I became insane with long intervals of horrible sanity.
Edgar Allen Poe
The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one's time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.
- H. L. Mencken
Many people would sooner die than think; In fact, they do so
What I have been telling you, from alpha to omega, what is the one great thing the sigil taught me — that everything in life is miraculous. For the sigil taught me that it rests within the power of each of us to awaken at will from a dragging nightmare of life made up of unimportant tasks and tedious useless little habits, to see life as it really is, and to rejoice in its exquisite wonderfulness. If the sigil were proved to be the top of a tomato-can, it would not alter that big fact, nor my fixed faith. No Harrowby, the common names we call things by do not matter — except to show how very dull we are ...
-James Branch Cabell
December 25, 2015 - 11:08 a.m.
I’ve been going back and reading the Christmas editions of Wise Madness; they are some of the best. Now I feel pressure to be good. Last night I was inspired. Let’s see if I can recapture that.
Yesterday was warm but damp and I didn’t want to go out in it; but I had to. I was out of clean clothes and needed to do laundry. Isn’t than a great way to spend Christmas Eve? I didn’t make it out of the house till 4:30. I wanted to go out early. I sometimes have trouble getting out to do things like that. I was also a bit depressed. I thought I’d be pretty much spending this whole week alone. That’s not what’s going to happen but at the time it seemed likely.
Did you know that I should expect a packed laundromat? Did you know that I used to call it laundrymat? That wasn’t as a kid, I found out differently in college. See how honest I am? I admit things like that. But back to the packed laundromat. I had trouble finding two open machines, one for colors and one for whites. Apartheid still holds sway in the laundry room. There was only one big machine and one small machine open. At least I didn’t have to wait. When I got back somebody had taken my whites out. That’s fine as they needed the machine and I could find it. Then I had to take someone’s clothes out of the only drier that wasn’t in use. That’s how crowded it was.
I was going to go to Rockefeller Center to see the tree but it was drizzling and that would take the fun out of it. I decided to stay home and watch movies instead. For dinner I had the festive macaroni and cheese. Garlic salt makes all foods an adventure.
I watched some Betty Boop cartoons before dinner then sat down to my main cinematic course, A Christmas Story. I watch that pretty much every year. It was on TNT so I got to watch it on my computer. There was a problem with the bandwidth hog but it worked itself out. I missed about a quarter of the film so no flick’s tongue on the pole. But that’s the thing of seeing a movie a zillion times, it’s OK to miss that, I remember it so well.
Did any writer ever understand being a kid better than Jean Shepherd? I don’t think so. It’s why the film is so great. We know it’s all true even if the events didn’t happen. We all know what it’s like to dream of beating up the bully. We all know the feeling of disappointment at finding that the secret message from Little Orphan Annie was just a commercial for Ovaltine. And of course we all know what it’s like to want an official Red Ryder carbine action BB gun with a compass in the stock and a thing to tell the time.
People have always wondered what brings happiness. Philosophers, sages, prophets, and self-help gurus have tried to give the answer. If I told you what it takes to reach the highest high you’d laugh and say nothing is that simple. We all know that none of what they say can make us as happy as Ralph was when he got that official Red Ryder carbine action BB gun with a compass in the stock and a thing to tell the time. That was joy unalloyed. But we also know that even if the Bumpas’s dogs eat the turkey we can discover the joy of Chinese Turkey and all is right with the world.
A Christmas Story is a simple unambitious film that manages to say so much that we need or at least I need to hear every year. I am pretty sure that I’m not getting official Red Ryder carbine action BB gun with a compass in the stock and a thing in it to tell the time but I always hope that I will next year … or the year after.
I’ll join the line of sages etc. that try and teach you how to be happy. Well OK I’ll say one thing that will make you somewhat happier. Don’t look for things to be unhappy about. Don’t worry if the holidays aren’t perfect if they are too commercial or too Christian or that they took the Christ out of Christmas. Look around you, people are acting nicer than usual. That’s a great thing. Strangers wishing you well. The important part of Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays or Hanukkah Sameach is the Merry, Happy, and Sameach. People are wishing you to be happy and merry so be happy and merry instead of worrying about the name they are giving for the reason. They all mean the same as Whee Festivus when you run them through the universal translator.
So I was all lonely and alone with no plans to see anyone but I’m seeing Jewmongous tomorrow with Aaron tomorrow and today I’m spending a Jewish Christmas with Seth and Emily. We are going to watch It’s a Wonderful Life then eat Chinese food. Seth is very much not Jewish except by injection as Carey would say. Emily is Jewish.
I become Tevye during the holidays and follow tradition. I carol with Terre Roche, I watch A Christmas Story, It’s a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Carol, White Christmas and Meet John Doe. I see Jewmongous. I go to Rockefeller Center to see the tree. I got to Warren and Tina’s house for New Year’s Eve, though this year I have another invitation and might go to Jon and Elisa’s. How did these traditions get started? I’ll tell you; I don’t know. But they are traditions and without our traditions our lives would be as shaky as a fiddler on the roof.
I’ll spend the day till I leave to see Seth and Emily listening to the Beatles albums that just became available on Amazon Prime. I’ll listen to Christmas songs that I find posted on Facebook or those that come to me. Here’s a good one that I bet you haven’t heard; A free download of O Come, O Come Emmanuel by Dagmar.
I’ll leave you with some Dickens. This is how I’d like to be spoken of;
It was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Festivus well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, The Flying Spaghetti Monster touch us with his noodley appendage, Every One!
Brother Brothers in Arms - October 01, 2017
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