame. The context in which you mentioned it was actually negative, a warning not to read it if anything else. Furthermore, you title-dropped it in a line of fictionalized dialog (from last year's November novel), so I can't really treat it like a conventional recommendation.

I think, if I remember, a character in your novel states that famous first line is actually not very good because it over-sells the story.

To be fair, it was that comment and the following two reviews from Amazon that made me want to read the book:

"This is not meant to serve as a useful review but as a warning that the positive reviews here at amazon are not reflective of the actual quality of the book. This book, in my opinion, is unreadable and listlessly and discursively meanders. A complete waste of time that lacks depth and resonance. Take time researching this book before you buy it because it's the worst book I've ever purchased."

And . . .

"I had always heard good things about Ford Maddox Ford, but this was rather a disappoint. He comes across as a second-rate Henry James, with no where near the subtlety of James. The subtlety of Ford seems rather artificially contrived, and his narrator a fake American. Also, his characters are really not all that interesting. Fake, fake, fake."

For some reason, both of those reviews shot the book to the very top of my must read list.

Do people really take time researching novels before they buy them?

[ Parent ]
anti-recommendations by Kellnerin (2.00 / 0) #18 Wed Dec 27, 2006 at 04:11:07 AM EST
It came up in conversation the other day that negative reviews can be quite effective in making one want to read a book. It's rare for someone to one-star a book articulately -- if you can find intelligent things to say about it, you'd probably at least give it two stars, if only to justify the effort you put into reading and reviewing the thing. But one-star rants can be rather beautiful in their raw emotion, not to mention illuminating. I want to live the charmed life of someone who's never purchased anything worse than The Good Soldier.

Anyway, I'm glad I'm not going crazy, because I was thinking, "I don't think I've mentioned that book since my last year's November Novel." And now, having done my research (this thread), I think I'm going to have to read it now.

--
"If a tree is impetuous in the woods, does it make a sound?" -- aethucyn

[ Parent ]
i try to do that for everything. by garlic (2.00 / 0) #19 Mon Jan 01, 2007 at 03:38:51 PM EST
when I'm at the store looking at 2 different versions of the same thing I want, or looking at new media, I always am at a loss because I'd look at something online to help me compare them instead of relying on one's label saying it tasted great, and the other's saying it was less filling. And apparently you did some research on this book as well...


[ Parent ]
Not so much research on the book . . . by Christopher Robin was Murdered (2.00 / 0) #20 Tue Jan 02, 2007 at 02:58:39 AM EST
As I was cruising the site to use a gift certificate somebody had sent me. I was mix-and-matching things I knew I wanted to get in an effort to max what I could cover with the GC value.

As a general rule, by the time I'm punching something's name into Amazon, I've already committed to the purchase.

[ Parent ]
New Years by ni (2.00 / 0) #4 Sat Dec 23, 2006 at 09:03:57 PM EST
I'm tentatively planning to be in New York for New Years. Could you be interested in coffee or a meal or something? Are there any additional troops to rally in the area?


256: What are you searching for? mx: Kaola penis. 256: Why aren't you using image search?
ya know by yankeehack (2.00 / 0) #6 Sun Dec 24, 2006 at 04:28:18 AM EST
I'm just a train ride away from NYC...
"...she dares to indulge in the secret sport. You can't be a MILF with the F, at least in part because the M is predicated upon it."-CBB
[ Parent ]
I approve of this plan. by Christopher Robin was Murdered (2.00 / 0) #7 Sun Dec 24, 2006 at 04:51:13 AM EST
Let me know when you plan to be in town and we'll work something out.

[ Parent ]
Happy Christmas. by ana (4.00 / 1) #5 Sun Dec 24, 2006 at 02:46:34 AM EST
We'll wave when we fly over. Just think... you could be camped out in an airport someplace. As it is, you have your fridge full of beer, your blues to listen to.

Regular, or decaf abomination? --Kellnerin

Good point. by Christopher Robin was Murdered (4.00 / 1) #8 Sun Dec 24, 2006 at 04:53:27 AM EST
My brother, who lives just outside of Denver, has spent his Christmas digging out his home.

On the upside, he did have to purchase tiny little snowshoes for my young nephew. He sent photos of the boy stomping around in them. It is just about the cutest damn thing I've ever seen.

[ Parent ]
Ho ho ho by ad hoc (4.00 / 1) #12 Sun Dec 24, 2006 at 06:40:02 AM EST
I'll be spending the day with Lost In Space Season 3 Disk 2; Stingray: The Complete Series Disk 1; The Munsters: The Complete Second Season Disk 1; The Avengers '66 Volume 1; and the book Death at Priory; along with noticeable quantities of Beaujolais Nuevo.

You should have come to Boston. We could've spent Christmas alone together. 
--
Hypocrisy is the resin that holds the plywood of society together

Capital idea. Wish we'd thought of it sooner. by Christopher Robin was Murdered (2.00 / 0) #13 Sun Dec 24, 2006 at 07:54:04 AM EST
That wouldn't have been a bad idea. Next time I'm looking down the barrel of a solo Christmas, I'll give you a call. If we're both going to go it alone, we might as well meet up and go it alone together.

Although, I've got the Addams Family on my plate this Christmas. We'd have to work out any potential Addams vs. Munster issues before hand.

[ Parent ]
Merry Christmas, Baby by wiredog (2.00 / 0) #14 Sun Dec 24, 2006 at 08:14:59 AM EST
Springsteen did a great cover of that.

Earth First!
(We can strip mine the rest later.)

Come south by sasquatchan (2.00 / 0) #15 Mon Dec 25, 2006 at 10:12:00 AM EST
you know, grand illumination and all that.

Hope the movies are good, I'll catch up on your reviews later on the week.

(Comment Deleted) by Christopher Robin was Murdered (2.00 / 0) #16 Mon Dec 25, 2006 at 10:16:53 AM EST

This comment has been deleted by Christopher Robin was Murdered



[ Parent ]
Godfry Daniel! by Christopher Robin was Murdered (2.00 / 0) #17 Mon Dec 25, 2006 at 10:20:29 AM EST
I've deleted myself!

One slip of the mouse and the result: disaster!

Hope you and yours are having a nice Christmas. I would actually love to come down and see the old school and Ye Olde College Towne again. If I can just convince May . . .

[ Parent ]
We Wanna See Santa Do the Mambo | 20 comments (20 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback